Sweet Venom (A Venin Assassin Novel Book 1), p.5Gena D. Lutz
“Do you know if she left with him?”
The bartender leaned close and whispered. “Nope. All I know is that she seemed pretty out of it, so any number of men that night could’ve gotten lucky with her.”
I cleared my throat again and leaned in. “If she was as wasted as you say, then for your sake, I hope that’s not true.”
His brows pulled together in thought—then suddenly his hamster wheel started turning. “Fuck that. I didn’t pour the booze down her throat.”
“No, but you did pour the drinks.”
With a guarded look, he said, “I was doing my job.”
“Maybe you could do it better next time.”
Even this guy’s power over my tequila bottle wasn’t going to save him from my wrath if he over-served Finley to the point of blackout—or worse.
I stood on the foot rail, took a few bills out of my pocket, and slapped them down next to the empty shot glass.
He eyed the money. “That’s too much.”
I looked down at the two twenties and shrugged. “No shit. Keep it.”
It never hurt to gain a reputation as being a good tipper, especially in the seedier parts of town. You’d be surprised how loose a set of lips could get when there was money involved. Plus, I was hard to handle sometimes, and if I spent enough, most people dealt with that, too.
He dragged the bills across the bar, took one last look at my cleavage, and said, “Much obliged.”
My boots hit the dirty floor. Wondering what I should do next, I headed for the exit. That’s when the flutter of wings caught my attention at the back of the bar.
A six, maybe eight, inch golden fairy suddenly appeared hovering over the pool table. She didn’t say a word, just stared at me with pale golden eyes.
I glanced at the bartender as I walked by and saw that he’d wasted no time in moving on to the next set of tits at the bar. And here I thought we’d had something special. I looked down and shrugged… mine were bigger.
I carefully closed the distance between us before pulling out the picture I had of Finley, hoping like hell that the fairy had been eyeballing me because she knew something. I was running out of leads.
More beautiful than any fairy I’d ever seen, she flew over to the picture and studied it halfheartedly with her magnificent almond-shaped eyes.
“I already know who you are looking for,” she stated.
Confuse by that, I asked, “Really? How?”
The fairy smiled. “Let me show you.”
Could it really be that easy? Probably not, but it was worth a shot.
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll bite.”
The fairy gave me a confused look. “That’s not necessary.”
I chuckled. “Relax. It’s just an expression.”
The fairy stared at me for a long moment, then her wings began to beat like crazy before she zipped out of the billiards room. I watched her land on a stone platform that jutted out of the wall close to the ceiling. Moss covered the ledge that dripped with white and pink flowers. A vine-edged door was cracked open, an ethereal shimmer of light escaping between the cracks.
I shook my head in shock. Well I’ll be damned—here, amongst the dregs of the Bloods thrived a piece of fairyland.
I gazed up at the fairy in wonder. “What can I call you?”
Her golden brown legs moved across the ledge, the walkway expansive for someone her size, as she replied, “Meara.”
Unadorned waves of silvery white hair fell to Meara’s waist. She wore a sheer dress with shimmery silver strands weaved throughout the gold lace. But it was her eyes that shone brighter than the entire otherworldly package she created combined.
I walked closer to her and craned my neck up just in time to watch Meara start riffling through a pile of stuff. This went on for a full minute until she found what she was looking for.
“Here it is,” she mumbled, holding up a lock of blonde hair.
“A lock of hair? That hardly seems helpful.”
She waved a hand without looking up from her prize. “Have patience, spider.”
Why did everybody keep calling me that? It wasn’t as if I were the only spider venin around.
“My name is Cassis,” I corrected.
She shook her head. “You are more spider than Cassis.”
My brow rose, and I mumbled, “Whatever that means.”
“She gave me a stone-cold look. “It means you have a lot to learn, child.”
Probing further into her nest of odds and ends, the golden fairy dragged out a glass cylinder that barely fit within her fist. With it, she sat down and placed the lock of hair across her lap. Next, she struggled to pull a cork stopper from the tube, and after a few grunts and yanks, she managed to pop the sucker open.
A silver cloud slithered from the container, leaving me speechless. The fairy was using faeblood magic, and she wasn’t even trying to hide it from the bar patrons.
The scent of fear mixed with booze made me look around. Everyone in the bar had gravitated toward the other end of the building, far away from us.
My fangs instantly slid out, too much fear making my instincts go haywire.
Meara’s mouth spread into a wide, amused grin showing sharp canines. It was the first time I’d noticed the shape of her teeth.
I frowned and tilted my head.
No fairy I’d ever met before had fangs. Add to that how all the Bloods in attendance were acting as if a bomb was about to go off, and I suddenly had a very different feeling about this encounter—the exit was starting to look pretty damn appealing.
“Do you see this?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” I said warily, eyeing the smoky vial.
Her eyes narrowed. “With this, I can help you find your missing fairy.”
I felt my eyes flash pink. “How?”
Evidently, my need to find Finley was going to override my good sense.
Meara smiled before dropping the hair into a granite bowl. She closed her fingers around the vial, lifted it over the bowl, and tipped it, releasing slime that oozed over the lock of hair with a sizzling hiss.
Before my next breath, a luminous, raven-haired woman, who was the same size as the golden fairy, appeared before Meara. She wore nothing at all, her skin a flawless dark fawn. She was stunning with striking features, but not as beautiful as Meara.
“Why have you summoned me?” the female asked.
I edged cautiously closer. Adrenaline fueled my bravery, urging me forward so I could hear Meara’s reply.
“One of my daughters has gone missing, and I can’t track her.”
“That’s not possible,” she whispered.
“Why is that not possible?” I interrupted.
Meara squinted at me, shaking her head, and warned, “You are not to speak to the oracle.”
The oracle’s light blue stare pinned me down. “Who are you?”
I didn’t answer; Meara had just warned me not to speak. I fidgeted in my boots—this was all too complicated for me.
Meara let out a frustrated hiss. “Are you daft, Cassis? Answer her!”
I crossed my arms and lifted an obstinate chin. “You seriously need to make up your mind. Can I or can I not talk to the oracle?”
The oracle snorted softly. “I like this girl. You should bring her around to my hillock for a lengthier introduction.”
Meara’s eyes went wide, but not as wide as mine did. “Are you willing to let a venin know how to find your home in fairyland?”
Meara sounded extremely concerned with this new development. And here I stood blissfully unaware of what in the hell they were talking about. My brow rose as I thought about it—a night away from the mortal world sounded pretty damn tempting. And I always wanted to see what it was like in the mysterious land of fairy.
I cleared my throat. “Can we get back to what’s important, which is finding Finley?”
The oracle gave me a level look. “Agree to a
I paused to draw a shaky breath, then took a glance around the room to make sure I was still on this side of the fringe. I was.
She gave me an amused grin. “On what?”
“On how helpful you truly are in finding Finley.”
Mischief gleamed within the oracle’s sky blue eyes as she waved her right hand with a sweeping flourish. If it weren’t for the pink sparks of magic that flashed around her hand like fireworks, I would have thought the envelope that appeared out of nowhere was some kind of parlor trick.
“Here,” she said, tossing the envelope. The thin object shot at me, its size increasing as it traveled. I swiped it out of the air. “Ask for Celia when you get to your next destination. Tell her that the Black Widow secured your invitation.”
“Can I bring someone with me?” I asked.
She nodded. “I recommend you do. And you need to hurry. Your friend is in danger.”
I gazed down at the envelope in my hand before stuffing it inside my pocket.
My brows fell. “What kind of danger?”
“Let’s just say that it’s the kind that can, and will, kill her.”
I frowned, taking in what she said. “Is there anything else I should know?”
The oracle nodded. “Make sure to wear something suggestive, but nothing cheap, so you blend in. My help only extends so far. Once you’re in the door, you’re on your own.”
That sounded doable. “Okay.”
She glanced at me, eyebrows raised. “I’m serious,” she said, then before she disappeared, followed that with, “I look forward to seeing you very soon.”
Dusting glittery powder from her lap, Meara stood. “Make sure to come back and see me after you’ve found Finley, and I will escort you to the oracle’s hillock.”
“Sure thing,” I mumbled.
Her hands clapped together. “Very good.”
My mouth was suddenly dry. “You seemed way too pleased by that.”
Grinning, Meara reached over and opened the door to the enchanted world of fairy.
“It is not I who will be please at what you find on the other side of the fringe, spider—but you.”
I blinked at her, curious. “That was cryptic.”
Meara leaned over and laid her palm flat on the stone ledge. A low rumble shook the ground, bottles of booze clanked together on the shelves behind me, the light above the pool table swayed. Then the fairy stood, and said, “You wouldn’t like me direct.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Touché.”
“Keri, do you remember the promise we made to each other about how no matter what the circumstances we’d always help each other out?”
“What happened?” Keri’s voice buzzed with annoyance over the line.
“Umm, well, I just got a killer lead on this favor I’m working on for Charlie.” I smiled up at the golden fairy and waved a cautious goodbye to her. “And… it requires more manpower than I currently have.”
I could hear my fridge door close in the background, and Keri’s voice suddenly became garbled over a mouthful of food. I was surprised there was anything edible left for her to eat, considering I hadn’t gone shopping in over a week, which got me thinking about stopping by Gordy’s Pizzeria for a slice before going home. My stomach growled; I hadn’t eaten in over twenty-four hours.
“Why do I feel like you’re not telling me everything?” she questioned.
I stepped out of the bar and into a city lit up by a glowing full moon and flickering amber street lights. Phone to my ear, I took an immediate left toward my destination. A narrow alley stretched behind the buildings for several blocks around the edge of the building. I contemplated ducking inside so I could take advantage of my preternatural speed and get home quicker, but then thought better of it. I’d already risked humans seeing me in all my venin-magic-glory earlier in the night; there was no need to push my luck any further.
I laughed, the nervous sound punctuating Keri’s suspicion.
“The thing is... you’ll need to wear a dress.”
Dead silence. I could almost feel Keri staring at the phone with disgust. Which was no surprise, I’d expected as much. You see, Keri despises dresses, absolutely loathes them as if they were an empty refrigerator after one of her long bartending shifts at Strange Brew. Mind you, she adores heels, makeup, even the occasional skirt—but outright hates dresses.
A cool breeze moved over the city as I walked, fidgeting with the invitation in my pocket. This was important, and there was no way in hell I was going to give up. My second best option for backup was Rue, and it was pretty obvious she wasn’t quite up to snuff for a night out on the town with yours truly. She had some healing to do—and not just physically—and blood and battle wasn’t a fitting remedy to what ailed her.
“Look, wearing a damn dress isn’t my idea of fun either, but a life could be on the line here. Stop being so selfish, Keri, damn!”
Keri cleared her throat. “No, I can’t. For you to even ask…” She mumbled like a wounded bird, not the deadly scorpion venin that she truly was.
This was getting out of hand, even for her. I had one more card to play…
“Put Rue on the phone then.”
Dead silence answered me, followed by a gravely, uneven reply. “Why would I do that? Is she your new bestie or something?”
I shook my head. I could never really understand the need for labels—probably because the only ones ever attached to me had been destroyed the day my father died. But then I met Rue, Charlie, and Keri—in that order—and they had changed me, mostly for the better, so I immediately felt bad for using that particular green-eyed monster card.
“You can’t get rid of me that easy, chick,” I snorted. “So don’t even try it.”
She grumbled something I couldn’t make out, then said, “Yeah, okay, I’ll wear a goddamn dress.”
I smiled. “I appreciate that.”
“Do you still need to talk to Rue?” Her tone perked up.
“I’m only a few miles away. I’ll talk to her when I get home.”
For that matter, I could have talked to Keri about the dress issue when I got home, too. I guess bad news, for me, is easiest delivered over the phone.
Suddenly, the air became heavy with the musk of wolf.
Not waiting for Keri’s reply, I quickly said, “I’ll see you soon,” and hung up.
Boots invaded my line of sight. My gaze swept upward, past tight blue jeans, over a black t-shirt stretched taut across a hard chest, and settled on Jake’s handsome face. He was smiling at me, and I found it impossible not to smile back. With a watchful eye, his gaze moved over my shoulder toward Punch Drunk then immediately returned with the same magnetic, unwavering grin.
My pulsed ratcheted up several beats, and heat surged through me as I tampered down the urge to reach out and push the straggling tress of hair that was falling into his eye and brushing across his chiseled cheekbone back behind his ear with the rest of his thick black mane.
He continued to stare at me.
My fingers twitched at my side.
Finally, I said, “Are you following me or something?”
Not such a terrible scenario if I were to be honest. It’s just the timing was way off for a quick romp with a yummy wolf.
He gave me a curious look. “I’m pretty sure I mentioned I’d be swinging by here after my set.”
Oh yeah, he had mentioned something to that effect. I shrugged and stepped to the side, out of his way, and waved a hand sideways. “Then by all means, don’t let me hold you up.”
He didn’t move, which I found rude considering I’d been rather polite—not the normal look I went for. His smile broadened, showing the tips of his canines. Even in his human form they were sharp and pointy.
The better to eat you with my dear… my overactive subconscious couldn’t help but supply.
My brow rose. “Umm, bye…”
If my attitude bothered him, he didn’t show it. Instead, he smirked with those deliciously plump lips of his, and while he had my full attention, snatched the invitation out of my pocket with a rather impressive sleight of hand.
“What is this?” he asked, looking down at the paper.
I reddened. “It’s none of your damn business is what it is.”
His dark brows pulled together as his eyes moved over the details on the card.
“Give it back…now,” I said as calmly as I could.
I tried to swipe it from his hand but missed.
After a short stare-off, he begrudgingly complied with my request and gave me the invitation back.
I narrowed my eyes and stuffed the card down my corset. “Thanks for nothing, mongrel.”
It was hard to believe that I’d momentarily lusted over such a jerk.
He smiled in reply to my name calling, the lights from the street lamps making his champagne-colored eyes glow.
My chin dropped, and I shook my head—maybe it wasn’t so unbelievable after all.
“I gotta go.”
He chuckled. “So soon?”
My chin jutted up, and I shot him a look. “Not soon enough.”
His stare suddenly turned severe. “Are you seriously considering attending a parablood party? Last time I checked, you’re veninblood through and through.”
Ugh, why in the hell was this guy so concerned about what I was or wasn’t doing? He wasn’t my father, boyfriend, or even a friend for that matter.
I shrugged. “If that’s the kind of party it is, then yeah, I suppose I am.”
He frowned. “Let me ask you something. Have you ever met a vampire, you know, face-to-face? Or even worse, fang-to-fang?”
For some unexplainable reason, it bothered me that Jake thought I couldn’t handle myself.
I folded my arms. “No, but what’s it to you?”
With a grave look, he leaned forward and whispered, “You’re more reckless than I thought.”
The wolf’s alpha-magic emanated from him in searing waves, moving through space unseen, the weight of it cascading over me. Whether he knew it or not, Jake’s wolf was trying like hell to bend me to his will. With much effort, I caught myself from being rolled. I cringed visibly for the effort, and my arms fell to my side. I squeezed my fists together, a calming mechanism I learned to use when under the powerful influence of the queen and her pack. Within the borders of her territory, it was a hold your tongue lest it get cut off kind of situation that I quickly adapted my actions to.
Sweet Venom (A Venin Assassin Novel Book 1) by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes