Vanessa Unveiled by Jodi Redford

Vanessa Unveiled
by Jodi Redford

Samhain Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60928-368-1

When two dimension-hopping renegades entangle her in a web of seduction, bounty hunter, Vanessa, discovers how difficult resisting her quarry can be. But with only forty-eight hours to prove the three of them belong together, her two sexy pookas are more than ready to turn up the heat.

Chapter One

“Why can’t these damn veil-jumpers hole up in Maui for a change?” Teeth chattering, Vanessa Darby tightened her grip on the steering wheel of her rented SUV. The fact that her fingers could actually move was a good sign. She’d half-suspected they’d frozen in place three hours ago when the heater crapped out.
Her breath a visible cloud, she reached for the temperature control knob and gave it a furious flick. A cold blast of air shot through the vents. “You piece of shit.” Growling, she banged the dash. She was so tearing a new asshole in the jerk back at the rental kiosk who lined her up with this lemon. The headlights glanced off a highway marker in the distance. She clicked the high beams, illuminating the sign. Copper Harbor fifteen miles. Thank God. The northern Michigan town was the last known sighting of the two renegade pookas she’d been assigned to capture and drag back to their home dimension. Hopefully her luck would take a turn for the better, and Rand Quinlan and Braeden Whyndham would still be camped in the vicinity. Because if they weren’t, and she was forced to ride out another seven hours in this freezer-on-wheels, there was a good chance she’d go apeshit on someone’s ass.
An ominous thunk came from the engine and the steering wheel jolted the same instant the gas pedal suddenly went soft, refusing to cooperate. With a clanking groan, the SUV puttered to a slow stop. She stared at the bright red check-engine light glowing on the dash and waited for her head to officially explode. “I don’t. Freaking. Believe this.”
Gritting her teeth, she rammed the gears into park and switched on the hazard lights before popping the hood release. She shoved open the door and an arctic gale nearly ripped the metal from its hinges. This was going to be fun. And possibly the stupidest thing she’d ever done. Fumbling around with a dead engine while stranded on a deserted highway in sub-zero temps? Yeah, definitely deserved to go down in the record book of epically bad ideas. Probably even more moronic than the time she’d chased after that cranky unicorn in Houston without a backup battery pack for her electro-cuffs. Her left ankle still bore the faint outline of a crescent moon scar, thanks to the son of a bitch chomping into her before it trotted off. All that crap about unicorns being cute and cuddly? Total bullshit.
Another wind gust that she swore flew straight in from the Arctic tundra buffeted against her and she staggered. “Jesus, I can’t feel my cheeks.” On her face or her ass. Eyes stinging from the tears that were undoubtedly crystallized to her eyeballs, she stalked, stiff-legged, toward the front of the stalled vehicle. She wrenched the hood up and propped it securely with the safety bar. Leaning forward, she surveyed the engine. Nothing seemed to be smoking or leaking fluids. All the belts and hoses appeared to be connected and in working order.
Too bad the same couldn’t be said for the useless hunk-of-junk car.
Balling her fists, she resisted the strong urge to kick the nearest tire. “Shit, shit, shit.” She sucked in a deep breath, praying for patience. Okay, things could be worse. At least she wasn’t stuck out here in a damn blizzard.
Something cold drifted across her forehead and clung to her upper eyelashes. A snowflake. It was quickly joined by another. Then another. She tossed up her arms. “Oh yeah. Now my night is complete.”
“Do you always bitch this much?” The deep baritone came out of nowhere, making Vanessa yelp. She whirled, automatically reaching for her stun gun. Her fingertips brushed the empty holster riding against her hip. Damn it. The gun was there a second ago.
“Missin’ something?” A seductive chuckle rippled through the night.
An electric sizzle tingled at the base of her spine—a common precursor to an Otherworlder crossing her path. God knows the shivers whispering over her skin couldn’t have anything to do with that velvety bedroom voice lurking in the shadows. Yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba. “Show yourself.”
“As you wish.” Phosphorescent blue eyes materialized directly across from her, near the side of the highway. A snort sounded, followed by a billowing puff of air that haloed the dark outline of an equine head. The heavy clop of a hoof striking the pavement broke the stillness. “In the mood for a little midnight run, darlin’?”
She stiffened at the mocking challenge in the male’s voice. “Damn it, do not make me—” A growl leapt from her throat when the horse gave a sassy flick of its tail and galloped down the side of the embankment, its golden mane flowing gracefully.
Great, a chase. Fan-frickin-tastic.
Well, at least her quarry hadn’t bitten her ankle. Yet. Digging deep for her sorely depleted patience, she pivoted toward the SUV and slammed to a jerking halt as she stared at the empty roadway. She backed up before spinning in a slow three-sixty. Okay, the stun gun might have been a coincidence, but the vehicle? No way in hell she could have misplaced that. Which left only one possibility.
That damn horse was one of her pookas, and it just stole her car. Shit. Highly doubtful something like that was covered in the rental agreement. To add insult to injury, her electro-cuffs were in the glove box. Hell of a lot of good that did her. A taunting whinny carried on the wind, making her blood boil.
“I’m going to really enjoy kicking his ass.” Scrunching her tasseled knit hat securely over her ears, she sprinted across the highway.
Low scrub pines formed a dense barrier to the slope leading down to the forested terrain at the base of the ridge. Praying she wouldn’t fall and break her neck, she dodged the thickest of the greenery and hurtled through the rest. By the time she reached the bottom, the nylon shell of her parka sported a few rips and the lower legs of her jeans were thoroughly soaked thanks to the thick patches of snow that dotted the hillside. Her lungs burning from exertion and the frigid temps, she bent at the waist, gasping for air. Soon as she returned to Cali, she was so renewing her gym membership.
The soft nickering of a horse re-energized her faster than a jolt of caffeine. Got you now, you thieving son of a bitch. Straightening, she loped in the direction she’d heard the noises coming from. She tromped through an overgrown avenue of pines and stumbled to a stop on the other side, convinced that the sight before her must be a mirage. Or maybe she had broken her neck on the trip down the hill, and she’d just wandered into some twisted outpost of the afterlife. One where apparently a high-rise hotel in the middle of the woods was perfectly ordinary.
The possibility of her being dead or daydreaming disintegrated when she spotted the damn stallion. He winked at her before turning and trotting happy-as-you-please through the automatic sliding glass doors. She recognized a challenge when she saw one. Giving the exterior of the hotel a wary glance, she approached the structure with extreme caution. Okay, odds were good that she was about to walk into a trap. But what other choice did she have? That damn pooka had no doubt stashed her car somewhere in that building, leaving her stranded. And weaponless.
Grumbling, she scanned the forest floor for anything that might give her a fighting chance in the event of a sneaky ambush. Her best option seemed to be the thick, sturdy branch protruding from the underbrush near her foot. Rubbing her mittened hands together to encourage circulation, she stooped and grabbed the improvised weapon. “I really need to consider switching careers.”
Despite the numerous times she’d made that empty threat, there was no chance in hell of that ever happening. Being a tracker wasn’t just her job, it was the core of her identity. Without it, she’d just go back to being a freak who saw and felt things others couldn’t. Gripping the stick tight, she crept to the front entrance. Peering up, she noticed the gilt-lettered sign above the doorway. “Between the Veils. Cute.” The sliding doors opened with a welcoming ding.
Entry number 5,606,201 for the book of epically bad ideas. Shaking her head, she stepped into the lobby. And blinked.
Okay, she really wished she could say the first thing that nabbed her attention was the enormous pyramid-shaped fountain that spouted sparkling, champagne-colored water. But that would be a huge, fat lie. Dazzling as the water feature was, it didn’t hold a candle to the buck-naked guy standing in front of it.
In all her twenty-seven years, she’d never seen a more perfectly sculpted male body. Golden skin that appeared silky to the touch spanned a broad chest and shoulders. His impressive pecs were smooth, but a smattering of dark blond hair arrowed down his washboard abs, creating a happy trail that led to the most lickable looking cock in all creation.
Vanessa snapped out of her dazed trance. The last thing she needed to be concentrating on at the moment was a lickable cock, for God’s sake. She widened her stance and adopted her best badass scowl, making it clear that she meant business. Unfortunately, it was damn difficult to look properly threatening while wearing a hat with mini pompoms.
The blond god arched one eyebrow. “Is that a big stick in your hand, darlin’, or are you just happy to see me?”
Oh yeah, she was most definitely going to enjoy kicking his ass.
“That’s pretty damn cheesy, Brae. Even for you.”
The chuckle that sounded behind Vanessa had her grinding her teeth at her stupid lapse in judgment. Fuck. She knew better than to stroll into a situation without first checking her blind spots. It was all that damn pooka’s fault. Him and his distracting, giant cock.
“Forgive Braeden’s less than witty repartee. He’s usually not that…oh bloody hell, yes he is usually that oafish.”
“You didn’t think I was so oafish last night when your dick was tunneling down my throat.”
Vanessa choked on a stunted cough. Okay. Didn’t see that one coming. Despite her best intentions, she stared at Braeden’s mouth, imagining it working over a nice, hard cock. She had no idea what the pooka standing behind her looked like, but if he in any way matched up with that delicious, lilting brogue…oooh, mama.
Son of a bitch, there she went again. If she didn’t stop thinking about hard dicks and naked, sweaty man love, she was going to end up neck-deep in a shitload of trouble. She tightened her grip on the stick. “Here’s how this is going down. I’m giving you exactly five seconds to return my car or I start playing piñata with someone’s head. Capisce?”
A heavy sigh sounded from Braeden’s cohort. “I’m afraid that’s impossible. The valet just retired for the night.”
She growled low in her throat. All the research she’d dug up on pookas was proving to be true—the shape-shifting mischief-makers really were aggravating little bastards. The blond standing by the fountain grinned and rubbed a hand over his belly, the lazy motion drawing her focus back to his stiff cock.
Okay, maybe little wasn’t an appropriate term. She bit the inside of her cheek, the burst of pain managing to corral her thoughts back in line. “I’m a tracker for the International Veil Alliance League, and you’re hindering my orders to bring you in.”
“We know who you are, darlin’. In fact, we’ve been anxiously awaiting your arrival.” Braeden took a step toward her and she brandished the stick in warning.
“Come any closer and I’ll crack you one.”
“Won’t that defeat the purpose of bringing us in alive?”
She bared her teeth. “Oh, I won’t kill you. But nothing says I can’t break a few of your bones.”
Braeden’s smile turned cocky. “Don’t think you wanna do that.”
She narrowed her eyes as he drew closer. “Give me one good reason why not, pooka boy.”
A frisson of air stirred across the nape of her neck like a soft caress and her sensory nerve endings went haywire. Caught off-guard by the sensation, she whipped around. She’d expected to find Rand Quinlan standing directly behind her, so discovering he was leaning against a marbled column at least ten feet away from her left her completely discombobulated. It didn’t help that he was every bit as yummilicious as his accent promised. Hair darker than midnight swept low across his brow and just brushed the collar of the crisp, white linen shirt that molded to his expansive shoulders and accentuated his sun-bronzed complexion. Eyes the color of melted chocolate pinned her in place.
Energy snapped and sizzled through every nerve synapse in her body. The surge of power was like nothing she’d experienced. Raw and elemental. Sexual. Her knees shook and her nipples tightened. A flush of heat rippled beneath her skin, building to a slow ache between her thighs. Her clit throbbed.
Holy hell. A strangled gasp broke past her lips as the beginning waves of an orgasm crested to a sharp, sweet peak. She dropped the stick.
A smoky laugh floated from Rand. “How’s that for a reason?”

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