Excerpt: Immortal Obsession by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

Vampires have overtaken London in Linda Thomas-Sundstrom’s newest paranormal romance from Harlequin Nocturne, Immortal Obsession. But the key to stopping them may be newscaster Madison Chase and her immortal Protector. Read on for an excerpt from Immortal Obsession…
About the Book

As her Protector, he was bound to oblige her every desire.

A rogue group of human-hating vampires have overtaken London. But the elite immortals who own much of the city may have found the key to protecting their territory: Madison Chase, an American newscaster investigating a story about missing teenagers. If she can convince someone to help her infiltrate the dangerous faction, she just might stem the bloodletting and find her brother in time….

St. John can’t escape his dark family legacy. But the instincts that keep him from being fully human also make him the rogues’ worst enemy. His desire for the ethereal redhead is immediate, all-consuming—and forbidden. And as the investigation escalates, Madison must discover if St. John is her trusted Protector—or if she’s being seduced by a monster.

Excerpt:

Death was coming in the form of a cold, hard blackness.

Christopher St. John looked for it with his eyes wide open.

He gave the woman down the block a cursory glance, drawn to the shivering gleams of silver coming off whatever she wore as she passed beneath a streetlight, sensing something else about her that he had no time to explore. Though intrigued by all that shine on a gloomy night, no unnatural darkness floated in the woman’s wake, so he couldn’t afford a second look.

Where was death hiding?

The air he breathed carried an odor of old boots and had the slimy feel of an oxygenated oil slick, as if something nasty had left an indelible imprint. Alerted by that, St. John turned his head and caught sight of an ooze of movement so subtle, human eyes would have missed it.

He watched the shadow pass into the alley on his left. Tuning in, he fired up his senses to determine that shadow’s status and to name and categorize the anomaly, which was just another thing that shouldn’t exist, but did, hanging on to darkness as if it needed, ate, breathed, required the worst part of a day. Midnight.

“Shade,” St. John said, disgusted.

Shades were evil suckers. Unable to possess actual physical form, they couldn’t be touched or destroyed by regular physical means. It took cunning, guts, and a whole lot of properly functioning know-how to take down something so substantially unsubstantial. And like flies on a fetid carcass, the presence of this Shade meant some poor fool had died in that alley, probably minutes ago.

St. John’s fangs dropped, pressing threateningly against his tongue. He worked his jaw to relax himself. It was imperative that Shades and creatures like them were kept away from London’s human population, and that they remained underground. He’d have to follow this one and do his bit to mop up the danger before anyone found out.

Taking a step toward the alley, he paused, his attention disturbed by a sudden prickle at the base of his neck. Cutting his eyes to the left, he saw another shadow hugging the building beside the alley. Then he saw a third.

His fangs began to sharpen automatically, chiseling into lethal points as if they recognized danger all on their own and were getting ready to face it. In this case, the fangs were harbingers of doom. Three Shades in the area meant three dead bodies, since Shades were entities uninterested in sharing their spoils. Three dead bodies in a row suggested the presence of vampires. Probably more than one. These Shades had likely been attracted to leftovers.

Death tonight had manifested in the form of a bloodsuckers’ blood fest, a vile breach of etiquette in London’s trendy West End. Most vampires here, unless newly made, knew better than to trespass on ground owned by their older immortal cousins. The careless vamps heralding the Shades were either really stupid, had been freshly bitten, or they had a death-after-death wish. Same difference in terms of the results.

“Too damn close to mortals to be excused.”

St. John again glanced down the street, to where he had seen the shapely woman in silver walking alone. He looked at the row of lights announcing the first of the West End’s string of nightclubs, thinking as he always had that these clubs and the people they attracted had become too tempting for the city’s extended list of subterranean inhabitants.

The lights were, in essence, like big neon arrows pointing the way to an all-night buffet. But this particular grouping of night creatures currently flouting the rules were truly on the wrong path if they assumed they’d get away with leaving corpses in alleyways so near an immortal’s domain. Especially his. Nobody liked gore on their front steps.

Closing his eyes briefly, St. John again felt death’s dark touch, a blackness he knew intimately. In a distant part of his subconscious, he pinpointed the nearness of the other uninvited creatures in the area. Vampires, yes. Rogues, giving off signals of rage and insatiable hunger, things he had long ago mastered, though his fangs were empathetically aching.

Something else nagged at his attention besides the five young vampires emerging from the far end of the alley sporting haughty expressions and exhibiting no evidence of their recent kills. Some other warning had caught hold of him, mixed up in the brief gleam of a woman’s silvery light.

Shaking that warning off, St. John watched the tight group of young vampires, reminiscent of a group of wild animals on the prowl, boldly cross the street, heading for the biggest club on the block. The same one the woman in silver stardust had entered.

Striding past the queue of waiting guests, the rogues looked the club’s controller up and down until that man stepped aside, but not before he’d sent St. John a silent signal of alarm that rippled across St. John’s skin in the form of a really good chill.

St. John nodded his head to the man in reply, wondering if perhaps these ignorant fanged parasites had also seen that dazzling young woman and had been attracted. Scavengers, like crows, loved anything that glowed.

Or maybe they were just trolling for dessert.

A wave of apprehension rolled across his scalp. Keeping tabs on the ever-increasing hordes of fledgling vampires would have been a full-time job for a small army. Keeping them out of his own territory was a personal necessity.

Drawing his hands out of his pockets, St. John pressed his lips over his pulsing, aggression-seeking incisors.

“Wrong road, wrong night, boys,” he said aloud, adding in honor of whatever Shades were lurking nearby, “I’ll be back for you.”

Thinking of what a bunch of unrepentant, openly visible monsters might do to an unsuspecting woman like the one in the intriguing silver getup they were no doubt salivating for, and knowing that mercy wasn’t a viable word in bloodsucker vocabulary, St. John set his shoulders, squinted at the club’s lights and started off in that direction.

He wasn’t called the Protector for nothing. And that woman, still very much on his mind after only a glimpse, didn’t have any idea of the extent of the trouble about to strike.

* * *

It wasn’t the first time Madison Chase had downed one too many drinks lately, and by the look of things, it wasn’t going to be her last.

She had accepted a martini from the guy dressed in head-to-toe leather at the bar and a shot of something foul from the stiff in the business suit who smelled faintly of clove cigarettes. Some people thought drinking was sexy. She wasn’t one of them.

She had tossed those drinks back like they were water and should have been pain-free by now, but the neverending ache inside her still hurt like hell, not in the slightest bit blurred by alcohol.

Tonight was no different from all the rest of the past three days: roaming around, tempting fate by taking too many chances. Clearly, she was headed for a breakdown if she kept this up. All the signs were present.

She just couldn’t seem to back off from the wave of momentum sweeping her up.

She might be placing herself in jeopardy by wandering alone in an unfamiliar city, in another country, at night, but an uncanny, persistent idea suggested that a solo recon might turn up information about what had happened to those missing college girls from the States—the reason for ten American television crews, including her own, taking up residence.

An even more important objective, and the reason for this club-hopping, was the search for her brother, who’d been MIA for a full three weeks.

Hopefully, if her stars were in alignment, she’d find Stewart, her fraternal twin. She just needed to do some of her sleuthing after-hours and alone, since the camera crews usually following her around tended to scare people off.

Plus, there was no plausible way to explain to the network guys that she was almost supernaturally aware of her brother’s presence in this part of London because the uniqueness of the bond between twins defied explanation.

Stewart Chase, her womb-mate, and younger than herself by only one minute, felt close enough to reach out and touch. His life force seemed to float in the air, whispering things just out of hearing range.

Madison searched the faces closest to her, finding nothing familiar. Yet she knew she’d be the one to find her brother, if anyone could. Respected Florida attorneys like her twin didn’t just disappear when sent by their firms to pursue the legal details of a headlining missing girls’ case. Neither did most attorneys believe in the paranormal, she’d be willing to bet.

“But you do,” she said to Stewart, wherever he was.

The discovery that he had hidden certain aspects of his life from her had been a shock. More surprising still was the magnitude of the secretive research her brother had gathered on the existence of monsters. Stewart thought that monsters had taken over jolly old England’s capital, as well as other cities like it, in the manner of a spreading plague.

Monsters. The kind with fangs.

Vampires, for God’s sake.

After cracking the password on his laptop and sifting through Stewart’s files, she had learned that her brother had been obsessed with the undead for a while. So, was she to conclude that someone that smart and savvy had become mentally unstable in the past year or two, hiding a loose mental screw from her and everyone else? Although gray, aged London was a place where any gothic idea might seem possible, vampires would be the underworld’s dirtiest little secret society.

Stewart had listed this nightclub in his notes.

“Absurd. Disgusting. To hell with you, baby brother, for bringing this up and for vanishing without a trace,” Madison muttered, worried her instincts were wrong this time about sensing him near her. Worried also that in sharing genes with Stewart, and thinking about vampires, her own mental screws might someday loosen.

She was here on company time. Her ticket to ferreting out why so many people had gone missing in London in the past month had been presented to her in the form of a golden opportunity not to be missed. Accepting the network’s assignment to follow the story of four missing Yale grads, now officially being dubbed in the media as the Yale Four, had been a timely move.

And though the streets outside of this club were creepy at night, London’s hotspot of the moment, called Space, was teeming with people.

Conscious of eyes turned her way, Madison again searched the area around her. The guy in the business suit raised his glass. Shaking her head, she said beneath her breath, “Not going to happen. Not with you, buddy.”

She turned her attention to the dance floor. If her brother’s research had any merit, this was one of the most dangerous clubs in London for humans, and run by a vampire community whose roots ran deep.

That was nuts, of course. Most of the people here seemed normal enough, and were having a good time. Still, the only way she could maintain any hope of getting her brother back was to explore all scenarios that might explain his disappearance, and those included the most fantastical ones.

So, if she were to try to believe her brother…

“What the hell is a vampire supposed to look like, anyway? Other than exposed fangs, how would anyone tell them apart from anyone else?” she muttered.

Stewart’s notes said that some vampires blended fairly well with the human population. Then again, rumors about vampires in nightclubs could just as easily be a well-planned advertising campaign for thrill seekers to get off on, and completely make-believe.

This was her third club, in as many nights, looking for Stewart and his monsters. The number three was supposed to be charmed—some kind of supernaturally charged digit. With that in mind, Madison continued to scrutinize the faces around her, picking out likely candidates for fangdom in the crowd. Males seemingly too sober, too intense and darkly expressionless as they lurked in the shadows. There were a few.

However, slightly suspicious males were also the usual fare for dance clubs, so how in hell could Stewart have been sure of what was what? How could she?

Monsters should be required to wear bells.

And okay, now that she had stooped to considering monsters, Madison wondered how someone with a loose mental screw could tighten it.

Her gaze dropped to the table beside her. Another drink would make the tally what? Three? Four? One awful-tasting alcoholic beverage for every monster she thought she perceived around her. Just to take the edge off the game. For more fighting spirit, in case there was any way Stewart had been right, and there actually were vampires everywhere.

“Another drink is definitely the way to go,” she said to herself.

Grabbing a glass off the table, Madison sipped the contents, realizing she was walking close enough to the edge of an abyss to see the steep drop. Why? Because it was impossible to delete from her mind the part of Stewart’s research proposing that death didn’t have to be the end of existence.

And if anything bad had happened to her brother because of his ridiculous beliefs, some part of her actually hoped he was right. Without Stewart, she felt like only half of a whole. At the moment, a tired, ornery half.

The decibel of the music raining down from overhead speakers drowned out her thoughts. With the burn of alcohol in her throat, Madison closed her eyes and picked up the rhythm of the beat. Moving her head and her hips, she began to wind her way through the people on the dance floor, heading for the center of the room where something other than fear, sadness and regret would hopefully, for a time, give her some peace.

Regretfully, that peace remained as elusive as ever. Someone still watched her. She picked up on this, she assumed, with the special sense of connection to others that some twins possessed. Whoever this particular watcher was had a gaze like a laser beam that made her feel as if she were naked.

She glanced up at the balcony and found the culprit. Her breath caught. Behind the ornate railing stood one of the most beautiful men she had ever seen. Every working woman’s version of a wet dream.

Tall and broad-shouldered, the wickedly handsome observer leaned against a pillar with a self-assured, languid pose. Immaculately dressed in black, a visually stunning contrast of fair hair surrounded his sculpted, angular, aristocratic face.

Having noted his interest, Madison figured that any other woman would have run right up to that balcony and handed him her hotel key, desiring his touch and to hear his haughty British accent. Happy to have been singled out by such a creature, they’d have wished for a kiss, a condom and the luck of being chosen as his one-night stand.

Any other woman.

She didn’t have time for that sort of nonsense, or for anything other than this one dance. It was after midnight, and she’d be on camera in the morning. Plus, finding this guy observing her so intently, her inner warnings about him automatically upgraded to full alert.

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