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Paranormal hunter box se.., p.12
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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.12

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  She turned on the tap and took a step back. For a moment, she just stared at the wolf as the water fell over him, plastering his shoulder-length hair to his cheeks and neck.

  “Sonnet?”

  She twirled around at the shaky sound of Bane’s voice. He’d left his hair loose that night, to hang in caramel swaths to his waist. He wore a black cotton t-shirt that hugged his wide, muscular chest, the shirt left untucked and reaching just above the pockets of his designer jeans. His features were drawn together with concern, his severe gaze darting around the room until it came to a stop on her once more. He searched her face as if he were expecting to find something grim there.

  “Is everything okay? You weren’t answering your phone and when I stepped inside the gym,” he exhaled hard, and then continued, “I caught the scent of your blood.”

  “I’m fine, Bane.” She threw an urgent look over her shoulder at Ryker. “It’s Ryker, somethings wrong.”

  Bane gave Sonnet a quick once over, as if making sure she was really okay, before walking over to the shower where Ryker was still hunched over.

  “What do we have here?” Bane asked, reaching in and grabbing Ryker’s hair. He pulled upward until they were face-to-face. Ryker opened his eyes to slits, and before they could focus, they rolled back into his head. “He looks drunk.”

  Sonnet leaned in next to him. “That’s what I thought at first too.”

  Bane reached out and turned the shower off. “Are you trying to drown the mutt?”

  “This isn’t funny. He’s been that way for a while now and seems to be getting worse by the minute.”

  Bane looked at the discarded towel on the floor, along with Sonnet’s wet hair, and understanding dawned. And with that revelation, his fangs dropped on a hiss. “He burst in on you while you were showering?”

  Her shoulders lifted in a shrug. “I handled it.”

  Bane swore under his breath, pulled Ryker out of the shower and said, “Well, whatever’s wrong with the asshole, the showers not helping him.”

  He set him on the floor, his head hovering close to Ryker’s neck in the process. Bane closed his eyes for a second and sniffed the space around him. He then stood and backed off.

  “What in the hell is that smell?” he asked.

  Sonnet shook her head. “I don’t know. But I’m glad I’m not the only one who can smell it. I thought I was going crazy.”

  Her heart was beating fast as she inhaled deep. The tart, metallic scent of vampire hit her. She pushed back her hair, wets strands leaving damp marks on her shoulders. The night so far had been a nightmare of unforeseen circumstances, and she was more than a little relieved to have Bane by her side to help her figure out what was going on with Ryker.

  She pointed to the tin full of pills. “I found that in his pocket.”

  Bane strolled over to the sink and picked up the container, opened it, lifted it to his nose and sniffed. His expression soured. “Son of a bitch.”

  Judging by that look, Sonnet prepared herself for the worst. “What is it?”

  His upper lip curled with disgust. “Vampire venom.”

  She pinched one of the pills between her fingers and held it up to the light for inspection. The gel cap was clear, the venom itself was blue.

  “Well, I’ll be damned.”

  Sonnet leaned back against the counter. She had been under the assumption that Ryker was sick, or that he’d partied a little too hard that night. She certainly hadn’t expected to find out her friend and coworker had been getting messed up on vampire venom. Life was certainly dishing out her fair share of surprises.

  “Ryker’s a junkie?” She shook her head. “That’s hard for me to believe.”

  “The proof is staring you right in the face, little fox.” Bane said.

  “I know. It’s just I’ve never seen him act like this. Ever. You don’t just wake up one day an addict, do you?”

  He handed her the pills. “I’m not sure.”

  Sonnet looked down at Ryker and frowned. His breathing was slow, but even, and he hadn’t thrown up or shown any visible signs of distress. It was pretty safe to say that she could stow him in the emergency medical room overnight to sleep it off. She stuffed the pills in her pocket and cleared her throat.

  “Can you move him into the next room for me? There’s a bed. He should be safe in there.”

  Bane nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

  When she turned the corner to leave the room, she looked over her shoulder at him. “I have an errand to run. Meet you back at your place in an hour?”

  He lifted Ryker and with superhuman speed, shot out the door in a flash of light. Before she could blink, he was back, standing in front of her. He caught her hand and brought his lips down upon hers, and then with gentle pressure, a warm swipe of his silken tongue, he swallowed her soft moans. And even though a kiss couldn’t form words, this one said so many things with each tug and pull. Things like…I missed you. Be safe. My world only turns because you’re in it.

  Or, she could be completely delirious and the kiss was simply…a kiss.

  Chapter Four

  Sonnet stood beneath an orange, glowing porch light at 348 Bleaker Street. The moment she’d parked and walked the several feet to the front door, her instincts had started going crazy. It was the same menacing presence she’d honed in on with Ryker.

  She clenched her hand into a fist and knocked.

  Two men answered the door. One of them was ghostly pale, dressed in an orange and red silk dragon kimono. Barely able to hold himself up, he leaned heavily on the other man, who wore a business suit and a frantic expression.

  “What took you so long?” the suit asked.

  Face-to-face, Cory Knight was younger than his voice hinted over the phone. His dark blond hair was moussed down tight to his head in short waves. Several hard pieces stuck out in the front, as though he’d been running his fingers through it over and over again, until the perfectly coiffed shell cracked.

  “Something came up.” Her answer was succinct.

  With clients, you had to be able to separate yourself from their emotions. If you allowed yourself to get all wrapped up in their issues, their stress or sorrow, you’d end up sidetracked, or worst, acting as a pseudo therapist. Sonnet knew this made her seem heartless, but to prove she wasn’t a complete hard-ass, she did carry a small pack of Kleenex in her pocket, alongside a plastic vial of holy water.

  “Are you a cop?” Mr. Silk Kimono asked.

  It took Sonnet a second to remember Cory’s husband name. It was Eddie.

  Eddie’s hands gripped Cory’s arm. “Because, you know, if you are a pig, I plead the Fifth.”

  His voice was slurred and his eyes drooped to make him look as if he were seconds away from passing out.

  Ignoring his husband, Cory gestured for her to enter, so she did.

  “S’cuse me, missy. I asked you a question.” He slapped at Cory’s chest with what seemed barely any strength. “Damn it! Why’d you let her in?”

  Sonnet didn’t bother to look over at Eddie. Still, she said, “No. I’m not a cop,” and left it at that.

  Apparently, Eddie wasn’t happy with her answer. In the next instant, he lunged at her.

  He stumbled, losing his balance, making it easy for Sonnet to dodge his advance with a simple sidestep. Without Sonnet’s body to stop his fall, Eddie stumbled over his own two feet and crashed into a table that was situated next to the front door.

  Cory sucked in a sharp gasp and ran to his husband.

  “How long has he been like this?” Sonnet used the same controlled, business like tone, even though her mind was racing.

  The look on Cory’s face said it all as he crouched to help his husband up from the floor. He was a desperate man. His eyes were puffy and red, as if he’d been crying. His skin was sallow, making him look jaundiced. Eddie was lucky to have a man like that by his side. Sonnet’s opinion of Cory raised a notch. It wasn’t easy to love someone who was sick, especially when the sickn
ess was self-inflicted.

  “He’s been using for about a month now.”

  Her thoughts flashed to Ryker. She wondered how long he’d been using…

  Hopefully not long.

  “Do you know where he keeps his stash?”

  Eddie went motionless in Cory’s arms, and then, with spaced-out eyes that seemed to clear in an instant, he shot her a death glare. “Bitch, if you touch my stuff, I’ll kill you.”

  Cory looked mortified. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”

  If Cory was worried about Sonnet retaliating against Eddie’s threat, he needn’t bother. Humans weren’t her prey. It was the monsters that threatened her city that she stalked and systematically killed. Besides, if she absolutely had to, she could find the stash without his help by using her hunter instincts.

  Feeling pressed for time because she was set to meet Bane in less than twenty minutes, Sonnet gave Cory a serious look. “I need to see what your husband’s been taking.”

  What she really wanted to know was if Eddie here was jacked up on the same stuff as Ryker. Different strains could point to different dealers. If that was the case, then Vanier, Alabama, had an even bigger problem. And finding the source of it would be her next step.

  He locked gazes with Sonnet then his sorrow-filled eyes jumped to Eddie, and then back to her. “He’ll pass out any minute now. Then I’ll show you to the door.”

  Apparently, he didn’t want his husband to know that he’d be cooperating with her. No biggie, she could play along. “That would be great, Mr. Knight.”

  Twenty minutes later, Eddie was passed out and she was staring down at a Ziploc baggy filled with about twenty gel capsules. She pinched one of them between her fingers and held it up to the light. The capsule contained a light blue, liquid. It was definitely venom.

  Sonnet had the proof she needed, now what in the hell was she going to do with it? She set the pill on the plastic bag and pulled out her phone. She knew of one person who would be interested in this kind of information.

  “This is Detective Riley.”

  She turned away from Cory’s curios stare and said, “We have a problem.”

  “I just got back from cleaning up your last problem, Vale. Multiple bodies in one night, that’s a bit much, even for you.” He sounded tired.

  “Relax. Nobody’s dead. I’m calling about the Knight case you referred over to me.”

  “And?”

  “I’m here. And it would seem that your friend’s husband has been using vampire venom.”

  “I see. You’re positive that’s what it is?”

  The detective didn’t sound surprised. This led her to believe that he’d already known about the drug—interesting.

  Her eyes jumped to the pills. “Yes. I’m sure.”

  Sonnet purposefully left out what she knew about Ryker’s dalliance with the preternatural drug. Friends kept that kind of shit between them, unless it was earth-shatteringly necessary to say something. But even then…

  “Have you dealt with this before?”

  Riley let out an exasperated breath. “Other than a few users I’ve thrown into the drunk tank recently, not really. It’s like this stuff just popped up out of nowhere. That’s why I contacted you. I was hoping you could help. Or at least dig up some more information about the drug.”

  He was in luck. She could and she would.

  In a flash, a thought struck. If this shit was appearing out of thin air, then there was only one place she figured it could’ve originated from: Phantom City. The supernatural city was shrouded within Vanier’s very own borders, so that made it the most logical place to start.

  But she couldn’t tell the detective that. The city was top secret. And she wasn’t going to be the one to spill the beans about it. Even though she hadn’t a clue what the repercussions of doing so would be.

  “I’ll see what I can do.”

  “Thanks, Vale.”

  She ended the call.

  Cory cleared his throat, jogging Sonnet out of her thoughts. She stashed the phone inside her jacket pocket and looked up at him. He was at least six feet tall, so she had to crane her neck.

  He gave her a measured look. “So that’s it? You’re leaving?”

  She rolled up the baggy of VV and tucked it next to her phone. She ached to tell this guy that everything would be okay. That she had a miracle cure for addiction. But she couldn’t. She was just as stressed-out and perplexed by the screwed-up situation as he was. She caught a glimpse of hopelessness in his eyes and it panged at her heart.

  “I suggest you get Eddie in to see someone, quick. A counselor who can recommend a good drug rehab would be best. I will do all I can on my end.”

  His brows drew together at that. But then he nodded. “I’ll start calling around in the morning, first thing. Do you think a rehab will work?”

  “Do you want my honest opinion?”

  “Yes.”

  “I think with a husband as loving and caring as you are in his corner, anything is possible.”

  For the first time that night, Cory smiled. “Thank you, Ms. Vale.”

  When she stepped out onto the porch, she stopped to focus on the task ahead, for her and for Cory.

  She looked down at her wrists and hands. It was within the balls of her palms where the scars were the deepest. She thought about the arduous months of dealing with a recovering addict that were stretched out before Cory Knight. Eddie’s scars ran just as deep, but his marks festered on the inside, where the darkest monsters lay in wait, anxious to munch up all the good stuff about a person.

  Sonnet closed her fists, her nails digging into her skin. She could only hope he would be strong enough to battle those demons. For her part, she planned on using her innate abilities to hunt down and lop off the heads of the corporeal ones.

  Chapter Five

  Phantom City

  Just before midnight

  ***

  Sonnet Vale gripped the car’s armrest as she entered Phantom City. Instead of arriving via a portal that emptied out at the edge of the woods, like she had the first time she’d visited the city, she traveled underground through a tunnel large enough to accommodate a four-lane highway.

  Sonnet had only visited Phantom City once. And just like before, she had a belly full of Bane’s blood in her so she could handle the influx of supernatural influences that would hit her as soon as she passed through the shroud that separated human reality from that of monsters. Even though she hated having to drink blood, she wasn’t complaining. Not a bit. She loved being amongst other species that shared magical powers, as well as rare oddities, that made each and every one of them unique. Phantom City was a place where demons, werewolves, and vampires were the norm, not wrong or different than everybody else. And Bane’s gift enabled her to experience it.

  Bane sat next to her in the driver’s seat. Her vampire lover who fit as perfectly in her arms as he did in her life; an exquisite creature of the night with long caramel-brown hair, and light blue eyes that reminded her of rare, shimmering jewels. Just a single look at him had goose bumps cascading across her arms.

  He’d asked her to spend a few weeks in the City with him so she could get accustomed to the place and its inhabitants, as well as helping her get used to being around so many paranormal creatures. She still hadn’t told him that she would also be working on a case for Detective Riley. She’d decided to save that bit of information for later.

  “Sonnet, did you hear me?”

  “Huh?” She looked away from the captivating neonscape that was Phantom City. “Sorry. My mind was somewhere else.”

  She sat up straighter in her seat and turned the radio down to better hear him.

  “I said, did you bring some weapons with you?”

  Sonnet smiled at him as she opened her jacket. With a glint in her eyes, she pulled a stake from the inside pocket. Bane had given it to her a few weeks prior, just in time for the vampire onslaught that hit her city. She also carried her pistol,
and a large Ziploc baggie full of multicolored squirt guns she had filled with holy water. The plastic guns would seem silly, even juvenile, to some people, but they were an effective weapon against vampires, the holy water burning a bloodsucker’s flesh like acid on contact.

  “I never leave home without ’em.”

  Bane considered one of the weapons in particular. The silver-tipped stake. It was an ancient relic that he’d procured from an Ensorcel demon—which were demons that could bewitch their prey into doing just about anything they wanted by using their incredible beauty and captivating allure against them. That class of demon, for whatever reason, was predominantly women.

  The demon had used the weapon as a bargaining tool so Bane would spare her life. The stake was rumored to possess mystical powers, which protected the person who wielded it. Now that he knew Sonnet was his—to kiss, to touch, to breathe in—he intended to keep her safe, and gifting the powerful weapon to her was one of the ways he’d gone about insuring that.

  “Good girl,” he said, pleased.

  Sonnet’s lips parted into a smile. “You like me armed?” She gave him a second look. “Strapped women turn you on, huh?”

  Bane looked at her, his gaze going hungry. “Not women…you turn me on.”

  Her eyes went wide. “Oh.”

  As they entered the city, moonlight poured across Sonnet’s lap and lit up half of Bane’s chiseled features, making them sharper while casting a blue hue against his skin. She could stare at him for hours.

  She rolled down the window and took a deep breath. “The air seems fresher here.”

  It was always night time in Phantom City, with a full moon to ensure ease of shifting for the resident werewolves. If it weren’t for the lack of UV rays and the constant moonlight, the Paranormals who lived inside the borders of the city would be constrained by the natural order of the moon’s and the sun’s phases, just like on the other side of the shroud—within human reality. But luckily for them, demon magic had taken root, creating an unnatural ecosystem, one that protected them, while at the same time bolstering their magic.

 
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