She can escape her alien abductors, but she can’t escape her destiny…or the gladiator prisoner who captured her heart.
Rookie cop Addy Dawson must escape her alien captors. Caged with a gladiator prisoner claiming to be her mate, Addy refuses to breed warriors for the Survival Race—a blood sport where the last man alive wins. No one will stop her from getting off this planet, including the sexy alpha male determined to turn her on.
Years of killing for entertainment have turned Max into a hardened beast. The only time he feels human is when at stud. But when a fiery female from his home world rejects him, her rebellious spirit awakens a part of his soul he thought long dead.
Bound together by a desire for freedom, Max and Addy will risk torture and worse to break out. But the hunted pair will never find refuge unless they can learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts.
(Alien abduction, Alpha male, Kick-ass heroine, Enemies-to-lovers, Stand alone book in a series, No cliff hangers.)
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“Fawcett delivers a suspenseful and captivating science fiction romance. A must read for all, but especially for fans of The Hunger Games.” -Caridad Pineiro, NY Times & USA Today bestselling author with over a million romance novels sold.
CAPTIVE: CHAPTER ONE
“Dawson,” the dispatcher’s voice crackled through the radio, “the fire jumped the line. Get to safety, now.”
“I’m evacuating the two mountain bikers as we speak. We’ll be in Happy Camp in about twenty minutes.” Officer Addy Dawson raced her Ford Expedition through the tight turns and narrow roads of Klamath National Forest.
In her rearview mirror, an orange beast raged in the distance. It devoured the mountain. Its smoky tongue licked the night’s sky clean of stars and moon.
Wildfires were common in California, especially during hot, dry summers that turned her world into a giant tinderbox. Recreationists who didn’t respect Mother Nature’s awesome power were, unfortunately, just as common. Case in point: the two shaken teenage boys in the back seat who ignored the evacuation in order to record the inferno. Phones aimed out of the back window, they were still recording it.
Thank God she found them before the wind shifted. They never would have survived.
Addy turned north onto Bigfoot Scenic Byway—the main road that ran along the Klamath River—and rounded one of its many bends. Her headlights caught a large hunched-over body darting across the road.
She swerved and slammed on the brakes. Pain ripped through her chest from the seat belt. The sixteen-year-old plowed into the cage behind her seat. He should have buckled up like she told him.
“You boys okay?”
“What happened?” It was the fifteen-year-old with the Beam me up, Scotty T-shirt.
“Dude, we almost hit Bigfoot.”
“That wasn’t a Sasquatch.” Addy reached for the flashlight in her glove compartment. “It was a man. And by the way he was limping, I’d say he’s hurt.”
“Hey, lady. Where you going?”
She tossed her hat onto the front seat. “To save him.”
“Are you crazy? News flash: there’s a big-ass fire headed this way.”
“Guys, I need you to calm down. We’re a mile ahead of the fire, which gives us ten minutes. I only need two. Sit tight.”
She shut the door, muffling their hollers of protest, and aimed the flashlight into the trees whipping angrily in the blazing wind. The pungent smell of burned and scorched earth assaulted her nose. “Hello? Sir, can you hear me? You must evacuate the forest immediately. I can drive you to safety.”
She entered the woods where the injured hiker had run. What did he do, vanish? Panning the light through trees and brush, she climbed deeper into the forest. “Sir, you’re putting your life in grave danger out here. You must come with me. Now.”
The wind gathered strength. Branches struck and scratched her arms and cheeks. Powerful gusts of hot air blew her French braid back off her neck. The air tasted of ash.
She’d better get those boys to safety.
Her heart wrenched. She had no choice but to leave the hiker behind. She couldn’t risk four lives when she could save three. Addy pushed through the undergrowth, making a quick retreat back to her vehicle.
A motor revved. Tires squealed on the pavement.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” She sprinted out of the forest in time to see the Expedition’s taillights disappearing into the darkness. “Come back here!” She waved her flashlight to draw attention, but they were already gone.
How the hell did the boys escape from a locked back seat? They couldn’t have. The hiker must have stolen her vehicle. Dammit. Happy Camp Ranger District was as deep in the wilderness and as far from civilization as anyone could get…and eight miles away. The chance of rescue was less than slim, and there was no outrunning a forest fire.
“Dawson to dispatch. My vehicle has been hijacked and is heading your way. I’m stranded on Bigfoot Scenic Byway.”
“Dispatch received. Stand by.”
“Addy, it’s Pierce.” Her ex-boyfriend was the last voice she expected to hear on her radio. He sounded breathless, like he was running. “Head south. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Great. He’d be there five minutes too late.
Above her, white lights blinked through the smoky haze billowing and swirling in the sky. It had to be smoke jumpers or a water plane. Her heart raced with hope. “I’m here! Down here!” She waved her arms and flashlight, but there was no sign they noticed her on the ground.
“Dispatch, I can see lights overhead. Inform the craft I’m directly below them.”
“I’m sorry, Officer Dawson, there is no aircraft—”
Her smoke-induced coughing fit and the crackling radio static drowned out the dispatcher’s reply. “Repeat,” she said.
“Dispatch received. There is no aircraft in your vicinity.”
“Then what are these lights hovering above me?” Ash and blackened material fell around her. Sticky residue landed on her arms and caught in her eyelashes. Thick, acrid smoke enveloped her, choked her, and made her teary. The firestorm raged forward with the speed and shrieking sounds of war bombers.
Adrenaline exploded in her veins. Addy raced down the embankment to the Klamath River, slipping on the steep slope, riding an avalanche of pebbles. She had been born to the wilderness and always knew she’d die there. But not today.
She’d escape in the current—assuming she could survive the rapids.
She splashed into the river and dove beneath the cool water. The twenty-pound duty belt pulled her deeper down as she struggled to remove the excess weight. Finally free, she broke the surface and gulped in a breath of smoke and ash. She couldn’t stop coughing.
Swept backward in the current, she watched the inferno tear down the mountain like a fiery tornado, or a blood-red beast, ripping apart the earth, consuming everything in its path. Huge trees silhouetted against the blaze spontaneously combusted as superheated air hit them. The explosions screamed in her ears.
So did the terror.
Rapids broke overhead as she struggled to keep above the white water. If she wasn’t swallowing river, she was sucking in charcoal air. She coughed and gagged and hacked.
Stone crashed into her, scraping raw her shoulder and leg. White water pummeled her eyes, ears, and mouth. She was turned around. Submerged into the silence beneath the water. Reemerged into thunderous chaos. Pitched into unseen obstacles as she tumbled through a rock garden. Chaos. Silence. Chaos. Silence.
Can’t breathe. Lungs on fire.
It seemed like forever before she surfaced once again.
The forest crackled in the distance.
She had escaped the fire. Now to escape the rapids. Fatigued, she willed her aching body to swim for the bank as again and again water crashed over her head.
A huge, shadowy figure extended an arm to her. Pierce? She reached for him.
Something whacked her head.
* * *
Addy bolted upright and gasped a deep breath of fresh air. She opened her eyes. The dying orange glow of embers from three fireplaces spun before her. A few blinks later, the images converged into one.
A woodpecker drilled for breakfast inside her skull.
Lifting weak and heavy hands to massage her temples took way more effort than it should have. She felt for abrasions from being pitched headfirst into the rocks. There weren’t any. There were no bruises on her arms or shoulders either, but the light was dim, and her eyes kept pulsing in and out of focus.
Checking her legs, Addy hiked a thin blanket past her ankles, shins, and— Wait. Where was she? Not in a hospital as she wasn’t in a bed. She sat on long body pillows on the floor. Naked.
Had Pierce taken her to his place? He would’ve removed her sodden clothes after rescuing her, but you’d think he’d have the decency to give her something to wear. It wasn’t like they were dating anymore.
She tried calling his name, but no sound came out. She licked dry lips and peered into the room’s darkness. Her vision wavered, and her head spun as if in the aftermath of one god-awful hangover. She closed her eyes, waiting for the dizziness to pass. When she finally opened them, a thick, white fog clouded her vision. Before she could wave it away, the fog crackled as it dissipated, revealing a sleeping man.
A very large and very naked sleeping man.
There must have been some potent wacky weeds burning in that forest. Men with chiseled bare chests and six-pack abs did not materialize in her bed. Not even in her dreams. She was too practical for that kind of fantasy. Well, if she had to hallucinate, a hot hunk was a better pick than pink elephants on parade.
His black lashes rested peacefully above sharp cheekbones. He had a clean-shaven, square jawline; thick, kissable lips that appeared a bit chapped; and a thin, braided silver choker way too effeminate for a bodybuilder type. A dark line of hair trailed down his belly and under a strategically positioned sheet. One hip and a well-defined thigh were bared. He rolled onto his side, and a heavy leg draped over hers. Warm breath tickled her arm.
Every muscle in her body froze. Well, every muscle except her heart. That beat double time. The stranger was no hallucination.
Who was this man, and why was she naked in his bed?
Her heartbeat rapped in time with the woodpecker in her skull. The room spun out of focus again. Holding her pounding head, she closed her eyes once more until the dizziness passed.
Questioning him while reeling from her near-death experience wouldn’t be sensible. Better to take it slow and see if something jogged her memory first.
But nothing did.
Who was he? Had he pulled her from the river? Had he stripped off their wet clothes, believing their body heat might prevent hypothermia, or had he believed their body heat might prevent a lonely night?
Well, he’d be in for a disappointment. She had three rules about sex: it was never casual, never used as a weapon, and never, ever given as a thank-you gift. That’s what fruit baskets were for.
She’d send him one as soon as she got home.
She eased out from beneath the sleeping man’s leg, got off the pillowed bed, and wrapped the blanket around her like a strapless toga. The dimly lit room—if you can call it a room—looked like the inside of a ten-foot square container. There were no doors. No windows. No visible way out.
Except for a miniature fireplace and logs centered on one wall, the body pillow bed in one corner, and a large terra-cotta flowerpot in the opposite corner, the room appeared empty.
Searching for a hidden doorknob or lever, she drew her palm up, down, and across the wall, smooth and cool to the touch.
“If you’re looking for me, I’m over here.”
Startled, she spun to face the stranger, but the hangover tripped her up, and she stumbled into the wall. Righting herself, she tried for a casual smile but knew it didn’t pass for anything more than a nervous tic.
When would the room stopped spinning?
He propped up onto one elbow, and his sheet slid suggestively downward. He didn’t readjust it. Not wanting to project the wrong idea by admiring things she shouldn’t be admiring, she forced her gaze upward. His emerald eyes—an odd choice for colored contacts—shone like a cat’s in the dim light. His dark, shoulder-length hair and sleepy cat eyes enhanced his wicked attractiveness.
“Come here.” He lifted the sheet with one hand and patted the pillow bedding with the other.
Her heart rate revved. She couldn’t help but admire everything beneath the sheet. Focus, Addy. You should be questioning him. “I…uh…I…umm.”
“Skittish little thing, aren’t you?”
That was the first time anyone called her skittish. She didn’t like it. “No. Not usually. Today happens to be an off day. Who are you?”
“You don’t know?” His voice oozed disappointment.
Had they gone through this already? Perhaps before ending up naked in bed together? Why couldn’t she remember anything about that? Was it possible she gave herself to him under duress? Or worse, had he violated her while unconscious? “Did we…uh…” There was no polite way to ask either of those questions.
“Mate?” Okay, that was one way. Odd word choice but it sufficed. “Not yet.” There was no menace or presumption in his casual words. He spoke them matter-of-factly, as if they’d already discussed sex and concluded they’d sleep together.
When had she given him that idea? Her head ached trying to remember. “I’m sorry. You seem like a nice guy, but I can’t, you know, do this.”
“First time, huh?”
“Though judging your age, I wouldn’t have pegged you for a virgin.”
“Relax.” The sleep in his voice gave the word a husky sexiness. “I’ll make sure you enjoy it, too.” He got up and strode toward her, eyes hungry and body very ready to make good on his word.
If her pulse were a car, the turbo just kicked in. “Stop right there,” she said, and he did, surprise evident on his face. With a body like his, he probably wasn’t used to rejection.
“Woman, this won’t work unless we’re closer. Much closer.” He winked.
“Stay there.” She half turned to keep an eye on him and an eye on the wall as she searched for that doorknob. In two strides, he towered behind her, sweeping the hair off her shoulder as he brushed his lips against her neck. A tingling sensation slipped down her spine. What kind of single-celled pond scum takes advantage of the woman he saved? “Stop. I’m warning you.”
“I understand your hesitation.” He kissed her again. “But it’s going to happen sooner or later.”
Like hell it is. She pivoted around and kneed him in the groin. Swearing, the man grabbed himself and fell to his knees. She ran to the opposite wall, putting as much space between them as possible. Fists at the ready, she expected him to lunge, but he didn’t get off the floor.
“Hell, woman, what’s wrong with you?” Pain and confusion filled his eyes. He obviously believed she’d be a willing participant. Probably figured it was the least she could do after he’d saved her life.
Her head lolled, amplifying the drone in her ears. She wrapped both hands around her skull to make the pounding stop. “God, I need extra-strength aspirin.”
“You and me both,” he muttered. “If you’re sick from reawakening, you should’ve just said so.”
“Don’t tell me it’s your first time for that, too.”
“You mean resuscitation?”
The lines of his forehead wrinkled. A long, awkward silence followed while he studied her as if puzzling something out. “You don’t have a clue what reawakening is, do you?”
She shook her head no. “Should I?”
Slowly, he rose to his feet; it didn’t seem an easy task under the circumstances. She refused to feel guilty until she had more facts about the situation.
“What Yard are you from?”
“Yard?” What was he talking about? “You mean Ranger District? I’m a law enforcement officer in Happy Camp.” He didn’t need to know she was a rookie. “Did you pull me from the river? Did you give me CPR? I can’t remember anything that happened after hitting my head.”
The man paced, seemingly lost in thought. Maybe she shouldn’t have told him she didn’t remember his heroism. Bruising his ego moments after bruising his manhood couldn’t bode well.
He didn’t bother to get dressed or to cover himself. It wasn’t that she didn’t care for the view, but it was one more thing compounding her inability to focus. To her defense, any woman would be hard-pressed to ignore the muscular definition in his thighs and butt as he strode back and forth. Her mouth dried.
“Look. I’m grateful you saved my life. Resuscitated me. Whatever. But if I said or did anything to lead you on while I was in shock, I apologize.”
“Where’s Happy Camp?”
How far downstream had the Klamath swept her? “Northern California.”
“And you live there. Right now. That’s where you live.”
“Yes. Why? Where are we?”
“You don’t remember how you got here?”
What was wrong with this guy? How many times did she have to say it? Did he expect her to give him a reward or something? “No. I’m sorry.”
“Son of a bitch.” He rubbed his eyes with his fingers and thumb, the same way her captain did when agitated. Though this man was half a foot taller than her captain, twice as broad, and three times as menacing.
If he became physical, she’d have a hard time subduing him without pepper spray. Time to disengage. “I should go. Where are my clothes?”
Palms turned up and arms outstretched, he made a show of turning in all directions in the doorless, windowless room. “There’s no way out.”
The hair on her body bristled. Remain calm, Addy. Assess the situation. “Am I your hostage, then?” Won’t he be surprised when her mother refuses to trade her retirement money for her daughter’s life.
“No.” He pressed a palm to his forehead and shook his head before drawing out a long sigh. “How the hell do I explain this?”
“How about you start from the beginning?”
“How about I put a log on the fire?” As he moved to the small woodpile, she stepped sideways, her back sliding against the cool wall and bare feet squishing into soft pillows still warm from where he had slept, until she came to a position of advantage behind him.
The three identical logs, each about one foot in length and four inches in diameter, appeared way too cylindrical to be real. Damn. If she could’ve identified the tree from which they’d been cut, she might’ve gotten a clue as to where she was. He tossed a log onto the embers, and the fire sprang to life.
“Okay. Log’s on. I want answers.” Reluctant to speak, he watched the fire dance. She needed to start him off with an easy question. “What’s your name?”
“Max. They took me, what, fifteen years ago, maybe? I don’t know. I lost count.”
“Took you where?”
He hesitated a moment before turning around, his emerald eyes searching hers. “You really have no idea, do you?”
She resisted the urge to shake her head. She’d do the interrogating, thank you very much. “You said they took you. Who’s they?”
“Who are the Hyboreans? A gang? What do they want?” When he didn’t answer, she started to ask again.
“Babies,” he said. “They want us to make babies.”
His preposterous reply made her laugh. “Is this a prank? Am I on some new reality TV show? Pierce put you up to this, didn’t he? Where is he?” She searched the wall for a hidden camera. Any minute the crew would open the door, and they’d all have a good laugh.
“If it is a joke, it’s on me. This is the first time I’ve been with a female who didn’t understand her role. Why would they throw you in here without bringing you to the Yard first?” he asked the question more to himself. “Well, hell. The only obvious reason is because you’re ovulating.”
“Excuse me?” The smoke from the fire reached her. Its odd scent seeped into her head, making her warm and dizzy again.
“You can’t get pregnant unless you’re ovulating. They probably examined you, realized you were ready, and didn’t want to waste an opportunity.”
“You’re not an actor. You’re psychotic.” Maybe he escaped from an insane asylum. She pounded the wall. Someone had to be nearby. “Hey! Anyone out there?”
“Whoa.” Max jumped up and grabbed her wrist. “Keep quiet.”
“Don’t touch me.” She broke out of his grip and slapped his face.
Two strong hands gripped her upper arms, tight. “Hell, woman, control yourself!”
Was that fear or anger flashing in his unnatural green eyes? What would he do to her? Was he capable of murder? Heart pounding, she tried breaking out of his hold, but he was too strong. A kick to the shin made him loosen his grip enough to shove him backward. She shouted in hopes of drawing attention from anyone close enough to hear.
“Stop yelling.” This time when he grabbed her, he tried covering her mouth, but she flailed her head and unleashed frightened fury on him in blow after blow, striking him with anything she could—fists, feet, fingernails.
He couldn’t get a solid grip on her. “Calm down before they—”
Pain like a bolt of lightning struck her neck and ricocheted through her body. She screamed and collapsed to the ground, every muscle spastic from the jolt.
Get up, Dawson. Weak and heavy, as if her body had been magnetized and stuck to a metal floor, she couldn’t move. Max crouched next to her, keeping some distance between them. His lips moved, but she couldn’t hear him.
An instant later, the spasms stopped. As she rubbed the pain from her neck, her pinky got caught in a… necklace? Where did that come from? She wasn’t wearing one last night. She rolled the light braided chain between her fingers. Did it match his? Did he give it to her?
Hot anger pulsed through her veins, and she jerked the chain. The damn thing didn’t break. Obviously, her strength hadn’t returned.
“Don’t.” It sounded more like a warning than a command.
Locking a defiant gaze on his eyes, she slid four fingers between the necklace and her throat and yanked hard. The chain dug into the back of her neck. It still didn’t break. What was it made out of, steel? She yanked again and again, each time harder than the last.
“Stop, woman, before—”
Another jolt of electricity pierced her neck and shot through her body.
She curled onto her side.
He moved closer but still didn’t touch her. “Are you okay?”
Addy’s forehead slid back and forth on the smooth floor as she shook her head no. “What’s happening to me?”
“It’s the Hyboreans. Are you hurt? Can you see?” She must have given him an odd look because he explained, “Too much voltage can blind you. Or worse. Hell, woman, for your own safety, don’t piss off the Hyboreans.”
It wasn’t until he wrapped the blanket around her that she realized it had fallen off—at what point that actually happened, she had no idea and, quite frankly, was too beat to care.
He scooped her up into his arms.
“I don’t understand what happened.” She couldn’t stop trembling.
“Shock collar. It’s their way of keeping us in line.”
“No, I mean how did I end up here? Kidnapped. Into white slavery. Where on Earth am I?” She could have sworn his face paled but couldn’t be sure through the tears threatening to escape.
He eased her onto the pillow bed. “We’ll talk in the morning.”
Drained yet unwilling to shut her eyes, she fought heavy lids. It was no use. Exhaustion owned her. A hot tear slipped from the corner of her eye, making its way to her ear.
The feathery weight of another blanket covered her. A finger brushed across her wet temple.
“I won’t hurt you,” Max whispered.
She drifted into darkness.
* * *
She was beautiful. Hell, what naked woman wasn’t? Though this one didn’t have the large breasts and wide hips typical of the women they had brought him in the past. This one was muscular, strong, and a ball of fire.
She definitely could hold her own, with that knee to the groin and the kicking and clawing. He examined the stinging marks on his chest and knew he’d find the rest of his skin under her fingernails. The woman could draw blood. He’d give her that. But she’d never hurt someone if she didn’t learn how to throw some weight behind her punches.
He watched her fight exhaustion…and lose.
She looked vulnerable lying in his bed with her reddish-blonde hair spilled around her. He imagined her sweeping that long hair down his chest and could almost feel the tickle. Blood pumped through him, bringing him to readiness.
He could take her right now. She wouldn’t fight. She couldn’t.
Their mating would please the Hyboreans. And happy Hyboreans didn’t punish people.
Her breasts rose and fell with each fast and shallow breath. A tear slid across her face.
Ah, hell. Only a beast would take a defenseless woman.
Inhaling deeply and then letting it out slowly, he commanded his body to relax. With a gentleness he forced himself to control, he pulled the blanket over her and then wiped away her teardrop.
“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered.
It wasn’t long before her breathing slowed, and its rhythm steadied. Her face relaxed, and the lines of tension disappeared, making her appear younger than he originally guessed. Early twenties, probably.
Poor kid. She had no idea what had happened.
It’d been so long, he’d forgotten what it felt like to wake up in a strange world. But it all had come back to him when he’d glimpsed the terror in her eyes. His gut tightened as he remembered the range of emotions that had crossed her face in a matter of minutes: confusion, fear, anger, helplessness, pain, and finally defeat.
There was only one thing worse than defeat. Accepting it.
Pulling the blanket over himself, he settled onto his side with his head propped in his hand. He studied the curves of her face and the handful of freckles on her tanned cheeks. What would he do with her?
Besides impregnate her, of course.
Maybe he should explain where they were. No. She’d never believe him. The truth would only frighten her more.
Just keep your mouth shut and do your job.
“How can I do my job,” he whispered, “when you’re so damn feisty?” He drummed his fingers on his head.
The other women had known their role and greeted him with open legs. Well, maybe one or two weren’t quite ready at first, but they always responded favorably after a little coaxing and the aphrodisiac fire.
What if this one refused? Her spirit was strong. She was a fighter. Dread surged through his veins.
He hadn’t been at stud in a year, and the year prior to that he’d only been in twice. He had to face facts. At thirty-five, he was no longer the strapping young alpha the Hyboreans wanted. Any noncompliance on the woman’s part was sure to be viewed as his failure. Failure equaled torture.
At his age, he doubted he’d suffer a beating. Or starvation. This time he’d be sold on the black market.
Shit. That was a death sentence.
His head fell to the pillow, and he stared at the ceiling. “You bastards,” he kept his voice low. “Why didn’t you take her to the Yard first? I can’t afford complications at my age.”
He knew of other studs who forced themselves on the females. His stomach turned and dropped into his bowels.
You’re not an animal.
He cringed at his lie.
Not a complete animal, anyway. That’s why rape could never be an option.
The breeding box was the one safe place he could act like a man. If he lost that last bit of humanity, he lost everything.
The heat of her body warmed his side. Rolling to face her again, he traced her soft lips with a gentle finger. There was only one thing to do.
“Woman,” he said. “Prepare to be seduced.”