Authors: Susan Hayes
Paladin Protection Agency 3
Sometimes everything has to go wrong so fate can make it right.
Valentina Farro is used to being the hunter, not the hunted, but when a vampire marks her for death, everything changes. Now one of Paladin’s fiercest warriors is fighting for her life and the lives of her Paladin family.
It should have just been another assignment, but nothing goes according to plan when the vampire Aedan Doyle is hunting leads him around the world and into Valentina’s life. Determined to keep Val safe from the vampire’s vengeance, Aedan appoints himself as Val’s personal bodyguard. Then he makes sure he’s guarding her beautiful body up close and personal, every chance he gets.
As the body count rises, Valentina and Aedan’s new bond is tested to the breaking point. Trusting each other with their lives is one thing, but can two solitary warriors find the courage to trust each other with their hearts?
Contemporary, Paranormal, Vampires/Werewolves
Paladin Protection Agency 3
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
Copyright © 2013 by Susan Hayes
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62242-455-9
First E-book Publication: February 2013
Cover design by Christine Kirchoff
All cover art and logo copyright © 2013 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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For Neva, my most enthusiastic fan.
As always, to my parents for their love and support, and for Karen, the best friend I could ever have.
Paladin Protection Agency 3
Copyright © 2013
Something had Christoph in a seriously foul mood. Aedan couldn’t make out every word of the conversation he was listening in on, but he knew enough French to be certain that the vampire was cursing up a storm. In all the years that the Brethren had been tracking Christoph, his temper had become legendary, but this was something else again. The hunter grinned to himself as the end of the phone conversation was punctuated by the crash of something being thrown against a wall with considerable force.
“You certainly haven’t mellowed with age, have you?” Aedan muttered as he uploaded the audio file to an encrypted server and e-mailed an urgent request to have it translated. He shrugged to ease the tension that had crept into his shoulders as he’d hunched over his laptop. Spotting his movement, a smiling young woman crossed to his side.
” he thanked her, grateful that here at least, the residents spoke English. He’d been to France often enough he could manage to order a meal, but that was about it. Learning languages wasn’t really in his skill set. Maybe if he stayed in a country for more than a few days at a time he’d get the hang of it, but that wasn’t likely to happen. He was a hunter, and his life was spent chasing monsters.
His eyes landed on the notes he’d just made, and he ran a distracted hand through his hair, brushing the curls back as he grumbled to himself yet again about getting a haircut. With the schedule the Brethren had him on these days, he was lucky to manage to sit still long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee.
He’d only just finished a hunt in Berlin when he’d received orders to head to Spain to help in a hunt there. Being one of the Brethren’s few dhampir meant that Aedan and the others like him were often sent to hunt the vampires too dangerous for their human counterparts. It also meant they were rarely able to sit back and relax. “I really need to take a vacation soon,” he muttered into his coffee, “or my jetlag is going to become a permanent condition.”
After Spain, he’d had plans to take a few days off and head to the south coast, but another e-mail had sent him to France instead. Christoph had surfaced, and Aedan was the only veteran hunter in the area. It was rare for the older vampires to let themselves be tracked down so easily, and it had the organization of vampire hunters Aedan worked for more than a little uneasy. A vampire didn’t live very long if he wasn’t careful, and Christoph had been avoiding death at the Brethren’s hands for more than two centuries. He wasn’t just careful, he was obsessively so, and yet this time Aedan had gotten close enough to track down his cell number and have his phone tapped. Something had this paranoid vampire off his game.
“So what’s got your knickers in a twist, then?” Aedan asked the question aloud and leaned in to start typing away at the laptop. There were only two things Christoph was obsessed with, his personal safety and the small nests of fledglings he nurtured from time to time. It was a reoccurring pattern with him. He would vanish for decades only to reappear in the company of a group of new vampires. His children, he called them. Most vampires were antisocial creatures, rarely tolerating more than the occasional companion or two, but Christoph was an exception. He raised each nest like a family, keeping them close and mentoring them. Hunting normal fledglings was relatively simple because they were cocky and not yet in control of their new abilities. Hunting Christoph’s spawn was almost as difficult as hunting their damned sire.
Aedan had a gut feeling that if Christoph was this upset, then it had to concern a new group of fledglings. The vampire just didn’t care enough about anything or anyone else enough to go off the rails this way. And then there was the fact that until he’d reappeared last week, no one had known where Christoph had gone. He’d vanished over a year ago and there hadn’t been so much as a whisper or a clue as to where he’d gone to ground this time. With nothing to go on, the Brethren had simply done what they do best. They had continued to hunt the ones they could find and waited for the others to emerge from hiding. They always did, eventually.
“So where have you been, Christoph?” Aedan called up one of the few images they had of the vampire he was currently tracking. It was a hand-drawn sketch and more than a few decades old, but that didn’t matter. Vampires were undead, and that meant that their hair never grew and their features stayed just as they had been in life. Sketches and paintings weren’t perfect records, but they were the only way to capture a vampire’s likeness. For reasons no one had been able to scientifically explain, vampires cast no reflection and couldn’t be photographed.
An alert flashed on the laptop as Christoph made another call. Aedan only caught a few words, but it was enough to get him moving. Christoph had mentioned two words in English, “Seattle” and “Paladin.” Aedan didn’t know what Paladin was, but if they were on the vampire’s radar, they were going to need his help. The last time Christoph had been this angry, an entire village had been wiped from the face of the earth.
“Shit!” Val stared down at the remains of her cinnamon latte, now reduced to a sad puddle of caffeinated foam that pooled around her shoes. “This day just keeps getting better.” She leaned down and scooped the now-empty cup to toss it into the nearest trash bin. She didn’t have time to go back and order another one. Nick was waiting for his turn to stretch his legs, and she’d been gone too long already.
Val headed back to the car, her thoughts as dark and stormy as the sky overhead. What had started out as a promising day had turned into twelve hours of bad luck and misery with no end in sight. She’d had a romantic brunch date planned, only to get stood up. When she’d called to ask where he was, she’d gotten shunted straight to voice mail, and ten minutes later the coward had broken up with her by text message. After that, the day had gone to hell in a rocket-powered handcart.
The wind that ruffled her hair was heavy with the threat of rain, and she knew if she didn’t hurry, she’d be soaked by the coming squall. Spring in Seattle may be green and full of flowers, but it also came with more than a few heavy rainfall warnings. Surveillance was not Val’s favorite way to spend an evening, but at least she’d been assigned to a vehicle detail. She’d be snug and dry tonight. At least she would be if she got back before the weather broke. She started walking faster.
Tonight’s assignment was a straightforward protection detail, but a bout of flu had kept several members of Paladin home in bed, so she and Nick had found themselves seconded from Division S to help out. After months of dealing with werewolves and ghosts and other strange cases, safeguarding a rich socialite from her rabid fans felt more like babysitting than actual work.
As Val came around the corner, her instincts screamed a warning, and she froze. Something wasn’t right. The car was where she’d left it, carefully backed into an alleyway so that only the front end was visible, but it was empty.
Where the hell is Nick?