Authors: Cyndi Friberg
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2014 Cyndi Friberg
Cover art by Dar Albert
Editor: Mary Moran
Electronic Book Publication, October 2014
Trade Paperback Publication, October 2014
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author, Cyndi Friberg.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Taken by Storm
Taken by Storm
had it all—tense action, suspense, erotic sex, humor and a wildly imaginative plot.”
The Romance Studio
“Unplug the phone and put the kids to bed; once you start reading
Taken by Storm
you won’t want any interruptions!”
Fallen Angel Reviews
“For a story that will delight, entertain, and keep you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend
Taken by Storm
and award it RRT’s
Romance Reviews Today
“I highly recommend
it’s one of the best science fiction romances I’ve ever read
. Perfect 10!
Romance Reviews Today
“Outstanding! This segment only whetted my appetite for more. The heat between Kyrsta and Trey could cause a nuclear meltdown.
Simply Romance Reviews
City of Tears
City of Tears
by Cyndi Friberg is one amazing blend of science fiction at its best and romance at its hottest…”
Shadow Assassins, Book Five
Roxie finds herself in the middle of an interplanetary conflict, though she has no idea why she was targeted. She’s kidnapped by the Mystic Militia, who claim they’re protecting her. Roxie doesn’t know what to believe or who she can trust, so she trusts no one. Then her ruggedly handsome interrogator arrives and her determination crumbles.
Elias is ordered to find out what Roxie knows and see if he can figure out why the Shadow Assassins are obsessed with her. He must use every tool at his disposal to unravel Roxie’s mysteries. So he flirts and teases, even turns on the Southern charm. The only trouble is their attraction flares into passion the second his lips meet hers. How can he remain objective when all he can think about is touching her, tasting her, and keeping her by his side forever?
More than hearts are on the line as pressures mount and devastating decisions must be made. To finally put an end to the Shadow Assassins, the Mystic Militia must be willing to risk everything.
Table of Contents
The front door to Unique Ink swung open and Roxie Latimer turned to greet her visitor. The last few weeks had been turbulent, to say the least. Still, she hoped the stress didn’t show. Rather than a customer, however, Jett, one of her employees, ambled into the tattoo shop. She released her pent-up breath and let the forced smile fade.
“Hey.” He added his characteristic chin lift to the greeting and Roxie tried to relax.
“Tess needed some time off, so you’re stuck with me today.” Tess and Jett were technically her employees, but they had all been friends long before Roxie’s appearance on a national tattoo competition show allowed her to open Unique Ink. Even though she’d come in second, name recognition and industry buzz convinced a venture capitalist to invest in the endeavor. And Roxie had worked tirelessly to make her dream reality.
“Such a sacrifice.” Jett blew her a kiss. “I only have two appointments, so I should be able to handle the walk-ins. What’s your schedule like?” Jett was always ready to roll with the changes, though his laid-back attitude and kind heart were a sharp contrast to his appearance. His ink-black hair had been styled with asymmetrical flare, slashing across his forehead and frequently blocking one eye. Not surprisingly, colorful tattoos covered much of his body, even creeping up one side of his face. The subtle facial design drew attention to his expressive green eyes, which he also accented with “guy-liner”. Roxie counted on his unflappable demeanor and loyalty, and he’d never let her down.
“If the mystery men have actually left town, my schedule is wide open.” For the past nine weeks Roxie had been working for a woman named Sevrin Keire. Though strikingly beautiful and obviously rich, there was something about Sevrin that screamed danger. Roxie had reluctantly agreed to make herself available to Sevrin’s “boys” and Sevrin had more than tripled Roxie’s usual rates. Sevrin’s “boys” were anything but boyish. They were tall, muscular men with strong foreign accents. Roxie, Jet and Tess had spent the following weeks trying to guess their occupation. Bodybuilders, private security, professional athletes? But they kept coming back to the most obvious choice—mercenaries.
As unexpectedly as Sevrin had appeared, she dropped by the night before to inform Roxie that her services were no longer needed. Sevrin was moving her operation to another location, so Roxie had “dodged a bullet”. There had been more to the conversation than that, but Roxie refused to think about it now. All her suspicions and fears were irrelevant as long as Sevrin and her “boys” were out of her life forever.
“Are you missing them already?” Jett softened the question with a teasing smile, but he’d been the first one to speak up about the menace they all sensed. He’d been reluctant to leave Roxie alone with any of the men and he’d been thrilled to hear that they were leaving.
“More like the opposite. I’ve never been so relieved to have a job end.”
“I’m right there with you, Rox.” He strolled toward the large display case filled with jewelry and souvenirs then paused. “My first appointment isn’t until eleven. Why don’t I go get us some coffee, or better yet, breakfast?”
“I never say no to coffee and I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
“No surprise there. If me and Tess didn’t feed you, you’d starve.” He retraced his steps, arms loose, stride rolling. “So what sounds good? Breakfast burrito, croissant sandwich, ooy-gooy sticky buns?”
She chuckled at the last suggestion, but before she could make her selection, the front door swung open, drawing their attention to the main entrance. Nazerel, the most dangerous of Sevrin’s men, stepped across the threshold. Dread dropped into the pit of Roxie’s stomach and all the tension Jett’s arrival had eased sprang back into place.
With predatory grace and a purposeful stride, Nazerel stalked toward her. “I would speak with you alone.” His hand encircled her upper arm and he guided her toward the back of the shop.
Jett opened his mouth to argue, but Roxie backed him off with a warning look. Though brusque and somewhat abrasive, Nazerel had never been abusive toward her. In fact, he’d been oddly protective.
The front of the store was designed for potential customers. They could look through portfolios and spend time with an artist before deciding on the designs that would grace their bodies for the rest of their lives. Once the decision was made, each customer was taken to the actual work area, which took up the majority of the compact shop. Nazerel brought Roxie into the larger area and drew the curtain across the archway separating the two. Roxie had a desk in the back corner of the room, but there hadn’t been enough space to enclose an actual office. This was as close as they could come to privacy inside Unique Ink.
“Are you aware that we are leaving?” He spoke with obvious care, yet his accent was less pronounced than most of his cohorts’.
Was this all he wanted, to say goodbye? That would be a wonderful development, but her life was never that simple. “Sevrin told me yesterday.”
“I know you don’t trust me, but it’s important that you listen to what I’m about to tell you.”
He sounded so dire, so filled with conviction, that her heartbeat picked up its pace. “All right.”
Before he could present his grand revelation, she heard voices in the front of the store. Jillian, the ex-showgirl Roxie had hired as a receptionist, wasn’t scheduled to begin until tomorrow, but Roxie was certain it was Jillian talking with Jett. Anyone who interacted with Nazerel could be endangered by the exposure. Jillian was still recovering from a devastating injury and Roxie refused to add to her misfortune in any way.
Roxie held up her hand, determined to send Jillian away before she even saw Nazerel. “Give me just a minute. I’ll be right back. Please, stay here.” Roxie opened the privacy curtain and hurried around the display case. She needed to appear friendly, yet insistent, so Jillian wouldn’t ask questions. “I thought I recognized that voice.”
Jillian smiled in response, but that was as far as the conversation progressed.
Nazerel moved into the archway. “Well, isn’t this awkward?”
Jillian’s eyes widened with obvious shock, then she quickly composed her expression. “Excuse me?”
Roxie looked at Nazerel then back at Jillian. They knew each other. Despite Jillian’s denial, it was obvious they were acquainted.
“Do I know you?” Jillian’s innocent act wasn’t convincing.
“Oh I think you do.” Nazerel brushed past Roxie and rushed toward Jillian. The subtle menace Roxie always sensed became an overt threat.
Roxie glanced at Jett. He shoved his hand into his pocket, likely reaching for his phone. She wasn’t sure they should call the cops. Nazerel hadn’t really done anything wrong, yet.
Light burst all around Roxie, momentarily blinding her. Pain stabbed into her head and darkness barreled toward her. Suddenly three men materialized around Nazerel.
… Her thoughts faded and everything went black.
* * * * *
Awareness returned to Roxie more gradually than it had left, but the pain lingered. Her head throbbed with agonizing spasms, as if her skull had developed a pulse. She vaguely remembered falling to the floor, so how had she ended up in the armchair across the room?
She forced her eyelids upward, ignoring the increased pressure in her head. No one was near her, so why had she blacked out?
“Hello. How are you feeling?”
She didn’t recognize the deep, male voice. “Like someone kicked me in the head.” Pushing her hair back from her face, she blinked until her eyes focused. The man was tall and brawny, with the confident bearing of a military commander. If he’d spoken with an accent, she would have presumed he was one of Sevrin’s men. “Who are you?”
“Special Agent Elias Bertram.” The dark-haired stranger held out his hand.
Rather than shake it, she rubbed her aching temples. “Holy mother of God, my head hurts.”
A different man moved into her peripheral vision. Her heart lurched and she sucked in a breath. This was one of the men she’d seen just before she blacked out. If they hadn’t been a hallucination, then… She couldn’t complete the thought. Even her pain-addled brain knew people didn’t just appear out of nowhere.
What the hell is going on
The second man moved behind her as he said, “If you’ll allow me to touch you, I can ease the pressure.”
Roxie didn’t respond, was in too much pain to care if he meant her further harm. Then his warm fingers pressed against her temples and waves of soothing heat flowed through her mind. “Wow.” She blinked again, finally clearing the haze from her vision. The first man stood in front of her, scowling furiously. She didn’t care if the healer had crossed some unacceptable line. She could finally think again. “What did you do? The pain is just—gone.”
“Pressure points,” the healer muttered. “Western doctors scoff at the concept, but they really do work.”
He was full of shit, but Roxie wasn’t about to confront him in front of Jett. She pushed to her feet, her legs still wobbly. Jett stood back, silently watching through wide, disbelieving eyes. What had they told him while she was unconscious? Had Jett seen the three men just blink into the room? She’d find out what he knew later, when the others weren’t around. “Go cancel the rest of the appointments for today. I don’t think either of us is fit to work.”
“You got it.”
She waited until Jett was gone before she spun toward the healer. “What the hell are you?”
am I?” He laughed, apparently surprised by her hostility. “I’m human. What are you?”
“Humans can’t materialize out of thin air or heal with a touch. And it wasn’t just you. I saw the others. Don’t bother denying it. I know what I saw.”
Tension escalated in an uncomfortable surge. The healer glanced at Jillian, and Jillian looked at the soldier. No one seemed to know what to do with a mouthy human. It probably would have been wiser to keep her suspicions to herself. But this was the culmination of months of stress and unanswered questions.
“The weapon Nazerel used on you can cause hallucinations,” the healer told her, his angular features suddenly stern. A strange blue glow smoldered in the depths of his dark eyes, reinforcing her conclusion that he wasn’t human.
She didn’t bring it up, knew he’d deny anything she claimed to have seen. “All right. Let’s talk about whatever kicked in my head. Why didn’t it work on you?” When the healer couldn’t come up with a believable lie, she turned to the soldier and snapped, “I’ve had it with this bullshit. Who are you people and what are you doing on my planet!”
A rush of energy swirled around her, tingly and warm. Then someone grabbed her from behind. The arms encircling her were long and muscular, obviously male. She gasped and tried to struggle, but the man was incredibly strong.
Before she could reason through where he’d come from or why he was restraining her, the room blurred again. A burst of acceleration propelled her into blackness and then her surroundings reformed, becoming a room she’d never seen before.
The man behind her loosened his grip then stepped back. She spun around and gasped again. This was another one of the men she’d glimpsed before passing out. A hundred questions inundated her mind, creating an unintelligible buzz. Who…why…where the hell was she! She backed up, instinctively lodging herself into the nearest corner.
“I won’t hurt you,” the man assured, both hands extended, palms up.
She wanted to believe him, needed to believe that she’d stumbled into something good for a change. Keeping him in her peripheral vision, she glanced around the room. With stark gray walls, no windows, and a single door, the room could only be described as utilitarian. Or militant. The first man she’d seen in her shop had definitely put off soldier vibes. For that matter, so had the healer.
She shuddered then swayed, teetering between laughter and tears. The teleporter took a cautious step forward and she tried to retreat, but there was nowhere left to go. “Just leave me alone!” The demand came out shrill rather than commanding, but she was doing good just to remain on her feet.
What did these people want with her? She’d thought the drama ended when Sevrin said goodbye.
“Roxie, I will not harm you.”
“How do you know my name? Why am I…” Another wave of vertigo had her grasping the walls for support.
He lightly touched her shoulder and the rings in his eyes slowly blended into a swirling mass of turquoise. “Do you need to lie down? Teleporting can be hard on the stomach if you’re not expecting the rush.” Tall, blond and undeniably handsome, he spoke with authority and compassion. And only the barest hint of an accent.
She stared into his gently rotating gaze, terrified yet oddly soothed by the overt proof that her wild conclusion had been correct all along. These men were not human.
At least she wasn’t losing her mind.
Twisting away from his touch, she took a deep breath. “Where am I?” It was the logical place to start. There was no furniture in the room, no shelves or storage compartments. The room was just an open space with no apparent purpose. “Why did you bring me here?”
“I’m Commander Lor dar Joon. I’ll explain everything as soon as I’m sure you’re not going to throw up on me.” He smiled, obviously trying to put her at ease.