Chasing daybreak, p.1
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       Chasing Daybreak, p.1

           Ranae Glass
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Chasing Daybreak


  By: Ranae Glass

  Crimson Tree Publishing

  THIS book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the authors' imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  NO part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  Chasing Daybreak

  Copyright ©2015 Ranae Glass

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN: 978-1-63422-034-7

  Cover Design by: Marya Heiman

  Typography by: Courtney Nuckels

  Editing by: Cynthia Shepp

  For Tammy, Lisa, Dee Dee, Robin, and Patti.

  The unstoppable Cothren sisters.

  Love you to the moon and back!

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  I cussed under my breath as the ropes binding my wrists tore at my raw flesh. The closet was dark, except for the flickering light beneath the door. Rancid-smelling smoke assaulted my nose and singed my throat, which was already raw from screaming. I bucked wildly against my restraints, fighting against the panic trying to seep into my brain.

  Shane lay across from me in a crumpled heap, still unconscious from the dart full of animal tranquilizers the arsonist had hit him with. I had to admit, I was impressed. It took skill and planning to take down a vampire, even a newbie like Shane. As he slumped in the corner with his thin face slack, I watched his eyes moving restlessly behind their lids and wondered if he was dreaming. Could the dead dream? And if so, what did they dream about?

  I didn’t have to see his eyes to remember their exact shade of blue; I didn’t have to hear him talk to remember the exact timbre of his voice. These things were burned into my mind, scars written across my heart that would never fade. As I grew old and time stole away all my other memories, those would remain. Seeing him lying there, looking so completely helpless, only fueled my slowly rising panic.

  Despite my yelling and kicking, he lay useless in the corner of the closet as the house blazed around us. I sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm the frantic pulse of my heart. It was beating so loudly that it drowned out all other sound.

  It was my second mistake of the day.

  Immediately, I coughed and gagged, places deep in my stomach clenching against the scorching hot air. The Victorian house was burning, hot and fast like dry tinder.

  We’d been hired by one seriously ticked-off landlord to investigate the mysterious infernos that had left the fire investigator scratching his head. He’d been stumped by both the intensity and apparent lack of accelerant. We discovered quickly—well, in fairness, Shane had discovered quickly—the source of the problem. The arsonist was using the one thing that would burn faster and hotter than gas, kerosene, or propane. Vampire blood. You didn’t even need a match, just a little direct sunlight and… whoosh. Instant firebomb.

  Not exactly an easy thing to get your hands on, vampire blood. The daylight-challenged folks tended to eat people who poked at them with sharp things—go figure. We’d narrowed it down to the handful of workers in the hospital’s blood bank—the ones who had direct access to the vampire donors—and the rest was easy.

  Well, maybe not exactly easy.

  Recently divorced and fired from his job at the hospital weeks prior for tampering with the donations, Billy Young might as well have had a bull’s eye painted on his forehead. Depressed, angry, and abused as a child, Young had decided to re-visit his own misery on the foster homes he’d lived in as a child. Once we were able to connect him to the houses, everything fell into place.

  I never thought he’d be here today, never imagined we’d catch him in the act. And I sure as hell never figured he could take on Shane.

  That was my first mistake.

  Now I was trapped in a closet in a burning house with a living corpse and my hands tied behind my back.

  Great. Just another relaxing Sunday afternoon.

  Yet, ironically, it still wasn’t the worst day of my life. Hell, it wasn’t my worst day this month.

  I wedged my back against the wall and kicked out with my legs. The door held fast. Stupid early Colonial construction. These houses were built like Sherman tanks.

  “Shane Brooks, you wake up, you stupid, useless, unreliable vampire!” I tried to scream, but it came out in a strangled whisper. Smoke burned my eyes and tears streamed down my face from the acrid air.

  Frantically, I rummaged around the bottom of the closet for something—anything—I could use to free my hands. The corner of the carpet had been torn up, exposing a long, jagged, tack strip. If there was one thing that could wake even a tranqued vamp, it was the smell of blood. The question was—would being locked in a closet with a groggy, drugged, possibly hungry vampire be better than being locked in the closet with a useless, sleeping one? Crap. I hated having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Holding my breath, I pushed my hands down onto the rusty tacks. The pain was sharp and immediate.

  Wonderful, I thought, adding the need for a tetanus shot to my ‘stuff to do if I make it out of this alive’ list. Right below take a shower and right above get my French manicure repaired.

  I wiggled until my back was to Shane and squeezed my hands together, making the blood flow freely down my fingers. I’d always been good at bleeding, at least according to the way-too-chipper brunette at the donation van. I’d just never figured it would come in handy. Silly me.

  I managed to flop onto my stomach on the floor. Shane lunged awake, his icy hands tearing at my restraints. I heard the snap before I felt it, before the circulation started to return, bringing with it the stinging needles of pain from the puncture wounds and the return of circulation.

  Flipping swiftly onto my back, I prepared to brace my feet against his chest to fend off the coming attack—like I had any hope of holding my own against him. As it turned out, the maneuver was unnecessary. Shane shook his head and blinked rapidly. Hints of color returned to his cheeks.

  “Are you all right, Isabel?” he asked after a second.

  I sighed, part in relief, part in exasperation. The concern in his voice rang through my body, reminding me of the person he’d been before he died.

  I was taken with another fit of coughing, and then gasped, “Just get us out of here, okay?”

  Shane stood, utilizing his large frame to push open the closet door. It ripped off the hinges like it was made of tissue paper rather than solid oak.

  The heat of the fire hit us full force, pushing us back into the closet. With my arm raised in front of me, I could barely see the layout of the room through the gray smoke. As my eyes adjusted to the intense light, pieces of falling timbers hit the floor a few feet in front of us. Shane let out a long, unnatural hiss as glowing red embers fell from the ceiling like aberrant snow.

  The room was blazing from the bed to the curtains, the flames licking all the way to the ceiling, melting and bubbling th
e green plaster walls. I looked at Shane, who now cowered behind me. I knew that a single touch of those flames to his skin would send him up like a Roman candle. It wasn’t just his blood that was flammable.

  “Go, Isabel,” he commanded, sensing my indecision.

  Shane should have known me better than to even suggest it. Our relationship might not be all puppies and kittens, but he was my partner and there was no way I was going to leave without him. I turned to tell him as much, my hands already on my hips, when behind him, I saw the answer to our problems. Shoving him to the side, I tugged a massive, wheeled suitcase down from the shelf overhead. It was the size of a steamer trunk, only with soft sides and wheels on one edge.

  I unzipped the case. “Get in!”

  He threw me a disgusted look. “No.”

  “You got a better idea?” I snapped.

  He climbed backward into the cramped case, pulling his knees tight into his chest, and sighed heavily.

  I struggled to get the zipper started. “Time to lay off the carbs, Shane.”

  He snorted and exhaled a deep breath, shrinking further into the faux-leather bag. Finally, the zipper groaned and gave way, beginning its journey around the track. It got stuck in the corner, forcing me to push hard on Shane’s bulging shoulder.

  “Ouch!”

  “Oh, shut up! You’re dead for shit’s sake. Suck it up!”

  Baggage securely zipped, I pulled up the handle and ran from the closet, only to be immediately assaulted by the noxious fumes, the thick smoke obscuring my vision. I leaned into the doorjamb, swiping my sleeve across my face to sop up some of the sweat and tears in my eyes, struggling to make sense of the scene around me.

  With my decision made, I managed to tug the case into the hallway. We were upstairs, but the front door was visible from the top step and, luckily, it was relatively clear of flames. How long that would remain true was another story. I launched myself down the narrow stairs, the heavy suitcase banging down the steps behind me. I have to admit, the mental picture of Shane in that tumbling bag made me smile just a little.

  I was almost to the last step when the stairs gave way. Flames crawled up from beneath the shards of wood, threatening to engulf me—and my baggage. With an enormous heave, I freed myself from the debris and pulled the relatively undamaged suitcase off the burning rubble. Just as I reached for the door, it flew open, hitting my outstretched arm and sending me sprawling across the parquet floor.

  Standing in the doorway, looking slightly confused, was a fireman in a bulky, yellow suit. Seeing me, he scooped me into his arms and turned for the door. I screamed and hit him on the back, trying to make myself understood over the chaos. I pointed frantically at the case on the floor, but he shook his head and continued to try to get me out the door. Now I was being thoroughly uncooperative, clutching the doorjamb with both hands, even as my wounded arm screamed in protest. The maneuver must have been unexpected because I fell free of his arms and crawled to the case before he could reach me.

  “My partner is in there,” I screamed repeatedly.

  Finally, he seemed to understand and, helping me to my feet, tugged me and my heavy baggage into the yard where police and paramedics waited.

  Soon, I was sitting in the back of an ambulance, sucking oxygen through a plastic mask while trying to explain the situation to a sympathetic-looking EMT. Across the yard, a curious patrol officer unzipped the suitcase and Shane burst out. His eyes were red with panic, his skin opalescent in the reflection of the flames. The orange glow from behind illuminated him harshly, making him look like a demon. Or, more accurately, he looked like what he was, a monster.

  In a flash, a dozen cops were commanding him to lie on his stomach with his hands clasped behind his head. He obeyed slowly, realizing he was locked in their crosshairs. I rolled my eyes.

  “Here we go again,” I muttered.

 

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