Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution



I hate New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I decided I had to have one (or two in this case). Twenty-fourteen was a busy year for me. I went to my first indie author convention, my first comic con, got signed for a three book deal with Momentum publishing, published two books, started another…oh, and had a baby too! 

Talk about crazy!


For twenty-fifteen, I’d like to write at least two more books. The first will be the third installment of the Dark Series, and the second with be Omega, the fifth book in the Helheim Series. Both of these books are big ones as they’re the final ones in the series. 


I’d also like to be a little more active on the social media front – mostly with my blog. I feel like it’s fallen by the wayside with all the craziness I’ve attracted this year.


In order to keep myself on track, I’ve decided to do the proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. I’m going to write (naturally) but I’m also going to write a weekly blog of my week’s happenings. This will more than likely be a wrap up of the scene I’d written that day, or perhaps it’ll be something along the lines of I couldn’t get ten minutes to myself to write because the baby with distracting me with her cuteness. 


In any case, there will be daily posts from me on my blog. I hope to see you all there and I hope you stay tuned. Let’s hope twenty-fifteen isn’t as manic as this year was for me. Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Half Blood: Chapter Three

Three






Rhett had had a hard time keeping his cool that afternoon. He had felt his “human” face slipping, the face and persona he used when he was away from the pack. First it was the problem with Indi, and then Jerry getting up in his face about what had happened between them. He’d had it under control until the asshole mouthed off at her. He looked over at the girl he’d been charged with taking care of, mentally reaffirming to himself what he was meant to be doing. Jerry said that he owed him for walking her back, but the reality was he’d wanted to take her home. He’d give up a limb for Indi if it meant she’d be safe.
“You didn’t have to do it, you know,” Indi said, breaking the silence for the first time since they’d left the cafe.
“Walk you home?”
“Lie for me. Jerry knows I have a short fuse.”
“He was…” Rhett bristled over the thought, “touching you. Nobody gets to touch you without your permission first.”
She shrugged. “I had it under control. Besides, I’m not worth losing your job over.”
Rhett gave her a look that set her pulse pounding. “Of course you’re worth it, Indi,” he replied seriously. She held his gaze for a long, slow minute before walking again. She thought she was worthless, but to him, she was priceless and he would do whatever he had to do to make sure she knew that. He glanced over at her again, noticing she was shivering which wasn’t a surprise. The coat she was wearing was threadbare at best.
“Are you cold?” he asked, already pulling off his jacket to give to her.
Stubbornly, she shook her head. “I’m fine,” she replied through gritted teeth. She tried to shove her nearly-blue hands into her pockets before he could see them.
“You’re not fine,” he grunted. “Here. Take mine,” he said, draping it over her shoulders, his hand accidentally dragging softly over the nape of her neck as he positioned the jacket. She didn’t seem to notice as she pulled the edges closer to her body and inhaled the scent of him from the collar when she thought he wasn’t looking. A flare of possession burned through his body, but he tamped it down before it could properly ignite. He was her Guardian. His job was to keep her alive. He had no other part to play in her life.
Exhaling a frustrated breath, he tipped his head back until he could see the stars without the interruption of buildings. It seemed endless to him—the night sky—stretching out for miles; it was nothing but a blank canvas ready to be painted on. When he looked back down, Indi was doing the same thing. The angle she tilted her head back at exposed her long neck to him, sending the desire to have her under him right that moment through his veins, heating his blood and sending it shooting around his body. He looked away and ran a hand shakily through his hair.
“So how did you end up living in Hell?” he asked, trying to distract himself and his body from her, but his pounding erection pressing against the fly of his pants wasn’t interested in anything else but her.
“Bad fucking luck,” she drawled slowly, giving him a haunted smile. “I got kicked out of my last foster home,” she added, looking down at her feet rather than in his eyes.
His heart ached for her. So she was a foster kid. That explained why she kept her cards so close to her chest. But if she was a foster kid, that would mean…
“Your last foster home was Jerry’s parents’ place, wasn’t it?” Pain flashed in her eyes, but she didn’t answer. “How long has it been since you were kicked out?”
“Six months,” she replied, threading her hands through the arms of his jacket as another gust of winter wind careened towards them. “Do you want your coat back?” she asked, her teeth still chattering a little. He could see the line of goose bumps on the skin of her neck, and wanted nothing more than to run his tongue along them and taste her skin. He shook his head, remembering that he hadn’t answered her question.
“No. I’m fine,” he replied hastily. His body ran at a healthy one hundred and five in both of his skins. There were definitely some perks to being a werewolf. “You like living here?” he asked, gesturing to the squalid buildings around them. They’d just stepped into the suburb of Buxton known as ‘Hell’, crossing the figurative wrong side of the tracks, or in this case, south of Wheeler Street.
“Not really, no. But it was all I could afford.”
“Where are your parents?”
She didn’t answer for a long time, and Rhett didn’t push her. She’d answer when she was ready. “I don’t want to talk about them.” Her whole expression darkened. She was retreating again.
“Sorry,” he said quickly. No matter how much he tried to scratch more than just the surface of her away, she would pull back again, push him away, and the fact that she was a foster kid who went through the system more than explained it. She probably felt like if she gave a piece of herself to everyone who drifted in and out of her life that there wouldn’t be anything left of her.
He wanted to reassure her that he wouldn’t be taking anything away from her. He wanted her to stay safe and he would give his life to make sure that happened. He wanted her to know how much he cared about her. Without thinking, he stepped in front of her, causing her to stop abruptly, her face a few inches away from his chest. His arms ached to pull her to him, but he curled his hands into fists at his sides instead.
“Rhett? What is it?” she asked. He watched her mouth form the words, watched her lips and tongue roll over the sounds until that was all he could focus on. In his head, he could picture himself taking her face in between his hands and kissing her gently on the lips, exploring her tongue and her mouth. He wanted to know how she tasted, how warm her lips were. But the reality was Indi would have the hunting knife she kept in her boot through his heart before he could draw a breath.
He gritted his teeth, the words you’re-a-dumbass banging around his skull. He was being an asshole if he thought a girl as great as Indi would ever want someone as faulty as he was. He wasn’t even human for Christ’s sake! When he opened his eyes again, her eyes were curiously on him. This time he didn’t stop himself even though he should have ten times over. He reached for her, his fingers barely brushing her cold cheek. She shivered under his touch and he dropped his hand. He couldn’t do this. Guardians were not supposed to have relationships with their charges. Attachment meant feelings and feelings were bad—especially for him. He had nothing to offer her and nothing good would ever come of it.
With a soft growl, he pulled away from her, turned and walked a few paces up the street. She didn’t follow him though, not that he was surprised. He stalked back to her, noticing the curiosity in her eyes was now gone—replaced by a rage he could understand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Let me walk you home.” The tension between them was so thick you could have walked on it. But he ignored it, concentrating on keeping Indi safe.

* * *

Rhett had left Indi standing just inside the glass doors of her apartment, shivering and angry. Shivering because it was so damn cold in her apartment building, and angry because he had pulled away from her. She had no idea what had happened between them before. Her heart was pounding in her ears as he reached for her, and for the first time she wanted a man to touch her. There was just something about Rhett that she knew she could trust. Her normal instincts of get-the-hell-out-of-there were nothing but a distant memory when she was with him, when he was touching her so gently. She never thought she could feel that way about a guy again.
Before she could feel anything else for him though, she let her anger swirl through her body. He had rejected her—flat out, cold rejected her. His refusal stung a little more than she would have liked, but it was not wholly unexpected. Why would Rhett want her? She was just damaged goods. And with that thought, the emotional scab of her insecurity started to bleed once more.
Her anger felt good flowing through her veins again as she took the three flights of stairs up to her apartment. She was swimming in the violent ocean of her rage, enjoying the sensation. Pulling her apartment key from her pocket, she jammed it into the lock angrily and opened up her front door.
The whole apartment was a festering sore, an open wound—ragged and septic. These four walls contained Indi’s entire pitiful life and wasn’t that the most depressing thing ever. The carpet was worn through in some spots, the holes made bigger by the rats that shared the space. An old couch she found out on the sidewalk when she moved in took up most of the space; her twin mattress on a cheap iron bed frame took up the other half. And in the far right corner was a small bathroom, the only place for any real privacy in that hell hole.
Dumping her bag onto the floor next to the door, she stalked around to the couch and sank down into it as she turned on her tiny TV. The news had just started, the headlining story the same as it had been for the past two weeks—the rapist was getting a fuckload of coverage. The report was on his latest victim—a sixteen-year-old girl snatched while walking home from the library last night. Indi switched the TV off in disgust. Hell was his favorite hunting ground and she hated that there was yet another man out there that wanted a piece of her. The cops had no leads, either. All she knew was that if he came after her one night, she would make sure he wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or take a piss standing up ever again.
The shrill buzz of her doorbell rang through her small apartment. “What?” she snapped into the intercom. She’d found it was better to shoot first and ask questions later in a neighborhood like Hell.
“Indi? It’s me,” her best friend replied. Her voice came out tinny and thin. Indi pressed the button to buzz her in and paced around her apartment. Beth was early. The knock on her door came a minute later.
“What are you doing here so––” she began to say, but stopped when she realized it wasn’t her best friend standing in front of her. It was her neighbor from across the hall.
“James?” she asked, a thrill of fear licking up her spine. His sheer size and fondness for football reminded her of the first guy who had gotten his claws into her. James was standing with his shoulders rolled forward so he looked smaller than his actual six-foot-six height. His dark hair was cut short making his dark blue eyes rimmed with gold around the pupil stand out on his handsomely angular face.  
“In-In-Indigo,” he said warily, his nearly debilitating stutter almost swallowing his words to a point past incomprehension.
“What are you doing here?”
“I-I w-was just g-going out t-t-to the sh-shops. D-Do you n-n-need anything?”
“Ah, no. Thanks,” she replied, trying not to look at his face. She focused on his chest instead. Not ideal when you’re trying to be tough, but good enough.
“O-o-okay,” he stuttered before leaving. “Good-good-goodnight,” he called over his shoulder.
 She closed the door and leaned her forehead against the cool wood before there was another knock vibrating through her skull. She opened up the door, greeted by the smell of the Italian food Beth had brought around for dinner. Indi’s mouth watered. She hadn’t eaten a proper meal in two days—not after she had to pay her rent and phone bill in the same day.
“Indi!” Beth said, throwing her arms around Indi’s neck in a hug. Indi tried not to pull away from her straight away.
“Hey Beth. How are you?” she said into her ear.
“I’m good,” she replied, pulling out of the hug. 
“What ingenious lie did you spin to get away this time, and how long do you have?”
“I told my mother I was going to a bible study group, so I’ve got a couple of hours, max.”
“We better make it count then,” Indi said, closing the door behind them. Beth was already rummaging through Indi’s poorly equipped kitchen looking for clean plates and cutlery.
“Indi, when are you going to wash up? I can’t find one clean plate.”
“If you think it’s so important, knock yourself out,” Indi replied offhandedly, settling down onto the sofa.
“That wasn’t what I meant,” Beth muttered under her breath without stopping her search.
Glancing over, Indi said, “I don’t know why you’re bothering. It just means that I’ll have to wash them up afterwards. Can’t we just eat out of the containers?”
Beth didn’t answer her, which meant she was being polite. Indi switched the TV back on, absently flicking through the five channels it picked up.
“So how’s your gilded cage?”
Beth stuck her head past the bookshelf that split the kitchen from the rest of the apartment. “That’s not funny.”
“Sure it is,” she smiled.
“School’s not the same without you, you know?” Beth said as she brought two mismatched plates out with pasta sprawling over the edges.
“I’m not going back there.”
“But it was the final year. You could still graduate if you wanted to.”
Indi took the plate she was offered. “Beth, we’ve already been through this. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t even make my rent on my wage, let alone pay those ridiculous school fees.”
“I know that, but still…” Beth finished with a shrug, sinking down onto the sofa with one leg tucked under her body. Beth didn’t know about the money sitting in Jerry’s bank account and thank God for that. If she did, she’d be pushing Indi to use it.
“So what’s new? I haven’t seen you in a week.”
Beth’s bottom lip disappeared into her mouth for a momen, her eyes cast down to the floor. “Nothing really.” Indi knew exactly how to translate that. In Beth language, that meant that there was something major going on.
“Spill it,” Indi demanded.
“It’s nothing.”
“Bullshit.”
She sighed. “Fine. I called Jason this afternoon,” she admitted.
“You did what?” The memory of Beth crying on her shoulder was like a smack in the face for Indi. About two months ago, Beth had broken up with that knuckle dragger after he posted his latest conquest on every social media network available to him. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t still been dating Beth at the time. “Don’t you dare think about going back to him,” Indi bit out the words, holding back on a few other choice ones she wanted to slip in.
Beth ducked her head, shame and regret bruising her cheeks. “I just wanted to talk to him.”
“Why? What could you possibly have to say to him?” Indi snapped back.
“I miss talking to him.”
Indi slammed her fork onto the side of her plate, causing Beth to wince. “After what he did to you, you want to talk to him? Still? Tell me you told him to shove it at least once when you were having your catch up chat.” Her voice was hard, the edge so sharp it could have drawn blood.
“He said he missed me and he was sorry for what he did,” she replied softly.
With a cool rush, Indi’s anger woke from its temporary slumber. “No.” It was the only word she could formulate that didn’t involve a curse. Indi hated Jason with such passion. He had hurt Beth and Indi had promised herself that she would never let that happen again. Ever.
“What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I mean no—not him Beth.” Indi didn’t beg, so this was as close as she ever flirted with it.
“I still don’t understand.”
Indi couldn’t believe Beth couldn’t see what he was doing. Hell, Beth couldn’t even see what she was doing. “Don’t believe his lies. Please,” she ground out. She suddenly felt dirty for dipping her toe into the begging pool. Twice in as many minutes was not good.
“What’s wrong with Jason?” she asked in her softest voice ever. “You liked him just fine before.”
Indi wouldn’t have even said that. Like was a strong word. Tolerated maybe, but even that implied a certain amount of apathy. No, Indi would say that she hated his fucking guts, not that she had ever told Beth that. “Exactly. Before. Before he went and fucked Sophie because he couldn’t get what he wanted from you. Before he broke your heart. What he did to you…” she stopped abruptly, feeling the familiar unease of her anger clawing at her skin. “Has what happened slipped your mind completely?” she finished harshly.
Beth’s arms crossed over her small chest. “No, I haven’t forgotten,” she said in a hard whisper. Indi just couldn’t understand what the hell was going through her mind. Love wasn’t just fucking blind. “The Bible says we should forgive others,” Beth added softly.
Indi shook her head at her, not even bothering to launch into the whole Bible thing with her. “He’ll hurt you again, Beth. And you know what will happen if he hurts you, don’t you? I’ll make sure that he’ll never be able to have children—that’s what will happen.”
Beth frowned and turned away from her, concentrating on the TV. Fuck it. Indi didn’t like it, but she knew she had to apologize, but Beth’s phone rang just as she opened her mouth. Her eyes snapped down to the illuminated face of her iPhone laying on the table next to her plate. The background picture was of her and Beth on Indi’s last day of school. “HOME” flashed impatiently on the screen, tap dancing with the Marimba ringtone on the phone.
Beth glanced at Indi. “It’s my mother.” She waited for Indi to nod before running her finger over the screen to answer the call. Not wanting to be rude, Indi focused on the TV while Beth talked.
“Sorry Ind. She wants me to be home in half an hour,” Beth told her a few minutes later.
“So we can finish eating, at least.”
Beth shook her head. “I also have to stop at the store to pick up some things.”
Indi didn’t want to leave things how they were right now. “Feel like some company?” Besides, she’d rather be dead than let Beth out of her apartment in this neighborhood at night.
Beth seemed to think about that for a moment. “You’ll have to walk home afterwards.”
Shrugging her shoulders at her, Indi asked, “So?”
“What about the rapist?” Beth asked, lowering her voice as if the rapist were in the room and would be offended if he heard they were talking about him.
“I’ve got it covered,” Indi smiled coolly. Beth’s eyes flickered to Indi’s right leg then back to her face. Weapons made her nervous. At least it wasn’t a gun. There wasn’t a chance that she could accidentally cut her own foot off with a knife. Indi could practically see the thoughts churning around in Beth’s head as she tried to think of a way to stop her from going with her. “Beth, I’ll be fine. Trust me.”
Her bottom lip made a trip into her mouth. “Okay,” the word and the tone of her voice didn’t really match, but Indi let it go. Her anxiety was just that––hers.
“Are you ready?” Indi prompted after Beth just sat on the couch looking at her while worry etched small lines on her face.
“If you’re sure?”

* * *

Rhett had felt Indi’s anger like a slap in the face as he left her at her apartment. And he deserved to feel every little bit of it. He had overstepped his bounds. He ran a hand through his dark hair, fighting the urge to rip it out in frustration. He’d been a fool to think that he could take on this job. He had no idea why the Seer had even found Indi while scrying for other wereanimals in and around their territory about six months ago, but she’d shown up all the same.
“I’ve found a felvair,” the Seer said, sounding like she was a five-pack-a-day smoker.
His alpha—Antain—steepled his fingers under his chin. “Are you sure, Seer?” he asked in his deep, rumbling voice.
She nodded, her white, spider-web hair rasping against the top of the hood on the black robes she always wore. “Yes, Alpha of the Helheim Pack. I am sure.”
Antain settled further into his seat becoming deathly still as he considered the news. The pack’s beta, Vaile, schooled his expression well—giving absolutely nothing away. He made the cop-face into a scary-ass art form. Rhett glanced over at Sabel. He was captain of the pack’s enforcers and technically Rhett’s boss. The guy was an asshole who he’d never seen eye to eye with anyway.
Sabel's hand was clutching the arm of his chair—his knuckles turning white with the effort. Chartreuse eyes stared out at the Seer, his wolf at war with the man. Suddenly his eyes narrowed, swinging dangerously in Rhett’s direction. Instinctively—but not consciously—a low growl vibrated Rhett’s chest, his lip curled away from his top teeth. When he realized what he was doing, where he was, he looked away into the hearth he was standing next to, watching the flames lick the wood like a sadistic lover. Submitting to Sabel made his skin crawl, but it was a necessary evil. 
“You,” the Seer croaked. Rhett turned around to see her pointing at him with a bony finger. “Come here.” Her sightless eyes were eerily precise, managing to stare right into his soul even though her sight had been stolen so many years ago. Rhett glanced over at his alpha, waiting for permission to participate in the meeting he was technically intruding on. Antain's brown eyes slipped to gold before he gave him a nod. Rhett swallowed past the lump in his throat and pushed away from the mantel.  
 The pack’s Seer had always given him the heebies. Her leathery skin was stretched tight over long bones. Her hair trailed down her back like long fingers, her cloudy eyes sitting in hollow sockets.
 “Give me your hand,” she commanded.
Rhett exhaled and placed his hand in hers. Her skin was warm and oddly smooth. When she started to hum something quietly, he felt a tingle rush over his skin, burrowing into every cell in his body. After a few minutes, she released him and placed a hand over his heart. Heat flared from between the connection of their meeting skin until Rhett thought he couldn’t take anymore. Just as he was about to break, the heat faded and it was just an old woman’s warm hand on his chest again.
“You will be her Guardian after her transition.” The Seer dropped her hand just as Sabel lost his goddamn mind.
“What?!” Sabel roared, pushing out of his chair and sending it clattering to the ground. “This fucked up excuse for a wolf? He should have been put down when he was a pup,” he yelled, moving towards Rhett until he was up in his face. Rhett’s chest vibrated, the growl traveling up his throat and trickling out from behind his bared teeth.
“Sabel!” Their alpha’s voice boomed through the room, shaking the pictures on the wall and making the fire in the hearth hiss anxiously. “Enough,” he muttered. “The Seer has said it is so, and so it is.”
“He’s defective. Rightfully, he should have been dead already. He has no right to have the honor,” Sabel spat, glaring at Rhett, challenging him with his fixed chartreuse stare. Sabel’s wolf was dangerously close to the surface.
“Purer blood runs through my veins, you Bitten piece of shit,” Rhett snarled back, feeling the hairs at the back of his neck standing on end—the best his human body could do to represent his wolf’s raised hackles.
A giant hand landed on Rhett’s shoulder. He didn’t need to turn around to know that it was Vaile’s palm. “Break it up,” he rumbled. Rhett refused to back down, waiting until Sabel moved first.
The Seer pointed at Rhett again, breaking the tension in the room. “He is the one who must be her Guardian.”
Antain held the Seer’s gaze. “And it will be done, Seer. I will make sure of it.”
“Alpha, I would like to speak with you privately if I may. There are some things you must know,” she added in her rasping voice.
Antain bowed slightly. “Of course.” Turning to Vaile, Sabel and Rhett, he said, “We’re done for tonight.”
“I cannot leave your side,” Sabel replied, stepping forward.
“I am quite safe, Sabel. Leave us now.” Rhett could tell by the way Sabel curled his fists that he was fighting the direct order. “Now!”. The look on Sabel’s face was like a puppy being hit with a rolled-up newspaper, but he turned on his heel and stalked out. Vaile followed him and Rhett came up the rear, closing the huge mahogany door behind him and leaning against it for support.
“I bet you’re pretty fucking proud of yourself, aren’t you?”
Rhett opened his eyes to find Sabel eye-fucking him about two inches away from his face. Rhett’s wolf bristled. “Get out of my face, Sabel,” Rhett growled.
He didn’t move. “You weren’t even supposed to be in that meeting.”
“And I didn’t ask to be there, either,” Rhett replied, glancing over Sabel’s shoulder at Vaile. He had propped himself up against the opposite wall just watching them as he always seemed to do. He wouldn’t intercede unless blood was going to be spilled.
“That doesn’t stop it from happening though, does it?” Sabel snarled, still not giving an inch.
Rhett’s eyes ratcheted sideways back to Sabel. “Fuck you, Sabel. I didn’t ask for this.” He shouldn’t have been in that meeting and he sure as shit shouldn’t have been chosen as Guardian to the felvair. That honor usually went to the strongest, unmated wolf, which meant that Vaile or Sabel really should have been selected—not him. He tried to sidestep the guy, but he moved in front of him again.
“The only reason you’re still breathing is because of our alpha.”
“And that’s the thing that really gets to you, isn’t it? How a defective wolf, who should have been put down when he was a pup, has the ear of the alpha. I’m the only family he has left. I should be alpha. Just be thankful that I’m not because I would have had you killed the moment I assumed leadership. Now get out of my fucking way before I make you get out of my way,” Rhett snarled. After a long, hard minute, Sabel backed away from Rhett and stalked up the stairs. After getting his temper back in check, Rhett looked up to find Vaile staring at him from the same position he was in before. He didn’t say anything, but Rhett could have sworn that he nodded at him before navigating his way through to the kitchen.
So here he was, six months later, still her Guardian and still with no idea why he had been chosen. He’d started just going to the cafe to see her, to make sure she knew who he was before he applied for a job there. He figured he’d keep her close. He just had no idea that by keeping her so close that he’d develop feelings for her. He ran a hand through his hair again, laughing at the hopelessness of the situation when his phone started ringing.
He pulled it out of his pocket without checking who it was. “Yeah?” he answered gruffly.
“It’s Vaile. Get back to the house. We’ve got a situation.”
“What is it?”
“Just get back to the house,” he said, the line going dead a second later.
With a curse, Rhett jogged to his car and began driving home. Even though he’d just seen her, he drove past Indi’s apartment block—relieved to see the lights on. Lights on meant she was safe and just where she was supposed to be. Driving north, he got out of Buxton and headed towards the farmhouse.
Rhett pulled his 1993 Volkswagen Jetta onto the gravel road that lead to the pack’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Buxton. The place had been built at the turn of the last century, and had been in his family ever since. His father should have been alpha, not his uncle, but being killed sure put an end to that particular dream. Leadership ran from family to family, and father to son unless the son abdicated from the duty—in which case the next eldest son would step forward. If there were no sons to take control, the alpha could choose their own successor. That’s what had happened to Rhett. When his father died, he was supposed to become alpha of the Helheim pack, but his defect would never be accepted, so leadership went to his uncle. Rhett brought the car to a stop next to the house and got out, leaving the bitterness that constantly lapped the angry shores in his head behind.
He found his uncle, Vaile and Sabel in the living room waiting for him.
“Is she safe?” his uncle asked as soon as he walked in the room.
Rhett nodded. “The last I checked she was.”
“Good, because we have a problem.”
“What is it?”
“A vampire,” Vaile replied, taking over from his alpha. “In Buxton. I came across a body on my shift tonight. The body was drained, the throat slit to hide the bite marks.”
Rhett swallowed thickly. “Is it one of the Sicarii?”
Vaile shrugged. “Not sure, but the Sicarii don’t feed on humans, so I’m guessing it’s just a regular vamp.”
“What are we going to do?” Rhett asked.
“Hunt it down and kill it,” Vaile replied, a glint of malice flashing in his normally passive eyes.
“When?”
“Now,” Antain said. “You, Vaile and Sabel are going in.”
Rhett glanced at Sabel then Vaile then back to his alpha. “Isn’t that a bit of overkill?”
His uncle gave him a meaningful look. Right. So leaving Sabel alone with him wasn’t such a good idea. He was being babysat. Rhett opened his mouth to protest, but a stern look from his alpha closed it for him. “I want you to be careful, Rhett. It’s not just your life you have in your hands now. Remember that.”
“I will Uncle.”
Rhett took the Jetta into Buxton. Vaile was riding shotgun while Sabel kissed his own kneecaps in the back seat.
“I should have been driving,” he grumbled.
“Nobody drives my car, Sabel,” Rhett replied, trying to hide his smile but failing. “How’s the space back there by the way?”
“A fucking midget wouldn’t be comfortable,” Sabel muttered.
“Enough,” Vaile snarled, his eyes flashing icy-blue before looking out the passenger window again.
Twenty minutes later, Rhett parked in Hell, one block away from where the body had been found. Vaile had called in the pack to dispose of the body as soon as it was discovered and found to be a supernatural kill. Humans didn’t need to know about that stuff.
“It was down this alleyway,” Vaile said, leading the way down the dark, dank space. To Rhett, all he could smell was death; the scent of the vampire was an aftertaste to that. “Rhett, shift so you can pick up the scent a little more strongly,” Vaile added.
“No. I’m going to Change. Rhett’ll probably fuck this up for us,” Sabel snarled, pushing past him as he pulled his t-shirt over his head and unbuttoned his jeans.
“This isn’t some kind of pissing contest, Sabel,” Rhett said. “But go for it. I haven’t got a hard on to get killed tonight.”
Sabel’s lip curled away from his lip, but he said nothing. Vaile and Rhett turned around when the alleyway filled with the wet sucking sounds of the Change. Shifting into a wolf wasn’t a pretty thing. When Sabel growled softly, they both turned around to face the huge chocolate-brown wolf that shared Sabel’s body. Dropping his head to the ground, Sabel sniffed around the alleyway and picked up the scent a minute later. He charged out of the alleyway with Vaile and Rhett on his tail.
They didn’t get very far before Sabel stopped and growled down a dark backstreet. By the looks of it, the streetlights overhead had been broken and never replaced. Sabel disappeared into the swallowing darkness, leaving Vaile and Rhett to cautiously slide in after him. The sound of suckling was faint, but Rhett honed in on that one sound, navigating himself to the other side of a dumpster.
The vampire hadn’t heard them or smelled them yet, too engrossed in feeding than worrying about its safety. Sabel crouched down to hide and after a nod from Vaile, Rhett stepped away from the dumpster, his arms crossed his broad chest. “And what do we have here?” he asked, staring into the dirty-brown eyes of the vampire. Shocked, the vamp disengaged its fangs and let the human drop. She was female and probably no older than nineteen or twenty. Her clothes told him that he had picked her up from The Imp and Impaler, an underground Goth club not too far from here. She made no attempt to move, the euphoria on her face enough to tell Rhett that the vamp’s saliva was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing.
The vampire bent down to pick up the girl again, but Rhett had him around the throat before he could lay a finger on her. He tutted condescendingly. “Didn’t your mother tell you not to eat off the floor?”
The vampire snarled at him, its fangs and mouth stained with blood. Rhett bared his own teeth at the creature and slammed it against the wall. He couldn’t see any tattoos on its neck, so it wasn’t a Sicarii. Regular run-of-the-mill vampires were still dangerous, but not as dangerous as a Sicarii. Rhett studied its chalky face, looking for any other signs of ownership, but found none.
The vamp began making soft mewling sounds when Rhett cranked his fingers tighter around its throat, hoping to get more of a fight out of it, but it was weak from excessive consumption of human blood. Vamps could drink human blood, but it wasn’t their normal form of food. It would sustain them for a while, but in the end they would weaken. Vampires fed on other vampires. If they didn’t have a mate, they were either forced to buy it from immara—unbranded vampires—who whored it out, or forcibly take it.
“Sabel,” Rhett called. Sabel’s huge, brown frame skulked out from behind the dumpster, his top lip curled up from his canines. Rhett threw the vamp down to the ground, and although he struggled a little, he was no match for Sabel. He had decapitated the leech before Vaile even had a chance to get the girl away. With any luck, the high she was still riding would have fogged her little Goth mind up enough that she wouldn’t remember any of it. When Rhett turned back to check on Sabel’s progress, he was sitting on his haunches, cleaning his paws. The vampire’s face was still twitching—baring its fangs and hissing—but its body remained still. Pulling a knife from the small of his back, Rhett cut open the vamp’s chest cavity and took out its heart. 
The body began to flake away soon after, the cold air swirling through the backstreet and picking it up in one, powerful gust. “Let’s get back home,” Vaile said, returning from leaving the girl somewhere she’d be seen soon. If she talked about what had happened to her, nobody was going to believe her. Vampires weren’t real, right?
After retrieving Sabel’s clothes from the alleyway he’d changed in, they piled into Rhett’s Jetta and drove back to the farmhouse.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Half Blood: Chapter Two

TWO






One week earlier…

Indi knew he’d be trouble the first moment she laid eyes on him. Men in suits were always a problem for her. She felt like she’d had the words “harass me asshole” tattooed onto her forehead from birth. And, of course, he was sitting in her section. Her anger prickled over her skin ever so softly, but she ignored it. Instead, she sucked in a deep breath and began walking over to his table.
“Do you want me to take him for you?”
Indi stopped mid-step and turned to look at the only other male friend she had besides her brother. Rhett had only been working at Jerry’s for a few months, but she felt as if she’d known him her entire life. Rhett’s mismatched eyes were soft and cautious as he waited for her answer. One eye was a light sky-blue and the other a pale pistachio-green.
He nudged the six-foot-four mark, his broad shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist and muscular legs. He didn’t look like much with his clothes on, but Indi had accidentally walked in on him when he was changing out of his uniform one evening after the cafe had closed, and he was packing some serious muscle under his Hanes.
Indi smiled, shaking her head at him. “Nah, I’m good.” She rubbed the back of her neck, working some kinks out as she prepared herself to talk to the customer in her section. Plastering a fake smile on her lips, she made her way over to him. The guy’s dark eyes watched her the entire way with all the eagerness of a hungry predator.
Her skin practically crawled with anger. She wanted nothing more than to physically, and painfully, stop him looking at her like something delectable. Shaking off the murderous impulse, Indi pressed her omnipresent anger farther down into her belly.
“Hi. What can I get you?” she asked, keeping her voice light and easy.
The guy’s top lip curled up a little in the corner. “Hi,” he replied smoothly. 
She stared into his eyes, realizing they weren’t dark brown as she’d originally thought, but black––as black as clouds that threatened a tempest.
“So…what can I get you?” Indi tapped the long end of her notepad against her thigh to stop herself from being tempted to reach for the hunting knife she always kept in her boot.
He licked his bottom lip slowly. “How about your phone number?”
She curled her free hand into a fist at her side and let out a deep lung-full of air. “Sorry, we’re not serving that today.”
His dark gaze lingered on her breasts. When he met her eyes again, Indi was glaring back down at him, her fingers twitching spasmodically, desperate to reach for her weapon to let it do the talking for her.
“Look, I can come back once you’ve decided,” she said, turning around to leave, but his warm hand on her forearm stopped her. She turned back, visually tearing strips of his skin from his body.
“I’ll have an espresso,” he said, not taking his hand back.
“Fine,” she replied through gritted teeth. “Do you mind moving that?” She nodded down at her arm.
“I will when you tell me your name.”
Indi silently thanked Jerry for not insisting on the staff wearing nametags. “Nancy,” she replied curtly.
He squeezed her forearm gently. “Nancy,” he repeated in a drawl. “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?” His voice was rich like dark coffee and she could see the appeal. “Nancy, you have the most extraordinary eyes.”
“They’re contacts,” she snapped before faking another smile and stalking off.
Her whole body shook with the effort of not turning around and slugging the guy in the mouth. When she got to the front counter, her boss Jerry was standing behind the coffee machine working on an order.
“An espresso, Jer. Please.”
“Are you okay?” he asked without looking up from his work.
She smiled at him. “Are you worried about me?”
His dark blue eyes found her face. “I’m worried about what that guy said to you.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
He gave her his serious eyes. “Are you sure? Because I can get Rhett to take his order over there.”
“Jer, it’s fine. He’s in my section. I can handle him.”
“All right,” he said softly. Indi watched his expression relax as he went back to work on her order. She lived alone now, but she and Jerry had lived together since she was fifteen and he was eighteen. As far as she was concerned he was her brother and the closest she had ever come to having a real family.
Jerry finished up the order, placing it onto a saucer on the counter. Indi looked up to find him staring down at her with his usual concern.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked while placing a warm hand on hers.
Mustering up a small smile, she replied, “Peachy.” Indi picked up the saucer carefully and walked back over to table number three.
“So when do you get off, Nancy?” the guy asked as she put his coffee down. She ignored his double entendre. “Cat got your tongue?” he added when all she did was stare back at him.
“Late,” she replied sourly.
“How late?”
She watched him turn the coffee cup on the saucer and leveled her gaze on him once more. “Won’t your wife wonder where you are?” she asked in a quiet snarl.
His eyes darted down to the tan mark left from his wedding band. “We’ve come to an agreement, me and her. She only does vanilla sex and I…don’t.” He smiled, his lip curling up in the corner again. “So, what time?” he asked, running his index finger over her hand. Indi flinched away from his touch, folding her arms under her breasts, her hands curling into fists.
“Touch me again and I swear to you I’ll remove your hand with my knife,” she said in a low, threatening voice. “And I’ve never made a promise I haven’t kept.”
He never even batted an eyelid. “I’ve got an apartment over in Waterside we can use. I’m a very successful businessman,” he preened.
“You disgust me,” she spat.
He gave her a sly smile, but the heat in his eyes didn’t match. He was hungry for something more than just flirting. “I like wildcats.” He grabbed her wrist, wrapping his fingers tighter and tighter until she felt her circulation cut.
“Let go of me,” she hissed. He maneuvered her around the front of his body, blocking what they were doing from the rest of the cafe. 
“Or what, hmm? Are you going to attack me? Are you going to scream for me to let you go? I’d like that, you know.” He jerked her a little closer until they were sharing a breath. “Fight back,” he suggested.
Her arm moved faster than he was able to track because she’d pulled the knife from her right boot with her left hand and held it against his skin. “Let. Me. Go,” she breathed.
He released her wrist, laughing at her—a gentle, rolling rumble of a sound—and pressed his neck into the tip of the blade until a small bead of blood rose from his skin. God, she was tempted to just run the blade across the front of his throat, to let his life force spill out of his body from a five-inch wound. She would have done it, too, if she hadn’t felt Rhett come to stand behind her. With a warm hand on her upper arm, he let her feel the strength he possessed.
“Indi? Drop the knife. Now isn’t the time for this.” He spoke the words calmly and softly into her ear until she loosened her grip on the handle. She stared into the asshole’s dark eyes as Rhett talked her down. She wanted to hurt the guy, but she also knew she couldn’t shed any blood in her brother’s cafe after he was good enough to give her a job. “That’s it. Give me the knife.” Rhett’s huge hand curled around hers and tugged to get her to let go of the handle, but she resisted. She wouldn’t be left unarmed.
With a jerking motion, she pulled the knife from his neck and held it against her thigh. She turned to look at Rhett and shock made her take a step away from him.
“What?” he asked softly, dropping his gaze to the floor. She could have sworn that his eyes were two totally different shades of green and blue for half a second.
“Nothing,” she replied when she could talk. Indi fixed her gaze back on the man.
“I’ll see you later, Kitten,” he said in a low voice only meant for her ears. The threat ignited Indi’s rage. Her movements were fast, her hand curling into a fist and slamming into his neck, just under his ear. Most people didn’t know about the bundle of nerves there. The asshole’s eyes rolled back in his skull before he passed out, his face colliding with his coffee and the table top with a loud, fleshy slap.

* * *

Jerry launched himself over the counter and ran to the back of the cafe where Indi’s customer had just slumped over in his chair. Dark coffee dribbled down from the top of the table and onto the carpet beneath.
“Indi? What the hell?” he demanded. His eyes darted to the knife she was holding against her leg to Rhett standing behind her, his expression just as unreadable as Indi’s. Fixing his gaze back on Indi, he asked, “Well?”
“It was my fault, Jerry,” Rhett said calmly, turning to face him fully. “I accidentally elbowed him in the face as I was trying to get her to step away.”
Over Rhett’s shoulder, Jerry could see Indi’s shock at hearing his words. Rhett had just lied for her, but why? With Indi still fixed in his gaze, Jerry asked, “Is that true?”
Her haunting eyes glowed slightly and she nodded. “I was resisting him. I tried to elbow him and he elbowed the customer. Sorry,” she replied just as calmly.
A low moan escaped from behind them. They all turned to see the customer coming to. Jerry pushed them both aside and went to the man. He had to get him out the back and cleaned up as quickly as possible. Jerry slid the man’s arm around his neck, lifting him up, and started moving towards the storeroom. The customer’s head lolled about as he shuffled them both towards the door. Looking at his profile, Jerry took stock of his injuries, noting the swelling already building around his eyes and the cut to the bridge of his nose. Blood trickled out of one nostril, one bright, red drop threatening to take a nose dive from his chin and onto his ridiculously expensive suit.
 Jerry shoved the door closed behind them with his hip, placing the guy down onto an upturned milk crate. As he leaned him against the wall, the bastard suddenly came back to life again, pushing Jerry away and pitching wildly to his feet. Jerry took a few steps back with his hands outspread before him until his butt hit the edge of the sink.
“I’d sit down if I were you,” Jerry told the man in a flat voice.
The guy’s charcoal eyes fixed on his, and there was nothing friendly in them. He now had a death grip on his nose, trying to stop any more blood from ruining his Tom Ford suit and silk tie.
“Sit down,” Jerry repeated, giving him his back to look for the first aid kit that was supposed to be under the sink. When Jerry turned around again, the bastard had sat down, but didn’t look at all happy about it.
The guy had his head tipped back now, trying to stem the faster flowing tide of blood from his nose. “You should fire that girl,” he growled, the sound coming out with a nasal cadence.
“Thanks for the suggestion,” Jerry replied indignantly, pulling on a pair of surgical gloves and cutting the top of the saline tube off with a pair of scissors from the kit. With a clean square of gauze, he squirted the solution onto it and held it out for the man to take. He doubted the guy would let Jerry anywhere near him right now. “Dab this against the cut on the bridge of your nose.”
After an unfriendly look, the man took it and held it to his face. 
“Has your nose stopped bleeding yet?” Jerry asked after a long minute of absolutely stifling silence. The man released his index finger and thumb from his nose carefully and breathed in deeply, his eyes starting to water with the effort.
“You should go to the hospital. I think it’s broken,” Jerry said stiffly.
“What are you, a doctor?” the bastard snapped, gently prodding his broken nose with a finger.
“No, but I’ve done first aid. The angle of your nose is wrong.”
“I’ll sue that bitch for the medical bills,” he mumbled under his breath. Jerry felt a small peak of anger welling inside him. He was normally a pacifist, but he wouldn’t stand for any man threatening Indi in any way. Abruptly he crouched down in front of the man.
“What happened between you two?” he demanded in a hard voice.
His dark eyes settled on Jerry, and he fought the shiver that seemed to be crawling up his skin under his gaze. “That’s none of your business,” he snarled, baring his teeth.
Jerry shrugged his broad shoulders at him. “Fine,” he bristled. “But if you sue her, or press charges against her—if you threaten her in any way—I’ll deny any wrong doing on her behalf. My other waiter will do the same.” After all, Rhett owed him after he lied to his face like that.
The man gave him a hard look. “You fucking her? Is that it?”
In that moment all Jerry wanted to do was add to the bastard’s list of injuries. He stood up from his crouch. “I think it’s time for you to go.”
The man narrowed his eyes at Jerry then got up. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a business card and handed it to Jerry. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer soon. This is my card.”
Jerry stared down at it, then back at him. He knew he was bluffing. He wouldn’t press charges or sue Indi. His ego was bent out of shape––that was all. But he took the card and read the embossed lettering carefully. Mr. Wright was in development. Jerry knew he was big, too. Wright Constructions had actually built his new apartment block at Waterside.
“Let me walk you out,” Jerry said. He opened up the door, gesturing to Mr. Wright to leave first. After he closed the door to the storeroom, Jerry glanced over in Indi’s direction, finding her cleaning up the mess she’d made with Rhett. Jerry followed Mr. Wright to the front of the cafe, stepping outside for a little more privacy in case he had some more opinions on Indi.
Mr. Wright wheeled around and looked Jerry squarely in the eyes. “Some advice between businessmen: Don’t shit where you eat. If you’re banging that girl, she’ll fuck you over in more ways than one. I’ve seen it done before.” And with that, he turned on his heel and stalked off.
Jerry turned back to the cafe determined to find out what had really happened between the two of them. Indi was wiping down the coffee machine when he came in. He stalked over to her, took her by the upper arm and dragged her out to the storeroom.
Rhett was suddenly there, standing in front of him, blocking the way. “Jerry. It wasn’t her fault. It was mine,” he said. The words he said were benign, but the way he said them, the way he positioned himself, carried an unspoken threat.
“This is between my sister and I, Rhett. I’ll be speaking to you afterwards.” Jerry tightened his grip on Indi’s arm and pushed through the storeroom doorway. Slamming it shut behind him, Jerry crossed his arms across his broad chest, feeling the seams strain across the fabric on the sleeves.
Indi began swallowing convulsively just as Jerry realized what he was doing. He was scaring her. She was the victim of rape. She was so messed up about it that just being confined in a room with a man set her on edge. If they didn’t have the relationship they did, Indi would have drawn her blade as soon as the door had been slammed shut. She would have fought her way out of the room before anything else could happen to her.
Jerry took in a giant breath, released it, uncrossed his arms and moved away from the door. Indi noticeably relaxed, sagging against the set of metal shelves the coffee beans were stacked on. She wrapped one arm around herself after a moment, leaving her right hand free to go for her blade. He didn’t think that she’d ever shake that habit.
“Indigo,” he started. She frowned. “Indi,” he tried again, searching her face, wondering whether she would answer the questions he was about to ask her.
“Save your breath, Jer. I––”
Jerry stuck his hand up to stop her from talking. He didn’t want it to be this way. He didn’t want to push her away from him. She glared at him, grinding her molars together like she sometimes did when she was really upset with herself.
“Indi, I don’t know what he did to you out there. He wouldn’t tell me. But there is one thing I do know.”
“What’s that?” she snapped.
“That you wouldn’t fly off the handle like that if it wasn’t something serious.”
“Nothing happened. Rhett accidentally elbowed him when I tried to jerk out of his hand. You know I don’t like strange men touching me.”
He did know that. But he also knew that Rhett seemed to be the exception to that rule, so he knew she was lying. As soon as she’d met Rhett, she looked comfortable around him, like some part of her subconscious knew that he could be trusted. He blew out a frustrated breath. “I know that’s a lie,” he said softly, looking into her eyes. “I know it’s a lie because you said you tried to elbow Rhett, not just get out of his grip before. I also know that it was a lie because your face gave you away when Rhett told me his version of events.”
“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath, looking down at her feet.
“So are you going to tell me what really happened?”
“Probably not,” she replied, still looking down at the thick black laces threaded into her military boots.
“Look, Indi, I know that you need this job. But you do have that money sitting there still. You can have it whenever you want. You know that, don’t you? If you’re finding the job too stressful, you can live off that for a little while.”
“I’ll never take that money,” she snapped, her hand flexing around her upper arm.
“I know it’s your pride that’s stopping you.” Jerry sighed and folded his six-foot frame onto the floor opposite to where she was standing. “Mr. Wright said he would press charges.” She shrugged. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” he asked again.
Indi met his steady gaze and lifted her chin in defiance. “There’s nothing to tell.”
“You know you can tell me anything, right? Did he say something inappropriate to you?”
She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. Jerry’s eyes swept the floor in thought. When the idea struck him, it made him feel sick to the stomach. “Did he…did he touch you?” his voice dropped to a hard whisper. Indi tightened her arms across her chest. “That was it, wasn’t it?” Jerry couldn’t believe he’d allowed that to happen to her in his cafe. He’d be the one pressing charges if she confirmed his suspicions. “Indi?”
She shrugged again, refusing to look into his eyes. He’d seen this body language before. She wasn’t going to talk, and there was not a damn thing he could say or do that was going to change her mind.
“Well, if you decide you do want to tell me about it, you know where I am.” He stood up, opened the door and called Rhett over. If Indi wouldn’t talk then he’d get his information from somewhere else. “Indi, can you give us a minute, please?”
“Sure,” she replied. As she went through the door, Indi and Rhett exchanged a strange look, but Jerry ignored it; he was more concerned with getting to the bottom of what had happened.
Rhett’s bulk took up more space in the small room than Jerry thought was possible. He took a step back from him and began pacing. Rhett patiently watched Jerry and his pissed-off attitude wearing a hole in the Linoleum under his feet.
“I want to know what the hell happened out there. I don’t want the edited version. I want to hear it all. I know that you lied to me before. If you don’t tell me what I need to know right now, I get to fire your ass. You got me?” Jerry’s voice ended up in a growl.
Rhett swallowed and nodded. “All right. I’d been keeping an eye on them after I noticed how she reacted to him the first time. When I saw him grab her wrist, I started making my way over to them. She had her knife on his throat when I got there.”
“My God,” he breathed.
“I managed to get her to back down, but just as she was about to leave, the guy mouthed off and she cold-cocked him.”
Jerry’s thoughts were a tangled snarl. It had happened to her again and under his watch, too. He felt physically sick. “Did you see him touch her again at all?” he eventually asked.
Rhett shook his head. “No, but judging by her reaction to him, I’d say that he had.”
Jerry swallowed thickly. “Why did you lie about what happened then?”
“Indi can’t afford to lose her job.”
“But you were willing to risk your own job to protect her.” Statement—not question.
He shrugged. “She needs this more than I do.”
Jerry asked, “Do you care about her that much? You hardly know her.” He was speaking from experience. Indi hadn’t truly opened up to him until she’d lived in the same house as him for two years, and even when she did talk about herself, Jerry could tell she was holding back.
He shrugged his broad shoulders again. “I know her enough. Besides, I can’t stand by and let a woman get manhandled. I did what any man would have done in my situation.”
As far as Jerry was concerned, that earned Rhett some big brownie points in his book. He put his hand out to the guy. “Thanks,” he said. They clapped palms and did the manly chest-to-shoulder hug. “I mean it, Rhett. Thanks. I feel so much better knowing that someone else is looking out for her. I had no idea that was what was going on. I took my eyes off her for a second, just a second.”
He shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.”
Jerry and Rhett left the storeroom in time to start the final clean up. Indi was just closing up the cafe, flipping the sign on the door to “closed”. Jerry studied her face, finding that she had shut down her emotions. She was retreating in on herself so much that Jerry couldn’t tell what she was thinking anymore.
“I’m ready to go when you are, Jer,” Indi said to him
softly fifteen minutes later.
“Okay,” he replied before his phone beeped. He pulled it out and looked at the reminder flashing on the screen.
“Dammit,” he said, putting his phone back in his pocket.
Indi asked, “What is it?”
“I forgot that I had to meet someone over at the apartment in fifteen minutes.” He stared at Indi’s doleful expression. “I’ll call him and tell him that I can’t get there for another half an hour.”
“Wait. Don’t do that. Was this a date?”
Jerry laughed. “No. He’s my squash partner. We had to reschedule a match to tonight.”
“You should go. I can get home by myself for once,” Indi said, shrugging. Jerry shook his head. He had started walking Indi home of an evening ever since a maniac rapist had started terrorising women in Buxton. And there was no way in hell that he’d let her walk home alone tonight.
“Would you like me to walk her home?” Rhett asked Jerry softly.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s no problem at all,” Rhett replied.
Jerry gave him a sharp nod. “Thanks. I owe you.”