Christine Feehan


The first book in the GhostWalkers series, 2003

For my brother, Matthew King, many thanks for all the help with the research necessary for this book. And for McKenzie King, for her dynamite smile and her help in turning those book covers in the proper direction!

Special thanks to Cheryl Wilson. I have no idea what I'd do without you.


CAPTAIN Ryland Miller leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes in utter weariness. He could ignore the pain in his head, the knives shredding his skull. He could ignore the cage he was in. He could even ignore the fact that sooner or later, he was going to slip up and his enemies would kill him. But he could not ignore the guilt and anger and frustration rising like a tidal wave in him as his men suffered the consequences of his decisions.

Kaden, I can't reach Russell Cowlings. Can you?

He had talked his men into the experiment that had landed them all in the laboratory cages in which they now resided. Good men. Loyal men. Men who had wanted to serve their country and people.

We all made the decision. Kaden responded to his emotions, the words buzzing inside Ryland's mind. No one has managed to raise Russell.

Ryland swore softly aloud as he swept a hand over his face, trying to wipe away the pain speaking telepathically with his men cost him. The telepathic link between them had grown stronger as they all worked to build it, but only a few of them could sustain it for any length of time. Ryland had to supply the bridge, and his brain, over time, balked at the enormity of such a burden.

Don't touch the sleeping pills they gave you. Suspect any medication. He glanced at the small white pill lying in plain sight on his end table. He'd like a lab analysis of the contents. Why hadn't Cowlings listened to him? Had Cowlings accepted the sleeping pill in the hopes of a brief respite? He had to get the men out. We have no choice, we must treat this situation as if we were behind enemy lines. Ryland took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He no longer felt he had a choice. He had already lost too many men. His decision would brand them as traitors, deserters, but it was the only way to save their lives. He had to find a way for his men to break out of the laboratory.

The colonel has betrayed us. We have no other choice but to escape. Gather information and support one another as best you can. Wait for my word.

He became aware of the disturbance around him, the dark waves of intense dislike bordering on hatred preceding the group nearing the cage where he was kept.

Someone is approaching… Ryland abruptly cut off telepathic communication to those of his men he could reach. He remained motionless in the center of his cell, his every sense flaring out to identify the approaching individuals.

It was a small group this time: Dr. Peter Whitney, Colonel Higgens, and a security guard. It amused Ryland that Whitney and Higgens insisted on an armed guard accompanying them despite the fact that he was locked behind both bars and a thick glass barrier. He was careful to keep his features expressionless as they neared his cage.

Ryland lifted his head, his steel gray eyes as cold as ice. Menacing. He didn't try to hide the danger he represented. They had created him, they had betrayed him, and he wanted them to be afraid. There was tremendous satisfaction in knowing they were… and that they had reason to be.

Dr. Peter Whitney led the small group. Whitney, liar, deceiver, monster maker. He was the creator of the Ghost Walkers. Creator of what Captain Ryland Miller and his men had become. Ryland stood up slowly, a deliberate ripple of muscle- a lethal jungle cat stretching lazily, unsheathing claws as he waited inside his cage.

His icy gaze touched on their faces, lingered, made them uncomfortable. Graveyard eyes. Eyes of death. He projected the image deliberately, wanting, even needing them to fear for their lives. Colonel Higgens looked away, studied the cameras, the security, watched with evident apprehension as the thick barrier of glass slid away. Although Ryland remained caged behind heavy bars, Higgens was obviously uneasy without the barrier, uncertain just how powerful Ryland had become.

Ryland steeled himself for the assault on his hearing, his emotions. The flood of unwanted information he couldn't control. The bombardment of thoughts and emotions. The disgusting depravity and avarice that lay behind the masks of those facing him. He kept his features carefully blank, giving nothing away, not wanting them to know what it cost him to shield his wide-open mind.

'Good morning, Captain Miller,' Peter Whitney said pleasantly. 'How are things this morning with you? Did you sleep at all?'

Ryland watched him without blinking, tempted to try to push through Whitney's barriers to discover the true character guarded behind the wall Whitney had in his mind. What secrets were hidden there? The one person Ryland needed to understand, to read, was protected by some natural or man-made barrier. None of the other men, not even Kaden, had managed to penetrate the scientist's mind. They couldn't get any pertinent data, shielded as Whitney was, but the heavy swamping waves of guilt were always broadcast loudly.

'No, I didn't sleep but I suspect you already know that.'

Dr. Whitney nodded. 'None of your men are taking their sleeping meds. I noticed you didn't either. Is there a reason for that, Captain Miller?'

The chaotic emotions of the group hit Ryland hard, as it always did. In the beginning, it used to drive him to his knees, the noise in his head so loud and aggravating his brain would rebel, punishing him for his unnatural abilities. Now he was much more disciplined. Oh, the pain was still there, like a thousand knives driving into his head at the first breach of his brain, but he hid the agony behind the facade of icy, menacing calm. And he was, after all, well trained. His people never revealed weakness to the enemy.

'Self-preservation is always a good reason,' he answered, fighting down the waves of weakness and pain from the battering of emotions. He kept his features totally expressionless, refusing to allow them to see the cost.

'What the hell does that mean?' Higgens demanded. 'What are you accusing us of now, Miller?'

The door to the laboratory had been left standing open, unusual for the security-conscious company, and a woman hurried through. 'I'm sorry I'm late; the meeting went longer than expected!'

At once the painful assault of thoughts and emotions lessened, muted, leaving Ryland able to breathe normally. To think without pain. The relief was instant and unexpected. Ryland focused on her immediately, realizing she was somehow trapping the more acute emotions and holding them at bay, almost as if she were a magnet for them. And she wasn't just any woman. She was so beautiful, she took his breath away. Ryland could have sworn, when he looked at her, the ground shifted and moved under his feet. He glanced at Peter Whitney, caught the man observing his reactions to the woman's presence very closely.

At first Ryland was embarrassed that he had been caught staring at her. Then he realized Whitney knew the woman had some kind of psychic ability. She enhanced Ryland's abilities and cleared out the garbage of stray thoughts and emotions. Did Whitney know exactly what she did? The doctor was waiting for a reaction so Ryland refused to give him the satisfaction, keeping his expression totally blank.

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