Authors: Sarah McCarty
Book 1 in The Others series by Sarah McCarty.
An unwilling victim of an experiment gone wrong, mother to a
child who shouldn’t exist, Eden Lavery knows only one person strong enough to stand
between the Coalition’s fanatical quest for immortality and their threat to her
daughter—Dusan Knight. Six foot three of solid muscle, Deuce wears his power
with the easy confidence that comes from six centuries of commanding the
Chosen, the inspiration for vampire lore. But Deuce isn’t just the source of
legend, he’s the man she loves. The man she’ll ultimately betrayed.
From the moment Eden reenters his life, holding the miracle
of a Chosen child in her arms, Deuce burns with the need to complete their
joining. Everything about Eden, from her sassy sense of humor to her delectably
stacked body is made for him. But some things are easier decided than done.
Amidst a race for survival, against an enemy that cannot be destroyed for fear
of extinction, Deuce must fight for the future of his people and to convince
Eden the passion between them is more than illusion. She is his Chosen mate,
and nothing, not her fears, the Coalition, nor death itself will take her away
Praise for the novels of Sarah
“Few writers can match the skill of Sarah McCarty…The
fast-paced story line hooks the audience.”—
Midwest Book Review
“Masterfully written.” —Romance Readers Connection
“Powerfully erotic, emotional, and thought provoking.”
“Has the WOW factor . . . Characters that jump off the
—Just Erotic Romance Reviews
“Toe curling.” —Fallen Angel Reviews (Recommended Read)
“Ms. McCarty is a genius!” —
“Erotic romance at its best.” —Reviewer’s Choice Award
“… has taken my breath away.”—Gold Star JERR
“If you think an erotic romance can't surprise you, think
“Seduces and holds a reader captive!”—Road to Romance
~ ~ ~
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Conception Copyright © 2011 Sarah McCarty
Cover Art Copyright © 2011 Kendra Egert
This book is licensed for personal enjoyment only. With the
exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in
whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. This ebook may
not be re-sold or given away free to other people without the permission of the
author. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is
illegal. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, you are
violation of copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination
or are used fictitiously.
For Kelly…the truly innocent one (
) with a gift for gab and making people feel good about
themselves. May your icons always be your favorites and your smile find you at
the end of the day.
There would be no escape.
The realization slashed through pain, through despair, and
most devastatingly through the hope that this was all a horrible nightmare.
That she wasn’t suspended above the floor in her kitchen, hanging by her
wrists, blood dripping from her back onto the old wooden planks below. That her
grandfather wasn’t the one who’d ordered the whipping that was draining the
life from her body. That it wasn’t her loving uncle wielding the whip. That her
whole world hadn’t disappeared because she’d dared to fall in love.
Her uncle grunted, the whip whistled and the now familiar
agony exploded throughout her body, racing faster than she could gather her
determination to endure. She screamed. Again.
“Where is he?”
The question snapped out with the force of a blow, striking
deep into her fear. She dug her nails into her palms as agony rolled through
her body. Oh, God! It hurt so badly! She couldn’t take it. Couldn’t take any
more. She needed something to hold on to. Something to get her through. She
couldn’t fail Dusan again. She wouldn’t.
Swirls of mist seeped into her consciousness, delicate
tendrils wafting up through the red haze shrouding her mind’s eye, blurring the
edges of her vision. The mist built and grew into a fog, and as it did, the
Was she losing her mind? The fog thickened, beckoned,
offering a miracle to a nonbeliever. The whip dragged across the floor, the
sound seeming to come from far away as reality tucked behind the thick fog.
Without further resistance, she allowed her mind to sink into the comforting
haze, welcoming the oblivion it promised.
Ice-cold water hit her face with the force of shattering
icicles, yanking her back into the horror. Fingers sank into her hair, jerking
her chin off her chest. “Damn it, girl! Just tell us where he is and we can
stop all this.”
She opened her eyes. Her grandfather’s face swam in and out
of focus, distorted beyond recognition by his rage and the knowledge that she’d
betrayed him. He shook her and the room jerked out of focus. She didn’t fight
his manipulation of her head, accepting his dominance over her body.
She summoned the remnants of her strength and remained mute.
They couldn’t make her do anything anymore. Least of all make her reveal where
Dusan was. Not when it was her fault he’d been captured. Not when his only hope
for escape was her silence.
Retaliation was swift. The blow jerked her body high in the
chains. Blood filled her throat and the world swirled red and black.
Clay. Ease off.” Her uncle’s shout was a dim echo of her own silent plea. “If
you kill her we’ll never find the bastard.”
“We’ll find him.” The conviction in the statement jarred
with the rattle of the chains. “I’ve waited too long, worked too hard for this
to fall apart now.”
“Maybe another dose of the drug?”
“The drug isn’t working,” her grandfather retorted.
“How the hell can it not be working?”
“I don’t goddamn well know, but any more and she’ll die.”
Anger and disgust colored the outburst. Metal rattled against metal. The sound
was just as discordant as the truth her grandfather spat out. “But she won’t
die before she tells us where she put that damn vamp.”
Water hit the bottom of the bucket in a roar of sound that
masked Eden’s soft gasp. He meant it. Her grandfather really didn’t care if she
lived or died. Somewhere inside her the scream started, swelling, pushing
against her throat, the last of her innocence wailing to be heard. She bit the
inside of her lip, the stab of pain snapping her back into control. No matter
what her grandfather did to her, revealed to her, she couldn’t lose it now. She
had to hold on a little longer.
“How badly do we still need the vamp?” her uncle asked.
“Without him, we’re nowhere.”
“We’ve got his DNA.”
“I thought we needed her, too.”
They wanted her? Why?
“We do, but if I have to sacrifice her, I will.”
“And what will we do then?”
Eden knew the answer before her grandfather said it.
“Go to Plan B.”
Her grandfather always had Plan B. Plumbing clunked a
protest as the water was turned off.
“Did you stop to think that maybe she doesn’t know where the
vamp is?” her uncle asked, disgust putting an edge on the question.
Eden didn’t fool herself that the disgust came from concern
for her welfare. No, Uncle Henry was disgusted because her grandfather had left
him out of the loop. Something he should be used to by now. No one, not even
her, had ever been able to gain Clay Lavery’s trust or approval. The nearest
she’d ever come was when she’d dated Deuce. And now she knew why. Somehow, her
grandfather had known what he was, had predicted his interest in her, and had
used her to lure him into a trap. She’d just been the lovesick fool who thought
it had all been real. The start of a new beginning. Instead, she’d dragged the
only person who’d ever loved her for herself into a deathtrap.
“She’s the only one who had access to his cell,” her
“He could have escaped.”
“Not without help. As long as he’s on that drug he can’t
move, twitch or summon help.”
There was a disbelieving snort from her grandfather and the
sound of the metal bucket scraping the counter. “If the creature could have
moved, he never would have allowed the sampling.” Heavy footsteps approached,
slightly uneven in rhythm. “Therefore, if he’s been moved, she’s the one who
Viciously cold water hit her face and chest again, filling
her nose and mouth. Eden couldn’t prevent the rasping cough that jerked her
body. She couldn’t preserve the illusion of unconsciousness. Once again, her
head was hauled up. “Isn’t that right, Ladybug?”
She said nothing, refusing to respond to the harsh parody of
the familiar endearment. Her grandfather let her head drop. In her mind, the
cloud appeared again, hovering just past her reach. Waiting. For what? If the
damn thing was going to show up, it should sure as shit do its job.
“Maybe we’d better lay off for a while,” she heard Uncle
Henry offer cautiously. Uncle Henry was a brilliant man, but he lacked her
grandfather’s hard edges.
, she prayed, straining for the cloud,
off for a while
. She wasn’t proud. She’d take whatever respite she could
“There’s no time.” The metal bucket thudded to the floor.
“He’s already an hour late for his injection. In another two, he’ll be free of
the drug entirely.”
“Shit!” Uncle Henry gasped, horror lacing his tone. “It’ll
be full dark in two hours!”
“Exactly.” Two more steps and she heard the slither of
leather sliding off wood. The shift of air across her face, the flicker of
interrupted light against her closed eyelids, indicated the gesture she
couldn’t see. “So stop mollycoddling the traitorous bitch and let’s get this
Two hours. She just had to hold on for two more hours. She
could do it. What was two hours when it meant Deuce’s life? Eden fought back
the writhing fear as she heard the rasp of the whip dragging across the floor.
Two hours was just one-hundred-twenty minutes. Seventy-two-hundred seconds.
That wasn’t so long. She’d heard of POWs who’d hung on for twenty years.
Surely, she could hold out for two hours. She owed Deuce that much.
The whip snapped on the backswing. Her gasp was instinctive.
Unpreventable. She hated herself for the fear. The weakness. The desperate
prayer for something to save her. But nothing could save her now. There was no
turning back. Even if she told them where he was, it wouldn’t save her. She’d
betrayed her grandfather. He’d never suffer her to live. But hanging on could
save Dusan. That’s where she needed to hold her focus.
Eden braced herself, knowing it was pointless. There was no
preparing for the agony of the lash cutting through flesh and muscle, but a
small kernel of stubbornness demanded she try. She stiffened in anticipation as
the lash whistled its approach. The cloud swelled and gathered. As if straining
against an invisible wall, it hovered and bulged and then exploded forward. She
threw herself into it, hoping against hope it wasn’t a mirage, imagining that
it came from Deuce, needing for the moment the illusion that he cared for her
and his attention hadn’t been part of some sick war he and her grandfather
fought. The wet slap of the lash hitting flesh reverberated around her. Her
body jerked, the chains rattled, but no corresponding burst of agony detonated
in her flesh. It was as if she floated in a protective space where nothing
could touch her.
She huddled her spirit deeper into the cloud. She panted,
breathing in the acrid odor of her own sweat, tinted with the metallic scent of
blood. She had her miracle. Now, if the powers-that-be were willing, she just
needed one more. Just one.
It came in the form of a horrendous crash and a rapid
succession of small explosions.
The cloud disappeared in a puff. Eden raised her head and
forced her swollen eyes to slit open. She was just in time to see her
grandfather and uncle slip through the wine cellar door. Two seconds later, the
room filled with huge, broad-shouldered, khaki-clad strangers. One of whom
bumped her. She couldn’t suppress her gasp as she swayed.