DREAM UNCHAINED: the explosive final story in the Dream Catchers series
Mac's team of telepaths has proved to be more powerful than he'd imagined, but time grows short, Zianne's life force is fading and an entire race of Nyrian slaves is at risk--as well as the future of life on Earth. As the final minutes speed by much too quickly, a last ditch effort is made to save the world, to save a dying race, and to save a love that transcends time.
"...Heck yes, I am Joyfully Recommending Dream Unchained as a must read, an instant favorite and one hot series that I swear is smoking on my shelves as I write this."
Reviewed by Jo for Joyfully Reviewed
"...Continuing the story begun in Dream Bound, this story has plenty of the love scenes Douglas fans are looking for, but the stakes are higher this time...the race against time to save the Earth and Mac’s love, Zianne, will keep them turning the pages.
Reviewed by: Cyndy Aleo for RT Book Reviews
Dream Catchers Book 2
It wasn’t until a tangerine slice of sunlight flashed above the sharp edge of the plateau that Mac Dugan realized he’d spent almost the whole damned night on the deck outside his bedroom.
Sitting in a hard, wooden Adirondack chair, freezing his ass off while the woman he loved and his best friend were curled up together in the big bed in the room behind him.
He imagined the two of them—snuggled warm and cozy in a tangle of twisted bedding—and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the visual. Dink, all long, well-formed male with a sexy mat of dark blond hair across his chest, washboard abs and a strong, sharply masculine face darkened with morning stubble.
And Zianne? Fluffy little gray squirrel.
Last time he looked, she’d had her tail curled around the top of Dink’s head and one tiny paw resting on his ear.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
He took a deep breath, pushed back his fear and the sharp burn of frustrated tears and focused on what they’d shared last night. Mac, Zianne and Dink, together again as they’d been so long ago. Zianne had held on to her human shape long enough for them to make love—the three of them connecting in a way they’d not been able to do since her abrupt disappearance so many years ago.
Twenty fucking years. Twenty years wondering if she still lived. Worrying whether or not all of his creative energies, every spare penny he’d been able to raise and the combined technological advances of the entire research and development team at Beyond Global Ventures would be enough to rescue Zianne and the few surviving members of her people from slavery.
Twenty years, sixty million dollars and a lifetime of focusing on an impossible rescue would all come down to the next thirty-six hours or so. Fewer than two days for Zianne to live or die, for the few remnants of the Nyrian people to survive.
They were so damned close to success, even as the entire project balanced on a razor’s edge of failure.
Shit. He hadn’t allowed himself to consider failure. How could he, and still work toward such an impossible goal? What fool would even attempt the rescue of a small group of alien slaves imprisoned aboard a space ship—held by another alien race preparing to plunder the earth of all its natural resources?
It sounded ridiculous no matter how he phrased it, so he did what he always tried to do when the fears surfaced. Mac pushed the negative thoughts out of his head. Refused to consider failure. Reminded himself failure was never an option.
Call it denial, call it what you will, but it was the only way he’d survived the past two decades. Focus on the desired outcome. Ignore the rest. Plan for everything that can possibly go wrong, and then put those plans aside and go with one that assured success.
Failure is not an option.
Clichéd, but still the only way to approach an impossible task. Expect success and go for it.
Mac sucked in a deep breath, centered himself, and locked away his fear. He consciously refocused his energy, squinting at the growing brilliance of the sun as it slanted across the huge array of satellite dishes. He studied them with pride, taking comfort in the fact they worked perfectly, that they had allowed his small team of young men and women to make telepathic contact with Zianne’s people.
People of pure energy, enslaved eons ago aboard the Gar vessel and forced to power the huge starcruiser now hiding in orbit behind the moon. Unwilling accomplices in the Gar’s plans to plunder Earth of all her riches. To take her mineral resources, her air and water—all that kept the planet alive.
The scope of the threat was beyond even Mac’s wildest imagination, and his imagination had no limits. The satellite array was proof of that—the fact it had worked so well, that it had allowed his people to contact the Nyrians from the very first day gave him hope that their plan—what there was of it—would succeed. Somehow they would rescue the captives.
Somehow, he would save Zianne’s life.
Mac shifted his attention to the square cinder-block building they’d labeled the dream shack. The small building was the center of operations for the entire project, the place where his telepathic team members would hook themselves up to the massive antennae and, via the satellite array, focus their sexual energy on the Nyrians.
And the Nyrians had already proved they knew how to work with such a powerful and compelling source of power. Mac had learned their secret from Zianne over two decades earlier, that the Nyrians, a people without a physical form of their own, could take on corporeal bodies through the power of sexual fantasy.
Could take those bodies and hold on to them, and, once they were able to retrieve their soulstones, they would be free of the Gar and able to make a new home here, on Earth.
If everything went according to plan. “Damn but that’s a big if.” Sighing, Mac rubbed his hand over his burning eyes. He’d not slept all night and today he would need to be sharp—on top of his game if he was going to be any help at all. He stared at the dream shack, watching as the sunlight brushed the glass dome on top of the building. That had been an act of whimsy—installing a skylight so that the team members could watch the sky as they projected their thoughts through space. They didn’t need to see the stars to know they were there, but from what feedback he’d gotten, all of them appreciated the view skyward.
He glanced at his wristwatch as the top half of the sun wavered above the dark edge of the plateau. It was barely six, which meant Finnegan O’Toole had a couple more hours to his shift.
Now there was a guy who’d proved first impressions weren’t always correct. Finn had come across as a class-A jerk—brilliant but still a jerk. Then he’d shown more character than Mac or any of the others had suspected when he’d volunteered to go aboard the Gar starcruiser to help with the rescue.
A brave and foolish request by a man who was no one’s fool.
What kind of man would willingly step into danger like that?
Yeah, Mac knew he’d do it in a heartbeat, except he was needed here. This was, after all, his quest, for want of a better word. The culmination of his twenty-year mission to find Zianne, to save her people, to destroy the Gar before they destroyed the world.
It sounded like a grade-B movie when he spelled it out, except it was real. Terrifying, beyond belief, yet all too real.
Who in the hell, in their right mind, would think he had a prayer of success? Of course, no one had ever accused him of being in his right mind. Even Mac’s strongest supporters figured he had more than a few screws loose.
In all fairness to himself, what genius didn’t march to a different drummer? It was probably a very good thing that the world didn’t know the truth—Mac Dugan didn’t follow any drummer.
Hell, no. He’d been following the directions of a beautiful alien who drew her physical form from his sexual fantasies. A woman who wouldn’t even exist as other than pure energy without the drunken visual of a twenty-six year old post-grad student back in the early days of the computer age.
Only a handful of people knew the truth—that his whole career had been based on a four month relationship with an inhuman creature he’d fallen in lust and then in love with. The same creature now trapped in the body of a little gray squirrel.
Shit. What a fucked up mess. What chance in hell...
“Mac? I thought you came back to bed. How long have you been outside? Good lord man, it’s freezing out here.”
Mac leaned his head against the back of his chair and stared upside down at the man shivering behind him. “G’morning to you, too, Dink. Couldn’t sleep. Didn’t want to disturb you guys.” He straightened up and waved at the chair beside him. “Have a seat. You don’t by any chance have coffee, do you?”
“You’re kidding, right? Me? Make coffee?”
“One can only hope.” He chuckled. He might be a world-famous investigative reporter, but Nils Dinkemann had never been known for his culinary skills. “I was afraid of that, but yeah, I know. I lost contact with my toes a few hours ago.” A thick, down comforter settled over him, still warm from Dink’s body heat.
“Okay. This works.” Mac drew his feet up under the blanket and tucked all that soft warmth around him. “Damn that feels good. I think it’s even better than coffee.”
A moment later, Dink flopped down in the chair beside Mac’s, wrapped head to foot in another blanket. “I heard some rattling and clanking downstairs,” he said. “Sounds like your cook’s putting some fresh coffee on. I’ll get us some in a few minutes.”
Mac grunted in assent. He turned and glanced toward the sliding glass door, but Dink had closed it. The glare of the growing sunlight reflected off the glass.
He couldn’t see Zianne. “Is...?”
“She’s asleep. Still a squirrel. I left her wrapped in your jacket.”
“Thanks.” He sighed.
Mac rolled his head to the right and stared at Dink. “You’re kidding, right?”
Hell, no, I’m not all right. “We’ll know in approximately two more days, I guess.”
Dink grunted again.
Two more days and Mac would know if all his efforts might actually pay off. And if they didn’t?
He sucked in a deep breath. Exhaled. “Cameron was planning to meet the last two Nyrians during his shift last night, which means that by now all of them should have access to functioning human bodies. The first group will be coming to Earth tonight—once they have their soulstones—as soon as it turns dark.”
“So what happens today?”
Mac glanced at Dink. There was none of the investigative reporter about him this morning. No, he just sounded like a very concerned friend. Right now, Mac figured he needed the friend more than the reporter, though if all went according to plan, he’d need the reporter even more once the Nyrians were all safe. “Today a couple of the stronger Nyrians are going to show Finn and Morgan how to disincorporate and move through space.”
“Holy shit.” Whispered softly, more a prayer than a curse.
Mac shrugged. “That’s the only way to get them on the ship. Breaking down to molecular particles and traveling with a host Nyrian through space. Sounds good in theory.”
“I can’t believe you actually got volunteers.”
“Morgan Black and Finn O’Toole. Both good guys, physically strong, very sharp. The Gar shouldn’t be expecting an attack, but they’re always well-armed. According to Nattoch, the Nyrian elder who’s sort of their leader, the Gar carry weapons that can disrupt the Nyrians’ energy field. Doesn’t kill them, but can effectively immobilize them. It shouldn’t affect humans, though. Once Finn and Morgan arrive on board the ship, they’ll have to rematerialize and disarm the guards so the Nyrians can retrieve their soulstones.”
And, Nyria help them, Zianne’s soulstone as well. She was dying. Would die within the next few hours without an infusion of power from one of her fellow Nyrians, but even their generous gifts of power couldn’t hold her here forever.
Not without her soulstone.
Mac sighed. So much could go wrong. So damned much.
Dink reached across the narrow gap that separated them, took hold of Mac’s hand, and squeezed it tightly. “This is the one thing I hate most about being a reporter. Learning the plans, knowing the danger, and realizing there’s not a fucking thing I can do to alter the outcome.”
Mac squeezed back. “You’re here, Dink. That matters more than you realize.” He gazed into his friend’s silvery eyes, but there was too much emotion, too much to consider right now.
Mac glanced away as the sun finally broke free of the horizon in a blinding blaze of orange and pink against a cerulean sky. It was easier to blame the tears in his eyes on the brilliant flash of sunlight shimmering off row after row of white satellite dishes, marching west across the array with inexorable certainty.
The sun would continue to rise, the days would pass, the world would go on.
But life? Not such a sure thing. Not anymore. This might be the last day for Zianne, but if things went wrong with their plan for rescuing her people, it could also be the end of more than the few remaining Nyrians.
If they couldn’t stop the Gar, if the Nyrians were somehow compelled to continue powering their huge starcruiser, it could very well mark the end of everything, at least as far as Earth was concerned.
Zianne and Mac’s love wasn’t even a blip on the radar, not compared to the ultimate risks they faced.
It wasn’t like humans had been such great stewards of their world, but they hadn’t totally fucked things up yet. If the Gar had their way, once they moved on to other worlds they’d leave nothing but a smoldering chunk of rock where civilizations had once risen and fallen. Where humans had grown and evolved.
Where Mac had met an impossible, improbable woman; where he’d fallen in love and followed a dream.
A dream that had all the signs of transforming into a fucking nightmare.
He didn’t want to think about it. No, he had to believe in success. As Dink kept reminding him, it was the only acceptable outcome. He said it again, whispering the words to himself as he sat there on the deck, his hand tightly clasped in Dink’s.
Failure is not an option.
Cameron Paisley’s hand shook so badly he couldn’t get the damned brush into the jar of paint thinner. This had never happened before. Not to this extent, not this total loss of self, of time and place and space while painting.
His fantastical landscapes of imaginary worlds had always come to him through dreams, but he’d generally been wide-awake while he painted them. The amount of money they brought in certainly kept his eyes wide open, but this massive canvas was something else altogether.
He vaguely recalled finding the huge canvas in the closet with a bunch of smaller ones that were already stretched. He didn’t recall getting it out. Didn’t remember setting it up, pulling out his paints. Didn’t remember a fucking thing.
It wasn’t just big—measuring at least six feet wide and four feet high—but the art itself was haunting. Beautiful. Unbelievable.
Even more frightening? He couldn’t remember painting a single stroke, yet he knew it was his work, done in his style. It was a world he’d never seen, and yet he knew exactly what it was. Where it was. And he knew, without a doubt, that it no longer existed as it once had. As he’d painted it.
He finally managed to drag his gaze away from the mass of dark and fearsome images, focused his attention on the jar of thinner, and jammed his brush into the solvent.
As if someone physically forced him, Cam’s eyes were drawn back to the painting. His hands were still shaking. Critics had asked over the years if his work was more than his imagination. He’d always said his paintings were the product of dreams.
This was no dream. This hadn’t come to him during his shift in the dream shack. No, this had taken him over like a bad drug trip, had caught him up for... He glanced at the clock on the wall. Two hours?
Stunned, Cam stared at the canvas. He worked fast, but this painting was huge and filled with such detail that it should have taken him much, much longer.
Days, not hours.
It hurt to look. To realize what he saw in the bold strokes, the splashes of color, the finer details set within an unyielding maelstrom of shapes and images. He’d painted fear and death, abject loss and total destruction.
A world in the agonizing final spasms of existence.
Forcibly turning his back on the art, Cam grabbed a rag and wiped his hands clean. Somehow he had to clear his head; he needed to make sense of this.
Tossing the rag aside, he quickly slipped out of his clothes and left them in a pile on the floor in front of the easel. Naked and shivering in the morning chill, he walked quickly through the bedroom to the bathroom.
He caught a brief glance of himself in the mirror. As always, he averted his eyes and turned on the tap in the shower. So stupid, the way he always reacted to his own image.
Someday he’d probably wish he still looked like an overgrown teenager, but for now, it would be nice to look his age. It was hard enough getting the established art world to take a thirty-year-old man seriously. A guy who looked about seventeen got absolutely no respect.
Did it really matter? Shit, no. If he believed Mac—and there was no reason not to—if Mac’s project failed, there wouldn’t be a fucking art world to worry about.
Cam grabbed a washcloth off the rack beside the shower, stepped beneath the spray, and concentrated on emptying his mind of everything but the welcome heat of the water, the way tension slowly eased out of tired muscles beneath the pounding spray. A more welcome thought intruded, that he’d finally experienced what the other members of the dream team had known all along—sending sexual fantasies to Nyrians had one hell of a payback.
After two nights of fantasizing about his art and the pending rescue of the aliens, he’d finally gotten on track during last night’s shift.
Had he ever. The thought had barely registered when a coil of arousal shocked him into immediate awareness. His balls drew close to his body; his cock throbbed with new blood.
“Down, boy.” At least this part of him looked and acted like a grown up. Chuckling, he smoothed his hand over his taut shaft, paused a moment to slip his foreskin over the broad head and back again. A shiver raced along his spine. A shiver of pure carnal pleasure. He turned his dick loose and brushed his wet hair out of his eyes. Even without stroking himself, his arousal seemed to be growing, just from remembering his shift last night in the shack.
And to think he was getting paid for this! Being a member of Mac Dugan’s dream team definitely had good bennies. Using his imagination to broadcast sexual fantasies to aliens who gained power from his wild thoughts might sound totally impossible, but when those fantasies were combined with Mac’s powerful satellite array to boost their energy, the results were beyond amazing.
He thought of the two women who’d come to him during his shift, the last of the twenty-eight surviving Nyrians to make the journey to Earth for the combination of sexual power and visual images necessary to create their own corporeal bodies.
He’d certainly liked the bodies his two visitors had chosen, and he’d definitely loved what they did with them. Once the Nyrians had a solid form, they seemed to delight in the sensual pleasures their new human bodies allowed.
Granted, everything had happened in his head—or at least he thought it had—but it had felt like so much more.
Sort of like the painting. He wondered if Mac was awake, if maybe he ought to show it to him. Shit. He let out a huge breath. He could be wrong, but he was positive the damned thing was...
Oh. Fuck. The soft brush of something warm along his inner thigh jerked Cam out of his convoluted thoughts.
Out of his thoughts and right back here, to what could only be a dream. “Mir? Niah? What are you doing here?” He blinked furiously, clearing the water out of his eyes. Both women, his Nyrians from the night before, here? In his shower? He was awake, damn it. He wasn’t fantasizing.
“Hello, Cam.” Mir gazed up at him, all bright smile and gorgeous, naked body. She and Niah knelt at his feet, almost mirror images of one another except for coloring. Where Mir was all sultry and dark with long black hair, dark coffee eyes, and skin the color of polished oak, Niah was her opposite. Platinum hair, eyes of molten silver, and skin so fair and fine as to make her look like a carefully constructed porcelain doll.
Yet her lips were red—deep red, slightly parted, and at this moment approaching...no. Oh, crap. They were sliding deliciously over the head of his wide awake, please-play-with-me dick.
Groaning, he braced his hands against the slick walls of the shower and prayed his knees wouldn’t buckle. There was no thought of stopping her—last night he’d quickly learned that Mir and Niah did exactly as they pleased.
Except, that had just been fantasy, right? Holy shit. What did it matter when they were here, now, in his shower? Mir stood. Rising gracefully as a sylph, she slipped around behind him, lightly tugged the wet washcloth from his nerveless fingers, and slowly swept it across his shoulders. She stroked his back, his buttocks, and the backs of his thighs, while Niah slowly took him deeper and then deeper still, sucking his full length into her mouth, down her throat.
Oh. Fuck. He tightened everything—his buttocks, his thighs, the muscles across his stomach. Tightened and prayed for control, but he could feel it slipping, even as Mir dropped the washcloth and pressed against his back.
She was tall enough that her breasts hit just below his shoulder blades, her nipples beaded up so tight he felt them, twin little bullet points of sensation. Then she was sliding, sliding down, slowly dragging her breasts down his back, running her fingers over his flanks, dropping to her knees behind him.
This was so much more intense than last night when he’d slipped between fantasy and reality, and he’d wondered then if he’d survive their curious explorations. Now, Niah knelt in front, sucking his cock. Mir had gone to her knees behind him, pushing his legs apart, licking the sensitive curve of his butt and then wrapping long fingers around his sac.
He might have whimpered. Knew he was cursing steadily, though if he’d been asked exactly what words he used, Cam doubted he could have given an intelligent answer. Mir forced his legs farther apart, somehow twisting around so that she had her mouth on his balls and her tongue doing something that had to be illegal in most states.
Probably on the planet.
Did it matter? Hell no. Hell. No. No...shit.
He tried to stop it. Honestly, he’d never fought so hard for control in his life, but there was no way. Not any way at all to stop what these two women had so quickly set into motion.
Lips and tongues everywhere; fingers on his balls; a hot, tight mouth and throat taking control of his dick. A finger teasing his ass, pressing, entering, sliding deep, pressing...
He cried out. Cursed. Shouted.
Cam struggled to stay upright, but gravity won and he slowly gave in. His knees buckled and his hands slipped along the wet tiles until he was half sitting, half lying on the floor of the shower with the water beating him in the face.
Mir and Niah giggled with utter delight.
He opened his eyes and stared at the women. “What are you doing here? I thought you were going back to finish your shift.”
“Nattoch wanted us to gather more energy.” Niah licked her lips. “You weren’t fantasizing enough to provide energy. We decided to help you along.”
“You were sad,” Mir said. She stood and offered him a hand. He wrapped his fingers around hers and she tugged him to his feet. “Your sadness distresses us. Come. Let’s dry off and do it again. This time with laughter.”
Cam thought of the painting in the other room. Thought of what it might be, what it meant. Then he looked at the women—two absolutely beautiful, wet, naked women—waiting impatiently for him to make up his mind.
He shut off the water, grabbed a towel off the rack, and ran it over Mir first, and then Niah. They preened like glossy, well-loved cats.
Cam dried himself. His legs had stopped trembling. His erection hadn’t subsided a bit, and it was still awfully early in the morning. The painting could wait. He’d talk to Mac later. Tossing the wet towel over the shower door, he followed the women into the bedroom.
He glanced out the window as first Mir and then Niah crawled into the middle of his big bed. The sun was barely up. Mac was probably still asleep. Cam turned his attention to the bed.
To the women on his bed.
It was still made up from yesterday. He’d never gone to sleep at all last night. Not that he intended to sleep now.
At least, not for a while. Mir held out her hand. He took it, let her tug him close, but instead of her slim fingers and the luck of pure devilment in her eyes, for some reason he thought of the painting in the other room.
The dark, angry red landscape with its familiar pattern of canals and lines, only he realized, now that he’d actually painted them, they weren’t canals at all. Astronomers had been totally off base. Those Martian canals had been highways. He’d painted cities and farms, forests and parks and big factories, all in the midst of terrible upheaval. A once living planet under attack.
Dead and desolate now, and the image of its change had come from someone aboard the Gar vessel. That had to be the source of this vision. He felt a terrible pain in his chest and thought again of waking Mac, of telling him what he’d seen.
Then he caught the scent of vanilla and honey, and the painting slipped from his mind, his thoughts filled now with the women he’d literally conjured out of fantasy. Gently, he pressed Mir back against the pillows and parted her thighs with both hands. Her skin was like silk, her smile filled with so many promises, so much hope. He sent a quick smile to Niah. “You next,” he said. Then he winked as Niah settled beside them to watch.
He knelt between Mir’s legs with his palms beneath her firm, round buttocks, lifted her for his pleasure, and discovered that yes, she did taste exactly like vanilla and honey.
Morgan Black lay beside Rodie Bishop and watched the first rays of morning sun cut across the tumbled blankets. The bed seemed almost empty with just the two of them, but Bolt, their Nyrian lover, had returned to the ship at some point during the night. Morgan had slept through his departure.
Still so hard to believe that in the past few days he had not only interacted with aliens, he’d had some pretty mind-blowing sex with them. His thoughts drifted to the five Nyrian women he’d called with his fantasies—women who now had the human forms they’d need when the DEO-MAP team put their rescue into action.
Five Nyrian women, one Nyrian man.
And then there was Rodie.
She’d caught him by surprise, and yet it was as if she’d always been there, always a part of his life. The feelings he had for her, the woman herself... Hell, it still felt like a dream.
He’d never had a steady relationship with a woman before, and nothing all that serious with men. How could so much have changed? Now he had Rodie, though what he had with her was a mystery. How much was real and how much fantasy?
He didn’t know for sure, but he was willing to find out.
He had Bolt and the other Nyrians, creatures he’d known for such a short time, and yet...they mattered. Mattered to him in a way that was almost impossible to describe. As if the forms they’d taken from his mind had left an indelible imprint on his soul.
Essentially, they had become family. His family. And not just the Nyrians—no, the entire dream team was closer than those few he could claim by blood. These were the ones who mattered.
Finn and Cam were the brothers he’d never had. Kiera and Liz were like little sisters. And Mac? How did he describe his feelings for Mac Dugan? Not just a friend, not even a brother. More a mentor, a trusted male, someone Morgan actually admired.
There were very few men he’d ever admired in his life.
And oddly enough, Finn O’Toole was one of them, which was almost laughable when he thought of his first impression of the irascible Irishman. He’d pegged O’Toole as a jokester without a serious thought in his head, a guy who was more concerned with bagging his next woman, adding another notch to his proverbial bedpost.
He’d been wrong about Finn O’Toole. At least he hoped so, since he’d be trusting him with his life. Today, he and Finn would learn how to dematerialize, or disassemble, as the Nyrians called it. Essentially, he’d be reducing himself to the molecular level and hitchhiking within the energy mass of an alien creature in order to travel from Earth to the Gar ship that was currently in orbit behind the moon.
Yeah. Sure...and it was a good thing he didn’t have a clue how this was going to happen or he’d probably be scared to death, but somehow, doing something that was so far beyond belief didn’t register well enough to actually terrify him. Yet.
Rodie let out a soft snore and snuggled against his side. He tightened his arm around her shoulders. She was just as far beyond belief as dematerializing. Rodie Bishop was someone else he’d underestimated.
He’d thought she was interesting and kind of cute.
He’d had no idea she would totally rock his world.
Of course, when he’d signed on to this project, he really had no idea what he was getting into. Definitely a good thing, being so ignorant, or he’d never have agreed.
And then, just think what he’d be missing?
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