Authors: Nina Croft
Return to Me
For anyone who has loved and lost—I hope you get a second chance.
Return to Me
Copyright © 2015 by Nina Croft
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author or publisher except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.
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Amazon 5* reviews...
“I LOVED the characters, they were alive, real, and had me laughing a few times.”
“Good fast reads with excitement, hot romance, and surprises around every corner. I was sad when i got to the last page of book 3...”
What the hell had gone wrong?
Belladonna Dixon glanced around, but Justin had vanished, melting into the crowd, which had gathered to watch her being hustled into the police cruiser. Not that she blamed him; he had an aversion to cops of any sort. So did she, but they’d grabbed her before she’d even realized they were there.
“Hey, watch it,” she snarled, as the tall dark-haired one pushed her head down. She climbed in, her cuffed hands making it awkward, and he slammed the door.
Bella sat back, fists clenched on her lap to control the trembling, and tried to slow her racing heart. As the car pulled away, she stared out of the window, hoping to catch a last glimpse of Justin, but he was long gone. She forced her mind to concentrate, to work out who had betrayed them.
Today was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning. She’d been so sure it was going to work, and with this job completed, she’d have enough money to get away, set herself up somewhere. Instead, she was on her way to the cop shop.
They would lock her up.
Her mouth went dry and nausea roiled in her stomach. She gnawed on her lip and pushed down her fear. Leaning forward, she raised her cuffed hands and banged on the bars separating her from the men in the front of the vehicle. “Hey, guys, are you going to tell me what this is about?”
She sensed the dark one watching her in the mirror, and she tried for a sweet smile. Sweet wasn’t one of her strong points, and it probably came off as a grimace.
He snorted. “As if you don’t know.”
Sitting back again, she closed her eyes. The adrenaline seeped out of her body, leaving her shaky as she tried not to think of what was to come. She’d never been caught before. Oh, she’d come close those first years living on the street, but that was before she’d learned the importance of blending in. How she could disappear simply by looking like everyone else.
And not like the freak she really was.
A cold, hard lump of dread congealed in her belly as she followed the uniformed officer down the corridor. He paused at a metal door with a square grill in the center.
“In you go.”
The door swung open. Bella stared at the room, bare but for a small metal cot fixed to the wall. The officer grunted with impatience, and she took a reluctant step inside, then another, until she was completely in the cell.
The door locked behind her, and the officer’s footsteps grew fainter as he walked away.
Bella silently screamed the words as they rose in her throat. She bit down on her lip to stop them from tumbling out of her mouth, until she tasted the sweet, metallic tang of her own blood.
“Let me out,” she whispered.
The footsteps faded, and in the distance, another door slammed. Once she was sure he wasn’t coming back, she allowed her tough façade to crumble. Sinking onto the narrow cot behind her, she clutched the thin, scratchy blanket to her face. The sour stench of sweat and vomit filled her nostrils, and she threw it to the floor then scrambled into the corner, hugging her knees to her chest.
The cell was small, only about nine feet by nine feet. Too small. The walls were closing in.
“Don’t let it come,” she murmured to herself. “Please, don’t let it come.”
But the waking nightmare hovered on the edge of her consciousness. Sweat broke out on her skin, and her heartbeat quickened until it thundered in her chest as the memories wrapped around her mind. But they weren’t memories. They were nothing more than a dream, which had haunted her all her life.
So, why did they feel more real than anything she had ever lived through?
They would lock her away forever. She would never get out. She would die here. The air was sucked from the room. She couldn’t breathe. Closing her eyes only made it worse. At least while they were open, she could see the light.
But her vision was fading and she was being dragged back into the nightmare.
The light was dim, but at least there
light, and she knew the darkness was coming. She was in another cell; but this one had no windows, no door, only four walls. Crouching in the corner, she huddled in the last beam of sunlight as they pushed the final brick in place, and the light and murmured voices were cut off forever. Entombed in stygian darkness, thick and complete, her rasping breaths were the only sound. She didn’t care. She didn’t want to live. Her heart had shattered. They had taken her love.
She didn’t know how long it took to die as she lay curled in on herself on the soft, sandy floor. Tears had long since dried up. She tried to remember her love as he had been, in all his glorious perfection. But her mind kept flashing to the last sight she’d had of him.
They’d ripped the golden wings from his back and slashed his beautiful face with a deep jagged cut, his blood dripping to the yellow sand, and still he’d fought to get back to her. He’d screamed her name, “Soraya!” and then he was gone.
The pain was too much to bear, and when death finally took her, it was a release.
Torr stroked his finger down the jagged scar on his cheek, a habit when he was thinking or annoyed. At the moment, he was both.
Where the hell is she?
Lilith had called him here, and then left him waiting as though he had nothing better to do with his time.
A faint perfume on the air, a curious blend of musk and sweetness, alerted him to her presence. He swung around to find her watching him, her grey eyes expressionless. Then a slow smile curved her lips. “Torrin,” she purred his name, setting his teeth on edge.
Lilith was probably the most beautiful woman he had ever met. Long, red-gold hair hung down to her waist, thick and—he knew from experience—soft as silk. Her figure was full, her breasts perfect above the deep indentation of her waist, and her legs endlessly long to wrap around a man. The creamy skin of her face was marked with runes of power, which glowed in the dim light of the Abyss.
“Come back to me,” she murmured.
Never going to happen.
“Is that what you called me here to say?” He didn’t even try to keep the disbelief from his voice.
She stroked a finger along the tip of one black feathered wing, and he fought the urge to flinch. He did take a step back, though, and her hand dropped to her side as she regarded him out of narrowed eyes. “There was a time when you loved my touch.”
Two thousand years ago, he’d been stripped of his golden wings and banished to the Abyss. Lilith, Queen of the Abyss, had given him back his wings, albeit a little changed, and for a millennia, he’d ruled at her side. He would never deny he had found pleasure in her body, a brief fleeting release from the pain which had been his constant companion through those years. All he’d wanted was revenge, and she had been his means.
But his heart had been dead, his soul without hope.
He’d believed Soraya lost to him forever, and he’d thought Lilith’s offer to be a good one. He had given her his allegiance, placing his soul in her keeping, in exchange for the dark powers she’d bestowed upon him and his brothers.
A vision of Soraya flashed across his mind. She’d been so small, with fiery red hair at odds with her sweet nature, and soft blue-grey eyes. She wasn’t beautiful as Lilith was, but her soul had been the purest he had ever known. She’d been an empath and a healer to her people. He’d never encountered a truly good human before Soraya.
She called to his soul, made him forget every rule he had ever lived by, and that had been his downfall. Unable to contemplate a future without her, he had stolen the Elixir of Life. But he’d been betrayed, and the theft discovered. As punishment, he’d been tossed into the Abyss, and Soraya murdered by her own people.
“Torrin?” Lilith broke into his memories. He shook his head and rage flashed across her beautiful face. “You won’t find her, and the years are running out. What then? Will you come crawling back to me, begging for your soul?”
“If I don’t find her, you may keep it. Destroy it, or wear it around your pretty throat for eternity. I really don’t care.”
The rage vanished and a brief flicker of pain flashed across her face before her expression went blank.
Torr forced down the guilt. He knew Lilith loved him as much as she was capable, but he could never return the emotion. She had known that when she took him to her bed. He’d given her his body, but no part of his heart.
Then after a thousand years in the Abyss, he’d learned Soraya might not be lost to him for eternity, as he had believed. Because she had taken the Elixir, her soul was bound to the Earth in a perpetual cycle of death and rebirth.
Once he’d discovered that, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to sleep with Lilith again. To sleep with any woman.
“Is that all you called me here for?” he asked again.
“I called you here because I can. I don’t want you forgetting your vow of allegiance.”
“I never forget. You can order my allegiance, but never my love.”
He spread his black wings and rose into the air. Clearing his mind, he opened the portal to Earth. Lilith’s realm of the Abyss faded around him, and he was back on the rooftop of Stormlord Securities in the center of London, the low hum of traffic far below. The early morning sun warmed his bare back as his wings vanished and he took on his earthly guise.
The meeting with Lilith had unsettled him, as they always did. Filled him with guilt and something else. He didn’t want her, but his body remembered and ached for some sort of release. It had been almost a thousand years since he’d last lain with her, and there had been no one since.
Now, time was running out.
Cade was waiting for him in his office. Since Cade had rediscovered his own love, he was easy to read; he was always so goddamned happy. Torr didn’t begrudge him his happiness, but it was hard to live with sometimes.
At that moment, Torr could tell by his expression something momentous had happened, and hope flickered to life inside him. “Tell me.”
“We think we’ve found her.”
“Soraya? You’ve found Soraya?”
“Only you will know for sure.”
Cade crossed the room and powered up the computer on Torr’s desk. Torr followed him, recognizing the fear that slowed his footsteps. What if it wasn’t Soraya? He’d thought he’d found her before, and the disappointment had been devastating.
“How?” he asked. “Where is she?”
“The facial recognition program picked her up in the police files.”
“Police?” Doubt prodded his mind.
“She was arrested yesterday.”
Cade glanced up at him, a frown forming between his brows. “What’s the matter?”
Torr shook his head. “It can’t be Soraya. Why would she be arrested? She would never do wrong.”
“Just look at the picture and you’ll know.” Cade’s voice was soft, understanding. Of course, he understood. He’d been through this himself. He knew what Torr was feeling.
Torr took a deep breath and moved around so he could see the computer screen. A face flashed up, a mug shot of a woman with long blonde hair, her expression surly, her mouth held in a sullen line, her blue-grey eyes blank.
Cade sighed. “Ever heard of hair dye?”
He looked closer.
Waves of emotion washed over him, threatening to suck him under. He reached out a hand and stroked the line of her face, the downward curve of her mouth. What had they done to her, to make her look like this? He needed to see her, get her out.
“This must be a mistake. I’m going to the station. You need to sort it out before I get there. I don’t care who you have to bribe or coerce, what you have to do, who you have to possess—”
“I don’t do possessions anymore. Phoebe doesn’t like me to.”
“Well, get one of the others. Just make sure she’s free to leave with me. You make it happen, right now, or I will.”
Nearly a thousand years he’d been searching, but he would have only five days from his first meeting with her to fulfill the terms of the Covenant. Five short days and within that time she must see him, know him, love him, without being told anything about the past. If she failed, then Soraya would die, and this time she would not be reborn.
Never going to happen
He headed for the door.
He paused, impatient to be gone.
“There’s something else,” Cade said. “I don’t want to bring it up now, but you need to look at this.”
Torr frowned, irritation flicking at his nerve endings. But Cade wouldn’t do this unless it was important. He turned slowly. “What’s happened?”
Cade handed him a report, and Torr flipped through it. At first, he didn’t spot the significance. It appeared to be a regular murder report; multiple murders, which had taken place in Mexico, the day before. Then he saw it. The corpses had all been drained of blood and showed wounds to the jugular and femoral arteries.