Devil's Playground, p.16Gena D. Lutz
The wound stopped bleeding, and the ridged ends began to close, the flesh knitting itself back together. When the wound was completely healed, I fell back and let out a hefty breath.
And that time, I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. That was major progress.
When I jumped out of the back of the van, with Red passed out in my arms, I noticed that the bodies and their parts had been moved out of the kill zone. I had a mental image of Rafe cleaning up the mess, and I knew he had done it. I saw him close the door to the house, and I sent a smile of thanks his way.
He shot me a grin and then winked.
Grime covered my tube top and shorts, and oil, dirt, and blood discolored my flesh. The stains resembled bruises new and old, making me look like an extra straight out of a zombie movie.
“You look exhausted. But beautiful,” Rush said.
It was a nice way for him to say that I looked like hell.
I blew a blood-caked strand of hair out of my face.
“Yeah, I’m making the most out of the battered look.”
With a smile, he said, “It’s working for you.”
He was flirting with me. But there wasn’t much we could do with that right then.
Rafe walked up and asked, “Would you like me to fly her to the Center for debriefing?”
I didn’t like the way he made that sound, as if we were working for the Center. Those money grubbers were the last people in the world that I wanted to be in cahoots with, but they were also the only organization I was aware of that was well equipped enough to handle paranormal problems such as the ones we had been dealing with.
A little shaky, I nodded and handed the girl over to Rafe. I was coasting on the afterglow of magic; it would take a few minutes for me to shake off its effects.
“Thanks,” I said. “For everything.”
“When are you planning on going home?” he asked.
I lowered my voice, so the human still in the van couldn’t hear me, but the necromancers and vampires easily could.
“I still need to talk to that girl, Lisa. She’s not as bad off as Red here was, but she still went through one hell of an ordeal.”
Rafe kept his gaze on me, saying, “Be careful. And call me once you get in, so I know you made it home safe.”
“I can do that.”
He was about to propel himself off the ground, when I stopped him.
“Can you take the twins home with you? The sun’s about to rise, and I have no clue how well they’ll handle it. I’ll take over tomorrow, once they’ve rested.”
Devil had lots of underground chambers beneath Devil’s Playground. I figured it was the perfect place for Rebel and Nova to find shelter from the sun.
With an annoyed look, the twins stepped up to stand beside us.
Nova lifted a brow and said, “That almost sounded like an order.”
Rebel crossed her arms over her bare breasts.
I really need to find them some clothes.
“As much as I like being moved around like a chess piece, how about you let me in on any plans that regard the two of us?”
I was shocked that they’d both spoken up. I was so used to Rafe doing exactly what I needed, when I needed him to do it, that I took for granted that my new vampires would, too. Even though I was only trying to look out for them, my behavior had been unacceptable. I’d have to work on being more respectful of the bond between the four of us. I was not their lord and master.
Feeling like a horse’s ass, I said, “Sorry. That was extremely rude of me. I can be a jerk sometimes.” They both stared blankly. “Do you two mind staying with Rafe, until I get everything settled here?” I asked nicely, the way I should have in the first place.
They flashed me identical smiles, with tiny fangs that glistened sharp, as they poked out from underneath their top lips.
Nova said, “Yes, we will do as you ask of us.”
With that settled, I turned and hopped inside the van. Lisa was pulling a shirt over her head, one she’d found in a bag amongst all the other debris back there. I knew that was where she found it, because that was where I’d found the dress I used to clothe Red.
“Do you mind if we talk?” I asked.
Lisa yanked the yellow t-shirt down to ride at her hips and then pulled her hair back into a ponytail, using a small length of rope she found among the debris as a makeshift holder. With her hair out of her face, she didn’t look more than 19 years old. With a puzzled expression, she gazed over my shoulder at Rush and Lily. Thankfully, my winged creations had already flown from the scene, which left fewer people for her to have to cope with.
“That’s Rush. He’s an all-right guy.” I pivoted on one knee to look back at him. “But he can take a walk if it makes you feel more comfortable.”
Rush peeped around me and smiled at Lisa.
“Roger that. I need to put a call in to the Center, anyway. Be back in a few minutes.”
Lisa pointed at Lily and said, “She can stay.”
It was about 20 minutes later when Rush returned. Lisa was just finishing up telling us about how the vampires had kidnapped her from the parking lot, where she worked as a weather girl at Channel Ten News.
“And you’re sure other girls are still being held there?”
“I’m positive. I remember everything, because when those assholes weren’t looking, I spit out that flowery shit they fed us to dope us up.” She nodded rapidly. “Yeah, they’re still there. Some hurt real bad.”
Flowery stuff, meaning what I feared most. They’d been feeding the women from the Lothario rose—the most potent aphrodisiac in existence. The extract would knock humans on their asses with lust, making it easy for Camille’s clients to do anything they wanted to them.
I rubbed my face and said, “They’ve been at Razorbacks the entire time.”
Lisa asked, “Are you going to leave them there?”
“Are you going there now?”
A few second passed, before she asked, “Is it okay if I go home?”
“Yes. You can go home.” Looking over my shoulder, I said, “Lily?”
My grandmother eased inside and sat next to me.
“Can you take Lisa home?”
She patted my arm. I could tell in her eyes that she was just as exhausted as I was.
“Of course, I can.”
“Thank you,” I said, hopping out of the vehicle.
“Happy to help.” Lily gestured for Lisa to follow her, as she leapt from the back of the van. “Let’s get you home.”
As I watched them pull away, Rush walked up and stopped beside me. He grabbed my hand, lifted it to his scruffy face, and swiped a kiss across my knuckles.
“So what did she say?”
Man, I couldn’t wait until it was all over. My head ached with exhaustion, my clothes smelled like a slaughter house, and my brain was so frazzled from everything that I couldn’t wait to lie down and just be cuddled… right after a hot shower.
“The girls are being held in the basement, underneath Razorbacks.”
Rush knocked on the door, but there was no answer. I wasn’t surprised that the place was locked down tight. It was a vamp bar, and the sun had been up for the past half hour. It was their bedtime.
I peered through the window and said, “We need to get in there.”
“You want me to break the door in?”
I had to think about that for a second. Even though bloodsuckers like to sleep during the day, some of them were old enough to weather the sun for a limited amount of time, before it ultimately chased them back into the safety of their coffins—or wherever they chose to sleep.
“Hold up. I’m thinking.”
“About what a beautiful badass you are?”
He pulled something out of his pocket and started jimmying the lock.
“We’re always up to our eyeballs in this kind of crap, Kris. If now’s not the time, then it never will be.”
He had a point.
“Fair enough. Woo me anytime you want.”
I heard a grinding pop, and then he looked at me with a sexy grin.
“I will.” And then the he pushed the door open. “After you.”
I stopped before I entered and gave him an appraising look.
“Nice going. Who’s the badass now?”
He chuckled and followed me inside.
The bar seemed smaller, without its vampire biker patrons loitering about. The floor was freshly mopped and smelled like lemon pine. No matter how hard anyone tried, they couldn’t scrub the surface well enough to remove the filth that tainted that place. The evil and depraved deeds had sunk deep inside the wood.
The jukebox was left on, with the volume turned down low. All the neon signs were clicked off, so the only thing illuminating the joint was slivers of light that spilled inside from the spaces left between boards nailed across all the windows.
We walked farther inside. Awareness sparked in me, and my eyes shone red. Vampires were near. I could feel them, taste their essence. Drawn by something gripping and instinctual, step by rapid step, I chewed up the distance between the monsters and me. Hell, I barely noticed in what direction I was heading. The pull was that great.
In the back of my mind, I could hear the sound of tires screeching, hard footfalls, spreading like a cancer. There were shouts—“Arm yourselves!”—“Take their heads!” Rush’s reinforcements, no doubt.
I ignored everything and kept moving. My arm swung out to snatch a pool stick, as I passed by a cue rack full of them. With supernatural strength, I snapped it in two like a twig, keeping the sharp half and tossing the other behind me. After only a few beats of time, I found myself in the basement. It smelled like mildew down there, dark and dank.
Something moved in the corner of the room. I focused on it, my eyes lighting up the spot with a subtle glow. Another shape dashed out of sight. My heartbeat stayed even, as I lowered myself into a crouched position.
Vampires could scale walls and hang from ceilings, so I made myself as small a target as possible, while I assessed the situation. I turned my head slowly, scanning one side of the room and then the other. I counted two vampires, both scrambling within shadows, like fanged cockroaches. I could feel them all around, spreading out to surround me from the front and back. I had a wooden stake, my powers, and a whole hell of a lot of patience—the odds were in my favor. I waited.
One of them dropped from the ceiling and walked toward me. He was lean and muscular, with eyes that shone a brilliant green through the darkness. His sharp fangs thrust through his gums, as he opened his mouth into a wide smile. His super-human strength and those daggers of his were a powerful defense, but I wasn’t scared. Neither of the monsters down there scared me. I continued to wait.
The moment the vampire was within reaching distance, I launched at him. Stake in hand, arm hinged back, I swung it down, spring-action style, to sink deep inside his chest. I felt his life force, as it snuffed out. My magic latched onto it, pulling and coaxing it inside me, soaking it up like nourishment that made me stronger. When it was all gone, the vampire shriveled up around the stick, his skin and organs turning into dust. Pieces of bones pelted the ground, as they fell. He’d been an ancient one, a master vampire.
A throaty thick voice came out of the darkness, asking, “What are you?”
Narrowing my eyes, I turned toward the voice. The corner of my mouth lifted into a little smile.
“I’ve come to bring death to your doorstep.”
The vampire shifted, and my eyes caught on the movement.
I leaned forward, still in a crouch, and put a hand on the floor in front of me. It felt cold, gritty. Those grounds held dark energy, spoiled by sinister deeds.
Two gold eyes stared at me from the shadows.
“What did I do to deserve your vengeance?” His voice strung out tighter.
“Darcy. Rebel. Nova.”
I didn’t know if he’d been the one who killed them, but it didn’t matter. He had a hand in it. That was enough.
“This isn’t making any sense. I don’t recognize any of those names.”
My words took on a deadly edge, as I said, “Were there so many victims that you can’t remember a single one?”
“This is about humans, then.”
He must have realized that there was no talking his way out of what was coming. I knew what his next move was, and I prepared myself for it. He shifted his body for a second time.
C’mon, asshole. Make your move.
I felt his energy stiffen and then rage, before he flew across the room at me. Pushing off the balls of my feet, I somersaulted forwarded. Using that momentum, I vaulted off the ground, turned at the waist in midair, and grabbed the vampire by the arm. My hand exploded with light, upon contact with his flesh.
After releasing the stake from my grasp, I gripped his shoulder. His demise was quick, coming from a zap of my power that washed over and throughout his body, disintegrating him to nothing but ashes that poured to the ground around my fingers. That vampire had been even older than the last.
Funny, how his death eased something inside of me—a sense of wrongs righted to completion.
I silently joined Rush and his team from the Center outside. I couldn’t remember how I got out there, but it didn’t matter. I was happy to be done with it all.
“We found three women, Kris,” Rush said. His eyes were busy taking inventory of my wounds. “All of them are alive and well and heading to the Center now. If all goes as planned, they should be safe and snug in their beds by nightfall.”
Putting my hands flat on his chest, I leaned forward and looked deep into his eyes. I was exhausted and just… done.
“Take me home.”
I sat up and stretched my arms over my head. The smell of hazelnut coffee wafted in from the kitchen, making my mouth water. I nudged Rush in the hip and laid a soft kiss across his elbow, to sweeten him up to do my bidding.
“Handsome, the coffee smells sooo good.”
“I’m not getting up to get your coffee, woman. You have two legs… use ‘em.” His face was tucked deep inside the crook of his arm, and the position garbled his words.
“Damn,” I huffed, crossing my arms. “Fine… but I’ll remember this.”
He rolled his back to me and said, “Whatever, honey, just as long as I don’t have to get up right now.”
I swung my legs over the edge of the bed, slipped my robe on, and stuffed my feet inside my favorite dragon slippers. I walked down the hall, robe wide open, with the pink cotton tie trailing behind me. When I reached the counter, where the coffee sat taunting me, it was all I could do not to snatch it up and chug every drop of it down in one huge gulp. Instead, I grabbed a mug and filled it up.
As I savored my first sip, I thought back on the last 24 hours since my friends and I had hunted down and saved what was left of the kidnapped women, and I’d said my farewells to Darcy Mae Walker, one of the more enjoyable ghosts I’d been enlisted to help. The look on her face, as I described in detail what was done to her attackers, had been worth all the pain and suffering, as well as the new additions to my building family—the twin ravens. All in all, it had been one hell of an adventure.
The light in the kitchen flickered and flared around me.
My ghostly BFF’s head popped through the counter, his body hidden from view in the cabinet below.
“How did you know it was me?”
I laughed and took another sip from my mug.
Feeling like a light breeze, Jude floated through the air to hover next to me.
“A call came for you this morning, while you were still asleep. It turns out that you got the apartment.”
Joy and a sense of impending independence filled me. I’d never had my own place before, so that was excellent news. I raised my cup and gestured a cheer.
“Here’s to new beginnings.”
He knuckled the glass, his fist disappearing halfway through.
“Your mother is still talking about opening up a metaphysical shop with you and Torra. From what I’ve overheard, she’s pretty determined.”
I shrugged and said, “That’s a problem best saved for another day. Today is about celebrating yesterday’s victory.”
Jude smiled and then flashed out into the great beyond.
“Mind pouring me one of those?”
I tipped my head to the side and smiled at Rush, as he shuffled, dog tired, into the kitchen, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts.
“You have two hands, mister. Use ‘em.”
He glanced over at me with mischievous eyes that churned like a building storm. I didn’t get a chance to take another sip from my cup, before he had me swooped up and over his shoulder, as I giggled and screamed.
He moved out of the kitchen at a fast pace toward the bedroom door. And then suddenly, when I felt his back muscles roll and jump underneath my breasts and watched the two dimples that rode at his lower back get deeper, as they disappeared into his shorts, I remembered one thing that was even more delicious than the sinful taste of coffee—Rush.
Books by Gena D. Lutz
Prime Wolf Series
Devil's Playground by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes