Urban extinction a new a.., p.13
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       Urban Extinction: A New Adult Paranormal Fantasy, p.13

           K.N. Lee
 
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  He barked out a laugh. “Good life. You call this good? I don’t drive a Corvette.”

  “Would you stop complaining? You had as much of a chance as I did to make something of yourself. Maybe, instead of pouring your energy into stupid anger, you could do something to make a difference. Like right now. Please?” she added, softly. She released his shirt, smoothing it with her palm.

  “All right. But it’s the last time, you hear me?”

  “I hear you.” But I never obey. She suppressed her smirk. “Go on, then. Let’s both get this over with.”

  She waved her fingers at him.

  He huffed out a sigh, then closed his eyes. “What am I looking for?”

  “A group called the Cypress Coven.”

  Frank’s eyes flew open. “Oh, no. No one messes with them and lives to tell about it.”

  He backed toward the door.

  Egan lunged for him, snagging the hem of his sweatshirt with her fingers. “Wait!”

  “Do you know what they do to people? And why they can’t be stopped?” He yanked his shirt from her grip. “No way am I going to find them. They’ll feel me. Then, they’ll come after me. If they don’t kill me first.”

  “They’re going to kill Livia,” Egan said, hating the whine to her voice. “She’s already been cursed and they’re going to kill her. You must help us stop them. I won’t lose my best friend.”

  Frank looked out at the cemetery. He shook his head. “At least it will be a short trip to my new resting place.”

  Egan blinked. “Did you just utter a joke?”

  “Maybe,” he muttered. He put his hands on his hips and chuffed out a sigh. “All right. Let’s do this.”

  He stepped away from the house and stood on the lawn. Then, he closed his eyes.

  Egan waited, clutching her hands together.

  A car rolled by. They slowed, but kept on going.

  Frank said nothing. He kept up his silent search for answers.

  Egan shifted from foot to foot.

  A motorcycle zipped past. It sped around the corner.

  Come on, come on. Egan wondered if he needed more info. She opened her mouth to tell him details, when he started shaking.

  “No,” he said, holding his hands out. He squeezed his eyes tighter. “No!” he said again, louder this time. “Oh, God!”

  Egan rushed toward him. “What is it?”

  The dry lawn burst into flame.

  Frank’s eyes flew open. He screamed and bolted for his door.

  “Frank, wait!” Egan raced after him. “What did you see?”

  Frank lumbered inside his house and slammed the door. Clicks and snicks of locks followed.

  She banged on the door with her fists. “Frank! Let me in! Tell me what you saw!”

  She kept up with the pounding.

  Behind her, the lawn fire crackled and snapped.

  She spun around and leaned against the door, hitting it a couple more times. “What the…?” There, on the lawn, burned a perfect pentagram with three stars in the center. “Holy shit,” she said, walking toward it to look closer.

  Her phone rang. She dug it out of her pocket and answered it. “Yeah?”

  “It’s Danvers.”

  “What’s up?”

  “Get your ass over to the hospital.”

  Egan’s heart lurched. “Is it…is it Livia?”

  “No,” he responded curtly. “It’s the victims. They’re all dying and no one can figure out why.”

  He hung up the phone.

  “No, no, no, no, no!” Egan sprinted across the street dialing 911 as she ran.

  “What’s your emergency?” the dispatch officer said.

  “There’s a fire. I’m over across from the Calvary cemetery. I drove by. The lawn’s on fire.”

  “Address?”

  “2143 Whatever the street across from the cemetery is called.”

  “Hold on, please, while I look that up.”

  “Can’t. I’ve got to run. I need to see to another emergency. Get the fire department here, as quickly as you can.” She disconnected, fished out her keys, and unlocked her car.

  Please don’t let them take Livia.

  Egan

  A wreck on the FDR made traffic come to a halt. Egan thought she’d launch from her skin. She, like all the other angry New Yorkers, leaned on her car horn in frustration. It gave her a small measure of satisfaction, but not much.

  She took the first available exit, along with about a hundred other vehicles, and inched toward the Midtown Mercy hospital, where they’d taken the victims.

  “Come on.” She pounded her steering wheel with her fists. “Move!”

  Finally, she caught a break at a cross-street. She turned right and did the same brake and surge thing she’d done when she left the precinct.

  One long hour and fifteen minutes later, she pulled up to the Midtown Mercy hospital. She parked, threw open the car, and ran toward the entrance, lifting the key over head to lock the car as she went.

  Inside, she skidded toward the counter.

  “Lieutenant Danvers,” she gasped. “Where is he?”

  A nurse looked up from her monitor and said, “And you are?”

  “I’m with the police.” Egan pulled her badge from her pocket, breathing hard. She held it out to the nurse.

  The nurse looked at it and nodded. Then, she scanned her computer screen. She picked up her handset.

  “Mary, can you tell me where Lieutenant Danvers is located? There’s another police gal here. Uh huh. Okay. I’ll tell her.” She hung up the phone. “Upstairs. 3rd floor. Ask at the nurse’s station. He’s been all over.”

  “Elevator?”

  The nurse stood, leaned forward, and pointed. “Down the hall and to the left.”

  “Got it.” Egan slapped the counter with her palm. “Thanks.”

  She spun and resumed her sprint.

  When she got to the lift, the doors hung wide, as if waiting for her. She bolted inside and pounded on the button for the 3rd floor.

  The doors slowly glided shut.

  “Does everything in this town have to move like cold molasses?” She gripped the metal handrails and leaned her head against the wall, closing her eyes for a few seconds.

  The elevator stopped. The doors began their snail-like opening.

  Egan waited for the gap to become as wide as her body, before pushing through. She looked up and down the hall.

  There it is. Nurses' station. Down there, past the waiting area. She took off toward it.

  At the medical staff’s counter, empty of nursing personnel, Lieutenant Danvers stood next to Livia. His arm hung around her shoulder.

  Livia sniffled. She clung to Danvers with her head on his shoulder.

  Egan slowed as she approached.

  “Am I interrupting anything?” she said with more snark than she’d intended.

  Livia looked up. She stiffly stepped away from Danvers.

  He moved away from the counter, pulling his phone from his pocket.

  “They’re all dying. Every single one of them.” Her face, streaked with tears, looked as fatigued as Egan felt. Dark circles ringed her eyes. She threw her arms around Egan’s neck. “Egan, it’s awful.”

  “Shhh, sweetheart.” Egan smoothed Livia’s long hair. “It’s all going to be okay.”

  “No, it won’t,” Livia wailed. “They’re going to kill me next.”

  “No, honey, they won’t. Both Lieutenant Danvers and I will make sure it doesn’t go down that way.” She lifted her head to glare at Danvers, who now stood staring at the two of them. “Isn’t that right?”

  He cleared his throat. “Absolutely. We’ll keep you safe, Livia.”

  Egan eased Livia away from her. She cupped Liv’s cheeks and gazed into her eyes. “Nothing’s going to happen, I promise. On my honor.” She removed her palms from Livia’s face and crossed her chest. Then, she turned to Danvers. “Sorry, I couldn’t get here quicker. Traffic was a bitch on the FDR.”


  He nodded, reaching toward his back pocket. He swung his arm back around, with a notebook in his grip. He flipped the pages until he stopped at one. “So, here’s the scoop. Each victim turned pale as flour, one by one.”

  Livia’s head bobbed up and down in agreement. “Exactly like you said Jason did, at the Akeldama club.”

  “Right,” Danvers continued. “Four of the five died, exactly seven minutes apart. We don’t know what that means. It could be a mere coincidence.” He tapped the notebook with his finger. “The fifth. She’s holding on by a thread of life. She actually died seven minutes after the fourth one, but the staff got her heart working with a defibrillator. I tried questioning her, Liv had a go…but each time we started to ask a question, she’d start to shake.” He held up his free hand, palm up. “We’ve got nothing. No clues.”

  “Oh, yes, we have clues.” Egan stepped forward, crowding Danvers.

  Danvers held his ground, not budging one bit.

  Livia’s face brightened. “You do? What did you find out?”

  “One sec.” Egan held up her hand, signaling them to be quiet.

  A nurse, wearing a colorful uniform, stepped briskly toward them.

  Egan glanced at her, noting her nametag. Nancy Giles.

  When Nurse Nancy got to the counter, she made her way behind it and took a seat near them. She wiggled her computer mouse and peered at her monitor.

  Egan motioned Livia and Danvers to follow her. She strode toward the waiting room.

  They followed close behind.

  Once they were inside the small room, with windows on three sides, she closed the door. “Look, Danvers, I get that some of the stuff we deal with is far outside of your wheelhouse.”

  Danvers folded his arms across his chest. His jaw tensed.

  “Hear me out. I paid a visit to an old friend. He lives over in Brooklyn. He’s not the kindest man in the universe but he’s got some crazy abilities to locate people and peek behind people’s conscious minds. The lab where we were sent to as children used to test his abilities a lot. He has a hundred percent accuracy rate, scientifically proved. I asked him to look into the Cypress coven.”

  “You don’t honestly expect me to believe this, do you?” He tightened his grip on his chest.

  Livia placed her hand on his upper arm.

  “Yes. We do,” she said, in that soft, soothing tone she used to put people at ease.

  He glanced at her, smiled, then turned back to Egan. “Okay, I’ll humor you. Then what happened?”

  Egan began gesturing as she spoke. “He goes into trance, right?”

  “If you say so,” Danvers interjected.

  Egan’s pressed her lips together. “Are you going to listen, or what?”

  “I’m listening.”

  “Okay. He goes into trance, then he starts to shake.” She made her head shake like a rattlesnake tail. “He yelled ‘no’ a lot. And then, I shit you not, the lawn burst into flames.”

  “Oh, come on, Egan. Do I have to issue you a drug test?”

  “Don’t believe me?” She whipped out her phone and Googled “Fire in Brooklyn,” adding the day’s date. When the results appeared, she tapped the one that said, “Strange fire near Calvary cemetery. Are cultists involved?”

  A new browser window opened with the pentagram shape burning in Frank’s front yard, the fire department, the police, and Frank, all in full view.

  “See?” She held the phone display for them.

  “Holy mother of God,” Danvers said. “You’re saying the lawn just burst into flames in that symbol?”

  Egan nodded.

  He snatched the phone from her grip and stared at it. Then, he sank down into one of the waiting room chairs.

  Livia settled next to him, still in mother-hen mode. “This is the world in which we live.”

  She placed her palm on his forearm.

  Footsteps approached.

  “Shh,” Egan said. She smiled serenely when Nurse Nancy opened the door to the waiting room.

  “Lieutenant Danvers, I thought you should know.” Her face appeared somber. “The last drug victim passed.” She shook her head. “Whatever those people took, really messed up their biochemistry. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She shuddered.

  “Thanks for letting me know,” Danvers said. He reached for Livia’s hand and gave it a squeeze.

  Nurse Nancy nodded and left.

  Livia cast her gaze at Egan. One hand gripped Danvers’; the other gripped the arm of the chair.

  Egan felt the familiar tug of Livia’s mind connecting with hers.

  She’s killing them. One by one, she’s killing them. I know she’s coming after me next.

  Livia’s projected thoughts made a chill wash over Egan’s skin. She rubbed her arms in response. She shot back a response. Not if I can help it. Let’s go visit Rion.

  Egan

  Egan looked at the wall clock for the millionth time. Where’s Rion? At nearly midnight, she and Livia huddled in their penthouse front room, side by side, on the plush leather sofa. Egan sipped at her drink, staring blankly at the New York Skyline. A bottle of twelve-year-old scotch sat by her side.

  On the way home from the hospital, she’d insisted on stopping by the liquor store.

  The write up on this particular malt whiskey read, “Very attractive nose with honey dominating, followed by barley sugar and vanilla. Some light cereal notes with orange marmalade come into play along with toasty nuts, soft caramel, and some cookie dough. Rich and full in the mouth where lots more oak and vanilla show. Ultra-smooth yet fairly short, soft, clean finish.”

  When Egan had read it, she’d thought, but will it get me drunk? That’s all I care about.

  She yawned, letting her head fall back on the sofa. “I’m so tired. I think I’ve forgotten how to sleep.”

  “Yes. Me, too. Where’s Rion?” Livia pulled a silk wrap around her. She fiddled with the fringe of the blanket until Egan wanted to tape her fingers together.

  She reached over and clasped Livia’s hand. “He said he had to stop somewhere first. He’ll be here soon, don’t worry.” She let out another loud, long yawn. “You don’t have to wait up for him.”

  “Yes, I do. I want to hear what he found out from the Fae. You asked him to check with his community and see if they could source Alicia or Renner’s whereabouts, right?”

  “Honey, I told you that about fifteen times already. Relax.” She picked up her tumbler and drained it. Then, she hefted the bottle and inclined it toward Livia. “You could drink some scotch and chill the fuck out.”

  Livia gave a quick shake of her head and glanced nervously toward the door.

  “Sweetheart, relax. Nothing’s going to happen to you. I won’t let it happen. Your boy toy won’t let it happen.”

  “He’s not my boy toy.” Livia scowled at her.

  “Honestly, Liv? Are you really going to go there with me?” The scotch massaged her nervous system, making her melt into the couch.

  “No.” Livia snatched her hand away from Egan and resumed picking at the fringe. A slight smile played at the edge of her mouth. “But he’s no boy, I assure you.”

  Egan let out a laugh. “That’s my girl. We’ll call him your man candy from now on.”

  The elegant chime of the door played.

  “There we go. Can you get the door? My legs are starting to mush out over here.” Egan waved a hand at Livia before letting her head fall back again.

  Livia gave her a look of pure reproach before pushing off the couch. She strode toward the front door and opened it. Rion stood in the doorway.

  “Livia.” He held up a large paper sack. “Your dinner has arrived.”

  “Mmm, it smells fantastic. Italian?”

  “Yes. The only cafe I could find open nearby was Bonzonis. But they make a mean eggplant lasagna.”

  Livia laughed. “Come in, come in. I’ll take that into the kitchen and dish it up.”

  “Oh, no,” Rion said. “You ladies are b
ushed. Just point the way and I’ll do the honors.” He stepped across the threshold and his attention turned toward Egan.

  She lifted her head from the couch. Her heart did crazy flip flops and somersaults.

  “Hi,” he said, grinning.

  “Hi,” she said, feeling like a teenager with a dumb crush. “I know I should get up, but…”

  “No, no,” he said. “Livia’s going to point me to the kitchen and I’ll plate this up for the two of you. I can handle a plate and a spoon. Do you have wine glasses?”

  “Of course,” Livia said. “But I don’t think Egan should…”

  “I’d love a glass of red wine to wash down this fine scotch,” Egan said with a grin.

  “Excellent. You’ll be putty in my arms.” Rion winked.

  Egan’s nether region surged in response.

  Livia and Rion disappeared into the kitchen.

  She closed her eyes and let the buzz of alcohol lull her into a false state of calm. Nothing about their situation spoke of calm. But unless she let go a little…

  “Egan.”

  Someone gently shook her shoulder.

  “Egan. The food’s ready.”

  “Huh? What?” She opened her eyes, sucking in the spit falling from her mouth.

  “You were snoring.” Livia set a plate down in front of her.

  “No, I wasn’t.” She wiped her mouth with her sleeve. “I don’t snore.”

  She sat up, refusing to meet Rion’s gaze. This is embarrassing.

  He held out a wine glass to her. “You’re exhausted. I’d snore, too.”

  She sighed and took the wine. The smell of Italian food overpowered her. “Goodness, that smells fantastic.”

  Livia settled next to her on the couch. “It tastes even better. Eat.”

  Egan picked up her plate, piled high with lasagna, salad, and crispy garlic bread. “Thank you so much, Rion.”

  “My pleasure.” He perched on the barrel chair next to her, holding a glass of wine.

  “Aren’t you eating?” she said, through a mouthful of food.

  “No, I already ate. I got this for you.”

  Her heart turned to mush. Heat filled her cheeks. She smiled at him and said, “Did you find anything out?”

  He slowly shook his head. “Not a thing. Renner and Alicia seem to be in the wind. I put out lots of feelers but no one could give me any information.” He set his wine glass on a coaster and clasped his hands over his knee.

 
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