“To Die For—Simply Excellent…No one who likes Vampire tales will want to pass up the opportunity to find this book and read it.”
—d chaney (5 out of 5 Stars)
“Lynn Michaels adds refreshing new ideas to a tried and true idea…Fast paced, a real page turner!”
—Chelle (NJ) (5 out of 5 Stars)
“A palpably sensual vampire and his lonely Shade struggle in unearthly combat for the love of a spirited young woman. The gifted Lynn Michaels’ enchants us once again with extraordinary twists and turns in a tender tale of salvation through sacrifice and love.”
—Cindy Whitsel, Romantic Times Magazine
“A spectacular vampire tale, Nightwing is shades of brilliance! Lynn Michaels’ books are not to be missed—and Nightwing is unforgettable!”
—Nancy Haddock, bestselling author of La Vida Vampire
Willow Evans doesn’t believe in vampires until she discovers that Dr. Jonathan Raven doesn’t cast a reflection in a mirror. She doesn’t believe in ghosts, either, until she traps Johnny, Raven’s Shade in a mirror. Johnny loves Willow. Raven needs her to capture his Shade and regain his mortality. Which one will Willie choose?
Book Excerpt from Nightwing:
Egypt, August 1878
His horse, a black Arab mare whose name he couldn’t pronounce, was saddled and waiting, cropping dry grass sprouting on the banks of the wadi. The camp mule hitched to one of the high-sided, two-wheeled carts used to haul supplies lazed in its traces.
The mare was ready, the mule was ready and still Jolil prayed, facing east, kneeling on a sandy prayer rug in the thin shade beneath the palm trees. Shouting at him to hurry would do no good; he’d only pray longer. Eleven months in Egypt had taught Jonathan Raven that much at least.
He sighed and stepped inside the medical tent to triple-check his store of quinine. The wadi was dry now, but the rains would come again soon, as would the mosquitoes. The sluggish green water the Nile belched into the ditch would blacken with larvae, no matter how many times Raven ordered it skimmed off and buried in the sand. There was no such thing as too much quinine. Not in Egypt in the rainy season.
Even with sunset approaching and one canvas side of the tent thrown back, the hot air trapped inside was almost un-breathable. Raven made a last check of his medical stores and ducked quickly outside. Jolil was still praying.
He sat down to wait on a folding stool. The pink cliffs encircling the Valley of the Kings, the Land of the Dead, burial place of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt shimmered in waves of heat rising from the desert floor. When the sun sank behind them the temperature would plummet and the sweat stinging the back of his neck would make him shiver.
It would be a chilly first leg of the three-day trek to Cairo, but the idea was to get there and back alive, not kill themselves and the mare and the mule in the process. Traveling at night was sometimes dangerous, but there was no risk of heat stroke, a major killer of white men stupid enough to cross the desert by day. And there were no snakes.
Raven hated snakes. His old Harvard chum, Teddy Gorham, a junior foreman on this joint Anglo-American dig, hadn’t breathed a word about cobras or horned vipers when he’d approached Raven to serve as chief medical officer on this two-year project. Teddy, an assistant curator at the Boston Museum, had spun tales of adventure and treasure and sloe-eyed belly dancers wreathed in nothing but transparent veils. Raven had yet to see a transparent veil. Most of them were black, head-to-foot shrouds, not see-through gauze.
He’d lost count of how many snakes he’d killed and bites he’d treated. One or two on good old Teddy. Minor enough that Raven took perverse pleasure in them, for Teddy wore only ankle-high work boots, eschewing the thick, knee-high leather riding boots Raven took off only when he bathed.
He was beginning to hate boots, too. When he got to Cairo he’d take them off first thing. And he wouldn’t put them on again until he and Jolil headed back to Thebes.
If they ever got to Cairo. The wiry little Egyptian’s forehead was still pressed to his prayer rug. Raven leaned his elbows on his knees and raked his fingers through his hair. It was too long and too hot, curling well below the unbuttoned collar of his thin Egyptian cotton shirt. In Cairo he’d find a barber who spoke English or French and get a haircut. It was that or buy a ribbon in the Mouski, the bazaar.
He planned to buy an Egyptian shawl and silver bracelets for his mother, a piece of pottery for his brother, Samuel, and ship them home to Stonebridge, Massachusetts in time for Christmas. It would be almost autumn there now. The leaves of the beach plums would already be turning, and the whales would be singing in the moonlight on Nantucket Sound.
Whale song was the reason his whaling-captain grandfather had built the house close to the beach. Raven would hear humpbacks sing again, but not for thirteen more months filled with sand and heat and snakes.
At last Jolil finished his prayers, rolled his rug and rose to his feet. “So, hakim, you are ready?”
“I’ve been ready for a while, Jolil.” Raven set the stool inside the tent and dropped the flap. He’d already slid his carbine into his saddle holster. “For the last half hour.”
“You had only to say so.” Jolil laid his rug in the mule cart and gave him a wounded look. “I live to serve you.”
So long as it didn’t interfere with prayers or petty thieving. Most of the natives stole, mostly small artifacts from the dig to sell on the black market. Raven looked the other way and had made it clear to Jolil he would, so long as he kept his hands off his medical supplies. The dark little man who lived to serve him was one of the sneakiest thieves in the camp. Perhaps that was why his prayers were so lengthy.
“Never mind, Jolil. Let’s just be on our way.”
“Your wish is my command, hakim.”
Jolil scrambled into the cart and clucked to the mule. The black mare laid back her ears as Raven gathered her reins and swung himself into the saddle. She snorted and arched her neck as another mule came flying at a gallop over the rise behind the wadi.
Its unshod hooves flung up a wake of dust and sand. The Egyptian on its back was Yusef, Teddy’s servant. His dark eyes were as wide and wild as those of the lathered mule.
“Hakim!” he screamed. “Yallah! Yallah!”
Doctor, hurry, hurry. Raven understood that much, and the word turab—tomb—but the rest of Yusef’s panicked Arabic was lost to him as the mare whinnied and spun away on her hind legs. Jolil hauled the cart mule to a stop, leapt down from the high seat and ran to catch the bridle of Yusef’s badly blowing mule.
Raven saw the pulse beating in the hollow of Yusef’s throat above the open, sweat-darkened neck of his robe. He was babbling, gesturing wildly in the direction of the dig with one arm and tugging at Jolil with the other.
“What is it, Jolil? What’s happened?”
“It is very bad, hakim. Many men hurt. Yusef says there is much blood.”
“My kit. Quick. Then bring the cart. We may need it.”
Jolil ran into the tent for Raven’s canvas medical bag and tossed it to him. He caught it by its strap, looped it over his saddle and gave the mare a sharp kick. She snorted and leapt at a gallop over the rise toward the dig.
The sun was just touching the rim of the cliffs, throwing thick black shadows across the rutted cart track scarring the valley. Gooseflesh rose on the back of Raven’s neck. Not from the chill creeping into the air, but the high-pitched wails of the native workmen rushing toward him, waving their arms.
One stood in the center of the track flagging him toward the ravine where the diggers had been dumping baskets full of sand and rock hauled away from the entrance of the tomb Teddy had been excavating for the past three weeks.
“Hakim!” he shouted. “Hena! Yallah! Yallah!”
Here. Hurry, hurry. Poor bastards, Raven thought. Probably caught in a cave-in while sifting through the debris for small artifacts Teddy and his crew might have missed. Raven glanced behind him and saw Jolil—with Yusef beside him on the seat —bouncing the mule cart over the rise. He heeled the mare off the track toward the ravine.
There were two men on the ground near the graveled rim of the ditch. One was dead, his face and upper body covered with someone’s brightly striped outer robe—Yusef’s, he thought. Teddy knelt beside the other, his back blocking Raven’s view. Two natives were holding the man down; his thin, dark legs were twitching and white with dust.
Raven pulled the mare to a stop, kicked his right foot out of his stirrup, unlooped his bag from the pommel, swung his leg over it and dropped to the ground running. Teddy glanced at him over his shoulder, his sweat-darkened felt hat pushed back on his thick brown hair, his sunburned face oddly pale.
“Johnny! Thank God! Help me!”
Teddy was holding a blood-soaked bandage to the man’s throat. Or what was left of it. Most of it was torn away, Raven saw when he lifted Teddy’s hand. The brown flesh was ripped and jagged, the exposed carotid artery no longer spraying but seeping and pulsing dully.
There was nothing Raven could do. He knew it before he dropped to his knees on the man’s other side. His robe was soaked to the waist with blood, as were Teddy’s shirt and the robes of the men holding him down. There was no pulse in the thin, brown wrist Raven gripped. The pupil of the man’s right eye was already fixed and dilated when he lifted the lid; the eye rolled forward.
“It’s too late, Teddy. He’ll be gone in a minute. What in God’s name happened?”
“The diggers found a tomb in the ravine, thought they’d loot it on their own and make a fortune on the black market.” Teddy sat back on his heels, wiping sweat off his forehead with the back of one shaking, bloody hand. “Seven of them went in but only these two came out. They were at-tacked. By a jackal, they said. A jackal that walked on two legs.”
A shudder racked the man on the ground. His eyes fluttered open, his limbs convulsed once, then stilled. Raven closed his eyes and smoothed the death grin from his face.
“Did you send a search party in after the others?”
“None of the diggers will go.”
“Then we’ll have to,” Raven said. He’d taken an oath to save lives, but he suddenly wished he’d never come to Egypt.
“I know. That’s why I waited for you.”
Raven stepped over the body and lifted Yusef's robe. The other man had also had his throat ripped out. He lowered the robe and glanced over his shoulder at the mule cart thumping to a halt on the rocky ground behind him.
Teddy rose, called to Yusef and Jolil to bring torches, and then asked Raven in a low voice, “What the hell did this, Johnny? Jackals don’t walk on two legs.”
“They might, Teddy. In the guise of tomb robbers.”
“And rip a man’s throat out like this?”
“Hardly. But a two-thousand-year-old dagger that’s lost its edge might.”
“Possible, I suppose. Come see this.”
He led Raven down the steep, rocky ravine toward a gaping black hole cut in the opposite flank. The edges were clean, sharp and obviously chiseled. The loose shingle rattling away beneath their boots bounced against a tall stone slab carved with rude hieroglyphs that meant nothing to Raven.
“Here’s where they got the jackal.” Teddy blew dust off the slab and pointed at an angular figure with the body of a man and the head of a jackal. The open mouth revealed top and bottom fangs bared in a stiff, stylized snarl. “It’s Anubis, god of the dead. He’s always depicted with the head of a jackal, but this is the first time I’ve seen him with fangs.”
“Seems logical. A jackal is a carnivore.” Raven pointed to a row of smaller pictographs below the figure of Anubis. “What’s this say?”
“The usual warning, open this tomb and die. And the name of the person interred here.” Teddy tugged a small, stiff brush out of his back pocket and swept away more sand. “It’s someone named—Nekhat. There’s more, but I can’t make it out. Looks like these glyphs were done in a real hurry.”
Raven heard the shingle rattling behind him and glanced up the slope at Jolil and Yusef stumbling toward them, each carrying two torches. Teddy fished matches out of his pocket, struck them and lit the brands.
He gave one to Raven, one to Jolil and the other to Yusef. The two Egyptians looked nervously at each other.
“I don’t want to go in here any more than you do, but if you don’t go with us, none of them will ever enter another tomb.” Teddy nodded at the knot of workmen milling and muttering on the edge of the ravine. “Just stay close. Johnny, you bring up the rear.”
Raven gripped the torch in his left hand, looped the strap of his medical bag over his right shoulder, caught the lintel over the doorway and ducked beneath it behind Jolil. The stone felt oddly cold; the air inside the tomb, trapped in a narrow, empty chamber with a low ceiling and rough-hewn walls, smelled fetid and faintly of rust.
The next chamber was equally bare and unadorned. Teddy stepped closer to a wall, his torch gutting in a breath of air sweeping toward them from the next room. The flame danced over rudely sketched, merely outlined figures.
“This tomb isn’t finished, is it?” Raven asked.
“Hardly started,” Teddy said, puzzled. He moved forward and called out in Arabic.
No one answered. Raven saw why when he ducked into the next chamber behind Jolil and heard his sharp intake of breath. In the flickering torchlight he saw the walls, splashed and smeared with blood, and the other five men who had entered the tomb, two torn literally limb from limb.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Teddy murmured in a stricken whisper. “There isn’t a dagger anywhere in heaven or hell that could do this, Johnny.”
Another breath of air sighed toward them from the inky depths of the tomb, eerie enough to bristle every hair on Raven’s body. So was the growl that came with it, echoing faintly off the walls and shivering up his back. Jolil stopped murmuring prayers and began to tremble.
“Get out. Get out and run.” Raven grabbed him, then Yusef, and shoved them back into the second chamber. He grabbed Teddy and pushed him, stiff with shock, through the doorway. “C’mon, Teddy. Move.”
He did and stumbled in the doorway, dropping his torch. The light fell by half and darkness engulfed Raven, swept him up in cold, fierce claws and sank icy fangs into his throat; two below his jaw, two more scraping the cervical bones in the back of his neck.
He felt the punctures, felt his flesh tear and hot, prickling pain shoot down his arms. He managed to lift them, somehow, his medical kit sliding off his shoulder, and flail his torch at the thing gripping him from behind. It bellowed and dropped him, leapt over him and Teddy and then whirled on them once again, shrieking with rage.
Through the haze filming his eyes, Raven saw Teddy roll on his back, torch and sidearm raised. He fired two shots, point-blank, into the chest of what appeared to be a man, a pharaoh come alive in a golden kilt and braided, black wig. It only roared and snarled, flexing bronze muscles in powerful arms. A tall, handsome figure of a man, except for the bared, bloody fangs gleaming in the torchlight.
Teddy fired two more shots, screaming something Raven couldn’t hear over the roar in his head. He saw the barrel flash twice more and Jolil and Yusef leap at the thing from behind, their swinging torches spraying trails of sparks through the dark chamber.
The creature spun around and flung out its arms, toppling Jolil and Yusef as it sprang toward the entrance to the tomb. The last clear thing Raven saw was a jewel, a fiery opalescent stone flashing in a heavy gold amulet around the thing’s neck, then its shape blurred out of focus, wavered and shifted like smoke onto all fours in the shape of a jackal.
Raven felt blood pooling in the back of his throat, felt an icy, deathly cold seeping through his veins from the punctures in his neck. He tried to swallow, but couldn’t. The muscles were frozen. So were his eyelids, wide open and staring at the low, stone ceiling and the pale, ghostly image of himself rising from his body.
Panic seized him. He felt it thudding wildly in his chest, though he knew his heart had stopped beating. He was dead. Oh, God, he was dead. Lying on the floor of the tomb with his throat torn out, gazing up at himself, at the bewildered, disoriented expression on his face.
He watched his mouth open to scream, but he made no sound, watched himself turn away from his body, reeling and staggering out of the tomb behind the thing—dear God, what was it?—that had killed him. Come back, he screamed silently at himself. Come back, come back.
We’re not dead.
About the Author:
She is a 3-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award; Nightwing is one of her RITA finalists. Lynn has also received two awards from Romantic Times Magazine, New Romantic Suspense Author and Best Contemporary Romance 2002.
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