Fate brought her people to Earth, now it’s marked her for death.
Aliens don’t exist. Or least, Willow was sure they didn’t until she finds out not only do they live among humans, but she’s their future queen. How is she supposed to deal with the fact that not only are aliens real and hiding among humans, but she’s their next queen and has been marked for death?
Liam had one job to do—kill the Maya. As the future Vitares ruler, she’s destined to bring about the eradication of their race and the destruction of Earth. But when he meets Willow, a single touch ties them together for eternity.
Now he has one mission—keep them alive long enough for Willow to ascend, even if it means sacrificing everything and everyone he loves.
Fate brought her people to Earth, but fate has marked her for death.
Their planet ravaged by war, the Vitares people have sought refuge on Earth, concealed among the humans, searching for the Maya, the ruler destined to take control and end their existence.
Willow has lived on the run with her parents her entire life, hiding from an unknown danger. Then she meets Liam and everything she believes to be true about herself and the world falls apart. She is the Maya and until she takes her rightful place, her people will stop at nothing to kill her.
I wished I could say the gun pointed at me was a surprise, but sadly, it was precisely the kind of day I was having; a day like every other day of my life.
“Give me your purse,” the masked gunman said.
Masked gunman. I nearly choked on a giggle as I shrugged the handbag off my shoulder and handed it over. I’d miss the new leather smell. It was my third purse snatching that month, and I’d hoped to enjoy the bag a little longer than three days, but I knew better than to put anything important in there. My cash was hidden in my bra with my driver’s license while my disposable cell phone rested next to my ankle, tucked in to the top of my sock.
The man yanked the bag from my hands and took off, most likely expecting me to call the cops. If I were a normal person, I would have, but normal didn’t apply to me. When you were being robbed or attacked on an almost daily basis over the course of years, the police stopped taking you seriously even if you’d only lived in town a few months. Besides, my parents had a strict involve no police policy.
I watched him run, and sighed before turning back to the department store I’d just come out of. I went to the sale section and found a cheap clutch wallet. Dad thought I was crazy for constantly spending the money, but after I’d been beaten up by someone who hadn’t believed I didn’t have anything on me, I learned it was better to have something they could see and take without any struggle. The leather purse had been a luxury that practically called my name. I could say no to a lot of things, but that purse hadn’t been one. Now my lack of resistance made me want to smack myself for throwing money to the criminals.
After making my purchase, I hopped on the bus that would take me home. I dropped a sweaty dollar bill in to the machine, ignoring the driver’s curious gaze as I stuffed the rest of my cash back in my bra. The bus was almost empty. The only other person on board was a guy sitting at the back, wearing all black with a hood pulled down over his head. Black cords stuck out from where his zipper ended and then disappeared under the sides of his hood. Even up in the front row, I heard the bass of his music.
I sank on to a seat near the driver. Experience taught me the front was safest. The driver was much more willing to respond to your cries for help or to open the door when you could look him in the eyes. Not that I thought the guy at the back would try to rob or assault me. No. I attracted the ones in disguise, either by a mask, such as earlier, or the innocent looking criminals, like the little old lady who held and emptied my purse as I pushed her grocery cart for her last week. The weirdos like bus guy never bothered with me.
I’d kinda hoped moving to a big city would mean my chances of being targeted by criminals would decrease since there would be so many more people they could victimize, but my masked gunman had only been one of many I’d run in to. Within a week of arriving in Chicago, I determined the only difference between the ones in the city and the thieves in small towns was that, in the city, they had a slight advantage in the surprise factor because they blended in with everyone else.
Buildings lining the street whipped by in a flurry made blurrier by the fluffy snow drifting down. I’d gone downtown to buy Christmas presents for my parents but didn’t find anything. It was pointless, anyway. Yet another of my folks’ strict policies was the ‘only keep what you can carry’ philosophy, which made buying gifts for them was simply a donation to the Salvation Army or neighborhood dumpster when we inevitably moved a few weeks later.
It was easy to know why my parents had chosen Chicago for our latest home. They always went for big cities where we blended in, where neighbors didn’t try to make friends, and where our sudden disappearance wouldn’t leave people asking questions.
Of course, even in a big city, I’d expected to go without the masked robbers. The guy tonight probably thought the nasty weather would deter me from giving chase.
The driver cursed as we jerked forward then skidded to a stop. I tried to see out the front window, but apart from white fluff, I couldn’t see anything.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Wipers stopped working. I can’t see sh-anything.” He pulled on a pair of red leather gloves. “I’m gonna give ‘em a shake. That should get ‘em going.”
As he stepped outside, a blast of cold air invaded our heated space, and I rubbed my hands together. One of the wipers slapped against the windshield, and I jumped at the loud sound.
Laughing at my own nerves, I glanced toward the back. Weirdo bus guy stared at me from under the edge of his hood. I still couldn’t see his face, but his eyes glowed through, a vivid blue so unnatural they had me on the verge of pissing my pants. Thoughts of bloodthirsty vampires flooded my mind, and I froze, completely brain dead as to what I should do.
Common sense took over. At least, as common sense as you can get when some kind of blue-eyed demon watched you sit alone on a bus with darkness settling in.
I gave him a teeth-baring smile and stood, glad I didn’t have any bags and that the wallet I bought and was about to abandon only cost me three bucks. He shifted as I moved, and I leapt for the door, hoping to God he didn’t have super speed or strength.
I jumped down the steps and ran smack in to the driver, who fell back on impact. I didn’t hesitate, taking off down the sidewalk, ignoring the loud ‘Hey!’ he yelled at me. My feet slipped a few times, and I face planted once, but I got up and kept running.
There were no sounds behind me, but that didn’t mean anything. Vampires could fly, couldn’t they? Or, at least, jump extreme distances.
Ahead of me, the police station loomed, a beacon of safety for most people. For me, it meant a possible trip to court for filing another false report. Of course, if I went in and told them some guy on the bus had glowing blue eyes, they might opt to send me to the hospital.
Because, seriously, that was where I belonged. Glowing eyes? Vampires? There was something wrong with me. Something beyond my weird parents and my uncanny ability to attract criminals intent on relieving me of all my worldly possessions. Besides, didn’t vampires have red eyes?
I slowed my running to an eventual walk and shook my head at my own stupidity. A quick glance back down the street assured me no one followed. It should have been comforting, but, while I wasn’t being followed, no one else was around either. The businesses were long gone, replaced by houses set back from the road and surrounded by big bushy shrubs that would make perfect hiding places for vampires, or, more likely, the common thieves who always found me.
I knelt to pull my cell phone from my sock, and as I started to rise, a pair of black shoes stepped in front of mine. My heartbeat doubled its efforts, and I debated my chances of a running escape. Finally deciding on not so great, I rose, letting my eyes travel up the length of my probable attacker.
Black jeans, black shirt peeking out from under a black hoodie, and earphones dangling down.
Crap. Weirdo bus guy.
His hood still shadowed his face, but the glowing eyes were gone.
“Hi. I’m Jenna,” I said. “I’m heading home to have dinner with my brother and sister, and then I’m going to take my dog, Mable, for a walk.”
I sounded like a complete mental case, but Dad once told me I should tell an attacker personal information about myself so they would feel connected to me and be less inclined to kill me, even if none of it was true. I never bothered trying before, since I’d never felt so threatened. Most of them only wanted my money or cell phone, but something about that guy left me feeling as though neither of those things would do. He wanted my soul.
His hand came up. To choke me! I reared back, throwing up an arm in defense as my eyes squeezed shut in anticipation. But nothing.
My eyes opened to see his hood coming off, and I wanted to die from humiliation. He was gorgeous. His eyes weren’t blue, but a deep brown that matched the hair sweeping across his forehead, under a dark green beanie. He had some serious Johnny Depp cheekbones going on and full lips that begged me to kiss them. It didn’t matter if he planned to kill me. I’d die happy if I could go while looking at his face.
“Uh. Hey. You left this on the bus.”
God. He had a sexy voice. Deep and rough. I melted.
He held out my new wallet, and I stared at it like an idiot for a few moments until my hand took pity on me and reached out for it. There was no lingering. Instead, he shoved it at me before stepping back.
I gave myself a mental slap for being so guy-crazy and took a step back as well, though my hormones protested my feet’s movement. He might be dangerous. Just because he was hotter than a summer day on the equator didn’t mean he wasn’t a weirdo or murderer.
“Thanks.” I smiled and waved the wallet between us. I took a few more steps back, not wanting to turn my back on him, purely for safety’s sake of course. It had nothing to do with the way his lips tilted into a smile.
“Yeah, well, thanks. Again. Have a good night.”
I forced myself to walk away as I jammed the wallet into my jacket pocket.
“Goodnight,” he said behind me. “Willow Maya.”
I froze. No one. No one knew my real name. And the fact he did wasn’t a good sign.
The sound of my heavy breathing filled the otherwise quiet night. No way had I misheard him. No way I imagined it. I glanced over my shoulder to see him watching me, and I did what I should have been doing the entire time. I ran. Again.
As I huffed and puffed down the street, I realized I should have more actively engaged in some of my dad’s cardio training sessions. It might have helped.
But he was fast. Not bad CGI vampire fast, but faster than me. He grabbed my shoulder and yanked back. Unfortunately, my feet kept going and I did a cartoon flop on to my back. It left me staring straight up at him as he gazed down at me.
“What do you want? Who are you?” I hated the fear trembling through my words.
“A better question would be what am I?”
Holy shit. A frickin’ vampire. A mind-reading vampire. Why me? I never picked sides, but Team Jacob always seemed a little less needy.
“Do it quickly.” I turned my head to the side, exposing my neck.
When I dared to look at him, confusion wrinkled his brow in a hot, yet totally adorable, way.
“You’re not gonna…?” I couldn’t even speak the words aloud. Suck my blood sounded way too cheesy to say. “Bite me?”
He snickered. I pushed up off the ground, lips pursed as the sound of his chuckles grew into a full blown laugh.
“Did you think I was gonna suck your blood? That I’m a vampire?” He broke out laughing again.
“No. Really. A vampire?”
“What? Glowing blue eyes, and you’re obviously super fast.”
“I’m pretty sure my eyes are brown, and I thought the bus was kinda slow.”
I peered around him and, sure enough, there was the bus stop. My parents had successfully transformed me into a complete paranoid idiot. Then I remembered what he called me. He knew my real name. A name I hadn’t spoken out loud in over six years.
It was the first rule in our family. Tell no one anything. Our names changed with every move we made, which was basically every few months. Beyond new driver’s licenses, we never worried about a back story, since we didn’t socialize with anyone. Ever.
“There’s no need to be afraid,” he said, reaching a hand toward me.
I snorted. “Creepy bus guy in all black grabs me and calls me some strange name, and I’m not supposed to think something’s wrong with the situation?”
“You know what I called you, and I know it’s your name.”
“My name is Jenny.”
“Jenny? Not Jenna? Or Jemma?”
“What do you want?” I demanded, ignoring my mistake with the name.
“Nothing. Yet,” he answered, his hand dropping to his side.
“Then, if you don’t mind, I need to head home.”
“Ah, yes. To your siblings and your dog.”
He stepped to the side and waved his arm in a flourish. I stomped off around him and refused to glance back to check if he followed. It might encourage him to follow me home.
I took a twisting route home, winding down streets and backtracking a bunch of times, trying to ignore the rapidly cooling temperatures and the snow piling on the ground and soaking through my converse sneakers. Not letting him find out where I lived trumped being warm.
An hour later, I reached the trailer park that had been home for the last three months. The front of the park was well maintained. Most of the trailers up there were in good condition, with tidy yards and flowers growing outside their doors. Further back where ours was, people didn’t care as much, possibly since management didn’t either. They were more concerned with first impressions. Mom tried to keep our area clean, but the neighbors didn’t bother and, most of the time, their cigarette butts and beer cans found their way over to us.
Once I saw our trailer, I started jogging, wanting to get home quicker. The lights were off, but I didn’t think anything of it since my parents saved on power as much as possible. Until I was about twelve, I thought it was because they were environmentally conscious, then I realized a higher bill meant needing more money and getting a better job.
“Mom? Dad?” I called as I pulled at the door. It didn’t budge, and I stared at the offending piece of metal. Our door was never locked. Mom was always home. I reached in to my bra, digging for the key I’d never used before.
I entered the trailer, and the lifelessness of it turned my stomach into a sinking pit. Neither of my parents were there. I flicked on the light, and what I saw confirmed it. Oh, all the meager belongings we’d gathered were still there, but Mom’s emergency bag was gone, and the hook beside the door held only the key to my dad’s beat up Ford.
“They frickin’ left me.” As I spoke the words, I struggled to accept them. How could they have left me? I was only seventeen. I had no money, no job, and no way to even get a job.
Maybe they didn’t just leave. Maybe someone took them. But who? Why? No. As sad as it was, they probably just left.
I tried to remember everything my parents ever told me about our running. Which was nothing. Dad always said it was better I didn’t know anything, and he did a good job of making sure that was what I knew. My name was Willow Maya, and theirs were Mom and Dad. I sank onto the bench that served as couch and dining chair. What the hell was I going to do?
I scanned the small space, already missing the warmth my parents filled the dismal place with. Even the two foot high Christmas tree standing in the corner of the counter hadn’t seemed so pathetic before. A small scrap of white paper sitting under its branches caught my eye. I reached out and snagged it by the edge, hoping, if it were a ransom note, I wouldn’t smudge any fingerprints.
My worry was needless. My parents hadn’t been kidnapped.
I’m so sorry we have to leave, but it is too dangerous for us to stay here any longer. We always understood we’d have to one day, but I’d hoped for at least another year with you. There is so much I want to explain, but there is no time. We took you for your own safety. The world we lived in was full of danger, and if we had left you behind, you would have died. Until you are with your Vita, you are not safe. You’ll recognize him when you meet. Trust only him. All others will seek to kill you.
Your Vita is in Elmer. Wait for him. There is enough for you in your heart until he finds you. Have a long and happy life.
No doubt about it. They frickin’ left me. They abandoned me to keep themselves safe, and all I had now was some letter telling me I wasn’t safe until some Vita guy arrived to save me. And I was going to magically know who he was? I crumpled the paper, tossed it on the table, and slammed my fist on top. I refused to cry, and the angry tears that formed only made me angrier. This was so unfair of them. They were supposed to be taking care of me. How the hell would I survive on my own?
I got up, carrying the letter over to the stove. Turning the burner on high, I held the paper to the element, watching as a flame burst to life, eating up my only connection to my parents. It was what Dad would expect me to do with something holding such important information.
I went in to my room and squatted to reach under the bed. I stretched as far as I could until my fingers grazed a wooden box. Pulling out a small heart shaped jewelry box, I thought how ironic it was my mom left me something in a heart shape box as she ripped my real one from my chest.
The lid was propped open under the force of whatever she had placed in there. I lifted it off, and the contents popped out. A clump of twenty, fifty, and hundred dollar bills fell to the floor, and I counted them up. She had left nearly two thousand dollars for me, along with the receipt for the next two months’ rent. Perfect. So I had three, maybe four months before I was shit out of luck. Which shouldn’t have surprised me, but, really, I thought I’d at least have until my eighteenth birthday before my folks deserted me.
I tucked the money into my bra, mainly from habit. The extra bills gave me a lot more padding than I was used to, but at least I’d know where it was.
Throwing the jewelry box on the narrow shelf lining one side of my bed, I flopped face down and let out a giant sigh of defeat. Being alone sucked.