Dagmar Avery and K. Margaret

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Apocalypse Rising Series

Hi! I'm Dagmar Avery and With my partner in crime and punishment K Margaret, am the author of over 40 books in PNR and RH. We both live in the south of the US, and are in our 40's.

The series you will be previewing is Apocalypse Rising, the first we ever wrote together. Its about 4 immortal warriors that are charged with saving the world from an apocalypse, by finding the women they are destined for that will help them in their task. It takes place in Savannah, GA, and its filled with tons of action, snark, heartbreak and sass. Its also naughty as hell, well past the "steam" factor to down right dirty for some books... So... get ready for some sexy... and we hope you enjoy!

Copyright: Dagmar Avery and K. Margaret 2017-2021

Eclipsed Heart:Apocalypse Rising Book 1
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The skies over the city exploded in fire and color, shining through the windows. The brilliance overwhelmed all senses, and he screwed his eyes shut against the onslaught. Screams erupted below him, the crackle of fire and the scent of burning flesh hit him like a ton of bricks, knocking him to his knees.

“Isaac help…” he heard from behind him, white sheet gathered to her chest as the world behind him exploded, and her eyes went wide, eyes that shined the most brilliant vivid green he had ever seen. The light got brighter, blinding him as he heard her scream again, and moved towards the bed, stumbling…

 

Gasping, Isaac sat up in bed, covered in sweat, panting and shaking. Five forty-three am.  “What the fuck!” he growled, closing his eyes, trying to center himself as he calmed his mind and body. This wasn’t happening. Not now… it was too early.

The eclipse was months away. Months. No one was ready for this, least of all him.

“You cool?” he heard from the doorway of his room. Hoke leaned against the door jam, his naked shoulder pressed into the wood. As his partner and best friend since childhood, they were in tune with each other in a way few in the world were. Bonded through blood, they knew when the other was in distress, and that dream definitely qualified as fucking distress.

“It is starting. I didn’t believe it but…”

“What did you dream?” Hoke asked and picked at his nail.

“The world was ending, I could feel it, colors everywhere, like a mega aurora borealis rained down from the ionosphere. The city was on fire, people screaming… it’s like the prophets said. It’s coming. Soon too. Sooner than we thought. We don’t have long.”

“And the rest of the dream? Did you see her?”

Isaac nodded, remembering the beauty posted in his bed, the green eyes, so scared, so trusting, looking to him for help. A perfection he didn’t think he deserved. “Too good, too beautiful for a guy like me, though…”

“Though?” his friend looked up.

“It won’t matter if I can’t find her in time.”

“You know what she looks like right?” Isaac nodded. “She’s gotta be close then. Don’t worry… we will find her. But right now…”

He sighed and swung his legs over the side of the bed, standing to full height. “I know…” he grabbed his hoodie and put it on, zipping it up as they walked down the hallway towards the observatory. The cool conditioned air surrounded them, getting colder as they got closer to their destination. “I don’t know how you can be in the room without a hoodie.”

“I run hot,” his compadre declared as they reached the rock wall that was the barrier to the Brethren’s holy observatory, just under the mansion.  A retina scan later they were through the door and into the sacred space, face to face with the Trinity, the three priests that ran their Sect.

The Brethren were as old as the world, and the three priests looked it. Mostly wizened and gnarled, the leader stood with his cane in hand in front of a large holographic representation of the known cosmos, their heads looking up at the planets, one pulsing purple. That was new, but hardly what they were there for, not that the bastards would tell them anyway.

“Silas, Fount, Merovi,” he said as they stopped just shy of the trio and bowed.

“Something has happened?” Silas asked, abandoning his viewing of the hologram, then nodded. “Yes, you are brimming with cosmotic energy. Tell us.”

“I had the dream.”

Merovi frowned. “Early.”

Fount sighed. “This is unfortunate. We are not ready. We had hoped…”

Silas shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. It has begun, and we need to move. The woman?”

“I saw her.”

Merovi smiled. “Then find her. Your mission is a go.”

Isaac bowed again to the three priests and made his way out of the observatory, Hoke hot on his heels.

“Plan of action?”

Isaac shrugged. This entire thing was nowhere near ready to happen. “We need more info. I’m going in blind, but that doesn’t mean the rest of you need to.”

Hoke scoffed. “Right, cuz the rest of us are equally as interested in finding the fated female we are supposed to have.”

Isaac didn’t prescribe to the rest of his teams dislike of being tied down to one female, or rather most of his team. Being alive as long as he already had been, the years were starting to drag. Warriors with no war were useless, and it had been ages since any of them had seen actual combat. These days they all indulged in some base interest, from fucking and racking up a body count to trying to create the world’s best tasting beer, and everything in between. For Isaac, it was getting old. A new adventure, a woman of worth that was destined to be with him, was intriguing.

“Regardless, Hoke, it has to happen. We always knew it going to.”

“Horse shit.”

Isaac sighed as they walked through the hallway into the main floor of the mansion. “Deny all you want man. It’s coming.”

“And what are you going to do now?”

“Grab a shower and go into the city.”

“How the fuck are you going to find her?”

Isaac snickered. “Luck?”

Spectral Heart:Apocalypse Rising Book 2
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Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” blasted through Bay Street Brewery’s karaoke night as the three women on stage belted out the lyrics.

Sadie sang into the mic with her two best friends, the crowd singing along with them. It had been a good night. She had been invited to the brewery by Maggie for a seasonal tasting, and then once they drank the shit outta the free beer, they stayed and decided karaoke was a damn fine idea.

It wasn’t a hardship to stay. Maggie’s fiancé co-owned the place with his friends, so not only were they still drinking for free, but they had run of the place.

She watched her friend sing as her fiancé, from the bar, hoisted a glass at them. They all sang the rest, and the crowd followed suit. Another chorus, then a refrain, then another chorus. The crowd went wild as they finished the song and they jumped off the stage, Sadie grabbing her pale pink and mint locks to pull them up into a ponytail as she walked forward.

“Baby, you are amazing.”

Sadie turned to see some decently-sized frat boy standing there, checking her out. She stopped and turned, giving him a tight smile. “Thanks. If you will excuse me.”

“Baby, I’m not done talking to you. Come on…just a moment of your time?”

She sighed and cocked her head. “And what do you have to say that could be so life altering that I am going to wait to hear it and not go get my beer? Well?”

The guy frowned. “So, you don’t wanna hear I think you’re the most beautiful and sexy thing here?”

No, she didn’t. Guys like him were a dime a dozen. They all wanted to rock the pseudo-suicide girl, with her piercings and winged eyes and colored hair. She dressed to make herself happy, and tonight it was skin-tight black capri pants with a black belt and silver buckle. Black leather booties, burned out razored shirt in silvery grey with a lace bra that was partially see through, showing peeks at her chest piece, and an arm full of bracelets, partially covering her full candy-colored sleeve of ink.

Her lips were a sexy grungy red, set off by the silver of the piercing there, her eyes done in black liner. She was hot, she knew it, and she was too good for this guy.

“That’s very sweet, but you just aren’t my type,” she said, trying to be nice. She knew how this normally went and was gearing up for it. Thank god her hair was already up in the ponytail.

“No? Baby, how do you know? I could show you.”

“Yeah…no. So not my type so back off.”

He grabbed her arm and she didn’t hesitate, cocking back and punching him square in the nose. He let go and she moved back, hoping one pop would be enough.

“Fucking skank,” the frat boy raged and grabbed for her again. This time she kneed him in the balls and as he went down to grab his junk, she slammed both hands into his ears and then gave him an uppercut, sending him flying backwards onto the sticky, sawdust-covered floor.

“Don’t you ever touch me!” she screamed and jumped on him, her fist cocked as she got in two good punches and then was in the air, being carried off the asshole.

“Get off me! Get off me!” she screamed as she saw Jess with a frown and Maggie shaking her head with a smirk on her face. “Asshole, get off me or I’m going to give you more of the same! You got beef?!”

She couldn’t see her captor, only that she was being carried back into the brew room.

“Put me down!” she said as she was placed on her feet. She turned to see who was about to get a fresh one and stopped. Holy shit. Jesus Christ on a cracker. Thank you, Mother Mary. A real man. Who the hell was he? “I…hello.” She smiled. “And you are?”

“The guy who should be kicking you out of my bar. But tonight is your lucky night,” he smiled, causing little lines to form around his bright blue eyes. “I talked Hal into letting you stay. Although, he did say I had to get you to promise not to go punching douchebag frat boys anymore. Which is a serious shame.”

She frowned. “Then douchebag frat boys shouldn’t try to touch me.” She cocked her head. “If you had been doing your job then I wouldn’t have to do it for you.” She put her hands on her hips. “Asshole deserved it.”

His smile never faltered. “Kisa, if I had wanted to stop you, I would have. Hell, I would have let you continue to pound the guy.” He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “As you said, the asshole deserved it and watching you pound him was fucking hot.”

She curtsied. “So, you have an ulterior motive for dragging me back here?” She licked her bottom lip and looked him up and down. Jesus Christ. He was a fucking mountain. A sexy as fuck ginger mountain. She normally wasn’t into redheads, or bearded guys, but sweet suffering the man bled testosterone. And his voice. She inwardly shivered. It was too fucking sexy for words. She wanted to hear it whisper to her in darkened rooms with his hand on her throat as he took her body from behind.

Where the fuck did that come from?

“I always have ulterior motives.” He took his time moving his eyes over her, taking in every inch, from the toes of her boots to the top of her head then back down again. “And I carried you, not dragged. You’d know if I dragged you because I’d still have my hand fisted in your hair. Now, Sadie, are you going to behave?”

“Hell no! Not when you make a claim like that.” She purred and stepped forward, in striking distance, or grabbing distance, she didn’t know what she wanted as she looked down at those big hands, the nails perfectly clipped and clean. She loved a man’s hands. They had to be perfect in every way to touch her, hold her body. Long fingers, large hands, normal nail beds, strong artists’ hands. She didn’t know what this one did aside from bounce, but…

She looked up to his face, something registering. He knew her name. “And you have me at a disadvantage, as you seem to know my name, and I know fuck all about yours.”

“Now I’m hurt. Maggie didn’t tell you about her new brothers?” He shook his head before reaching up and pulling at his beard. “Would you like to know fuck about me, kisa?” He pushed off the wall and moved in until only a couple inches separated them. “’Cause if you do you’ll definitely need to know my name.” He leaned in until his lips were a breath from her ear and he whispered, “Because you’ll be screaming it by the time I’m through with you. I want to hear how it sounds when you’re crying out, ‘Gunnar, give me more.’”

Her body tingled, woke for this mountain of a man’s words. Gunnar? Goddamn, it fit. Maggie mentioned Isaac and his friends, who considered her their little sister now, but didn’t once mention this would-be sex god in the mix.

She had met Hal and Hoke, and they were attractive, but nothing like this. Jesus fucking Christ she was getting wet looking at him. He literally oozed sex at her. But she had been fooled before.

She blinked and bit her bottom lip, her stomach doing flip flops and things low in her body clenching, sizzling. The bastard gave good voice all right. And what was with the name he was calling her…kisa? Why did it sound so goddamn dirty that she was ready to drop trow and shake her ass at him?

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

Instead of doing what she actually wanted, which was get on her knees, she affected a haughty stance, to see exactly how much sass the bastard could handle. “Gunnar, is it?” She licked her lips slowly. “I was told by Maggie that Isaac’s friends were off limits, so I don’t think you’re going to get your wish.”

Not a lie, Maggie had said it and after meeting Hoke and Hal, she wasn’t too broken up about it. Jess, on the other hand, was grumbling and Naomi, well, she just shrugged it off. No fucking way was she going to be able to hold up that edict. She was already itching to climb that mountain.

He tsked her. He actually tsked her. “And here I thought you’d be the kinda girl who didn’t let other people tell her what to do.” He tucked a strand of her hair that escaped her ponytail behind her ear. “I’m good at reading people. I’m even better at reading women. The last thing on your mind right now is Maggie telling you I’m off limits. Plus,” his fingers trailed down the side of her neck before disappearing to rest at his side, “there are always exceptions to every rule.”

She smirked. “You think I’m easy?”

“Ah, my little kisa, there is a big difference between being easy and going after what you want.”

Sadie looked him over. Cocky fucker. Still, she wouldn’t mind a ride on that, in some fashion. At least ‘til he figured out her secret. If nothing else, she could see if his boast was real. Why the hell not, she thought, cocking her head and smirking as she crooked a finger at him.

He leaned his hulking mass down until he was eye level with her. “Have you figured out what you want then? Because in about ten seconds I plan on making the decision for you. Ten...nine…”

Oh, she knew what she wanted. Sadie grinned, reached out, and grabbed his junk, squeezing what felt like rebar. Her eyes went wide and then she licked her lips again. “Oh, Gunnar…you shouldn’t have…”

He snarled and before she could even move a muscle, his hand was fisted in her ponytail, using it to pull her against him, and his mouth was on hers. “Oh, Sadie...you should have…” His tongue trailed over her lips and flicked against her piercing and he let out a groan. “Fuck, that’s sexy,” he said against her lips before he kissed her harder.

Her body was literally being puppeted by the man holding her, and she loved it. Her hands were locked behind his thick neck, the scent of him, something earthy like graveyard dust and sea pines, permeated her pores. She wanted to roll in this man, drown in him. So unlike her.

And gods was he a good kisser. She rolled her hips, her body awake, needy, and heavy. She needed more of him, skin on skin. She whimpered and then moaned into his mouth, both frustrated and titillated.

His hands left her hair and grabbed onto her hips, lifting her up until she had no choice but to wrap her legs around him. He took a few steps and she felt her back press against the wall at the same instant his tongue invaded her mouth. A deep growl reverberated from his chest and he kissed her deeper, stealing her breath. “I want to own you,” he said, clutching her ass and pressing her tighter against him. “Fucking making me lose my gods damned mind.”

She nodded. That sounded like a fine idea. She moaned and scratched down his back, the soft material of his shirt getting in the way of marking him. Gods, did she want to mark him. “Then you better do more than kiss me, Gunnar…” she moaned his name and rolled her hips, feeling that steel bar of a cock jump as she did. Poor thing. Probably didn’t have much room in those pants.

“If you’re going to scratch me, you better leave marks.” Holding her body against the wall with his hips, he released her to pull his shirt over his head. “’Cause I plan on leaving plenty on you.”

He hoisted her higher and bit down on her breast through her shirt. “Take it off for me, kisa. I want your skin under my tongue and if I rip this off,” he nipped her again, “you’ll have to walk out of here with your breasts on display and as of this moment, those breasts belong to me and the only people that get to see them are the ones I allow to.”

Sacred Heart:Apocalypse Rising Book 3
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Halvard Wagner was running out of time. A few days ago, he’d been given the news he’d been dreading since Isaac, one fourth of the Brotherhood who were tasked to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, had first had his dream. A dream which all four of them would eventually receive. Not only did it let them know their trial was upon them, but also revealed to them the female they needed to find in order to complete their task. Isaac had managed to find his now wife, Magnolia, save her from becoming a concubine for the Sect of Cronos, and stop the apocalypse from starting. Gunnar went next. He too found his fated female, Sadie, killed off a shit ton of zombies, and again, stopped the apocalypse from starting. Two down, two to go.

While Hal knew he’d eventually have to step up and fulfill a destiny he’d known had been coming since he could barely walk, he wasn’t looking forward to it. But according to Merovi, their resident priest and all-around man of knowledge, along with Maggie, it was his turn to step up to the plate.

For the last several days Hal had laid in bed, afraid to close his eyes, because if he did he would dream. If he dreamed, he might see the face of the female who fate had decided would be his. He hated fate.

Hated how he had no control over who he chose to fall in love with, not that love had anything to do with his particular female.

His life had been mapped out for him since birth and this was just one more decision, in a long line of decisions, he didn’t get to make for himself. The dream never came and now here he was on day one of fifteen, not knowing who she was or even what his trial was. Nothing like being completely blind.

Hal stopped on the corner of Broughton and Bull Street in the historic section of Savannah and looked up at the sky. It amazed him how something so deadly could look so beautiful. The meteor shower NASA had predicted to take place was now shooting through the sky, creating quite the show. At first, they said no destruction would come from it, but the night before they’d changed their previous statement. Not only was there a very strong possibility the meteors would break through the earth’s atmosphere, but the possibility of casualties had skyrocketed.

The city of Savannah agreed and immediately evacuated the Historic District where the threat was greatest. Which meant that was exactly where Hal was, making sure no one decided watching this historic, yet deadly, event was worth their life.

So far, he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of any living being. Even the stray cats seemed to have found a safer place to roam. For once, everyone seemed to be listening to the warnings. Everyone except for the lone figure heading toward him down the street.

“Hey!” he shouted, trying to get the female’s attention. Her head was down, long, dark hair covering her face. She didn’t look up when he shouted. She didn’t show any signs she actually heard him at all. He shouted again. Nothing.

A whizzing sound, then a loud crash reverberated from his right and he looked over to see the Starbucks turned into a pile of ash, a large crater in the center. Another whiz sounded overhead and when he glanced up he saw another meteor, this one the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, barreling toward the female.

Hal shouted again as he ran in her direction, trying to out race the fucking ball of dust and ice. She looked up in time to see Hal’s face before he grabbed hold of her, taking them to the ground. He spun them in the air in time for him to take the brunt of the impact as his back hit the sidewalk and they skidded a couple feet. Quickly he rolled them over, covering her with his body as the meteor skimmed a couple feet above them and slammed into the Marshall House. She’d been seconds from losing her head.

Without checking to make sure the woman was okay, he grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her to her feet. He assessed the situation in less than five seconds, his years in military recon taking over. The only thing he managed to figure out was they were royally screwed. There was no safe place to go, meteors didn’t exactly have a set place they liked to hit, but if luck was on his side, which he seriously doubted, this part of Broughton wouldn’t get hit again. His eyes went to the sky and sure enough, meteors and debris were still raining down, but nothing as large as the last one. They just needed to wait it out and pray. He snorted to himself as he wrapped his large hand around a slender, delicate wrist and pulled her into the first store he saw, after smashing in the window.

He didn’t look back to face her until they made it toward the back of the large, open room filled with different pieces of high end furniture. When he did finally turn, he blinked several times.

“Priya? Jesus Christ, what were you doing out there? Are you all right?”

“What the fuck, Hal?!” She frowned. “What the fuck is going on? Why did I almost get pummeled by a fucking meteor, and why they hell were you there to save me?” She looked about. “How did we get into 24E? Seriously…” She leaned down, putting her head between her knees and breathed, calming herself. After a few minutes of her breathing techniques she was lifting her head and looking at him. “Okay, I’m sorry for the language, but…?” She looked at him expectantly. “I’m at a loss here.”

All he could do was stare at her. First, he’d known Priya for at least five years and he couldn’t remember ever hearing her swear before. Of course, he supposed he didn’t know her that well, they were both members of the Chamber of Commerce, both of them owning businesses in the area. He supposed, in a way, they were colleagues. Second, he still couldn’t believe she’d been walking down the street after the area had been evacuated. What had the woman been thinking?

“I’ll see if I can answer them in order of how emphatically you said fuck,” he said, but didn’t crack a smile. His heart pounded too hard and the trickle of fear that formed when he’d realized Priya was seconds away from being crushed almost robbed him of his breath. But at the same time, he wanted to shake her and yell at her for putting herself in danger.

“That was indeed a meteor. The Historic District is under an evacuation order, as in you should not have been out on the street walking.” He couldn’t keep his voice from rising, he was still picturing her dead body lying on the sidewalk. If he hadn’t been there… His normally calm demeanor was cracking. “And I was there to make sure no one was stupid enough to be out in it. So, your turn, why in the fuck were you out there?”

“While you answered the questions, the reasons were not answered…but, okay. I was walking from the gym on Abercorn that I go to every morning before I go to my store. I wasn’t aware of any evacuation.” She frowned. “Of course, I haven’t been paying attention to anything but my music recently,” she reasoned. “But that doesn’t answer why you were there to save me. Don’t misunderstand me, awesome that you were, and damn, rolling around with you for whatever reason was pretty swank, had I been able to enjoy it, but…why were you out? That’s a job for the cops.” She frowned harder. “The meteors weren’t supposed to make landfall.”

“Apparently, they miscalculated. Last night they realized, whoops, looks like they’ll not only be breaking through the earth’s atmosphere, but they’ll be causing mass destruction and casualties, Savannah being one of the cities with the X marked on it.” Hal rolled his shoulders, trying to get the kink out of his neck caused by his meeting the sidewalk with a little too much force. Only as soon as he moved, pain shot up his back. He cleared his throat, covering up the groan before it managed to escape his lips. A little pain for Priya not being dead was worth it.

“I was at the bar when I heard about it,” he shrugged and regretted the movement as soon as he made it. “The police evacuated, too, so since I was already here, I figured I’d go out and make sure the streets were clear. I’m glad I did,” he said, reaching out to remove a piece of debris from her hair. “The only thing that’s important right now is if you’re all right. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

She shook her head then cocked it. “But clearly you are. Shirt off. Let’s see the damage.” She motioned to his side. “None of this modesty shit either, Hal. The least I can do is make sure you didn’t break anything saving me from my stupidity.”

“I’m sure it’s just a scratch,” he said, unbuttoning his shirt, knowing it was pointless to argue with the woman when she had her ‘don’t argue with me’ face on.

Shit, it felt like he’d seared off half of his back. He’d been in much worse pain over his long lifetime, however. Being almost two hundred years old, a man finds all kinds of ways to injure himself. He shrugged the material from his shoulders and let it fall onto the floor. “If anything, I’m sure it looks worse than it feels.”

He didn’t turn around so she could get a look at it, instead he took hold of her hand and made her look at him. “Are you sure you’re all right? You were minutes away from…” he shook his head, not able to finish the sentence. “And you’re not stupid. If you would have been out there and had known what was coming, that would be been stupid.”

She smiled at him. “I’m fine. I’m sure I’ll have a bruise or two but nothing is broken. Now, let’s see…Oh God, Hal!” She started digging in her bag and pulled out a bottle of water, Neosporin and some band aids, then thought better of the band aids. “Serious road rash. Turn, let me fix you up.”

He almost told her it wasn’t necessary, but thought better of it. Hal was old, not stupid. In all the years he’d known Priya, she never came across as the type of woman to take no for an answer once she got something in her head. Which was why he tried to avoid her at all costs.

Instead, he nodded his head. “Have at it. Hopefully poor Drachen isn’t chewed up,” he added, talking about the dragon tattooed across his back, who curled over his shoulder and around his right side. “She might be a beast, but she’s sensitive.”

“She’s also beautiful. Hooo…wonder what the Chamber ladies would think knowing old stoic Hal-hot ass-Wagner is the home of a gorgeous dragon.

 “Now I know why you avoid women, you already have one,” she said as she worked on fixing him up. He could feel her touching him, smearing something on him. “It will help, but there’s not much I can do. Neosporin should make sure you’re not infected.”

“I don’t avoid women, I just spend a lot of time working,” he said, his tone even, even though he winced on the inside. He didn’t avoid all women, only her. “Please tell me they don’t really call me that, because if they do, they all need their heads examined.”

Her hands were gentle against his back, her touch light. It didn’t surprise him, though, considering she made a living designing and creating artful and delicate soaps for her store. A rush a disappointment filled him when her hand stopped and moved from his back. It had been so long since he’d been touched, he’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

“We’re going to need to stay put for a while,” Hal told her, turning back to face her again. “I want to make sure the threat has passed before we go back out there.” As soon as the words left his mouth, the ground beneath them shook as another crash sounded outside.

Darkened Heart:Apocalypse Rising Book 4
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The alarm blared, the sound cutting through the dream he was having. Such a good dream. Hoke groaned as his mind roused from slumber, letting the dream slip away as if it never was there.

She’d been there, lying in a large remote glen, the sun beating down on them as she snuggled to his side. She never talked in the dreams, and he felt more than once that they were memories he’d forgotten or pushed back into the file in his brain that was Drew. He knew, without a doubt, that they weren’t happening now, but before, when things were easier, and she was alive.

But he had to let her go. His trial was starting. The dream he wanted and the dream he got were two different things. And while the girl who smiled at him from his bed, the sunshine making her hair glow, was beautiful, she wasn’t Drew. No one was Drew.

But he would do his duty and things would end up okay for everyone. As long as he found her in time. Though with the way things were going she would just show up and things would progress. So he wasn’t too worried.

Though it was winter, two weeks before Christmas, and four weeks before the lunar eclipse that marked the end of the trials in toto. A month to find, bond with the pretty girl in his dream, and save the world for his family. He only hoped she would be a good complement to him, as the other women were for his brothers. Of course, no one would ever be Drew, but he hoped for some semblance of happiness, before the shit hit the fan.

Hoke groaned and slapped his alarm clock, silencing it, and opened his eyes to stare at the ceiling of his bedroom at the mansion. Thirty days. He could do this. Hell, he’d been waiting over a year for this to start. In that time everyone had settled in, even Oliver and Bailey, after a crazy spring and a St. Paddy’s they would never forget.

“Hoke! Oh good, you’re up!” Jessica said as she bounded into his room and jumped on the bed.

“Hey, hot pants, when did you get in?”

“Last night, you were working. I was going to surprise you by sleeping in your bed, but then I got drunk with Sadie and Maggie, and passed out in the media room,” she said matter-of-factly.

That was the thing with Jess, she just didn’t care. She was wild, fun, and insane, and she was in the same boat as him. Single with everyone around them attached. It worked for them, and the comfort they offered each other was good when she was home.

“So, Maggie told me you had the dream. You ready for this?”

“Doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s happening,” he said and threw his arm over his eyes. Jess rolled over him and settled her head on his stomach, lying perpendicular to him.

“Well, suck it up. It’s time to hunt. Oh and don’t forget, you are going to be my date at the Christmas Ball tonight.”

Ah shit. He did forget. “That’s tonight?”

“Uh huh. I want you to be sexy as fuck so every girl there is jealous, and every guy there thinks he might be a match for you so I can go home with someone and get my swerve on.”

He chuckled. “You got it…sexy as fuck so you can get laid.”

“Hey, who knows, your chica might just be there.”

Fat chance of that. He knew everyone in the Chamber, and while it was possible that it could be someone in someone’s immediate family who would be attending, he highly doubted it. “Maybe,” he said and sighed. “What color are you wearing?”

“A stunning plum gown, tight to the knees and then flairs. Satin. I look hot.”

He bet. Jessica always looked amazing. “So plum…” He groaned. “Do I own anything to match?”

“You do now. Carleton asked me a week ago what I was wearing. He said he has it all taken care of.”

Thank the gods for Carleton. “Great. Then I guess we are good to go.”

“Yeah. So, breakfast? Or how about lunch out?”

“Lunch out tomorrow? I have to hit up the bar this morning. In fact, if I don’t get outta bed and get moving, I’m going to be late for the deliveries.”

“Well don’t let me stop you, baby, you do you.”

He chuckled, sliding from the bed and Jess’s head fell to the mattress.

“I say goddamn, Hoke. You have a great ass. Shame it’s covered in boxers.”

“He shook his head and made his way to the bathroom, turning the shower on. “Out, woman…go and pester your friends.”

“Aye aye, capt’n!” she said and he heard the door close.

“Jessica…” he warned and then heard her groan.

“Fine. Really leaving now.”

He arched a brow and stuck his head out the bathroom door just as she was leaving the room. He knew locking the door would be useless, but really it wasn’t anything she hadn’t seen before. Should she walk in and catch him starkers, she was going to have to deal with the sight. And the thought of how she was going to handle it amused him so much he decided to not only not lock his bedroom door, but leave the bathroom door open as well.

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