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Authors: Sylvia Day

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Fiction

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BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
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She glanced at the lycans who stood on either end of the produce section. “Dangerous attention? Your bullet catchers are pretty big guys.”
“Sometimes. Nothing for you to worry about. I’ll keep you safe.”
“If I scared easily”—Lindsay picked up a sweet potato and dropped it into a plastic produce bag—“I wouldn’t have left the airport in a strange city with a guy I don’t know.”
She knew him, even if she didn’t realize why or how. It was obvious she relied on her gut instincts more than black-and-white reasoning, and that intuition was filling in the blanks on his behalf. She’d taken one look at him and set her sights. No hesitation. Just a straight-up, in-your-face
I want you
look that had volleyed the ball into his court with a rapid-fire salvo.
Lindsay gestured at the nearly overflowing handbasket he was carrying. “I’m looking forward to watching you cook all this and seeing if I can pick up a few tips on how to prepare tempura, which is one of my favorite dishes.”
“Do you cook?”
That made her laugh. “Stovetop stuff. Nothing complicated. With a single-parent dad and a crazy college schedule, I’ve eaten out more than I’ve eaten in.”
“We’ll change that.” He reached for a Mayan sweet onion, then deliberately allowed it to tumble from his grasp.
She snatched it out of the air with nearly the same speed he’d used to catch Jason’s flying sunglasses earlier.
“Here you go.” Lindsay tossed the vegetable to him, then turned away as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
His hand fisted and the onion burst within his palm like a raw eggshell. As the fragrant juice flowed over his fingers, he cursed and willed the mess into a waste bin across the room with a terse thought.
Lindsay pivoted at the sound, turning so fluidly that her canvas messenger bag didn’t sway from her side. She’d withdrawn the large carryall from her checked luggage the moment she tugged it off the baggage carousel. Her haste had roused his curiosity. Why not carry it on the plane if the need for it was that immediate?
Adrian studied her. Her economy of movement was impressive. And worrisome. “You have great reflexes.”
Her gaze shifted downward. “Thank you.”
“You could have played professional sports.”
“I thought about it.” Grabbing a bag of carrots, she placed it in his basket. “But I lack stamina.”
He knew why. Lindsay’s mortal body wasn’t built to sustain Shadoe’s naphil gifts. What he didn’t know was if she had just the speed or if there were other talents.
A sense of urgency swept over him. He had to take out Syre as soon as possible.
Even knowing how drastically, perhaps catastrophically, the world would change when he killed the leader of the vampires, Adrian wasn’t deterred. Shadoe took precedence over everything. He’d made the mistake of putting himself first the night he attempted to circumvent her death; he would not be so selfish a second time.
But the cost would be high.
His mission was to contain and control the Fallen, not execute them. When he ended Syre’s life, he would be pulled from the earth for disobeying his orders, leaving the Sentinels without the captain they’d served under from their inception. The two factions—vampires and angels—would both be leaderless for a time, throwing the world into temporary chaos. But Shadoe’s soul would be freed of its enchainment to her father, and Adrian’s hypocrisy would be at an end. The mistake he’d made so long ago would finally be rectified.
In many ways, his actions would rebalance the scales. He and Syre had both proven unworthy of their leadership. Both the Fallen and the Sentinels deserved captains above reproach, individuals who could lead by example.
His cell phone rang. Pulling it out of his pocket, Adrian saw it was Jason. He apologized for the need to take the call, but Lindsay just shooed him off and continued on without him.
“Mitchell,” he answered.
“Damien’s flight is about to take off. He’ll be home in a couple hours.”
Adrian knew everyone was moving as swiftly as possible, but that did little to temper his impatience. Phineas’s death demanded swift retaliation, but he needed detailed information to begin his hunt. Damien had been the first Sentinel on the scene and he would have the surviving lycan in tow. They would be his starting point. “I have Shadoe.”
A pause. Then a whistle. “The timing is perfect. Gives us some leverage if Syre’s finally decided to go rogue.”
“Yes.” Adrian’s spine rippled with tension. As distasteful as it was to use Lindsay as a lure to gain access to Syre, there was no denying that she was the best means of manipulating her vampire father into a vulnerable position. “We’re in public now.”
“Should I tell Damien to report to your office in the morning?”
“I want to see him the minute he comes in. This is our primary focus until we find the one responsible.”
“Gotcha.”
“And the pilot? Do we know what happened there?”
“He was thrown off the roof just before we cleared the stairs. It’s all over the local news in Phoenix now.”
Shit
. Adrian rolled his shoulders back. “Have HR send me his file; I want his family well taken care of. And get PR on damage control. His loved ones don’t need to be hounded by the media now.”
“I’m on it, Captain. Catch you in a bit.”
Goaded to get Lindsay back to Angels’ Point as soon as possible, he returned his attention to her and found her gone from the produce section. He approached the second lycan. “Why is she out of your sight?”
“Elijah’s with her.”
“Get the car and wait out front.”
The lycan nodded and left. Adrian walked the length of the front of the store, looking down each aisle for short golden curls and a svelte figure. He spotted Elijah standing at the back wall, a formidable sight with his wide stance and crossed arms. Lindsay wasn’t with him.
Closing the distance between them in less time than it took to blink, Adrian asked, “Where is she?”
“Bathroom. Where’s Trent?”
Adrian was struck again by the confidence and command with which the lycan carried himself, an innate self-assurance that had enabled Elijah to swan dive out of a plummeting helicopter despite his terror of heights. It was also responsible for drawing attention to him as a possible Alpha in the lycan ranks.
Deliberately testing him, Adrian replied with provocative disregard and vagueness. “Obeying orders.”
Elijah nodded curtly, hiding any adverse reaction he might have had to the nonanswer. “There’s a demon in the store. One of the night clerks.”
“Not our problem.” North America was Raguel Gadara’s territory. It was the seven archangels’ responsibility to police demons. Adrian had been created solely to hunt renegade angels. Aside from Sammael—or Satan, as he’d become known to mortals—most demons were unworthy prey for a Sentinel.
“I think this one might be a concern. He was trailing the woman around the store.”
“Keep an eye on him. And escort Lindsay to me the moment she comes out.”
“You want me to watch her? What about you?”
Stopping when they were shoulder to shoulder, Adrian turned his head and met the lycan’s gaze. He knew Elijah wasn’t concerned about his well-being so much as curious about Lindsay’s importance. “I can manage on my own for a few minutes.”
He continued on, stopping in the Asian food section before rounding the endcap. He was halfway through the baking supplies aisle when Lindsay appeared at the end. Elijah was directly behind her.
“We have everything we need,” Adrian told her, “unless you have some requests.”
She paused midstep. Although her pose appeared casual and relaxed on the surface, he felt the razor-sharp tension in her. An inexplicable breeze ruffled the thickest blond curl draping over her brow.
He sensed the demon behind him before Lindsay spoke.
Her brown eyes turned as dark and hard as black onyx. “Back away from him, asshole.”
Power rippled down Adrian’s spine and spread outward, disabling the security cameras in the store with an electrical surge. Elijah bared his canines in a savage snarl.
“Call off your dog and bitch, seraph,” the demon hissed behind him. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Bullshit,” Lindsay snapped. “I can
feel
the evil in you.”
Adrian made a quarter turn, affording him a simultaneous view of both Lindsay and the creature she was bristling at—a dragon whose hands flexed beside his thighs, preparing to expel the not inconsiderable firepower Adrian sensed in him. As far as demons went, he was merely a nuisance to a being of Adrian’s age and power, but the rapaciousness with which he regarded Lindsay and the disrespect he showed her was intolerable.
“If you apologize to the lady for your rudeness,” Adrian said softly, “I might refrain from eviscerating you.”
“Fuck.” The dragon held up both hands, his eyes darting. “I’m sorry, lady. Just tell her to stand down, seraph, and I’ll walk out of here.”
The demon’s mortal guise was that of a sandy-haired, ponytailed teenager with baggy clothing and a name badge that read SAM, but there was a reptilian coldness to his gaze that betrayed a far darker interior. Dragons were a nasty class of demon, prone to terrorizing mortals for sport before making a snack of them. But this guy was Raguel’s problem; Adrian had bigger game to hunt.
Adrian flicked his wrist dismissively, already bored with the delay. “Go.”
“I think not,” Lindsay growled.
A streak of silver raced past Adrian’s eyes. His gaze followed with equal speed.
For an instant, the dragon swayed with a throwing dagger protruding from his forehead and his mouth agape in a frozen look of disbelief. Then his body disintegrated into embers, falling into a pile of ash half the height of the man. The suddenly anchorless blade cut through the debris and clattered to the floor amid a stunned silence.
Adrian crouched and picked up the small knife, which shouldn’t have been able to wipe out a dragon; the breed had an impenetrable hide. If “Sam” had suspected for even an instant that he was under attack, he would have shifted to protect himself. But Lindsay had blindsided him as well as Adrian.
A hot surge of desire rocked Adrian back on his heels, followed swiftly by the fury of a man who’d just watched his reason for breathing put herself in incalculable danger. He stood and looked at her.
She returned his gaze with a tight smile. “Looks like we both have some explaining to do.”
CHAPTER 5
 
“Are you planning on using that?”
Lindsay fingered one of the throwing knives she carried in her messenger bag and made no apologies. When they’d deplaned at John Wayne Airport, she’d met Adrian’s guards and had realized they weren’t human. They also weren’t
in
human or evil, because she would have felt it if they were—just as the clerk at the grocery store had caught her eye like a neon sign. To be safe, she’d grabbed her arsenal sack the moment her suitcase appeared on the luggage carousel.
She shrugged, deliberately affecting a nonchalance that mirrored his. “It calms me to have it in hand.”
She’d been slaying malevolent nonhuman . . .
beings
since she was sixteen and had long since stopped losing sleep over it. What was eating at her now was Adrian. That heinous thing in the grocery store had known him—had
deferred
to him—had shown
fear
when Adrian threatened him. While she, batshit crazy as she was, found herself feeling safer around Adrian than she had at any time since she was five years old.
God . . .
She knew how to look away, how to wait for prime opportunities. She knew where Sam worked; she could have gone back at a better time and taken him down in privacy. Instead, she had exposed herself as completely as if she’d ripped off her clothes.
She had done it because she couldn’t
not
do it. She’d been too young to save her mother, but in the years since, she had sworn she would never stand by and watch another innocent die. The look in Sam’s eyes as he backed up was one she knew: he was spoiling for trouble. No way in hell could she let him leave in that frame of mind. She’d never stop wondering who ended up bearing the brunt of his humiliation and frustration, and whether she could have prevented the consequences.
“It calms you to carry a weapon,” Adrian repeated, studying her from his seat beside her. His sleek black Maybach purred up the side of a hill, following a winding road that left the city behind.
“What are you?” Her heart was beating too fast, forcing her to acknowledge how wound up she was. With rigid focus, she made her brain stop spinning around what she didn’t understand.
She couldn’t slide back toward that dark precipice in her mind, that place where insanity whispered along her subconscious like a lover. Her childhood therapist considered her one of his greatest successes. He thought she was remarkably well adjusted for a woman who’d witnessed the brutal murder of her mother at the tender age of five. He didn’t know that when the foundation of her reality had been torn from her, she’d forged a new one. An existence where creatures with inexplicable powers worked in grocery stores and ripped open the throats of parents in front of their children. She’d become a warrior in that world of black and white, that world of humans and vicious inhumans.
BOOK: A Touch of Crimson
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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