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“Welcome to my world. Welcome home.”

Emmanuel smiled, his arms around me. Birds sang, welcoming the rising sun. 

He stepped up onto the bank and set me down, my feet sinking into soft, wet earth. "Where are we?" Dimitri asked, still standing in the swiftly moving stream, looking up to where the house was only moments ago. A mere flash ago. But now, it was just trees—ancient, snarled trees, ferns at their feet. A forest untouched by development. Impossible.

Emmanuel did not answer, his hand trailing along my waist for a moment before he returned to the water, walking deeper into it as he pulled off his dirt-encrusted shirt.

Faint rays of the rising sun lit his exposed skin, playing over the defined muscles in his back and tangling in his curls that were stiff with dried mud. "We’re…in a different dimension, aren't we?" I asked.

“What?” Megan’s voice was quiet.

Emmanuel twisted, his broad shoulders angling toward me. My eyes caught on the V shape of muscles below his tight abdominals. Dear Lord. That’s what they called him…the vampires all called him Lord.

Emmanuel gave me a devastating smile, his eyes promising a reward for my observational powers. Tingles of anticipation raced over my skin.

Bending down, Emmanuel dunked his shirt beneath the swiftly moving water. Megan joined me on the bank, her brilliant red hair catching the light. My heart rate picked up. "Dimitri and Megan can't be in the sunlight."

It filtered through the trees, imbuing this new world with a soft golden flush, but soon it would pierce through the foliage—rays of light that were deadly to my friends.

Emmanuel moved to a deeper part of the stream and dropped to his knees, then submerged himself into the frigid water. Dirt flowed off of him, a brown cloud carried away by the current.

Dimitri joined Megan and me at the water’s edge, his shoes sinking into the moist dirt. The T-shirt he wore was ripped and blood stained, yet he still moved like a dancer, all controlled elegance. His pale blue eyes avoided mine, looking into the distance instead. “There is a cave," he said. "About a mile that way." He nodded his chin toward the rising sun. "At least there was in our world. We should go now, Megan."

I wanted to cup his cheek and turn him toward me. So much had changed in such a short period of time. We were lovers just hours ago. And now, Emmanuel had made him my…what? Protector, servant? Either way, he wasn’t looking at me.

"I'm not leaving Darling," Megan said, crossing her arms over her stomach and setting her jaw, her mismatched eyes hard.

"She will be safe," Dimitri assured her. "Emmanuel is here."

Emmanuel sat up then, water dripping off him as he rose, his skin prickling from the cold water and fresh air. He shook his head and droplets sprayed, catching the morning light, looking like jewels.

He approached us and handed Dimitri his shirt, without looking at the vampire. 

"Wring this out for me.” Would saying please kill the man…Lord…whatever he was. 

Dimitri took the shirt and twisted it, his forearm muscles coming into relief as water splattered onto the muddy shore. “Thank you," Emmanuel said, a playful smile twisting his lips. Did he read my mind? "Go to the cave,” he waved at Megan. “We will meet you there at sunset." When she made no move to leave, Emmanuel focused his attention on her. She dropped her gaze. “Do not fear,” he said, his voice low. “Darling is in good hands,” he promised.

I believed him…

**Beware: This series is for adults who enjoy steamy paranormal romance with strong urban fantasy vibes and who don’t mind a few f-bombs.**

September 3
Emily Reed
Emily Kimelman

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