venin assassin 03 - black shadow, p.4Gena D. Lutz
“What did you do?” Arbor whispered.
I feigned casualness, even though I was freaked out of my mind at what I was witnessing. “I made you a forest that your beasts can thrive in.”
Wanting to feel my new creation, I kicked off my boots and crept forward, carefully settling my feet on the freshly grown grass. It was cool and billowy soft. The very air wrapped around me like a comforting blanket. This was a land of my own creation—one with a mystical ecosystem that would easily support Venin, Fae, and parablood alike.
“Now let’s go find your friends before the Seelie Queen does.”
“You plan on bringing them here?”
I nodded, and with that final judgment, I knew that it was my purpose as the only Fairy Queen to ever rule a high court outside of Fairy to gather and protect any Blood seeking sanctuary here on the earthly plain.
“She will send the full wrath of her henchman to try and stop you.”
My lips curled into an anticipatory grin. “Let them come.”
I’d prepared a plan of action before leaving the mansion, and also loaded myself down with weapons suitable for battling all sorts of Bloods.
My newly acquired rune-gun was strapped snuggly to the outside of my right thigh. I had my hair tied up for easy access to my silver spider necklace, and my ancestral dagger was tucked in its respective spot, clipped to the left front pocket of my leather pants. I was ready to find and retrieve one of Arbor’s friends, Jesse, a werewolf that was being hunted unmercifully by Tatiana’s henchmen. And I planned on going at it alone.
Without a sound, I slipped behind the wheel of my car—a late model, silver and black El Camino. I drove the route that would take me into the city, to the place where Arbor told me I could find Jesse holed up. Coincidentally, the hideout was only a mile away from my old home. A warehouse that was owned by a good friend of mine, a full-blood fairy named Charlie.
As I got close, my eyes flitted over Caster Street, searching for a brick house with the numbers 2391. I spotted it and pulled the car over at a neighboring curb. I exited the car, making sure to leave the keys in the ignition for a fast getaway, if need be, and headed for the house. As I approached, I had a disturbing feeling, then someone started shouting from within. I leapt onto the roof, slowly walking across broken tiles and massive amounts of bird poop. A voice drifted to me over the cool breeze of the night, a woman begging. Feeling the urgency, I took a running jump off the ledge, landing in the backyard. An opened doorway loomed before me. I sent out my senses, searching for any individual markers, and hit pay dirt. A werewolf and a vampire were inside fighting, and by the waning power pulse that emanated from the wolf, the vampire was winning.
Not for long. I glanced at my weapons, determining which one would be deadliest toward a vampire; I quickly settled on the gun and moved through the door.
It was the werewolf who caught my attention first—flying through the air to crash against the kitchen wall, the room I’d just entered. She was half dressed, shirt torn and bloody at the collar where she was bleeding profusely. Her hair was long, jet black, falling in thick waves over her slumped shoulders and face. There were stray, bloody strands partially hiding her slack features: she had been knocked unconscious. A fuzzy blur zipped into the space, ending as a tall blond male with pale skin standing over the felled werewolf. Unlike Arbor, this vampire wasn’t under any compulsion to attack and kill. No, this ass-face’s malevolence was home grown.
I licked suddenly dry lips, then raised my gun, its runes lighting up to circle the barrel, and stepped into full view.
“Move away from the wolf.”
I caught a twitch of surprise in the vampire’s shoulders, which he tried to cover up with a snicker. “I have orders to kill this mutt from a queen who could do more damage to me than you.”
“So you know who I am then?” I tried to keep the surprise out of my voice.
The vampire looked over his shoulder at me for the first time, blond wisps of hair brushing eyebrows that framed a set of piercing red eyes. “You are the reason they all have to be culled.”
His demeanor and bravado didn’t scare me.
“Let’s get this straight. If a person chooses to kill, it’s on them, not me.”
He raised a blond, almost white, brow at that. “Then why are you here if the lone-fae’s lives are of no concern to you?”
“Any life means something to me. Your queen’s reasoning does not.”
“I will go through you if I must.” His hands, I noticed, were fisted tight. He caught my observation and loosened his grip. “The wolf will die today… along with many more traitors to the queen’s high court.”
“Not if I have anything to say about it.” I gave him a slanted grin. “And I do, of course.”
It was the truth. I had unofficially made myself the protector of the lone-fae. And all I had to say about that was—what the hell was I thinking?
I swallowed heavy and focused my thoughts on one particular shape: a sun rune. In my mind’s eye, its circular middle and seven wavy lines blazed with fire.
“What the hell is that…?” the vampire gasped.
I felt pressure against my finger before I knew that I’d actually made the conscience decision to pull the trigger.
The vampire’s viperous gaze widened as a bright light covered his entire body. Then I heard a gruesome Pop! Splash!
Once my vision cleared, my gaze landed on what was left of the vampire: a pool of blueish-brown liquid. “You’re kidding me,” I said, gazing at the gun in my hand, then back to the puddle. “I didn’t know it could do that!”
As my heart raced with adrenaline, I heard a whimper. Quickly putting my gun away, I jumped over the vampire-blob, landing next to the wolf. She looked up at me, her large brown eyes glazed over with pain, her arms trembling as she tried to push up off the floor. She was badly hurt.
I reached over and stayed her efforts by laying a hand over one of her unsteady arms. “Give yourself a second. We have time.”
The woman shook her head. “They know where I am. They’ll be coming for me.”
“They’ll not harm you again, Jesse. I won’t let them,” I reassured her.
She jerked away, as though she finally realized that I, too, was a complete stranger to her. “How do you know my name?”
“Arbor sent me.”
That calmed her.
“I see,” she said, a hint of suspicion still in her voice, then her unfocused gazed moved over to where the vampire’s remains glistened a macabre midnight-blue in the moonlight spilling in from the open kitchen window. “Is that your handiwork?”
She wiped a trace of blood off her lip. “Then whoever you are, it’s nice to meet you.”
I smiled. “You can call me Cassis.”
After a few more minutes, I helped Jesse to her feet. She stumbled, then slumped against the wall, until finally she gained her bearing. She hesitated for a moment, then stood straight, and putting one foot in front of the other, she limped toward the front door.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said anxiously.
I nodded. “My car’s out front. It’s the black El Camino.”
With each step, her gait improved, until she was strolling across the front lawn as if nothing happened. Werewolves healed fast, even faster than a venin, but not half as fast as a vampire.
Magic spun around me, dark and primal, the moment I walked by a silver, newer model Mercedes coupe. “This is his car,” I observed.
Jesse turned and looked over the expensive vehicle with disgust. “Fucking vampires.”
Most vampires had a thing for bling… it was as if the need for riches was hardwired in their brains—the more opulent a car, house, or clothing, the better.
“Do you mind dropping me at a friend’s house?” Jesse asked, stopping next to the El Camino’s passenger side door. “It’s not far from here.”
I nodded, but then thought about it.
“Are you open to other options?” I asked, hopping in on my side.
Jesse pulled the door closed and shrugged. “Sure.”
I glanced over at her. “I can bring you to see Arbor. He’s staying with me now.”
Her brow popped up. “Are you two, like, a thing or something?”
My gazed moved forward, almost hiding my smile—her assumption was an easy mistake to make. “No, Jesse… it’s not like that at all.”
She smiled. “That’s good because I kind of got a thing for him.”
I kept one eye on the road and one on the werewolf. She was blushing underneath the blood that was smeared across her face, and she stared off into the distance thoughtfully.
“Does he know how you feel?”
She shook her head. “Not at all, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Jesse ran a hand through the length of her hair, her fingers snagging where the blood dried and muddled the pieces together. “There’s just too much going on right now.”
I had a nagging sense of something more bugging her, but without any prior knowledge of her life and what she’d been through, I had no choice but to take her at face value.
Jesse’s hand fell away from her hair, and she began to fidget over a spot at her knee where her jeans were threadbare. I shivered, remembering how I’d had that same habit when wearing a certain pair of my own jeans—the first pair I’d ever bought myself using the money I’d earned from my first job at the Sun Soak tanning salon. My throat went suddenly dry at the memory, and a tingle traveled down my spine. Those jeans were gone now, taken from me and burned the first night of my captivity.
“Cassis… hey, are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m okay.” The lie burned my tongue. I guess I was part faeblood after all.
I couldn’t believe that those memories still haunted me. Sterling’s face emerged in my head as a visitor from beyond the grave, and I speared a thought at her phantom features… It felt good to kill you, you psychotic bitch.
Sneaking into your own home, especially when you have a werewolf slinking in the door beside you, is not easy.
“Do you live with your parents or something?” Jesse whispered.
She gave me an “are you kidding me” look as we crept like cat burglars across the marble foyer.
Okay, maybe I could see why she would ask that.
“Look, it’s either this, or you’ll get to meet the welcoming committee,” I explained as quietly as possible.
She gave me another quizzical look.
My lips twisted with frustration. “Trust me, you’ll meet the motley squad tomorrow.”
That must have been good enough because Jesse nodded and continued to slink next to me, then in the next second, her charm bracelet brushed across the foyer table making a scraping sound, and my heart leapt like a frog into my throat.
Dammit, I thought. There’s no way they didn’t hear that.
I wasn’t necessarily scared to run into one of my hellhounds, but after ghosting on them without a word—even though I was a grown-ass woman who could do as she damn well pleased—I didn’t have the energy to deal with all their questions. All I wanted to do was show Jesse to a guest room and then crawl into my own bed because I was done with this day.
We headed up the stairs, made it to the landing, and tiptoed our way down the hall, and until now, I hadn’t realized how freaking long the corridor was.
“This is where you’ll sleep tonight,” I whispered, stopping at the bedroom door situated next to mine.
Jesse gripped the knob and turned it. “Thanks again, Cassis, for everything,” she said as low as a whisper could go.
Apparently, it wasn’t low enough.
Her sparkling brown eyes moved over my shoulder, her stare traveling up to a height that reached at least a full foot above my head. She gave a blink, blink at the hellhound hovering behind me before her gaze moved to mine. Jesse’s expression screamed sorry-not-sorry. “If that’s your welcoming committee, I have no clue in hell why you’re avoiding him.” She chuckled, waggled her brows, then scrambled her smart-ass inside the room.
Well, fuck. Feeling abandoned by a double-crossing werewolf, I turned to face the music.
Edge let out a frustrated sigh. “Who was that?”
The smile that spread across my face felt forced until I noticed a look of real worry pulling at his features, and it quickly fell into what I could only describe as a shameful frown. “Her name is Jesse, a friend of Arbor’s. She’s also one of the lone-Bloods on Tatiana’s hit list.”
He crossed his arms over a bare, thickly muscled chest that heaved with a heavy exhale as he absorbed what I said. “You’ve been up to your vigilante bullshit again, haven’t you?”
“It’s my job.”
“No, it’s not.”
I shrugged, unsheathed my knife, and fisted my gun, holding them both up between us. “Then why do I carry these?”
“Those weapons are for your protection,” he explained in a way that made it seem as though I should have already known that. And I did, but Edge was forgetting one important detail…
“I do use them for protection, but I also need them to help others.”
He scowled as he raked frustrated fingers through his dark hair. “How am I supposed to keep you safe when all you do is jump from one searing frying pan to the fucking next?”
I shrugged again, putting my weapons away with the downward motion. “This is what I do, what I’ve always done. Deal with it.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Is that an order, your majesty?”
“Low fucking blow,” I said, pushing by him and walking straight into my room. I didn’t bother to shut the door because Edge would have just broken it down to get to me. Hellhounds weren’t your garden variety male… they smashed down barriers, walked through hellfire, and would gnaw through bones, if they had to, to protect what belonged to them… and make no mistake, I belong to each one of my hounds as much, if not more than, they did to me. To say they were stubborn and protective as hell would be the understatement of the century, especially when dealing with an alpha of the species.
“What are you doing?” he asked, barging into my chambers, stopping inches from me.
I turned and squared off with him. “I’m going to bed.”
His eyes lingered on my disinterested expression, which I was making on purpose, even though I knew it would rile him even further.
A small gust of air that smelled like rain and grass entered through the open window, making pieces of loose hair flutter into my eyes. Edge reached out and tucked a fiery red lock behind my ear. “Do you think this is a joke?” His voice was soft, but serious, his gesture gentle.
I blinked, and something akin to amusement ran through me. Damn it if I was going to let Edge sucker a half-assed excuse out of me with his manly wiles. I didn’t have a choice but to help people; it was a goddamn compulsion that I couldn’t even clarify to myself. So how in the world could I explain it to him?
I leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “I’m tired, Edge. Let me sleep.”
Some of the tension slipped out of his features. He must’ve seen how exhausted I really was. Creating fairy worlds in my backyard and fighting vampires took a lot of magic and energy—I was tapped out. At that thought, I breathed in another mouthful of the fresh air rushing into my chambers. The distinct flavor of magic was delightful.
He glanced at his watch, and then said, “It’s almost daylight. The elves will be waking soon.” He walked toward the door, then stopped. “I’ll make sure the house stays quiet until noon so you can get some good rest.”
It was five a.m., and the sun was about to rise. The vampires in Rowen City would be making their way underground, unless they were one of the more affluent monsters. The rich ones would be dropping their UV screens in preparation for the onslaught of daylight. In a few hours, my household would
I nodded slowly, and my ponytail swung as I slunk toward my bed, dropping weapons on top of the dresser and my clothes on the ground with each step. “I’d appreciate that.” I crawled naked into bed, my eyes already closing.
Edge grumbled a curse as he abandoned the doorway and walked over to the dresser. After pulling open the top drawer, he filled it with my weapons. “You really should take better care of your things.”
My shoulders shrugged into my pillow. “They were fine where I put them, but thank you. Can you shut the door behind you?”
“Yeah,” he said, looking at the littered floor where there was at least two days’ worth of clothes strewn about. “I’ll inform the house lady of your need for a room sanitizing.”
My face scrunched up like a spoiled toddler’s. “I’d rather you didn’t, Edge. Brownies give me the heebie-jeebies. You know that.”
I wasn’t lying about that. Brownies did freak me out. It had all started when I ran into my first one while living in Charlie’s warehouse loft. The three-foot-nothing Brownie, who I later found out was named Gromly, was with Charlie’s sister, Finley. They’d come stumbling in after a long night of drinking, and I must’ve scared Gromly because as soon as he caught sight of me, he shrieked, lifted a short arm, and started whacking me in the head with a staff. After that night, I learned two things. Brownies love honey—it was the only thing that would calm Gromly down after he’d attacked me—and the second, stay as far away from a Brownie as possible.
I found myself rubbing at a phantom pain at the top of my head. Gromly really knew how to use that staff.
venin assassin 03 - black shadow by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes