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12th Night [MultiFormat]
eBook by Leila Brown

eBook Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
eBook Description: With one serious lapse in judgment, Marinna Davis finds herself at the mercy of a handsome stranger. Her instincts scream that she just jumped out of a fire and into an inferno, while her body wants to feel the burn. Kale's promise to protect the brown skinned beauty will be seriously compromised when the need rippling through him overwhelms his control. With enemies closing in he'll have to fight everything he is to keep her safe.

eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2009

18 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

Marinna Davis stepped into the red and green decorated dining room and was assaulted by the warm, delicious smell of turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. She wouldn't be able to eat any of the Christmas dinner put out for the guests.

Not that the food didn't look good. Her stomach growled in agreement. No, it was the sympathetic look on her fellow guests' faces that stopped her. She turned from the entryway ready to sprint back up the winding staircase. Her heart thundered on as she wrapped her fingers around the smooth maple banister. Every one was sorry. These strangers. Her friends and family back home. Everyone was sorry but the one person who needed to be. Perry.

Stop thinking about him. He's a no good cheating bastard, and he'll get what's coming to him. She had to believe that. Thankfully, she caught him before they actually went through with the big farce of a wedding.

She shook her head to clear out the bad memories of finding her fiancÚ and bridesmaid screwing in a broom closet during the rehearsal dinner. One more night and she would have been Mrs. Lying Piece of Shit.

Stop it. Stop. She couldn't stay in here. Every time someone looked at her with those sad, sympathetic eyes, she faced her own stupidity.

No way could she sit down and pretend everything was okay. Not now. She turned to the front door and grabbed her coat. Maybe if she took a quick turn around the small pond bordering the bed and breakfast she could find a way to play nice while she choked down Christmas dinner. Great honeymoon this was turning out to be. That's because you and Perry didn't plan on being outside the room much, remember? Would people think her strange if she pounded her head against the wall? There had to be a way to escape these damn memories.

Marinna pulled open the door and drew in a deep breath of fresh air. In just a few short minutes, she was alone by the shore of the small lake. Maybe she shouldn't have come. What was four grand compared to this feeling of isolation? Isn't that what you wanted? To get away from all your family and friends? And especially Perry, who kept calling to ask if they could work it out. Hell no, they couldn't work it out. What kind of idiot did he take her for? If he cheated the night before the wedding, he would cheat after it too. And the one thing Marinna didn't do was share her man. Ever.

So what now? She didn't feel like going back in the inn and celebrating Christmas with a bunch of strangers. No, she'd rather sit out here and look at the stars and wonder how in the hell she let herself get duped into this situation. Not. She never let herself get conned into a bad situation, except in her personal life. That was a walking disaster ... until Perry. He'd been so different from the normal guys she dated. Truthfully, she'd only accepted the blind date with Perry because he was white and her latest disaster of an ex-boyfriend was black. Perry was her foray into something different. Which, ironically, had turned into more of the same old shit. Only difference was that Perry sucked her in deeper and conned her longer.

"Stop thinking about him," she screamed out loud. When would she stop beating herself up over this? Probably when she stopped feeling like such a fool. This was ridiculous. She might as well go back to her room and try to veg out in front of the television. At least then, she'd have something to try to concentrate on.

As she stood, she noticed a quick movement to her right. She whipped her head around as her heart hiccupped and her throat closed. There was nothing there. Must have been a trick of the light. If she was jumping at every little shadow, it was definitely time to go back inside.

"What are you doing out all alone?"

The voice came from behind her, but when she whirled around, there was no one there. Her breath hitched then came out in short, panicked puffs.

"Don't you know it's dangerous to be caught out after midnight on Christmas Eve? The Kallikantarozi will get you." The voice was deep and still behind her.

This was the wrong day for some backwoods idiot to be fucking around with her.

"I'm not alone. My friend is coming back in just a second." It was a bluff, and her heart hammered with the knowledge. She could give a fuck about a Kalli-whatever. She was only worried about being caught in the dark with a stranger in a foreign country. Fuck. She was usually way more paranoid. She would never have gone outside at night without her pepper spray and stun gun. Damn airline rules.

"Really? I don't think so. Most Greeks don't come out at night on Christmas Eve. And definitely not alone. The Kallikantarozi are not to be trifled with." His voice was closer now. Close enough to tickle the hairs on the nape of her neck.

Marinna took a few tentative steps toward the bed and breakfast. She couldn't see the person talking to her but figured it was best to try to get as close to the inn as possible before she made a run for it.

"Look, I don't know what your game is, but if I don't come back, people will search for me. And when they find me, you'll be going to jail."

One. Two. Three.

Marinna whirled and ran in the direction of the inn. Every time her feet hit the soft grass, she nearly slipped. The feeling of being chased beat down on her. It took everything in her not to peek over her shoulder to see if he followed. She concentrated on the shadowed ground, trying to pick out a safe route. She refused to be that girl in the movies who always fell at the wrong time.

She was close enough now that if she screamed, someone might hear her. Just as the scream set to erupt from her burning lungs, something, or someone, barreled into her from the right. She fell to the ground, which knocked the air from her overtaxed lungs.

"That wasn't very smart." His voice was more stained. She could almost swear she heard a growl behind the words.

She opened her mouth to scream, but her brain must have short-circuited somewhere, because no sound came out. Muscles moved, her jaw went up and down, but still no sound emerged.

Terror ripped through her, and her eyes widened. She looked at the dark shadow sitting on top of her, its shadowy wisps clutched around her neck. His eyes were a vibrant blue, but everything else looked like a shadow, dark and nondescript. Definitely not human. What the hell was going on? This couldn't really be happening to her. No. It was only a bad dream. So much worse than Perry and the embarrassment he'd caused her. Hell, it wasn't even a contest.

Her heart strained against her chest as she realized that she was most likely dead. What had all those cop shows said about surviving? Make the victim have a face. But that was for a human person. Not this. She'd never seen anything like this.

Wait. Don't panic. It could be a prank. Please, God, let this be a prank. Even as she formulated the thought, she knew this was real. There was no way a normal person could look so much like a freaking shadow. She could almost make out the woods through him. Yeah, that wasn't just a guy out to scare the shit out of her.

She still needed to prove it to herself. And if she was wrong, she was probably going to die anyway. Reaching up, she grabbed his head, or at least she tried to. Her hands slipped through the shadow as if grasping at mists. The air was heavier, but there was nothing to actually hold on to.

"Even if I let you scream, they would not come out to help you. I'm surprised they let you out. They should be more protective of their guests." He gathered her up and clamped a hand on her wrists. He started walking toward the woods.

No. If she went into those woods, she'd never make it out alive. She very much wanted to live, too much to walk to her death without putting up a fight.

* * * *

Kale couldn't believe his rotten luck. He'd been hiking toward his hiding cabin, his home for the next 12 days. When he spied the caramel colored beauty by the water's edge, he'd thought her an illusion or a trap set by one of the elders. It would be just like them to use a human as back for the untried younglings of his kind. Those old monsters loved youngling flesh. That was a trap one only needed to blunder into once. So far, he hadn't been caught, but he'd seen what happened to those unlucky youths who'd been captured. The one elder he'd seen hadn't waited to find a private spot. Only biting his tongue had kept him from vomiting from the scene. Definitely one he wanted no part of.

But her scent, the scent of an unafraid innocent human, had convinced him she was the real thing. A human out during the 'tween time on Christmas Eve. A damned fool. A time when those born with the taint of cursed blood transformed into the Kallikantarozi. A time dangerous to all but the most powerful of his kind.

Now time was running out. He'd seen the group of youths staking her out. He should have escorted her back into the small boarding house and warned her about coming out alone. But he hadn't. No, he'd been enchanted by her seductive voice and dark beauty. In essence, he'd let his cock do the thinking. Soon these woods would be infested with others searching for someone to sate the unbearable lust in the nights to come. He didn't want to become an unwilling partner of someone stronger, and he had no illusions that there were stronger beasts than him out there.

He pulled on the woman's hands, yanking her toward him. They didn't have time for her to try to resist. She had no idea of the things that would be done to her if one of his brethren found her.

"You need to keep up."

She shook her head and fell to her knees on purpose. He couldn't afford to try to drag her through the forest. Even now, he could smell the scent of arousal from his kind. The forest would reek with the aroma before sunrise.

The crazy human shook her head several times. Did she think she had any say in this? Maybe he should tell her what would happen if he left her now.

"Listen, I hate to do it, but if you don't walk faster I will leave you here. Do you know what will happen if I do that?" He let his voice drop to a chilly distant place.

She nodded her head and looked in the direction of the inn.

"Wrong. Your scent is all over this place. They would be at your window, watching, waiting. For the next twelve days, my kind would be lurking in every shadow, waiting to catch you unaware. And that is if there are none waiting now to see if I will let you loose."

Even as he said the words, he knew it. There were weaker ones waiting. Had been watching her before he'd stopped to rescue her. Watching. Biding there time. Young ones. Ones who hadn't learned to hide. These new ones were lures. The old ones would be here soon.

"If you want to make it out of this alive, you will grab onto my fur and hold as if your life depended on it. Because it does."

She stared at him as if to ask, what fur? He bent down and let go of the animal side of his nature. A million pinpricks bombarded him as hairs punctured through his skin. His knees popped forward, and he fell to the ground.

He looked up and saw the terror written on her face. If she screamed, they would both be dead.

"Don't scream. The others will get you, and in this state I won't be able to help." His voice ended on a gruff note as his vocal cords shortened and his teeth lengthened. The rest of the transformation seemed instantaneous, but some part of him knew it wasn't. When he was in this form, time seemed different.

He bent his head and inched over to her. There was no missing the stiffening of her muscles. They didn't have time for this. Now instead of four or five young ones, her scent was calling others. And they were coming. With so many young ones in one place, the elders would arrive and gorge themselves on the uninitiated. And hopefully forget about one lonely human.

He pushed against her, nudging her. There was no time for her hesitation. All it would take was one of the others to see him as the wolf and she was toast. When she backed away from him, he lost his temper, nipped at her, and growled.

"Maybe you should have told me what you wanted before you went all wolfy. That would have been smart," she snapped and stopped backing away from him.

No, what would have been smart was not stopping to save her life in the first place. He sighed hard as she brace her legs apart and settle her fist on her hips. She looked as if she might be about to start lecturing him, or screaming at him.

Another scent hit him. The scent of an elder still pretty far off but definitely heading this way. Time for talking had just run out. He raced around her and came up between her legs before she could turn around. She lost her balance and fell forward on his back. When her fingers dug into his fur, he took off. Luckily, she plastered herself to his back. He knew balancing wasn't easy for her, but from the scents on the wind, there were at least four elders headed their way. He was going to have to pull out a whole stack of tricks to keep from getting caught in this ever tightening net.

He ran at a full sprint for about three hours. His lungs burned blazing hot. It had been almost an hour since he'd last smelled the sickeningly sweet pheromones of the elders. The air heading into the foot of the Pindus Mountains had been clean, untouched. He didn't breathe a sigh of relief until they were in the thickness of the forest. Her grip loosened, but they couldn't afford to rest. There might be a few stragglers looking for those who slipped through the net.

An hour or two and they would be in his special hiding place. How he was going to survive the next twelve days with her only a short distance away he didn't know. But he would not give in to that base need. He would not turn into a passion-crazed beast like the elders. No. He was better than that. He had to be.

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