Before the Dawn
“I need brightness in my life.” ~Nicodemus
The night of the full moon has always been her worst fear. Then Samantha meets wolf-shifter Nicodemus, and his sweet promises of better days and even hotter nights give her hope for the future. But then, the truth is revealed.
Samantha Moore doesn’t know she’s a werewolf. For years she believed she was a monster until a hot stranger walks into her father’s bar. With the promise of a better life and freedom from a cage, she decides to trust her animal instincts.
Nicodemus Wolcott works for the shape-shifter Tribunal. When he goes to investigate a report of a distressed shifter, he doesn’t expect to find his mate. He can teach his she wolf how to be a werewolf, but his one chance at love could be lost when nothing turns out as it seemed.
Before the Dawn
Secret Blood Book 2
WELCOME TO DARK FOREST
Nicodemus snarled at the road sign. His assignment lay hidden in this little town. He’d traveled along the winding road of Route 30 for the last half hour. For most of the two-hour trip, he hoped he hadn’t landed himself in the middle of fairytale hell.
“You can’t change the name of the town,” Ozz said from the passenger seat. At the beginning of the road trip, they’d had the conversation about how shifters shouldn’t live in towns with ridiculous names to prevent exposure to humans.
“We’re here to investigate the supernatural.” Nicodemus leaned back in the seat and stretched his arm along the lining of the roof. “It would be easier to do it without revealing shape-shifters to every human in town if they weren’t expecting Little Red Riding Hood to pop out of the damn woodwork.”
Ozz chuckled. “What self-respecting werewolf wouldn’t want to eat a hot blonde?”
“Suit yourself, but I call dibs on her if there is no magic scent.”
Nicodemus snorted his reply. Ozz somehow managed to leave a trail of happy women in his wake. Nicodemus never had the same luck. One-night stands were awkward and cold for him. He liked the happy endings, but he didn’t like the hollow feeling for days after the fact. Maybe it was because he knew one day he’d find his her, and it always brought an awful sense of cheating on a woman he might not meet for another fifty years. It had to be why he didn’t enjoy the perks of animal magnetism.
Ozz reached into the backseat of the Jeep to grab a bottle of water out of the cooler. “Do you think it’s really her?”
“Won’t know until we see her,” Nicodemus said. Ozz was his best friend from the cradle and his partner for the last fifteen years. They worked the state of Pennsylvania meting out shifter justice. They both held positions in the Wolf Council to give them jurisdiction over werewolves not from their home pack and with the Shifter Tribunal to allow them to take action against other, non-wolf shifters if it became necessary.
Ozz angled his head to look at the GPS. “We’re almost there.”
“Great,” Nicodemus said on a dry note. The chances of finding Samantha Bardawulf were slim. When a child’s connection to her mother was cut, it usually had one meaning. He completely understood why the Bardawulfs clung to the hope their baby daughter was still alive twenty-five years later. The hope kept them from losing their minds, but the reality was if the mother-child connection was severed, one of them was dead, but every time there was an utterance of a mysterious shifter not on any records, the Tribunal hoped it would find the missing she wolf.
“Seriously, what if it is her?” Ozz took a pull on his water bottle.
“Then we take her back to her parents.” Humans had different laws for these types of situations, but none of the people involved were human.
“Turn’s coming up.”
Nicodemus didn’t suppress his growl. He didn’t want to be in a town with the cheesy name of Dark Forest. He did not want to have a meeting with a lone wolf, and he did not want to be the agent who found Samantha Bardawulf. He would get the credit because he was a Wolcott. His family name stretched beyond the borders of Pennsylvania, instilling respect and fear into the hearts of werewolves everywhere, and he was the alpha’s son.
He turned the wheel, cutting the turn sharper than he’d intended. Water sloshed in Ozz’s bottle and down the man’s shirt.
“G’mork!” Ozz used the favored wolf curse. “Pay attention. We might get to meet Little Red.”
Nicodemus slowed the vehicle on the gravel driveway. “Did it ever occur to you she’s probably already mated to the lone wolf?”
“I was talking about Samantha.” Ozz patted his black shirt. The spots of dampness weren’t noticeable.
Nicodemus pulled to a stop under a large oak tree. “Right, you’re going to pump and dump Bardawulf’s daughter. Nice knowing you, pal.” He cut the engine and got out of the Jeep.
The scent of werewolf carried on the breeze. A tall man with dark hair stood on the porch. Next to him…
Nicodemus started laughing. He couldn’t help it. On one side of the man was a stunning blonde woman in a red hoodie, and on the other was a little, old, silver-haired woman.
Ozz elbowed him. “Stop.”
Nicodemus gave him a look.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’ll bust a gut later.” Ozz paused. “Once I am sure there are no wood cutters hiding in the forest.”
The man who could only be Aiden Hyde was growling by the time they made it to the porch. The woman, however, was giggling and patting her mate’s arm. “I know all the jokes. You must be Nicodemus Wolcott and Osborne Kendall. I’m Rose, Aiden’s mate.”
Nicodemus nodded his head but didn’t extend his hand until Aiden gave a nod. Nicodemus shook everyone’s hand and then took a step back. “We understand you have a she wolf who might be in distress?”
“Yes,” Aiden said, seeming to relax. “I’m good for chasing off vampires and rogues, but when a witch gives me the heebie-jeebies, it’s time to call in more muscle.”
Nicodemus pulled out his notebook. He liked technology as much as the next person, but paper was easily burned, and files on hard drives were just as easily recovered. “I’ll need a description of the woman. Where you last saw her. The name of the man you claim is a witch, and any other information you can give me.”
The silver-hair woman beamed up at him. “I’m Edith Merrin, but you can call me Grams. Everyone does. And I can tell you everything you need to know about that poor girl. It was the afternoon, yesterday, I think, when I stopped in the new bar.” She winked. “A good beer on tap is just what I need to get in a good late nap. So, I went into Dark Moon.” Her eyes rolled, and her lips pressed together. “Not very inventive, I know, but the owner, Leon, said it worked in a town called Dark Forest.”
“Do you have the address?”
Grams pulled a three-by-five card out of her bra and handed it to him. “The owner’s full name is Leon Moore. He’s hurting the girl, well, she’s really a woman, but everyone appears young when you’re a human at seventy-five. I saw him hit her because she dropped a glass. I decided to tell Aiden instead of calling Sheriff Jones because I wanted to be sure of what I was dealing with first. Her lip was bleeding and everything, but you won’t find it today. Aiden said he smelled a she werewolf on me when I dropped off pie on my way home last night. Her name is Samantha Moore, and she says she’s that brute’s daughter, but I don’t believe a damn word of it. She looks nothing like him.” She whipped her phone out from her bra. She tapped on it for a few moments before turning it to show him the screen. “That man is Leon. Look at his eyes. You can’t trust a man with eyes that look like that.” Before Nicodemus was able to get a good look at the man, she turned the phone around and tapped again before handing it to him. “That’s Samantha. You have to help her.”
Her appearance held a striking resemblance to Belladonna Bardawulf. Nicodemus stopped breathing when he looked at the beautiful woman staring back at him from the phone screen. He was going to have a hard-on until he got her to the safety of the pack.
* * * *
Samantha rushed the tray of dirty lunch plates back to the kitchen. There wasn’t a crowd. She didn’t know if she should wish for the busy times or hate them. When the bar was full, Leon left her alone to work. When it was dead, like now, he delighted in terrifying her, but there was no one to see her if she lost control.
She was different. A freak. And tonight was a full moon. The change to her appearance would come easier today, and Leon would lock her in the basement to make sure she didn’t hurt anyone when the moon reached its peak.
She set the tray on the counter and turned toward the door. Leon would be pissed if she didn’t get the dishes into the dishwasher, but he’d also be furious if she wasn’t at the bar if a customer came in. They were slowly gaining regulars. They’d been open for a week, but business was good. They had a few more customers every day. It had to make Leon happy. They’d had to move again, because of her. She’d gotten out two full moons ago, and someone ended up dead.
She couldn’t remember when she changed into a creature, but Leon would find her in the woods covered in dirt and blood the next morning, and he’d move her again. This was the fourth time in as many years. The potions he’d given her since her thirteenth birthday weren’t working anymore.
The monster came out when she wasn’t looking. She was able to control enough of it where she’d only have fangs and claws, but if anyone saw her, Leon would kill them. No one could know his daughter was a freak, and it was her fault seven people had died because she couldn’t control herself on a full moon. She glanced at the steak knives on the counter. One slice in the right place, and she could end her nightmare existence. If she couldn’t heal herself, but she could. Every injury she’d ever gotten was healed over by the next morning, even when Leon had to teach her a lesson about not hurting people.
She let out a slow breath when the bell on the door sounded. She wiped her hands on her apron and rushed out of the kitchen. The scent of hot, raw male hit her nose, and she staggered with the sudden bolt of lust ripping through her body. She whimpered and straightened herself.
With a fixed smile on her face, she rushed behind the bar before chancing a look at the two men who came into the room. Scent drove her mad. It was everywhere, and she couldn’t get away from it or forget it. She did a quick adjustment of her outfit. Men gave better tips if they thought there was a chance to get laid. Not that Leon ever let her do it with anyone or keep more tips than what she needed to pay her expenses, but if she didn’t have enough to give him, he would become angry.
“Hello, um…” She swallowed hard when she looked up into sienna-golden eyes and lost her ability to breathe. She fanned herself and stepped back. It wasn’t enough. She grabbed a hand full of ice, rubbed it along her collarbone, and then pulled her hair up and ran it across the back of her neck. She gritted her teeth together and turned back to the customers. “Sorry. I think our air conditioning is broken.”
“G’mork,” the shorter but stockier of the two said. “Totally not fair.”
The one with the sienna-golden eyes and tall, fighter build appeared as stunned as she felt. He blinked a few times, and then a slow, sensual smile curved the corner of his mouth. “It must be. My name is Nicodemus Wolcott, and this is Ozz Kendell. We’re looking for someone, and we were wondering if you could help us.”
She dropped what was left of the ice into her cleavage and plastered a smile back onto her face. “I’m sorry, but the boss’ rules are we can’t answer questions unless you have a badge. If you have one, I’d be happy to help.”
The door of the backroom office burst open, and Leon came out in a fit of fury. “Samantha, go downstairs. Now.”
“Silence!” Leon strode over to the men. “You need to leave my bar. Now.”
“Or what?” Nicodemus asked with an arrogant smirk.
Leon moved behind the bar and grabbed the shotgun under the counter. “Or you’ll be eating lead.”
“I haven’t had lunch yet.”
Leon positioned the butt on his shoulder and aimed. “You have to the count of three. One. Two.”
Nicodemus stepped up to the barrel of the gun and said, “Three.”
Samantha grabbed Leon’s arm and shoved up. The gun blast ricocheted through the bar as a slug lodged into the ceiling. Fangs dropped into her mouth, and claws curled where her fingernails used to be. She turned her head, balled up her hands, and ran. They couldn’t have seen her. Leon would chase her and give those innocent men a chance to escape. She bolted into the kitchen and then out the delivery door. The woods weren’t far.
“Run,” she whispered to the men who couldn’t hear her, and she hoped she hadn’t gotten them killed.
The magic is in their DNA.
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