By: Rebecca Zanetti

I am truly thrilled to be included with the amazing authors in the 1001 Dark Nights group! Liz Berry combined a love of reading and a brilliance for business in this exciting venture, and I’m excited to be part of the fun. I’m also honored to call her a friend, and I can’t thank her enough for the good talks, ingenious ideas, and phenomenal work. Thank you also to MJ Rose, Kimberly Guidroz, and Pam Jamison for their dedication and awesome insights. A huge shout-out goes to Jillian Stein, the most amazing social media manager in the world, and the woman who has greatly reduced my stress level. Thanks also to Asha Hossain, who creates absolutely fantastic book covers.

Next I need to thank Alicia Condon and Kensington Publishing for helping me create and grow the Dark Protector world and fan base, as well as for being so supportive with my branching out a little with the series. My next shout-out goes to Caitlin Blasdell and Liza Dawson, my insightful and very hard working agents, whom I appreciate so much.

As always, a big and heartfelt thank you goes to Big Tone, my own six-and-a-half feet tall grumpy badass Alpha male. The man takes care of things, even during a recent unexpected natural disaster, and I can’t express how secure this makes me. Thanks also to Gabe and Karly, our terrific kids, who definitely keep things interesting, and who I love dearly.

Finally, thank you to Rebecca’s Rebels, my Facebook street team, who have been so generous with their time and friendship. And last, but not least, thank you to all of my readers who spend time with my characters.


Chapter One

Chalton Reese stepped smoothly around several women wearing Christmas garlands in lieu of clothing, ignoring their outstretched pamphlets. New York winter was setting in, and the wind was attacking the garlands, revealing way too much flesh. Street vendors hawked theater tickets to his left, and fluffy creatures from children books mingled to the right, trying to get tourists to pay for photographs.

Massive blinking billboards showing holiday sales bombarded him from all sides in a sensory overload that slapped him with an instant migraine.

He hadn’t been in Times Square for nearly six decades, and that wasn’t long enough. Not even close.

Yet the woman he followed hummed quietly beneath her breath, winding through the throng, a definite hop in her step. She had to be truly crazy to enjoy the crowd milling around.

He barely tolerated crazy, and he hated crowds. What he wouldn’t give to be in his secluded computer control room deep in the Idaho mountains. But no. When the king of the Realm ordered a vampire on a mission, a vamp went on a mission. Even if that guy hadn’t been on a mission in a century.

He hadn’t been away from his computers for decades. Like most vampires, he employed logic and order...and couldn’t for the life of him figure out why Dage had sent him on this mission. But the king always had reasons, and he usually kept them close to his vest.

Chalton stepped over a pile of what appeared to be chilidogs and hastened his step to keep the woman in sight. Olivia Roberts. A no-nonsense name with just a bit of softness. Unlike the woman. She was all soft and curves. Deep brown hair, light green eyes, and a figure that could literally stop a trolley cart.

He’d always liked curvy, and the beauty in front of him was overflowing with curves. Once again, he frowned, and a hot dog vendor jumped out of his way, fear sizzling from him. Chalton shook his head and tried to force his face into harmless lines. The last mission he’d been on had involved firing from a distance. Most of his missions had included guns, shooting, and death. But he’d given up the life of an assassin to become a computer geek.

Yet here he was in bone-chilling cold, surrounded by cement and glass, chasing a woman who filled out her blue parka like he’d drawn her on a notepad. Perfectly.

She clip-clopped on surprisingly high-heeled boots down a cross street, easily winding between people and stepping too close to moving vehicles. He calmly followed her, pleased to be finally getting somewhere. After watching her for two days just write news articles in her apartment, he’d started to wonder if she’d ever meet her mysterious source in person. He needed to find out who was feeding her information.

A dark van pulled up next to her, its windows blackened out. The side door slid open.

Hell. Chalton burst into a run.

A man wearing a ski mask reached out, yanked her inside, and shut the door before she could let out a scream. The van jerked to the right, horn honking, inching through the traffic.

Chalton reached it and grabbed for the door handle. Metal scratched his palm and cut deep. Bugger. It was locked. The rusty metal ripped away from the door, and he threw it to the ground.

The van veered away from him, hopped the opposite curb, and careened down the sidewalk. Bystanders yelled and jumped out of the way, spraying snow. A display of holiday T-shirts flew up in the air and crashed down in the middle of the street. The van continued on, horn blaring. Chalton jumped over a downed bicycle and ran after the careening vehicle, measuring the distance between it and the four-way stop up ahead along with the probability of an accident if the driver ran a red light.