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Her catlike stare was starting to bother me. I was feeling distinctly mousy. Nika, please get Tatiana cleaned up. Lydia, would you find Officer Gordon some new clothes? Why did I need clothes at all if they were gonna kill me? Lydia looked me up and down, ostensibly measuring me for clothes or maybe a coffin, a sardonic grin on her face. The hulking Vadim stepped over to me, holding out a plastic bag for my clothes. I sighed, beginning to empty my pockets. That done, I stripped off my ruined shirt and pants, trying not to fall over, shivering in just my boxer briefs.

Her blood. Galina and Vadim both started at my words, then exchanged a wordless glance. Lydia danced back into the room, mere minutes after leaving, a stack of clothes in hand. Do you live at the gym or what? My grandfather had received custody of me after the death of my family. I lived most of my life on his four-hundred-acre farm. First hard farm work, then after my talents appeared, heavy-duty workouts and martial arts training had left their mark on my physique. I was probably twelve the last time I had more than ten percent body fat. I struggled into the black leather pants that she provided, much to her amusement, and was just buttoning the waistband when Tatiana reappeared from the dressing room.

Holy shit! She was wearing a blue cutoff tee with the word PINK across the chest. White designer sweats and flip-flops completed the outfit. She looked like a dressed-down rich girl, which, actually, she was. The others took in my expression and then turned to look at her. Tatiana ignored all of them, her shocking blue eyes locked onto mine. I had a hard time deciding where to look first. Her exposed stomach was ripped, her arms well-muscled, as were her legs where her sweats clung to them. She was apparently braless and cold, if in fact vampires could get cold or excited.

But ultimately, I came back to her piercing eyes. They were curious and measuring. Her gliding walk was graceful even by comparison to the other vampires, and she was right in front of me before I could quite gather my thoughts. The smell of lilac and jasmine flowed over me. It was an interesting piece. The arrowhead, made from flint, was probably early Mohawk. The rawhide thong had come from a buck harvested from the farm. The broken eagle feather behind it had its own story. The Mohawk reservation of Akwesasne lies on the U.

My gramps has almost no vices, but he does like to play the blackjack tables from time to time. It was he who identified the arrowhead as Mohawk and, after examining both it and me, had reached into a small leather bag that had hung around his own neck and pulled out the rounded tip of the broken eagle feather. Smelling of pipe tobacco and leather, he had explained that he had found the partial feather and recognized that it was looking for a proper home.

While he spoke, he fastened the feather behind the arrowhead, making it both a background for the flint point and a cushion for my eight-year-old chest. That necklace had been with me for every demon hunt and banishment that I had ever been on. It had absorbed some of my power each time. Tatiana reached for it tentatively and as she did, an idea occurred to me. In between struggling in and out of various clothes, my dizzy brain had been worrying at the problem of leaving Tatiana unguarded. I was either dead soon, or, if the clothes were a sign that I might see the morning, then I needed to go home, soon, blood loss making me completely ineffective for fighting the Hellbourne.

The vampires seemed to be useless at noticing the demon that wanted her blood. The necklace was the answer. While she was holding it, I took the leather thong from around my neck and slowly slipped it over her head, her big blues widening as I did it. Arkady chose that moment to come back down the corridor, three SCUBA-sized tanks strapped together and held effortlessly in one hand, the other hand holding a sprayer wand. Lydia spoke up. Not dinner. Things might be looking up. I backed up and examined her with my Sight, which made me even dizzier.

She now stood in a sphere of purple-hued light, her own soul and aura blazing brilliant white. It looked pretty strong, but it occurred to me that I could strengthen it. Objects made of stone tend to absorb some of that power and sort of store it, like a battery. I usually carry a piece of carved soapstone with me when I exorcise a house or apartment, Indian fetishes. I leave it behind as a protection. If any other demons come around, they will shy away from the stone. Which would be something like, oh about.. Yes, I could definitely up its amperage. Vulnerable vampire?

I tried to shake it off, but her eyes mesmerized me. It will make you invisible to him and it will repel him, as well. But I want to boost it if I can. I hesitated. Ah shucks. Your profuse thanks are embarrassing me. It seems the rich all feel the same sense of entitlement, be they vampire or human.

Fucking rich people! I nodded and grabbed my folding knife from the pile of pocket junk and flicked the blade open. After pooling my aura in my right hand, I pricked my trigger finger. I push power out of my right hand and draw power in with my left. I squeezed a fat drop of blood onto the tip and then dabbed it onto the back of the arrowhead. Tanya tucked it into her shirt, between her breasts, her eyes watching me the whole time. The view momentarily snuffed out my feeble thoughts. I wiped my finger on my pants and tried to ignore the way they all stared.

I rechecked the necklace. The purple sphere was now twice as big as before and much denser in color. No different layers, just solid hues, sometimes with streaks of other colors. It can probably protect all three of you. A hiss sounded from the big male vamp, spraying the blood-covered wall and floor with some chemical cleaner. With nothing else to do, I wrestled myself into the white Plasma long-sleeve tee shirt that Lydia had provided.

It was a tight fit, but I immediately felt a little warmer. Most of your kind are scared witless by our presence, if in fact they live through the introduction. I snorted. They all went spooky still and blank faced. Ooops, wrong thing to say. I held my hands out in a placating gesture.

Top predators and all. Kill me? Torture me, then kill me? Big whup! Hellbourne can trap or foul my soul, haul me to Hell. Actually, I was on borrowed time from the moment of birth, twenty-three years ago.

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Well, twenty-three in seven more days. If I get there. What the hell did that have to do with anything? They were all silent, processing that piece of info, or maybe deciding if my wiseass mouth was pissing them off. The downside would be what, exactly? Liquid diet? No one made a sound for at least fifteen seconds. It was the mind reader who spoke first. How else can I see Hellbourne?

They can only occupy and use bodies that are soul-free. Meat shells. Probably that you are a different species or something. Since when did white mean evil? Why would you think that? Black means evil. Oily, greasy, stomach-turning black. To say I was taken aback was an understatement.

Up until this moment, I had assumed some sort of bond or connection to her. Which, when you think about it, was really stupid. Mind-numbing stupid. The whole save, defend, heal thing. The rest of them, I had no illusions about. But I had fooled myself into thinking that somehow we were friends. Suddenly, I was just as angry; at her, at myself, at all the stupid vampires in the room. My life sucked on a regular basis; now I was a liar?

Fuck that! The club was jumping as I entered the main floor, the deep bass of the music pushing on my ribs. I had to grab the doorframe to steady myself for a moment. I looked for Pella and Henderson, but when I got to our table, it was occupied by some black-garbed, chain-strewn Goths. Just getting my coat.

I could hear the disbelief in her voice and I realized that I was wearing the same tee shirt that the staff wore: big, blood-red Plasma spelled out diagonally across the torso. I turned away before she could answer and put on the jacket to avoid any more questions. Screw that! I handed her three fifties from my money clip and left. I fumed the whole cab ride home.

It was a little past eleven-thirty when I climbed the stairs to my second-floor apartment, still berating myself for thinking this time might have been different. Fifteen years of keeping myself distant from anyone but Gramps, and I get all giddy over the first gorgeous female vampire I happen to save. When I got inside, I only paused long enough to drop three raw eggs into a glass of orange juice and swig it down, Rocky style.

I needed the iron and protein, but I had no energy left to cook. After that , I crashed into bed, not even bothering to undress. Something was making a banging sound. Banging by the door. Banging on the door. I staggered over and peered through the peephole. My two neighbors from across the hall, Paige and Kathy, were standing there. I knew them enough to say hi in the hallway, but that was it. That made her about five nine, or an inch shorter than me. I heard it is the best club in the city. She was really cute, with short brown hair and brown eyes.

Kathy was rail thin and pleasant looking, in a mousy kind of way, with curly brown hair and hazel eyes. They smelled like peaches and kiwi. Must be their shampoo. I shuddered to think of these two alone in the vampire den. My initial reflex was to decline, but now that I was up, my stomach was demanding immediate attention. In fact, it growled right on cue. We all laughed and after noting that it was only eight a.

I headed to the dresser as the two followed me in. Chico was known to prefer shirtless men to a shirtless women. I grabbed some jeans and a tee shirt and my North Face Jacket, ducking into the bathroom to change and brush my teeth. I threw on my favorite hat, a Springfield Armory black ball cap emblazoned with the words Fear No Evil. Of course, it means something different to me than to most people. When I came out, the girls were looking curiously around my tiny studio pad. That tub had soaked many a bruised and sore muscle during my short residence.

Two big windows look out to the Northeast, and I get a great view if I step out on the fire escape. My place is uncluttered, as I have a minimalist approach to possessions. Just one leather chair, a futon that doubles as my bed, flatscreen, compact stereo, dresser, small bookshelf, and several lamps.

A small table just outside the tiny galley kitchen doubles as a desk, and I had two chairs that went with it. One of my walls was hung with a Native American rug, in deep reds, with the silhouette of a standing bear. Another bear, this one a large soapstone fetish from New Mexico, stood guard over the apartment from the bookshelf. I have no Native American heritage, but I had decided as a child that my spirit guide animal would be a bear. The girls looked up as I came out, their curious expressions changing quickly to smiles, and we headed out.

If you had told me that an Adirondack north-country kid could be reasonably happy in the Big Apple, I would have laughed in your face. But my neighborhood of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn is really pretty nice. Lots of small trees line the street and there are tons of restaurants, bars, gyms, and small shops. Brooklyn is the most populated borough in New York City, with a population of right around two-and-a-half million people.

Our building, on the corner of Bay Ridge Boulevard and Eighty Third Street, is a prewar elevator building, and the owners keep it up to date and very clean. Still, I miss my forests. The owner was behind the counter, wearing a hot pink tee with his own name across the front, and he greeted the girls by name and me with a nod. Rich coffee and bacon smells were driving me crazy. I made sure that I got the seat that faced the door, not leaving enough room for either of them to slide next to me.

The waitress swung by and brought us coffee. During the walk over, we had all decided on omelets, so we ordered immediately. I ordered two three-egg spinach and cheddar omelets, toast with peanut butter, and a large orange juice. Six eggs? You do look a little pale today. I remembered that she was a nutritionist at Sisters of Mercy Hospital. Paige worked for a television production company. Too many donuts. They laughed, and the topic changed to plans for the day.

Wanna come… along? This was the part I hated. The rebuff. When I took up Hellbourne hunting, I pretty much gave up on friends, and particularly girlfriends. I had had exactly one date in my life. The end of eighth grade, I finally got up enough courage to ask Mary Chauffey to go out. I had crushed on her all year, and when I asked her to pizza and the movies, she had said yes.

The date had been great. She had the same sense of humor that I did, but we were both too shy in school to display it. On top of that, she was very intelligent, conversant in a lot of the science subjects that I liked. I learned later that she had studied those topics just because I liked them. The real problem came three days later, when I was banishing a minor house demon in Ogdensburg.

I sat in the dark house for thirty minutes, horror struck. It knew her name. The implications were immediate and horrific. I went to school the next day and broke up with her. It was truly awful. She had really liked me, and I trashed it. But the alternative was unthinkable. Her older brother and his friend jumped me several days later. The fight lasted twenty minutes and the cops, called by a housewife who was witness to the whole thing, broke it up.

We were all pretty beat up, but the brother had a cracked rib, his friend lost a few teeth. My face and body were black and blue for a month. The waitress brought our food, and I tucked in. The girls started a two-way conversation that excluded me, punishment for not accepting their invite. I understood. I was being a jerk, and they knew it.

Hell, I had been rebuffed myself, just last night. We finished breakfast and I excused myself, receiving a cold goodbye from each of them. Better that way. Back at the apartment, I got set for the day. Vampires were real. Not that big of a shocker to someone in my line of work. Was Galina turned after Tatiana was born?

Did she turn Tatiana? The other vampires treated Tatiana very deferentially. At the same time, the hulking Arkady had been genuinely afraid of the tiny girl vampire when she had protected me. Which was also a puzzle: why had she interceded? Why would it want her blood? Why did Galina have our clothes burned to destroy her blood? It all revolved around the quiet, raven-haired vampire. I shrugged into the Civilian Labs chest pack, which was packed with my badge, wallet, cash, cell phone, and issue Glock 9mm and one spare magazine of ammo.

Hellbourne are tough, but a hollow point bullet in the brain will ruin their day. Tying up my Asics, I headed out at a jog. My plan was to patrol the area around Plasma for the day, evening, and night if necessary. The Hellbourne would be back; all I could hope was that it happened within the next twenty-four hours. I was a little concerned about my ability to fight. By best estimation, based on the dizziness, cold shakes, and lack of mental focus last night, Tatiana had drained me of something like fifteen percent of my blood supply.

She had needed it to survive. I should have been terrified by it. Despite her sudden anger at me the previous night, I hoped she was all right. I shook my head to clear and focus.

My arm was completely healed, and I felt good—really good, in fact. My vision, hearing, and sense of smell all seemed extra crisp. And as I started to jog, my legs felt great and my breathing was steady and even. It made me wonder about the small amount of blood she had made me ingest. Plasma was on Third Ave. The smells from all the restaurants immediately drove me crazy.

It was like I could almost pick out the individual spices and foodstuffs. The single best part of living in the City has to be the incredible array of food. And with my workout schedule, I burned it off as fast as I ate it. Although it did strike me as odd that I was already hungry forty minutes after that huge breakfast I had scarfed down. Finally, I stopped and grabbed a shawarma sandwich from a Middle Eastern place. Hot, spicy beef and lamb strips in pita with tahini. I ate it in five bites while running, the spices bursting on my tongue. Plasma occupied an unassuming two-story brick building with almost no exterior features of interest.

Before I got near it, I swung down a side street and ran a circuit behind it on Fourth Avenue. Suddenly panicky, I visualized the Hellbourne breaking into some huge brownstone and slaughtering Tatiana as she slept. Now what the hell was I gonna do? Oddly, I flashed to a memory of Gramps teaching me about survival. We were with the Search and Rescue group that he helped regularly, and he was instructing me in how not to panic.

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So I thought about the Demidovas and who might know where their house was. Michel St. James was a freelance society reporter whose articles appeared in The New Yorker , The New York Times , and half a dozen other publications. He sometimes hosted a cable station show of similar ilk, and that was how he knew Paige. I met him one night when Kathy and Paige threw a party. A couple of acquaintances had crashed the party and were giving Michel a hard time. Abrasive and condescending, he had an irritating effect on people.

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Coming back from a house cleansing, I interrupted the unpleasant scene and threw them out. It would be worth a phone call. Michel knew I was a cop, and it would make perfect sense for me to be acting as security. Certainly there could not possibly be any other reason. It was also a not-too-subtle reminder of my help with his own security. Brooklyn Heights, Willow Street, if I recall. Let me look it up. I hailed a cab while he rustled up the street number. No way was I gonna run all the way there.

Not enough time. The Demidova residence was a five-story brownstone in the glitzy, nose-in-the-air neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. There was also a basement below street level. It probably went for four to six million and must have had over seven thousand square feet of space. I had the taxi drive past it and then got out on the opposite side of the street, eyeballing the place for detail. The front would be well guarded, as would the back. A vision hit just then. A deck, a French door, and a bland reflection in the glass of the door.

I broke into a jog and ran around the block. Of course, the house was located right in the middle of the block, giving me the longest possible run to get behind it. Immediately, I spotted the deck, on top of a bump-out from the first and second floors. Discreet security cameras were visible to my trained eye, but the human security guards would not likely notice the Hellbourne. Not wanting to get shot, I pulled my badge from my chest pack and dangled it around my neck.

Then I studied the garden wall. About eight feet high and clear of any climbable objects. Piece of cake for the eerily-quick demonkind, but a pretty good obstacle for me. Backing up, I visualized a big Rottweiler chasing me for inspiration, then ran hard at the wall, bounding off my right foot. The fingers of both hands caught the top, fingers scrabbling on the crumbly brick of the old wall. Just like that, I was up, feeling pretty pleased with myself.

The whirring of a security camera spinning caught my ears, and the oily, dark presence of Hellbourne pressed on my aura like a bowling ball on a trampoline. It was here, close and moving. I jumped to the stained concrete surface of the garden, knocking over a potted cedar tree as I landed. The outer walls were lined with fruit trees and bushy conifers. An ornate yellow-metal trellis was centered over a pair of sitting benches, the top curved like the golden arches of McDonalds.

Ahead of me, I could see the brick wall of the bump out that held the deck as its roof. The back door opened and two burly men in dark suits came out, their steady stares glued to me like frat boys watching a beer truck. The second, even bigger, black with black eyes, hove into sight behind him like a naval vessel. Where did they grow these guys? I ignored his comments, as a rustle-smack sound announced the bland man-thing landing ten feet from me and moving toward the bump-out wall.

I raced to intercept it, the security guys completely ignoring it. The Abrams tank guy held up a salad-plate-sized hand , but I swerved around him like he was in slow motion and grabbed the ankle of the Hellbourne as it climbed the wall. It climbed with my full weight hanging from it for a moment, then fell back to the garden, its grip slipping.

The two security hulks had stopped to process the unexpected sight of the demon. Once my hand touched it, its cloak was shot and it had become visible to them. It totally took me out of the real world. From the author of the 1 bestseller TOUCHED comes the highly anticipated third episode of the saga that has bewitched thousands of readers around the world. Dark Secrets. How can you go on living if the person you love is gone?

Consumed by grief and remorse, Gemma Bloom wonders that day after day. Since that accursed kiss, she has been inconsolable, tormented by nightmares and hallucinations in which Evan is tortured by invisible hands. Horrified at first, Gemma finds herself gradually drawn to this new emotion. A terrible, mesmerizing power seems to be growing inside her, threatening to take possession of her soul.

Tormented by frightening premonitions and dangerous secrets, Gemma will have to summon all her courage if she wants to challenge Fate and resist the power of darkness. A journey through dark, forbidden worlds, beyond the limits of fear. Are you strong enough to tempt Fate? A journey through impossible worlds, full of revelations, crises, and blood feuds.

The story of a love that can withstand anything. Prepare yourself for a journey with no return. It makes you dream and leaves you in suspense.