Authors: Rayne Rachels
A Brimstone Heat Novel
Copyright © 2016 Rayne Rachels and RA KirschkeCole
All rights reserved.
For more information about the author, please visit http://raynerachels.blogspot.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the Author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Angie sat up and rubbed her eyes as she yawned. She had been dreaming about the school field trip to the zoo and all the wonderful animals she had seen when the loud noise woke her. She looked around her bedroom, but couldn’t see much in the dark except some really scary shadows. The nightlight that usually filled her room with a soft, warm light was turned off.
Angie reached for her blanket. There were things in the dark she could not see. Things she didn’t want to see because they were too scary.
The warm, fuzzy feelings the dream created slowly melted away leaving an uneasy feeling. Something wasn’t right. Her small heart thudded against her ribcage. The shadows grew larger, as they tried to fill the room.
What was the loud noise?
The noise was not a sound she normally heard in the house, but she knew she had heard it before. She just couldn’t remember where.
Angie pulled the blanket up to her chest. “Mommy,” she whispered. Her chest tightened as worry snaked through her body. She froze as she concentrated on listening for the friendly, warm sound of her mom’s voice.
From somewhere downstairs, her mother screamed. It was followed by several more loud bangs. Angie to jump. Her eyes widened. She quickly put her hands over her mouth muffling any sounds from the scream she tried to bite back. Her whole body trembled.
She listened, wondering if there would be another scream or more bangs.
Silence filled the house.
Angie slowly removed her hands from her mouth. “Mommy? Daddy?” She was not sure if she actually called out to them or just thought she had. She waited for them to come and chase away the shadow monsters that were scaring her. She needed them to come and tell her she was safe. She needed them to give her a hug and tell her everything was all right.
But they never came.
Angie was only ten years old, but she knew something was seriously wrong. Her parents wouldn’t have left her alone in the dark with the shadow monsters. They knew she was terrified of them. That’s why the nightlight was on from the time she went to bed until she woke up in the morning.
Large tears rolled down her cheeks.
She thought about going downstairs to their bedroom, but the urge to hide was stronger. It was what they had told her to do, especially if she heard strange noises in the house and neither of them came to get her. Quietly, Angie slipped out of her bed and ran to the closet. She started to open the door but hesitated. What if the shadow monster was in there?
Angie’s hand trembled and fear clawed through her. Did she dare open the door and face the shadow monster?
The stairs creaked and groaned. Angie turned her head and stared at the closed bedroom door. Someone or something was coming up the stairs. Angie made a decision to face the shadow monster because as scary as it was, it was less scary than the unknown monster coming up the stairs.
She opened the closet door and slipped inside. Carefully she closed it and turned around. Her heart raced wildly and she trembled with fear, but she felt her way to the corner furthest away from the door.
Angie sat down and pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees. She slowly rocked back and forth, desperately wishing her mom or dad would come and chase away the scary dark and everything hiding in it.
Angie bit her bottom lip. She needed her mommy and daddy to tell her everything was okay. She wanted to go find them, but she couldn’t move. Her muscles refused to listen to her. Fear made her stomach hurt. The urge to vomit was overwhelming.
The floor outside the bedroom door creaked.
Angie gripped her legs tighter and buried her face against her knees. The icy fingers of fear wrapped tightly around her heart and brain.
The bedroom door squeaked as it slowly opened.
Angie held her breath as someone or something walked into her room.
She knew it wasn’t her parents. They would have already called out to her, letting her know it was safe to come out. They had made her practiced for something like this, just as they had practiced fire drills, in case a fire broke out in the house.
The closet suddenly grew cold, making Angie’s teeth clatter. Goosebumps popped up on her arms. She paled as she watched a woman step out of the shadows. She carried a small light in her hand that seemed to warm the cold and chase away the darkness. Angie stared at the woman and wondered if she was dreaming again.
“You are not dreaming,” said the beautiful woman in a soft, musical voice. She sat down next to Angie.
“But you’re the lady from my dreams,” whispered Angie.
“I am.” The woman held out her hand. “We don’t have much time. I need you to take my hand.”
Angie frowned. “Why?”
“Because there is a very bad man coming, and I have to protect you from him.” The woman glanced at the closet door. “We don’t have much time. He will be here in a few seconds.”
Tears filled Angie’s eyes and rolled down her cheeks. Her chest hurt. A large lump formed in her throat. She swallowed trying to remove it. “My parents are dead, aren’t they?” She knew. Angie didn’t know how she knew. She just knew. Just as she knew her world would never be the same.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t save them, but I can save you. You have a destiny to fulfill. Take my hand and don’t let go. No matter what happens or what you see, don’t let go of my hand,” said the woman.
The bedroom floor creaked and groaned as someone slowly walked into the room. The owner of the footsteps stopped in front of the closet.
Angie stared at the closet door. Tears ran freely down her cheeks in a steady stream. Her parents were dead. The bad guy had killed them, and now he was after her. She looked at the woman and made a decision…a decision she knew her parents would want her to make. Slowly, she reached for the woman’s hand.
“No matter what happens, do not let go of my hand,” whispered the woman. “I promise. I won’t let him hurt you.”
Angie nodded her head. She didn’t know how, but she knew she could trust the woman. “I won’t let go,” she whispered.
The door to the closet opened. “All right you little brat. Where are you hiding?” The man’s voice was gruff and cold. He jerked on the chain hanging down from the light in the ceiling. “Damn brat!” growled the man. “Where are you hiding? This isn’t funny. I don’t like changes to my games. You had better show yourself. It’s going to be worse on you if I have to keep looking for you.”
Angie stared at the beard covered face. Shaggy eyebrows hung over a pair of cold steel gray eyes. She knew she would never forget the man’s face. She waited for him to reach into the back of the closet and grab her. But he didn’t make a move toward her, even though he stared directly at her. He either didn’t or couldn’t see her.
There was a black haze surrounding the man. Angie blinked several times, but the black haze didn’t disappear.
“Don’t worry. He can’t see you. He can’t hear you,” the woman whispered in Angie’s ear. “Don’t let go of my hand.”
Angie just nodded her head. She was too afraid to speak. She didn’t want to take the chance that somehow he could hear her. She squeezed the woman’s hand tighter.
The man shook his head and growled. “Where can one little brat disappear to? She is supposed to be here. It’s not like there are any places she can hid.” The man slammed the closet door.
Heavy footsteps moved away from it.
Angie took a deep breath and let it out. In the distance she heard the faint sound of sirens.
“The police are coming. That’s whose sirens you’re hearing,” said the woman.
Angie looked at the woman. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her green eyes looked warm and friendly. “Why are you protecting me?” asked Angie.
“Because you are special, and one day you will meet a man who will be very special to you. He will be your lifemate. You will know him by the way he makes you feel in your heart. Don’t be afraid of him. He will love and protect you, but you have to live so that you will find each other.” The woman leaned down and kissed Angie on the forehead, and then wrapped her arms around Angie and hugged her.
“But I have to live without my parents?” asked Angie. In her heart, she knew the answer to the question even before she asked it. She had a small sliver of hope. Maybe…just m
aybe this was all a really bad dream.
Tears filled the woman’s eyes. “I’m so sorry. I couldn’t save them, but they will always be with you. They are a part of your heart.”
“But I want them with me.” More tears ran down Angie’s cheeks.
“I know. I wish I could bring them back to you, but I can’t.” The woman held Angie in her arms while the little girl cried for her parents who would never again hug her or kiss her goodnight.
Angie Gunner pulled into the library parking lot and got out of her car. She closed her eyes and turned her face up to the morning sun. The warmth felt good. She took a deep breath. Slowly, she let it out, sending along with it the remnants of the nightmare that had woken her up in the early morning hours and which clung to dark corners of her consciousness. She prayed for the day she wasn’t haunted by the dreams of the night her parents were killed or of the killer whose face she still remembered.
It’s a new day. Last night was just a bad dream, and dreams cannot hurt me. Today, I just need to have a kick butt and take names later,
she told herself.
“Good morning, Miss Gunner. How are you doing?” asked Teri as she walked up to Angie. The young woman was smiling.
“Good morning. I’m good. How are you doing, Teri?” Angie opened her eyes and looked at the twenty-one year old woman. “Did you get registered for summer school?”
Teri nodded. “Everything is ready to go. All my grades and paperwork was transferred, and I’ve already signed up for summer classes. I’m taking two afternoon classes the first session and two morning classes the second session. I know I’m crazy to take that much during the summer, but I want school over and done with. I feel like I’ve been going to school forever.”
“You are going to be busy—lots of reading, study, and writing papers. There won’t be much time for a social life, especially with you working here too.” Angie remembered her own college days and the drive to finish as quickly as possible, even though it meant taking a full load of classes each semester.
Teri shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not thrilled about spending the summer in college, but I will be able to earn my Bachelor’s degree in December, and I’ll be able to start the Master’s program in January.” She made a frowny face and then smiled as she pushed several strands of brown hair out of her face.
“It will be worth it in the long run. Besides, I have faith in you. You will pass with all A’s.” Angie smiled. She liked both of her library assistants, but Teri reminded her of herself when she was in college. Teri was determined to finish as fast as she could so that she could get started with life. Angie admired her determination and wished only the best for her.
“I’m so glad you’re working with my schedule. The extra money from this job will definitely help this summer. Plus, I like working in the library. The changes you’re making are going to make it a really inviting place for everyone in the town. The kids are going to love the new children’s section.” Teri bounced with excitement.
“I told you I would work around your college schedule. You and Josh are really hard workers. I don’t want to lose you, though I know sooner or later I will when you go off to bigger and better things.” Angie readjusted the strap of her shoulder bag. “I just hope we get everything done on the library ‘to do’ list before the re-opening celebration.”
Teri smiled. “We’re almost finished with the young adult section. The paint should be dry in the children’s area. We need to look through the art work that Principal Hartman sent over the other day. I saw several cool pieces. I just love the idea of putting the kids’ art on display.”
“It gives them ownership. Plus, I love to see their faces when they find their pictures displayed somewhere in the library. If the walls are dry, we can start moving in the book shelves and furniture this afternoon.” Angie made a mental list of a few things she wanted to pick up for the children’s area to make it a fun place for the kids to relax and read.
She was lucky.
She had been given a generous budget just for redecorating the entire library and free reign to do what she wanted. The best part was a separate budget to update the books and add a brand new ebook section.
“The children’s section is going to be such a fun place. I love the bright colors you picked for the walls. And then there’s all the new books you ordered.” Teri’s eyes lit up with excitement as she talked about the children’s section of the library.
“I want the kids to enjoy coming to the library. Hopefully, it will encourage them to read.” Angie glanced at her watch. “You ready to get started?”
Teri nodded. “Josh will be here in an hour. He said something about bringing over some treats from the bakery. And knowing him, he will probably bring half the bakery with him…the half he didn’t eat. For someone who is constantly eating, I don’t know how he stays so thin. My metabolism is good, but it’s not that good.” Teri sighed.
“It’s a guy thing. They can eat everything and to lose weight, they just cut out one thing and drop twenty pounds in just a week.” Angie shook her head. Over the years, she had tried almost every diet, but never lost more than fifteen pounds. But the weight never stayed off, and she finally accepted her curvy body. “I’ll get a pot of coffee started. I could use another cup or two or three this morning,” she said as they walked toward the back door of the building.
Angie loved the building. It was a good hundred years old, but it had been carefully updated on the inside, leaving the old character but giving it all the modern conveniences that weren’t available a hundred plus years ago. She knew Abby Anderson had been in charge of the restoration.
Angie still couldn’t believe her good fortune. Getting this job was a dream come true. Originally, Angie had just come to Briary Creek for Gracie Stewart’s marriage to Quinn Hunter, but she had fallen in love with the town and the people she had met, especially her best friend’s new family. Not only were they good to Gracie, but they had accepted her without questions. For the first time in a long time, Angie knew she had finally found the place where she was supposed to be. This was the place Fate had been pushing for her to find.
Angie unlocked the rear door of the library, and Teri followed her inside as she walked over to the alarm system to disarm it. Angie started to punch the code into the keyboard, but stopped. Her fingertips hoovered just over the keys. Staring at the unit, she frowned, and then her eyes widened.
“Is something wrong?” asked Teri. She sniffed the air.
Angie didn’t say a word. She turned around and grabbed Teri’s shoulders. Forcing the young woman to turn around, Angie shoved her toward the exit.
“What’s wrong?” asked Teri. She tried to turn around, but Angie refused to loosen her grip.
Angie pushed Teri toward the door. “No questions. Just get out of here. Now!” Angie’s voice was low, but the command was unmistakable.
Teri shrugged but followed Angie’s order and left the building.
Angie followed right behind her. She didn’t bother locking the door or even closing it. She kept herding the younger woman across the parking lot.
Teri finally stopped and spun out of Angie’s grip. She turned and stared at Angie. “What is going on? Why did you shove me out of the library?”
“Did you smell anything—anything out of the usual? I know your sense of smell is much better than mine, and I saw you sniff the air.”
Teri blinked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Angie shook her head. “I don’t have time to play games. I know you’re a wolf shifter. I know you sniffed the air just before I shoved you out of the library. I need to know if you smelled anything out of the ordinary.”
“How do you know I’m a wolf shifter?” Teri’s eyes grew wide. She paled slightly.
“I just know.” Angie rolled her eyes. “Now, what did you smell?”
Teri shook her head. “I have to tell the Alpha—I mean…”
“Mr. Wolfe already knows that I know about shifters,” said Angie. The meeting with Marcus Wolfe, the Alpha of the Briary Creek Pack, had been a little awkward, especially when she had to explain how she could see people’s auras. It was a strange ability which even she didn’t completely understand.
Other than Gracie, who was her high school best friend, and Cheryl, her college roommate, Angie never told anyone else about her ability to see the auras surrounding people. She remembered her best friend, Gracie Stewart, just wrapping her arms around her in support the first time she talked about her parents and her strange ability. That had been just after Angie warned Gracie to be very careful around her stepbrother because there was a really strong darkness surrounding him and it seemed to be growing blacker with each passing day.
And then at college, after learning that Cheryl, her college roommate, was a fox shifter, Angie realized she was seeing more than just a person’s soul. She was seeing the nonhuman side of people who were different too, but how she did it and why was a mystery. All she knew was that it started the night Ted Whitley killed her parents and the woman stepped out of the shadows and saved her life.
Teri frowned as she nibbled on her bottom lip. “I smelled anger. It was fading, but whoever was there had a lot of anger in them. How did you know something was wrong?”
Angie pulled out her cell phone. “The alarm keypad lit like it is supposed to be. It was dead. Yesterday, it was working, because I armed the system before I left last night, but today the electricity to it is off to it, yet the lights are on in the building. Someone did something to the alarm. Go get in your car while I call the police.”
“If you know I’m a wolf shifter, then you know that I’m stronger than you. You should get in your car,” said Teri.
Angie shook her head. “That may be so, but I’m your boss.” She tapped 9-1-1 on the cell phone screen. “Don’t argue with me. Just. Move.”
Teri rolled her eyes but moved closer to the cars as Angie talked to the dispatcher operator.
“No, I’m not sure if someone is still inside the building, but with the alarm system is disabled, I’m not risking our lives to look around the library.” Angie nodded her head to something the operator said. “We are in the parking lot by our cars. Yes, thank you.” She tapped the end button, and looked at Teri. “The police will be here in a few minutes.”
Teri stared at her boss. “How do you know about shifters?”
Angie sighed. “It’s a little complicated. I just know shifters exist, and I’ve known for a long time.”
And a lot of other things, but I just don’t know what they are, and I probably don’t want to know either.
She didn’t say that out loud, because she didn’t want to scare Teri, just in case she didn’t know there were other beings living in the world with them. In some cases, ignorance was probably a really good thing. Sometimes Angie wished she was ignorant of the others living beside the humans. Some days it was hard to pretend she didn’t see them.
“Maybe you will tell me the story some time?” asked Teri.
“Maybe some day.” Angie chewed on her bottom lip. She knew the girl was curious, but Teri would just have to remain curious. She was not in the mood to share her story with anyone.
Teri tucked several strands of brown hair behind her ear. “I hate waiting. I could go inside and check.”
Angie shook her head. “You are not going in there. Do not even suggest it again.” Angie gave Teri a quick smile. “I know you can protect yourself, but I would rather have the guys with the guns go in and search.” Angie crossed her arms over her chest. “Besides, that’s their job. We might as well have them earn their paychecks.”
“Fine, I won’t go in there.” Teri rolled her eyes.
“I’m glad that’s settled,” said Angie. She almost expected Teri to stomp her foot and protest a little more.
Teri shrugged her shoulders. “But for the record, it’s not because you don’t want me going into the library. I’m not going in because the police are here.” She gestured to the street running parallel to the library parking lot.
“That was quick.” Angie watched a police cruiser stop not too far from them. The officer exited the car and walk over to them. From the silvery brown swirls in his aura, she knew he was a wolf shifter, like Teri and the majority of the people in Briary Creek.
“Angie Gunner?” asked the officer.
“Yes, I’m Angie Gunner, the librarian.” She stepped forward. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”
“Deputy Wade Martinez.” He held out his hand to Angie. “Dispatch said something about a possible break in and robbery. What exactly is the problem?”
Angie shook the deputy’s hand. Even though, he was smaller than most of the wolf shifters she had met, from the strength in his handshake, the deputy was not a weakling. “I’m not sure if anything was taken. After I discovered the alarm was disabled, Teri and I immediately left the building.”
Deputy Martinez pulled a pen and notepad out of a pocket and jotted down the information. “Is it possible you just forgot to set the alarm?” He looked up at her as he asked the question.
Angie raised her eyebrows in disbelief. “I armed the system just before I left last night, and I locked the back door before I left. This is something I do every day. So that would be a no to your question.”
“Sorry. I had to ask, because a lot of times people forget to set the alarm and then the next day they think someone has broken in because the alarm is off.” He gave Angie a small lopsided grin.
“It wasn’t just disabled or not set. It was dead. That’s why I didn’t touch it to key in the code to disarm it this morning.”
Deputy Martinez looked up from his notes. “It was dead? As in no electricity dead or just turned off?”
“Dead. Dead. As in no electricity going to it kind of dead. The electricity is on in the building. There’s no power outage, but the alarm keypad is completely dead. Plus, I didn’t close the door when we left the building. If the alarm was active, it would have already gone off by now. That’s why I called the police,” said Angie. She shook her head. She knew he had to ask the questions, but where people really that stupid?