Dark Thoughts will be releasing on March 14th (it is available for pre-order now!).
This is the first of four standalone stories in the Refuge series.
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing the first chapter of Dark Thoughts. This is the first scene.
Kralj was one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
The part of him that was Beta Taurian Shadow Beast terrified others. It was savage and vicious, his beast hungering for blood even now, yearning to hunt, to rip out throats, to feast on flesh.
But it was his humanoid half that was truly monstrous. His brain had been enhanced, genetically crafted into a weapon without equal. He could decimate an entire settlement with one errant thought, had never met a foe he couldn’t defeat.
No cage could contain him. No entity could influence him.
The Humanoid Alliance, his makers, had tried.
When ordered to breed, to produce another monster like himself, he’d refused, escaping his self-imposed prison. He’d freed some of the other less powerful modified humanoids, tried to save too many of the warriors and had paid a steep price for that arrogance.
Kralj ran his fingers over the scarred side of his face.
Once liberated, he had settled on Carinae E, a remote planet, with a select few warriors. He’d built the Refuge, erecting high walls, keeping others out and himself inside. For many human lifespans, he hadn’t left that territory, ruling the settlement, monitoring every thought, every activity, setting the rules and enforcing them.
He had total control over the residents, over his beast, and over his more dangerous humanoid half. None of the Carinae E locals had seen the full extent of his powers, and if he had his way, they never would.
That arrangement didn’t make him happy. Kralj doubted he could still feel that emotion. But he was content and the residents were safe.
That was enough.
Or so he told himself.
He pushed his private chambers’ ancient swinging doors open with his mind and stepped into the main chamber. The beverage outlet, situated in the exact center of the settlement, doubled as his domicile.
The public chamber was filled with beings. The patrons were mostly male, primarily humanoid, outcasts from a multitude of planets, a variety of species as colorful as their pasts. They sat along the long serving center he’d had installed and around square horizontal supports scattered throughout the main chamber.
Many of the beings had containers of fermented beverages in their hands, having traded credits for the refreshments. Others played the games, gambling more of their ill-gotten gains, giving him a cut of the winnings.
Working females in various stages of undress tried to entice some of the males into breeding with them, sitting on laps, grinding into groins. Kralj received a portion of their earnings also. The majority of the credits were utilized to protect the residents, ensuring every being had its basic needs met.
He oversaw everything. The other beings respected and feared him, moving as he neared, giving him a wide berth.
Their thoughts, however, rolled over him. There was no escaping them.
He’s a scarred scary bastard. Sari, an older breeding female, smiled at him, her artificial breasts nearly bare. But he’s the only being in this damn settlement who has the ability to kill me and I’m tired, so tired of the guilt. Every time a female dies, it returns.
Kralj knew about guilt. He carried that burden with him everywhere. And fucking him would kill her. If he lost control, everyone in the settlement would die.
But his beast wasn’t interested in her. Beta Taurian Shadow Beasts mated for their lifespans. Being only half beast, it was unlikely he had a mate.
He was destined to remain alone, untouched.
A short, round male narrowed his eyes at his opponent. He’s cheating. He must be.
The other being wasn’t cheating. The short, round male was merely unlucky.
Kralj continued to walk.
Would anyone notice if I ate my nasal drippings?
Stars. I miss my female.
This will be my last mission.
The thoughts weren’t restricted to the domicile. He heard everything flashing through the brain of anyone located within his mental reach, a radius large enough to encompass the entire settlement and a wide perimeter around it.
Kralj knew before stepping outside the structure that Orol, his second-in-command, was waiting for him, rather impatiently. The skies were clear and the winged male would rather be flying.
“Kralj, sir.” Orol fell in step beside him. They’d been stationed in the same Humanoid Alliance compound, had fought together before escaping.
The modified humanoid had earned his trust. He was a skilled warrior, had unique abilities of his own, and he never questioned Kralj’s authority.
“The perimeter is secure.” Orol ran though the constant security checks, reporting information Kralj already had.
They strolled through the settlement.
A container merchant haggled with a customer. He’d already reached a profitable price but greedily wanted more credits.
A female slapped her mate’s face. She thought he’d fucked her friend. He hadn’t. He’d fucked her younger sister.
“Kralj, sir.” A wiry, greasy-haired male called to him. He was being held down by a larger male, his face pressed against a horizontal support, his arm extended and restrained. Another male held a sword above his wrist. “I didn’t do it. Tell them I didn’t do it.”
The male told the truth. He hadn’t committed that offense but he was guilty of more serious ones.
Kralj ignored the male’s pleas. As long as they didn’t kill him, he wouldn’t intervene.
The male with the sword drove the blade downward, slicing off the accused’s hand. Blood spurted, painting the white stone pathway crimson. The accused shrieked.
Kralj didn’t stop walking. His long coat swirled around his booted feet. He followed the same route he always did. The sun blazed downward but he didn’t feel the heat, his face shrouded in constant shadow.
He chose who saw him, controlling that as he controlled everything else.
Almost everything else.
“Hulagu.” He turned and glared at a spot behind Orol. “What did I tell you?”
The air rippled and a young Chamele male appeared. Chameles had the ability to blend into their surroundings. They couldn’t conceal their thoughts, however. “You told me not to follow you.” The boy hung his head. “But—”
“There are no buts.” Kralj roared.
Containers rattled. Residents squeaked with alarm, running from the confrontation.
“While you’re in the Refuge, you will obey and respect me.”
The Chameles had assigned the boy to the Refuge as part of his off-planet training, a survive-or-die tactic. They planned to return for him at the end of the solar cycle, which was soon but not soon enough for Kralj’s liking.
The boy had caused trouble since the first planet rotation he’d arrived.
“I respect you, sir,” Hulagu mumbled, looking at his feet. They were large and bare. The boy was almost as tall as Kralj, his shoulders as wide but he hadn’t yet gained the massive muscle of his kind. His form was merely a frame, to be filled out later. “I want to learn from you, to be part of your team. If you train me—”
“I’m not training you.” The last being Kralj had trained had left the Refuge, never to return. He wouldn’t waste his time on another being. “And you’ll never be part of the team.” His team was set. He wasn’t changing it.
“Oh.” Hulagu deflated even more. He doesn’t think I’m good enough and he’s likely right. My friends were placed on more hospitable planets. I got stuck here and—
“Your tread is too noisy. Even a human can hear you.” Kralj didn’t know why he was giving the boy advice. It wasn’t his responsibility. “Walk with your weight farther forward.”
“Yes, sir.” Hulagu’s head lifted, his face brightening. He’s training me.
“I’m not training you.” Kralj strode away, disgusted with himself. The boy would be impossible to dissuade now.
Orol followed him, grinning. Looks like our Ruler has found himself another protégé.
“He’s not my protégé.” Any warrior would have relayed that advice. It meant nothing.
That’s what he said about the last one too.
Kralj ignored his second-in-command’s thoughts. Orol had the mistaken belief his leader had what the humans called a heart. Yes, the organ in his chest beat. It pumped blood. But seemingly endless human lifespans of violence had dissolved any kindness in him.
Can love redeem a monster?
The Refuge is home to some of the most violent beings in the universe. Kralj, its leader, reigns over the remote outpost with terrifying ease, ruthlessly squashing any rumors of rebellion, killing anyone who breaks his rules. Primitive, deadly, powerful, he’s a monster, scarred both on his face and his soul. He has never met a being he couldn’t control.
Until he meets her.
Dita has one mission—to kill the three targets claiming sanctuary within the Refuge. Or so she claims. For the first time in his long lifespan, Kralj isn’t certain of another being’s intentions. The tiny assassin is immune to his powers, her thoughts unreadable. He can’t predict her movements, can’t control her, can’t stop wanting her.
Dita is rare, as unique as he is, and, to keep the residents of the Refuge safe, Kralj will have to kill her. But first, he’ll touch her, taste her, show her how passionate the beast inside him can be.
Dark Thoughts is a STAND-ALONE SciFi Romance.
The hero might be tall, dark, and scarred but don’t be fooled by his appearance.
He’s truly a monster.
This story is not for readers with delicate sensibilities.