Excerpt for Bishop by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

Bishop


Book 3, New Vampire Disorder


By Marie Johnston

Bishop (Smashwords Edition) © 2016 by Lisa Elijah


Developmental Editing by The Killion Group


Copy Editing by Razor Sharp Editing


Proofreading by HME Editing


Cover by P and N Graphics


The characters, places, and events in this story are fictional. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are coincidental and unintentional.

Mixing fire and ice…


Fyra is on the run. Permanently. She had one job: make the vampire Bishop the underworld’s tool. But despite her best feminine wiles, the stubborn, exasperating, delicious male wouldn’t break. Now pursued by her fellow demons—and one very angry vampire—she’s running out of options. Too bad she’s no good at hiding. Everywhere she goes, fires break out. Her combustible personality is more than just an annoyance, it’s going to get her killed. Leaving a fiery trail for her enemies to follow, she’s as good as dead…unless Bishop finds her first.


can be hell.


Tricked into a bond with a demon, Bishop must free himself before he is forced to turn on his team, his people, and the realm he’s worked so hard to protect. But even if he can catch his luscious demoness, just what will he do with her? Her knowledge of the underworld alone is reason enough to keep her—and use the unwanted bond for himself. But Fyra is no pawn, and her fiery presence threatens to thaw secrets from Bishop’s past best left on ice. As enemies circle and allies become foes, Fyra and Bishop will have no choice but to take on hell with fire and ice.

To our puppy, Watson, who’s well past fifty pounds and a whole lot more work than our cat. But he got me out of my chair and out of my funk. So many times I didn’t want to move, but I had to rescue the sock…and the towels…and usually him. Watson might be considered a rescue, but he’s definitely saving me—and digging through the laundry when I’m not looking.


Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

About the author

Also by the author

Chapter One


Bishop stared at the disheveled room, clenching and unclenching his fists.

His nostrils flared. Among the scattered drawers and strewn clothing was her scent.

His demon.

With the owners dead, this house was no longer a place to lure humans to become hosts for demons. But she had crossed into his world without being summoned. She’d used her bond—Bishop ground his teeth at the reminder—and not a human. Yet she’d had the ability to land here instead of outside of the compound where he and his team stayed.

His demon.

He didn’t know what she really looked like. She’d only come to him, tricked him into binding himself to her, while in human hosts.

I pick what you like, Bishop.

The memory of her mocking tone shot straight to his manhood. Damn that bond!

He took another inhale. Brimstone, of course, but laced with a…sweet wood-fire scent? Yeah, like roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Then having sex and licking the sticky goo off each other.

Gah! She was a demon and he didn’t even know her real name. Always her with the upper hand. She knew his name, had known his habit of frequenting busty, buxom humans to sate his physical drives, had been able to use her knowledge to lure him into swearing himself to her.

But he’d prevailed and not turned on his team. Bishop snarled and spun around. Stomping out of the room, he brushed aside the remnants of the crime-scene tape from the murders of the house’s owners. His demon must’ve busted through the tape on her way out, ripping it to shreds.

Had she known the owners, the underworld’s human servants, were dead? That they’d been killed only days ago? Yet she’d entered the realm in this house.

Frustration welled. His team was tasked with protecting their people from the recent threat of demons, but they worked with so little understanding of how demons functioned. Bishop’s demon had wanted to use him, but he could play that game. He’d use her to determine the rules of the underworld—and destroy it.

He exited the room and stopped, then backed up.

Several pieces of yellow tape were singed. He grasped a piece between his fingertips. Black dust, like soot, covered the ends.

He narrowed his eyes. A clue to store away; the fact resonated deeply in his bones. What did it mean? Did she singe stuff she touched? Had she blown her way through the door and its taped exit? A quick scan of the frame and floor showed no other signs of damage. His brow crinkled. He’d find out what she was capable of if it was the last thing he did.

He stormed out of the empty house into the night. A dog barked next door at an almost identical colonial house, its claws scraping against the windows of the dwelling. His bark brimmed with protective instincts and terror. The pooch sensed another predator in the area and feared for his people.

“I’m not gonna hurt your humans,” Bishop growled.

The dog quieted.

Huh. That was a first, but they were smart creatures. He wished humans were the same. If that woman hadn’t volunteered for demon possession, naively thinking it was a one-way ticket to the supernatural world, he wouldn’t be in this heap of a mess. Why would a human want to become a vampire, anyway? Couldn’t they just be happy being humans and enjoy their short life? Sip on merlot and not worry about finding a vein to tap. Remain blissfully unaware of the underworld seeking to overpower this realm and enslave all other species.

Bishop had dedicated his life to the safety of his own kind and humans, too. For them to hand over their bodies to a demon in hopes of changing their fate was just plain insulting.

He glared at the dog, a white poodle quivering from head to toe, mistaking Bishop’s ire as being directed at him. “Which way did she go?”

He wasn’t sure the animal heard him until the pup’s head kicked sideways, gesturing down the street.

“Good boy.” Bishop climbed into his Hummer and slammed the door. He sat for a moment, staring into the shadows created by the streetlamps.

She was on foot. Had to be.

When his leader’s mate had been bonded to a demon and the bastard had crossed over, the demon had kept his underworld powers. Bishop had to assume his demon had the use of her abilities, whatever they were.

Hoping they didn’t include teleportation, Bishop scrubbed his face. He was already behind the curve.

If she wasn’t able to flash in the underworld, then she was either on foot or she’d lifted a vehicle.

His demon had little conscience. She’d probably stolen a car instead of running.

He studied the area. Suburban, quiet. Older homes full of character, early nineteenth-century construction. Close to a college campus, but full of families instead of frat houses. His demon would only find plain cars, probably a few years old, with some wear and tear.

He fired up the engine, then idled through the streets in the direction the dog had indicated.

Sirens wailed, disrupting the silence of the night. Ahead of Bishop, an orange glow pierced the moonless night. Must be a fire a mile, maybe two, away.

He almost dismissed it until he recalled the seared plastic tape at the house.

His demon was hot.

Pressing on the accelerator, he aimed for the blaze. Fire trucks zoomed ahead of him, racing to the scene.

Bishop stopped a block away, blending in with other late-night rubberneckers. Smoke rolled from a building. A gas station. And not a building ablaze, but a car. A car parked at the pumps was engulfed in flames. Did she really have to pick the most dangerous place for an open flame? If it was her. But his old friend intuition curled through his gut like a tendril of smoke.

Yes. It was her. He’d catch her and finish her. Cover up his mistake before she threatened his team. The dependable, calm Bishop had royally fucked up. He’d make it right. His friends had been through a lot and Bishop would mop up his own mess and keep them protected while protecting himself. He’d do it to honor his mam.

Firemen hopped out, but Bishop remained in his vehicle. Hoses were unraveled and the crew battled the fire as people fled the premises.

Bishop scanned the crowd. His demon should be in her own form. Could she possess another human without the help of humans who’d summon someone like her? It was possible, but his pull toward her was stronger than ever, like it wasn’t being muted in a host anymore. He had no clue what she looked like, but he studied the crowd closely.

His bond didn’t ping, didn’t tighten his gut with her proximity. She wasn’t among the spectators.

You can’t hide from me, demon.


***


Fyra quit running.

You can’t hide from me, demon.

Bollocks. Her big, blond vampire knew she’d made it to his realm. Having Bishop after her didn’t spear her with panic like having one of the Circle of Thirteen targeting her.

Although the end result might be the same.

No. Bishop despised her, but he wasn’t innately cruel. Unlike Rancor. Her boss relished how his cruelty reached above the other twelve of the Circle that led the underworld. What he couldn’t achieve with brains, he did with brutality.

She shuddered. Her skin still crawled from Rancor’s touch. After he was done brutalizing her for her failure to extract information from Bishop, he would’ve skinned her and used her pelt as a cloak. And probably fucked that, too.

Demons had no sense of decency.

Okay. Plan B had just become plan Right-Freaking-Now. Her underworld boss was probably mobilizing the rest of his minions to find her, and now her vampire was on her trail.

She had to find another car to steal. Stupid humans. Why couldn’t they leave a car with a full tank of gas sitting around?

Why did Fyra have to steal the only one with an empty tank? Having to fill it with gas had been flirting with disaster. She and fuel didn’t mix.

In the underworld, it didn’t matter if she spewed a little flame here or there. She ran hotter than most other fire demons. Her kind kept the fires of the underworld going—job security down there, major bummer up here.

She shoved her hands into the navy-blue hoodie she’d pilfered from the cult house and put her head down. Two blocks ahead was a nice, charcoal-gray car parked at the curb. An older model, so she wouldn’t have to worry about so many of the new security features. Things had been so much easier decades ago. People had actually left their keys in the ignition back then. So handy. At least the previous car’s owner had left his wallet on the seat.

Dragging in a calming breath, she willed her internal inferno to calm.

Cool air snaked around her, as if drawn to the heat. For a fire demon, the beginning of winter was a good time to be stranded on Earth. Control of her abilities was easier when she didn’t have hot weather encouraging her blaze. Another benefit: stocking hats.

She might only be a second-tier demon, but her status came with the benefit of a humanoid form, even if she lacked the ultimate power of a full demon. But she still stood out in the human world.

Her flame-hued hair was tucked underneath a standard black cloth hat. She rolled her shoulders. Too bad the previous owner of the hoodie hadn’t been a larger guy. Her bust took up most of the extra room. Same with the sweats. Her ass rounded out the back until the waistband dipped and showed off her crack every time she bent.

She reached the car and trotted to the driver’s door. Closing her eyes, she laid a finger on the lock. A small surge of energy poured into the lock, and a satisfying thunk signaled an unlocked door. She grinned and crawled in.

Another zap at the ignition and the engine purred.

Almost as good as an orgasm. Unless it was with Bishop. He could make a girl roar.

She pulled away and tore through Freemont. She knew the town well enough, but she couldn’t stay. She couldn’t hide in Bishop’s backyard, he’d find her in no time.

Suh-weet. The car had over half a tank of gas so she could ditch this city before Rancor found a prime vampire to possess. He had surely sent one or two second-tier demons after her already, but he had to earn his reputation back. She’d destroyed it by getting away; therefore, he’d use her to demonstrate that it had been nothing more than a fluke, then claim he’d let her get away to lead them to Bishop.

She and Bishop weren’t simpatico, but she didn’t want to see him get hurt. She was fond of the big lug. Not even his do-gooder heart turned her off. Could she find a way to warn him about Rancor without revealing her location? Then the two males could tussle while she conned her way to a tropical island where she could start bonfires with her fingertips.

There was plenty of time for her to think about it as she drove. Weaving through the city, she crossed into West Creek and found a way out of town. Where was she heading? West?

Good enough. There had to be a metropolis to get lost in west of Freemont.

Chapter Two


Where was the closest big city? There wasn’t a place west of this festering rat hole along the Red River that was bigger than a couple hundred thousand.

Fyra blew out a breath and fisted the map. Hours on the road until late in the day, and she was heading nowhere, parked in a tiny town’s gas station parking lot. Only she would go on the run in the Midwest, the land of not enough people. Great. Everywhere she went, she’d start prairie fires that’d draw an arrow pointing right to her.

Chicago. She flicked the red dot on the map that indicated the city. A tiny flame ignited, which she blew out. The blackened, gaping hole in the middle of the map was southeast of her current location.

The stench of smoke wafted around her. She sniffed and looked around. Scorching heat bled through the cloth of her sweats into the upholstery.

Dammit! She scrambled out of the car and rolled across the parking lot to extinguish her clothing. Aw man, she’d just filled the tank, too.

Her anger at her epic fail of an escape plan smoldered with the cushions of the car.

A puff of flame and the inside of the car turned into a blazing inferno. Fyra jumped up and ran as far as she could.

The fire started attracting a crowd. She turned to watch while backing up and ran into a burly, older man.

“What’s yer hurry there, darling?” He eyed her up and down. Mostly up, because he was a good three inches shorter than she was.

His Southern accent was a put-on and his stench of lewd interest curdled the cheap cappuccino she’d just downed.

She hunched her shoulders and whimpered. “I just lost my transportation.” She pointed to the car as the windows shattered from the heat. “I’m trying to get away from my ex.” Clinging to the man’s clammy arm, she beseeched him, making sure her breasts rubbed his skin. “Can you help me?”

Lust spiked from him, but he gawked at her. “You wearing some of them colored contacts?”

Her yellow eyes weren’t normal in this realm. Of course they’d draw more attention than her boobs.

She feigned a sniffle and wiped her eyes. “I tried some yellow lenses. Yellow and blue make green, you know. But they stayed yellow.”

“I bet yer blue eyes are just fine.” He clasped her hand to him as he circled around the crowd.

Fire engines sounded in the distance. She rolled her eyes. That fire department. Always on the ball.

“I just need a ride to anywhere,” she whispered, infusing her voice with urgency. “I don’t want to be a bother.”

“I gotcha, don’t you worry.”

She smiled to herself. Gullible man, though he probably picked up any willing female he could. From the sourness of his interest, those girls might not always be willing.

He led her to a line of big rigs. A wave of hope rose. She’d bagged herself a trucker. Neither Bishop nor Rancor would look for her in an eighteen-wheeler.

Her heart fell as her rescuer aimed for a tanker. Please be empty.

“What do you haul?” She had a sinking feeling she knew the answer.

“Petrol. No one will make no mind when I haul ass outta here. No one wants me here when there’s a fire.”

There’s that. Maybe her luck didn’t suck as badly as she thought.

He helped her into the passenger side with a hand pressed up her backside, then closed the door. She shrewdly eyed the man as he walked around to his side. Of all the decent truckers out there, she’d been rescued by a sexual predator. The honorable ones were back at the fire, trying to save the people and the gas station.

Hands clenched together, she tensed as they drove out of the lot, waved on by the firemen that had arrived and were directing traffic. She relaxed into the seat with an exhale.

“Told ya I’d take care o’ you. Name’s Jim.”

“I can’t thank you enough, Jim.” She didn’t bother to throw him a fake name and yawned exaggeratedly. “Do you mind if I get some rest?”

“Not one bit.” His gaze landed on her breasts before sliding back to the road.

“Where are you headed?”

“Sioux Falls.”

More proof her luck wasn’t total shit. Sioux Falls was closer to Chicago than whatever tiny town this was in North Dakota.

Resting her head back on the seat, she didn’t sleep. Out of slit eyelids, she catalogued his movements. Driving one of these rigs proved more complicated than a normal sedan, but she was a quick study.

She opened her senses up to the cab. It smelled of lonely bachelor—not enough showers, too much greasy food, and masturbation. But more good news, this was a sleeper cab. No need for a hotel.

Fatigue weighed on her until each second was a struggle to keep from drifting off. She thought of Bishop and his eyes. Every emotion turned them a different shade of blue. Turned on, they lightened to the blue of the hottest part of a flame. Cobalt when he was upset, and for her, steel-blue.

A warm glow settled deep within her, but there was no combustion danger. Her heat simmered inside when it was related to the big guy. She sank into the comfort for hours.

The engine slowed and jerked her attention back to the cab. Had they arrived in Sioux Falls already?

From her narrowed view, she saw a small building to the right. A rest stop. Jim maneuvered the truck into a long parking spot.

He reached over and stroked her thigh. “Little lady, we’ve stopped for the night.”

She opened her eyes fully and looked around with false wonder. “Have we arrived?” Shifting, not having to fake stiffness, she managed to dislodge his paw.

“Nah, it’s easier to settle in for the night in a rest stop.”

Why, so no one could hear her yell?

He pulled back a curtain behind them. “Go on and get comfy. I’ll go drain the beast and be on back.”

Raising an eyebrow, she craned her head around. A small cot, sleeping bag, tiny fridge. Her eyes widened in delight at the small TV. As long as his DVD collection wasn’t porn, she could use some vegging out.

Jim wasn’t going to leave her alone, though. Threading her fingers, she cracked her knuckles. A few minutes later, he was waddling across the parking lot back to the rig.

She jumped into the back and stretched out on the narrow bed. The lurid aroma of hurt women seeped from the mattress.

Oh, Jim, you almost had a chance at living.

Might as well get this over with. Holding up her fingers, she concentrated on the tips until they released the gas she intended.

He got in and shut the door. When he saw her running her fingers back and forth across her mouth, blowing gently on them, he paused.

“I pinched my hand,” she lied.

“Need me to take a look?” Jim’s sordid stench reached her.

Uck. She wanted nothing to do with his beast. He flipped a lever on the passenger seat and spun the chair around.

His ruddy face flushed. “We haven’t talked about reimbursement.”

Jim, you just sealed your fate.

She sat up with an affected gasp. “But I have no money.”

His smile was meant to soothe her. It didn’t work and she didn’t need it. “I got enough money. I think we could be good for each other.”

He really did make it easy. She cowered. “What do you mean?”

Why didn’t she just kill him? Why did she have to bait him to make sure his death was warranted? She was a demon. A soulless creature who thrived on evil. Jim was a pebble in her path. She could crush him. Burn him alive. And if she didn’t care about high cholesterol, she could eat him.

“Come here, honey.” He lifted his shirt and unsnapped his pants.

She fanned her hand and waved it around. His expression grew perplexed and he stifled a yawn.

Why’d she wait? The man preyed upon people more than she did. However, not indiscriminately killing humans demonstrated her affinity for higher thinking. A trait second-tier demons were known for, not allowing instinct and rage to rule their actions, unlike those of purer demonic blood.

Yet second-tiers had been enslaved by the Circle because cruelty won in the underworld.

He lunged for her, his aggressive intent clear. She waved her hand some more. Jim’s blush turned bright red and his eyelids drooped.

Didn’t even have to lift a finger. “What’s the matter, Jimmy? Feeling tired all of a sudden?”

His brows furrowed and he slumped back in his chair. “I’m really drowsy. What did you—”

His head dropped and he went limp, crumpling to the floor.

Waving her hand for another few minutes, she ensured no more oxygen was left in the cab. Jim’s heart rate slowed to a stop.

She eyed his bulk. “Human blood’s affinity for carbon monoxide never ceases to amaze me.”

Whipping her hat off, she kicked back on the cot and relaxed for the first time in days.

Tonight, she could sleep. In the morning, she’d raid Jim’s fridge and hope to find more than beef jerky and cubed cheese.

From the wrappers in his little garbage, it was unlikely.

Yes. She closed her eyes. Solid plan. Travel during the day when Bishop couldn’t. Sleep with one eye open the rest of the time. But tonight, she could rest.


***


Bishop kicked at the lumpy mattress, but it was no use. There was no shape more comfortable than the one it was in now. He rolled to his side.

Had he gone in the right direction? The answer plagued him.

Hearing news of a near miss with a car fire at another gas station, he’d gotten there as fast as the speed limit would allow, driving all night.

The scorched car had remained, a model similar to the other one she’d stolen. Had to be his demon.

From there, he’d had to pick one of the four directions. Going north, his demon would have to consider crossing an international border. She wouldn’t backtrack east. There was nothing west, so he chose south and drove until sunrise.

Unwilling to risk sunlight, he checked into a motel off the interstate.

His eyelids drifted shut.

Within moments, he found himself in an unfamiliar chair. Sunlight blazed into a tiny space. He glanced over his shoulder at the rays streaming behind him, worried he’d burn himself, but his skin felt pleasantly warm despite the massive windshield and side windows allowing copious light in.

Was he in an RV? He glanced around. It was too small to be a camper. His gaze landed on a cot that was dark except for what appeared to be flames at the top.

His eyes focused and his heart stuttered.

Not flames, but hair the color of fire spread across a pillow. He shifted forward, but the toe of his boot hit a soft object. Switching his focus, he started. A man’s body lay at his feet. His gaze flew back up to the cot just as ember-yellow eyes opened.

His heart slammed once, then kicked up its pace. His demon.

Soft light shimmered over a fine jawline and high cheekbones. A healthy flush decorated her ivory skin, startling him with such a human trait.

She gasped and sat up, and he gulped. She had legs for miles and he tried not to like what he saw.

“How did you find me?” Then she squinted at him. “You’re not really here.” Sitting back, she chuckled. “Had me going for a bit.”

“You killed a human, demon.” Bishop prided himself that he could get a coherent sentence out. The exotic beauty in front of him stole his breath.

Her length was curled into the small space, but she’d be tall compared to most humans. Her glorious hair lit up the entire cabin of…was this a semi?

And those eyes.

A pout curled her fire-engine-red lips. “Would it have been better if I’d fucked him like he wanted? He actually preferred to force me.”

Bishop’s leg kicked the body of its own accord. He sneered at the dead man, then turned it on her. His demon deserved the look, not the dead human.

She studied her fingers. “The cabin must’ve aired out, but I guess you’re not really here, so the lack of oxygen won’t bother you.” Her hands folded on her lap, on top of deliciously curved thighs. “What are you doing here, Bishop?”

His name, in that husky voice…he gritted his teeth. If he were tangible, he might not react any better than the human had.

His eyes wandered her lush body. Had to know what she looked like, after all. For research. “What in the devil’s name are you wearing?”

A flash of vulnerability preceded a petulant expression. She tugged at the neck of her ridiculous sweater. It was ratty, two sizes too small, and barely fit.

“It’s not like there were many options, and females in this realm are pathetically small.” She shifted and that only drew attention to the fabric stretched over her wide hips, stopping short of her deliciously long legs.

Heat flushed through Bishop and it had nothing to do with the fiery demon. Good thing there was a dead human between them. His foot dug into the man’s guts again when he recalled his demon’s tale. Was she speaking the truth, that he’d tried to accost her?

“What’s your name?” Bishop’s guttural words reflected the lust slamming through him. Damn that bond.

She batted long, sienna lashes, the effect against her yellow irises like the flicker of a flame. “Now, what have you done for me to earn my name?”

“What does it matter? Do names hold power in the underworld?”

She adjusted in her seat again and her gaze flicked out the window. Ah, of course. His team leader, Demetrius, had pilfered a tome from a demon his team had fought; in the text, many of its incantations needed names.

“I have to call you something.” Bishop leaned back, the warm rays shining through the window an unusual sensation, but not a bad one. His kind and sunlight didn’t mix, but as his demon had mentioned, he was in the dream world. “What about—”

“Raquelle?” She tapped her chin in thought. “Monique? Cleopatra?”

If that’s what she wanted, he’d pick a simple name instead. “Kim.”

A choking sound left her. “Kim? That’s so…so…undemonlike. No, no. How about…Celeste, Angelica, or something stronger, like Storm or Roane.”

He fought a grin at her indignant horror, but failed. “You’re Kim until you tell me your real name.”

“Kimberly?”

“Kim.”

“You play hardball, vampire.” She tilted her head as she studied him. Her lively gaze drifted over him, leaving licks of heat where it hovered. “I like it.”

She started for him, dropping to her knees to crawl toward him. He pressed back in his chair. Resisting his demon in a human’s body had proved almost impossible, but her real form in the dream world carried loads more power.

Fortunately, to get to Bishop, she had to kneel on the dead guy, and a punch of gas escaped him. The spell broke and the world faded around him.

Her nose wrinkled. “Ugh, he smells even worse than he did when he was alive. I didn’t think that was possible.”

She coughed and a spout of steam escaped.

Bishop’s eyelids flew open and he shot up. He was no longer in the semi, but back at the dive he’d rented by the hour, expecting to be gone before dark. His demon, Kim, would be on the run all day while he was confined to the night.

I swear I saw sunlight touch him, his pap’s voice drifted up from buried memories.

Ludacris, Bishop’s mam responded. You see no burn, correct?

Bishop had been hidden in his room, listening to one of his parents’ arguments. They always centered on him or his grandparents, his mam’s parents, who he barely remembered.

No, his skin’s not blemished, Pap had growled. But I saw the sun kiss his skin and I tire of your constant lies.

There are such things as genetic mutations. Science has come a ways since you were born, but I’ll not risk our son’s life proving your hallucinations.

The memory faded and Bishop flopped around on the bed, its weak metal frame groaning under his size. He barely remembered Pap. The man had abandoned them when they’d needed him the most, as far as Bishop was concerned.

He brushed the recollections off. Nothing was going to distract him from pursuing his demon.

He grinned. But he’d made good use of his time during their dream encounter and had noted her surroundings, the vehicle information, and, he suspected, where she was heading.

Chapter Three


“Excuse me, ma’am.”

Fyra slammed the gas nozzle back in the machine and spun to face the person addressing her. She forced a smile that revealed more fang than she’d intended. “Yes?”

The woman took a step back, her hand on her heart. She wore an ugly orange shirt that had the name of the gas station embroidered on it. “Well, I mean, I’m not a truck driver,” her gaze bounced between the gas pump and the semi, “but this is unleaded gasoline. Don’t semis usually use diesel?”

Fyra stared at the woman? Diesel? Wasn’t that the last name of a yummy movie star?

Bollocks! She’d already filled the tank. The semi had proved to be a gigantic PITA. There was no reason something should be so complicated to drive. And wide right turns, her ass. Fyra had made it her goal to take as many lefts as possible. Not even demons liked to be honked at and given the finger.

Finding the gas tank had been enough of an adventure. Why couldn’t she tap the load she was hauling and avoid gas stations?

A light breeze blew smoke off her.

The woman squawked and jumped away, her eyes wide with fright. “Y-you’re on fire!” She sprinted for the building, yelling, “Call 911!”

Fyra raised her arm. Yep. The turtleneck she’d pilfered from Jim’s storage was smoldering against her red-hot skin.

Time to leave. Still in rural America, she’d stand out too much if she ran. She sucked in deep breaths to calm herself until her clothing quit smoking. The effect was marginal, but enough, and she hopped into the semi.

“Curses,” she muttered as she frantically pushed and punched anything that’d make it go. The truck lurched and groaned but rolled forward.

Yes. She could work with that. Increasing speed as much as possible, she lumbered out of the small town. Only, in the confusion of her flight, she was on a rural highway headed into the middle of nowhere instead of the interstate.

It’d have to work.

When nothing but open road lay in front of her, she increased the pressure on the gas. The engine skipped.

She frowned. Many noises had come from under the hood since she’d woken up and gotten behind the wheel, but that was new.

Another skip. A shudder. The speedometer fell.

Fyra slapped the steering wheel. “Stupid truck.”

She stomped on the gas. More shuddering and the engine cut out. Her emotions, which had been stabilizing during her getaway, spiked once again. The atmosphere in the cab smoldered. Tiny fires broke out on the fabric and upholstery.

She’d need to ditch the truck. Climbing out, she realized her error, not that it could’ve been prevented. All her turmoil, all of her unnatural fire, was now free to lick along the exterior of the semi, even surround the flammable load it carried.

Aww, hellfire.

She jumped the rest of the way and ran. Maybe a nice sprint would calm her, because the dried, crusty fields she sprinted through were nothing but tinder.

An explosion rocked the earth. Stumbling, she pinwheeled her arms to regain her balance. The shockwave reached her with an epic force of heat and debris. Rammed into the ground, she rolled and flipped. Her skin, which was immune to flame, was torn and shredded from the remnants of whatever had been harvested months ago.

Coming to a stop on her back, she saw the cloudy sky already darkening with black smoke from the tanker. It laced the air around her, but like the flames, that didn’t bother her.

Her ears rang and any noise was dulled from the blast. The left side of her face throbbed and she tested all her limbs, only to cry out when she tried to move her left arm.

Broken. She tried her legs. Sore, but intact. The arm would heal, but she needed her legs to run.

With a moan, she got to her knees but took a moment to rise to her feet. She squinted through the smoke. Alarm pierced her gut.

How had the human police arrived so quickly?

The gas station lady. Fyra should’ve left the tanker there to explode. A true demon would’ve. Some of Rancor’s ire might’ve been appeased if she’d taken out ten or twenty decent human beings.

But she wasn’t Rancor. Higher thinking, higher thinking.

Scanning the area, she spotted a row of trees used as a windbreak about two hundred yards away. Could she make it there?

Swaying on her feet, she concentrated on one step in front of the other. Almost there.

“I said stop.” The muffled words reached her injured eardrums just as a hand gripped her left elbow.

She shrieked and dropped to her knees. She had to school her reaction, otherwise she’d bare her fangs. It was just a broken arm.

“Dispatch, we have at least one injured.”

Blinking away her haze of pain, she glanced over her shoulder. An older deputy in a brown uniform cocked his head to listen to the reply coming from his radio.

Roger,” came the static voice. “Ambulance is en route.”

“Thanks, Gail.” He dropped his stern gaze to Fyra. “Ma’am, were you driving the tanker?”

Well, Jim certainly couldn’t while he was festering in a remote ditch. A giggle burst forth and the deputy scowled.

“Ma’am, you’ll have to come with me. What’s your name?”

Her attempt at holding back another chuckle was in vain. “Kim.”

She sputtered, then guffawed. Each laugh shook her body, sending waves of pain through her.

She lifted her arm to assess the damage. Agony screamed through her body. Ah. No wonder. Both bones in her forearm poked through Jim’s shirt, blood spreading around the injury.

Her laughter died as she prepared to do what was necessary. Concentrating on anything else, like the sulfur-tinged copper flavor in her mouth, she ignored the deputy’s constant questions and wrenched her arm until the bones were back inside her body.

A scream tore from her, but at least she could start healing.

More sirens approached. The ambulance plowed through the field to reach her. Mr. Deputy held his arm out to stall the EMTs that jumped out.

“You’ll need the restraints for this one. Something’s not right.”

They all stared at her. Maybe all the dirt ground into her skin and the debris in her hair camouflaged her alien appearance.

“Go on,” the deputy barked, spurring the two into action.

Nowhere to go and no way to get there. Fyra would have to bide her time until an opportunity for escape showed itself.


***


Bishop’s phone rang.

He ignored it, eyes glued to the road.

His phone buzzed again. Bishop rolled his eyes. Nonstop texts and calls from his team. After he’d left, he’d sent Demetrius a quick text that he had stuff to take care of. D being D, he wanted to know what. Bishop’s partner, Rourke, had jumped in on the action, phoning and texting him, too.

The two were happily mated to females. Why couldn’t they leave Bishop alone?

Because they’d known something was going on with him and given him space to work it out, trusting him to come to them with his issue. He was bound to a demon. The feeling of constant betrayal weighed on him. He wanted to confess what he’d done, what his demon had done to him.

But it was his issue, and not the only one he kept from them.

Bile rose in his throat until the sour taste overrode anything else. He needed real food and blood. Only he couldn’t bring himself to feed from a human. When he thought of feeding, his demon’s stunning eyes flashed in his mind, wiping out the idea of feeding altogether. He cursed.

The phone continued until he contemplated throwing it out the window, but he needed it to follow the reports of random fires.

With resignation, he answered.

“What the fuck, dude?” Demetrius’s angry voice burst over the line.

“I said I got some stuff to take care of.” Bishop winced at his defensive tone, as if he were a child instead of a nine-decade-old male.

“And it’s the ‘stuff’ I need to know about.” His leader’s frustration was palpable, even over the phone. “We’re all worried about you. We can help, you know, but you need to tell us what’s going on.”

“It’s personal.” On so many levels. How could he tell D the depth of it?

Silence weighed heavily between them.

“We all have our shit, Bishop. Yours can’t be any worse than ours.”

Bishop swallowed hard. D was right, on a certain level. The male had kept his oddball sister a secret from the world. His buddy Rourke had been a blood slave and hadn’t told anyone until his long-lost brother had tried to kill him. Yet D, Rourke, Bishop, and the rest of their team had all come together decades ago to undermine their government and protect their species, even from their own kind.

Demons were the current threat, so how could Bishop casually reveal he’d been enslaved, sort of, by one?

So not a conversation he was ready to have.

“I have to do this, D.” He tried to say “trust me” but the words wouldn’t form.

Demetrius took his time responding. “You and me go back a long way. All of us do. Don’t shut us out. I’ll give you time, but wait too long, and we’re coming after you.”

That was enough. “Deal.”

Bishop disconnected and went back to scanning through radio stations.

A tanker explosion off of county road…”

Straightening, Bishop listened intently. No one hurt, one person injured and arrested on suspicion of stealing the semi.

Hopefully the humans could hold onto his demon until he arrived.

Chapter Four


Fyra huffed and a puff of smoke escaped. She took another sip of ice water to cool herself before she set the small five-bed hospital on fire. Her other arm was secured with cuffs to the side of the hospital bed.

A doctor in her late forties had listened dubiously to the deputy’s description of her injuries. Fyra’s bones had been well on the way to completely mended before the ambulance had arrived at the tiny ER.

She still had the bandage on her face. Dried blood and debris covered the healed flesh underneath. Fyra had smiled and refused treatment. As a second-tier demon doing the Circle’s bidding on Earth, she was well acquainted with many human laws and quirks, and in America, humans could refuse anything they wanted to.

“I already read you your rights, Kim.” The officer shot her a surprised look when she snorted. “Rights” was not a word in the underworld. “It’s time to take you to jail so we can have a nice long talk.”

Fyra shoved her breasts out and jiggled her arm. “Why, Deputy, whatever are we going to talk about?”

He pinned her with his steely gaze. “Lady, I’m a happily married man. Been that way for twenty-five years. Don’t bother.”

Her shoulders dropped. Seduction was out of the question. She could fight him, and would no doubt win, but the fool would kill himself to keep her from escaping. Then she’d have more law enforcement after her. No, she needed a better opening to run.

He cuffed her wrists together in front of her and led her out to his patrol car. She used the opportunity to search for a clothing store, but this place was so small it didn’t even have a Walmart.

She needed to escape, but she was getting to the point where she’d kill for women’s clothing in her size. Unfortunately, women’s big and tall stores weren’t plentiful.

The deputy pulled up to a square brick building that was as small as the town. He led her inside.

“Is, like, a shower in my future, Detective?”

“Sheriff, and we have to interview you first.”

Her luck on earth sucked as much as in the underworld. A sheriff had arrested her. On the bright side, maybe this rinky-dink county had a deputy or two for her to dupe.

Her big vampire would find her before too long. Bishop was smarter than he looked and a tanker explosion would earn news time.

Inside the building, she received the saucer-eyed attention of an older woman sitting behind a wall of monitors. The woman slid a laptop case across the top of the desk.

“Gail.” The sheriff snatched it up. “Ready a cell for Kim here while I speak with her for a bit.”

“Will do.” Gail’s attention was glued to Fyra’s bandages and road rash, then her bloodstained clothing, and her expression turned concerned. “I’ll grab a men’s jail uniform for you, dear,” she spoke to Fyra.

The sheriff grunted a reply. Fyra’s lips twitched. Ol’ Gail, jailer/dispatcher combo, probably mothered every detainee that walked through the place. A human weakness.

So why did a big, bad demon want to sit and pour her heart out to Gail? Because Fyra missed her own mother, and a genuinely caring person like Gail was a rarity in Fyra’s world.

Chatting with Bishop, witnessing his reaction to her real appearance, didn’t help. Through the haze of the dream world, the interest in his gaze had been noticeable.

Fyra’s thoughts remained on Bishop as the sheriff plopped her down. Her cuffs jingled when she rested her hands on the tabletop.

Sitting across from her, the sheriff opened the laptop. “Spell your last name for me.”

She didn’t have one of her own, so she used Bishop’s. “L-a-u-r-e-n-t.”

Suck it, vampire. He’d given her a human name, so she’d take his last name and ignore the flutter it caused in her belly.

“Kim Laurent. Why don’t you have identification?”

Stifling a laugh, she imagined the information on her driver’s license. Address: underworld. Hair color: flame. Eye color: candlelight. Weight: depends on the time of day. Height: hella tall.

“Ms. Laurent?” His fingers tapped the table.

A knock on the door interrupted them.

Fyra looked at the door with interest. Opportunity knocking?

The sheriff opened it with a scowl to reveal a frumpy deputy with thinning blond hair.

“Sheriff, the mayor’s house was broken into, some jewelry stolen. Thought you’d want to take lead.”

Fyra narrowed her eyes on the deputy. Not all was as it seemed. He wore something bulky under his shirt that made him look bigger than he was. A bulletproof vest, but that wasn’t what prodded her intuition.

A faint whiff of brimstone teased her.

The sheriff started to rush past the deputy but stopped, then turned back to her.

“Go ahead,” the deputy encouraged. “I’ll finish here.”

Yes, go on. Fyra straightened.

“Get what you can out of her,” the sheriff growled as he took off.

The deputy stepped in. Fyra peered at his name tag. Johnson. How totally plain, just like the guy himself.

The demon inside was anything but plain.

Throwing her shoulders back to jut her breasts out, she gave the new arrival a charming smile while cursing her bandages.

He pulled out the chair the sheriff had vacated and plunked down. “Save it, Fyra. But I should leave you in those cuffs for a while for throwing me under the bus with Rancor.”

“Hellfire, Stryke, I’m impressed. I can barely detect you in the skin bag. I didn’t know a broker was in the area, but he bagged you quite a human.”

In rural areas, it could be impossibly difficult—or ridiculously easy—to find a human who could summon demons and recruit other humans as hosts.

His expression remained unreadable except for a touch of irritation with her. “Rancor’s sent other second-tiers after you besides me and you’ve cut a wide path through the Midwest, so here’s the deal.”

“Why would I need a deal?” Her true feelings didn’t match her cavalier tone. As far as Stryke’s deal went, he held all the cards. “I can get away easy enough. I just didn’t want to create a scene.”

He leveled her with a grim stare. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” she snapped. “A swath of human carnage would be as much of a beacon as the fires.”

“Defensive much?”

She flipped him off. Such a satisfying human gesture.

“Fyra, I don’t have centuries to wait for you to get control of your fire-starting abilities, but I do need some extra time in this realm so I’m going to get you out of here.” He punched a few buttons on the computer. “There. You were never arrested. Your records have already been cleared at the hospital, and the staff won’t recall who you are or what you look like. I ensured that Gail’s forgotten about seeing you, but the sheriff will worry he’s got dementia.”

With each statement, her brows rose higher and higher. Stryke could do all that? With spells or internal power? She shifted her gaze to the tabletop. “What do you want from me in return?”

Demons didn’t do things out of the goodness of their black hearts.

“Look at me.”

She did. The ordinary human was the furthest thing from Stryke’s real appearance. Swarthy looks, powerful physique, intense gaze—Stryke was the demon young females like her would hang posters of on their cave walls. Only, he didn’t put out, as far as she knew. Not an easy feat in their home realm.

“How do you control your emotions?” When she didn’t answer, he shook his head. “Why didn’t your parents teach you?”

“My mom did what she could”—not that it helped—“before the Circle slaughtered her. Do you think I volunteered to be a second-tier demon?” Anonymity would’ve suited her just fine. “I was volun-told, and I don’t know who my sperm donor is.” Her mother hadn’t even said whether it’d been consensual or not. In the underworld, it could go either way.

Stryke’s mouth was flat and he didn’t speak for a moment. “You’ll owe me a favor, and don’t worry, I’m not after your body.”

“I’d be insulted, but I know you’re not after anyone’s body.”

He made a noncommittal sound. “Don’t be so sure. At some point, I’ll want into Bishop’s inner circle, and you’ll get me in there.”

A flutter of laughter escaped. “Okay. Well, I plan to use Bishop to destroy Rancor. If he survives that and somehow catches me to bring me in—as a prisoner, by the way—then, yeah, I’ll see what I can do.”

Stryke’s stare remained hard. “I don’t care if you have to stroll into Demetrius’s compound with your wrists pre-cuffed, you’ll do it when I tell you.”

All that assuming Bishop didn’t just kill her first. “Fine.”

“Here’s a tip. When your heat builds, think of icebergs. Ice baths. Polar bears. Pretend you’ve just dunked yourself in a fishing hole in the middle of the Arctic. Think of cold, and calm yourself the fuck down.”

He pulled a key ring off his belt and beckoned for her wrists. She was unlocked in seconds and rubbing her skin. Next off were the bandages.

“You look like hell,” he said.

“From the guy in the sexy-as-hell human,” she teased.

“The other deputy is a married woman with small children. Call me stupid, but I didn’t think the sheriff would buy that you could seduce her. And I’m not sure you’d be willing to hurt her.”

“Of course I’d be willing,” she snapped, more irritated that he read her so well. “How old are you, anyway, to be dispensing sage advice?”

“Older than that vampire you’re crushing on.”

With startling clarity, she realized two things. Stryke had more on her than all thirteen of the Circle combined. And she was lucky to have him on her side. Her behavior would be scorned as severe weakness by most others of her kind.

She stood. “What do you need me to do until then?”

“Stay on the run and stay hidden. I’ve got some things to do here while Rancor thinks I’m looking for you.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. “There’s a bag of clothing outside in the rental car I used to get down here.”

“Wait. You used another body to get to this town, then switched to the detective’s?” All without the help of a human broker?

“Deputy, and let me worry about what I did.”

Okay. Stryke had more than a few secrets. Did she care? She tucked the money into her cleavage. He led her to a tiny blue sedan, which she eyed dubiously. “Big girl in a little car.”

His deep chuckle ripped her attention off the clown car. He quit laughing, but his smile remained in place. “I like you, Fyra. Until you came along, I didn’t know other demons could use their own brain, much less have a personality.”

Her hand touched her heart as a foreign feeling assailed it. Was that a compliment, and from someone she wasn’t trying to seduce? From someone she kinda respected, someone she could call—if she weren’t from the underworld—a friend?

The keys jangled from his fingers. “Go on now.”


***


Stryke maneuvered into the gas station lot and killed the engine. The patrol vehicle drew attention from a few people. He ignored them and grabbed his bag of clothing. The stuff he’d gathered for Fyra would look atrocious on her. Served her right for ratting him out to Rancor about his unsanctioned trips to the human realm.

His bag of clothing would both fit him and help him blend in. He walked through the gas station, glad to be able to shed the bulky bulletproof vest and weapons belt that dug into his hips. How did cops roam in this gear all day and chase down criminals?

Locking himself into a bathroom stall, he sat on the toilet and waited until he was alone. Once he heard no one else, he closed his eyes, concentrated, and stepped out of the human’s body.

No broker necessary. No host death required. A special skill no one knew he had, all thanks to a bond a certain vampire didn’t know she had.

He hefted his duffel and stepped out of the stall and into another one to dress. Deputy Johnson next to him groaned and slumped against the wall.

Dude would have some major questions, like how he’d driven to another town without any memory.

Not Stryke’s issue. He finished pulling his clothes on and jerked his ball cap down low on his head. The hat covered his horns and shaded his eyes. His real eye color usually attracted too much attention when paired with his normal looks. Females of any species found him attractive, which was only a drawback for a guy who preferred to fly under the radar.

He walked out of the convenience store and kept going. In a few blocks, he’d take a taxi to the car rental place and make his way back to Freemont.


***


“He’s coming!” Zoey cried, her climax sweeping through her.

“What?” Creed grunted underneath her.

As usual when she was with Creed, memories of intimate moments with her deceased mate filled her head. Except instead of her mate’s red, passion-infused eyes, he had deep violet irises.

Fucked up in so many ways.

She waited until Creed’s orgasm finished before she crawled off him to throw on her clothes. Poor guy. He’d been hinting at things getting more serious between them. Outside the bedroom, Creed was her teammate and a most respected friend. In the bedroom, he was a living vibrator she used to keep lonely depression at bay.

“You can stay for a while, you know.” He reached to the floor for his board shorts.

“No, I can’t.” She readied herself for what she had to say and faced him. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Creed’s expression grew troubled. “Was it something I did?”

“Not at all.” She feathered the tendrils that had escaped her tight bun out of her eyes. Her hair had literally and figuratively never been let down around Creed. A major sign she hadn’t truly moved on after Mitchell’s death. And one that meant she couldn’t keep using Creed for a few minutes of not feeling so hopeless.

She leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. “You’ve been really good to me, but I just can’t. Mitchell…”

“I understand.” He blew out a breath. “Sort of.”

She gave him a grateful smile. “We good?”

He nodded, but his face didn’t say yes. Her heart broke for him. He seemed almost as sad as she was, and she wouldn’t have thought that was possible. Probably what had drawn them together.

She was almost out the door when he asked, “What’d you mean ‘he’s coming’?”

Pausing, she glanced back, keeping her expression plain. “What?”

“Nothing. See ya tomorrow.”

Heading back to her room, she buried herself in those two words.

Not I’m coming, but he’s coming. Did it have to do with that feeling that someone was after her? Why shout it during orgasm? Like the thought that an unknown someone after her turned her on?

A warm glow spread along her center, a feeling that had nothing to do with her last few minutes with Creed. A feeling she hadn’t experienced since her last night with Mitchell, before the fire had claimed him. How she missed that glow. Many times, she weighed what she’d give to feel it again.

She was fucked up. No more males until she straightened her shit out.

Chapter Five


Bishop studied the remnants of the tanker. Twisted, blackened metal sat in a heap surrounded by singed earth. The blow had been a doozy. The surrounding gravel and grass were still damp from the effort to put out the blaze. Good thing it’d been in the middle of nowhere.

So his dream hadn’t been a dream. He’d somehow visited Kim in his sleep.

He could work with that.

She wasn’t far ahead of him, he could feel it.

A car approached, but he didn’t move. Either they were going to pass or stop and ask him questions, of which he had a few of his own.

His phone vibrated. Damn Demetrius wouldn’t leave him alone. Bishop knew he’d have to spill his guts. The time Demetrius had given him was running out.

Headlights grew closer and slowed. A patrol car with the word “Sheriff” scrawled along the side parked several feet away. Could be good, could be bad.

An older man climbed out, his expression troubled.

“Evening, sir,” Bishop greeted. “Hell of an accident you got here. What happened?”

The man scratched his head. His rumpled uniform and tired eyes looked like he hadn’t slept for a week. His gaze was wary as he absorbed Bishop’s size. “It blew.”

“I can see that,” Bishop replied drily. The deputy—no, his insignia said he was a sheriff—was already bristling from his tone. “The driver okay?”

Silence. Bishop froze, waiting for the answer. That certainly wasn’t pride he felt, that his demon could drive an eighteen-wheeler. But could she survive an explosion?

“Remains to be seen.”

Enough waiting. Bishop caught the man’s gaze and held it. “Where is she?”

The sheriff’s eyes glazed over. The fatigue lining his face made Bishop’s mental takeover as easy as slicing through warm pie.

“She got away. All my records were deleted, and my deputy disappeared. The hospital doesn’t remember her.” Information spilled forth easily, like he’d been dying to confess his troubles to someone. “It’s like she never existed, but I remember.”

“What’d she say her name was?”

“Kim Laurent.”

Shock broke his contact with the sheriff, but he recaptured it before the man grew too troubled to entrance. Why had she used Bishop’s last name? Couldn’t another fake one do? Smith? Cornucopia?

“How’d she get away?” Had she seduced the sheriff? Bishop had sworn to protect the weaker creatures roaming this earth, but the sheriff’s life expectancy was dropping.

“I think my deputy let her go. He’s missing. I went to his place, and except for the overwhelming smell of matches, nothing’s out of place.”

Brimstone. Another demon had gotten to her. Was she running from more than Bishop? He hadn’t questioned why she’d appeared on Earth and then taken off. Assumed it had to do with him, and how he, Demetrius, and Rourke had taken out their intermediary for human hosts. But why was she here in the first place?


Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-32 show above.)