Beyond the Darkness
The Offspring, Book 5
Avon Books (November 29, 2011)
ISBN-13: 9780062018915 ♦ ISBN-10: 0062018914
~Romantic Suspense with a touch of Magical Realism~
They live ordinary lives, but they are extraordinary. They are the Offspring, children of a mysterious experiment gone awry—and they are in terrible danger.
Cheveyo: a name that stirs Petra like no other, reviving deep feelings of pleasure…and pain. Despite her rare psychic gifts, the beautiful half-human Offspring doesn’t know why the magnificent shapeshifter walked out of her life when the bond they shared was powerful…and intensely passionate.
But Cheveyo is not gone. From the shadows, he watches over his beloved, determined that the malevolent enemies he hunts with fang and claw will not invade her world. But now, suddenly, the stakes are getting higher—as an insidious evil plots the destruction of Petra’s race. Cheveyo can remain hidden no longer from the lover who completes him but could destroy him…if his own inner darkness doesn’t destroy her first.
Read an Excerpt
Petra Aruda leaned back and eyed the woman in front of her with a critical eye. “You are so going to knock that interviewer dead.”
Sharla jumped out of the chair in the little cubby and surveyed herself in the mirror. “This is like one of those makeover shows. I’m amazing.” She gestured to the outfit Petra had chosen, a professional suit and skirt from the adjoining thrift store. “You’re amazing!”
Petra smiled as she finished jotting down makeup and skin care tips. “I enjoy it.” Actually, she loved it. She handed the paper to Sharla and smoothed a stray lock of her hair.
Katy Perry’s “Firework” trilled from Petra’s big, plum bag.
“Go ahead, take that. Wish me luck!” Sharla gave her a quick hug and zipped off.
“You won’t need luck!” Petra pulled out her purple rhinestone phone; she didn’t recognize the number. “Hello?”
A man’s low, smooth voice said, “Petra?”
Her breath hitched for a second before she realized it wasn’t him. “Yes?”
Pope. It took a moment to register. She’d only met him once, but the man had gone against the rules to save her and the lives of those she cared most about. They hadn’t heard from him in three months, since he’d gone home to face the consequences-a home that happened to be in a parallel dimension.
“You’re back? And all right?” she asked.
“I’m back.” He didn’t answer the second question. “Eric gave me your number. I need to meet with you as soon as possible.”
Her heart plunged, taking her breath with it. Not again. No more running for my life, getting shot at. “There’s not …we’re not… ” She couldn’t even utter the words in danger again.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had filled her dreams with nightmares and her days with paranoia. She couldn’t even go to a therapist. Like he wouldn’t escort her to the psych ward after she told him tales of being hunted by a Rogue CIA officer out to either use or kill her and her friends for their psychic abilities.
“Everything is fine.”
“No, it’s not. Otherwise you wouldn’t need to meet as soon as possible. That means urgent, and urgent means life-threatening. We’re never going to be safe, are we? Every time we think it’s over—”
“It’s about Cheveyo.”
Hearing his name halted her panicky flow of words. “Cheveyo?” She hadn’t said his name in two months, when her friends stopped asking if she’d heard from him. Now the name slid over her tongue like honey, thick and sticky.
“I’ll explain more when I see you. Meet me for lunch, a noisy place where we can talk.” Without being overheard. Oh, boy.
“Cleo’s Café. We can meet there, in downtown Annapolis.” She gave him the general location on Main Street, a touristy area by the harbor.
“I’ll find it. See you in a few minutes.”
Her throat tightened as she looked for the supervisor. The Women’s Center for Independence helped those who were out of work and needed a makeover, job skills, and more importantly, self-confidence. She volunteered her time and skills as often as classes allowed.
“I’ve got a family issue,” she told the woman in the office. “I’ll try to get back before my afternoon class.”
Why did Pope want to talk with her about Cheveyo? What was going on? The questions buzzed and crackled in her chest like a light bulb about to burn out. She got into her bright yellow VW Bug with its yellow silk flower in the holder, happy face charm dangling from her rear view mirror, everything bright and shiny to cover up those six weeks of Hell with a capital H.
Yeah, how’s that working for you?
The fact that hearing Cheveyo’s name twisted her all up inside said it all. He’d held her body against his, whispering in her ear, his hand tight on her waist. And that was their first meet. He’d been locking her down to keep her from bolting, hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. He’d come on business to bring them someone who needed their help, but there’d been nothing businesslike about the way her body had come to life against his, how she’d come to life when his gaze met hers. He’d known her in an intimate way, known her fears, her idiosyncrasies. She’d felt every bit of the psychic connection he claimed they had.
She was in full fidget mode by the time she walked into the noisy seafood restaurant that overlooked the docks. Seaside-ish décor fit its waterfront location, with tables that looked like weathered wood and crab traps around the lights over each table. Tacky quaint, but the food rocked. The scent of fried calamari and fresh-squeezed lemon didn’t begin to tweak her appetite now, though. All she wanted was water to moisten her dry mouth.
She spotted Pope sitting at a table near the window. Her gaze was drawn to him as though he’d mentally flagged her down. Maybe he had. He stood as she approached the table, and people glanced over. At six-foot-five, with a shaved head and dramatic, defined features, Pope was striking. He seemed to either ignore or not notice the attention he got. He held out her chair and waited for her to get situated before taking his seat across from her.
“You’re back in one piece,” she said, taking a sip of water from the glass on the table. “Does that mean things went well over there?”
Please, please let things have gone well.
He shook his head and opened his mouth to answer when the waitress arrived with a chirpy smile. He ordered iced tea; she ordered a latte, glad for the waitress to depart so she could hear more. Her brother, Eric, had pretty much squashed her nervous habit of cracking her knuckles, but she’d picked up a new one: braiding her hair.
Pope leaned forward on his elbows, long fingers clasped together. “I stood before the C, the Collaborate, and had to explain why I used my deadly powers. Though we can’t communicate when I’m in this dimension, my power usage is something they can track. They didn’t believe me when I told them the truth, and they sensed my deception when I didn’t.”
Dread trickled through her veins like the slow drip of ice water at the thought of his facing the panel of leaders who resembled a powerful United Nations. “What did they do?”
“Neutralized my deadly abilities and scheduled a SCANE.” His light violet eyes gave no clue as to the stress he’d gone through.
“A SCANE? That sounds freaky-scary. What is it?”
“A laser that probes your brain to extract your memories and knowledge. Unfortunately, the beam burns the tissues as it does so.”
“But…you’d be brain damaged.”
He nodded. “It’s better when the recipient dies.”
“That’s barbaric. How did you escape?”
“I called in a favor from a comrade. Now I am a Scarlett.”
Only then did she see a flicker of emotion, perhaps disappointment or shame. “An outlaw.” She’d gotten the sense that he’d been highly regarded. Her hand went to her chest. “You saved our lives but put your own in danger. I’m sorry.”
“I can live with that. Or…not.” His mouth lifted at the corner in a smile tinged with resolve. “I do not regret my actions, so there is no reason for you to feel bad.”
“Mostly I’m just grateful. But you’re here, away from all that horrible-ness. You’re now a permanent resident of our dimension. You need a life.” Her gaze dropped to his shirt: boring, white cotton business attire. “And style advice.”
“I need more than that, as you astutely surmised from our earlier conversation.”
Her smile faded. “I was hoping advice was what you needed so badly. And maybe you just wanted to meet Cheveyo out of curiosity. It’s all part of my bright, shiny plan.”
“Never mind.” She released a long breath. “Hit me. I mean, tell me what’s going on.”
“One of my roles while I worked as a Shine-an agent-for the C was Extractor. When a Shine went Scarlett and slipped through to this dimension, I brought him or her back. Or killed them if I couldn’t. Now an Extractor has been sent for me. He is relentless, powerful, and ruthless. Apprehending me is preferable to killing me, as the C wants information. But killing me is the backup option. I have known him for many years. He used to come here illegally on independent business before he joined the C.”
It seemed surreal, talking about lobotomies and hunters while all around people chatted and laughed about celebrity gossip or their baby’s latest accomplishment.
The waitress brought their drinks, setting them on placemats that looked like fish nets. Petra hardly looked at her steaming mug. “Nothing else for me.”
The waitress looked at Pope, who waved away any order he might have as well.
When she left, Petra leaned forward. “You need our help to get rid of this guy? Because we will. We owe you big time.” She pushed out those words like boulders from her throat. The ground shifted, threatening the tenuous hold she had on ‘normal.’
He smiled. “You are brave, pretty one.”
A laugh erupted. “Maybe with the rest of my peeps. But we can’t include Amy, ’cause she’s preggers. Or Lucas, because she’s going to need him.” She picked up her mug and lifted it to her mouth.
“I just need one of you. Cheveyo. I’ve heard you have a connection to him.”
“You talked to Eric.”
“Something about you being gooey and dewy whenever you saw Cheveyo. Can you explain this? Eric only laughed when I asked.”
“He teased me because my eyes looked dewy, which means…never mind that.” She rolled her eyes. “Eric, who gave everybody a hard time about falling in love while we were in danger and then fell the hardest.” The worst part was, she’d been the only one who’d wanted love and now she was the only one who didn’t have it.
Pope pressed a long finger against his mouth, regarding her with curiosity. “I’m getting anger from you.”
“You can sense my feelings?”
“Since ours have been bred out of us over recent generations, they are much more apparent in humans. Like a loud sound in a quiet marsh.”
She forced a smile. “It’s not anger, only frustration.” She waved it away and planted her elbows on the table. “I saw Cheveyo twice. Yeah, maybe I was a little gooey and dewy, but that’s only because he’s mysterious and sexy, and he saved my life. One of the enemy could mind control. He got into my head and made me start the car in the garage so I’d kill myself.” She shuddered, still smelling the carbon dioxide. “Cheveyo swept in and got me out of the garage, breathed fresh air into me, breathing life into me.” She shuddered again, this time for a totally different reason. His mouth on hers, his urgently whispered words, begging her to come back to him. “After I revived, he kissed me and the whole world spun on its axis.” The memory still gripped her, just as it did every time she thought about the damned kiss, which was hardly ever.
When he had saved her life, she’d hugged him, thanked him.
“I didn’t do you a favor,” he’d said. “If you died…” He couldn’t even finish the sentence, but the fear of that thought was clear in his voice and expression. She’d seen his desire, too, when she’d pleaded with him to stay with her, and seen pain when he’d said, “I wish I could. You don’t know how hard it is to stay away from you.”
She squashed the way that made her feel. He had reasons for staying away, and she had accepted that. Well, pretty much.
“When two people kiss like that, it means something. Three months have passed since the danger’s been over and not even a lousy call.” Okay, it hurt. She thought she’d shored herself better. “I’m not gooey and dewy anymore.” She latched onto her braid again, unraveling it. “I’m so over him.”
“I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not.”
“It’s a good thing. I no longer kick my couch or punch pillows.” She gave him a forced smile because she’d said too much. “I’ve moved on. I’m taking a college program on esthetics, which is skin care and such. I have a date tonight with a guy who hopefully can’t do amazing, crazy things with his mind, who hasn’t killed anyone or been hunted by the government.” She released a breath. “A nice, normal guy.”
“A date: a social interaction with sexual motivation.” He nodded.
“Wow, way to take the romance out of it. What’d you do, study our dimension?”
“Yes, we take extensive training to learn your ways. So you have no troublesome feelings for Cheveyo?”
“None whatsoever. Just a lingering frustration, and only because I never found out why he couldn’t contact me. It’s like when you date someone once or twice and never hear from him again. You always wonder why.” Had he ever fallen for someone and felt the ache of their loss? “Ever been on a date?”
“I have no desire to engage in that sort of activity, as I see the chaos it creates in humans.”
She snorted. “Probably a good idea.” Look at me, and Cheveyo and I didn’t even go out on a date. “I can’t tell you all that much about Cheveyo.”
“I don’t require information; I need you to contact him. Your untroubled feelings will make that easier?”
“I suppose. But why do you need me? Can’t you, like, teletransport to wherever or whoever? Or did you lose that ability?”
“My transport skills are still weak. Even when they were fully operational, I could not go to him. He’s different.”
“Yes, he is. Did you know he can turn into a panther? He did it in front of me once. It was freaky, sexy, cool, even if I am afraid of large animals with sharp teeth. He seems more advanced than any of us.”
“Indeed. Since he trusts you, I want you to bring him to me.”
Her chest tightened at the thought of contacting him. She hadn’t even tried, out of pure pride. If he couldn’t be bothered to call her, why should she be the one to go knocking on his psychic door?
The sun slanted in through the window, lighting Pope’s untouched iced tea to a deep amber. She pulled her gaze from the rich color. “What do you want me to tell him?”
“It would be better not to mention me until you get him to our meeting place. I’ve tried to find him over the years, and he may think I’m hunting him down.” His mouth twitched again. “Use what you call here feminine wileys, if you must.”
Now her mouth twitched in a smile. “Wiles, you mean. Yeah, well, I don’t really have any of those.” People seemed to think that just because she was pretty, she was a) easy; b) had tons of dates or c) was a man stealer.
A Mona Lisa smile stole across his features. “I think you’ll be able to accomplish the goal.”
His confidence buoyed her. Cheveyo had once told her she was stronger than she thought, and he’d been right.
“I’ll try. That’s all I can promise. Are you going to tell me why you’re having me summon him?”
His smile faded. “Do you want to be involved?”
“No. Absolutely, positively not.”
“Wise answer. Bring us together, and your part will be done.”
“So the Rogues, we’re okay?”
He blinked before saying, “Yes, your friends and brother are safe.”
That blink spiked into her heart. She could hear the for now tacked onto the end of that sentence.
He stood and dropped a twenty on the table. His gaze scanned the restaurant. “You walk out first. In case the Extractor has found me, I don’t want him to know we’re linked in any way.” His voice got lower. “You will need to be even more careful when we meet next.”
She blinked as an image flashed in her mind.
“That is where we’ll meet,” he said. “Speak not of it to Cheveyo. Just bring him to the location.”
She nodded, knowing where it was. “This is starting to sound scary again.” Scary, but her heart was thrumming with adrenaline. Good God, she couldn’t actually miss the danger, could she? That would be sick. And not sick in the good way, either.
Yurek watched a tall woman exit the restaurant where he’d tracked Pope. She headed to the right, unraveling her straight hair from its braid and shaking it out. The blond strands shimmered in the sunlight, falling to the middle of her back. Pope emerged a few seconds later, watching the woman for a moment. She looked back, and in that glance he saw a connection between them. He was close enough to pick up on the woman’s emotions: an odd mix of excitement and trepidation. But he also picked up something from Pope. Was it concern that came from him? Yes, he cared about the girl. Interesting. They weren’t supposed to have those feelings.
He picked up something even more interesting: the Geo Wave, an almost electric sense their kind got from each other. It shouldn’t be coming from the human girl.
Intrigued, he followed her, making sure he wasn’t picking up Pope’s Wave. She looked as though she’d stepped out of one of the many advertisements that bombarded society here: tall, but not emaciated as many of the female models. Her body filled in her black pants and pink, knit tank top with luscious curves. Even though he saw humans as the lesser species, he found some of them attractive in their own way. Like this girl.
People streamed past them, many paying more attention to what was in the shop windows than where they were going. Some looked at him, at the handsome visage he had chosen for his visit here. Callorians, his species, took on a human guise when they visited this dimension. He could take that ability one step further.
The woman stopped at an intersecting road, and he bumped into her. She turned and looked at him without malice, and he apologized. She gave him a forgiving smile and turned forward again.
Yes, a beautiful woman…who was part Callorian. Then the pieces clicked together. Pope had been coming here for many years on various assignments. He had been an Elgin, a highly-placed Shine, before he went Scarlett. He had obviously broken the rules and had an assignation with a human. This lovely creature was the result. It explained why Pope cared about her.
The crowd surged forward again. Now that he worked for the Collaborate, the C as it was referred to from within, his duties included eradicating anything troublesome on this dimension. This woman was troublesome, just by her very existence. It would disturb Pope if his daughter was killed, and that would distract him and further weaken his Essence. Yurek’s smile wasn’t all for show. The idea of bringing down the last vestiges of the once-powerful Pope, was as luscious as the woman only inches in front of him.
Praise & Reviews
“Beyond the Darkness is a killer journey that pairs one scorching couple with dastardly danger. Petra and Cheveyo sizzle, Beyond the Darkness should not be missed!!” —A RECOMMENDED READ! Joyfully Reviewed
“Suspense maven Rush punches up the supernatural as she further explores the shocking revelations from her previous book. Up until now, the biggest threat to the Offspring has been governmental agencies run amok, but now the threat is extraterrestrial. The hero in this book is the mysterious shapeshifter Cheveyo, who has been an intriguing presence from the beginning. This hide-and-seek thriller is a terrific addition to an exception series.” —Jill Smith, RT Book Reviews