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Paranormal hunter 04 d.., p.5
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       paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame, p.5

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Her face warmed and she blushed so deep that she had to turn her head. She shut her eyes and took a few calming breaths before opening them back up to see Quinn pulling a shirt over his head, dragging it down a muscular chest. Admittedly, she let her eyes linger a little too long on his abs. His pants were already up around his hips, but left undone.

  After slipping on a pair of socks and shoes, he straightened and lifted the hem of his shirt so he could zip and button his jeans. She swallowed hard; there were those abs again. Once he was dressed, he kicked most the dirt back into the hole, picked up the bag, and jogged over to her.

  “Hi,” he said, a little out of breath.

  She grinned at him. “Hi, Quinn. How did you know I would be here?”

  He looked down shyly, and then with a tilt of his head, he gazed back up at her with a sideways grin that made his hazel eyes light up and dance under the moonlight. “I was worried when you left the Dungeon with your stepdad. I’d never seen you so upset. So I tracked you down to see if you were okay.”

  Her eyebrow rose in surprise, and then he continued.

  “I followed your scent all the way to the hospital, just in time to see you shoot off toward the woodlands. After that, I was about to call it quits and head home—until I saw that other dragon hightail it after you.”

  Poppy nervously smoothed down her skirt, her gaze jumping from her hands to him.

  Quinn gazed into the sky, in the same direction Mauramaze had disappeared. “So she’s your real mom?”

  Poppy’s hands dropped. His words made her feel embarrassed, nervous, and a bit perturbed. “How on earth did you know that?” She crossed her arms. “And Sonnet is my real mother, thank you very much.”

  He caught the edge in her tone and smiled at her coyly. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

  She let out a breath, and said, “It’s alright. Apparently, that wound is still a little raw, I guess.”

  Quinn nodded and took a step forward. “And as for how I knew she was your mother?” He tapped the end of his nose with the tip of a finger. “This schnozzle of mine is the envy of my entire pack. It’s how I found you so quickly. And I have to say it wasn’t easy; you speed through the air as fast as a rocket.” He leaned in. “Your true form is beautiful and majestic when sailing the sky.”

  Things began to heat up inside of her pretty quickly after that. And because of it, she reached between them and grabbed his hand. “Thank you for looking out for me. You’re a good friend.”

  His brow rose, and hung. “About that…”

  Poppy didn’t so much as breathe as he prepared to say his next words. She knew what she wanted them to be, but didn’t dare hope.

  “You see, uh, about that friend thing. I was kind of hoping you’d consider being more.” He swallowed. “I really like you, Poppy, as more than just friends.”

  Poppy felt the same way about him, and she wasn’t about to deny it.

  She sighed. “Why do you like me, anyways?”

  Geez… idiot. That sounded insecure, she thought, but it was too late to take it back. And the truth was, she was a complete novice at attracting the opposite sex, which left everything uncertain. So his answer was important to her.

  He gave her a half smile. “That’s easy. You’re kind, funny, damn smart, and pretty. Prettier than anyone I’ve ever met.”

  Her lavender eyes showed relief, and she smiled coyly. “Okay. I’ll consider it.”

  Consider it my ass…he’s all mine.

  Quinn gave her a devastatingly handsome, wicked smile. “Really?”

  She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and placed a hand on his shoulder as she whispered in his ear, “Really.”

  This time, it was the wolf’s turn to blush. He reached down and gripped her fingers in his, and said, “Let me get you back to your mother.”

  She smiled and nodded.

  Chapter Eleven

  “Someone’s on the phone for you.” A voice inside Sonnet’s ear rolled low. “She said it was urgent.”

  Holding a medical chart in one hand and a cordless phone in the other, Sonnet’s doctor hurried over to her.

  Bane stood and intercepted the phone. “Is it her daughter?” he asked in a husky voice.

  The doctor shrugged. “She didn’t say.”

  That got her attention. Sonnet’s eyes flew open and her hand sprang out. “Give it to me.”

  Racked with impatience, Sonnet almost fell out of her hospital bed and onto the floor as she tried grabbing for the phone. Tears welled as Bane helped her into a seated position. She felt humiliated, frail and, worst of all, helpless. She choked back tears and lifted her chin. “Can I please have the phone?”

  Bane handed the phone over and Sonnet held the receiver to an ear that was covered by sweat-soaked hair. “Poppy? Is that you?”

  “No, hunter, it’s Maze.”

  Sonnet’s throat tightened. She wanted to start screaming bloody murder at the she-dragon, but instead she kept her calm and asked, “What do you want?”

  “I just left my daughter. It seems she is mad at me because of what I did to you.”

  A little surprised by what Maze said, Sonnet sat up straighter. She looked down at her arm. “Let’s get one thing straight before we continue. Poppy is my daughter. And of course she is upset. You’re dangerous, a loose cannon, and you need to turn yourself in to the authorities.”

  “That’s why I’ve called you. So I can do just that. But first, I must do something for you, or my daught— I mean, Poppy, will hate me forever.”

  What a strange turn of events, Sonnet thought, and then asked, “What could you possibly do for me?”

  “I can heal the burns I inflicted upon you.”

  She sucked in a breath of surprise. “That’s really hard to believe.”

  But then Sonnet thought back to the day in demon-hell when Poppy had hatched from her egg. The baby dragonling had healed the web of scars that covered her hand and wrist, using her very first breath of fire. So the idea wasn’t entirely ludicrous.

  “I can and I will.” Her tone resonated true.

  Sonnet’s gaze moved to Bane. He was watching her intensely, so she knew that he was also listening in on the conversation. She could read his mood easily; anxious, cynical.

  “What would it hurt to let her try?” she asked him.

  He eased closer to her, and after a gentle kiss to her dry, chapped lips, he took the phone out of her hand and put it up to his ear.

  “Why should we trust you? You’re the vile creature who attacked her in the first place.”

  It didn’t seem to faze the she-dragon when Bane took over the conversation, or that he’d insulted her, she just continued on like nothing had changed. “Because if I don’t help her, the magical properties in my fire won’t allow your female’s wounds to heal…ever.”

  Bane gritted his teeth and looked down at Sonnet. She was already fast asleep, half of her body limp in his lap. If what the she-dragon said was true, then Sonnet’s agony and prolonged fatigue made a lot more sense. She was a royal demon in Phantom City, after all, that fact alone should have amped up the healing process by degrees. But instead, she only seemed to be getting worse. And then there were the surgeries she faced in the near future, surgeries which, if the dragoness spoke the truth, wouldn’t help anyways.

  He frowned. “Then it seems you have left us with little choice.”

  “None, actually. Please inform your security detail that I will be there within the hour.”

  And then the line went dead.

  Thirty minutes later, Mauramaze of the Dark Flame clan stood in the middle of the room, looking like a flaming-haired goddess who wore too much leather. Her red halter top that buttoned in the front, black skin-tight pants, and her lace-up knee-high boots were all made out of the durable material.

  Before the dragoness arrived, Sonnet had insisted on being dressed for the visit. Her ripped blue jeans fit snug and comfortable, like a well-worn glove. She wore a pink Demon D
olls t-shirt that Anya had zipped down the street to the strip club and grabbed for her, because the shirt she’d been brought into the hospital wearing was burnt to ruins. She’d managed to scrape her hair up into a messy bun, and pilfered through a kind and generous nurse’s makeup kit for some lip gloss and blush, so she could add a little color to her pale complexion. Maze may have taken Sonnet’s health, but she’d be damned if she let her steal her dignity.

  Maze sniffed the air. “Your wound is still enflamed. Show it to me and I will fix it.”

  The fingers on Sonnet’s wounded arm began to tingle, the sensation shooting straight up the entire limb. It was as if the dragon’s residual magic was coming alive in her presence. Sonnet scowled at the taste of bitterness on her tongue, and rubbed at her arm—intense pain sizzled. She ignored it.

  “No pleasantries, just right down to business,” Sonnet remarked.

  Maze nodded once. “I figured you’d appreciate that. Besides, we can talk later.”

  Sonnet’s brow rose. “Actually, we have your surrender to discuss.”

  The dragoness shrugged. “What’s to discuss? After I heal you, I’ll turn myself over to the proper authorities.”

  Suddenly, the door swung open, and Remy sauntered in. He waved a hand, using his telekinetic power to close it behind him.

  Maze turned on him with a furious growl. Her hair lifted, carried by an influx of heat radiating from her body. “Who are you?” she asked.

  Heart pounding, Sonnet hopped from the bed, landing between the two deadly creatures.

  “Listen to me, both of you. I do not have time for this nonsense.” And in the next second, she was scrambling for something to hold on to.

  Bane ran forward and put an arm around her waist. “I really wish you’d keep your ass in bed, little fox.”

  She smacked at his hands and moaned. “I’ll do as I please.”

  “Not this time.”

  The sound of growling pulled her head up and around. “I didn’t know dragons growled,” Sonnet commented with a chuckle.

  The giddiness reminded Sonnet that she was loaded up on drugs, and that fact reminded her of how badly she was hurt. Her body sank against Bane’s. Thank God for Bane.

  “Tame your dragon, woman, or I’ll be forced to unleash my own inner demon.”

  Maze must have recognized something in Remy—maybe it was his nobility, or the power with which he held sway over the entire city—because she pulled back her magic and refocused on Sonnet. With a slightly perturbed look, she quirked her lips, held out her hand, and said, “Let me see it.”

  Sonnet looked at her arm, her brow furrowed. “It won’t move,” she said.

  Bane smiled, showing his fangs, long and sharp. She giggled once more. “Let me help you,” he offered.

  She nodded, letting her head fall against his chest.

  He gently lifted her wounded arm and placed it into Maze’s hand with a scowl. “Be careful,” he warned.

  Maze nodded and let her free hand hover over the wounded area.

  Remy stood on the other side of Sonnet, sandwiching her between himself and Bane.

  And then magic streamed from Maze, filling the room, turning it into a lung-constricting oven. After a few moments of complete concentration, the power pulled back, and she focused every ounce of it on the burn. Her head flew back and her mouth gaped open, and in the next instant, her chin fell forward and she made a blowing gesture.

  But instead of wind slipping from between the dragon’s ruby lips, a slow trickle of black flames rolled out, stretching like tiny tentacles, reaching for Sonnet’s arm. Once there, the obsidian fire crawled across the bandages, burning the material away on contact as it searched for the seared flesh underneath.

  Maze gripped Sonnet’s arm tightly and her eyes darted from Bane to Remy. “This next part is going to hurt like a son of a bitch. Hold her down.”

  Bane wrapped his arms around her, while Remy squeezed her hand and pulled her head into his shoulder. Between both strong males, Sonnet wasn’t going anywhere.

  As soon as the flames reached the devastated flesh, Sonnet shuddered and screamed.

  “My god!”

  Bane stared at Maze, features brutal with agony. “How long will this take?”

  Maze released Sonnet’s arm. Stumbled back and ran a shaky hand through her damp hair. “It is already done.”

  And then without warning, she collapsed to the floor, her last glimpse of awareness that of her daughter bursting into the room. Her final conscience thought—now she won’t hate me.

  Chapter Twelve

  A perpetual full moon hung over Phantom City, casting ribbons of light across the hospital bed Sonnet sat upon. She pulled on a pair of soft leather boots and zipped them up and over her jean-clad calves. Her heart rate was even, her breathing calm.

  She rose and took a long, hard look at Poppy, who stood across from her by the utility closet, and couldn’t help but notice the air of concern within her daughter’s features when she handed over the gun holster that held Sonnet’s 9mm buckled inside of it.

  “Are you sure you’re well enough for discharge?” her daughter asked.

  She nodded. “I’m right as rain, darling. Maze did as she promised.”

  Poppy’s relief was evident as she smiled. “Good. I’m glad to hear that.”

  Instead of leaving her hair in the messy style of hospital chic, Sonnet ran her fingers through it and then pulled it back into a thick braid. She then threaded the gun belt through the loops of her jeans, bent over and picked up the leather shoulder holster she’d taken up using to conceal Ruby, her wooden stake, underneath her jacket, and put that on, too.

  Speaking of jackets—hers had been ruined in the attack, toast, quite literally. “Damn it.”

  A voice drifted between them. Bane had his cell phone to his ear, making arrangements for Maze’s imprisonment. The she-dragon was still out for the count, laid up in a heavily warded room that shared a wall with Sonnet’s, until the appropriate runes and wards could be crafted inside, and around the perimeter, of one of PCPD’s holding cells.

  Bane hung up the phone and turned his gaze on Sonnet. “The mages are getting the dragon’s cell ready for containment. We should probably drop Poppy off at your place and then head on over there to meet up with everybody.”

  Sonnet glanced at him. Their stares connected, and she said, “Alright. I can grab a jacket while I’m there, so it works out.”

  “Oh, and apparently the head mage has some news about that collar you had him check up on. He said it was heavily cursed using some pretty potent and nasty voodoo, of the New Orleans variety.”

  Sonnet shook her head. “Voodoo magic?” She slid her ruby phoenix ring back on her left ring finger, and cringed. “I think it’s time I start charging triple for hazard pay.”

  Sonnet surveyed the jail cell that held the sleeping dragon, from several feet away. Even at that distance, she could feel and hear strong magic emanating from the bars spanning its circumference. The mages had done an incredible job of fortifying the space. And well they should have, because Sonnet had a feeling once the beast it contained awoke from her slumber, she was going to be pissed off enough for them to need every drop of that magic.

  “What are they going to do with her?”

  Dom uncrossed his arms and motioned for Sonnet to follow him. As they moved away from the cell, he said, “About that. I was hoping that you could sit in on the perp’s interrogation.”

  “Really? Isn’t that a little unorthodox, considering I’m not one of your detectives?”

  He smirked. “Even though it’s not official, you’re the best officer I got.”

  Her cheeks warmed at the compliment, because no matter how neutral a person could seem, being appreciated counted. “Thanks.”

  They entered an elevator that only offered a down option, and within seconds were strolling into a room bursting with energy that occupied the entire basement of the police department. To Sonnet’s senses, it
felt like the fourth of July in there—magic popped, sizzled, and surged with all sorts of brilliant colors around her, and all of it with an ebb and flow of varied potency levels that confused and delighted all at once.

  She looked around in awe. “What is this place?”

  Dom’s eyes widened, taking on an air of pride. “This, Vale, is PCPD’s Alchemy Division, led by Laszlo Edgemont; he’s our head mage.”

  “You called?”

  A deeper voice than Dom’s entered the space, quickly followed by a tall man who wore a wide and quirky smile plastered on his ruggedly handsome face. He nodded once at Sonnet, sending his shoulder-length, powder-white hair drifting over high-set cheek bones. The mage was imposing, brutally frightening, with an insane amount of power that flexed from his person in waves like well-used muscles. And the scariest part still—he wasn’t even trying to use it or even show it off; the magic was just there, lying dormant, waiting to be unleashed on some poor unsuspecting fool who gave him cause.

  She scanned the room once more; even the wild and colorful magic that once bounced erratically around the space was now simmering within the ether, brought to heel by this man’s presence. And was it mentioned—he was smiling at her?

  It took a fraction of a heartbeat for Sonnet’s eyes to adjust to the brightness of the room and for her nerves to settle long enough to anxiously say, “Uh, hi.”

  Dom gave her and her nervous tone the side eye.

  Laszlo strode across the stone floor, snatched a plastic bag from one of the two workstations in the room, and continued toward them. She assumed they were workspaces because of the apothecary cabinets perched on top of the tables, each one opened and filled to bursting with fancy amber, clear, and dark brown bottles, each labeled in old-timey lettering, some of them etched with markings she couldn’t decipher.

  “Hi, Captain.”

  Dom smiled and nodded at the mage once as he stopped in front of them.

  “And you must be Sonnet Vale.” His silver eyes met hers and held as he extended a hand. She took it. “I’m Laszlo. It’s nice to finally meet the princess of this bat-shit crazy city.”

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