Authors: Jeannie Holmes
“Another new voice makes a compelling debut in the urban fantasy genre.… Holmes gives every indication of being a promising new talent with a great future ahead!”
—Romantic Times Book Reviews
“Fast-paced and full of action, the story never flags, from the discovery of the first body to the exciting [and violent] finale. The characters are fascinating and well developed, but plenty is left for the future: this has excellent potential as a series.”
“The author maintains a high level of suspense and nonstop action throughout the narrative.… Urban fantasy fans will savor this wonderful new addition to the genre, and this reviewer eagerly awaits the sequel,
—Bitten by Books
“A page-turning debut thriller with a strong female lead—who happens to be a vampire—Jeannie Holmes’s
is a unique and compelling paranormal police procedural, spiced with believable relationships, a wholly original vision of the vampire, and a strong statement on crimes of intolerance. Whether you like police procedurals, paranormal thrillers, or just a damn good read, you’ll love
—and develop a blood-craving for the next book in the series.”
award-winning author of
City of Dragons
“The Southern Gothic atmosphere in
seductively pulls you into a sultry world of vampires, ghosts, and bonds that run deeper than death. Holmes’s original take on the vampire mythology will leave you hungry for the next book.”
award-winning author of
A Night of Long Knives
shimmers with the mystical, dark energy of the undead—passionate, violent, and sexy as hell.”
, author of
“Alexandra Sabian, a take-no-crap Enforcer with the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation, battles racist humans, angry vampires, and enigmatic ghosts in her quest to bring a vampire killer to justice in this delightful debut. Scary, funny, and sexy,
is worth sinking your teeth into.”
, author of
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
A Bantam Books Mass Market Original
Copyright © 2011 by Jeannie Holmes
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and the rooster colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Cover design: Jae Song
Cover illustration: © Kris Keller
No matter how much we want to delude ourselves into believing writing is a solitary practice, no writer is ever truly alone. Most have at least some form of support system that acts as both a cattle prod and a security blanket as necessary. I am no exception. With that in mind, I would like to thank the host of usual suspects.
Thanks to my fabulous agent, Marian Young, for her enthusiasm, encouragement, and unwavering support. I can’t properly convey her awesomeness in this limited space.
A thousand thanks to my editor, Shauna Summers, for her sparkling personality, keen eyes, and boundless patience. Words can’t express my gratitude for all your hard work. Many thanks to all the hardworking individuals at Ballantine Bantam Dell who helped make
a reality. I may not know all of your names, but I’m humbled by your support and passion.
Extra-special thanks to Vicki Pettersson for being a good sport and letting me immortalize her in the pages of this book.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that the past year has
been a difficult one, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have survived had it not been for the dedication and love of some very special people. My eternal thanks and love always go to my family and my friends who kept me from completely losing my mind. There are a few special people to whom I would like to pay special thanks because they went above and beyond to help me keep it together and see this book published: Carolyn Haines, Michelle Ladner, Alexis Lampley, Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell, Ron O’Gorman, Theresa B., Debi, Miki, Raven, Skitty, and Theresa A. All of you saw me at my best and my worst, and you stuck by me.
Finally, to my husband, Mark … You’re still here, and you amaze me. I love you.
NO MOON SHONE IN THE SKY WHEN HE DUMPED THE
body. He hardly recognized the mangled mess before him as the vibrant young woman he’d known, even though their affair had been brief. Hair the color of darkest flames turned black with dried blood. A dull silver film encroached on the sparkling blue of her eyes.
Her jaw was marred by a dark smear as he traced its gentle curve. He pulled back and stuck his thumb in his mouth, coating his tongue with her blood. An electric charge jolted his spine. Memories that were not his own flickered through his consciousness, playing scenes from her life on the movie screen of his mind, until the film stopped in a crimson moment of violence.
The rags he’d used to wipe down the trunk and hide his fingerprints fell from his hand and greedily absorbed the blood pooling beneath the remains. Using his elbow, he slammed the trunk closed, blotting the macabre view from sight.
A falling star streaked across the glittering sky. He closed his eyes and made a wish he’d made a thousand times before. The vision of his wish coming true filled his mind.
“Soon.” His whisper sliced through the silent night like a blade. Without a second glance at the trunk-turned-tomb, he walked away.
ALEXANDRA SABIAN SEARCHED THE HALL OF RECORDS
for clues that would lead her to a killer. The only problem with her search was that she had no suspects, no witnesses, and the body had been buried for forty-one years.
Her father, Bernard Sabian, had been murdered in the spring of 1968, when she was only five. Someone had left his staked and beheaded body in a cemetery near her childhood home.
Simply because he was a vampire, like her.
At least that was her theory.
In the two weeks since she’d discovered she could access the Hall of Records—a metaphysical storehouse for the memories and experiences of every man, woman, and child who’d walked the face of the earth—she’d been searching through the records, trying to locate her father’s. She hoped once she did that she would uncover the clues she needed to find his killer.
It wasn’t an easy task she’d set for herself, considering her father was a lost soul, one of the wandering spirits who roamed the neutral zone between the physical and spirit realms. He claimed he’d chosen his fate, had traded his passage to the spirit world in favor of remaining in the Shadowlands. She couldn’t—she
accept that her father would willingly condemn
himself to an eternity of unrest and was determined to give him the peace he deserved.
And her quest began in the Hall of Records.
Crystals housed in a black granite access terminal projected the large screen before her. Names scrolled by in one column while the adjacent column held a series of numbers showing the location of a door that led to that person’s memory.
She hadn’t actually tried accessing anyone’s memory yet. The thought of viewing a stranger’s most intimate recollections made her skin crawl. It was a violation of the worst order. However, if it helped find her father’s killer, it was an issue she was willing to work around.
The screen flashed from white to red and bold black letters appeared:
“Damn it,” Alex muttered and dropped her head into her hands. Every time she sought her father’s name she met the same result. Varying the combination of search parameters hadn’t worked either. Perhaps his records truly were lost.
Sighing, she looked around the Hall. It had transformed since the first time she’d entered as a result of her experiments to manipulate this “reality.” What had been a single endless hallway had become a huge ornate multi-level rotunda. Countless doors lay hidden in shadows on each level of the massive round building. Large golden Corinthian-style columns supported each level, and she craned her neck to count ten floors before darkness consumed the topmost levels. Although moonlight streamed through a circular opening in the apex of the rotunda’s unseen dome, none of it reached the lower levels. The only light came from the screen in front of her and the softly glowing crystals beside each door.
“All I need are some crickets chirping in the background,” she said to no one in particular. She turned
her attention back to the screen, ready to try a different approach to her search.
Somewhere in the distant shadows overhead, a door opened and closed.
Alex jerked, reaching for a sidearm she didn’t possess. While she’d known others could access the Hall, she’d never been present when it happened. Forcing herself to relax, she waited to see if someone appeared or if she heard footsteps.
No noise broke the silence. No one showed themselves.
“Hello,” she called. “Is someone there?”
Only her echoed voice answered.
Frowning, Alex peered into the gloom overhead. Had she imagined it? No. She could feel unseen eyes watching her and sense a presence lurking in the darkness. A feeling of familiarity tickled her mind like a forgotten dream dancing at the edges of awareness.
A persistent, steady beeping sounded from her wrist. She checked her watch and sighed. It was time to leave the Hall behind and return to the real world.
Casting a final glance toward the hidden observer, she rose from her seat and headed for a simple wooden door nestled in a tiny alcove. A series of grinding noises behind her signaled the access terminal’s dissolution. It had taken several trips for her to become accustomed to the terminal’s disappearance when she was ready to leave. Without looking back, she knew the terminal and chair had dissolved and once more melded with the stone floor, leaving only smooth granite throughout the rotunda. Dim light filled the alcove as she opened the partially concealed door and stepped through.