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Authors: Lisa Kessler

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal

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BOOK: Night Walker
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She popped open her laptop and glanced over the top local news stories on her homepage. Years ago, her father read the newspaper at this same countertop every morning. The memory brought a smile to her lips.

Settled in with her breakfast, she scanned headlines. One caught her eye:
Spanish monk slain, body dumped at the doors of the Mission
de Alcala.

Kate frowned. The priest, Father Tomas De Cardina, was visiting from a remote monastery in Spain. The police didn’t have a motive for the killing, and they hadn’t yet released the cause of death.

What kind of person would murder a monk?
Kate sipped her coffee and considered what would drive a person to then treat the monk’s body with such disrespect.

48 LISA KESSLER

Shaking her head, she finished her toast and set her laptop aside.

The last thing she wanted to read about was bad news. She grabbed her Macy’s bags and poked through her wardrobe purchases.

Before her appointment at The Fish Market, she had lunch plans at Horton Plaza with Edie, so she headed upstairs to clean up and get ready to go. Kate looked forward to spending a little more time with Edie. Being back with her friends again definitely helped lift her spirits. Except when they hovered and lectured. She hoped to show them she didn’t need their mothering anymore. She would be strong.

She would be confident. She would find her way.

After a quick shower, Kate dressed, grabbed her purse, and headed into the sunshine.

§

Betty rushed into her office, dropping the mail on her desk in an effort to save her coffee before it slipped completely out of the crook of her arm. Yes, she could’ve made two trips, but she hated going all the way back to her car for one item. It was an inefficient use of her time.

She set her coffee on the coaster and moved around her desk to settle in her executive chair. She loved the feel of the cool leather soaking through her linen suit. It made her feel powerful, all business.

As a girl, she dreamed of being an attorney, but not because she longed to fight for justice or truth. A lawyer commanded respect.

They were women that even rich, influential men feared.

Of course, she never became an attorney. College wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In the end, she didn’t need a diploma to hang on the wall. She possessed an abundant amount of determination and organizational skills that college graduates would kill for.

And it was finally paying off.

Sipping her coffee, she quickly sorted the envelopes into stacks.

Betty opened the drawer, retrieving her gold-plated letter opener. She started out as a personal assistant by accident. Three years ago she answered an ad for a receptionist at a talent agency in Los Angeles.

While she waited in the lobby for her interview, she struck up a conversation with a guitarist from some rock band she had never
Night Walker
49

heard of. Before she knew it, she had a job working for him.

Even though she was the best personal assistant her employer ever had, the job hadn’t lasted long. On a trip to San Diego to represent him at a dinner party, she met Calisto Terana, founder of a charity that raised money for performing arts in schools and colleges as well as promoting the arts to rural schools on the reservations.

After an enjoyable evening of small talk and cocktails, he asked her to move to San Diego and work for the foundation. She never looked back. Calisto offered her a six-figure salary and an office in La Jolla with a view of the ocean. Not to mention he was one of the most reclusive and sexy eligible bachelors in Southern California. She’d be nuts to refuse.

But she’d soon discovered reclusive was putting it mildly—more like virtually nonexistent most of the time. He rarely came into the office, and when he did, it was usually after hours and at the tail end of another trip. Although she’d hoped for more interaction with him, she grew to love the independence of running the office herself. For the most part, he let her have complete control of the foundation’s operations, as long as she kept him up-to-date on her activities, and Betty enjoyed every minute of it. Within a year, Calisto named her director.

The title suited her just fine.

Betty had the mail opened and sorted in no time. She glanced at her calendar and smiled when she saw her meeting with Calisto tonight. Her steel-gray business suit was tailored for a perfect fit, but she decided she’d have to run back to her condo before the meeting to change into something less… uptight. Calisto kept a very professional distance with her, but deep down she wished he would open up so they could get to know each other better.

He represented everything she wanted in a man: tall, dark, handsome, intelligent, cultured, and extremely wealthy. Her pulse raced just thinking about him, and every evening meeting with him offered another potential opportunity to expand their relationship.

Betty prided herself on not allowing opportunities slip by.

Although she’d worked for him for a few years now, she really 50 LISA KESSLER

didn’t know anything about his past, except that he was originally from Spain. Calisto didn’t like to talk about himself and even when she asked direct questions, usually he found some way to get around them.

She discovered he was an accomplished pianist purely by chance one evening when she walked in on him playing after work. Her employer remained a mystery to her, but that made him even more desirable in her mind. Betty loved a good mystery, especially when it came wrapped in a six-foot-two-inch chiseled body with dark eyes that could melt you where you stood.

She worked quickly to get their donor list updated. If she worked through lunch, she could leave with plenty of time to change and let her hair down.

If tonight went according to plan, Calisto would be the one melting. She could hardly wait.

§

1775

The Old One was gone.

Gregorio struggled to grow into his new role within the tribe. He settled disputes, reading each party’s thoughts to discover the truth, and healed the injured, closing their wounds with his own blood. The local tribes admired his abilities and judgment. They treated him with honor and awed reverence, but deep inside, his soul still burned with rage and hungered for revenge.

Tonight, he would hunger no more. The Kumeyaay people were not neophytes, as the priests so often labeled them. They were a proud people, rich with tradition, but the Church sought to change that, to change them, by whatever means necessary.

The Spanish, his own people, would pay for taking Tala from him and enslaving the Kumeyaay tribes. The priests would not go unpunished.

The moon shone brightly above them, casting light on the silent mission as the tribes banded together to fight for their freedom. Over 600 warriors silently surrounded the structure. The Spanish would call this the day of the Alcala Massacre, but for Gregorio, the Night
Night Walker
51

Walker, it marked the night of judgment for a man he once called friend.

He had prepared the warriors for this fight, drawing pictures of the muskets and explaining how they were used. Warriors gathered from many tribes, each sharing a common fear of the white men who sought to steal their identity and way of life.

Tala’s death at the hand of a Spaniard provided further proof the white men were a threat to
all
of the tribes. Even their women and children were not safe.

With the warriors in place, a single battle cry broke the evening’s stillness. In seconds, the wooden planks of the mission’s roof blazed.

At the same time, another band of warriors smashed the clay flumes that brought fresh water into the mission, making it impossible to extinguish the fire.

Gregorio remained hidden in the darkness, watching the fire feed on the buildings he helped erect only a year earlier. Father Jayme insisted they move the mission from the coast to the inland valley, closer to the native workers. Gregorio helped them move one plank at a time and rebuild one adobe wall at a time.

He looked up at the bell tower now engulfed in flames. So much had changed in such a short time. A few musket blasts erupted as the Spanish guards made a feeble attempt to defend the mission, but it was already too late. They soon realized the futility of their efforts and sought to escape with the priests and servants.

Kumeyaay women and men scrambled out of the burning mission, taking whatever food and trinkets they could carry. But Gregorio didn’t move.

It wasn’t long until he saw the man he waited for.


Amar a Dios, hijos
!” Father Luis Jayme called as he ran toward the natives.

Gregorio rushed forward before the priest uttered another word and yanked him close. They stared at one another, eye to eye. The depth of his hatred for this man stunned him. Until Tala’s murder, Gregorio had never hated anyone, but this man had introduced a bitter emptiness into his soul that slowly poisoned him.

52 LISA KESSLER

They were once close friends. Brothers. But again, so much had changed. Too much.

Father Jayme’s face brightened with a smile. “Brother Salvador!

Thank our Lord you are safe. We feared you were dead.” The priest opened his arms to embrace him, but Gregorio stepped back, meeting his gaze with a cold stare. He tasted bile in the back of his throat. Every muscle in his body tensed. “You betrayed me.”

Father Jayme shook his head, his eyes pleading. “No, Brother Salvador. I saved you. Satan himself made you love her and caused you to stray from your faith. She tempted you until you broke your vows. I protected you when you could no longer protect yourself—” Gregorio’s fist connected with Father Jayme’s face before he realized he intended to hit him. When the robed man fell, Gregorio grabbed his arms and yanked him up.

“I gave you my confession, and you used it against me. Did you know the soldier you paid to kill her also raped her?” He shook him like a rag doll. “Did you?”

The priest sobbed as blood trickled from his misshapen nose. “I do not know what you are talking about.” Gregorio threw him to the ground. The priest cried out in pain.

“Once I called you my brother, and now you lie to my face? I saw him running away from her dead body, Luis! He took my ring that hung around her neck.” He grabbed the priest’s hand and twisted his finger. “This ring that is now around
your
finger! Tell me the truth.” Father Jayme stammered his response. “You should not have given it to her. I corrected a mistake that you never should have made.”

Gregorio leaned in close and spoke with clenched teeth. “By killing an innocent woman?”

“A heathen! Satan in the form of a dark-skinned woman stole you from your true calling. Stealing you from God. I saved you.” He stared into the priest’s eyes, fighting the urge to rip the man’s head from his body and sickened at how the scent of the priest’s blood tempted him.

Night Walker
53

“If Satan exists, Luis, then I am looking at him right now.” He removed his signet ring from Father Jayme’s finger and slid it back onto his own. “You broke your vows by using my confession to harm another, and God Himself will judge you for that sin.” Unable to bear the temptation of being so near Father Jayme’s bloody face, he turned away from the priest. With a nod from him, the native warriors moved in. As Gregorio walked away, short screams punctuated the thuds of sticks and knives as the natives beat and stabbed Father Luis Jayme to death.

It would not bring Tala back, but it felt justified. A life for a life.

But the guilt he felt for trusting Father Jayme with his confession would linger forever.

He and Tala met secretly for months before he finally made that fateful confession. He made a fatal error to confess his secret love and his desire to give up the priesthood. Why had he done it?

But he already knew.

From the first moment he kissed her, he had known he loved her.

After they lay together, guilt weighed on him until he could no longer bear it. He wanted to give up his missionary robes forever. When he learned Tala carried his child in her womb, he took it as a sign from God that he would become a husband and father. He actually believed Father Jayme would absolve him of his sin and bless their union.

How wrong he had been.

Gregorio moved on through the thick smoke, his revenge not yet complete. He needed to find one more man. Within minutes, three guards stumbled away from the inferno that devoured the mission.

He recognized Tala’s killer instantly as the man he’d seen riding away from her body, clutching Gregorio’s signet ring. Fury lit through him.

Using his heightened speed, Gregorio knocked the man to the ground and roared in anger.

The guard gasped, struggling to escape. The terror in his eyes reflected the fire in Gregorio’s. The Old One warned him not to allow others to see his sharpened teeth, which now resembled fangs. They should only be used to feed on animals and heal mortal wounds, not 54 LISA KESSLER

to strike fear or inflict harm.

But as he looked into the guard’s mind he saw Tala, her long hair tangled with brambles, her legs bleeding as this man chased after her on horseback. He watched the dog tear at her dress and rape her, holding his dagger to her throat.

In that moment, his rage was primal and all-consuming.

The man’s blood sang to him, his pulse raced, and without hesitation, Gregorio yanked him close and buried his fangs into the other man’s neck. Until now, he’d only fed on animals. He was unprepared for the power and pleasure of human blood.

Vaguely, he realized the guard fought to break free, screaming for help, but Gregorio’s grasp remained firm and unbreakable. He drank, overwhelmed by the images that sifted through his mind, his victim’s memories playing out before him.

He saw Spain, faces of men and women he did not recognize, and then he saw Tala running, her cheeks covered in tears, and he bit harder, pulling at the guard’s veins until the man went limp and his heart ceased beating.

BOOK: Night Walker
13.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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