Joy “JJ” Justice has spent her adulthood lost and alone and vulnerable to the haunting of a past she can’t remember. It’s no wonder she feels different from other people and not surprising that she chose the police force as a way of standing up for others who are defenseless against the evils of the world, but when her only friend and partner is brutally murdered by a creature not of this world, JJ discovers a greater purpose. She is called to hunt the monsters only she can see. Once again, she resigns herself to living her life alone.
Guardian of the Race, Bernardo ad Tormeo, longs for a woman of his own, one that’s as fun loving and loyal as his Liege Lord’s Lady, Grace, and as soft and gentle as his fellow Guardian’s mate, Hope, but the chances of meeting such a woman seem slim to none. What with the nightly patrols and his gaming business, he hasn’t the time to go searching for love. Besides, he’s seen too many matings that didn’t work out.
Nardo is sworn to protect his people and their human cousins from the demons who cross over from the Otherworld. He never thought he would be hunting a vampire; just like he never thought of falling in love with a leather clad ex-cop who can kick demon butt with the best of them.
How do you romance a woman who thinks more of knives than roses? And how do you help her fight the demons of her soul when she can’t remember who they are? Nardo doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out. He only hopes he and his new love can find the answers before a monster from Joy’s childhood and a myth from the Paenitentia’s ancient past take away the only woman he will ever love.
Excerpt from Guardian’s Joy
She watched him walk toward her with long, slow strides, his shoulders rolling with each step and she knew, by the movement of his body, that this was an accomplished athlete. She hadn’t outrun him, hadn’t evaded his pursuit. He’d been toying with her, running her up one alley and down the next. He wasn’t even breathing heavily. She rubbed her thumb across the tips of her fingers to bring forth the fire, but it was useless. For six months, she’d been fully in control, yet now, when she needed it most, the power abandoned her.
He paused in a pool of moonlight half way down the alley and JJ had time to study the face of the man who might kill her. His sharp, almost too thin features sharpened even more with his anger. His fangs flared, piercing his gums and forcing his lips back into a snarl. His muscles hardened, seemed to grow, thighs bulging in definition against the narrow cut of his jeans. His eyes blazed with a golden fire.
He stalked toward her, his body language daring her to flee. She couldn’t, though everything in her screamed at her to run. This creature, this vampire, was something feral. If she ran, she would trigger the primal instinct to chase and maybe the other, more deadly instinct; the need to kill one’s prey.
All this flew through her mind in an instant as she watched him close the distance between them, his eyes locked on her face. She shifted her weight to the balls of her feet and moved her hands up and out, ready to defend. There were nights in her past when she’d prayed for death. Now that death was here, her anger rose against it and the anger overrode her fear. She might go down, but she would go down fighting.
Nardo saw the shift from fear to fury, saw her ready herself for battle and had to admire her courage. Not many humans could face down a Guardian transformed by rage. She was awesome in her anger. He’d never killed a woman before, never dreamed he’d have to, but he was a Guardian and it was his job to do what must be done. He flashed to white light and was on her before she had time to react.
His hands grabbed her biceps as he pushed her to the wall. Through the silky softness of her sleeves, he felt her muscles bunch beneath his fingers, still ready to fight and he tightened his grip. He should have snapped her neck and ended it there, but he brought his body close to hers and set his pelvis against the tops of her hips never taking his eyes from that arresting face.
Nardo was surprised by the strength of her slender body as she strained against him. She’d looked so delicate when she stood alone watching the dancers. Her skin was smooth and unblemished, a dark, dusky rose though whether it was from nature or from anger, he couldn’t tell. And she was more angry than afraid. Her body vibrated with it and the vibration set his own body thrumming in response. Her eyes were defiant as she boldly returned his stare. Lightly lined and mascaraed, they were pools of liquid smoke, a dark and glistening grey that looked almost black. Her face was long and narrow, her nose long and straight. Her wide sensual mouth, now tightened and shaped with anger, beckoned to be softened with a kiss. She was beautiful in a way that sucked the air from his lungs and all thought from his head.
He snarled, a reminder to himself that she was the killer of a Paenitentia child, and shifted his stance.
JJ was pressed into the wall, her shoulders grinding into the brick. He’d moved so fast she didn’t have time to strike or dodge. She struggled against his hold, but it was useless. When he pulled back slightly from his full body press, she raised her knee, aiming for his groin, but the maneuver seldom worked and this time was no exception. He shifted his body so that his right knee hit the bricks between her legs and his thigh and hip pressed into her abdomen effectively repinning her lower body. Her hands were still free and she should have been able to call on her power to zap him with enough energy to stop his heart. She could feel the blue fire crackling at her fingertips, but she couldn’t send it out. When he raised his thigh into her crotch and lifted her off the ground, she gasped.
Her pulse quickened beyond the adrenaline rush of fear and flight. She closed her eyes and silently cursed the tingle of desire that crept from the juncture of her legs where his thigh was pressed tight, up to her abdomen where muscles constricted in anticipation and fingers of heat curled through her stomach. Her breasts stood taut against the confining leather of her vest and when he spoke, inches from her lips, her body quickened with desire. Goddamn him.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked in a whispered growl.
Her lips parted against her will to drink in the warmth of his breath and her body trembled slightly with her sigh.
“Why did you do it? Who are you?” he asked again without the growl. He didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to question her, didn’t want to hurt her. He bent his head to her neck and took a long, slow breath, trying to place her scent. She smelled of something spicy and sweet and delicious. Goddammit, he couldn’t do this.
“Who are you?” he asked a third time and his lips touched her neck. Recognition came as the scent and the taste blended together in his memory and he couldn’t help it. He smiled. It was those little red candies Grace used to decorate cookies.
“Joy,” she whispered and swallowed hard. Why had she given him that name, the one she abhorred? His lips were on her neck, over her jugular and their whisper soft movement sent another sexual shiver through her core. Was this what it was like to die from a vampire’s bite?
Joy? Nardo pulled away from the sweet temptation of that long slender neck. He shook his head to clear it of the fantasy that was swirling through his brain and hardening his cock against the fly of his jeans. There was a job to be done.
“No joy for the kid you killed,” he said quietly.
Her mouth opened and closed several times before she could speak. “Killed? You think I…? She was…”
Her fist came up and clocked him in the ear. She’d been held in some kind of vampire thrall and hadn’t even realized she was free. He only grunted with the blow that would have knocked a normal man off his feet. As he was planting his feet more firmly to steady himself, she struck again, twisted and slid beneath him.
This time, he was ready for her and when she struck, he grabbed her wrist. She snapped it downward, trying to break his grasp and he heard the crack, saw the pained shock in her eyes and let her go. She scrambled backward, bracing herself with her good hand and kicking out with her legs.
“You bastard!” she screamed. She yelped as shards of glass pierced her palm. “I didn’t kill that girl and you know it. I heard her cry out. I was trying to help. It was your kind that did it. Your kind. A monster. For all I know, it was you.”