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Bliss Addison




  Copyright ©2009 Bliss Addison

  First Electronic Publication 2009

  Second Electronic Publication 2011

  *Previously titled Echo and

  Published by Red Rose Publishing*

  All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author, excepting brief quotes to be used in reviews.

  Any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental. Real places mentioned in the book are depicted fictionally and are not intended to portray actual times or places. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

  * * * *

  Other Books by Bliss Addison:

  A Battle of Wills (Shannon Murphy – Book I)

  With Malicious Intent (Shannon Murphy – Book II)

  Restless Souls

  Wolfe, She Cried

  Murder at the Villa Maria-Sedona Retirement Home

  A Waning Moon

  Deadly Serum

  One Millhaven Lane

  An Equal Measure

  Sleight of Hand

  Watching Over Her

  A Silver Lining (The Monahans – Book I)

  In a Daze

  * * * *


  On the brink of death, Keegan Black's soul reacts hastily and leaves his body. Minutes later he awakes, remembering the bee sting and the EpiPen that was out of his reach. Believing he's dead, he wanders the streets aimlessly and is soon confronted by demons intent upon confiscating his heart and escorting him to Hades. Knowing he's in an unwinnable situation, Keegan prepares to run, but before he can make his move, help arrives in the form of Echo Fitzgerald, a mal'ak dispatched to find Keegan's misplaced soul and bring the two of them together again.

  Keegan cannot deny his attraction to Echo and, while she finds him appealing, she isn't interested in anything more than completing her assignment and getting back to what she was doing before the summons - enjoying a fine Pinot Noir with a Greek god in Belize. But a simple matter soon turns complex when her ex-lover arrives on the scene wanting payback for something that happened long ago. With the assistance of some of Keegan's friends, a biker gang, they are able to stall the demons long enough for Echo to locate Keegan's essence and reunite it with its host.

  The two fall in love, but their love can never be.

  Keegan will not let Echo go, not even for his life.

  * * * *


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter One

  When he'd opened his eyes after death had taken him, he couldn't see. At first, he thought he'd gone blind, until he forced his eyes to focus. Then he realized darkness surrounded him and he was sprawled on the flat roof of an office tower. He had no idea how he'd gotten there or how much time had elapsed since his departure. His body seemed intact, and he felt no pain. In fact, he felt nothing of anything.

  He had a dim recollection of his last few minutes. He'd stood in the entry of his lake-side bungalow, fumbling with the buttons of his coat; a bee buzzing his head; him swatting at the insect and missing; the sting; him gasping for breath; his knees buckling; him dropping to the floor; his hands flailing wildly for an EpiPen that lay far beyond his reach. Before that, there'd been whiskey. One too many shots, he'd thought. He'd been right. If his wits had been about him, he wouldn't be in this predicament. Of course, death was hardly a predicament.

  There was much he didn't understand about the hereafter. He expected the answers would come. Sooner rather than later, he hoped.

  He sensed a presence nearby and stood. "Is anyone there?" he asked into the darkness.

  Somewhere distant, a dog barked, then quieted. A few seconds later, the husky rumble of a street rod and tires squealing on asphalt broke through the silence.

  The dog barked again, then the night settled to stillness. He strained his ears, hoping to hear something other than an animal's plaintive cry, but there was nothing.

  He wondered if anyone had noticed him missing. Someone would. Eventually. His family and friends would mourn his passing, eulogize him in a befitting manner, shed tears at his graveside, then retreat to their homes and reminisce. What stories would they tell about Keegan Kensington Black?

  He peered at the starry sky and sighed. He belonged there, in the heavens, not here, wherever this was. A transitional place, perhaps. A stopover on the way to an everlasting peace, or a place to atone for his sins. He suspected the latter.

  Again, he perceived that someone watched him. Watched him or watched over him? He didn't know. He looked around, but couldn't see anyone. Someone was there, lurking in the shadows. He could feel their presence.

  The time had come for him to move on. He never stayed too long in one place.

  Without further thought, he strode across the roof and sprang onto the ledge. With a glance at the street below, he stepped off the narrow shelf. He took his time descending, enjoying the crisp autumn air and the rush of wind through his hair.

  Dead had its perks, he had to admit.

  Keegan walked block after block, unafraid in the disreputable area of Bristol Harbor where law enforcement feared to uphold the law even in daylight hours. He strolled along, taking brief glances between the bars of store front windows, stopping when something caught his eye, then moving on. He was in no hurry. He had nowhere to go or nowhere he needed to be.

  The sounds of shuffling feet and metal scraping pierced the silence. His interest piqued, he followed the noises into an alley. A crescent moon and a light bulb above a delivery door provided little illumination against towering buildings swathing the corridor in darkness. Somewhat accustomed to gloom, he entered the passageway. A breeze picked up, bringing with it the odors of damp concrete, urine, and rotting garbage. Bits of crumpled paper, wrinkled leaves, and dirty candy wrappers wafted around him.

  His body trembled. Cold. So cold. The reaction took him by surprise. Until that moment, he'd experienced no discomfort of any sort. Something was happening to him, but he didn't know what. He raised his coat collar high on his neck as he ambled forward, looking into darkened corners and alcoves.

  A deep and feral howl echoed around him.

  He came to an abrupt stop. He cocked an ear and listened. The night grew silent once more. Like a ghost, he pushed farther into the alley. He moved around cardboard boxes, careful not to make a sound. Why he exercised caution, he didn’t know. No one could hurt him. Dead was dead.

  Someone – or something – growled.

  Instinct told him to turn and run. If a heart beat within his chest, he would have.

  Another step brought him to a dumpster. Three long strides took him to the other side of the refuse container. There was movement ahead of him. At a standstill, he peered into the semi-darkness and saw two shapes huddled together. Men, he thought. More curious than wise, he inched nearer and wished he hadn't. The men – creatures, he realized on closer inspection – sat on their haunches beside a body, blood dripping from their mouths.

  Keegan might not be able to be seen by the living, but he knew
that wouldn't be the case with those freaks. If he had a guess, he'd say they were hellhounds. Hellhounds who paid him no attention whatsoever, if they even knew he was there. Maybe they didn't. He'd approached quietly. They'd probably been too absorbed in their meal to notice him. He could leave as unobtrusively as he'd arrived.

  It's now or never, he told himself.

  He kept a watchful gaze on them as he backed up, but he wasn't as quiet or inconspicuous as he'd believed. Any sound, even the slightest, could ring out in the dead of night. He looked at his feet and the sand his feet had crushed. As he expected, the noise alerted the creatures to his presence. They turned their misshapen heads and looked at him, but it seemed luck was with him. They merely gave him a cursory glance before turning back to their feast, seemingly uncaring whether or not he stayed, making him think he'd escape without conflict. He wasted no time getting a move on. Several yards from the entrance of the alley, something grabbed the back of his coat, bringing him to an abrupt halt.

  “Leaving so soon?” a booming voice said at his back.

  Keegan turned. Expecting to see another freak, he saw instead a handsome man with eyes the color of ice, but there was no mistaking the stranger's menace. Keegan cleared the catch in his throat and said the first thing that came to him, “I have someplace to be.”

  “Some place better than here? I can't believe that.” The man threw back his head and guffawed.

  Keegan estimated the distance to the street and speculated whether he could outrun the stranger. Prior to his demise, he'd run three miles a day. The street would provide him ample places to hide. If he stayed, he would surely become dessert for those freaks. He didn't know what part this fellow played in the scenario and didn't intend to find out.

  While the stranger was still occupied with his joke, Keegan made a mad dash for the street. He managed to move only a few feet before a hand, scaly and black, gripped him around the throat, stopping him in his tracks.

  “Don’t be hasty.” The stranger cocked his head and sniffed Keegan’s neck. “Oh my, oh my. A new-born.” He clapped his hands and waved the two creatures over, saying, “Come, my sweets. Have I a divine treat for you.”

  Keegan heard a swishing sound above his head and peered upward. Out of the darkness, a female figure dressed in a cerise evening gown descended. Speechless, he watched as she grabbed the blue-eyed stranger by the neck and threw him against the building.

  In strappy sandals, the woman stomped to the two creatures. She grabbed them by their throats as well and hoisted them high in the air. “Your friend is lonely,” she said, and flung them across the alley to join the stranger.

  She took in a huge breath, then ran her fingers through her blonde, curly hair.

  “Damn,” she said, looking at the broken nail on her index finger. “I hate it when that happens.” She ripped off the broken piece, cutting into the quick. Sucking the blood from the cut, she looked at Keegan.

  “I’ll be moseying along now,” he said, hoping to free himself from her and this alley. He didn’t want any trouble. He simply wanted to be left alone to suffer the afterlife in peace. That wasn’t too much to ask.

  “Moseying?” She chuckled. "I haven't heard that expression in awhile."

  The lump of creatures stirred, yelling obscenities foreign to Keegan’s ears.

  “Excuse me,” she said, and in three long strides hovered over them. In the next instant, one by one, they flew past him and landed in the open dumpster. Her legs and arms moved so fast, the action seemed one elongated streak.

  She raised an arm high into the air and a leather attaché case materialized in her hand. She grasped the case by its handle and brought down her arm to rest at her side.

  “Are you just going to stand there like a tree trunk, or are you going to take me somewhere and buy me a drink?”

  Keegan didn't know what to make of this woman. She seemed to be on his side, but appearances could be deceiving.

  “A little slow on the uptake, huh?” She linked her free arm in his and hauled him close, brushing her breasts against his forearm. “That’s okay. What you lack in intelligence, you make up for in looks.” She jerked her head toward the dumpster. “Do you know what they’re doing here?”

  He shook his head. “I don’t even know what they are. Hellhounds, I thought.”

  “They’re demons. They're here to confiscate your heart and escort you to Hades. I’m here to prevent that from happening.”

  Keegan gulped. He didn’t want to go to Hell, but he wasn’t sure he should put his trust in this woman, either. He remembered the noises he'd heard and how his curiosity brought him into the alley. "I came to them, not the other way around."

  "This alley was a pit stop for them and that derelict back there, an appetizer. You're not the only game in town and believe me, they would have gotten around to you. They always do."

  "Why didn't you kill them?"

  "He'd only send more."

  Keegan didn't need to ask who 'he' was.

  She prompted him forward with a tug on his arm, but he remained rooted to the asphalt.

  “Don’t be afraid of me,” she said. “I’m your only chance at salvation. Now, move. There’s a steakhouse two blocks east. Perhaps you’re familiar with it?”