Read an Excerpt
Sela Kahne sat at her desk, staring at the computer screen and wondering why she hadn’t taken one more day of vacation time. An extra day would have meant another layer of tan on her normally pale skin, another couple of chapters of the latest James Patterson novel read and a few more hours’ reprieve from typing up reports that all said the same thing in conclusion: HOAX.
She sighed heavily and reached for the bag of Skittles she kept on her desk. She popped two into her mouth and cringed. She’d lost a filling during her vacation and desperately needed to see a dentist.
“ACRO’s dentists are the best in the area,” Torrence Olivia, the only other psychic besides Sela who worked in the agency’s Covert Rare Operatives’ Cryptozoology department, said as she walked by.
“I hate it when you do that,” Sela grumbled, mainly because her own psychic ability was restricted to reading people only during orgasm.
“Hon, I didn’t do anything. You have dentist written on your to- do list.” Torr tapped the notepad next to the computer with a crimson- painted nail.
“What’s wrong?” Torrence crossed her arms over her chest, her dark skin contrasting beautifully with her cream blouse. “You just got back from vacation. You should be vibrant. Unless . . . was Puerto Rico not as relaxing as it should have been?”
Sela stiffened. “How did you know I was in Puerto Rico?”
“Hello?” Torr tapped her temple. “Psychic.”
She never knew whether or not Torr was kidding when she said things like that, but given that Sela had told everyone, including her immediate boss, Mitch, she was going to the Bahamas, she could only assume that Torrence had gone psychic on her.
“You didn’t tell anyone, did you?” Not that her change of plans had been a huge secret, but she was supposed to have been drinking fruity cocktails on a beach instead of investigating the origins of el chupacabra.
She couldn’t wait to debunk the myth of the “goat sucker” once and for all. Confirming that the crazy things people believed in were false was a passion of hers, and it made her one of the few cryptozoologists in the field who was in it to disprove mythical creatures’ existence.
And the cryptid she wanted the most to prove didn’t exist was the one highlighted in the book in front of her, Chupacabra: Myth No More. The author, an eccentric, egomaniac billionaire she’d met half a dozen times at cryptozoological society gatherings, claimed to have spent years in the jungles of Central America observing chupacabra behavior like one of those nuts who infiltrated a pack of wolves.
The chupacabra is a solitary creature that will kill others of its kind, though they do appear to mate for life. They give birth to a single offspring, which is capable of living on its own within six months. Males are larger than females, and they mark their territory by spraying scent and clawing trees and fences. Their ability to heal from wounds is nothing short of amazing, something I witnessed after a young female was attacked and nearly killed by a jaguar...
What a freaking blowhard con artist. The book had made Parker Grady a celebrity in the cryptozoological circles, but Sela thought it only made him look like an idiot.
“Earth to Sela. . . ” Torr waved her hand in front of Sela’s face. “I just said I won’t tell anyone about Puerto Rico. It’s not my place.” She shoved her glasses up on her nose. “I’m going down to the lab. Oh, I almost forgot—a messenger delivered that package on your desk. He said after you watch it, you’re supposed to call Dev.”
Dev. The big boss. Head of ACRO, whom she rarely saw . . . and she preferred it that way. He hadn’t exactly hired her under normal circumstances five years ago, and while she didn’t regret how she’d come to ACRO, she did feel a little sleazy about it.
Twenty-one, cocky and just sure she was smarter than ninety five percent of the planet’s population, she’d pretty much forced her way into the agency. Only later had she realized that Dev could have taken her apart and made her disappear so completely there wouldn’t have been a trace that she’d ever existed.
For some reason, he hadn’t. He’d played her game, let her believe she had the upper hand . . . and even after she figured out Dev had been one move ahead of her from the beginning, he never rubbed it in. But he knew she knew. It was in his gorgeous brown eyes every time he saw her.
Stop thinking about it.
She shook out of her past, out of the things she’d done before she’d come to the Crypto department, and opened the padded envelope. Inside was a DVD. She slipped the disk into her computer, entered her individual access code and palmed a handful of Skittles.
The screen filled with trees. Thick brush, vines . . . a jungle. The camera shooting the scene was in motion—a helmet-cam? Yes, definitely. The person wearing the camera turned to the side, and she made out two men in camouflage, their faces painted, their rifles aimed and braced against their shoulders.
She popped a piece of candy into her mouth, remembering too late to chew on the left side. Pain shot from her molar into her skull.
On the screen, one of the men made a hand signal, and the camera panned to the right. Slowly, it moved forward. The camera jolted and then focused on the ground.
Sela slapped a hand over her mouth to hold in a gasp of horror. What was left of a man lay strewn about on the forest floor, his bloody mouth frozen in a terrified grimace.
And all hell broke loose. The sound of guns firing, men shouting and something screeching had Sela reaching for the volume.
The camera jerked around wildly, giving her only glimpses of the action, but what she saw sent chills up her spine. The men seemed to be fighting off some sort of creature. It moved fast, and if the film could be trusted, it had red eyes and huge fangs.
What the hell was it?
Suddenly, the camera stopped moving, its angle skewed, apparently lying on the ground. Sela saw clawed, scaly feet approaching. Her heart shot into her throat, blocking the candy as she tried to swallow. Between the thing’s legs she could see the men. Well, parts of them, lying in a growing pool of blood.
A snarl vibrated the camera, and then there was a gaping mouth, a splatter of blood on the lens . . . and all went black.
Sela choked on her own breath. Dear God, those men had been . . . slaughtered. Dismembered, disemboweled.
Her phone rang, and she nearly bit her tongue. She’d seen some gruesome things during her career as a cryptozoologist, but nothing could have prepared her for seeing humans torn apart before her eyes.
She picked up the phone with a shaky hand. “Sela.”
“It’s Dev. You watched the video?”
“Meet me at my office in ten minutes.” He hung up, and she slumped back in her chair. Something told her it was a good thing she hadn’t unpacked yet.