All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Reggie Gallagher ducked behind the last in a row of Dumpsters and braced her hands on her knees, dragging in huge gulps of air. Sweat ran down the side of her face, and the black ribbed tank top she wore clung to her breasts. The coastal humidity and heat acted like a steam bath even when she was standing still. For the moment, all she could hear was the ragged gasps of her breath wheezing in and out of her straining lungs. And despite the retched stench of the waste beside her, she welcomed the respite from the chase.
Where was Madison? She’d been right behind Reggie until now.
The quiet of the alley was broken when pounding footsteps entered and raced toward her.
Risking a stealthy glance around the hard metal corner of the Dumpster, Reggie confirmed the runner, and she reached out to snag her and pull her in beside her.
“Can’t…stop.” Madison bent low, her shoulders heaving with the effort to fill her oxygen-starved lungs.
“Breathe,” Reggie ordered, and tapped the miniature headset positioned inside her ear like a hearing aide. “Where the hell are Jordan and Mike?”
“It’s…as…if…they disappeared.” Madison sucked in air and gushed, “Ah, shit! I can’t breathe. I don’t know if those guys saw me turn down here, but they can’t be far behind.”
“Then let’s go.” Reggie shot another glance around the corner of the Dumpster. The alley was empty. She waited another second and then grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her along behind her.
“There!” The shout of one of their pursuers echoed off the brick of the multistory structures rising up from their concrete foundations. The buildings spread over entire blocks, channeling Reggie and Madison through the worst part of Houston, leaving few places to hide or take cover. How had the mission gone south so fast? Where was their backup?
“They’ll catch us at this rate,” Madison shouted between gasps. “Gotta split up.”
“No!” But before Reggie could tighten her grip, her younger sister pulled free and swung left, sprinting west, away from the downtown area.
Reggie glanced back at the group of six men closing in behind her. If she played her hand right, they’d follow her and leave Madison alone. The fastest runner on the team at the Paranormal Investigative Agency, she could outrun every man, except perhaps the boss. Tanner was made of iron and muscles. No one could outrun, out gun or outsmart him.
But if she wanted to live, Reggie had better make it her goal to beat all of his records and then some. She just hoped the hell Madison got away.
Summoning every last ounce of energy, she punched out, running straight for two blocks to ensure the bad boys behind her wouldn’t branch off and pursue her sister. Just as she was about to veer east, a shot rang out and something hard and fast slammed against her left shoulder, spinning her around so quickly she crashed into the brick corner of an office building.
Surprise numbed the pain for the first five seconds until her heart resumed function, kicking her blood through her body and out the ragged exit wound in the front of her shoulder. Her stomach lurched, and the pale glow of the streetlamps dimmed. No. She couldn’t pass out. Not now. Have to run. Have to get farther away from Madison.
As fog crept in around her peripheral vision, Reggie rounded the corner she’d been aiming for and set off at a swift jog, her pace slowing more each time her heels hit the pavement.
No. This couldn’t happen. She would not be another one of the victims she risked her life to protect. No way would the gang members or bloodsuckers take her down as they’d done her father.
Heartless bastards! All of them.
Although Tanner said there were good vamps out there, Reggie had it firmly in her mind that the only good vampire was a dead vampire. She repeated the words like a cadence, motivating her legs to keep pumping and her feet to continue moving away from her attackers.
“The only good vampire is a—” With only half a block between her and the six men, she reached the end of the street and swung a hard right, running into a solid wall of steel. Her forehead made contact and then her chest, knocking what little air was left from her lungs. The force of the collision made her bounce backward, her head snapping up. With no air to sustain breathing and her vision blurred, the ground sucked her downward. As her knees buckled, her mouth completed her sentence. “Dead vampire.”
“I like to think of it as the living dead.” A deep voice with one of those guttural and incredibly sexy foreign accents filled her senses, and strong arms reached out to catch her before she hit the pavement.