Things that go bump in the night, from the inexplicable to the irresistible… New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart captivates readers with this gripping collection of novellas.
Monica Blackship hunts down creatures that shouldn’t exist. Stephanie Adams has the power to shape nocturnal visions. And if it’s weird, Jase Davis is on it. They’re all members of the Crew, an international consortium devoted to explaining the unexplainable. In this enthralling trilogy, these intrepid investigators face a daunting array of paranormal dangers, from deadly cryptids to dream thieves. They’re ready for ghosts, monsters and other strange phenomena. But is their greatest challenge distinguishing reality from fantasy, or separating work from pleasure?
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Everything had gone dark.
And oh, there was pain, great slashing waves of it washing over her as though she’d fallen into an ocean of agony and was being swept away to drown. Blindly, Monica raked the air in front of her and found nothing but emptiness. Hot and stinking breath assaulted her. Then the ground came up to slam into the back of her head and the darkness became sprinkled with the sharp white points of painstars behind her eyes.
She rolled onto her hands and knees, already pushing upward. She had to get to her feet or it would open her throat with teeth and claws like razors. And this rancid cave, this pit, was not the place where Monica intended to die.
She’d lost her knife but swept the ground to look for it and found it with her fingertips. The slice of pain was brief but would ache and burn later. If she was lucky enough to survive being mauled, she’d take those scars gratefully. She found the hilt and grabbed it up as she got to her feet. She turned, slashing outward, nothing but blackness in front of her.
She hit something solid, the blade sinking deep, and Monica didn’t wait but pulled it out and stabbed again. Sticky heat flooded her hands. She kept going. Something shoved her again, at the same time grabbing with thick, scaly fingers so she couldn’t fall. Couldn’t get away.
Teeth on her throat.
Her own voice, screaming.
Then, the blood.
Monica Blackship woke with a gasp, her hands slashing at the air in front of her before she realized she wasn’t in the cave but in her own bed. Alone, thank God. Though in the next moment as the sob wrenched out of her throat, she desperately wished she had someone to cling to.
Brad was gone. A whole month, by now. She didn’t blame him, not really. He’d stayed longer than she would have if the situation were reversed. But that was the kind of man he was. The good guy, the hero. He’d tried to save her, but she was past saving. It had been too much for him, in the end.
Still, the bed was vast and empty without him, and though she wasn’t afraid of darkness, it was so much easier to bear with someone else beside her. She gave in to tears. They leaked from the corners of her eyes and slid down to fill her ears, which was annoying as hell and effectively stopped her from totally surrendering to the indulgence of her misery.
She wouldn’t be able to sleep again. The dream always meant the end of the night for her, no matter what time it occurred. Monica rolled to look at the clock, relieved to see that at least it would be morning soon. She wouldn’t have chosen to be awake at this hour, but at least she could get up without feeling as though the entire night had been wasted. She could maybe even be a little productive—she’d pay for it later in the day when she couldn’t keep her eyes open, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, unable to stop herself, as always, from hesitating just that little bit as her feet hit the floor. Monsters were real, though she’d never encountered one that lived under the bed. It never stopped her from imagining the bite of talons severing her Achilles tendon, of writhing tentacles dragging her under the bed. She settled her feet firmly onto the hardwood planks and used her toes to find the soft edges of the braided rag rug her grandmother had given her.
She didn’t turn on the lamp. She knew her way to the bathroom without it, and she’d learned long ago that anything that was afraid of the light was small enough to be dealt with in the dark. Monica shucked off her pajamas and turned on the shower, giving it a few minutes to get hot while she brushed her teeth to clear away the final sour taste of her nightmare. Once under the scalding spray, she pressed her hands to the tile wall. Willing away the bad dreams. Willing away the loneliness.
Monica had already learned there was only one surefire way to push the thoughts away. A good, hard old-fashioned hair-pulling, ass-slapping fuckfest. Brad had not quite been the man to give it to her—even after nearly four months of steady dating, he’d often been too timid with her. Afraid of hurting her. He’d wanted candlelight dinners, stuff like that. Monica had been honest with him from the start—she wasn’t looking for that. At first he’d been happy to fuck her in the middle of the night when she woke up, sweating and gasping, reaching for him, but then things had changed.
“There’s more to me than being your cock on command,” Brad had complained.
Monica hadn’t tried to dissuade him from the notion that was how she thought of him. Yes, Brad made a stellar cup of coffee and remembered to put the toilet-seat lid down, and yes, he knew how to match his belt to his shoes. For a lot of women he’d have been a perfect boyfriend, but she was so far from being any kind of perfect anything it would’ve been unfair of her to try to convince him to stay. Even if it did mean now she stood in a steaming-hot shower with her own fingers sliding between her thighs so she could find some sort of release. Some way to wipe away the horror that crept so regularly into her dreams.
Her fingertips stroked, moving faster. There was nothing of romance in this. Nothing of love. She knew her body well enough to push it into pleasure fast and hard and sharp, just the way she wanted it. Ecstasy spiraled upward, urging her to cry out. Shuddering, Monica climaxed. The pleasure didn’t linger. In another few seconds she was simply shivering under the spatter of water, feeling empty inside.
At least the dream had been pushed away.
Dripping, Monica wrapped her hair in a towel and then grabbed another to use on her body. She caught a flash of her reflection in the mirror. You couldn’t miss the scars, several long slashes sweeping over her belly. She could look at them impassively now. She put her hand over them, aligning her fingers with the marks. The official report had been a bear attack. The wounds didn’t match anything familiar or animal; she’d spent a few nights in the psych ward before giving up her insistence that she hadn’t been hurt by a bear. A beast had torn her open, but Monica had done her own work on her wrists and that sort of thing had a tendency to make people give you the side eye about everything else.
She touched those marks, too. The one on the right was precise. The one on the left, ragged. Four inches long, lengthwise, not across. She’d been serious about wanting to die.
“But not anymore,” she whispered to herself, just to be sure the face in the mirror was really hers.
She would put on some comfy clothes and make herself some coffee and eggs and toast, she decided firmly. She would not text Brad to see if they could get together—he’d made noises about the two of them staying “friends,” but she knew well enough how that would work. As in, it wouldn’t.
She’d barely started the eggs frying when her phone rang. At this hour it could only be Vadim, which could only mean one thing. Monica thumbed the screen of her phone, not bothering with a hello.
“This is the job,” Vadim said without a greeting of his own, and suddenly Monica wasn’t sleepy any longer.