#1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan takes readers into the hot zone in this pulse-pounding GhostWalker novel.
On a rescue mission in the heart of the Indonesian jungle, Dr. Draden Freeman and his GhostWalker team need to extract the wounded as quickly as possible—or risk spreading a deadly virus unleashed by a terrorist cell. When Draden gets infected, he forces his team to leave him behind. He won’t risk exposing anyone else. He intends to find the ones responsible and go out in a blaze of glory.…
Shylah Cosmos’s mission is to track the virus and remain unseen. Her enhanced senses tell her that the gorgeous man eradicating the terrorists one by one is a GhostWalker—and his lethal precision takes her breath away. When he’s hit by a lucky shot, she can’t stop herself from stepping in, not knowing that by saving his life she’s exposed herself to the virus.
There’s no telling how much time Draden and Shylah have left. Racing to find a cure, they quickly realize that they’ve found their perfect partner just in time to lose everything. But even as the virus threatens to consume their bodies, they’ve never felt more alive.
THE GHOSTWALKER NOVELS ARE…
“Sexy as hell.”—The Reading Cafe
“Explosive!”—Fallen Angel Reviews
About the Author
Christine Feehan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Carpathian series, the GhostWalker series, the Leopard series, the Shadow Riders series, the Torpedo Ink series, and the Sea Haven novels, including the Drake Sisters series and the Sisters of the Heart series.
Read an Excerpt
"Hot as hell!" Barry Font yelled, wiping the sweat from his face. He looked around him at the crew he was transporting straight into the hot zone. He hadn't meant the strip of land they were setting the helicopters down in. They all knew it was bad. The last rescue attempt had been ambushed. Three dead, two wounded, and the helicopter had barely made it out.
The temperature was at least ninety degrees with 99 percent humidity and gusting winds that took that heat and shoved it right down your throat-and this was at night. His skin felt wet and sticky all the time. He wanted to strip himself bare and lie under the helicopter's rotor blades just to get some relief.
They dropped down out of the mountains, the helicopters running low enough to make his gut tighten as they skimmed along the lowlands heading toward the forest. They were sitting ducks making that run, and this area was infamous for frequent ground-to-air fire. With the Milisi Separatis Sumatra terrorist cell active and firing at anything, every man in the choppers was at risk. Gunners grimly watched out their doors on either side, but that didn't make him feel any less like he had a target painted on his back. Strangely, it wasn't the run that was scaring the crap out of him. He felt like he was trapped in a cage surrounded by predators.
The Air Force pararescue team didn't seem affected by anything as mundane as the heat or terrorists. The crazy thing was, they were mostly officers. Doctors. What the hell? As a rule, Barry thought most officers were a joke. These men had seen combat and looked as tough as nails. He'd never flown them anywhere before and hadn't known what to expect.
His crew had taken men into all sorts of combat situations, but he'd never seen a team like the one he was bringing in. He didn't even know how to explain their difference. It wasn't like he could name one single thing about them that made them stand out in his mind. They just gave off a dangerous vibe. Being with them really did feel as if he were inside a tiger's cage, surrounded by the big cats. They were that still, that menacing, and yet they hadn't said or done anything to warrant his nerves or the shiver of dread creeping down his spine at the sight of them.
They sat stoically while the helicopter swayed and jerked, bumping like it was in the rockiest terrain. They moved with the craft as if seasoned veterans of helicopter travel. Sweat trickled down faces-well, all but one. He looked at the man sitting at the very end of the jump seat. Dr. Draden Freeman, a gifted surgeon, was a fucking model, not a tough-as-nails soldier about to be dropped into the hottest zone in Indonesia.
Freeman had dark brown hair that was thick and wavy. At six-two he was all muscle, without an ounce of fat. His eyes were a dark blue and held an intensity; when he flicked Barry a careless glance at his remark, Barry's gut reacted as if punched. The man had rugged good looks that had catapulted him into stardom in the modeling world. Ordinarily, Barry and the crew would have been making fun of him behind his back, but no one did-especially after one of those smoldering, scary glances. Not one single bead of sweat marred his good looks.
"Five minutes out." The call came from the front via his radio.
Barry held up five fingers and the five men in the helicopter barely reacted. The helicopter was coming in with guns ready, knowing they wouldn't have much time to retrieve the wounded U.S. Rangers, Kopassus or civilians. The gunners were in position and tension mounted.
Members of the WHO, the World Health Organization, had come at the request of the government to examine the remains of the dead at a small village, Lupa Suku, in a remote part of Sumatra. Every man, woman and child had died of what appeared to be a very fast-acting and deadly virus, possibly a dreaded hemorrhagic one. Before they could set up their equipment, the WHO members had been attacked by a small terrorist cell known to the government.
The Milisi Separatis Sumatra, or MSS as the government referred to them, had sprung up in the last few years. They were growing fast and were well funded. Their goal seemed to be similar to that of most other terrorist cells-to take down the government. They were now suspected of having chosen the small village of Lupa Suku to test a hemorrhagic virus, but where it came from and how they got it, no one knew, but they needed to find out fast.
The rain forest of Sumatra was rich in plants and wildlife, although over the years even that had been shrinking significantly. The trees were thick, the taller dipterocarp shooting up to the sky providing shade, vines climbing them and flowers wrapping around them. Mangrove roots pulled sediment from the river leaving large areas of peat swamps with rich nutrients at their edges promoting thicker growth. The village of Lupa Suku was surrounded by the forest and tucked in just far enough from the river to be a perfect target.
The government had sent in their special forces, the Kopassus, to rescue the single WHO representative still alive. The Kopassus were known worldwide as tough soldiers able to stack up against any army. They were well trained and very skilled. They'd been ambushed as they were trying to aid the wounded man. A small force of U.S. Rangers had been called to aid the Kopassus who were pinned down, some reportedly badly wounded. The Rangers were then attacked and pinned down as well.
It began to look as if Lupa Suku had been sacrificed in order to draw the Indonesian soldiers into fighting a guerrilla-style war on the terrorists' home turf. Whatever the rumor, there were wounded men needing aid and six of them were soldiers of the United States. Now, this team was going to try to bring those soldiers out of the hot zone-along with any Kopassus and the remaining single living representative of the WHO.
Barry held up two fingers and the team moved, readying themselves for a quick departure.
"Ten minutes is all you've got and then we have to get into the air," Barry reminded them. "If we can't hold our position, we'll come back around for you."
Freeman flicked him a quick glance. It was one of those looks that seemed to burn a hole right through him. Barry shivered, not liking those eyes on him. They were intelligent, focused-almost too focused. They didn't blink, and it felt like death looking at him.
The team leader, Dr. Joe Spagnola, gave him a quick look as well. It pretty much said, "You maggot, if you leave one of my men behind, don't ever go to sleep because I'll be coming for you." At least Barry interpreted the look that way.
Joe Spagnola ignored the way the helicopter crew was looking at his team. He didn't look at them or his own men, but instead, reached telepathically to his GhostWalker unit. GhostWalkers were enhanced psychically as well as physically. The first they'd signed on for; the last, not so much. Still, they were classified soldiers and they did their jobs, no matter how fucked-up that was.
Each branch of the service had one GhostWalker team consisting of ten members. The first team experimented on had a few major problems. Some needed anchors to drain away the psychic energy that adhered to them like magnets. Others had brain bleeds. Every subsequent team had fewer flaws until Whitney, the doctor performing the experiments, had rolled out his prize group, the Pararescue Team. They might have what Whitney considered fewer flaws, but they also had more genetic enhancements than any of them cared for.
He leaves us, we'll be finding him and his candy-ass crew when we get out of here. Joe's voice slid into their minds.
Draden's gaze shifted, just for one moment to Barry Font and then over to his fellow teammate, Malichai Fortunes.
There's a hundred and fifty volcanoes in Indonesia, Malichai, their fact man, informed them all telepathically. We can shove his ass out of the helicopter right into one of them if he tries leaving any of us behind.
Draden let amusement slide into his eyes for a moment but didn't let it show on his face. Malichai had been spouting all kinds of facts about the rain forest and the wildlife at risk there. That was his way in a dangerous situation, and all members of the team just let him carry on.
The enhancements made them predators any way you looked at it. Hunters. They were very good at their jobs. They looked like soldiers. Doctors. Officers. But they were much more than that and anyone in close confines with them felt that difference sooner rather than later. All of them could smell the fear the helicopter crew were giving off and that fear had nothing to do with flying into a hot zone. No, Barry and the crew were used to that sort of danger-they just didn't like their passengers.
Draden could give a rat's ass if he was liked or not. He had a job to do. They were going into enemy territory to bring out the wounded and make certain they stayed alive until they got them back to the hospitals.
The helicopter set down with a jarring thump and Draden was out fast, running with his fellow teammates in the dark toward the southern tip of the tree line. Deliberately, they'd chosen to fly in at three in the morning, when the enemy was least likely to be at its sharpest. The sound of the rotors was loud in the night, something that couldn't be helped. He knew the noise would draw the enemy. That couldn't be helped either. They just needed a few minutes.
The terrorist cell had set their trap with live bait. They knew the terrain and had chosen it carefully. The MSS had the advantage, especially when the Indonesian government had wounded soldiers waiting for help. They knew the authorities would send their elite, and it was a chance to mow them down.
Draden fanned out to his left while Gino Mazza went right, both flanking the others as Joe went down on one knee and flashed the tiny blue light in each direction three times. They received a response from the west. Instantly, they were up and running again toward the returned signal.
Thirty feet from the thickest brush, they spread out even farther, running in absolute silence as only GhostWalkers could. Joe, Malichai and Diego Campo dropped down, their weapons ready, while Draden and Gino continued forward. Draden slipped into the cover of the brush, a place he was at home.
He found their contact ten feet in, crouched down in the thick buttresses of a dipterocarp tree. "How many wounded?" Draden asked, his voice a thread of sound.
Draden gave a mental shake of his head. Fifteen was a lot of wounded. They had room in the three helicopters, but maybe not the time to get them all in. "Anyone besides you can help get them to the choppers?"
That wasn't good either.
"No idea of their numbers. They seem to come and go. At least we think they're gone and the moment we move, they open fire."
Draden nodded. "Any of you sick?"
The Ranger shook his head. "The only one to go near the village was Dr. Henderson and he was in full hazmat gear. We stayed out of there. Henderson wants the village burned."
Draden turned and signaled the others in. They came like wraiths, sliding out of the night in complete silence. Draden gave him the number of wounded telepathically while Joe tapped his watch.
Move fast, gentlemen. We don't have time to triage here. Get them into the choppers.
Joe didn't sound alarmed, but Draden felt it nevertheless. They had about eight minutes, and getting to the wounded would eat up another minute or two.
The Ranger was already on his feet, so they followed him through the thick forest to a small dip in the terrain hidden by brush and the buttresses of wide tree trunks. The Kopassus looked grim, two dead, three of them badly wounded, but guns steady as rocks. One was still standing and ready to pack out his teammates, already gathering their weapons. The Rangers were in similar straits, one dead, the others in various states of badly wounded or just broken and bloody. Those with lighter injuries were gathering up their teammates to pack them out. The WHO doctor, clearly in bad shape, staggered as he stood. None of them looked as if they could walk more than a few steps.
The GhostWalkers were all business. Gino took the worst Ranger, slapping field dressings on the wounds to keep him from bleeding out while he ran with the man to the choppers. The Kopassus followed with one of his fellow team members. Joe took a Ranger and Diego a Kopassus. Malichai took the civilian. One of the Rangers staggered to his feet.
"I can walk out."
Draden nodded and waved him after the others. He moved from wounded man to wounded man, giving them water and seeing to the worst of their wounds, all the while listening for any changes in the sounds of the night that would indicate members of the MSS had returned at the sound of the helicopters.
Gino was back, hoisting another Ranger onto his back. The Kopassus soldier returned with him and took another of the wounded. The Indonesian didn't look in good shape, but he wasn't leaving anyone behind. They wanted to pack their dead with them as well, not leave them behind, but the dead had to go last. Joe, Diego and Malichai all had taken the next round of wounded and were gone, disappearing into the darkness, when Draden felt his first prickle of unease.
He crouched low and signaled to the remaining soldiers for absolute silence. The remaining men showed why they were considered elite. In spite of their wounds, they immediately went into survival mode, weapons ready, sliding deeper into the depression for cover. Draden moved away from them, toward the north. There were no sounds of insects. Not even the continual drone of cicadas or loud croaks of tree frogs. For a moment, the forest had gone unnaturally quiet, signaling something was moving into it that didn't belong.
He was part of the forest and could read every sign. He moved fast, slipping through brush without a whisper of sound. Sinking into the thick foliage, he waited. A man emerged from a small group of trees, heading stealthily toward the encampment of wounded. Draden saw another fifteen feet from him, and a third man the same distance out as the terrorists moved in unison toward the small group of soldiers.