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The Hope Legacy
seducing Hope

The Hope Legacy

Chapter One


A Taurus speaks two things: sarcasm and truth.


Gravity is a medieval torture rack stretching my limbs, and my joints feel ready to dislocate. My arms sway, and my legs are numb. 

I blink. My eyelashes flutter several times before I make out the faint beam of moonlight streaming in through the dusty, oblong window at the bottom of a solid concrete room. Odd—windows aren’t normally at the bottom of walls. Running water trickles nearby, and the pungent smell of mold with an undertone of feces stings my nostrils.

Something scuttles across the ceiling. My eyes track the tiny shape as it scampers, but soon, it multiplies. Two, four, no, eight… forget it. There are too many to count. Fur brushes against my fingers that still graze the low ceiling. Jerking my hand away, I squeal—it squeals back. Tipping my head to get a closer look at the creatures, I swallow, trying to soothe my sore, dry throat.

“Rats,” I mumble, watching their unmistakable long tails whip above my head. 

My lazy eyes rove the dim room, and I’m shocked to find that I feel surprisingly… calm. My heart beats in a slow rhythm, and my breathing is deep and even, as if I’m half asleep.

“Natia?” a weak voice croaks.

“Eve?” I slur at my friend and roommate. My throat feels constricted, and my thoughts swirl about in my head. I try to hold on to them, but they’re consistently tugged out of my grip as my muddled mind struggles to focus on my surroundings. Where was I before this? I shake my head—what is happening to me? I don’t remember drinking.

“Are you hurt?” I ask her.

Soft sobs flutter fearfully from behind me. “I’m okay…” Her voice is trembling. “They jumped us on our way home. They kept going on and on about how weird you are and that the boss ‘has to see it.’ W-what are they talking about, Nat?”

“I don’t know,” I mumble. Idly, I worry about Penny, our new kitty, my first pet. Am I really going to fail as a pet owner because I’ve been kidnapped?

My eyes snap open as the furry balls screech high-pitched, excited noises and scurry away. Rhythmic pounding along with the click-clack of heels signals the approach of several people. I try to move to the corner of the room, but my limbs won’t cooperate, and my attempt makes me nauseous.

“I can’t see it,” an unfamiliar, silken male voice drawls behind me.

“She’s shielding.” A shrill woman’s voice this time. A pair of beaten-up sneakers, pink stiletto heels, and expensive men’s shoes come into view as my body sways toward them. I frown as the pink stilettos move closer to me. A sharp pain explodes in my stomach when she pummels her fist into it. I grind my teeth, forcing the scream back down my throat.

“Who are you? Where am I?” I demand the three pairs of shoes lined up in front of me, trying to sound formidable, but the slur negates my efforts. The pair of beat-up sneaks shuffles forward. My scalp stings when he uses my long braid to yank my head to the side, making me hiss. My brain struggles to catch up as the world tilts on its axis.

His round face comes into view. Greasy blond hair obscures flat gray eyes, and his thin lips curl into a smirk. “You’re at Four Seasons, sweetheart. Now be a good girl and drop those shields to let my boss see your pretty colors.”

Excellent. I’ve been kidnapped by crazy people, because normal kidnappers wouldn’t be enough for Natia Waterford. 

He slaps my face. Their footgear flashes past me as the room rotates, first clockwise before reversing its course and settling back to its original position. I reach out to return the slap, but he’s been replaced by Expensive Shoes. Staring up, a niggling feeling tells me something isn’t right with this scene (apart from being kidnapped). Pinstriped, navy blue, trouser-clad knees shield his feet as he crouches; then a handsome man in his forties with a trimmed beard and intelligent green eyes stares at me.

My gaze rakes over him. “Why are you upside down?”

He chuckles. “I think Bass gave you too much sedative. It’ll wear off soon.”

I roll my eyes. “Why don’t you people give straight answers?”

Warmth envelops my cheek as his large hand cups it. A slow smile spreads across his face. “You really are quite beautiful.”

“Still not an answer,” I mutter.

“So, Natia Waterford, would you like to tell me what you are?” Expensive Shoes asks.

“Bored, tired, and a little thirsty,” I quip. Apparently, my superb sarcasm intensifies in times of extreme duress.

His hand slips from my face to caress my throat. I swallow, and the pressure of his thumb against my windpipe increases.

I give in and confess, “I’m a dancer.”

“Hmm… I can imagine.” His gaze runs over my body. “But I mean, what are you?” His voice loses all vestiges of friendliness.

I dart my gaze around the room again. Some of the rats huddle underneath a chair leaning against the wall, squabbling to get farther away from whatever kind of crazy is happening. For the first time in my life, I wish I was a rodent. My vision blurs as he gives me a brief shake.

“Stop! I don’t understand,” I tell him.

Pink Stilettos sighs. “Are you human?”

“Of course I’m human. What kind of question is that?”

My synapses spring to life, and connections spark, allowing me to make sense of the world again. Glancing “down,” I find my feet attached to hooks. I’m dangling from the ceiling of a room in the sewers with three crazy people—oh yeah, and they think I’m an extra-terrestrial.

Expensive Shoes turns toward the others. “Describe it to me again.”

Beat-up Sneaks shuffles about excitedly. “She was glowing.”

My hands smack across my mouth to hide an escaped giggle.

“What color?” Expensive Shoes continues, ignoring me. 

Oh, this is priceless. I’m a glowing alien.

“Different ones, with a shiny outline,” Beat-up Sneaks tells him. 

I lose it. Blame it on the stress of being kidnapped, drugged, or hanging upside down for too long, but I lose it. In a futile attempt to control my thunderous laughter, I clutch my aching stomach.

Expensive Shoes frowns at me like I’m insane. “Get the girl.”

My chest tightens, and my heart races. Pink Stilettos tip-taps her perfect heels out of sight. Scuffling sounds accompanied by a symphony of pained cries blare behind me. Eve is dragged into view by her hair and thrown at Expensive Shoes’s feet. Her pretty hazel eyes are rimmed with red, and pink blotches mar her flawless complexion. 

Expensive Shoes catches a tear trickling down Eve’s cheek with his thumb and licks it. This guy really freaks me out. He smiles, showing his commercial-worthy teeth. “Drop your shields, Natia.”

I focus on Eve, trying to silently reassure her it will be okay. “I don’t understand. I don’t have any shields.”

Expensive Shoes grabs Eve’s short dark hair and slams her forehead against the concrete floor without breaking eye contact with me. Eve screams in agony as blood trickles down her face.

“I don’t know what you want me to do! I don’t understand—”

A thousand diamonds explode across the floor, cutting me off. A gray cylinder the size of a can of beans rolls into the center of the room from the broken window, releasing a dense fog and filling the room in seconds. Maybe the mothership has returned to rescue me? Expensive Shoes mutters curses as he sheds his clothes. I want to close my eyes, but I’m so confused about the impromptu strip that I can only stare. “Aren’t you a little old for a starring role in Magic Mike?” I mutter. 

A terrifying roar vibrates across my skin, raising every last hair on my arms. Clenching my jaw, a primeval urge to stay extremely still takes over. I curse the slight sway of my body, torn between leaving it be and using my hands to steady myself. I shiver, and my breath mists the air as the temperature drops, my shorts and summer halter top offering little protection. Scanning the smog for the source of a sudden steady, rhythmic growling, I risk using my fingers to spin myself around. Hot breath passes over the base of my exposed neck. Ignoring the pain, I grind my short nails into the concrete in an attempt to stop spinning. It’s not enough. My eyes remain wide open as I await my fate. 

Two sets of solid black orbs hover inches from my face. Blindly, I reach behind me to grasp Eve’s hand as she continues to sob quietly.

“Guard her!” Expensive Shoes barks.

A grunt sounds from one of the creatures, blowing a decaying animal odor in my face. I swallow the burning bile boiling its way into my mouth. An extended snout pushes into my hair, earning it a nip to its neck from its twin. It pulls away with a snarl. Both creatures have four sets of sharp black fangs that hang over pale, translucent skin pulled tightly over bone. A familiar pair of sneakers lies underneath one of the beasts’ bellies.

My eyes widen. “Beat-up Sneaks?” Large, triangular, pointed ears angled toward the back of its body twitch in response. I glance at the second creature, confirming my suspicions when a pair of pink stilettos sits upright before it. I’m processing the ridiculous notion that two people have turned into unidentifiable canine creatures when blue fire whizzes underneath my dangling head to lodge firmly in one beast’s gut. Stunned, my mouth gapes open. What I fail to realize is I’m about to be covered in demon dog, so when he explodes, I get a mouthful of barbequed meat.

I’m still spitting it out when I feel eight sharp points vibrating against my neck as the rhythmic growling begins again. I freeze. Obsidian pupils glare at me in accusation.

The sensation of something otherworldly prickles across my body. An electric-blue flame concentrated into a fist-sized ball circles the room, looking for its target like a heat-seeking missile. The beast applies more pressure. Two points sting as they pierce my throat. I hiss—a senseless reaction, as it pushes the fangs deeper.

Closing my eyes, I attempt to shut out the danger and run through the ways we could get out of this alive, but my fantasies are interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps.

I drop Eve’s hand; she whimpers in protest.

“Play dead,” I whisper. Surprisingly, she becomes silent. I let myself go limp.

“Heel,” a deep, masculine voice rumbles. The beast snarls around my throat. I continue to play opossum, but my heart beats double time. “You were warned,” the same voice growls. A slight scrape against my neck and an animalistic whine make me rip my eyes open. The blue fire is attached to the rear of the beast, dragging it out of sight through the smoke.

I tremble as silence surrounds me like a precursor to my death. Then I jump as a seemingly disembodied hand grazes my ankle. Swinging up, keeping my core tight, I manage to head-butt him in his crotch, providing me with a small window of time to steal the holster on his waist.

Gasping, I drop the gun as my foot swings down, striking his head. He stumbles away. He must have inadvertently released one of my feet, and I’m now in a vertical split pose. If I wasn’t a dancer who’d recently been in rehearsal, I would be in some serious pain.

“Fuck. You could be a little more grateful,” his deep voice grumbles.

I blink at the newcomer and grab the sleeve of his long brown leather coat, pivoting on my foot. Warm chocolate brown eyes partially hidden by unruly, dark, wavy hair meet mine. Despite being upright, this guy is staring down at me—he’s at least six-foot-three compared to my five-foot-six.

Stubble outlines his strong jaw. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but it suits him.

Eve stands up, and relief floods through me. She wobbles but manages a small smile.

I grip his firm biceps. “Please tell me you don’t think I’m an alien.”

He grins. “Why? Has the mothership not come to rescue you yet?”

I slap his arm, laughing. “No way! I was thinking you were the mothership! Wait. Is this really happening, or am I still dangling upside down with Beat-up Sneaks, Expensive Shoes, and Pink Stilettos having bizarre delusions of rescue?”

He chuckles, moving my hands to his chest, and stretches to release my other ankle. “No, you’re very much being rescued. As for the strange delusions, I’m not sure. I’m assuming you’re referring to the shoes as people?” He picks up one of the discarded sneakers, pauses, then gives me a closer look. I squirm; I feel like I’m in an X-Ray machine. “Huh. Aren’t you a little too calm for being kidnapped?”

Eve grasps one of my hands, moving it from his chest to her shoulder; her fingers remain threaded with mine. Her smile wobbles, and tears form in her eyes. As they fall, they mix with the blood dripping from her forehead. “She’s a bit odd. Doesn’t really seem to process danger like the mere mortals we are.”

The guy guides my foot to the floor as I huff, “I admit it is a weird personality trait. The more stressful the situation, the more sarcastic I get.”

The stranger opens his mouth to reply, but Expensive Shoes, who suddenly comes into view as the fog dissipates, speaks first.

“Duncan. It’s been…”

“Too long,” my rescuer—who I assume is Duncan—mumbles, spinning around toward the familiar voice. I take a step backward and brace myself, then my mouth drops open in shock. Gone is the handsome man with striking green eyes. In his place stands a leering beast of a man. Inky tattoos slither across his chest and down his arms, which end in long-fingered hands with dangerous hooked claws.

 “Lawrence,” Duncan states, his tone bored and his posture relaxed. Lawrence grins, showing the same black fangs as his demon dogs.

“What the fuck?” I mutter, my mind reaching its quota for craziness this month. Eve clasps my hand and hides behind me, her entire body trembling.

Lawrence’s curious gaze flicks to me. He tilts his head to the side. “I can see you now, my little Iris. What are you?”

I point at him as he steps closer; Eve’s grip turns vise-like, so I can’t go far, even if I tried to run. “I think we’ve established you’re the ‘what’ here.”

Lawrence studies my finger for a second before dismissing me and addressing Duncan. “Can you see it?”

Duncan nods.

My gaze scans the room. “See what?”

“Is she yours?” Lawrence drawls.

“Yes,” Duncan replies stiffly, positioning himself closer to me.

My mouth drops open. “I’m most definitely not yours.”

Duncan sighs and rubs a hand over his face.

Lawrence laughs. “Then you won’t mind me taking her.”

Lawrence shoots across the room in a blur; a sickening crunch of bones sounds in my ear, and strong arms wrap around me, forcing the air out of my lungs. Black, curved claws dig into my ribs as the world starts to spin, and darkness blots the edges of my sight. We stumble as blue stars erupt in my vision, and everything comes to a sudden halt. A blue net of electrical sparks surrounds me and Lawrence.

Duncan leans against the wall with his hands in his jeans pockets.

“Where are you going, Lawrence? I can’t let you take the girl.”

Lawrence wraps his hand around my throat for the second time. “He will be eager to find out what this pretty little Iris is. She doesn’t even know.”

I purse my lips. “Why do you keep calling me that? My name is—” He cuts off my words with a squeeze of his hand, and I thrash about, trying to stomp on his feet.

Lawrence sniffs my shoulder. “If nothing else, she will make a tasty meal.”

I stiffen. They were going to eat me? I think I preferred being an alien.

“You and me both, sweetheart,” Duncan mutters under his breath. He pulls a knife out of each pocket, the moonlight glinting off the sharp blades as he palms them. I frown. Did I say that out loud?

Duncan circles us like a lion deciding on its best direction for a kill.

Lawrence pivots, using me as a shield. Halfway around, I spot Eve lying still on the floor. Glazed hazel eyes stare at me, unblinking. Her temples have been crushed, resulting in a surreal-looking skull, like a deflated doll.

My hand flies to my mouth to stop the scream on the tip of my tongue. Focusing on Duncan, I push down my panic and force myself to breathe evenly. After two rotations, my suppressed terror has morphed into rage.

My heart pounds in my ears. Before I can lose my nerve, I lean back into Lawrence’s body and wrap my hands around his neck. Tipping my head back, I try not to flinch when he smiles, his black, gleaming fangs elongating. He arches an eyebrow and tightens his hold on my waist, pulling me closer.

I lock my hands behind his head and give Duncan a surreptitious glance, hoping he can read my intent; otherwise, this net is about to get very claustrophobic.

Bending my back, I use my body to toss Lawrence over my shoulder.

The net vanishes, and he crashes against the wall. I blink. I’m not that strong… must be the adrenaline.

Lawrence springs to his feet, scooping up the gun I dropped earlier. A belligerent grin accompanies his obsidian eyes.

Three events happen at once; a thunderous bang reverberates around the room, perforating my eardrum, Duncan lifts his hands, and I instinctively jump in front of him.

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