Authors: H.M. McQueen
© Copyright Hildie McQueen 2016. All rights reserved.
Editor: Gayla Leath, Dark Dreams Publishing/Loren Brake
Ebooks/books are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared, or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
For David, my muse and inspiration for Lord Fallon Trent, the British Protector with impeccable sophistication. I also dedicate this book to my paranormal readers who are waiting to read Fallon's story. Enjoy.
Lord Fallon Trent handed the woman in his arms over to the male servant. “Find the lady a suitable place to sleep. Ensure you provide some sort of receptacle in case she becomes ill.” The butler nodded and went towards the stairway.
After watching the man's tailcoats ascend to the upstairs and disappear around the corner, Fallon went in the opposite direction down a short hallway.
In the darkened library, he made a beeline to the bar and poured several inches of bourbon. He downed the liquid relishing its burning descent and poured a second.
He and his companion were assaulted moments earlier in the foggy London night. The assailants had not been human, at least not like any he'd ever encountered. What then? They’d been attacked by something very different and the damned beings killed the inebriation he’d worked so hard at. Lord knew it took a great deal of drinking to get even close to feeling light headed since the change.
One of them had recognized him as something else.
Are you a Protector?
The opening of the library door caught his attention. His cousin, Lord Morton Trent, walked in and surveyed his appearance. “What happened to you? You've a female visitor and are in here alone.”
At his silence, Morton sized him up for a few moments, then moved to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink. “I cannot believe my eyes, the famous rogue Fallon Trent, brings a lady home and allows her the luxury of sleep.”
Fallon did not bother asking how Morton knew about the woman upstairs. His cousin's keen observations never failed to surprise him. “We were attacked. She fainted. Let’s just say any desire died after the assault.”
Morton’s eyes widened. “Assaulted?” He must have noted that Fallon’s clothing, although crumpled, remained intact. "There is no bruising on your face or hands." His eyes narrowed in disbelief.
“Mortie, have you noticed any rise in crime? An increase in attacks in London as of late?”
His cousin stroked his chin in thought. “The recent London riots triggered all kinds of lowlifes to venture out and pursue other means of income. With so many factories destroyed by fires, people are becoming desperate.”
“Perhaps,” Fallon replied, not convinced. “What about crimes of a more peculiar nature?”
Lord Morton, who worked for the constable, studied him. “What exactly happened tonight Fallon?”
“The males who assaulted us —I don’t believe they were human.”
Morton became still and did not meet his gaze. “Please continue.”
“As you know, lately it takes a great deal of drink for me to become inebriated. Until about an hour ago, I had finally reached a state where I felt light-headed and planned to bring Laurel, at least that's what I believe is the woman's name."
Fallon waived his hand. "No matter, I planned to bring her home and well, you—” He made gesture at his crotch, which caused his cousin to smirk. “I was not so heavy in my cups as not to notice that our assailants sported fangs and their red-rimmed eyes glowed unnaturally. Not only that, the one that survived moved at an inhuman speed when escaping.”
“One did not survive?” Morton took a hefty swig of drink. "You killed someone?"
“I assume I did since he evaporated when I beheaded him.”
Morton pressed his lips together in thought. “This is not the first report we have received of such things. At first we dismissed it, but lately there are more and more reports, all with the same type descriptions. I fear London has become a feeding ground for a type of sub-human species.”
“God man, why are you not alerting the public?” Fallon glared at Morton, who raked his fingers down his face, suddenly looking older than twenty-eight.
“We cannot. Think on it. Panic and paranoia would be the most likely outcome, if people believed us at all.” Morton straightened up, his blue eyes finally meeting Fallon’s straight on. “How about you Fallon? Isn’t this what the Roman who visited, Julian, said your destiny was? To become a demon slayer.”
“They were demons then?” Fallon could not believe they actually existed. If he had not seen it with his own eyes…
“Yes, I believe so.” His cousin stood. “The Roman came for you almost five years ago, warned that you would be changing, both physically and emotionally. Julian was insistent that you could not remain in London. Cousin, it is time. You must go and train in order to fulfill your calling. It seems to me, your destiny has found you.”
Fallon downed another drink and went to pour more, only to have his cousin place his hand over his forearm, holding it away from the decanter. “If you are trained as Julian said, to be a Protector, you could assist us, help me keep these things from killing innocent people. Why do you resist so?”
Losing his temper Fallon snatched his arm away. “And what? Admit to the world that I am some sort of aberration? No different than those things out there? Are you aware I, can grow fangs Morton? That when angry, and my temper has gotten out of control my incisors snap down, and I can tear flesh apart with them? I won’t do it. I plan to live as close to a normal life as I can.”
“Until when Fallon? When I’m old and grey and you still look twenty-five? Until everyone begins to notice that you look and act totally different? Cousin, I have news for you. The reason you are no longer the darling of society, the reason your townhouse is not the epicenter for our friends to end the evening any longer is because they already have noticed. You are ten years older than I and look younger. Your parents are often questioned about your lack of aging. We are all running out of excuses. You have to do something and soon.”
Collapsing in the nearest chair, Fallon looked straight ahead not seeing anything. Morton had spoken the truth. A truth he did not want to admit to himself.
The warmth of Morton’s hand on his shoulder seeped through his damp coat. “It’s time Fallon. Do it. Send Julian word.” His cousin exited and left him to ponder.
Fallon sat for hours watching the flames dance inside the fireplace casting their long shadows into the darkened room.
Finally, he moved to his desk and began to pen a letter.
His life as a noble, the pampered existence of a Lord in London society, was now over.
Tonia lay across the rumpled bed and watched her lover dress, the entire time begrudging every inch of fabric that covered the perfect lean muscular physique of the man who’d made ardent love to her since before dawn.
Fallon's long-lashed lavender eyes raked over her body as his skilled fingers buttoned the black silken shirt. “If you keep looking at me like that I may have to climb back into that bed with you.”
The deep timber of his British accented voice melted over her and she adjusted her expression, attempting neutrality. “Can’t blame a girl for admiring a nice view. You have a smoking bod. You must work out regularly.”
The raised eyebrows conveyed his surprise at her honesty. “I do.” He shrugged as if it was nothing, but the curve of his sensuous lips told he appreciated the compliment. “I work out daily actually. Every hour is worth it if you look at me the way you just did.”
Tonia nodded and glanced at the clock. "I find it strange that you come to visit so late, almost always at sunrise. Do you work nights?"
She’d met Fallon weeks earlier. He’d come up to her as she’d returned home one night from clubbing in downtown Atlanta. The connection between them was immediate. They’d barely gotten past introductions when she’d invited him up for coffee. Once inside the doorway, the invitation was altered. He’d slammed her against a wall and taken her right there and then. Fallon was a passionate lover, unlike any other man she'd ever been with.
A sigh escaped her lips at the thought of what had transpired between them moments earlier.
Don’t go there, Tonia
He was just a pastime and she was more than fine with that. Their relationship, if she could call it that, was more of an arrangement. They never discussed their next encounter, seeming to rely on chance to meet.
“Yes, I work mostly at night. I’ll lock the door behind me,” Fallon kept his answer to the point. He leaned over to kiss her goodbye.
He straightened to his full six-foot-three height and pulled a black buttery soft leather jacket on over his broad shoulders. A rogue lock of chestnut hair from a stylish cut, short in the back and longer in front, fell across his brow.
“It's best if you keep away from the downtown streets at night, demons are everywhere."
"Sounds like more of a reason for me to be out there.” She lifted an eyebrow, daring him.
"Right. Never mind that if it had not been for me stumbling upon you fighting three demons that one night, I wouldn’t have saved you from getting your pretty ass handed to you. You are not strong enough to fight them."
"I have to."
"Look, I don't know why you are able to see demons, but it's not your fight. What do you and the other fools in your human gang hope to accomplish other than a painful death by demon?"
She looked away. "I can't explain it to you. It's something I have to do."
He neared and cupped her face, his lips hovering over hers. "Please listen to me on this. This once."
"Maybe if you explain to me why you do it? What is your cause?"
He didn't reply. With one last heated look, which made it hard not to ask him to stay longer, he left. Tonia listened intently until the front door closed firmly behind him. A few minutes later, the purr of his Jaguar springing to life sounded, becoming softer as he drove away.
It’s a casual thing, I can handle it.
Days later, Tonia stood and dusted the dirt off the knees of her jeans. She took inventory of the area around her husband's grave and her lips curved into a satisfied smile.
The small plot looked so much better.
It had only been two weeks since the last time she’d stopped by Alex’s gravesite and yet weeds had already sprouted high, her last bunch of flowers wilted and dried, most of the petals having blown away. After half an hour of up-keep, the gravesite was once again neat and maintained, the weeds gone and fresh daisies replaced the old ones. She’d even added a small American flag that flapped gaily in the wind.
“Now you’re ready for the week Mister,” she whispered. “I better run, I have some errands to do, demons to kill, the usual.”
The breeze rustled the leaves on the trees nearby and she took a deep breath of cool Atlanta air. Tonia placed her hand on her husband's cold stone marker. “I’m not giving up Alex, I will find the demon that killed you. Your killer is out there and not aware I'm searching for him. When I do find that bastard, I will kill him.”
Or die trying
She leaned over the tombstone. “See you next week Babe. I love you.” After pressing a kiss on the frigid concrete, she turned toward her car. Her vehicle was parked only a few yards away along the narrow dogwood tree-lined cemetery lane.
A young couple caught her attention. They held on to each other, grief etched on their faces. Before them, a new grave piled high with flower arrangements and bright adornments left by mourners. Tonia’s stomach pitched. She turned away not wanting to get their attention and intrude on their private time.
Someone tapped her elbow and without thought, she swung around, a switchblade in her fist, poised to strike.
Her partner backed away, and held his hands up. “Jeez, Mohr you’re a jumpy one.”
She took in the tall black man, dressed in jeans and a light blue polo shirt, he seemed younger than forty-five dressed so casually. The only telltale was the slight greying at his temples.
Her partner, made an unsuccessful attempt to keep his lips from twitching in amusement. Douglas eyed her for a moment and sobered when he took in Alex’s grave.
Tonia got his attention back. “What are you doing here Douglas?” His dark sedan was parked behind hers. It wasn’t good—she’d been so absorbed in her task of cleaning Alex’s grave that she’d missed his arrival. So much for alertness on her part.
An easy way to die
Douglas cocked an eyebrow. “Happened to be in the neighborhood.” He motioned over to the couple with his head. “I keep an eye out for them.”
Both walked side by side without speaking while making their way toward the cars, an easy camaraderie that came after years of partnering. She bumped his shoulder with hers. “You don’t have to continue to watch over them any longer. Keep it up and I’ll have to stop saying bad things about you at the office.”
Douglas ignored her comment, instead his brown eyes landed on her right hand. “Why did you draw a blade and not your service weapon?
She shoved it into her back pocket and shrugged. "I already had it out, used it earlier,” Tonia lied and changed the subject back to the young couple. "How long are you going to watch over them? Our protective custody time is up with the Anderson family. The killer is behind bars. They are safe now. Go home Douglas, I’m sure Teresa will be happy to fill your time with things to do there,” she told him, referring to his wife.
“After thirteen years, she’s not exactly excited to have me hanging around the house all day. Hell, she almost shoved me out the door when I told her I was checking in on the Andersons.” His eyes sparkled when mentioning his wife. "But yeah, I'm going to take her and the kids to grab a bite, it's a nice day for it."
She couldn't help the pang in her chest at the thought that perhaps by now she and Alex would have had a family. “Have fun, you deserve it. See you on Monday.” They parted ways at the edge of the path.
“Go out on a date or something,” her partner called after her, and then he pointed toward the grave she’d cleaned and cupped his ear. “Alex agrees with me. He says you need to get out.”
Tonia shook her head at his crazy talk, but couldn’t stop the smile at his words. “I bet he does.”
She climbed into her blue Prius and pulled the seatbelt across her body locking it in place. In her rearview mirror she saw that Douglas leaned on his car and lit a cigarette while continuing to keep a watch on the Anderson’s. There was no telling how long her partner would carry the guilt of the couple’s four-year-old daughter being killed while in his custody. It didn’t matter to him that in the hail of gunfire, he’d saved the young couple's life, taking a bullet in the leg.
Already sweaty and dirty from her work at the gravesite, Tonia didn’t bother to run the air-conditioning in her car instead she rolled the windows down to allow the heated fresh air in.
From the cemetery to the neighborhood where she lived proved to be a quick drive, the Atlanta afternoon heat kept most people indoors. She picked up a sandwich and salad at the corner deli and drove to her townhouse. Her car slid into a spot in back and as she cut off the ignition she caught a glimpse of a silver vehicle and her heart skipped a beat. When it drove past, Tonia let out a breath.
It wasn’t him.
Almost a week since she’d last seen Fallon. Not that she was counting the days, it was just that…okay maybe she was tracking the time since their last encounter. Actually hated the fact and that she kept expecting him to pop up. He wasn’t her boyfriend, couldn’t even call him a friend since they didn’t even exchange phone numbers.
Who exactly Fallon Trent was, she didn't know. Of course, she'd run him through the system and found out that he’d recently moved to Atlanta from England. She knew he was single, had a clean record and was thirty-two years old. The DMV listed him at six foot three and one hundred ninety pounds. Also according to Georgia records, he lived in a posh area of town, which made sense since he drove a special edition silver jaguar, wore a watch that cost half her annual salary and dressed in tailor-made clothing.
For some reason, he considered himself a demon slayer but would not explain why he was different than her and the other humans she fought with. Yes, she knew the basics, the surface stuff and for what they had, that’s all she needed to know.
Yet she missed him, constantly thought about him. Glimpses of his face, those kissable full lips flashed in her mind at the most inopportune times. What amazed her the most, when she was with him, she could lose herself. Fallon brought out a side of her that no one had before—not even Alex.
With Fallon, she was total opposite of straight-laced Tonia Mohr, U.S. Marshal.
The air-conditioned interior of her brownstone enveloped her when she walked into her home. Tonia put the bags on the black marble kitchen counter and switched on a flat, wall mounted television in the adjoining living room. Flipping through the channels, she settled on a cooking show. The cheery woman on screen always made her chuckle. Nothing like watching good old southern cooking, by her favorite southern chef.
Settling onto a barstool, she propped her elbows on the counter and took a bite of her purchased sandwich. The woman on screen dropped a stick of butter into a skillet. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The glamorous life of a single Atlanta woman
The following week began on a sour note. Weapons drawn, Tonia and Douglas made their way into the dilapidated apartment in a part of Atlanta well known for high crime. The police contacted them minutes earlier, one of their charges was in trouble. More or less, his ass was in the sling and about to be pitched into the stratosphere. Hearing all the commotion, they entered prepared for anything.
“You people can’t just come in my house and take my shit!” The woman’s yellowed eyes bulged from her skull. The husky drug dealer fought against the pair of deputies who struggled to drag her out of the room. “I hope this is caught on tape, cause Imma get all your asses fired!” She began to cough and took the opportunity to spit at one of the officers.
Tonia holstered her weapon and looked around the cramped and filthy room. A gaunt young man sat on a sunken couch, his worry-filled eyes locked on her.
“What were you thinking Marcus?” Tonia gave in to fatigue and sank into the grimy sofa next to him. “Douglas and I did a lot of groveling to get you another chance to stay in the witness protection program. Is this what we worked so hard for?” She gestured around the gloomy living space. “So that you would shack up with a known drug-dealer and smoke your chance at a new life away.”
Douglas' cell phone rang and he walked outside to talk.
Marcus ran his shaky hands up and down his scrawny thighs. “Please don’t kick me out Marshal Mohr, they’ll kill me. Move me somewhere…anywhere, I promise, I won’t mess up again.” His dark face scrunched, as if he were about to cry.
Regardless of his lack of common sense, she liked Marcus. The kid had it rough his entire life and perhaps couldn’t help his lack of common sense. Tonia jerked her attention away from him as Douglas walked back in. Their eyes met and he shook his head. Marcus was out of the program.
A deep breath helped to fortify her resolve. She placed her hand on the young man’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Marcus. The department can’t keep moving you. The trial has been over for a while, we tried to help you, but this is your third move. It was your last chance.”
His eyes widened and flicked from her to Douglas, whose bland expression gave the impression of apathy. But her partner’s telltale tick at his jaw told he was anything but.