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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Flesh and Blood (Blood Vice Book 7) Chapter 1 Preview

I could not get my fangs to suck back up into my gums.
I crinkled my nose and tried to think of unappetizing things, but all I could come up with was cold cow blood. A line of drool spilled over my bottom lip, thanks to my mouth hanging open like an idiot. I wiped it away with the sleeve of my coat and made a slurping noise that only kids who wore retainers had a good excuse for.
The bedroom closet in Casey Poe’s apartment was dark, but enough light seeped through the slats on the door that Mandy took notice of my condition. The whites of her eyes swelled as she glared at me.
“You didn’t drink enough blood before we left,” she accused in a razor-sharp whisper.
“Did too.”
“I told you to have a second pot.”
“I had three,” I hissed.
“Must be the adrenaline then,” Mandy said, her voice dropping lower. She readjusted herself in the small nook we’d made between the hanging clothes. “You haven’t been out of the house in a good while.”
I nodded, refraining from speaking again as my elongated eye teeth made the act uncomfortable. Besides that, if I accidentally cut my lip and spilled fresh blood, our hiding spot would be blown all to hell. The werewolf we waited for would scent us long before he entered Casey’s apartment.
I still wasn’t convinced that the activated carbon we’d dusted onto our clothes would fix that, but Mandy had insisted it would make any lingering trace of us smell like ancient history. She’d also said that the pile of dirty laundry on Casey’s bed was strong enough to draw flies from the next state over.
Thank goodness the girl was such a shitty housekeeper. At least breathing through my mouth meant that I didn’t have to endure the odorific fog hanging in the air.
Mandy squinted down at her watch. Again. Her nerves were just as itchy as mine. We’d both be getting our asses chewed when we returned to the duke’s manor—though if our suspect made an appearance tonight, the backlash would be tenfold.
Can’t have your blood and drink it too, I reminded myself. Saving the day—or night—was worth the royal reaming that was sure to follow.
Casey Poe was Phillip Salinger’s daughter. The half-sired minion Kassandra had sent to kill off Dante’s potential scions had knocked up another donor-in-training at the blood finishing school he’d attended as a teen. Casey’s mother had died giving birth. She never outed him as the father, and he’d decided not to officially claim the child either—not after being accepted into the Duchess of House Lilith’s personal blood harem.
As sleazy as that made Phillip in my book, I respected him for keeping tabs on the girl. Dante had granted me access to Blood Vice’s resources and permission to investigate after Phillip and Kassandra had been coffin-locked. I wanted to know how the duchess had done it—how she’d convinced someone to commit such awful crimes and forfeit their life for hers.
Was it blind devotion? Blackmail? Hypnosis?
Between Blood Vice’s private DNA library, their back door into Interpol’s DNA database, and Phillip’s online search history, I’d pieced together the big picture.
Casey’s youth had been far from ideal. She’d played musical foster homes until her seventeenth birthday, then dropped off the grid until five years later, when she ended up in a Chicago hospital after being viciously raped and left for dead. The news article about the incident mentioned a series of similar attacks in the area, and the only other survivor had been murdered the day after she was released from the hospital.
The creep was covering his tracks. Blood Vice only stepped in if a crime was glaringly supernatural or wild animals were suspected, especially in a big city. By not shifting, he’d managed to keep the evidence within human jurisdiction—until I’d taken a closer look at Casey’s lab results.
Spawning non-consensual werewolves was punishable by death. If the guilty party wasn’t pledged to a pack, then the sentence was carried out by the Vampiric High Council.
A second article that turned up in Phillip’s search history detailed how Casey had made a miraculous recovery before going missing from the hospital. From there, she dropped off the grid again, though Phillip’s bank account statements were noticeably lighter from then on.
He’d sent gift cards for groceries, signed her up for a subscription butcher box under a fake name, and made rent and utility payments for the apartment—which, while not the fanciest of abodes, was close to a conservation area where she could run during full moons. Phillip had taken care of everything for her.
Right up until All Hallows’ Eve when he’d been laid down for a long, velvety nap.
I should’ve turned the information over to the duke and Blood Vice. But the last time Dante had allowed me to help with a case had been…anticlimactic. He’d pulled me at the first sign of progress—after I had made a significant discovery. Like snatching a baby bird out of the sky before it could fly more than two feet from the nest.
I couldn’t stomach that again. Not after all the time I’d spent training to be a part of Blood Vice. Not after all the legwork I’d put into this investigation. It was ridiculous. Frilly dresses and regal balls were nice, but I belonged out here, where I could make a difference.
Besides, it wasn’t as though any of House Lilith’s enemies knew what Mandy and I were up to tonight. No one did. We’d kept the simple yet brilliant plan we’d hatched to ourselves for days. Tonight, it was just us—well, us and the big bad werewolf prying open Casey’s bedroom window.
I still couldn’t close my mouth, but I held my breath and silently begged my pulse to find somewhere other than my ears to do its relentless thundering.
Mandy stood perfectly still beside me, eyes level with a gap in the closet door slats. The skin between her brows creased, and I realized that she hadn’t expected this to work. Hell, I hadn’t expected it to work. What kind of creep-o stalker responded this quickly to bait? And years later, at that.
Red flooded my vision, and the man’s outline came into view as he hooked a leg over the windowsill and climbed inside. The fire escape stairwell rattled behind him, and he paused, tilting his nose in the air.
I could smell the tequila that saturated Casey’s bed sheets from the closet. We’d found it in her kitchen and helped ourselves. It was a nice touch, considering the fake DUI claim included in the carpool requests I’d posted online—after sending Casey off on an all-expenses paid cruise to the Bahamas.
At least someone was enjoying my life savings.
When tall, dark, and creepy closed the window behind him, my grip tightened around the silver-pronged stun gun I’d brought with me. My coat felt uncomfortably light, considering I usually kept a .40 in each breast pocket. But shooting up an apartment in north St. Louis would involve the human PD. We were going to have hell to pay with the duke as it was, so I’d resigned myself to the stun gun.
Mandy’s eyes took on a golden sheen as the man turned toward the closet. She could shift in a matter of seconds, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be fast enough to keep us out of Shit Creek if this guy decided that he wanted our hiding spot.
As his head turned back toward the bed, drool oozed from the corner of my mouth, and I instinctively slurped. It was just a small sound, but for a werewolf, it might as well have been a fire alarm.
I shoved Mandy into the shadowy corner of the closet—under the longer items of clothes and behind a cheap wicker hamper—just before the closet door ripped open. It smacked the bedroom wall and rattled as if it might break right off its hinges.
Then a fist connected with my jaw.
My mouth snapped shut at the impact, and both fangs broke the flesh of my bottom lip. Hot blood filled my mouth and dribbled onto my chin. The man’s yellow eyes glowed in the dark as he sucked in a deep breath through his nose.
“Vampire,” he whispered.
I expected the revelation to spook him, but something in his tone suggested that he was more intrigued than threatened. I covered my aching mouth with one hand and thrust the stun gun at his chest, but he caught my wrist, leaving the silver prongs to crackle mid-air.
“Are you here for my girl?” he asked, taking hold of my opposite wrist and prying my hand away from my mouth.
“She’s not your girl.” I spat the words at him, dotting his face with my blood as he pulled me out of the closet.
Though the room was dark, the Eye of Blood picked out the man’s every detail—the thin mustache, a chipped front tooth, receding hairline. He drew my arms apart, forcing me closer to him so he could take another whiff.
“Mmmm,” he moaned. “You have a weakness for the she-wolves.”
I took the opportunity to jam my knee into his groin. Fair fights were for the sparing ring.
A human would have released me and crumpled to the ground. Not this one. A slow, rolling growl that sounded more like a purr rushed past his lips.
“I prefer humans myself,” he said, tightening his grip on my wrists until I felt something pop. “I’ve never had a bloodsucker.”
 Then he wrenched me off my feet. The tips of my boots grazed the ceiling. Half a second later, my back flopped heavily onto Casey’s cheap mattress, and all the air left my lungs.
Before I could regain my breath, the werewolf was on top of me. His thick legs straddled mine, pinning me to the bed. Another grating purr echoed in my ears as he lowered his face to mine, lapping at the blood that had spilled from my mouth and trailed across my cheek. His weight pressed me deeper into the mattress, and I wheezed out a pathetic noise in protest.
The joints in my wrists felt loose. My hands and fingers tingled at the lack of circulation, but I hadn’t dropped the stun gun. I squeezed the buttons on either side of the device, taking comfort in the motion despite its uselessness. The werewolf still had hold of my wrists, and now my arms were stretched over the booze-soaked mounds of Casey’s laundry.
Just as the creep’s tongue reached the corner of my mouth, he paused and lifted his head, sniffing the air. I feared that he’d finally figured out Mandy’s scent wasn’t coming from me, but rather the closet where she was likely mid-shift. But then I smelled it, too.
Smoke coiled up from the dirty socks and tee shirts on the bed beside us. I stared at it, just as confused as my assailant—until I realized how close my hand with the stun gun was. The clothes suddenly ignited, and we both gasped as flames reached for our faces.
I tried to roll onto my side, away from the fire, but I couldn’t move. As alarmed as he was, the werewolf refused to let go of me. I wasn’t going anywhere fast.
He brought my wrists up over my head and tried to grasp them in one of his meaty hands. I didn’t make it easy for him, which earned me a sharp slap once he managed the feat. Then he attempted to snuff out the fire with one of Casey’s pillows.
I squeezed the stun gun again, angling the prongs down at the stretch of mattress above us. Without the pile of clothes for cover, he noticed this time.
“Sneaky bitch.” He abandoned the small fire to reach for the device, but he didn’t quite make it.
The bed jolted, and then Mandy’s dark wolf was on his back, teeth sinking into his shoulder. The man garbled out a broken scream. He balled his free hand into a fist and punched Mandy in the muzzle. A whine punctuated her growl, but she held on, jerking her head as she tried to pull him off me.
I bucked my hips, hoping to unbalance the creep. The flaming pile of clothes burned brighter, spreading now that it had been left unattended. It sent our shadows dancing across the walls of Casey’s room and a film of slick sweat over my skin.
I ignored the throbbing pain in my wrists and groaned through clenched teeth as I strained to pull my hands apart. The werewolf’s grip was failing, thanks to Mandy and the fire.
One hand finally sprang free. The creep let go of my other to grasp at the stun gun, but Mandy gave his shoulder another yank. His hand came down on my face instead. My bottom lip seared with fresh pain as he clawed at my face, and I felt the pads of his fingertips roughen against my skin.
He’s attempting to shift. My mind exploded with panic. We were having a hard enough time with him in human form. As a wolf, he’d be ten times worse.
I stabbed the stun gun into the man’s chest. The silver prongs ripped holes in his shirt, and his eyes faded from yellow to dark brown as I lit up his world. My fingers shook violently, but I had enough strength left to squeeze the device until the asshole began foaming at the mouth.
Mandy pawed my arm and yipped at the fire. She pressed her muzzle into the man’s arm as he slumped and began to slide off me, pushing him toward the flames. She intended to use his limp body to put the fire out. At least one of us still had their head screwed on tight.
I did what I could to help. The man’s chest flopped onto the bed beside me, covering the bulk of the retail kindling and blowing hot ash in my face. I scrambled off the bed and to the opposite side of the room before hacking my lungs out.
Mandy shifted and used Casey’s pillow to put out the rest of the flames. When she was done, she clicked on the bedside lamp. Her naked body was spattered with blood and soot, yet she crinkled her nose at the mess I’d made of Casey’s bed.
I wondered how Blood Vice would cover this up for our unaware host. She was a wolf, so maybe the truth wasn’t entirely out of the question. All I knew was that my work here was done.
“So…” Mandy said, taking in the charred sheets and unconscious werewolf. “High-five now or later—after we call this nightmare in and survive the aftermath?”
“Later. Much later,” I said, rotating my bruised wrists.
I was already debating whether I should use my mild injuries to gain sympathy from the duke. I’d receive none from my sire. But whatever cross words they had for me was a small price to pay compared to what Mandy and I had accomplished tonight.
That’s what I told myself anyway as I watched Mandy retrieve her cell phone from her abandoned coat and punch in Dante’s number.



4 comments:

  1. I like this a lot, hope you feel better soon.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! This weather can't last forever. lol. Glad you enjoyed! : )

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  2. Thanks for posting this. Hope your body cooperates soon!

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