Authors: Aimee Laine
Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #genetic testing, #Shape Shifter, #Romance, #mimic, #abuse, #urban fantasy
Aimee Laine takes readers on a heart wrenching ride as Lily Crane comes to terms with her past.
— L.S. Murphy, author, Reaper
Through intrigue, action, love, and betrayal, Ms Laine takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery.
— J.A. Belfield, author, Blue Moon
“In Laine’s heart stopping, Surrender, Lily Crane’s haunting past threatens to divide her from the family she’s known, and Cael Aldridge will make any sacrifice to save her.”
— Julie Reece, author, Crux
Praise for Little White Lies, Book 1 in the Mimics of Rune
“It’s immediately intriguing and captivating and held me from the first page.”
— The Bawdy Book Blog
“… a breath of fresh air to my paranormal experience.”
— Once Upon a Chapter
“I loved the idea of this story, and once I started reading, I loved it even more!”
— Burning Impossibly Bright
“… what a wonderful paranormal story is hiding in the pages!”
— Books Devoured
J. Taylor Publishing
Published by J. Taylor Publishing
Copyright © 2012 Aimee Laine
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, locations, or any other element is entirely coincidental.
ISBN 978-1-937744-10-6 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-1-937744-11-3 (EPUB)
First Printing: September 2012
To my kids —
It is to you that I surrender myself, forever and always.
A car horn blasted Cael Aldridge’s eardrums as he raced into oncoming traffic. His hands reached the hood of a sedan before his body slammed into the side. He bounced off but kept his footing and spun away, ignoring the driver yelling through the window.
No more than twenty paces had separated Cael from the man he sought.
The bump into the car gave his target an additional ten.
Cael focused every ounce of energy he could into lengthening his stride. With longer muscle fibers and increased lung capacity, his endurance grew, and the distance between himself and his prey shrunk again.
Roy Marlow could not get away.
The ding of a bell sounded to Cael’s left an instant before a woman, laden with shopping bags, exited a doorway.
Cael swung around a black, metal light pole to avoid her. Even that millisecond of a detour gave Roy a greater lead. A deep breath added more build to Cael’s hamstrings and thighs. The exhale came with a slap to his side-piece—just in case.
Determination filled him as only one town block remained before Roy could dart left or right, and Cael would lose him.
Black dress shoes slapped against concrete as he pressed forward, breathing in small, shallow gulps, concentrating his efforts on closing the distance.
Sounds passed in a rush of air.
Friends went by ignored.
The only person Cael wanted to talk to came in the form of a five-foot male who somehow managed to
disappear anytime he zipped around a corner.
As Roy made it to the intersection, a black FBI-issue bounced against the curb, scattering the few people who stood in wait at the crosswalk.
Two doors burst opened, releasing bodies from within.
No different than a cartoon character, Roy skidded to a halt, pivoted and darted straight back toward Cael. As their gazes met, Roy stopped again. His head whipped back and forth between the car and Cael before Roy ran straight into the road.
The screech of tires rang out.
A scream came from somewhere behind Cael as he slipped between two other vehicles, dancing his way into the road. He pushed off from the back of a slow-moving car and raced toward Roy.
At any point, Roy could have snuck inside a store or jumped a car and become as invisible as a speck of dust. That he kept running meant the game had to be played, and Cael refused to lose.
Roy hit the opposite corner of the intersection as a silver hotdog cart with a bright, neon pink umbrella rolled into his path. His entire body slapped against the metal contraption, and he fell backward to the ground.
The cart tipped, pink arcing like a rainbow on its way down as bread and cans flipped from the top surface, dumping contents to the ground.
Cael overtook Roy and jerked to a stop, a wide grin on his face. Breathless, Cael stood over the man he’d pursued for a month at least, but he’d known of for years. “Hello, Roy.”
The small man’s hand clutched his head in more of an I-can’t-believe-I-got-hit-by-a-hot dog-stand way than in any sort of actual pain.
A chuckle had Cael tilting up. His brother, James Henry, stood with a smirk as his boss, Wyatt Moreland, held out his fist.
With an exchanged bump and nod, Cael returned his attention to Roy. “I’d say it’s so good to see you again … but, well, it’s not.”
Roy’s hand stayed over his eyes.
“Looks like the third time’s the charm, right?” Cael asked.
Not a word.
Cael grabbed hold of Roy’s collar and yanked him upright as Cael himself stood, chuckling when Roy only arrived to Cael’s shoulders. “Let’s go have a chat. Shall we?”
• • •
One chair. One table. No windows. The stench of body odor permeated the space as dust particles sparkled from overhead fluorescent lights. The stark room left little to the imagination, not that Cael wanted the man across from him to get creative.
Cael stood in the far corner of the room, his gaze fixed on the man seated in front of him. “Tell me, Roy.” Cael’s tone bit the more his anger grew. Four hours of questioning had gone on long enough.
Roy linked his fingers together on the flat metal surface in front of him.
“Still not a good answer.” Cael took two steps, reaching the empty side of the table before he swung out and snatched his counterpart’s shirt. One jerk and Roy laid halfway across the table top. “You think you can mess with Lily like this? You think you can come into this town and stir up trouble like you do everywhere else? Wrong time, Roy. Wrong place.”
Roy fell back on release, toppling the metal chair over on his way to the floor. “You asshole!” He scrambled to a stand, straightening his barely five foot frame and his Hawaiian shirt.
“He speaks. After all this time?”
Roy rotated to the one-way mirror and slicked his greasy hair back into place, sending a wave of oily fumes into the stale air.
Cael stared at the same spot, his own face reflecting back at him—a mix of anger, curiosity, interest and exhaustion. At nearly double Roy’s size, Cael could squash him like a summer June bug. The belief that Roy knew more, that he held the secrets Cael wished to hear, spurred him on.
Roy made his way back to the table, righted the chair and sat in it again.
“Tell me why you’ve been following Lily Crane!” The words burst from Cael for the hundredth time as if that would be enough to make Roy talk.
Behind him, reflected in the mirror, Roy stayed as if he’d frozen himself to the table and chair.
Desperation masked Cael’s own features. He spun, marched to the opposite side of the table and slammed his fists onto the metal. The force added depressions in the top and sent a blast of noise bouncing off the walls.
Cael’s fists curled at the thought of Lily, her golden locks, small, tight body and huge smile, facing the likes of Roy Marlow. Images played through Cael’s mind, some he could pull from memory, others, his imagination conjured. “Why are you following her?”
“Why did you buy her a ring in Savannah?”
One I would have given her.
“A pearl. Her favorite. Something very personal to her.”
Not even a breath of air.
“Who sent you? We know you always work for someone else.”
Zilch. Roy could have been an actual statue for all of Cael’s intoned fury.
“Where’s the ring now? Who’d you give it to? Who else wants her?” Without waiting for an answer, Cael moved back around the table and wrenched Roy up by his neck until his feet left the floor. “I’m just going to hold on for a while.”
Roy kicked out but missed Cael’s leg—an effect of Roy’s chosen size and Cael’s reach.
“Should have picked someone larger today, Roy.” A Mimic, just like a human, needed air. “I know it’s you since you stick to the same eye color every time. The freckle never goes, either.”
Roy’s eyes widened even as he opened his mouth.
Roy clawed at Cael’s hands, redness replacing his otherwise pale skin tone.
“Let’s play a little game, shall we? Blink for yes. Are you following Lily Crane?”
“Are. You. After. Lily Crane?”
Roy remained stoic, the red of his cheeks fading into a purplish-blue.
The door opened on a rush. “Cael.” Wyatt, Cael’s boss and friend, stood in the frame, a threat in his tone.
“Fuck you, Roy.” Cael slung Roy to the floor.
The sucking of air and returning color suggested not much harm had been done.
Cael lowered to one knee. “Don’t think this is over.”
With one toss of Wyatt’s head, Cael stood.
He stormed out of the room, leaving Roy on the floor. As the door slammed shut behind him, Cael crossed his arms over his chest.
“You’re not getting anywhere with him,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt shook his head. “Four hours and he’s not talking. We have nothing to hold him on.”
Cael bumped his fist against the wall. “This isn’t like your normal interrogation. I can do it for days.” Another shake of Wyatt’s head spiraled Cael to fury. “There’s something there! He was in Savannah with a ring. He bought it for her. He came back just as we suspected he would.” Ticking off each piece, Cael held up his fingers in front of his friend’s face. “He came back, Wyatt. I’m not going to let him get to Lily. He’s a weasel and a cocky one at that.”
Wyatt took the finger and pressed until Cael lowered his hand to his waist. “You’re too close to this. You thought Lily was keeping something from you, and now you think Roy is. There’s a point where you being in there makes it appear as though you want information for yourself, rather than for the government’s benefit.”
Decades of self-taught composure and his job with the FBI kept Cael from punching Wyatt.
Footsteps shuffling down the hall had them both turning. James, the third in their team of seven, strode down the hallway, a manila folder in hand.
Jumpiness pushed Cael to face his brother. “Please tell me you have someth—”
James held up his hand as he came to a stop just before the two of them. “Some surveillance photos and a few notations from shop owners about Roy’s visits. Seems he didn’t just stop in the jewelry store two days ago. He went to the furniture store, to a real estate office and to the post office.”
Wyatt cocked his head. “He went to the post office?”
“Maybe he had to mail a letter?” James shrugged.
Cael pushed past James, took five giant steps down the hall, spun and returned. “Fuck this! He’s going to kidnap Lily and take her out of the country, and you’re going to sit there and tell me I can’t harass him to get answers?”
Wyatt and James created a wall in front of the door through which Cael would strangle Roy if he got his hands on him.
“Cael?” Wyatt’s cold tone stopped Cael’s pacing.
“First, where did you come up with the idea he’s going to kidnap Lily? Second, and more importantly, where is Roy right now?”
James chuckled but quit at a direct stare from Wyatt.
Cael clenched his teeth.
“Okay, fine. I’ll answer,” Wyatt said. “He’s in a secure room where he’s been for a full day. When he did show up on Lily’s doorstep, James was there. Yeah, he got away. But you caught him. And, he didn’t have the ring on him or in his car. We’ve been one step ahead—”
“Charley told you—”
Wyatt held up a hand. “Yes, I know. She said Roy’s always a step ahead, but we have him now. You can’t kill him before we get answers. Even the piñata act you were pulling with him has to tone down.” Wyatt tapped his temple. “Think about it from a non-emotional standpoint. You want Roy to talk. We’ll make him talk. We just need to find out what buttons to push first.”
• • •
Nothing could mess up Lily Crane’s day.
A small breeze ruffled her hair and made her smile as she strolled down Main Street USA—or in her case, the downtown of Rune, North Carolina—a place that had become home decades before. She walked along the sidewalk, staring at her own goofy grin in the windows, passersby waving and calling out their hellos to each other, full of friendliness and cheer. Through the pet store window, she admired the puppies frolicking with each other. At the bakery, she inhaled the fresh croissant and melting chocolate scents wafting from the open door.