Lethal Game by Christine Feehan

February 12, 2020

Lethal Game by Christine Feehan

The sparks of unexpected passion ignite in this electrifying GhostWalker novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan.

-- There are GhostWalkers among us --
It took me eight days to finish this book. Not because it was boring. Not because it was difficult to read. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this book. It's just that I wanted to savor this story for as long as possible. The hero that Christine Feehan created in Malichai was a man who was perfect in his every imperfection. Sold by his mom for drugs, he grew up on the streets with his brothers, learning to survive and ended up becoming the most compassionate, patient, understanding person I've probably ever had the pleasure to read about.

In the military, Malichai was a soldier and a doctor. He put himself constantly in danger, rescuing wounded soldiers under heavy assault. He was relentess, tireless, courageous and dangerous. He was a GhostWalker, meaning he was enhanced through experimentation, giving him more gifts than were covered in this book. He was sweet and kind, always willing to give a hand, and extremely protective. When he's injured during a rescue, he's forced to take a vacation and ends up meeting Amaryllis. Immediately he suspects she's also a GhostWalker and when strange things start happening in and around the B&B he's staying at, it's either continue to ignore what's right in front of him, or contact his brothers and admit that he knows just what she is. Hopefully the truth doesn't destroy the love that these two are beginning to share.

This may be one of my favorite books by Feehan so far, for no other reason than Malichai. Honestly, he was incredible and I'd easily recommend this read simply for you to be amazed by its hero. The side characters, the heroine, and the plot were also amazing, making them icing on the most scrumptious of cakes!

Get your own copy of Lethal Game today!
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-- About the Book --
Lethal Game by Christine Feehan
When Malichai Fortunes attacks a problem, he does it full force--a habit that earns the GhostWalker a painful injury and a forced vacation in San Diego, California. With nothing but physical therapy on the horizon, Malichai is starting to get restless...until a striking blue-eyed blonde makes all his senses come alive.

Amaryllis is kind and warm and sees beyond Malichai's rough exterior, but he can tell there's something she's hiding. Her innate healing abilities indicate she might be a GhostWalker--albeit an untrained one. Malichai doesn't think their crossing paths is anything more than coincidence, but he can sense that one wrong word could send Amaryllis running.

When strange events at his temporary retreat put Malichai on high alert, he knows he won't be able to deal with the threat and keep his woman safe in his weakened state. But calling in his brothers means telling Amaryllis what he really is, and revealing that he knows the truth about her too...

-- Excerpt --

Chapter 1

We’re taking heavy enemy fire.

Like they all weren’t aware of the helicopter lurching from side to side as they came in low trying to put down where the wounded soldiers waited for transport. Malichai Fortunes kept one hand on his medical kit and the other on his rifle. He could shoot the wings off a fly with that rifle.

You’re up, soldier, Joe Spagnola, his team leader said. Want you back in one piece.

Roger that. Malichai jumped without hesitation, landing in the snow and moving out of the way just in case Rubin Campos, another GhostWalker teammate landed on top of him.

They both were dressed in white with splotches of gray to better blend into the environment around them. The moment they were on the ground, the helicopter was up and away, skidding sideways through the sky, dodging the deadly fire from three or four bunkers with heavy artillery shooting continuously.

The moment Malichai saw the helicopter was out of target range, he was up and running in a crouch, toward the coordinates of the small group of soldiers who had been shot down and were now pinned on top of that very cold mountain, surrounded by the enemy with no supplies or medical aid and low on ammunition.

A hail of deadly machine gun fire ripped across the mountaintop and zig-zagged in a pattern up and down, seeking to find them and the wounded soldiers.

“Coming in,” Malichai called out, hoping his own soldiers weren’t going to shoot him.

He and Rubin leapt over the ring of rocks and landed just inside the circle the soldiers had made for themselves. Other than the rocks, there was little cover and the men were freezing. Malichai had seen some pathetic set-ups, but this was one of the worst. Added to the fact that the soldiers were all wounded, and the rocks didn’t make the best fortress. The enemy had enough firepower to blow those large boulders forming their stronghold, to kingdom come.

Five men with various wounds lay in misery, but with their weapons ready. One attempted to sit, but Malichai waved him back down. They were all shivering continuously. The snow was stained red in places.

“I’m Malichai, that’s Rubin.” Deliberately, he left off any mention of rank. “We’re here to pull your butts out of the frying pan. Give me your assessment of each patient,” Malichai added to the one obviously assuming leadership.

“Jerry Lannis took the worst hit. His leg and arm. They were launching mortar fire and grenades. He shielded the rest of us when one of the grenades landed close to us. We did the best we could to help him...”. The soldier trailed off as he indicated a man lying in the most protected spot the small space had.

Rubin immediately went to Jerry and uncovered the man’s body. He glanced up at Malichai with a slight shake of his head. If he makes it, he’ll lose both the arm and the leg.

Get started on him.

Rubin glanced around at the other soldiers, all looking at him with hope. He ducked his head over Jerry’s arm, looking for a vein.
Rubin was a GhostWalker, enhanced psychically as well as physically. He was one of the ultra-rare—a psychic surgeon. If his assessment was that Jerry was going to lose his arm and leg, then no one could save those limbs. Rubin would do his best, and that meant Jerry would most likely live, but there was little chance he would live with all four limbs intact.

“We’ve got supplies. Not a lot, so you’ll need to ration.” As he spoke, Malichai tore open the thin packets with the blankets in them that would provide enough warmth to survive in the time they had to wait for extraction. He examined each man, making quick assessments.

The appointed leader went on with his report. “Jack Torren has two bullets in him. One caught him on the hip and the other along his ribs. Ribs are broken. Hip’s intact. We’re not sure how.”

Jack sent Malichai a faint grin. “I guess I’m too mean to die. I tell them I have superhero bones.”

“Barry Clarke has a broken arm and hand. Arm on one side, hand on the other.”

“Nice,” Malichai said. That was at least two mobile, if Jack’s hip was really fit enough to allow him to run.

“Tim Barrens went down with a shot to the head. He’s been in and out for some time. Mostly, out, but when he comes to, he knows he’s a soldier and he’s with us and has to stay quiet, so he’s comprehending things around him.”

Malichai was already working on Jack, cleaning him up and setting up a bag of fluids to hydrate him as quickly as possible. He would need some of these men on their feet, fighting and willing to keep going, although they’d dug in and defended themselves so far in the face of an enemy outnumbering and outgunning them.

“You were a very welcome sight,” the leader continued.

“Tell me about your wounds,” Malichai instructed.

“Names O’Connell. Braden O’Connell. I took a hit, a through and through, on my thigh. I was lucky, it didn’t hit anything that’s killed me yet, although I’m very weak.”

That alarmed Malichai. He cursed under his breath. Would the kid have lasted so long if the artery was nicked? Regardless, he was probably bleeding internally.

“I wasn’t certain but didn’t want to move around too much just in case. I see to everyone as best I can, but I’m no medic.”
“When are they coming for us,” Jack asked.

Immediately there was silence. Even the guns of the enemy had fallen silent. Malichai felt the eyes of the soldiers looking at him. Trusting in him. He sent them a small grin and continued to finish cleaning up Jack before moving onto Barry.

“Well, Jack, the deal was, I jump out of the helicopter and fix you up so you could get your superhero ass in gear and carry us all back home.”
The others grinned but no one pointed out he hadn’t answered the question. No one asked again. As far as Malichai could tell, Barry’s left arm had suffered a clean break. Someone, most likely, Braden, had splinted it. He’d done a good enough job that Malichai wasn’t going to mess with it. He examined the wrist. There was a lot of bruising and swelling. Again, Braden had splinted it, but it was obvious, Barry continued to use it in an effort to help defend their position.

Malichai stabilized it and then wrapped it. “You’re going to need fluids as well, but we’ll set up after I’ve examined the others.” Barry wasn’t too bad off as far as life-threatening injuries went. He’d lucked out.

Tim lay quietly. Too quietly. Malichai swore under his breath and put his hand over the man’s open eyes, slowly lowering the eyelids. Tim was dead. The headshot had quietly killed him, probably in the late evening hours and no one had been aware, leaving him to ‘sleep’. He turned to look at Braden. Braden knew. He saw the gesture and the way Malichai had dropped his head down and briefly closed his own eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, mostly to Braden. The soldier had tried to keep them together and alive since their team leader was gone. The helicopter carrying these men had been shot down during their extraction. The other one carrying the rest of their team had thankfully gotten away.

“He was a good soldier. A good man,” Braden said, emotion crossing his face. He struggled to contain it. “And a very good friend.”

The others looked over at Tim and then at each other. “How’s Jerry, Rubin?” Malichai asked deliberatly, wanting to keep their attention on the living. “Full name, by the way is, Malichai Fortunes and that’s Rubin Campos. Just dropped in to see how you boys were doing and get you ready to come home.”

Heads swiveled toward Rubin. Rubin had always been a man of very few words, and he lifted his gaze to Malichai, giving what amounted to a death stare. Malichai gave him a faint grin in return.

“He’ll be ready to travel in a couple of hours. He needs a transfusion and he’s badly dehydrated. I’ve already got lines into him and am giving him the blood we brought for him.”

“What about his leg and arm?” Jack asked.

Rubin shook his head. “A better question is what about his life? We’ve got the enemy coming straight at us in the morning. The helicopters will have to set down right above us on the ridge. We have to be able to get him up there without losing him. We’ll need all of you.”

“No way can a helicopter land up there,” Braden said. “You see those bunkers on your way in? They have heavy artillery. I mean heavy. They’ll take out the helicopters every time.”

“That’s where we come in,” Malichai took pity of Rubin. “We’re going to make certain they can’t shoot down our birds as they come in to get you.”

There was a small silence. Braden let out his breath. “That’s suicide. I’m serious. They’ve got every kind of weapon known in those bunkers and experienced fighters handling them.”

“We have the intel,” Malichai assured. “It’s the only way any of us are getting out of here. We knew that when we volunteered to haul your butts out.” Deliberately, he sounded cocky, but even enhanced, the bunkers weren’t going to be easy to take down—and they had to be down, or they’d just keep losing helicopters.

“Your job is to get stronger. Get warm. Hydrate. Start getting those muscles to work,” Rubin added to fill the silence as the others looked at them as if they were insane.

“It isn’t the first time, you know,” Malichai added. “That’s what gave us the idea. A SEAL did something very similar on a different mountain a few years back.”

“Weapons change all the time,” Braden pointed out. “I’m telling you, that’s suicide. I tried getting close to them, and they unleashed hell on us.”

“We think they’re going to sneak up on us and take us out,” Jack added. “We’re taking shifts, trying to stay awake, but they could kill us just about any time.”

“You’re too valuable to them right where you are. They know we’re going to keep sending more troops in to try to bring you home,” Malichai explained. “You’re the bait.”

The team exchanged looks. They didn’t like that.

“I can help out,” Braden offered.

“I could probably get up and running,” Jack offered as well. “Barry can watch Jerry for us. I’m a damn good shot. You brought us some ammunition, right?”

They had, but they weren’t taking the wounded with them on what amounted to a suicide mission, not to mention, being enhanced was classified. They weren’t to expose others to those enhancements if at all possible.

“Your job is to make certain you’re ready for a run up the mountain to the clearing just above us. The helicopter will set down there. If we clear the bunkers, we’ll have help getting up to the extraction point, if not, it’s all on us.”

“We aren’t leaving Tim behind,” Braden said decisively.

The others murmured their agreements, all nodding and looking at Malichai as if he was challenging their firm statement. Malichai had no intentions of leaving Tim behind if it could be helped. The man was a soldier for the United States. He belonged home, not here where his life had been taken far too young.

“No, we’re not leaving him behind,” he stated quietly, hoping everything went as planned and there would be no need to go back on his promise. No matter what, the living came first.

He looked across the small space to Rubin, who was still working on Jerry. It didn’t look good, not with the way Rubin was so gently and meticulously working on the man. That was another body they might have to transport out when the time came. He hoped not.

Jerry had saved the others at a great cost to himself, but he could live without a leg and an arm. He could have a decent life. Tim was never going to get that chance. Malichai didn’t want to think too much on what that life would be like. He had to keep telling himself, at least Jerry was alive.

“Braden. I’d prefer that you stop moving around until you absolutely have to. I think you’re losing blood internally. It’s best if you just stay as still as you can and hydrate. I’m going to set up a transfusion for you as well.”

Rubin, when you have a minute, will you check him out? I’ve got a bad feeling.

Rubin didn’t look up, but he nodded.

There was a small gasp that seemed to go around the little encampment. Braden wasn’t their commander, but he’d taken command when he had to. He’d been the one to dole out the supplies and ensure that the wounded were cared for. He’d done it by crawling from man to man. He’d defended them when they took heavy fire. He’d risked everything crawling around the bunkers at night to get intel on the enemy.

“The transfusion will help get you home. You’re fine, but we just want to be more careful.” Malichai said it more for the other men than for Braden.

Braden shrugged. “Save the blood for the others. Especially Jerry.”

Malichai flashed him a smile. “You don’t all have the same blood type, Braden. We brought a supply for each of you because we weren’t certain what condition you were in. They’re jamming communication.”

Braden glanced at his watch. “Won’t be long and they’ll launch their nightly show of force, warning us, I guess, to stay put. They know we’re sitting ducks here, but they just keep throwing ammo at us and then leaving us alone.”

“What do you do?”

“We just have to hunker down and take it. I tell everyone to treat it as a fourth of July fireworks show. We can’t waste anymore ammunition returning useless fire. We’re not going to hit anything. They could blow us up right here if they really wanted to.”

Malichai didn’t like that, but it was the truth. They were alive because they were being kept alive in the hopes that more helicopters would come to rescue them.

The whine of a lone bullet was their first warning. Then all hell broke loose. Machine gun fire erupted from three different locations, the sound and sight insanely beautiful in the cold, crisp night. The incoming looked exactly like fireworks, long white streaks spewing into the air, small white star-like dots filling the dark sky and then the occasional explosion of red and orange roaring flames.

If one could get over the horrific noise and the fact that those bullets could end a life, the murderous assault was exactly as Braden had said it would be—a fourth of July fireworks display. Braden even began to point out the difference in one bunker’s shooting than another. They ducked and stayed under cover as best they could. Many of the bullets hit too close to home, but the men had endured the assault every evening, so they had already positioned themselves in the best places to stay safe.

Malichai noted that the two wounded, Tim and Jerry both were tucked in tight behind the largest boulders. Rubin had covered Jerry’s body with his own during the barrage of machine gun fire. Malichai had been close to Braden, setting up his transfusion and the saline bag to hydrate him. Braden was the most exposed of all the soldiers and Malichai had instinctively covered him as well.

Braden nudged him. “Bunker three is worst. They always chip away at the rocks, making certain the slivers they break off and the sparks hit us. They’re in the best position to take us out, but Bunker two has the best and most accurate shooters. They’re the ones that have taken out the helicopters. They’re all capable, I guess, but Bunker two seems much more experienced.”

As far as Malichai could see, Braden O’Connell deserved a commendation and if they got out of this mess in one piece, he intended to put the man up for one. Someone had to know how he conducted himself in the field under fire, even wounded as he was. He’d gathered intel, hoping to pass it on to anyone coming to rescue them.

“Do you have any idea how many men are manning each bunker?”

“I couldn’t get close enough. They have traps set out to warn them if anyone is sneaking up on them. I tripped them twice. Once at bunker three and once at bunker two. By the time I got to the first one, I knew what their traps were like.” He fished in his pocket and brought out a torn scrap of paper. His hand shook as he gave it to Malichai. “I drew them out the best that I could. It isn’t one hundred percent reliable.”

Malichai thought Braden was the epitome of a soldier. Even wounded, the man had crawled to the bunkers during the night, trying to get intelligence on positions, number of the enemy, and what weapons they had. He took the paper and looked it over carefully. There was far more fire power available to the enemy than they’d known. He didn’t want any of the helicopters coming near their position until he and Rubin had a chance to take the guns out.

The two GhostWalkers worked as quickly and as efficiently as possible once the terrible barrage of bullets stopped. The noise had been deafening. More, the bullets hit all around them. The constant mortar fire hitting close to their shelter was terrifying. There was nowhere else to go. They were in the last of the boulders before they were at the top of the peak. They lived with the certain knowledge that sooner or later, the enemy would get tired of taunting them. They wouldn’t be that difficult to kill once the boulders were blown to bits.

It was bitterly cold at night, the temperature dropping drastically. Even with treating the wounds, giving blood, fluids and painkillers, the men weren’t going to last unless they got them out of there.

“We’re going to do this as quietly as we can,” Malichai told them as they handed out ammunition. “We don’t want you to try to help us. You just rest. Drink water. Try to sleep if you can. Don’t make noise or call out to us, you’ll just get us killed.”

“They have excellent night vision goggles,” Braden warned. “I learned that the hard way. I’m not certain any of us could come to your rescue.” He moved as if he might try.

Malichai put a hand on his arm to stop him. “Just take it easy. You especially, Braden. I’m going to need you when we make our move. Don’t worry so much, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

Braden looked him over. Malichai knew there wasn’t much to see, other than he was combat-hardened. His experience showed in the lines in his face, in the calm he displayed under all conditions and the flat, cold look in his eyes. The soldier nodded, a little reassured.

“You ready?” Malichai asked Rubin.

Rubin bent over Jerry. “I’m heading out now, but I’ll be back in time to haul your ass out of here. I want you alive, soldier. You got that? You have a family waiting for you at home. Jack’s right here if you need anything.”

“I’m with you, buddy,” Jack assured and reached out to grip Jerry’s wrist.

Jerry attempted a faint grin. “I’ll be here. Just lying around. Give me a gun. I’m right-handed.”

Rubin looked up to meet Malichai’s questioning gaze. No one wanted Jerry to take his own life. A decision had to be made. His team knew him better than they did. Both men looked to Braden.

“He’d never do that with us needing him. He knows every gun counts,” Braden whispered to Malichai.

Malichai gave the thumbs up to Rubin who put a gun on the man’s chest. “It’s loaded. Just point and shoot. Just make certain it isn’t pointed my way.”

“Depends on whether or not these meds wear off before you get back,” Jerry said.

Rubin gave him a grin, another pat and then turned his attention to Jack. “He’s a tough one, but you keep him down until I get back.”
Jack nodded while Jerry made derisive sounds. “That’s my momma, telling me I have to behave myself.”

“You keep that in mind.” Rubin crawled back toward Malichai, staying low. Together, they pulled out their gear and shed their snow clothing.
Their garb was specifically constructed for night time raids. They reflected their surroundings and with their enhancements, it was easy enough to fade into the night. They both were capable of lowering their body temperatures to confuse the night vision goggles and still function without impairment. It was one of Malichai’s least favorite things to do.

“Helicopter will be here at dawn,” Rubin reported. “We’ll be back by then.”

They had to be or that meant they were dead.

Malichai regarded Braden as he shoved weapons into each of the carefully hidden compartments in his clothing. “You stay put. Jack, if he gets some wild hair that he’s coming after us, either sit on him, or shoot him in the leg.”

“Not sure that will stop him,” Jack said. “But I’ll be glad to follow those orders, sir.”

Braden let out a groan. “You’re giving way too much authority to a blood-thirsty individual, sir.”

Malichai heard the strain in their voices, although they were trying to hide it with jokes. He gave them a small salute. “At dawn. Be prepared to move out fast.”

“I’ll get right on that, sir,” Jerry said.

Rubin turned and looked at Malichai. Crouching low, they moved to the very edge of the boulder line. The big rocks progressively got smaller, forcing them to go down onto their bellies. Movement always drew the eye. Someone from each of the three bunkers had to have been given the job to watch for anyone trying to sneak out of the encampment, especially after Braden had tripped a few of their traps.

The mountains of Afghanistan were home, in spite of the continual conflicts, to many wild animals, including snow leopards, lions, jackals, fox and the roaming ibex. Any number of animals might have triggered those traps, if Braden hadn’t left tracks for their enemies to find. It didn’t matter, they had to take out those bunkers in order to give the helicopter a chance to land safely and take the wounded home.

He signaled to Rubin to make his way to Bunker Two first. That was the one with serious firepower and the most experienced of the enemy fighters. If they couldn’t get to all of them, they had to at least, kill those in Bunker Two. It would take an hour to make it across the snow-covered ground if they didn’t want to be seen. During that hour, the hope was, the fighters would be taking a much-needed break, eating and, if they were lucky, going to sleep. Malichai would approach from one direction, with Rubin coming in from the opposite side.

Malichai proceeded to move inch by slow inch. He didn’t drag himself because he couldn’t afford to have drag marks be seen in the snow. He had to use his hands and feet to propel his body forward. Always, he had to keep his body inches from the ground. Without his enhanced strength, he could never have accomplished such a thing.

Months earlier, he’d been shot in the leg, but thanks to Rubin’s psychic surgery and Joe, another teammate who was very skilled in psychic healing, his leg was stronger than ever. He felt very confident crossing that long expanse of snow to get to his intended target.

His enhancements were not as specialized as some of the other GhostWalkers because he was considered an ‘all around’ soldier. He could find water in a desert twenty-five feet down below the surface. He could go up the side of a sheer mountain, or swim for long periods of time underwater without taking a breath. He was extremely fast under water. His sense of smell, his eyesight and hearing, were all very acute.
He often felt like the man who wasn’t master of anything yet could manage to make his way through numerous pitfalls. If he did have one claim he could make, it was taking apart or putting together explosives in record time. He had a feel for them. He almost didn’t have to look at them to know how to take them apart or put them together. It was instinctive. But that was it as far as his enhancements went.
They maintained silence until they both reached their destinations. In position, Rubin reported.

They were always careful with telepathic communication. The truth was, many people had undeveloped psychic talents. They could trigger a warning, just by making the wrong person vigilant for no reason that individual could put his finger on—it was just a feeling.

In position. Rubin, we can’t chance them making any noise. We have to do this one right. Even if they were able to kill their enemy, they had to do it swiftly, so the others didn’t find out. Most likely number is five. There will be a lookout behind the bunker. Malichai had to get to him first. He would be in the best position to get away and raise the alarm. Making my way around to guard’s location now.

He spoke in very small bursts of energy, keeping the output as low as possible. Once again, he began to move, inch by inch. He ‘felt’ for the traps Braden had warned him about. He had encountered the first row of them approximately twenty feet out from the wall. The traps had wrapped around the reinforced boulders with more traps every few feet. A virtual mine field of alarms and real bombs that would be triggered by weight had been constructed to protect those inside the bunker.

The traps gave off energy that he felt through the hairs on his body. He had trained over and over, to be sensitive enough to know when there was a trap, a bomb, anything at all that would harm him or those relying on him.

Malichai made his way around the bunker. Due to the rock formation, it was quite a distance to the back of the bunker. There were no breaks in the rock and he finally went up, once again, using his strength and the gecko-like tiny hairs engineered into his hands that allowed him to hold not only his own weight, but another man as heavy as him. The hair was microscopic, but each single hair was divided into a thousand fine projections, sticking out like tiny brushes. Unseen, they were only felt. Malichai had to train for months in the proper way to ‘stick’ to a surface, and then learn to get unstuck. Once that was accomplished, he trained to climb fast and in silence. He could hang upside down or stay on a ceiling if needed.

He clung to the side of the rock, surveying the enemy camp and counting the six men in the bunker. The guard would make seven. Sleeping quarters was toward the back of the bunker. Two men were lying down. Two were drinking what looked like tea while another stood with a pair of night vision goggles looking toward the encampment where Braden and the others were, while the sixth man swept back and forth with his night vision binoculars over the snow-covered ground.

Malichai slowly crawled down the rock wall and made his way toward the back of the bunker where the guard would be. It was darkest there. None of the light from the fire reached the outer perimeter. Once in the darkness, he stalked the guard. The man was facing out away from him, thinking all danger would come from outside the bunker, not inside. Malichai didn’t waste time. Coming up behind him, he slammed his knife into the base of his skull, his hand over the guard’s mouth to muffle any sound and then carefully lowered him to the ground.

It’s done.

Rubin was on the wall on the opposite side. They took the two men sleeping first. They were a distance from the others and no one so much as turned to look at them, leaving them alone so they could get sleep. They crept up on the two men drinking tea and killed them quickly, catching the small glass vessels they drank their tea out of. The sentries watching the enemy were the last ones and they managed to kill them as well.

They left the fire burning brightly and this time, used the back entrances to the other two bunkers. Bunker One held only five men and they used the same configuration as Bunker Two. One man guarded the rear of the bunker against the off-chance that they would be attacked from that side. Two watched the enemy camp and the ground around the front of the bunkers while the other two rested. It was the same in Bunker Three.

When all the enemy was dead, Malichai and Rubin snuck back to camp. Above the bunkers were caves where they were concerned with the possibility that more of the enemy lived, so they didn’t dare blow up the weapons. They disabled the larger ones and made their way back to camp, arriving just before the helicopter was due.

Malichai indicated to Braden and the others that he wanted them silent as they made their way up the slope to the rendezvous’ point with the helicopter. They didn’t want to make any noise at all and tip off any of the enemy who might be staying in the caves that they were escaping.

Rubin took Jerry on his shoulders. He’d been given pain killers, but it still had to hurt like hell. Rubin didn’t say anything or ask questions, he just started up the slope. The moment he had traveled a few feet, a barrage of deadly fire hit just below them. Rubin caught Jerry in his arms and dove for cover.

Malichai swore. That answered the question whether or not there were more in the caves. Or at least, someone has showed up and discovered the dead.

“Shit,” Malichai hissed. “We missed a few.”

“That’s impossible,” Rubin denied, but he had his rifle out and ready after securing Jerry.

“I’ll get them out of there.” There was no choice. If they were going to get the wounded into the helicopter, they would have to make it safe for the helicopter to put down. Malichai had no choice, he had to go.

Braden shook his head. “You’re crazy man. You can’t face that kind of firepower.”

“Do you have any better ideas?” Malichai asked. His gaze was on Bunker Two. The Bunker was positioned to cover the mountain from almost any angle. Naturally, the enemy would have set up there. They didn’t need the other bunkers in order to control the entire area. He had to clear that bunker and get rid of the weapons. There was no point in hesitating. He had to do it now, before the helicopter decided it was too risky and left them—and before any more of the enemy decided to show themselves—if there were any more. Wouldn’t they already be out in force if there were? He couldn’t think about that.

Without further preamble, he left the safety of the boulders, sprinting from his position, down the slope toward the bunkers. Malichai charged into the gunfire, running low, using a zig-zag pattern with his enhanced speed. He had to leap over larger rocks and go around others. Bullets flew at him, never stopping, hundreds fired from the machine gun, tearing up the ground as he ran. Rocks exploded, sending pieces flying in the air. The bullets whipped around him, ripping at his clothing, tearing holes in the material and slicing pieces of skin. Still, he was up. He was running, his entire mind focused on the task in front of him.

No matter what, he had to silence those weapons. Bunker two contained at least three enemy. Three different weapons were being wielded. They meant business too. The sound was continuous, a booming thunder rolling over the top of him, so loud, his ears hurt. He had enhanced hearing and no matter how he tried to turn down the volume, with the heavy barrage of murderous machine gun fire, there was no way to do so.
Mortars hit the ground on two sides of him, nearly simultaneously, letting him know that Bunker one had at least one fighter still alive. No way could Rubin and he have missed that many of the enemy, even at night. Reinforcements must have arrived to take over, at least three or four, so more likely five. Had they been random? Men arriving? Had they been in the caves? Were there more? He could drive himself crazy wondering.

He dove for cover, rolled and came back up, hurling grenades over the barrier of Bunker two. He tossed grenade after grenade into the bunker. The enemy continued to fire at him until the grenades inside the bunker began to explode, one after the other. Bunker One’s fire was continuous, the bullets hitting all around him. One nearly parted his hair. He actually felt it burning along his scalp.

He heard Rubin’s rifle and then the fall of a body in Bunker Two. It was quieter after that and Malichai took another chance. Ignoring the firepower, the enemy threw at him from Bunker One, he ran the last few feet and leapt over the barricade, landing in the snow, his weapon ready and tracking, looking for anyone left alive in Bunker Two.

The smell of blood and death was heavy in the crowded bunker. Shrapnel had torn into bodies, ripping through them, leaving behind bloody shells he knew he wasn’t going to get out of his head for a long time. He had no choice but to wade through the blood and gore to reach the still intact mortar gun.

The barrage of bullets coming from the machine gun in Bunker One was a steady stream, zipping across the thick stone barricade and into the bunker, keeping Malichai pinned down. The mortar gun was lightweight, sitting on a tripod, the weapon resting on the metal plate. He swung the entire apparatus around so that it faced Bunker One rather than the boulders his wounded were camped behind.

He turned the explosive power of the mortar gun on the enemy. While he fired round after round into Bunker One, Rubin’s rifle also engaged, and he never missed. If he pulled the trigger, someone inevitably went down. After what seemed like forever, Bunker One fell silent. Malichai waited. There was no way to know for certain, but they couldn’t keep the helicopter waiting forever. It was all about fuel.

Everything was still and quiet. Malichai knew he had to check Bunkers One and Three, although there had been no gunfire from Three. They had to be able to load the wounded into the helicopter. It was waiting for the clear signal to land. He stepped out from behind the shelter of Bunker Two, heart pounding, mouth dry. Nothing stirred. He began to make his way over to Bunker One when machine gunfire erupted from behind the walls of Bunker One. It was fast. Furious. And blood-thirsty.

Malichai didn’t know how many times he was hit, but it felt like a dozen. Maybe more. Pain blossomed, spread like wildfire, all up and down his leg, from his calf to his thigh. There was no coming back when his leg was that torn up, flesh shredded, pulverized even. He knew he was a dead man as he crumpled to the ground. The bones in his leg were shattered. He felt that, the bursting pain that traveled through his system so bright and hot he nearly passed out. He fought that feeling, and ignoring the bullets still spitting at him. He began tearing off wrappings with his teeth and slapping field dressings over wound after wound. It was almost automatic, although he knew it was futile. There was so much blood, but he pressed the dressings over the worst of them. Five of the worst, where the blood was a fountain, spouting up like a whale.

Dr. Peter Whitney had developed a drug called Zenith. That drug would stop bleeding and force adrenaline into the body, allowing a wounded man to get to his feet. It was supposed to promote healing, but after a few hours, it began to do just the opposite, breaking down cells until the wounded died unless he was given a second drug to counteract the first. Whitney had been the man who conceived the GhostWalker program and psychically enhanced the soldiers who tested high in psychic ability. He also genetically altered them without their permission.

Second generation Zenith had been developed by Whitney’s daughter, Lily. She was a brilliant doctor and researcher. She was also one of the orphan girls Whitney had experimented on. For some reason, Whitney had chosen her as his successor and he had officially adopted her. She was married to a GhostWalker from Team One. Second generation Zenith was supposed to work without the ugly side effects. He hoped so. Zenith was all he had to keep him alive.

He waited, breathing deep until the drug hit his system. When it did, the heavy load of adrenaline from five patches was almost too much to handle. The dressings were already stopping the bleeding and sealing the wounds from the outside. He knew that didn’t mean he wasn’t bleeding internally, or that it could miraculously heal the broken bones, but the adrenaline gave him the necessary strength to move.

Malichai began to drag himself across the snow-covered ground. Jagged rocks were just below the surface, making it a struggle to keep going. Each time the shooter behind Bunker One rose up to aim at Malichai, another rifle barked and then a third. Braden and Jack clearly were helping to keep the enemy pinned down while Malichai painstakingly made his way to the Bunker.

It seemed he had used up quite a lot of his strength dragging his wounded leg behind him. He left a long trail of blood in the white snow. That trail of blood was an arrow, pointing out his position to the enemy. It didn’t matter that he wore specialized clothing to help hide him or that his enhancements would have kept him from being seen—the blood trail was a dead giveaway.

Although Rubin and the others kept the enemy pinned down, the machine gun was fired continuously so that bullets hit the ground mercilessly. He didn’t care. He knew, from the way he was bleeding, in spite of the Zenith, he was a dead man anyway. It wasn’t like he had a whole hell of a lot to lose. He had to give the helicopter a chance to land and take the wounded home.

Using the enormous strength in his arms, he dragged himself across the rugged, freezing ground until he was nearly on top of the enemy, right under their wall. He smelled them. Blood. Fear. Stink of the unwashed. He knew he smelled the same way. He lay there breathing, hoping no one poked a gun over the wall and finished him off before he got his task done.

He took the last of his grenades and tossed them over the wall, trying to hit the enemy squarely, just judging the distance by the sound of their moving around. The explosions rocked the wall so that debris fell on him, but there was no movement. He couldn’t get off his ass to go check to make certain he had actually gotten the last of their enemies.

Malichai listened for movement. For groans. For anything at all that would tell him even one person was still alive. When time passed and he heard nothing at all, he began the slow, arduous journey back across the ground toward the slope. He still had to make it back to where the helicopter was landing, and it seemed a million miles away. In the distance he could hear it coming in, and he was thankful, but he knew, in the back of his mind, that he wasn’t going to make it.

He should have told Ezekiel he loved him. Funny, he’d never said it to him. Not to him, not to Mordichai either. Then there was Rubin and Diego. They weren’t brothers by blood or birth, but they were brothers just the same. He hadn’t told them either.

“Shut up, Malichai,” Rubin said distinctly. “Conserve your strength. You’re not going to die. You do that and Ezekiel’s most likely gonna shoot my ass.”

That was true. Zeke could be like that. Malichai peered up at Rubin. He was there, rifle slung over his shoulder, his image wavering in and out as if he was more of a mirage. Malichai poked at him with a finger. “You real?”

“Real enough.”

“You getting me out of here?”

“Something like that. You weigh a ton, Malichai. I’m going to tell Nonny not to feed you so much.”

Rubin hoisted him on his back and rushed toward the helicopter already set down in the snow and rocks, stowing the wounded inside as fast as possible.

-- About Christine Feehan --
Christine Feehan is a #1 New York Times bestselling author multiple times over with her portfolio including over 70 published novels, including five series; Dark Series, Ghostwalker Series, Leopard Series, Drake Sisters Series, the Sisters of the Heart Series and Torpedo Ink. All of her series have hit the #1 spot on the New York Times bestselling list as well. Her debut novel Dark Prince received 3 of the 9 Paranormal Excellence Awards in Romantic Literature (PEARL) in 1999. Since then she has been published by various publishing houses including Leisure Books, Pocket Books, and currently is writing for Berkley/Jove. She also has earned 7 more PEARL awards since Dark Prince.

I've been a writer all of my life -- it is who I am. I write for myself and always have. The ability to create pictures and emotions with words is such a miracle to me. I read everything; I mean everything! All kinds of books, even encyclopedias. I am fascinated by the written word and I love storytellers. It is a great privilege to be counted one myself.

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