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Authors: J.C. Daniels

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BOOK: Edged Blade
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Unconsciously, I moved closer and sighed in satisfaction as he slid an arm around my waist.

My skin prickled in response to the nearness of him. It was like standing in the middle of an electrical storm—exhilarating and terrifying.

Keep waiting
, I’d told him.

He’d done just that, waiting patiently for me to sort my head out, although I still hadn’t done that.

So. Just how did I tell him I didn’t want him to just
wait
anymore?

“Should I contact Scott?”

The sound of Chang’s polite voice tugged me back to the here and now. Curling one hand into a fist, I closed my eyes. Damon’s response rumbled out of him as he answered. I barely heard the words.

Can we just stop the waiting…

 

 

“You still have the blade, I see.”

I stilled that sound of that voice.

Slowly, I looked up and met Amund’s pale eyes—pale like arctic ice under the noon sun. He stood three feet away, head cocked as he studied me.

“Ah…”

His gaze flicked to the knife strapped to my thigh.

“Yes.” I managed a polite smile. I fumbled for something to say but came up empty.

Amund took another step toward me. “I apologize for Roberto. He is…young.”

Roberto. The vamp from Whittier House. I tucked the name away and inclined my head. Okay, civilities. I could manage that. Probably. “There is no need to apologize.”

“He wished to upset you. We both know that.” He continued to watch me with penetrating eyes. “Many of Whittier House would see you…upset.”

The minute pause sent a spike of fear up my spine.
Upset
? I wondered.
Or dead
?

“Plenty of people have wanted to
upset
me.” I let myself pause before the word as well. Then I smiled. “I’m not in the habit of giving people what they want.”

His gaze strayed across the room, lingered. “What of the Alpha? Do you give him what he wants?”

“Ah…”

Those pale eyes came back to me. “He’s a strong protector to have at your side. It would stand to reason that you would do much to keep him there.”

Blood rushed hotly to my face. I don’t like to think of myself as hot-tempered—scratch that. I don’t like
being
hot-tempered and as I stood there staring at the ancient son of a bitch, I had to swallow down any number of furious replies. “I don’t suppose anybody has thought about the fact that I was doing just
fine
on my own
before
I met Damon.
Before
he became Alpha.”

“I’ve thought about the fact.” His gaze flicked to the knife once more before returning to mine. “You sound insulted.”

“Do I?”

Silence had fallen and none of the people around us even made the attempt to pretend they weren’t listening to us. Amund ignored them. I wish I could do it so easily, but the weight of their gazes made me even more uncomfortable.

“I mean no offense,” Amund said, lifting a shoulder in a shrug. “It’s been something I’ve wondered about.”

“How about you just
ask
what you’re wondering about instead of insinuating…whatever you are insinuating?”

Amund offered me a formal half-bow. “It’s hardly necessary. It’s easy to see you are still your own person, Ms. Colbana.”

He straightened and turned, disappearing into the crowd just as Damon emerged from it.

I was petty enough to wish I’d taken the knife Amund had given me and jabbed the son of a bitch with it. It wouldn’t kill him. Hurt, yes, but not kill. But you don’t pull a tiger’s tail if you’re not prepared to handle his teeth.

Swallowing, I rubbed at the scars hidden in the tattoos on my neck.

Damon drew even with me, a thunderous look on his face.

I flashed him a brilliant smile. “Wow. Some party, huh?”

 

 

The skimpy green dress I wore left little room for anything other than me—and underwear.

The deadly little toys I’d found to accessorize with went rather nicely with my costume and I was pleased to see I wasn’t the only one who’d gone that route.

I was also pleased to see that my weapons were the prettiest. The silver band that coiled up my arm had been designed to hide a garrote in the intricate design. This was the first chance I’d ever really had to wear the arm band.

I’d secreted another blade on me, one tucked into a sheath designed to ride between my small breasts. Every time I moved, I felt the cold, reassuring weight of its presence.

I liked them, yes, but I hadn’t been prepared to need anything.

After all, we were at a party where the presence of the attendees was like a sting in the air, they were so powerful.

Who would be
stupid
enough to try and get into a fight here?

Answer:
Me
.

In my defense, I hadn’t
planned
on the fight.

It was the crazy-eyed shifter who’d crashed into me at the buffet—
she
started it.

The buffet was loaded with everything from raw cuts of meat—for the shifters—to the most beautiful sugar-spun pastries you could imagine. I was staying far away from the area where things were still bleeding and focusing on the sweets. The sparkly little ball of puffy dough should have looked too pretty to eat.

I’d eaten five of them before I could stop myself and was pondering a sixth when she moved in front of me.

She was so close, I could feel the ripple of her energy on my skin—
way
too close and I didn’t like it.

I backed up two inches before I realized what I was doing and then I wanted to kick myself.

I already recognized the feel of shifter—and the feel of bitch.

A smug smile curled her lips and I knew I’d just broken one of the cardinal rules when dealing with shapeshifters.

Never back down until they throw you down or your life depends on it.

I could brazen it out, though.

I can brazen my way through anything. With a bright smile, I met her gaze. “Hello.”

She just continued to stare.

A chill raced down my spine, but I ignored it and selected another sweet, this one a delicate cake that resembled a miniature pumpkin—complete with the grinning jack o’ lantern.

She caught my hand before I could pop the cake in my mouth.

“You weren’t raised very well, were you?”

Her voice grated across my nerves.

The words, too, rubbed me raw, but while I can’t lie and say I’ve accepted my less than desirable upbringing, I
had
come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t
me
who screwed up.

With an easy smile, I said, “Nope.”

Then, moving into her grip, I waited and when her grip slackened just the slightest, I twisted away. People never expect you to move
in
when you’re being forcibly restrained.

Once her hand fell away, I backed up—fast.

She’d already tried to grab me again, but now there was five feet between us—and eyes on us.

Instead of advancing, she flared her nostrils and scented the air. “Human,” she pronounced and she said it the same way I might say
dead mouse
—with utter distaste.

“Guilty.” I gave her a wide grin. “At least, partially guilty. There’s something more in the bloodline than just human.”

“All that matters is the human,” she said, shaking her head. “No wonder you have no manners. I’m curious just what the Alpha sees in you.”

A few more gazes slid our way. Most people only glanced out of curiosity before looking away, but more than a few started to watch us and the low murmur of voices in the immediate vicinity went quiet.

“I don’t know.” I still held my plate. I dragged my finger through the sugary powder that had fallen onto it, and then, still watching her, I popped my finger into my mouth. “Maybe he likes
human
.”

“For meat.” She all but purred it.

Meat
. What the more asshole shifters called those they considered
prey
.

“If that was what he was looking for, I think he would have moved on by now.”

“Oh.” She gave a condescending laugh. “Precious, it’s only pity that holds him. Pity. Fascination. He’ll tire of you.”

A heavy, familiar tread came to my ears and I knew he was near. Near enough to hear us both and it sent a twist through my gut.

“He’ll tire of you,” she said again and now she smiled. “You can’t even satisfy his hungers now. Your fear is like a stink in the air. You aren’t even a woman.”

“Alice,” a low voice said.

It wasn’t Damon.

I didn’t bother to look from her to Chang. I just put the plate down and leaned closer.

“Maybe I’m not a
woman
, but at least I’m not a hyena,” I said, curling my lip at her.

A low, ugly growl escaped her and I saw Chang catch her arm. “Enough,” he said, his voice a biting command. “You will leave.”

She tensed, like she’d ignore him, but then she inclined her head.

I saw the promise of retribution in her eyes, though, as she headed down the buffet, her back turned to both me and Chang. That was a look that promised pain.

I guess that’s why I wasn’t surprised when she circled the far end and slid me a cold smile—then she lunged.

Her body was still melting from human to cat and I caught her, feeling fur sprout and muscles reform and bone break.

It was habit and instinct that had me shoving my forearm into her face. If she wanted a chew toy, the arm was better.

As she sank razored teeth into my arm, I shoved my free hand down and caught the jeweled hilt of my blade.

I tore it from its sheath and twisted my body at the same time.

Her teeth clamped down around my arm. I could feel the pain even as I processed how her body had tensed, ready to shake me like a dog with a bone.

I swung out with the blade and drove it into her neck.

Blood fountained out, and her garbled howl echoed like thunder.

Her body was gone in a moment and I rolled away, coming to my hands and knees—well, one hand.

The other, I cradled against my chest as I shoved upright, staring at the convulsing body on the ground in front of me.

My pulse thudded hard, too loud, and I tensed, well aware of the fact that I was suddenly dripping the very substance some of the guests craved like a druggie needed his next hit.

Four bodies surrounded me and I sucked in a desperate breath.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

When Doyle brushed against my arm, I had to bite back the low whimper of pain that was climbing up my throat.

“Allow me.”

I glanced at Chang and then down at my arm.

Part of me wanted to tell him
not here
, but I was oozing blood and all but advertising lunch. I knew none of the vampires were likely to take that offer, but if any of them were lacking on control, I didn’t want to be the thing that pushed them over.

Without comment, I held out my arm.

Fabric ripped and I gritted my teeth as something black and soft wrapped around me.

I glanced over and then did a double take when I realized he’d simply shredded his shirt.

Skin like gold-dusted silk stretched over tight, compact muscles as he dealt with my arm. I looked away, breathing through my teeth in order to combat the pain.

A low whine came to my ears and I shifted my attention to Damon just as he ripped the knife from the back of the woman who’d attacked me. “Who is she?” I asked, keeping my voice low.

Chang shook his head. I don’t know if that meant
not now
or
I don’t know
.

It was a chore to just stand there, breathing shallowly as the pain chewed its way up my arm. Damon leaned down, studying the woman with narrowed eyes. The skin in her throat had yet to start knitting back together. She wasn’t a dominant shifter and she wasn’t a strong one on any level. The silver would slow the healing. Give her time, though, twenty minutes or so, and she’d be ready to turn me into a chew toy again.

I was damn tired of being bitten.

“Just how quickly do you want to die?” Damon asked.

Her whimper, still wet and thick, wasn’t much of an answer.

“Weren’t expecting her to know how to handle you, I guess,” he said, his voice unsympathetic.

He shot out a hand and I couldn’t stifle my flinch at the brutality of his next action. He caught her around the neck, his palm slamming against the silver-wrought wound and squeezing. It would be like shoving blades into the pulp of her throat, the pressure on her wound.

She couldn’t even scream now.

“Release her.” The word was a harsh growl.

When the cat Damon had introduced me to earlier stepped through the bodies, I wasn’t surprised.

Irritated, yes.

But trouble and hate had danced in the air around him. I should have expected
something
.

“Stand down, Matthew, unless you want to catch the bad end of my temper, too,” Damon said, his voice flat.

“That’s my cat you’re abusing,” Matthew said with a sneer. “Harm her and I’ll file a formal complaint.”

Damon looked up then, dangerous humor flicking across his face. “A complaint?” He slid a look toward us, his gaze lingering on me for only a moment before he looked at Chang. “Shit, Chang. He’s going to file a complaint. What do I do now?”

“Kill them both?” Chang finished wrapping my arm and looked up with a serene smile that belied the light of battle in his eyes.

“Yeah.” Green-gold flashed in Damon’s hard, flat stare and he nodded. “I like that idea.”

He rose, though, facing the cat across what just might become a battleground.

“Is she yours?” Damon asked gently.

“She is.” Matthew inclined his head.

“Then I’ll make this clear. She attacked the woman I call
mine
.” A low growl punctuated the air. “And she did it on
my
turf. If she’s lucky, all I’ll do is kill her.”

“Yours…” Matthew’s low, sneering chuckle echoed in the air. “That runt? She was a fool and challenged my companion. If she’s injured, then it’s because of her own foolishness.”

BOOK: Edged Blade
6.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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