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Danel, burdened by a perfect memory and a history of mistreatment, feels useless after losing his hand. When an incident involving his obsession with coffee forces him to intervene in a brawl to protect a barista named Ronnie, he gains a fresh perspective. Ronnie has been captivated by Danel for over a year, and as she witnesses his struggles, she's determined to break through his defenses, finding an unexpected connection in the midst of an alleyway encounter.
- Fated Mates
As the mystical scribe of their dysfunctional family, Danel's
divine gift doesn't allow him to forget anything, and now—with the loss of his
dagger hand—has no way to contribute. When his obsession with coffee lands him
in a back-alley fight to save his barista, Danel sees the world with a
different perspective—a blank slate.
Ronnie set her sights on
Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broody over a year ago. For all the attention he gives her,
she might as well be invisible. Still, when he loses his hand and seems to be
sinking deeper into his inner darkness, she can’t help but want to help. All
she needs is the chance to slip behind the steel wall he erects between himself
and the rest of the world. Who knew that chance would come in the shadowed
darkness of an alley.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
“Large coffee, double-double, and a plain bagel,
lightly toasted, with herb and garlic cream cheese, right?”
Danel glanced up from the wad of bills in his fist and
forced himself not to roll his eyes. The blonde barista at this place was
always way too perky for the hour of the night . . . or morning, as the case
may be. Annnnd she was staring.
What the fuck was she staring at?
Right, she’d asked him a question. “Yeah, right.”
With his order confirmed, she sprang into action and
he tossed a five on the stainless-steel counter. He would never understand it.
These stupid sheep led unimportant, mundane lives, yet most of them didn’t seem
to notice. Some of them, like barista-Barbie here, actually seemed joyous to
wear her sad poly-cotton uniform, scrape together minimum wage, and serve
It made Danel’s balls knot.
Nothing worse than being bombarded with sunshine when
you felt like death. Ignoring the idle chatter-babble splattering over him, he
accepted the takeout tray she slid toward his good hand and made a break for
“Have a nice night.”
Yeah, Fan-fucking-tastic. In three long strides, he was face to face with the
way out. Annnnd that’s when his shit-kickers stalled dead. Damn. He
couldn’t face his brothers coming in from patrol tonight. They’d be hyped about
the demons they’d taken down and he’d be all . . . “Good stuff, sorry I missed
Deciding to put off the awkward nightly ritual, he
hung a louie and headed for a booth in the back corner. He bypassed the rows of
empty tables and eyed the only other customer in the place. A homeless guy sat
reading yesterday’s news, ass-planted in the shadows.
A man who liked his privacy. He respected that.
With his back to the brick wall and a good line of
sight into both the coffee house and the street outside, Danel slid his tray
onto the table and got down to business.
He fought to free his caffeine salvation, but his
cardboard cup sat wedged tight. He had to lay his useless stump of an arm on
the tray to leverage it free. God, if he wasn’t such a java-whore, he’d never
put himself through the humiliation of public display. After liberating his
mug, he set the thing on the table and tugged the black bandana back over what
was left of his dominant dagger hand.
A large swallow of liquid ambrosia didn’t dampen the
anger that festered inside him. Yep, being maimed was his retirement gift after
thousands of years of battling evil. Bound into servitude, he lived only to
save the lives of mindless humans.
Screw the gold watch . . . it would just slip off his
stump anyway. Yep, get your hand lopped off at the wrist, and it’s instant
retirement and removal from rotation. Indefinitely.
He tossed his bagel back onto the waxed paper, his
appetite lost. The question that brain-fried him now . . . if he wasn't a
warrior, who in the three realms was he? Anger management poster boy? A DIY
project waiting to happen? Or just some unlucky asshole who’d given a hundred
and ten percent and been left a cripple. His brothers couldn’t even look him
square in the eye. That was a ball-gnasher on both sides.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and the hum broke
through his wallowing. He set down his coffee and checked the ID.
“Danel, you forgot to say goodbye. I’m hurt.”
“What happened? One minute, I’m changing the targets
and the next, you’re vapor.”
“I had enough target practice for one night. End of.”
The silence on the other end of the phone gave Danel
the scratch. He trapped his phone between his ear and his shoulder and took a long
haul on his coffee. Didn’t help.
Colt cursed under his breath and when the guy spoke
again, his tone rang far too reasonable. “It’ll come, D. You hit the mark every
time. In another few sessions, you’ll be as deadly as a southpaw as you ever
were. Give it time.”
Danel flexed the blistered and bloodied fingers. Man,
his digits numbed up during the hours of abuse he put it through. “With the
rebellion gaining ground, the squad can’t afford me to be on the disabled list.
Tanek’s dead, Kyrian spends most of his time doting on his Darkworld female
and, with Austin’s pregnancy advancing, Zander is only half-focused on the
streets. With me off rotation, that leaves us down four. The front lines are
“I get that but give yourself a break. You can’t expect—”
“—No offense, Colt, but fuck the pep talk.”
“It doesn’t matter how well I shoot with the hand I’ve
got left. Zander will never put me back on rotation. I’m done.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I don’t blame the guy. Nobody wants a wingman with a handicap.
They’d say it doesn't matter, but the doubt will be there. Hesitation in the
field gets men killed. Z knows that as well as I do.”
Colt exhaled heavy on the other end of the phone.
“Look, give me another week at the range and we’ll see where we are. I swear
“Don’t sweat it, my friend. It is what it is. I’m sure
Zander can use me for intel or in-house tactical or some shit.”
“D, come on—”
“Fuck it, I’m finishing my bagel and then going home
to bed. If I’m still wound when I get there, I’ll light a candle and invite a
female to come work off my stress. That’s all I want to think about for
“Fair enough. Just don’t throw in the towel yet,
Persian. We’ve still got time.”
“Cop, all I’ve got is time. I’m staring down an
immortal life of nothing but empty, useless nights.”
While that little ray of merry-fucking-sunshine hung
in the air, the neon ‘open’ light in the front window flickered off and the
‘closed’ began to glow. Perfect. “Look, this place is shutting down. I gotta
beat feet. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Good deal. You do that.”
Danel slipped his phone back into the pocket of his
leather trench and stuffed his garbage into the nearest bin. Coffee in hand, he
made his way back to the door.
He brushed past Homeless Guy, who now lingered on the
front stoop. What back alley would the guy sack out in tonight? Not that he
cared, but as an expert in all things that went bump in the night, he knew
alleys could be dangerous. Daemons of all sorts roamed in the wee hours:
Serpentine demons. Spirits. Shades. Djinn.
He discretely eyed the guy and gave him a onceover.
Underneath the ratty Army jacket, knit cap, and baggie-ass pants, he sported a
pretty strong frame. He could probably take care of himself. Good. One less
sheep in the flock to worry about.
Danel tipped the last of his coffee down his throat
and tossed his cup in the garbage outside the shop. After turning up his
collar, he patted his pockets and felt the small comfort that an arsenal of
weapons could offer. He may not be fighting these nights, but habits formed
over millennia weren’t broken in a few months.
With a curse, he disengaged from thoughts of his
warrior life and decided to just bag the evening and face the music. Slipping
around the side of the building, he scanned the scene. His gaze bounced off
dumpsters, grime, and a dead-end alley.
He began to dematerialize.
The creak of a steel door brought the blonde
smack into the mix. He dropped the celestial transport and inhaled another
lungful of stale and dingy. Damn, two seconds later, and his barista fangirl
would’ve gotten an eyeful of him dissolving into nothing. Shit. Can you
say Otherworld exposure?
He was a wreck. A mangled jumble of derailed
locomotive crashing down an embankment kind of a wreck.
While she headed toward the dumpster to toss her Hefty
bags, he took his leave. On foot. Head down, shoulders rolled against the
February wind, he pulled a quick 180 and shot off the way he’d come. Hopefully,
he’d vacated, before she noticed him lurking in the alley like some kind of
criminal or better yet . . . a pervert.
His Otherworld hearing picked up the soft rhythm of
footsteps behind him. He didn’t need to look back to know who it was. He’d
heard the rhythm of her gait almost every night for the past year. Great. Was
she following him or just headed in the same direction? He quickened his pace
and took the next right. Yep, still there, back a ways, but still coming. He
took the next side street, jogged ahead, and ducked into the shadows of an
apartment alcove. Why did he care?
He breathed shallow and pressed back as his human
stalker passed him, unaware. He held his position and watched her go by. A riot
of blonde waves framed an innocent face, five-foot-two—despite the chunky wedge
boots—nice ass. Ignoring that she was round in all the right places, he
wouldn’t sully himself to have sex with a human.
He held no need for the breed. No taste for the race.