Venomous Heart

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$3.99

Description

After drowning his soul in blood, can this alien warrior be saved?

As the only doctor on Aveyn, Ava works day and night for the people she considers hers. Only… she’s not really one of them, is she? She’s a hybrid, a highly illegal creature created by Trade Minister Knut for his personal enjoyment. And she risks a fate worse than death if her existence is ever discovered by Prime Councilor Aav, the most powerful Matriarch in the Ring.

When a tall, arrogant, sapphire blue alien comes to Aveyn, it’s not long before headstrong Ava gets in trouble with him – the new Eok warrior in charge.

Arlen wants nothing to do with his new assignment on Aveyn. All he wants is to return to the violence at the Frontier and drown his broken heart in bloodshed. But he made a deal with his brother, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eok armies: a year of peace for a year of combat. So, Arlen comes to Aveyn fully intent on ruling all those who live there with an iron fist…

… all except a troublesome, gorgeous female whose purple eyes haunt his dreams. When the Mating Venom pushes him to the edge of madness, can Arlen learn to trust in his heart again, or is his soul lost to the bloodlust?

Publisher’s Note: While this is the third book in the bestselling Eok Warriors series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

Sample Chapter

Chapter 1

Ava

They’re just scared. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters.

Ava walked through the small medical triage room, her head held high and her gaze fixed firmly above the row of cots and the people lying on them. She could feel their eyes on her, hostile and angry. Ignoring them was second nature, but sometimes—though not often—it still hurt.

Like this morning.

She took out her compact screen containing the medical information of the new patient admitted to the clinic an hour ago. As she read, she tried but couldn’t contain the groan of frustration that left her lips at the few lines written down by the young girl who worked as her assistant. Around her, the patients fidgeted in their cots and Ava took a deep breath, then pasted her professional smile back onto her face. She couldn’t afford to make them any more suspicious of her than they already were. Once she reached the end of the long room lined with beds, she entered the small surgical unit.

There, on a steel table, lay a middle-aged man, his balding forehead beaded with sweat and his skin a sickly, ashen gray.

Pain contorted the man’s features and a terrible smell rose from whatever wound he hid beneath a heavy blanket. He had waited to come see her. Waited too long—until it was almost too late. They all did. None of them wanted to come to the medical clinic Ava ran just next door to the old mansion—the one that had belonged to Minister Knut a short month ago.

It was a miracle no one had died yet. And only a matter of time before one of them did.

“What is your name?” Ava looked down on the screen that contained the patient’s information—or lack of it.

“What do you need my name for? Just fix my leg and I’ll be on my way. It’s not my brain that’s broken.”

Ava sighed. So, this was how this man wanted to play it? Fine.

“Could have fooled me.” Her words came out harsher than she wanted them to. But she was tired after twelve hours of continuous work, and this latest patient’s hostility was getting on her nerves. “What kind of man doesn’t want to give his doctor his name?”

At her comment, the man’s watery blue eyes blazed with a hatred so intense, it made Ava uncomfortable. She was used to scorn, but this was different. This was deeper, more dangerous.

And this man wasn’t the only one. More and more humans were looking at her that way since the Eok warriors had come and freed them from Minister Knut and his Ilarian guards.

“I need it for my files.” She shook her head, trying to keep her voice and face as emotionless as she could. “I need to keep a record of what treatment I give you. You don’t want me to mix up your medication, do you? It would only take the wrong dosage of infection nanites and you’d be far worse off than you are now.”

She glared at him, long and hard. His washed-out blue eyes reduced to slits and his mouth pursed in a grimace in his dirty blond beard, but he nodded.

“Harl. The name’s Will Harl.”

“And what facility have you come from, Will?” Ava kept her eyes pointedly on her screen as she spoke. She knew his type, and he could make her lose an entire hour of sleep if she pushed too hard. Better just ask the questions she needed to ask and move on.

“Facility Twenty-One.”

Ava nodded, then added the information into her computer. She reached for his wrist, intending to take his vitals, but he jerked his arm away.

“Just fix my damned leg.” His putrid breath reached her face, hot and full of sickness. “I don’t want your filthy hands all over me.”

Ava paused, anger flashing bright red inside her. She knew she should stay calm, should ignore the insults, but she was just too damn tired. She turned on him, bending over him slightly. She sustained his hateful glare, answering it bit for bit with her most stern doctor-knows-best scowl.

“I need to take your vitals. Now, if you don’t want my help, just say so and I can come back tomorrow when you’ve died of septicemia.”

Guilt replaced her anger when she saw fear in his eyes, but she didn’t retract her words. It was the truth. When she reached for his wrist again, he didn’t protest. He might not like it, but she was his only option. There was no other doctor on Aveyn to see to the needs of a thousand people. This meant Ava had no respite from her work, and no respite from the scorn of those who crawled beneath her roof, desperate for relief.

It was a strange thing, to be so needed and yet so despised, but she was used to it. Still, being used to it didn’t mean she was going to accept being insulted so easily.

“People like you shouldn’t even exist.” His breath stank of fever but his expression hadn’t softened in the least. “You’re nothing but an abomination.”

Ava’s head tilted like he had slapped her. Abomination. Of all the things she had been called, this one hurt the most.

“You and that Cattelan mongrel. You’re both monsters.”

Anger flared inside her heart, fierce and hot. She could take the insults, the abuse, but never when they were directed at Uril. That child was no more responsible for the genes inside his cells than she was.

“Stop talking.” Her voice was weak and low and she couldn’t suppress the pain behind it. Not this time. “I swear, old man, if you ever speak of Uril again, I’ll leave you like you are now and you’ll never walk again!”

His mouth twisted within his dirty beard and he glared at her, but didn’t make another sound. This was better. She could take those two eyes filled with disgust and hatred, but not the words. The words always had a way of burrowing under her skin, replaying at night in her mind when all she wanted was to sleep.

Now that Will Harl was silent, she had to focus on her work.

Ava lifted the blanket and couldn’t suppress her grimace of disgust at the stench coming from the man’s body. His leg was mangled, the bone gleaming shocking white against the red of the wound. It was an open fracture, but not a recent one.

Discolored flesh bloomed all around the gaping wound, oozing pus as dark red tendrils of infection ran across his skin to the thigh.

“You should not have waited so long to come here.” She shook her head. “What happened to you?”

“I fell down the wall during a patrol.” The man bit out his words but they sounded true enough. “Then there was a storm. They couldn’t bring me in for a week. “

Ava bit the inside of her cheek. This wasn’t the first time a patient got to her so late because the facility he called home was too far from the medical clinic. Most of them were still reluctant to move in to what people called The Tower, a dizzying building capable of housing all the humans, which overlooked a large square not far from the mansion.

She understood why people were reluctant to move, but she also knew it was impractical and dangerous to leave the population scattered to the far corners of the planet with only one doctor to care for them. She had to talk to Jonah about this. What if someone was truly injured at one of the most remote locations? What if someone died out there because they couldn’t get to her?

But now, she couldn’t think of those people out there. What mattered was this man, lying in pain in front of her.

“Another day and there would have been little I could have done for that leg. I would have had to cut it off.”

“I’d sooner cut your throat than let you cut my leg.”

Ava dropped the sheets back down and braced her hands on the sides of the bed. Her jaw clenched so hard it hurt as she bent ever so slightly over him, glaring openly until he blinked, then looked away. Pain washed over his features, smeared with dirt and despair. Her sudden flare of anger receded.

It’s not his fault he’s cruel and hateful. He’s just weak, like most of them.

Holding her mixed blood heritage against her gave these people a purpose. Something to focus their anger on.

Will Harl needed her. She had the power of life or death over him, a power she would never misuse, no matter how much she was hurt.

I’m better than this.

Her temper abated, deflating as easily as it was awoken. This man was not the enemy. The enemy was gone, and now she had to fight her own battle to gain her place as one of them. Aveyn was her only home, the only place in the Ring where she had a chance at a life. A real life. And she wasn’t going to give up without a fight.

“I won’t amputate your leg.” She spoke in a calm voice, falling back easily into her medical role. “But the treatment will be long. There will be pain.”

“Can’t be worse than this.” Will pushed his head hard against the pillow, the tendons in his neck standing up with the strain of controlling his fear and pain.

“You’re wrong.” She shook her head slightly. “I will have to clean the wound before I can administer the nanites to fight the infection.”

“That’s okay.” He nodded. “Just get on with it.”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand.” She turned and picked up a scalpel and ionic wand. “I have no pain control medicine in this facility. I can’t put you under. I’ll have to clean the wound with you wide awake.”

Will’s eyes grew wide but he remained silent. It was better that way. There was nothing to say anyway.

He didn’t remain silent for long. Soon, the small surgical room was filled with his screams.

***

Arlen

Arlen stared hard through the large window at the green orb that was the planet Aveyn, floating in the aseptic void of space but getting closer and closer. As the interstellar transport ship—one of the Eokian fleet’s jewels—approached his next assignment, he was having more and more trouble keeping his temper in check. This was an assignment he would give anything to avoid.

He turned toward his brother, Karian, who standing silently at his side, then immediately regretted it. Pain and anger still flared inside him at the sight of his brother, even after over a year.

It will never be the same as before. He should know that. Why doesn’t he leave me alone?

“I know you didn’t want this mission,” Karian began, looking out the large curved window down to Aveyn. “So I thank you for accepting the assignment anyway.”

“Don’t thank me,” Arlen answered sharply. “You left me no choice.” Not wanting to look at his brother any longer, he turned to stare at Trade Minister Knut’s old planet-estate. Aveyn looked like a jewel, an emerald spliced with veins of blue, rich and untamed. The planet had been Knut’s personal playground for decades—at least, until about a month ago, when Kamal, Arlen’s eldest brother, had liberated the human population who’d been illegally kept and bred there.

A thousand humans, now freed, lived under the official protection of the Eok nation.

“There was no one else with your qualifications to secure Aveyn.” Karian kept talking but there was an edge to his voice. “The risks are too great.”

“Khal is eager to prove himself.” Arlen felt Karian turn toward him, knew his brother was watching him, but stared out the window, ignoring him. “This mission doesn’t need a war-time Commander. This mission needs a diplomat, which I am not.”

Arlen knew he was being harsh, knew Karian wanted nothing more but to mend the rift that had pushed them apart like the two halves of a broken heart, but forgiveness was as elusive to him as the feelings he’d once harbored in his soul for his family. He wasn’t the warrior he’d been a year and a half ago, when he’d rescued Karian and his mate from the desolate planet where their rescue pod had landed. He was but a shell of his former self and he couldn’t bear Karian seeing him like this.

“I can’t put this kind of mission on Khal alone.”

“Plenty of others would have been happy to rise to the challenge.”

Silence followed Arlen’s last statement. He knew it was the truth. Khal, their youngest brother, was not experienced enough to handle the kind of delicate mission ensuring the humans’ safety on Aveyn would entail, but Arlen was hardly the only warrior with the skills to navigate the complex and dangerous political landscape associated with the humans’ unique position on Aveyn.

“You would have been recalled from the Frontier whether I assigned you to this mission or not.” The veneer of cool efficiency in Karian’s voice was beginning to crack, although only one who knew him as well as Arlen could tell. “Your war time was over.”

“I don’t see why.” It wasn’t true. Arlen knew exactly why. Violence had a way of bringing out the worst in an Eok warrior, of summoning to the surface the beast that thousands of years of civilization had barely contained. “I haven’t lost a single warrior in over a year. That can’t be said of many commanders at the Frontier.”

“The rules are clear on this. No Eok warrior is allowed to stay in the combat zone for such an extensive period of time.” Karian came to stand directly in front of him, and it was impossible to ignore the fervor in his eyes now that he stood so close. “You’ve spent over a year at the most violent of our outposts at the Frontier of the Ring. Combat—day in, day out. Violence filled every one of your days.”

“I managed perfectly well.” Arlen heard the lie in his own voice as he spoke, and knew Karian heard it as well. “You can have my sanity tested if you like. I won’t oppose.”

Karian’s mouth opened and his brow creased with what could only be pain. Sharp, vivid pain. A pain that no amount of combat, no amount of peace, nothing could abate. A pain that stood between them like a stone wall, where there was once only brotherly affection.

Slowly, Karian shook his head, his mouth reducing to a thin line. “You never wrote, never holo-called.” He spoke through clenched teeth, the pain and anger obvious in his blue eyes. “Not Father, not me. Not even Mother. Not even once. I had to ask for news of your health via the chain of command.”

Karian’s pain echoed somewhere deep inside Arlen, in that place he had done his best to kill during his long year of constant violence. The place that was filled with a void so cold, he worried it could spill out and drown him at any second.

He had to get away from Karian. Had to get away from anything that reminded him of his past life. If that meant he had to get down to Aveyn and coddle a bunch of freed humans then he would gladly do so.

“There was nothing to say.” Arlen was doing his best to remain stoic, but it was getting harder by the second. He forced his eyes from Karian back to the sea of green in front of the window. “I will fulfill your mission on Aveyn on one condition.”

“What is it?”

“After a year on Aveyn, you have to send me back.” He saw Karian flinch out of the corner of his eye. “A year of peace for a year of war. That is my offer. If you don’t take it then I will have no other choice but to tender my resignation from the Eok army.”

A long pause stretched out as Karian took a step back. Arlen kept his eyes fixed on the planet below them as Karian stared at him.

“A year for a year.” Karian’s voice had returned to his normal tone. He wasn’t a brother anymore, but the Commander-in-Chief of the Eok armies. “After that, if you want to drown your soul in blood, then you’re welcome to do so.”

Arlen stared at the emerald planet as the past surrounded his mind, full of the things he had refused to feel. He would fulfill his mission for the Eok armies but he would never return home. After this, he would go back to the outpost and fight. Fighting was the only thing he could do now, the only purpose he had left.

He didn’t turn as Karian walked away. His brother’s steps echoed in the empty room for a long time after he was gone, like the ghosts of a broken past. Arlen turned away and walked to the Command Center. He had work to do if he wanted to get off this planet and back where he belonged.

Bathed in the blood of his enemies.

 

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What others are saying

  1. Marybeth

    Great world building

    Marybeth

    This is the third book in the Venomous series. You can read this as a stand alone, but it’s much better if you read the other books in the series.

    Ava is a genetically engineered human/avonie hybrid. She is trying to save Uril, who is a human/Cattelan hybrid. He needs a new heart that is somewhere on Aveyn. Hybrid anything is forbidden and they are despised because of it. Arlen is an Eok, a warrior race, who has been made commander of Aveyn, to protect the human population.

    I really enjoyed this third book in the series and I can’t wait for book 4! Loved it!!!

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  2. Jessica

    Can they navigate their desire and the danger?

    Jessica

    Venomous Heart is the third book in the Eok Warriors series. Arlen does not want his current assignment, of keeping peace for a year, and just wants to get back to fighting. He’s cold, uncompromising, that is, until a doctor storms into his office, fearless, making demands, and igniting a passion within him. Ava shouldn’t exist, but lives to save anyone she possibly can. But can Arlen and Ava navigate the dangers that still reside around and within their planet?

    This book is definitely my favorite of the series so far! Oh my goodness! I loved Arlen and Ava! I loved what they had to go through separately and then together, I loved the drama and trials they faced, I loved the passion that burned brightly between them, and I loved the lengths they were both willing to go to for those they loved! Arlen was so stoic, focused only on his job, but I really enjoyed watching him open up around Ava, slowly laughing and showing some vulnerability. Ava was such a strong character, facing such adversity but just wanting to belong. It was fascinating to watch her realize that she wasn’t alone anymore, that she had more than just Uril in her life and just how special she truly was. There is so much that happens in this book, between politics, health concerns, safety issues, and a forced claiming, and I was flipping pages to figure out what was going to happen next! Plus, their attraction and passion mixed into everything was the cherry on top of an amazing book! I am loving this series, devoured this addition, and will anxiously await the next book!

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  3. Lori

    Different but perfect together

    Lori

    I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.  This is Ava and Arlen’s story.  Third in the series and really good.   Arlen is an Eok warrior sent to protect humans and Ava is genetically engineered – humans need her, but still hate her.  Together, they try to survive and save her young friend Urli.  Hot sex.

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