Scanguards Vampires #12
The Scanguards Vampires series – over 1 Million copies sold worldwide!
Emotionally scarred by the death of his blood-bonded mate and unborn child several years earlier, vampire and Scanguards bodyguard John Grant avoids women at all costs, desperate to prevent another heartbreak. But when single mother Savannah Rice begs him for help finding her kidnapped daughter Buffy, he can’t help but feel drawn to her and the passion that lies dormant behind her blue eyes.
As they work to uncover a child trafficking ring leading all the way to Russia, John and Savannah allow themselves to find love and support in each other’s arms. In doing so, they are forced to confront their mutual guilt and fear while fighting to rescue Savannah’s daughter and the other girls who have fallen into the hands of an unscrupulous villain.
But even if they can destroy the trafficking ring, and save the girls, will Savannah be strong enough to love John once he reveals that he is a vampire who craves her blood?
Scanguards Vampires Series:
Book 1: Samson’s Lovely Mortal
Book 2: Amaury’s Hellion
Book 3: Gabriel’s Mate
Book 4: Yvette’s Haven
Book 5: Zane’s Redemption
Book 6: Quinn’s Undying Rose
Book 7: Oliver’s Hunger
Book 8: Thomas’s Choice
Novella 8 1/2: Silent Bite (A Scanguards Wedding)
Book 9: Cain’s Identity
Book 10: Luther’s Return
Book 11: Blake’s Pursuit
Novella 11 1/2: Fateful Reunion
Stealth Guardians #3: Warrior Unraveled (featuring Wesley, Scanguards’ resident witch, as the hero)
Book 12: John’s Yearning
The Novella Mortal Wish can be read anytime.
Stealth Guardians Series:
Lover Uncloaked (#1)
Master Unchained (#2)
Warrior Unraveled (#3) (featuring Wesley, Scanguards’ resident witch, as the hero)
Guardian Undone (#4)
Immortal Unveiled (#5)
Protector Unmatched (#6)
Demon Unleashed (#7)
Shortly after sunset, John Grant pulled into the underground garage of Scanguards’ headquarters in the Mission District of San Francisco and parked in his assigned spot. Sunset, as well as sunrise, was one of the busiest times at the large building: shift change. The human employees left for the evening, as the vampires arrived to take over. By the time John reached the second floor, where his office was located, the place was buzzing with frenetic activity. Just like every night. He was glad for it, because it helped him take his mind off other things. Things he’d rather keep buried in the dark vaults of his memory bank.
As he walked along the corridor leading to his office, he acknowledged several of his colleagues with a nod, exchanging wordless greetings. He’d almost reached the door to his office, when a voice called out to him.
“John, wait up.”
John turned around and watched Gabriel Giles, his superior and second-in-command at Scanguards, walk toward him. After many years of working with Gabriel, he’d gotten used to the other vampire’s gruesome appearance: a large puckered scar reached from his left ear to his chin, disfiguring an otherwise handsome face to the point where he could strike fear into any opponent with only a grim look. Yet, despite his appearance, there was nothing evil about Gabriel. In fact, he was a fair man, a balanced individual thanks to his loving mate, Maya, and their three hybrid children, two of which were bodyguards-in-training at Scanguards. Gabriel had everything John had tried so hard, but failed, to achieve.
“Evening, Gabriel,” John said, not letting the fact that he envied the powerful vampire color his voice. It wasn’t Gabriel’s fault that he had everything John desired.
“Glad I caught you.” Gabriel motioned to the thick manila folder in his hand. “SFPD sent this over for us to have a look at.” He shoved the folder into John’s hand.
“Detective Donnelly?” John raised an eyebrow and accepted the file. “Another crime involving a vampire?”
Because of their arrangement with the City of San Francisco, and their connections to the mayor and the chief of police in particular, their liaison at the police department referred all suspected vampire-related crimes directly to Scanguards. Only a few officers at the SFPD knew about the existence of vampires, and by outsourcing any cases involving vampires to Scanguards, they made sure word didn’t get out. If it did, there would be panic, which both the mayor and police chief wanted to avoid. Besides, Scanguards was better equipped to handle any rogue vampires not adhering to the law. They dealt with them swiftly and efficiently. Scanguards hunted them down, then brought them before the vampire council to be prosecuted. The verdict would be execution for the worst offenders, or a lengthy stay in the vampire prison in the Sierras for those who could be reformed.
“Donnelly isn’t sure. But he’s got no leads at all, so he wants us to take a crack at it.”
“Sure. What’s it about?”
Something churned in John’s gut. “How many?”
“Over a dozen in the last six weeks. All girls. Young, too.”
Though he wasn’t keen on hearing the answer, John asked, “How young?”
“All between nine and twelve.”
Disgust spread in his body, reaching every cell. He exchanged a knowing look with Gabriel. “You think vampires could be responsible, maybe using the kids as blood whores?”
Gabriel shrugged. Simultaneously, his scar twitched, a sure sign that the topic affected him on a deeper level. “I hope not.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Gabriel nodded solemnly. “Look into it, will you? But if it becomes clear there’s no paranormal involvement, turn the case back over to Donnelly. As much as this disgusts me, and I’d love to help out SFPD and find those girls, we don’t have the manpower. Our regular assignments, the patrolling, and now our new arrangement with the Stealth Guardians…” He rubbed his nape, where his long dark-brown hair was tied into a ponytail. “Frankly, I’m not sure how we’ll manage what’s already on our plate.”
John nodded. “Time for the next generation to pull their weight.” The next generation were hybrids, the sons and daughters of vampires, who by nature were half vampire, half human, and thus combined the advantages of both species within them, making them stronger and more versatile, and ultimately less vulnerable than pure-blooded vampires.
Gabriel let out a breath. “We’re getting the hybrids ready as quickly as we can. Some of them are already scheduled for their final practical examinations. But let’s not forget that they’re still in training.”
“I think you underestimate them. Ryder is a very responsible young man,” he said, referring to Gabriel’s oldest son. “As are Amaury’s twins.” Amaury, one of the three highest-ranking directors at Scanguards, had two boys by his blood-bonded human mate Nina.
Unfortunately, John couldn’t extend the praise he had for Gabriel’s and Amaury’s sons to Grayson, the oldest son of Scanguards’ founder and CEO, Samson. The twenty-one-year-old was a hothead. His body had reached maturity on his last birthday, and would stay the same for the rest of his life, but so far his mind hadn’t done the same. Grayson was impulsive, arrogant, and unpredictable. Not to mention constantly in competition with his older sister, Isabelle, and anybody else who he believed was getting ahead of him.
Gabriel chuckled softly. “And they all think they’re invincible. Which they’re not. Ryder is only twenty, as are Amaury’s sons. They haven’t even set into their final bodies yet. They’re still vulnerable.”
John sighed. “I understand. But they’ll heal just as fast as a full-blooded vampire.” Which was the truth. But they developed scars. If Ryder got injured and received a disfiguring scar—like Gabriel had when he was human—it would become permanent once he set in his final form. But apart from that, being a hybrid was better than being a full-blooded vampire. “Don’t forget that they have advantages over us. They don’t have our limitations.”
His boss grimaced. “Don’t I know it? But just because the rays of the sun won’t fry them, doesn’t mean they’re safe on their own. Who’s gonna watch over them by day?” He pointed to John and then himself. “We can’t do it.”
“Maybe it’s time to take the training wheels off and let them prove to us that they’re ready. I don’t remember having anybody watch over me when I was a young vampire. Did you?”
For a moment, Gabriel fell silent. “Different times back then.”
“Not any less dangerous.”
“Different dangers though.” Then Gabriel suddenly straightened and pointed to the folder. “Let Samson and me know tomorrow night whether we need to take this on.”
John gave a quick nod. “Sure. I’ll keep you posted.” He turned and opened the door to his office, closing it behind him a moment later. He slipped out of his jacket and hung it over the back of his chair.
The file folder was thick, and according to the table of contents taped to the inside flap, contained over a dozen police reports, including photos of the missing children and anything else the police deemed relevant. John glanced at the clock on the wall. This would take a while.
He took out the first police report about a girl who’d been missing for just over six weeks, and began reading. He’d finished the second police report and was just beginning the third, when his desk phone rang. He looked at the display and picked it up.
“It’s Louise from reception. I’ve got a visitor for you. Her name’s Savannah Rice.”
“Don’t know her. What does she want?”
“She was referred by Detective Donnelly from SFPD.”
“Hmm.” If Donnelly had sent her, it had to be important. “Fine. Have her escorted up to my office.”
“Will do.” The receptionist disconnected the call.
John closed the folder and checked his office for any suspicious signs. But everything was clean. The bin was empty, the small fridge beneath his desk where he kept an emergency supply of human blood was locked. Scanguards provided bottled human blood for free, trying to minimize their employees’ need to hunt for blood among the human population of San Francisco. Of course they couldn’t prevent anybody from taking blood directly from a human’s vein if they wished to do so, but the fact that they provided easy access to the nourishment they all needed—and more often than not, craved—made resisting the urge to bite a human easier.
John had fed upon rising, and felt perfectly satisfied with the blood he’d consumed. It would sustain him until the next sunset.
Another look around his comfortable office confirmed that nothing was out of place. Good. Since the person who wanted to see him had been referred by Donnelly, chances were that she was probably human, though he couldn’t be sure. There was always the possibility that a vampire had contacted Donnelly, aware that he had a direct line to Scanguards.
A knock at the door announced John’s visitor.
The door opened and the aroma of a human wafted into his office, though the sight of her was blocked by the bulky vampire guard who’d escorted her.
“John, a Savannah Rice to see you.” He stepped aside and let the woman enter, then pulled the door shut behind her.
John should have heard the guard’s footfalls as he walked away, but the blood rushing through his veins drowned out any sound. Any sound but the heartbeat of the human woman who stood in his office, hesitating.
Damn you, Donnelly, damn you for sending her to me!
She was a stranger, a woman he’d never seen before, yet when he looked at her, his heart leapt with recognition, with hope, with lust. She was everything he’d wanted to forget for four long years. Nicolette, the woman he’d loved and lost. He saw her in this woman, though he knew it wasn’t possible. He saw the similarities, but he also saw the differences.
Like Nicolette, Savannah Rice was a beautiful woman, sensual and graceful. She was tall, but not skinny. She had curves in all the places that mattered, all the places a man wanted to feel warm, yielding flesh beneath his fingers. She didn’t show much skin—few women in San Francisco did, the nights being too cold even in the summer. But what he saw heated his blood. Smooth and rich, and a little darker than milk chocolate, her skin stretched over her elegant fingers, her strong cheekbones, her flawless neck. A neck where a vein pulsed in concert with her heartbeat. He imagined his white skin against hers, his hands clasping her shoulders, as he latched onto that vein to drink from her, to drink from his blood-bonded mate.
But she wasn’t Nicolette. He was lucid enough to realize that. Her face looked nothing like Nicolette’s. Her eyes weren’t the dark brown Nicolette’s had been, but a vibrant blue that hinted at a white parent or grandparent. Her black hair was long and wavy, so different from Nicolette, who’d kept her hair shorter and much curlier, the way nature had intended. There was a mysteriousness that surrounded this woman, this stranger, something that seemed to be hidden behind the blue color of her eyes.
When she inhaled, his eyes were drawn to her top, a V-neck sweater that fit her like a glove. It hugged her most precious curves, two round globes more perfect than he could have ever imagined. And one other thing was evident too. He’d glimpsed it immediately when she’d entered his office: she wore no bra. Firm breasts without any help. Without support. He felt his fangs itch at the thought of how it would feel to sink them into her flesh and feel her moan beneath him. With difficulty, he pushed back the need that was suddenly trying to control him. The need to have this woman. To take her. To ride her. To bite her.
But he knew it was wrong. She wasn’t Nicolette. And just because she and his dead mate shared physical similarities, didn’t mean that this woman could fill the hole Nicolette had left. Chase away the emptiness he’d lived with for the last four years. Just because his body responded to her the same way he’d responded to Nicolette, didn’t mean his heart would too. It was best to forget about it.
Her voice, a soft trickle akin to a mountain spring, jolted him into action. He jumped up from behind his desk and approached her, extending his hand.
“Mrs. Rice, how may I help you?”
She quickly shook his hand, then let go of it just as quickly. “It’s Ms.—there is no Mr. Rice. I’m a single mother. Buffy has no father.”
Somewhat confused, John searched his memory. Was he supposed to know who Buffy was? The only Buffy he’d ever heard of was a fictional vampire slayer from a 90s TV series. “Buffy?”
“Yes, my daughter. She disappeared three days ago. Didn’t Detective Donnelly fill you in? He said—”
The phone on his desk rang again. He was glad for it, because it meant he could avert his eyes before she realized that he couldn’t stop staring at her. Most likely drooling like a hapless idiot. “Excuse me.” He looked at the display and recognized the number of the San Francisco Police Department. “This might be him.” He reached for the phone and picked it up. “Mike?”
“Hey, John. Just thought I’d give you a quick call about your new case.”
“That’s still to be decided,” John said, knowing Donnelly would understand what he meant.
“Yeah, sure. Anyway, there’s been a development. The mother of the last girl that disappeared. She’s not happy with us.”
“She thinks the police are all incompetent. You know the type. So I figured I’d send her over to you so you can assure her that we’re doing everything in our power. Her name’s—”
“I know what her name is,” he interrupted.
There was a tiny pause. “She’s in your office, isn’t she?”
“Thanks for the heads up.” He made sure Donnelly heard the sarcasm in his voice.
“As I said, she’s not happy with us. Squeaky wheel, if you know what I mean. I can’t get any work done with her showing up every five minutes, demanding an update.”
Great! So she was one of those types: bossy, demanding, insistent. “Well, thanks for the referral. I’ll be sure to reciprocate when I can.”
Donnelly had the audacity to chuckle. “No need. Just keep me posted, and honestly, I hope you find this thing has a paranormal stink to it, because I’ve got nothing. No ransom notes in any of the cases. No eye witness accounts of the abductions. Nothing. Not a whiff of a lead.”
“Keep you posted.”
He didn’t wait for Donnelly’s reply and put the phone back on the receiver. For what it was worth, this was his case, at least for tonight. And he would let nothing get in the way of his professionalism. He’d been a bodyguard for longer than he cared to remember, first for the vampire king of Louisiana, and the last four years for Scanguards. He was trained to show no emotion, and that’s exactly how he would handle this case. Though it wouldn’t be easy having to deal with this human woman whose blood permeated his office with a scent that made his fangs itch and his cock harden in spite of his better judgement.
He inhaled her aroma, filling his lungs with it, before steeling himself and turning to face her again. When he met her eyes, he instantly knew that she’d been scrutinizing him the entire time he’d been on the phone. And for some inexplicable reason that fact made it hard for him to show indifference.
“Ms. Rice, please take a seat.”