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Blood Son [Secure eReader]
eBook by Erica Orloff

eBook Category: Romance/Fantasy
eBook Description: Elizabeth Martin was on a wild-goose chase halfway around the world to save him from madness. She didn't believe a word of his cryptic e-mail about vampires and drinking blood. Nor did she believe the drunkard who spoke of vampires ruling the small Czech village where he was last seen. Until she was put in contact with a mysterious Dhampir--the offspring of a vampire and a human. Reputed mercenaries who'll do anything--or betray anyone--for a price. Elizabeth takes an instant disliking to Josef Darecky. He's too edgy, intense and moody ... and he arouses desires that could compromise her mission. But he's also the only man who can save her brother, who is half-turned already. And, as she forms an unlikely bond with the half-blood mercenary, she senses that only by trusting him--and winning his trust--can the vampires be fully destroyed....

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Nocturne
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2007

19 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter 1

Prague, present day.

"Please…have you seen the person in this picture?" Elizabeth Martin slid a four by five color photograph of her twin brother, David, across the small round table toward the man sipping coffee at dusk. He didn't understand English, and Elizabeth didn't speak Czech, so she pointed at the photo of David, his smile clearly bright enough to captivate a room, then pantomimed looking around for him.

The coffee drinker gazed down carefully at the photo and shook his head, giving her a shrug, then resumed staring at his laptop.

Elizabeth sighed, scanning the crowded Internet café near the Charles Bridge. This was where David had sent the e-mail from. But Prague was a cosmopolitan city full of people from all over the globe, including the Czech Republic's nearest neighbors—Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Poland. Around her, tongues spoke in so many different languages and dialects, she felt utterly isolated. And then her ears picked up a male voice speaking English. Whipping her head around, she spied a young man with a backpack, scruffy reddish beard, and a tweed newsboy cap, talking with a backpacking counterpart in a thick black fisherman's sweater and sporting a black knit cap. She walked over to them.

"I'm sorry to bother you." She smiled at them. "You speak English?"

They both nodded. "With a brogue, lass," the one with the knit cap said, clear blue eyes dancing.

"I'm looking for my brother. He passed through here maybe two weeks ago, I think. He sent me an e-mail from this café. Do you recognize him?" Elizabeth passed them the photograph.

"David," the one with the red beard said. "Sweet Jesus, what troubles has he gotten himself into? My name's Finn." He stuck out a hand to her. "Sit down."

"Elizabeth Martin," she said, shaking his hand, then gratefully sinking into the wooden chair. "You have no idea how worried I am. When did you last see him?"

He stroked his beard. "About three weeks ago. Right, Tom?" He glanced at his traveling companion, who nodded. "He wasn't himself. Looked fookin'—pardon the language—tired. I was worried he'd picked up something. Flu…something."

"Picked up something?" She tucked a stray black hair behind her ear and gazed down at David's photo. They were so clearly siblings—same shade of black hair, same blue-gray eyes, same pale skin with a rosy tinge around the cheekbones, same cupid's bow forming full lips. She had the faintest smattering of freckles across her nose, and wore her hair nearly to her waist. David kept his shorn close to the scalp, and he wore a simple gold hoop in his left ear. He also had a tattoo, a yin and yang symbol, on his left biceps. In profile, though, they were almost identical, with straight noses and strong, graceful jawlines.

"He looked shaky. He'd been backpacking way the 'ell out past the Liberac region. Past the ski resorts. He was in the Karkonosze. It's January, love. You just don't do that alone and outside the resorts. Too cold to be out there for days on end. I didn't understand it. I mean, go off into the mountains and not ski? Just to be alone?"

She nodded. "That would be David. Always defying conventional wisdom." She paused and bit her lip. "I have to ask you something." She sighed. "Did he seem like maybe he was on…drugs?" She held her breath waiting for the answer. It wouldn't be the first time David had troubles with addiction.

"Could be. Don't know. He was just pale. Thin. Never said anything about drugs, though. We'd even shared a room in a hostel one night just before Christmas. I didn't see anything that made me think he was on something. We each had a pint of ale. That was it."

"Thank you. Any bit of news helps."

"He was heading back there, you know. I don't get the allure of the isolation, but maybe that's what he wanted," Finn offered. "Maybe he was trying to find himself or something."

"I think that's part of it." Elizabeth nodded.

"Is he in trouble?" Tom asked her.

"I honestly don't know. But thank you." She gave him a feeble smile. "At least I know for sure he was here. And he was in the mountains. I'm trying to trace his route."

"I wish we could tell you more."

"I'm just grateful I even found someone who's seen him. His e-mail…he didn't sound like himself."

Elizabeth stood. "You don't happen to know where he was staying out there, do you?"

"No," Finn said. "But there's an inn out where he said he was. Into the Karkonosze mountains—near the Polish border. The Hawthorn Inn is the English translation of the name. One of the few places in the heart of the mountains where he was hiking and climbing. If he was in those mountains, chances are he either stayed at that inn or passed through. Or someone staying there may have seen him."

Elizabeth nodded.

"Hire a car and driver," Tom said. "Don't go out there alone." He looked over at Finn. "We could travel with you. We're not tied to any schedule. We're just bummin' our way through Europe avoidin' growin' up." He smiled at her.

"Sounds familiar," Elizabeth mused, smiling back. "That's all right. But I'll hire a driver for sure." Elizabeth thanked them both again, shook their hands, and exited the café to go back to her hotel overlooking the Charles Bridge. She walked across the bridge with hundreds of tourists. Built in the 13th century, the Charles Bridge was considered one of Europe's most romantic spots. Each dawn and twilight, tourists strolled across, taking in the view of the red roofs of Prague, or the huge green cupola of the Church of St. Nicholas. Spires rose above the picturesque city, and she felt a pang at how utterly alone she felt. As she walked, she pulled the e-mail out of her purse and unfolded it for the thousandth time since she received it at the University of Virginia, where she taught comparative religion.

Copyright © 2007 by Erica Orloff.

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