Alexa O'Brien Huntress Book Two
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Alexa O’Brien is a magnet for trouble. Due to the power she shares with bad ass vampire, Arys Knight, power hungry creatures are eager to get a taste of her. That includes Arys’ sadistic sire, a vampire that sees her as a toy, perfect for his personal collection. If he doesn’t kill her, she just might wish he had.
Alexa is in danger, something her wolf mate Shaz blames entirely on Arys. The tension runs high when an argument blows up into a full physical confrontation between the two men. Alexa learns there is one way to protect herself from those who see her as a walking, talking power trip. Now she is faced with her biggest decision yet.
But can the two men she loves put aside their differences when it matters most? Because this is one sacrifice that will forever alter her very mortality.
Editor: B. Leigh Hogan
Cover art: Michael Hart
I stared at the creepy nightclub across the street. The Wicked Kiss isn’t the type of place I especially enjoy walking into. Inside, you feel as if you’ve just become the latest tasty item on the menu. Being a werewolf made it no different than if I’d been human. I was food in this place. The vampire bar may have been fascinating to some, like the many donors who risk it nightly, but to me, it’s just plain scary.
I had only been inside the club once, years ago, and I’d heard they had renovated the place since. Probably so they could add in some secret passageways or hidden torture rooms. Just a guess.
Trying to calm the nervous butterflies in my stomach, I gave my hair and makeup a final and unnecessary check. My smoky black eyeliner was still perfectly framing my dark brown eyes. I’d worn bold red lipstick, which wasn’t the usual for me. Considering the location, I’d planned on blending in the best I could. I had to admit to myself that I looked pretty hot.
I ran my fingers through my long hair and took a deep breath. The chunks of dyed gold that I’d had blended into my light, ash blond hair had faded out over the past few months. Always one to have fun with color, I’d replaced it with an amazing fire engine red. The alternating layers of blond and red that framed my face did wonders to play up my eyes.
Now that I was at The Wicked Kiss, I really didn’t want to go in. And, I never would have even considered it if Kale hadn’t been inside. He’d been missing for three days, and he wouldn’t likely be anywhere else for that length of time. Because he was my colleague and my friend, I was willing to withstand some discomfort. That, and because if I didn’t go in there and drag him out, Kylarai would, which couldn’t possibly go over well.
Kylarai Kramer, my passive-aggressive best friend, had been seeing my danger-seeking vampire colleague for the last three months. However, they had been coming to realize that their relationship wasn’t going to be too cut and dried.
One of the reasons I didn’t want Ky going into The Wicked Kiss was because she wasn’t comfortable with Kale taking blood from the donors there. Unfortunately, blood is a vital part of a vampire’s existence, and Kale, being a product of vampire torture, preferred the donor set up to the kill. Feeding for a vampire can be very intimate and often includes more than blood alone. Kylarai knows it’s part of being with Kale, whether she likes it or not.
Steeling myself against the nerves that threatened to keep me in the car, I double checked my shoulder bag for my cell phone and opened the door. I paused to adjust my cleavage in the tight-fitting, black corset I wore. It looked great paired with pinstriped dress pants and my favorite four-inch heeled boots. A strategically placed leather choker was my way of hiding my neck. No open invitations here.
Bumping the door of my red Dodge Charger Daytona shut with my hip, I locked it with a beep and crossed the street. I scanned the parking lot of the bar for Kale’s slick 1973 Camaro. Sure enough, there it was near the back. I was somewhat surprised to see that his rims were still attached to his car. This wasn’t a good area of town. Although, anyone who wants to live to see another day wouldn’t touch a car in this lot.
If I said I wasn’t scared to walk through the doors of the club, I’d be lying. I was somewhat reassured that both Kylarai and Jez knew where I was. If they didn’t hear from me within an hour or two, they were supposed to come in after me.
Of course, if I was dead or forced to be somebody’s plaything by then, it wouldn’t matter. There were rules in this place, as far as I knew, but, I mean, we’re talking vampires here.
Nobody lingered outside. Two heavy wooden doors opened into a small foyer. A cashier stand stood off to one side where a female vampire waited to take my cover charge. She was new, as in, a new vampire; the energy rolling off her felt tainted with human. At least the smell of death had faded.
How many vampires woke up to their new life in this place? I shuddered at the thought, but my curiosity was piqued.
A few feet away from the cashier stand was a tall, beefy bouncer. He, too, was a member of the undead as was most of the staff in this place. He gave me a critical once over before nodding his head towards the cashier chick.
“How much?” I asked her, fully aware that I sounded like a total newbie.
“Ten bucks,” she replied, making no attempt to hide her wonder as she ogled me. Werewolves are not nearly as common or easy to become as vampires. This happened often.
Handing her a ten dollar bill, I turned away to pass the big vampire blocking the entry into the club beyond. He crossed his big arms over his chest and looked down at me from his tall stance.
“Sorry, but anything coming in here that isn’t human is subject to being searched.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
I was wearing a freaking corset and slacks, where did he think I could possibly be hiding something? Sighing, I allowed him to give me a quick pat down and low and behold, he never even tried to grope me. Good for him.
When he was satisfied that I wasn’t carrying a stake, or whatever else he was looking for, he moved aside and let me pass into the main bar beyond. Of course, little did he know that my biggest arsenal was on me at all times. Having the ability to conduct and manipulate energy often meant I didn’t need a physical weapon, especially since my power had grown due to my bond with Arys, my vampire lover.
Loud Goth rock music greeted me as I stepped inside. The only lighting in the place was a series of black lights strewn about and a few large strobe lights that illuminated those on the dance floor to my right. The bar was to my left, and I went there first.
The place was not expansively big, but it was on the larger side. Framed classic horror movie posters adorned the far wall behind the dance floor, and a glass-encased candle burned on each of the tables scattered around. A DJ booth was tucked away in the corner behind the dance floor as well as a fireplace and two red velvet couches near the bar where I stood.
It wasn’t hard to tell the humans from the vampires. Other than their obvious energy difference, the humans seemed to be wannabe vamps more than anything else. An assortment of heavily made-up men and women in dog chains and fake leather were everywhere. The scent of blood was mixed with that of sweat, booze and vanilla candles.
I knew about the private area where vampires and donors could escape to their own room for uninterrupted feeding and whatever else they did back there. The main club was just a front for what lies in the back.
I knew that’s where Kale had to be when I didn’t spot him. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to get back there to him. I considered fabricating a lame story but decided that honesty may be the best bet.
The biker-style bartender slid the whiskey I ordered down the bar without looking twice at me. I’m sure he saw more than enough interesting tidbits in a place like this.
Sipping my drink, I feigned interest in the bodies on the dance floor, which writhed more than they danced. It was downright creepy. The entire place was a swarm of humans and vampires falling all over each other. I was the only Were in the place.
I felt eyes on me before I determined whose they were. A tall, thin vampire in a hockey jersey and jeans was advancing on me fast from the other side of the room. He was longhaired and scraggly, with a poor excuse for a goatee. His power was weak, mediocre at best. I wasn’t intimidated in the least.
Oh great, I thought. I couldn’t imagine this would be easier than turning down the human jackasses that wouldn’t take no for an answer at Lucy’s Lounge, my usual hangout.
“You’re new here.” He didn’t bother to beat around the bush. Most vampires don’t. “We don’t get many werewolves in here.”
“Yeah, well I’m just here to have a drink and look for my friend. Don’t let me keep you.” I smiled and tried my best for polite. I didn’t need to piss off every vampire in the place by coming across as aggressive.
“Is that so? Perhaps I can persuade you to rethink that.” His serious brown eyes studied me, waiting for my reaction.
“No, thank you. Really, I’m in a bit of a hurry.” I finished the rest of my drink in one swallow as if to emphasize my words. The resulting alcohol rush was pleasant but short-lived.
The vampire glanced out, over the small crowd gyrating on the dance floor, before looking back at me. It didn’t look like he planned to move along. I began to grow impatient. I didn’t have time for this crap.
He actually took a step closer to me, inclining his head in a way that he must have thought was endearing. “What will it take to get you to come back to a room with me? Just for a little taste. Name it. I can match your price.”
So, he thought he could buy my precious werewolf blood with money. This was getting ridiculous.
“I’m not here as a donor. I’m sorry, but I’m busy. I’m sure there are plenty of ladies here who would be more than happy to give you a fix.” I turned to walk away, but his cold hand on my bare shoulder stopped me dead in my tracks.
“Look,” he said, and his tone had dropped to a deadly pitch. “Maybe you don’t understand how potent Were blood is to a vampire, but walking in here without being willing to share is something that could get you killed.”
I met his eyes evenly, allowing myself a hint of the wicked smile I’d picked up from Arys. “Is that a threat? Or a challenge?”
Without waiting for him to respond, I glanced at the spot where he touched me and focused on it. All it took was a thought, and I pushed power into that spot hard enough to make him stumble back, arms flailing. It wasn’t enough to land him on his ass though, lucky him.
It certainly got the attention of a few club patrons nearby. I didn’t risk a glance at them. I stared at the vampire, expecting some kind of retaliation. I did not expect the reaction I got.
His eyes grew wide, and he took a few steps toward me but stopped out of reach. “You’re Arys Knight’s wolf.” It wasn’t a question.
I bristled at his words. What in the hell was Arys telling people? I didn’t belong to anybody.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I demanded, hands on my hips.
“I’m so sorry,” he continued in a blubbering rush as if I hadn’t spoken. “I didn’t know. I swear; I never would have tried if I’d known.”
He began to back away slowly, holding his hands up in a sign of surrender. I advanced on him, ignoring the curious looks from those at the table closest to us.
“Wait, I want to know where you heard that.” I also had a sudden idea as to how I might be able to get into the back. Maybe I could use this to my advantage.
“I don’t know.” He glanced around as if looking for someone to save him. “Everyone knows who he is. You’re laced with his energy. You have to be the wolf he’s bonded to. Right?”
Was no information considered sacred anymore? Or, was it just that obvious to others? I didn’t like that my business was getting out and about.
“Right.” I nodded. There really was no point in lying. “You know Arys?”
If he hadn’t already looked frightened, he did now. “I know that I don’t want any beef with him. I said I was sorry.”
This might be easier than I thought. “Ok fine, I’ll forget all about it if you do me a small favor.”
His expression grew suspicious, but he didn’t turn and run. So far, so good. “What?”
“Take me into the back so I can find my friend.” I nodded at the heavy, black velvet curtain that hung ominously over a door in the back, next to the bar. A piece of bright red hair fell in my eyes, and I gave my head a toss.
The vampire stared at me as if unsure of what to do. After a moment, he shrugged. “Alright. I’ll take you back there for a few minutes, but that’s it. I don’t need to get in shit for this.”
“You won’t. I promise.” After a moment of consideration, I offered him a hand. “I’m Alexa.”
He appeared hesitant before accepting. He felt cool and clammy, like he hadn’t fed in a while. “Shawn.”
“Sorry to inconvenience you, Shawn, but I really need to get back there to my friend. This won’t take long.”
“I’ll get you back there, but I’m not responsible for whatever happens after that.” Shawn glanced at the bartender and then back at me. I guessed that was who provided access to the velvet-covered door. “Who is your friend?”
I debated on not telling him but didn’t think the information would be that critical. Kale was a regular here anyway.
“Kale Sinclair. I work with him. He’s needed for something.” I fudged a little on my reasons, but Shawn didn’t need to know.
He suddenly had this look of recognition, and he gave a little laugh that surprised me. “Oh Kale, yeah, he’s been here a lot lately. I’ll take you to his room.”
Shawn turned away towards the bar, and I followed him, feeling the eyes on me from behind. The bartender never even looked at us twice before handing a room key over to Shawn. I guess regulars had an all access pass.
Kale had his own room? Was it just me, or was that kind of disturbing?
When Shawn approached the black curtain, my breath caught in my lungs, and adrenaline rushed forth to set my heart racing. I was nervous and completely unable to hide it. This was so not my domain.
Before sweeping the curtain aside, Shawn turned to me, a pensive look on his face. “I’ll take you to his room and then go to this one.” He held up the key in his hand. “After fifteen minutes, I’m coming out, so you have to make it quick.”
I studied him, scanning for any reason not to put my trust in him, at least temporarily. “Thanks Shawn. I appreciate this.”
He cast a wry smile over his shoulder at me. “No problem. Just make sure to put me on Arys’ do-not-harm list.” He chuckled slightly, going silent when he pulled back the heavy curtain.
I really didn’t think he was joking though, and I made a mental note to do my best to do just that, as long as he was true to his word and didn’t somehow screw me over.
The curtain led us into a small foyer-type area. There were chairs and a small table off to one side and an ashtray and mini bar to the other. A hallway branched off either side of the foyer, a red carpet leading the way.
Wall sconces hung with candles burning to light the way down the dark halls. Paintings hung along the way, but otherwise, the halls were dark and bare. Shawn turned to the right, and I felt my skin begin to crawl.
I followed him down the hall, noting the numbers on the doors. On this side, they were odd, going one, three, five and so on. I assumed the even numbers were the opposite way. Shawn stopped suddenly between doors, his voice low as he whispered.
“Number thirteen is Kale’s. I’ll be in seventeen. Remember, fifteen minutes.” Before I could reply, he had continued down the hall and disappeared into the dark.
The door closest to me was number seven, so I had a few more to go. As I drew closer to Kale’s room, I began to get increasingly anxious. I was a fit of nerves when I stood outside, staring at the number on the door. There was a strange energy in the hall that bit at my skin like angry red ants.
The hallway was so silent that I imagined each room to be soundproof. Either that, or there was something going on in these rooms that I did not want to know about.
I steeled my nerves, knowing that it was now or never. I raised my hand to knock but never even came close to landing the motion before the door jerked open, revealing a pale young woman with red hair, clad in a silky nightgown. Her neck was an assortment of red, swollen bite marks.
I stared at her in shock, and my words died before I’d given voice to them.