Authors: Candice Gilmer
Back Cover Copy
Can love be found on the unholiest night of the year?
There are some things Marissa Van Dyke won't do -- celebrate Halloween is one of them. When she's guilted into attending a Halloween party, a flamboyant woman dressed as a gypsy claims Marissa will be saved three times before she's finally free.
Foolish Halloween games, according to Marissa. Her life is fine; not perfect, but good enough, and nothing could save her anyway. All she wants is to leave the party until a man named Neil Drigan materializes at her side, making her forget everything but his hauntingly familiar green eyes. His animal magnetism is a dangerous temptation on a night she's always reserved for mourning.
Can there be salvation under his powerful presence -- even on such an unholy night?
Warning: Some explicit sex, shapeshifting characters, and a tiny bit of psychic abilities.
What am I doing here?
A woman dressed as a fortune teller with gypsy beads glittering around her neck and a large purple scarf covering her wavy black hair mingled about, stopping to take people's hands and whisper soft words. Some party-goers looked excited, some shocked at her words, but all seemed to take the woman's alleged wisdom to heart.
Marissa rolled her eyes. She didn't believe in the powers of mystics and the supernatural.
When someone is dead, they're dead.
If anyone knew that, she did.
The gypsy woman stopped in front of her. "It is not good for the soul to dwell on the past," she said, taking Marissa's hand.
She pulled her hand away from the woman. "Trust me when I say, do not go there."
The fortune teller raised her sculpted black eyebrow at her. "The future is always upon us, whether we wish to see it or not."
"Thanks for the tip."
The fortune teller tried one more time. "You shall be saved thrice before it is through, then you shall finally be free."
"I've never been saved once."
"Are you sure?" the fortune teller asked.
Copyright © 2008, Candice Gilmer
Edited by Emma Wayne Porter
Book design by Emma Wayne Porter and Renee Rocco
Cover Art by Renee Rocco
First Lyrical Press, Inc. electronic publication: May, 2008
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
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Published in the United States of America by Lyrical Press, Incorporated
To Bob—you always trusted me and encouraged me, and I would not be here if it wasn’t for your constant support. I love you!
First and foremost, I must acknowledge my muses– I wouldn’t be able to come up with this stuff without you. Also, the unwavering support of friends like AE and Kim who kept my chin up when I wasn’t sure of myself or my ideas, I thank you. And then there’s Emma, who had to edit this, and reminded me, that even though the story’s good, pronouns are not evil. And Renee, who took a chance on this little story of mine, thank you very much. Writing may be a solitary effort, but publishing is a whole other ball of wax.
The glow of the moon lit the hard ground, trees casting monstrous shadows almost to the edges of the concrete. Plenty of places for enemies to hide; enemies of man and enemies of myth could weave through the dark, not to be seen. They lurked in the night, ready to attack.
Footsteps crunched across the pavement while the winds whipped in search of something to splatter against, dying only at the line of the woods. The branches flew about, spilling leaves onto the earth.
The animal heard more footsteps, another kind of hunter, not one of his own. The slow echoes of the other hunter’s trek, disguised by the whipping winds, were almost undetectable to the prey.
The other was darker, a mythical lust spilling off him as he stalked. The lust, far beyond what a human could comprehend, eroded the air around the creature, choking the animal on its horrid stench of sick desire.
This mortal enemy would attack.
The animal waited no more—the other would soon know that he was not the only mythical in the field this night.
The human prey, forgotten by the animal, moved closer into danger.
Air currents shifted, bringing a smell to the animal, the smell of female—a lacing of floral, of sweetness, and of death. An odd combination to be certain, but nonetheless the scent was there.
The animal continued.
The closer he got to the hunter, the stronger the floral scent. The stronger the smell of the floral, the stronger the hunter’s own smell increased.
The animal was almost there.
The hunter emerged from the shadows, heading straight for the floral-scented one.
Attack, went the animal.
Marissa Van Dyke rubbed her head and she pushed herself off the ground… Where was she?
A howl filled the night air.
She jumped, making her head pound.
There, not twenty feet from her, were two beings locked in mortal combat. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out.
The dimness of the night swirled around her.
A hard crash, and one of the combatants flew across the ground.
The… Was it a dog?
It howled, whatever it was, and put itself between her and the attacker. It glanced back at her, and green eyes—greener than anything she’d ever seen—flashed an intense, brilliant warning.
The other attacker surged forward, the dog flying through the air again.
My God, that dog was huge!
With an enormous leap, the dog-monster attacked the man.
Again, she tried to scream, but no sound came out.
The dog hit the man, sending him flying to the ground; it dug its teeth into the man, scratching, and she smelled the tainted odor of blood as the dog ripped at the man’s flesh.
The man managed to push off the dog; his face contorted and he hissed. White fangs flashed in the night.
The dog growled, standing in front of her, guarding her from the creature.
She shook her head, and everything suddenly pulsed with the beat of her heart.
The man took off, leaping into the sky, instantly a shadow against the moonlight.
She watched the man disappear up in the air, now lost against the inky blackness.
Men can fly, right? Of course they can.
The dog came toward her, stopping a few feet away. It knelt in front of her, its head down, and whimpered. Those green eyes stared at her.
She reached up, caressing its muzzle, and it inched across the ground to her again, the way a pet would curl up to its master. It brought its head to her lap, nuzzling her stomach and side as it curled itself around her.
This animal had saved her. This animal with green eyes.
The words pulsed in her brain.
“Tha…” she started to say.
She collapsed to the ground.
“She’s coming around,” came a voice.
“Good,” came another.
Marissa blinked, met by dark male eyes staring down at her, appraising. “Hey,” said the man. His size was massive, yet his eyes radiated warmth and compassion.
She started to sit up, looking around. What? Where was she?
“It’s okay,” the first man said. “You were attacked. Are you in pain?”
She shook her head, the action making her brain ache. Immediately, she glanced around looking for the dog, but it was gone.
“My head,” she said.
He nodded, glancing toward another man, this one as large as the first, but much more intimidating in form. His eyes darted around the area, scoping for something.
“Concussion,” the first man said.
“Not surprised,” the second said. “Well, he’s gone.”
The man with the compassionate eyes helped her up. “Do you remember anything about what happened?”
“No.” She looked skyward, knowing the sky was important. It took her a moment to remember why. Then her mind flashed back to what she’d seen and she pointed up.
“Did the man go that way?” the first man asked.
Part of her knew this was a most illogical comment, but it seemed correct. “Yes,” she said, her words slurred.
God, she was tired. She just wanted to go to bed.
The men’s eyes narrowed in understanding, as though it was perfectly natural for a man to fly away into the sky.
“How did you escape?” the second man asked, his voice rougher than the first.
“Dog.” The smell and feel of the dog nuzzling her came back. “Big dog, with green eyes.”
“We hear that can happen this time of the year.”
She collapsed against him.
Marissa woke in a cold sweat, shuddering in her bed, her hand at her throat. She didn’t scream this time, but the urge was there.
Maybe she was getting somewhere.
Ever since the weird experience last week, she’d woken up in a cold sweat, usually screaming.
Always with the same dream stained behind her eyes. The man was coming, he was attacking, moving like a ninja; fast yet silent, but she knew he was there. He was going to get her.
And she was going to die.
He was on her in a blink, throwing her to the ground.
Sometimes the large dog came and defended her. Though it wasn’t any dog she’d ever seen, more like a monster; a wolf, some massive form that wasn’t dog, nor wolf, nor any other animal.
Sometimes it saved her.
Most of the time, though, the animal was too late.
The man took her, yanking her up against him, bringing a sharp, desperate pain.
And the dog would howl.
She forced herself out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Splashing water on her face, she tried to steady her shaking fingers. Black arches hung under her hazel eyes, though tonight they looked more green, the red blood vessels circling her irises.
Sleep had become a precious commodity.
At least the goose egg on her forehead had gone away. Since she knew where to look, she could still see the faint outlines of it, but it had diminished enough that no one would notice. She’d been fashioning her hair to cover it up.
Not that she had a boyfriend her office would think was beating her, but still. She didn’t feel like trying to explain to her co-workers why she had a knot on her head and bags under her eyes.
Especially when she had no explanation.
She had no idea how she’d gotten home after leaving the bar. She didn’t remember driving, or anything beyond the weird attack. Someone had tried to hurt her, that much she knew. And she knew a dog had saved her.
A massive dog.
“Girl, you have got to get some sleep,” she muttered to herself. She ran her fingers through her mussed brown hair and tried to get some of the bed knots out of it, but they weren’t doing the job, so she picked up her favorite brush.
Scrubbing it through her hair, she managed to work out the tangles, and pulled the locks back into a loose ponytail to keep it from getting totally snarly for the rest of the night.
That was assuming, of course, she could get some sleep.
Neil Drigan dribbled the basketball as he ran down the indoor court, the squeak of his shoes mere background noise as he aimed for his shot.
It was a useless gesture.
“You suck,” Dale called out, smirking at him as he grabbed the rebounding ball and started his own attack on the hoop, moving much better than Neil could tonight.
Of course, Dale was probably getting sleep at night.
He fought to block Dale’s shot, but again, it was pointless—Dale was stomping his ass. Not that he was any great player, but seriously, this kind of a stomping? Pathetic.
“Game,” Dale said, catching the ball and grinning. “Man, what’s up with you tonight?”
He shook his head, wiping some of the sweat off his brow; no one else was in the gym tonight, saving him from total humiliation. For once. He had to be thankful for small miracles.
“Neil, man, what’s up?” Dale asked.
Twitching at the sound of his name, he met his brother’s eyes. “I’m tired.”
Dale raised a brow. “You doing all right?”
“Fine,” he replied, turning away.
Dale, though, didn’t seem to know how to take a hint. He stepped right in Neil’s line of sight, tossing the ball over his shoulder, where it hit the bucket in the corner with the other balls and sank down in. One last swoosh of the night.
It was hard not to growl at him.
“You’re not fine,” Dale said, studying him.
“Really, just drop it. It’s nothing.” He tried to walk away, but the stubborn ass wouldn’t leave him alone.
“You’re not having dreams, are you?”
“I dream every night. Part of the chemistry.” He headed out of the gym, really not wanting to have this conversation.
He knew exactly where Dale was going with this, and he didn’t want to hear it. His dreams were not “those” dreams. The ones each of his brothers said they had right after they first met the women who became their wives.
These were not those kinds of dreams.
These were nightmares.
“Don’t be an ass,” Dale said. “Kristy will kill me if I let you animals sweat all over the gym.”
“That I would like to see,” he muttered. Kristy was maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, and though she had quite the mouth on her on occasion, she wasn’t in any way able to control Dale.
At least not physically. However, the brothers seemed rather wimpy when it came to decrees from their wives.
Something he didn’t quite understand.
“Seriously, man, are you dreaming?”
He stopped, hands on hips, baring his canines. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
Dale snarled right back at him, and regardless of Dale’s pacifist beliefs, the man could rip a guy’s head off with a single stroke.
And Neil was pushing. He knew he was. He should stop, but he didn’t.
“You are,” Dale said, a broad grin replacing the snarl on his face. “Well, tell me all about it. Who is she? Where’d you meet her? I swear, I never thought I’d live to see the day you gave up the bachelorhood groove.”
“They aren’t those kinds of dreams.”
“What do you mean? There’s a woman, right?”
“I don’t know what it is. And it’s been plaguing me for the last few weeks.” The dark, the cold, the smell of the blood...and frigging flowers. What a damn combination. Even now, some of the images resurfaced in his mind and he had to force himself to push the thoughts away.
“Violent dreams? Attacks and stuff?” Dale asked.
“But there’s a woman in them.”
“Sometimes,” Neil replied when they turned into the locker room for a shower. He didn’t want to tell him there was always a woman—then Dale would never shut up.
His finger flicked on the door lock, but Dale followed him in before he could flip the switch.
Not that a door would keep Dale out.
“And is it violence against her?” Dale asked as they started stripping for the showers.
“Yeah.” Sometimes, he would save the woman. Sometimes not. But in the ones where he saved her, a strange thing had occurred. She’d not been afraid of him.
Women like that didn’t exist.
Dale burst out laughing. “My brother, you are having the dreams! I dreamed for a month straight about Kristy being mauled by spiders when I first met her.”
“Doesn’t Kristy love spiders?”
“I didn’t know that then,” Dale said.
He stepped under one of the showerheads, letting the hot water run over him. The water cleansed him, purified him. Maybe it was even enough that he could actually relax a bit tonight, and get a decent amount of sleep.
Zeus knew he needed some.
“So what’s attacking the woman? What’s her name?”
“I don’t know,” Neil said. “The attacker, though, I think, is a vamp.”
Dale tipped his head to the side, staring at him in disbelief. “You sure you’re not watching the news too much?”
“No.” There’d been a rash of kidnappings in the area, all women, all disappearing for a few days and later found, bodies mauled and torn up, almost unrecognizable.
An inhuman attack.
The local police were baffled.
The only good thing about the attacks were they had been occurring every few days, for the last six weeks or so.
Ergo, no one in the family was responsible.
At least not that they knew.