Riddled with guilt, Maddox does everything in his power to help Serena survive the ordeal of her past.
Shapeshifter regeneration enzymes can be manufactured into a cure-all pill for humans. Jenson Pharmaceuticals is at the lead of this cutting-edge technology. Shifters are unwilling donors and die when their enzymes run dry.
Serena Macon can’t live with the knowledge that the pills she takes to stave off a mysterious illness cause the death of innocent shapeshifters. There is only one option left for her. Knowing that her death is certain, she makes the decision to take out Jenson before killing herself. But everything goes wrong, and she ends up locked in a cell with an enormous Kodiak shifter who volunteered for Jenson’s breeding program.
Maddox Beirne is a Kodiak shifter with a Dark. Guilt is his constant companion. When the witch’s card indicates he’s the only one capable of rescuing a mysterious woman from the clutches of the evil scientist, he knows he has one shot at redemption.
Just when Serena knows her life can’t get any worse, a seven-foot werebear destroys all her fears and shows her what love should be. Only, the love she shares with Maddox has finally produced the one thing Jenson has always wanted.
Secert Blood Book 6
His mate was dying.
Maddox Beirne worked his jaw as he stared down at the witch’s cards. She’d asked her deck one simple question. Who is the missing woman’s mate?
Senica, the witch, had one card turned up. A giant Kodiak bear dominated the image.
Maddox was the only werebear in the county.
All eyes turned on him.
Well, shit. He sauntered to the empty chair across from Senica at the table and sat. “How do we find her?”
Senica brushed a raven lock away from her pale blue eyes. “I don’t know.”
Demetri, the nightwalker who had pulled the information about the Macon woman out of her brother’s head, stood by the door, his ominous expression going darker. “I don’t think I have the correct name.”
“How in the hell is that possible?” Senica snapped. “We’ve been working off your reading of Philip for months.”
“I know,” Demetri snarled as the tribal tattoos of his nightwalker state glowed. “But that’s what I have. Maybe Jenson found a way to fuck with memories along with everything else.”
Maddox snorted and then shoved up to his feet. For months, everyone believed Demetri and the woman—an October Macon—would end up romantically attached to each other. But for as long as he’d known Senica, her cards had never been wrong. The woman, trapped in a hell only a mad scientist could create, might be the one woman with whom he could hope to find the same everlasting love his parents had. He knew how to settle this problem. He crossed the kitchen, opened the door to the basement, and walked down the stairs. The little bastard who discovered how to lie to a nightwalker would not lie to him.
Philip Macon sat on the floor in the center of a cage, reading a comic book. The team working the Shifter Shelter kept Philip around for the intel Demetri could extract from him, which proved right most of the time. It was Kenzie, the human mate of the weretiger running the Shelter, who refused to let anyone hurt this worthless human.
Maddox leaned against the bars. “What’s your sister’s name?”
Philip lifted a brow and then laughed. “October.”
His days of not talking were done. Maddox grabbed two bars of the steel cage, and with little effort, bowed them enough for Maddox to reach in and pluck Philip off the floor. Maddox slammed the asshole against the bars and then pulled Philip’s head down. He bent the bars back into place, trapping Philip in the awkward position where he’d strangle himself if he didn’t keep standing.
“Care to share now?” Maddox leaned against the bars.
“Kenzie won’t let you keep me like this,” Philip whined. “Let me go.”
“What’s her real name?” Maddox yawned as if he were bored. “Don’t think Kenzie will have her mate try to intimidate me. I’m bigger than he is.”
Philip refused to give the information while he struggled, but Maddox had patience. He could wait until Philip grew tired. He yowled and screamed, but no one came. No one would dare piss off a Kodiak shifter who needed to get to his mate before she died.
Philip’s knees shook, and he pushed at the bars. “Serena,” he said after two hours, tears streaming down his face. “Her name is Serena. Her birth month is October. Jenson said I couldn’t let any of you know her real name because you’d kill her to stop the drug trials. He helped me train my thoughts to keep her identity secret.”
Maddox patted him on the head. “Good boy. Where do I find her?”
Philip gave him an address.
“Thanks,” said Maddox as he sauntered toward the stairs.
“Hey, aren’t you going to let me out of this?” Philip yelled.
Maddox laughed. “Sure. Just as soon as I check the name and address you gave me.”
Maddox ignored the pitiful yowls as he walked up the stairs and back into the kitchen.
Kenzie stood there with wide eyes filled with horror. “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing Ty can’t undo.” He pinned her with a look. “The girl’s name is Serena, and I know where to start looking for her.”
He didn’t bother to wait for anyone else as he walked out of the house and got into his truck. He entered the address into his GPS. At least what Philip gave him was located on a map.
Senica opened the passenger door. “What are you doing?”
Maddox lifted a brow. “I’m going to get my mate. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“You’re gonna need help,” she said as though she hadn’t been the one to declare Serena’s mate might be the only one capable of finding her.
Maddox snorted. “I’ll text you the address once I’m sure that little bastard isn’t sending me on a wild goose chase.”
Senica fisted her hands. “If she’s in as much trouble as we think she is, you might not be in any condition to help her if she really is your mate.”
Maddox reached over and gently pushed her away from his truck. “Trust me. She’s gonna need an enraged Kodiak if she’s where I think she is.”
He pulled the door closed and hit the locks before firing up the engine. This nightmare with Jenson Pharmaceuticals was his fault. If he’d been in the lab with Tiberius and Godric the day Dr. Harrison Butler had been murdered, the eight-year reign of terror Jenson and his minions inflicted on shifterkind would have never started.
Three Days Later
Time ran out. Serena stared at the lone pill in the bottle. If she didn’t take it, she’d be dead inside a week. If she did take the pill, she was no better than Jenson. She covered her mouth with her hand. Last week, right after she had dosed herself, Jenson himself told her where the magic pills come from and then took her on a tour of his nightmare facility.
Shapeshifters died for her chance to live. The tiny pill held in it a shifter’s ability to regenerate.
A year ago, she’d have thought the doctor was mad, but today she knew he was insane. He’d given her the pills. One a week, he’d said, would keep her alive until he could find a cure for her mysterious illness.
But that had been months ago—when she’d held out a small hope her brother wasn’t a complete bastard and hadn’t sold her health to the devil for drug trials she’d never agreed to be a part of. She’d learned so much since then. Shifters—hell, every type of magical creature and person imaginable—were real.
She’d witnessed what Jenson did to those men and women. Animals, he’d called them, but Jenson was the monster.
Serena drew in a deep breath and picked up the bottle. To take the pill was using someone else’s life force to save her own, but to throw it away was wasting that life, too.
She had let Jenson subject her to pills and blood draws every week because she hadn’t known Jenson himself had been the one to make her sick. She’d gone to the doctor Philip had recommended to her when she’d moved back to Philadelphia. She’d had what she’d thought was the flu. But the doctor Philip suggested told her she needed a specialist. He sent her to Jenson. From then on, she could only have a normal life if Jenson continued to feed her the pills.
A tear slipped down her cheek. She didn’t want to die, but she couldn’t—wouldn’t—be the reason Jenson continued to torture shapeshifters.
They are people.
And Philip hadn’t called her in months.
She brushed her tears away and walked out of the bathroom and headed right for the kitchen. Her little apartment had been her haven during the last few months—that was until she realized armed men were constantly watching her. She grabbed a steak knife from the block next to the microwave. There wasn’t another choice for her. How many people lost their lives to provide her with medicine? She turned her free hand and stared at the artery on her wrist. One slice and it would all be over. She wouldn’t be tempted to go back to Jenson Pharmaceuticals for another bottle of pills. There wasn’t anything special about her. She worked retail to pay for her soap-making addiction. She wasn’t needed in this world. Not really. Hell, no one would even notice she was gone.
Her phone chirped to alert her of a text message, and she dropped the knife. She turned to the table and picked up her device.
He wanted to help her. Each time she thought she’d found the courage to let him know where she was and what was happening to her, one of those armed men pretended he needed a cup of sugar or another common household item. Her phone was bugged when she’d wanted to live. But she didn’t want help. Not anymore.
Taking those pills had turned her into a murderer.
She slapped her phone on the table and retrieved her knife when her cell rang. For a moment she wanted to ignore the ringtone—the one she used for Jenson’s office. But then she cursed and snagged the phone. “What do you want?”
Jenson laughed. “Right about now you’re thinking of killing yourself. Pity. I had arranged for a magic healer to come in this afternoon for you. No more pills. No more blood draws. One more trip here, and you’re free to live your life however you wish.”
Serena set the knife on the table and padded into her bedroom. She pulled open the drawer of the nightstand, where she kept her gun. The one she’d been told to use on shifters if one ever broke into her apartment. She forced a smile on her face, hoping Jenson would hear it in her voice. “Of course I’ll come in for that, Dr. Jenson.”
“Great. Can you get here in an hour?” There was too much glee in his voice.
She picked up the gun and checked the chamber. “I’ll be there.”
She disconnected the call. Serena put the gun in her purse, pulled her hair back into a ponytail, grabbed her keys, and headed out the door.
If she was going to be a murderer, she was going to make the last death count. She got directly into her car and drove straight to the main headquarters of the pharmaceutical company. A black van followed. The one that always followed her since she’d started taking the pills. After parking, she walked briskly to the building, which was set in a rustic, rural area surrounded by trees. She gave the guard at the door a pretty smile as she walked by. She’d been in this building once a week for the last six months. The guard didn’t stop to check the contents of her purse. When people described you as being sweet and kind of a doormat, others tended to think of you as nonthreatening.
The guard knew he protected a man who tormented good people in the basement of the building. She held her purse like she normally did, hoping not to draw attention to herself, and made her way to the elevator that would take her up to Jenson’s personal office. The attendant, who had a gun at his hip, hit the buttons for her.
“Thank you,” Serena said as cheerfully as she could. The elevator stopped, and she walked into the main lobby on the top floor. This was it. She was going to do this, and whatever happened next, she’d deal with it until she died next week. She strolled past the receptionist.
“Serena,” the woman called. “You can’t just walk back there.”
“I don’t care,” Serena said. She quickened her pace when the guards started toward her, and she bolted into Jenson’s office.
He was on the phone.
She closed the door and locked it before she pulled her gun and dropped her purse. “It’s time to hang up.”
Jenson laughed. “Oh, Serena, you won’t pull the trigger.”
Her hands shook. “Why not? People have already died for me.”
Jenson hung up the phone and stood. “Yes, they have. It’s why you have all the lovely freedoms you do in this country.”
“I’m talking about those shifters.” A tear trekked down her cheek. “How many of them did you kill to make my pills?”
“You’ve never met a shifter,” Jenson said in a dark tone. “They are animals.”
“I saw people!” Serena yelled.
“I know you think you did, but sweetheart, they aren’t human.” He took a step to move around his desk.
Serena fired the gun, hitting his high polished desk right in the center. “Sit.”
She moved in closer and put her back to the wall. “What are the names of the men who lost their lives to cure me of a disease you created?”
“I don’t know,” Jenson said in a subdued tone. “What does it matter?”
“Where is my brother?” Her whole body trembled with rage.
“The shifters killed him.” Jenson’s gaze met hers. “They are monsters.”
“I don’t believe you,” she snapped.
Jenson looked at the camera in the corner and nodded.
Serena’s brow furrowed, and she dropped the gun. Something sharp bit her neck. She stumbled and landed hard on her knees. Light-headed and woozy, Serena plucked a dart from her throat and stared at it before she slugisly reached for her weapon.
Jenson was up and over the table before she could retrieve her gun. He snatched up the weapon and shoved it into his pocket.
The door opened and several men with firearms filed into the room.
Jenson stooped. He grabbed her hair. “You ungrateful little bitch. I think you need to know what kind of monsters they really are.” He yanked her up to her feet and shoved her at one of the guards.
The man caught her and had to hold her up because she couldn’t maintain her balance with whatever had been in that dart.
“Take her downstairs,” Jenson said. “And give her to the big one they just brought in.”
The guard shoved her out of the room and dragged her down the hall to a bank of elevators. She shook her head and tried to make her double vision stop as the elevator car dropped into the sub-basement. The guard shoved her out into a sterile, white corridor with no windows. He dragged her down the hall while she struggled to get free. The guard pushed her into a room, empty except for one chair and a white hospital-style gown, only it had a back.
The guard looked her up and down. “Put that on. You have five minutes. If you’re not changed when I get back, I’ll put it on for you.”
Serena sank to the floor as the door closed. It took her a minute, but her balance was starting to come back.
She should have just shot the bastard. She did as the guard told her. If he had to dress her, she was sure he wouldn’t keep his hands to himself. And now she was a damn test subject. At least she’d be dead by this time next week.
The door opened and a man in a white orderly’s uniform grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet. “This way.”
She stumbled as she tried to keep up with the man’s long stride. He stopped by the door and grabbed a clipboard. “Lucky you. You’re going in with the new volunteer. Maybe we’ll actually get a viable breeding to happen.”
Serena yanked her arm out of the man’s hold as her heel slammed down on top of the orderly’s foot, and she ran as fast as she could toward the elevators.
The guard tackled her. Her head bounced off the hard tile floor. The guard bound her hands behind her back with what felt like zip ties, and then he yanked her to her feet by her hair. “Just keep being stupid, sweetheart. That makes this much more fun.”
Both the guard and the orderly held on to her as they dragged her down the hall. They stopped at a large door. The orderly used a key card and punched in the code.
A low growl rumbled from the other side of the room.
The orderly pulled her head back. “This was the woman you wanted?”
“Yes,” the giant said with a deep, rumbling voice. “She’s precisely the one.”
“Enjoy fucking,” the orderly said and shoved Serena into the room.
She landed on her butt and screamed when the door closed. The giant stalked toward her. Although she couldn’t stop the whimper of fear, she did her best to scoot backward on her butt to the corner, not that it would do any good. The man was gargantuan, and she had no place to hide.
He crouched down next to her.
“Serena Macon.” His tone was oddly gentle.
Her head bobbed because she didn’t think lying to a seven-foot-tall shifter was intelligent. Although she no longer cared if she died, she wasn’t keen on the idea of being tortured first.
“You’re birth month is October?” His voice went softer as if he was trying to make his frightening size less threatening.
What the fuck did he care? “Yes.”
When he didn’t say anything else, she peeked up at him.
Dark brown hair was buzzed on the sides, and a swath of hair down the middle hung to his shoulders. Fierce icy blue eyes assessed her. He cocked his head to the side, and a soft rumble emanated from his chest as if he were growling. Fangs dropped into his mouth, and massive claws appeared on his enormous hands.
Serena bit her lip to keep from whimpering. He was going to change shape, and then he’d want to—oh God, she couldn’t do this.
He grabbed her forearm and turned her around. There was a slight tug on the zip ties holding her arms painfully behind her back.
Then her arms were free.
She scooted away from the gargantuan man dressed only in a pair of white hospital pants. His head cocked and his jaw worked as something like rage burned in his eyes. He stared at her for a long couple of moments before saying, “What do you know about mating shifters?”
Serena swallowed hard and stared at him as she tried to work out what she’d been told.
The man backed up, and then sat in the center of the barren room.
“J-Jenson says you have to be in animal form for a breeding to work.” God, she hated the fear in her voice.
“Fucked up bastard,” the giant said, and the sound that came out of him next could only be a growl. “No, we only make love in human form. And never without a willing partner. If she’s not, that’s called rape, Serena.”
Make love? She started to breathe normally. Maybe he was like that one shifter she’d seen, the one who refused to hurt the woman in the cage with him even though they tried to starve him to death, but he’d confirmed she was the woman he’d agreed to impregnate while in his animal shape. “They said you volunteered.”
“I did,” he said with a soft rumble. “Shifters can scent a good mate, and sometimes they can use other magical means to find her.”
“But I’m human,” she whispered.
“I know, and just because the witch’s cards, and my nose, say there is a possibility for us, that doesn’t mean you have to agree.” He moved toward her an inch. “Tell me you understand what I’m saying.”
Serena opened her mouth and closed it. Her brow furrowed. “You’re saying I’m your mate?”
The side of his mouth slid up. “If you want.”
“And you want to fuck me while in your animal form where a scientist can take notes?” she demanded.
“Come here,” he said in a commanding tone. His gaze went to the corner.
Serena followed his sight line to where a camera was mounted on the wall, and probably a microphone. She moved toward him an inch. It was going to happen whether she wanted it to or not. He was too big. The only question left in her mind was how much pain she wanted before her death. She moved another inch closer to him, and then another before she was nearly touching him.
One of his powerful arms snaked out and hooked around her. He pulled her in tight against his hard torso. His mouth was right next to her ear. He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Gods, you smell good.” Then his voice was a whisper. “Your home was surrounded by hunters. I couldn’t get in there without innocent people getting caught in the crossfire. I am here to get you out, but you’re going to have to trust me. Can you do that?”
She pulled back and looked into his icy blue eyes. “I’m sick. Jenson— I’ll die in a week without the pills he’s been giving me.”
He cupped his large hand around the back of her head. “I know. There is a healer waiting to help you, but we need to get out of here first.”
She didn’t want to hope, and she didn’t deserve to live. “Shifters died so Jenson could give me their enzymes.”
“I know,” he said in a soft rumble. “That’s not your fault.”
She searched his gaze. “How?”
The huge man settled her in his lap and then shimmied backward until he could lean his back against the wall. He lightly brushed the back of his knuckles down the side of her face. “You didn’t know what he was giving you.”
“How do you know that?” Damn him, why in hell was she beginning to feel calm in a situation where she should still be terrified?
“I know a werewolf who was able to hack the mainframe,” he said with a smirk, and then anger clouded his icy eyes. “I saw everything in your file. And I know where your brother is.”
“Did he leave me to die?” She was sure she didn’t want the answer.
“It’s complicated,” the man said. “We’re still trying to figure it out because he let Jenson fuck with his head to keep your identity hidden.”
“You don’t know,” she said with a snort. “That bastard.”
He petted his hand down her wheat-colored hair. “Save judgment until we figure out what he’s really about.”
Serena resisted the need to curl into that deep rumble in his chest as if he would protect her from all the evils of the world. “We’re never going to get out of here.”
The man arched up a brow. “I think we will.”
She didn’t mean to laugh, but she did. “I’ve seen the security they have here. No way we can get out of this place.”
He leveled his gaze on hers. “Yeah, well, Jenson has finally made a fatal mistake.”
She chewed on her lip as she studied the sheer massiveness of the man she was sitting on. “Right, so, do you have a name?”
“Maddox Beirne. I’m a Kodiak shifter with a Dark.”
She resisted the urge to cuddle up with him, because not only was she cold, but the man was just too damn comfortable for her own good. “What’s a Dark?”
“It’s the deadliest shape a bear can take,” he said in that wonderful, soft rumbling voice. “I’ll be damn near bulletproof, and the walls won’t be thick enough to hold me.”
“I’ve heard there are other bears here,” she said, trying not to hope.
“Rogues,” he said. “They really did volunteer to fuck women in their Therin form.”
“What’s a Therin form?” Maybe she didn’t know as much about shifters as she thought she did.
That sexy-as-hell, arrogant smirk turned up the corner of his mouth. “You’ll find out just as soon as you let me do a blood feed on you.”
“Like a vampire?” she whispered.
“Kinda. I’ll explain that better once we’re out of here. Once I feed from you, things will happen fast. If you need a nap first, let me know now.”
She met his gaze. “I think whatever they hit me with earlier is out of my system.”
He lowered his head, his nose right at the base of her throat and breathed in deep. “Yeah, I’d agree with that. You can do this now?”
“What if you die?” She didn’t want anyone else hurt because of her.
“I won’t,” Maddox said. “You need me to live.”
The magic is in their DNA.
Check out other Secret Blood Novels.