As part of the Ancient race in the supernatural world, three-thousand-year-old Varcolac Jason Chase, also known as Jericho, knows he has a lot of enemies and allies. But his world is turned upside down when strange dreams about a human girl starts plaguing his nights. It could only mean one thing, and it was something he never expected. Varcolacs get one true mate in their lifetime, and Jason Chase thought his didn’t exist.
After the death of her mother, twenty-four-year-old South African Morgan Freeman heads back to the one place that had always felt like home—the cruise lines. But this time it’s different. Meeting Jason Chase, the man of every woman’s dreams, was so not part of her plan, but it feels like they’re a match made in heaven. But something doesn’t feel right. Nobody could be that perfect, right? When the truth finally comes out, her heart is shattered and the world she once knew ceases to exist.
The size of the ship never failed to surprise me, I thought as I stared up at it. It was going to be my home for the next seven months. I never could understand how something that enormous could float and not sink. It seemed impossible, but there it was.
This ship had been my home a few times in the past. On it, I had a family away from my own blood—a life—but then it all disappeared with a wave of a hand. Fate’s hand.
Four years ago, I had to leave due to a family emergency. I was not even twenty-one. Not even old enough to take a drink yet, but life decided to serve me a dish that did not go well without a lot of alcohol. My mother, my only known living relative, had been diagnosed with cancer; The big fucking Asshole.
And so, I’d had to leave behind the family I’d made on the wide-open ocean. For the past four years, I had taken care of my mother. I never once thought that I would see the inside of a cruise liner again.
But here I was back again, nearing the age of twenty-five, ready to find a new life. Somehow. Not that I had much of a choice.
Then I saw him.
Well, you couldn’t miss someone like him. He was about six feet tall, had hair as black as night and the most beautiful sea-green-blue eyes I’d ever seen. It was as if you could drown in them.
His skin was tanned, and I could tell he loved the sun, and yet, he was on a cruise ship that was leaving for Alaska, for three months, in two weeks.
I could see frustration rolling off him as he spoke to a dark-haired guy, the same height, but stockier, standing next to him. Perhaps his brother?
The mysterious guy’s hand trembled like someone who had Parkinson’s disease. I didn’t know how he could have passed the medical exam.
I looked away, flushing when I realized I was staring at the two men, and not in a polite manner.
Although, with looks like that, they had to be used to women gawking at them.
I couldn’t imagine what they were doing aboard a cruise line like this. Definitely not working as waiting staff. No, the dining room was for more hardworking people who usually did not speak English all that well.
My body ached from my twenty-two-hour flight to the USA. I was South African, and though I loved my beautiful country, and couldn’t imagine having been born and raised in a different country, the fact of the matter was that the crime rate in South Africa was just too high, and the opportunities too few and far between.
There simply wasn’t a future there for me, and there definitely wasn’t a life for me there anymore. Everything was so expensive, and life was just so damn difficult there. I had to get away and America sounded like the land of milk and honey. It used to be exactly that for me, and it could be again. I could start over and move on with my life.
“Could you all please move forward?” the staff officer’s voice rang through the crowd of new crew members. He had a slight Spanish accent, and at more or less my height, didn’t seem as intimidating as I would have thought.
I grabbed my backpack and pulled my other luggage along behind me. Working on a cruise ship had its up and downs. It was demanding, but the money was good and you got to see the world. What more could a twenty-four-year-old girl ask for?
I looked over my shoulder and saw Gorgeous One and Two picking up their own bags. They both carried large army duffle bags that screamed masculinity. I couldn’t help but wonder what department they were working in. With their looks it had to be entertainment.
Gorgeous One’s hand still trembled violently, his attempts at hiding it not succeeding.
The guy next to him spoke a language that sounded very much like Russian, and they burst into laughter, sending tingles down my spine.
Some guys just had the entire package—not that I didn’t doubt that they had their flaws, and they could be married, or gay. With my luck they were one of those. That was the reason I’d never settled down. Most of the men I thought were the one, usually turned out to be the latter.
We followed the staff officer to the back of the ship, passing the other crew members. I didn’t recognize any of the faces. Four years ago, I had had many friends aboard this ship, but four years was a long time and I doubted any of them were still here. People moved on with their lives. I was the only one stuck in time.
Every person who passed Gorgeous One and Two stopped to greet them, so this wasn’t their first time as part of the crew. Gorgeous One was speaking fluent German, and though I didn’t understand the language in the slightest, it did sound similar to my own Afrikaans. When they fell behind and their conversation drifted away from me, I glanced back at them. Something about Gorgeous One with his trembling hand pulled me in. But then, I guess he pulled everyone in.
We ended up in the bar at the back of the ship, the stern or aft — in ship terms.
The staff officer started without Gorgeous One and Two, which probably meant they were officers, since they usually didn’t have to sit through the boring welcome greetings and drills the rest of the staff had to.
The door opened, and the staff officer looked around as the two of them entered, apologizing in Spanish this time. Jeez, how many languages did they speak?
Gorgeous One—with the trembling hand—was impressing me more and more. He said something that made everyone who could understand Spanish burst out in laughter. He put down his bag, then sat down next to Gorgeous Two. The two continued a low conversation, and I tried not to eavesdrop or even look at them, sinking lower in my seat to hide from view. From the one glance I sent over my shoulder, I saw him shake his hand twice and rub it.
I looked away, reverting my attention back to the staff officer. The rules were still the same as they had been four years ago. No talking about religion or politics, no being racist, and no harassment whatsoever—general or sexual. Breaching any of these could win you a ticket straight home.
My mind wandered to Gorgeous One again, and this time I peeked at him. Except I wasn’t the only one looking at him. Another girl was staring at him and Gorgeous Two, not even bothering to do so on the sly.
Not that he seemed bothered by it, or perhaps he just wasn’t paying attention to her. Still, guys like that tended to be dicks.
One just couldn’t have it all.
The officer called our names, frowning as he read my name. “Morgan Freeman?”
I stood up.
His face said it before the words did. “You’re a woman.”
“The last time I checked,” I muttered, eliciting laughs from those closest to me.
“Sorry.” He smiled. “I just assumed when I saw your name that you’d be a man. You know like the actor.”
I rolled my eyes. “I get that a lot.”
“Terribly sorry,” he apologized and handed me my cabin key.
I smiled and took it from him, then picked up my bag. I decided not to wait for the rest of the crew to get their assigned cabins and keys, and left to go hunt down my cabin.
It didn’t take me long to find it, since all the dining-room staff were situated on the second deck. I pushed the door open, sighing in relief when I saw two separate beds instead of a bunk bed. Though that meant it took up more space in the tiny room, at least there’d be no one sleeping above me. I dumped my bags on the bed that was vacated, peeked my head into the small bathroom that housed a shower, a tiny sink, and a toilet.
I was going to miss my baths.
I closed the door and started to unpack my clothes, blinking away the tears which, for some reason, pricked at my eyes.
For the last four years, I’d tried everything I could think of to get back on board one of these ships, never once thinking of what I would have to lose to do it.
Today was that day, and it wasn’t at all what I’d imagined it would be. Now, I would have given anything to just hear my mother’s voice one more time.
TWO WEEKS EARLIER
I stood on the hill, looking out over what I knew would be someday called The Great War. Why was I dreaming about this?
It must have been the fifth time in the past month that I had had this same dream. Nothing ever changed.
My heart raced, but not about what we were facing or which side of the war I was on, but because of her and the secret I had been hiding from my family.
The dream came out of the blue. I’d never had a dream like this before, since I didn’t have the gift of divining sight. No, that gift belonged to my twin sister Annie.
Everyone I loved was in my dream, all the faces I knew, but we were all in our human form. That wasn’t right. We were supposed to be on four paws.
I felt her hand on my skin. It was warm, and I could hear the speed of her heart beat, which meant she was human.
That was the first part of this dream that I didn’t like.
The second part I didn’t like was how her touch made me feel. I knew what it meant, what she was to me. She was what I’d been waiting for and also what I hadn’t been waiting for.
I never thought I would experience it. Our kind called it the lockpass. But I’d witnessed what happened to males when they underwent the lockpass.
To me, it seemed like the guy became possessed. That is how I saw it. Dominique, Annie’s fiancé and a good friend of mine, went through it two hundred years ago when I’d changed him. I hadn’t had a choice, since vampires had been after him, but I knew he’d survive the change because he carried the mark of the werewolves.
After his change, he fell in love with my sister. The minute he kissed her, he went through the lockpass. It took him eighteen days to complete the process, and he was lucky it hadn’t been longer—Annie was about three thousand years old.
After that, her entire life was inked on the skin of his back. It was a werewolf thing, and though we weren’t full breeds, we still went through it.
He became her slave, did her bidding and knew how to handle her psychotic breakdowns. I couldn’t even handle her at times, and we were just five minutes apart.
That was what the lockpass did. He just knew everything about Annie—what ticked her off and what to do to calm her down.
Of course, Annie didn’t just lie on her back and say “take me.” No, she made him work for it for more than a hundred years.
It was punishment. I hated that our true mates had that type of power over us.
This girl with her human touch, she was my lockpass.
And that was something I couldn’t wrap my head around.
I would have been able to deal with it if it had just been dreams plaguing me, but after the first time I dreamed of her, my hand started to shake, and nothing I did stopped it.
The warmth of her touch turned cold but didn’t vanish. When I opened my eyes, my sister let go of my hand.
“That was private, Annie!” I roared. How dare she?
“Who is she?” Annie demanded.
“Nobody. That wasn’t for you to see.”
“Is she the reason your hand has been trembling?”
“Let it go,” I snapped at her, taking the steps two at a time to my room.
“What’s going on?” Irene, the woman who had been portraying our mother for the past hundred-and-fifty years asked.
“Nothing,” I said.
“He’s dreaming about a girl. His true mate. And he didn’t tell any of us.”
I stopped in front of my room, clenching my jaw to calm my temper.
“Is that true?” Irene asked.
“That’s why his hand is trembling.”
“Jason?” Irene asked again.
“I’m not doing this to her, Irene. I won’t.”
“It’s been three thousand years.”
“I don’t care. She’s human.”
* * *
That had been two weeks ago. After my sister sneaked a peek with her gift of sight, the cat was out of the bag and my family all became crazy. Even Dom, who used to just mind his own business and Annie’s. But this girl and what she would end up meaning to me changed something in him. Now he was hovering over me like the rest of them.
The trembling only became worse, and it was one of the reasons why we decided to come back on the cruise ship. I hadn’t planned on coming back, since it was almost time to move on—I had, after all, been working on the cruise ship for almost four years.
Because we don’t age, we move on every four years or so, but that dream put my family in a frenzy.
The best way to meet people from all over the world was on a cruise ship, so I was going to do one more contract before we moved on.
They all promised me that they would stop hovering over me if I just did one more contract.
Annie believed that the girl in my dreams would be on one of the cruises, and I was inclined to believe that she was right, because my hand was shaking more now than it had before.
I might not even have to stay that long.
Whoever she was, she was on this cruise ship, alright. I just needed to find her, deal with the trembling, and move on.