Predators series, Book Three
For Lance Corporal Renard, her career is everything and she's anxious to tackle the latest training exercise. But the scientists at Nanotech have more in store for Shira than she could've imagined.
Restrained, injected with jacked-up DNA, she's become part of a twisted experiment. Escaping the lab is only the beginning. There can be no return to her old life. No outside knowledge of what she's become. The permanent leash around her neck is more suffocating than a hangman's noose.
Tasked with helping Renard adjust, Army medic Lex McLean had no concept of the challenges Shira faced. Not until he receives a very personal lesson in genetic manipulation.
There's no denying the intense sexual chemistry between them. Not even Lex's hate for Renard has the power to curb his lust. Regardless of a rocky start, survival means joining forces and working together against the true genius behind the Predator Project.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Foxy lady by Nicole Austin
"You are one seriously sick fuck!"
And that was putting it mildly.
Shira Renard was well and truly screwed. Thick leather restraints bound her wrists and ankles to a cold metal examination table. The quack scientists had also secured leather straps across her chest, pelvis and thighs.
She'd considered Gabriel Weltman a bit quirky, but weren't all the geeky science types a bit touched? With his gray hair and expensive suits he looked the part of a seasoned businessman. Now she knew different. His appearance had deceived her. The kook had gone way beyond weird and shot right to the top of the totally-out-of-his-freaking-mind category.
While only half listening to his screwy plan for world domination, she searched for a way out of this mess.
"Through my diligent work, Nanotech is decades ahead of any other scientific research organization. What we've accomplished is better than curing cancer--more important. Not only have we discovered how to splice human DNA and combine it with that of the world's fiercest predators, we have perfected a procedure to successfully bind the manipulated DNA in a human subject, modifying genes that would normally reject such an incompatible pairing."
She glanced at the ceiling and although she didn't see any security cameras the doors were air-locked, requiring the swipe of a magnetic card. Of course, first she had to get out of the restraints before worrying about the door or any security personnel.
As Weltman continued blathering on, he picked an imaginary piece of lint from his expensive suit. "Just picture an army of soldiers more powerful than any other. Trained fighters with the strength and instincts of the world's most dangerous animals. Extreme predators. Imagine how much governments would pay to possess such an unstoppable force."
Interesting, but she had no desire to become one of his freaky experiments.
"Sure," he shrugged, "we've had our share of failures. Some of the early subjects didn't survive the procedure. Others didn't maintain their human intellect. They were reduced to savage beasts intent only on hunting prey and had to be put down."
Put down? Jesus! He was talking about the human beings he'd screwed up as if they were insignificant, of no real consequence. The man was a psychopath with delusional fantasies of power and wealth--a total megalomaniac. And she'd landed right in his clutches.
"We have had two major successes, both felines. A lion and a tiger."
"And let me guess, next will be a bear."
Ignoring her flippant remark, Weltman continued as if she hadn't spoken.
"In your case, I have created something a bit different."
In her case? Oh hell no!
"A hybrid, so to speak. The combination of DNA from two animals--Vulpes vulpes and canis lupus."
"Huh?" Shira had no clue what vulpes meant but didn't canis refer to canines? No way was he turning her into a dog! Not in this lifetime. She'd kill him first.
"You, Lance Corporal Renard, will receive the DNA of the crafty red fox and vicious gray wolf."
"No. Fucking. Way!" Shira spit out the words while struggling against the restraints, frantic to break free. "I didn't sign up for any hokey genetic crap."
Weltman merely smiled and that cocky grin was by far the most frightening thing she'd ever seen. The man had gone completely off his rocker.
"You won't get away with this, Weltman. You can't go and fuck around with my DNA without my consent. I'm a Marine. You'll have the entire Corps on your ass."
The old bastard tossed his head back and laughed with such maniacal glee icy tendrils of dread skated along her spine.
"You are priceless, Renard. Where do you think I got the funding for the Predator Project?"
No! No fucking way! She didn't want to hear any more. If her hands had been free she would have stuck her fingers in her ears and chanted "lalalalala" to drown out his words.
"I have the full backing of the United States Marines, and you volunteered for this detail."
"No!" she hollered. "I didn't sign on for your insane Predator Project. I'm here for fitness evaluation and training."
"So very na�ve for a soldier." With an absent gesture, he made some notes on a clipboard.
"There are twenty-two ways to kill a man with no weapon other than bare hands." Shira spoke calm and clear. Her statement had the desired effect, drawing his attention to her. "I am trained in each and every one of those ways. But before I kill you, Weltman, I'm going to make you suffer. You see, I have also perfected the most painful interrogation techniques known to man. It's my specialty. I can draw out the process, make it nice and slow. Excruciatingly slow."
"Hmm." He considered what she'd said for a moment. Good, maybe he'd see the light and stop this insanity before it went too far.
"Those skills will come in handy once we start your predator training." He scratched down more information on the papers then tossed the clipboard onto the counter.
She flexed corded muscles, yanked at the restraints, creating a metal squeal of protest from the table but getting no closer to freedom. Jesus, this was like some bizarre nightmare or late night movie. How the hell could it be happening to a Marine in the United States?
"Give her the sedative."
One of Weltman's assistants stepped forward and ran an alcohol swab over the bulging vein in her forearm then shot her up with a clear fluid. The effects were almost instant. Lethargy stole through her body, zapping both her strength and will to fight. Her vision wavered and her mind grew sluggish. Shira screamed long and loud. All that came out was a pathetic whimper.
"Now, my dear, we make history."
She fought against the drugs, focused on survival. Regardless of the medication, her heart slammed into her rib cage as the techs approached with a much larger syringe. The liquid it contained swirled and various colors shimmered like some kind of psychedelic light show at a rock concert. Weltman's voice distorted, slowed and stretched, making no sense to her muddled brain.
The pinch of the needle drew her attention back to the tech. A silver needle attached to the syringe disappeared beneath her skin. The man smiled at her as he pushed the plunger. "Don't fight it."
Easy for him to say.
Fire raced up her arm and Shira screamed in her head, the sound never made it past the lump of fear clogging her throat. She felt the liquid burning through her veins, slamming into arteries. Organs shriveled, contorted in agony. Her back arched as her entire body fought against the foreign substance, the leather straps cut into her skin. She prayed for the sweet escape of death from the misery spreading through her, altering more than flesh and blood, warping her brain functions.
The door swished open and two men entered the room--strangers. Weltman turned, stood in front of her, blocking her view of the newcomers.
"Ah, if it isn't my two wayward shifters. Welcome back, gentlemen. You're just in time to meet our latest subject."
Shifters, were these men the ones he'd turned into cats?
Oddly, the stuff changing the very fiber of her being helped to clear her thoughts as she caught a glimpse of the two hunks. Both men were tall and rugged, probably in their mid-thirties, military background obvious in the way they held themselves and handled their weapons.
One man had wavy dark blond hair pulled back in a tail. His dark brown gaze swept the room and zeroed in on Weltman. The other had straight black hair, a bit long and rumpled, and laser-sharp blue eyes that missed nothing.
"Step away from her," the blond ordered. He seemed to be in charge.
"Wouldn't be a smart move to harm me," Weltman taunted, and tapped the side of his head. "I'm the only one with the details you need."
"Step back from the woman." The dark one actually growled, moved closer. "We already downloaded everything we need from the computers."
The lab techs moved to the side, giving her a clear view of the soldiers. No, Weltman had called them shifters, whatever the hell that meant.
Weltman rambled on about some expert feline doctor. Shira tuned out the useless information and reassessed her body. The fires eating her alive from the inside began to lessen and she was able to take a breath that didn't singe her lungs.
Another growl registered and her gaze snapped to the blond. Maybe the drugs were still screwing with her vision because his eyes were doing something funky. They glowed and his pupils warped, stretched.
"Has she been injected?" This from the dark one.
The bastard lab tech held up the empty syringe.
Good question! She'd like to know a hell of a lot more about what had just burned through her body.
"She's a hybrid--red fox and gray wolf." Weltman spouted the same line of crap he'd given her. "That is, if she survives the conversion."
"Damn it! Get her untied. She's coming with us."
Surprisingly, the techs moved to follow the blond's orders and began untying the restraints.
"None of you are leaving."
Weltman really was bonkers if he believed that. The two guys had guns trained on him. How the hell did he think he'd stop them from doing whatever they wanted?
The idiots in the lab coats grasped her arms as Shira struggled to make her legs work. Not wanting their slimy hands on her, she shoved them away.
"Are you okay? Can you walk?"
She whipped around to face the dark-haired guy. Genuine concern shadowed his eyes. Could she trust him enough to go with him?
Did she have any other choice?
"I'll walk out of this loony bin on my own two feet--"
Her words were cut off as a shot rang out. Weltman squealed and grabbed his side. Blood seeped between his fingers, darkening the suit material.
"Jesus, Micah. What the fuck are you doing?" the dark one asked.
"He was reaching into his pocket."
Weltman interrupted the argument. "Whether I use the device to summon security or not, my team is going to take you two down. You'll never step foot outside the facility."
The blond, Micah, threw back his head and laughed. "It's over. Your team has been taken out. No one will be coming to save you from paying for your crimes."
Shira pitched forward, fought to remain upright, and stepped closer to her would-be saviors. "Mind telling me who the hell you are?"
Nash Crosby introduced himself and gave her a few down-and-dirty details, including the fact that both men had worked security for Nanotech before being brought into the Predator Project. Micah had actually agreed to the injection--crazy bastard. Nash had been jacked, taken into the project by force.
Her gut instinct told her these two men were on her side.
"Lance Corporal Shira Renard. Second Division out of Camp LeJeune. I was selected for this special detail. The first of several dozen scheduled to arrive here over the next few months. We were told this would involve specialized fitness testing and training for battle."
The side door opened and another dark-haired hunk stuck his head into the room. Damn, all these gorgeous guys were from the deep end of the gene pool. Shame she was in no shape to really appreciate her handsome rescuers.
"Locked down and secured. Charges are set." The new guy nodded toward her. "She get injected?"
The door behind them swished before anyone could answer. They all turned in time to see Weltman slip out of the room, taking advantage of the distraction.
"Son of a bitch!" Nash moved to follow, but Micah held him back.
"Stick to our objectives." Micah pointed to a blood trail on the white tile floor. "Weltman won't be hard to find. We have to get everyone out and blow this place. You can track him down after the lab's destroyed."
For a moment, Nash looked ready to argue before he nodded. "Fine, let's move."
"You good to go?" The new arrival, Kyle Slater, flashed a penlight into her eyes, checking her pupils.
"I'm fine. Let's get the fuck out of here." She'd figure out what to do about the shit they'd jacked her up with later. These men were now her best chance of making it out of Weltman's fun house alive.
They hit the hall running. Slater tossed her a gun. Shira checked the chamber and clip then thumbed off the safety.
The place had seemed pretty normal before. Now, with only the illumination of backup strobe lights and the staff gone, it was eerie as hell. They'd already cleared out the lab employees and gotten what they needed from the computers. God, she hoped that meant they knew how to fix what had been done to her.
Once outside they moved across the yard at a rapid clip and gathered near two SUVs while Slater prepared to blow the place. Micah got on the phone, setting up a meeting with a general he thought would be able to help her.
She already noticed differences in herself. Everything ached but she felt stronger and all her senses were on high alert. Her vision was sharper, better in the dark. And her nose was on overload with all the different scents of first the lab and now the wilderness.
"Renard," Micah called. "Come on, you're with me."
She climbed into the back of an SUV. The driver wasted no time getting out of there. The vehicle barreled down the private road.
"So what now?"
Micah raked his hands through his hair, pulling the long strands free of the elastic band, and turned to look back at her over the top of his seat. "Sam and Kyle--"
They were almost at the main road when Slater detonated the facility. The multiple explosions were followed by an impressive fireworks show. She sighed as debris and flames shot up into the sky.
The lab may be out of commission but she had a feeling the nightmare was just beginning for her.
Needing answers, Shira brought Micah back to the conversation. "Who are Sam and Kyle?"
"This is Sam Atherton," he clapped the driver on the shoulder. "You already met Kyle Slater, who just blew up the lab. They're going to take you to General Hughes. He's a good man. He'll figure out how to handle your status with your unit after the dust settles.
"I have to make a stop in Africa but I'm not deserting you. I'm picking up Dr. Southerby, who helped me after I'd been injected. I'll be sending a medic to work with you until we can make it there. His name's Lex McLean. Lex will have access to all the Predator Project files."
Micah sighed, scrubbed at the beard stubble covering his jaw. The man looked prepared to drop some heavy info on her. Shira sat up straighter, listened carefully.
"Look, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. The next few weeks are going to be hell. The human body isn't designed to accept animal DNA. You're facing several surgeries to help your body adjust. Then we'll have to see if you've gained the ability to shift--"
"Shift? Weltman called you and Nash his wayward shifters. What exactly does that mean?"
"This part is going to be hard to believe. If we had more time, I'd show you but for now you'll just have to take me at my word." He searched her expression, she wasn't sure what he was looking for but he must have found it because he kept talking. "Nash and I were injected with feline DNA. Both of us can change forms or shift into our animal counterpart. For Nash that's a tiger. I shift into a lion."
She came real close to laughing but something in his dark eyes stopped her cold. Whether it was true or not, Micah believed what he said.
"So that means..." She couldn't say it. Didn't even want to think it.
"I'm not sure what it will mean for you. Weltman said he did something different with you, injected you with a combination of--"
"Red fox and gray wolf," she finished for him. "Yeah, I know."
"So in a couple of weeks..."
Shira forced down her rising terror. "In a couple of weeks, I may or may not turn into a furry beast."
Let the games begin.