The Enemy Within (Daughters of the People, Book 3)

After fourteen years, Indigo Dupree returns to Tellowee, Georgia, to face the past she left behind. She's tried of running, tired of hiding, and wants nothing more than to help her mother through the final days of her pregnancy. What she doesn't want is to become romantically entangled, not even to the sinfully handsome Bobby Upton, whose kiss sent her fleeing a decade and a half before.

Bobby is the son of the Blade and a ruthless warrior in his own right. At sixteen, the age of manhood among the People, he tried to claim the woman he loved and failed, and spent the next decade hacking his way through Uncle Sam's enemies. Now a successful businessman, he's given the task of tracking down the People's enemies, including India Furia, the twin sister of his heart's only love.

Duty demands that Indigo atone for the sins of her sister by helping to bring her in. India has other ideas, ones that draw Indigo and Bobby into a deadly game involving the Prophecy of Light, forcing Indigo to choose between her duty and her heart.

Released October 2014. Published by Bone Diggers Press, copyright 2014.

Bobby Upton, The Enemy Within by Lucy Varna
Indigo Dupree, The Enemy Within by Lucy Varna

Excerpt from The Enemy Within

Indigo Dupree surveyed the packing boxes strewn throughout her new apartment with a light heart. Home. For fourteen years, she’d lived out of a suitcase, roaming from job to job, never staying still for long. It was time, past time really, to put roots down again, to settle somewhere. Time to stop running.

It was purely a coincidence that growing roots landed her in Tellowee among the past she’d left behind. Her mother lived here now with her new husband and a baby on the way, hopefully the long-desired son. A new baby to spoil and love and cherish.

The yearning to push life from her body, to become a mother and hold a babe of her own, whispered through Indigo. She had few regrets in her life. Not having a child was one of them.

Another regret, a stronger one, tightened its grip on her, of a boy on the brink of manhood and a kiss she could never forget.

She shoved the memory away and picked up a box.

Being a Daughter wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Near-eternal youth had advantages, true, but it came with a memory that never faded, never blurred. The mistakes of a long past piled up on one another like poorly stacked blocks, resting on the sanity of the moment, waiting for one false move to send the whole stack toppling.

What would it be like to be mortal, worried only about things like finding a place to walk her dog, if she had one, or saving up for a new pair of outrageously impractical heels?

Indigo paused in the middle of slitting open the tape of the box she’d chosen, turning the notion over in her mind. Mortal women didn’t look over their shoulders, trying to stay one step ahead of an ancient enemy. They didn’t worry about breaking a curse or finding a lasting love. Ok, sure, they worried about love, but not the way an immortal Daughter did. An immortal Daughter who couldn’t find a love strong enough to take her heart and will was doomed to a restless life, always on the run, never to find solace.

The doorbell rang, startling Indigo into dropping the box she held. She frowned at the door. In town less than a day, and already visitors came a-calling. Gossip spread quickly in the sleepy Southern town. A handful of people knew she’d moved back to Tellowee and she’d just left the house where most of them lived, all except Dani Nehring.

Her frown lifted at the thought of her friend, who lived only an hour away. When Indigo had called the week before, Dani had sounded near rock bottom. Indigo had finally teased enough information out of the suddenly tight-lipped Daughter to learn that Dani had had a rough go of it since their time in Sweden, between falling in love, becoming mortal, and finding, then killing, her long lost mother. Indigo had invited her to come out, maybe have pizza and catch a movie, but she hadn’t really expected Dani to take her up on the offer, not yet. Still, Indigo hurried to the door, anxious to see her friend.

When she pulled open the door, her heart skittered in her chest, then sank like a stone. Bobby Upton stood at the threshold, a solid six feet of lean muscle, unruly chestnut hair, and hazel eyes. His face was thinner than she remembered, his eyes harder, but he looked strong and fit in a black, form-fitting turtleneck tucked into low-slung jeans.

Her gaze drifted unconsciously down his body and her breath caught in her lungs. He’d filled out handsomely since the last time she’d seen him. He’d always been tough, with the lean, quick build of his father. His shoulders seemed broader now, the muscles more defined under his clothing. The cockiness he’d worn like a badge as a teenager had mellowed to cool confidence, apparent in his loose stance and calm gaze. He held himself like a man ready to handle anything thrown his way, not a boy eager to take what he wanted.

The man before her wouldn’t need to take anything. He’d simply have to ask and it would be willingly given.

She sucked in a breath, appalled at the direction her mind had taken, and jerked her gaze to his face. His wide mouth was tilted into a smug smirk. A bloom of heat and color worked its way into her cheeks and her mouth snapped into a thin line.

Ogling Bobby Upton. Atta way to keep the upper hand.

“Indigo.”

His voice was low and smooth. Awareness shivered up her spine and she closed her eyes against it. Why had he, of all people, shown up at her door?

“May I come in?” he said.

Her eyes popped open as her skin went hot, then cold. She swung the door shut, anything to keep him on the other side, please, Goddess.

His hand shot out, catching the door in mid-swing. “We need to talk.”

“I don’t have anything to say to you,” she said, and bit the inside of her cheek at the breathless note in her voice.

His jaw tightened. “This is business.”

She threw all her weight behind her hold on the door, and glared at him when his one palm, flat on the door’s surface, was enough to counter her strength. His smirk was a little too smug, a little too knowing. Drat him. Fourteen years and he still got the best of her.

She clenched her jaws together and gritted out, “Still not interested.”

He shoved the door hard, popping it out of her restraining hand, and stepped inside, a dangerous glint in his eyes. Her heart raced as she scrambled back. The last time she’d seen that look, bad things had happened, really bad things.

Or really good ones, depending on the point of view. His hand skimming under her shirt, teasing her skin with the soft, sure grazes of his fingertips. His mouth claiming hers, demanding her surrender as he pressed her against an unforgiving concrete wall. Her body melting under the onslaught of his heat, then voices spilling out into the hallway and her jerking away, keeping them both from making a terrible mistake.

She turned from him, away from the stain of memory and regret. “What do you want?”

“I’m here about India.”

Indigo stifled an irritated sigh. Why did people always come to the good twin when the bad one erred? “What has she done now?”

“Fallen in with some very bad people.”

“India is very bad people, Bobby.”

“Ever hear of Lilith Cæstus?”

She sucked in a breath. Dani’s mother, the ancient Daughter who had wreaked havoc on the People and anyone else she could lay hands on over the past couple of millennia, now dead by her only surviving daughter’s hand. “Please don’t tell me India was with Lilith when Dani stood against her.”

“Ok, I won’t.”

Indigo wilted under the mildly voiced sarcasm. Hearing that would break her mother’s heart. India had always been difficult, zagging when Elizabeth told her to zig, lashing out at everything that came her way, good or bad. The reckless anger had only grown worse as she aged.

“She’s just the tip, Indigo,” he murmured.

His voice washed over her like a caress, a distracting shiver of possibilities. She pushed her reaction away. Duty was a hard mistress, duty to family the hardest, this one in particular. Bobby Upton in her home. The things a woman did for family. “Ok, fine. Come in and close the door. You can help me unpack while you fill me in.”

He shut the door and locked it, and walked toward her in a loose limbed gait, like a man ready to claim what was his. Blessed Goddess. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart raced and his heat surrounded her as he neared, and she caught his masculine scent and went dizzy with need. She steeled herself against it and brought herself ruthlessly under control.

Bobby dug a knife out of his pocket, picked a box, and carefully slit the tape holding it closed. “It’s been a madhouse around here lately.”

“I heard.” Indigo breathed out a silent sigh of relief when her voice sounded relatively normal. “Have all the Sandby borg artifacts been recovered yet?”

“No.” He unpacked china, set it on the counter, and dropped packing material onto the pile she’d started. “The one Lilith stole from the warehouse in New York a couple months back? That one we have, but as far as we know, the Shadow Enemy has the others.”

Her hand went to the spot on the back of her head where she’d been hit earlier that year, during the theft of a cache of documents from the Swedish dig. “No word on the original thief, then?”

At his silence, she glanced up and caught him watching her with a peculiar expression on his face, his eyes intense, his mouth set in a thin, hard line. Her hands trembled when he stepped closer, and then his fingers sifted through her hair, probing the back of her head with a light, firm pressure.

She pulled back to escape his touch, to still the tremors in her body and the needy ache pooling low in her gut. He clasped her shoulder with his other hand, holding her in place while he examined the spot where she’d been hit.

“I was worried about you,” he murmured. His breath warmed the skin of her face, and she steeled herself against his nearness. He was so close, his heat and strength there if she wanted it. She’d given in to him once for a few brief moments fourteen years before. It had ended with both of them running as far and as fast as they could. How could his mere presence chase that regret and memory away so easily?

“It was nothing.” She tried to step back again and he let her go. “Long healed.”

His expression closed as he turned away from her and opened another box. “Mom believes someone’s actively working against the People, hiding the Shadow Enemy’s movements, maybe undermining other common goals, like breaking the curse.”

She plucked at the box she’d crumpled beneath nerveless fingers. “There are always a few who go against the grain.”

“This feels like a concerted effort. Organized.” He caught her gaze, holding it with the intensity of his own. “It’s possible India picked up where Lilith left off. If she did, she probably has at least a rudimentary control of Lilith’s followers. If not her, then someone else, but our priority is finding India. I wouldn’t ask for your help if I didn’t need it.”

“She and I were never close.”

“But you understand her in a way few other people do.” His gaze went hard and flat. “I could always ask your mother for help.”

She gaped at him. How could he even suggest that? “She’s pregnant.”

“Hard to miss.”

“And you would ask her to go after India? Are you insane?”

“I have a job to do, Indigo.”

“And you don’t care who you hurt to do it, is that it?”

“I always care who I hurt,” he snapped. “That doesn’t mean I can neglect my duty.”

“Duty,” she scoffed. “You’re Rebecca the Blade’s son, all right.”

“You have no room to lecture me about duty.”

She flinched away from the harsh grate in his voice. “Bobby…”

He cut her off with a dismissive slash of his hand. “I’ll find India with or without you.” He pulled a business card out of his pocket and tossed it onto the top of the box she held. “I’m briefing a team tomorrow morning at ten thirty. Be there if you want to help.”

He stalked out of her apartment, shutting the door firmly behind himself. She exhaled a shaky sigh and slumped against a stack of boxes. Her first day in town and she’d totally blown it. Bobby’s face popped into her head, the hot rake of his eyes, the gentle pressure of his fingers sifting through her hair. She shivered as the heat he’d stirred reignited. Why had she answered the door?

Right. She’d expected anyone, anyone at all, other than Bobby Upton, the very reason she’d left Tellowhee in the first place. If he’d come about anything but India, she’d ignore him. She was good at that, but duty called, that wretched beast, and her duty, if what he said about India was even halfway true, was to chase down and contain her errant twin, whether she wanted to or not.

Her gut roiled and the muscles around her spine tightened. Why did he have to be the one going after India?

Indigo scrubbed her hands over her face and pushed him out of her mind, determined to keep him there as long as she possibly could.

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India Furia, The Enemy Within by Lucy Varna