Shiloh Walker

Let me tell you a story…

Shiloh Walker - Let me tell you a story…

Excerpt from THE DEPARTED

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due out in January…

For so many years, cold had been a part of Dez’s life. The departed felt cold. The long empty nights she spent following leads were often cold. She went home to a cold, empty bed and she awoke to a cold, empty house.
She was more used to cold than warmth.

So it was something of a shock when she drifted awake and found herself surrounded by warmth. She stiffened, the breath locking in her throat as she stared at the wall straight in front of her, unable to move, hardly able to think.

A hand rested on her hip and in that moment, as her mind tried to figure out just what in the hell was going on, it started to move, stroking upward. She shivered, feeling an odd, tickling sensation in the wake of his hand.

“It was a mistake insisting on the three months,” Taylor said quietly, his voice muffled against her neck.

She lay still, not moving, hardly daring to breathe. Even when his hand rested on the curve of her nape, she didn’t move. “I knew it then, even if I couldn’t have made myself say it. I can say it now. It was a mistake . . . and I’m sorry.”

Dez closed her eyes. Swallowing, she asked, “Why are you in my bed, Jones?”

For the longest time, he was quiet. Then, he finally, he pressed a kiss to her nape and replied, “Because I seemed to have a lot of trouble walking away from you last night. I needed to tell you that, needed to tell you I was sorry.”

“Okay. You told me. You’re still in my bed.”

He let go and she felt something fall across her neck. Reflexively, she caught it, but she didn’t look down because he’d caught her hip and started to tug, slowly. A gentle, unyielding pressure.

She could have resisted it, but that would have felt more than a little childish. She settled for keeping her eyes closed—that was only a little childish, right? Even as she lay there clutching whatever it was in her hand, she kept her eyes closed. Even as Taylor guided her to her back and pressed a hand to her belly and even as her heart skittered and danced in her chest.

She couldn’t look at him. She didn’t dare.

“I have the hardest damn time putting you out of my head.” Taylor brushed his lips over her cheek.

She had to bite her tongue to keep from hissing out a surprised gasp. Don’t listen to him. Whatever new game this was—

Then his lips covered hers. Thought stopped. As his tongue stroked along the seam of her lips, Dez opened for him with a startled moan. What in the . . .

Read another excerpt

Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

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“Well, that was fun,” Sheila said, her face pink and her eyes gleaming at him despite the bruising around her left eye.

Normally, Dominic would have stared at her and laughed. She was black-and-blue, and that was her idea of fun? But just then, he heard another whisper. It’s long past time that I do this.

…what…? He staggered, all but swamped by a wave of misery—her misery. His woman…his witch. Pressing the heel of his hand to his temple, he braced the other against the brick wall nearby, barely aware of Sheila’s odd, worried gaze. “Hey…you okay?”

No. No, he wasn’t.

He was hearing her voice again. He could hear her. Clear as day. Clear as a bell. Like she was standing right next to him, murmuring in his ear.

Past time she do what? he thought, half panicked. He was so focused on her, on her voice, he wasn’t aware of anything, of anybody else.

I have to let you go. All these years, I waited for death . . . knowing I’d finally be with you, and now, death has denied me. I’m not meant to find you.

The hell she wasn’t—he wanted to scream. To snarl in sheer frustration. Over a dream. Over a woman who didn’t even exist.

The blood roared in his ears. Dimly, he heard Sheila shouting his name. Heard the scrabble of claws on concrete. There was a howl. Danger—danger—His body tried to scream the warning at him, but he was lost, caught in the spell of his woman’s voice as she continued to whisper inside his head.

I don’t know why. But I’m not. So I need to let you go.

Good-bye, my love . . .

His heart no longer beat that much, but it still functioned and as her voice echoed in his mind, Dominic felt a tearing pain, unlike anything he’d ever known.

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

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Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

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There was one more good-bye she needed to make.

One more dream to kill.

Once she was out of the cemetery and away from any prying electronic eyes, she lifted her face to the sky and called her magic.

It carried her away, sweeping her across miles and miles, over land and ocean. It was nearing dawn when her feet alit on the ground.

She breathed the air in, filled her lungs with the scent of the forest—trees, moss, the morning dew. She stared around her, amazed to realize she barely recognized the place. Centuries had passed since she’d seen this bit of land. No sign of Oneoak remained and logically, she hadn’t expected to see anything of the long-gone village.

Even the trees were different. The land. Peering up at the sky, she searched for something that she recognized. But there was nothing.

Swallowing the knot in her throat, she started to walk.

Although the land no longer seemed familiar, she knew where he rested. She could have found his grave had she been forced to stumble blindfolded through a snowstorm.

There was nothing to identify it. No marker, no stone. But she knew. Deep inside, she knew. Settling on the ground next to his grave, she rested a hand on the earth and said, “Hello, lover.”

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

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Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

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You’re too pretty, she’d told him.

Dark, velvety brown eyes.

Long-fingered hands . . . almost elegant.

Her heart skipped a beat as her imagination kicked into overdrive. He was touching her and she was helpless as he lifted a hand to cup her cheek, angling her head back.

Tears burned her eyes.

Just before he would have kissed her, she flung herself out of the chair, landing in a heap on the floor.

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head. She couldn’t do this. She’d refused to let herself dream of him in the past year, refused to let herself take comfort in his presence. In those dreams, she’d felt almost happy . . . and she couldn’t be happy. Would never truly be happy and having it in her dreams, only in her dreams was just too much.

Too painful.

“No,” she whispered again, shuddering.

The spell was shattered and Nessa found herself on her hands and knees, staring at the book. It lay just inches from her hands.

Swearing, she shoved upright and kicked it away. It ended up under the bed, but she didn’t bother retrieving it.

Nessa cast a look around the room.

Enough. She’d had enough.

“Damn it.” She shoved a hand through her hair, fisted it in the blond strands. She jerked at it, hoping the light tug would help clear her mind, but it did nothing.

Her head ached, her heart ached.

Confusion and chaos reigned inside her.

All from a bloody picture on a damned book.

And she was so fucking tired of it. So tired.

“I’m stronger than this,” she muttered. Slowly, she turned and stared into the mirror hanging over the fireplace.

She was stronger than this.

“By God, it’s time I started acting like it then, isn’t it?”

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

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Random Snippets…Hunter’s Fall

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Because she knew she’d come too close to death, Nessa didn’t leave the school the minute she had the strength to climb out of her bed.

She should have felt at home here. After all, she’d taught in this school for many, many years . . . back in that other life. That other life. She smiled without humor. She could break her life into two parts now . . . no, three.

Life with Elias. Life after Elias. And now . . . life after death.

Nessa didn’t want to be here. She didn’t want to be around another soul—not a friend, not a student. Nobody. She couldn’t risk it. Another loss would destroy her.

Where’s your strength now, you stupid old bitch?

The sly, insulting whisper of Morgan’s voice stirred something inside her, the first embers of anger, self-disgust. Something. But she couldn’t very well get angry, now could she?

After all, the girl wasn’t wrong.

Nessa’s strength was gone. She couldn’t find that strength again, and she didn’t want to.

She just wanted oblivion and if she couldn’t have that, then she wanted peace and solitude.

If she was alone, then she wouldn’t come to care about anybody again and if she didn’t come to care, she wouldn’t be shattered by another loss.

“Too many losses,” she murmured to herself. Far too many.

As her strength slowly returned, so did lucidity. Clear thoughts weren’t particularly welcome, but she had to face the facts. She couldn’t keep doing this to herself. Even if she didn’t particularly want to live, she didn’t want her friends to pay the price, and sooner or later, that would happen if she kept to this road.

Kelsey visited often, using books, movies and bribes of French chocolate and plum wine to draw Nessa out of her shell. As fond as Nessa was of her shell, though, she let her friend coax her outside.

As little as she cared for her own neck, for her own life, she did still care for her friends and she was tired of making them worry.

Within a week, her energy was back.

Thanks to the food they’d been pushing on her, she’d put on a few pounds.

And her mind was all too clear. That was the bothersome part about taking care of herself. It was harder to avoid thinking about things.

Memories taunted her, and the ever-present Morgan renewed her assault with glee.

She was tempted—for the first time since she’d realized that the bitch had taken to haunting her—to tell somebody else about her hitchhiker, see if anybody might have a clue how to get rid of the annoying ghost.

But she didn’t. If she seriously put her mind to it, she could probably think of a way to rid herself of Morgan.

It’s a sad thing in life when one hesitates to rid oneself of an enemy. But if nothing else, Morgan was a constant in Nessa’s life.

“How low I’ve sunk,” she whispered, staring off into nothingness. She tolerated the presence of a murdering ghost, just because it meant she wasn’t alone inside her head.

The irony wasn’t lost on her.

She came awake to hear the high-pitched chatter of laughter and she groaned, rolling onto her stomach. She tugged the pillow over her head and tried to block out the sound of the students, but to no avail. She’d left the blasted window open the night before, forgetting that the students resumed their studies today.

For the past week, it had been relatively quiet. The students had been on spring break, but now the time for quiet was over. School was back in session.

Kicking her legs over the edge of the bed, she rose and stormed to the window, half tempted to mutter a spell that would darken the room again. She could pretend it was still nightfall.

Staring out the window, she watched them. They were laughing amongst themselves. A few were griping about an assignment they’d failed to do over the break. Others were loitering here and there, with that feigned air of apathy teenagers had long since perfected.

Across the broad expanse of green grass, Nessa could see the front steps of the school. Kelsey was there, along with some of the other instructors. They spoke to the children, answered questions and waved the students on when they lingered too long.

On the surface, it looked like most any other school. That was exactly what the mortal world saw—a school for the gifted and troubled. Gifted meaning highly capable, though, since naturally the mortal world didn’t tend to think in terms of witches, shapeshifters or vampires.

And Excelsior was a damn fine school—it provided a top-notch education, one of the finest private educations money could buy. It provided that . . . and a lot more. Many, though not all, of the students had no family to guide them through the training needed to attain control of their gifts.

Once the sun set, a new set of students would emerge from the secured, safe rooms under the school—the newly Changed vampires—there to learn control over their bloodthirst.

Excelsior was small. No fewer than two hundred minor students and maybe half as many adult students. A little world, isolated from the rest of mankind.

Nessa closed the window and jerked the heavy curtains into place. Turning, she stared at her room. She dismissed the bed without even looking at it. There was no way she could rest now. A headache pounded behind her eyes.

There was a neat stack of books on the little table near the window. Yet another offering from Kelsey. Depressed and tired, Nessa moved to the chair and sank down. She blew out a breath and glanced at the paperback on top. A pretty girl, dressed all in black. She flipped it open and saw another image just inside. The same girl, this time with a man. They stood close, not quite embracing.

Blood roared in Nessa’s ears as she stared at the man. Black coat, worn open over a bare chest, the long ends of it flapping about his legs.

Nessa’s hands trembled. Her heart began to slam against her ribs.

Dark hair . . . a strong jaw. She couldn’t see his face well, but her imagination was quite content to fill in the void. In her mind’s eye, she could see him.

Her dream lover . . .

The book fell from her slack hands, but she didn’t notice.

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

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Random snippets…Hunter’s Fall

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Tucked inside a warm, soft bed, Nessa rolled onto her side and clutched a pillow to her chest.

She was back at Excelsior.

She’d been at the school for three days—something she hadn’t had much choice in. During the fight in Chicago, she’d collapsed. If it wasn’t for Malachi, she would have died there. Part of her couldn’t quite manage to be glad for that fact.

Not just yet. Maybe not ever.

Outside her rooms, she could hear the low murmur of voices, sense the rush of life. Her shields were shot, and everything just felt too intense.  She couldn’t block a soul out to save her life.

She was far too weak, far too vulnerable just yet.

Closing her eyes, she reached up and touched the smooth skin where she’d been bitten. Kelsey had healed her, good and fast, but Nessa didn’t remember. According to the other witch, she’d spent the first forty-eight hours unconscious.

She’d woken in this room to find herself healed, bathed and dressed in a long, cotton nightshirt. It resembled the chemises she’d worn for much of her life, gathered at the neck and hanging to her ankles. The first thing she’d done when she woke up was tear the damn thing away.

She’d made the mistake of looking at the mirror and it had been like being flung back into time.

It was an ugly, awful irony that Morgan’s former body bore a striking resemblance to Nessa’s. The shape of the eyes were a bit different, and her hair was blond now rather than brown, but the differences were so slight they could have been sisters—nearly twins.

Seeing herself in that chemise and wearing a face that looked far too much like the one from her youth had been too much.

Now she had echoes of Elias’s voice in her mind, the low, rough sound of his laughter, the heated whispers in her ear as he made love to her. The tormented, awful rasp of his voice as he lay dying in her arms.

My Nessa . . .

Only God Himself could keep me from you.

Pain wrapped around her heart and squeezed. It poisoned her, darkened everything and stole the breath from her lungs.

Closing her eyes, she buried her face against the pillow and whispered, “Please, just let me rest. Please . . .”

 

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

AmazonB&NBAMMBordersIndieBound

Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

Kindle

 

That big bully of a vampire worried too much, Nessa mused.

You should have just jumped,” Morgan whispered, her voice faint, but malicious. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.”

“Shut up, bitch,” Nessa muttered, swallowing the knot in her throat.

She might despise this life, might despise the God who’d trapped her here yet again, but she wouldn’t do that to Malachi. The poor vampire, he worried so, and he felt guilty, although none of this was his fault.

She might hate her life. She might not care if she lived or died. She might not care so much that they worried about her. But she wouldn’t do that to him—wouldn’t jump while he watched.

Her stomach rumbled demandingly and she followed her nose to a street vendor. A hot dog, loaded with chili, onions and cheese, wasn’t going to do much more than ease the emptiness of her stomach but she wasn’t going to take the downtime she knew she needed. She needed a decent meal, a lot of calories, a lot of water, and a lot of rest before she’d feel even close to strong.

And she might . . . later.

Just not right now.

A glance up at the leaden sky didn’t tell her much about the time of day, but experience had her placing it at roughly noon. Gave her about five hours before the sun set. Five hours to make sure those vampires were dead. At least the old one. The two younger ones she could deal with even after sunset. The old one though—

A cold ache spread out from the slow-healing vampire bite in her neck. He’d sought to bleed her out and he’d been low enough on his own blood that his vampiric gifts hadn’t been particularly strong. When vampires wanted, they could leave bites that were almost surgically neat and their saliva had a rather miraculous healing effect. At least they did when the vampire wasn’t hovering just this side of death.

She finished up her hot dog and then turned the corner, heading for the subway. The red line would take her close enough to where she needed to go and it would save her much-needed energy.

She moved slowly down the steps, hating the weakness in her body, hating how heavy her legs felt, how gritty her eyes felt. She plugged some money into a machine and got her ticket before joining the other bodies waiting on the platform.

The train came to a halt in front of her and she moved on, surrounded by commuters, college students and construction workers. She breathed in the scents of life and felt a curl of envy whisper through her. These people were rushing home, rushing to work, living lives that revolved around work, family, dates.

Everything Nessa wished she could have.

Everything she never would.

The envy flowered into full bloom. Nessa glanced around at the faces of the mortals and wished she could be anywhere but here.

“Then go. No reason you can’t be anywhere but here.”

That insidious cow. She couldn’t linger for long, but she could sure as hell speak up often enough to drive Nessa completely insane. Or try to tempt her into something foolish.

On a good day, Nessa could ignore the bitch.

But today wasn’t a good day. On the bad days, it wasn’t just lucidity that took a vacation. It was her common sense and self-preservation. On a good day, she’d never even dream of using her magic where mortals could witness it.

Today, though, was obviously a bad day and if she was just a little stronger, she might have even done what Morgan wanted and let the magic carry her away.

Weak and tired as she was, flying wasn’t just unwise, it was dangerous. The ability to move herself from one place to another, miles away, was almost as easy as breathing when she was at full strength.

Nessa hadn’t been at full strength in months. Logically, she knew she needed to take better care of herself. On her lucid days, she did try. But there were other days when it seemed insanity had the stronger hold. Days when she couldn’t tell reality from the nightmares inside her head, days when she couldn’t separate the future from the past.

When she was stronger, the lucid days came more often. Those days, however, came with painfully clear memories. Memories she would do nearly anything to avoid having. Keeping her mind occupied helped—which meant Hunting like a demon. Or letting herself become weak enough, tired enough, that she slipped out of lucidity. Usually a combination of both worked best.

Except doing both tended to make people fuss over her like she was some kind of daft old bat or a reckless young child.

With a curl of her lip, she muttered, “I tried the daft old bat route—it wouldn’t stick.” So now she was stuck inside the body of a reckless youth.

Morgan had been young when they had stopped her murderous rampage.

If Morgan had lived, she would have been in her twenties, Nessa thought.  She wasn’t sure.  The years had all run together on her, but she knew this body was still in the bloom of youth.  She wondered how many more years she was going to be trapped inside it. How many more years of emptiness and loneliness she must endure.

It was enough to infuriate her. A sharp hiss escaped her and she shoved to her feet. Danger be damned. Common sense be damned. She forced her way through the bodies, heading to the back of the train, looking for just a little bit of privacy. The closest she was going to get was the second to last car. One drunkard, a bored-looking woman who Nessa suspected was a prostitute, and a dozing commuter who would probably end his trip minus his wallet and briefcase if he didn’t wake up.

She met the insolent gaze of the woman and held it. Standing up, Nessa imagined the other woman would probably have a good six inches on her, and easily forty pounds. But physical presence didn’t always add up to everything.

Attitude counted for a great deal. Attitude and arrogance. Those two things Nessa had in spades.

Their gazes connected and Nessa smirked at the other woman, watched as the gaze fell away. In that second, when nobody was looking at her, Nessa let the magic take her.

In the back of her mind, she felt Morgan’s delight.

It left Nessa feeling more than a little sick, and downright furious.

She alit on the front stoop of the worn, run-down house on the lower east side of Chicago. “Honey, I’m home.”

 

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

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Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

Kindle

 

“You can be such a bore sometimes, Mal.” She blew out a breath. “How does your wife even tolerate it?”

Malachi’s face twisted in a snarl. “She’s too busy trying to keep you alive to worry about me being boring.” Hell, he and his beloved spent so much time worrying about Nessa that they didn’t have time to wonder if they were boring these days.

“Becoming a bit harder to handle me than you’d expected, eh?” She arched her brows and smiled at him.

Malachi wanted to shake her. She didn’t seem to bloody care about anything anymore, and it was getting more and more disturbing.

For a time, she’d done well. She’d seemed stronger . . . almost like she’d once been.

But then Malachi failed her.

He’d never forgive himself for that.

The loss of the girl she’d loved like a daughter had damned near destroyed her. Malachi hadn’t been able to do a damn thing to stop it. He hadn’t been able to stop a drunk driver from plowing into the car Mei-Lin had been riding in. He hadn’t been able to save the four girls, and he hadn’t been able to do anything but stand at Nessa’s side and hold her hand while she wept at Mei-Lin’s funeral.

Useless bastard. All these years he’d walked this earth and the few times one of his dearest friends had needed help, he hadn’t been able to do anything.

Just as he couldn’t help her now. She was slipping into madness, he feared. Kelsey, his love, his heart, his soul, seemed to fear the same thing.

They were losing her, bit by bit.

Remember why you came here, old man, he told himself.

Not that he thought he’d have any impact on her. But he couldn’t give up. And if he didn’t come, he feared Kelsey would. As mindless as Nessa was these days, Malachi feared his wife even being near her.

If Nessa wanted to court death, Malachi would do his damnedest to stop her and he’d do his damnedest to hold Kelsey at bay, too.

“You found a nest of feral vamps,” he said.

Nessa grinned. She looked like a damn schoolgirl standing there, a pleased grin on her face, her blond hair whipping around her face. Flinging her arms to the sky, she said, “Yes . . . yes, I did. And it was quite a lot of fun.”

She stood there like that for a moment, poised as if getting ready for the dive to end all dives. Then she lowered her arms, rubbed at her neck with one hand.

Malachi walked over to her, tugging the neckline of her sweatshirt aside so he could see the ugly bite mark on her neck. “Got bit, too, I see,” he murmured, keeping his voice neutral. He’d known that before he’d come. That was why Kelsey had sent him.

Nessa had been courting death with a vengeance ever since Mei-Lin had died. Each time, she moved a little closer. But he wasn’t sure what would claim her first—death or her own demons.

He’d been so grateful to have her back that he hadn’t noticed how broken she was. Hadn’t realized what returning had done to her.

Then Mei-Lin came into her life, and Nessa seemed to find herself again. She’d been whole . . . or closer to it than she’d been in a good long time.

She was worse now.

All these years, Nessa had been strong. He’d counted on that strength, he supposed. Counted on it to see her through this.

But even the very strong break.

Malachi suspected the girl’s death had proven to be too much.

Nessa wasn’t broken—yet—but neither was she whole.

He had been so pathetically grateful to have her back. Nessa was one of the few constants in his life. He’d known her when she was little more than a girl and he’d watched her grow into the powerful witch she’d become, a witch whose power was so great, it had kept her soul alive even after her body had shut down.

But they’d all been fools thinking that she would eventually adjust. And Malachi was the biggest fool of all for thinking it, because of all of them, Malachi knew her best. He’d known how tired she was, how lonely and it had nothing to do with a frail, weakened body.

Whatever miracle God had wrought upon Nessa, it wasn’t one that she would thank Him for. She hated every moment of her new existence. Right up until Mei-Lin. But that peace had been too short-lived and now, things were even worse than they had been before.

It was no longer simple loneliness and heartache tormenting the powerful witch. It was more.

Something dark had settled inside of her, something broken. She was fractured inside, a fact that all of them had overlooked until it couldn’t be any longer.

Now, he had to face every day and wonder if this would be the day he was forced to hunt down his oldest friend and kill her. As yet, she was no threat to any but the ferals and herself, but he wondered how long that would last. She chased death with a passion, and she moved closer and closer to a line that no Hunter could cross.

It was as though she’d forgotten who she was. What she was. He looked into her eyes and saw madness. He saw a decided lack of control, and she cared little. No, she wasn’t a danger to them yet, but he feared she would be. And when that happened, he would have to kill her. It was a knowledge that festered inside him. All this time, as long as he had walked this earth, nothing had broken him. It had been close when he had thought Agnes had died, but Kelsey had pulled him through.

He worried though that his wife wouldn’t be able to pull him through what he feared was coming. Not because she couldn’t. But because she wouldn’t.

Kelsey . . . he loved that woman more than life itself. For her, he could survive centuries in hell if he knew she would be waiting for him at the end. But if he had to kill Nessa, Kelsey might never forgive him.

In her heart, she still hoped that Nessa would survive this. But Malachi was a pragmatic man. He had admitted what Kelsey’s soft heart had yet to accept.

Nessa didn’t want to live and she was getting desperate enough to do the unthinkable, just to see that she got what she wanted.

Death.

This time, she’d almost found it. And at the hands of a mangy, miserable feral vamp that she could have killed with her hands tied behind her back, if she chose.

Nessa shifted and smoothed her shirt so that it mostly hid the bite on her neck.

Inside his mind, he could still see those ugly, gaping holes in her pale skin.

“He took too much blood,” Malachi said softly, his voice tight and controlled. Controlled, because if he wasn’t careful, he would start shouting and he’d learned quite some time ago how shouting affected Nessa—she either laughed, or did something that would make him want to shout louder. “You’re running a pint or two low there.” He could see it in the pallor of her skin, and more, he scented it in her blood. Another few minutes and she would have been completely drained.

Nessa shrugged. “Nothing I haven’t dealt with before.” Then she grimaced, glancing down at her rail-thin body. “Granted, not in this particular body.”

“That particular body is the only one you have. Perhaps you should care for it better. You need food, red meat. Rest. Hell, even a pint of Guinness would do you a world of good.”

“Hmmm.” She turned around and peered over the edge, staring down. The naked yearning in her eyes turned Malachi’s gut into a cold, empty pit.

She wanted to jump. If he hadn’t come when he did, would she have tried it? Would she try now . . . with him watching?

“Come back to Excelsior with me,” he said quietly. He held out a hand and watched as she turned around. “Come home.”

Come home, he thought. If he could just get her back to Excelsior, back to the school, they could help. There, perhaps she could find herself again. Perhaps she could heal.

He hoped. He prayed.

“Home.” A faint smile curled her mouth upward, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She never really smiled anymore. “Home is where the heart is, isn’t it, Malachi?” She slid her gaze east, east over land and ocean, to a village that hadn’t existed for centuries. “My heart’s been buried for so long, there’s not even dust left of him. I have no home.”

An impish grin appeared on her face and she added, “Besides, there are still some nasties out there that I missed the other day. A good Hunter never leaves the job undone and all that rot.”

“You don’t need to be Hunting right now, Nessa,” Malachi snapped. “You’re weak, you’re low on blood.” You’re insane. He kept that part to himself. He reached out, grabbed her wrist and jerked her back from the edge. She went flying and if he hadn’t still held her wrist, she would have flown halfway across the roof before she landed. “It’s a bloody miracle you can even stand.”

Tugging her wrist, she said, “Oh, nonsense. You don’t really believe a couple of pesky, bloodthirsty vampires are that big a threat to me, do you?”

His eyes raked over her from head to toe, lingering on the barely concealed bite mark at her neck. “Right now? Yes. You’re vulnerable, damn it. A toddler having a temper tantrum could well prove to be a threat to you in your state.”

“Vulnerable?” Blond brows arched over wide blue eyes.  “I haven’t been vulnerable since—well, since I don’t remember when. At least not to vampires. And obviously, you haven’t spent much time around toddlers—toddlers in a tantrum are a threat to damn near everything.”

She tipped her head back and murmured softly, “They’re out there now, waiting for the sun to set. I feel them . . .”

Recognizing the look on her face, Malachi started toward her. “Fine, then,” he growled. “We’ll go after them together. Just like old times, eh?”

There was no way he was going to let this demented woman out of his sight, not until he knew she was stronger. If he were the hopeful sort, he would even wish that perhaps the two of them working side by side as they had so many times before might remind Nessa of who she was.

“Let’s go then.” He held out a hand to her.

But instead of putting her hand in his, she smirked. “I’m used to doing things on my own, Mal.”

A mischievous smile flirted with the corners of her lips.

Not this time, old friend, he thought, ready to grab her once more.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” Malachi lunged for her, but she disappeared, right in front of him, and his hands closed around thin air.

 

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

AmazonB&NBAMMBordersIndieBound

Hunter’s Fall…Random Snippets

Kindle

 

Be warned…Nessa’s going a little bit insane.

Chicago

One Year Later

So high up. What were people thinking, making something reach so high into the sky?

Nessa peered down at the earth far below, so far that the people down there didn’t really look like people. More like little bugs scurrying back and forth.

“Why don’t you just jump?”

It was only the third time Morgan had said it. If Nessa didn’t know better, she’d think the ghost was getting bored.

“I won’t jump because that would be too easy for you,” she said, her voice flat and cold. “Too easy for us both.”

“Easy . . . what in the fuck do you care if it’s easy for you? You want it over, so just end it already. Be done with it.”

Nessa swayed forward. Tempted. So very tempted. But she wouldn’t do it. It was too easy. Just too easy. Which meant something would go wrong. If she jumped, she wouldn’t die. She might well break every bone in this body and end up a fucking vegetable, but she suspected deep down that she wouldn’t die.

God hated her too much to let her die.

“You know one thing I finally figured out, Morgan? I can’t die. Not the easy way at least.” She smiled humorlessly and murmured, “It would seem you’re stuck with me.”

Even as she swore, Morgan faded away. She wasn’t strong enough to come to Nessa’s mind for too long anymore. Definite plus, there. Nessa might not care for her body as she should, but the weaker she felt, the weaker Morgan was.

“Have you lost your mind?”

She glanced behind her and the wind whipped her hair into her eyes, blinding her. She caught it in her hand, holding it back from her face as she stared at Malachi.

Lifting a brow, she said, “Where the bloody hell did you come from?”

“What in the bloody hell are you doing?” he fired back. “Damn it, you have gone insane.”

Malachi didn’t look too impressed with the view from the top of the skyscraper. “I thought we had already decided on that particular subject, Mal.”

Although he didn’t age, Nessa decided he looked older now than he had a year before. Something akin to guilt tried to stir within her, but she simply didn’t care enough.

She’d tried. Well and truly, she’d tried to settle back into this life that had been thrust upon her, tried to view it as the gift everybody else made it out to be. But then the one thing she had viewed as a gift—Mei-Lin—had been torn from her. That girl . . . Nessa had loved that girl like a daughter. More than.

She’d loved her, and just like Elias, Mei-Lin had been taken away from her.

It was just too much. That precious girl, all of her friends, all dead.

If this was the sort of gift life offered, Nessa wanted none of it.

Malachi, the poor fool, he worried. All of her friends did. Nessa wished she could care.

But she just didn’t.

Looking from Malachi, she cocked her head and stared down at the street. “They are all in such a hurry,” she murmured. She slid Malachi a glance and asked, “Why do you think mortals always rush to and fro, Mal? Don’t they know that all that rushing accomplishes nothing? They’ll still get sick. They’ll still suffer. They’ll still die.”

“Lovely, morbid thoughts there, love.” He blew out a disgusted sigh and edged a little closer. Stretching out his hand, Malachi quietly said, “Come down, Nessa.”

“Hmmm . . .” A gust of wind picked up and as she held out her arms, it slapped against her with an intensity that made her clothes flap around her and had her swaying near the edge of one of the tallest buildings in the world.

In the middle of the fucking day. Malachi stared at her and then made the fool mistake of glancing down. While he tried to pretend he wasn’t dizzy, Nessa giggled like a loon and murmured, “It almost makes me feel as though I could fly, Malachi. Truly fly, like a bird.”

“You’re not a bird, pet. What you’ll do is fall—like a stone.” Without feeling the least bit of shame, he backed away from the edge.

After walking the world for a good two thousand years, there was little that bothered him, but he had to admit standing on top of the Sears Tower was on the list. Wouldn’t be so bad if she’d decided to do her sightseeing from inside the tower.

No, she was outside, on the roof, a place that wasn’t exactly open to the public. He doubted she cared about that little detail, however. It was possible they wouldn’t have too long before somebody came to investigate.

Mortals, they had their cameras everywhere. He scanned the area, looking for one of the infernal things, and found a number of them. “You know, there are cameras. Where there are cameras, there are often security types watching for suspicious activity. I hope you kept them in mind when you decided to visit this particular spot.”

Nessa glanced at the cameras and rolled her eyes. “Bunch of silly electronics. They’re all scrambled, and if I know security types, they’ll be too busy trying to find the reason inside with their computers, gizmos and gadgets.” She laughed. “Not a one of them will think to come looking out here and see if maybe a witch was in the area. We’re bad on devices of an electrical nature at times.”

Witches and technology didn’t always mix well. She could short-circuit a camera from ten paces away . . . if she chose.

“Yes. I’m married to a witch, and I’ve been around them long enough to know they can fry those computers, gizmos and gadgets practically on purpose if they’ve a need.”

Nessa slid him a sidelong look. “Then I imagine I had a need. I want peace, Mal. Some privacy.”

“And you had to choose this spot to find it?” Nothing here worth seeing, at least not worth seeing from the outside. The huge antennas spiraling up into the sky weren’t anything worth looking at in his opinion. “If God meant any of us to be this high up in the sky, He would have given us wings,” Malachi muttered. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nessa standing as close to the edge as she could without actually going over it. “Bloody hell, would you move a little farther back?”

Grinning at him over her shoulder, she asked, “Why do you look so worried?”

As if he couldn’t believe his ears, he repeated, “Worried? You’re standing on the very edge of the fucking Sears Tower, all but dancing there.”

“It’s not called the Sears Tower any more, darling.” She slid him a glance from the corner of her eye, smirking. “It’s the Willis Tower.”

“Willis Tower. Sears Tower. I don’t care if they renamed it the fucking Eiffel Tower. You do know that if you fall, it could kill you.”

“Do you think?” Nessa cast a hopeful glance over the edge and hummed under her breath. A mournful sigh escaped her and she murmured, “If only.”

“Nessa, damn it.”

June 7

You can also read the prologue and chapter one

AmazonB&NBAMMBordersIndieBound

 

 

A Forever Kind of Love…releases today

Kindle

Now available…

You can always come home.

Second chances come a little harder.

Chase and Zoe were the high school golden couple. Football captain, cheerleader, prom royalty.

After graduation, though, Chase couldn’t resist the urge to experience life outside their small town. He didn’t exactly expect Zoe to wait twelve years for him, but now that he’s back, he finds some small part of him hoping she did.

It’s no big surprise she’s married. The kick in the face is she married his best friend.

Zoe was devastated when Chase left, but she’s filed those bittersweet memories under “Moved On”. She loves her life, and loves her husband. She has all she needs. And Chase keeps an honorable distance.

One cold, wet, miserable day, tragedy turns Zoe’s world upside down. Chase never expected her to simply fall into his arms, but a man can dream. Except his dream doesn’t include the fact that this time, she’s the one hitting the road…and he’s the one left behind.

 

 

 

“I see you’re not wasting any time clearing out of here.”

“No reason to,” she said, shrugging. “I can’t stay here. It’s too full of memories.”

“There might be a time when you want those memories back.”

She grimaced. “No. I’ll still have the memories. Moving won’t take them away.” She brushed her hair back from her face and said, “This is a place for a family, Chase. Roger and I…well, we’d thought about it, maybe were going to try later. It was always later. Now we won’t have a chance for later. And I don’t want to walk around inside these four walls and think about the ‘later’ we lost.”

Put that way, hell, he couldn’t blame her.

Settling down on the ground in front of her, he peered inside one of the cardboard boxes. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged and looked around, staring at the various boxes. “There is just so much stuff. Roger kept everything. The clothes and stuff, I’ll just give to Goodwill, but the other stuff? His books? His golf clubs?”

She slanted a look at him. “You play golf?”

“Only under extreme duress.” He studied the golf clubs and said, “You can ask my dad. He plays. He might like them. Sentimental stuff, if nothing else.”

Looking back at her, he had to fight to keep from reaching for her. Had to fight to keep from pulling her into his arms. Just to hold her. Just to cuddle her. She looked so tired…so worn and exhausted.

In the back of his mind, he thought about what Roger had told him. What Roger had said. Wondered what Zoe would say.

She needed time…time to heal, time to mourn.

Chase just needed her, the same way he needed her the past few months—hell, the past fifteen years, but he’d been too damn stupid to see it.

Jamming his hands in his pockets, he paced the floor, staring at the boxes, the odds and ends of the past fifteen years of her life.

Abruptly, he turned and stared at her.

“Why did you marry him, Zoe?”

Her hands stilled.

Then she went back to the task at hand, sorting through a box as though it was the sole focus of her life. “Is that really any of your business, Chase?” she asked softly.

“You married him two months after I left,” he said, his voice bitter. Angry. Far more bitter, far more angry than he had a right to be, he knew. But two months—two fucking months.

“What would you have done if I’d come back?” he asked, feeling hollow inside as he stared at her bowed head.

Zoe laughed sadly. “What ifs. You know how empty those are? What ifs.” She sighed and shoved the box aside. “What if you’d never left…or what if you’d taken me with you?” She sighed and drew her knees up. She stared at him and he waited for her to answer, waited so long he didn’t think she was going to. But finally, she did. “Now there is a question,” she murmured, she looped her arms around her knees and rested her chin on her upraised legs. With dark, wide eyes, she studied him. “And it’s a good one. If you’re so torn up about me marrying him, Chase, then you answer my question, and I’ll think about answering yours. Why didn’t you take me with you?”

One hand curled into a tight, impotent fist, Chase turned away, staring out the small slit of a window, out into the clear, cloudless sky. “I thought about it. For close to a year, I woke almost every damn day wanting to call you, ask you if you’d come join me, even when it wasn’t possible. Shit. You were too much a part of me, Zoe. Eighteen years old and I couldn’t breathe without feeling you, thinking of you. Sometimes it scared the shit out of me.”

“You left me because you thought about me too much?” she asked, lifting a brow.

“I left because I had to get out. I didn’t deserve you, you know.” He turned to look at her, aching inside. “I didn’t realize it then, but I didn’t deserve you. I never did. I was selfish, an immature brat of kid but one thing I did right—I did know you’d go with me. I knew that then. But I didn’t ask. It didn’t seem right to ask. How fair would it have been to drag you along when I didn’t even know where in the hell I was going?”

“Maybe you were looking at it wrong,” she suggested. “If I was with you, the where wouldn’t have mattered.”

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