Marin Deschamps has led an interesting life for the past one thousand years. Born a shifter, and also a healer with magical abilities, he still would have died in battle if vampire Baptiste hadn't turned him. Although his Sire didn't approve, he became an assassin, working for nobles who needed his services. As the centuries passed, he plied his trade or fought in various wars until, in the late eighteen hundreds, he settled in Denver, where he used his impressive skills to protect those who needed them. Never once in all that time has he allowed anyone into his life -- until now.
Tyler Campbell is an artist and a nascent author who is writing a book on the early history of Denver. While sketching the tunnels below the city to illustrate his book, he meets Marin, who is there for reasons of his own. Tyler is instantly drawn to the handsome, amber-eyed man. A man he has no reason to believe is anything other than another human, although humans are aware that supernaturals live among them.
Marin is appalled when his panther reveals that Tyler is his fated mate. Things get worse, in his opinion, when he needs Tyler's help to stop a vicious gang of humans bent on destroying all supernaturals.
Will they be able to stop the gang, and if so, will Marin's vampire half allow his growing interest in Tyler to become more? If he does, he will have to reveal what he is, which could destroy any hope that they might have a future together.
Tyler was so intent on what he was drawing that even the occasional rat that skittered into the light and then immediately vanished into the surrounding dark didn't faze him too much.
So he was unprepared when, from behind him, he heard someone say, "What are you doing down here?" in a voice that sounded more angry than inquisitive.
Biting back on the wave of fear that washed over him, he turned his head enough to see the shape of a man dressed in dark clothing standing a few feet away, outside of the circle of light.
"Unless you're blind," Tyler replied tensely, "you can see that I'm making sketches of the tunnel. They're for my book."
"Blind, I'm not," the man replied, the lantern's light glinting off his amber eyes for a second as he moved closer. "Why should I believe you?"
Getting to his feet, Tyler held out his sketchpad. "See for yourself."
* * * *
Marin took the proffered pad, flipping through it. It held a variety of sketches, including ones of the tunnel they were in. Others were architectural details, some he recognized as belonging to old Denver buildings that had been build well over a hundred years ago. That was all well and good, but posing as an artist -- and he had to admit the young human was quite good from what he was looking at -- would be the perfect cover for someone affiliated with the Brigade, giving him a reason to be in the tunnel which ran close to the building they were using. The one Marin had explored the previous night.
"What kind of book?"
"I'm writing an illustrated history of the early days in Denver, from its founding until the end of Prohibition."
The young man took the pad back before moving into the light from his lantern again. When he did, it lit his face and Marin repressed an exclamation of surprise when he saw his eyes. They were an intense shade of teal and, he realized seconds later, they belonged to the human who had been at The Otherworld Friday night.
Does he recognize me? He did look at me right before he fled the club. If he did, he apparently wasn't going to say as much.
"Who are you?" Marin asked.
"Not that it's any of your business, but my name is Tyler Campbell. Who are you?"
Tyler cocked his head, studying him. "French? Or presumably your ancestors were as you don't have an accent that says you're, perhaps, a tourist from there who decided to go exploring down here on your own."
Marin chuckled. "Right on both counts." He had to admit he admired the young human's cheekiness, and the fact that he didn't let on that he was afraid. If Marin had been human he probably wouldn't have picked up on that fact, but his vampire senses had the moment that Tyler reacted to his presence.
"Why are you down here?" Tyler asked.
"A friend was talking about the tunnels, pooh-poohing the idea that they still existed beyond the ones around the Capitol Building. I decided to find out for myself as I'm between jobs at the moment. I've already explored most of them downtown. When I came upon the entrance to this one, I decided to see where it went, and if, perhaps, there was a way out without my having to go all the way back to the beginning." Marin hoped, by saying that, he'd get a reaction from Tyler that would let him know if the tunnel, or a side one, led to the Brigade's building. It would save him time if that happened.
Tyler's only reaction was a quick laugh. "Nope. I went a few hundred yards farther down the first time I was here and ran into a pile of bricks and fallen rocks that blocked the tunnel. If there's more on the other side, good luck getting to it."
Marin used his shifter ability to detect outright lies and he knew Tyler was telling him the truth. Not that the rockslide will keep me from going deeper, but I can't at the moment, with him here.
Tyler began putting everything but the lantern into his backpack, and then slung it over his shoulders. As he picked up the lantern, he frowned. "How did you make your way down here in the dark?"
"I didn't." Marin unclipped the flashlight he carried for just such occasions. With his enhanced eyesight, he didn’t need it but on the rare times he ran into someone when he was in the tunnels, he turned it on before they asked the same question Tyler had. "I turned it off when I realized I wasn't the only one here. I didn't want to give a warning, in case you turned out to be a homeless person who was squatting down here and might take umbrage with my being around."
"They don't come this far down," Tyler replied. He started to walk past Marin then stopped, looking hard at him, again. "I've seen you before."
"Oh? Possible, I suppose."
Tyler frowned in thought and kept walking. Marin trailed behind him, wondering if he'd remember.
With a snap of his fingers, Tyler said, "The Otherworld."
Marin chuckled. "Maybe. I go there on occasion, and apparently you do as well."
"Only once, last Friday, with some friends, but I remember you because of your eyes. The amber is remarkable."
Marin almost said he remembered Tyler for the same reason, but refrained. He didn't want him to know he'd noticed him if he could help it, even though they had looked at each other for a brief second before Tyler had taken off.
Tyler stopped where he was, looking at Marin. "You do know that a lot of supes go there."