Retrieval

The GenTech Chronicles: Book 1

Lea Griffith

 

Chapter 1

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Chicago

Skylar had pulled thirty-six hours straight, cutting, sewing, setting, and diagnosing so many patients she couldn’t even remember why she’d agreed to do the extra shifts in the first place. Still something nagged at her, pricked at that part of her that was always prepared for the unknown, even as weariness slowed her steps and made her vision hazy. She rubbed her gritty eyes.

Her stomach rumbled as she passed items that looked like food, but had long since congealed into disgusting mounds of colored goo under the warming lights of the hospital buffet. Nausea or true hunger, it was hard to tell. She loaded a tray with bread and juice.

“What’s up?” she asked her sisters as she sat down at their table. Her body wilted into the hard plastic chair beneath her.

“Not a damn thing. The question really is: What’s up wit’ chou?” Raina asked in her best Sly Stallone voice.

Her impression was horrible. A cross between a New York boxer gone bad and a laid-back Southern rapper gone good, it wasn’t pretty, but it was effective because it made Skylar laugh most days. Today all she could muster was a tired sigh.

“We heard from Kinsey today.” Piper dropped that bomb as Skylar opened her juice container.

“Yeah? She’s good?”

“Said she was, but you know how Kinz is. She’s the understatement queen of the world.”

“So, when’s she coming in?” Skylar asked.

“She’ll be in later. Said she’s looking forward to some peach cobbler and—” Piper was cut off by Skylar’s raised hand waving between them.

“Not cookin’ this evening, ladies. You’ll have to scrounge for grub on your own.” She drained the entire contents of her juice container in one gulp.

“Come on, Sky,” Raina whined, “I don’t want takeout again.”

“Shut up, Raina,” Piper said in a low, threatening voice.

“No. You shut up, Piper,” Raina returned in an equally terroristic tone.

“Ladies, why don’t both of you shut up and occupy your mouths with the food in front of you for now.” She was saved from having to say anything else as a nurse from the hospital’s ICU walked up to their table.

“Incoming,” Piper murmured.

“Hey, guys.” Julie Everett’s tinny voice was nails on a chalkboard.

“S’up?” Raina asked as she reached over and placed her hand on Skylar’s arm.

Neither Piper nor Skylar acknowledged the woman’s presence.

“Well, you know I’m having that party tonight? You’re all gonna be there, right?”

The woman turned away for a split second, and Skylar shook her head furiously at her sisters. She was about to voice her apologies for not being able to show when a movement to her left caught her attention. A premonition of danger swept over Skylar. Before she could stop the impulse, she’d enfolded her sisters in a protective shell of energy. Unnoticeable to others because it was clear, the shell was nevertheless impenetrable and completely effective. You could still see them—they didn’t disappear behind the unseen wall of energy, but it stopped projectiles like, oh say, bullets.

“What the hell is it, Sky?” Piper questioned as she moved her body into a more defensive position.

“I don’t know. Raina put out your little feeler thingies, and tell me what’s up to my immediate left, please?”

Raina’s face scrunched up in concentration. “I’m not getting jack. You’re shielding too hard for me to pick up anything. What’s up with using my feeler thingies? Yours on vacation or something?” Raina snorted. She refocused her attention to the left of her sister.

After a few moments, Raina’s face cleared, and her attention drew down.

“Um, I got nothing, Sky. All’s clear.”

“Okee dokee. Guess I’m wound a little tight. So, that’s it then, I’m gonna let it go. Oh, and Piper? That’s a big fat hell no to hitting that party. I’m tired and not in the mood to do anything with that loud-mouthed, falsetto’d up, freakishly small woman.” She let her shield drop.

Her sisters had spent their entire lives feeling the distinctive pop when their big sister dropped her shields. They didn’t blink an eye, even though it was something they’d never quite gotten used to.

“You got it, one big fat ‘hell no’ to the party thrown by the freakishly small, falsetto voiced woman behind you. Oh, shit. Do you think she heard me?” Piper asked with a smirk.

Raina’s hand tightened on Skylar’s arm, her normally silvery white gaze, amber bright and rueful as the connection between them gave her sight. “Not a chance. I don’t think she heard a damn thing. She’s moved on to bigger and, oh my sweet goodness gracious, much better things than you, Piper. Look. At. That.” Raina pointed in the direction Skylar had wanted her to feel out just a few seconds ago.

Curiosity got the best of Sky. She half turned in her seat to peer in the direction her sister pointed. Skewered by the most intense set of blue eyes she’d ever seen, her breath deserted her. His gaze was a punch to the soul. Damn.

The cafeteria faded as her entire world narrowed down to him. Lightning rippled along her nerves. Muscles twitched under her skin. She stood and moved toward him. I have to get to him. His eyes widened as he straightened in his seat. Gooseflesh rose on her arms, and her nipples hardened under her surgical scrub top.

An iron filing to his magnet, she was powerless to stop the forward momentum of her body. She bumped into others, sending trays flying, and people stumbling. Uncaring, she continued to move ahead. The scent of cedar wood and dark chocolate teased her. She licked her lips, desperate for a taste.

She’d become what she’d always feared: a creature of pure instinct. The man had become her primary focus. Her only objective. A feeling of panic caused adrenaline to arc through her. She was almost there.

Before she could reach the table where he was seated, Piper intervened. Her sister caught her arm and redirected her from her intended target.

“Let me go, Piper,” Skylar whispered. She cast for his scent like an animal in heat.

“No. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

“Don’t make me zap your ass, Piper. Let. Me. Go.” Skylar emphasized her command with a short, sharp burst of energy directed at Piper.

“Get real, Sky. That little zap was nothing. Now wake the fuck up out of this little stupor. People are starting to look at you funny, and that man you were making a beeline toward is still watching you. Yo. You with me?” Piper steered her to the cafeteria door.

Skylar stopped and shook her head. What the hell am I doing? She moved willingly toward the exit of the cafeteria with her sister.

“What, in the name of all that’s holy, is going on?” Piper asked in a furious whisper. Outside of the cafeteria, Sky collapsed against the opposite wall. Her chest heaved as if she’d just run a sprint, and she bent over to put her hands on her thighs, trying to get her bearings. Raina walked out of the cafeteria.

Piper and Raina moved to either side of their sister. They lifted her under each arm and began half carrying her down the hall. She was still breathing heavily, but managed to gather herself enough to help her sisters, walking with them instead of being carried.

They’d reached the elevators when a loud command came from behind.

“Stop!”

The man from the cafeteria was moving pretty damn fast toward them with three other big males following his lead.

“Shield us now, Sky,” Piper demanded in a grating voice. She pushed the elevator buttons furiously in an attempt to get the doors to open.

“Now, Sky … you’ve got three, two, okay that’s no seconds left. They’re almost on us,” Raina said in a low voice.

“I won’t shield. Not against him. Who is he?” Sky whispered brokenly. Why can’t I block him out?

She turned to meet the onslaught of men coming toward them. There were four of them, but what the one at the rear had in his hands finally gave her the strength to throw a shield to protect her sisters. If burly dude in the back was thinking about using that pretty little Walther he was waving around, they were all going to tote one major ass whooping, whether they were looking for one or not.

Skylar didn’t want to hurt them. But her sisters’ safety came before all others. Even her own. She was the first, the strongest, and therefore had a duty to the others. Sky threw the shield, and at the same time reached into the men’s minds and took control, stopping them in their tracks. Each man struggled against her hold on his mind, disbelief not the only emotion they communicated. These were strong men, and their confusion at being unable to move pushed at her.

“Son of a bitch! You cut it a little close, doncha think?” Piper’s tone was caustic.

“Watch your mouth, Piper. Ladies don’t speak that way,” she tossed right back as she concentrated on manipulating the matter around them.

She wanted it to appear as if they were moving into the elevator instead of standing right where they’d been. She needed to get her sisters away from them, ASAP. Good thing she had lots of nifty tricks up her sleeve.

“Where the hell are you going?” the burly dude at the rear called out to the vision she’d created.

They’d see what Sky wanted them to, unless she dropped the shield. As far as they knew, the women were now on an elevator, headed to the ground level.

“That was a fucking waste of time. We’ve been scoping them for three damn weeks. Smythe-Ward will go ballistic if we lose them now. They’ll tuck and run, Sebastian,” another one of the men spit out.

“Fall out, and get to the ground floor. We don’t have a choice but to find them. Meet back at the house in two hours. Morrissey, you track the women, and see if you can get a lock on their location. Rover, your ass is with me. Bleak, you’re with Morrissey.”

He was their leader then. Sebastian. She didn’t have time to stand around. She’d heard all she needed to when she’d heard that bastard’s name.

Smythe-Ward. Screw what a lady would say. Fuck, shit, and damn! It was time to pack up, and leave Chicago. Sky needed to grab her book from its hiding place. She hoped Kinsey was already at the house. Once they had her book and her errant sister, they were good to go.

“Well, ladies, you heard him. The bastard either sent them to bring us back, or they’re on some kind of mission for Uncle Sam. Either way, they’re a danger to us, and our time is up. Let’s get the ‘F’ out of Dodge,” Sky said in a near whisper.

“You don’t have to whisper, ya know. They can’t hear us,” Raina said in a mocking whisper herself.

“Yeah, yeah, smart ass, I know I don’t have to whisper. Let’s jet.”

All of the women turned and ran in the opposite direction of the men. Skylar slid past them but stopped as she passed by the man they’d called Sebastian. He couldn’t see her, she was shielded, but something in his expression led her to believe he knew exactly where she was. He was locked onto her for those few seconds. She forced herself to shake off an unfamiliar longing and turned to catch up with her sisters. As soon as she was far enough away from the danger they represented, she released the men.

God help them all if they met up again. Would she be able to walk away from him a second time?

*

The woman was a complete surprise. If he’d had proof that his objectives were capable of doing what he’d been told they were, Sebastian would’ve let this entire mission pass. Realist that he was, he’d told himself nothing like what Dr. Dolan Smythe-Ward had told them was possible. Surely not from the petite, extremely sexy woman he’d just seen.

Damn if she hadn’t given him and his men the slip. One minute she and her sisters had been in the hallway, and the next they, or rather a pretty picture of them, were boarding the elevator. Neither he nor his men had been able to move to catch them. She hadn’t restrained them physically. Oh, hell no. He could’ve fought that. She’d prevented him from being able to command his body to movement. That was unacceptable. His men would want to discuss it later. He felt a headache inching its way up the back of his skull. He was disgusted with the entire situation.

She’d stopped him in his tracks, and that was before she’d looked at him in the cafeteria like she wanted to inhale him and dive in for seconds. Nah, it’d happened weeks ago, the first time he’d seen her picture while making the decision to take this job.

Damn! When he’d seen her walk into the lunchroom, his entire body had gone on alert. Deep inside of him, need had taken root. It was the closest he’d physically been to her, and he’d not been prepared. Lust of that magnitude was beyond his scope of experience.

She was short, no more than five feet two inches. That put her more than a whole foot shorter than he was. One look into her eyes, and he’d wanted to stand over her, protect her from the world that was fast closing in on her and her sisters. Was she in danger now? Yeah, she’s in danger. She just stopped your ass cold. She can probably take care of herself.

Fine-boned, creamy golden skin and deep auburn hair that held shades of the darkest night and the noonday sun, she surpassed beautiful. Her eyes, slightly upturned like a cat’s, were the purest whiskey-gold color he’d ever seen on a person. Her mouth was a perfect coral-pink bow, and when she’d licked her lips after drinking that damn juice earlier, he’d almost lost his mind. She was lush, curvy in all the right places, and she loved to laugh. Out of all the things that attracted him, it was the woman’s laugh that kept him hard and up all night. Through the bugs they’d placed outside her residence, he’d listened to her talk to her sisters for hours. They argued, debated, and made jokes. Her laughter gutted him, but at the same time it was the ultimate high.

It made him uncomfortable. She made him uncomfortable. There was something about this woman that drove him to another level of awareness. When their eyes met earlier, and she’d begun moving toward him, he’d felt an inexplicable pull toward her. The want had been a textural strand between them. It had taken his entire fifteen years of combat training to keep him rooted in his seat. He’d wanted to meet her ass halfway, tackle her to the floor, and claim her—for hours. It’d been a really close thing. His control had been seriously tested.

If he wasn’t careful, he’d lose objectivity. He’d much rather be on the trigger end of a gun than looking down the barrel of one. She boggled his mind. Maybe he’d be better off just calling quits on this job right now.

He’d innately known that the women remained in the corridor. His neck had prickled, and his gut had tightened. If he were a betting man, he’d have laid odds that Morrissey, Bleak and Rover had felt them too. But with an inability to actually see them, he could only get himself ready for tracking them down. He’d felt her turn back toward him, and his entire body had tingled for a few seconds before her presence retreated. He really did not need this crazy shit in his life right now.

He and Rover made their way to the exit to begin the hunt. God help them all when they met up again. He wouldn’t allow her to leave him a second time.