The first ring of his phone roused Derrick Llewellyn enough for him to blink at the clock radio on his nightstand. The wavering three, five, and two stared back at him and he swore. Better not be Risa. He’d crawled into bed a mere two hours before after leaving his sister’s place.
Was it too much to ask for more than a couple hours of uninterrupted sleep?
He rubbed a rough hand over his face and grabbed his cell phone. “Llewellyn.”
Dead air greeted him, along with another ring. He groaned and tossed the cell back on the nightstand.
Levering himself up on one elbow, he reached for the chirping cordless handset and flipped on the bedside lamp. Caller ID displayed “George St. Diner” and he frowned. It had to be a wrong number. Some drunk who misdialed while calling up his buddy. Anyone who actually knew him would have called his cell, seeing as he rarely parted from it. He stared at the phone, his thumb hovering over the talk button.
He jabbed it and barked, “Llewellyn.”
Though quiet, there was no mistaking the voice. In an instant, he was twenty-three again, watching a petite blonde laugh across from him in a crowded pub, her graphite eyes sparkling, her cheeks flushed with amusement. Whatever he’d said to evoke such merriment had been lost to time, but it didn’t matter.
“Callie?” He tried to sound casual, but shock still colored his voice. He was dreaming, right? Because there was no way in hell Callie Noble would randomly call him at 4:00 a.m. For anything.
How could he forget? As much as he’d wanted to. He pushed himself into a sitting position. “Yeah.”
“So.” She paused. “Um, how’ve you been?”
“You didn’t seriously call me up in the middle of the night to chat, did you? What are you doing in town?”
A chuckle reverberated across the line, a sad, watery sound. “No, I didn’t.” She sighed. “I—I’m in trouble.”
His shoulders rounded, drooping under yet another weight. He didn’t need this, an extra complication in an already-complicated life. He had enough burdens, enough responsibilities, without the added variable of a woman he hadn’t seen for seven years. The “sorry, can’t help” balanced on the tip of his tongue, held back by one simple fact.
This was Callie. Dammit, she should not have the same effect on him now as she had years before. And yet he had the inexplicable urge to pull her into his arms, to protect her, just like always.
That should’ve been his first clue, way back then, that he was meant to be a Knight. Well, that and the fact that his sister insisted he had the determination for it. Though the word she used was “pigheaded.”
Gods, he was tired.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Trouble how?”
“I don’t know.” She hiccuped a sob. “I think I’m sick—or something.”
“Have you seen a doctor?”
“No, I can’t—”
“Get in a cab and head to the hospital—”
“Derrick, please—just be quiet.” He thought he heard a moan. “I can’t think. God, I can’t think… I need help.”
His hand moved from his face to his hair, his fingers getting tangled in the messy dark strands.All of his protective instincts, already primed by the first stutter that had reached across the phone lines, reared up at the desperation in her voice and pushed aside his reluctance. “I’ll come get you.”
“Are you sure?”
Yeah. Dammit. “You’re at the George Street Diner?”
“I guess so. I-I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Give me five minutes.” He got out of bed and pulled on the jeans he’d discarded only a couple of hours before.
He paused—something in her voice didn’t sound quite right, her words slurred. “Are you all right?”
“I’m crashing,” she whispered.
Shit. “Hang on.” No response. He heard a thump and a crash on the line. “Callie!”
“Hello?” Another voice came through the phone.
“The girl I was speaking to, is she all right?”
“Passed out, poor thing. I guess she had a rough night. Are you her boyfriend?”
“Something like that. I’m coming to get her. Five minutes.”
“I’ll get her some more coffee.”
“You do that,” he said, and disconnected.
What the hell? She hadn’t sounded drunk, until she’d slurred her words there at the end. She’d said she was sick. But why call him, of all people? For that matter, why was she here at all? He shoved those last two questions aside— he’d deal with them later. Right now, he’d help her, like she’d asked.
He made good time. At four in the morning, little traffic impeded him, and the stoplights all seemed to switch to green when they saw his BMW approaching. Ottawa didn’t quite roll up the sidewalks at midnight like some other small cities, but this late—or this early—few souls were about. The bars in the ByWard Market had all closed at two, and the drunken stragglers had long ago disappeared from the area. Even the denizens of the street were hidden away somewhere, sleeping off their poison of choice.
Derrick pulled to a stop in front of the George Street Diner, ignoring the no parking sign. Bursting through the glass door, his gaze swept the interior, noting the gray-haired waitress and a slouched figure who didn’t pay any attention to his entrance. And in a booth across from the door, a mop of blond curls resting on a tabletop.
“Callie?” He was at her side in a few quick steps, his lungs hardly working. She seemed so small, so fragile, so not the Callie that lived in his memories. He nudged her shoulder and she rewarded him with a heavy sigh.
She turned in his direction and blinked those unforgettable stormy gray eyes at him. “Derrick?”
“I’m here.” He crouched before her, his brow furrowing as he noted the dark mottling of her skin near her ear, along her jaw. A bruise? What the hell? Had someone laid a hand on her? The need to protect her thundered through him again—and this time, he wanted to find the bastard who’d hurt her and throw a few punches of his own.
“Your hair’s shorter.”
Trust a woman to notice he’d cut his hair, despite being sick. Fishing a twenty out of his wallet, he dropped it on the table. “Let’s go.” He reached down and scooped her into his arms. “I’ll get you to the hospital.”
“No hospital. I’m just tired. Need a place to sleep.”
“Yes, hospital. We need to find out why you’re sick.”
“No,” she moaned.
“The doctors will help. I’ll stay with you—”
“I can’t go to the hospital!”
A force expanded from the small woman in his arms like a shock wave from a high explosive. It blew past his already- messy hair, and the coffee mug on the table where Callie had been sitting shattered with a pop.
Pop. Pop. He watched, stunned, as each mug set out on the tables in the diner disintegrated.
“Oh my God,” the waitress whispered behind him.
Callie moaned again, turning toward his shoulder. Her eyelids fluttered and her breathing grew irregular. The shock rumbling through him deepened as her body started jerking. He held on, swearing. Fuck. This just got more and more complex. And unbelievable.
“Hey.” The blue glow of his eyes reflected from the waitress’s gaze. Her facial features slackened under the onslaught of his power as his mind sought to influence hers. “Everything’s fine, Marj. Do I smell something burning?”
“Oh my goodness, I must have left an empty pot on the burner.” Marj scurried behind the counter to retrieve the nonexistent pot. Good girl. Derrick glanced at the other figure in the diner, who hadn’t stirred—a quick read of his emotions told him that he wasn’t even aware of his surroundings—then tamped down the power, packing it back into its usual compartment. He held Callie to his chest, relieved that the convulsions seemed to have stopped. He could feel each rise and fall of her chest; every expansion seemed shallower, less strong. He knew where he had to take her, and it definitely wasn’t the hospital. Risa would be pissed about being woken up, but tough shit.
Duty didn’t always wait for business hours.
The most dangerous thing they could do is fall in love…
Callie Noble fled to Ottawa to escape danger. But she is far from safe. Overwhelmed by a strange new power she can’t control, Callie is terrified and painfully incapacitated. Her only hope is to seek the help of the one man who broke her heart…
Derrick Llewellyn is one of the Sentinels charged with the protection of the city’s mysterious secret. Seeing Callie again is a shock enough, but the electricity between them is stronger than ever. Still, loving another marked individual is forbidden, and Callie needs his help—not romantic complications.
But there are forces at work in the city, and Callie finds herself inexorably drawn into a world filled with danger and untold magics. A world where loving Derrick isn’t just forbidden…it’s the surest way to drive them both mad.