Cover and artwork by Jay Aheer with Simply Defined Art
Protected (Warriors of Light #3) by April Zyon
Available: March 18, 2016
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
For the first time in her life, Vivian Duffy is pushing herself to the limits of her abilities. With people dying in her city she seems to be the only one willing to dig for the answers when the evidence isn’t making any sense. But when her sister fits the profile of the killer’s victims, Viv knows she may need to make some hard choices.
Jason has walked the Earth for more years than he cares to remember. Always with the singular goal of ensuring the safety of all the humans around him. Meeting the woman who was meant to be his was never even a consideration for him, not until Vivian crosses paths with him at the scene of a murder.
The danger is growing around them, and with the fate of his woman on the line this Argonaut will do whatever is needed to keep her protected.
This is a previously published work. It has been revised and edited for Evernight Publishing.
Dropping his carry-on at his feet, Jason stretched his arms over his head. The flight into Seattle had been damn long. They’d had to make an impromptu landing when one of the passengers had gotten out of hand. Then there was a wait while the local police had pried him and his pissed off wife from the plane.
There’d been further delay when a storm had blown in, leaving them sitting on a runway for another three hours. Finally, they’d made it into the air during a break in the squall and were back on their way.
It had been a very long day in the air and on the ground. He was where he needed to be, though. Now all he had to do was find James so they could get their behinds moving. Which, knowing the cowboy as he did, the other man would likely be in the nearest bar. Grabbing his bag, he scoped out the area and spotted the one that would call to the Wild West gunman.
Too easy. Rolling his eyes, Jason slung the duffel over his shoulder and made his way to the tavern. Inside, he spotted James easily. The man was holding court with a gaggle of women, who were all drooling over his authentic accent. Why Mercury had thought putting the two of them together on a mission was a good idea, he’d never figure out.
Reaching the table, he dropped his luggage again. “James.”
“Jason!” James popped to his feet and came around to hug Jason, pounding his back. “Good of you to join us. Ladies, this is Jason. Jase, these are the ladies. They’ve been keeping me company while I waited for your flight. I heard ya’ll had a bit of trouble, got stuck through a bit of a storm. Bad luck, that.”
“Yeah, to say the least.” Jason gave a slight bow to the women. “Which means we really should get going, James. We have a job to do, and I’m sure you’ve had more than your fair share of drinking already today.”
“Right, true enough,” James said with a nod. “Sorry, ladies, but the man has a point. So, if ya’ll want to give me your numbers, I’ll call each and every one of ya’ll as soon as I can.” He leaned over and grinned at a blonde. “Especially you, sugar.” He handed off his phone and collected from all six.
When he had gotten his cell back, plus a few kisses, they paid his tab and went to collect the rental car. Passing James the folder from Mercury, Jason settled behind the wheel and got them moving.
“Shit, this here’s rather thin,” James said.
“I know. There’s not a lot to go on. A few really old cases that may or may not be related, and then the two newest ones. I don’t have a clue if this is anything more than a wild goose chase.”
“Damn,” James breathed. “Well, I guess all we can really do is check them out and see if it was human killings, or if it was more. Really wish these assholes would leave us calling cards. Be so much easier in the long run.”
“Yeah, just what we need. The evil ones leaving calling cards at their murders. Then we’d have the feds on each of the cases, looking for a serial killer that apparently hops from one end of the country to the other and back again. Somehow, I don’t see that as something that would work out well for us.”
“No, I guess not,” James muttered. “So, which one do we want to look at first?”
“Given where we are, we’ll look at the scene that was out north of Jefferson Park Golf Club. It’s the closest,” Jason answered. “After that, we’ll head to the one that happened in the Lower Queen Anne district. I doubt there will be much left after all this time, but you never know.” They could get lucky, though he didn’t hold out much hope for that. It hadn’t done him a lot of good over the years.
Twenty minutes later, they were studying the scene a block north and slightly east of the golf club. As he’d surmised, there wasn’t a lot left beyond some scraggly pieces of police tape and stains on the concrete.
But Jason wasn’t really interested in the scene itself. It was what was around that counted. Moving to where the body had been found, he turned his back. He wanted to know what the victim, a young woman by the name of Katy, had seen in her last moments.
It wasn’t a horrible area, not by a long shot. A little wear and tear, but nothing that jumped out and screamed “worst neighborhood on the planet.” There was some graffiti, but again, nothing that stated they were in gang territory, or a place most folks wouldn’t enter in the middle of the afternoon, let alone after dark.
For all intents and purposes, it was an average area, in an average American city, with nothing to make it stand out. Except for one thing. “We need to get Helen to pull the video feed from the night of the murder.”
“Wouldn’t the police have done that already?” James asked him.
“Possibly, likely even,” Jason said. “They’re not us, though, and they may not see what we will. Most humans don’t want to acknowledge the strange and unusual. Their minds automatically cover it up, and they play it off as a trick of the light, a shadow, or something else that allows them to sleep at night.”
“Good point.” His partner nodded. “Well, we might as well head to the next scene. Maybe there will be video around there, too.”
Jason was hoping so on the drive into Lower Queen Anne. They needed a break on the case, if there really was one. Reaching the corner of West Republican Street and Second Avenue, they found a parking spot. Jason climbed out of the SUV and looked around. Apparently, luck was on their side this time. “We have cameras,” he announced.
James nodded. “So I see. I’ll call Helen and get her to do her thing. Be nice to know if we’re just dealing with a regular old killer or a monster. Not that a regular killer is all that great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative.”
While James made the call back to the Mountain, Jason headed for the alley between buildings, where the murder had occurred. Ten feet in, he stopped. The police tape that remained was in slightly better condition than at the last spot. Turning, he gazed up at the buildings on each side.
A lot of windows, but given what was in each building and the time of night the young man, Vern, had been killed, there wouldn’t have been witnesses. Unfortunately, he didn’t think the video would be all that helpful, either, given where the cameras were located.
Walking back out to the street, he headed for the truck and James. The cowboy was off the phone and lounging back against the bumper, checking out women as they went past.
“Tell me you’re not checking out women on the street?”
“All right, I’ll tell you I’m not checking out women on the street,” James answered. “Even though they are damn fine.” He nodded to another one, receiving a smile in return.
“Anyone ever mention you are—what is that quaint saying? Ah yes … you are a dog,” Jason said.
“Woof.” James grinned at him. “We done here?”
“Yes, there’s nothing to see. We’ll need to hope we get some video. Did you contact Helen?”
“She’ll be pulling it as soon as she can. She said she had to find it first but will call as soon as she has something for us.”
“Good,” Jason said. “We might as well go to our hotel. I doubt we’ll get anything from her today, and I’m starving. They didn’t even have those little pouches of peanuts on the flight.”
“That’s because everyone’s all paranoid by the rise in allergies. They ditched the peanuts off flights, banned peanut butter from schools, and are coddling everyone. Too many people have turned into pansies. It’s deplorable,” James muttered with a sneer.
Jason wasn’t about to argue with him. Climbing into the truck, he put it in gear and got them moving toward their hotel. Food, a shower, and then sleep. In that order.
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