Authors: Loribelle Hunt
Tags: #erotica, #paranormal erotic romance, #steampunk erotica, #werewolf erotica
A SPECIAL BRANCH NOVELLA
Loribelle Hunt on Smashwords
Kane by Loribelle Hunt
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A SPECIAL BRANCH NOVELLA
Kane Dupree bounded up the back stairs of the
Southern Star Hotel, taking them two and three at a time. The boss
hadn’t even given him time to clean off the dust from the road
before calling him here. Irritation ate at him. He wanted to find
Calista, not drink and catch up with the others.
As he ran up the seven flights of stairs, he
heard the steam-powered lift rising behind the wall next to him. He
easily overtook it and shook his head. Modern convenience had a
long way to go. Perhaps it was better for some to ride to the top
floors than to climb the numerous steps—the sick or old or infirm.
It was the able-bodied that confounded him. No amount of persuasion
would force him into that tiny metal box. It went against his
He reached the top of the stairwell on the
sixth floor and walked into the hall, careful to scan the
passageway for guests, before entering the maid’s closet on the far
end. Inside, he counted seven panels over on the back wall and
pushed his palm flat against a pear-shaped knot in the wood. The
section of wall slid away, revealing another set of stairs. Taking
a deep breath, he walked through, pausing only long enough to flip
the lever that closed the opening behind him before starting
At the top he lifted another lever to open
the wall and entered the library. The door swung shut behind him on
its own. This was new. He raised an eyebrow at the man sitting in
an armchair behind the huge mahogany desk.
“Pressure plates under the floor.” Phineas
Kane glanced around, a little nervous and
cautious before he entered the room. Phineas’ new toys were
sometimes dangerous and unpredictable.
An amused chuckle rose from one of the dark
corners and Kane’s eyes narrowed.
They were wary
allies. The vampire rubbed him the wrong way and usually did it on
purpose. Kane stalked forward, right to the window where he was
silhouetted by the late afternoon glare. He was rewarded by Alec’s
huff and bit back a grin. The vampire wouldn’t combust in the
sunlight, but he’d blister like hell so he avoided it. He’d
probably come to the hotel through the passages under the city.
Kane turned his back to the window and faced
the room with his feet braced apart and arms crossed over his
chest. He was not in the mood for business. After his last mission,
he’d hoped for a little rest and relaxation and he knew just whose
thighs he wanted to it between. They belonged to one feisty bounty
hunter who refused to settle down. To be fair, she didn’t exactly
know what he was. Or, more specifically, all that he was. Secrets
and lies. Would he ever be free of them?
“Can we get on with it?” drawled the
werepanther sitting in the corner. Kane and Nico were definitely on
the same page.
“Of course.” Phineas rose and crossed the
room to draw the curtains closed.
Alec came out of the shadows when he did.
“You take all the fun out of tormenting the
vampire, Phin,” Kane complained.
Phineas snorted a laugh, but when he spoke
his tone was dead serious. “This time I’m pretty sure y’all might
act like adults. Trust me. You want to hear what he has to
Kane arched an eyebrow and walked to the
fancy sofa. He sat and waited for Alec to begin. This should be
good. Not as good as Calista, but it was all he had to work with at
the moment. Last he heard the other man was busy in the Old City
infiltrating one of the rebel groups. The South refused to accept
the war was over and some of the rebel forces still plotted and
fought almost thirty-five years after the cease-fire.
“I got into General Tobias’ camp.”
Kane felt his eyebrows arching into his
hairline and Alec laughed, the sound rueful and mocking.
“Don’t get excited or anything. I’m just
another foot soldier.”
“I have a hard time believing that,” Kane
answered. The vampire wasn’t really a friend, but he wasn’t an
enemy either. They worked well together when they had to, and Kane
had never known Alec not to get exactly the information they
needed. Sometimes through skill, sometimes pure luck.
“A common foot soldier with uncanny hearing
and an exceptional ability for sneaking around?” Alec grinned.
Kane snorted while Phin and Nico laughed.
That about summed up Alec, but he was getting fed up with the
drawing out of whatever revelation was coming.
“And? What have you found in your sneaking
around down there?”
Alec immediately changed, his countenance
going from good-natured indifference to deadly killer in an
instant. “Do you know what your girl’s sister has been working
Tension coiled through him, stiffening his
limbs. He forced himself to relax, but it was difficult. He kept
Calista and her sisters far away from this, the secret part of his
existence. She thought he was just another bounty hunter and he’d
agreed with his colleagues to keep it that way, which was a major
problem all things considered. He wanted to claim her, make her
his, but that would be impossible as long as such a deception lay
between them. So he settled for an on again off again affair. That
seemed to be as far as she was willing to go anyway. It rankled,
but for the time being it was safer.
“No,” he answered Alec, not sure he wanted to
know where this conversation was going. How could he know? He’d
been gone several months.
Alec only nodded while seeming to collect his
thoughts. The atmosphere in the room was heavy, tense, and Kane
wished he’d just spit it out.
“She’s been looking for a cure for the
plague, trying to stop the new mutations.”
That news didn’t really surprise him. Isadora
was a brilliant scientist and if anyone could find a way to stop
the plague’s return she would be the one. When it first appeared in
the Middle Ages, people thought the worst of it was the widespread
death toll. Within a generation or two they’d discovered its other
strange effects when the children of survivors were born with odd
new abilities and talents—many varieties of animal shifters and
another, more dangerous, group, the ones cursed with long lives and
a lust for blood.
“But what she found is a cure for us.”
Kane froze. A cure? For shifters and
vampires? He didn’t need or even
a cure; he liked
himself just fine the way he was. It took a few seconds before his
brain kicked in and took over his emotional response. What would
the rebels want with such a thing? Considering some of the
positions weres and vamps held in both Armies he could see the
advantage to one side or the other being deprived of its
extrasensory abilities. If the rebels knew about the cure, they’d
understand the benefit of having access to it.
Dread constricted his heart. He didn’t need
to be here. He needed to be checking in on the Nichols sisters,
seeing to their safety. Calista would go crazy over the suggestion
she needed help taking care of her family, but she’d just have to
get over it.
“Don’t worry,” Phin said. “We have guards
watching them, but we thought you’d want this one.”
“Tell me everything,” he demanded of Alec,
who narrowed his eyes at the order but didn’t hold back his
“Not much to tell. I overheard the general
talking about it to his lieutenants, ordering them to get her and
her research materials. So I arranged a family emergency and came
up here. I need to get back soon, see if I can find out the rest of
Kane looked at Phin. “And they’re safe?”
“Yes, of course, Kane. I made sure of that
“Really? Do they know anything about this?
The other man frowned. Kane knew the answer
without hearing it and swore under his breath. Calista was more
than capable of protecting her home from humans and maybe the
weaker weres or very young vampires, but not from anyone seasoned
or experienced. And without being fully informed she was left wide
open. He glared around the room, meeting everyone’s gaze.
“She gets told. Everything.”
Nico and Phin immediately protested, but Alec
was silent. He’d examine that curiosity later. Slashing his hand
through the air, he turned to his boss.
“She has to be told. She can’t take the
necessary steps to protect herself or her family if she isn’t.” As
the regional Alpha, Kane understood all about protecting those you
took responsibility for. “I know y’all don’t trust her, but you’re
wrong about her.”
“You’d risk us all to prove that point? She’d
turn any of us over, even you, for the right amount of money.”
Kane shook his head. “No. She wouldn’t.”
Phin frowned, but nodded. “Fine. But it’s on
you if it backfires.”
“It won’t,” he assured everyone in the room,
though Alec didn’t seem to need it. He walked to the exit but
paused to look over his shoulder. “Anything else I should
“Two weres and a vamp,” Alec answered curtly,
and Kane took that to mean the men sent for Isadora. He nodded his
thanks, then left to search out the woman who drove him crazy, the
woman he was going to shock to hell when she learned the whole
* * * * *
The world was going to hell and determined to
drag her along with it. As soon as the shooting started, Calista
ducked into an alley. She wasn’t stupid—it was never safe to stand
in the middle of flying bullets. She risked a peek out to see if it
was anyone she cared to assist. Meaning they could pay for her
trouble. Hell, altruism only went so far and a girl had to eat.
Dust flew through the air as the north end of
New Peachtree filled with Union soldiers. On the south side of the
road, rebels took cover in doorways and behind carts through the
haze. Sighing, she backed up far out of view and straightened,
hands instinctively resting on the heels of her revolvers. She
turned around, looking for an exit.
Wouldn’t you know I’d get stuck in a dead
There was a door at the back of one of the
buildings near the alley’s rear wall and she headed for it. She
wanted to get clear before the opposing forces started lobbing
dynamite each other.
The door had no knob. Did she
risk being heard banging on it? A soft thud had her whirling, hands
on the butts of her pistols again. If she had drawn as she turned,
she might have had the advantage, but she was too slow. The
blue-eyed devil before her had much quicker reflexes, speed, and
strength. Werewolves put a real crimp in her style.
“What do you want, Kane?” she asked,
seriously considering that door now.
“Looks like you got trouble.”