This TRT I’ve chosen (tee hee) Chosen by Fate (A Para-Ops Novel) by Virna DePaul
Although he keeps company with a vampire and a were, human Shaman Caleb O’Flare can definitely hold his own. But neither his psychic ability nor his healing powers can help his sexy-as-hell teammate, Wraith-a ghost with no memory of her human existence, who cannot experience touch without pain. No wraith has managed to exist past its tenth year, so her time is about to run out. She wants only two things before accepting her fate: to learn her human identity, and experience one night with Caleb…
Caleb’s hands moved swiftly and efficiently as he set up the mobile radar equipment he’d spread out on the roof. The building below his feet had been swept and a perimeter established. Now all Caleb had to do was determine who was in the room with Mahone and whether Mahone was still alive.
Briefly, he glanced at Ethan Riley, leader of Hope Restored Team Blue and the four men, skilled in entry and perimeter surveillance, who’d accompanied them here. “Did you get in touch with the Para-Ops team?”
Riley looked up from checking his rifle. “They’ve detained the vampire Dante Prime. Devereux said he tried to teleport here, but he’d depleted his powers in Korea . . .”
Caleb snorted. “No shit.” Although vamps could teleport to and from anywhere in the world, provided they’d been there before, that kind of travel drained them. Before he and the rest of the team had interrupted the Vamp Council to question Dante Prime for treason and conspiracy to commit murder, Knox had spent several hours teleporting between North Korea and the United States. Each time, he’d carried a wounded Other or one of his team members back with him. It was a wonder the vamp was even capable of talking at this point…
His fingers moved faster. Almost there. Glancing at his watch, Caleb clenched his teeth and felt a bead of sweat trickle down his temple. He knew they couldn’t go in blind but—
“What about your wraith? Was she what you expected her to be?”
Caleb paused for only a fraction of a second before continuing his task. “She’s not my wraith. She’s a wraith who decided to keep the name Wraith, just to be ornery. And she’s exactly what I expected her to be.” What he didn’t say was that she was also far more than he’d expected. A heinous bitch, yes, but one whose attitude and mouth was designed to hide something textured and complex and . . .
Disgusted with himself, Caleb pressed his lips together and pushed thoughts of Wraith out of his head.
Get Mahone out. That’s all he could think about right now.
“Finally!” Snapping the last wire in place, Caleb flipped on the power and adjusted the radar settings, then scanned the building’s interior until the radar picked up body heat. “Bingo.”
Caleb immediately zoomed the camera in and got a good look at Mahone.
Dear Essenia, he thought, automatically invoking the name of the Earth Goddess to give him strength—strength he was clearly going to need to help Mahone. Although humans believed Essenia was an Otherborn deity, few knew Earth People—like the Native American tribe to which Caleb belonged—had prayed to the same deity for centuries.
With his wrists shackled to chains hanging from the ceiling, Mahone looked like he’d gotten into a fight with a chipper machine and lost. His face and body were covered in blood, and what was left of his clothes hung on his battered body in shreds. From his position on the rooftop above, Caleb once again adjusted the settings on the mobile radar equipment. The image on the screen zoomed out, losing detail and focus until it shaped the entire room, and provided grainy outlines of Mahone, a desk, a table, and one other individual, whose silver hair, height, and slim build proclaimed him to be a vampire.
When Caleb and the five members of Hope Restored Team Blue had arrived at the isolated warehouse twenty minutes earlier, Caleb had figured Knox, leader of the Para-Ops team, had made a mistake by not sending any Others with him. That, or Knox simply had faith in Caleb’s ability to take down anything that got in their way, human or not. Either way, Caleb was getting Mahone out and he planned on both of them to be breathing when he did it.
Caleb thought of the first time he’d met Mahone and the vision he’d had. He’d had the same vision several times since and the moment he’d met Wraith, he’d become convinced that the black-and-white aura that hovered near his own had to be hers. Upon their meeting, he’d felt a sizzling arc of connection that had only intensified with time. Apparently she hadn’t. In fact, she seemed to have no use for him and spent most of her time pushing him away. Maybe the aura belonged to Mahone, instead, and the vision had been a premonition of this very moment, Mahone straddling the line between life and death, waiting to see whether Caleb could save him.
Luckily for both of them, Caleb had come prepared. He looked at Riley. The man might be a little more chatty than Caleb liked, but he’d had no problem taking Caleb’s lead on the current mission. He was smart and he was a clean shot. That’s all that mattered right now. “Mahone’s in bad shape. We need to get in there fast. I’m hoping the vamp will teleport as soon as he knows he has company, but I need you and your team to cover me in case he decides to stick around. Are your shooters set up around the perimeter of the room?”
“They’ve all checked in and are in the crawl space, with their weapons ready.”
“Obviously your bullets won’t kill him but, along with the Hyperion gas, they may buy me enough time to get to Mahone and extract him.”
“How long does it take for the Hyperion to immobilize a vampire?”
The Hyperion was something Caleb had developed toward the end of the War. The government hadn’t known about it and he’d only used it a few times before peace had been declared. The testing he’d conducted had been limited, but he felt fairly confident it would work.
At this point, he figured his odds of getting out with Mahone were only slightly below average. “Usually about sixty seconds, but that’s with a vamp who’s been weakened by the effects of the vampire vaccine. From the looks of this one, he’s had pure blood recently. Still, he might not be at full strength.”
“If the vamp’s immobilized by the Hyperion, how do we keep him contained while we take him in?”
“We don’t. That’s not what we’re here for. Our sole objective is to rescue Mahone.”
Riley nodded, but looked troubled. “You said he’s doing bad . . .”
Caleb tried to keep his expression blank. “Doing bad” was an understatement. Mahone probably had less than five minutes of life left in his broken body. “Just get me to him. I’ll take care of it from there. You ready?”
Riley communicated with his men, then nodded. “It’s a go.” Slipping the small gas pellet from his pocket, Caleb held it up. “Remember, you have to stay back. Help me hold back the vamp, then get your men out. You’re maintaining the perimeter, not going in. This gas immobilizes vamps and weres, but it does far worse to humans once enough of it is absorbed in your blood stream.”
“What about you?”
“I’ve built up a resistance. It’s not extensive, but it’ll give me the five minutes I need. If we don’t make it out, it’ll take two hours for the gas to dissipate. Don’t come into the room until that much time has passed. Understood?”
Riley nodded and held out his hand. O’Flare shook it, then strode to the door that would lead him from the roof to the room below. He moved quietly, his breathing low and shallow, his gun held at the ready with the gas pellet in his other hand. He’d activate it as soon as he got close enough and it could work its magic on the vampire.
When he entered the room, he immediately saw Mahone. Even the radar’s enhanced imaging hadn’t prepared him. The vampire wasn’t touching him, but Mahone’s facial features were contorted in agony, his body writhing and jerking even as he remained silent. Fuck, Caleb thought when he saw the blood seeping out of Mahone’s eyes and ears.
“Hey vamp,” he shouted at the same time he threw the pellet, which would emit a toxic but invisible gas. The vampire whirled around, his eyes flashing red the instant he saw Caleb. He bared his fangs and came at him, his feet gliding above the ground. Caleb fired a round directly at his chest, causing him to fall back. At the same time, Riley and his men fired as well. As the vamp jerked with the impact of the bullets, O’Flare ran for Mahone. He reached up and felt his pulse.
It was barely there. He literally felt the man’s life bleeding out of him.
Laying his hands on Mahone’s bloody chest, Caleb closed his eyes. Bullets still fired around him, some coming too damn close. Damn it, Riley’s men had to get out before the gas reached them in the crawl space. “Get out!” he yelled.
“The vampire teleported,” Riley shouted. “We’re clear.”
With a sigh of relief, Caleb willed his consciousness into a trance and called to his ancestors for their healing help. He saw them in the colors that swirled behind his eyelids and felt their presence in the heat that immediately suffused his body. Their voices chanted low and soothing, directing him to keep one hand directly over Mahone’s heart but place the other over his eyes. Caleb willed the healing heat building within his body to transfer to Mahone. As it did, he took some of Mahone’s pain into himself.
He felt his own heartbeat slow.
His limbs weakened.
His body began to shake with the effort of remaining upright and he clenched his teeth, sensing he needed to maintain contact far longer than he ever had.
Come on, come on, he urged himself. Hang in there.
The dizziness came next. Then the nausea. He could feel his lungs filling with the gas that swirled around them and knew his time was running out.
His body jerked as he coughed and the movement threatened to pull his hands away from Mahone.
They had to get out of there, but if he disconnected too soon it would all be for nothing. Mahone would die. Hell, Caleb would probably die, as well, too weak from the healing to get out on his own.
But then he felt Mahone’s chest rising strongly and his pulse beating regularly and he knew it had worked. The heat slowly left his body and the voices of his ancestors faded. Caleb whispered his thanks, then opened his eyes. Swiftly, he reached up and unhooked Mahone’s chains from the manacles around his wrists. Mahone groaned and slumped over just as O’Flare caught him and threw him fireman-style over his shoulder. Caleb staggered a few steps before he turned, intending to carry Mahone to the doorway. Halfway there, his knees buckled. Caleb lost his grip on Mahone, and the man slipped and rolled a couple of feet away. Grunting, Caleb fell on all fours, his head hanging, his lungs seizing up.
He’d waited too long. They were both going to die in this warehouse just like those scientists. He looked up, eyes watering, searching the room, thankful that Team Blue had obeyed his orders even as he regretted the fact no one was going to be able to help him.
But then he saw her. Wraith. Running toward him. He tried to open his mouth. To yell at her to stop. He didn’t know how the gas would affect a wraith. Since it worked so well on vamps, immortality had nothing to do with it. But he couldn’t make a sound and Wraith kept coming. She knelt beside him and pulled him up. She was yelling something and he tried to make it out.
“—have to walk! I need to get Mahone. Can you walk, O’Flare?”
She was looking frantically between him and Mahone, the indecision on her face readily apparent. She couldn’t carry them both out of there before the gas ended them.
“Leave me—” he tried to say, but again no sound came out. It didn’t matter. Wraith understood.
She grabbed him by his shirt and shook him, hanging on when he began to slide, practically keeping him on his feet. “No fucking way, O’Flare. I didn’t survive Korea just to come back and lose you in the States. Stay on your feet and move. You’re walking out of here. Got it?”
The vehemence in her voice roused him enough to nod. She released him and, although he swayed on his feet, he didn’t fall. Quickly, she grabbed Mahone, carrying him in the same lift O’Flare had used. Then amazingly, she positioned herself next to him and ordered, “Lean against me if you need to. Start walking. Now.”
Caleb walked. He didn’t know how he did it, but he managed to put one foot in front of the other. At one point, he did have to lean on her and he sensed how it slowed her down, but she didn’t move away. She stayed with him.
Until they made it out into the open air. He heard shouts and the sound of stomping feet just as he collapsed.
When he came to, he was being loaded into an ambulance. Riley’s face hovered above him. “Mahone?” Caleb rasped out.
“Still alive,” Riley said. “But I don’t know if he’s going to stay that way.”
From the worried expression on the man’s face, Caleb knew his own chance of survival was also in question.
“Wraith?” he asked, grabbing on to the man’s shirt when he didn’t answer. “What about the wraith?”
Riley shook his head. “I don’t know. She passed out, same as you. No pulse, remember? No breath. No way to tell if she’s alive or dead. They took her in another cab. Your guess is as good as mine.
Why I’m excited
Virna DePaul has made a heroine who can’t be touched without pain. What an awesome thing to have to overcome. I’m curious how she will do it. Plus, reviews are looking great so far.