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Authors: April Zyon

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Evernight Publishing ®

 

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Copyright©
2016 April Zyon

 

 

 
ISBN: 978-1-77233-777-8

 

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

 

Editor: Jessica Ruth

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

To Jessica R, my editor. Thank you for making my
books amazing.

 

To everyone at Evernight—thank you for having me
as a part of your amazing family and for doing all that you do for us, the
authors and for our readers.

 

PROTECTED

 

Warriors of Light, 3

 

April
Zyon

 

Copyright
© 2016

 

 

 

Prologue

 

The moon shone its full light
upon the fields. The beams that streamed through the tree branches shimmered
upon the girl that danced with abandon in her glory. Long, red hair flowed out
behind the child like a fan, laughter filling her as she twirled on the
still-damp grass from the fresh rainstorm that had just run through the area.

A giggle escaped her, and she
reached a pale hand out for the young girl sitting in the shadow of a tree.
“Come dance with me,” she called in a singsong voice through the shadows.

She stood, completely opposite
from the red-haired beauty. The dark, corkscrew curly hair was like madness
around the child as she rose to her feet and moved to the young redhead. Their
hands clasped and a bubble of a rainbow shield surrounded them. Laughter flowed
from both girls then as they sang and danced with one another.

Together they swung round and
round in merriment, their joy palpable in the air around them. The flowers
seemed to strain to be closer to the laughing duo, but the rainbow bubble that
shielded them stalled the attempt.

Their laughter died shortly
after it began. The masculine voice that penetrated the night was filled with
anger. The bubble fell with their happiness. They held hands as the large man
raged at them, as he shouted incoherently and gestured with his hands.

Both heads bowed as the girls
walked to the house with fear pouring off them.

The man’s heated screams ripped
through the night, the hatred seeming to burst free of his body. The redheaded
child was struck first, the smack echoing in the air. “You little brat!” he
shouted. “I can’t believe that you would pull crap like this.” The cabin they
lived in had completely bare walls and high ceilings. Sound seemed to echo
inside of the space. A space that was dark because he refused to put anything
in the rafters for lighting. So they only had two small table lamps in the
living room and one small lamp in each other room, including, oddly enough, the
bathroom.

When the shield bubble popped
up, the man simply laughed.

“Oh, you’re going to pull that,
are you?” He grabbed the younger girl with the dark hair. “You can protect
yourself, but not her,” he taunted, pulling out a lighter. “She has such pretty
hair, don’t you think? All these curls?” He held the girl by her throat,
watching the redhead with madness in his eyes. “Drop the shield, Vivian.”

“I can’t.” Vivian was crying,
her cheeks mottled with her tears. “I can’t, Fia. You know that, right?” Once
she was terrified, Vivian couldn’t lower the shield. It was something she
couldn’t control, as much as she wanted to. She also hadn’t learned how to pull
Fia into the shield and it broke her young heart.

“I know,” Sophia answered with a
whispered calm that an adult would’ve had trouble showing at the moment. “Don’t
let him hurt you, Viv.”

The man shook his head, then
began to shake Sophia. “Drop it, Vivian. Drop that fucking shield.” She was the
one that he truly wanted to beat. She was the one who had went to school and
run her mouth about him. It was her fault the cops were asking questions about
him. She was the one who needed to pay.

He hated to have to hurt Sophia
because of how much she looked like her mother, even if he never missed a
chance to remind her it was her fault his beloved wife had died in childbirth.
Yet, he hated
Vivian
even more.

He shook Sophia again and tried
to get her to cry out. When she wouldn’t, he cursed, slapped her again, and
looked at Vivian. “Fine.” Keeping a firm grip on Sophia’s hair, he shoved her
out the open door and into the night. Vivian quickly followed, her stomach
knotting painfully when her father sent her a tight, cruel smile. He snapped
his lighter and turned his gaze to Sophia. “Thank your sister for killing you,
you little brat.” He lit up her curls.

Vivian and Sophia both screamed
then, their father letting go of Sophia when her hair was completely on fire.
He stood between Viv and Fia, though. He knew that Vivian couldn’t walk through
things, or force them to the side, while the bubble was up.

Vivian watched as Sophia tried
to run. The trees and bushes all but reaching for her, Fia tripped over a root,
rolled down a hill, and landed in water. By this time, the trees that she had
raced past had caught fire.

Vivian’s father took off for the
woods. She remained on her knees in the yard, screaming, tears pouring down her
face.

 

Chapter One

 

Vivian woke with a scream, the
nightmare from the past once more hitting her hard and fast. She tumbled off
the bed, her blankets trapping her from how much she had tossed and turned.
“Crap,” she grumbled and sat up quickly, hitting the back of her head on the
side table. “For the love of—” She clasped her hand over the injury and had to
pant through the pain.

She crawled from where she was
trapped, then used the bedframe to get to her feet. “Crapballs, that hurts like
mad.” She walked toward the kitchen and the heaven that was coffee.

After putting in a K-Cup, she
pulled out her large mug and opened her Surface tablet. She sent out a quick
message to her younger sister, just saying hello, since Sophia’d had to go to
Vashon Island that day for work. Once her coffee was finished, she took her
first sip and sighed. “God, that’s good.” Then she clicked on the reply from
Sophia, grinning.
You’re such a character
, she typed to her sister
before opening the attached video.

Turning up the volume and
putting up the kickstand, she watched as Sophia showed her the mini version of
the mural to be painted today. The clients were an older couple never able to
have kids, who had finally gotten through all the red tape to adopt. They were
going all out on the child’s room.

Viv listened to Fia drone on and
on about the ten-year-old girl and how sweet she was.
That’s Fia for you. Leave it to her to get to know the child first.
She was a loving and wonderful woman. Sophia had endured so much in her life
that it still amazed Vivian how she was able to look at the world with wonder.

Viv was completely different.
She saw the world as it was. There were monsters all around them, and she knew
it.

After the clip was over, Viv
sent off another message to Sophia, then took a seat on the barstool, grabbed
her keyboard, and snapped it together so that she could write.

Coffee to her right, notepad to
her left, she detailed the article she was currently working on. It was about
the Boys and Girls Club and the funding they needed in order to continue to
give the children in the area the help that they required.

Standing, she took her now-empty
cup to the sink and rinsed it out. She pulled out one of the frozen pre-made
meals from Fia and popped it into the oven. Taking her tablet with her, she
moved into the living room and turned on the television for background noise.

Propping her feet up on the
table, she wiggled her toes. “God bless it, Fia.” She thought that her sister
had painted the nails different colors. She wasn’t certain, because she was
color-blind, but the greys didn’t all look the same tones. “Damn it, Fia,” she
muttered and pushed her long, red hair to the back of her head, twisting and twirling
it before securing it with a pen from the side table. “Now, where was I?” She
re-read her story and notes.

Hearing the oven timer go off,
she stood again, her gaze on the tablet.
I’m
missing something
. Shaking her head, she moved away from the couch to the
kitchen. With her food in hand, she chose to eat on the little balcony that
overlooked the city. She chewed, watching the action many stories below her on
the streets of Seattle and smiling at the twinkling lights and the sounds of
boats in the harbor.

Viv began to think about her
life as a journalist. She had a blast, but this piece hit closer to home. This
one was calling her like a siren’s song, and it had everything to do with the
childhood that she and her sister had barely survived. If not for that club,
she and her sister would have had to spend more time with their father than
they could have survived.

Taking another bite of the food
her younger sister had prepared, she sighed. “Goodness, I love you, sis,” she
said aloud. They both knew that if Viv had to cook for herself she would starve
to death. Viv could even burn water in the microwave. She laughed. “Who would
have known that fire really could shoot out of a microwave?”

She’d met a seriously hot
fireman, however, when she had to call them to put out the flames, since her
extinguisher had been dead. He’d lasted for a single date. Then he had gone. He
wasn’t the one she had been looking for, and she knew it. He simply hadn’t been
… right.
Oh, well, such is life.

* * * *

Dropping his carry-on at his
feet, Jason stretched his arms over his head. The flight into Seattle had been
damn long. They’d had to make an impromptu landing when one of the passengers
had gotten out of hand. Then there was a wait while the local police had pried
him and his pissed off wife from the plane.

There’d been further delay when
a storm had blown in, leaving them sitting on a runway for another three hours.
Finally, they’d made it into the air during a break in the squall and were back
on their way.

It had been a very long day in
the air and on the ground. He was where he needed to be, though. Now all he had
to do was find James so they could get their behinds moving. Which, knowing the
cowboy as he did, the other man would likely be in the nearest bar. Grabbing
his bag, he scoped out the area and spotted the one that would call to the Wild
West gunman.

Too
easy
. Rolling
his eyes, Jason slung the duffel over his shoulder and made his way to the
tavern. Inside, he spotted James easily. The man was holding court with a gaggle
of women, who were all drooling over his authentic accent. Why Mercury had
thought putting the two of them together on a mission was a good idea, he’d
never figure out.

Reaching the table, he dropped
his luggage again. “James.”

“Jason!” James popped to his
feet and came around to hug Jason, pounding his back. “Good of you to join us.
Ladies, this is Jason. Jase, these are the ladies. They’ve been keeping me
company while I waited for your flight. I heard ya’ll had a bit of trouble, got
stuck through a bit of a storm. Bad luck, that.”

“Yeah, to say the least.” Jason
gave a slight bow to the women. “Which means we really should get going, James.
We have a job to do, and I’m sure you’ve had more than your fair share of
drinking already today.”

“Right, true enough,” James said
with a nod. “Sorry, ladies, but the man has a point. So, if ya’ll want to give
me your numbers, I’ll call each and every one of ya’ll as soon as I can.” He
leaned over and grinned at a blonde. “Especially you, sugar.” He handed off his
phone and collected from all six.

When he had gotten his cell
back, plus a few kisses, they paid his tab and went to collect the rental car.
Passing James the folder from Mercury, Jason settled behind the wheel and got
them moving.

“Shit, this here’s rather thin,”
James said.

“I know. There’s not a lot to go
on. A few really old cases that may or may not be related, and then the two
newest ones. I don’t have a clue if this is anything more than a wild goose
chase.”

“Damn,” James breathed. “Well, I
guess all we can really do is check them out and see if it was human killings,
or if it was more. Really wish these assholes would leave us calling cards. Be
so much easier in the long run.”

“Yeah, just what we need. The
evil ones leaving calling cards at their murders. Then we’d have the feds on
each of the cases, looking for a serial killer that apparently hops from one
end of the country to the other and back again. Somehow, I don’t see that as
something that would work out well for us.”

“No, I guess not,” James
muttered. “So, which one do we want to look at first?”

“Given where we are, we’ll look
at the scene that was out north of Jefferson Park Golf Club. It’s the closest,”
Jason answered. “After that, we’ll head to the one that happened in the Lower
Queen Anne district. I doubt there will be much left after all this time, but
you never know.” They could get lucky, though he didn’t hold out much hope for
that. It hadn’t done him a lot of good over the years.

Twenty minutes later, they were
studying the scene a block north and slightly east of the golf club. As he’d
surmised, there wasn’t a lot left beyond some scraggly pieces of police tape
and stains on the concrete.

But Jason wasn’t really
interested in the scene itself. It was what was around that counted. Moving to
where the body had been found, he turned his back. He wanted to know what the
victim, a young woman by the name of Katy, had seen in her last moments.

It wasn’t a horrible area, not
by a long shot. A little wear and tear, but nothing that jumped out and
screamed “worst neighborhood on the planet.” There was some graffiti, but
again, nothing that stated they were in gang territory, or a place most folks
wouldn’t enter in the middle of the afternoon, let alone after dark.

For all intents and purposes, it
was an average area, in an average American city, with nothing to make it stand
out. Except for one thing. “We need to get Helen to pull the video feed from
the night of the murder.”

“Wouldn’t the police have done
that already?” James asked him.

“Possibly, likely even,” Jason
said. “They’re not us, though, and they may not see what we will. Most humans
don’t want to acknowledge the strange and unusual. Their minds automatically
cover it up, and they play it off as a trick of the light, a shadow, or something
else that allows them to sleep at night.”

“Good point.” His partner
nodded. “Well, we might as well head to the next scene. Maybe there will be
video around there, too.”

Jason was hoping so on the drive
into Lower Queen Anne. They needed a break on the case, if there really was
one. Reaching the corner of West Republican Street and Second Avenue, they
found a parking spot. Jason climbed out of the SUV and looked around.
Apparently, luck was on their side this time. “We have cameras,” he announced.

James nodded. “So I see. I’ll
call Helen and get her to do her thing. Be nice to know if we’re just dealing
with a regular old killer or a monster. Not that a regular killer is all that
great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative.”

While James made the call back
to the Mountain, Jason headed for the alley between buildings, where the murder
had occurred. Ten feet in, he stopped. The police tape that remained was in
slightly better condition than at the last spot. Turning, he gazed up at the buildings
on each side.

A lot of windows, but given what
was in each building and the time of night the young man, Vern, had been
killed, there wouldn’t have been witnesses. Unfortunately, he didn’t think the
video would be all that helpful, either, given where the cameras were located.

Walking back out to the street,
he headed for the truck and James. The cowboy was off the phone and lounging
back against the bumper, checking out women as they went past.

“Tell me you’re not checking out
women on the street?”

“All right, I’ll tell you I’m
not checking out women on the street,” James answered. “Even though they are
damn fine.” He nodded to another one, receiving a smile in return.

“Anyone ever mention you
are—what is that quaint saying? Ah yes … you are a dog,” Jason said.

“Woof.” James grinned at him.
“We done here?”

“Yes, there’s nothing to see.
We’ll need to hope we get some video. Did you contact Helen?”

“She’ll be pulling it as soon as
she can. She said she had to find it first but will call as soon as she has
something for us.”

“Good,” Jason said. “We might as
well go to our hotel. I doubt we’ll get anything from her today, and I’m
starving. They didn’t even have those little pouches of peanuts on the flight.”

“That’s because everyone’s all
paranoid by the rise in allergies. They ditched the peanuts off flights, banned
peanut butter from schools, and are coddling everyone. Too many people have
turned into pansies. It’s deplorable,” James muttered with a sneer.

Jason wasn’t about to argue with
him. Climbing into the truck, he put it in gear and got them moving toward
their hotel.
Food, a shower, and then
sleep. In that order.

* * * *

Viv had her camera in hand and
began to take photos left and right. The park attack had been bothering her
since she’d heard about it. It might not be her case to investigate for the
paper, but the officers that had been assigned the task were assholes of epic
proportions and wouldn’t give a flying rat’s ass if the truth was told or not.
Not as long as they had their promotions all lined up and ready. No, they would
do the bare minimum of work possible so that they could get their kudos and
accolades.

She shifted her focus and
snapped more images. “What is it about this area and this woman that was
killed?” she muttered to herself. She took a seat on the picnic table and
looked around with her elbows on her knees. “There has to be something I’m
missing.” She had never been very good at investigative reporting, but she knew
when things were wrong and when they were right and this was something that was
definitely wrong. She felt it in the pit of her stomach.

Tapping her fingers to her lips,
she watched the birds as they swooped down and took bits and pieces of bread
and leftover food that had been littered on the ground. “Why her?” Vivian asked
softly. The young woman’d had a full life ahead of her, and yet it had been
snuffed out like she wasn’t even worth her next breath.

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