Taken by Midnight (Chapter Two)

Standing in the corridor outside the infirmary room a couple of minutes later, Brock and the other warriors watched as Alex sat down on the edge of the bed and quietly comforted her friend. Jenna didn't break down or crumble. She let Alex wrap her in a tender embrace, but Jenna's hazel eyes remained dry, staring straight ahead, her expression unreadable, glazed with the stillness of shock.

Gideon cleared his throat, breaking the silence as he glanced away from the infirmary door's small window. "That went well. Considering."

Brock grunted. "Considering she just came out of a five-day Rip van Winkle to learn that her brother is dead, she's been leeched by the granddaddy of all bloodsuckers, brought here against her will–and oh, by the way, we've found something embedded in your spinal cord that probably didn't originate on this planet, so congratulations, on top of all that, there's a good chance you're part Borg now." He exhaled a dry curse. "Jesus, this is messed up."

"Yeah, it is," Lucan said. "But it would be a hell of a lot worse if we didn't have the situation contained. Right now, all we need to do is keep the female calm and under close observation until we gain a better understanding of the implant itself and what, if anything, it could mean to us. Not to mention the fact that the Ancient must have had a reason for placing the material inside her in the first place. That's a question that begs an answer. Sooner than later."

Brock nodded in agreement with the rest of his brethren. It was only a slight movement, yet the flexing of his neck muscles set off a fresh round of pain in his skull. He pressed his fingers into his temples, waiting for the knifelike agony to pass.

Beside him, Kade frowned, jet-black brows furrowing over his wolfy, silver eyes. "You okay?"

"Peachy," Brock muttered, irritated by the public show of concern, even though it was coming from the one warrior who was as tight as a brother to him. And even though the hard stab of Jenna's trauma was shredding him from the inside out, Brock merely shrugged. "No big thing, just par for the course."

"You've been eating that female's pain for almost a week straight,"

Lucan reminded him. "If you need a break–"

Brock hissed a low curse. "Nothing wrong with me that a few hours back out on patrols tonight won't cure."

His gaze strayed to the small panel of clear glass that looked in on the infirmary room. Like all of the Breed, Brock was gifted with an ability unique to himself. His talent for absorbing human pain and suffering had helped keep Jenna comfortable since her ordeal in Alaska, but his skills were just a Band-Aid at best.

Now that she was conscious and able to provide the Order with whatever information they needed about her time with the Ancient and the alien material embedded inside her, Jenna Darrow's problems were her own.

"There's something more you all need to know about the female,"

Brock said as he watched her carefully swing her bare legs over the edge of the bed and stand up. He tried not to notice how the white hospital gown rode halfway up her thighs in the instant before her feet touched the floor.

Instead he focused on how readily she found her balance. After five days of lying flat on her back in an unnatural sleep, her muscles absorbed her weight with only the smallest tremor of instability. "She's stronger than she should be. She can walk without help, and a few minutes ago, when it was just Alex and me in the room with her, Jenna was getting agitated about wanting to see her brother. I went to touch her and calm her down, and she deflected my hand. Tossed me off like no big thing."

Kade's brows rose. "Forgetting the fact that you're Breed and have the reflexes to go along with it, you've also got about a hundred pounds on that female."

"My point exactly." Brock glanced back at Lucan and the others. "I don't think she realized the significance of what she'd done, but there's no mistaking the power she threw at me without really trying."

"Jesus," Lucan whispered tightly, his jaw rigid.

"Her pain is stronger now than it has been before, too," Brock added.

"I don't know what's going on, but everything about her seems to be intensifying now that she's awake."

Lucan's scowl deepened as he glanced at Gideon. "We're certain she's human, and not a Breedmate?"

"Just your basic Homo sapiens stock," the Order's resident genius confirmed. "I asked Alexandra to conduct a visual scan of her friend's skin right after they arrived from Alaska. There was no teardrop-and-crescent-moon birthmark anywhere on Jenna's body. As for blood work and DNA, all of the samples I took came back clear, as well. In fact, I've been running tests every twenty-four hours, and there's been nothing notable. Everything about the woman to this point–aside from the presence of the implant–has been perfectly mundane."

Mundane? Brock barely refrained from scoffing at the inadequate word. Of course, neither Gideon nor any of the other warriors had been present for the head-to-toe body search performed on Jenna upon her arrival at the compound. She'd been racked with pain, drifting in and out of consciousness from the time Brock, Kade, Alex, and the rest of the team who'd joined them in Alaska had made the trip back home to Boston.

Given that he was the only one who could level her out, Brock had been drafted to stay at Jenna's side and keep the situation under control as best as it could be. His role was supposed to have been purely professional, clinical and detached. A specialized tool kept close at hand in case of an emergency.

Yet he'd had a startlingly unprofessional response to the sight of Jenna's unclothed body. It had been five days ago, but he remembered every exposed inch of her ivory skin as though he were looking at it again now, and his pulse kicked at the memory.

He recalled every smooth curve and sloping valley, every little mole, every scar–from the ghost of a c-section incision on her abdomen, to the smattering of healed puncture wounds and lacerations that peppered her torso and forearms, telling him she'd already come through hell and back at least once before.

And he'd been anything but clinical and detached when Jenna lapsed into a sudden convulsion of agony in the moments after Alex had finished searching in vain for a birthmark signifying that her friend was a Breedmate like the other women who lived at the Order's compound. He'd placed his hands on both sides of her neck and drawn the pain away from her, all too aware of how soft and delicate her skin was beneath his fingertips. He fisted his hands at the thought as it rose up on him now.

He didn't need to be thinking about the woman, naked or otherwise.

Except now that he'd gone there, he could think of damned little else. And when she glanced up and caught his gaze through the glass of the little window in the door, an unbidden heat went through him like a flaming arrow.

Desire was bad enough, but it was the odd sense of protectiveness serving as a chaser that really threw him off kilter. The feeling had begun in Alaska, when he and the other warriors first found her. It hadn't faded in the days she'd been at the compound. If anything, the feeling had only gotten stronger, watching her fight and struggle through the strange sleep that had kept her unconscious since she'd come out of her ordeal with the Ancient in Alaska.

Her frank gaze still held his from across the infirmary: cautious, almost suspicious. There was no weakness in her eyes, nor in the slight tilt of her chin. Jenna Darrow was clearly a strong female, despite all she'd been through, and he found himself wishing she'd been a mess of tears and hysteria instead of the cool, in-control woman whose unflinching stare refused to let him go.

She was calm and stoic, as brave as she was beautiful, and it sure as hell wasn't making her less intriguing to him.

"When was the last time you ran blood work and DNA?" Lucan asked, the grave, low-voiced question giving Brock something else to focus on.

Gideon pushed back his shirtsleeve to check his watch. "I drew the last sample about seven hours ago."

Lucan grunted as he pivoted away from the infirmary door. "Run everything again now. If the readings have changed so much as an iota from the last sample, I want to hear about it."

Gideon's blond head bobbed. "Given what Brock has told us, I'd also like to take some strength and endurance measurements. Any information we can gather from studying Jenna could be crucial to figuring out what exactly we're dealing with here."

"Whatever you need," Lucan said grimly. "Just get it done, and fast.

This situation is important, but we also can't afford to lose momentum on our other missions."

Brock inclined his head along with the other warriors, knowing as well as any of them that a human in the compound was a complication the Order didn't need when they still had an enemy on the loose–namely Dragos, a corrupt Breed elder whom the Order had been pursuing for the better part of a year.

Dragos had been working in secret for many decades, under more than one assumed identity and within clandestine, powerful alliances. His operation had grown numerous and long-reaching tentacles, as the warriors were discovering, and every one of those grasping arms was working in concert toward a single objective: Dragos's complete and total domination over both the Breed and humankind alike.

The Order's primary goal was his destruction and the swift, permanent dismantling of his entire operation. The Order meant to take Dragos out at the roots. But there were complications to that goal. He had all but vanished recently, and there were, as always, layers of protection in front of him–

secret allies within the Breed nation, maybe outside of it, too. Dragos also had an unnumbered army of skilled assassins at his command, every one of them born and bred specifically for killing. Deadly Breed males who were direct progeny of the otherworlder who, until his escape to Alaska a few weeks ago and subsequent death, had been under Dragos's command.

Brock glanced into the infirmary room where Jenna had begun to pace back and forth like a caged animal. To say the Order had their hands full at the moment was putting it mildly. Now that she was awake, at least his part was over. His talent had seen Jenna through the past week; where she went from here would be up to Gideon and Lucan to decide.

Inside the room, Alex pivoted away from her friend and approached the door. She opened it and stepped out to the corridor, her brown eyes soft with concern under the dark blond bangs that fringed her forehead.

"How's she doing?" Kade asked, moving toward his woman as though gravity pulled him there. They were a newly mated pair, having met during Kade's mission in Alaska, but looking at the warrior and his pretty bush pilot Breedmate, it seemed impossible to Brock that they had only been together for a couple of weeks. "Does Jenna need anything, babe?"

"She's confused and upset, understandably," Alex said, moving into the shelter of Kade's body just as he had done with her. "I think she'll feel better after a long shower and some fresh clothes. She says she feels stir crazy in the room and wants to take a walk to stretch some of the tightness out of her legs. I told her I would ask if it was all right."

Alex looked to Lucan as she said it, directing the request to the Order's oldest member, its founder and leader.

"Jenna is not a prisoner here," he replied. "Of course she is free to wash and dress and walk around."

"Thank you," Alex said, gratitude brightening some of the uncertainty in her eyes. "I told her she wouldn't be kept here as a prisoner, but she didn't seem to believe me. After what she's been through, I guess that's not surprising. I'll go tell her what you said, Lucan."

As she turned to slip back into the infirmary, the Order's leader cleared his throat. Kade's mate slowed and swung a glance over her shoulder, some of the wind already leaving her sails as she met Lucan's stern look. "Jenna is free to walk about and do most anything she likes–so long as someone is with her, and so long as she doesn't try to leave the compound.

See that she has whatever she needs. When she's ready for her walk around the compound, Brock will take her. I'm putting him in charge of her well-being. He'll make sure Jenna doesn't lose her way."

Brock had to work to bite back the curse that rose to his tongue.

Just frigging great, he thought, wanting like hell to reject the continued assignment that would keep him in close quarters with Jenna Darrow.

Instead he acknowledged Lucan's order with a nod.