Romance Novel Giveaways - Freebies and Giveaways of All Things Romance Romance Novel Giveaways: The Vanguards Series by Annie Nicholas, Blitz & ♥GIVEAWAY♥ (Paranormal Romance)

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Vanguards Series by Annie Nicholas, Blitz & ♥GIVEAWAY♥ (Paranormal Romance)

Author: Annie Nicholas
Title: The Vanguard Series
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Only a vampire is man enough to teach werewolves how to fight.

Pretty librarian Sugar wants her life to stay quiet. That’s hard enough when friends and neighbors turn into furry werewolves every full moon. But when a hot vampire gets involved, life’s bound to get complicated.

The Omegas have always been the pansies of the paranormal. Now Chicago’s top werewolf pack has issued them a life or death challenge. Their only option: hire a vampire warrior to teach them the moves.

Daedalus has been a powerful vampire for ages. Intrigued by the chance to train the geeks of the underworld, he wasn’t bargaining on losing his heart to a human. Can he make the Omegas a success, fit into Sugar’s quiet life, and avoid being ripped to shreds in the process?

Chapter One

Eric strode into the living room holding an envelope. “I found the solution to our problem.”
Sugar uncurled her legs from under her and sat straighter as she watched Eric’s lanky form approach. They had both survived growing-up in the same low income neighborhood. Friendship forged in such fires never died.
He handed her a letter and joined the rest of his pack lounging on her mismatched furniture.
Sugar examined the front, then the back of it. “Pal Robi Incorporated. What’s this?”
“It’s our salvation.” Eric shifted in his seat to lean forward. “Read it to everyone.”
She glanced at him with a questioning look. What was he up to? Slidding her fingernail under the corner, she tore it open. The letter was printed on good quality paper with a huge golden company emblem stamped at the top. An errant blond curl slid in front of her eyes and she shoved it back behind her ear.

To the Omega pack:
I have reviewed the details of your plight. Pal Robi Incorporated deals mostly in security issues, but I find your problem worthy of my personal attention. Enclosed you will find a non-negotiable contract. Please review it closely, and have your signature notarized. The return fax number is listed on the contract so proceedings can begin. Mail the original to my office. Thank you for your business.
Daedalus Pal Robi

Cold claws of fear gripped her stomach. What had Eric done? “You hired a vampire?” Her shout shattered the silence around them.
The other wolf shifters responded to her outburst with low growls directed at Eric.
What had she gotten herself tangled in? She wasn’t pack, just a plain vanilla human. The Omegas were her neighbors and also her closest friends, each of them an outcasts from their old packs.
Driven by loneliness, Eric had solicited Sugar to help him search for others like himself. Werewolves with no attitude. Geeks of the underworld. Pansies of the paranormal.
Their friendship spanned years, since high school, when he’d rescued her from a home of drug abuse. Eric had treated her like a little sister, advising her on life in general. When he survived his werewolf attack, both their worlds shattered and their roles reversed.
Eric found four others to join him: Sam, Tyler, Katrina and Robert. No alphas ruled in this pack. They needed each other, so they became a family. All five lived in the apartment next to her.
Eyes wide, Eric held his hands out in front of him. “Mr. Pal Robi is offering to teach us how to fight.”
Sugar tilted her head as she surveyed her friend. “Yeah, for a substantial fee. How can you guys afford this?” He always thought with his heart.
Eric looked at his pack, pleading. “Before you make any judgments, let’s have Sugar read the contract out loud.”
She held it in front of her.

This is an agreement between Pal Robi Incorporated and Eric, Sam, Katrina, Tyler, and Robert, from here forward to be known as the Omegas.

1. Pal Robi Inc. will provide to the Omegas, training in defense, hand-to-hand combat and small weapons use.
2. Training will take place for the duration of the period beginning with the trainer’s arrival until the challenge date.
3. Combat training is inherently dangerous. Pal Robi Inc. is not responsible for injury or death sustained during such training.
4. Trainer will not intentionally hurt and-or kill any Omega during the period of this agreement.

Responsibilities of the Omegas:
1. Omegas will provide trainer from Pal Robi with appropriate lodgings.
2. Omegas will provide daylight security of said trainer.
3. Omegas will submit to the direction of the trainer without question for the duration of the training.

1. Omegas agree to pay Pal Robi Inc. $8,000 in cash prior to the beginning of training.
2. In addition, Omegas will provide the trainer with fresh, consumable blood upon request.

1. Failure to provide payment renders this agreement null and void.
2. Failure to abide by the terms specified represents a breach of contract which renders the agreement null and void.
3. Breach of contract will result in an immediate investigation. Vengeance will be swift and unmerciful.

Sugar placed the contract on her lap while waiting for their reactions.
Robert held up his hand to speak, like a kid in a classroom.
She sighed. How could this pack of puppies fight a pack of wolves? “Robert, speak up. You don’t need to ask permission to talk anymore, remember?”
He grinned sheepishly. “What do they mean ‘vengeance will be swift and unmerciful?’”
They turned to Eric, but it was Tyler who answered. “It means if anything happens to the vamp, we can kiss our asses goodbye.”
Sugar folded the letter closed. She agreed with Tyler. Vampires were bad news. Literally, all over the news swearing they had turned a new leaf and won’t hunt humans anymore. Wouldn’t catch her becoming a donor any time soon.
Eric stood and faced his pack mates, staring at each one in turn. “How can we not hire him? The Ayumu pack officially challenged us. One of us has to fight and beat one of their alphas in a month. There’s no other way.”
“We will be absorbed again,” Katrina whispered in her thick Asian accent, as she hugged her knees tight against her chest. Being a submissive female in a pack equated to being anyone’s meat. Sugar had tried to help Katrina come to terms with those old wounds, but they kept her captive.
Tyler shuffled closer to Katrina, petting her long, black, silken tresses. She shrank from him, fear etched on her delicate features.
He looked at Sugar and shrugged.
She crumpled the letter in her hand. How did preying on weaker members of the pack equate to strength? She just couldn’t understand shifter culture.
“You should run away.” The weight of Sugar’s words hung in the sudden silence.
Eric crossed his arms. “There will always be another Ayumu pack wherever we go. We’re finally happy. We have jobs, friends, and a home. It’s all worth fighting for, right guys?”
Sugar watched her friends’ expressions harden and her heart sank. So it would be a fight.
They nodded to each other, sealing their fates.
There went their quiet life.
Worst of all, a vampire would be moving in next door.
* * * *
Daedalus Pal Robi strode across the foyer of his house and tossed his car keys to a passing vampire. “Can you park it the garage for me? I’m done hunting for the night.” He pointed to a piece of wood protruding from his abdomen. That was a close call. He would let the others think the vampire-gone-bad he’d been hunting and finally killed had done this. In truth, a clumsy fall almost ended his long existence.
The human police were discovering decapitated bodies in the river. They thought a serial killer responsible so far. Daedalus knew better, decapitation was an excellent way to hide bite marks, as well as burning the bodies or shredding the flesh to make it look like a shifter kill. As Nosferatu Prime of Northeastern America, it was his responsibility to take care of these issues before the humans did. Vampires didn’t need more bad publicity. History did that for them.
Daedalus killed the lazy son-of-demon. It didn’t take much effort tracking and staking him. In his over-confidence, Daedalus had spun around to leave and tripped on a fucking extension cord. It sent him flying face forward onto an antique wood chair, hence the chair leg sticking out of his stomach. A little to the left and two inches higher and a pile of dust would all that would have been left of him.
His nest mate stared at the injury. “Do you need help, Master?”
“Nah. Just a flesh wound. It won’t take long to heal.” He closed the door to his study behind him and crossed the room to the fireplace. Leaning against the mantle with one hand, he wrapped the other around the wood shaft. He took a deep breath and yanked the son of a bitch out.
“Fuck.” Wood burned. It didn’t matter where in the body it stabbed him. He tossed the piece into the fire and rested his forehead against the mantle. Blood trickled from the wound in a steady thin stream. He’d have to feed to finish the healing process.
He pressed his hand to the wound and retreated to his comfy chair close to the fireplace. That was too close. If he’d perished, how would people remember him? The Infernal Champion of the Brotherhood, Vile Butcher of Babylon, and Subjugator of the Accords, to name a few of his titles.
For the last two hundred years he’d been trying to be good. Whatever that meant. It started out as an experiment but over the last century it had transformed into a true desire. After an age of depravity and lack of role models, he still wasn’t clear what he should and shouldn’t be doing.
The Vampire Council ordered no killing of humans so he enforced that law to the best of his ability. If a few unsavory ones vanished in the night and nobody missed them then he turned the other way. Ridding the human race of evil doers seemed good.
Someone knocked on the door.
He jerked in his chair at the sharp noise and stifled a moan at the stabbing pain. Careless again. Too lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t heard the footsteps. He’d grown complacent in job surrounded by his loyal nest. “What?” Yanking his leather jacket closed, he hid his healing injury.
The door cracked open and Clementine, his vampire secretary, stepped inside, her eyes downcast as always. She hurried across the room and handed him a large business envelope. “This arrived while you were gone, Master.”
“Thank you.” He glanced at the return address, glimpsing the word Chicago, and fingered the edges of the seal. It wouldn’t behoove a Prime to tear it open like a boy on Christmas morning. “Could you call for a donor to attend me, Clementine? I feel like eating in tonight.”
She bobbed her head and backed out of the room. One day she’d stop fearing him, he hoped.
Ripping open the envelope, he saw what he’d been hoping for. The shifters signed the contract. He could afford to leave his nest for a few months and take this small side job. He grinned and buzzed his personal security team.
“Yes, Master?”
“We’re going to Chicago tomorrow night. Come by my study so we can make arrangements.” Training a few shifters to defend themselves seemed like a good thing to do.
Someone is about to get some Spice in his life.

Spice has nothing but the clothes on her back when she returns to Chicago. She’s looking for a better life, and that means reuniting with her estranged twin sister, Sugar. She isn’t thrilled to find out Sugar’s boyfriend is a vampire. But then she meets Eric, once the bottle-cap-glasses wearing nerd next door - now grown into the kind of man she’d love to snuggle with on this cold winter night...and he’s offered her his room in Sugar’s house.

Eric can’t believe Spice has returned. He’d given up hope of ever seeing her again, let alone having her stare at him as if he’s sex on a stick. But now that all of his fantasies for them are coming true, reality rears her ugly head and Eric must tell Spice his intimate secret; he’s actually an Alpha werewolf looking for his mate and he thinks he’s found her.

Content Warning: Graphic sexual content.

Chapter One

Tyler followed Eric into the kitchen with Robert and Sam in tow. “What’s wrong with you, Eric? You almost lost control of your beast.”

Running his fingers through his hair, he tried to hide the blush heating his cheeks. Spice is home. He’d lost hope of ever seeing her again. The desire in her eyes when he loosened her jacket and the smell from her pussy set his beast-side on a craze.

I, Eric Turner, the geek next door, turned her on. The sexiest, most confident girl he’d ever met, his high school obsession.

“Sorry, she took me off guard.” He looked at Robert, his calm, overly serious second in command of the pack, who shook his head at him. “Damn, I almost changed in front of her. What a disaster.” Eric’s mouth went dry.

Sam handed him a glass of water. If anyone understood losing control of his beast, it was him. Ever since the Omegas conquered the Ayumu werewolf pack, their females kept knocking on the door. The bodybuilder had trouble refusing them, and his beast liked the attention. He didn’t completely transform mid-intercourse anymore but they heard his howls.

Eric needed to stop thinking of the pack as Ayumu. They were all Omegas now and he their alpha. The sip of water he tried to swallow went down the wrong way and blocked his windpipe. Nothing came out, not a cough and not a breath.

“Eric?” Sam asked.

Katrina scurried into the kitchen. “I make tea. You want some?” She stopped. “What is wrong with Eric?”

He coughed out a manly squeak and pointed to his throat.

Redheaded Tyler pushed pass Sam and pounded on his back.

Not a moment later Spice sashayed into the room. Even in his distress, her presence drew him like a magnet to iron.

A solid smack on his back set off a cough. He expelled the water from his throat, and it landed on her generous, rounded chest.

She stood with arms out at her sides, and her mouth hung open.

“Smooth, real smooth.” Sam patted him on the shoulder and exited the room. The others followed in silence but a few seconds later, Eric heard their restrained laughter from the direction of the living room.

He grabbed a dish towel from the rack by the sink and raced over to her. “I’m sorry.” Without a coherent thought in his scrambled brain, he dried her tight, white sweater.

Tension in her shoulders as he bent over to stroke around her curves clued him in that he’d done another boneheaded maneuver.

Her intense stare weakened his knees as he glanced up with her breast cupped in his hand. The urge to fondle it sent a shiver up his spine, but the ingrained gentleman inside of him beat down the beast, who wanted more than just a touch.

He jerked his hand away. “Sorry.” Alphas shouldn’t apologize that much. Daedalus would kick his ass if he heard him.

Eric straightened and swept the annoying hair out of his eyes. Why did he decide to let it grow? Who cared if all those guys in romance books had long freaking hair?

“Don’t be.” She gave him a small, seductive smile.

He kept waiting for this wet dream to end.

“Who’s Daedalus?”

Nothing more deflating to a man’s ego than to ask about the resident stud vampire. “Sugar’s boyfriend.”

“The one she has to ask permission to cut her hair. Then you’re not together?”

“No.” That question showed how much she paid attention to them as kids. He and Sugar had been best friends since sixth grade. Dating her would be like dating a sister. Even though they were identical twins, Spice got placed in a different category from Sugar. She topped the list for the five-finger-knuckle-shuffle when he needed it.

She leaned closer and ran her finger down his chest. It left a trail of heat along his skin. “What’s happened since I left two years ago?” Gesturing around the room, she raised an eyebrow. “New house, new boyfriend, new friends, and…” She stepped to press against his body and gazed at him with green sparkling eyes. “New Eric.”

Where did he start? We hired a Nosferatu vampire to teach us how to fight about a year ago, who by the way, is banging your twin sister. Oh yeah, all of us are werewolves, except Sugar, and I defeated the local alpha in a fight to the death so it made me top wolf in Chicago.

“Nothing much. We pay rent to Sugar and live here.” The old Eric she referred to still resided inside of him. He still liked Star Trek, ‘live long and prosper,’ worked from home for a computer software company, and read as much as Sugar.

His heart twisted a little. She didn’t like him; she liked the changes the beast made inside of him. After the werewolf attack, his eyesight returned to twenty-twenty. He got stronger and faster, which meant leaner and more muscular.

She moved back and placed her hands on her hips. “Six of you live under this roof?”

“Seven. Daedalus lives here too.”

Shaking her head, she grinned and looked at the floor. “Unbelievable.”
He heard the front door open and close. “I’ve got Thai.” Sugar’s voice, higher and more musical than Spice’s, called out.

“What’s going on?” Daedalus must have given her a ride from work. “Why are you guys so serious?”
Three days of hell, in charge, and running out of antacids.

As the pack’s Beta, Robert needs to watch over the Vasi werewolf pack for a few days. He hates the responsibility, but his job is to dissolve any problems while his Alpha honeymoons. Nevertheless, trouble comes to town and her name is Esther. She’s beguiling, beautiful and picks his pocket. Although Robert doesn’t trust her, he still wants to possess her.

Esther arrived in Chicago with the intention of slaying a vampire named Daedalus. While trailing her quarry, she encounters Robert who unhinges her world. He doesn’t know her trade, and she doesn’t know his connection to the vampire. Disturbed by her attraction to this unusual werewolf, she can’t decide which prey to hunt—the one who’s stolen her heart or the one who’ll fill her bank account.

Content Warning: Hot graphic werewolf sex, growing body parts, and one pissed off Nosferatu vampire.

Chapter One

Another man exited the building not long after the vampire. He wore a rumpled button-down, short-sleeved shirt tucked into loose jeans. His mouse brown hair cried for a cut and a comb.

He pushed his glasses up his nose and bent to tie his running shoes.

Recognizing him as the person who had accompanied Daedalus earlier, Esther heard opportunity knocking. He didn’t look like a threat being thin and weak. She crossed the street and approached him from behind. “Excuse me. Do you have the time?”

Glancing over his shoulder, his gaze traveled along her bare legs, to her knee length loose skirt, and finally met her stare. Her breath caught in her throat. The irises of his eyes reflected a non-existent light and shone pale amber. He blinked and it vanished, must have been the glasses that gave such a strange effect.

He rose in a single fluid motion that set her predator alarm off. Checking his cellphone, he gave her a shy smile. “It’s ten after two.” He scanned the area around them. “This is a dangerous part of town, ma’am. You shouldn’t walk around alone. Trouble is going to find you.”

Or maybe find him. She eyed his wiry arms and changed her assessment of him. Lean, tight muscles slid under his skin as he moved. He wasn’t weak, more like a cross between a martial artist and a geek.

“Are you offering to walk me home?” Flashing him her most flirtatious smile, she toyed with a piece of her hair.

He swallowed. “S-sure.” Shuffling to her side, he fell in next to her, eyes darting around them.

Men were so easy to manipulate, but this one actually wanted to protect her. So cute, she could have pinched him. Trying to be discreet, she took quick peeks at him. Nice strong chin and straight nose. Maybe a hint of freckles? It was difficult to tell in the dark.

“I’m Esther.” She held out her hand. What the hell prompted her to use her real name?

Wrapping a firm hand around hers, he shook it. “I’m Robert.”

His touch sent tingles along her arm. The name seemed too mature for him. “What are you doing out so late, Rob?” How did such a polite man like him get involved with a Nosferatu? She checked his neck for bites and didn’t see anything, but there were more places on the body to feed from besides the neck. It would be a shame if he was a blood slave.

“Robert is fine. I was checking on a…friend.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “And you, Esther?”

She laughed. “I’m up to no good.” And she winked at him.

A rosy blush surfaced on his cheeks as he stumbled.

Something in this man attracted the devil inside of her. She entangled her arm around his and leaned into his hard body. The strength hidden under the geeky exterior sent a pleasant shiver through her body. Not all things were as they appeared. She hated surprises but not this one. If this was an act then he deserved an Emmy. She glanced at him, pleased that she needed to arch her neck back slightly to meet his sharp green gaze.

God, what was she doing? She assessed him like a potential lover instead of a possible avenue to get her mark. Stupid, focus. Once Daedalus was out of the picture she’d come back for Rob if she still wanted him. Until then…she stopped in front of a duplex. “This is my place.” She lied with the ease of an expert.

Some things are best to forget. But what if the past won't be forgotten?

Born in China of a pure shifter bloodline, Katrina was raised with only one purpose--to breed. Abused by her alpha, she runs away to America as soon as she can. With a new pack and her true mate, she thinks the nightmare is behind her, but when she is abducted on the streets of Chinatown, Katrina must face her past and fight for her freedom.

It took Tyler a year to earn Katrina's love, another to build her confidence and pride, and only a moment to lose her. Broken-hearted, Tyler won't give up his search for Katrina. But he never trained as a warrior like the other shifters. What chance does a real estate agent have in the fight for his mate?

WARNING: Explicit shifter sex, heartbroken torment, and an unstoppable shifter in love.

An antique red archway covered the entrance to the tourist trap to keep evil spirits away and good luck in. Sticking his hand in his jacket pocket, he rubbed the small, velvet jewelry box he’d placed there earlier today. He could use all the luck he could get–just because Katrina was his mate, didn’t mean she’d agree to get married.

Raised in an all-wolf-shifter community in rural Mongolia, she didn’t think like American shifters. Like him. He took a deep, shaky breath. Marriage was a foreign ritual to her.

He’d chosen this location not just for his superstitions, but for its significance. Katrina worked in the area, a place where the old Asian world met the new, as an interpreter for some of the local companies.

She waited under the arch, facing him, her delicate eyebrows furrowed. An Asian man he didn’t recognize spoke with her.

Facing the stranger’s back, Tyler could only see his short black hair and long fall trench coat.

A sharp stab of jealousy drove him to quicken his pace. He couldn’t help it. As a shifter, possession was nine-tenths of the law, and Katrina belonged to him.

Passing half a dozen souvenir shops offering cheap trinkets, Tyler trotted along Wentworth Avenue. Katrina’s raised voice reached his ears, but he couldn’t understand Mandarin. He growled low in his chest. His mate didn’t yell often.

Three other men broke from the crowd and surrounded the arguing couple.

Tyler’s heart rate took off like a locomotive on a downhill slide. He smelled shifters. Non-Vasi shifters on their territory. Surrounding his mate.

The Asian stranger grabbed her arm and yanked her into his embrace.

“Hey!” It took every ounce of Tyler’s control to keep his beast from busting out on the tourist filled streets of Chicago’s biggest attraction. He shoved the stranger from behind, knocking Katrina from his arms.

She stumbled and landed hard on the ground. Tears stained her cheeks. The cold wind blew strands of long, black hair across her face.

“Get your hands off her.” He bent to help her, but the stranger blocked him. Straightening, Tyler glared at Katrina’s assailant and met a cold, dark stare.

His beast rose closer to the surface and clouded his thoughts. She belonged to him and this male thought to block his way. The only solution was to tear this asshole limb from limb. “Get out of my way.” He spoke each word separately and clearly to get his point across.

“This is none of your concern.” The stranger spoke with a thick accent like Katrina’s.

“You’re on Vasi territory. Anything that happens here is my concern. And she belongs to me.” Tyler pointed to Katrina, then back to himself.

Chinatown is not Vasi territory. Never has been and never will be. And this female mated me before she ran away.” Crossing his arms, the stranger planted himself in front of Tyler. “She still belongs to me and has never been yours to take.”

Tyler’s jaw hung as if on broken hinges. He shot her a questioning look, but she stared at the ground, not meeting his gaze. Katrina hated to speak about her past. Now, he knew why.

She wiped her face, huddled on the ground, and didn’t deny a thing.

Every bit of joy in his life lay with Katrina, but truth’s claws dug into his heart. He didn’t know which hurt more, the lies or the way she hunched on the ground, submitting to this stranger like an omega all over again.
To defend and protect, at any cost.

Sam is Sigma of his pack, defender of the innocent and frail. Too bad the one time it mattered most, though the urge to guard the weak runs strong in his shifter blood, he failed to protect his best friend from an attack. Just when his self-confidence can't go any lower, he becomes entangled in a vampire skirmish and is left with an injured female in his arms.

ampire accountant for Pal Robi, Inc., Clementine can't believe her master would ask her to commit corporate espionage. She’s shot when discovered, but a shifter comes to her rescue. It's as if he's made of her fantasies, and in the few hours with him she lives more than the decades she's spent among her clan.

Hiding with him on the streets of Chicago, in the midst of fighting together to stay alive, can a petite vampire break through her hero’s jaded heart?

WARNING: Hot dominating sex, an action packed evening, and a first date gone all to hell.

Sam ground his teeth at Clementine’s stubbornness and hovered around her in case she fell.

    Blood soaked the back of her pink t-shirt and dripped, leaving a gruesome trail as she walked along the exterior balcony toward their motel room on the second floor.   “You paid with cash like I told you?” She weaved on unsteady feet.

    “Yes, ma’am.” He barely had enough money in his wallet to buy a soda now. “No credit card to track.” He reached out to grab her elbow, but she swatted his fingertips. Reflexively, he shook the sting away. “Playing tough and insisting on walking doesn’t get you brownie points if you pass out.”

    He unlocked and opened their room door. The scent of cheap air freshener and stale sweat swept over him. He turned and sneezed.

    “Bless you.”

   He wiped his mouth. “Thanks.” Wasn’t there some supernatural law against vampires being polite?
    “It smells odd in here.” She leaned against the door frame and pointed to the faded yellow bed. “Can you pull off the blanket?”

     “We got what we paid for, a cheap-ass room. At least they don’t charge by the hour.” He winked and did as Clementine asked, then watched as she crawled onto their bed, lying on her stomach. “What can I do to help?” The deep red stain continued to spread under his scrutiny. “When Daedalus was staked, he didn’t bleed like this.”

    She twisted around and whispered, “You were there?” With her blue eyes wide, she appeared very young, but vampires were experts at fooling people. Clementine could be five hundred years old, for all he knew. With a wig, Daedalus looked twenty, younger than Sugar.

     He chuckled at the memory and recalled the expression of horror on Sugar’s face. “It happened in my old apartment.”

    “You’re one of the original Omegas?”

    “You make it sound like a bad thing.” They’d had five pack members at the beginning, before Daedalus came and changed everything. Now they numbered in the triple digits and were called the Vasi. He pointed at her wound. “Can you bleed to death?”

     She rolled back onto her stomach. “No, but I’ll need to feed before the blood lust takes over me. You have to remove the bullet.”

     He grabbed the edge of her shirt and tore it open, exposing her back.

     She hissed and glared at him over her shoulder. “I could have taken it off.”

     Pasting mock surprise on his face, he laid a hand on his chest. “Where’s the fun in that?” Not waiting for her response, he went into the bathroom and washed off his pocketknife. A pair of tweezers would have been handy. And some gauze. He grabbed a face cloth instead. “Do I need to sterilize my knife or find some antiseptic?”

    “I’m a vampire. Disease doesn’t plague us.”

    He shrugged off her prickly tone, betting she was as gentle as the sound of her name on his lips. “Good, because I can’t provide either.” On his knees, he straddled her legs and leaned forward to examine her wound. He planted his palm between her shoulder blades.

    “What--” She struggled under him. “What are you doing?”

    “I don’t want you to move.” Using his shifter strength, he shoved her flat against the bed and wiped the blood away. “Stop wiggling so much. It’s distracting.”

     “Not like you can do more damage.” Her words came out muffled.

     “No, but you’re turning me on.”

      She went limp, her breathing heavy and strained.

      He couldn’t help but chuckle. This shitty day was getting better. Using the tip of the pocketknife, he gently probed her wound. “Tell me if it hurts.” The hole in her flesh was deep. It appeared as if her backbone had absorbed the impact of the bullet. Damn, vampires were tough.
Shattered in forgotten memories.

Sugar survived a shifter attack but it left her broken. Paralyzed on the left side, she fights for her independence in her day-to-day life. Her worst injury, the scars on her soul, has her pushing Daedalus away. How could he still love her when she is just a shadow of herself? But a new threat on Daedalus’ life yanks the veil of self-pity from her eyes and she’s resolved to protect him, even precariously balanced with her cane.

The vampire council sends an emissary to Daedalus. His clan brother, another Nosferatu, hands him an ultimatum. Return to his post as Prime in Pal Robi or he’ll kill Sugar and her shifter friends. Daedalus has brought enough trouble into Sugar’s life. He won’t be responsible for more, so he agrees to leave Chicago.

To both warriors surprise, Sugar’s not willing to remain behind, and with her own shifter guards she’s ready to help Daedalus regain control of Pal Robi.

As soon as he closed the sliding glass door shut, Daedalus would bet his bank account that his conversation with Pallas would only have a pretense of privacy. Shifter hearing could be miraculous, especially when pressed to cracked-open windows. The distant sound of a chair clattering to the floor in the dining room reached his own sensitive hearing. He could picture his housemates scrambling to find the best places to eavesdrop.

Pallas strode to the center of the moonlit garden. “So the rumors are true. You’ve lost your mind.”

Daedalus chuckled. The other Nosferatu hadn’t changed. They’d been close once. “Maybe. I wish the one about you was true.”

Pallas spun around. “Which one?”

“You being dead.”

“That would be too convenient.” A familiar crooked smile bloomed on his ugly face.

Daedalus laughed louder and shook Pallas’s hand, squeezing his fingers together as hard as he could.

“You’re such an ass.” Bearer of bad news or not, he was still a brother, a tie to his past, and a comrade at arms.

Pallas returned his strong grip. “I learned from the best.” His clan brother, and he used that term loosely since they weren’t born from the same parents, bore the trademark appearance of their people—bald, pale, and deadly. “You’re creating quite a stir in the council, enough for them to coerce me to wake and seek you out.”

They released the painful handshake, and Daedalus shook his numb fingers, grinning as Pallas did the same. “You can tell them, for once, I’m happy.”

He snorted. “Like they care. I can’t believe you’re living with shifters again.” He made a distasteful noise.  “Nasty habit. They said you left your post.”

“I did, and I left it in good hands.” Then the fools were killed and the traitors who took over tried to have him assassinated, but Pallas didn’t need to know that.

“Your company is in chaos. I went there before arriving here.”

“No.” Pal Robi Inc. was his private security company, hence it being named after him. What better than hiring an almost indestructible vampire as a guard? The company also served as a front for the vampire political structure in his area. Vampires had revealed themselves, with the other supernatural creatures, to humans fifteen years ago. Vampires were expected to follow human laws and their government, but vampire society had had these things in place long before humans had figured out how to organize themselves. The Vampire Council didn’t expect their people to follow human laws, but Pal Robi Inc. was developed to give his people legal jobs and to police their hunting. In other words, if a vampire couldn’t feed without killing, it was his responsibility to stop that person before humans were aware of it.

“I didn’t assign those who presently think they are running my company.” 

Pallas sighed. “Are they under your command?” He gave Daedalus a pointed stare. “Currently.”

“No.” Daedalus shrugged. “How much damage can they do? The last thing they want is to draw the Council’s attention. I haven’t truly lost control.”

“Your estate is abandoned.”

“It’s not abandoned. I dispersed my staff to other tasks, and there’s a shifter house sitter. You probably scared the shit out of him.” He’d have to call Stephen and check on him. The young shifter didn't like company, let alone drop-ins from hell.

“A little scare never killed anyone. The council wants you to straighten things out at Pal Robi Inc. and return to your post as Prime. Things are falling apart in the area.”

An alien sourness curdled his stomach. He examined the odd sensation and decided he didn’t like the source. “Or what?” This visit was expected. Not Pallas himself but someone the council would send. The Prime kept the peace among vampirekind in his area. Sort of like a sheriff. If those traitors hadn’t been so greedy and tried to kill him, things would still be fine.

“They’ll make me kill everyone at Pal Robi Inc…” Pallas’s gaze wandered to the house, “…and here.”

“Do you think you can defeat me?” It had been ages since he’d fought one of his own kind. Living among the Vasi pack had softened him.

A hard shield fell over Pallas’s eyes. “Yes.”
Annie Nicholas writes paranormal romance with a twist. She has courted vampires, hunted with shifters, and slain a dragon’s ego all with the might of her pen. Riding the wind of her imagination, she travels beyond the restraints of reality and shares them with anyone wanting to read her stories. Mother, daughter, and wife are some of the other hats she wears while hiking through the hills and dales of her adopted state of Vermont.

Annie writes for Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, and Lyrical Press.
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