Read an Excerpt
By Donna Grant
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2015 Donna Grant
All rights reserved.
I'm going to find him.
It was an invocation Lexi repeated several times a day. It was the first thing she said upon waking, and the last thing she said before she fell asleep.
She looked at herself in the mirror and shoved her light brown hair out of her face. "I'm getting closer," she told herself. "I'm finding more information every day I search. I will find him, Christina."
Lexi spun away from the mirror and walked out of the bathroom. Her other two friends were sitting at the breakfast table talking in low tones.
What began as a memory-making trip with friends had ended in disaster a week ago when Christina, the fourth member of their group, had been brutally murdered.
Lexi had been the one with Christina that night. She had also been the one who found her. The image of Christina's body laying naked in the alley would forever be stamped in her mind.
"I'm going out again," Lexi told them as she took a quick drink of coffee. "I don't know how long I'll be gone today."
They both kept their heads down for a moment. Then Jessica lifted her blue eyes to Lexi. She then quickly looked away. Crystal didn't even bother to do that much. Neither of them had gone looking for Christina's killer with her, but then again, they hadn't seen her in the alley.
Lexi shook her head and turned away — only to stop dead in her tracks when she saw the luggage by the door. Her stomach fell to her feet like lead.
She stared at the luggage and felt the last threads of her life unraveling at an insane rate. Lexi slowly turned back to the table. "You're leaving."
"Yes," Crystal answered. She stood and tucked her dark hair behind her ear. "Christina's body was shipped home yesterday. We want to be there for the funeral."
"So you're giving up here." Lexi didn't understand why neither of them were as worried about finding Christina's killer.
Jessica stood up so fast the chair flew backward. "You're not the only one hurting!" she yelled. "Stop making us feel like we don't care just because we aren't walking the streets following people like you are!"
Lexi was taken aback by Jessica's outburst. The four had been friends since high school and then college roommates. For over five years, they had been as close as sisters. Yet, Lexi couldn't help but feel like she didn't know Jessica or Crystal anymore.
"Come back to Charleston with us," Crystal pleaded. "Christina's parents will be devastated if you aren't at the funeral."
Lexi shook her head. They didn't understand, and she couldn't explain what drove her to follow those with red eyes, looking for the one responsible. "I have to find her killer. If I don't, he'll kill again."
"You gave all the information you had to the police. Let them do their jobs."
"But they aren't doing their jobs." Lexi blinked to chase away the tears. "I was with Christina. I saw the guy she left the bar with. I'm the only one who knows what he looks like."
Jessica walked to her and put her arms around her in a tight hug. "You don't have to do it all, Lex."
For just a moment, Lexi let the grief envelop her. It was so great at times that she couldn't breathe. If she let it take her, she would never be able to recover from it. So, Lexi kept it at bay with thick walls that would never be penetrated. It was the only way she could get through each day until Christina's killer was caught.
"I do," she whispered. Lexi sniffed and stepped out of Jessica's hold. "Please tell Christina's family that I won't rest until the killer is found. He'll pay for what he did to her."
Crystal's forehead furrowed in a deep frown. All her anger was gone, given way to worry. "If you stay, I have a feeling we'll never see you again. You keep tracking this murderer, he's liable to learn about it and go after you."
Lexi knew how he killed. She wasn't going to fall into the same trap as Christina. How could she return to South Carolina knowing she let a predator walk free?
"I'm going to be fine. I check in with Detective Inspector MacDonald often." Lexi forced her lips to turn up at the corners a little.
A horn honked from outside, startling them.
Jessica gave her another hug before she hurried to put on her coat.
Crystal walked to Lexi and took her hands, looking deep into her eyes. "The flat is paid for another week. Jess and I both knew you would stay. We wanted to make sure you had somewhere safe to sleep."
The kindness of her friends made Lexi realize just how fortunate she was to have such people in her life. "Thank you."
Crystal hugged her before she spun around, but not before Lexi saw the tears. She watched her friends gather their luggage and walk out. With a last wave, the door banged loudly behind them, giving the scene a finality that left Lexi feeling hollow.
She looked out the window and watched Crystal and Jessica get into the cab and then drive away. It wasn't the first time Lexi had been alone, and she doubted it would be the last. It was as if it were her destiny to spend her life by herself.
Lexi turned and put on her jacket. Then she walked out the door. She had hunting to do. Her first stop was with D.I. MacDonald.
That conversation went just like it had the day Lexi said she was going to help them. After Lexi filled him in on where she had been the previous day and what she had seen, MacDonald ordered her to return home and let him do his job.
Lexi stopped herself from rolling her eyes. If he were doing his job, he would know he wasn't looking for just any murderer. Then again, if he was doing his job, he would've believed everything she had to say instead of dismissing half of her statement, citing that she was inebriated.
In all her college years, Lexi had been drunk a total of one time. It sucked. The headache, the awful taste in her mouth, and the fact she had been bent over a toilet for hours. There was no need for her to have a repeat of that. Or to become her mother. Her drink limit was two.
"I can help you," Lexi told MacDonald.
He lifted his tired hazel eyes to her. Then he sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his dark hair liberally laced with gray at the temples. "I like you, lass. It's because I like you that I've no' had you arrested. Your friends are on their way back to America. You should be with them."
"Thank you for your time," Lexi said and rose from the chair. There was no use remaining any longer. "Call me if you find anything."
She walked toward the entrance knowing she would never hear from D.I. MacDonald, because he was looking at the wrong sort.
Just before she exited the homicide division she saw a pretty woman with turquoise eyes and blond hair in a pixie cut staring at her. The woman hastily looked away after a brief smile.
Lexi walked out of the station without a backward glance. She then ambled along the streets, zigzagging her way through the city until she came to the section where she saw the red-eyed men daily.
No matter how long it took, no matter what she had to do, she was going to find the son of a bitch who killed Christina.
* * *
For two weeks, Thorn had been in Edinburgh with Darius hunting the Dark Fae. He wasn't exactly thrilled that the Dragon Kings were spread so thin throughout Scotland to kill the bastards.
Then again, he was killing Dark Fae, which made him extremely happy.
He liked Darius, even if he had his own demons to battle. Darius wasn't the issue. It was Con.
Thorn halted his thoughts as he jumped from the roof he had been on and landed silently behind two Dark. He came up to them and smashed their heads together. Then, with his knife, he slashed their throats.
Both Fae fell without a sound. Damn, did he ever like his job. Thorn threw both Dark Fae over his shoulder and hurried to the warehouse where he and Darius were stashing the bodies.
He did most of his killing at night when the Dark came out to prey on the mortals, but Thorn never passed up an opportunity to kill the buggers.
There were half a dozen Dark lying dead in the warehouse. With merely a thought, he shifted, letting his body return to its rightful form — a dragon.
His long talons clicked on the concrete floor as he looked down at the Dark. Thorn inhaled deeply, fire rumbling in his throat. Then he released it, aiming at the bodies.
Dragon fire was the hottest thing on the realm. It disintegrated the Dark Fae bodies instantly. When there was nothing left but ash, Thorn shifted back into his human form.
He clothed himself and returned to the streets that were overrun with Dark. The humans had no idea who they were walking beside or having drinks with. Many mortals he and Darius had saved from being killed by the Dark, but there were so many more that they couldn't reach in time.
With just two Dragon Kings in the city against hundreds of Dark Fae, the odds were stacked against the humans.
Thorn didn't understand why the mortals couldn't sense how dangerous the Dark were. Or perhaps that's exactly what drew them to the Dark — that and their sexual vibes the humans couldn't ignore.
The Dark weren't as confident as they were a few weeks ago. Their ranks were dwindling, and though they suspected Dragon Kings were involved, they had yet to find him or Darius.
If two Dragon Kings could do so much damage, imagine what twelve could do? That brought a smile to Thorn's face. The Dark thought they were being smart, but they had begun the war a second time. And Thorn knew it would be impossible for the humans not to learn just what inhabited their realm with them.
His smile faded when his gaze snagged on a woman he had seen daily for the past week. She kept hidden, but it was obvious she was following the Dark.
She had a determined look on her face, one that had anger and revenge mixed together. Thorn knew that expression. It was the one that got mortals killed.
Her pale brown locks hung thick and straight to her shoulders. She tucked her hair behind her ear and peered around the corner of a store.
Thorn slid his gaze to the three Dark she was trailing. They were toying with her. They knew she was there.
"Damn," Thorn mumbled.
He and the other Dragon Kings vowed to protect the humans millions of years ago. They fought wars and sent their own dragons away to do just that. He couldn't stand there and let the Dark kill her.
Nor could he let them know he was there.
He flattened his lips when she stepped from her hiding spot and followed the Dark down the street. They were leading her to a secluded section.
Thorn didn't waste any time climbing to the roof of the building. He kept to the shadows and jumped from roof to roof as he tracked them.
He let out a thankful sigh when she ducked into an alley. Thorn jumped over the street to the opposite building before landing behind her.
"Not this time," he heard her say.
An American. Southern by her accent. He reached to tap her on the shoulder when his enhanced hearing picked up the Darks' conversation. They were coming for her.
Thorn wrapped a hand around her mouth and dragged her behind a Dumpster. "Be quiet and still if you doona want them to find you," he whispered in her ear.
She was struggling against him, but his words caused her to pause. A second later, she renewed her efforts.
Thorn held her tightly, her thin form easy to detain. The more she struggled, the more he could feel every curve of her body.
It wasn't until the Dark reached the alley that she stilled. He couldn't even feel her breathing.
"There's no one here," one of the Dark said in his Irish brogue.
"She was here."
The third snorted. "Not anymore. Come on."
A full minute passed before the three walked on. The woman's shoulders sagged as she blew out a breath. Thorn released her and held up his hands as she whirled around to face him.
Slate gray eyes glared at him with fury as her full lips pulled back in a scowl. Her cheekbones were high in her oval face.
She wasn't a great beauty, but there was something about her that wouldn't let Thorn look away.
"You're in way over your head," he told her.CHAPTER 2
Thorn wasn't sure if it was the subtle narrowing of her eyes or her arm shifting. Even though he knew she was about to strike, Thorn didn't move.
He felt the blade pierce his left side, sinking through skin and muscle. With a scowl down at her, he grabbed her wrist and pulled the dagger from his body.
"Don't touch me," she said through clenched teeth.
She wasn't worth the trouble. At least that's what Thorn tried to tell himself. He'd saved her from the Dark — today. Tomorrow would be another story, but he couldn't follow her around and ensure she was safe when she was so bent on following them.
He had an entire city to rid of the Dark Fae.
"Then doona attack me," he retorted.
Her gray eyes widened a fraction before a look of annoyance and skepticism contorted her face. "You're the one who grabbed me."
"To save you."
"Whatever," she said with a roll of her pretty gray eyes. "Look, just leave me alone."
Thorn cocked his head to the side. "This might be a tourist mecca, lass, but it isna a place for you to be alone. You hear an Irish accent, go the other way."
She mumbled low, but he still heard, "I wasn't alone before."
That's when he saw the sadness and grief she was desperately trying to hide with anger and fervor. At first glance, she was able to disguise her true feelings, but Thorn was looking deeper.
And he didn't like what he saw.
He didn't need to ask her to know that the Dark must have killed someone dear to her. That's the only reason a mortal would hunt them.
The fact she continued to get close to bastards and not throw herself at them begging them to ease the desire burning her was enough to make him wonder what made her different.
By the determined set of her jaw, Thorn didn't bother to try and dissuade her from following the Dark. She had been doing it for days, and she wouldn't stop until she found what she was looking for — or they found her.
But it wasn't in his nature to let her go like a lamb to slaughter.
"If you're going to follow someone, watch your back as well," he warned before he walked out of the alley, leaving her and her soulful slate gray eyes behind.
Thorn had learned a very long time ago that he couldn't save everyone. He had tried. Once. If a mortal didn't want to be helped, there was nothing he could do about it. And he certainly wasn't going to stand around and watch her die.
He didn't stay on the sidewalk long. The Dark had spies everywhere, and the key to the Kings gaining an upper hand in this war was to be as invisible as they could.
Thorn ducked into a narrow side street and stopped. He sighed and slowly turned around. There he waited until he saw the female peer around the side of the building where he'd left her.
He smiled, nodding in approval as she waited for a group of people to pass her. She fell into step with them as if she were a part of them.
That, at least, proved she had brains.
"You just might make it after all, lass."
* * *
Two hours later, Lexi stared down at her knife that rested on the kitchen table in her flat. She thought she had stabbed the stranger in the alley, but he hadn't so much as flinched.
Was her aim that bad? If so, she was going to have to practice more. In that close proximity, she should've hit her mark.
In truth, she had no desire to get close to the red-eyed men, but she didn't have a choice. A knife was easier to buy, hide, and use than a gun.
She was still shaken by her near run-in with Red Eyes. That's what she had started calling them. If the stranger hadn't gotten to her, the odds were that she would be as dead as Christina.
Lexi shuddered to think of it. She feared dying like anyone else, but it was the thought of failing her friend that was the real kicker.
She rose and poured herself a glass of wine. Lexi didn't bother turning on the TV or the radio. She sat on the couch and stared out the window.
When they first arrived, she had sat in that very spot looking out over the city. It was Christina who had found the flat. Christina had a knack for discovering such places that were always perfect.
If only Lexi had stopped her from leaving the pub the night she died. Lexi had stupidly thought it was her imagination or a trick of the lights when she saw the guy's eyes change from blue to red.
Excerpted from Passion Ignites by Donna Grant. Copyright © 2015 Donna Grant. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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