Read Running in the Dark Online

Authors: Regan Summers

Tags: #Romance, #Vampires

Running in the Dark

Running in the Dark
By Regan Summers

Santiago, Chile

After surviving a vampire turf war in Alaska, vampire courier Sydney Kildare is back behind the wheel and working under an assumed name in Chile. She doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the city and—worst of all—has to drive a crappy car.

What she
does
have is Malcolm Kelly, her sort-of boyfriend and manager of the city’s vampire population. But with Malcolm preoccupied by bloodsucker business—and a gorgeous vampiress from his past—Sydney feels more alone than ever.

But Sydney has more than her love life to worry about. She’s got vamps on her tail, mysterious deliveries that leave death in their wake, and old enemies targeting her to get to Malcolm. Turns out he’s got a history more deadly than she ever imagined, and she’ll have to use every skill in her arsenal to stay alive…

60,000 words

Dear Reader,

I love October because it’s the perfect month for my favorite season: fall. I adore the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the fall season. Pumpkins and straw bales, colorful mums and burning woodsmoke. And the crisp, cool weather that’s perfect for sitting on the porch and reading a book while sipping hot apple cider.

This month, we have an excellent variety of books perfectly suited to this very thing, starting with
All He Ever Desired,
Shannon Stacey’s latest Kowalski family contemporary romance. As always, Shannon delivers a captivating romance with just the right touch of light humor. Joining her in the contemporary romance category is HelenKay Dimon with
Lean on Me,
the second book in her trilogy. Make sure to check out her first Carina Press title,
It’s Not Christmas Without You,
and look for
We’ll Be Home for Christmas,
coming in December 2012.

If you’re gearing up for Halloween and are in the paranormal mood, check out Regan Summers’s newest novel,
Running in the Dark.
Debut author Bryn Donovan offers a wonderful paranormal romance in
Sole Possession,
while Diana Copland’s male/male paranormal romance
A Reason to Believe
will haunt you long after you’ve read the last page. And joining Diana with a male/male release is L.B. Gregg and her rerelease
Men of Smithfield: Seth and David.

Fans of steampunk romance will be thrilled to see new releases from two of our favorite steampunk authors: Cindy Spencer Pape and Jenny Schwartz. Look for
Moonlight & Mechanicals
and
Courting Trouble
to release in mid-October. And as an aside, can I tell you how much I love Jenny’s series name of The Bustlepunk Chronicles? It’s a perfect fit for this series about a spunky young woman in steampunk Australia.

I’m thrilled to welcome Val Roberts to Carina Press with her newest science-fiction romance novel,
The Valmont Contingency.
Val and I worked together in the past and I love her voice! And returning to us with another release in the fantasy romance genre is Karalynn Lee. If you’ve never had the pleasure of immersing yourself in one of Karalynn’s worlds, now’s the time to check out
Heart of the Dragon’s Realm.

My team is especially excited about this next book from Julie Rowe. As fans of
Downton Abbey,
they fell in love with the first book in her new historical romance series set during World War I,
Saving the Rifleman.

If you’re wondering where the romantic suspense is, not to worry, Kate Sherwood offers up a spine-tingling suspense,
Shadow Valley.
And mystery author Janis Patterson returns with her newest novel,
Beaded to Death.

To round out the month of October, we have two spicy erotic romances to tempt you. With
No Reservations,
Lilly Cain kicks off her new erotic series, Bad Girls Know. Last, but definitely not least, the book from Christine d’Abo’s Long Shots series I’ve been waiting for. Mouthwatering sex club owner Josh is finally going to get his own happily ever after and you don’t want to miss the mind-blowing chemistry Christine has written to get him there in
Calling the Shots.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Acknowledgements

I must express my appreciation to my family and friends for their support, for enduring intermittent bouts of radio silence and for reminding me to put pants on before I leave the house.

Heartfelt gratitude to my early readers, Bettie Lee Turner and Jolanda Jongedijk, and to my awesome critique partner, Tiffany Allee. Huge thanks to Martín Wilson for providing translation assistance from not one, but two continents.

This book would not have been possible without the guid­ance of my editor, the dedicated and delightful Mallory Braus, and everyone on the Carina Press and Harlequin team who helped to shape, format, package and produce this book. My thanks to you all.

Chapter One

I was driving a clinking, clanging, rusted-out POS that hadn’t been new since I was in diapers. The driver’s seat boasted a rogue spring with bad intentions and the exhaust system had all the dignity of a very old, very drunk man working his way through the world’s most disgusting bucket list.

I didn’t even care, because I was lost.

With half my night’s deliveries still threatening the seams of my courier bag, I turned the Tercel onto yet another unmarked, unpaved road. And lurched to a stop in front of a locked metal gate.

“Camino privado,”
I muttered. The industrial area northwest of Santiago was a labyrinth of private roads. I flipped my map over and back, then rotated it sideways to align it to the actual direction the roads ran. The sign across the street was barely visible under the blinking yellow streetlight.

I could have marked the map before I left, could have taken a red felt pen and drawn my route like a—
gag
—wandering tourist. But that would have made me a pretty poor excuse for a vampire courier.

Vampires, for all their various talents, can’t use technology. Their altered energy, that strange current that keeps their undead bodies ambulatory and brains ticking, is murder on electronics. So they rely on us, human couriers who can drive all night—and during the day, when necessary—between their plush homes, swank offices and blood lounges without allowing ourselves to be tailed or corrupted. Or to get lost. I looked at my watch and felt the line between my eyebrows deepen.

I fought the car into reverse, spun the nose toward the road and ground it into gear. I’d been in Santiago for a month, during which time I’d learned that Chilean water tastes like it was ladled out of a public pool and that I could live happily on empanadas for the rest of my life. I’d also discovered that a city ten times larger than my prior base of Anchorage, Alaska, was more than ten times harder to work in when everything was written in a language I didn’t understand. My Spanish consisted of common words and a few key phrases. Essentials such as “Where is the bathroom?” Lies to protect my real identity, like “My name is Aerin Crane.” And common business phrases: “Sign here, please” and “I’m not for biting.”

I cruised between the darkened hulks of warehouses and faded shipping containers. The passing headlights ahead signaled a major cross street. If I reached that, I’d gone too far. My lips pressed tight together and I shook my head, willing my destination to appear.

And, voilá, a shiver ran down my spine, one that had nothing to do with cold and everything to do with the jittery offbeat current of vampire energy. I braked, turned onto a pair of overgrown ruts with aspirations of roadness, and crept toward a long, one-story building with corrugated metal siding. What should have been a parking lot was overgrown with weeds, and the angular shapes looming in those weeds indicated trash—big metal trash. I parked forty feet from the building. Even though the car sucked, I’d rather keep my ten bucks than pay my employer to replace it. I stepped out of the car, settled my bag diagonally over my body and made sure my laminate ID and clipboard were visible. Those were the official tools of a courier.

Unofficially, I carried a can of pepper spray the size and shape of a lighter, and a six-inch pocket knife, currently in my back pocket and the side pouch of my bag. Couriers are technically off-limits to poaching by vampires, but I’d learned my lesson on how well suckers follow rules.

“Suba las manos, con las palmas boca arriba.”
The voice, coming from the shadows stretching away from the high fence, was bored, male and dropping letters from the ends of words. I didn’t have to see him or have an academic knowledge of the Chilean dialect to know that he was lower class. My brain ran a quick translation with my limited vocabulary.
Hands out, palms up.
I raised my arms outward and pinched the clipboard between thumb and forefinger to comply with the order as well as I could.

“Entrego un paquete. Es para Guillermo.”
I’d given the speech close to a thousand times during the six years I ran packages in Anchorage. Saying I was making a delivery and giving up the name of the recipient was my invitation, my protection and my get-out-of-jail-free card all in one. Then one night, two vampire regimes jumped from feud to war, and I found myself stuck in the middle as they started duking it out for the territory. Laminates aren’t effective shields when suckers are on a rampage.

I’d made serious bank as the preferred courier for Master Bronson, the head vampire in the Last Frontier. Almost enough to retire on. In the process I’d gained a reputation as the one runner in Alaska who couldn’t be corrupted. But when the bloody game of capture the flag took off, it turned out I was part of that flag. The insurgents went after the humans Bronson trusted to run his business, which included me since I delivered his messages and orders. I don’t like being a target. Thankfully, things were calmer in Santiago.

It was, technically, another of Master Bronson’s territories. He ruled the undead here just like he did in Alaska. But while he’d been fighting off the attempted coup back home, the suckers eight thousand miles to the south thought it was a fine time to try to gobble up pieces of Bronson’s Patagonian empire.

“Guillermo no está,”
the sucker said, now right behind me. The hive leader wasn’t there. I’d heard that a lot in the last two weeks.

Since there were no other vampires with a master’s strength in Santiago, power had splintered rather than shifting. Unaffiliated vampires—those who had been disowned or were set adrift when their makers died—formed hives together. If Bronson were here, his power would draw the orphans who sought protection and cow anybody else. But in defiance of the normal seasonal vampire migration, he’d stayed in Alaska, and the ambitious were making moves. The stronger suckers and their gangs skirmished over a few blocks here or a stake in a blood lounge there. Vampires were changing allegiances nightly.

And Guillermo was no longer ruling this poor hive. I wouldn’t care, except I needed a signature. The package wasn’t designated His Hands Only, so Guillermo’s usurper or successor would do just fine.

I asked for the new guy, or anyone with signature authority, then swiveled until I spotted the male I was talking to. He had two hands. Surely he was capable of signing. The vampire crept up, his energy buzzing against me like an electric razor.

“Who is it from?” he asked through a thick accent. I tilted the clipboard and squinted at the “sender” line.

“Goya Worldwide.” I frowned. Vampires tended to go by first name only unless there were several of them with the same name—which was surprisingly infrequent—or if they weren’t affiliated with a master. I rarely delivered anything corporate. He made a low sound, impatience or frustration, but didn’t come any closer.

“What will you do if you cannot deliver it?”

“Anyone can sign for—”

“And if nobody does?”

“Then I come back tomorrow night,” I said cheerfully, like I believed the customer was always right rather than exceedingly frustrating. “Can I put my arms down?”

His curse was barely audible, but enough to alert me that something was off, way off. Suckers might get irritated by their deliveries the same way I get irritated by junk mail, but that doesn’t stop me from going to the post office. Power brushed against my right side and I turned on my heel as a new vampire joined us. Great, a welcoming committee instead of just one ill-mannered sucker.

Suckers emit an almost static-electric feeling, constant rather than a shock. It’s uncomfortable, and cold, and most humans don’t feel it so much as sense there’s something not right about the person generating it.

Thanks to dear old mom ingesting vampire blood while she was pregnant—a scientific no-no—I’m acutely sensitive to vampire power. Luckily, I can also resist them when they try to charm-slash-brainwash me.

“You may lower them.” The female spoke English with a British accent, and as she walked into view, I lowered my head along with my arms to hide my smile.

I dress up for a reason, baggy clothes to hide my true size, dyed hair—a phenomenal pine-green at the moment—to disguise the color, and theatrical makeup to alter my appearance. I changed it up nightly so that if I needed to bolt, I’d have a chance at getting away without being recognized. She, however, was distinctly dressed like the lovechild of Stevie Nicks and Little Red Riding Hood. There was a lot of floppy red velvet and feathered black hair going on and it didn’t appear to be a disguise.

“Thank you, ma’am. Now, if I could just get a signature, I’ll be on my way. The delivery was scheduled for tonight, and the sender is one Goya Worldwide.”

She smiled, but as she moved toward me I had to force myself to hold still. The male circled around, moving like a vampire should, quick and quiet. She, on the other hand, lurched, all hunched forward, arms twitchy inside her cape as if she was having trouble with her balance. The male murmured, and her eyes narrowed. She snapped at him, straightening slightly so that, in the beams of my headlights, I saw her belly, grotesquely distended. Like she was about to give birth to triplet ponies. I didn’t want to—couldn’t—imagine what she’d done to get that way, so I concentrated on the male instead.

He was massive, barrel-chested in what looked like a threadbare gondolier’s shirt. And he had muttonchops for days. The truly impressive kind, black and really puffy. They argued, paying no attention to me, until the vampiress raised a hand and screeched a command. Despite the tattered display of power that accompanied her words, he lowered his head in submission. I almost felt bad for him, being yelled at in front of a human. She turned to me.

“Give it to me,” she demanded, opening and closing her hand like a compulsive puppet. I offered her the clipboard, keeping my gaze above her belly but below her eyes.

“Sign here, please.”

She slapped the board with such force that something in my wrist popped from the effort of holding it. My right hand tripped around to my back pocket and I swallowed hard. Keep calm. Stay professional. She began panting, and heat emanated from her like she had a fever. Her eyes followed the kohl line down the center of my nose, the ribbons that arched over my brows and back down to my cheekbones.

“Brujita, tú no sabes con quién te estás metiendo. Aquí mando yo. Dame el paquete.”

I didn’t catch all of it, but the bravado spelled it out just fine.
You don’t know who you’re messing with, you little witch. Give me the package. Blah, blah, blah.

“All I need is a signature and you can have your…”

She raised a hand, focused, and tried to
will
me to release the package. Blotches of cool power pressed against my forehead, and I stiffened in anticipation of it exploding behind my eyes. But…nothing. Her glamour—a vampire trick to temporarily alter a human’s reasoning—didn’t even make contact with my mind. She was talking the talk, all arrogant and snappy, but she clearly didn’t know what the hell she was doing.

Not that I was going to tell her that. My top three rules of survival all used to involve not pissing off vampires, but the bastards didn’t seem to care how careful I was. Now, rule number one was that nobody could find out I couldn’t be influenced. Not vampires, not humans, not anybody.

So here I was, running late on the night I’d promised myself I’d finally make it back to the shop on time. And then she pulled this shit. I couldn’t “obey” her glamour nor could I laugh off her feeble attempt to influence me.

I swayed a bit to make it appear I was affected and—drama queen that she was—she raised her other hand. The cold force of her will crawled across my forehead and dipped toward my ears, dampening sound and making my teeth tingle like I’d bitten aluminum foil. According to the laws of vampire conveyance in Chile, she’d already assaulted me—the clipboard being a designated extension of the messenger. Plus she’d called me a little witch. Now she intended to crush my puny human mind like a peanut shell. My lip curled.

I pulled the canister from my pocket, flicked the cap off and sprayed. I jogged backward, because that shit goes everywhere and my plans did not include spending the rest of the night a red-eyed mess with no control over my mucous membranes. The suckers skittered away into the dark, which would have been spooky except I could hear them coughing and gagging and scratching at their faces. I hadn’t even aimed it directly at them.

“Last time,” I said in a tone I’d never have used with a vampire who had real power. “Somebody signs for this, or I mark it undeliverable as addressed and incinerate it.”

Stevie Hood stomped back into the glow of the Tercel’s headlights, grabbed the board and scratched out a single name, Livia. The inside of my nose began to burn and I blinked hard as I extracted the padded envelope from my bag, double-checking the address. Livia took it, and I backed up a couple more steps as the pepper cloud wafted toward me.

She stared at the package, turning it slowly in her hands. The blood-flush drained from her face. Maybe I’d used too much. Maybe in high enough concentrations, pepper spray was toxic to suckers, with their heightened senses.

I’d be in so much trouble if I killed a vampire on the job.

She looked at me and her fangs dropped. I stopped breathing. Then she turned her head, as if to call over her shoulder, and vomited a stream of blood. I leaped back with a startled yell. The other vamp darted away from the slat fence he’d been leaning on, and held Livia upright while maneuvering to avoid her line of fire. She heaved out a couple more pints, then wiped her mouth on her cape. Her shirt rode up and I nearly gagged at the sight of her belly, the veiny skin stretched so tight it was nearly translucent. Her giant gondolier picked her up and carried her to the low warehouse.

The door slammed, then squealed as it swung back open a few inches. The blood on the ground steamed in the cool air. Creepy. I climbed into my car, set my bag on the passenger’s seat and aimed for the next address on the list. I’d expected a silent, scary entourage engaging in icy intimidation and sly attempts to deceive or seduce. I’d gotten a powerless glutton with bad fashion sense and no manners.

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