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~~~ Synopsis ~~~
As a half-breed shapeshifter, Quinn has always assumed she would be sent away when she fails to change into a lynx on her twenty-seventh birthday. Her future seems hopeless until she meets Danny, a human who makes her dream of a life beyond the next two years. When she discovers that everything she’s ever believed about her heritage is a lie, her world is turned upside down, and she is no longer sure she can fully commit to Danny.
Captured by enemies of the born vampires, Danny is forced to face his greatest fears while struggling to stay alive. Thoughts of Quinn, a woman he barely knows, keep him sane. After his escape, fate intervenes and Danny finds himself rescuing Quinn. While Danny’s future still seems uncertain, he is sure of one thing—Quinn is the woman for him. Now, he just needs to convince her that they belong together.
In the sanctuary of the shapeshifter community, Danny and Quinn are free to explore their growing feelings without world interference from the outside, but Danny knows he can’t avoid his old life forever. As the sanity of an old enemy rapidly unravels, no one is safe, and the born vampires must face a foe who will stop at nothing to destroy them.
~~~ Prologue ~~~
Chest puffed out with pride, Danny walked alongside his dad. This was the first time he’d been allowed to hunt. At four years old, Danny knew why his dad had really brought him along. Danny’s mother was in another one of her strange moods. She’d gotten out of bed that morning and wandered off, leaving the door wide open. There was no one else to watch Danny that day, and they needed the meat. For the next five days, his dad was assigned to work the fields, which meant Danny would probably be working the fields too.
Not for the first time, Danny wondered why his mom acted so strange.
“Is Mom sick?” Danny asked.
His dad stopped walking and looked down at him. “She just gets confused sometimes, Dane,” he said before ruffling Danny’s hair.
Danny’s dad was the only one who called him Dane. His name was Daniel, but no one had ever called him that. Everyone called him Danny, except his dad, who said Dane was a strong name—one a man could be proud of. Danny’s mom said it made him sound like a killer.
“It’s scary when she gets confused,” Danny admitted. More times than he could count, he’d been left at home alone because his mom had forgotten he was there. That’s why Raven came by to check on him. It was kind of embarrassing to have her know his own mom didn’t remember him.
“I’m glad you took me with you,” Danny said, grinning up at his dad.
“Me too,” his dad said. “We need to be quiet now, or we’ll scare away the rabbits.”
Danny did his best to be silent. They made some noise because of his dad’s prominent limp. His dad was older with coarse grey hair and wrinkled skin. They hunted for rabbits because his dad liked meat, and they didn’t get much in their rations.
A rustling noise in the distance had Danny’s heart racing with excitement. It sounded too big to be a rabbit, so Danny thought maybe they’d get lucky and catch a deer. If they brought back a deer, they’d have meat to share with their friends.
“We’ve got to hide you,” his dad said in an urgent whisper as he pushed Danny toward the thick brush before covering him with leaves. “Don’t make a sound,” he warned. “No matter what happens, Dane, I need you to stay quiet. Someone has to take care of your mom.”
“What is it?” Danny asked, his voice shaking.
“Vampires,” his dad responded. “We’re not far from one of the guard details, so other humans will be here soon to help us. I’ll fight the vampires off until help gets here, but you have to stay quiet.”
Danny nodded, tears already forming in his eyes. He’d never seen a vampire, but they’d all been warned that if you could hear a vampire, it was close enough to catch you. They were fast, strong, and completely without mercy. Now, his dad was going to fight them alone.
Once Danny was buried in the leaves, his dad pulled out a vial of cow urine and poured it all over the leaves on top of Danny. “It’ll mask your smell,” he explained before drawing his knife and facing the direction of the vampires.
“Use your bow!” Danny said urgently.
“Quiet, Dane!” his dad hissed. “I’ll have a better chance with the knife.”
Then the vampires moved out of the woods.
Danny could barely see what was happening around him, and he was having trouble processing what he did see. There were no words spoken by the vampires; no warnings or threats were made. The two male vampires who emerged from the trees wore clothing that looked like it was ready to fall apart, and their hair hung in dirty clumps around gaunt faces. Both lunged at his dad so quickly his dad stumbled back and nearly fell to the ground.
Recovering with surprising speed for someone his age, Danny’s dad plunged the hunting knife into the chest of one of the vampires. The injured vampire let out a hoarse, guttural scream and collapsed with the knife still in its chest. When his dad tried to pull the knife out, it wouldn’t budge. The second vampire hit his dad hard in the chest, knocking him down. His dad tried to grab one of the arrows to fight the vampire off, but he was too slow.
Danny wasn’t sure how he managed to hold back his own screams as the vampire’s fangs neared his dad’s neck. Rather than just sinking into the flesh like Danny had expected, the vampire tore at his dad’s throat. The only sound his dad made was a short gurgling sound as the vampire lapped at the blood. His dad’s legs twitched for just a moment before becoming utterly still.
Danny heard the shouts in the distance, which meant help was coming . . . just moments too late.
“This way!” Danny recognized Raven’s voice a moment before she burst through the trees and plunged one of the sharp sticks she fought with through the vampire’s heart from behind. The vampire sat up, looking almost confused, before it collapsed forward. Raven caught the vampire’s shoulder and pushed it to the side so it wouldn’t fall on Danny’s dad. Then she turned her attention to the other vampire lying on the ground with the knife in its heart. That one was still moving, and it almost managed to get the knife out. Before the vampire had time to react, Raven plunged her other stick into its heart. The vampire only moved for a second before becoming completely still.
Others from Danny’s settlement arrived, out of breath from trying to keep up with Raven, who, as a wood nymph, moved much faster than humans.
“Danny!” Raven shouted desperately as she looked around.
Lying there under the leaves, he wanted to call out to her and tell her he was okay, but he couldn’t. Shock held him mute.
“Where could he be?” asked one of the men Danny didn’t recognize.
“Maybe there were more vampires, and they carried him off,” another suggested.
It was the fear Danny saw in Raven’s eyes that allowed him to finally react. He still couldn’t speak, but he managed to drag himself from the leaves and stumble toward her. His eyes strayed to his dad’s body, and he trembled as sobs wracked his body.
Raven scooped him up in her arms and held him close. “It’ll be okay,” she told him.
“I should have helped him,” Danny croaked.
“There was nothing you could have done against two vampires,” Raven assured him in a comforting voice.
“I hate vampires. Someday, I’m going to kill them all,” he said, his voice full of as much power as a four year old boy could manage.