Authors: Nina Croft
Tags: #Temporal Shift, #sci-fi, #PNR, #paranormal, #romance, #science fiction, #Select Otherworld, #Entangled, #Nina Croft, #Blood Hunter
a Blood Hunter novel
a Blood Hunter novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Nina Croft. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Select is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Candace Havens and Marie Loggia
Cover design by Brittany Marczak
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition November 2014
To Rob—who I’d love to go time traveling with!
Devlin Starke stared at the black hole that filled the screen. Huge. Mesmerizing. A vision of shimmering gases spiraling around a gaping vortex.
And they were about to fly headfirst into it. An act of desperation brought on by a dying captain, an ailing ship, and a whole load of assholes wanting them dead.
They were fucking insane.
No way would they survive.
Then again, they wouldn’t survive if they stayed. The other screens showed the fleet of warships surrounding them. At least this way they wouldn’t give the goddamned Church the satisfaction of blowing them out of space.
“Let’s do this,” Rico said. “And you all might want to strap yourselves in. I’m thinking the ride is going to get bumpy.”
Devlin backed into the nearest seat and fastened the harness—for all the good it would do—never taking his eyes from the black hole. What was on the other side? Another universe as they hoped? Or total oblivion?
He was guessing oblivion, but he had few regrets. Actually, that was a lie—he had one huge fucking regret. He was about to die without killing Temperance Hatcher, High Priest of the Church of Everlasting Life and the murdering bastard who’d killed Devlin’s brother.
But it was too late now. They were past the event horizon and the gravitational pull dragged the ship ever closer. A deafening roar filled his ears. Beneath him, the ship lurched, then shot forward, the acceleration forcing him back in his seat.
“That’s it.” Rico’s voice sounded as though from a distance. “We’ve lost control, and we’re going in.”
On the monitor the black hole loomed, sucking all the brightness from the world. The ship’s lights flickered off, then on. Finally, they went out, leaving them in darkness.
The pressure built until the air was squeezed from his lungs. He was losing control of his senses, everything closing in, until he was aware of nothing but the emptiness ahead.
He tried to keep his eyes open, but it didn’t matter as the ship dove headfirst into the very center of the hole.
Saffira floated in a sea of time, aimless, drifting with the currents. Then the drug kicked in, sucking her under. It could have been hours or years or lifetimes before the world came into focus once more. Heat suffused her and she slipped into the familiar, sensuous warmth of the vision.
He lay behind her, his hard body stretched over hers, on her, in her. His long hair—a blend of black and gold—hung across her shoulder, tangling with the dark red ripples of her own.
he whispered her name against her skin, followed by words of love, words she’d never heard in real life. Then he thrust into her with a powerful flex of his hips and her body went up in flames. She pushed back against him and he chuckled.
His voice was like the silky softness of the sea tinged with the roughness of the rocky shore.
“Much more. Everything. I want everything…all of you.”
He kissed her throat as he withdrew, the drag of his hard flesh an exquisite pleasure.
“And do you love me, Saffira? Will you love me for eternity?”
As she opened her mouth to answer, the vision wavered. She wanted to scream, fight against the relentless pull of real life, as she was drawn inexorably away.
She pried open her heavy lashes. A tall, familiar figure loomed over her bed and inhuman violet eyes glowed down at her.
She scowled. “Damn it, Thorne. You woke me at the good bit. Again.”
“You were twitching.”
“Of course I was twitching. I was…” Saffira dragged herself up in the bed and clamped her lips shut. She’d wanted to stay. Just once, she’d yearned to see that vision through to the end.
Was that too much to ask for?
The stroke of her dream-lover’s hands lingered on her skin. If she closed her eyes, his words of love caressed her ears.
“Saffira!” Thorne flexed his black membranous wings, a sure sign he was agitated.
She sighed and shook her head to clear the last of the vision. “What is it, Thorne?”
“The Old Ones are restless. Someone has breached the Circle of Change.”
“Someone has entered the Circle?” The muscles tightened in her gut and a sense of prescience shivered across her skin. “It’s a sign. We have to go.”
She jumped out of bed, found her boots on the floor, tugged them on, then pulled her hair into a ponytail so it wouldn’t get in her face and blind her while they were flying. Thorne hadn’t moved; he stood in the center of the room, arms crossed over his chest, wing tips vibrating. “A sign of what?”
Her brows drew together. “I don’t know, but why don’t we go and see?”
Not waiting for an answer, she strode past him out onto the ledge. The cave was cut into the rock face high above the Keep. She squinted into the distance; the Guardian mountains rose from the ochre plain, stark against the twilight. But nothing moved.
Thorne came up beside her. “Maybe I should go and investigate. Come back and get you if it’s safe.”
She cast him a look of disbelief. “Not a chance.”
For a second she thought he might argue. Then an expression of resignation settled on his features. “You’ll follow orders?”
She grinned. “Don’t I always?”
He snorted but turned away and she climbed on his back, wrapping her arms around his neck. Thorne spread his wings and leaped from the ledge. She loved this moment, as though they were plummeting towards the hard ground, about to crash…then the first swoosh of his wings, and they were flying.
Her bodyguards fell into formation behind them and they headed toward the setting suns. Night was almost on them when they crossed the Guardian Mountains. Thorne slowed his wing beats, hovered about a hundred feet above the Circle of Change, and Saffira peered down on the scene below.
“How the hell did that get here without us seeing?” Thorne muttered.
A huge, shiny spaceship stood in the center of the basin. Sleek and black and beautiful. From her visions, Saffira knew the words that would be written on the side in flowing silver script. The
Blood Hunter 2
She gasped and then her breath stalled. The Wardens, who guarded the Circle of Change, had gotten here first. In the red glow from the setting suns she could make out a fierce fight around the ship. At least three bodies lay on the ground; two more were on their feet and fighting. All strangers by their clothing. Saffira’s heart rate picked up until the blood was thundering in her veins. No strangers had come to this planet in over ten thousand years. They could only mean the start of the prophecy, and the Wardens were about to slaughter them all.
She tugged at Thorne’s shirt. “Put me down.”
“What? Right now? Might hurt a little.”
“Ha-ha. Come on, Thorne, we have to save them.”
“They’re important. I’m not sure how or why, but I’ve seen them in my visions. They have a part to play.”
Thorne exhaled loudly, but flew lower, finally alighting on a rocky outcrop about twenty feet from the ship. She slipped to the ground, and he launched himself back into the air. Two of her bodyguards landed and took up positions in front and behind her, while the others followed Thorne and headed for the fight. A niggle of worry prodded at her mind, but she ignored it. Thorne was ten thousand years old; he could hold his own against any of the Wardens.
But she couldn’t see what was going on. Gritting her teeth, she nudged at the tall figure planted firmly in front of her. His wings were folded at his back, but all the same, he blocked her view.
“Shift, Rory, I want to see.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
“The first time anything exciting has happened on this godforsaken planet and you expect me
“That’s the point. We don’t know who or what they are.”
“Come on, Rory, this is really important.” When he didn’t move, she tried a different tack. “You know, I’ve seen myself watching this in a vision. I’m
to watch this.”
He glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “Liar. But good try.”
She edged to the side and peered around him. Thorne and his men circled above the ship. Down on the ground, it was chaos. The strangers fought hand-to-hand with the Wardens. But humans couldn’t stand against them for long. The Wardens were too strong and virtually indestructible.
A man in black was taking on one of the Wardens alone. Saffira held her breath, fingernails digging into her palms, as she waited for him to be annihilated. Instead, he wrenched back the Warden’s head and ripped out his throat with his teeth—ugh. Her breath left her in a gasp as he heaved the body aside and leaped for the next one who flew down to fill the gap.
What was he? More than human, that was for sure. Still, there were too many. He couldn’t win.
A second man was hidden behind the outstretched wings of a Warden. Now he lunged clear, drew a knife from his boot, and stabbed his attacker in the chest. The Warden didn’t even flinch, just drew out the blade and tossed it away.
The man backed up into the light cast from the open doorway of the ship.
And everything stopped. For a brief flash of time, Saffira’s world stood still.
She knew his face from her visions, though she’d never seen quite that expression on it before. Always, he’d been tender, sweet. This man appeared anything but sweet. The word vicious came to mind, but then, he was fighting for his life.
He was dressed in khaki pants tucked into combat boots, and a shirt stretched tight across a broad chest. His hair was loose around his shoulders and, even in the dim light, she could make out the gold strands woven with the midnight black. She remembered the feel of it, silky soft through her fingers.
She tugged at Rory. “Tell Thorne to hurry. To do something.”
Kronus! What was he waiting for?
She forced herself to keep watching as the Warden stalked toward the man—her man. He backed up a little more, whirled around, and kicked the Warden in the balls so he collapsed to his knees.
“Ouch,” Rory muttered.
The Warden didn’t stay down for long, and the stranger was unarmed now.
Come on, Thorne
At last he swooped down. She recognized the moment he took control of their minds—the Wardens went rigid and collapsed to the ground.
Within seconds, they were all down, only Thorne and his people still airborne.
The man ran a hand through his black and gold hair, picked up something from the ground, and shoved it in the holster at his waist. He remained watchful, splitting his attention between the downed Wardens and Thorne, who landed lightly beside the ship.
“Let’s go.” Rory spoke from beside her and she dragged her attention from the man of her dreams. “Thorne says it’s safe to join them now.”
Suddenly, she didn’t want to go. What did you say to a man who had made beautiful love to you countless times, but who would presumably know nothing about it?
Just be cool and try to forget that she knew the feel of him when he was deep inside her. Knew the taste of him, sharp and spicy, knew the musky scent as she lay in his arms after they had made love. A shiver ran through her, settling in that place between her thighs that had never been touched by another.
Rory wrapped his arms around her, picked her up, and flew her the short distance, putting her down on the ground close to Thorne. She edged even closer, trying not to look at the man. Her lover.
“What do you want to do?” Thorne asked her. “Perhaps we should kill them. They’ve violated the protocols.”
“So have you,” she replied. “Many times.”
“Not this particular protocol.” He nodded at the bodies on the ground.
She stared. Blinked a couple of times but nothing changed. Two of the unconscious strangers were women. “They’re female,” she said.
“Abominations,” Thorne added.
“Don’t be so melodramatic.” But no doubt that was the reason the Wardens had tried to destroy them. According to the fifty-eighth protocol, females were not permitted to undergo the Change. She nodded toward the unconscious Wardens. “How long have we got?”
“Not long. They’ll wake in minutes.”
So they needed to get out of there fast. They had enough men to carry the strangers to safety, but a better idea occurred to her. She glanced at the spaceship as excitement bubbled up inside. It must have shown in her eyes.
“No,” Thorne said. “You’ll put yourself in their power. We cannot permit it.”
“We can’t let the Wardens destroy the ship. We need it, Thorne.”
“What the fuck’s going on?” A voice jerked her from her concentration on Thorne. A voice she knew intimately, though always before it had whispered words of love. “And who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are they?”
Turning her head slightly, she forced a blank expression and then swallowed. He was really here. And he was quite the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. But as she stared, she became aware of something else. There was a darkness to him. A deep-rooted rage flowed off him in waves so she had to fight the urge to step back and behind Thorne.
As he stalked toward her, Thorne growled low in his throat and stepped between them.
The man cast Thorne a disparaging glance but halted, and his gaze caught and held hers. He had slanted blue-green eyes, vivid against his golden skin. She saw nothing in his expression. No recognition. But why would there be?
She looked away, forcing her brain to function. “Does this thing fly?” she asked.
“Of course it fucking flies.”
Hardly sweet nothings. At least he’d turned away from her—giving her a chance to pull herself together—and was now eyeing Thorne and his men as though he didn’t quite trust them.
Not surprising. Time to be proactive. She was supposed to be the savior of the world. Maybe she should start acting like it. “Let’s go.”
“Go?” Thorne swung around to face her. “Go where?”
“Away from here.”
Thorne took a step closer. “You are not stepping foot on that…thing without your bodyguards.”
She stood on tiptoes so she could speak quietly into his ear. “He’s the one, Thorne.”
Thorne glanced from her to the man who bristled with barely concealed aggression. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope.” She cast him a wicked grin. “And you did tell me I needed to have sex.” When she’d mentioned her dreams to Thorne, he’d decided it must be due to some sort of hormonal imbalance and offered to order one of the guards to have sex with her.
“I meant with someone of my choosing,” he said.
She shook her head—he was
romantic. Then she turned to her bristling dream-lover. “You won’t hurt me, will you Mr…?”
“Starke. Devlin Starke.”
Devlin. She rolled the name over in her mind. She liked it. It suited him.
“Well, you won’t harm me if I board your ship? Will you…Devlin?” Considering their intimate relationship, they should definitely be on first-name terms.
He looked her up and down and didn’t appear particularly impressed. “I might not. But that guy over there—” He nodded to where the man in black crouched over a blond woman. He glanced up at Devlin’s words and snarled, revealing the tip of one sharp white fang. His face was daubed crimson and his eyes reflected the color. “If his woman doesn’t wake up soon, I’m guessing he’s going to get real pissed off with someone. You might not want to be around when that happens.”
No. She shivered. He hardly appeared human. “What is he?”
A flicker of amusement lightened his features. “Just hope you never find out, little girl.”
little. Though she supposed next to him and Thorne she must appear that way.
Forcing her fear down, she stepped closer. The blonde was still unconscious, but behind her a man with wings was already stirring. Judging by those wings, he must be older, stronger. “She’ll be all right,” she said. “Really, they just zapped her mind, but it won’t be permanent.”