Blood Flame 1 Chapter One

000 Caris Roane - Author Photo 2Blood Flame 1 Chapter One

Welcome to BLOOD FLAME 1 Chapter One! I’ve included the entire first chapter of BLOOD FLAME, so enjoy!

BLOOD FLAME is the first book set in the world of Five Bridges, where highly addictive flame drugs have turned Phoenix upside down for the last thirty years, and the alter species are locked in a war against powerful drug lords!

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~ ~ ~

Here are some details about BLOOD FLAME:

Connor, a powerful vampire serving as a Border Patrol Officer for his corrupt world, falls for a gifted witch who has the ability to kill him with a single touch…

In BLOOD FLAME, vampire Officer Connor of the Crescent Border Patrol tries to suppress his desire for the powerful witch, Iris Meldeere. Because the woman possesses the ability to kill him with the tips of her fingers, how can he possibly fall in love with her? When a double homicide throws them together, he soon finds his deepest fantasies fulfilled as Iris succumbs to his seductions. But as they battle together to stay alive, and love begins to consume them both, will the witch be able to forgive the dark secrets of his past.  Keep scrolling for an excerpt from chapter 1!

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Chapter One

Connor held a spotting scope pressed to his eye. His adrenaline flowed as he levitated high in the air. He was forty feet above the witch, his heart pounding in his chest. He’d tried about a dozen times to leave, but couldn’t since his craving for the Tribunal Public Safety officer had finally tipped the needle into the red zone. He wanted her bad.

As a Border Patrol officer for Crescent Territory, he often spent time surveilling suspects. The problem was Iris Meldeere hadn’t broken the law. She wasn’t part of a Five Bridges drug cartel, she didn’t traffic innocent humans into their sick world, and she definitely kept her hands off the lucrative business of running flame drugs.

For a witch, she was a model citizen.

It was after midnight, but he was still in the middle of his shift. And he had no damn reason to be at Iris’s house, except he couldn’t help himself. Not that he had plans for the future since he could never actually be with the woman. As a witch, and a powerful one at that, she had the power to kill him with a touch of her fingers.

She moved around her overgrown garden, her voice reaching his ears almost incessantly. At first, he thought she was talking to someone on her Bluetooth because both hands were constantly busy, pruning, digging, cutting, planting. He’d rolled his eyes when he realized she was communicating with her plants. Very witch or very Iris, maybe both.

Apart from his bizarre need to spy on the woman, he hated witches with a passion.

A witch had started this whole shitfest with a brew pot. Result? Seventy thousand humans, in Phoenix alone, lived in a pit of hell, having gone through the alter and become something not human anymore. At least the original witch had changed as well. Witches were now one of the five alter species living in Five Bridges. Being an alter witch or a vampire wasn’t a choice; it was a genetic mutation.

His own story wasn’t unusual. Devastated by his wife’s death, he’d stupidly tried to numb-out with a hit of blood flame. But it had been laced with the alter serum that created a set of fangs and an annoying craving for blood. The flame drugs by themselves weren’t the culprit, only when enhanced with an alter serum.

He’d gained physical strength and long-life. Beyond that, he was living a nightmare, one that had started thirty years ago, not long after the flame drug craze had hit the human population.

Now he was here, watching a witch who had gotten hit with an alter serum herself ten years ago. Only her flame drug had carried the witch serum. He knew this because he’d Googled her. A lot.

She wore a purple smock over her jeans and a pair of flats that looked like ballet shoes, typical brew-faring clothes for one of her kind.

And he liked her in jeans. She wore them snug and that was part of the problem. He’d seen her dozens of times at the Tribunal building in her casual investigative uniform of short-sleeved t-shirt, also worn tight, along with the form-fitting jeans. He’d mentally stripped her clothes off about a thousand times. He swore he knew what she looked like naked.

Yeah. Obsessed.

And guilty as hell. His kind didn’t go with her kind.

His kind killed witches, wizards and anything else that dared to smash up herbs and throw them in a cauldron, or cast spells, or worse, kill with the tips of their fingers. Witches, like Iris, were a danger to vampires and shifters. She should be offed, like all her murdering, enthralling kind.

Yet, here he was, floating above her garden, so quiet he’d never be heard not even by another vampire. He’d gotten good at stalking the woman.

~ ~ ~

Iris had that feeling again across the top of her shoulders that a vampire was watching her. She had excellent instincts, but every time she either hunted through her garden or checked the night sky, nothing.

She also had an instinct about who the vampire was. James Connor, also known as Officer Connor, of the Crescent Territory Border Patrol.

Yep, Connor was here again, which caused her heart to beat hard in her chest. Vampires killed witches as often as they could, but in this case an attack wasn’t what she feared.

No, the dull thuds of her pulse meant something far worse. Against all reason, small tendrils of pure desire moved over her breasts, down the insides of her thighs and curled around her sex.

A year ago, she’d seen Connor at a crime scene, one that involved a couple of human children. Until that moment, she would never have believed a vampire capable of any kind of compassion. She honestly thought that the alter had removed all tender emotions from those humans who had become vampire.

That night, she’d been called to the same scene to make a full report on behalf of the Five Bridges Tribunal, the central governing organization for which she worked. She served as a Tribunal Public Safety officer and as such could move freely among all five territories without too much fear of getting assassinated in the process. Murder among the five alter species was rampant.

At the crime scene, with so many vampires present, she’d remained in the shadows, content to merely observe and gather data.

Because of the bloodsuckers, her own killing instinct had risen to the surface, vibrating like a motorcycle engine on overdrive. Her fingers had ached to touch some pressure-points that night and rid her world of a few sets of fangs.

She hated this aspect of being a witch, the driving need to strike another species down. But every one of her kind, once having gone through the alter, felt an intense pressure to self-protect. She’d come to accept that what she experienced was a basic survival mechanism. Vampires and shifters killed witches, her kind returned the favor, though for her she’d only done so when attacked. However, that didn’t change how much she detested her new nature.

The crime scene that night had torn her own heart into a thousand pieces. Two children were found at the Phoenix entrance to Sentinel Bridge, a boy and a girl, about nine or ten. They’d accidentally gotten hold of one of the flame drugs that carried the alter serum, and had begun the process of change. But children couldn’t handle the sudden physical trauma involved. Death always followed.

They’d held hands as they’d died, facing each other. It had broken Iris’s heart, seeing their twisted bodies, fingers entwined. She’d wept quietly, and that’s when Connor had arrived.

She’d seen him many times at various crime scenes, but never like this. He’d taken one look at the pair then dropped to his knees, covered his chest with both arms and rocked. She’d had no idea what had gone through his head at that moment, but she’d felt his compassion in waves hitting her over and over, wrecking her heart and somehow causing her to become fixated on a damn vampire.

As much as she’d come to loathe his kind, she’d ended up craving him with a terrible need.

She was tired of thinking about him almost constantly, though. More often than not, her thoughts turned into elaborate fantasies that usually involved his fangs buried in her neck and his cock plunging in and out of her sex. Sick as hell.

Tonight, she was determined to change all that.

With a fresh lime in her hands, she moved into her workroom between the house and her garden. She set about creating a spell that she should have used about eleven months and four weeks ago. She had no doubt, once completed, the formula would end her obsession.

She fired up her cast iron pot-belly stove, using elder wood. Once blazing, she placed the blade portion of her hatchet on top. She needed the metal hot enough to slice instantly through a thick wax candle.

On her worktable, she cut the lime in half, then squeezed the juice onto a purified elder wood tray. She rolled a thick black candle in the juice and invoked Connor’s name several times until she felt the spell move into place. At the same time, she made use of one of her most powerful incantations. She then picked up the heated hatchet and held it aloft ready to slam the blade through the thick wax and break Connor’s hold on her.

She felt her witch power racing through her veins, giving her a heady buzz. The swirl of electrified energy let her know how potent the spell was. She had no doubt it would work.

With her arm poised and ready to strike, a soft longing ran through her of things hidden behind the veil of death. Her sister came to mind and she felt, as she often did, a trail of loving fingers down both cheeks.

She closed her eyes, her throat tight. “Violet. Are you here?”

A wind from the garden whipped through the room, smelling of thyme, the herb of love she always associated with her sister. Tears tracked down her cheeks.

Violet was long dead, killed in a vampire massacre nine years ago. Yet, in this moment her sister’s spirit was here, in Iris’s workroom.

“Violet,” she whispered again.

Once more, the wind blew in a strong gust and the scent of thyme thickened in the air. “Don’t you want me to end this obsession?”

This time, the fingers once more touched her cheeks while the wind blew. No-o-o-o, came softly into her mind.

Iris talked with Violet a lot, but her sister had never communicated with words before, not once in all these years. Yet, she had now.

“Violet?” She looked around, wondering if the ghost would show herself.

But nothing happened, no fingers on her face, no words in her mind, nothing.

She lowered the hatchet and returned it to a slab of cast iron on the long butcher block counter near the sink. It would need time and a safe place to cool.

She felt frightened suddenly. Something was coming and Violet was part of it, as was Connor. She walked back out to her garden to try to calm down, but again she sensed Connor was near, watching her.

But why? She knew the reasons she’d fallen into an obsession with him, but why did he so often hover above her house?

~ ~ ~

Connor’s com vibrated against his shoulder. For the moment, he ignored it because Iris had finally returned to the garden. His whole vampire being was focused on her. He wanted her sex and he wanted her blood. And in a strange way, he longed to talk with her.

He stared down at her as she lifted her gaze once more in his direction, hunting through the night sky. But he knew she wouldn’t be able to see him. All vampires had the means to remain partially cloaked from witches, one of the few defenses they had against Iris’s kind. The distance completed his invisibility.

Using his scope, he centered it on her face once more. Damn, she was beautiful and that was part of the problem. He’d always preferred dark-haired women and her large, brown eyes had a soulful expression he knew reflected her nature, despite that she was a witch.

He knew a lot about her because he’d hunted her down on the Internet and made an illegal search of her home computer. He knew which websites she visited, that she followed a blog called, ‘Witches and Self-Awareness’, and her Tumblr page had lots of pictures of animals, the forest, and travel photos of Europe.

He even knew the porn site she preferred, which had been fodder for his fantasies over the past two months. Iris, of course, played the lead.

He really was just this side of stalking.

Hell, who was he kidding? He was stalking Iris, though to be fair he had no intention of ever intruding into her life.

An owl swooped down on her suddenly, then took up his usual perch in the huge tree at the back of her yard.

Her melodious voice hit the air once more. “Hello, Sebastien.” He could hear Iris laughing and talking with the owl, her pet, or muse or whatever it was witches used to conjure shit.

When his com buzzed for the second time, he swiftly rose another thirty feet in the air then pressed the button. “Connor.”

“Talking pretty quiet. You on a stake-out?”

He recognized Lily’s voice and some of the tension eased out of him. Lily worked dispatch, manning the phones and passing out assignments. “Trying not to attract notice.”

“So, who is she?”

The question startled him. He didn’t think anybody knew what he did between calls. Shit.

Then he realized Lily was fishing. “A beautiful Honda Scrambler, 1973.” Half true. He’d started to collect Café Racers, the older, the better.

He heard Lily snort. “You men and your machines. Okay, listen up. This comes from the chief. We’ve got a runner out at Amado Bridge and he wants you on it.”

Connor frowned. He didn’t usually work the dead-talker end of vampire territory. “Isn’t that Jason’s section?”

“Jason’s MIA, has been for two nights now, and the chief is about ready to explode.”

Unusual for Jason to be missing, but he was a Border Patrol officer and sometimes the men needed to go on a bender just to survive. “He’ll turn up, but his head won’t feel too good.”

Lily laughed. “I totally agree and to answer your next question, yes, Easton was adamant you take this call.”

No point arguing about any decision the chief made. “I’m on it.”

He took off, heading north in the direction of Crescent Territory, wondering what the hell he would find this time. He touched the hilt of his half-sword and thumbed the holster of his Glock. He wore black leather wrist guards lined with steel, a black tank, leathers, and heavy boots. He was ready.

Amado Bridge. He scowled. One of the worst terrains for a runner to attempt to take drugs into the human world.

His instincts lit up. Jason was missing, a runner was out at Amado and Easton wanted him on the assignment.

A sick feeling started crawling around his gut. This call already stunk and it was only midnight. Great.

~ ~ ~

At the same moment Iris felt Connor take off, her cell rang. She fished it from her jeans pocket and saw that the Tribunal was calling. She frowned because she wasn’t working tonight, and she had a dozen orders to fill. Her job as a TPS officer barely paid the bills so she supplemented her income by creating special potions. Using a human dealer, she had her products selling at high prices in the various malls and specialty stores around Phoenix. She was doing well.

She touched the phone face. “Meldeere.”

“Sorry, Sweetie, but Donaldson wants you out at Amado Bridge.” Faith doled out the assignments through the night and had a calming effect with the officers. “Know where that is?”

“Northwest Crescent Territory.”


Iris frowned. “But I’m not on duty.”

“I told his royal highness as much, but his face turned red, you know in that fucked up wizard way of his. He then let a few choice words fly. I tossed up both my hands and said I’d give you a shout.”

Donaldson was a prick, no question about that. He was also corrupt as hell, so already Iris was uneasy. Corruption tended to lead to the three drug-lords in Five Bridges. But her fingers were squeaky clean so she couldn’t imagine why any of them would send her out there. “What’s the crime?”

“Some Border Patrol officer has gone berserk. Donaldson wants it documented and you have permission to take the BP’s ass out if you find him abusing the perp, which would be awesome.”

Crescent Territory was home to the alter vampires, which meant all Crescent Border Patrol officers were vampires.

Iris chuckled. She liked Faith. “You’re not being very politically correct. We’re supposed to honor all five species. Didn’t you get the memo?”

“What-the-fuck-evuh. Do us proud. Got another call.”

Iris put her phone back and started stripping off her smock. With her Sig Sauer clipped to her belt, she headed to her garage and revved up her TPS motorcycle. It was a big, heavy Harley-Davidson police cruiser, a bike fit for carting her around all five territories, including No Man’s Land. She wished she could fly like some of the more powerful vampire officers and a couple of the witches who served in Elegance’s Border Patrol. She didn’t have the gift of levitation, at least not yet. Maybe one day, if she lived long enough.

But she liked the bike, even though it was more machine than she needed. Although, it worked well for the bigger male bodies on the TPS force.

As she headed out, taking her quiet street at a low rumble, she wondered why she’d been called to Amado Bridge when there were at least a dozen witches and wizards on duty right now at the Trib station.

~ ~ ~

Connor had a flame-runner in his sights, an emaciated female with the telltale marks of drug-use blazing on her neck. He could see the tattoo-like flames. Hers were dark red, so he knew which cocktail she’d been using to get her head swimming: blood flame.

Because she was drug-running, he had every right as a Border Patrol officer to put a bullet in the back of her head. All three drug-lords preferred it as well. Prevented snitching.

But he never pulled the trigger unless he knew exactly what he was dealing with. He’d learned his lesson the hard way. Guilt still clawed at him, ripping him apart on a nightly basis, even though the incident was over nine-years-old now. He shuddered as the memory tried to push to the front of his head, but he shoved it back.

He levitated with long practice, his head bent slightly, arm raised as he gazed down his sights. Jesus, the woman was clawing her way up the steep side of the wash, weighed down by a loaded runner jacket. She must not have known the area.

So what was she doing out here? Runners by occupation were sneaky bastards, using tunnels that often collapsed on them to get from the cordoned off area of Five Bridges to Phoenix. The flame drugs, as well as the alter serums that could be added to the drugs, had transformed a fifteen square mile section of North Phoenix into five territories, each partitioned from the next with barbed wire then separated from Phoenix in the same way. The National Guard patrolled the external border of the entire circumference of Five Bridges.

He worked the internal border of Crescent Territory, trying to keep any of the numerous flame drugs from leaving Five Bridges.

That same sick feeling crawled through his stomach again.

He touched his shoulder com. “I’ve got eyes on the runner at Amado Bridge, but she’s a pretty weak female. Shall I bring her in?” Maybe Easton would want a say in this tonight.

When he got no answer on his shoulder com, he tried again.

And again.

He’d been disconnected.

Yeah. Something was off.

The runner was the key. And like hell he was going to serve as some asshole’s assassin, even if it was Easton himself who wanted the woman dead.

He holstered his gun and cursed. He needed to have a talk with her.

Levitating swiftly, he shot through the air. Gauging the distance, he caught her jacket at the back of the neck and lifted her up. She screamed as he carried her flailing to the upper edge of the wash and flung her into the dirt.

“What are you doing out here, runner?”

The woman didn’t move. She lay face down, one hand digging into the weeds. Her head was inches away from a stand of prickly pear.

She mumbled something, but he couldn’t hear her.

“Say again? You sound like you have rocks in your mouth.”

She lifted her head up. “Just kill us. We’ll both be better off.”

“Us?” He drew his gun again, holding it in both hands. He bent his knees and pivoted in a 360. Nothing. Except a witch on the bridge watching him. He stopped the moment he saw the woman. Why was she there?

Then he recognized the familiar dark ponytail. Holy fuck, it was Iris, but what was she doing on Amado Bridge?

He turned his attention back to the runner. “I don’t see anyone else. Who’s ‘us’, Ma’am? You got someone out here running with you?”

“Yes, but you’re looking in the wrong place.”

She wasn’t making sense. Blood flame had no doubt screwed with her mind.

“I’ll ask again; where’s your friend?”


Glancing down, he watched her turn on her side. She held her arm at the bottom of the coat, pressing it against her body.

When he saw the bulge of her stomach, his mind flipped over several times. The memory he’d been trying to suppress shot forward once more of another woman running flame.

Connor had killed her, shot her in the chest as she turned, gun in hand and pointed straight at him. He hadn’t hesitated.

But the gun had been taped to her wrist and she couldn’t have fired it if she’d wanted to. A set-up.

She’d also been pregnant, just like this one.

Darkness swirled through his head, a familiar creeping of more regrets than any man should have to bear. He’d killed her and others equally as innocent over the years until his soul was as dark as night. The flame drugs had been at the bottom of it all. He’d gone through the change and become something he despised.

“You gonna shoot, or what?”

Coming back to himself, he shook his head then holstered his Glock.

Five Bridges had worn him down to the marrow. But right now he knew something sinister was going on, directed at him and involving a drug addict lying in the dirt.

He shifted toward Iris. Was she involved in some way? Had she set him up? As a TPS officer, she had access to a lot of important people. The Tribunal was the combined government for all five species and held sway over each of the five separate territories as well as their individual border patrols.

It wasn’t a question he could answer right now, so he shifted back to the runner and extended a hand down to her. She eyed it as though it would turn into a snake any second.

“Come on. I haven’t got all night. Let’s get you out of here. You’re not dying on my watch.”

He didn’t kill women, at least not on purpose, and he definitely didn’t take out a woman with a belly full of child.

“I can’t move.” She tried to sit up, but flopped back in the dirt.

Whatever energy she’d possessed had been used up trying to scale the fairly steep side of the wash.

He dipped down and picked her up in his arms, cradling her. She weighed next to nothing. “What’s your name?”

“Tammy. Where are you taking me?”

“The clinic.”

She turned her face against his chest and damn him if she didn’t start weeping against his tank.

But as he rose into the air, he glanced once more at Iris. She had her pistol pointed at him, head bent slightly, probably checking her sights.

Though the clinic was the opposite direction, he flew toward her. She slowly lowered her gun.

By the time he reached the bridge, her eyes were wide, her lips parted. “Officer Connor.”

“Officer Meldeere. What the fuck are you doing out here?” He might be obsessed with her and he’d definitely engaged in way too many fantasies about her, but she was still a witch with a gun.

“Got a call that some Border Patrol officer was out of control near Amado Bridge.”

“Do I look out of control?”

Her gaze fell to the woman. “No. You don’t.”

“Guess you won’t be shooting me, then.”

She shook her head. She looked amazing, a flush on her cheeks. Her eyes glittered as she stared at him.

If he didn’t know better …

Fuck this. He whipped around and flew swiftly toward the clinic. He had to find some damn way of getting Iris out of his head.

He just didn’t know how.

He also needed to find out who had sent Tammy drug-running in the western sector of his territory.

~ ~ ~

Iris holstered her Sig. Her arms and legs trembled but it wasn’t from fear. Damn Connor. He’d just proven himself all over again, helping a woman like that.

And she’d forgotten how blue his eyes were.

She could hardly breathe and all she’d done was look at him and exchange about a half-dozen words. He wore the usual black tank, so his tattoos stood out like beacons. He was heavily muscled like all the Border Patrol men. How many times had she wondered if both hands together would fit around one of his biceps?

Fortunately, now that he was no longer next to her, she could think again. She looked around. On Trib orders, she’d left her garden, her owl and the potions she needed to make to fill her orders, but for what? She didn’t get it. Why had Donaldson wanted her witnessing Connor’s supposed crime?

The situation was just weird enough to force her to ask the harder questions: Who had really sent her out to Amado Bridge? And if the purpose had been to kill Connor, then why? And why her?

She turned the key in her bike and revved up her Harley once more. She took off, loving the strong vibrations on her bottom as she swept onto the street, heading toward Del Muerto Bridge. Del Muerto was one of the five main bridges of her world and connected Crescent with the dead-talker province of Shadow Territory.

With her long hair in a ponytail, she enjoyed the feel of the night wind as she moved along. She only had to head over to the Tribunal building and fill out a report, then she could return to her workroom.

In the meantime, she loved riding.

When she was well into the land of dead-talkers, whipping through some backstreets and racing over several smaller bridges, her com buzzed. She pressed her shoulder transmitter. “Meldeere.”

She heard Faith’s voice. “We’ve got a … out on Sentinel Bridge. The … Donal … wants you … now.”

She repressed a sigh. The Tribunal meant well, but dammit, couldn’t they invest in a decent com system? “Say again?”

After three more repeated requests, she finally got the gist. There was some kind of incident on Sentinel Bridge which connected Connor’s Territory and hers.

And once more, the chief wanted her out there. She almost asked Faith why, but figured she’d get the same response.

“On my way.”

“Say …” More static then a lot of broken up words.

Iris shut off her com with a heavy eye-roll and put on some speed.

“Well, Violet, what do you think?” She tended to talk to her sister when she was out on patrol.

But the spontaneous question, took her straight back to the wind that had blown through her workroom and hearing Violet’s voice in her head. Tears burned her eyes. Violet had been buried a long time ago, but for Iris, the memory was as sharp as yesterday.

Thinking about her sister, however, brought the past surging forward. Several months after their shared alter, Violet had gone to work at a sandwich shop in downtown Elegance. Without warning, she and a dozen other witches had been abducted by a number of drugged out vampires. They’d been hauled out to a place called No Man’s Land, also known as the Graveyard.

The vampires had been out of control and hyped up on blood flame. The witches’ hands had been bound to prevent the witch death touch. The women had been stabbed, choked, raped and drained to death.

The Tribunal investigation had gone on for years but died its own death some time later. It had been buried in the Trib’s paperwork morgue, no doubt at the request of one of the drug-lords.

No closure for nine years, just pain.

She traversed yet another small bridge, the bike thump-thumping at the entrance and exit.

The world of Five Bridges had about a hundred bridges scattered throughout the ripped up territory of north-central Phoenix, most of them short and only one lane wide. Long ditches crisscrossed the land, a final containment solution to the ongoing drug and human trafficking problem that had accompanied the flame revolution. The hundreds of ditches were as difficult to traverse as they were completely ineffective in stemming the export of flame drugs to the human world.

Many of the original homes in this part of Phoenix now served the citizens of Five Bridges. But at least half had been blasted away and the pits left to grow whatever the desert could manage. Or they’d been dozed out even more to create rows of ditches hard to navigate on foot. A lot of cactus took root in these places. Rattlesnakes and vermin set up camp in droves. Coyotes, too. More bridges were built, some as short as seven feet.

Five Bridges essentially had the look of a war zone, especially with barbed wire separating each of the five territories from each other as well as from Phoenix. There were a few beauty spots in some of the renovated areas or in backyards like her own. Otherwise, it was a place that looked like bombs were detonated on a regular basis and the rubble left to sprout any weed or grass that would survive without much water.

There were, however, five main bridges, hence the name for the cesspool she lived in. Sentinel was one of them, the bridge she was headed to now. It was the long, main bridge connecting Crescent with her witch world of Elegance. It also intersected with the human world as all five bridges did, in a T layout. It still amazed Iris that any human would want to come to Five Bridges. But then most who did were looking for drugs or sex, the latter the second most important source of revenue for the poorer residents.

Now there was an unspecified incident on Sentinel Bridge.

So much for being off duty.

~ ~ ~

At the clinic, Connor leaned over Tammy, who proved to be an un-altered human female, working the sex trade in Five Bridges. He was trying to catch her words. She mumbled a lot and slipped in and out of consciousness since she was still tangled up with blood flame.

“What were you doing out there, Tammy? I could tell you had no idea where you were going.”

“He told me to go out there or he’d kill me.”


“The man who gave me the drugs. I owed him.”

The baby was hooked up to a fetal heart monitor and its heart beat fast and steady. The nurse stood nearby and scowled. Working in a clinic like this, she’d no doubt seen it all. The baby, if it survived, would have to go through withdrawal.

“Tammy, focus. What did the man look like?”

She lifted a weak hand to her right shoulder. “Skull tattoo, here, the kind with the mouth wide open like it’s screaming.”

“Bald head with tats?”

“Yes. And a really big nose. And super tight pants.”

Connor held back a curse. He knew the small-time player. His name was Gary Smith and he owned the House of Big Sex in Rotten Row. Connor and his crew called him Big Nuts because he wore tight pants to display an oversized scrotum, an unfortunate look on any man.

But why had the owner of a sex club sent a woman out in a fake runner jacket? What game was he playing at?

“You need to leave.” The nurse’s voice blasted through the room like it came out of a sawed off shotgun. “We’re going to put her under. There’s too much stress on her heart because of the drug. The baby’s at risk.”

Connor dipped his chin in response. He had what he needed anyway, the name of the man who’d set him up. He picked up the runner jacket loaded with nothing but fake bricks and vials, another indication someone was messing with him.

When he reached the admitting desk, he talked to a lovely vampire he knew well, a woman he’d slept with a few months ago. She’d already touched his hand a couple of times and had a look in her eye he knew well. His gaze slipped to her throat where she was not-so-subtly stroking her fingers over her vein.

Because of his constant lust for Iris, his groin lit up with sudden need. He almost asked where they could go to have a private chat.

But his com buzzed, the connection finally restored. He hit the button. “Connor.”

Lily’s voice came on. “How did things go out at Amado?”

He explained about the young woman and that he’d brought her to the clinic.

Lily was silent for a moment. “You know, you stand taller than every other man I know.” She cleared her voice and hurried on. “But I guess this is your lucky night. We’ve got an incident out at Sentinel Bridge. A homicide, and yes, Chief wants you out there, as well. Pronto.”

He never worked Sentinel either.

What the fuck was going on?

~ ~ ~

Iris stood over not one, but two bodies on Sentinel Bridge, a man and a woman. Over the years, she’d seen a lot of corpses, but nothing quite as bad as the cuts, bruises, and burns on this pair. She forced herself to swallow and keep swallowing.

Despite the extensive damage, she recognized the female. She knew her, though not well, a witch by the name of Sadie Thompson. Her throat had been cut, and except for the severe bruising, her skin was the color of white marble.

The man was a vampire, something she knew by instinct though on the surface he looked like any other man, no matter the species. The alter had given her discernment as it did all Five Bridges citizens. She always knew what was what.

She had no idea who he was, though. His dark hair was fanned over the side of his face. He wore the leather pants the Border Patrol men wore, so there was a good chance he served on the Crescent force. He had burns all down his arms and chest, along with severe bruising, and enough cuts to finally bleed him out.

Her stomach knotted up. She had to look away, regroup.

She focused on the tri-part bridge itself and each of three sets of entrance-exist gates. A ‘T’ formation occurred in the center of the bridge and led to east Phoenix. This part was guarded by the US Border Patrol. The main bridge itself served to connect Elegance Territory with Crescent.

Witches and wizards lived in Elegance exclusively. Vampires in Crescent.

Right now, Sentinel Bridge looked like something out of a movie, with a dozen cop cars lit up, lights flashing at all three control points. The closest vehicle was maybe forty yards away.

But why had Donaldson wanted her out here? What possible good could come from her presence? She was only sent to witness a case like this, make a report, and offer suggestions about follow-up, most of which would never be acted on. One of the Border Patrol stations would handle the case itself. She had no significant role, except possibly in identifying the Elegance victim.

She stood alone in the center of the bridge, her bike a few yards away. She’d already spoken with the Elegance Border Patrol officers who’d been directed to wait for her, but at a serious distance. According to them, the vampires were sending a man in to have a look.

She put a hand to her chest and walked in a slow circle. In the distance, she caught sight of a Crescent officer levitating above the flashing police cars. He was heading in the direction of the crime scene.

Now she’d have to deal with a macho vampire, who’d no doubt give her grief because she was a witch.

Returning to the two victims, she set her gaze on the dead vampire. He was bare-chested and like most BP officers, had lots of tattoos. He was lean and heavily muscled. His pants were cut up badly in a number of places.

She had so many questions. Why were the two of them placed here? Were they involved in some way? And how the hell could any of the drug lords orchestrate this kind of closing of Sentinel in order to put the couple in position? The Tribunal had charge of the five major bridges.

From her peripheral, she saw the vampire land. She turned toward him and lost the ability to breathe all over again. “Connor.”

Holy shit, the second time tonight. The third if she counted his hovering above her house. But why was he out here now?

“Iris.” He’d never looked more startled as he stared at her. “You were called to Sentinel? You specifically?”

“I was. And you?”

He nodded.

Her mind spun. “Is Sentinel part of the territory you usually cover?”

“Nope.” He was scowling hard.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty tonight.”

He shook his head. “Why are either of us here? This makes no sense.”

“I totally agree with you.”

His gaze fell to the couple. “They’ve been tortured.”

She nodded in agreement, but had to work at swallowing again.

When he shifted his gaze back to her, she found it hard to breathe. She didn’t know what he was thinking, but like hell she was going to look away first.

She knew the game. Vampires valued strength above just about everything else and one thing the battling of his kind had made her: She was damn strong.

His jaw worked and his eyes narrowed as he finally shifted his gaze once more to the couple on the pavement. “So what do we have here?”

Iris looked at the wrecked bodies once more. “I have no idea.”

He waved a hand toward the woman. “And she’s a witch.”

“Yes. Sadie Thompson. She worked at the Tribunal, though in a different department.” She took a deep breath. “I didn’t know her well, but I understand she was a good, hard working woman.”

He glanced at Iris, his lips twisted in disgust.

Right. Vampires hated her kind as much as she despised his. In his view, there was no such thing as a good witch, so what did he mean by hovering above her house as often as he did? Was he spying on her?

He walked slowly toward the bodies, scowling. Leaning down, he pulled the hair back from the vampire’s face then let loose with a long string of obscenities.

Connor knew him.

“He’s a Border Patrol officer, isn’t he?”

“Yes. Jason. He’s only been missing a couple of days. I thought he just needed to let off some steam. Christ, who would do this to a BP man?” For the most part, even the drug-lords let the officers alone, except to bribe those they could, of course.

She frowned at Connor. Was he on the take? Somehow, she doubted it. A man who would carry a runner to a clinic wouldn’t take bribes.

The earliest questions resurfaced in her mind. Why had both she and Connor been called to Sentinel Bridge?

~ ~ ~

Bella Media ManagementHope you’ve enjoyed reading Chapter One of BLOOD FLAME! Here are the buy links!

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And now, have a wonderful day and an even better night! For more information about my books, keep scrolling! Live the fang!

Caris Roane Home Page

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Caris Roane Home PageDo you enjoy free books!?! All year, I’ll be giving away copies of my e-books through my newsletter. I also run subscriber-exclusive giveaways, so be sure to sign up on my home page in the right hand column where it says: Subscribe to Our Mailing List! Once you do, you’ll receive a welcome letter with a link to your free e-book! Enjoy and hugs, Caris Roane!

Be sure to look for your welcome letter which has the link to your free e-book! 

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Caris Roane is the New York Times bestselling author of forty paranormal romance books. Writing as Valerie King, she has published fifty novels and novellas in Regency Romance. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, loves gardening, enjoys the birds and lizards in her yard, but encourages the scorpions to inhabit elsewhere! Her motto: Live the Fang!

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