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       Paranormal Hunter Box Set, Books 1-3: Sonnet Vale, Phantom City, & Demon Touched, p.6

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  He raked her with a stare fully loaded with distain.

  “Hunter.” The two syllables oozed from the demon’s tongue like a promise of death. “Welcome to my home.”

  Funny, she didn’t feel all that welcome.

  “Uh, thanks for havin’ me.”

  Her reply sounded more like a question than a statement.

  Bane’s arm slid across Sonnet’s shoulders.

  “Just so we’re clear and upfront about things... yes, Sonnet is a hunter. But more importantly, I have claimed her.”

  For self-preservation’s sake, Sonnet kept her trap shut and didn’t break Bane’s arm in two. She completely ignored the fact that Bane, cradling her against his body like that, made her temperature rise by a few thousand degrees.

  “You, a hunter, are claimed by a vampire?”

  She looked up at Bane; he was staring at Remy, steady and neutral. Sonnet’s arm slid around his lower back, and she entwined her fingers through one of the belt loops at his waist.

  “I am.”

  It was a short and sweet reply, with no room for misinterpretation.

  Remy’s eyes slid over Sonnet’s ring.

  “You’re very beautiful, Sonnet. And you bear an uncanny resemblance to a woman I once knew.” Without taking his eyes from Sonnet, he threw out a question for Bane. “Do you mind if I taste of your hunter? I would like to decipher her demon line.”

  The hair rose on Sonnet’s arms.

  “Hold up, weirdo! Are you tryin’ to insinuate that I’m some kinda demon spawn?” She stepped out of Bane’s hold. “And you wanna bite me for it?” Feeling braver than she should, Sonnet shook her head as she said, “Not gonna fuckin’ happen.”

  It was his turn to frown at her.

  “I only require a small drop of your blood. That’s not an outlandish request.”

  Bane’s voice came from behind her, saying, “I will consider your request if you allow me one boon in return.”

  “Scuse me?” she cried.

  She could have sworn she saw him flinch. But that was all the emotion he showed.

  Remy cleared his throat. She turned and looked up, way up, at him.

  “What?”

  He gazed down at her with a devious grin, but his next words were for Bane.

  “I have a meeting in ten minutes. Join me at the bar in twenty, and we will work out the details of our bargain. Maybe by then, you’ll have your hunter in line.”

  Oh, no, he didn’t just go there!

  Sonnet’s eyebrows scrunched together, and she stabbed both her fists into her hips.

  “No man puts me in check! So you better readjust your thinkin’ about me real quick, demon.”

  The expression in Remy’s eyes turned from one of amusement, to a thing of lethal menace in quick succession.

  “You test me, woman,” he growled.

  Bane touched her back. A warning, she supposed, but she didn’t care at that moment. She’d rather die a thousand deaths than to let some male-chauvinist demon treat her as if she was a piece of property—claimed by a vampire, or not.

  Pools of darkness shot to Bane.

  “Get her out of here now, before I do something that I probably won’t regret.”

  The demon’s body began to levitate. The muscles of his arms seemed to get larger and throb and pulse, the more he rose off the floor.

  Oh, shit! she thought, while taking a few steps back.

  “That sounds like a great idea, vampire,” Sonnet said.

  Before she could turn around to bolt, her feet left the floor. Less than five seconds later, Bane put her down. He’d gotten her out of the room quickly; his strength was impressive.

  “You are one crazy lady, little fox.”

  Sonnet’s hand shook as she pushed her hair back out of her face.

  “You knew he’d want my blood.”

  “I counted on it.”

  She sighed and shook her head, too scared to be mad at him.

  “Shit! You suck, you know that?” She dragged both hands down her face. “Why the hell was I actin’ like that in there? I don’t think I’ve ever been that stupid before. And I’ve done some pretty stupid things.”

  “It was your inner demon, reacting to what she perceived as a threat. You’re a hunter, with instincts that make you want to dominate anyone who dares to get in your way. As soon as Remy pushed your buttons, there really was no stopping you.”

  “Yeah, well, do me a favor and at least try next time.”

  Bane threw his head back and laughed.

  “Nothin’ doin’. I’d rather the other guy lose his head, if it’s all the same.”

  Sonnet sighed and said, “It seems like everybody in Phantom City brings the worst out of me.”

  Bane grabbed her gently by the shoulders and stared into her shiny green eyes. The shimmering blue of his own almost made her forget about her recent suicide mission—almost.

  “I have to disagree. I believe this place is testing you, bringing to light who you are and what you are truly capable of underneath it all. Nothing good can come from hiding it.”

  Exasperated, she said, “Unless I find out it’s in my nature to kill things or get myself killed. That’s somethin’ worth keepin’ hidden, in my book.”

  He leaned closer, his mouth halting an inch from hers. A hint of his heated breath coated her lips as he said, “Life is about finding where you fit—a place to belong—be it with saints or with demons. It’s in finding your own kind of monster, where your true self and happiness lies.”

  She wondered how she was supposed to think when Bane was so close. The fact was that she couldn’t. The vampire’s lips were a pressing matter, needing to be addressed. Sonnet would traverse the maze that was her true self later. As of that moment, she only wanted one thing.

  Sonnet rolled onto the tips of her toes, closing the narrow gap between them. In response, Bane growled, offering his mouth to her without the slightest bit of hesitation. His flesh felt like satin against hers, and his tongue filled her mouth with the delicious taste of sin. Panting hard, Bane pulled away just enough to speak.

  “Are you sure this is what you want?”

  Sonnet gazed up at him under heavy lids.

  “Right now, it is.”

  “Only now? What happens later?”

  Sonnet ran her fingers down the side of his cheek; a seductive smile spread across her face, smoothing the contours of her features.

  “Later’s a long way off. Let’s live for now.”

  Bane couldn’t believe what he was about to say. Between hard clenched teeth, he took a deep breath and stepped away, his back pressing against the wall of the elevator.

  “That’s not enough for me, little fox.”

  Chapter Thirteen

  Sonnet turned away, hiding her embarrassment. She’d thrown herself at the vampire like a wanton ho-bag, only to be denied. What the hell had she been thinking? His handsome face, gentlemanlike treatment of her, and those looks he’d been giving her had been too much to resist.

  Had she been misreading his interest? Maybe so. She’d never been chased before, and apparently, that hadn’t changed.

  Sonnet’s back was to Bane. He saw her head drop and noticed how her body language switched from one of arousal, to an awkward state of discomfort. He blew out a breath, decision made.

  “The last thing I want is to ruin anything. But it seems I may be doing exactly that.” He paused, waiting for her to speak, but she stayed quiet, so he continued. “I hope you understand that you’re not just a conquest of fancy to me. I want all of you, little fox, and a quick romp between the sheets will never be enough to quench my hunger for you. So I’d rather wait until I can feast on your body whenever I want, and not only as a means to scratch an itch.”

  Sonnet turned, her expression softer.

  “I just met you, and I’m not ready for anything serious.”

  He reached over and ran the ball of his thumb over Sonnet’s pouty lips.

  With a
whisper, he said, “Then, it’s my job to make you ready. And I take my duties very seriously.”

  The elevator door dinged open, and with it, the sound of a sharp howl split the air.

  Bane’s arm flashed out, pulling Sonnet deeper inside the elevator, while he stepped out of it. Dazed, she stood still, but then realized she wasn’t a cower-and-hide-in-the-elevator type of gal.

  Damn vampire.

  “Where is she?” A deep voice roared.

  Sonnet lunged out of the elevator before the doors closed, landing crouched on one knee, her feet and one hand touching the ground. Somehow, between her confusion and an astronomical adrenaline spike, she had grabbed hold of the stake that Bane had given her. She had it gripped tightly in her hand. Sonnet had never felt such a drive to attack before. A rush of power coursed through her system. It was a freeing experience. Her eyes swept the area, searching for any threat.

  “Stay where you are!” Bane yelled at a man several feet away from them.

  The wild man had tousled blonde hair that covered most of his furious features and dark brown eyes, which were focused with deadly intent on Bane.

  “I know you brought her here, Bane. Emely already told me.”

  Sonnet stood, her face a mask of surprise.

  “Ryker?”

  At the sight of Sonnet, Ryker visibly reined in his anger.

  “Hi, pal. Sorry to break up the fun, but I’m takin’ your ass away from this place.”

  The edge to his demand made her worry, but the adrenaline fueling her body told her another story. She was strong there, and she liked it.

  “I don’t want to leave this place, Ryker.”

  The rage showed on his face as he stomped forward. Bane stepped between them, stopping him from getting too close to Sonnet.

  After Ryker let out a low growl of warning, he said, “Don’t interfere, blood sucker. Sonnet’s my friend.”

  Sonnet stuffed the stake inside her waistband, behind her back, and tilted her head to the side.

  “Why are you growlin’ like a werewo...? You’re a damn werewolf, aren’t you? Just like Emely!”

  Ryker’s stare shot to Sonnet. It was still glazed over with anger, making the two shiny orbs seem darker than normal. He gave Bane a sideways look that said, just try and stop me, as he walked around him, to settle in front of Sonnet.

  As Bane dropped fang, his face morphed into something out of a nightmare.

  Having never seen him that mad before, Sonnet found it exciting and terrifying all at once.

  In a streak of white, Bane had Ryker in a head lock, his fangs hovering less than an inch from a bulging vein that strained from the pull at his neck.

  “I will kill you if you take one more step, mutt. Sonnet is mine.”

  “Let me fuckin’ go,” Ryker hissed.

  “Give me your word that you’ll leave Sonnet alone.”

  “Never.”

  Moved by something primal, Sonnet stepped forward and said, “When you two are done comparin’ dicks, I’ll be at the bar. Ryker, lucky for you, almost nothin’ surprises me anymore. But you still owe me an explanation.”

  She turned, her long hair flipping out to surf the air, and walked away from the fangy vamp and the growling wolf.

  Surprise washed over both of their faces at Sonnet’s statement and her abrupt retreat.

  “You can let me go now, Bane. I think she’s decided to stay here.”

  Bane looked from Sonnet, to Ryker, who was wrenched tight in the crook of his arm.

  “I suppose you’re right. But you’re still an idiot.”

  As Bane released Ryker, the wolf stumbled a few steps forward, rubbing at his neck.

  “Why did you bring her here, man? You know it’s dangerous for a hunter to be around so many supernatural creatures.”

  “It couldn’t be helped.”

  Sneering, Ryker said, “I doubt that.”

  Sonnet’s voice traveled over the space separating them, saying, “Are you guys done yet?”

  Bane turned and headed toward Sonnet. Ryker caught the expression of humor on her face and smiled back. Resigned, he followed Bane over to the bar.

  Ryker thought about how different things could have been if he told her the truth about his nature sooner. But it was a direct order from his alpha never to divulge what he was to outsiders. That’s why he and Emely always took the masking potion before leaving the city. Under its influence, not even a hunter could tell what they were.

  Chapter Fourteen

  As Bane sat next to Sonnet, she gave him a side glance.

  “So, whose ended up being bigger?”

  Bane didn’t answer. Instead, he lifted one brow and smiled at her in a way that said, Do you even have to ask?

  Ryker sat on the other side of her.

  “You two aren’t funny.”

  Suddenly, anxiety formed in the pit of Sonnet’s gut. It boomed out a warning, pounding harder with each passing second. Sonnet licked soda from her lips before taking another tug from the straw in her mouth. She’d already had enough booze, so soda would have to do.

  “Remy is here,” she said.

  “Great,” Ryker growled, and then sunk into his seat.

  Did he always growl like that when he spoke? Or does Phantom City bring more of his supernatural side out of him, just like it does with me?

  Remy appeared before them, on the other side of the bar, walking out from the back room like he was one of the demon bartenders. But it was apparent to anyone within a twenty-mile radius that the towering dark mountain wasn’t one of the help. He was the head demon in charge.

  Sonnet smiled at him, hiding her apprehension with a soft tap of her foot against the bottom rung of the barstool.

  “We came here, like you asked. Are you ready to help us now?”

  Remy looked at her like he was contemplating murder, but instead, decided to only dally with his prey—Sonnet.

  “What is it that you need from me, hunter?”

  “Show him the drawing,” Bane said.

  She dragged her eyes away from the demon’s cold stare as she pulled the piece of paper out of her jacket pocket and held it out to him.

  “The sketch, well, pretty much sucks, but Bane thinks he knows who the guy is.”

  “Does he? Interesting.”

  He took the paper from her hand.

  Bane leaned forward and stabbed the middle of the picture.

  “I’m pretty sure it’s Donovan. Look at the bull’s-eye tattoo the artist drew across the man’s chest.”

  Remy studied it for a fraction of a second.

  “It would appear that you’re right.”

  Sonnet watched them both in silence, daring to believe there was a good chance that the demon could lead her to the vampire who took Kelly.

  With her heart beating faster, she asked, “Do you know where I can find this Donovan guy?”

  Remy glanced around the club and then stared her in the eyes.

  “I do.”

  Stirring her drink, she said, “Okay, good. Where is he?”

  Remy walked over to one of the bartenders. The man was almost as tall as he was, but not as muscular. His hair and skin were both light green, another demon.

  Sonnet scanned the bar, searching for Anya. She liked the little blue demon and found herself wondering where she was.

  “This information won’t come cheap,” Ryker said.

  He was sitting straighter in his seat, with an amber drink in front of him. Sonnet hadn’t seen a bartender put it there.

  Bane’s hand came down over hers, and with a solemn expression, he said, “Your pain-in-the-ass friend is right. He’ll want a taste of your blood.”

  Curiosity, humor, and her eagerness to find the missing girl all disappeared at hearing that. Her hand flew to her neck, tracing the puckered scar there.

  “That may be the one price I can’t pay.”

  Setting his glass aside, Ryker looked at her. Bane turned to face her, with his legs straddling the st
ool she was in. Both of the men seemed serious, with stern faces awash with concern.

  “I’ve been eyeing that scar from the moment we met, little fox, but I knew better than to ask about it.”

  Ryker said, “Same goes for me.”

  Sonnet blinked and dropped her hand. A Midori Sour appeared in front of her, and the only hint of who delivered it was a quick flash of green skin. It seemed that the demon’s super power was stealth and speed. That explained how Ryker’s drink was delivered, as well.

  She closed her eyes, seeing the monster who had attacked her, his face forged in her memories for all time. The guys didn’t say a word. They sat patiently, giving her time to speak when she was ready. What the men didn’t understand was that their silence might as well have been a thunderstorm that cracked with lightning—it was that deafening.

  Taken back to a time where she felt her most vulnerable, a time that she only wanted to forget but never would, she decided to tell them what happened. Or rather, she would share some of it, considering she was stuck with a rapt audience, with nowhere else to go.

  With a grimace caused by building memories, she played with the straw in her drink and considered what to say next.

  “I was eight years old when I was adopted. But before that, I lived in a state home for girls. It was there that I met my first vampire.”

  She glanced over at Bane. Did she look in his direction, and not at Ryker, because Bane was also a vampire? She didn’t know.

  “It was a night like every other, endin’ with dinner at six and then lights out by eight for the younger kids. That meant me.”

  After another long pull from her straw, she continued.

  “It was shortly after I crawled into bed, when he came into my room as a shadow that I was barely able to catch a glimpse of.”

  Sonnet’s flesh crawled, her heart tapping out a faster beat. That moment had been her first real experience with death. She’d known that there was an evil being lurking about in her room that night, and she was convinced that she was going to die.

  “I remember grabbin’ at my stomach, it hurt so bad. I know now that the pain was my power, warnin’ me of the vampire. But even if I knew what it meant, or who the man was, nothin’ could’ve stopped what happened next.”

 
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