"The Dark Protectors are Back!
Vampire King Ronan Kayrs wasn’t supposed to survive the savage sacrifice he willingly endured to rid the world of the ultimate evil. He wasn’t supposed to emerge in this time and place, and he sure as hell wasn’t supposed to finally touch the woman who’s haunted his dreams for centuries. Yet here he is, in an era where vampires are hidden, the enemy has grown stronger, and his mate has no idea of the power she holds.
Dr. Faith Cooper is flummoxed by irrefutable proof that not only do vampires exist . . . they’re hot blooded, able to walk in sunlight, and shockingly sexy. Faith has always depended on science, but the restlessness she feels around this predatory male defies reason. Especially when it grows into a hunger only he can satisfy—that is if they can survive the evil hunting them both.
“Hot and fast from beginning to end.”
—Kate Douglas on Fated
“Sizzling sex scenes and a memorable cast.”
—Publishers Weekly on Claimed
“A fast-paced, excitement-filled explosion of action… Zanetti keeps getting better.”
– RT Book Reviews on Marked, 4.5 Stars Top Pick"
Read an Excerpt
Dr. Faith Cooper scanned through the medical chart on her tablet while keeping a brisk pace in her dark boots through the hospital hallway, trying to ignore the chill in the air. "The brain scan was normal. What about the respiratory pattern?" she asked, reading the next page.
"Normal. We can't find any neurological damage," Dr. Barclay said, matching his long-legged stride easily to hers. His brown hair was swept back from an angled face with intelligent blue eyes. "The patient is in a coma with no brain activity, but his body is ... well ..."
"Perfectly healthy," Faith said, scanning the nurse's notes, wondering if Barclay was single. "The lumbar puncture was normal, and there's no evidence of a stroke."
"No. The patient presents as healthy except for the coma. It's an anomaly," Barclay replied, his voice rising.
Interesting. "Any history of drugs?" Sometimes drugs could cause a coma.
"No," Barclay said. "No evidence that we've found."
Lights flickered along the corridor as she passed through the doorway to the intensive-care unit. "What's wrong with the lights?" Faith asked, her attention jerking from the medical notes.
"It's been happening on and off for the last two days. The maintenance department is working on it, as well as on the temperature fluctuations." Barclay swept his hand out. No ring. Might not be married. "This morning we moved all the other patients to the new ICU in the western addition that was completed last week."
That explained the vacant hall and nearly deserted nurses' station. Only one woman monitored the screens spread across the desk. She nodded as Faith and Dr. Barclay passed by, her gaze lingering on the cute man.
The cold was getting worse. It was early April, raining and a little chilly. Not freezing.
Faith shivered. "Why wasn't this patient moved with the others?"
"Your instructions were to leave him exactly in place until you arrived," Barclay said, his face so cleanly shaven he looked like a cologne model. "We'll relocate him after your examination."
Goose bumps rose on her arms. She breathed out, and her breath misted in the air. This was weird. It'd never happen in the hospital across town where she worked. Her hospital was on the other side of Denver, but her expertise with coma patients was often requested across the world. She glanced back down at the tablet. "Where's his Glasgow Coma Scale score?"
"He's at a three," Barclay said grimly.
A three? That was the worst score for a coma patient. Basically, no brain function.
Barclay stopped her. "Dr. Cooper. I just want to say thank you for coming right away." He smiled and twin dimples appeared. The nurses probably loved this guy. "I heard about the little girl in Seattle. You haven't slept in — what? Thirty hours?"
It felt like it. She'd put on a clean shirt, but it was already wrinkled beneath her white lab coat. Faith patted his arm, finding very nice muscle tone. When was the last time she'd been on a date? "I'm fine. The important part is that the girl woke up." It had taken Faith seven hours of doing what she shouldn't be able to do: Communicate somehow with coma patients. This one she'd been able to save, and now a six-year-old girl was eating ice cream with her family in the hospital. Soon she'd go home. "Thank you for calling me."
He nodded, and she noticed his chin had a small divot — Cary Grant style. "Of course. You're legendary. Some say you're magic."
Faith forced a laugh. "Magic. That's funny." Straightening her shoulders, she walked into the ICU and stopped moving, forgetting all about the chart and the doctor's dimples. "What in the world?" she murmured.
Only one standard bed remained in the sprawling room. A massive man overwhelmed it, his shoulders too wide to fit on the mattress. He was at least six-foot-six, his bare feet hanging off the end of the bed. The blankets had been pushed to his waist to make room for the myriad of electrodes set across his broad and muscular chest. Very muscular. "Why is his gown open?"
"It shouldn't be," Barclay said, looking around. "I'll ask the nurse after you do a quick examination. I don't mind admitting that I'm stymied here."
A man who could ask for help. Yep. Barclay was checking all the boxes. "Is this the correct patient?" Faith studied his healthy coloring and phenomenal physique. "There's no way this man has been in a coma for longer than a couple of days."
Barclay came to a halt, his gaze narrowing. He slid a shaking hand through his thick hair. "I understand, but according to the fire marshal, this patient was buried under piles of rocks and cement from the tunnel cave-in below the Third Street bridge that happened nearly seven years ago."
Faith moved closer to the patient, noting the thick dark hair that swept back from a chiseled face. A warrior's face. She blinked. Where the hell had that thought come from? "That's impossible." She straightened. "Anybody caught in that collapse would've died instantly, or shortly thereafter. He's not even bruised."
"What if he was frozen?" Barclay asked, balancing on sneakers.
Faith checked over the still-healthy tone of the patient's skin. "Not a chance." She reached for his wrist to check his pulse.
Electricity zipped up her arm and she coughed. What the heck was that? His skin was warm and supple, the strength beneath it obvious. She turned her wrist so her watch face was visible and then started counting. Curiosity swept her as she counted the beats. "When was he brought in?" She'd been called just three hours ago to consult on the case and hadn't had a chance to review the complete file.
"A week ago," Barclay said, relaxing by the door.
Amusement hit Faith full force. Thank goodness. For a moment, with the flickering lights, freezing air, and static electricity, she'd almost traveled to an imaginary and fanciful place. She smiled and released the man's wrist. "All right. Somebody is messing with me." She'd just been named the head of neurology at Northwest Boulder Hospital. Her colleagues must have gone to a lot of trouble — tons, really — to pull this prank. "Did Simons put you up to this?"
Barclay blinked, truly looking bewildered. He was cute. Very much so. Just the type who'd appeal to Faith's best friend, Louise. And he had an excellent reputation. Was this Louise's new beau? "Honestly, Dr. Cooper. This is no joke." He motioned toward the monitor screen that displayed the patient's heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and intracranial pressure.
It had to be. Faith looked closer at the bandage covering the guy's head and the ICP monitor that was probably just taped beneath the bandage. "I always pay back jokes, Dr. Barclay." It was fair to give warning.
Barclay shook his head. "No joke. After a week of tests, we should see something here that explains his condition, but we have nothing. If he was injured somehow in the caved-in area, there'd be evidence of such. But ... nothing." Barclay sighed. "That's why we requested your help."
None of this made any sense. The only logical conclusion was that this was a joke. She leaned over the patient to check the head bandage and look under it.
The screen blipped.
Barclay gasped and moved a little closer to her. "What was that?"
Man, this was quite the ruse. She was so going to repay Simons for this. Dr. Louise Simons was always finding the perfect jokes, and it was time for some payback. Playing along, Faith leaned over the patient again.
This close, her fingers tingled with the need to touch the hard angles of this guy's face. Was he some sort of model? Bodybuilder? His muscles were sleek and smooth — natural like a wild animal's. So probably not a bodybuilder. There was something just so male about him that he made Barclay fade into the meh zone. Her friends had chosen well. This guy was sexy on a sexy stick of pure melted sexiness. "I'm going to kill Simons," she murmured, not sure if she meant it. As jokes went, this was impressive. This guy wasn't a patient and he wasn't in a coma. So she indulged herself and smoothed his hair back from his wide forehead.
BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP
His skin was warm, although the room was freezing. "This is amazing," she whispered, truly touched. The planning that had to have gone into it. "How long did this take to set up?"
Barclay coughed, no longer appearing quite so perfect or masculine compared to the patient. "Stroke him again."
Well, all righty then. Who wouldn't want to caress a guy like this? Going with the prank, Faith flattened her hand in the middle of the guy's thorax, feeling a very strong heartbeat. "You can stop acting now," she murmured, leaning toward his face. "You've done a terrific job." Would it be totally inappropriate to ask him out for a drink after he stopped pretending to be unconscious? He wasn't really a patient, and man, he was something. Sinewed strength and incredibly long lines. "How about we get you out of here?" Her mouth was just over his.
His eyelids flipped open.
Barclay yelped and windmilled back, hitting an orange guest chair and landing on his butt on the floor.
The patient grabbed Faith's arm in an iron-strong grip. "Faith."
She blinked and then warmth slid through her. "Yeah. That's me." Man, he was hot. All right. The coming out of a coma and saying her name was kind of cool. But it was time to get to the truth. "Who are you?"
He shook his head. "Gde, chert voz'mi, ya?"
She blinked. Wow. A Russian model? His eyes were a metallic aqua. Was he wearing contacts? "Okay, buddy. Enough with the joke." She gently tried to pull loose, but he held her in place, his hand large enough to encircle her entire bicep.
He blinked, his eyes somehow hardening. They started to glow an electric blue, sans the green. "Where am I?" His voice was low and gritty. Hoarse to a point that it rasped through the room, winding around them.
The colored contacts were seriously high-tech.
"You speak Russian and English. Extraordinary." She twisted her wrist toward her chest, breaking free. The guy was probably paid by the hour. "The jig is up, handsome." Whatever his rate, he'd earned every dime. "Tell Simons to come out from wherever she's hiding." Faith might have to clap for her best friend. This deserved applause.
The guy ripped the fake bandage off his head and then yanked the EKG wires away from his chest. He shoved himself to a seated position. The bed groaned in protest. "Where am I?" He partially turned his head to stare at the now-silent monitor. "What the hell is that?" His voice still sounded rough and sexy.
Just how far was he going to take this? "The joke is over." Faith glanced at Barclay on the floor, who was staring at the patient with wide eyes. "You're quite the actor, Dr. Barclay." She smiled.
Barclay grabbed a chair and hauled himself to his feet, the muscles in his forearms tightening. "Wh — what's happening?"
Faith snorted and moved past him, looking down the now-darkened hallway. Dim yellow emergency lights ignited along the ceiling. "They've cut the lights." Delight filled her. She lifted her voice. "Simons? Payback is a bitch, but this is amazing. Much better than April fool's." After Faith had filled Louise's car with balloons filled with sparkly confetti — guaranteed to blow if a door opened and changed the pressure in the vehicle — Simons had sworn vengeance.
"Louise?" Faith called again. Nothing. Just silence. Faith sighed. "You win. I bow to your pranking abilities."
Ice started to form on the wall across the doorway. "How are you doing that?" Faith murmured, truly impressed.
A growl came from behind her, and she jumped, turning back to the man on the bed.
He'd just growled?
She swallowed and studied him. What the heck? The saline bag appeared genuine. Moving quickly, she reached his arm. "They are actually pumping saline into your blood?" Okay. The joke had officially gone too far.
Something that looked like pain flashed in his eyes. "Who died? I felt their deaths, but who?"
She shook her head. "Come on. Enough." He was an excellent actor. She could almost feel his agony.
The man looked at her, his chin lowering. Sitting on the bed, he was as tall as she was, even though she was standing in her favorite two-inch heeled boots. Heat poured off him, along with a tension she couldn't ignore.
She shivered again, and this time it wasn't from the cold.
Keeping her gaze, he tore out the IV.
Blood dribbled from his vein. She swallowed and fought the need to step back. "All right. Too far, Simons," she snapped. "Waaaay too far."
Barclay edged toward the door. "I don't understand what's happening."
Faith shook her head. "Occam's razor, Dr. Barclay." Either the laws of physics had just changed or this was a joke. The simplest explanation was that Simons had just won the jokester title for all time. "Enough of this, though. Who are you?" she asked the actor.
He slowly turned his head to study Dr. Barclay before focusing back on her. "When did the shield fall?"
The shield? He seemed so serious. Eerily so. Would Simons hire a crazy guy? No. Faith tapped her foot and heat rose to her face, her temper stirring. "Listen. This has been fantastic, but it's getting old. I'm done."
The guy grabbed her arm, his grip unbreakable this time. "Did both shields fail?"
Okay. Her heart started to beat faster. Awareness pricked along her skin. "Let go of me."
"No." The guy pushed from the bed and shrugged out of his gown, keeping hold of her. "What the fuck?" He looked at the Foley catheter inserted into his penis and then down to the long white anti-embolism stockings that were supposed to prevent blood clots.
Faith's breath caught. Holy shit. The catheter and TED hose were genuine. And his penis was huge. She looked up at his face. The TED hose might add a realistic detail to a joke, but no way would any responsible medical personnel insert a catheter for a gag. Simons wouldn't have done that. "What's happening?" Faith tried to yank her arm free, but he held her tight.
Dr. Barclay looked from her to the mostly naked male. "Who are you?" he whispered.
"My name is Ronan," the guy said, reaching for the catheter, which was attached to a urine-collection bag at the end of the bed. "What fresh torture is this?"
"Um," Faith started.
His nostrils flared. "Why would you collect my piss?"
Huh? "We're not," she protested. "You were in a coma. That's just a catheter."
He gripped the end of the tube, his gaze fierce.
"No —" Faith protested just as he pulled it out, grunting and then snarling in what had to be intense pain.
God. Was he on PCP or something? She frantically looked toward Barclay and mouthed the words security and Get the nurse out of here.
Barclay nodded and turned, running into the hallway.
"Where are we?" Ronan asked, drawing her toward him.
She put out a hand to protest, smashing her palm into his ripped abdomen. "Please. Let me go." She really didn't want to kick him in his already reddening penis. "You could've just damaged your urethra badly."
He started dragging her toward the door, his strength beyond superior. A sprawling tattoo covered his entire back. It looked like ... a dark image of his ribs with lighter spaces between? Man, he was huge. "We must go."
Oh, there was no we. Whatever was happening right now wasn't good, and she had to get some space to figure this out. "I don't want to hurt you," she said, fighting his hold.
She drew in air and kicked him in the back of the leg, twisting her arm to gain freedom.
Faster than she could imagine, he pivoted, moving right into her. Heat and muscle and strength. He more than towered over her, fierce even though he was naked. She yelped and backpedaled, striking up for his nose.
He blocked her punch with his free hand and growled again, fangs sliding down from his incisors.
She stopped moving and her brain fuzzed. Fangs? Okay. This wasn't a joke. Somebody was seriously messing with her, and maybe they wanted her hurt. She couldn't explain the eyes and the fangs, so this had to be bad. This guy was obviously capable of inflicting some real damage. His eyes morphed again to the electric blue, and somehow he broadened even more, looking more animalistic than human.
"I don't understand," she said, her voice shaking as her mind tried to make sense of what her eyes were seeing. "Who are you? Why were you unconscious in a coma? How did you know my name?"
He breathed out, his broad chest moving with the effort. The fangs slowly slid back up, and his eyes returned to the sizzling aqua. "My name is Ronan Kayrs, and I was unconscious because the shield fell." He eyed her, tugging her even closer. "I know your name because I spent four hundred years seeing your face and feeling your soft touch in my dreams."
Excerpted from "Vampire's Faith"
Copyright © 2018 Rebecca Zanetti.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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