Rise of the Fallen
Series: All the King's Men , Book 1.0
By: Donya Lynne | Other books by Donya Lynne
Published By: Donya Lynne
Published: Mar 24, 2012
ISBN # 9781937252137
By: Donya Lynne | Other books by Donya Lynne
Published By: Donya Lynne
Published: Mar 24, 2012
ISBN # 9781937252137
Word Count: 64,337
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Reader, Epub, Mobipocket (.mobi)
Rise of the Fallen (All the King's Men) by Donya Lynne - Romance>Vampires eBookIn the streets of Chicago exists an uneasy, centuries-old truce between vampires and their distant cousins, a race of shifters called drecks. Vampire enforcement agency, All the King’s Men (AKM), is charged with maintaining the truce, but when volatile enforcer Micah Black loses his mate and falls into the biological agony that results from the broken bond, he tests the boundaries of the truce by seeking out Apostle, a leader in the dreck community. Micah wants Apostle to kill him, a request Apostle is more than happy to fulfill.
When ex-Army medic Samantha Garrett inadvertently disrupts the plot and saves Micah’s life, a chain reaction sets Micah’s heart on a collision course with Sam’s, but he will have to protect her from Apostle and her obsessive ex-husband, Steve, if they will have a chance at forever. Can Micah hold his emotions together to keep Sam alive?
Reader Rating: 4.7 (26 Ratings)
Glass shattered as the heavy vase flew across the room and smashed against the wall.
"You can do better than that. Come on, hit me!" Micah goaded the hefty man, wishing like hell the asshole would strike him for God's sake. So far, all it felt like the guy was doing was tapping him with his itsy-bitsy fists. Well, not so itsy-bitsy, but they sure felt like it for all the good they were doing.
"Mother fucker!" The brute charged him again. "This is my house!"
Yes, it was his house. And that was his mangled wife and kid cowering in the corner, bruised and broken. Their blood had splattered the walls even before Micah had shown up.
"Well, by all means, defend it, asshole."
When Micah had heard the beating from two blocks away, he had been out looking for a fight. This jackass had sounded like he would be able to give him what he needed: Pain. But all he was getting was a lot of lip service and pansy-assed sissy taps against his chest, even though it looked like the wife-beater was giving it all he had.
Another useless punch landed against Micah's stomach.
"You hit like a girl." He laughed. Micah actually laughed at the guy. What a disappointment this asswipe was turning out to be.
"Oh, yeah, well how does this feel?" The man grabbed his leather belt from the floor and cracked it like a whip against Micah's arm.
Micah's pulse quickened at the snap of leather on his skin, and his eyes twinkled with need. "Now you're talking." He lumbered forward, all menace, provoking the man. "Come on! Hit me!"
The belt swung through the air, and the woman ducked and covered her son's head. A satisfying crack rang out as the leather connected with Micah's torso.
Aaaaahhhh, sweet sting of pain. That's more like it, but still not enough.
"Is that all you've got!" Micah stalked the man as he swung again and again, striking him with the belt until Micah grabbed the guy's arm in mid-air. "You're useless."
"Oh yeah?" the man said through nicotine-stained teeth. Sweat beaded his oily forehead. Oh yeah seemed to be his primary vocabulary.
A knife appeared in the man's other hand, and even though the idea was tempting to let the guy stab him, Micah had had enough. He wasn't getting what he needed here. With an easy swat, he knocked the knife away then snagged the belt from the man's grip. Locking one hand around the asshole's throat, he picked him up and slammed him against the wall hard enough to make a picture fall from its fastening and crash to the floor.
"You're not worth my time." Micah grabbed the man's balls and twisted, making him scream like the cupcake he was before casually tossing him aside. The guy landed on the floor and rolled over, clutching his family jewels.
Sirens rang out in the distance and Micah had half a mind to stay. Maybe the cops could give him the beating he needed. It sure was tempting, but then he glanced at the woman and child huddled in the corner and momentarily remembered what he was. He needed to clean shit up and get out of there. The woman and boy cringed as he strode toward them and knelt down.
He gripped the woman's mind into compulsion. "You will pack your bags tonight and take the boy with you and never look back. You are beautiful, strong, and confident and will go to the woman's shelter and never regret your decision to leave this man." Micah pointed to the dick holding his crotch and rolling around on the floor. He wished there was more he could do for them, but he had his own problems. "When I leave, you won't remember I was here."
Micah stood up and turned for the door.
The little boy hazarded a terrified glance at him. "Who are you?"
Micah turned around and leveled his navy blue eyes on the young human. "Nobody. I'm nobody."
He wiped the boy's memory so he wouldn't remember Micah, then he wiped the man's and slipped out the back door and into the shadows as police cars screeched to a halt in front of the house. He was gone before they even stepped out of their cars.
Thirty minutes later, Micah was perched like a gargoyle on the banister of his eighteenth floor balcony. He was naked and his skin gleamed against the lights of Chicago. The cold January wind blew his shoulder-length, black hair over his narrowed, soulless eyes. The fight had failed to give him what he needed to control the ache in his chest, which now expanded and played peek-a-boo with the suicidal thoughts plaguing his mind.
This was how it felt to lose a mate: Like falling off a cliff into a bottomless pit. But when was losing a mate ever easy for a male vampire? He felt empty, like a surgeon had cut him open, pulled out a couple of vital organs then sewn him back up with acid. Something was missing and it left a raw scratch on the inside of his skin.
The fight with the wife-beater was supposed to have taken the edge off his suffering, but he felt more in need of a beating now than before. He was getting worse, and at an accelerated rate.
At this point, dying would be a gift. And maybe he would die. All it would take was one slip of his foot, and if that happened, Micah wouldn't try to save himself by dematerializing back to his balcony. A fall from this high could cause enough damage to kill him, and if it didn't, the broken bones wouldn't heal in time for him to escape the sun when it rose in a couple hours. That would finish him. He wasn't a day walker like Traceon or that new guy, Severin. The sun would fry his ass into dust.
Hooray for the sun.
What had started this decline into darkness? Oh, that's right. Jackson. Jack had broken up with him. How long had it been since Jackson had left? A month? No, it had only been a week ago, hadn't it? Shit, only a week. It felt like longer. He had fallen far in only a short time.
The past week had been a waking nightmare. For the first two days after Jackson left, Micah had lived on the marble floor of his bathroom, curled in a shivering ball when he wasn't hunched over the commode. The vomiting had lasted a day then became dry heaves and gagging on the second day. Food? No thanks.
He had finally overcome the last of the sickening ache on the third day, but that had opened the door for a dark, dangerous hunger that grew deadlier by the hour: A hunger for pain that had deepened in the days since and sent him in search of a beating every night. But tonight was the first time a fight had left him still in need, and not because his opponent had been weak, but because Micah's need had worsened. Probably because Micah had lost a mate before and the pain was compounded from losing another.
During the Middle Ages, he had lost a wife, Katarina. He had barely survived Katarina's death, but doing so had come at a heavy price: He had never fully regained his will to live and had turned into one hell of a nasty SOB who people instinctively knew not to mess with. Losing her had changed him and thrust his mind into a world of isolation and rebellion. And now he had lost Jackson. If he had thought losing Katarina had been rough, losing his second mate was even rougher, because it opened up all the old wounds again so they could seep right along with the new ones and compound his pain into an agony that would kill most mortals.
Jackson had come along nine months ago, right after Easter. Jackson was a male, but that hadn't mattered to Micah. For the first time since losing Katarina, his heart had stirred, and within a month, he had mated to him. Not a full mating, but a bond to Jackson had formed nonetheless. With Jack, Micah had smiled again. Jack had given him hope and happiness for the first time in centuries.
Now it was clear that Jackson had never mated to Micah. Not even a little.
Which brought Micah back to being perched on the banister, overlooking the city like a sentry.
Closing his eyes now, he moaned from the cold wind's bite, a kind of pain in and of itself. He wallowed in the hollow place that had once been his soul, the darkness creeping and spreading like a parasite to eat him from the inside out as the brittle cold clawed his skin.
With his arms stretched vertically between his bent knees, he gripped the corner of the banister and closed his eyes, his toes curled over the railing. His senses engaged and stretched out, and he felt everything dark and nasty that seeped in the streets below. He inhaled, savoring its acrid odor.
When he opened his eyes again, his pupils smoldered with malevolence, and he swept his gaze from side-to-side as if searching for something. He felt eyes on him but couldn't find the source. Or maybe it was just his imagination. Nothing was making sense. He teetered on the banister as he glanced down the side of the building as if a legion of giant spiders was crawling up the side, coming for him. Nothing. No one. He was alone. So why did he feel another's gaze?
* * *
From the shadows below, the guardian kept his pale eyes fixed on the eighteenth floor balcony, watching the naked vampire sway in the cold wind. Micah had to be freezing up there, or maybe he didn't even notice. It was clear even from here that Micah wasn't fully present in his own body. He hadn't been since Jackson had left a week ago, and it only seemed to be getting worse. This wouldn't do. The guardian refused to lose Micah. He had come too far and searched too long for him.
Fuck! The toothpick in the guardian's mouth snapped as he clenched his jaw and watched Micah lean forward precariously. Fast as a rifle shot, he reached his hand into the air and blasted Micah with a gentle push of energy that mimicked a strong breeze. The guardian's mind eased as Micah seemed to come back into himself long enough to climb off the railing and put his naked feet back on safe ground.
The guardian breathed a deep sigh of relief, deciding to stick around for the rest of the night to make sure Micah didn't pull anymore near-nose-dives or worse. Pulling up his collar and securing his skullcap, he stepped back into the darkened entrance of a nearby business, fully shrouded in shadows, his special powers engaged. With closed eyes, he stretched out his senses to keep tabs on the damaged vampire up on the eighteenth floor. He cringed at the pain he felt coming from Micah, but at least it wasn't death. Not yet, anyway. And hopefully never.
The next night, Samantha Garrett shoved her feet in her tennis shoes and whipped the laces into double-knots before bounding to the kitchen. That was one good thing about a studio apartment, it didn't take long to get from A to B. Two or three good size steps and she could be anywhere. So, see, her studio really was an asset. Yeah, and if she kept telling herself that she might stop hating the tightly cramped place.
Her eyes darted to the clock. It was almost eight o'clock. Shit. She wished she could get a different job – one where she could actually sleep at night and not grind a pole – but dancing at the Black Garter paid well and she was able to negotiate being paid in cash, and that was crucial so she didn't leave a trail Steve, her ex, could follow.
She threw together a mid-shift snack and tossed it in her bag then grabbed a grapefruit from the bamboo bowl on the counter. The citrusy smell that burst into the air as she cut it in half reminded her of her childhood. Mom had always had grapefruits in the house. She even ordered them from the fruit club so that a large box arrived once a month to fill the kitchen with their tangy aroma for days.
Damn. There went the tears.
It was her mom's birthday today. And she couldn't even call her.
She missed her mom and dad, but didn't visit or even call for fear Steve would find out or track her down. Her ex had enough money and connections that he probably had her parents' phones tapped and their house monitored, even though it had been a year since she had left him. But she knew Steve, and he wouldn't rest until he found her. It had been hard enough just getting away to begin with. Until she could buy a new identity and some protection, she was stuck here.
Hence, the dancing job that kept her up nights. She had thought her dancing days were behind her. When she had been eighteen and at the tail end of her rebellious years, she had spent eight months dancing at the local titty bar, as her dad had called it with a certain amount of disdain. The money had been good, though, and she had enjoyed it at first, but the way the men had looked at her began to creep her out.
Then 9/11 happened and she felt compelled to serve her country since she wasn't really cut out for anything else, and the dancing had proven to be less glamorous than she thought. So she quit the titty bar and joined the Army to be a medic. She figured the Army could give her a fresh start, and since her new goal was to be a nurse, becoming an Army medic was a win-win.
Six months later, she met Steve, a handsome surgical resident. With dark hair and a body built by the gods, she thought she had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Steve immediately asked her to marry him, and what girl wouldn't want to marry a handsome surgeon? So they ran off to Vegas and shocked everyone by getting married before she left for the Middle East.
She laughed now, because now she knew what a mistake marrying Steve had been. Turned out her pot of gold was only fool's gold, and she was the fool who fell for the lie. Her marriage to Steve ended up being a nightmare.
As soon as her eight-year commitment to Uncle Sam was over and she could make a clean break from Steve, she packed a duffel, grabbed a wad of cash, and ran away after Steve had left for a twenty-four-hour shift at the hospital.
By the time he found out she was gone, she had a good head start, and he hadn't caught up to her, yet. Mostly because she was careful and didn't leave a trail. Hence, the reason getting paid in cash was so important.
She had never looked back, even though she was always looking over her shoulder. Freedom without being free was what she called it. But at least she wasn't being beaten, anymore.
Thank God she had never had children, or else she would have been stuck with Steve for God only knew how long. She rubbed her hand over the place on her abdomen where she still had a reminder of his abuse. Thankfully, it was small and didn't detract from her striptease act. If anything, the tiny blemish gave her character and made her appear more human and not like some fake Barbie. There were enough of those at the club.
Fake was something she wasn't. This bod was one hundred percent all-natural and homegrown tomboy, with one catch. She could work a stripper pole like few women could. It was one reason why she headlined and had her own dressing room at the Black Garter and made more money than the other girls.
She didn't have to love her job, though. She just had to do it well and endure it, for a few more years, anyway.
Once she had shoveled in the last of her grapefruit and swiped away her tears, she tipped the bowl to her mouth and guzzled the juice then rinsed the bowl. After shutting off the kitchen light, she quickly checked her reflection in the bathroom mirror and teased her boy-short blond hair with her fingertips. Piecy. That's what the girl who cut her hair called it. Piecy. Pieces of hair stuck up and out in soft, fashionable peaks.
Time to go. With a quick check to make sure her Beretta was in her bag, she grabbed her duffel and ran out the door.
* * *
"Hey, Pax?" Adam disconnected the call to Micah Black, one of Tristan's enforcers.
"What's up, Probie?" Paxton, the senior dispatcher on duty, spun around and shoved himself across the width of the narrow room, his chair gliding over and ramming the counter next to Adam.
"Micah Black. He's not answering his phone. Should I contact Tristan?" This was Adam's first sustained non-response since he had come on board at AKM two weeks ago. Micah hadn't answered his phone in several days and, according to the schedule, he hadn't checked in, either.
"Nah, ignore it."
"What? Ignore it?" Adam turned back to the call log on his computer screen. "But he hasn't answered in…" He counted up the check boxes, "Seven days. And according to the schedule, he's missed every shift in the past week. Shouldn't his commander be notified?"
"The past week?" Pax laughed. "No wonder it's been so quiet around here."
"What do you mean?"
"You haven't met Micah, yet, have you, Probie."
The other two in the room chuckled and Adam frowned. Was he missing the joke? "No. Why?"
Pax wheeled himself over to his side of the room and leaned back in his chair. "Look, Micah does his own thing. You stay out of his way and he'll stay out of yours. Capiche?"
"What's that got to do with protocol?" According to his training, a non-responsive agent was supposed to be reported to the agent's commanding officer, but Adam had to go through his supervisor since he was so new, and his supervisor was Paxton.
Paxton and the other two laughed.
"Protocol? Guys, when does Micah ever follow protocol?" Paxton looked at the other two dispatchers. Adam glanced around at them as they both shook their heads and chuckled.
"Here's how it is, Probie," Paxton said, "There is no protocol with Micah. He's what we call the Lone Ranger, because he does what he wants, when he wants. He barely even follows Tristan's orders half the time."
"But according to the log, he never misses a shift but has been MIA for a week. Isn't that odd?"
"Fuck no. It's a blessing. Enjoy it, Probie. When he gets back you'll be wishing he'd stayed away." Paxton turned back to his monitor and dismissed the conversation. "Hey, guys, are the Blackhawks playing tonight?"
One of the others piped up. "I'm not sure. I'll check."
Adam frowned at his call log while the others shot the shit about hockey. He didn't feel right about this, but what could he do? If Paxton refused to report Micah's absence, then there wasn't a lot he could do but keep calling.
He opened up a new line and dialed then adjusted his earpiece as he waited to see if Micah would pick up. At least he could leave another message if he didn't. He didn't know Micah, but he hoped the guy was okay.
* * *
As Micah wandered around his apartment wearing only a pair of black briefs, his thumb worked rhythmically over his sternum, massaging the ache that wouldn't go away, his face contorted in a mix of pain and despair. Only one thing could squelch the nauseating pain. More pain. It was like fighting fire with fire. Sometimes, to stop a bigger fire, several smaller ones had to be set. That's what Micah needed: Pain to end pain.
It was another night and he needed to find something to ease his distress. He needed to find a fight. No, wait. He had already tried that last night and it hadn't been enough. Getting his ass kicked wasn't cutting it, anymore. Shit. Now what?
His cell rang and vibrated against the kitchen counter for what had to be the third time in thirty minutes. Micah glanced at the caller I.D. as he walked past. AKM Dispatch. AKM. All the King's Men. He chuffed softly. He didn't feel very king-worthy right now. As with the previous calls, he didn't answer and let it go to voicemail. Let them leave a message. Maybe he would get back to them, maybe he wouldn't.
In numb silence, Micah ambled to his bedroom and pulled on black nylon sweats and a black and grey camo muscle shirt. The shirt used to hug his body like a second skin, but now it hung like it was two sizes too large. After a week of not eating or feeding, he'd lost enough weight that his sweats slid down and hung low on his waist. But he still refused to eat. Food wasn't what he needed.
Pain. Suffering. Agony.
Those were the things his body craved now.
Before turning off the light in the closet, he caught his reflection in the mirror. What stared back was a skull with skin. Empty shadows filled his sunken face. He looked like hell, but at least he looked how he felt. If anyone didn't like it, they could go fuck themselves.
As he turned away, his gaze swept the collection of knives on his weapons shelf: Next to his two Sig Sauers and extra clips was a twelve-inch Bowie knife, a nine-and-a-half-inch Ka-Bar Big Brother knife, a black Tanto knife – what could he say, he had a thing for knives – and several more various blades. He was about to shut off the light when his gaze landed on his razor sharp, double-edged boot knife. He froze. Four inches of cold steel stared back at him like a seductive temptress.
"Hello friend." He picked up the small but lethal knife and a tic twitched the corner of his mouth like he was an addict waiting for his dealer to hurry-up-and-give-him-the-stuff-already.
He slowly turned the knife in his hands, mesmerized as he shut off the light in the closet and drifted back into his room. He didn't even realize he was standing in front of his dresser until he looked up and caught his reflection in the mirror. The stranger that glared back at him sneered.
You're a loser. A waste. A burden. A burden who caused Jackson to leave. It's all your fault. You're worthless.
Self-destructive thoughts pummeled him like Mike Tyson in his prime. Each thought was a body blow, hurting him more, bruising his heart, knocking the air out of him.
Micah's breathing deepened and turned ragged. His eyes flitted in a panic. He was suddenly claustrophobic and felt like he was in a six-by-six box. His hands shook. Crazed panic shuddered his lungs. He needed to get out of the box. He couldn't be locked up like this.
Suddenly, his eyes caught that magical, elegant blade once more, and his body calmed. His mind went silent. His breathing returned to normal and he felt a surge of peace.
Aaahhhh, sweet pain waited for him in his hand. He didn't have to go in search of a fight, did he? The pain he needed was right here. It always had been.
With anticipation, he yanked off his shirt and tossed it to the floor. The knife was like a pen light in the hands of a hypnotist: You're getting sleepy. Very sleepy. Do as I say.
Somehow he ended up in the bathroom without a clear memory of how he got there, his arm poised over the raised Spun Glass bowl of the sink. With the underside staring back at him like a sacrifice, his grin widened. The knife – his arm – the knife. His gaze darted back and forth between the two, and a perverse, lusty thrill came over him. He actually pulled a semi in his sweats, he was so excited.
It was as if Micah was only an observer, and the tip of the knife was about to pierce someone else's arm, and he couldn't wait to see them bleed. But when the blade cut into flesh, it was his arm that bled.
His eyes rolled back as he savored the sting, and a content sigh eased out of his throat. As a dom who no longer practiced, he had caused plenty of people pain for pleasure, but never once had he given that pleasure to himself. Mmm. So this was what his submissives had felt. He could see the allure.
Pleasantly dazed, he opened his eyes and watched his blood travel down his arm and drip into the clear glass sink then slide down to the drain, where it pooled around the seam of the metal ring. Then he licked the wound, sealing it with his venom, and cut himself again. And again. And still again. Each time, Micah felt himself tumble further into the abyss of destruction, watching his blood flow like he was rubber-necking a bad traffic accident he couldn't rip his gaze from.
Finally, he looked up at the mirror over the vanity.
Who was that looking back at him? The person in the reflection was a stranger. The enemy. The one who had destroyed everything and chased Jackson away.
Frowning, he growled at himself. "You're a fuck up. A fucking loser."
The knife dug angrily into his flesh again and the face in the mirror winced. Micah smiled in triumph. That asshole looking back at him deserved it. But wait, the fucker was smiling. He was smiling at Micah, mocking him.
"What are you smiling at?"
You, asshole. The stranger laughed at him as if he was in on a joke Micah could only guess at. You're a loser. A no-good, washed up loser. Nobody wants you. Katarina died because of you. Jackson left you. You ruined their lives. You were never any good for them. Save everyone the trouble and just die.
Micah grimaced. Who the hell was this asshole who knew him so well? "I hate you. I fucking hate you! SHUT UP!"
The knife clanked into the sink, and Micah smashed his fist into the mirror. Shards of glass exploded outward and rained down to the tiled floor and into the sink as Micah snarled violently, feeling momentarily victorious for shutting up that asshole.
Suddenly, Micah shook his head. What had just happened? He blinked hard, trying to focus. The broken glass, the blood, the knife, the stranger in the mirror.
Stranger? God, what was he doing? What was he thinking? He was losing his mind. Going crazy. Fighting against himself. Enough sanity remained for him to realize he had just tried to kick his own ass.
And what was with his arm? He raised it and backed away from the sink until his back met the wall, and he sank to the floor. He had cut himself, and blood coated his forearm and his hand. What was he doing?
Then he noticed that the ache in his chest was gone. He huffed out a manic chuckle as he rubbed his palm over his sternum. The pain was gone. Whatever he had done had worked, but now his mind was scrambled like eggs in a hot skillet. None of that mattered, though. He had found the cure to his pain, at least for now. So what if the cost was his sanity?
Hell and shadows invaded his mind as he stared at his bleeding arm. This was his life now. He'd better get used to it. And if he couldn't? There was always death.
One week later…
Adam disconnected the phone and glanced at Paxton. Another week had passed and Micah still wasn't answering his phone and hadn't checked in. It had been two weeks and Micah was still MIA, and Paxton still wasn't concerned.
Pursing his lips nervously, Adam brought up Tristan's schedule. Micah's commander had taken a medical leave the past two weeks, but it looked like he was finally back.
As far as Adam was concerned, this matter should have been brought to Tristan's attention over a week ago, whether it meant interrupting him on his leave or not, but Paxton had sat on his ass and done nothing. Micah could be lying in a pile of sun-baked dust out there, or he could be dead in his home, and the longer they delayed, the harder it would be to figure out what had happened to him.
Adam looked at Paxton again then made a decision. If this cost him his job, so be it. He printed Micah's schedule and a copy of the report showing all the no-reports and non-responses then quietly rolled them up in his hand.
"I'm going for coffee," he said.
No one even looked at him, so he got up and slipped out.
* * *
Tristan leaned back in his chair. Shit sure had piled up in the last two weeks while he had been gone. He needed to get through all this paperwork so he could meet with his team again. They usually met nightly before patrol, but after being gone so long, he was out of touch with what was going down.
"Excuse me, sir?"
Tristan looked up to see Adam from Dispatch standing just inside his door.
"Yes, what is it, Adam? By the way, how are you getting on in Dispatch?" Tristan liked Adam. He was a smart kid, and from what Tristan could tell, he had the chops to be an enforcer someday. Adam was one to watch. And he was a day walker, too. About one-fourth of vampires were day walkers nowadays with all the mating that had gone on between humans and vampires through the centuries. The growing ranks at AKM reflected the ratio, too.
"Um, I like it. I'm learning a lot." Adam fidgeted and looked over his shoulder.
Tristan sensed the kid was nervous about something, and that made him curious. "Why don't you come in and have a seat?" He gestured to a chair.
Adam offered a tight, respectful smile, his straight blond hair hanging down over his luminous eyes. After closing the door behind him, he took a seat.
"What's on your mind?" Tristan said
Tristan's blood went cold. This couldn't be good. "What's he done now?"
"Nothing, sir. That's just it. It's been two weeks since he last checked in."
Two weeks!? "What?"
Adam held out the report he had brought with him. Tristan flipped through the pages and scanned the call log and schedule sheets, noting all the no-shows and no answers by Micah's name.
"Why wasn't I told earlier?" Tristan raked his fingers through his short, sandy blond hair, unable to comprehend what he was seeing and hearing.
"My supervisor told me to ignore it, that Micah does his own thing." Adam fidgeted. "But after two weeks of non-response, I had to do something. Paxton wasn't doing anything about it, so here I am. If it gets me fired, it gets me fired, but I thought you needed to know."
Tristan's anger rose. Someone might lose their job, but it wasn't going to be Adam. "Don't you worry about your job, Adam. In fact, you might just get a promotion if I have anything to say about it."
"Nothing. Good work. You did the right thing by making me aware of the situation."
"Thank you, sir."
"Call me Tristan, Adam. I can't stomach the formality."
"Yes, sir—Tristan, I mean."
"Okay, head on back. I'll take care of it from here."
Adam nodded and smiled grimly then got up and left.
Tristan grabbed his phone and dialed Dispatch.
"My office. Now."
Dead air answered and Tristan imagined Paxton's face had just drained of all color.
"U-uh, yes. Yes, sir. I'll be right there."
Tristan slammed down his receiver and sprang from his chair. Fuck! What had happened to Micah?
Twenty minutes later, and after chewing Paxton a new asshole and sending him back to Dispatch freshly skinned, Tristan sent orders to the members of his team to do some checking then pulled them together for a pow-wow. They were just as at fault for not keeping him informed about Micah's absence as Paxton and the other dispatch supervisors were. Someone should have made an effort to reach him while he had been taking care of Josie.
Tristan tapped the butt-end of his pen against his desk. Tap-tap-tap-ratta-tat. It tittered like a tiny machine gun.
His last phone conversation with Micah had been right after Jackson had split and right before he had gone on medical leave to take care of Josie. Micah had at least had the courtesy to call and tell him he was going to take a few days off:
"I need some time off."
"Yeah? What for?"
"Shit, man, you okay?"
"I'm sending someone to pick you up. You need to be in observation."
"I said no. I'm fine."
Micah had hung up on him and that was the last he'd talked to the guy, and then Josie had gotten morning sickness so bad that he had forgotten all about Micah. Now, no one knew where Micah was. Great! The team's loose cannon was fucking MIA, and if Tristan had thought Micah had been hard to control before, he could only imagine how messed up he was now, or what damage he was doing to the shaky truce between the vampires and drecks. Micah was the type who could single-handedly end the truce. His cannon really was that loose.
Looking across his desk, his gaze darted from one pair of eyes to the next as he took in the other members of his team of enforcers.
Malek sat directly across from Tristan, the light reflecting blue off his long, jet-black hair.
"Anything?" Tristan asked him.
Malek shook his head. "Not yet."
Iobates chimed in, "Still won't answer his phone, either. And his dorm hasn't been touched."
"Thanks for checking, Io." Tristan's aggravation grew. So, Micah wasn't home, hadn't used his dorm at the compound, wouldn't answer his phone, and hadn't checked in for two weeks.
"Trace, did it even look like Micah had been at his house?"
Traceon leaned against the far wall. He had come from the training center to attend the meeting, and rivulets of perspiration still trailed from the top of his shaved head down his neck, making his dark skin glisten. He stood with his arms crossed, a matchstick between his lips. With a shake of his head, he plucked the matchstick from his mouth. "The milk in his fridge was halfway to cheese and the mailbox was full. What do you think?"
Trace was almost as indifferent and emotionally detached as Micah, but at least he followed orders and didn't ask for special favors.
Case in point, after bonding to Jackson, Micah had talked Tristan into letting him have a second, private residence. No one at AKM knew where the two of them lived together, but at least Micah had spent half his nights at his known address for the past year. Now it looked like he had abandoned his house altogether and fallen off the face of the planet.
Tristan should have known better than to let Micah have a private residence, but like everyone else, he gave Micah more latitude than the others. It was how shit had to be done with Micah. He did what he wanted, anyway, so why fight it? And sure, Micah was the private recluse of the bunch, but this disappearing act wasn't like him.
Tristan's frown deepened. "So, no one has heard from Micah, and no one has bothered to check on him. Except for you, Severin." Tristan addressed the long-haired new guy. "You haven't been here long enough to be in on this ass-chew, but the rest of you," Tristan's gaze flung back around the room, "should have known better."
Only Malek had enough conscience to look down as if ashamed. The rest just stared back. But then, Micah wasn't the most well-liked S.O.B. He didn't play nice with others and had a reputation for being not only the resident loose cannon and recluse, but also the resident dick. He ruffled more feathers than a wolf in a henhouse, always rubbing people the wrong way. Even Tristan struggled to hold his tongue around Micah. Most likely, just as with the dispatchers, the team had enjoyed the peace and quiet while Micah had been gone.
But it pissed Tristan off that no one had bothered looking the brother up. After this much time, someone should have pulled a Sherlock Holmes to track the fucker down to make sure he was safe.
"Fuck!" He threw the pen across the room and it ricocheted off the wall. Trace caught it with a snap of his hand, and the two exchanged glances.
"Sorry," Tristan said.
"Don't worry about it." Trace tossed the pen back.
Tristan blamed himself for losing track of Micah. He had been wrapped up in his own concerns about Josie and the baby, and before he'd known what was going on, two weeks had passed and he was behind the eight-ball.
"I want everyone pulling doubles until we find him. We're on lockdown and no one goes home until we do." A couple of groans broke through – Io and Arion, of course. Tristan glared at them. "You need to crash, use your dorm. You got a booty-call, cancel it. You've all sat back and done nothing while one of ours is suffering and missing. So, playtime is fucking over until he's home, you got me?"
Trace chewed on his matchstick and shifted uneasily. Everyone else nodded, even if Io's and Arion's nods were reluctant.
"We've got all this top-notch surveillance shit." Tristan waved his arm like an angry Vanna White. "We've found harder-to-find shit than one of our own. Surely we can tap into some of this fucking technology and find him!"
The pen went airborne again. Thwack! This time Trace let it fall to the floor. Tristan turned and paced.
Tristan didn't need this shit right now. He had been wound tight since finding out six weeks ago that Josie was pregnant. She was as badass as most of the males in the room, but even she had to bow down to biology, and the morning sickness had been terrifyingly bad for the last week. It worried Tristan, but that's how it was for a male whose mate was pregnant, even if he hadn't actually mated Josie, not in the vampire sense of the word, anyway. His biology hadn't fired up a bond with her, but that didn't mean he didn't love her or worry like hell about her being so sick. Now he had Micah to worry about on top of everything else.
He spun on his heels to face the others again. "Malek, I want you and Trace to hit the streets. Sniff his ass out. If he's alive, I want him back here yesterday."
"What if he's dead?" Arion said.
Trace stepped up and slapped Ari across the back of the head.
"Hey!" Arion turned and glared at Trace, grabbing his noggin.
Trace growled back, causing Ari to reconsider and turn back around.
"If he's dead, I still want him back here." Tristan hoped he wasn't. As much as Micah got on everyone's nerves, he and Micah went way back – since before Katarina's death – and Tristan thought of the pain-in-the-ass as a friend, even if Micah didn't necessarily reciprocate.
The mood sobered at the thought that Micah could have bitten it without their knowledge. They were so tightly bound to one another it often felt like they shared the same mind half the time, even if they didn't all get along. And with all the shared blood among them, surely they'd have felt it if Micah had died, right?
Reader Reviews (9)
Submitted By: BonDarKen on Jan 28, 2013A little hard to follow at first, it skipped from one thing to another to where it ws hard to follow, but once it got to a point it settled into a very good story.
Submitted By: VBrown1313 on Jan 23, 2013This book was outstanding! It was an excellent start to the series and a wonderful story in itself. I was so in tune with the characters that the pain and difficulty of their situations was palpable. I can't wait to read more about all of them. Well written with exquisite detail and stunning descriptions I love the writing style.
Submitted By: ksbruce on Jan 23, 2013I really loved this book and i couldn't help loving Micah and Sam, they were great characters. great read can't wait for book 2
Submitted By: cool_indigo on Jan 22, 2013Just finished this book, and I loved it. The characters were great, sex scenes were steamy, and I love the sub-plots among the other men in the AKM unit. I am definitely going to read more from this author.
Submitted By: feefeeann25 on Jan 18, 2013Wonderful. The hero is NOT a jerk, instead he fully admits that he loves his woman and proves it by his actions.
Submitted By: a.alfaro on Jan 16, 2013Really liked the book. Gives you an insight to most of the characters but focuses solely on the main ones. Very sensual.
Submitted By: nessa1820 on Jan 8, 2013I loved this book. I thought it was put together wonderfully. Micah sorts of jumps out of the page at you and hes in your face. Yeah he had a rough go in the begining but he came out on top and wo does love that. I loved that Sam didn't take no crap from either. She was strong willed and I like that in the female character. Then you have Trace! I can't wait to read more on him!!
Submitted By: kimpau on Jan 6, 2013Totally love this book can't wait for book two.
Submitted By: Tigerlil on Jan 6, 2013Excellent read. I loved this book. The characters were well developed, the story was good and the sex was hot. I look forward to reading about the other characters.