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Moondust And Madness

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Moondust And Madness

  Table of Contents

  Cover Page


  Other Books By

  Title Page




  PART I Moondust and Madness

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight


  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  PART III Moondust and Magic

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  About the Author



  “I’m not some piece of property to be decorated and displayed for you and your men,” Jana said angrily.

  “Careful, little moonbeam,” Varian warned. “You are what I say you are.” He flashed a devastating smile.

  Her heart fluttered wildly. “And what am I, Commander?”

  “Fishing for compliments, Jana?”

  She ran her finger over his sensual lower lip with provocative slowness, then lowered her hand to rest casually upon his muscular chest. “Compliments aren’t necessary. The fact that I’m your elite prisoner is proof of your high opinion of me. Is that not so?” she challenged.

  Her tone was seductive. Her eyes held a hint of mystery and promise. She felt his heartbeat quicken beneath her hand.

  Without warning, he seized her in his powerful arms and covered her mouth with his. His lips were warm and persistent. Caught totally unprepared, she helplessly melted into his embrace and surrendered her kisses. At her response, his arms tightened around her.

  Suddenly, nothing but this moment mattered to Jana. Varian had been transformed from her captor and tormentor into a man—a man she desperately wanted…





  (302-1, $3.95/$4.95).

  Red-haired Hannah, sold into servitude as an innkeeper’s barmaiden, must survive the illicit passions of many men, until love comes to free her questing heart.


  (421-4, $4.50/$5.50)

  Innocent Rachel, orphaned after the Civil War, travels out West to start a new life, only to meet three bold men—two she couldn’t love and one she couldn’t trust.


  (372-2, $4.50/$5.50)

  Proud Maggie must overcome the poverty and shame of her family’s bleak existence, encountering men of wealth, power, and greed until her impassioned dreams of love are answered.


  (393-5, $4.50/$5.50)

  Lovely Belinda Lee follows her gold-seeking father to the Alaskan Yukon where danger and love are waiting in the wilderness.


  (409-5, $4.50/$5.50)

  Sensuous Meredith boldly undertakes her father’s lifework to search for a fabled treasure in Mexico, where she must learn to distinguish between the sweet truth of love and the seduction of greed and lust.






  To Sheila Taylor and Deeny Alford who never

  stopped believing this book would see print.

  And to Michael Taylor, husband, lover, best friend,

  and indispensable helper. He gave so much to

  this book, and adds even more to my life.


  To Linda Grey, Publisher of Bantam Books, who was willing to buy something “different” my agent Adele Leone-Monaco, who made my fantasy become a reality and worked as hard as I did on it; Coleen O’Shea, a super editor with talent and patience; Richard McEnroe, who is very creative and most helpful; and Dr. James Matheny, whose transfer from MCG to UKY evoked my writing career. Thanks for all you taught me.


  It was a splendid night for a special party. A fun moon was rising over the treetops and the sky was sprinkled liberally with tiny points of light. An evocative breeze which wandered over the shadowy landscape was as gentle as a lover’s caress and the heady fragrance of gardenias and tea olives joined those of honeysuckle and sweet shrubs to scent the night air. Jana Greyson had always loved the many large gardens on the McKay estate. She could hear the rippling water of several fountains in the midst of lily pools. Cicadas, tiny tree frogs, and night birds pierced the silence. Muffled sounds of merriment reached her ears.

  Jana hastened to the nearest garden walkway, which led to the rear of Andrea McKay’s family mansion. The enormous gardens were artistically designed in several tiers, downplaying the distance of the tennis courts from the terrace. She hurried through the hedgerows on two lower levels until she reached the first decorative pool. As she halted to catch her breath, her gaze flickered over neatly tended beds of roses, camellias, and pansies which offered a vision of beauty and symmetry.

  Jana frowned as the moonlit yellow roses and purple pansies reminded her of the two beautifully gift-wrapped packages, Andrea’s graduation present, which she had forgotten in her car trunk! Since there were no parking spaces when Jana arrived at the private entrance and she didn’t want to walk from the road, she had parked in the service area.

  Now she grumbled to herself as she retraced her steps. A few moments later, a curious shiver ran through her body. She halted to check her surroundings. In front of her was the McKay home, a beautiful and elegant Greek Revival plantation built in 1835, and Jana imagined it filled with lively music and glittering lights from numerous candles and chandeliers. She knew that Andrea—her closest friend since age twelve—had spared no expense or effort to make this, their graduation celebration, perfect. The circular driveway lined with oaks and magnolias was filled with Jaguars, Mercedes, Cadillacs, Porsches, Corvettes, and limousines. As was the custom, chauffeurs would await their employers in the pool house to the far left of the mansion. Yet she was filled with a weird sensation, as if a potent force were bearing down on her. She shrugged, dismissed the feeling, and continued.

  Maybe her nerves were taut because she didn’t want to see Alex McKenzie, tonight or ever. She and Alex had dated during high school and college. Following the completion of her dissertation in January and during the first three months of her part-time work at the medical center in Houston, they had become almost inseparable as a couple. Had she been too distracted by studies and work to see the real man, or was she too naive and gullible?

  It had not been easy to graduate from the University of Texas with a major in biochemistry, to do graduate work in microbiology and chemistry, and to earn a Ph.D. before turning twenty-four.

  Alex had graduated last June and now had a law practice in Houston. During the last few months, Alex had not been the same man who had attracted her time and attention. Their last date had ended with bitter words. Defiance and resentment flooded her anew as she recalled their final quarrel. Alex had made demands, or more accurately ultimatums, she could not meet. She could see his handsome features set in angry lines as they were when she had challenged his demand that she forget her career dreams and move in with him in Houston! If their arrangement worked out satisfactorily, he had stated imperiousl
y, they would marry in a year or two. The startling truth had struck Jana one night in May; she didn’t love Alex and she owed him nothing! Her only regret was in taking so long to make the decision to push him out of her life and thoughts forever.

  And so tonight she would congratulate herself and her friends and celebrate, just as soon as she retrieved the gifts for Andrea from her car.

  Jana reached her car, unlocked the trunk, removed two oblong boxes, then closed it. That eerie sensation washed over her again; she shuddered as if very cold, causing her to drop her keys and purse.

  “Need any help?” a raspy voice asked from the darkness behind her.

  Startled, Jana whirled, tossing her possessions in several directions. One hand flew to her chest where her heart was hammering. Her eyes searched the black shadows. Then she saw him. The stranger was outfitted in black leather pants, boots, and jacket. Moonlight danced off the shiny bill of his captain’s cap. She eyed the patches and emblems sewn haphazardly to his jacket. His scraggly beard and leering grin added to his ominous appearance. She suddenly realized all the-lights in this area were dark. The full moon had cast deceptive brightness and inspired a false sense of security.

  Jana’s mind worked swiftly. Whoever he was, this person was standing between her and the walkway. To her left, there was a thick hedgerow. To her right was a fence enclosing the tennis courts. Behind her, an open gate led to a dark road. She knew the tennis house was locked, just as she knew the landscaping smothered most of the noise in this area. She was trapped except for the darkness outside the gate.

  “If it’s money you’re after, my purse is there.” She pointed to the pavement where it had landed. Only a slight snickering reached her ears.

  Ignoring the purse, he headed for Jana. She panicked. As she turned to run toward the gate, she was intercepted and her arms were seized. “Let me go! Help!” she screamed. As Jana kicked, clawed, threatened, and struggled, her gown was torn; her arms and chest were bruised and scratched.

  “What a little she-cat! Wait till Deke sees what I’ve found for us,” he said, sneering over her threats. “Just what we wuz lookin’ fur, rich an’ beautiful.”

  Hungrily scanning her face and partially exposed cleavage, he flamed with lust. “Damn if you ain’t a beauty! I bet yore worth a fortune.”

  “I’ll kill you if you touch me!” Jana yelled. Although she knew this distant area was well out of hearing range.

  He laughed wickedly. “Me little angel, is that any way to be talking to Tully, yore new loverboy? Me an’ you gonna spend a lot of time together.”

  Jana had to act quickly before “Deke” appeared and she would be faced with two thugs. She relaxed her body and lowered her head dejectedly as if giving up her fight. She sniffled as if she were about to burst into tears. These actions took him off guard momentarily. Without warning, Jana gritted her teeth and forcefully brought her knee up into his unprotected groin.

  Tully released her and doubled over, retching and nearly fainting from the sudden and excruciating agony. Moaning raggedly through clenched teeth, he spouted terrifying threats.

  Jana ran as fast as she could. Her escape was hindered by her evening shoes but she didn’t dare take precious time to remove them. She kept silent, for she knew she still could not be heard over the loud music and party sounds which came from the house, and she did not want to lead her attacker to her.

  The gardener’s cottage was closest. Jana took the side path and headed that way. Burly Garcia could handle this hoodlum. Her legs were cramping and her lungs burning. She was breathing heavily and tiring too quickly. Where were her vitality and energy now when she needed them desperately? Terror drained her stamina. What if Garcia was not in his cottage?

  Jana hurriedly rounded the bend in the hedged path and came to an abrupt halt. A tall, masculine body was positioned in the walkway, blocking her escape. She weighed her choices: fight this villain or the one behind her? Her first assailant was only a few inches taller than her five-eight frame, but this tower of muscles was an invincible barrier.

  The man before her was dressed in what looked like a snugfitting silvery jumpsuit. The iridescent glow from his garment flickered eerily in the opalescent moonlight. Jana’s eyes hastily registered the triangular black medallion around his neck, and the wide black belt around his narrow waist from which several unfamiliar items were suspended. Her frightened gaze took in his silver helmet with its impenetrable vizard. Her gaze hesitated on that mirrorlike visor, but all she could see was her own terror-filled reflection.

  Quivers of apprehension spread throughout her body as she stood there. As confused as she was, Jana perceived immense power emanating from this man. Rape, ransom, and murder flashed across her mind. Could this be “Deke?” It was then something ordered, Scream, Jana, scream!

  But Jana could not scream or speak. Her chest rose and fell rapidly in response to her lungs’ demand for more oxygen. Fear raced in her mind and body as she began to back away from him. She wished she could find an opening in the hedgerow to escape this new threat but she knew there was none, for she had walked this garden path many times since childhood.

  Jana swallowed hard, then moistened her dry lips. She jerked around as she heard footsteps behind her. Tully rushed into view, a knife in his hand and hatred on his face. Jana instinctively took a few steps backward, closer to the tall stranger.

  Sighting the muscular man in the silvery suit, Tully halted. As he huffed and puffed through clenched teeth, a curious expression crossed his face, but Jana did not comprehend it at that time.

  Her alarm mounted as two more silver-clad men appeared behind Tully. Four men now surrounded her: three dressed in shiny silver jumpsuits and one in black leather. She trembled visibly.

  “Hey, you guys, I wuz only funning. I wasn’t gonna hurt her.” He lied badly, but nervously continued, “I only scared you, right?” Jana did not move or reply. “I’ll be moving on. Okay?” he wheedled nervously.

  No answers dispelled the weird silence and strange aura which surrounded the three strangers. Jana curiously eyed those three males whose disguises perplexed her. From her first attacker’s fear and panic, it was clear they were not his friends. Who were they? What did they want? Their odd behavior still did not suggest help or safety from Tully.

  Jana waited to see who would make the first move and what it would be. She was very much aware of one man’s proximity to her. She half turned to study his arrogant, self-assured posture. She surmised he was the one in control of this situation. He emanated an imposing aura of authority and raw power. He would be the one to appeal to or defeat when the time came, if it did…

  Her first attacker ended the impasse when he began hesitantly to head back along the pathway toward the other two men. The man to the left raised his arm and pointed an object at him. It was about the size of an oblong wallet. He pressed something on its side with his thumb. The object released a narrow ray of intense light.

  It touched Tully, causing an iridescent glow to outline his body. He shuddered at first contact, then froze immobile like a statue. The deadly glow shimmered for a few seconds, then dissipated, leaving no trace of Tully. Jana shook her head and blinked in an attempt to clear her confusion. People don’t vanish before your very eyes, she reasoned. Jana pinched her arm to test her alertness. The sudden pain told her she was awake. Was this a sick joke or sinister game someone was playing? If so, it was not funny.

  “Tully, where the hell are you?” a second man in black leather called out as he came into view, a gun in his grip. Jana knew this was “Deke.”

  The men nodded a signal to each other. The one to her left raised his arm again and fired a beam at Deke. Deke shuddered, froze, and lit up with an evanescent glow. He shimmered, then disappeared completely. She gaped in disbelief and alarm. She was the only one left. A witness to murder?

  The two men walked toward her. She was alone, at their mercy. If Jana could trust her senses, they had disintegrated two men in a mysterious
way. She panicked. She turned to flee, but too late she recalled the muscular man’s presence. She found herself trapped in the confines of his iron embrace. He held her forearms as securely as he held his silence.

  His grip was like a steel band, yet painless. When Jana could not overcome his tremendous strength, she gazed up at the visored helmet of the man towering over her. His features were completely obscured from her wide, searching eyes. She begged her assailant, “Please, please let me go…”

  He neither spoke nor moved to comply. But she could tell from the angle of his head that he was looking at her, watching her. He was at least six feet four and well developed. He was strong and agile. She stared at her unseeable foe, then her eyes involuntarily traveled his body. His tight clothing revealed a very masculine physique beneath it.

  Jana struggled wildly and briefly, but realized escape was impossible. Her voice quavered as she demanded with false courage, “What do you want? Ransom? Robbery? Answer me!” She angrily twisted against him, warning, “Let go this instant or I’ll scream until someone hears me!” She glared up at him with fiery eyes, then she opened her mouth to scream, jerking on her arms to free them.

  His hand covered her mouth, trapping the sound in her throat. His other arm immediately encircled her back and pulled her to his broad chest, with surprising gentleness and self-control. She could feel the rippling firmness of his body beneath her hands, which were pinned against him. They detected the steady beating of his heart. Jana knew she was defenseless. Was she their intended victim, or had she accidentally been ensnared in some other plot? She tensely awaited his demands.

  One man approached and made several nods to the one who held her captive in his iron vise. She assumed they must have prearranged signals or voice communicators in those helmets, for she could hear no sounds.

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