The Universe Chronicles Book 3
by Claire Davon
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Rescuing compromised Universe agents is nothing new for Zared Hersh. A fast car, a little rain-and-fog manipulation to cover his tracks, and his job is done. But when Hannah Nickels dives into his front seat, something about her aquamarine eyes strikes him like lightning.
Thank God she’s not psychic, or she’d be reading his hormones like a book.
Hannah’s been groomed to join Universe practically from the moment her time-freezing talent emerged. But recently, her power’s been glitchy. She knows she’s in trouble, and the last thing she needs is her instant attraction to Zared’s solid body and dark good looks.
When their escape is almost derailed by someone with a strange new light-manipulating gift, only Hannah’s chrono talent gets them safely back to Universe HQ. In the relative safety of Richmond, their relationship grows. But Hannah has a second, more dangerous power that few know about. And as her control slips, someone with a hidden agenda sets her up to fall—straight into Whisper’s trap.
A twisted thing dropped to the ground in place of the sign, startling a shout from Zared. She studied the clump of what had been metal and wood moments before and was now one mass, a combination of leaves and steel that was an indistinguishable mass. She hadn’t heard the clang. The men were not where she remembered them being. They were all out of position. Something had happened after she’d attacked the sign. Damn it, she must have slipped into a fugue state again. Hannah prayed it had been for a handful of seconds and nobody had become aware of her lapse.
Zared and Ian focused on the thing at her feet and then Quillan turned to Hannah. If they detected her blankness they didn’t mention it. Hannah breathed out a sigh of relief. She’d deal with what this meant later.
“You . . .” Quillan began, shaking a finger at her.
She swayed on her feet and the time paralysis shattered. Oriel blinked and then focused on where they were now, not where they had been before she enacted the freeze. There was a shout behind them from the parking structure. A face showed above the concrete and then vanished. A moment later there was a squeal of tires and the fast revving of an engine as the other talent floored it out of the garage. Quillan’s attention flicked toward the parking structure before centering back on Hannah.
Oriel swallowed, and Hannah watched him through a mind gone fuzzy. She hadn’t expected to use her second gift—it had just emerged. The expressions on the faces around her told her all she needed. Whether they recognized her fugue state or not, they were freaked out by her second gift.
“I . . . commend you,” Oriel managed, his voice shaky. Whatever dazzling he was performing on them drained away, replaced by shudders that rippled through his body. “I had not expected something quite so dramatic.” He glanced at the item again and then at Hannah. Then, without warning, he ran, sprinting down the sidewalk. Ian went to give chase but Quillan called a sharp “No, Ian,” and the telekinetic subsided. They all turned to Hannah.
“Now I get why you’re so bloody interesting to Whisper,” Ian said.
“Does this . . . thing . . . have a name?”
Ian asked the question, but his tight-lipped expression showed that he wasn’t expecting an answer. They were back in Quillan’s office. Ian had called Maya but the sensitive had already been on her way.
Zared stood by the windows, peering at the night skyline. The lights of Virginia’s Tallest City and the capital of the Confederacy, shone around him but all he could do was remember that moment when the object that had once been metal and tree slammed to the sidewalk.
Quillan had taken it with them, of course. Using Ian’s telekinesis, they transported the damaged, twisted sign into the car and driven back to the office as fast as possible. There were no more disturbances by Whisper. Hannah had succeeded in ruffling that manyak’s Oriel’s composure and that was a win in Zared’s book. There had been a few moments where Hannah was as frozen as Oriel, her face unreadable, but then she had blinked and the strangeness cleared. Zared put it down to the drain of using her dual talents at the same time.
“Amalgamation,” Hannah supplied. “I can merge two or more objects into one thing. Kind of like a brundlefly. Any idea what I’m talking about?”
Zared just shook his head at the reference. He didn’t understand how she could be so calm. No words were big enough, so he stayed silent.
After not receiving an answer, Hannah went on. “In The Fly when Jeff Goldblum tries to merge with the fly he becomes a combination of them both. He’s Brundle and a fly. A brundlefly. Something like that. One of my brothers made the reference and it stuck. That’s what they call me at home.”
“I don’t understand,” he admitted, still not turning away from the window.
“Haven’t you read my file?”
It had taken every ounce of him not to do exactly that, but Zared hadn’t. He was too interested in the chrono woman as it was and to show additional interest by asking to read her Universe personnel file would raise eyebrows, starting with his boss. Chara. This was getting complicated.
He could still feel the touch of her hand against his. It reminded him of the first time he’d been with a female, at the age of fourteen, when he still lived in Tel-Aviv, before the Brits had gotten hold of him and hauled him to Scotland for training. He had as much control over his body now as he did that first time, all trembling eagerness, with a sixteen-year-old who had more experience than him, but that wasn’t much either.
He did not plan to have this happen to him. At all.
“No, I haven’t read your file. I saw no reason to.” He strove for a casual tone, and determined he’d achieved it when Hannah’s face shifted as though his words had hurt her before it was gone. That brief, wounded moment made him almost blurt out the truth. Instead he stayed silent.
“I suppose you’re right. You wouldn’t need to.”
“Stop it,” Quillan said with a harsh edge to his voice. “It’s been a difficult night for all of us, but petty squabbling earns us nothing.” He glared at Zared. “This one is not in her public file. Hannah, it was unwise of you to lose your temper like that.”
Hannah shot Quillan a fierce glare. He raised an eyebrow and met her gaze until it was Hannah who looked away.
“You’re not my boss.”
Zared snorted, unfolding his arms. “He is as long as you’re in Richmond,” he said at the same time Quillan was saying “Yes I am.”
Many emotions moved across her face until it became an impassive mask. He should have been glad but instead he longed to shake the neutrality out of her.
“I lost my temper. Sue me. And screw you, weather boy,” she said with a caustic edge.
“That is enough!” Quillan slammed his hand down on his desk and they all jumped.
The Universe Chronicles Book 2
Since the day Jiana Falco was forced to join the paranormal agency Night Stars, she’s been planning her escape. She uses her bodyguard’s split-second of distraction to vanish into the shadows, and burns the last bridge by saving Quillan Hardis.
But now, locked in Quillan’s muscular arms, pinned by his calculating amber gaze, his invisibility talent shielding them both, she’s in even deeper trouble. If that’s possible.
Quillan didn’t get to Universe Corps’ highest echelons by being a fool. The rare shadow manipulator in his grip is too easy a prize to be anything but a setup. A pretty lure he should send back to Night Stars. Instead, he holds on—and in changing her fate, he seals his own.
Under a secret order to unlock her untapped power—by any means necessary—Quillan takes Jiana on the run with only a precog’s vague direction, and a spark of desire that blooms into something warm and genuine. But her fear of being clawed back into Night Stars’ control could drive Jiana so deep into the shadows nothing will get her out. Not even the light of Quillan’s love.
But her fear of Night Stars could drives Jiana so deep into the shadows nothing can lead her out. Not even the light of Quillan’s love.
Quillan’s shadow moved, but the man didn’t.
Jiana’s gaze followed the movement from her seat in the café across from Quillan’s office. Judging by the way his shadow bobbed before merging back into ordinary stillness, something was coming. Quillan, however, was unaware of that fact. If he had possessed shadow abilities as she did he would see the wrongness, but he didn’t have such tools.
The Federal Reserve Bank loomed over the Universe offices, casting its own ominous gloom. At this hour the sun was beginning to set. The buildings made triangular and rectangular squares in jagged patterns on the street, creating the sorts of shadows she could use. Soon it would be dark.
Darkness did not bring safety. Noon was best, when the sun was overhead and shadows more difficult. Even then there was always danger from the darkness. It went unnoticed by most people, but not to a shadow manipulator.
Quillan was looking toward the Sun Trust Tower, one of the highest buildings in the Richmond skyline. His shadow wrapped around him and then expanded toward the dense pack of cars on the road between them.
Jiana and her unwelcome companion were in the Soho Café Market, located in the east tower of the BB&T. She picked at the chicken and fruit on her tray, shooting glances out the window at the head of Universe. She watched an interesting shadow by the top of the buffet area. It was big enough to use to get out the door in a hurry if necessary.
She glanced at the man next to her and then back at Quillan, still waiting by the light. Tanner, the Night Stars agent was also eyeing the tall, bearded man. He did not seem to see the danger surrounding Quillan, but she doubted he cared about that. The man her uncle had assigned as her “partner” had no interest in anything except keeping an eye on Jiana.
A flow of movement around Quillan caught her attention, and she turned back to the scene. Shadows gathered and danced around him, their forms shifting ever closer. One shadow broke off, looming higher than the others, towering over the man. By her estimation Quillan was 6’2” or more, so that was no mean feat. It was joined by another, and then another. They advanced on Quillan, covering him in darkness.
She straightened in her seat. The shadows didn’t lie. The head Night Stars opposition group was in danger. If Tanner detected her preoccupation, he didn’t comment on it. As long as she wasn’t moving then she supposed he figured he had nothing to worry about. His talent of enhanced strength was a weak one, but it made him stronger than her in a one-on-one matchup. At least that was what her uncle believed, and had passed along to the other agent.
He was about to learn differently.
Jiana watched a moment longer to make sure that she wasn’t mistaken. Spots danced in her vision and halos surrounded the vehicles. Her head throbbed like she had a headband on too tight. Then both feelings were gone and her sight sharpened. There was no error. The shadows grew thick around Quillan, flowing through the parked cars and onto the street. They almost seemed to have teeth and claws, with the sort of malevolence she did not often associate with shadows. They were used for good or ill, but they were tools rather than entities. These had a life of their own, and their malice made her shiver.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Her careful plan fading with every step the man took, Jiana sighed. She had steered Tanner here so skillfully and all for naught. Now she had to leap into action, but for different reasons than she had intended. She could see the shadows rushing toward Quillan to send him into oncoming traffic. She could not see her uncle or her cousin, the other shadow talents in Richmond, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. This didn’t feel like her uncle, though, this was . . . different.
The shadows surged in front of a car going just enough over the speed limit to be a menace, guiding it straight toward Quillan. As before, the man was unaware of the fact. Once he was alerted to the danger he wouldn’t be quick enough to get out of the way. Without shadow talent he would have no way of knowing he was in peril.
But she knew.
Before Tanner could move, Jiana was up and out of her seat, grabbing for the nearest shadows to disappear into to confuse the Night Stars agent. Shouting started behind her as she sprinted out of the café, disappearing into the shadow of the building’s rooftop before emerging by the street and heading at full speed toward the Universe leader. It was foolhardy to give away her plan but if Quillan was going to survive the next few minutes, she had no choice. Without Quillan, she had no escape route. If she stood by and watched the head of the Richmond Universe group get killed there would be no sanctuary for Jiana Falco.
She slipped from one shadow into another created by a parked truck and then she was on the same side of the street as Quillan. The time between her spotting the unnatural shadows and what was about to occur had telescoped. Now she had mere seconds before what the other shadow talent was attempting would occur. Jiana cried out and Quillan noticed her for the first time. She had a split second of admiring his tall, broad frame and even features covered by the close beard before she shouted his name and barreled into him.
Quillan let out a surprised “oof” as her momentum carried them both crashing onto the sidewalk. The cars screeched to a halt as the one out of control vehicle now careened around the corner . . . right past the spot that Quillan was about to step into.
Quillan turned his head and followed the car’s movements. She could feel his muscles under his suit jacket and trousers and had a momentary flash of awareness. The shadows now retreated. Jiana watched them flow back to the buildings and cars they came from, restored to their original forms.
Tanner was still on the other side of the road, pointing toward her with one of his beefy fingers. His posture radiated menace and while he was too far away for his epithets to carry she had no doubt he was cursing. She could even imagine the obscenities. He loved to swear at her in Italian, a language both of them spoke. Va in mona, or go fuck yourself, was his favorite. Zoccola, or bitch, was his other one. From the hard consonants, it sounded like the latter. If his oaths were uninspired, well, that was Tanner.
In the space of a heartbeat, Quillan vanished. Jiana blinked, trying to orient her senses again to determine where he had gone. His shadow winked out, having nothing to cast.
The Universe Chronicles Book 1
Maya Wingfield was raised to trust no one—least of all the dueling U.S. and Russian paranormal agencies, Universe and Night Stars, who’d love to harness her mind-reading gift.
She thought Richmond a safe place to escape their influence and hide from a rising psychic malevolence that drove her out of San Diego. But when she gets yet another call to retrieve her drunken roommate, her mind shows her an amber-eyed Universe operative with an impenetrable net around his deepest secret—and a voice that sends shock waves of awareness down her nerve endings.
Maya’s curves and aquamarine eyes aren’t the only things that jolt Ian Sanderson’s mental shields, bringing sexual tension thrumming back to life. It’s a power his Universe-trained mind knows he shouldn’t trust. And a vulnerability that makes his telekinetic power burn in his palms to protect her.
But to Universe, she is just one of too many unanswered questions. A target for Whisper, a shadowy new group of paranormals with powers beyond anything Universe has ever seen. Once before, Ian failed to protect a sensitive from a brain-scrambling attack. He will not fail again . . . even if it means using his talent—or his body—to stop a bullet.
Maya felt a gathering of minds, but one in particular pulsed across her mental landscape. She’d felt that mind before in the chaos of San Diego. Then, as now, it had a seductive quality, coupled with raw energy. Its power was every bit as strong now as it was then. She wanted to turn and run, but her roommate was weaving on unsteady feet to the back of the warehouse where three men were standing in a loose semi-circle. Their minds had an expectant air.
Maya focused on the men. The aura of the man in the middle glowed with a white-hot light that screamed of danger. It was the same mind signature from San Diego. The duo faded into the background compared to this man. She wanted to turn and run but found herself moving toward the men in Bobbie’s wake.
“I brought her,” Bobbie said, half slurring and stumbling forward.
Maya blinked as calm settled over her, stilling her movements and bringing her to a stop.
“You did well,” the startlingly handsome man in the middle said.
Maya picked up the name in her mind. Oriel.
It was all going to be okay. There was nothing to worry about. She could trust this man.
The soothing murmur flowed over Maya, and she relaxed into it, taking one more step forward. Bobbie lurched to a halt in front of Oriel and turned her gaze toward the man to his right, who clamped a hand on her arm and drew her back.
“Come closer, mishka. There is nothing to fear.”
Of course there wasn’t. Maya raised her arms and turned her hands, palms toward the ceiling. She wanted to touch him. The man nodded in response, acknowledging her reaction as his due.
Of course it was. He was Oriel, after all. Even though she didn’t know him, she did know him. He was nobody to fear.
“Randy, please take Bobbie over there. We should not be disturbed.”
One of the men, a balding man of average height, showed Bobbie to the back of the warehouse. The third man stayed where he was, arms folded. Security or hired muscle, more than likely. Maya tried to read his mind and got images of guns and snarling dogs, of plunging through underbrush and gun battles. He was military of some sort. It didn’t matter. She focused on Oriel again. He was what counted. She couldn’t read his mind. He was like a piece of plastic. Every effort she made just slid off. All she got was that he was trustworthy.
A distant part of her knew this wasn’t normal, but as soon as the thought flowed into her head it was gone again.
His presence was as radiant as the sun. She wanted to bask in his glowing bright, royal-blue aura. She almost wanted to shield her eyes against him but instead moved toward him, her strides quickening as she got closer.
The door banged open behind her, echoing loud in the cavernous room.
“She’s on the move. Hurry, Brit.”
Ian raced toward the door and yanked it open without touching it. His hands glowed in the centers, his talent surging to the forefront. Ian focused, keeping his telekinetic power at the ready.
Ian had only seen the dangerous Russian operative Oriel in surveillance video until now. Oriel was at the back of the warehouse, facing the door. Maya was about five feet from him, an expression of adoration on her face. It matched Bobbie’s face as well as the Night Stars operative Ian knew as Randy.
Damn it. They’d been warned that Oriel was a new breed of talent called a dazzler, but he hadn’t yet made any moves on their people in Richmond. Now Ian realized that was because he was waiting for the right time.
This, apparently, was that time. The right time and the right woman. Maya was moving toward Oriel, her steps plodding.
“Maya, stop,” he said, his voice a combination of fear and anger. To his relief, the sensitive paused.
Maya tensed, her body wound tight on invisible strings. Bloody hell, he wished he were a sensitive at that moment. He needed to know what she was thinking and if he should get her out or take her down. He should have dealt with this back at the motel. Bollocks.
“I must go to him,” she said. Her tone suggested the words made sense.
“No, you do not,” he cried. The expression Maya turned on him was devoid of emotion. Then he saw a flicker, and her mouth twitched. Her face twisted with some internal struggle. Good. Perhaps she had the strength to fight the effects of Oriel’s dazzling.
Bobbie was off to one side, with Randy behind her, holding her shoulder. Ian raised his voice and aimed it at Randy. “Still being Oriel’s dogsbody, are you?”
Oriel’s chuckle rolled through the warehouse, the sound echoing off the aluminum walls and ceiling. There was something hypnotic in the laugh, and he felt an urge to let go of his concern and join the man.
Oriel pierced Ian with his amber eyes and waggled a finger at him. The urge to move forward surged through Ian.
“Zared, I could use a little help,” he said into his watch.
All at once there was a clap of thunder, a streak of lightning, and loud thumps on the metal roof. Hail. It was one of Zared’s specialties. Zared had remained outside, where Oriel’s dazzling couldn’t reach him. Ian wasn’t sure how long he could hold out. It had been a mistake to do this without more backup. He assessed the large room in a quick sweep and smiled. This place, which appeared to be an empty storage facility, had weapons. Focusing on a hammer, Ian shifted it slightly.
Maya’s eyes went to Bobbie, and a crease formed across the ridge of her brow bone. She shook her head, Oriel’s dazzle apparently fading when the hail struck the roof.
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About the Author
Claire can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t part of her life. Growing up, she used to write stories with her friends. As a teenager she started out reading fantasy and science fiction, but her diet quickly changed to romance and happily-ever-after’s. A native of Massachusetts and cold weather, she left all that behind to move to the sun and fun of California, but has always lived no more than twenty miles from the ocean.
In college she studied acting with a minor in creative writing. In hindsight she should have flipped course studies. Before she was published, she sold books on eBay and discovered some of her favorite authors by sampling the goods, which was the perfect solution. Claire has many book-irons in the fire, most notably her urban fantasy series, The Elementals’ Challenge series, but writes contemporary and shifter romances as well as.
While she’s not a movie mogul or actor, she does work in the film industry with her office firmly situated in the 90210 district of Hollywood. Prone to break out into song, she is quick on feet and just as quick with snappy dialogue. In addition to writing she does animal rescue, reads, and goes to movies. She loves to hear from fans, so feel free to drop her a line.