paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame, p.6Gena D. Lutz
They shook, and then she let her hand fall into a loose fist at her side. Energy coated her skin, and in a futile attempt to shake the residual magic from her hand, she flexed her fingers a few times. He was that powerful.
She smiled and did her best to play it cool. As if the mage who spoke so nicely wasn’t deadlier than a venomous snake. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Laszlo.”
In response, he turned the wattage up on his own smile by degrees. “I’ve heard so many stories. I must say, it’s great to put a face to the legend.”
Her brows drew together at that. “Legend?”
Silver eyes that pulsed with mystery shined underneath the overhead lights as Laszlo chuckled, lifting a curious brow of his own. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital? Suffering from a dragon burn?”
Ah, she got the point. He thought she was indestructible, or something of the like, but what she really was, was one lucky son of a gun. “The same dragon who attacked me found reason to heal me. There’s nothing more special goin’ on than that.”
He leaned in and winked at her. “Sure, if you say so.”
Dom glanced at the bag in Laszlo’s hand. “What do you have there?”
Laszlo bit his lower lip and broke eye contact. It was a gesture that, if she weren’t happily ensconced in a serious relationship, she may have thought was sexy.
Sonnet thought about Bane’s light blue eyes and sensual, long, liquid-caramel-colored hair, and smiled—he was gorgeous. And not in an overly pretty, flashy, or even cocky sort of way, but in a way that made your heart melt when you looked at him, your knees wobble, and your panties drop as if they had a mind of their own. Laszlo was hot, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Bane.
“Did we lose you?”
It was Dom’s voice.
Sonnet’s cheeks warmed, and she cleared her throat. “Sorry, where were we? I lost my train of thought for a minute.”
Dom chuckled. “Laszlo was telling us what he’d learned about the collar we gave him.”
She glanced down at the mage’s hand; he was holding the plastic bag out in front of him, and inside of it she could see the silver collar. She took it in one hand and held it up to the light. Focusing hard, she fought to glean a read from it, but like before, it registered as ordinary magic—nothing special.
Without looking up at the mage, she asked, “What is its purpose?”
“I’m going to give you the CliffsNotes explanation. It’s a nullifier of magic; specifically targeted at Dragon magic.”
“Can you destroy it?”
He shook his head. “Maybe, if I had some more time with it. And I’d have to call some of my contacts in New Orleans to see what they know about this kind of voodoo magic.”
After a long pause for thought, a moment during which she considered the fact that she had in her possession a magical instrument that could harm the one person in her life that she cared for more than anything, Sonnet pocketed the plastic bag.
There was no way in hell she was going to let something that could harm Poppy float around Phantom City, all nilly-willy, without her personal supervision. In fact, after she was finished consulting on the murder case, she was going to figure out how to destroy the miserable object, even if the solution led her to a voodoo doctor’s doorstep in New Orleans.
She nodded. “I’ll keep it until you find out more.”
Her answer gave him pause. “You don’t trust me alone with it?”
She crossed her arms and cocked her hip. “No offense, but I just met you.”
Even though she could feel Laszlo’s reluctance to forfeit possession of the cursed item, he gave her a patient smile. “I assure you, none taken.”
A few minutes later, Sonnet and Dom where heading back up to the hub of the precinct to see if Mauramaze had awakened. That’s when an urgent message from a certain she-devil invaded her brain space.
I thought you might like to know that your daughter is with me—inside the club.
The elevator door pinged open and Sonnet stepped onto the main floor of the precinct. With more than a little irritation in her words, she mentally answered, Why haven’t you kicked her little butt out of there?
She could almost hear a hint of a smile in Anya’s reply.
Well, because she is trying to talk me into going with her to see you over at the PCPD. So, momma bear, what should I tell your little cub?
At this point, Sonnet would rather have Poppy by her side than anywhere else.
Tell her I’ll see you guys shortly.
Sonnet glanced toward Maze’s cell. The she-dragon was awake, sitting on her cot, staring daggers at her. And then Maze’s gaze darted to Sonnet’s jacket pocket, the one she’d stuffed the collar into, as if she knew what was in there. After a few seconds her lavender eyes went wide with fear, her knees went to her chest, and she scooted back until her body pressed tight against the stone wall.
Two facts struck Sonnet instantly: First, the collar in her pocket had been hoodooed to drain a dragon of its magic, and said item was discovered at the first crime scene, where Maze just so happened to annihilate a werewolf with her fire. Second, Maze was obviously scared shitless of the thing, which led her to believe that there was a strong possibility it had once rested around her neck.
Sonnet suddenly found herself anxious to speak with Maze.
“Do you mind if I talk to Maze before you interrogate her?”
Dom frowned and studied her. He mustn’t have found anything too off-putting about her request, because he finally shrugged and said, “Sure, just come and get me when you’re finished.”
She nodded, and said, “Thanks, Dom.”
The world as Poppy knew it had become a foreign and heartbreaking place. She’d been sitting, pacing, and chewing her nails in her room for the last half hour, wondering what she could do to make things normal again. She felt like everything that had happened was all her fault—the murders, Sonnet getting hurt. If it weren’t for her birth mother’s arrival, none of it would have happened. Which proved—her fault.
She swiped a finger across her brow, brushing away the sweat that had formed there. The phone rang. A shudder ran down her spine…was it Sonnet? Poppy rushed into the living room and picked up the receiver by the third ring.
“Hello?” She sounded a bit breathless.
“Poppy, it’s me, Quinn. I was worried about you, so I thought I’d call.”
She sighed through her nose, smoke expending with the air. Of course she was happy to hear Quinn’s voice, but at the moment, what she really needed was to hear from her mother.
She eased into a seated position on the couch, and said, “Hi, Quinn. I’m okay I guess. Thank you for asking.”
She cringed at her own politeness. It was as if a robot had taken over her responses, making her sound like a Stepford dragon, quieting the more ruthless and wild, devil-may-care part of her personality—the best parts, in her opinion.
“You sound different,” he said.
Feeling too agitated to remain seated, Poppy stood. “I’m just worried about my mother.”
There was a pause, and then he said, “I can come over and keep you company.”
She closed her eyes and took a few calming breathes. His offer was tempting and sweet, but regretfully, not at all what she needed at that moment. When she reopened her eyes, they were filled with resolve.
“No, I’m fine, really. Can I take a rain check?”
Even though his voice sounded uncertain, he said, “Sure. I’ll give you a call tomorrow.”
“I’d like that.”
Five minutes later…
“What in the hellcat are you doing here?” Anya asked, her arms shooting crossways over her bouncing, naked breasts.
Poppy pushed a red curl out of her face and said, “I need a favor.”
Anya motioned her off to the side with a slant of her head, away from the demons gyrating in the buff onstage.
Sonnet’s gonna rip m
“Where’s your mom?”
“She’s over at the PCP, with my birth mother.”
Anya’s black eyes went wide and her wings stopped beating. She dropped several inches before catching herself and darting back up. With modest arms still wrapped around her chest, she hissed, “I don’t have enough life insurance to be dealing with you right now, young lady. Now be a good girl and run on home before you land us both in a world of trouble.”
Poppy’s chin tipped up, and she crossed her arms. “Nope. I’m staying right here until you agree to help me,” she said.
Anya narrowed her eyes. “You’re as stubborn as your mother.”
“Thank you,” she replied, walking over to an empty table to take a seat. “I’ll wait here while you get dressed.”
The she-devil raised a brow. “You also rival her in nerve.”
A thin smile spread across Poppy’s face, and she winked at Anya. “It’s a dragon thing.”
Sonnet stood in front of Maze’s cell with the evidence bag dangling between them in the air. “Why are you so afraid of this? Huh?”
Maze unraveled herself from the tight ball she’d curled into, and then stood from the cot. She planted a fake smile on her face, while at the same time not taking her eyes off of the collar. “If you put that fucking thing away, we can talk.”
Sonnet nodded and stuffed the bag inside her jacket pocket. Once the collar was safely tucked away, she said, “Well, come on, spill it.”
After releasing the breath she was holding, Maze murmured, “It’s not an easy thing to talk about.”
Sonnet took a step closer to the bars. “Take your time.”
Sonnet glanced over her shoulder to see Poppy hustling toward them, with Anya hot on her heels. Her heart leapt at the sight of her daughter. The tender feeling, however, was quickly followed by an innate need to protect her.
“Poppy, can you wait in Dom’s office? I’d rather you not be here for this.”
“Maze rushed forward at the sight of Poppy, her hands gripping the bars tight. “You came to see me. Just like you said you would.”
Sonnet’s head snapped back around. With a crazed look at Maze, she hissed, “Don’t talk to her. Don’t even look at her.”
Maze glanced at Sonnet as if she were daft. “She’s my blood.”
Sonnet lunged at Maze, reached through the bars and grabbed a handful of leather halter top. She yanked until their noses almost touched. And then a deadly growl, a warning sound unlike any other Sonnet had ever made, rolled out, before she said, “I am her mother.”
The air in the room heated up like it was on fire, and then a light sheen of warmth coated Sonnet’s fingers and began a slow crawl up her arm.
A low, menacing hiss escaped the dragon’s lips, her eyes flashing red. Sonnet released her hold and took a quick step back. She looked at her hands, flexed them. “You shouldn’t have use of your magic.”
Flames danced across Maze’s fists, and then sputtered out. “Your wards, that collar. Don’t you see? You all try to take from me what’s mine, but you can’t, not fully.”
“What do you mean?”
The question came from Poppy.
Two sets of matching liquid lavender eyes met, and Maze instantly settled down. “Our clan magic is how I kept you hidden for so long, how I finally escaped my captors so I could find you.”
Her eyes momentarily moved to Sonnet’s arm, and then returned to Poppy. “The fire we conjure follows our every whim. We can make the flames harmless, or as deadly as acid, and as you already witnessed, they can even heal. Even with that damn collar around my neck, I was able to hoard enough magic to keep you hidden inside of my womb, long after you should have been born, until I could stash you someplace safe. After that, it took me a while to store up enough of it to finally escape those bastards.”
Poppy gasped, and then took a couple steps forward. “This isn’t real. This can’t be happening.” Sonnet’s hand settled on Poppy’s shoulder, and she immediately shrugged it off. “I need to hear this, Mom, please don’t try to keep me away from her.”
Anya flew up to them, into the tension, and she nodded at Poppy in a way that hinted to anyone watching that the two of them were in on a secret. “All of us need to hear this—or rather, witness it. Because what I’ve plucked from that she-dragon’s gray matter will make you think twice about pressing murder charges against her.”
Sonnet’s eye’s narrowed. “Are you trying to say she’s innocent?”
Hope sprang into Poppy’s eyes. “Maze, is it true?”
The she-dragon gave her a soft, loving look. “I only did what I had to do.”
“I need a moment to think about all of this.” Sonnet said.
The truth was, she was being jealous and stubborn. And what she needed to be, what Poppy needed from her, was kindness and understanding.
Before anything else could be said, Anya zipped over to hover face-to-face with Sonnet. Her tiny blue face leaned in so close that Sonnet could see the demon had one miniscule little freckle at the tip of her nose.
“The way I see it, you have two choices. You can either fight the connection between your daughter and her birth mother, or you can work with me here to find out the truth.” Anya’s voice took on a more serious tone. “You don’t want her to end up resenting you for this, do you?”
Sonnet gritted her teeth, and shook her head in response. No matter how much Maze infuriated her, she saw the wisdom in her friend’s advice. After eyeing the proximity of the two dragons, Sonnet sighed. “What do you need me to do?”
“Let her out of that cell.”
Anya looked around them, and then said, “It was hard enough to get a read from the dragon behind those damn wards. I’m going to need an unimpeded connection between you, Poppy, Maze, and myself, if I’m going to be able to do this.”
Sonnet snorted and rolled her eyes. “Dom’s not going to agree to that.”
Anya’s gaze went dead serious. “If you want the truth, you’ll need to convince him.”
Sonnet turned from Anya, and watched her daughter. For the first time, she didn’t feel like ripping away random limbs at the mere sight of Maze breathing in the same vicinity as Poppy. But she did feel a pang of jealousy shoot through her gut. All thoughts of murder, and magic, left. And in its place, fear blossomed.
She glanced over at Anya, who had zipped closer to the bars. It looked as if she were testing the strength of the wards. When the she-devil was finished, she swore at them, and then flew back, stopping a whispering distance from Sonnet.
“Why haven’t you left yet?” she questioned.
Sonnet’s head fell, and she mumbled, “What if I lose her?”
With a sigh, Anya placed a hand on Sonnet’s shoulder. “That could never happen. She loves you.”
As Sonnet headed toward Dom’s office, she listened to Poppy and Maze talk in civil tones. It hurt, pierced, like a giant needle had chosen her heart as a favorite pin cushion.
Remember, she told herself. You will always be her mother. Nobody can change that.
“Poppy. You take your mother’s hand, and I’ll take the other. Maze, grab Poppy’s free hand, and I’ll begin the memory transfer just as soon as we’re all connected.”
As Anya spoke, everyone followed direction. All four of them were locked inside of an interrogation room, with Dom and his elite vampire squad just outside. The arrangement was the best Sonnet could manage. And to make even that much happen, she had to promise Dom she’d take the next case he threw her way, no questions asked. As long as Anya was able to bring to light what happened with Maze and the murder victims, Sonnet considered the obligation worth it.
There was silence—and then the images came flying at her.
For a split second, all you could see from Maze
Poppy’s fingers constricted around Sonnet’s. “That’s my father, isn’t it?” she asked with no breath.
With a nod, Sonnet whispered gently, “I think so, yes.”
“Yes, little one. That is your father, Gaelen.”
“Hush now, save the questions for later, I need to concentrate,” Poppy instructed.
In the next moment, Mauramaze’s memories flashed into something straight out of a nightmare. Utterly terrifying, within a reality you prayed to be awoken from.
A man with golden eyes, long blond hair matted with blood, beaten to within an inch of his life, was down on his knees, arm muscles trembling with the exertion of trying to lift himself back to his feet. Two wolves crouched before him, teeth bloody from attack, bared and ready for another go at the battered man. It was Gaelen.
Maze’s desperate voice echoed loud in everyone’s heads.
“I will go with you willingly if you just leave him be!”
A deep laugh and harsh words answered Maze’s plea. “You will come either way.”
And then she was yanked backwards by the hair.
The muscles in her long neck strained as she hissed with wild eyes at the vampire holding her captive against his body, while his lackeys threatened her mate.
Her voice dropped to a low, menacing hiss, and she said, “Then let me put it to you this way. If you harm him, I will kill you.”
The vampire pulled harder, sending bolts of pain through her neck and down her shoulder. “You’ll be useless to do anything to me, or anybody else for that matter, after I’m finished with you, you scaly bitch.”
The last words splashed spit across her flaming cheeks. The small amount of liquid sizzled on contact, which could only mean one thing—burgeoning fire.
paranormal hunter 04 - dark flame by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes