Book 2 - The Guilty Werewolf (March)
Book 3 - The Warlock's Secret (April)
The Vampire Contract
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Vampire Micah Jamieson is found guilty of killing his human husband. He runs from the execution he is facing to get home. He just has to pray he’ll reach home before supernatural law enforcement, in the shape of a Glitnir Court Retriever close in on him.
Wolf shifter and Retriever, Connor Strand easily captures Micah and he’s fully prepared to take the runaway in. But his wolf has other ideas.
Something about Micah challenges Connor and his long held beliefs. What if Micah is actually innocent? Will Connor put to one side his own prejudices, and then risk both his life and career to keep Micah safe?
“I know you’re out there!”
Connor tensed at the loud words. His quarry knew he was here? How the hell could a blundering, uncoordinated, frankly very short vampire know Connor was tracking him?
“What do you want, wolf?”
Exhaustion dripped from each syllable and Connor focused in on the body language of a defeated man. Was Micah Jamieson giving up and giving in?
Connor hesitated. This could well be a trick. No way was he going to let himself be swayed from what he had to do. His claws extended in his splayed hands and he rolled his neck with the itch of change that pressed on the front of his mind.
“Come out and talk to me,” Micah said. He turned in a circle as he peered into the undergrowth, the bushes that surrounded him, and high into the tall oak trees.
Connor watched with amusement. The vampire may be clever enough to figure out a wolf was tracking him, but he didn’t know where he was. Then Micah, murderer, criminal, listed for execution, turned and faced exactly where Connor was hidden.
“Retriever or not, I could do with the company and we need to settle this so you can go home.”
The vampire’s voice was sad and held a quality of loneliness that Connor thought only he had the capacity to feel. He shrugged away the sudden and inappropriate twinge of empathy.
“Here, here, wolfy, come on out and play with the scary vampire.” Micah ended on a chuckle and crossed his arms over his chest.
Dark haired and dressed from head to toe in black, he was merging with the smudge of gloom in the approaching evening, but Connor could still scent him from where he was—a combination of fresh forest air and something else that he couldn’t put his finger on. Micah didn’t smell like a normal vampire, if anything Connor found his scent weirdly comforting.
Shorter than the average vamp, nice scent or not, he was an easy take down. That was exactly how Niceros had sold this particular hunt to Connor. Easy. His boss always used words like easy and quick, but at the end of the day, Connor was hunting a paranormal called Micah who had ripped his own husband’s throat out and carved words in the fragile human skin. Short or not this vamp was dangerous and possibly psychotic.
Forcing his claws to retract as he straightened was an effort. Connor’s lupine half clung to his thoughts and demanded attention. Not now, he thought as he stepped into the clearing to reveal himself. The scent in the air was charged with moonflowers and there was magic stringing its way through the topmost branches of sprawling trees. Micah Jamieson’s scent was intermingled in it all.
Assessing Micah and the threat he posed was like breathing. Vampires were sneaky, scrappy fighters, fond of using a combination of teeth, knives, and formidable muscle strength. Added to which vampires were renowned as selfish, spoilt superior beings who disregarded society and its norms. No wonder this husband of Micah’s only lasted three weeks of marriage to the vamp.
“Strand,” he said firmly. “Senior Retriever.” The words were familiar and rolled off his tongue with ease. Step one of retrieval: state your name and rank and ensure the convicted were fully aware of who you were. As soon as they left his mouth, he waited for reaction. This was the point that those facing Court-assigned punishment reacted one of two ways: begging or running. Connor could deal with either.
“Senior?” The vamp huffed a laugh. “I was that much of a flight risk they sent a top grade hunter?”
“Just come quietly.”
Micah scanned Connor and let out a short laugh. “You’re not even armed.”
Connor took another step nearer, his arms loose at his sides and his hands ready. No wolf shifter Retriever was ever armed, they didn’t need to be.
“I’ve come to take you back.” He moved closer and could see Micah’s face more clearly. He was a lot smaller than other vamps Connor had taken down, and he looked resigned. He shrugged and held out his hands in front of him, palms up.
“You can try,” he finally said.
There was no bravado in his voice, merely plainspoken words with an edge of that same exhaustion Connor had heard before. Was the vamp really considering he could take on a senior wolf shifter? Connor had never actually seen bravado before in his prey. He’d seen begging and crying and witnessed a whole lot of running, but never this quiet acceptance.
They stood in a tense faceoff about three feet apart. Connor was in range of both vampire fangs and sharp, skin-slicing knives if Micah had any. He couldn’t see knives but rule one was never to underestimate any supernatural.
“Come quietly,” Connor said. “It will look good for you at Glitnir.”
Micah shook his head at the mention of the supernatural Court. “You mean they’ll cut my sentence from execution in a week to that of beheading in a month?”
“You will have more time to say goodbye to loved ones,” Connor said calmly.
“Glitnir thinks I killed a loved one.” Temper sliced into Micah’s words. “Why would they even think of giving me more time to say goodbye?”
Connor could see the sense in Micah’s words. Knowing what Glitnir would do to the vampire when Connor took him back was not his concern. For what he’d done he was lucky he was given time to settle his affairs. The quickest trial in the history of Glitnir and a punishment of death by beheading had been handed down in minutes. The evidence was there. The husband's human body drained of blood, the throat torn right through to the spine, and the vampire words, centuries old, cut into flesh. All of it led to Micah.
“If I was you,” Micah snapped. “I would shift and run back home.”
“Retrievers never return empty-handed.” Connor widened his stance and allowed his wolf side free rein.
Micah unfolded his arms and allowed them to hang loose with his fingers clenched into fists. “Sorry, dog, this time one will have to. I don’t have time for games.”
The single word dog was the ultimate insult to a race as old and proud as werewolves and the vampire knew this. Rage sparked in Connor, but he had to balance it if he didn’t want this to go to shit. Micah opened his mouth to say something else, but Connor acted on pure instinct and moved like lightning.
Connor leaped before Micah could move, and in that single second where he must have known Connor would be on him, there was acceptance etched into every line of Micah. Connor’s attack was instant and he kicked with his strongly muscled legs dead center in Micah’s chest. Micah fell off balance, slamming back against the tree. Connor followed Micah onto the ground and crouched over him, hands scrabbling to catch hold of Micah’s throat. Micah pushed back and his strength was enough to force Connor back and away. The plants and bushes around them caught on their clothes as Micah threw himself at Connor with a knife in one hand as his fangs descended. When they connected, Micah’s breath left him in a swift huff.
“Come home,” Connor snapped as Micah pinned him. The gleam of a blade was inches from his face and as much as he pushed up, Micah met with equal force. He flipped the other man with a knee to his balls and despite the yell of pain, Micah didn’t retreat. He lay under Connor with absolute determination in his expression.
For a second, no more, they were held in a match of force and Connor knew in an instant that this was not going to be a graceful fight but a scrappy uncoordinated battle for the upper hand. His wolf side took over and he found extra strength even as Micah pushed that little bit harder upwards and the knife moved dangerously closer to Connor’s face.
“No!” Micah said, and with a mighty heave, he had Connor sprawled on his back with his breath lost to the impact.
Connor used the momentum of his fall to roll on his side and then flip up standing. He charged at Micah without hesitation. Claws extended, he grabbed Micah’s knife hand and then used his other hand to dig through material and into skin below.
His long claws pierced the clothing and Micah screamed in pain before rolling them again so Connor was under him. He felt like the heaviest weight and now Connor had a hand trapped between them with claws still extended into Micah’s skin. He dug deeper, this wouldn’t kill the vampire, but it would surely incapacitate him for a while. Micah cursed and pushed up and away, and Connor felt his claws wrench free of the bloodied mess.
Stumbling back, Micah didn’t check the wound that was a ripped hole through jacket, shirt, and skin. There was real fear in his eyes as he fell to his knees. Connor howled in excitement at the ecstasy of ripping through his prey and he could almost taste the thrill of the win.
Micah scrambled away, with a hand clutched to his side and then used the trunk of a tree to stand. He took a step away from the bark and near doubled in pain.
“Don’t make me hurt you,” he begged as he straightened.
Connor growled in frustration at the nonsense Micah was spouting. He took the two steps up and away to jump at Micah. The vampire reacted instantly. He spun on his heel and suddenly the two were a mess of nails, claws, and teeth. The snarling, spitting fight had them pitted evenly against each other despite Micah’s injury.
Micah would get the upper hand only for Connor to switch and force Micah to the ground. He needed to pull the cuffs from his belt at that single point he had the upper hand, but sensing the loss of focus, Micah scrambled and fought his way free. His pale skin was marked with mud, leaves, and blood and the spread of dark on his shirt was dangerously large. Even a vampire would take a few days to heal from that.
“You chose to run,” Connor spat the specific words he needed to say on retrieval. “The Glitnir Court wants your return to carry out punishment for the crime of murder of Ethan Harris.”
He didn’t finish as, with a yell, Micah rushed him and near head-butted him in the stomach. The two men fell and rolled over and over down a small incline. Connor’s head smacked a stone and he felt the pain reverberate through him. Then the moonlight glinted on the sharp fangs that descended in Micah’s mouth and there was blood on his lips, Connor’s blood. They had both tasted blood tonight.
“No,” Micah spat at him in fury. “I didn’t kill him—”
Connor was shaken and beaten away from finishing what he had to say. His pain increased and Micah was pushing and stabbing with the knife. Connor felt the snap in his left arm as it broke against a fallen tree. Adrenaline spiked and he pushed through grating pain to force Micah off him and in a smooth move, had the cuffs in hand and was inches away from getting one wrist of the hissing, spitting, snarling night man cuffed.
“No!” Micah shouted. Terror widened his eyes and he was shouting and pleading and none of it made any sense. “Don’t make me hurt you.”
Connor carried on with the rights he needed to say. “An appointed councilor will review—”
“I can’t go.”
The first cuff snapped around Micah’s wrist and Connor suddenly had the upper hand. Micah threw himself back and pulled Connor with him in a mess of twisted limbs while he was talking, chanting, saying something. Connor shook his head and scraped claws along every available inch of skin he could find.
This wasn’t a clean fight, this was desperation, fear, and a crawling despair in Micah. The scent of terror was ripe in Connor’s nose. He could work with fright and panic in an escaped prisoner, it made them careless and vulnerable to attack. With a final lunge he aimed for Micah’s other wrist.
A scream of anguish from Micah and an invisible force lifted Connor from him and threw him across the clearing where he contacted with a tree.
“I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to!” Micah shouted.
Connor was losing the will to stay awake. Heaviness pulled him apart inside and his mind went blank.