Made for Two Heroes, page 1
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
Made for Two Heroes
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Made for Two Heroes Copyright © 2008 Madison Hayes
Edited by Pamela Campbell.
Cover art by Syneca.
Electronic book Publication April 2008
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/)
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors’ imagination and used fictitiously.
Made for Two Heroes
For lovely friend and colorful author, Beverly Havlir.
Night fell swiftly on the planet of eYona, spilling out over the land like a thick pour of black ink and pushing the sun to the horizon. Moonlight was a rare event, a full moon occurring only four times a year. In fact, Lacey had yet to see the elusive eYonan moon. Stationed with the rest of her Spaceforce unit at the Iron Palace at Judipeao, she’d arrived there only two weeks ago.
The evening electrical storm had only recently swept across the landscape from east to west, carrying with it a light rain that dampened the sandy ground. The trace of moisture that softened the air wouldn’t last long on the dry planet. The widely spaced conifers and long grasslands would suck the water from the atmosphere just as the vast black sands had absorbed the recent rainfall. The air all but crackled with electricity as she stood in the darkness and faced down the three officers who had her backed up against the rough stone wall of the men’s barracks, cornered like a rat.
“I’m fine!” Lacey shouted, glaring first at Velvet then at the two tall men who flanked her. “I’m fine! Repo gave me a clean bill of health before they released me! They wouldn’t have let me out of that damn mad factory unless I was fine!”
Her sister’s voice was calm. “All we’re saying is, give yourself some time before you rush headlong into something you don’t really want.”
She snorted as she rolled her eyes at Velvet. “I really wanted those guys.”
“No, you didn’t,” Velvet shot back quietly. In an attitude of stubbornness, she crossed her slender arms over her chest. Her long, straight blonde hair, so different from Lacey’s shoulder-length red tresses, seemed like the only source of light in the thick blanket of night. Both of her husbands were dark, Jed’s brown hair falling across his brow in rowdy waves and Gray’s hair a thick black brush indistinguishable from the heavy shadows that closed in around him.
Lacey lifted one shoulder in an attitude of surrender. “Well, I wanted some sex,” she muttered. Which was probably the understatement of the year. She had wanted some sex. And she probably wasn’t exactly fine—despite the clean bill of health she’d received from the Repo Medical Unit back on Earth Base Ten. She’d spent almost a year in psychiatric repossession after the attack at Etiens where she’d watched almost a hundred of her companions die, including her lover, Hearn. Upon her release two months ago, the medical officers had had a long conversation with Lacey and her sister. Gray, recently promoted to lieutenant commander and in charge of the Spaceforce unit stationed on eYona, was privy to the same information. The report from Repo indicated that, while she appeared to be fine after her reconditioning, the ninety days at Etiens had changed her in ways she’d never be able to fully comprehend or fully overcome. She’d never be the same person she was before the blitz.
As a member of the Adept race, she’d been born with the ability to adjust to her environment. That was probably why she and Velvet had survived the bombardment in the first place, their bodies adjusting and giving them a slender advantage over the rest of their unit which had been made up of Earthers for the most part. But the long weeks of emotional and physical deprivation that they’d experienced while trapped in the bunker had produced unexpected changes in both Lacey and her sister.
Velvet had gotten off relatively easy. Other than her permanently enhanced hearing and a bad case of emotional lockdown, she showed few aftereffects from the traumatic event. Her emotional issues had been remedied by the two perceptive men who’d taken an interest in her and her well-being. Previously rivals, Lieutenants Graham Hamm and Jed Castille had worked together to pry Velvet from the hard shell of indifference her Adept traits had put in place to protect her. The two men had recently married her sister in a simple ceremony on the planet of eYona.
The effects on Lacey were more profound. As the psych officer had explained to her and her sister, a terrible sense of failure had engulfed Lacey as she witnessed her comrades’ deaths, particularly the death of Hearn. As an Adept, she somehow felt she should have been able to save her companions—that she would have been able to save them if she had only been able to adapt quickly enough. But Adepts transformed slowly over time and there were limits to the changes their bodies could sustain. It wasn’t like she could have morphed into a huge umbrella and supported the roof of the bunker—her body was limited by the constraints of its humanoid form. And her ability to adapt was an evolutionary trait meant for self-preservation, not a power to call upon at will in order to aid others. There was no way her body could sense or respond to another’s needs.
Nonetheless, Lacey’s psyche was convinced that she should have done more. As a result, the speed at which her body could adapt had accelerated.
Now that it was too late.
Now she could transform almost at will. If she felt threatened, her fingernails immediately lengthened into razor-sharp claws—claws that would take a full day for her sister to develop. If she wanted to hide, to blend into her surroundings, her skin transmuted as needed, turning her into a virtual chameleon. As the doctor had explained to her while Velvet listened in, he couldn’t guess at the full extent of her new capabilities. But he’d suggested that, if she were to fall from a building, she’d probably react so quickly that she’d sprout some sort of wings before she hit the ground.
Lacey sighed. And that wasn’t the whole of it. All of her reactions were sharpened and enhanced, including her reaction to the opposite sex, which was why Velvet and her two husbands had found her sneaking into the men’s barracks in the company of five eYonan warriors.
She was horny as hell.
Not that she’d been terribly interested in those specific warriors, though eYonans were certainly easy on the eyes. No. The reason for her current heightened state of arousal was largely due to a particular blond airman who drove her crazy every time his hazel gaze swung in her direction.
She wanted him in the worst possible way. She wanted that hard, sensually curving mouth against hers, his tangled blond hair falling over her face as he rose above her. She wanted his smooth, sex-heated skin rubbing against her flesh as he pushed into her and moved inside her.
But there was something else that had changed since Etiens, something the doctors didn’t know about—after losing Hearn, she was never, never going to put all of her eggs in one basket again. She was never going to give her heart to one man again, only to lose him and most of her heart with him. And since she was pretty sure she couldn’t sleep with Jason Orlov wit
Not that she thought that approach would work in the long run. She just needed something to tide her over until she could get things sorted out. And she’d thought five men would just about do the trick.
“I was just having a little fun,” she muttered, rubbing her palms into her thighs, her gray regulation knee pants soft to the touch.
Jed scowled at her as he crossed his arms over his chest in a gesture very much like his wife’s. He wore his olive drab shirt open at the collar, his narrow tie looped casually around his neck—as opposed to Gray’s tie, which always looked as though it was trying to strangle him. Her own slim neckwear was long abandoned and stuffed in the pocket of her short, military green jacket. “Those guys would have given you a lot more than a little fun,” Jed growled.
“I need a man,” she whimpered.
“That doesn’t exactly explain why you were with five,” Gray pointed out in a surly rumble of sound.
Lacey gave him a sulky look then lowered her gaze to the toes of her brown leather boots. At the time, she’d felt like she needed five. Damn! Why did Orlov have to be so lethally attractive? She’d felt his gaze on her as she sat across from him in the Iron Duke’s great hall. Those hazel eyes alone made her nipples prick with hunger and her womb flutter with excitement.
But she was never going to invest her heart in just one man again. Why should she? Her sister had proven that happiness could be found with two men. By Lacey’s way of thinking, that was the way to go. Two men. Two lovers. Two husbands. One always in reserve should something happen to the other. What Lacey needed was Jason and…someone else.
She lifted her chin defiantly. “One wouldn’t be enough!” she yelled as her eyes filled with tears of frustration. “One man will never be enough! I will never, ever risk falling in love with one man again!”
Echoing her own recent thoughts, a voice came out of the darkness behind Gray. “How about two?”
Lacey shifted her gaze, searching the shadows while Velvet, Jed and Gray turned their heads. A figure clothed in eYonan black leathers took shape in the darkness as her Adept vision adjusted to her desire to see the speaker. “How about two?” Junkie repeated.
Junkie. A musician turned soldier during the planet’s recent civil war, he’d once toured the cities of eYona with his band. While news of their music had never reached Earth where she had been headquartered for the past several years, Hard and Fast was considered a bit of a legend on eYona.
Lacey leaned slightly, trying to see past Gray and get a better look at the tall, lean warrior—all six point three feet of him. His black leather jacket hung open, exposing most of his chest beneath the soft white jersey wrap that crisscrossed his upper body. A light dusting of black hair gathered in the center of his chest. Not too thick or heavy. Just enough to remind a woman he was a man—as if Lacey needed reminding. His black leather pants hugged his long muscular legs and tucked into high boots that rose almost to his knees. Like many of the other eYonan warriors, the base of his fly was decorated. However, while most of the other soldiers wore one flashy gemstone piercing the heavy leather placket, Junkie wore three round flat pieces of webbed turquoise arranged in the shape of a triangle. The artfully placed jewels were meant to draw the eye so Lacey didn’t feel at all guilty when her gaze drifted down to his fly. And she liked what she saw packed thick and heavy inside the man’s leather pants.
Of all the eYonans she’d met since she’d arrived on the planet, he was the one she felt most comfortable with, the one she was drawn to, though not particularly for his lean good looks, his dark eyes or the thick black braid that hung over one shoulder and reached almost to his waist. No. It was his easygoing personality that sent her seeking his company whenever she couldn’t find one of her Spaceforce companions. When she was feeling edgy and uptight, which was just about all the time nowadays, it often seemed as though Junkie was the only one who could distract her. His casual teasing banter and wicked sense of humor were the only things that could pull her out of her preoccupation with sex and her grinding obsession for Jason. Gazing up at him now, she wondered why she hadn’t gone to Junkie in the first place instead of following that group of warriors out of the great hall.
Gray threatened the eYonan with a rumbling growl. “Stay out of this, Junkie.”
The dark man ignored Gray and flicked his gaze instead at Jed.
Although Jed was a Spaceforce lieutenant and had arrived on eYona along with Lacey, Velvet and the rest of their unit, he was an eYonan like Junkie. He’d left the planet ten years earlier, forged false documents and had managed to sneak into the Alliance’s prestigious military unit long before eYona had been admitted into the Alliance.
In fact, eYona had only recently been admitted to the Alliance after aiding them during their pursuit of the Grundian High Command. As a result of that help, the Grundians’ elite officers had been eliminated, dealing a severe blow to their ambitious plan of aggression. But the scattered forces were regrouping under the command of lesser-ranked officers and forming loose bands of outlaws that had turned to raiding traders and even picking off small military craft when they got the chance. Although severely crippled, the Grundians still posed a threat to the Alliance, particularly if they were to coalesce and reemerge as a military power again. The Spaceforce unit of twenty officers, to which Lacey belonged, represented Regional Command’s first military advisors to the planet of eYona.
Jed cleared his throat. “What are you suggesting, Junkie?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” he asked, opening his palm and motioning toward Lacey. “Your sister-in-law is determined to ‘get some’ and you guys aren’t going to be able to keep tabs on her every minute of every day. At the same time, she’s made it clear she won’t settle for a standard one-on-one relationship. All I’m suggesting is that you let her have what you’ve chosen for yourselves. Let her pick out two men to see to her…needs.”
Lacey’s spine stiffened, her cheeks turning hot as her chin jerked upward. Her eyes narrowed on the tall, rangy eYonan. Was it that fucking obvious? Did everyone on the planet know she was as horny as a Nefarian Bushwanker and ready to jump the first man who’d put out for her?
Gray closed his fist and slashed a thumb back over his shoulder toward Jed and Velvet. “What we chose to do was get married. And we didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter since Jed and I were both in love with the same woman. What you’re proposing is…”
“Nothing so noble,” Junkie finished for him with a blunt stare.
“And let me guess,” Gray went on. “You’re volunteering to be one of the two men to see to her needs.”
“I wouldn’t be averse to the idea,” Junkie answered, transferring his gaze to Lacey as the corners of his mouth kicked up into a sure smile. “What do you say, Lacey?”
A sudden burst of anger heated her cheeks to burning as she glared at the four people who thought they could plot out her future. She pushed away from the wall. “I don’t need you or my family telling me what to do, when to do it or who to do it with. Go fuck yourself, eYonan.”
Before the acid words had cooled on her lips, Gray caught her eye and gave her a conspiratorial smile. He’d taken a dislike to Junkie almost from the moment he’d met him, though it wasn’t clear to Lacey or anyone else what he had against the tall, handsome womanizer. Privately, Lacey suspected that Junkie reminded Gray of himself, before he’d met Velvet.
Junkie’s teeth flashed white in the dark night as he threw back his head and laughed. “That would be my very next choice, Lacey,” he said, his onyx eyes glittering with amusement. Spinning on his heel, he chuckled, his right hand wrapped loosely around the hilt of his sword, his cleated boots digging into the sandy soil beneath his feet and bearing him swiftly away.
Gray kept one eye on the departing eYonan and the other on Lacey as Velvet threw an arm around her shoulder and coaxed her away from
The two guards who flanked the copper-bound palace doors earned a scowl from Gray when their eyes tracked the women into the tiled entry. With a possessive snarl building in his chest and Jed grinning at the aggressive sound, they followed Lacey and Velvet as they climbed the winding stone staircase to the upper level of the palace. After they’d seen Lacey safely installed in her room above the great hall, the two men left the sisters together while they sauntered down the long, wide corridor to the large room they currently shared with their wife. The rest of their unit was likewise quartered on the upper floor of the palace but, as Gray was the highest-ranking officer, their room was probably the most spacious.
Jed touched a round pad on the wall to activate the room’s neon lighting while Gray loosened his tie and hauled off his dark green jacket. He tossed it on the back of a chair that gleamed with a strange coppery sheen. Constructed from the outer layers of the tallic tree, the wooden chair was imbued with trace metals it leached from the sandy soils.
The room was large by Earth standards though windows were both rare and small in the old stone fortress and admitted only a scant amount of light during the daytime. Despite the fact that it was obviously built with defense in mind, the Iron Palace was constructed more like a sturdy walled manor than a medieval castle, its original marble floors having been replaced with a pour of golden styrowood. Comfortable underfoot, the pliant material absorbed harsh sound and made for pleasant living conditions.
Their host, the Iron Duke, had recently earned the post after his predecessor had been promoted to the royal court in the northern city of Iverannon. Jed was well acquainted with the previous Duke, Au’Banner, as well as with Danjer, the man who currently held the title. An accomplished musician, Danjer had evidently once played in a band with Jed’s cousin, Saxon. The fact that the Iron Duke was an Earther probably explained why his palace had been selected to host the newly arrived Spaceforce officers, most of whom were also Earthers.
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