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Authors: Kate Douglas

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Hellfire

BOOK: Hellfire
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Hellfire
Kate Douglas

 

 

KENSINGTON BOOKS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

All copyrighted material within is
Attributor Protected.

 

ZEBRA BOOKS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

To
Doug for…well, everything.
But most of all, for making me laugh.

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

I remember thinking—back in my
saner days—how much fun it would be to write books. What could be easier than
sitting down and allowing the words to go directly from my brain, through my
fingers, to the page, just the way my favorite authors did?

Little did I know how many
hours of work went into their books—the books I devoured over the course of an
evening. My sincere thanks go to the wonderful people who take my stories and
make the books happen—to my fantastic agent, Jessica Faust of BookEnds LLC, my
wonderful editor, Audrey LaFehr, her ever-patient and multiskilled assistant,
Martin Biro, Kensington’s truly talented art department, the publicists, sales
personnel and production people…all of them so good at what they do, and so
patient with those of us who love to write the stories but haven’t got a clue
how the rest of the process really works.

Thanks also to my great
beta-readers—the ones who take my flawed first drafts, tell me what needs
fixin’, and do it without making me feel like a complete idiot. On this
project, those intrepid souls were Rose Toubbeh, Karen Woods, Rhonda Wilson,
Jan Takane, Treva Harte, Amanda Haffrey, and my agent, Jessica Faust. It really
does take a village to create a book, and I’m blessed to exist in one of the
very best villages around. Thank you, all of you.

I want to add a special thanks
to reviewer Suzie Housley, who, way back when, read one of my very first
e-published romances and said she just knew I’d make it. Suzie, I may not “be
there” yet, but I’m working on it!

Foreword

 

The Legend of Lemuria…

 

Thousands of years ago, the
continent of Lemuria disappeared beneath the sea, much in the manner of the
lost continent of Atlantis. However, unlike the Atlanteans, Lemurians are not
considered lost—legend says they relocated their entire society to a sanctuary
deep within the dormant volcano known as Mount Shasta in the rugged mountains
of northern California.

Much has been written about
these tall and graceful beings, of their great intelligence and beauty, their
advanced technology and supernatural abilities, but no actual proof of their
existence has ever been discovered.

That doesn’t mean, of course,
that they’re not really there, living in quiet splendor in their cities of
gold, deep within
Mount
Shasta. Nor does it mean
they’ve not had their interactions with humans.

Actually, Lemurians have
maintained a peaceful and entirely nonviolent civilization in a separate
dimension within the volcano for millennia, though many among them are
beginning to recognize the importance of keeping Earth’s population safe to
protect their own secretive society—a society that has kept secrets even from
its own citizens.

Now, when demonkind from Abyss
threaten not only Earth but all worlds in all dimensions—including
Lemuria—descendants of ancient Lemurian warriors are once again taking up arms
in the ages-old battle between good and evil.

Chapter One

 

Ginny Jones wrapped a clean
kitchen towel around her torn fingers and glared at the screeching cat she’d
finally managed to shove into the carrier.

Her cousin Markus leaned over
her shoulder and sighed.
“Poor Tom.
I sure hope he’s
not rabid.”

“No shit, Sherlock.” She
glanced at the blood-soaked towel and then at Markus. “And what do you mean,
poor Tom? Did you see what that stupid cat of yours did to my hand?”

Markus shook his head, sending
his long dreads flying. “I don’t understand. Tom’s a sweetheart. He’s never
even scratched anyone, much less bitten before.”

“Tell that to your neighbor.
She’s going to need stitches in her leg, not to mention what he did to me.
C’mon. We have to get your stupid cat to the vet so they can quarantine him
before animal control shows up, or they just might take him and put him down.”

Markus grabbed the keys off
the hook by the back door and picked up the carrier. Tom
screeched,
a long, low banshee wail that sent goosebumps racing along Ginny’s arms and
raised the tiny hairs on the back of her neck. Tom didn’t sound anything like
any cat she’d ever heard.

So, why did that screech sound
so eerily familiar?

Something about it skirted the
edges of her memory. She stared at Tom, glaring back at her through the slats
of the carrier, but nothing clicked. She’d never seen a cat with eyes like
his—they flashed blood red. When he snarled, she was almost certain he had
extra rows of teeth.

She shivered again and wrapped
her arms around herself.
Beyond weird.
Everything about the stupid cat was freaking her out, but then, so was this
entire trip. Frowning, Ginny followed Markus at a safe distance through the
backdoor to the garage and watched while he stowed the sturdy carrier in the
rear seat of the Camry.

Tom howled again. Ginny shook
her head. “I don’t like this one bit. Shouldn’t we maybe put him in the trunk?”

Markus ignored her suggestion
and got into the driver’s seat. “Get in. No cat of mine rides in the trunk.”

Ginny stared at the red-eyed
cat. Tom returned her stare.

Markus glared at her. “You
scared of a cat? Damn it, Ginny. Get in.”

She took a deep breath. She
wasn’t about to let herself act like a coward in front of her younger cousin.
“Well, if he gets loose from the carrier, you’re putting him back—and I’m outta
here. I’ve bled enough for the cause.” Ginny slammed the door and reached for
her seat belt, wondering for the hundredth time what she was doing visiting her
cousins in Sedona anyway. It wasn’t like they were all that close, but for some
reason she’d gotten a wild hair, packed her bags, and headed to Arizona without
any plans or advance notice at all.

So far, her timing sucked.
She’d barely parked the rental car at her aunt’s house when the shit hit the
fan. Old Tom, the fattest, laziest-looking cat she’d ever seen, had jumped up,
shrieked like the devil was on his tail, and launched his porky butt off Aunt
Betty’s front porch.

He’d practically flown over
the six-foot hedge between her aunt’s house and the one next door—like a flying
furball with fangs. He’d zeroed in on the poor neighbor lady who was just
getting out of her car, arms loaded with groceries.

The bags had gone one way, the
woman the other, but Tom latched on to her left leg and buried his teeth deep.
It had taken both Markus and Ginny to pull the cat off the screaming woman, and
then he’d taken off, still screeching. Aunt Betty had freaked out, grabbed the
twins, and as far as Ginny knew, she was still hiding in the bedroom with the
kids.

Markus—with typical teenage
thinking—had gone after the cat with a big bass net like it was a four-legged
fish. Ginny’d been the one who finally cornered Tom against the fence, but he’d
gotten her good with claws and teeth before she’d managed to shove him into the
carrier and latch the damned thing.

Not quite the entrance she’d
imagined on the flight from Sacramento to Phoenix. If she had to go through a
course of rabies shots, she was going to kill Markus, and anyone else who gave
her grief.

Like
Alton.
Especially Alton.

Now why in the hell would she
be thinking of her friend Eddy Marks’s tall, drop-dead gorgeous, egotistical
jackass college buddy Alton? They’d barely met, though Ginny kept associating
him with her being here in Sedona, which made no sense whatsoever.

Neither did the fact he’d kissed
her the first time she saw him. For some reason, her memories of that kiss were
all fuzzy and dreamlike. She knew they’d locked lips, if only for a moment, but
her memory should be sharper.
A
lot
sharper.

He had perfect lips—full and
warm and soft—and he was a spectacular kisser. She remembered that much, but
little else.

Like
why.
She couldn’t recall anything leading up to the
kiss, or even what had happened directly after, which wasn’t like her. Not one
bit, but confusing memories of Alton were all jumbled up with boarding a plane
for Phoenix. She’d rented a car and hung out in Phoenix for a few days, feeling
confused and off-kilter before giving in to some weird need to see her aunt and
cousins in Sedona. Early Tuesday morning, she’d finally hit the road for the
two-hour drive across the desert to Sedona.

And now she was headed to the
local vet’s with a crazy cat, her stupid kid cousin, and a hand that was
bleeding through the dishtowel she’d wrapped around the bites and scratches.

If this was a vacation, she’d
definitely had better.

 

 

“Is it always this busy?”
Ginny rewrapped the towel on her throbbing hand while Markus drove around the
block again, looking for a parking space. All the slots at the vet’s clinic
were taken and there wasn’t a single empty spot along the road.

Markus shook his head.
“Never.
Especially on a Tuesday morning.
Weekends, maybe, but not today.
I don’t get it.”

He finally pulled into the
parking lot in front of a grocery store a block away. “I’ll carry the cat.” He
glanced at Ginny and seemed to notice the blood-soaked towel for the first
time. “Is that still bleeding?”

“Yes, it’s still bleeding.
Your sweetheart of a cat nailed me good.” She got out of the car and started
walking toward the clinic. Markus fell into step beside her with the carrier
clutched in one hand. Tom had quit screeching, but his incessant yowling was
almost as bad.

Markus was big for eighteen—at
least six-foot-six with broad shoulders and legs like tree trunks. As tall as
she was, Ginny had to look up at him. He might not be the sharpest tack in the
box, but she figured if he couldn’t protect her from a stupid cat, no one
could.

Though, come to think of it,
she was the one bleeding, not her cousin. She was still thinking along those
lines when Markus grabbed the door to the clinic and held it open for her.

Ginny stepped into total
pandemonium.

The small clinic reeked of
sulfur, which made no sense at all. Usually vet clinics smelled like cat pee.
This one was filled with crying kids, freaked-out grownups, screeching
animals—most of them in cages, thank goodness—and a couple of staff members who
looked as if they were ready to run and hide. Ginny turned and looked at her
cousin.

Markus stared wild-eyed at a
large cage holding a big blue macaw. The bird spread its beak wide and
screeched. It sounded just like Tom. Markus swallowed with an audible gulp.
Ginny took a closer look at the macaw.
Teeth.
Rows and rows of teeth.

Now, she was no expert, but
Ginny was sure she’d never heard of birds with teeth. She blinked and
refocused, but the macaw’s mouth was still filled with way too many teeth—all
of them razor sharp. A screechy howl caught her attention and she glanced down
at a scrawny little Chihuahua that was, thankfully, wearing a muzzle.

More teeth.
Not just sharp doggy fangs, but rows of shiny, razor-sharp teeth filled the
little mutt’s mouth. A lop-eared bunny in a cat carrier just like Tom’s snarled
and hissed and curled its lips back.
More teeth.
Every
single animal in the clinic looked like something out of a cheap horror film,
all of them snarling and screeching and trying to take bites with mouths filled
with way too many rows of sharp teeth.

And just like that, memories
crashed into the forefront of her mind. The big concrete bear chasing her that
night back home in Evergreen, her best friend Eddy’s dad, Ed Marks, and
Alton—though she hadn’t known him then, that tall, good-looking friend of
Eddy’s from college—rushing out of the darkness and attacking the impossible
creature. Alton had saved her life.

She saw it like a movie on
fast forward—Alton carrying a huge sword that glowed like a freaking Jedi
lightsaber, jabbing it into the concrete bear like the bear was made of butter.
Jumping up on the creature’s back, riding it like a bucking bronco. And the
sound! The bear’d been screeching and wailing.

Screeching and wailing, just
like the animals here, in the veterinarian’s clinic.

Ginny sucked in a breath as
images flowed into her mind.
Alton lopping off the concrete
bear’s head with a powerful swing of his sword, the glowing blade flashing by
in a slashing arc.

The bear crumbling, just
turning into a pile of rocks and dust and sulfuric stink, like it had never
been alive at all.
And the smell.
That
horrible stench.

Just like this vet clinic in
Sedona.

She remembered Alton and Ed
walking her home. How could she have forgotten that night? That was the night
Alton kissed her! A girl didn’t forget a night like that. It made no sense at
all.

Except she
was remembering now.
Remembering it as clearly as if
it had just happened.
The bear, the battle…Alton’s
lips.
Oh, Lordy…his lips, warm and full and so sweet, pressed against
hers, moving over her mouth in a sensual whisper of sensation and seduction.

The noise, the screeching
animals, the frantic humans, the stinky veterinarian’s clinic, all faded away
as Ginny pressed her fingertips against her lips and let the memories flow.

There’d been another night
too. How the hell could she have forgotten? It was only a few days ago! She
blinked as it came into focus. She and Alton, walking arm in arm down the
street to her house. The two of them laughing and talking about lots of
nothing—flirting, for crying out loud!
Both of them standing
on her front porch.

She sucked in a breath as the
memories cleared. She’d been thinking of breaking all her rules about guys and
inviting Alton in. He’d been just as bossy and arrogant as the first time
they’d met, but she’d had fun with him, too, and even though they’d only met
the night he’d saved her life, she’d been drawn to him on an almost primal
level.

The chemistry had certainly
been there—so intense the need she’d felt was almost painful. Even now, just
thinking of him fired a slow burn of desire deep in her core.

How could she forget that he’d
offered to stay the night on her front porch?
Offered to sit
out there to protect her.
That was sweet, even though she didn’t need any
protection. Not in her little town of Evergreen on the slopes of Mount Shasta.

Safest place
in the world.

She remembered saying good
night. She’d kissed his cheek when she’d really wanted to drag him inside and
take him straight to her bedroom. Her toes actually tingled, remembering. Her
womb felt heavy, her breasts full, recalling now how she’d gone in alone and
closed the door.
Leaned against it, thinking of Alton.
Hearing his voice.

Hearing
his voice?
How could she have forgotten his voice in her head, that sexy
whisper…giving her orders?

Damn it all!

Telling me to come to Sedona.

Ginny clenched her hands into
fists and bit back a scream that probably would have shut up every screeching
animal in the room. It was him! This was all Alton’s fault! Somehow he’d
hypnotized her. That had to be it. He’d hypnotized her and made her forget the
bear and his kiss and…

She growled. The macaw shut
its big mouth and stared at her, but all Ginny could see was Alton. That
insufferable jackass had sent her here. He’d saved her from a bear made of
concrete with rows of sharp teeth, a bear that couldn’t have been real, and
he’d sent her down here to frickin’ Sedona, Arizona, where the cats and bunnies
and birds had the same kind of impossible teeth.

Ginny spun around and glared
at her cousin.

Markus took a step back.
“What’d I do?”

“Nothing.
Not a damned thing.” She sucked in a deep breath and let it out. Something very
weird was going on and Alton was involved, all the way from the tips of his
sexy cowboy boots to the top of his beautiful blond head. “I have to make a
phone call. You sign in. I’ll be right back.”

 

 

There wasn’t a stitch of
clothing covering her perfect body. She was tall and slim and her stylishly
bobbed hair swung against her jaw with each step she took on gloriously long
legs. If she hadn’t been trying to kill him, Alton might have found her attractive.
Instead, he wrapped both hands around the jeweled hilt of his crystal sword and
swung with practiced ease.

The blade sliced cleanly
through the juncture between her neck and shoulder. He watched with grim
satisfaction as the mannequin’s head bounced off the wall and rolled across the
sidewalk. The jaws
gaped
wide, exposing row after row
of razor-sharp teeth framed by perfectly painted pouty lips.

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