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Patti O'Shea - Paranormal Action Romance Author

 

Excerpt from In Twilight's Shadow

One minute he was sound asleep, the next he was alert. A scan of the room showed no threat present.

Creed muttered a soft curse. He used to be able to trust his instincts, but they'd been messed up for a while now and this was probably another false alarm. As much as he'd like to ignore his gut and go back to sleep, he couldn't—he wouldn't be able to relax until he'd verified it was clear. Just in case there really was something to worry about, he did a quick assessment of his condition—physically he was near a hundred percent, magically maybe ten percent. He better hope it was another misfire because he was in no shape to battle much of anything.

He tried to scan beyond the bedroom, but his low power level limited him to a distance of about fifteen feet. Tossing back the blankets, Creed got out of bed and started pulling on his clothes. He didn't waste any time, but he'd had this happen often enough in the last few months that he felt no real sense of urgency.

Crossing the hall, he checked Maia's bedroom. As soon as he opened the door, Creed reached for the light switch and flipped it on. She'd be pissed off, but he'd handle her wrath. The first thing he saw was that the room was light gray in color, classy and elegant, much like his hostess. It took him a second longer to realize she wasn't tucked safely into bed. His heart began to pound a little faster when he noted the door to the master bathroom was open and it was dark.

Her moving around had probably been what woke him up to begin with. That realization had the adrenaline flow slowing. To be thorough, Creed made a check of the bathroom, but as he'd expected, it was empty.

He flipped lights on as he went. The living room was empty too, but he studied it for a minute. Pale greenish-gray walls and wide, white crown molding again spoke of quiet elegance. Creed frowned. If her house were for sale, easily ninety-nine percent of the people who looked at it would find the decor inoffensive, but her home wasn't on the market. It told him that Maia Frasier made safe choices.

He continued to the kitchen. This room was the epitome of bland neutrality—cream walls, blond-wood cabinets, and pale beige tile around the sink. Boring. He had a hard time imagining someone this cautious being a troubleshooter.

Maybe the house had been painted like this when Maia had moved in and she hadn't cared enough to change anything. That would explain a lot.

Creed was about to go downstairs and check the basement when he heard a growl outside. It could be a dog, but he doubted it. He turned the lights off in the kitchen and gave his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dimness before looking out the window. The sense of trouble hadn't been a false alarm. Not this time.

Maia was outside fighting something. His adrenaline barely spiked when he got a look at her opponent. An olteil. The hormone surge dissipated. With her training, she should be able to handle things without him, and Creed didn't rush to the backdoor, guessing it would be over before he got there.

It wasn't.

He leaned against the jamb and watched her use her elbow to block a strike. Instead of going on the offensive, she leaped out of the way of another blow, and then brought her forearm up in another blocking attempt.

The olteil anticipated it, though, and he closed his large hand around her arm. Creed straightened, but expected Maia to break free. Her response was to stomp on her attacker's foot. Shit, he was going to have to wade into this.

As he went down the stairs, Maia's gaze met his and he read the relief in her eyes. Creed strode across the distance, but he was confused why she hadn't taken out her opponent long before this. Olteils were strong, but they weren't all that quick and that made them vulnerable. With the training she'd had in martial arts, the fight should be over already.

The olteil faced the opposite direction and didn't realize Creed was there until he grabbed the assailant's arm and twisted it up behind his back. To prevent himself from being pinned, the creature released Maia and pivoted, tugging free as he spun.

Creed turned to block a kick, and before his foe could lower his leg, he grabbed the ankle and yanked. The olteil hit the dirt with all the grace of a hundred-year-old oak tree crashing in the forest.

Following him down, Creed twisted his arm high behind his back, effectively ending the fight. The olteil bellowed his fury, but he ignored it. Creed had enough magic to send the creature to the dimension where he'd been gored and keep it there for a while. Silently, he chanted the spell and closed it.

His opponent disappeared.

With a frown, Creed got to his feet. Maia stood at the top of the stairs next to her house and she smiled wanly as he looked her way. "Thanks," she said and ducked inside.

For a moment, he stood there, staring at where she'd been. Maybe it was because he'd woken from a sound sleep or maybe it was because of fighting the poison in his system for so long, but Creed didn't understand what had happened. Maia hadn't appeared to be injured, and barring that, she shouldn't have required any assistance from him, not with an olteil.

Wanting his questions answered, he followed her inside. She wasn't in the kitchen or the living room. He continued through the house until he reached her bedroom and found her kicking off her sandals.

"What went down out there?" he asked.

She gave him a glance over her shoulder. "You can probably guess."

"You're misunderstanding my question. Yeah, I can figure out that you were outside and the olteil showed up, but what I want to know is what the hell were you doing?"

Maia stiffened and turned to face him, her arms crossed at her waist. "There's no reason why I shouldn't go outside. This is a safe neighborhood."

He felt his own muscles become rigid. Creed was getting damn sick of trying to pin her down on a question that wasn't very hard. "You know what I'm asking. Why didn't you take him out as soon as he attacked?"

"My magic is—"

"What does magic have to do with it? I didn't use any to fight him and I didn't need to. It was an olteil. They hardly have any power, and what little they do possess doesn't help them in an altercation."

"He was bigger and more muscular than me."

Creed closed the distance until he was an arm's length away. "Yeah, but you're faster, and with the training you have in martial arts, you should have put him on the ground before I made it out of the house."

It was difficult to tell because he was blocking the light, but Creed thought some of the color had drained out of her face. "You don't know what you're talking about," Maia said.

"The hell I don't," he growled.

"I've never faced a olteil before."

"You trained."

"I've never initiated an attack without magic before—not even once."

"You have a million excuses." Creed shook his head. "I'll defend the weak until I draw my last breath, but in this situation, you shouldn't have been one of them, and I resent like hell that you acted helpless. Ryne would have been mortified if she'd seen you tonight."

Maia's chin went up and she closed the distance until she was toe-to-toe with him. "Leave my sister out of this."

"Then don't embarrass the Frasier name."

"I defended myself."

"Defense, not offense."

"It worked, didn't it?"

She tried to spin away, but Creed took hold of her shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. "What would you have done if I hadn't woken up and gone outside? The olteil was stronger than you, and without going on the attack, it was just a matter of time until he won."

"You were here, so it's not an issue."

"Next time I might not be around. Don't you get it? You have to be able to take care of yourself."

"I know that." The tenseness left her muscles. "Don't you think I know that? It's not easy living without magic."

Maia had sounded defensive as she tacked on the last and Creed shook his head as he joined her next to the door. "It's been seven years, that's long enough to adjust."

"That's easy for you to say."

"Maybe so," Creed agreed, "but you made the decision to cede your powers. And yeah, I do know why. A lot of troubleshooters in your position would choose to go down in a battle with the enforcer sent to bring them in."

Looking away for an instant, Maia ran her hand through her hair, then met his eyes again. "Ryne would have been the one they sent after me," she said quietly.

As he dropped his gaze, things clicked into place for Creed. Maia hadn't given up her magic because she'd wanted to, she'd given it up because she didn't want to force her sister to kill her.

 

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