Valentine’s Day turns into a nightmare when an ancient vampire burns her way through the greater Columbus, ushering in the Aztec God of Death. Theo and Carlos will have to set aside their personal problems in order to put an end to a deranged killer. But as the body count rises, they find out they’re going up against more than a vampire -– they’re going up against each other.
In the midst of the chaos, Theo faces his own personal turmoil. When Lloyd confronts Theo about his feelings, Theo isn’t sure whether his heart still belongs to Carlos or if he truly cares for Lloyd. If he wants to save the world, Theo will have to overcome his troubled heart and harness the power within.
I thought I was drowning. There was a brief moment—when my vision turned black and my mind went blank—when I was sure I was standing in front of the devil.
How many people can honestly walk away from the devil after shaking his hand? No one. Because once you shake his hand, you never truly leave him. He has a piece of my soul. It was the price I paid to come back to life. Eventually he was going to collect the rest of his debt.
I wasn’t drowning, though, and he wasn’t here for his final pound of flesh. I cut through the water, and reality cleared in the rise of air bubbles. I started on my first lap, focusing my attention on strengthening my knee and not on the thousands of thoughts swirling in my mind. I had screwed my knee up four months ago, and even though I had been out of rehabilitation for almost two months, I still had to work on getting it back to normal.
My back was an intricate network of knots. After a long day, I just wanted to let it all drift away. The Olympic-size pool wasn’t an ocean that could carry me away on the current, though, so I kept on swimming, pushing myself as hard as I could.
There were nights when I woke up screaming. I used to think the nightmares that stalked me were bad, but now the ones that followed me, even during waking hours, were far worse. I was just a step away from becoming a monster, and the nightmares reminded me of how close I was to falling over that edge.
I hit the other side of the pool, flipped in the water, returned to the opposite end. I was able to work out the stiffness in my limbs after the first lap. I continued to do ten more, each one helping take away the heavy burden of the day.
I broke the surface and grabbed on to the concrete ledge of the pool, holding on tight as I dragged in a slow breath of air.
“Mi corazón, are you done?” Carlos’s voice drifted down to me. I could make out his scruffy black sneakers just a few feet away from my hands.
I looked up at him, taking in the low-slung red basketball shorts, the tight black tank, and the inches of glistening caramel skin slicked by sweat. My cock twitched with life.
My name is Theo Bourne, and I’m a detective for the Columbus Police Department’s Preternatural Task Force. It’s my job to control the arcane underbelly of the city. Originally I had been a member of the NYC division, but after losing my partner, I moved back to Columbus.
That was when I met Carlos.
He was supposed to have been a one-night stand four months ago. But that theory went out the window as soon as I found out he was my partner on the task force. Somehow, without me even knowing it, Carlos had broken through the iron walls around my heart as if they were made of mud. Now he was my lover, and it scared me how much I found myself needing him.
“Yeah,” I said and hoisted myself up out of the pool. “What were you doing?”
“Basketball with Scott and Hennessey,” he said and reached up to brush some damp burgundy bangs from my eyes. He dusted his fingers over the cross-shaped scar on my forehead. He always seemed partial to stroking it, his sadness radiating with the gingerly brush of his fingertips.
When I was a teenager, my parents had our local priest perform an exorcism on me. They couldn’t handle the fact that their baby was a Phantom. Instead, they branded me as a demon and tried to save my soul. The cross on my forehead was the mark I carried for their mistake.
I don’t know why the cross the priest held reacted to me. Maybe I am a demon—a monster.
Carlos couldn’t seem to let it go like I had. He still held on to the delusion that he could save me from all my pain. Maybe he could, but then again, maybe he couldn’t.
It didn’t really matter. I can’t change who I am, a vagabond who roams the world, a soldier without an army, the hero who lost his blade. I’m a Phantom, a will-o’-the-wisp.
A Phantom is a rare human with the combined powers of psychokinesis and the ability to create doppelgängers. There aren’t many Phantoms out there; I’ve only met one—an asshole by the name of Rhett Bishop. There is a hierarchy of Phantoms that make up the Council, and if I really wanted, I probably could meet others. But the truth was I didn’t give a damn.
“Hey,” Carlos said, breaking through my thoughts. The timbre of his voice, enriched by a Spanish accent, stroked me like fur against my naked flesh. I could always hear the coyote growl that hibernated deep in him. I constantly itched to unleash that beast.
“What are you thinking about so seriously?” he asked as he cupped both sides of my face. I’m not short, six foot to be exact, but Carlos dominated me by an extra four inches.
“Nothing important,” I said and tangled my hand in his ponytail. His thick black mane generally fell down past his shoulders, but today he had pulled it back. I pulled out the band holding it up and grabbed a fistful of lush locks, tugging hard.
“Sure didn’t look like nothing,” Carlos murmured as his brown eyes brightened to a golden topaz.
I gave his hair another tug and ordered, “Shut up, mutt, and kiss me.”
Carlos chuckled and closed the space between us. His hand found my left nipple, his long fingers hooking around the silver hoop. He pulled it hard, just how I liked it, and tugged me even closer.
I could feel his power sleeping, held in place only by his sheer will. Carlos is the alpha leader to the local werecoyote pack. Sleeping with him was a dangerous game, but I was addicted to it like an adrenaline junkie.
His mouth was hot, his tongue stealing the breath I had just gotten back. I could feel his cock bumping against mine, and every part of me wanted to rip his shorts down and drop to my knees to worship him.
He let go of my nipple ring—I really should get a second one—and ran his hands over the hard contours of my body. He slid his hands along my broad shoulders, down the tight sinew of muscles cording my arms, and gripped my hips with such strength, I was sure there’d be finger marks left behind.
Carlos pulled away and attacked my neck, sucking on my sweet spot on the left side. His teeth grazed my skin, and a shot of electricity jolted down my spine. I grabbed on to his shoulder with my free hand to anchor myself.
My body hummed with the heat radiating from him. The tight pain in my right knee dulled against the feel of our hard bodies rubbing against one another. It didn’t even occur to me that someone could walk into the pool area at any moment—even if the pool area had been empty since I came to the rec center.
Slowly he trailed his lips over my throat, working his way to my neck. All the tingling sensations abruptly died. The entire right side of my neck down to the collarbone was a mass of pearly scar tissue. During our first case, I’d had my throat ripped out by a werewolf. Luckily I hadn’t started turning furry the following full moon. But now the only thing I felt was the faintest sensation of pressure. The doctor said eventually I’d get feeling back, but so far, nothing.
Carlos kept forgetting that fact.
I shoved him off. “I can’t feel anything, you damn mutt.”
He had the grace to look sheepish. “Sorry…forgot.”
It pissed me off more that I was denied the feel of him on that one part of my body. I didn’t want any sensation to be canceled. When it came to him, I wanted to feel it all, have it all. It was selfish, hell, maybe even weak, but he seemed to hold that kind of power over me.
He nudged closer again and dotted kisses along my right cheek, whispering, “You’ll get the feeling back soon, corazón. Te prometo.”
“Whatever,” I grumbled, not sure if I believed that or not. I didn’t fight him when he leaned in for a chaste kiss. As he pulled back, I looked up at the clock above the door to the pool. It was a quarter till seven. “Shit, I’ve got to go. I have to get ready to meet Lloyd.”
The air in the room instantly thickened. Carlos’s aura spilled out like a breaking dam and nearly choked me. His hand seized my bicep tightly and held me in place.
“Just come back to the house with me, mi corazón. We can take a hot shower, open a bottle of wine…”
I pulled my arm from his grip. “I told you already I had plans with Lloyd.”
His jaw tightened, and a glare creased his brows, darkening his gaze. His eyes flashed a brighter topaz, the coyote in him clawing its way up to the surface.
Carlos and Lloyd were like two dogs fighting over a scrap of meat, and I was the meat.
“Damn it, stop,” I warned. I didn’t break eye contact as he glared at me.
Anger and frustration warred behind his eyes, and his power grew thicker, became a pair of hands that grabbed my throat and throttled me. I gave him a firm mental shove, sending him stumbling back a few feet, and snapped, “Carlos!”
He let out a growl and ran his hands up his face, slid them through his hair. “Fuck, okay! Fine!”
The air in the room instantly became lighter, his aura whooshing out like someone had opened a window. I continued to glare in his direction, gauging his mood.
He dropped his hands at his side and asked, a pout coming to his full lips, “What time will you be home?”
I shook my head in resignation and said with a small smile, “Once the concert is over, you dolt. I won’t be late.”
My apartment had been trashed during a case, to the point that it had to be completely renovated. While it was being worked on, I was staying with Carlos. I didn’t mind living with him temporarily, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a permanent stay.
Chocolate spiraled through his eyes, the golden hue spinning down a drain like it had never been. He nodded and leaned in for one more kiss.
His hand snaked out around my waist and pulled me close so our bodies molded together. I could smell the sweat on his skin, and it sent tingles down my spine.
“Carlos,” I mumbled without pulling away. I wasn’t doing a good job of leaving.
“Mmm?” He nipped at my lower lip and then dragged his tongue down my jaw, lapping up a bead of water.
My entire body zinged to life. My brain rerouted its thought process, turning its focus on the man in front of me. His hand dipped lower down my waist, inching past the band of my swim trunks so he could sneak a finger down my crack. I arched up and let out a throaty moan, giving him a chance to attack my throat with his skilled tongue.
Lloyd. Concert. Got to get to… Oh God that feels good.
I felt Carlos’s finger hedge closer to my entrance, and I wanted nothing more than to rut backward into his hand. The door to the pool opened a crack, and someone shouted from the other side, “What did you say?”
Carlos and I ripped apart just as the person walked into the pool area. I struggled to switch off the sudden animalistic desire to mount Carlos and said somewhat shakily, “Right…so I’m going.”
“I’ll see you tonight,” I said, more than eager to go home and sink into bed with him. Instead I snatched my towel up and headed to the locker room to get ready to go out for the evening, towel drying my hair along the way.
Evelyn Shepherd lives in Columbus with a fox terrier named Sunny and a
ferocious appetite for sexy urban fantasies and horrors. She spends her
time writing, but when she isn’t working on her next novel she’s either
reading or spoiling her nieces and nephew. She is currently working hard
at her next novel.
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