Anew: Book Three: Entwined

ANEW: Book Three: Entwined

Josie Litton

 

Amelia and Ian's story comes to a
stunning conclusion in Book Three of this erotic retelling of "Sleeping
Beauty" set in the near future. Escaping deadly danger in the glittering
city of Manhattan, the lovers find refuge on an island sanctuary where beauty
disguises lethal intent.

As they seek to bridge the chasm of
lies and half-truths that threaten to destroy them, they discover a new, far
deeper love that opens the way to healing and redemption.

But when a deadly enemy threatens
to strike again, Ian and Amelia have no choice but to return to the world
beyond the island. There they must confront their ultimate fears and together
find the means to save everything that matters most.

*Contains sexual content. Intended
for mature audiences only.*

Praise
for the ANEW Trilogy by Josie Litton

 

“It’s rare to find a fresh
storyline with all the books that are available these days. However, Josie
Litton has not only delivered a fascinating set of characters, but she has taken
a classic story to a completely different level…a series destined to blaze new
ground.”—Romancing the Book

“Josie Litton has a wonderful way
in painting the scene of her futuristic world with her descriptive and
enchanting words. While this is the first book I’ve read by Josie Litton it
won’t be my last and I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of Ian &
Amelia’s story in book #2 – Hunted”—Nice and Naughty Book Club

“This story is very unique and I
loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Amelia and
Ian. **5 Deliciously Wicked Stars***”—Deliciously Wicked Books

"Most beautiful, erotic twist
of Sleeping Beauty! Can't wait til the next book!!"--Chrissy Dyer,
Goodreads Reviewer

"...a new twist on futuristic
romance! And let me tell you, it's totally worth it!!!...Cannot wait for the
next installment. FIVE STARS FOR THIS AUTHOR!!!"--Summer’s Book Blog

"5 Explosive stars...nothing
less than spectacular..sensual, explosive and revealing."--DawnMarie
Carpintero, Goodreads Reviewer

"I loved every minute reading
this book...What an amazing start to this series, thank you Josie
Litton."--Kerry Callway, Goodreads Reviewer

"…a completely unique and
creative story that had me captivated from the start."--Melissa Cheslog,
Goodreads Reviewer

"I love Josie Litton's
creativeness. She will capture you and keep you conquered in everything she
writes."--Twin Sisters Rockin' Book Reviews

“As an avid lover of romance novels
of all genres, I am always so happy when I discover a new type of plot line or
a book that has a superb story to support all of the steamy bits that make me
blush. That’s definitely what you’ll get in this book."--Loredana,
Goodreads Reviewer

Dedication

 With heartfelt thanks to my
readers over the years. Your steadfastness and encouragement have been amazing!

Prologue

Ian

 

May, 2059

Island of Manhattan

 

“T
hose who hold power in this city and beyond must be
held accountable for their actions by all citizens.”

I’m facing the camera, explaining on
the record why my men raided the elite sadomasochistic club favored by the
city’s powerbrokers, when I hear Amelia cry out.

“Ian!”

She sounds upset, even frantic. Why?
What’s happening? I break off, turning, at the same time starting toward her.
That’s when I see
it
. Drone. Armed. Incoming.

My brain only barely has time to
grasp that much. My body has even less chance to react. I throw myself to the
side just as the world explodes in blinding light that turns instantly to
darkness, swallowing me whole.

Pain! Intense, savage, eating me
from the inside out.

Screaming. My own? Maybe, but
others as well. So many screams.

Amelia!

I smell smoking metal and blood but
all I can think of is getting to her, protecting her, keeping her safe. My soul
rips apart at the thought that she could be hurt and I can’t reach her. But my
body no longer obeys my commands. I’m detached somehow, floating outside it.

I look down and see the body of a
man, lying twisted and broken on the ground. There are other people, yelling,
running, but I focus on him. I need a moment to understand who I’m looking at.

Myself.

Dying.

The clarity of that realization
gut-punches me but it also brings a strange measure of calm. I’m not afraid, on
the contrary a sense of peace wells up in me. As it does, the darkness gives
way to a circle of glowing light that expands outward, drawing me irresistibly.

I try to struggle but my connection
to the world and everything in it is fading fast. I’m not going to make it--

Suddenly, Amelia is with me. My
head is in her lap. I’m cold, so cold but she warms me. She’s the air and
light, hope and promise. She’s everything to me. I can’t leave her. I won’t…

Chapter One

Amelia

 

“G
o!”

I stumble to my feet, clinging to Ian
as four of his men lift him and run toward an armored vehicle that has
screeched to a stop beside the curb. Barefoot, wearing only his jacket and the
diaphanous gown I was put into in the Club, I struggle to keep up. Amid the
chaos on the street--the sirens and screams, the burning fragments of metal and
the crumbled bodies--I only know that I can’t be separated from him.

Thrust into the back of the
vehicle, I huddle at his feet as grim-faced medics go to work on him. His
clothes are cut away. Tubes and sensors are attached. There’s so much blood! On
him, on me. I can taste it in every breath I draw.

A desperate sob rises in me. I
force it down, knowing that if I give in to the fear and grief clawing at me, I
will come apart. Instead, I concentrate on Ian. He is so pale! The strength and
vitality he normally exudes are nowhere in evidence. I can barely see the
shallow rise and fall of his broad chest but I cling to that motion with my
eyes, terrified that if I look away for an instant, it will stop.

My back slams against the side of
the vehicle as it careens around a corner. Out the windows on the back doors, I
catch sight of a chain link fence thrown open. I’m confused. Where are we? We
should be going to Pinnacle House, Ian’s fortress headquarters in the center of
the glittering, decadent city. Nowhere else could be safer and he would have
the medical care there that he so desperately needs.

But instead the vehicle speeds out
onto a broad tarmac already occupied by numerous armored cars and trucks. They
are clustered around a sleek supersonic jet that looks large enough to carry
several hundred people. Two other smaller but deadly looking fighter jets idle
on the taxi-way nearby.

The doors of the vehicle are thrown
open. Men in the black uniforms of Slade Enterprises reach for the stretcher. I
catch a quick glimpse of Ian’s number two, Colonel Hollis shouting orders but I
can’t hear anything above the roar of the large jet’s engines, already revving
for take-off.

This is insane! He needs a
hospital. I’m torn between trying to reach Hollis to demand an explanation and
staying with Ian. Staying wins hands down.

We are inside the plane, which I
note quickly is comfortably but not luxuriously outfitted. This is clearly a
working transport equipped with a state-of-the-art communications center and, I
see with relief, an extensive medical bay.

Ian is whisked in there. I’m about
to follow when a young, grim-faced doctor bars my way.

“I’m sorry, Miss McClellan,” he
says, not unkindly. “You’ll have to wait outside.”

I open my mouth to protest when a
hand touches my arm.

“Amelia.” The petite blonde woman
looks at me gently.

Daphne. We met only recently but
we’ve already become friends, linked by the common bond of loving people who
don’t hesitate to put themselves in danger. I meet her understanding gaze and
my composure cracks. The tears I can’t hold back any more pour down my face.

“Ian--” I gasp as sobs wrack me.

She puts an arm around my
shoulders, leading me away from the streams of uniformed men and women pouring
into the plane and rapidly stowing their gear for take-off. I find myself in a
small but graciously furnished private cabin toward the rear of the plane.
Daphne eases me into a chair, sits down next to me, and leans over to fasten my
seatbelt.

“He’s is getting the best possible
care,” she says softly. “You’ll see him soon.”

I want desperately to believe her
but after the events of the past day--the madness of Carnival, the depravity I
witnessed in the club, the deadly struggle in the tunnel beneath it--my wits
are scattered. It’s all I can do to breathe.

“Why are we here?” I manage to ask.
“Pinnacle House would be better--”

“Gab said something about a
protocol that Ian himself put in place in case he was ever incapacitated in an
attack,” Daphne says. “I didn’t get any details. She only had a minute when she
called to tell me to get my ass in gear and evacuate.”

She manages a smile but her eyes
are bleak. I don’t have to guess why. Daphne hasn’t made any secret of the fact
that she’d prefer for Gab to be in a safer line of work but she knows that will
never happen. As Ian’s head of cyber-intelligence, Gab has a chance to make a
real difference for good in the world. No amount of danger will ever convince
her to give that up. Daphne can’t ask her to any more than I could ask Ian to
change who he is. All I can hope and pray is that he will come back to me.

Time slows to a crawl. The plane
takes off and climbs steeply. Through the cabin portholes, I can see the
fighter jets flying alongside us in escort. When we level off, Daphne undoes
both our seatbelts and stands.

“Let’s get you cleaned up,” she
says quietly.

It’s only then that I realize I’m
still wearing the jacket Ian put on me in the tunnel, now soaked with his
blood. Part of me wants to hold onto it, the only point of contact I still have
with him. But I’m also repelled by everything it represents.

I don’t argue as Daphne takes me into
the cabin’s small bathroom or when she matter-of-factly strips off the jacket
and the tunic below it. She turns on the shower and helps me into it.

“I’m going to find you some
clothes,” she says as I turn my face up to the soothing water. “Will you be all
right for a couple of minutes?”

I nod despite how shaky I feel.
Some of Ian’s blood has soaked through onto my skin. I watch it sluice down my
body and swirl around the drain as bile rises in my throat.

Daphne returns as I’m washing my
hair. The sudden, all-consuming need to be clean won’t be denied. I stay under
the shower until the water begins to run cool. Only then do I get out and wrap
the towel she holds out around myself.

She insists on drying my hair but
gives me privacy to dress. Someone--I’m guessing it was Ian’s steward,
Hodge--must have put a bag together for me. I find a soft chamois blouse and
pleated slacks, along with lingerie, shoes, and a few other items.

My hands are shaking so hard that I
have to concentrate to put on each garment but finally I’m dressed. Glancing in
the mirror over the bathroom sink, I see a pale young woman whose aquamarine
eyes look to big for her face and whose long, chestnut hair is a wild tangle of
curls. Grasping a brush from the bag, I wield it ruthlessly until my scalp
tingles painfully and my hair is secured in a twist at the back of my neck.

Feeling marginally more under
control, I join Daphne again in the main part of the cabin. Before I can ask,
she says, “Ian is still in medical. There’s no news yet.”

At least that means he is still
alive. I move toward the door. “I’d like to go back…be closer to him.”

“Of course.” She jumps up quickly
and joins me. We step out together into the main cabin. I’m struck at once by the
grim sense of watchfulness on the faces of the men and women I see even as they
go quietly about their tasks or simply sit, waiting. A few glance at me
sympathetically but most are pre-occupied with their duties or their thoughts.

I glimpse Hollis toward the front
of the plane and head toward him. The blond, crew-cut Kentuckian sees me
approaching and breaks off his conversation with another officer. He comes down
the aisle to meet me.

Before I can speak, Hollis takes my
hand gently and says, “Ian’s as tough as they come. He’ll beat this.”

“Of course, he will,” I say with
far more courage than I’m feeling. “But why aren’t we at Pinnacle House?
Wouldn’t he get better medical care there?”

Hollis guides me over to a pair of
empty seats nearby. He waits until we’re both settled before he says, “This
aircraft carries a state-of-the-art medical evac facility. Ian couldn’t get
better care anywhere. It might help for you to know that we’re implementing the
plan that he put in place. He foresaw the possibility of something like this
happening, which means we have a strategy for dealing with it.”

As I absorb the implications of Ian
having anticipated an attack that could leave him seriously injured or worse, I
ask, “Where are we going?”

“Slade Enterprises maintains a beta
site outside the country. We call it the compound. We’ll be there in a few
hours.”

“What about all the people still in
Pinnacle House?” There must be thousands still there, not to mention families
including children. “Are they evacuating?”

Hollis shakes his head. “They have
everything they need and their position is easily defensible. Frankly, anyone
would have to be insane to even think of taking them on. But Ian needs to be
free to move around once he recovers and decides how to respond to this attack.
He couldn’t do that holed up at headquarters.”

The assumption that Ian will
recover and be back in control calms me a little. But even so, the next hour
passes with aching slowness. Daphne brings me a cup of tea and I try to drink
it but I can only manage a few sips. I tune in briefly to some of the quiet conversations
going on around me and find some reassurance in the calm professionalism of
Ian’s people. But the doors to the medical bay remain firmly closed and no news
emerges from beyond them.

Daphne joins me and together we
wait. It occurs to me that women have been doing this forever--waiting for
loved ones to come home or not, waiting to know if they are safe or not,
waiting for the inevitable moment when they leave again.

I hate waiting.

Finally, just when I think that I
can’t bear it anymore, the doors to the medical bay open and the young doctor
steps out. He’s red-haired with a linebacker’s shoulders and a military air.
After a quick word with Hollis, he comes down the aisle to me.

“Miss McClellan,” he says gently, “I’m
Doctor Rosen. Mister Slade is out of surgery. I won’t deny that it was
touch-and-go for awhile but all his life signs are stable now. We’re optimistic
that he’ll make a full recovery. You can sit with him, if you like.”

I go limp with relief at the same
time that my throat is too tight for me to speak. All I can do is nod and follow
the doctor into a quiet area next to an operating room. Several nurses are
there, monitoring the machines connected to Ian. They look up as I enter but
quickly return to their work.

In the silence punctuated only by
the beeps of the machines, I’m aware of the heavy beat of my heart. My breath
is labored. I can’t take my eyes off Ian. Part of me believes that so long as I
can see him, he really will be all right.

We will be.

What he said in the tunnel about my
being the one who put together the scattered pieces of him and made him whole
again echoes in my mind. After agonizing over the fear that I could never be
the woman he truly wanted, nothing could have come as a more profound gift. To
have all that snatched away--

“When will he be conscious?” I ask.

“Soon,” Doctor Rosen says. “The
nanobots will be out of his system before long. Some of them were keeping him
anesthetized. Once they’re gone, he’ll wake up.”

I nod, vaguely aware that the microscopically
small, programmable bio-machines that he’s referring to have revolutionized
medicine. The idea of someone actually having to cut into a human body in order
to fix it seems barbaric now. Grudgingly, I have to admit that technology in
general has brought some improvements. I owe my very existence to it. But it’s
also caused undeniable problems that I fear are coming together in a
hurricane-force storm that threatens to sweep everything away.

Ian’s determination to prevent that
has almost cost him his life.

A long, shuddering breath escapes
me. I take hold of his hand carefully and settle on a stool beside him. His skin
is cool to my touch. I think again of how much blood he lost and have to bite
my lip to keep from crying out.

 Time passes with aching slowness.
I stare at his beloved face, pale now in repose, willing him to awake. Until he
does, until I can hear his voice and know that he is himself, I remain frozen
between hope and dread.

Hollis comes in at some point. He has
a quiet word with the doctor and says something to me that I think is meant to
be comforting but I don’t catch it. All my concentration is on Ian. The world
has narrowed down to just the two of us, alone in a metal tube, hurtling across
the sky to an unknown destination.

Exhaustion grips me. The adrenalin
that flooded my body when he was wounded has drained away. I feel as though I
am crashing from a great height. My shoulders slump as I fight to keep my eyes focused
on the man lying so still and silent in the hospital bed. Why hasn’t he woken
up? Surely, the nanobots are out by now? He should be conscious, shouldn’t he?

I’m about to ask when a faint sound
pierces the quiet.

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