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Sweet venom a venin assa.., p.3
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       Sweet Venom (A Venin Assassin Novel Book 1), p.3

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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Five…four…

  I shook my head with exhausted spirit. “You know what?”

  She snorted. “I do.”

  One.

  Edge was on the move.

  I slammed the door shut, secured the flimsy lock, and propped the fairy killer’s dead body up against it. I could hear the low growl of a hellhound on the other side before a big knuckled fist punched straight through the wood, stopping less than an inch from my nose.

  “Shit!” I shrieked.

  Keri had the window open in two seconds flat, and she was out of it even faster than that. In the spirit of staying alive, I leapt out behind her.

  My body sailed through the air like a jet plane. The hellhound’s infuriated roar followed me as I hit the grass running fast enough for me to dispense of any pesky climbing; instead, I cleared the brick wall in one jump.

  Keri was already behind the wheel of the Mustang, revving its powerful engine. One final sprint, a quick jump through the open window feet first, and my leather-clad ass was pressed safely against the passenger seat of a now fast-moving vehicle.

  “Goddamit, that was close!” Keri hollered, then jerked the wheel.

  I cocked a brow. Was that laughter I heard in her voice?

  “You’re one crazy bitch.”

  She chuckled. “Thanks.”

  The car swung into the street just as I spotted the ginormous silhouette of a hellhound landing in the spot we’d just fled from.

  Edge in hound form was an imposing thing—fast, strong, and vicious—not an enemy you’d want trailing hot on your heels. But, as a dose of good luck would have it, his mangy ass couldn’t out run the Mustang, not when Keri was driving it, anyway.

  The thick smell of blood quickly faded making way for a new scent to enter my senses. I turned and gazed over the seat. I switched my sight to infrared and spotted a round mass shifting underneath Keri’s red leather jacket on the floorboard of the car.

  I couldn’t actually see the snake venin, but I knew she was there.

  I smiled and said, “You can come out now, Rue. It’s safe.”

  Keri’s eyebrow rose, and she darted a quick look over her shoulder at the backseat. “Oh good, you made it out. I have to admit, I was worried you’d freeze up on us and get yourself killed and made into boots.”

  Rue must have recognized my voice. She pushed the jacket aside and slid onto the seat, moving with a fluidity of grace only a snake venin could muster.

  Keri’s concentration went back to driving.

  “Are you okay?” I asked Rue.

  With how round her normally slanted eyes were, the slight trembling of her limbs, and the washed out color of her skin, I could tell that she was in a state of shock. She still managed to nod at me.

  Memories from two years prior slammed into my head. There were several women running through my thoughts, most high on the drugs the queen’s hellhounds furnished us—‘us’ as in her harem. Other women, some venin, para-blood, fairy, and even a rare human, played cards amongst themselves, and board games; computers and telephones weren’t permitted within the queen’s court. A sixty-inch flat screen television was our only link to the outside world. In this memory, I sat in front of the television, a martial arts movie with a title I cannot remember playing on the screen. That’s when I heard Ice’s voice, gruff and fearsome.

  “I’ve brought another guest to the slumber party.”

  Almost numb from the drugs, I still managed to turn around in my seat.

  His evil blue eyes focused on me, and I fell into their depths and sunk, as if I’d fallen into a churning, murky sea void a surface to escape.

  “I’ll see you later tonight,” he assured me. And I sank deeper still.

  My body shivered in real time. The son of a bitch had kept that promise.

  My eyes narrowed at him, but that’s about all the stubbornness I had left in me. The rest of it had been beaten out a long time ago. Or so I’d thought.

  He pulled a young girl into the room, his hand gripped tight around her arm. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen years old. By her black-as-night eyes, I knew she was a snake venin. She was beautiful, but all of the queen’s ladies were. Her eyes were slanted, and snow white hair, shiny and long, draped to her waif-like waist. She wore a red dress that resembled my own but longer. Mine stopped mid-thigh; hers had reached past her boney knees. It was also looser—probably because she was a full foot shorter than I was.

  Her fear was evident; Ice’s perverse pleasure over that fact was just as obvious. He squeezed her arm tighter. She winced and let out a small cry.

  That’s when I somehow sobered enough to stand.

  Any noise that remained in the room ceased with my insanity.

  “Are you such a puny little man that you need to get your rocks off by hurting women?” I said, loud enough for the entire room to hear and for me to notice a drug-induced slur to my voice.

  I swallowed hard after saying that because, like I said, I thought I’d been tamed. Apparently not.

  That made Ice’s face heat up. He didn’t like to be stood up to, or talked down to, like that. All of us knew it. I guess I was just fed up. Ice harming such a small and fragile creature, right in front of me, had brought me to my boiling point.

  He hesitated, blinking a few times.

  The sick feeling in my stomach rose by several degrees as I waited for him to lash out at me, but he didn’t. That scared me more than anything.

  My knees wobbled, and I had to fight to stay standing.

  Finally, he tossed the tiny woman by her arm all the way into the room. She stayed where she landed, scared to death. Her whimpers continued.

  For the first time since I’d been sold to the queen, a prayer was answered. Ice left after one more devious look in my direction, and a mumbled, “To be continued.”

  I fell to the ground next to the tiny woman and ran my trembling fingers across her tear-stained cheek. Our eyes met. Mine, glazed. Hers, a pool of sorrow. An instant bond between us forged, one that couldn’t be broken. Not even by a bag full of drugs, a whip, and a whirlwind of chaos.

  Cold, crisp air from the open window washed across my flaming cheeks.

  “Sis! Where are we going?”

  Keri hit a pothole, and I bit my bottom lip. “Ouch! Huh?” I asked sucking it into my mouth. A coppery taste blossomed across my tongue.

  “I said, where to?”

  “Oh,” I thought about it, “let’s head over to Strange Brew.”

  She shook her head. “Nope, none of us are dressed for it.” She sniffed the air. “And you’re bleeding like a stuck pig.”

  “How about my place?”

  She nodded. “The loft it is.”

  Chapter Four

  My loft was large, eclectically decorated, on the top floor of a three-story warehouse turned residential property in Rowan City, New York, adjacent to Harlem.

  At first glance, it didn’t seem a welcoming place to trespass, but that was the point. It had a barbed wire fence surrounding it and had my neighbor Tobias’s two mean-looking Rottweilers roaming the grounds.

  As we pulled up to the gate, a cool breeze brought the normal scents of home to me, along with the growling barks from Lucifer and Hades. I hopped out of the idling car and keyed in the code to unlock the entrance. The dogs kept their distance and their golden eyes trained on the Mustang. After waving Keri through and taking one quick glance around, I closed the gate behind me and jogged across the gravel to the front entry of the building.

  I opened the door and felt a tingling sensation slip across my neck. It was my second-floor neighbor—not Tobias, he occupied the first level. The magic flare was coming from my neighbor who was more powerful in otherworldly magic than Tobias and I put together. Her name was Charlie, and she was a pure blood fairy.

  The sensation brushing across my neck turned into an urgent tug. It told me that something was wrong, that she was agitated. I fought down a shiver and waited for Keri and Rue to enter the building before
closing and locking the door behind them.

  I held out my keys to Keri and said, “You two go on up. Charlie needs to talk with me.”

  Rue and Keri exchanged glances. Rue’s was pensive and Keri’s prickly.

  We moved into the elevator, and after the doors shut, Keri nudged me in the side. “Hurry up, okay?”

  The doors slid open to the second floor. “This shouldn’t take long,” I promised, getting out.

  Rue’s midnight blue eyes flickered mischief at me. Even though it was nice to see my old friend’s spirit returning, I warned, “You keep those fangs of yours sheathed until we can talk about your new gifts, okay?”

  She nodded, and Keri took a couple steps to the side, away from the newly turned snake venin.

  Rue cocked her head. “I’m not used to anyone being afraid of me.” She sounded amazed.

  Keri gave her the side eye. “Please. I’m not scared of you. I’m just not stupid.”

  I chuckled. No, Keri was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

  A woman who was fair of skin with pixie-like features opened the door to her loft, as I emerged from the elevator. It was Charlie, the beautiful fairy who owned the building. She wore a Tiffany Blue jumpsuit with her blonde hair tied up into a loose bun. She waited for the elevator doors to close behind me and waved me inside.

  “Are you okay?” I asked looking around her opulently decorated loft.

  “I am. But my sister is not.”

  She was getting right to the chase. I liked that.

  In her hand she clutched a four-by-six picture frame. The photo inside was of a six-inch fairy with her wings out, hovering in front of a bookcase. She was pretty and lean with the body of a dancer. Her hair was a shade lighter than Charlie’s and chin-length. Her eyes the same shade of sapphire.

  When I looked up from the photo, Charlie’s watery eyes were fixed on me.

  “She’s been missing for two days. I was hoping you could help find her.”

  “Of course I will.”

  There was no question about it, I would help her. If it hadn’t been for Charlie finding me asleep in an abandoned car behind Althea’s Diner, a few blocks from here, I wouldn’t have had a place to stay, rent free, for the past year. I owed her everything. She was like the older sister I’d never had.

  Charlie looked at the photo in her hand and flipped over the frame. It took her a couple tries to open it because her hands were shaking. Licking her trembling lips, she tossed the empty frame onto the couch, and said, “I’ll cast a locator spell on this picture of Finley. It won’t bring you directly to her, but it will supply you with a little good luck to help you during the search. But first,” she pointed at my pants, “you need to take those off, and your shirt. I can smell your wounds bleeding from here.”

  I shook my head. “It can wait.”

  “Cassis,” her tone got deeper, “take them off now, before I strip you myself.”

  I slipped off my boots, then stripped my blood-soaked socks, pants, and underwear from my body. Next, I unzipped my shirt and had to peel that off, too. The wounds at my arm and leg still seeped blood, staining my body an odd shade of red.

  Charlie’s eyes went wide. “It’s a wonder you’re still standing!”

  I sighed. “I didn’t know it was this bad.”

  She reached over and touched my forehead with the back of her fingers. “You’re burning up.”

  Charlie stormed across the living room and pushed open the bathroom door, disappearing out of sight. A few second later, I heard the shower turn on.

  “Come in here!” she demanded.

  I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me, and walked into the bathroom.

  Charlie was kneeling over the tub. “Don’t mess with the settings; I left it cold for a reason. Oh, and leave the door open so I can check on you.”

  After she gave me a look that told me she meant business, she stood, pointed at the running water, and left.

  I obediently stepped inside of the claw foot tub and pulled the curtain half closed around me. I then grabbed the handheld showerhead from its cradle and began the long process of scrubbing the blood from my body.

  Charlie strolled back inside the room a moment later holding a stack of folded clothes in her hands.

  “It worries me, you out there at night fighting and bleeding for people you don’t even know.”

  She set the clothes down on the sandstone counter.

  I cleared my throat and kept scrubbing. “I wish someone would have done the same for me when I needed it.”

  “Bad things happen,” Charlie said, a little louder than she probably wanted to.

  I gazed through the crack in the curtain and spotted a look of disapproval flush pink across her cheeks. The emotion was quickly followed by a brow arch of unease. She was thinking about Finley, no doubt.

  “I’ll never get used to it.” I cringed at my own tone—bitter and miserable.

  Instantly the air turned heavy with tension. I turned the water off, stepped from the tub, and grabbed the towel off the toilet seat. After wrapping myself with it, I went to Charlie and put a hand on her shoulder.

  “It’s going to be okay. I’ll find her.”

  I watched Charlie’s eyes well with unspent tears, and the pressure in the room thickened. Anytime a fairy experienced strong emotions, the environment around him or her reflected it. It was how I knew she needed me earlier, and it was also how I knew she needed me still.

  “I know,” she nodded, “and when you do find her, I ask only one thing.”

  I nodded back. “What is it?”

  “If someone took her, or has hurt her in any way, you make them pay.”

  Charlie’s eyes flashed with murderous intent. “And I’m talking the kind of payment that ends with a dagger lodged deep inside of the son of a bitch’s gut that did it.”

  I took a deep breath, knowing that I would make it my life’s mission to honor her request, and said, “Consider it done.”

  For several seconds, we just looked at each other. Then I jerked my head toward the stack of clothes. “Are those for me?”

  Charlie’s voice picked up a false liveliness. “Yes. But wait one second.”

  I leaned against the wall with my arms crossed and watched Charlie place the photo of Finley on top of the counter and take a step back. She stripped the clothes from her body, went rigidly still, then suddenly let out a potent burst of energy that left me nauseous and dizzy. Her wings sprang forth from her back, delicate pink, shimmering underneath the light as they gently quivered and stretched into place.

  By the way she was wearing her blonde hair up in a bun, she resembled a life-size Tinkerbelle doll.

  I continued to watch her since I didn’t know what else to do… other than bleed. About that—I grabbed the t-shirt off the pile and went about making bandages for my wounds. On her side of the room, Charlie picked up the picture of her sister and began beating her wings.

  There was a problem. Being that there was only so much room in the bathroom for me, Charlie, and her wing span to occupy, I ended up outside in the living room holding the stripped shirt in my hands.

  I glanced down at my leg, red and tender, but otherwise rapidly healing. I tied a few of the strips around my wounds, figuring better safe than sorry.

  The sound of hollow bells rushed through the loft. I caught the faint scent of honeysuckle right before Charlie called me back in the bathroom.

  As I entered, she smiled and held out the picture. “It’s ready.”

  I made my way over to her and took it. The moment the flimsy paper made contact with my skin, I could tell it had been recently enchanted. She’d done a hell of a good job… maybe too good by how uncomfortable it was to the touch.

  After slipping on the shorts and what was left of the shirt Charlie set out for me, I stuffed the picture in the front pocket. I opened my mouth to say something reassuring but was interrupted.

  “I know you’ll find her. I haven’t seen you
fail yet.”

  I wanted to ask her why she had so much faith in me. But I knew not to. She needed to believe I would find Finley, to hold that faith.

  So, I simply said, “Who was the last person she was with?”

  I had a hunch she’d know; she kept a short leash on all the people she cared for, including me. Her worry was how I gained use of the ear transmitters for my Rue-saving mission. The protective leather clothing I’d ruined had come from her as well.

  “She went to see that good for nothing carny, Jake. I visited him yesterday, and he insists that Finley only stopped by his trailer for a quick visit.” She paused and cocked her head to the side. “I believed him, too.”

  My brow lifted. “Why?”

  “He stuck to his story, even after I threatened to shrink his balls.”

  “Damn, woman. Can you actually shrink a man’s balls?”

  Charlie shrugged. “No, but he didn’t know that.”

  She reached out and put a hand over my heart. Her power poured freely inside me. She’d done the same thing to me before I’d left to find Rue. It was the faeblood version of a protection spell.

  “Please hurry. I have a feeling she’s in grave danger.”

  I closed my hand around hers and answered, “I’ll take a trip over to the carnival tonight.”

  Her eyes dropped to my wounded leg.

  I smiled. “Don’t worry. It’s almost healed.”

  Charlie’s power flowed through me once more, a cleansing of sorts. “Just in case.”

  Five minutes later, I was standing in the middle of my living room, playing peacekeeper between Keri and Rue.

  I silently counted to three, then said, “What in the hell is going on here?”

  Keri’s index finger jabbed the air in Rue’s direction. My god, she was pissed, and by the red welt on her face in the shape of a small hand, she’d also been recently hit.

  “That ungrateful reptile hit me! I’ll kill her!”

  Her fist flew. I avoided the blow, grabbed her shoulder, and hauled her backwards until she hit the wall.

  “What the hell, Keri!” I shouted.

  She pushed against me, making me stumble to the side. I caught my balance and thrust her back against the wall.

 
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