Night's Caress

Night's Caress

The Ancients Series Book One
AB SKG AppleAUK


In this small town, nothing is as it seems…

When artist Brie Lark left her vampire ex and her straitjacket of a hometown to breathe free in New York City, she promised herself two things: she’d never go back to Meiers Corner, and no more vampires. The last thing she expected—or wanted—was to be sent back home on an assignment. But her boss at the FBI needs her undercover on a murder case, working with a black-haired, black-eyed giant god of a man who’s her idea of perfection, except for one thing—he’s a vampire.

FBI Special Agent Seb Rikare is an ancient vampire hardened by loss. He’s cut all emotions to protect himself and leads a deliberately steady, almost sterile life. The brash young woman forced to pose as his lover irritates him, with her jangling bracelets and colorful hair. But as much as she irritates him, he finds himself drawn to her lively spirit and he’s tempted to make fantasy a reality.


GP PD





"So, what did I take away from Night’s Carress? Open your heart, learn to forgive, let go of the past … learn to live in the here and now and accept what your heart is telling you. Yes, I was amazed, again, by Mary Hughes, her style of writing, her way of bringing her story and characters to life and her way of drawing you into the story and not letting go." ~Kitty Angel, Guilty Pleasures Book Review

"Simply awesome." ~Goodreads 5* review

"Investigations by the FBI usually make great thrillers but when you add in that the Special Agent in this story is also an ancient, powerful vampire you have the recipe for a brilliant paranormal thriller and that is certainly the case in this story!" ~Elaine, Splashes Into Books

"An absolutely fabulous book. I can't wait for the next in the series." ~Goodreads 5* review

"...a great storyline and [...] awesome steamy scenes." ~Amazon 5* review

"I love the vampire world building by the author and loved both Brie and Seb." ~Lisa's Loves (Books of Course) 5* review

"If you like your vampires big and brawny and a bit judgmental you will love Seb Rikare." ~Amazon review

"Seriously, is there anything better than agreeing to review a book from an author you don’t know and discovering the book totally rocks?" ~D.E. Haggerty, Readsalot

"Ms. Hughes has penned a wonderful and enthralling read in this book where the chemistry between this couple was intense; the romance satisfying and full of passion that shows how good this pair are together; and the ending had me smiling because of what Seb does for the heroine that proves how much the hero wants Brie in his life..." ~Book Magic-Under a spell with every page 5* review

"I was thoroughly entranced by my first experience of Mary Hughes' work" ~Goodreads 5* review

Enjoy this first chapter from Night's Caress
Copyright © 2017 Mary Hughes

Chapter One

 

Floodlights snapped on, carving the alley’s secrets from the black night. Scurrying rodents, pooled filthand a corpse, lying on the cold concrete, skin glowing almost white in the lights’ harsh glare.

FBI special agent Seb Rikare knelt beside the victim and touched one forensic-gloved hand to the body’s neck.No heartbeat, no rush of blood through veins. Still, he made a show of checking for a pulse. There were customs to be observed, after all. The humans from the police crime scene unit would expect it.

Two techs bustled behind him, taking pictures. They’d also dust for printsand come up empty. The reason gaped, ugly and ragged, on the blue-white skin beside his fingers’ light dents.

Twin puncture wounds.

Seb withdrew his hand. Half healed, bruising around them indicating suction. Body drained of blood. Though this was the first such killing in New York City, it was the seventh in the nation. He’d seen the reports. Seen, too, that the murders stitched a line eastward. Coming here.

He’d murmured a suggestion in local law enforcement ears, in case the worst should happen. Call the FBI for an assist. His precaution paid off.

Clutched in the corpse’s hand was the damning tourism pamphlet.

Come to Meiers Corners. That small detail spelled big trouble.

A sharp-creased navy pant leg appeared next to where Seb crouched. A male said, “Done by one of ours?”

“Looks that way.”

“My master won’t be pleased.”

“Your master better not find out, Klaus. Or we’ll have bigger problems.” Peeling off his gloves with precise snaps, Seb rose to his full height beside a model-perfect blond male, his six-foot-nine frame towering over model-boy’s mere six-two.

“That’s not my call to make. I am but a lowly attaché.” The blond cast down modest eyes, seemingly humble, but the hint of a smug smile told a different story. “Lorenzo needs to know if there is a foreigner in his territory, hunting huma—”

“With this serial killer, things aren’t quite so simple,” Seb said, cutting Klaus off before he could blurt “hunting humans.” Seb motioned to the techs to give them privacy. The two nodded and left the alley.

When Seb was sure no one was within hearing range, he turned a dark glare on the other male. Male, not man, because they were no longer strictly Homo sapiens. “Talking vampire business before mortals is careless.”

Seb’s kind was powerful, but even thousands of superhuman monsters didn’t stand a chance against seven billion humans armed with nukes and fear.

Model-boy gave a negligent shrug. “You can just hypnotize them into forgetting.”

Seb upped his glare with a growl. “The mind is a tricky thing. I prefer not to tamper if I don’t have to.”

Klaus only tsked. “You’re a bit soft on them, aren’t you?”

“And you discount them too easily.”

The other male shrugged. “Well, this is Cadre territory. I have no choice but to tell Lorenzo. If there is a blood-crazed youngling here, my master must know.”

The New York Cadre organized area vampires like a crime syndicate, but instead of racketeering and prostitution, the vampires traded in power and blood. Lorenzo was its head, and Klaus, despite his youth, was a top lieutenant, connected with the city’s police and government.

Seb wasn’t Cadrehe owed no vampire his allegiance.“You must keep this secret from him, Klaus. I insist.”

“Why?” He glanced at the body, real puzzlement in his eyes. “Why such secrecy over a youngling’s unfortunate indiscretion?”

Indiscretion? For shit’s sake, Klaus, a man’s been murdered.”

“A single dead human? It doesn’t endanger our kind with exposure, and our patrols will find the youngling soon enough. We’ll bring him into the fold. Teach him manners. Just make this impediment go away—”

“This isn’t an impediment, it’s a victim.” Seb’s temples throbbed. “And your carelessness has made you blind. No thirsty, frenzied youngling in the grip of bloodlust would have the control to plant that.” He jabbed a finger at the trifold clutched in the victim’s hand.

A pair of faint frown lines appeared between the blond’s brows. “A tourist brochure? It is the dead man’s. Tourists are common enough in New York.”

“That’s not a tourist, not according to his Brooklyn driver’s license. Klaus, there have been six other murders exactly like this.”

“Exsanguination?”

“With obvious fang marks, partially healed, so they’re not fake. If anyone guesses vampire—”

“This is why you joined the FBI, isn’t it? To erase our kind’s tracks?”

“Yeah, I took care of it.” Seb growled. He’d changed the electronic records to stab wounds, vic bled out, even though it rubbed him the wrong way to go against the Bureau’s tenets.

But if vampires were vulnerable to disorganized mobs, they really couldn’t withstand professional law enforcement hunting them.

As long as they could pass as humans, they were safe. If mortals penetrated the masqueradethe term describing vampires disguised as ordinary people, hiding among them in plain sightworldwide bloodshed would erupt. Seb’s ideals wouldn’t mean squat. And, hell, in this case, knowing the real details would only have set law enforcement on the wrong trail.

“So, then.” Klaus shrugged. “All’s well that ends well, eh?”

“Except it’s just started. Take a look at this.” He snared a fresh glove from his pocket and used it to work the tourist pamphlet from the vic’s tight fist.

“Meiers Corners?”

“A deliberate trail of bread crumbs to Cadre territory from the Iowa Alliance.”

Klaus’s face paled. “An Alliance vampire, hunting in my master’s territory? It would spark a war.”

“It certainly spells trouble.” Actually, it spelled e-x-t-i-n-c-t-i-o-n if those two powerhouses clashed. “That’s why I told you to say nothing to your master.”

The blond dug a clawed hand through his hair then winced. “I can double patrols to try to find the beast, but I can’t keep this news from Lorenzo forever. And when he finds out… Fuck, my master hates the Alliance.”

“He and their leader have a past,” Seb noted dryly.

“Lorenzo will attack Meiers Corners first and ask questions later, which will spark reprisals from the Alliance, which will light a fuse of vampire death from Iowa to New York.”

“Vampires and humans.” Seb’s anger kindled at Klaus’s all-too-typical point of view, considering ephemerals as blood sheep or less. “The real cost will be all the innocent lives caught in the crossfire.” He snarled it, his sight bleeding red with temper.

Klaus stiffened. “My lord. I apologize. What do we do?”

Seb took bleak satisfaction that he’d finally gotten past the blond’s mountainous ego and into the same area code as his brain. “You liaise with the officials here. The local police are among the best in the world. Let them work the crime scene. If there’s any clue to the murderer’s whereabouts, they will find it. Step up Cadre patrols, in case I’m wrong and it’s simply a stray vampire. Between the two, if the killer can be found here in New York, he will be found.”

“And this man?” Klaus gestured toward the body.

“Watch him. It’s extremely unlikely that he will rise, but best not to take chances.”

“The usual three days’ watch?”

“That’s just tradition. If he’s really dead, you’ll smell decay sooner than that. If not, watch him closely the evening of the third day.”

“I will do so. Where are you going, my lord?”

“Tracking a blood-starved youngling is one thing. Digging out a clever vampire who’s hiding is quite another. We need more information, and I’m going to the sourceMeiers Corners.”


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