The Rogue Hunter – Lynsay Sands

Warm summer air swam over Tanya as she stepped out into the night. It was cooler than it had been earlier in the day, but still hot compared to the air-conditioned coffee shop. She sucked in the humid air as she started across the pavement, her eyes moving around the nearly empty parking lot, noting the van now parked beside her eighteen-wheeler. Hers had been the only vehicle when she’d stopped here for a coffee break after her long haul. She’d also been the only patron in the coffee shop until a few minutes ago when the owner of that van had entered. His arrival was why she’d left. The man was tall, lean, and dark-haired, but something about his pale features and the hungry way he’d watched her had made her decide she’d taken a long enough break. She’d nearly reached the driver’s side of her truck when the sound of a skittering pebble drew Tanya’s head around. Her gaze turned wary as she recognized the man from the coffee shop. His dark hair and clothes blended with the night around them, but his pale face and silver eyes couldn’t be missed. “I wanted to show you something in my van,” he announced as he crossed the short distance separating them. Tanya’s upper lip curled in a sneer. She’d just bet he had something he wanted to show her. Men! Find out she was a trucker and they seemed to immediately think that was slang for slut. “I don’t—” The words died in her throat, the want to see anything you’ve got seeming to evaporate from her head.

“It’s all right. You’ll like this.” His tone was soothing, almost crooning, and Tanya felt herself relax, the warning bell in her head fading to a distant chime. “I’ll like this,” she echoed in a whisper. “Yes, you will,” he assured her, and gestured for her to move forward as he opened the back door of the van. Tanya found herself climbing in. She watched him close the door, shutting out the world. When he turned toward her, the silver of his eyes was afire, almost seeming to bubble in his irises as he caught her arms and drew her closer. Her gaze dropped to his mouth as his lips parted, and she saw the fangs slipping out. Tanya stared at those fangs as he lowered his head toward her.

She followed them right up until his face moved to her throat and she could no longer see them anymore. She felt a quick pinch as they sank into her neck, and then a wave of pleasure rolled over her, drowning any other emotion. I told you you’d like this, Tanya heard him say, though the words were in her head not her ears. “Yes. Oh yes,” she moaned with ecstasy, her arms rising to clutch at his shoulders as he drained her life-blood away. Chapter One “Sorry about leaving so late.” Samantha Willan tore her gaze away from the star-littered sky overhead and turned a surprised glance to her younger sister. They were reclining on the wooden dock in front of the family cottage, enjoying the evening air and the beautiful view. Or they had been until Jo’s apology. Seeing her guiltridden expression, Samantha frowned and leaned to the side, bumping the younger woman affectionately with her shoulder as she teased, “You should be.

We missed all the crazy traffic, didn’t have any of the usual stop-and-go nonsense, and made great time here. All in all it was a horribly pleasant ride for a change. Shame on you for forcing that on us.” Jo grinned, but shook her head. “It’s also now after two a.m., we’ve just finished unloading the car, and we still have to let the cottage air out before we can sleep.” She raised her eyebrows in challenge. “It’s going to be a late night for all of us thanks to my stupid job.” Sam wrinkled her nose.

It was summer. The sun had baked down on the closed-up cottage all day, heating it like an oven. Despite the fact that the night had cooled with the setting sun, the small, wellinsulated building had still retained that heat when they’d arrived. The first thing they’d done—even before unloading the car—had been to open all the windows. They would have turned on the ceiling fans too, but there’d been a storm that afternoon and the power had been knocked out. No power meant no ceiling fans to help bring down the temperature! They’d have to wait for the night air to slowly seep in and displace the hotter air. That could take a while. “So?” Sam said lightly. “We’ve unpacked, the beds are made, and we don’t have to get up early. We’re on vacation; we can go to bed as late as we want.

In the meantime, we get to relax here on the dock and enjoy this lovely view… so stop fretting. Besides,” she added solemnly, “your job isn’t stupid.” “Yeah, right,” Jo said on a laugh. “You’re a lawyer, Alex is a gourmet chef with her own restaurant, and I work in a bar.” “You are now night manager in that bar, thank you very much,” Sam pointed out firmly. “And stop comparing yourself to us. Alex and I are both very proud of you for getting that promotion,” she said firmly. “Besides, it’s paying your way through university, isn’t it? That makes it far from stupid in my book.” Jo relaxed, a small smile claiming her lips. “I guess.

” “You can guess if you like, but I know,” Sam assured her with another affectionate bump. They fell silent then, and both turned their gazes skyward, raking in the sparkling, star-strewn black above. It was hard to believe they were only two hours north of Toronto; the sky here made it seem like a whole other world. It was awe-inspiring. “We should have brought sleeping bags,” Jo said on a little sigh. “We could have slept out here under the stars.” “On the dock?” Sam asked with a disbelieving laugh. “No way. All three of us would probably end up in the lake somehow… Or we’d wake up to find chipmunks curled up in the sleeping bags with us and seagulls circling overhead, relieving themselves on our sleeping faces.” “Eww!” Laughing, Jo gave her shoulder a push and shook her head.

“You are such a pessimist. I swear I’ve never met anyone who could be such a downer.” “Not a downer, sensible,” Sam corrected. “Ha! You always see the glass as half empty. Honestly, you find the flaw in everything.” “In other words, she acts like the lawyer she is.” Sam and Jo sat up and turned to glance toward shore where that amused voice had come from. At first all they could see were shadows in the darkness, but then Jo turned on the flashlight they’d brought with them and raised it. The beam of light splashed over and then settled on their eldest sister, Alex, as she made her way down the sloping yard to the dock. “Get that light out of my eyes,” Alex complained with a laugh, raising a hand to stave off the glare, and Jo lowered the beam to the ground so that she could negotiate the last few feet without incident.

“Thanks,” Alex said as she stepped onto the dock to join them. “No problem.” Jo said. The beam then bounced away from Alex, flashing over Sam’s face and briefly blinding her before it blinked out. Sam was left with white spots burned in her eyes and was trying to get her normal vision back when the light suddenly blinked on again, once more aimed straight at her face. “Hey!” She raised her own hand to shield her eyes and scowled into the glare of light moving over her. “Turn that out!” “Sorry. I thought I saw—I did!” Jo exclaimed triumphantly as the beam reached her neck. “You’re bleeding.” “Damn blackflies,” Sam muttered.

It was the season for it. Grimacing, she wiped blindly at her neck. “The other side,” Jo said helpfully. “There are two of them.” “Hmm.” Alex dropped to her haunches to get a look. Whatever she saw brought a grin to her face. “There are two… side by side. It looks like a vampire bite.” “Yes,” Jo agreed, and then teased, “If I hadn’t been here the whole time I’d have said Dracula got you and didn’t clean up after himself.

” “Ugh. Don’t even joke about that,” Sam said with a shudder. Jo laughed at her disgust. “Most women would love to have that happen. They fantasize about things like that happening to them.” “Most women don’t have phobias about bats,” Sam responded dryly. “Besides, I hardly think most women fantasize about being bitten by flying rodents.” “Not flying rodents,” Jo said with exasperation. “A vampire.” “Same thing,” Sam muttered with disgust.

“They turn into bats and rats and wolves and Lord knows what else. I’m not into bestiality, thanks.” “Gawddddd. You are such a… a…” “Lawyer?” Alex suggested with amusement. “Yes,” Jo snapped. “Stop saying that like it’s a bad thing.” Sam scowled at them both. “I worked long and hard to become a lawyer.” “Yes, you did,” Alex agreed soothingly, and then informed her, “You’re still bleeding. Maybe you should try some of that After Bite stuff on it.

” “Yeah. I need a refill on my drink anyway,” Sam murmured. Giving up on her neck, she got to her feet, asking, “Can I get something for anyone else while I’m up?” “Nothing for me, thanks,” Jo said. “I could use another beer. I meant to grab one while I was up going to the bathroom, but forgot,” Alex said and then grabbed at Sam’s elbow to steady her as she swayed unsteadily. Amusement clear in her voice, she commented, “Maybe you should switch to soda.” “She already is on soda,” Jo announced. “She isn’t drinking.” Alex’s head swiveled sharply to Sam. “Not another ear infection?” Sam nodded reluctantly, not surprised when Alex began to curse.

Knowing it was just a result of her worry and that it would be followed by a rant about rotten doctors, the useless health care system, and the length of the wait to see a specialist, Sam didn’t stick around to listen. She moved cautiously off the dock and up the lawn, but wasn’t halfway to the cottage before she began to regret not having grabbed the flashlight from Jo. This was not the city with streetlights to brighten the situation. Here in cottage country, night was black velvet, dark and heavy. While it had seemed lighter on the dock with the starlit sky overhead, here the trees blocked out the starlight. It was much darker, and Sam found herself stumbling over exposed roots and rocks in her path. Between that and the lack of balance her ear infection was causing, she was having a bit of a struggle. Grabbing at the thigh-sized trunk of the young maple tree between the cottage and the dock, Sam paused briefly to get her bearings. She was about to continue again when the sound of a door closing drew her eyes to the cottage next door. It was in darkness, as it had been when they’d arrived.

As it always was, in fact, she thought with a grimace. The cottage had been sold two years ago, but they still hadn’t yet met the new neighbors. The new owner never seemed to be up here, at least not when Sam or her sisters were at their cottage. They checked every time they came up, hoping to finally get to meet them. It wasn’t that they were overly sociable. The fact was, life here wasn’t like life in the city. Neighbors depended on neighbors up here. They didn’t bother each other, but did like to know who they were and tended to look out for each other. It was a necessity in an area where the power was frequently knocked out and amenities could be so far away in an emergency. There had been a lot of speculation on the lake last summer about the new owners.

Grant, their neighbor on the other side and a year-round resident, had said that the cottage had been in use at a couple of points during the winter. He’d seen the lights on at night, and a man walking around the building to the shed a couple of times, but the man had kept to himself. Sam doubted Grant had encouraged him to do otherwise, however. He pretty much kept to himself too and only talked to those on the lake for whom he did handyman work, and then only when—and as much as—absolutely necessary. He probably wouldn’t even have mentioned it if she hadn’t asked if he’d met the new neighbors yet. That thought made her glance toward Grant’s dark cottage on the other side of theirs as she briefly wondered if the noise she’d heard hadn’t come from his place. Sound carried oddly on the lake, and it could have come from just about anywhere, even from one of the cottages across the lake. Shrugging the worry away, she released her hold on the tree trunk and continued up toward the cottage. “Cottage country.” Garrett Mortimer chuckled at the disgust in his partner’s voice.

“I can tell you’re thrilled by this assignment.” Justin Bricker grimaced. “It’s cottage country, Mortimer. Cottages are all about sun and sand and fun. We’re vampires. We avoid sunlight like the plague. What are we doing here?” “Looking for a rogue immortal,” Mortimer said calmly, managing not to wince at his younger partner’s use of the term vampire. He couldn’t help it, he—like many of the older ones of their kind— had a terrible abhorrence for the word. It brought back memories of marauding villagers with torches and stakes. “Right,” Bricker said dryly.

“But what would any self-respecting vampire—rogue or not—be doing here? We haven’t seen a streetlight in hours. It’s black as pitch out here and has been forever. If there’s anything at all beyond the headlights of our car, I’d be surprised.” Mortimer chuckled. “There’s a lot more than you think beyond the headlights.” “Bears, raccoons, deer, and bunnies,” Bricker said, obviously unimpressed. Mortimer shook his head, but waited to negotiate a rather sharp curve in the road before saying, “We’ve probably passed a couple hundred cottages and houses since getting off the main highway. Believe me, hidden in the darkness are loads of people.” “Maybe,” Bricker allowed with some disgruntlement. “But I guarantee you there won’t be a single immortal among them.

” “No?” Mortimer arched an eyebrow even as his lips twitched again. “No,” Bricker assured him. “No self-respecting immortal would stick himself out here. It’s just not our scene.”


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