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Sweet venom a venin assa.., p.8
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       Sweet Venom (A Venin Assassin Novel Book 1), p.8

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  As I focused on the scene around me, I caught sight of Jake and the she-wolf he’d saved me from. Their twisting bodies rolled, sharp teeth gnashed, bites sank deep into flesh, until finally Jake’s fangs tore into her neck for the last time. His blood-soaked nose shook violently, blood spurted, then he pulled away. For a second there it looked as though he were trying to find something. Turns out that something was me. Our eyes met, a sinewy chunk of meat dropped from his mouth, and I let out a gasp. No matter how many fights I’d been in and seen, the wild, primal, raw viciousness Jake had exuded during and after his kill stole my breath away and showed me what a true warrior looked like. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I was more terrified or turned on by it all. My money was on both.

  I mouthed the words thank you at him. Seeing as he couldn’t form words in his current condition, he bobbed his head at me in response.

  Keri flew vertical in front of me, successfully winning my attention. And to my utter terror, a hellhound with a gun was running after her.

  I tried to will a web of light into my hands and quickly realized that my power was all tapped out.

  “Is this a bad time?”

  Shit. I knew that voice.

  I turned around to see what I’d already expected and quickly considered my next steps, none of which were promising—I was stuck in spell-shot of Sterling, the Night Queen.

  Damn it, shit, and double fuck, was I screwed.

  Chapter Ten

  Fear flooded me—a fear that was born of knowing exactly what this crazy woman was capable of. The realization snatched the air from my lungs and beat like a headhunter’s drum against my chest. I could see the full picture now with crystal clarity. The condition I’d found Finley in had been way too familiar. I actually felt pretty damn stupid for not putting it all together sooner.

  All the pieces had been there: the collection of fairies, Finley had been last seen with a hellhound, the glamour I encountered when walking up to the house earlier, the hostility that I was met with at the door. This wasn’t just a parablood party; it was a high celebration within the Night Queen’s court. Finley had been a part of the night’s festivities, a party favor of the most coveted degree. That was until, twice in the same night, I ended up ruining the queen’s sick and twisted fun.

  And I had to admit, I was pretty proud of that last part.

  Sterling’s icy gaze swept me, her voice breezy as she said, “You have a bad habit of showing up where you don’t belong.”

  I took a step back and nodded. “You know what? You’re absolutely right. And to make things less awkward for everybody, I’ll just leave.” A little bit of that fear I was feeling crept into my voice.

  The queen seemed unaffected by my suggestion and simply stared at me. Apparently being flippant wouldn’t dig my ass out of this grave, but honestly, I really didn’t think anything could, so I decided to do the one thing I was good at—go down swinging.

  I knelt down and plucked my dagger off the ground where it had fallen during my fight with the she-wolf. In mid-pickup, I noticed something white flash off to the right, just behind the queen. I squinted, unable to make out an exact shape until the light drew closer. I smiled when I saw that it was Finley in her true fairy form of about six inches tall. And she wasn’t alone. My fingers tensed around the dagger while I watched Keri slip out from behind the guest house, her eyes glued on me. My gaze skipped around the yard to try and catch a glimpse of Jake. I spotted him fighting Edge next to the back gate. In my quick perusal, I also caught sight of a vampire. He was crouched on top of the guest house hiding. I swallowed heavily and stood. Once again I found myself facing the queen.

  Sterling’s amused gaze fell to the knife and she chuckled. “What do you plan on doing with that ridiculous toy?” Then, with a flick of her hand, she stripped me of my only weapon. Man, I was having a tough time keeping hold of that thing. It was shameful really.

  “What else you got?” she asked.

  Up until ten seconds ago, I’d have answered with a resounding nothing, I’ve got nothing thank you very much. But now it looked as though I had everything I needed: a riled-up scorpion venin and a vengeful, extremely powerful fairy as backup.

  I smiled at Sterling. “You think you’re so tough.”

  Which, of course, she had every right to feel that way, she was one bad ass bitch after all, but still, that wasn’t going to stop me from talking shit.

  By the way her grin fell and her head tipped to the side, she mustn’t have expected my response. “So you have a death wish then?”

  I shook my head. “I’m just tired of dealing with bullies like you.”

  Sterling cocked an eyebrow at me. “You’re a funny one.”

  That was news to me. And for a second late-breaking story—I was getting pretty tired of this back and forth we had going between us. As a spider, it was my job to play with my quarry, not the other way around.

  “Why are you toying with me? Usually you don’t put this much effort into your kills.”

  That time my voice sounded smooth, confident, rich with the promise of bad things to come.

  Tension thickened the vehemence that surrounded us. Finally, the queen lifted her hand and began the chant that would activate blood call.

  My body instantly responded to the spell, and the world spun violently around me, so I took the few seconds of lucidity I knew I had left, picked up my dagger once more, and in the same motion, chucked it at Sterling’s throat. The blade hit its mark, slicing into her neck as if her flesh were butter.

  Her eyes went impossibly wide, the words she was chanting instantly cut off.

  My body slumped forward, and my brain got busy trying to reorganize the chaos it had just been tossed into. I could hear the sound of Keri’s braid cracking like a whip, then came a zapping sound, soon followed by Finley’s tinkling laughter.

  My vision cleared enough for me to see them both fighting the queen.

  Then I noticed that Finley was holding Sterling in some kind of thrall. By the sweat quickly forming across the fairy’s forehead, she was having a hard time keeping the magic flowing.

  The queen’s arm trembled with effort as she managed to raise her hand through the influential magic holding it down.

  In the next second, Keri’s braid struck forward. With a mind of its own, it sailed through the air, the stinger sinking deep into Sterling’s eye.

  The queen screamed, her arm dropped, and then she looked at me.

  For the first time, I saw pure fear in the queen’s eye, the one that wasn’t seeping blood and clear goo that is. But I knew the score. Disfigured or not, and even though it seemed as if my group held the upper hand, Sterling had the brains and power to free herself, and subsequently kill us all. I had to act fast.

  Next to Keri’s boot, I spotted my dagger. I ran forward and grabbed it.

  Fury lent darkness to my features; a pink sheen covered my eyes.

  A flicker of awareness furrowed the queen’s forehead, and I could see the effort she was putting in while attempting to call forth her magic. Her raven locks sparked with light; her eyes shined red. She was giving it all she had—which was plenty.

  With a crack as loud as thunder, the queen broke through Finley’s magic.

  The fairy was shot backward from the force of the spell breaking. Caught in the crossfire, Keri back flipped through the air and landed on her stomach with a thud several yards away, and didn’t move.

  I swung my arm and let my fist go. I heard some of my knuckles crack against her cheek bone, but I didn’t give a fuck. I kept going. The queen stumbled backward. Keeping that momentum alive, I leapt forward, and before we both toppled to the ground, I maneuvered my dagger to plunge straight into her heart. We landed with her back cracking against the ground, me on top of her, the force of the impact driving the blade in even farther. I pulled the dagger out and stabbed it back down with all the rage, cruelty, and menace I had in me. Red hot liquid splashed across my face, painted the ground around me, and I
kept on plugging away.

  Before I knew what was happening, I was being tackled off her.

  Sweat blurred my vision as I look over at the queen’s lifeless body. I’d dreamed of killing Sterling for so long that I couldn’t hold back the tears that burned behind my eyes and in my throat. I let them stream freely, carrying with them the bitterness and hate I was holding onto from my time under her rule. For the first time in years, I felt free.

  I wiped my eyes and pushed up to my feet.

  A man step forward, his fingers wrapped around the butt of a gun, his index on the trigger. With a menacing grin, he shot me in the chest.

  That’s when my two memories collided into one and I woke up.

  ***

  “Cassis, can you hear me?”

  I jerked upright at Jake’s voice, and my head slammed into his shoulder. I moaned against his too-warm flesh and blinked heavily as I tried to figure out where I was. My chest ached in the spot where a supersized hole used to be, and hells-bells, my head was pounding. By the aspirin and ginger taste coating my mouth, I was suffering from a very potent spell-hangover.

  Off to the side stood Keri, her arms crossed over her chest. She had a worried look in her eyes. At her side, Rue trembled, her light skin flushed pink with emotion. And then there was Charlie. She sat on the coffee table in the middle of us all. She was smiling at me.

  “I remember everything,” I mumbled.

  With a satisfied look, Charlie nodded and said, “Good. Then you know I owe you big time for saving my sister.”

  “The last I remember of Finley, she had been struck by the queen’s magic.” My sharp gaze rested on Charlie. “She’s okay?”

  Charlie nodded her head, and I visibly relaxed.

  I blinked, let out a soft laugh. “Everyone made it out alive, and I even got to kill Sterling. Not a bad night if you ask me.”

  Everyone laughed at that, except Jake. He stood, then began a slow pace across the room with his arms crossed over his heaving chest. He stopped for a moment, capturing my gaze with his smoldering eyes.

  “How can you call getting shot in the arm and leg, being chased down by a hellhound enforcer, fighting vampires and werewolves, squaring off with the queen of hellhounds, then getting shot again in the chest, a good night?”

  A soft growl resonated in Jake’s throat after he spoke his peace.

  My brow jumped. I half expected to be thrown across his lap and spanked for all my evil deeds. I couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t more wrapped up in his own issues to give a crap about mine. And then suddenly I knew. I saw it in his eyes—he cared for me… deeply. And that was scarier than all the hellhound queens combined. So there was only one thing I could do about it, and that was to ignore it all together.

  “I’m still alive, aren’t I? And I’m here, surrounded by all the people in this world that I give a shit about. That’s a win in my book.”

  “Cassis.” Heat churned in the way he said my name. “Be that as it may, you need to stay safe for me.”

  Jake began a steady pace again. It was as if something was overtaking him, a primitive urge causing him to say such things to me.

  Deciding it was for the best, I nodded, and said, “Okay. I will be more careful.”

  That seemed to calm the beast. His shoulders loosened and he was able to stay in one place for a change, which was standing off to the side by the window. I was good with the space between us… I needed it, actually.

  Keri cleared her throat. “Enough already. Cassis needs her rest, and I need to eat. Everyone, out.”

  Charlie flounced off the coffee table, sent Keri a wink, and me a smile. “Okay, okay, I’ll leave. Just take care of our hero. She deserves some pampering.”

  Jake crossed the room and stopped right in front of me. He reached out a hand with a range of emotions flashing across his features that were hard to decipher. Before touching my cheek, he hesitated, and at the last second, and pulled back.

  “I’ll talk to you soon,” he said, then walked over to the elevator.

  I worried my bottom lip and watched him saunter off to stand in the center of the small space. Before he pulled the door closed, Jake pinned me with a look, his eyes clouded with desire.

  On their own accord, my eyes traveled down his body. He was only wearing a pair of jeans, and every part of his body was sculpted with muscles. My gaze turned hungry, and I was overcome with the sudden urge to taste every bit of him.

  Jake gave me a knowing smile.

  Breathing in deeply, I went to stand, to go to him, but before I could, he pulled the door shut.

  Maybe none of the signals I’d picked up on ever happened. Maybe I was still under the influence of Charlie’s magic. I melted back into the sofa. Or maybe…

  I shook my head. Nah, a spider venin getting serious with a dominant alpha werewolf was absurd. We’d eventually kill each other.

  Epilogue

  Keri plopped down on the couch and pulled a blanket over her. She dropped a stack of mail in her lap, lifted one of the envelopes, and fanned herself with it.

  “So, Rue. Now that you have your freedom, most of your wits about ya, and a portion of this big fat check, what do you plan on doing with your life? You can’t hang out here all day. That job’s already taken—by me.”

  I smiled at Keri as she swooned over the fifty-thousand-dollar check Charlie had given us for finding her sister. Even though Rue had stayed cooped up in the loft during the rescue mission, I still decided to split the check with her as well. I knew what I was going to do with my portion of the money, and that was to buy ad space in the Rowen City Gazette. I could safely advertise my new business—superheroine for hire—without any fear of human eyes seeing the enchanted pages the words were written on.

  Rue worried her bottom lip as she thought about Keri’s question. “Well… I’ve always wanted to work in the entertainment industry. And after talking to Jake tonight, I’ve decided to try out for the Rebel Girls.”

  I bit my bottom lip. She’d talked to Jake recently? That was interesting.

  “Rebel Girls… who are they?” I asked.

  She smiled enthusiastically. “They’re a group of rowdy roller derby chicks that perform at the Rebel Circus. Jake said that they were down a girl, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go try out.”

  “You do realize that you’re one of the most poisonous beings in the world.” Keri paused, then added, “There has got to be some kind of law against one of your kind participating in blood sports.”

  “Be serious, Keri,” was what I said out loud, although I couldn’t help wondering if Rue elbowing girls in the face was actually a good idea.

  Boots flew through the air. Black leather ones. I ducked the shiny missile aimed at me, but the one careening toward Keri hit its mark, slamming straight into her head. On the other hand, I thought, she does seem perfect for the gig.

  “Damn, fangs, why so vicious?” Keri asked, rubbing her head.

  Keri had started calling Rue “Fangs” shortly after our bloody adventure into the Blood world. The nickname made sense, considering Rue’s fangs were bigger and badder than even our own.

  Rue gave a cocky grin. “This vicious snake needs a drink. Anyone interested?”

  “Damn straight,” I said.

  “I’m already walking toward the door,” Keri added.

  Twenty minutes later, all three of us were sitting at Strange Brew.

  “I really wish you would have warned me that Jake would be here,” I said to Rue as I watched said wolf singing, moving his denim-clad hips and going to town on his guitar up on stage.

  The whole bar was alive with his music: loud, catchy… hypnotic.

  Rue’s lips spread into a devilish grin. “I must’ve forgotten.”

  Frowning, I scanned the bar for swooning women, and wouldn’t you know it, there were plenty.

  There was a soft chuckle beside me, and my cheeks blushed.

  “Just tell him what all of us already know,” Rue sa
id.

  “And what’s that?”

  Keri shoved against me with the side of her body. “That you want to screw his brains out.”

  I whirled on her, the pink glow of my eyes brighter for the bar’s dimmed light.

  “Shut up!”

  She made a chuckling sound low in her throat, then threw back a shot of whiskey.

  I swore bitterly and took a shot, too.

  Sometime during all that, the music had stopped.

  Rue suddenly stood up, making room for Jake to drop down beside me, and his arm grazed my shoulder. Red-hot tingles of awareness rolled through me, and my fingers curled around the empty shot glass still in my hand tight enough to crack it.

  He watched my face intently, smiled, and asked, “Can I buy you a drink?”

  I nodded.

  He lifted a hand and ordered, his eyes never leaving my face.

  “So this is what you do when you’re not fighting bad guys?”

  The bartender dropped a beer in front of me, and I took a swig. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

  Merriment shimmered in his eyes. “I mean that you let loose, have a little fun. I like this side of you.”

  “You’ve only sat down. How could you be a dependable judge of my mood?”

  “I watched you from the stage.”

  “You were watching me?” I asked, pleased that my voice didn’t tremble.

  He shrugged one shoulder. “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”

  Oh, damn. Did he just say that?

  I tightened my grip on the bottle and took another pull.

  “Can I take you out sometime?”

  And almost spit it back out.

  “You can’t really think that’s a good idea,” I said, choking a little.

  He leaned in closer. “It’s not only a good idea. It’s a great one.”

  I took a deep breath. “We’ve never agreed on a single thing since we met. Other than the fact you’re a stubborn wolf.”

  He laughed, and it was a very masculine laugh. “True, true… but, I’ve never had more fun disagreeing with anybody before.”

 
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