by Jennifer Carole Lewis
For millennia, the lalassu have existed at the fringes of society, hiding in the shadows. But someone is determined to drag them into the light.
Dani has spent years fighting against her family’s urges to take on the mantle of High Priestess for the lalassu. Stronger and faster than any ordinary human, she has no interest in being a guide for her people. She likes being independent and enjoys her night-job as a burlesque dancer. But a darker secret lurks inside of her, one which threatens everyone around her.
Isolated and idealistic, Michael works as a developmental therapist for children, using his psychometric gifts to discover the secrets they can’t share with anyone else. When one of his clients is kidnapped, he will do almost anything to rescue her. The investigation leads him to a seedy little performance club where he is shocked and thrilled to discover a genuine live superhero.
Michael and Dani must join forces to save those they care about from becoming the latest victims of a decades-long hunt. But the fiery chemistry between them threatens to unlock a millennia-old secret which could devour them both.
The clock is ticking and they will be faced with the ultimate hero’s choice: save the world or save each other?
Wherever there is prey, there are hunters. Jungle, ocean, city—the location doesn’t matter. A predator will always find the vulnerable.
People spilled across the Lost Eden’s dance floor, a constant tide of glittering men and women ebbing to and from the bar. Dim lights flattered the desperate and popular alike, hiding the first glimpses of age-drawn wrinkles.
Past experience had taught Dani Harris that she could choose whomever she wanted from the crowd to go home with. The small army of free drinks lining the bar behind her only reinforced the lesson. But she’d come here with a specific purpose in mind, dressed in her guaranteed-to-attract-attention, curve-hugging red silk dress, her black hair artfully tousled to evoke sweat-dampened pillows and her eyes painted with smoldering charcoal for a classic bedroom look. All she needed was a suitable candidate.
Toying with the straw in her drink and scanning the crowd, she made note of the few potential candidates. Her fingers clenched the straw, crushing it with her growing unease. Since she’d sat down, the sexual tension had ratcheted up, becoming as tangible as the dry ice fog. Guilt gnawed at her, but she’d already pushed her luck further than she should have. She didn’t have the time to indulge in her conscience. Time to choose and hope she didn’t end up too badly scarred.
The thickly muscled black man with the shaved head in the corner kept fondling the waitresses and the customers, using his size to intimidate any potential protests. The blond in the custom-tailored leather jacket up on the VIP platform, whose companions avoided eye contact as he carried on an energetic monologue, ignoring the buxom redhead cuddled up to his side. A pair of massive bodyguards stood guard at the entrance. And the guy with the purple hair, piercings in his nose, lip, and tongue was harassing the female DJ, trying to climb into the booth. They were the best she could hope for tonight.
Brilliant light strobed the crowd in time with frenetic bass and drums. Dani scanned the club again, shaking her head lightly. The crowd was beginning to turn ugly, shoving matches breaking out on the dance floor. The oaky taste of her whiskey went sour on her tongue. She should leave and try her luck elsewhere.
“You can’t leave just yet.” A deep male voice cut across the ambient noise.
Perhaps she had a winner after all. “Why the hell not?”
“Because then I wouldn’t get a chance to talk to you.” It was the blond from the platform. “And you should know that I personally find it inexcusable.”
“What would that be?” She didn’t offer him a seat but wasn’t surprised when he took it anyway. Up close, his looks were even better: easily over six feet with broad shoulders and a well-used gym membership.
“Whoever left you waiting. He should have his head examined. Let me buy you a drink.” He lifted his hand in the bartender’s direction. Immediately, the young Latino man behind the bar abandoned the thirsty crowd to bring Dani’s new acquaintance a glass of scotch.
His glib smugness struck sparks of irritation in her, but long practice helped her to keep her feelings masked under a seductive smile. Time for a test. “You know what they say. No matter how hot you are, someone is tired of your shit.” Dani looked deliberately at the VIP platform. “For example, I think Miss Copper Top over there is getting tired of yours.”
The buxom redhead in question glared down at them with a ridiculously childish, sulky pout. The blond glanced over his shoulder and waved his hand in a universal gesture of dismissal. Immediately, one of the bulky bodyguards approached the redhead and said something to her. She shouted something inaudible through the music and actually stamped her foot. The gentleman insisted and began escorting her off the platform.
“She won’t be a problem anymore.” The blond turned back to Dani, clearly pleased with himself. For the first time, his smile reached his eyes. He’d enjoyed the public spectacle and humiliation. “I’m Josh Hinton, and my family owns this club.”
Dani watched as the woman was summarily hustled out the front door. She forced herself to relax her grip on the smooth glass tumbler before she shattered it.
“Break-up via bodyguard. A new low mark for the record books. Somewhere between text and post-it note.” Dani shook her head and started to get up again.
Josh immediately grabbed her arm and held her down in her seat, looming over her. “You didn’t tell me your name.”
Dani searched the room, considering her options. The bartenders were studiously ignoring her companion. The people who had been sitting beside her at the bar were long gone, pushed aside by Josh’s evident ego. A wild recklessness burned inside her, urging her to lash out and escape. But common sense warned her: no one wanted to get involved, and no one would stand up to help—and even if they did, she would still be trapped by her own demons.
Her mouth dried as a scrap of memory flickered briefly despite years of suppression. He must have seen the fear in her eyes. Predators always sensed fear no matter how deeply it was hidden. She’d learned that lesson the hard way.
“I think you’re starting to understand.” He let his hand trail up her arm, his thumb casually brushing against her breast on the way past. “I always get what I want.”
The bodyguards had descended and now stood on either side of Josh like unmovable monoliths, an unbreakable prison wall. Dani swallowed hard. It was as if the three men sucked up all the air around her. “You could have any other girl here. Why not pick someone more interested?”
“I like the challenge. Come with me to my apartment. You’d love the view.” He ran his hand freely up and down her side, a chill slither like the rasp of a reptile’s skin.
A human predator doesn’t take victims in public. A second location will be chosen in advance for the attack. Once a victim reaches the second location, chances of survival drop to nearly zero. Never go quietly to the second location. The words whispered inside her head, distantly remembered from the urgent plea of a police officer who’d spoken at her school.
“Don’t freeze up, and don’t pretend it isn’t what you came here for in your little red dress.” He slid his hand up her thigh, inching up the hemline. “Everyone comes here to have a good time.”
Dani studied the looming bodyguards. Not a blink or even a grimace of disapproval. The time for second thoughts was over. She wasn’t going to do better tonight. This was her punishment and the sooner she accepted it, the sooner it would be over. “Is that what you came for?”
“Business mostly. This tourist trap has a lot of things to recommend it.” He took a healthy swig from his drink.
It certainly had. The town of Perdition had a reputation as the “New York experience without the expense,” according to the tourist board. Between conventions and other events, the majority of the population changed on a weekly basis. It was one of the reasons her family had chosen to live here.
She put down her drink. No amount of whiskey would make this easier. She got to her feet but the bodyguards quickly blocked her exit. Adrenaline surged and her legs tensed to run but instead she forced herself to keep her wits. Blindly fleeing never helped. She couldn’t resist a flash of strength, glaring down at Josh, still perched on his stool. “Does this intimidation approach ever actually work for you?”
He grinned. “I like you. You’re interesting. Most people don’t have the balls to call me on anything.” He stood up. “Let’s get out of here. Come on, I’ll show you I can be a nice guy with the right motivation.”
Dani kept her face impassive. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she feared. Josh moved in for the kill.
“Trust me. I’m worth it. I guarantee it’ll be a night you’ll always remember.”
Or one you’ll always pray to forget.
Jennifer Carole Lewis is a full-time mom, a full-time administrator and a full-time writer, which means she is very much interested in speaking to anyone who comes up with any form of functional time-travel devices or practical cloning methods. Meanwhile, she spends her most of her time alternating between organizing and typing.
She is a devoted comic book geek and Marvel movie enthusiast. She spends far too much of her precious free time watching TV, especially police procedural dramas. Her enthusiasm outstrips her talent in karaoke, cross-stitch and jigsaw puzzles. She is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction and always enjoys seeking out new suggestions.
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