Awakened (Belladonna Agency Series #2)

Awakened (Belladonna Agency Series #2)

by Virna DePaul

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Harm no human. While the FBI tries to keep rogue vampires from preying on humans—for killing, for turning, for pleasure—the stakes only get higher.
“If you’re looking for a hot, sexy, emotional read, Virna DePaul delivers!”—New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner
Ex-soldier Barrett Miles had no idea that vampires were real—until the Bureau recruits her to serve as a covert agent and infiltrate a murderous sex ring run by the most depraved of immortals, those who feed on the purity and blood of innocents. Their latest victim: a young girl whom Barrett promised to protect. Teamed up with her former lover, undercover sniper Nick Maltese, Barrett is caught between fulfilling her personal mission and shielding her heart from the man who betrayed her.
Nick’s hunting a different kind of enemy from what he was used to in Iraq. But what really throws him for a loop is seeing Barrett again. As desires from the past resurface, Nick finds he wants her more than ever. Together the hunt begins—and their love forces them to embrace the darkest places in their souls.

Praise for Awakened
“Barrett and Nick’s electrifying chemistry, coupled with a clever and intricate plot, makes this one amazing read.”RT Book Reviews

“A nifty romantic suspense to sink your teeth into.”Fresh Fiction

“One for re-reading and keeper files.”—Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews

“Virna DePaul did an amazing job.”—Smitten with Reading
“I am more than satisfied. Between the great character and good plot, a paranormal romance fan couldn’t do any better.”—The Jeep Diva

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345542472
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Series: Belladonna Agency Series , #2
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Virna DePaul is a former criminal prosecutor and bestselling author of steamy, suspenseful fiction. Whether featuring vampires, a Para-Ops team, hot cops, or swoon-worthy identical twin brothers, her stories center on complex individuals willing to overcome incredible odds for love.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

San Diego, California

The lurid caption under the live video said it all: Runaway Virgin.

Unlike the other women on the SexFlash site, this one was scrubbed clean of makeup. With an odd beauty and youthful innocence, she’d attract clients with money to burn and a lot to hide. The kind of clients who’d get off on the fact that the girl’s lips were parted with fear and shock, the same emotions currently ricocheting through Barrett Miles’s body.

She’d been searching for Jane Small for almost a week, but to actually succeed in finding her . . . to actually confirm she’d been taken by sex traffickers, never mind sex traffickers that catered to vampires or were vampires themselves . . .

After everything Barrett had been through in the past decade—her brother Noah’s death, what she’d seen overseas, what she’d discovered since she’d been recruited by Belladonna—well, she’d have thought she’d be immune to horror by now. Apparently not.

Before she could stop herself, Barrett pressed her fingertips against the monitor screen, as if she could actually reach in and pull Jane out to safety. Help her. Kill her captors. But how?

The only information she’d had up to now was that Jane had disappeared, and her aunt, her legal guardian, believed she’d run away with a young man Jane had recently befriended. A young man named Dante who wore a vial filled with Jane’s blood around his neck and liked to leave marks on her that were closer to bites than to hickeys. A young man who had disappeared around the same time as Jane, only he’d been found days later with his neck torn out and “wannabe” penned on his forehead with a red Sharpie. Of course, given Dante’s predilections and knowing what she did, Barrett had instantly suspected a vampire had murdered the boy and taken Jane.

Unfortunately, Jane could be anywhere. Teenagers were sold for sex on sites like this all over the world. Virgins went for premium prices.

Purity mattered. That went double as far as vampires were concerned. According to Joseph Powell, the blood of a virgin was the best there was. It tasted like nirvana. It provided a euphoric high no controlled substance could come close to duplicating.

Apparently, despite her association with the dead fang banger and true to her ideals when she’d been fourteen, Jane was still a virgin, though Barrett hated to think how her captors had confirmed that fact. It was why Jane was probably going to be some vampire junkie’s fix for the rest of her life unless Barrett could save her. Unfortunately, it was Barrett’s fault the girl was in this predicament in the first place.

All because this girl’s mother had trusted Barrett to keep her daughter safe.

The last time Barrett had seen her, Jane had been fourteen.

Though she’d kept intermittent contact with Jane’s legal guardians, the aunt and her husband, Barrett hadn’t seen Jane’s face again until she’d gone missing and her aunt had given her an updated picture.

Jane’s eyes flickered on the clear screen and seemed to round with recognition. “Miley?”

Barrett jerked and instinctively opened her mouth to respond.

Instead, she snapped it shut, forcing herself to remain silent so she wouldn’t give herself away even as Jane was roughly jerked out of the camera’s range.

Barrett Miles. Miley. It was the nickname Jane had given her years ago thanks to a popular Disney show actress. That meant she could see her. But why would her captors allow that? They had to believe there was absolutely no chance allowing Jane to see her potential buyers could hurt them. That had to mean those potential buyers were trusted. Vetted.

Barrett didn’t fall into that category.

A woman in an overflowing bustier took Jane’s place on the monitor screen.

This one knew the drill. Sultry pout. Thick black hair teased high. Hard eyes. She frowned at Barrett for a moment. “Powell, who the hell is this?” she snapped. “The girl called her Miley.”

“No, no. This is my trusted friend, Barrett Klein. Don’t worry about her. We are looking for someone special and I think we’ve found her.”

Powell’s deep voice came from just behind Barrett, causing her to stiffen slightly. She’d almost forgotten he was there, looking over her shoulder. Waiting, with a born vampire’s patience, for her to choose a girl she liked enough to bring into the bedroom with them.

The image of his gnarled hands on Jane made Barrett sick to her stomach. It was a feeling she was intimately acquainted with. It was how she felt every time Powell put his hands on her.

“Yes.” Aware the woman on the screen still looked suspicious but also slightly mollified by the thought of a potential sale, Barrett pasted a smile on her face. “Let’s go with the . . . virgin. I think she’ll be perfect and you said you haven’t tasted virgin blood in quite some time.”

“Hmm. It won’t make you jealous? Knowing how incomparably delicious I’ll find her?”

More delicious than me, he meant. And the fact he could joke with her meant he didn’t understand how displeased Jane’s captor was that he’d signed on to the site then allowed Barrett in to see Jane. Then again, as a born vampire he’d be very difficult to hurt or kill so he probably wouldn’t be worried anyway.

Barrett looked up at the silver-haired man behind her; unlike most vampires, he didn’t bother dyeing his hair, although he did wear contacts that disguised his silver pupils. His tall frame was slightly stooped and his large head hung forward. He reminded her of a vulture.

“She can give you better blood. I think we’ve already established that I, on the other hand, give the best . . .” She smiled suggestively.

Powell studied Barrett for a moment, assessing her. His eyes glowed briefly, an unearthly gleam in their unnaturally dark depths, making her wonder if he was trying to read her mind. But she felt none of the mental probing she’d been warned to watch out for. Maybe he wasn’t trying. Or maybe he couldn’t read her mind because he wasn’t powerful enough or because the heavy gold bracelet on her wrist was doing its job. Concealed, of course, inside a designer cuff of glass-beaded silk.

That was just one of the nifty secrets Belladonna had uncovered about vampires: wearing pure high-quality gold blocked a vampire from reading not only a human’s mind, but that of another vampire. Neither Barrett nor her fellow Belladonna agents, each covertly employed by the FBI to hunt down vampire criminals in a world where most humans didn’t even know vampires were real, left home without it.

Not all vampires knew about the gold trick, but since some humans had a natural resistance to being read, they often didn’t make the connection. In Powell’s case, it was entirely possible he suspected she was deliberately blocking his mind-reading powers and was only biding his time until he strip-searched her and killed her.

She sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case.

He did seem to trust her, which meant he had no clue Belladonna existed, or that Barrett’s team members, Ty Duncan and Ana Martin, had been responsible for shutting down Salvation’s Crossing, a vampire blood slave operation in Northern California, two months ago. That could change at any moment, however, and Barrett’s best chance of getting Jane home safe was by getting Powell to buy her.

“Powell,” she prompted, keeping her voice soft. Cajoling. “I want her.”

He smiled. Kissed the top of Barrett’s head and reached down from behind her, sliding his hand down between her breasts and then in between her thighs. It was about as intimately as he ever touched her. She’d never actually had sex with him—a small distinction, considering the other things she had to do, but an important one for her. Her salvation—his inability to keep it up for anyone who was older than a teen—was also a curse for what was undoubtedly a long list of young victims.

He whispered, “We’ll see.”

Then, even as Barrett wanted to shout out and stop him, he tapped a key and the monitor went black.

“Now,” he said, “show me how much you want her. Maybe then I’ll buy her for you.” As a vampire, he couldn’t lie, which meant there was a chance he actually might buy Jane for her, even if it was only a small one. She tilted her head, offering herself to him. He kissed her neck, licked it, and Barrett instinctively braced herself for his bite.

She still jumped when it came. She had no fear Powell would take enough blood from her to turn her into one of his own kind. From what Belladonna had learned before Ty and Ana’s infiltration of Salvation’s Crossing, doing so would result in his own death. Even so, she still felt the swirling nausea that always overtook her when she let him drink her blood. The nausea that signaled her disgust for him and herself.

Closing her eyes, she forced herself to remain calm. She even managed to moan with what sounded like a decent imitation of pleasure.

Inside, however, Barrett’s nausea was swiftly morphing into hatred. Hatred for the vampire who still drank from her throat. Hatred for the brunette helping to pimp Jane out. Hatred for the unnamed, faceless others out in the world who were doing the very same thing to hundreds of girls just like Jane.

Hatred for herself.

Jane Small was about to be sold.

Barrett needed to convince Powell to buy her before anyone else did. At the very least, to tell her how to find the girl.

She had to. Nothing else mattered.

Belladonna Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

The morning after seeing Jane Small’s face on Powell’s computer screen, Barrett caught a flight to Dulles. Hours later, weary and frazzled, she slammed her palms onto the table inside Belladonna’s library. Special Agent Peter Lancaster’s expression remained impassive, although he had to be surprised by Barrett’s rare show of emotion.

Desperation crackled inside her like electricity trapped inside a bulb, straining for release.

Several months ago, she’d been just like every other human on the planet—with no clue that vampires really existed and lived among them. That had changed soon after Peter had recruited her for Belladonna. Now Barrett was only one of a select few who knew that the FBI was engaged in the experimental turning of human military veterans into vampires. As far as the FBI was concerned, vampires were a potential threat despite their queen’s claim that they wanted to exist peacefully with humans. According to FBI Director Rick Hallifax, the best way to counter that threat was by fighting fire with fire, or in this case, vampire with vampire. In theory, his strategy made sense, but creating vampire soldiers that would be loyal to the U.S. government was proving to be a challenging task for several reasons.

First, turning humans was against vampire law and morality; thus, the only vampires that were willing to turn humans into vampires were thugs and criminals. Second, the fact the turner might die as a result of the turning process made it highly probable that vampires were victimizing other vampires to do what the FBI wanted. Hallifax claimed there was no proof of such machinations and that even if there was, it would amount to collateral damage. Third, even as the Turning Program continued, the FBI needed to track down and eliminate the subset of vampire criminals that were exceeding the FBI’s authority and preying on humans. The FBI had labeled these vampires Rogues and formed Belladonna to deal with them. Fourth, as Ty and Ana had learned on their mission into Salvation’s Crossing, someone knew about Belladonna and had enough insider information to set up Ty and Ana, resulting in Ana being forcibly turned herself. Now she and Ty were in hiding; their betrayer was still out there and it was always possible that person could be an FBI mole.

No one at Belladonna knew whom to trust, but they’d had no choice but to keep moving forward, keeping their suspicions a secret, taking advantage of whatever resources and intel the FBI did provide, and following up leads on Rogue criminal activity. Barrett was taking the lead on the sex ring intel, while Collette and Justine worked on a variety of new developments in other areas of vampire crime. Collette had begun a complex investigation into the billion-dollar business of fake pharmaceuticals, focusing on blood products. Justine was staying with the field she knew: women who were in the business of voluntarily selling their bodies, figuratively or literally. Peter, the only other turned vampire in the group, stayed at Belladonna headquarters as their point person and direct link to Carly, Belladonna’s mysterious CEO.

Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t giving her anything at the moment that could help her, and that was making Barrett’s panic rise. Despite her reiterating her request that he buy Jane for her, Powell had refused, saying the asking price was far beyond his means. Which, given how rich Powell was, meant Jane was a valuable commodity indeed. He’d also refused to reveal anything about the people who ran SexFlash or how he’d met them. She’d been afraid to push for more lest she drew Powell’s suspicions and lost her ability to gather any information at all on vampire sex rings, but . . .

“Don’t tell me you’ve come up with nothing, Peter! We work for the FBI and you’re telling me no one can track down a sex ring site when I’ve given them the freaking URL?”

Despite his turned vampire status, Peter was tall and slim with light brown hair, chiseled features, and a smile that was potent when he chose to use it. He didn’t try to charm her now so much as calm her.

“You gave us the URL Powell let you see, Barrett, and clearly someone has swept that trail clean. Without more . . .”

A flash of anger blotted out her other thoughts. What did he mean by “more”? More than what?

More than befriending a blood-sucking pedophile like Powell? More than letting him drink from her? More than doing sneak searches of his place on multiple occasions, risking discovery and death, only to come up empty time and again?

How much more did she have to give before she caught a break?

Anything and everything, she reminded herself. She’d been willing to put her life on the line numerous times to rescue victims she didn’t know. She’d damn well do the same for Jane.

“I’ll go back to Powell’s,” she choked out. “Convince him to buy Jane.”

“Powell is gone. Might be dead, for all we know,” Peter said. “His house has been cleared out.”

Barrett’s body jerked, not in surprise but in despair. She’d known Powell had pissed off the brunette. She’d suspected they might retaliate. But not so fast. Not before Barrett could get something—anything—out of him that might help her rescue Jane. “How?” she choked out.

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Awakened (Belladonna Agency Series #2) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Cheryl-S More than 1 year ago
Barrett Miles works for Belladonna.  When the FBI deems a vampire a rogue, Belladonna agents go after it, get rid of it and any evidence it ever existed.  Barrett's friend, Sarah, died and Barrett promised her she'd look in on her daughter, Jane, and keep her safe.  Jane was kidnapped and Barrett's search began. Nick Maltese served in the Army with Barrett.  They were lovers until Barrett was kicked out and sent home.  Now he's back in her life and willing to help her find Jane any way he's able to.  He doesn't want to lose Barrett a second time.   Amazing paranormal, suspense, romance novel.  This story line is so well thought out that it's left no room for errors.  It ran like a movie from beginning to end.   I can picture the turneds, the club, and the mountain like I'd been there myself.  This story ran through my mind like a movie.  There's plenty of action and interesting characters.  This is my first book by Virna Depaul and I was blown away.  The romance between Barrett and Nick has the perfect amount of angst and sizzle.  I'm looking forward to reading more from this fantastic author. Received a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author is amazing
amdrane2 More than 1 year ago
This was the second book in a series about vampires and the FBI. I think I liked it better than the first, but I'm still trying to process it. I didn't really like Barrett. She was just too much. I understand she is working with a shadow agency, trying to find her best friend's kid, dealing with reuniting with her lover, and trying to figure out who the mole is, but sometimes she did really stupid stuff. Still, I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Awakened, The Belladonna Agency Series, Virna DePaul. Review from jeannie zelos book reviews I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Turned, and was looking forward to reading more so when I saw this on the review list – well- had to request it :-) So, it's focussed around Agency member Barrett this time. She's having to work with her ex, a man she's really still in love with, though she won't admit it even to herself. She kind of emotionally stunted as far as love goes, she's scared to admit it, she has a kind of brittle in your face appearance, posh girl who’s never upset or has problems, and yet she's far more than the face she shows people. I feel she broke things off with Nick as a self protection method. He's fighting his own guilt – he betrayed her on their last mission to keep her safe, but hasn't told her. It led to her leaving the Service and him, and he's still feeling the guilt. They're hot together though, scorching, sizzling, and it doesn't take long before the old attraction between them has them heating the sheets once again. The search for Jane, her dead friend’s daughter, ties in with the Agency's mission and with Nicks FBI work. They have to be careful though – it's suspected there's a mole in the Agency ( and my schoolgirl humour keeps conjuring up visions of were-moles, as we're talking about paranormal...can you imagine how scary those front paws would be???) but no-one has any clues who it is. I can't help feeling that's going to play a large part in a later book...There's lots of planning, clues to work out, people to trust or distrust, action and danger. Barrett and Nick both learn things from each other their respective agencies either didn't know or weren't telling, and some of it is essential vampire info, where lack of knowledge could lead to death. While working together they also learn things about themselves and each other, that shed light on the past and helps cement their future. Its another cracking adventure, with just enough drama to keep me on the edge without overdoing it, so that the whole thing becomes unreal. Its a fine line in fantasy – even though we're talking about (hopefully!) unreal creatures there still need to be lines of reality in the actions and Virna does that really well. I commented last time on a couple of things I found a little unreal – this time nothing stands out. I hope we see more of the dogs too – they sound like a real help to save lives. It's a great read, not quite five star but close. Stars: four and a half, one for re reading and keeper files. ARC supplied via Netgalley
Peachs44 More than 1 year ago
Awakened, the second book in the Belladonna Agency series, knocked it out of the park for me! What did I love about this book? Oh, just about everything! First off I am a HUGE PNR fan. And just because I am does not mean I will read any old PNR that falls in my lap. It’s got to be good, REAL GOOD. It’s got to have the whole package for me. Characters, action, and a plot with enough mystery to keep me from guessing what comes next too easily. This book has it all. Here’s what it takes to get a 5-star review out of me. Characters – well developed and interesting are a must. No problem here. Barrett and Nick are awesome. She’s no wimp and he isn’t all-grunt-grunt macho. They are perfectly matched. Slightly flawed, strong and smart. Let’s not forget there is heat between them. THANKFULLY, their story is not all sex. There’s emotion and character. Even the antagonists are well done. Vladimir is one bad dude yet he is still interesting. He’s just a guy running a business (admittedly a bad one) but it’s his sinister side that caught my attention. While I don’t think he would scare me in a dark alley, please do not not let him and me get near a white room. Got to touch on one more character who sparked my interest – Sam. OMG!!! Sam! I can’t go into details but Sam was easily one of my favorite secondary characters in the book. PLEASE, make another appearance in the series.  Plot – it’s got to keep me riveted. BIG CHECK! A thriller, mystery and romance all in one. So many twists and heart-pounding moments, it was like riding a roller coaster. The story is well developed and even if you didn’t read the previous book in the series (which I highly suggest you do) it’s easy to keep up with what is going on. I pretty much figured that the ‘latest victim’ was going to get rescued but the journey to get there kept me from putting down my book. There was plenty of action and adventure to hook me in. As much as I wanted to sit down and devour this book in one sitting, I was good and paced myself. I didn't want to rush too fast and miss a thing. There are definitely some story-lines be built up that will be revealed in future installments of this series. Seriously, I may have a problem when this series ends.  As for what I didn’t like about this book….Crickets. So this series is the one I am popping my Virna DePaul cherry on. So far, I am more than satisfied. Between the great character and good plot a PNR fan couldn’t do any better. While each book can be read as a stand-alone, I do suggest reading them in order. I get the feeling all this is building toward something pretty epic. If you are looking to tryout Ms. DePaul’s writing, then look no further than her Belladonna Agency series. You won’t be disappointed. Now to wait for the next book… I received this book from JeepDiva for the express purposes of an honest review. The opinions and rating of this review are solely mine and in no way was I compensated. Stars– 5, Flames – 3