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Night Shade Excerpt Chapters 2 – 4
Night Shade Excerpt Chapters 2 – 4

Night Shade Excerpt Chapters 2 – 4

Chapter 2

The Novak Firm was Daniella’s home away from home. She loved her work, the company, and, most of all, the people. Yet the moment she entered through the double doors, she almost vomited.

Panic and dread crept up her spine, making her shudder. She labored her way to her office and stashed her breakfast in her mini refrigerator. After she logged into her computer, she saw an urgent email calling the executive team to meet in Conference Room B for an emergency meeting. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she made her way to the room, pen and paper in hand.

The moment she opened the door and saw Luke’s face, some of her tension eased.  Luke had been her best friend for the last four years. They met in college as dorm neighbors and bonded over their differences. She appreciated his out-of-the-box thinking, creative spirit, and how it directly contrasted with her analytical and serious personality. He loved to laugh, to make others smile, to throw caution to the wind. Luke taught her how to have fun, to balance her dedication to work while still appreciating life. He’d introduced her to his cousins, Gregori and Mya, and they had embraced her as if she was a missing part of their family.

When Luke told her that he and Greg wanted to start a business, it didn’t surprise her. But when he asked her to help with their accounting part-time, she’d nearly fallen out of her chair. Wanting to support her friends, she said yes, but she never imagined that decision would have put her on the path to becoming the CFO of a now multi-million-dollar agency.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Luke said with a small smile.

“Good morning to you too.” She paused, taking in his ruffled copper hair and slightly wrinkled clothing. “Is it still going to be a good morning after this meeting?”

“I wish I knew, Dani. I wish I knew.”

Before she could respond, the door opened behind her and the air rushed out of her lungs. Her nerve endings awoke, firing so fast that goosebumps erupted over her skin. She shivered from the sudden change in body temperature and bit her bottom lip to keep from gasping. The expansive energy washed over her and spread throughout the room—dark, hot, seductive. Daniella didn’t need to see who was behind her. There was only one person who had ever made her feel this way.

“Good morning, Ella.” The deep baritone of Greg’s voice rolled over her in waves.

She straightened in her chair, trying to disguise her body’s natural response to him. “Good morning, Greg.”

He walked to the head chair, coming to stand between herself and Luke. While he conversed with Luke, she looked him over. Gregori Novak was breathtaking. He was a six-foot-six Adonis covered in toned bronze skin that made his Spanish heritage proud. His russet-colored hair fell to his ears, complementing his sharp jaw and strong facial features. While Greg considered his eyes to be brown, she had stolen enough glances at him to know they were, in fact, hazel. They took on a life of their own, becoming lighter or darker depending on his mood, sometimes even light enough for her to see their pale jade depths. They drew her in, enticed her, while his lips could—and often did—convince her of anything. And if that wasn’t enough, he also had a perfectly shaped ass.

Luke cleared his throat and she blushed at being caught ogling. Luckily, the door opened once more, saving her from any additional embarrassment.

Once the rest of the executive team arrived, Greg took his seat, drawing their attention. “Now that you’re all here, let’s begin.”


The room fell silent when Greg uttered the single word “embezzled”.

“Embezzled? What the fuck do you mean, embezzled?” Mya snapped.

His eyes narrowed. Mya’s anger was second to none and she was about to unleash it in full force. “Mya—”

“Do not ‘Mya’ me right now. How the fuck did this happen?”

“We don’t know. But this is a time for solutions, not anger.”

“I go away for two weeks, two fucking weeks, and this happens?” she grumbled.

Greg’s eyes bore into Mya’s, warning her to keep her mouth shut. She sat back in her chair with a frustrated sigh, crossing her arms while still glaring in his direction. That was as good as he would get, and he’d take the small blessing.

He scanned the room, observing his team. Merida and Dominick appeared calm and collected, even though he knew they were brimming with rage. Luke had also known of the news prior to the meeting, which was the only reason he hadn’t lashed out like Mya.

Greg’s gaze lingered on Daniella, who concerned him the most. Her amber eyes stared down at the table, unblinking. She may have hidden it well, but the death grip on her pen told him exactly how upset she was. She took her job seriously and was devoted to not only the company, but his family as well.

“Aren’t there accounting principles and security measures in place to prevent things like this from happening?” Johanna asked. “I’m sorry, but I’m with Mya. I don’t understand how this could have occurred.”

As his Chief Human Resources Officer, Greg knew she had a right to this table. He could understand her concerns, especially if anything might affect funds for wages and benefits, but he did not appreciate her subtle accusation of blame toward Daniella and Merida.

“That’s an excellent question, Johanna,” Merida said as she laced her fingers together. “The security and accounting protocols that we have in place are why we made this discovery so quickly. This is a jarring and confusing time for all of us, but we will collaborate with the pertinent parties to find the perpetrator and fix any security issues in our processes. If you have any questions regarding this incident, please be sure to come to my office and I will do my best to explain everything to you.”

“Thank you,” Johanna responded, giving Merida a curt nod.

Greg continued, holding the gaze of each person around the table as he spoke. “I know this is a stressful time for everyone. Your behavior here shows how much you care about this corporation and the dreams that Luke and I founded this company upon. We thank you and are confident that we will overcome this setback.”

He motioned to his security team. “Merida and Dominick’s team will be speaking with each of you and your departments. We trust that if you have seen anything suspicious, you will be forthcoming with any information you may have. As Merida has already stated, if you have any questions, please direct them to her. Thank you.”

Greg watched as Daniella stood, her expression tight as she left the room. Johanna followed after her, leaving him, Mya, Merida, Luke, and Dominick behind.

The moment the door shut, Mya sat forward, and slammed her hands down upon the table. “Now that the fake bullshit is over, tell me what really happened.”

Chapter 3

Greg paused outside of the door to Daniella’s office, his fingers clutching the brass handle. You have toJust keep it together for a little longer. Remember, you’re keeping her in the dark to protect her. She can’t know, not yet. He took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders back, and stepped across the threshold.

Daniella froze, her fingers hovering above her keyboard. Trepidation flashed across her face when she saw him, and even though it was only for a moment, it made his heart ache.

Greg cleared his throat against the emotion as he closed the door behind him and shut the horizontal blinds. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“No, it’s all right.” Her voice was tight, clipped, and he hated it.

Greg sighed. “Ella, come here.”

They met in the middle, somewhere between him reaching out to pull her into his embrace and her curling herself around him. “It’s not your fault.”

Daniella trembled in his arms. “But it is.” She lifted her face from his chest. “It’s my job to make sure that the company’s finances are squared away, and I failed. Someone stole money from here, from us!”

She moved away from him and began to pace, her hands flying wildly in the air as she spoke. “I’ve been backtracking through all of my reports, trying to make sure this has never happened before. What if I missed something? What if that’s the cause for all of this? They got away with it once and thought they could again?”

He caught her hands in in his own. “Ella, this is not your fault. You are brilliant and an incredible accountant. Because of you, we know exactly how much was taken. If your reports were not as detailed as they are, or if your data was not up-to-date, we would be screwed.”

She looked away, but Greg grasped her chin, forcing her gaze back to his. “Give yourself some credit. You saved us. You, no one else. I see it that way, we all do. None of us blame you, and I’m not going to sit here and let you blame yourself either.”

She shook her head with a sigh. “I just don’t know, Greg, I just don’t know.”

“Well, I do,” he replied with a tap on her chin.

Greg forced his hand drop from her face, and led her to her office chairs, where they sat facing one another.

Daniella tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, an action Greg wished he could have done for her. “Thank you for comforting me, but you’re the one who had their money stolen. How are you doing?”

“I’m okay. Disappointed, but okay.”

“But how are you so calm? Why aren’t you angry or frustrated?”

Greg rubbed the center of his forehead. “Because someone has to be. Luke was only calm because he knew beforehand. Without that, between Volcano Luke and Hurricane Mya, someone would have lost their head.”

Daniella hiccuped a laugh, clamping her hand over her mouth to keep the sound contained.

He chuckled at how effortlessly adorable she was and then reminded himself to mask his emotions, because he wasn’t joking. But that didn’t matter, right now, all he wanted was to see Daniella laugh, see the way her mocha-colored eyes twinkled in delight, and how her shoulders relaxed as the stress left her body. He wanted his mate to be safe.    

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s just, those two are something else. I don’t know how any of you survived to this age,” she said with a smile.

“It was difficult, I can tell you that.”

Daniella looked him over, then leaned back in her chair, and crossed her arms. “Greg, there’s something you’re not telling me. What are you hiding that kept me from finding out about the embezzlement before that meeting?”

His smile wavered. “Sometimes you know me far too well.”

“Maybe, but I also know when you’re trying to change the subject. What is it?”

Greg ran his fingers through his hair before clasping his hands together. He slouched forward, elbows resting on his knees. “A security alert was released early this morning. Since Mya was on her way back from her vacation, she didn’t receive the notification, but her team and the security team did. They looked into the matter quickly and found that the bank transfers were initiated internally. Both teams scanned the system three times.” He paused as his gaze met hers. “The credentials that were used to log in last night and triggered the alert were yours.”

Daniella gasped. “What?”

“Ella, we know it wasn’t you. But the person who did this, they were smart. They left almost no trace. Even Mya is having a tough time tracking them down, but they left that information, which means they did it on purpose.”

“Oh my God!” Daniella squeezed the bridge of her nose as she held her face in her hands.

He leaned forward and stroked her forearm. “Hey, what did we say? This was not your fault. I need you to understand that. A competitor could have done this. You are one of the founding pillars of this company. It wouldn’t have been hard to get your name. Our entire team’s roster is up on the website.”

“But my fucking credentials aren’t!”

“No, they’re not, which makes me think it was an inside job.”

“I don’t leave my credentials lying around the office, Greg,” Daniella bit out.

“I know you don’t,” he said softly, “but anyone on the IT or security team with enough know-how could have stolen them. We’re a growing company. We’re interviewing and filling positions that we have never had before.”

“So it could literally be anyone?”

He nodded. “Yes. I have an idea of how to figure this out, but I need your help.”

Daniella looked up at him. “Greg, whatever you need, just ask me.”

“I need you to take a vacation.”

Her eyebrows rose. “I’m sorry, what?”

“There are only so many reasons someone would want to go after you here, one of which would be to steal your position. If you were gone for a couple of weeks, that person would think things were working in their favor. Then they’d start rumors, try to help more than necessary, and we would find out who’s really responsible.”

“Case closed.”

“Exactly.” He could see the wheels turning in her head as she pondered the plan.

“Greg, if you think this will work, I’ll do it, but it doesn’t feel right to me. Why go this far just to get me fired? There are plenty of easier ways to try. It feels like they’re not only going after me, but the company as well.”

“I don’t think they’re only after you, either. But I do think you’re a part of their plan and this was the only way they could try to get rid of you. You can’t reason with someone’s irrational logic, and we won’t know exactly what is going on until we catch them.”

Daniella took a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll stay out of the office for a few weeks. But I’m going to monitor every transaction that comes in or out of the corporate account. While I may be willing to cooperate with this ruse, there’s no way I’m letting the accounting get that far behind.”

Greg smiled as some of the tension left his body. “Yes, ma’am.”


Anyone who watched Greg walk out of the elevator and down the hall—his steps measured, back straight, head held high—would think he was having a nice, calm day. But that calm was a practiced lie. The moment he shut the door to his office, the deep-seated rage and need for justice broke out of him. His fingers curled around the mahogany desk, tightening to the point that he left impressions in the thick wood.

Breathe, he commanded himself. Breathe before you lose it.

Today was a nightmare, and it wasn’t over yet. As the president of this company, it was his job to make sure that he appeared professional at all times. But as the current leader of the Novak Clan, the reigning circle of vampires in the Northeast United States, it was his duty to be ready at every moment. He did not get peace, he did not get pity, and when his people died, he took it personally. Greg carried the weight of his title with his muscles tense and ready for battle at every turn, and now they sensed a new opponent charging towards his door.

Luke stormed into his office, shouting a millisecond after the door had slammed against its frame. “Gregori, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Lucas,” he warned, but his cousin was clearly in a red haze and did not understand how close Greg was to losing control.

“You sent Daniella away? What the fuck is the matter with you? How could you ever believe she’s the reason for any of this?”

Greg’s anger was feeding into his power, his need to unleash, to break, to destroy. He counted backward from one hundred, trying to tune out the accusations.

“Did you not see how hurt she was? None of this would have happened if you had taken the proper steps to ensure her safety!”

“Enough!” Greg’s eyes flashed red and he slammed his fist so hard against the desk, it buckled under the blow. His power surged around him like a shock wave. The room darkened, shadow seizing light as Greg’s powers expanded and grew. The black was so dense that it blocked out the sun’s strong rays.

Luke froze, his mouth hanging open at his explosion.

Greg’s voice was low, dark, when he said, “Do you think to question my judgment?”

“Most days,” Luke replied, his retort earning him a growl.

Greg closed his eyes again. Breathe in, breathe out. He balled his fist and called his power back to him. His family meant everything to him and he would never hurt them, but there were times when they pushed him too far. He could only take so much, and today was not the day to test him.

As Greg spoke, the glowing red of his eyes dimmed. “Let me connect the dots for you. Daniella’s credentials were used to log into the system.”

Luke’s eyes narrowed. “I already know that.”

“Then let me tell you something you clearly missed while you were busy berating me. They left them there on purpose. The attack on our finances was done directly after the attack on our people, by Zachariah. Not because he needed the money, but because he knows, Luke. He knows Daniella is my mate.”

His cousin gasped. “That’s impossible, the only people who know—”

“Work in this building.” Greg rubbed the corner of his eyes and sighed. “They’re the only people who have seen us together, and only an immortal would have been able to sense our connection. We have a mole, Luke. Daniella is not safe here, nor is she safe at her home. That is why I sent her away.”

“Greg—”

He shook his head. “I know how much you care about her, and you know how I feel about her as well. But we lost twenty-two people last night from the attack.” Greg clenched his fists again. “I have already failed those people. I am responsible for their deaths, and when I catch Zachariah, I will enjoy watching the blood drain from his body. But Daniella…” He shuddered at the thought. “I will never, ever risk her life or her safety. I can’t.”

Chapter 4

Daniella kept her head down as she exited the building. She’d been successful in avoiding everyone until she ran into Luke at the elevator. She told him about Greg’s plan, knowing he’d be upset if he wasn’t included. He was quiet at first—never a good sign with him—but when his jaw ticked, she knew he was about to erupt. 

She tried to explain it to him once more, but it was like talking to a brick wall. Luke could be over-protective and he wasn’t one to change his mind, or listen to reason when he was seething. He ignored her, cursed, then set on a warpath towards Gregori’s office. She felt bad for Greg and the whirlwind barreling in his direction, but if anyone could handle Luke, it was him.

She sent Luke a quick text to call her once he’d calmed down, and then another one to ask him if he’d grab her laptop and drop it off at her house tonight. It killed her to leave it there, unattended for the afternoon, especially after her credentials had been used, but she needed to keep up the ruse of a questionable probationary period. She tried to convince herself that they would find the perpetrator, but the task seemed incredulous.

Go home and relax. Take a nice long bath, order an extra-large pizza, and drink a tall glass of chardonnay. That’s all you can do right now.

Yet the moment she thought of her home, her stomach churned.

Glancing at her watch, she realized it was noon. She hadn’t eaten all day. Once she had some food in her, she’d feel better. That was the only thing that made sense.

Daniella stopped at a little corner café and ordered herself a delicious steak and horseradish melt with a generous portion of avocado, and a raspberry lemonade. She chose a seat outside, where she could enjoy the warm sun and cool breeze. Nature always helped to balance her out. But when she thought of going home again, her stomach cramped so hard she almost vomited.

What was going on? She’d never felt this way before. And to be this sick, especially all day? She knew not to disregard her feelings. How many times had her foresight helped her to avoid the worst? But this? Now? Her home had always made her feel safe, so this had to be something else. 

Instead of going home, Daniella stopped in every store she could think of and even took a trip to the museum, trying to enjoy the many sculptures and extravagant paintings. But then the sun began to set, and when she checked her watch it was after 6:00 p.m. Luke usually left the office around that time, and if he’d gotten her message, he’d be on his way over with her laptop. Thinking of him made her feel better. Maybe she’d entice him with the pizza and he could stay and have a bite too.

Maybe I should call and ask him to pick me up? Daniella shook her head at the ridiculous notion. She was fine, everything was fine, and yet with every step closer to her home, she felt worse.

With her building in view, she heard the familiar soft tones of a violin. Daniella used the opportunity for distraction and turned past the topiary and towards the melody’s creator, Stacy.

Her friendship with Stacy had begun strangely. Stacy played outside of tall complexes and skyscrapers, handing out flyers for her performances to anyone she could. She always went for the “big fish” and had figured Daniella to be one. But somewhere between Stacy’s over-energetic and pushy nature, and her beautiful way of enthralling someone with her music, Daniella had grown to love her, even if she hadn’t been given much of a choice. Stacy simply felt good to be around. She was a positive force in Daniella’s life, but the moment her eyes landed on Stacy’s small blonde form, bile sputtered from her mouth and she turned to vomit into a bush.

Stacy ran over to her and placed her hand on Daniella’s back. But instead of a feeling of comfort, Stacy’s touch felt like daggers piercing her skin. Daniella pulled away as more bile and unrecognizable chunks spat from her mouth. It’s never been this bad.

“Dani, are you okay?”

“Yes,” she gasped, begging her stomach to stop dry heaving. “I-I’m fine,” she lied. “I think I have the stomach flu. I’m sorry for worrying you. Go back to playing, I’m okay.”

Stacy reached out to her. “Dani, you look horrible. Come on, let me help you—”

“No!”

Stacy jerked back and Daniella stumbled to her knees. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, eyes watering as she looked up at Stacy. “The stomach flu has been going around the office. I guess I’m its next victim.” She braved a laugh, but Stacy still seemed skeptical. Daniella noticed her clasp her hand tightly to her chest, as if she’d been stung or wounded. “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”

“No, no. I’ve probably just been playing too long. But are you sure you’re okay? I can help you back to your house?”

Daniella winced at the instant headache brought on by the mention of her home. “No, it’s okay. I don’t want to make you sick too. Plus, someone will try to take your spot if you’re not here.”

“Yeah, they’re a bunch of vultures.” Stacy sighed, turning to check and make sure that no one had touched her violin or taken the money in her case. Then she shifted her focus back on Daniella. “I am going to watch you and make sure you make it into your building, and when you get upstairs, take some medicine and call me after you’ve rested a little, okay?”

Daniella smiled, but shook her head when Stacy offered to help her up again. “I’ve got it.”

She stood and closed her eyes for a moment. Taking a deep breath, she focused on her mother’s mantra, one of the few traditions she had left of her. I am one with the earth. I am one with the Mother. She flows through me. She offers me her guidance, and I can make it through anything.

After the third time, Daniella opened her eyes only to meet Stacy’s crystal blue orbs clouded with concern. “I’m feeling better. Don’t worry,” she said, hoping she sounded convincing enough.

Stacy mumbled something in German and rolled her eyes. “I will always worry about you. You’re always working. You don’t take care of yourself.” She threw her hands in the air. “I work on the street and I’m healthier than you. If I find you passed out in front of your building, I’ll call an ambulance for you, only after I knock you upside the back of your head.”

Daniella gave a real laugh this time. “Yes, mother. But you may want to save that for the man getting a little too close to your money.”

Stacy turned and stomped towards the stranger, all five-foot-three of her yelling in a mixture of English and German.

Daniella shuffled to her building, counting the steps. Anything to draw attention away from the familiar blackness. The war between her physical body and whatever was bothering her intuition was so intense that she felt lightheaded. Opening the door to her building, she looked around for the night guard, but his post was vacant.

That’s odd.

Stacy played right outside of her building, and she had been shouting obscenities. He must have just gone to make sure that everything was all right, and Daniella had missed him by the time she made it to the door.

Her stomach lurched again and she rushed to the elevator. She scanned her keycard, entered, and felt triumphant the moment she pressed the penthouse floor. She’d made it!

Slouching against the golden mirrored wall, her relief was replaced by a buzzing under her skin, as if a second beat had started in her heart, renewing her strength. Her body flooded with a mixture of bliss and energetic adrenaline, and for the first time she questioned if everything that she’d felt had been some sort of anxiety attack, or a mixture between that and her normal intuitive feelings. After all, she’d had a horrible morning, barely eaten, and had been on edge for the entire day. Perhaps what she’d believed was her intuition was really an ugly ball of fear and stress, and she had simply made herself sick. Maybe she really did need to take a vacation, get out of town for a couple of days. Maybe Stacy was right. Maybe she was overworking herself.

As she touched the handle of her apartment door, it shocked her. Daniella wrung her hand from the zing of static electricity and tried again, her fingers still tingling from the jolt. This time, the handle moved and she entered her home. Yet, instead of feeling relief, a fresh wave of dizziness hit her so hard that she rushed towards the half bathroom in case she was going to hurl. Her body stopped mid-motion, held back by something she couldn’t comprehend. She tried again to move forward, to no avail.

Someone chuckled behind her, and her hair stood on end.

“Oh, Daniella, I’m not going to let you get away that easily. I have to punish you for making me wait.”

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