Crash into Darkness

BOOK 1 OF THE CLEAVEN GENE SERIES

 

Runner up in the 2009 R*by Award for Romantic Book of the Year (Romantic Elements)

Amber has no reason to leave the daily turmoil of life aboard a prison ship, created to house those with the violent Cleaven gene. Though now rehabilitated, she has chosen to stay and counsel the inmates who struggle to come to terms with their imprisonment. Possessing extraordinary gifts – an ability to assess situations with perfect clarity and to feel the emotions of others – her skills are in great demand in the volatile environment of the ship.

Jaden, also rehabilitated and with the special gift of mind reading, ploughs the seas on board the boat that delivers supplies and prisoners to and from the ship.

Amber and Jaden are thrown together when the prisoners rebel and an explosion breaches the hull of the ship during a storm. Together they battle the elements, a new, cold-eyed prisoner who has Amber in his sights and their traumatic pasts which sent them to the ship in the first place.

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REVIEWS

Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author, says, “A darkly compelling story–Suzanne Perazzini takes us on an emotional, action-filled journey into a unique new world.”

Cocktail Reviews says, “This exceptional tale really pulled me in and didn’t let go. I saw everything as though on a movie screen. Most impressive!”

Joyfully Reviewed (Miranda) says, “It was almost like going to see an action movie. I felt as if I was right in the middle of the action. Just when you think you have it all figured out boom another surprise. The great thing about it to me was it didn’t feel like too much. I wasn’t sitting here thinking ‘yeah right, that’s not plausible’. Crash into Darkness has an amazing ending that I was not expecting, I so love when that happens. Crash into Darkness was an action-packed thrill ride that I found thoroughly enjoyable.”

 

EXCERPT

Chapter One

 

Amber stared over the ship’s rail at the rush of black water. Death lived in its depths, dark and quiet. Amber knew about darkness. Her gaze followed a shaft of light across the water to the heavy droop of the moon—an illuminated circle, a reflection of the sun’s power. She needed to turn towards the light.

“Amber,” a voice called through the night, “you’re needed on the third level. Trouble.”

She breathed out her disappointment at being disturbed. Being alone was her life’s blood. In solitude, she restored her soul and found the strength to continue. Ironic that she should end up on a prison ship with little chance to escape. Not that she was a prisoner any longer. She had passed all levels of rehabilitation, and now she counselled others. Her cabin lay on level eight. She grimaced. Much higher and she’d be the captain.

“What’s it this time?” she asked Derek.

The guard shrugged, his broad shoulders, tattooed with the winding coils of a python, lifting and dropping in dramatic despair. “Who the hell knows? I had gone to bed.” He rubbed at his eyes to emphasize the point. “They sent me to find you. Don’t you ever sleep?”

Amber fell into step beside him. “Not much.”

He grunted. “Why don’t you get off this hellhole? You don’t have to stay.”

“Nothing on land for me.” Amber kicked at a wayward rope. “Anyway, you’re still here too.”

“My wife’s moved on.” Derek’s top lip curled upward in a sneer. “Found herself someone else. If I go out there and find her, I’ll lose it—waste all the training. I don’t trust myself.” He spat, the spittle whipped away by the wind.

“At least you had someone,” Amber murmured. “There’s no one who gives a damn if I’m alive or dead.” She swatted her hair off her face. “I prefer it like that anyway.” She didn’t indulge in self-pity—too much wasted energy to no good end. “I’m sorry ‘bout your wife. None of them on shore would understand.”

How could they understand when it was all kept so carefully under wraps? Carriers of the Cleaven gene who committed a crime were thrown on one of the two prison ships without any questions.

They reached the stairs, and Derek led the way downward. “Yeah. It’s best we stay here.”

Amber grunted her agreement. This felt more like a home than she’d ever had. Her father dead before her birth and her mother before she’d hit her sixth birthday, then eight foster homes. Homes? She cringed at the thought of them. Ugly hands on her body, indifferent eyes, opportunistic attitudes. She shrugged off the memories.

“Level three?” she said. “A group of graduates have just moved up from level two. Could be one of them. Not adjusting to the looser reins.”

“We’ll soon see.” Derek slid his keycard through the door lock on the landing.

It swung open, and the heated air of anguish struck Amber afresh as it did every time she visited the lower levels. These souls struggled for their sanity. Not all of them made it, and down they went again to level two, the entry floor for the most violent.

“Thank God you’re here,” Martin, the chief guard of the level, said. “A woman’s threatening to kill herself if a man enters her cabin. She’s been refusing to eat, and we want a medical officer to see her. We don’t want to use force yet. She’s only eighteen. Have a go, will you, Amber?”

She nodded. She too had reached this level at the age of eighteen, afraid, reactive, wondering if she’d ever see daylight again. Though no longer locked in their cabins, they were still under strict supervision. Cabin, dining room, gym, library, lounge. Their world had widened, but they couldn’t leave here.

“What’s her name?” Amber asked, taking her stun gun from her boot and tucking it into her belt. It would be a last resort. She had self-defense training—a necessity in her job, and she would use that before she sent electricity into a frightened girl.

“Melanie,” Martin replied, wiping at the fine mist of sweat on his brow. “Pretty young thing, she was doing so well but suddenly….” He shook his head. “I just hope you can do something. Hate to see them so distressed.”

Amber glanced at him. She had crossed Martin’s path a dozen or so times, but had never seen this side of him.

“Getting soft?” She cracked her knuckles and braced herself outside the door.

“Just get yourself in there, tough guy.” He whacked her on the shoulder, and she glared at him.

He opened the door, Amber stepped through, and it slammed shut behind her.

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