Page 5

The male focused on her lips.

Slipping his enormous palm around to the nape of her neck, he pulled her headfirst into him, her body following like water poured from a vase. But he did not kiss her. Even as she dropped her head back against his hold and leaned her lower body into his own, prepared to accept his mouth on hers, he stopped before contact was made.

With his free hand, he drew her wrist up. Maintaining eye contact with her, he hissed and bared his fangs.

The nick he gave her was a small one, but it was in the right place, blood welling up and running down the pale, soft skin of her inner arm.

Her breasts pumped in that tight bustier, that shimmery powder catching the light. “Now what will you do?” she breathed.

Shifting his grip on her hand, he extended his tongue and ran it up the flow he had created, lapping what had escaped her vein, swallowing the dark wine. Her taste was acceptable, not that his standards were high, so when he reached the knife-like incision he had made, he closed a warm seal around it with his mouth.



He knew exactly when she orgasmed. Her eyes squeezed shut and she bit down on her lower lip, her hard, white canines making the soft, red-painted flesh plump in submission. Her hips pressed into him and then rotated, and he imagined the sweet stinging pulses that gripped her core were more tantalizing than satisfying.

“Take me downstairs,” she groaned.

So private down there on the subterranean level. No prying eyes.

Little foot traffic, and what passersby there might be would be drugged out and disinterested in anything other than themselves.

A bigger challenge.

The male picked her up, splitting her thighs around his torso, her breasts pushing against his chest. He carried her off using one arm. She didn’t weigh much.

The female didn’t bother looking at the crowd as they departed. He was the only thing on her mind now.

The way down to the lower level was easily located, and as he headed through the crowd in that direction, she nuzzled into his neck and worked her core against his torso. When he got to the steel door marked “EXIT,” he yanked it open. The stairwell was concrete and smelled of alkaline dirt and cold mold, and the temperature dropped precipitously as they got away from the radiating bodies and whatever heat system was in force in the open area.

“What’s your name?” the female said into his ear.

Down, down, down, the echoes of his heavy boots and heavier body rebounding around. At the bottom landing, he unlatched the steel door with his mind, his will opening the thing wide. The corridor beyond was strobed with old ceiling lights that flickered in their rusty, decrepit mounts, the dull illumination seizuring from above, making shadows dance in an evil waltz. The scents in the frigid, stale air suggested many others had used the corridor for the same purpose the female intended—

The male’s talhman stretched its clawed will under his skin, fresh aggression blooming throughout his body and making him wonder whether his control on this night might not fail him—

The blackout, when it came, only announced itself with its departure, the world returning unto the male in a rush of sensation, his lapse of awareness having stolen everything from him: eyesight, hearing, touch, and taste.

But he was still with the female—and she was alive.

He had pushed her up against an inset doorway, and his hands were trying to find a way under her skirt—

Well, one of them was. The other was feeling around for the latch to open the door.

From past experience, he knew that behind each of the many old wooden portals there were storage areas filled with discarded manufacturing equipment, decaying wooden crates, and colonies of rats that made homes out of the dank, dark caves.

Inside . . . he could do even more to her.

As the thought occurred to him, he wasn’t sure which part of him was talking. The sexual drive . . . or the monster. They were not one and the same, but at times, he had found it difficult to know the difference.

“Your name,” she demanded as she rubbed herself against him. “What is your name . . .”

“Syn,” he growled into her throat. “I am Syn.”

In the alley about fifteen blocks to the west of Pyre’s Revyval, Boone led with the tip of his blade, coming down on his lesser with the onetwo body punch of gravity and all his heavy weight. The steel dagger went into the undead’s eye socket, and as it cleaved through the pupil and sclera, penetrating the brain via the pathway of the optic nerve, he took a mental note down on his cognitive ledger.

This was a violation of training.

The rule for trainees was, whether you were working in pairs or were alone—and especially if it was the latter—you were to dispatch the enemy back to the Omega the instant you got a clear chest strike. Lessers, these sickly sweet-smelling, de-souled humans hell-bent on eradicating vampires, were essentially immortal in a Death Becomes Her kind of way: No matter how much damage you did to their bodies, they were still capable of cognition and movement. You could cut their heads off, lop limbs from their torsos, disembowel, destroy, debride—and they would remain animated, like a rattlesnake.

There was only way to “kill” them: a stab through the empty heart cavity with something steel. Then it was a case of pop, pop, fizz, fizz, relief, etc.

Back they went to their evil maker.

As someone newly trained, Boone didn’t have the wealth of experience that other fighters, and the Brothers themselves, possessed. So for a soldier like him, he shouldn’t be taking risks. A quick COD back to the Omega was the safest way to go—and for the first couple of weeks he was out working in the field, he’d been sure to follow that instruction. After a while, however . . .

He began to draw out the killing if he had the chance.

He could still remember the first time he’d deviated from the safety protocol. He had meant to nail a slayer in the chest, but it had rolled to the side unexpectedly and he’d sliced through its pectoral. As the undead had gone to sit back up, Boone had fumbled with his blade and, panicked, just started stabbing at anything.

Black blood had speckled, splashed, flowed. Pain had caused the lesser to cry out. Boone’s arm had become a jackhammer going up and down in a blur of movement.

It had all been such a revelation.

His brain had lit up in a strange new pattern, sectors of his mind that had been previously dark pierced with an illumination of excitement and nonsexual arousal that shocked him. The rush had been so sharp and so unexpected, he had figured it had to be an anomaly.

That assumption proved to be incorrect.

The second time he delayed the final moment, it had been just the same: A visceral experience that had turned the volume up on the whole world, every nuance of what he was doing, how the slayer reacted, what the start, middle, and end was like, engraved on his mind. The third instance? He validated the operating principle into a kind of law.

Since then, he’d sought these moments out, careful not to get caught.

All the murdered vampires who had lost their innocent lives to these soulless monsters? All the families destroyed? The suffering of his race at the hands of these killers?

Fuck the lessers.

Refocusing, Boone clamped a hold on the front of the undead’s throat and then he stared down into the slayer’s pasty white face. The dagger was still where he’d put it, sticking out of the orbital bed, the handle angled to reflect the arc of his stab. Black blood, glossy and awful-smelling, was dripping out the outer corner of the penetration like tears, sliding down the temple, pooling in the ear.

From out of nowhere, Boone remembered what it was like to be a young lying back in the bath, the water entering his ear canals, buffering things. Was that what the lesser was experiencing?

As the slayer’s mouth gaped like a fish’s, and the arms pinwheeled like it was trying to make snow angels at what could be argued was a very inopportune time, Boone squeezed even harder, crushing the windpipe.

The gurgling gasps rising up from the lesser’s lips made him want to do more. Drag this out for hours. Cut into the torso—

In the back of his mind, a warning bell sounded. Taking out a small portion of the race’s suffering on this slayer was one thing. What Boone’s brain was suggesting to him now . . . was another. It was torture. Still, he ignored the inner alarm as he wondered what it would be like to use his fangs to kill one. Even though that would be harder to explain to the Brothers, he imagined how good it would feel. How satisfying. How visceral.

Temptation tickled his jaw, his mouth cranking open, his canines descending.

All he wanted to do was hurt this motherfucker. And keep hurting it.

With his free hand, he reached out to the hilt of his dagger and secured his palm to the contoured grip. Slowly, he turned the blade back and forth, feeling the grit of the bone wear away as he turned, turned, turned—

“What the hell are you doing?”

Boone looked up in shock. Zypher was standing right in front of him, the Bastard’s leather fighting gear speckled with the black blood of the slayer he had engaged with, his gun down by his thigh, his silver dagger up like he was ready to use it.

“Just finishing the job,” Boone said as he retracted his blade.

Shifting back on the torso, he buried his dagger in the center of that chest, and then raised his forearms up to shield his eyes from the blinding flash. The popping was like that of a gun, echoing around the alley, and as the burst of illumination faded, Boone rose to his feet. There was no looking at Zypher. He kept his eyes trained on the melted hole in the snow, the black rim around on the burn mark part due to the explosion, part from the blood of the enemy.

Say something, Boone told himself.

“I’ll call mine in.” He went for his communicator. “And then I’m ready to go back on patrol—”

“The fuck you are. You’re injured.”

He looked down at his body, bending at the waist. “Where—oh.”

The knife that the lesser had thrown was still imbedded in the meat of his shoulder, the handle sticking out of him in the same way his had protruded from that eye socket. No, that wasn’t quite true. This knife was embedded straight into him. The one in that eye had been angled by thirty . . . maybe forty . . . degrees.