A dark city with darker secrets. A handsome billionaire who hides his true face. One innocent woman thrust into one giant mess of a paranormal world.
One fateful encounter with a beast of legend pushes Gwen Rogers into the realm of myths and magic. She’s captured by a man obsessed with the creatures of that world. Her new world. Now she must find a way to free herself from both his clutches and the curse that threatens to take everything away from her.
Some nights are just like one another. The moon rises, sets, and another day begins. Then there are other nights where things are different. The moon rises, but the night never seems to end. Your world turns upside down and things are never the same. That’s what happened to me one ordinary night.
“And another day bites the dust,” Dakota quipped.
The heels of our shoes clacked against the linoleum floor of the office building. By my side was best friend Dakota, in front of us were the elevators that led to freedom, and behind us was another week of work in the trash. Our office was on the twentieth floor of the pit of hell. Who knew hell was above-ground?
“And another rent due,” I added.
Dakota cringed. “It went up again, didn’t it?”
“It went up again.”
She sighed and shook her head. “You’ve really gotta find another place to live. That ‘apartment’ is an overpriced dump.”
But at least the cockroaches are free,” I pointed out.
She snorted. “You can always find the deal in any scam.”
“I’m just that talented,” I teased.
“So what are your plans for this weekend? Going out on the town?” she asked me.
I shook my head. “I haven’t figured out anything yet.”
She grabbed my arm and stopped us. “Come on, Gwen. You have to come out into the world some time, and don’t give me that excuse that you can’t do a thing with your hair. You don’t have to.”
Dakota was right. I’d be lying if I tried to make an excuse about turning men into statues with my looks. I was pretty, if I ever did anything with my looks. You know the kind. Long, wild blond hair tied haphazardly behind their backs. A thin but not narrow face. Nice enough body, but getting on the plump side as I approached twenty-nine.
My twenty-five year old friend was more than a little plump, but her bubbly personality made everyone forget everything about her except her raven-black hair and her infectious laugh.
I shrugged and walked on towards the elevators. We were in the midst of the Great Daily Migration out of the office, and to stop for very long was to risk being trampled. “I guess I’m just too much of a loner.”
“A lone wolf has to settle down some time,” my friend pointed out.
I playfully punched her in the arm. “Maybe when she’s found the right mate.”
“Someone say mate?” a voice spoke up. A man emerged from the depths of his cubicle and leaned against the entrance. He was a little over six feet tall with sandy blond hair that fell perfectly over his handsome face. His auburn eyes twinkled with mischief.
Dakota steered us out of the wave of humanity and into the doorway of the cubicle. “Gwen here is looking for a mate,” she told him as her own mischievous eyes flickered between us. I had to admit I blushed whenever Lance looked at me. He was the only person who could disarm my cute-guy security system. “Know of anyone she can take on a date?” I glared at my friend.
“Well, I’m available this weekend,” he offered.
I stepped behind my friend and pushed her towards the elevator. “I’m sorry, I’ve got plans.”
Dakota glanced over her shoulder and glared at me. “Are you nuts? He’s cute and into you! What kind of plans can be more exciting than snogging with him all weekend?”
“I’d rather settle down on my couch for a long weekend of watching TV,” I told her.
Dakota rolled her eyes. “Again? Why don’t you go out with me and some of the girls? It’ll be fun, and if you don’t want Mr. Perfect there then you might meet a new guy who can give you some old-fashioned love.”
“The only new acquaintance I’m meeting is an unopened tub of ice cream,” I quipped.
My friend scowled at me and looked me up and down. “You know I hate you, don’t you?”
“No, why?” I asked her as we stepped into the elevator.
“There’s nobody else I know who can scarf down as much food as you and still have your figure,” she explained.
I shrugged. “It’s a gift.”
“One day I’m going to curse you, and then you’ll be sorry,” she warned me.
I laughed. “Curse me with what?”
“With-well, with acne, and a chubby belly, and maybe a cute guy you can’t have but want badly enough to tackle him in an elevator and-” I clapped my hand over her mouth.
We weren’t alone in the elevator, and the other people were staring. The place was standing room-only. Not that anyone was encouraged to sit down, but you get the idea. We were packed tighter than a can of clams, or a clown car on a weekend full of kids’ birthdays.
Dakota got my hand off her mouth and glared at me. “I need to breathe through my face.”
“But that shade of blue was very becoming,” I teased.
“Ha-ha,” she retorted.
The elevator doors opened to the busy, open lobby of our office building. We worked in one of the smaller financial companies in a large city inhabited by ten million miserable people, all crowded together trying to making a living by not dying. Crime was up, hope was down, and home was a precarious walk in-between them.
“But seriously, are you coming or not?” she asked me as we stepped out.
I sighed. “I guess I-” My eyes caught on something strange along the right-hand wall.
The lobby had a few metal benches along the walls, and one of those was occupied by a threesome of women who were obviously triplets. The triplets were about twenty-five and sat close together so their hips touched. They wore matching gray business shirts, the kind with shoulder pads that could poke out an eye, and stiff skirts that ended just below the imagination. Their eyes were a strange gray hue, like the color of ash, and all three pairs of them stared straight at me. Sly, coy smiles graced their perfectly red lips.
“Gwen? Gwenneth? Hello? Anybody home?” I started back when Dakota waved her hand in front of my face. She leaned forward and looked into my face. “Something wrong?”
I blinked and looked at the bench, but it was empty. One sweep of the lobby told me they weren’t in sight. “Did you see those three women?” I asked her.
She looked where I looked and frowned. “Which ones?”
“The triplets. The women in gray,” I persisted.
Dakota shook her head. “I didn’t see any triplets, but the lighting in here is pretty bad. They haven’t changed a bulb in years, and the sun’ll set in a few minutes.” She looked back to me, but I just kept staring at the empty bench. I was sure they’d been there, and then they weren’t. “You sure you’re okay?”
I clutched my head in one hand and closed my eyes. “Maybe I’m coming down with something.”
Her eyebrows crashed down. “Oh no, you’re not getting off with that old I’m-seeing-things-so-I-must-be-sick ploy.”
“I did see them,” I insisted.
“Uh-huh, and I’m the Easter Bunny,” she quipped.
“Your ears are showing.”
She stuck her tongue out at me. “That shows what you know. I left them in my other outfit. The one with the rabbit feet.”
I dropped my hand and sighed. “But seriously, I don’t feel up to a weekend I can’t remember. Maybe next time.”
By this time we’d stepped through the doors of the building and into the growing dusk of the busy streets. People in suits and casual wear walked to and fro in an endless stream of restlessness. A cool autumn breeze swept past us, reminding me that I had forgotten my coat. Even the hot concrete jungle of the city couldn’t completely block out the chill air and sweet scent of falling leaves.
Dakota turned to me and pursed her lips. She set a hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes.
“You promise to go next weekend?” she pleaded.
I sighed, but nodded my head. “I promise.”
Dakota smiled. “Good. Let’s get a taxi to your place. My treat.”
I shook my head. “I think I need to clear my brain out a little.”
Her eyes twinkled. “Aren’t you supposed to have one to be able to do that?” I playfully punched her on the arm, and she rubbed the bruised spot. “You’re not supposed to hurt your friends.”
“With friends like you who needs enemies?” I quipped.
“Well, with your crazy behavior you won’t have to worry about anybody but enemies,” she countered.
“What crazy behavior? I just want to walk home,” I pointed out.
“Through some of the darkest streets in the city,” she reminded me. “You know you live in Slum Alley.”
“It’s better than Crime Alley,” I argued.
“Oh, right, I forgot. You only get shot at once a week,” she retorted.
“And I’ve had my quota filled for the week. I was shot at Tuesday, so I’m safe for today,” I quipped.
Dakota shuddered. “Gwen, please let me call a taxi,” she pleaded.
I patted her shoulder and with a small wave I turned away. “See you Monday.”
“See you. . .I hope,” she added.
If only that had meant to be.