Edge of Dawn

Book Three
Guardian’s Realm series

Former San Francisco Detective Robert Almaden joined the Vampire Task Force five years ago when he lost his son Matthew to vampirism. But his reason remains his greatest secret; not only would Robert’s motive for joining the VTF be suspect, he’d be ridiculed mercilessly. He’s paid his dues and bided his time, waiting for advancements in the crude treatments for vampires and watching for any sign Matthew, who stormed out in a rage after their last big fight.

The years with VTS have been hard, and all Robert has to show for it is a hatred for vampires that runs bone deep.

When Robert spots his son in a surveillance photo taken in Bucharest, he has to act before the Romanian-based Guardians’ sting operation proves tragic for Matthew. But Romania is a vampire infested hot zone, and he can’t let the VTF get wind of what he’s planning. He knows only one bloodsucker he would even consider asking for help, but after the raid on the Palace in San Francisco, he did not part ways nicely with the annoyingly spoiled vampiresse…

Cvetelina Maldonova knows Agent Almaden can’t stand her undead guts. He’s the most pigheaded human she’s ever met. And having lived nearly six hundred years, she’s met many. Not only does Robert believe he can cure his son of vampirism, he won’t listen when she tries to tell him an assassin has him targeted. He’s going to get his fool neck bit, and Cvetelina knows she’ll be blamed if returns to his agency in a coffin. Whether he likes it or not, she’s sticking to him like glue. At least he’s easy on the eyes, and when Cvetelina looks into his cool blue ones, she can almost see daylight again. But when he’s dosed with Tourin and tries to rut her pretty young houseguest, that’s the last straw. She grabs the nearest thing she can find to restrain him; the sex-ties in her bedroom. Suddenly Robert is bound and helpless, and things are looking more interesting. What to do, what to do…

“Ms. Kauffman did an exceptional job describing her settings and making the reader get a taste of her characters’ surroundings. She brings a great Romanian feel to the novella. I felt like the romance itself also developed naturally; it never felt forced or formulaic.”
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Bitten by Books

Cvetelina stopped on the deserted cobblestone street and looked up to the second floor.

Hatred. Violence. Bloodlust.

She sensed a lone vampire, and a fading human life force.

“Dammit.” She opened her wings, tearing the blouse and her favorite cashmere sweater. One powerful stroke sent her up and forward. She tucked her wings and smashed through the window where the energy was strongest, startling a female vampire leaning over the unconscious VTF agent.

He was still alive. Thank whatever gods truly existed.

The other vampire, a woman she recognized but had never been introduced to, crouched over Almaden with her head tilted and mouth wide open, as if to bite the corner off a taco.

She halted, swiveling her gaze over to Cvetelina. “I know you,” she said in Romanian. She didn’t release him, unsure of Cvetelina’s intentions.

“And I know you,” Cvetelina returned in English.

“Fuck off. He’s mine.”

She shook her head, clinging to her calm. She had no doubt she was stronger and more experienced than this young vamp, but she wasn’t in the mood for a fight. She had just had her nails done.

“I cannot let you have him.”

“This pathetic human means nothing, and I am owed. He killed my mate.” The female released him, slowly standing while eyeing Cvetelina curiously. “You were there, in San Francisco. That is where I know you from.”

Cvetelina stepped into the room, removing her back from the open window. “Da. I was there.”

The woman paced the opposite direction, matching her slow stride. Two alley cats squaring off, daring the other to move first. Her eyes narrowed. “How is it you escaped?”

“I surrendered. I was pardoned.”

The other vamp spat. “Coward. A true vampire would never beg from a human.”

“I obey the Sacred Laws.”

“Fuck the Sacred Laws! Humans are cattle. We feed. It is the way it is meant to be!” She leapt at Cvetelina, claws and fangs bared.

Instead of attacking, Cvetelina sidestepped and struck the other vamp on the back of the head. The woman stumbled and crashed against the wall.

“Stop this. I give you the chance to keep your life. Don’t be a fool.”

The vampire clamored to regain her footing. “Bitch!”

“You are no match for me. I am six hundred years old.”

The girl laughed out a shriek that made Cvetelina’s blood run cold. “You’re decrepit!”

She charged again. This time the vamp knew to anticipate Cvetelina’s sidestep. The other woman tackled her. They both crashed against the wall. Plaster crumbled and bricks came loose.

Cvetelina punched the other woman with a right hook. The vamp staggered back a few feet, then tried to come back with a punch of her own. Her fist crushed a hole in the brick. She howled in pain.

Cvetelina darted around her and thumped her on the spine with both hands clasped together. The other woman staggered to her knees. She pulled her hand free with a shower of crumbled mortar.

She spun to attack, but Cvetelina punched her again, sending her sprawling backward. The vamp kicked off the back wall, flipped in the air, and charged.

Cvetelina transformed to her demon form, slashed with a wing barb, and shifted back. The damage was already done. Her slacks were ripped at the waistline.

The other vampire’s severed head hit the floor and bounced twice, rolling to a stop under the small table. Her body sprawled a few feet away, twitching once before falling still.

A moment of silence reigned; then there was a whoosh as the body and its head ignited within a few seconds of each other.

Cvetelina examined her index finger. What had been a smoothly shaped fingernail was torn down to the flesh. “Damn.”

She crossed the room to the hearth, where she retrieved the ash broom and dustpan.

She swept up the remains and examined them in the pan. “Young people today just don’t listen.”

The body left a charred spot on the hardwood floor, making the finish bubble and peel, but Cvetelina had bigger issues to worry about. Other curious vampires were sure to come, called to the violent energy.

She dumped the remains into the hearth and tossed the broom and pan aside.

Robert Almaden lay twisted on the floor beside the bed. Blood soaked his shirt and spattered his face.

She knelt over him and gently turned his cheek. No punctures. His jugular pulsed, weak but steady.

“You are a lucky man, Agent Almaden.”

She remembered him as strikingly handsome and fiercely proud, with chiseled features and secretive pain in sky blue eyes that were always scowling, trying to hide it.

But now, in his unconscious state, she saw the true beauty of the man. She felt a pitiful pang, wishing she knew what he looked like when he smiled. That was something she would probably never see.

Above it all, in this vulnerable state and covered in his own blood, she felt a strange compulsion to protect. A need so intense to cherish this human life, it was almost sexual.

She shook her head. Absurd. The man hated her undead guts. Still, she had to get him the hell out of here.

Cvetelina gathered him into her arms and leapt out the window, calling forth her wings as she plummeted toward the cobblestone street. With a powerful downward stroke, she soared into the sky and turned for home.

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