Evernight Publishing ®
Copyright© 2015 Rose
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my former boss, Allan
Not only do you make it a priority to take care of your employees, but you went above and beyond for me when you supplied the money that allowed me to adopt my fantastic German
I can never thank you enough for that, Allan!
FOUND IN FLAMES
Night Shadows, 2
Copyright © 2015
I’ve got you cornered now, you bastard.
After nearly six months of chasing, Luka had finally backed his foe into an invisible wall. The Nevada/California state line was barely a stone’s throw beyond the city in front of him. He knew the witch was in that city just as surely as he knew the witch wouldn’t dare set foot in California. And it was about damned time, too. He’d first caught the bastard’s scent back in Wisconsin.
The moon was getting ready to sink below the horizon again, though. He wouldn’t be catching anyone that night. So he’d let what pack he had left get a few hours’ sleep before sending them into the city to flush the witch out. With any luck their hunt would be over before the next sunrise.
Luka’s gaze slid to the side as he heard his Beta come to a stop several feet back. The rest of his small pack had probably already passed out now that they’d eaten. He could guess what Justin wanted. “What?”
Justin hesitated, swallowed audibly, and said, “Some of the pack are concerned… What will you do if the witch runs all the way to California?”
Snorting, Luka lifted his gaze back to the clear night sky overhead. “What, are you afraid
a few ancient vampires?”
“Frankly,” Justin replied, “yes, I am. That’s
territory, Alpha. None of us want to die.”
“No one wants to die,” Luka said, his voice somber and low, full of old memories he’d rather have long forgotten. “But that witch is going to fall, and he’s going to fall
“Alpha,” Justin started.
Luka turned abruptly, leveling a pointed glare on the Beta. “Whatever it takes. However long it takes.”
Justin bowed his head immediately. “I only meant that not everyone is willing to cross the state line.”
Releasing a breath that was more growl than huff, Luka said, “Then they’re fucking cowards.” No one was going to hold him back, not when he was
closing in. That witch’s family had plagued him for generations, and for nearly a century he’d been forced to bide his time. Now he had a chance to end it all. “Tomorrow we go into the city and hunt. If someone doesn’t want to cross into California, then they better help me find him before he gets that desperate.”
Justin’s quiet reply was white noise in Luka’s ears as he looked toward the city lights just below them.
had been born into a large, legendary pack of werewolves. The kind of pack most wolves envied and never quite managed to emulate. He hadn’t been born the son of the Alpha, or even the Beta. He’d been born the third nephew by blood of the Beta—in other words, he’d been born the wolf equivalent of civilian. And for most of his youth, Luka had been happy. He remembered laughing, playing with other pups his age in the fields, and enjoying the spoils of the hunt without having to put in the effort. He remembered getting restless as he neared maturity, taking double shifts as border patrol just to keep busy, and picking fights with older wolves over who should lead a hunt.
And he remembered finding his parents’ decimated, burned bodies in the middle of a raging fire. He remembered the stench of a witch crackling in the searing flame. Grief and rage like nothing he’d ever imagined had torn through him. He’d begged his Alpha to go after the witch and tear him apart for what he’d done. But the witch had fled into a human zone and Alpha had refused.
“Revenge isn’t worth the exposure, and the risk that would bring to the pack.”
For a moment Luka had been sorely tempted to sink his fangs into his own Alpha’s throat for that choice.
was more important than getting his vengeance. Instead he’d taken off in the middle of a patrol shift, following a days’ old scent and bent on slaughtering the mortal witch.
He’d failed. And when his Beta, who had discovered and rescued him from another magical fire, brought him before the Alpha, Luka had been promptly exiled. Because disobeying an Alpha’s direct order was treason, punishable by death according to the law. Exile was the only form of mercy his birth Alpha could possibly have shown him.
Decades had passed. The witch responsible for his family’s murder was long dead.
Or so Luka had thought, until he’d caught an old, painfully familiar scent on the air.
With a shake of his head, Luka drew in a breath and returned his gaze to the nearly cloudless night sky overhead. He needed to stay sharp; stay focused. Dwelling on the past wasn’t going to help anyone, and the only thing he wanted more than his long-awaited revenge was to protect his new pack. No more wolves would die in that witch’s flame. And that desire had brought them here, to the outskirts of some Northern Nevada city. He wasn’t personally fond of Nevada’s dessert air, but any self-respecting wolf still preferred it to the stink of a big city.
At least it’s not Vegas.
“What do you think of Las Vegas?”
Harp tried not to jump when her boss appeared in her doorway, leaning against the doorframe to her small single office.
Here we go.
Removing her hands from the keypad of her laptop,
forced a smile and asked, “What about it?”
Anthony Burke, barely fifty-eight years old and easily the worst employer
had ever had, stepped fully into the space and leaned forward as he flattened his palms on her desk. “I was thinking of arranging a small company trip,” he declared, slimy smile slipping onto his face. “Of course, I can only afford to reward the more deserving employees, but it could be good for morale, don’t you think?” Without waiting for a reply he straightened, pulled a folded piece of notepaper from his pocket, and held it out as he added, “You can pick the hotel. I trust your judgment. Book us a suite and two extra rooms, preferably on another floor. Say one month from now?”
swore she could see her skin crawl as she took the paper from him, having to make an effort to keep from actually touching him. She wasn’t surprised to see a credit card number, as well as the rest of the necessary information, scribbled down. Opting to play dumb, she asked, “Oh, so you’re bringing the family? Will Tom be bringing his wife, too?” It was a useless effort, she knew, but she never could stop herself from reminding the man that he had a family. Including a grown and married son who was
than her twenty-nine.
“Oh no,” Burke replied. His hand landed, his touch heavy and haunting, over her wrist as he leaned forward again. “The suite’s for
Pulling her hand free before the bile in her throat could come out, she said, “It’s
, Mr. Burke, and I’m not available that weekend.”
For you, I’m
She didn’t have the energy to remind him—again—that she was in no way interested in playing mistress for him.
Shrugging with far too much indifference, Burke said, “Then pick a weekend you’re free. Nothing’s written in stone.”
“I’m busy every weekend,” she returned without looking up at him. “But I’m happy to make reservations for the company.”
“Mr. Burke,” one of the receptionists interrupted, poking her head into the permanently open doorway. “The plumber’s here for you.”
“Finally!” Burke said, turning toward the door. He paused, glanced back at
, and said, “Free yourself up a weekend next month and schedule it then. Check in with me before you clock out.”
sighed and slumped back in her chair as soon as he’d disappeared from sight. For nearly two years she’d been putting up with his advances. To say she was sick of it would be like saying she was female. It was true, sure, but it just didn’t quite grasp the depth of the situation. This job, despite the better pay and more matured colleagues, made her miss the part-time job at McDonald’s she’d had in high school. Or even either of the two fairly lousy jobs she’d had since.
Why haven’t I quit yet?
Her eyes returned to the screen of her laptop, open to her personal email, and she frowned. She didn’t even have enough money in the bank to qualify for a loan; she couldn’t
to quit. And Burke was well aware of that.
Suck it up, Ella.
It was a mantra she told herself several times a day at this point. She reached for the hand sanitizer she kept hidden in a drawer, reminding herself that there
to be an end in sight.
If there really was an end,
decided as she fast-walked down the dark street, it most certainly wasn’t in sight yet. The nearly three extra hours she’d been stuck at work—and stuck dodging Burke’s sickening advances—were proof enough of that. Now it was late, she was starving, and the city apparently hadn’t fixed the burnt out lights along the sidewalk because it was dark. This wasn’t a part of town illuminated by big business signs. All the businesses she was passing were the type that closed by five. It was exactly the eerie kind of darkness that always had her wishing she hadn’t watched quite so many horror films in her college years. Or, at least, that there was decent parking a little closer to the office.
supposed it was the pervading darkness of the evening that allowed her to catch a glimpse of an orange-red flicker across the street.
Her car was still nearly two blocks away, and technically around the corner in the opposite direction, but her feet stalled. The flicker was already gone, extinguished like some sort of flame, but she was sure she’d seen it.
What could it have been?
It seemed to have come from the narrow alley beside the business across the street, which was presumably where their dumpster would be. Could something have caught fire? No sooner had the thought popped into her head than she saw another flicker of the same orange-red light. This time accompanied by something that made her blood run cold.
“No, please—!” The shout was panicked, filled with terror and cut off by a sound
couldn’t quite describe. But it brought images of heat and fire to her mind.
She tugged her phone from her purse awkwardly as she darted across the street, desperate to see if she could help the man whose scream she’d heard. Visions of a sleeping, feeble homeless man with a lit cigarette somehow catching his shirt on fire filled her mind’s eye as she neared the alley. Perhaps that orange-red flicker had been fire.
“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” a faceless female voice asked calmly as the line connected.
began, cutting herself off when she finally rounded the alley and her eyes landed on two male figures. One was standing upright, perfectly straight and perfectly calm, with one arm partially extended. The other was crumpled on the ground and his clothes were burning like nearly extinguished embers.
her mind whispered as her stomach fell to her feet,
that’s … skin….
“Hello?” the operator on the other end of the phone called.
The man still standing lowered his arm to his side and turned a barely-visible, entirely-chilling smirk toward her. And all at once,
knew her life was in danger.
“Oh my God….”
“Ma’am,” the 9-1-1 operator said, practiced calm strengthening her voice. “Just stay on the line. I’m tracing your call now.”
The words did nothing to make
feel better. She knew in her gut that any help the operator could send would arrive too late.
The man turned to face her properly and his lips started moving. Either he wasn’t giving his words voice or her ears had stopped working, because
had no idea what he was saying. Whatever it was, though, she was sure it was bad for her. His arm lifted again and she saw that same orange-red flicker of light—coming from his palm. It was much brighter up close. And much warmer.
Suddenly something strong and heavy crashed into her, locking around her waist and throwing her bodily to the side. Her phone went flying somewhere in the direction of the dangerous man, and she was already rolling, slamming hard onto a firm surface that was decidedly not asphalt. Heat immediately exploded above and behind her in a bright, but brief, flash of light and she instinctively turned her face down—effectively burrowing into whoever or whatever had just tackled her.
The heat vanished almost as quickly, as if it had been sucked from the very air, and
found she could breathe a little easier. Unfortunately, that also enabled her to think a little clearer, too. Slowly, cautiously, she lifted her head and found herself tucked beneath a stranger’s jaw. A very muscular stranger’s jaw, if the broad shoulders she could see and the hard chest she was pressed against were any indication. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this close to a man….