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Authors: Amanda Stevens

Dark Obsession

BOOK: Dark Obsession
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Was he her protector? Or a predator…

It was the final glimpse Erin Ramsey would have of her sister: Megan's body, drained of blood, lying lifeless in a New York alley. Tormented by the fact that she hadn't been there when her sister needed her, Erin promises herself that she'll find Megan's killer.

Detective Nicholas Slade tells Erin to go home, back to California. He says he doesn't want her to be the murderer's next victim. But his warning comes too late. Erin is already in danger, in thrall to a man who cloaks himself in shadows and haunts her nightmares.

Erin is desperate to find her sister's murderer—and desperate to avoid becoming his prey—but she feels her own life spinning out of control as the silver-eyed specter from her dreams lures her deeper into his world. Nick may be the only one who can help her, but she's afraid to trust him. Her deep attraction to the secretive detective is tinged with fear. He only works the night shift. He wears sunglasses in the dark. And he may have been the last person to see Megan alive…

Previously published.

“I can take care of myself,” Erin assured Nick.

“Can you?” he asked.

There was something in his tone—a faint challenge—that made Erin grow even more uneasy. She glanced around the darkened hallway. There was no one about. She was completely alone with a man who made her tremble, a man who made her think of moonlight and madness. Of secrets and whispers and promises that could only be told in the dead of the night.

She looked at him, telling herself that she couldn’t be feeling this pull, this strange attraction for a man who seemed to embody her deepest fears. Her darkest nightmares.

What kind of woman would be drawn to the thing that frightened her most?

Amanda Stevens
knew at an early age that she wanted to be a writer, and began her first novel at the age of thirteen. While majoring in English at Houston Community College and the University of Houston, she was encouraged to write a romance novel by one of her instructors, who was himself writing a historical. Her first romance was sold to Silhouette Intimate Moments in 1985. Amanda lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband of sixteen years and their five-year-old twins.

DARK OBSESSION

AMANDA STEVENS

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

PROLOGUE

D
rake D’Angelo woke up suddenly, the realization that it was almost dark and he was starving coming upon him. Soon, he comforted himself. Soon he would taste again the sweet red nectar that he had been deprived of for too many years.

He licked his lips in anticipation as he got up and strolled out to his balcony. The soft twilight fell around him, blanketing him with the cool comfort of the approaching night. This was his favorite time, this tenuous moment right after sunset when the world came alive with the darkness, when the night stretched before him like an endless dream. How he had missed it during those eight years when he had lain deep underground, sleeping the sleep of the dead while the wounds that had nearly destroyed him healed.

He hated the dawn. Hated being trapped by the prison of daylight, but he wouldn’t think about that now. Not when the darkness was calling to him so strongly. Not when he had been waiting so impatiently for the night.

Not when revenge finally lay within his grasp.

Visions raced before his eyes, and he let himself remember that night eight years ago—a mere moment
in time for one such as he. The heat had been suffocating, stinging his eyes and searing his skin as the inferno raged around him. The flames had licked at the tattered drapery and rotting floors of his mansion as the fire consumed everything in its path.

He closed his eyes at the remembered terror. The agony! The excruciating pain as the fire caught at his clothing and ate at his flesh. He could still hear Simone’s screams as her long, silken hair blazed like a halo around her glorious face. Within seconds she had been gone, destroyed, her loveliness nothing but a memory.

And all because of one man.

His enemy.

An unworthy rival who had thought to destroy him, but like the legendary phoenix, Drake had risen from the ashes of death. He had survived the torment. He had lived to seek his vengeance against the man who had taken away the one woman who would have been Drake’s mate through eternity. His one great love. He had waited centuries for her, and now she was gone.

“Simone.” He whispered her name agonizingly in the gathering darkness. There was only one way to ease the pain of her memory. Only one way to avenge her loss.

Death.

Each one would make him feel stronger. Would take the edge off his loneliness. Would give him a sense of justice in an unjust world.

They would give him a little something to look forward to night after night, he thought, smiling. Each death, each “kill,” would torment his nemesis as once the pain had tormented Drake. The kills would take everything away from his rival as Simone had been taken away from Drake. And he had found the perfect way to once and for all destroy his enemy. Nicholas Slade’s pathetic little crusade was about to come to an end.

And so he would go out again tonight, in his new identity, to a club where others like him met. A place where he could see but not be seen. A place where the unsuspecting were so easily seduced by the darkness. He would go there because that was where Slade would be.

Tonight his revenge would begin in earnest.

Drake smiled as his hunger sharpened. He could hardly wait. “I’ll see you in hell, Slade,” he whispered.

CHAPTER ONE

D
etective Nicholas Slade knelt and touched the dead woman’s chin. With his fingertip, he tilted her head, glanced at the bruise marring an otherwise flawless cheek, then let his gaze move downward to her neck.

He studied her perfect features in the dim glow cast by a distant street lamp. She was a beautiful woman. Or had been, he corrected himself. Early twenties. Tall. Slender. Long black hair. And even though her eyes were closed, Slade knew they were blue. Deep, dark, soul-piercing blue.

Megan Ramsey had been a knockout. A real heart-breaker.

Abruptly Slade stood. From behind his sunglasses, he gazed down at the corpse, never taking his eyes off the body even when the other detective on the scene came up beside him.

“Orders came down from the top, Slade. We had to call you.” There was a trace of resentment in Gabriel Abrams’s voice, but Slade ignored it. His involvement over the last eight years with a special task force set up by Commissioner Thomas Delaney had ruffled a lot of feathers within the New York City Police Department, due in large part to the veil of secrecy from under which the group operated.

Code-named the Mission, the task force’s primary function was to investigate and eliminate the dark, evil elements that stalked the city’s streets—elements that most people thought only existed in their nightmares.

Each member of the Mission had been carefully recruited over the years by Commissioner Delaney because of a special trait, ability or background that made him or her uniquely qualified to serve in the secret organization. The Mission’s ranks expanded far beyond the New York City Police Department, though. Slade had no idea who all the members were or where they had come from. He only knew what his own particular area of expertise was. And why.

“You did the right thing,” he told Gabe. “Anyone else know about this?”

“Just the two blues who were on the scene first.” Gabe’s breath frosted in the night air as he gazed down at the body. “Her name’s Megan Ramsey. An actress. We got a positive ID from her sister.”

It would have been the perfect time to mention he already knew the victim’s name. It would have been the logical time to admit that he had seen Megan Ramsey just last night, that he had warned her to stay away from a club that attracted the dark side of the city, but he didn’t. Like so many others, she had refused to listen to him, and now she lay dead at his feet.

Slade shoved his hands deep inside the pockets of his long black coat. “Any witnesses?”

“None that bothered to stick around.”

Thank God for small favors, Slade thought. If the citizens of this city had even an inkling as to the real terrors out there in the darkness—

He cut off his own thoughts as he nodded toward a stooped figure in a tan overcoat hovering around the fringes of the cordoned-off area. “Who’s the old guy?”

“Name’s Traymore. Dr. Leonard Traymore. He’s a retired archaeologist doing some kind of research at NYU. He was a little vague on exactly what, though,” Gabe said dryly. “Says he heard a commotion and came out to investigate. He’s the one who called the station, but he claims he didn’t see a thing.” Gabe hesitated, then said in a low, anxious tone, “What the hell’s going on here, Slade?”

“What do you mean?”

Gabe stamped his feet, trying to keep warm as the wind sharpened. “Look at those marks on her neck. They look like some kind of a bite, but there’s no blood anywhere. No sign of a struggle.”

Slade stared at Gabe from behind his sunglasses. “So what are you saying, Abrams? That we’ve got a crazed vampire on the loose?”

“Hell, no. I’m saying we may have some crazed psycho on the loose who
thinks
he’s a vampire. Eighty-seventh had a werewolf last year, remember?
Four bodies ripped apart in the park before the perp was apprehended. And the year before that, it was human sacrifices down by the river. The world is full of crazies, Slade. This guy’s a real Looney Tunes.”

“What makes you so sure it’s a man?” Slade asked quietly.

Gabe looked startled, then grinned irreverently. “I’ve met some bloodsucking women in my time—my ex-wife included—but nothing like this. No. This is a man’s job. Some crazy bastard getting his jollies. And by the looks of her, she didn’t put up much of a fuss.”

Slade stared down at Megan Ramsey, seeing again the perfect, flawless creature at his feet. She wore a black beaded evening dress and silk stockings. One of her shoes had come off and lay several inches from the body. Leaves dotted her dark hair as artfully as if she’d arranged them there herself. The black lashes showed starkly against her white cheekbones, and her full red lips curved upward in a tiny secretive smile. If possible, she looked even more beautiful in death.

A shudder ripped through Slade. He could almost hear the echo of Megan Ramsey’s laughter in the wind. Or was that Simone’s?
“Kiss me, Nick. Just one last kiss…”

“Has anyone else said anything about the marks on her neck?” he abruptly asked Gabe.

“I don’t think so. The blues were too busy admiring her body. They’re used to winos and druggies
who, shall we say, have already passed their prime when the Grim Reaper comes to call. They don’t get to see too many corpses that look like her.”

“What a shame,” Slade remarked sarcastically. He raked his fingers through his short crop of hair, then looked around, uneasy. It was getting colder. Colder and foggier. In the distance, a siren sounded, but the tiny plot of backyard where they stood remained eerily silent. Deadly calm. Mist swirled over the beautiful corpse like a gossamer shroud.

“The sister’s still hanging around if you want to talk to her,” Gabe suggested, nodding toward the steps of the apartment building. “She’s been here the whole time.”

Slade had noticed the woman sitting on the back steps the moment he’d arrived. She wore jeans and some sort of flimsy-looking sweater, and he could see her shivering from cold and shock. She looked fragile, like a crystal figurine that could too easily be shattered.

He tried to look away, but his gaze kept going back to her. The way she sat there, with her shoulders slumped and her hand clutching something to her chest, she looked so forlorn. So lost. Even from the distance across the yard, he could sense her grief, could almost touch it in the air between them. Like a dark and heavy cloak, it settled over them both, drawing them closer, binding them together against his will.

BOOK: Dark Obsession
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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