Flying Through Fire
by Nina Croft
Dark Desires, #6
Publication Date: November 7, 2016
Genres: Entangled: Otherworld, Paranormal Romance
Synopsis: Winged monsters have been seen in the skies, and a pestilence follows in their wake, threatening the very survival of mankind. Only the crew of the Blood Hunter knows where they come from, and only one man has the power to send them back—Thorne, a human/dragon hybrid in possession of mental powers beyond comprehension.Candace Decker doesn’t need anyone to look after her—she’s a badass werewolf more than capable of protecting herself and those she loves. All the same, she’s always been drawn to Thorne’s strength. In an uncertain world, he’s the one man who makes her feel safe. And what Candy wants, she usually gets.
But while Candy is tenacious, Thorne’s willpower has been honed over ten thousand years. He might want her, but the last thing he needs is an infatuation with a young, impetuous werewolf. Candy makes him lose control, and that could have disastrous consequences.
As the threat escalates and they become separated by time and space, Candy must find a way back to him, because while Thorne alone has the power to defeat the dragons, only together can they finally bring peace to the universe.
Ten years ago
The words slipped out, but at least Candace managed to keep her voice low so her mother didn’t hear. The air in the cavern was warm, but she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop the shivers that racked her body.
Her mother continued to prep the space shuttle, a grim, determined expression on her face. “How? How did this happen? How did they find us?” she muttered. She appeared outwardly calm, but underneath, Candy could see she was breaking apart.
The question had been rhetorical, she was sure, but she answered anyway. “We were betrayed.” Candy twisted her hands together. “That’s what Daddy said.” They’d been lured to the meeting by promises of information as to the whereabouts of her mother and father’s old ship, the Blood Hunter, and her crew. The ship had disappeared through the black hole at Trakis One over twelve years ago—not long before she and her twin, Angel, had been born—and it had never been seen since. Periodically, her mother or father would go out and see if there was any news of them, but until this last time, there had never been anything. “They were waiting for us at the rendezvous point.” All the same, she was sure they would have both escaped if her father hadn’t insisted on sending her off in the escape pod while he acted as a decoy. He’d said he would meet her back here. He hadn’t given her a choice. They should have stayed together.
She paced the sandy floor of the cavern, back and forth in front of the shuttle. Where was he? Was he even alive?
“He’ll be okay,” her mother said, as if Candy had spoken the words out loud, and her tone held no room for disagreement. “The Church doesn’t want him dead. They want him alive. They want us both alive.”
They’d contacted her mother even before the escape pod carrying Candy had arrived back on Trakis Two, ordering her to return to the Church and resume her old duties as Alexia, High Priestess of the Church of Everlasting Life. It was a role her mother had been born to and had obediently assumed up until the age of twenty-three when she’d rebelled, run away, disguised herself as a cabin boy on the Blood Hunter, and eventually fallen in love with assassin Jonathon Decker and lived happily ever after. It was a story Candy never tired of hearing. She wanted to grow up to be just like her father, and planned to be an assassin—once she persuaded him to teach her everything he knew.
Which was never going to happen now.
Her mind was fracturing, falling apart, and she needed to pull herself together. Her mother was leaving. If she didn’t give herself up, the Church would execute her husband. Candy took some deep breaths and tried to stop her shivering.
Finally, everything was ready. Her mother visibly drew herself up, straightening her shoulders. “Stop pacing, Candace. You need to listen to me.”
Candy swallowed down the guilt and the nausea. She wanted to beg her mother not to go. But how could she? She wanted to say that she needed her, but her father needed her more.
The Church was ruthless. They would kill him for stealing their priestess, and if they ever found out what he really was—what her mother had become since leaving the Church—then… She cut off the thought. They wouldn’t find out.
She came to a halt in front of her mother; even at twelve, Candy towered above her tiny figure. Her mother was clearly trying hard to hide her fears. Candy owed it her to do the same. She took a deep breath. “Yes?”
“Candace, you must look after your brother.”
Angel was sick. He was always sick. Where Candy had never had an off day in her life, Angel picked up just about every childhood illness that had somehow managed to make its way from Earth all those years ago. “I will.”
“You have to get away from here. If we’ve been betrayed, they might know of this place.”
“We’ll go farther into the dark side of the planet.”
“And remember—this is not your fault.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but her mother stopped the words with a wave of her hand. “This is not your fault. They would have captured him even if you hadn’t been on board. Now you have to be brave and stay here, take care of Angel, and do not, under any circumstances, come looking for us. They don’t know about you yet, and I couldn’t bear it if they captured you two as well. Please, promise me, Candy.”
She gave an abrupt nod.
“Contact Thorne. He’ll come and take care of you.”
No way. She didn’t want Thorne looking after her, like she was some kid who couldn’t take care of herself. She could look after herself and Angel. She just wasn’t sure how, and a surge of fear washed over her.
“And one more thing. Remember what your father said. If it happens, don’t fight it.” She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Candy. Her mother might be tiny, but her grip was firm. “I love you, Candace. Remember that, and be strong.”
“Oh God, I have to go.” Her mother was fighting the tears now. If she cried, Candy would break down completely. Then the grip loosened and she was standing alone, watching her mother walk away, up the ramp onto the shuttle to disappear inside.
Would she ever see her again?
Her whole life was collapsing around her. She’d always been so sure of their love. Now she was abandoned. She knew there was no alternative—right now the Church didn’t even know of her and Angel’s existence. If they found out, there would be two more hostages to use against her mother. All the same, she didn’t want to be left behind.
The engines rumbled into life, and all too soon, the shuttle lifted, hovering above the black sand before heading upward. High above them, the domed ceiling of the cavern opened, revealing the star-strewn sky, and then the engines flared and the shuttle shot off into space.
Now, with no one to see her, Candace collapsed to the ground. Her whole body shook with a myriad of emotions—guilt, fear, despair. Sobs racked her, and she wrapped her arms around her middle and tried to hold herself together.
She didn’t know how long it was before she became aware of something else. A shiver ran over her skin; the very air around her prickled. She’d sensed this before, when her parents had shifted, and for a brief moment, wonder broke through the darker emotions.
She came up on her hands and knees, exhausted from the outpouring of grief, her head hanging down.
Then without warning, her spine arched. Don’t fight it.
But how could she not? Her whole body was on fire, the bones snapping, realigning. Her fingers shrank as huge claws sprouted from the tips and fur flowed over her skin. She threw back her head and screamed, the scream turning to a howl as her face elongated, her human vocal chords gone.
Then the pain vanished as swiftly as it had come, leaving that residual tingle of magic in the air. She stood on all fours, among the tatters of her clothes, all her senses more acute. The scent of the burning from the shuttle’s engine filled her nostrils, and she could hear Angel tossing in his bed, muttering for their mother, and the sound of other creatures farther off. Things that called to her in the darkness. She peered over her shoulder. Her coat was glossy black pricked with dark red. She stepped forward slowly, picking up her paws and placing them down with exaggerated care. Increasing her pace, she trotted in a circle, then faster as she became used to her new form.
She ran through the dark passageways, miles and miles of them carved beneath the surface of the planet. Stretching out her limbs, she raced as though she could outrun her fears. She didn’t know how long she ran. Eventually, she collapsed in an exhausted heap. Head resting on her front paws, she sank into a troubled sleep.
When she awoke, she was lying naked on the cool sand, human once more. She needed to get back to Angel; he’d be scared if he woke up alone.
She sniffed the air—her senses remained stronger, and she picked up the scent that would lead her back to the main area.
She had responsibilities now. She had to take care of Angel and she had to find the people responsible for betraying her parents. And then she would kill them.
The fear and despair still tugged at her mind, but she pushed them aside. She would cope. She didn’t need anybody else; she was a badass werewolf now.
No one could stop her.
You weren’t even going to come and say good-bye?”
Thorne’s gaze flicked to her and then away. “We’ve said good-bye a hundred times. I have to go and prepare my people.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You don’t think it’s going to be that easy, do you?”
Some emotion flashed across his face and was gone. He turned away and headed into the main chamber. This was a big shuttle; big enough to cover the long distance between here and Espera. The room was circular, about nine feet by nine feet, with seating for six plus a separate room with bunk beds attached to the walls. Thorne headed for the main console and started to flick the switches to set the take-off procedure into motion. From beneath her, the vibrations rippled through her body as the engines kicked in.
Candy gritted her teeth. “You promised to tell me how you feel. Did you lie to me?”
He swung around, and his eyes glowed purple. “You know how I feel.”
Did she? Sometimes she felt like she knew absolutely nothing. “You feel responsible for me.”
She hated that. No one was responsible for her but herself. She didn’t want to be a fucking responsibility. “I don’t need looking after.”
A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He smiled so rarely, it changed his whole demeanor. He raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” she grudgingly conceded. “Maybe sometimes I need looking after.” She bit her lip. “I never thanked you for saving my life.”
She took a deep breath. “Thank you. But that doesn’t get you out of your promises. Tell me.”
He leaned back against the console, folded his arms across his chest. But at least he wasn’t throwing her off the ship. “You really want to know?”
She gave an abrupt nod; all she could manage.
“I want you.”
Shock held her still for a moment. She’d never expected him to admit it, though she’d sensed it subconsciously, felt it in his gaze. It was what had driven her on in the face of a hundred rejections.
“For ten thousand years I’ve done what was needed, what I had to do…my duty. Now for the first time in all those years, I want something for myself.”
She licked her dry lips. “Have me then.”
DON’T MISS THE OTHER THRILLING, SEXY BOOKS IN THE DARK DESIRES SERIES BY NINA CROFT!
ABOUT NINA CROFT
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina’s writing mixes romance with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.