Blood of Innocenceby Tami Dane
A cynic by nature, Sloan Skye wasn't thrilled when she was assigned to the FBI's Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. But her doubts are slowly easing, especially when she sees that working on the fringe allows her to use some of her
Gifted profiler Sloan Skye joins the hunt for an elusive serial killer--and discovers a breed of criminal few know exists. . .
A cynic by nature, Sloan Skye wasn't thrilled when she was assigned to the FBI's Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. But her doubts are slowly easing, especially when she sees that working on the fringe allows her to use some of her more unconventional tactics. Most of all, Sloan's grateful her career is on track--because her love life, if you can even call it that, is in shambles.
Sloan is searching for a suspect who slays his female victims at night, and bizarrely drains their bodies of blood. Bad enough, but when Sloan learns what the killer is really after, she can barely sleep at night. When the suspect guns for someone very close to Sloan, it's time to throw out the rules and face her deepest fears. . .
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BLOOD of INNOCENCE
By Tami Dane
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Tami Dane
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAdopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are three things I would have gladly given my right arm—and leg—never to see.
How hot dogs are made (trust me, you don't want to know).
How Porta-Potties are emptied (ditto).
I'm Sloan Skye, summer intern for the FBI's PBAU—that's the Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. You know how the BAU, aka the Behavioral Analysis Unit, profiles criminals? We profile criminals too. But our bad guys have fangs and fur.
At the moment, I was standing in a pretty neighborhood, in a pretty house, in a pretty bedroom ... that also happened to be the scene of a horrific crime.
It wasn't that it was a grisly scene. There was no blood spatter. No sign of a struggle. The victim was lying in her bed; her blankets were tucked under her chin. She looked peaceful, as if she were sleeping, with the exception of her eyes. They were staring blindly. And she was grimacing. It was a creepy sight.
At my first crime scene—which happened to be on my first day on the job, which just happened to be last week—I threw up. I was determined not to do that again.
When a cool gust from the open window carried the scent of death to my nose, I gagged. It wasn't looking good for me.
I headed for the window, hoping some fresh air might help.
Special Agent Jordan Thomas—aka JT, aka the droolworthy, heart-palpitatingly handsome man I'd kissed a couple of days ago—was standing next to the bed. I was guessing he was completely unaware of my struggle to keep my lunch where it belonged.
"Hmm. Looks like the killer punctured the femoral artery," he said.
I had to assume he'd uncovered the victim. There could be no other way for him to know that. "Is that so?" I said, sticking my face up to the screen and poking at a little hole in the corner. A big blackbird was perched on a tree limb outside. It snapped its wings, zooming into the early-morning sky.
Using gloved hands, I pulled the screen up and looked down. There was no way for a killer to get up here. Unless he was a really good climber. And small. The scraggly ornamental tree outside wouldn't hold the weight of a full-grown adult, by my estimation. "I don't think he or she came in this way."
"No sign of forced entry downstairs either," Gabe Wagner, another member of our team (who also happens to be just as good-looking as JT), said as he strolled into the room. "And look, jewelry sitting in plain sight on her dresser. Nice stuff too." My body bristled at the sound of his voice. It tensed even more when I realized he was coming toward me. "What do you have there?" He leaned in, close enough for me to smell his cologne and the subtle hint of warm summer air still clinging to his clothes.
Avoiding eye contact, I slid the screen back in place. "Nothing."
Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain something to you. Gabe and I have a bumpy history. We dated. A long time ago. He dumped me for another girl. We've been frenemies since. Actually, we've been more like enemies than friends. He even stole my dream job with the BAU. That was just last week. Then he had the nerve to request a transfer a couple of days later. To the PBAU.
So, of course, I was in full I-hate-him mode at that point.
But then, a few days ago—right after I was rescued from a kidnapper—he confessed he still had feelings for me.
I wasn't sure what to say or think about that.
Then JT kissed me.
And I didn't know what to say or think about that either.
It's all very messed up.
And it's pretty much all my fault.
At the moment, I just wished it all would go away so we could concentrate on our jobs. Someone had killed this woman. It was up to us to profile who did it and help the police stop him.
"Oh, damn," JT said.
Thankful for any excuse to get away from Gabe, I headed back toward the bed. As crazy as it sounds, the corpse was the lesser of two evils. "What is it?"
"I think this woman is—was—pregnant."
"Oh, damn," I echoed. "Is there any chance ...? The baby ...?" I couldn't say the words. They wouldn't come out.
"Based on the fact that rigor has begun to set in, I'm thinking ... no."
The contents of my stomach surged up my throat.
I raced back to the window, shoved open the screen, and hung my head outside.
So much for my pride.
And my lunch.
"'A single white prince, with a passion for juicy steaks, good beer, and moonlit strolls on the beach, seeking single elf with similar interests for long-term commitment.'"
Katie, my roommate, best friend, and the closest thing to a sister that I'll ever have, spewed a mouthful of cola all over me. After hacking for about five minutes like a lifelong smoker, she said, "Sheesh. Sorry I spit in your face, but you can't post that."
Blinking away the droplets that had landed in my eyes, I scrutinized my personal ad for errors. I didn't see any, not a typo. Nada. "What's wrong with it?" I wiped a cheek with my sleeve.
"What isn't wrong?" Katie kindly went to the kitchen for some paper towels. "It's clichéd. It's misleading. Not to mention, you used the word 'elf.' You'll get a bunch of fruitcakes dressed like Santa's little helpers if you post that."
I ripped several towels off the roll and dabbed my face. "But I need an elf. That's the most important part."
Katie flopped next to me on the couch. She didn't pick up her glass of cola, thank God. This conversation clearly needed a spew warning. "Regardless, you can't put that in the ad."
"How else am I going to find an elf? Elmer needs a bride. And that bride must be at least half-elf, like me. If I can't find him a willing vict ... er, wife, he'll be dragging me down the aisle. Again. Have you looked at him? That face." I shuddered. "Those creepy eyes—"
Sniffing the air, Katie patted my shoulder. "I know, honey. Scary."
"Scary doesn't even come close." I clicked delete.
So much for that.
This wasn't going to be easy.
I was no matchmaker. I couldn't even manage my own pathetic love life—at the moment, I was trying to figure out what to do with not one but two men. And here I was trying to hunt down a bride for the prince of the Sluagh?
If I'd had any choice in the matter, last week I wouldn't have promised Elmer, my so-called ex-fiancé, I'd help him. But I was desperate. He'd kidnapped me and was trying to force me to marry him. Besides, I sort of felt bad for the guy. Not only was he freakishly ugly, but he was also miserable. He can't eat. He can't drink. Being fond of food myself, I couldn't survive a single day walking in his shoes. Not to mention, he can only materialize after sunset. Supposedly, all his problems will magically disappear when he marries.
Being a cynic, I wanted to tell him that plenty of people had believed that over the years. Many had learned otherwise.
Staring at the keyboard, I sucked in a deep breath in preparation for a long, drawn-out sigh.
"Katie." I pointed at the thick haze billowing out of the kitchen.
"Oh, shit." Katie jumped up. "I'm on it."
Katie is finishing up her master's in chemistry. I love her dearly. And I generally have no issues with her doing experiments in our kitchen. It would go unused, otherwise. But sometimes it got a little old, living with the constant stench of eau de sewer.
"Shitshitshit," Katie yelled.
A darker, more menacing cloud rolled into the living room.
Not moving from my cozy spot on the couch, I shouted, "The new fire extinguisher's under the sink." Reading some information about a dating site on my computer, I reached for my gas mask. Most people have framed photographs on their living-room tables. Or books. Figurines.
Not me. I have emergency gear on my living-room table.
"Where?" she shouted, sounding a little frantic.
"Under the sink." I clapped the mask over my mouth and nose and kept reading.
"Ah, thanks. Found it!" A second later, she said, "Everything's fine."
"Glad to hear it."
"What the hell is that stench?" someone else said.
I jumped, jerked so hard my knee slammed into my computer, sending it flying. Luckily, I caught it before it crashed on the floor. I gave the guilty party a glare. "You scared the hell out of me. I told you, you've got to stop sneaking up on me like that."
"I can't help it." Elmer, the sneaky prince of the Sluagh, blinked his beady little Sluagh eyes at me, and my glare evaporated. "I tried to think about someplace else at sunset, so I wouldn't zap here. But ... well ... magical transportation isn't exactly a science." He glanced at the computer. "What're you doing?"
"I'm writing your personal ad for an online dating site. Want to help?"
"Online dating?" he echoed, sounding less than enthusiastic.
I didn't want to point out the obvious, like how much easier it would be to charm a girl if he didn't meet her face-to-face right off the bat. Elmer had some pride. I wasn't about to shred it. "I thought we'd give it a shot, since you're sort of limited to socializing during nighttime hours."
"I was thinking we could try one of those speed-dating events."
"Speed dating?" I didn't see that working for him. But I didn't have the heart to say that.
"Yeah. I read about one in the newspaper. They take all types."
"Sure, even elves?"
"That I don't know."
"I think we should stick with online dating for now."
He looked disappointed. That wasn't a pretty look on a guy who already had the face that only a mother could love.
"If we strike out, we can try the speed dating next."
"Okay." He wilted.
"Doubting me already?" I was doubting myself, but I sure didn't want him to know that.
"Remember, you've got nothing to lose. If I don't find your dream girl, you will still get married."
His wilt grew wiltier. "To you."
"Yeah, to me." I grimaced. "Since when wasn't I good enough?"
He grumbled something unintelligible. I decided to ignore it. Then he cleared his throat. "I'm the man of your dreams. Sexy. Rich. A genuine prince."
"I'm dictating my personal ad. Why aren't you typing?" He poked at my computer.
I set my fingers on the keyboard. "I am now. What was that?"
Early the next morning—before sunrise—I dragged my exhausted body out of bed, stumbled into the shower, cooked myself in the scalding spray for as long as I could, and cut off the water.
Dripping wet, I grabbed one towel and turbaned my hair. I used a second towel to dry my face as I stepped out.
I ran smack-dab into someone.
"Aaaaahhh!" I screeched, jerking the towel away from my eyes. "Elmer!" I clasped the towel to my breasts, smoothing it down to cover my vitals. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you."
"In my bathroom?" My ass was hanging out. I knew it. Elmer knew it too. I backed up, pressing it against the wall.
"Um ... sure." He grinned. "I thought you might need someone to wash your back."
"Get out!" Flustered and irritated, I repositioned the towel to cover my butt as best I could, stomped to the door, wrenched it open, and motioned with my head. As Elmer took his time leaving, I said, "Don't you dare look at my ass."
"Urk!" The instant he was out, I slammed the door. "Wait a minute. I thought you could only materialize between twilight and midnight? That's what you said."
"Oh. Yeah. I did say that, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did. So what's the deal?"
"I ... er ... Actually, I can materialize any time between twilight and dawn. I kinda lied."
"Because I thought it made for a more convincing story."
"But, Sloan, I need your help," he shouted through the door.
"Go lie to and ogle someone else for a while. Then see if they're in the mood to help you."
"But this is important. I need to talk to you about the personal ad we placed last night."
"I don't care. I can't deal with this now. I need to get to work." Actually, I did care. Kind of. But I cared more about having privacy while I took care of the essentials. First things first, I put on my clothes—just in case Elmer decided to sneak back in.
"Someone responded," he said.
"That's wonderful. Go write her." I combed my hair, slicking it back into a tidy ponytail. A ponytail wasn't exactly professional FBI style. But it was quick. And easy. And practical. Especially if I had to go to any crime scenes today.
"I can't write her," Elmer the Whiner said.
"I don't have a computer."
"Use mine. It's in the living room. All charged up." I smoothed on some moisturizer.
"I don't know what to say."
"Figure it out for yourself. You're the charmer. Charm her."
Ten minutes later, I rushed out to the kitchen, in search of caffeine.
The pot was empty. Empty!
Elmer, looking mighty comfortable on my couch, slurped.
I gave him an extra-harsh dose of mean eyes. "What are you drinking?"
"I was getting a little drowsy, sitting here by myself."
"But you told me you couldn't eat or drink.... You lied about that too?"
Elmer shrugged. The little lying weasel. "I can drink. But food is out. That's still bad. You try living on a liquid diet."
"What else have you lied about?"
Elmer shrugged again.
I glanced at the clock. There was no time to get into this with him. "No more lies, or our agreement is null and void. Got it?" He nodded. I pointed at the window. "What time do you vanish?"
"Sunrise." He burped. "Excuse me. That was some strong coffee. I'm feeling really alive right now. Oh, damn. Here comes the sun." And just like that, poof, he was gone.
"I think I hate you," I grumbled to the empty couch. "Okay, that's just caffeine withdrawal talking." Then I threw my laptop in the case and trudged to my car.
I shoved the key into the ignition.
Click. Click. Click.
Now what? Dead battery?
"Oh, hell." I rummaged in my laptop case for my cell phone and dialed JT's number.
"Hey, Sloan, where are you?" he said when the lines connected.
"At home. My car's dead."
"I'll pick you up in ten."
Ten minutes was enough time to make some coffee. I burned the little energy I had dashing back inside. Dumped some grounds into a fresh filter, poured the water in, and paced the floor waiting for the first drips of liquid energy to pour out the bottom.
Katie came dragging out of her room as I was catching the black gold in a cup. "Why are you still here?"
"Dead battery. JT's coming to pick me up. Why are you up?"
"I heard voices."
"That was just Elmer. He popped in for an impromptu visit just before sunrise."
Katie grinned. "Speaking of lucky."
"It isn't like that. We only kissed."
"And went on a date. Don't forget that part."
"I lost a bet. I don't think that counts as an official date. It was more of a ... debt repayment."
"But you ended up being the winner."
"Dating a coworker is against bureau policy."
Katie shrugged. Clearly, she had no respect for the bureau's rules. JT didn't either. That was one thing they had in common. Me, I wanted to be a little more cautious. For both of our sakes. He was an agent. I was an intern. If we were to start ... you know ... and people found out, it would look bad for both of us.
The problem was getting that through JT's thick skull.
I opened the door.
"Hello, beautiful." He beamed at me as he strolled inside.
Like I said.
I grimaced. "We only went on one date, JT. That hardly qualifies you to graduate to endearment status."
"Hmm." He looked down into my mug. Or was he checking out my boobs? I couldn't be sure. "That coffee smells good."
"You don't drink coffee, remember? Besides, we should be going." I shoved him toward the door.
"Speaking of which, I'm going to jump in the shower," Katie said, beating a hasty retreat. She zoomed past the bathroom door.
"The shower's that way," I called.
"Good morning." JT grinned at me. His smile was lopsided, his eyes sparkly, and he was standing close. Way too close. He smelled scrumptious. "We have a few minutes, and I'm thirsty. It's already eighty out there. It's going to be close to a hundred today. Do you have some vitamin-water?" He brushed past me, letting a hand trail over my hip as he went by. I tried to ignore the little quivers shooting through my body that were sparked by the innocent touch. "You don't mind if I help myself." In the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator and dug through its contents. Finding a bottle, he twisted the cap off and leaned his hip against the counter.
Excerpted from BLOOD of INNOCENCE by Tami Dane Copyright © 2012 by Tami Dane. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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This is book two of the series and I really enjoyed this book. It was full of action and drama and I loved it. Can't wait to read the next book.
I have enjoyed the first two installments of PABU serues by Ms. Dane. I like the characters, the plots, the mystery/suspense, and the humor. I am rather puzzled by how quickly the "men" in Sloan's life fall for her. She has only been with PABU for a few weeks but judging by JT's feelings for her it should have developed over more time than the first week they meet. I realize this may be one of Sloan's unknown powers but it is strange nontheless. I really hope that this series doesn't turn into a "romance" series as there are more than enough of those out there and not near enough(in my opinion) of true urban fantasy without the romance angst and stupidity of the typical relationships found in the romance genre. I would also hope now that her parents are married that her mother will play less of a role in future books. She is very irritating and I have gotten to the point that I skip her parts of the book. All in all I like the fact that there are more supernatural species other than typical vampires, werewolves, etc. in the storyline line which brings more interest and variety to the series. The characters are well developed and I do look forward to finding out what Sloan's "powers" are. The heroine is smart and funny and very likeable. I would like the focus to remain on her role in the PBAU and less on her love life (three men vying for her attention in just this book not counting the Sluagh prince). I do plan on purchasing the next book coming out in December and I look forward to reading another chaoter in Sloan's life
Ms. Dane has found her footing. Great installment. Blood of Innocence is book #2 in the Sloan Skye series. About week after her first grueling case as an intern, Sloan is thrust into another disturbing case. Pregnant women are dying of blood loss and their babies are missing. The Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit (PBAU) is brought in for another grisly case. Women are showing up dead in their beds, drained of all their blood and their babies removed from their bodies. All done without a drop of blood wasted. There is no sign of forced entry and most of the time; the fathers are sound asleep right next to them. Sloan is also learning about the other side of her family tree. Since discovering she is part elf and that she has been betrothed to the Prince of the Sluagh’s, she is on a mission to find him a different more suitable wife. She has a year and she hits the ground running. If she doesn’t have enough trouble with her so called fiancé, she is also attracting two co-workers and another prince. What is a girl to do? Why help her mother plan a wedding to her father, of course. Sloan’s life just keeps getting crazier and crazier and the only thing she really wants to do is focus on stopping this perp before another mother and baby is lost. This story was a slow burn. Was there heart pounding action? No. Was there hot steamy sex? No. Or what about the usual paranormal suspects? Nope not really. What you do get is a steady story that I personally couldn’t put down. Blood of Innocence really held on and I found I had to force myself to put it down at 4am. I just couldn’t find a good stopping point and eventually had to say – ENOUGH! Another aspect I enjoyed was that this story didn’t give you ordinary vampires. The usual vampire; has fangs, can’t go out in daylight and is evil. Ms. Dane’s plot dove deeper. She is taking the paranormal into folklore. You are meeting creatures that can be labeled as vampires, but are different creatures all together. There are no standard paranormals making visits in her novels, no indeedy. Ms. Dane is making Urban Fantasy all her own and she is owning it. Ms. Dane also keeps you on the edge of knowing Sloan. You can feel that Sloan is on the cusps of something remarkable and there are many signs that pop up. But Sloan still has no idea who or what she really is and neither do you. I kept expecting and wanting Ms. Dane to slip and tell me. Well she doesn’t, but I’m not too terribly disappointed, I think a little mystery makes all the more fun. If you want a unique Urban Fantasy novel that still gives you a touch of paranormal, but with a folklore twist, pick up Blood of Innocence. It is a really nice change of pace from the norm. I personally can’t wait to see what she has next in store for Sloan Skye!
Blood of Innocence By Tami Dane Copyright June 2012 Publisher Kensington Urban Fantasy Gifted profiler Sloan Skye joins the hunt for an elusive serial killer--and discovers a breed of criminal few know exists . . . A cynic by nature, Sloan Skye wasn't thrilled when she was assigned to the FBI's Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. But her doubts are slowly easing, especially when she sees that working on the fringe allows her to use some of her more unconventional tactics. Most of all, Sloan's grateful her career is on track--because her love life, if you can even call it that, is in shambles. Sloan is searching for a suspect who slays his female victims at night, and bizarrely drains their bodies of blood. Bad enough, but when Sloan learns what the killer is really after, she can barely sleep at night. When the suspect guns for someone very close to Sloan, it's time to throw out the rules and face her deepest fears . . . Sloan is not sure going to keep her lunch down at the new crime scene she and the team she’s summer interning with have been called to. The victim (a woman) appears to have been exsanguinated and all her blood somehow removed without a drop of blood spatter at the scene. . All they have is a small puncture wound in the groin area. On top of that the woman has been tucked back into her bed with the covers drawn up around her neck. The team begins their own investigation of the crime scene, and the only thing Sloan can find is a hole in the window screen. How the heck does someone or something enter and leave a room without leaving a single bit of evidence behind? As they are finishing up, JT the other summer intern voices an observation that stuns the group. “I think she was pregnant” causing Sloan to lose it, she races to the window, flings it open and loses her lunch into the garden below. This is the second book in Tami Dane’s new Blood series. Sloan Skye and the members of the FBI’s Supernatural Profiling Unit handle any case that has even a whiff of strange to it. The characters are well founded and 3 dimensional both in their actions, and their backstories. I highly recommend this to anyone who love a good CSI type story and a paranormal setting. This is an Urban Fantasy you can really sink your mind into. FTC Full Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher who only asked for a fair and impartial review.