Duty and honor demand the ultimate sacrifice.
Humanotica, Book 2
Everyone has their poison. For Haevyn Breina, it’s her inability to resist a dare. This time it’s a challenge from her friend and lover, Grisha, to sneak into the popular, illegal cage fights that always end in all-male orgies. Eagerly she snaps up the gauntlet, unaware that she will end the night forever changed.
When expatriate humanotic warrior Entreus locks eyes with Haevyn at the sex-fueled event, he is instantly captivated. Despite a duty that binds him to an exiled malevolent sorcerer, he seeks her out in a shattering, illuminating encounter.
Grisha’s plan is in motion—to bring both his warrior lovers together and heal their scarred souls with a combined passion that he alone cannot provide. But Haevyn’s tormented past refuses to die. And Entreus will not rest until the Core that ruined his life is destroyed.
Amid ever-tangling emotions and a brutal plot to take over the city, the three lovers walk a tightrope that could be cut at any moment. Fighting for justice, bound by duty…and a love that could alter the foundations of their world.
Product WarningsWatch out for oiled-up, naked trinespined warriors battling for top position, feisty tracer females that fit oh-so-snugly in between, and sexy nights that segue into complex relationships. Beware of tebitcheckers wielding those nasty little contulators at illegal, testosterone-drenched cage confrontations.
Copyright © 2012 Darcy Abriel
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Grisha dragged her forward.
“You wanted this,” he hissed.
“Yes, but I never thought you’d actually let me come with you. You never have before.”
He grinned. “You know me better than that. How long have we been…friends? Since the lower forms. When have I ever filched on a bet?”
“Point made. Can’t say you’ve ever done less than rise to all expectations in our friendship.”
“You’ve never been able to say no to me, have you, Wildcat? Now, come on.” The leer he turned on her, the slanted gaze, the intensity of the look, only made her heartbeat quicken. Damn the man!
The door on Haevyn’s memories slipped open—slices of the past always reared up at the worst moments. Unpleasant thoughts filled her mind. They often did concerning certain choices she’d made. Grisha should have been her first lover. That he hadn’t would always be a thorn in her sporiti. With him, losing her virginity might have been easier, better, meant more. But the man who had taken her sexual innocence hadn’t been him. By the time she and Grisha finally did share intimacy, the wounds of the brutal deflowering were etched deep and everlasting. She’d learned a hard lesson, but the ugly liaison had kept a roof over her and Bhrett’s heads. So maybe that was just the way life was meant to be. Maybe the experience had helped to make her the risk-taker who could survive anything. Bhrett and Grisha were the two most important people in her life. She’d give her life for either of them.
Torches burned brightly along the boardwalk that led them to the otherwise deserted warehouse at the end of Coal Lane. The Greens had seen to the construction of a bigger and better warehouse some years back. Rumor had it that this end of the wharf was now used strictly for illegal games like the event they attended tonight.
Grisha dragged Haevyn deeper into the warehouse, where auctioneers offered up sea chests that had once belonged to sailors now dead. Another niche took them to the sad sight of profiteers auctioning off the contracts of servitude of people desperate for food and willing to bargain years of their lives in exchange for a roof over their heads, a warm bed and full belly.
In the legitimate business world of Quentopolis, contracts like this had been outlawed, but little stopped the desperate from negotiating on the black market. The insensitive Politico ever turned a blind eye to such negotiations.
Grisha pulled her toward a wooden ladder, and they climbed upward, away from the noise on the first floor. On the second floor, a large group of men mingled, engaged in lower-toned conversations; gamebrokers took bets, no females to be seen. The nasty atmosphere stank of sweat and beer and cheap tobacco, lit only by several small dirty tin lanterns that stood in a broad, arcing circle. Dented brass spittoons dotted the corners. By the look of the stains on the planks, few had the talent to hit their mark.
And then she saw them. Six men—no, not men. Humanotics, surgically modified humans. Naked, with the beefiest bodies she’d ever seen in her life.
“Fighters. That’s what we’re here for—to watch them.”
“Yes, I know. You told me that. But I thought—I don’t know what I thought.” The war of emotions had begun to build inside her. Love-hate. The twisted curiosity for the thing she despised most. Her instant arousal, tinged with that sharp sting of fear, sickened her—drew her—as it always did.
“They aren’t all like Trader,” Grisha said. “Just like us. You should know that. Bhrett’s more humanotic than not, and you don’t fear him.”
“Don’t say that. He’s my little brother.” Haevyn still kept some things from Grisha, including her polaric emotions regarding humanotics. Sometimes she didn’t understand her own feelings. She loved her brother dearly and would do anything for him. She also had a horrific fascination for his metamorphosis from her sweet, fully human younger brother to glamorous and seductive humanotic. Yet doom hovered dangerously close when she considered the consequences if he went too far.
“That’s my point. You can’t tar them all with the same brush, dammit. Some are actually pretty nice people. A lot of them had no choice in what they are—you know that too.”
On one level, he was right. Routinely, the Regulates seized citizens off the street to be used for Factorium experimentation, and then, when the doctors finished with them, they were tossed back out on the street to make their own way, forever changed. The Politico had little concern for their welfare. On the other hand, her feelings on the subject of humanotics came from personal experience. Very personal. She’d lost her virginity to a humanotic—the brutal supervisor at the mill where she’d worked. She refused to dwell on that at the moment. The memory of that first, savage, humanotic sexual encounter still filled her with loathing and fear, but as for her feelings about other humanotics, she wasn’t quite sure.
She adjusted her green mask. The color of the mask marked her as affiliated with the Green Gang—not the Blue. The two gangs ran the Moondown Water District, and everything that happened on the wharves fell within their purview. They got a cut of all activity that went down here and paid their tribute to the Politicos that governed Quentopolis, which left little for anyone else, especially the hungry citizens of the Moondowns.
Her gaze widened when she spotted one of the fighters. A coppery half-mask hid his face to some extent. Good goddess, what a specimen he was.
“Who is he?” she asked as she found herself drawn toward his corner.
Grisha chuckled. “Not all humanotics are quite so revolting, eh, Haevyn?”
“Shut up, Grisha. Who is he?”
“That, my darling, is the fighter known as Ballador.”
“But who is he? He’s not Quentopian. He can’t be.” Fire twisted her gut as she studied the masked fighter. The heat in her stomach simmered and then slowly began to spread. She felt the sharp barb of lust hook into her and twist.
Grisha shrugged. “No one knows his real identity. He always fights masked.”
“I can’t believe the Factorium produced something like him and then set him free.”
“As I said, no one knows his story.”
Haevyn pushed through the crowd of men and took a position at the outer fringes of the circle around the fighter. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. Something about him struck a chord in her. At that moment, he turned and seemed to pick her out from the crowd surrounding him. He fused her to him with a steady, molten stare that took her breath away. She needed to know more about him. He was similar in build to the other naked fighters, but there was something more, something different about this one.
Other than the copper mask, that was. Her palms itched, and she curled her fingers into fists. It was the only thing that stopped her from breaking from the pack and propositioning him right there and then—from running her hands over all that tantalizing skinmetal gleaming beneath the flickering lamplight.
She’d never seen such a chest. Fashioned by and for battle. Yes, this man was a warrior. No dock worker here. Heavy and muscled, gleaming abs like mountainous rock. A physique that reminded her of a deeply textured landscape of rugged terrain and dark crevices of unyielding muscle, thoroughly enticing to an adventurer such as herself.
As he stood silently, his demeanor exuded mixed messages—one of a barbarian warrior ready to fight, yet also an intelligent, noble statesman who always weighed his options before engaging in battle. He’d been shaved to expose every facet of his marvelous body. Yes, that was it. He spoke to her most primal nature.
She spotted the scars at his temples, almost lifted a hand to her own jewel-covered temple. Who was he? What position had he once held that had led to those scars?
“Turn,” she whispered beneath her breath. “Let me see all of you.” Her attention traveled back to his face, to those dark, penetrating eyes that peered out from behind the mask. He nodded, almost as though he read her mind, and slowly began to turn. Arms bowed, hands clenched, he broke that gaze and pivoted away. Light glanced off gold-colored metal plates just behind his ears. He intrigued her. Oh, yes, he intrigued her very much.