Excerpt from Darkness Clashes and giveaway

I’ve got the first four chapters of Darkness Clashes for you all below.  It comes to almost 12k words and should help tide you over until the novel releases.  At the end, you’ll also get the details for a giveaway of new series promo items.

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 Chapter One

 The werewolf had been staring at me for the last twenty minutes.  His relentless gaze sent chills along my spine and made it hard for me not to turn and face him.  Even from twenty feet away I could sense his growing desire.  What was he waiting for?  The right moment to pounce?

The dozens of humans surrounding us might have had something to do with it.  This was Spokane, Washington.  Not a lot of vampires around to compel the mortals into forgetting if the werewolf made a big scene.  With the full moon just passed, he’d still be on edge and have to watch himself.

People from one end of the rectangular bar to the other drank, danced, and played pool games as they enjoyed their Saturday night.  Music blared from the nearby speakers and it didn’t take a sensitive nose to catch the conflicting scents of sweat, stale beer, and cheap perfume.  It was the picture of normalcy and proved how utterly oblivious these people were to the dark underbelly of the supernatural world rubbing shoulders with them.

A world I’d once avoided and pretended not to see.

The werewolf couldn’t know I wasn’t human—at least not anymore—but some sixth sense must have registered that I wasn’t easy prey.  Not even close.  I was more like a spider weaving an alluring web and waiting for him to step into it.  The one enigmatic smile I’d given him when I arrived started the game.  My loose auburn hair and blue halter dress with its short skirt kept it going.

Playing the role of a shy and vulnerable woman wore on me, but I wanted him to make the first move.  For him to think he was in control—until he wasn’t.  I didn’t get away from Fairbanks, Alaska that often.  I had to get my kicks when I could.

I took a sip of my fruity drink.  A husband and wife sat on the left side of me, drinking beer and complaining about their kids.  I’d adopted a teenager myself and understood their difficulties.  The barstool on my right side was empty, but an older man with a long gray beard sat just beyond it.  He studied his beer bottle as if the answers to the universe might be revealed on the label.  I’d tried that once.  The words turn cryptic if you stare too long.

Toward the back of the place, a chair scraped against the tile floor.  The werewolf had finally decided to make his move.  My unique abilities as a sensor allowed me to track his movements without looking, but I also had the mirror behind the bar to help.  He had to weave around a handful of high tables filled with patrons before he could reach me.

My belly churned at the thought of him getting close, but I had to do this.  He was the first potential contact I’d found in Spokane and I only had one night to get what I needed.  Lucas wouldn’t care for my methods, but I was doing this for his brother—who’d been missing for four months.  We had to do whatever it took to find him.

The werewolf put a hand against the bar to my right, filling my peripheral vision.  His tanned arm was covered with curly dark hair.  My gaze trailed up to a bulging bicep and farther, to a thick chest covered loosely with a white t-shirt.  It had a Coors Light logo on it.

He leaned down until his face couldn’t have been more than a foot from mine.  His hair was shaved off, emphasizing a round head and full cheeks.  A day’s growth of beard dusted his chin and jaw.

“Hey, sweetheart.  What’s a pretty lady like you doin’ here all alone?” he asked, letting out a whiff of beer breath.

Take one for the team, Melena. You need this guy.

I gave him a guileless smile.  “Waiting for the right man to come along.  You?”

“Maybe I’ve been lookin’ for the right woman.”  He flashed his teeth.  “Think I might have found her.”

Not in a million years.  I took a sip of my drink, buying myself a moment so I wouldn’t do something rash.  Like poke his eyes out so I’d never have to see them again.

“That depends,” I said, setting my glass down.

“On what?”

I leaned in and whispered in his ear.  “On whether you can direct me to your alpha.”

He stiffened and pulled back enough to meet my eyes.

“What do ya know about that?”

I gave him a level look.  “I know enough.”

It was too bad the woman who’d given me the tip hadn’t had any contact information for the pack.  They’d gotten a new alpha recently and he’d been making sweeping changes to their structure.  Maybe even reining them in since I’d had to drive around to three different bars before I found one with a werewolf inside.

“How do ya know I’m not him?”

I cocked my head and gave him a disparaging look.

“You’ve been a werewolf for what, five years?” I kept my voice low, letting his enhanced hearing filter out the music in the background.  “The vibe coming off you tells me you aren’t strong enough to be an alpha and probably never will be.”

My abilities as a sensor didn’t just identify his race, but also his strength and age.  It was useful in times like these.

His eyes narrowed.  “You can’t be sure of that.”

“Yes, I can.” And if he was a little smarter he would have figured out who I was by now.  “So where’s your alpha?”

“Not here,” he growled.

I rolled my eyes.  “I know that.  Just give me a phone number or location to find him.”

“I ain’t tellin’ you shit.”  He jerked me off the stool.  “But I’ll take you to him.”

I tripped on my heels as he pulled me forward and almost fell.  If he hadn’t had such a strong grip on my arm I would have crashed into the floor.  Regaining my balance, I straightened my body.  He wasn’t the only one who could resort to violence and now I had witnesses that he’d started it first.

Taking hold of his wrist, I yanked his hand off of me.  When he reached out again I grabbed his arm and swung him into the bar.  He crashed into a row of stools headfirst, sending nearby patrons scrambling back.  I gripped the back of his neck and smashed his face into the bar.  Blood gushed from his nose when I pulled him back up.

I leaned in close to his ear.  “You’ve got three seconds to change your mind before I break something else.”

“Who…are you?” he whispered out.

“Just a woman who wants her questions answered,” I hissed.

My heart was beating hard against my chest and all I wanted was to get out of there.  Someone would be calling the cops soon if we didn’t resolve this fast.

“The alpha…he’s supposed to be at Crusaders tonight.”

My senses told me he spoke the truth.  I let him go.  Looking up, I found everyone in the bar had stopped what they were doing and were staring at us.  Music still played in the background, but it was a lonely melody.

“It’s okay, everyone.”  I put my hands up in a conciliatory gesture.  “He’s had too much to drink and didn’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

People started whispering among themselves.  The werewolf grabbed a napkin off the bar and started wiping his face clean, shooting me dirty looks as he got the worst of the blood off.  As if he hadn’t asked for it.

I was paying my tab with the bartender when a spark hit my senses, alerting me to a new arrival in the parking lot.  This was about to get a whole lot more interesting.  I stuffed my wallet back into my purse and zipped it up just before the front door crashed open.

Everyone’s gaze swung toward it.  A man with shoulders wide enough that they nearly filled the doorway stepped inside.  His blond hair was about two inches long and his face freshly shaven.  He had strong features like you’d expect from an ancient warrior, with a square jaw and a Roman nose.  The golden tint of his skin hinted at his half-angel heritage.

A nephilim—one of only four dozen left on earth where once there were hundreds.  This one was about two and a half thousand years old.  Power rolled off of him in thick waves that pushed against my senses and ignited my inborn instinct to run as far and fast as I could.

His golden eyes zoomed in on me and it was as if we were the only two people in the room.  In half a dozen strides, he was nearly on top of me.  Staring up at him, I suddenly felt really small.

“Did you get the information we need?” he asked.

The bastard.  He was supposed to let me take care of this without his help.

I gave him an annoyed look.  “Of course.”

“Did you have any trouble?”

The werewolf next to me started inching away.  A few others in the bar were doing the same, but most of them kept staring.  It was sort of awkward having them watch us, but Lucas would take care of the witnesses soon enough.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” I replied.

His gaze dropped to my arm.  Ever since we’d bonded he’d had an uncanny way of knowing exactly where I was injured.  Lucas ran his thumb over the bruises on my bicep where the werewolf had gripped me too tightly.  Tenderness reflected in his eyes for a brief moment before it turned to fury.

“And this?”

I sighed.  “It will heal in thirty minutes and you know it.”

“It shouldn’t be there at all.”

I knocked his hand away.  “Well, when I have a couple thousand more years of experience like you then I’m sure it won’t happen anymore, Mr. Perfect.”

“You’re Lucas and Melena,” the werewolf said, awe and fear in his voice.  He now stood about ten feet away.  “The nephilim and first immortal sensor.”

The guy should have kept his mouth shut and kept moving for the door.

Lucas turned.  “And you touched my woman.”

In a flash, he had the guy’s head in his hands and twisted it sideways.  It snapped with a loud crack.  He wasn’t dead—werewolves were sturdy enough to take a broken neck—but he’d be out for at least a few hours.  Maybe half a day since he wasn’t that strong.

“Stay here,” Lucas said, picking the man up. “I’ll return in a moment.”

A flash of light nearly blinded me as he disappeared.  I looked over my shoulder to see the bartender reaching for the phone.  Damn.  Lucas should have done something about that first.  I didn’t have magic that could compel people to do what I wanted or make them forget.  All my abilities were passive.

Leaping over the bar, I grabbed the woman’s hand just before she could dial the first number.

“Sorry, can’t let you do that.”

Her hand shook in mine.  “Please don’t kill me.”

“Don’t worry.  In a few minutes, you won’t remember any of this,” I reassured her.

Her face got paler.

Another flash of light lit up the room.  The woman froze just before she would have backed into a shelf of bottles.  I turned to find Lucas—now rid of the werewolf’s body—had begun gathering the will of everyone in the room.  It was like having a bunch of breathing mannequins surrounding me in awkward positions.

The magic he used buzzed at my senses like static and made me want to scratch my head.  It took a lot to control that many people at once.  He swept his gaze across the room, compelling every person in the bar to forget they’d seen us.

One guy had his cell phone out and had it facing my direction.  The way someone would do if they wanted to take a picture.  Lucas grabbed it and crushed it into tiny pieces.  Then he dropped it on the floor and positioned the guy’s boot over it.  Sometimes Lucas could have a twisted sense of humor—we had that in common.

Once he was done, he made his way toward me, maneuvering around tables and frozen people.

“What did you do with the werewolf?”  I hopped back over the bar.

“Dropped him off somewhere interesting.”  His expression was blank as he took hold of my arm.

I walked with him toward the entrance and tried to ignore all the still-frozen people.  I wanted to feel bad for them, but once Lucas showed up and made a scene it had to be done.

“Please tell me you didn’t set him next to a cliff or something.”

“No.”  He didn’t look at me.

“At the bottom of the ocean?”  Lucas could probably do that.  He didn’t need to breathe, but the werewolf did.

He drew his brows together.  “Do I look wet to you?”

“No, but that doesn’t answer my question.  What did you do with the werewolf?”

“Let it be.  He’ll survive.”

“He’d better.”

“Next time, sensor.”  Lucas glanced down at me.  “When someone harms you, I’ll limit myself to breaking their arms.”

His expression was dark and menacing.  This was the man who’d made huge sacrifices—ones he refused to explain—so that I could become immortal.  He didn’t have a problem with me fighting when necessary, but he still had a hard time seeing me hurt.  It would have been endearing if it wasn’t so aggravating.

“How very considerate of you.”  Sarcasm dripped from my voice.  “Why don’t you just trust me to handle things myself?”

“When you stop showing so much compassion for your enemies, perhaps I will.”

“Like this?”  I ground my spiked heel onto the top of one of his Gucci shoes.

His eyes sparked.  “Am I your enemy now?”

“Only when you’re annoying me.”

“And how often is that?”

“About ninety percent of the time.  Not that I’ve calculated that or anything.”  I put my arm around his waist and leaned into him, belying my words.  Part of what attracted me to him was the challenge and clash of our personalities.

We stepped outside into the dark and he released the spell inside.  Loud conversation rose up within seconds and the moods of people having a good time returned to color my senses.  They’d never remember the last ten minutes of their life and would go on as if nothing had happened.

There weren’t any patrons in the parking lot, but we moved to the side of the building where we couldn’t be easily observed if any came along.  The bar was at the end of a shopping center and everything else was closed.  Darkness enshrouded us as we turned to face each other.

“Where is he, Melena?” Lucas asked, glancing back over at the parking lot.

I didn’t have to ask who he meant.  “He’s in the rental car, watching a movie on my iPad.”

“Good.”  His shoulders relaxed.  “Perhaps you have learned to manage him better.”

Kerbasi, a guardian from Purgatory, had to stay near me at all times.  I couldn’t travel more than half a mile away from him thanks to the arm cuffs we wore that bound us together.  The archangel, Remiel, had charged me with the task of giving Kerbasi humanity.  That was a tall order for a man who’d spent most of the last four and a half millennia torturing prisoners in Purgatory.

Lucas hated him and didn’t appreciate his tendency to cause problems.  Because of that, it had taken me over three months to convince the nephilim to let me help search for his missing brother.  Not wanting to blow my first chance, I’d had to bribe Kerbasi with a steak dinner earlier in the evening to get him to stay in the car while I went inside the bar.

“So how did things go in Chicago?”  I asked.

Lucas’ jaw tightened.  “I’ve found nothing yet.”

“But you’re not done?”

“No.  I’ve got the master of the city rounding up anyone who might have helped Zoe hide my brother, but it is a slow process.”

I gave him an incredulous look.  “And this master has no problem doing this for you?”

“I’ll admit he hasn’t been entirely cooperative.”  Lucas frowned.  “I’ve been forced to take drastic measures twice now to convince him.”

I didn’t want to know what his idea of drastic measures might be this time.  They often involved heads rolling off bodies or hearts being ripped out.  Lucas justified it by saying at least he gave them a quick death.

“Plain old bribery didn’t work?”

“No, this vampire is surprisingly resistant to large sums of money.”

I mulled that one over.  “Too bad it’s not time for my period.  I’ve got this tampon trick that’ll get them to cooperate every time.”

Lucas grimaced.  “I’d hoped that was only a false rumor.”

“Oh, no.  That one’s true.”

He placed a hand on my hip.  “Was this dress really necessary?”

It was all I could do not to lean into him.  Our chances to meet didn’t come often and they were usually brief.  I understood he had to find his brother, but as time wore on the separations got harder.  We’d begun our relationship a year and a half ago and had yet to spend more than a few consecutive days together.

“I wanted to catch the guy off-guard,” I said, answering his question.  “Men always underestimate women in pretty dresses.”

He dropped his hand.  “I don’t.”

“Don’t you?”  I grazed my nails across my chest, drawing attention to my cleavage.

His gaze shot down to watch the movement.  Lust rose up and his eyes glowed.

“Perhaps.”

He pressed his hands to the brick wall, caging me with his arms.  For a moment we just stared at each other, allowing the tendrils of our bond to strengthen.  He needed the closeness as much as I did, though we both fought the force of our attraction.

“Lucas…” I began.

His face closed off.  “Tell me where the alpha is.”

There was a reason he’d let me go on this particular hunt.  I’d been the one to get the lead for it.  A new werewolf had moved to Fairbanks from a town not far from Spokane.  A few weeks after she arrived, we got to talking and it turned out she’d seen Zoe in the area around the same time Lucas’ brother had disappeared.  She hadn’t caught sight of Micah, but it had given me hope that maybe he’d been hidden somewhere in the city.

I ran a hand down Lucas’ chest.  “If I tell you, are you going to flash over there and leave me here?”

“You don’t trust me?”  He leaned in closer.

I breathed in his musky scent and felt my body stir.  Part of me wanted to forget the Micah business and take him back to the hotel instead.

“Under the circumstances, no.”  I wrapped my arms around his neck and rose up on my toes—two could play at this game.  “If I tell you, you’ll go see the alpha without me and claim it’s for my own safety.”

He grabbed my ass and yanked me up, wrapping my legs around him.  My back hit the wall.  Our lips were only inches apart, but when I tried to kiss him, he pulled his head back.

“You’re testing my patience, Melena.”

Someday we were going to have a conversation that didn’t involve a battle of wits or sexual coercion.  Then again, probably not.

“If you don’t let me go with you to see the alpha.”  I ran my hand up his back.  “I’ll put a blood circle around my house.  Then you’ll have to come in through the front door like a normal person and there will be no more showing up naked in my bed in the middle of the night.”

“I told you before what would happen if you tried that again,” he growled.

I batted my eyelashes.  “That was before you fell in love with me.  You won’t destroy my house now.”

“Your confidence in yourself is becoming wearisome.”

He readjusted his hands under my ass and traced a finger along my bare skin.  With my skirt open to him, he was getting dangerously close to discovering how wet he was making me.  I was acutely aware of this and trying hard not to think about it.

“You like my confidence,” I replied, nipping at his neck.

He growled and nipped me back.

“Must you two carry on like this every time you see each other?” Kerbasi asked, walking up.

It was about time he showed up.  I’d sensed him leave the car and had counted on him being the proverbial cold splash of water I needed.

Lucas’ eyes glowed gold as he turned his head in Kerbasi’s direction.  “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go away—now.”

The guardian let his own eyes glow silver.  “I think not.  Your woman has forced me to sit in that horrible contraption humans call a car by myself for too long.”

This was going to turn into a full-out brawl if I didn’t stop it soon.  Kerbasi was too powerful and full of himself to back down.  Lucas had been tortured daily by him in Purgatory and wanted revenge.  Not that I could blame him, but the animosity between the two men reached epic levels every time they saw each other.  It was always up to me to calm them down.

“How about we go see that alpha now?”  I dropped my legs to the ground and extricated myself from Lucas.

Tension filled the air around us while I waited for either of the two men to respond.  Neither of them did.

“Fine, I’ll go by myself.”  I headed toward the car.

By the time I settled into the vehicle, got the directions to Crusaders from my cell phone, and cranked the ignition, both men had flashed inside—with Lucas up front.

“Glad we got that settled,” I said, pulling the car out onto the road.

 

 Chapter Two

 Crusaders was located on the outskirts of Spokane.  A little hole-in-the-wall joint with an empty field behind it and no other buildings nearby.  We pulled into the parking lot alongside an assortment of motorcycles and beat-up trucks.  My tiny blue rental car would have stood out among them, but no one lingered outside to notice.  All the werewolves were inside—about twenty of them.

There were no other supernaturals nearby.  A spell on the place discouraging unwanted visitors ensured that, though as we walked toward the entrance I picked up on the emotions of a few humans in the building.  If my past experiences were anything to go by, they’d be women who were friendly with the pack.

My immunity to magic allowed me to go inside with no problem.  Lucas and Kerbasi were too old and powerful for the ward to do more than give them a jolt when they crossed over the threshold.  The door banged shut behind us and we stopped to take a look around.

Heads turned in our direction and nostrils flared.  I’d been told I smelled human, but I had no idea what the weres made of Lucas.  Kerbasi had turned invisible before we came in and would be impossible for them to detect.

Someone shut off the music.  A burly werewolf in his late twenties kicked back his chair and lumbered toward us.  His heavy footsteps thumped on the wooden floor, reminding me of the same sound made by boots in western movies.  He just needed the spurs.  People at small tables along his path scooted their seats forward to make room for him and shouted words of encouragement.

We’d entered their territory uninvited and they wanted us gone.

This guy might not be their alpha, but by the looks everyone gave him they thought he could take care of things.  Two other big guys got up and flanked him as he stopped five feet from us.  Something told me this wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped.

“You two need to leave now,” he said, cracking bruised knuckles.

Was a little diplomacy too much to ask for?  We needed to find Micah, not play games with idiots who couldn’t see the danger standing right in front of them.

I looked at Lucas.  “He’s joking, right?”

“It appears he’s no smarter than he looks.”

That wasn’t saying much.  The guy’s jeans and gray tank top looked like a charity wouldn’t even take them.  Stains covered the shirt and there were holes in his pants, revealing hairy legs.  He could have used a haircut, too.  Some men could pull off a messy style, but not this one.  His dark blond hair was too greasy and uneven.

“What’d you say?”  The werewolf took a step forward.

Lucas glanced down at me.  “Would you like me to remove his arms or legs first?”

I tapped my chin.  “We should at least try the peaceful approach first and tell him why we’re here.”

“Very well.”  Lucas gave me a look that said we were wasting our time, but that he’d humor me.  “Try.”

I met the werewolf’s direct gaze.  “We’re here to speak to your alpha about something important.”

He snorted and looked at his buddies.  No one was flipping out their phone and dialing the man up like I’d hoped.  I might have asked Lucas to compel the werewolves into cooperating, but he preferred to do things the old-fashioned way when it came to fellow supernaturals.  He had a weird code of honor I’d yet to figure out.

“Tell you what, little lady.”  The werewolf eyed me up and down.  “Step outside now and I promise no harm will come to you.  Ain’t none of us wanna hurt a woman if we can help it.”

Chivalry at its finest.  I clenched my fists.

“Finally,” Kerbasi said, taking a seat at a table behind us.  “Something entertaining to watch other than your ridiculous movies.”

I should have made him stay visible, but he probably would have caused more problems.

“Go for the arms,” I said to Lucas, keeping an eye on the werewolf.  “He’s got a nice ring on his middle finger I wouldn’t mind keeping for myself.”

It was big and gold with rows of tiny rubies and diamonds inlaid at the top.

Lucas glanced down at me.  “I could buy you something better.”

“Yeah.”  I gave him a crafty smile.  “But I was sort of thinking about starting a collection.”

The werewolf looked at us in disbelief.  There was an edge of wariness coming from him now and his buddies were giving him nervous glances.  If only we could scare them enough to make them back down.

“Who are you people?” he asked.

The fact we’d gotten past his wards should have been his first clue.  We ignored him.

“A collection?” Lucas lifted a brow.

I shrugged.  “Trophies from enemies we kill.”

“Hmm.”  He rubbed his chin.  “I like the way you think.”

“For once, I must agree,” Kerbasi said from his seat behind us.  “I’d like his boots, too, if you don’t mind.”

I pretended not to hear the guardian.  He’d had a weird thing about shoes ever since we visited the fae city a few months ago and couldn’t get enough of them.

“That’s it.”  The werewolf took a step forward.  “You two are done!”

Guess we hadn’t scared him enough.

He lunged toward us.  Lucas met him halfway and went for his arm—the same one that had the ring.  With a hard twist and a pull he tore it from the werewolf’s body.  An ear-splitting scream came from him as his limb went flying across the room.  Blood splattered everywhere and the werewolf fell to the floor, clutching at the open socket.  My stomach lurched.  Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about the ring.  I’d forgotten how literal Lucas took me sometimes.

Chairs knocked over and the whole place roared into action as men converged on him from every direction.  Their eyes blazed with fury and they bared their teeth to let out inhuman growls.  At least they didn’t try to change into wolves—not that they had the five to ten minutes it would take to shift.

I couldn’t let Lucas take all the heat even though he could have handled it.  I reached for my gun only to realize it wasn’t there.  The trip had come up at the last minute and I hadn’t had time to make arrangements to transport it.  I reached down to the purse strapped across my chest and pulled out a fixed-blade knife instead.  It would have to do.

Grabbing the nearest guy to me, I spun him around.  He threw out a wild punch, but I ducked and rose back up to stab him in the gut.  He bowed over.  Quickly pulling it back out, I aimed for his neck next. He deflected the blade and shoved me hard enough to send me flying.  With arms swinging I landed on top of a table and slid across it, falling to the floor.  The air whooshed out of my lungs as my back hit with bone-jarring force.

Damn, I’d forgotten how strong werewolves could be.

Kerbasi was still sitting at his table a few feet away.  He gave me a dispassionate look.  “Is that the best you can do?  Is your lover going to have to do all the work?”

I tossed my high heels at him and grabbed a chair.  “You’re always looking for a fight.  Why not now?”

He snorted.  “Because that would be useful to you.”

The werewolf came lurching toward me and I swung the chair at him.  He arched back, but not far enough.  One of the wooden legs skimmed across his forehead and left a deep gash.  Blood welled up and started running down to his eyes.

While he rubbed at the wound, I made a desperate search for my knife.  It had fallen from my grip when I’d become intimate friends with the table.  I found it a few feet away and snatched it up.  The werewolf snarled at me as I leapt to my bare feet. He threw out a badly-aimed punch and I leaned to the left, going underneath his reach to plunge the blade into his heart.  His face froze with a look of shock and horror.

I pulled the knife back out and watched him crumble to the floor.  If I’d left it in for more than a few minutes he probably would have died, but I wasn’t going to kill him for being overprotective of his territory.  Plus, I needed the weapon to stab more of his buddies.

Lucas had pushed the fight to the middle of the room with moves so fast they were nothing more than a blur, but he couldn’t keep the battle fully contained.  Even as bodies and furniture flew in a tsunami of motion, a couple of guys worked their way past his line of defense.

I crouched low when the first one made it through.  As soon as he got close enough, I swept my leg out and knocked his feet out from underneath him.  He fell with a loud thump.  The next guy came at me from the side.  I pivoted on my feet and shoved my blade into his chest.  It missed his heart by an inch, puncturing a lung instead.  The guy gasped for breath and took a step back.

I ignored the flash of fear in his eyes and grabbed his head, twisting it with a snap.  He fell limply to the floor with the blade still in him.  There was no time to play nice and give him a fighting chance.  If he’d wanted that he should have tried a one-on-one approach.

The other attacker rose up to take his place.  I ducked his first punch, but didn’t see the second until too late.  His fist slammed into my face with enough force to knock me off my feet.  I fell to the floor and banged my head into a chair.  Through the stars clouding my vision, I saw the werewolf hovering over me.  He had his hand held out.

“Take it,” he said.  “I ain’t gonna hit ya again while you’re down.”

He spoke the truth.  At least someone around here had some standards.

I stared at his hand for a moment and waited for my vision to clear before taking it.  He lifted me up and had me on my feet in one hard pull.  I took a deep breath and raised my fists.

“Ready?” he asked.

I nodded.  It was really too bad we had to fight.  He might have been likable under different circumstances—but not today.

He threw out the first punch.  I ducked as it went by and leaned farther back, guessing the second one would be coming up quick.  It did and missed me by a full inch.  He swung a leg out at me next.  I dodged it and dove for the knife still in his buddy’s chest.  Pulling it out fast, I spun around just as he came up from behind and plunged it into his kidney.  He let out a grunt.

I rose up and saw his face was lined in pain.  The kidneys were one of the most painful places to get stabbed.  A vampire could brush the wound off since they didn’t need theirs, but a werewolf would suffer almost as badly as a human.

“Smart girl,” he mumbled out.

“Are you patronizing me?” I asked, pulling the knife from him.

He winced.  “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

There was no sense in making him suffer any longer.  I dropped the knife and grabbed his head.

“Ready?”

His gaze shot past me.  “You’d better make it quick.”

I snapped it and let him go.

Arms wrapped around me in a rib-crushing hug.  I jerked my head back and slammed my attacker’s nose.  He grunted, but didn’t let go.  I grabbed the fingers on his left hand next and yanked them back.  The werewolf howled with pain and released me.  I spun around and kicked him in the chest, sending him flying back into Lucas who caught him like a rag doll and promptly snapped his neck.  Now, that was teamwork.

My gaze swept around the room, but I found no one else left standing.  Most of the men were unconscious and the few who weren’t didn’t look like they’d be getting back up just yet.  Their groans and the intense pain pushing at my senses confirmed that much.

Several human females huddled in one corner of the room near the dartboards, holding each other.  They wouldn’t even look at us.  Kerbasi still sat in his seat near the front door.  He was sniffing at a beer on the table and looking at it in disgust.

I grabbed my knife from the floor and cleaned it off on an unconscious werewolf’s shirt.  Not the nicer guy, but one of the others.

“The alpha is coming up the road now,” I said to Lucas.  He’d just popped up on my radar and was about a half mile away.

He nodded and headed over to the women.  They trembled and held each other, though a brunette braved a glance up at him before ducking her head back down.  Lucas pushed a couple of broken tables aside and kneeled in front of them, forcing their attention to his eyes.

“You’re safe,” he said in calm, even voice.  “Get your things and go home.”

The fear they’d been emitting in heavy waves drained away, easing the pressure on my senses.  The women got up, found their purses, and walked out as if they hadn’t just been in the middle of a bar brawl.  I sighed.  My life would have been so much easier if I could have just compelled people that way.

Lucas headed back toward me and we ran our gazes over each other.  His black slacks and red button-up shirt were torn and hanging loosely.  He had a few cuts and scrapes, but they didn’t look too bad.  Knowing he couldn’t be killed by anything less than an archangel didn’t stop me from worrying.  I didn’t like seeing him hurt.

He frowned at the bruise on my face from where the werewolf had hit me and then scanned down the rest of my body until he stopped at my left leg.  His lips thinned at something he saw there and he took some napkins off one of the only tables still upright.  Kneeling down, he tended to a cut on my leg.  I couldn’t remember when it might have happened.

“It’s not deep,” I said.  “It’ll probably heal in an hour.”

“I know.”

“Then why bother?”

Lucas kept his head bowed and dabbed at the blood.  “Because I can.”

“You got wounded in a few places, too,” I noted.  There was a gash on his cheek, a cut on his leg, and what looked like teeth marks on his right arm—though they were fading fast.

“Would it make you feel better if I let you tend them?” he asked.

I blinked.  The idea that he’d let me take care of his wounds while we were surrounded by our attackers—defeated as they were—was abnormal for him.  Maybe I was finally getting through his thick skull, but I wouldn’t push my luck just yet.  This wasn’t the time to test his ridiculously enormous ego.

“Thanks, but I’m sure you’ll be fine,” I answered, turning my attention to the bodies surrounding us.  “At least you didn’t kill anyone.”

If any of the werewolves had died, they wouldn’t have registered on my radar anymore.  I counted the same number of men as before the fight began.  Several of them had wounds that would kill a human, but my senses told me they were hanging in there—even if it might take a few days to fully recover.

“I thought you might appreciate my restraint,” Lucas said, standing up.  He tossed the bloody napkins onto the same table where he’d found them.

“I do.”  I raised up on my toes and gave him a peck on the lips.  “Thank you.”

He brushed my hair back, running his fingers through it.  “You did well tonight, considering the number of opponents we faced.  I should trust you to handle yourself.”

“Yes, you should,” I agreed, attempting to give him a stern look.  It wasn’t easy to do with him touching me as if I was the most important thing in the world to him.

The bar door swung open and we broke apart.  The alpha had arrived.  I could only hope he didn’t mind our redecorating skills.

 

Chapter Three

 A dark-haired man who looked like he was in his mid-thirties—though my senses told me he was about a decade older—stepped inside.  He was leaner than most werewolves, but the power emanating off of him spoke of a very strong alpha.

His face was freshly shaven, hair cut short, and his jeans and blue button-up shirt looked new.  He zoomed in on us first before taking in the rest of the room.  To his eyes, it probably looked like a storm had hit it.  Only the rear end of the place where a long bar with shiny chrome edges spanning it remained intact.  There were just a few broken beer bottles littering its surface.

A guy near the alpha’s feet reached up for him, but he kicked the wounded man’s hand away and stepped farther into the room.  His arrival had stirred many of his werewolves awake.  Some even started to sit up, though they kept their eyes cast downward.  The shame in the room was palpable enough that I couldn’t have been the only one to feel it.

“I’m guessing you two did this?” the alpha asked, giving us a hard look.

The way he said it, I felt like the kid who got caught hand-painting her bedroom walls.  Not that I ever did that.  More than once.

“Your welcoming committee leaves much to be desired,” Lucas said in a grim tone.

The alpha stopped next to the man whose arm had been torn off at the outset of the fight.  The werewolf still clutched at his wound and his eyes were glazed with pain.  The bleeding from the open socket had slowed to a trickle, but the pool of red beneath him proved he didn’t have much left to lose. If he’d been younger and weaker, he’d have probably died without immediate medical care.

“This the one who started it?” the alpha asked, toeing the guy’s head with his boot.

“He is, though I doubt he’ll be starting much of anything anymore,” Lucas replied.

“Just as well.  Ivan ain’t got shit for brains.  He’s the kind who attacks first and never gets to the questions.  When the rest of them have been drinking they’ll follow him even if he’s heading straight off a cliff.”  He grabbed hold of the werewolf by his remaining arm and yanked him to his feet.  “I just took over the pack six months ago and I’m still straightening them out.”

“Sss…sorry, alpha,” the werewolf said through gasps of pain.

He bowed his head and when a tear fell from his eye I had to look away.  He’d most likely recover, but he’d never get his arm back.  The tide of his pitiful emotions swamped me and I had to quell the guilt rising inside of me.  That bully had probably started at least a hundred fights and hurt a lot of people over the years.  There was no reason to feel sorry for him.

“Grab your friends and get out of here,” the alpha ordered, letting him go.  “I’ll deal with you later.”

Ivan took two steps and stumbled.  He managed to grab hold of a nearby chair before falling and two of his buddies leapt up to help him the rest of the way.  All around us other men crawled to their feet and staggered toward the door.  The exodus took about five minutes before the bar cleared out.  I almost sighed in relief once they were gone and all their painful emotions no longer clawed at my senses.  Years of practice had taught me how to tune my abilities down to a tolerable level, but I couldn’t push them out completely.

“Name’s Austin.”  The alpha walked up and held out his hand.

“Lucas.”  They grasped palms and shook.

“And your woman?”

Austin would have known we were together by the claiming mark on my neck.  It had faded so that it wasn’t visible to the eyes, but all supernaturals could feel it when they were within twenty to thirty feet.  If they were familiar with Lucas, they’d also know it came from him.  Sups with any common sense usually kept a respectful distance, but not everyone paid attention to it—especially if they’d been drinking.  Alcohol could turn even the smartest of people into idiots.

Lucas pulled me into his side.  “This is Melena.”

“Well, that explains a lot.”  He narrowed his eyes at me.  “Did you really break into Purgatory?”

“Uh, yeah.  How’d you hear about that?”

He shrugged.  “Word gets around fast.  Most folks aren’t sure whether that means you’re trustworthy or not.”

There was a time when I’d hated all supernaturals and had avoided them.  A lone sensor on his or her own risked being captured or killed because of their abilities.  My race had fought a war centuries ago where we used our innate skills to track down vampires, nephilim, werewolves—anything inhuman—and pointed them out to our angel allies so they could be exterminated.

Tens of thousands died before the tables turned and sensors became the hunted.  We lost our ability to call on angels for help and the race was nearly wiped out in the process. Those who survived went into hiding so that they could work to repopulate the lost numbers.  With the latest generation, some of us had allied ourselves with powerful supernaturals.  How well that worked out for the long term remained to be seen, but for me it was safer than being on my own.

Lucas scowled.  “We’re not here to discuss Melena’s exploits.”

“Of course.”  Austin waved a hand toward the bar.  “Let’s have a drink and you can tell me what you’re really here for.”

I settled on one of the stools away from the broken glass.  A quick peek behind it reassured me there was no damage to the other side of the bar.  It might have been odd, but Lucas had an uncanny ability to only make messes where he wanted them.  I supposed two and a half thousand years of practice did that for a man.

The alpha lifted a brow.  “What will you have?”

“A Long Island Iced Tea with a splash of grenadine would be good for me,” I answered.

“I don’t want anything,” Lucas said, not taking a seat.

“We did just wreck his bar,” I hissed at him.  “It would be rude to refuse drinks.”

I shifted my eyes between him and the seat next to me meaningfully.

Lucas gave me a martyred look.  “Very well.  I’ll have a glass of scotch.”

He didn’t sit down, but at least he conceded that much.  A minute later Austin slid our drinks in front of us and we each took a polite sip.  Mine was just right.

The alpha crossed his arms.  “Now, you all want to tell me what you came here for?”

“Yes,” Kerbasi said in a dry tone.  He’d moved to the table directly behind us.  “Please ask your questions so we can depart this horrid place.  Now that the fight is over I’m finding the odor quite offensive.  Even when my prisoners didn’t bathe for weeks they didn’t smell this bad.”

I took a gulp of my drink and attempted to tune him out.

“We’ve heard that a female nephilim, Zoe, may have visited your area approximately four months ago,” Lucas answered the alpha, unaware of Kerbasi’s tirade.  “Were you aware of this?”

Austin straightened.

“She was here.”  His expression turned sour.  “She owns a house near downtown.  Don’t stay in it much, but she was there for about a week around the time you’re asking about.”

“Ah, yes, Zoe,” Kerbasi continued on.  “The best torture for her was to make her live in her own filth.  She absolutely detested it, but even then she never smelled as bad as this place.”

I didn’t look, but I was sure the guardian was wrinkling his nose.  For a guy who lived in caves for most of his life he could be rather snobbish.  It didn’t exactly smell great in the bar, but neither was it as bad as he made it out to be.

The guardian just enjoyed annoying me when no one else could hear him.  He knew I’d avoid responding, especially if Lucas was around to get upset about it.  The guardian was powerful enough that not even a nephilim could see past his invisibility, but my immunity to magic didn’t afford me that same protection.

“Any idea what Zoe was up to?” Lucas asked, twisting the glass in his hand.

“Not exactly.  Your kind ain’t easy to track, but there used to be a sensor settlement just east of here in Idaho.  According to my sources—”  His lips thinned.  “She was going there a lot.”

Kerbasi let out a loud sigh.  “Lucas was different.  I could leave him in filth for a month and he refused to let me see it bothered him.  In all my centuries as a guardian, I have never seen a more stubborn prisoner.  The methods I was forced to employ to make that man scream…”

I took a deep breath and counted to ten. If Lucas saw how angry I was getting he’d know Kerbasi was baiting me and this entire meeting would be ruined.  For Micah’s sake, I had to remain calm no matter how much I wanted to bash the guardian’s head in with a barstool.

Austin had just revealed something important and I needed to focus on it.  His mention of a settlement reminded me of a group of sensors—led by my biological father—who had a compound somewhere in Idaho.  I’d never been able to find out where.

“Wait.”  I held up my hand.  “The settlement isn’t there anymore?”

“They cleared out around mid-May. A long time ago Zoe forced the pack to accept a truce with them, but it wasn’t easy to hold.  That many sensors gathered together like that.”  Austin shuddered.  “Well, it made us all uncomfortable—no offense.”

“None taken,” I reassured him.

This had to be the same group who’d helped Zoe take over Fairbanks last spring when they’d been looking for the portal to Purgatory.  We’d had to fight a major battle to get the city back from them and put a stop to their plans.

If Lucas’ missing brother had been taken to their compound, then he was long gone by now.  Zoe had confessed a while back that she’d stashed Micah somewhere in the northern United States, but with us keeping her confined and out of the loop she might not know where he was anymore.

“Can you give us the address for Zoe’s house and the settlement?” Lucas asked.

“Sure.”  Austin grabbed a pad and pen from behind the bar.  He paused from writing to give Lucas a level look.  “I’ll warn you now you won’t find anything.  Me and my people combed through both places as soon as they left.  They were wiped clean.”

“We’ll check for ourselves.”

Lucas had spoken in an emotionless tone, but my senses could pick up his disappointment.  There was a constant heaviness around him ever since he’d found out his brother was missing, along with a certain amount of guilt.

I understood and felt the same way.  Micah was a good man who’d been there for me while Lucas had been locked up in Purgatory.  With each month that passed where we couldn’t find him the frustration grew for both of us.  This was my first opportunity to help and I already felt like I’d failed.  I could only hope some clue had been left behind at Zoe’s or the compound that the werewolves had missed.

Austin finished writing down the addresses and handed the slip of paper over.  Lucas pulled out his wallet and laid down a stack of cash.  The alpha lifted an eyebrow.

“For the damage,” Lucas said.

“Fair enough.”

He took the money and opened up the register.  I grabbed my drink—still mostly full—and got off the stool to toss the contents in Kerbasi’s direction.  He sputtered and shouted in outrage.

Lucas lifted a brow.  “What was that about?”

I used my fingernail to cut the tip of my thumb.  After a couple drops of blood welled up I pressed them against the guardian’s arm, bringing him out of invisibility.  Kerbasi was glaring at me when his form became apparent to the other two men in the room.

“This asshole here.”  I cleared my throat.  “Talks too much.”

The alpha’s eyes rounded.  “Is that who I think it is?”

“More than likely,” I answered.

“He was here the whole time?”

I gave him an apologetic look.  “Unfortunately, yeah.”

“Could I get a napkin?” Kerbasi asked, face dripping wet with my drink.

“No, he can’t.”  I stepped closer to the bar.  “Trust me when I say he deserved that drink being tossed at him.”

A slow smile spread across Austin’s face.  “If the rumors coming out of the fae city are true, I believe it.  Would you like a bottle to pour over him?”

I glanced back at Kerbasi, whose complexion was turning red.  “Uh, no, but thanks.  I’d hate to waste any more alcohol on the man.”

“You can’t expect me to go out like this!”  The guardian looked down at his drenched shirt and pants.

We headed for the door, forcing Kerbasi to follow.  The last time he hadn’t gotten to the car quick enough I’d left him and forced him to fly along invisible for miles behind me.  Since he hadn’t known where I was going—and he was easily prone to distraction—he’d reached the end of our half-mile range more than once.

According to him, he’d fallen out of the sky three times and been dragged across all manner of things on the ground before he could regain his footing and try to catch up.  Getting him in the car these days was never a problem.

“Good luck to you all,” Austin called as we left.

I gave him a little wave before the door shut behind us.

 

Chapter Four

 Zoe’s house turned out to be nothing more than a fancy-looking home with nothing in it.  We didn’t find so much as a scrap of paper lying around and no furniture.  The sensor compound was a little more revealing.

It took us about an hour to find it.  We’d had to travel east from Spokane until we reached Coeur d’Alene.  From there we headed south for a while, missing the turn for the dirt road we needed to take—twice.  In our defense, it was dark and there were a lot of trees obscuring the entrance.

Once we did find it, it took another five minutes traveling along a bumpy road until the compound came into sight.  A high chain-link fence surrounded the place with concertina wire coiled across the top.  The gate was wide open with a broken padlock hanging from the side.

We drove past it and pulled up to the main building.  Corrugated metal lined the walls and it was about the size of a small warehouse.  It sat in quiet darkness.  I grabbed the flashlight I’d picked up when we’d stopped by the hotel to change clothes along the way.  Switching it on, I followed Lucas and Kerbasi inside.

Several long, buffet-style tables sat on one side of the room with metal folding chairs alongside them.  On the other end was an open kitchen with stainless steel appliances large enough to cook for a small army.

I searched through the cabinets and drawers, finding plenty of cooking utensils and pots and pans but no sign of food.  The freezers were empty and unplugged as well.  If the trace of dust was anything to go by, no one had been here for a while.  We headed back outside.

“I’ll search these,” Lucas said, pointing at a grouping of buildings.  “You can check those two.”

His selection was several small homes with white siding and untended flower beds out front.  Mine were more like wooden bunkhouses.

“What shall I search?” Kerbasi asked.  He wasn’t invisible anymore.

Lucas grunted and walked away.

“Search for inner peace and stay out of my way,” I said, brushing past him.

“Your humor eludes me.”

Ignoring him, I went into the first bunkhouse and climbed a short set of steps to enter.  It was set up a lot like military barracks with bunk beds and wall lockers in neat rows across each side of the room.  No personal items had been left behind.  Even the mattresses had been stripped of their covers.

I headed across the room and passed through a doorway into a latrine.  Urinals, toilets, and sinks were on the left and a large open shower on the right.  Other than the same light layer of dust I’d seen in the previous building, it was totally bare.

Kerbasi was poking around the other bunkhouse when I entered it.  The layout for this one was very different.  There were four separate rooms with two beds in each.  They had the same wall lockers as the other building, but they also had vanity tables with mirrors.  One room had a baby crib.

I cringed at the sight of it.  Jerome—my father—had kidnapped me last year and threatened to bring me to his compound.  He’d insisted it was my duty to help propagate the sensor race.

We’d only just met and he’d already begun planning how to use me for his own ambitions.  I was to be handed over to his men and impregnated as soon as they could confirm Lucas hadn’t already done the job.  Nephilim were cursed to never have children, but they could circumvent that with sensors.

That was what galled Jerome the most.  I’d chosen a supernatural over my own kind.  It didn’t matter that he had allied with a female nephilim since he wasn’t sleeping with her.  I, on the other hand, had chosen to defile myself with the enemy.  If Lucas hadn’t rescued me I would have ended up in this place and might have already had a baby against my will, with a man of Jerome’s choosing.

My chest tightened at the memories of that brief time with my “father”.  He’d kept me tied to a bed and drugged for days.  I’d lain there helpless and incoherent for most of it except when he wanted to tell me about the horrible things he had planned for me.  All my dreams of finding a loving and regretful father were lost.  I’d never expected him to be cruel and sadistic—or to find out he’d killed my mother for hiding me from him.

I clutched at the rails of the baby crib and saw a rattle had been left in the corner.  It symbolized so many worries in my mind I was afraid to touch it.  Turning my flashlight, I caught sight of a rocking chair in the corner.  My stomach lurched.  Could I have been born in this place?  Had my mother stood in this very room twenty-eight years ago, holding me close and plotting how to get me far away?  What would she think of me now?

I rushed out of the bunk house, brushing past Kerbasi in the hallway, and leaped down the steps to get outside.  My lungs seized up.  It took several tries before I could get air into them again.  This place—it represented every dark thought I’d ever had since meeting my father.

The night sky twinkled down at me.  If I just kept my gaze directed at it for a few minutes then maybe I could get through this.  I hadn’t thought visiting the compound would bother me so much, but now that I was here I just wanted to leave.

Warm arms enveloped me and a hard chest pressed against my back.

“He can’t hurt you anymore,” Lucas said softly in my ear.

He’d known just the thing to say.

“I know.”

He turned me in his arms and kissed me gently on my forehead.  I tilted my chin up and our gazes met.  It was during times like these that I found it hard to believe we’d once hated each other.  Already I could feel my anxiety melting away and he’d barely said a word.

It was through our suffering that we most often found common ground.  Some people think love is a weakness, but if it’s returned in equal measure it can make you twice as strong.

“Find anything?” I asked.

“No.  There are several outbuildings as well.”  He turned me so I could see where he pointed.  “But it appears they are just for storage.”

“This is where they kept the women.”  I nodded at the bunkhouse behind him.  “But there’s nothing other than furniture left in there now.  The other building was empty too.”

“I called one of my contacts.  Ownership of the land hasn’t changed in almost fifty years and it isn’t for sale now.  It’s still theirs.”

I pulled away from him.  “They plan to come back once things calm down.”

“Perhaps.”

“When I find my father…” I began.

“I’ll hold him down for you,” Lucas finished.

***

We barely made it to the airport on time.  Between driving back from the compound and stopping by the hotel to grab our stuff we’d cut it close.  Lucas had also insisted on buying me breakfast along the way.  He’d only wanted a cup of coffee for himself, but I suspected the real point was to give us a few more minutes together.  Not that he’d ever come out and say it.

Now I was holding the plane tickets in my hand, looking up at Lucas’ stoic face.  Whatever emotions he was feeling, he’d hidden them somewhere even my empathic abilities couldn’t reach.  He had to continue searching for his brother and I had to resume my life in Fairbanks.  We both had responsibilities and no way to make them mesh together yet.

“There is something you should know before you go.”

I lifted my brow.  “What?”

“Nik is having trouble with Derrick.  I’m aware you consider the werewolf a friend—though I know not why—but you need to look at him objectively.”

“He’s just angry at us for not letting him see Zoe.”  I crossed my arms.  “He’ll get over it eventually.”

Derrick, the alpha werewolf for Fairbanks, was justifiably upset.  Zoe had orchestrated the murder of his family and he wanted revenge.  But she was too powerful for him to fight and she had secrets that could hurt him if he found out.  Ones I’d only told a few people.  We were keeping him away from her for his own protection, but it was hard to convince him of that.

“It’s worse than you think.”  Lucas gave me a stern look.  “Talk to Nik when you return and listen to what he has to say.”

How much trouble had Derrick been causing?  I hadn’t heard anything since he’d stopped talking to me, but if there’d been something serious I would have caught it.

“Fine.  I will,” I reassured him.

His shoulders relaxed a fraction.  “Good.  I’d prefer you resolve this situation before we leave for New Orleans on Friday.”

The ball.  It was looming over my head like an executioner’s blade and not something I looked forward to.  Lucas thought it was important we go and let all the significant people in the supernatural world see us together.  They say relationships are all about compromise, but they didn’t have to attend a ball filled with their enemies.  All the assurances in the world weren’t going to make me feel any better about it.

“I’ve got my dress ready and I’ll handle the Derrick situation,” I promised, giving him my best fake smile.

Lucas pulled me close and held me tight.  “Take care of yourself, Melena.”

After one last lingering look, he walked away.  He’d probably flash back to Chicago as soon as he was out of sight.  I hated to watch him go again, but Micah came first.  He had to find his brother or we’d never rest.

“Ready for another plane ride?” I asked Kerbasi.

The fearful expression on his face said it all.

***

The guardian managed to make the hour-long flight to Seattle without losing his breakfast, but we still had the longer trip up to Anchorage and the final one to Fairbanks.  Those would be the real test.  The guardian was already looking green and it was still an hour before we would board the plane.

I handed him my iPad.  “Finish watching Ghost.  I’m going to the restroom.”

He gave me an irritated look before taking the tablet from me.  I grabbed the headphones and shoved them into his ears.

“Don’t mute the volume or turn it down, either.  You’re writing a report on this tonight and if it isn’t good I’ll make you watch the movie again.”

It wouldn’t be the first time I’d caught him zoning out and not listening.  It was my job to teach him humanity, but for someone who wouldn’t be free of me until he became a better person, he sure didn’t try all that hard.  I suspected he was still in the denial stage about the whole situation.

“Very well, but I don’t understand that man.”  Kerbasi frowned.  “His sacrifice would have allowed him to go straight to heaven.  Why linger on earth for some silly woman?”

He honestly didn’t get it.  I had a really long way to go before I ever got rid of him.

“Just watch the rest of the movie.  You can tell me all your thoughts about it when you write your report.”

I made my way over to the restrooms.  Not many women were in there, allowing me to get into a stall right away.  After finishing, I came back out and headed toward the sinks. A brilliant flash of light lit up the room, bringing me to a halt.  This one was much brighter than what any nephilim could produce, but not unfamiliar.

Was she really going to show up here?  Now?

Two elderly ladies standing at the counter continued checking over their make-up.  They showed no sign that a beautiful brunette emerging behind them might be odd.  It was just as well.  It probably would have given them heart attacks if they’d known an archangel stood that close to them.  The first time she’d flashed in front of me I’d felt my heart climb into my throat and was fairly certain it would have run away if I’d let it.

“Leave now,” my visitor ordered the two ladies.

Another woman came out of a stall and didn’t even get the command, just a look.  All three of them walked woodenly as they exited the bathroom.  A spell went up after the door shut, ensuring anyone else who wanted to come inside would change their minds.

No one else was left except me.  I was trying really hard to feel special about that, but the archangel’s arrival left my stomach feeling queasy.  I didn’t like being caught off-guard like this.

“Ariel.” I cocked my head.  “Is there some sort of plumbing problem in heaven I should know about?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.  We don’t need…”  She waved a hand at the stalls.  “Toilets.”

Of course they didn’t.  I studied the slender archangel.  She wore her usual flowing white robe and her hair hung loosely to her waist.  Though she kept her face expressionless, I could sense tenseness in her mood.  Could she actually be nervous?

“So what are you doing here?” I asked.

She clasped her hands together.  “I’ve come to speak with you about something urgent.”

“I gathered as much.”  If only she could get to the point.

“I admit the location is less than ideal.” She sighed.  “But it is difficult to catch you away from the others and the news I have must be told in private.”

I supposed it could have been worse—she could have waited until I was home alone in the shower.

“Okay, what is it?”

“There is someone who needs to speak with you, but first you must give me your word that you will tell no one you’ve met with him—especially not Lucas.”

“Who is it?” I asked.

“I cannot tell you until you give me your oath.”  She held her arm out toward me.  “And you must take my hand when you say it.”

I stared at her open palm.  “Why do I have to do that?”

“It will seal your oath and prevent you from breaking it.  Only those authorized to know of this visit will be able to bypass it.”

“Another one of those tricks you’re able to use on me because you’re my guardian angel?” I asked.  She was the only one of her kind who could circumvent my immunity to magic.

She nodded.  “It is necessary.”

“Whoever you want me to meet isn’t going to make Lucas happy, are they?”

“Lucas is only out of Purgatory because I helped you,” she pointed out.  “Now I must ask for your assistance in return.”

She had me there.  I owed her for telling me where the portal was located and for interceding for us after I got him out.  Lucas and I could have been returned to Purgatory and confined there for decades as punishment.  Helping Kerbasi find his humanity was actually light punishment in comparison.

“Fine.”  I took hold of her hand.  “I swear I won’t tell anyone.”

Somehow I suspected this would come back to haunt me, but what else could I do?  She was my guardian angel.  She wouldn’t do anything to purposely hurt me.

She grasped my palm and heat surged into it.  It almost felt like a burning sensation, but the pain wasn’t unbearable.  She kept her grip tight and didn’t let go of my hand until it passed.

“Thank you,” she said.

I checked over my hand.  There wasn’t a visible mark and it didn’t hurt anymore.  I detected a trace of residual magic under the skin, but nothing another sensor would pick up—unless I activated it by trying to break the oath.  That much of the details had come to me while she was sealing it.  She’d thought of everything when she’d designed the spell.

“Now tell me who you want me to meet,” I demanded, looking up at her.

Ariel closed her eyes.  I could sense her using some sort of telepathic means of communication.  A flash of light appeared a moment later.  It was dimmer than hers had been, but the person who arrived was far more shocking than anyone I’d expected.

My jaw dropped.  An almost exact replica of Lucas stood before me.  Even his supernatural signature was the same to my senses.  It was only his longer hair gave him away.

“Micah,” I gasped.

“It is good to see you again, sensor.”

 ____________________________________________________________

I’m having a giveaway for Darkness Clashes bookmarks that runs until September 10th, 2014.  Three random individuals will also win a bonus prize of a series tote bag, notebook, and fridge magnet which will be sent around the time of the book release (winners will be announced then as well).  This is open to international contestants.

The only thing you have to do to enter is sign up for an email alert that will inform you when new sensor series books release, including Darkness Clashes, and provide a mailing address so I can send the bookmark/prize to you.

Just fill out the contact form here and put in the message/subject line:  “Bookmark Giveaway

If you mention which retailer/country site you use it will help me know which links to include.  Your email will not be shared with anyone or used for any purpose except book releases and/or if I start a newsletter I’ll send one message giving you the option to sign up.

If you’d like the email alert for new releases, but don’t want the bookmarks/prizes (or you’re seeing this post after September 10th) that’s okay.  You can still send me a message with the following in the subject line:  “Book release alert

All you need to let me know in that case is which retailer you use.  If at any time you no longer wish to receive the alert then all you have to do is message me and I’ll remove you from the list.

Hope you all enjoyed the excerpt from Darkness Clashes and that you have a great week!

2 thoughts on “Excerpt from Darkness Clashes and giveaway

  1. Yay!! Finally close to release!! I love this series … And I must say, this is the only series I’ve kept track of and continually checked for updates. Just wanted to say great books, great series and PLEASE keep writing! 😀

  2. Pingback: Darkness Clashes is now available! - Darkness Haunts

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