I AWAKE WITH a start, my heart
threatening to pound out of my chest.
Struggling to catch my breath, I toss back the tangled sheets and sit up
though it’s been thirteen years, I can still smell the smoke, feel it burning
and glancing around at my surroundings, I begin to calm down, my breathing
slowly returning to normal.
Another fucking nightmare.
Fuck, I can still hear their screams…even in
a hand down my face, I breathe out a long sigh before glancing at the
clock. It’s only five a.m., but I have a
busy day today.
day one of my plan to destroy the man who took everything and everyone I ever
loved from me.
my neck until I hear a satisfying crack,
I get out of bed and head for the shower.
My mind wanders as I go through the cleaning ritual. And even though, once I step back out, I feel
clean on the outside, I’ll never be clean on the inside.
a festering, gaping black hole where my heart should be.
wasn’t always so. My mother always told
me I had a heart of gold. But things
changed when she was taken from me at such a young age. I became a hardened version of myself.
someone else entirely.
that existed back then is not the man I ultimately became. No, that boy died right along with the rest
of his family that night.
worked with the hardest, dirtiest criminals in the seedy underbelly of New York
City to amass my fortune. It took me
years to get to where I am now.
Everything has led up to this point, and I can feel the anticipation
rolling off of me in waves under the stream of water.
out of the shower and toweling off, I brush my teeth and rinse with
mouthwash. Then, I take my time styling
my hair, which is longer on top and shaved closer on the sides. And finally, I dress in an impeccable
three-piece suit that was tailored to fit my body.
glance into the mirror, I try to see what she
ultimately will today.
think I’m a rich businessman?
find me attractive?
want me to take her out on a date?
the answer to be yes to all of those questions, because I plan on seducing
Victoria Ciccone. She is simply step one
in the grand scheme of things.
I have a
plan in place. A simple one.
fall for me, so that I can get my revenge on Giorgio Ciccone, her father and
the very man who destroyed my life and murdered my family.
is the key to getting my revenge.
And when the final step of
my plan comes into play…I’ll put a fucking bullet right between her father’s
more heavily guarded than fucking Fort Knox.
And the only way to get to him is through her. So, I will use his daughter, take what I want
and not give a single fuck.
Thank you for reading! You can get your copy of Devious right now in the Wanted Anthology on all major e-retailers. Devious will be published on its own in February 2019, followed up by the sequel, Victorious, in March 2019.
**This is a short 4,000-word prequel to my dark romance series, Keep Me. It contains adult content for mature readers.**
To say I had a rough start in life would be the understatement of the century.
My uncle rescued me from my abusive childhood, but he couldn’t save me from the neurotic and compulsive obsessions I would develop later in my adulthood.
I crave perfection, and I’m willing to obtain it…no matter what the cost.
My next purchase will be exactly what I need. I’ll make sure of it.
She will be absolutely perfect.
**Keeping Her, book one of the Keep Me dark romance series, will be released on 7/7/17 and is available for pre-order on Amazon now!**
The first book of my dark romance series is available for pre-order now on Amazon at the special pre-order and release week price of 99 cents! Keeping Her will be released on 7-7-17 exclusively on Amazon.
Twenty paranormal romance authors are contributing their books in the Wicked After Dark box set. This anthology will be released October 6, 2015, priced at only $0.99, with all proceeds donated to the Epilepsy Foundation.
Wicked After Dark: 20 Steamy Paranormal Tales of Dragons, Vampires, Werewolves, Shifters, Witches, Angels, Demons, Fey, and More
20 Hot-As-Hell stories from your favorite USA Today best selling and award-winning authors just in time for Halloween! All proceeds to benefit The Epilepsy Foundation
Mina Carter – The Reaper and the Cop Julia Mills – Her Dragon to Slay Stephanie Rowe – Darkness Unleashed PM Briede – Spark Jami Brumfield – Remote Paranoia Claudy Conn – Dark Love Eden Elsworth – Frippe House Nicole Garcia – A Love for Somnus Lane Hart – Let Him Reign Tracey Jane Jackson – Bound by Fire Melanie James – Conjuring Darkness Gena D. Lutz – Chasing Magic Michelle Mankin – Strange Magic Part I, II Marie Mason – You Lucky Witch A K Michaels – The Witch, The Wolf and The Vampire Angela Snyder – Vampire Next Door Candice Stauffer – Exquisite Breath of Darkness Melissa Stevens – Change Izzy Szyn – Bite Thy Neighbor C.A. Tibbitts – Shifter In Training
Here are the authors you’ll find in this anthology:
Click on the author’s name below to visit their Facebook page and find out more about their books and upcoming releases. Follow them on Twitter and find out news about the Wicked After Dark anthology using the hashtag #GetWickedAfterDark
GEORGE EDWARDS TREKKED through the snow-covered woods. It was the morning of the first day of deer season — one of his favorite times of the year. The sun was starting to rise over the mountain he was climbing, cascading sporadic rays through the leaves of the tall trees. At seventy-three years old, he felt as fit as a fiddle and looked forward to the hike ahead of him.
The thin layer of snow over fallen branches and leaves on the forest floor crunched under his feet as he walked. The air was cold and made evident by the small puffs of white air billowing from his lips. His old, trusty Remington was slung over his right shoulder, and a small backpack, which contained the lunch his wife had packed that morning, was slung over his left.
Halfway up the mountain he paused by a group of trees to take a rest. Placing his weathered hand against the bark, he caught his breath and grumbled. He hated getting old.
Reaching into the backpack, he produced a thermos of coffee and took a few sips. The hot liquid warmed his throat as he drank. After one last swig, he replaced the thermos and continued on his journey. The tree stand, which he and his father had built when he was a boy, stood only a few yards away. He stared at the old structure, and it brought back memories instantly. His childhood seemed like just yesterday, but he had not been a young boy for quite a while.
As he took another step forward, his foot hooked on something on the ground, and he tripped. The gun and backpack went flying as he landed on the soft, snow-covered ground. He cursed, and it echoed through the quiet woods.
Slowly, he stood and glanced back at what he had stumbled over. There was a large lump on the ground. He gave his eyes a moment to adjust, as they weren’t as reliable as they used to be. He squinted in the breaking daylight and cautiously moved towards the object to get a better look.
At first, he thought maybe it was a fallen deer. He kneeled down and nudged the object that he had tripped on. It rolled over, revealing the face of a woman.
“Jesus H. Christ!” George yelled, stumbling back. He quickly fished his cell phone out of his pocket and walked around the area until he could get a good signal. His hands shook as he dialed 9-1-1.
While the phone rang, George stared down at the girl. She was badly beaten and covered in blood. Her clothes were soiled and dirty, and she had blended in perfectly with the surroundings of the forest floor. She wasn’t covered from last night’s snowfall, so he knew she couldn’t have been there for more than a few hours.
“Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?” the operator called.
George put the phone to his ear so he could hear the man more clearly. “Yes. My name is George Edwards. I’m up here on Blue Crest Mountain, about two miles from Route 220. I found a girl in the woods. She’s in bad shape. She’s covered in blood.” He swallowed hard at the lump forming in his throat.
“Can you tell if she’s breathing, sir?”
George looked down at the girl. She looked dead, but perhaps she had some life in her. His worn knees creaked as he knelt down beside the woman. Leaning in close to her, he stared at her mouth. A weak puff of white air escaped her lips. “She’s breathing! She’s alive!” George cried, relieved.
“Sir, I need you to cover her and try to keep her warm. Do not move her. The ambulance is on its way.”
George stood and stripped off his outer jacket. He was thankful that his wife had nagged him that morning until he had put on the extra layer. He carefully draped the coat over her. “Hang on, honey,” he whispered to her, reassuringly. “You’re going to be all right.”
JACK WALKER STROLLED through the hospital. It was late at night, and he had finished all of his rounds except one. He stopped at the nurses’ station and leaned over the counter. A young nurse with blonde hair looked up at him through her long lashes. “Dr. Walker, how are you this evening?”
“Good. How is our Jane Doe doing?”
“No change,” she said, handing him the manila folder that contained Jane’s chart.
The nurse checked her notes and then shook her head.
Jack frowned. “All right.” He walked down to the end of the hall and into the last room on the left. Jane Doe was resting peacefully in her bed like she had been day in and day out for the past few weeks.
Jack sat down in a leather recliner in the corner of the room. The rhythmic beeping of the monitoring machines was hypnotic, and he crushed the heels of his hands into his tired eyes. He was exhausted. The day had been busy and long with surgery after surgery in the operating room.
Yawning, he flipped through the folder and glanced over the nurses’ notes. “Well, Ms. Doe, no changes today,” he commented. He glanced up at the girl lying serenely in the bed. She had been in the hospital for almost a month, and every night Jack found himself coming to her room before heading home. It seemed that in some way she gave him peace at the end of a long and tiring day.
He stood and walked to the side of the bed. The girl had been found in the woods and beaten within an inch of her life. When she arrived at the hospital, she was broken and barely alive. Jack had put her back together and saved her life. It was touch and go in the operating room, but no matter how many times her body tried to quit, Jack wouldn’t let her give up.
He noted the fresh bandage around her head. He closed his eyes and shuddered at the memory of her cracked skull the morning she had been rushed into the hospital. Someone had wanted her dead, and yet she was alive and still fighting a good fight.
“You were in a medically-induced coma for three weeks,” he said as he retrieved a penlight out of his coat pocket. He shone the light into her eyes, one at a time. Her irises were a hauntingly beautiful light green. The pupils sluggishly dilated from the light. Frowning, he said, “Now you are off the meds, and we need you to wake up so we can find out who you are and who tried to hurt you.”
Jack found himself tremendously curious to find out who she was, and he wasn’t the only one. The police detectives investigating the case wanted information, and they kept in regular contact with the hospital. They wanted to talk to Jane Doe and get a lead on who had left her for dead.
“Your face has been all over the news.” Even with the bandages and bruises, Jane Doe was beautiful. She was young and thin with long brown hair, porcelain skin and full lips. He had no doubt someone would recognize her even from the composite sketches. “I don’t know why anyone hasn’t come for you yet,” he said quietly. He reached out and squeezed her hand gently, something he always did before leaving her room for the night. “I know you are a fighter, Jane, so fight.”
There was no response from Jane Doe, as there never was. Sighing, he stepped away and moved his head around in a circle. His neck cracked several times from the manipulation. He groaned, hating the sound. “Well, I’m heading home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jack left the room and returned the chart at the nurses’ desk, smiling at the blonde as she took the folder back. “Goodnight, Dr. Walker,” she said.
“Goodnight,” he said as he walked down the hall.
He stood in front of the double elevators and pushed the down button. A few seconds later, he heard a ping, and the doors on the right opened up. As he rode the elevator down, his thoughts strayed to Jane Doe. Eventually someone would come for her. Perhaps her mother or father — or perhaps a boyfriend or husband. He scowled. The thought of her being married upset him even though he knew deep down he shouldn’t feel like that. Jane was his patient and would never be anything more than that. Even though he would be extremely disappointed if she were married, he would also be glad to see her happy and provided for.
Jack shook his head, clearing his thoughts as the elevator doors opened on the lobby level. He exited the hospital and walked to his car, which was near the back of the parking lot.
The drive home was short. He had chosen a house in the center of town because of its location being so close to the hospital. He lived for his work, and sometimes he begrudgingly thought he would be married to it for the rest of his life.
The house was empty as he entered. He often thought of getting a dog that would greet him when he came home, but the thought of the responsibility scared him. In reality, he worked too many hours to take care of a houseplant let alone an animal, and he had at least two dead plants in the house to prove that theory.
Jack threw his coat on the back of a chair in the kitchen and walked into the living room. Plopping down on the couch, he flicked on the TV with the remote. The ten o’clock news appeared on the screen.
After a few random stories of crimes, the newswoman began a story about authorities searching for the person or persons wanted for the attempted murder of the woman in the woods. “Jane Doe,” he whispered. She was commonly referred to as the woman in the woods.
A composite sketch appeared in the top right corner of the screen. Her haunting green eyes stared back at him. The composite artist had gotten the color exactly right. Jack leaned up, putting his elbows on his knees and resting his chin against his hands. He found himself glued to the TV. “There has to be somebody out there that loves you, Jane,” he whispered. “And I hope they find you.”
* * *
Sebastian Alexander sat on the bed in the hotel room. The big screen television provided some background noise as he stared down at the map sprawled out in front of him. He took a red marker and began to X out the towns he had already searched the week prior. There seemed to be hundreds of Xs on the map.
For weeks he had been searching for her. He had stayed in countless hotel rooms, spanning out twenty miles at a time trying to find some sliver of evidence that she was alive. She had disappeared out of the blue from his life a month ago, and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t found her yet. Someone had taken her from him. That is what his intuition told him, and his intuition was never wrong. There wasn’t a second of the day that went by when he didn’t think of her, when he didn’t look for her. Moreover, he vowed he would never stop looking for her even if it took an eternity. Time was something he had a lot of, but she didn’t. The clock was ticking, and he didn’t know when the clock would stop running.
He stared at one large black circle that intersected multiple other black circles. His finger lingered over the town he was presently in — Bedford Valley. It had been a century or more since he had passed through the town. Coincidentally, he was staying in the same hotel as he had on his visit those many years ago. Something had drawn him there once again, and he always trusted his instincts.
Sebastian stood and walked out of the French doors onto the balcony. A cold wind swept around him as he stared out over the resort grounds. “Where are you?” he asked the night air, his voice pleading for an answer.
“Authorities are searching for the person or persons wanted for the attempted murder of the woman in the woods.”
Sebastian quickly walked back into the room, his eyes resting upon the TV as the newswoman spoke. A drawing of a woman’s face appeared on the screen. He knew it was her instantly. His fingertips skimmed over her face on the television. Her green eyes stared back at him. “You’re here,” he breathed. His entire body trembled. He had finally found her.
THE HOSPITAL FLOOR was quiet at ten p.m. The incessant hissing of breathing machines and beeping of monitors filled the air as he made his way through the halls. The smell of her blood was leading him right to her.
The nurses’ station on the right was occupied by one nurse, an older woman with salt and pepper hair. She looked up as he approached. “Sir, visiting hours were over at eight o’clock.”
Sebastian sighed. He only liked to compel humans when absolutely necessary, but he knew she would alert security if he ignored her. Calmly, he leaned over the desk and stared into her brown eyes. “I need the chart on the woman everyone is calling Jane Doe.”
The nurse nodded slowly as her pupils dilated rapidly. She reached into a file cabinet and produced a folder.
Sebastian flipped through the folder, and his eyes scanned the pages of her chart. “Multiple surgeries. Coma,” he whispered, his throat tightening around the lump that was forming. He looked down at the nurse. “She hasn’t been awake since she arrived?”
The woman shook her head.
He returned the folder to her. “You are going to go back to your work and not even remember seeing me or talking to me,” he commanded. “Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she said as she sat down and continued with her task.
Sebastian walked from the desk and to the end of the hall. At the doorway, the smell of her blood overwhelmed him. The taste of it still lingered in his mind. He closed his eyes and attempted to suppress his hunger. However, his hunger was quickly extinguished as he entered the room and his emotions took over at the sight of her — battered and bruised, covered in bandages. She slept soundly, unmoving, breathing evenly. Sleeping Beauty came to his mind.
A gasp escaped his lips as he stood over her. “What happened to you?” he asked aloud. He had expected to find her hurt, but not in this condition. He would have never dreamt of her being in so much pain. A single tear escaped his eye and cascaded down his cheek. Carefully, he grasped her hand and raised it to touch his lips. He tenderly kissed her fingertips. “I thought I had lost you forever,” he whispered, anguished.
Someone had taken her away from him and had tried to kill her. And if he ever found the person who hurt her, his or her fate would be a lot worse than lying in a hospital bed. Sebastian closed his eyes and took deep breaths to prevent his anger from overflowing out of every pore in his body. “I will find and kill whoever did this to you,” he promised, looking down at her.
He stood unmoving for a few minutes listening to her lungs expanding and contracting as she breathed, the blood moving through her veins and her heart beating. She was alive, and that was all that mattered at that moment. He would take care of everything else later.
Realizing she may never regain consciousness again without his help, he bit into his index finger with a sharp fang and placed the wound over her parted lips. “Just a few drops,” he whispered. “It will heal you, but not too quickly so that it will look suspicious.” He watched as a few drops of his precious blood dropped underneath her tongue.
Then Sebastian withdrew his finger and watched the bite mark heal instantaneously. He leaned over the bed and kissed her sweet lips. “I will come for you when I know it’s safe.” He stood back, not wanting to leave, but knowing that staying could bring her even more harm. “I love you. Now and forever,” he said before turning from her and leaving the room.
* * *
After finishing his rounds for the night, Jack went to the nurses’ station. “Anything new with Jane Doe?” he asked, expectantly.
The nurse frowned. “No, I’m afraid not, Dr. Walker.” She gave him Jane’s chart.
His face matched her expression as he flipped through the folder. “Figured as much,” he muttered, disappointment lacing his voice. He caught a glimpse of a man walking past him. The man was tall with jet-black hair that fell into his intense blue eyes that glanced at Jack for a brief second as he passed by. He was dressed all in black and clearly not a hospital employee. “Who is that?” he asked the nurse.
The nurse glanced up at the man. “I have no idea. Visiting hours were over at eight.”
“You didn’t see him come in?”
Her brow creased, and she said, “No.”
Jack watched the man standing in front of the elevators. As the door opened, the stranger glanced back at them. An eerie feeling came over Jack. He had a gut feeling that the man had something to do with Jane Doe.
Swiftly, he ran down the hall to her room. As he reached the doorway, a feeling of relief swept over him as he saw she was safe. He glanced around the room seeing if anything was moved, but everything looked the same as it had the night before. Perhaps the man had been lost or visiting a different patient.
His day had been long and strenuous, and so he planned to cut his visit with Jane shorter than usual. He was anxious to get home and climb into bed. He had an early morning once again, and his body was demanding sleep.
Jack opened the folder and glanced over her chart. No changes once again. He sighed and walked to her bedside. Gently, he grasped her hand and squeezed it. “You need to wake up, so we can find your family,” he whispered.
Just as he started to pull his hand away, he felt her fingers move. He blinked and stared down at her. Could it have been his imagination? He was exhausted, and his mind had been known to play tricks on him after a long day.
He waited for another reaction with bated breath. Nothing happened. Then he said, “Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”
Her fingers twitched. Then they moved, attempting to squeeze his hand. He gasped. That was the first reaction he had gotten out of her in a month. He knew deep down in his heart that she was trying to wake up.
Quickly, he set the chart down and grabbed the penlight out of his pocket. He raised her right eyelid and shone the light into her eye. The pupil dilated normally.
Jack pushed the call nurse button on the bedrail. Within a few seconds, the nurse’s voice came over the speaker. “Can I help you?”
“This is Dr. Walker. Our Jane Doe is coming back to us,” he said with a big smile on his face.
If you enjoyed this sample, you can purchase Vampire Next Door at the following locations: