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Half Moon Rising
By Margo Lukas
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Margo Lukas
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA large shadow momentarily blocked out the neon light from the low club ceiling. CJ kept her eyes ahead and the kid in her field of sight.
"They've got better drinks in the tavern upstairs," a deep voice said. "Interested?"
CJ didn't look at the man planted on the barstool next to her. She didn't respond to his invitation. It was a big city. People could be ignored.
"You came here for the music." He leaned over to her, as if revealing a secret. "Me, too. Who needs a melody?" His voice was clear. Commanding. A shiver of sensual awareness snaked across her skin. CJ crossed her arms in front of her chest, wishing she had worn a padded bra.
"Not. Interested." She laced her tone with annoyance.
The man didn't take the hint and leave, but instead swiveled to face the bar. He ordered lemon water. Encounter over.
His voice ... and her reaction ... made her curious. A side-glance revealed a man wearing a dark, pinstripe suit stretched across broad shoulders as he leaned on the bar. His dark hair was cut short. Its natural wave curved over his collar. From the edge in his voice, she wouldn't have been surprised to see him in biker's leather.
She didn't mind a ride on a Harley now and then.
But he was just another suit. Some banker or overpaid manager killing time as he waited for his kid, like the other adults who converged by the club's entrance. At least he hit on her and not some teenage girl.
Curiosity satisfied, she turned her full attention back to the boy and caught him glancing at his watch. He likely had to leave soon. With a quick survey of the perimeter, she verified the exit locations. Only four.
She hoped he was heading home after the club. Two days investigating dead ends around the city didn't sit well. Not one damn bit. She now had less than two weeks to get some answers, before she had to be back in Minneapolis.
This kid was beginning to look like her last hope.
A rumble of an aluminum barstool was her first signal the man next to her was spinning back in her direction. Shit. He was turning too fast. Before she could move out of the way, his lemon-spiked water drenched her T-shirt. The cold water made the stretchy fabric cling to her body and her lack of a sturdy bra even more apparent.
In a flash he tried to blot at her stomach with his handkerchief. Instinctively CJ curved her body away before he made contact. She jerked her head upward. Now she'd get a good look at the oaf and tell him to buzz off.
His thirty-something face was definitely not the middle-aged wannabe Romeo she expected. Damn. Not at all. The guy was fine. Dangerously fine.
CJ's body responded with that pleasurable tingle of anticipation, just as it had from his voice. It had been a while since one look made her feel like this. But this club was not the place, and not the time. She pushed her rising lust for him back down. Again.
She couldn't afford to look at him long. The kid would be leaving soon. Only a quick once-over ...
She indulged herself.
The blue recessed lights over the bar made an indigo glow around his handsome face. The subtle waves of his hair caught the lights, revealing glossy dark hair with highlights. A few strands drifted down over one eyebrow, refusing to stay contained in the conservative haircut. Shadowed hollows under his high cheekbones gave way to a classic square jaw with one shallow cleft in the center of his chin.
His lips were locked tight, the bottom one sensuously full. The kind of lips that made a woman think about deep, long kisses.
CJ did not want to think about deep, long kisses.
She mentally shook herself and turned her gaze to the gold eyes staring down, directly into hers.
Something in his gaze wasn't right. It wasn't, "Hey, babe. Look at me." She expected a sleazy leer from a man who had just propositioned her for a drink upstairs.
Her old survival instinct from years on the street bristled to attention.
His expression held nothing flirtatious. His yellow eyes were almost piercing, watching her face intently, studying her as she studied him. Man, she needed to get a fix on this guy, but she had to keep her attention on the kid.
This club was sensory overload.
And it certainly wasn't like her to get distracted by a man. Ever.
"Here, take my handkerchief." He quickly stood and moved in front of her, blocking her view of the floor with his large frame. Very large frame.
He positioned himself too close to her own stool to allow her to stand without touching him. His head almost brushed the low ceiling of the bar.
CJ was an easy five-feet-eleven. Her annoying stranger had to be at least six-four.
He offered the white square of useless fabric. As she looked down at the handkerchief it hit her-what he had done. He had her cornered with the bar to her side. The wall pressed to her back.
This wasn't good.
CJ rose from her stool, prepared to push him out of the way and sidestep him. She had to regain her visual on the kid. Before she made her move, he grabbed her arm. Tight. His face rigid as he attempted to pull her closer to his body. He didn't want her to look around him.
CJ didn't budge. She moved a leg back, getting ready to use the leverage of his own arm to throw him to the floor. Her next move would be to duck her shoulder, shift weight and throw him ...
Instead the edges of her sight blurred. Closing in on her narrowing lens of focus, the haze cut off her ability to see. Her sight. It was always the first sense to go.
Damn, not now. Please, not now.
She was lost in a blurry mass of shapes and light before she finished her plea.
When she refocused her eyes, the man and the club were gone. Only a soft halo of neon lights surrounding a bare piece of meadow remained. As she stared into the serene meadow, a blindingly white wolf with bared teeth emerged from the fog. Its growl shook the ground. Her body flooded with fear but, caught in the vision, she stayed rooted to the spot.
The white wolf. The wolf always growled. At her? At something else? She never knew.
She listened to the menacing snarl for what seemed forever ... yet slowly, the guttural warning became a beat. A steady pulse ... like music. She grabbed onto the sound and concentrated. The growl faded.
The wolf. Not real.
She forced herself to look away from the animal. She peered at the shapeless fog trying to see buildings, landmarks ... sometimes they were there. But tonight only impenetrable fog swirled around the wolf.
She listened to the pounding beat, hearing it growing louder. Music, that was something different.
The club had music. The club was reality. More real than anything her eyes were showing her. She couldn't panic. Not this close to finding who she needed. The insane scene unfolding in front of her had to end.
She began her countdown. "Ten, nine, eight ..." Just as she had practiced, she slowly pictured herself in the scene she was witnessing. She imagined taking a step backward from the wolf with each count.
"... seven, six, five, four ..." Now she could hear the words of the song, too. "... three, two ..." A wave of pungent cologne engulfed her.
"One." She shouted the number above the din of the club. The wolf and the haze were gone. She leaned back and steadied herself on the barstool.
"Lady?" A voice called her. She turned to the speaker. The bartender stood behind the counter, eyebrows drawn together in a frown.
She ran to the edge of the bar and scanned the dance floor. Nothing. She checked each exit. Nothing.
The man with the golden eyes wasn't anywhere in sight. Neither was the kid.
Excerpted from Half Moon Rising by Margo Lukas Copyright © 2007 by Margo Lukas. Excerpted by permission.
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