Mistwalker is the first book in the Immortals Series.
A DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER . . .
In the seaside village of Whitby, something sinister lurks beneath the guise of Gothic festivities, and Simone Woods yearns to discover the facts about her painful childhood. Fate intervenes when she is stopped by a man who appears out of thin air. His kryptonite is her sharp wooden comb, and she believes she escaped, until she wakes up in hospital with a thirst for blood.
THE VAMPIRE PRINCE WHO WILL HUNT HER DOWN . . .
Juliun Cel Batrin has dreamed of his bride for centuries. Yet, he never imagined she would try to stake him or that he would draw her blood, transferring the power of the mist—the ability to turn immortals into vapour and teleport them anywhere on Earth. From the moment she resisted his compulsion and fought back, he knew she would not be an easy conquest. Proving to his sexy, independent bride he is the one will test his conscience—and his control.
Blood spattered the stone arches beneath St. Augustine Chapel.
The mess stopped Juliun cold. His gaze flicked to the pool of blood on the floor, footprints of red in the compacted earth. He eyed the bloodied handprints on the grey bricks and then inhaled a metallic tang in the dank air. Further back into the passageway, tangled human and vampire skeletons had been carelessly tossed against the walls.
An encounter at the nightclub, The Python, led Juliun here. But now he didn’t know what to expect, looking with a sense of disquiet at so much fresh blood.
His senses expanded, and he picked up the bitter, rotting scent of a dying vampire. Juliun swept through numerous red puddles, deeper into the bowels beneath the chapel. He found a door, locked and barred. The wood evaporated into mist, but so did Juliun.
He reappeared inside another tunnel in a black cloud and stalked into the cavern.
A pale, thin body lay curled up in the corner of a cage against the far wall.
“Lars. Open your eyes,” Juliun said, crouching so his subject could look at him. “Quickly, we must leave here.”
Then a command, “Lars, open your eyes. Talk to me.”
Lars’ eyelashes flickered, and he whispered through cracked lips, “Blood.” He moaned, and a wide length of heavy chain jangled to the floor between his bound and whittled ankles. “Too long.” It was the last sigh of the damned.
Tiny dots of fire danced down Juliun’s spine, but he banked the anger. They both instantly disappeared, and then took form at the Gothic Festival.
Juliun looked around at all the humans. Perfect.
It should have been easy to locate a loud blonde in a black corpse bride’s veil.
Simone’s skin chilled with sweat, and she shivered. People spilled from the closing nightclubs onto the orange-lit streets. The clinking of chains and boots rattled over the din of the crowd. She held her breath against clouds of stale smoke and shouldered her way back through the partygoers toward the nightclub’s entrance.
Whitby’s Gothic Festival had been a fantastic lark so far with Tammy. Dancing and drinking the night away, the assortment of costumes and faces never-ending. But her friend had disappeared. Supposedly, gone out for a breath of air, but Simone couldn’t find her.
What if she’d gone for good like Simone’s mother?
Simone shook her head, unwilling to let that dark thought take hold inside her mind. Sweat beaded her brow, and she stepped up the dew-slicked stoop, then cupped her mouth in a mock loudspeaker.
The bouncer twisted, then leered at her cleavage rounding the top of her tight corset. “You having trouble, love?”
“No.” She sighed and pulled up her velvet sleeve. 12.30 AM.
Thirty minutes until she had to meet Marcus Dooley at The Black Dog. She tapped her heels, the distant tune of Rocky Horror Picture Show’s ‘Time Warp’ keeping pace with her heartbeat.
She surveyed the push of the crowd and had trouble believing she was actually here. She never thought she’d finally return home to Whitby, except maybe in the small hours of dawn when she’d jack-knife awake from that nightmare. Her heart pounding; body sweat-slicked beneath the covers. Wondering . . . why the darkness stole her memories and sleep always eluded her.
A hand grabbed hers from the mass of bodies. “Hey, stop,” Simone said and stood firm, pulling back.
“Simone, wait—” Tammy laughed and jostled out with her fair hair and black veil. Her heavily kohl-lined eyes emphasised the intensity of her baby-blues. “Damn, I feel lucky I made it out of there alive.”
Simone sighed. Clever girl. Not all of us do. She tucked her right hand in the curve of Tammy’s lace-clad elbow, and then lifted the skirt of her Lady Bathory costume to descend the stoop and join her friend. “Are you all right? Where’d you disappear to?”
“Outside,” Tammy said nonchalantly. “Checking out some guys, hoping to score, but I got stuck beneath a horde of vampire cloaks. I’m too short, and this town is lousy with weirdos in capes.”
Simone grimaced. “Whitby isn’t . . . well, it doesn’t matter now. I have to hurry to meet this guy before the pub shuts.”
Tammy flicked her platinum blonde hair over her shoulder—a well-practiced move that showed off her gorgeous profile. Tonight the black veil didn’t hamper the effect, though her shoulders slumped a little. “Why’s he making you do it now? I wanted to go out and have a little fun.”
“It doesn’t matter. You go. I just wanted to let you know what was happening. Make sure you were all right.”
Tammy stopped and rifled through her plastic skull clutch. White receipts fluttered to the ground and at once were trampled on by the mob. “Who do I have to do around here to get a smoke? It’s going to be murder getting a cab. I didn’t even get a date,” Tammy muttered, making it sound like a moral failing. “Not a measly stinkin’ phone number. Brilliant night, though. How come you never told me this sort of thing went on around here? I would’ve come sooner.”
“I wanted . . .” Simone trailed off and shook her head.
A tight band of pain pulsed around her heart at the unbidden memory of her mother’s dead green eyes staring up at the night sky. Her wonderful soft skin, so cold and pale. Blue lips. Long red hair soaking wet, and stuck to the ground in spidery tendrils of red and rain so similar to her blood leaking between the cobblestones. That total vulnerability of death.
Simone lifted her teary gaze to the crescent moon; a milky white gleam behind the abbey. No hounds bayed upon the sea cliff, but the towers were jagged and ancient. Dark and ungodly.
The old tales warned of the undead who roamed the streets at night, but she’d never indulged in such fanciful thoughts. There were enough living predators in this town for her to worry about.
“I never thought I would come back here again,” she finished.
The street lamps buzzed before an ever-present fog blotted the glow. She rubbed her upper arms, trying to remain calm, but nothing eased the effect of the cold, familiar breeze, which somehow entwined the smell of her childhood and pain.
“Let’s catch a cab together. We’ll make it to the fireworks afterwards,” Tammy said. “It’s better if we stick together.”
Simone groaned. “Yeah. Good luck with that, hon. Check out the line-up.”
A queue of disorderly people snaked down the pavement along the main road leading to the T junction. The line disappeared around a shop corner veiled in darkness. Drunks sat on the curb, gagging the contents of their stomachs into the gutter. Yellow taxis rolled to the head of the line where a traffic warden waved a light stick better than a marching girl.
Simone ran a hand through her windswept hair. No other taxis trolled the area; they were all lined up at the rank. She had considered the possibility of no transport. Whitby was a small town, and the Gothic Festival attracted thousands each year. Only taxis were permitted to drive, and even then, they still had trouble navigating the narrow streets. She’d hoped by leaving the club earlier, it would be easier to get a ride.
There was nothing she could do about it now. It would take longer to walk back to her rented car at the parking lot on the hill than to go straight to the pub. She wouldn’t get there on time anyway. Finding the truth about her mother’s death was more important than waiting in line for a taxi.
“I’ll have to walk it. I shouldn’t be long,” Simone said. “Where do you want meet up later?”
Tammy’s blue gaze searched hers. “You’ve got that look in your eye. Last time I saw it you put Rick Peterson in hospital.” Her brow creased. “What happened here anyway? Why wouldn’t you be fine?”
“Don’t worry, forget about it.” Simone pushed her hair out of her face. “Have you got enough cash to get to the unit? How about I—”
“No.” Tammy placed her hand on Simone’s arm.
She reached into her bag for some notes. “I’ll give you a fifty. Or maybe you want to go to the fireworks and pick up a guy?” She chuckled.
Tammy waved away the money, a sudden stillness on her face. “I didn’t mean that. I meant, no, I’m not forgetting about it, and no, I’m not leaving you on your own out here.”
Simone looked into her friend’s eyes. “We agreed you’d stay with the crowd.”
Tammy scoffed and her eyebrows quirked. In the moonlight, she looked dangerous with her grey makeup and black costume. “You mean how you insisted?” She smiled. “I know you’re kick-ass with your training, but I’m not stupid. That’s why I’m here, as back up.”
“Why don’t you—”
“I’ll be all right. I’m coming with,” Tammy said, lowering her voice. “Stop talking and start walking, or you’re going to miss him.”
“I’d rather be late than have something happen to you,” she muttered. “You have no idea what this place is like.”
“I’ve seen worse, trust me,” Tammy murmured.
Simone sighed again, growing quiet as she thought about their predicament. She taught others how to defend themselves every day. Maybe she was being too paranoid? Simone sucked in a breath, blinked away the tears gathering in her eyes and then nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”
She led the way against the flood of people, ignoring wolf whistles and catcalls from men too drunk to follow through on their boasts.
Five minutes elapsed before the passers-by dwindled to a few stragglers, and a couple of full taxis sped past, disturbing the cold moisture on the street.
Their stiletto boots click-clacked on the paver stone, and the noise echoed off all the huddled curio shops. Their box window eyes stared across at each other, looking tiny compared to the buildings Simone remembered from her childhood.
The street wound around higher, and she turned to study the abbey. Watching and waiting, the imposing stone monument had an eagle eye’s view of the tangled roads below. The cemetery spread before the ruins, headstones like shadowed flags of the dead.
Simone jammed her clammy hands into her armpits and moved stiffly into the night. Her breath burst in and out, and Tammy stopped to gawk through the tourist shop windows.
“I should’ve brought more credit cards with me. This stuff is incredible.” Tammy puffed on the display window, which showcased bones spread over a black table. Glasses of red wine glistened in the orange candlelight, empty chairs askew as if the proprietors would pop back within seconds.
Tammy pressed a finger to the glass and sketched a love heart in the mist. “Gotta take a souvenir home for Ma and Pa.” She turned, sporting a sly grin. “A full length skeleton as a husband. Just think, don’t have to feed him, talk to him, and iron his damn clothes . . . bloody perfection. Sign me up, gorgeous,” she whispered to the dangling skeleton in the corner of the display. “He’d always have a boner.”
Simone laughed, and a cold wind trickled across her neck. She shivered, smelling the damp of oncoming rain. “Let’s hurry. I want to get a good spot on the beach before the fireworks kick off.”
“We’ve got no hope. The beach will be packed. Doesn’t bother me as long as there are guys cruising around.” Tammy’s gaze locked on Simone’s. “I’m bringing someone home tonight.”
“As long as we get back . . . and I get the information I need, you can do whatever you like. Or should that be, whoever.” Simone grinned, adjusting her mask. “But, we’re a little late.”
Tammy’s forehead wrinkled, and her eyes narrowed. “Is that a hint?” She kicked out a six-inch spiked boot from beneath the train of her corpse bridal costume. “I can’t run in these heels, so don’t even ask. I’ll break both my bloody ankles and my neck. No, thanks.”
“Are they hurting your feet? Take them off.”
“No way. I don’t know what could be on the ground.”
Her friend huffed and walked on with smaller steps. “Don’t panic. You’re going to make it.”
Simone suppressed a burst of laughter. “Well, I think we need to get—”
A shadowy silhouette slipped from the cloak of darkness between the buildings, then melted into the night. It happened so fast, Simone blinked, unsure if she’d seen correctly. The wind grabbed a muted shout of triumph, twisting it higher. Then a different cry split the night, and Simone flinched at the pain-filled tone, until the wail tapered off into a tortured moan.
A sliver of white burst from her mouth, and she grabbed Tammy. Muscles rippled and jumped beneath her skin. Simone lifted her fingers, confused. “What’s up with your arm?”
Tammy frowned, twisting her limb down. “Nothing. Someone’s up ahead. We must be on the right track. Damn, but you’re skittish. I got your back, I told you.” Tammy didn’t bother leaning closer or lowering her voice. “Maybe it’s people walking back from the pub you’re after. They’ve gotten into a fight. I heard broken glass.”
“Did you? I didn’t. Maybe we should head back,” Simone said, turning around for the centre of town, but then the darkness opened up in a yawning pit. Why wouldn’t her feet move? Because she still wasn’t sleeping properly, that’s why. If they headed back to town, they would be safe, but she wouldn’t get the information on her mother. What happened on that dreadful night twenty years ago? Who’d killed her? Simone needed to remember. Yet if they continued, another terrifying scene could come to pass—one she’d barely lived through and never truly escaped.
The fading glow from cracked streetlights hemmed them in further to the vacant pavement on both sides of the narrow street. Cold, wet sea mist surged down the empty road. “We’ll have to go back,” she whispered, more to herself, trying to come to terms with not getting the information she wanted. “And maybe I can meet him at some other time.”
“What in another ten years?” Tammy nudged her against their secluded spot. “Don’t worry; it’s probably some trigger happy idiot playing peek-a-boo in a ratty trench coat. Keep going.”
“Something’s wrong,” Simone murmured.
Tammy growled under her breath. “So there was a bit of shouting. They’re probably doing it for laughs. We’re at a Gothic Festival remember, and you’ve been waiting ages for this chance.”
“That’s true. Okay, okay.” Simone shook her head and shot Tammy a wry look. “Should’ve known you wouldn’t let me turn back.”
Tammy laughed. “What are friends for?” But her clutch strap broke, and the bag struck the sidewalk, filling the gutter with lipsticks and coins. “Dammit. Wait up. My ID’s on the ground. Bloody cheap costume gear.”
Simone bent down and scooped up some coins, but a gust of wind rolled some away and pushed her back before she could grab more. The shop signs creaked and clanged on their hooks, the wind chilling the sweat on her face and hands. The air smelled intensely of rain at first, but then it became dark and cold.
Baffled, she looked up.
The fog coalesced. Solidified. Shoulders formed, solid arms appeared from nothing, and a man’s crisp, white shirt fluttered in the breeze. The streetlight slashed yellow rays across his face. The light was pure gold, angelic. And all at once, he was there.
Simone blinked once, twice, her fingers numbed, and she heard the ting, flutter, and roll of coins hitting the ground. A metallic taste filled her mouth, and she held back a startled scream. An insistent, buzzing voice in her head warned her to get up, step back, but her knees stiffened, her palms hot and damp.
The wind outlined grey tailored pants that moulded powerful legs. She looked up . . . and up . . . to his massive chest and broad shoulders. His face. Oh, dear Lord. He tilted his head, and two silvery eyes pierced the half-light.
Stunned, images of the stained-glass windows at the local church filled her mind. Pictures of winged creatures descending the heavens to pounce on sinners and take them to the fiery depths of hell, but instead of horns and black wings, he wore a three-piece suit and a wicked grin.