Vanished, page 1
Brides of the Kindred # 21
Evangeline Anderson Books
Copyright © 2018 by Evangeline Anderson
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*Author's Note: This book starts out a little dark but give it time and I promise everything will come out in the end.
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Table of Contents
Epilogue # 2
Sneak Peek at Taming the Giant, a new Kindred Tales novel
Also by Evangeline Anderson
About the Author
Sovereign Ysldred X’izith of the Hive paced back and forth, stopping every once in a while to stare into the bright green stone, about as large as a human palm.
The picture the stone showed was clear—a female sitting alone, staring into the horizon with a thoughtful look on her face. She had light brown skin and long curly hair—she was most lovely for an Earth female, he decided.
Not that it was her beauty which interested him. This female was special—a ten’sora—the only one they’d been able to find on Earth. Once they had hoped to find many more—dozens or even hundreds—but though X’izith had sent out scout after scout to collect DNA samples, this girl was the only one.
Never mind—he only needed one.
“Are we nearly ready? Is the scout in place?” he demanded of the sentient worker who was buzzing nearby.
“Yes, my Sovereign. And we have found a suitable host at last. Once the scout stings him and injects him with the mind-control venom, he will take the E’lo stone to the girl and she will be instantly transported.”
“And you’re certain the stones will work?” X’izith demanded. The theft of the Druvian E’lo stones had been a risky enterprise—one which had yet to pay off. He had finally been able to bend the green stone—the seer stone—to his will so that it showed him what he wanted to see instead of random images. But the small purple transport stones had only recently been declared functional.
He needed the transport stones to work—it was the only way to bring the girl to him—the only way to circumvent the protective energy net those damn Kindred had placed around the Earth to keep it safe. Nothing larger than an insect could get through the net but that was all right—X’izith specialized in insects, being one himself.
If an Earthling was to see him, they might think he most resembled a cross between a cockroach and a wasp, with the long hard shell-like wings of the former and the narrow waist and stinger of the latter. His head, bulbous and triangular, resembled that of an ant with its curving, serrated mandibles, mobile, twitching antennae, and huge black, soulless eyes. His entire body was shiny black, slashed with crimson, and his long, chitinous legs were lined with coarse, wiry hairs and tipped with gripping claws.
Regrettably, he was missing one of his long, thin arms and one eye was only an empty socket. The long, insectile abdomen at the bottom of his body was twisted with scar tissue and his black breeding barb, once so sleek and deadly, now appeared withered.
These injuries were the results of a battle with one of the Kindred—a male who had stolen his rightful Breeding-Queen, she who was to have born the legion of royal grubs X’izith was eager to implant.
And implant them he would, he vowed to himself. Though his barb was withered, it was yet functional. The girl the E’lo seer stone was showing him would be the mother of a new race—she would bear the royal grubs and then many, many more…
“Release the scout,” he told the worker at his side. “And be certain that the transport stone is ready. It must touch her skin to take effect.”
“Yes, my Sovereign,” the worker buzzed.
“Soon…” X’izith mused to himself as he stared into the green seer stone. “Soon you will be here with me, my dear.”
On the Breeding platform beside him the twin of the transport stone lay. It was small and purple and perfectly innocuous looking. The E’lo stones had originally been made to allow two similar individuals to switch places instantly from anywhere in the universe. But this particular pair had been calibrated to bring one special female aboard his lair, transporting her in the blink of an eye from Earth to the special base he and his workers had built under the mountains of Mars.
The Breeding Chamber was in readiness, supplied with oxygen and warmed by the light and heat generated by special workers whose abdomens glowed dull red as they supplied both.
The little Earth female should feel quite at home.
“Soon,” X’izith buzzed again. “Soon the royal nurseries will be full and the Hive will live forever.”
The Nameless Ones, Gods of Nothingness, grant it should be so.
It was the middle of January so of course, Harper Wilde was at the beach.
January—and parts of February—were really the only decent months to visit the beach, in Harper’s opinion. Living in Tampa, it was much too hot and humid the rest of the year. She always felt sorry for the summer tourists who came to Florida to do the theme parks—Busch Gardens and Disney and Universal—in July and August. The weather then was pretty much unbearable. You’d melt into a little puddle standing in line to get into Harry Potter Land or the Small World ride.
So not worth it.
In fact, the only way to live during summer—which was about ten months out of the year in Central Florida—was to run from your air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned house or office and just try to stay inside. Which was a shame, since Florida had some beautiful outside areas—most notably the white sand beaches.
The beach was Harper’s favorite place to be—when it wasn’t broiling outside. And January was her favorite time of year. The crazy hustle and bustle of the holidays was over, it wasn’t unbearably hot yet, and hurricane season was eight blissful months away. (It had been an especially bad season this past year so Harper was extra grateful for that.)
She liked to come to the beach all by herself at this time of the year and just relax and reflect on her life. Think ab
Maybe try to get involved in a lasting, mature, adult relationship with a man who’s serious about his future, whispered a little voice in her head.
Then again, maybe she should take a little more time off before diving into the dating pool again. Breaking up with her fiancé, Jareth, last year had been pretty rough, especially since her entire family had expected her to settle down and start having babies with him.
But how could she have babies with a man-child who was barely more mature than a baby himself? The moment they’d moved in together, Jareth had lost all motivation towards helping out in any way around the house. He refused to help cook or clean or even wash his own clothes. He never wanted to take Harper out anymore either—even when she was paying. All he wanted to do was sit around all day playing Call of Duty and World of Warcraft with his online friends, drinking beer and eating greasy takeout pizza.
After six months of this, Harper had woken up to reality. Her fiancé was never going to change and she was basically nothing to him but a maid service with sexual benefits. She’d given back his ring, packed her bags, and moved back to her mom’s place that same day, thanking God that she hadn’t put her name on the lease.
Let Jareth find someone else to wait on him hand and foot—she had better things to do with her life.
And one thing you ought to be doing right now is finding a new apartment. You can’t stay with mom forever, you know.
Harper sighed as she picked up a shell and threw it into the softly rustling waves lapping along the coastline. The sea breeze blew briskly through her long, curly hair and the seagulls were crying monotonously overhead. Her mom had prevailed on her to stay through the holidays but now it was time to get her own place again. She was a grown-ass woman in her thirties after all. And anyway, the atmosphere at home was a little too thick lately.
Her last little brother had gone off to college this past fall which left nobody but her mom and her stepdad, Declan, at home. Declan wasn’t mean and he seemed devoted to her mom but he hadn’t come on the scene until Harper was ten—a little late for bonding, so they’d never really gotten close. Plus, her mom was always moaning about how she wasn’t getting any younger and she wanted grandbabies.
Sometimes Harper thought her mom was more upset about the breakup with Jareth than Harper was herself. Her ex-fiancé might have been lazy and shiftless but he would have worked just fine as a sperm donor.
“I want kids—I just want to have them with another responsible adult,” Harper muttered to herself, throwing another shell into the waves. “If I’d gotten pregnant with Jareth I would have had two babies to look after, not just one.”
She sighed. She’d put her career first for long enough and she’d reaped the benefits of her hard work and sacrifice. Despite being a woman—and a woman of color at that—she’d risen quite high as a marketing exec at HCP & Associates. High enough that she could take a breather and have a kid or two if she wanted—if she could find the right man to have them with, that was.
As her mom was always reminding her, the clock was ticking on that one. And Harper had to admit she was right, even if her constant harping on the subject did get on Harper’s nerves. It would be better to have babies in her early thirties, rather than in her forties when she’d probably have to start worrying about fertility treatments.
Why couldn’t she meet the right guy—a guy who was serious and responsible—someone with a no-nonsense approach to life? Sure, Harper knew it was the opposite of what practically every romantic comedy ever written told women they should want.
A woman was supposed to look for a man with a sense of humor. Someone who would make spontaneous gestures like dancing in the rain and bringing her flowers at midnight. Someone who would make her laugh with his unpredictable wit.
But she’d had all that with Jareth, and she’d found that wild, funny personality had also come with a marked inability to see the dirty dishes in the sink or to put down the damn toilet seat.
Harper wanted someone steady—someone serious, she told herself. Someone practical who knew what the hell he was doing and had a clear vision of what he wanted in the future.
Little did she know how soon she would get exactly that…and how much she’d regret wishing for it.
But for now, blissfully ignorant, she threw another shell into the ocean and absently scratched her upper arm. She’d been stung there by the strangest looking wasp the other day—it had been as long as her thumb, its body a bright, shiny, almost metallic green—and its wings had been a blur of gold and black.
The sting had resulted in a painful lump which still hadn’t gone down completely even though it had been two days since the wasp had landed on her arm. It was red and slightly raised on her café au lait skin, and it itched from time to time.
Harper’s mother wanted her to go to a doctor and get it checked but Harper was in no hurry. Yes, the wasp had been weird, like no kind she’d ever seen before, but this was Florida. You could walk out in your backyard and find ten bugs you’d never seen before on any given day—if you wanted to, which Harper, having no entomological interests, did not. Plus it didn’t really hurt and she didn’t want to spend one of her precious days off from work sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.
The lump would go down eventually. She wasn’t allergic to bee stings or anything so she would be fine, Harper told herself, scratching again. It wasn’t like a wasp sting would ruin her life.
“Hi there. How are you doing?”
Shading her eyes against the sun, Harper looked up to see who was talking.
A nice-looking guy wearing red shorts and a lifeguard shirt—a white tank top with a big red cross on it—was smiling down at her. He had skin about the color of her own warm, creamy brown although it was difficult to tell from his features if he was Latino or mixed like her. She wondered if he got the same kinds of questions about his heritage that she got about hers
Harper’s father had been white and her mother was black, which accounted for Harper’s café au lait skin tones, jade green eyes, and long, corkscrew curls that were a lush toffee brown. It was an unusual enough combination that she’d regularly been asked if she was adopted when she was young—a question which had long since stopped hurting her heart though it still annoyed her deeply.
Well, at least he’s not white—Mom would approve.
Her mother, who had certain trust issues after Harper’s father had left when Harper was just five, was always warning her to “stick with her own kind.” Harper didn’t bother pointing out that since she was mixed, her own kind should be anyone she was attracted to. Still, to appease her mother she mostly dated inside the African American community.
“Hi,” she said, smiling up at the lifeguard. “I’m not in any danger of drowning, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
The lifeguard—who she estimated to be quite a bit younger than her own thirty years but what the hell, a cute guy was a cute guy—scratched the back of his neck and frowned, in a confused kind of way.
“No, I didn’t think you were drowning. I just saw you and, well…I really wanted to come talk to you.”
He crouched down in the sand beside her, his mild brown eyes looking handsome, if a little puzzled.
Harper felt a little wary. He might be a lifeguard but he was still a man and she was a woman alone on a deserted beach. Was he going to try something? She thought of the small pocket knife attached to her key ring at the bottom of her wide straw beach bag. But he just sat there, smiling at her in a calm, almost zenned-out kind of way.
“Okay, well…I’m flattered I guess,” she said. “But I kind of like to be alone at the beach. It’s a meditation kind of thing—you know, thinking over the old year and making New Year’s resolutions? That kind of thing.”
“Sure, I understand. I’ll leave you alone—I just thought you might like this.”
He opened his hand and Harper caught her breath.
A deep purple stone, about the size and shape of an M&M candy, sparkled in his palm.
“Wow…what is it?” she murmured.
He shrugged and scratched the back of his neck again.
“Don’t know. I just found it in the sand and thought you should have it. A pretty stone for a pretty lady, right?”
It was a cheesy pickup line but Harper found herself charmed all the same. The lifeguard guy really was cute, in a multi-ethnic boy-next-door kind of way. Plus, she hadn’t dated anyone since she’d broken it off with Jareth and it had been a long dry spell.
Going without physical affection was hard on Harper. She was old enough and confident enough to know exactly what she wanted in bed and she craved it when she didn’t get it. While Mr. Lifeguard with the cheesy pickup line and the pretty purple rock was probably a bit young and inexperienced for her, Harper thought he looked teachable. She’d never been into one-night stands but maybe—
She’d started reaching for the stone automatically as she thought all this, but as her fingertips brushed the lifeguard guy’s arm, she got a sudden flash she couldn’t explain.
His mild brown eyes disappeared and she saw bulging compound eyes instead. His face was suddenly insectile…wedge shaped…alien. Twitching antennae sprouted from his forehead and cruel, serrated mandibles curved from his lower jaw. They clacked menacingly as the strange, bug-like face leaned towards her own.
Gasping, Harper drew her hand back as though she’d been burned.
“Hey, is everything okay?” The lifeguard guy was back, a look of mild concern on his blandly handsome features.
“Just…just fine.” Harper laughed nervously. What was wrong with her? Had the Starbuck’s frappuccino she’d had on the way to the beach this morning been spiked with something?
Whatever the reason for the strange flash, she abruptly lost all interest in the nice-looking lifeguard guy. The sexual stirrings she’d been feeling were doused completely—as though someone had thrown an ice-cold bucket of water over her head. Now all she wanted was to get away from him.
EVANGELINE ANDERSON SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Seeing With the Heart: Kindred TalesDividedDevouredSin EaterVanishedAnyone U WantForbiddenHunted
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