by Renee Rearden
Saari Mitchell sees a psychologist in order to understand why-500 years later-she's still dreaming of her dead lover. Her shrink isn't helping, the nightmares come every time she closes her eyes, and the lack of sleep is interfering with her job at Sacred Heart Hospital. With her psychic ability to heal the human spirit on the fritz, her auric radar becomes as reliable as her spotty cell phone service.
By day, Dhelis Guidry works as a detective for the New Angeles Police Department investigating the missing or murdered women in the Full-Moon Killer case. In his spare time he hunts rogue vampires as a Tueri executioner.
Brogan Vincent is a Tueri healer. Though he could offer his miraculous talents to the rich and powerful, he has chosen anonymity and peace by only using his psychic abilities among the Tueri.
One look into Saari's tri-colored eyes and both men realize she is Tueri. One touch tells them each she's their soul mate. But can either of them protect her from the Full-Moon Killer?
Copyright © 2010 Renee Rearden
All rights reserved — a Crescent Moon Press publication
Saari floated, in a sea of blackness, carried by a steady current that pushed wave after wave of nothingness out into forever. A burst of disparate energy streaked through the undertow, suddenly sending her in a different direction. The new force in the ocean rocked her peaceful drift, and her blissful comfort changed. Waves rolled furiously, hurtling her forward.
Her eyes flew open at the exact moment her mind crashed into reality, and she gasped in pain. Though immortal, her body still experienced physical death each time she was fatally injured.
"Oh, God," she moaned. "Consciousness is overrated."
She remembered the 8-inch blade of a psychotically strong, seriously tweaking vampire had caused today's inflicted pain. Having a knife slam through her heart topped her "personally-experienced" list of Most Painful Ways To Die. Her chest ached as if it had been wrapped in gasoline-soaked elastic and set on fire.
Blinking away grit, she forced her eyes to focus. Painted stars on the ceiling winked at her through the mosquito netting draped over the rod-iron railing of her pine, four-post bed. A careful sigh of relief escaped. Mag had found her and brought her home.
If she was in her bedroom, her secret of immortality was safe.
The world couldn't know of her eternal existence. A new search for the "elixir of life" would lead to her front door. She'd end up as a pin cushion for some ego maniacal entrepreneur if anyone got a hold of the security tapes at the hospital.
After not showing up or calling, did she still have a job at the hospital?
A very masculine and wonderfully familiar chuckle drifted from her right. "I can see from your frown you've jumped right to worrying. Quit. After I found a broken camera in the parking garage, I called the hospital and let them know you're home sick. They didn't mention anything about the attack, so I doubt they have any viable footage."
Feather-soft linen brushed her cheek as she rotated her head across her pillow with measured caution. She needed to see her adopted sibling, but she didn't want to set off a new battalion of pain marching in a different direction somewhere else in her body.
Her gaze moved up his face until their eyes met. "Mag." Her voice cracked with gratitude. He would keep her safe until she could care for herself.
His lips turned up in a smile, showing perfectly straight teeth. Even his pearly points seemed whiter against his mahogany skin. She wondered for the umpteenth time how he could form a comforting yet cynical smile, all at the same time.
Mag leaned in toward her, the chair creaking in complaint. "Thank God you woke up," he whispered against her ear. He lifted a curl of hair off her shoulder, twining the strands around his shaking fingertip. "I swear you gave me a heart attack, stepping in front of that blood-crazed vampire."
"You'd have done the same."
"I just knew you were gonna die."
"I did," she groaned.
He pulled back from her enough to lean his forehead atop hers. The solid pressure behind his touch anchored her awareness. Chocolate eyes shot through with amber bored into hers as he rolled his brow across hers.
His deep sigh brushed her cheek.
"You know, Saari, our friendship has a lot of perks, but dying vicariously through you is not one of them," he murmured fiercely.
A bark of laughter burst from her mouth, only to be cut short by a moan of pain. Her chest burned in retaliation. "Don't make me laugh," she begged. "It hurts."
His head shot up. "I'm sorry, Nefer Ka."
He looked so noble.
Coffee-colored skin and sharp angled features spoke of an Egyptian heritage that lent credibility to his calm and regal demeanor. But hearing him use his pet name for her waved a mental red flag. Nefer Ka meant "beautiful soul" in his native language. They'd been friends, each other's family so long, he only slipped into such personal vernacular under highly charged emotions-good or bad.
Today, worry lines marked the grim set of his jaw.
He shifted away from her, careful not to jostle her and accidentally cause more pain. The weight of his left hand settled around her smaller-fisted right hand. She stared intently at their clasped hands before looking up again.
He followed the direction of her glance, looked back up and shrugged. His eyebrows lifted. "Made me feel better, holding your hand."
The memory Jordan had shown her flashed behind her eyes: Mag, unwilling to hurt anyone, intent on killing himself. I came so close to losing him and didn't even know it.
She raised their joined hands to her lips and pressed a kiss to the back of his hand before rubbing her cheek gently over his skin. "Now let go of my hand so I can feel better."
His fingers loosened, allowing her to shift in measured increments on the bed. Her lungs filled with a calming breath, preparation against the coming pain. She rested her fist directly over her heart, fingers clutched tight together. The air in the room crackled. A teakettle's hiss burst from her lips, teeth grinding against the pain. Healing energy burst from her palm, heat scorching the sensitive skin.
The energy output flared past the barriers that defined her personal space, pulling strength from every available outside source, augmenting her minimal reserves. She couldn't sustain this level of flowing power for long. This injury was severe and needed more than the use of her usual ability.
She required time and sleep to heal.
Exhaustion forced her to shift her hand off center on her chest. The crackling in the air subsided to a low hum. Heat radiated in a tolerable wave across her skin. Psychic walls she'd thrown up in an attempt to contain the energy pouring out of her dropped.
Awareness expanded beyond her body, encompassing the familiarity of her bedroom: the quilt she lay under, scented candles on the dresser, and framed pictures on the wall. Each calmed her in a way nothing else could. This was her home. Saari's energy meandered around the room, pulling comfort and strength from the known around her in a metaphysical blanket of security.
Her auric senses circled to the chair-and encountered a man with an unknown source of power. Saari's body bounced on the bed from the psychic contact. Up to this moment, she hadn't sensed anyone other than Mag in her bedroom. Such a lack of perception could be deadly. Her stomach knotted, the chink in her extrasensory armor a testament to how gravely she'd been wounded.
Something had gone drastically wrong.
Why was this stranger in her room?
Her gaze shot sideways. A man sat up straight in his chair, literally on the edge of the seat. Hands, palms down, gripped his knees. His knuckles showed white against the black of his pants, suggesting his own nervousness. The intensity of his emotion pounded her intuitive shields, and his body language struck her as downright disturbing.
From the other side of the bed, Dhelis watched the interaction between the vampire called Mag and the striking woman in the bed. Joy and tenderness radiated from their every touch, making him feel like a voyeur. He presumed they were lovers, his presence an intrusion on a private reunion.
Doctor Conzatti had to have been mistaken about her healing abilities. Dhelis hadn't sensed anything from her. He considered leaving.
Until the woman rested her fisted hand over her heart.
He felt the air in the room shift, every molecule of oxygen sizzling with therapeutic energy. She hissed in pain, the sound escaping through her gritted teeth. When her hand relaxed on her chest, the currents of power flowing toward her changed direction and disbursed throughout the room, passing through him.
His gut churned with certainty that this woman was the source of a power shift so intense the hairs still stood up on his arms. Could she be clutching a healing stone? His heart raced with anticipation and excitement. That kind of energy displacement meant she held something gripped in her hand. The heel of his boot tapped the floor, his leg bouncing with nervous energy. His hands ached from the tight grip on his knees.
He willed the woman to look at him.
One look at her eyes, and he would know if she was Tueri.
Her head turned sharply. For an instant, he wondered if he'd spoken his thoughts aloud. The woman boldly met his gaze. Her eyes rounded with surprise.
Shock rippled through him.
No matter what he had thought he expected, he was in no way prepared when her full attention settled on him. Her tri-colored eyes were striking; the most incredibly beautiful color he'd ever seen. More so, he thought, than even his own. His people all had crystalline-like eyes, amethyst and silver combined with a third shade based on talent and purity of bloodline.
The color of this woman's eyes reflected pure Tueri descent. But she was an Unknown, and for the life of him, he couldn't fathom how this could be. The fact they shared the same eye color went beyond incredible. Only Stone Riders had his color of eyes-and only men were Stone Riders.
Except a Predecessor.
Predecessors were always women.
There had been no female Predecessors for centuries-at least none that he knew of in the last five hundred years of Tueri history.
That this woman was a Predecessor defied all logic.
Dhelis dropped to one knee and, without asking, took hold of the woman's hand, enveloping it within his own larger hands. The instant they touched, energy arced like a burning flame from a welder's torch. Like coronal waves from an exploding sun, light and heat blasted the room.
The force of the psychic connection slammed into him, punching the breath from his lungs on an outward surge of rolling energy. A returning wave refilled them with super-charged oxygen.
Disbelief shone in the Predecessor's eyes. Her mouth opened and closed several times, trying to speak. "You aren't healing me," she finally gasped. "So why is your energy reacting with mine?"
"I don't know." He shook his head back and forth, perplexed.
Every nerve ending tingled, his entire body aware of the woman in front of him. He knew he'd never met her. He hadn't even laid eyes on her before tonight. So why did his energy connect with and respond to this woman? Realization dawned like a clapping thunderbolt.
Only a true Tueri soul match generated this kind of energy connection.
He'd found his mate!