Author Archives: rbaustin

Deleted Chapter

This chapter was originally in the story after Sarid and Asjhone first kiss, and before Sarid comes over for a Kenadre-less dinner. A few of the high points made it into other chapters, but here’s the complete scene in its former glory. Enjoy! 

“He took me to The Clove. Bought a bottle of wine. A whole bottle. The most expensive kind. And his car, a Jaguar, can you believe it. Man, I almost came just sliding onto the leather seats.”

Asjhone walked up to the hub, caught the end of Monique’s waaay-TMI story and spun around.

“Even you, Ms. Prude, can’t ruin my mood today,” Monique said to Asjhone. “I’m in love.”

She raised her eyebrows. “In love? With his money you mean?”

Monique shook her head. Her glossy straight hair, still not pulled up, swung against her back. “No. Not just his money. His body, too. To die for. And my God, the man knows how to use it.” She sighed. “I think he might be the one. He makes me feel so special.”

“That’s called an orgasm, honey.” Tynice handed a chart to Erica. “The male in T-4 is vomiting.”

“Again? I already gave him a dose of Compazine,” Erica said.

Tynice took Erica’s spot at the desk after she left. “Drinks after work?” she asked Asjhone.

“Can’t tonight.” She couldn’t stop her grin.

“Hm, interesting. We’re going to explore that look later,” she promised before heading off.

Asjhone’s smile widened. She reached for the phone behind the desk. A few moments later, finished with her call, she said, “Hey, Monique?”

“Yeah?” The woman raised her head from the chart in her hands, expression guarded.

“Who does your hair?”

Monique’s eyes widened, then her gaze ran over Asjhone’s tight curls that just touched the top of her shoulders. “I can give you his name. Jon’s fabulous.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.”

Hands landed on her shoulders. Asjhone jumped then tensed.

“You paged?” Dr. Jones’s voice was low and very close to her ear.

Gaze still on Monique, she caught the sly look on the woman’s face. Great.

Asjhone scooted out from under his touch. “Results are in for Collins.” She could’ve reached over the top and snagged the chart off of the desk below, but instead moved around the counter and passed the file with the barrier between them.

The doctor winked, brushed his fingers over the back of her hand before taking it. “Do you like hiking, Asjhone?” His gaze was on the papers in his hand. He lifted the top page of the report, scanned the document.

“Um, hiking?”

“Yes.” He closed the folder, set his elbows on the counter and leaned closer. “Fresh air. Nature. Working up a sweat.” Another wink.

Her heart kicked up a gear. She stepped back. “Right. Well, the thing is—”

“Say no more, not a fan of the outdoors. I get it.” He shook his head, smile wide. “You’re a hard girl to please, but don’t worry, I won’t give up. It’ll just make the win all that sweeter.”

Asjhone watched him stroll away. She closed her eyes. Rubbed her forehead. Then grabbed a chart from the completed registration pile and headed to T-3. Her eyes skimmed the intake sheet. Seventeen-year-old girl. Stomach pains. Slight fever.

A young girl was on the bed, arms wrapping her stomach, face tight with pain. Dad by her side. “Hi. I’m Asjhone. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Stomach pains.” The dad answered just as the girl opened her mouth. “Do you think it might be her appendix? Her sister had her appendix out when she was around Jackie’s age.”

“When did the pain start, Jackie?” Asjhone moved her gaze to the girl.

“I’ve got it, nurse.”

Asjhone stiffened at Dr. Behall’s curt tone and obvious dismissal. She stepped away from the bed. Should she go? Stay, in case the doctor had instructions?

Once the father left the room, Behall examined the girl. She didn’t acknowledge Asjhone once.

A few minutes later the doctor stripped off her gloves. “Okay, we’ll get an ultrasound of your stomach. Try to find out what’s going on. I’ll let your dad back in while you wait.”

The girl bit her lip, nodded. As soon as the doctor left she pulled her shirt down and wrapped her arms around her stomach.

“Are you cold? Do you want a blanket?”

The girl shook her head.

Asjhone glanced over her shoulder. The doctor was outside with the dad. “Jackie, what does the pain feel like? Is it sharp or dull? Does it feel like cramps?”

“Cramps.”

“How are your periods? Do you get a lot of cramping?”

Her face tightened and she drew up her knees. “Not really.”

“When was the date of your last period?”

The girl’s eyes flicked to the doorway then back to Asjhone. “I don’t remember. Sometime last month.”

“The beginning of the month?”

“Yeah. I think so.”

So about six weeks ago. “Are your periods normally late?”

Tears filled the girl’s eyes.

“Jackie, talk to me. We can’t help if we don’t have all of the facts,” she said softly.

The girl’s lower lip trembled then her eyes widened. Dad had stepped back into the room.

“How are you doing, sweetie? Is it getting worse?” He looked to Asjhone. “Can we give her anything to help with the pain?”

Jackie avoided her gaze. Asjhone held back a sigh and addressed the dad, “I’ll check with the doctor.” She caught up with Behall at the hub. “I think Jackie’s pain might be in her uterus.”

Dr. Behall didn’t lift her gaze from the chart she was scribbling in. “And why would you think that?” Her tone was . . . Asjhone tried to think of a different word but nothing else came to mind. Bitchy. The doctor was being bitchy.

“When you pressed on her lower abdomen, she stiffened. And her period is late. She was vomiting regularly last month. When I questioned her about it she grew scared.”

“Is she sexually active?”

“I didn’t get a chance to ask before Dad came back.”

Dr. Behall closed the file she was working on and handed it to one of the clerks behind the desk. “Get some urine, send it to the labs.”

Asjhone followed the doctor down the hallway. “If I could get the dad out of the room, I could talk to her again. She was about to—”

“Don’t you have other patients? Just run the test.”

Heat filled Asjhone’s cheeks as she lowered her gaze. “Of course,” she said. No one should be able to make you feel inferior. “Actually, it’s not okay.” Her voice shook only slightly.

The doctor stopped, faced Asjhone, raised an eyebrow.

“I’d like to speak to you. In private please.”

“I have another patient to see.”

“It won’t take long.” She motioned to the staff room. The doctor looked as if she might refuse, but followed Asjhone inside.

Tony sat at one of the tables. His eyes warmed when he saw Asjhone then widened when Behall entered behind her.

“What’s your problem with me?” Asjhone said as soon as the door closed. Ouch. She probably could’ve phrased that better.

The doctor stared at Tony. “Leave.”

“I’d prefer he stay,” Asjhone said.

Behall’s tongue ran over her top teeth. “Fine.” She folded her arms over her chest. “I don’t think you’re cut out for this type of work.”

Out of all the things the doctor could’ve said, Asjhone didn’t expect that. “Wh—what? Why?”

Behall smirked. “You really want to hear your incompetencies now?”

“What did I ever do to you?”

“Asjhone, Asjhone, this is the problem. You take things too personal. I criticize your methods and you think I’m attacking you.” She shook her head with a poor-Asjhone expression.

No. She pushed her shoulders back, straightened her spine. “I’m good at my job. I know my job. You don’t have the right to treat me the way you do. If you think I mistreat patients or messed up in some way, then you should’ve talked to me or Bethany.” The nurse manager. “Not just be—” Can’t say bitchy. Can’t say bitchy. “Rude and belittle me in front of patients or co-workers. I won’t tolerate it anymore.”

The doctor’s face hardened. Hatred exuded from every pore. “You’re right,” Behall said at last. “I’ll bring my concerns to your superior.” She stormed from the room.

Asjhone waited until the door swung shut before falling into a chair. Her heart pounded so hard she could barely hear anything else. “What have I done?”

Tony’s hand on her shoulder startled her. She’d forgotten he was there. “You okay?”

“No. If Behall didn’t have it out for me before, she certainly does now. Oh, God.” Her head fell forward into her palms. “Why did I say anything? It was a mistake.”

“No. That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen. Do you know how many times I wanted to tell off a doctor for their snooty holier than thou personality? They come into the room, spend ten minutes with a patient, then get all the credit.”

She lowered her hand, peering at him.

“Sorry.” He gave a short laugh. “My own issues.”

“Do you think I’m a good nurse?” The question popped out with no forethought. Immediately her cheeks grew warm.

“Are you kidding? Girl, you’re one of the best we have. And I’m not just trying to get you to buy me a drink the next time we go out.”

“Really?”

His face softened. “Don’t let the bitch get to you. What else was she supposed to say, anyway? That she just doesn’t like you? That she’s jealous because Dr. Jones flirts only with you? Behall’s been trying to get his attention for a few months now.”

“Oh, my God. Seriously?” She groaned. “How does Monique spread gossip so fast? She just saw us together like twenty minutes ago.”

Tony’s eyes widened. “Monique was the one who told me the news, but that was days ago. I haven’t heard anything today.” His voice dropped. “What did she see you and Dr. Jones doing twenty minutes ago? Asjhone, are you getting a little freaky at work.”

“What! No. Nothing like that. Dr. Jones just put his hands on my shoulders. That’s it.”

“On your shoulders?” His gaze lowered. “Or do you mean your—”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I meant my shoulders!”

With a laugh, “Okay, then.” His eyes trailed over her face, expression turning serious. “You sure you’re all right?”

“I’m good. Just need another minute to calm my heart.”

“Okay.” He hugged her. “So brave. You’re my new hero.”

Asjhone sat back in the chair when Tony left. She had the sudden desire to call Sarid. Tell him what happened. But they didn’t exchange numbers. She didn’t even know where he lived.

Was that strange?

No. They’d just met. Besides she could always ask the pastor for his address. He apparently had no problems giving out personal information.

Should she still be upset with Pastor Ken, though?

Her fingers ran over her bottom lip.

They’d kissed. It was quick. Probably should call it a peck. Monique wouldn’t even put it on the same scale. But she’d initiated it. Had liked it.

Her life was changing. Just like she’d wanted.

What would happen next?

Asjhone talks about Wayne

I thought about leaving Wayne. It was the first year of our marriage. After the miscarriage.

Hospital records said I tripped over our cat and fell down the stairs.

We didn’t have a cat.

But Wayne had been so upset about losing our baby. He promised to go to anger management classes.

And it was good for a while. He was the Wayne I fell in love with. But then things at work started to go bad.

He had just lost a major client, and dinner hadn’t been ready as soon as he came home. I received my first black eye that night.

I packed a bag. Determined to leave this time. I wasn’t weak. I wasn’t like those other women who just allowed their husbands to beat them and then make excuses or blame themselves.

But then he saw my suitcase. Threatened to hurt my family. Said he knew people. As a defense attorney I knew he knew a lot of bad people.

So I stayed. Said I was doing it for my family. For Mom and Dad. Angelique wasn’t talking to me anymore at this point, but Wayne knew I still cared for her.

Things were okay. If I didn’t anger him. He liked to be in control. I didn’t mind. Not that much.

When I found out I was pregnant with Keandre he was so happy. He doted on me. Even kissed my belly once or twice. Helped decorate the nursery when he wasn’t tired.

For a while it seemed like things might really be okay.

But then it wasn’t.

I couldn’t put it off any longer. I was a mother now. I had to protect my baby at any cost.

Asjhone meets Wayne

“Order up.”

Asjhone rested her elbows on the counter, chin in palm. Could this day get any slower?

“Order up!”

“Yo, Asjhone. That’s for you.”

“Huh, what?” Asjhone turned.

Angelique smirked. Her eyes moved from Asjhone to the serving hatch. Asjhone followed her gaze, meeting the boss’s angry frown. She straightened immediately and hustled over to the window.

“Sorry, Greg.” She loaded two plates onto her right forearm, then grabbed the remaining plate with her left. “Between clinicals and nursing school, I barely get four hours of sleep every night.”

Greg grunted. “I don’t care about your personal life. It doesn’t belong here in my diner. Do your job or I’ll find someone else who can.”

Asjhone swallowed, nodded.

“Better watch out.” Angelique’s tone was quiet. “He’s been in a pissy mood ever since Betty left him.”

“Yeah.” Asjhone served the food and was on her way back to the kitchen for a fuller bottle of ketchup and another glass of pop when the bell dinged. “Sit wherever you want,” she called out with a smile for the new customers. “We’ll be right with you.”

After making sure the rest of her tables were doing okay, she walked over to the two men who’d sat in her section. Taking out her pad, she flipped it to a new ticket. “How are you guys doing today? Ready to order?”

“What do you recommend?” The voice was deep, commanding. Her gaze flicked up. Mouth went dry as her heart picked up speed. Sweat prickled under her arms.

Hot damn.

The man was gorgeous. His crisp white shirt accentuated his perfectly dark skin. A red tie swung slightly forward from his lean on the table. The dark gray suit jacket fit too well to be anything but custom made.

She swallowed. Smoothed a hand over the curls on the side of her face that were too short to fit in the ponytail. Coffee stained the edges of both sleeves and Tabasco sauce was smeared on her shirt over her left breast. Great.

A low chuckle sounded from the right.

The man smiled. Practically in slow motion. She watched his mouth flip up at the corners, millimeter by millimeter until a set of perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth were revealed. Hell, but that smile only made him more gorgeous.

A toddler screamed two tables down. She startled. Dropped her gaze. Her cheeks began to heat. He’d said something to her . . . Oh, yeah. “The tuna melt is a favorite. Or if you still want breakfast, the three-egg omelet with cheese and spinach.”

When he didn’t respond, she lifted her gaze back up.

His eyes were steady on her. Smile still in place. Expression said he’d noticed her interest. And, perhaps returned it.

Her cheeks flamed hotter.

“I’ll take the cobb salad. No eggs. Dressing on the side.”

His choice of food wasn’t what she expected from the virile specimen in front of her, although eating at the diner didn’t suit him either. She scribbled on her pad. “Anything to drink?”

“Coffee, please.”

“Of course.” She glanced at the guy sitting across from him, realizing a few seconds later he was the one who had laughed at her. His expression was amused, eyebrows lifted, as his gaze roamed up and then down her body.

She resisted the urge to cross her arms over the red stain on her shirt.

“I’ll take that three-egg omelet you were talking about.”

“Hash browns?”

“Yes, with onions.”

“And to drink?”

“Orange juice.”

She flipped her pad closed. “I’ll get your drinks. The order shouldn’t take too long.”

“Thank you, Asjhone.”

Her gaze whipped back to the man. His eyes were lifting from the nametag on her chest.

Another swallow. She nodded and turned quickly to avoid saying anything stupid. Like, will you have babies with me.

It took all her concentration to walk normally to the serving counter, and then to relay the order to the cooks. Her hand shook when she attached the ticket to the wheel and spun it toward the kitchen. How could a gorgeous face make her so nervous? She better learn to control this reaction. Nurses had to stay detached.

“You get all the luck. That guy is sex on a stick.”

“Angelique!” Greg narrowed his eyes. “Don’t talk about my customers like that.”

Angelique rolled her eyes and leaned down to whisper in Asjhone’s ear. “Greg’s just jealous he can’t claim that title anymore.”

Asjhone laughed and glanced over her shoulder. The man was watching her. She quickly busied herself with getting drinks. Heat spread from her cheeks to all over her body.

“If you don’t go for him, I will,” Angelique folded her arms over her chest, leaning back against the counter, not even bothering to pretend she wasn’t ogling him.

“Stop staring,” she hissed.

Angelique chuckled. “Are you calling dibs?”

“Fine. Yes. I call dibs. Just stop looking over there. He’ll know we’re talking about him.”

Her friend’s smile grew wide. “About time. An all work and no play Asjhone, makes for very boring girl time conversations. I expect explicit detail, and I’m talking size here.”

“Angelique!” Asjhone choked. “Oh my God, I just met him. I don’t even know his name.”

Her friend smirked. “You done with those drinks yet? Your boy’s looking a little thirsty.”

Asjhone peeked a glance over her shoulder. He was still staring. When he caught her looking, he winked.

“Yep,” Angelique said. “Explicit. Detail.”

Kate’s Psychometry Lessons and Emma’s Announcement

This piece was originally the second to last chapter in the novel. I had to hold back a few tears when I cut it. It’s definitely my favorite of the deleted scenes. My editor thought it slowed the momentum of the story down, and as I often do, I bowed to her wisdom. *Contains SPOILERS if you haven’t read the book yet.*

Enjoy!

RB

Kate rubbed her thumb over gloveless fingertips.

She’d grown used to not wearing gloves in Lucas’s room. Had rapidly acclimated to the feel of his skin underneath her hands and mouth.

But, here? In the sitting room or whatever Martha called it—the Grand Room. Without Lucas. And another Behn, practically a stranger, in front of her, holding out a small, gold and silver, weirdly shaped object asking her to touch it. Without gloves!

Not just no, but a hell, no.

She took a step back. Rubbed a hand over her stomach, well actually the cotton T-shirt covering her stomach. Damn, she was nauseous. “I’m not ready.”

“Kate.” Drew’s eyes were uncharacteristically serious.

The first thing she noticed about Drew when Lucas introduced the psychometric Behn from Alaska was his distinctive blue eyes. A dark, almost black, ring circled the outside of his irises, a pale light blue colored the inside.

The second thing, his devilish smile. He laughed often, smiled more than that. His expression, on that day, said he took nothing serious.

Kate wanted to hang out with that guy. This one looked way too determined.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” he asked.

“Duh. I get a vision.” She shuddered. The ones from Lucas’s room played too often in her mind.

“And . . .”

Kate’s eyes narrowed. “It sucks.”

He studied her for a moment. “How many visions have you had in your life? Ballpark it,” he added.

“Hundreds probably. I try to avoid them as much as possible.”

“And what’s the worse that happened?”

Randy’s image flashed in her head followed by Sarid. “Death.” The word escaped before she could stop it. Her gaze flicked to Drew’s.

“But what about when you touched an object?” He lifted the item in his hand and she finally recognized it. A dolphin riding a wave. Not as bad as the OB’s Hummels. .

“I lose time. Worry people will see me and learn what I can do. Sometimes I see disgusting, frightening images I can never un-see. Oh, yeah, and my eyes turn yellow.” Something she still had a hard time believing. Maybe she should have Lucas take a picture one time. Just to see.

Although, maybe not. She was still dealing with finding out she was the key. Yellow eyes might push her over into completely freaked out mode.

“So nothing too bad, yeah?”

Wasn’t he listening?

He held up the dolphin.

Kate wrapped her arms behind her back, fingers lacing tight. “I thought you were supposed to help me? I want to control my powers. Stop them from happening. How do I do that?”

“Control begins with no fear. You have to not fear what will happen before you can learn to control it. After that we’ll move on to you being aware of the outside world during the vision.”

Dammit. He actually made sense.

Damn. That meant she was going to have to touch it.

“No fear,” she said. Her gaze locked onto the stupid statue. What would she see?

No fear.

Probably Martha dusting it or something. Her hand shook when she brought it from behind her back.

No fear.

It wasn’t a big deal.

No fear.

Kate’s fingertips grazed the top of the dolphin’s head. It was smooth. Cold to the touch. Then the room and Drew disappeared.

The dolphin sat on a wooden shelf with three other like it. She was at an outdoor market. The crowd was heavy. A man wearing a black and white priest collar walked up to the stall. He strangely resembled Gabe. But the Gabe Kate knew wasn’t remotely priest-like.

The priest-Gabe picked up the dolphin. Studied it.

“One of a kind,” said the older man who was running the stand.

Priest-Gabe raised an eyebrow, his gaze running over the three others next to it.

“Those are the only ones ever created,” the man said hastily. “All hand-made. It’s real gold in there.” He pointed to the glinting yellow strip that ran along the back of the dolphin.

Priest-Gabe was skeptical, but he continued to examine the piece. Flipped it from side to side. Ran his fingers over the body of the dolphin, the waves. “How much?” he finally asked.

The man smiled. “For you, Father. I give you a discount.”

Kate snapped to the present. She stumbled back.

“Could you hear me? In the vision?” Drew asked.

“What? Was Gabe ever a priest?”

“Seems like it, doesn’t it?”

“You had the same vision, too?”

He nodded. “Yes, but I chose to see it. Now back to you, did you hear me calling you?”

Her forehead furrowed. “No. I heard the wind blowing, the crowd of people, various conversations, Gabe and the seller discussing the dolphin.”

“Okay. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Was she supposed to worry? She didn’t even know he was going to try to talk to her.

Drew set down the dolphin, picked up a glass filled with water. “Let’s try it again.”

With a sigh, Kate wiped her hands on her jeans before running her finger in the condensation building on the outside of the glass.

She tried object after object. A hairbrush. Spoon. One of Martha’s decorative pillows. An old book.

During the last one she’d thought she heard Drew’s voice. When she came out of the vision, Lucas caught her as she swayed. Sweat dripped down her back. Her stomach rolled in a now-familiar, utterly unpleasant way.

“I told you not to push her, Drew.”

Kate didn’t have to look to know her bahshrett’s eyes were flaring. She placed a hand on his forearm. Squeezed. “I’m fine, Lucas. We’ve only been at this for a little while.”

“A little while? Try more like three hours.” He handed her a pair of gloves. “And you’re not fine. You’re pale and shaking.” He led her to the couch. “It was too much too soon.”

She linked hands with Lucas. “I just need to eat something then I can try again.” She glanced to Drew. “I think I heard your voice in this last one.”

Drew smiled. “Good. I knew you could do it.” He glanced at Lucas. “But let’s not push it, yeah? We can try it again tomorrow.”

Kate opened her mouth, ready to protest, when voices reached her. Emma and Cade were on the staircase. Cade was carrying Emma.

“Seriously, Caveman, put me down. I’m not fragile.” Emma’s cheeks grew red when she spied her audience. She lifted her head and whispered in Cade’s ear.

Lucas chuckled. Kate glanced at him then back at the couple on the stairs. Cade was setting Emma on her feet.

“Are you hurt?” Kate asked.

Emma shook her head, opened her mouth to speak, but Martha and Jeeves walked in the room. Followed soon by the rest of the new Behns. Gabe was the last to arrive. Kate studied him as her first vision played in her head.

“I—We have an announcement.” Emma’s voice rang over the room, loud and clear. Kate could totally see her running a classroom.

Cade carried a chair to her side and was urging her into it. Emma shook her head fiercely before wrapping her arm around his waist, leaning her head against him. “Do you want to say it, honey?”

Cade’s shoulders pulled back. His smile the biggest Kate had ever seen.

“Emma’s pregnant.”

Gasps erupted from Kate and the ebheds. A few of the new Behns nodded as if they already knew. Lucas was smiling, as was Gabe. Kate looked for Sarid. She found him standing next to the stairs. He wasn’t smiling.

Kate stood. Lucas rose, too, lacing their fingers together.

“Congratulations,” she said to Emma when they neared.

Emma clasped her gloved hands. Kate, used to Emma’s frequent need to touch, didn’t startle.

“It’s your fault.”

“Uh, I don’t think so. That would be impossible.”

Lucas and Cade laughed. Emma smiled, shaking her head. “No. I mean, you made me realize why I’ve been so emotional lately. Remember that conversation we had in my bedroom?”

Kate nodded. “Glad I can help. You’re going to be an awesome mom.”

Worry flashed across her friend’s face. “I hope so.”

“You’ll be the best mother.” Cade squeezed her to his side.

“And you, a wonderful father. I can’t wait to see you holding our baby.”

“Some champagne,” Jeeves announced. “To celebrate.”

Shouts of agreement rang out.

Kate glanced around the room. She was surrounded by people she knew and cared about. Was touching the man she loved. Her first friend stood close by.

A family.

She’d finally found her family.

Lucas Gets Shot

Fallen Darkness went through many—many!—edits and revisions. This was originally part of the first chapter. As the story is now, this scene happens right before the book starts.

Enjoy!

RB

Gabe and Lucas headed up the driveway. A quick scan showed they were still alone. Lucas finally allowed his full Behn powers access. His eyes immediately glowed, increasing his sight almost ten fold. Fangs lengthened as power swept through his body.

The power was always there. He didn’t need the Behn mask to use it, though sometimes wearing that tripped out Halloween mask just rocked. It was a visual reminder of what he was created for. Protector. Hunter. Killer.

“I’ll take the back.” Gabe spoke over his shoulder before disappearing around the side of the house.

“Dammit.” He hated it when his boy pulled that shit. Especially after what happened a couple months ago.

Making no sound, Lucas moved up the wooden steps. He heard nothing from inside, but the ring in his ear was consistent and loud as a mother fuck. This was the place. Perhaps the Fallen were lying in wait.

Lucas glanced at his watch. The required fifteen seconds had passed. Gabe would be in position, waiting, at least he hoped, for Lucas to make the first move.

One. Two. Three.

The bottom of Lucas’s boot struck the door. It slammed open, bounced against the receiving wall, and stated to swing back. Oops. Perhaps he should’ve tried the quieter approach. He held out his hand to stop the door from shutting and stepped into the doorway. A similar noise sounded from the back of the house. Gabe was entering.

Lucas jerked his gaze up to the ceiling. He heard a scuffling noise, like someone running.

Less than a second later, he’d scouted the location of the stairs and was moving up them, Sigma out and pointing the way. He knew Gabe would check the rooms on the first floor before joining him.

The upstairs was quiet now. Lucas stopped on the steps, out of sight from any rooms or the second floor hallway.

One faint heartbeat, slowly losing life.

A human. Fallens’ hearts didn’t beat. With a Follower’s life on the line, Lucas couldn’t wait any longer.

He leaned to the side and saw one door on the right. A bedroom, maybe? The door was open. He tore up the last steps and processed two more doors down the hall—one closed, the other open—before crossing the threshold of the first room. A quick swing of his Sigma; he was alone. It was an office of sorts. A desk holding a computer and a printer was against one wall. A small sofa along another. Lucas opened the closet in the corner. Empty except for a carton of paper.

He felt, rather than heard, Gabe come up the stairs; a carress along his spine. He grabbed the cell out of his pocket and sent a quick message.

2 rms @ end. Me rght. U lft.

His brother’s reply was instanteous.

K

Gabe flashed down the hallway moving to the doorway on the left. Lucas was directly behind him, heading to the one on the right. The rooms were right across from each other. Lucas’s door was the closed one. He waited until Gabe was out of sight then slowly opened the door.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Lucas jumped back into the hallway, out of the way. The bullets whizzed by and thudded into the wall across from him. Good thing he waited until Gabe was out of the way.

A heartbeat sounded in the quiet aftermath. The Follower was still alive. It was too risky to send a reply with his Sigma, but the situation had to be neutralized fast. The human was too close to death.

Damn. This was going to hurt.

Lucas steeled himself then flew into the room. Shots immediately fired.

One Fallen in the room, standing against the far wall, using the Follower as cover. The brown-haired male was a head taller than the Follower. Blood dripped from her neck.

Fear—that was not his own—flooded Lucas’s body. An Artic rush that zipped through his veins. The Fallen was scared.

If Lucas hadn’t had the ability to sense others emotions for over three hundred years, the fear he now felt would’ve frozen him to the spot.

The human was in the Fallen’s arms. Her eyes closed, skin leeched of color. It seemed that the Fallen was keeping her upright. Lucas received no emotion from this girl. She was unconscious. Her body only had enough energy to pump blood through her veins. Soon it wouldn’t even have that.

There was nothing for Lucas to use as cover. He tried to outrun the bullets, moving away from the doorway where the Fallen had aimed. He was lucky with one shot. The other, not so much. It tore into his left shoulder.

“Son of a—” he roared.

The sound from a Beratta drowned out Lucas’s curse. Gabe was in the room. The Fallen’s eyes had been on Lucas. He hadn’t noticed the other Behn, which might have saved him from a bullet in the middle of his forehead.

“What the hell, Lucas?” Gabe’s eyes were on the Fallen, gun still aimed. Fallen couldn’t die from bullets. Only a knife in the heart or a severed head could do that. “Ever hear of wait for cover?”

The Fallen fell backward, losing his grip on the human. Lucas ignored the pain in his shoulder and lunged for the female.

Gabe moved around him, no doubt going to finish the Fallen once and for all. Lucus felt a brief flash of disappointment. He’d wanted to end the Fallen’s existence.

Lucas barely managed to catch the thin, blonde-haired girl before she hit the floor. His shoulder screamed when he picked her up and laid her on the bed.

There was a muffled, distinctive pop behind him and he felt the whoosh of air as the Fallen disintegrated into ash.

Two fingers at the Follower’s neck proved her heart was still beating. He processed whether it would be faster to drive her to the hospital or call an ambulance. Reaching for the untraceable phone in his pocket, he chose the latter. He and Gabe had seen an ambulance parked in a nearby empty lot earlier tonight.

“Astoria 911. What is your emergency?”

Lucas gave the house’s location. “A burglary attempt. The suspect fled, but the woman of the house is badly injured. The female needs medical attention immediately. She’s unconscious and barely breathing. Second floor, last bedroom on the right.”

“What is your name? How do you know the victim?”

Lucas hit the end button.

Gabe picked up the Fallen’s dagger that had dropped from its body after the kill. Fallens’ bodies, and any clothes they wore, burst into dust, but objects, metal especially, wouldn’t. Gabe took a plastic bag from inside his jacket pocket and deposited the dagger inside. After recently finding a handful of poisoned Fallen victims, the Behns had begun collecting the weapons for study. So far nothing had resulted from it.

Sirens sounded in the distance.

“Let’s bounce.” Gabe pocketed the bagged dagger into his pocket. “How’s your shoulder? That was a completely idiotic thing to do. If you’d waited ten more seconds, I would’ve been able to cover you.”

“The Follower didn’t have ten more seconds to spare.” Lucas followed Gabe down the stairs and out the back door. “And my arm will heal.” The bullet lodged in the muscles of his shoulders was making its presence known with every step. After he cut the bullet out, he’d be able to heal.

Lucas cleared the fence in the backyard—Ow!—behind Gabe.

Gabe mumbled, but Lucas caught the word. “Bullshit.”

Releasing Darkness For The First Time

In this scene, Lucas remembers his time in the Ceremonial Chamber when Elias first removed the darkness inside him. The scene was written for Fallen Darkness, although actually happened in the last half of Book 1, Fallen Redemption.

Enjoy!

RB

Gabe and Sarid helped Lucas to the Chamber. The anger was still inside him. A living, breathing presence. The strong emotion surged through his body, readying his muscles for action, though at the time same time he was weak, limp, and unable to see.

With help from his brothers, Lucas striped off his clothes and lay down on the altar. The marble was cold against his bare skin. A severe contrast to Elias’s warm hand on his shoulder.

Elias whispered in Lucas’s ear despite the fact Gabe and Sarid had already left. “It will not be easy, my son.” He spoke in the Trihune Language. “It will take your will, your desire, more than anything I do. Do you wish for the demon to leave your body?”

Lucas jerked. His eyes swiveled in their sockets, still unseeing, turning toward his sire’s voice. “Demon?” he croaked. It wasn’t a demon inside him, just the demon’s emotions. That’s all.

“Yes,” Elias said softly. “You received more than this demon’s emotions when you touched his blood. Its essence seeped inside you. Became a part of you. Fused with every molecule of your being. I won’t know how deep the hold is until we begin, but from what I’ve seen . . .” Elias squeezed his shoulder.

The motion said Elias had been reading Lucas’s memories. By the hand on his shoulder, his sire would’ve seen when Lucas first came into contact with the UF, or Uber Fallen as he and his brothers called it. But now it had another name. Demon.

“If this,” Elias said. “Is allowed to continue, the effects could be permanent.” He paused. “So, I ask again. Lucas, do you wish for the demon to leave your body?”

“What if I learn to control it? To not let it spread.” He raised his hands, fumbled until he touched his sire’s robe, clutched the fabric in his fists. “You could teach me.” Elias said nothing, but Lucas could sense his disappointment. “I need it. It gives me strength. Lends more protection for the Creator’s Followers.”

“There is no way to control it.”

“But,” Lucas started.

Elias interrupted him, his voice had turned hard; a tone Lucas had never heard from his sire. The warmth flooding through him from his sire’s touch turned cold. Lucas shivered.

“Make your choice. Do you wish to turn into a demon? Join the other side? Because that’s where you’re headed if you follow this path.”

Another shiver racked through Lucas’s body. “No,” he said at last.

“You must be certain with your whole being. Once I start the process I cannot stop it.”

He swallowed thickly. The cold gave him time to think. The anger had been strangely quiet during Elias’s presence. Hiding in the background. Biding its time.

It wasn’t his brothers that came to mind. Nor his reasons for joining the Behns. It wasn’t his sire. Or his desire to please the Creator.

Instead, it was the glimmer of hope hiding underneath all the frustration, fear, and anger. Hope that he might find love.

The emotion had begun to grow when Emma, a mere human, wrapped the Sept One leader into knots.

Perhaps all was not lost. His servitude to the Creator didn’t mean he had to journey this long immortal life alone. Love was possible for him, too. “Yes,” he said finally. “I wish it to be gone.”

Elias spoke so fast the words strewn together in one lone Trihune mumble that Lucas couldn’t decipher. Soon he was unable even to try.

He clenched his teeth. Muscles tightened. His body was on fire. Hot, burning flames licked at his organs.

He opened his mouth and screamed.

Lucas jerked awake. His breath came in gasps. He threw back the covers. The sheets were soaked in sweat. It took three tries to twist the switch of the lamp by his bed. His hands were shaking.

He struggled to get his breath under control. The nightmares were nothing new. They were a regular occurrence since Gabe and Sarid took him to the Ceremonial Chamber to meet with Elias. Along with the dreams of what had brought him to that place. The memories of what he’d lost. Lucas grabbed the trinity star from his nightstand table. Clutched it tightly.

“Don’t need it. Don’t need it.” He rocked slowly. Sweat beaded on his forehead then ran down the sides of his face by his hairline.

He closed his eyes and forced his mind to remember why allowing Elias to eradicate the demon’s essence was necessary.

Anger surged without warning and Lucas couldn’t stop the rumble climbing up his throat as he examined the blatant changes his boss had undergone. All because of that female.

“Lucas.” Cade’s voice was soft, soothing. “What’s up?”

The growl erupted. A low, menacing sound that echoed through the room.

Cade held his hands out in front of him, took a slow step forward. “It’s all right. You’re safe here.”

Lucas jumped from his seat, muscles bulging underneath his shirt. “I’m not Sarid. Don’t talk to me like I’ve a demon trapped inside me. I’m not weak. I’m not beyond control.”

His mind was empty of every emotion but his own. His body only reacted to his feelings. Lucas grinned, flashing fangs. He was in control. It was his needs, wants, that caused this response.

All his.

The scene changed.

Lucas stood in the middle of the street. His brothers around him. Cade’s sudden sorrow was an oppressive weight that made it difficult for Lucas to fill his lungs with air.

His boss whipped around. His, and consequently Lucas’s, sorrow turned to fury. “Where the fuck were you?”

Lucas took a step back, eyes wide. Adrenaline streamed through him, strengthening him, renewing his anger. Blocking Cade. He inhaled deeply.

“You were supposed to be no more than five minutes from Gabriel,” Cade said.

A dull roar sounded in his ears.

“That would’ve left you fifteen minutes away from here. Not twenty-five.” Cade advanced toward Lucas. “We could’ve saved her.”

“I was following a lead.” Lucas’s gaze darted to Gabriel, Sarid, back to Cade. “I heard ringing.”

“Bullshit.” Cade was in Lucas’s face. “You. Are. Lying.”

Lucas stilled. He latched onto the anger coursing through him, no longer joined with Cade’s. He straightened. His gaze narrowed then locked on Cade. Fangs elongated. Eyes glowed at the same time a dull dusk swept over his vision, turning everything gray. A small speck of fear rushed through him and then was gone. “No. Fuck. You. It’s my fault, Cade? You brought the female into our HQ. You formed an attachment to her. You allowed her to stay at the HQ long after it was necessary. You broke Elias’s command and continued to see her after the mind sweep. You followed her when she was free. You brought our enemy’s attention to her. This is all on you.” Lucas inhaled a haggard breath, willed the adrenaline to surge again. Willed the anger, the fury, to continue its rule over his body. But black took over his gray world. His stomach clenched.

Bending forward, hands on his knees, he gagged.

Lucas raised his head. His hands no longer shook. The sweat had dried, making him cold. He still held the trinity star. Blood fell in slow drips from his hand to the bed sheet. He released his hold on the star, but its points were embedded into his skin and didn’t move.

He gripped the stainless steel and yanked. The star’s tips pulled free causing blood to flow faster. In the bathroom he used the nearest towel to wrap his hand.

The pain during his time with Elias in the Chamber was something he’d never forget. Hadn’t even compared to his transformation from human to Behn. It’d felt like every cell in his body was violated.

Brutally. Repeatedly.

When it was over, Lucas lay weak, unable to even lift his lids. Then blood began to drip into his open mouth. It was work to swallow, to not let it fill his throat and drowned him.

Soon though, Elias’s blood swept through his body, rejuvenating, strengthening. He must’ve drained Elias completely before rising, though his sire stood in front of him whole and healthy, his normal comforting glow still softly illuminating his body.

Lucas’s body had been healed. Returned to its original state, but his mind had not.

He still craved what he then willed away. Its power. What the darkness gave him. In all his centuries of existence nothing had been able to do what the demon’s essence had done. Give Lucas an out. A way to block all others.

But Elias’s warning ran through his mind. He hadn’t wanted to become a demon. Didn’t want his brothers hunting him down. Even now, after the nightmare, with the sweating and shaking and craving, he knew he did the right thing.

Lucas unwrapped the towel from his hand. It was damp, stained red, but his hand was already healed. The three deep pits in skin had vanished. He wiped off the dried blood with the towel before throwing it to the floor.

The violence was gone.

His strength was gone.

His emotions, continued to be, no longer be his own.