Bound by Blood (The Garner Witch Series)

Bound by Blood

by

P.A. Lupton

 

All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2011 by P.A. Lupton

 

Third Edition: February 2013

 

The characters, plot and events in this book are a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional by the author.  The author holds exclusive rights to the content within this book.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means or stored in any database or retrieval system without prior written authorization from the author.

 

For more information:

http://www.palupton.com

 

Bound by Blood – Garner Witch Book 1

 

ISBN (Paperback):  978-0-9877493-0-7

ISBN (e-Book):  978-0-9877493-1-4

 

Chapter 1

The music was screaming, the bass thumping, reverberating through the floor and pounding furiously in my chest. I glanced around the club, my assessing eyes drawn to the scantily clad women hanging around the bar. I felt overly exposed in my too-short skirt and too-tight blouse with the sweeping neckline—also too-low, in my opinion. The outfit was exactly opposite to my regular collection of slacks and blouses. Still, in comparison to the other women in the club, I was dressed like a nun. I hated going to clubs. But this wasn’t a social visit. Tonight, I was hunting a killer.

“Can I buy you a drink?!” a voice bellowed beside me. Although he was shouting, I could barely hear him over the throbbing music in the background. Casting a measuring glance at the man, I decided he was somewhat good looking. Not gorgeous, but attractive enough. Though, with his short brown hair, brown eyes, and average build, he was ordinary at best. I opened my senses to see if I could get an impression of what he was feeling.  Sadistic murderers tend to give off a certain predatory vibe—different than the ones coming off the guys just looking to get laid. I closed my eyes, deep in concentration. Could this man be the killer?

Touching on his emotions, I was filled with disappointment—he was just horny. I guess I shouldn’t have been too frustrated. When was it ever that easy? And what did it say about me that I was let down I
wasn’t
being hit on by a serial killer?

“No, thanks,” I said, turning away so he’d know I wasn’t interested.

“Could I borrow a quarter then?” he continued, nonplussed by my rejection.

“Excuse me? You want to borrow a quarter?”

“Yeah, I wanted to call my mother and let her know I’ve met the woman of my dreams.” His leering smile told me he thought his cheesy pick-up line was witty.

I rolled my eyes as I reached into my purse. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you couldn’t afford a cell phone.” I smiled inwardly as I handed him a quarter, allowing pity to lace my tone, just enough to sound condescending. “And how nice that you live with your mother.”

“No… I didn’t mean… I can afford a cell phone! And I don’t live with my mother!”

I bit my lip to refrain from laughing.

“Never mind,” he huffed and stormed off.

“Hmmm, guess he didn’t need that quarter after all,” I muttered in amusement, throwing the coin back in my purse.

Turning around, I headed toward the bar. I ordered a drink and decided to take the opportunity to ask the bartender a few questions.

“I was wondering if you saw this woman here. It would’ve been a few weeks ago, on the night of April 28
,” I yelled over the din of music, holding up a photo of the victim, Leslie Harper.

“She looks kinda like you” he stated. “You a cop?”

“FBI.”

“Like I told the other agents, I don’t know anything. She was here for a few hours, but I never saw her take off.”

He was telling the truth, but I had a feeling there was something he wasn’t telling me. Maybe it was my unique intuition, but I knew there was more.

“You didn’t see any men hitting on her, dancing with her, or offering to buy her a drink?” I asked, paying careful attention to his response.

“Nope.”

Maybe I wasn’t asking the right question.

“Okay, you didn’t see any men. What about women?”

Bingo.

The corner of his mouth curled into a wry grin. “Now, there
was
a female she danced with, and they got real friendly, if you get the picture.”

“Yeah, I get the picture. What did she look like?”

“She was pretty—like, supermodel pretty—and tall for a woman. She had light brown hair with streaks of blonde… Oh, and big brown eyes.”

“Why didn’t you tell the other agents about her?”

He shrugged, innocently. “They didn’t ask about a woman. They were only concerned with any men she spoke to.”

A very sleazy, and obviously drunk, woman waved a bill at the other end of the bar. He turned in her direction with a roguish smile. “Sorry. Duty calls,” he declared, not at all apologetic as he walked away.

Men. So predictable.

Pulling out a stool, I decided to sit at the bar for a while and try to ferret out any malicious or unusual feelings. I was discouraged when more than an hour had passed and I hadn’t sensed anything out of the ordinary. Just when I was about to leave, a deep voice shouted in my ear.

“You know, you shouldn’t be alone in a place like this.”

His breath tickled the back of my neck, indicating he was much closer than I was comfortable with. In an effort to reestablish some personal space, I backed away quickly. “Who says I’m alone?”

He snorted. “I’ve been watching you, and I know you’re alone. It’s not safe.”

His ominous warning sounded awfully close to a threat, but I swept the thought aside as I got a read off his emotions.

The guy was giving off a strong protective vibe.

“Thanks, but I can take care of myself.”

He reached out and gripped the top of my arm as I turned to leave. “Listen, you can’t just run around here by yourself.” His gaze roamed leisurely down my body from head-to-toe, the look filled with silent condemnation. “Especially dressed like that!”

I was about to politely tell him to buzz off and thank him for his concern when he added that last remark. Anger sparked inside me. Who the hell did this guy think he was—my father? I’d met my quota of overprotective, domineering men for one lifetime.

I burrowed my thumb into the hand holding my arm; a spot that I knew would inflict the most damage. I twisted his arm forcefully, flashing a satisfied smile when the pain caused him to release his hold.

“Fuck!” he barked.

I released my grip on his hand and stood with my arms crossing my chest. I was waiting for an apology.

No such luck.

“I told you, I can take care of myself.”

He looked to his friend who was watching the scene with barely concealed amusement. “See the thanks I get for trying to help one of these tramps,” he spat out, cradling his injured hand against his chest.

“Son-of-a-bitch! “I cursed, the derogatory comment sparking a fuse to my temper, which some people accused of being short already. I cocked my fist back and let it fly into his face. He fell and lay there groaning. I looked over to his friend to see him standing idly by, wearing a stunned expression.

“Tell your friend I said thanks. He’s a regular knight in shining armor.” Grabbing my purse, I walked away.

The air in the bar was humid and smelled of sweat, flesh, and booze. Suddenly, I needed to get out of there. As I burst through the doors, I let the fresh air fill my lungs. Usually I didn’t give into my anger like that, but that guy was a jerk and he had no right to manhandle my arm the way he did. It didn’t matter how noble his intentions.

As I walked to my car, a flash of light drew my attention to the sky. My steps faltered as my gaze was glued to the display—it was absolutely breathtaking. I could see the mountains in the distance, lit up by lightning. There was no thunder or rain. Just streaks of shimmering light rolling across the sky, painting the darkness with glowing strands of electricity. The clouds were lustrous with a rich pinkish-purple glow.

My feet were rooted to the ground as I stared with appreciation, my anger from minutes before momentarily forgotten. I’d never seen anything this beautiful while living in Chicago.

Yeah, Denver was definitely prettier.

I could’ve remained in that spot for hours, but the ring of my cell broke through the thrall and brought me back to the present.

I pulled my cell phone from my purse. “Hello?”

“Agent Reece, this is Special Agent Hunter.” He sounded tired, but it
was
after one o’clock in the morning.

“I’m sorry to disturb you so late, and I know you don’t officially start work for a few days, but I’ve just been contacted by the Denver PD about a homicide victim. Have you had a chance to go through the file I sent you?”

“Yes, I have. In fact, I’m just leaving the bar where Leslie Harper was last seen. I re-interviewed the bartender and it turns out he
did
see her with someone that night. A woman. I was able to get a description.”

“The other agents didn’t get anything from him. Good work, Agent Reece. You have a good investigative instinct, which is why I requested you in my department.”

“Thank you, sir.” Uncomfortable with his praise, I quickly changed the subject. “So, do you think this homicide might be connected to the case?”

“I’m not sure, but the victim fits the profile for our serial killer. The Denver PD said the physical description of the victim matches. And the condition of the body is consistent, as far as we can tell at this point. I was hoping you could check it out. It’s in the Historic district downtown. I’ll text you the address.”

“I’m close. I can be there in five minutes.”

He let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Agent Reece. I’ve had the scene cleared. There’s just one officer left to secure the area and he’ll be expecting your arrival. I’ll put in a call to your new partner and send him over, too.”

“Okay. Thank you, sir.”

***

It’s strange—for the past twenty-eight years, I’ve glimpsed this exact shade of crystal blue staring back at me in the mirror. So why was I unnerved by seeing it tonight? Well, it could’ve been that I’d never seen it staring back at me from someone else, let alone a corpse.

Every muscle in my body stiffened when I caught my first glimpse of the dead woman. Though I’d seen a lot of dead bodies in my five years as an FBI agent, I’d never before seen one that looked so much like...well, like me. Being an agent, I shouldn’t have allowed it to affect me so profoundly.

My new partner hadn’t arrived yet, and I was grateful for the time I had to process and absorb my shock. Impartiality was your best asset during a murder investigation; it’s impossible to be effective without it. Under normal circumstances, I was cool as a cucumber. After all, if anyone could block emotions it was me. Not tonight though. Tonight, I was feeling uncharacteristically rattled.

The similarities I shared with the victim were uncanny, making it impossible for me
not
to take this investigation personally. For one thing, we were both around the same age. The deceased, Morganna Tate, was thirty-one to my twenty-eight, and we were both single. We both had the exact same shade of chestnut brown hair with natural golden highlights. Though, her locks were kept smooth and straight in a short stylish bob. Mine was a little wilder with a natural wave, and longer skimming the top of my lower back. 

The likeness of her features was eerie, but that wasn’t what bothered me so much. No, what really bothered me were her eyes. They were the same almond shape as my own, and despite the dull veil of death that had glazed over the normally vibrant hue, the crystalline blue was nearly identical. If I looked at just her eyes, I could almost imagine I was looking at a reflection of my own.

Goose bumps rose along my flesh, and the skin prickled on the back of my neck as I stared into the lifeless expression of her gaze. “There’s something so familiar about you,” I mumbled.

I’d learned the hard way to pay attention when the hair stood on the back of my neck. I didn’t get to where I was without following my instincts, not that I would ever share the specifics of my unique intuition. If I ever revealed my secret to the FBI, I’d be searching the help wanted ads. Either that or I’d find myself in a padded cell. After all, it had taken me years of soul-searching to finally come to terms with my psychic gifts. I wouldn’t expect someone else to understand, or believe. I’d known since I was sixteen that my senses were overly attuned to others, but after the incident on the night of my high school graduation, I decided I’d better learn more about my latent abilities.

I discovered I was what those in the psychic community referred to as an Empath. I have the ability to sense and channel people’s emotions. It’s a tool I’ve found comes in handy with my job, although not so handy in relationships.

Voices echoed from the other room, though I was so consumed by my thoughts it took me a second to realize it. “That must be my new partner,” I murmured as I stood and strode to the doorway. I could hear a man’s voice—a familiar voice?—brusquely identify himself as FBI to the officer securing the scene.

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