Bodies keep piling up, but Kaitlin O’Malley refuses to back down, even when threatened by someone once worshipped as a god. Training for a battle between good and evil, she teams up with the Dragon King and a powerful lion, and finds herself protected by a Master Vampire who wants her in his bed.
With a vile enemy ready to destroy her, the men in her life lock her up to keep her safe, but Kaitlin will never let other people fight her battles. She’ll have to break free and venture out on her own, wielding a powerful weapon to protect herself — a weapon her enemies would kill for. To face the enemy alone, Kaitlin must view the world in an Unhuman Light.
“Aery, I need a shot!” I screamed, holding back the energy pulsing at my fingertips until he was out of the way. The instant he maneuvered to give me a clear path, I unleashed the fiery red energy and watched it streak through the air and slice into the grotesque monster who’d been holding his own in a fight with Aaron Drake.
My power drained from me as it hit our foe in the chest, melting through skin, bone, and more. I lifted my arm a few inches and the caustic light streaking from my hand rose like a laser. When it reached the hideous creature’s throat, I moved my hand right and left until he was decapitated, and then watched in horrified fascination while the body seemed to evaporate before my eyes.
My gaze swung to my friend, and I checked to be sure he was okay. I was used to Aaron totally dominating, no matter the species he was fighting, and the fact he’d maneuvered to give me a clear shot told me the ancient dragonshifter wasn’t sure he could’ve won. My heart settled when I saw he seemed okay. He’s hard to kill, but I had no idea what we’d just fought.
As far as I know, I’m the only person who can get away with a cute nickname for the sexy, tough-as-nails, bad-assed owner of Drake Security, but I never do it around other people. I wouldn’t have said it today while battling an unknown monster, but it slipped out. No problem though, the bad guy seemed to evaporate and turn to smoke once the life force left his body. I usually want to cry after a kill — even when it’s a really bad guy — but not having to look at a body made it easier. Either way, I couldn’t give into the guilt and soul searching until the op was over.
“What was that?” I asked Aaron.
“Not sure,” he said, barely out of breath. “I used to see things kind of like him a few thousand years ago, but not since we entered the Common Era. I’ll send a sketch to a few friends and see if they have any ideas. I was about to shift into dragon form and see if my fire would work, but your laser did the trick.”
I took a breath and pulled energy in from the forest around us. I’d used almost all my reserves with that one shot, and I’d be useless if something else came along. I leaned against a tree and tried to relax in the crisp, autumn air. It’s easier to absorb energy when you’re at peace.
Aaron, of course, noticed. “I can top you up. You know I have plenty.”
I shook my head. “I’m not up for pain right now. Just give me five minutes with a few trees.” I could almost always find an old tree willing to give me energy. It might take a little time, but not as long as gathering it from the air around me. A waterfall would be faster, or even a creek or stream, but I didn’t hear running water.
“I won’t push more in than you can take, not during a mission.” Aaron said. “You used it to save me, the least I can do is top you back up.”
“Okay,” I relented, “but into my hands. I’ll route it to the right chakras.”
He didn’t argue, thank goodness, and held his hands out for me to grasp. I dropped my shields enough to let his energy flow out of his palms and into mine, and as it streamed up my arms and into my body, my heart seemed to need less energy to pump my blood.
I initially routed the power he gifted me to my first two chakras, since I primarily pull from those for my weapon, and then filled the rest. He truly does have plenty, but I never want to get used to depending on him.
During the few minutes Aaron’s energy filled me, I was at one with everything around me — totally at peace with the world, the universe, and perhaps even God. All energy is magic, but Aaron’s is a special kind of magic.
If we were romantically compatible, I’d be madly in love with him, but since we aren’t, he’s one of my best friends. I love him, but it isn’t the girlfriend kind of love.
When I was as full as I could get without feeling pain, I gently let go of his hands. When we do this as an exercise and he’s expanding the volume I can hold, he forces it in long past when I would choose to let go. This hurts about as much as I imagine a lightning strike would, and there’s a lot of screaming and crying involved on my part. I hate acting like a girly-girl, but he assures me he screamed and begged when his reserves were being stretched, too. Of course, that was thousands of years ago, so who could say how much he remembered of the pain?
Today, though, I felt warm and full and loved.
“Thanks,” I told him. Words couldn’t adequately thank him, so the single word would have to do. Besides, we were still on our mission and needed to focus, so I asked, “Do we circle back around and try the mystery cave, or try my idea?” I already knew venturing into the unknown cave wasn’t an option, but hoped he’d consider my Plan B. Aaron hadn’t liked it when I’d proposed it a few hours earlier, but we were running out of options.
He lifted his chin in agreement but showed no emotion. Aaron Drake totally rocks bad-ass. “Let’s pull Nathan in to help,” he answered. “I’m not comfortable using you as human bait with just me as your backup.”
I nodded and leaned against a tree, closed my eyes, and made Aaron’s energy my own while he texted Nathan our coordinates. Nathan wasn’t too far away, but was acting as lookout and would need to put someone in his spot before joining us.
We knew women were being kidnapped and taken to these woods just outside the boundaries of Prentice Cooper State Forest. Aaron is a weredragon and has an exceptionally good sense of smell, which had helped him find the women’s scents, but the trail had ended around ten feet from the cave’s entrance. I’d found narrow wheel marks leading towards the cave, and Aaron scented a few non-human male scents in the same area. Aaron couldn’t identify the species of the non-humans by smell, and wasn’t sure about them now that he’d seen one of them, either.
I theorized they might be putting the women into some sort of cart to get them into the cave, but Aaron didn’t want to go in without knowing what we were walking into. I understood the logic, even if it frustrated me. Still, Aaron was thousands of years old and hadn’t made it this far by being stupid, so I generally listened to his advice. Not always, but usually.
My Plan B had been to send me into the staging area as a bumbling, helpless female making a lot of noise, and hope someone showed up so Aaron could interrogate them and find out what was going on.
However, if we happened upon more of whatever we’d been fighting earlier, I wasn’t sure how we’d question it. Aaron and Nathan in human form and working together could probably subdue one of the creatures, but if more appeared they’d likely be forced to shift into their animal forms. Not a problem for Nathan, who shifted into a lion, but Aaron’s gigantic dragon form was hard to hide, as he tended to knock trees down and create a huge disturbance even when he didn’t take flight. He might’ve gotten away with it a hundred years ago, but with practically every American owning a camera phone today, he wouldn’t risk it.
The creature I’d killed had looked like an amalgamation of goat, ape, and the Incredible Hulk — minus the green. It’d been tan and brown, with long curved horns and vertical slitted eyes with flaming red irises where they should’ve been black. Creepy was an understatement, and he’d scared the bejeebers out of me even before I knew he was almost too much for Aaron to take on in human form.
As a human who can’t magically heal like the shapeshifters, I only use my metaphysical laser to kill from a distance. Attempting to wound a powerful supernatural creature would likely only get me killed, once they saw I was a serious danger. I could cut limbs off with my laser, or deliver a kill shot, but couldn’t do much else. However, we’d need to capture the next one so it could be questioned, which meant I could only act if I thought there was no other choice.
I was full of energy now though, and if I portioned it out I could probably kill two with what Aaron had given me.
Nathan, as always, startled me when he appeared in front of me. He walks as quietly in human form as when he’s a lion, and he’s just as ill-behaved, arrogant, and stubborn as any grumpy house-cat, so we didn’t exactly get along. I trusted him with my life on a mission, I just didn’t like being around him. Too bad he’s gorgeous.
Ignoring the fact he’d startled me, I told the men, “I need to hand off my gun and mags to one of you. The goat monsters will probably be able to smell them, and I’ll lose my helpless female vibe.”
Nathan held his hand out, choosing to remain nonverbal as usual when around me. I held my tongue, pulled my nine millimeter from the bellyband and handed it off, then the three extra magazines. He put my weapon in a zippered pocket on the side of his thigh, and slid my mags into slots on the inside of his military style tech-vest.
No matter how much of an ass he might be, he’s still built like my ideal man and I always have to work to keep from lusting after his more-than-perfect human body. He can smell emotions and physical reactions, and I endeavored to give him nothing. It was more likely he didn’t care what I thought or felt, but just in case he did, I wanted to keep as much feedback from him as possible.
We were about a half mile from the staging area Aaron had found, and I started walking to it, knowing Aaron would map out a plan with Nathan and they’d both be in position long before I arrived.
Walking away from them, through the woods, towards danger without my gun was terrifying, but I breathed through my fear and tried to keep my physiological reactions to a minimum. Both for my own pride, to keep Aaron and Nathan from smelling my fear, but also because it wouldn’t do for the goat-people to know I was terrified before I saw them. A lost human can be expected to smell a little scared, but not out-of-her-mind frightened.