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Enigma


What Lies Beneath





By Ditter Kellen





www.ditterkellen.com


Copyright © by Ditter Kellen. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from Ditter Kellen. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.


Image/art disclaimer: Licensed material is being used for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the licensed material is a model.


Published in the United States of America


This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.







Warning


This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. This e-book is for sale to adults ONLY as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely where they cannot be accessed by underage readers


Dedication


This book is dedicated to a dear friend of many years, Abbie Cook. She’s a paramedic, a firefighter, and a wife and mother. A true hero.

I love you, Abbie.


A special thanks to my amazing beta reader, Cathe Green. Much love to you, my friend.


To my wonderful, caring husband, thank you for always believing in me and loving me unconditionally. I love you, always.


Prologue


“Abbie, wait.”

Henry’s voice could barely be heard over the thundering of waves crashing in the distance.

An endless stream of tears streaked down Abbie’s face as great racking sobs seized her small body. Pain welled up from her chest until it became impossible to breathe. Still, she ran.

Her father’s shouts faded with every step she took until they disappeared altogether.

Branches grabbed at her arms like the bony fingers of a thousand skeletons, cutting into her skin. She welcomed the sting of every scratch; anything to relieve the pain in her heart.

Her mother’s cold, pale face burned behind her eyes, frozen and empty. Gone were the laugh lines, the sparkle…the life.

Abbie couldn’t bear to see her mother lying in a box for hundreds of people to pass by and say words over. She might be only seven, but she was old enough to know it meant goodbye. A coffin, they’d called it. Resting place. Final.

A wail wrenched from her small chest. It ricocheted off the trees, scattering birds in different directions. She’d give anything to have wings in that moment, to fly away and never look back.

Abbie burst onto the beach without slowing. Her little legs ate up the sand as she ran straight for the water.

Memories of swimming with her mother lit through her mind in sorrowful detail. The laughter, splashing around and exploring the unknown.

A storm was coming, but she didn’t care. She needed to feel her mother’s presence, to beg God to give her back.

Abbie, do you know why the ocean is salty? It’s all the tears God cries when someone passes away.”

Mama, what does ‘passes away’ mean?”

Well, it means when people die, they leave this earth to become angels.”

If they get to be angels, then why does God cry?”

For the ones that are left behind who will miss them after they’re gone.”

Abbie sailed headlong into the waves with her sights on the second sandbar. She would swim out as far as she could to be sure her prayers were heard. If God cried enough to create an ocean, maybe He would take pity on her and give back her mother.

The weight of her skirt wrapping around her legs made it hard to move in the churning water. She used her arms to pull herself along in a rowing motion until the current became too strong, forcing her to dive under and swim. Her eyes stung from the salt, but she held them open while memories of her mother’s voice whispered through her mind.

Abbie, did you know that dolphins can communicate with humans?”

What is commu… Commu—”

It means talk to them.”

Have you ever talked to a dolphin?

I sure have.”

Really? What did he say?”

He said for me to tell my daughter to stop peeing in the water where his kids play.”

Her mother’s tinkering laughter echoed through her heart as she fought the tide in search of the sandbar.

Abbie’s arms eventually grew weary and her lungs began to burn, leaving her no choice but to kick her way up for air.

Her head broke the surface to a wall of water so high it blocked out the sun. She opened her mouth to scream a second before a powerful wave crashed down on top of her, taking her back under.

Her body spun head over heels along the gulf floor, leaving her powerless to stop the undertow. Panic gripped her as sand scraped her face, entering her mouth and eyes. The need to breathe became too strong, and Abbie gave up the fight. Pain. Darkness.

* * * *


Cold. Abbie felt chilled to her bones. Her chest burned, and something was caught in her throat. A spasm gripped her, and she heaved.

A voice she didn’t recognize. She screamed for someone to help her, to remove the heaviness from her neck.

Something slid along her arms to her hands. Tingling warmth. Heat spread out from her palms through her stomach and legs. The shivering stopped.

“Salutem.” The strange word came from a deep voice above her. Was she dead?

She slowly lifted her heavy lids and stared up into the brilliant green gaze of a teenage boy. His eyes were a color she’d never seen before, resembling a few of the marbles she’d been recently collecting.

“God?” she wheezed.

He cocked his head to the side as if he didn’t understand.

She tried to lift her arm, but he held it down. His hands were covering hers, palm to palm. He tilted his head to the other side, and more tingling heat pulsed through her skin. The pain in her chest receded.

The boy peered down at her in open curiosity, similar to the way she’d seen her dog do when he spotted an insect crawling through the grass.

“Who are you?” Abbie whispered, realizing the boy had saved her life.

He glanced up at something in the distance before returning his gaze to her once again. She wondered if maybe he didn’t speak English, and pulled one of her hands free of his to point at herself. “Abbie.”

“Abbie,” he repeated in a strange accent.

“Yes.” She touched her finger to his chest. “And your name?”

Shouts could be heard over the crashing of the waves, and the boy suddenly stilled. Abbie watched in wonder as he sprang away from her and dove into the water.

She pushed up onto her elbows in time to see him swim out toward the sandbar with the speed of a dolphin before disappearing from view altogether.

“No, wait.” She rose to her knees at the edge of the gulf. Her gaze flew over every wave of the rolling water, but there was no sign of her savior. Fear gripped her, and she forced herself forward. She had to find him.

“Abbie!” Her father’s terrified voice shouted in the distance. “Abbie, sweetheart, don’t move! Daddy’s coming.”

How could the boy stay under the water so long? she wondered, searching the sandbar and beyond.

Henry was suddenly there, scooping her up into his arms. “Somebody call 911!”

“Daddy, we have to help him.” Abbie tried to wriggle free, but he only held on tighter.

“Help who, sweetie?”

“The boy.”

Her father turned in a half circle, scanning the beach without slowing his steps. “What boy?”

“The one who pulled me out of the water.”

“There’s no one there, honey. And don’t ever scare me like that again.”

He began to run toward the dunes where a small crowd flocked in their direction with cell phones in hand.

“Is she all right?” an older woman with bright red lipstick yelled as she stumbled along the sand. But Abbie was no longer listening.

She twisted her head around, frantically searching for the boy who had magically disappeared in the great pool of God’s tears.

Chapter one


Twenty-five years later


“You really should eat better, young lady. Your mother would have my ass if she were alive to see some of the dreadful things you consume.”

Abbie hid a smile at her father’s scolding. “I’m thirty-two years old, Henry. I doubt she would go all June Cleaver on me.”

“You shouldn’t call me Henry, you little brat. It makes me sound old and boring.”

“If the toupee fits.” They both laughed a moment before falling into a comfortable silence.

Abbie’s mother had died from cancer twenty-five years earlier, and Henry had never remarried. He hid his loneliness behind a mask of indifference and immersed himself wholly in his work.

Being the lead epidemiologist for Winchester Industries had become Henry’s proverbial crutch, and he spent entirely too much time alone at the lab.

Abbie worried about him constantly and planned evenings such as the one they had tonight to spend quality time together. It didn’t always work. She knew he saw her mother every time he looked into his daughter’s eyes. The exact replica of the only woman he’d ever loved.

The trill of a phone broke the silence, and her father excused himself to take the call.

Work, no doubt, Abbie thought, taking a bite of the burger she’d just made to her liking.

He reappeared a moment later with a guilty look in his eyes. “That was the lab, honey. They need me to come back in.”

“What could be so important that it can’t wait until morning?”

He avoided her gaze. “I’m not sure, but I’ll call you later. Don’t wait up. It’s going to be a late night.”

Something in his voice kicked her curiosity up a notch. He never could hide things well, and the whole no eye contact? Yeah, he was definitely keeping something from her.

“I’ll come with you.” She pushed her plate aside and stood.

“Nonsense. Stay and eat your heart attack on a bun. You worked a twelve-hour shift at the hospital today.”

Abbie had worked at Winchester Industries with her father for several years and often assisted him in the lab before she’d been unceremoniously laid off due to supposed budget cuts.

She knew the higher ups had purposefully kept things from her during her time working in the lab, but whatever Henry hid from her now had to be awfully big for him to outright lie to his only daughter.

And she had no doubt he evaded the truth by the way his left eye twitched. That little trademark had always given him away. “What are you not telling me?”

He pursed his lips. “Okay, you got me. I didn’t want to have to say this, honey, but you are adopted.”

A chuckle bubbled up before she could stop it. She stood on tiptoes and gave him a quick peck on the chin. “That explains a whole hell of a lot.”

“You look so much like your mother, Abbigail. She had the same hazel eyes and dark hair. Her butt wasn’t quite as big though.”

Abbie playfully smacked him on the arm before stepping back. “I inherited the infamous booty from you, Henry.”

She knew he didn’t like her to call him Henry any more than she appreciated him referring to her as Abbigail. They were incorrigible teases, but it was their way.

“I really do have to run, sweetie.”

“At least let me pack up your food to take with you, or you won’t eat.”

He nodded and began gathering his work paraphernalia while she bagged up his dinner.

What are you up to, Henry?

Abbie followed him to the car and held the door open as he deposited his things on the passenger seat.

“You are welcome to stay here tonight, Abbie. Jax would love the company.”

“I probably will. If I leave, I’ll feed him before I go.”

He gave her a two-finger salute and slid behind the wheel.

Abbie stepped back as the door closed and the engine roared to life. He backed out of the drive without another glance in her direction.

She waited until his tail lights disappeared around the corner before going back inside to put food out for Jax. He followed her around with a rubber ball in his mouth, bumping into her legs. The big German shepherd had been with Henry for nearly ten years and had become part of the family.

“You know what’s going on, don’t you, boy?”

His tail wagged in response from the attention.

“Wanna give me a clue? No? I didn’t think so. You are a male after all.” She snagged the ball from his jaws and tossed it across the room, grinning as he bounded after it.

After a quick shower, Abbie brushed her teeth and strolled to her old bedroom in search of something to wear. Henry kept the room exactly as Abbie had left it before she’d gone off to college, right down to the blue pom-poms hanging from the bedpost.

She dressed in a pair of jeans and a black tank top, pulled her long, dark hair back in a ponytail, and made haste cleaning up the mess from their earlier dinner.

Grabbing her keys, she switched off the lights and left the house.

Abbie strode to her car with determined steps. Something was up, and she’d be damned if she would remain behind to play the docile daughter while her father was probably neck deep into something illegal.

* * * *

Abbie pulled into the parking lot of Winchester Industries and switched off the engine.

Her father’s car sat in its reserved spot in front of a sign that read H. Sutherland. She grabbed the registration to her vehicle from the glove box, exited the car, and glanced up at the camera situated on the corner of the building.

Security would be a piece of cake. She did, however, need to figure out a believable reason for being there in the first place without alerting Henry to her presence.

The evening security guard waved from his perch behind a small, less than clean window. Smudges on the glass blurred his smile, but she couldn’t mistake the shiny gold tooth displayed so proudly from its position in the front of his mouth.

The door buzzed once, and a click told her the lock had released. She pulled it open and stepped inside.

“Hi, Willie. How are you this evening?”

Willie had been one of her favorite night watchmen. His uniform always appeared clean, neatly creased, and he smelled nice. The badge he wore shone perfectly to match the bald spot on top of his head. He had a toothy grin for everyone and a heart of gold.

“Doing good, Miss Abbie. I sure have missed your face around here. The place hasn’t been the same since you were laid off.”

“Thank you, Willie. I miss you too.”

Willie cleared his throat. “What brings you here?”

“Henry forgot an important piece of his work.” She held up the folded car registration before quickly tucking it into the pocket of her jeans.

“I hate it when that happens. My wife is always harping at me about how forgetful I’m getting. I reckon she’s right. It’s hard getting old.”

He glanced at the pocket she’d tucked the paper into. “He must be working on something pretty big to bring you down here at this hour. It’s almost nine o’clock.”

Abbie inwardly groaned. She hated lying to Willie, but left with little choice, lying was exactly what she did.

“He’s working on some antimicrobial susceptibility tests, and they called him in to straighten out a mix-up in results. It could be the fact that he used the gradient diffusion method instead of—”

Willie laughed, effectively cutting her off. “Okay, Miss Abbie. You lost me back at antimicro…something.” He waved her on. “Tell him not to work too hard.”

“Have a good night, Willie. Tell that beautiful wife of yours I’m ready for more of her fried chicken.”

“I sure will.” He beamed.

He touched her arm as she turned to go. “Wait. Dr. Sutherland left his dinner down here when he signed in. Do you want to take it up to him on your way through? If not, I can buzz him and let him know it’s here.”

Abbie ground her teeth. If Willie picked up the phone, he would spill the beans without realizing it. The man loved to talk.

“Yes, thank you. I’ll take it.” She caught sight of a keycard peeking out from beneath some papers on Willie’s desk and quickly snagged it when he bent to retrieve Henry’s dinner from under the counter. She stuffed the card into her back pocket.

He straightened and handed her the bag. “Here you go, Miss. Abbie.”

“See you, Willie.” She winked at him and hurried off down the hall.

The cameras strategically placed along the corners of the ceiling made her nervous. If anyone involved in whatever Henry worked on recognized her, they would surely sound the alarm.

Abbie knew Winchester Industries pushed the limits and sometimes experimented with drugs not previously approved by the FDA. But whatever her father had rushed to the lab for had nothing to do with illegal testing. He wouldn’t have been asked to come back in for that alone. No, this was definitely something bigger.

To increase her chances of staying under the radar, Abbie bypassed the elevator for the stairs.

Taking them two at a time, she stopped at the door to the second floor. With a slight tug, it cracked open enough that she could see into the hallway. She stood there for several heartbeats, listening for any sound, and then slipped quietly into the corridor.

Male laughter rang out up ahead, and Abbie stilled. Are they guarding the lab?

She glanced up at a camera in the corner. Monitors were installed in every office throughout the building, along with the security hub. The longer she stood in the open, the higher her chances were of being seen by Henry.

After a moment, the voices grew faint, signaling the men had headed off in the opposite direction. She blew out a breath she’d been holding and crept silently forward.

Noticing the door to the lab was closed when she rounded the corner, she quickly fished out the keycard from her back pocket and slid it effortlessly through the vertical groove situated next to the doorjamb. The green light activated right on cue, and she cringed as a click sounded loud enough to startle a sloth.

The predictable sounds of a lab in use met her ears as she eased the door open and entered her father’s domain. He obviously hadn’t heard the lock disengage over the consistent beeps and humming of the equipment surrounding him.

Abbie took in the room with a quick glance, noticing a big pair of feet hanging off the end of a bed her father stood next to.

Her heart began to pound as she crept farther inside. The closer she got the more confused she became. It was definitely a man lying on the bed; only, she’d never seen one that size in her lifetime.

A sheet covered his lower body from waist to ankles, leaving his upper half bare. His chest appeared devoid of hair and stood off the bed about two feet. He was massive and had to be at least six foot ten by her estimation.

Warmth enveloped Abbie as her gaze slid to the stranger’s face. Beautiful would be a gross understatement.

He had a smooth, strong jaw that angled up to slightly pointed ears. Pointed ears? His dark hair lay haphazardly tousled on the pillow. Full lips and a faintly crooked nose made up the rest of his face. She wondered what color his eyes were.

Without conscious thought, she inched forward on shaky legs. Why would they have him here? Is he sick? It didn’t matter as long as she could stand there and drink him in.

Her father must have sensed her approach. He stiffened a second before spinning around. “What are you doing here?” He seemed more nervous than angry.

“I could ask you the same thing. What’s going on, Henry?” She nodded toward the incapacitated stranger taking up far too much bed.

“You have to leave. Now.”

Anger surged. “What is that man doing here? This isn’t a hospital, so don’t lie me. I knew something was going on when you got that phone call earlier. What sort of illegal activity do they have you involved in this time?”

“Honey, please. You’re not supposed to be here. You need to go home. Now. I’ll explain it all in the morning.” He glanced toward to door several times as he spoke.

“Not until you tell me the truth. You promised me you wouldn’t participate in anymore illegal activities, Dad. No matter what Newman threatened you with.”

Henry took a deep breath and pinned her with an impatient stare. “Fine. But then you must go. And it’s not what you think. Newman didn’t threaten me, but he might if he finds you here. How did you get in here, anyhow?”

Abbie raised an eyebrow. “Newman’s not going to find me here. And Willie let me in. He doesn’t know what kind of illegal dealings go on in this lab. He thinks that I was laid off due to budget cuts.”

Henry averted his gaze. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

Chapter Two


Abbie stared at her father as he attempted to explain away the man’s presence with some fabricated tale.

“This is all I know. It…” Henry took a deep breath and started again. “It washed up on the beach a few hours ago. Newman called me in to run some tests before they extradite the corpse to Area 51.”

“Wait.” Abbie held up a hand when he would have continued. “Newman, the CEO of Winchester Industries? And it?”

He hesitated. “It’s not human, Abbie. I don’t know what it is, but I need to get these samples taken before the crew from Area 51 arrives. You have to go. No one else is to know about this.”

“Not human? That’s impossible.” Other than the stranger’s size and pointed ears, he appeared the same as any other man. “And how did he get here?”

Henry turned to a computer near the head of the bed and tapped a few keys. The screen came out of hibernation within seconds to display what looked to be a chest X-ray.

“Someone ran across the thing on the beach. Apparently it drowned somehow and floated up on shore. Local PD had the creature sent to the morgue, and Newman had it delivered here. He told the police this was a Hazmat situation and needed ‘him’ contained until they cleared the scene. No one questioned Newman since he owns the hospital and this lab. The cops had no idea it was an alien.”

“Why would they think he’s not human? Did the coroner open him up and find a little green man in residence?” She would have rolled her eyes if the situation didn’t already resemble a Twilight Zone episode.

“Come look at this.”

Abbie stood next to her father to gaze at the unbelievable evidence of a six-chambered heart. It took a moment to register the truth, but there was no mistaking it.

“How is that possible? I’ve never seen anything like it. Do you know what this means?” Her voice sounded strained to her own ears.

“Neither have I. And it doesn’t mean anything to us. Once it leaves here, we forget it exists.”

“But, Henry—”

“No.” He glanced at his watch. “The crew will arrive in less than three hours to retrieve it, and then I develop amnesia. Do you understand?”

“We have a little time before they get here. Show me please? This is too amazing to be true.” Several questions ran through her mind at once. She couldn’t voice them all.

With a click of the mouse, another image appeared. “Do you see that?” Henry pointed to an object on the screen.

“Yes, what is it?” She leaned in to get a better look.

“The equivalent of lungs.”

“But what is that?” She indicated something winged that grew from the sides of the organs.

“They’re gills.” His voice took on an awed tone, which she could understand. She was in the same frame of mind.

“It can’t be.” Yet the evidence of it mocked her from inches away.

Henry glanced up at her. “They’re gills, I tell you. I saw them on the back side of his ribs. His arms cover most of them and they wouldn’t be noticeable to someone that didn’t know what to look for.”

“Do you realize what this implies? Gills for God’s sake.”

“I’m seeing similarities to humans, amphibians, reptiles, and fish here, Abbie. The heart of a fish only has two chambers, one to receive blood and the other to send it out to the rest of the body. A human heart has four.”

“Notice that our blood leaves the lungs and enters the heart, while a fish’s blood leaves the heart and enters the gills. And take a gander at this.” Henry clicked the mouse once more.

“What in the world?” she breathed, studying the image before her.

“It’s the digestive tract. I would give anything to be able to dissect it.”

His excitement at the possibility of a dissection disturbed her.

Abbie glanced over at the it in question, and something tugged at her emotions. Some kind of beautiful creature had washed up on the beach only to be violated and sent to a place few had ever witnessed. Area 51.

She shuddered and turned back to the screen. “Have you ever seen anything like this before? And why six chambers instead of two or four?”

“I don’t know why the six chambers. I understand that an octopus, squid, and cuttlefish have three separate hearts, so perhaps it has to do with evolution.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he continued. “I studied tissue samples taken from an unknown subject many years ago, but I wasn’t told its origin. And it had blood. This subject doesn’t. Well, not enough to fill a cup, at any rate. And there are no wounds that it could have bled out from.”

“What?” Abbie was sure she hadn’t heard him right.

“Come here and I’ll show you.” Henry took up residence on the left side of the bed as she rushed around to the right.

He lifted the creature’s left arm, turning the hand so she could see both sides. “We attempted to draw blood here first. Nothing. Not a drop could be found.”

Replacing the arm, he gripped the subject’s chin next, tugging it to the side for her inspection. “One vein runs along here, from jaw to the bottom of the neck. Dry also.”

“But— ”

“I’ll come back to that. There’s more.” He dragged the sheet down to a small pink vertical scar on the creature’s abdomen. “Impossible,” he gasped.

“What’s wrong?” Her gaze flew to her father’s face.” Henry had significantly paled.

“I made that incision less than an hour ago. It’s nearly healed already. The thing is dead. I don’t understand.”

“Are you sure he’s…gone?” Abbie couldn’t bring herself to refer to him as it.

“No heartbeat.” Henry laid two fingers on the creature’s neck. “No pulse. It’s dead all right.”

“So how is he healing if he isn’t alive?”

“I don’t know. I was able to remove a small sample of something resembling blood from near the stomach cavity, but it wasn’t in any of the A, B, O, or RH classes. It’s an anomaly.”

“Perhaps you should try giving him a universal donation to see what happens? I mean, if he’s healing, he has to be alive.”

“He? It’s not a person, Abbie. And I’d thought of that. I was just about to try it before you snuck in here and gave me indigestion. I’m running out of time. I want you gone before that crew arrives.”

“Then let’s hurry. I’ll help.”

He shot her an impatient glance. “So damn stubborn.”

“Yet another thing I inherited from you.”

“You’re not too old for me to turn over my knee, young lady.” He spun on his heel and left the room.

Abbie took advantage of Henry’s absence to study the beautiful creature before her. His wrists and ankles were strapped down with leather cuffs attached to bands that disappeared beneath the bed.

He looked very much alive to her, with color in his cheeks and his lips slightly parted. She was certain his mouth had been closed only moments before.

Her fingers shook as she reached toward him. She gently pushed his top lip up with her thumb. “Holy crap,” she whispered, jerking her hand back as if burned. He had razor-sharp incisors where his eyeteeth should have been.

When nothing untoward happened, Abbie slowly leaned in again. Heat instantly surrounded her upper body. She felt a soft tugging sensation that left a tingle in its wake. Her muscles relaxed without effort as something unseen moved up the sides of her face.

A deeply accented voice invaded her mind. “Open.”

Abbie knew she should run, but the allure of the command was more powerful than her fear.

She allowed the warmth to pull her closer, never taking her gaze from his mouth, until she half lay across his massive chest with her arms on either side of his shoulders.

A gentle pressure wrapped itself around her mind, and she found herself inching toward his parted lips to hover slightly above them. His breath mingled with hers, and she breathed him in. He’s breathing?

Abbie felt as if his very spirit entered her body, traveling down her throat and circling her chest. The pressure continued to slide through her stomach and grew in strength as it reached her abdomen.

She had no desire to move even if it were possible. Her insides turned to liquid, and she exhaled softly into his mouth only to draw him in again. He’s alive

Abbie shifted on his huge frame and stroked her fingertips down to his wrists. Though no pulse was evident, she could feel his energy, his breath teasing her lips.

On instinct, she gripped his hands and slowly turned them over until she was palm to palm with him. A gentle electrical current traveled up her arms, tingling, throbbing, as if it had a life of its own.

An image of herself as a child coming awake on the beach while waves washed over her legs suddenly flashed through her mind. She jerked her head back. What the hell?

The pulsing continued through their points of contact while Abbie held her breath, lowering her face close to his once more. Another jolt entered her palms.

Salutem.”

Where had she heard that before? She recognized it as the Latin word for greetings.

Images and voices began swirling together in a multitude of color and sound, leaving her helpless against the onslaught.

Abbie, did you know that dolphins can communicate with humans?”

A groan slipped from her parted lips, full of pain and sorrow. Mother.

More current slid from his hands to hers. “Salt from his tears.” Water. Coffin. Death.

“No,” she softly moaned.

Sand. Her lungs hurt. Heat snaking through her arms and legs. Salutem.” Blessed darkness.

Abbie heard a keening sound and realized it came from her. She slowly removed her shaky hands from his and brought them to his face. “It can’t be.”

With unsteady fingers, she rested her thumbs on his eyelids and gently lifted. A soft gasp escaped as she stared into the emerald-green eyes of a dream she’d thought long forgotten.

Memory was swift and strong, and she clung to it like a life raft on a raging sea.

She’d wondered a thousand times about the day they’d buried her mother, when the teenage boy with the strange accent and rare-colored eyes had magically appeared to save her life.

The memory had faded over the years until she’d convinced herself it’d all been the imagination of a child who’d recently suffered a trauma.

Abbie couldn’t believe the boy from her dreams was actually real and strapped down before her now.

She forced herself to break the connection and stand on legs that felt too weak to hold her up. His warmth abruptly disappeared, leaving an ache and emptiness in its place that was staggering.


Chapter Three


Unimaginable pain. Hauke could hear his sister’s scream piercing the night, ripping his heart in half. Sunlight scorched his skin. The cool, healing power of the water.

He could breathe once again. Voices. More pain. The distinct feel of a blade opening his skin.

His defenseless state enraged him. To be trapped inside his own mind, unable to retaliate as someone violated his body.

A female. Compassion.

Images plagued him, making little sense.

He clung to the female’s voice. She touched him. He knew she attempted to soothe him, yet he couldn’t read her thoughts.

Open,” he mentally implored.

Her mind became partially exposed to him as he beckoned her closer. His spirit clawed its way to the surface, craving hers. It was a hunger unlike anything he’d ever known.

Her breath entered his mouth, and he felt as if he’d died a thousand times. He saw her lovely face in its true form behind his closed lids. Soft, warm, and expressive. She cared about what happened to him.

He took in her sweet scent, amazed as his spirit encircled hers, wrapping itself around her life force in a slow, sensual slide.

The connection broke unexpectedly, and he panicked. The pain from it went beyond the physical to be felt in his very soul.

Something pricked Hauke’s arm, and warm, blessed liquid traveled up, straight into his heart. It beat for the first time in hours— days… He was unsure of how long he’d been gone. If not for the membrane in the roof of his mouth producing the enzymes he needed to heal and keep his organs from shutting down, Hauke knew he would already be dead. He had no clue how long he’d been in the coma-induced sleep.

The sensation kept coming, and he realized blood somehow pumped into him. The female had to be responsible, he thought, feeling his body soak up every last drop of the coveted source.

Somewhere inside his subconscious, he knew it to be human blood now coursing through his veins. Forbidden among his kind, yet there was nothing he could do but allow it to happen.

Moisture filled his eyes in stark relief, and his protective lenses slid into place. He lifted his lids enough to see shapes moving around the room.

The female’s voice sounded from somewhere near his feet, and he zeroed in on her. She wasn’t beautiful in the conventional sense, though she was still very attractive. Sensuality surrounded her. He wished she would come closer where he could see her eyes.

A beeping noise echoed around him, and someone shouted from nearby. “It’s alive, Abbie! Get back.”

“I’m okay, Henry. He’s strapped down and not fighting.”

Abbie

Hauke’s people had been familiar with the English language since the great flood over two thousand years ago. Some of the words had changed over time, but he had little trouble keeping up. Although, the couple in the room with him did have strange accents, he silently admitted.

Hauke didn’t recognize the voice to his left and cut his gaze in that direction. A tall man with gray hair, wearing a white garment stared back at him with wide eyes. Hauke growled deep in his throat, registering him as a threat.

Abbie’s voice broke through his defensive state. “Hello? Can you understand me?”

He brought his focus back on her, and his chest constricted with emotion. It was her. The young girl that nearly drowned in the gulf all those moons ago.

The foreign feeling did little to slow his curiosity. He openly stared, drinking in her expressive features.

Hauke wanted to communicate with her, but the older man would hear. He sent her a thought instead. ”I comprehend.”

A small intake of air was the only sign that she might have heard him.

He tried again. “Come.”

She slowly moved forward until she stood next to his head. The fact that she’d gone to the same side as the man wearing white wasn’t lost on Hauke. She is protecting me. The thought warmed him.

The female had no idea how much power he possessed. The only reason he hadn’t broken loose and snapped the old one’s neck stood before him now. He didn’t want her to fear him.

Abbie.” He liked the sound of her name.

She appeared nervous but didn’t run. There was a determined set to her jaw that he found oddly sexy.

“Move back this instant,” the gray-haired one demanded from behind her. “If that thing gets loose, you could be killed. And we have no idea what type of diseases it carries.”

Abbie spun around. “Just stop it, Henry. He’s alive. Does he look like he’s trying to break free to you? Have you no heart? We have to do something before they get here. He will die at Area 51.”

“It’s not our problem, Abbigail. Their crew is already on the way. There’s nothing we can do.”

Hauke listened to the exchange, understanding enough to know that the one Abbie referred to as Henry planned on sending him somewhere to die.

He could feel his strength returning with the help of the blood now inching through his veins. The hunger for more grew by the second, and his fangs began to throb in time with his pulse.

“I’m disappointed in you, Daddy.”

Hauke didn’t miss the catch in her voice or the parent reference. He’s her sire. He filed that piece of information away for a later time. His first priority was to get out of there and find the group that had been with him before the explosion.

His heart ached with the knowledge that his sister might not have survived. If she’d died, he would destroy every last human involved in blowing the oil well that separated Naura from him.

“What do you expect me to do? Take it home with me and set up a college fund for it? Come on, Abbie. Be reasonable. You saw the X-rays. That thing may resemble us to a degree, but that’s as far as it goes. Now keep your distance while I check on the incubated samples. It’ll be gone soon, and we have no choice but to forget we ever saw it.” Henry stalked off, leaving a fuming Abbie to gape at his back.

The door suddenly opened, admitting a short, beefy man wearing dark blue clothing. Something shiny hung from his shirt. He stood there for a moment, leering at Abbie before coming fully into the room. “What are you doing here, Doctor Sutherland?”

It would appear that Abbie was a healer, Hauke noted, watching the man in blue slowly advance forward.

“My father called me to bring him a case of files he’d forgotten.”

“I thought you were fired. And who is that behind you on the bed?”

Abbie crossed her arms over her chest. “I was laid off, Donald. Not fired. This man is sick. I wouldn’t advise you come any closer.”

The guy’s beady gaze wandered slowly over her body. “It doesn’t surprise me that you were laid off. You created more trouble than any other employee in the place.”

“I’d be willing to bet not much does surprise you,” Abbie retorted.

Hauke didn’t need to open his mind to feel the venom in her words. They fairly dripped with it.

“I think I’ll just double check with your father about you being up here. Where is he?” Donald turned toward the door Henry had disappeared through only minutes before.

“You can’t go in there, Donald. He’s spinning samples at the moment. You’ll run the risk of contamination.”

Donald stared back at her with traces of suspicion and lust swimming in his eyes. Lust won out in the end.

“Fine. I’ll be in the restroom if you need me…for anything.” Donald winked at her and sauntered across the room, disappearing behind a row of bottle-filled shelves.

Hauke bit down hard enough that one of his incisors pierced his bottom lip. He would kill the man for his filthy thoughts of Abbie. Hauke didn’t need to touch him to read his intentions.

“Abbie.” Her name came out in a whisper only to be swallowed up by the insistent noises of the room. He tried again. “Abbie.”

She spun around to face him with surprise registering on her face. “You can speak.”

He attempted to lift his arm, but the restraints held him back. It would be easy to break free, apprehend her, and escape back to his home. But the thought of frightening her in any way was unacceptable to him.

“Ubi ego sum?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand?”

Though Latin was commonplace among his people, Hauke spoke many languages. English had been the most difficult to learn due to the backhanded slang most humans used. The need to practice it over the years had been rare since he’d only come in contact with a small handful of them.

He cross-referenced words in his mind. “Where am I?”

“You’re in a lab. Someone found you on the beach. We thought you were dead.” She cleared her throat. “Wh-what… Who are you?”

“I am Hauke. Son of Klause. What means Area 51?”

She averted her eyes. “Are you in pain?”

That would be an understatement. He ached from head to feet. Even his hair seemed to hurt. “No pain.”

“You must be thirsty.” She darted away before he could answer.

He would have laughed if it wouldn’t hurt to do so. Any other time, he’d enjoy teasing her. And there would plenty of times, of that he was certain.

Hauke tested his bonds. Simple. They thought to hold him with their straps.

Abbie returned to his side, holding a clear plastic cup. He gave her a questioning look.

“It’s just water.”

“Something floats inside.” He’d never seen its contents before.

She glanced down at the cup, and her lips twitched. “That’s ice. It keeps the water cold.”

Her voice took on a husky tone as she leaned over him and slid her arm beneath his head. “Here, try it.”

Heat and energy radiated from her in the way Hauke imagined the sun would feel on his skin in that moment.

He breathed deep, taking in her essence. Her spirit was strong, and he felt his own rise to the surface, seeking, craving. Mate.

A possessive growl rumbled from his chest, and she stilled.

“Do not fear me, Abbie.”

“Did I hurt you?”

He only shook his head.

The sincerity in her voice made him want her more. Emotion poured from her in waves. Her concern over his pain touched him in ways he didn’t understand.

She lifted his head off the pillow and brought the cup to his mouth. “Small sips.”

The cool liquid touched his tongue, and he bit back a groan. Hauke drank slowly to appease her. If she had any idea he was capable of breathing underwater, she’d probably be horrified. No, he rather enjoyed her caring for him.

Her soft breast pressing against his cheek nearly drove him to insanity. He wanted to turn his face to the side and nuzzle her.

She removed the drink from his lips and eased her arm out from under his neck. Hauke missed her touch instantly. He watched her set the cup on a side table and busy herself with the tube attached to his arm.

“Thank you, Abbie.”

She blushed but didn’t say anything.

“Your sire.” He nodded toward the other room. “He is concerned for your safety.”

“My Sire?” She gifted him with a small smile. “Where do you come from?”

He ignored her question. “What means Area 51?”

Hauke felt her emotions shift. She was like an open book with her expressive features and guileless eyes.

She hesitated. “It’s a place where they… um… I have never actually been there.” She appeared flustered. “Shit. I’m getting you out of here. “

The sound of footsteps could be heard coming from somewhere in the back. Abbie quickly put space between her and the bed. The anxiety radiating from her was suffocating.

“It’s just Henry.”

The whispered words did little to slow the growl rising in Hauke’s throat. He didn’t trust Abbie’s father.

Hauke studied the older man as he progressed into the room. He was hiding something, and Hauke wondered how much of it had to do with the prize he had strapped to the bed.

“One of the samples was compromised. I’m going to need another.” Henry went to a stainless steel side table and opened the drawer. He withdrew several items, laying them on top.

“What are you doing with that?” The spike in Abbie’s adrenaline wasn’t lost on Hauke.

“I’m going to sedate­­– ”

“Like hell you are.” She practically spat the words.

Henry barely spared her a glance as he lifted a vial from his coat pocket and set it beside the other items on the table. He tore open something that appeared to have a miniature blade protruding from one end, and plucked up the small glass bottle in his other hand. After holding them both up to the light, he pierced the vial with the sharp point.

“I won’t let you drug him, Henry. Not gonna happen.”

Her father raised an eyebrow. “I refuse to go near his mouth unless he is incapacitated. I’m not running the risk of being bitten, and neither are you.”


Chapter Four


Hauke watched as Henry proceeded to withdraw his small weapon from the bottle he held and lay it aside before rummaging through the drawer once more. Hauke realized the older man intended to inject him with something foreign that would render him unconscious. He had to agree with Abbie. How had she said that? Oh, yes. Not gonna happen.

“I’ll get the samples. I’m not afraid of him.” She extended her hand, palm up.

“Not in a million years. Now stand back.” Henry snapped on some strange-looking hand coverings and began to rip open a package that held a small wooden stick with cotton encircling the tip.

“What are you giving him and how much?” Her voice grew in volume.

Henry rattled off the medication’s name. “And just enough to put him out until the crew gets here.”

Hauke felt a shift in Abbie only seconds before she snatched up the small silver blade on the table and pierced her father’s upper arm.

“Abbie?” Henry stared at the place she’d impaled him, and then lifted his gaze to his daughter. Hauke could practically taste the man’s confusion and disbelief.

“Forgive me.” The whispered words seemed torn from her soul. Tears swam in her eyes but didn’t spill over.

Henry staggered back several feet before dropping to his knees. His eyes rolled up in his head. and he toppled over.

Aware she’d felled her own father for him, Hauke watched Abbie in disbelief and no small amount of pride. He said the first word that came to mind. “Angel.”

“I’m no angel. I’m an ass. One that just ruined the relationship with the only family I have left.”

“Why would you assist me?”

“You saved me once, long ago. And I’m not going to let them take you to Area 51 to die.”

“You owe me nothing.”

“I owe you everything. If not for you, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“But your sire—“

“It had to be done this way,” she interrupted.

Understanding dawned. Her father couldn’t be held responsible for Hauke’s escape if he was incapacitated. And it would appear Hauke had felled Henry and taken Abbie as a hostage. More pride settled inside his chest. She had intelligence also.

A door opened across the room before Hauke could respond. The guard wearing the blue clothing came into view, his strange black shoes clicking on the floor as he stomped his way toward them.

He slowed his steps when he noticed the unconscious doctor lying at Abbie’s feet. “What the hell?”

“He’s hypoglycemic, Donald. I just gave him a glucose tablet under his tongue.”

Hauke could hear the nervousness in her voice. Apparently the one known as Donald could as well. He studied her for a moment; seeming to gauge her words.

Donald broke eye contact and peered down at Henry. “He’s never mentioned being a diabetic. I’m calling for help.” He unhooked a small black device from his belt and pressed something on its side.

“Wait.” Abbie threw up a hand and took a step in Donald’s direction. “Don’t do that.” She’d obviously forgotten she still held the pointed-tipped evidence.

Warning bells went off inside Hauke.

The guard’s energy changed to something dangerous. “What did you do, Doctor Sutherland?” He shifted the communication device to his left hand and unsnapped the holster that housed a weapon with his right.

With a flex of his taut muscles, the straps across Hauke’s body snapped like paper. The glands surrounding his fangs swelled on cue, and the normally soft as silk barbs on his wrists and ankles grew erect to razor-sharp intensity. His protective lenses slid back to reveal brilliant green eyes that burned with rage.

He had one thing on the brain as he shot from the bed and slammed into the guard. Protect Abbie.


* * * *


Abbie’s gasp was drowned out by the deafening explosion of a gunshot. She stared in shock as a very naked Hauke straddled the guard with one of his huge hands wrapped around the man’s throat. The implications of that were shocking.

Hauke had broken through his bonds and attacked Donald before her mind could register he’d left the bed. If he killed everyone in the building, it would be her fault.

Blood from Hauke’s infusion line dripped onto the tile to pool near Henry’s shoes.

What have I done? Abbie was suddenly terrified. She thought of her father lying defenseless on the floor, and Willie with his laughing eyes sitting at the front door probably humming while eating a snack his wife had packed for him. She had to do something.

Donald’s gun lay a few feet away where it had landed after he’d been tackled, and Abbie made a dive for it.

She snatched it up and pointed it at Hauke’s massive chest. Her hands trembled so hard she had trouble holding the gun steady. “Let him go.”

Hauke lifted his head and pinned her with a glittering green stare. “He dies.”

“I can’t let you do that.” She was surprised at the strength in her voice.

“He meant you harm.” His fangs peeked out from under his top lip as he spoke, and Abbie realized how inhuman he really was.

“It doesn’t matter. Now please, back off. I don’t want to shoot you.”

Hauke held her gaze for what seemed like an eternity while the guard’s face continued turning purple.

Without breaking eye contact with her, Hauke drew back a fist and slammed it into the guy’s chin, snapping his head to the side. Donald went limp.

Then the impossible happened. One second she had a gun trained on Hauke, and the next, he stood behind her with an arm around her neck.

Abbie went completely still, afraid to move. It wasn’t that she would have actually shot him, but he didn’t know that. She only knew she couldn’t stand by and watch him take the life of another human being. Not even one as horrible as Donald.

“I will not harm you.” His deep voice rumbled in her ear.

“How did you— ”

The high-pitched sound of an alarm unexpectedly blasted through the building. Abbie felt Hauke stiffen behind her.

A pained sound wrenched from him, and he released his hold on her instantly. She spun around in time to watch him stumble back with his hands covering his ears. The look of agony on his face couldn’t be mistaken.

“What wrong?” she shouted, taking a step toward him.

He jerked his head toward the red flashing light in a corner of the room, and realization dawned. The high-pitched sound coming from the alarm affected him somehow.

“They’re coming. We have to hurry!” she yelled over the screaming siren echoing throughout the room.

She had to get him out of there before security arrived. They would shoot him where he stood if they saw her father and Donald unconscious on the floor. She knew exactly how it appeared.

Abbie realized she still held the guard’s gun and quickly stuffed it into the waistband of her jeans before grabbing Hauke’s arm and giving him a tug.

She led him over to a locker that stood against the wall and jerked one of the doors open.

There were several different size scrubs stacked inside, and she grabbed a pair of bottoms from the extra-large pile. “Put these on. We have to get out of here.”

Hauke accepted the pants and had them on in record time, but not before she caught a glimpse of him below the waist.

He seemed to have the same equipment as any other man, but bigger. Much bigger. Heat crept up her neck and into her face. Yeah, that image would stay with her for a long time to come.

Averting her gaze from Hauke’s masculine form, Abbie took one last look at her father before jogging toward the exit with Hauke tight on her heels.

If she could get Hauke out of there without being seen, she and her father would remain blameless.

Abbie felt certain that Henry would back up her story, no matter what she’d done. He would be livid about her rendering him unconscious, but he’d never throw her under the bus.

Seconds before they reached the door, the screaming siren abruptly stopped. Abbie glanced over her shoulder and noticed the instant relief on Hauke’s face. She spoke in a hushed tone. “Stay close.”

Pulling the door handle down, Abbie gave it a little tug and peeked into the hall. The sound of shouting followed by footsteps could be heard coming up the corridor, forcing her to quickly abandon the idea of making a run for the stairs.

“They have keys. We have less than a minute before they reach us.” She eased the door closed and reengaged the locks.

If her heart beat any faster, she be in tachycardia in a matter of seconds, she acknowledged with a shuddering breath.

Hauke glanced around the room, his glittering gaze touching on every object visible. “Stand back.”

Abbie watched in wonder as he sped over to one of the sterilizing machines and lifted it from the floor. She knew it weighed over four hundred pounds.

Muscles strained and bulged under the heavy burden as Hauke carried it over and deposited it in front of the door. It would only be a temporary block from the guards, but maybe it would buy them enough time for Hauke to escape.

“This way.” Abbie ran over to a window as a loud click sounded and shouting ensued from the other side of the door.

She easily sprang the locks and slid the glass up to peek over the ledge. “Son of a bitch,” she growled, taking in the scene below. It was a long drop from the second floor to the ground.

Hauke was immediately at her side. “We go down from here. Do not think, Abbie. Follow my lead.”

“We?” Abbie asked in surprise. “I can’t go with you, Hauke. That would make me an accessory. No. This is as far as I go.”

Hauke glanced toward Donald, lying on the floor. “He will accuse you of felling your father. If you come with me now, it will appear as if I have taken you against your will.”

Indecision warred in Abbie’s gut. She knew Hauke was right. She wasn’t supposed to be there to begin with. At least if she went with him, it would take the blame off Henry. “Okay, let’s go.”

Hauke threw a long leg over the windowsill and disappeared from sight.

Abbie’s breath caught. She couldn’t believe he’d just dropped from at least twenty feet up.

She peered over the ledge to see Hauke standing with his feet planted apart and his arms extended out. She could barely hear over the cluster of people attempting to fight their way into the room.

“Trust in me, Abbie. I will intercept you.” The surety in his voice swayed her, and she brought her knee up to the windowsill.

Intercept me? Jesus, I’ve hooked up with Spock.

The heavy incubator scraped over the tile as something crashed into the door. A male voice began barking orders. “Hit it again.”

Abbie held Hauke’s gaze while her stomach rapidly tied itself in knots. She had no choice but to trust him or stay behind and face the consequences of her actions.

“Tripudio.” Hauke’s demand was almost as powerful as the impact on the door.

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Jump.”

Another violent sound reverberated from behind her, and Abbie threw her foot over the ledge. She gripped the windowsill and quickly lowered herself until her body hung suspended above him.

“Let go.”

Tucking her chin against her chest, she stared down at Hauke in horror. He might as well have been a football field away as far as she was concerned. She wasn’t about to loosen her hold.

The splintering of the door giving way made the decision for her. She squeezed her eyes shut and forced her trembling fingers to relax.

The feeling of free-falling damn near stopped her heart. Her arms flailed at her sides, and her stomach shot up into her throat. Every muscle in her body tightened as she braced herself for impact.

The breath whooshed from her lungs as she landed without a modicum of grace in Hauke’s waiting arms.

“Are you injured?” he rasped, staring intently into her eyes.

Was she? She wriggled her fingers and toes. “I don’t think so.”

He set her gently on her feet and turned in the direction of the tree line. “We must make haste.”

“No. This way.” Abbie shook off the nausea from her near-death experience, took hold of his hand, and sprinted toward the front of the building, digging her keys out of her jeans pocket as she ran. She slowed as they reached the last corner before the parking area would be visible.


Chapter Five


The night seemed deceptively calm and peaceful as Abbie scanned the darkness, straining her ears for evidence of movement.

The sound of crickets chirping in the distance became deafening in the otherwise tranquil night.

“Something’s wrong.” The hair stood up on the back of her neck.

A gun suddenly pressed against the side of her head, and she was jerked back hard against a wall of unforgiving muscle. “What­— ”

“Do not move.” A dangerous undertone lined Hauke’s voice.


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