Read Tempting the Fire Online

Authors: Sydney Croft

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Erotica, #Adult, #Erotic fiction, #Occult fiction, #Occult & Supernatural, #United States, #Brazil, #Cryptozoology, #Animal communicators, #Rain forests

Tempting the Fire (3 page)

BOOK: Tempting the Fire
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“Maybe the MIA is responsible.”

“Could be. Can’t rule out anything yet.”

“And the Navy wanted our help on this?” Seemed a little extreme for them to call in ACRO, but then, as a secret paramilitary organization, ACRO had covertly worked side by side with all of the branches of the military for years.

“The Navy didn’t contact us.” He gestured to the thick file. “It’s all in there.

You can catch up on the plane. Can you leave in an hour?”

“I’m already packed.” She flipped through the folder’s contents but didn’t stop on any particular page or photo. “Am I going alone?” Usually she went with another cryptozoologist and a small contingent of specialists to assist in photography, research, electronics, etc., if the mission wasn’t deemed to be dangerous. If it was, ACRO sent her with all of that plus a security team.

Dev’s long pause sent a chill up her spine. “You’re going with Marlena.”

“Marlena?” Sela frowned. “Your secretary?”

“She’s no longer my assistant. She’s a Seducer now. She’s fully trained, but this will be her first real mission.”

“Ah … forgive me, sir, but why in the world would I be taking a Seducer on a crypto assignment?”

“Because this is more than a mission to find a mysterious species. Two weeks before the attack, a company called Global Weapons Corporation set up camp near where the SEALs were killed. Satellite photos showed that the camp was still there as of three days ago, but now it’s gone and can’t be located.

However, I have intel that indicates they’re in the area. It’s possible that GWC was either hired to take out those SEALs, or they used the team as a test for their creation.”

“The creation being the creature.”

“Yes.”

“This sounds very Itor.”

“We know that GWC has supplied Itor with weapons in the past. It’s likely that Itor contracted GWC after they failed to turn Rik into their ultimate animal weapon.”

Ulrika was a recent acquisition, a powerful shape-shifter who now worked in the Cryptozoology department. As the first truly mythological creature proven to exist, Ulrika had been a shock to Sela’s system. Then again, Ulrika had been, in part, an Itor lab creation, and since her entire family had been destroyed, there was 16

still no proof that shape-shifters existed as natural creatures in the wild.

“So why not send a combat agent into this? Why me?”

“Once you get the intel, proof that GWC is working with Itor, or proof that the creature exists, I’ll send in combat agents. But to start, we need you. The guy GWC sent to join the camp at around the time of the attacks, the owner’s son, Logan Mills, isn’t stupid. He’s not going to fall for a story that some lone person just happened to stumble onto his camp in the jungle. We need to be convincing. I need a cryptozoologist and her assistant to be investigating reports of a … what’s it called, a goat fucker?”

“Goat sucker. Chupacabra.”

“Fine. Chupacabra. You’ll need to get captured, and when you do, they’ll realize you’re the real thing. A cryptozoologist investigating sightings by the locals.”

“And then?”

“You find out the truth.”

A feeling of dread crept up from the depths of her bowels, and she slowly placed the folder on her lap, open to a photo of Logan, apparently taken at some sort of backyard party. He had a beer in one hand, and his other was slung around some chick who resembled Marlena. Tall, dark-haired and muscular, he was hotter than hot, which, combined with Dev’s “truth” statement, set off all kinds of warning klaxons.

“Since we’re talking about the truth,” she said, “maybe you could be straight with me. The reason you picked me for this assignment has nothing to do with my outstanding record in my field, does it?”

“You are our best cryptozoologist,” he hedged.

“No shit.” Probably not the best way to talk to the boss, but she had a bad feeling about this. “And?”

“And … in addition to your cryptozoology experience, you may need to employ your … other skills.”

Fuck. Just … fuck.

“Exactly,” Dev said, and she knew he’d read her mind. “If Marlena can’t seduce information out of someone, you’ll have to.”

“Dev—”

“I know I’m asking a lot,” he said gently. “But you really are the only person we can send in with Marlena. No one else in your office has undercover training.”

No, they didn’t. Everyone at ACRO was sent through exhaustive physical instruction so they could defend themselves in pretty much any situation, but as an undercover field operative, her training had gone well beyond that. She’d been trained in covert operations, weapons handling, combat techniques—and as a Seducer, she’d been given specialized instruction in sex. And, like all operatives, she was immunized against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, thanks to ACRO’s advanced science.

17

But none of that had protected her on her final mission as a Seducer, and her bones began to ache in all the places where they’d been broken three years ago.

“Marlena is good,” he said. “Really good. And she fits the profile for the type of woman Logan likes. You shouldn’t have to do anything beyond nose around and look for whatever it is GWC is playing with.”

God, she hoped so. Because Sela hadn’t touched a man since the day one had nearly beaten her to death.

She was glad her hand didn’t shake as she closed the file, shutting out Logan’s face. Because she wasn’t afraid as much as she was angry. There was a reason that Seducer mission was her last, and it had nothing to do with nearly being killed.

She’d hated seducing men for information, hated getting a head full of their deepest, darkest secrets, which often left her feeling ill for days. The men she’d been assigned to seduce weren’t pillars of the community, and the things they’d done still sat in her memory like cyanide pills, leaking poison into her system and making her sick at the most inconvenient times.

One more horrible memory might put her over the edge, and that Logan guy looked like just the kind of man to do it.

EVEN THOUGH THE ANSWERS WERE ALWAYS THE SAME,

MARLENA West had woken early and headed to ACRO’s science labs anyway for her monthly check-in with the team that had been following her case for ten years.

Dr. Petra James was in charge of the case very few people knew about. A small woman with serious brown eyes, she had taken up the charge to find answers for Marlena at Devlin O’Malley’s request. Although, knowing Devlin, it most likely was more of a demand.

And even though Marlena never got her hopes up, the small shake of Dr.

James’s head still hurt. Unable to find a cure. We’ll keep looking. Don’t ever give up.

Now, back at the Seducers’ housing where she lived, she stared between the orders placed on her bed, indicating her next mission, and the picture of her sister that had fallen from the book she’d pulled off the shelf.

Stepsister, to be accurate. Kelly had been killed in a car accident years ago, taking with her any chance of true happiness Marlena could hope for.

Kelly had been strangled by hatred and jealousy toward Marlena from the day Marlena was born. A practicing witch, Kelly came up with a curse that wouldn’t allow Marlena to find love or happiness with any man. The curse doomed Marlena to fall insanely in love with any man she slept with—and ensured that no man would ever love her back once that happened. And the curse was so complete and malicious, it promised that Marlena couldn’t fall in love with 18

a man until she slept with him. Indeed, couldn’t have any feelings at all in that regard, would never feel that excitement of falling for someone, the way she did when she was a teenager, before the curse was cast.

Thus, for Marlena, sex had always been something completely out of her control—the thing that would cause her emotions to plummet wildly. She’d been lucky enough to find ACRO years earlier—or, more accurately, they’d found her after some of her modeling photos caught their attention. She’d immediately felt at ease with Dev, and after she’d confessed the truth about her curse, he’d assured her that they wouldn’t stop searching for a way to break it.

And he’d promised that no matter what, she would always be safe at ACRO.

She’d agreed to join then, because she’d been scared and alone and because she’d instantly trusted Devlin.

In all the years since, he’d never let her down. He’d been a safe man for her

—he’d given her a job as his executive assistant and he also let her satisfy him, and him her. Falling in love with him had been inevitable and painful, but Devlin had been gentle with her heart.

But now, with her new job as an ACRO Seducer, she defined sex on her terms. No intercourse, if possible. Controlling the man’s orgasms. She was the one who made all the rules, and thus she was able to keep men at a distance.

Though she hadn’t been at it long, becoming an ACRO Seducer could’ve been akin to a form of self-torture. Forced to use her sexuality in a way that could actually help people, Marlena took a chance on becoming a victim of the curse every time she went on a mission.

Of course, she made every effort to ensure that did not happen. Unlike most Seducers, whose specialized psychic talents required them to have sex with their targets in order to gather intel, Marlena could rely on her beauty and flirting skills to pry the information out of her mark, so sexual relations were unnecessary. She knew how to make a man go ga-ga over her, and for some ops, it was—and would be—enough. On other missions, she’d use her other talents, because a lot of men would give up their mothers for an amazing blow job.

Up until this point, she’d been on four small jobs—training missions that required sexual skills but had put her in no real physical danger. The goal had been to see if she could finally resist falling in love with any man she slept with. She’d been hypnotized by ACRO’s best, prodded by their scientists and sent out with high hopes for all her missions.

She’d gotten through the first three without having to resort to intercourse

—each of those missions a complete success.

The fourth required sex. She’d fallen in love and the man had been repulsed by her as soon as the deed was done. But then, she’d already gotten the information she needed, and she accomplished what she’d wanted—she’d fallen out of love with Devlin O’Malley.

That had been a relief in and of itself. Now she was in love with some 19

horrid ACRO enemy she might never see again, certainly not on a daily basis.

Compared to the hell some ACRO agents went through because of their powers, Marlena felt, in comparison, she had no right to complain. And she didn’t.

But she knew she was getting colder, keeping everyone at arm’s length.

And she knew that would only get worse if she continued in this job.

20

Chapter Two

Logan Mills smelled the hot, fetid breath of the beast hanging heavily in the humid air of the Amazonian jungle. They were close but somehow no closer than they’d been since they’d begun this mission.

The animal was smart—and Logan had a sickening feeling that he and his team were actually the ones being hunted.

He took a swig of water from the canteen that hung from a line on his pack and then capped it and checked his weapons again—an M14, a Sig and two tranqs with enough juice to put down a hippo.

His body had finally adjusted to the heat after thirty-plus days in this place

—he’d gotten used to sweating as his body tried to keep up with the constant water loss, and all of this reminded him of his days in Special Ops.

“Hey, Lo, we gonna call it a day soon?” Dax, one of his men, muttered.

Logan glanced at his watch—1600. Thanks to the overlay, they’d find themselves in total darkness sooner than later.

They’d been on the move since 0600—nonstop except for water breaks—

and while they’d found evidence of the escaped beast, they still hadn’t been able to track it down.

His men were tired—of the jungle, of this mission, of Logan’s nonstop barking and near obsession with recovering the creature he didn’t know anything about beyond the fact that it was lethal.

His men didn’t understand the full consequences; and if he had his way, they never would. No one else would either, and that’s why Logan planned on continuing his search for a few more hours.

“I’m not paying you to sleep,” he answered Dax evenly.

The man shook his head and held up his arms in silent surrender, and Logan sighed. He got it—they were exhausted. It was a feeling he could barely remember, and so garnering sympathy for it was hard.

He wasn’t tired, never got tired anymore. In fact, he often had to force himself to sleep so the still-human part of his mind could rest.

He was a product of his father’s company, a company he now oversaw—

one he had controlling shares in, due to his father’s continually bad decision-making. Global Weapons Corporation had been his father’s brainchild and was now Logan’s baby, since he had turned the company from nearly complete financial ruin to a growing enterprise in a little over three years.

It had been severely mismanaged, thanks to his father’s ego; the old man could never see past the get-rich-quick aspect of weapons development to realize that GWC could be a huge asset to the American government in the fight against 21

terrorism.

Unfortunately, his father still insisted on making decisions behind Logan’s back. Like this most recent one—the reacquisition of some kind of species, labeled Unclass 8, that killed an entire SEAL team last month, when GWC had accidentally released it after nearly three years of modifications.

Logan’s gut twisted as he thought back to his own injury four years earlier

—when he’d been shot to hell and left for dead at the bottom of a ravine for three days.

After he was found by the Marines, his father had him airlifted from the military hospital in Germany to a private facility in London, where a team of scientists and surgeons waited to save Logan’s life.

He’d been rebuilt with special bioware—his right arm, his legs, part of his brain. He functioned with an efficiency that scared even him, and he wondered if maybe the company had taken things too far.

BOOK: Tempting the Fire
13.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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