Dream Bound -- Book 1 of Dream Catchers
Dream Bound selected as one of the MUST-READ EROTIC ROMANCES IN 2012 -- BY RT BOOK REVIEWS, JANUARY 19, 2012 If you can't get enough page-scorching passion, good-looking men and the women who love them, have no fear. Today we're spotlighting erotic romances from some of the biggest names in the genre that make our list of most-anticipated upcoming releases for the next seven months. From hunky hockey players to sexy shapeshifters, 2012 looks like a promising year for sizzling erotic romance.
"...Douglas fills the pages of these books with such rich, complex detail, giving realistic texture to the rough terrains of sexuality, identity, prejudice, love, and the balance of good and evil. Her story forces you to stretch the limits of your imagination, contemplate the boundaries of prudence, and question your own understanding of normal... I can’t wait to dive into the final installment of Dream Unchained. As of this moment, I am totally invested in the success of this mission; I am a believer in the transcendent properties of love; and I intensely yearn for my own Mac."
"...Douglas has found a brilliant new backdrop for her creative and erotic storytelling talent...I think Douglas has another winner on her hands with her new series and I for one can't wait for more."
"...Dream Bound is a spellbinding tale of second chances, new love and the power of fantasies. It’s another keeper for my “Kate Douglas” section of my library. Yes, she has a row all for herself. Pick up Dream Bound and find out why!"
"...One of the most original storylines I've read in a while, DREAM BOUND will have you alternatively smirking and fanning yourself...A fascinating and steamy mix of erotic and paranormal, author Kate Douglas will certainly not disappoint loyal and new readers with her exciting new world. Aliens, racy sexual fantasies, and love, come together to create one hot read that readers won't be able to forget, or stop talking about."
"...this is an amazing story that has characters with depth. But also it is sexy as all get out...This one gets my top Rating the “Super Smooch” it has all the elements I love in an erotica novel."
"...This was a very enjoyable read, with some suspense within the story, and of course, lots of sexual tension. The characters were believable, even the aliens came to life on the pages of this book. Lots and lots of hot, steamy sex with emotional connections coming together, and this book kept me sucked in until the very end."
"...Douglas’ intriguing tale of long-lost, but not forgotten, love will have science fiction and erotica buffs devouring the chapters faster than the speed of light. You’ll enjoy the creative plot, characters that shine brighter than the stars and the steaming-hot sex. Dream Bound will keep readers hanging off the edge of their spaceship, wondering what will happen next."
© 2012 Kate Douglas
Dream Catchers Book One
IF SHE’D HAD her human body—the one she loved with the violet eyes and long dark hair—Zianne would have wept. This one could only feel sorrow—not physically express it. She’d left Mac only moments ago—a few minutes for her and almost twenty years for him. It had been such a simple thing to make her nightly slip through time, passing from twentieth-century Earth and returning to the Gar’s craft in its stationary orbit behind the twenty-first-century moon.
How had they discovered her absence?
She’d been so careful. Her fellow Nyrians had covered for her, yet somehow the Gar—their captors—knew. The Nyrian elders had warned her as soon as she materialized within the ship. They’d explained that her soulstone was locked away; that the Gar waited, ready to entrap her, should she come to claim it.
Once they knew which one of their captives had been stealing away and visiting Earth, they intended to make an example of her. She would die a very public and painful death, her energy slowly, painfully leached away until nothing was left.
Until even her soulstone crumbled into dust.
It was too soon. She and Mac were close, but she hadn’t had time to teach him enough. The technology he was beginning to develop in Earth’s year nineteen hundred and ninety-two was much too primitive. He’d had twenty years, but still, he couldn’t possibly have learned enough to create the sophisticated equipment with the kind of power they needed to free Zianne and the few survivors of her race.
But she had no choice. She’d been away from her soulstone for twelve full hours. If she returned to the past, she’d use up what energy she had left. Her only hope—her people’s only hope—was that somehow, some way, MacArthur Dugan had pushed Earth’s technology far enough, fast enough, to have everything ready by now—now being twenty years later for Mac.
Had he loved her enough? Had he believed in her enough to embrace her goal as if it were his own? Did he still love her? It had been mere minutes for Zianne since Mac last held her in his arms, since he’d made love to her, but it had been twenty long years for her beloved Mac. Would he even remember her?
And if he remembered, would he forgive her for abandoning him without warning? At least she had hinted to him this might happen, that her absence might be discovered before their work was done. She’d worried that the truth might turn him away, but instead it had pulled him closer. He hadn’t shied from the truth at all—instead, he’d embraced her.
Embraced her cause.
He’d already guessed she wasn’t human, that she was an alien being, so it wasn’t a terrible leap to explain the rest, that she was one of the last few members of a dying race, a creature of pure energy given form through the power of his mind.
Most precisely, his amazing sexual fantasies, images so strong and true that they had given her a glorious body and so many wonderful human abilities.
He’d loved her then. She had to believe he still loved her. She had entrusted the entire future of her people to one brilliant man. A man she had fallen in love with despite the differences between them.
She would not give up hope. Her people could not abandon hope. With that prayer in mind, Zianne slipped into the engine room where her fellow captives surged and glowed, powering the Gar’s vast starship with their sentient energy. Pausing near the heart of the ship, she sent her thoughts out to the ones who labored for their unrelenting masters.
I am returning to Earth. Mac may not have had enough time or enough knowledge to build the antennae and receivers for us. If he can’t help us within the next couple of days, my energy will cease and I will die, but before I’m gone, I’ll do my best to convince him to keep trying. I am certain he will do everything he can to save all of you. He’s a good man. A loving man, but he’s only human. He can only do so much.
She heard Nattoch’s measured tones, the Nyrian elder who had trusted her to find a way to free them from bondage.
Dear Goddess . . . she hoped she had not failed.
Go with Nyria’s blessings, child, and go with what soul energy we can share. You have done all you can and yet you continue to forge ahead. If you fail, your soul will return to our goddess. If you succeed, you will have saved these poor remnants of a once proud civilization. Our love goes with you. Our hopes and our dreams and what little strength you can carry. Now quickly, before you are discovered. Find your human, and bring us to our new home. Our refuge on Earth.
She might not be able to weep in this form, but her sorrow was every bit as real, her fear as profound. She felt it then, a powerful burst of energy as her fellow Nyrians fed her with what they could from their own souls. Shivering with the sensual wave of power flowing across her body, she took them into her, took their love and their generosity, and along with that, their hopes and dreams.
With a final glance at the few remaining members of her kind, Zianne slipped through the molecular structure of the ship into the endless darkness of space.
She searched for the one mind strong enough to call her.
Searched for him now, in the present.
It took longer than she’d expected. He was changed. Older now. Weary. So weary and alone, and yet he thought of her. Still loved her, longed for her, and dreamed of her.
With hope driving her onward, Zianne linked her energy to his, and followed the patterns that would take her back to Earth. Back to an Earth twenty years older than the one she’d left this morning.
Back to MacArthur Dugan. An older, more jaded, more cynical Mac Dugan, who, with Nyria’s blessing, might hold the power and the knowledge to give her people their last shot at a future.
Rodie Bishop paused in the open doorway to the large conference room, hesitating as she might not have done just a few months ago. She forced her active mind to still, to expand and experience. The room was big and sterile and almost empty—a typical corporate meeting room designed to hold hundreds, not a mere handful. She’d been here for five prior meetings over the past two months. Those other times the room had overflowed with people, had been filled with a different energy.
This time, the occupants were changed, the mood altered, and so she used this new sense she had that occasionally allowed her to check things out on a different level. A more intimate level. Casting her thoughts forward, she studied the room and the few souls in it as she worked up the courage to go inside.
Stupid, really, the way she’d become such a damned coward almost overnight, but a violent assault on her way home from work had really done a number on her—that along with the world’s worst breakup. Of course, that had been so bad it was almost funny.
Maybe someday she’d actually be able to laugh, though she couldn’t see it all as bad. Not when the combination of crap had somehow kick-started this weird thing in her head. A new ability that allowed her to sense danger, to pick up on the various kinds of energy swirling about.
She’d always been a perceptive sort, but now? Now she took perception to an entirely new level that was beyond exciting. She just wished there was someone she could tell about it, but who the hell would believe her? Most of her acquaintances already thought she was nuts.
Casting her thoughts wide, she felt nothing that raised any concerns. She took a deep breath, focused on one of the empty seats, and stepped into the room.
So weird that there were only three others here, especially since the room was big enough to seat so many more. Though the gatherings had grown smaller each time, she’d still expected it to be more crowded. It was, after all, the final meeting. Tonight they’d find out who had been selected.
There was a young man in the third row, but he looked half asleep, slouched down low in the uncomfortable-looking chair with his long legs stretched out in front. His shaggy dark hair had fallen over his forehead so she couldn’t really tell what he looked like, but the way his worn, paint-stained Levi’s molded to his long legs and well-defined package caught her interest.
At least she was thankful the bastard who roughed her up only wanted her backpack and laptop. She wasn’t sure how she’d feel if the attack had screwed up her appreciation for sex.
No, that was functioning as well as ever, thank goodness, in spite of the assault that happened shortly after that little incident with the ex-boyfriend. If catching him in her own bed with both a woman and another man hadn’t screwed up her libido, she figured nothing would.
And it was almost worth it for the satisfaction she’d gained from running all three of them out of her apartment, so terrified of her Taser they’d escaped the place stark naked.
If only her neighbor hadn’t caught the entire thing on his mobile phone. Unfortunately, that was the sort of video just crying out for mass distribution on the Internet, but the best part was, he’d focused on her naked ex-boyfriend, the woman, and the other guy. Rodie’d been little more than a mass of swirling dark hair and the zapping buzz of the Taser gun.
Yep. She bit back a smile. Some bad things were worth going viral, if only for the joy of revenge. She grinned for the first time today, and took another appraising look at the cute dude. Opened her senses to him. Nothing on the mental level beyond a soft buzz. Maybe he was napping, but she didn’t really care. On second glance, he looked young—hardly out of his teens.
Jailbait wasn’t on the menu.
Her gaze slid over to a really cute white girl in the front row. She had long brown hair—board straight—a perfect little nose and a big smile. Another kid. She looked too damned perky, as far as Rodie was concerned, but there was always one in every crowd.
Of course, now that she’d hit thirty, Rodie figured everyone looked younger than she did.
The only other person already here, another guy, sat in the very back row. Dark hair, long legs, and something about him that was so blatantly carnal she caught herself sliding her tongue over first her upper lip, then the lower. Hell, there was no reason for it—he was just sitting there with his back to her, but damn!
He’d turned his chair and had it tilted back on two legs with his feet planted firmly on the wall. Cords from his earbuds disappeared over his shoulders. It looked like he was listening to his iPod while playing with his phone.
Now this was a guy who made sense, even if her reaction to him didn’t. He was here, but controlling his own space. She liked that. Forcing herself to look away, Rodie shoved her hands into her back pockets, sauntered into the room, and took a seat on the far side, fifth row back, so she could watch the door.
This couldn’t be everyone. When they’d started the selection process, there’d been over a thousand applicants, originally meeting in three separate groups. Even though a lot of them had been dropped, there’d still been almost two hundred people the last time they’d met. Where the hell were they?
As Rodie scrunched into her chair, a tall, slim black girl, much darker than Rodie, paused in the doorway, looked around, and then stepped into the room. She practically oozed class, and Rodie bet the chick’s snazzy little handbag alone probably had set her back a good six hundred bucks. She walked with long, purposeful strides and took a seat toward the back, on the side opposite the guy with his feet on the wall.
It appeared they were all staking out their territory.
Opening her senses, she realized the buzz of energy in the room felt charged—more like there were dozens of people here rather than just the five of them.
Rodie checked her watch. Four minutes after seven. Where the hell was everyone else?
A new guy strode into the room. No hesitation there. Rodie sat up and watched him. This one acted like he owned the place with his tousled dark blond hair almost artfully disarranged and bright blue eyes darting from one person to another as he checked everyone out. Another gorgeous guy? Damn . . . did the men get picked for their looks? He caught her watching him and flashed a bright grin, walked across the room, and sat a couple of seats away.
He leaned close and whispered, “Where is everyone? I’m never early, so . . . ”
Rodie laughed. “I was just wondering the same thing.”
At that moment, an older man stepped into the room and the energy sizzled. Rodie’s breath caught in her throat. This guy actually did own the place. It was him—MacArthur Dugan—in the flesh. And oh, mama, but it was mighty fine-looking flesh. She flashed a grin at the guy next to her and straightened in her seat, eyes forward.
She’d heard so much about Dugan that she felt like she knew him, but she’d never actually seen the man in person. The prior meetings had all been run by other people within his company, but she’d followed media reports of Dugan for years. He was considered a god in the industry, his every move fodder for the evening news. In media clips he was usually at an opening of some play or speaking in front of Congress or doing something that required a suit and tie.
Sometimes he had a beautiful woman on his arm; other times he traveled with a well-known, openly gay news anchorman. Nils something-or-other. Tall guy, blond hair. Also gorgeous. No one knew if the two had something going, if Dugan was gay or straight, but as hot as the dude was, as much money as he had, did it really matter?
It appeared he was alone tonight, and he’d discarded the suit and tie for a more relaxed look. Holy crap, but the dude even looked hot in worn jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt.
The guy even had tats. A big stylized cross of some kind spread from his right shoulder almost down to his elbow. He was definitely better-looking than on TV, with that thick, dark- blond hair and absolutely brilliant blue eyes. Rodie knew he was in his mid-forties, but he didn’t look more than about thirty or so. Probably all that money. Any guy rich as Mac Dugan had access to whatever it took to look hot.
He bounded up the four stairs to the stage, walked across to the podium, and glanced around the room. Then he frowned. “This won’t do at all,” he said. He crooked his finger overhead and pointed toward the door. “Follow me.”
Rodie glanced at the guy beside her, shrugged, grabbed her backpack, and stood. Like a bunch of mismatched sheep, the six of them followed him through the door. Dugan waited just outside. “Break room’s this way. It’s a more intimate setting for what we need to discuss.”
No one said a word, but they all followed him down the broad hallway into a smaller room with black granite counters, coffee machines, soft drink dispensers, and a tray of donuts that had probably been fresh sometime this morning. A large oak table with matching chairs all around dominated the space in the center.
Dugan took one of the chairs. The rest of them each found a seat around the oval-shaped table. Rodie glanced to either side of her. The smiley guy who’d been next to her in the first room was on her left; the one who’d had his feet planted on the wall sat on her right.
Good god, but she was surrounded by pheromones. At least earbud dude had removed the buds, turned off his iPod, and stashed his phone. Everyone appeared totally relaxed, but Rodie could feel the buzz, as if their curiosity was cranked up on high. She toned down her sensory abilities, thankful she’d at least learned how to do that much.
In the beginning, when this new ability of hers first appeared, picking up on everyone’s mood had almost driven her off the deep end. She was still learning how to work it, how to make it work for her, not against her. She forced herself to relax, glanced at Dugan, and waited. He smiled at her and then planted both his hands on the table.
“This is better,” he said. “I’m MacArthur Dugan, and you six are the only ones to make the cut out of over a thousand original applicants. I appreciate your willingness to hang on through what has to have been a frustrating and seemingly interminable selection procedure, but all those questions and tests were essential to my project. It’s my hope that you’ll decide to stick with it once you hear the details.”
Wow. Rodie took a new look at the others and wondered what the six of them had that the other thousand-plus didn’t.
Earbuds raised his hand.
Dugan acknowledged him with a nod. “Yes, Mr. Black. What do you wish to know?”
“You said there were over a thousand who applied. On what criteria were we selected? And what, exactly, have we been selected for?”
Dugan grinned at all of them and then focused on Black. “Why don’t you introduce yourselves first and tell us why you applied, who you are, what you do. Then I’ll explain everything, including the project. You go first. Age, why you’re here, that sort of thing.”
The guy nodded. “Fair enough. I’m Morgan Black. Thirty-five years old. Self-employed landscaper.” He gazed at Dugan as if he were daring him to say something. “I clean up dog shit, pull weeds, and mow lawns.”
Oh, my, but he had a sexy voice, and she loved the obvious chip on his shoulder. She could so relate, but that voice! So deep she felt the timbre of it touch her inside like a physical stroke between her legs. All her vaginal muscles clenched, leaving her so intent on the sensation, she barely heard what else he said.
“I got interested when I heard the rumor going around that this was closely tied to the SETI project.”
Rodie almost snickered. Wouldn’t you know it, the classy black chick didn’t have a clue. Probably spent all her time and energy finding the right shoes to match her handbags.
Dugan didn’t seem to mind answering such a dumb question. “SETI, Miss Pearce, stands for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.”
“Aliens?” She glanced at the others. “Really?”
“Really.” Dugan chuckled. “Why don’t you introduce yourself, tell us why you’re here?”
She looked nervous. “Well, it’s not to look for aliens.” She laughed. “At least it wasn’t. My name’s Kiera Pearce. I’m twenty-eight, an attorney. I was originally hired by a group of religious fundamentalists that wanted me to find a legal basis to shut your project down.”
She glanced at Mac Dugan and smiled. “Obviously, I couldn’t find any way to file a lawsuit that wouldn’t be considered frivolous, but when I saw that the ones you selected would spend six well-paid months living in the mountains, I figured it sounded like an interesting change of pace.” She shrugged and laughed again. “I filled in the application more out of curiosity than anything. I never expected to be selected.” Still smiling, she added, “For the record, no one said a thing about aliens.”
“Aliens or not, you’re actually highly qualified,” Dugan said. When she raised her eyebrows, he added, “I’ll explain in a moment.” He looked at Rodie. “Ms. Bishop?”
Clearly, he’d done his homework. He knew all their names. She fought the impulse to squirm in her seat like a little kid. Something about Dugan got to her on such a visceral level that it was totally disconcerting. She took a quick breath. Let it out. Reached for whatever composure she could find.
“I’m Rodie Leigh Bishop. I’m thirty. I got my masters in computer science at Stanford. I’m in telecommunications, the research and development part, currently on a leave of absence for personal reasons.”
She wasn’t about to explain that the combination of assault and robbery just after the ex-boyfriend fiasco had really knocked her for a loop. She needed this. Needed to shake up her life a bit and get her confidence back, but Dugan was smiling at her, and it was obvious he wanted more.
“I applied because I’m fascinated by the telescope array you’ve been building,” she said, which was part of it. “I mean, it’s huge, even bigger than the Allen Array. From what I’ve read, it’s a lot more sophisticated, though I couldn’t find out everything I wanted to know.” She flashed Dugan a bright grin. “Security on this project has been amazing, but you’re going to tell us all about it, right?”
Smiling mysteriously, Dugan nodded. “Eventually.” He glanced at the young-looking guy who was slouched in his seat, all bored attitude and shaggy hair. “Mr. Paisley?”
The kid sat up. “Uh . . . Cameron Paisley. I’m thirty, an artist.” He glanced at the others and added, almost defensively. “No degrees. Lots of art classes, though, and I make a living.”
Rodie got caught on his age. Sheesh . . . the kid looked about seventeen, tops. Even younger when he sort of puffed up his chest and added, “I do paintings of impossible landscapes.”
“But are they really impossible?” Dugan steepled his fingers and rested his chin on his fingertips. “Or are they places you’ve possibly traveled to in your dreams?”
Rodie glanced at the kid. The attitude was gone. He stared wide-eyed at Dugan.
Dugan merely let the question hang there a moment. Then he turned to the blond dude. “Mr. O’Toole?”
“Finnegan O’Toole. Finn.” He flashed a cocky grin that seemed to take in all three of the women. “I’m thirty-three, I can fix anything that breaks, including your satellite dishes. I’ve had every job imaginable from oil-rig roustabout to bank teller to a three-year stint as a professor of physics at UC San Diego. And yes, I do have a doctorate in applied physics. However, I’m mainly here to check out the women.”
“I see.” Mac chuckled. “Good enough, I guess. I’m sure we all appreciate your honesty, if not your goal.” He flashed a grin at the man. “Though I guess we can always use a good repairman.”
Still smiling, Dugan shook his head and turned to the last one in the group, the young-looking white girl. “Miss Connor? Your turn.”
She blushed. Rodie almost rolled her eyes. Talk about deer in the headlights . . .
Then she sort of shook herself, sat up straight, and spoke with a lot more self-confidence than Rodie’d expected. “I’m Elizabeth Connor. I prefer Liz or Lizzie. I’m twenty-five years old, and I’m looking for something new. I’ve specialized in satellite communications for the aerospace industry, but I’m really tired of the sexism and ageism in my field. I’ve been following the development of Mr. Dugan’s project and actually had some input for the telescopes, receivers, and antennae. I’m thrilled to have been selected for this. Thank you, Mr. Dugan.”
“You’re more than welcome, Lizzie. I know you’ll be an asset to this team. And, by the way, let’s drop the ‘Mr. Dugan’ stuff. I probably won’t be able remain on site all the time once you guys are comfortable with the job, but we’ll be living and working together as a team enough to drop the formalities. My name’s Mac, though I imagine there’ll be times when it’s something else, hopefully only muttered quietly under your breath.”
He smiled at their laughter, then focused on Lizzie again, and Rodie tried to hide her disbelief that this little girl could be an asset to anything more sophisticated than the next routine on the cheerleading squad. Twenty-five? She looked about twelve.
Almost as if he’d read her mind, Dugan looked right at Rodie. “Lizzie may look young,” he said, turning quickly to smile at the girl. “And she is, but she’s also an amazing young woman. Lizzie was homeschooled before entering Georgetown at fifteen. She completed her undergraduate work at eighteen and had her doctorate in astrophysics from Princeton before she turned twenty-one. Lizzie’s been heavily involved in research and development on the Mars project for the last four years. When she talks about satellite communications and design, it’s for the new Mars lander that’s under construction.”
Rodie shot a quick glance at the girl. Then she chuckled. “Okay. I take back my wayward thoughts. Pretty impressive.”
Lizzie blushed and mumbled something. Rodie thought it was a thank you. Curious, she asked, “What do you mean by ageism? I thought that was something directed at the over-fifty crowd.”
Lizzie shrugged and shook her head. “You’re doing it right now—looking at me and thinking I’m just a kid. I was the only woman on my team, and the only member under thirty-five. In the beginning, more than ten years under.” She squared her shoulders and gave Rodie a level stare. “I know I’m young, but I’m far from stupid. I got tired of being treated like the resident bimbo.”
“Ouch.” Kiera Pearce chuckled. “I ran into that in law. The good old boys’ network is tough to deal with sometimes.”
“I’ve run into it, too,” Rodie said. “And you’re right. I’m sorry for doing the same thing to you. I should know better.”
“Thank you for that.” Lizzie shot her a bright smile, and Rodie suddenly had a whole new appreciation for both women. A sisterhood, of sorts.
Amazing how a shared problem created its own camaraderie. “I finished my masters in computer science at Stanford the year I turned twenty.” Rodie sensed they wanted to know more. Was that why she felt a need to explain more than she would under normal circumstances?
But then, what was normal anymore?
“No one took me seriously. I didn’t know whether to blame my age, my gender, or my indeterminate race.” She’d grown tired of explaining. No, she wasn’t black. Wasn’t Asian. Wasn’t Hispanic. She was just a mutt. A perfectly happy mutt, if the idiots who needed a label would just leave her alone.
“Or all three.”
She glanced up at Morgan’s dry comment, unsure whether he was teasing or agreeing or just making fun. “Or all three,” she echoed. Screw him. She didn’t really care.
He stared at her a moment. One corner of his mouth was quirked up in what could have been either a smile or a smirk. He held her gaze a moment and then turned toward Mac Dugan. “So. Are you going to tell us why we’re here and the others aren’t?”
Mac had been quietly watching them. Intently, the way you might study a lab experiment, was Rodie’s first thought. The silent buzz in the room grew stronger.
Mac nodded toward Morgan. “I am. I’m guessing you’ve already figured out some of the main points in your favor. All of you are incredibly intelligent. Off the charts intelligent, if you want the truth. You’re all powerful type-A personalities. Driven, creative, unafraid of trying new things. You’re all leaders, which could create a problem, except I’m the alpha wolf in this little pack and you will defer to me.”
“And why, may I ask, will we be doin’ that?” Finnegan’s question had a whole lot of Irish along with an obvious thread of steel running through it. Rodie sat back so she could better observe Dugan’s reaction.
“Because, Mr. O’Toole, this is my project and my money. My ideas.” Dugan grinned at all of them. Rodie almost laughed out loud at the feral, almost wolf-like look of the man.
“And because you signed a statement agreeing that I was the one in charge and that all final decisions would rest with me when you filled out the original questionnaire. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to leave.” He folded his hands on the table and his gaze slowly swept over each of them.
No one moved.
“You’ve also got creative minds and you’re physically healthy. That was important—no genetic health problems or weaknesses, no communicable diseases, venereal or otherwise. Your psychological profiles show no sign of major neuroses or other mental issues. Plus, the women have all agreed to implants for birth control, which you ladies will need to take care of by tomorrow. We have a clinic here on the main campus.” He shrugged at the surprised looks from the guys. “What do you expect? I’m not about to put six sexually active, extremely attractive young adults together for six months and risk unwanted pregnancies.”
He continued with his assessing gaze moving slowly over the six of them. “There’s another thing you all have in common. It’s probably the second-most important ability.”
Now he focused on each of them in turn. Rodie held his gaze when he got to her. A shiver raced along her spine, a sense of knowing. Of some weird connection to the man, even though she’d never met him before.
And she knew. Just like that, as clear as glass, she knew what trait they shared. “You tested us for psychic awareness, didn’t you?” She almost laughed as Dugan’s smile grew. “I bet we all scored really high on the extrasensory perception part of that questionnaire.”
“You were just in my head, weren’t you? Telling me that we tested off the charts for ESP.” Cameron’s sulky attitude was gone. He laughed, staring open-mouthed at Dugan. “You just used telepathy with me.”
Every single one of them—, including Rodie—stared wide-eyed at Mac. She almost snorted when Cameron’s head suddenly jerked one way and then the other, catching everyone’s amazed expressions. Then he narrowed his gaze on Dugan again. “You talked to all of us. You were in our heads at the same time. How?”
Mac Dugan leaned back in his chair with a huge, obviously satisfied grin on his face. “The same way you’re all going to be able to communicate with each other. Each of you has strong telepathic abilities. You merely lack the training.”
“How does this fit in with the telescopic array you’ve built, assuming this entire process has to do with the array?” Rodie could still feel the mental touch of Mac Dugan’s words in her mind. It was a disturbingly intimate sensation. Maybe she wasn’t dealing with the assault or the boyfriend incident as well as she’d thought, but those things had happened weeks ago. Why was she thinking of them now? “ESP and big satellite dishes? I don’t get it.”
“First of all, yes, this is all about the array. As I said, telepathic ability is the second-most important trait you share. The first is more personal.” Once again his gaze caught each of them independently, and the corner of his lips tilted slightly. “You are all, to one extent or another, sexually active and sexually very creative, very free about your sexuality. Mr. Black lives openly as a bisexual. He’s had a number of short-term relationships with both sexes over the years. Kiera, you’ve been married, briefly. You’re now divorced, but you said you identify as lesbian, maybe bi. You, Mr. O’Toole, wrote on your application that you consider yourself entirely heterosexual. You also identify yourself, and confirmed it a few moments ago, as a sexual predator.” Dugan chuckled. “Pretty ballsy statement, if you’re serious. Point being, you all have robust sex lives, and according to the tests we’ve run and the forms you’ve filled out, amazingly detailed sexual fantasies. With the telepathy, you have the ability to project those fantasies.”
Lizzie snorted. She covered her mouth with her hand and glanced at Rodie and Kiera. “And with the array, we have the ability to project those fantasies into space.” Laughing harder, she snapped her fingers. “Now that should bring any horny aliens in the universe racing our way. Wicked amazing!”
Laughing so hard she could barely catch her breath, Rodie glanced at Lizzie and started giggling again. This was so not what she’d expected, and it was obvious she wasn’t alone. All of them were laughing and cracking wise.
All except Morgan. She caught the frown, sensed his anger as he settled his chair back on all four legs and slapped his palms down on the table. A little shiver raced across her spine. Damn, but the man was hot. Even more so when he was pissed off.
“You are fucking kidding me.” He glared at all of them, growling in that deep, sexy voice of his. “You’ve pulled all of us together based on our ability to broadcast sexual fantasies? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Actually, Morgan, it’s not. Hear me out.” Mac Dugan shoved back his chair and stood up.
Rodie sensed the alpha wolf had just raised his hackles and growled. The laughter stopped. Every single one of them sat straighter in their chairs and paid attention. Rodie took a quick glance around as another shiver snapped across her spine. Even Morgan appeared to have backed off.
The easy smile was gone from MacArthur Dugan’s face. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and his gaze flicked from one to the next. And then, in a few terse words, he changed everything Rodie had ever thought about space and life on other worlds—and the power of the human mind.
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