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(Revised and Re-edited – formerly released as Out of the Past)
Available now: Book Launch Page
A series of killings has the Toronto Police Department in turmoil. The press has labelled the killer a “werewolf” and hysteria is on the rise in the heat of the summer… Detective Damien Knightley is the lead investigator, but he’s got secrets of his own that need guarding in this very public investigation. Knightley is a vampire, and as the case gets more complex, what he discovers has him both baffled and worried.
In the Northern Ontario town of Brighton, a visionary woman finds a stranger outside her door, and because he’s near death she brings him into her home. In the wake of her kindness, dreams and visions expose things that terrify her. The stranger is a wolf, and history is about to repeat itself and explode in violent death if they can’t reach Toronto and capture a renegade on a blood-hunt.
As Damien recalls a love from a century ago, the threads of time are being pulled together, joining the past and the present. The beautiful woman he is falling in love with is bringing back memories he’d rather forget, and when the killer is finally revealed, there are more questions than answers in the identity…
Rain spewed from the heavens in heavy torrents carried on water-laden gusts of cold wind. It was a horrendous night, and no one in their right mind would be on the streets in this kind of storm. Despite that, this little corner of the city was presently filled with activity. Nothing like a police crime scene to pull people out into the elements.
The dark alley and the area immediately surrounding it teemed with people: Forensics, uniformed officers, detectives, and now the captain of the Metro Squad. The entire area was cordoned off with the distinctive yellow of police tape, a much too familiar sight in the large city. The night was lit with eerie strobes from the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles. The coroner’s wagon was inching closer to the mouth of the alley, and the uniformed men were keeping the growing crowd at a safe distance. Despite their curiosity, none of them really wanted to see the body—at least that was the consensus of the police department.
Detective Damien Knightley slipped past the medical team and stood in the shadows. His senses reached, drew in the smells and resonances of the violence that had taken place here so recently. The storm offered little hindrance to his enhanced vampiric senses, and he shivered against a rush of cold that had nothing to do with the rain or the chill in the wind. Beneath the heavy aroma of blood was a subtler scent, one that he knew he’d encountered before, though not for many years. It was wild, animalistic, and it touched his heart with an icy thrill of fear.
Beyond the savage taint of rage and bloodlust were even more discordant signals. He felt the scream of the victim, silenced almost instantly, and the surge of power that intoxicated the murderer more than the killing itself did. It was akin to the supreme pleasure of consuming the blood of a willing victim, and he resented that remembrance–and the longing it woke inside him.
He turned at the concerned query and offered Doctor Janine Chase a shaky smile. She was as lovely as always, thick brown hair tied into a disarrayed ponytail, wide eyes dark and sensitive in spite of the circumstances. If she’d worn make-up to work, it was long since washed away by the squalls of water that gushed from the sky and soaked mortal flesh to the bone. He remained cheerfully immune and was grateful for it. As he looked down at her, he felt a rush of affection and forced his mood to lighten.
“What’s wrong?” Her voice was pitched low, but the worry in her huge eyes was unmistakable. She glanced at the body on the ground, winced involuntarily, and met his sharp gaze. The blood was running like a river now that the impediment of the body was being removed. “You’ve seen something like this before, haven’t you, Damien?”
Her eyes never left his face, and against her will she was caught again by the intense awareness he incited within her. Damien Knightley wasn’t like anyone she’d ever known, and despite years of casual camaraderie, she couldn’t stop her body’s response to his physical presence. He was tall, golden haired, classically handsome, and possessed the intelligence of centuries. He was the loneliest man she’d ever known, and the most giving in many ways. She loved him. She had been in love with him almost from the start. That ache never left her.
Knightley nodded, his gaze drawn to the body despite his desire not to look at the bloodied, ravaged corpse. It was quickly covered and wheeled out of the alley moments later. Damien felt vaguely sick, and hunger gnawed his belly. The rich, metallic scent of blood was smothering. He drew in a deep, shaky breath.
“The Whitechapel murders weren’t all the work of the Ripper,” he told her quietly.
“You think the killer is a vampire?” She rarely questioned his judgment, but something about this didn’t feel like the work of a vampire—for a start, there was too much blood left behind. When she watched his eyes grow guarded, she feared the answer might be something worse than a vampire.
“No, but he’s not human, either,” Damien replied uneasily, his expression distant. He shielded any feelings he wasn’t ready to look at too closely.
It took a few seconds to recover, but Janine bypassed the shock with the practiced ease of being too familiar with his amazing revelations. In the moments that followed her stunned silence, she remembered, vividly, the monster Damien had destroyed the previous year. ‘The Ripper’ was a mistake DeVallier had made over a hundred years earlier. Damien had felt compelled to step in because he had failed his vampire father when DeVallier had asked for his help in destroying the creature back in 1888. It had taken several deaths, including the loss of a promising young detective, to end that particular horror. Recalling the condition the bodies were in was enough to make her queasy all over again. She was startled out of her morbid thoughts by the appearance of Damien’s partner.
“How can no one have seen or heard something like this?” Bonnie Taylor’s voice shook, and her normally fair features were bleached with shock. Janine placed a gently comforting hand on her arm, and Bonnie smiled wanly at the supportive gesture. “I’m okay, really.”
“Well, you sure as hell don’t look okay,” Captain Joe Winslow observed as he came to a halt behind her. Raindrops glistened on his dark face, and months of overtime and frustrated worry had put deep lines around the normally calm eyes of the police captain. His mouth was a grim line as he looked at the detective in charge of the biggest task force currently operational in Metropolitan Toronto.
“What have you got, Damien?”
Janine took her cue and went to join the rest of her team as they combed the alley for whatever evidence might have been left behind.
Knightley met Winslow’s demand without flinching. “Same as the others, Captain. We’ve got people canvassing the area, but the odds are no one heard a thing, especially on a night like this.”
“Have you I.D.’d the victim?” Try as he might, Winslow couldn’t keep his tone even. He was asking Knightley for a miracle solution, wishing with all his heart the young detective could supply him with the answer he wanted.
“Carla Winters,” one of the officers said, and handed the captain a small plastic bag with a worn wallet inside it. “At least that’s what the Health Card says.”
Winslow took the bag without comment, and fell into step beside Damien when Knightley headed out of the recesses of the alley.
“Have we been able to find a motive?”
“Speculation,” Damien answered quietly. He was silent for a moment as they passed close to a few of the curious onlookers. “We’ve run checks on all the victims, their backgrounds, and talked to anyone who might have known them. There’s no connection, at least none we can find.”
“This was picked up a few feet from the body,” Janine interjected as she rejoined them. Bonnie was with her, and the blonde woman didn’t look as pleased as she should have been with the recovered bit of hope.
“Colbert House,” Damien read through the plastic covering the card.
Winslow drew in a deep breath, exhaled loudly and rubbed his eyes with a hand that shook visibly.
“Alethia Colbert is the head of a shelter project a few miles from here,” Bonnie supplied reluctantly.
Janine and Damien exchanged a curious look.
“Think there might be a connection?” Damien posed the question to his partner, half his attention still on Joe Winslow.
“Not likely, Knightley,” the captain stated firmly. “Alethia Colbert is building hope for street people, not encouraging murder.”
Damien was startled by the observation, and the vehemence with which the words were spoken.
“Who wants her project stopped?”
“Just about everyone,” Bonnie said.
Janine waved at them and headed for her car. Her work was enroute to the morgue. Damien would satisfy her curiosity about Taylor and Winslow later.
Captain Winslow was called back to the alley.
With a last look toward the murder site, Damien took Bonnie by the arm, and they headed for the ancient Caddy parked just outside the police lines. As he’d anticipated, the press descended on them as soon as they passed within range.
“Detective Knightley, is this another werewolf killing?”
Damien stopped abruptly and turned to look at the man who had tossed the query at him. The detective’s vivid blue eyes locked with the deeper shades of hazel in Christopher Haines’ eager gaze. For an instant, he was tempted to wipe the thought from the young man’s mind, and then he dismissed the idea.
“It’s another killing, Haines,” he answered quietly. “At the moment, that’s all there is to tell.”
“We’ve heard that parts of the bodies can’t be accounted for, Detective. Is that true?”
Taylor winced and Damien motioned for her to get in the car, and he quickly slid behind the wheel. He ignored the last sputter of questions and comments, put the Caddy in gear and left the crowd of reporters far behind them in seconds.
“Tell me about Alethia Colbert’s project?” Damien requested. “Where is it?”
Bonnie didn’t answer immediately and Damien looked sharply at her.
“Her office is on Eglinton, near Avenue Road,” she finally told him. “The shelter isn’t operational yet.”
“She’s a friend of yours,” Damien surmised as he turned in the right direction.
“Since I was a girl,” Bonnie confessed softly. She turned to look out the window, the watery haze of sheeting rain obscuring everything to blurred dots of light that flickered past without much notice. “She’s one of the best people I know, Damien. This can’t have anything to do with her.”
“It can’t,” he suggested gently, compassion and understanding in his tone. “Or you don’t want it to?”
She resisted the instant retort that sprang to her lips and held her tongue until she could speak without snapping at a perfectly logical query.
“I don’t want it to,” she admitted carefully. “She’s put her life into this project, Damien. In more ways than one.”
Damien wanted to ask questions, but something in the troubled eyes, perhaps the sadness and uncertainty, stilled the words. She pointed as they approached the building, and within minutes they were enroute to the tenth floor office.
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