Chapter One


Shade's dark gray coupe drifted onto the paved drive of Allender Manor from the highway with a dramatic rear wheel-induced skid. She steered the car straight, then floored it as a glossy black coupe identical to her's fell in behind her, mimicking the exact same tire-smoking maneuver as it chased after her speeding coupe. The two sports cars raced furiously under the glinting rays of midday up the long drive to the manor, where Shade brought her car to a tire screeching halt near the front entrance. The sterling black coupe that mirrored her own whipped over to reach a sudden stop beside her.

With a final rev of the growling engine, Shade killed the ignition and slid out of her trusty ride. Rounding the backside of her coupe, she threw her hands on her hips as she stopped and swept the black beauty parked beside her with an approving gleam in her dark-as-night eyes. Nodding with a pleased smirk at her brother's choice, she tossed her head to fling a few wayward strands of her flowing brown locks out of her line of sight so she could eye Corbin's delight as he climbed out of the car. With an almost giddy smile, he stood beside her with folded arms as they both admired the newest edition to their stable of vehicles.

"Black does suit you better," she remarked as she stared at the familiar lines of a car identical to her own in every way save for the color of paint. Corbin's grin only broadened at her remark.

"Now see if ya can make this one last a little longer," she quipped, slapping him playfully on the shoulder before turning to walk towards the manor.

"Hey!" he rebuked defensively in an equally playful manner. "I couldn't help what happened to the last one," he shrugged nonchalantly, as he turned to follow Shade.

The leather clad beauty in front of him stopped abruptly, nearly causing him to collide with her before he lurched to a sudden stop. He'd regained his balance by the time she turned to face him with a concerned look that probed his unsuspecting purple eyes. Furrowing his brow inquisitively under the heavy bangs of his inky black hair, he wondered silently why she was suddenly scrutinizing him so.

"Are you sure you're ready for tonight?" she asked with an unflinching tone full of deep care that demanded a truthful answer. Her playful demeanor from just seconds earlier was clearly gone. "I mean, if you're not, that's cool. After what just happened with Julius, nobody will blame you if you wanna sit this one out."

Corbin stiffened at the question. His mind swept rapidly through the plans that would be arriving with nightfall. He and Amanda were going to investigate an underground facility deep within the core of Bergstad's industrial district that according to one of Gideon's sources was supposedly linked to Jarell. The other part of those plans involved Gideon and Shade following up on a lead to Dr. Harper somewhere outside the great metropolis. It was a night Corbin had been eagerly desiring for a while, a night when he hoped to strike a blow against his nemesis and the scourge of his family: Jarell.

Putting on his best expression of assurance, Corbin's head tilted in a confident arch before he answered. "Are you kidding?" he asked, mocking her fears. "I've been waiting for this opportunity a long time now," he asserted, trying to imitate Shade's trademark smirk on his sharply defined features to squash any doubts she might have.

Shade couldn't help but be infected by the swagger radiating from her brother's demeanor. Her hard gaze broke with a mischievous smirk and nod that indicated her hunger for the promise of action that she hoped would come with the night ahead.

"Yep. It's about time the hunted become the hunters," she proclaimed, much to Corbin's approval who returned her ready nod.

"That's what I'm talkin' about," he replied enthusiastically, raising his hand up to invite Shade's for a high-five. She wasted no time in slapping his palm, then they both headed into the manor to await nightfall.