Super advanced excerpt from ARCHANGEL’S VIPER
Note: This is from my manuscript in progress, so excuse any errors. Text is subject to change until the final draft. Hope you enjoy this glimpse!
He stepped out of the private jet.
Of course he was wearing a flawlessly tailored suit in black, paired with a black shirt and no tie. Wraparound mirrored sunglasses obscured his eyes. Holly still hadn’t figured out if he wore the sunglasses because his eyes were sensitive to light, or so people wouldn’t freak out, or simply because he was an asshole who liked to look impenetrable.
She’d bet on the last.
Striding down the steps of the plane with a battered brown—in an elegant way, of course—leather hold-all slung over his shoulder, he turned to look back at the plane, gave a wave toward the cockpit. The early evening sunlight caught on the clean line of his jaw, his burnished brown skin glowing in the light. His slightly overlong chocolate-dark hair was brushed neatly, not a strand out of place.
The damn man looked like he’d stepped out of an ad for fine whiskey or luxury watches.
She was scowling when he met her eyes through the glass. She knew he was looking at her despite the mirrored sunglasses. Arms folded and feet set apart, she stared back.
He smiled and slid off the sunglasses. Eyes slitted like a viper’s met hers, the color a bright astonishing green. “I see you missed me, kitty,” he mouthed.
Holly gave him a sickly sweet smile… followed by the finger.
Sliding the sunglasses back on, Venom laughed. He was inside the waiting area moments later. The raw power of him crashed into her. Violently. Despite her earlier thoughts, she’d forgotten just how incredibly strong he was—she knew this was no power play; he wasn’t trying to overwhelm her on purpose. This was simply who he was. A vampire a hundred times more deadly than the guard outside.
“Damn,” she said with a downturned face. “I was hoping you’d fallen into a crevasse.” He’d mentioned in their last call that he was about to go out on a climb. “Too bad, I guess.”
“I see those little kitten fangs of yours are still just as cute.”
Advance Excerpt #2 from ARCHANGEL’S VIPER
She wanted to hiss at him, controlled the urge only because it would amuse him—and because in the time that he’d been gone, she’d achieved iron control over the most obviously inhuman aspects of her nature.
As for the ugly voice that kept whispering inside her when she was distracted, she’d strangle that, too. “Where’s the rest of your luggage?”
“This is it.”
Rolling her eyes, Holly put her hands on her hips. “Yeah, right. What did you wear for the past two years?” Venom had a suit for every day of the month.
“You don’t know everything you think you know, kitty.”
The world became tinged in acid green.
His smile was slow and satisfied. “There you are.” He took off his sunglasses again to reveal those eyes even more eerie than her own. “Boo.”
Getting her temper in check through sheer teeth-clenched grit, Holly looked up toward the speaker mounted on the wall. “Bye, Trace. Hope you and Andreja have a good day. Oh, I may be arrested for homicide soon. Please come visit me in prison.”
“Adieu, my beautiful girl,” Trace said with cheerful gallantness. “And, old friend, while you may provoke sweet Holly to homicidal rage, it is a pleasure to have you home.”
“It’s good to be back.” Sliding his sunglasses back on, Venom looked at Holly. “You my chauffeur?”
“I’m the woman you don’t want to piss off unless you plan to walk all the way to the Tower,” Holly said before striding out to the car.
Venom paused to shake hands with the guard, then dropped his hold-all in the trunk. Coming around to take the passenger seat, he pushed it all the way back to accommodate his legs. He was whipcord lean, but he had wide shoulders, long legs, a lot of muscle. He could also move as fast as a cobra strike.
“They let you drive now?” he said in a wondering tone of voice calibrated to get under her skin. “I leave for a couple of years and miss kitty’s first steps. Did anyone take photos for the baby album I sent you?”
“It’s full of pretty pictures.” Holly bared her teeth at him in a caricature of a smile. “Honor is a little concerned about how I keep drawing you with your head cut off,” she said in a deliberately thoughtful tone, “but an artist must follow her instincts.”
“Oh, Hollyberry, I’m deeply touched that you couldn’t get me out of your head.”
Holly deliberately skidded out of the parking spot before racing out so fast that Venom’s head should’ve slammed back against his seat. Instead, he laughed, lazily bracing one arm against the frame of the open window as the lethal wildness of his scent blew across her skin. “Got that temper under control, I see.”
“Oh, b—” Holly cut herself off before she said, bite me. She knew exactly what his response would be.
“I am looking forward to fresh blood.” It was a liquid sound, his body languid in a way that simply wasn’t human. “Blood hot from the vein is so much better than the cold, preserved stuff. Don’t you think?”
Holly squeezed the steering wheel and tried to think of the calming exercise Honor had taught her in an effort to foster mental and emotional discipline at a time when Holly had been tearing herself apart. She hadn’t needed that exercise for a while. Venom hadn’t been in the city for a while.
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in—
Blood pulsing in her victim’s veins, drawn to the surface by quivering fear.
—breathe out. In, out, in, damn it, out.
The taste of hot iron on her tongue. Her mouth watering.
Staring at the road with grim focus, Holly refused to give in to the potent—and abnormal—hunger Venom’s words had aroused. She didn’t need that much blood to survive. And she definitely did not want to tear open a helpless mortal’s jugular and bathe in a dark, hot gush of red.
Her stomach clenched, her gorge rising at the images that filled her brain. Horrific, nightmarish images straight out of a fucking asylum for the murderously insane.
“Still fighting the reality that you’re a vampire?”
“I’m not,” she said, her voice holding no indication of her utter terror—because Holly was used to hiding the madness submerged deep within. “I have vampiric tendencies, but I don’t need as much blood as you.” What she craved was a more violent and deadly thing. “I also have other aspects to me that aren’t vampiric.”
“You mean the ability to mesmerize prey? Hate to break it to you, kitty, but I can do that, too, and I’m a vampire. Unlike you, my ability is no longer limited to mortals and very young vampires.”
Holly was well aware he was taunting her. He knew very well what else she could do. “I need food,” she still said, because at least trading barbs with Venom was her version of normal. “That hasn’t changed in the time since the Tower decided Manhattan would be better off without your delightful presence.”
“Stop, stop. I can’t take the effusive welcome.” Unruffled amusement in every syllable, he stretched out his legs. “You still craving samosas?”
“No.” She’d gone to her favorite Indian restaurant three times last week and stuffed her face full of the fried— Wait a minute. “What possible reason could you have to remember that?” she asked suspiciously, the admission about her craving having slipped out during a long-distance training session.
“Because it’s another strange little Hollyberry fact to add to my growing collection.”
“You’re an asshole.” The exchange described their entire relationship, she thought as she continued down the otherwise empty private road that led to and away from the airfield. Thankfully, they merged into a much busier multi-lane road not long afterward. It gave her an excuse to ignore Venom and the prickling over her skin that wouldn’t go away when he was in the vicinity.
“So, what do kitties do on their days off?”
“Be quiet. I’m driving.”
“Is that what you call it? I was thinking more lunatic roller coaster.”
“I don’t see you putting on your walking sho—” She wrenched the wheel all the way to the right as a huge black SUV shoved into her lane. “Jesus!” It hadn’t been a mistake on her part—the driver of the freaking tank was still pushing with unhidden aggression, as if he didn’t have three other lanes to choose from.
And now the bastard was beeping his horn at her.
“Stop the car,” Venom said, his voice ice cold. “I’ll deal with this.”
Holly made it a point to disagree with everything he said on principle, but the idiot in the other vehicle was taking hazardous behavior to a whole new level. He could cause a crash—and most of the other drivers around her probably weren’t vampires who could take far more damage than humans.
She pulled over onto the verge. The SUV screeched to a stop beside her, rather than behind her. “Great, looks like the idiot has road rage issues.” Holly shoved open her door without regard for any marks it’d leave on the SUV’s gleaming finish. The space was narrow, but workable for a woman of her size.
Venom was already on her side of the car, his speed vicious. But she got out in time to see the doors of the other vehicle slam open and a harsh male voice call out, “Grab the girl!”
Grab the girl?
Holly kicked the gun right out of the first goon’s hand. The second was flying back against his car before she saw Venom move. The third took one look at Venom and went sheet white. “You’re not supposed to be here!”
Barely hearing the fearful cry, Holly snapped a kick at the first goon’s jaw, slamming his head sideways. But he was strong, a vampire of at least three hundred. He kept coming at her. Holly couldn’t use any of her new abilities when things were moving so fast, had to fight using only the skills she’d learned from Honor and Ashwini and Elena.
All three Guild Hunters, all three used to fighting against stronger, faster opponents.
Holly was smaller than all of her trainers. ’tite Hollyberry. That was what Janvier called her. The kids at school had just said “short.” Holly didn’t care right now. She cared only that the hunters and Janvier—and Venom—had taught her to fight in a way that used her size. She ducked under the goon’s meaty fist and brought up a two-fisted punch of her own into his gut, right in the sweet spot.
His agonized groan was music to her ears . . . right before he was thrown back so hard against his vehicle that he left a person-sized dent in the metal. It matched the dent left by goon number two.
“I had that.” Her chest heaved, her blood hot.
After straightening his unrumpled suit jacket, Venom said, “You’re welcome.” He nudged at one of the crumpled goons with his designer-shoe-clad foot. “This one looks the most alive. Let’s see what he has to say.”
It turned out to not be much.
“There’s a bounty to grab her.” The goon was all but quivering in front of Venom, his pallid white skin flushed and blotchy.
“How much? And who’s behind it?”
“I don’t know. Mike had the details but I think you bashed his brains in.”
“He’ll wake up. Eventually.” A cold smile. “Then he’ll discover the true meaning of pain.”
The goon’s teeth began to chatter. “I swear we weren’t going to hurt her,” he sobbed. “Just take her for the bounty.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “I’m right here, moron.”
Said moron was still frozen in front of Venom—and she knew Venom wasn’t using his ability to mesmerize. “That’s all I know,” the guy blubbered out of a mouth that was swelling up from the gash on his lip. “We stalked her, realized that she was dropping off her sister today and would be driving back alone.”
“Didn’t you get a clue when I detoured to the private airfield?” Everyone knew it belonged to the Tower.
The goon’s eyes didn’t even flick to her as he said, “She drives like a maniac.”
Venom laughed. “In that we agree.” His laugh had the thick-necked goon flinching. “Now, the rest.”
The man spoke so fast his words rolled into one another. “We lost her right after the main airport and, after fifteen minutes of searching, decided to pull over at a gas station, get some coffee, make a new plan. We’d just got back in the SUV when we saw her car fly past.”
And the goons had figured it was their lucky day, too hyped up on the hunt to think about why Holly wasn’t already in Manhattan when she’d taken off so fast that they’d lost her. Not bothering to shake her head at their incompetence, she said, “How were you supposed to contact the person who put out the bounty?”
“I think Mike has an address to e-mail a photo to.” He swallowed, licked his lips. “You know, for proof.”
Going to the goon whose head was crushed in on one side badly enough that she could see brain matter leaking out—gross, but far from the worst she’d seen—Holly searched his pockets until she found his phone. She unlocked it using his thumbprint, then scanned his text messages.
1. Angels’ Blood
2. Archangel’s Kiss
3. Archangel’s Consort
4. Archangel’s Blade
5. Archangel’s Storm
6. Archangel’s Legion
7. Archangel’s Shadows
8. Archangel’s Enigma
9. Archangel’s Heart
10. Archangel’s Viper
Guild Hunter Novellas
1. Angels’ Pawn (available as an e-book on its own, and as part of Angels’ Flight)
2. “Angels’ Judgment” in Angels’ Flight (originally part of the Must Love Hellhounds anthology)
3. “Angel’s Wolf” in Angels’ Flight (originally part of the Angels of Darkness anthology)
4. “Angels’ Dance” in Angels’ Flight