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Claimed in Shadows (Midnight Breed #15)
Author: Lara Adrian


CHAPTER 1

 

Impatience prickled in Aric Chase’s veins as the bullet-proof black SUV sped through London’s early evening traffic. Mathias Rowan was behind the wheel, the Order’s team commander for this city looking as grim and on edge as Aric had ever seen the Breed warrior.

Rowan’s comm unit buzzed with the third incoming call since they’d left the command center heading for Heathrow airport. “Give me the status,” he demanded over the wireless receiver.

“Two dead humans, another close to it,” advised one of the Breed warriors of his patrol squad, his deep voice grave on the speaker. “It’s a damned bloodbath down here, Commander. We ashed the Rogue who did it, but you know as well as I do that the bastards tend to run in packs.”

“Yeah, I know,” Rowan muttered. “Keep me posted, Thane. Tell Deacon and the rest of the team to do whatever it takes to contain this situation. If we need to enforce a curfew on the human civilian population to keep them safe and out of our way, don’t think Lucan Thorne won’t call for it.”

The seasoned team leader had a right to be concerned. In the States and abroad, the Order had been fighting one disaster after another during the past twenty years since mankind learned about the Breed’s existence, but nothing like the relentless hits they’d been taking in recent weeks--the worst of them courtesy of a shadowy terror group calling themselves Opus Nostrum.

Their members hid behind layers of anonymity, but their work was making headlines all over the world, starting with an attempt a couple of weeks ago to detonate an ultraviolet explosion at a peace summit between Breed and human dignitaries from the Global Nations Council. That plot had been thwarted by the Order, but Opus’s failure to take out the Breed members of the GNC, including Lucan Thorne, its chairman and the Order’s founder, had made the group even bolder, their attacks more brazen.

It had only been a few nights ago that they had delivered a staggering blow in this very city. Because of Opus Nostrum, London’s JUSTIS building, headquarters of the powerful branch of law enforcement comprised of both Breed and human officials, was now a pile of smoldering rubble. More recently, in Washington, D.C., Opus loyalists embedded as security detail inside the GNC office had opened fire during a daytime meeting, killing every human member of the council before turning their weapons on themselves.

Now, Opus had apparently added Rogues to the mix. The Order had good cause to suspect the recent uptick in Bloodlust among Breed civilians was narcotic-induced. It wasn’t the first time someone had decided to make blood-addicted monsters out of Aric’s kind, but by God it would be the last.

Opus Nostrum had to be stopped. There was nothing Aric wanted more than to be part of the team that made that happen. He only needed to earn the chance.

And that meant getting back to headquarters in D.C. where the real action was.

As if he could guess the direction of Aric’s thoughts, Mathias Rowan glanced at him. “You sure this is the life you want?”

“Are you kidding? It’s the life I was born for.” He grinned. “Surprised you’d ask, considering how long you’ve known my father.”

Rowan grunted. “True. Don’t take this the wrong way, but there are times I worry you’ve got too much of my old friend Sterling Chase in you. I’ve never seen a new warrior so eager to get his hands dirty in the field.”

Aric shrugged. “I’ll take that as a compliment, sir.”

A wry male chuckle sounded from the backseat. “You take everything as a compliment, daywalker.”

Smirking, Aric pivoted to offer a one-fingered salute to his best friend and fellow warrior, Rafe Malebranche. “Credit where credit is due, man, that’s all.”

Ordinarily, he might have egged Rafe on with reminders of their various exploits and conquests, the usual dick-measuring and ball-busting that their fathers, Chase and Dante, had also built their friendship on back in the day. But tonight Aric checked the impulse.

He and Rafe weren’t alone in the vehicle with Mathias Rowan. The two comrades had an unplanned companion en route with them to D.C., a meek female who’d been huddled close to Rafe since they departed for Heathrow.

“How are you holding up?” Aric asked her.

She gave him a weak nod, but glanced up at Rafe as she spoke. “I’m all right. So long as I don’t think too much about what happened, I suppose I’m all right.”

Her name was Siobhan O’Shea, and she had been the reason they were there in the first place--or, rather, her murdered flat mate, Iona Lynch, was the reason.

The dead woman had been a potential key witness for the Order in its pursuit of Opus Nostrum’s members. Unfortunately for her, before Aric and Rafe could intercept Iona Lynch and bring her in for questioning, someone else had made certain she could never tell her secrets. Now that promising lead on Opus was severed and the Order had an unwanted ward to look after.

Not that Rafe seemed displeased with the idea.

Siobhan leaned against him as the vehicle rounded a corner, contact he didn’t appear to mind at all. The soft-spoken, pretty Breedmate had been brutally assaulted along with her friend, but thanks to Rafe’s ability to heal with his hands, she didn’t carry so much as a scratch on her. In the time since she’d been in the Order’s keeping, Rafe had somehow slid into the role of her personal protector.

“You’re safe now,” he assured her. “I gave you my word, remember?”

Her answering smile was soft, but uncertain. “I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me. I only wish you could’ve saved Iona too.”

So did everyone else in the Order, considering all of the information they might have been able to squeeze from her. But the woman had been too far gone even for Rafe’s incredible gift.

The weight of that fact seemed to settle heavily on Siobhan now. As she struggled to hold back tears, Rafe stroked her pale hair and murmured quiet words of comfort.

Aric wondered what other comforts his friend had been tempted to provide her.

Not my problem, he thought as he turned around in his seat. And better him than me.

As much as Aric enjoyed female company, he didn’t have the time for romantic entanglements, nor the interest. He had his eye on another prize--a warrior team of his own to command one day--and nothing was going to stand in his way of earning it.

Not even the lethal brotherhood of Opus Nostrum.

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