Sarah Hollister pushed down the apprehension she felt as she entered the PBI science division in the upstate New York compound. She shook off the rain from outside, and took a deep breath as she pushed open the second set of doors to the building finding herself in a large atrium with no receptionist, just a security guard booth and a metal detector and x-ray machine. She just finished a month of basic forensics training, and was capable of completing simple jobs. Today was the first day she’d be reporting to her new boss. To say she was nervous was an understatement. Officially, until she completed years of training she was only going to be a technician, but even in that role she was in a far better position than as the manager she was two months ago, and better yet, she achieved massive distance from her ex-boyfriend James, although she was a little too close for comfort to a vampire named Devon.
Devon had set his sights on her while she was at his nightclub, drunk out of her mind, inhibitions down, and looking for a one night stand. She reciprocated that interest until she discovered his secret. The biggest obstacle in the way of having a relationship with the man was that he was basically undead. Vampires weren’t known for being extremely monogamous. Hell, vampires weren’t known for much of anything other than great works of fiction. To the ‘real world’ they didn’t exist, but her new world was one of science fiction and fantasy. If anyone had told her a couple of months ago she’d be here now she would’ve laughed and told them they were crazy. It made her wonder if she was now the crazy one.
Now that her intense training was over she was back in close proximity to the sexy vampire, and those passionate feelings were returning. The other obstacle, aside from the fact that she still needed space to get over what her dick ex did, was that he would be working with her at the Paranormal Bureau of Investigations. Working with someone you were dating was a terrible idea, she’d made that mistake with James and wasn’t ready to repeat it again. That made him an unnecessary distraction.
“Miss?” The guard at the welcome desk’s voice broke into her thoughts. He was an attractive man, brown hair and brown eyes. His build was solid like one of those large men who played football. It was a safe bet he was a shifter of some kind, but one never really knows, and she learned in basic training it wasn’t really polite to ask. Just because she knew supernatural creatures existed didn’t mean she had the right to question them.
“Your badge?” He gave her an impatient glance.
“Oh, sorry.” She pulled the badge from her neck and scanned it. “It’s my first day. I’m a little lost.”
He glanced at the computer screen and then back at her. She felt like she was being scrutinized, and while it made her uneasy, it also made her feel a bit safer, too. Finally, a smile broke across his lips and he nodded.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to everything. Welcome to the team, Sarah Hollister.”
She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding and started walking through the metal detector. The African-American female guard stood on the other side of the scanner with a handheld wand and ran it from her head to her toes. “Welcome, Miss. Hollister. I’m Abigail, and my partner over there is Bryce. If you need anything, please let us know.
Abigail was pretty, perky, and her face was sweet, but her build showed she was not someone to mess with. Sarah grinned, and picked her coffee cup and keys up from the conveyor belt, then slipped on her shoes. “Thank you. Nice to meet you both.”
Abigail gave her the slightest of winks and said, “It’s a little intimidating at first, but you wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t the right place for you.”
The female guard did an amazing job of putting her at ease, and Sarah found herself grateful. It was like she knew exactly what she was feeling and how to make her feel better. She had a feeling they were going to become great friends over the years she planned on spending here. “You’re very kind, thank you.”
Bryce handed Sarah a map and highlighted the area of the building that was her destination. While telling her how to get there, he also directed on the map with his hand. “Have a good day, Miss. Hollister.”
“Please, both of you, call me Sarah.” She said as she headed toward the door marked authorized personnel only. She scanned her card in and the automatic lock clicked opening the door. She tossed one final look behind her, swallowed her anxiety, and entered the science area. After three left turns, two rights, and passing multiple laboratories she made it to her destination. Plastering on a smile she wasn’t feeling she entered her designated lab and was taken aback by the number of people in white lab coats working at docking stations in the room which looked larger than a school gymnasium.
“You’re late.” An older oriental man snapped more viciously than was expected from a man his size. “I don’t abide with tardiness in my lab.”
“I’m sorry.” What could she say other than, “I won’t let it happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t.” He grunted with annoyance. “I understand you are still in the process of learning the trade.” He took Sarah’s travel mug and dumped it in the trash by the door. “Please don’t bring food or drink into the lab.”
“It was empty.” She protested, but the words were spoken in a quiet voice. She didn’t want to make a bad first impression, but it seemed like everything she’d done so far had put a bitter taste in his mouth. “I am Doctor Smith, and you’ll get your assignments from me daily. Today, I’ll have you partner with Charlie.” He started walking, and Sarah started following at his silent command. They walked past fourteen stations, two on either side with two people at each bench working in tandem until he stopped in front of a girl with black hair that had green streaks in two side ponytails. She wore a t-shirt from some heavy metal band Sarah didn’t recognize and jeans under her pristine white lab coat.
“Charlie, this is Sarah Hollister, and she’ll be your assistant for the week.”
Charlie examined Sarah through kohl-lined blue eyes and pursed her lips in a look of disgust. “I don’t need a newbie hanging around messing up my findings.”
“She is your trainee and her work is a reflection of you so I would suggest that you teach her what you can.”
Charlie dropped the pair of jeans she was examining under a microscope and twisted her lips in a fake smile. “Hello, Sarah,” she sighed heavily. “I’d shake your hand, but as you can see I’m already gloved up. Why don’t you put on your gear and take a seat there while I teach you the fine art of examining clothes for microfibers.”
Sarah didn’t bother to tell Charlie she’d already learned that in her training. She simply slipped on the blue gloves and hoped things would get better as the day progressed. Silently, she hoped Frankie was having better luck in her training session with Jasmine and Fang.
Frankie spun around, crouched low to the ground, and attempted to knock Fang off balance, only her signature move back fired. His hand jutted out grabbing her ankle and twisting her on her back. She slammed into the mat with so much force she thought she’d broken something. His twist on her ankle left her in pain.
“Again.” Jasmine barked.
‘No pain, no gain,’ Frankie reminded herself as she popped up into a standing defensive position favoring her ankle slightly, and ready to take Fang’s first punch. It never came. Instead he faked a move which put her off guard, and suddenly he was behind her, and his strong arms held her neck in a choke hold.
“You fight like you’re in a classroom. You need to fight dirty to survive on the streets.” He snarled in her ear. His breath was hot against her neck and cooled the sweat which soaked her skin from the last two hours of sparring. It sent a shiver down her spine.
“You. Want. Dirty.” She said as her foot smashed down on his causing enough of a distraction for him to let her go. She said, “I’m sorry” before her foot came up making contact with his groin. As he doubled over from the pain she assumed bloomed from his gut she used the leverage and his imbalance to help her flip him to the ground where she straddled him and pinned his hands above his head. She was tiny compared to him, a good three times smaller, but her trainer had always taught her to use the weight of her opponents against them if they were bigger.
He also taught her how to fight dirty. She just needed permission to do so during this sparring exercise.
‘A congratulations would be nice,’ Frankie thought as she turned to look at her new boss, Jasmine. Not even the simplest of smiles broke across her face. Frankie went to jump up from her position, but Fang had different ideas.
Already recovered from his pain he flipped Frankie onto her back and pinned her arms to her sides. “If you’re going to survive, you need to be alert at all times.” He actually looked angry at her. Seriously! Why did he hate her so much?
Frankie knew she should be angry and humiliated with how easily he threw her down on the mat, but instead she felt stimulated. She’d been fighting off the feelings of attraction she had for the were-bear for weeks now and positions like this, coupled with how angry he made her only compounded her desire. She silently cursed her body’s reaction to the man. His long blond hair which had worked its way free from the pony holder he wore, and his sun-kissed skin was covered in perspiration to prove that at least she was giving him a workout. That was something, anyway.
“You need to be better, Francesca. None of us have time to watch you in the field.” He lowered his voice so only she could hear his words, but it still embarrassed her. She bucked up. The action caused him to loosen his grip just enough so she could spin over onto her stomach. In this position she was able to use the force of her back and behind to push him up and off of her.
He fell backwards from the surprise move which gave her enough time to grab the dagger at her ankle. Before he could recover she placed it against his neck. “In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t need any protecting.” Her parents made sure of that by putting her and Sarah through self-defense classes from the moment they were walking. They prepared them both for any human attack, but a supernatural was far more powerful than a human and winning against them required inventive methods, thankfully she was the kind of woman that could think outside of the box.
“Again.” Jasmine’s voice broke into Frankie’s triumphant moment.
Frankie sheathed her dagger and got back into fighting stance biting back the bitter words she wanted to spew toward Jasmine, and still favoring her ankle.
“It’s time for a break.” Fang stated.
“Again.” Jasmine stood beside the blue floor mat, hands crossed over her chest, her lips pursed showing she wouldn’t take excuses.
The rest of the day was spent sparring with different weapons. Fang’s attempt to show a little mercy on her actually increased her attraction to the oversized brute of a man. By the time she arrived back at the room she shared with her sister she was exhausted. All she wanted to do was collapse into bed and sleep for twenty-four hours straight. It may have been rough, but she was getting stronger and improving in her fight tactics. The training was tough, too, but it was necessary, and a part deep within her knew that to be the truth.
Sarah was already in the room reviewing their parents’ file. It had been something the two of them spent hours going over the last month. For years, they believed their parents’ deaths were tragic accidents and now they knew differently. Everything about their parents’ lives were lies. They lived as agents, too, only they worked for the CIA. Their deaths were connected to the paranormal, something this agency was dedicated to handling. Something their training never prepared them for, and now it seemed the daughters were the ones that would find justice for them.
Initially, the belief was that they were killed by rabid wolves, but the evidence suggested otherwise, and part of Sarah’s deal with signing on with the agency was the permission to work on this case in her spare time.
“Find anything new?”
Sarah slapped the file shut and rubbed her neck, unspoken body language showing she’d been working on it for a while. “No.” Sighing heavily she continued, “I’ve crossed referenced these claw marks with tons of supernatural species and haven’t found any match. It would be so much easier if I could examine the bodies personally.”
Frankie shook her head, “I couldn’t do that. I mean, they were our parents.” She pulled a bottled water out of the mini fridge and offered one to her sister.
Sarah shook her head. “Yes, I know it would be hard, but part of being a good forensic scientist is being able to separate personal feelings from the science.”
“I still think you’d struggle with that one.” Frankie pulled out the pair of shorts and t-shirt that she planned on wearing to bed.
“Where have you been?” Sarah crinkled her nose. Her sister smelled terribly.
“Training. I think they plan to put me on field detail, but I have no idea. Jasmine is a hard one to read.” She downed half the bottled water in one gulp it felt so good to her dehydrated body.
“You need a shower.” Sarah said pointedly.
“I know. How is your job going?” Frankie sat down on her bed. She would make it to the shower and then she’d collapse. She was so done with this day.
“My new boss, and the girl I’m partnered with, are pretty tough, but the job is interesting.” She offered a weak smile. “I’m sure it’ll get better as they get to know me.” She hoped.
Frankie nodded, “so more difficult for both of us than we first thought.”
“I suppose, but all this training is necessary to keep us alive. Believe me, Frankie, I’ve seen some terrifying crime scene photos. The criminal elements in the supernatural world are brutal.”
“So are the human criminals.”
“True.” Sarah placed the file on the nightstand between their beds and yawned. “I’m going to get some sleep.”
Frankie stood up, “same here.” She headed toward the door. “There isn’t another person on this planet that
I’d want to do this with, Sar-bear.”
“I feel the same, Frankie.” Sarah smiled as she snuggled into bed.
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