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Authors: Sydney Croft

Taken by Fire

BOOK: Taken by Fire
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Praise for the
NOVELS
OF
SYDNEY CROFT

Tempting the Fire

“A spicy and fabulously entertaining tale. Even the subplot has richly drawn characters and a smartly developed plot.”

—RT Book Reviews


Tempting the Fire
is a thrilling addition to the ACRO series, and will keep readers riveted from beginning to end.”

—Romance Reviews Today

Taming the Fire

“Sydney Croft creates a thrilling paranormal read with action and scorching romance at every turn.”

—Darque Reviews

“Totally outstanding … [a] sizzling hot series that has never failed to keep my undivided attention. The collaboration of Sydney Croft is nothing short of brilliant.”

—Fresh Fiction

Seduced by the Storm

“If you like intrigue, espionage, danger and sexy secret agents with psychic abilities, you will love this book—especially when one agent has to disperse a hurricane with sexual energy! Croft’s realistic characters have real, flawed motives that keep the action suspenseful and the sex extra hot.”

—Romantic Times

“Ms. Croft pens a tale where she manages to combine action along with sizzling hot passion. You will not be disappointed in this book, it is a keeper.”

—Night Owl Romance Reviews

Unleashing the Storm

“Red-hot romance and paranormal thrills from the first page to the last! Sydney Croft writes the kind of books I love to read!”

—L
ARA
A
DRIAN
,
New York Times
bestselling author

“The tension, both romantic and plot-driven, was well created and upheld.… This is an author to watch.”

—All About Romance

“This second book in the ACRO series is fabulously sexy and intriguingly hot. I have become addicted to the collaboration of the two authors known as Sydney Croft, and I’m ready to find out what happens next. Definitely a must-read.”

—Fresh Fiction


Unleashing the Storm
is one of those rare reads where the characters linger long after the story ends. Intense intrigue, action, eroticism, and a fascinating world combine to create an enthralling winner. Sydney Croft is a fabulous new talent.”

—C
HEYENNE
M
C
C
RAY
,
USA Today
bestselling author

Riding the Storm

“In this action-packed, inventive tale, each character’s strengths and weaknesses are more fantastic than the next. The various plots and characters ebb and flow together seamlessly.… Croft redefines sizzle and spark with weather-driven passion.”

—Romantic Times

“Absolutely fabulous!!
Riding the Storm
has the perfect balance of action/adventure and hot, steamy sex.”

—Fresh Fiction


Riding the Storm
will ride your every fantasy.… A power punch of erotic heat, emotion, and adventure. Remy takes you on an adventure you won’t soon forget.”

—L
ORA
L
EIGH
,
USA Today
bestselling author

B
Y
S
YDNEY
C
ROFT

TAKEN BY FIRE

TEMPTING THE FIRE

TAMING THE FIRE

SEDUCED BY THE STORM

UNLEASHING THE STORM

RIDING THE STORM

HOT NIGHTS, DARK DESIRES

(WITH EDEN BRADLEY AND STEPHANIE TYLER)

Taken by Fire
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Bantam Books Trade Paperback Original

Copyright © 2011 by Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bantam Books,
an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ANTAM
B
OOKS
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Croft, Sydney.
Taken by fire / Sydney Croft.
p.  cm.
eISBN: 978-0-440-42336-2
1. Twin sisters—Fiction. 2. Psychic ability—Ficiton. I. Title.
PS3603.R6356T35 2011
813′6—dc22 2010053284

www.­bantamdell.­com

Cover design: Jae Song
Cover image (couple): © Cusp/SuperStock

v3.1

With huge thanks to all our readers who have supported us through the ACRO adventures. We appreciate every one of you.

And special thanks to Gina Scalera. Your enthusiasm from the very beginning means more than we can say.

Contents
Prologue

The acrid stench of burning flesh filled the air, tangling with the sound of screams and the sight of a man engulfed in flames. Gunfire rang out, clean, crisp pops that seemed distant and unimportant
.

The man on fire was too distracting. He flailed, running blindly into trees until he hit the ground and rolled, but even as the flames began to snuff out, his movements flagged, until he was nothing but a charred, quivering lump on the jungle floor. Gray wisps of smoke rose from his body, reaching out to her, telling her the fire had done its evil work …

Melanie Milan jackknifed upright in bed, her lungs seizing in terror, a cold sweat coating every inch of her body. Panic wrapped around her as she slapped a trembling hand down on the mattress, groping blindly for something familiar. Anything.

Please, please, let me be alone
.

Sweet relief washed through her at the feel of her own satin comforter. Now that her vision had cleared of the dream-smoke, she could see the position of the alarm clock, the mirror near the
foot of the bed, the window that was cracked to allow a cool breeze inside.

She was at the Rome apartment. Thank God. She never knew where she was going to wake up.

Usually, waking up in the body she shared with her sister was the nightmare, but sometimes, like tonight, her dreams were far worse than waking up in some strange bed, possibly with some strange man. Or woman. Or both.

The burning man’s screams still echoed in her ears, and the foul odors clogged her nose. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t actually seen or heard the man burning alive. She knew it had happened, and she knew her sister was responsible.

Seeing Phoebe’s memories as nightmares was one of the worst things about sharing a body and brain. Melanie wasn’t consciously aware of anything that happened while Phoebe had control of their body, but sometimes, like now, Phoebe’s actions played out on the movie screen of Melanie’s mind.

This particular event had happened eight months ago—Melanie knew, because she’d suddenly come awake to take over the body after Phoebe retreated during a rare moment of terror. The first thing Mel had seen was the face of an extremely pissed-off man who was trying to kill her. The second thing was the dead, burned man on the ground, and she’d instantly known Phoebe was responsible.

And now, thanks to her nightmares, she was bone-chillingly aware of exactly how it had all gone down.

Melanie flopped back down on the pillow, afraid to sleep … but what sucked was that she was even more afraid to be awake.

Rome wasn’t a place where Stryker Wills was comfortable. Sure, the women were gorgeous, the food amazing, and fucking and eating were two of his favorite pleasures in life. But man, there was a lot of history here he could potentially destroy. The cathedrals and the Colosseum, not to mention the Vatican, had all survived hundreds, or even thousands, of years and he could take them out in one fell swoop with a flash of temper.

Knowing that made him more wary than usual. He’d been tense all morning, despite the beautiful women who’d been propositioning him as he ate at an outdoor café—he didn’t like mixing business with pleasure. And this trip was business, pure and simple, as he tried to get a bead on the fire-and-ice woman, a split-personalitied agent who’d killed his friend and nearly taken Stryker out—twice—eight months earlier in the Amazon jungle.

Stryker had been out for blood ever since—his easygoing personality fading into the background as his hunger to avenge his fellow murdered ACRO agent grew with each passing day.

Now the woman responsible for the murder was close. His hands fisted and he realized that he was no longer the same man who’d left ACRO for this assignment all those months ago.

Itor operative Phoebe Milan had killed his supervisor and friend, Akbar Shatar, setting him on fire while Stryker watched, helpless to do anything. And when Stryker returned to ACRO after Phoebe escaped, he’d gotten his new instructions from Devlin O’Malley, head of the ACRO agency.

Kill her
, Dev told him. No further discussion needed.

It was an instruction ACRO agents heard often. As an operative with rare abilities, Stryker had actually lived on ACRO’s massive compound since birth, as his parents were also both longtime agents with the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives.

His parents had assumed he’d have abilities, but man, had they been surprised at both the type and the extent. Mating a telekinetic with an excedosapien with superstrength hadn’t seemed like a crazy idea at the time—and most agents tended to marry other agents anyway. But the first time two-year-old Stryker’s temper tantrum ripped a fault through the middle of his house, everyone at ACRO had taken quite an interest in him.

So yeah, he’d grown up within the organization and, thanks to that, he was one of the few agents with special abilities who didn’t have major adjustment issues, but that didn’t mean that sometimes he didn’t feel intimidated by his own might.

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