Authors: Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Part of the
world has ground to a screeching halt. She’s no longer a field agent for the
Exchange—the super-secret agency for handling non-human criminals. Laci lost
her partner Taylor Reynaud and now is simply existing, her life empty until the
day they tell her he is still alive.
For three horrific
years Reynaud—a Reaper panther shifter—has been the prisoner of Shiek Hassan,
the world’s most sadistic terrorist. Horribly disfigured and unable to heal
himself, Taylor is already dead in his own mind when the SEAL unit rescues him.
Ex-Navy SEAL Dixon
Coulter grew up with psychic powers. When he is captured by Hassan he becomes
something far more than Reaper. He is the world’s first Gravelord—a being so
powerful that not even a Reaper can defeat him.
Now Coulter wants
the woman who belongs to Taylor and he will do anything to win her.
paranormal erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave
To my Tommy. The only man I will ever love;
the only husband I will ever have. You’ll never lose me, doll. I will always be
Laci Albright flinched as lightning
stitched a fiery seam across the dark-gray corduroy of the heavens. The boom
that followed shook the building, making the glass roof above her creak. Head
down, shoulders hunched, she walked faster, wanting to get to the safety of the
main concourse. The curved sweep of the new skyway made entirely of glass—even
down to the tempered floor over which she hurried—made her feel exposed, open
to the dangers of the vicious Iowa storm. Her trip from the dormitory had been
bad enough. The horror of the power going out had made her palms sweat so she
had avoided the monorail.
It was a long walk from the dorms to the
Another harsh glare lit the skyway and she
all but ran the last twenty feet into the protection of windowless walls devoid
of glass ceilings. Gasping for air, hands shaking, she swallowed the nausea
that threatened to incapacitate her.
The woman behind the guard desk greeted her
quietly. “Good morning, Laci.”
“No offense, Joy, but it isn’t,” Laci
mumbled as she headed for the restricted-access elevator off to the right. She
had been called to a meeting on the third floor. “Far from it.”
“I’m sorry,” Joy McCarty said. “I’d
forgotten how much you dislike storms.”
“I don’t dislike them, sweetie. I fricking
hate them,” Laci said as she slapped her palm against the reader panel to the
right of the elevator door. The green light behind the panel traveled from her
fingertips to the base of her palm then up again. The doors slid silently
“Hope your day improves,” Joy called out as
Laci entered the elevator.
“Thanks. So do I,” Laci replied, trying to
force a smile for the woman who was watching her and continued to watch her
until the doors shushed together.
Sweat dampened Laci’s palms and she ran
them down her dark slacks. She’d wakened as the storm began at four
a.m.—burrowing beneath the covers as the lightning pulsed outside her window.
But it was more than the storm that had her nerves on edge. A sense of
foreboding sat on her shoulders like a cold, clammy washcloth. It had settled
there before her seven o’clock shower and still clung to her despite the long
walk over from the dorms. Glancing at her watch, she winced. She was five
minutes late getting to the meeting and there would be censure because of her
The elevator engaged and the cage climbed
two floors before settling gently. It took longer than she liked for the panels
to slide back—eating up more precious time she didn’t have—and as soon as they
opened she was out of the elevator.
She barely glanced at the big oaken desk
and the man who sat behind it.
“Everyone is already in the briefing room,”
Jonas Cobb, the Supervisor’s Executive Assistant informed her curtly. “They are
waiting on you. Punctuality is a virtue, Director Albright.”
Frowning at the prissy attitude of the
Supervisor’s pet asshole, Laci didn’t bother to speak to Cobb. They had a
strong dislike of each other and pleasantries weren’t expected or accepted. She
walked past him to the briefing room, rapped twice on the mahogany panel then
opened the door.
“You’re late,” were the first words out of
the Supervisor’s mouth.
“Slow elevator. Dawdling pedestrians on the
skywalk,” she said, going to her designated seat midway down the long
conference table where twelve other people sat—the Supervisor at the head and
six along each side. The chair at the opposite end of the table was empty as it
had been for over three years.
“Excuses,” the Supervisor said. “Neither of
which are acceptable.”
Laci nodded. She knew better than to argue
with the man at the head of the table. It wasn’t wise and could result in
suspension or demotion. It didn’t pay to get on his bad side.
“Now that Miss Albright has seen fit to
grace us with her presence, we may begin,” the Supervisor pronounced.
For those so inclined, notebooks were
opened and pens picked up, the nibs paused over paper. Compu-pads—having
previously been activated by those who preferred electronic note-taking—were
made ready. One woman flicked on a recording device.
The Supervisor cleared his throat. “We have
A firm double-knock at the door signaled
its opening and Cobb entered without apology. He walked rapidly to the Supervisor’s
chair, leaned down and whispered urgently in his employer’s ear.
Laci watched the blood drain from the
Supervisor’s face before he whipped his head around to stare up at the
officious little man. “This has been confirmed?” he asked.
At Cobb’s curt nod, the Supervisor slowly
turned his attention to Laci. He stared at her without speaking for several
seconds and she felt her heart rate speed up.
“Has something happened, sir?” one of the
other Directors inquired.
“Come with me, Albright,” the Supervisor
said, pushing back his chair. He marched through the door and was gone before
anyone could react.
Wondering what she could have done to
warrant the look from hell, Laci stood and followed him from the room. She had
to run to catch up with him for his long strides were outdistancing her. He was
headed for the elevator. Joining him, she knew better than to speak unless he
spoke to her. She risked a sidelong glance at his set face and wished she
hadn’t. His expression sent a cold chill down her back.
He slammed his palm to the reader, the
elevator panels shushed open, and then he entered before her, barely giving her
time to clear the threshold before he spoke.
“Brace yourself. We’re going to the
helipad,” he snapped.
Laci blinked. She had to bite her tongue to
refrain from asking where they were going. That she would be airborne during
the vicious storm made her heart speed up.
“Was it the storm that waylaid you or the
avoidance of the monorail?” he asked without looking at her.
She flinched. “Both,” she admitted. Lying
to the Supervisor was not a career-enhancing move.
“I thought as much.”
The elevator took them up to the roof
level. That level extended from the main building all the way over to the
fourth floor of the dormitory. The doors slid silently apart to reveal a short
corridor at the end of which was a metal door. Once more the Supervisor ignored
common courtesy and left the cage ahead of her. He strode quickly to the door,
reached into his pocket for a keycard and swiped it down the card reader beside
the door. Shoving the bar handle, he exited the building, allowing the door to
hit her as it started to close.
“Asshole,” she mumbled under her breath.
Rain slanted down in a torrent as she stood
holding the door open. The rotors of the chopper were flinging the water
against the side of the building and it pebbled her face with icy shards.
The Supervisor climbed into the helo then
turned to motion her to it. Taking a deep breath for lightning still slashed
across the firmament and she had no desire to be lifted into the maw of the
storm, she nevertheless ran for the helicopter. Not in the least surprised her
employer made no move to help her into the chopper, she managed to hoist
herself through the opening. Her blouse and the legs of her slacks were soaked
She gave the attendant sitting in the
aft-facing jump seat a disapproving look but the man seemed impervious to the
glower. “Sit down. We don’t have all day,” he snapped at her.
“You heard him, Albright,” the Supervisor
“Buckle up, ma’am,” the pilot shouted
unnecessarily from the cockpit. “We’re going to be in for a bumpy flight.”
“Terrific,” Laci said under her breath as
she clicked the safety harness round her. She put on the headphones the
Supervisor shoved at her.
The bird rose, banked sharply starboard and
headed out across the countryside.
“The G4 is fueled and ready, sir,” the
pilot informed them over the headphones.
Laci glanced at the Supervisor. He nodded
but said nothing as he stared out the window. Even more curious to know what
was going on, she kept her eyes on the floor at her feet rather than watch the
flashes of lightning that lit the helo cabin. The bird was being pummeled by
the storm and the flight was more than bumpy. It was like being inside the
steel drum of a cement mixer. Thankfully the ride to the private airstrip near
Oakland Acres was short else she thought she might well start hyperventilating.
“You must get over this astraphobia,” the
Supervisor barked through the mouthpiece.
Her fear of thunder and lightning went back
to her childhood. She doubted anything could be done about it. In college,
she’d paid a hypnotist to help her rid herself of the phobia but it hadn’t
worked. She’d tried again after coming to work for the Network, but it hadn’t
worked that time, either. There was no magic pill she could take to eliminate
the fear that gripped her when the weather turned bad.
“When we return to the Exchange, I intend
to send you down to psych to see it done once and for all,” the Supervisor said
as he read her mind. He turned his face toward her. “Are we clear?”
“Perfectly, sir,” she agreed, holding his
“You want to know where we’re going,” he
“I do,” she said. The man liked succinct
answers and when he was doling out the kind of look with which he was
bombarding her, the shorter the words the better.
He searched her eyes. “To the Island.”
Laci frowned. She wanted to ask for what
purpose but she figured if he wanted her to know, he’d tell her. Otherwise,
questioning him would only provoke the nasty side of his personality and that
was a side no one wanted to see. When he looked away, she clenched her teeth.
Mercifully, the flight took a little less
time than it normally did thanks to a brutal tailwind, and the chopper settled
down on the tarmac as close to the G4 jet as weather and safety allowed. Two
men with opened umbrellas were waiting at the steps to the plane and once the
attendant got out of his seat and opened the door, they came hurrying over.
As was his habit, the Supervisor preceded
Laci from the chopper, huddling under the umbrella as he headed for the jet.
Since the attendant made no move to help her out of the helo, Laci was relieved
the other man with an umbrella reached out a hand to help her down.
“Thank you,” she told him. He gave her a
As she climbed the steps to the jet,
lightning sliced across the sky and a loud pop sounded as the spear struck the
ground nearby. She jumped, missed a step and felt the metal edge scrape down
“Son of a bitch!” she groaned, bending
forward over the pain lancing up her leg.
“Are you all right, ma’am?” the man with
the umbrella inquired. He was standing on the rung just below hers, tilting the
umbrella over her for protection.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m okay.”
Drawing in a breath, she scrambled up the
steps, wincing as she went.
“Please stop dawdling, Albright,” the
Supervisor grumbled as she came to take her seat. “Time is of the essence.” He
waved his hand at the male flight attendant. “Tell Bradley to get this plane in
the air, now!”
Settling in her seat beside the
Supervisor—since he didn’t like anyone facing him—Laci dragged the seatbelt
around her and buckled it. With every passing minute she wished she weren’t on
the Director’s board so she didn’t have to bear the burden of the Supervisor’s
unpredictable nature. While she no longer worked in the field, she alone among
the Directors could be called to active duty at her employer’s whim. Not for
the first time did she wish her Extension—the Alpha Operative whose empty chair
opposite the Supervisor’s was a mute reminder that theirs was an unpredictable
profession—was there to help her.
“Would you like a movie shown during the
flight, sir?” the flight attendant inquired.
“No,” the Supervisor snapped.
Laci sighed. It was going to be a long
flight with nothing to relieve the silence she expected.
“We went through this once before,” she
heard the Supervisor say. “I never wanted to again.”
“Excuse me?” she said.
“With Mikhail Fallon,” he said. He laid his
head on the back of his seat. “He and his wife Keenan are on the Island. They
work there now.”
She’d heard of the legendary Alpha and his
Extension, Keenan McCullough. They had bonded and now were Joined. Their
marriage had been the talk of the Network. Having a pair of formidable agents
working at the Network’s medical facility seemed a huge waste of ability. She
wondered what had precipitated such an assignment.
The Supervisor was a Shadowlord, a powerful
mage who could read minds as easily as a newspaper. His words to her came as no
“When they retired, they went to the Island
to help other operatives who have been injured in the line of duty.”
“I heard Agent Fallon had PTSD after his
encounter with the
,” she said.
The Supervisor sighed. “Yes. He was
crippled mentally and physically by that evil thing. It took him a good long
while to get over it and I’m not really sure he has.”
“That was how long ago?” she asked.
“Ten years or so,” he answered. He closed
his eyes. “When Misha left, Taylor assumed the role of Alpha. I need to assign
a new man but I kept hesitating.”
At the mention of the Extension she had
lost three years earlier to a bomb he was trying to defuse, Taylor Reynaud’s
smiling face flitted across her mind. She clenched her hands into tight fists
and looked away. It had taken her months to come to terms with losing Tay for
they too had bonded. She missed him so deeply the pain felt fresh and raw when
she opened her eyes each morning. She had loved him with every fiber of her
being and he had loved her just as much.