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Copyright (c) 2015, Dianna Love Snell
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Cover Design and Interior format by The Killion Group
The Belador series is an ongoing story line,
so it's better if you read the series in order:
Book 1: Blood Trinity
Book 2: Alterant
Book 3: The Curse
Book 4: Rise Of The Gryphon
Book 5: Demon Storm
Book 6: Witchlock
Book 7: Rogue Belador (April 2016)
Midnight Kiss Goodbye (novella in DEAD AFTER DARK)
Firebound (short story - free at www.AuthorDiannaLove.com)
This book is for Lisa Kulow who shows the world a beautiful smile no matter what she faces.
How am I supposed to find a demon among all these Santa elves and Christmas decorations?
Evalle Kincaid rubbed her gritty eyes and repositioned her sunglasses. She kept moving through throngs of locals from Atlanta's suburbs, all enjoying the first weekend in November at Memorial Hall in Stone Mountain Park. She'd been here for four hours and it was only nine-thirty. A half hour yet until closing.
The park was decorated to celebrate the start of the holidays, and every tree was lit up. She'd never seen so many bright lights and happy freaking people.
Shoot, every surface glowed or sparkled. She wore dark sunglasses to protect her oversensitive eyes and to protect the locals from seeing those same green eyes glow.
Humans didn't know about the strange beings that existed in their world. Like her. She was a Belador, one of an ancient line of warriors living secretly in the world today. But most Beladors looked human. Her weird eyes and deathly aversion to the sun came from her mixed blood.
Not her favorite topic to think about.
She squinted to avoid looking right into the hottest lights, because they kept messing with her vision.
If someone viewed the historic park from above, Memorial Hall would look like a glittering jewel against the dark night.
She'd be hearing Jingle Bells in her sleep tonight.
But even that would be better than the nightmares she'd had for the past week.
"Are you the Secret Service, babe?" a mouthy young guy wearing a dark pullover and dress pants asked Evalle.
"No." She smiled and tried to pass.
"A Hell's Angel?"
"No." Without the smile this time.
He finally went on his way.
Okay, so she had on jeans, boots, a black jacket and dark glasses after sunset. She didn't get the memo on wearing perky holiday colors, but that wouldn't have changed her choice in clothes anyway, since this was her standard fare.
She caught sight of her potential demon again.
Or maybe between the lights screwing with her eyes, lack of sleep and wanting to go home, her brain was trying to help by convincing her that some poor schmuck might be a demon in glamour.
Wearing khaki pants and a fleece hoodie, said schmuck looked like every other middle-aged, thinning hair, slightly overweight man she'd seen tonight, but she could swear the face on this one had flickered for a second.
All of VIPER had been up in arms for the past week. Something had been killing trolls in Atlanta, and the last body was found butchered near the Chattahoochee River on the north side of the metro area. Thankfully, this was not summertime when a human out rafting or kayaking might have happened on the body.
Humans didn't know about the trolls--or the demons--because Evalle and other VIPER agents like her stood in the gap. VIPER was a secret coalition of powerful beings who protected humans from nonhuman predators.
Sometimes they had to protect the nonhumans, too.
That's why Storm was gone.
With the blood of a Navajo shaman and an Ashaninka witch doctor, along with the ability to shift into a black jaguar, Storm was the best tracker on the southeastern VIPER teams. He could identify a majik scent and track it as easily as he could a human or animal one, and he could handle whatever had taken down a troll.
That didn't stop her from worrying about the man she loved.
She gave her watch another glance. Twelve hours and six minutes until he would be back in Atlanta. Nine in the morning couldn't come soon enough. The last six days had been the longest of her life.
And the most conflicted.
She missed him. But she'd also spent every day since he left stressed about his return. This whole relationship thing was still new and left her off-kilter some days.
She hated that. Hated to feel clueless about things most twenty-three-year-old women took in stride. She could kill a demon six different ways, but she had no skills to cope with the changes that living with a man had brought about.
Storm had moved in with her just hours before he'd been asked to leave and track the troll killer.
Less than one day of living together, and it had been a major fail.
On her part.
Giggles erupted nearby. Evalle turned to find three little girls laughing and talking to one of Santa's elves. Without a preternatural loose in here, all the families visiting tonight would normally be perfectly safe with Stone Mountain's top-notch security staff.
Evalle gave the elf a once-over and got nary a ping on her internal radar. She smiled at the girls, who were obviously having a great time. I'll keep you safe, too.
What would it have been like to grow up as a normal girl? One who hadn't spent her first eighteen years locked in a basement?
Khaki Guy stepped into view again and pulled Evalle's gaze from the girls. Finally, he was where she could get a really good look at him.
Not quite six feet, average-looking male with brown hair. He stood on the edge of all the activity as he eyed the bustling crowd entering and leaving Memorial Hall, where Santa was holding court.
His appearance fit right in with the suburbanites, but no one else out here stood that still or watched with predatory intensity.
Monsters came in all types, human and nonhuman.
Evalle had faced both.
This guy's gaze latched onto the three little girls and tracked their forward movement.
He wore a blank expression.
Energy buzzed in the air for a moment, then disappeared so fast she couldn't pinpoint where it originated.
In the next second, the man's face blurred.
"You'll have to wait your turn for Santa, lady," a female voice said from close behind.
Evalle wheeled around, blowing out