Authors: Heather Graham
“Mystery, sex, paranormal events. What's not to love?”
The Death Dealer
“[A] sinister tale sure to appeal to fans across multiple genre lines.”
The Death Dealer
“Heather Graham will keep you in suspense until the very end.”
“[A] solid trilogy openerâ¦Ghostly sightings, capable detective work and fascinating characters blend to make a satisfying chiller.”
“Nerve-racking in the extreme, solidly plotted and peppered with welcome hints of black humor. And the ending's all readers could hope for.”
Romantic Times BOOKreviews
The Last Noel
“There are good reasons for Graham's steady standing as a bestselling author. The paranormal elements are integral to the unrelentingly suspenseful plot, the characters are likable, the romance convincing, and, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Graham's atmospheric depiction of a lost city is especially poignant.”
“Graham peoples her novel with genuine, endearing characters.”
“An incredible storyteller.”
Los Angeles Daily News
THE DEATH DEALER
THE LAST NOEL
THE DEAD ROOM
KISS OF DARKNESS
DEAD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
PICTURE ME DEAD
A SEASON OF MIRACLES
NIGHT OF THE BLACKBIRD
NEVER SLEEP WITH STRANGERS
EYES OF FIRE
The Prophecy: Book Two
FROM THE ASHES
THE PROPHECY: BOOK ONE
For Amber Smyser, Valerie Querns, Mike LeClaire,
Cozmo Johnson, Jonathan Wenstrup,
Christine Adolf and Jennifer Stratfordâ
and, very specially, Scott and Josh Perry.
You all make L.A. a very special place!
Beginning a new mini-series called The Prophecy,
Dust to Dust
is a stand alone book and the first in a series that will eventually entail four novels, each separate, though all with a specific goal. Included in these stories are characters from past books, characters who are part of The Alliance and who will have new roles throughout the series.
So in case anyone wants to learn more about those characters, here is a list of who they are, in what book they were featured and under what name that book was published, the real me or the pseudonym meâShannon Drake!
Beneath a Blood Red Moon,
Shannon Drake, 1999
featuring Maggie Montgomery and Sean Canady
When Darkness Falls,
Shannon Drake, 2000
featuring Lucian DeVeau and Jade MacGregor
Shannon Drake, 2001
featuring Jordan Riley and Ragnor Wulfsson
Realm of Shadows,
Shannon Drake, 2002
featuring Tara Mason and Brent Malone
Shannon Drake, 2003
featuring Megan and Finn O'Casey
Dead by Dusk,
Shannon Drake, 2005
featuring Stephanie Cahill and Grant Peterson
Kiss of Darkness,
Heather Graham, 2006
featuring Bryan McAllister and Jessica Fraser
Heather Graham, 2007
featuring Lauren Crow and Mark Davidson
here wasn't anything really wrong with me from the start. I was just your average Joe. They might not have hired me for the cover of
but I wasn't a bad-looking guy. (Sadly, in all this, my looks haven't changed. I haven't acquired a rippling six-pack or anything.) I have a nice-enough face. My features are a little too classic for some. I've been told I would make a great cavalier, that I kind of look like King Charles. Not the Secondâthe one who had dozens of women and probably just as many illegitimate kids. No, I look more like Charles the Firstâthe one who favored the divine right of kings and lost his regal head. Anyway, the point of all this is that I'm no muscle-bound hunk. I'm not a rail, but I am more wiry than built-up, and I usually depend a lot more on speed and agility than the size of my biceps. Kind of a lean, mean, fighting machineâfonder of argument and debate than bashing in a face.
I didâand still do, despite the changesâlike life. No, that's not entirely true. I like it even more now. I've
become more aware than ever of the delicacy of every single minute of human existence.
Before, I simply liked the flow of life. People, places, thingsâespecially art. Luckily, I made a good-enough living. At the age of thirty, I'd managed to sock away enough to buy my own graphics-and-design shop. I was confident about my future, and did well enough as a son, friend and lover. I'd had a few flings, one serious, which lasted three years, several that went on for months, butâ¦
wasn't out there. The right woman for me just never turned up.
Maybe there was a reason.
Anyway, on the night I Became, I was in Los Angeles. I was there with Zach Whalen and Emory Smith.
a muscle-bound hunk. Six-four, a good inch and a half over me, and a solidâand I do mean solidâtwo-hundred-forty pounds. Zach is of Danish descent. He'd fit right in with a Viking raiding party. And he's a good guy. Looks like he should be in a wrestling ring, which he is sometimes. But the love of his life is music. He manages a karaoke club, and in his spare time, he's a bass guitarist with the Luckless Three.
They're pretty good, actually, but every time they get a gig that pays really well, one of them suddenly has an “artistic difference” with the others. Go figure. They get along just great when they're entertaining at a cousin's wedding for fun. Maybe, at heart, they're just not in it for the money.
Emory likes to draw, and he
to have a few
beers and sing karaoke. He's an accountant. Six-one even, square-shouldered and preppy in every way. We make a strange threesome.
The three of us are different enough that I don't think we would have ended up being friends if we'd met late in life, but we've been friends since we were kids. We were raised not just in the same neighborhood but on the same street.
Anyway, three months ago, we had gone to L.A. just to do some partying and because a group calledâoddly enoughâLucky Three was playing at the Viper Room. One of the guys was an old college roommate of Emory's, so Zach had been allowed to sit in for a few numbers. We'd purposely taken motel rooms right on Sunset so that we wouldn't need a designated driver, though I'd actually been out with Zach a few times when he had pretty much needed a designated
Still, that night we were only a little inebriated when we headed back to our motel.
And then it happened.
I don't want you thinking that I started off as a coward or anything. I like to think of myself as even tempered, logical, capable of the eloquence and charm to defuse a bad situation most of the time. But when cornered, I could hold my own in a fight. I just wasn't the type you'd put up against a pair of heavyweights.
A group of thugs was in a side alley behind a restaurant-slash-bar that had apparently just closed. The first thing I heard was their victims screaming.
“Shit,” Zach muttered, shaking his head, as if that could clear it of a half dozen beers.
“Son of a bitch,” Emory added.
And there we were. Three guys, none of us small. But I'd be one hell of a liar if I didn't admit that it passed through each of our minds that there was a gang attack going on and that knives or guns might well be involved.
Still, what the hell?
“I've hit 911,” Zach announced as we headed toward the action.
There was some reassurance in that statement. If we were going to get messed up, at least the cops would get there soon enough to clean up the damage.
As we neared the scene, I could see that the victims were an elderly couple. The man was gurgling now, because he was being strangled. The woman was sobbing as she was beaten by two men, one who looked to be of mixed race and another who was massive and white as snow. Two others were holding the man still while a third had his hands around his throat. One looked Hispanic, the second was thin but wiry and holding a huge knife, and the one doing the strangling was just plain huge.
“Shit,” Zach muttered again.
And then we waded in.
Emory headed straight to the woman's aid. I followed Zach as he went after the trio attacking the man.
The guy with the knife turned at our approach, and Zach dodged quickly, but he was still caught across the abdomen. He swore and got the guy good in the jaw, but he was hurt, and I knew it.
By then I had run past him to the old man on the ground. He had powdery blue eyes that had a strange glow about them. “We're getting you out of here,” I said.
“You!” he gasped, and stared into my eyes as if he had suddenly recognized a long-lost friend. “You,” he repeated with sincere pleasure. Despite the situation, he smiled. “You've come.”
“We're here to save you,” I said, praying that was true. I didn't know how Zach was doing behind me, or how Emory was faring.
The old man gripped my hand. Hard. “It's only the beginning,” he said. “Only the beginning. Thank God you are here. It was hard to hold on long enough, butâ¦now you're here. Capricorn. You've come.”
“Sir, it's all right. We're going to get you to a hospital.”
“You are Capricorn,” he said, and he spoke as if relieved, as if he'd reached the Pearly Gates and discovered they were wide open.
He was babbling, I told myself. But then he looked at me again, and I realized that there was no weakness in his eyes, just a light so strange that it was nearly as disturbing as the thugs surrounding us.
And that's when
I might have imagined it. But I didn't. It was real. The light in his eyes seemed to stream out and touch mine. I felt as if I were being electrocuted for a moment, as if lightning had ripped between the two of us.
I stared at him with utter confusion, but then, after a moment, there didn't seem to be anything strange
about the man at all. He was smiling like a tired warrior, like a Viking ready to enter the halls of Valhalla.
“Son of a bitch!” Zach roared from behind me, and I knew he'd been cut again.
I was enraged.
I had taken karate as a kid, along with the rest of Mr. Halloway's middle-schoolers, but I'd never pursued it after that. I had gone to a boxing gym and sparred a few times, and I had a good right jab, but that was it. But I was suddenly on fire. I don't remember any of my movements being voluntary; I was just a whirl of motion. In seconds I'd broken the wrist of the man with the knife. A few more seconds and his two comrades were lying unconscious on the ground. Emory was losing his struggle with the mammoth white man and his accomplice, and I sped in against the two cretins like a whirlwind. They, too, went down almost instantly.
And then, there we were. The three of us. In the dark alley. Zach gripping his sliced-up middle and staring at me. Emory, his jaw swelling like a dozen bees had been at him, was staring, too. There were sirens in the night, and the noise was deafening as the first officers arrived on the scene.
Naturally, confusion ensued.
One of the cops called for an ambulance. Zach and Emory were all beat up but standing, and the five thugs, all on the ground, looked broken in various places. The old man was still on the ground, while the old woman looked as if she'd passed away. She lay staring sightlessly up at the sky. I thought at first, that the three of us were going to wind up arrested, but the old man kept
talking, even as more cops arrived, even as the med techs shifted him onto a gurney. He kept insisting, “He is the savior. And now the end begins.”
Something drew me to him, and I stood by his side while they prepared to hoist him on up into the ambulance. I took his hand.
“Listen, you've got to calm down,” I told him. “It's going to be all right.”
I saw the men standing over by his wifeâat least I assumed she was his wife. I saw the way they looked at her, and knew I'd been right. She was definitely already gone.
It wasn't going to be all right.
The man I had never met before was clinging tightly to my hand. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “They're out there, and they will be looking for you. The angels have spoken, and the time nears. It's not an explosion like a dying star but a gnawing away. Little things, the elements, the earthâbut the earth is always changing. The earth has more time, though, if evil can be stopped. Prophecies speak of what might be, but they're never sure. The future can always be changed. And you are not alone.” He paused in his babbling for a moment, and his eyes closed. For a moment I thought that he had died, too. But then his eyes opened again, that strange glow fading now. His voice, when he spoke again, was weak. “You must find the other eleven. Your two, the other earth signs, first. Strength comes from strength. And then the Oracle. She is near, and she is calling to you. I have felt the whisper in the air of the night. She is calling to you allâbut you most of all, for
you are Capricorn, you are the firstâfor the time to begin the saving of the world is now.”
This was all a little too absurd, even for L.A. I was beginning to think that someone was going to jump out from behind a Dumpster and tell me that I was being punked or something.
I tried to calm the man down, though I was pretty sure that was a vain endeavor. “I'm not a Capricorn,” I said.
But I was lying. I had been born on January seventeenth. It was just that the old man's words and the feel of the night were beginning to creep me out, and I felt a need to fight back by denying everything.
He smiled at me, and I knew
knew I was lying.
For a moment he looked young and full of vigor. His grip on my hand was powerful. So powerful it hurt.
“I am done.
are done. But for you it is just beginning, and that is how it must be, how it was written. You are earth, and it is your job to find the others. Time is slipping away. When you begin, the rest will follow. First there are four, the earth, the wind, the water and the air, and then there are three for every four. And those twelve are one. Gods and goddesses, sisters and brothers, all are one, and the most holy places of all are the battlefields. You must find your kind, and then you must find the Oracle. Evil gains entrance when our hearts fail. Men are like rats in cages, and the evil within us calls to the evil without.”
Then his forceful grip simply slipped away as he was staring at me, and I realized I was staring back at a dead man.
I turned away and saw that my friends, those two
guys I had known just about my entire life, were looking at me as if I'd suddenly grown horns and a tail.
Or a halo and wings. After all, we had plowed in together, but I had saved their asses.
I lifted my hands. “Adrenaline,” I said with a shrug.
“Yeah,” Zach said.
“Sure,” Emory agreed.
But something sinister seemed to have risen in the air. Something even more frightening and malicious than the murder of the elderly couple. Or maybe it was part of the attack. The air held a lingering miasma, but it was fading, as if the wind were dispersing it. Except there was no wind.
There was still a lot going on around us. The thugs were being arrested. The paramedics had announced the deaths and now were awaiting the medical examiner. While they waited, we were questioned. Over and over again. By the end of the interrogation, we knew we'd be coming back to L.A., because the attackers were going to be tried for murder.
By the time we were finally free to go and began walking in silence back toward our motel, dawn was on the way.
When we stood in the motel courtyard and split up to go to our rooms, Zach told me good-night calmly enough, but he was looking at me again as if I had horns. Emory clapped a hand on my shoulder, but he, too, looked somber.
And why not? We had just been witnesses to a double murder.
But it was more than that, I was sure.
When the other two walked into their rooms, I stayed outside for a moment. Colors were beginning to caress the darkness with pastel shades.