January 11, 2016
Previously published as...
August 31, 2011
Officer Paige Silver assumes that a serial rapist is the worst fate her small town of Oxbow could suffer, but then her rookie partner Brady appears on her doorstep with a taste for blood and a back covered in runes that have been carved into his flesh. Suddenly the mundane evil she thought she knew is nothing compared to the demonic forces that are gathering. Well, evil might have claimed Brady for their side, but Brady came to Paige.
Even without understanding his developing powers, he offers his loyalty to the woman he has admired and wanted for some time. The fact that they were partners at work kept them from ever acting on their mutual attraction, but now that Brady is no longer human, he is determined to earn a spot in Paige’s bed and her life. And while ethics kept Paige from considering a relationship with Brady while he was alive, she’s having more and more trouble keeping any sort of professional distance. Her only fear is that the evil that changed Brady may lay claim to his soul, and if she gives him her heart, he may drag her with him right into hell.
Publisher's Note: Bitter Blood was previously released as Insistent Hunger by another publisher. It has been (SIGNIFICANTLY, LIKE I DITCHED OVER 20 K AND CHANGED THE END ) revised and re-edited in this version.
Sizzling Hot Reviews
There are several things I liked about Insistent Hunger. They include the heroine, I liked her being older, confident, and a real ball-buster. I also liked the concept of Insistent Hunger. I think that Lyn Gala really changed up the paranormal genre in this story. READ MORE
Ms. Gala creates a story with lots of suspense and action while adding Paige and Brady’s forbidden love to the mix for an extra helping of spice. READ MORE
Paige woke. Her heart pounded and a vague sense of dread clung to those first foggy moments between sleep and waking. She fumbled to get her bedside lamp turned on low, and a bottle of lotion and two books tumbled to the ground before she could find the switch. Yellow light spilled into the room and everything was still in its place. Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
With one hand, she grabbed her robe off the ground, and with the other, she slid the drawer of her nightstand open and worked the lock on her gun safe. The November nights were a little chilly and her cold fingers stumbled on the lock. Only once she had her weapon in hand did she pad out toward the living room.
Maybe the neighborhood cat was raiding her chicken coop again, but usually when that happened, she could hear the terrible cries of the chickens and the howl of the cat as some injured bird landed a particularly hard peck on a vulnerable spot. Chickens weren’t as helpless as most people thought. However, silence filled the house. Moving slowly, she crept down the hall and used a toe to open the doors to the two spare bedrooms, clearing each before turning her back on it.
She felt like an idiot, treating her own house like a crime scene, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of danger that had settled in her gut. She always told Brady to trust his instincts when going into any situation and she wasn’t going to ignore her own advice. On the other hand, she wasn’t ready to call for backup, not when she was probably just remembering the tail end of some nightmare.
Easing around the corner, she studied her living room. A shadow made her suck in her breath for the two seconds it took her to realize she’d forgotten to put the vacuum cleaner away. Other than that, the room was normal enough. A stack of books next to the couch waited for her to put them away. Bills were lined up on the coffee table and a box of tile that should be in the bathroom sat in front of the blue chair with the worn arms. Normal.
When Paige reached the kitchen, she finally admitted to herself that she’d imagined whatever danger had pulled her out of bed. She and Brady had pulled a nasty case—working door to door to try to help detectives identify any potential victims of a serial rapist who was targeting illegal immigrants. It had them both on edge. Part of her growing unease was the way the victims didn’t follow the rulebook. Oxbow didn’t see much rape, but these victims clung to Brady in a way that made Paige wonder if she’d missed some important memo about how victims usually acted.
The women who survived, and not all of them did, wanted Brady—someone tall and handsome and strong. Most times, the rape victims shied away from the male cops, but either Brady was putting out some “trust me” vibes or these were not normal victims because they were gravitating to Brady. Paige knew she was the better cop. She could have made detective years ago if she’d wanted, but the case was just weird.
Maybe the women gravitated to Brady because he wasn’t short and middle-aged and plain. He looked like the sort of person who would play a lead in some movie where he would solve the case and beat the killer in some hand-to-hand combat by the end of the two hours.
She set her weapon on the counter and reached for a glass. The light from the refrigerator made her squint as she pulled the milk out.
Two more days and she could take the weekend off. If she was having nightmares, even ones she couldn’t remember, she really needed the time to wander around the house in a nightgown and watch the chickens with their strange little hierarchies and ceremonies. She’d gotten two silkies to keep her three egg-layers company and she was thinking that she might have to create a new house and separate the two species. Her silkies were definitely not good at sticking up for themselves and she didn’t want them getting killed. But for now, she had a long day to get through.
The clock on the stove said it was almost four a.m., so she had an hour or so before she had to get up. She drank her milk and put the glass in the dishwasher, pushing the door to it shut with a hip. Then she picked up her weapon and headed back toward her bedroom.
In the entry, something made her stop. The feeling of disquiet got so great that she turned on the light. A few days’ worth of junk mail sat on the entry table and several pairs of shoes were underneath. She whirled as she heard a scratching at the door. Her eyes went to the doorknob, but it didn’t move as the scratching got louder. Paige’s breath came a little faster.
It was probably an injured dog. Oxbow was a quiet little bedroom town, so there weren’t a lot of other possibilities. Even though she considered just going back to bed, she flipped on the outside light. If a dog was hurt, she could call a friend over in animal control or, if she recognized it, just take it home. If a neighbor’s dog was going to wake her up at this time of the morning, the least she could do was return the favor.
Flipping on the outside light, she unlocked the main door. Her gut still churned, and she kept her weapon next to her leg as she swung the door open. A shadow huddled in the corner, flinching from the light, and it took Paige a second to realize she was looking at the hunch of someone’s shoulders as they hid their face.
“What do you want?” Paige asked sharply. A battered face streaked with blood looked up at her.
“Silver?” he asked in a tremulous voice.
“Brady!” She fumbled at the lock on the security door, her weapon hitting the metal frame as she struggled to get it open. “Brady, what the hell happened?” If he’d been in a bar fight, she was going to kick his ass and write him up—right after she made sure he hadn’t broken any bones. He looked like hell with blood staining his shirt and ripped pants and something that looked like mud caking his left arm. “Brady?” she called when he didn’t answer. He looked at her with the blank stare of a man seriously drunk—or in shock. The lock finally yielded. “Answer me right now or I’ll call 9-1-1.”
That shook him out of his stupor. “No!” He reached out for her with panic in his eyes. “Don’t call anyone.”
“Fuck, what have you been doing?” Paige asked as she knelt down next to him, her eyes scanning the dark street for any trouble.
“I…they—” He stopped and she reached down to get a hand under his elbow. Step one—get him somewhere secure. Step two—get some damn backup out here. Someone had done a real number on him. His light brown eyes were bloodshot and one was swollen nearly shut.
He leaned in, and for a second, she thought he was going to faint on her and she debated leaving him to go call 9-1-1. However, before she could make any decision, fire tore through her arm. “Shit!” Paige shoved at his head, but he had suddenly rediscovered his strength. He didn’t budge and she was pretty sure he had bit her. “Let go or I will write your ass up after I kick it, you fucking drunk,” she snarled. Her fingers were getting numb and she hit Brady right under the jaw, going for maximum pain and minimum damage.
With a little cry, he fell back against the side of her house, his mouth red with her blood. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—oh god.” He covered his face as her blood dripped down his forearms. Paige curled and uncurled her hand, cringing when she saw the human teeth marks deep in her flesh.
“What the hell are you on? Shit, Brady, you fucking bit me.” She was getting angry now. He couldn’t be all that hurt, but she suspected he was that stoned.
“I didn’t mean…” He stopped, his breath coming in little gasps that should have led to hyperventilation, and his bloodshot eyes were a vivid map of angry veins.
“Get your ass in here,” Paige ordered. She stepped back to let him in, but she kept her distance as he slunk into the house. “Seriously, you are going to have to explain this to the paramedics, and unless your explanation includes kidnapping and involuntary drugging, you just flushed your career down the toilet,” she warned.
She’d worked with a lot of trainees and she knew that some made mistakes, but this…this was beyond a simple screw-up. Damn it. Up until this point, she really thought Brady was turning out to be a damn good cop.
“It does,” Brady said softly as he pressed himself into the corner with her entryway table. His six-foot frame suddenly looked small as he tried to press himself into the wall.
“It does what?”
“It does include kidnapping. It does. I’d never—” He stopped and stared at her bleeding arm.
“What?” Paige’s stomach lurched as she realized what Brady was telling her. Ignoring the injury, she reached over to lock the security door. “You were kidnapped?” she asked, not sure she had heard right. It was too early in the morning for shocks like this. Brady nodded his head, his face twisting in pain.
Shit shitshitshitshit. Paige took a deep breath and tried to get herself into the right mindset to deal with work…to deal with a victim. If he was telling the truth, then Brady was a victim, not just a drunk coworker who’d gotten her out of bed at four in the morning. “Okay, let’s just call the sergeant,” she said as she moved toward the living room.
“No!” He darted in front of her, the panic back in his face. “No, you can’t… They won’t believe me.”
“Brady, think about it. We’re cops. We always look at the evidence. If someone hurt you, there will be forensic evidence of that. We need to get someone over here to collect it.” Paige tried to be as reasonable and calm as possible because Brady had clearly left logic behind at some point. Then again, most kidnapping victims did.
“Evidence.” He breathed the word like a prayer and reached down to rub his wrists. Moving slowly, Paige reached for a lamp and switched it on. He flinched back toward the shadow, but he didn’t move fast enough to hide the vivid ligature marks on his wrists. He’d been tied—tightly. Fuck.
Paige could feel a cold fury run through her. She was going to find the bastard who did this to Brady and gut him. Brady might be taller and physically stronger, but he was also her responsibility—her trainee. First, she had to calm Brady down and get help.
“That’s right. We need to collect evidence. That means we need to get a bus over here and let the station know that you were attacked.” She also needed to have a paramedic look at her arm because Brady had bitten deep enough that the wound was throbbing.
“Evidence,” he said again.
“Evidence,” she agreed as she moved toward the phone. She’d covered half the distance before he darted forward and caught her left hand. Instinct made her jerk back, but he held her firmly despite his injuries. In fact, his fingers dug into her wrist.
“Brady, stop,” she said firmly. He frowned as if confused, but he slowly let her go.
“You have to check the evidence.”
Brady wasn’t making any sense. “That’s why we have to call someone.”
“No, not someone. You have to check the evidence. I…I don’t trust myself.”
“No offense, Brady, but right now you shouldn’t trust yourself,” Paige pointed out. Whatever they’d dosed him with, it was definitely screwing with his sense of reality. It hurt to see Brady so confused—usually he was the first to jump into something with all the confidence and enthusiasm of a puppy. Of course, Paige never would have said that to his face because the male ego was a delicate thing, but from day one he’d approached every task with a good-natured passion that had made her smile. And now he was a trembling shadow of himself.
“I know. I need you to tell me.”
“Tell you what?” Paige’s hand was starting to sweat and her weapon felt slick, but she didn’t have her holster and she wasn’t comfortable putting it down. If Brady grabbed her gun, he could do a whole lot of damage. However, she didn’t want to lock the weapon up because someone had hurt Brady and she wasn’t sure how far they’d go to cover that up. Attacking a cop was going to bring the whole state law enforcement community down on their heads and they had to know that.
“You have to feel this. You have to tell me.” He reached for her again, but this time he did so slowly. She watched, suspicious, but willing to give him a little leeway.
“If you bite me again, I’m putting a knee in your crotch. I mean, I’ll feel bad about it, but you’re not getting another shot at me,” Paige warned him.
“I won’t. I promise. No biting.” He sounded so sincere that Paige didn’t argue as he brought her hand up to his neck. He pressed her fingers into his pulse point and then stood there with his hand cupped over hers, holding it in place. They stood there, Paige waiting for something to happen. Brady looked steady on his feet now, but his eyes were still vivid red and his shirt showed streaks of dirt and rips that suggested he’d fought like hell.
Paige tried hard to not think about Brady tied down, fighting while someone shot him up with some drugs that had scrambled his brains. “Brady, what am I supposed to tell you?” Paige finally asked. His skin was cool enough that Paige was scared he was going into shock. She didn’t even know how far he’d had to run, wounded and drugged up.
“What do you feel?” Brady looked at her with unvarnished desperation.
“What are you talking about? Come on. Give me a hint.”
“A heartbeat. Feel for a heartbeat.”
Paige opened her mouth to reassure Brady that the drugs were just messing with his mind, but then the reality hit her. She stood, her hand pressed to a perfectly still, cool neck, and she realized what Brady was trying to tell her. Her mouth hung open and she stared into Brady’s reddened eyes, his pale skin with her blood streaked across his chin from having bit her.
Shifting her fingers, she pressed deeper in search of some sort of life signs. Brady stared at her, his body unnaturally still as she moved her hand down to his wrist. It was stupid. If she couldn’t find a pulse in his neck, she wasn’t going to find one in his arm, but she dug her fingers into the soft flesh inside his wrist in search of some sort of sign. Brady was still motionless, and she realized he wasn’t breathing.
He was dead.
Only he couldn’t be dead. He was looking at her with brown eyes wide with panic, and then he started breathing again, but at this point Paige had the feeling breathing was more about habit than oxygen. “You must…” Paige stopped, a dozen thoughts in her head. There had to be a scientific explanation. His heart rate might be really, really slow. Maybe his blood pressure was down. He might just be holding his breath…for way longer than Paige could manage. Of course, if those were true, he should be unconscious or something. Paige’s hands were sweating and she could feel this weird pressure in her head.
Paige slowly backed away. For a second, Brady tried to hold her hand, but when Paige pulled away, he let her go.
A thousand thoughts ran through Paige’s head like monkeys on crack. Dead people. Walking around dead people. Walking around dead people who had managed to bite her arm. Pretty much every horror movie she’d ever seen ran through her head. True, she hadn’t seen many. She’d probably seen more horror movie commercials than anything else, but still…getting bit by the walking dead never turned out to be a good thing.
Paige’s chest ached. Hell, she was getting sharp enough pains that it might be a heart attack and she still couldn’t get her brain to summon any words. She could only stare blankly.
“You have to help me. I don’t—I don’t know what to do.” He looked at her with the same sort of anxiety he’d had on his face the first time he’d been face-to-face with a real victim. She stared back. “Please,” he asked softly. Taking a step back, he leaned against the wall and started to slide down until he was hunched on her living room floor. Dead. She had a dead man in her living room. Well shit.
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