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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.4

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Chapter Eight

  Five minutes later, the car pulled up to an abandoned gas station.

  Sonnet leaned forward and peered through the windshield at the dilapidated building in front of her. The shop was little more than a cracked and splintered wood frame, plagued with Do Not Enter, Private Property, and Condemned signs hanging from what was left of the exterior walls. The land around the gas station was barren, and in the far distance, a mountain took up most of the landscape as far as the eye could see.

  Mother fucker! He took me out to the middle of nowhere, like some serial killer.

  “What the hell is this, Bane? Why’d you bring me to this place?”

  She pulled her jacket around her chest to better conceal the hand she was stuffing up her shirt. It was probably an unnecessary precaution, but better safe than sorry was a motto she lived by. As her fingers squeezed around the plastic handle of the squirt gun, hanging practically in her lap, she felt a little better.

  “I thought we agreed to work together.”

  Bane rolled his eyes at her and opened the door.

  “Just get out of the car.”

  She pinned him with a pointed stare.

  “I swear, if you’re some kinda rapist-serial-killin’ vampire... I’ll... I’ll... kill you! That’s what!”

  The two of them got out of the car. Sonnet, with a lot more reluctance than Bane had. Nervous bubbles of panic popped inside her stomach, spreading throughout every nerve ending in her body. But somehow, she found the strength to keep on walking towards him, trusting that he wasn’t out to murder her. Hell, why would he bother to take her all the way out there for that? He could have just as easily drained her behind the private gates of his estate. Besides, there was still something about the vampire that made her trust him.

  The closer she got to the rundown building, the more her nerves felt like they were catching fire. Sonnet stopped abruptly and grabbed Bane’s arm.

  “Somethin’s not right here.”

  His boots skidded to a stop next to her, with a sharp gaze scanning the area.

  “What do you mean?”

  Sonnet’s fingers crumpled the material at the front of her shirt. And breathing became almost impossible for her.

  “I’m feelin’ things that I’ve never felt before. It’s sort of like how I feel when I’m huntin’ vampires, but, my God, it’s a million times worse.”

  She dropped to one knee and swallowed a scream. Strong arms wrapped around her shoulders.

  “It will be okay, little fox. Take long, even breaths. Work through this. The pain won’t go away, but you can learn to ease it back some.”

  “How the hell would you know?” she choked out.

  “I know this, because you’re a hunter. And you’re reacting to the presence of several different paranormal species at once, bombarding your senses. And from what I can tell, you’ve never had to deal with that kind of hit before.”

  “Do you mean to tell me that there are other paranormal creatures, besides vampires?”

  She shook her head in denial, the thought terrifying. And the pain that the additional creatures’ proximity caused her was almost unbearable.

  “Tell me what to do. How do I stop this?”

  “There is only one way that I know of... but you won’t like it.”

  Sonnet clenched her fist around Bane’s forearm. She could feel the outline of bone underneath the flesh there, she was squeezing that hard. She looked up at him with a face almost as pale as chalk, eyes strained, and her mouth working slowly.

  “Please. Make it stop.”

  In a flash of movement and desperation, Bane flipped Sonnet over. She landed gently, with her back braced against his forearm and the rest of her body cradled in his lap. By the time she was settled, the only words she could muster were soft moans of pain pushed out from between slack lips. The nearly undecipherable whimpers connected to form a horrific string of, “I’m sc... scared.”

  Those words were like an acid bath to Bane’s ears.

  “Hang on, little fox. I won’t let anything happen to you. I swear it.”

  Sonnet’s arms and legs were still. She groaned and blinked, struggling to push through the pain. But it consumed her fully, too much for her to take. She went limp.

  Before he lost it entirely, Bane swallowed a breath before biting into his wrist.

  “You’re not going anywhere, Sonnet. I just found you, and there’s no way in fucking hell I’m going to lose you. Not now... not ever.”

  His blood-coated wrist hovered over Sonnet’s mouth. The magical fluid dripped slowly, seeping into the slackened gap between her lips. Bane squeezed his nails into his palms, manually pumping the blood from the puncture wounds. But the amount of liquid wasn’t enough; she needed more.

  “Shit!”

  He brought his wrist up, and instead of biting down, that time, he ripped through the flesh with his razor-sharp teeth, causing the blood to pour out in sheets of red. His lids lowered over eyes full of dark clouds.

  “Drink, Sonnet... please. I can’t lose you.”

  After only a few seconds, Sonnet’s eyes cracked open. They held an expression of worry and confusion.

  Bane’s relief at her recovery was immediate, and that bothered him. It had been a long time since he felt so strongly about another person, where the thought of anything ever happening to her made him weak. He already knew he was forming an unhealthy attraction to Sonnet. The unnatural pull took hold the instant he saw her in the parking lot with her friend, as she turned away, unable to bear the sight of the slaying of his kinsman. He hadn’t told Sonnet yet, but he’d been sent on the same mission.

  Kill Sabastian, a rogue, a murderer, and a traitor to the city. The king had ordered him to be culled. And as the blood enforcer to his dark majesty, it was Bane’s duty to make sure the order was carried out.

  His eyes closed, and with them, his chin dropped to almost reach his chest. The soft touch of Sonnet’s hand shocked him into releasing a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding. The sound of her shaky voice melted over him, fueling his relief. His stubborn little fox was okay.

  “I feel better. The pain’s all but gone. How’s that possible?” Sonnet asked as the flavor of copper rolled over her taste buds.

  She soon realized what the taste was.

  “What the hell?”

  Her fingers slid across her lips, and she peered at the glistening red blood that transferred onto them. Her eyes moved to his. He blinked slowly and smiled. She didn’t smile back. Instead, she glowered at him.

  “Did you feed me your blood, vampire?”

  Chapter Nine

  Images of her mouth pressed against Bane’s skin, nibbling and sucking at the flesh there, bombarded Sonnet’s thoughts. She surged upright, out of his lap, landing light and steady, like a cat.

  My God, I feel great! Like a million bucks!

  If it weren’t for the fact that it wasn’t playtime, but rather, track-down-the-monster-and-kill-him time, she would’ve been doing cartwheels. And she knew she had Bane’s blood to thank for the extra boost of strength and energy. And that pissed her off.

  Bane pushed to his feet in one fluid motion. It reminded Sonnet of a snake lifting up from a tight coil. His movements were that natural and effortless. She had a hunch that his strike could be just as honed—deadly.

  Sonnet felt a rush of power, her own power, as inherent instincts pulled her towards the condemned building. She ignored the impulse and focused instead on the vampire who was shaking his head and brushing dust from his jeans. Was that shake in reference to her? Probably.

  “Yes,” Bane said, dragging a hand through his hair. “I did feed you some of my blood. I did this only to save you.”

  Sonnet was so not down with becoming a vampire.

  “Holy hell! Does that mean I’m gonna turn into a blood-suckin’ creature of the night?”

  She cringed at the thought of biting into someone’s neck and having to consume blood. Blech
! Repulsive. She stuffed a finger inside her mouth and felt around.

  “You better hope I don’t find fangs, buddy, or you’ll be the first person I bite.”

  Bane’s lips compressed into an exasperated line.

  “I would never convert someone without their consent. But yes, woman, I did heal you, and you’re just going to have to deal with that.”

  She blinked at him several times, realizing that she had been rude, in light of the situation. He did just give up a pivotal part of himself to ease her pain.

  “I guess I should probably thank you.”

  “The thought did cross my mind.”

  She closed the few feet between them, reached out, and gave him an awkward pat on the shoulder. Bane lifted a brow and smiled.

  “Thank you.”

  Bane’s hand came down over hers, skin against skin, as he held it flat on his shoulder. She could detect the throb of her pulse pick up as she felt the contour of his muscles underneath the flimsy fabric of his shirt. She noticed heat flare within her at his touch.

  Leaning in close to her ear, he said, “Believe me, little fox, it was my pleasure.”

  His tone sent an extreme spike of arousal coursing through her system. That, paired with the flame spreading from their touch, had the kindling of her control burnt down to embers. Fortunately, he chose that second to pull away.

  “I need to give you something before we enter the city.”

  Shaking off the lingering effects of his charm, she said, “Wa, huh? Okay.”

  A soft smile stretched his lips.

  “Be right back.”

  When he returned from the car a minute later, he was carrying a brown leather satchel.

  His eyes radiated warmth as they landed on her.

  “This artifact has been in my care for centuries,” he said, holding out the bag.

  Sonnet looked down at it with a grimace. The leather it was made out of was barely worn, and the silver buckles strapping it shut shone like new.

  “Yeah, right. I highly doubt that.”

  Bane’s expression showed his annoyance as his gaze moved to the bag dangling from his grip. After some thought, his features smoothed, and he chuckled.

  “No, love, not the bag. I’m referring to what’s inside it.”

  He unbuckled the strap and pulled opened the leather flap. His hand ducked in and then pulled out something she never expected a vampire to be carrying. It was an instrument that could bring forth his demise—a wooden stake about a foot and a half long, with a tip made of what she assumed to be silver. Bane took a full breath and then held the stake out to her.

  “Here. It’s yours now.”

  Sonnet’s arm all but jerked out and grabbed the stake on its own. She’d always had a thing for weapons, especially ones that could protect her from the monsters she hunted. Embarrassed over her eagerness to obtain it, she turned her head to the side and absently scanned the surrounding landscape, which was nothing more than a bunch of dirt and shriveled-up dead things.

  “Sorry. Sometimes I can be a little... eager.”

  Bane looked at her like she’d just shot up a few levels on the interesting scale.

  “That’s not a bad thing to be.”

  A blush stained her cheeks as she bit her bottom lip. It was an involuntary response to his flirting, which she was getting pretty damn tired of.

  Sonnet reached behind her, tucking the stake between the waistband of her jeans and the bare skin of her back. The cool silver tip pressed hard into her left butt cheek. She was thankful that she’d decided to wear a pair of boy-shorts underneath her clothes, instead of her usual lace or silk panties. The thicker cotton fabric helped to keep the tip from leaving scratches.

  “If you’re finished, I’d like to get a move on. We’re losin’ moonlight.”

  Bane gave a quick nod and lifted the bag.

  “Just let me throw this back in the car first.”

  Chapter Ten

  Sonnet watched as Bane opened the door of the gas station. It creaked and whined under the pressure as he pulled. He turned to look at her, his side profile just as striking as every other view of him. She cursed under her breath, quickly shutting down those types of thoughts before they bloomed into hot vampire fantasies.

  “Come on. We’ll go in this way.”

  She cleared her throat and said, “Yeah, I’m comin’. But I don’t get why goin’ into that rundown heap is gonna accomplish anything other than a severe case of tetanus.”

  He eyed her over his shoulder.

  “Just come on. You’ll see.”

  Sonnet huffed up the three stairs that led to Bane and the collapsing entrance to the building.

  “Can you say somethin’ other than ‘you’ll see’? I’m not big on surprises. They lead me to crappy rundown woodpiles out in the middle of nowhere, with a vampire escort.”

  He swung the door open wide.

  “I understand, but there are some things you have to see to believe.”

  They both walked over the threshold, Bane guiding Sonnet through with a hand at the small of her back. A sudden flash of blue light blinded her, and then a quick pop-pop-pop echoed in her ears. Sonnet almost stopped, but Bane grabbed her around the arm and pulled her with him. When they finally made it through to the other side of the door, her mouth dropped open in surprise at what she saw.

  A roll of fog hindered her view of the ground. Tall trees loomed overhead, lining the dirt path they were standing on. A familiar ache started in her gut, but it didn’t worsen like before. It just pulsed in one place, a subtle warning that vampires were near. Bane’s blood was still working its magic, but she knew its effects wouldn’t sustain the peace forever. Eventually, she’d have to drink more of his blood or get the fuck out of Dodge.

  She swung around, looking for the door they’d just emerged from. It was gone.

  “Where are we?”

  “This is Phantom City, the underbelly of the paranormal world.” He turned to her and gave her a wicked smile. “Welcome to the henhouse, little fox.”

  She wasn’t amused. In fact, she was in shock.

  “Are you tellin’ me that there is an entire hidden city full of vampires... in Alabama?”

  She looked around, stepping closer to Bane, when she heard a rustling in the woods not too far from where they were standing.

  “This is exactly why I freakin’ hate surprises.”

  There was another sound—twigs snapping.

  Watching the spot from which the noises were getting louder, Bane said, “Then, you’re definitely not going to like what I have to say next.”

  Sonnet’s instincts pulled her stare to an opening between two shrubs, several feet away from them. The pulse in her gut thrummed faster. Goddamnit! Something was there, right out of view, hidden behind the wild foliage and trees.

  Bane’s voice got deeper as he said, “It’s not only vampires who inhabit the city.”

  She didn’t take her focus off the spot where she knew a monster was lurking.

  “What are you tellin’ me? What’s in those trees, Bane?”

  Melting from the fog and woods, a pair of blazing gold eyes came into view, followed by a sleek fur-covered body, moving low to the ground. Sonnet went for the stake at her back and pulled it free. Bane’s sudden grin warmed his features, and he chuckled.

  “You’re about to meet your first werewolf.”

  The creature crept its way into the road, the fog circling around its mighty caramel-brown frame, which was three times larger than a regular wolf’s. The beast’s nostrils flared, its glare narrowing in on Sonnet.

  What the hell? Is it starin’ at me?

  Sonnet was amazed and frightened all at once.

  “Werewolves are real?”

  His ears fell to the side of his enormous head, as he suddenly leapt into the air. Seconds later, a naked man landed right in front of Bane and Sonnet. In human form, the wolf was all muscle, with bulging limbs. Sonnet’s gaze dropped, and she found that h
e was considerably massive in all areas.

  The wolfman’s oval eyes remained gold, a bright hue that matched the highlights in his blonde hair, which was shorter in the back and a bit longer in the front, with wisps that hung in his face. His skin was a warm tan.

  Sonnet took a step back, her silver-tipped stake at the ready. She didn’t know if the weapon could hurt the wolf, but if the beasts of legends existed, then maybe the tales of silver being able to cripple them would stand true, as well.

  The wolfman flared his nostrils again, but that time, his murderous glare was aimed at Bane.

  “You brought a hunter into the city?” He practically spat the word hunter. “Are you out of your fuckin’ skull? How did you get her past the shroud?”

  Bane stepped closer to Sonnet, a deathly twinkle in his eyes overtaking the glint of welcome he’d first held for the wolf.

  “Back up, Kahn. She’s with me. And she’s here, because she has drunk my blood.”

  There were a few tense moments between the two fuming males as they stared each other down. Low growls erupted from all around them, a sure sign of more wolves hiding amongst the trees. Freaked out of her mind, Sonnet glanced towards the forest, but saw nothing.

  “Uh, Bane. I don’t like this place at all.”

  A cocky grin pulled at the corner of Kahn’s mouth.

  “That’s ’cause you don’t belong here, bitch. Your entry through the shroud shoulda killed you.”

  Bane’s fist launched forward, bashing the wolf in the face. Kahn stumbled back a couple steps, but he didn’t fall down. Instead, his stance steadied instantly. A promise of retribution washed over his eyes like a bronzing fog. He looked deadly, ready to deliver his own type of pain. He licked clean the blood forming at the corner of his lip, and with a tempered roar, he bared fang.

  “You better have a fuckin’ good reason for that cheap shot, vampire.”

  Bane’s lips pulled back, showing off his set of fangs.

  “I have claimed the hunter. By law, I have a right to do more to you than just that for your insult. ”

  Kahn’s surprised gaze shot to Sonnet, roaming her body until the golden orbs froze on the ring on her finger—Bane’s ring.

 
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