When a psychic vision warns Pearce that he’ll die at the hands of the human woman Daphne, he goes after her to try to change his future.
After a career as a hacker and several brushes with the law, Daphne is trying to go straight as a cyber security analyst. But when her brother gets in trouble with a loan shark, she’s forced to draw on her skills to wipe out his debt—an action that puts her in the path of the Stealth Guardians and their archenemies, the Demons of Fear.
What starts out as a mission to prevent Daphne from killing Pearce, turns into a race against time to stop the demons from obtaining the key to certain annihilation of the Stealth Guardians and all of mankind.
“You’ll be murdered!”
At the words, Pearce spun around, hair dripping wet, feet bare, and nearly dropped the towel he’d been about to remove from where it covered his naked skin from waist to knees. He held the damp towel in place and stared at the intruder.
It was an unwritten rule at the compound that nobody entered a warrior’s private quarters without invitation. In the many years that he’d lived in Baltimore, nobody had ever intruded his privacy. Even though there were locks on the doors, nobody ever used them. What would have been the point? A Stealth Guardian could walk through walls and doors as if walking through air, thus rendering locks useless. However, the human wives of his compound comrades were another matter—they didn’t possess the abilities of their preternatural husbands. Same went for the female psychic in their midst. Although she had supernatural skills, walking through walls wasn’t one of them. Hence she’d simply opened the door—without invitation and, apparently, without knocking first.
“What the fuck, Winter?” he growled at her.
Brushing away the reprimand as if she didn’t care, Winter approached. “Didn’t you hear me, Pearce? You’re going to get stabbed!”
“Yeah, I believe it. Just as soon as Logan finds you in my quarters!”
Winter’s mate, his fellow Stealth Guardian Logan, was a fiercely possessive man and skilled with his deathly dagger. If he found Winter in Pearce’s rooms, wearing a bathrobe over her flimsy nightgown, with Pearce half-naked to top it all off, there’d be hell to pay. At best, Logan would beat the crap out of him; at worst, he’d use his dagger, a weapon that could kill even an immortal, to inflict real damage.
“Are you out of your fucking mind, coming here? What if Logan finds you in my rooms?”
She made a dismissive hand movement. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist. He’s in the shower.”
“Yeah, so was I,” Pearce said dryly, making a corresponding motion with his free hand, the one not currently clutching the towel. “And now, I’d like to get dressed.” He pointed to the door. “Without an audience.”
“You don’t understand,” Winter continued, her voice laden with frustration. “It’s not Logan who’s gonna kill you, but Daphne.”
Water dripped into Pearce’s eyes, and he wiped his hand over his face and brushed his wet hair, which was in need of a trim, back. “Who the fuck is Daphne?”
“The woman who killed you in my vision.”
“You had a vision about me?”
She let herself fall onto the couch and sighed. “Finally, you’re getting it. If you’re that slow on the uptake, no wonder you’re gonna get killed.”
Pearce rolled his eyes. “You could have led with this.”
“The fact that you had a vision. And with knocking first.”
“Well, sorry for being concerned, but my visions are never wrong.” She rose with a huff. “But if you’d rather run into danger without being prepared, be my guest.” She headed for the door.
“I’m sorry, Winter. Don’t go.”
At the door, she hesitated, then turned slowly. “So, you believe me now?”
“I never said I didn’t believe you. I just wasn’t pleased about your mode of delivery. It’s not every day that a man finds out he’s gonna be murdered.”
“Stabbed by a Stealth Guardian dagger, to be exact,” she said. “By a woman!”
“A female demon,” Pearce corrected her.
Winter shook her head, though the motion was hesitant. “I don’t think so. I can’t say for sure, but I think she was human.”
“What makes you think that?”
“She had an injured arm. The wound was bleeding. Red.”
“No green blood? You sure about that?” There were two ways of recognizing a demon. One was their green blood. “And her eyes? Were they green?”
“I couldn’t tell the color, but they didn’t glow poison-green like I’ve seen in other demons.”
And Winter had encountered demons, more than she’d ever wanted to. Luckily, she’d survived the ordeal. If any non-Stealth Guardian could recognize a demon’s green eyes, then it was Winter.
Pearce contemplated Winter’s words for a moment. “She could have worn colored contact lenses.”
“Could have, but that still leaves the bleeding arm.”
“Hmm.” The risk to be eventually killed by a demon came with the territory of being a Stealth Guardian warrior. But being killed by a human? “How do you know her name?”
“You called her Daphne, before she stabbed you in the chest. You knew her.”
Pearce shook his head. “That’s impossible. I don’t know anybody named Daphne.”
“You did in my vision.”
He searched his memory, but he was certain that he knew no woman named Daphne. “What else? Where will it happen?”
Winter looked as if she was about to shrug, but then thought better of it and raised her head as if suddenly remembering something. “Actually, it was weird. It looked like a backstage area of a theater or a movie stage—you know, where they film TV shows. It looked like a set for some sort of medieval show or play.”
“A film studio?”
“Yes, or a theater.”
“Tell me more about the woman,” Pearce demanded.
“Not sure what to tell you about her.”
“Age, hair color, size, ugly or pretty, thin or fat, you know.”
Winter looked into the distance as if to recall the image. “She was maybe in her thirties, but then, I find it hard to guess women’s ages. Let’s just say she was over twenty-five and probably under forty. Nice looking, not skinny, but muscular.”
Winter rolled her eyes. “Men! No, not butch; she just looked like she took care of herself, like she works out and eats right. She was pretty, too. Long black hair. Kinda cute.”
“Oh great!” Pearce said with a good dose of sarcasm. “Not only will I be killed by a human woman, but by a cute one. That’ll make it all right. Wouldn’t wanna go to my death staring at the face of an ugly woman.” He sighed. “Sorry, go on. What else do you remember?”
“She wore strange clothes.”
“Actually, more like a costume. You know, like a female superhero.”
“That makes no sense.”
Winter shrugged. “You weren’t dressed any less strange. You wore some sort of medieval uniform. You know, as if you were both dressing up for a Halloween party.”
Pearce shook his head. “I don’t go to Halloween parties. Anything else you noticed?”
“One thing was really weird.” She hesitated.
“You didn’t fight back.”
“When she stabbed you, you just stared at her as if you wanted her to do it.” Winter let out a nervous chuckle. “Maybe I just imagined that. But your expression, the way you looked at her… It was odd. You didn’t look like you were angry at her or saw her as an enemy. Almost as if you trusted her.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Maybe it does,” Winter said. “She could be some sort of Mata Hari who’s putting the moves on you, seduces you, and then betrays you.”
“Oh, please! As if I’m stupid enough not to recognize when a woman tries to use me. I’d never fall for that. Besides, I don’t even know anybody named Daphne.”
“Which is a good thing, because it means you can still change the future.”
He nodded. “You’re right. I have to eliminate the threat.”
Winter swallowed hard. “Eliminate? That’s not why I told you about the vision. I don’t mean for anybody to get hurt.”
“Winter, you should have learned by now that somebody is always gonna get hurt.” And a threat had to be eliminated before it was too late. “Better my would-be killer than me.”
“So what are you gonna do?”
“I need to figure out who she is.” And he had an idea how to accomplish that task. “Would you recognize her if you saw a photo of her?”
Winter furrowed her forehead. “But you just said you don’t know anybody named Daphne. And now you have photos?”
“I don’t, but the DMV does.”
“There must be thousands of Daphnes in all the DMV databases in the U.S.”
“We’ll start with Maryland. There can’t be that many. It’s not a very popular name. And we have parameters to limit the search: a female with black hair aged between twenty-five and forty.”
“I wouldn’t limit the search to black hair only. What if she dyed her hair?”
“Good point. Still, there can’t be that many women named Daphne. Meet me in the command center once Logan has left for his assignment. I’ll run the search in the meantime, and then we’ll go through the photos.”
Winter nodded. “Fine.”
As she turned to the door, Pearce said, “And Winter…”
She looked over her shoulder. “Yes?”
“Not a word to the others about your vision. Not even to Logan. I don’t want anybody to know before I can figure out what we’re dealing with here. Agreed?”
“For now, fine. But once we know who she is and why she wants to kill you, we need to talk to the others.”
“One step at a time,” he said, and watched Winter leave his quarters.
Once he knew who this woman was, he’d do what needed to be done.