Beauty & the beast some.., p.1
Beauty & the Beast: Some Gave All,
Also by Nancy Holder
About the Author
Also Available from Titan Books
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM TITAN BOOKS
Beauty & the Beast: Vendetta by Nancy Holder
BEAUTY & THE BEAST: SOME GAVE ALL
Print edition ISBN: 9781783292202
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783292233
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark St, London SE1 0UP
First edition: May 2015
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Copyright © & ™ 2015 CBS Studios Inc.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
From the moment we met,
we knew our lives would never be the same.
He saved my life,
and she saved mine.
We are destined,
but we know it won’t be easy.
Even though we have every reason to stay apart,
we’ll risk it all to be together.
Not quite dawn. New York City never slept, but New York detectives and doctors did.
In Greenwich Village, entwined in each other’s arms, Catherine Chandler and Vincent Keller dreamed of mountains, and a cottage, and a dog—a small dog, since big ones weren’t quite as fond of Vincent as Cat was.
Vincent’s two brothers played tag football in the front yard, and Catherine’s mother and father sat on the porch, paging through a photo album of Cat and Vincent’s wedding. But in the gossamer way of dreams, time was an illusion, and the wedding was taking place beneath a glorious canopy of red roses and ivory sweet alyssum, and tiny nosegays of white baby’s breath tied with lace.
Maids of honor Tess Vargas and Heather Chandler wore oyster-colored tea-dresses of antique lace, and like the groom, best man J.T. Forbes had on a tux. Luminous in a strapless white satin gown and a veil crowned with a freshwater pearl tiara, Cat carried a red rose bouquet. Around her slender neck, she wore a pearl choker centered with her mother’s chimera pendant.
Golden wedding rings caught the sunlight; then Vincent and Catherine were pronounced husband and wife. At last, heaven on earth.
Lift me up…
Vincent cupped Cat’s face and she molded her hands over his. More velvety than rose petals, their lips touched. It was the second best day of their lives. The best: that morning back in the warehouse, when they’d first met.
Come with me…
In New York City, Cat nearly woke from sheer joy; then Vincent’s arms wound round her as she settled her head on his chest, and his steady heartbeat lulled her back to sleep.
Vincent smelled Catherine’s hair, her skin, and, reassured that she was really there, held her as he dozed. A smile softened the hard angles of his face. Bliss, utter bliss, so dearly won.
Their love had been sorely tested; now, precious and adored, Catherine and Vincent married in the mountains, with family, and their little dog, on a day shining with rainbows. Their union was their pot of gold, their triumph.
Surrender to the afterglow…
But which one of them had dreamed the dream?
* * *
Further out of the city, Tess Vargas rose from J.T. Forbes’s bed, began to dress for the gym, and thought, That cop is coming from L.A. soon. Tofu head. Cat is going to kill me. J.T. stirred and Tess looked down at him with a pang. They had moved from the first thrill of romance to the calmer, more complicated long haul of a relationship. She just wasn’t sure they had what it took. Wasn’t sure she did. Maybe there was a reason for her less than stellar record with men. She thought of Joe Bishop, her old boss and former married boyfriend, and winced as she strapped on her watch and grabbed up her towel and water bottle. What a disaster, her affair with Joe. Had she gone crazy for a time back then?
She was nuts about J.T., but did their relationship make any more sense than that?
Courtesy of the door that anxiety had opened, the details of her day began to creep into her mind: trying to solve the string of horrible murders, possibly beast-related. Six so far. The mayor and the city were screaming for action. She was the newest precinct captain, so guess who was getting thrown under the bus because of the lack of results?
Well, hey, at least Cat would understand about Yoga Cop. Maybe.
Yeah, after she kills me, Tess thought.
She leaned down to kiss J.T.’s cheek, hesitated, straightened, and left.
* * *
After Tess closed the door behind herself, J.T. opened his eyes, giving up all pretense of slumber. Truth? He hadn’t slept in hours. He’d watched Tess toss and turn.
Just now, he’d known she was getting dressed but he’d kept his eyes closed because he didn’t know how to talk to her anymore. It wasn’t going well between them, and he didn’t know why. His experience with women was extremely limited. Face it, he was rusty. For over a decade, he had poured everything he’d had, mentally and emotionally, into keeping Vincent safe. Now his best friend had emerged from his cocoon, but J.T. hadn’t fully emerged from his. Sara, the assistant chair of his department and briefly his girlfriend, had never forgiven him for bailing on meeting her parents. She’d seen right through his fake coughing fit. It wasn’t his no-show that had made her so angry. It was that he had lied straight to her face. But how could he have told her it was a beast emergency?
The last time he and Tess had kind-of sort-of discussed their relationship, Tess had accused him of backing off. He thought she was the one who was being distant. They seemed to be caught in an outward spiral now, moving farther and farther away from each other.
Was she just about to kiss me goodbye… and then didn’t?
Since his eyes had been closed, he didn’t know.
He sat up and put his hand on her side of the bed. Her body heat was gone. He looked around forlornly. When Tess wasn’t in his apartment, it felt so empty.
But sometimes it felt even emptier when she was there.
* * *
In the Bronx, an old man woke and checked the calendar. Today was the day. Maurice Riley began to cry. He had started nearly every day with a deep, pervasive grief since his daughter’s death. But only recently had he met the morning in tears. It was the not knowing how, or why. Line of duty, they had said. But the letter he had recently received told a different story.
If answers brought justice, as the letter promised, then he wanted them. But if not… could he live with the truth?
I won’t have to worry about living with anything for too long.
The doctors had given Mr. Riley six months to live.
* * *
Across from Aliyah Patel’s bedroom, a monster prowled.
It had been shambling on the loading dock of the abandoned warehouse across the street for what seemed like her whole life. It was as tall as a gorilla and it growled like a tiger and its shadow flickered on her wall, merging with her drawings of houses with apple trees and threads of smoke rising from the chimneys, and a mommy and daddy in heaven, with wings and halos and happy faces. The silhouette pulsed like a heartbeat, vanishing and reappearing. Its arms made swimming motions and it had claws, not fingers, that sliced at the shadows over and over again, cutting the night apart.
The monster was looking for something.
Not, not something. Someone.
Looking for her, Aliyah Patel, eight years old, an orphan who lived with her Aunt Indira.
Hunched, huge. It was fast, busy. Seeking. Hunting. Because she was bad, and Aunt Indira had warned her many times that the boogeyman would get her if she didn’t shape up.
Aliyah quaked in her bed, sheets pulled tightly up to her chin. Her large brown eyes welled as she held her breath and crossed all her fingers and then her thumbs to remind herself not to make a sound. That was what she did when Aunt Indira needed a break. It was really bad if Aunt Indira didn’t get her breaks.
But not as bad as this.
It was still growling on the loading dock. It didn’t sound like a tiger anymore. Aliyah didn’t know what it did sound like. She had never heard a noise like this, not even in a scary movie. Not even in a nightmare.
She had more nightmares than people realized. She was sorry she was such a handful. That she made Aunt Indira’s life a living hell. That she hadn’t come as advertised—a sweet, good little girl. She understood why there was hitting.
It could see through her wall. Aliyah just knew it could. Just like Aunt Indira could see with eyes in the back of her head. She was always catching Aliyah doing bad things, like stealing cheese slices. It was just that she got so hungry.
She tried to breathe. She couldn’t move. She was pretty sure her heart had stopped beating. She was getting dizzy; the room was spinning.
Her eyelids fluttered. Lie still. Lie still.
She watched the shadow. There! There it was!
No, it was gone again. Or else it was invisible.
It was still looking for her. She knew it. Could feel it.
She knew how to become invisible, too. It was her superpower and sometimes it kept her from getting in trouble. Not often, but when it did work, that was great. She took a breath and activated it. To remain invisible, you had to be quiet as a mouse. You had to look down. You had to not break things or say you were hungry. You also had to tell the people at the hospital that you fell.
Something scraped against the wall of Aliyah’s building. She jerked hard, her gasp yanking her upward. She forced away a whimper as her bed springs creaked.
She had given herself away. Now it would know she was in here.
Her heart knocked hard against her chest. It beat so fast that it hurt. She was dizzier than ever, reeling, spinning. She couldn’t make herself push out the old air filling her lungs. It was like being trapped underwater beneath a sheet of ice, suffocating on her own fear.
If she called out for Aunt Indira; if she just screamed—
Would she get in trouble?
It didn’t matter anyway. She couldn’t make a sound. Fingers all crossed, thumbs too, and now toes curled. She tried to shut her eyes but they wouldn’t stay closed. First rule of invisibility: If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
But her eyes wouldn’t stay closed. She was too scared. Because if you can’t see them, you don’t know when they’re coming after you.
Her lids fluttering, she burrowed into the corner of her bed, forgetting about the nightstand and the plastic water bottle and the ballerina lamp. The water bottle fell over and rolled onto the floor.
The silhouette of a head loomed on the wall. Now she’d done it. Now it would be sure that she was there.
The head moved left, right, then straight ahead. It was looking in.
Then it looked down.
Tears slid from the corners of her eyes and she bit her lower lip to keep herself from whimpering. It wouldn’t be able to see her. Unless it could see in the dark. Maybe it was there because she was so bad. She broke things. She made noise. She was such a hassle.
The window rattled.
I don’t mean to be bad. I try to be a good girl.
She bit down hard to keep herself from crying. Blood beaded on her lower lip.
Rattle, rattle, rattle.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’ll never steal cheese slices again.
She should call out for her aunt.
Call. I can call on my phone. They are always telling me press 911 for help if I need it.
Her phone was on her nightstand. That would be better. She wouldn’t bother Aunt Indira. Except that some things were private and if you told there was hell to pay. But this was different. Even she knew that, and she was so stupid she didn’t even know how to count to one hundred by tens.
To get the phone, first she had to uncross her fingers and thumbs. Then she had to snake her hand up toward the nightstand.
She couldn’t make herself do it. She lay still fighting for air.
Then beside the window, the picture of her dead mommy slid to the floor and crashed as the glass shattered. She jerked, then squeezed her fingers together to make the crosses tighter. She couldn’t manage one little whimper.
She would do something. She would grab the phone or bolt out of bed or scream. But to do any of those things, she would have to stop being invisible and that might be her worst idea and Lord knew she didn’t have a lick of common sense. So she would count to one hundred before she decided.
If she could remember all the tens’ places. First was ten and then was twenty…
She got to thirty before the window exploded.
Cat killed the engine and put her keys in her pocket. By then, Vincent was already out of the squad car, waiting for her in the snow. Stunning in his black suit and navy blue tie, his black wool calf-length coat hung open as it stretched across his broad shoulders. Like her, he wore a muffler around his neck and his short brown hair was covered with a black knitted cap. Her own cap was teal blue with a crocheted beaded flower; not really to her taste, but it had been the first thing she’d grabbed because they’d been bordering on late. Heather had persuaded her to buy it during a Saturday morning of sisterly bonding over coffees and vintage shopping. She planned to take it off before they met Maurice Riley. It was too frivolous for this solemn occasion.
They’d both awakened with smiles on their faces, then laughed at Heather’s flurries of fabrics and feathers as Cat made the coffee and Vincent cooked breakfast. Heather was attending Silverado Academy of Design as a fashion design major. She was also working part-time as an events coordinator again. Each of her activities came with lots of stuff that she left out in the living room and/or her bedroom because she was “in process.” Creating was interesting. Cleaning up afterwards? Not so much.
The chaos of Cat’s apartment matched the chaos in their lives: A new kind of monster was terrorizing New York City. There had been six fatal maulings in as many weeks; savage, brutal, inhuman. Beast. It had to be. And yet Vincent had been at a loss to track it down, much less describe what new kind of atrocity had been created… and by whom. He had visited each crime scene and engaged his tracking senses, waiting for sensory details to emerge, meld
J.T.’s tests had come back negative for biological alterations in Vincent’s own system. The biochemist assured them that Vincent was still Vincent. But what if J.T. simply couldn’t measure a new mutation in Vincent’s physical makeup?
Meanwhile, the island of Manhattan was up in arms, complaining about the lack of results from the NYPD. There were protests and demonstrations every day, people gathering in Central Park and in front of the 125th precinct with signs that read SAVE OUR CITY and TERRORISTS AMONG us? There was talk of vigilante justice and how someone had to do something because the cops were useless. It was scary talk.
A call came in from Tess.
“Good morning, boss,” Cat said into the phone as she got out of the squad car. Her own boots crunched on dirty snow. New York in January was days of brown and gray slush alleviated by powdery snowfalls as white as sugar. She hoped it snowed again soon.
“We’ve got another one. Lucky number seven.”
Cat looked at Vincent. His face went from somber to grim. She knew he could hear Tess as clearly as if the new captain of NYPD’s 125th precinct were standing beside him. Courtesy of the “enhancements” Cat’s biological father had equipped Vincent with, he could direct his blood to any of the five senses he wanted to boost. Right now it was his hearing. The process was second nature to him—he was a true apex predator. Or had been, until the six mysterious homicides caused him to question his status.
“Same as the others?” Cat asked.
“Worse. Much, much worse. That new ME’s assistant threw up all over a key piece of evidence. I’ve got pictures on my phone that sent me to the ladies’ room. We gotta catch this thing fast.”
Cat frowned. “Do we have an ID for the vic?”