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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.5

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “You’re a damn fool. Remy’ll hear about this.”

  A tight laugh escaped Bane.

  “Indeed, I plan on telling him about the claiming myself.”

  The sound of a throat clearing rang out behind Sonnet. Startled, she jumped, twisting her neck to glance behind her. She squinted to see the figure of a naked female coming into view. The newcomer approached in shadows, her feet and legs pushing through the fog, each slow step rustling dry leaves. The seductive sway and glide of the silhouette was the embodiment of a soul-drawing succubus, stalking the night for a warm body to dine upon.

  Kahn glanced over Bane’s shoulder, his eyes narrowing at the woman’s appearance. He crossed his thickly muscled arms at his chest and glowered at her.

  “I told you to stay out of sight.”

  His stern voice was much like that of a father or someone in a position of leadership.

  The enchantress moved out of the darkness, which had been hiding most of her distinguishable features. When she was in clear view, the first thing Sonnet noticed was the woman’s short bleached-blonde hair and dark brows that matched her roots—just like someone she knew well.

  “Hi, Vale,” Emely said. “What the fuck are you doin’ here? And where the hell is my bike?”

  Chapter Eleven

  As more howls erupted around Sonnet, she felt a swirl of confused emotions. On one hand, she had a forest full of werewolves, who were probably gnashing their sharp fangs and drooling for a taste of her hide. And on the other, she had her partner in crime standing naked in front her, pretty pissed off over her missing motorcycle.

  She scrambled to make sense of everything—hidden cities, werewolves, hot as sin vampires... And somehow, Emely was caught up in the midst of it all. The latter made her forget the rest, as a more vital question caught in her brain.

  “Your bike is in a safe place, but who gives a shit about that? Why are you here, naked, in a secret monster city?”

  Sonnet couldn’t help noticing that Emely was feeling a chill. Her nipples were hard as rocks, poking out, staring at Sonnet like two googley eyes on a stuffed teddy bear. She quickly stripped her jacket off and held it out to Emely.

  “Speaking of which, would you cover yourself up before one of these howlin’ freaks ogles your goods, or somethin’ worse?”

  Kahn laughed in the background. Sonnet shot him a go to hell look before trying to shove the jacket at Emely again.

  “Take it, damn it.”

  Emely didn’t look amused.

  “My bike better be safe, not a mark on her, Vale.”

  She shrugged away from the jacket and walked over to a patch of tall wild grass, growing under one of the trees. She bent down and rifled through a bag hidden in the scruff of it, and pulled out some clothes.

  “I’ll get dressed if it makes you feel more comfortable. But in this place, clothes aren’t really a necessity for me.”

  Sonnet rubbed her head at Emely’s odd behavior, and then the obvious smacked her dead in the face.

  “You’re a werewolf, aren’t you?”

  “Ding, ding, ding, give the hunter a door prize!” Kahn said, his voice more growl than bark.

  “Zip it, wolf,” Bane said. He stared at Sonnet for several seconds. “Are you okay? I know this has to be hard for you. It’s a shitload of information to digest.”

  Sonnet nodded at him.

  “Did you know? I mean, about Emely?” she asked.

  “I did.”

  Sonnet put her jacket on, zipped it up, and said, “Interestin’. And how come I couldn’t sense her? I am a hunter! You had to give me your blood before bringin’ me here and all.” Sonnet turned her focus on Emely. “Shouldn’t my instincts have gone haywire around you?”

  Emely stiffened, but then continued to get dressed. She pulled a black and white skull sweater over her head and yanked a pair of skinny jeans up over her hips. After slipping on a pair of sneakers, which she left untied, she walked over to stand in front of Sonnet.

  “Look. I’m sorry I kept stuff from you, Vale, but it couldn’t be helped.” She paused and then added, “I drink a special potion before goin’ to work, or if I know I’ll be meetin’ up with you. That’s why you’ve never sensed what I am.”

  “More deceit, then,” she said without heat. “You’re good at hidin’ stuff, Em. I actually believed that we were friends.”

  Emely’s expression softened.

  “We are friends, Vale.”

  “Friends don’t lie to each other.”

  “They do when they have no other choice.”

  Liquid welled under the rims of Sonnet’s eyelids, threatening to spill over. She turned away from her supposed friend, so she could push the waterworks back. The hell if she was going to cry over that. She’d just focus on something else instead, even though the fact still remained that she felt betrayed. She turned back to face Emely, effectively hiding the hurt and anger.

  With a forced smile she said, “Fine, but that makes us even for the whole me takin’ your motorcycle thing.”

  She was going to at least get something out of it. Even if it was just being off the hook for grand theft auto—or would that be grand theft motorcycle?

  Emely said through gritted teeth, “Okay, then. I won’t say another damn word about it. But lettin’ go of this is gonna hurt.”

  As Sonnet raised an eyebrow, she thought, I bet not as much as havin’ a friend lie to your face for three years does.

  “All right, then. You’re a werewolf who lives in another land. I’ll learn to deal with and accept that.”

  Sonnet looked over at Bane; he’d been watching her every move out of the corner of his eye the entire time she and Emely had been chatting.

  “Can we go now?” Sonnet asked, raising her voice loud enough for all to hear.

  Bane’s expression was blank as he nodded, like he was expecting a different reaction from her. But indifference was about all that Sonnet was willing to show or give to them. She smiled. That would teach them to lie to her.

  Kahn grunted at Bane.

  “Are you headin’ into the city on your own? Or would you like an escort?”

  Bane bared his fangs at Kahn, both sharp and pointy.

  “I can protect myself and my charge just fine. But thanks, anyway.”

  Emely’s hand came down over Sonnet’s shoulder, and warm lips spoke so close to her ear that they almost touched, “Be careful, Vale. Phantom City is full of surprises. And not all of them are the good kind.”

  Her instincts peaked, a warning, at Emely’s words. That was why she hated surprises—no matter the variety.

  ***

  The moon was full on the horizon as Sonnet and Bane walked the main road that led into the city. From what she could see of it, the town was small, with a main drag that was lined with several buildings on either side. Shops mainly, all open for business. If there were any personal residences, she couldn’t see them.

  Neon signs blared wild. One of the biggest eye-catchers shimmered light blue and black in the distance, blinking the name, Nightshade. Across the street from Nightshade was what appeared to be a tattoo shop, with a neon pink, black, and white sign that blazed Immortal Ink, with a skull and bones attached to it.

  The scene reminded her of Las Vegas, but with a more Gothic undertone, minus the tang of desperation in the air. In her opinion, Phantom City was the perfect place to house the paranormal species that were much too different, with their special dietary needs and magical abilities, from normal society.

  “So what do you think?” Bane asked Sonnet.

  As they passed the tallest building on the strip, a hotel whose sign read Eternal Slumber, Sonnet decided right then and there that she never wanted to frequent that particular establishment. She looked around and smiled.

  “The place is not so bad.”

  And she really did mean that. It was a city unlike anything she’d ever seen, and oddly enough, she felt comfortable in it.

  They walked for tw
o blocks, and during the entire journey, Sonnet soaked up the city. Several normal-looking folk passed by without a second glance, but some of them hesitated, nose sniffing the air around her, with a subsequent scowl. She imagined those people to be werewolves, able to decipher by scent that she was a hunter. And she was quickly learning that no one in Phantom City liked hunters.

  “Are we there yet?”

  She felt like a child asking, but they’d been walking for over an hour. First, across a mile of barren terrain, to get to the outskirts of Phantom City, and then a couple more blocks once they’d entered the town.

  “We are close.”

  “And what is this place? You never told me where we’re goin’.”

  Grinning, Bane said, “I’m taking you to Remy’s house. He’s essentially the mayor here, as well as my boss. He’ll know where to find your vampire.”

  He stopped and turned towards one of the larger buildings in the city. It was a three-story brick structure—the one with the sign she’d noticed earlier as sticking out above the rest, like a glistening beacon, flashing Nightshade.

  Sonnet looked up at Bane, questions flickering across her features.

  “What are we doin’ at a club? Stoppin’ for a drink first, or somethin’?”

  Bane let his gaze linger on her for several moments, and then he shook his head.

  “Questions come out of you like rapid fire, little fox. How about you relax and let me get you to where you need to be. I promise that all of this will be over soon.”

  He walked toward the double glass doors and wrapped his knuckles around one of the flashy gold handles. He twisted his lips into a sexy grin.

  “Even speechless, you’re exquisite.”

  “That’s just like a man. Tell you to shut up one second and then compliment you the next.” She huffed as she stomped past him, entering the building through the door he held open for her. “That crap don’t work on me.”

  She could feel his stare burning a hole in her back, and it made her smile.

  “Oh, I thought modern women preferred assholes. What will work, then? How can I sway you over to the dark side? Flowers, candy?”

  Sonnet could tell by his tone that Bane was being playful with her. Or more to the point, he was flirting. She shook her head and continued to walk forward, even though she hadn’t a clue where she was going. She spotted the bar about ten feet away and to her right. That was a good enough place to sit as any. She slipped onto a red leather barstool and crossed one leg over the other.

  The bartender was in front of her in a flash. Sonnet’s mouth gaped, and her brain stuttered to a stop.

  “What can I do ya for, hun?”

  A tiny lady hovered before Sonnet. She had long black hair, light blue skin, and tiny horns. The mini she-devil couldn’t have been over three feet tall.

  “Wait a second,” she said.

  After an assessing tilt of the head at Sonnet, the blue devil zipped up to the very top of the liquor shelves.

  “Midori Sour, right? With a splash of grenadine?”

  She dropped back down with a liquor bottle half-filled with bright green liquid in both of her hands. Her dark brows jumped up, and she scrunched her perky nose.

  “Well, is that your flavor, little lady? I’m rarely ever wrong, so it must be,” she chattered on. “I don’t have all day. You want somethin’, or not?”

  Speechless, Sonnet nodded and then turned to look at Bane. He had taken the seat next to her. He peered over her shoulder at the bartender and smiled wide.

  “Thank you, Anya. I’ll take my usual, and put the lady’s drink on my account, please.”

  Sonnet turned back and watched the bartender as she hovered around the bar. Anya was back in front of her in a heartbeat, with her favorite drink, a Midori Sour with a splash of grenadine, as well as a can of Sanguine-Blast, which she placed in front of Bane. Anya’s black eyes flashed to Sonnet’s hand.

  “That’s an interestin’ ring.”

  She dragged that measured look over to Bane. She stared at him hard.

  “I’ve told you before, Anya. None of your mindreading tricks on me.”

  So that’s how she knew my favorite drink.

  Anya looked away as she said, “It’s nice to know that you’re finally puttin’ your heart out there, blood-sucker. Your ass is way too fine to stay celibate.”

  Sonnet stared at the ring, which apparently had Anya thinking she was a vampire’s concubine.

  “Mind your manners, demon,” he said.

  Great. Not only do vampires and werewolves exist, but so do mindreadin’ demons.

  She swallowed a lump in her throat; she sure as hell was going to need more than just one drink to get through that revelation. Sonnet clenched her teeth and squinted as she tried to physically push a thought at Anya.

  Tequila, tequila, tequila.

  Twisting around, Anya grabbed the bottle of Patron Silver and poured Sonnet a double shot.

  “Here ya go, lass. No chaser, right?”

  Smiling, Sonnet nodded once before throwing back half the shot.

  “Thanks.”

  The she-demon looked at the two of them.

  “So what’s goin’ on? Here to see the boss man?”

  Bane said, “Yes. Is he in?”

  “You bet your sweet ass, he is. I’ll let him know to expect you.”

  “I’d appreciate it.”

  With a grunt, Anya turned, zipping away from them.

  Sonnet watched as Anya’s long blue spade-tipped tail disappeared around the corner.

  “Demon, huh?” she murmured between gulps of the relaxing liquor. “How many more surprises you got for me?”

  Bane set down his drink and stood from his barstool. He gazed down at Sonnet, his lips peeling back from his pointed teeth.

  “Many, many more surprises are in store for you, little fox.”

  Before standing, she sucked down the last bit of her drink, hoping it would calm her nerves and ease the pain that was spreading inside her chest.

  “If all the surprises bring me booze, I can deal,” she said, slamming down the empty glass. “Let’s get this over with then, okay?”

  Chapter Twelve

  Up on the top floor of Nightshade, Sonnet and Bane exited the elevator. As soon as the doors shut behind them, her warning bells flared to life again, but not as excruciatingly as before. The pain was tolerable, which meant the vampire blood was leaving her system, but was not gone entirely.

  There was one direction to go, straight ahead, down a short hall that led to the only door on the third level. All around them was silence, until Bane rapped his knuckles against the wooden structure.

  “Come on in!” a male voice boomed from the other side.

  The sound was dark and rich—with more than a hint of a rumble.

  Ordinarily, Sonnet would follow that instruction, but she had to admit, the bottomless voice frightened her. Her fingers wrapped around Bane’s wrist as he grabbed the knob, stopping him from turning it.

  “Are you sure we’re safe? My gut is screamin’ at me to run.”

  Bane gazed at her with solemn eyes and a soft expression.

  “You have every right to be concerned, and your instincts are right on the money in regards to Remy. But you’re with me. And your finger bears my mark to exhibit. Nothing will happen to you.”

  Sonnet released him, saying, “All right. I’m gonna trust you.”

  A smile brightened his handsome face.

  “Thank you. And I’ll do my damnedest to keep that trust.”

  “I don’t seem to be resistin’ you all that much anymore. I guess that’s a good thing... as long as you keep your mitts to yourself.”

  She could feel in that instant a change. Not in herself, but in the air around them. It felt more comfortable, less cautious and tense. Yes, showing a bit of trust in someone could be good thing, especially when working towards a common goal. But Sonnet was hesitant to let her guard down completely. She knew once she did, she
’d be leaving herself wide open to a fast hard uppercut to the jaw.

  Bane looked at her full on in the face, with his eyes so sincere.

  “I refuse to damage what trust we’ve built so far, even a little. So to be honest, I plan on having my mitts all over you one day, with your mind, body, and soul at my mercy... in every imaginable devious and erotic way. As for right now, I’ll be good.” He licked his lips, the tip of his tongue moving a bit slower as it reached the top plump, luscious bow. “And I won’t have to force my attentions upon you, because you’ll come to me more than willing.”

  A trace blush of arousal colored Sonnet’s cheeks.

  “You’re unbelievable, vampire,” she said in a breathy voice.

  “So I’m told.”

  Bane watched her briefly before opening the door, relishing every sensation he caused her to feel. He wanted, no, needed her to experience the pull—the heat—and to witness the evidence of her building desire for him. Her influence had been running over him like a bulldozer from the moment he’d laid eyes upon her. It was only fair that she suffer, too.

  ***

  The warmly lit room glowed auburn and yellow under the soft flickering flames. Candles were everywhere—jumbled on a desk on the far right side of the room, in a staggered row of five on a free-standing candelabra, and even more were placed in golden holders set on top of the wide sills of three huge windows.

  “What the hell took you so long to get here? It’s been what, a week since I sent you out on your mission?”

  Remy looked up from the book he was studying. His eyes were piercing, two obsidian pools of glass.

  “Demon.”

  The word slipped from between Sonnet’s lips before she could stop it.

  Remy stood, his body unfolding from his chair, at least seven feet tall. He was a shadowy mountain. He had tanned skin, and he looked strong. Arms, chest, and legs were all rolled with muscles. He clenched his back teeth, making his square jaw stand out more. He was decked out in all black. The only relief from the darkness was a silver belt buckle and a gold watch, strapped tight around his thick wrist. Even his hair was black, tied back from his face in a loose ponytail.

 
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