Ellie folded her arms over her chest. She watched Charlie grab a long, fat vial from her med kit. Charlie held it up, turning it this way and that. Staring at the clear, slightly viscose liquid inside, she flicked it. Edward padded into the kitchen on bare feet. His shoulder length, blond hair was stringy. He’d simply pulled it back into a messy ponytail at the nape of his neck. Long wisps of bangs fell loose curving over his square jaw. It had been a few days since he saw a shower. He was dressed in the same gray sweatpants he’d been wearing since the day Ellie and her boys got there last week. The stubble on his chin was getting thick. He sat down on the stool in front of the massive kitchen island and batted exotic blue eyes at her.
Science shouldn’t try to play with magic. That didn’t stop them from trying, though. A ring of violet ringed Edward’s irises. It gradated to a softer shade with spikes of a blue so pale it almost looked white ringing his pupils like the rays of the sun. Ellie missed his human eyes. She missed rather a lot from when her brother was human. Ellie tried flashing him a smile. It was weak. She was more than just a little worried about him. It was like he’d just given up. This wasn’t her Edward.
Charlie drew out thirty lines into the syringe. Edward held his arm out, pumping his fist. Charlie flashed him a small, reassuring smile, and handed him a solid piece of plastic. Edward lifted it to his teeth and bit down on the thing. Charlie slid the needle slowly into the vein at the crux of his arm, pressing the plunger down.
Edward’s jaw tightened. His entire body went rigid with the pain it caused. Like broken glass swimming through his bloodstream, it tore him in half. He shuddered. His screams were wretched. Ellie reached up quickly to wipe at the tear that fell down her cheek. She took in a shuddering breath. Ellie decided in that moment that bitch Bennet's death wasn’t nearly as bloody as it should have been. Charlie pulled the needle free and went about cleaning up the small mess she’d made.
Ellie threw her arms around her big brother from behind. Her hands wrapped around his muscular arms. “I’m sorry, Eddy,” Ellie whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“For what?” he said through gritted teeth. Edward couldn’t stop the shudders, couldn’t quiet the agony that roared through him. It took an eternity for the fire to begin to die down. Edward forced himself to relax against her. He concentrated hard on her embrace.
“That you have to go through this.” Ellie touched the side of his face, smoothed the hair back from his sweat-drenched forehead. “That I didn’t get there in time to save you.”
“You came, little Lottey.” Edward breathed in slow, just to blow it free. “I’ve had worse.”
Ellie sniffed and laid a kiss on his bristly cheek. “Liar,” she said with a pouting lip. She worked hard to give him a smile. “I love you, Edward.”
Edward sat up, leaning back far enough to put his arm around his kid sister’s back. He pulled her into his lap without any effort and ruffled her silky hair. “You going to stay a while this time, Squirt?” Ellie had a hard time ignoring the lilt of hope in his voice.
Her eyebrows drew together and her mouth dropped open. Ellie had a lead on another one of Bennet’s crazies. But after watching that, she couldn’t bear to tell him no. “A little while.” Ellie nodded and sniffed.
Charlie zipped her small med-kit closed and slipped it into the cupboard on the end. She walked back to the dining room table. Her fussing caught Ellie’s attention. Charlie closed down a program on her laptop. Ellie stared at the small black rectangle Charlie had jacked into one of the USB ports. The external hard-drive had all of Susan Bennet’s research on it.
“How’s the science going?” The moment the words left her lips, Ellie regretted asking in front of Edward.
Charlie turned to them. Her hazel eyes first met Edward’s pleading gaze, and then bashfully, she looked at Ellie. “I’m doing my best to make something of it.” Charlie hated lying. She’d developed a skill for it married to her EX husband. And she needed every ounce of it to get past the searching stare of Ellie. Charlie didn’t get the need for this secret. But it wasn’t exactly hers to tell.
“That’s all I can ask,” Ellie said with a nod. She wiped at her nose and slipped her arms around her brother’s neck. “Can you make a list of some of the stuff you’ll need?”
Charlie’s mouth dropped open to answer but Edward beat her to it. “What for, Squirt? How exactly do you plan on getting any of it?”
“We’ll steal it,” Ellie answered simply.
Edward frowned. He hated the idea that Ellie happily embraced being an outlaw only a tiny bit more than she did being a murderer. Ellie could tell by the look on his face there was a fight on the horizon. She just couldn’t deal with it. She loved Edward more than life itself. But living with him was proving harder every day. Ellie leaned in and kissed him between the eyes. Cupping his face between her tiny hands, she smirked.
“I’m going to make you better, Edward.”
He let the love shining in her pretty green eyes draw a smile across his mouth. “Never had a doubt in my mind, Squirt.” Edward tried hard to keep his face neutral. His vision blurred with stinging tears.
Ellie took in a deep breath and laid her head against the side of his. Her eyes cast to the floor. She was lost here. Ellie was the first to admit this life took some getting used to. But Edward just couldn’t handle it, and it was getting harder to ignore. Ellie spent her whole life thinking nothing could come between them. Now, she worried she was wrong. The only thought in her head for the longest time was of him. Now that he was free, Ellie just couldn’t shake the feeling he was spinning away from her.
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Millie had created something dark, and she liked it. She approved of the darkness. She embraced it as she would her own mother.
She herself was dark. She knew this fact. She did not dispute it. She acknowledged it. She celebrated it.
She looked down from the open stairway landing that she stood upon. From that vantage point, she could see the entire space below her. And she marveled at what she had created there. She gazed down through the gothic stair rails at the environment that she had created.
What she had created was an invitation for the dead and those living who wished to commune with them. Only candles illuminated what she had created. Only candlelight was pure enough to light her world.
She looked down on the flame-lit scene and smiled. Bathed in the light was a table, circular, but not quite a circle. It had five sides equal in length, a perfect pentagon.
Each side had a chair pulled up to it. These were highbacked gothic things, upholstered in black leather.
They had cost Millie a pretty penny. But they were worth it. They added to the ambiance that she wished to create.
On the pentagon table sat a table cloth. It was almost completely black, as black as onyx. It was entirely black except for the crimson embroidery work that had been done upon it.
Millie looked down from her vantage point on the stairs. She looked down on this embroidered tablecloth with great pride. She herself had done the needle-work. The crimson pentagram that she had created contrasted nicely with the black fabric of the table cloth, or so she had always felt.
She gazed upon the walls of the room. They had been covered with gothic-style tapestries. These showed various medieval themes. Millie knew that none of them were authentic. They were all reproductions. They were good reproductions. To her this was what mattered. It was the atmosphere that she was trying to create.
Millie was almost completely satisfied as she stood there on the stairs, soaking in the pleasure that came from viewing her homemade lair of darkness. She estimated her internal satisfaction gage was at 99 percent.
She highly desired that elusive last percent. She knew what she would need to capture it.
She would need first and foremost to be patient. If she were patient, she knew that the final element to her room would come into place.
“Patience Millie,” she mumbled to herself. “Just be patient.”
But it was so hard to be patient. Indeed, she felt giddy like a dark-hearted school girl.
She looked at her hands. They were shaking.
She grasped the banister in front of her with both hands. She gripped it firmly. Yet, she still felt the tremors of anticipation running through her like highamp currents surging through the body of an electric eel.
She felt short of breath. She tried to control that. In through the nose, out through the mouth, she thought as she tried to regulate the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in her lungs.
Despite her efforts, she felt dizzy. She must not lose consciousness. She must not fall down the stairs. Such a mishap as that would lend poorly to her goal of becoming 100 percent satisfied.
Slowly, she descended the stairs. Slowly, she more fully engulfed herself in her lair of darkness of which she was the creator. As she descended the stairs, she had the sensation of one descending into a pleasantly temperate pool.
“Patience Millie,” she chanted. “You must remember to maintain your patience.”
No matter how much she tried. She felt unable to control her body. Her lungs continued at the rate of a steel mill bellows. Her heart continued to race.
She imagined her heart beating free of her chest. She imagined it smashing through her sternum as a bullet smashes through a clay target. She pictured this in her mind and giggled. It was a funny thought. She imagined her heart sprinting around the room and touching all the dark objects. Then she suddenly realized that she was doing just that herself. She danced about. She caressed the candles. She stroked the table and chairs. She made contact with everything.
“Calm down Millie old gal. You must have patience.”
On a hook was a robe. She grabbed it and put it on. It was made of shiny black satin and caressed her already excited body, making it even more so.
Under where the robe had been, on that hook was an amulet. This she also put on over the robe. She loved this charm. It was one of her favorite symbols of darkness, a pentagram.
The doorbell awoke her from her giddy self-induced trance. The first of her guests had arrived.
As she went to the door, she felt energized. That elusive last percent had been captured. Actually, she felt her internal satisfaction gage jump to at least 110 percent.
She was barely able to stand. The excitement was overwhelming her. She reached for the door. She turned the knob.
She could hardly contain her enthusiasm as she opened the door. Her first guest had arrived. She welcomed them in.
When Dragon woke, he felt weak and puny, diminished in body and strength. He struggled to his feet and stared down at the naked human form he inhabited. The cozy cavern that had been his home looked immense and his body felt tiny.
He remembered the witch’s curse and groaned in abject misery. “What has the blasted witch done to me?” he shouted. The sound of his human voice echoed through the cavern, sounding like a person jeering at him. “I speak with a human voice?” He grasped his neck with spindly fingers and turned to search the cavern with weak human eyes. “Where is that blasted witch, Bellatrix?” He found her body slumped onto the floor. Bellatrix lay in a pool of blood, clutching the golden knife she’d plunged into her own heart.
With human hands, Dragon extracted the knife from the witch’s corpse. The weapon sparkled with jewels that most dragons would covet, but the metal felt hot and vibrated with supernatural power. Fear shot through his chest. Dragon quickly sheathed the bloody knife in a scabbard that lay next to the witch’s body.
“What am I to do?” he asked, pacing the length of the cavern, vacillating between anger and sorrow. He stopped and considered everything the witch had told him about her vile curse. Feeling resigned to the situation, he said, “I must find that young sorceress and get her to remove this dreadful curse.”
A cold breeze licked his naked skin, raising goose bumps across the frail flesh. He shivered and raised the puny arm to look at the appendage. “I’d better cover this pathetic body with human clothing.”
Dragon remembered the body of a human knight, one who recently tried to kill him, lying in a nearby cavern. That human wore clothing that might suffice for my purpose. He trudged through tunnels littered with bones, crying in pain as his bare feet stepped on the sharp objects. He limped forward until he found the knight’s body next to a pool of crystal clear water.
Dragon stared down at the body of the knight. He was a large man by human standards with dark hair and runes drawn down one side of his face. Humans often tried to use magical runes to protect themselves when they confronted a fierce dragon. It never worked. He touched the human face he now wore and wondered what it looked like. Turning to the still pool of water, he gazed into a familiar-looking face. Strange. Dragon pushed human fingers through the unruly mop of hair and peered down at the dead knight lying at his feet.
He gasped, “I look just like this knight. Did the witch copy the form of this human when she changed me into a knight?”
And the town of Ransom is in total chaos…
Just as twelve thousand Vypers are about to descend on Ransom, California, to seek revenge for the attack on Shane, the GSA moves to take over the slayer facility and test their termination program on the supernaturals.
But Hunter’s back and he’s ready to reclaim his city from this horror by any and all means necessary. Now, locked and loaded, he’s determined to kill anyone who gets in his way.
Hunter King will take no prisoners. He will ask no questions. And he will do whatever it takes to re-take his city and protect those he loves.
Vampires. Werewolves. Humans.
They all want the same things: Territory. Autonomy. A “life.”
But which of the factions will prevail?
HUNTER’S HELL is Book Seven in April M. Reign’s Disciples of the Damned, the bestselling series of vampire bikers versus werewolves versus humans in an alternate history California where all supernaturals are controlled by the government. And they are bloody angry about it, too. Don’t miss this exciting, fast-paced science fiction / fantasy / paranormal series with heroes and heroines to cheer for—and villains to die for...
The First Star has been named and claimed. Answering the call of a quest, the Master Traveler has ventured far from home to a place called the Rims. In many ways it is much like the two systems of his people; the premise of Technology in competition with the Energies is debated on many levels, with neither side able to claim and hold higher ground. Still, it is the matter of the quest that beckons him – the Star Chaser – to engage this place and find not only the source of the rising plight of humanity, but the solution which will deliver the race of the Founders. It has been several years since he came to the Rims, and the time approaches for the Traveler to remove his veil and be seen.
It is an awesome task that awaits Dungias. The final picture is not yet in frame, only the pieces that may or may not contribute to the overall scheme.
In Pieces of the Dark Eight, factors that are still beyond the comprehension of the Master Traveler are found, forged, and finalized. Though the many eyes of the Rims do not see the Master Traveler, he has indeed introduced himself to this place and the ripples of that event are being felt. What part will they play in the matters to come? Will they even play at all?! Only time will tell. In this exclusive story bonus bridging the Prelude to Book One of the BEYOND THE OUTER RIM Series, these hidden pieces of the game are marked and recorded.
I screeched at him furiously. Had I been sober, I may have chosen discretion. However, rage mixed with ethanol coursed through my young veins. “You! I have a bone to pick with you!” I shouted at him. He looked up in shock and surprise. He said “As clearly stipulated in terms and conditions of sale, there are no refunds.” I stalked up to him, as he turned at a slight angle towards me. I could see his hand dipping down into his pocket. I felt sure he had a magic wand but my rash, young, alcohol-addled mind didn’t care. I said “You ruined my life!” He pouted at me curiously. I had already drawn quite a crowd with my story and they largely stayed to watch it out to its end.
He asked “Do I know you?” I stamped my foot and shouted “Yes, we met in the Betwixt where you told me to abandon my friend and chase after a boy.” A look of recognition came across Mythrysia’s face and he said “Ah, yes, the little girl who likes to leave her backpack lying around between dimensions as a tripping hazard. Jane, I believe was your name.” I growled back “My name is Julie!” Vilga spoke up saying “of Ohio.” Mythrysia nodded and said “Yes, quite, the girl who wanted to dance with JTT yet had to face a blonde-haired buxom dragon in order to get him. Are you angry at me that the Stacey-dragon struck you? I scarcely imagine that came as a surprise.”
My face flushed and I said “After one, terrible, dance, Stacey got Jeremy and now the whole school says I’m a climber, using other girls to get boys out of my league. My life is ruined!” Mythrysia’s eyes narrowed and he replied “Is it now? How is your breath? Are your lungs still working?” I squinted at him angrily not wanting to answer. He continued “And about your heart, I trust it is still beating? With all that anger I feel confident in assessing that your mind is quite a flutter with electrical impulses.” I snorted angrily and replied “So?” He said “Then your life is not over and therefore cannot be ruined. For anyone whose heart is still beating and whose mind is still pulsing may still have hope. No matter how terrible their fate may seem, as long as these functions work there is always some hope. So, in this manner, I can safely assume that your life is not yet completely ruined.”
It’s strange how powerful that phrase feels to me now, after all I have been through. But such was not the case back then. I was a teenager and I thought I knew everything. Also, I was drunk.
To my brash young mind, I felt I needed more than some cheap words. I said “But my reputation is ruined, my best girlfriend hates me, and I’ve lost the boy of my dreams!” Mythrysia’s eyes twinkled and a smile played upon his lips. He replied, loudly for all to hear, “Reputation, a so-called friend, and some teenage boy? You are angry at the loss of these things? I dare say you lost nothing for what you received in return.” He pulled out his hand from his pocket. I braced myself for whatever hell he could conjure from his wand. Instead he withdrew his empty hand and pointed at me saying “I can see it in your eyes, Julie of Ohio, that you have fought with a dragon.” The man with the pet dragon riding on his shoulder shot Mythrysia an insulted look as his dragon whimpered piteously. Mythrysia replied to the man and his pet saying “Oh, Horace, it’s just an expression and you know it.”
He continued, loudly for all to hear, “When I met Julie of Ohio she was nothing more than a whimpering little girl crying to herself in the dark. Now look at her. I bet if we fed her coal diamonds would plop out from the fire which broils through her veins. I’ve seen men of less ferocity on the field of battle than this young Julie.” I replied bitterly “But, I lost everything.” Mythrysia spoke to me softly saying “Julie, in ten years-time this boy of yours will have met his wife-to-be in the cubicle next to his at a job in another country. Your so-called friend will be attending college in another state and you won’t ever speak to her again. No one from your school will even remember your name, much less the gossip that fluttered about you in junior high.” He stepped in close and put his finger square on my chest saying “But you, you will remember that you stood up to your dragon and you fought it. It doesn’t matter how the fight ended. What matters is that you had the courage to fight at all. That, Julie of Ohio, is why I advised you to say ‘yes’ to the boy. Not because your dance with him would mean anything. But, because the courage you found to do so will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
I pushed his finger away and said “But…”
My mind could conjure no retort.
A small tear started to come down my cheek. In my mind, I knew he was right. Really, none of it mattered. Nothing that happens in junior high matters. But my heart couldn’t accept it. I said “Tonight was supposed to be magical and romantic. Not the worst night of my life.” Mythrysia took a step back and spoke up “Ahhh, yes, there you have me.” He raised his hands to the crowd and said “Indeed, I have not ruined her life. However, my brash advice, has ruined something for which I intend to make amends.” He gestured towards me and said “For I have ruined her dance. I have ruined her evening. For this, I shall make amends. For we shall host, this very night, a do-over dance for young Julie of Ohio.”
He shuffled in his pocket and started to draw forth some coins. He spoke first to Jessica Thoroughgoblin “Madame Jessica, perchance you know any songs which would be popular for a Junior High dance in Ohio?” Jessica shrugged and said “I don’t know. I’ve never been to Ohio.” Mythrysia replied “ah, yes, and you should never go there for obvious reasons. Earth’s much too dangerous, what with the landmines and such though I can’t quite recall if they are more common in Ohio or the Congo... Hold on, for I might have something for you.” Mythrysia shuffled around in his backpack and pulled up some sheet music “Here’s a bit I picked up on my last trip. A few pieces from this quaint little group named Boyz II Men. Quite popular on Earth these days.”
Jessica scoffed and replied “Dumb name, but I guess we can make this work.” Mythrysia gave her some coins and she reviewed the sheet music with her magician-musician. Beth piped up “What do they drink at a junior-high dance in Ohio?” Mythrysia nodded and said “Punch, indeed. Make up a bowl full and scoop some out for our dancers with a ladle into small, clear glasses. On earth they use glasses constructed of polyethylene.” Beth asked “Of polyethylene? But that is so expensive,” Mythrysia waved a hand and said “You can just use the cheap quartz crystal-wear for it instead.” Beth asked me “How many bottles of tequila do they normally put in the punch in Ohio?” I blanched, and she looked at me queerly for a second. She corrected herself saying “Oh, yes, Earth’s too dangerous of a place to get drunk.” She patted me gently on the shoulder and said “Don’t worry, Julie of Ohio, I’ll only put in three bottles of Tequila for the punch-bowl.”
A few coins from Mythrysia later and Beth set about this task. Mythrysia announced loudly “Let’s make a dance.” The other bar denizens, of their own accord, began shoo-ing the tables away from the dance floor to make more room. As they flapped and clapped at the tables, the tables walked away on their tentacles. Mythrysia directed them “For a proper junior high dance, we must have all the men on one side and all the women on the other.” Vilga asked “What do we do then?” Mythrysia responded “The separate genders eye each other awkwardly for two hours while you drink punch and nervously talk with your same gender.” Vilga continued “But, when do we dance with the women?” Mythrysia responded “You don’t, or if you do it is rarely and only the brave…” He paused and looked at me. He smiled and said “Only the brave cross to the middle and dance.”
Mythrysia pulled out his magic wand and pointed it at the ceiling. With the speaking of a magical incantation, the house-lights went down, and a disco-ball descended and begun twirling casting sprinkling lights about the room. Either out of good-sportsmanship, or just for the fun of it, the bar denizens followed Mythrysia’s advice and soon the room looked slightly nothing at all like a conventional Junior high dance.
Yes, I know they were trying their best, but I have never been to a junior high dance where some of the attendees had three-inch canines jutting out from their lower jaws, others had purple skin and still others had four hooves instead of legs. I looked down and another detail stuck out at me sadly.
I still wore a nightgown.
Regardless how concealing it may have been, it scarcely passed for fancy clothing.
Mythrysia chuckled at me as I looked up at him piteously “My dear, it seems you have nothing to wear to the ball.” He said. I replied “It’s not funny and this isn’t a real junior high dance. I don’t care how much you…” Before I could finish the sentence, he pointed his magic wand at me and spoke an incantation. I gasped and held out my hands defensively, but it was too late. A magic bolt struck me square in the chest and a flash of heat passed around my body followed by a deathly chill. I couldn’t imagine that after all of this, he decided to kill me in the end.
My heart beat on, though.
I looked down and my nightgown had transformed into a ballgown.
He chuckled and said “Bippity-boppity-boo.” I reviewed the dress, half expecting it to be fifteen layers of satin petticoats each one more delicate than the last, but such was not the case.
Mythrysia was well versed in the fashion of the 90’s.
I wore a neon-blue polyester affair with sewn-on sequins decorating the abdominal section. The sweet-heart cut bust-line ended on the sides with high shoulder-pads that stuck out in slight angles. The dress itself was sleeveless, but my left arm was partially covered by an over-sized polyester flower stitched across my chest. The dress terminated below the sequin paneling and boasted an over-stuffed mermaid’s tale that cut off just below my knees.
“And what is a girl without good hair?” Mythrysia asked. He raised his wand again and I said “Whoa, whoa, don’t….”
My hair felt briefly hot and then cold again. Mythrysia gestured for me to follow him to a side corner next to the bar where a full-length mirror stood. Here, I saw my hair for the first time
My banes exploded straight up into a teased-out bouffant that rose several inches over my actual scalp. The rest of my hair sprung into tight curls which scattered in all directions away from my head as if they had a mind of their own. Whatever magic Mythrysia used on my hair clearly had dialed the volume up to eleven.
Looking back on it now, it makes laugh. That hideous dress and my hair couldn’t have been more garishly dated if Mythrysia had tried. It looked like the culmination of every cheap prom-gown and bridesmaid’s-enforced-wardrobe crammed together into one unruly pile of fabric. If it had not been magical I would have half-expected to see a ‘Made in China’ tag in the back next to a resume for the designer since he would be looking for a new job upon creating such a monstrosity. My hair appeared as though it had been teased to the brink of death. At the time, however, I loved it. It was cool. It was hip. It was…
…everything that I wasn’t.
Where do the Banned go when home’s no longer home?
The lyrics of the old village tune haunt Astrea, who wants nothing more than to feel like she belongs in the redhead Rudan tribe. To prove it, she captures a unicorn who has wandered into the Mist, the first hope of meat for a while in the famine-ridden land.
But unicorns are magical creatures, and anyone who kills or eats one will become cursed.
When the tribe council votes to eat him anyway, Astrea fears the worst. She’s determined to figure out a way to fix it before the tribe pays for her actions.
This is part one of Running Toward Illumia, which will be released in three parts over the next few months.
A faithful Knight feels trapped by his duties to his king when his world is turned upside down by the meeting of a strange woman in the woods. This woman turns out to be a vampire who they are swore to kill on sight. When she tells him a secret that is unknown even to him. Find out if he is able to protect his king or if the secret he has learned will change the way he feels about his kingdom.
The next evening, Carissa stood outside and beat her flashlight against the palm of her hand. Really? Why did the batteries have to die now? She cursed under her breath and fished her phone out of her back pocket, second-guessing her aversion to smartphones. Her little flip phone didn’t have a flashlight, and the camera flash didn’t last long enough to get anything done. Frustrated, she straightened up and turned to Aden. He’d shown up a few minutes earlier, wondering what she was doing, and even offered to help. He said he could see everything as clear as day.
She looked back at her malfunctioning flashlight, and then back to the man on the sidewalk. She huffed out a breath.
“Okay, Mr. I-Can-See-Perfectly-In-The-Dark, come over here and find the darn thing for me,” Carissa said, rolling her eyes.
His grin wolfish, Aden sprinted up her walkway. “You have to admit it, first.”
Carissa snorted. “Admit what? That you’re a creeper who only comes out at night and likes to spy on me whenever you get the chance?”
He winced. “I haven’t been spying on you. I live across the street. Do you expect me to never look out my windows?”
Carissa laughed, wrinkling her nose at him. His sentiment was oddly close to hers. “Okay, I’ll give you that, but you’re still a creeper.”
Aden stepped closer, closing the distance until she had to look up to see his eyes. She sucked in a breath. He didn’t look socially awkward tonight. “That’s not what you really think. Admit it. You have a crush on me.”
“Pfft. That’s what you think. I’ve said no such thing,” Carissa said, pushing on his chest. “I barely know your stubborn ass.”
Aden didn’t budge. His mouth turned up. “For now.” He looked down at the ground. “How badly do you need that key?”
Carissa slapped her hands on her hips. “Very. I can’t get into work without it.”
Aden reached out and gently tugged on her ponytail. “So, just admit the truth, and I’ll get it for you.”
Carissa rolled her eyes, her mouth twitching. “I’ll just wait until morning.”
Aden chuckled. “Ah, yes, the enviable day. And just how many of those have you had since you lost it?”
Carissa narrowed her eyes. “Two,” she muttered.
He raised an eyebrow at her. Damn the man. He knew she couldn’t find it without his help. “Fine!” she grumbled, “You’re not the most unattractive man I’ve ever seen.”
He stared at her for a moment, blinking, then his deep laugh flooded out, wrapping her in the resonating warmth of his amusement. Aden touched his finger gently to her chin. “You are the most contrary woman I’ve ever met.”
Carissa crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to think about the spark that ignited at his lightest touch. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Aden chuckled again, and turned away, bending down to look on the ground underneath the vibrant orange flowers in her flowerbed. He stood up almost immediately, the tiny metal key in the palm of his hand.
“It looks like it was in your garden the whole time.”
She tilted her head to the side. He was hiding something. “You knew it was there, didn’t you?”
Aden dusted his fingers off and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He flashed her a wicked grin. “If I did, are you going to punish me?”
Carissa smacked his arm, eying his large muscles. “I doubt I would succeed if I tried. No, I think I might be better off running.”
His grin widened, showing a hint of teeth. “I could tackle you before you ever reached the driveway.”
Carissa gulped. The driveway was a fair distance away from where they stood. How could he be that fast? She shook her head, more confused over the fact that she wasn’t scared. Aden was mysterious, and as she noticed the first night she saw him, magnificent. And he also looked a little sheepish. Maybe he wasn’t as cocky as he was trying to seem. Carissa pulled the sunglasses off the top of her head – they’d been there since she started looking...during the day – and hooked them into the front of her shirt to give her hands something to do, something to keep from touching him again.
She wasn’t used to all this attraction bombarding her senses. He was obviously flirting, and she didn’t know how to handle it. He reached out and gently rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Carissa. I couldn’t,” he said softly.
Her breath hitched, the mental plug in her heart shifting. Her eyes met his, the deep blue of his gaze more shocking than the zap she’d received from the cable box a few hours prior. His thumb left her cheek, slowly tracing the outline of her mouth. Her knees went weak, and she instinctively grabbed his biceps to keep from falling. His other arm encircled her waist, pulling her firmly against his hard chest. His fingers trailed her spine, ending with the lightest of touches to the back of her neck. She gulped again.
His face lowered toward her, his lips moving ever closer to her own. Her heartbeat sounded like jungle drums in her ears, buzzing with the fire of her intense attraction. He stopped, eyes on hers, a breath away from her mouth. His eyes grew brighter the longer she looked. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, and his eyes flashed, the light illuminating his face.
Carissa jumped back with a squeak, stumbling backward up her stairs while Aden stared, mouth wide in shock. She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry, Aden. I have to, uh, do laundry.” She turned and ran inside, locking the door behind her with a snap.
She leaned against the wall, her hand over her wildly beating heart. His eyes glowed. Glowing eyes. Carissa closed her own. That was not possible. She’d wanted to know more about him and who he was, but now she had a more important question:
What was Aden?
Lyla and Father think they are a happy family, living in their cozy cottage near the woods. But when Mother starts over-eating, neither can stop worrying—and then, Mother disappears. Upset and confused, Lyla is led by an elf to find answers in the woods. In this enchanting, coming of age story, Lyla learns about the dangerous, hidden aspects of being human.
Opening my eyes, I was relieved to see that tonight’s dream was a romantic veranda overlooking a Hawaiian beach and the ocean, and I was curled up in an exquisitely comfortable chair. The salty smell of the surf was pleasant and candles stood everywhere, their flames dancing in the warm night. The stars and the moon were shining brightly, gracing the terrace with an iridescent glow as the breeze flitted softly over my skin, tugging at my buttery-smooth silver gown and my free-flowing hair.
With a thought, a small table appeared near me with a bottle of red wine and a crystal goblet. Sighing in happiness and relief, I poured a glass and sat back, fully intending to relax until something popped up in the corner of my eye.
Entering dreamland had always been a mostly pleasant experience for me, and was usually my escape from the world. Since my powers blossomed on my eighteenth birthday, I had been able to control my dreams except for one little thing…
“Ian!” I screeched at the tall, dark, devastatingly handsome and yet loathsome man who had plagued my dreams at least once a night for five years. My subconscious loved to terrorize me with dreams of him, and though I had often tried to change them, it hardly ever worked.
“Hello, Alexandra. Took you long enough.” A slow smile spread across his lips and I shivered. No one should ever look that good, especially not him.
“Fuck you!” I spat the words at him as I gulped the wine and placed a ring of candles around him with a flick of my wrist, their flames shooting up more than seven feet in the air, effectively imprisoning him. Goddess, it felt good to do that!
“Alexandra, stop being childish. We need to talk.” Ian’s stern tone almost made me obey him out of habit but instead I shook my head, even as his eyes flashed dangerously at me. He crossed his arms over his form-fitting black t-shirt, which hid a tightly muscled chest. I barely stopped myself from drooling. Each time he appeared, he looked even more delicious than I remembered.
“I don’t think so, Ian. This is not childish. What’s childish is my subconscious tormenting me with dreams of you, or you running away and leaving me hanging for five years - don’t you think?” I snapped at him.
Oh, great, I was taunting Dream Ian again. You’d think I’d learn, but I guess not.
The candles around him went out with a whoosh as he strode determinedly to my chair and picked me up, silencing my shrieks and protests with a kiss.
I whimpered against his mouth as his tongue invaded, seeking mine. I wrapped my arms tightly around him. This was the only benefit of having this asshole in my dreams: because he made me feel like no other could, even when we clashed. Although it was just a dream, I melted like butter when his hot flesh touched mine.
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In the Dark by Chris Patchell Narrator: Corey Gagne , Lisa Stathoplos Series: A Holt Foundation Story #1 Published by Audible Studios on 09-27-17 Genres: