Welcome to Spookapalooza!
As traditional with Halloween and to celebrate the release of JUSTIFIED – the third book in the Leah Wolfe SINS Novel series, I’m posting the prologue and first chapter of JUSTIFIED.
Prologue for JUSTIFIED:
The human condition compels us to be in control of our own destiny. To push forward through obstacles and ignore those who would thwart us from our desired path.
Whether it is ingrained in the very seed of our conception or acquired through circumstance is unclear.
No matter. It is a lie.
Control is an illusion. A convenient deception of consciousness that we all subscribe to and few of us can afford.
Destiny is a controlling bitch, and she will have her way.
Ignorance is not always bliss. Sometimes it’s deadly.
Leah Wolfe, federal agent for the Supernatural Investigations of Non-Human Species—SINS—is determined to put the pieces of her personal life back together. Her relationship with Ian Nightwalker, her vampire lover and a Marquis in the vampire ruling council, has heated up and is going further than she’d ever thought possible.
When her ex-fiancé, Joaquin Wildhorse calls Leah in the middle of the night and asks her to come to the home of Louis Deveraux, Alpha of the largest wolf pack in the country, her first instinct is to hang up. Until he asks her to bring Ian. Louis has been gruesomely murdered, leaving behind a daughter and a decree that Joaquin is to be the new pack Alpha.
Now as the slain bodies of more shape-shifters start turning up closer to home, Leah’s personal and professional lives collide. She knows who the killer is but legally can’t touch him. She’ll need the help of Ian and Joaquin to step outside of the law and stop a killer to protect the lives of those she loves the most. If she can manage that, things just might get interesting.
Surrounded by wild animals was not the way I would have chosen to begin this night, especially when the animals seemed hell-bent on keeping me from going to where I needed to be.
I’m Leah Wolfe, a federal agent for Supernatural Investigations of Non-Human Species, more widely known as SINS.
The supernatural world had been quiet recently and I had been enjoying a bit of a respite from the craziness of my life. I’d even managed to get a couple of days of decent sleep snuggled up next to Ian Nightwalker, my vampire lover, and had done some paperwork at the SINS office during the night while Ian worked at the casino that he owned. It had been normal, or as normal as my life was ever going to get.
The wolves snarled and growled at us, baring teeth larger than any vampire’s, and I found myself fighting the gut-wrenching desire to flee for my life.
I was not particularly fond of large dogs and because they possessed human intellect, I was seriously getting pissed off.
“We were invited.” I insisted for the umpteenth time. “If you do not let us pass, we’re leaving.” I glared at the wolf closest to me and lowered my voice. “Tell your alpha that!”
I turned to walk away and the wolves moved closer. I realized too late that they were trying to isolate me. They were wedging themselves between Ian and me.
My fingers twitched, practically aching with the need to reach for my gun. But these were Ian’s friends and he had asked me to play by their rules tonight.
Ian Nightwalker isn’t only my lover. He is a very old vampire—a Marquis—which makes him a very powerful ruler in the supernatural world, and before a particularly dangerous battle that threatened the lives of Ian’s brothers and Joaquin, I agreed to let Ian Mark me.
In old terms that would have made me his blood slave. Someone whose will was completely controlled by his or her vampire.
In old terms.
What it actually means is that Ian and I are inseparably bonded. He can read my thoughts and I can read his. It’s a sort of mind-speak; we can literally hear each other in our heads. Unless we block each other out, a skill he is much more adept at than I am.
Ian would never try to completely control me like that, though. Hell, I’m a necromancer and my inherent ability is to control the dead. Since Ian is technically dead, we don’t even know if it would possible for him to completely control me.
If he did, I’d kill him.
So no one calls me his blood slave. It’s safer for everyone that way.
I had no idea what kind of friends invited you over and then surrounded you with angry dogs and I asked Ian as much. “What the hell is going on, Ian?”
“It is unusual that Louis would employ such tactics, my love. I have known him for many decades and I am sure he must have a valid reason.”
“It wasn’t Louis who invited us.” I reminded him.
Louis Deaveraux was the alpha of the largest wolf pack in the United States. Ian had used up a few favors to get Louis to agree to take in Joaquin Wildhorse, my former fiancé, and help him transition into his new life as a wolf shape-shifter.
I still had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that Joaquin was now a Shifter. He’d intentionally gotten himself bitten by a werewolf in a misguided attempt to win back a spot in my life. At the time he’d been under the impression that Ian was using mind control to make me love him. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure at the time that Ian wasn’t.
Of course if Joaquin hadn’t cheated on me while we’d been engaged he would have kept his place in my life.
Well, maybe not. I love Ian more than I’d ever thought I could love anyone. Ian loves me more than I deserve.
Joaquin also believed that a witch, Amanda, would be able to “cleanse” me of the vampire influence and return Joaquin to human status. He was wrong on all counts.
And while Amanda liked to experiment on Supernaturals, a practice her vampire husband condoned, she would never have been able to remove the werewolf from Joaquin. The transformation changes your very DNA; there is no going back.
Amanda wasn’t just Henry’s wife, she was his blood slave and for nearly a century they had also been blood dealers, similar to drug dealers with the exception of product line. They would kill humans who were not likely to be missed. Homeless people, drug addicts and runaways were their humans of choice to kill and drain. They then sold the blood to vampires who preferred not to get it the old fashioned way.
Once the Vampire Rights Amendment, or VRA, passed into law they would have been out of a job. There are now many humans more than willing to donate blood to vampires in exchange for carnal pleasures or monetary gain.
I killed Amanda and then raised her corpse to kill Henry. I wish I could say I felt remorse.
They had not only murdered countless innocent people, they had threatened the lives of people I love and family: that made it personal. I don’t regret their deaths and am learning to make peace with that side of myself, the darkness within my soul and the part of me that kills.
Joaquin just had the misfortune of taking advice from the wrong people for the wrong reasons. As a result, the life he had as Chief Detective for the Native American Reservation Police Department was on hold. He needed to learn to control the beast that now shares his body before he can return to any semblance of normalcy. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, he might just be able to return from his leave of absence and resume police work.
If not, I’m sure there will be a place for him at SINS.
A phone call from Joaquin in the middle of the night—or day if you live on my schedule—began this little adventure.
“Leah,” Joaquin spoke softly as if he were afraid he’d woken me up, “I need you to come to Oak Creek.”
Normally, I would have simply hung up. Shortly after Joaquin was bitten, he’d kidnapped me and taken me to be “cleansed” by Amanda. While I now know he was crazy and his wolf personality considered me his mate, I was still pissed off about the whole incident. Then he added, “Bring Ian.” And he had my full attention. Joaquin would never ask for Ian unless it was extremely necessary.
So here we stood on the outside edge of the reservation, territory of the largest wolf pack in America.
I caught a movement in the woods to my left. If the wolves or Ian saw it they gave no indication, which could only mean one thing.
I took a deep breath, kicked the wolf blocking my path into a tree and ran toward the movement. Another wolf snagged the cuff of my jeans but I kicked him off without as much as breaking stride. I gave myself a self-satisfactory smile and kicked up the speed a couple of notches.
I wasn’t yet accustomed to my added speed yet, a fact punctuated when I stumbled. Managing to regain my balance, I slowed my pace a bit but kept a few steps ahead of the wolves as I chased a shadow deep into the woods. A shadow shaped like a man.
I heard Ian, and knew he was still fighting with the wolves.
“Keep them off my back.” I said through our mental link.
“I do not like this situation, my love. It would be safer if you returned to me.”
“Please, Ian. Trust me.”
“Very well, my love, but do not stray too far away.”
Both his anxiety and resignation brushed against my mind.
I dodged through trees while the sounds of fighting trailed further behind me. He suddenly stopped and I nearly barreled right into the shadow I’d been chasing. I pulled up short and took a few steps backward to put a reasonably safe distance between us.
“So you are Leah Wolfe?” The man said thoughtfully.
“The question is,” I countered, “who are you?”
He stepped out of the shadows and I knew from Ian’s description exactly who stood in front of me. “Louis.”
He was of average height for a man yet was wider than the tree trunk that he stood in front of. His hair was dark and a little long, like he’d put off getting a haircut. He was bare from the waist up and I could see a few gray hairs adorning his torso, revealing his age. He wore light colored jeans and well-worn work boots, and he stood a few feet away from me with his arms crossed over his chest.
His eyes were what really gave away his identity. Ian was right. Louis had the greenest eyes I had ever seen.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d call off the hounds, Louis. We were invited here.”
He nodded and eased his stance a little. “I know, but they are no longer mine to command.”
I blinked at him. “What?”
He merely looked at me, patiently waiting for me to understand.
The only way that was possible was for Louis to lose his alpha status to another wolf, or if he was … I took a few steps closer to confirm what I already knew.
I reached my hand out to Louis and pushed it right through his body.
“You’re dead? How?”
“I do not know.”
Noise from behind startled me and I turned to see Joaquin swagger out of the woods. His gait was confident and relaxed as he emerged from the forest. His black hair was
longer now and tied beginning at the nape of his neck by multiple bands as it extended down the length of his back. He still wore the jeans and cowboy boots that he’d always favored and his camouflage T-shirt blended into the environment.
His black almond shaped eyes searched mine, as if looking for the answer to an unspoken question.
I turned back toward Louis but the space he had occupied was now empty.
Ian walked silently out of the woods, blocking Joaquin’s path, and I flitted my eyes to him then back to Joaquin. He unlocked his gaze from mine to look at Ian. “I’m glad you both came.” Joaquin said with a sincerity that startled me. He turned and extended his hand to Ian.
“We could have done without the welcoming committee. I shall have a few questions for Louis.” Ian responded, shaking his hand.
A dark look flashed over Joaquin’s face. “That is the reason I’ve asked you here.”
I opened my mouth to speak but Joaquin stopped me with a wave of his hand. I looked behind Ian to see the wolves peeking out from various spots in the thick underbrush. “We should take this inside.” Joaquin suggested.
I nodded and walked past him to take Ian’s arm. He shifted, making sure to leave my right hand, my gun hand, free. That gesture alone let me know that Ian was no longer comfortable with the situation.
We followed Joaquin.
He led us onto a narrow trail; the earth was trodden down and cut a path through the bushes and weeds. It seemed Joaquin was leading us deeper into the forest but if Ian was uncomfortable with the idea, he didn’t show it.
The wolves followed behind us, only the occasional snapping of a twig announcing their presence, and I was sure that without my enhanced hearing, I would not have heard them at all.
The scent of damp permeated the air and I couldn’t resist the urge to close my eyes and breathe deeply. I loved living in the desert and a recent rain shower brought the scents of the surrounding trees and bushes alive. The night was cool and a slight breeze chilled me, making me glad that I’d grabbed a jacket on the way to the car.
The trail opened up to a small clearing with a house made of glass and wood, like a modern log cabin. The house blended into the surroundings beautifully with a second story balcony that I suspected wrapped around the entire structure.
I paused on the front porch to look around, noticing that the wolves stayed hidden within the trees.
Once the door was safely shut behind us I turned to Ian and brushed my hand along his cheek in an effort to soften the words I was about to say.
“What is it, my love?” Ian’s eyes showed concern. It was rare that his expression showed emotion to anyone except me.
“Louis is dead.”
Joaquin sucked in a breath. “How did you…”
“I talked to him.” I didn’t take my eyes off Ian and the grief that flickered in his eyes.
Finally, Ian nodded once, acknowledging the information I’d given him, and then looked at Joaquin. “Who is the new Alpha?” His grief was no longer evident as he assumed the emotionless face of the centuries old vampire that he was.
Joaquin straightened, his face morphing into extreme arrogance. “Me.”
Ian’s eyes narrowed as I stood there with my mouth open. There are only two ways to become Alpha of a pack. Either the past Alpha steps down because of age or health, or…
“I didn’t kill him.” Joaquin lifted his chin, answering my unspoken question. “And I don’t know who did, but Louis assigned me as his successor.”
“Have you proven yourself to the pack?” Ian asked. Pack life wasn’t like human life. You didn’t just get promoted or voted in. The pack had to trust you implicitly. They relied on their Alpha for everything and die to protect him. You didn’t get that type of allegiance unless you’d earned it.
“The pack doesn’t know Louis is dead.” Joaquin ran a hand down his hair. “If word got out, every Mongrel in the country would be trying to pick a fight. I need to earn the support of my pack first.”
“Avenging Louis’ death would help.” Ian said.
“Then we must find who killed him.” Ian clasped my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. I leaned a little more into him, offering all the comfort that I could right now.
“It is why I’ve asked you here.” Joaquin lowered himself into an overstuffed chair. Ian and I followed, taking a seat together on the matching sofa.
“I’ve barely been a werewolf for six months and now I find myself in a position to either lead the pack myself or choose someone else worthy of the position.”
“Do you want to remain Alpha?” I leaned forward in my seat, resting my elbows on my knees. I didn’t doubt that Louis assigned him as successor but Joaquin wasn’t very accepting of the supernatural world last I spoke to him.
Joaquin shrugged. “I’ve given this a lot of thought.” He stretched his legs out and crossed them casually at the ankles. “Louis trained me himself. He had planned on stepping down and wanted me to be his successor.” He paused to clear the emotion from his throat. “I am not completely certain of my abilities but I have not found another pack wolf worthy either.”
Joaquin had fought against my abilities and me for years and now he was considering the role of Alpha.
“Why the sudden change of heart, Joaquin?” I didn’t even try to keep the sarcasm from my voice. “You give me shit about my own abilities and now you’re considering walking into one of the biggest roles in the supernatural community without a backward glance? Excuse me for thinking you have different motives.”
He sat a little straighter and I saw anger flash within his eyes. He raked his hand over his hair and down its long length, this time loosening the ties holding it in place. “This decision has been the only thing on my mind. Believe me, I didn’t ask for this!”
“Yes, Joaquin. You did. It was your choice to get bitten!” I snapped back.
“It was supposed to be temporary.” He growled.
“How’d that work out for ya?” I retorted.
Joaquin jumped to his feet, his body quivering with rage. “I don’t want to be alpha! I can’t even be a sheriff anymore and now the whole damn pack is looking to me for help!”
“How did Louis die?” Ian asked the question we both wanted answered.
“His body was…” Joaquin swallowed so hard I saw his Adam’s apple bob. “Louis was mauled. I found his body … or at least part of it.” He paused again as if struggling
for the right explanation. Finally he lifted his eyes to Ian and said, “Whatever killed him had to be incredibly strong. Louis was torn apart.” His tone took an accusatory timbre.
“Are you suggesting that a vampire did this?” Ian asked calmly even though his hand tightened on mine.
“I don’t know of anything else strong enough to bring Louis down.” Joaquin replied.
“Then we will help you in any way that we can.” Ian assured him calmly.
I tried to swallow back my emotions before Ian caught them. I had not yet forgiven Joaquin for kidnapping me. I knew I had to help, but still…
“You are upset.” Ian said, grasping my arm.
“You’re damn right I’m upset!” I yanked my arm out of Ian’s hand and started pacing the floor.
“Whether you help me or not, SINS will get involved one way or another.” Joaquin stated arrogantly.
I wheeled and glared at him. “Are you telling me that I don’t have a choice?” I growled at him.
Joaquin simply raised his eyebrows cockily. He knew he was right. The only way I could truly stay out of this was to leave SINS. Sam would never let us walk away from this situation.
“He is correct, my love.” Ian stood, walked behind me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. He pulled me into an embrace. I saw a tick working in Joaquin’s jaw and felt some satisfaction that my relationship with Ian still irked him.
I leaned my head against Ian as he worked his hand up to knead the tension from my shoulders, offering me much needed comfort.
“I’m not particularly happy with this situation either, Leah.” Joaquin’s eyes bored into mine, and then something inside them softened. “I am sorry.” He paused. “For everything. I wasn’t myself when…”
I lifted my hand to stop him. While I knew that was true, I still wasn’t entirely convinced that Joaquin wouldn’t do the same thing again if he thought he could rid me of my abilities and my ties to Ian. I believed that some part of him still wanted me to be normal, or his version of normal anyway.
Still, I knew it cost him to ask for Ian’s help. I nodded hesitantly. Joaquin was right and I really didn’t have much choice in the matter.
That’s what really pissed me off.
Light and quick footsteps, like those of a child, came from the stairway and we all turned toward it. A small woman paused at the bottom of the steps and looked at both Ian and me before her gaze rested on Joaquin. Her face was heart-shaped, almost fairy-like and framed by chin-length black hair. She gave Joaquin a slight smile then walked to him.
Joaquin embraced the young woman lightly. “This is Tala.”
He didn’t need to tell us that this was Louis’ daughter. She had inherited her father’s green eyes. Although at the moment they were sad and rimmed with red.
“Wolf.” I recited the meaning of her name.
“Yes.” She wiped her tears with the back of her hands and released Joaquin. “Yes, Tala means wolf. There is nothing you can do to help my father now.” Tala’s face quivered as she fought to hold back her sorrow.
I bobbed my head slightly. “Actually…”
Ian nudged me hard enough to stop my words. As a necromancer I was perfectly capable of raising the dead. It was an accidental discovery when I nearly raised an entire graveyard full of corpses. I still don’t know how it works. I simply focus on the deceased and I can see and speak to them; either their soul or as in the graveyard, literally wake them from the dead.
Necromancers were thought be myths even by vampires and shape-shifters. Ian had lived for centuries and had never met one, before me.
Yet telling Tala that I had spoken to her dead father’s soul might be even more traumatic to her than his actual death. Everyone wants to believe that their loved ones have moved on to a better place upon their deaths. I couldn’t give her any reassurance that he had because I didn’t know where the souls went when they weren’t talking to me.
“We are here to help.” I offered sympathetically. “We will find his killer and bring him, or her, to justice.”
“Tala Deaveraux. You would be Ian Nightwalker.” She bypassed me like I wasn’t there and extended her hand to Ian. “My father spoke highly of you and I know he trusted you. Thank you for being here.”
Ian took her hand gently. “It is my honor. Your father was a great leader, and a great friend.”
“Thank you.” Emotion clogged her voice.
“This is Federal Agent Leah Wolfe.” Ian snaked his arm around my waist and pulled me close, letting her know that I was more than just a cop. I could feel the love flowing off him and I couldn’t help but smile.
She finally spared me an assessing look and shook my hand lightly.
“I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.” I said sincerely.
“Would you like a drink? We have much to discuss.” She turned and we followed her to the kitchen. It was enormous and held commercial grade appliances. You could easily cook a meal for a hundred people in there and I said as much.
Tala smiled as she opened a massive double-door refrigerator. “The pack members live in separate houses throughout the woods but everyone usually gathers here for a least one meal a day. Wine?” She held up a bottle.
“No thank you.” Ian replied as I shook my head.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll have some.” Tala produced an opener from another drawer.
Joaquin took them both from her hands. “I’ll get this, you sit.”
Tala smiled and ran her hand down his arm and squeezed his hand slightly before letting go and joining Ian and me at the table.
Ian rose and pulled out a chair for her. The older vampires were “alive” in a much different era and chivalry was still firmly imbedded in their minds. I found it very charming.
“How did it happen, Tala?” Ian asked once she sat.
“He went hunting.” She began. “He liked to hunt alone.” Her voice cracked and Joaquin set a glass of wine in her hands and then sat down next to her. “It was the last time I saw him. Joaquin wouldn’t let me see him after…” She broke into sobs and turned to Joaquin. “Why wouldn’t you let me see him?”
Joaquin patted her shoulder. “You did not need to see him like that Tala. He wouldn’t have wanted you to remember him that way.”
“It was my decision to make.” The first tint of anger raised her voice.
“He was buried on pack land.” I said, knowing that it was tradition to bury an alpha on the land he protected in life. It was believed that an alpha’s spirit would still guard over his people even after death. A fact I really couldn’t argue over having seen his spirit myself. It was a pitiful attempt on my part to change the direction of this conversation while Tala could still talk to us.
“Yes.” Tala nodded, wiping tears from her face. “Joaquin buried him before the others found out.”
“Can you think of any enemies that Louis would have had?” Ian looked at first Tala, then Joaquin.
“He is … was,” Tala corrected herself, “Pack Alpha. Enemies are in the job description.”
Ian nodded. “Yes, of course. Were there any recent threats that you can think of?”
She lowered her face and shook her head as her body began to quake with tears. When my cell phone rang she nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Wolfe here.” I answered.
“Where are you, Leah?” Wilson boomed in my ear.
“At the reservation. Louis Deaveraux has been killed.”
Wilson was one of the few humans who knew who all the supernatural players were. I’d kept as few secrets as possible from him.
There was a moment of silence before he said, “I’m sorry to hear that. Is Joaquin with you?”
“Bring him, then. I’m at Mesquite and Palo Verde. There’s something here that you both should see.”
I looked up to find all three sets of eyes on me. As shifters both Tala and Joaquin could hear every word of both sides of the conversation. Both shifters and vampires have enhanced senses. Both men nodded. “We’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“What is it?” Tala asked concern clear in her words.
“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about Tala,” Joaquin said quickly.
She nodded numbly and within minutes, we were on our way.
* * * *
The cross streets that Wilson gave me where on the far edge of the reservation, bordering pack land. Louis’ main property was in northern Arizona but he kept a hundred acres or so in the valley. It gave him and his pack a warm place to go in the winter and provided fresh hunting grounds. It was common for Alphas to hold deed to multiple properties, and Louis had been a wealthy man.
Wilson turned when heard the car door shut; his face was grim. “Thanks for coming.” He nodded in greeting.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of crime scene paraphernalia. There was only one other squad car with Wilson and no police tape blocked off the area. Hell, the morgue truck wasn’t even there.
Joaquin and Ian both stiffened for a moment then took off at a sprint. I gave Wilson my “what the fuck?” look then chased after them. By time I caught up, Ian had Joaquin’s arms pinned behind his back.
“Get your hands off me, bloodsucker!” Joaquin fought against Ian’s grip.
Ian jerked his head forward and I followed his movement. Sam and a patrolman stood a few yards ahead of us, talking to another man who had his back to me. They were standing over the body of a nearly shifted wolf, lying face first on the desert floor.
“He’s one of mine.” Joaquin still struggled against Ian’s grasp. “I can smell him.”
I got in Joaquin’s face. “Keep it under control.”
Joaquin’s gaze snapped to mine. “It’s Adam Nolan.” His eyes were filled with grief and anger.
“Then let’s find out what happened.” I said softly.
Joaquin took a deep breath and then said, “Okay.”
I gave Ian a short nod and he released Joaquin as Wilson finally caught up to us.
“What happened?” I asked Wilson as we crossed the remaining distance to the body.
“Gunshot wound to the chest. It looks like the victim died trying to get away.”
“Homicide then. Did you get the shooter?”
Wilson remained silent.
“We can’t arrest the shooter.” Sam sauntered toward us.
We stopped above the body. “Don’t touch anything.” I warned Joaquin as he kneeled beside the victim.
“It’s okay Leah.” Wilson’s eyes narrowed. “There are no criminal charges here.”
Even in a self-defense case we would be required to gather evidence. The victim’s limbs were splayed at odd angle. I rolled him over and confirmed my fears. Adam Nolan had been trying to shift when he died. A blossom of blood was matted with the honey-colored fur of his partially shifted chest.
“I warned him.” I recognized that voice only too well. I lifted my head to find Ambrose Twofeather standing by the patrolman on the scene. Ambrose was a tribal Elder and one of the top opponents to my engagement to Joaquin.
“The freak shouldn’t have been on the reservation.” He spit on the ground in front of him. “It shouldn’t exist at all.”
By this time Joaquin and I were both standing. I placed a warning hand on Joaquin’s shoulder. If he lost it and killed Ambrose, there would be criminal charges filed.
“His name was Adam Nolan.” I corrected Ambrose. “And you are under arrest.”
Ambrose snorted. “On what charges?”
“Homicide; murder if I can prove intent.”
“There’s no law against killing dangerous animals.” Ambrose sneered. “It was justified.”
“He’s right.” Sam added reluctantly. “There’s no law against killing a shifter. Yet.”
“You son-of-a-bitch!” Joaquin lunged at Ambrose but Ian grabbed his arms and held him back.
“That’s bullshit!” I struggled to rein in my own anger.
“I’m sorry Leah,” Wilson leveled his gaze with mine. “It is not illegal to shoot a shifter. I even did a field test to confirm.”
All law enforcement officials had been issued field blood tests to determine whether someone was a shifter or not. A small dot of blood is all that is needed to detect the differences between supernatural and human DNA.
“The law is not on your side.” Ian spoke calmly. “You will do no good to Adam in jail.” He lowered his voice so that only Joaquin and I could hear him. “We will find
justice another way.” He released Joaquin but stayed close.
“How many times did you shoot him?” My voice was so bitter I could taste it.
Ambrose straightened his body to a look of complete arrogance. “Once.”
“One shot would never bring down a shifter unless it was silver, you pompous ass!”
“It wasn’t silver.” Ambrose’ cocky expression was wearing on me.
“I checked the gun, Leah,” Wilson interjected. “They’re not silver.”
I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say to that.
“What, Leah? No smart-ass comeback for that.” Ambrose cocked an eye at me. “Not so clever now, are you?”
I took a step toward him. Wilson stopped me with a hand on my shoulder.
“Captain Wilson?” The patrolman looked from me to Ambrose.
“It’s fine, Officer McCoy. Isn’t it Leah?”
I kept my gaze pinned to Ambrose. “Yeah. It’s fine.”
“I want the report on my desk this afternoon, McCoy.” Wilson said as he dismissed the patrolman.
“Yes sir.” The officer replied then quickly made his way back to his car.
“Get this,” Ambrose pointed at Adam’s body, “Piece of shit off my property or I’ll have it tossed in the dump.” He climbed back into his truck and sped away.
By now Joaquin was vibrating with rage. I took a deep breath then touched his face gently. “Joaquin,” I whispered. “I need you to keep it together. Who do you want to call?”
He jerked his face from my hand.
“I need you to focus on taking care of Adam right now.”
He took a quick breath, like waking from a bad dream, and then nodded. “Why isn’t the morgue here?”
“They won’t come.” Wilson sighed. “They consider this an animal attack.”
“This is bullshit Wilson!” I ground my teeth so hard it hurt. “Sam, can’t you do anything about this?”
“I’ll do my job, Agent Wolfe.” He said pointedly. “Collect evidence, take photos and file a report.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, that’s all we can do right now.”
“I know it’s crap, Leah. But right now, it’s also the law.” Wilson tried to comfort me.
“I will take care of it, my love. We will take care of Adam.” Ian turned Joaquin away and after a long look back at me, he reluctantly followed Ian. “Where would like to take Adam?” I heard Ian ask Joaquin as he started walking him back to the car and pulled his cell phone out to make the necessary arrangements.
Once they were further away I turned back to Wilson and Sam.
“This is homicide and you both know that.”
Wilson blew out a breath. “I agree Leah, but the law states that it’s not illegal to kill an animal. What was this kid doing on reservation land anyway?”
“I don’t know. It borders land that Louis owned but they didn’t visit here often. I don’t know what took him over the property line.”
“So Ambrose just happened to be out here, in the middle of nowhere when Adam was out here for a run?”
“My main question right now is how one shot, with no silver, brought down a shifter.” I pursed my lips, fighting my frustration. “It just doesn’t happen that way.”
“That was my thought exactly.” Sam scratched his chin.
“Is there anything else that can bring down a shifter this cleanly?” Wilson asked.
“I don’t know.” I sighed deeply. “I’ll definitely look into that.”
“And I’ll have the body autopsied. The coroner owes me a favor.” Sam added when I looked at him skeptically.
“Thanks Sam.” I smiled in appreciation. I knew he was doing this for my sake only. Officially, he had no ground to stand on.
Wilson gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze before I joined Ian and Joaquin at the car.
Sam arranged for the Coconino County Coroner to perform the autopsy and Ian and I made arrangements for Joaquin to take Adam Nolan’s body back to their northern Arizona territory and the county morgue. I wasn’t worried about the rest of the pack finding out about the murder yet. I’d learned long ago that shifters and vampires were very adept at hiding bodies.
So Joaquin agreed to take Nolan home. It was customary to bury pack members on pack land. We couldn’t, however, convince him to stay there.
“I’m coming back to investigate this whether you help me or not!” He told us.
We convinced Joaquin that his presence was not going to foster cooperation. The Tribal Police wouldn’t let him near the station and Wilson sure as hell wasn’t going to help him. He never forgave Joaquin for kidnapping me. We did, however, promise that we would keep him in the loop.
Sam informed me that I couldn’t officially look into Adam Nolan’s death, because, by law, it was a justified kill.
So we’d use Ian’s resources and I’d badger Sam for anything that Ian couldn’t find.
* * * *
My lungs burned as I ran through the dank alley. The vamp I was chasing was fast and I had to use every bit of speed that I had just to keep up. His victim was lying two blocks back, bled dry by the rogue who was now mere feet in front of me. I dove and caught him by the legs, knocking us both the ground. As we rolled across the filth and grime, he snapped his fangs, trying to get a grip on any part of my body that he could reach. I dodged his bites while landing a few well-placed punches until we finally hit a cluster of garbage cans. The stench was awful as garbage from what must have been a fish restaurant rained down on us.
I jumped to my feet and stomped on the vamp’s chest. He grabbed my leg and twisted, giving me the option of rolling with the twist or breaking my leg. I rolled but kept my balance, using the momentum to bring my other foot around and kick him in the jaw. He did a back flip, landing on his feet and facing me.
“You know this won’t end well for you.” I warned.
“We’ll see then, won’t we?”
I didn’t wait for him to finish. I barreled into him and flipped him over my back. He rallied and came at me from behind, which was exactly what I’d wanted. I kept my elbows bent, hands up as he wrapped his arms around me. It would be his instinct to go for my neck and the carotid artery that pumped blood through me. He could hear it, smell it, and I knew the temptation was too much for him to resist. Hell, if he’d had any self-control, he wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.
He growled, his mouth close enough that I could smell his vile breath, and sniffed me.
“What are you?” I smelled human but I’m told that just a touch of my bond with Ian is noticeable, if you have enhanced senses and are near enough.
I broke my arms apart, knocking his grip off me and elbowed him in the chest hard enough to force him back. I turned while ejecting a blade that I kept in a sheath on my arm, and sliced across his neck.
His hands clutched his wound as the blood of his last victim oozed from it. I pulled my Glock out of its holster and fired into his heart until I could see through his body.
I leaned against the brick wall of the building and pulled out my cell phone and then waited until the cleanup crew arrived. There was one less rogue vampire on the streets now. Unfortunately, it wasn’t before another human died.
I knew that Ian was working on an arrangement to have all vampires in the country swear fealty to him. It was a kind of blood oath that would give him a connection with each vampire He would know where they were and more importantly, he’d know if anyone new came into his territory.
We didn’t have an exact number of the vampires that lived in this country but we were pretty sure it was less than a thousand. With fealty, we’d know not only a more exact number, but we’d be able to construct a database of the rogue vamps. Most Supernaturals wanted to live out their existence in peace, whether they’d chosen to “come out of the closet” since the VRA went into effect or not. Others were probably bad humans and became worse as vampires. It was the rogue few that we needed to concentrate on.
Vampires who chose to bond with Ian would receive his protection, including the right to be defended if they were accused of a crime that would have otherwise resulted in an instant death warrant.
It just wasn’t going to happen overnight.
Thankfully, the next two weeks went by quietly. I had one citizen complaint about a strange man following her in a darkened parking lot who surely must be an evil vampire out to kill her. It turned out to be the night security guard making sure she got safely to her car.
I also had a couple of vamp tramps—women who sold blood for sex—who felt they weren’t adequately paid for their blood. I explained to them that I couldn’t arrest a vampire for not being good in bed and that their arrangement with said vampire might constitute prostitution on their part. They suddenly had a change of heart and decided to drop the charges. Other than that, it was deskwork and paper pushing.
Meanwhile, the finishing touches had been put on Ian’s new estate. Ian had asked my opinion on many of the finishes. I’d seen the flooring, countertops and most of the furniture but I hadn’t seen the house since the early phases of construction. My job had kept me busy and since Ian was vampire, most of the construction took place during the day while we both slept.
Bear, Ian’s shape-shifter bodyguard and the casino’s head of security, oversaw the construction and consulted with Ian after dark.
Bear was living in the main house with Ian until it was torched. Now he was sleeping in the spare room of Shia’s house. There was nothing romantic between Bear and Shia. Ian just felt safer knowing someone was close if she needed help and Bear needed a place to stay. It was a win-win.
Shia is a pureblood shifter, a Therian. She was born as a mountain lion with the
ability to take human form. She has lived as a human with her twin sons, Aidan and Quinn, since her own Pride killed her husband. Her father didn’t approve of her marriage and sent his second-in-command to end the relationship permanently. Shia fled and brought her two boys to Ian’s estate and now lived under his protection and managed the nightclub at his casino. Ian not only paid her well, he provided her with a home and flexible enough hours so that she could focus on being a mom.
Our plan for the evening was to check on the house and then go out to dinner. Ian wouldn’t tell me where we were going to dine but I knew it would be someplace quiet and secluded. Ian and I had not yet made our relationship public. Our family and friends had known we loved each other before I would even admit it to myself, but a romantic relationship between a federal agent for SINS and a Marquis—the ruling leader of the vampire world—posed potential problems for both of us. One of the main functions of my job was to kill vampires. It was more my problem than Ian’s. No one questions the Marquis. His power is absolute. We had been seen together in public, but only in a professional capacity. If we went out, it was to a private dining room.
I’d put on a red dress that billowed just above my knees. The v-neck was lined with sequins and it was short enough that I could get to the gun I had holstered on my thigh. No, I did not think I’d need to shoot Ian before dessert, but in my line of work, I never went anywhere unarmed. Ever.
Ian insisted on driving me to the new house himself. There was a time when I would have refused and taken my own car. I’ve since become much more secure with Ian—and admittedly myself—and don’t stress over something as trivial as having my own car. It also helped that his car had custom design windows that allowed Ian to drive while the sun was still up. He’d had it modified so that if I ever needed him in daylight, he’d be able to get to me. He’d had all his cars modified to fit the lifestyle of a vampire.
Ian still “slept” at dawn but not for long. Less powerful vampires were literally dead to the world between sunrise and sundown. Ian’s own power and our bond have given him more “awake” time.
Ian slowed the car as we approached the massive wrought iron gates that secured his property. Two stone posts flanked the gate, each topped with a massive sculpture of identical gargoyles, welcoming us onto the long winding brick driveway. Imbedded in the post below the driver’s side gargoyle was a keypad with a large screen. Ian pushed a series of numbers then pressed his hand to the screen. A long sliver of blue light swept across his hand and the gates slid open.
“New security system.” Ian said proudly.
We wound past the ruins of his former house and I couldn’t help but shiver. I’d almost lost him the day it burned. Ian had been tied up with silver chains and he still bore some scars from them. I’d also found out that day that Justice, a woman I’d been speaking to for weeks and someone I considered my friend, was a ghost. I’d asked her to help me free Ian and she couldn’t. Her hands passed right through him as I desperately tugged at the silver chains that had been crisscrossed all over him, slowly imbedding into his body. Justice was still my friend and she popped in from time to time but where she went when she left, I had no idea.
Ian’s hand squeezed mine lightly in a comforting gesture. Both Ian and I are Empaths, which roughly means that we can feel the emotions around us. No doubt he was feeling my unease and he gave me a warm smile to wash it away.
The new estate was built on the same land as the old, just deeper into the desert.
The surroundings were still as breathtaking as the first time I’d come here. Okay, maybe the second time. The first time I passed out after speaking to the soul of Zarendia, a woman who died there.
I woke that night in Ian’s bed and very unceremoniously slipped off his silk sheets and onto the floor. He has since shown me how to maneuver in those sheets. The thought alone tugged at things low in my body.
The sun was just a mere glow behind the mountain range. It looked as if the sky was burning orange in a raging fire just out of reach. A sliver of moon was becoming clearer as darkness swallowed the light, casting shadows along the landscape. A gated, arched doorway led into a spectacular courtyard, with a fountain in the center that filled the air with the calming sound of rippling water. Saguaro cacti in full bloom elegantly graced one corner, glowing in the soft uplight provided by hidden landscape lighting. Ian’s hand on my arm stopped me from entering through the large double doors. He enveloped me in his arms and placed a soft kiss on my lips. “You look ravishing, my love.” He spoke against my mouth.
I smiled, my lips stretching across his. “You look pretty damn hot yourself, Mr. Nightwalker.”
He lifted me effortlessly and cradled my body, kissing me tenderly as he kicked open the door and carried me inside.
I slapped him lightly on his chest. “Put me down.” I laughed and then kissed him again.
Once on my feet, I took a look around. The circular foyer had wide arched doorways that led to difference areas of the house. To the right was a seating area adorned with two overstuffed leather sofas. Beyond them was a large stone fireplace flanked by matching chairs. A desert landscape painting signed by one of my favorite local artists hung proudly above it. I walked into the room and marveled in its simple beauty. Tropical plants were placed to add to the calming feel without overwhelming the space. I picked up a remote control from the glass-topped table and turned back to Ian.
“It’s amazing, Ian.”
His smile warmed my heart as he took the remote from my hand and pressed a button, keeping his eyes riveted to mine. Flames danced to life in the fireplace. Another button and the painting slid aside to reveal a television hidden behind it.
Ian laughed and kissed me again. “Let me show you the rest of the house.”
He intertwined our fingers and led me to a dining room. Light from a crystal chandelier bounced across a hand-carved wood table. “Is there a remote for this room too?” I teased.
“Well, the table does stretch out to accommodate more guests; however, I’m afraid it still needs to be done the old fashioned way.” He stood behind me and wrapped his arms around me, speaking into my hair and causing chills of anticipation to tingle along my spine.
“This is truly beautiful, Ian.”
“You helped. I wanted this place to be special.” His arms tightened around me. “Unique.”
Something in his tone and choice of the word “unique” had me smiling again. He led
me through double doors into a kitchen area that would make any gourmet restaurant look like a roadside diner. Beyond that was an entrance to the garage and on the other side of that, an office and separate living quarters for Bear.
Ian then showed me a separate entrance to the side of the house that led to a library with its own seating area. He explained that he wanted to conduct business away from the main part of the home.
A swimming pool led off what I would describe as a family room. Long and rectangular, it was split in half by a series of sliding glass panels to allow both indoor and outdoor swimming. A grotto hid a curving slide as water cascaded over the boulders in front of it. Each side held a small cabana. Ian pushed a few buttons on a control panel and the glass roof slid away to allow the moonlight to cascade across the water.
Two stairways led to the second floor that housed the master bedroom and Ian’s private office. A large veranda extended across the house exposing a breathtaking view of the desert.
Additionally, each room contained a hidden doorway leading to the underbelly of the estate, another part of his security renovations. Ian had expanded and incorporated the original underground structure. It was just as luxurious, minus the swimming pool and on a smaller scale. The lower level held a master bedroom, kitchen, seating area, guest suites as well as a workout room the size of my local gym. There was also an area that held a clinic.
Supernaturals, especially those who wanted anonymity, couldn’t just stroll into a human hospital and ask for medical care. It was difficult to explain to a doctor that you needed three times the normal dose of pain medication because your body burned it up so quickly. Harder still to explain is that the arm you broke just an hour ago needs to be re-broken because your metabolism healed it so fast that it’s misshapen. Lucas was Ian’s private physician and also the one most shifters and vampires turned to for medical care. Ian built the clinic to Lucas’ specifications.
Ian talked about the design and features of the house with a noticeable note of pride in his voice. Ian was happy.
He led me back upstairs and into the main area of the house. I froze, smiling brightly at Ian. In the time that it had taken him to show me the lower level, the main area of the house had been transformed. Candles filled the room with soft light and soothing scents. Rose petals and candles floated in the swimming pool.
“How…” I began but he stopped me with a kiss and then motioned toward the eating area. The table had been set with china and champagne flutes.
“I believe I promised you dinner.”
“I can’t think of anyplace else that I’d rather be. But who set this up?”
The kitchen doors opened and Bear appeared, pushing a cart filled with food. “Would you like me to uncork the champagne?” Bear asked, with a mischievous curve of his lips.
“Bear. I should have known. It’s perfect.”
“Then I’ll leave you to it.” He replied, and then crossed the room and left through the front doors.
I ate while Ian sipped on champagne mixed with blood. At one time, it may have bothered me to know what he drank, but like so many other anxieties that I’d carried around, I’d learned to let it go. He talked about his plans to move in and I shielded like
hell to keep him from feeling my sorrow at the thought of him leaving. I’d grown used to Ian being in my bed every morning and enjoyed the time we spent together. Without realizing it, we’d developed our own little routine, and I would miss that.
After we’d eaten and settled on the sofa in front of a fire and I’d told him for the umpteenth time how nice the house had turned out, my cell phone rang.
I fumbled it out of the holder I had strapped to my leg, showing quite of bit of thigh in the process and earning a longing look from Ian.
“It’s Ramirez.” I sighed. If he was calling, chances were the rest of my evening was shot. Criminals, supernatural or human, didn’t give a shit about anyone else’s schedule. Ian’s head dropped just a fraction as I answered. “Leah here.”
“We need you at the reservation.” Ramirez said by way of greeting. “Bowlin and Terra.”
“Well hello to you too, Ramirez.” I replied sarcastically. I couldn’t help it. Ramirez just brought out my inner bitch. “What’s up?”
“Another shifter.” He said grimly, not giving me the smart-ass retort I expected.
“No. This one is…” He sighed heavily. “Different.”
I mouthed “I’m sorry,” to Ian then said to Ramirez, “I’m on my way.”
* * * *
Different isn’t exactly the way I would have described what was left of the shifter spread across the rocky floor of the desert. It wasn’t anyone that I recognized but I’d have forensics email me the pictures to show to Ian. If it was a local, he’d know him; if it wasn’t, he’d have the resources to find out who he is, or was. I was glad that I’d changed into a spare set of clothes. I keep extra clothing in both mine and Ian’s cars. In my line of work, it helped to keep a pair of jeans, boots and spare shirt handy.
This time the morgue did show up, along with a patrol car. While most people wouldn’t bat an eye at a dead wolf on the side of the road, a dead shifter in human form caused quite a stir. Wilson had used a field test to determine that the deceased was in fact a shifter. What the test couldn’t tell me is what kind of shifter he was. Fortunately, that wasn’t information that I needed to know to figure out who killed him.
I pounded my fist on Ambrose Twofeather’s door at a little after one in the morning. He didn’t answer so I kicked it open.
“Oh look, Ramirez,” I crooned innocently, “It’s open a little and there’s no reply. Looks suspicious to me.”
I smiled and pulled my nine-millimeter out of its holster and went inside, ignoring Ramirez’s loud sigh. Having a federal badge meant that I had a little more leeway, and, being me, I didn’t give a damn either way.
A loud click-click had me diving back outside. Nothing quite says “I’m home” like the sound of a shell being pumped into a shotgun.
“I’ve got a gun, you son-of-a-bitch. You picked the wrong house to break into!” Ambrose’s voice boomed out of the darkness.
“Federal Agent Leah Wolfe, Ambrose. Slide your gun out the door.”
“Come and get it!”
I turned toward Ramirez as he picked himself up from the ground and swatted dust off his three hundred dollar suit pants and motioned for him to throw a rock at the side
window. After a couple of tries, he finally got it, picked up a stone and underhanded it at a window. I guess I didn’t have a career as a mime in my future.
The blast from the shotgun took out the window and Ramirez hit the ground again. I stormed through the door, and kicked the shotgun from his hand before he had a chance to recover. He took a swing at me and missed, spinning himself around in the process and we spilled out on the front porch. I nailed him in the solar plexus with the heel of my hand and he went down, gasping for air and wriggling like a fish out of water. “Ambrose Twofeather, you are under arrest.”
“On what charges?” He rasped.
“You can’t arrest him for killing a shifter, Leah.” Ramirez said quietly as he walked up to me, still swiping dust off his clothes.
“I can hold him for suspicion of carrying an unregistered shotgun and firing it at law enforcement officers.”
“In that case,” Ambrose smiled ruefully at me, “I want my lawyer.” He wheezed.
Ramirez frisked Ambrose then put him in handcuffs while I kept my gun trained on him.
An hour later I stood outside of an interrogation room watching Ambrose as he snored lightly in the chair. The cocky bastard had called his lawyer and then hadn’t spoken another word. He just walked into the room and fell asleep.
Time to wake him up.
I put the crime scene photos in a heavy book and slammed them on the table.
Ambrose jerked awake and glared at me.
“Care to tell me what kind of weapon you used to carve this boy up?” I asked as I settled into the chair across from him.
His lip curled into a smile full of hatred.
“No?” I shrugged casually. “Maybe this will refresh your memory.” I tossed the photos of the dead shifter on the table in front of him.
His eyes darted to the pictures then back at me. “I didn’t do this, but I do admire the work.” If he was surprised by the carnage before him he sure as hell didn’t show it.
I stood, knocking my chair behind me, fists clenched at my sides.
“Ehh-hmm.” I heard a throat loudly clear behind me and turned to see a portly man standing in the doorway. His glasses sat askew of his somewhat crooked nose. His graying hair—what was left of it—was combed over an obvious bald spot and it looked like he’d thrown on his suit in haste. “I’m Robert Dearman, Mr. Twofeather’s attorney. I’d like a word alone with my client.”
I gave him one curt nod in greeting as I picked up the photos and made my way out of the room. It wouldn’t do the case any good to kick Ambrose’s ass in front of his attorney. That didn’t mean it wasn’t damned tempting though.
Sam stood by my desk, a sharp contrast to Robert Dearman. Unlike the lawyer, Sam’s hair was perfectly styled and his suit was neatly pressed right down to his shiny shoes. If the man ever slept, I never knew about it.
“In my office, Leah.” He turned, expecting me to follow him. “Join us, won’t you, Officer Ramirez?”
“Shit!” Ramirez muttered under his breath.
Once the door closed, Sam’s calm façade slid off his face. “What the fuck were you
doing at Ambrose’s place at one in the morning?” His native New Yorker accent intensified when he was angry.
“We went there to question him on the death of a shape-shifter.”
“And you thought you could accomplish that by kicking his door down and pulling a gun on him?”
“His door was ajar, Sam.” I tried to keep my eyes from giving away my lie—well, partial lie. The door was open slightly after I kicked it in. “I pulled my gun to investigate a suspicious-looking scenario.”
“Bullshit!” Guess my eyes gave me away after all. Oh well.
Sam turned to Ramirez. “What was your role in this?”
“Captain Wilson asked me to accompany Agent Wolfe.” Ramirez tried to keep his tone light.
“And did the premises look suspicious to you, Officer Ramirez?”
“I was not as close to the door as Agent Wolfe. I was merely there as back-up.”
“Uh-huh.” Sam scrubbed his hands across his face. “You can go now, Ramirez.”
Ramirez gave me one sympathetic look and then left the office.
Sam crossed his arms across his chest and rested his ass on the corner of his desk. “Look Leah,” Sam began. “I know how attached you’ve become to some of the Supernaturals in this community.”
“Are you telling me that I can’t have a vampire boyfriend and still do my job?” Sam was one of the few who knew full well what my relationship with Ian was but I’d never thought he would throw it in my face. Dammit! He knew me better than that!
Sam’s shoulder’s dropped a fraction. “No. Of course not.” He ran both hands through his hair. “Leah. I have never seen you so happy before and as your friend, I’m glad to see it.” He smiled and slumped down into his chair, motioning for me to sit as well. “As your boss, however, the law is the law and right now it says that shifters are animals and it’s legal to kill animals.”
“That’s bullshit Sam, and you know it.”
“Unofficially, yes. It’s bullshit. But your job is not to change the law, Leah. It’s just to enforce it.” He held up a hand to stop me from interrupting. “I’m letting him go.”
“Sam!” I protested.
“We have no grounds to hold him, Leah.”
I let out a long sigh. “He can’t get away with this.”
“Unfortunately, he can. For now. But until the law is changed…” Sam closed his lips in a tight line. “There is nothing we can do about it. Twofeather is filing a restraining order on you as we speak.” He held up a finger to stop me from speaking. “You will stay away from him. However…”
I nodded and felt a grin creep across my face. “Got it.”
“Go home, Leah. Get some sleep. You look like shit.” He gave me a weary grin.
“The minute he steps over the line, Sam…”
“Then we bust his ass. I promise.”
Ramirez was long gone by time I got to my car. I took a cursory look in the mirror before I pulled out of my parking spot. Sam was right. I looked like shit.
I drove back to Ian’s place, all the while trying to push the vision of that young man, all carved up like so much meat on the ground, out of my head. I’d told Ian that I would meet him at home as soon as I could, and even though it was nearing sunrise, I knew he’d
be waiting for me. I opened the front door to a dark house. Ian had already pulled the blinder shades.
I found him sitting up in bed with the sheet pooled at his waist. He looked particularly pale with the black sheets all around his sexy body. He smiled slightly as I walked in, taking off my clothes along the way. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed with Ian and let him wrap his arms around me. I wanted him to kiss me until the things I’d seen tonight were washed from brain, but unfortunately, some things that have been seen, cannot be unseen.
“You’re later than I thought you’d be, my love.”
“I’m sorry,” I sighed as I lay my head on his chest and breathed Ian in deeply.
“Our jobs are not always kind to our social life.” Ian pulled me closer and placed a tender kiss on my lips. “I do not have long before the sun takes me.” He put his finger under my chin and pulled my gaze to him. “There is something I must tell you before I rest.”
I shifted so that I could look up at him and still rest my head on his shoulder.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, praying that it was. I didn’t think I had the strength to deal with one more tragedy today.
“Oh yes, my love. Everything is almost perfect.”
“The house is finished and it is time to move back in.” He brushed a stray strand of hair from my face.
“It’s a lovely house.” I said, hoping he didn’t hear my voice waver. I’d known this day would come, but…
“That is the problem, my love. It is just a house.”
I looked at him, not knowing what he meant.
“I have been numb for much of my existence. I believed that I had no soul and found no happiness in my extended life. My heart was empty until you arrived. It was as if my heart remembered how to beat again the moment I saw you.” He tensed.
“Shhh my love, I do not have much time.”
Even though I couldn’t see the light, I knew the sun was rising. It caused Ian pain and I cursed it every day for that. Ian would “die” all over again each sunrise and while he never would tell me, I know it caused him physical pain.
Ian kissed me again, more urgently this time. His fingers intertwined with mine under the sheets. He pulled away just a fraction. “I planned on this being much more romantic…”
I felt something cool encircle my finger.
The finger. My brain screamed No-No-NO! Do not ask me this. Not now, even while my heart leaped, beating so furiously against my chest I thought it would find a way out.
“Marry me, my love. Make our house a home.” And with that his body jerked as the sun stole him from me yet again.
Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!