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Paranormal hunter 04 d.., p.2
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       paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame, p.2

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Sonnet swung her legs over the edge of the bed. With a slow exhale, she looked over at the clock on her nightstand. It was six fifteen. Her daughter’s first “kind of date” was in a little less than an hour, and she really wanted to see her before she left the house.

  “I can spare a few. What’s up, Dom?”

  “Another body has been found.”

  Damn it.

  “Was it in the same condition as the first one from earlier today?”

  “No. A Stratos demon stumbled upon this werewolf in the men’s restroom at Demon Dolls, and called it in. Only part of the vic’s body was burned this time.”

  There were a few beats of uncomfortable silence.

  “Okay, I’ll bite. Which part?”

  “His manhood was charred to nothing, and the area surrounding it was seared to the bone.”

  Well shit.

  She cleared her throat. “Let me get this straight. You’re telling me that some guy got his weeny roasted at the strip club?”

  “This isn’t funny, Vale.”

  “I didn’t say it was.”

  There was another stretch of silence. And within it, she couldn’t help but think how weird men got when it came to their southern bits. Even the captain, who was one of the most professional guys she knew, was acting all sorts of sketchy about the subject.

  “I can be there in thirty,” she said.

  “Why can’t you come now?”

  Sonnet stood and balanced the phone between her shoulder and ear so she could shimmy out of her jeans.

  “Well, because I have an important matter to attend to first.”

  “Is this matter more important than innocent lives?”

  She paused, as a clear picture of Poppy’s face sprang to mind. After a few short seconds she nodded, even though the captain couldn’t see it. “See you when I get there, Dom.”

  The Vale residence…20 minutes later.

  Poppy yanked the black skirt down and scowled at her appearance in the mirror. A bunch of thick red curls bounced around her body as she moved from side to side, completely untamable, so she’d left them loose to fall halfway down her back. Her too-white shoulders were left bare, on account of the green tank top she’d chosen to wear after she’d exhausted any other options trying on everything in her closet. Her face was made up with the bare essentials—a quick flick of the mascara wand, and a glistening swipe across the lips from her favorite strawberry and kiwi lip gloss.

  She shook her head, and then whispered on a breath. “That’s about as good as it’s going to get, I guess.”

  A quick knock on the inside of the wall by the open bedroom door had her spinning around.

  “Poppy, you look absolutely gorgeous,” Sonnet said, with her heart in her throat.

  Poppy blushed, not a faint pink color like most people would, but a bright red gush across her cheeks and forehead, brought on by an inherent temperature rise when experiencing these kinds of emotions. You know; the embarrassing ones.

  Sonnet entered the room, rubbing her arms, and then she crossed them.

  Why is she the one acting all nervous? Poppy wondered.

  “What’s up, Ma?”

  “I just wanted to see you before you left to go meet up with Quinn. And also…” Sonnet’s features tightened, her eyes darting all over the place. Then she gave Poppy a quick nod and said, “Ah, heck. There’ no other way for me to get through this other than to just come out with it.” She cleared her throat. “You see. There are birds and there are bees…”

  Oh…my…God.

  “Just stop whatever it is you’re about to say,” Poppy interrupted.

  Sonnet’s eyes narrowed. “But it’s my job to educate you about boys, and what happens when a boy likes a girl. And—”

  Poppy palmed her forehead. “I already know about sex, Mom.”

  This time, Sonnet’s eyes went wide. “How on earth would you know about that, young lady?”

  Poppy gritted her teeth and fought down the urge to jump inside of her closet, hide behind the clothes hamper, and stay there ’til she died a thousand mortified deaths. But this dragon would never cower, not even in the face of her overprotective parent. This conversation had to end.

  “I’ve read almost every book offered at the city library, Mom. I know the technical terms and all sorts of variations on the subject. And to be honest, it all grosses me out. So can we please talk about something else?”

  Sonnet’s features softened and her arms dropped to a more relaxed position. “I’m sorry. I just don’t want to screw anything up with you. You are the most important person in the world to me.”

  Poppy felt a momentary flash of shame over giving her mother so much grief. As parents went, she’d hit the jackpot with Sonnet Vale, and she was over-the-universe grateful for her.

  She gave Sonnet a half smile and bent over to swipe a hairbrush off the carpet. She tossed it at her mother and asked, “Do you mind helping me tame this wild mess of curls?”

  Without missing a beat, Sonnet plucked the brush from midair like a ninja hairstylist. “I’ll try, but that mop looks pretty raggedy, sweetheart.” She grabbed a clip from the dresser while strolling past it to get to her daughter.

  Poppy’s mouthed dropped. “Mom…seriously?” she said, reaching for her hair.

  Sonnet chuckled, turned Poppy around by the shoulders, and went to work.

  A few seconds passed, and then Bane walked into the room. He stood by the door for a minute, and watched the tender mother-and-daughter moment before checking his watch. The two of them needed to leave in a couple of minutes to drop Poppy off at the dungeon.

  He let out a breath as his stomach knotted; it was hard to believe that the little dragonling he’d help to raise was already going on her first date.

  Chapter Four

  The clinking of jail doors slamming shut greeted Sonnet as she entered the Phantom City Police Department. She’d walked these linoleum-tiled floors many times before, and like the three metal-and-wood desks off to the left, and the police officers sitting behind them stoically typing away on their keyboards or talking on the phone, she was beginning to feel a part of the scenery.

  She stopped in front of Dom’s office at the back of the room and knocked once before pushing through the door to enter.

  Police Chief Domino Carver looked up from the yellow legal pad he was holding. His black hair, streaked white from root to tip in thin layers, was draped over one of his shoulders. Normally he wore a nice shirt and slacks, but today he was dressed in a fancy suit. Which explained the reporters out front, packing up their gear as she’d walked by them on her way inside the precinct.

  “Why do you even bother knocking, Vale?” he asked with an irritated gaze that showed off his snow-white irises, thinly encircled with black. The effect was off-putting. She’d never met anyone with eyes quite like his before.

  She shrugged. “How did the interview go with Phantom City News?”

  “You saw the reporters out front?” Dom asked.

  “Yeah.”

  He sighed, setting the pad down. “We found another victim.”

  Sonnet felt her pulse pick up. “Where did you find this one?”

  “Here.”

  Her brow rose. “Are you saying that we have a cop killer on our hands?”

  Dom shook his head. “No. The vic was a vampire this time. He came into the station on his own, after his wounds healed. He was going on and on about a dragon-shifter.”

  Sonnet’s thoughts roamed over the other two victims; both of them were supernatural, just like the vampire, and all three were men. But unlike the latter of the three, the first two couldn’t heal themselves and were dead as a doornail.

  She smirked. Being a vampire could be extremely beneficial at times.

  “Did Detective…Azra something…” Damn it, why couldn’t she remember his name?

  “Azuela is the name I think you’re searching for.”

  “Yeah, Azuela. Did he find out anything a
bout the collar?”

  Dom nodded. “The mages down in the alchemy lab are having a hard time coming up with anything definitive. Although, they did mention that the band itself is made from some pretty ancient stuff, shit you can only find in demon-hell.”

  Sonnet’s eyes narrowed. “Interesting.” Her body jolted on the inside from hearing the name of that place, shook her to the core. But on the outside, she remained calm.

  Sonnet pulled out her phone and called Anya, her closest friend in Phantom City, who also happened to be a little, sexy blue demon who worked at Demon Dolls.

  Instead of answering her phone, Anya’s voice invaded Sonnet’s head.

  Why are you calling me in the middle of my shift, doll face? You know my hands are too busy doing other things, there’s no way in hell I can answer a damn phone.

  Sonnet dropped her cell back inside her pocket before turning to leave.

  Dom pushed the folder aside and stood. “Are you heading over to check out the crime scene?”

  Sonnet looked over her shoulder. It was hard concentrating on two conversations at once, but when your BFF’s a telepath, you learn to adjust real quick.

  “Yeah, I’ll call you as soon as I find the murderer,” she told, Dom, and then shut the door behind her.

  I’m heading your way.

  Are you coming down to see me, or to track down that pissed-off she-dragon who tore out of here like a bat out of hell after singeing the dick right off one of my customers? Anya asked, her inner voice sounding low and jumpy, as if she was moving around and out of breath.

  She must have been in the middle of giving a private lap dance, or more accurately, air dance. Sonnet shoved the picture of Anya twirling and grinding her hips in midair in the face of a random customer out of her mind, and at the same time, Anya’s chuckle echoed in her skull.

  I saw that. You have a very vivid imagination.

  How she could still get embarrassed by anything Anya did, or said, she would never know. But every time Sonnet was caught thinking about something suggestive or crazy, she did.

  Shut it, demon. And yes. I’m on the job. Be there in five.

  The scent of sweat and blood hit Sonnet as she walked passed the doorman to enter Demon Dolls.

  A waitress walked by her, depositing a tequila sunrise in her hand, one of Sonnet’s two usual drinks. She also preferred Midori sours. The Stratos demon had zipped by so fast, she didn’t get the chance to turn the cocktail down, let alone voice a preference. Sonnet raised a brow. Pretty sound marketing strategy, now that she thought about it.

  She gazed down at the drink in her hand and shrugged. Screw it. She was an independent contractor for the PCPD, not an on-duty cop, so she could do as she pleased. After taking a long pull from the straw, she almost purred her pleasure over the sweet and tangy cocktail.

  I thought you were on the clock?

  Sonnet’s gaze lifted to meet a set of black eyes that were only a smidge larger than the size of a dime. Long black hair shifted in waves around a light blue slender body, the strands riding the gentle winds caused by the flapping of the demoness’s wings.

  “Use your outside voice, she-devil,” Sonnet managed to get out over another mouthful of mostly tequila with a splash of juice. Her eyes roamed over the demon’s naked body. “And could you please put some clothes on?”

  Lifting both arms, Anya raked her fingers through her hair, pulling it upward. With wings barely beating, she did a slow twirl in the air, and then she laughed after a full turn that left her facing Sonnet once more. She dropped her arms and shrugged. “It’s just a flesh bag that helps to pay the bills. So cut the prude bullshit, demon princess. Besides, I’m the norm in here—you’re the exception.”

  “Excuse me?” Sonnet said, setting down her drink on a nearby table, both eyes narrowing on Anya.

  Anya’s head tilted sideways. “What?”

  “You can call me prude all day, even demon. But drop the princess crap. You know I hate that.”

  “You seem to have a chip on your leather-clad shoulders, Princess.”

  Sonnet blinked, and then blinked again, a slow smile spreading across her face. “You’re such a bitch.”

  Anya smiled back and winked. “Thanks.”

  Sonnet paused for a beat, reading the room. After a few more seconds, she picked up a magical charge that she quickly recognized as dragon. The largest concentration of it was throbbing at the back of the club where the restrooms were located, near the rear entrance. She pulled a hair tie out of her pocket and scraped her long dark locks back into a ponytail—it was go time.

  Chapter Five

  Sonnet pushed through the men’s room door, then slammed it shut behind her. She hooked a thumb over her shoulder and said, “Everyone out. I’m on official police business.”

  One man rolled his eyes while shaking his junk—more than twice—and then stuffed his bits back inside his pants before leaving. Another guy, with thick dark brows and matching hair, took his sweet time by slowly zipping up his jeans. Holding Sonnet’s stare in the process, he asked, “Do you like what you see?”

  “Nope,” she said, strolling by him to get to where the two paranormal beasts’ magical essences were strongest.

  The crude jerk snorted. “Yeah, right.”

  “Look,” she said, throwing the guy an annoyed look over her shoulder, “no offense, but you’re a creep. And no self-respecting woman will ever want to see, or play with, that little worm between your legs—especially if that’s the way you talk to ’em.”

  His face scrunched up, and he growled. “I nail my fair share of bitches.”

  Oh, so Mr. Wrong was a wolf. She should have known. Most werewolves were more animal with their instincts, instead of human.

  She ignored him, and after a few awkward moments of the a-hole staring at the back of her head, she heard a muttered curse and then the door open and mercifully shut.

  “You bring out the best in people,” Anya said, flying to hover above the kill spot.

  Sonnet shrugged, and then knelt down. “It’s a gift.” She floated a hand over the space where the body had been less than a couple hours earlier. She could feel the killer’s and the victim’s paranormal signatures swirling together in a metaphysical cyclone of energy. “You said you saw a she-dragon storming out of here?”

  Anya nodded. “I tried to read her thoughts, but they were blocked with a crap load of fear and anger.”

  Startled, Sonnet stopped what she was doing and gazed up at the demon. “You couldn’t read her thoughts? That’s a first. Isn’t it?”

  She could almost see the concern spinning around Anya’s head. “I have trouble reading Poppy’s thoughts sometimes, too.”

  Sonnet sat back on the heels of her boots. “You never mentioned that to me before.”

  Anya shrugged. “I didn’t think it mattered, just figured it was a dragon thing. Besides Poppy, and the new she-dragon in town, I have only met one other fire breather. And he was a cuddly, albeit huge and muscly, mountain of a man.” Her stare wondered off for a moment. “Come to think of it, he was one of very few men who made me wish I was of average humanoid height. Anya waggled her brows suggestively. “If you know what I mean.”

  “Is sex all you think about, Anya?”

  Her tiny brows scrunched together in thought. “There are a few other things, I suppose…like whipped cream and chocolate.” Her eyes widened and her red lips parted, pulling up at the corners. “Take a guess at what tastes extra yummy covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. A massive, throbbing co—”

  “No need to finish that thought. Trust me, I get it.”

  She shrugged. “Well, you asked.”

  Sonnet stood, and then glanced around the room. “I can tell you one thing for certain, the victim put up one hell of a fight. The energy trails in here are jumping all over the damn place. I’ll have to start my search for the dragon at the exit, where I can pluck at a stronger thread to guide me.”

  Five minutes later,
Sonnet found herself tethered to a glowing, purple-colored energy strand that was invisible to all but her.

  As she stepped within the mouth of a dark alleyway that seemed to stretch the length of almost half of Phantom City, she shook her head. “Seriously? Just once could one of these damn hunts lead me to an ice cream parlor, or a place flooded with light?” She reached up and tightened her ponytail while mumbling, “I totally need to rethink some of my life choices.”

  After steadying herself, she strolled forward. The she-dragon was close, she knew by how the connecting thread strummed wild with an overload of magic. She’d learned from being around Brecon, and his clan’s men, that the dragon species was inherently infused with more magical energy than any other. So this hunt was especially dangerous, and was the reason why her heartbeats were skyrocketing in her chest.

  A feminine voice slithered out of the darkness. “I don’t want to hurt you, but if you come any closer, I will.”

  Sonnet jerked to attention. Her eyes roamed over every inch of the alleyway, her stare trying to latch onto anything that moved, but all she could see was the concentration of magic she was following as it rapidly turned into a swirling mass of energy, branching out in every direction. Something was messing with the metaphysical frequency, making it jumpy.

  How in the hell could the dragon do that?

  “I just want to ask you a few questions,” Sonnet answered in a calm tone, while at the same time easing deeper into the alley. Probably not the smartest thing she’d ever done, but her days of running away from danger were over. She was paid good money to face it head on. And face it she would.

  The creature slid out of the shadows; she was in her human form, six feet of lean muscles, but with ample curves in all the right places. She had long, straight red hair that flowed like a shimmering wall of fire down her back, draping over a black one-piece, sleeveless shorts-jumpsuit. A silver belt was cinched around her waist. The belt had an emblem attached at the front, a symbol, maybe the elemental rune for fire.

 
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