Bound in Death

April 15, 2013 – Bound Series – Bound Book 5

She can’t remember him…

He can never forget her.

For over two hundred years, alpha werewolf Alerac O’Neill has been searching for his mate, Keira McDonough, a woman who was taken from him and imprisoned by a dark vampire master.  He’s hunted for her, endlessly, using vampire blood to extend his life.  He has become a vicious predator, feared by all  the supernaturals.  His hold on reality seems to slip more each day because he is consumed by her.

Only…the woman he discovers in a small Miami bar isn’t the Keira that he remembers. In fact, this woman doesn’t remember anything.  She calls herself Jane Smith, and she has no memory at all of Alerac—or of her own past.

Now that she’s been found, Alerac knows that his enemies are going to start closing in on her. Jane may try to act human, but she’s not. She’s a pureblood vampire princess, incredibly powerful and incredibly valuable.  His enemies want to use her, her enemies want to destroy her, and Alerac—he just wants her.

If he can’t make her remember him, then Alerac has to seduce Jane into loving him once again.  Because now that he’s found her, he’ll fight hell—and every sadistic vampire that stalks the night—in order to keep her safe at his side.

Some bonds go deeper than the flesh. Some go beyond life. Beyond death.

Jane will soon learn that a werewolf’s claiming…is forever.

Book Preview


Ireland, 200 years ago…

Please! Don’t kill him!” Keira McDonough’s scream, high and desperate, rang out across the crowded chamber.

Her cry cut through the noise as easily as the silver blade that had just sliced into his chest. The blade that had stopped right at Alerac O’Neill’s heart.

The men around him hesitated. No, these were not men. They were monsters. Vampires, hiding behind the guise of mere mortals. They wanted his blood. Both to drink it and to see it staining the stone floor beneath his feet as he died.

Perhaps that dark wish was only fair, considering the fact that he wanted their blood, too. And I’ll have it. Alerac wouldn’t meet death without taking those bastards with him.

But then she was there. Keira’s blond hair whirled around her pale face as she shoved her way through the throng of vampires. They growled and flashed their fangs at her, but Keira didn’t stop. She didn’t fear the vampires gathered there.

She should.

“Lorcan…” She stared—her eyes wide and so damn blue that it almost hurt to look into them—at the man who’d just thrust that silver knife into Alerac’s chest. “Don’t do this. Please, I’m begging you!”

Keira should never beg. Especially not for his life.

Among her kind, she was a princess. A treasure. One that he’d tried to take.

“Don’t,” Alerac gritted out the word even as smoke rose from his chest. “Don’t you beg him for anything.” The silver blade burned, destroyed—that was its purpose. It was a weapon meant to be used against his kind.

Another monster, hiding under the guise of a man.

Only his beast was far more vicious than most could imagine.

Keira’s lips trembled, and she shot a quick glance his way before focusing on Lorcan once more. “I’ll take his punishment.”

The great room became dead silent. Every eye turned to Keira. Every eye, every ear, every fang.

“No,” Alerac shoved the word out. “You can’t!”

And he was shoved down to his knees. The knife was jerked from his chest and instead put to his throat.

Lorcan turned his head and pinned Keira in his sights. “His punishment is death. He came here, he used you, in order to get into our midst. To attack us from within.” Lorcan Teague’s voice cracked with fury.

The other vamps backed up in the face of his rage because Lorcan was the ruler. The leader of the vamp clan. A clan that Alerac had sworn to destroy.

He wanted these vamps to be nothing more than ash in the wind.

Except for her. Keira isn’t like the others.

He’d learned that lesson too late.

The silver blade burned and cut along Alerac’s throat. He wanted to tell Keira that Lorcan’s words were a lie, that he hadn’t been using her.

Only Lorcan wasn’t lying. Why bother with a lie when the truth was just as brutal?

Alerac’s plan had been simple enough, back in the beginning. Keira McDonough was the weak link in the vampire clan. The human who hadn’t turned, not completely. She’d been born to the blood, but her transformation to full vampire hadn’t occurred yet. He’d watched her from afar, because that was the only way to watch her.

The vampire princess. Locked away in her tower. Precious to her clan, so very valuable because of what she represented.


She’d been locked away, but he’d always been good at picking locks. Getting to her side had been easy enough.

So had seducing her.

Keira had been his instrument of revenge. He’d hoped to use her to get killing close to Lorcan.

Only now, Lorcan was the one with the knife.

“I-I’ve started turning.” Her voice was hushed. The room was filled—easily—with at least twenty vampires. All men. Female blood born vampires were incredibly rare.

That was why they held such value.

“When,” Lorcan demanded.


Lorcan yanked the knife away from Alerac’s throat and grabbed Keira. The vampire pulled her close, caught her chin in his hand, and tilted her face back so that he could stare into her eyes.

Alerac knew why Lorcan gazed so deeply into Keira’s eyes. If Keira were truly turning, then gold should be spreading in her gaze.

The gold will be there. Alerac had already seen it for himself. His hands clenched as he pulled at the silver manacles that bound him. He no longer felt the burn on his wrists or ankles. Right then, rage was all he could feel. He wanted Lorcan’s hands off Keira. He knew the vamp lusted for her—but you won’t have her. Not now. Not ever.

“You are turning,” Lorcan said as he held Keira’s chin. Then he cast a hard, suspicious stare at Alerac. “Have you fed for the first time?” His features—frozen forever in a mask of youth that made him look as if he’d barely passed his twenty-fifth year—were hard with tension.

“Y-yes.” Her stark whisper. “I’ve fed.” Her gaze darted to Alerac.

She took my blood. The blood of a werewolf.

First, she’d given him her body. Trusted him as she had no other. He’d seduced her slowly, day by day. Week by week.

He’d taken her body. Deepened the connection between them.

Then she’d bit him. His blood had been the first that she ever tasted.

In turn, Alerac had taken her blood and discovered a rush of power that he’d never anticipated.

Lorcan’s jaw locked. He lunged toward Alerac once more.

Alerac smiled at the bastard.

Aye, my blood, in her.

“He used you, Keira!” Lorcan snarled. Alerac’s blood dripped from the knife gripped in Lorcan’s left hand. “And yet you would give your life for him? Why?” His thundering voice echoed through the chamber.

The other vampires shifted nervously. When Lorcan was this enraged, people died. It was an understood fact.

Everyone there knew the pattern. Lorcan’s love of blood and death was too well documented.

“Why?” Another bellow from Lorcan when Keira didn’t answer quickly enough.

Alerac saw the faint movement of her throat as she swallowed. “Because I love him,” Keira said softly, but with certainty.

Alerac’s smile faded. Keira wasn’t supposed to love him. He wasn’t worthy of her love.

Now it was Lorcan who smiled. He shook his dark head. “You can’t die for him, Keira. You have too much value to us.”

That was right. Alerac eased out the breath that had frozen in his lungs. Keira couldn’t, wouldn’t die. Lorcan could continue his torture tactics, but he wouldn’t be able to hurt Alerac for much longer. Alerac’s pack was coming. They’d be there before—

“But you can take his punishment,” Lorcan continued, all of the anger suddenly gone from his voice. Flat and cold, he said, “After all, you were the one to bring him in to our clan. A dog, walking among gods.”

“You’re no god,” Alerac shouted at him. Lorcan was nothing, a blood drinker who lived off the fear he stirred. The werewolves were the truly powerful beings—both man and beast. Power and savagery in one dangerous package. And they didn’t have to feed off others in order to survive.

Lorcan’s dark eyes narrowed. “One hundred years. That’s the penalty for treason in our clan. Imprisonment. Starvation. For one hundred years.”

No, no, that wouldn’t happen to Keira. His men were planning to attack the compound. They’d save Keira long before she suffered even a single night’s pain.

Keira eased closer to Alerac. Her skin seemed to become even paler as she gazed at him. They’d sliced him, cutting into his body with that silver knife for hours, and they’d kept him manacled with silver so that he wouldn’t be able to transform into the body of his wolf.

No transformation meant no healing.

They thought they were making him weak.

They were wrong. He was the alpha of his pack. There was no weakness.

Except her.

Keira’s hand lifted. Her palm brushed against his cheek.

He’d had her under him, in bed, that very night. He’d given in to his need one more time. Made a desperate mistake.

Lorcan had found them.

Now Lorcan thought to make Keira pay?

“Don’t,” Alerac ordered her. The word was a growl from his beast.

Her hand dropped.

Her smile broke the heart that he shouldn’t have. “I won’t let you die.” Her chin lifted. Her bright stare cut toward Lorcan. “I will take the punishment, but you have to promise me that Alerac lives.” Her voice grew louder. All watched her with wide eyes. “No matter what else happens, he lives.”

“Why?” Lorcan’s lips were still twisted into a sly smile. “By the time you are free, he will be long dead.”

Because werewolves weren’t immortal, not like vampires. Not like their sworn enemies.

A battle that had raged for so long.

Blood. Death.

“Swear it, Lorcan,” Keira pushed, her voice even stronger now. “Vow it to me on the blood.”

Lorcan’s gaze returned to Alerac. Smug vampire. “I vow it,” he agreed easily enough.

Keira’s shoulders slumped. She glanced back at Alerac once more. Then she bent before him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and bringing her lips close to his ear. “I know you did not love me,” she whispered, her mouth brushing against him. “But I loved you.” Then she pulled back. Looked deep into his eyes.

The first time he’d seen her, he’d thought she was a dream.

A beautiful, perfect dream—a temptation.

A destruction.

Her lips pressed lightly against his.

“Take her,” Lorcan ordered, voice booming.

Other vampires rushed to obey.

Keira was hauled back.

He stared up at her, desperate. Alerac wanted to tell her that help was coming, it was just hours away. Hours? Or minutes? During the torture, he’d lost track of time, and Alerac wasn’t sure how long it would be before dawn arrived.

But if he told her about the others, then all of the vampires would be alerted to his plan. His men wouldn’t have the element of surprise on their side. He had to protect his pack.

An alpha’s job was always to protect the pack.

Shackles were put around Keira’s wrists.


He leapt to his feet with a roar, ignoring the silver and the vampires who tried to subdue him. The power of his beast beat within him. The sight of Keira, bound, enraged him. Not her. No one could hurt her. No one would hurt her.

The manacles broke from the walls. He lunged toward Lorcan.

But vampires could move fast, so very fast. Before Alerac could reach him, Lorcan’s bloody knife was at Keira’s delicate throat.

“If she loses her head, she will die easily enough.” Lorcan’s Irish brogue whispered through the words. A brogue that he picked up, and dropped, seemingly at will. Lorcan was centuries old. Some tales said that he’d been born a Viking and had journeyed to Ireland long ago, bringing hell with him. “Do you want her death on you?” Lorcan asked as he studied Alerac. “Seems so pointless, especially when we worked out a deal.”

There was no fear in Keira’s eyes. “Imprisonment won’t kill me. It will hurt. I will suffer.” She swallowed and pulled in a deep breath. “But I won’t die.”

And you won’t be imprisoned. My men will have you free by dawn.

“All of this…because I killed a few of your dogs?” Lorcan’s knife nicked Keira’s throat. Her blood trickled down in a dark red line. “They should have known better than to tangle with me.”

Vampires reached for Alerac. He threw out his chains, catching them across their faces. Snapping bones. Fighting. He couldn’t attack Lorcan, not while he held that knife at Keira’s throat, but he could go after the others. “They were my family!” The rage came then, building, swelling within him. The vampires had taken away what he valued, now it was his turn to destroy them. To wipe out their stronghold. To end their blood reign.

Because of Keira, his men now knew how to get inside the vampire’s keep. With the light of dawn, they’d attack. The timing had been deliberate. Vampires were weakest during the day. The vampires would be weak, but the wolves would be at full strength. How long is it until dawn?

“They were family,” Lorcan dismissed, a sneer twisting his face, “and now they’re rotting in the ground.”

Keira tensed. Then she spun around, moving fast—far faster than Lorcan had obviously anticipated. Vampire speed. Now that Keira was turning, she was coming into her vampire powers.

In a flash, she grabbed the knife from Lorcan, and she shoved it into his chest.

But silver wouldn’t kill a vampire.

It would just make him hurt.

The other vampires swarmed around Alerac.

“Two hundred years!” Lorcan cried out. “You just attacked…your leader…”

“If I had my way,” Keira said, as she stood before Lorcan, not backing down a bit, “you’d be dead.”

Lorcan yanked out the knife. Tossed it to the floor.

Eight vampires held down Alerac.

“Keira?” The voice, stunned, male, came from the open doorway.

Keira’s head turned at the call.

No, not now!

But, with his incredibly poor timing, Keira’s twin brother had just appeared. Ryan stood in the doorway, his hands fisted at his sides. His hair was as golden as his sister’s. His eyes as blue.

“Keira, what have you done?” Betrayal was on Ryan’s face. Rage.

The vampires had all turned on Keira. While she—

She chose me.

His nails lengthened into claws as the beast pushed for freedom. The wolf within him was desperate to protect his mate.

My mate?

No, no, that couldn’t be right. A werewolf would never mate with a vampire.

Fuck her, yes.

Use her, yes.


Keira turned back toward Alerac. “I hope you…live a good life.”

She’d traded two hundred years for his survival.

The beast howled inside of him.

“Ryan…” Lorcan ignored the blood that poured from his chest. “Your sister confessed to conspiring with the wolves. She has even agreed to be punished in the wolf leader’s place.”

Ryan rushed toward her. “Keira, you can’t—”

“Imprisonment. Starvation.” Lorcan licked his lips. “Two hundred years.”

Ryan blanched. “Sh-she won’t survive! You know she won’t!”

“Then maybe she shouldn’t have spread her legs for the wolf, and then shoved a fuckin’ knife in my heart!” Jealousy and fury tore through Lorcan’s words.

Alerac knew Lorcan had planned to wed Keira. He’d locked her away because he’d wanted her. Wanted the power that she represented.

Ryan grabbed for Keira. Pulled her against him. “Kill the werewolf!” Ryan ordered, voice thundering. “Just do it—now!”

But Lorcan shook his head. “I gave a blood vow. It’s done. He lives, and so does she.”

Ryan twisted Keira around in his arms.

Alerac’s blood dropped onto the floor. The vamps would feed on him. He knew they wouldn’t be able to resist the scent of all that blood much longer.

He wanted them to feed on him. His blood was laced with a special tonic—a poison just for them. He’d known that he would be captured that night. He just hadn’t counted on Lorcan finding him just as Alerac drove into Keira’s delectable body.

That whole capture bit should have come after Keira had been told to flee from that place. But Alerac’s lust for her had been his downfall. He’d given in to his need once more.

And his perfect plan had gone to hell.

If Alerac had kept his hands off Keira hours before, then she would have escaped to safety.

Instead, she had just sacrificed herself for him.

Alerac’s breath came out in low, hard pants. Keira would be fine. The punishment would never be carried out. He’d given orders to his men already—Keira wasn’t to be hurt. Just in case he hadn’t been able to convince her to flee, he’d made sure that his men knew their attack couldn’t hurt her.

“Keira, you can’t do this! You can’t!” Ryan shook her. Her head snapped back.

Then she jerked away from him. “They aren’t monsters.” Her voice was low. Sad. “We are.”

Ryan’s eyes widened as he shook his head. “No.” He rushed toward the vampire clan’s leader. “Lorcan, please, don’t do this! I’ll do—”

Anything?” Lorcan murmured.

Ryan nodded quickly.

Lorcan laughed. “There’s nothing I want from you. Nothing I can’t take.

Another woman pushed through the crowd then. A pale woman with long, red hair and a twisting scar that wrapped around her neck. Jewels glittered on her fingers and power seemed to swirl in the air around her.

A witch.

Lorcan’s witch.

The same witch who’d been at his side when Lorcan slaughtered nine members of Alerac’s pack.

“But I can be merciful,” Lorcan continued as the witch approached him. He reached for his witch’s hand. “Shonna, my dear…”

She only flinched a little bit when he touched her.

According to the whispers, she’d tried to flee from Lorcan once. He’d retaliated by nearly taking her head.

She hadn’t attempted to leave him again.

“Work up a spell,” he ordered her softly as his gaze stayed on Keira. “Freeze her body so that she does not need air to breathe. Keep her aware, of every single moment. Let her know that time is passing, let the hunger for blood consume her as she remains motionless in her prison.”

Shonna nodded. “It will be done.”

No, it fuckin’ wouldn’t be.

Lorcan tapped his chin. “As I said, I am not without mercy.”

Lying bastard.

“My vampiress must suffer during her imprisonment,” Lorcan said. “For what is punishment without pain? But the instant she is free, then I want her to forget.”

Lorcan’s gaze slid to Alerac. To the vampires who were fighting so desperately to hold him down.


“I want her to forget everything,” Lorcan said as his shoulders squared. “Everything.” Then he glanced at Ryan once more. “You see, she’ll be able to recover. She’ll be able to come back to us.”

Hope flashed across Ryan’s face.

“I won’t come back,” Keira vowed. “I won’t be like you.”

Lorcan laughed. “You already are.”

A tremble shook the witch’s body. Shonna’s lashes swept down, concealing her gaze.

Lorcan stalked back toward Alerac. He knelt down, getting too close.

Your mistake.

“Keira will come back to us, and, by then, you’ll be long dead.”

But I am not dead yet.

Alerac’s claws flew up. He scraped across Lorcan’s cheek, digging deep into the vamp’s flesh.

Lorcan screamed and jerked away. He glared down at Alerac, chest heaving.

You’ll be the one who is dead,” Alerac promised him.

“No, I’ll be the one mated to Keira while you are no more than a pile of bones.” Lorcan swiped away blood. “Take her.”

“No!” Ryan shouted.

The shout did no good. All of the vampires in that hall were loyal to Lorcan. Their allegiance did not belong to Ryan, to a man who’d been blood born, but was only now beginning his transformation into a full vampire.

Keira didn’t fight the hands that grabbed her. Her eyes—still unafraid, still too trusting—met Alerac’s, and that trusting gaze broke something in him.

Ryan rushed after her. After her…and the witch. Because Shonna had followed the group that took Keira away from Alerac.

The heavy, wooden doors closed behind them.

Alerac was left with about ten vamps who were all salivating for his blood.

Drink up. Fuckin’ drink up. The faster they drank, the faster they’d die. He’d been sure not to let Keira sample his blood that night. But as for the others…

Drink your fill.

“I said you would get to live.” Lorcan picked up the silver knife. Flashed his fangs. “But I never vowed that you would not suffer.”

A vampire yanked back Alerac’s head, forcing him to stare up at Lorcan’s face.

The leader smiled. “I think I’ll start with your eyes. After all, what good is a wolf that cannot see?”

Dawn would come soon. Hours? Minutes?

He could survive anything until dawn. He knew Lorcan would not kill him right away. All in the realm knew of Lorcan’s love for torture. He never let any of his enemies die easily.

He made my family suffer for hours. Days.

Alerac had been gone, taken away by another battle. When he’d returned, there had been only decaying bodies waiting for him.

“I’m going to carve out your eyes, wolf. Then I’m going to carve you up. Slice by slice. When you’re bleeding from a hundred wounds, we’ll feast on you.” The blade came toward him, but in Alerac’s mind, he didn’t see it. He only saw Keira.

Then he saw nothing.

But he felt plenty, especially when the vampires began to feed on him.


What did they do to him?” The voice—low, rumbling, angry—came to him in the darkness.

Why was it still dark? Dawn should have come by now.

“Alerac? Blast Lorcan to hell. Look at his eyes.”

Then, rough hands yanked him to his feet.

“Alerac, Alerac, it’s Liam. We got in, just like you said. We found the vampires. Half of ‘em were passed out.”

Because they’d feasted on his blood—just as Lorcan had promised. Drained him nearly dry.

They’d taken the poison right from his veins.

“A few got away, but we’ll catch their scents. We’ll hunt them,” Liam swore.

Liam…the werewolf who was like a brother to him. The one who always had his back.

Alerac tried to force himself to speak. “K-Keira…”

“You need to shift. Do you hear me? Shift now.” The snap of command was in Liam’s voice. So was the whisper of fear.

Only a shift would heal Alerac’s injuries. Not just one shift, not after all they’d done to him.

A few hours…

There was much, much that could be done in that time.

Alerac shook his head and nearly fell back down to the stone floor.

“Get the silver off him!” Liam demanded.

He didn’t feel that silver anymore.

But something hit the stone floor with a clunk. The chains?

“The silver’s gone,” Liam said as he pulled Alerac forward, forcing him to walk. “Shift.”

He couldn’t. He could barely sense the beast inside of him. There was something else that was more important. Something he needed.

The only person he could see in the darkness that surrounded him.

“K-Keira…” Her name was a broken rasp. They’d cut his throat, torn it with their fangs, and that weak rasp was all he could manage then.

Liam swore. “The vampire bitch? Look, we didn’t hurt her. We didn’t even see her.”

She was all that Alerac could see. Her eyes had been so blue. So trusting.

There had been love in her eyes.

Love for a beast who’d betrayed her.

“Keira…” Saying her name made him feel stronger. Made the beast inside stronger.

“The lass is not here! She wasn’t here when we arrived. Look, forget her—shift! Your eyes—they—they—”

He knew what they’d done to his eyes.

Just as he knew about all of the flesh they’d cut from him. Inch by inch. Slice by slice.

A growl built in his throat. They’d taken Keira. Sent her to be imprisoned? He had to find her. Had to find—

His bones began to snap. The wolf shoved and clawed his way to freedom as he pushed to get to the one thing he needed so desperately.

His knees gave way. He broke from Liam’s grip and hit the floor. His claws scraped over the stones. He opened his mouth. Tried to call Keira’s name once more.

But it was the wolf’s cry that escaped from him. A long, mournful cry for a mate who wasn’t there. A mate he hadn’t recognized.

Not until it was too late.

Two hundred years…

Chapter One

Present Day

Someone was watching her.

It wasn’t the casual, even flirtatious, stares that she sometimes attracted when she worked at Wylee’s Bar. Sure, her skirt was short enough and her top tight enough to get plenty of second glances.

But this wasn’t about her clothes. Or her figure. Or about some kind of fast hook-up between strangers.

I feel hunted.

Very carefully, Jane Smith put the empty beer pitcher on the bar. Then her gaze rose and locked on the long, stretching mirror that covered most of the wall behind that bar. In the mirror’s gleaming surface, she could see the crowd that filled Wylee’s.

And the man who watched her.

Goosebumps rose on her skin. The man was big, muscled, with huge shoulders that filled the doorway—and he was still standing just inside the doorway. He’d angled his body toward the shadows so that she couldn’t clearly see his face, but she knew he was watching her. The realization was instinctive. Bone deep.

“Jane? Table four is waiting for you.” More beer was pushed toward her.

She didn’t move. She didn’t want to head over and check on table four. She wanted to run, fast and far, from that little bar.

Because she was afraid.

In the last six months, she’d been afraid plenty. Countless times, she’d woken up at night, screaming, not even knowing why. She never dreamed when she slept. Just saw darkness. Total and complete.

But she feared.

The man in the doorway—I’m afraid of him.

“Jane?” The bartender and the owner of the place, Hannah Wylee, frowned at her. “Girl, you look like you’re about to faint.”

She felt that way, too.

But Jane forced herself to reach for the tray. To curl her hands around it and turn away from the bar and that broad mirror. She turned—

He was still in the doorway. So tall. The stranger had to be about six foot four. And those shoulders—they were truly brushing the sides of the old, wooden entrance to Wylee’s Bar.

She wanted to see his eyes.

She was terrified to see them.

Jane lifted her chin, lifted that tray, and scurried through the crowd. It was a Friday night, and Friday nights were always busy. It was Miami—a city known for non-stop parties. Tourists, locals—everyone piled in on Friday nights.

It was only slightly past ten PM; the night was young. She wouldn’t be escaping from this place until close to six that morning.

Bodies brushed against her. Hands that were a little too friendly tried to slow her down. Offers, invitations were thrown out to her. She ignored them, hurrying toward table four.

Only she didn’t make it to the table.

She walked right into him.

He shouldn’t have been able to get across the bar that fast. But he had.

Her tray bounced against him. Beer sloshed, and she had to do a frantic grab to make sure that the whole tray didn’t go crashing to the floor.

Music beat around them. Voices rose and fell. Laughter filled the bar.

“I’ve been looking for you.” His voice was deep. Rumbling. Tinged with the faintest of accents.

Her goosebumps got even bigger.

Look at him.

She made her gaze rise. Her eyes locked on his.

No, not on his. On the sunglasses he was wearing. Um, sunglasses, in a bar? At night? What was up with that?

Her attention shifted to his face. To the hard, square line of his jaw. A jaw that was clenched. His lips—sensual, a little cruel—were pressed into a thin line.

Her heart slammed into her chest. Breathing deeply got incredibly difficult. “Uh, if you’ll just get a table…” Before they all filled up, “one of the other waitresses will be with you in a few moments.” Because she was not taking his table. Mr. Sunglasses could just keep on walking right past her.

He took the tray from her. Dropped it onto a nearby table.

“What the hell—” One of the frat boys at that nearby table began.

But the man with the dark hair, midnight black and so very thick, wasn’t paying the frat guy any attention. No, the stranger had stepped forward. He’d wrapped his hands around her arms and pulled her right against him.

“I’ve waited long enough.” Growled. Those words seemed more animal than man.

Her heart wasn’t racing right then—Jane could have sworn that it stopped completely.


Her gaze cast frantically around the bar. Hannah wasn’t looking her way. And where were the bouncers? They should be there to help with situations like this one. No one was supposed to mess with the staff.

Breathe, breathe. She forced herself to take a few deep breaths. Her heart began its mad thumping once more. “I think…” His voice had been a growl. Hers was a squeak. “I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.” And she pitied that poor woman.

His fingers tightened. Then he was moving—cutting his way right through the crowd and hauling her with him.

Finally, finally, Hannah glanced up and saw her being dragged across the bar. Hannah’s mouth dropped open in surprise even as her green eyes widened in alarm.

Yeah, Jane was feeling pretty dang surprised and alarmed, too.

Help me. Jane mouthed. Then she screamed it. But the music was pumping, the crowd was already shouting, and her scream did nothing.

She tried to twist out of the guy’s hold, but there was no give to him at all. He didn’t even seem to notice her struggles.

“Curtis! Sean!” Hannah yelled, calling out for the bouncers.

But her stranger had Jane at the back door. He shoved that door open and dragged her outside. The night air was hot. Thick.

She tried to pull away from him once more. Not happening. The guy’s grip was unbreakable. He was strongest thing that she’d ever seen.

He pushed her against the brick wall of the building. Caged her there. “You should have come to me. As soon as you were free.”

He was insane. “I’m not—”

His lips crashed down on hers. His kiss was wild, rough. Almost desperate.

She shoved her hands against his chest.

He didn’t step back.

Jane sank her nails into him.

He growled and just kissed her harder.

All she could hear was the frantic beating of her heart. Too fast. Shaking her body.

He wasn’t letting her go. His kiss—she felt like he was consuming her.

Fear beat at Jane. So much fear.

Where was Curtis? Sean? She tried to scream again, but his mouth muffled the sound. Fine, maybe she’d just bite the jerk.

Only, before she could, his head lifted. Finally. Lifted and—

He licked her neck. “Missed you. So fuckin’ much.” His accent had deepened. What was that? Irish? It sounded like an accent she’d heard on TV once. “Never gonna let you go again.”

“Yeah, buddy, you will.” Sean’s sharp voice. “You’ll be letting her go right now.

She sagged against the wall.

“You’ll let her go,” another hard male voice. Yes! That was Curtis talking! She recognized his familiar Alabama twang. “Or, mister, that’ll sure enough be the last mistake you ever make.”

Jane sucked in a deep, desperate breath.

Her stranger—still with his sunglasses on—gave a rough sigh. “You don’t want to get involved in this,” he said to the men. He didn’t even bother glancing over at them.

“Yeah, we do.” Sean was adamant. “Jane there is our friend, and you need to get your damn hands off her.”

The man, who held her in a grip of steel, tensed. His head cocked, and he seemed to study her behind his sunglasses. “Jane.” He tasted the name, frowning. “No.”

She found her voice with a stutter. “Pl-please, let me go.”

His body locked, the muscles tensing even more against her.

“Let her go.” Curtis’s voice was harder than Sean’s, harder and even meaner. “Or I’ll taze your ass.”

The tazer was Curtis’s weapon of choice. He’d told her once that he didn’t like to get bloody unless he had to.

Blood made the ex-linebacker feel nauseous.

Last chance,” Curtis snapped, his drawl thicker. People usually jumped when Curtis gave an order.

Very, very slowly, the stranger eased his grip on Jane.

She immediately ran from him and straight into Sean’s outstretched arms.

A growl rumbled in the air.

“What the fuck?” Sean muttered. He shoved her behind his broad back. She was so glad that Sean was there. Tall, tattooed, with his gleaming bald head and the bulging muscles that normally made even drunk men give him a clear path—he was a truly beautiful sight to her scared eyes right then.

Only the more she studied him, Jane realized that Sean didn’t look so intimidating right then, not when he was so near the mysterious male—the crazy male—in the sunglasses.

The man who’d held Jane, who’d kissed her so fiercely, turned to slowly face them. Curtis came to stand at Sean’s side, a united front. Curtis was as tall as Sean, but leaner, and his hands were currently curled around a tazer.

The guy never made empty threats.

“You’re not wanted at Wylee’s any longer,” Curtis told him bluntly. “So hit the road, and don’t come back.”

He wasn’t moving.

And the knot in Jane’s stomach was getting worse.

“Jane isn’t your name.” He spoke just to her. Seemed to focus only on her.

Her heart stopped then.

“Why do you lie to them?” He took a step toward her. “Why lie to me?”

Her fingers clutched at Sean’s arm. He glanced back at her. “Do you know him?” Sean asked.

Her gaze swept over the stranger’s face. The lamp posts behind the bar tossed light on him. “I’ve never seen him in my life.”

He took another step toward her. “Lie.”

Curtis lifted his tazer. “Man, I told you—”

The stranger lunged for him.

Curtis fired his tazer.

Only the tazer didn’t actually do anything to the man in black. The shock should have hit him, immobilized him, but he didn’t even slow down. He yanked the electrodes out of his chest, and in the next instant, he was in front of Curtis. One powerful fist drove into the bouncer’s jaw.

Curtis flew back. Hit the ground.

“Get inside, Jane,” Sean demanded. “Get back inside, now.”

Then Sean tried to attack.

He was on the ground less than a second later.

And Jane was running—too late—for that back door.

Hard hands caught her around the waist and spun her around. She was screaming, not even realizing the desperate sound came from her, until his hand flattened over her mouth, stilling her cries.

“Stop fighting me. I won’t hurt you.”

She was supposed to believe him? After he’d just downed those two bouncers with barely any effort?

And why hadn’t the tazer worked on him?

Her breath was rushing out in desperate bursts from her nostrils.

He brought his head close to hers and he-


She held her body completely still, too terrified to even move.

She’d seen something just this on TV last week. One of those crime shows that she liked to watch. A guy had been obsessed with a stranger. He’d stalked her. Killed her.

Then the detectives had spent forty-five minutes tracking him down. Their tracking hadn’t done the victim any good, though. She’d been dead before the first commercial break.

I don’t want to be dead!

His head lowered over her throat, and, yes, the crazy guy was sniffing her. Sniffing her, then…licking her?

She shivered. A combination of fear and—no, no, it had to just be from fear.

“I would know you, anywhere.”

Her lashes had closed. When had she squeezed her eyes shut? Jane forced them open now. He’d stepped back, but she could actually still feel him. Feel his lips—his tongue—on her throat.

His hands dropped from her. “What game are you playing?”

Sean groaned.

Jane shook her head. “N-no game. You’ve got me confused with someone else.” Her words tumbled out too quickly. Desperation would do that to a girl. Make her talk fast. Make her shake and quake.

“No.” He was adamant. And he didn’t even look back at Sean and Curtis. Why would he? Not like they were a threat any longer. “I know my vampire when I see her.”

For a minute, she actually thought she might pass out. Just fall right at his feet. Her arms wrapped around her stomach as she swayed. “V-vampire?” Then she shook her head. “You’re crazy!”

Wait, that probably hadn’t the smartest thing to say to the guy.

A muscle flexed in his jaw. “You think I don’t know?”

“Vampires aren’t real.” She was edging cautiously toward the bar’s back door. Just a few more steps, and she’d be able to rush inside.

This time, she’d try to not get her ass dragged back outside again.

Like that had worked so well the first time.

He laughed.

The sound stopped her.

His laughter was deep and rumbling and dark. And the man was scary—so terrifying to her. So why in the world did she find the sound of that rough laughter to be sexy?

Maybe I’m the crazy one.

“I know your secrets.” His voice was low, almost taunting. “Every last one.”

He can’t.

“Stay away from me,” she whispered.

His lips parted. Wait, were his teeth sharper? Those teeth, his canines, sure looked sharper to her. They appeared to be getting even more so by the minute.

“Am I having a nightmare?” The question slipped from her. It sounded as absolutely lost as she felt.

His fingers lifted. Smoothed lightly over her cheek. “I can take away all of your nightmares. I can make sure you never know another instant of pain or fear in your life again.”

If only. “Look, mister, you’re the thing scaring me the most right now.”

His hand seemed so hot against her flesh.

“Please,” she was begging, she knew it. “Just let me go.”

The light from the lamp posts and from the back of the building bounced off his sunglasses. She was glad she couldn’t see his eyes. She didn’t want to see them.

In the next instant, his hand had dropped from her cheek and he’d grabbed her right wrist. He lifted up her hand, staring down at her palm. “Your rose. It marks you.” His hold tightened. “I know.”

Now he was obsessing over that weird red birthmark? Okay, sure, if you squinted, it did look like a rose, but so what? “Let me go,” Jane said again. Her desperation was making her voice shake.

“For now.” He released her and stepped back.

For now and forever.

She took a few frantic breaths. Hope stirred.

“I’m not what you think I am.” She had to convince him. Had to get the guy to walk away. “I’m not a vampire. I’m not some kind of monster.” Though you sure may be. “I’m just a normal human, okay? Your average woman. My name is Jane and—”

“It isn’t.” Snarled.

Okay. The guy obviously had quite a few issues.

“You think I don’t know you? You think I don’t know your scent? Your touch? Every fuckin’ thing about you?”

She took another careful step toward the door.

Another groan sounded behind her stranger. Sean. A fast glance showed her that he was trying to rise. Hurry, Sean. Hurry.

“You can’t know me,” she whispered, hoping to keep the stranger’s attention on her long enough for Sean to get more strength back. “We’re strangers.” Her frantic heartbeat seemed to be bruising her chest.

He smiled then. “Liar.”

That smile—it flashed actual fangs.

“G-get away from her!” Sean’s voice. The guy sounded winded, and when the stranger’s face tensed, she knew he was about to attack again.

“Don’t.” She reached for him. Curled her hands around his arms. “Don’t hurt them again.” Because she knew that he could.


But he nodded.

Voices rose in the wind then. Others were heading that way—maybe to the parking lot that lay a few steps behind him. Hell, maybe they were just walking that way in order to get some action in the dark.

Either way, their audience was increasing.

And her stranger, after one long look down at the hands that held him, tilted his head back. He nodded, as if he’d made a decision. “I’ll see you again.”

Not if I see you first.

He backed away and actually seemed to just…vanish into the night.

That was good. The whole vanishing bit was really good. Because in the next instant, Jane’s knees gave way and she hit the ground. Hard.


Oh, shit. Her secret was out.


He’d scared her.

Dammit, that hadn’t been his plan. He was there to protect her, to make certain that her blue eyes—still the most beautiful eyes he’d ever seen—never showed a hint of fear again.

Only those eyes had been terrified.

Because of me.

She’d taken one look at him, and the woman calling herself Jane had paled. She’d trembled.

She’d tried to run.

The beast inside of Alerac had responded instinctively. After such a long hunt, there had been no other way for him to respond.

Chase. Claim. Trap.


He’d wanted to grab onto her and hold her as tightly as he could.

But she’d stared up at him and acted as if he were a stranger.

Worse, a monster.

Well, what was fuckin’ new there?

“Did you find her?”

He turned at the words, not surprised to discover Liam waiting for him in the darkness.

They were both well used to the dark. “Yes.” The word snapped out from Alerac.

Liam waited on the edge of the small parking lot, his body reclining against the motorcycle behind him. “I don’t see her.”

Wasn’t he the observant one?

“We come all this way,” Liam murmured, “we look for so long, but we don’t take her?” He shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

“She was terrified.”

Liam laughed at that. “When has fear ever stopped you?”

It hadn’t. Only…it’s her. This was different. This was the most important mission of his life.

The only thing that mattered to him.

Liam sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. “We came here to see if she was the one.”

The one who haunted him. Obsessed him.

“If she was the one, then we were supposed to take her. That was the plan, right?”

Like he needed to be reminded of this shit. It was his plan.

Alerac marched toward his own motorcycle. Climbed on the bike. “There were too many eyes here.” He shouldn’t have approached her in that bar. He’d planned…hell, he’d just planned to walk inside. To get a look at her. To catch her scent. To see if she was the nightmare who chased him every time he slept.

Am I having a nightmare? Her voice, so different from what he’d expected, whispered through his mind. No accent lightened her words. Fear had made them breathless and husky.

Yes, he’d intended just to watch her that night. But once he’d actually crossed the threshold of Wylee’s Bar, when her head had snapped up and his eyes had locked on her…


She was just as beautiful as he remembered.

Those high cheekbones. That heart-shaped face. The plump lips. The hair that was the color of the sun—a sun she’d once loved.

Barely five feet four, she’d always been small. Deceptively delicate, but curved in all of the right places. Places he’d touched and kissed.

One look and all he’d been able to think about was touching her again.

“But she fuckin’ feared me,” he muttered.

Liam whistled. “Is that why the lass is running now?”

And she was. He’d just caught her scent—woman, sex, temptation—drifting on the wind. He turned his head and saw her jump into a beat-up old truck. She gunned the engine and raced from the lot as if the devil himself were after her.

He was.

When you run, the beast likes to hunt.

“Are you certain it’s her? We’re not about to terrify some mortal, are we?” Liam pressed. “Though that certainly wouldn’t be a first. They are fun when they’re afraid. I like the way they smell then.”

Alerac gunned his motorcycle. “She’s mine.” Absolute certainty.

He just had to make her remember that truth.

Remember him.

Damn vampires and witches and their curses. He’d been kept away from her for far too long.

“Then hurry and claim her,” Liam advised him, voice roughening. “Because if you found her, the others won’t be far behind.”

No, they wouldn’t. He’d gotten lucky. For once. A tip from a human who knew the score and who wanted to make an ally with the wolf pack.

He’d found “Jane” first. Finders fuckin’ keepers.

The motorcycle shot away from the sheltering darkness.

He’d backed off earlier because others had been close by. She’d begged him to spare the humans, and he had. For her.

But he’d told her the truth. He wasn’t letting her go. He couldn’t.

He followed her red taillights and hoped that he’d be able to keep his beast in check a little longer. But he’d already waited two hundred years for her.

His control wasn’t going to last forever. It might not even last until dawn.

It was just past midnight, when the darkness was at its thickest, and his motorcycle cut easily down the road. The woman who’d called herself Jane had ducked off the main streets and gone straight for the back alleys.

He wondered just where she was running to.

Is she running to someone?

Jealousy was there, spiking in blood that was already overheated. But he couldn’t stop the feelings. With her, he couldn’t stop anything.

She braked her truck. Jumped out and ran inside a building—a boarded up, ramshackle building that looked pitch black.

He parked his own bike. Jane hadn’t even glanced back before she’d dashed inside. She should have been smarter than that. Should have known that she was being stalked.

A vampire’s instincts were normally much sharper.

Slowly, Alerac climbed from the motorcycle. He stared up at that building. It looked like it had been another bar, once upon a time. Now it was empty. Broken.

He inhaled. Caught her scent and—

A man’s scent.


In that damn building.

With her.

His back teeth clenched as he headed for the door.

Another scent reached him in that moment. One that drove both the beast inside of him and the man that he was trying so desperately to be…wild.


He didn’t attempt to open the door.

He just kicked it down and raced inside.