Marked (Dark Protectors #7) by Rebecca Zanetti
by Lyrical Press
Zane is a battle-hardened warrior, used to command and solitude. But Janie has drawn him from the minute they met. His need for her could destroy everything he’s worked for, but the risk is too sweet not to take it. They call her the Chosen One. But when it comes down to the questions of peace or war, life or death, safety or passion, it will be Janie who makes the choice…
Twenty-one years ago
Janie snuggled down in her bed, her four-year-old arms wrapped around her favorite stuffed bear. Mr. Mullet snuggled right back, although he didn’t move much. Probably so she could get some sleep and see what was coming. Her recent dreams promised their lives were about to change.
Janie’s dreams always came true.
In the next room, her mama slept quietly. Maybe Janie should warn her. But maybe not.
Bad people were coming, but so were good people. The ones with fangs. Especially the really big man with the golden eyes who she’d one day call daddy. She’d always wanted a daddy, and one with fangs would be nice.
But first, she had to dream again.
So she tightened her hold on Mr. Mullet and sank into a dream world. This one she’d created at the side of a sparkling lake way high up in the mountains. She left the water blue but made the surrounding trees purple.
She loved purple.
Glancing down, she straightened her favorite shirt. White with bright pink flowers in the front, it made her feel pretty. Maybe her new friend would like it, too.
He peered out from behind a tree.
Even from across the small distance, she recognized his green eyes. Very deep green eyes. She’d been dreaming about him forever. Maybe even before she got borned.
He slowly stepped out of the trees and walked toward her, glancing all around. This close, he was a lot bigger than she’d thought, and had to be at least five years older than she was. Probably.
“This is a safe place. We’re both asleep,” she said.
He scratched his head, rumpling long black hair. “Who are you?”
“Janet,” she said. “You’re Zane.”
He stopped moving. “How do you know my name?”
She shrugged. “ I dreamed about you. About us being friends and ending the war.”
“What war?” he asked, frowning and looking around again.
“It hasn’t started yet.” But boy, things were about to get bad. “We can meet here in dream worlds where nobody can hurt us.” Janie smiled.
“You’re human?” Zane asked, focusing on her.
“Yep.” She peered closer. “You gots fangs?”
“Maybe.” Zane glanced toward a ripple in the dream, where the trees kind of jiggled funny. He somehow stood taller. “Who’s there?”
Janie swallowed. “Um, it’s another boy, but we won’t let him in yet. He’s bad.”
“Dunno.” But she knew not to let him in yet. She’d dreamed about Kalin for a while now, too. “But we’ll save everybody we love. I promise.”
Zane focused down on her, his shoulders relaxing. “Janie?”
“Yep. Janet Isabella Paulsen.” If things worked out right, she’d have a new last name soon.
Zane grinned. “You’re too small for that name.”
“It’s still my name.”
He shook his head. “How about I call you Janie Belle?”
Janie grinned and fought to keep from clapping her hands. They were gonna be friends. “Okay.”
The present day
Sometimes destiny arrived with the crash of a bomb detonating in the trees.
Janet Isabella Kayrs perched on a rock wall facing the tarmac as men in full combat gear loaded helicopters. A young vampire had accidentally launched a rocket into the Oregon forest, but the blaze had already been contained. Unlike the smell.
Dawn began to peek over the horizon, bringing a flash of sunlight lacking in warmth. A breeze slithered through her black silk shirt, but she’d chosen carefully, and she didn’t want a jacket. Just in case she needed to fight.
Tension battled with oxygen, mingling with power. The vampires, each and every one, had a power more daunting than oxygen molecules. With destiny all but riding her, Janie fought to control her emotions. Indulging in fear would get her killed.
With a screeching protest, a heavily secured door opened to her right. She turned and forced a smile. “There’s my favorite firefighter.”
Garrett Kayrs, her younger brother, wiped soot off his forehead. “I helped put out the fire, but it wasn’t me.” He leaned back against the wall, long legs extended, worry cutting grooves next to his generous mouth. “I haven’t accidentally set off an explosive since the fifth grade.”
“I remember.” This time her smile arrived easily. “You were playing in the armory and blew up several trucks.”
“Dad was mad.”
The understatement widened Janie’s smile. “Yeah, but he was amused, too.”
Garrett’s odd gaze sharpened as he watched a missile being loaded. “I don’t think you should go.”
“I know.” She took a deep breath and studied him. At twenty years old, the young vampire stood well over six feet tall. He’d inherited their father’s broad shoulders and rugged features, but the unique metallic gray eyes were all Garrett’s. She slipped her arm through his, impressed by the solid muscle. “I have to go.”
He shut his eyes, the cords in his arm vibrating with a dangerous tension. “Then I should be there.”
Janie leaned against him. With almost five years between them, she’d vowed to protect him at his birth. Even after he’d outgrown her when she’d turned twelve, she’d known how to make him laugh, how to ease the pressure he must surely feel as the sole Kayrs born in the new generation.
Vampires produced only male babies, and not very often. So far Garrett was the single progeny of the Kayrs ruling family.
“You’re needed here to protect headquarters,” she said. “And Mom.”
His massive body shuddered. “I’m torn.” Garrett lifted his chin. “I need to be here for Mom but want to be at the peace talks with you.”
In profile, he looked just as dangerous as their father.
“I’m trained, Garrett.”
“You’re human, Janie.” Garrett hunched his shoulders forward. “No matter how well trained you are, you’re still human.”
Janie nodded. The breeze whipped around them, and she pushed hair out of her eyes. When her mother had mated Talen Kayrs, he’d adopted Janie. He was the only father she’d ever known. While she loved her family, she’d never lived a normal life. “Sometimes I forget I’m human.”
About the author
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti writes dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and contemporary romances. She’s sold from the slush pile, from auction, from pre-empt, and most recently from a short conversation with an editor that turned into a five book deal. She believes strongly in luck, karma, and working her butt off…and she thinks one of the best things about being an author, unlike the lawyer she used to be, is that she can let the crazy out. Currently, she is writing the bestselling Dark Protector series from Kensington, with the tenth book, MARKED, being released in December; the bestselling Sin Brothers series from Grand Central, with TOTAL SURRENDER, book 4, being released in March of 2015, and finally, the Maverick Montana series from Entangled, with RISING ASSETS, the third book, hitting the New York Times and the USA Today Bestseller lists. Find Rebecca online at www.rebeccazanetti.com