Stealth Guardians #3
Scanguards witch Wesley Montgomery is determined to form an alliance between his group and the elusive Stealth Guardians. But Virginia Robson—ex-enforcer, newly minted member of the Stealth Guardian Council, and a woman who gets Wesley’s heart pumping in his chest—isn’t making it easy for him. The fiery redhead thinks that Wesley was sent by the demons to infiltrate them—a belief that is reinforced when the Stealth Guardians are attacked in their stronghold.
Despite her better judgment, Virginia is drawn to the handsome witch who offers his assistance in her race’s never-ending war against the demons. But can she trust a stranger of whom she knows nothing, even though his touch ignites a need in her that she’s denied her whole life?
What will prove more difficult for the pair: finding a future together, or battling the demons that threaten them at every turn?
This book is a cross-over between Scanguards Vampires and the Stealth Guardians. It contains many familiar and beloved Scanguards characters, and you can be sure that it is as action-packed and as sizzling hot as any Scanguards book. Enjoy!
This book reveals parts of the plot and/or villains of Lover Uncloaked (Stealth Guardians #1) and Master Unchained (Stealth Guardians #2). Therefore, if you’re planning to follow this series, it is best read in order.
Zoltan stared into the fireplace in his study, a fiery pit fed by lava from deep underground. It bubbled up, releasing hot air into the cavernous room illuminated by gas-burning lamps lining the walls. The walls around him were made of black lava stone, like many of the caves in the Underworld.
But unlike the other caves that had been fashioned into rooms and living quarters for him and his demons centuries ago, this room was soundproof. There wasn’t a single crack in the walls, not a single crevice that might catch and carry sound miles away. This was where he conducted business, and he’d made sure he was safe from being overheard.
Because there was a traitor among them. A demon who was vying for his throne.
He’d found out only a short while ago from his personal guard and right hand Vintoq that one of his subjects was working against him during his latest attempt to turn the city of Baltimore into a demon stronghold. Somebody had ambitions to take over as the Great One.
Now it was more important than ever to deliver a devastating blow to their enemies, the Stealth Guardians. Because if Zoltan could prove to his demons that they were better off with him, that he could lead them to victory over the Stealth Guardians and thus over mankind, they would back him and rat out the traitor.
But if he showed weakness now, it would be his end. And just like Zoltan had killed the last Great One for his throne when he’d shown weakness, some traitorous demon could dispatch Zoltan just as easily.
What he needed now was a quick strike against those slippery immortal guardians. A strike that would prove that he was smarter than any of his underlings. That he alone was capable of devising a strategy for victory.
But things weren’t looking good. And that infuriated him. So much so that he needed to let it out or it would eat him up from the inside.
His gaze fell onto a narrow side table that was covered with his trophies: items he’d taken from his kills. Jewelry, weapons, watches. He looked at it often, reminding himself of what he’d achieved in the time since he’d become the Great One. But right now, the sight gave him no satisfaction. All it did was remind him that he hadn’t yet reached his goal.
With an angry curse, he swiped his arm over the table, flinging his trophies to the ground. Watches shattered, a dagger clattered against the wall, the hilt separating from the blade, a pearl necklace broke into pieces, sending individual pearls rolling over the uneven stone floor.
Zoltan stomped on the loose pearls, crushing them with the same force he wished to use against the Stealth Guardians. There was satisfaction in this needless destruction, so he turned to the other trophies. When he reached the broken dagger, he stopped. Something caught his eye.
Zoltan crouched down and picked up the two pieces. Something was sticking out from inside the hilt. He pulled on it, freeing it from the broken weapon.
For a long moment, he stared in disbelief, shocked to realize what he was holding in his hand: the key to destroying the Stealth Guardians.
Several days later
Heads would roll tonight.
Virginia stepped into the portal and concentrated on her destination.
The members of the Baltimore compound had broken the rules one too many times. She—better than anybody—knew what could happen when rules were broken. Even an hour’s hesitation to set things right could mean the difference between life and death. The difference between danger and safety. Between love and hate.
The guardians in Baltimore had to learn this. And learn it fast.
One single broken rule had cost her everything she’d ever held dear. One broken rule had changed her life. She wouldn’t allow history to be repeated.
Never again on her watch.
She wasn’t an ex-enforcer for nothing. Just because she’d risen to become a member of the Council of Nine, the ruling body of the Stealth Guardians, didn’t mean she’d forgotten her training. First and foremost, she was a warrior, a warrior who understood that the rules existed for a reason: to keep their race safe. And nobody broke those rules without being punished. Not if she had anything to say about it. Which she did.
To intimidate the guardians at the compound and to demand instant respect, she’d dressed in the uniform of the enforcers: black leather pants, black T-shirt, black leather jacket with silver buttons adorned with the symbol of an ancient dagger. Her tall black boots reached to her knees and gleamed like a shiny new toy. At her hip sat a dagger forged in the Dark Days—the only kind of weapon capable of killing a demon.
Arriving at the compound, Virginia stepped out of the portal that had transported her thousands of miles in only a few seconds and took in her surroundings. She was in one of the sublevels of the Baltimore compound, and though she’d never been here, finding her way wasn’t difficult. All compounds had a similar layout.
She made her way toward the compound’s command center, but it was quiet there. The computers on the console were on standby, another violation she could add to her ever-growing list. She grunted in disapproval, then turned as she heard voices coming from the compound’s living area, more precisely—the kitchen. She marched toward it. Outside the door, she stopped for a short moment. With a deep breath and a steely resolve, she opened the door.
“Tessa did it,” one of the guardians said.
She recognized him immediately, though she’d never met him. She’d studied the files of all the guardians assigned to this compound and committed the information to memory.
The guardian who’d spoken, Aiden, put his arm around his wife, Leila, a human authorized to live at the compound thanks to her unbreakable bond with Aiden. He added, “We should celebrate.”
At the words, Virginia wanted to snort. Instead, she kicked the door shut behind her.
All eyes snapped to her. Good! She loved to make an entrance. She had everybody’s undivided attention now.
“The fact that this compound constantly ignores our rules?” she continued. “Or maybe that your security protocols are so loose that a witch was able to breach your defenses? Or maybe the fact that you just don’t give a damn that no human charges are allowed here? Enlighten me!”
Virginia narrowed her eyes at the assembled: Aiden, Leila, Enya, Hamish, Manus, Pearce, and Logan, as well as two people who weren’t authorized to be at the compound. The human charge and the witch.
“And you are?” Hamish asked, his chin tipped up defiantly.
Figured that he was the ringleader. In a millisecond, she recalled the details of his file and the notes she’d made in the margins after reading it cover to cover: rebellious, stubborn, insubordinate. But also innovative, quick on his feet, and exceptional in hand-to-hand combat.
“Virginia Robson, newest member of the Council of Nine,” she announced.
A few mumbled curses reached her ears. As she’d expected.
“Oh crap,” Manus choked out.
Yes, they all knew the name and the reputation that came with it. And she was proud of that reputation.
“To what do we owe your visit?” Hamish asked.
“You must be Hamish. I would have expected better from you than bringing a human charge into the compound.” Her jaw tightened. “Not to speak of letting a witch run wild here.”
Her gaze shot to the couch where the witch in question stood as if paralyzed. For the first time, she looked beyond the aura that identified him as a preternatural creature. She took in the features of the man. Tall with dark hair and a lean, yet strong, body. Not unattractive. In fact, not unattractive at all. On the contrary. There was something about him that made her heart beat just a tiny bit faster. Annoyed at her reaction, she tore her eyes from him.
“But all this is about to change. I’m here to clean up.”
She noticed how Hamish pulled his human charge closer.
“Starting with the human.” Virginia pointed at Tessa. She’d read her file, too. A talented politician, a public servant who hadn’t forgotten what it meant to serve the public. A rarity. Nevertheless, rules were rules.
“She has no right to be here. You’ve compromised the security of this compound by having brought her here. We’ll have to abandon this place and relocate everybody. You’ll answer for this before the Council of Nine.”
“He didn’t do anything wrong!” Tessa blurted.
How dare the human raise her voice to her? “What did you say?”
“I have the same right to be here as Leila, Aiden’s wife.” A stubborn lift of her chin.
Virginia tilted her head to the side, suspicion rising like dense fog in the Outer Hebrides. “Are you telling me that you’re Hamish’s mate?”
This changed everything. As his mate, she had every right to be here—if it was true. “And why has the council not been informed of this?”
Anybody else would have missed the quick but silent exchange between Tessa and Hamish, and the slight hesitation before Hamish replied. But Virginia didn’t. She was trained to notice.
“It only just happened. I was about to inform the council but we had to deal with a demon attack instead,” Hamish claimed. “I apologize for my tardiness.”
For now, Virginia couldn’t refute the statement. It was rare that she was wrong. And something was definitely wrong. She could smell it. It stank like the rotting corpse of a demon.
“Very well. I suppose congratulations are in order,” she ground out through clenched teeth.
If it turned out the two weren’t bonded—something she could ascertain at a later time—she would haul Hamish before the council and let him have it. Nobody pulled the wool over her eyes.
“Thank you,” Hamish said, his voice icy. “If you don’t mind then, my mate and I would like to retire. It’s been a long night.”
“Not so fast!” Virginia snapped. “There’s still the matter of the witch.”
“Name’s Wesley.” The witch grinned and walked toward her.
Did he think his charming smile would stop her from doing her job? Apparently, the cocky bastard thought she’d come to chat as if they were old friends. Never mind that the way he looked at her with his baby-blue eyes shaved off a few layers of her protective armor. Never mind that sweat was collecting on her palms. And never fucking mind that low in her groin, a second beat mirrored her heart, pounding an urgent rhythm of desire and need against a drum that only she could hear.
Fuck! She was well past rasen, well past the period in a Stealth Guardian’s life when the call of mating season clouded a warrior’s judgment. She’d never mated, and instead chosen to serve her race in other ways. She couldn’t allow rasen to catch up with her now.
“Stay where you are!”
To underscore her demand, Virginia placed her hand on her dagger, letting the cool obsidian handle calm her.
The witch stopped walking. “Whatever you want. Anything, really.”
She tried to ignore his eyes running over her body as if he were a sculptor taking measurements. Instead, she noticed his lips parting in appreciation. She didn’t dare look at the other Stealth Guardians. Would they notice what was going on between her and the witch? She had to stop this now, or everything she’d built for herself, her reputation, her iron will, would wash away just like the green blood of the last demon she’d killed had washed down a storm drain.
“You’ll be interrogated. In the meantime, you’ll be locked up.”
“Wesley helped us with our mission,” Hamish said from behind her. “Without him, we might have never been able to thwart the demons’ plans to destroy Tessa’s political future. He’s no danger to any of us.”
Virginia tossed a dismissive look over her shoulder, glad to have a genuine reason to tear her gaze from the witch. “That remains to be seen. Anybody breaching our defenses is a danger.” She turned fully, scorching the guardians with her glare. “And you and your compound mates should have notified the Council of Nine immediately when the breach occurred. We had to find out from a guardian at another compound. This has not gone unnoticed. Together with the previous infractions of your motley crew, you’ve exhausted the council’s patience.”
Behind her she heard a sigh coming from the witch. “Oh, listen, Virginia, I—”
She spun around and glared at him. “That’s Ms. Robson to you!” Because if she allowed him to address her in any other fashion, a familiarity could develop between them—one she couldn’t allow. If that happened, she might as well stab herself with her own dagger and twist the blade for good measure.
“Ms. Robson then.” He shrugged as if he didn’t care what he called her. “Listen, it’s really not their fault. Don’t punish them for what I did.”
Before she realized it, she was nose to nose with him. “You, witch, listen to me. I’m the one giving the orders. If you think you can wrap me around your little finger like you’ve clearly done with these dimwits, you’re wrong. I’m your worst nightmare.”
The warning didn’t have the desired effect.
The witch grinned.