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Authors: Sharon Hannaford

Tags: #paranormal, #magic, #vampires and werewolves, #fantasy contemporary, #heroine strong women

To Hell and Back (Hellcat Series Book 4)

BOOK: To Hell and Back (Hellcat Series Book 4)
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To Hell and
Back
(Hellcat
Series Book 4)
by
Sharon
Hannaford

 

COPYRIGHT

To Hell and Back (Hellcat Series Book 4)

Sharon Hannaford

Copyright © 2014 by Sharon Hannaford

Cover Artwork by Erin Kuhle

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and
occurrences are fictitious and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual persons, events or locations is entirely
coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or means, electronic or mechanical, without permission from
the copyright holder.

 

DEDICATION

For Dad, who me taught that a girl’s place in the world is any
damn place she wants it to be.

And Mom, who desperately tried to add the feminine
touches.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Tim, Jacqui, Carley, Pauline, Erin, friends, family and
readers.

You know what you did, and I love ya!

G, Rob and Ash; in the end, every word is for you.

PROLOGUE

 

A dusty, eight-armed candelabra made a valiant attempt to
fight off the library’s stygian atmosphere. This private library
would be considered large by modern standards, but for a
turn-of-the-century mansion it wasn’t unusual. Bookshelves lined
the walls from floor to ceiling, and books crowded every shelf,
vying for space, crammed into every nook and protruding from every
cranny. The short flight of wooden stairs showed decades of wear
from countless booted feet, and the overstuffed, leather-covered
chairs boasted shiny patches where innumerable elbows and heads had
rested. Small tables dotted with reading lamps and open books took
up any available space on the dark, virtually threadbare
carpet.

In a chair near the centre of the room sat a grey-haired man,
a tobacco pipe between his lips, tendrils of blue-grey smoke
drifting towards the dark wood ceiling. Another man, his hair
tending more to white than grey, paced the length of the far
bookshelf. The fluidity of his gait belied his apparent
age.


Can it be true, Deimos?” the pacing man asked. “Are our years
of searching over?”


Yes, old friend, all the signs are there,” the seated man
confirmed. “And I feel it in my bones.”


But we must tread carefully. You know it will be
exceptionally well protected.” The pacing man stopped and turned to
his companion.


Of course,” the grey-haired man agreed, “we’ve always known
it would be. And yet, just as we find it, we are also gifted with
the key to our success. The gods are with us; it is our
time.”


We have to train her as quickly as we can.” The white-haired
man resumed his pacing.


But it will take years just to get her to the level of Adept.
These things can’t be hurried, Phobos.” The seated man removed the
pipe from his lips, placing it carefully in the wooden holder on
the table beside him.


They have to be, Deimos, you know it as well as I.” Phobos
had turned again, his eyes fierce in his aged face. “We don’t have
years left. The spells are not nearly as effective as they used to
be, no matter how powerful the blood. Turning back the clock with
our magic alone is no longer enough to keep the cold hand of death
from our door.” Silence hung in the room.


You’ve seen and tested her; how far can we push her?” Deimos
finally asked.


She is strong, but bursting with her own self-importance,
undisciplined and completely untrained in our ways. She will take
some handling, and we will have to push her hard. Gemini can
provide the finesse and bolster her strength; with them we should
be able to manipulate her talent to work as we need it to. With the
army she can bring through the veil, nothing can stand against us.
Once we have what we need, we can take all the time we need to
train her to her full potential, and by then she shall be ours
completely.” Both men fell to stillness as they contemplated their
next move.


Who do we send to find it, confirm it is what we seek?” the
white-haired Elder finally asked. “You know my concerns about
Gemini. They are far too unpredictable for my liking. It is only a
matter of time before they consider usurping us.”


They aren’t strong enough yet, and once the Source is ours to
control, no one will ever be strong enough to supplant us.” The
Elder’s eyes gleamed with something sinister.


Yet another reason not to delay,” Elder Phobos pointed
out.


Yes,” the other agreed. “Then we start her training tomorrow.
First she must be taught to shield against the Oracles. If they can
see our endeavours, then not even the gods can guarantee our
success.”


I concur. And we send Gemini for our confirmation. There is
no one else; we must trust our leash for a few more weeks.” Elder
Phobos stopped at a table laid with a decanter of dark, ruby liquid
and poured two glasses, handing one to the other Elder. Their eyes
met as they raised the glasses in a toast and downed the
contents.

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Gabi was utterly spent, her breaths coming in ragged gasps; a
fine sheen of perspiration glazed her skin. In the dark above her,
a large, predatory shape loomed. She simply didn’t have the energy
to fend him off any longer.


Lord and Lady, Julius, enough,” she panted. “You’re going to
kill me.”

A smug chuckle vibrated through his chest. “Is my lioness
begging for mercy?” he asked in a wickedly sensual
voice.


Yes,” Gabi gasped, “I can’t take any more.”


That doesn’t sound much like begging to me,” he purred. “I
seem to remember the challenge being that I couldn’t make
you
beg
for
mercy. Demanding mercy won’t fulfil the challenge requirements. I
think I shall have to try a little harder.”


No,” Gabi wheezed, laughing and trying to squirm away from
him with what little energy she could dredge up. He pinned her to
the silk sheet using the weight of his body, brushed a lush auburn
curl from her shoulder, and began to lick a trail from her ear down
to her taut, traitorous nipples. He ignored her feeble attempt to
pound on his back with her fists. “Okay, okay, I beg for mercy,”
she cried. “You win.” She’d known better than to challenge him, but
what a pleasurable way to be forced to admit defeat. She huffed in
relief as he ended his sensual assault with a lingering
kiss.


Hmm, and what will be my prize for winning, I wonder,” he
mused.


I’m still alive enough to repay you for this,” she
retaliated, still panting. “And repay you I will.” She had every
intention of making him beg for the same mercy she’d just been
forced to plead for. She would have her revenge.


Promises, promises,” he purred, accepting the challenge with
a devilish glint in his gold-rimmed, sapphire blue eyes. She laced
her fingers into his tousled dark blond hair, and he finally gave
in to her demands, driving into her, filling her to the core with
hard, rhythmic thrusts. Her hips rose to meet his as she dragged
his head down to the soft junction of her neck and shoulder. With a
raggedly indrawn breath he opened his mouth and grazed her skin
with the point of one unnaturally long canine. Gabi felt the sheet
in her hand rip as she fought for some remnant of control, meeting
his ever-quickening pace and throwing her head back to give him
better access to her throat. The fleeting pain as his fangs pierced
her skin was her undoing; she shattered, her orgasm obliterating
every other thought in her mind.

 


Shower?” he asked when he’d recovered sufficiently to pull
away from her a little, enough that she could admire the muscles
that sculpted his chest in the firelight. His shoulders were broad
and incredibly well toned, though his build said athlete rather
than bodybuilder; his length dwarfed her own five and three-quarter
feet. She wasn’t sure she’d ever get over the thrill of seeing and
touching his body, a body that would never change, no matter how
long he survived. She was also fairly sure she wouldn’t be able to
walk for a week, never mind make it to the bathroom for a
much-needed shower. She eyed her quickly fading handiwork across
his body; while the scratch marks down his back and arms were
already healing, the bruising on her neck would take a little
longer. She may be something more than human, but her healing
wasn’t as good as her Vampire Consort’s was.


In a few minutes,” she said between heavy breaths. He moved
away from her to lie on his side, his head propped up on one arm.
He pulled on her arm to roll her over onto her stomach. She began
to protest.


Relax, Lea.” He chuckled. “I’ll be good, I swear.”


That’s what I’m worried about,” she muttered. As she settled
against the torn sheet, he began to massage her back, gently
working on knots and stiffness with the confidence of a trained
masseuse. Before long his fingers brushed over the jagged scar
beneath her right shoulder blade. His cool lips touched the marred
skin, and she shivered.


Tell me,” he said simply. They’d been here once before, and
she hadn’t been ready to share then. In truth, she’d never fully
shared the details of that particular scar with anyone. Several
people knew the basic facts; her best friend, Kyle, and Byron, the
man she considered her second father, had been the ones to find her
afterwards and stop her bleeding out. They’d rushed her to Ian,
Byron’s ER doctor son, who put her back together, physically at
least. Rose had been employed to take care of her and do the
housekeeping while she recovered, and the SMV Council and her
fellow Hunters had been informed of why she was off duty for so
long, but she’d never told anyone the story in its entirety
before.

Julius waited patiently, his hands still unhurriedly working
on the tension in her back and neck. She wondered how he would take
the gory details. He had a strong propensity for protectiveness
where she was concerned, though he was learning to control it, as
much as a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Master Vampire could
control that sort of thing. Maybe it was time, for both of
them.


I was younger, cockier. Full of myself, overflowing with
faith in my incredible capabilities,” she finally began, folding
her arms under her head and resting one cheek on them, figuring it
would be easier if she wasn’t looking directly at him. “There’d
been a spate of vicious Vampire attacks, mostly in the red-light
quarter, attacks on prostitutes and homeless or vulnerable teenage
girls. It seemed like the work of a Junkie—what we call the Vamps
who get hooked on adrenalin-laced blood,” she clarified for
Julius’s benefit.

He stayed silent, his fingers working calmly on her lower
back, but she knew he was absorbing every word.


We had a plan worked out. As the only girl on the team, I was
the bait, of course. It took a few nights for them to bite, but
we’d underestimated how many were involved. We had no idea they
were working in small packs, attacking several women at the same
time, stretching any potential law enforcement thin. As soon as
they struck, I should’ve pulled out. We should’ve regrouped and
taken on one pack at a time, but, at risk of repeating myself, I
was stupid and overconfident.” Gabi could still picture the scene
with surreal clarity.


There were three of them,” she continued. “Everyone else was
busy with two other packs, so I was on my own. Now that I know a
little more about Vampires, I think that one of the three was at
Master level. He was much faster, much more powerful than any other
Vamp I’d ever come across before. Not quite at your level or that
of the Princeps, but stronger than any of your Clan members.” Her
voice trailed off for a moment, reliving the fight.

Julius’s hands gentled to a soothing rub, and finally he
spoke. “You don’t have to go back there,” he told her, turning her
onto her side so he could study her face.

She didn’t meet his gaze, but she captured his free hand and
pressed it to her cheek. His proximity, the touch of his skin to
hers, calmed her.

BOOK: To Hell and Back (Hellcat Series Book 4)
10.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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