Sanctuary Unbound [Red Rock Pass, Book4]
Click on image to enlarge.
by Moira Rogers
Description: They've been hiding from the past. Now it's time to fight for their future. Red Rock Pass, Book 4 New England is ideal for vampire Adam Dubois. His cozy home in the Great North Woods reminds him of a happier time when werewolves and witches were stuff of legends, and he was a simple lumberjack. Hiding from past failures has worked for over eighty years, but a life debt owed to the Red Rock alpha has forced him to leave his retreat--and come face to face with a woman who challenges and tempts him on every level. Hiding secrets is a lonely business, and Cindy Shepherd is lonely with a capital L. Red Rock isn't exactly crawling with available men, but her interest in the mystery-shrouded new vampire in town seems mutual. After all, it's only sex--there's no danger he'll dig deep enough to unleash the demons of her past. Casual flirtation turns deadly serious when Adam discovers that the vampire plaguing Red Rock is using his mistakes as a road map. When it comes to his life, he knows Cindy has his back. But in order to secure the future, they both must trust each other with more--even if it means sacrificing themselves to save everything they hold dear. Warning: This book contains epic werewolf battles, mystical vampire blood bonds, unexpected sex on the kitchen floor and a dangerous attraction between a secret-burdened werewolf and a vampire lumberjack.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: June 2010
23 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [230 KB]
Reading time: 143-201 min.
Adam couldn't decide what was worse--when Dylan or Sasha sat up front and peppered him with endless questions, or when their saccharine puppy love overcame their manners and they ended up cuddling in the backseat of his rental car.
Probably the questions. It had been years since he'd driven a car more than fifteen miles, long enough to admit that he wasn't very good at handling modern vehicles. They'd made it out of New England before he'd stopped trying to shift gears with the emergency brake, and it was easier to concentrate on keeping the car on the road when he wasn't fielding questions on the history of vampires in the States.
Dylan had offered to drive more than once, but Adam stubbornly refused to relinquish the wheel. With his quiet, rigidly controlled life spinning out of control, he needed this last illusion of order.
Even if he kept turning on the damn windshield wipers every time he tried to use the blinker.
The road ahead of them had narrowed until towering trees blocked out most of the light. He'd felt the wards ten miles back, layered so thickly across the pass he was amazed humans didn't notice them. Even knowing what the magic was and why it was there, he'd had to fight to follow Joe's Blazer off the main road. It had felt unpleasantly like passing through a thick tangle of sticky cobwebs, and the back of his neck still itched.
Dylan had finally detached himself from Sasha's side, which Adam supposed was indication enough they'd almost reached Red Rock. He cleared his throat to catch their attention and raised his voice. "Do you two feel the wards too? Or do I only get them because I'm a vampire?"
Sasha leaned forward over the seat. "They affect everyone to varying degrees. Do you feel all right?"
She was so damn earnest it made his teeth hurt. He'd never done well with gentle women, and sometimes Sasha reminded him of the well-bred daughters he'd done his best to avoid in the days before automatic transmissions and cars that told you when your gas tank was low. But none of those spoiled rich girls would have looked at him with wide, worried eyes and shouldered into his personal space like she had a right to be there.
Like she needed to help him.
His silence had gone on too long, and Dylan watched him in the rearview mirror. Adam shrugged one shoulder. "Fine. But that magic was made to welcome werewolves, and I'm damn near the opposite of a werewolf."
"I suppose." She offered him an encouraging smile. "Gavin will be happy to see you."
The painfully chipper little girl was mother-henning him. As if he hadn't been alive when her great-fucking-grandmother had been born. "Hope so. Like to wait at least a week between fights with werewolves."
"We all do." Sasha sat back and nestled into the cradle of Dylan's arm. "It's a bit of a luxury around here sometimes, though."
Adam eyed them in the rearview mirror again, his gaze sweeping inexorably to the claw-shaped scars that marked her pale cheek. Maybe he wasn't giving the witchling enough credit. Life in a town full of backwater werewolves couldn't be any more comfortable for her than it would be for him, but even with the proof of violence carved into her skin, she didn't turn away from it.
Still, she didn't have to be so damn cheerful about it.
Dylan nuzzled his nose against the girl's bright red hair, and Adam jerked his attention back to the road. Love made people blissful. Love made people stupid. The couple cuddling in the backseat had faced down a power-hungry vampire less than two weeks ago, and every indication pointed to the inevitable fact that their next confrontation would be five times as bad. Yet they still looked foolishly, joyfully happy.
For one brief minute, he considered mistaking the parking break for the gearshift again, just to keep Romeo and Juliet from necking in the backseat. Of course, with his luck the car would spin out of control on the loosely packed gravel and they'd end up wrapped around a tree. Dylan might make it out in one piece, but witches were fragile things--and this witch obviously wasn't wearing a seatbelt, or she couldn't be half in Dylan's lap.
Adam tightened his fingers around the steering wheel, gritted his teeth, and promised himself he'd use kamikaze dives toward large trees as a last resort. Like if he saw tongues.
"That's it up ahead." Dylan's voice, quiet and unassuming. At the same time, the Blazer in front of them made a sharp left. Adam jerked the wheel to follow, and the trees on either side disappeared, replaced with a steep hill leading down to an idyllic little village tucked into a picturesque clearing.
The sun had already dropped below the edge of the forest, but Adam had no trouble making out the small cluster of buildings that obviously made up the main bulk of Red Rock. Dirt roads wove into the trees, and lights flickered here and there through the branches like fireflies. The town showed its share of wear and tear, visible even at a distance, but it was easy to see the dream underneath. An old-fashioned, small-town sanctuary. He could have been looking at Bedagi Creek, if Bedagi Creek had been on top of a mountain instead of nestled in the Great North Woods of Maine.
A blonde in jeans and a flannel shirt watched them as they drove down the main street, one hand shading her eyes from the dwindling sunlight. Joe waved at her through the Blazer window, and she smiled broadly as she approached the SUV.
"The town's doctor," Dylan said, distracting him from the act of coasting to a stop. He had to slam his foot down on the brakes and nearly rear-ended Joe's vehicle before he managed to park the car. The blonde's gaze flickered to him and, for one moment, all he could see in her face was pure, undiluted strength, the kind that came from living through hell and getting up on the other side.
The dark hunger inside him stirred, attracted to the strength of her in the same way the young alpha female in Bedagi Creek had called to him. But he'd known Emily from childhood, leaving his hunger for power strongly tempered by an utter lack of desire. The blonde burned with magic so bright it could turn a man inside out, and had a body that might make him willing to go through the pain, if it meant getting a chance to touch her.
Adam jerked his attention to the rearview mirror and glared at Dylan. "Got a problem, puppy?"
Dylan refused to avert his gaze, which was most of the reason Adam liked the kid. Dylan didn't care if the man staring him down could break him in half, he'd do what he thought he had to and damn the consequences.
Apparently now he thought he had to be a nosy bastard. "Cindy's not going to let you snack on her. And if Joe or Keith catches you eyeing her like you're thinking about it, they'll get Buffy on your ass."
"They'll kill you really, really dead."
Not an inconsequential threat, but Joe and Keith were still youths, neither of them fifty years old. And Adam hadn't been thinking about blood for once. Which might be worse. "Mind your own damn business, Dylan."
The doctor leaned close to Joe's window for a few more moments, then nodded and began to walk toward Adam's car. When she drew closer, he could see the brittle tinge of wariness in her eyes.
Judging by the way the couple in the back separated and surged to opposite sides of the seat, little--if any--of that wariness was directed at him. Adam jerked the keys from the ignition and pushed open the door with a small sigh of relief. He tossed the keys on the front seat and glanced at Dylan. "If the car needs to go somewhere else, you take it."
"Sure thing." Dylan opened his own door and climbed out, a cautious smile on his lips. "Hey, Cindy."
"Dylan. Hi, Sasha."
Cindy turned to him and held out one hand. "You must be Adam. Gavin's told me a lot about you."
Touching her was asking for trouble, but he did it anyway. Her hand felt small in his, but not soft. She wasn't Sasha, with her fragile delicateness. Cindy's smooth skin hid strength, maybe even a hint of danger.
It turned him on more than a little.
"Cindy." He smiled, the wide, easy grin he used on the rare occasions he wanted a woman to smile back. "So you're the doctor Sam told me about." A small lie, since he didn't think Sam had told him more than that she had a doctor.
She arched an eyebrow and laughed. "The first thing Gavin told me was that you're a charming, horny bastard."
Son of a bitch. It figured the old wolf knew him well enough, even after all this time, to know the sort of temptation Cindy would present. "Gavin hasn't forgiven me for flirting with his wife in the early eighties. He holds a grudge."
"Right. He and Sam are at my place. Come on, I'll show you." She turned on one heel and walked across the street, her hips swaying with each step.
He was still watching those hips when Dylan spoke up from behind them, his voice worried. "Did something happen? Did someone get hurt?"
Cindy spared them only a quick glance over her shoulder. "Gavin's not feeling well."
It was the one thing guaranteed to drag Adam's attention away from the way Cindy's jeans hugged her ass. Her tone might have been casual, but he'd heard the minute strain, the way her voice came out a little flat. Amusement died and he caught up to Cindy in two long strides. "Then let's go."
Her house proved to be close to the center of town, a smart placement for their doctor, he supposed. It seemed like a nice enough little home, but on the inside it looked more like an office. Chairs and a couch lined the walls of the entryway, and the two rooms he could see into could best be described as clinical.
Cindy ignored them both, instead leading him down the hall, past the kitchen into a comfortably homey room where Gavin sat in a recliner, his face ashen.
He'd kept up with Gavin by phone, infrequent calls every month or two, Adam's only real contact with the world past Bedagi Creek. The last time he'd actually seen Gavin had been over a quarter of a century ago, when his oldest friend had arrived in Maine with a sweet-faced young woman with too many scars and too much power. Time had still been kind.
Gavin and time had had a falling out at some point in the last thirty years. His friend looked old. Rundown and worn out and half-dead. He looked up and grinned when he saw Adam. "'Bout time you showed up."
Adam had to fight to smile and keep his voice light, burying his worry deep. "Just biding my time. Figured Sam would leave you and shack up with me if I waited long enough."
"In your wildest dreams, Dubois." Gavin jerked his head to the chair beside his. "Have a seat. Never thought I'd get you out here."
Adam sank into the chair. "Never thought I'd come. But what can I say? Only you would send a moon-crazed wolf, a witch and their boyfriends out to fetch me. You got my attention."
"Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn't it?" He leaned his head back and turned his grin to the blonde. "Cindy, love. Tell Sammie I can have a beer, would you?"
"You're a harsh woman, Dr. Shepherd."
"Mmm." She winked at Adam over Gavin's head. "May as well get the truth out there before your guest starts to think I'm a nice lady."
Adam stretched his legs in front of him, grateful for the chance to do so after so long trapped in a ridiculously small car. "Trust me, Dr. Shepherd. Gavin here is hoping I'll think you're a nice lady. Never much fancied them."
"Cindy can handle the likes of you," Gavin grumbled. "And she is nice, in spite of that."
"Mm-hmm." He met Cindy's gaze. "So what did the old bastard do to put himself in this state?"
"The old bastard is sitting right here."
Cindy ignored him. "Had another heart attack. It's one of the hazards of being an old bastard." Again, a thread of tension bled through her nonchalant words.
"Another heart attack?" Adam looked back to Gavin. "Hell, man, how many have you had?"
"Three." His friend fidgeted with the upholstery covering the arm of the recliner. "It's like the lady says. I'm not as young as I used to be."
Neither was Adam, but time had a way of passing him by in his tiny remote cabin. Before young Emily had taken a shine to him, he'd gone for months at a time without seeing anyone besides the casual bedmates who came to him to feed a man's hunger as well as a vampire's.
Footsteps sounded in the hallway, and Adam got another shock when Sam stepped through the doorway. Granted, few women well into their seventies possessed Sam's strong body and ageless complexion, but worry had left its mark on her face and fear in her eyes.
She hid it well as she swooped down to kiss his cheek. "Welcome to Red Rock, you impossible man."
Flirting with her when Gavin looked like he had one foot in the grave seemed like overkill, but he didn't know how else to handle the shock of seeing two of his oldest friends looking old. "I thought we agreed you'd leave this sorry ass and come live with me. I waited twenty years."
"Only twenty? You're too impatient." Her voice sounded strained, and Adam felt the first stirrings of panic. Nothing put that edge of fear in Sam's voice. Combined with the doctor's tension, it painted a sorry picture for Gavin--and for Red Rock.
Cindy leaned close to Sam, one comforting hand on the taller woman's shoulder. "I have to head to Keith's and check on Joe. Radio if you need anything, and I can be back here in a minute."
"Thanks, Cindy." Sam squeezed her hand, and Adam caught the look that passed between them. Samantha considered the doctor a friend, someone from whom she'd accept support, and it said more about Cindy's inner strength than anything else he'd seen.
His attraction to that strength made it so much harder to watch her leave.