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Sunroper Excerpt

Chapter One

The secrecy in which we have dwelled for centuries is threatened
not only by modern technology, but by the actions of our members.
—Numina internal documents

Many things had changed since the day six months ago when a single touch altered Marley Canton’s entire life forever. But she was still not the kind of woman who would typically be found in a trendy dance club in downtown Boston. She could play the part, though, if she needed to—and tonight she needed to.

“Jameson,” she said, holding up two fingers at the bartender, who nodded and reached for the whiskey. Marley gave the guy eyeballing her a polite but standoffish smile as she turned to study the dance floor and scan the clusters of tiny, clear tables along the sides of the room. She didn’t immediately see her prey, so with her drink in hand, it was time to prowl.

Lights flashed in time to the pumping music as she moved through the room. Bodies arched and ground and bounced on the dance floor, generating a steamy heat combated by the icy air-conditioning. As she eased her way toward the far side of the room, she glanced at every face, concentrating on the younger men. The guy she was looking for was twenty-three, arrogant, and slim. She’d studied enough pictures of him online and in the tabloids to be able to recognize him even in here. Once she got close enough, she would know her target.

She paused at the corner and angled her shoulders back to rest against the wall, sipping her whiskey to cover how closely she watched a group entering the club. It felt good to be on a mission. A few years ago, she’d lived a quiet, content life as the owner of an inn in Maine, giving lost souls a place to heal and figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. She’d been whole, happy, a middling-powerful goddess surrounded by her natural energy source, crystals, that helped her channel her power. Not that she’d used her abilities for anything special back then. But she’d fallen in love and stupidly given that man a piece of herself as well as a dose of power, allowing him to rip the rest—and more—away from her and four other goddesses before he’d been stopped. She’d helped to build a new educational program within the Society for Goddess Education and Defense, which had given her purpose for a little while, but the events of the past year had only shown her just how worthless she’d been.

Not anymore.

Marley glanced at the door as a woman tucked away her ID and a new group of clubbers pushed into the crowd. No sign of the guy Marley sought, so she moved on, too, striding down the long side of the club’s main area. This side was darker and filled with couples making creative use of their tongues. Marley closed her eyes and tuned in with the rest of her senses. The usual ones combined in a natural awareness of the bodies around her, but over the last few months she’d developed a new ability to detect guys like Josh, the kid she was after, because of differences in his personal energy related to his generic heritage. Almost like reading his aura, except inside rather than outside.

She sighed and opened her eyes. All the guys over here were normal. Relatively speaking.

“You want to say that again?”

She stopped short and swung her drink out of the way as a tousle-haired guy in a silk shirt shoved a shorter, burlier guy into her path. Everyone around them halted—or at least paused in their dancing and flirting—and the sweet, hot aroma in the air sharpened with their interest in a potential fight.

Burly guy shook his head slowly, a smile twisting one side of his mouth. “Yeah, I’ll say it again. Suck. My—

Silk-shirt guy launched himself at Burly, and chaos erupted as friends staggered around trying to separate the two. They sprawled at Marley’s feet, failing to land effective punches on each other. She wrinkled her nose against the blend of yeasty beer and fruity alcohol wafting from spilled drinks all around her, and her body curved and swayed to avoid the flailing limbs. She tried to ignore the hand-wringing laments of the guys’ dates or friends or whatever the women were. The tears streaming down their faces were an uncomfortable reminder of how it felt to be useless in a fight.

Marley weaved toward the wall, out of the way of the bouncers pushing through the crowd, those feelings strengthening despite how poorly they fit into her current reality. She wasn’t worthless anymore. She may have accidentally created a leech by giving the man she loved a bit of power.

But now she could take it away from those who didn’t deserve it.