Shadowed Online - Rebecca Zanetti Page 0,1

had been the most charming male she’d ever met. Now, a predatory danger cascaded off him in waves. Dressed in a dark shirt, faded jeans, and combat boots, the vampire was anything but a typical soldier. He even looked different, having cut his brown hair short in contrast to the wild mane he used to sport.

Deep copper eyes glowed from his chiseled face and illustrated a torment he apparently hadn’t triumphed over.

Mindful of manners, she hastened forward and held out a hand. “How are you?”

“Fine.” His hand swallowed hers in heat as they shook. A wicked scar had faded to a long white strip above his right cheekbone, making him look even more dangerous than before. For a vampire to scar, he must’ve been near death when sustaining the injury. Considering the demons had tortured him for five years before nearly cutting off his head, he had been as close to death as possible without succumbing. “Not as crazy as everyone thinks. How are you?”

“Fine. Not as odd as everyone thinks.” Her knees wobbled, and not just from her illness. The vampire had presence. All male, all danger. Her heart sped up even as it broke from that deadly scar on his immortal face.

“I never thought you odd.” He released her and gestured toward the chair facing his.

Brenna sat and smoothed her hands down her pencil skirt, suddenly grateful she’d dressed up. There was a time she’d had a colossal crush on the youngest Kayrs brother. “Ah, Moira didn’t mention you’d be visiting Ireland.” Moira was Brenna’s older sister who had mated Jase’s brother, Conn. They mainly lived in Oregon at the vampire headquarters.

“She and Conn are chasing a witch who’s abusing physics up in Canada. I didn’t tell them I was heading over here.” Jase’s gaze raked Brenna. “You’re pale.”

Irritation and an odd hurt warmed her chest. She slowly ran her gaze from his boots to his head. Hard, ripped muscle showed clearly through his clothing. Cut angles made up his handsome face, leaving shadowed hollows matching those in his eyes. “You’re, ah, fit. Been working out?”

“Something like that.” His gaze intensified, but she couldn’t read his thoughts.

She cleared her throat. “Why are you here?”

The door swept open. “He’s here because I asked him.” Councilwoman Northcutt, the head of the Coven Nine, glided into the room. She wore a long maroon skirt and matching top, and had pinned her dark hair up in a business-casual look. As the ruler of the witches for the last five centuries, the woman could dress.

Brenna straightened her posture. “Hi, Aunt Viv. Did you want me in on this, or shall I attend the economic meetings?”

Viv settled herself on the third seat. “I want you here.”

“All right.” Brenna eyed her aunt.

Viv’s dark eyes narrowed, and she clasped her hands together before focusing on Jase. “Did you read the file?”

“Yes.” He handed the manila folder to Viv.

Brenna glanced at the folder. “What file?”

Viv met her gaze. “Your medical records.”

A ball of dread slammed into Brenna’s stomach. “Excuse me?”

Viv sighed. “Did you really think we wouldn’t notice your deteriorating health?”

Panic wanted to rise to the surface. “My medical records are private,” said Brenna.

“Bollocks.” Red spun across Viv’s high cheekbones. “Not only are we family and should’ve been told, but I’m also your boss. The council needs to be aware if you’re too ill to work.”

“I’m perfectly fine.” A very rare temper tickled at the base of Brenna’s neck.

“No, you’re not. The planekite has been slowly poisoning you from the inside for a decade.” Fury and helplessness filled Viv’s eyes. “The blood treatments aren’t working any longer.”

So much for living in denial for another week. Brenna flashed back to the moment ten years previous when a male witch who’d kidnapped her poured the vile concoction down her throat. The liquid had burned like acid, firing her veins into pinpricks of pain. Her limbs had weakened, and her blood had thickened in an effort to expel the poison.

In that moment, she’d known the planekite would kill her. The only question was when.

Yanking herself back to the present, she plastered on her best dignitary expression. “Replacing my blood with clean blood worked for the first eight years, but the poison has leaked into my tissues and muscles now,” she murmured. Planekite harmed witches, and most of it had been destroyed or locked away by armed guards to be used in research. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be an antidote to the poison. “I’ll submit my resignation tonight.” Then she