Authors: Madison Stevens
Tags: #Romance, #Military, #Paranormal, #Romantic Suspense, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #paranormal romance
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents depicted in this work are of the author’s imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner. Any *crane resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locations, or events is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Madison Stevens
No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author.
Cover designed by Najlla Qammber Designs
Zeno (Luna Lodge #8)
Zeno’s satisfied being a grunt among the super-soldier hybrids of Luna Lodge. He’s never been a deep thinker, but he respects his leaders and is happy to be the guy they drop in when they need trouble shut down with a little muscle.
He’s annoyed when he’s ordered to accompany another team on a mission to Peru. The main mission’s fine, but he doesn’t like the idea that he’s also being sent to check on Ava, the flighty sister of the mate of another hybrid. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a waste of his talents to check on some grown woman on vacation.
Ava thought she’d found true love with Antonio on a cruise. Now she’s the prisoner of a dangerous criminal. As far she knows, no one is coming to check on her, so it’s up to her to get away from him before her captor tires of her.
When Zeno and Ava cross paths, they both realize Antonio is far more than he appears. If they are going to escape with their lives, they are going to have to remain focused. Unfortunately, their burning attraction for each other is more than a little distracting.
Fucking meetings. That’s all they did anymore, sit in meetings. The hybrids of Luna Lodge had been created as super-soldiers, not super-managers.
He bit back a laugh and did his best to ignore the buzz of mild conversation around him, waiting for Titus to just get on with things.
They’d had so many plans before the public learned their true nature: for a different life they had under the thumb of the Horatius Group. Back then, they’d assumed the same government that rescued them would help them out. Hope some might call it.
Zeno rolled his neck and tried to stay awake. He ran a hand through his close-cropped blond hair on his way to scratching the back of his neck. He’d suffered through two other meetings that day, and when they called him to stay for the last meeting of the day, he had been less than thrilled.
Dinner would be served soon, and he hated to be the last in the chow hall. Being the last one in meant he would get what was left, and it was never much. He’d already missed lunch because of an earlier meeting.
He glanced around the table, an odd bunch for him, high-ups like Titus, Lucius and Sol. Not exactly his normal crew.
It wasn’t that he didn’t work on occasion with any of the leaders of their group, but he was a grunt, the guy called in to make sure shit wasn’t going down and stayed that way.
Varius, the hybrid he’d become the closest to, had been absent for a number of recent meetings and briefings. The two were normally paired off for crap like this: Zeno for his muscle and Varius for his keen senses, and that was saying a lot considering how good all hybrids’ senses were compared to normal humans.
Zeno wondered what was going on with the Varius but didn’t push. He’d found that his quiet friend would talk when he was ready and not sooner.
He liked Varius. The other hybrid seemed to get him. He understood Zeno was satisfied being the guy other people told what to do. There were perks to being the muscle with no chance of promotion. It meant he had more time to spend on working out or just enjoying all the little things they hadn’t been able to when the damned Horatius Group controlled their lives.
He flexed the muscles across his chest and liked that the t-shirt he was wearing stretched across the wide expanse. Some people were just meant to be certain things, and he was most certainly meant to be a grunt for his leaders.
Titus cleared his throat. “Most of you already know what I’m about to say, but for those who don’t, pay attention.”
The room grew silent. Zeno looked around the table as several people watched him. He rested his gaze on the new nurse, Paige. He was just thankful he didn’t have to be locked in another meeting with their doctor, Rachel.
She’d been the object of his desire for some time before she bonded with Marius. The sting of being pushed aside for some computer geek still burned him a bit. It wasn’t that he really wanted Rachel but more that someone like Marius could get a woman, and he couldn’t.
Zeno worried it said something about him more than anything. Maybe guys like him never got a Vestal, a special woman compatible with and drawn to hybrids, and their only chance at truly being complete.
The whole process involved far too much science for him to understand, but the one thing he did know was that people around him were falling in love, and he remained alone.
Fuck it. He didn’t need a woman complicating his life. Things were just fine without one.
His gaze slid past the nurse to her bonded, Justus. The dark and mysterious man he’d guarded as a potential spy just months before was now a trusted member of their group.
Justus narrowed his eyes at him and scooted closer to Paige. Zeno rolled his eyes.
He looked to Titus, the great leader of the Luna hybrids, and nodded. Better they get this shit over with than argue about why he was the last to know.
Titus raised a brow that creased his tanned skin. “You’ve all been called for a special mission.”
Zeno’s ears perked up. Missions were something he could deal with, especially if it meant he’d have the chance to take down a couple of Glycons, the mindless and mutated blood-thirsty hybrids created by the Group as disposable weapons. Hell, maybe he’d even get a chance to take down a member of the Horatius Group.
“According to the pings we’ve gotten,” Titus said and tapped the map on the table. “This is where you’ll be going.”
Zeno looked down at the paper and nearly choked. “Peru? What the hell?”
“Oh, fuck me,” Marius groaned and leaned forward in his chair. His button-up shirt strained around his neck as he did so. “I told you he wouldn’t work.”
Zeno glared at the other man. He might not harbor any feelings for Rachel, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still want to kick Marius’s ass. The smug prick always seemed to think he was smarter than the rest of them.
“Couldn’t we send Varius with him?” Sol said.
Titus gave a funny look and shook his head. “He’s busy,” he said, his words clipped and final.
Zeno frowned. Had his friend been given some special mission he wasn’t allowed to be part of? It certainly seemed that way.
Two burning amber eyes landed on him, and he could feel the pull of what a leader could command from his men.
“He’s who we need,” Titus said and nodded firmly to Zeno. “The mission can’t be completed without him.”
Pride swelled in him at the high praise. Whatever it was, he knew he was more than capable of handling it. Despite what some of the others might think about him, he did his job and did it well. At least Titus seemed to have faith in him.
He scanned the map. Zeno wasn’t quite sure what he was looking at, but the terrain seemed to contain far less jungle than their last excursion to that part of the world. Large mountains surrounded a small town. It looked remote and dangerous. Not that danger scared him, but he wanted to know what he was walking into. Part of kicking ass was not letting the other guy get a drop on you.
Val leaned across the table and pointed to a red circle on the map. The little female half-hybrid was proving to be a major asset to them. Her knowledge of computers, communication infrastructure and systems was near master level. There was even some talk that her half-hybrid nature might have some role in her abilities. Zeno wasn’t so certain.
They’d never encountered someone like her, and they certainly had no idea how she worked. She and her brother, the full-hybrid Sol, were similar in nature and looks, but the rest seemed more a mystery.
Rumors floated around saying she could sense emotions, but he didn’t pay much attention to them. It seemed like some story that had been passed along to explain her odd behavior.
In the end, it might just be that Val was a super genius, which put people on edge. Not that he was going to tell her that. The last thing she needed was her ego to be even more inflated. Still, he had to respect her skills.
Val glanced over at him from where she leaned. She gave a small smirk and shook her head, returning her attention back to the map. He twitched.
“We know the probably Horatius Group signal we’ve detected is coming from this general area,” she said and looked around the room. “I’ll know more once I can get into position.”
He frowned. “Position for what?”
She stared at him with a straight-forward expression. No malice. Not patronizing. He wondered if she was actually trying to read the emotions of the room. Not that it mattered, he had nothing to hide even if the rumors proved true.
She gave a half smile and he froze. Maybe his earlier thoughts had been right.
“You, big boy, have a different sort of job,” she said. She grinned widely at him, and he didn't like the look of it. He could hear Apollo growl a warning beside her. The guy always seemed a little more revved up when it came to Val.
She turned and winked to Apollo, who stopped growling and glared around the room, as if daring anyone to say something.
Val turned back around and smiled at Zeno.
“Apollo will help me get to a point in town so I can set up my tracking station,” she said. “Once I get that in place, I’ll be able to relay information to Marius. Between the two of us, we should be able to locate the facility.”
Zeno shook his head and looked back over to Titus.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “Why the three of us? It sounds like something that could be done with two.”
It was Lucius who spoke this time. The scarred man was normally first in line for these things, but his bonded had only recently found out she was pregnant, and there wasn’t a chance he would leave her side.
“Getting the signal is only a part of the mission,” Lucius said. His deep voice gripped Zeno. “Once the facility is located, you are not to engage. We need to know what’s happening there, but we want to make sure we’re not walking into a trap.”
He nodded. It still sounded like a two-man job to him, but that wasn’t really his call.
“There’s one more thing,” Titus said and nodded to Paige.
Zeno frowned. Were they really thinking of bringing the little nurse? That seemed like a very bad idea. An untrained person on the mission could hinder the whole operation, and the last thing he wanted to do was babysit.
“It’s my sister,” Paige said. Her voice shook as she spoke, and the very male part of him crumbled at the waiver in her voice. “She’s there. Or at least her last postcard said she was.”
She set the card on the table: a picture of a pretty woman with long sun-streaked hair. Her bright green eyes took up so much of her face they looked like two bright emeralds on the paper. She was wearing some sort of red dress. Zeno followed the line of the straps on the dress until he landed on her more than ample chest. He swallowed hard.
“Ava…” Paige said, her voice breaking.
Titus stood to finish. “Ava was last known to have been with an Antonio Díaz at his villa just on the outskirts of town.”
Zeno looked down at the map. It seemed an odd coincidence that Ava would just happen to be there. Considering all the tricks the Horatius Group had pulled on them, being paranoid could save someone’s life.
“Is it all connected?” he asked.
Titus glanced over to Paige and then back to him. Paige shifted in her seat, noticeably tenser.
“Unlikely,” Titus said, “since they weren’t even aware of Paige being a Vestal.”