Authors: Julie Wetzel
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Romantic
Crimson Tree Publishing
THIS book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Kindling Flames-Gathering Tinder
Copyright ©2014 Julie Wetzel
All rights reserved.
Cover Design by: Marya Heiman
Typography by: Courtney Nuckels
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To my loving Mother and Aunt Laura.
You have been there to help me feed plod bunnies when they need fatting up and chase them down then they got out of hand.
I love you.
“Where is she?” Darien yelled as soon as he hit the emergency room doors. His world had started to come apart when Elliot called to let him know his personal assistant, Victoria, had been caught in the latest of the mysterious arsons plaguing the city. Elliot stood up, and Darien pointed his course to his friend.
“They’re in the process of moving her to intensive care,” Elliot explained.
Darien looked at the blood and soot on his friend’s shirt.
“She’s suffering from smoke inhalation, several deep cuts, third-degree burns, and a possible concussion.”
“What happened?” Darien growled.
“I don’t know.” Elliot rubbed his head. “I knew something wasn’t right right, so I made sure she got home safely, but then the building just burst into flames shortly after she entered. It was strange. There was a massive explosion, but none of the windows in the apartment broke. I tried to get in the front door, but it wouldn’t budge.”
Darien gave Elliot a questioning look. “It wouldn’t open?”
“I slammed into it with everything I had.” The note of confusion in the younger vampire’s voice was easy to hear. “I knew the threshold would give me trouble, but the door should have at least opened. There was definitely something not natural about that fire, but I couldn’t tell what.” Elliot rubbed his forehead again as he remembered what happened. “It went from nothing to raging in no time at all, but when Vicky burst out on the fire escape, the flames subsided quickly. The firemen had no trouble putting the blaze out.”
Darien looked at his friend in shock.
Elliot looked up at the nurse calling for him.
“Miss Westernly is secure in her room. You can go up now.”
“Thank you.” He waved to the nurse. Turning back to Darien, Elliot pointed to the slightly damaged satchel that Victoria always carried with her. “Get your damned bag. I’ve carried that thing as far as I’m willing.” The enchantments on the bag made it unpleasant for anyone other than Vicky to handle. It contained a large part of Darien’s human life, after all.
Darien picked up the bag and looked at the broken ends of the strap. “Wow, this really took a beating.”
“The spells you put on that thing are probably what saved your assistant’s life tonight,” Elliot commented quietly as they followed the nurse down the hallway to Vicky’s room. “I felt something very strong break just before she got out of the building.”
The nurse stopped in front of a door and held it open for the two men.
“She’s a real mess,” Elliot warned as they entered the room.
Darien walked into the room and looked over the bandage-wrapped woman. If he hadn’t been told it was Vicky, he probably wouldn’t have recognized her. Her hands were wrapped so only her fingertips stuck out, and her left arm was covered from wrist to shoulder. Vicky’s right arm had a large bandage on her forearm, and there was gauze wrapped around her neck and part of her face. What skin was exposed was bright red. The soft beeping of the monitor marked the beating of her heart, and Darien could hear the hiss of oxygen running through the tube in her nose. He looked at the IV draining into Vicky’s arm.
“Did she lose a lot of blood?” he asked Elliot as he dropped his bag against the wall.
“Not too much,” Elliot offered. “Most of the blood loss was from glass shards, and the EMTs were able to staunch that in the ambulance on the way over.”
Darien nodded and approached the bed.
Elliot could feel Darien unfurl his power as he checked over Vicky’s injuries.
He closed his eyes and ran his hand just over the top of the sheet. “How long did you say she was in the fire?”
“Less than ten minutes,” Elliot answered.
Darien opened his eyes and looked at his friend before turning back to look at Vicky. “There’s a lot of damage here for just ten minutes.” He moved up the length of Vicky’s body. Now that he was closer to her, he could smell the burnt hair and skin under the medical scent of her bandages.
“Remember, she is in a hospital. They’ve seen how bad her injuries are,” Elliot warned Darien before he could release his special healing abilities on his assistant.
“I’m not a complete idiot,” Darien huffed as he tried to determine what would be safe to do under the watchful eyes of the doctors. Surely, he could clear her lungs and prod the burns into healing without scars? A complete healing, of course, would have to wait until she was out and away from the tender care of the doctors.
“Okay, but be careful,” Elliot cautioned him again. “I’m going to have to get going if I have any hopes of making it to safety before the sun comes up.”
“How are you getting back?”
“Someone’s waiting outside with a car.”
Darien nodded. Elliot turned to leave but stopped when Darien spoke again. “Thank you.”
“It was my pleasure.” Elliot bowed and left him alone to tend to Vicky.
Darien looked down at the sleeping form of his assistant and decided he could ease her pain without anyone noticing. He placed one hand over her sternum and the other on the top of her head. Pressing his lips to hers, he let his power flow into Vicky.
Now that he had a more intimate connection with her, he could feel all the damage done by the fire. He took his time clearing the smoke from her lungs and easing the swelling of her concussion. Once the two major problems were cared for, he poured himself into her and encouraged the cells around the burns to heal cleanly so they wouldn’t scar. Setting her system into overdrive, he pulled back to himself. He ended the contact and placed a light kiss on her lips that had nothing to do with healing. Pausing just barely away from her lips, he rounded up his mind. He twitched at a sound and stood up to find a very red nurse standing near the foot of the bed.
“Pardon me,” the nurse said as she stepped up to check on Vicky’s IV. She added some medication to the drip line. “She’ll pull through,” the nurse said reassuringly as Darien petted the top of Vicky’s head.
“I know,” he said softly and patted her head one more time before leaning over to whisper in her ear. “I’ll be back,” he promised, and Vicky sighed in her sleep. Darien placed a soft kiss on her forehead and left as the nurse checked on her significantly improved vitals.
Darien stood in front of the charred remains of Vicky’s apartment. The fire had just about gutted her place, but the rest of the units only had smoke and water damage. Darien stepped past the yellow tape and into what was left of Vicky’s living room. He could taste the spell that had sealed the apartment up, but he couldn’t tell what had cast it or where it had come from. Darien carefully scanned the rubble, looking for a clue that might shed some light on the mystery. Stepping into the bedroom, he looked over at the busted window where Vicky had made her escape. His eyes fell on the charred remains of the beautiful kimono that had hung on the wall across from her bed. He sighed at the loss.