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Venin assassin 03 blac.., p.5
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       venin assassin 03 - black shadow, p.5

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Edge cleared his throat. “You’re being ridiculous. Look at this place.”

  I dropped my hand and looked at him a bit out of focus. “Huh?” Then my gazed roamed around the room.

  I had to admit, it was filthy. Not enough, however, to warrant me having to deal with Toni… my picky, pushy, and most of all, bossy, one Brownie cleaning crew.

  “It’s either that or you learn how to clean up after yourself,” he warned.

  “Fine.” I groaned my defeat into the pillow—I wasn’t much of a cleaner. “Now, get out!”

  Chapter Seven

  “She killed him?” Arbor lifted a forkful of steak and let it hover next to his smirking lips. “I wish I could have seen that.” Then the piece of meat disappeared into his mouth.

  “And, BOOM,” Jesse made a huge gesture with her hands, “she blew his ass up, with a sparkly bullet no less!”

  “I miss everything!” Syn groaned and eased down next to Jesse at an overly-large table in the banquet hall where everyone gathered for their meals.

  I sauntered into the room yawning, and even though the table was only several feet away, without my coffee, it seemed as though it were a mile.

  “Cassis.” Edge stood and pulled out the chair next to his and signaled for me to sit. “Your friend here has been telling us all about your heroic adventures last night.”

  “She has, has she?” I mumbled, my eyes jumping to her for a moment before moving over the impressive spread of meats, fruit, and breads on the table in search of coffee. The elves knew to always have a fresh pot ready for me—one of the perks of being queen.

  He nodded. “Come to find out, the vampire you killed was the lieutenant of the Thorn Kiss.” I sat as he helped push in the chair underneath me. “You remember who is Master of that Kiss, right?”

  Eyes a bit wider, my heart began to pump hard at the unexpected news.

  Holy crap…

  Here was the problem: Normally, I wouldn’t care who or what monster I’d pissed off. They were all the same. The fact of the matter was this: the Thorn Kiss master was none other than Gwynn Rosenthorn, Jake Landry’s ex-fling, and to this day, friend. The latter part was the only reason I hadn’t killed the conniving bitch during the same fight where I had eradicated Sterling. A fact I regretted to this day considering things were currently stale between him and me.

  I blew a stray hair out of my face and pulled a clean plate off of a stack of several that were situated in the middle of the table. “Is that so?”

  A muscle alongside Edge’s jaw twitched. “Indeed.”

  Blaze lifted his golden eyes from his plate. “Isn’t that your boyfriend’s fuck buddy?”

  My fangs stretched to full length, long and sharp. “You know exactly who she is, Blaze.”

  Blaze’s amused stare dropped back to his food. “I was just asking.”

  “Stop giving our queen such a hard time, guys.” Ryder seemed in a good mood as he walked into the room. “Who here hasn’t had a bad relationship come back to haunt them?”

  The table went quiet, several fingers fidgeted, and a rainbow of eyes darted around the room as if everyone were waiting for the subject to change. I smirked and obliged.

  “Has everyone met our guest?” I nodded toward Jesse.

  “Yes, Cassis.” She nodded. “I met everyone this morning while you were sleeping.”

  The scraping sound of utensils against plates resumed once more. I smiled at Jesse.

  “Perfect. I will show you your wolf’s new territory once I’m finished eating.”

  Jesse’s smile was filled with open appreciation as she answered, “Thank you for everything.”

  Arbor reached for Jesse’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Yes, thank you for providing us a safe haven.”

  Jesse interrupted. “Not just a haven… a home.”

  My cheeks went warm from all the gratitude. “You’re welcome.”

  Edge studied us all for a moment, then said, “Will you be adding more strays to the Night court?”

  “I won’t turn a Blood away who needs my help, if that’s what you’re asking.”

  My by-the-book alpha raised his brow. “You’ll be the first Fairy Queen in history to welcome the un-Fae into her court.”

  I stared at Edge for a few seconds, then reached across the table and squeezed his hand. “I know you’ve been used to a certain way of doing things. But, you see, a home knows no rules or boundaries. A true family is filled with a love that is accepting of the unknown, as well as the known, without prejudice.” I moved my hand to the carafe in front of me and topped off my cup before setting it back down. “Who knows? Maybe our way of doing things will become the new norm for the Fae and Blood worlds alike.”

  “Lead by example.” It was a mumbled statement, not a question. “And let the chips fall where they may.”

  I nodded, Edge’s somewhat reluctant, but quick, acceptance of the way I wanted to do things making me feel hopeful. “Well said.”

  He nodded, stood, and with a commanding voice, announced to the room, “All Bloods are welcome within the Night Court. From our queen’s lips, it is decreed.”

  Blaze, Ryder, and Syn immediately stopped what they were doing and pushed out of their chairs. They stood ramrod straight with their fists resting against their chest over the heart. In unison, all four chanted, “As our queen wills it, so it shall be.”

  Damn, I’m good was the only thing that came immediately to mind, and even that couldn’t describe how I felt while standing in my backyard next to two werewolves while beholding my new creation.

  The fairy forest was enormous, and the wolf’s den we’d just stopped in front of was large, composed of granite, and hidden deep behind a thicket of trees that spanned at least a mile, deep and wide. We entered the wolven domain and it smelled of old magic, and new life, and earth, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen.

  All three of us walked deeper inside. Arbor’s gaze moved around the front portion of the cave, with its thirty-foot rock ceilings and hard, compacted rock and dirt floor. The walls were made of copper and cream granite, and all of them had gold and silver veins running through the expanse of them acting as the light source for the entire cave. My enhanced hearing picked something up. There was a subdued trickling sound, like a waterfall or brook cascading over rocks in the far distance, and it made me feel at peace.

  I smiled. “Do you hear that?”

  Jesse’s eyes were wide with wonder as she nodded slowly.

  “Do you think your wolf can be at home here?”

  She nodded again, this time faster, with more enthusiasm. “I think we’ll both be happy here.”

  I glanced over her head at Arbor. “What do you think?”

  My heart leapt at his wide grin, and he said, “It’s fucking perfect, Cassis! You out did yourself… you truly did!” His smile never left him, only intensified as he walked by us at a fast pace. “Let’s see how far back this wonderland goes!”

  My smile was warm. “You to go ahead without me, explore your new digs. If you need anything, come on up to the main house. If it’s urgent, just yell out. The magic of my court will alert me.” I smiled wider at the relief moving across both their features. “You are safe now.”

  Jesse nodded as a translucent shimmer disturbed the air around her; the perma-grin she’d been wearing stretched into an elongated jaw, sprouting white fur. She threw her head back, and a lurid howl ripped from her throat.

  Something flickered in Arbor’s eyes at the primal sound that curled forth in the ancient notes from Jesse’s wolf. The smile that touched his lips held a sensual edge. Magic surged between them, and in the next moment, I was watching white and tan wolves disappear into one of the stony corridors of their new home.

  In hindsight, I should have taken the time to explore the new wolf den with them.

  Chapter Eight

  I entered the mansion several minutes later. The back door swung closed behind me, and immediately, I noticed t
hat the place was uncommonly quiet. My personal magical didn’t register a problem, and neither did the Fae essence that pumped the Night Court full of enchanted life. It was the pure venin instincts born to me that alerted me to the fact that something wicked was afoot.

  I waited a beat, then cautiously stepped across the kitchen to the wide hallway where I could either go straight until I reached the foyer, turn left to the staff’s quarters, or go right toward the back staircase. I chose right. Like the kitchen, the passage was silent. Tapestries and gilded paintings lined both sides of the walls. The smell of saffron appeared out of thin air and grew stronger as the hallway opened up and I neared the foot of the stairs.

  My foot hesitated on the first step at a crackling sound that reminded me of a bowl of Rice Krispies after milk had been poured over it. With my left hand, I unsheathed my knife, and with the right, I reached for the rune-gun only to catch air. Damn it… I’d forgotten it in the dresser in my room.

  I took one more step.

  “Who’s there?”

  No answer.

  Vigilant, I continued up the stairs until I reached the first room at the top of the landing.

  The moment the double doors to the library swung open, I knew something bad was inevitable. My nostrils flared, the smell of saffron hitting me hard as I entered the room.

  My gazed roamed the space—there, across the room to the left, the scent lingered strongest. Visually, nothing seemed out of the place, just an empty space in front of a wall that had a large silver-framed mirror attached to it.

  I was seeing my reflection overlaying the Seelie Queen’s.

  A swarm of anger wrinkled the skin between my brows, and flickering flames touched my eyes, the latter affirming the presence of my hellhound. She was lurking, waiting, for a chance to take over my body if the need arose. Tatiana’s eyes were just as intense—dark lashes, curled and impossibly long, hooded her emerald stare. I studied the queen’s reflection, with her cascading strawberry blond hair, flawless alabaster skin, and sharp features that would make any top model green with envy.

  My every instinct was screaming at me to run; instead, I straightened my spine, projected a calm that belied my true feelings of anxiousness, and took a deep breath. “You are not welcome here, Tatiana.”

  Tatiana bowed her head. It was sufficient an incline for propriety’s sake, but not deep enough to show my station as queen of the court she was visiting any true respect. Her lips peeled back into a half-assed grin. “Your recent acquisition of my property has prompted me to take immediate and severe action. So, of course, you understand why I was unable to give you any real notice of my arrival.”

  “Are you calling me a thief?”

  “More like a collector of rarities,” she said in a flat-toned, frustrated way.

  Tatiana held out her hand, palm up. Instantly, a small creature rose from behind her, fanning a set of silver and white wings with gentle grace. The queen didn’t wait for the fairy to land in her hand; instead, she snatched the tiny being out of the air, restraining it within her fist. The creature let out a suffering moan, and its fragile features fell, along with her posture and silver gaze.

  The fairy was enduring incredible pain. A fact Tatiana seemed oblivious to.

  “I am willing to make a trade,” she announced.

  I caught myself biting my lip, unsure of what Tatiana was asking me. This is how it always seemed to be when dealing with the Fae, at least the ones deeply ensconced in their cultural beliefs. My fairy bestie Charlie was a full-blooded fairy, and she was as up front and in your face as anyone could get. It was one of the qualities I admired about her.

  A thin grin spread across her face. I’d shown weakness… spilled blood in shark-infested waters. Not good.

  “I’m not sure what you’re getting at. What do I have that you want?”

  Tatiana’s smile thickened with malice. “Are we to play games then?”

  My brow rose. “I’m not the one trying to pull strings here. As a matter of fact, I’d greatly appreciate an explanation for this visit, and for your cryptic demands.”

  With the suddenness of a whip cracking, her expression turned devious. “You are harboring Arbor, you fool, and that sly wolf belongs to me.”

  I was curious why she hadn’t mentioned Jesse, even though she’d sent her goons to assassinate her.

  A booming crash, the sound of glass shattered behind me, then a growl that made the red hourglass mark on the back of my neck blaze hot sounded throughout the space.

  Tatiana’s expression soured. “How did you escape from the fringe!”

  What the hell? The bitch had imprisoned Edge? When did this happen?

  Her voice roared over my thoughts, almost as loud as the flames dancing in Edge’s eyes. In her fury, the queen forgot she was holding the silver fairy, and as she threw her hands up, the small creature darted out of the mirror and into my library, her furiously beating wings not stopping until she reached the very top of one of the built-in bookshelves on the other side of the room.

  “Kismet! Get back here now!” The queen’s magic-laced demand to her subject shook the very mirror she was using to communicate with us until it cracked.

  Kismet let out a shriek, her lithe arm flew up to cover her face, then after a second, it slowly dropped after nothing happened.

  I smiled. “You have no sway over her. She is a part of my court now.”

  Kismet gave me a curious look, then stepped behind a large leather-bound tome.

  “This is between her and me,” Tatiana muttered under her breath. Her grim gaze narrowed in on Kismet’s hiding spot.

  Kismet let out a shriek and burrowed even deeper behind a row of books.

  That was it. I’d had enough of this nonsense. Tatiana had no power here, as was evident in the fairy’s escape from the mirror. Possessed by my need to protect the innocent, I lifted my hand and smacked a palm against the queen’s reflection. My only thought was to rid my court of her vile presence, and upon that wish, the mark at the back of my neck flared anew, sending a growing thread out and around my head until it reached the mirror. On contact, a cobweb of light cracked and spread across the surface until the arachnid blanket of intricate patterns that my venin magic created flashed a brilliant blue. Next, it sunk into the other side of the glass to where Tatiana stood. Her features swung from smug to fearful as the web began to pulse and melt around the bottom half of her face. In the next second, the Seelie queen’s refection vanished.

  I didn’t have much time to wonder how my magic crossed through the mirror, or what it had actually done to her, before a wet sputtering sound in the background twirled me around.

  “Oh my god!”

  Edge sat against the wall next to the bookcase where the fairy was hiding. He had his arms crossed over his legs, coughing hard, and blood spewed from his mouth, splashing across his forearms and the knees of his jeans.

  I ran toward him, clumsily skidding half of the way on my hip and the side of my ass. “What did she do to you?”

  He moved his neck slightly, enough to make eye contact. The warmth of his body seeped into my awareness, not a light burn like usual, but as a rapidly extinguishing heat.

  “You must go through the mirror…” His words slipped from his lips along with a stream of blood. “I will heal soon, but Syn, Ryder, and Blaze will not survive much longer within the fringe.”

  “She imprisoned all of you?” I asked, unable to believe this was happening.

  He nodded. “It happened shortly after you left with the wolves.”

  Through tears streaming from my eyes, I could see bruises across his body, some quickly fading. My eyes moved over the worst of his wounds, deep cuts and contusions that marred his thick wrists and ankles. My alpha had obviously been shackled.

  “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

  “Enough about me. You have to go… now.” he urged.

  Shock rolled through my body at the announcement that my hounds were stuck in betw
een worlds, a place that would surely kill them if they remained for too long. The fact that all of us were exiled from Fairy made the timeclock move even faster. I tried hard to remember where the closest fairy path was… there was one behind Rebel Circus, another at Punch Drunk, and fuck, that was about it. Unless…

  I twisted around, looking up at the silver fairy poking her head out from behind a book.

  “Are you a full-blood fairy?”

  She didn’t answer, just continued to shiver and tremble.

  I stood and walked over to her. Craning my neck, I met her eyes and was almost physically wounded by the pain I saw residing there. “You can come out, Kismet. You’re safe.”

  She inched farther back, out of sight.

  I didn’t say anything, just smiled because I knew the only way I was going to get through to her was to be as non-threating as possible.

  After a few seconds, her head poked out once more. She stared at Edge. He was still slumped against the wall, but you could tell he was feeling much better by the coloring of his face and his even breathing. His eyes however, were blazing fire with his fury.

  I gestured for him to calm down with a quick swiping motion of my fingers. Even though he didn’t understand what I was doing, I needed him to trust me. He let out a deep breath and reluctantly quenched his fire.

  Unexpectedly, Kismet’s voice tinkled like Christmas chimes from the middle shelf, her fear palpable in the notes. “Will your hellhound eat me?”

  I was making progress.

  My eyebrows arched. “Not if he wants to keep his tail.”

  Her eyes went wide. “You would chop it off?”

  Edge narrowed his eyes on me.

  I couldn’t help it, my smile widened. “And his nuts if he tried to eat you.”

  Edge hopped to his feet, and the fairy zipped upward, then scurried back into her hiding spot on the top shelf.

  I turned on him. “Look, I need her help getting into the fringe, so if you really want me to save the boys, then you better calm your ass down or leave. Got it?”

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