Chapter One

Jade had been in a deep sleep– deeper than she’d been in for who knows how long– when something had awoken her. She sat up on the blow-up mattress head slightly cocked as she listened, after several long moments of silence her head turned to her phone. The screen flashed a silent alert that her perimeter sensors had been tripped.
After shutting off the alert, she hauled herself off the blow-up mattress in order to check out the house. Creeping through the darkened interior of the abandoned, ramshackle house she’d been squatting in for the past few days, Jade started to wonder if it was the stray cat that had been loitering around lately that was responsible for her rude awakening.
Still slightly disheveled and disoriented from sleep, she made her way cautiously through the dark hallway into the living room. Raking her hand through her hair, she stepped out of the narrow hallway into the room and froze.
Something . . . no… someone was in her bolt hole. In the darkness, she could just make out a tall, bulky figure working the door closed. A strange combination of fear, irritation, and anger began to swirl in her gut at this figure’s intrusion. This was her place. Her safe haven, that she’d set up methodically in order to get some well-deserved rest.
Jade got her first glimpse of her shadowy midnight visitor as it . . . no, he moved to one of the windows and eased open the threadbare curtain. The sliver of moonlight filtering in through the opening highlighted a chiseled jaw covered in dark stubble and a head of cropped dark hair.
“You’re in the wrong place, buddy. This is my squat,” she hissed at the intruder’s back as she debated whether or not to kill him.

* * * *

Nick froze midway through closing the curtain, fingers clenching tighter against the threadbare material. His mind reeled over the fact that the angry sounding bobcat behind him had just snarled out his soulmark words.
Of course, it was just his luck that he’d meet his soulmate while remnants of Chimera were hunting him. Turning towards the voice, Nick winced at the sudden ripping sound that broke the silence, a result of his death grip on the curtain that had seen better days.
He took advantage of the moonlight illuminating the room to assess the slip of a woman before him. Shoulder length, disheveled dark hair surrounded a delicate face that was home to a pair of narrowed dark eyes glinting with barely-contained rage.
“Well, do you have anything to say for yourself, or does the cat have your tongue?” Her voice a hushed snarl as she stalked towards him to, hands settling upon her slender hips.
Nick was about to respond when the first crack of gunfire sounded. He moved on instinct; his legs propelled him towards his enraged soulmate.
Hooking his arm around her waist as he passed her, he hauled her like a squirming sack of potatoes into the tiny kitchen. Diving down behind the counter, Nick dropped her unceremoniously on her ass his body coming down over hers as the gunfire ricocheted through the other room. Reaching behind his back, he pulled his only gun free of the holster on his belt.
His eyes never moved from the young woman’s face– at least not until she pushed him off her. As she pushed herself up into a crouch she braced  one shoulder against the counter; her eyes had not once moved from him or what he was doing as he checked the weapon.
After he finished checking the weapon he flicked the safety off while turning towards her, pressing the gun into one of her soft hands. Once he was happy with her grip on it, he pulled the knife free of his boot.
She’d been about to speak when the front door burst inward followed by a barrage of covering fire.
“Just point and shoot . . . do NOT shoot me.” Nick ordered.
With a white-knuckled grip on the hilt of his knife, Nick forced himself into motion, leaving his tiny slip of a soulmate safe behind the counter as he strode with purpose into the living room. The first of the men through the door reached him quicker than he’d expected, a fist connecting with his nose. Pain flared and his vision blurred momentarily.
Shaking off the sudden daze, Nick dropped and whirled, his elbow driving into his assailant’s gut and forcing the wind from the man’s lungs. Dodging the man’s flailing arms, he rose in one smooth motion and brought his knife down against his opponent’s neck, sinking in deep.
He slid his knife free as his eyes tracked the five men working their way into position around him.