With strength comes vulnerabilities. With love comes loss. With power comes pain. The world Alex now belongs to hinges on such balance. Her every step seems to be lurching her precariously closer to one wrong side or another.
Alex had known her life as a Seer wouldn’t be easy. She knew her gift would be difficult to control and constantly sensing others’ emotions would be overwhelming. She even knew she’d be hunted for the power it would provide whichever coven of vampires controlled her. What she didn’t foresee were the difficulties she’d have with the parts of her life she ought to be able to control: her decisions, her actions, and her relationships.
It isn’t until she’s botched every facet of her new life that the opportunity arises to make things right. Rocky’s lover has been abducted, and Alex’s gift is the best shot at bringing her home alive. But even that will require tipping the scales in a direction no one but Alex can understand.
This sequel to Unforeseen is a darker tale of the battles Alex continues to fight against her enemies, her gift, and even herself. This time victory might cost her sanity, her lover, or her life.
Also in the series:
"Unveiled is the second book in the Alex Crocker Series and this spectacularly, well written read is loaded with an exciting and thrilling plot as the story moves forward and Alex learns to deal with her abilities, the vampire nation is edging towards war, and those close to home are in severe danger. Along with tons of angsty emotion and a wealth of character development, this read kept me glued from beginning to end!" - from review by Hazel G. at Craves the Angst
"It moved at the perfect pace, and gave the reader an exciting story to submerge them into. Although it was not action in every moment, Grimley further built the connection between character and reader, and she made them feel real. I am impressed with Grimley’s storytelling and attention to detail...If you are a fan of vampires and urban fantasy, give the Alex Crocker series a try!" - from review by Teresa D. at Vampire Romance Books
"I enjoyed seeing these characters again, and the way Lauren tells the story is captivating. There is plenty of action and a little mystery as well. All the characters have unusual chemistry but they gel well together to make a forceable team." - from review by Naomi at Nomi's Paranormal Palace
Check out the Extras page for deleted scenes, a glossary, and my writing playlist.
Excerpt from chapter one:
His fingers gently twirled the strands of her hair that spilled onto the pillowcase. He was careful not to touch her otherwise. In that brief moment between her body waking and her mind—and her sense—being aware of it, Alex released a contented sigh. The sound, so rare in recent weeks, or perhaps Markus’s strong emotional reaction to it, roused her fully. Sensing him so close, her whole body stiffened before she could suppress it.
The second sigh ought to have been that of her lover and soon-to-be mate, but Markus stifled it for her sake. It was a futile gesture. Alex was now a matured Seer. Markus might have had three centuries of practice at playing the role of stoic vampire warrior, but ever since Alex’s powers had matured over a month ago, he hadn’t felt an emotion that she couldn’t sense. None of the five vampires whom she had lived with since June had the luxury of private feelings any longer. This was the ‘gift’ she had inherited, the ability to sense and sometimes alter the emotions of anyone in her vicinity. She’d caught glimpses of this power since she was a teen, but since her maturation what she felt was intense—and constant. There was no Off switch. If she had been awake, and they had been home, she sensed them, much to her . . . displeasure.
Her jaw clenched at the understatement, or maybe it was in reaction to Markus’s current emotions. Her eyes remained shut, but she was awake and aware. Markus yearned to hold her, to comfort her. But physical contact only intensified her gift, causing the emotions of the one touching her to drown out her own. Extended embraces were inconceivable. After weeks of wanting nothing more than to be able to curl up in his arms, though, she understood his desire. What she couldn’t stand was the pity that accompanied it.
It had been enough to swallow everyone’s pity those first few weeks. She had returned to the Regan’s farmhouse after being treated for the physical and mental exhaustion her maturity had caused, as well as for the bodily injuries she’d suffered at the hands of the Vengatti during the late-July battle. In the days and weeks that followed, she’d tried her best to maintain a brave and pleasant countenance. Darian, as Regan of the Rectinatti coven, and Markus, as the lead warrior, had enough to deal with in the aftermath of the botched attempt to rescue her brother, Levi. She wouldn’t worry them further if she could help it. She owed them and the coven they led that much and more. So when she couldn’t hold it together, and the strain of her ever-strengthening power cracked her chipper façade, she had made her best effort to accept their pity graciously. If she were being honest, hidden in the privacy of her bedroom, she’d allowed herself plenty of hours to wallow in it.
She had passed that stage. Lately, all she felt was irritation, too often boiling over into downright anger. This might have been a healthy step in the road to accepting her gift had she not taken to releasing that anger through arguing with the largest and most powerful vampire in the coven to which she now belonged. Though the Regan had tolerated her recent challenges to his authority, passing them off as temporary side effects of her new sense, his patience was waning.
Almost as if he had suddenly become gifted himself and could hear her train of thought, Markus proceeded cautiously in the same direction, as soon as Alex opened her eyes to acknowledge him.
“I just wanted to check on you before I left for work. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
Alex raised a brow. She was by no means in control of her gift, but she could sense a blatant lie easily enough. Markus’s guilty grin confirmed her suspicion.
“Okay, maybe I did.” He sat on the edge of their four-poster bed picking at the comforter, allowing his auburn streaked hair to fall forward. He clearly didn’t want to say what he was about to. “I just wanted to remind you that you can call if you need me. I’ll check in when I can. ’Kay, babe?”
“In other words, don’t bother Darian tonight.” She didn’t bother to whisper despite knowing that the Regan was two doors down in his office. With the enhanced hearing that came with being a vampire, he could easily hear both the comment and the attitude that accompanied it. She supposed she ought to care, but she didn’t.
“He’s busy getting ready for the Elder Council meeting next week, remember?”
Alex’s initial response was to snort.
She had politely bowed out of as many dinners as possible in the last two months. Sitting in a room with four others conversing was like having a swarm of bees buzzing around inside her chest cavity. Eventually someone would react strongly to something being said, and she would be stung with the emotion. If she were lucky, it’d be pleasant, but as their favorite topic of conversation since the battle had been the rival Vengatti coven, very often it was less enjoyable emotions piercing her from the inside out.
She was quite content with her routine of stealing away to her bedroom with a yogurt and a book, or when she longed for easy company and thought she could handle it, nibbling at Rocky’s dinner with him in the basement. Not being allowed to eat upstairs as one of the terms of the sentence he served, Rocky didn’t complain, even when she mustered an appetite and ate half his food. Alex even had a sneaking suspicion that Sarah, the Regan’s mate and Alex’s only female friend in the coven, was complicit. Rocky’s tray had been piled higher than normal in the last couple weeks. That came to a halt, however, one night last week when Sarah, in a gesture of comfort, had gently run her hand down Alex’s back. Feeling the ribs that had begun to stick out like a washboard, she had gasped, but said nothing. An hour later Alex was storming out of Darian’s office muttering about micro-managing control freaks. If Sarah hadn’t flashed to the doorway to impede her mate’s progress, Alex likely would have worn his handprint on her face when she attended dinner that night, as ordered.
Darian at least had the satisfaction of knowing that obeying this newest edict was torturous enough. His emotions at dinner the previous night assured it. Within moments of the conversation turning to the upcoming Elder Council meeting, Alex was struggling to breathe, never mind eat. Darian always felt a certain amount of contempt for the group of coven elders who had been questioning his judgment ever since he had become Regan. Admitting at last month’s meeting that he had kept quiet the discovery of Alex, the first Seer the coven had acquired in centuries and the first ever female, had irritated them. Hearing about the risky rescue mission he had taken on her behalf, which resulted in the death of two coven members and nearly the Regan’s own, had infuriated them.
When Sage and Markus began to disagree with Darian over how best to present the recent Vengatti attacks, she nearly doubled-over sensing his frustration and theirs. She had been bolting from the room, leaving behind a plate of her untouched food when Darian had reflexively shot out an arm and grabbed her wrist.
“Sit. Eat,” he had ordered.
Unable to break his grip, Alex clawed at the back of his hand, leaving three red raw scratches across his skin. This time it was Markus who kept her from getting clobbered. Flashing between them, apologizing profusely for her, he had shielded her hasty retreat upstairs. She had collapsed, drained, angry, and embarrassed, on the bed where she still lay, moving only when her usual nightmares left her thrashing in her sleep.
She sat up now, trying to squelch her anger before providing Markus an answer. Even remembered emotions seemed stronger since her gift’s maturation.
“Yeah, I recall something about a Council meeting.”
Markus searched her face, apparently hoping to see something that would comfort him more than her smirk. She took a calming breath and tried her best to give him what he wanted.
“Go to work. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Really,” she added in response to his dubious expression.
He nodded and traced her lips with his fingertips so lightly that she almost didn’t cringe at the contact. Almost. He pulled back and turned to the door so she couldn’t see on his face the pain he felt, pain which her own heart echoed, pain which too quickly threatened to boil over into fury.
She flopped back onto the pillows as soon as the door had closed behind him and squeezed her eyes shut. Sleep was the only true refuge from her gift. If it would come. It didn’t.
Two hours later she was dressed and sitting cross-legged in the center of the bed debating her next move. And there had to be a next move, because status quo since she’d made her transformation from freakishly intuitive human to full-blown Seer involved spending her nights on the brink of insanity. She’d kept up the act as long as she could. It was time to do something or admit defeat. Alex didn’t give up that easy. Not that her newest plan was brimming with courage.
She opened the small wooden jewelry box that lay before her on the center of the bedspread. Stacked on top of the tangled mess of costume jewelry she’d accumulated during high school and college were the array of bracelets she had worn on her right wrist for years. She had taken them off and stashed them away last summer without a second thought. Now she fingered a studded leather cuff, two of frayed woven cotton in muted earth tones, and one of pewter maille made by a classmate in college.
Disgusted, she slammed the lid closed. The force of it sent a folded scrap of paper fluttering onto the thick comforter. She didn’t need to unfold it to see what it said. The words in Darian’s neat cursive were etched into her memory.
The last of three, Where essence is strong, marred And before the turn, battle-worn From which will then be born to us A unique warrior ’Tis she who Sees a way To victory.
This was the prophecy supposedly foretelling Alex’s future as a Seer. While her first impression had been that it read like poorly written mumbo-jumbo, she had eventually accepted there might be something to it. Boiled down it predicted that her two brothers would die, she’d be gravely injured, carried to the safety of the coven, and be the first ever female to fight alongside the warriors. So far every charming line had turned out true, except the last two, which implied she’d be the one to end the centuries-long feud between two covens of creatures who could crush her in a heartbeat. Since most Seers suffered early painful deaths, Darian likely hoped she’d get a move on and wrap it all up before she turned thirty, to boot. But no pressure or anything.
Alex angrily tore the paper to bits and flung the pieces into the air where they scattered among the mess surrounding her. She tapped her front teeth together repeatedly as she examined the room she’d lived in ever since she had been brought to the house and told about the existence of vampires, Seers, prophecies and any other number of things most people in the small city of Bristol, Mass, believed to exist only in books—or horror movies. The once neatly kept guest room now teemed with distractions: a set of Shakespeare paperbacks, well-worn and marked from her college literature classes; an old Latin textbook she’d borrowed from Sarah, in hopes of being able to understand a few words of hers and Markus’s upcoming mating ceremony; two equally worn and dirty pairs of running shoes; and a new silver iPod with matching speakers.
Sage had given her these last two items for her twenty-sixth birthday after an embarrassing incident the week before. Listening to her old iPod had been her one source of refuge from her sense. The tirade of swears that had spewed from her mouth the night it died after a rainy run had been epic. As a Knower, who was constantly inundated with his friends’ thoughts, the way Alex was bombarded with their emotions, Sage understood her need to block out her sense at times. Still, the present had come with a warning.
“Don’t make us regret the speakers,” he’d said. “If I have to be subjected to that chick rock you listen to, no music is going to drown out my irritation.”
In the weeks since, she had regularly ignored this instruction, blasting her playlists packed with the anthems of emos everywhere, in a vain attempt to numb her growing sense. None of her housemates usually said anything to stop her. They were ever-supportive as she tried to adjust to her gift. Their ignoring the signs that she was slowly falling apart and her pretending she was holding it all together was just part of the dance they shared on a nightly basis now. Sarah’s turning to Darian with her concern over her weight loss had been the first sign that that dance was coming to an end. Looking across the bedroom to the mirror that hung above the cherry dresser, Alex admitted it was a miracle it had lasted this long. She flinched at her own reflection. Her face was as pale as it would be mid-January, despite being only a few weeks into September. The red-violet under-eye circles stood out sharply against the pallid complexion. She looked away.
What she needed was to learn control, but what she really wanted was release. Books and music were merely distractions, which lasted only as long as her attention span. These days that wasn’t nearly long enough. Running had always been her go-to, but even that comfort only lasted as long as her body could hold out. Although that was far longer than she was allowed out on the fields surrounding the farmhouse most nights. One of Darian’s many new safety precautions—or power plays, depending on who was asked.
With emotions rather than reason in charge, her promise to Markus was soon forgotten. She grabbed the remote to her speakers. Maybe a good fight was just what she needed. She pressed play and then held her thumb over the volume button until the angry alternative beats shook the entire upstairs. She couldn’t hear the growl or the stomping that accompanied the aggravation she sensed from the approaching Regan. Her door swung open seconds into the first song and Darian yanked the cord from the wall.
“Do you mind? I’m trying to prepare for a meeting.” He stood glaring at her, entirely filling the doorframe. This used to intimidate her. If she were being smart and not being overrun by her sense, it might still.
“And I’m trying to drown out how you’re feeling about that meeting.” Fresh and invasive, it was a nice touch. “Are you adding listening to music to my proscribed list of activities? What does that leave me, Regan, knitting?”
Darian’s fists clenched and unclenched by his side.
Go ahead. Give in to it. Hit me. I’ve wanted to project someone onto his ass ever since my gift matured.
His hands dropped to his sides. Apparently she was the only one giving into her moods tonight. Darian had done what she had been unable to do for nearly two months: control his emotions.
“Use headphones. Or at least turn it down.” He spun around, closing her door as he exited.
Before it had even shut, she hurled her copy of King Lear at the wall beside it. “Every inch a king, my ass.”
His footsteps paused; his anger blazed. Alex’s hope rekindled. Then his sympathy seeped in, dissipating his fury. Heavy tread could be heard again heading down the hall to his office.
“Damn it.” She thought of all the times she had wanted Darian’s indulgence and was denied. Tonight when she craved confrontation, he yielded.
She slammed her fists into the pillows until, too exhausted to continue, she collapsed onto them. Eventually her breathing eased. In a calmer state, she realized what she had just done. Her stomach flipped. Picking a fight with a vampire twice her size and ten times her strength and speed, who also happened to be the ruler of the world to which she now belonged, might have sounded braver than what she was thinking of doing. She doubted, though, if anything could be dumber or more dangerous. Still, she sighed.
Turning her head she gazed into the adjoining bathroom as one hand drifted back to the jewelry box. There had to be a way to keep them safe without doing this. There had to be a way to keep herself sane without doing this. She wished desperately she knew what that way was.
Sage drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. He was parked in the shadows between streetlights in a residential neighborhood a couple blocks from one of the city’s colleges. Figured, whomever Rocky was feeding from was probably young, like he was. Young vampires tended to move out early these days and live in the human world for a while. Some attended night classes at the local colleges or worked at clubs or restaurants in the area. They didn’t truly mingle with their human counterparts, befriending or dating them, but for some odd reason they liked to try out the human lifestyle before finding their place in the coven.
For Rocky’s sake, Sage hoped this female wasn’t too well connected. A daughter of a working family might be forgiven for mingling with an outcast, and her family wouldn’t likely feel they had the right or the power to complain to the Regan. But if a female of an old, powerful family or, Creator forbid, an original family were caught feeding Rocky, there’d be trouble on all levels. Rocky knew this. Sage hoped knowing it was enough to restrain him from doing anything stupid. Unfortunately, Rocky had already shown crap judgment by sneaking out to meet his female for over a year. And even though he had since gotten Darian’s permission, Sage still sensed he was working hard to hide something. Rocky had a habit of thinking about his fantasy baseball stats whenever Sage asked him about his partner. And Sage had taken to asking every night he got stuck escorting the young vamp to meet his mystery chick.
This had been Darian’s only caveat when agreeing to let Rocky feed outside the house. Someone had to be with him. His constant supervision was part of the agreement Darian had made with the family of the male Rocky had injured, and it applied even for feeding. Sage had volunteered. Not because he loved wasting an hour every week sitting in the car outside some vamp broad’s apartment, but because he figured the alternative was feeding Rocky himself. A male could feed another male in an emergency, but it wasn’t something one wanted to make a habit of. So Sage twiddled his thumbs every Tuesday, blaring the Jeep’s piece of shit radio to give Rocky some privacy, because he parked close and the windows were usually open. If he wasn’t careful, he could hear Rocky’s thoughts, which were likely focused on parts of his female he wouldn’t want to share. Just another ‘perk’ of being a Knower.
He ceased the incessant drumming and looked again at the dash. 10:14. Of all nights for Rocky to dawdle. Darian was meeting with the Council of Elders later that night, an event he never looked forward to. With the turmoil of the last few weeks, it would be a particularly tense evening. Sage was acting as the Regan’s guard tonight so Markus, who as lead warrior usually filled the position, could present his warriors’ reports. Darian had insisted on this given the increased attacks, injuries, and casualties—all at the hands of the Vengatti. As for the protective detail, Darian liked to pretend it was more about tradition than necessity, but Sage and Markus both took it seriously. The last thing Sage wanted was to show up late.
Slamming the door of the Jeep, he stormed up to the main entrance of the apartment building. He jabbed the button for the third floor unit. Reynolds, the tag read. Very creative, half the coven used that name for their fake IDs. Vampires technically had two surnames: the name of the coven and the name of one’s father. But the latter were usually not common last names among humans. And the former would render members of the coven dangerously conspicuous to both the humans, who weren’t supposed to know they existed, and the Vengatti, the rival coven who would love such easy means of hunting them down. Though Sage had to believe that even the Vengatti must have figured out most Reynolds and Rectors in Eastern Mass belonged to the coven. Just as Rocky had started tracking the Vengatti earlier that summer by finding properties owned by Vendettis or Venturas.
He was about to pound the buzzer again when a female voice came over the small speaker.
She sounded a bit giggly and breathless. Sage almost hoped Rocky would be back to thinking about baseball stats by the time he returned to the car. As he started back to the Jeep, Rocky came flying down the stairs half-forgetting he was supposed to act human. Sage didn’t know where to begin ragging on him. He was barefoot, carrying his boots. His belt was undone and flapping from the loops of his jeans, which were too loose to stay up over his bare hips without it. And his unbuttoned shirt was hanging off one shoulder.
“Gee, did I interrupt something?” he asked as Rocky came through the door.
“Sorry, we . . . ah, yeah. You should have beeped.”
“That would have been very subtle. My parking outside in the middle of the night for an hour every week isn’t weird enough for the neighbors?” Sage opened the door of the Jeep and was about to get in when they both heard someone.
“Rocky! You forgot your phone.” A beautiful tall redhead appeared at his side holding his cell. She pulled it back flirtatiously as he reached for it.
“It would be nice, now that they know, if you used it to call me during the week.”
“Ah, sure,” Rocky replied. Sage would have laughed at the ordinarily annoyingly loquacious male’s sudden inability to speak. But he was speechless himself.
The female dropped the phone into Rocky’s hand, kissed his cheek, and flashed into the building before either male could blink.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Sage finally spoke, glaring at the young vamp over the roof of the vehicle.
“She’s gorgeous, huh?”
“That’s not what I’m referring to,” Sage growled. “Get in the car.” He dropped into the driver’s seat and waited just until Rocky’s door had closed before tearing off down the street. Rocky had truly thought Sage wouldn’t realize what he had been hiding simply from seeing his female. He sometimes forgot how long Sage had been around and how good his memory was of faces and scents of both friends and foes. The young male hadn’t once turned to meet Sage’s pissed off expression.
“That’s what you’ve been hiding from me with the damn baseball stats?”
“It’s not my place to tell Darian.” Rocky was looking out the side window, trying to hide the fact he was biting his nails.
“Your place is going to permanently become the ten-by-ten cell under the barn if you don’t smarten up.” Sage reached over and swiped Rocky’s hand from his mouth. “Or worse, if Darian finds out from someone else, you may find your place is six feet underground.”
Rocky sat on his hands and turned to him. “We disintegrate. He wouldn’t bother to bury me.”
The attempted humor was meant to deflect his anger. It wasn’t working. “You’re going to tell him—this week. Or I am done escorting you.”
“It’s her choice to tell him. I can’t make that for her, Sage,” Rocky pleaded.
“It’s her obligation to tell him, actually. And you will convince her of that, or you will not see her again.” He wasn’t being a hard-ass because he liked the power trip. He was trying to prevent the dumb kid from having his fangs ripped out. Yet from the corner of his eye he saw Rocky glaring at him. Sage heard the comment forming in Rocky’s head before he spoke it. The forewarning gave him the extra second he needed to remain calm and not reach across the seat and deck him.
“I’m twenty-four, not twelve. The last thing I need is three more fathers telling me what to do all the time.”
“What you need is one good friend who’s smart enough to know when you’re being an asshole and tough enough not to care that you don’t like hearing it. And guess what, pal, you’re looking at him.”
But Rocky wasn’t looking at him. Not for long. He broke away from Sage’s glare and stared out the window as the Jeep sped toward the farmhouse.
He allowed Rocky a minute. He could hear the thoughts churning in the young vamp’s head. Rocky knew Sage was right about his female. He also knew Sage was nothing like his father, who had disowned him rather than risk his position of power as head male of a first family. He hadn’t been sure whether his mentor had also considered him a friend. Sage heard the thought and shook his head. He could be rough around the edges, but he didn’t think he was that hard to read. The kid could be thick sometimes.
“I’m not a chick. I didn’t think I needed to tell you.”
Rocky groaned at having his unspoken thoughts commented on. “You’re worse than Alex some days.” Sage liked to think he had a bit more control than the new Seer. He scoffed as his partner turned to face him, but Rocky’s thoughts were already back on his female. “Ellie is as stubborn as Alex and Sarah combined. She’s not going to like being put in a corner.”
Sage laughed. It was a good thing he did consider Rocky a friend. Insulting the Regan’s mate and lead warrior’s partner to another member of the coven was dangerous, almost as dangerous as it would be to repeat those words in front of either female. Best buddy or not, Alex was itching to project one of them into next week.
“I knew a female that hot had to have a major flaw.”
Rocky sneered. “I like that she’s tough. I just also think it’s wise to pick her side in a fight.”
Sage gestured like he was cracking a whip. “Time to grow a pair, buddy. Because if Darian finds out first, he’s likely to hang you up by the tiny little ones you have now.”
Rocky winced at the thought. “Yeah, I guess.”
The Jeep pulled into the driveway only a few minutes behind schedule. But late enough, Sage knew, to have Darian pacing his office already.
“But, Rocky,” he said as they parked the car, “definitely not tonight.”
Rocky grimaced. “I may be whipped, but I’m not suicidal.”
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