My estranged grandfather has died, and I am Balthazar Zan’s sole heir. I’ve inherited a small hidden town called Shimmering Canyon in Arizona, populated by supernatural people. The real kicker here? I find that my mother who left when I was born, is living there. Balthazar’s closest friend Parker is a red hot wolf shifter who now it turns out is my fated soulmate. What’s a witch to do?
Nero De Santis
I’ve heard many stories about the elusive Balthazar Zan in my time, but nothing prepared me for this. Darius is a surprisingly powerful witch and has had a rough go of it over the last several years. I first heard from him a while back to thank me for my part in avenging his dad’s murder. I knew Maxim Zan decades ago, and now it seems Darius is coming to Arizona for his inheritance. I only hope this will be a turning point for him, but something seems to be very wrong out there.
After hearing about Darius’ family, to say the least things are a hot mess in Shimmering Canyon. I’ve talked with Darius in private, but there is still something that bothers me about that remote place. I finally let Bart Magnus know that I believe hidden danger is lurking out there, and that perhaps dead men do tell tales after all.
Balthazar spent a lot of time before his death telling me about his beloved Darius even though he’d never met him. I’m just a lonely shifter and somehow, I now find myself fated to a sexy well connected witch. I was devastated by Balthazar’s unexpected death, but suddenly old festering resentments are becoming precarious and we must turn to others for help.
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 3 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Tropes: Coming Home, Death of Parent, Lone Wolf
Word Count: 59596
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Darius Maxim Zan
Spoiler Alert: While this is book 3 of the series, it is intertwined with the Desert Vampire series and contains spoilers for that series, and for book 1 and book 2 of this series.
It came by registered mail to tell me the estranged grandfather that I had never known was now dead. Before my dad Maxim was killed, he had never talked to me much about his own father, and with his death, there was no way to find out more, until now.
Dad did tell me that my grandfather lived his life in a tiny private Arizona village called Shimmering Canyon, located not too far from the North Phoenix urban sprawl. There was an earlier time however, when it was quite isolated from the mainstream, and the hidden private road still didn’t encourage visitors.READ MORE
There had been a falling out between them when Dad insisted on marrying my mother Tina. My grandfather for reasons he would not discuss, absolutely did not approve of their union. There was nothing wrong with her per se he told him, but he had read her when he met her, and knew that family life was not for her and she was not right for his son.
One of the last times Dad ever heard from him was a short sympathy note that only said, ‘I told you so’. The note supposedly came right after my birth when my mother told Dad she was leaving him. She made it clear to him that she was leaving me too, her newborn baby, to try to find herself, the bitch.
Another point of contention between Dad and his father aside from the marriage, was that my dad hated the hot desert. After college dad had moved to Sausalito, across the Golden Gate bridge and north of San Francisco using a trust set up by his father. He worked for years as an attorney to the extraordinarily rich and not-so-famous, except to themselves, and loved his new home.
It seems that Grandpa had set up an irrevocable trust fund for him upon his birth, so Dad was set in spite of their differences, and Grandpa did not deny him his birthright.
Our California home overlooked the San Francisco Bay, with a great view of the City in the distance, and as an added bonus, we were not too far from the Pacific and the mighty Redwood trees.
In so many ways he was a very cool dad, and I loved him as he loved me. He remained a loner after my mom had left, and the only time I can remember seeing him cry was when I had just turned fifteen. He received the divorce papers from her, asking him to finally free her from her marriage bonds, and that she wanted nothing at all from him, including me.
She didn’t mention me in her short to the point note to him other than that she didn’t want me, but it didn’t mean much to me anyway, since I didn’t know her. Dad never wanted to talk about her at all, other than to say she was quite pretty, and I would have loved her.
When I turned twenty, I nervously told my dad I was Gay, and his only comment was, ‘tell me something I don’t know Darius’. Even though his answer to me was unexpected, being witches I’m sure he’d sensed it long before I told him. I however, just wanted to be sure we were on the same page about it and apparently, we were, and he didn’t care one little bit. He loved me, and told me he always had, and always would.
When I was twenty-five Dad was taken from me in a courtroom attack by rogue witches. It seems a witch named Lila Gregory had a couple of loyal followers on the outside, and when she entered the courtroom, they were waiting to free her. They ambushed her guards, and killed almost everyone there, including my father.
There was a total scandal in witch circles that such a thing could happen in broad daylight, but it did. She was loose once more to raise havoc since they had all vanished. I did hear however just over a year ago, she tried to pull another con artist type scheme and was trapped in her own web and killed.
It seems the person she was using who is a shifter, managed to escape and hook up with friends of the Bart Magnus vampire coven who in turn recognized Lila for who she was. It seemed that dozens of years before, she had plotted to go after the Desterra fortune with her brother Nickolas and set things in motion to obtain it. However, a year before she tried to make her own move to obtain the fortune, Nickolas was killed while trying to murder his son Joffre for becoming a hybrid vampire.
When she escaped this final time, she again wanted to pursue the Desterra fortune. This decision tied in with her actions years before by murdered members of Desterra and the De Santis families to set the circumstances to finally get at the money.
Well as it turned out they foiled her recent con artist plot along with removing Matteo’s spell and in anger, she showed up at Bart’s Italus estate to find revenge, however what she found was the De Santis Alpha witch Nero, staring her in the face, hating her with his entire being.
Oops, big mistake and no opportunity to backtrack the hell away.
Her part in the earlier plot naturally didn’t sit too well with him since she had killed much of his family during her attack in Rome years before. He blew her body apart literally, and sent her into the outer darkness, to her non-ending torment.
The moral of the story here is don’t mess with a pissed off super witch with revenge on his mind.
So continuing with my own story, Nero inadvertently also avenged Maxim Zan my dad, and so I wrote Nero De Santis a letter thanking him for doing that for us and expressed my gratitude. I told him I was immensely proud of their noble and unselfish actions that avenged my father.
I soon received a wonderful reply from Nero, and it seems he knew of my dad and sent his deepest condolences. He added an invitation to meet him and the Bart Magnus group sometime if I ever made it Arizona and he told me that he would love to get to know me on a personal basis.
While all these other events were happening during the years since I left college, I had made somewhat of a name for myself in the publishing world, the paranormal arena as a writer and author of fifteen books. I figured that since I was a natural born witch, that I’d just tell the truth, talk about my experiences along the way, and most would believe it was just another great fiction book.
I have also included many other stories that I’d heard about, changing the names and locations to protect the innocent, or maybe not so innocent.
Dad was kind of leery about that part of the venture and made it clear to me to make sure that no one would be suing me for slander or worse. I’d always listened to him on that aspect, with him being an attorney and all, and it has paid off for me more than a few times when others had noticed their questionable lives in print.
Now backing up just a bit, about a year out of college I met Jon, a human, and we fell madly in love or what I considered to be love at the time, and even Dad couldn’t fault him. He was a man who showed me loyalty and made me see the world in a new way even if he was a bit rigid and somewhat narrow minded at times.
We had many dreams about our future together and especially when my writing career was taking off, so it seemed like we had it all, with a green light to the potential. But about a year before Dad was murdered, Jon came home one evening and told me he wasn’t feeling so well.
He explained to me that he was in a lot of pain in the abdominal area, but thought he’d pulled something after doing a strenuous workout earlier that day. He felt that he just needed some rest, and he would be fine.
During the night, his pain became much worse and I called 911 for help. We were close to a hospital that was only a few minutes away, where they rushed him into the emergency area. I then called Dad who came over to be with me while I waited for news.
About twenty minutes after Dad arrived, the surgeon came out to see me and I could tell from the look on his face the news wasn’t good. They found that Jon had an aortic aneurysm caused by a birth defect that had gone undetected and it was threatening his life.
It was starting to rupture and that was causing all the pain he was experiencing over the last few hours. He was taken into emergency surgery and the surgeon promised to let me know how it was going when they knew.
My hopes for our future went silent.
Dad kept his arm around me while we waited and prayed for his life. Half an hour later the same doctor returned to tell me they were too late to help him, and it had ruptured fully just as they got to it, killing him instantly.
My world shattered around me as I helplessly cried for him in my father’s arms.
It was two days later before I knew where I was, and all I could do was cry for the next week. My Dad stayed with me at my apartment during that time but finally moved me back into his house to take care of me and watch over me. There was no service for him per Jon’s last requests, and I scattered his ashes in the Muir Woods, always his favorite place to go hiking with me.
I knew I would never be able to face going there again.
Jon left me all he had in the world, and it wasn’t a lot, but I didn’t want his stuff, I wanted him. Eventually I managed to stabilize with Dad by my side, and I came to terms with losing Jon, but I still felt the intense hurt without him every time he crossed my mind.
It never even occurred to me that within the next six months my Dad would join Jon in death, leaving me alone trying move on with my life. However all this was the history leading up to this current day, and the letter informing me about my grandfather.
So getting back to the letter, I learned that my grandfather Balthazar Zan was dead, he somehow knew of my Dad’s demise and made me his sole heir to a small community called Shimmering Canyon, named for the magic supernatural people that reside there.
In addition to the property, there is a dog, three bank accounts with undisclosed amounts, and the mineral rights to a five square mile radius around the town. It seems Balthazar’s father who he called Sire for some unknown reason, had founded the town, and then began to develop his land for the rich mineral rights.
During his time there, Balthazar gave plots of land to various people as they joined him in the desert. Everything else belonged to my grandfather Balthazar, and now belongs to me, apparently.
I’ve never owned a dog in my life and since I was here, and the dog was there, I wondered who was taking care of it. After reading the letter a second time, I poured myself a glass of wine and then sat down with my laptop to do some research and try to decide just what I was going to do.
I glanced at the envelope and then searched a map to find the attorney’s location to get an idea of where he was situated in the Phoenix area then gave him a call using the number listed on his letterhead. I wanted to ask him some questions to help me decide what my next step should be.
“Darius, so good to hear from you. I’m Steve Thom and have represented your grandfather for many years. Gee I’m sorry about Balthazar, and to think he was only here last month, putting the changes to his Will. He was always such an incredibly nice guy to everyone he met. We can go over this while on the phone if you want, or if you can make a trip over here. It, however, would be much better to meet with you in person, and it would expedite the settlement,” he told me.
“I was thinking about coming over but wanted to talk to you before I did. One first and pressing question I have for you, is who is taking care of the dog? I have never lived with one and figured someone must be looking after the dog for me,” I said.
I felt kind of funny with that being my first question but living things had always been a priority for me personally.
I heard Steve chuckle unexpectedly to himself and then sigh.
“Look Darius we won’t play games here. We are all supernatural and the dog part was a long standing joke of your grandfather’s. His dog as he puts it, is Parker Jeffries who is a shifter wolf in his early thirties that takes care of the place and manages it for him. Balthazar certainly took good care of him in return. He drove your grandfather here the last time he came into the office to see me as I mentioned earlier. Parker seems like a really nice guy to me as well, and if I may say so, he’s quite the handsome man.”
“Okay good to know that the place isn’t standing empty, and the dog part is a non-issue,” I told him.
I was feeling a bit relieved that a dog wasn’t having to fend for itself but wondering why he would comment on Parker’s looks to me.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to give you the wrong impression there, Parker doesn’t live in Balthazar’s house, he has a house down the street from your grandfather’s former home. Oh no, when your grandfather died, I warded the house to keep it safe for you, a direct request from your grandfather should anything unexpected happen to him. You will be able to enter the house when you get there, and the wards will accommodate your being there.”
This all still sounded just a bit strange to me but, whatever.
“Okay, I guess. So look, it sounds like the best thing for me to do is just come over and see what is going on before I can decide anything. I need to get a few things together here and then I’ll probably just drive over soon and see you in a couple of days. I’ll possibly stay in Phoenix before I go to the house, so I’ll give you a call and we can meet, if that sounds okay to you,” I told him.
“That is better than okay, and I’ll be looking forward to meeting you Darius,” he told me sounding happy enough.
“Oh one more thing, can you tell me what happened to my grandfather? It wasn’t on any of the documents.”
Another deep sigh.
“He walked into the sun Darius, I’m sorry to say. He was a vampire and apparently was tired of life,” he said, and I was stunned.
“How can that be? No one to my knowledge, that is my parents or me are vampires, we are all witches,” I said, still reeling in shock from that piece of news.
“Your father Maxim was adopted; didn’t Maxim tell you that?” he asked me, sounding amazed.
I could tell he was as astonished as I am that I didn’t know about this, and this was just getting more fucked by the second.
“No one told me that Steve. Look, let me just get over there and we can talk and figure this out, right now I’m blown away to say the least. I might give Nero De Santis a call since I’m going to be there. He wanted to meet me as well after I contacted him the first time. I can ask him if he knew anything about this since he knew of my dad and liked him,” I told him, and could hear the sharp intake of breath.
“Wow, you know Nero, now that is hugely impressive. Yes, he’d probably be a great source and I know he’s well connected. Your plan sounds fine to me, and I’m looking forward to meeting you as I said before. I’ll be glad to make time for you whenever you get here and are settled. Drive safely,” he told me talking fast, and sounding a bit on edge I thought, after he abruptly hung up and left me staring at the phone.
I waited a about an hour as I wanted to do several things around the house, and I kept thinking about this strange turn, while getting it ready for my indefinite stay in Arizona. There is a small guesthouse on my property that Dad had rented out to an older Lesbian witch couple, only about six months before my dad had been murdered.
Since that time we’ve become close friends and we had spent a lot of time together. They certainly helped me through some of my darkest days of my life and were two wonderful friends to have.
Both were avid gardeners and loved to take care of the yardwork and honestly the place had never looked better. We often had dinner together, summer BBQs and such, and I’d gotten into the habit of using them for my beta reading team. It had worked out well as they didn’t pull any punches when my writing went off track, and they told me clearly to get my fucking act together.
When I told them about my grandfather’s death and my plans to visit the desert, they expressed their condolences, but then were thrilled for me about my inheritance. They told me they’d be glad to keep an eye on my house and not to worry about a thing at home while I was taking care of things in Arizona.
I had to admit that my insecurities flared up about taking a trip like this by myself to an unknown situation, but it had to be done. It was also a great way to break free from my long-term daily routine.
It was just about dinner time, so I poured another glass of Sangiovese, put a frozen pot pie in the oven, and then picked up my phone to call Nero, hoping I would get a good reception before my trip over there.
He answered his phone after the second ring.
“Hi, is this Mr. De Santis?”
“Yes, it is who is calling please,” he answered, sounding very formal.
“This is Darius Zan, I sent you a note a while back thanking you concerning my dad Maxim Zan,” I reminded him.
“Oh yes, Darius, how are you? And what can I do for you? Hopefully, this call is to tell me you are coming to Arizona for a long visit,” he answered in a very friendly voice.
He certainly put me at ease right away and definitely made me feel much better about the trip alone.
“Yes Sir, it is, and thank you again for your actions on my dad’s behalf. I just received a notice that my grandfather, Balthazar Zan has died. It seems that he left me some property not too far from North Phoenix, in the foothills north of the city. I have to meet with the attorney over there and wondered if we could hook up so I could buy you a lunch or dinner to express my gratitude,” I told him and heard him sigh.
“I would be delighted to meet with you anytime Darius. We are staying with Bart Magnus at his Italus estate for now. You know, after I received your letter I got to thinking about where I knew of your dad. It took me a while to figure it out, but he was close friends with Jacob Desterra, my late son-in-law. When I mentioned it to my grandson Matteo Desterra, he remembered my daughter Lucinda mentioning that she’d met your father several times and he was at their wedding, many years ago,” he explained, and I was amazed.
“I had no idea. What a small world, it seems. Dad had mentioned Jacob and Lucinda to me before come to think of it. He told me of the tragedy, saying that he had been killed in a terrorist bomb blast in Rome, along with his toddler son Matteo. From what you are telling me now, that isn’t correct then,” I asked.
I clearly remembered how sad my father had been when he told me about the awful incident, years after it had happened.
“No it was not. Jacob was killed along with my daughter-in-law Patrice who was Ben De Santis’ mother. My wife, and my aunt were also killed, but it was no terrorist Darius, it was Lila Gregory. She had kidnapped Matteo before the blast went off and handed him over to her accomplices to raise under another name. These were the same co-conspirators that helped to kill your father Maxim. Lila had spelled Matteo to forget his first five years of life, and we were fortunate that she did not permanently erase them. Agnes Granville figured it out and removed the old spell once we knew the truth, and it brought him back to us. When the spell was broken, Lila was enraged naturally, and showed up to deal with us, but we were waiting for her, and I ended her life as you well know,” he recounted, sounding angry and like no one I would ever want to tangle with.
“Well once again, thank you for that, and I’m glad your grandson is doing so well and back with his real family. So I’m planning to leave for Arizona early tomorrow. I live in Sausalito California and want to stay overnight in Palm Springs on the way over to break up the long drive. I should be there by early afternoon the next day,” I mentioned.
“Do you have a place to stay here yet?”
“No, that was my next call, I needed to check out the maps to see where my grandfather’s place is, and I’ll be meeting with his attorney in North Phoenix,” I told him.
“Where is your grandfather’s property located again?” he inquired.
“It is a village I’d never heard of before called Shimmering Canyon,” I told him and heard a sharp intake of breath.
“That’s north of here just as you begin to climb in the foothills. I don’t know if you realize it or not, but it has traditionally been the home of a vampire led coven for well over a couple of centuries. From what I’ve heard however, just about any supernatural was welcome to live there during the last one hundred years. I’m surprised that your grandfather being a witch would live there full time however,” he remarked.
“Well that’s the thing Mr. De Santis,” I began but he cut me off.
“Nero, we are friends and almost family now,” he said.
It made me feel warm once more, and with a ray of happiness for the first time in a long time at being included this way.
“Okay Nero and thank you. I just found out that my dad was adopted by Balthazar Zan, and that Balthazar was a vampire.”
There was silence on the phone for a few seconds, and I could tell he was taken as much by surprise as I had been with that revelation.
“That is interesting, a vampire able to adopt a witch. Let’s talk when you get here, and if you want to find some answers, Bart and Vito’s partners are experts at unraveling mysteries and hidden information. They are the ones who unearthed Matteo’s true identity and tracked down the trail that led to Lila Gregory killing my family. Actually, let me call you right back, I want to check something with Matteo, and I will return your call in a few minutes,” he told me, and then hung up.
I was kind of put off by the call’s abrupt ending, but he probably needed to check on something going on I would imagine. As it turned out it was about an hour later before he called me back, and by that time I’d eaten my prefab dinner, finished repacking twice, and was on my third glass of wine.
“Sorry about that taking so long Darius, but Matteo and Ben were out to dinner and on their way home when I called them, so I had to wait for them to check. They own a guest ranch not far from Italus, kind of between Italus and Shimmering Canyon, and I wanted to see if there were any accommodations available. It is for supernatural types only and private with no exceptions. Normally there would be a wait while Olivia who oversees reservations did a background check on you however, but I vouched for you, so they bypassed the check. You are welcome to stay with them for as long as you like,” he told me, and I was shocked by the very welcome offer.COLLAPSE
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