Laredo hated getting into elevators. The feeling of literally being boxed in
made his flesh crawl with anxiety and his heart rate increase. Over the years
he had taken classes on how to ease away the fear, learning techniques such as
closing his eyes and breathing deeply into the need to panic, but they only
helped a fraction, never really pulling the fear from him. It helped when other
people were in the elevators with him. He could strike up conversations and get
his mind off the possibilities of earthquakes or cables ripping, but when he
was alone, those fears took point.
hesitated a moment before deciding he had no choice but to get in and start the
the button for the garage level, the door closed, and the car began its
twenty-story decent. (Why did his client have to live in a luxury hotel so high
off the ground?) Kevin pushed himself against the far wall and locked his gaze
on the elevator lights above the door. Eighteen more floors then he could get
into his SUV and head back to Sapphire Ridge. Ben would be wondering what the
hell happened to him.
though being summoned, his cell phone rang. Pulling the device out of the case
on his hip, he looked at the LCD screen to see Ben calling him. He smiled at
the telepathic connection the two shared over the span of… how many years now?
are you? Time's wasting. I'm fucking ready to get drunk."
smiled. "I'll be there soon. Just finished delivering the bad news to the
she take it?”
considering she was in bed with another woman when I got there."
could hear the choking sounds coming from Ben and knew the former police
detective was forcing down a shot of whiskey. Kevin didn't feel sorry for him. The
man should know better than to put anything in his mouth when they talked. Kevin
had a tendency to throw Ben some zingers.
some control back, Ben sputtered, "Shit! That's got to be a first for us. Husband
having an affair with another man, just as his wife is having an affair with
shrugged. "We live in California. The twilight zone was bound to creep
into our reality sooner or later."
that the truth? Okay, about when can I expect you? The Tiger's Lair has already
started happy hour."
be there in about forty or so minutes baring traffic. No worries. I'm
almost to the car. I'll see you then."
keep a seat warm for you, partner."
pocketed his cell. He looked up at the lights as the elevator descended the
last two levels. As the doors opened he shoved all images of his phobia away,
like stepping out of a roomful of clustered cobwebs…
into the arms of a madman.
howling yell, a thunderous push, and a meaty arm clamped around his neck like
an octopus. Everything happened so fast he
almost thought it was unreal.
shit! All he wanted was to meet up with Ben and down a few beers, drown his
blah attitude and hope it would die with the rest of his heart. His life was
now suddenly passing before his eyes, and he had no time to think of anything
except the hand on his head and the arm around his neck. If he was going to
die, goddamn it, he wanted it to be on his terms. Giving that decision over to
some fat-assed moron would not be his epitaph.
break his neck! I swear to God! Back off," the large man shouted,
tightening his hold.
assailant reeked of oil and gasoline, the fumes adding to Kevin's already
he tried to move, to utilize the self-defense techniques taught him at the
Academy, but the guy was too large and positioned in such a way Kevin could not
find enough leverage. He would have to wait for the bastard to do something
stupid. The pressure on his throat increased. Silly me. Always
look both ways before exiting an elevator. They should make that a new law.
yanked back and lost what little leverage he had to at least gain a proper
footing. The stranglehold tightened. He managed to work his left hand between
his neck and the man's arm, freeing some airflow. The man was meaty, but he was
mostly fat. The flesh around the forearm allowed some give.
mean it, man! Back off!"
Kevin wondered what the man would do if he
accidentally-on-purpose pinched the hell out of his pliable fat content?
snap his neck.
well. It was a thought.
Kevin heard a low voice carrying a tone of calm confidence and an almost
lackadaisical demeanor. "Whoa there, Benny-boy. You don't want to hurt
this guy. We can take this real easy."
opened his eyes and what greeted them was a vision.
not ten feet away, stood a young man in his mid-to-late twenties, wearing tight
stone-washed blue jeans, black cowboy boots, a white T-shirt and a black leather
jacket. His shoulder-length, curly, sand-colored hair hung loose, but the bangs
were short, and Kevin gazed into round dark eyes that stared down the length of
a .45 automatic.
face of this young man was of both devil and angel, a hard and young beauty,
with eyes showing he'd been around the block a time or two. A Zen-like
mentality and intelligence poured out of his stance and gaze. Hints of
recognition flowed through Kevin. Somewhere in his jaded past this young man
had made a blurred mark, staked claim for a mere heartbeat, and then had
disappeared like a specter, but where and when the meeting took place escaped
fleeting moment, Kevin tried to dig into the files of his brain for the
answers, but the arm tightened its hold and remembering would have to wait.
don't wanna have to shoot you, Benny. I mean, I would rather get us all out of
this mess without any bloodshed, but I also can't let you go, either."
voice. Damn it! Where had Kevin heard that voice before?
kill this guy, you bastard," the attacker screamed.
spite of his fingers prying the choking flesh away from his throat, Kevin felt
his airway restrict. Stars flared across his vision.
kill him, Benny-boy, and you won't live long enough to see him fall to the
ground. I mean it, Cutthroat. You know how good I am with this thing."
Kevin groaned at the nickname. Oh, geez! This can't be good.
lifted his gaze again, locking with that of the demonic angel before
him, and in a split second of understanding, Kevin knew he would be all right. The
look in the gunman's eyes told Kevin all he needed to know. The body language,
the stance, the handling of his gun—all testament to the fact this guy was not
about to let Kevin die.
suddenly he remembered. The name escaped him, but Kevin remembered where he had
met this guy before.
ago in another world, another life.
younger man locked gazes with Kevin. He had recognized him too. A smile, a
wink, a nod of acknowledgment, and they reconnected.
body relaxed. He had trusted this guy before; he would trust him again.
gunman held out his hands, palms out, clicking on the safety to his .45. "Benny-boy,
Benny-boy. You know, your mama should have taught you to follow the rules."
his body jerked. The bounty hunter broke into an American Indian dance and
chant. As the chant grew louder and louder, the dance increased in tempo.
performance so confused Cutthroat that the hold around Kevin's neck loosened. He
quickly ducked and rolled away as his young savior moved in close enough to
unleash a roundhouse kick to Cutthroat's chest.
joined his ally, and between the two of them, they managed to subdue the
flailing arms, enough for the younger man to cuff the meaty wrists. It was a
struggle, but the bounty hunter evidently knew how to subdue a man larger than
his six-foot frame. No small feat, Kevin surmised, given the younger man's
lanky but limber build.
held Cutthroat steady and grinned. "You always act like you're on crack
when taking down a bounty?” he asked.
gonna kill you, Turner," Cutthroat shouted. "Kill you and cut you up
in a thousand pieces!"
That's the name! Kevin felt the wave of a memory rush forward as the
blood came back into his brain.
smiled back at Kevin, ignoring his prisoner's taunts. "It worked, didn't
shrugged. "Well, it was certainly creative. We've met before. My name's…"
Laredo. I know. I'm Vic Turner. Pleased to meet you… again. Seems like I'm
always getting you out of strangleholds."
two stood, leaving the cuffed prisoner on the ground, and shook hands. Kevin
rubbed his bruised throat. "More than pleased to meet you again. Buy you a
beer? I mean, you just saved my life."
laughter flowed over Kevin, both warm and genuine. "True, but I did manage
to get you into this mess by chasing the asshole down here."
let out a nervous laugh, releasing the tension built up in his body from the
adrenaline. "Well, in that case, you buy."
him on the arm. "Anything you say there, Cochise."
Cochise? Kevin chuckled again.
sobered a bit, but the smile would not leave his face. "I remember you
called me that at the precinct back then."
shrugged, inconsequentially. "It's a name I use for a lot of people. Just
a habit of mine."
light from Vic's eyes washed over Kevin's body and through his limbs. It
brought a sense of knowing, of familiarity.
had felt an instant attachment to Vic at the precinct three years
possibly out of obligation for the young man saving his life, but this second
meeting had been auspicious for other reasons. Somehow, he was looking into a
younger version of himself. Not very much younger, to be certain, but younger
just the same. A younger and less jaded soul was housed in Vic's frame, a soul
Kevin had to admit was able to connect with his in just a few short encounters
through their lives.
one brief instant a shiver of electricity flooded through him and then
disappeared like a snuffed candle with traces of smoke lingering in the air
brought back the memory of that moment in time
when Kevin's life had been saved, and the hero had never stayed around long
enough to be thanked. Vic had been a missing piece nestling into a puzzle long
ago labeled incomplete; still full of fractured pieces, none of them glued down
to keep them from breaking away.
unspoken question filled the silence as Vic studied Kevin in return. Would
there be more than just a few minutes between them this time?
helped Cutthroat sit up but kept an effective grip on the man's
took off before I could thank you last time," Kevin said, ignoring the
grunting sounds of protest from Cutthroat who struggled
in vain against Vic's hold.
ignored him, too. Shrugging, his expression turned solemn. "Well, I'm
shiver went down Kevin's spine. His skin prickled.
words conjured up another memory of Vic. It was faded, a wisp
dangling just out of reach, more a feeling than anything certain, but the insinuation
of 'I'm here now' had been the same.Kevin had seen
Vic another time between the incident at the precinct and now, but where the
second meeting happened remained in the shadows. Maybe it had been just a
glimpse of Vic out of the corner of his eye, or maybe just a dream.
shuddered. Waxing poetic was a talent that had died almost three years ago…
when his estranged wife Crystal and his two boys had been murdered. It was a
trait he used at one time to put some color into his life while on the job… and
at home while trying to maintain a façade of lies. He hadn't done it since the
bothering you?" Vic asked.
was about to reply when the cuffed man broke into another tirade. "Kill
you, Turner! When I get off on this charge, I'm gonna come find you and rip
your heart out. You bastard! You think you can take me in like this? I'll show
you later on what it's like to be cuffed. What I'll do when I cuff you to a
chair and rip off your clothes…"
clearly implied threat sent a heavy wave of protectiveness surging through
Kevin. He slammed his fist into the guy's gut, forcing him to his side with a
shot Kevin a surprised look, but a hint of a grin on those full lips belied any
anger. "What'd you do that for?"
wrung his hand, flexing his fingers. He hadn't hit anyone in a damn long time.
"Can't stand people who don't know when to shut up."
seismic jolt, Thomas Hampton could feel the shift of thoughts warp within his
mind. Bloody ribbons festooned his inner vision, and he knew the symbolic
metaphor acted more or less as a warning that her claws had been unsheathed and
arteries were spilling blood. A group of people were being killed as he stood
there; a message to him. She could simply have come after him directly, bypass
the subtle hints of revenge altogether, but his blood, or rather undead blood,
would never satisfy the vengeful craving now unleashed within her immortal
she would bring him to his knees, make him suffer.
it wasn't as though he never expected her to escape. He knew her. And for the
first time in over four hundred years terror gripped him. Not for himself, per se, but for what Arina could bring down on all of them; vampire, lycanthrope,
elf, dwarf, dragon, fairy… the entire Dimenlien network was at risk.
stood on the terrace of his high-rise apartment suite, located in the
upper-west side of Sapphire Ridge, California. He
had chosen this city over other more practical business locations in Southern California for one very simple reason. He
enjoyed the view.
he couldn't see the green of the hills after winter brought its showers, nor
the sunrises that modeled perfect poses for the nature photographer, neither of those
things attracted him to this place. It was the view of the city at night that held him here.
stars shone clearly on this night, particularly after an earlier high wind had
blown smog from the atmosphere.
bloodstained tongue roamed over his white teeth, feeling the familiar sharpness
of his incisors. Most vampires acquired this habit: the need to rub their taste
buds over their fangs in order to revel in the lingering flavor of blood hours
the blood had been especially rich.
young and beautiful man had graced his path, and Hampton had lured him home with both hypnotic
energy and desire.
sex had been rough and fulfilling, and when they had brought each other to
completion, the young man had bared his neck willingly for Hampton to succumb to his nocturnal hunger.
alive, the mortal would wake up in his bed the next
morning. He would be weak and disoriented, and with no memory of the night
before, but he would live, perhaps to be fed upon another day.
rarely did any of the vampire clans kill their source of food. On some
occasions, should a victim's will refuse to turn itself over to the trance, or
should the vampire take too much blood (either by intent or accident), they
were never to leave the body to be investigated by the police. Priority rule
number one dictated no evidence was to be traced back to the clans.
majority of humans believed vampires were myth and that belief could never be
revealed as false. Such strategy had kept the vampires safe all these
now. What could keep them safe from another master vampire gone insane and
forcing the media to take notice?
To be released soon from Kindle Direct Publishing.