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Time Raiders: The Avenger

P. C. Cast

  Buried deep in the past is the key to peace…and a monstrous treachery

  Earth faces total domination by an alien force. The Galactic bronze medallion, the only key to freedom, has been divided and scattered throughout the ages. Now, a band of heroes, chosen for their extraordinary gifts, find unexpected, passionate love while braving dangers far beyond the present in a desperate race against time….

  Follow all four books in this thrilling new series that continues with Time Raiders: The Protector.

  Time Raiders: The Seeker

  (August 2009)

  Lindsay McKenna

  Time Raiders: The Slayer

  (September 2009)

  Cindy Dees

  Time Raiders: The Avenger

  (October 2009)

  P.C. Cast

  Time Raiders: The Protector

  (November 2009)

  Merline Lovelace

  Books by P.C. Cast

  Silhouette Nocturne

  Time Raiders: The Avenger #73

  LUNA Books

  * Elphame’s Choice

  * Brighid’s Quest

  * Divine by Mistake

  * Divine by Choice

  * Divine by Blood


  was born in Illinois and grew up being shuttled back and forth between there and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with quarter horses and mythology (at about the same time).

  Five days after graduating from high school, she joined the United States Air Force, which is where she began speaking professionally. After her tours with the USAF, Ms. Cast attended college as a literature major with a secondary education minor.

  Her first novel, Goddess by Mistake, was published by a small press in 2001. Thoroughly shocking the author, it won a Prism, a Holt Medallion and a Laurel Wreath, and was a finalist for the National Readers’ Choice Award. Since then Ms. Cast has gone on to win numerous writing awards. Ms. Cast is thrilled that her work with her daughter, Kristin, in young adult fiction has won numerous placements on the New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller lists.

  P.C. Cast lives and teaches in Oklahoma with her fabulous daughter, her spoiled cat and her Scotties—better known as the Scottinators. The daughter attends college. The cat refuses higher education. The Scottinators are as yet undecided about their future.

  New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author





  Dearest Reader,

  It was an honor to be asked to write a novel in a series conceived and written by women who have served their country in the armed forces. TIME RAIDERS is a rich world in which to play, and it was fun to bring my prior active-duty USAF alter ego to the sandbox.

  I particularly love this period of history. Boudica and her amazing story have intrigued me for years. I love that she was a strong secondary character, and I hope I kept true to her historical spirit in my rendition of her.

  And, finally, to be completely honest with you, I have to tell you that it was a pleasant break for me to write a steamy, sexy, paranormal romance again after writing so many young adult books!

  I hope you enjoy going back to ancient Briton with Alex. Here’s wishing you happy reading and the brightest of blessings.

  P.C. Cast

  This one is for the enlisted women in the USAF,

  with a smile and a semi-insubordinate grin.



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 1

  T he dead woman sighed. Her voice sounded wistful and more than a little nostalgic. “It’s pretty here, isn’t it? There is something restful about all this open space.”

  “You’re dead, Andred. Isn’t everything restful to you?” Alex said, lifting a brow at the semitransparent woman who leaned against the low wooden fence beside her.

  “Do not be so literal. I am quite certain you are very aware that just because one is dead doesn’t mean one is at rest.” The spirit paused and gave Alex a knowing, sidelong look. “Your fear of leaving here is irrational.”

  Alex frowned. The two things that had surprised her most about ghosts when she first started seeing them the year she turned six were they were so damn nosy, which made them ubergossips, and they were so damn free with their advice. As if dying turned them into talk show hosts.

  “Look, I’m not afraid of leaving here. I just don’t like to. Even you said how restful this place is, and I love Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie. Not to mention my job’s here—why should I want to leave?”

  “There is quite a difference between loving a place so you choose to stay, and staying in a place because you are too fearful to leave.”

  “I said I’m not afraid to leave! I went to Flagstaff. I was gone for three whole days.”

  “You hated every moment of it.”

  “No, I did not. I loved seeing Tessa.” And I’m worried as hell about her. Alex closed her eyes for an instant and against her dark lids saw smoke and fire and smelled the acrid scent of computers frying in unbelievable heat. Professor Carswell had assured her that Tessa would be fine, but after the terrible accident she’d witnessed, Alex didn’t know how that could be true. But none of that is this damn nosy ghost’s business.

  “You have not left the prairie once since you returned. You’ve even been giving your shopping list to Sam. Alexandra, when you resort to having a hired ranch hand buy tampons for you, I’d say you are turning into a hermit.”

  “And what about you? Why are you still here? Hello! Aren’t you the pot calling the kettle black? How can you lecture me about being afraid to leave?” Alex glanced pointedly at the woman’s archaic looking outfit, which was little more than a brightly colored linen tunic, and leather sandals with straps that wrapped around her calves. “What kind of a name is Andred? How long ago did you die, anyway?”

  “Andred is a very old name, as I have been here a very long time.”

  “And I have a feeling you should have passed on a while ago.”

  The ghost of the young woman shrugged. “I will. I am in no hurry.”

  “Well, that’s no different than me. I’m in no hurry to leave, either,” Alex said smugly.

  The spirit turned to face her, her expression sad. “There is a vast difference between us, Alex. As you remind me often, I am not of the living. There is nothing out there for me. But you are alive. The world exists for you, except you’re unwilling to live, so you hide in here.”

  Alex’s stomach tightened. “You have no idea what it’s like. You ghosts are overwhelming! In Flagstaff, with Tessa, ghosts were everywhere! I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. Here it isn’t so bad.”

  The spirit shook her head. “It’s not where you are, Alex. It’s you.”

  “That’s such utter bullshit!”

  “You haven’t always hidden yourself away out here. You used to be a part of the world. What happened?”

  “I am still pa
rt of the world! I live and work on the tallgrass prairie. I’m a botanist. I give guided tours. I interact with people all the time. Living people. And I’m done talking to ghosts for today.” Alex climbed over the fence, and without another word, stomped into the bunkhouse and went directly to the small room she called home, forcing herself not to slam the door behind her.

  “Damn know-it-all ghosts! God, they’re so incredibly annoying,” Alex muttered to herself as she went to the chic wine cooler she kept filled with a stash of her favorite reds and whites. She considered for a second, and then decided to splurge and open a new bottle of her current favorite red, The Prisoner, ignoring the irony of the name on the label. “I live!” she said as she opened the wine. “I just choose to live somewhere that doesn’t stress my brains out.” While she let the wine breathe Alex pulled off her jeans and sweatshirt, replacing them with comfy silk drawstring pajama bottoms and the matching top. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the outside of her closet and paused to smooth back her crazy hair. Sometimes it seemed her mood translated to her hair follicles, because nine times out of ten when she was angry her thick mass of strawberry-blond hair frizzed out to look like a lion’s mane.

  “I should cut this stuff,” Alex told her reflection, but she knew they were just words. She would cut her hair when she was really old, and not pushing thirty-five. Hell, she might not even cut it then! It’d be fun to be called “that crazy old woman with the wild hair down to her ass.” At least it would give the ghosts something benign to gossip about. “Just pour yourself a glass of wine and stay away from the scissors,” she told her reflection.

  Alex was curled up in bed with the glass of red wine on her bedside table and a fat copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which she was rereading for the third time in ten years, when her cell phone rang. Annoyed, she glanced at the number, sure it was her mother making her requisite once-a-month call, which Alex would ignore. When she saw the name under the caller ID, she sat straight up and clicked the answer button.

  “Tessa! Are you okay?”

  “Alex, it’s great to hear your voice! You would not believe all the stuff I have to tell you. Man, talk about a wild ride.”

  “Are you okay?” Alex repeated. “There was that fire just as you disappeared, and—”

  “Hey, not over unsecured lines,” Tessa said quickly. “And I’m fine. Totally fine.” Alex thought she heard a deep male voice in the background, and Tessa giggled. “Well, maybe I’m better than fine.” Then her voice sobered and she added, “Oh, you should know that here with us I’ve also got—”

  “Tessa, we need to talk.” It was Alex’s turn to interrupt. “You scared the living hell out of me. I thought you were dead for sure. And that damn professor wouldn’t give me shit for information, not to mention the stick-up-her-ass general. God, I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with military mentality anymore.” She snorted. “Talk about an oxymoron. Anyway, we gotta talk. I need details.”

  “Well, Sergeant, we’d be happy to share all the details with you. There’s a nonstop flight that leaves tomorrow from Tulsa to Phoenix. I’ll have a car waiting at the airport to bring you to Flagstaff.”

  There was absolute silence on the line as Alex worked on controlling her temper.

  “As I was trying to tell you, Alex, I have General Ashton on conference call with us,” Tessa said.

  “Lovely,” Alex said dryly. “Hello, General.”

  “Sergeant Patton,” said the general.

  “Look, General, I told you before, I haven’t been a sergeant for almost five years, and I have no intention of ever being one again. Just call me Alex.”

  “As you wish, Alex. Your ticket is wireless. It will be waiting at Tulsa International for you.”

  “I’m not coming. Not tomorrow. Not the day after. Not ever. I am not interested in joining your…” Alex hesitated, wanted to call Project Anasazi a bunch of geeks and freaks. But Tessa was still on the phone, and, in spite of trapping her into this annoying conference call, still Alex’s friend—even though she was definitely a psychic freak. After a long breath Alex settled for saying “…your team.”

  “We need you, Alex.” It was Tessa who spoke into the dead air this time. “This is important.”

  “So is the reason I’m not interested. Actually, so are the several reasons I’m not interested, and you know that, Tessa. Look, I’m glad you’re all in one piece, and I’m glad you called, even if we do have company on the line. But I am not the girl for this job. I left that life behind me a long time ago, and I’m not ever going back. If you want to come to the prairie and visit, you’re invited anytime, Tessa.” She emphasized her friend’s name so there could be no misunderstanding to whom Alex was offering the open invitation. “But I’m not going back to Flagstaff or to the military. Goodbye, Tessa.” Alex clicked the end call button.

  Chapter 2

  T he call had pissed Alex off so badly that she couldn’t even concentrate on The Outlander, which only served to make her even more angry and resentful. Shit! She’d made herself very clear after Tessa had disappeared into the past as the damn lab had gone up in smoke. No, hell no, she wasn’t interested in “volunteering” for a time-travel mission—even if it did mean keeping marauding aliens or whatever at bay.

  See, the problem was that in Alex’s life, what most people would consider alien was her norm. So what if the world had to deal with bizarre crap for a change? Alex’s mind flashed back to when she was six years old and her neighbor, Brian Campos, had disappeared. The police had gone door-to-door looking for him. When they’d gotten to her house, she’d told them, in her matter-of-fact little-girl voice, that she knew where he was—then she’d taken the detective’s hand and, to the horror of her parents, led him to Brian’s body. Everyone had freaked, and then labeled her as a freak. At six, how does a kid know not to admit she sees ghosts? At thirtysomething, Alex was a lot smarter.

  They’d wanted her talent at Project Anasazi, also known as the Time Raiders. Alex had thought Tessa’s insistence on her coming to visit was because her longtime friend was just too damn lonely at her new home in Flagstaff. After all, Tessa was a strong psychic, which meant she was a freak, too. Come to find out, Tessa had wanted to see Alex, but Project Anasazi had really wanted her—for a time-travel mission.

  Okay, even before she’d witnessed Tessa’s messed-up leap back in time, and gotten serious Something’s Wrong vibes from the lab fire, Alex had rejected their offer. The reason she’d given—that she was totally not interested in returning to anything resembling the military in any form—was true. As was her other reason—the fact that she had a great job as lead botanist, guide and docent for Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

  But the truest reason she couldn’t handle being a part of Project Anasazi was because she couldn’t handle leaving the prairie. It was the only place she could find any measure of peace, any break from the ghosts who haunted her.

  It wasn’t true that ghosts hung around because they wanted someone to help them with unresolved issues. Well, maybe that was true in some cases. But most of the time ghosts hung around for the same reasons anyone, living or dead, hung around a place. Because they wanted to. Sometimes they were bored. Sometimes they were happy. Sometimes they were sad. Sometimes Alex didn’t know what the hell they were, except terrible gossips and seriously noisy. They were just there.

  It hadn’t been so bad when she was younger. The U.S. Air Force had even helped for a while. At least there she’d been an accepted member of a group, that is until her “knack” for “knowing” what messages needed to get to whom had caused her to be singled out from the herd of airmen who schlepped around the main communications center of Building 500 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Her ability, honed from countless hours of listening to gossipy ghosts, had brought her to the attention of the NCOIC in charge of the communications center, CMSgt John Domonick.

  One thing had led to another between the two of them, and eventual
ly she’d ended up in his bed and he’d ended up knowing her freakish secret. Oh, she’d also ended up in a special assignment called TA, or Traffic Analysis, which basically meant gathering ghost gossip for John and, eventually, the colonel who was his commander.

  It had been early in her comm center debacle that she’d started cramming in botany classes at the local university whenever she could. And when Alex’s next reenlistment had come around, instead of re-upping for another four years, she’d said goodbye to John Domonick and the USAF, and hello to a degree in botany—and an internship at Oklahoma’s beautiful, and mostly untouched, tallgrass prairie—where the ghosts somehow, some way, mostly left her alone. So that’s where she planned to stay. Forever if need be.

  She was not going back into the military—not in any way, shape or form.

  Still fuming over the phone call, Alex sucked down the rest of the glass of wine, and only realized when she got up to wash her face—and stumbled into the bed—that the glass had mysteriously been the last in the bottle, which was now empty.

  Alex was definitely going to have a headache in the morning. Ugh. And she had to lead a group of wannabe ranch hands out on a sunrise bird-watching tour to Buffalo Ridge, which was a good three miles away.

  “Well, crap,” she grumbled to herself as she snuggled under the covers. “I’m gonna have to remember to hydrate….”