Authors: Marie Harte
Tags: #Paranormal Shape-shifter
|Entranced (A PowerUp! Story)|
|Loose Id LLC (2012)|
Jack Keiser hasn't had an easy time of it. After a disastrous mission for the government years ago, he's been wary of trusting his fellow agents. Or ex-agents, since they no longer work for the government but for him. Keeping them in line is a full time job, made harder by his own strangely developing talent. Jack has the ability to change his shape. He's a chameleon who can assume the appearance of anyone he's ever touched. Even among psychics he's an oddball.
Now Jack's in a bind. Heather Stallbridge, sister to his silent partner in the gym, has gone missing, and it's up to Jack to find her. His journey leads him into the German Alps and to a strange village with even stranger people. To top off an already bad situation, the moment Jack sees Heather, he experiences what feels like love at first sight. Their connection is irrefutable, but he can' t trust that it's real. And that doubt is a problem, because without working together, they'll never find a way to escape the killers in the mountains, or to discover the unexplainable love growing between them.
(A PowerUp! Story)
Entranced (A PowerUp! Story)
Copyright © December 2012 by Marie Harte
All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this e-book ONLY. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from Loose Id LLC. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Editor: Ann M. Curtis
Cover Artist: Anne Caine
Published in the United States of America
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San Francisco CA 94104-0809
This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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April Fool’s Day
“Nope. Haven’t seen her.” The plump saleswoman behind the counter smiled and gestured to a rack of handmade scarves next to her. “But I knitted these myself. You find your friend and come back, and I’ll give you a discount. And see Gustav down the street. You need to eat more, young man, or the wind will knock you right over.” She laughed.
Jack had no trouble understanding her southern German dialect. Born Jonathan Keiser, he’d been raised by second-generation German immigrants and had spoken German as a first language. His accent impeccable, he thanked her and left, tugging his jacket around him.
The wind whipped and brought tears to his eyes. He put a hand into his pocket, retrieved a photo, and stared at it.
. For two weeks now, he’d been searching for Heather Fucking Stallbridge. Owen’s sister had become as big a pain in Jack’s ass as her domineering older brother. Jack couldn’t stop staring at her damn picture, and he’d tried. He had to hold it, keep it close. He’d found himself memorizing her features, wondering what she thought, how she’d look when she smiled, if she tasted half as good as he imagined…
. A woman had almost been the death of him once, and he’d vowed never again. But he had a feeling this one would prove more dangerous, because he couldn’t get a bead on why she got to him. Why he thought about her all the time. He understood his dick getting hard. Heather Stallbridge was a knockout, no question about it. But something inside him softened when he thought of her, that part of him he’d worked so hard to build into an impenetrable shield. He’d never admit it, but his insane attraction for her worried him. This hold she—her picture—had over him wasn’t normal. She fucking enthralled him, and he’d never even
He swore again and shook his head. Fortunately, his skin itched, distracting him, and he knew it was almost time to change back. He hadn’t been a young man in more than fifteen years. Though thirty-five, at times he felt three times his age. Life had been hard for a long time now, but at least he no longer questioned why he fought to stay alive.
Shrugging the bony shoulders of a young man much too frail to withstand the cold, Jack pocketed the photo as he walked back to his room. He passed a young man and quickened his step when he saw a flash of recognition.
The young guy called out a greeting. “Carl? I thought you weren’t coming back until Friday.”
He wasn’t. Jack coughed and ducked into his coat. “Came back early,” he muttered and walked faster. “Talk to you later,” he called over his shoulder as he turned down the street, then made a left and raced through the cobblestone alley leading to Carl’s small loft, a handy spot to change, undetected, between alter egos.
All this cloak-and-dagger shit to find one headstrong woman who refused to come when called. A lot of nonsense he had little time for, not with his squad of psychics at home in Oregon no doubt going off the deep end without him.
Once inside the building, he ran up the stairs to Carl’s loft. Panting because of the cold and the out-of-shape body he’d assumed, Jack used the key he’d “borrowed,” entered, and locked the door behind him. After a quick look around to determine no one had been inside while he’d been gone, he released a well-deserved sigh and stripped naked, trembling with bone-deep cold.
Too much distance between me and that picture
. He knew it made no sense, but he delved into the pocket of the pants he’d been wearing anyway, pulled the thing out, and stared at her photo. For the second time in ten minutes. The woman looked enough like Owen to clearly identify them as siblings. She had the same ash-blonde hair, emerald-green eyes, high cheekbones, and stubborn chin. But whereas Owen was handsome, Heather had stunning beauty.
Jack kept his gaze on her while his body returned to normal. His bones lengthened, and his muscle mass returned to the density it had been before. Blood raced, tissue expanded, and his organs slowly reshaped themselves to reflect a man of incredible stamina, health, and speed. Jack healed quickly. Shifting forms—what had once been a traumatic, painful experience in his youth— now occurred without incident. He could assume different faces and body types with ease. But because Carl had been so unlike Jack’s normal frame, it took him a few minutes to get all the kinks out.
.” His deep baritone relieved him. Carl’s vocal chords had given him a high pitch, and the voice had annoyed Jack more than the kid’s tiny body had. He’d been Carl on and off for a week, staying in Carl’s loft and wearing Carl’s clothes.
Ian, the most ill-disciplined but well-connected member of Jack’s PowerUp! team, had actually managed to give him a decent cover in this city. Ian hadn’t fucked up an assignment for once. Go figure.
Jack shivered and told himself to stop dicking around. He put his own clothes back on, relieved to feel decent underwear, denim, a thick sweater, and a leather jacket over his six-five frame. He threw on socks and stepped into his boots, then donned his gloves. Grabbing Carl’s clothes, he shoved them into his bag, not wanting to leave any traces of DNA behind. Then, after pocketing Heather’s picture, he took another look around the living space. Having left no visible hint of his stay, Jack put the spare key back on the key ring by the door and left with his bag in hand, closing the locked door behind him.
He passed two older women, who gave him a wide berth as he left. “Friend of Carl’s,” he muttered, and they scurried up the stairs behind him.
Once outside, he got into his rental and drove away from the city on the only lead he hadn’t yet followed. A week ago, when he’d arrived in the borough, an old man had walked right up to him and told him to head toward the Zugspitze—Germany’s tallest mountain.
“Toward?” Jack had asked.
“Yes, and around, and behind. And in.” The old man had winked. “You’ll find what you’re looking for not on any map. But you’d better hurry before the truth comes out.” Then he’d tipped back another beer, belched, and laughed before staggering away and rounding a corner.
When Jack had tried to follow to ask more questions, he’d found that the old guy had vanished.
So now, the great Jack Keiser, leader of an elite band of psychic investigators, had nothing better to do—or a better lead to investigate—than to follow a drunken man’s ramblings. At least the view would be decent. He drove for an hour out of town, south toward the majestic mountains. Snowcapped and tucked into a verdant forest of spruce and fir, surrounded by crisp air and nature enthusiasts, the Zugspitze commanded attention with a majesty Jack appreciated. Often compared to a mountain of muscle himself, he’d accepted that bigger sometimes did mean better. And he took his responsibilities to heart. As he drove closer to the Wetterstein Range, he realized he hadn’t taken a vacation in over six years.
Odd time to have some fun, looking for a missing woman, a paranormal book, and trouble he could almost taste in the crisp, mountain air.
He continued toward Grainau, another town on the way toward the mountain and Lake Eibsee, a few miles away. The lake itself attracted a fair share of tourists, so maybe Heather had headed there? She wasn’t in Munich. He’d scoured the places his resources couldn’t and had found no hint of the woman. The town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen had a small enough footprint that, in a matter of days, Ian’s contacts had reported no sign of the woman’s presence there either. Maybe Grainau?
At this rate, Jack could cross southern Germany off his
places to see
list. He’d been to Germany before, but mostly on ops in the northern, more industrial cities: Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg. His Audi had no problem traversing Southern Germany either. Jack saw a sign for Lake Eibsee ahead, but his attention caught and held on a distinct dirt road coming up on the right. Some instinct told him to turn off the state road onto the dirt road, one barely wide enough to fit two cars side by side.
He continued to drive, conscious that the road seemed to veer north, away from the mountains. Probably wound up and around, meeting up with B23. Yet as he followed the road, he felt it.
. A connection to something vast, something he hadn’t felt since the government had enhanced his psychic skills and made him the monster he was today.
His brain cramped, then opened, and Jack felt as if butterflies kissed his skin from his head to his toes. Desire, hunger, and need poured through him, as did the urgent need to find Heather before the big bad came and took her away for good.
Everything around him seemed hazy, and he had the insane feeling the car was about to go over the edge of a cliff and never stop falling. Yet the wheels continued to turn, and Jack blinked to clear his vision. Trees, more trees, a dirt trail, the bright blue sky overhead. Kind of normal.