At just after one o’clock in the morning, her water broke, drenching the bed sheets beneath her and sending her gasping into full awareness. “Lucas!”
The werewolf beside her was awake and out of bed before she’d even told him what was happening. No doubt he knew. He always knew. He moved around the bed with incredible speed, grabbing jackets, blankets, and cell phones before he was back beside her with a beautiful, yearning-filled determination in his dark eyes. The muscles of his tall, strong body rippled in the pale light coming through the curtained windows, and Danny experienced a selfish, needful emotion. She couldn’t wait until she was sturdy and strong enough that he could hold her up against the wall and ravage her the way he did before he’d knocked her up.
“I’ve got you, baby,” he said, helping her out of the bed and then lovingly draping her sweater and jacket over her. It wasn’t exactly cold outside, but May in Trinidad, California wasn’t exactly warm either, and Lucas wasn’t known for taking chances when it came to his wife.
Oh God, she thought, as her swollen arms barely made it through the sleeves of the jacket. She was enormous. Every move she made ached a little, and the scale had been her worst enemy for weeks, but she’d been wary about using magic to ease the pain and discomfort since she just wasn’t certain what would have an effect on the children and what wouldn’t. Lalura had been by her side for the majority of the pregnancy, and she never failed to help with her tea and tinctures, but when it came down to it, becoming a mother was a messy, painful process no matter how you rolled the dice.
To make matters worse, there was a vast and hellish difference between carrying one child and carrying two. The twins had turned her into a beached whale within the course of three short months. She wasn’t at all surprised that she was going into labor a month early. If she didn’t get these babies out of her soon, her skin would split open.
“I can’t wait until this is over,” she said, grimacing as a contraction hit out of nowhere, forcing her to a stop in her dripping tracks and bringing her teeth gnashing together. “Son of a bitch,” she growled.
The contraction rolled through her like a tsunami, drowning all conscious thought in the red pulse that was pain. Lucas held her as she closed her eyes against it, and she used his hand as a squeeze-toy. She was a werewolf, so his bones consequently cracked under the pressure. But he was a werewolf too, so he said nothing, did nothing, and simply let her hold him as she rode it out.
The sound of a horn suddenly split the night, and all wicked, horrible thought fled from his mind. The horn was long and low and raised chills across his dark skin. It was an omen, a promise, an evil cry of deadly purpose.
Across from him, suspended in the air by her own glorious wings, Raven’s expression changed. Her eyes widened, her lips parted, and the anger fled from her features. She instinctively knew. She’d never heard the horn before in her short life – but she knew. Maybe it was her Chosen soul and the many lives it had lived in the past. Or maybe it was the inherent wrongness of this particular horn and what it meant. Regardless, Raven’s expression now mirrored his own. She was terrified.
He had to get her out of there.
The horn blew again, and Raven tried to cover her ears. It wouldn’t work; he knew that. Nothing could withstand the sound of the Horned One’s warning cry.
The Hunt had begun. Lord Oberon and his hounds would take everything in their path, human and non-human alike. All who heard the horn would be faced with a terrible choice: either join the Hunt – or become its prey. As the son of Asmodeus, he possessed a touch of immunity that others wouldn’t have, but even he would fall to the power of the Hunt eventually.
As would Raven.
We’re already lost, he thought. His only hope was to transport them somewhere. But he’d just killed three Rakshin and several of Malphas’s personal guard. He had the strength to open a portal but wasn’t certain he could direct it properly. Portal magic was finicky and wild. It was hard to control. There were a few gods who could do it unendingly without error, and a few magical items, such as a fragment from a unicorn’s horn, that could ensure proper transportation no matter what the state of their users – but Drake was neither a god, nor did he have any of these items on him.
Just as Drake was deciding it was worth the risk anyway, that anywhere would be better than here at that moment, Raven turned from him, raised her arms, and spoke a powerful word.
A beam of light shot from her outturned hands, and a portal began to swirl to life several feet away. Drake stared at the burgeoning portal in astonishment. He’d known that Raven was strong, but this was incredible. Perhaps her time in Eidolon had caused her magic to blossom. Opening a portal took a kind of magic very few possessed. The daughter of Malphas would certainly be able to do it, but he’d expected it to take her longer to learn.
Her instincts were incredible. She was incredible.
“Drake!” she called out, her expression now unsure. She knew what she as doing, deep down inside. But she was so new at this, she was uncertain of what it meant – of where the portal lead.
She gave him a questioning side-long glance, all anger now forgotten as the horn sounded once more below them and a new, far more deadly kind of fury began to open up inside of Drake. The Hunt was getting to him. He was Abaddonian royalty, but he was a living, breathing creature all the same. He had a flash of yearning, the desire to tear flesh from bone and feed until he was sated. But he shoved it away and rushed to Raven’s side.
“What’s happening?” she asked, her body shaking. Her fangs had pierced her bottom lip; a thin trickle of blood dripped over her chin. Hunger spiked through Drake and he shut his eyes tight against it as his arms once more came around Raven’s body.
“Think about where you want to go!” he told her firmly. “Direct the portal!”
The horn sounded a final time, and the long, lonesome sound was joined by the baying of massive, black hounds. Raven tensed in Drake’s arms. No, he thought. “Let it go, Raven. Fight it.” He squeezed her tight, jerking her against him to punctuate his words.
A low, growling sound came from deep within her throat. “I’m hungry,” she said, her words like sand paper.
“Think of where you want to go!” The portal would lead nowhere if she didn’t visualize a destination. He desperately needed her to concentrate – but The Hunt was seeping into her blood. And the smell of her blood was quickly having the same effect on him. His pulse was increasing at a rapid rate. His chest felt tight, his guts were twisting, and blood was rushing where it definitely did not need to rush just then. “Concentrate!” he bellowed, fighting to hear his own words over the baying of the hounds below.
“I don’t know!” Raven cried. Her eyes were shut tight against the change that was no doubt coming over her. “Anywhere! Nowhere! Just not here!”
The portal pulsed once and stopped growing, signaling that it was now ready to receive a passenger through its magic doorway.
Drake didn’t hesitate. “Go!” he yelled as he both released Raven and simultaneously shoved her toward the portal’s opening. Raven’s wings opened a touch more, instinctively catching at the wind to slow her, but Drake was relentless. He rushed forward, gave her one final push square in the back, and Raven’s lithe Abaddonian form was swallowed by the portal’s swirling magic.
Now, as he took her head in his hands and held her beneath him, he caught the clean scent of her cheap shampoo and the Dove soap she’d used on her perfect flesh. He could smell the chocolate and caramel on her breath from the Ghirardelli shop on Pier 39. Above it all, he caught the sweet, sweet scent of her blood. It was all around him, teasing him, urging him on.
The monster within him awoke and came to attention, its head rearing, its eyes glowing. With a body that nearly trembled with need and breath that was painfully bated, Azrael leaned in and claimed her lips in a kiss.
He felt the shudder wrack through her body; an instant wave of pleasure that he was helpless to keep from releasing into her. The archangel in him was slipping into the shadows; he was mostly vampire now, hungry and determined. She tasted like candy. She was warm and soft beneath his fingertips. He knew his fangs were lengthening; he didn’t care. He could feel them press threateningly against her plump lips as he parted them and took what he wanted.
Would they pierce her?
Yes, he thought desperately. He wanted them to. His body was aching; he was painfully hard now; it had taken mere seconds for him to lose so much control. He wanted to let the rest of it go. He could rip the jackets from her body – or simply wave them way with archangel magic. He wanted to see her… her long, lithe form, the sweet tenderness of her milky flesh. She would shiver and melt into him and he could take her here and now.
Would Uro attempt to stop him? Try to save her?
No, he thought. When a vampire took a female victim, the act was pure eroticism. Other vampires became entranced at the sight, instantly aroused. It was why Az had never fed from a female – not in two thousand years. He could not bring himself to get that close to anyone who wasn’t his archess.
But now here she was, caught in his embrace, and his teeth were showing. If anything, Azrael could have invited Uro to join him.
He almost chuckled at the thought. It was his soul mate’s fantasy, was it not? His archangel was nearly dead as he smiled against her lips and felt the tip of one of his fangs prick at her tender flesh. He was all vampire now, wicked and sinful. Any thoughts of waiting, of taking it slow for her sake, were faint whispers and distant memories.
Give in to me. It was an unnecessary command; physically his little angel had all but surrendered. She was an archess, but her powers were as of yet undiscovered and without them, she was for all intents and purposes a mortal. She was no match for him. Not here – not now.
Even if she had been, Azrael no longer felt like playing fair.
The softest moan escaped her lips, vibrating gently against Az and then rushing through his system like gasoline on a fire. The flames of his desire roared to leaping life and before he knew fully what he was doing, his hand was fisting in her flaxen hair.
He broke the kiss as gently as he could and the night was filled with the sound of harsh, ragged breaths. Whether they were hers or his or both, he could no longer tell. He was composed of want in that moment; dictated by need.
He opened his eyes to find the world in stark contrast; his eyes were no doubt glowing like double suns. His fangs were pronounced, and he imagined his pallor was just a touch too pale against the raven black of his long hair. The king of the vampires pulled his mate’s hair to the side and leaned in. There was no going back now.
Katherine closed her eyes and slowly breathed in through her nose. The air was choked with smoke and what she could only assume was magic, but she’d had a lot of practice staying calm in the worst kinds of situations. Somehow she managed a semi-deep breath of halfway decent oxygen and let it out through her mouth. Get a grip, she told herself. You can do this. This is what you’ve been waiting for.
She opened her eyes again and gazed across the clearing at the man who had been a wolf only a few seconds ago. He was alone where he slowly moved into the clearing; his frame was tall and very obviously strong. Kat took in the broad scope of his chest, his sculpted shoulders, trim waist and long legs. She caught the reflection of the moon on his jet black hair and it shimmered, promising a softness to the touch, like satin.
The man made it to the center of the clearing, and Kat forced herself into stillness. He was close enough now that if she made a sound, she knew his super human senses would pick up on it.
He moved in a slow circle, his head up, his storm gray eyes clearly visible – clearly glowing – in the otherwise monochromatic dim of the smoky night. Each movement was the epitome of grace and strength, each breath was controlled and perfect. He’s beautiful, she thought without realizing it. And then she stiffened under the weight of her observation.
Her gaze narrowed, indigo turning to ice. He’s beautiful. Your father’s killer is supernaturally beautiful because he’s supernaturally evil and he kills people with supernatural apathy.
The reminder was harsh and stronger than strictly necessary. But it did the trick. The werewolf’s appearance took a back seat to her mission and Kat straightened, pulled the gun from the holster beneath her leather jacket, and took aim.
As she did so, she made the slightest of sounds; a mere brushing of skin upon leather. Apparently it was enough. The werewolf across the clearing froze and cocked his head to one side. Just as Kat pulled the trigger, the wolf dropped; there was a quick, blinding flash of light and Kat knew that her aim had been off this time.
The wolf was fast. He was much faster than any other wolf she had gone up against. This realization coursed through her even while she was backing up and blocking the light from her eyes to take aim once more. Based on experience, she knew that when she unshielded her eyes, it would be to find the wolf loping toward her at full speed. It was always the same. If they attacked from a distance, they attempted to close that distance as quickly as possible. If they attacked close up – well, she had always been fortunate enough to able to pull the trigger before they could rip her to shreds.
Katherine lowered her arm and tightened her grip around her weapon.
The wolf was gone.
Kat spun, an instinctive premonition guiding her movements. And then she froze once more. The wolf had become a man again. He stood calm and easy less than ten feet away, his arms at his sides, his glowing, thunder-head gaze slicing through the darkness to pin her to the spot. The sight of him there, so close now, instantly jarred Katherine’s senses. Her hand felt strange around her gun and her breath hitched. She had never seen a more beautiful creature than the one who stood before her now. Up close, she could make out the strong lines of his chin and nose and the perfect slope of his neck and shoulder where his jet black hair curled against his collar. A five-o’-clock shadow darkened his visage, making him appear dangerously swarthy. His face was like a Roman sculpture – but it was his eyes that tore at Katherine’s heart.
She recalled them now. She remembered what she’d felt when she’d looked into them twenty years ago. She had been scared and numb and confused and in awe. And they’d looked at her then just as they were looking at her now. It brought her up short. Her finger hesitated on the trigger. Her hand began to tremble.
There was no hatred in his look. There was no malice. There was only what appeared to be shock, genuine and deep – and some other, less instantly recognizable emotion that Kat could not readily identify. She would know those eyes anywhere; this was indeed the man who had stood over her father’s murdered body. But if she had learned anything at all under the tutelage of people who killed for a living, it was that the werewolf appeared in that moment to be anything but a cold blooded killer.
It’s a trick, her mind told her. He’s a demon. No matter what his kind called themselves, no matter how beautiful he happened to be, he was evil and he deserved to die. Their nefarious species purportedly possessed members who were not only supernaturally fast and strong, as all werewolves were, but could manipulate things around them: weather, electricity, even peoples’ minds and willpower. Any hesitation on Kat’s part was most likely the direct fault of the demon, who might very well be in her head in that moment. And it would only get her killed.
Pull the trigger.
There is a fleeting moment that exists for every individual just before they do something truly life altering. It’s that flash of insight and sanity that stalls your heartbeat and blood flow – a quick warning – just before you explode and make a fool of yourself. Or that incredibly brief instant of clarity you have before you floor the gas pedal and run the red light. It’s a split second of self admonishment in which you realize that what you’re about to do is wrong, but just as quickly choose to ignore that realization and do it anyway. It’s too fast to catch, too bright to see, utterly gone even before you’ve blinked and therefore, it does a person absolutely no good at all. And yet, there it is.
It’s what Katherine experienced just before her finger pressed in on the trigger of her specialized weapon a second time, and she found herself closing her eyes.
It took only a fraction of the time to pull the trigger as it did for her to realize that nothing happened when she did. A stark silence greeted her and her eyes flew open once more. The man with the glowing gray eyes was still standing ten feet away and still watching her, but her gun arm was trembling. The gun hadn’t gone off.
Jammed? she thought, knowing even as she thought it that it was impossible. These particular guns didn’t jam. They were electric. She’d never before heard of one failing a Hunter.
She swallowed; an odd reflex in a body more nervous than it had ever been. The swallow caught half way on a slim throat that had gone painfully dry. She managed to keep from coughing, but her eyes watered where they remained locked on the enigmatic fallen angel of a man several feet away.
The wolf – the man – considered her carefully and then, with that same grace that seemed to spell some kind of perfection, he took a step toward her. Kat’s eyes widened and she hurriedly retreated a step.
What the hell? That wasn’t right. She had never shied away from a fight before. She’d never backed down from a demon. Something was horribly wrong with her.
Kat tried to square her shoulders, but she could hear her breath now and she was stunned to find that it shook. She was trembling. This wasn’t her. This wasn’t how she’d been trained to deal with a werewolf – a demon. She was not herself. This was all going terribly wrong.
“Why are you afraid of me, little one?” the wolf asked. His voice was unlike any she’d ever heard, deep and rumbling and velvet. Katherine nearly gasped beneath the weight of it; it felt like a blanket draping itself over her, warm and comfortable and laced with will-sapping weakness.
No! Katherine shook herself. He’s using his power on me, she told herself fiercely. Some werewolves could do that. Others had to kiss their victims, but she’d heard tales of demons who could force a human into submission with no more than a glance. Surely, a voice could do similar damage.
It had to be that. Because it sure as shit wasn’t that she simply liked the way he sounded.
The man took another step toward her…..
Getting past security had been a breeze in his new vampire body. Despite the hotel’s lavish décor and plethora of guards, Uriel had made it to the top floor of the high rise hotel with no problems and without being seen.
Even with the gold band around his wrist, he could smell her as if he’d bent to inhale the scent of her hair. Lavender. He could time the beats of the pulse in her throat. And he could imagine what it looked like… inviting and tinted slightly blue beneath the taut porcelain of her flesh.
He lowered his hand and closed his eyes. Azrael was right. He was a hunter now; it was a part of him. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
And then she sighed softly and it sounded so sad, so lonely, his eyes flew open once more, his heart at once aching. The call of that loneliness hardened his resolve and he raised his hand and knocked.
He could hear her pulse jump, her heart racing, forcing the blood to rush rampantly through her veins. He smiled a slow smile, unable to help himself. That blood was as much a call to him as anything else. He wasn’t surprised when she stopped moving and didn’t answer the knock. She was being careful. But he was being persistent.
He knocked again and his smile broadened. “Knock, knock,” he added, at once giving himself away. He was pleased to hear that her heartbeat kicked up another notch. “Let me in?” he requested softly. Then, in a slightly deeper tone filled with amusement, he added, “I won’t bite.” It was what he had said to her outside of her apartment several days ago. It held a lot more meaning now.
He heard her moving then, quickly making her way to the door. She obviously peered at him through the peephole. “That was a lot funnier and a lot less meaningful the first time you said it,” she told him, mirroring his thoughts.
He chuckled, his body thrumming to life at the simple sound of her voice and the hopeful fact that she was teasing him. But she made no move to open the door. He shifted from one foot to the other and considered his options. He could always break the door down.
Vampires didn’t actually need any kind of invitation to enter a dwelling as myth would have people believe. And even without the magic that the bracelet held in check, his vampire body would be through the door and on the other side in the blink of an eye.
But getting into the room wasn’t the goal here. Getting into Eleanore’s heart was. He tried another tactic and wiped the smile from his face. “You may as well at least open the door, Ellie,” he told her, his tone calm and reasonable. “Think about it. If I truly posed a threat to you, would a door stop me?”
She was quiet, hopefully mulling his words over. After a few long seconds, she softly admitted, “Probably not.”
Again, he smiled, but he ducked his head so that she couldn’t see it through the peephole. It was important in that moment for him to keep the sheep suit on a little longer. Several more tense seconds passed and then Uriel heard the chain in the lock. A latch was thrown and the handle turned and Uriel looked up to find himself staring into a pair of wary indigo eyes.
A chord of shock vibrated through him. So beautiful, he thought. Was it always going to be like this? Would he be stunned by her every time he laid eyes on her?
She slowly opened the door wide and gazed out at him, her bottom lip caught tight between two rows of perfect white teeth. He glanced at the pouty pink flesh, captured so tight, and thought about how it would feel trapped within his own teeth. The image made him ache and his muscles flexed of their own accord. He was lost for a while in his constant, returning desire for her, and it momentarily threw him for words.
Her perfect brow furrowed and her gaze narrowed.
Uriel realized he’d been lost and quickly pulled himself together. He felt thorns in his left hand and remembered the roses. He cleared his throat. “Truce?” he asked as he tentatively held them out for her.
Eleanore looked down at the roses and contemplated them in silence. Then, slowly, she took them from him and brought them to her nose. She inhaled and her lovely face unwound into an easy, natural smile. Uriel couldn’t use the vampire ability he’d gained to read her mind while he wore the bracelet, but he didn’t need to. He could see her thoughts written clearly in her expression. She loved the roses.
“I wanted to get you lavender,” he told her. “I know you like it.” Her hair always smelled like lavender, tempting and clean. He caught a hint of it now, in fact, and it made him yearn to run his hands through her silky strands and bury his face in it. She looked up at him expectantly, her eyes shining brightly. Again he cleared his throat, his body aching for her as it never had. “But no one in Vegas sells it,” he continued. “So I went with something that smells almost as sweet.”
Her smile broadened and she ducked her head. “I love them,” she said quietly. “They’re beautiful.” She gazed down at them a moment more and then seemed to catch herself. She straightened, her smile faded and she struck him with a suddenly guarded expression. “But I still want to know how you found me,” she told him. “And….” She paused, looked at the floor, toed the door frame in the carpet, and looked up at him once more. “And I want to know what you want from me.”
What I want…. Uriel could have growled with the hunger he felt when he thought about what he wanted from her. If she had the slightest idea, she would slam the door shut and bolt it. And then call the Marines.
Instead, he concentrated on forcing the fangs that had erupted in his mouth to shrink once more. And he shoved his hands into his pockets to keep them busy. “The truth is, I had no idea you would be in Vegas tonight,” he said. “I woke up and had to… eat.” He glanced at her nervously and then quickly averted his gaze. “Azrael brought me here.”
“Then-” she broke off, and he looked up to study her face. He could almost see the wheels spinning in her head. “Azrael knew I was here, didn’t he?”
Uriel nodded. There was no point in denying it. “Did Samael hurt you?” he asked then, surprised by his own question. It must have been burning in the back of his brain for him to suddenly blurt it out. But he found that even as he focused on the subject, his blood felt colder in his veins. His eyes felt hotter and his teeth throbbed in his gums.
Eleanore looked up at him in sudden silence, her own dark blue eyes widening slightly. He was tempted, then and there, to yank the band off of his wrists so that he could read her thoughts. There was fear in her eyes. And something else.
But she swallowed hard; he could hear it pushing past her tight throat, and she shook her head. “No,” she said. “He didn’t hurt me.”
He didn’t believe her. Not for a second. There was something she wasn’t telling him. But there were no markings on her body that he could see and he would know if she were in pain; he would be able to smell the cortisol and adrenaline flooding her system.
All he could smell right now was the lavender in her hair, the cinnamon on her tongue and the heady scent of roses. He cocked his head to one side and leveled her with his jade green eyes on her once more.
She fidgeted and captured a lock of her hair between her fingers in nervous agitation. “Uriel, can you read my mind now?” she asked. “I mean, now that you’re a vampire?”
He smiled and shook his head, holding up his wrist. “Not with this on.”
She glanced at the bracelet and he saw the memories flood her features. She was still angry about what had happened at the mansion. “I’m sorry, Ellie,” he told her honestly. “Max suggested I keep it with me.” He’d taken the bracelet as a precaution, but when it came down to it, he knew in his heart that he had hesitated in using it because he would never be able to force Eleanore to do anything against her will. “I never would have used it on you,” he admitted. He prayed that she could see the urgency in his eyes. “I hope you believe me.”
She studied him closely and he found himself unaccountably nervous under the scrutiny. Finally, she wiped her palms on her jeans and nodded. “I believe you.”
Relief flooded him, fueling his courage. “May I come in, Ellie?”
She swallowed hard again. “I don’t know,” she said. “If I let you in, can you control yourself?”
“Yes,” he said, holding up his wrist once more. The gold band gleamed under the hall lights. “And I’m properly collared.”
She smiled at that, her beautiful face cracking a true grin. His stomach fluttered, his muscles tensed, and his heart melted. “Alright,” she said, stepping back out of the way. “You can come in.”
Excerpt from “Always Angel,” (by Heather Killough-Walden,) the Lost Angels series promotional novella due for release to ebook format only, October, 2011….
Angel gazed longingly at the night sky and then turned away from the window to continue toward the bathroom. But as she passed the full-length mirror beside her dresser, she stopped. Slowly, she turned to face the looking glass, the expression on her face troubled.
There was something decidedly different-looking about her tonight.
Over the years, Angel had taken on many different guises. It was one of her more potent abilities to be capable of changing certain attributes of her appearance. Her hair, her skin, and her eyes were malleable. If she wanted, she could have short hair, blond hair, black hair, long hair, curly hair, red hair – any hair. She could possess green eyes, gold eyes, blue eyes, brown eyes, violet eyes or a mixture of any colors she chose. Her skin was dark some days and light others and, depending upon where she was, she blended into her surroundings like any local. Hiding.
Always hiding. She was good at that. It was essential. Angel never allowed her real hair, eyes and skin to take hold. Those, she kept secret, stashed away in the veritable closet of the masks she wore day in and day out.
Tonight, she wore the skin and hair of an African American woman. Her amber eyes were stark in the lovely frame of her perfect face. Her bone structure, height, and body type always remained the same. She couldn’t have changed them if she’d wanted to. She would forever be tall and slim and strong. Luckily, most people never saw past color when attempting to identify someone.
However, tonight, Angel could swear there was something beyond the basic – beneath the surface – that had been altered. She gazed at her reflection, frowned, and then blinked. There was almost a… glow about her.
“Oh no,” she whispered, a new kind of fear blooming within her.
Angel had never been under any misconceptions about her looks. She was well aware that she was what many would consider almost impossibly beautiful. Her appearance was otherworldly. It always had been. She was not of this world, so that made sense. But, she’d managed to keep it under wraps, for the most part, through either her ability to change her secondary traits – or her through her stealth. She kept to the shadows, wore hooded jackets and sweat shirts, and stayed out of the way until her powers were needed.
Now, however…. “Crap,” she muttered.
“You know you shine like a beacon,” came a deep voice behind her.
Angel froze. Her amber eyes cut to the figure in the mirror. He was standing on her window ledge. Despite the clear view of the window her mirror’s reflection afforded, she hadn’t seen him approach. She hadn’t heard him or even felt him arrive.
It had been a very, very long time since someone had managed to sneak up on her like this. In fact, it had been thousands of years.
And it was the same man.
“Hesperos,” she whispered, nearly out of breath with the shock of him. Memory was a strange thing. Most people couldn’t recall what they’d had for lunch the day before, but they could remember events and people from decades past. It was that way for Angel now.
The man on her window ledge looked the same as he always had. His clothing had changed. Instead of the armor of a soldier of ancient Athens, he now wore black jeans, black boots, and a black leather vest over a bare chest. But his appearance was as it had always been: Tall, strong, chiseled. Perfect.
Hesperos may not have been quite as otherworldly as Samuel Lambent. No one was, and for good reason. But Hesperos was a king.
And it showed.
Maybe he won’t recognize me, she thought desperately. Her mind was spinning end over end, her heart thumping painfully in her chest. Angel was far from defenseless, even when it came to battling things not quite human. However, Hesperos was special. If it came down to a struggle, she would lose.
The last time he had seen her, she’d been sporting long red hair and hazel eyes. She’d been wearing the robes of a Celt. On the outside, she had looked nothing like she did now. Maybe, if she was lucky, he wouldn’t see past her outer shell any more than a human male would.
But even as she hoped it, she knew she was fooling herself. Hesperos was an incubus. The incubi, or “Nightmares,” as other supernatural creatures referred to them, were notorious for hunting beauty in its purest form. Outward appearance often meant little to them. They appreciated it, to be sure. But if a woman was not as lovely on the inside as she was on the outside, the incubus quickly lost interest and went elsewhere.
Nightmares could easily tell what rested in a woman’s heart. Despite the fact that Angel had become very good at hiding her true nature over the decades, Hesperos was the Nightmare king. Two thousand years ago, he had nearly managed the tiniest peek at her real form. And now? If anyone could see her, or at least glimpse her, as she truly was, it would be him. Well… him and Samuel Lambent, anyway.
Very slowly, Angel turned from the mirror, her fingers clasping the thin spaghetti strap of her slip where she’d been about to let it fall off of her shoulder. It was her last remaining vestige of clothing. It was all that remained between herself and the literal lord and master of the sexiest men on the planet.
Hesperos watched her from where he stood on the ledge, framed by the light of the moon and her slowly swaying curtains. His raven black hair was shot through with streaks of blue beneath the illumination. He bore an intriguing black symbol of a tattoo on the left side of his neck, and another across the swell of his right bicep. A third peeked from beneath the leather edge of his vest. To most people, they simply appeared to be tattoos, “manly” perhaps, intricate and well drawn. However, to Angel, they were symbols of his power, his status, and a reminder of the fact that he was king.
After a few moments, he stepped down from the ledge and the moonlight struck the steel of his eyes. It had always been his eyes that turned Angel’s head the most and weakened her to the point of danger. They were a mixture of green and gray that she had never seen on anyone else. They looked like jade shot through with metal, and their powers of perception were incredible.
Nothing escaped Hesperos. That was perhaps what scared her the most.
She swallowed hard now and watched with a wariness she hadn’t felt in centuries as the incubus king moved from the window, his boots sounding loud in the hollow silence between them. It wasn’t that Hesperos was a bad man. He never hurt women – not that he would ever need to – and he never let his seed impregnate anyone as did the majority of the incubi. Compared to his minions, the Nightmare King was a teddy bear in those regards.
But he hadn’t gotten to be king by accident.
Hesperos possessed a great deal of power. In fact, Angel was a little surprised that he hadn’t yet attempted to subjugate her mind in order to make this easier for himself. It wasn’t that he necessarily needed to be able to control the minds of his victims to get what he wanted. Most women melted at a single glance from him. But he wasn’t stupid. He never left anything to chance. Another reason he was king.
The fact that he hadn’t tried to infiltrate her thoughts only fortified Angel’s fear that he knew damn well she was something more than human. He wouldn’t bother to try taking her over until he knew what he was dealing with. He was sizing up his prey. A good hunter did whatever was necessary to keep the claw and bite wounds to a minimum.
Hesperos continued to watch her as he moved through her room, a shark making slow circles around his dinner. His expression was a wickedly handsome mixture of curiosity, caution and determination. “Oh, little beauty,” he said, his voice raising goose bumps of anticipation across her skin. “What are you, I wonder?”
Angel said nothing, but her heart’s quick pace was surely giving her away. He doesn’t know, she told herself firmly. He doesn’t remember, so don’t tip him off. Be strong.
“You smell like rain,” he said, “freshly fallen.”
There’s a reason for that, she thought sarcastically. Hopelessly.
“You seem familiar to me,” he said next.
Angel’s breath caught. She felt her eyes widen just a little. Stupid, she scolded herself. She was out of practice, it would seem. Hesperos was sure to notice slip ups like this.
The king stopped at the center of her room and cocked his head to one side, narrowing his gaze on her thoughtfully. In that moment, he reminded her of the calculating Greek soldier he’d once been as he’d gone slumming among the mortals out of sheer boredom. He’d been a veritable god of war, pulling back from the role only when he’d realized that if he’d wanted to, he could have slaughtered the entire human population. That wasn’t him. Hesperos wasn’t a killer.
But he looked like one now. Machiavellian. Cunning…. Bad.
Without speaking, the Nightmare King took a step toward her. Angel thought fast, steeling her nerves. She raised her chin, and with a slight twist of her wrist, she finally let the slip that she had been holding slide through her fingers. Hesperos’s metal green eyes watched the thin sheen of material drift to the floor and pool at her bare feet. For the slightest of moments, he paused, a small smile playing across his lips.
Then his gaze slid back up her long body, taking everything in. He took another step. “My, my,” he said, shaking his head as if at the wonder of her. “But you are a rare bird.” Several more boot-echoing steps and he had closed the distance between them. Despite her tall frame, the king stood half a foot taller than she did and towered over her as he crowded her with his imposing presence.
“You’re rather impressive, yourself,” she admitted softly, unable to help herself. He was getting to her. She may have been inhuman, but she was still a woman and Hesperos was very much a man.
“You know me,” he said. “You’ve spoken my name.” He smiled then, revealing straight, white teeth with canines that were ever so slightly longer than the norm. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” As he spoke, he locked her gaze in his, capturing her attention in a nearly literal sense.
She found it impossible to look away as he raised his right hand and delicately brushed his fingers across the top of her collarbone. A hard shiver raced through her. “I hardly believe that’s possible,” she told him.
His smile broadened and a chuckle of real amusement rumbled up from his broad chest. “I wouldn’t have thought so either,” he admitted easily. “And yet, here we are. You know who I am….” He lifted a curly lock of her black hair and wound it around his fingers. “And it isn’t mutual.”
To this, Angel said nothing. She was afraid that if she dared to speak, she would inadvertently say something – anything – that would give her away.
Hesperos watched her eyes as if he were reading the play of thoughts that ran through her mind. And then he narrowed his gaze and she felt it. The swell of his power. He’d obviously realized that she wasn’t going to reveal herself to him willingly, because he was suddenly no longer playing nice. She sensed the arms of his magic reach out and grab her, holding her fast as his mind scraped hers, scouring it for the secrets she was hiding.
“Stop,” she said, her own gaze narrowing in turn. “Stay out of my head.” Anger clenched her jaw and gritted her teeth. She had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but his curiosity was piqued. He’d always been like that. Relentless.
Again – he was king for a reason.
“Who are you, little one?” he asked, his steel green eyes sparkling with almost cruel amusement and curiosity. “The walls you’ve put up are ancient,” he said, shaking his head as he brushed his knuckles across her cheekbone and then gently cupped her chin. “As ancient as I.”
And then, suddenly, he stilled – and she knew her battle was lost. The recognition flashed before his beautiful face like lightning and his grip on her chin tightened. “Angel,” he whispered. His gaze darkened, his pupils expanding. For a moment, he seemed thrown. Off his game.
Angel felt her muscles tighten, preparing for a literal fight or flight.
But he was faster. His hands came down around her upper arms, gripping them with vice-like strength. It didn’t hurt, not yet. But it was clear she wasn’t meant to go anywhere.
Two thousand years ago, Angel had spent a single night with Hesperos. A single, hot, wanton, intense, burning and delicious night. And then she’d fled – and though he’d looked for her, sending out his Nightmares to search high and low for decades, she had successfully eluded him.
Eventually, he and his kind had taken to the shadows along with the rest of the paranormal creatures on Earth. They’d disappeared from the sight of humans as readily and easily as she had vanished from Hesperos’s sights.
Only now, he was back. And he’d found her after all.
Angel felt her hopes sink and her need rise as Hesperos bent over her and leaned in, his grip tight, his eyes unflinchingly resolute. “Long time no see, precious one.”
Excerpt from The Spell, by Heather Killough-Walden (Book three in the Big Bad Wolf series)
When no more sound came, she exchanged a look with Imani. Before they could head toward the front door, their two wolf companions loped off in that direction first, their hackles up, their throats lowly growling.
Imani and Danny quickly followed after. However, once at the door, both Lily and Charlie stopped. Charlie raised her head, sniffing the air. In the next second, both women were flashing back into their human forms. Immediately, Charlie reached for the door and threw it open, stepping out onto the front porch.
Danny rushed to catch up, the rest of them filing out onto the porch after her.
In the front yard stood some of the most powerful people any of them had ever known. Malcolm Cole was there, his green eyes flashing, his gaze locked on his mate with the usual mixture of pride, possession and hunger. His second in command, Jake, was there as well. A few feet away stood Jessie Graves, who was both a rare and powerful Sentinel and Charlie’s guardian. Beside him stood James Valentine, Lily’s guardian. Daniel Kane stood on Valentine’s opposite side with several members of his pack, some plain-clothes detectives, others still dressed in the uniforms of police officers. They looked like they could all strip down and pose for a Playgirl calendar, but Danny knew they were each incredibly dedicated – and capable – cops.
Interspersed throughout the group of werewolves were people that Danny had never seen before. But the magic radiating off of them was more than enough to mark them as witches and wizards. Standing in front of them all were the two men who literally took Danny’s breath away. One was Charlie’s grandfather, the Council Overseer and the single most powerful werewolf in existence.
The other was Lucas Caige.
His dark eyes were narrowed, his head lowered, his tall, strong frame radiating a stark determination and anger. The mark on her arm burned with both pain and pleasure, a warning laced in bliss. Her breath caught in her lungs as he parted his lips, exposing the fangs of his wolf.
The others followed suit. Every single wolf there bared his teeth. Their ire was up, their defenses at the fore. The air rumbled with thunder – and something else.
“We need to talk,” Lucas said, his voice a menacing growl. “Now.”
“Holy shit, girl,” whispered Charlie beside her. “That is one serious alpha.”
Danny tried to tear her gaze from Lucas’s long enough to look over at her friend, but she couldn’t. He held her fast in his sway, melting her to the spot until she was stuck and fighting to breathe. She watched in helpless fascination as he slowly left the Overseer’s side and strode toward her. Every single step he took was a threat, a warning, a promise. Thunder rolled closer and lightning split the sky a mile away.
Lucas’s boot touched down on the first step of the porch, sounding loudly in the thick silence. Danny wanted to step back. She wanted to run and hide – and she wanted him to get to her faster, rip her clothes off, and take her inside.
An eternity later, he stood before her and the other girls had backed away. Just a little. She knew they wanted to be supportive, but he was her mate. And he was a wolf. And he was mad as hell. There was little scarier than such a creature.
Excerpt from Sam I Am, by Heather Killough-Walden (Book one in The October Trilogy)
He watched her from the end of the hallway. She didn’t know he was there. He made sure of that. Sam wasn’t sure why it was, but the form he had taken, the form her words had given him, came with certain powers. He found the sensation of each execution of these new abilities to be startling and vivid. They made him feel as he hadn’t felt for ages. Eons, even. They made him feel alive.
And so, it was with a quiet resolution – and the new found thrill of voyeurism – that Sam stood there at the end of the hall, using his powers to carefully watch the woman he desired, even as he made certain that none of the other students came anywhere near him. They simply walked around him without noticing. It was exhilarating to know he had this much influence. This much control. It made him impatient. He wanted to use these abilities on her.
He could smell her blood. His gaze easily found the splash of red on her hand. She’d pricked her finger on his rose. In his world, such a thing would have carried meaning. Ages ago, it was believed that when a woman pierced her flesh on the thorn of a rose given to her by a suitor, she was destined to marry him.
He closed his eyes for just a moment, and allowed himself to imagine her as his bride, in his home – in his bed. His mind swam with a consciousness created through wishes; filled with cravings, yearnings and desires.
He was made of want, and want he did. He wanted Logan. It was only his uncertainty, as a newborn entity, that held him back.
He opened his eyes and they locked on her once more. He noticed how her long hair shimmered under the fluorescent bulbs in the hallway; it was the color of honey and beckoned like silk, long and wavy and touchable. And then her rare, golden eyes darkened, her pupils expanding, and he recognized that look. He knew what it meant.
She was watching someone else.
He followed her gaze to find that she was stealing surreptitious glances at a young man with long black hair and eyes like clouded emeralds. They were the color of oak groves from a distance. The color of life.
Sam’s gaze darkened. The blue in his own stark eyes turned cobalt.
The young man with the black hair seemed to feel Logan’s gaze on him. He looked up and, catching her before she could look away, he returned a secret glance, managing a quick smile.
Sam barely suppressed a growl. Logan Wright was his destiny. But these other children? They meant nothing to him. They were nothing. They could only get in the way.
And he was feeling hungry again.
Excerpt from Messenger’s Angel, by Heather Killough-Walden (Book Two in the Lost Angels Series)
The rapping at the door came again, a touch more insistent this time. Juliette had no idea what the emergency number in Scotland was. Not knowing what else to do, she picked up her cell phone, dialed the cell phone number that Angus Dougal had given to her, and left her thumb hovering over the “talk” key. Then she stepped through the door of the bedroom and into the living room beyond.
Gabriel Black stood on the other side of the glass doors. His pitch-black, wavy hair looked wind tossed. He wore motorcycle boots, black jeans, and a tight black sweater beneath a black leather jacket. He stood tall and dark and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses.
The sudden image of him there, only a few feet away, with that touchably messed up hair and all that leather had a strange effect on Juliette. She stopped in the living room and watched him warily, even as her stomach warmed and her legs grew wobbly. Gabriel reached up with a gloved hand, and as his perfect lips curled into some secret sort of smile, he pulled off his shades.
Quicksilver, Juliette thought. His mercury gaze shot through the glass doors to nail her to the spot. His smile broadened and she heard his chuckle through the thickness of the glass. It was a delicious sound.
Before she knew what she was doing, Juliette found herself walking across the living room to the doors. She hesitated only a moment, glanced up at him as he continued to smile down at her, then unlatched the door and slid it open.
“Good day, lass,” Gabriel drawled, his eyes sparkling like diamonds. “May I come in?”
“You’re not a vampire like your brother, are you?” Juliette found herself asking. She wasn’t sure why she said it. It was broad daylight, after all. It just spilled out.
Gabriel’s gorgeous eyes widened and then he threw back his head and laughed, the sound warm and deep and intoxicating on several levels. “No’ bloody likely,” he chuckled. “Bu’ you’re lucky you did no’ meet my family two months ago,” he continued. “When I had two brothers that were vampires.”
Now it was Juliette’s turn to have wide eyes.
“It’s a long story, little one,” he said then, quieting down a bit. His gaze softened, his pupils expanding as he looked down at her. “I’d be happy to share it with you over dinner.”
Juliette tried to think of everything she’d learned about Gabriel – and about her messed up life – in the last forty-eight hours. But none of it would present itself to her in an orderly fashion. All she could really think of at that moment was the man before her; he filled her senses. Made her feel warm – breathless.
She looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s four in the afternoon,” she told him.
“Aye, bu’ it’ll take a while to get where I’d like to take you,” he said, his smile as bright and beautiful as ever. He raised one well muscled arm and braced it on the door frame beside him. The scent of his soap and aftershave drifted toward her on a breeze and Juliette’s mouth went dry. “I know you’d enjoy the ride, luv,” he said softly. “Wha’ do you say?”
She looked up into those silver eyes that were glittering like diamonds, and any anger she felt over the way he’d previously treated her began to melt rapidly away. “Angus Dougal said that you’re a playboy,” she accused. There was no real vehemence in her tone however, and she found that her gaze kept slipping to his lips.
Thinking of his kiss.
“Did he now?” Gabriel looked amused – and entirely unabashed. He leaned in then and something dark flickered in the silver depths of his eyes. “An’ why would such a man be sayin’ such things to you, I wonder?”
“Maybe he’s trying to warn me.”
Gabriel’s brow shot up. “Warn you?” His gaze narrowed. “Away from me?”
“He’s a good man,” Juliette insisted. “And he seems to think that you’re not.”
Gabriel stared down at her for a good few seconds. Again, that something dark flickered in his stormy eyes. “An’ wha’ do you think, lass?” he asked, his voice now barely more than a whisper. “Am I no’ a good man?”
Juliette gazed up at him and felt time slow down. The sound of the cold surf on the shore below was a gentle roar in the background. Seagulls cried. The wind was sharp and smelled like salt; she could see that saltiness in Gabriel’s hair. He seemed a part of the land in that moment, rugged, hard, uncompromising. His piercing, stark eyes were ancient. There were stories there by the thousands.
What did she think of him? She could barely think at all.
“I….” She started to reply, but when she realized she didn’t know what she was going to say, she fell silent again. Her chest felt strangely tight, her stomach warm. It was his eyes – they were doing odd things to her. His tall, strong body caged her in, towered over her. Everything about him begged to be touched – tested.
How gentle would Scotland be with her? Would he bend for her? Or would he break her?
There was a blur before Juliette’s eyes, and before she realized what was happening, Gabriel moved forward, bent, and lifted her, throwing her over his broad shoulder. She landed gently on the hard plane of his muscle; he seemed to be careful in that respect. But she was still too shocked to do anything but gasp and then cry out.
“Sorry, luv,” Gabriel said as he reached out and closed her cottage door and then turned and began descending the steps to the driveway. “Bu’ we need some time an’ I’m no’ gonna wait for you to decide you trust me.”