Badland Warriors, Book 4
by Marteeka Karland & Shara Azod
eBook BIN: 05970-01915
Michael, Alec and Vic are on a mission to rescue little Juliette’s mother, the Warrior they are convinced is their mate. It will take the help of many Warriors and Mutants to get them across the Badlands to the Great Abandoned City in the East. Most women wouldn’t stand up to the pressure. Fortunately, Evandra isn’t most women. She can take anything the Badlands — or her Marines — can dish out.
Wind rustled through the trees in the slight breeze, the scent of exotic flowers wafting over the camp. Though the smell was pleasing, Vic didn’t trust the calming effects it inspired. Out beyond the camp, which the first generation Warriors had carved out for all who made their way here, were things that defied definition. Some of the wild stories the government told the public to stop them from exploring beyond its borders were all too true. There was always danger lurking in the wilds of the Badlands. Being lulled into a false sense of security could get everyone killed, including little Juliette. The thought both enraged and terrified him more than anything he’d ever experienced. That was why she had to stay here, where it was safe, no matter how much she begged.
“I’ll just come with you.” Juliette picked up the small pack she’d put together and handed it to Vic as she started toward the towering trees that bordered the camp.
“Not so fast, little Warrior.” Alec plucked the precocious little girl from the ground, swinging her around in a wide arc. She erupted into a fit of giggles, flinging her hands wide and tilting her face toward the sky in complete trust. Despite his unease, Vic couldn’t help but smile. Who wouldn’t when the child was so obviously happy?
Vic opened the bag she’d packed so carefully and peered inside. Water, glow sticks, the strange little wafers she was always making that never seemed to go stale, and a couple of blankets. The little treats she’d packed were exceedingly filling and energizing. How did one so young have such extraordinary skills? She’d always seemed to just “know” things, but here in the encampment with children who were all extraordinary, she’d blossomed. There weren’t many of the little ones, as most of the original Warriors here had lost their mates long ago. There was no doubt it was better for her here than it had been in Camerico under WCGA rule. The World Council of Government Affairs would have locked her away and put her through numerous tests, maybe even terminating her had they discovered all the gifts she possessed.
In the weeks they’d prepared to go in search of Juliette’s mother, the girl had been right by their side, refusing to leave them, often offering input, advice, and even insight. At first, Vic had simply smiled and indulged her. Until he realized she completely understood everything they were planning. Then he began to take her ideas and build upon them. The result was astounding. The plan of attack, should they find the woman they sought in a WCGA stronghold, was as concise as it was simple.
Unfortunately, it also meant Juliette fully expected to accompany them even though they had told her several times it was too dangerous. Anything could happen to her out in the wilds of the Badlands. The possibility of her being hurt was too high to take the risk. They might be distracted by battling the many species that awaited the unwary, and she could get snatched or worse. No way any of them were allowing that to happen. Marines protected women and children. They didn’t take them into battle.
“You know we can’t take you with us, Juliette.” Vic tried to be as gentle as he could, knowing the child would insist and there would be tears. He couldn’t stand it when she cried. The only time she did was when the nightmares came, but Vic knew they’d never make it on their way without the child breaking his heart. “It’s too dangerous, and we need our full attention on the Badlands if we’re going to survive this.”
He waited, doing his best not to flinch as those peculiar blue eyes seemed to penetrate his soul. Truly, the girl had him wrapped around her little finger, and he didn’t give a damn. He’d give his life and very soul to protect her. If that meant she was displeased with him for a while — well, it would be hell, but he’d endure.
“She’s my mommy.” Juliette wiggled and squirmed until Alec put her down, lifting her chin stubbornly, not in the least intimidated by the three huge Marine Warriors. She came up to Vic’s waist, yet when they were in the company of others she often spoke for the group as if she were in charge. She displayed that same confident boldness now. “Besides, you need my help. I’m a good helper. You probably even forgot your magic wafers. But don’t worry. I put plenty for all of us in my pack.”
Michael smothered a smile as he met Vic’s gaze, but none of them would disrespect Juliette by actually laughing at her. She was just so damned cute! Besides, who knew? The child was so resourceful, she could probably take care of herself. None of them had any desire to test the hypothesis, though.
“Indeed, you’ve prepared well,” Vic answered sincerely, all traces of amusement firmly in check. “But I have a feeling your mother would have our hides if we brought you along. It’s too dangerous.”
She regarded him steadily, seeming to mull the thought over. Finally, she sighed, pouting a little. “You’re right. She doesn’t want me to go, but she’d be just as upset if you guys got into trouble.”
All three Marines went on alert. Vic stepped back, his attention focusing completely on their surroundings. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Michael did the same, taking up a position between the group and the edge of the encampment. Alec knelt in front of Juliette, taking one small hand in his. Vic’s attention was focused outside the group for any sign of danger, but he listened closely to Alec as he spoke softly to Juliette.
“You talk to her, then.” It wasn’t a question, though Vic knew Alec was as shocked as he was. “And she speaks to you as well?”
“Oh, yes. All the time.” There was a hesitation before she continued. Knowing the child as well as he did, Vic knew she was trying to put her thoughts and impressions into something they would understand. “But sometimes she tries to keep me out. When she does that, I think something bad is happening she doesn’t want me to know about. I can still feel her, but she won’t talk to me.”
“And now?” Alec coaxed gently.
“She’s OK now. I think she’s tired, but she’s a little…” She seemed to struggle for the right word. “Annoyed? I’m not sure. I just think you better find her pretty quick or she’s gonna be really mad.”
Vic spared a quick glance at Juliette. Her crystalline blue eyes seemed to sparkle with urgency as if she were afraid her mother might punish the three of them for being naughty or something. Sweet heaven! The thought of the girl’s mother punishing them sent a jolt of something wicked through the pit of his stomach straight to his cock. He nearly groaned aloud before turning his body to prevent Juliette from seeing something she shouldn’t. If he’d actually met Juliette’s mother, he’d have sworn she was his mate. But, not only had they never met her, he’d never made any kind of contact with her.
The child seemed to be able to move through their minds or project her own thoughts and emotions to them if she chose, but they had no psychic ability with her at all. Even their connection to each other was more a product of working, training, and hunting together for so many years than from a mental bond. There had been moments when Vic swore he could feel Alec or Michael’s emotions, but they’d never communicated telepathically or even shared the same dreams like the Comanche First Generation Warriors.
No. It had to be simply an overactive imagination given the sounds coming from the Comanche hut in the evening. The obvious pleasure the three Marines took with their mate would have any man hard and ready.
As if they’d known Vic was thinking about them, the three First Gen warriors strode toward them from the center of camp. Their mate, Aylen, hurried toward Juliette in greeting. The girl gave the woman a big grin before leaping into her arms and giggling when Aylen tickled her tummy.
Vic turned his attention to Baer, Tyger, and Wulf in greeting. With the presence of other Warriors, the sense of urgency to be on their way grew inside Vic. The Comanche and Aylen would see to Juliette’s safety while they were gone. They needed to find the woman and bring her back.
“We have seen into the mists through the spirit walk.” Wulf met Vic’s gaze steadily with an emotionless face. “You must go now if you are to succeed in your quest to bring Juliette’s mother back to her.”
“We fear she is in danger,” Tyger continued. “The spirit walk is not always clear, but…”
“Better not to take the chance,” Vic finished, glancing at Juliette, who had gone silent and was extricating herself from Aylen’s arms. The child marched over to him, regarding him with an unflinching gaze. “Not to worry, Juliette. We will bring your mother home safe.”
She continued to look at him as if weighing his words and the truth in them. Finally she sighed. “It’s not her I’m worried about.”
Vic handed her pack back to her, but Juliette shook her head. “I didn’t really expect to go. But I packed enough magic wafers for all of you and my mother. I could only fit in two blankets, so you’ll have to share.” As always, his little warrior surprised him. She would be a handful in the years to come.
All of them said their goodbyes to Juliette, Aylen assuring them she’d take good care of the little girl. Vic knew it was silly to be so worried about Juliette. After all, Aylen had taken care of her for a long time before they’d even met the child. Still, Vic couldn’t help but feel like she was their responsibility. He’d grown so used to having her there, to enjoying her company as well as teaching her as much as he could about his way of life, that the separation was going to be hard on him. He hadn’t even left, and he already dreaded not tucking her in for the night. The ache was so unfamiliar, he actually winced and rubbed his hand over his chest. So many unaccustomed emotions had awakened in him over the last few weeks, it was hard to assimilate them all. For one who had never known anything but duty and honor, the fear of loss was… uncomfortable.
They set out at a blistering pace. Alec took the lead, Michael the left flank, Vic the right, staying close enough to signal each other by sight but far enough away to hide their numbers if necessary. They all seemed to share Vic’s urgency because they continued well into the night when they should have made camp.
By the time they finally stopped for a few hours, they were exhausted, breaking the first rule of survival in the Badlands. Never get so tired you have to rely on someone else to watch your back. Vic set up a tight perimeter with a low output force field. Anything stronger would use up too much power, and their battery supply might have to last several days. Still, it would be enough to give them warning should anything get too close.
They said nothing as they bedded down. Vic was certain Michael and Alec were asleep almost immediately. It was their way to catch sleep on a moment’s notice, but Vic fought sleep for the first time in his adult life. Glancing at his pod mates, he finally sighed and fell into sleep.
* * *
Breathy moans tickled Vic’s senses. The sweet fragrance of feminine breath made him inhale deeply, trying to capture the elusive scent. If he could just hold something of the woman close to him, he could find her anywhere. Through the shadowy gloom, he could just make out a woman with long, flowing hair. The breeze caught the blue-black strands, whipping them all around her like a silken cloud as she walked toward them. The sway of her hips sent blood straight to his cock, and he heard one of his pod mates groan.
Vic turned his head slightly, never taking his gaze from the woman but able to see Alec to his left. Without looking, he knew Michael was on the other side and that he was adjusting his pants over his aching crotch. Vic marked that little detail down to it being a dream. Being pod mates, there had been a tentative mental connection, but nothing like this.
Without asking, Vic knew Michael’s cock ached just looking at the woman. Alec couldn’t believe any of it was happening and was as confused as Vic was. If this was only a dream, why did it feel all too real?
No. It wasn’t just the feelings mixing through all of them. It was everything. Sight. Scent. Sound. Sensation. Vic was certain that, if he closed the scant few feet separating him and the woman, he could bend his head and taste her golden brown skin. His dream was that real.
Instinctively, he knew the woman was Juliette’s mother. The woman they searched for. Though why they all seemed so fascinated with the perfection of her body, he didn’t know. All that mattered, however, was scooping her up and carrying her back to camp.
And making love with her until she knew who she truly and completely belonged to.
“I belong to no one.” Her voice seemed to echo in the stillness around them. “I make my own destiny. But I like the making love idea.” Her voice was teasing. Mesmerizing. Her face was shrouded in mist, but the blue-black of her hair and golden hue of her skin peeked at him with tantalizing glimpses of what he was sure would be paradise. Her startlingly vivid blue eyes seemed to glow from the mist as she continued to approach them. Vic could never quite get a good look at her face, but he knew she would be beautiful.
She knelt before them, the fog swirling around their thighs and her body, obscuring her even though she was so close Vic could feel the warmth of her breath brushing his cock. The others moved closer. Both of them stroked themselves openly, unashamed of the effect the woman had on them. Vic found he had much the same feelings and he grasped his cock, offering it to her just to see what she’d do.
Without hesitation, she wrapped slender-fingered hands around Alec and Michael as she held Vic’s gaze. “I bow to no man, Warrior.” Her eyes never left his. “Remember this night because I’ll never do it again.”
When her mouth closed around Vic, his eyes crossed and he threw his head back and groaned. His knees nearly buckled, but he held himself upright by sheer force of will. Then her mouth left him to find Alec, then Michael. She sucked and licked all three as if pleasuring them this way was the most important thing in her world, a direct contradiction to her words. Yet she continued.
Vic didn’t care if it was a dream, or some kind of spirit walk like the Comanche often participated in. The only thing that mattered was her mouth around his dick.
Just as Vic was certain he’d reached the end of his endurance and would explode in the most intense orgasm imaginable, the world dimmed around him and the woman became as insubstantial as the mists surrounding her. “You will find me in the compound on the Eastern end of the Badlands next to the sea. Come by tomorrow night, or don’t come at all.” Everything brightened as if a light shone directly into his face, and Vic raised a hand to shield his eyes…
…to find the morning sun shining brightly through the canopy of trees of their small camp. He hastily sat up, looking unerringly to his pod mates. With satisfaction, he noted Michael and Alec looked as shaken as he felt.
Groaning, Vic fell back to the ground. Fuck. If the woman was anything like she was in the dream, they were so screwed.