The vampire Roke is raw, sensual, always in control. Yet somehow, he's allowed the unthinkable to happen: a nymph-like witch named Sally has used her magic to trick Roke into mating with her. The pair will remain bound for eternity unless Sally breaks the spell. The trouble is, she has no idea how . . .
Mating with Roke was an accident; at least that's what Sally keeps telling herself. She's on the hunt for her demon father, whose identity holds the key to releasing the spell. The search won't be easy with Roke shadowing Sally's every move. As they mate with a ferocity that leaves them both aching for more, Sally isn't sure if her world is more dangerous without Roke—or with him . . .
Contains mature themes.
Release date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Zebra Books
Print pages: 400
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Hunt The Darkness
Roke hadn’t yet given in to his overwhelming desire to commit gargoyle-cide.
But it was a near thing.
Roke was antisocial by nature, and having to endure endless chatter from a stunted gargoyle for the past three weeks had been nothing short of torture.
It was only the fact that Levet could sense Yannah, the demon who’d helped Sally flee from Chicago, that kept him from sending the annoying twit back to Styx.
His mating connection to Sally allowed him to sense her, but Yannah’s ability to teleport from one place to another in a blink of an eye meant by the time he could locate her, she was already gone.
Levet seemed to have a more direct connection to Yannah, although they still spent their nights chasing from one place to another, always one step behind them.
With a small smile he came to a halt, allowing his senses to flow outward.
The sturdy cottage tucked on the western coast of British Columbia was perched to overlook the churning waves of the North Pacific Ocean. Built from the gray stones that lined the craggy cliffs, it had a steep, metal roof to shed the heavy snowfalls and windows that were already shuttered against the late autumn breeze. A garage plus two sturdy sheds surrounded the bleak property, but it was far enough away from civilization to avoid prying eyes.
Not that prying eyes could have detected him.
Leaving his custom-built turbine-powered motorcycle hidden in the trees, Roke was dressed in black. Black jeans, black tee, and black leather jacket with a pair of knee-high moccasins that allowed him to move in lethal silence.
With his bronzed skin and dark hair that brushed his broad shoulders, he blended into the darkness with ease. Only his eyes were visible. Although silver in color, they were so pale they appeared white in the moonlight, and rimmed by a circle of pure black.
Over the centuries those eyes had unnerved the most savage demons. No one liked the sensation that their soul was being laid bare.
On the other hand, his lean, beautiful features that were clearly from Native American origins had been luring women to his bed since he’d awoken as a vampire.
They sighed beneath the touch of his full, sensual lips and eagerly pressed against the lean, chiseled perfection of his body. Their fingers traced the proud line of his nose, the wide brow, and his high cheekbones.
It didn’t matter that most considered him as cold and unfeeling as a rattlesnake. Or that he would sacrifice anything or anyone to protect his clan.
They found his ruthless edge . . . exciting.
All except one notable exception.
A damned shame that exception happened to be his mate.
No. Not mate.
Or at least, not in the traditional sense.
Three weeks ago he’d been in Chicago when the demon world had battled against the Dark Lord. They’d managed to turn back the hordes of hell, but instead of allowing him to return to his clan in Nevada, Styx, the Anasso, had insisted that he remain to babysit Sally Grace, a witch who’d fought with the Dark Lord.
Roke had been furious.
Not only was he desperate to return to his people, but he hated witches.
All vampires did.
Magic was the one weapon they had no defense against.
Regrettably, when Styx gave an order, a wise vampire jumped to obey.
The alternative wasn’t pretty.
Of course, at the time none of them had realized that Sally was half demon. Or that she would panic at being placed in the dungeons beneath Styx’s elegant lair.
He absently rubbed his inner forearm where the mating mark was branded into his skin.
The witch claimed that she was simply trying to enchant him long enough to convince him to help her escape. And after his initial fury at realizing her demon magic had somehow ignited the mating bond, Roke had grudgingly accepted it had been an accident.
What he hadn’t accepted was her running off to search for the truth of her father.
It was her fault they were bound together.
She had no right to slip away like a thief in the night.
“Do you sense anyone?”
The question was spoken in a low voice that was edged with a French accent, jerking Roke out of his dark broodings. Glancing downward, he ruefully met his companion’s curious gaze.
What the hell had happened to his life?
A mate that wasn’t a mate. A three-foot gargoyle sidekick. And a clan that had been without their chief for far too long.
“She’s there,” he murmured, his gaze skimming over the creature’s ugly mug. Levet had all the usual gargoyle features. Gray skin, horns, a small snout, and a tail he kept lovingly polished. It was only his delicate wings and diminutive size that marked him as different. Oh, and his appalling lack of control over his magic. Roke turned back to the cottage where he could catch the distinctive scent of peaches. A primitive heat seared through him, drawing him forward. “I have you, little witch.”
Scampering to keep up with his long, silent strides, Levet tugged at the hem of his jacket.
“Umm . . . Roke?”
“Not now, gargoyle.” Roke never paused as he made his way toward the back of the cottage. “I’ve spent the past three weeks being led around like a damned hound on a leash. I intend to savor the moment.”
“While you’re savoring, I hope that you will recall Sally must have a good reason for—”
“Her reason is to drive me nuts,” Roke interrupted, pausing at the side of the nearest shed. “I promised her that we would go in search of her father. Together.”
“Oui. But when?”
Roke clenched his teeth. “In case you’ve forgotten, she nearly died when the—”
Roke grimaced. The creature that they’d so recently battled might have claimed to be the first vampire, but that didn’t make him a god. The bastard had nearly killed Sally in an attempt to break the magic that held him captive.
“When the ancient spirit attacked her,” he snapped. “She should be grateful that I was willing to wait for her to regain her strength.”
Levet cleared his throat. “And that is the only reason you tried to keep her imprisoned?”
“She wasn’t imprisoned,” he denied, refusing to recall his panic when Sally had lain unconscious for hours.
Or his fierce reluctance to allow Sally to leave Styx’s lair.
“Non?” Levet clicked his tongue, seemingly oblivious to how close Roke was to yanking that tongue out of his mouth. “I would have sworn she was locked in the dungeons.”
“Not after Gaius was destroyed.”
“You mean after she saved the world from the vampire-god?” the gargoyle taunted. “Generous of you.”
Oh yeah. The tongue was going to have to go.
“Don’t push me, gargoyle,” he muttered, allowing his senses to spread outward.
He would deal with the aggravating gargoyle later.
Testing the air, he caught the scent of salty foam as waves crashed against the rocks below, the acrid tang of smoke from the chimney, and the distant perfume of a water sprite playing among the whales.
But overriding it all was that tantalizing aroma of warm peaches.
A potent aphrodisiac that once again compelled him forward.
Levet grabbed his back pocket. “Where are you going?”
Roke didn’t miss a step as he swatted the pest away. “To get my mate.”
“I do not believe that is a good idea.”
“Thankfully I don’t give a shit what you think.”
“Très bien,” the gargoyle sniffed. “You are the panty boss.”
“Bossy-pants, you idiot,” Roke muttered, heading directly for the back door.
He’d officially run out of patience twenty-one days and several thousand miles ago.
Which would explain why he didn’t even consider the fact Sally might be prepared for his arrival.
Less than a foot from the back steps he was brought to a painful halt as an invisible net of magic wrapped around him, the bands of air so tight they would have sliced straight through him if he’d been human.
“What the hell?”
Levet waddled forward, his wings twitching as he studied Roke with open curiosity.
“A magical snare. Sacrebleu. I’ve never seen one so strong.”
Roke flashed his fangs, futilely struggling to escape.
Damn, but he hated magic.
“Why didn’t you warn me?” he snarled.
“I did,” the gargoyle huffed in outrage. “I told you it was a bad idea.”
Okay, he hated magic and gargoyles.
“You didn’t tell me there was a trap.”
“You are chasing a powerful witch. What did you expect?” The damned beast dared to smile. “Besides, it’s such a fine spell. It would have been a pity to spoil Sally’s fun.”
“I swear, gargoyle, when I get out of here—”
“Are all vampires always so bad-tempered, or is it just you?” a light female voice demanded, the scent of peaches drenching the air.
Roke swallowed a groan, a complex mixture of fury, lust, and savage relief surging through him.
None of it showed on his face as he turned to study the tiny female with shoulder-length hair that was a blend of deep red tresses streaked with gold. She had pale, almost fragile features with velvet brown eyes and full lips that begged to be kissed.
“Hello, my love,” he said in a low, husky voice. “Did you miss me?”
Sally Grace had been well aware that she was being hunted.
Not only hunted . . . but hunted by a first-class, grade A, always-get-my-man predator.
And she should know all about predators.
She’d been prey since her mother had tried to put an end to her existence with a particularly nasty spell on her sixteenth birthday. No one understood the difference between an okay hunter and one you didn’t have a hope in hell of shaking off your trail better than she did.
Still, she’d managed to elude him for the past three weeks.
Twenty-one days longer than she’d expected.
Now she intended to hold her ground.
No one was putting her back in a cell.
Planting her hands on her hips, she pretended a confidence she was far from feeling.
“Why are you following me?”
His beautiful eyes shimmered a perfect silver in the moonlight.
Of course, everything about him was perfect, she acknowledged with a renegade rush of awareness.
The exquisitely carved features. The dark hair that was silky smooth. The hard, chiseled body that should only be possible with Photoshop.
And the raw, sexual magnetism that pulsed in the air around him.
There wasn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t secretly wish he’d handcuff her to the nearest bed.
A pity he was a coldhearted vampire who would happily kill her if her magic hadn’t tied them together as mates.
She shivered despite the heavy sweatshirt and jeans she wore to combat the cold.
“Is that a joke?”
She tilted her chin. “There’s nothing funny about our situation.”
“Then why don’t you return to Chicago?” she demanded in frustration. “I’m perfectly capable of tracking down my father without you.”
A dark brow arched. “Really?”
“The last time you went rogue we ended up mated.” His lips twisted as he stopped struggling and instead stood there with his head held high, pride etched onto his beautiful face. As if he was above noticing her tedious spell. “Forgive me if I don’t entirely trust you.”
Sally flinched, her eyes narrowing. Dammit. She didn’t need any reminders that she was a major screwup.
Not when she was tired and frustrated and in the mood to punch something.
Really, really hard.
“Sacrebleu,” a voice rasped, drawing Sally’s attention to the tiny gargoyle standing at Roke’s side. “You may have a death wish, vampire, but I do not. I believe I will speak with Yannah.”
Sally blinked, effectively distracted by the question.
Yannah had been a strange travel companion. The small demon had happily zapped Sally to each of her mother’s properties so Sally could search for clues of her father, but she’d rarely spoken and had spent most of her time zoned out as she mentally communicated with her mother, who also happened to be an Oracle.
Sally had been almost relieved when Yannah had abruptly announced she had to go home.
She was used to being on her own.
It was . . . comfortable. Familiar.
Tragic, achingly lonely, but familiar.
“She left,” she informed Levet.
“Left?” His heavy brow furrowed. “What do you mean left?”
“One minute she was standing next to me complaining about the dust, and the next—” She waved a hand.
“Poof,” Levet finished.
Without warning the gargoyle was stomping away, his tail twitching and his tiny hands waving in the air as he muttered to himself.
“Aggravating, unpredictable, impossible female.”
“I feel his pain,” Roke drawled.
She turned back to stab him with a glare. “Not yet, but keep it up and you will.”
The silver eyes shimmered. “Release me.”
Sally wrapped her arms around her waist. She could feel his anger through their bond, but more than that she could feel a seething frustration that was echoed deep inside her.
That scared her more than his irritation.
“Why should I?” she bluffed. Yeah, look at her. All badass just so long as Roke remained trapped in her spell. “You’re trespassing on my property.”
He glanced toward the cottage. “Yours?”
She shrugged. “It was my mother’s, and since I’m her only heir, I assume her various houses are now mine.”
“She had more than one?”
“What do you think I’ve been doing the past three weeks?”
The silver gaze returned to sear over her pale face. “Running.”
She sniffed, refusing to admit that running had been a large part of what she’d been doing.
There had been a little method to her madness.
“I’ve been searching through my mother’s belongings,” she said. “I hoped that she would have left some clue to my . . .” She bit off the word father. Did a donation of sperm actually earn the title of father? “To who impregnated her.”
He frowned. “I thought you said that witches had a spell so their private papers were destroyed when they died?”
It was true that many witches had binding spells attached to their most sensitive possessions. It gave a whole new meaning to taking “secrets to the grave.” And her mother had been more secretive than most.
Still, she had to cling to some small fragment of hope. Dammit.
“They do,” she grudgingly admitted. “But she wouldn’t have destroyed everything. There has to be a clue somewhere.”
“Release me and I’ll help you search.” He studied her stubborn expression, silently compelling her to obey. “Sally.”
“Don’t growl at me. You locked me in a cell—”
“And I let you out.”
“Only because I forced you to.”
A dangerous chill blasted through the air at her foolish reminder that he’d briefly been under her complete control.
“Sally, like it or not we’re stuck together,” he rasped between clenched teeth.
“I don’t like it.”
The silver eyes narrowed. “If that were true, then you would be eager for my help.”
She snorted. “Nice try.”
“You know that vampires are the finest hunters in the world,” he continued, ignoring her interruption. “And I’m one of the best.”
“And so modest.”
“If you were as anxious as you claim to end our mating, you would be begging for my . . . services.”
His gaze deliberately lowered to take in her slender body, making Sally tremble in reaction. Blessed goddess. The blast of sexual arousal that jolted through her made her feel like she’d been struck by lightning.
And the worst part was, she couldn’t blame the intense reaction on the faux mating.
She’d been aching for Roke from the moment she’d caught sight of those dark, male features and the astonishing silver eyes. Not to mention the tight ass that filled out a pair of jeans with oh-my-god perfection.
“Jeez, could you be any more annoying?” she muttered, reluctantly releasing the spell that bound him. The magic was draining her at a rapid rate, and the last thing she wanted was to collapse in front of this man. Better that she pretended to be bored with the game. “You’re free. Now go away.”
The words had barely left her lips when Roke was flowing forward at a blinding speed.
“Roke.” His name was a muffled protest against his chest as he lashed his arms around her and flattened her against his body.
“Don’t move,” he growled, pressing his face into the curve of her neck, his fangs lightly scraping her skin.
“What are you doing?”
He shuddered, his hands running a compulsive path down her back to cup her hips.
“You feel it,” he whispered against her neck.
And she did.
Not just the tidal wave of sensual pleasure at being in his arms, but the strange sensation of something settling deep inside her.
An easing of the nagging sense of “wrongness” that had plagued her since leaving Chicago.
His lips moved to press against the thundering pulse at the base of her throat.
“Do you have any idea what you did to me when you disappeared?”
Her lashes slid downward as she absorbed the stunning pleasure of his touch.
“I thought you would be happy to be rid of me,” she whispered, breathing in the scent of leather, male, and raw power.
His fingers gave her hips a small squeeze. “You wouldn’t have snuck away if you believed that.”
The fact he was right only pissed her off.
“Just because I didn’t ask for your permission doesn’t mean I snuck away.”
“Sally, whether this mating is some demon magic or not, it feels real to me,” he rasped. “To have you disappear . . .” He shuddered, revealing the genuine pain he’d been forced to endure. “Christ.”
Sally grimaced, her anger abruptly being replaced by overwhelming regret.
The mating truly had been an accident.
At the time she’d been scared and desperate or she would never have released her inner demon.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew that messing with magic she didn’t understand was dangerous. And until she had discovered the truth of her ancestry, she’d usually stuck to the human spells she’d learned from her witch mother.
But accident or not, she’d physically, perhaps even spiritually, bound this proud loner to her.
It was a sin she could never erase.
“I’m sorry,” she husked.
His tongue traced the line of her jaw. “Are you?”
“I know this mess is partially my fault.”
He jerked his head back in disbelief. “Partially?”
She was instantly on the defensive. “If your precious Anasso hadn’t thrown me in the dungeons, I wouldn’t have needed to use my powers to escape.”
He muttered a curse, returning to nuzzle a searing path of kisses down the side of her neck.
“Let’s go back to your apology,” he commanded.
Somehow her hands were on his shoulders, her fingers tangled in his silken hair.
“Fine. I regret any discomfort I’ve caused you,” she managed to say, excitement jolting through her as he allowed her to feel the tips of his fangs.
Crap. What was wrong with her? She’d never been one of those freaks who wanted to be dinner for a vampire.
Even if their bite was orgasmic.
Now she was shaking with the need to feel those fangs sliding through her tender flesh.
“And you promise not to disappear again?” he demanded, his hands slipping beneath her sweatshirt.
She shuddered, struggling to think through the haze of lust clouding her mind.
“Not unless I believe it’s absolutely necessary.”
He made a sound of resignation. “Have you always been so stubborn?”
“Have you always been so arrogant?”
He pressed a hard, hungry kiss to her lips. “Yes.”
Roke felt Sally tremble, her fingers tangled in his hair as her body arched against him.
A groan was wrenched from his throat. Christ, the very air was scented with her desire.
But even as his hands skimmed beneath her sweatshirt to find the soft curve of her bare breasts, she pulled back with a startled gasp.
“Roke . . . stop.”
He hissed, burying his face in the soft cloud of her windswept hair.
“You’re my mate.”
“No.” She sucked in a shaky breath, her eyes dark with a need she couldn’t hide. “It’s an illusion.”
He lowered his hand from the temptation of her breast, but he kept his arms firmly around her.
She wasn’t going to disappear again.
Not even if he had to handcuff her to his side.
He swallowed a low growl.
Having Sally and handcuffs in the same thought wasn’t doing a damned thing to help him gain control of his raging libido.
“It doesn’t feel like an illusion, does it, my love?” he murmured.
“It’s not real.” She licked her lips. “It can’t be real.”
Logically Roke agreed.
Physically? Not so much.
His body was ready and eager to accept that she was created to be in his arms.
His gaze shifted to the tempting curve of her neck, his fangs aching with a savage instinct to mark her as his own.
A damned shame that Styx had warned taking Sally’s blood might very well turn the mating from a magical illusion to a bond that couldn’t be broken.
Battling against his primitive urges, Roke was distracted by the whiff of granite as the gargoyle waddled back into view, his wings shimmering in the moonlight.
“I see the two of you have kissed and made up.”
He sent the pest an annoyed glare. “Go away, gargoyle.”
“No.” Sally shoved out of his arms, her face flushed and her eyes still dazed with their mutual lust. “He can help search the cottage for clues.”
His brows snapped together. “You run from me, but you’ll ask a three-foot gargoyle for help?”
She met his fierce disbelief without flinching. “Unlike vampires, gargoyles are sensitive to magic. He might find something that I’ve missed.”
“Oui, I am very sensitive.” Levet turned toward Roke, sticking out his tongue. “It is the reason women find me irresistible.”
With a flick of his tail, Levet waddled toward the cottage. Roke clenched his hands.
So much for a little one on one time with Sally.
“Shit, that gargoyle needs a muzzle,” he muttered.
“He’s not the only one,” Sally informed him, turning to follow the tiny demon into the cottage.
Roke briefly hesitated.
If he had any sense he’d get on his motorcycle and never look back.
Sally was right.
Magic was a vampire’s true weakness.
There was nothing he could do when it came to breaking the spell that bound them together. Why not head back to his lair in Nevada and wait for Sally to contact him when she had the means to break the mating?
But the thought had barely time to form before it was forgotten as he headed into the cottage.
He’d spent three hellish weeks chasing after his witch.
Until the bond was broken, he wasn’t letting her out of his sight.
Entering through the back door, he passed through the small mudroom that opened into a large kitchen equipped for a witch, not a chef.
There was a massive, stone fireplace with a cast-iron cauldron hanging over a pile of wood. The open rafters were lined with bronze pans and bundles of dried herbs. And in the center of the floor, a circle had been carved into the flagstones that was large enough for two or three witches to sit in without touching.
He followed the scent of peaches into the main room of the cottage, discovering Levet flitting around the sparsely furnished space and Sally standing beside the empty fireplace, her spine rigid.
He grimaced, assuming she was trying to give him the cold shoulder. Then, slowly he realized it wasn’t annoyance she was feeling.
It was a dull, bitter pain he could feel through their bond.
With two long strides he was standing at her side, gently tucking her hair behind her ear so he could study her pale profile.
“There’s something here that bothers you?”
“You could say that.” Her lips twisted as her gaze lingered on the scorched mark on the wall. “This is the precise spot where my mother tried to kill me.”
The image of a young Sally lying lifeless on the floor seared through Roke’s mind and he struggled to contain his burst of fury. His temper had the unfortunate effect of destroying the structural integrity of any building he happened to be standing near.
Instead he concentrated on the pleasant knowledge that Sally’s mother had died a painful, probably even gruesome death at the hands of a fellow vampire.
Levet crossed the room to study Sally with a sympathetic expression on his ugly face.
“Why would your mother try to kill you?”
Sally shivered. “She didn’t know my father was a demon. Not until my sixteenth birthday when my powers started to kick in.” She gave a humorless laugh. “It was an unpleasant surprise, to say the least.”
“Ah. My mother tried to kill me as well.” Levet shrugged. “Families are always difficult.”
Sally managed a small smile that didn’t disguise the wounds that festered in her heart.
“She’s dead,” she said in grim tones. “She can’t hurt me anymore.”
Roke’s fingers brushed her cheek. “No one is going to hurt you.”
She awkwardly stepped away, her expression wary.
Despite their bond she still didn’t trust him.
Hell, the woman had been taught she couldn’t trust anyone.
“My mother’s room is this way,” she muttered, leading them out of the front parlor down a short hallway.
Pushing the door open, she stepped aside as the gargoyle entered the small bedroom and began investigating the dust-coated furnishings.
“Do you sense anything?” she demanded as Levet stuck his head in the closet.
Roke moved across the hall to the second closed door. “What’s in here?”
“Stop,” Sally rasped, a hint of embarrassment in her voice.
“Your room I assume?” Roke smiled with wicked amusement as he pushed the door open to take a peek at the pink bedspread on the narrow bed and lace curtains. “It’s very . . . frilly.”
She sent him an evil glare. “Not all of us sleep in moldy crypts.”
He wandered forward, studying the poster hung over the bed. “The Backstreet Boys?”
“I’ve always preferred my men cute and sexy.”
He glanced over his shoulder, the memory of her melting beneath his kisses shimmering in his eyes.
She rolled her eyes, but even as she searched for the words to deflate his ego, Levet was scooting past her and heading directly to the bed.
“What do I sense?” he asked, opening the nightstand to pull out the plain wooden box she’d kept hidden from her mother.
“It’s just a music box,” she readily answered. “I found it here not long after we arrived at this cottage.”
The gargoyle glanced at her, his tail twitching. “You found it or it found you?”
Sally blinked. “I don’t understand. It was tossed in a pile of rubbish behind the shed. If I hadn’t been hiding from my mother, I would never have seen it.”
Roke’s momentary amusement was snuffed out. “Why were you hiding from your mother?”
She wrinkled her nose. “I was playing with her favorite crystal and set the curtains on fire.”
“And you were afraid you were going to be punished?”
“It wasn’t that. I was used to being punished.”
Roke’s jaw clenched. If the witch wasn’t already dead, he would take great pleasure in skinning her alive.
“Then why were you hiding?”
“I had to get rid of the crystal. I didn’t want her to know—”
“The level of your talent,” he finished for her.
“Exactly.” Sally unconsciously rubbed her arms as Roke’s anger dropped the temperature in the room. At least he hadn’t brought the ceiling down on their heads. “My mother liked to believe that she was the most powerful witch ever born.”
“How old were you?”
Six? Christ. She’d been a baby.
Levet cleared his throat. “Tell me exactly how you found the box.”
Sally furrowed her brow as she shifted through her memories.
“I intended to hide the crystal until the spell wore off so I went behind the shed and stumbled over the pile of rubbish.”
“Was the box dirty?” Levet prodded. “As if it had been there a long time?”
She shook her head. “No, but it could have been tossed. . .
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