Bound In Darkness

September 12, 2011 – Bound Book 2

Hunter…

When it comes to killing vampires, werewolf Cade Thain is the best slayer in the Northwest. So when a witch hires him to take out a pureblood vamp, the assassin thinks it will be just business as usual. One less vicious vamp on the streets…one more undead parasite gone from the earth. Then he meets her.

Protector…

Allison Gray isn’t the prey that Cade expects. Beautiful, innocent, she stirs a dark desire within him. Allison hasn’t transformed fully into a vampire, not yet, and it’s Cade’s job to make sure that she never does. Allison thinks that he’s at her side to keep her safe, but Cade is supposed to pick the right moment—and kill her.

Lover…

Killing Allison is soon the last thing that Cade plans. As she begins the transformation that will turn her into a vampire, her bloodlust and their desire merge in an explosion of need that neither can control. But Allison’s enemies are closing in, and the coming battle will take Cade and Allison beyond life, beyond love…and into a deadly darkness that waits to claim them both.

Bound in Darkness.

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Prologue

“I know what you are.”

Cade Thain carefully put his whiskey glass down and glanced up at the woman before him. “And what’s that?” His hands flattened on the old, wooden table.

She sat down and leaned toward him. Her hair was blonde, her skin a sun-kissed gold. And her eyes—they were the coldest blue he’d ever seen in his life. “You’re a werewolf.”

He laughed, the sound deep and loud.

Her jaw tightened. “And you’re an assassin.”

Cade kept the smile on his face. “Lady, you’re crazy.”

“No, I’m not.” A thread of anger—no, that thread was far closer to fury—rumbled beneath her words. “I’m here to hire you.”

Cade glanced to the left. To the right. In this pit of hell that passed for a bar in some hole-in-the-wall Oregon town, no one was paying any attention to anyone. Or anything. “You’ve got the wrong man,” he said slowly.

Her gaze searched his face. “Not too many men have scars like yours.” And that icy stare had locked on the scar that slipped from his right eyebrow all the way down to his jaw. Another scar sliced around his neck. There were more, so many more, hidden beneath his clothes. “Cut you with silver, didn’t they?” she asked softly. “When you were so young that you could barely heal.”

Fuck, yeah, they had. His back was covered with long, twisting scars. Wounds administered by sick pricks that Cade had personally sent to burn. Cade had been fourteen when he made those kills.

His first, not his last.

“Werewolf…” She breathed the title. “I’ve got a vamp for you to slay.”

Now the lady had his full attention. He dropped the act and focused totally on her.

Vampires had been the ones to torture him. To destroy his family. His pack. They’d introduced him to hell.

Made him into the monster that he was today.

She leaned closer. Her scent—already too strong for someone with his enhanced senses—surrounded him. A bitter scent, heavy with incense. A witch. The scent of their spells always clung to them.

His would-be-client told him, “The vamp’s name is Allison Gray, and she’ll be such easy prey, especially for someone like you.”

Her fingers slid over to touch his hands. His claws weren’t out—not yet. Not yet. “Why do you want the vamp dead?” Cade demanded to know

Hell, vamps were already dead. They only kept living by draining their prey. Feeding on them.

Like they fed on me.

Parasites.

“She’s a pureblood.”

Shit. Now the witch was talking some serious power. Most vampires were made the old-fashioned way—they were humans who were bit, drained, and brought back as vampires. But a pureblood? Purebloods were extra strong because they were born as vampires.

Lucky for the rest of the world, most purebloods were rare. Otherwise, hell would be calling on earth every damn night.

But killing a pureblood? “That’ll cost you extra,” he warned.

Her smile didn’t make her eyes appear any warmer. Beautiful, but the witch was stone cold. “I’ll pay you one hundred thousand dollars.”

Paranormal hits were never cheap—or easy. “Make it two.”

Her eyes narrowed.

He offered her his own, cold smile. “And I’ll want the cash up front, before I take my prey.”

The witch hesitated.

“You can always go find someone else.” Total bullshit. There weren’t any other werewolves in this part of the U.S. And when it came to vamp killin’, no one got the job done better than a wolf.

The witch would know that.

She nodded. “Done.” Then she eased back, licking her lips. “But you have to do it fast, before the next full moon.”

Five days away. Werewolves always knew exactly when the next full moon would rise. They were at their strongest when the full moon hung in the sky.

Her fingers drummed on the table. “And you have to make it hurt.”

Killing a vamp? Torturing her? Cade shrugged. For two hundred grand… “Done.”

His conscience had died long ago. He’d left it, broken and bloody, in that pit where the vamps had tortured him.

Besides, it wasn’t like he was slaughtering the innocent. The world would be a far better place with one less bloodsucker on the streets.

He reached for his whiskey. Barely felt the burn as the liquid slid down his throat.

One more down…thousands to go.

Chapter One

She was being hunted.

Allison Gray had felt the unseen eyes on her for days. Ever since she’d left Alliance, Nebraska, and begun this crazy journey.

Ever since she’d started to change.

Her hands fisted as she slid through the crowd inside Blood Bath. Blood Bath? Jeez, just what kind of name was that for a bar? Nestled near the Cascade Mountains, the bar was like the rest of the small town—pretty damn scary.

Allison found what she hoped was a private corner. One hidden by shadows. She’d never expected this town—not here. The tiny spot of Lost, Oregon, was filled with folks who looked like they could—and would—kill at the drop of a hat. She’d been told that she had to journey to this town. That she’d find the answers to all her questions here.

Her breath eased slowly from her lungs as her gaze swept around the bar. As always these days, she was aware of the strange ache in her gut. Hunger, one that just couldn’t be satisfied with food. No matter how much she ate, she stayed hungry.

And her senses—they were in freaking overdrive. So many scents burned her nose. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Cheap perfume. Sex. Blood.

Her nostrils flared.

Blood shouldn’t smell good. But, lately…the scent had started to—

Well, hello, pretty lady…”

She didn’t start in surprise. She’d known the big biker was heading her way. The guy with tribal tattoos that covered his arms and shaved head. A dozen piercings penetrated his face. And…the guy had blood under his fingernails.

She was betting that blood wasn’t his.

“You all alone tonight?” he asked as he closed in on her.

Allison kept her chin up. Elsa, the witch who’d found her, had promised that Allison would find a guide in this bar. A protector who would help her on the rest of her journey. Elsa had said that her guide would come to Allison immediately. The witch had also told her that he’d be the strongest guy in the bar.

Allison could sure use some strength to help her out. Especially since she didn’t have any of her own to speak of at that moment.

She licked her lips and studied the guy before her. Big, check. Definitely strong, but…

But he scared her. His eyes were hot, almost feral as they slid over her body.

Allison realized she should say something. “Uh…I’m…waiting for someone.”

“Don’t have to wait no longer.” He reached for her hand. Pulled her up against him. Allison was barely five foot three, and this guy towered over her. “I’m right here, baby.”

Laughter followed that comment. The guy had friends in this place—a lot of them by the looks of things. And they were all watching her now.

Why weren’t there more women in the bar? Allison counted two in the whole place. Her and a chick who was—leaving.

Okay, that wasn’t good.

She put her hands on the biker’s chest. “Are you…are you my guide?”

He laughed, a hard burst of sound that grated in her ears. “Oh, yeah, baby, I’ll guide you all right.” His hands dropped to her ass. “I’ll guide you all night long.”

Crap. This guy wasn’t him.

The biker was pulling her even tighter against him now, and she was trying to get away but she wasn’t strong enough.

Story of my life.

She hadn’t been strong enough to save her family. Hadn’t been strong enough to stop the death.

Not strong enough to—

“Let her go.”

The voice was low, but it cut sharper than a knife, and the hard order pierced through the laughter in the room.

Because she was staring up at the brick wall of a biker’s face—a face that looked like it had actually hit a few brick walls over the years—she saw the fleeting expression of fear that whispered over his features.

“Thain.” The hands holding her eased as her captor bit out the name.

Allison hadn’t even seen the new guy yet, but if he was scary enough to make the biker tremble…

Trouble.

“She’s mine, Griggs.” Lethal words accompanied by the hard thud of footsteps as the Thain guy stalked closer. “So I’ll say it again, but only once more…let her the fuck go.”

No one seemed to be breathing in the bar. No one-including her. Allison’s lungs burned, but in that moment, she was too afraid to move at all. Griggs slowly, very slowly, released his hold on her. “Wasn’t gonna hurt her. Just gonna give the pretty lady some fun.”

She bet they had different ideas of fun.

“Allison.” Now that hard, dark voice of Thain’s was saying her name. If he knew her name…he had to be her guide. No one else should know her in that place. “Come here.”

She eased around the biker, took a step, and froze.

Because Griggs looked a hell of a lot more safe and welcoming than Thain did.

He was big, probably taller than Griggs, and far more muscled. His shoulders just…stretched. Allison swallowed. His muscles had the black t-shirt he wore pulling taut over his chest and arms.

His eyes were dark green and burning with intensity. A thick scar slid from the top of his right eyebrow all the way down to the underside of his square jaw. The scar just made him look…

Scary. Extremely scary. No—actually, it was the eyes that did that. Eyes that promised hell would be coming.

“Don’t know if she wants to go with you,” Griggs said. His hand came up to clasp her shoulder. “You can always stay with me, pretty lady.”

Allison sucked in a deep breath and stepped toward Thain. Her gaze slid over his face once more. This time, it was his mouth that caught her stare.

She took another step. The biker’s hand fell away.

Thain’s lips, strangely both cruel and sensual, were parted a bit to reveal the edges of his white teeth.

Her gaze lifted again. His hair, a shade darker than her own locks, was thick, heavy, brushing back from the strong lines of his face.

“Touch her again,” Thain warned, “and you’ll lose the hand.”

Everyone backed up a few feet.

Even Griggs. She heard the fast scuttle of his feet.

She was almost close enough to take Thain’s offered hand now. Almost.

Allison saw Thain’s nostrils flare. His eyes narrowed and swept over her. When he glanced back up, there was no mistaking the fury in his stare.

His hand began to lower.

No.

Allison grabbed his hand and held tight. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

A muscle jerked in his jaw. Then he pulled her forward. His scent—a little wild and with the richness of the forest clinging to him—wrapped around her. Allison stared up at him and tried not to show her fear.

She wasn’t supposed to be afraid anymore. This was the man Elsa had told her about. The man who would end her nightmare.

She just had to trust him.

“Let’s get out of here,” Allison whispered. They could leave. Go someplace safe. Then maybe she could finally stop feeling like death stalked her every minute.

This man…he could stop death. To her, he looked like he was strong enough to stop anyone and anything.

His arm wrapped around her shoulders. He led her from that godforsaken bar and out into the still night with the moon that hung high in the sky.

Her heart raced so fast, she could feel it thudding in her chest.

He paused and glanced down at her. “You’re afraid of me.” His voice was still a deep rumble.

Allison managed a nod. Despite her efforts, she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t—

“Good,” he told her as he pushed them into a dark alley.

Whoa, wait—good?

In the next instant, he had her shoved against the alley’s wall. “You should be scared.” His face came toward hers. Dangerous and threatening in the faint moonlight. “You should be damn well terrified.

Allison’s body shook.

“You’re being hunted,” he told her, “stalked. There are people who want you dead.”

“I…I know.” Some had wanted her dead for years.

He leaned in closer. Odd. His teeth seemed sharper than before. “And you just blindly walk off with me? How the hell do you know I’m not one of the assholes who wants to kill you?”

She didn’t know that. But she wasn’t stupid. Or crazy.

Allison slipped her concealed knife up to press against his heart.

Okay, maybe she was a little crazy. “If you’re the guide that the witch sent to collect me, then you’ll be able to tell me her name.”

She drew in a breath and could almost taste him because he was so close.

Actually she wanted to taste him. What in the hell was up with that?

Allison pressed her knife harder against his chest. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to show that she meant business. “Tell me her name.” So she could trust him. So she wouldn’t have to be alone any more. “Tell me.”

He glanced down at the knife. A faint furrow pulled between his brows as if he were trying to figure out a puzzle.

“Elsa,” he breathed the witch’s name slowly. “Elsa sent me to you.”

Her heartbeat began to slow. Her knife slid away from his heart. “Then it is you.” Big, scary, tough—yes, she’d take him, please. He’d keep her safe. “You’re the one who has been sent—”

He ripped the knife from her hand. Tossed it to the ground. And in the next second, his hand was at her throat. Only…something was wrong. Something sharp had burst from his fingertips.

Claws?

He had claws at her throat. Why would—

“I’m the one she sent,” he growled. “I’m the one who’s here to—”

A shout broke the night. Not so much a shout, but more a bellow that was her name.

The watcher. She’d only been in town a few hours. Had he already caught up to her?

Thain’s head whipped to the right. His nostrils twitched. “Vampire.” He said the word like a curse.

Because it was.

Most thought vampires weren’t real. Just stories to tell in order to frighten children.

She’d been a scared child once. She’d seen the vampire that came into her house. That fed on her family.

Not just a story.

“We have to get out of here,” she whispered. “Now.”

Thain glanced back at her, frowning.

Why wasn’t he moving? Did the guy want to get eaten by vampires? That wasn’t exactly the best way to go.

He stepped back. Well, that was something. Movement. Then Thain shook his head and stared at her like she was some kind of mental case. Yeah, she’d seen that look before. After her parents were killed, she’d tried telling the cops about the vampires. Only the cops hadn’t believed her. They’d just given her the look that said she was insane. The same look Thain was giving her now.

So not time for this.

Allison!” That roar again. Closer this time. Coming too near.

A growl rumbled in Thain’s chest.

Uh, okay.

Then he caught her hand and they started to run. Not away from that yell. Oh, sweet baby Jesus, they were running toward it.

Allison dug in her heels. “We can’t! Stop!”

But it was too late. The blond vampire had rounded the corner. He rushed at them with fangs bared.

Thain leapt forward and drove his claws—yes, definitely claws, very definitely—right into the vampire’s throat.

Using those claws, Thain lifted the vampire up and tossed him back through the air. A good ten feet through the air.

Allison realized her jaw was hanging open.

The vampire thudded into the side of the alley. Blood gushed from his throat as he shoved his hands up to cover the wounds. He tried to speak, but only a gurgle slipped from his lips.

A gurgle, and more blood.

Thain lunged for him again, but vampires were fast—so fast.

The vampire leapt up and raced away.

For an instant, she thought that Thain would give chase. Instead, he turned to her, breath heaving, claws still out.

His green eyes were glowing.

“What are you?” Allison whispered.

He smiled. His canines had lengthened to razor sharp points.

“Scared?” he mocked. She couldn’t even hear the vampire’s footsteps anymore. He’d run too far, too quickly.

Allison shook her head and hurried to Thain’s side. She knew there was a whole lot more to this world than met the eye. Vamps were real, and she’d heard stories of other monsters lurking in the dark.

Right then, she didn’t really care what Cade was…all that mattered was that he’d just rescued her ass from the vamp. Laughing, she threw her arms around him. “Thank you!” He could do it. He could keep her safe. Elsa had been right. This man—he was the one she needed.

The one man who could help her.

Thain stiffened in her arms. His whole body felt rock-hard. She glanced up and stared into eyes that were too bright.

Slowly, his arms closed around her. His head lowered toward hers.

She actually thought her hero might kiss her. Even wilder, in that instant, she wanted him to put his mouth on hers.

Sensual and cruel…how would he kiss?

But Thain pulled back. He took her hand and led her through the alley and to a motorcycle that waited in the shadows. He climbed onto the back of the bike and glanced over at her. “If you come with me, there’ll be no going back.”

Allison slid on the bike behind him. Her thighs hugged his even as her arms curled around him. “I have nothing to go back to.”

Only death. But Thain…he offered her life.

The motorcycle’s engine snarled, and they raced forward into the darkness.

***

Elsa LaSpene crept slowly through the night. She didn’t head into the bar. No point. Her prey would be long gone by now.

She closed her eyes and inhaled. The sweet scent of blood had her smiling.

Fresh blood.

She slid deeper into the alley. There. Against the wall. The dark stain of blood could be seen in the moonlight. Her fingers lifted and touched that perfect wetness.

So fresh.

The little pureblood hadn’t lasted long. Not long at all. Not once the wolf had gotten his hands on her.

He’d taken Allison from the alley, just as he’d promised. Taken her, but blood had already been spilled.

The wolf had started his fun early.

“You’d better make it hurt,” Elsa whispered as she tilted her head back and gazed up at the moon. “Make it hurt.”