Blue Ribbon Rating: 4
"...This is an absolutely incredible story about time travel, mind linking and astral travel. It has everything you could want in a story and more. I was completely spellbound from page one, of this completely captivating, exciting, and oh so steamy story. You will not put this book down until you have finished it. Ms. Douglas knows how to tell a fascinating, humorous, sensual story, while at the same time drawing you deeper and deeper into the story until you are no longer reading a book, but you are living it; You are there with every breath, every tear and all the joy of this love story."
Heat level H
"...This, the fourth StarQuest novel, is both intriguing and sizzling. The passion flares ardently and remains that way through out the story. Carly has difficulty overcoming their age difference and her new powers, but Tim shows her that there is nothing between them but love and sensuality. Synergy definitely has me running to get the previous books by Ms. Douglas."
SYNERGY by Kate Douglas
© 2003 Katherine A. Moore
Reprint by permission only
Desire Island Inn lies on the threshold of forever,
a portal into fate,
a gateway to the heart's deepest desire, to passion's heat,
Every thing to every one.
The ultimate destination vacation.
* * * * *
Solid and strong, the inn rules the island like an aging queen. A single light from an upper window bids welcome. A few mossy trees shade the porch, a tattered bit of lawn fights a dying battle with the sand. Once a stately mansion, it beckons now to the lost and wandering souls of a world gone awry. The wind tossed sign at the front gate always reads, "Vacancy."
THE WAITER pocketed a handful of credits left by a slightly inebriated group of soldiers heading out the door. He ran a damp rag across the scarred table, seething with anger and resentment.
Talents, all of them, and so damned cocky with their power. Who the hell did they think they were? Treated him like shit, that's what they did, using kinetics to snatch the drinks off his tray, sailing them across the room, mocking him. Always mocking him.
He'd show them. Would he ever! He glanced up as another group of customers wandered into the rec center, laughing, teasing one another. He turned his back on them and stalked away. When he turned around, he saw them take seats at the long table he'd just cleaned. One young man raised a finger, beckoning him, like he was some sort of servant.
Just then another man entered the building. Dressed in dark, nondescript clothing, he looked as if he'd journeyed long and hard. He nodded briefly toward the waiter, then sat at a table off by himself.
The waiter stared at the man for a long moment before he responded. The muscles in his gut tightened, an odd combination of elation and fear. Ignoring the boisterous crowd at the first table, the waiter headed toward the man in black.
Carly Harris handed a hefty tip to the sexy young cabby with a final, lingering glance, and grabbed the suitcase he handed to her. Too bad she couldn't take him with her on this mini-vacation. She'd fantasized about him all the way out from the airport...thank goodness he didn't have a clue what she'd been thinking, sitting oh, so primly in the back seat of the cab with her thighs pressed tightly together and her eyes half closed.
Especially when they'd crossed over on the ferry. From her position in the back seat, she'd watched him through narrowed eyes, so horny she'd practically come without touching herself. He'd stood out there on the deck, leaning against the polished railing. The wind whipped that gorgeous long hair around. His broad shoulders bunched and flexed beneath his white cotton tee shirt as he held his balance against the surging waves…damn, he'd looked good enough to eat.
She bit back a giggle and wondered what he'd say if she just asked for a tiny little taste? A second, surreptitious glance told her there'd be no such thing as a little taste. His denim jeans couldn't disguise what lay neatly packaged beneath the worn fabric.
Carly flashed him a very proper smile. The young man tipped his cap, swept his long black ponytail over his shoulder and folded his lanky frame into the yellow cab. He gunned the engine. Tires screeching, he roared round the driveway on his way out. Carly sighed as the cab left.
Definitely inspirational. Grinning at her reaction to eye candy most likely half her age, she readjusted the weight of the suitcase, raised the handle and popped the little wheels free so she could haul it behind her.
She held her face up to the sun's brilliance. Thank goodness the odd storm had ended when it did, or she'd be drenched before she got up the front steps. The inn appeared to hover just beyond the drive, surrounded in a shifting layer of silvery fog, all that remained of the near monsoon rains of only moments ago.
Once again, she wondered if this was the right thing to do. She'd seen the ad for Desire Island Inn purely by accident, and bought her ticket on a whim, once again following the familiar little voice in her head that had so often directed her life.
Did she really deserve a weekend in a gorgeous inn on a mysterious island?
Yes, dammit. She did. With a new resolve, Carly marched toward the entryway.
* * * * *
IT WAS difficult to believe they'd all been strangers just hours before. Now Carly sat with the other guests, laughing and talking as if they'd been dear friends forever. The cognac was wonderful and the ambience of the inn absolutely delightful. She felt warm and relaxed for the first time in years.
Of course, they were discussing fantasy. Sexual fantasy. Every woman's favorite topic after a bit too much to drink. The few male guests weren't complaining about the subject matter, either. Carly grinned, thinking of the young cab driver who'd brought her out from the airport.
There was something about younger guys...she sipped at the golden liquor and thought of the gorgeous young cabby, her mind barely focusing on the waves of conversation flowing about her.
Long dark hair tied with a leather thong, brilliant blue eyes hooded beneath thick, black lashes, broad shoulders, smooth, olive skin hinting at Native American ancestry, a lean and healthy body...and his hands. Lord, she hadn't been able to ignore his hands.
Hadn't wanted to.
Long, slim fingers-they'd wrapped negligently around the worn steering wheel as he skillfully guided the car through the raging storm. She'd noticed right away that his nails were clean and neatly filed, the knuckles large, with sinewy veins showing beneath the olive skin along the back of each hand.
Long arms, long fingers...an artist's fingers, supple and strong. A shiver ran across her abdomen, arrowed down between her legs and settled into a deep, throbbing pulse of frustration. What she wouldn't do right now, to have those long fingers stroking over her needy clit, delving deep inside her wet and wanting folds.
Carly shifted in her chair, clamped her thighs tightly together. Imagined those talented fingers stroking, rubbing, touching...pinching. Sighed a long and shuddering breath, then closed her eyes.
She saw blue. Brilliant, sparkling blue eyes in the face of an angel. A dark angel, framed in waves of hair as black as night. He was looking at her, watching her, and his blue eyes were filled with lush promises and earthy desire.
Damn...Carly shook herself free of the vision, but the sense of the beautiful young man lingered in the after-image behind her eyes. No doubt about it, there was definitely something special about the young ones.
Carly stared at her reflection in the side of the crystal goblet, and sighed.
Fantasy. Why were the good ones only there in fantasy?
* * * * *
Armand Institute, Earth 2104 A.D.
"HEY, DOC! How ya doing?" Tim Riley waved at the Institute's healer across the crowded rec room. Malachi paused, scanned the crowd, then headed toward the table Tim shared with Thom Antoon, the rebellion's popular leader.
Tim waved to the waiter, kinetically grabbed a cold beer off a serving tray destined for another customer and floated it carefully through the air to Malachi. The waiter scowled, but kept his mouth shut.
Tim chose to ignore him.
"One of these days, Tim..." Sighing dramatically, Antoon dug into his pocket for a handful of credits and handed them over to the waiter before the surly young man had a chance to complain.
"Who is that guy?" Tim nodded his head toward the waiter. "I've never seen him before."
"Must be new. Cheery sort, eh?"
"Any cheerier and we'd all be in tears." Malachi pulled out the chair across from the general. "Thanks for the beer, Tim." He winked at General Antoon and slipped into the empty seat. "Tim, I've been looking for you."
"I didn't do it." Tim laughed and leaned back in his chair, aware he was actually relaxing for the first time in weeks. They'd all lived under the pressure of armed conflict for so many years, it was difficult to accept that, though some dissenters remained, the seven year rebellion had actually ended.
"It was the general." Tim pointed at the older man. "He's guilty."
"I certainly hope so." Thom grinned. "Guilty of what?" He took a long swallow of his beer.
"Nobody's done anything, yet." Malachi leaned forward, his expression suddenly grown serious. "I've had a really strong pre-cog, Tim. You're the star. You and a woman."
"No shit? It's about time there was a woman. Thom's cute, but he's lacking certain necessary physical attributes." Tim jostled Antoon in the ribs, something he'd never have done to the general while they were still at war with the World Federation. Now, though, the relationship between Tim and his mentor had definitely relaxed.
As had their lives. Maybe now he'd finally have a chance for a life of his own. With a woman? Damn, he hoped Malachi was right. Of course, the doc usually was.
"Which reminds me." Thom stood up and threw a few credits on the table to cover his tab. "I've got someone with all the correct attributes waiting for me at home. Why am I wasting time with you two?" He took a last swig of his beer and turned to leave.
Tim waved him off, laughing. "She's too young for you, old man...all that sex is gonna kill you."
"Yeah, but I'll die happy." The general tipped an imaginary hat at Tim and Malachi. Laughing, Thom headed for the door. The bounce in his step was obvious.
"He doesn't look fifty, does he?" Tim shook his head, still chuckling. "He's so much fun to pick on since he's been with Jan."
"She's good for him." Malachi finished off his beer. "The pressure of leadership was killing him. Since Jan came into his life, I've seen his old sparkle come back."
"Jan's a year younger than I am, Mal. She's just twenty-four, less than half his age. That's a bit much, don't you think?"
"What's the matter, Tim? Jealous?" Grinning, Malachi leaned back in his chair and stretched.
Tim glanced sharply at the healer. Did Malachi read minds along with his other Talents? Do you know what I've given up for the Rebellion, Doc? You've never asked me, never considered the cost.
And why should he? Tim pushed the useless self pity out of his head. "I don't have time to be jealous," he said, drinking the last of his beer. "I'm too busy keeping an eye on you two old farts."
Malachi sat forward and leaned his elbows on the table. "I really do need to talk to you." He paused, narrowed his eyes. "Is your mother still alive?"
Tim blinked at the non sequitur. "My mother? What's she got to do with anything? She's dead. Mom and my sister died almost eight years ago. Vehicle accident."
Malachi nodded slowly, his expression serious but distracted. "I'm sorry. I knew that." He paused as if to consider something important, then, as if the decision had been made, slapped his palms down on the table. "Come back to the clinic with me. I need to share a precog. It's too noisy here." He didn't wait for an answer, merely shoved his chair back and headed for the door.
Tim tossed some credits on the table next to the change the general had left. He followed the doctor, weaving between the tables crowding the rec center. Why would Malachi be asking about his mom? Tim struggled to repress the grief welling up inside. Damn, he missed her. His sister, Mary, too.
Tim crossed the compound in silence.
"Tim? You okay?" Malachi waited at the door to the clinic, one foot on the threshold. He stared at Tim with concern.
"Yeah. Just thinking about Mom and Mary. It's been a long time. They died in an accident on the way to the Institute-almost eight years ago. I wasn't even injured."
"Tim, I..." Mal paused uncomfortably. "I remember. It's just..." He clamped his mouth shut and turned abruptly toward the doorway. "Come with me."
Silently, Tim followed Malachi down the hall and on into the small office at the rear of the clinic. Mal shut the door behind him and motioned Tim to take a seat. Without preamble, he pulled a chair up facing Tim and sat directly in front of him, close enough so their knees touched.
He stared at Tim for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I want you to see this before I explain anything. I want your response to be completely free of my influence."
With his limited telepathic abilities, Tim knew Malachi relied on contact to share a vision with almost anyone but his wife, the Miratan lioness, Sheyna. Curious, Tim leaned forward, touching his forehead to the healer's, resting his hands on Malachi's shoulders.
He was aware of a slight tingling when Malachi's fingertips completed the link, pressing gently to each of Tim's temples. Always a healer, Malachi would be sensing Tim's general health as he shared his vision. Tim wondered if a non-existent sex life might be cause for alarm. If so, Doc's bells would be ringing loud and clear.
Tim was aware of a gentle probing in his mind, the first light touch as contact was established. The image didn't appear all at once-instead, it coalesced out of nothing, a filmy illusion that slowly gained in depth and perception. He saw himself first, the back of his tall, angular frame and long, straight black hair immediately distinguishable. His body partially obscured another person, a woman.
She looked older than Tim, though it was hard to tell by how much. It didn't matter-she was absolutely gorgeous. Her dark blonde hair fell past her shoulders and her eyes were a deep coffee brown. She was casually dressed in brown canvas pants and a pale blue sweater.
She stared hard at Tim, concentrating intensely as if she were trying to read him telepathically. He felt her inside him, an almost visceral reaction to her inherent sensuality. Without understanding why or how, Tim knew he needed her. Needed who she was and what she represented.
As if staring over his own shoulder in the vision, Tim focused on the woman, on the changing expressions flitting across her face. There was no sound. Still, he sensed urgency and danger and something powerful, dark and frightening. As he absorbed the implications within the image, the woman suddenly whirled around as if in fear. Her mouth opened in a silent scream. A shadow crossed in front of her and she-and the vision-disappeared in darkness.
"Wow." Tim carefully leaned back in his chair, fighting the compelling desire to adjust his throbbing cock and aching balls. He shuddered, shaking off the aftereffects of the sharing, the sudden, overwhelming shaft of physical need. He'd never reacted sexually to a vision before.
The sensation was unsettling.
Malachi nodded his head. "Wow is right. Do you feel it? The urgency? The sense of danger?"
"The sex." Tim shook his head in disbelief, thankful the pressure between his legs was beginning to ease. "Damn, Mal. She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Do you know when, what...?"
"No. Not a clue. That's why I shared it with you. I thought maybe you could help me." He laughed. "I take it she's not your mom…I thought of your mother because this woman looks old enough, I think..."
"To be my mom? You're kidding, right?" Tim laughed. "Mom is the last person I think of when I look at someone like her." He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "So, what's it mean?"
"Precognitive events are strange." Malachi pushed his chair back and stood up. "Sometimes I know exactly what they mean, or at least what their implications are."
"I take it this isn't one of those times?"
"Exactly." Doc nodded. "I haven't got a clue what this portends, merely the very real sense we need to find her, and quickly. Just because the Rebellion has ended doesn't mean we're at peace. We can't afford to ignore warnings, no matter how oblique they may appear. For some reason, I believe she's important. I wish I knew why."
"There's something you need to know, Mal." Tim wasn't sure how he knew, he just did, but he realized this was not a simple precognitive event. "I sense...well, I don't think she's from our time."
"Neither was Jenna." The flat statement hung between the two of them.
"Are you suggesting..." Tim recalled the night he found Jenna, using his kinetic abilities to lock on to the woman Malachi had shared with him in an earlier precognitive vision. Lock on to her in the early twenty-first century, and bring her forward a hundred years, into her future and Tim's present.
"You did it with Jenna. I think this woman might be from the same time period. The mental signature is familiar."
Anger and resentment warred with curiosity. "Do you have any idea what you're asking of me?"
Malachi nodded. "I'm your doctor, Tim. Of course I know. Every time we share a vision, I feel your frustration. I'm sorry...it's not fair and it's not right to keep asking you to sacrifice so much, but..." He held his hands out, palms up. "There's no one else. You know it and I know it. I wouldn't even consider it if..."
"Okay. It's okay." Tim's palms suddenly felt sweaty and a prickle of apprehension coursed along his spine. "I'd like to see her one more time, get a stronger feel for her signature." He tried to picture the woman as Malachi had seen her. He'd been so entranced by her, he hadn't paid close enough attention to the traits he'd need to search for.
"We can do it now." Mal pulled his chair back into position. "Then I want you to pack some things and go up to the cabin. Sheyna knows what I have planned and she's prepared some food for you to take. The cabin's isolated and private-a good place for you to perform your search and, if you're successful, help ease the woman's entry into our time." Malachi sighed. "It will also give you the chance to assess any danger she might bring with her. I sense Talent in her, but I'm not sure what it is."
"Do you have any idea at all what kind of danger she might represent?"
Malachi paused. "I sense a very subtle link to…you ever hear of the Reverend? He's an itinerant preacher, says that Talent is the work of the devil…he's building a bit of a following of malcontents. Shing Tamura has made a couple of arrests, but…"
A light tap on the door interrupted him. Tim turned just as Sheyna, Malachi's mate, walked into the room. Tall and regal, the exotic features of a lioness of Mirat gave her an alien beauty rarely seen on Earth. Sheyna smiled shyly at Tim, then went to stand close beside her husband.
"Malachi has shared his vision with you?" She tilted her head in question, her amber eyes huge and unblinking, her velvety ears pricked forward.
Tim wondered if he would ever become accustomed to the humanoid lions of Mirat, the cat-like features, soft fur pelts, yet lean, muscular bodies so amazingly human. More so with Sheyna, who lacked the tail typical of most of her species.
Malachi's arm slipped around Sheyna's narrow waist and Tim felt a momentary pang of jealousy. To have someone love him...was it asking so much? Immediately, the image of the woman in Doc's vision slipped into his thoughts.
"He's seen her, my love. Tim's going to head up to the cabin tonight, once I refresh her image for him."
Sheyna nodded. "I've contacted Garan and Jenna. Though they're far from here, they need to know what we're attempting. Especially Jenna, if, as Malachi suspects, this woman is from her time. Sander and Mara have been notified as well, but they'll stay clear of all contact until we know what we have."
"Mal, will you be going with me?" Tim had never told Malachi, not anyone, that he'd passed out after bringing Jenna forward.
At the time, he hadn't realized he'd found her in the past, merely that she'd have to be moved a very long distance to bring her to the Institute. He'd chosen Lieutenant Garan's quarters as the safest place to plant his prize, knowing the effort would leave any kinetic Talent attempting such a feat most likely unconscious, or close to it.
The Miratan officer had first thought Jenna was a spy. Tim wished he could have been a fly on the wall so he could see the big cat's expression when he finally realized his captive was a woman from Earth's past. A woman who possessed more powerful psychic abilities than any other known human or Miratan. Jenna's presence had definitely affected their world.
Would this new woman do the same? Malachi must think so, or he never would have asked Tim to attempt such a risky operation again. Never would ask him to sacrifice so much.
Tim snapped his head up at Malachi's forceful reply. The healer appeared to be studying a spot on the floor. Even Sheyna looked away. "You need to do this one alone, Tim. I feel that very strongly. Just be careful."
Be careful. Right. Like the blonde wasn't going to be pissed off and scared to death to wake up in what was essentially another world? If she wakes up at all.
"You must ease her way into this period, Tim. Malachi and I feel it will be simpler if you are both isolated, away from the curious probing of so much Talent. Plan on at least a few days before you introduce her to the Institute. Make sure she brings no danger to us. If Jenna had decided not to work with us, imagine what she could have done to damage the Rebellion. We have no idea what this other woman is capable of, or how she'll feel when she realizes what you've done."
Sheyna's comment caught him off guard. Jenna was a powerful force, her many abilities still untapped. He hadn't even thought of the potential for danger when he caught her up in the early twenty-first century and deposited her in the present.
"You're probably right, SheShe." Tim sighed, subtly ticking off what little he knew so far. Obviously, this was more important than he'd first thought. Mara had been the Institute's new leader when he'd arrived almost eight years ago. Her contact with the starship captain, Sander, a lion of Mirat, had opened up communication between the two worlds and led to a rebellion of Sensitives and Talents against the xenophobic, anti-paranormal World Federation. It had been Jenna, though, who had proven to be a catalyst for peace, and eventually Earth's amicable resolution between the warring factions.
Jenna had also been part of the new diplomatic unity with the citizens of Mirat. There'd been peace for such a short time. Peace brought by a woman from Earth's past. Sighing, Tim wondered what this new woman might bring to his world.
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