Phantom Shadowsby Dianne Duvall
Dianne Duvall lures readers into a world of romance and suspense, where love can mean the difference between life and death. . .
Dr. Melanie Lipton is no stranger to the supernatural. She knows immortals better than they know themselves, right down to their stubborn little genes. So although a handsome rogue immortal seems suspicious to her colleagues, Sebastien… See more details below
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Dianne Duvall lures readers into a world of romance and suspense, where love can mean the difference between life and death. . .
Dr. Melanie Lipton is no stranger to the supernatural. She knows immortals better than they know themselves, right down to their stubborn little genes. So although a handsome rogue immortal seems suspicious to her colleagues, Sebastien Newcombe intrigues Melanie. His history is checkered, his scars are impressive, and his ideas are daring. But it's not his ideas that have Melanie fighting off surges of desire. . .
Bastien is used to being the bad guy. In fact, he can't remember the last time he had an ally he could trust. But Melanie is different--and under her calm, professional exterior he senses a passion beyond anything in his centuries of experience. Giving in to temptation is out of the question--he can't put her in danger. But she isn't asking him. . .
"These dark, kick-ass guardians can protect me any day!" --Alexandra Ivy on Darkness Dawns
"Whizzing along at light speed. . .this sophomore effort sizzles." --Publishers Weekly on Night Reigns
"Utterly addictive." --Romantic Times
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PHANTOM SHADOWSIMMORTAL GUARDIANS
By Dianne Duvall
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Leslie Duvall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe desire to commit violence rose up within Bastien, almost irresistible in its intensity. Was this how vampires felt, he wondered, when the virus that infected them wreaked havoc in their brains and eradicated their impulse control? Because right now he would like nothing more than to plant his fist in the face of the immortal who lounged beside him.
"I hope you know what a sickeningly sappy grin you're wearing," Bastien muttered, his eyes on the students staggering about in front of the frat house across the street.
"Bite me," Richart replied as he continued to text away on his cell.
Bastien sighed. The jackass wouldn't even offer up a good fight. Bastien had been baiting him for a couple of hours now in an attempt to relieve some of the frustration spawned by Seth requiring him to have an escort. A babysitter. A guard.
"Fucking immortals," he muttered. They all wanted to kill him now that they knew he had slain one of their own almost two centuries ago. All of them but this one apparently.
"You're an immortal yourself, dumbass," the Frenchman reminded him.
Sometimes Bastien really missed the company of vampires.
Movement in the shadows north of the frat house caught his eye.
Speaking of which ...
Bastien watched as two young couples, clearly in their cups, stumbled off the front porch and wove their way down the sidewalk. Pulsing music penetrated the house's closed windows, rumbling through the neighborhood and piercing Bastien's ears as silhouettes gyrated on the windows' curtains. The foursome argued drunkenly over which path to take to the dorm, then chose one and started down it, completely unaware of the dark predators who mirrored their every movement.
Bastien opened his mouth to give Richart the heads-up, then closed it again when he realized Richart was already returning his cell phone to his back pocket. The two stood.
When Richart reached out to touch Bastien's shoulder, Bastien dodged the contact and stepped off the edge of the roof, dropping three stories to land with only a hint of sound on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Richart appeared out of thin air beside him half a second later. "You risk discovery when you do such," he commented blandly as they set off in pursuit of the humans and their vampire shadows.
"And you don't, teleporting?"
Richart shrugged. "If they see me, they'll think me a figment of their imagination, a trick of the eye or light. If they see you, they'll think you're a jumper or some student who's drunk off his ass and come over to investigate."
True. The point was moot, however, because humans couldn't spy them in the darkness. The moon was absent, cloaked in the heavy clouds that had rolled in around sunset. And the streetlights above them had been shattered, either by vampires wanting to escape notice while they observed their prey or by students with too much time on their hands.
Bastien tuned out the human couples' inane conversation, the frat party's booming base, and the rumble of the occasional passing automobile, and zeroed in on the conversation of the vampires, inaudible to mortal ears.
The plan seemed to be to drain and dismember the men in front of the women, then torture the women, maybe keep them as toys from which the vampires could feed and extract screams for a few days until the vamps lost interest and sought new victims.
That plan changed when the men parted company from the women after a brief bout of sloppy kisses and ass-grabbing. The men staggered off down one sidewalk. The women tottered up another, their high heels clickety-clacking on the pavement.
The vampires hesitated, then followed the women.
Bastien looked at Richart. "Do you want Beavis or Butthead?"
Richart nodded to the blond vampire. "I'll take Beavis."
The women passed in and out of pools of illumination as they walked beneath campus lights, then under the branches of ancient oak trees. They turned toward the brightly lit entrance of one of the dorms.
The vampires drew closer to their backs.
Richart touched Bastien's shoulder. The world around him went dark. A feeling of weightlessness engulfed him, not unlike that one sometimes experienced in an elevator. Then Bastien found himself standing a foot or so behind the vampires.
He frowned at Richart. Bastien may not have the aversion to teleporting that some immortals did, but he still liked to have a little warning first.
Two figures, moving so swiftly they blurred, suddenly darted around the corner of the building, swept up the women, and sped away.
"What the hell?" the brunet Bastien had labeled Butthead spouted.
"Hey, those chicks are ours!" Beavis shouted.
Bastien met Richart's glowing amber gaze. "I'll take the newbies."
Beavis and Butthead spun around.
Richart nodded. "I'll get rid of these two."
The vampires' eyes began to glow as they bared descending fangs.
Bastien took off after the new vamps and their female victims, running so swiftly that humans would not even be able to follow the movement with their eyes.
The vampires took him from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to neighboring Durham, dodging this direction, then that, providing quite a chase.
Did they know an immortal hunted them? Or did they simply want to avoid a confrontation with the enraged vampires from whom they had snatched the women?
The vamps stopped in the deserted loading zone behind one of Duke University's buildings. Each clutched a woman. Neither human made a sound.
As Bastien halted a hairsbreadth away, he saw bite marks on both women's necks. Their hearts still beat, so neither had been drained. But the glands that had formed above the fangs the vampires had grown during their transformation had already delivered the chemical that acted like GHB, leaving the females sluggish and willing to accede to anything the vamps wanted to do to them. Tomorrow morning, if the women lived, they would have no memory of this.
The vampire closest to Bastien started violently when he realized they had company. He dropped the woman he held. "We saw 'em first."
Bastien caught the woman's blouse in a fist before she could hit the ground, then plunged his other fist into the vampire's face.
Blood spurted and bone shattered as the vampire flew backward and hit the building with enough force to crack the brick and produce a cloud of sandy mortar.
Bastien gently lowered the woman to the ground and zipped over to the vampire's gaping friend. That one tried to lock an arm around his victim and use her as a shield ... until Bastien broke said arm and sent the screaming vamp flying through the air to form more cracks in the building's exterior.
Bastien placed the woman beside her friend and charged the vampires, guiding the battle away from the humans.
Both vampires drew weapons: hunting knives with serrated edges and bowies as long as his forearm.
Bastien drew his katanas and faced them without a qualm. He had been born two centuries ago and, at the insistence of his noble British father, had trained with a master swordsman. If that weren't enough to lend him confidence, the fact that he had trained with Seth and David, the eldest and most powerful immortals in existence, for roughly two years did.
The blond vampire swore, fear filling his glowing blue eyes. "He's an Immortal Guardian!"
Bastien thought for a moment the other one would cut and run. Then the brunet roared and dove into the fight.
Blades clashed. Wounds opened. Blood flowed.
On the vampires, that is.
Bastien remained relatively unscathed. Disarming the blond, he sheathed a sword and grabbed the blond vampire by the neck. As Bastien continued to battle the brunet, the emotions of the blond flowed into him at the behest of Bastien's gift. Malice. Chaos. Madness. He couldn't be saved. The virus that infected both vampires and immortals had been with this one too long.
Shoving the vampire back, Bastien slashed the brunet's chest, then swiftly decapitated the blond.
The brunet stilled and stared at his fallen comrade.
Bastien used his preternatural speed to disarm the second vamp and took him by the throat as well.
Richart appeared in the distance, perhaps forty yards away, turned in a circle, spotted them, then teleported to Bastien's side. "The women?" he asked.
Bastien nodded to them. "Alive, but bitten and disoriented."
Richart motioned to the vampire Bastien held. "And this one?" Richart's clothing—black pants, black shirt, long black coat (standard garb for immortals)—bore numerous wet patches that would have been obvious bloodstains on material of any other color. "Are you planning to keep him as a souvenir or what?"
Bastien scowled. "I wanted to see if he was salvageable."
If the vamp were newly turned, the madness that afflicted humans after they transformed may not have infected him yet.
Bastien eyed the vamp with disgust. "He isn't."
"Then what are you ...?" Richart trailed off.
Muffled noises carried to Bastien's sensitive ears. Boots traversing grass and pavement. Several pair, each bearing a man's weight. The faint rattle of equipment.
The immortals shared a look.
Facing the corner of the building from around which the sounds approached, they both drew in deep breaths.
No cologne. No scented soap. No deodorant. No lingering hint of clothing detergent or scented fabric softener or dryer sheets. Nothing an immortal would ordinarily detect on an approaching group of humans.
The sole human-oriented scent that reached them was ... gun oil.
Bastien frowned at Richart. Whoever approached bore the MO of a hunter. What the hell would they be hunting on a college campus? Unless ...
"Take the women to safety," Bastien ordered too softly for humans to hear.
Richart reached the women in an instant and tossed one over each shoulder. "I shall return shortly," he promised, then vanished.
The vampire in Bastien's grasp began to struggle.
Bastien tightened his hold and waited to see who or what would come around the corner.
Had his vision not been preternaturally sharp, he would have missed the tiny mirror—barely bigger than a thumbnail—that appeared first and gave the man who held it a glimpse of Bastien and his captive.
Breath sucked in. The mirror slipped out of sight.
Something round and metal, the size of a tennis ball, bounced and jounced across the pavement toward Bastien. Light as bright as the damned sun engulfed him in a brief flash, blinding Bastien and making the vampire howl in pain.
Bastien yanked the vamp in front of him half a second before gunfire erupted, muffled by silencers. The vamp jerked and grunted. The scent of blood filled the air.
Footsteps pounded around the corner.
Because his advanced DNA made him more powerful than the vampire, Bastien's vision swiftly cleared. While the vamp continued to scrub at his eyes with one hand and clutch his chest with the other, Bastien studied the men who approached.
All were garbed like Special Ops soldiers and carried much of the related weaponry with one notable addition.
The vampire jerked when a tranquilizer dart hit him in the shoulder. His body instantly went limp and heavy.
Still using him as a shield, Bastien zeroed in on the soldier holding the tranquilizer pistol. The next time the soldier fired, Bastien moved—as swift as lightning—and caught the dart. He hurled it back at the soldier, hitting him in the throat. The man collapsed without a sound.
Another soldier fired a second tranquilizer pistol. Bastien ducked the first dart, then caught the second and sent it back to its launcher.
All but one of the remaining soldiers opened fire with their silencer-equipped assault rifles. Bullets tore through the vampire and hit Bastien. Fire burned through his stomach and chest. Breathing became difficult as one lung collapsed.
Dropping the vampire, Bastien sped forward, grabbed the rifle one of the downed human soldiers had dropped and fired. The remaining soldiers began to fall as bullets penetrated Kevlar or hit flesh not protected by armor.
Despite his attempts to evade the darts, Bastien felt a sharp sting in his neck. His knees weakened.
Alarm surpassing pissed off, Bastien put on a burst of speed, circled the building, and came up behind the soldiers. He grabbed the first one he met, dragged him back against his chest, and sank his fangs into the man's throat, siphoning as much blood as he could into his veins to dilute the drug he could feel steadily sapping his strength and to aid the virus in repairing his wounds.
Yanking the tranquilizer pistol from the soldier's hand, Bastien fired at the others as they turned to fight anew.
Every human fell ... eventually. And every one of them died, either as a result of bullet wounds or being tranqed with a drug too strong for their systems to handle.
Bastien dropped the soldier he had drained.
The campus around him tilted and rolled. Staggering, he struggled to remain upright.
A loud clatter disturbed the quiet.
Bastien glanced down at the tranquilizer pistol that had fallen from his hand.
Had he meant to do that?
Noticing a dart protruding from one thigh, he yanked it out, then removed another he found in his arm.
A steady pat pat pat drew his gaze to the blood dripping onto the ground at his feet. How many bullet wounds had he incurred?
Several seconds spent thinking about it yielded no numbers. He was too tired to count.
He looked at the bodies on the ground. The blood. The weapons.
Maybe somebody should clean this mess up before ...
He frowned. Wouldn't something bad happen if this shit wasn't cleaned up?
It took a minute for him to fish his cell phone out of his pocket. His hand didn't seem to want to cooperate. Squinting down at the display, which seemed both too bright and weirdly out of focus, he tried to decide whom he should call.
He glanced at the bodies. At the phone. At the bodies. At the phone.
Oh. Right. The network.
Dr. Lipton tucked a new page in the chart on her desk and reached for her cell phone.
Just as her fingers touched it, it rang. "Melanie Lipton" she answered. Several long seconds passed without a response. "Hello?"
Her heart leapt as those deep, rich tones washed over her. Sebastien Newcombe. She'd know his voice anywhere ... even if something about it did seem a bit off. "Yes. Bastien?"
"What are you doing here?" he asked, his words full of bewilderment.
Melanie frowned. He sounded drunk. Immortals couldn't get drunk. "What do you mean? I'm in my office at the network."
Melanie rose. Something was wrong.
A clatter came over the line.
"Sebastien? Are you still there?" She hurried out into the hallway.
"I think I fell." A moment of silence passed. "Yeah, I fell."
Anxiety flooded her as she waved to one of the security officers who guarded the doors to the vampires' apartments across the hall. "Get Mr. Reordon down here," she whispered. "Now!"
The man reached for a walkie-talkie on his shoulder and began to mutter into it.
Melanie started toward the elevator at the end of the hallway. "Are you injured? Bastien?"
"Feels like it."
"I don't know."
"Where are you?"
"On the ground." Bastien's words slurred.
"No, I mean ... Look around you. What do you see?"
There was a pause. "Bodies."
Oh crap. "What else?"
A large desk rested in front of the elevator doors. A dozen men garbed in black fatigues and sporting automatic weapons stood around it. Two more, seated behind it, rose at her approach.
"Is something wrong, Doc?" Todd asked.
She nodded. "If Mr. Reordon isn't already on his way, get him down here now," she murmured. Then, louder into the phone, she said, "What else do you see?"
"Trees," Bastien muttered.
Trees? Yeah. That narrowed it down. He could be anywhere in the freaking state.
The numbers above the elevator doors lit up.
"Is anyone there with you? Another immortal perhaps?" She had heard that he had been forbidden to go anywhere without an immortal escort.
"Um ... I can't tell if those are vampires or immortals shriveling up over there. I think they're vampires. I killed a couple of vampires, didn't I?"
A slew of faint French erupted over the phone.
The elevator pinged. When the doors slid open, Chris Reordon—head of the East Coast division of the network of humans that aided Immortal Guardians—emerged.
"What's up?" he asked with a frown.
Excerpted from PHANTOM SHADOWS by Dianne Duvall Copyright © 2012 by Leslie Duvall. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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