Authors: Jessie Donovan
Tags: #FICTION / ROMANCE / PARANORMAL
Shadow of Temptation
By Jessie Donovan
In addition to being my awesome niece, she also came up with the title for this book. Thanks Jojo!
“Deemed disbanded in 2004, the Federation League has re-formed and is crawling its way back from obscurity. However, their aim remains the same: to kill or harm anyone who has worked with or for the Asylums for Magical Threats’ prison system. Assassinations and arson fires are their main tactics, but any unusual activity that targets a
should be investigated.”
Case File on the Federation League, Mexico City
Sabrina Ono was about to crack. If she didn’t find somewhere private, and soon, she would blow the cover ID she’d worked so hard to craft over the last two years.
And if she let that happen, all of the deaths, all of the destruction, and all of the grief she had caused to innocent humans and
alike while undercover would have been for nothing. Sabrina wasn’t sure she could handle that amount of guilt if she failed.
Come on, Ono. You can do this.
She was this close to finishing her current assignment. No matter what it took, she needed to maintain her life of lies for a few more days.
Harry Watkins, her current team leader, came over to where she was standing and scrutinized her face. “You look like you want to say something, Ono.”
She was careful to keep her emotions from her face and voice. “No, sir.”
“Right. Then do the scouting I asked for. I want the layout, details, and your suggestions for the best ways to break in to the building by this evening. Once I receive your report, I’ll send a follow-up task.”
Sabrina nodded. “Is there anything else, sir?”
He studied her a second before waving his hand. “No, you’re dismissed.”
Careful to keep her face expressionless, Sabrina saluted Watkins, turned, and headed down the street toward the target she needed to scout.
Before she could do her job, she needed to find somewhere to get her shit together. If Watkins had anyone watching her, which was possible with this high-profile assignment, she couldn’t show her fragile state or she would be replaced. Sabrina couldn’t allow that to happen.
When she was about ten blocks away from where Watkins had dismissed her, she did everything she could to make sure no one was following her, and then she ducked into an abandoned alley. After turning down another side street, she squatted down behind a parked car, put her head in her hands, and focused on breathing in and out to calm her nerves.
She had harmed humans and
alike as part of her cover ID over the last two years. Be it scouting a location, gathering intelligence, or helping to divert the attention of human authorities. She may not have pulled a trigger or detonated a bomb, but she was just as responsible as every other cog in the network. She had justified her actions because her end goal was to dismantle the Federation League. In the last few months, she’d finally pinpointed how to do it.
If she could take down Harry Watkins, she believed the organization would start to crumble, creating a weakness her superiors from the
Liaison office in Mexico City could use and pounce upon.
Watkins had been training Fed League members on how to select AMT-related targets, how to scout out locations, and finally, how to set successful arson fires without getting caught. But he was much more than just a mercenary paid to train a group of haphazard recruits. She was fairly confident he had a much bigger client bankrolling him, a client she wanted to identify.
Over the last few months, she’d studied the man’s habits and even learned the names of some of his closest contacts. With a final push, Sabrina should be able to find out the information she needed to end this assignment. Yet because of Watkins’s latest target, she was going to have to up her game and make her final play sooner than she had anticipated.
The reason? In less than a week, Watkins planned to set off a bomb at an elementary school during the day, while the children were still in class.
Sabrina felt tears prick her eyes and she took a deep breath. As the death tally rose, it became harder and harder to rationalize her actions. The death of an elderly
woman and several young restaurant workers had shaken her up in recent weeks, and she knew the death of so many children would be her tipping point.
She rubbed her eyes and lifted her head from her hands. There was only one way for her to save the school and get the information she needed about Watkins. She would just have to take a few more risks and make her final move.
If done right, she should be able to stay in her undercover role for at least this week. However, once she foiled the plan to bomb the school, Watkins would quickly be on her ass and she would have to flee.
It wasn’t a matter of “if” she could do it—she had to find a way to make it work.
With a last deep breath, Sabrina stood up. She would force herself to go through the motions for a little longer. She would scout the school and file her report, but then she needed to reach out and set up a secret meeting with her superior from the
Liaison office. She only had five days to put her operation in place and execute it. She couldn’t afford to wait another day.
Sabrina moved to the corner where the alley opened out onto the street and checked to make sure no one had followed her. The coast clear, she went back out on the main street and headed toward the nearby elementary school.
Once upon a time, Jorge Salazar had had friends, responsibilities, and even a woman he had wanted more than his own life. But then his latent ability had appeared nine months ago, and he’d learned that he was a Shadow-Shifter.
After that, his life had gone to hell.
Betrayal by the woman he loved? Check. Being kidnapped and tortured into working for a sociopath who called herself the Collector? Check.
Hell, about the only thing that hadn’t happened to him was castration.
But thanks to some help from DEFEND—an activist group fighting to bring down the Asylums for Magical Threats’ prison system for elemental magic users—he’d found a way to escape the Collector, at least for a little while.
The Collector woman had kidnapped his sister and had used her as leverage, making him do things that would haunt him until he died. But a few days ago, DEFEND had rescued his sister, also allowing him to escape. However, his sister’s safety had come at a price—he had to agree to track down one of his old colleagues, a man named Harry Watkins, and stop the bastard from setting off any more arson fires.
While the Collector’s people would only have noticed his absence a few hours ago, he didn’t have much time to carry out his task. The Collector didn’t like losing any of her assets, and anyone who tried to escape was hunted down and killed. To date, only two people had ever managed to escape her clutches and avoid death.
Jorge’s odds didn’t look good.
But he was determined to take care of Watkins before the Collector’s soldiers found him. To do that, he needed information from the man in front of him, but his former colleague and friend was being less than helpful.
Jorge pressed his arm more firmly against the man’s neck. “You owe me your life, Dylan. Tell me about the next fire, and I’ll leave you alone. If you don’t, then you’ll find out firsthand why I was kicked out of the Fed League.”
Dylan merely glared at him.
Jorge gave the man a shake before pinning him back up against the wall. “Don’t push your luck. We might’ve been friends once, but I have a debt to pay, and you know how much importance I put on paying my debts in full. I need to know about Watkins’s plans.”
Dylan looked him dead in the eye and said nothing. After a long moment, he finally opened his mouth and said, “If you know Watkins, then you know what he’ll do to me if I tell you anything.”
“Then I’d suggest you tell me and disappear. Changes are coming that you aren’t going to like, and listening to my advice will save your ass for the second time in as many years.”
Dylan scrutinized his face, and Jorge had to give him credit. The man was cool under pressure.
But Jorge had worked with the man for nearly a year before he’d left the Fed League, and he knew that Dylan only stayed because he had nowhere else to go.
Maybe a suggestion would prod him to reveal Watkins’s next target. “Listen, soon Watkins won’t be anyone’s problem. Until I take care of him, go back to the US. Find a job, go to college, or, hell, live on a friend’s couch for all I care. The Fed League is starting to crumble. Do you really want to be around when it does? The
High Council isn’t going to treat any of you lightly.”
His old friend looked unimpressed. “Tell me why you were kicked out, and then I’ll believe your message is serious.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Dylan managed to shrug a shoulder despite Jorge’s grip. “Well, then, we’re at an impasse because I’m not telling you anything. Despite everything we’ve gone through, you just vanished without a fucking word.”
Jorge hadn’t had a choice, but he didn’t have time to explain the Collector and her methods. “Whether you believe me or not, contacting you would’ve endangered your life. And the longer you linger here with me now, the greater the chance you’ll find out why I kept my distance.”
“Do you know what they say happened to you?”
“I really couldn’t give a flying fuck.”
Dylan ignored him. “They say you switched sides, and were spying for the AMT Oversight Committee.”
“And what makes you think that I didn’t?”
“You hated the AMT for torturing your cousin and driving him insane. There’s no way you would’ve helped those bastards.”
This was taking too long. He wasn’t about to stab his former friend, so Jorge decided to take a chance. “I would kill myself before I helped the AMT, you’re right. But I didn’t leave by choice. I was forced out. You know the rule about no Fed League member being allowed to have magic?” Dylan nodded. “Well, I sort of inherited some strange abilities, and they wanted me gone.”
“Yeah, and I learned how to breath under water. Come on, Jorge, tell me the truth.”
What did he have to lose? The Collector would find him sooner or later and kill him. He may as well reveal his powers to one of the few people he’d called a friend. “Fine, asshole. Have you ever heard of a Shadow-Shifter?”
Dylan shook his head. “No.”
Considering the stories about his kind had been outlawed by the
High Council decades ago, Dylan’s answer didn’t surprise him.
Jorge could only shift once every twenty-four hours, but he knew from overhearing conversations between Fed League members yesterday that Watkins wasn’t due to strike for nearly a week. He could sacrifice one day of not being able to use his abilities if it meant he could find out enough information to help him come up with a plan.
He raised his free arm and said, “Well, they can do this.”
He concentrated, relaxing the muscles in his free arm, and started to imagine each cell breaking down. The more he visualized the breakdown of his arm, the more transparent it became until there was a jolt of pain that flashed through his entire body, leaving his arm nothing but a dark, shadowy mist.