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In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, civilization no longer exists, and only the strongest survive. The few remaining humans must band together with supernatural beings to battle unspeakable evil-or all hope will be lost.
After accidentally starting the zombie apocalypse, Kimber Treat now lives with her vampire lover in a compound where humans and vampires live together peacefully. A gifted necromancer who can summon the dead, Kimber is beyond happy when she learns she’s pregnant. But as her body changes, Kimber fears that her powers are being influenced by evil, a fact she must keep from everyone, including Duncan . . .
Duncan MacDonnough is preoccupied with his new role as leader of the local vampire conclave, but not so preoccupied that he doesn’t notice that Kimber is acting strangely. She’s grown distant, and Duncan is convinced she’s hiding something. Duncan knows the key to stopping the apocalypse is Kimber’s powers, but using them puts her life at risk. With the threat from the Zombie outbreak looming, will Kimber and Duncan learn to trust each other once more to save themselves, their unborn child, and the rest of the world?
To my readers: Thank you for giving me your support and encouragement. It makes the work that much more worthwhile.
To my agent, Susan Ginsburg: I wouldn’t be here without your guidance. Thank you!
To my Grand Central team: From titles to artwork, from revisions to editing, you make my work shine, and I appreciate it. To my editor, Latoya Smith: Your skills always elevate my writing. Thank you for working so hard for me.
To my family: I love you. Thank you for supporting me.
Finally, to my awesome critique partners Suzanne, Roz, and Laura: You always make me stop and take another look, and it makes my stories better. You gals rock!
Kimberly Treat shoved her back against the rough brick of the building and watched the vampire scout move cautiously forward. She stayed behind with the rest of the group, all vamps except for her. They were on yet another food run, each time having to go farther away from the safety of the compound she now called home. This trip through zombie town had taken them fifteen miles south, and all they had to show for it was one measly bag of canned goods, mostly beans and corn. It wasn’t nearly enough for the number of humans living in the enclave. But soon it would be time to plant crops in the space they’d cleared in the courtyard of the complex, and that would help. An ongoing source of protein was still needed, but she could only solve one problem at a time.
The scout came back. Voice low, he said, “There are at least thirty zombies between us and our target.”
The target being a grocery store. Chances were slim that they’d find anything, but they had to look.
The scout added, “They seem pretty broken down. I think the six of us can take them.”
Six against thirty. The only thing that evened things out was that five in her group were vampires. They had the strength, agility, and speed to stay out of reach of the zombies even while moving in for the kill. But still, there were thirty hungry zombies…
“Ms. Treat, I don’t suppose it’d do any good to ask you to wait for us to clear ’em out,” Leon, one of the vamps routinely assigned to ensure her safety, murmured in her ear. “Duncan didn’t want you to go out in the first place. I don’t want to go back and tell him you’ve been injured. Or worse.”
“Yes, well, just because he loves me doesn’t mean he gets to tell me what to do.” She ignored Leon’s muttered comment that Duncan was the leader and she was supposed to do what he said. She shot him a glance from the corner of her eye. Pulling her hatchet free from her belt, she said, “Let’s go. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can go home.”
“You heard her.” Leon jerked his head toward the store. “Let’s get moving.”
Within seconds they were wading through the horde. Kimber swung her hatchet, catching a zombie in the middle of his forehead. As the body dropped to the ground, she pulled the blade free and moved on to the next one. And the next one. And the one after that.
The vampires with her fought almost silently, with only grunts of exertion coming from them as they swung their weapons. “Leon, behind you!” she heard one of them exclaim.
Kimber twisted in time to see Leon lop off the head of a zombie. Fingers on her shoulder made her swing around to fend off another shuffler. Just as she dispatched him, she heard a cry of pain from behind her. She whirled around to see one of the vampires being pushed to the ground by a couple of zombies.
She shouted and leaped toward them. Even as she moved, she knew she was too slow. Swinging her hatchet at the back of a rotting head, she was too weak to make a significant impact. Teeth began ripping and chewing vampire flesh, confirming her attack on the zombie was futile.
“No!” She brought her hatchet down again.
“Ms. Treat.” Leon yanked her back, shoving her into the arms of another vampire just as a shuffler reached out for her. “Get to the store,” he ordered.
“Not without you.” Kimber struggled to get free. “Leon!”
“I’ll be right behind you.” He swung his sword and lopped off the heads of two zombies. “I can’t leave Darron like this.”
Kimber and the remaining vampires headed toward the store. She glanced over her shoulder and watched as Leon brought his sword down and decapitated the downed vampire. Now the zombies could use his body as food, but he would be in no danger of turning.
While vampires’ ability to heal themselves was remarkable, with the kind of damage he’d already suffered, his powers of regeneration couldn’t have kept up with the spread of the tainted Unseen, the mystical force that had once helped her reanimate corpses in her job as a necromancer—and that very possibly had, through her, started the zombie apocalypse.
If not stopped here and now, Darron would become a zombie, one with the strength and speed of a vampire. They couldn’t allow that to happen, which was why vampires fought with man-made weapons instead of their teeth.
Kimber reached the store and turned around, waiting for Leon. He sprinted toward them, his bloody sword whirling, stabbing as he fought his way past the few remaining zombies. His face grim, he said, “Let’s go inside. We need to gather whatever provisions we can find and get the hell out of here.”
Twenty minutes later, they were on their way with several large bags filled with foodstuffs. There wasn’t a lot but they had enough to feed the dozens of humans at the compound for several weeks on a rationed basis. It wasn’t until they passed through the gates of the enclave that Kimber relaxed. She mourned for the loss of Darron but knew there was nothing anyone could have done to save him. From the minute the first zombie began biting him, his life had been over. Because of his sacrifice, others would continue to live.
* * *
Duncan MacDonnough scrubbed his hand over his chin and stared at his second-in-command. Frustration and irritation made his eyes burn and his fangs elongate. “I don’t need this right now, Atticus.” He tried his best to look stern but feared he came across as whiningly imploring. Not the impression a newly minted leader of vampires should make. “Tell me you’re not serious.”
“Sorry, no can do. I am serious.” Marcus Atticus shrugged broad shoulders and slouched down into one of two plush, dark brown leather armchairs in front of Duncan’s wide mahogany desk. The desk faced the large windows in what had been the former queen’s throne room but now served as Duncan’s office.
The vampire enclave was housed in one of the multistory buildings of a refurbished tire factory in Akron, Ohio. While the outside of the building remained the same from Maddalene’s long and autocratic rule, the inside had seen some changes, not the first of which was the room where Duncan and Atticus now sat.
The plush chaise the queen had used to lounge on, along with her beefy human consorts, was gone. And good riddance. Duncan still bore some scars on his back from the whipping Maddalene had given him, chained to the central post in the middle of the room, over his choosing to be loyal to his human lover instead of his vampire queen. The marks weren’t as bad as she’d meant them to be only because he’d been able to feed soon after the beating.
But still, yeah. Good riddance. To more than the damned chaise.
Atticus tapped his fingers on the wide arm of his chair. “Most of the humans who have signed up to live here as…donors…are fine with staying with the vamps they’re assigned to. But a few have decided it’s too dangerous—they’re afraid their chosen benefactors will be more likely to lose control if their food source is too close, so instead they want to stay within the area we’ve assigned to new human arrivals.”
“I don’t have an issue with that.” Duncan’s hold on his already strained patience began to unravel, and he forced himself to remain calm. This was Atticus, his best friend and someone he knew would always look out for him. He didn’t deserve having Duncan take out his frustrations on him. “Why are you acting like it’s a problem?” Duncan asked.
“Because they’re inciting unrest. Most of them are fine. They understand the danger on the outside. But there are a few who say they don’t like being cooped up, unable to leave the compound. They feel like prisoners.” The other vampire scowled. “They want to go to the park. Can you believe that?”
Duncan stared at Atticus. There were times when he just didn’t get humans—and lately those times were coming more and more. “The closest one is Glendale Park, which is at least a mile and a half away. Don’t they understand that if they leave the compound, they risk being overrun by zombies?” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Is a walk in the park worth it?”
The other vampire lifted one shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. “They want a vampire escort for protection.”
Duncan snorted. Was this what his life had been reduced to? Listening to petty gripes all day long? No wonder Maddalene had been such a bitch. “They can want all they like. I’m not risking anyone unnecessarily just because humans with cabin fever want to take a stroll.” He gestured toward the wide window that faced a courtyard between buildings. They’d established a sturdy fence around the courtyard and had vamps on guard 24/7. “They can walk there.”
“They say it’s not the same.”
“Well, I suppose a mile-and-a-half zombie run would give them plenty of exercise.” Duncan grinned. “Hmm. Maybe I should rethink this.”
Atticus gave a snort. “Don’t encourage them.” He paused, another scowl turning down his mouth. “One of them punched Natalie in the face this morning.”
“What?” Duncan surged to his feet. Natalie Lafontaine was the best friend of his lover Kimber Treat, and over the last several months, she had become his friend as well. While he had a duty to keep the humans in his care secure, he was especially committed to keeping Kimber and Natalie safe. That Natalie, acting as a liaison between humans and vampires, would be in jeopardy and attacked by her own kind was a possibility that had never entered his mind. “What the hell! We’re giving them sanctuary from zombie hordes,” he said, bringing up his hands to tick off a list on his fingers. “We keep them safe, we feed them, we clothe them, and all we ask in return is that they provide nourishment once a week to one vampire only. The amount of blood they give isn’t even a quarter of what they’d donate to a blood bank.”
“I know, but they’re afraid.” Atticus hunched forward to clasp his hands between his knees. “Natalie tries to allay their fears, but they don’t seem to want to listen.” He shook his head. “I get that they’re scared of us. We’re predators, every last one of us. But we provide safety they have little chance of having outside this compound.”
Duncan rubbed the back of his neck and dropped into his chair. “Fuck a goddamn duck, Atticus. When we overthrew Maddalene a month ago, I would never have envisioned the kind of difficulties we’re having with humans. I thought killing Maddalene was the hard part. Unlike her, who viewed humans as things to be used and discarded, we treat them with dignity and provide them a safe haven from the hordes. We’re still rebuilding trust—not just between humans and vampires, but from one vampire to another.” He sent a frown his friend’s way. “I have enough on my plate keeping our people in line. I don’t have time to deal with trouble-making humans, too. That’s why I have you. Deal with it.”
“That was the plan all along. I already took care of the son of a bitch who hit Nat. He won’t be breathing through his nose for a while. Or taking nourishment except through a straw.” Another nonchalant shrug lifted one wide shoulder. “I just wanted to keep you in the loop.” He cleared his throat. “So, have things with you and Kimber settled down?”
Duncan shot him a glare. “There was nothing to settle down. We’re fine.” He did his best to believe it, but his friend was a very discerning man.
“Uh-huh.” Atticus cocked his head to one side, his silver eyes missing nothing.
Damn him. The former Roman gladiator was over 2,000 years old, not that he’d ever given Duncan an exact birth date. Maybe he was so old he didn’t remember. It happened sometimes.
Those silver vampire eyes narrowed on him now. “She’s acting like she’s in perpetual PMS, my friend. Something isn’t right, and don’t try to tell me otherwise.”
Duncan fought the flinch that wanted to work its way over his face. Kimber had been getting more and more aggressive, and he couldn’t help but think the reason was that small amount of the Unseen that had lodged in her soul. He was worried that the Unseen was tainted and would somehow overtake her innate goodness. But what kind of leader would he be if he let that worry show, even to his most trusted friend?
Duncan folded his arms across his chest. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Atticus. Just what the hell would you know about PMS, anyway?”
“I know about women,” came the smug reply.
Duncan couldn’t argue with that one. It seemed that all any female, vampire or human, had to do was take one look at Atticus and become mindless with lust. He wasn’t sure how much of that was Atticus himself and how much of it was due to his age. The longer a vampire lived, the more powerful he became. And power took on all sorts of forms, including sexual attraction. Atticus had that to spare. If it weren’t for having Kimber in his life, Duncan would have been jealous of the other vampire’s easy sway over women.
But he had Kimber. For the moment, anyway. Over the last month, while he’d been solidifying his hold over the enclave, he’d sensed her drawing away from him. Emotionally. Physically they were still as attracted as ever, but there was something she held back from him, some part of herself she didn’t want him to see. How could they truly be together if she wouldn’t confide in him?
The door opened and one of his best warriors, Leon, walked into the room, his blood-spattered face somber.
His gut tight with dread, Duncan sprang to his feet. “Kimber?”
“Miss Treat is fine. Not a scratch. She’s planning on coming to see you once she gets cleaned up.” Leon raked one hand through his hair. “We lost Darron.”
Even while relief spiraled through him that Kimber was all right, anger and grief spread at the loss of a good vampire. “Damn it. And these humans expect us to take them to the park safely when we can’t even scavenge for food without losing one of us?” Duncan shared a grim look with Atticus before turning his attention back to Leon. “Were you able to get more food?”
“Yes. Miss Treat estimates they have enough for maybe two months as long as they stay on rationed portions.”
Duncan sank back into his chair. “Thank you, Leon. Go get cleaned up.”
Duncan waited until the door closed before he pushed out a sigh. “One step forward, two steps back. That’s our dance, isn’t it?” He clenched his fists on top of his desk. “Damn her. I don’t want Kimber going out and risking herself this way.”
“She feels she must contribute.” Atticus lifted one shoulder. “She wouldn’t be the woman you love if she didn’t.”
He was right, of course. Damn.
Atticus pushed to his feet, drawing Duncan’s attention. “I’m going to check on Natalie,” his second-in-command murmured. “And maybe get a bite to eat while I’m there.” He winked, then tipped his head toward the closed door that led into the hallway. “Kimber’s coming.”
Duncan caught her scent as the door swung open. He shot a glance at his friend. “Keep me posted.”
“You bet.” Atticus paused beside the redhead standing just inside the doorway and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Hey there, sweetheart.”
“Atticus.” She smiled and patted his shoulder. “Nat was looking for you.”
“I’m on my way to see her.” He closed the door behind him.
Kimber clicked the lock in place and walked toward Duncan.
He stood and moved around to the front of his desk, resting his buttocks on the edge, and watched her move farther into the room. She wore her usual T-shirt and jeans, both garments hugging her slim curves. His body reacted as it always did; his cock began to harden, his fangs elongated, and lust and love burned his eyes.
Her auburn hair fell to her shoulder blades, longer than it had been when this whole mess started, longer than when he’d first met her over a year ago. Her hazel eyes met his and a slow smile curved her full lips.
“I know that look,” he said in a low voice, and drew her into a loose embrace. Clasping his hands at the small of her back, he pulled her between his spread legs.
“What look would that be?” She pressed a kiss to his chin, his jaw, just beneath his ear. Her hands lifted, fingers threading through his hair, the light tugs zinging straight to his balls.
A shudder of need worked its way through his body. He took her mouth with his, deep, hard, a kiss of possession. Of being possessed. Breaking the kiss, he stared into her eyes. “The look that says you want me and mean to do something about it.”
“Damn straight. I just survived a food excursion and I need to celebrate being alive.” Her smile widened. “I’m here for a nooner.” She pressed her lips to the indent at the base of his throat. She undulated against him, her belly slowly grinding against his erection.
“It’s one o’clock in the morning,” he managed to say on a groan. Until Kimber, no woman had been able to drive his desire so high so fast.
“Well, since you don’t usually start work until after dark, and sunset was at eight-thirty, this is your noon.”
“I have a one-thirty appointment.” He cupped her ass and dragged her fully against him, letting her feel the rigid length of his cock against her belly. She moaned and deepened the kiss, driving her tongue into his mouth, winding it around his own in an ancient dance of pleasure and need. She leaned into him, pressing against the space between his legs, and he pulled her closer.
“This won’t take long,” she murmured against his lips. She yanked at the waistband of his pants, unbuttoning, unzipping, and getting his pants and underwear around his thighs so his hard cock sprang free. She gripped him, sliding her hand from base to tip and slipping her thumb across the sensitive tip.
He groaned. “Too many clothes,” he muttered, fingers working at the button at the waistband of her jeans. He wanted her naked. Now. He shoved her jeans and panties over her hips and pushed them to her ankles. She toed off her shoes, then kicked out of the garments pooled around her feet. With a wiggle and a smile, she drew her shirt over her head, letting it fall to the floor.
Duncan made quick work of getting Kimber out of her bra and stared at her a moment. “God, you’re beautiful,” he rasped. He leaned forward and swiped his tongue over one of her nipples, then the other, and straightened to see them tighten into hard, puckered nubs. “Sit where I am,” he said, his voice rough as he moved to give her his place on the edge of the desk.
She arched a brow but did as he asked, perching on the wooden surface. “Okay, but I’m going to mess up your desk. I’m already wet.” She wriggled a bit, trying to get comfortable.
“I hope so.” He dragged a chair to where she sat, then even closer, settling between her splayed legs. As he took his place, he looked up at her for a moment, and it was clear she knew his intent. Already her breath came unsteadily as she moved closer to the edge to grant him greater access to the soft folds between her thighs. She leaned back, breasts thrusting up.
With his hands just inside her knees, he spread her legs wider and looked at the pussy before him. She was pink and wet and swollen. His. The musk of her desire perfumed the air, that sweetly spiced scent that was uniquely Kimber. He placed his thumbs on the outer lips of her sex and spread her open before he lowered his mouth to taste her. As he lazily traced her with the tip of his tongue, being careful not to nick her with his fangs, she gasped and jolted and gripped at the desktop. He covered her clit for a moment, sucking the sensitive bud of nerves into his mouth, rolling it gently between his teeth. Her gasps and moans grew louder, the sweetest sounds he’d ever heard.
“Duncan!” She bucked up into his mouth, demanding in her need. “Stop fooling around and make me come.”
Demands he ignored. He built her pleasure, taking her higher and higher, then backing off, before once more ratcheting up her passion until she fell apart in his arms. He left her clit and languidly licked her slit over and over. As he found a rhythm, stroking her entrance with firm swipes of his tongue, she lifted her hips against him, moaning, and propped up on her elbows.
He focused once more on her abandoned clit, swirling his tongue around the bud first with light pressure, then increasing it bit by bit, swipe by swipe until she was shaking, just on the edge of orgasm.
With a moan of his own, he sucked her hard and pressed two fingers deep into her sheath. She dropped flat on her back, her hips lifting off his desk, a scream of pleasure erupting from her throat that likely was heard throughout the complex. Her hips bucked. He continued his sensual torment even after her butt rested once more against the desk, her breasts rising with her gulping breaths. Only when she was finally still did he push the chair back and stand.
Before he could turn her over to take her from behind, she slid off the desk. “I want you inside me.” She put her hands on his shoulders. “Now. I want to ride you.”
Even as he wondered anew at her aggression, in this instance he thought it wasn’t such a bad thing. He grinned and went down on his knees, then his back. She came down over him, knees on either side of his hips. One slender hand gripped his erection and pointed it where she wanted him. She dropped onto him, taking him deep with one smooth movement. She cried out and bucked with a second orgasm almost immediately. He clasped her hips, holding her where he wanted her, and thrust up, fighting his way in and out of her swollen flesh with no thought beyond wanting to explode with blinding release. The base of his spine tingled and his balls drew up tight against his body. At the moment his orgasm gripped him, his release jetting into her wet heat, he reared up and sank his fangs into the softness of her throat. She jerked and cried out, but as the pain of the bite faded, she gave a low, needy moan.
Her blood tasted rich and sweet. His. This incredible woman was his.
Slender fingers clutched at him, nails digging into his shoulders. The slight sting of pain enhanced his passion, and he drank a little deeper. She moaned with pleasure, another climax rocketing through her. When it was done, he licked over her wound and wrapped his arms around her, holding her naked body close, clinging to her. For these few brief moments, his heart beat and his body and mind soared with pleasure so powerful he could do nothing more than shudder against her.
“I love you.” Her words were so soft he almost missed them. And that was saying something, since as a vampire he had a heightened sense of hearing.
Keeping his cock firmly embedded in her slick channel, he gently pushed her shoulders back so he could look into her eyes. Sliding his hands from her shoulders, he cupped her face. Her lovely, sweet face. “That’s the first time you’ve said it,” he said, and dropped a kiss against the corner of her mouth.
Her eyes were dark, glittering with an emotion he couldn’t decipher. It was almost like…anger. Maybe even hate. But he didn’t sense those emotions from her. All he felt was affection. And the love she professed.
“You’ve never said it, either,” she said, her voice soft yet still holding a thin thread of steel.
He frowned. “Sure I have.”
She shook her head. “No, you haven’t. I’ve been listening very hard for those three words, and you’ve never said them.”
“I’ve felt them, Kimber.” Duncan kissed her, a lingering melding of lips, of hearts. “I do love you. So much.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him. She yawned, her breasts rubbing against his shirt. After a few minutes she lifted off him, and he let loose a growl of complaint at the sense of loss he felt when his cock left the haven of her body. She gave him a saucy grin and a quick kiss on one corner of his mouth. “You want more, you’ll have to come across the hall.” She got to her feet and stared down at him, passion written all over her face and in the tense stance of her slender body. “You should come with me now. I want you again.”
He wished he could, but his next appointment was important. He shook his head as he stood. He righted his clothing, tucked his cock into his pants, and zipped up. “I have a meeting with Xavier. I can’t cancel it.”
Annoyance and that ever-present aggression flashed in her eyes, turning the hazel to a vibrant green before she tamped it down with an effort he could see. “I know,” she said, her eyes hazel once more. She took a breath, as if fighting for control, and pressed a slender hand to his cheek. “I realize this partnership is important. If we can establish a safe corridor between here and Cleveland, all of us will be more secure and better able to get supplies.”
He helped her get dressed, though it took longer than it would have if she’d been on her own. Every few seconds he had to pause to stroke and kiss. When she was finally clothed, she seemed to have her emotions under control. With a teasing expression, she clucked her tongue and stared at him. “You didn’t even take off any of your clothes.”
He grinned. “That’s the advantage men have, I suppose.”
- "Fast-paced action and imaginative world-building will entertain enthusiasts of supernatural romance."—Bookpage on HEART OF THE DEMON
- "Quick, witty banter between the three protagonists, intrigue and multidimensional characters make Kiss of the Vampire a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to Garner's Warriors of the Rift series."—USA Today on KISS OF THE VAMPIRE
- 4 Stars! "Involving action, solid pacing and intense conflict between these supernatural creatures lie at the center of this paranormal romance. Add to that the sizzling chemistry between Keira and Finn, and Garner's latest definitely heats up the pages."—RT Book Reviews on HEART OF THE DEMON
- "A skillful blend of gritty urban fantasy and taut romance suspense...Garner has created a fascinating world, ripe with conflict, drama, and sensuality."—Publishers Weekly on HEART OF THE DEMON
- "Fast-paced action and imaginative world-building will entertain enthusiasts of supernatural romance."—http://bookpage.com/column/undercover-lovers on HEART OF THE DEMON
- "Great paranormal romance...If you haven't read a Cynthia Garner book yet, I'd definitely recommend you do! Especially if you're a paranormal romance lover who has a soft spot for the not so normal, yet incredibly irresistible paranormal creatures."—http://readingwithstyle.blogspot.com on HEART OF THE DEMON
- "Great characters and an exceptional storyline make this a must read for any paranormal lover!"—http://wolfmajick.blogspot.com on HEART OF THE DEMON
- On Sale
- May 6, 2014
- Page Count
- 224 pages
- Forever Yours