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       Dark Demise, p.1

         Part #7 of Wings of Artemis series by Rebecca Royce
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Dark Demise

  Dark Demise

  Wings of Artemis, Book Seven

  Rebecca Royce

  After Glows Publishing

  Dark Demise

  © Copyright 2017 Rebecca Royce

  Published by After Glows Publishing

  PO Box 224 Middleburg, FL 32050

  * * *

  Cover by Syneca Featherstone

  Formatting by AG Cover Design & Formatting

  * * *

  All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.


  Note from the Author

  1. The Choice Was Mine

  2. Dr. Bennett

  3. Jackson

  4. Rohan

  5. Time Travel

  6. Fire Storms

  7. Sweet Dreams

  8. The Stars

  9. Expectations

  10. A Date With Rohan

  11. The Calm

  12. The Storm

  13. The Long Goodbye

  14. Evander

  15. Recovery

  16. First Times

  17. The More Things Change

  18. Hello, Again

  19. When The Nightmare Is Real

  Also by Rebecca Royce

  About the Author

  Note From the Publisher

  Note from the Author

  Dearest Reader,

  Thank you so much for picking up Dark Demise (Wings of Artemis #7). My guess is that most of you have traveled down the Wings of Artemis path with me before, but if this is your first time joining me, then welcome.

  In Wings of Artemis, Those Who Love Aren’t Lost For Long. As is with almost every book in this series, Waverly will have two books to tell you her story. That means that this book will not conclude every issue presented in it. Look for Light Unfolding (Wings of Artemis #8) to do that.

  Enjoy Waverly! She is very special to me.

  With love,

  Rebecca Royce


  The Choice Was Mine

  I was the ugliest child Garrison Sandler, would be ruler of the entire universe, ever fathered. He’d told me all the time, and the truth was, he’d been right. Physically speaking, I was not the least bit pretty. Not even a little bit. My hair, which fell past my shoulders, was orange. And not like a sunset, more akin to a bright light they used to fight parasites in patients during surgery. My eyes were brown and too far apart. I had curves in all the wrong places. And no matter what I did to myself, I could never stop being six feet tall and not at all cute or dainty, as seemed to be the fashion of the women around me.

  When Earth had all but blown up and female babies became scarce, women suddenly had the duty to be dainty and petite—better to inspire men to want to care for them, even if the female in question was internally as tough as nails.

  My genetic makeup hadn’t received that note.

  I was who I was.

  The eldest daughter of Garrison Sandler, nurse extraordinaire and aunt-to-be were the titles I could claim for myself. As I stood outside of the secret facility I shouldn’t even know existed on our resistance base—called The Farm by Makenna McMann, our leader—I had to remind myself that since I had survived being unattractive in Garrison Sandler’s household, I could make it through whatever was to come next.

  All I knew was that Keith, a brother whom I had only recently met but who had risked everything to save me, had summoned me to come at ten o’clock at night and wait for him outside the doors.

  At the bottom of the summoning, which I had received on my tablet, had been the following words: Waverly, it’s your choice if you want to come. If you’d rather not, don’t. –Keith

  If I’d rather not? How in the heck would I know if I’d rather not? He hadn’t told me what I was doing here. The night was cold. Winter on this still unnamed planet that we lovingly referred to as The Farm was, like most planets, cold. I heard there were places with endless summer, but I’d yet to see those spots myself.

  How long was he going to keep me outside? It wasn’t my birthday. That didn’t come for two weeks, and I highly doubted anyone here would know that anyway. I was the only person who’d remembered it since my mother died. They were not throwing me a surprise party inside the one off-limits building. No one could go in unless they had a special chip implanted in their wrist.

  I didn’t have that chip.

  No one outside of the mysterious Makenna herself, and the few she trusted, knew what was going on in the big, gray building before me. I’d had to get a nod from three different guards to even get this far.

  And now I froze, waiting to see why my brother wanted me to come here at this way-too-late-at-night time after I’d worked in the infirmary for twelve straight hours.

  Of course, it was my choice; I could leave. If I wanted to.

  I didn’t.

  Now that I’d been summoned, I needed to know what was happening behind those doors.

  Above my head, three shuttles circled before taking off for parts of the universe unknown.

  The door flung open, revealing my brother. He furrowed his brow and yanked me inside, closing the door behind me. “Why didn’t you come in?”

  I sighed. “I don’t have the right chip.”

  “What? Oh, right. Sorry. You’ve been standing out there. Must be cold. Sorry, stating the obvious. Little distracted. You must be freezing.”

  I didn’t need to discuss my shivering. I was inside now. No one needed to hear my complaints.

  Keith looked just like a Sandler should. He had blond hair, blue eyes, and a face that made the women around the base sigh when he passed. He was always hustling somewhere, distracted to a fault, except when it came to his wife, my sister-in-law, Paloma. Like my other three half-brothers, with whom he shared Paloma, he was entirely devoted to her. She could do no wrong.

  And the truth was I agreed with them. She was my closest friend. For the last nine months, she and I had formed a relationship as close as real sisters. I’d do pretty much anything for her. Including answering Keith’s summons in the middle of the night.

  “Is Paloma okay?”

  He rubbed his chin. “I think so. You saw her this morning for her checkup, right? She seemed okay, right?”

  Keith had missed the appointment, which was happening more and more. Her other three husbands had attended. The baby wasn’t his, it was Clay’s, but I doubted that played a role in why Keith was so often absent.

  “What is going on?” I had to know before I followed him any further down the long hallway with the buzzing lights and closed doors leading to who knew where.

  Keith stopped and turned around. “I’m sorry, Waverly. It has to be so weird that I dragged you out here in the middle of the night. I mean, you didn’t have to come. It was your choice.”

  Yes, that I knew. I waited, and he continued. “What do you know about what goes on here?”

  “Nothing.” That was an easy answer, since it happened to be true.

  My brother raised his eyebrows.
Well, that’s good news actually. You’re very popular. If you don’t know what’s happening, then it’s likely no one does.”

  That told me nothing. “Keith…”

  He nodded. “Sorry. Time travel. What is happening here is time travel.” Keith reached forward and opened the door. “And even if you decide not to help us, you can’t tell anyone what I just told you. Ever. People could die.”

  I wouldn’t. Not ever. I wasn’t entirely sure I believed it myself.

  With my brother’s words banging around in my head, I entered the room. My new surroundings were very much that of a classroom. If the classroom had been put together without a single thought to space or logic. Desks were strewn everywhere. A giant tablet screen was on the wall, and six people sat around staring at the Xs and Ys written on it as though they understood what they saw.

  I bet they did, considering who the six people waiting happened to be. Wes Darby, husband to the Melissa Alexander and often referred to as resident genius, was the closest to the board. He didn’t turn as I entered. He was in his forties, red haired, buff, and usually lost in his own mind. Currently, he had a huge stain of what I would guess was coffee covering his white shirt.

  Next to him, Judge Tomlinson, married to Melissa’s daughter, Diana, stood a tad back from Wes, but he also examined the board. He turned when I entered. His smile was warm, as it always was. Like my brother, he only had eyes for his own wife. “Waverly, hi.” He waved and then returned to what he was doing. His words caught Wes’s attention, and he promptly turned, nodded, and returned to his original focus.

  They were interesting, kind, and brilliant men, but they didn’t hold my attention nearly as much as the four other people in the room. I swallowed through the lump in my throat.

  My brother had brought me to a space that contained Ari Bennett, Jackson Wheeler, and the two Super Soldiers, Rohan and Canyon. On their own, each of these men had the power to render me speechless with their striking good looks. Well, figuratively speechless. Knowing I was physically unappealing to men meant I never worried about attracting male attention and, therefore, didn’t actually do things like go tongue-tied.

  That didn’t mean that in my room at night I didn’t sometimes fantasize I could walk in a room and capture the love of someone or multiple someones, like the four here right now.

  “Waverly.” Jackson slid down from the desk where he sat and strode over to me. He’d always been welcoming. In fact, all four of these men had been with me when I’d been rescued, which was funny since so few out of the thousands on The Farm actually had been.

  Jackson had set me up with my rooms and cleared me for security purposes since he was in charge of that. I’d often seen him working on ships in his spare time. Jackson always dressed the same. He wore all black, down to his boots, and all of his visible skin was covered in ink. I’d seen the look before on the space pirates who came to drop off stolen wares on my father’s doorstep. I didn’t think Jackson was a pirate. Or maybe he had been. In this place, few people talked about their pasts, and I hadn’t spent all that much time with Jackson to know, really, anything about him.

  “Jackson, hello.” I nodded to him. “Did you get summoned, too?”

  He shook his head, a smile forming on his lips. “Yes, but not today. They summoned me here about eight months ago. Welcome to the madness.”

  The madness? I didn’t get a chance to ask because Canyon strode forward. He shaved his head to be completely bald, or so I thought since every so often hair would appear on the top of his head and then disappear again. Not that I was regularly staring at him or anything. Okay, so maybe I was. He had both ears pierced, and like his counterpart in the room, Rohan, he was a Super Soldier from the other side of the galaxy.

  He’d offered his hand, so I took it. “Canyon, nice to see you.”

  His grip was firm as he shook my hand before dropping it and stepping back. “Waverly.”

  I hadn’t communicated with Canyon or Rohan since my rescue. Still, the women talked about them. They were handsome, scary, sometimes awkward, and, if rumors were true, born from what was basically an illegal gene manipulation done in a lab by Evander Corporation to create perfect soldiers. They’d been made to fight and die. Canyon and Rohan had escaped. Half the women on the station wanted them, and the other half were terrified of them.

  Rohan, super tall like Canyon, had olive skin and piercing, dark eyes. He nodded toward me. “Waverly.”

  This repeating of my name was getting awkward. I decided to cut it off. “Rohan, hi. And hello, Ari, good to see you, too.”

  I should probably call Ari Dr. Bennett. He was basically my boss. One of four doctors on the station, he was incredibly gifted and devoted to his patients. He was also a huge flirt with anything sporting an XX chromosome, except for me. He never flirted with me, ever. He was my brothers’ first cousin on their mother’s side, which made him not at all related to me since I shared a father with them. He had long, blond hair and tired, blue eyes. Ari always seemed tired.

  “So you know everyone. I mean, I guess you would.” Keith walked into the room and stopped in front of the tablet wall. “I told you time travel, so I guess I should explain.”

  Canyon and Rohan made eye contact, some sort of silent communication going on before they walked to the back of the room and out of my line of sight. I turned my attention to Keith.

  “Please, go on. Time travel? And why am I here?”

  Ari cleared his throat. “Do we need to go into the whys and hows of this?”

  “She’d probably like to know.” Jackson rolled his eyes and threw a look at Ari. “I mean, I get that you’re bored, but not everyone in here is already over this topic.”

  Ari got down from where he’d been sitting cross-legged on a desk. “It goes like this. Wes invented time travel. He doesn’t know how he did it because what he really invented was a time stream device made for ships so they could follow specific time slips through the black hole. It was useful when Diana got lost through it. But somewhere on the planet where Diana was hanging out, they found a second version of that device a whole lot older that wasn’t an earlier version of Wes’s device, but the same damn one.”

  Keith nodded. “We theorized that meant time travel. That somehow the device could also be used for time travel. The problem is we can’t yet understand the slight modifications or how they work.” Keith pointed to two scanners in front of the tablet wall. “We know we do it. We know we figure it out. We have proof in the form of this older device that, somehow, we do. And yet we’re still working on how. We can’t recreate it. Not yet. Not until we understand.”

  Judge sighed. “Time is unfortunately not on our side, as they say. We need this stuff to work now. We need to know what is happening. People are dying. More and more every day. I don’t know if you get the read outs…”

  “I do.” The reports that came in about the deaths, everywhere, were staggering. Sandler, my father’s cartel, and Evander, the corporation from hell that came through the black hole, were fighting each other. In the meantime, they were also attacking anyone and anything that got in their respective ways.

  Earth would be attacked any day. We’d sent half our fleet to go help in the fight.

  I didn’t know if it would do any good, and the thought kept me up at night. If Earth fell to either Evander or Sandler, then all hope was lost for humanity. “Makenna is doing what she can.” They needed to know I understood our leader worked tirelessly to help people and the big reason why she was never here.

  Keith cleared his throat. “Right. Makenna does. Okay, point being, with nothing to lose, we decided to try the machines out just to see what they do. They work. For specific people, who seem to already be coded into the machine. Well, the old machine. At some point, someone coded specific DNA into the scanner, and it can move them through time for eight hours.”

  I caught on fast. I always had. “The four of you.” Ari. Jackson. Rohan. Canyon. That’s why they were here. “That
s great. Are you fixing the past?”

  “Since we don’t understand all of this yet, what we do is very limited.” Keith picked up a scanner. “We don’t change things. We watch. We observe. We learn what we can. I mean, what if we changed something small and, as a result, someone important was never born? We don’t alter. We spy.”

  All of this was fascinating. “Why are you telling me? Why did you bring me in?”

  Not that I wasn’t interested. But I was one of fifty nurses working on The Farm. Were they bringing everyone in one-by-one?

  Ari rubbed his chin. He had a day’s worth of growth on it. Embarrassingly, I obsessed about him—and Jackson and Canyon and Rohan—enough to know when they didn’t shave and how much one day’s worth of growth would look like on him or anything…

  Finally, he spoke. “You’re the best nurse here. In another world, you might have even been allowed to train to be a doctor.”

  I liked being a nurse. I got more patient care time. But I wasn’t going to argue at the moment. Nobody in here needed to hear why I loved what I did. Why would they care?

  “All the other doctors need to stay out there working. There are too many injuries and illnesses to lose any more of us to this project. I have to travel through time. Canyon got hurt on the last mission and almost died. I have to start going with them. The scanners react to me. I’m clearly coded in. I need to… see if I can help. But when we come back, we’re not right for a bit. We all need medical attention. I can’t do it myself if I’m also suffering.”

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