Authors: Christine DePetrillo
Tags: #romance, paranormal,spicy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
2012 by Christine DePetrillo
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Black Rose Edition, 2012
Published in the United States of America
“If you’re in the mood for a cozy fire, a cup of cocoa and a hot romance, you don’t need to go any further than
~Long and Short Reviews (5 Books)
“This is a great book. Christine DePetrillo really takes the readers on a trip to Alaska, and on a ride on a whirlwind romance. I recommend that you go and buy this book. You won’t be disappointed.”
~Happily Ever After Reviews
(5 Tea Cups, a Recommended Read)
“There are only a handful of characters in the novel and, by making sure that each is well developed and integral to the plot, DePetrillo gives the story a cozy feel.”
~RT Book Reviews (4.5 Stars)
“A magical gem, a yummy doctor, a spunky archeologist and a very bad man all combine to make this a real page-turner.”
~The Romance Reviews
“The characters are likable, the romance was smoldering, and the pacing was excellent. Anyone looking for a great adventure story with a happy ending will not be disappointed.”
~Long and Short Reviews
To the OC gals
Holly Brimmer stared at the dead body resting in the grass in her backyard. She knew it wasn’t truly human, but shit, it sure looked like a real person. This one was actually good-looking. His rusty brown hair was only slightly matted with dried, greenish blood. Must not have put up too much of a struggle. His skin wasn’t that post-life purplish color yet either. He still appeared fresh, as if he might pop open his eyes and say, “Just kidding! I’m not dead.”
But that wasn’t going to happen. This fellow had definitely taken his last twirl on the carousel of life.
She inhaled the summer-heated air and exhaled slowly.
How did I end up here?
“I don’t know why you insist on burying them, Holly. Demons only last eighteen hours after death, and I like to burn the bodies before then anyway.”
The mere sound of his voice tensed every muscle in her already stress-beaten body. If she could take back one horrible decision, Keane Malson would be it.
Keane leaned on the threshold of the back porch door. If he stood up straight, his head nearly hit the top. For a man of his size, he moved like a butterfly—absolutely no sound whatsoever. The snake tattoo circling his left bicep twitched as he folded his arms across his chest. Holly loved snakes, but that one slithering in black ink across his pale flesh confused her. She wanted to stay away from it and inspect it more closely at the same time.
Stay away from it, Holly. Snakes bite and Keane probably does, too.
Sifting out another slow, even breath, she glanced toward him.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“As if you’re having second thoughts.”
Second thoughts? Try fiftieth, at least
. Too late now for take-backs or do-overs. She was stuck with him. All part of the deal.
A lousy deal now that she had thought about it some. Glancing down at the body again, she wondered what had possessed her to agree to such a bargain. Fear, pain, stupidity? A little of all three?
“Demons don’t need burying.” Keane stepped out onto the back porch, careful to stay in the shade. “They’re killers.”
“Shut up.” Teeth clenched, she sank her shovel into the grass and cut into the soft earth. The grave was easy to dig because she kept reusing the same spot. He was right. Demons didn’t
burying. Every time she opened up the two-foot deep rectangle, only ash remained of the previous demon.
Still, she couldn’t stop herself. The demon body had started out as a human. It got cheated out of a proper burial the first time when possession occurred. Didn’t the human that once owned that body deserve a decent send-off?
“Holly.” Without a whisper of noise, he walked to the edge of the porch. He wouldn’t go any farther. “I told you this wasn’t going to be easy. I warned you.”
“I know, I know. While I was half-conscious. Just go inside, okay?” She hated when he watched her.
“I’m doing the world a favor by getting rid of these demons. I kill for you.”
She cringed. “Right, thanks.” She didn’t turn around until she was sure the back door had closed.
Alone now—well, if you didn’t count the deceased at her feet—she leaned her chin on the handle of the shovel. Good thing she lived in the middle of Virginia—in the middle of freaking nowhere—without meddling neighbors to see what she was doing. Only the crows watched, shaking their sleek, black heads at her from the fence posts. They knew what she was doing, what Keane had done. They knew it wasn’t right. The universe had a natural order, and she wasn’t playing by the rules.
“Shoo!” She flapped her arms to scare the crows away. They all scattered, but they’d be back. They always came back to hold court, to accuse.
She dug the rest of the grave in silence. Sweat trickled down her face, into her eyes, down her back. She desperately needed a drink, but she wasn’t about to go inside and run into Keane if she didn’t absolutely have to. The less she was around him, the better.
The corpse made a sickening thud when she muscled it into the empty grave. Dead bodies—even dead demon bodies—were so heavy, so uncooperative. She got a good whiff of decaying flesh. Apparently her guest
was not as fresh as he appeared. Shouldn’t demons smell less organic? Hard to believe this body would be ash in a few hours.
Fighting back a dry heave, she shoveled the dirt over the body and rolled the grass back into place. Standing over the grave, she said, “May your next incarnation be filled with every happiness.” She had no idea if demons destroyed human souls, but she wished the souls well, just in case they got another chance.
She reached into the pocket of her long sundress and pulled out the rose petals she’d stashed there. Letting the bright pink petals flutter to the grass like velvet feathers, she kept back the flood of tears that always threatened to cascade out. She used to be so normal. She missed normal.
By the time she hosed off her shovel and stowed it away in the shed, a light rain sprinkled over the grave. Couldn’t hide outside any longer. After knocking the dirt out of her work boots, she climbed the steps to the porch and pulled open the back door. Keane sat at the kitchen table with a map spread out in front of him. She knew what he was doing. The same thing he had been doing since he came to her and ruined her summer vacation.
She poured herself a glass of lemonade, dumped it back into the pitcher, and took out a bottle of wine instead. If she had to be cooped up inside with Keane, she was going to be good and liquored about it. She wished he would have some wine. Then maybe he wouldn’t be so dark and sullen all the time.
Don’t feel bad for him,
she warned herself. He didn’t need her pity, and she wasn’t going to start thinking he had feelings. She was better off regarding him as the demon killer he was.
She slid out the chair across from Keane and sat with her wine glass. She could have gone into another room, but what was the point? Her farmhouse wasn’t enormous. They’d eventually cross paths.
“Where are you going next?” she asked.
He turned the map around so she could see it.
He reached under the map and pulled out today’s newspaper. After flopping it on top of the map, he pointed to the story he’d circled.
She read the headline. “ ‘Police Suspect Tag-Team Serial Killing in Seattle.’ ”
“Demons. No doubt. Figured I’d take them down.” He sat back in his chair. If their arrangement had been different—if Keane wasn’t whatever he was—she would have been into a guy with his appearance. Jet-black hair flopped carelessly atop his head, and a shadow of a dark beard framed his jaw and mouth—his lusciously full mouth that rarely curled up into a smile. She couldn’t ignore the sharp blue eyes that spent a great deal of time silently studying her or the taut muscles that rippled under his T-shirt. Any woman would have paid big bucks for Keane’s long eyelashes and smooth skin.
“Stop that,” he said. “You know better.”
She shook her head. “Sorry.”
She did know better than to check him out. Keane wasn’t an option. Maybe if the only other bodies she’d seen in weeks hadn’t been dead ones, she wouldn’t be so drawn to him.
Not that he was alive. Not really.
Keane didn’t like seeing her look so…so hungry. It made him hungry, too. It also made him feel responsible and he wasn’t. Holly had made the choice. True, he had been the one to offer it to her, but she could have said no. He actually had wanted her to say no. In all his centuries—all the way back to the fourth century B.C. to be exact—no one ever had said no. He couldn’t blame them. Everyone wanted a second chance.
When he first met Holly in mid-June, she was tangled with the twisted metal of her car on the side of a rain-slicked road about five miles from her home. A cell phone was in her palm, and her organs were failing as sirens echoed in the distance. She’d be dead before they reached her.
“Holly,” he whispered in her ear.
She gurgled over the blood pooling in her throat.
He traced a finger down what remained of her left arm. “Holly, you don’t have to die.”
Her glazed eyes searched his face. Even with her flesh shredded away from her cheek, she was beautiful. More beautiful than anyone he’d ever met in his lonely, endless time on the planet.
“I can save you.”
She snaked her right arm around her stomach and grabbed onto his hand with a strength that surprised him. She managed to nod.
“It comes with a price. A pretty heavy one.”
She nodded again and coughed up a mouthful of blood onto his arm. Holly blinked and writhed in a sudden burst of pain. Her half-conscious gaze dug into Keane.
“I can’t take it back once you’ve agreed.”
Her hand tightened on his as she drew in a sharp breath that never got exhaled. Her pulse crawled to a stop as her grip loosened. Blood drizzled from her nose. The life left her.
She hadn’t verbally said yes. Keane always made sure they did, but with Holly, he couldn’t walk away. Her eyes, which must have been a vibrant green when not seconds from closing forever, had stirred something indescribable inside him. Something he had long since resigned to live without. Something he’d shut off to keep others safe.
The sirens screamed closer. He didn’t have much time. Gripping the door frame, Keane tore the front of Holly’s car off with his bare hands like a sheet of paper from a spiral-bound notebook. Ripping metal screeched, echoed off the walls of rock on either side of the highway, but Holly didn’t stir. Her lifeless body slumped against the bloodstained car seat until Keane placed his hands on her chest. Heat built between her chest and his hands. Flashes of energy sparked, then a shockwave of hot, white light zipped throughout Holly’s body. Air instantly filled her lungs, bones snapped back into place, skin knitted over deep wounds. Within moments, her eyes were open, and she got up from the car seat without any help.