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Authors: Erin Simone

ShadowsofNight

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Shadows of Night

Erin
Simone

 

Immortal Embrace, Book Two

 

Christian Voss’ immortal existence
becomes a little less boring the second he meets his new assistant, Emma Hayes.
Her fiery personality and raw sex appeal bring out his every carnal instinct,
their chemistry charged and volatile. Christian enjoys the challenge, feeling
alive for the first time in centuries. Sex with Emma is a drug he can’t resist,
and he’s not about to give her up.

Emma is no easy conquest. She
fights him at every turn, frightened by the growing desires threatening her
will. Her reservations are fueled by guilt over the loss of her family, and
Christian vows to help her find the vampire responsible. But when secrets from
her past come to light, the truth may be more than a mere mortal can bear.

When two worlds collide, the
resulting conflagration of passion, pain and revenge will leave Christian and
Emma changed forever.

 

Inside Scoop:
Necks are so
passé. These provocative vamps sometimes like to drink from more…
intimate
body parts.

 

A Romantica®
paranormal erotic romance
from
Ellora’s Cave

 

Shadows of Night
Erin Simone

Dedication

 

To my family, for all their support during the many hours I
spend writing…

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Angela, your humor through this process was definitely
helpful to me, especially when I thought I might pull my hair out. You kept me
sane. You’re the best critique partner ever.

Hugs,

Erin Simone

 

Chapter One

Ascot, England

Spring 2012

 

Christian Voss’ face hit the wet earth as four behemoth-sized
males landed on top of him in an attempt to gain control of the ball he protectively
cradled against his powerful body.

“I don’t think so, sods. Not this game.” He threw them off
and jumped to his feet, then passed the ball to his friend Conner on his left.

“Ruck!” the official called as the men followed behind the
ball. Christian let out a grunt as a shoulder crashed into his side. He kept
pace with Conner, who was still managing to maintain possession of the ball.

“I’ll block for you—keep going,” Christian said to Conner as
he prevented an advancing player from the other team getting past him to try to
steal the ball away.

“Thanks, mate,” Conner replied, shooting ahead of the pack
with the ball in tow. A large male tackled Christian to the ground and he went
down with another grunt. He didn’t care this time. Conner was close to the goal
line.

Christian loved playing rugby. It was one of the few
activities he still enjoyed in this half-life he’d been forced to live. England
tended to have cooler weather with lots of rain in the spring months, and Ascot
was getting its fair share this season. He didn’t mind. In fact he rather
enjoyed playing his favorite game in the rain. Being covered in mud after a
good match made him think of happier times, before his life had changed. Not
that he’d played ruggers prior to his transformation. The sport hadn’t existed.
He loved it though, relishing the challenge and the camaraderie he shared with
his fellow teammates, which brought back memories of his life at sea and the
time he’d spent with his shipmates working together as a unit.

The field they were playing on had great light, which also
allowed the scrimmage to continue late into the night. Still, he hated the fact
that he couldn’t be outside whenever he chose to be.

The weather in England did afford some reprieve from being
confined to going out only at night, but not much. In his opinion it was still
a risk, especially if the sun broke through the clouds and you were caught
outside. Why take a chance?

“That a boy,” Christian hollered as Conner kicked the ball
hard and it flew over the goal line.

“Try,” the referee called out.

Christian tackled Conner. “You did it. Great shot.” He
congratulated his mate who had won the match for his team, even though the
bouts never lasted long enough for his taste. He liked the adrenaline rush and
the physical roughness of the sport. There were no helmets or pads to protect
you like in American football. Those Yanks had it easy as far as he was
concerned.

Of course, the men on his squad and the teams they played
against were also like him—vampires. Certainly no helmets required. And why
risk exposing what he was by inviting humans into the mix? Not smart. Their
lives were already complicated enough without that kind of fiasco to deal with.
Besides, an injury involving blood wouldn’t be good for the human with a bunch
of vampires around.

“I won’t take all the credit. You set me up to score.”
Conner winked.

“It was all you. Good game, Conner.” He slapped his friend
on the shoulder as they made their way over to pick up their gear on the
sideline.

“Yes, it was. We made quick sport of the other team.”

“That’s because we’re better at ruggersthan most of
the other squads, mate.” He watched the losing team walk off the field sulking.

“Yeah, but maybe we should let them win a few or they might
not want to play us anymore,” Conner replied.

“Nah, we play to win.” Christian shrugged. “They need to
train harder if they want to beat us.”

“True.” Conner grinned.

Christian slung his heavy bag over his shoulder. “I’m going
to take a shower and head to the office for a while.”

“You’re going in to work right now?” Conner asked.

“Yeah, I have too.”
It never ends but I suppose that’s
the way I prefer it.

“You just can’t leave it for a bit, can you?”

“Not when there are tons of emails and phone calls I need to
return. I can’t put them off anymore.”

Running Voss International’s London headquarters was not an
easy task. It never left much time for other things. Not that it mattered. His
life had always been centered on work, rugby and occasionally hanging out with
his inner circle. Beyond that, there wasn’t much else he cared to do anymore.

Christian lived by the Order’s code and when called upon to
do his part, he did what was asked without question. Unlike his brother Dane, he
wasn’t a Hunter; chasing down and destroying Rogues who preyed on humans wasn’t
his thing. Humans were a pain in the ass as far as Christian was concerned.
They placed themselves in situations that made them easy targets for Rogues.

At times he felt apathetic to the whole mess between the
feuding vampire factions. He knew the Rogues would never reform. Nothing was
going to change them. As long as they stayed out of his territory, he’d leave
well enough alone. He didn’t feel a calling to hunt and destroy them like his
brother did.

Life, in many ways, had become predictable. He supposed that
was okay, considering how long he’d existed. Immortality could be both a
blessing and a curse. Most days though it felt like the latter. The world
changed but Christian remained the same. Frozen in time, never to grow old or
die.

“What’s a few more hours? Leave it, mate. The boys are
meeting at my flat to play cribbage. Join us.”

“Nah, mate, I’ll pass.”

“Fine, then at least stop by when you’re through?”

“I’ll think about it.” He probably wouldn’t though. Too much
of the same old blasted routine.

“Did you go through the list of applicants I left on your
desk this afternoon?”

“Remind me again why I’m looking at resumes?”

“You need a new assistant, remember?” Conner shook his head.

“No, I don’t. Barkley will be back.”
Not going to deal
with that either.

“Yes, you do. He’s gravely ill, Christian, and won’t be able
to resume his duties for months, if at all. That’s way too long for you to be
without someone to help manage your schedule.”

“Fine, but don’t hire any more humans. Find me a vampire
instead.” He knew it didn’t really matter, because it wasn’t as if he had much
contact with them anyway. Communication with Barkley mostly involved emails and
telephone calls. Personal contact, he kept to a minimum on purpose. Barkley was
cool and he hated the fact that the old guy was dying. A vampire would be easier
all around.

“You need an assistant who can run errands during daylight
hours, that’s why I think the candidate should be a human,” Conner pushed.

Christian sighed. “All right, it that’s the case. Do you
have someone in mind?” He really couldn’t give a shit at this point. He just
wanted to leave.

“As a matter of fact, there are a few who I think will
probably work.”

“If you find the right candidate, great. You don’t need my
approval. I’ll leave it up to you.”

“Are you sure?” He arched an eyebrow in surprise.

“Yep, don’t care.” Christian waved him off. He was tired of
discussing it. Conner meant well, he knew that. But sometimes their close
friendship blurred the lines between business and personal. He glanced at his
watch.
Damn.
He’d spent enough time rambling.

“This is a first. You usually don’t give up control that
easy,” he called after him.

“I trust you.” He really did.

Christian teleported from the field to go shower before
heading to the office. It was a useful skill he’d gained when he became a
vampire. Immortality had some advantages. Teleporting—or tracing, as they
called it—was one of them.

His thoughts drifted back to Barkley. He was actually more
than gravely ill, Christian knew, and it made him angry. Humans were so frail.
Poor
bastard.
He wished he could change him. If he could the assistant dilemma would
be solved, but it was forbidden.

That was the problem with having contact with the living and
building any sort of connection—it never lasted.

Chapter Two

Network Operations Base

Essex, England

 

Emma Hayes glanced in the mirror, checking her reflection to
make sure her French twist had no flyaways. She applied a little lip gloss,
liner and blush and then took a step back to inspect her whole appearance.

Big green eyes stared back at her and she blew an escaping
strand of chestnut hair out of her face. Her mixed ancestry of French Canadian,
Iroquois, Slovak and English gave her high, exotic cheekbones, full lips and a
smooth olive skin tone, which meant she didn’t need much face paint. That was
perfect. She wasn’t a big fan of makeup.

There wasn’t much she could do about the outfit though.

“Gah, this is a new look for me.” She blanched at her
reflection.
I’m no girlie-girl.
The get-up was definitely not her
standard attire. Why women chose to wear tight clothes and uncomfortable shoes was
beyond her. She smoothed down the black skirt that hugged her small waist and
adjusted the buttons on her blouse. But she’d been told by her superiors to
change her appearance, which was code for “dress like a goddamn female and not
like a soldier”.

Damn, these freaking heels are from hell.
How do
women walk in these stupid contraptions?
She staggered forward. Her feet
were going to hurt like a son of a bitch after spending eight hours in mini-stilts
designed to cause pain. Her new assignment was important though, so she’d put
up with some discomfort to complete the mission, even if it meant wearing these
nasty suckers.
Oh the joys of working undercover.

Her beauty was a weapon she’d had to use on more than one
occasion to get close to a target. She didn’t like it. But when you were given
an order, you didn’t question your superiors. A stumbling block in her past, her
looks proved beneficial in her new career, giving her an edge over some of the
other agents.

Most of her peers hadn’t believed she was cut out for the
Network’s undercover task force teams, but she’d proved them wrong. She was
tough as nails. Could take down any opponent, male or female, no matter their
size or strength. She was agile and enjoyed a good fight. And Emma wasn’t above
using sex to gain control of a target if that was what a mission required, her
sexuality just another tool in her arsenal.

Emma continued to study her reflection, trying to decide if
this outfit was going to work for her first day on assignment.
Oh bloody
hell, girl, you look like you’re dressed for a funeral. Shit, this blouse won’t
work.

She rifled through the bedroom closet in her residence at
the Network’s London compound, looking for something else to wear. She had a
newly rented flat in Brentwood that would be her home while she was on this
assignment, but she’d been at headquarters for meetings and briefings that had
run late into the night. The six-square-mile Network compound had safe houses
dotted throughout, so she’d simply stayed at the one she’d commandeered upon
her arrival.

Of course, most of her clothes had already been moved to the
Brentwood flat.

“Damn, I should’ve left more stuff here.” She sighed and
chewed her bottom lip while trying to decide what to wear. “Hmm, this might
work.” She grabbed a black silk cap-sleeve blouse off a hanger.

Emma quickly changed and decided the blouse complemented the
rest of her ensemble well enough.

Where the hell is Cain?
He was supposed to be there
ten minutes ago.She glanced at her watch, angry that he was late, and
then took a deep breath.
Calm down, something must’ve come up. He’s usually
on time.
This was no time to let her frustrations get the best of her. She
didn’t want to be agitated before the assignment even began.

The Network was sending her into Voss International, in the
hopes of gathering intel on the Order of the Dragon and its illusive Hunters.
Operation Shadows of Night was finally ready to be executed. She was posing as
Emily Parker, daughter of Barkley Parker, a longtime Voss employee who had
recently passed away. Sources claimed the company was owned and operated by
vampires, and her superiors wanted to learn more about the elusive creatures.
Were they friendlies? Their sources had implied as much. Or was that just a
façade that covered a darker purpose?

Emma didn’t believe they were the good guys.

After weeks of interviews and security checks, she’d been hired
as an executive assistant to Christian Voss, a suspected Hunter who ran the
international trade company’s London offices. She had been briefed by her superiors
and it was believed this particular Order of vampires didn’t feed on humans.
She didn’t buy that bullshit either, but she kept her misgivings to herself.

Her job required a focused and level approach. She couldn’t allow
her past to rear its ugly head now, especially when it brought her so close to
her enemy at last.

Infiltration would be the easy part; pretending to be
oblivious to what they were might be a little more difficult because of her
disdain for the creatures, but she could do it.
I can be a good actress when
I have to be. Just watch me.

There happened to be a blue moon, that night he’d come for
her family. Emma had crawled out onto the roof from her bedroom window, wanting
to get a better look at the rare phenomenon.

Her mother’s terrifying scream had jarred her from her
dreams. She’d bolted up with a shiver and looked around, realizing she had
fallen asleep up there. The sound of breaking glass startled her and she’d
quickly crawled on her hands and knees toward her mother’s window—where she saw
him
.

She would never forget the sight of her mom in the clutches
of one of those fanged demons.

He’d latched on to her throat, sucking her dry. Her mother had
twitched and groaned then finally stilled. He’d released her neck and blood
creased the corners of his mouth. The monster had tossed her lifeless body to
the ground like discarded trash and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Her stepfather rushed in a minute later and he’d gotten it
next in the same grisly manner.

The nightmarish scenes had left her frozen in terror. The
monster left no trace of his presence. The police were finally called when a
neighbor saw her sitting on the roof, rocking back and forth. The authorities
tried to get a statement from her but what could she say? She couldn’t vocalize
the things she’d seen. No one would have believed her if she told them anyway,
so what would be the point?

She’d been thirteen at the time, and the memories from that
horrific night still haunted her dreams today.

I’ll never escape that night. It’s stolen everything from
me, even my past.

Life had taught her some tough lessons but she’d survived
somewhat intact. Emma’s rage, fueled by an unbreakable need for vengeance, had
landed her in a series of foster homes and juvenile detention centers during her
youth. Her downward spiral finally took a turn in a more positive direction when
she was assigned to a family therapist who helped her deal with her loss. He
also suggested she might enjoy taking martial arts classes, since she tended to
get in a lot of fights at school.

The classes had helped and she’d proved to be a natural. She
was still angry but she’d learned to channel some of her emotions in a more useful
manner.

A bit of a daredevil, she’d never let her gender hold her
back. If a man could do something, so could she. She rode motorcycles, loved
extreme sports, played football, rock-climbed…joining the military when she was
eighteen had seemed the natural course. She’d gotten her first tattoo just
before leaving for boot camp; a dragon tat, beginning on her left shoulder
blade and running down to the middle of her back. For Emma, it symbolized her inner
beast and the unquenchable fire that seethed just below the surface.

Emma liked the military but hated the fact that women
weren’t treated as equal players. It sucked. After eight years, she’d become
disillusioned and had decided not to reenlist when her time was up. That was
when the Network approached her and offered a position with its tactical
undercover unit. It was like a dream come true. She couldn’t pass it up.

Her team was composed of highly trained ex-ghost operatives
sent on missions the federal government didn’t exactly want the rest of the
world to know about. So they contracted the jobs to private mercenary groups
like the Network.

Emma had become one of its best undercover agents.

The Shadows of Night task force was formed when the
government learned that the stuff of myths was real after all. Vampires, skin
walkers and lycanthropes were just some of the many monsters discovered to
exist beyond the realm of possibility, posing in human form to lure their prey.
The world held many dark secrets most humans were completely oblivious to,
unless their lives were touched by something of an unnatural existence.

Emma hoped to put a stop to the terror for good, and this
was a start. She slipped a thin wooden stake beneath the garter under her skirt
and quickly glanced at her watch once more. She was concerned about being late
on account of Cain. This wasn’t like him.

Just then, she heard the security system beep and approached
apanel on her wall. She punched in the code and pressed the intercom.

“Yeah, who is it?” She knew who it was but asked anyway,
ever cautious.

“It’s me, Cain.”

She pressed the auto-lock. “It’s open.”

A few minutes later, Cain walked in wearing his custom black
cargo pants and a turtleneck that stretched across the planes of his
well-developed chest. His dark hair, graying at the temples, was still full. He
had a handsome but unremarkable face. She noticed more age lines around his
mouth and eyes. It didn’t matter. He was still a powerful man, standing at
least six-three.

It was no secret to Emma that Commander Cain had feelings
for her. They’d slept together a few times, but only after a night of heavy
drinking on her part. He was a good buddy but nothing more. She just wasn’t
into him for more than a hook-up. She didn’t want a relationship, especially
with her boss. That was a no-go. She should’ve known better than to have slept
with him in the first place. Not the brightest career move on her part, and she
wasn’t planning on making that mistake again. Now she kept it professional
between them and hoped he’d never press the issue.

Her romantic connections had always consisted of one-night
stands. She preferred it that way. Life was less complicated when she didn’t
allow emotions into the mix. Isn’t that what most men did?
They have the
right idea if you ask me.

“You ready for this?” Cain asked.

“I was born ready.” She’d wanted answers ever since the
night she watched her mother and stepfather die, and now she was a step closer.

“I’ve never understood your eagerness to walk in their world.
Must I remind you of the risk this assignment represents, Agent Hayes?” He raised
an eyebrow.

“No need, Commander.” She noticed he subtly schooled his
face to hide his displeasure.

“Very well. No unnecessary risks, do you hear me? That’s an
order.”

“Yes, Sir.” She gave a sharp nod. He was right, the mission
was dangerous.

“They’re not human, never forget that. I want you to be
careful. You’re one of my best operatives but this situation could be extremely
dangerous, and you’re going in alone without your team to back you up.”

“I know the drill. Gather intel, no engagement.” He had
grown too attached; his warnings were a bit much. She wanted to say something to
him but held her tongue. Going in with a level head was important. These
creatures were smart and would quickly sniff out a rat if she wasn’t careful.

“Keep it that way or I’ll pull your ass from this
assignment. Is that clear?” His tone grew sharp.

Wow, wasn’t expecting that.
“Crystal, Sir.” She held
his penetrating gaze without flinching.

He moved closer. His expression softened slightly. “I know
I’m being tough on you, Hayes, but we just lost a couple agents in New York
recently. I don’t want that to be you too. These are perilous times.”

“I heard what happened. They won’t get the drop on me. Don’t
worry.” She’d keep her cool.

“You’d better hope not. Those bastards have keen senses and
can read most humans like a book. You can’t let your guard down for a moment.”
He stepped even closer as his eyes traveled the length of her body.

“Something wrong, Sir?” She knew what that hungry expression
meant. It wasn’t happening again.

“I think you look beautiful dressed in a skirt and heels.”

“What—this costume? That’s all it is. Don’t get used to it.”
Clearly she’d have to find a way to somehow extricate herself from the trap
she’d created by allowing Cain in. It didn’t help that the wall she’d built
around her emotions made it hard to accept praise from the opposite sex,
especially if they had to do with her looks.

“Is there a problem with me giving you a compliment?” He put
his hands on his hips.

“I’m not the girlie type, Sir, so yeah, I do kind of take
issue with it.” She rolled her eyes to make light of her comment.

“You’re still a woman, Em.”

She hadn’t forgotten. “I’m a soldier first, Sir.” Emma shot
him a dry look and pushed past him. She had a single-minded purpose, and this
wasn’t it. His appreciation of her femininity wasn’t part of the mission. The task
at hand was the only thing she was interested in at the moment.

He forced a smile. “You always keep those who care about you
at bay.”

Somewhere in the room, a cell phone rang.

Ah, perfect timing.
She was eager to go—before her
boss decided to pull her off the assignment over his growing attachment and
what she feared was an unnecessary need to keep her safe. She walked over to
her purse to fish out her cell.

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