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Abby & Zane

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When Abby Spencer’s family is murdered, she closes herself off to everything, only allowing Zane, the handsome, magnetic vampire who has become her closest friend, to breech her walled reserve. As she leans on him more than ever, they discover a deeper connection lies between them and that they are bound in ways neither of them expected.

 

When a stranger arrives on her doorstep, Abby finds herself staring into the face of her mirror image – her twin sister, Lia, who brings a dire warning. Abby’s life is in danger.

 

Navigating the loss of her family, curious and intrigued about the budding attraction between herself and Zane, she discovers her entire life has been a lie. Needing answers, she heads to Savannah with her new-found sister and finds herself embroiled in a deadly cat and mouse game with a demon who wants revenge.

 

Now, as the demon closes in, Abby must fight for her life, and she knows there is only one way to survive. She must die.

 

Because death runs in the family.

Enjoy Chapter One below!

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

"He's going to die out here."

The woods were dark and dreary, damp with the early morning fog. Visibility was nil as I trudged through the trees; I couldn't see beyond ten feet in front of me and I picked my way carefully over stumps and rocks that littered the path I needed to take. It was chilly, being mid-March in Tennessee, and here under the dense canopy the sun would have a hard time peeking through even at high noon. But at this hour, there was no light at all except for the small headlamp strapped around my head. The forest was densely crowded with trees and underbrush. Most of the hardwoods hadn't begun to bud yet with new life, but the branches were so close together, intertwining and weaving amongst themselves, you had to zig-zag around them to get anywhere.

I stuffed my hands deeper inside the pockets of my jacket and sent a sideways glance at my companion.

"We'll find him, Abby,” Zane said, hefting the horse blanket further up on his shoulder. “He couldn’t have gone far.”

"We're going to have to make some adjustments to the fencing on the paddock so he can't escape again," I said, making mental notes as I climbed over a particularly large boulder on the path. I glanced back and smiled. "Thanks for coming with me."

"I couldn’t let my best girl go alone into the scary woods, could I?" His eyes shined as he grinned at me.

I turned away, heat climbing into my cheeks despite the coolness of the morning. I had known Zane for the better part of three years, but it wasn't until a few months ago that things between us started to change. He would make subtle comments to me as we worked together in the barn or the fields. I wasn't sure how to respond but the way he looked at me when I caught him casting furtive glances my way made my stomach knot and do flips at the same time.

My aunt and uncle hired him to help run the ranch and he lived in the room above the stables. He was always there, doing this or that; whatever needed to be done. But lately, it seemed he was always wherever I was. I didn’t mind it. I found myself doing the same thing, seeking him out just so I could be near him. I wondered why he didn't come right out and say something. One of us needed to break the ice, step over the precipice, and see what lay beyond.

The thought of it made my knees weak and my heart pound in my chest.

I considered him a friend, though, and I wasn't sure I wanted to breach that invisible line and cross over into something we couldn't come back from if things didn't work out.

So, while my insides warmed at his calling me his girl, I ignored the comment and kept going. Thankfully, he left me to my thoughts for a while which was a good thing. The path got more difficult the further we went. The butterflies hardened as unease settled in the pit of my stomach. The gelding had never gone quite this far before and I wondered how he traversed some of the narrow portions of this path.

After a while, Zane spoke up again. "Today's the day, huh? Any big things planned?"

"Not really. Just a nice dinner."

"That's it? I could bring a bottle of wine over," he suggested. "After all, your Adoption Day should be celebrated."

"A bottle of wine?" I smirked. "How are you going to get a bottle of wine? You know, being only eighteen and all."

He waggled his brows at me. "I have my ways."

I snorted. He did have his ways. He was great at distracting me and taking my mind off things.

I came to value his friendship over the last few years. We’d grown close and I often confided in him. Not that I had anything worth confiding necessarily. I lived a great life here on the ranch with my aunt and uncle. They adopted me as a baby when my parents were killed in a car crash. It was a quiet, simple life here and I loved it.

And it had improved significantly since Zane moved onto the property. We could chat for hours about anything. And a girl could get used to the view.

Suddenly, Zane grabbed my arm. "Hold on."

I stopped and grinned back at him, a snarky retort on the tip of my tongue. But the look on his face brought me up short.

"What is it?" I turned to look around but could see nothing through the darkness.

"Something's out there."

A shiver of fear snaked through me, raising goosebumps on my arms. Zane kept his fingers wrapped around my arm and I was grateful for his solid presence. The woods were dark and creepy at this early hour, but he had a great sense of smell. I teased him sometimes that he had the nose of a bloodhound and would make a great tracker. He would grin at me in his lopsided way as though he were hiding some great secret and then go about whatever it was he'd been doing.

"What is it?" I asked again, keeping my voice low. My heart pounded hard in my chest at the look on his face.

He stepped in front of me. "Stay behind me."

Swallowing hard, I gathered a handful of his jacket in my fist and followed so closely I nearly stepped on his heels.

He was right. There was something out here. I couldn't put a finger on it exactly; it was more of a sensation that flowed through me, subtle but definitely there. It set my nerves sizzling along my veins.

After a minute, Zane stopped dead, stiffening. His hands fisted at his sides and anger radiated off him in waves. I peeked around him and immediately wished I hadn't. Bile rose in my throat.

My horse lay on the path in front of us, but he was no longer recognizable. I only knew it was him because his eyes stared at me from his severed head. The rest of his body was cut into pieces and strewn throughout the brush.

The bile erupted. I turned and vomited into the dead leaves.

Zane pulled my long hair back with one hand, but his eyes scanned the woods around us. His body was tense and rigid, his gaze hyper-focused. I had only seen him like this one other time about a year ago when some animal killed a couple of our chickens. I thought it comical at the time and unnecessary to be so overprotective. But he had paid me no mind and it left me wondering why it was such a big deal. He never answered that question for me.

"What could have done this?" I asked when I was able to speak again. I wrapped my arms around my waist, trying to control my shaking limbs.

He said nothing but continued to stare into the trees. As I watched him, I saw the change in his expression. It was subtle, only a slight narrowing of his eyes and a tightening around his lips. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I swung my gaze around to see what he was looking at.

A dark figure stood twenty feet from us, barely noticeable within a tight grove of trees. The deep shadows revealed only the outline of his body. He faced us, seemingly relaxed as though he were taking a stroll through the woods. I could tell he was dressed all in black, a thick cloak falling around his shoulders to the ground and a deep hood that covered most of his face, the only visible part being a piercingly white smile with eye-teeth the size of a canine's.

But it was the blood dripping from his fingers that had me stepping back. I wasn't one to be squeamish or afraid of most things. I was confident in my ability to take care of myself, but some instinct told me this was different.

As soon as the thought entered my head, the world around me exploded. Zane shoved me aside and I tumbled onto my back seconds before the stranger slammed into him. They flew backward through the air, landing hard ten feet away. Scrambling to my hands and knees, I wished I had thought to bring my dagger with me. I usually carried it everywhere but left it behind this morning in my hurry to get out here and find my horse.

Zane and the intruder wrestled back and forth on the ground. A terrible growl emanated from Zane. I'd never heard him do that before. They flipped over, the black-cloaked figure on top of Zane.  Looking around, I searched frantically for some kind of weapon, crawling through the dead brush until I came up with a good fist-sized rock.

I flew at them, not thinking for a second it was the last thing I should have done. Hurling myself at the attacker's back, I brought the rock down on his head with all the force I could muster. My arms shook with the blow, pain shooting over my shoulders. Screaming, I collapsed to the side.

Twisting out of Zane’s grip, the stranger was on top of me in an instant. His fingers wrapped around my throat and squeezed. My vision blurred as my airway closed. The last thing I saw before the lights went out was his inch-long fangs bearing down on my neck.

***

My head lolled sideways, bouncing at an odd angle as my eyes fluttered open. The trees floated past my vision, which confused me because they were upside down. Twisting my head around, I looked into a pair of worried amber eyes. I realized Zane was carrying me, his strong arms wrapped under my legs and around my back, holding me close against his chest. The heat emanating from his body seeped through my clothing. Warmth flooded up my neck and into my cheeks.

I croaked, grabbing my neck, remembering the last thing I’d seen before I blacked out. The attacker baring his fangs and closing in for the kill. But there were no wounds, no puncture marks, no bleeding. My neck was still intact. I leaned my head against Zane’s chest, relieved.

“You’re safe,” he said, never breaking stride.

We moved swiftly through the forest. My limbs felt boneless, and I didn't think I would be able stand, let alone run along beside Zane. He raced through the trees faster than I could blink, in any case. I snaked my hand around his neck and held on.

In a matter of minutes, we were back at the farm. He stopped at the bottom of the front steps and set me on my feet. Still shaky, I gripped his arms for support.

"What was that thing? How did we get away?"

"I stabbed him in the neck with a stick."

I blanched, my stomach threatening to spill over again.

"Let's get you inside. I think you need something hot to drink."

I nodded, unable to form words. Horrid visions swam through my head, and it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. Zane swept open the front door for me but as I stepped into the foyer my feet slipped out from under me and I landed hard on my backside. I flung my arms out, trying to regain my balance but slipped again on something thick and wet. Looking around in the dim light, my mind slowed to a crawl as I took in the nightmare before me.

I saw the whole scene as one slow motion movie reel. Zane crouched behind me, towering over me with his arms spread wide like a huge mother hen. My aunt lay in a dark pool of blood, half in and half out of the doorway between the foyer and the parlor. My uncle hung from the huge wood and metal chandelier in the foyer, blood dripping from the gaping hole where his throat had been.