Toby Dallow followed his employer, mentor, and friend, Edwin Aldridge, to the small mountain town of Stone Ridge, Colorado. While he’d never begrudge Edwin the bond he has with his wolf shifter mate, Toby longs for something like that of his own. When a handsome stranger picks him up in a grocery store, at first, he thinks it’s a joke. Learning the man is sincere, Toby takes advantage. After all, he thinks not too many sexy studs are into overweight science geeks.
Blamed for something he didn’t do, Tullion Kuznetsov is on the run. Traveling back roads in search of a safe place to hole up, he stops for supplies. His vampiric senses fixate on the blood of a short, plump human browsing the cereal aisle. Drawing closer, mixed feelings assault him when he realizes he’s finally found his beloved. Unable to resist his other half’s siren call, Tullion embraces the gift Fate has given him…at least, for one night. Then, he’ll need to walk away. After all, how can he, in good conscience, involve the shy, quiet Toby in his problems?
“What do you mean, you haven’t found anything out, yet?”
Tullion Kuznetsov knew roaring angrily at the vampire on the other end of the burner cell phone wouldn’t help matters, but his nerves were frazzled beyond endurance. If his best friend could see him now, Tullion knew the happy-go-lucky guy would laugh. Unfortunately, at this point, Tullion wasn’t certain if Viktor Minsky was alive or dead.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” Anatoly answered timidly. “I’m doing everything I can.”
“I’m sure,” Tullion grumbled, barely keeping the growl out of his voice. “I’ll call back in twenty-four hours. I hope you have better news then.”
Before Anatoly could answer, Tullion disconnected the line. Then, using his vampiric strength, he crushed the cell phone. He mentally added buying another burner cell to his to do list…right after locating a safe location to hole up. Preferably, he could find one with internet access. It was high time Tullion did his own research. Waiting on Anatoly to figure out who really killed his coven leader was taking too damn long. So much for the man being a security expert.
Tullion strapped his helmet back on his head and fired up the old Indian motorcycle he’d talked a man into selling. He felt bad about entrancing the human in order to purchase the motorcycle, but he’d grown tired of bus rides.
Two months ago, Tullion’s life had been turned upside down.
As one of several coven enforcers, Tullion had accompanied his coven leader, Boris Shavinkof, to a leader gathering hosted by the three Russian members of the Vampire Council. Tullion had looked forward to the opportunity to catch up with friends in other covens in person. In addition, Tullion and Viktor—who was also a coven enforcer—planned a night to explore the nearby town.
The second night they were there, Boris had been murdered. Tullion had heard his leader’s shout, but when he’d broken down the door, he’d found Boris sprawled on the floor of his room. Taking in Boris’ prone form, Tullion had rushed to his side and spotted his slit throat, but Boris’ ceremonial dagger sticking out of his chest was what had probably killed him.
Still, acting on instinct, Tullion had gripped the handle of the knife and yanked it from Boris’ chest. Dumb luck had it happen that several elder guards arrived at that exact second—with his coven leader dead and Tullion leaning over him, holding a bloody knife. While Tullion knew what it had looked like, the only one he’d been able to convince of the truth was his best friend and fellow enforcer, Viktor. Unfortunately, they’d been unable to confirm the presence of anyone else in the room, so Viktor had helped Tullion run.
Tullion knew that Viktor had been questioned by the guards. Since he’d heard from his friend a couple of days after he’d fled, he knew the silver-tongued vampire had somehow managed to talk his way out of punishment for helping him. Tullion thanked the gods for small favors.
His attention caught on a sign in the distance, coming closer. Tullion refocused his attention on the road instead of his troubles. When he’d fled his coven in Russia, his first instinct had been to fly to another country and hide in a big city. That hadn’t worked. Twice, trackers from his coven had found him, first in Paris, France, then again in New York City, New York. So, he’d picked up an old motorcycle and now, he wandered the back roads.
“Stone Ridge,” Tullion muttered. “Where the fuck did I wander to?” He shrugged, not really needing to know the answer. Hell, it stood to reason, if he didn’t know where he was, his followers wouldn’t, either. One could hope anyway.
“Hello, Podunk America,” Tullion whispered upon seeing the aging gas station with the pair of old-style pumps out front. Several windows were boarded up, as well as the door, and a dirty For Sale sign with a faded phone number was nailed to the wall. “Wonder if that still works,” he muttered absently, pulling his gaze away from the building.
Ever since Tullion was a boy and had stumbled upon the ruins of an abandoned church, he’d loved exploring old buildings. Just after he’d gone through his transition—or vampire puberty—and had begun drinking blood, his parents had taken him into the country to live for a few years while he’d learned to control himself. The minds of simple country folk, as it turned out, were easier to manipulate. That and he’d had plenty of room to run and explore his new abilities without anyone possibly spotting him.
Taking in the forest, Tullion smiled. The woods would be fun to explore.
“What the hell,” he grumbled. “I’m not on vacation. I’m on the run.”
Tullion shook his head at his own musings. Spotting the Welcome to Stone Ridge sign, he realized the place wasn’t as small as he’d originally thought. The population notice boasted over three thousand residents.
“Must be in the trees,” Tullion mused as he slowed his motorcycle.