Embrace the Night

By: Caris Roane

Chapter One

Hannah Osborne had become a stupid cliché: Hot man, cold shower.

She refused to turn away from the communications monitor, even though Mastyr Jude had just arrived and now stood behind her in the doorway. All his gorgeousness had become a lot to manage in recent weeks and she was working hard to restrain her waywardness where the powerful Mastyr of Kellcasse was concerned.

She’d asked Jude to set up the new communication center inside her bar, the Gold Rush, since so many of his kind spent hours at her establishment.

Jude had always come to the Gold Rush, but his visits had increased by a lot over the past few months. She wanted to tell him not to come around so much because she currently lusted after the man. Amazingly, the words would never leave her throat.

“So, what’s the latest on the loop?” His deep voice sent shivers down her spine.

Hannah belonged to a small, select email loop that included only women. All the women who worked the U.S. access city centers were on the loop as well as the four women currently bonded to mastyrs of the Nine Realms. Hannah had learned so much about the blood rose phenomenon that was sweeping through each realm that she often wondered when Jude’s blood rose would show up.

But each time she had that thought, for some reason her fingers would curl until she made tight little fists with both hands and her jaw clenched. She wanted the best for Jude, of course, but another woman climbing all over him made her skin grow hot in the worst way.

Even now, she had to take a moment to calm herself. So, yeah, in the past few months, she’d kind of gotten out of control where the Kellcasse mastyr was concerned.

“Hannah, are you ignoring me?”

“No … that is, what was your question?”

“What’s the word on the loop?”

Oh, that. “Everyone’s talking about what happened in Kellcasse, on North Island.”

“You mean the massacre.”

“Yes.” Hannah hadn’t wanted to use that word because it made it horribly real. Two families of trolls had been slaughtered by the Invictus, which in itself wasn’t unusual, unfortunately. But what remained a mystery was that it appeared not one member of either family tried to hide, run away, or even fight back. All realm-folk fought when the terrifying wraith-pairs attacked. “Has your forensics team come up with anything yet?”

He shook his head. “We still don’t have a clear answer about what happened out there. Invictus got to them, of course, but no one knows why there were no signs of defensive wounds. And trolls always have places to hide.”

The lack of an answer made Hannah’s skin crawl, though she didn’t know why. Her palms started tingling as well, something that had been happening a lot lately. She rubbed them together, trying to get rid of the sensation. Probably just nerves. “I really hope one day you’ll be able to bring the ancient fae down and end the Invictus threat once and for all.”

“With everything I hold sacred, I do, too.”

She almost turned to look at Jude because he’d spoken his heart. But she forced herself to remain fixed on her Internet tabs, moving between her email account and her favorite realm-based email loop, then back. She kept typing a response to the Tennessee communications center, fearing if she turned to face Jude she’d get lost all over again.

Jude only had to show up at her bar and her whole body heated up like she had a fever. And for reasons she believed had mostly to do with the sheer breadth of his massive shoulders, her overall rise in body temperature wouldn’t dissipate until the damn man left her sight.

She’d even resorted to using the bunkroom shower and a lot of cold water to cool down. And that water was cold! Again, so cliché.

She’d installed the large bunkroom a few years ago to house overnight, sun-sensitive realm-folk. Sometimes, members of Jude’s Vampire Guard would come in for a pint at the end of a long night battling and stay for a few more rounds. As soon as the sun showed the first rays of its blistering heat, they headed to the bunkroom and at certain times of the year this far north that hour came early.

But Hannah was happy to offer shelter to any of them, especially the Guardsmen, because they laid down their lives every night for their fellow realm-folk.

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