Jacquelyn Frank, New York Times bestselling author of the Shadowdwellers series, invites readers into a dazzling new world of unstoppable desire and danger..
As an Advocate for his colony, Julian Sawyer travels to Earth to bring back the Chosen--women who possess energy potent enough to help revitalize his people. The stunning, silver-clad beauty who strides into his club one night radiates a sensual magnetism unlike any he's encountered, and Julian realizes that Asia Callahan is not just Chosen, she is his kindra: his one true mate.
For months, Asia has tracked the beautiful and mysterious Julian across the country, convinced that he's behind the disappearance of her sister and a dozen other women. She's prepared to believe he's a ruthless killer, but when she presents herself as bait, she discovers that the truth is far more shocking. Taken to a strange, hazardous realm she never knew existed, Asia will face the ultimate choice--between abandoning the life she's always known, and forsaking a passion as dangerous as it is powerful.
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December 29, 2009
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Excerpt from Hunting Julian by Jacquelyn Frank
Even watching him from a good distance, Asia Callahan could feel the off-the-charts testosterone roiling off the man. It actually had nothing to do with the fact that he was everything "tall, dark and handsome," like something a lame romance writer might stuff into some dopey story about rakes and swooning or whatever. In truth, it had everything to do with his inherent chemistry, which absolutely reeked of sex, lust fulness, and all things outright carnal. It was as off the charts as a man could get, bordering on inhuman, in Asia's opinion. The fact that he had good looks to go with it was merely adding insult to injury, and purely coincidental.
Or just lethal.
Asia adjusted her focus slowly, ignoring the ache in her neck as she watched Julian in action through her high-tech night-vision binoculars. He walked with a sinful ease of grace, she noted, for someone so tall and relatively heavy with muscle. Not Mr. Universe heavy, but quite definitively buffed out. Military built, she'd guessed. By now she'd seen him with his shirt off enough times to be pretty familiar with the contours of his upper body. He wasn't slender or lean or even merely athletic; he was built like a brute . . . except that in absolute contradiction to his size and body mass, he moved like a god. Smooth, easy, and effortless, and even the slightest casual cock of one hip just oozed a sophisticated style and refinement that a mere brute could never pull off.
Too bad he was a cold-blooded murderer.
Or that was the going theory. One she was highly inclined to believe after spending so much time studying his every move. It had nothing to do with the fact that he kept vampire's hours, sleeping all day and trolling the night. It wasn't even because he used women like toilet paper, discarding them just about as fast as he got them to drop their panties for him. After all, Asia was a firm believer in women who owned their sexuality. If these crazy chicks wanted a man like Julian to stick it to them, well, that was their right. If he were any other man, she'd say more power to them . . . or perhaps even "get out of my way."
The ones who came crying after a man like that later on--the pathetic ones who thought he was capable of more than a night or two of mind-blowing orgasms-- in her opinion, they deserved what they got. Tears and girly emotions had no place in Julian's scope of interest. And honestly, any time one of them got to walk away with the breath still pushing through their bodies, they ought to consider themselves damn lucky.
Still, she could almost understand their mistakenness. Julian's smile alone was not only sexy and compelling, it was enough to make anyone on the receiving end of it feel as if she were the only woman in his world. Hell, she was how many yards away? Even she felt like she was the only woman in his world, and he didn't even know she was there.
Not that Asia was known for being the swooning, sentimental type. No, no, no. No one would ever accuse her of having touchy-feely emotionalism or equally girly crap like that. She'd seen way too much in her life, done too much and been too many places to have even the littlest smidge of a star in either of her eyes. So instead of getting weak in the knees or panting and drooling when she saw Julian pull his smooth routine on the women who seemed to flock to him like vultures to a fresh kill, all she saw was a hell of a lot of masculine sex appeal and a man who knew how to use it to further his own untrustworthy agenda.
Unfortunately, for about a baker's dozen of women to date, his "agenda" had ended in highly suspicious and nefarious disappearances. There had even been a pair of bodies along the way, both men who had been closely associated with a couple of the missing women. Just because there had been no female bodies in his wake didn't mean he wasn't guilty as the walking sin he was, it just meant he had a really good hiding place for the--
Asia pushed away the finality of that train of thought. She reverted to her analysis of her target. Julian was, among these many other things, a nomad. He'd moved through seven states in as many months, finding large cities and enjoying them with a perverse and obvious relish, rather like the way he enjoyed his women . . . with the arrogance only a genius criminal mind could attain. He thought he was so clever. He thought he was miles above detection.
Asia, however, had detected him.
Much to the embarrassment of a few police departments across the United States, she alone had made the connection between Julian and the missing women, painstakingly tracking back over an all but trackless trail, making sure she found proof that he was in every single city on every single date of every single disappearance. Once she had established that, she had taken her proof to the FBI, who hadn't even known the cases from city to city were linked. After all, he didn't fit any profile any of them had ever heard of. Rarely did a serial killer cross state lines as he had done, and when one did, and subsequently escalated at the rate of Julian's pace, he usually began to get sloppy. At that point they would be indulging in their own twisted, worked-up emotions, prey to stressors and triggers that would send them spiraling out of control.
Also against the usual profile of a serial killer was Julian's remarkable sexuality and control. Often sexual dysfunction was key to this sort of mentality; rape was the only way they could find their sadistic pleasure. But Julian lured woman after woman to his lairs again and again, made thorough love to them, and then . . . he let them go. He didn't have a type he stuck to; he didn't have a tried and true lure. He didn't do anything where anyone could see or hear. He never left as much as a drop of DNA, his or theirs, to guide his hunters back to him.
How was that even possible? How did women simply enter his apartment, never be heard from again, without leaving a trace that their paths had even crossed? How had Kenya simply faded from existence, as if she didn't have a sister dying in increments every day because she was nowhere to be found?
Asia's sister had very likely been Julian's tenth victim.
And if Asia hadn't personally seen Kenya with the bastard the night she'd disappeared, she would never have gotten this close to him. Every time she looked at him, she could see the last image she'd had of her sister as Kenya had stood draped against that gorgeous body, winking at Asia from around his side, so proud of her conquest as she'd brazenly fondled his ass.
It was pure fortune she'd even been there at all. Asia wasn't the nightclub type. Oh, she had been in more of them than she wanted to count; clubs, bars, and seedy piss-water places trying to pass themselves off as one or the other. People seemed to have a jones for sticky floors, meat-market socialism, and tawdry lighting backed by music that whined, droned, or throbbed. She had never enjoyed it, never wanted to tolerate it, and never had a choice, it seemed, as she ended up in them time after time. But the night of her disappearance, Kenya had begged and pleaded with her to come out and "relax" and "loosen up" and try to have a good time. What her sister had really wanted was a toughassed bodyguard in the form of a lethal sister to keep the losers off her while she scoped for something rare and fine to take to bed for the night.
She had found Julian.
A rare find indeed. In a club packed with male meat, Asia's beautiful, rambunctious sister had managed to pick the one and only psychopathic killer in the lot.
But he had a pattern, just like they all had patterns. It had taken some time, but she had figured it out. He picked a city, spent a few weeks getting comfortable and fucking everything in a skirt. Then he picked exactly two women in each city to do . . . whatever it was he did with them . . . before moving on to a new location. Asia wanted to be clinical and methodical about what this man had likely done to those girls, but she still cringed and shied away from definitively saying he murdered them. Not because she didn't believe he was fully capable of such an act, because she did, but because one of those women was her sister, and while she knew in her gut he was responsible for every one of the disappearances, she had no solid proof he had actually killed them. For all she knew and the evidence showed, he could be some kind of collector, keeping them captive and alive somewhere . . . anywhere.
This was her only hope.
Asia set aside her night-vision goggles and checked her face in her rearview mirror to make certain she hadn't disturbed the dramatic sweep of color and sparkles decorating her lids and lashes. The cool blue of her eyes was dramatically enhanced by the effect of midnight blue liner and lash coloring, as well as the blue-violet shades of her shadow. Her hair had been twisted back into a simple coif, but shimmering ribbons of silver hung from it in long coils. She got out of her car, the damp Florida air striking her legs as her heels hit the pavement. She then turned toward Pussy Willows, the nightclub where Julian was working as a bouncer, per his usual MO, as well as general eye candy in order to attract the young, beautifully single women the club needed to lure in eager and recently paid males to spend time and drink their money.
Asia had spent the past half hour watching these girls flirt with danger and come on to almost-certain death, all the while knowing that Julian had only taken one victim since arriving in Fort Lauderdale and that, if he stuck to his meticulous schedule, he had only four days remaining before he moved on. He was probably growing a little itchy for his second victim by now.
Asia was determined to be that second and very last victim.
Julian smiled at the buxom blonde with his usual flirtatiousness, one shoulder back against the doorjamb as his gaze drifted down the line of potentials who wanted so badly to gain admittance to the exclusive hot spot. The blonde was cute, but a bit too tawdry for Pussy Willows, which was aiming for just a touch more class than her overtly tits-and-ass approach to her wardrobe. She continued to flirt outrageously with him in hopes he would give her and her girlfriend the nod and let her in, but Julian could tell her patience was wearing thin after twenty minutes of being unsuccessful. The midnight hour was bearing down; he could smell the coke and X lifestyle on her, pressuring her to have fun and get wasted already. She clearly wasn't used to not getting a response to her "charms," and it was ticking her off as her ego took a beating from his indifference.
He would have taken pity on her, but the club manager had already been out twice that night to dress Julian down for his choices of admittance. If Vernon arrived a third time with his nasty, derogatory attitude in tow, Julian might end up sacrificing his prime position at the club door in order to belt the shallow, prejudiced bastard so hard his head would snap clean off his neck. Since this would be in antithesis to his goals, it was best if Julian didn't provoke such an encounter by letting the under-par girl through the door.
Still smiling, he leaned forward toward the girl in question. "Beat it, sweetie," he drawled. "My boss is a dick and he won't let me pass anyone who isn't wearing designer and diamonds."
Not that Julian was completely certain what that was supposed to mean. From his perspective, clothing and jewelry weren't the clues that led to an outstanding woman, but it seemed to ring true to the other bouncers and since it was crucial that he fit in, he had to follow their lead. He wasn't there to make waves and stand out.
He was also aware of the fact that it was only his charm, his looks, and his accent that made the phrase come off as helpful instead of as the insult it really was. The blonde nodded and sighed in resignation, muttered a curse, then grabbed her friend by the arm and walked back down the line away from the club. Vincent, the other bouncer, liked to call the reaction "sour grapes." It was just another reference that went over his head and, like many others, gave the impression that he was a bit simpler-minded than he actually was. Some put it down to a language barrier due to his heavy accent, just as many liked to think he was as vacuous as he was beautiful, the combination more comforting to them somehow. He let the impression stand, just like he let all the others stand. People could think what they would. He had nothing to prove to anyone and would just as soon be left to himself so he could keep to his own business.
Julian heard her before anyone else would have, the determined click of her heels against the cement walkway drawing his attention almost immediately. There was confidence to the stride, not the mincing steps of a woman wearing heels too high for her to manage. These were high heels, but she managed them very well indeed. When she came around the hedges, he realized it was probably because she was already used to walking on legs that were insanely long and another few inches couldn't possibly matter. The extent of her legs was imminently obvious because her skirt covered barely more than a scant portion of her upper thighs, the silver fabric shimmering along her amazing body with every single step. She wore no bra, the firmness of her breasts not needing one in the least. Her nipples were slightly erect, obvious under the fabric that ran over her skin with the intimacy of the flow of water against it.
She forwent the line, the action of a woman who knew who and what she was, and ignored the rude complaints and remarks hissed at her as she bypassed those who were waiting like the good little lemmings they were. This woman, Julian realized, waited for no one. Her diamond tennis bracelet and matching anklet satisfied one of Vernon's requirements, and he was willing to bet that scrap of silver she was pretending to wear as a dress more than fulfilled the other. Either way, he didn't give a damn what Vernon thought or said.
She was perfect, and she was what he had been looking for.