Authors: Ditter Kellen
By Ditter Kellen
Copyright © by Ditter Kellen
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Published in the United States of America
This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. This e-book is for sale to adults ONLY as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers
To my amazing husband who supports me and allows me to live my dreams. I love you with all my heart...
Cathe Green, my good friend and beta reader...thank you for being my cheering section, sounding board, and sister of my heart. I love you.
Shon Wells kick-started his Harley and reached for the shiny black helmet hanging from the handlebars.
Securing his hair into a ponytail, he slipped the protective gear over his head, buckling the strap below his chin.
He detested wearing the helmet at all, but the laws of the land had to be obeyed. Vampire or not.
The roar of the engine echoed off the trees, matched only by the powerful machine vibrating beneath his ass.
Yeah, nothing yanked his chain more than a sleek bike between his legs. Well, nothing other than the sexy Laura Donovan, and she’d been avoiding him like the plague for the past several months.
Revving up the engine, Shon bumped the gear shifter with his boot and shot out of the drive, sending leaves scattering in his wake.
He had a long ride ahead of him, he and needed to hurry if he expected to make it to Lakeland, Florida before sunrise.
Ember had reserved him a first-class seat for the following evening on Flight 787 nonstop to Alaska.
According to Angel, Vlad had called a meeting with the elders in the hopes of locating Gina Calimari.
The sadistic vampire had been in the wind since the night she’d escaped Vlad’s hold nearly a year ago.
Shon had been summoned by Vlad to use his blood tie with the arrogant bitch, to track her down.
Gina Calimari happened to be the last fiend on earth that Shon wanted to conjure up from whatever hole she’d buried herself in. But Vlad had rescued them all from Gina’s clutches less than a year ago, and it was time to pay the piper.
The wind felt good against his overheated skin. No matter how much Shon loved living in the south, he knew he’d eventually have to move. Vampires didn’t like the heat any better than the sun itself.
One of the reasons for Shon’s refusal to relocate someplace up north happened to work as an editor for
Laura Donovan had caught Shon’s eye after school one day, years ago while he’d been visiting Ember.
He’d realized that he wanted the blue-eyed blonde the moment she’d stepped from the house wearing a red string bikini.
The corner of his mouth lifted as he recalled her reaction to his obvious erection. “My God, Shon. Do you present this sort of welcome to all Ember’s friends?”
“Only the homely ones,” he’d responded, grinning at the flash of anger in her eyes.
He wasn’t sure why he liked to bait Laura the way he did, but he could no more help himself than he could stop the damn sun from rising in the morning.
Laura Donovan was far from homely. Her beautiful face had starred in more of Shon’s dreams than he cared to remember. But she’d always been untouchable, just out of his reach.
His mind suddenly switched directions, drifting back further in time to the last place he’d felt whole…with John.
Shon’s twin brother, John, had been the quiet, reserved one in the family. Even as a child, he didn’t laugh and play on the same level as Shon.
The day John had drowned had been a turning point in Shon’s life.
No matter how many years had passed, the hole that John had left behind in his brother’s heart…never completely healed.
A vision of his mother’s empty eyes floated through Shon’s mind. It had taken him a long time to forgive Ruth for walking out on him and his father. It wasn’t until he became a man that he realized how deep her mental illness truly ran.
Shon hadn’t heard from Ruth in more than fifteen years. He had no idea if she lived or had died. But John had lived, Shon silently marveled, and once he got his hands around Gina Calimari’s throat, he’d find out the location of his only brother.
His cell phone buzzed in his T-shirt pocket. He fished it out and read the text.
How much longer? Love, Em.
With a grin, he quickly sent a response.
I bet that’s what you ask Angel nightly.
Some things never change
, came her flippant reply.
Shon decided to cut her some slack and answer her seriously for once.
Be there in a couple of hours
, he typed out before dropping the cell back into his pocket.
* * * *
The traffic on the Parkway was bumper to bumper when Shon arrived in Lakeland.
Horns blew and lights flashed as angry drivers attempted to show their frustration.
Shon slowed his bike to a stop and rested his booted feet on the pavement. He straightened, peering over the tops of vehicles to get a better view of the carnage ahead. He’d known of the accident for the last twenty minutes. He could smell the blood.
The scent of rain reached Shon’s sensitive nose, but did little to dilute the overpowering essence of blood on the air.
His gums itched, and his eyes burned in their sockets. He needed to feed, and slipping into one of the cars on the Parkway to slake his thirst was unfortunately out of the question.
Grateful for the darkly tinted helmet he wore, Shon allowed his fangs to descend. Relief poured through him as they slipped into position, pulsing in time with his heartbeat.
He glanced around for an avenue of escape as perfumes, sweat, and anxiety radiated from nearby vehicles, adding to his already overpowering thirst.
Shon guided his bike toward the narrow space between the southbound lane and the cemented rails of the Parkway and opened the throttle.
The bike jerked forward on cue. The front wheel rose up high in the air, and the rear tire gripped the pavement, blasting him through the traffic at a high rate of speed.
The officers working the scene appeared in Shon’s peripheral as he blew passed them without slowing.
He had no doubt they would have come after him if not for the wreck they currently worked.
Shon didn’t relish breaking the law. Okay, maybe he did, but this particular stunt had nothing to do with being rebellious and everything to do with making it to Ember’s before the sun came up.
Arriving at the condo a few minutes later, Shon removed his helmet, dropped the kickstand, and threw his leg over the bike.
He stretched for a moment and then took the stairs two at a time up to Ember’s condo.
The door opened before he could knock. Ember stood there with her hand resting on her hip. “Cutting it close, are we?”
“Just a tad,” he replied, glancing at the sky. “Can I come in, or should I wait out here for a house to drop on me? We both know that you’d love nothing more than to get your grubby hands on my boots.”
“You’ve been watching
The Wizard of Oz
again. Will you never grow up?”
“Doubtful,” he murmured, stepping inside and wrapping his cousin in a hug.
Ember shut and locked the door. “Lunatic. Have you eaten?”
“Not in a couple of days. Got any elderlys that live in the condos? Someone that wouldn’t remember my visit?”
“Shon!” Ember scolded with a laugh. “My neighbors are off limits. We keep a very low profile.”
With a long-winded, theatrical sigh, Shon followed Ember down the hall to the nursery.
Angel laid on the floor, playing with their son, Lucius.
Shon stepped inside the room, took a seat in a nearby rocking chair, and held his arms out for the tiny person crawling around near his feet.
Lucius smiled, showing enough dimples and gums to melt Shon’s heart. He reached down and lifted the baby high against his chest. “Hey, little man. I haven’t seen you since you popped into this world, kicking and screaming.”
Staring into the green-gold eyes of his cousin’s child, Shon knew he’d do anything to keep Lucius safe. “You did good, Ember. He’s a good-looking boy.”
“Thank you,” Ember acknowledged with a smile. “I love him more than I ever imagined I could.”
Angel stood and extended his hand. “It’s been a while. Good to see you.”
Shon accepted Angel’s outstretched palm, and gave it a firm grip. “Same here, man. It’s nice to be here.”
“I heard your earlier comment about needing to feed. Come. I know of a place to grab a quick snack before the sun rises.”
“Around these parts?” Shon got to his feet and handed Lucius into his mother’s waiting arms. This is a pretty nice neighborhood.”
Angel kissed Ember and led Shon to the front door. “There was a new strip mall going up a few blocks over. It was never finished due to bankruptcy. It’s been vacant for over a year now. There are a few undesirables that frequent the halls, if you get my drift. They stand in front of windows, waiting on their next customer to arrive.”
Shon followed him out the front door and down the stairs. “Great. A drive-through. Doesn’t get more convenient than that.”
With a chuckle, Angel glanced back at Shon over his shoulder. “Damn. I sort of missed your sarcastic ass.”
“Most people do.” Shon winked, coming to a stop next to Angel’s side. “After you, Angela.”
Laura yawned and rolled to her side, glancing at the clock on her nightstand. She had to be up in less than two hours for a meeting at work with the editor in chief, Kalli Crawford.
Damn Ember for telling her about Shon’s expected arrival. Laura had been tossing and turning all night after hearing that bit of news.
She blew out a frustrated breath and threw her legs over the side of the bed. She might as well take a shower. Going back to sleep would be near to impossible.
It had been months since Laura had heard from Ember’s sarcastic cousin. Not that she was complaining, she mentally accepted. But a person didn’t disappear without a word the way Shon had unless it was intentional.
Shaking off her anger at his sudden return, she slipped into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
The day promised to be one headache after another for Laura Donovan, and the coming night would no doubt be worse.
* * * *
Laura arrived at work twenty minutes early with coffee in one hand and a bottle of Tylenol in the other.
Her head ached from lack of sleep, and nothing short of the coveted caffeine she held would get her through the day.
Stepping into her office, she switched on the lights and sat behind her desk to power up the computer before popping a couple of the pain relievers.
The phone suddenly rang, signaling her nightmare was about to begin.
“Laura Donovan,” she practically moaned, jerking up the receiver.
“I saw you drive up,” Kalli remarked in a cool and calm voice. “Can you come on up since you’re here? I’m not feeling too well and would like to get this meeting over with as soon as possible.”
Laura fought a sigh. She really wanted to suck down at least two cups of coffee before beginning her workday. “Sure. I’ll be right there.”
The trek to Kalli’s office felt like an eternity to Laura. She wanted nothing more than to go home and crawl back under the covers.
“Come in,” Kalli called as Laura tapped on her door.
Entering the editor in chief’s domain, Laura took a seat in front of the redhead’s desk and crossed her legs.
Kalli looked up from some papers she held in her hand. “You look like shit, Laura. Did you have company last night?”
Only in my head, Laura thought as she stared at Kalli with a blank look. “No. Just couldn’t sleep. I hope I’m not coming down with something.”
“Well, I’ll make this as quick and painless as possible.” Kalli laid the papers she held onto the desk and pushed them in Laura’s direction. “This is Alan’s replacement. His name is Jonas Edwards, and he’ll be arriving this morning. I want him working with you since you’re the best editor we have. Aside from me, that is,” she finished with a wink.
Laura wanted to groan aloud, but she refrained. Barely. “What kind of experience does he have?”
“He recently moved here from Tampa. He’s worked at
for fifteen years as their lead photojournalist. He’s pretty damn experienced if you ask me.”
Laura grudgingly nodded. “Me too. I’ll swing by his office on the way back to my desk.”
Kalli sent her a warm smile. “Thank you. How is Ember’s replacement working out?”
“Lisa? She’s doing okay. Not as good as Ember, but she’ll do in a pinch.”
“No one is as good as Ember,” Kalli concurred. “Speaking of Em, how are she and the baby doing?”
Laura’s eyes lit up at the mention of Lucius. “They are wonderful. Lucius has to be the cutest kid I’ve ever seen.”
“His daddy’s not so bad himself.”
“Kalli,” Laura admonished. “Angel is a married man. And to my best friend, I might add.”
“I know. All the good ones are taken.”
Shon’s handsome face floated through Laura’s mind. “Pretty much.”
Once the meeting ended, Laura stopped off on her way back to her office to meet Jonas.
His door stood open, leaving her ample opportunity to stand there and observe him without his knowledge.
He appeared to be tall, but she couldn’t tell with him sitting in a chair and his head bowed over his laptop.
Light brown hair framed his face in slight disarray, giving him a sexy appearance. His hands were large and devoid of rings, telling her he probably wasn’t married.
She cleared her throat, nearly swallowing her tongue as Jonas lifted his gaze and pierced her with the most beautiful gray eyes she’d ever seen.
“Hi there,” he greeted, getting to his feet and extending his hand. “I’m Jonas. You must be Laura.”
She accepted his palm with a smile. “How’d you guess?”
“I was told to be on the lookout for a blonde woman with intelligent blue eyes. They didn’t tell me those eyes would be quite so beautiful. It’s nice to meet you, Laura Donovan.”
“Likewise,” Laura murmured with a blush. “I was just on my way back to my office. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to let me know.”
Laura practically ran from the room, mortified that he’d seen her blush like a teenager on prom night.
The compliment he’d given her had felt good compared to the backhanded snark she’d always received from Shon.
And there she was, thinking about Ember’s cousin once again. Why couldn’t she put him out of her mind? She wasn’t sure, but she would sure as hell try, she silently vowed, bursting through her office door and diving into work. Yeah, she would definitely try.
The day passed in a flurry of phone calls and deadlines nearly impossible to meet. Laura had worked with Jonas on his impeccable story of a murdered woman’s nude body found in some woods on the outskirts of town.
Laura shuddered to think of what the poor girl had gone through prior to having her throat cut open.
The photos reminded her of some of the images she’d seen during the Seeker rampage.
She picked one up to study it more closely. Come to think of it, not only was the cause of death familiar, but the victim resembled Laura herself.
“I’m being paranoid,” she muttered aloud. “Clay is dead”. His head had been removed right before her eyes. And as for Alan, he’d been presumed missing for the past year, but Laura was made privy to his fate as well. Ember had killed him in self-defense. His body had burned in the fire that nearly took Angel’s, Ember’s, and Shon’s lives.
No, the case lying before her was nothing more than a coincidence, Laura told herself as she packed her briefcase and stood. No less gruesome, but a coincidence nonetheless.
The sun hung low on the horizon as Laura burst through the back door of the Hedger, and made her way to her car.
She unlocked the door and slid behind the wheel. Tossing her briefcase onto the passenger seat, she started the engine, backing out of the parking lot at a high rate of speed.
Nerves sprang to life at the thought of seeing Shon again. She had no doubt he would be at Ember’s, wearing tight jeans and a smirk.
Her heart began to pound the closer she got to Ember’s condo. Laura realized she was being ridiculous, worrying about a man she’d spent the better part of her life avoiding. And she’d succeeded, until the Seeker case had thrown them together, stirring to life feelings she’d thought long dead.
“You can do this, Laura,” she said aloud. “He’s only a man.”
But he wasn’t a man. He was a vampire. Albeit a sexy one. And that scared her more than her past feelings for him did.
Laura had seen Ember suffer at the hands of those monsters. Yes, she had Angel to protect her, but Angel couldn’t be with her twenty-four hours a day.
Being with a creature of the night meant that you would never be completely safe, never trust the ones outside your circle, and even then, your inner circle wasn’t always secure either.
Clay Harper had been the perfect example of that.