Frost Burn (The Fire and Ice Series, Book 1)

 

Frost Burn

 

Erica Stevens

 

 

 

DESCRIPTION

 

 

   After years of running, Quinn has finally found a town to settle down in while she searches for the man who tore her life apart. Despite her every intention not to, she’s started to put down some roots and make friends. However, the small bit of solace she’s found is quickly shattered when a group of vampires walk into the bar where she works and turn her life upside down.

   Looking only to stop for a few nights and have a good time, Julian never expected to stumble across someone like Quinn. Determined to keep her free from the vampires looking to use her as a weapon, Julian is stunned to discover himself starting to care for the mysterious woman with a dark past she’s unwilling to reveal. It doesn’t take him long to realize that the vampires after her are only a part of the problem. This quiet little town is hiding a violent secret of its own; a secret that not only threatens the town, but Quinn in particular.

   ***The Fire and Ice series is a spinoff based on characters from The Kindred Series. You do not have to read The Kindred Series in order to enjoy this book or its successors. This book has more mature content than the Kindred Series and is recommended for readers 17+***

Copyright 2015 Erica Stevens

All rights reserved.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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Also from the author

The Captive Series

Captured (Book 1)

Renegade (Book2)

Refugee (Book 3)

Salvation (Book 4)

Redemption (Book 5)

Broken (The Captive Series Prequel)

The Fire & Ice Series

Frost Burn (Book 1)

The Kindred Series

Kindred (Book 1)

Ashes (Book 2)

Kindled (Book 3)

Inferno (Book 4)

Phoenix Rising (Book 5)

The Ravening Series

Ravenous (Book 1)

Taken Over (Book 2)

Reclamation (Book 3)

The Survivor Chronicles

Book 1: The Upheaval

Book 2: The Divide

Book 3: The Forsaken

Book 4: The Risen

Special thanks to my husband for understanding I can be a little crazy,

my mom for being such a strong force,

my siblings for being awesome,

and to my nieces and nephews.

Thank you

To all the fans who kept asking for Julian, and who kicked my butt into gear on a character I’d originally intended to kill in The Kindred Series but came to love.

I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to meet him and to develop him further. I really hope you like him!

To Leslie Mitchell at G2 Freelance Editing for all her hard work and encouragement. To Christina and Linda for their hard work and skills.

PROLOGUE

Fire and ice licked over her flesh. The fire was due to the pain lancing through her body from the knives driven through the palms of her hands and the one just beneath her sternum. It felt like the fire was consuming her, burying her within its raging depths, devouring her very soul. The ice, well the ice was from the weakness stealing through her and dousing the fire beneath it.

The sensations were so overwhelming and contradictory to each other that they briefly blocked out the shrill screams of those around her. Her
family
. Tears slid down her cheeks. She tugged at her hands, trying her hardest to free them, but the knives had been buried deep into the wood floor beneath her. Blood trickled down from the wound on her right temple and the slice down the center of her chin. Pinned down, she could only lay still as she helplessly listened to the dying cries of those she loved.

Like some kind of ghoulish painter throwing paint at a canvas, blood splashed across the family pictures hanging on the wall, and one of the many screams abruptly went silent. She had to get to her family, had to try and save them somehow. A scream of frustration and agony burned in her throat. The fire licked back over her body as she strained to tear her hands free of the knives. She tried to arch up in an attempt to dislodge the one in her stomach, but a wave of blackness washed over her, threatening to bury her within its depths. Panting heavily, she fell back on the floor. She couldn’t pass out; it would be certain death if she did.

A tsking sound coming from her right caused her to turn her head in that direction. She blinked back the bloody tears and sweat clogging her lashes. “Such a shame.” She shrank away from the hand brushing over her forehead. “Such a fighter.”

A man’s face loomed over her. A face she knew she’d remember for the rest of her life, which given her present circumstances might not be long. “Shh child,” he murmured as he continued to brush her hair back. “It will all be over soon.”

His blue green eyes swirled with malicious glee, his wide nostrils flared as he inhaled the scent of the blood pooling beneath her. The high arch of his cheekbones gave his face a rat-like appearance she found completely appropriate for this horrible monster. A mole at the corner of his left eye had a long, creepy hair curling from it. His thin lips pulled back to reveal his lengthy, razor sharp fangs.

A cry of protest escaped her, but she could do nothing to stop him from driving his fangs into her throat. More fire lanced over her skin as she fought against the monster pulling her blood from her body, even as the heat crept in so did the ice. Weakness slipped into her limbs, up through her belly and toward her chest.

She wasn’t ready to die, not when she’d finally started to live, but just as she couldn’t escape the knives pinning her body to the floor, she couldn’t escape this monster feeding off of her in greedy, slurping pulls. The ice crept further up, dousing the fire beneath its crushing flow. She wasn’t ready to give in, but she had no choice in the matter as her heart began to slow. It gave a dull beat before pausing for endless seconds then pumping again.

The monster above her pulled away and wiped the blood away from his mouth. “Delicious,” he purred before rising to his feet and walking away.

It was only after he’d gone that she realized how quiet the room had become.
Her family.
She felt the overwhelming need to cry, but she didn’t have the energy to muster a single tear. She could only stare at the blood-coated photos across from her as her breathing became shallower and her heartbeats further apart. The distant murmur of voices drifted to her, she couldn’t make out their words as the ice slid up to her neck. The click of the door closing sounded abnormally loud in the hush, she realized the monsters had left but it didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered anymore as the ice encompassed her, her heart finally stopped beating, and the world went black.

CHAPTER 1

“Has anyone ever told you how beautiful you are?”

Julian cocked an eyebrow at the question, he kept his eyes closed and his arms folded across his chest. He pretended not to be eavesdropping on the conversation going on near the back of the RV, but his ears were acutely attuned to it. Melissa
had
to see through that line, any woman with an ounce of commonsense would, but her small chuckle following the cliché question made him frown. It hadn’t sounded like a condescending chuckle or even one trying to placate the ass who had uttered the line to begin with.

“Come on, let’s look at that cut,” Melissa said.

“Whatever you say darling,” the ass drawled. His accent hinted at a Texas origin but they’d discovered him in southern California.

Julian’s eyes rolled behind his lids when she giggled. His eyes flew open when he heard the door to the back bedroom close. Chris sat at the table across the way from him. His fingers shuffled with rapid grace through the deck of cards in his hands. Lou who was sitting opposite of Chris turned sideways in his seat to stare at the closed door Melissa and their newest recruit, Zach, had vanished behind.

Lou glanced over at him; a blush stained his fair cheeks when he caught Julian staring at him. He hastily turned back around and picked up the cards Chris had dealt him. “Sounds like Zach has some moves,” Chris said as he gathered his cards from the table.

“Hopefully they move him out of this RV soon,” Julian muttered.

Chris gave a small
hmm
sound. “I don’t know, he might decide to stay on the road with us. I don’t get any bad vibes off of him.”

“It’s cramped enough in this thing without adding wonder boy to the mix,” Julian retorted, but he had to admit he’d seen nothing menacing in the guy when they’d shaken hands. His ability of psychometry had allowed him to flip through some of the images in Zach’s mind. He’d been flooded with pictures of surfing, sand, drinking and women, but nothing hostile, at least nothing hostile committed by Zach’s own hand. The vampires who had been trying to kill Zach when they’d stumbled across him were an entirely different ballgame and had been at the forefront of Zach’s mind when they’d touched. “Never mind having Romeo waxing poetic every chance he gets. I might open the curtains up and let the sun beat on me if I have to listen to that from now on.”

Chris grinned as he tossed down three cards and pulled three more from the deck. “There was a time I would have offered to do it for you.”

There had been, and Julian bet there were times Chris would still like to do it, but over the past two years of traveling on the road together they’d developed a friendship most would consider odd. Just two years ago, they’d been mortal enemies and trying to kill each other, but then Hunters like Chris, Melissa, and lover boy out back had been trying to eliminate vampires like himself for centuries.

There were still times he’d like to drain Chris of every ounce of his blood, but those times had become fewer and farther between recently. It was no longer the promise he’d made to Cassie not to eat his roomies that kept him from killing Chris, but he’d actually come to like the guy enough to admit he’d miss him if he were dead. There weren’t many people he could say that about and most of them were on this RV, minus smooth talking Zach in the back.

“It would be nice if at least one of us could have some kind of a dating life,” Chris said. “This nomad lifestyle is seriously killing my sex life.”

“What sex life?” Lou retorted.

“Exactly,” Chris replied with a laugh. Throwing his cards on the table, he happily gathered his junk food winnings from the center of the table. Lou scowled at him as Chris popped a pretzel into his mouth and chewed on it. “Delicious.”

Lou’s thin lips pursed, his tawny brown eyes focused on the next cards Chris dealt him. The shaggy brown hair curling at the collar of his shirt had made more than a few teen girls swoon. Lou’s growth spurt a year ago had caused him to become ganglier than when they’d first met, but his six-foot frame had finally begun to fill out when he’d turned eighteen last month.

Julian rose to his feet and stretched his back when Melissa’s flirty giggle drifted from the back. Great, they’d moved on from chuckles to
that
girly sound. Chris leaned toward the aisle and stared at the closed door with a pursed mouth as he tried to stifle his laughter. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard her flirt so openly before,” Chris said.

“I definitely haven’t.” Lou placed a handful of Hershey Kisses into the center of the table.

Julian walked the five feet to the front of the RV. Leaning over the passenger seat, he pulled the curtain next to the window closed all the way around to block out part of the front windshield. Stepping around the seat he sat next to Luther, who was in the driver’s seat, and propped his long legs up on the dash before him.

“Save me from the teenage angst,” he muttered.

Luther shook his head. “You might have to save us all now that you’ve obstructed part of my view of the road with your curtain.”

Julian cracked his knuckles. “Just stay in this lane.”

“Thank you for the driving advice.”

“You’re welcome.” As Luther eyed the curtains suspiciously, Julian knew now was one of those times when someone would like to pull the curtains open on him and watch him burn. A little giggle from the back set his teeth on edge. “Freaking Romeo and Juliet.”

“You know they both died, right?” Luther inquired.

“I’m nearly six hundred years old; I’ve read some Shakespeare in my day.” Luther gave him a doubtful look over top of his Lennon style glasses that had slid down to the middle of his hawkish nose. Over the past two years, Luther’s salt and pepper hair had become more salt than pepper. The lines around his mouth and eyes hadn’t been there when they’d first met, but his grey eyes were as astute as ever.

“I read the play, centuries before you were born.” Julian dipped into the cooler between the seats and pulled a bag of blood out. He grabbed a straw from the top of the cooler, jabbed it into the bag and took a lengthy pull before lowering it to his lap. “I just prefer those newfangled motion picture thingies you humans went and invented, to books nowadays. Sometimes the human race is useful for something other than blood.”

“Good to know,” Lou commented dryly. He folded his arms over his chest as Chris happily confiscated the last of his chocolate kisses.

“If not Romeo and Juliet then maybe it’s West Side Story back there,” Julian said as he pulled at his straw. “Hopefully without all the singing.”

“I know you’re aware Tony died in that one,” Luther said as he switched lanes on his side.

“It was a good ending,” Julian replied and licked the blood from his lips.

“If I didn’t know better I’d think you were jealous.”

Julian laughed and dropped his feet down. “Only tired of horny men climbing onto this RV.”

“You don’t mind when it’s a woman,” Chris said.

“Of course not, but we haven’t found one of those in a couple of months.” They’d been traveling the country, through Mexico, South America, and Canada in search of more misplaced Hunters and Guardians, but they’d only found a dozen of them over the past couple of years. “Maybe it’s time to stay in a town or motel for a couple of nights,” he said with a pointed look at Luther. The man may be straighter than an arrow, but he had to have his own needs too and he
had
to let them blow off some steam sometimes. “We don’t have any new leads and we’re days away from home.”

Home, the word still felt unbelievably strange to him, but he had one now. For the first time, in as long as he could remember, he actually had a home, even if he only saw it a combined month total out of the year. Every time they returned, they were greeted with open arms and warm smiles. If he ever decided he didn’t want to search for the remaining Hunters and Guardians, he would be welcomed at the compound and allowed to build a life there.

He wasn’t ready to settle down somewhere permanently yet, and not because Cassie and Devon were there, together, but because he still had a life to live and things yet to do. Cassie and Devon were content to be settled in together, and they deserved every bit of happiness they’d finally been afforded, but he wasn’t ready to be in a place with little to no risk. He needed excitement; he
thrived
on it.

First things first though, he
had
to get out of this rolling house on wheels for a few nights to blow off some steam. They spent at least four nights a week in a hotel instead of the RV, but it had been at least three months since they’d taken any time off from searching for Hunters and Guardians. Right now they were returning to the compound to drop off the lothario in the back. A break for a few days wasn’t out of the question.

“Good idea,” Chris said. “I could definitely stretch my legs, have a couple of drinks…”

“You’re not old enough,” Luther cut in.

Chris shrugged. “Hasn’t stopped me before.”

Luther shot Julian a look. Julian smiled innocently back at him. “I don’t see why he can’t have a few when he could die any day now.”

“Hey!” Chris protested.

“It’s true, human,” Julian replied.

“All it takes is one little accidental pull of the curtain.”

“Won’t kill me right away, not in this light.”

Chris unwrapped another piece of candy and popped it into his mouth. “A stake would.”

“You’d better be faster than you are now.” Julian looked away before Chris could respond and focused on Luther. “You know you wouldn’t mind a couple of days out of this thing too.”

Luther’s hands twisted on the wheel as he considered Julian’s words. “I wouldn’t,” he admitted.

“We’re all in agreement then!” Julian declared. “Now to stop somewhere with some excitement.”

“And maybe a strip club,” Chris suggested around a mouthful of chocolate.

Julian shook his head at the suggestion. He appreciated a naked woman just as much, if not more than the next guy, but he wasn’t willing to pay to see it. “I’m going to stop at the next exit with a hotel and a place to eat,” Luther said. “If there’s something in the area then so be it, if not you still get three days to explore the desert.”

“Every vampire’s dream vacation,” Julian muttered.

“We could keep driving,” Luther replied.

Julian stared at him hard, even Chris gave him a venomous stare. “No one has ever accused you of being the life of the party have they, Luther?” Julian inquired.

“At one time I was a lot of fun,” Luther said.

Chris snorted. “Were dinosaurs still alive?”

Luther shot him a look in the rearview mirror, but Chris only continued to chew on his chocolate. Returning his attention to Julian, Luther jerked his head toward the back. “You’re going to have to move if I’m going to take an exit.”

Julian glanced at the darkening sky before tugging the curtain open. The faint rays of the fading sun fell across his skin. The heat burned into his flesh, but thankfully there was no smoke and his skin didn’t blister. Over the past two years, he’d been exposing himself to the sun more and more with the hopes of one day being able to walk outside during the daylight hours like Devon could. It was a lengthy, excruciatingly painful process, but his tolerance to the sun’s rays had begun to build. He could take the setting sun with no ill effect, and stand within full daylight for almost a minute before being forced to retreat.

Patience and his name had never been synonymous with each other, but being able to feel the heat of the sun against his skin again, without bursting into flames, made it all worthwhile. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he turned his hand over before him. “You’re getting better with that,” Luther said as he took the next exit.

Julian nodded; it was difficult for him to take his eyes off the shafts of sun dancing in golden rays across his flesh. If he spent another six hundred years looking at this he still didn’t think he’d ever get enough of it.

The heat of the sun vanished when it dipped behind the dunes of the sandy desert they drove through. He finally tore his attention away from his arm to the narrow roadway they were on. Wooden buildings and homes, most with chipped paint, lined both sides of the roadway. A handful of stucco and brick facades were tucked in amongst the wood; they added splashes of red, yellow and orange color to the roadside. The houses in this section of the town appeared as alive as King Tut right now. Upon closer inspection, he saw signs of life in the potted plants on the porches, the curtains lining the windows, and the vehicles in the driveways.

At a set of stoplights, Luther made a right and entered a livelier section of town. Lights spilled onto the roadway from a scattering of restaurants and stores lining the main thoroughfare. The side streets were mostly dark with a few lights shining from the windows of the homes. Behind the storefronts, he could see more of the reddish brown desert broken only by the cactuses, straggling grass cropping’s and rock formations rising high into the air.

“What state are we in?” Julian inquired.

“Arizona,” Luther answered.

Chris rose from the table and knelt on the sofa Julian had been sitting on. He pulled back the curtain behind the sofa to peer out at the night. “Tombstone?” he inquired.

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