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Genre: Futuristic, Western, Paranormal
Series: Dark Frontier, Book 1
On Sale: June 14, 2011
The best defense is no match for desire this hot…
Kate McKinnon’s Sanctuary is an island of refuge in a western frontier shrouded in post-apocalyptic chaos. Her only escape from her crushing responsibilities is occasional radio contact with other pockets of survivors. Especially one man whose deep, raspy voice cuts through her exhaustion, straight to her heart. A man whose face she has only imagined.
When she and her ranch hands are surrounded by renegades, she doesn’t recognize the leader of the militaristic band that rescues them, but knows that voice.
Ty Bennett is already half in love with the human woman whose voice haunts his dreams. His impulsive offer to add muscle to the Sanctuary’s defenses is dangerous to them both. Helping her may redeem some of his sins, but proximity only increases his hunger to possess her—body, soul…and blood.
Without hesitation, she welcomes Ty and his men into the Sanctuary…only to discover the reason why they only ride at night. Yet the survival instinct that screams at her to drive them off is no match for Ty’s seductive powers. Or the need for protection from the threat that howls at Sanctuary’s gates.
This title has been previously published.
Warning: Expect a dark, violent world where a vampire driven by uncontrollable lusts strikes a bargain with a strong woman willing to succumb to the carnal pleasures only a vampire can provide.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Kate pushed back the edge of her duster and tucked it behind the holster hanging from Sam’s gun belt. She walked into the store and straight up to the cashier’s desk, doing her best to ignore the overpowering stench of rotting food coming from the produce section. She reached into the shelf above the station, rooting for a pack of cigarettes, but found none and cursed.
So she returned her attention to the front doors and kept track of the men’s progress which she could judge because Shep stood at the end of each row as Danny ran down the aisles to fill one squeaking cart after another according to Shep’s shouted instructions.
She glanced at her watch—fifteen minutes. Too long. “Time to wrap it up. We have to go, guys,” she shouted. It really shouldn’t take this long. There wasn’t much left on the shelves. She glanced down, kicked a cockroach off her boot and squashed it with her heel.
When the men moved into the storage area at the back of the building, she tensed, listening for any signs of trouble in the back, any signs of ambush. Not until she heard the whirring of the cart wheels coming down the aisle again did she let out a relieved breath.
She ran through the entrance to stand guard over the truck while Shep and Danny emptied the contents of the carts into the truck bed—mostly canned goods and paper products. Everything else had been eaten by bugs and mice or was too rotten for human consumption.
“Any place else we need to stop?” Shep asked.
“Just need to get the gas.”
The stacked five-gallon cans in the truck bed represented their hope they’d find enough fuel to run the generator and give them precious light for a few more weeks.
“We’ll head to the Exxon station,” she said. “It’s more open.”
At the gas station, she pulled out the key to the underground storage tank Mr. Jeffers had left her when he migrated east, and while Shep lowered a garden hose into the well to siphon gas into the canisters, she again kept watch.
When he was filling the last of the cans, she heard the sounds she’d dreaded—vehicles coming down the road at a fast clip. “Load up, guys. We’re done.”
Shep pulled up the hose and quickly locked the cap to the well, then bounded into the cab of the truck with the energy of a man much younger than his sixty years. Adrenaline could do that to a man.
Kate peeled out of the parking lot, heading back the way to Sanctuary, but as she’d feared, vehicles turned sideways in the road blocked their exit. She spun the steering wheel, running up over the curb to double back the way they’d come. “Don’t you dare fire on them,” she shouted to Danny. “If they shoot back they could hit that gas. Let’s find us a place where we can stand off.”
The First Baptist Church was just around the corner and not a likely place for monsters to hide.
She ran up over the curb, all the way up to the front steps of the church, and everyone piled out of the truck and dove for the front doors as vehicles careened into the parking lot behind them.
“Shep, you check the back entrance,” she shouted as she broke out a stained-glass window with her pistol grip. “Danny, you get up into the choir loft and keep watch from the upstairs windows.”
They waited while vehicles circled the parking lot, effectively encircling the building. Whooping shouts rang in the air.
“How much ammo you got on you, girl?” Shep shouted from the opposite end of the church.
She patted her duster pockets. “Enough. I don’t miss much.”
“Don’t look like we need silver load.”
He was right. What surrounded them weren’t werebeasts—it was the lowest form of human life—those who preyed on the survivors.
“Well, this will be easy pickin’s,” she murmured, and steeled herself for the coming confrontation.
Kate didn’t wait to hear what they might say. The only thing they wanted was her—women were a scarce commodity on the frontier. She took a bead down the barrel of her pistol and squeezed off a shot through the windshield of a pickup, pleased at the splash of red that exploded against the glass. She spared a thought for the fact she felt less remorse murdering this scum than she did vicious werebeasts. But the renegades had chosen their course. The wolves were victims acting on instinct. One of the women she sheltered had fallen into their clutches for a short time before she’d managed an escape. Kate could only guess at what she’d suffered because to this day she barely spoke and couldn’t look a man in the eyes.
Cool as ice, she chose another target, unwilling to let even a tremor of fear or regret ruin her shot—doing like her daddy taught her, pretending the men ducking behind their vehicles were just the paper targets she’d practiced on.
One. Two. Three down. Then Shep’s shotgun exploded with a roar, catching a cry closer than she’d expected. Were they sneaking up on them?
“What do you see, Danny?” she shouted as she flattened her back against the wall next to the window.
“We’ve got maybe twenty of the bastards out there,” Danny’s excited voice echoed from above. “But they seem to be holding back now.”
“Hello in there,” a tinny voice said over a loudspeaker. “We don’t mean you any harm. You had no call to fire on us. We were just…seeing if you needed help.”
Kate gave Shep a skeptical glance. She edged closer to the window to shout outside. “Well, we don’t. Why don’t you move along?”
“Thought I saw a woman in there,” the man said, the tone of his voice sly. “Honey, we can offer you better protection than an old man and a boy.”
Kate curled her upper lip in a snarl. “Thanks for the offer, but we won’t be stayin’ in town long.”
Laughter sounded outside, low and not especially amused. It had a dirty edge to it and made her skin crawl.
With the lull, she ejected her magazine and inserted a full clip into her pistol.
“It’s gonna be nighttime soon,” the voice outside said. “You really should find shelter. We have a nice place. Plenty to eat.”
A sick knot formed in the pit of her stomach knowing what the trade would be. However, she’d run up against their sort before and prevailed. The trick was to keep her wits about her.
If she could just get a shot at the guy behind the mike…
A long silence followed. She darted a glance around the window sill and realized the attention of the men around surrounding the building was on something in the distance. Then she heard it—engines, big ones, roaring their way.
Being the cowards they were, the gang bolted into their vehicles as quickly as they could and departed. Right behind them appeared a convoy of green camouflaged military vehicles. Hummers and large, canvas-topped transport vehicles with machine–gun turrets mounted on top.
Kate kept to the shadows while watching the long column of trucks come into view. “Shep, you see that?”
“Didn’t know they were operating this far into the frontier,” he said, coming up behind her to peek out the window. “Better stay inside ’til we know whose side they’re on.”
She expected the convoy to continue on past, but one by one they pulled into the church parking lot.
Kate held her breath, her heartbeat racing—the first suffocating wash of true fear pouring down her spine in an icy fall.
From the lead vehicle, a door opened and a man dressed in blue jeans and a black leather jacket jumped from the cab to the hard pavement below.
Her first sight of him told her instinctively here was bigger trouble than she’d already faced. This wasn’t the stupid scum she’d squared off with. He was a hundred times more intimidating.
For one, he was a big man. Taller even then Sam, his wide shoulders and muscled thighs bespoke of years of physical training. In close quarters, he’d be impossible to beat. She squeezed the grip of her weapon harder, already thinking about where she’d have to place the first shot to bring him down quick.
The closer he strode, the greater her unease. Not only did he have the size to make her heart leap to the back of her throat, he moved with a rangy grace that said he’d be fast on his feet. His face with its square jaw and sharp cheekbones completed the portrait of an unstoppable man once he’d set his eyes on a target.
Now she just hoped that dark, hard gaze never rested on her.
While she drew deep breaths to calm her racing heart and the tremor of her hands, an uninvited thought crossed her mind. If she weren’t battling for her life in the middle of an Apocalypse, this would be the sort of man she’d want. Dangerous, brutal—sexy as hell.
But he was dressed in civilian clothes and riding in a military vehicle. Was he just the leader of a smarter band of criminals?
He stopped about twenty paces from the church doors and put his hands on his hips. “Kate McKinnon, are you in there?”
She jerked at the familiar deep tones of his voice. Her startled glance found Shep’s.
His eyes were narrowed in his lined face, and he shook his head. “You know him?” he hissed. “Might be some kind a trick.”
“This is Ty Bennett.”
Kate closed her eyes and sank against the wall, feeling like her whole world was spinning out of control. How could this be?
“Kate, the cavalry’s here, sweetheart.”
Ty held his breath as the slender figure descended the church steps. Although garbed in a long duster and wearing a cowboy hat that cast shadows over her face, he could tell a lot about the woman he’d come half the state away to rescue. Her slender shoulders were square, her chin held high.
The smart-mouthed woman he’d talked to endless nights looked brave—and brittle as glass.
The closer she came, the more his body tightened.
“She’s prettier than I expected,” Diego murmured as he stepped behind him.
Ty didn’t bother to say he’d noticed too. He’d already been fighting an unexplainable attraction to the sassy voice on the radio, but he thought she’d be older. The woman walking toward him was shaping up to be a delicious surprise.
When Kate stopped several feet away, he noted the edge of her jacket tucked behind her holster and the suspicion glinting in her eyes. A shotgun barrel poked out a window of the church behind her.
A smile curved one corner of his mouth. Good girl. Someone was watching her back.
Kate stood motionless, but swept his men his men with a quick glance as they dismounted their vehicles and waited beside them for direction. When her glance came back to him, her expression was stony. “You might have mentioned you were coming for a visit,” she said, her voice tight.
Her husky inflection tugged at his cock. The game had begun.
Knowing she was easily riled, he decided to bait her. He didn’t like her scared—angry, he could handle. He lifted one brow. “And I thought I told you to stay put.”
She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t follow orders very well,” she said, her tone dead level.
Diego snorted behind him, and Ty knew his buddy was laughing his ass off.
Kate lifted her chin toward the convoy. “Now a person might wonder how men such as you came into possession of military vehicles.”
“A person? You wondering how, Kate?” he drawled. “Maybe I’m just a resourceful kind of guy.”
Her nostrils flared, and her lips tightened. “And I’m just wondering what else you might be, Ty Bennett.”
That’s when he saw the hint of vulnerability in her gaze—and a glint of hope. This woman had lived a nightmare and needed what he offered worse than she knew. “Kate, we’re ex-military living at Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains. Before things went to hell, we were part of a border patrol outfit—light infantry.” Some of it was true. What he left out would have to wait until she knew him better.
Kate’s lips relaxed a fraction. “Why no uniforms?”
“We were mustered out of the service when the post closed.”
“They left behind functioning equipment?”
“They were in a hurry. Everything was abandoned. We’ve taken over the post.”
“Is this everyone? All your people?”
“I left men behind to guard the post.”
Her breath gasped softly. “Only men?”
He read her panic and decided to sidestep the issue for now. Concentrate on the pluses. “There’s a sturdy fence, a mess hall, food in storage to last a large unit months, an artesian well…everything a community needs to survive. We have room for you and yours if you’ll come.”
“There are only half a dozen women at the ranch—three are married,” she said faintly.
“We won’t take what’s not offered.” The quiet, firm tone of his voice was meant to reassure her, but he knew she’d seen too much to trust blindly.
Her jaw flexed, and she looked away. “So how’d you know it was me in there?”
“I sent out scouts in advance of the convoy. They saw you enter town, hit the grocery store like kamikazes, and then steal gas at the station. I don’t believe another female in this area would be so brazen. We got here as quick as we could when those bastards chased you here.”
She shot him a pointed glance. “Your timing was amazing.” Again, suspicion colored her tone.
“Remember, I didn’t expect to find you here. You were supposed to sit tight,” he said, baiting her again.
Kate snorted. “Like I said—”
His lips twitched. “Yeah, I know. You don’t follow orders well. That’s gonna change.”