Unraveled

(The second book in the Intertwined series)

Gena Showalter

Again, this one is for the real Haden, Seth, Chloe, Riley, Victoria, Nathan, Meagan, Parks, Lauren, Stephanie, Brittany and Brianna. Notice that none of your characters have sprouted horns and tails. I can’t promise it won’t happen in the next book, but I can tell you that Auntie GeeGee can be bribed….

This one is also for fellow authors Jill Monroe, Kresley Cole and P.C. Cast. I know, I know. You see their names in all my dedications. But I promise you, they deserve every bit of praise. A writer’s life is often solitary and those three talented beauties remind me that there’s a world outside my computer—and that there’s a party nearby with my name on it.

This one is also for my amazing editor and darling friend, Margo Lipschultz. This woman continually goes above and beyond the call of duty for me. Her insights are brilliant and I’m a better writer because of her!

This one is also for The Awesome, aka Natashya Wilson, another amazing editor and advocate in my corner. This lady rocks!

Also, to Harlequin for always being willing to take a chance on my (weird) ideas. To my family for the continued support. And to YOU, my readers. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Despite everything I said above, though, this book—like Intertwined—is mostly dedicated to me. What? Writing it was hard.

PROLOGUE

ADEN STONE THRASHED ON his bed, his sheets falling to the floor. Too hot. Sweat poured from him, causing his boxers, the only thing he wore, to stick to his thighs. Too much. His mind…oh, his poor, ravaged mind. So many flickering images tangled with consuming darkness, horrid chaos and brutal pain.

Couldn’t take…much more… He was human, yet scorching vampire blood now flowed through his veins. Powerful vampire blood that allowed him to see the world through the eyes of its donor, if only for a little while. That wouldn’t have been so terrible—he’d experienced it before—except he had ingested blood from two different sources the night before. Accidentally, of course, but that didn’t matter to his scrambled brain.

One source—his girlfriend, the Princess Victoria. The other, Dmitri, her dead fiancé. Or betrothed. Whatever.

Now their blood fought a vicious tug-of-war for his attention. A toxic back-and-forth. No big deal, right? Over the years, he’d fought zombies, time-traveled and talked to ghosts; he should be able to laugh about a little ADD. Wrong! He felt as if he’d drunk a bottle of acid with a chaser of broken glass. One burned him while the other sliced him to pieces.

And now he was—

Switching focus again.

“Oh, Father,” he suddenly heard Victoria whisper.

He winced. She’d whispered, yeah, but, too loud. His ears were as sensitive as the rest of him.

Somehow, he found the strength to push through the pain and center his gaze. Big mistake. Too bright. The heavy gloom of Dmitri’s surroundings had given way to the sparkling colors of Victoria’s. Aden peered through her eyes now, unable to even blink on his own.

“You were the strongest man ever to live,” she continued in a solemn tone, and Aden felt as if he were the one speaking, his throat rubbed raw. “How could you have been defeated so quickly?” How could I not have known what was happening? she thought.

She, her bodyguard, Riley, and their friend Mary Ann had driven Aden home last night. Victoria had wanted to stay with him, but he’d sent her away. He hadn’t known how he would react to the two different types of blood inside him, and she’d needed to be with her people in their time of mourning. For a while, he’d tried to sleep, tossing and turning, his body recovering from the beat down it had given—and received. Then, about an hour ago, the tug-of-war had begun. Thank God Victoria had beat feet. What a freaking nightmare it would have been to see himself through her eyes, in his current pathetic condition, and know what she was thinking.

When Victoria thought of him, he wanted her stuck on the word invincible. Barring that, he’d make do with hot. Anything else, no thanks. Because he thought she was perfect, in every way.

Perfect and sweet and beautiful. And his. Her image filled his mind. She had long, dark hair that tumbled down her pale shoulders, blue eyes that glittered like crystals and lips that were cherry red. Kissable. Lickable.

He’d met her only a few weeks ago, though he felt as if he’d known her forever. Which, in a warped kind of way, he had. Well, at least for the last six months, thanks to a heads-up from one of the souls living in his head. Yeah, as if vampires and telepathic blood weren’t enough of an oddity, Aden shared his head with three other human souls. More than that, each soul possessed a supernatural ability.

Julian could raise the dead.

Caleb could possess other bodies.

And Elijah could predict the future.

Through Elijah, Aden had known he would encounter Victoria before she’d ever arrived in Crossroads, Oklahoma. A place he’d once considered hell on earth, but now considered The Awesome, even though it was a total breeding ground for so-called mythical creatures. Witches, goblins, fairies—all enemies to Victoria—and of course, vampires. Oh, and werewolves, the vampire protectors.

And, okay. That was a lot of freaking creatures. But if one myth had been true, it kinda made sense that all myths would be.

“What am I going to do with—” Victoria began again, drawing his attention to the present.

He really wanted to hear her complete that sentence. Before she could utter another word, however, his focus switched. Again. Darkness suddenly enveloped him, consuming him, chasing away his connection to Victoria. Aden’s thrashing on his bed renewed, pain exploding through him just before he linked with the other vampire. Dmitri. Dead Dmitri.

Aden wanted to open his eyes, to see something, anything, but his lids were seemingly glued together. Through panting breaths, he smelled dirt and…smoke? Yes. Smoke. Thick and cloying, itching his throat. He coughed, and coughed, or was Dmitri coughing? Was Dmitri still alive? Or was the body only reacting because Aden’s thoughts sparked through their shared mind?

He tried to move Dmitri’s lips, to force words to emerge, to gain someone’s attention, but his lungs seized, rejecting the ashy air, and suddenly he couldn’t breathe at all.

“Burn him,” someone said coolly. “Let’s make sure the traitor stays dead.”

“My pleasure,” another replied, a gleeful edge to the tone.

In the darkness, Aden couldn’t see the speakers. Didn’t know if they were human or vampire. Didn’t know where he was or—the first man’s words finally sank in, consuming his thoughts. Burn…him…

No. No, no, no. Not while Aden was here. What if he felt every lick of flame?

No! he tried to scream. Again, no sound emerged.

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