Authors: Marie Harte
Tags: #Multiple Partners
Dawn Endeavor 4:
Dawn Endeavor 4: Gunnar’s Game
Copyright © November 2010 by Marie Harte
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Editor: Ann M. Curtis
Cover Artist: Justin James
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Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
. Not a word Frederik Gunnar Tersch would ever think to use to describe himself. He was the biggest badass of the Dawn Endeavor team, often likened to a Viking berserker, and could break a man's neck with little force, even when in his human form. He'd been a US Navy SEAL for six years, then a Circ—a genetically enhanced fighting machine courtesy of Uncle Sam. When
, as he was now, he shifted into a monstrous giant with claws, fangs, and skin tougher than armor. Tersch killed those who deserved it with little conscience and defended his country and his teammates with honor.
So why did the thought of going home scare the shit out of him?
“Thinking about Ava again, hmm?” Kisho Hayashi, his best friend and fellow Circ, murmured with laughter in his voice. Hayashi's chest rippled with muscle, his skin slightly darker than his normal almond tone, his frame larger and more lethal in his beastly form.
“Shut up, Hayashi.”
“She told me to keep an eye on you.” Hayashi cracked a smile, exposing fangs that glistened under the full moon.
Tersch growled. Though pleased that the once taciturn Asian now seemed to take great joy in life, he didn't appreciate being the butt of the joke.
He quickly glanced around him at the surrounding forest, making sure Morgan Reynolds, Hayashi's obnoxious mate, was nowhere around. The asshole constantly poked fun, and Tersch was tired of it. Hell, he was tired of everything lately. “Dude, I'm sorry, but Ava's not my keeper. And she's not your boss. Just ignore her.” The way Tersch had been trying to ignore her for the past year.
being the key word. Though Ava's diminutive height made her seem less than dangerous, the rest of her was pure threat. Tersch had never seen a woman better put together in his entire fucking life.
Her dark brown skin glowed, smooth and rich. Her hazel eyes could flash green or brown, depending upon her mood. She had a face that could have graced any number of magazines, with a stubborn chin, button nose, and those thick, ripe lips that made him sweat in remembrance. And that body… Ava had a woman's curves. Full breasts, a tiny waist, and a heart-shaped ass. And two weeks ago he'd learned she was Circ. A potential mate.
Hayashi chuckled, distracting him. “Oh yeah, you're definitely thinking about Ava.”
Tersch grimaced and tried to will away the erection stabbing through his camouflage trousers. It never failed. He always grew hard at thoughts of the stubborn little witch who was no doubt waiting at home to nag him about something.
Hayashi sighed. “I would if Morgan were here. I wish Jules would stop pairing him off with Fallon.”
Hayashi snorted. “No. Fallon's too head over heels for Olivia. And with the baby coming, you barely see one without the other anymore. Besides, Morgan knows how lucky he is to have me. He's not going to screw up a good thing.”
“You got that right.” Because if the annoying male even tried fucking over Hayashi, Tersch would gut him. Slowly.
“The problem is you.”
“Our illustrious team leader knows how much Morgan bothers you. I think he's afraid you're going to lose your temper one of these days and rip Morgan's head off.” Tersch grinned. “You know, that's not a bad idea. I like the way Jules thinks.” Julian Hawkins had been his lieutenant in the US Navy, when Tersch had been a SEAL. Tersch had followed him into the Circ project and hadn't looked back since. He trusted Jules with his life. He'd do anything for the man, to include keeping the enemy from taking another whack at him. Hence their trip into the sweltering early September heat of Virginia. He could only thank God his toughened skin repelled the insects on the hunt for blood.
Hayashi sighed. “I know Morgan can be a pain in the ass.”
“I'm sure you do,” Tersch muttered and kept his eyes open for any sign that the enemy had been through this section of the forest.
Hayashi ignored him and continued, “But he's not the problem. You and that temper are. Say what you want, but we both know you've been getting worse at keeping a tight rein over your anger.”
Especially since the monster that lived deep inside him refused to be silent any longer. Unlike the other Circs, Tersch didn't just have to deal with a beast he changed into at will. A darker, stronger force lay buried deep inside him, a force that grew closer and closer to taking over every day. And Tersch blamed Ava for the damned thing's impatience.
The berserker wanted its mate. The beast wanted his mate. And both of them wanted her
. Tersch flushed. “I'm fine.”
“No, you're not.”
Fortunately, before Hayashi could start counseling him, Tersch picked up the scent. “Our prey went that way.”
“Quarry, not prey,” Hayashi replied with a whispered growl.
They moved swiftly through the forest. Tersch connected with the ground beneath him. He absorbed every rock and root through the soles of his bare feet without complaint, the undersides as tough as the rest of him. Like Hayashi, he wore only his trousers as clothing. Made of a special fabric, they expanded when he
from man to beast.
. The animal sentience that dwelled just beneath his skin had an innate sense of self-preservation. His beast had been urging him to annihilate these fuckers ever since they'd learned the enemy was out here.
He took a deep breath and scented the enemy's spoor. Violence and the pungent smell of rogue Circ told him he was headed in the right direction. Tersch grunted with satisfaction and listened with a keen ability—and that other part of himself more wild than even his beast.
In the far distance he could make out Raul LaGarda and three other rogues.
Unlike Tersch and his team, rogue Circs lived on the raw edge. They had trouble filtering right from wrong and were driven to satisfy their baser needs. Many of them had to work hard not to kill, when every primal urge insisted they take what they wanted whenever they wanted. At some point during the course of a rogue's life, they devolved into mutants: inhuman creatures more monster than man.
Supposedly a mate could cure that spiraling transformation into becoming mutant, but Tersch wasn't buying it.
Just more mate propaganda from Mrs. Alicia Sharpe, their annoying boss. He detested the woman's interference. He didn't need a wife, a mate, or a goddamn girlfriend. He didn't need anyone but his team. He huffed and increased his pace, determined to concentrate on his job and only his job.
Hayashi fell behind as Tersch's rage sneaked up on him. He barely realized that he'd begun to
even more, into his inner berserker. Though not gifted with the psychic abilities his friends had, Tersch could enhance his physical prowess, becoming faster and stronger than anyone he'd ever met. Even Morgan, that slippery bastard, couldn't outrun Tersch when the raw, basest part of him took control.
He grew several inches taller than his beast, now towering over seven feet in height. Muscles upon muscles developed. His heart grew, supplying more oxygen to his body through enlarged arteries, and his expanded lungs increased his intake.
His claws and teeth grew sharper and harder, and his flesh darkened, almost rivaling Ava's brown skin. But where hers was soft and beautiful, his was coarse, designed to protect against enemies.
His eyes, he'd been told, frightened grown men. As a Circ, he had slit pupils surrounded by blue irises. But his eyes turned black all over when he went into berserker mode. Streaks of white and blue covered the orb, making his eyes look
“like a reflection of deepest night, speckled with stars.” Hayashi had described him so poetically, while Morgan had likened him to a demon's bitch, come to drag the unworthy back to hell.
Tersch's berserker preferred Morgan's description. Hell, fire. Death, destruction…
The creature lived to destroy everything in its path. A good thing when in the presence of the enemy, but a bad thing when surrounded by friends or family.
Family who could be taken and tortured, like what had happened to Jules just two months ago. Friends who could be thrown from a building and nearly killed, as Hayashi had experienced months before that. Every one of his teammates and their mates had suffered because of men like the ones he now hunted.