Nina S. Gooden | Light Can Be Gentle
Romance, Author, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk Romance, Nina Gooden
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Light Can Be Gentle

Light Can Be Gentle cover imageThis book is currently being reworked for republication!

Heat Level: 5

Word Count: 50,800

Romance Sub-Genre(s): Paranormal, Erotica, Sci-Fi, Male/Male, Interracial

 

Created by desperate scientists within the Forgotten Colonies, Ligers were engineered for the sole purpose of reuniting humankind with its home planet, currently overrun by vicious creatures, known as Nihil. However, when an unexplained explosion forces the debilitated weapons to flee to the arms of their enemies in the military, they quickly realize they will not be saving the human race anytime soon.

Hagan has always known he was different. He did not belong in the human world but could never be a part of the struggling Lige. This all changes when a mysterious man appears, claiming to have what both groups need in order to overcome the creeping threat of the Nihil.

“Come with me. Trust me. I need you.” His dark, libidinous voice calls to Hagan from the depths of his psyche. It pulls him forward through an existence he does not want toward a destiny he fears he cannot fulfill.

It is Hagan who must bridge the gaps between worlds. There is a power hidden within him, a power that can strengthen the weakened Lige and protect the remainder of humanity. He is the only one who can fight off the threats they do not see coming and the extension of both races, but only if he is willing to trust the stranger with his heart and body.

Contains: Bondage, Whipping, Pain/pleasure, Male/male, Domination

 

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One
 

Reach for me, I’m here. I’m yours, if you’d only see me.

Hagan stretched his arms out to the voice, the same one he’d heard every night in his fitful sleep for what seemed like years.

Take me.

“I want you. I want this,” he replied, knowing his husky responses wouldn’t reach past his nose before being swept away, absorbed into the darkness that blinded him.

I’m here. I belong to you.

Frustration beat at his mind even as the black void pressed into and under his golden tea-brown skin. Invisible fingertips teased his flesh, pulling and stroking until he was groaning, begging for the release always just beyond his reach.

You belong to me.

Beads of sweat broke out over his body and he sucked in a violent breath as the blackness began to shift and swirl into something else. Slowly—painfully slowly—his eyes adjusted to the changing color and the miasma turned into a mist of gold dust. It danced across his lips, caressed the smooth, sensitive skin of his back and butt.

Do you want this? Are you sure? Can you handle it?

A familiar, low voice continued to caress him. Warm, sweet breath cascaded over his body with no true point of origin. He trembled in the air, suspended by invisible hands that ran down the ridged panels of his abs. Phantom fingers tunneled through his thick dark hair, leaving his scalp tingling as surely as the rest of him.

You smell good. I wonder if you taste just as nice.

Another kiss was pressed to his neck, hot and promising, only this time he felt the glide as lips were parted and a tongue stroked along his skin. The breath he was about to take caught in his chest and morphed into a throaty moan. He reached out to touch it, to pleasure it in kind, but it slipped against his palms like beads of silky water.

Hagan. Will you find me? Can I touch you?

He gasped into the mist, taking it into his lungs. There had always been this frantic energy, this desperate tunnel of heat and need he was wrapped around now. But the mist had never spoken his name; had never known it. Those magic fingers found his nipples and ran hard knuckles over them until he was pumping his hips into the air.

“Please,” he croaked, all thoughts of pride washed away by the pleasure racing through his body. “Please, just do it.”

A chuckle thrummed in the air around him and he felt his face flush with heat. So sweet. Begging, so pretty.

The fingers at his nipples trailed down to where his twitching cock was wet, glistening at the tip, and he held his breath, waiting for that moment of sweet contact. Every inch was sheer torture of anticipation and he found himself whispering words of praise and promise, anything to keep them moving.

“Almost.” He panted, every muscle strung tight as a bow. “Almost.”

The intercom near Hagan’s head burst to life and he hit the hard springs of his mattress with a violent thud. Digiscreens he had been studying before falling asleep bounced in the air and landed with displeased whacks around his room.

Stunned and still painfully aroused, he listened as the mechanical summoning droned on, a rhythmic intrusion to his erotic fantasy. The voice still echoed in his head, filling his blood with hot fever, but the alarm continued, forcing his eyes to the clock.

Bright green lights blinked slowly, telling him it was after three in the morning. He had just decided to ignore the blasted intercom when the privacy light blinked from red to green.

“Subject 01H, you are needed in Limbo. You have fifteen minutes to get down to Two-Way or a soldier will be sent to retrieve you.” Hagan’s ears rang with the sharp command from Captain O’Connor. “Hurry up if you don’t want any casualties.”

Dragging himself out of bed, he lumbered toward the seemingly blank wall on the other side of the room. A quick slap of his palm against the cool surface opened the operations panel.

“Shower,” he muttered to the neon lines as the system lit up. The wall obeyed immediately, shifting seamlessly to reveal a black glass steam shower. “Ten degrees Celsius, almond oil dispense.”

The blast of frigid water chased away the lingering warmth of the dream. He shuddered under the freezing water, shaking out the cobwebs of yearning it left beneath his skin.

He stepped away from the shower just as the intercom began a second round of annoying beeps. “You have five minutes left.”

“I’m coming, damn it.” He growled to the empty room. “It’s not like you would actually kill one of your precious Lige members.”

As he pulled on a pair of jeans, he got the distinct feeling the room didn’t believe it any more than he did.

Standing in the welcoming space of his room, Hagan took a fortifying breath. Leaving his room always made him flinch and this time was no different.

The moment he stepped free of the threshold, he heard the locks click and his heart rate sped up. He was half tempted to turn right back around, but two soldiers garbed in black uniforms appeared in the residential hallway.

Shuffling to get away from them, before they could do him harm, he made his way toward Limbo. The ship was the largest in the fleet hovering above the now uninhabitable Earth, so he had to pass through a dozen different decks in order to get to the far end where Captain O’Connor was waiting.

The Mess Hall was full, even at this hour, and he strolled by with an unapproachable expression. The smells, the clinking of spoons and forks hitting glass, the audible hiss as the machines rehydrated powdered food, and the incessant hum of low conversation all made him sick.

He couldn’t stand the thought of forcing himself through another awkward attempt to acclimate to life on the Nautilus, not that it would help. The soldiers all knew he didn’t belong. He was different, and they took every opportunity to remind him.

A chill ran up his spine the instant he stepped through the sliding black glass doors of the deck they called Limbo. A pair of well-armed guards checked his retina scans as well as his recorded image before letting him through to the frisk. He bore it all with stoic discomfort, but today there was an additional precaution.

“Just put your hand on the scanner, please,” the attendant for the newest insult of his personal space muttered when he hesitated. “If you are concerned with the pain, I can get a numbing spray first.”

Hagan folded his arms over his chest. “I’ve been poked and prodded by you people enough. I’m not giving you any more of my blood.”

The attendant frowned for a moment before reaching for the phone on her desk. Before she brought it to her mouth, the cloudy glass separating the security checks from the observation deck, or Two-Way as it was called, opened.

“What took you so long?”

The attendant snapped to attention when the big man pushed through the opening. Garbed in the standard black for all soldiers, Captain O’Connor was a formidable man. Hagan was sure he had some kind of shiny medals that were supposed to be pinned on his shoulder, but he never wore them.

The hassled man shifted carefully, unable to keep the belligerence out of his voice. “Well, you know how it is, O’Connor. Nonstop parties and beer make it hard for me to drag myself out of bed.”

If the captain thought his sarcasm amusing, he was careful not to show it. Instead, he nodded slightly to the attendant and turned on a heel, fully expecting Hagan to follow.

Limbo was a set of rooms separated by precious clear glass. Hagan bunched his shoulder uncomfortably, looking down a hallway and straight into each individual room. They were each built the same way, and each made him a little bit more wary.

Uncomfortable seating lined one wall, and a hovering screen was pressed to the opposite side of the room. The screens offered some form of illusion that allowed the viewer on this side to watch what happened in the room on the other side of the panel, without being seen.

The rooms on the other side were connected by a single hallway with one door set in the center of them. It was the only visible way into the observed rooms.

At the moment, only a single scientist, easily discerned by her navy blue uniform, was gazing warily at a monitor, scribbling on a laser tablet.

Unease skittered through Hagan’s body the moment his eyes followed her gaze to the second set of screens. “They have been calling for you for almost an hour,” she muttered without looking his way.

He tried to shrug, but his mind was already working in overtime. The figures on the other side of the glass shouldn’t have been there. Of all of the survivors, they were the most protected. It had been one of the stipulations his mother had required before bringing the Lige to their natural enemies. If they were here, whatever they wanted had to be serious.

Captain O’Connor was talking again. “They’ve agreed to lower the barrier early so you can go through.” He hesitated slightly, as if debating on continuing. “I suggest you hurry, 01M is getting particularly anxious.”

Hagan would have responded but the captain had already turned away, signaling to the scientist. The woman tapped a series of spaces in the air in front of her, and the viewing screen shimmered like the surface of a body of water. After several minutes, a door with a heavy bolt across it appeared.

Swallowing hard, Hagan waited while a hulking man on the other side of the door glared at him. The ripples continued to move over the screen as the intensity of that gaze hummed in his bones, threatening to turn them into mush. Hagan held his breath for several seconds, refusing to look away. Finally, the man nodded and the bolt slid open.

“You sure took your damn time getting here.” The man growled. “Did you have something better to do with your fellow humans?”

Hagan dragged his gaze over the familiar figure before him. Raimi was muscular but sleek, every motion he made reminding those around him of a cat. The shock of his short red hair was interrupted by streaks of black that ran all the way to his jaw line. At first glance, one may have thought the black markings on his skin were ink. His jaw flexed angrily and the barbs of the birthmark shuddered and caught on the planes of his face, revealing the true form of his Ligurae.

“It’s nice to see you too, Raimi.” Hagan dismissed him with a cocky smile that didn’t quite reflect what was going on in his head. He turned toward the other people in the room stiffly.

Persinna was one of those women who commanded attention the moment she stepped into a room. Her tall, generous frame was packed with curves that hid her considerable muscle mass. She was known as the priestess, and leader of the Lige.

Beside her, the small form of Nadira almost broke Hagan’s heart. She’d been one of the last experiments, a glowing success by all accounts. Her violet eyes swallowed up the delicate span of her face, and if she hadn’t been a child, the sole survivor who wasn’t an adult, the shock of her wine-red hair would have been obscene.

“Thank you for coming, nephew.” Persinna’s usually mellow voice was charged with worry.

He nodded, unable to tear his eyes away from the girl. She took a step toward him and he almost hissed in fear, knowing how Raimi would respond.

She stared at him with black tears swimming in her eyes. “Hagan. Are we going back to the surface yet?”

The loss in her voice tugged harder at his already quivering heartstrings. Across the simple room they stood in, there was a wall-to-ceiling window which looked out across space.

It was easy for him to forget at times. They were orbiting a planet. Outside of the window, though, there was an ocean of black. Pricks of stunning color dotted the seemingly unending blanket of darkness. Space, in all its uninhibited glory, was beautiful. Breathtaking, even.

This made it much more difficult to shift his attention downward to the rotting earth. He’d seen pictures of what the planet used to look like. All of the greens and blues had been erased. The spinning mass was nothing but brown and red now, broken. The atmosphere choked what little air there was left, painting the wisps of dust and debris that hugged the mountaintops with a gray brush.

“There’s nothing down there for you or any of the others.” He tried to keep his tone even but it still trembled.

Nadira continued, her soft voice filled with knowledge she shouldn’t have had. “We have to fight them. We have to help Sister.”

No one knew if the Nihil caused the destruction of the planet or if the planet created them with its dying breath, but humanity scrambled to survive as they poured out of the cracks left by the weeping Earth. Most were killed within the first three days of the spread. After only a week, there were nothing but pockets of humans left.

Desperation forced the survivors to band together under one umbrella and the World Military Force was created. Platforms were built high above the crumbling surface of the planet. Originally, the plan had been for civilians to remain on the platforms alongside soldiers from the combined New Nation.

Instead, after almost a hundred years, humans had opted for doing what they do best: adapting. The space stations were created in order to protect the scientists and military personnel, scrambling to find a way to defeat the Nihil and reclaim Earth. All the while, life had continued. Small, fragile and unstable, the people living on the various platforms found a way to go on.

Eventually they’d found a way to fight back. The platforms, now called the Forgotten Colonies, had their own scientists, self-proclaimed Catalysts, and though their methods were desperate and unethical, they’d created the first Ligers.

There’d been more failures than successful attempts, but at the literal price of blood, sweat and tears, the scientists created life.

He cringed in sympathy. “Nadira, there’s nothing you can do…” He reached out to pat her tiny shoulder.

He didn’t even get a chance to bring his hands up in defense. Raimi was in front of him, a massive forearm pressed against his throat. The brute held it there just long enough for him to stop struggling before hissing in his face. “You show respect for the Oracle, Perfidy.”

With the oxygen being cut off from his lungs, Hagan couldn’t tell him exactly what he thought of his slur, but spitting in his face was a good second option. The roar Raimi let loose vibrated in the glass wall Hagan was pressed against and he watched as narrowed eyes housed pupils that shifted into catlike slivers.

“Raimi, enough. We need him, for now, so let him go. I really don’t want to have to redo my manicure.” The priestess sounded vaguely bored as she issued her command but he would have needed to be deaf to miss the steel behind the threat.

When it looked as if he would ignore her it was Nadira who gave him pause. “Please, Bulwark. It is I who has need of him.”

Raimi slowly released him but not before he made sure black dots were swimming in his vision. A low growl emitted from his throat. “You don’t belong here, human. Do your shit and get out.”

Panting as he was, the best Hagan could do was a cocky shrug in between gulped breaths.

The Liger spun on his heel, marching angrily toward the end of the room, but there was no doubt he wouldn’t go far. He’d been created for the sole purpose of protecting the important members of the Lige. He wasn’t about to leave them unattended with a human.

It was a struggle for Hagan to maintain his hold of his shaking until Raimi was across the room. He loosened the tight control he had on his body. Bravado crumbled and he began to tremble violently as he coughed. Rubbing his bruised neck, it was all he could do to fight the tears of fading adrenaline.

The priestess shifted to shield his deflation from his attacker, though Nadira was wise enough not to move. “Why do you do things like that, Hagan? It never ends well for you.”

The last of the fear drained from his figure in painful bursts and he dragged his hands through his hair roughly. “If I don’t, he’ll think he can walk all over me. Lige only respect strength. You of all people should know that, M’fal Persinna.”

He used her rightful title like a weapon but even he knew what it meant. The priestess, with her wheat-colored hair and eyes the color of cold honey, may have looked like an easygoing porn star, but he knew better. The lean muscle corded throughout her body was used, and used often.

She was the Goldemane. It was an honorific won through violence and determination. She was respected for her ability to lead, and feared for her swift and deadly retribution against those who attempted to harm anyone under her protection.

“I never said I didn’t understand what you’re doing, nephew. What I don’t get is the why.” He opened his mouth to explain, but she continued. “Are you not satisfied with your human life? You have your mother’s sharp mind, even if you lack the brawn of the Lige. I was pleased when you were made our ambassador.”

He remained silent this time, knowing she would let him speak when she was ready. It was true, when he had been informed of his new position, the priestess had been as close as proud as she was going to get.

It meant the Lige would have a trusted speaker on retainer; someone with the training humans could provide who already knew their secrets. An inside man, so to speak. Still, even with such an important task, he was an outsider. A human.

“What your mother did…” She paused, drawing in a breath. “What my bondsister did was unforgivable. You’ve paid the price for her weakness but it will never change. You cannot be a member of the Lige. Why put yourself through such hardships?”

He reminded himself that for all her tough talk, the priestess loved him. She wasn’t saying any of this to bring him pain. His hands seemed to fist of their own accord. “She deserved better than what she got.”

“And you deserve to be a Liger. You were born with us, raised with us, but for some reason you weren’t altered. Yesha did many of us an injustice with her choice but she paid for it with her life.”

He didn’t have anything to say in response. Ten months ago, his mother had put the remaining Ligers in deep sleep and brought them here. It was against their will and not all of them had woken up. In fact, within the three that had, one was only able to remain conscious for six hours in a day. He looked over to where Nadira watched him.

“Hagan.” Nadira moved forward and tilted her head back to look up at him. He held his breath, seeing the violet in her eyes bleed white. Her sweet, childlike voice deepened with second sight. “The Lige has been cut off from its power source for too long. We were created to fight, to go to the surface and defend the human race from the Nihil.”

He swallowed, unable to do anything more than to acknowledge the truth. “Yes.”

“We can be reactivated, Hagan. No, don’t shake your head. The answer is here. The humans have it. The Lige needs you to find it.”

Her tiny hands came up and framed his face, and a shudder ran through him. Each Liger had a power, though none of them had been able to tap into theirs since Yesha had taken them away from the laboratory. They blamed their unnatural sleep, as well as their inability to get in touch with their inner animal, on her.

Hagan fully believed his mother had done everything in her power to save the struggling species after the Catalysts had been killed in an explosion. That same explosion burned all of the research as well as the majority of the fully awakened Lige.

All that was left was a small group of Ligers who had never been activated. They lacked the existence of one of the Aurorae, something none of them knew anything about. After a year of searching, the only thing they had found out about it was obvious: it would allow them to use their powers—if it hadn’t been destroyed in the explosion.

“You think the Nation’s Army has the Light?”

A low chuckle was pulled from her lungs. “I know they have something we need. I know you need to find it.”

“You’re asking too much, Nadira. They don’t trust me any more than the Lige does. I am between—nothing.”

“You will do this. Ask to see the Ouroboros.”

She was the oracle; he knew it was pointless to argue with her. Even now, with her palms pressed against his cheeks, he could feel the power struggling beneath the surface of her skin. There was so much of it that it spilled out, even without the help of the Light. For the first time he wondered what it would be like if she had full access.

Raimi stepped out of his shadows. Hagan could hear his teeth grinding and quickly stepped away from Nadira. “It’s time for you to go, human. You heard her. Go find what we’re looking for.”

Hagan’s eyes flashed with anger a moment before he allowed his most arrogant smile to spread across his face. “Maybe I will, Subject 01M. Or maybe I’ll just go back to sleep.”

The glass behind him slammed open and Hagan was pushed through the provided portal before this Liger could respond.