by Erin Zarro
Plot Summary:Two sisters.
Asha is the Queen of the Fey, genetically engineered immortal humans who feed on human souls to survive. But she's running from her people. When she is found by her enemy, one of the Hunters of the Fey, she expects to die. Yet he's oddly intrigued by her, and Asha finds herself falling in love with him, hoping she can find safety and the home she's been seeking. Then she's kidnapped, and everything changes.
Fallon is a Hunter. She's looking for her long-lost sister, using an addictive drug to search through the stream of time. Her addiction leaves her dangerously exposed to her enemies but, consumed by her search, she doesn't care...until her fellow Hunters start dying from a mysterious illness. She is torn between duty and desire, and must find an answer before they all die.
What Fallon doesn't know is that Asha might just be the key to saving them all, if only she can find her.
And time is running out.
PLEASE NOTE that this book contains explicit language, explicit sex, and graphic violence. It isn't suitable for those under 18.
The people inside the small reception area stared at me as I signed in. I supposed it was my leather, or maybe my perpetual scowl.
The too-perky, too-blonde receptionist smiled. “Dr. Howard will be with you shortly.”
I returned the smile, nodded, and took a seat in the far corner of the spacious, brightly-lit room. It was decorated in warm tones, from the sage green sofas to the deep red throw pillows. The coffee table was glass that shone so bright, I wasn't sure if it was real. This was Howard and Sons, the best of the best when it came to bloodline tracking. They were the pioneers of the method and they were discreet.
The door on the side opened, revealing a short woman dressed in neon pink scrubs. Way to hurt the eyeballs. “Heather Abraham?”
That was me. No way was I giving my real name out here. There were all sorts of people I didn't want to know what I was doing. I stood, took a breath, and followed the retina-straining trail of pink through a hallway filled with paintings and pictures. We turned a corner, and then another, and we stopped in a sterile room that reminded me of the dentist, chair and all.
Neon Lady held out her hand. Her nails were painted, you guessed it, neon fucking pink. “I'm Amy. I'll be assisting Dr. Howard during the procedure.”
I just loved the way they talked 'round here. Procedure. Assisting. As if this were more than a prick of a needle and a computer readout. Crazy. But that was why I was about to pay them big bucks. The door opened and a man entered the room. He was tall and thin and looked to be about twenty. He was clean-shaven and wore his long black hair in a ponytail that hung halfway down his back. That didn't exactly scream scientist and genius to me, but what did I know? Maybe he had a rebellious streak.
He held out his hand, grinning. “Hi, I'm Gregory Howard. And you are..?”
“Heather,” Amy supplied.
I put my hand up to stop her from saying anything else. “Actually, my name is Fallon, but I was being – ”
“Dishonest?” Dr. Howard asked. But there was no judgment in his voice, just curiosity.
I couldn't look him in the eye. “Uh, discreet. I'm a Hunter, and I didn't want anyone to know about this.”
Dr. Howard nodded as if it made perfect sense. “Ah, I understand. We get that a lot around here.”
He then launched into a long, overly complicated explanation as to what they would do for the procedure, most of which went flying over my head. But I tried to understand, I really did. The only thing I got was that they'd take my blood, run it through the database, and then Dr. Howard would interpret the results. Easy peasy, huh? So I settled in to wait for Amy to get the vampire gear. In the dentist chair. Staring out the window at the ominous night sky.
“We don't get a lot of Hunters here,” Dr. Howard said. “Don't you guys have a thing about keeping the bloodlines pure?”
I nodded, glancing at him. “Yeah, we do. But I think I have a missing relative somewhere.” I smiled. “So I'm investigating. It's what I do best.”
“I bet,” Dr. Howard said with a grin. “I bet it's an interesting life, chasing down the bad guys.” I let my eyes widen just a little bit. “Very exciting. Except the part where they get punished. That I could happily never see again.”
Dr. Howard arched a brow as Amy reappeared. “Punishment?”
I leaned in. “It's top secret,” I whispered. “If I told you, I'd have to kill you and Amy. And that would be way too messy.”
Amy blanched. “Um, I've got the stuff. Let me see your arm.”
She did the pokey thing while Dr. Howard fiddled with a small laptop computer. She took the blood and handed the vial to him.
“Come over here and have a seat,” Dr. Howard said, gesturing to the seat that sat next to him.
My stomach clenched with nausea as minutes ticked by so slowly I'd thought time had stopped. That I was forever perched on this moment, waiting, dying. Not knowing. “Here's what I'm doing. See this slide? I'm going to place a drop of your blood on it.”
I watched, transfixed, as Dr. Howard took an eyedropper and sucked some blood into it. A drop of blood... Then he dropped the blood onto a clear slide that was attached to a huge, scary-looking machine. Amy took the eyedropper from the doctor.
He turned to me, smiling warmly. “Now the machine will analyze the blood, query the database, and come up with something.”
On Dr. Howard's laptop screen, a bunch of words scrolled down. I squinted, but couldn't read them.
“It's thinking,” Dr. Howard said. He typed. Changed screens. Consulted a tiny datapad I just noticed beside the computer. At one point, he glanced at Amy, who frowned at him.
“This is very interesting,” Dr. Howard said. “The database pulled up something very...odd. I'm in the process of double checking and running the query again.”
I felt as if all the oxygen had left the room. “Are you sure you're using my blood?”
Amy chuckled. “Straight from your vein to Dr. Howard's hand.”
“Wow, I've never seen this,” Dr. Howard said a few moments later, facing me. “Are you sure you want to know what I've discovered?”
My gut twisted. Was it bad news? “What's wrong? I'm not like, an alien or something?”
Dr. Howard smiled. “No, but it's just about as puzzling. Look.” I moved closer, my stomach churning.
He pointed to some numbers and a picture of a DNA strand. “The machine pulls up a bloodline name based on the DNA. You see this name here? This should be your family name.”
I blinked. “That's not my family name.”
“I think I can explain why,” Dr. Howard said.
I wasn't getting it. “Huh?”
Dr. Howard glanced at Amy, who shrugged. He looked at me dead in the eyes, and I tried not to flinch. “You know – and I know – you're Fey Touched. But this here shows that you come from a Royal Fey bloodline. But what's most interesting is that it's not a full match.” Clearly I wasn't hearing right. My legs collapsed under me. Dr. Howard and Amy jumped to catch me, guiding me back to the dentist chair. The room spun. “Okay, what are you saying? I don't understand.”
Dr. Howard pointed to a list of numbers on the screen. “This shows us that your DNA has been altered.”
“Well, no kidding. I'm Touched.”
Dr. Howard shook his head. “No. These weren't the modifications for the Fey Touched, at least according to the official records.”
I glanced at Amy, who shrugged helplessly.
Dr. Howard went back to the computer and pulled up something else. “Your family tree, based on your DNA.”
I stood even though the room pirouetted around me. “My family tree?” I looked at the screen and this time, I almost fainted for real.
The family tree I was looking at was not the family I belonged to. And the bloodline name he'd shown me wasn't the one I'd grown up with... Which meant...holy fuck, was I adopted? Whose family did I belong to? My stomach dropped to the floor and suddenly I couldn't breathe. My mother and father weren't my mother and father. In fact, according to this, I was part of the Royal Fey bloodline. No fucking way.
I scanned the family tree again, looking for a mistake, anything that I could grab a hold of, anything that would give me reason to not believe this.
Off to the side, there was an unnamed, deceased female. But that barely registered. “This is a mistake,” I said, and my tongue felt like sandpaper. My fingers twitched. “Bloodline tracking is ninety-nine point nine nine percent accurate,” Dr. Howard said gently. “I take it this wasn't what you expected?”
Hell no. Understatement of the year.
It was wrong. It had to be.