Driving in the rain is the worst, especially at night. This stretch of the 70 through Colorado was awful. The bends, twists and steep inclines were enough to make any driver weary. I’d lived here long enough that I knew it well and it still gave me the creeps. I made a note to see about pushing up my Zumba class, so it ended before it got dark. I hoped my clients wouldn’t mind. It was getting to be fall soon and snow was horrible in the mountains. I couldn’t be the only one who hated driving in this weather.
As if to spite me, the torrential down pour picked up. I flicked my wipers on as fast as they’d go. Not that it helped much. I might need to pull over. I’d do it a little after this next bend. The last thing I needed was to get rear ended. Or hit something.
It was like I had a sixth sense tonight. I gasped as I rounded the corner. There was something burning in the middle of the road. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it was ginormous and there was no way for me to go around. I slammed on my brakes. My car skidded, hydroplaning across the ground. I pumped the brakes.
“Please stop,” I whispered repeatedly. It wasn’t going to happen. I clutched the steering wheel and screamed. The front of my car smacked into whatever was in the road with a sickening crunch. I was thrown forward, my seat belt caught me slapping me back into my seat. The air bag deployed and hit me like a punch to the face, and a puff of white blinded my view.
“Ugh,” I said as I caught my breath. For something meant to help you, airbags sure did pack a mean punch. I pushed on the airbag making it deflate as fast as I could. It was a good thing too.
Flames billowed over my car. The smell of burning rubber filtered into the cabin. Oh shit. My car was on fire too. I had to get out of here.
I shoved on my door. It wouldn’t budge. I yanked and tugged on the door handle, but it refused to open. My eyes went to the hood of the car. Flames were crawling up the metal closer to me. My pulse thundered in my ears. Gas and fire were a bad combo. I undid my seat belt and crawled out of my seat to the passenger side. When I pulled on the handle the door thankfully fell open. I climbed out and darted away from my car, not stopping until I’d reached the other side of the street.
I turned back and covered my mouth at the sight. Fire had engulfed my car. I patted my pants in search of my cell. Thank God for pockets in workout pants. I pulled it out and unlocked it ready to call 911 when I saw movement by where my car and whatever the hell that was in the middle of the road.
A man stood up, or he tried to. He made it halfway up and then collapsed.
He needed to get away from there. That fire was raging. I shoved my phone back in my pocket and ran back to the inferno.
“Hey, Mister,” I screamed as I flailed my arms trying to get his attention. “You have to get away from there.” I didn’t know how long it would take for my car to blow but it was covered completely in flames already. The fire was burning so hot it was almost white. The heat took the chill from the air. I was starting to sweat. Me and this guy needed to get out of here.
I hurried around the flames and found him laying on the ground. He had long blonde hair that might very well be longer than mine and he was shirtless and shoeless. Weird but I’d worry about that later.
“Hey, we have to get you out of here.” I came around him and put one arm under his shoulder. Somehow, we managed to get him to his feet. He was massive. Probably at least a foot taller than me and he was all muscle. We stumbled forward. He tripped and almost fell. It was through sheer strength of will that I kept him upright. We had to get away from the vehicles. I had no plans to die today.
We kept moving and made it to the tree line. Not a second too soon. The ground shook and we were thrown forward as my car erupted. We tumbled down a small hill and landed in a deep puddle, sending a splash of water up when we landed. I coughed and spat the sludge from my mouth. Great! My cell was probably ruined now too. I turned so I was leaning on my elbows and watched as what was left of my car turned into an inferno. Flames shot at least twenty feet into the sky. My car was a total goner.
At least my night couldn’t possibly get any worse. This was just what I needed. Not! At least I’d saved the guy. I turned to look at him. Whatever was in the road didn’t resemble a car. So, what was it? I tried to get a good look at the guy, but I only had the light of the fire, and we were a distance from it.
He hadn’t moved since we’d collapsed over here. He was lying face up. At least I didn’t have to worry about him drowning in all this water. What if he was injured or worse? I crawled toward him and looked down at his chest. I still had no idea why he was half naked, but he was ripped. And breathing. Thank goodness. Wait a second.
I squinted and stared down at him, leaning closer to inspect his chest. Were those scales? They were flesh colored, so it was hard to tell but his skin looked off. I reached into my pants and plucked out my phone, praying that it worked so I could turn on the flashlight. It did. That was a small miracle.
I shone it down on him. They were scales. Flesh colored scales. How in the world was that possible? People didn’t have scales. It had to be a tattoo. A really well designed one. I put a finger on it. It felt weird, scaly. Not possible. It had to be some sort of weird body art. People did all sorts of crazy things nowadays
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Aurora took a step back, regarding me with weary eyes. She held a blade in her hand that I hoped she wouldn’t try to use. I knew why she was afraid, but it still hurt. She had nothing to fear from me. I’d keep her safe, always.
“What’s our status?” I asked.
She blinked and then came out of her revere. The knife thankfully got tucked away. “Shields are nearly depleted. I’ve run a work around to keep them up, but we don’t have enough power to jump and…” she trailed off her eyes widening in obvious alarm.
I frowned as weightlessness washed over me. My body lifted off the ground, floating upward toward the ceiling. We’d lost gravity. That couldn’t be good.
Aurora grabbed onto a lever and used it to pull herself toward a console. She held on with one hand and used the other to type as her legs floated upward like she was laying on the air.
“I don’t understand, core systems are still online. We should have gravity,” she said reaching up for the comm button over her head.
As she did the gravity kicked back in throwing us both toward the ground. I reached out for her, but I wasn’t close enough. I hit the floor with a jar. One knee gave out and jammed against the grates.
Aurora fell. Her forehead smashed against the console with a sickening crack and her body fell backward. I jerked toward her catching her lithe frame before it contacted the floor. She didn’t move.
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My parents sold me as a child into slavery, but I escaped and have been on the run for six years. I just made a mistake that might cost me my freedom. I trusted the wrong guy. Gray was charming and kind, and I was starting to fall in love. But he works for the king that enslaved me. When we crash land on a planet, I have no choice but to work with him. He says he’s trying to protect me. My heart wants to believe him, but it’s not just me I have to worry about. I have a secret too, one that we created together. I’ll do anything to protect my child.
Aurora thinks I betrayed her. I would never do that. Fate brought us together for a reason. She is my soul mate, and I’ll do anything to protect her. I need her to trust me, but the secrets I still keep would scare her away. We share a common enemy. If caught, they’ll kill me and return her to the Orion as a courtesan slave. I’ll protect her at any cost. I just hope I don’t lose her forever.
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Bastian Forge might be my downfall.
But ruination has never looked so good.
They say Langston’s are born with whiskey in our veins.
Which is good, because I just made a deal with a vampire that will either save me—or doom me.
With my company in debt, Bastian Forge is willing to loan me the money I need, but I’m not sure I can give him what he desires in return. But when this dark stranger unlocks my hidden gift--I can read vampire minds—we become partners in a deadly game, trying to outmaneuver a ruthless vampire Elder intent on using me to destroy Forge, and everything else I love.
I’ve never played cat and mouse before, but this is one game I’m going to win.
Forge pulled me into him, and this time there was no awkwardness as we collided.
Our lips snagged on each other’s, then Forge’s hand went to my lower back and crushed me against him as he kissed me, his tongue slipping between my lips. Between the heady sweetness of the barley and my brain spinning at how good Forge tasted, I got lost in the moment.
Damn, but Forge could kiss, exploring my mouth with a thoroughness I truly admired. Practice makes perfect. When the thought popped into my head, I pulled away slightly. “Forge…” I said again, with as much luck as before, and he sucked my lower lip between his teeth. I felt the slight prick of fangs, and my knees almost gave out.
Fuck it. I’m tired of playing around.
I clasped his neck, pulling him back down to me. This time I was the aggressor, my tongue tangling with his as the kiss went on forever. I heard Forge’s laughter in my head, and his other hand wrapped around my nape as he bent me backward.
I’ve been waiting for weeks for you to say those words.
I might have argued, but I couldn’t focus on anything right now except Forge’s tongue in my mouth, the feel of his corded, sweaty body pressed against me, the strength of his hands steadying me, and the fact that he’d just helped me rake barley.
It was stupid, but after working beside him tonight, Bastian Forge had changed in my eyes. No longer the legendary vampire, no longer a myth, but someone who enjoyed—and valued—the same things as I did.
Something between us solidified, something more than even this kiss, which was so delicious that I never wanted it to end.
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Bethany Shaw writes paranormal, science fiction and contemporary romance. Vampires, shapeshifters, and good old-fashioned romances are her favorites. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she enjoys creating fun and imaginative characters and worlds.