Authors: Virginia Kantra
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Suspense, #General
IF SHE DIDN’T HAVE SEX WITH SOMETHING SOON, she
would burst out of her skin.
She plunged through the blue-shot water, driven by a whisper on the
wind, a pulse in her blood that carried her along like a warm current. The
lavender sky was brindled pink and daubed with indigo clouds. On the
beach, fire leaped from the rocks, glowing with the heat of the dying sun.
Her mate was dead. Dead so long ago that the tearing pain, the fresh,
bright welling of fury and grief, had ebbed and healed, leaving only a scar
on her heart. She barely missed him anymore. She did not allow herself to
But she missed sex.
Her craving flayed her, hollowed her from the inside out. Lately
she’d felt as if she were being slowly scraped to a pelt, a shell, lifeless
and empty. She wanted to be touched. She yearned to be filled again, to
feel someone move inside her, deep inside her, hard and urgent inside
The memory quickened her blood.
She rode the waves to shore, drawn by the warmth of the flames and
the heat of the young bodies clustered there. Healthy human bodies, male
* * * *
Some damn fool had built a fire on the point. Police Chief Caleb
Hunter spotted the glow from the road.
Mainers welcomed most visitors to their shore. But Bruce Whittaker
had made it clear when he called that the islanders’ tolerance didn’t
extend to bonfires on the beach.
Caleb had no particular objection to beach fires, as long as whoever
set the fire used the designated picnic areas or obtained a permit. At the
point, the wind was likely to carry sparks to the trees. The volunteers at
the fire department, fishermen mostly, didn’t like to be pulled out of bed
to deal with somebody else’s carelessness.
Caleb pulled his marked Jeep behind the litter of vehicles parked on
the shoulder of the road: a tricked-out Wrangler, a ticket-me-red Firebird,
and a late-model Lexus with New York plates. Two weeks shy of
Memorial Day, and already the island population was swelling with folks
from Away. Caleb didn’t mind. The annual influx of summer people paid
his salary. Besides, compared to Mosul or Sadr City or even Portland
down the coast, World’s End was a walk on the beach. Even at the height
of the season.
Caleb could have gone back to the Portland PD. Hell, after his
medical discharge from the National Guard, he could have gone
anywhere. Since 9/11, with the call-up of the reserves and the demands of
homeland security, most big-city police departments were understaffed
and overwhelmed. A decorated combat veteran—even one with his left
leg cobbled together with enough screws, plates, and assorted hardware to
set off the metal detector every time he walked through the police station
doors—was a sure hire.
The minute Caleb heard old Roy Miller was retiring, he had put in
for the chief’s job on World’s End, struggling upright in his hospital bed
to update his résumé. He didn’t want to make busts or headlines anymore.
He just wanted to keep the peace, to find some peace, to walk patrol
without getting shot at. To feel the wind on his face again and smell the
salt in the air.
To drive along a road without the world blowing up around him.
He eased from the vehicle, maneuvering his stiff knee around the
steering wheel. He left his lights on. Going without backup into an
isolated area after dark, he felt a familiar prickle between his shoulder
blades. Sweat slid down his spine.
Get over it
You’re on World’s End
Nothing ever happens here
Which was about all he could handle now.
He crossed the strip of trees, thankful this particular stretch of beach
wasn’t all slippery rock, and stepped silently onto sand.
* * * *
She came ashore downwind behind an outcrop of rock that reared
from the surrounding beach like the standing stones of Orkney.
Water lapped on sand and shale. An evening breeze caressed her
damp skin, teasing every nerve to quivering life. Her senses strained for
the whiff of smoke, the rumble of male laughter drifting on the wind. Her
Not with cold. With anticipation.
She combed her wet hair with her fingers and arranged it over her
bare shoulders. First things first. She needed clothes.
Even in this body, her blood kept her warm. But she knew from past
encounters that her nakedness would be . . . unexpected. She did not want
to raise questions or waste time and energy in explanations.
She had not come ashore to talk.
Desire swelled inside her like a child, weighting her breasts and her
She picked her way around the base of the rock on tender,
unprotected feet. There, clumped like seaweed above the tide line, was
that a . . . blanket? She shook it from the sand—a towel—and tucked it
around her waist, delighting in the bright orange color. A few feet farther
on, in the shadows outside the bonfire, she discovered a gray fleece
garment with long sleeves and some kind of hood. Drab. Very drab. But it
would serve to disguise her. She pulled the garment over her head,
fumbling her arms through the sleeves, and smiled ruefully when the
cuffs flopped over her hands.
The unfamiliar friction of the clothing chafed and excited her. She
slid through twilight, her pulse quick and hot. Still in the shadows, she
paused, her widened gaze sweeping the group of six—seven, eight—figures sprawled or standing in the circle of the firelight. Two females.
Six males. She eyed them avidly.
She sighed. She did not prey on drunks. Or children.
Light stabbed at her pupils, twin white beams and flashing blue
lights from the ridge above the beach. She blinked, momentarily
A girl yelped.
A boy groaned.
“Run,” someone shouted.
Sand spurted as the humans darted and shifted like fish in the path of
a shark. They were caught between the rock and the strand, with the light
in their eyes and the sea at their backs. She followed their panicked
glances, squinting toward the tree line.
Silhouetted against the high white beams and dark, narrow tree
trunks stood a tall, broad figure.
Her blood rushed like the ocean in her ears. Her heart pounded. Even
allowing for the distortion of the light, he looked big. Strong. Male. His
silly, constraining clothes only emphasized the breadth and power of his
chest and shoulders, the thick muscles of his legs and arms.
He moved stiffly down the beach, his face in shadow. As he neared
the fire, red light slid greedily over his wide, clear forehead and narrow
nose. His mouth was firm and unsmiling.
Her gaze expanded to take him in. Her pulse kicked up again. She
felt the vibration to the soles of her feet and the tips of her fingers.
was a man.
* * * *
Caleb shook his head and pulled out his ticket book.
Back when he was in high school, you got busted drinking on the
beach, you poured your cans on the sand and maybe endured a lecture
from your parents. Not that his old man had cared what Caleb did. After
Caleb’s mom decamped with his older brother, Bart Hunter hadn’t cared
about much of anything except his boat, his bottle, and the tides.
But times—and statutes—had changed.
Caleb confiscated the cooler full of beer.
“You can’t take that,” one punk objected. “I’m twenty-one. It’s
Caleb arched an eyebrow. “You found it?”
“I bought it.”
Which meant he could be charged with furnishing liquor to minors.
Caleb nodded. “And you are . . . ?”
The kid’s jaw stuck out. “Robert Stowe.”
“Can I see your license, Mr. Stowe?”
He made them put out the fire while he wrote them up: seven
citations for possession and—in the case of twenty-one -year-old Robert
Stowe—a summons to district court.
He handed back their drivers’ licenses along with the citations. “You
boys walk the girls home now. Your cars will still be here in the
“It’s too far to walk,” a pretty, sulky brunette complained. “And it’s
Caleb glanced from the last tinge of pink in the sky to the girl.
Jessica Dalton, her driver’s license read. Eighteen years old. Her daddy
was a colorectal surgeon from Boston with a house right on the water,
about a mile down the road.
“I’d be happy to call your parents to pick you up,” he offered,
“Screw that,” announced the nineteen-year-old owner of the Jeep.
"If I start giving Breathalyzer tests for OUIs, it’s going to be a long
night,” Caleb said evenly. “Especially when I impound your vehicle.”
“You can’t do that,” Stowe said.
Caleb leveled a look at him.
“Come on, Robbie.” The other girl tugged his arm. “We can go to
Caleb watched them gather their gear and stumble across the sand.
“I can’t find my sweatshirt.”
“Who cares? It’s ugly.”
Their voices drifted through the dusk. Caleb waited for them to make
a move toward their cars, but something—his threat to tell their parents,
maybe, or his shiny new shield or his checkpoint glare—had convinced
them to abandon their vehicles for the night.
He dragged his hand over his forehead, dismayed to notice both were
That was okay.
He was okay.
He was fine, damn it.
He stood with the sound of the surf in his ears, breathing in the fresh
salt air, until his skin cooled and his heartbeat slowed. When he couldn’t
feel the twitch between his shoulder blades anymore, he hefted the cooler
and lumbered to the Jeep. His knee shifted and adjusted to take his weight
on the soft sand. He’d passed the 1.5-mile run required by the State of
Maine to prove his fitness for duty. But that had been on a level track, not
struggling to stabilize on uneven ground in the dark.
He stowed the evidence in back, slammed the hatch, and glanced
toward the beach.
A woman shone at the water’s edge, wrapped in twilight and a towel.
The sea foamed around her bare, pale feet. Her long, dark hair lifted in
the breeze. Her face was pale and perfect as the moon.
For one second, the sight caught him like a wave smack in the chest,
robbing him of speech. Of breath. Yearning rushed through his soul like
the wind over the water, stirring him to the depths. His hands curled into
fists at his sides.
okay. He throttled back his roaring imagination. She was just a
kid. A girl. An underage girl in an oversize sweatshirt with—his gaze
dipped again, briefly—a really nice rack.
And he was a cop. Time to think like a cop. Mystery Girl hadn’t
been with the group around the fire. So where had she been hiding?
Caleb stomped back through the trees. The girl stood with her bare
feet planted in the sand, watching him approach. At least he didn’t have
to chase her.
He stopped a few yards away. “Your friends are gone. You missed
She tilted her head, regarding him with large, dark, wide-set eyes.
“They are not my friends.”
“Guess not,” he agreed. “Since they left without you.”
She smiled. Her lips were soft and full, her teeth white and slightly
pointed. “I meant I do not know them. They are very . . . young, are they