Authors: Lisa Olsen
When the Sun Goes Down
Copyright © 2016 Lisa Olsen, all rights reserved.
Cover Image licensed by Depositphotos.com/yurizhuravov
This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, copied, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any other format or changed in any way, including the author’s name and title, and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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. The use of any real person, company or product names are for literary effect only and used without permission. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
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Mad props go to my beta readers Randi Pandi, Laveda Kasch, and Lisa High for tearing through the book so quickly. Chocolate covered thanks to my editing team – Beckie Pimentel of Lady Bex Editing Services for continuing to work with me through hard times, to Marilyn Weaver for her eagle eye for typos, and James Olsen for spotting those holes that just don’t make sense. Thanks to my street team for the continued love and support in sharing my promos around. You guys all rock!
“See if they’ve got any of those little Nilla Wafer cookies, would you?”
“Absolutely I will,” Bishop nodded, pressing a kiss to my temple in passing. His dark hair had grown longer again, parted on one side, but still neat and tidy. Same with his beard. I’d never thought I’d be attracted to a guy with a beard before, but Bishop kept it trimmed, and honestly, I didn’t think he was capable of a look I wouldn’t like.
He flashed me a quick grin before loping across the street to the gas station mini-mart. Neither one of us were strictly hungry, we’d fed before the flight from London, but I could never say no to Nilla Wafers. Thanks to the four-hour delay at Heathrow, there wasn’t much time left before dawn. There didn’t seem to be much point in unpacking since we’d be leaving for another flight right after the sun went down.
I’d gotten used to living out of a suitcase for the past year since leaving San Francisco and my job as Elder behind. Okay, so it wasn’t like Bishop and I had been backpacking from hostel to hostel, we’d stayed at some of the finest hotels and homes in the world. But I had to admit, this leg of the journey had me a little apprehensive. Not because the motel room’s mattress was a downgrade from my beloved Serta back home, we’d both sleep like the dead after dawn, but because I wasn’t looking forward to where we were headed.
I was still stewing over our destination when Bishop came back, his arms laden with goodies, both salty and sweet.
“What’s that?” I asked, when he pulled something out of the bag and tucked it away behind his back.
“Then why are you hiding it? Are you hoarding snacks? Why didn’t you just buy more?”
Bishop let out a snort. “I’m not hoarding snacks, Anja. I just picked up a little something for your birthday.” With that, he tucked it into his suitcase, out of sight.
Cripes, he’d done my birthday shopping at a gas station mini-mart? I snapped my mouth shut before the complaint leaked out. It wasn’t that I wanted expensive gifts, he’d treated me to more luxuries and thoughtful gifts in the past year than I’d received in my entire life. I surely didn’t need any fancy baubles, especially with how light we traveled. But it was the thought that counted – and a convenience store gift didn’t imply a whole heck of a lot of thought.
“You can take that pouty look off your face. I happen to have something special planned for your birthday,” he smiled, zipping up the suitcase.
I climbed up on the bed to grin back at him. “You do? Like what?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“What kind of a surprise? Did you get me that Tall Card game like they play on
?” That was small and portable, and we could play together or apart.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” His eyes flashed with mischief, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Ooh, that might be worth risking if it’s really good. Is it really good?”
“I’d say it’s fairly good, yes,” he replied, his faint smile letting me know he was pretty pleased with himself. That sneak! When had he gone out to buy something without me? That’s what I got for sleeping in until well after sunset on most nights.
“I don’t suppose you’d let me have it early?”
“Not a chance. It won’t kill you to wait until your birthday.”
“I guess you’re right,” I sighed, stealing his pillow to make a mound at the head of the bed. “Hey, now that we’re back in the States, we should all get together and have a big party back at the house once we’re done with the thing. You can invite your old Order buddies, and it’ll be good to catch up with Maggie and Tucker again.”
“What if I’m not ready to share you yet?” he asked, stretching out beside me, propping his head up with his arm on his pillow-less side.
“You’ve had me to yourself for a whole year.”
“Definitely not enough time,” he grinned, stealing a kiss before he dug through the plastic bag of goodies. He handed over my Nilla Wafers and opened a small bag of popcorn with his teeth. “You’ve missed everybody though, huh?”
“Of course, haven’t you?” I wasn’t bored with him, but we had been sort of in our own world traipsing across Europe and the Mediterranean, it was time to come home. Not that I felt a lick of guilt over leaving everyone behind. After such a rocky start, I’d craved every moment of that alone time with Bishop.
He didn’t seem to share the sentiment. “It’ll be good to catch up, but I have everything I need right here.” His hand splayed across my ribcage, thumb stroking the underside of my breast with the lightest caress. “Besides, it’s not like you don’t talk to them all the time.”
“Sure, I talk to Tucker about the security business all the time, and Maggie and Hanna are always sending me pics of wedding dress ideas, but Skype’s not the same. Don’t you want to meet Carter’s girl in person? The last I heard they were down in Atlanta. I wonder what kind of carrot I’ll have to dangle to get them to come visit?”
“I admit, I’m curious to meet the girl that leg shackled him, but no, I’m not burning to see Carter any time soon.” Bishop’s face twisted as though he smelled something rank. No matter what I did, those two never warmed up to each other.
“What if he promises not to call you Dumbo any more?” I suggested brightly, and he fell back against the bed in defeat.
“Alright, fine, we’ll do the big reunion if it makes you happy. But only because you’re the birthday girl and I can’t say no to you.” His fingers tangled with mine, and I recognized the heated look that came into his eyes.
“Oh? That sounds interesting. Tell me more about that,” I smiled, rolling onto my hip to face him.
“I’d rather show you.”
* * *
The sky was already pink by the time Bishop had shown me to his heart’s content, and luckily, the motel’s curtains did a bang up job cutting out the sunlight. We settled into bed with my head tucked into its usual spot on his shoulder, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, worried about what we’d find when we got there tomorrow.
“What’s the matter?” Bishop asked, his voice low and soothing in the darkness.
“I’m worried there might be snow when we get there.”
Not a lie...
Okay, so it wasn’t my biggest worry, but it was still on the list. “It still snows there in early March, right?”
“Probably, I think it snows there eight months of the year. So what if it does?”
“I’m not sure the rental car I got has four wheel drive.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered. I have plenty of experience driving in all road conditions.”
Of course he did. A guy didn’t live to be four hundred and sixty-six years old without picking up a few skills. That didn’t do anything to chase away my worries.
“Are you nervous about tomorrow night?”
He knew me all too well. “As a runner at Carousel.”
Bishop’s fingers traced lazy circles on my back. “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
“No, I promised we would, and we should. He needs our help. Could you honestly live with yourself if he died and there was something you could do to stop it?”
“Honestly?” Bishop let out a short huff of breath, protecting his middle before I made him pay. “I’m kidding. I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s just been so nice these past months having you all to myself. I guess I’m not all that good at sharing.”
“You’re not sharing
, you’re sharing my time. There’s a difference. Besides, it’ll be nice to see the others again. I wonder if Hanna and Mason will be sticking around after the thing?” And Rob. I hadn’t heard a peep from him since he’d said goodbye at Vetis. I knew from the grapevine that he’d worked for Remy in Toulac for a while, but then rumors that he’d gone back to California. Maybe that was part of the reason why we hadn’t gone home yet. In any case, I hoped it wasn’t too awkward seeing him again.
“I don’t know,” Bishop shrugged. “Last I heard from Mason, he wasn’t looking to resume his duties in the Order any time soon.”
“What about you?” We hadn’t talked about his returning to the Order either. We hadn’t talked much about plans beyond our next travel destination, and it’d suited us both fine until now. But this visit had me thinking about what the future might hold.
“I have more than enough to occupy my full attention right here,” he replied, giving me a one armed squeeze.
“I just hope Carys decides to play nice.” She was bound to be ornery after everything she’d lost.
“She won’t have much of a choice if I have anything to say about it,” he muttered, and I laid a soothing hand over his heart.
“You know she can’t do anything
bad. Thank Joss and all things holy she’s still under that compulsion not to come after us any more.”
“True,” he acknowledged. “I still think it’s a dumb idea to get together like this in the first place. Reunions with friends are one thing, but this... all those people in one room. Nothing good can come from this.”
good can come from this, that’s the whole point,” I insisted, my fears settling down after having vented them. “We’ll go do the thing and be out of there before the sun goes down, easy peasy. What could possibly go wrong?”
. Why did I feel like I’d just gone two rounds with the Hulk without a hulk-buster suit? I rolled my tongue around my mouth, tasting old blood. It was mine, but whatever wound I’d suffered had been long ago healed. I felt… shell-shocked was the best word for it. As though I’d missed some kind of great cataclysmic event and now there was nothing left but hollow silence.
Even before I opened my eyes, I smelled wood, both from the fire crackling in the hearth and the hard floor I found myself pressed against. Sneaking a peek, I noticed the rafters high above were also hewn from ginormous logs. So were the walls, and most of the furniture, which was pushed out of the center of the room where I lay. No wonder it smelled like a lumberjack’s paradise in there.
I didn’t recognize one bit of it. Where the heck was I and how had I gotten there?
An arm was slung across my waist from somebody behind me, and I wondered if I should risk slipping out from under it, or at least rolling over to take a look at whoever had me pinned down. Carefully, I turned enough, relaxing when I saw the guy was passed out, like I’d been.
Rolling over the rest of the way, I took a few minutes to study him. Cute wasn’t the right word for him. Definitely handsome and powerfully muscled. With more stubble on his jaw than on his closely shaven head, he looked a little rough around the edges, but no less appealing. His dark suit made me feel underdressed in my jeans and Team Cap t-shirt, though his shirt was rumpled, as though he’d been wearing it for a while.
Who was he? And what were we doing lying on the ground together? Had we conked out after a party? That might explain why my head felt like it was stuffed with soggy cotton. And while we were on the subject – who was I, exactly? I did a quick mental inventory and came up blank.
Oh sure, I could remember how to tie my shoes and recognize the fact that my shirt was blue and basics like that, but any real memories were nothing but a big black hole in my mind like they’d been sucked out by aliens.
And apparently, I believed in aliens.
The guy shifted, a low groan coming from him, snapping my attention back to the present. A deep furrow creased his brow, even in sleep, as though he’d never quite learned how to fully relax, and I had the sudden urge to reach out and smooth it away. I didn’t want to wake him though, I got the feeling he might not let me get so close once he opened his eyes. What color would they be?
They were hazel, and after a couple of blinks, they crinkled with warmth to see me.
“Hullo,” he said in a low, raspy voice, an accent bleeding into that single word. Cockney? Was I British?
“Hi,” I replied with a faint smile. Nope, no such luck. I sounded like a boring old American.
“Sorry, miss.” His tone was apologetic as he took his arm off of me, and I was quick to set his mind at ease.
“No, it’s fine. But, um... Do I know you?”
His mouth opened and then closed again, as if he wasn’t sure of what he was going to say before the furrow between his brows grew more pronounced. “Ain’t rightly sure, do you?”
“I’m not sure either,” I admitted. “Do you know me?”
“If I say yes can I put my arm back?” he replied with the barest twitch of a smile, making me laugh.
“That all depends, can you tell me where we are and how we got here?”
His eyes flicked up to the walls. “Now there you have me, I couldn’t say,” he admitted, running his hand over his face as he sat up. I tried to follow, pushing myself up to a sitting position, but a wave of dizziness made me rethink the wisdom of that idea. Instantly, he moved to support me, keeping me from keeling over and cracking my head on the floor.
“Careful now, no need to go off half-cocked. We’ve time enough to figure this out. Take it easy, miss.” His hand rubbed up and down my arm, and I stared up at him, the weirdest feeling of deja-vu coming over me. Somehow I felt like he’d comforted me before, and I relaxed under his touch. “There now,” he went on in his gravelly voice, the accent sliding over me like a warm hug. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“That’s just it, I don’t remember anything.” I took in a deep, calming breath, trying not to panic. “I have no idea who I am or what I’m doing here. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast. What about you? What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Couldn’t say, but I ain’t complaining about where I woke up,” he added with another one of those half smiles.
“Then this isn’t your place?”
“Don’t seem like my style, but I could be wrong, I suppose. I take it nothing seems familiar to you?”
Now that I had a better chance to look around, it reminded me of one of those huge lodge style homes you see in the mountains. The fireplace was massive, the rocky facade stretching all the way to the ceiling and taking up half the wall. The vaulted ceiling was crisscrossed with huge beams. All of the windows were shuttered closed except for two up high near the roof that reminded me of those windows from
The Amityville Horror
, the ones that look like eyes. All I could tell about the outside world was that it was dark out there.
“Not a thing.”
“Ah well, maybe one of our mates here will be a bit more forthcoming once they wake,” he said, nodding his head in the direction of the other people still passed out on the ground. “That bloke there’s bound to be the life of the party.”
The man in question was stark naked, curled up in the fetal position in the center of the room. His back was turned to us and all I could see of him, besides the fact that he obviously worked out and had no tan lines, was a mane of golden hair almost the same shade of mine.
“I guess it could’ve been worse, huh? I could’ve woken up naked.”
“Wouldn’t exactly call that worse,” he murmured, patting himself down and drawing out a slim leather wallet. “Says here I’m Rob Evans, and I’m from San Francisco,” he said with a slight frown. “Relocated, I imagine.”
“Good gravy, why didn’t I think of that?” I snorted, checking my own pockets. I had a Starfleet insignia money clip with a small wad of bills and a California driver’s license clipped to it. “Cool beans, I exist,” I grinned, studying the picture. “My name is Anja Evans, and I’m also from San Francisco,” I said, my brows rising at the implication. “Evans, huh?” It was a fair bet we weren’t related, he didn’t look a thing like me, and we sounded completely different.
Rob leaned over and glanced at my ID. “Address is the same. I reckon we know each other then.”
“Pretty well, I’m guessing, if we live together.” My gaze slid down to the ring on my finger, the diamond winking up at me in the glow from the fireplace. And then it hit me out of nowhere, a flash of memory of the two of us.
“I, um, got you something for Christmas,” I said, more to get him to look at me again than anything else. Not that I had an actual gift to give him, but I had something in mind that we’d both wanted for a long time.
The ploy worked, the lines around his eyes eased and he looked up with a playful grin. “Did you now? I’ve got something for you as well.”
“Sure, give me a sec and I’ll fetch it.”
The moment he was gone, I cast my eyes around the room, looking for a prop for what I had in mind, but there wasn’t anything suitable. All too soon he was back, a small box covered in scuffed brown leather in his hand.
Just like that, the snippet of memory was gone, but I had an idea that it’d been an intimate moment between us. Had there been an engagement ring in that little leather box?
“I think we’re married,” I ventured.
“Married?” His brows stretched skyward, his gaze dropping to the ring on my finger and his own hand which was most definitely bare of any jewelry. “How do you figure?”
“Well, we both live at the same place, our last name is Evans, and I just had a flash of memory with you giving me a little jewelry box that might’ve had a ring inside.”
“You remember me then? It’s starting to come back?”
“Not much, but we were definitely
, together, from the way I remembered it.”
“Married,” he said, not looking too thrilled with the idea, and I tried to keep from frowning.
“What’s the matter? Am I not your type?”
“No, that’s not it,” he said quickly, swearing under his breath before he rubbed his face with his hands. “Blimey, I’m making a fuckery of this. I just... It’s a big assumption to make. We don’t rightly know what we are to each other.”
“Well, the memory I had wasn’t at all sisterly, and we don’t sound alike. For all I know, you’re my step dad or something and I just have a crush on you, but it felt like... like I wanted you to give me a ring in that moment.”
“Married,” he repeated, sounding a bit easier with it. “I don’t know that I feel like the sort to be leg shackled. But if I was, I suppose being married to you is a bit of alright.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said with a sour smile, nudging his knee with mine, and he smiled back, picking up my hand.
“I reckon there could be worse things than to wake up married to a cracking girl like you.”
“The things you say,” I laughed, and he got an odd look on his face. “What?”
“Nothing. Just... almost had something and now it’s gone.” He shook his head as if to clear it.
A low groan sounded from one of the partygoers in the room, drawing my attention back to our circumstances. “Maybe we should check on sleeping beauty there and make sure he’s okay,” I suggested, feeling a lot steadier as I rose up on my knees and climbed to my feet.
“As you wish,” Rob agreed equably, crouching down beside the naked guy after he was sure I wouldn’t lose my balance again. “He’s out cold,” he reported, pressing two fingers to his neck. “Pulse is steady and strong, bit of a fever maybe, it’s hard to tell.”
I grabbed a quilt off the couch and covered him up with it more to protect my sense of modesty than his. Then I could look at him without blushing like a schoolgirl. He was gorgeous, with strong, Nordic features and wild, golden hair that fell past his shoulders. He was also drooling onto the floor, a small puddle spreading beneath his lips.
“Maybe we should put him up on the couch or something so he’s more comfortable?” I suggested, and Rob lifted him without complaint, easily carrying him to the sofa pushed against the edge of the room. Once he was moved, I noticed a circle of chalk drawn around his body. Not like a dead body outline, just a regular circle, and another wider circle around the perimeter of the room. There were runes drawn in the center of the circle, but what they meant was beyond me.
“Hey, do you know what these symbols mean?” I asked once he’d gotten the golden guy settled on the couch.
Rob came over to hunker down beside them, his fingers tracing across the floorboards, rubbing his fingers where the chalk came off on them. “Nah, can’t say as I do.” So much for solving that mystery. “Must’ve been some party,” he added with a pointed look at another guy (also passed out), who I hadn’t noticed was chained to the wall.
Not like in manacles or anything, but one hand was cuffed with a pretty heavy duty metal bracelet to an old iron ring set into the rock wall beside the fireplace. He slumped against the wall with an arm suspended overhead, his hand a pale white from lack of circulation. Sandy blonde hair curled around his ears, his lips surprisingly full and soft in an otherwise masculine face. Dressed in a navy blue cashmere sweater over gray tailored pants and shiny black shoes with tassels, he looked like he was ready for the country club, not S&M games at a hunting retreat. I didn’t recognize him either.
“Yikes. That can’t be comfortable,” I frowned, wondering if I should try and wake him up before he risked permanent damage to his hand. “Maybe we should...”
Rob blocked my way as I took a step toward the guy. “Somebody locked him up for a reason. Best not to mess with him until we find out what that reason is.”
“Yes, but his hand...”
“I’ll see what I can do, but you stay behind me.” Rob approached him warily, bodily lifting the guy until he slumped in the other direction, his weight supported by his back, not his trapped arm. “There, that’ll have to do for present.”
Another groan came from across the room, and I turned to the other two people sprawled on the floor. One was a girl with blonde hair, younger than me, but hard to tell by exactly how much since her elaborately curled hair and make-up were heavy enough for a night out on the town. She wore a slinky dress of fire-engine red, and plenty of diamonds around her throat. Her lips were stained the same color as the dress, and pulled into a pout even in her sleep. She didn’t look like anyone I’d be friends with by any stretch of the imagination; next to her I was the one dressed like a grubby teen.
The other guy lay sprawled at the edge of the room, lying half on and half off a ruined coffee table, as though he’d landed on it. His arm lay crumpled under him at an unnatural angle. He was beautiful to look at, with his neatly trimmed beard framing a strong jaw, a perfectly straight nose, and thick lashes fanned out against the tops of his cheeks. His charcoal gray shirt was stretched over an impressive chest, and his jeans hugged his backside in a way that made me stop and stare for a minute. I was married, not dead.