Click on image to enlarge.
by Dawn McClure
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Romance
Description: Vampire mercenary Gabriel McPherson must protect small town girl Christine Fitzpatrick against the very thing she loves the most: her family. When Christine learns her brother Mike is a vampire, her peaceful world quickly turns violent. Especially when she meets Gabriel, a vampire who's currently assigned to track down and kill certain members of her family. While Christine struggles to keep Gabriel from killing her family, Gabriel turns the tables on her and reveals her deepest and most shameful secret to the very people she has kept it hidden from. Christine is half-demon. No longer burdened by her secret, and unable to keep her girl-next-door persona, Christine must fight beside Gabriel to save her remaining family members while battling the fear and doubt of misplaced loyalty. In the process, Christine realizes that not all love is eternal, though eternal love can heal the deepest betrayals. As the impending battle among the ravaged family draws near, Christine's feelings for Gabriel grow deeper than the fiery pits of Hell. Ironically for her love, Gabriel becomes damned to those very pits, eternally bound by a pact made with Lucifer to save Christine's soul.
eBook Publisher: Atlantic Bridge/Liquid Silver Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
34 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [412 KB]
Reading time: 274-384 min.
"Jackass! Make up your mind!" Christine Fitzpatrick yelled as she sped around the idiot on the Harley. What a jerk. He'd been slowing down and speeding up, turning on his blinker, then turning it off. The man was a complete tool. She rolled her window back up to keep the cold air from whipping into her Focus.
Even if he hadn't heard her, she was quite certain he saw her flip him the bird.
After seven miles of pitch-black forest on either side of her, Chris wanted nothing more than to get to Tom and Jess's house. The darkness suffocated her. Even the iridescent glow of a deer's eyes coming from the fields freaked her out.
She put on her blinker and turned right onto Pine Lane. Tom's house was the only dwelling at the end of the dirt road, and those she considered family always made her feel safe and welcome.
She caught sight of the biker's headlight in her rearview mirror a few seconds later.
The idiot behind her had made the same turn. Unless the biker was going to Thanksgiving at Tom's, he had no business going down this road. Was he following her?
If the biker was angry at her for calling him a jackass or flipping him off, then so be it. Dave, Mike and Stephen, men she called her brothers, were going to be at Thanksgiving dinner. All three were her age and kept themselves in shape.
She certainly wasn't ashamed to cower behind any of them.
When she pulled into the driveway and heard the familiar crunch of rock and dirt under her tires, she breathed a sigh of relief--until the biker pulled in right behind her. She put her car in park and turned off the engine, keeping her gaze locked on the rearview mirror.
Christine waited in her car as the man in denim and black got off his bike.
She honked her horn several times in rapid succession, bringing the biker's gaze to her car. There was no way in hell she was leaving her Focus until one of her brothers came out of the house.
The biker removed his helmet and began to stretch his back muscles by leaning back and to the side. She couldn't completely see his features in the darkness because the floodlight above Tom's garage didn't work. The sliver of moon did nothing to light the yard. All she could make out was the man had disheveled black hair and looked like a felon having a bad day. He had on a black leather jacket and baggy denim jeans, complete with big boots and a chain at his belt.
She heard the screen door slam shut, and she tore her gaze from the biker.
Mike was the first one out of the house. With one last glance in the rearview mirror, she opened the door and climbed out. She put her keys in her pocket.
Hopefully there wouldn't be a brawl in the front yard just because she had called a stranger on a Harley a jackass.
Mike walked up to her and gave her a tight squeeze. He always smelled like spicy aftershave and cologne. "You have pies that need to be carried?"
His collared black shirt was unbuttoned a bit too far, and his khakis were pressed to perfection. It had likely taken him longer to get ready than it had her. It always amazed her that it took a practiced hand and a wad of mousse to make his dirty blond hair look messy.
She normally just threw her curly auburn hair up in a sloppy bun. Debra Messing's mane had nothing on hers. Mousse couldn't hold this disaster in place.
She turned to look at her car, recalling she did have pies, but she had forgotten all about them during her small run-in with the biker. Hopefully Sir Jackass hadn't caused them to launch all over the backseat. "Um, yeah, I do. But I'm more concerned about that..."
Mike left her standing on the front lawn as he made his way over to the biker and shook his hand. "Hey, Gabe, how's she ridin'?"
Oh shit. Mike knows him? No one told her they were going to have another guest at dinner.
"I can't complain about the bike." He paused to look at Christine, holding his black helmet under his left arm, and then turned his attention back to Mike. "What I can complain about is the directions you gave me."
"Hell, they couldn't have been that bad. You got here, didn't you?" Mike ran a hand along the side of Gabe's bike. "Nice."
"Just bought her yesterday." Gabe opened a compartment on the side of the bike and stowed his helmet. He slid off his gloves and placed them on top, then secured the latch. As Mike admired his bike, Gabe stood back, again rolling his shoulders and seeming to work out kinks in his back.
Silently cursing the darkness that kept Gabe shrouded in mystery, she edged closer for a better look.
The floodlight chose that second to flicker on, dousing everyone in a yellow glow, revealing the most striking man Chris had ever settled eyes on. She could have sworn she felt a ripple of energy pierce the air around her, but she couldn't seem to focus on anything other than the man before her.
Tall, dark and oh-my-God sexy, his black eyebrows slanted over eyes that seemed too light to be real. She took a few steps closer and found his eyes were a light blue. Against the dark tan of his skin and the charcoal color of his hair, his eyes practically glowed.
A few days growth of whiskers surrounded lips that were parted in a smirk.
A smirk? Damn. He'd caught her staring at him.
"The pies?" Mike prompted from beside her.
Crap. Chris took her eyes off of Gabe, which was difficult to say the least, and looked at Mike. "In the backseat."
"You made an apple pie, right?"
"I made one just for you," she said, walking over to the side of her car and opening the back door. Mike leaned in and picked one up. "The pumpkin pie is for Stephen." She took the pumpkin pie out of his hands while he picked up the other. "Thanks."
Mike shut the car door and led her over to Gabe. "Let me introduce you to my cousin. He was in town so we held a vote on whether we should invite him over for dinner or not. I lost."
Mike's humor was lost on her.
Gabe was his cousin? She had never heard her brothers make mention of a cousin before. God, this was humiliating. Why couldn't they have told her about him earlier? She might have spared herself the embarrassment of acting like a total ass.
She took a deep breath and began saying her favorite mantra in her head.
It could be worse. It could be worse. It could be worse.
"Gabe, this is Christine. Chris for short. I'm sure I've mentioned her before. She's like a sister to me." Gabe held his hand out, and she slid her hand into his.
What was it about a man's hand that always grabbed her attention? The strength in the grip? The roughness of his skin in contrast to her soft palm? The warmth it provided?
She held his hand, giving it a firm shake, and tried to act as nonchalant as he did.
"This is Gabe. He's originally from Scotland. He's the type I warned you to stay away from," Mike said with a grin.
Gabe smiled. "You can call me Jackass for short."
She felt her face go up in flames. Apparently he had heard her. She could hear a slight burr in his voice that spoke of his Scottish homeland. Accents always turned her on. Especially a sexy, Scottish accent. "Well, you almost caused an accident. Twice."
"It's Mike's fault. He gave me crappy directions."
"Well, we already have something in common. I blame everything on Mike, too." She let go of his hand and turned to wink at Mike.
Mike grunted. "You blame things on men in general."
"Not true," Chris insisted. "How's dinner coming? I'd have been over earlier but I had a million things to do at the office."
"You went to work today?" Mike asked.
She shrugged. "I had things to take care of."
"Well, no more work for today. Dinner should be ready in a few minutes. We were waiting on you two," he said, ruffling her hair.
She smacked his hand away. "When did Tom fix the floodlight?"
Mike shrugged. "I wasn't aware that he had."
The flood light flickered off, and that strange electricity filled the air again. She caught Mike and Gabe exchanging a glance. That was ... disturbing. About as strange as Dave had been acting lately. Usually the energetic, smart-ass of her three brothers, he'd been acting differently for the past few months. Almost secretive in nature, as if there was something dark he chose to hide from them. She had decided to face him with it today and ask him what was bothering him so much.
Mike led them up the brick steps to the front door. She noticed Gabe taking in all of the details of the two-story brick home. There were two white hanging baskets on each of the windows upstairs that had wisteria hanging from them. Soon the baskets would need to be taken down due to the frigid Michigan winter.
Mike held open the front door for her, and she thanked him as she stepped inside.
The smell only a Thanksgiving dinner can provide hit them as they walked in the front door. Turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry, stuffing and freshly baked bread permeated the house.
The smell of the food was accompanied by a wave of cinnamon. There were potpourri bowls and cinnamon sticks wrapped up in orange ribbon on the coffee table in the living room. Jess, Tom's wife, had a decorating and organizing talent that couldn't be rivaled. Holidays were her favorite time of the year, and she always decorated her house with a theme in mind.
Jess's house was always on the warm side, especially in the fall and winter. Last Christmas Chris had looked at the thermostat, and it had read ninety-eight degrees. She always felt the need to dress as if she were going to the Bahamas when she came to this house.
Chris walked in front of Mike and Gabe as they headed to the kitchen. Jess was busy running around the kitchen, and Stephen was lounging in one of the kitchen chairs. "Hi, guys."
Jess walked up to her and gave her a hug. "How are you, sweetie?" Jess's short blond hair was freshly highlighted and groomed to perfection. No doubt if Chris looked down at Jess's fingernails, they would be manicured.
She'd known Jess for nearly seven years. In all those years she'd never seen Jess in sweats or with her hair up in a ponytail. The woman had always looked like a cover model for Good Housekeeping.
"Good. Do you need any help?" Chris asked.
"No, ma'am, everything's great here." Jess went back to the stove and adjusted the temperature. "Go ahead and put those pies in the oven. It's just cooling down now, so it's perfect to warm them up."
Mike brought his pie over to the oven. "Everyone say hi to Gabe so we can get the hell out of the kitchen. It's too crowded in here."
Jess wiped her hands on the dish towel hanging from the stove and crossed the kitchen to give Gabe a hug. "Nice seeing you again. How was your trip?"
Gabe must be well over six feet tall. Jess was nearly five-ten, and he seemed to tower over her. Being only five-six, everyone in the house towered over Chris. As Chris watched the two, she found herself wondering if they had ever been close. It didn't seem like it. They seemed ... strangers.
"Hey, Chris, what gives?" Stephen asked, coming over to her side.
Chris turned her attention to Stephen while Jess and Gabe caught up. Why hadn't they ever spoken of Gabe before today?
She gave Stephen a hug with her left arm, as her right held the pie out.
"We've been waiting a half an hour for you to get here," he said.
Stephen was wearing a white T-shirt underneath a brown knit V-neck sweater that emphasized the hours he spent in the gym. He was the quiet, contemplative brother. Nothing seemed to ruffle his feathers.
"Bad drivers," she said under her breath. When she saw Gabe turn her way, she smiled and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, Stephen." She held the pie under his nose. "I made your favorite."
Stephen was the only one in the misfit family who actually liked pumpkin pie. Since Jess was so busy with the dinner, Chris had volunteered to make the desserts. She always took care to make sure she had everyone's favorite.
He bent down and took a deep breath as she held the pie in front of him. "It smells delicious. I forgive you." He kissed her on the forehead and took the pie. He motioned for Jess to move as he put the pie in the oven.
It had to be over a hundred degrees in the kitchen. Chris was already taking her white button-up sweater off, leaving on a brown T-shirt. She left the kitchen to hang her sweater in the hallway closet. She hadn't seen Tom or Dave yet. She'd head downstairs to look for the two. They were usually there watching a football game or playing pool.
"So, I hear you're quite the cook."
Not paying attention to where she was going, Chris turned and bumped into Gabe in the hallway. He had hung his motorcycle jacket over his forearm. Like Stephen, he wore a thick sweater. She was beginning to sweat just by looking at them.
"I bake," she said lamely, taking his jacket from him and opening the closet to hang it up. Unlike Mike, Gabe didn't smell like he'd bathed in cologne. Was that Irish Spring?
"You must be good. Stephen looks like he'll bite anyone who goes near your pumpkin pie. I've never seen him do that."
"He's nocturnal. He's just waking up, so this is breakfast to him." She smiled at her own play on Stephen's job. It was a fact that Tom, Jess, Mike and Stephen couldn't be out in the sun for any length of time. Any tan they had came from a bottle and a prayer. That was how they all had grown close, and why Mike and Stephen had moved into Tom's house.
Chris wasn't allergic to sunlight, but she didn't mind playing the night owl to see her family. They all worked at Tom's business, which happened to be the headquarters for Dark Days, a group that had nearly twenty thousand members, all of whom were allergic to sunlight.
The business had gone worldwide seven years ago, forcing Tom to hire out for day workers. Chris put in her application right after graduating high school, and Tom had hired her to work the front desk.
Tom's company made pamphlets on sun safety, nighttime activities and hot spots, and the current advances in medicine.
They also published a monthly magazine titled Dark Days, and set appointments for local chapter meetings as well as taking on applications for new members.
"You know about that?" Gabe asked.
Like it's a secret. She caught herself before she rolled her eyes. "Of course I know about their condition. I'm here all the time." Without warning, Tom came up behind her and lifted her off the floor.
"Hey, lightweight. Did you get that fax out before you left the office?" As skinny as Tom was, he didn't seem to lack strength.
Noticing it was right down to business as usual, she sighed. "Yes, it went out."
"Good." Tom let her out of the bear hug and ruffled her hair, just as Mike had done earlier. "I taped that dancing show you like. The tape is on the table in the living room."
"Great. I was working late last night and I missed it."
"I know, and I felt bad about it. Anyway, it's in the living room."
"Awesome, thanks." She pushed herself up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. Tom had quickly become the father figure she had always wanted, right from the start. He was kind, generous and always there if you needed him.
"Have you been being careful? Staying in lighted areas like I asked?"
Chris smiled. Tom was worried about her safety because the police hadn't caught the person behind the strange murders plaguing the area. Bodies had been found with signs of struggle but no apparent fatal wound. All had died of blood loss. It was big news in a small, rural town.
"Yes, I'm being careful. I noticed you fixed the floodlight."
A look of confusion crossed his face and he looked at Gabe. "I didn't fix that light."
"It came on, then a few minutes later it flickered back off." She didn't mention the strange energy that she had felt.
"That's strange. It might be a short. I'll take a look at it." He turned to Gabe and they exchanged hellos. With a backward glance cast her way, Gabe followed Tom back to the kitchen.
As Gabe walked away, she couldn't help but check him out. Lord, the man was built. Through his sweater she could see the indentation that ran down his back, and the muscles that flanked it. He had a stockier build than her brothers. Where Stephen was tall and lean from working out, Gabe was thick with muscles. His arms could rival the size of her thighs.
Just before Gabe stepped into the kitchen behind Tom, he turned to look at her. His wicked grin made her wonder if he'd read her thoughts.
Embarrassed at being caught checking him out, she quickly turned toward the steps and flounced down to the basement.
She scanned the family room for Dave. The brown leather sofa was empty, save for a few big, fluffy beige pillows. The pool table and Ping Pong table sat unused. A seventy-two-inch flat-screen TV, with every DVD imaginable lining the shelves beside it, sat against the wall, and three recliners were scattered around the couch.
This was usually where Dave, the youngest of her brothers, could be found. He lived only fifteen minutes away, and he came over often to visit with Mike and Stephen. They were an odd bunch, but they had come together to form a unit stronger than any blood relations. She trusted these men with her life.
Not seeing any sign of Dave, she decided to go back upstairs and ask Jess if she needed any help setting the table when she heard Dave's muffled voice coming from the computer room.
As she walked over to the room, she could make out Dave's voice more clearly through the cracked door.
"I'll do it after she leaves." A pause. "Don't worry, I'm not backing out. I just want to wait until she leaves. She's not a part of this." Another pause. "No. She's not one of them. I don't want to see her get hurt."
Chris immediately backed away from the room. It was obvious this was about business, and she had no desire to interrupt. She didn't know a lot about Dave's job, other than he worked all day and most of the time into the night. He did something with building contracts and commercial business deals. Perhaps someone got hurt at one of his sites.
"I'll make sure they're all dead," Dave whispered.
Caught off guard with what she had just heard, she paused mid-stride.
"Yes, dead as in cannot rise again." Dave sighed. "You want to do this yourself, or do you want to shut the fuck up? I said I got it," he snapped.
Putting a hand to her mouth she made herself flush with the wall, only a breath away from the door. What the hell had he said? She couldn't have heard him right.
"Yes, he's here. And for the record? He doesn't want to see her hurt, either. Being the head of the family, he's torn as it is."
She debated on whether she should just leave quietly or keep eavesdropping. Frowning, she stayed where she was.
"No, I haven't seen him yet. I heard him come in, though, so I know he's here. You wait for my call before you send your men in." She heard Dave take in a deep breath. "I said wait until she's gone, goddamnit."
Dave must have turned away from the door. She could barely hear him, so she leaned toward the door to hear better, and in doing so accidentally kicked over a brown bag of recycled cans by her feet.
The clatter was deafening.
Oh shit! He was coming!
Chris immediately launched herself from the wall and forced herself to laugh, calling out in a too-loud voice, "Dave? You down here?"
Dave came out of the computer room, and she hoped her smile didn't look as fake as it felt. He glanced at the scattered cans on the floor, which were right by the door to the computer room, then back to her. She started picking up the cans without mentioning how they came to be all over the floor.
"Hey, there you are. I had to come down and find the only sane one in the bunch." She finished righting the bag of cans and went to give him a hug. She felt her hands shake when she patted his back.
"That would be me."
When she pulled back she saw his big brown eyes were searching hers, and she felt the most idiotic need to start giggling. "Well, what are you doing down here away from all the nutcases? It's fun to point and make fun of them." She kept the smile on her face, though it was hard. She could feel her lips quiver. Glancing up at Dave's crooked, devil-may-care grin and his messy brown hair, she could almost believe she had heard him wrong.
Dave shrugged. "Business call."
Is that what it's called nowadays? "It's Thanksgiving. You shouldn't be making business calls."
"This is something I need to take care of today, so the call was unavoidable." He gave her a weak smile. "What time are you heading out of here tonight?"
"Um, I don't know yet," she said, wondering why he was asking her so early in the evening.
She was having such a hard time trying to think about what she had overheard, her brain was trying to shut down. This was Dave, for crying out loud. Dave! He had been known to get in a few fights at the local bar, and he hunted a bit, but he didn't kill people. She must have heard him wrong, that's all. She had merely heard him talking about an accident at one of his job sites and taken it out of context.
It could also be the reason he'd been so withdrawn the past few months. Hadn't she decided to confront him with it?
"Is everything okay down here?"
Chris turned toward the stairs and watched as Mike came down, followed by Gabe.
By the look of him, she could tell Gabe had some major issues. He looked as though he took everything too seriously, and though he might know what the concept of vacation was, he had never taken one.
"Just waiting to hear the dinner bell ring." She gave a simple laugh and looked back at Dave. For some reason she felt like an accomplice to a murder, and she probably looked it, too. She clasped her hands in front of her just to keep from fidgeting.
"Then wait no longer. Dinner is being set on the table as we speak." Mike cast a glance behind her. "Chris, why don't you run up and help Jess? We'll be right behind you."
Uneasiness rippled along her spine. She had no idea why, but she didn't move to leave. Did they know anything about what Dave had mentioned on the phone?
She stayed standing in front of Dave.
Chris looked behind her. Had someone said something? That was weird. She thought she had heard someone tell her to go upstairs, but no one had said anything.
"What?" she asked aloud.
"Dinner's ready," Jess called from upstairs.
"Chris, go upstairs. We would like to speak to Dave privately." Gabe gave her a tight-lipped smile.
She almost left, but instead of doing as he asked, she folded her arms across her chest. She wasn't leaving.
Gabe gave her a quizzical glance, and she decided to ignore it. She had no idea what was going on, but it was obvious something was wrong. She glanced at Dave, who stood just behind her. His features gave nothing away as he stared at Mike.
All four of them stayed where they were. It felt like a stand-off at high noon, and she was in the middle of the gunfight. Gabe and Mike stared at Dave, and she was certain Dave was doing the same from behind her. Chris had no idea what was happening, but she was afraid to leave Dave.
Chris plastered a smile on her face and took Dave's arm in hers. She wasn't sure how smart that move was, but it was Dave, and whatever she might have thought she heard, he was like a brother to her. He wouldn't hurt her.
Gabe, on the other hand, she didn't know a thing about. A cousin she'd never heard mentioned before? Not likely.
"Whatever you have to say I'm sure you don't mind saying in front of me."
She could tell she'd surprised Mike by the look on his face. She wasn't normally so assertive.
Gabe didn't show any indication of having heard her.
"Chris, I'm only going to tell you this one more time. Get your ass upstairs. Now." Mike didn't take his gaze off of Dave as he gave her that order.
She kept her feet rooted to the floor. Mike had never spoken to her like that before. His tone confirmed her fears. Something was seriously wrong.
Dave gently took her arm from his. "Go upstairs."
She finally lost her smile. The façade of normality was completely gone. "What in the world is going on? I'm not going anywhere until one of you tells me." Mike and Dave had been friends for years. Why were they acting this way?
Mike ignored her and said to Dave, "The only reason you're still breathing is because you weren't going to hurt her. It shows you have some sort of decency. Still, you're a threat, and my kind doesn't like threats. Bottom line, little brother? You're not leaving this house alive."
Chris's eyes widened. What the hell?
Dave leaned forward. "How dare you speak to me of decency. Your kind doesn't like threats? What the hell do you think you are? You're a threat to humanity, and my kind can't allow your kind to live."
Chris had barely digested that bit of information before Dave pulled her against his chest.
She heard the distinct sound of a click at her right temple.