In the three years since Project Dawn disbanded, Roane Weston and his men continue to fight the good fight. Now civilians, his squad--Circe's Recruits--works for a private organization bent on cleaning up the mess left in the wake of Project Dawn's rebirth. Run by Elliot Pearl, a ruthless millionaire, Pearson Labs continues to create Circs, people who have been genetically changed. When needed, these Circs take on an altered form, one neither man nor animal, but something in between. But unlike Roane and his squad, the Circs coming out of Pearson Labs aren't sane... Except for Caitlyn Chase, a female Roane can't get out of his mind.
As Caitlyn matures into the female Circ she was meant to be, she sets in motion a chain of events that will forever alter her future and those of Circe's Recruits. In the process, she'll fall in lust, in love with Roane, and in danger as she finally finds out who she really is. Only with Roane and her newfound friends can she hope to keep the PPA at bay while they crush an agenda that may spell the end of them all.
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November 18, 2008
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Excerpt from Roane by Marie Harte
Caitlyn Chase sighed with pleasure as she basked under the hot summer sun. She'd paid Cape May's extortion fee for a beach pass. She'd spent an eternity searching for a somewhat isolated spot far away from screeching children kicking sand. And after enduring a plethora of wolf whistles and catcalls from the group playing volleyball several yards away, she'd finally found Nirvana in simple sand and surf.
Settling onto her towel, she soaked away her cares in the familiarity of the beach where she'd spent so many summers alongside her family. Though her parents and brother had been gone for more than a decade now, she could almost hear them calling out to her as she lay on the sand listening to the waves.
"Need me to do your front?" A deep, masculine voice shook her from her musings.
She blinked up into a leering and malevolent face. Hard, calculating, dark eyes stared over her figure, making her want to shy away. He looked like a brick, his thick arms bulging as he crossed them over a massive chest. Even dressed in a tank top and shorts with short, blond hair styled to look carefree, he appeared a thug.
"Maybe she wants a softer hand," another man spoke, sandwiching her between him and his friend. "Back up, Vincent, and let me handle her." This one was taller and leaner, but no less dangerous. Handle her? She sensed in him a keen ability to manipulate those around him. He dressed like his friend, but unlike Vincent, he fit his clothes. Dark hair framed a face almost too pretty to be a man's, and his gray eyes glittered with an intensity she found disturbing.
As her mind struggled to catch up to her instinctive reaction to both men, they quickly knelt on either side of her and pinned her shoulders, effectively holding her in place while smiling down at her, giving the appearance they were all old friends.
"We can do this the easy way," the tall one said, brushing his knuckles along the swell of one breast.
"Or the hard way," Vincent growled, his grip on her arm bruising. "Don't bother asking any of the assholes on the beach for help. I'll hurt anyone who comes along." He grinned. "Don't let me scare you, though. Come on, honey, something tells me you're a fighter. Make a break for it and run."
Caitlyn's heart raced. "I don't understand."
"Sure you do, sweetheart," the tall one said with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "We're with the PPA."
"And you haven't been licensed. You're coming in for a tag," Vincent added.
"A tag?" She stared down at the beach tag pinned to her bikini bottom. "I just paid eight bucks for that!" PPA, what was PPA? "What is this about? And Vincent, ease up on my arm." Visions of lawsuits and jail time flashed through her mind. "You're going to be very sorry if you don't let go."
Instead of releasing her, he leaned down and focused on her mouth. "Why? You going to bite me if I don't?"
Bite him? What the hell was he talking about? She might be a walking hormone, but she wasn't into the rough stuff. His close proximity, however, was making her dizzy, a sad fact that reminded her of the worries she'd come to the beach to forget, if only for a little while.
"You're making me sick." She felt nauseated and closed her eyes, fighting for control. Opening them, she stared at the taller man, who seemed to be in charge. "I'm not well."
"No, you're a freak, one we need to 'examine.'" Vincent sneered. "Hell, breed 'em and bag 'em, I say. Right, Simon?"
Simon frowned. "I don't think she's pretending. Look at her pupils."
Vincent leaned closer, and she visibly recoiled. His smell was worse than anything she'd ever experienced. Like rotten garbage and raw sewage -- evil personified.
"Come with us, Caitlyn. We'll help you feel much better." Simon stroked her cheek with a rough hand. His touch felt like slime, and she had to force herself to remain still beneath him. Breathing deeply, she nodded and sat up with their help.
"Nice tits," Vincent murmured as he stared down her bathing suit.
She flushed, thinking her decision for maximum tan couldn't have come at a worse time. The brown bikini was tame compared to that of most of the women lying on the beach, but under her captors' stares, she felt almost naked.
"You do have a lovely figure," Simon appraised, his eyes roving her curves with a snakelike charm. "You know, Vincent, there's nothing saying we have to take her in right away." He lifted her chin to meet his gaze. "Maybe Caitlyn would rather we forget we ever saw her. Maybe she'd like the chance to persuade us to lose her for a while?"
She hurriedly nodded, relieved beyond measure when he and Vincent released her arms. She rubbed where Vincent had touched her but kept her eyes down as she gathered her things. A plan firmed in her mind, distasteful though it was. Caitlyn taunted them as she wriggled into her clothing. She slowly stepped into her jean cutoffs and donned a loose, long-sleeved, white cotton shirt. Hoping she still had the ability she hadn't used in years, Caitlyn crouched to draw her tennis shoes on and released the natural pheromone abundant in her system.
Thank God, it worked. Simon inhaled sharply, and Vincent muttered a crude description of her impending future. She continued to exude chemical attractant, inwardly grimacing at the headache that accompanied her unique talent.
She walked, waiting patiently while they escorted her off the beach, away from the multitude of sun worshippers toward hotel row. Beyond the paved boardwalk, she noted a dark SUV parked by itself and knew that's where they headed. Once inside that vehicle, she'd find herself in real trouble. Bastards. Rape and torture at Vincent's hands, and who the hell knew what Mr. Suave beside her thought about. Despite Vincent's rough treatment, something about Simon warned her he'd be the worse of the two.
As she trudged through the sand, Caitlyn shut her mind to the million questions about who they were and how they'd found her, or for that matter, why they wanted her. She could only assume they were somehow connected to Pearson Labs, the only people who'd ever shown an intense interest in her. After a lifetime of tests and study, she'd left the lab three years ago, at their request. So why track her down now?
Then again, maybe these two weren't with the lab. She frowned. But they knew her name. No doubt, they also knew where she was staying. Adrenaline spiked, and she forced herself to appear docile, a lamb being led to slaughter.
Vincent ran his hand over her ass, and she was forced to listen to what he intended to do to her as he whispered threats in her ear. The stairway off the beach neared. She counted the steps as they climbed, pulling back when her feet hit the paved boardwalk. Only fifty feet to the SUV. What to do, what to do?
"Grab her," Simon ordered. "I'm sure she'll try for a shot at freedom. They all do."
They all do? Thinking quickly, she went with her gut and stopped.
"You know, I still don't know what PPA is, but that doesn't mean I'm against getting friendly with a few handsome men." She blinked up at Vincent and licked her lips, pleased when his eyes fairly glazed over.
"Ignore it, Vincent." Simon's voice was sharp.
She turned to him and smiled. "Simon," she whispered and drew him toward her, aware he seemed to have softened. "Come on, baby. Don't you want me?" She leaned closer and brought his head to hers, nuzzling his cheek. The pain in her head intensified until she thought her head would explode, but when he groaned, she eased up on the pheromone and chuckled. "That's what I thought." Glancing down, she noted the firm erection straining his trousers. A look at Vincent showed him similarly fixed.
Okay, I've got them hooked. Now what? She'd never before employed her sensuality as a weapon. Though she didn't intend to follow through with anything, she unfortunately had no idea how to extricate herself from the lust building in both men.
A sudden accident turned all three toward the street, where two men argued over smashed fenders.
"Look in the mirror, pal. You ran a red light! Look at all this damage."
"It was yellow, and if you weren't so busy staring at the eye candy," the smaller man paused, nodding in her direction, "instead of the road, you would have seen me turning."
She hoped she hadn't caused the accident and took a guilty step back, one that had both her kidnappers snapping their attention to her again.
Drawing a deep breath, she sent them a sly grin. "I can't wait. Let's do it in the truck."
Vincent nodded and strode to the SUV without looking back. Simon paused a moment, as if struggling.
"Open the door for me, Simon," she said, pouting, and blew him a kiss, one ripe with invitation. "I'll make it worth your while."
Glancing beyond him, she noted Vincent at the vehicle fumbling with his keys. She just had to get rid of Simon, at least enough to run into the crowd on the other side of Beach Avenue. There she had no doubt she'd find a cop. They were everywhere down here in the summer.
Simon nodded hesitantly. "Okay, but I'm first. You'll do whatever I want, no matter how much it hurts." His gray eyes gleamed.
She nodded encouragingly, and he pushed her toward the vehicle.
The moment she was more than an arm's length away she bolted. Dimly aware of her name being shouted, she ignored everything but the driving need to escape. From deep within her pooled a source of speed and strength she'd never felt before. Months of weakness and dizziness vanished, as if they'd never been.
Caitlyn ran right off the boardwalk, landing five feet below on the street as if she'd skirted a small crack in the ground. She felt fine, not breathless but full of energy. Not questioning her newfound strength, she ignored the sudden sting in her shoulder and prayed she could make it to safety.
Spotting a break in the heavy beach traffic, she darted between cars, running away from the water along Decatur, searching for police. Not seeing any, she raced toward the Washington Square Mall. The outdoor shopping plaza would provide decent camouflage until she could find a ride and ditch the beach.
She ran through a small, metered parking lot to a narrow alley between stores and stopped to catch her breath, not surprised at the migrainelike throbbing that pulsed behind her eyes. Whenever they'd forced her to perform for them in the lab, she'd felt the same tension, the same ache. Yet this one was worse, and as she touched the sting at her shoulder, she realized part of the pain had been induced by an outside source.
Yanking the small dart from her body, she cursed Vincent, Simon, and the fucking PPA, whatever the hell that was. Caitlyn leaned back against the brick wall and tried to control her breathing, but the slow fog in her mind grew. Panic flared, and a scuffling noise to her left forced her to action.
Fleeing from the intrusion, she had almost reached the entrance to the heavily trafficked plaza when two men appeared, blocking her access to safety. She quickly turned around, only to find two more men waiting at the mouth of the alley, too far away to be an immediate threat, but close enough not to discount.
Caitlyn felt rather than saw the men closest to her near. She jumped back, snarling at them like a wild beast. Scared at the changes in herself, as much as the threat surrounding her, she spotted the nearest avenue of escape and focused on the men to her front.
Both men were as large, if not larger, than Vincent -- the black-haired one taller and meaner looking, while the sandy-haired man wore an easygoing expression and held his hands up, as if to show he was harmless. The brief glimpse of the two behind her had affirmed their threatening sizes as well, and she wondered hysterically if there was a Mr. Universe pageant nearby that she'd missed.
"Easy," the most threatening of the bunch growled. Not likely. His brown eyes snapped, his jaw clenched tight, and his biceps flexed as he fisted his hands and began stalking her.
"Back off," she growled back, dismayed to find she had literally growled, as in, like a dog. "And lose the men behind me, or I'll tear them limb from limb."
She knew she sounded overly dramatic. But she felt as if she could really hurt them. After the day she'd had, she wouldn't feel the least bit sorry for any abuse they might suffer at her hands.
"Shit. Roane, she's changing now," the sandy-haired one in front of her said.
"I know, Hale. I'm not blind. What the hell do you want me to do?"
"Hold her down," one of the giants behind her offered.
She glanced over her shoulder and bared her teeth, and immediately knew she'd made a huge mistake. The minute her head turned, large hands settled over her.
Twisting and flailing, she clawed, bit, and kicked at her attacker. But the acute pain assaulting her body hampered her defenses. Bones popped, and muscles stretched. Her head felt as if it would split in two, and her heart hammered within her chest.
She was dimly aware of rough hands cradling her, of others reaching for but not hurting her. The combination of pain and dizziness finally overrode her stubborn resistance, and she passed out cold.