Reckoning: A Fallen Siren Novel

BOOK: Reckoning: A Fallen Siren Novel
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PRAISE FOR BOOK ONE IN THE
FALLEN SIREN SERIES

Cursed

“One entertaining and fast-paced read. Best of all? Zack, the wildly sexy werewolf FBI agent! What better crime-fighting partner could a girl have?”

—Jennifer Ashley,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Tiger Magic


Cursed
is the perfect blend of magic, mystery, and romance. Emma and Zack are strong, noble characters who are trying to overcome their dark pasts, and their quests for redemption will make your heart hurt. This is a series you need to read now.”

—Sandy Williams, author of the Shadow Reader series

“A promising new writing collaboration. . . . After delivering a hefty helping of danger and drama, Harper then sets the groundwork for more fast-paced adventures.”


RT Book Reviews
(4 stars)

“Authors Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne C. Stein (the writing team that is S. J. Harper) have created something wonderful with the Fallen Siren series.”

—Wit and Sin

“I love the story, I love the world, I love the concept, and I love the characters.”

—Fangs for the Fantasy

“A good mix of traditional mythology and contemporary UF.”

—Scorching Book Reviews

Also by S. J. Harper

Cursed

ROC

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Jeanne Stein and Samantha Sommersby, 2014

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

REGISTERED
TRADEMARK

MARCA
REGISTRADA

ISBN 978-1-101-59932-7

PU
BLISHER

S
NOTE

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.

Version_1

Contents

Praise

Also by S. J. Harper

Title page

Copyright page

Dedication

Acknowledgments

 

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

 

About the Authors

To the readers who stepped into our world and welcomed Emma and Zack into your hearts. We thank you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Writing can be a very solitary experience. Like Emma and Zack, we’ve become a terrific team. But we haven’t done it alone. We want to give special recognition to Aaron, Angie, Mario, Warren, and Jeff of the Pearl Street Critique Group. Phil, Jeannette, and Steve for being good to Jeanne and to one another. Bill, Beverly, Max, and Daren for being there day in and day out for Sam. The S. J. Harper street team for believing in us from the get-go and for their tireless enthusiasm. Editor Jessica Wade and the Penguin team for their expertise. The media relations department of the San Diego Police Department and the FBI’s office of public affairs for answering all of our questions. Any mistakes within this work are our own.

Siren
noun
1. One of three sisters ejected from Mount Olympus by Zeus and cursed by Demeter for failing to prevent Hades from kidnapping Persephone. 2. An immortal goddess bound to earth who, in search of her own salvation, saves others from peril. 3. A beautiful and powerful seductress, capable of infiltrating the minds of others in order to extract truth or exert
influence.

CHAPTER 1

What we’re doing is wrong on so many levels.
That’s what I tell myself as I wake, my body aching in all the right places. In just a few short months, we’ve fallen into the kind of pattern I’d normally think of as dangerous. But somehow, when I’m with him, I feel safe.

My mind drifts as I watch the flutter of curtains. The morning sunshine pours into the bedroom from the balcony. Have I ever had a steady lover so possessive, so creative, so . . . demanding? His hand on my hip comes to life, fingertips skimming downward across the curve of my buttocks. He inches closer to me, spooning his body against mine. Nothing separates us under the sheets—it’s skin on skin. Fingers slide between my thighs. I’m wet. It seems lately, in his presence, I’m perpetually this way. I just can’t help myself. A Siren is a Siren. A sexual creature, born of Gaia. I’m one of three, cursed by Demeter thousands of years ago for failing to protect Persephone. It’s for this I atone, for this I pay. It’s the reason I search for the missing and avoid love at all costs. The first brings me closer to the promise of redemption. Forgetting the latter? Finding real love? That promises nothing but ruin and death.

“Good morning,” I whisper.

He lifts one of my legs. His long, thick shaft slides between them. I feel the warmth of his smile as he replies, “It’s about to get even better.”

The rumble of his rich baritone, still rough from sleep, along with the promise of what’s to come, makes me smile. But the sense of contentment is fleeting. The first few bars of “Bad Moon Rising” blare from my phone. Liz, my best friend, and quite possibly the most powerful witch this side of the Mississippi, added the ringtone to my cell five months ago and I haven’t been able to change it. She assigned it to Zack, my partner, a dark, rugged werewolf who was formerly, and quite secretly, a badass black ops assassin. Now, like me, he spends his days working for the FBI and searching for the missing.

I feel Kallistos’ irritation at the interruption. I pat his hand. “Hold that thought,” I say, then reach for my phone.

“Zack. It’s early. What’s up?”

“Jimmy. He wants to see us right away and apparently you haven’t been answering your texts.”

I glance at the clock on the nightstand. It’s just past seven on a Monday and I’ve managed to piss off the boss. “Why didn’t he just call me?”

“He did. Twice.”

“Damn it! I must have slept through it.”

Or Kallistos had taken it upon himself to set my cell to silent.
Again.
Thanks to Liz’s spell, and much to Kallistos’ chagrin, Zack’s calls ring through regardless. Liz knows how close Zack and I came to disaster. This is her special way of reminding me of the ever-present danger. She’s also the main reason I’m sharing the vampire King’s bed
now. She encouraged him and pushed me like a veritable yenta. After countless protests they wore me down. I decided to give the no-strings-attached-relationship proposal a trial run.

Kallistos has retreated to the other side of the bed. I’d like to think out of guilt, but I know better.

I momentarily mute the call. “Stop silencing my phone,” I scold.

His clear blue eyes give nothing away. “You don’t get enough rest.” His tone is matter-of-fact. No argument. No apology. Not ever. Admittedly, it’s one of the downsides of dating a vampire King with more than a millennium under his belt—one that I’ll eventually have to address if our arrangement continues. Eventually. But not today.

“You don’t get to make decisions for me,” I counter.

He answers my rising ire with a disarming smile. “You need coffee, Emma. I’ll call down.”

I unmute the phone, turning my attention back to Zack. “How much time do I have?”

“The briefing was scheduled for seven thirty. Reminding Jimmy it was Labor Day got us a reprieve until eight.”

I brace myself, knowing I shouldn’t ask, but do anyway. “Did you and Sarah have plans?”

My question about Sarah, the she-wolf who shares Zack’s beach house, is met with the expected pause. Zack doesn’t say much about his private life. His reluctance doesn’t have anything to do with our history. As far as he’s concerned, we have no history; there’s never been anything personal between us at all. Thanks to Liz’s super-duper spell casting, Zack’s memories of those times
have been erased. Not all of them, of course; only the ones indicating there had ever been any physical intimacy between us. Our casework history, secrets shared about our natures and pasts—that’s all remained intact. But remembrances of our one, glorious night in Charleston and the fact we became lovers after his move here to San Diego a year later? Gone.

Kallistos climbs out of bed and heads for the balcony. “Maybe the four of us can do something together later,” he murmurs on the way.

I throw a pillow at him, but miss by a mile. By the time it hits the floor he’s outside and, thanks to a little pink pill called Protectus, appreciating the early-morning sun like only someone who’s spent more than a thousand years in darkness could—face tilted up, eyes closed. Kallistos is responsible for the creation of Protectus, part medical miracle and part magic. It’s been around for a couple decades now, along with the Blood Emporiums he created.

Most Emporiums are located in the backs of businesses catering to those who pursue alternative lifestyles—tattoo shops and heavy-metal clubs. For vampires they offer fresh blood from paid donors who, for the most part, have no idea where the blood ends up or who is paying for it. Would-be vampires and goths simply believe they are indulging in a fantasy. They never see the real vampires who come to buy their blood bags and the drugs that allow them to function during the day.

I watch my lover breathe deeply of the ocean air. Appreciate the way shadow and light play across his body, which is hard, lean, and eternally young.

“I was going to make my famous London broil,” Zack finally volunteers. “But, duty calls. Right,
partner
?”

Zack has a way of saying the word
partner
like it really means something. And it does. A lump forms in my throat. Our reasons may be different, but the mission is the same. Zack understands me better than any partner I’ve had.

I nod. “Yes. Duty calls.”

“I’ll let Jimmy know we’re on our way in.”

“I’ll meet you at the office in forty-five minutes.” As I hang up, I silently recite the same words I do every time I go out on a new case.
Redemption could be one rescue away
.

Kallistos is beside me with a robe. “No time for breakfast, I suppose.”

I wave him off and begin to hunt for my clothes. “I have to go. As it is, I barely have enough time to get home, shower, and change. Can you help me find my other shoe?”

I crouch down to check under the bed.

“If you kept some things here—”

“I’m not moving in,” I tell him for the hundredth time as I climb to my feet. My eyes fall to the large saltwater aquarium across from the bed. My black patent pump is dangling off of an outcropping of orange coral.

Kallistos follows my line of sight. “Oops.”

“Oops?”

In response he opens the closet, pulls out a hanging bag, then tosses it onto the bed. Two shopping bags follow.

“What’s this?” I ask.

“Emergency clothes. By the time you get out of the shower, breakfast will be here. You now have time.”

I quickly rummage through the bags. He’s thought of
everything—shoes, stockings, undergarments, classic black pantsuit, and a dove gray poplin shirt with French cuffs. “You’re dressing me now?”

“Sorry, no. You’re going to have to put those on yourself.” Kallistos picks up the phone and asks for room service.

I make a beeline for the bathroom, new black lace bra and matching panties in hand. I don’t get very far. His arm snakes around my waist as I pass, pulling me close. “I’ll happily take them off tonight, though,” he murmurs into my ear.

*   *   *

Twenty minutes later I emerge from the Hotel Palomar—to-go coffee cup in one hand, fresh croissant in the other. My car—a standard-issue black Suburban—is waiting in front. I tip the valet and get in. A quick check in the rearview mirror assures me that the glamour I pay Liz for, the one that furnishes me with the wholesome, plain-Jane facade I’ve become so accustomed to seeing, is firmly in place. My skin is fair and unblemished. I don’t wear makeup. No mascara. No lip gloss. Nothing. This morning, my long dark hair is pulled back and twisted into a sensible chignon. I drop the coffee into the cup holder, toss the croissant onto the dash where I’ll be able to easily reach it, then throw the car into gear and pull into traffic.

I have fifteen minutes. Within five I’m pulling onto the 163 heading north. I switch over to the 8 West, then go north on the 15. It’s a little warmer than usual in San Diego, eighty-five degrees. Not a cloud in the sky, and due to the holiday, the traffic is light. I work on my croissant and coffee while listening to the morning news. The
Padres are, miraculously, still in good standing. Due to a last-minute donation from the Gates Foundation, several local after-school programs that were believed to have been doomed will be reopening tomorrow. And the wildfire that began Sunday morning in the Cuyamaca Mountains is now under control.

Just another perfect day in paradise.

As I approach the exit to Aero Drive, I see Sarah’s silver BMW just up ahead. The top is down and Zack is behind the wheel. His dark brown hair, which he manages to keep slightly longer than regulation, is blowing straight back. Sarah, forever perfectly coiffed, is wearing a red silk scarf around her head. Its ends trail behind her, reminding me of the days when barnstorming and open-cockpit flying were all the rage.

When we stop at the light, Zack catches a glimpse of me in the rearview mirror. He doesn’t turn around, just lifts his hand into the air. I do the same. Sarah pivots in her seat. She slides her dark designer glasses halfway down the bridge of her nose so that she can give me a proper glare. One of the first things Sarah Marie Louis did after following Zack out here from South Carolina was to pull me aside and stake her claim. Zack had described what they had back in South Carolina as casual. For Sarah, it had been anything but. She was in love with him. She is still in love with him.

I understand that. So am I.

The light turns green and I follow Zack into the parking lot of the FBI field office. He pulls into the drive by the front door. I park at the end of a row of other black Suburbans. By the time I reach the entrance, Sarah is in the driver’s seat.

“What? No kiss good-bye?” I ask Zack as she drives off. “Did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed?”

Zack shoves his hands in his pockets. “The moon was full last night,” he reminds me. “This someone spent the night locked in his cage. Alone.”

Although I’m dying to know where Sarah spent the night, how she rode out the inevitable changeling time, I resist the urge to question Zack further. My patience pays off.

“She’s thinking about joining a pack. She ran with them last night.” He gives me a sideways glance. “I don’t have to ask who you spent the night with. You reek of vampire and sex.”

I dramatically roll my eyes before heading for the entrance. “I just showered.”

He beats me to the door and opens it for me. “You need to use stronger soap. And spend less time with His Royal Undead. I don’t know what you see in him.”

I push the call button for the elevator.
When I’m with him, it’s easier to avoid thinking about you.
The thought, like so many others, goes unsaid. I plaster a practiced smile on my face, the one meant to convey that Kallistos is my world. “You haven’t seen him naked.”

“A fact that saddens me deeply. It’s number three on my bucket list, you know.”

The elevator doors open and we step inside. Just as they are about to close, another agent joins us. The familiar banter, laced with the kind of innuendo that I’ll later play over and over again in my head, comes to a full stop. Zack and I move to opposite ends of the elevator. We face forward. Zack makes small talk with the other
agent. I’ve worked in the same office with the guy for more than a year, and right now I can’t remember his name.

But I remember every moment spent with Zack.

That’s all part of my punishment, part of my penance. A cold chill creeps up my spine. I can almost feel Demeter watching.

Satisfied?

A shiver passes through me.

Agent What’s-His-Name crosses his arms protectively in front of himself. “Whoa, think they overdid it a bit with the AC this morning.”

I know the drop in temperature has nothing to do with the building’s air-conditioning. It has everything to do with Demeter. Ever present. Ever watching. Ever ensuring that I am suffering.

I steal a glance at Zack, but quickly force myself to look away. I’ll always remember but he’ll never know what we had. What we lost. And I know that this morning, Demeter is smiling down upon us, pleased with herself, full of smug indignation and self-righteous conceit.

BOOK: Reckoning: A Fallen Siren Novel
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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