Released October 2007
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Shadow Destroyers Book 1
Five years ago the man she loved died in her arms. Or did he…
Jordan McAdam leads an unusual double life. Police officer by day, vigilante by night. But Jordan isn’t interested in the average criminal. She stalks Shadow Demons, creatures who prey on the innocent, creatures whom she suspects are responsible for a string of bizarre sacrificial murders. Creatures who killed her partner and lover.
Gage Campbell has spent the last few years on an elite team of Shadow Destroyers, hunting down the demons who changed his life—and his DNA. Then an assignment leads him straight back to the woman he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about for five long years. The woman he had no choice but to leave behind.
Is the man before her a mimic demon bent on tormenting her, or is it Gage returned from the dead? All Jordan knows is that the raging desire between them is real.
Standing between them are years of secrets and hurt, and a love that just might have the power to bring them together. If the murder case they’re working on doesn’t separate them…permanently.
“…intense saga of fast loving, fast action, and first in a new series. I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait to read the next one.”
– The Romance Studio
“Gritty, hard, exciting and a do-not-put-down read, this talented author gives her readers a no-holds-barred story that will thrill and chill.”
– Love Romances and More
“Sydney Somers’ thrilling story kept me on the edge of my seat!..an amazing story, with high action, twists, and subplots…and sex hot enough to make your blood boil!”
– Two Lips Reviews
“Feel like grabbing a beer?”
Jordan closed her locker, having already changed out of her uniform and into her street clothes for the night. “I can’t tonight. I have some things to take care of.”
“Do you ever just relax and have fun? The last four times I’ve mentioned grabbing a drink after our shift, you’ve rain-checked. You have man on the side I don’t know about?”
Jordan glanced at her current partner, a woman who resembled a librarian more than a cop—an outer image that often worked to Kate’s advantage. Many perps underestimated the 5’5” woman when they saw her. Jordan had only made that mistake once right after they’d been partnered together. “Definitely no man in the picture.”
Kate shook her head. “I don’t get it. Half the guys in the precinct pant after you, and not only do you refuse to give any of them the time of day, but you even turn down anyone who makes a pass at you the few times we do go out for a beer.”
“I’m not looking for a relationship.” But then Kate knew that. They’d had this conversation before. One that often left out the details of Jordan’s past and the memories that still surfaced some nights when she was alone and missing the one person who had known her best.
“Who’s talking about a relationship? I’m talking about down and dirty, make you scream for hours sex.”
Jordan shrugged. She hadn’t exactly ignored those needs completely, but the couple of guys she had gotten down and dirty with hadn’t even made her scream for a few minutes, let alone hours.
“One of these days the right guy is going to come along and knock you right on your ass.”
He already had. And then he died.
Pushing to her feet before the old hurt could invade her mind, Jordan stood and rolled her shoulders. A sharp twinge that should have been a far more serious injury made her wince.
“You sure you don’t need to get that checked? That asshole really rammed you.”
“It’s fine.” What she wouldn’t give to go back to a time when that injury would have meant a dislocated shoulder or worse, instead of just a bruise. Although it had hurt like hell the moment she struck the wall, the pain passed quickly.
Just like it always did.
“Hey, McAdam.” The resident asshole, John Platt, popped his head around the corner. “Crazy Brady has left five messages for you.”
“Thanks.” Jordan swallowed a sigh. She’d told him not to call here unless it was important. Five times likely meant it was important, and important was never good news. One of these days the unthinkable was going to happen and he would call her just to say things were going well, instead of to tell her to watch her back.
Kate shuddered. “Crazy Brady gives me the creeps.”
“He’s harmless.” To most people anyway.
“I don’t know why you talk to him. You know it just makes people think—”
“That I really am a head case,” Jordan provided.
Kate gave her a pointed look. “You’re not a head case. It’s just that at one time or another all of us have heard about his weird interest in the more bizarre cases, and the way he’s always lurking around crime scenes, the ones that never really get solved.”
And not a single person had ever heard the half of it. The cops here were of two minds. Those who realized that there were odd things that happened in their small city, and although they couldn’t explain it, they accepted it was real. Then there were those who chose to believe that everything had a rational explanation and the only people committing crimes were average human criminals.
Kate fell somewhere in the middle. While Jordan knew her partner had heard the stories that a few cops only shared in muted conversations when they’d had too much to drink, Kate had never come up against any of the things that Jordan knew were very real. And not at all human.
Jordan started away and then stopped, knowing she had to maintain some type of normalcy in her life. “Beer and dinner tomorrow night?”
Kate nodded, and a look that showed she knew she was being placated to get off the subject crossed her face. “You’re buying the first round.”
One of the few genuine smiles Jordan found within her these days touched her lips. “Deal. Have a good night.”
A breath of warm evening air unleashed some of the tension locked in her chest, at least for a few minutes. Relocating farther south to Serenity Falls had been good for her. Warmer weather, enough criminal activity to keep her day shifts from being boring, and a regular Shadow Demon population to keep her evenings interesting. Most people didn’t know that she and Brady had moved into town at the same time. Just as most people didn’t know that Brady was the only one who believed her when she said it wasn’t a strung-out junkie that killed Gage.
Even with her suspicions that what killed Gage hadn’t been human, she still wasn’t prepared to learn the creature had been a demon that enjoyed nothing better than getting off on intense human emotions. Shadow Demons didn’t care who they killed, only hungered for the human emotions they could no longer feel. Humans were a means to an end, a way to pass the time, to bring pleasure, excitement.
It had only taken a few encounters with their kind before she truly started to believe Brady knew what he was talking about when he rambled about a race of demons crossing over from another realm, capable of taking human form.
It had taken her far longer, however, to accept Brady’s insistence that Shadow Demons had once been part of an advanced race of people and cursed by a powerful magik. Then again, at that time he could have told her they were extraterrestrials and she wouldn’t have cared. Hurting them was the best type of grief management.
Although extremely skeptical in the beginning, Brady’s crazy-talk had at least kept her from believing Gage’s death made something snap inside her mind, made her imagine what happened that night. And if not for him, she would have died a few days after Gage.
A chill danced down her spine. Jordan closed her eyes and shoved away the images that sometimes felt far too fresh whenever her thoughts turned back to that night. People had told her it would get easier, that she’d eventually be able to think about him without it hurting so bad.
They were wrong.
She could never think about him without remembering the night he died. Died trying to play hero. So many times it went through her head. What if she hadn’t punched the abusive husband that day? She wouldn’t have been avoiding Gage, would have waited for him that night when their shift was over. They would have gone to dinner and headed back to her apartment or his. They wouldn’t have been in front of that alley at the precise moment the demon that killed Gage had sliced another woman from navel to sternum, her final scream just enough to make them go down the alley to investigate.
An action that changed her life in so many ways she hardly recognized herself anymore. Instead of finding a purpose in what she now did, it was eating away at her, making her more cynical, more angry. Lately she found herself taking far more risks than she should, no longer caring about the outcome.
Jordan nodded to the super as she walked into Brady’s apartment building. Few people would have expected the skulking “crazy man” to live in a more upscale area. Jordan had refused Brady’s invitation to stay with him after they’d moved down here at Brady’s insistence over three years ago. Her association with him had hurt her reputation at work. Not that she cared. Everyone said she should have been promoted again since her transfer. It was her involvement in those bizarre cases that made most of her superiors a little uneasy around her.
More times than she wanted to count, she’d been asked to follow up on some ongoing investigations. Her reputation for being interested in those “freaky” cases had made detectives with nothing else to go on seek her out. Unfortunately, she could do little to help them without sharing things that most people were better off not knowing, forget that they would lock her away and make her stare at ink blots in a padded cell for the rest of her life.
Often it was the utter lack of evidence at the scene that pointed to a demon culprit. Crime scenes too clean, though the brutal nature of the murder seldom hinted at someone concerned with covering their tracks. Sometimes it was so simple a detail as markings made by a sacrificial dagger. On the rare occasions the victim survived the attack, it took only a mention of the red-rimmed black eyes to make it clear to Jordan who the guilty party was.
While the investigating officers might never have closed their cases to their satisfaction, Jordan was often able to track down any demons associated with the case and take care of them herself.
“Hey, Jordan. You taking Brady out for a bite to eat?” Miranda, one of Brady’s neighbors, popped her head out her apartment door. “The man looks like death walking. He needs to eat better.”
When Miranda wasn’t entertaining one of the dozen men Jordan routinely saw her with, she looked out for Brady. Hardly in need of a woman under his foot, as he gruffly put it whenever Miranda said as much to his face, Jordan knew he liked Miranda and never once returned any food the thirty-something woman often sent over to him.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Jordan noticed the knockout navy dress Miranda wore. “Hot date tonight?”
“Just business.” She grinned. “I’ll see you around.”
Brady’s door was partially open. Jordan rolled her eyes, making sure to close it soundly behind her. How many times had she told him to keep it shut tight? His apartment was loaded with dozens of newspaper clippings, old books, and pictures of symbols, some of which Brady enlarged by hand on his own walls. Anyone who poked their head inside would automatically suspect a paranoid conspiracy theorist lived here. Or worse. He didn’t need to give anyone another reason to wonder over his state of mental health.
She found him perched on the edge of a stool, elbows propped on what should have passed for a dining room table.
“You doing a round or two tonight?” Brady didn’t look up from the book he was studying, his nose inches from the old pages.
“Hi to you too.”
He frowned at her over the glasses perched on the edge of his nose. With graying brown hair, his unkempt beard in need of a trim, and wearing clothes she was pretty sure he’d slept in, Brady stared up at her. “You doing a round tonight?” he repeated.
He arched a brow.
“Well, if you already know I am, don’t ask.” She leaned down and gave the words on the page a quick skim. A dead language she decided, frowning over the depiction of a Shadow Demon in its ghostly form in the corner. “What was with the five messages today? One wasn’t enough?”
“I wanted to make sure you got them.”
“Oh, I got them.”
“So I see.” He went back to his book.
Arms crossed, Jordan knew he would forget she was there in another ten seconds if she didn’t speak up. “So what’s so important?”
“You don’t say.”
Brady tipped his head up, his brows crinkling. “Has something happened?”
Jordan matched his frown, and shook her head. “Outside the usual run-ins, no.”
His eyes narrowed as he scrutinized her face. “You’re not sleeping enough.”
“Are you going to tell me what has your knickers in a twist or not?” She wasn’t in the mood to listen to him criticize her sleeping habits. The man knew she worked during the day and spent at least a few hours each night tracking demons. Lack of regular sleep came with the territory.
He shoved the book aside and gestured to a map of the city spread out over the table. She didn’t want to think about what caused the stains that scarred the chipped birch tabletop that peeked out from under his piles of notes.
Brady pointed to a number of red dots covering a ten-block radius. “I’ve been monitoring the sites of your encounters.”
“A lot of Jeopardy reruns on lately?”
He ignored her sarcasm. “Not only are you seeing more demons, most of your encounters are falling in this vicinity.”
Not until she looked at the map did she realize just how much of a pattern there was. When she first relocated to the area she only ran into the various types of Shadow Demons a few times a month. A storm demon here, a lust demon there. The occasional stealth or war demon to keep things interesting. In the past few weeks the instances had become a few a week. She hadn’t really paid that much attention to where it happened, not even when she vaguely filled Brady in later. He, on the other hand, had obviously been paying attention.
“So what does this mean?”
“Something not good.”
“That’s all you’ve got? Not good?” Another one of those rare smiles tugged at her lips. Mostly because she knew it would annoy him. And Brady was the only person she felt remotely comfortable teasing.
“Just…be careful. For now I think you should just stick to the outskirts of this area.”
“Worried one of them might take a chunk out of me?” One of these days she knew it would happen. She’d gotten plenty banged up, injuries that would have landed a normal person in intensive care, if not six feet under, but none of them had landed a killing blow. Yet. While she was far stronger than she used to be and healed quickly—a direct result of her second encounter with the demon that killed Gage—she wasn’t invincible. Sooner or later, she knew one of them would take her down.
Jordan glanced at the clock. It was already getting close to nine. “I’m gonna head out.”
“Watch your back.”
“I always do.”
Jordan knew she was in trouble the second she followed the storm demon down the deserted side street. Instead of listening to Brady, she’d eventually wound up heading straight into the center of the hot spot. She couldn’t explain why she did it, couldn’t even rationalize it with the fact that the odds of encountering demons looking to tag team her were slim.
Tell that to the three storm demons stalking her.
“The gear isn’t working.” Gage tapped the tracking device. It beeped at him like a countdown for a bomb.
“Don’t hit it,” the voice echoed in his ear.
Wincing, Gage adjusted the transmitter. “I didn’t hit it.”
On the other end, he heard Braxton snort. “The equipment is sensitive, damn it.”
“Then maybe it should be a bit sturdier for the field.”
“Or maybe the guy holding the equipment should be less rough.”
Gage flipped his middle finger up, but the gesture wasn’t nearly as satisfying without Brax there to see it. Frustrated, he ran his hand through his hair, knowing it needed a trim. “Can you fix it from your end?”
“How long?” Gage tried to bite back his impatience.
“Stop yakking in my ear. Sit tight. I’m tapping into its control. Don’t touch the damn thing.” An unusual impatience frayed the edge of his friend’s voice. Gage would have to ask him about that later.
The beep in his ear told him Braxton had terminated the connection.
Perched on the roof, Gage looked down at the sleeping city. Nearly two a.m. and nothing moved on the streets below but the odd cab that cruised by or cat that darted from shadow to shadow below.
Still no sign of the hostiles he’d been tracking. Between the three demons, the gateway they opened to cross into this realm generated enough temporal activity to be picked up by their computer sensors. Certainly not the first time three demons crossed over together, but never a good sign. The bastards often congregated when they had sacrifice on their minds. Sacrifices sometimes meant they were looking to open a bigger gateway for one of the head honchos to come out to play. And Gage was in no mood to tangle with a Scion.
He should have been back at the main field office for a debriefing instead of here doing what any of the others could have handled. His assignment in South America, although fairly uncomplicated, had dragged on far longer than it should have, his prey eluding him for the better part of two weeks before he finally caught up with it. Given the lack of sleep over the last seventy-two hours alone, he’d rather be crashed out on the too-short couch in the field office’s common room than hunting for demons at this time of night. He really wished the damn things didn’t insist on waiting until after dark to come out to play most of the time.
Gage paced the rooftop. His plane had landed three hours ago. He should’ve had them by now. He hated waiting. Waiting gave him time to think. Lately he’d been thinking far too much, thinking about—
“You there?” Brax’s voice exploded in his ear.
“No,” Gage snapped. “How the hell do I turn down the volume on this thing?”
“I can do it from my end.”
“Please do,” he insisted through clenched teeth.
Static crackled over the line, then Brax’s voice lowered. “Better?”
Gage ignored the question. “Is this thing fixed?” He studied the handheld tracking device with as much enthusiasm as a plumber would a plunger filled with holes.
“You tell me.”
Once more Gage tapped the display screen. Nothing happened. He raised his hand.
“If it’s not working, do not hit it.”
Despite his bad mood, Gage grinned. “Then make this thing work. I only have a few hours until sun up.”
“Worried about beheading one of them in broad daylight, huh?”
“Forget it. I’ll find them on my own.” Gage stood up and gave the street below a final scan.
“How?” Doubt trickled into Braxton’s voice.
“The same way you would.” Sort of. It was rare he didn’t rely on the tracking equipment to hunt demons since it usually kicked in sooner than his own senses.
“Okay, almost like that. I’ll be in touch.”
“Hey, don’t forget you owe me three hundred and fifty bucks for Rae’s birthday gift.”
Gage paused. “What the hell did you get her?”
“Not me. Quinn. It’s a necklace.”
“Rae doesn’t wear that stuff.” In fact Rae had been hinting about a Celtic sword she had her eye on.
“Don’t get me started. It was Quinn’s idea. I told her Rae wouldn’t go for it.”
“Well, do me and favor and give it to her before I get back.” That way he could avoid her being annoyed by it. She tended to insist on sparring matches when she was annoyed about something, and woman or not, there wasn’t an agent working under her she couldn’t take down.
Braxton laughed. “If I have to be here, man, so do you.”
Gage sighed. “Fine. I’ll let you know when I find them.”
“Watch your back.”
When didn’t he? “You’re the computer geek. Don’t you have a device doing that already?”
“Hey, don’t knock it—”
“Yeah, yeah.” Gage terminated the call before Braxton launched into one of his predictable speeches on how technology made their job easier. Technology wasn’t what stopped the hostiles from wreaking havoc. That required more physical, hands-on tactics.
Slipping the malfunctioning gear into his bag, he slid it over his shoulders and dropped over the roof ledge. Twenty feet down he landed on the fire escape closest to the ground with little more than a grimace.
Gage headed to his right. It had been a while since he played this game, relying on his own senses to find them. It felt good. Lately he seldom felt good about the curse that slid through his blood, the only silver lining from being attacked and almost killed by one of the creatures he made a career out of hunting.
There was nothing like waking in a morgue to put your life into perspective. Of course, the panic that rode in his throat at finding himself zipped in a body bag was nothing compared to the world shown to him by the woman waiting to explain things. An angel had been his first thought. The blood on his clothes, the only sign he had to tell him he must have been dead.
He wasn’t that lucky.
All types of Shadow Demons were resistant to injury. He just happened to be attacked by a war demon, those known for their incredible regenerative capabilities, which had been passed on to Gage thanks to the rare gene he carried. One that allowed the demon’s dakorm, its essence, to mutate Gage’s DNA. The Destroyergene, as it was called, was what allowed him to survive the war demon’s attack that night.
But instead of going back to the woman he loved, he had a new responsibility, one he’d hated having thrust upon him.
Knowing where this train of thought was going, Gage shut it off and focused on the sharp tingle of awareness that zipped down his spine.
He was getting close.
Two blocks later, the slight hum thumping through his system pounded with a wicked intensity that kicked his adrenaline into overdrive. The lower-income district showed no signs of anything out of the ordinary, but he knew they were here somewhere. There was a chance he was picking up on a different hostile altogether, but he doubted it. The increase in temporal activity as demons opened gateways to cross into this realm hadn’t gone unnoticed. For the most part, however this area of the country, especially Serenity Falls, remained quiet compared to other hot zones.
“Any sign of them?” This time is was Quinn’s voice that came through the transmitter in his ear. He imagined the other agent pacing the field office as she often did when one of them checked in. Missing out on any demon slaying made Quinn restless at best, bitchy at worst.
“I thought you were still on assignment?”
Gage paused and glanced around, trying to narrow the direction down. “Was there something you needed? I’m sort of in the middle of something.”
“Grouchy, huh? Haven’t gotten laid in a while, have you?”
“No. But then I haven’t tangled with a lust demon lately either.”
“Don’t start screwing with me again. We both know I didn’t come on to you.”
“Whatever you say, Quinn,” he teased, then tensed as it started to rain. Gage glanced up at the quickly forming clouds that thickened above him as the rain came down harder. Some storm demons were obviously up to no good.
Hearing the sounds of a fight, he cocked his head. “I’ll call you back.”
Blinking through the rain, he glanced up in search of a vantage point. He used the closest fire escape to climb up another couple stories, letting him see past some construction scaffolding that had blocked his view of the rest of the alley.
He hit the call back button that put him through to their field office just as a fourth figure moved in between his targets. Gage stared as the person engaged the storm demons instead of running from them. Human-looking to anyone they passed on the street, Shadow Demons’ supernatural strength, speed and reflexes during a fight proved them anything but human.
Gage vaulted to the next fire escape, needing to get closer. The downpour made it increasingly hard to see.
Quinn’s voice purred over the line. “Call back to apologize?”
He followed the sharp movements below as the person dodged one blow after another and then fought back. This was more than just someone trained in self-defense.
“Are there any active agents in the area?” he asked Quinn.
“Let me check.”
Only the fact that the person kept the demons from getting too close held Gage in his perch, almost directly above them now.
“Nothing is showing up in the database.”
The movements were too fluid…too… A woman, Gage realized.
“Another Destroyer in play?” Quinn asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Rogue maybe?” she added, referring to those who knew about demons and engaged them, but hadn’t been trained in the same sense official agents, Shadow Destroyers, had been.
“I’ll let you know.” For the last time, he disengaged the connection.
One of demons launched itself at the woman, catching her in the side as she tangled with different one. She stumbled back and slammed into the wall.
Gage didn’t wait another moment after he spotted one drawing a ritual sword. One not unlike the kind he’d driven into the back of the demon who’d snatched his life away from him.
Dropping to the ground, this jump, although less distance to the pavement below than his earlier jump, actually jarred him more. He wasn’t working out enough these days.
Gage didn’t pay much attention to the woman, instead focusing on the first storm demon to acknowledge him, a black-haired male dressed for a motorcycle tour with Hell’s Angels. The demon smiled coldly, making Gage think of a pissed off biker cracking a pool cue in two before laying a hurt on someone.
The storm demon came at him. Fast. But he was ready, waiting until the last moment to withdraw the custom-crafted sword from the scabbard strapped to his back. This was the only time that what he did made any sense, when he was face to face with one of the hostiles intent on killing an innocent.
Beheading a demon was the most reliable way of killing the body they manifested to cross into this realm, making his sword the most effective tool of the trade. But being a demon, a predictor of human pattern and behavior, the black-haired hostile anticipated Gage’s first move and dodged the blow. Which was fine by Gage. It was never as much fun if it was over too quickly.
A howl of pain from behind him told Gage that the woman had hurt one of the other demons, and likely seriously pissed it off in the process. He didn’t let that distract him from the other storm demon staring at him now, a female sporting blonde hair streaked with purple and a short belly shirt that showed off a pierced navel.
Its eyes flashed and overhead thunder exploded across the sky. Then the damn thing sprinted at him full tilt. Moving to the side, he ducked and spun, catching it across the back of the leg. Its high-pitched screech grated his nerves. He really hated it when they made that sound.
The hostile’s next attack ended with his sword severing its head. Over the demon’s bloodless body he chanted the words that would vanquish it permanently, instead of just returning its aura back to the demon’s realm.
Straightening, Gage turned in time to see the remaining demon, another female sporting a crew cut and enough piercings to open its own shop, take a swing at the mystery woman, catching her under the jaw. The woman’s head snapped back and she staggered, but remained upright. The long section of pipe she carried came up to deflect the demon’s kick that followed.
She glanced his way, her gaze passing right over him, her attention fixed completely on the storm demon.
Gage didn’t move. Couldn’t breathe, watching her, dumbstruck, as she turned to engage the hostile once more. His brain cartwheeled to keep up with the swirl of emotions and disbelief that raged through his system.
He had to be seeing things. Gage blinked, but even through the rain he recognized the woman in front of him.