To set up the final excerpt: Claudia Fletcher has her MBA and a stellar resume,
so when the bar she manages burns down, she could easily move on to bigger and
better things. But her secret love for the bar owner, Anthony Cross makes it
Anthony has never let on to the general public that he's a vampire, and most of
his staff members have no idea Boston Uncommon was a safe gathering place for
supernaturals of all kinds. Now that it's nothing but ash, the tentative peace
among hostile factions is starting to crumble. And damned if every paranormal's
worst fear is coming true. A group of human brainiacs have captured and begun
experimenting on them.
Maynard peered into his microscope and studied the fish scales from the merman's
tail. Said merman was hanging over the side of his giant fish tank, glaring at him.
"That hurt, you know."
Maynard tried to ignore him.
"How would you like it if I scraped a piece off your leg and stuck it on a glass
When Maynard didn't answer, the specimen continued talking. Indeed, he had to
think of these creatures as impersonally as possible to do what was necessary. A
Nobel Prize omelet wasn't made without breaking a few eggs. Hmmm...I wonder
if the mermaids lay eggs in the water and the males spread their sperm over
them. I'm not going to ask where his dick is.
"I was minding my own business, just enjoying a swim in the harbor. Who are you
to throw a net over me and bring me here?"
"Shut up, fish." Maynard took a break from his microscope long enough to pull
his hair back and secure it with an elastic band.
"I have a name. It's Jules. Jules Vernon. Please use it."
Using the specimen's name would make the work a lot harder. Maynard had no
problem studying cells from rodents, but this was a man—sort of—and
one of the most important discoveries ever made. Maynard had to document
scientific data to prove he'd found a whole new species. Ever since the
invention of computer graphics, a documentary wouldn't do it.
The merman had proved useful, at first. He tried to buy his way out of captivity
by giving up what he knew of other paranormal species. Now Maynard and a few
trusted scientists like himself worked night and day to capture as many of these
"paranormals" as they could find.
Who knew so many unique creatures were living right under their noses? His work
could explain how ancient legends came about. He'd often wondered if these
persistent stories had any basis in fact. But he'd be a laughingstock if he made
claims of vampires and shapeshifters without solid proof.
"Aren't you going to feed the others?" Jules pointed to the cell at the end of
He felt bad about the woman and her young son who claimed not to be vampires but
said they needed blood to live. "Yeah, right. What do you want me to do? Walk in
there and expose my neck?"
The merman smirked. "Sure. Why not? All in the name of science, right?"
Maynard snorted. The alleged vampires were beginning to look a bit gaunt and
weak, but it seemed like the best way to keep them docile. The researchers had
tossed a pig in there a couple days ago and after the mother and son had fed on
it, practically draining it dry, they were suddenly much stronger. For a few
moments, Maynard wasn't sure the iron bars would hold them.
The naked men in the unbreakable glass cell were just as difficult to manage.
They were super strong too, which is why the scientists were using the gorilla
room to hold them. They'd refused to transform but had been caught in the act of
going from canine to human. Fortunately, none of these creatures seemed able to
shake off a Taser on a high setting.
The merman was right. It was time to feed the specimens, but Maynard didn't dare
do it without help. As soon as one of his colleagues arrived, they could handle
Sadie was the only one who knew where Anthony's lair was located. She entered
the Chinese restaurant, nodded to the woman behind the counter, and ambled into
the kitchen at the back. The two cooks preparing food stopped and bowed slightly
as she walked past, and she returned the respectful gesture.
Anthony had chosen this part of town to hide his scent from Ruxandra. Among the
exotic spices and cooking odors, even the most astute nose could become
confused. Moreover, there was a ready supply of animal blood nearby.
He had a sweet setup. During the day, he occupied an unused, completely dark
storage room in the basement and locked it from the inside. At night, he had an
apartment over the restaurant. The owners lived on the third floor and slept
better knowing he spent most of his waking hours right over their precious
When Sadie asked why Anthony didn't just keep a coffin in an apartment bedroom,
he blanched. After some embarrassed hems and haws, he'd admitted he couldn't
sleep in such a small enclosed space because he was claustrophobic. Not an ideal
situation for a vampire.
No one had asked about his pale skin or odd hours, but the Chinese were no
fools. Sadie figured they knew what he was and realized if they provided him
shelter, he wouldn't bite the hand that fed him...or housed him, as it were.
Sadie crept up the stairs at the back of the kitchen and stopped at Anthony's
door. It was midnight, so he should be at home. Then she caught herself. Anthony
used to be home by midnight after the bar closed. She didn't really know what he
was doing with his evenings nowadays. She knocked anyway and waited.
"Who is it?" he called out.
He opened the door and greeted her with a warm hug. Well, it was emotionally
warm anyhow. Physically he was always a bit chilly.
"Come in. I have company, but you're welcome to join us."
"Oh. I thought I was the only one who knew where you were."
"I had to tell one other person."
Sadie glanced over Anthony's shoulder and recognized Kurt the wizard. She hadn't
seen him since the bar burned and was delighted when she spotted his charming
smile. "Kurt! How lovely to see you."
He rose and surprised her with a big hug.
"Same here. I hope you brought your tarot cards, Sadie."
"I don't go anywhere without them. Why? Do you need a reading?"
"I need a miracle." He glanced at Anthony. "We all do."
"Sit, Aunt Sadie." Anthony gestured to the couch. "Can I get you some Chinese tea?"
She sighed. "If that's all you have."
Kurt chuckled. "You were hoping for a White Russian?"
One corner of Sadie's mouth turned up. "You know me too well, but I was actually
worried about the caffeine at this time of night."
"You might need a little to sharpen your psychic senses," Anthony said.
Her gift didn't work like that, but no one needed to know about her trances. As
soon as she'd settled onto the couch, she pulled her tarot cards out of her
large satchel and began shuffling them.
"I was kind of kidding about the tarot reading," Kurt said. "I was told you
don't really need the cards to do your psychic thing."
"That's true. It's mostly for show, but sometimes just one card can lead me in
the right direction. What's your question?"
"I'd like to know the location of the lab that's been capturing and holding
Sadie's jaw dropped. She'd always worried about humans other than Kurt and
herself learning that paranormals were real and living among the residents of
Boston. "How... When..."
"What I really need to know is where."
"I understand, but I can't pinpoint locations."
"But you said a card can point you in the right direction."
"I meant that metaphorically."
Anthony returned with a small bamboo tray, a cup of tea, a spoon, and a packet
of sugar. "Here you go."
Sadie took a sip and wrinkled her nose at the strange-tasting tea. She added
some sugar to kill the unfamiliar taste and tried again. "Ah, that's better."
Setting the cup on the tea table, she said, "Tell me what's been going on. It
sounds like I've missed something big."
"A few paras have gone missing. All we have are rumors right now, but if what we
suspect is true, we could lose a lot of friends before we put a stop to it,"
Anthony sat next to her. "I don't think it's a rumor. I think every paranormal's
worst fear is coming true."
"But how? Isn't the number one rule for all paranormals to keep their identity a
secret?" she asked.
"It is. But somehow word has leaked out, and just as we feared, we're being hunted."
"By whom and for what?"
Anthony snorted. "Scientists. The government. They could want our supernatural
strength and healing power for an immortal military. I don't know." He shook his
She laid a hand on his shoulder. "Anthony, did you keep the tea leaves?"
"Uh, no. I tossed them in the garbage. Do you read tea leaves?"
"Yes. I can sometimes figure out timelines by where the leaves land in the cup,
but it still won't give me a location."
"I can make more." Anthony turned toward the kitchen, but she reached out and
grabbed his arm. "Let me try the cards first."
He nodded and sat nearby. Sadie shuffled them a bit more purposefully. "I'll
tell you what I can. I've read you before, Kurt. Do you remember your indicator
Kurt waited on the edge of his seat as Sadie gathered up her cards again. A card
jumped out of the deck and fell right side up on the table. It was the Hierophant.
Sadie leaned back and stared at the card. "Now, I'm good, but I'm not that good."
Kurt chuckled. "I figured you might need it, so I found it for you."
Sadie shook her head and muttered, "Show-off wizard."
Kurt's grin indicated he didn't take offense.
She placed the card in front of her and set the deck next to it. "Cut the deck
and hand me the top card."
Kurt did as she asked, and she placed the King of Swords over the Hierophant,
"Kings and queens indicate people and places."
"That's good, right?" Kurt asked. "I mean, that's what I wanted to know."
Not necessarily. A king was a formidable foe, and swords meant he had a
strategic plan. Sadie worried her lip and closed her eyes. Her deep, steady
breaths helped her access the more psychic reaches of her mind. Kurt and Anthony
remained silent, giving her the time she needed to get a vision, if one would come.
At last she was standing outside a nondescript three-story building. All seemed
quiet. She didn't recognize it or the neighborhood, so that wasn't much help.
Maybe if I astral-project to the roof, I can see a landmark.
Sadie entered a deep trance and saw out of her mind's eye as she floated up one
story, two stories, three stories. At last she found the roof and directed her
spirit body to land on it. Glancing around the area, she saw more buildings but
none of them familiar. She sensed she was outside Boston proper in a pretty
sketchy neighborhood, but she couldn't be sure exactly where. Cambridge?
Somerville? Everything was densely packed, and taller buildings obscured her
view. Additionally, she couldn't see any street signs.
Deciding to astral-project through the roof into the building, she hoped to view
its contents and discover why she had projected there.
The third story held boxes and crates. Some had been pried open, and straw was
strewn about the floor. Nothing interesting there, so she continued sinking
through the third floor into the ceiling of the second. She found herself in an
office. It seemed like this might be an old factory. There was a wall of windows
and a metal walkway just outside the office. She imagined the supervisors
keeping an eye on things by gazing down at the factory floor.
That seemed like a good idea, so she floated through the wall and stood on the
walkway. What she saw shocked her. Cages. Some small enough to hold a rabbit,
others large enough to hold a man. Then she spotted a group cell—a very
large, glassed-in area with two naked men, a naked woman, and a naked child
inside. If that wasn't upsetting enough, a few giant fish tanks stood against
the opposite wall. She spotted one with a man inside...and he had a fishtail!
Sadie was about to get closer when a security guard rushed toward her from her
right. Can he see me?
"You there. Halt!"
Crap! He can! How he was able to see her in astral form wasn't important
at the moment. Getting out of there was.
She shot up through the ceiling and then through the next one, willing herself
to return to her body in Anthony's apartment.
Just as she arrived on the roof, her spirit snapped itself back into her body
and she fell over.
"Sadie!" Anthony was lifting her upright in a nanosecond. "Are you okay?"
Sadie took a deep breath and allowed her calm to return. "I'm fine. At least I
will be. I astral-projected into an old factory and had to snap back into my
"Had to?" Kurt asked.
"I was spotted."
Kurt's shocked expression said it all. "Who or what could have possibly seen you
in astral form?"
"That's what I'd like to know," she said. "His speech and uniform seemed
old-fashioned, and he carried a nightstick."
"Are you thinking it might have been a spirit?" Anthony asked. "Maybe an
old-time cop or security guard?"
"I can't come up with any other plausible explanation."
"Did he seem cognizant? Interested in what you were doing there?"
"Oh, yes. He shouted and began running toward me."
"Great." Kurt tossed his hands in the air. "So, even if we find the place, it's
haunted and we can't hide from an invisible guard. Do you think the scientists
know he's there?"
"I don't know. I'm sorry I panicked," Sadie said.
Anthony patted her hand. "Don't apologize. You did the right thing."
"This has never happened to me before. Do you think he could do anything to us?"
Kurt paced. "I wish I knew."
Just then the phone rang.
There's Something He's Never Told Her...
When her workplace burned down, Claudia should've taken it as a sign to move
on—and not just professionally. She's been secretly lusting after her
mysterious boss, Anthony Cross, for years. There's no way she should agree to
help him rebuild if she wants to keep her heart intact, and yet it's impossible
to stay away...
The flames that destroyed Anthony Cross's beloved bar are nothing compared to
the heat he feels every time he lays eyes on Claudia. But he can't have
her—it's against paranormal law for a vampire to date a human. Besides, he
has some dangerous enemies, and one in particular already has her sights on
Claudia. He owes her the truth—both about his feelings and his vampire
nature—which means their lives are about to get hotter than ever...
"Taking readers on a ride that is both uplifting and heavy with emotion, Chase
constructs a cast of intriguing characters set amidst a flurry of paranormal
activity." —RT Book Reviews