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       paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame, p.1

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame


  Dark Flame

  Paranormal Hunter

  By

  Gena D. Lutz

  Dark Flame: Paranormal Hunter, book #4

  Copyright © 2016 Gena D. Lutz

  All Rights Reserved

  Published by Gena D. Lutz

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. All characters and events in this story are fictitious. They are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, is entirely coincidental.

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without expressed written permission from the author.

  Cover Design by: Covers by Christian

  Editing by: Kelli Collins

  Formatting by: Bob Houston eBook Formatting

  Books by Gena D. Lutz

  Prime Wolf Series

  Ember’s Curse

  Roxanne Desired

  Kris Chase Series

  Created Darkly

  Devil’s Playground

  Novellas

  Chasing Magic

  Bite of Frost

  Paranormal Hunter Serial

  Sonnet Vale: Paranormal Hunter, book #1

  Phantom City: Paranormal Hunter, book #2

  Demon Touched: Paranormal Hunter, book #3

  Dark Flame: Paranormal Hunter, book #4

  Contact the author:

  https://www.facebook.com/GenaDeeLutz

  https://twitter.com/GenaDLutz

  [email protected]

  About the book:

  If you hunt paranormal creatures for a living, life can get pretty complicated. Just ask demon princess and paranormal hunter, Sonnet Vale.

  Sonnet has escaped demon-hell, and is now faced with her biggest challenge yet—raising a rapidly growing dragon-shifter in a city full of magic and mayhem.

  Dark Flame

  (Sonnet Vale, Paranormal Hunter, Book #4)

  By

  Gena D. Lutz

  Chapter One

  One year after Sonnet’s escape from Demon-hell

  Sonnet Vale stared at charred remains that lay face down at the base of a tree in front of her. The body had been found on the outskirts of Phantom City, on werewolf territory, burned beyond recognition; its magical signature the only indication that the deceased individual was of male descent, and also a werewolf.

  Judging by the magical essence surrounding the victim, and the mystical strength of his murderer, Sonnet knew for certain that this was a fresh kill. It didn’t take her long to recognize what brand of supernatural species had done him in, and for once, she hadn’t needed the use of her hunter abilities to figure it out. The killer was a dragon-shifter. Nothing else—that she knew of anyway—had the strength of magic-fire needed to blaze that searing hot without the aid of a manmade source.

  “So what do you make of it?”

  Sonnet scowled at the shrill masculine voice coming at her from behind. “This is bad, real bad,” she said, pulling the tarp back over the upper half of the dead wolf’s body. “Have you had any dragon sightings lately?”

  Detective Sonnet had already forgotten his name, from the PCPD, froze in all-out fear. “You think a dragon did this?” he stammered.

  She nodded. “I know for certain one did.”

  His eyes went wide. “It’s because of that crazy tracking thing you can do, isn’t it?”

  Sonnet rolled her eyes. “Yeah, it has something to do with that crazy stuff I can do.”

  His head began to bob nervously. “And you’ll be able to track the scumbag killer down, huh?”

  “Yes, I most definitely can.”

  And she’d do it later that night, she resolved. The trail was strong and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so she was confident that she would track the dragon down easily enough.

  He nodded enthusiastically at her response, as if he’d answered every question from Jeopardy correctly and was mighty proud of himself for it, and then moseyed off toward his patrol car parked several feet away from the crime scene.

  Truth was, by now, everyone in Phantom City knew who she was, and what she could do with her inherent gifts. That fact was the reason why the PCPD had called her in on this particular murder case. And why she’d skyrocketed to top billing on the chief’s consultant list.

  She cringed at the thought of having to hunt not only in her hometown of Vanier, Alabama, but within Phantom City as well. There was a fine line between protecting innocent people, and running herself into an early grave. And she wasn’t thinking only of herself anymore; there was Poppy’s well-being to consider.

  Speaking of, Sonnet absently rubbed at a flaring muscle in her shoulder and let out a long yawn.

  “Can I help you with that?”

  Sonnet’s hand paused in mid-rub, and she turned to face Bane. She smiled at him, and said, “If you so much as touch me with those magic hands of yours right now, I’m liable to pass out.”

  Sonnet’s heart warmed at the sight of her boyfriend. He was a handsome devil, with luscious caramel-colored hair that draped in a silky curtain down his back, stopping at waist level. He was wearing his favorite black button-up shirt, left untucked to hang over a pair of tight-fitting jeans. His pale blue eyes gleamed with mischief as he ignored her amusingly heated words and started rubbing her shoulders.

  “When’s the last time you managed to sleep through the night?” he asked.

  She shrugged and dropped her hand, sinking into his tender ministrations. “Who knows…probably the last time I stayed the night at your place.”

  “That’s not healthy, little fox.”

  She nodded sluggishly. “I know.”

  And just as she was beginning to relax, they were interrupted.

  “Are we finished here?” the coroner’s assistant asked, looking between her and the body. He winked. “I need to zip him and ship him, if you know what I mean.”

  Shaking her head at the guy, she mumbled, “Yeah, Crux, he’s all yours.”

  Crux smiled and signaled his crew to bag up the dead body. And then the clueless young man waggled his brows at them, and said, “You two should grab a room and have some fun. I wish I could.”

  Sonnet’s brows rose.

  Bane’s canines lengthened; she didn’t actually see it happen, but she knew by how fast the young wolf’s complexion went from tan to washed out in about 2.2 seconds. Without another word, he turned and scurried away.

  “You almost made that kid crap himself.” She couldn’t help it, she laughed, and then her body swayed as Bane stopped rubbing her shoulders.

  “That young whelp needs to be taught some manners,” he snarled.

  Sonnet stopped giggling and watched as Crux, the whelp in question, stepped over the dead body, and then leaned forward to zip the bag around it. He wore a dark brown jumpsuit that fastened from crotch to collar, the words across the breadth of his back reading Phantom City Mortuary. And she realized, much like herself, he had to deal with death on a regular basis. She didn’t know anybody society would deem “normal” after constantly having to be around the macabre reality of that.

  “I have a feeling his problem is more of the social awkwardness flavor, than anything else,” she said in a softer tone.

  And boy, could she relate.

  Bane shrugged. “Even still…boundaries.”

  “You got a point.”

  Suddenly Sonnet went still, her senses trying to pi
ck up on something. Her gaze scanned the area, and then a familiar sensation reached out to her from the bushes next to the tree, where the body was found. She honed in on it, moving, following the magical pull.

  When she reached the bushes, she knelt down and spotted the object that was calling to her hidden within the branches. Moon glare jumped off of what looked to be a silver, thick banded collar, the light hitting her straight in the eyes. She squinted and reached for it. And holy hell, magic that almost burned skittered across her skin upon contact.

  “Detective…” Damn it, what is his name?

  Before she could figure it out, the detective walked up behind her. He peered over her shoulder and asked, “What in tarnation is that?”

  She abruptly stood and turned to face him, handing him the collar. “It’s your one and only lead, is what it is. Take this to your mages; see if they can figure out exactly what the hell it is. I’ll come into the station later, before I start my hunt, to see what y’all came up with.”

  He nodded, pulled an evidence bag out of his jacket pocket, and bagged the collar. “Will do.”

  Bane waited until he and Sonnet had walked to her vehicle before asking, “Was Friday really the last time you got any good sleep?”

  On a yawn and a slow nod, she mumbled, “Mm, hm.”

  People came first. That was the rule. But she was so tired she felt as though she would tip over.

  “That was three days ago, little fox. Which means one: I’m not about to let you drive; and two: you’re coming home with me.”

  “I’ll tell you what. You can definitely do the driving, but I can only take a nap over at your place. I have to work tonight, handsome.”

  “If that’s the best you can offer, I guess I’ll have to live with it.”

  Sonnet heard the rumble of thunder. Closing her eyes, she tipped her face up and sniffed the air. It smelled cool and damp. Perfectly normal weather for April. She shook her head; was it Spring already? It seemed like only yesterday she’d returned home from demon-hell. But in reality, it had been a handful of months.

  She gazed down at her watch—two thirty. “I have to pick up Poppy from school.”

  “We can go together.” Bane started for the driver’s side door.

  She nodded and they both climbed in.

  “What grade is Poppy in now, anyways? That girl’s been growing like a weed.”

  He didn’t know the half of it. In one year’s time, Poppy had blossomed into what appeared to be a beautiful, free-spirited teenager, with the intellect of an adult. No one would have guessed she was only a year old. Apparently years and age were relative things to dragons—or were they?

  She sighed and buckled her seat belt, wishing she knew when Poppy would hit her peak. And she worried that maybe it was the she-dragon’s prolonged absence from the dragon realm that had something to do with the rapid growth spurts. It was a question that would haunt her if she let it.

  Even though she hadn’t talk to him in ages, Sonnet figured she needed to contact Brecon for some real answers.

  Sonnet met Bane’s gaze. “She should be finishing up high school by the end of this semester.”

  “That didn’t take her long.”

  She shook her head and let out another sigh. “That’s my girl—gifted in every way.”

  Chapter Two

  Poppy Vale sighed heavily as she sat on a bench reading a book, waiting for her mom to pick her up. She shut the book when she heard her friend call out to her.

  “Is this seat taken?” Quinn asked, jogging over to where she sat.

  Poppy looked up into a set of hazel eyes that were half hidden underneath thick chunks of blond hair. A slight breeze carried his crisp, earth-laden, scent to her—it was reminiscent of a cool windy day in the forest. She smiled at the young werewolf as he approached.

  “Nope…” she said, and scooched over to give him a little more space.

  He sat and leaned over to catch a glimpse of the book in her hand. “You’re interested in Henry the Eighth?”

  “Yeah, all the ruling monarchs of that era intrigue me.”

  “Is that so?”

  She nodded. “Uh-huh, everything was about overindulgence, power, and high birth.”

  “And sexism,” he added.

  Poppy bent over and shoved the book inside her bag. “I’m surprised you’d point that out.” The strap on her tank top slipped off her shoulder.

  His thick brows pulled together. “Why?”

  “Because you’re a man, teen wolf, and all of you knuckle-draggers certainly got the better end of the gender stick, don’t you think?”

  She was only being half sarcastic with that remark. And she absently snorted as she pulled her strap back in place.

  Ignoring the jab, Quinn pulled a small book from his back pocket. It looked well used, worn at the edges. “I prefer Shakespeare.”

  Her brow rose. “So you enjoy love stories that end with death. Interestingly morbid in a sad, romantic way.” She winked at him. “I approve.”

  Before he could respond, Sonnet’s jeep pulled up to the curb. Poppy sprang up and hurriedly buckled her pack, and in the same motion, turned to Quinn and said, “See you tomorrow, teen wolf.”

  He laughed at the nickname she’d given him sometime during the first week of senior year, when they’d met in the library after school. They’d both been after the same reference book on eighteenth-century literature. And after he’d graciously forfeited the tome, she’d decided he was worthy of her friendship.

  She walked to the back door of the jeep and tossed her bag inside the open window.

  “Hey, Poppy…hold up. I want to ask you something.”

  She hopped inside the vehicle and looked over at him through the window. He’d already stood from the bench and was walking toward the back of the jeep while shoving the small book back inside his pocket. As he moved, she absently skimmed over the black football jersey he was wearing. The team’s mascot was a silver fire-breathing dragon, and the name under that was Phantom High Blazers. Each time she saw the image around school it made her chuckle on the inside.

  “A bunch of us are meeting at the Dungeon tonight. Wanna come and hang out?”

  Inviting a dragon to a dungeon…dungeons and dragons? She giggled. Cute.

  And then all jokes aside, a constricting feeling consumed her chest in the space over her heart. Her limbs and tongue began to tingle, going numb. It was a curious feeling, one she’d never experienced before. One second she was about to go home, and the next, Quinn’s eyes weren’t just a dull hazel color anymore—they now sparked with flecks of green that reminded her of shimmering emeralds.

  And damn it, the thing about dragons was, they were stubborn and prideful—and above all else, they adored precious gems.

  She also couldn’t help but notice how his hair didn’t just fall limply across his face anymore, it flowed gloriously around his chiseled features like swaying strands of golden silk.

  Emeralds and gold—purr.

  What the…? No. Stop thinking. Just answer him. And what the hell was that sound I just made?

  Pushing everything out of her mind, she nodded. “Yeah, sure, sounds fun.”

  There. That sounded normal.

  Quinn let out the breath he was holding, and smiled. “Cool. See you there around seven?”

  She somehow managed a couple more words, even though her brain was sputtering like a car running out of gas. “Um, yeah…okay.”

  He gave her a nonchalant half smile and swiped hair from his eyes. “Bye, Poppy.”

  Oh my God. Look at those dimples. Ack. Stop it!

  Poppy watched in silence as Quinn waved, and then strolled off with a confident gait.

  For the life of her, she couldn’t imagine why all of a sudden her hands were clammy, and her tongue still didn’t want to work properly. She raked her fingers through her red curls and sat back heavily in her seat. The entire encounter had left her unnerved.

  She absently caught her moth
er staring at her in the rearview mirror, and her features scrunched up with embarrassment, but mostly irritation. “What?”

  Sonnet winked at Poppy. “You scored your first date, princess. And he’s pretty cute, too.”

  Poppy’s face went three different shades of red, the intense warmth in her cheeks another first for her. “Cut it out, Ma!”

  “I’m going to need that boy’s name, phone number, and his address,” Bane added.

  Poppy’s eyes jumped to the back of the vampire’s head. “You’re going to do your damnedest to humiliate me, aren’t you?”

  A full head of caramel hair bobbed up and down. “Just remember for future guy reference—I’m not out to hurt you, I’m only trying to protect you.” The same head then shook. “There are some real nutsos out there.”

  She crossed her arms and threw herself back against the seat in a huff. “Damn it,” she mumbled. “You two are the only nutsos I see around here.”

  “Watch that mouth of yours, young lady,” Sonnet warned.

  “Whatever.”

  Chapter Three

  Sonnet didn’t know what had woken her, but was relieved when she realized that she’d finally gotten some sleep, even if only a short nap.

  The phone on her nightstand rang, and then went quiet. Two seconds later, it began to chirp at her again.

  “That’s what woke me,” she grumbled, pawing for the phone. “Vale here.”

  “Ms. Vale. It’s Captain Carver. Got a second?”

  She rolled up, yawning. Domino Carver had been the bane of her existence ever since he’d learned that she’d moved to Phantom City. Her first home, which she had to all but abandon for Poppy’s safety—or more accurately, for the town’s safety from a rapidly growing dragon-shifter—was in Vanier, Alabama. The small rural town was where her neglected business, Fang Squad Inc., was located. Even though she spent most of her time in Phantom City now, Sonnet still helped out with the cases FSI brought in, but for the most part, her best friend and field partner, Emely Jordan, was picking up the slack.

 
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