Into the Light
(Book 2, The Admiral's Elite)
Publisher: Staccato Publishing
A vicious serial killer is on the loose in Wisconsin and it's up to the Admiral's Elite to stop him. Admiral Black's second in command, Captain Michael Rossi, has been tasked with finding out who or what the killer is and put an end to his reign of bloodshed while avoiding some pitfalls of his own. Like hiding the fact that he's falling in love with Becca from the admiral who would be sure to use it against them. Ghosts from Gabrielle's past threaten her place with her unit and Ryan's bed.
Local police are puzzled and the town is terrified. The Admiral's Elite must find a killer, stop him without anyone finding out their true identities, and not be torn apart in the process.
HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box.
Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman she uses for therapy dog work and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working or whatever else.
In addition to editing for the past ten years in advertising, HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years; her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her skills are being focused on clients in the writing world.
Paranormal is her favorite genre and science fiction because both address the possibilities we have not yet realized and the darker things we have. Her favorite premise: “what if?”
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“Tell me, Captain, did you get what you needed?”
“I thought we were past that whole ‘captain’ thing.” He captured a drop of sweat on the back of her shoulder and brought it to his mouth. A slow lick and it was gone.
“Fine then, Michael.” She shuddered, feeling a stir in her stomach and lower despite her exhaustion from their activities. Her voice was lower, husky. “Answer my question. Did you get what you came for?”
He chuckled. The vibration where their bodies touched sent another shiver down her spine. “I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy all that.” His hand, back to tracing her curves, glided over the tiny silver scars that crisscrossed her body. Most humans would never see them they were so light. Michael’s wandering hand dipped below the sheet he’d pulled over her cooling body. “But that’s not actually why I came to see you.”
Becca’s eyes searched the dimly lit space to find Black easing out of his office, a nearly invisible opening in the wall on the far side of the room, and gliding forward to stand at the head of the long rectangular black table in the center of the room. An overhead set of lights washed his alabaster skin clean of details until she got close. A thick bunch of tan folders were set neatly on top of the black surface.
“Admiral Black, Sir.” Becca refrained from saluting when she reached the far end of the table; she learned in the beginning they didn’t do that here.
Obsidian eyes showing no whites, only an expanse of flat black set into white skin and topped with equally under-pigmented short hair, regarded her without expression. By some trick of the light, the immortal, soulless creature appeared strained. Could it be? She shook off the thought as impossible.
“Please, take your seat, Rebecca.”
His towering six-foot-four frame stationed at the head of the table was even more daunting when she sidled up the table to take her usual seat on his right. She tried not to be obvious as she scanned the room for Michael.
“I have asked Michael to give us a few minutes alone, if you don’t mind. We have not had the opportunity to speak without his company for some time.” Tapping a long white finger on his pointed chin, he appeared to think for a minute. “Not since you returned from the hospital, I believe.” Those flat black eyes turned toward her and his thin lips tightened into what might have been a smile. On him it was more of a grimace. Then, gracefully, he folded and took his seat.
That simple act had her heart racing. Becca had never seen the man sit before, much less smile. It freaked her out even more than his hovering aloofness. Keeping herself from making direct eye contact for long enough for him to manipulate her mind, she glanced to his nose and back every few seconds.
“Calm yourself, Rebecca. I assure you, you have nothing to fear from me.” The corner of his mouth twitched again. Another smile. “We have not had an opportunity to discuss how you are finding things here with us. You have had ample time to settle in and see how things are done here, I trust.”
If the admiral wasn’t the admiral, Becca might have been tempted to laugh. It wasn’t like she’d had a choice in her place here. Once Black decided he wanted someone that was it. It didn’t matter whether she liked it there or not. One thing was for sure, if she had to be around the chilling admiral as often as she had her previous commanding officers, she would have had a breakdown or at least developed a nervous tic or ten by now. Fortunately, she had Michael acting as a buffer between them. While that would have bothered her in her old unit in the Navy, it didn’t so much now. The less time she spent with Black the better, and Michael was her immediate supervisor. That was another can of worms entirely and not one she could open while she was with Black. One stress case was enough, thank you.
“Things are fine, Sir. Everyone is teaching me about the sorts of creatures I’m encountering and we train every day we aren’t on a mission.”
Black blinked. With his coloring and lack of visible corneas it lent him an uncanny resemblance to a snake. “Yes, Michael has kept me apprised of your progress. He reports that you are a quick learner. What has it been, five missions in two months? All presenting different obstacles, none quite so challenging as the one that nearly cost us your gift.” His white fuzz covered head wagged, more disturbed by his unit’s possible loss than the pain of the human who wielded said gift. Trust Black to leech any hint of sentimentality out of something. “However, I did not ask what you were doing. I asked how you are doing.”
“Uh…” Becca’s heart and mind went into overdrive. Immediately, she tried to calm herself. The fact that her eyesight wasn’t dancing lent her a tiny modicum of solace. If she were in danger from the admiral, her preternatural sight would have let her know. Only recently she’d discovered she could somewhat control how debilitating the effects were and since mastering that control, she hadn’t lost her vision for more than a few seconds at a time. That didn’t stop her stomach from clenching nervously now. She feared she knew where this was leading. They hadn’t spoken about the new twist on her ability since she’d jumped into Michael right in front of the their scary boss. If her damned vision hadn’t been so blurred at the time with her lover and old partner about ready to face off, she would never have done it. Now she realized what a mistake it had been. “It’s good, Sir. Everyone is very helpful and I find the work challenging as well as rewarding.”
The black eyes narrowed slightly. “Thank you for the sanitized version, Rebecca. However, I know that you are an intelligent woman. You know very well what I am asking you. Have you learned more about this jumping ability of yours?”
Becca held her finger under her nose and stifled the urge to retch. The stench of opened stomach and bowel was overpowering and her eyes watered.
“Breathe through your sleeve,” Michael, one of the few who could understand what her powerful nose was picking up, whispered as he stepped away from her to explore the scene. If this was hard for her, it had to be terrible for the other members of her unit. Their sense of smell was even stronger than hers.
Brown canvas-jacketed sheriffs and blue parka-clad local police were working to process the scene. Darkening skies, heavy with snow-filled clouds, urged them to be quick. One young officer leaned against a tree trunk on the perimeter heaving out his breakfast, a camera hung by its strap from the hand not propping him up.
Unashamed to have anyone else think she was near vomiting herself, Becca pulled her hand inside her wool sleeve and held the end to her nose and mouth, trunk-like. Several gulps of warm air allowed her head to clear. Blinking away the reactionary dampness that had formed in her eyes when she was gagging, Becca pretended to be searching the ground for tracks and other clues while she watched the scene out of the corner of her eye. Her skin itched from the tension coming off the blue and brown coats littering the scene.
Ryan took long strides past her, heading straight for the bodies. Circling first the human, then the dog, he came in close. Odd considering the attention everyone was paying to the human. Sensing her gaze, he looked up and winked.
That was the moment Gabrielle happened to stop beside her. “They’re all stomping around the human, the dog is relatively untainted.” She informed her flatly. “Better scents there.”
Although she knew what the woman meant, Becca would have strongly disagreed with the quality of the sniffs surrounding the dog’s various parts.
“Is everything okay Gabrielle?” Becca kept her eyes forward, watching Salvo talking to a few of his brethren gathered across the bodies from them. Sensing her eyes on him, Salvo turned and his expression softened. Several glanced up and followed his gaze to land on Becca. One elbowed Salvo in the ribs and he grunted something below her audible range. Redirecting, she went back to watching Ryan. Salvo shifted to see what had caught her eye. Following once again, the rest of their eyes turned to take in Ryan hunkered over the dog. Becca watched a sheriff pale and turned, catching Ryan putting a finger in dark snow and pulling it out to smell it. She fought a smile, knowing if they hadn’t been watching, he might have licked it. The sheriff put a hand over his mouth and his eyes went wide. Becca didn’t have to look back to know that he had just put that finger in his mouth.
“We’ve put in a lot of miles since we got here.” Gabrielle sighed. “It’s tiring running all over the countryside following a smell that’s everywhere.” She nodded her head back toward where Ryan was standing and sniffing at the branches. “He’s distracted, because of me.”
Becca was seriously trying hard not to laugh at the one sheriff who was supposed to be lamenting the new guys with Salvo and company while he was completely distracted by Ryan’s unconventional scene exploration. She couldn’t help sniggering imagining what the young man would do if he saw Ryan do the half-wolf thing where only his head changed. He’d probably shit.
Hearing Gabrielle’s measured air intake beside her, Becca worried she’d mistaken the laughter as being directed at her. “Oh Gabrielle, I’m sorry. I was just…”
“Forget it,” she said absently.
Catching the odd tone in her voice, Becca’s head whipped around to check on the woman beside her. Only Becca could see that she’d already lost her, her eyes were focused on something in the distance, something out past where the trees started. Quick, so she didn’t miss it, Becca turned and followed her gaze. There was nothing.
“I’ll catch you later.” Gabrielle started walking, her eyes never wavering from some fixed point only she could see.
Becca was used to the woman being distant. This was checked out. “Um, okay.” She watched her go, making note of the direction before taking off to find Michael.
He was crouched beside the chest cavity of the human’s body. The forensics team was packing up and the other cops were comparing notes off to the side so he was alone. Becca hurried over and leaned in, speaking quietly in his ear.
Startled, his eyes shot up, searching a moment before landing on the woman in question currently maneuvering her way past the cars and heading into the trees.
“I’m worried about her and I think Ryan could use a break from the stress.” She glanced down and pointedly ignored the worried look he gave her, nodding instead toward the group of uniforms hovering uncomfortably a short distance away. “I’m going to follow, but I don’t want them out there just in case I run across anything. Distract them for a minute?”
Watching her, knowing he couldn’t make a scene without drawing unwanted attention, Michael gave her a deliberate nod. “Careful. This thing is close, can you smell it?”
Lowering her sleeve, she took a deep sniff of the human. Too deep. The iron and bile scents of blood and guts filled her nose. There was a hint of something else she caught on the back of her tongue and, cautiously, she took several smaller sniffs. Underneath the overpowering immediate whiffs lay the faint sweet smell of decay. “I smell it. Is that the thing?” She didn’t use its name even though no one was near enough to have heard.
He gave a tiny head tip in Gabrielle’s direction. “You smell that out there, get the hell out. No questions. Don’t try to handle this thing on your own.” The severity of his expression allowed for no arguments. “Do you have your gun?”
“Loaded with the good stuff.” She patted the holster under her arm where she carried her 9mm loaded with pure silver, guaranteed to kill any supernatural creature they might encounter. “Buy me some time?”
“Alright. I’ll follow as soon as I can run these guys out.” He straightened up and marched over to Salvo’s group, putting on his darkest glare.
Becca was glad it wasn’t aimed at her and felt a twinge of guilt for sending him over, tempering it with the knowledge of what might happen if one followed her into a windigo’s den or worse.
“Who the hell’s in charge of this scene?” he shouted. “This damned place is a zoo. There are footprints and puke everywhere. Is there any evidence that hasn’t been contaminated?”
Smiling at his ability to play the role of massive jackass all too well, Becca walked past staring straight ahead. When she’d met Michael she thought he was hot, but an ass. She was more than happy to have discovered how wrong she was. Handy the local officers didn’t know that. She moved like she was going to the car and, after checking that no one was watching her, zipped back up to the trees and cut in where she’d lost sight of Gabrielle.
The smell of decay hit him full in the nose and Michael skidded to a halt, putting a hand out unnecessarily to signal Ryan to do the same. He’d caught the same scent. Both fell into a crouch and Michael squinted into the white mess, scanning for signs of movement.
“Holy fuck,” Ryan breathed from beside him. “Found it.”
Michael followed the track of his unit member’s gaze to behold the skeleton hovering on the rock, a living creature straight out of a nightmare. The wind had picked up with the storm and whipped the dark tattered clothing about the bony gray creature’s filthy head. He registered that the lump in front of it was alive and not a part of the rock. She was curled into a ball and a howling sob rolled out just as the creature lowered itself to touch her.
Ryan’s snarl cut through the wind and the creature’s face came up. It was cut short as he beheld the thing exactly as horrible as Michael had described it. The gray flesh hung loosely over hollow cheeks and empty black eyes. Sagging lips did nothing to hide the fangs that were as long as a man’s ring finger and nearly reached the bottom of its chin.
Seeing the stronger being that was Gabrielle incapacitated had Michael in a frenzy. Casting his eyes wildly about, he searched the area for Becca. There was no sign on the rocks or in the woods. And to further inflame his frustration, the wind gusted again, filling his nose with aged death and taking with it any chance of finding Becca that way. A second growl erupted from his shoulder mate and Michael quit any semblance of secrecy.
“Becca!” he yelled.
Narrowing his eyes, he rose and rushed forward. There was no making this thing speak; it was unable due to the level of physical deterioration. Death was its only future. Michael and Ryan matched strides to be the deliverers of its sentence.
Two legs turned to four as Ryan changed on the fly, clothing bursting into pieces to litter the forest floor. Together they broke from the trees and hopped from rock to rock, splitting to flank the thing. Michael sunk lower, gathering himself to leap, knowing Ryan would be doing the same.
The vampire snarled as he took the head and the wolf’s teeth snapped on bone where he clamped onto the femur. The thing’s body went down, legless and headless but not destroyed. Michael had educated Ryan on the destruction of this specific creature during their pursuit. The body was torn limb from limb into tiny pieces without a word being spoken between them. No blood in the body, it was set into a dry pile of crumbling bones that Michael easily set ablaze using its clothing as tinder, burning the parts so that no amount of magic could ever reassemble it.
That done the men split, their goals no longer common. Ryan’s soft reassurances echoed in his ears as Michael began circling the perimeter, scanning the fresh white blanket covering the ground and blinding shower of large wet flakes obscuring even his vision.
“Becca,” he called again, stopping to listen for a response possibly too weak to hear over the sound of his boots crunching in the snow. He was circling back around the rock, peering into the woods when the wind dropped for a few seconds and he caught a whiff of blood. Fresh blood. Head shooting up, eyes searching, he caught one more sniff before the wind picked up again. It was enough. It was Becca’s blood and it called to him.
Long strides carried him to where she lay on the other side of a cluster of trees and heavy brush that blocked her from him until he was almost on top of her. The blood had stopped, but he saw with a stomach dropping realization that it had come from her head. She’d hit it on the rock sticking out of the ground not a foot away. White flakes were working to cover the dark stain his eyes didn’t need to tell him was there. His nose gave him all of the information he needed. She was hurt, thankfully not severely thou