Vengeance and revenge are the only forces driving vampire soldier Noah Siosal since losing his brother to an enemy he’s been unable to find. He’s searched every corner of the globe, going through adversaries and piling up bodies until finally getting a lead. The last place he wants to be is in a ridiculous anger management group with people expressing feelings instead of taking action. Until one fragile human, a green-eyed sweetheart being stalked by danger, catches his eye. One touch, and he realizes vengeance can’t be anywhere near her.
Anger and self-preservation are the only motivations Abby Miller needs or wants right now. Falsely accused of attacking the man who’s terrorized her for years, she’s forced as a plea bargain to attend an anger management counseling group with people with some serious rage issues, while learning true self defense on the side. Yet a man, one more primal than any she’s ever met, draws her in a way and into a world deadlier than she’s ever imagined. He offers her protection, but she finds the fight is really for his heart, and she’s ready to battle.
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
Other Books in the Dark Protectors/Rebels Series
Noah Siosal knew not to answer the door. In his gut, he felt the mistake coming. But the pounding was going to alert his neighbors in the quaint condominium complex, and since he didn’t even know their names, he fought his instincts and yanked the damn thing open. Ah, hell. He was already shaking his head at his distant cousin, when Benny dragged in a half-starved immortal with burning blue eyes. “No. Just, no.”
Benny, all six-foot-eight of him, shrugged the guy into the nearest chair. “Family first.”
Family first? “Absolutely not.” Noah shut the door as quietly as he could, when all he wanted to do was tear the heavy oak free and slam it over Ben’s head. “I don’t want anything to do with you, and I sure as shit don’t want anything to do with this beyond damaged hybrid.” He had just moved to the tiny industrial town in Indiana, and taking in a vampire-demon was the last thing he had time to deal with, especially since he needed to get back to the hunt.
Benny sighed, his dark eyes going into puppy dog pleading. If the puppy was a thousand-year-old hybrid with teeth sharp enough to tear apart a Buick. His brown hair hung unruly around his broad shoulders, and a three-day scruff covered his angled face. His dark eyes were bloodshot, and shadows cast marks above his rugged cheekbones. For the visit, he wore ripped jeans and a lime-green T-shirt with Snoopy dancing a jig on it. “I need help.”
No. Just no. Betrayal heated along with anger down Noah’s throat. “You’re working with the Realm.” A fact the entire extended family, if they could be called such, had not known. The Realm was a coalition of immortal species, ruled nicely by the Kayrs family, and Noah’s cohorts had always quite happily stayed out of organized anything. Benny was supposed to be the wildest outlaw of them all. “I heard the rumors about your working with the Realm and lying to us all of these years.”
Benny sighed and ran hands bigger than platters through his thick hair. “I never lied. I just didn’t tell you I was one of the Seven.”
One of the Seven. Of the elite, dangerous, deadly immortals tasked with either destroying or saving the world at some point. The jury was out on which eventuality, and Noah didn’t even know any other details. Nobody did. Right now, it just didn’t matter. “Get out, Benny.”
“Agreed.” The male on the chintz chair some decorator had chosen pushed to his feet, his expression haggard. He had long blondish hair streaked with an unnatural dark brown, striking blue eyes, and a voice so hoarse he must’ve spent centuries screaming. “I don’t want to be here, and he doesn’t want me here, so let’s take our leave, Benjamin.” The male straightened and hitched toward the door.
“No.” With one hand, Benny shoved the guy back down. “Noah? This is Ivar. We call him Viking or Vike because he used to be one. He’s been through a multiple of hell dimensions, real ones way away from this world, and we’re getting him help, but I have a mission at the moment.”
Noah crossed his arms and tried not to feel sympathy for the obviously wounded immortal. Burn scars covered his neck and trailed down one arm, and considering immortals very rarely scarred, the hell dimensions must’ve been beyond comprehension. And who had even known there were hell dimensions available to travel through? Mostly nobody until very recently. “A mission for the Realm?”
Benny rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry about it. But I need somebody I can trust, and he needs somebody who can plant him on his ass if he goes berserk. You’re more than capable.”
It was true that vampire-demon hybrids were stronger than either species alone, and Noah was grateful for the extra strength in today’s world. He looked more vampire than demon, but at his core, he was mostly demon. “I don’t have time for this, Ben,” he muttered.
Benny grinned, the entire look screaming ‘smart ass.’ “I heard you ran into some trouble hunting werewolves in Russia. This will be decent downtime for you.”
Noah lifted an eyebrow instead of rubbing his just-healed chest that a werewolf had clawed through. Weres were mindless creatures intent on killing, and somehow they kept cropping up in the oddest places. “I’m busy.”
“I figured.” Benny sobered. “I’m sorry about Clyde. He was a good soldier.”
Even the name ripped through Noah with sharp blades. “He was. So you understand why I’m busy right now.” Clyde had been the closest thing Noah had to a brother. Hell. They were brothers. And the bastard who’d killed him would go down and hard. As soon as Noah found him, which was why he’d moved to this small shithole of a town in Indiana. His prey had businesses outside in the overgrown and huge industrial area.
Benny sighed. “You do this for me, and I’ll get you a line on his killer.”
“I know who killed him,” Noah gritted out. “Just have to find the asshole.” A good for nothing feline shifter who was supposedly crazy as hell. It had all, like usual, been over a female. “Petersen attacked Clyde from behind. He had to have.”
“Probably. I’ll find out where Petersen is hiding. I have good contacts now, you know.” Benny’s eyes swirled with emotion. “I miss him, too.”
Clyde had only been dead for a month, and Noah had been hunting at the time. Had just found out, and his gut hurt constantly. His head ached. His hands fisted with the need to avenge. “I don’t want or need your help.”
Ben rolled his eyes. “Sometimes it’s necessary to regroup. I heard the Russians paid you handsomely for that last job. You deserve a break from work.” He edged toward the door.
“Being an independent contractor is a good gig,” Noah snapped.
Benny reached for the doorknob. “Contractor, mercenary, assassin…. it’s all respectable. But now, vacation time.”
He could really use intel on where Petersen was hiding, damn it. Noah turned to look at Ivar, who slumped in a way that showed he just didn’t give a damn right now. “I don’t understand, Ben. I don’t know how to help him.”
“Well, now.” Benny clapped him on the shoulder, and the sound echoed loudly through the airy space. “You owe me, and you know it.”
It was true. Noah blew out air. His friend had saved his life in the last war, without question. “This is how you want to call in your chip?”
“Yep,” Benny said cheerfully. He reached in his back pocket and drew out a folded piece of paper. “The queen looked into this, and I signed both of you up with the appropriate background information. The guy running it is supposed to be an expert in PTSD and trauma, even though he’s a human, and it’s just for a couple of weeks until I get back. Good luck.” He shoved the paper into Noah’s hands, opened the door, and shot outside in a surprisingly graceful move. The door shut quietly.
Noah pivoted and stared at the closed door. “What the hell?”
Ivar chuckled, the sound pained. His hand shook as he planted it on his sunken chest. “He’s one of a kind, right?”
Right. Noah slowly unfolded the paper to read the intake forms. Oh, come on. No way.
* * * *
Abby Miller’s legs shook as she walked into the basement room of the old elementary school. Several scarred wooden chairs were arranged in a circle on the cement floor, while a street level window up high was covered in a grate surrounded by leaves and rainwater. One blackboard, green really, was up front with the name of the group spelled out. Anger management support.
Anger. Oh, they had no clue.
A woman strode toward her from a rickety table holding a coffee carafe and Styrofoam cups. “Hi. I’m Dr. Mariana Lopez.” She held out a hand to shake.
“Abby Miller.” Abby shook the shrink’s hand, frowning. “I thought Dr. Johnson was in charge of this group.”
Mariana sighed, her dark brown eyes sparkling. “Yes, he was. But he had unexpected business out of town, and I’m going to cover for him.” She frowned and looked around the dismal area. “We’re supposed to be in a room upstairs, but the Gamblers Anonymous leader got there first. He’s pushy.”
“I see,” Abby said. The woman had to be in her early thirties to be a shrink, but with her chin-length sassy bob, she looked younger. Her bone structure was straight and her lips full, and she’d dressed in nice black slacks with a white blouse, looking professional and smart. Two-inch heels on her boots put her at about five-foot four, an inch shorter than Abby’s height. Abby tugged at her worn hoodie and tried not to grimace at her rain-speckled light jeans. “Okay.”
“Have a seat.” The doctor gestured toward the vacant chairs.
Maybe it would just be the two of them. That’d be all right. Abby strode for a worn chair and sat, crossing her legs. Bruises along her ribs instantly protested. She lived in a suburb away from the city, and it was fairly small, which had turned out to be a bad thing for her. But perhaps this was all right. “Dr. Lopez? If it’s just us, should we go grab a coffee?”
“Mariana,” the doctor said, moving for a briefcase next to a chair and taking out a stack of blue manila files. “I think we’ll have a few of us.”
As if on cue, two men strode inside. The atmosphere instantly changed, warming and somehow becoming heavy. Abby cleared her throat. Thank goodness she was already sitting.
They were huge. Like hugely huge. Like people out of an Avenger movie. The guy in the lead had dark blond hair, black eyes, and a ripped chest beneath a plain gray T-shirt. His face was such strong angles and curves that compelling was too tame of a word to describe him. “Hi,” he said to Mariana. “I’m Noah Siosal, and this is my pal, Ivar. We were in the service together.”
That voice. Low and gritty and male. Abby gulped.
Then his gaze swung to her. Deep and piercing. Somehow irritated. Whoa. Her body conducted an internal shiver, head to toe, and her heart increased in pace. Yep. Even her breath quickened. That made sense. Her taste in men was horrendous, obviously. And now she’d gone all girly and soft at a guy in an anger management class. That was true to form, unfortunately.
She tore her gaze away to study Ivar. He was muscled, with burn marks down the side of his neck and arm. They looked fresh. He was as tall as his friend, but it was obvious he’d recently lost weight by the way his clothes hung on his frame. His hair was a lighter blond with dark streaks strewn throughout that somehow looked natural and genuine. His eyes were a sizzling blue, and that was definitely anger and pain reflected there.
Her fight or flee instincts kicked in, but she stayed in the seat.
Ivar ignored the shrink and strode to take a chair across from Abby, his gaze wandering vacantly to the barred window up high.
Noah sighed. “He doesn’t talk much. Rough mission.” He prowled forward, all power and grace, to sit next to his friend. He settled his hands on his legs.
Abby swallowed. Those were really big hands. Wide and broad. A guy could do a lot of damage with hands like that. Her body chilled.
He cocked his head to the side and studied her, curiosity glimmering in those midnight black depths.
She focused on Mariana, who’d just sat with her files on her lap.
Heavy footsteps sounded, and another man strode into the room. Holy crap. Who were these people? Did anger make somebody huge and seriously handsome? Or were they that way first and then became angry for some unbelievable reason? This guy was about six-foot-five with black hair and piercing green eyes, and he was just as broad as Noah.
Ivar leaped to his feet and Noah sighed, stretching to his. “What the hell?”
The other guy looked around the room, his gaze landing on the files in Mariana’s lap. “You’re not Dr. Johnson.”
“No,” she whispered, looking as bewildered as Abby felt. “I’m Dr. Lopez. I’m taking over this group for the time being.”
“Huh.” The guy shot a smile at Noah and crossed the room to sit next to Abby. “I’m Raine Maxwell.” He even brought heat with him.
Noah’s chin dropped in an oddly threatening way. “Why are you here?”
“I have anger issues,” Raine said smoothly, sounding…amused?
Mariana cleared her throat. “Do you all know each other?”
“No,” Noah and Raine said in unison. Noah nudged Ivar, and they both sat back down, their gazes locked on Raine.
What in the world was going on?
Raine turned his attention to the shrink. “Different branches of the military—all of us former. It’s a natural reaction.”
Mariana’s dark brows arched. “Is it? I don’t think so. Perhaps that’s why you’re all here.” She flipped open the top file. “Noah and Ivar. Two bar fights in the last year, and you put several people in hospitals. We can work on that.”
The two men didn’t twitch. No reaction. That was odd.
Mariana opened the next file. “Raine? Let’s see. A fight with a landlord and a former client that resulted in thousands in property damage.”
“Landlord?” Noah snorted, crossing his arms. Wow. Those were some impressive biceps.
Raine lifted a shoulder. “Let’s just say it was a hellish situation.”
Silence. A heavy, symbolic, thick silence descended. There was more going on here than Abby could fathom, but wasn’t she used to that reality? Her ribs ached, and her right leg twitched. Yeah. She was accustomed to dangerous men who had ulterior motives and hidden agendas.
This was going to be a long month.
If you have never read Rebecca Zanetti, you could easily pick this up and not feel lost and get a taste for her awesomeness. A must-read book by a must-read author! ~ Bourbon, Books and Brenda
I loved that dizzying chemistry between Noah and Abby, and the transition they make as separate individuals to two people who find love, trust, and support once their paths cross never felt rushed even though this was novella in length. With romance and action and a whole lot of that patented Dark Protectors goodness, Vengeance left me very much satisfied. ~ Dog-Eared Daydreams