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Sweet venom a venin assa.., p.6
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       Sweet Venom (A Venin Assassin Novel Book 1), p.6

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  Once I realized what I was doing, I released my grip. No one was allowed to have that kind of power over me again—ever. I escaped that hell. I wasn’t going back.

  My jaw clenched. “I’ll ask one more time, why do you even give a goddamn about it?”

  His shrug was nonchalant as he said, “I suppose I feel somewhat responsible for Fin ending up missing. I should have stopped her, or went to Punch Drunk with her that night. Unless I’m looking for history to repeat itself, I guess I’m offering to escort you to the party, in a completely platonic way, of course.”

  My heart warmed at his answer. It was obvious that he felt something for Finley. It was right there in his eyes—regret, remorse. Even though he’d already denied having carnal relations with her, it made me wonder if there was something more than just friendship between them.

  I took a deep, shuddery breath and rubbed at my forehead wearily. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a parablood along for the ride.”

  The oracle did stress the importance of fitting in, so bringing Jake with me would more than likely help my cause.

  He smiled at me for a minute, then said, “I’ll pick you up at your place in an hour?”

  “No,” I said a little too quickly. “Meet me at Pink Acid. I’ll be getting ready there.”

  The last thing I needed was a wolf at my door.

  His expression was confused. “Isn’t that a clothing store?”

  “See you in an hour.”

  I made my way around him, walking off before he could say another word.

  Chapter Eight

  I needed a dress that was provocative, but not cheap. There was only one place I could think to find one of those—Pink Acid.

  “You need to get your ass in gear,” I told Keri, “before I die of old age.”

  “I still can’t believe I agreed to do this,” she mumbled over the loud zipping sound that came from the fifth dress she’d tried on in the last hour.

  I fidgeted with an emerald, knee length dress in one hand, a matching pair of do-me heels dangling from the other. I’d always wanted to buy something from Pink Acid, but since all their designer dresses retailed at over two-hundred dollars a-fuckin-pop, I really needed some major incentive to pull that diamond-encrusted trigger.

  “Death by starvation would be better than having to wear this thing…” Keri grumbled as she exited the fitting room. She pinched at the bodice of her black satin dress before coming to a joggled stop in front of a bay of mirrors. “So this is what my life has come to?”

  I sighed, glancing at Keri’s reflection in the mirror. The dress fit her snug in all the right places. It was mid-thigh length with sheer skull-patterned lace that showed off her toned abs and waist.

  “You look great.”

  She flashed me a grin. “Yeah, you’re right. I actually don’t hate this one.”

  My jaw dropped. “Seriously? You’ve decided on something?”

  Our gazes met in the mirror.

  She smirked. “The sky has fallen.”

  I just shook my head, and said, “You’re a lot more trouble than you’re worth sometimes, lady.”

  Keri gazed down at the price tag on the dress for a long moment. “The fuck…” She looked back up at me. “Right now, I’m just hoping I’m worth at least three hundred bucks to ya. How in Hades are we going to pay for this?”

  A gorgeous blonde saleslady strolled into the dressing area. She wore a serious I’m-going-to-take-all-your-money grin stretched across her cherry red lips, and in her arms, she carried more pretties.

  She held up a swath of black silk. “Can I interest you ladies in a silk wrap? Any one of these beauties would complement your dresses quite nicely.”

  I mentally counted the contents of my wallet, bank account, and the available balance on the emergency credit card Charlie had finagled into my wallet one day and came up with just enough to pay for our dresses, shoes, and gas money… and maybe a shot or two at the end of the night.

  Before I could say no, Keri guffawed. “Are you kidding me? At these prices, the dress should come with that scrap of fabric, and you should throw in a four-course meal to boot.”

  The banshee’s electric blue eyes jumped to Keri. “I see you’re sticking true to your nature.” Her voice was underscored by a snort that was as pleasant as turned cream.

  I could see the end of Keri’s braid begin to twitch.

  “What exactly do you mean by that?” she growled.

  The banshee didn’t so much as flinch as she replied, “Your ilk are wild and like to rummage around in dirt. It’s beyond me how you’ve managed to live amongst all of us civil Bloods and humans for this long without being thrown in jail. Or even better…put down.”

  “Why you stuck up little bitch…” Keri said, her braid arcing in a way that left the stinger pointing at the saleslady.

  A whistle picked up behind the banshee’s closed mouth, and it increased in volume by the second. Not good.

  I stood and walked between them, parting the tension.

  “We’ll take the dresses and both pairs of heels,” I smiled, then added, “thank you.”

  Her building arsenal of decibels dissolved into what I could only describe as sales glee. The one thing a banshee loved more than the sound of her own voice was money.

  “Follow me. I’ll ring you up at the front.” She shot a heated glance at Keri. “You can wait outside.”

  “We’ll be along shortly.”

  Without walking back inside the dressing room, Keri stripped out of the dress and missile-launched it at me.

  “You didn’t need to interfere. It’s not like I was going to attack her or anything. Unlike her claims, I am civilized.”

  I looked at the dress, then at her. “Since when do you care about what anybody thinks of you?”

  She shrugged and handed me the heels she’d picked out. “Hoity-toity bitches just rub me wrong, I guess.”

  An arm swept around my waist, pulling me close.

  “Did I make it on time?” Jake’s voice didn’t just whisper in my ear, it delicately bathed it with warmth. His familiar scent was almost entrancing.

  Without thought, I lifted my hand to touch Jake’s face, but I caught myself. Instead, I pushed out of his hold and whirled on him.

  “We’re still here aren’t we?” I said. “And keep your hands to yourself, buddy.”

  Jake confused me, far more than he should’ve, and that bothered me.

  He stared at the bared flesh of my shoulders and neck, then raised his eyes and hands in defeat. “Fair enough.”

  You ready, Keri?” I asked.

  She nodded, trying not to laugh.

  “Let’s go.”

  ***

  Less than an hour later, Keri pulled the Mustang to the curb in front of a two-story suburban ranch. The home’s brick walls were painted a soft gray with white trim and had an inviting wraparound porch in the front.

  I took in the surrounding neighborhood with its large homes and perfectly manicured lawns and frowned. Winding up in the burbs wasn’t what I’d expected to find on the other end of the invitation in my hand.

  Walking up to the house, I took a slow look around the front yard and noticed a shimmer of faeblood magic blanketing the area. The enchantment stood out like a sore thumb to me, and would to any other Blood who took a moment to notice it. The glamour was meant to ward off humans and most assuredly had come at a hefty cost to the host of this party.

  A car pulled into the driveway and vanished behind the glamour.

  We stepped into the yard and ended up if front of an entirely different structure. This one resembled a mini castle sans a mote.

  Once at the front door, I could hear the pulse and pound of loud music inside, so I knocked heavily.

  Jake pressed up against my side. “Maybe you should let me do all the talking.”

  Keri chuckled behind me.

  “That’s not necessary.”

  The oracle had already told me what I should
say, and I was going to follow her instructions to a T.

  The door swung open, and my stomach tied in knots. I took a deep calming breath and handed the dark-haired woman wearing a tight pink dress my invitation.

  The woman’s nose lifted and she smelled the air. She took a quick step back as her features morphed into disgust. “You are veninblood.”

  Some of her friends must have heard her because two more she-wolves, both with dark auburn hair and matching sets of green eyes, appeared behind her.

  “Is everything okay here, Lana?” one of the two twins asked.

  “Yeah, there’s just a couple venin trash trying to crash the party.”

  Panic skittered down my spine. But I held my ground. I wasn’t about to let my nerves ruin my chances of finding Finley.

  “Why have you brought them here with you, wolf?” Lana growled the question at Jake.

  The other twin wolf piped in, fangs bared. “You all need to leave. Now.”

  Keri stepped forward. “You better back the fuck up.”

  The escalating situation began to echo around my brain. This was not how this was supposed to go down.

  “The Black Widow secured my invitation.” I hurriedly blurted out what the oracle had instructed me to say. By the frantic looks that ran across the mini-she-bitch-pack’s faces, I wished I’d said it sooner.

  Lana stared at me for minute, then with a shaky hand, she gestured me inside. “Please, won’t you come in?” she asked between gritted teeth.

  Keri grabbed my hand and dragged me over the threshold, pushing all three women aside in the process. “Don’t mind if we do.”

  A door slammed behind me, then furious heels followed me and Keri into a very spacious living room filled with parablood party goers.

  “I don’t know how you shut those bitches up so quickly.” Keri leaned into my shoulder and whispered next to my ear. “But I’m certainly impressed. Bravo, Sis.”

  I took in a deep breath, let it out slow, and looked around the room.

  “Keep your eyes peeled for anything suspicious.”

  Keri nodded.

  “Were you two just going to leave me out on the porch?” Jake asked after catching up to us.

  I spotted a pair of vampires in the far corner of the room, dressed to kill, literally, in black suits and armed to the fang with enough iron to take down an entire hillock of Fae.

  As they neared, I reached up and instinctively wrapped my fingers around the silver cross dangling from my neck. The silver wouldn’t kill them unless I somehow sunk the chunk of metal deep inside their hearts, but the mere existence of it would act as a leach repellent. Good enough for me.

  “The porch is, after all, where errant mutts are banished to when they’re bad.” I muttered my response to Jake while keeping my eyes trained on the vampires.

  Keri chuckled.

  My gaze momentarily moved to Jake.

  The shine in his stare shifted from curiosity to amusement. “Keep it up, Cassis, and you’ll find out exactly where that kind of teasing gets you.”

  I laughed. I couldn’t help it.

  “Jake,” I said, my voice was a strangled gasp. “Focus on Finley, please.”

  He stiffened, and his expressions turned solemn. “Good idea.”

  “I’m going to check out the back of the house. Is your receiver on?” Keri asked me.

  I swiped at my hair, turning on the tiny black listening device I had hidden behind my ear. “It is now.”

  “Okay, good. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting in the bowels of this hellhole.”

  I nodded once before she walked off.

  The scent of roses and cinnamon wafted over.

  “Jake, dear, I never thought I’d run into you at one of these parties,” a deep, sensual voice said from close behind us.

  I turned around. My gaze and senses quickly surveyed what looked to be a vampire trying to pass off a tiny scrap of leather as a dress.

  I smirked. She studied me for a moment then flipped her long red hair over the shoulder closest to me, almost like a dismissal, as she eyed Jake wantonly up and down.

  I watched him take her appearance in with an approval any hot-blooded male would when faced with a half-naked vampire goddess.

  “Gwynn, it’s always a pleasure,” he said.

  Gwynn reached over and stroked his cheek, a familiar gesture that let me know they shared a sexual past.

  I smirked. Seemed like this wolf had a thing for redheads.

  “I have missed you,” she cooed.

  Jake turned his head, making her long, elegant fingertips trail down his jaw as they reluctantly fell away.

  “It’s wonderful to see you again, but right now, I’m here with someone else.”

  My brow rose because that someone else had a name…

  I held out my hand. “Hi, I’m Cassis Dark.”

  Suddenly, I felt the full press of Gwynn’s vampirism wash over me as if I were the beach during high tide. The hair raised at the back of my neck. She was powerful, masterfully so.

  With a too sweet smile, she grabbed my offered hand and squeezed. “Gwynn Rosenthorn, Master of the Thorn Kiss. It’s very interesting to meet a friend of Jake’s.” Her copper gaze took my measure, and she smirked. “Very interesting indeed.”

  I didn’t know what to say, so I smiled awkwardly. In my entire life, I’d only met two vampires, so to find myself standing face to face with a master felt tremendously surreal. Not to mention stupid. Vamps hated venin.

  Suddenly, Gwynn’s hand drew away, and with it, her probing magic. I breathed a sigh of relief.

  She stared up at Jake. “I must feed.”

  He inclined his head, in a very formal way, at her before she walked off.

  “My, my, my…” I said, making a tsking sound. “Somebody sure gets around.”

  For the first time that night, Jake frowned. “It’s not like that.”

  “Sure.”

  He grabbed my arm, but not too tightly, just enough to get my full attention. “I’m being serious, Cassis.”

  I yanked my arm back. “Sheez… okay.”

  Jake sighed and tucked his hands in his pocket. “I’m sorry. Gwynn has a knack of showing up out of nowhere and ruining things.”

  I froze and glanced up at him slowly. “What exactly did she ruin?”

  Something passed between us then, as our eyes met and danced with a spark that I was unfamiliar with. I found myself drowning in it—the movement of something silent, invisible, but entirely tangible and sensual to the senses all at once.

  Interference crackled in my ear. “Sis, you need to get your ass out back, to the guest house, now.”

  Keri’s voice splashed over me like a bucket of cold water.

  Jake frowned for the second time in as many minutes. “Is everything alright?”

  I shrugged. “I don’t know.” Then I whispered to Keri, “Be right there.”

  Moments later, I was weaving my way through a press of werewolf and vampire bodies, and I found myself at a door.

  “Do you hear that?” I asked, Jake.

  He nodded. “Fighting.”

  “And a cry for help,” I added.

  I turned the knob, stepped outside, and my world spun.

  A searing pain stabbed into my chest. I fell to my knees and choked on a mouthful of blood. My eyes opened wide, and through blurred vision I could see Keri pushing up off the ground. Her features skewed with terror when she saw me. The gun in her fist was kicking out bullets as fast as she could pull the trigger.

  “Stay down!”

  That was Jake’s gruff, commanding voice.

  With blood dripping from her parted mouth, Keri’s eyes skipped to Jake, and she nodded once.

  My adrenaline coursed like a fiery river in my veins at the sound of screams, bones crunching, and the wet thwap of mortal wounds inflicted exploding all around me.

  “Die, bitch!”

  My head snapped up. An angry man with a gun was barreling t
oward me.

  In the next instant, an enormous brown and black wolf torpedoed over me, landing in a furry heap on the charging vampire, dropping him to the ground. A mighty roar tore from the wolf’s throat; sharp fangs enveloped the vampire’s neck. My eyes closed and reopened in time to watch a truncated head roll across the dirt.

  The wolf eyed me as he slowly stepped over the felled body of my attacker. There was something familiar about his eyes that kept me from being terrified as he approached.

  Jake? I wasn’t sure if I thought his name or if I said it out loud. Through my disorientation, I wasn’t sure of anything that was happening around me. I just knew I was hurt… bad.

  I glanced over at Keri. She had her scorpion stinger wrapped around a she-wolf’s neck, choking her out, while at the same time shooting a vampire between the eyes.

  I took solace in knowing she was okay.

  I drew a ragged breath and let it out slowly. After swallowing a few more mouthfuls of air, I pushed myself to my feet. Semiconscious, I staggered against the house. Blood seeped from a gunshot wound between my breasts. I traced shaky fingertips across the wet hole left behind and let out a silent cry of relief.

  The bullet had missed my heart. But I was still losing a lot of blood.

  After a moment, I realized I was standing next to a vampire pinned to the house with a wooden stake. His eyes were glazed over, drool mixed with blood dripped down his chin. He’d gotten luckily, too, it would seem—the wood hadn’t pierced his heart.

  There was only one thing to do about that.

  I groaned, pushing myself forward so I could reach the stake. With strength I didn’t know I possessed, I pulled the stake free and shoved the sucker up and behind his chest, driving it straight through his heart.

  An arm reached out just in time to catch me from falling.

  “Nice one.” Jake’s voice whispered across my ear with appreciation.

  “Thanks.” I stumbled back a few steps, flashing him a delirious grin before collapsing into his arms.

 
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