SNEAK PEEK: The Unforeseen Rescue by Paula V. Hardin

The Unforeseen Rescue by Paula V. Hardin

 

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SYNOPSIS

 

Damsel in distress
The soldier rescued her at her weakest hour. His determination to keep her safe broke down all Theodora’s barriers. She burned for him and shamelessly wanted him for herself, so she could quench the burning need in his eyes. Linked mentally, could he overcome the obstacles in their way to finding happiness together?

Her rescuer
When Baptiste rescued the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen, his life changed forever. Immediately, the dark beauty stole his heart. Her courage awakened a firestorm of longing, tenderness, and the determination to protect her at all costs; however chaos erupts when he learned she’s not a human but a vampire.

 

 

 

EXCERPT

 

Chapter 1

 

“Man, why did I let you drag me out here?” Baptiste La Fleur motioned toward the crowd. “Just look at this line. We should’ve come a lot earlier.”

Cyan crossed her arms over her chest. “I know how much you love haunted houses, and I wanted to cheer you up. I guess I feel bad that you had to come home from the military to take care of me.”

Baptiste maneuvered to stand directly in front of his little sister, crowding her personal space, forcing her to look up at him. “Don’t ever feel bad. I’m your brother. I wouldn’t want anyone else taking my place.” It pleased him to see her smile. “However,” he pointed his finger at her, “if your school work isn’t done after your teacher gave us extra time to finish it and you dragged me all the way out here, I’m not going to be so happy.” Baptiste realized he was acting out his frustrations on his sister, Cyan. If only the nightmare of loss would give him some kind of break. After all, he knew she was only trying to help. He clenched his jaw and shifted from one foot to the other, impatient.

Cyan put her hand against his chest, pushing him against the gate. “It’s been a year since Cheryl died. It wasn’t your fault. The police report even stated the teenager was texting while it was raining. You did everything possible to keep her alive waiting on the paramedics, for crying out loud. I’m sorry.” Cyan fisted his shirt in her hands with sympathy in her eyes. “I hate that Cheryl’s gone, dead, just like mom and dad. Life can be a bitch. All I have is you. I’m here, and I need you.

“All this is for you. It’s why we’re here. You know I hate being scared on purpose. You’re the one who drags me to every haunted house we can before they close and throw us out.”

The disappointment in her voice caused a twinge of regret to twist in his belly. “Okay already.” He put his arm over her shoulder, pulling her against his side to wait it out. A blood-curdling scream escaped through the open door, drawing his attention to the horrors that waited inside.

The line grew shorter as the weak gave in to their fears and ran off as the line moved up the sidewalk.

“Are you feeling brave, little sister? This one appears to be a doozy,” he taunted playfully, trying to get into the mood that she expected from him. Even though his heart wasn’t in it, Baptiste owed her this.

The line moved once again, finally sending them forward. An extremely tall, thick man stood at the entrance. He reminded Baptiste of a television horror sitcom character with his long wiry beard hiding most of his face. His piercing eyes seemed to stare right through him. Baptiste was forced to brush up against the stranger since he didn’t move enough to allow them to enter.

Darkness embraced Baptiste with only faint neon lights to guide his way. Cyan disappeared ahead into the abyss, her screams echoing within.

Thick chains ensured the crowd stayed on the correct path. Long heavy drapes closed off other sections. His hand brushed against the wall, his fingers coming back wet and sticky. In the low lighting it resembled blood. Baptiste wiped his hand against his jeans and quickened his pace, not wanting to fall too far behind Cyan.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled. All around him the air changed quickly becoming cold. A fog materialized, coming together until it settled into a shadow of a woman–perfect in every detail. The illusion appeared so real he couldn’t wrap his mind around it. A fog machine perhaps? Funny how his mind tried to rationalize what his eyes were seeing. Heavy mist rose from the ground, swirling around his legs, surrounding him in a damp cocoon. He tried to back out of it, but it clung to him. It had to be a deception–a mere trick, his mind concluded.

Two more images appeared, one on each side of him.

“He’s a soldier.”

Baptiste stared at the first illusion in shocked wonder at hearing it speak. How the hell did it know he was military? This shit wasn’t fun anymore. He attempted to move past the mist with the idea of grabbing his sister and getting out of this joint.

The second image shoved him violently from behind.

“What the fuck?” Baptiste caught his balance, spinning on his heel. Using his weight as an advantage, he took a swing.

His fist went right through the illusion.

He was getting aggravated fast, thinking the organizers needed to stop with the pranks. Fed up, Baptiste tried to push through the mist. Instantly his hands were seized and it seemed his mouth was covered by something. He was physically dragged from the line.

Baptiste struggled, fought against the bonds holding his arms, but to no avail.

His pulse accelerated, and his palms began to sweat. He glanced between the two ghost. He shouted to be free once they released his mouth.

“Hurry. Remember she said seconds count.” The voices were loud enough for him to hear.

“Who is she?” Baptiste found himself asking.

“We need your help, solider Baptiste.” A desperate voice at his ear urged.

Freezing air whizzed across his face. The image of Casper came to mind, even though he’d never believed in such things. Besides, this couldn’t be real. Baptiste stood his ground, watching her float ahead of him. A shove from behind coaxed him to move further away from the chained path. The line of people behind him fell too far back to see them now. No one would be the wiser if he disappeared. He took a step to follow, then hesitated.

The ghost peered over her shoulder. “Hurry, please.”

The cold air tickled the side of his face. She veered from the set path. He sensed her urgency. But how could he feel her emotions? Baptiste knew this couldn’t be possible. His imagination was getting the better of him. The first thing Baptiste planned to do as soon as he left here was to go get a check up. He needed to make sure he wasn’t going crazy.

They motioned him down another corridor. Why did he follow? Was it morbid curiosity, or the desperation in her voice? He wasn’t exactly sure.

Baptiste found himself in a dark room with just enough light to see a narrow door. The metal knob chilled his hand as he turned it. Someone or something propelled him through, guiding him down the narrow stairs. He balked about halfway down.

“Stop, pushing me,” he hissed under his breath. “I think I’m in my own Alfred Hitchcock nightmare,” he whispered, feeling uneasy.

He wanted to laugh, but he couldn’t find his sense of humor. Reality finally grabbed hold of him. This wasn’t Kansas anymore, more like a Nightmare on Elm street scenario.

A faint light illuminated the stairs. He paused and held his breath. Shadows moved below. He waited, listening intently for any kind of hint of what was happening. From the other side of the wall he heard a soft moan. Every hair on his body prickled in warning.

“Be careful, but hurry.” Cold air lifted the hair from the back of his neck with the words.

At the bottom of the stairs, he paused again. Should he jump out, hoping for the element of surprise, or hang back and evaluate, listen and prepare his next move? He debated his options as he stood undiscovered in the dark.

A fun house mirror leaned against the opposite wall, distorting the reflected images. He stayed far enough away to remain unseen. From where he was standing, the warped image made it difficult to interpret what was happening. He could barely make out some sort of table with a body on it. A man wearing a lab coat twisted to one side, glancing toward the stairs.

Baptiste held his breath, making sure to keep perfectly still.  Something had alerted the man to Baptiste’s presence. Baptiste’s pulse pounded in his head.

The mist surrounding Baptiste moved to cover the mirror, causing it to reflect only the man in the lab coat. After scrutinizing the area, the man returned to the table. Baptiste exhaled a breath of relief. It was too close for comfort.

Before he could focus and think of a plan of attack, sinister laughter vibrated through him, sending chills down his spine. Baptiste had no one to blame but himself for this predicament. He’d followed the ghost or whatever it was all on his own. Never one to listen to his warnings of self-preservation, he’d done some stupid things in his life, but this one would top them all.

What made him think he could handle a situation such as this? And why did the ghost pick him? His only defense was his utility knife, which he pulled from his back pocket. With a flip of his thumb he opened it, then slid it back into his back pocket, blade first. The element of surprise was all he had going for him at the moment.

The distorted image in the mirror moved. His stomach clenched as the outline of a person moved towards him.

“Now, don’t you go anywhere, my precious.” The assailant paused just on the other side of the wall. “I paid a pretty penny for the likes of you, and I intend to get my money’s worth.”  His laughter died in his throat when he made eye contact with Baptiste.

Mayhem erupted around them. The ghosts went into action diverting the assailant’s attention. Drawers from old furniture opened and slammed closed while the lights flickered. He’d have to thank the ghosts later.

The stranger’s eyes widened as he glanced around the room. Baptiste didn’t waste a moment. He pounced on the startled man, using all his weight to knock him unconscious with a solid blow. The knife flew out of his back pocket and slid across the floor.

After a quick scan of the room, he discovered a woman lying on a long table. Surgical tools hung against the wall on hooks. Heavy chains confined both her hands and feet. She didn’t appear to be breathing. His stomach clenched as he moved a little closer. Her chest rose ever so slightly. Thank you, God. The constriction in his lungs eased.

“Help her.” The cold air jerked his attention back to the urgency of the situation. Large padlocks stopped him from freeing the woman. He needed keys.

He squatted down next to the motionless man. He wasn’t a young man –maybe late forties. Blood covered his lab coat, probably the woman’s. He dug into pockets until he found the man’s keys.

He rushed back to the table. Her long wavy hair hung off the sides of the table. In the low lighting it appeared black. Long sooty lashes stood out against her porcelain complexion. Pouty lips completed the picture of perfection.  Desire slammed into him, immediately affecting certain parts of his body. Unable to resist, he slid his fingers across the soft skin of her cheek. He willed her to open her eyes, but instead a whimper escaped her ruby lips. He drew his hand back, and then noticed an IV line in one of her arms.

“You must hurry,” the ghost urged.

Without delay, he ran around the table and eased the IV from her arm, then lifted her as gently as he could over his shoulder.

Before making his exit, he paused next to the man lying on the ground. Rage boiled in his belly. It took all he had to hold himself in check. The man’s eyes blinked opened, and he attempted to move toward the knife on the floor. With his booted foot, Baptiste kicked him hard in the jaw, rendering him unconscious once again. “I hope it’s broke, you bastard,” he snarled, scooping up his knife.

“Follow me.” The ghost glided up the stairs. “You must hurry before the other returns.” The other ghosts echoed the leader.

“Other?” Had he detected fear in the ghost’s voice? That’s all he needed. How had he gotten into such a mess? “I’m going to call the police as soon as I get out of here. This woman is hurt and needs a hospital, now.”

After climbing to the top of the stairs, he shut the door behind him, sealing the horrors inside. Pity for the girl welled inside him. Plagued with his own hellish nightmares, he knew she’d now have her own to deal with. He followed the apparition in a different direction from which he had approached.

Within minutes, Baptiste found himself standing outside in the cold night air, away from the crowds of people still waiting to go inside.

“You must hide until tomorrow night. It’s not safe for either of you at this time.”

The urgency in the ghost’s voice portrayed the importance of her warning that he couldn’t ignore. The others moved toward the graveyard only a few yards from the door.

“I need to find my car and the police. We need help.” He adjusted the woman over his shoulder, and then sprinted in the direction he’d parked. People stared as he escaped down the street–some laughing, pointing.

“She can’t hold her liquor,” he joked to the couple who walked past him in the opposite direction, seemingly concerned. Finally, he spotted his car. He wanted to run but stopped himself from panicking. After fishing the keys from the pocket, he opened the passenger side and placed her on the soft leather seat. He shut the door and folded his arms over the roof of his car. He dropped his forehead onto his arms. What was he supposed to do now? If he did contact the police, would they believe his story or would he end up in jail or some nut hospital?

Once inside, he started the car thinking Cyan would be pissed off when she found out he left her behind to help a stranger. He reached in his pants pocket for his cell phone but came out empty handed. “Damn, damn, damn!” Frustrated, he hit the gas pedal and took off into traffic, resisting the desire to race over to the police station and make a scene. “Where are you?” Baptiste questioned, feeling foolish talking to the ghost even in the safety of his own car.

“No windows, no place where the sun can penetrate. Allow no one entrance for any reason. This is important, pay attention.” The ghost announced sternly.

The cold breeze slid down the back of his neck. He shivered. “Our family home is close by. And yes, I live alone,” he added instinctively. He knew it would be her next question. Within minutes he pulled his car into the shelter of a garage.

“Can you cover the windows, or does this dwelling have a basement?” The other ghost was no longer with her, and she started to fade into nothingness.

“You can’t leave me here with this woman.” He motioned to the ghost in the back seat. “I helped you. Now it’s your turn to help me.”

“Stay inside and don’t welcome strangers into your home. And no police.” Her ghostly image disappeared.

“Son of a bitch.” After searching the car for her with no luck, he opened the door and got out. He barely could hear the ghost calling his name. Unable to see her, he sensed her presence.

“Baptiste La Fleur, you are a great man. Thank you. Please relay this message. You owe me.”

 

 

This time the emptiness hit him hard in the gut. He stood in his living room alone. His mind raced, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. Who in his right mind would believe him, including his sister?

“Damn.” He couldn’t believe he left Cyan behind, but what was he supposed to do? Maybe he’d just wait until tomorrow before he’d call.  She was going to need time to cool off. It would probably be the wisest decision he’d made all night.

Tonight had been nuts. After everything crashing in on him, all he wanted was a hot shower and a warm bed. With the unconscious bombshell lying on his sofa, the shower would have to wait until tomorrow. He paced back and forth in front of the couch, watching her sleep. Anger surfaced once more, remembering how he’d kicked the jerk in the face. He should have dealt him an ass whipping from hell. The punk ass deserved more than he’d received.

He plopped into his recliner, stretching out his long legs. This was his Saints game-watching chair. His television hung on the wall across from him. He turned it on to catch the early news. He needed to see if there was a missing person’s report, or if he was now a wanted man. Nothing.

Screams startled him. He jumped up tipping his chair on its side. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.

Her head whipped from side to side, her arms covered her face. Animalistic whimpers escaped from her parted lips.

Baptiste rushed to her side. His heartbeat drummed hard in his chest. “You’re safe. Do you understand? You’re safe now.” He forced his voice to sound calm, trying to soothe her. Her green eyes closed.

“The light! Turn it off.” She moaned in agony

Her screams hit every nerve in his body. He ran to his bedroom and snatched the comforter off his bed in one pull. Rushing back he threw it over her until she was covered from head to toe. “It’s okay. You’re safe with me now. Just rest.” He continued to tuck the blankets around her, making soothing noises as if talking to a small child. Baptiste stayed with her until she quieted down and stopped fighting against him.

The warning from the ghost came crashing back to him about being in the light. “The windows!” In all the confusion, he’d forgotten. He ran toward them. Thank God he had shutters installed on the inside of his home after hurricane Katrina. With purpose, he ran from window to window closing and locking each one. The shutters were specially designed to keep water out, so it should keep the sunlight out as well. With the room cloaked in darkness, she’d be fine.

When he raised the cover to check on her, he found her sound asleep. Her black curls were in wild disarray. He leaned over and brushed the hair away from her face. She was like an angel. Baptiste covered her, lost in thought.

He shoved his hand through his mane of hair, unsure of what to do next. He flopped in his Saint’s chair, feeling the weight of the world crashing in on him. Why did he feel such an overwhelming need to protect her? He didn’t even know her. Maybe the exhaustion he experienced in every fiber of his soul caused the strange reaction. He couldn’t imagine no other reason. He closed his eyes and within seconds drifted off to sleep.

A sudden jolt of pain hit him. Baptiste’s eyes popped open to stare into the eyes of the stranger who now straddled him. Her body leaned into his, inching her face so close to his he could smell her, sent a tingling sensation straight to his toes.

His arms were pinned under the weight of her legs as she came nose to nose. Her long hair brushed against his cheeks. The sensation was provocative and sensual. A current of wild fire traveled through his body. He hoped to God she didn’t notice his manhood standing at attention. He didn’t move but waited to see what she would do next.

The palms of his hands sweated. It’d been a long time since he’d been with a woman. All his senses stormed within him. Burning need set him on fire. He held himself in check, waiting. Her breath fanned his face, gentle wisps of air. Her lips hovered over his. He closed his eyes, tilting his face up to hers. The soft pressure of her lips touching his sent a fire to his belly. He opened his eyes when she pulled back, and stared in horror as her eyeteeth lengthened. He screamed silently in his mind.

The front door slammed, and Baptiste gasped in horror as his sister screeched his name. Before he could react, he blinked. The stranger no longer sat on his lap. His sister’s feet dangled in the air, pressed to the wall by her throat. The woman glanced over her shoulder.

“Does this human mean anything to you? May I kill her for you?”

His eyes jerked to his sister. “No! Don’t kill her.” Baptiste jumped up with such force his recliner tilted. “She’s my sister. Please. Release her.” The woman loosened her grip, allowing Cyan to slide down the wall, gasping for breath.

Everything happened in slow motion as he dragged his sister to his side. Looking into Cyan’s eyes, he knew they were in trouble.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Paula Hardin is a southern girl with a passion for everything that is paranormal, mystical, different then normal everyday life. She writes paranormal romances full of suspense, but ends with a happy ever after. Look for her in Facebook, Twitter, Paula Hardin Author blog, or visit her webpage for upcoming new works.

 

 

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