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One Bad Night

A Collection of Stories in the Beasts of Vegas Universe

Back Cover Blurb:

Sexy shifters, tortured vampires, and powerful witches fight the evil horde on the Las Vegas Strip…

Catch up with favorite characters like Dominic Hull and Lukas Larsson in this collection of stories set in the Beasts of Vegas universe. Meet vampires, witches, and shapeshifters as they struggle to find love, revenge, and a little romance on Las Vegas Boulevard.

One Bad Night, Carly: An evil vampiress wakes up cured and pissed off.

One Bad Night, Dominic: What will shapeshifter Dominic do when his crush needs to drink blood? And he’s the only person nearby?


Download the pdf.

Or keep scrolling for the complete collection.


“One Bad Night: Dominic”

A Beasts of Vegas Story

Dominic Hull was having a bad night.

“We’ve all been there,” Ben assured, slapping him between the shoulder blades.

Dominic danced away from the unwanted touch as the pair of six-foot tall shapeshifters weaved against the flow of pedestrian traffic crossing Las Vegas Boulevard and headed toward one of Ben’s favorite clubs.

“Really? You’ve had two shots and walked around the rest of the night with puke on your pants?” Dominic retorted sarcastically.

Jesus, he was turning into a lightweight. It hadn’t been that long ago that he could take shots all night, dance in superheated clubs, and wake up the next morning as if nothing had happened. What the hell was wrong with him?

“Whatever,” Ben said. “I just want to have fun. This curfew has been a nightmare.”

Dominic agreed. His dad, the alpha, was going a little overboard recently with the check-in’s, the curfews, and the rules about going out in pairs. Dominic, being dominant himself, followed the directives only about half the time.

“Why don’t you be the alpha?” Ben gave Dominic a scrutinizing look. “Have you ever thought about it?”

Of course, he’d thought about it. As eldest son of the alpha, he was born to lead, but it didn’t interest him. It meant he’d have to challenge his father and force him to submit.

“I don’t want it. All that bureaucratic bullshit. Listening to everyone’s problems. No, thanks.”

“It’s a responsibility to care for and protect a pack,” Ben countered. “A lot of shifters would gladly take that responsibility. And it would get your dad off our backs.”

Dominic’s phone buzzed in his pocket, and with a curse of pure aggravation, he yanked it free. A text from his friend Lukas Larsson, a bear shifter from the Netherlands currently residing in Vegas.

Have you seen Mercy tonight?

Dominic’s guts twisted. A strange thing to ask. Mercy hadn’t left her suite at the Le Sort Hotel since she’d been dug up from a twenty-year, forced slumber in the earth. Hell, she hadn’t even left her bedroom.

Dominic stalled on the sidewalk and struggled through another wave of nausea before texting back.

What are you talking about? Isn’t she in her room?

Lukas didn’t immediately text back.

Isn’t she??

Dominic pictured the petite young woman with white-blonde hair and eyes perpetually registering panic.

“We gotta swing by Lukas’,” Dominic told Ben. “Something’s come up.”

“What’s wrong?” But Ben’s tone made it very clear he wasn’t thrilled with cutting their night short.

“Lukas can’t find Mercy.” Not willing to waste time, Dominic pushed his way back through the crowds toward the way they’d come. “It’ll only take a couple minutes.”

“Which one’s Mercy again?” Ben asked with a sigh.

Dominic didn’t answer. He’d purposefully kept Mercy’s name and story out of pack gossip. She was too fragile, too vulnerable, and frankly too important to him to share with anyone else.

“Just hurry up,” Dominic growled.

The only sign of pandemonium on the team’s floor of the Le Sort Hotel was Kayla. Mercy’s best friend and self-proclaimed protector visibly shook with agitation when Dominic and Ben strolled into the room she shared with Mercy.

“You called him?” she demanded of Lukas, sending Dominic a disgusted look.

“I’d take his help before I let anyone else know we have an unstable vampire on the loose,” Lukas replied. He sent Dominic his own look of frustration. “She was here—”

“When I fell asleep,” Kayla cut in. “She was in the other bed, rocking.”

Dominic knew Mercy’s emotional issues were sometimes calmed by rocking back and forth. When he came to check on her, he often found her in that position.

“And?” Dominic prompted.

“Something woke me up around 11:30,” she continued. “That’s when I noticed she was gone.”

“Did you look for her?”

“Yes, you moron,” Kayla snapped. “I searched the entire floor, then the hotel lobby, the promenade, and I was running up and down The Strip when I finally texted Lukas for help.”

“No one else knows yet?” Dominic asked.

“They’ll overreact,” she said. “They’ll hunt her, or something, when all she really needs is to see a friendly face and she’ll come right back.”

“Which is why I called Dominic.”

Kayla rolled her eyes. “He’s obsessed with her. The feelings are not mutual.”

That stung. Dominic recalled Mercy’s cool, soft hand folded within his much larger one. She’d trembled everywhere but at their point of contact.

He wasn’t obsessed.

And the feeling was very much mutual.

“I’ll help you look,” he said, though he realized too late he hadn’t been asked. “I know her scent. I can track her more quickly than you can,” he said to Kayla. To Lukas, he said, “I’ll let you know if I find her.”

Ben’s phone chirped, and he reappeared from the corner he’d been hiding in. “Oh, shit. It’s the alpha. He wants me back inside the compound.”

“Then go. I’ve got this.”

“It must be nice having an alpha for a dad,” Ben grouched.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Though faint, Mercy’s scent—a mix of blood and calla lilies—lingered around the elevator doors. Without a thought for anyone else, Dominic took a big breath of her scent and stepped into the next elevator heading down.

As he crisscrossed the busy lobby, Dominic asked himself what a vampire fresh off a two decade long dirt nap would do next. The lights on The Strip were calling to him, but to someone like Mercy, they’d be terrifying. The crowds, too, would intimidate her.

Dominic scanned the lobby for the least populated, least lit area of the hotel. He started away from the glittering main lobby, away from the promenade full of shops and restaurants, and deeper into the bowels of the hotel. Down a long hallway, her scent grew stronger. He followed her footsteps through an emergency exit door, across a patio covered in twinkle lights, and into a garden area that must be meant for smoking or doggie relief. It was unlit and probably free of CCTV cameras, too. The perfect place for a traumatized vampire to hide.

“Mercy?” Dominic hissed, following the ever-increasing scent of fresh blood. “Don’t be scared. It’s Dominic.” He still couldn’t see her, but he scanned and scanned, edging nearer the source of the blood. “Mercy?”

A rustle. An intake of breath.

Dominic zeroed in on a corner in the block wall, a junction made darker by a vine-covered lattice. There, crouched Mercy.

“What are you doing out here?” he asked gently, pausing ten feet away, not wanting to spook her. “We were worried about you.”

“I’m so hungry,” she whispered.

Dominic’s sight began to focus more clearly in the dark. “Mercy, are you bleeding?” He blinked, and her entire figure came into focus. Her face and hands up to the elbows were coated in blood.

“I’m so hungry,” she cried.

“Where did the blood come from?”

Mercy pointed off to the right. Immediately, a crumpled shape became obvious. Dominic rushed over. “Buddy?” he urged, shaking the man.

He caught a pained groan, and relief like Dominic had rarely known flooded his system. Thank God. “You’re gonna be okay, buddy. Just sleep it off.”

There was no reply from the man, but Dominic was confident he’d survive, the feeding marks would heal, maybe before he woke up, and Mercy wouldn’t be implicated.

“Mercy?” Dominic returned to her murky corner. “Are you ready to leave here?”

She raised her big, blue eyes to him. “I’m so hungry.”

Dominic crouched down low. “Then feed from me.”

His words seemed to startle her. “But you’re a shifter. If I infect you, it’ll kill you.”

It was true. As far as legend went, shapeshifters couldn’t survive the vampire infection. If they were exposed to the virus—transmitted through blood—in their human forms, they’d die almost immediately. In their animal forms, however, they were immune the same as any other animal.

“Then don’t infect me.” He lowered himself to the cool lawn, crossing his legs. “Come here.”

Mercy crawled hesitantly from her hiding place, her eyes locked on his.

Touch was a tricky concept for Dominic. Most of the time, it repulsed him. It didn’t matter who touched him or why. But there was something different about Mercy. She was so damaged, he felt compelled to protect her.  Hers was the only touch he sought.

Now, he held out a wrist to her, staying absolutely still otherwise, to avoid spooking her.

He’d never been bitten by a vampire. Mostly, he was excited by the thought of Mercy’s red lips on his skin, of her pointed white canines sinking into his flesh, of her sucking his life blood down her throat…

Dominic expected her to take his hand, but she pounced instead, biting deep into the fleshy part of his arm. It was quick, like a snakebite. And then she slithered into his lap, curling into a soft, blood-soaked ball.

The first few pulls only hurt a little, and he recovered from his initial surprise. He pet her silken hair, one long stroke from scalp to the middle of her narrow back. Her heart raced in her chest, thumping like a bunny’s.

“Better?” he prompted.

Her only answer was a re-shifting of her weight and a guttural groan of assent. He caressed her hair again, tangling his fingers among her tresses and digging his fingers in.

“I got sick tonight, too,” he said into the quiet. “I took a couple shots at a club and threw up. You can probably still smell it.”

Tiny nod.

“It happens to the best of us.” Oh, his legs were numb. He clenched his jaw through a dizzy spell. “Maybe drinking so much bagged blood made you…” What was he saying?

Dominic’s spine softened, and he would have hit the turf if Mercy hadn’t reacted so quickly. She grabbed him by the shirt and shook him gently.

His mind cleared only enough to see into her eyes and sigh in pleasure. “Your eyes sparkle.” Good Lord, had he said it aloud?

She stood and hauled him to his feet, but when he swayed into her, his body brushing hers, she stepped away and forced him to hold his own weight. Luckily, his shifter DNA included rapid healing. Already, he was feeling fractionally stronger.

He cleared his throat, folding his arm closed over the bloody wound. “You okay?”

Rather than answer, she hung her head, no doubt listening to everything, but reacting to nothing.

“Well,” he inhaled deeply, sensing the blood, the victim across the way, and her unique lily scent. “Let’s get upstairs, then. I’m not feeling so good.”

She followed him into the main lobby, keeping to his shadow, using him like a walking shield from the lights and crowds they encountered the nearer they got to the bank of elevators. Dominic pushed for the fifty-first floor, keyed in the access code, and wavered slightly.

“You’re a heavy drinker,” he said, attempting a playful tease.

She glanced up at him in concern, however. “You tasted so delicious,” she told him in a small voice. “I couldn’t stop myself.”

On the team’s private floor, the elevator doors swept open, and Dominic recognized Kayla and Lukas at the other end of the hallway. Without a word of thanks or farewell, Mercy scurried away to her waiting friends, leaving the scent of blood and lilies heavy in her wake.

Read more about Dominic and Mercy in Shapeshifter’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #5)…

“One Bad Night: Carly”

A Beasts of Vegas Story

Carly Alvah was having a bad night.

Gaining consciousness in an ambulance headed for a Las Vegas hospital wasn’t even the worst of it. Because when she came to, she remembered everything—the overgrown bear shifter named Lukas Larsson she’d been running from, his beefy hand clamped around her throat, and oxygen becoming a limited commodity. That son of a bitch had snuffed her out. Her. Like he had any right to raise his eyes off the ground in her presence, let alone put his dirty hands on her.

She was a goddess among mortals, a monster, a blood-worshipping vampire, for God’s sake.

Speaking of…

Carly quickly took stock of her current situation. She lay in an undignified sprawl upon a gurney inside a slightly smelly ambulance. A bored EMT swayed beside her with every bump and roll of the vehicle.

“You’re okay,” the man said. “Take it easy.”

Not going to happen. She needed to get back to her minions among the Four Sons. Now.

She sat up, tearing at the blood pressure cuff around her arm and the oxygen cannula in her nose.

“Nope.” The EMT sighed in annoyance. “Lie back. We’re almost to the ER.” He pressed on her chest and, with an embarrassingly small amount of force, held her flat to the gurney.

She snarled and attacked, striking like a cobra for the tender, blood-infused flesh below his jaw.

Rather than eat his throat out and bathe in a gush of warm, slick blood, Carly lurched half off the gurney and landed with her head in the EMT’s lap.

What the hell?

Had she been drugged? Lobotomized? Where were her enhanced speed, strength, and senses? Come to think of it—she ran the tip of her tongue along her teeth—she had no fangs, either.

Stunned, Carly allowed the EMT to settle her back onto the gurney and reattach the cuff and cannula, clucking under his breath the whole time.

What was happening?

“What did you give me?” she demanded. God, even her voice sounded pathetic.

“Nothing,” he said. “But you were unconscious when we found you. Do you remember what happened?”

“Where did you find me?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.

“In a white van. Is that ringing any bells?”

That tricky, tricky shifter. He must have dosed her with something debilitating and dumped her back in her own vehicle. She’d be tempted to ride out this little annoyance, but she couldn’t let anyone draw and test her blood. They’d discover she was infected with vampirism and she’d never see daylight again. The US Army, in particular, was known for imprisoning and experimenting on infecteds indefinitely.

She had an empire to run. She was too powerful for captivity.

The ambulance slowed to a stop and, before she knew what was happening, the doors were open, her gurney was in motion, and she was whisked against her will down a wide corridor lined with ill humans and medical equipment.

“No,” she complained. “I’m fine.” Her enhanced healing abilities would take care of any lingering damage the shifter had caused in short order. She didn’t need help, she needed out. “I can go.”

Carly sat up and attempted to leap from the gurney to land like a cat before sprinting away. The reality was much more humbling. Again, she reeled forward and a firm hand held her down.

“No,” she repeated, struggling. “Don’t touch me. I’m fine.”

A restraint latched around her left wrist, another around her right. “Settle down, honey, we’re only trying to help.”

“Fuck you,” she screamed. “I’ll eat your heart. I’ll swim in your blood.”

“No one’s going to hurt you,” a calm voice instructed.

She fought so hard against the restraints, her back bowed off the gurney. God damn it, she hadn’t felt so helpless in years. “I’ll kill you all,” she bellowed. “I’m a vampire queen, you bitches. I’ll eat every single one of you.”

“Five of Haldol,” another voice directed. “Call for a psych eval when she wakes up.”

Carly was asleep before she knew she’d been pricked with a needle.

#

This time, when Carly woke up, she understood the irritating situation she was in. Somehow, the shifter Lukas Larsson had taken away her vampire powers. They had to return soon. The infection flooding her system would put her back to normal in no time at all.

Carly tested her right restraint. She sensed it was a fraction looser than the other. She worked at the cuff. Little by little, her hand slipped out. Her thumb ached in pain, and the muscles in her arm quivered in fatigue, but she made progress.

Her right thumb dislocated, and her wrist slid free as a man carrying a clipboard close to his extended belly barged right into her curtained space. Carly cocked her hip to the side, concealing her free hand.

“Hello, young lady,” he greeted with a sickly sweet smile. “How are you feeling?” He checked his notes. “I’m Dr. Wayne, who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” He waited, pen poised for her response.

“Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.” She rattled her remaining restraint. “I’m not injured. I’m fine.”

A little disappointed, he straightened. “I heard you were shouting about being a vampire.”

“Are you deaf?”

He talked on as if he hadn’t heard her. “First thing you should know, your blood was taken and tested by the hospital. You definitely do not have the vampire infection. I promise you that. So, why don’t you tell me why you thought you were infected?”

Finally, reality struck Carly, and she couldn’t respond. The shifter hadn’t dampened the infection. The fucker had cured it.

She blinked numbly at the well-meaning staff member. “You’re sure?”

The man seemed relieved he’d broken through her psychosis. “Absolutely, one hundred percent certain.”

“You tested my blood for vampirism?” she repeated.

It couldn’t be true. There was no cure.

Yet, it made sense. It explained her sudden weakness and the departure of her fangs. It explained everything.

Lukas had had a witch with him. Maybe… Could she…?

“The government,” Dr. Wayne told her, “has mandated testing of all drawn blood for vampirism since the early two thousands when several stray infecteds popped up in U.S. hospitals. It’s done automatically anytime blood is sent to the lab, and you tested negative for vampirism.” He eyed her carefully. “Does that surprise you?”

No. Carly was more pissed than surprised. She barely controlled her rage enough to nod politely. Sanely. “I must have hit my head,” she said through gritted teeth. “I was confused. I thought I was infected, but I can see that I was wrong.” She forced a sneer of a smile. “I feel much better now.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” He didn’t buy her act at all. In fact, he pulled up a chair and settled in. “Let’s talk about why you thought you were infected.”

Twenty-four hours ago, she’d have torn these restraints from their anchors and shoved them down the good doctor’s throat. But then she’d come across Lukas Larsson, and now she was practically helpless.

Not completely helpless, only practically.

She discreetly scanned the room, searching out potential weapons. Not much. A plastic jug of water. The chair the man sat in. The sheet curled around her hips. But Carly was creative, and she’d had lots of experience killing on the spur. She settled on the IV tubing connected to her arm via a needle.

Carly ripped off the final restraint, and a split second later, the doctor realized she was free. As he struggled upright in surprise, Carly launched herself onto the doctor’s chest. She wrapped the tubing around his throat twice and yanked, silencing any attempted call for help and pinching off his air supply. They tumbled to the floor. He tried to kick the chair over to attract passerby, but Carly merely doubled the tubing around her forearm. She glanced at the IV pole that had fallen across the doctor’s chest. A nice heavy weapon all its own.

Sneering, she leaned back on the crass garrote, refusing to be fought off until the man went first stiff and then limp. Even then, she waited another fifteen seconds before climbing to her feet and taking the IV stand in hand. Sore thumb be damned, she slammed the base into the doctor’s face until his nose broke, his lips split, and one eyelid ripped away.

Alive with adrenalin, Carly swiped a hand through his bloodied face, and licked her fingers clean. Blood still ruled her, vampire or not.

Her heart pounding, she ran for it. Screw any further deception or subterfuge. She simply wanted out.

Through doors, down hallways, and finally into a loading bay. She was free.

And she knew exactly who to punish first.

Read more about Carly in Spellspeaker’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #2)…

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Spell of Shattering (Dark Caster #4)

Written by Anna Abner

Copyright 2015 by Anna Abner

SoSh 600x900

Cover Blurb:

Dive into the heart-pounding final chapter of the Dark Caster series!

If the Chaos Gate opens…
Demons will infest the world.

When the charismatic mayor of Auburn hires junior agent Jessa McAvoy to acquire him a very specific property, she hopes this is her big break. She’ll do anything to make her first real estate client happy, but the one favor he asks of her is impossible—convince her former friend Derek Walker to come out of hiding. Doing so will not only bring her into the orbit of dangerous casters, but force her to confront long-buried feelings for her missing friend.

After failing his tasks for the Dark Caster, necromancer Derek Walker is hiding in Alaska from his humiliating defeats as a card-carrying member of an evil dark cabal. But when his old boss begins opening the Chaos Gate, there is nowhere on earth Derek can hide. With no other options, he must return to the last place he wants to go—home.

When Derek Walker joins forces with Jessa and the entire Raleigh coven, the dark cabal’s biggest disappointment may be the only thing standing between earth and total destruction.

Chapter One

With a little pressure, Derek Walker punched his boning knife through the throat of a dead Silver Salmon. Working the knife like a saw, he removed the head and tossed it into the trash, and then got to work gutting the unlucky creature. Bright fish blood swirled in the lake below, creating an abstract waterscape.

Bo’s voice carried over the sound of the lapping tide. “Ice is the strongest element there is,” he shouted at Stubby.

They were certainly surrounded by the stuff. Bits of frost clumped in Bo’s scraggly beard, heavy snow clung to drooping tree limbs, and gray clouds swept across the sky ready to shower ice upon their heads at any moment. Derek hoped the storm would hold off a little while longer, though, at least until the men finished fishing.

“Bullshit.” Bo’s friend Stubby dug through the nearby cooler but came up empty. The six-pack was long gone, and it wasn’t even ten a.m. Frustrated, Stubby spit brown tobacco juice into the mud. “Fire’s stronger than ice.”

Derek shifted weight from one foot to the other and skidded in the mud, catching himself on a rock. It may be August in Alaska, but the wet ground around Bear Lake at first light was cold and seeped through his sneakers.

“No it ain’t,” Bo argued. “Glaciers carved up the earth, you dummy. A few drops of frozen water will break boulders.” He waved Stubby off. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stubby seemed to take the argument personally. “Fire melts ice. End of story.”

Derek prayed it was, but of course, it wasn’t. Bo and Stubby could argue for hours over the most accurate brand of deer rifle, the stoutest superhero, or the most potent tequila. This latest debate could rage on for days.

Derek sliced up two beautiful fish fillets and wrapped them in paper for his boss’s dinner. Most likely, Derek would sear them on the grill with some peppers and serve them up tonight to a small house party of world-class belchers and bearded survivalists on Bo’s deck.

It surprised Derek he could even wield a knife or a BBQ grill in his condition. The memory spell Holden Clark had hit him with four months ago had devastated his mind. Literally. He may as well have dropped him headfirst from a forty-story building onto broken glass and concrete. Holden had stolen every single memory, skill, and instinct Derek possessed, leaving him alive but hollow.

Waking in a hospital bed blank and vulnerable had been the most terrifying moment of his life. He picked up the second fish and attacked it with the knife.

Generally, the work he did as Bo’s assistant was exhausting, which suited Derek just fine. He didn’t need the money. He needed the distraction.

Actually, it wasn’t that much different from the work he’d done in Auburn as Rebecca Powell’s assistant. Then, he’d redecorated houses, delivered paperwork, sometimes picked up coffee and her dry cleaning, and most of the time surfed on his computer or chatted with Jessa McAvoy, the adorable junior agent working as Rebecca’s protégé. Here, he bought groceries, cooked rudimentary meals, lugged trash to the dump, and drove Bo home when he drank too much.

Whether it was good living or not didn’t enter his mind. It was just living.

“All done, boss,” Derek said with effort, throwing the last of the slimy scraps into the trash and tucking the fillets into the cooler. It was a constant struggle to form words and transfer them to his tongue. He was getting better, but he feared he would never be whole again.

“Anything else?” Derek asked, rinsing his bloody hands in the icy lake.

“Yeah, run into town and get another twelve pack, will ya’?” Bo asked.

“Sure.” He ambled for Bo’s pickup, jingling a ring of keys as he went.

“You’re putting too much weight on your bobber again,” Stubby accused. “You’ll never catch anything that way.”

“You don’t know what you’re yammering about,” Bo shot back. “I’ve caught twice as many fish as you have, and that’s just today!”

Derek climbed into the truck before he caught Stubby’s reply.

He didn’t care. He didn’t care about much anymore. Even after the memory-destroying spell had been reversed, he still wasn’t the same. Like tying shoelaces. He just couldn’t get it. No matter how many YouTube videos he watched, he couldn’t make the bunny go round the tree or the fox go in the hole or whatever nonsense he was supposed to do with ease. It worried him how much he didn’t remember. What else was gone, never to return?

Kissing, for one. Surely, he must have kissed a woman at some point—he was a grown man—but he couldn’t recall specifics. Or even gather the desire to try it again. It seemed silly to him. That and sex. Bizarre, pointless endeavors when he had other much more important stuff to worry about.

Like how he was…

“…A huge fucking disappointment,” the spirit spat at him. “A total waste of good space. You think you deserve a second chance? What have you ever done…”

A grizzly of a dead man with a full beard and hunters cap hovered beside Bo’s truck, a gleeful smile on his pudgy face. For the past four months, the ghost had been his unwanted but constant companion.

Derek tuned out the ranting. It was getting a little easier. Night was the hardest. Trying to sleep while a nasty ghost screamed obscenities and curse words at him from the ceiling was challenging. Ear plugs only muffled the noise. They didn’t erase it completely.

The irony was, Derek was especially good at shield spells. With a spirit’s assistance, he could produce an invisible barrier impenetrable to both magic and spirit chatter. With a spirit of his own, Derek could cast banishing spells on all the ghosts the Dark Caster sent to torment his every waking moment. But Derek didn’t have a spirit companion anymore. Robert had been destroyed back in Auburn, North Carolina in the magical fiasco that had stolen Derek’s memories. And a necromancer without a spirit was just a man.

Almost the way a stray, foul-mouthed ghost couldn’t do any real damage without a necromancer to channel his spirit power.

He and the taunting soul were in the same boat—stuck with each other and frustrated.

It didn’t make listening to his insults any easier.

“Go away,” Derek murmured.

“What’s that, you miserable piece of crap?”

Clenching his jaw, Derek glared through the mud-streaked windshield at his new boss reclining in his favorite camp chair.

“Lost your voice?” the spirit taunted. “Loser,” he chanted. “Imbecile. Idiot.”

Alaska seemed far enough away to be safe.

So far, the worst the Dark Caster had managed since Derek’s escape was the big-mouthed ghost clinging to the inside of the truck.

Derek cranked the engine and steered away from the lake at a leisurely five miles an hour. Driving was something he had only re-learned since he’d been in Alaska. With the way Bo drank, it was a necessity.

Derek drove slow. Probably too slow. He remembered, vaguely, driving his former sports car fast on long, lonely stretches of highway, taking turns at warp speed and weaving recklessly through freeway traffic. Not anymore. Now, he was worse than an old woman. He didn’t drive the speed limit. He drove under it. When Bo teased him about it, which Bo loved to do at all times about all things, Derek blamed it on the rain and snow, but it honestly had little to do with weather conditions.

Just one more thing Holden Clark had stolen from him.

He parked in front of the town’s shopping center, bypassing a hardware store, a smoke-filled tavern, and the post office to pull open the heavy glass doors of a grocery store. Derek selected a twelve-pack of cheap, cold beer from the refrigerator case in the rear of the shop, and when he spun around, he came face-to-face with the eighteen-year-old checkout girl.

“Hi, Derek,” she said, grinning brightly.

It was too cold, too quiet, and too depressing to be so happy.

“Hello,” he returned, veering around her.

“Going fishing again?” she asked, trailing him down the baked-goods aisle.

“Bo is.” Derek didn’t fish. He’d never learned and didn’t see the point.

“I love to fish,” she exclaimed, scampering behind the register as he set the beer on the counter. “I’ll teach you how. I mean, if you don’t know how. Do you know how?”

While he rearranged possible responses in his mind, he studied the girl. Lea, read her nametag. She was young and dewy, and he envied the ease with which she spit out words, but something was missing. There was no light in her. An overabundance of enthusiasm, but no inner glow.

The thought of touching her in any way, let alone kissing her, made him slightly queasy. Definitely uncomfortable. And not in a good way.

“No, thanks,” he said, the same as every other time Lea had invited him somewhere.

Her face fell. “Oh. Yeah. Some other time.”

He paid for the beer with Bo’s credit card and turned to leave.

“You’re gay, right?” Lea called after him. “That’s it. You only like boys?”

He lowered his eyes and exited fast, tossing the beer in the cab of the pick-up.

Derek had been called worse in his life. It hardly bothered him anymore. He knew what kind of person attracted him. At least, he used to know. Since Holden’s spell, it was hard to say what turned him on anymore because nothing did.

He just wasn’t interested in being tangled up in someone else’s life. Or worse, someone tangling up in his. Because his was a twisted disaster of epic proportions.

To prove it, as if Derek held any doubts, his least favorite ghost appeared in the seat beside him.

“Worthless,” he repeated, making his voice purposefully ominous. “Worthless…worthless…worthless…”

Arriving at the lake a bit distracted, Derek stomped around thick-trunked trees toward Bo and Stubby’s camp chairs and silently arranged the twelve-pack in their cooler.

“Thanks, my friend,” Bo exclaimed. “Come pick us up later.”

“I will.” Until then, Derek would be working on his cabin. Struggling, he finally spit out, “Text me if you need anything.”

Once Bo and Stubby started drinking, though, they’d be arguing good-naturedly and downing cold beers for hours. Derek would have the rest of the day to himself.

“…just kill yourself already…you spineless worm… The Dark Caster’s spirit trailed him toward the truck. “…cut your own throat, and I’ll laugh while you die…”

Or maybe not.

* * *

Jessa McAvoy glanced from the weather report on her computer monitor to the beautifully embossed, rose-colored invitation in her lap.

Mr. Holden Clark and Ms. Rebecca Powell request the pleasure of your company…

Rebecca was getting married—Jessa double-checked the date—in almost three weeks.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Conflicted, definitely. She was happy for Rebecca, but at the same time it made Jessa feel like she was stuck in neutral while everyone around her raced off to new and exciting destinations.

Though there was one bright spot on her horizon. Two days earlier Carly Pritcher had hired her, verbally, to be her real estate agent. So long as her boss allowed it, Jessa was on the verge of cutting the apron strings.

“Jessa?” Speak of the devil. Ryan Rohmer emerged from his office.

“Yes?” She crammed the invitation back into its drawer.

“Pull up the phase-two forms and personalize them. Here’s the info.” He slapped a pink post-it to the door beside his head. “And I smell coffee. Can you bring me an extra large? Two sugars. Thanks.”

The sticky note lost its purchase and fluttered to the carpet.

Jessa exhaled weakly as the note swooped through the air. This wasn’t her dream. Not by a long shot. As she crossed the room to collect the slip of paper, she knew she couldn’t stay with Ryan for much longer or risk being his junior agent forever.

Jessa hated her job. No, hate wasn’t a strong enough word. Loathed maybe. She’d spent a long time as Rebecca Powell’s junior agent. When Rebecca quit the real estate game, Jessa had taken a new job with Ryan Rohmer, assuming she’d be an agent of her own. But no. She was still a junior agent, just for a different person. She hated it. Loathed it.

Jessa was a good Realtor. She should have her own business, run her own shop, be master of her own destiny. Instead, she was fetching coffee, delivering paperwork to clients, and answering Ryan’s email as if she were his assistant, not his partner. Like she was Derek Walker, Rebecca’s former assistant.

There was someone Jessa worried about a lot. She hadn’t heard from in him months, not since he had up and disappeared. Hadn’t even said good-bye.

“I don’t know why you’re sighing all dramatically,” Karen snarked from her nearby cubicle. “I work my ass off day and night for leads and you and I make the same paycheck.” She curled her upper lip. “I’d count my blessings is all I’m saying.”

“It’s not about the money,” Jessa retorted.

But Karen ducked her head over her keyboard as if she hadn’t heard.

The money made no difference at all. Yes, Ryan paid Jessa a percentage of every commission he earned while she assisted him, but she didn’t want to be an agent for the money. The chase excited Jessa. Schmoozing clients. Running down leads. Closing deals. That’s what she craved. The thrill of the hunt.

Not filling out forms and pouring coffee.

She emptied two sugar packets into an oversized mug.

“Here you go, Ryan,” she said, handing him the steaming drink through his office door.

“Mmm.” He accepted it, smiling gratefully. “Just what I needed. Thank you.”

He sipped, nodded, and returned to his computer monitor, essentially dismissing her. But she had something to tell him, and if she didn’t spit it out soon she may never say it.

Having an actual client in her back pocket gave her courage. “I didn’t get my Realtor license,” she began, “to be a junior agent my whole life.”

Ryan’s fingers stilled on the keyboard. “Are you unhappy with your job here?”

Yes. “I want to close my own deals, and every lead I’ve had in the past few months you’ve taken out from under me.”

His eyebrows collided. “That’s the contract you signed. You assist me in finding clients, you help me keep those clients happy, and if I close a deal you earn twenty percent of my commission. There are lots of people who would love to do what you’re doing.”

“I guess I’m not lots of people,” she said. But when he gave her a wounded frown, she rushed to add, “I’m thankful for my job. All I’m asking for is a couple clients of my own.”

“Are you ready to be cut loose?” he returned. “Because I can’t use you if you’re distracted with your own clients. I need you available to me twenty-four seven. So, this is what we’ll do.” He steepled his arms on the desk and stared disdainfully at her. “You continue working as my junior agent, but if you actually find a serious client and close the deal, I’ll let you out of your current employment contract and then you can be a free agent in my office.”

Jessa exhaled. “Thank you. I’ll take it.”

“Okay.” He refocused on his monitor. “But until then, I need those phase-two forms and then track down someone—anyone—who’ll approve the Jones’ for a half a million dollar home loan. Thanks.”

She returned to her cubicle and scrolled through her business contacts list. In the past month, she’d either left voicemails or spoken personally to each and every person, hoping to sniff out leads. Sometimes finding a client was about being in front of them at the right time. Today, she was beginning callbacks. Just to check in and chat.

She dialed her former neighbor, Carly Pritcher, but the call went to voicemail. “Hi, Carly,” she greeted brightly. “I hope you’re doing well. Did those tomatoes ever come in the way you wanted? If so, let me know. I’d love to swing by the old neighborhood and buy a couple. And while I’m there, we can talk about properties.”

She said good-bye, and her hand hovered over her phone to dial a different number when it buzzed with an incoming call.

“Good morning. Jessa McAvoy with Ryan Rohmer Real Estate. How can I help you?”

“This is Anastasia,” greeted a brusque female. “Please hold for the mayor.”

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Spell of Summoning (Dark Caster #1)

Written by Anna Abner

Copyright 2013 by Anna Abner

Or, Enjoy A Sneak Peek At Chapter One Of Spell Of Summoning

Cover Blurb

Holden Clark walks into Rebecca Powell’s life, a tall, blue-eyed stranger who stirs long forgotten desires. But nothing, including this man, is what it seems. A dark necromancer is targeting Becca for a full-blown demonic possession. She is thrust into a world she never knew existed—a world where dark casters create chaos and necromancers talk to the dead.

Holden has no faith in his power. A necromancer, he communicates with the dead, but he has never embraced his gifts. Now, he has no choice. He must stop the dark caster attacking Rebecca, but accepting this mission means he’ll be delving into dangerous magics he’s never used before.

Under the protection of the damaged and mysterious Holden, Rebecca will question everything …

Chapter One

April in North Carolina didn’t have the sticky heat that would settle over the state during the summer months, but it was warm. Sweat tickled at the back of Holden Clark’s neck. But not because of the weather. He’d lied to a woman to get her here.

Well, lie was a strong word. He’d rather say he’d persuaded a woman to join him for lunch under false pretenses. Because he wasn’t a liar. In fact, he prided himself on his honesty.

But he couldn’t think of any other way to get Rebecca Powell to meet him here. Telling her the truth over the phone was out of the question.

Buster, Holden’s yellow Labrador, sat up off the asphalt and whined at an approaching, slow-moving vehicle. This must be her.

A silver Lexus pulled over and parked two spots down in the half-empty lot, giving Holden plenty of room to watch Rebecca Powell through her car windows. Grams was right. No doubt about it, the woman was under a summoning spell, and the demon trying desperately to break into their world clung to Ms. Powell’s blonde hair and narrow shoulders like a filthy veil.

“Tell her whatever you have to,” Grams said, rounding the hood of his stripped-down 1979 Jeep. “She doesn’t have much time.”

He leaned against the passenger door, his fingers tightening to the point of pain around Buster’s long, braided leash. The air between him and Rebecca crackled with magical energy. The spell on her was no amateurish accident. It was stronger than anything he’d ever experienced. Fear coiled inside him. He couldn’t help her. No matter what his Grams said.

With a flip of her hair, Rebecca rose from her car and smiled that big Realtor smile. She looked just like her photo on her website. Pretty, brown-eyed, and about his age, twenty-eight or twenty-nine. She wore her business attire—curled hair, expensive jewelry, short skirt, and heels—like battle armor. It all pronounced her professional, but friendly. Smart, but feminine. A tough southern girl.

Buster’s ears perked up. Holden dug in his heels, but Buster was eighty-five pounds of overgrown puppy. He launched himself at Rebecca full force, as if he had springs for feet. The leash jerked out of Holden’s hand, and before he could stop him, his dog scratched both her knees, untucked her white blouse, and slammed her against her car. It was Buster’s version of a polite “How do you do? Is that a demon over your shoulder?”

“Good Lord,” she squealed.

“Buster, no!” Holden wrapped both arms around the dog and lifted him clear off the ground to stop the assault. “Not cool,” he grumbled, setting the dog in the Jeep. He secured his leash to the steering wheel, giving him only enough slack to lie down.

“I’m so sorry,” Holden said, turning to Miss Powell. “He wouldn’t hurt you. He wants to smell—” He almost said the demon. “—you.”

Rebecca straightened her light blue skirt, one hand on the car for balance, and smiled, the perfect agent even with dog slobber on her arms.

“He sure is friendly.”

She closed the distance between them and the air sizzled. She extended her hand for a shake, but her knees wobbled. The magic written all over her must be taking a toll. She listed to the side.

Holden leapt to catch her before she fell, accepting the brunt of her weight against his chest. She was small and light as a bird, and she smelled like fruit and flowers and something even more delicious underneath.

At her touch, a slice of him long frozen roared back to life. It had been so long since he’d felt anything near to desire that he didn’t immediately recognize the sensation.

“Excuse me,” she chirped, wrestling free. “I got light-headed for a sec. I’ve been having migraines.”

“No problem.” Holden brushed himself off, uncomfortable with so much physical contact. It had been months since he’d been this close to a woman. And he’d never been this close to a demon.

“I’m so embarrassed.” Rebecca wiped at the worst of the dirt streaks on her skirt.

Blood bubbled up from a scratch above her knee. Holden pulled a mechanic’s rag, the closest thing to a Band-Aid in the Jeep, from his glove box and offered it to her. If only he owned a first aid kit like a normal person.

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“No, thanks.” She waved away his rag and handed him a fancy business card with her photo on it. The spell on her crackled, passing him a minor electrical shock. She must have felt it, too, because she snatched her hand back.

“Mr. Clark,” she said, “let’s get down to business. You said you wanted to sell your house, but you had some questions?”

Right. His cover story. He’d called and offered her a job, insisting on meeting her here at this strip mall for a lunch date at a little Mexican restaurant. But he had no intention of selling the farmhouse he’d inherited from his grandparents. The ruse was the simplest way to get her to The Repository, a store that shared the same shopping center.

“Uh. Yeah.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Did you change your mind? Because I’m not feeling very well all of a sudden. I could reschedule.” She produced a cell phone and tapped on it. “To be honest, I’m not taking any new clients right now. My associate, Jessa, though…”

Grams appeared at his elbow. “Don’t even think about it, bubba.”

How did she know he was half a second from accepting the out?

“I can’t,” he mouthed. “It’s worse than I thought.”

Rebecca glanced up. “Sorry?” Her smile faltered.

He’d promised Grams to help Rebecca. He’d actually said the words. But if Rebecca refused his help, it wasn’t his fault.

Might as well come clean. “The spell on you. It’s worse than I thought.”

She cocked her head, a strand of honey-blonde hair sliding along her collar. “What did you say?”

Buster whined and strained at his leash, rocking the Jeep.

“The possession spell,” Holden said. “The demon.”

For a moment she didn’t react. Then, very calmly, she put away her phone and said, “I understand.” She straightened her shoulders and seemed to grow another three inches, though even in her towering heels she remained half a foot shorter than him.

“Good to meet you,” she said in a steely tone. “Have a nice day.”

Her first instinct was to dismiss anything to do with the supernatural, but he didn’t have the luxury of denial. His whole life was one big supernatural tragedy.

Grams adamantly shook her head at him. She’d given him an ultimatum. Stop the demon from breaking through to their world, or she was leaving. For good.

Last try, and then Grams would have to accept he’d done all he could.

Holden grabbed Rebecca by the wrist, stalling her. “Don’t you know someone is trying to possess you with a demon?”

* * *

Fear flashed through Rebecca, momentarily obliterating the constant headache and the pain in her thighs from his devil dog. The man whose arms she’d nearly fainted into was another lunatic. The third psychic in the last month. That must be some kind of record.

But Holden didn’t look like a Ouija-loving madman. First off, he showed up to a business lunch in jeans and a T-shirt. He was tall. And young, about her age. And way too handsome.

The fear morphed into anger, granting her strength. She locked eyes with his very, very blue ones. Quite distracting eyes, actually.

“Let me go. Now.” She stared him down, willing him to release her without any further fuss.

“Hear me out.”

“I don’t think so.” Becca palmed her cell with her free hand, her thumb poised to hit send on a 911 call.

Holden stepped so close she caught his freshly laundered scent, but Rebecca held her ground.

“Have you been seeing things? Having headaches? Does it seem like a haunting, except it’s only around you?”

Did he read minds? Yes, yes, and double yes. She dropped her cell phone into her purse. “My father hired you.”

“No.”

“Then how—?” Becca blinked and couldn’t stop.

She’d hoped today’s migraine was food poisoning from the Chinese take-out she’d shared with her staff at lunch, but she’d been suffering headaches for weeks. And the other unexplained phenomena surrounding her had nothing to do with MSG or bad bean sprouts.

The pain at the back of her skull receded, but for a minute there—the one during which she’d fallen into this guy’s arms—she’d feared she was having a stroke. Maybe she had.

Holden’s voice lowered. “I can see the summoning spell all over you.”

“You cannot be serious.” Nothing in Becca’s life, not her realty courses or the motivational seminars or the “Double Your Sales” DVDs she’d watched last week, had prepared her for this nonsense.

She forced a smile, wishing she had her sister beside her to roll her eyes for. They would jostle each other and giggle and reinforce the absurdity of all this. Because there were no such things as demons or spells or magic or any of it. That was summer movie, cable TV bullshit that didn’t translate to the real world.

Except she wasn’t so sure anymore. She’d seen so much.

Holden frowned, his gaze crisscrossing her face. “Am I wrong?”

“That’s private.” She pointed at her car. “I have a lot of work to do.” That wasn’t true. Not completely. She owned her own office. She made her own schedule.

He looked her right in the eye and leaned in even closer. Way too close. Kissing range close. “A necromancer is targeting you for a full-blown demonic possession. I can help you, if you let me.”

Becca swallowed, overwhelmed with the urge to retreat. His body heat rolled over her like a wave. “What do you—”

“I know what’s happening because I’m a necromancer, too.”

She froze, not sure whether to laugh or get her phone back out and press send on that call. “You’re joking.”

He freed her, leaving her reeling.

“I was trying to—” Holden shook his head. “Forget it. I’ll see what I can do.” He tilted his ear toward his vehicle as if he heard something.

Buster popped his scruffy blond head over the passenger door and rested his chin on the sill, but nothing else about the decades old Jeep drew her attention. And she didn’t hear a thing.

“What are you going to do?” Becca disliked the idea of Holden Clark investigating her personal life behind her back. “What do you mean?”

“There’s a guy in the store over there.”

She glanced at the row of shops. “What guy?”

Holden eased farther away. “I’ll let you know what I find.”

“Whoa,” she said, following him. “You’re not going over there to talk to some guy about my personal business.”

“Then come with me.”

Her logical mind urged her to get as far away from Holden Clark as possible. And fast. She’d taken a self-defense class. Distance and crowds were two important assets. Right now, she had neither.

But what if he wasn’t a lunatic? What if he was right?

She was already here, and she had nothing to do the rest of the day but sit in her mostly boxed-up office or go home to her too-small apartment, the second one she’d moved into in the last three months, and eat alone.

Then he went in for the kill, aiming the full strength of those blue eyes on her. “There’s a summoning spell on you. I want to get rid of it.”

“Not possible.”

But Becca couldn’t lie to herself. Some too-weird-to-be-believed shit had been going on for a while. It was the reason she lived in a tiny, slightly toxic-smelling one-bedroom apartment instead of her real house on River Road. This wasn’t all make-believe. Those chairs hadn’t moved themselves.

“Without help it’s only going to get worse.”

Worse wasn’t an option. Worse was stroking out during her morning commute. She couldn’t do worse.

“Does this guy have a name?” she asked.

Holden cracked a small, approving smile, and his features softened. She was struck, again, by how handsome he was.

“Cole Burkov. He has experience with dark magic.”

“Is he a friend of yours?” she asked.

“Sort of. But the point is he knows a lot about spells.”

Becca bit her lip and then went with it because not only was her schedule flexible for the first time in ten years, but if her issues weren’t supernatural, then it was CAT scan and blood work time. The very real possibility that she was suffering from a brain tumor was always sitting there in the back of her mind, terrifying the living daylights out of her. And she’d much rather deal with a pesky spirit than chemotherapy.

“Fine. You got me here. Let’s see what he has to say.”

Because, yeah, Mr. Clark was probably a head case, but how else to explain the headaches, the nightmares, and the electricity glitches?

She glanced at the fluorescent lamp pole arcing above their heads, but it held steady. No light shows today, then.

Holden secured his dog, and Rebecca pulled an off-white cardigan from her trunk. It would cover the gritty paw marks on her clothes. As she pushed her arms through the long sleeves, she made a promise. Five minutes with Cole Burkov, and then she’d return to her office. That was long enough to decide whether Holden was on to something or a frustrating waste of time.

Of the two other psychics that had tracked Becca down at work, neither had mentioned a necro-whatever or a demonic possession. Their conversations had run more toward blocked chakras, sage smudging, and EMFs. They’d been equally earnest in their conversations and only slightly more ridiculous. And each had brought up forms of payment in nearly the same breath as “Hello, nice to meet you.” At least Mr. Clark wasn’t asking for money. Yet.

Holden got his dog out of the Jeep, a stronger grip on the leash this time, she hoped, and gestured for her to proceed.

She faced the storefronts. Not exactly voodoo country. Where were the Spanish moss and rolling fog?

“So,” she said, “which is the collection of dark and unknowable magics—the fast food Mexican place or the ice cream parlor/arcade?”

He eyed the row of family-friendly establishments. “It’s the comic book shop.”

The dog surged toward Rebecca, straining at his leash and dancing up on his hind legs. He was obviously biding his time until he could jump all over her. She gave him a look that said, “Try it, and I’ll hobble you.”

“Who’s your fine young gentleman?” Rebecca asked.

“Buster. I hope you don’t mind, but he doesn’t like being alone.”

Mind? “Of course not.” She grabbed her bag, locked the car, and marched ahead in her heels and turquoise pencil skirt, her cardigan hiding most of Buster’s little gifts.

Holden led the unrepentant Lab across the parking lot, keeping barely enough space between them to prevent further assault. The dog couldn’t belong to anyone but Holden. Neither one had a clue about personal space.

“What is a necromancer?” Becca asked, quickly outpaced by Holden’s long strides.

He paused on the sidewalk for her to catch up. “I see spirits. Deceased persons.”

“You see dead people.” She fought a smile. “You’re obviously a movie fan. So, is that like a magician?”

“I’m not sure magician is the right word.”

He settled Buster in a shady spot under the store’s front windows and poured water from a bottle into a stainless steel bowl. The little devil tilted its head up and stared at Holden with an expression of pure adoration before belly flopping on the warm concrete. His tail thumped twice, and then he fell asleep.

“You’re good with him.” It wasn’t right to be jealous of a well-cared-for animal. Becca looked after others, but there wasn’t a single person who took care of her. Not her sister, not her dad, and her mother didn’t count. If she had time for a boyfriend, maybe he would, but she didn’t, and there was no point in dwelling on all the reasons why she didn’t.

Holden pulled open the shop’s glass door and held it for her.

Tall wall-to-wall shelves ringed the interior of the store, which smelled like books and Mexican food. Three men played a dice and card game at a table in the corner, a teenage girl flipped through back issues, and a twenty-something guy stood at the cash register, his nametag pinned to his dark blue polo.

“We have to go,” Becca whispered. “They don’t have magic. They’re role playing.”

Holden grunted.

A dark-haired young man wearing a company shirt stared hard at her and then headed right for them. “Freaky. It’s like you have your own personal storm cloud. Demonic possession?”

Holden had probably called this guy on the drive over and prepped him for their little con game if that’s what this was. And there was a good chance that’s what it was.

“Rebecca Powell.” She extended her hand for a quick shake, reflexively passing him her card.

“Sure.” He frowned at Holden. “Let’s talk in the back room.”

“And your name is?” she called after them. No answer.

Damn them. She knocked her knuckles on a glass case dedicated to Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The stake-wielding blonde glared up at her from the cover of a glossy graphic novel.

This was a mistake.

Becca checked her watch. Three minutes down. Two to go.

Quiet conversation in the store picked up again. She didn’t mind being the center of attention—her job encouraged it—but this didn’t feel right.

“Hi.” The cashier stepped into her periphery. His nametag read Justin.

“Hello.” Smiling sweetly, she handed him her card. “Rebecca Powell. Nice to meet you.”

He traded her a plastic-encased comic book. Leaning in, he whispered, “You’re welcome.” He stared meaningfully at the book and then wandered to the checkout area.

She glanced at the comic in her hands. A group of teenagers under the Statue of Liberty raced across the front cover of Runaways.

Time’s up.

She set the book on a shelf and marched for the closed door marked Private—No Exit. Nobody tried to stop her, and she let herself in. Groups of used candles, posters of big-breasted superheroines, and crates of comic books surrounded Cole and Holden. No ancient tomes or long wands in sight.

Becca crossed the threshold, and her ears buzzed. The air hummed as if she were standing beside an electrified fence.

Cole stopped talking midsentence, and both men stared at her.

The lightning storm in her brain intensified, worse than ever before, and her instincts screamed at her to escape.

The shelf beside her rattled.

Rebecca pasted on a smile, cloaking herself in professionalism. “What have you come up with?”

“Go back into the store,” Holden snapped, a twinge of panic in his voice.

Just what were they doing in here?

She stepped into the room. And the whole building shook.

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Blooddrinker’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #3)

Written by Anna Abner

Copyright 2018 by Anna Abner

Read The First Chapter Of Beasts of Vegas #3!

Chapter One

Maksim Volk struggled to his knees despite the pain in his muscles and joints, despite the hunger gnawing at him from the inside out. The garage tilted, fluctuating the shadows of the wooden joists supporting the roof. His chains rattled, clanking among his wrists, ankles, and the bolt in the concrete foundation.

There was nothing for him to do but wait while his body wasted away. The infection swimming in his veins would keep him alive indefinitely, healing injuries and enhancing his senses, making him stronger than human men, granting him strength. Not enough to escape, though, not after starving for days.

But Maks hadn’t survived decades of torture to surrender to a few links of chain and a dry spell. During the twenty years he’d been a prisoner and guinea pig of the US Army, his captors had tried everything to test the limits of his fortitude, including starving him. He knew exactly how badly things could get before he desiccated.

Connor had done this to him. He and Anya.

No, she preferred Ali now, the name her biological father Uri Rusenko had given her. It was a pretty name, but it was difficult to gaze into her big blue eyes—eyes so like her mother Katya’s—and not remember the little girl named Anya.

Maks had never considered loving a child. Turned into a vampire at seventeen, he was barely more than a child himself when he first laid eyes on Katya. But when he infected her rather than lose her and she birthed a beautiful, blue-eyed baby girl into his hands, Maks had been completely and utterly smitten. For the first time in his life, someone had not only depended on him, but trusted him too. As Anya had grown, she’d gazed up at him and it had felt like someone in the world believed in him. He was a father, no matter how unconventional, and Maks loved every minute of it. Loved Ali. Loved Katya. Loved being part of a family.

But his daughter had stood by and watched Connor Beckett lock him in chains.

Maks gripped the links near the bolt and heaved upward. One of his finger joints dislocated, and still he pulled.

It wasn’t enough. The bolt remained secure, and he drooped, exhausted.

It wasn’t Ali’s fault, though, that she’d lost faith in Maks. She’d been in Britain under Uri’s brutal care for almost her entire twenty-two years of life, far from vampires and the supernatural. Far from him. It wasn’t her fault she thought he was a monster.

If he escaped the chains, he’d do anything to make it up to her.

He kicked the only object in range—a section of half-finished wall. Little remained of its original shape, and Maks further added to its deterioration with three or four savage blows with his bare foot. Wood splintered, drywall crumbled, and nails squealed in protest.

Unable to remain on his knees any longer, Maks slumped onto his side and closed his burning eyes.

Dozing in a blood-starved haze, he thought of his amber-eyed captive, Violet. It was like he could smell her sweet breath. Like he could feel her creamy, soft skin.

Maks had kept a lot of blood donors over the years, but Violet had impressed him from the start. She wasn’t cowed, despite having suffered under Oleksander the Destroyer, sadistic former warlord of the horde. She was brave, smart-mouthed, and her blood was fine liquor after a hard day. But keeping Violet a prisoner was like trapping a wild bird in a wire cage. It wasn’t right.

He must find her before Olek’s little brother Sergei hurt her. Anya would help him. No, she went by Ali now. Still, his little girl would help him save Violet. She had to.

Someone approached the garage. Footsteps crept nearer, and the side door swung open on silent hinges.

#

Ali Rusenko wasn’t super excited to do the Oracle’s bidding today. Ilvane the Oracle, also known as fourteen-year-old Caitlyn from suburbia, wasn’t exactly a friend. So far, Ali’s experiences with her prophecies were less than positive. If it hadn’t been for the Anya from Nadvirna prophecy, Ali wouldn’t have become the obsession of Oleksander and nearly died.

But the Oracle had recently visited Connor and asked him to be at a street corner in Vegas today a little after two. Oh, and by the way, bring Maksim Volk. The only hitch was, Maks was currently chained up, feral and half-mad himself, in their cabin in the Nevada desert.

“Prophecy time,” Connor Beckett announced, whipping open his hotel suite’s front door. “When the greatest seer in the world tells me to be somewhere at a certain time—I’ll be in that spot at that time.”

Ali strolled into the hallway and pressed for an elevator. “Any chance the Oracle’s ramblings were just that?”

“Caitlyn may be batshit,” Connor said, gracing her with a slow smile, “but everything she says happens.” The smile, at odds with his words, widened suggestively.

Her boyfriend was damned sexy, even more so since he’d been infected. A card-carrying member of the supernatural world—he was without equal in strength, speed, and healing ability. In her humble opinion, he was the hottest vampire walking.

Still amazed at how lucky she’d been on her first trip to the US, Ali rose on tiptoe and pressed a sweet kiss to his mouth. Growing up sheltered and different in the UK, she’d never believed she’d fall in love with such a beautiful, warm-hearted man, let alone that he would love her in return.

Still in his arms, Ali asked, “Didn’t she say taking Maks with us was optional?”

The elevator doors opened inside the underground parking structure and they beelined it for Connor’s souped-up 1973 Ford F-350.

“She said it’d be fun. Besides, I’m not taking any chances with fate.” Connor held the passenger door open for Ali, and she climbed in, bouncing on the wide bench seat. “Especially when it comes to helping people.”

 “Speaking of helping people,” Ali said, “can we agree to release Volk after we do this errand for the Oracle? It’s not right keeping him like a captured animal.”

Ali didn’t enjoy the thought of Maksim Volk, or anyone, chained up in a cabin—alone, restrained, starving. No one deserved such treatment, not even Olek’s right hand man. But the last time they’d interacted with him, he’d been raving mad. Not long ago, Volk had murdered her cousin Stefan right in front of her. She didn’t exactly trust him. Connor had never trusted him.

“I don’t feel right keeping him prisoner,” Ali told Connor as they raced across deserted highways south of Las Vegas. “Either we hand him over to the government, or we let him go. We can’t keep him caged indefinitely.”

Connor glanced at her before returning his attention to the gray road unspooling under the hood of his pickup. “You know what the government would do to him.”

“Torture him,” she agreed. The US Army had already held him prisoner for the past twenty years, testing God-knows-what on his body, his blood, and his spirit. “Or just kill him.”

“Is that what you want?”

Ali sighed. “Of course not. I’m simply making the point that we don’t have a lot of options.” Maksim Volk was the closest thing to a father she had left, which depressed the hell out of her.

She possessed no memory of it, but according to Maks, she’d lived with him and her mother in some twisted vampire family for the first two years of her life. Volk had infected Ali’s mother Katya when she was nine months pregnant with Ali. The infection had forced Ali into the world and into Maksim Volk’s arms. Which made her feelings about the vampire complicated. To say the least.

Connor pulled the truck onto a long, sandy driveway and, after coding a number into the security gate, parked in front of a one-bedroom hunting cabin once owned by Connor and Roz’s friends, Anton and Natasha. But after the unlucky siblings had been murdered and eaten by the Four Sons, Roz had inherited the property as well as a great deal of money to use in researching the paranormal.

Connor caught up to her at the garage door. “I don’t hear anything.”

Ali tried peering through the side window, but the glass was too dirty. “Is he okay?” Oh, God. Had they killed Maksim Volk?

“I expected to hear chains rattling,” Connor said, “or swearing, or something. The last time we saw him he was screaming bloody murder.” Stepping around her, Connor unlocked the door and opened it extra slowly, examining the large space an inch at a time.

“For God’s sake,” Ali exclaimed, wiggling under his arm and shoving wide the door.

Volk hadn’t escaped. He was exactly where they’d left him. Though his gunshot wounds had healed, it was obvious from the various dark red streaks that he’d tried to squeeze out of the shackles around his wrists and ankles. He may have even tried to chew himself out.

“Maks?” she called softly.

“His heart’s beating,” Connor said, remaining by the door. Apparently satisfied the vampire curled on the floor, pale and covered in his own blood, posed no threat, he said, “He’s alive, but he needs to drink if you want him to stay that way.”

Ali threw Connor an annoyed look over her shoulder before kneeling beside Volk. Of course, she wanted him alive. If everything he said was true, and who knew with his reputation as a liar and a traitor, then her mother had loved him enough to leave her human life and join him in some vampire commune in the Ukraine with her newborn daughter. If Katya had trusted him, Ali could give him another chance.

“Maks?” Ali repeated, reaching out a hand to touch his blood-crusted hair. Her fingers brushed at the dark lock covering his face. “Can you hear me? We brought blood.”

At the B word, his sunken brown eyes opened, but he remained eerily quiet.

“Here.” She gestured for Connor to hand her a blood bag, which he did. She tore open the tubing and pressed the dribbling end to his lips, then, shifting into a sitting position, she pulled Maks’ heavy head into her lap. He swallowed as if it hurt.

She found the vampire’s musky scent faintly familiar. Was it a distant memory emerging from the shadows of her past? Maybe, but when she focused on it, the recollection disappeared.

 “I’m so sorry,” she said, cupping the side of his face. “We thought we left you enough blood to last two weeks.”

“Looks like,” Connor said, kicking at empty, discarded packets, “he drank everything the first day to boost his strength to escape.”

“We should have come back sooner.” Ali didn’t enjoy thinking of him in such a desperate situation, especially one she’d put him in.

 “She’s helpless,” Maks hissed between swallows, finally breaking his silence. “…my fault.”

“Who is ‘she’?” Ali asked as he finished the first bag. He’d been ranting about saving someone since they’d captured him, but he hadn’t yet been lucid enough to explain.

“Violet.”

She’d never heard of her.

Connor handed Ali a second blood bag.

“Unchain him,” she said firmly. “Enough’s enough. He can’t even feed himself.”

After a pause, Connor said, “Fine,” and knelt to unshackle Maks’ wrists and ankles.

Ali offered Maks the next bag, but he didn’t immediately take it. When he attempted to lift his right arm, it became obvious it was dislocated.

“I can help with that shoulder,” Connor said.

After Maks inclined his head, Connor grabbed his right wrist, pushed back with his boot, and slid the arm into its socket with a wet pop.

Ali cringed, but Maks didn’t react to the pain.

“So,” Connor said, leaning against the wall. “The Oracle asked me to take you with me to the corner of Thompson and Faraday at two oh six this afternoon. Wanna come?”

“Why?” Maks asked.

Ali gazed down into the vampire’s pale, boyish face. Holding him was like carrying a sleepy lion in her lap. He was dangerous, and yet his weight was comfortable and familiar, as if they were friends. Or even family.

No. Not even close.

Ali wiggled out from under the suddenly stifling burden of Maks’ upper body.

“You think the Oracle makes sense?” Connor chuckled. “She told me to be at a certain place at a certain time, and then tacked on that I should bring you. ‘Fun’ is what she called it. Now, drink your fill, clean yourself up, and let’s hit the road.”

“So you can lock me up again?” Maks questioned angrily. Grabbing a third blood bag, he sat up and sank his fangs into the plastic pouch.

“I’d rather trust you,” Connor said. “But it’s not easy. Are you a bloodthirsty psychopath, or are you a misunderstood victim? Or something else altogether? I don’t know. No one knows.”

“I have to get out of here,” Maks said, struggling to stand.

He swayed, reaching for the wall that was too far away to help. Ali imagined him tumbling onto his face, and her stupid sympathetic heart won over common sense. With a muttered curse, she swept under his arm and supported some of his weight.

“I don’t know if he’s strong enough to come with us,” Ali told Connor, frowning at Maks’ so-white-it-was-nearly-translucent skin. “I’d rather drop him off at the suite and put him to bed for a couple days.”

They rented the fifty-first floor of the Le Sort Hotel on the Vegas Strip, another gift from the recently deceased Anton and Natasha. So long as Roz and Connor wanted it, the siblings’ sizeable estate would foot the bill. Right now, Ali felt it was the safest place for Maks to recuperate.

Connor shrugged. “Caitlyn said I should take him.”

The Oracle was never wrong. She’d foretold Connor’s releasing of Oleksander the Destroyer and Ali’s role in the same warlord’s final battle. Ali didn’t mess with the Oracle. Caitlyn simply knew too much.

“If you swear to me,” Maks looked directly into Ali’s eyes, “that you’ll let me go, then I’ll do the Oracle’s bidding. But you have to swear.”

Before she could second-guess herself, Ali said, “I swear it.”

Connor grumbled something unintelligible and handed Maks the fifth and final bag of blood before leading them outside.

#

Maksim Volk stared at the side of Connor Beckett’s head and snarled around his fifth blood bag. He was feeling a little more like himself—arm healing, joints mending, any and all torn flesh regenerating—which meant his annoyance with the uppity twat had returned in full force.

Who did Connor think he was? What made him believe he could romance Maks’ little girl and act like lord of all vampires? He was such a holier-than-thou asshat, Maks could hardly stand him. Maks was a prince, a lieutenant, a goddamned warrior. He should terrorize anyone idiotic enough to make eye contact, but Connor Beckett jerked him around like the dumb kid Maks certainly was not.

Maks glanced to the right at Ali. Her love for Connor was the only reason Maks hadn’t eviscerated him already.

By the time Connor’s truck passed through the outskirts of Vegas, Maks had finished devouring the bagged blood.

“Explain to me again the Oracle’s instructions,” Maks said, dropping the empty blood bag on the floorboards near his feet.

He needed to get this prophecy shit over with so he could track Sergei’s group. They’d probably fled their last hiding place on Red Rock Road in suburban Las Vegas. If they’d taken Violet with them rather than slaughter her and leave her for Maks as a warning, he would find her.

Guilt niggled him. If he’d let her go when he could have, she’d be safe in her home now, not an abused blood slave at the mercy of a pack of psychopaths and sadists.

He was a piece of shit. A no-good, selfish, cowardly pile of garbage.

He could do one decent thing, though. He could get Violet away from the horde.

That firecracker must still be alive. She was stronger than anyone gave her credit for. No one had been able to bully her—not Olek, not him, not even Sergei.

“I will find Violet,” he vowed, and his chest swelled slightly with the first stirrings of hope. He could do this. For her. For himself. He could do something noble and selfless. He would.

Connor speared him with a look. “I don’t know who that is, but you’ll have to get your strength back to find anyone. In the condition you’re in right now, you’d fall over at the first stiff wind. You’re useless.”

“Your flattery is embarrassing me.”

He rolled his eyes. “Just telling the truth, brother.”

“I’ll help you,” Ali chimed in, and then ducked her head, shielding her face with her long blonde hair.

“Thank you.”

“Anyway,” Connor cut in. “The Oracle didn’t make a lot of sense.” The man’s hands tightened on the steering wheel of his obnoxiously loud F-350 pickup. “But the gist is to be at a specific corner at a specific time. Oh, and by the way,” he said sarcastically, “bring Maks with you. It’ll be fun.”

“Hmm.” Maks couldn’t care less about the ramblings of an unstable young woman. Olek, though, had been obsessed with the Oracle Ilvane’s prophecies, especially the ones about him. The Anya from Nadvirna prophecy had pestered him more than the rest, but that had been proven true. Anya, now Ali, had destroyed him and fulfilled her prophecy.

“Whatever happens, I trust her,” Connor said. “If she says you should be there, you should be there.”

“Anya, do you believe in this prophet?” he asked, edging around to see her more fully. She looked so much like her mother. The only thing she’d gotten from her father was his yellow hair. Everything else came from Katya, his little bird. She would be so proud to see her daughter grown and doing well. The thought of Katya’s dismembered skeleton buried in the Nevada sand made his stomach clench. The damned US Army had tortured and killed her, then buried her in a mass grave. As if she was nothing, as if they possessed the right.

“It’s Ali,” she corrected him, “and yes. I trust her.”

Guilt again. Sour, acidic regret.

Perhaps the way to Ali’s good side was through Katya. “Do you want to know anything about your mother?” Maks blurted out.

“What?” She looked startled and maybe a little hurt.

Where had his legendary charm gone? Had it finally been beaten and humiliated out of him? Had Sergei done what neither Olek nor the US Army could? Break him?

“Your mother,” he tried again, more slowly. “I can tell you stories about Katya. If you’d like to hear them.”

Connor broke into their conversation before Ali had a chance to answer. “Sorry guys, but we’re here, and we’re cutting it close on time. Rain check on the family reunion?”

#

Violet Russell blinked into the gauzy light, unable to make out more than varying shadows within a poorly maintained bathroom in a tiny hotel room stinking of mold and cigarette smoke.

She’d once naively believed being the blood slave of Oleksander the Destroyer had been the worst experience of her life. When he’d given her to his second-in-command, Maksim Volk, it had been a relief. Maks didn’t beat or abuse her and only drank from her when necessary. He didn’t release her, either, but he didn’t harm her.

What a fool she’d been to think things couldn’t get worse than slavery to Olek. Being a captive of Sergei and the Four Sons’ horde was worse.

If Maks hadn’t split, they might have figured out a plan together. But the beautiful dummy had abandoned her. After all the blood she’d sacrificed for him, he’d just left.

Life wasn’t working out as she’d planned. Things had started out okay. Two parents, a decent home, twin little brothers, a mediocre elementary school, and church on Sundays. But things had gone seriously awry. She’d downgraded from girl next door to blood slave.

She didn’t deserve it.

A stupid bachelorette weekend in Vegas with her cousin Lexi, the bride-to-be, had decimated her entire life and all of her potential. If Violet had been at home with her baby Jackson on the night Olek had been netting blood donors, she wouldn’t have been pushed into a dark corner by a giant of a vampire, drained into submission, and driven to an abandoned hospital on the outskirts of town. She wouldn’t have been kept like a farm animal for weeks and handed over to Maksim Volk like a half-eaten sandwich.

Maks had the pretty face and lanky body of a seventeen-year-old boy just coming into his own. He wasn’t a boy, though. He was much older than he looked. And he cried quietly in his sleep. When asleep, the most Olek had ever done was snore and fart. But Maks was different. Something inside him was broken, and in the dead of night when she was the only witness, his tears came. In those moments, it was easy to forget he was a vampire. And not just any vampire—Maksim Volk, right hand man to Oleksander the Destroyer. Maks the Traitor. The Beautiful Devil.

He may appear a cold-blooded killer, but he wasn’t. He was a broken man trying to survive among monsters.

She worried about him, and worrying about Maksim Volk made her question her own sanity. He stayed out late, returned stumbling and covered in blood, and he rarely drank from her, which made her wonder both where else he acquired his blood and why she wanted him to taste her. But he was just the right kind of crazy to make her want to know more.

For the past thirty-six hours, Maks and Sergei had both been no-shows in her shitty new slave quarters, and Violet existed in a strange dream world of exhaustion, anxiety, and gnawing hunger. Once in a while, one of her captors would remember that she required sustenance, too, and they’d give her a can of soda or a granola bar. It wasn’t enough to keep her alive for long, not with the prolonged anemia.

If Maks planned to rescue her, he’d better move faster.

She might save him the effort.

The door opened, and painful fluorescent light poured into the foul-smelling room. Sergei himself glared down at her. He opened a single can of salty, processed soup and toed it across the tile. They made eye contact, and Violet read nothing but cruelty in his dark stare.

Then Sergei was gone.

Violet hesitated only a moment, straining to hear the vampire as she stood on weak legs and tip toed oh-so-slowly through the deserted hotel room. She pictured her son’s bright, pink face, all curious golden eyes and sloppy smiles. He needed her. Violet must be brave.

Light as a feather, quiet as a butterfly, she scampered to the window and peered down onto a busy street. It was a three-story drop, but she hardly registered as she slid open the glass and tore through the screen.

Where no one had been a moment ago, Sergei stood in her personal space. He caught her by the hair with a laugh of amusement. Violet stiffened, fighting the urge to scream her throat raw. Though she wanted to wail and beat her fists against the vampire warlord, she swallowed the pain.

“I grow bored of you.” Sergei sniffed her flesh from her mouth to her throat. “I look forward to seeing the traitor’s face when I tell him I made you fly.”

#

Maks hopped out of the truck, berating himself for screwing things up with Ali yet again. Maybe after a good night’s sleep and a hot shower he’d be a little better at talking to her, not that he’d ever had that problem before.

“This is the spot,” Connor said, marching across the sidewalk in front of a sleazy hotel from the nineteen sixties. He checked his watch. “Two minutes to spare. Keep your eyes peeled. Anything seems out of the ordinary, speak up.”

Maks wandered a little down Thompson Street, finding few crowds this early in the afternoon. He backtracked and stared down Faraday. Nothing supernatural about a parking lot and a weed-choked chain link fence. The most unusual things on either street were the three of them standing around looking conspicuous as hell. Maks joined Connor on the corner and gazed up at the dilapidated hotel that could stand in for a set from a Hitchcock film.

As he watched, movement in the third-floor window caught his eye. Wood casing splintered, and a girl sailed through the window, tumbling straight for the sidewalk at their feet.

Not any girl. Violet.

It took Maks no more than a split second to recognize the rags Violet wore and her streaming auburn hair as she plummeted to earth.

Beside him, Connor had seen her too and steadied himself to catch her. Maks shoved him off balance, stepped into his spot, and looked up just as Violet crashed into him with the force of a falling piano. She flattened him to the pavement, but he was able to hold her off the ground and sit up as Violet hung limply from his arms.

“Oh, my God!” Connor exclaimed. “Did you see that? She fell out of a window, and you fucking caught her! You caught her.”

Maks cradled Violet to his chest and patted her pale cheek. Bruises along her throat told him she’d been bitten. A lot. The actual fang marks may have healed, but the bruises were a different matter. They’d be around for a few days.

“Violet?” he whispered. The shock of the fall and the force of their collision had knocked her out. “Ali?” he tried instead. “She needs a doctor.”

“Of course, of course,” Ali said, her cell phone already plastered to her ear. “Lukas will be here in two minutes.”

“Who’s Lukas?” Maks queried. Violet was nothing but skin and bones in his arms, and he wasn’t handing her over to just anybody, not again.

“A friend.”

Connor grabbed Maks by the collar and shook him back to the present. “Hey, hero, the jerks who threw your friend out of a window are taunting us. Feel like kicking their asses?”

Maks tore his gaze from Violet’s pallid face to Connor’s and then further up the wall of the shady hotel. Sergei leered out the shattered, third-floor window. For a brief moment, their eyes met, and Maks had never known such rage.

Sergei blew him a kiss.

“Ali, promise me you’ll take care of her.”

“Of course,” she stuttered. “I mean, I promise.”

Without removing his eyes from his enemy, Maks passed Violet into Ali’s lap. As he dashed for the hotel lobby, he heard Connor’s heavy footfalls behind him, though he didn’t wait to see if the man followed. Maks didn’t care. He was angry enough to take on an army single-handedly.

Maks ran up two flights of stairs in a dead sprint, and then he crashed through the door to the first room on the left. Right into a knife.

The blade punched through his abdomen. He roared, grabbing the vampire by the hair and torqueing his head so hard he nearly decapitated the unlucky henchman. The man collapsed into a boneless heap.

Connor blew past him headed straight for Sergei as Maks ignored the eight-inch blade bisecting his liver. His rage outshone any other sensation, even pain. Grabbing a pot-bellied lamp off the end table, he threw it overhand at Sergei’s head. It struck with a reassuring crunching sound.

Sergei just brushed off the attack as he and Connor exchanged heavy blows in super speed, catching and throwing punches evenly until Sergei feinted left, forced Connor face first into the wall, and rabbit punched him between the shoulder blades. Connor sucked in a horrified gasp as his legs gave out. Before Maks could reach them, Sergei grabbed Connor by an arm and a leg and tossed him out the window.

Though his pulse roared through his ears, Maks slowed his approach. He’d been spanked by Sergei before.

In the Ukraine, back when Oleksander was keeping his monster of a little brother reined in, Sergei hadn’t dared touch a hair upon Maks’ head. With Olek dead, Sergei seemed to be making up for lost time.

“You didn’t have to hurt her,” Maks shouted, his voice ragged with fury. “You didn’t have to use her like a piece of meat, not when you knew how much she meant to me.”

“I hoped you were already dead,” Sergei growled. “I’m delighted to correct my mistake.”

Maks didn’t care whether he lived or died. Violet was safe. Ali was grown and well. Katya was beyond him. He could die and be satisfied with his life.

He grabbed the TV remote off the coffee table and flung it as hard and as fast as he could at the other man’s head. While Sergei was distracted, Maks slid the knife from his belly and lunged, driving his shoulder into Sergei’s midsection and then peppering his abdomen with the blade. In and out, a staccato rhythm, hoping to sever an artery or twenty.

Sergei rained down a skull-cracking blow to the back of Maks’ head, stunning him. Dazed, he dropped his arms, leaving the knife embedded in Sergei’s belly. Easily as lifting a kitten from a curtain, Sergei took hold of Maks’ throat and carried him to the window. Dangling three stories above the concrete, Maks struggled to find any purchase on the walls or casing to keep from falling.

Unable to hoist himself back inside, Maks wrenched the knife from the warlord’s belly. Sergei squeezed his hand around Maks’ throat. Vertebrae crackled and his left leg went numb. Before he lost all control—and maybe his head in the process—Maks gripped a piece of stone siding with one hand and sawed at Sergei’s wrist with the other. The vampire continued squeezing, harder and harder. Maks cut faster.

Finally, Maks broke through bone, and he was weightless for a split second. The force of gravity was too much for his fingertips to fight, and Maks fell.

It was only a three-story fall. He’d leapt off much higher buildings than—

Download Blooddrinker’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #3) now!

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Beasts of Vegas BTS Character Interview (Maks)

Or, I Ask Maksim Volk A Few Questions

*This interview appeared on JB’s Bookworms in March 2018.

Q: Thank you for joining us today, Maksim Volk. Tell us a little bit about your story, Blooddrinker’s ProphecyIs there anything you would change if Anna Abner offered to?

Maksim Volk: To be honest, I’d rather Ms. Abner left me the hell out of her stories. I’m not a character in a book. This is my actual life. By sharing this so-called novel, she’s screwed my anonymity all to hell.

Q: How would you describe Anna Abner?

MV: Not cool. She took my private life and splashed it all over the internet.

Q: Do you feel like she portrayed you correctly?

MV: Hell, no. I’m not nearly as kind as she thinks I am. I have very little sympathy or loyalty to humans. My daughter, excepted.

Q: How about others in the story. Do you feel she did well with them?

MV: ::huffs a disgusted snort:: She made Connor Beckett out to be some kind of hero, though he’s a giant twat. She didn’t describe Oleksander the Destroyer half as diabolical as he really was. The only thing she sort of got right is what a decent young woman Ali Rusenko is. Though, if you ask me, Ali’s even sweeter than Abner portrayed her.

Q: You might be wondering why I’m wearing a scarf on a hot sunny day. It’s not that I don’t trust you ::tightens the scarf:: or anything. I’m just deathly allergic to vampire venom. You know like some people are with bees? So, please don’t bite me.

MV: I’ve considered it, believe me, but your questions amuse me. Continue, and I won’t drain you. Despite what Ms. Abner writes, I have some self-control.

Q: Okay, now that that’s settled. Who created you in the story?

MV: I was turned at seventeen by none other than Oleksander the Destroyer.

Q: Was there a reason for your creation?

MV: He was building an army, and he incorrectly assumed I was a murderer without conscience. Luckily, I’m a world-class liar or I never would have survived this long.

Q: Were you happy or angry about the transition from human to bloodsuc–, I mean vampire?

MV: I wasn’t given a choice, but I took to it like a fish to water, like I was born to carry the infection.

Q: What’s your favorite blood type?

MV: Moppet, the infection is too overpowering for niceties like tastes or preferences. Blood is blood, and I drink it all with equal pleasure.

Q: Where is your favorite place to dine? Some of us might want to avoid any late-night forays there in the future.

MV: Since being forcibly relocated to Las Vegas, I have learned to appreciate American cuisine. Bazaar Meats is one of my new favorite haunts.

Q: Have you seen any more stories in the recesses of Anna Abner’s mind?

MV: From what I gather, she has volumes and volumes of ideas, more’s the pity.

Q: Do you get to play a part in any of those stories?

MV: I can only hope she leaves my daughter and me out of any future novels.

Q: You’re no stranger to darkness. What is your author’s darkest secret?

MV: She reads ::shudders:: superhero comic books.

Q: If Abner makes you mad, you could just bite her when she’s sleeping, you know.

MV: Don’t think I haven’t fantasized about just such a night, moppet.

 

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Preorder Beasts of Vegas #2

Or, Spellspeaker’s Prophecy Is Available For Preorder On Amazon

I’m so excited to announce Beasts of Vegas #2 is now available for preorder. Roz finally gets her own love story, and it’s with a sexy shifter.

Cover blurb:

Roz Carrera is a witch on the fritz. Thanks to the Coven’s rejection of her application for membership, she’s been denied a proper magical education. Without a mentor, she’s nearly useless in helping her team of vampire hunters. Complicating matters is the hulking shapeshifter she stumbles upon outside Las Vegas who may or may not be a vicious psychopath.

The only creatures shapeshifter Lukas Larsson hates more than vampires are witches. He’s in the Nevada desert to destroy the vampires who murdered his family, but the witch Roz Carrera and her ragtag team sideline him. He can’t allow the very sexy Roz to distract him from his vengeance.

Preorder now!

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25K Words in NaNoWriMo 2017!

Or, I Made it to the Halfway Point!

I’m so excited to be halfway through my NaNoWriMo journey this year. I’m a little behind the curve after being bogged down several times by everyday life. When reality hits (job, family responsibilities, daughter’s homework, etc.), it’s hard to find time to write uninterrupted for more than five or ten minutes. But, I’m finally at 25,000 words. It feels like a huge obstacle overcome.

I’m writing a sequel to my paranormal romance Shopkeeper’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #1), and it’s so fun! Daily, I’m blissfully swimming in an ocean of vampires, witches, and shapeshifters. In this new novel, the oracle is all grown up and falling for her own tall, dark, and supernatural stranger.

How’s your writing journey this month? Let me know.

Day Seventeen Word Count: 25,200 (and counting).

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Tuesday Teaser (Spell of Shattering #4)

Or, Take A Peek At The 1st Book In The Dark Caster Series

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Tuesday Teaser (Spell of Vanishing #3)

Or, Take A Peek At The 3rd Book In The Dark Caster Series

Teaser 21 SoV

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Tuesday Teaser (Spell of Binding #2)

Or, Take A Peek At The 2nd Book In The Dark Caster Series

Teaser 20 SoB

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