Jess Haines draws readers deep into the mesmerizing world of the Others--werewolves, vampires, and mages who make their home among humans, and are turning Shiarra Waynest's life upside down...
Once, New York P.I. Shiarra Waynest's most pressing problem was keeping her agency afloat. Now she's dealing with two dangerous, seductive vampires who have been enemies for centuries. The only thing Max Carlyle and Alec Royce agree on is that they both want Shia--for very different reasons.
Max is determined to destroy Shia for killing his progeny, while Royce's interest is a lot more personal. That's not sitting well with Shia's werewolf boyfriend, Chaz. As the feud between Max and Royce gets ever more deadly, a powerful vampire-hunting faction is urging Shia to join their side. Shia has always believed vamps were the bad guys, but she's discovering unexpected shades of grey that are about to redefine her friends, her loyalties--and even her desires...
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January 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Taken by the Others by Jess Haines
I don't usually have people pointing guns in my face. Or in my direction at all, really. I'm a private detective, so I know some people have certainly thought about shooting me after I reported their illicit activities to my clients or the cops, but looking down the barrel of a .45 was a new experience for me.
"Jack, can we talk about this without the gun?"
Jack was precisely as I remembered him. Tall, slender, with close-cropped blond hair and the coldest blue eyes I'd ever seen. His long-sleeved flannel shirt was rolled up to just above his elbows and left unbuttoned for easy access to his shoulder holster. He's clean-cut, looks like the poster boy for some white bread good ol' boy magazine, and crazy as a loon. He belongs to a group of extremists and vigilante vampire hunters who call themselves theWhite Hats.
His thin lips quirked in a polite smile. No real emotion shone through the empty mask. I was praying he was just using some of his psycho scare tactics again. I deeply regretted leaving my own guns in my bedroom all the way across town. Fat lot of good they did me there. Maybe I should have our receptionist frisk the clients before letting them into my office from now on.
"Shiarra, I'm disappointed. I've left you a number of invitations to come work with us. Why didn't you get back to me? Did you succumb to Royce after the little fiasco this spring?"
That again. A few months ago I took a job I should've known to leave well enough alone. When your business is failing and someone offers you a lot of money, sometimes you do stupid things. For example, you accept a job trying to find some powerful magic artifact that a vampire was hiding from a bunch of magi. I suppose you could call accepting a proposition like that suicidal. These days, I just called it a bad business decision.
"No, I haven't gone to see Royce since the fight at his restaurant." One little white lie couldn't hurt. He'd come to see me, not the other way around. I'd stringently avoided Royce since the day I got home from the hospital, when he visited to apologize and thank me in his own way for pulling his ass out of the fire. "Listen, I don't deal in that shit anymore. Once was enough."
"You've taken on clients, done other jobs for super naturals since your recovery. You have strong ties to two of the most powerful Were packs in the Five Boroughs. You're linked to the most influential vampire in the state. We need your expertise, and your connections."
The only reason the Moonwalker tribe had anything to do with me was because, like Royce, I had saved their butts from a crazy power-hungry sorcerer. They owed me. The only reason the Sunstriker tribe had anything to do with me was because the leader of the pack was my boyfriend. Aside from that, the occasional (non dangerous) case notwithstanding, I tried to keep my connections to anything furry or with fangs to a minimum.
I took a deep breath to steady myself while I thought about how to get Jack to get the hell out of my office, and take his gun with him. He'd tried this tactic before; I wondered why he'd never figured out that waving a weapon in someone's face was not a good way to get them to cooperate with you for any length of time. "You know I don't like vampires. I don't have much to do with Weres anymore either. I don't take jobs that have anything to do with the supernatural, no matter what the papers say about me."
"You have the equipment and connections to be a hunter." He frowned. "We need you. I won't have you going to them, taking their side."
"Whoa now, who said anything about that?"
His eyes narrowed, something passing through them I couldn't read. "There's a new player in the game. It'll be down to him or Royce. Or us."
I stared blankly. "Who?"
"Word on the street is that Max Carlyle is coming to town." He stared back, expectantly.
Silence. After a moment decidedly lacking any explanations, I urged him along. "And he is?"
"You really don't know?"
"Would I ask if I did?"
He grinned; the flash of white teeth against his pale skin was ominous. Predatory. Too much like the things he hunted--vampires.
"My, my. I hate to spoil the surprise." One hand reached up to rub his smooth-shaven jaw while he stared at me. After another long, drawn-out moment of silence, he raised the gun, thumbed on the safety, and tucked it away in its holster under his flannel shirt. "Ms. Waynest, again I must apologize for my methods. Unfortunately, your reputation leads me to worry about what needs to be done to ensure you're playing on the right side of the field."
Holding a knife to my throat in the dead of night after breaking into my bedroom didn't exactly give me warm fuzzies, and neither did holding a gun on me in broad daylight. I was hoping my expression was more neutral than pissed, but I wasn't holding my breath.
"Look, for the last time--I don't want anything to do with Others. I don't talk to Royce, I don't give a shit what the White Hats are doing, and I'm not about to do the tango with things that could eat me for breakfast. I'm a private detective, and that's all. Someone go missing? Think your girlfriend is cheating on you? Great, I'll go look for them. But I will not," I stressed, leaning forward across the desk and pointing one admonishing finger in his direction, "be bullied into dealing with vampires and Weres again. Coming close to dying once was enough. You can't pay me enough to put my life on the line. Not again."
"Oh, don't worry, Ms. Waynest. They'll be coming to you soon enough. And once they do, you'll come running to us for help."
I stood, a thread of fear trailing down my spine, even as I finally boiled over. I pointed at the door. "Get the hell out of my office! Stay away from me!"
He swung the door open and sauntered out of the room, his cool, arrogant laughter trailing behind him. My glare stayed trained on him until his shadowed frame was no longer visible behind the frosted glass of the front door. Jen twisted around in her chair to peer into my office, staring at me with wide brown eyes over the rims of her glasses. "Jeez, Shia, what was that all about?"
I shook my head. "Nothing. But if he comes back, or tries to make another appointment, I'm out of the office. No--out of the country."
She shrugged, muttered something, and turned back to her desk to work on the stack of papers in front of her. I glared at the frosted glass door with its gold leaf-inscribed H&W INVESTIGATIONS, even though Jack was long gone. As much as he pissed me off, he scared me more. Or maybe him saying the Others would come looking for me scared me more. Hell, I think I was entitled to be a little unsettled considering I'd had a gun waved in my face. Irritated and upset, I twisted around, calling over my shoulder as I shut the door, "Hold my calls. If anyone asks, I've gone home for the day."
Some preventative measures needed to be taken about This Max Carlyle, I thought. I sat in the squeaky office chair, rolling it back so I could riffle through the back of the top drawer. After rummaging through a scattering of old Post-it notes, paper clips, pens, and papers, I finally found the leather-bound notebook I kept business cards filed in.
I flipped through the pages until I found the neat, professional card for A.D. Royce Industries. It had all the data I needed to contact Alec Royce, the vampire I'd been doing my best to avoid for the past several months. The one I'd ended up legally, contractually, bound to, and who'd been sending me invitations to nights on the town and, presumably, other things. All of which I'd carefully ignored up until now.
Daylight still shone through the window behind my desk, but I figured I could leave a message if he didn't pick up. I grabbed my cell, dug the card out of the little plastic holder, and dialed the handwritten number scrawled on the back.
Tucking the phone between my head and shoulder, I fixed my eyes on the framed photograph of Chaz and me on the corner of my desk. We were leaning back against the rail together at the end of the pier in Greenport and his arms were wrapped around me. I tried not to think about what Chaz would say about me calling the vamp, listened to the ringing, and finally, a click. "You've reached the desk of Alec Royce. I'm not in right now, but if you leave a message with your name and number, I'll get back to you."
That mild, friendly voice gave me the shivers, worse than anything that Jack had said or done. Did I really want to get back in touch with the vampire? After swallowing hard and hesitating a bit longer than I should have, I remembered I was supposed to be leaving a message and squeaked out a few words.