venin assassin 03 - black shadow, p.3Gena D. Lutz
I blinked up to four sets of prying eyes. “Calm down,” I said. “I’m just checking out my new toy.”
“You’re going to keep that thing?” Edge grumbled.
I glanced over at the ice mural on the wall and smiled. “I accidentally created it, so I guess it’s mine now.”
Did he think I’d get rid of such a badass weapon? Hell no. I planned to carry this gun with me into Fairy. I had no clue what to expect there, or what I’d be up against, so the more fire power the better if you asked me.
He shook his head and didn’t say another word.
Two minutes later, we gathered up the game board and our stuff.
I sighed. “So, Rue, wanna go grab a drink?”
Rue smiled and shrugged on her jacket. “If we leave now, we can catch Torment’s last set at Strange Brew. Plus, Keri is bartending tonight. Along with a new girl.” Her features pinched together in thought. “Her name is Rave, I think.”
That perked me up. Torment was our group’s favorite band… well, second, if I were to count Jake’s band, Pyke & Ash, but he mainly gigged at Punch Drunk. And besides, I was always up to see my best friend Keri.
“You’re right. The new girl’s name is Rave.”
“How do you know?”
“Rider told me.”
She quirked her brow at me, but she didn’t say anything else.
Edge looked over and gave me a look of disapproval, which only increased my need to get the fuck out of dodge.
I stowed the game board inside the closet next to the window and grabbed my jacket off the back of my chair. “We better hurry up then.” Next, I shoved my new gun between my lower back and the waistband of my jeans and glanced over at Rue. “It would be a shame to miss out on a single note of Torment’s music.”
After an uncomfortable goodbye to the hounds, Rue and I escaped the house. Even though I was their queen, it felt like pulling werewolf’s fangs to get away from the brooding mutts for more than a couple of hours.
The second the door closed behind us, Rue said, “They sure keep you on a short leash.”
I shrugged. “They’re just overprotective. You’ll get used to it.”
“Have you gotten used to it yet?”
Ignoring the front porch steps, I jumped off the landing, sailed through the air several feet, and landed in a crouch on the other side of the car, next to the driver’s side window. I lifted the handle, swung open the door, and hopped inside before Rue’s leather boots could hit dirt.
Fear. Anger. A compulsion that poisoned the mind.
All of those emotions suddenly seeped deep inside my awareness. Someone was on my property to do harm. I just didn’t know who or to whom.
A loud growl sounded right in front of my car. It rose and rose, until it was all I could hear.
I glanced outside the window at Rue. She’d stopped dead in her tracks by the thing that was resonating menace. Fangs dropping, she braced herself. She was a fierce predator—agile, venomous, and deadly. But I couldn’t see what was stalking her, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Unfortunately, that decision came a split second too late. A blue streak of light and fur sailed through the air, the glowing form aimed at Rue. As the monster landed on her, I could finally see what it was… a werewolf. And by the blue glow surrounding its form, the parablood had been bespelled.
I jumped out of the car. “Get the fuck off her!”
Out of nowhere, another attacker came into view. This one was a parablood as well, but of the witchy variety.
A warm magic bloomed within both of my palms. “Back the hell off, bitch!” I yelled.
A silver-haired witch suddenly appeared before me. Her calloused hands slapped down on both sides of my head, hard. A cold fusion of chaos erupted inside my mind, and deep within my subconscious, I could hear my inner hellhound whimpering in pain.
“What the fuck!”
My eyes moved toward the sound of Edge’s rage. He was standing in the doorway of the mansion, cig dangling from his bottom lip, eyes wide with horror. Then, as if in slow motion, the cigarette fell to the porch, embers of red and gray ash skipping across the wood planks. His body shimmered, and in a magnificent instant, he shifted into a massive form, rolling with muscles and primal magic that covered every inch of his eight-foot length of jet-black fur.
Syn emerged from the house next with Blaze a step behind him. At the sight of their queen in trouble and their alpha on the attack, both of their bodies changed into beast form.
I managed a half-assed yell at my hounds. “Help Rue first!”
Syn and Blaze instantly followed my command.
With a growl that shook the very earth beneath my feet, Edge ignored my order and leapt onto the witch. His eyes blazed a red inferno, his giant fang-lined maw opened, then quickly closed over the witch’s shocked expression.
I felt the air knocked out of me, and then a heavy burden lifted. All at once, I was free, the magic that was holding me still, gone.
Edge landed on the opposite side of the car, the witch dangling from his jaws—her body was limp, blood spurting from what little I could see of her neck. It poured in long crimson streaks down her torso. After a firm shake to make sure he’d snapped her neck, Edge opened his mouth, and the witch’s lifeless body crumpled to the earth. I looked down at the broken body at his massive paws and thought, Shit, why would a witch be after me?
Edge howled and stole my stare, then after a bob of his head, turned toward the growls of his pack-mates. A few seconds later, he loped over to stand at my side.
I put my hands up to my head. It was wet with sweat, cool from a steady breeze that picked up the scent of blood, carrying the coppery richness of it into my nostrils. “Rue…” I opened my eyes and my senses, instantly finding her mystical scent of blueberries and coffee. Thankfully, her magic thrived with life. “Are you okay?”
When Rue finally answered, her voice was low, too low for my comfort. “Yes…”
My gaze swung to where I knew she was laying. I couldn’t see her, her body hidden behind two pacing hellhounds. They had the spelled werewolf cornered between the porch and the east side of the mansion. Their prey cowered, hackles down, ears tucked low. His body no longer shone an eerie blue color. The beast looked scared, confused, and above all else… harmless.
“Don’t hurt him!” I yelled over to Syn and Blaze.
I gestured at the wolf. “Edge, can you please go over there and make sure they don’t tear his throat out?”
I winced at that and had to force my eyes from straying over to the dead witch, whose throat was, indeed, ripped to shreds only a few feet away from where I stood.
Edge’s beast form shimmered gold, silver, and white. In the next breath, he was human again. He cleared his throat. “Sure, what should I do with the mutt?”
“Nothing, just leave him be. I’ll handle him when I regain my strength.”
His handsome dark features strained. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Go on now.”
He nodded and walked away.
I watched Edge approach the hounds, and then I knelt to where my hands pressed flat on the ground. After going completely still, I tuned out the menacing growls emanating from my hounds, as well the whimpers coming from the cowering wolf, and focused all my attention solely on the energy-laden earth that drenched my court in fairy magic. I heard a rush of energy before it soaked into my flesh. The force from the earth washed me in a cool bath. My nerves tingled, head spun, and in a few moments as I became one with the magic, whatever the witch had taken from me was fully restored.
I let my breathing even out before I stood and walked over to Rue. She sat on the ground, a long cut across her arm and stomach. The wounds were obviously claw marks and were already healing, the blood flow drying up.
Rue let out a deep sigh and balanced her arms across her knees. On the other side of her, the werewolf crouched low, Edge stood next
“Why didn’t you bite him?” I asked her.
Rue shrugged. “Because I know my bite kills. I’m not ready to deal with what comes after that.”
I examined her wounds once more, and my gut filled with rage. “You might not be so lucky next time… so you need to get over your guilt issues.”
She looked at the ground. “It’s not that easy.”
I thought about the many enemies I had killed to protect myself and others, then remembered how hard the first kill had been. “I know,” I said, sympathy softening my voice.
Rue locked eyes with me, and we shared a much-needed moment. Then my gaze shifted, and I caught the wolf’s stare.
My eyes flashed silver with power, as I said, “I need you to shift back to human form before my hellhounds rip you apart. Do you understand?”
He instantly did as I asked. The hounds shifted back into their human form, too.
The werewolf’s golden eyes swung to Rue, and with a regretful look, he said, “I’m so sorry. I was bespelled by the witch. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Even though confused and injured, Rue smiled understandingly, then nodded.
I wasn’t as easily pacified. “Why would she do that?” I questioned.
He turned and faced me. “I’m one, in at least a hundred, lone-Bloods seeking refuge from Queen Tatiana. She has put a bounty on all of our heads.” His eyes warmed with sincerity. “Even yours, Night Queen.”
My brows pulled together. Why would she want me dead?
“How did you come by this information?” Edge demanded. Reaching down, he dragged the naked man up to his feet until his stern features were less than an inch away from the man’s terrified ones.
“I heard the witch talking to the Fae Queen myself.” His words flew out.
My eyes went wide. “A parablood witch was in Fairy?” That was impossible… unless she was a mixed blood.
He shook his head emphatically. “No, she spoke with her through a mirror.”
Smoke and mirrors. Smoke hid fairy paths, and mirrors were the only means on Earth for cross-dimensional communications. There was a reason why “smoke and mirrors” was a coined phrase.
“You heard everything they were saying?”
He nodded. “Most of it, at least.”
“Why does she want me dead?”
“Because you are our only chance at sanctuary. If you mercifully accept us into your court, she can’t touch us.”
“Exactly who is the us that you’re referring to?” Was he talking about his pack?
“By that I mean all of the lone-Bloods on this side of the Fringe, and even within the Shadowlands.”
My grandmother, the Black Widow, held my father captive in The Shadowlands.
Suddenly, my nose scented the flavor of Blood of the wolf before me. “You are both para and Fae blood.” It wasn’t a question.
“Scorpion Venin specific,” he agreed.
Damn, my own species’ blood—and a very rare sub-species, to boot—ran through his mystical veins.
I shook my head, gaze traveling over my hounds, over Rue, and then back to the werewolf. “This just keeps on getting better and better.” I turned and walked up the stairs, pushed open the doors, then threw an impatient look over my shoulder at the lone wolf. “Are you coming or not?”
His features perked up. “You’ll have me?”
Truthfully, there was never a question of if I would allow him sanctuary in my court; I could sense the genuine remorse he had toward Rue for hurting her the moment the witch’s spell had lifted. And it was my belief that any Blood with a good heart that needed help would always be welcomed… Fae or not.
“Yes …” My brows creased. “By the way, what’s your name?”
“Yes, Arbor Kelley, you are welcome in my court.”
Werewolves are a species of forest dwellers. Their magical essence, the thing that makes them unique, thrives under an open sky alive with the moon. They require open spaces to run and hunt. They also need the earth to bond themselves to, to become one with, and to mark as their territory. Because of this, I knew that special accommodations would be needed if Arbor Kelley were to stay here with me. An ordinary room with artificial light, a roof, and four strangling walls would never do.
“Follow me, Arbor, and we’ll see if I can find you a place to inhabit unfazed by the threat of Tatiana and her goons.”
Edge slanted me a look that said, I’m coming with you.
My lips quirked. “I’ll be just fine with our new friend. Go out and have a beer, maybe find yourself a lady to kill time with.” I gestured toward Rue. “She’s dying to go out and get shit-faced, so why don’t you take her with you?”
Edge didn’t lose his uneasy smile. “I will go out, and take your friend, if that’s what you wish me to do.”
Ugh, so it was the “be more of a queen” crap again. I mentally shrugged. Fine.
“Yes, it is.”
After rotating his neck as if stretching out tension in the muscles there, Edge approached Rue. He held out a beefy hand and smiled devishly at her. “Would you like to join me for a few drinks?”
Rue’s midnight-blue eyes lit up to electric, she skimmed slim fingers through her long white hair, then said, “I suppose I can keep you company tonight.”
My brow rose over the sudden appearance of a dusty pink blush to Rue’s cheeks. Damn… that just went way left. I thought about it and figured those two hooking up wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could even pull Edge out of my ass a bit… give me some breathing room. But still, it was an odd thought.
“Everything seems on the level to me. And hey, while you’re out, pick me up a bottle of Pinot.” I was going to need some vino after this hellish night.
Edge’s brow arched. “You have a stocked wine cellar in the basement.”
I thought about going downstairs to the basement and cringed. The wine cellar was situated right next to the room I was kept prisoner in just a few short years ago. I shook my head and decided that I could probably go without wine for the time being.
Edge gave a single nod, Rue giggled, and they both walked out the door. After a few seconds, Edge’s motorcycle roared to life, and I turned my full attention on Arbor.
Arbor Kelley was tall, not as tall as my hounds, but close. He had golden brown eyes, tan skin, and reddish-brown hair that hung in his eyes and past his shoulders. Power glinted in his golden irises…not an inferno like Edge’s and my other hounds, or a pulsing storm like Jake’s. It was subtler, calming, like rolling tides or wind brushing through tall grass in a field. He was by no means an alpha, but still imposing nonetheless… then it hit me.
“You’re an Omega,” I said, walking him toward the stairs.
He smiled. “I am.” Then he looked at me, very seriously, as if he were seeing me for the first time. “You must be even more powerful than the rumor mill paints you to know that.”
I shrugged. “I’ve always had an innate talent for assessing a Blood’s power, even before I was made a Fae queen.”
He gave me an appreciative grin. “I must thank you again for taking me in. Not many faebloods would do such a thing.”
I let my fangs drop over my bottom lip, and my silver-gray eyes blazed pink. I winked at him. “I am, and always will be, veninblood.”
He held up his hands in fake supplication. “Alright, then.”
Laughing, I turned my brights off and pointed toward the top of the stairs. “I need to get out of these clothes; they stink of foul magic. If you’d like, I can take you to the nearest shower and have my guards bring you some fresh clothes.”
He looked down at himself and sniffed. His nose instantly crinkled. “I’d kill for a shower, thanks.”
A half an hour later, Arbor and I stood in a swath of moonlight in my backyard. He was wearing a plain white t-shirt that I’d borrowed from Syn, light blue
Arbor, like me, was a venin, but he was also a werewolf, and judging from outside appearances, it was a blending that obviously favored his wolf side.
He gazed into the moonlight, almost reverently. “What are we doing out here?” he whispered.
I hesitated, then grinned. “I’m about to welcome you home.”
He snorted softly. “My home was destroyed a long time ago, mistress.”
I felt the need to explore that statement further so I could learn more about the journey that had led Arbor Kelley—omega werewolf/scorpion venin—to my doorstep. But that discussion would have to wait. Right now, I had pressing work to do.
I held out my hands, palms facing forward. “Home can be more than just the place where you were born or raised.” I’d learned that fact not too long ago. “And please, call me Cassis.”
Arbor watched my movements intently. “I’m skeptic, Cassis, but willing to put my faith in you.”
I gently nudged at the link I shared with the earth beneath my feet and the magic that stirred in the air. I let my senses reach out into the darkness, releasing it to ripple like a silk sheet over grass and rocks, until stopping at the edge of the property, which spanned over ten thousand acres. My mouth parted, and I squeezed my eyes shut, transfixed on every granule of dirt, blade of grass, flower petal, and tree. In my mind, I could see the forest of Fairy, with its lush grass, wisteria-dripping bushes, fluffy cloudlike flowers that were vibrant with color, and tall lustrous trees. The taste of it all made my tongue come to life in a way it only could when breathing in the air that nourished Fairyland.
I opened my eyes, looking over my property, and the very breath in my lungs escaped from my lips in a torrent of amazement. Where had once been woodland with earth baring greenery, an exact replica of the forest I’d briefly visited in Fairy now thrived. The scent of magic and life was strong, the sound of rushing water a new sound for the area.
venin assassin 03 - black shadow by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes