Alexa wants nothing to do with the government, its army, or the special forces meant to keep rebellion at bay, but she has a choice: do what Kenneth Smith wants or die a quick death. As one of the unawakened, she has no chance of infiltrating the police on her own. Forced to partner with Kenneth’s dae, who dislikes her almost as much as she dislikes it, her life hinges on how well she convinces others she’s a big, bad monster just like them instead of an ordinary human woman.
Working for the police is no easier than dealing with Kenneth’s work. During the day, she’s a part of the law, but at night, she’s a tool of crime and war. It’s only a matter of time before she’s caught–or fails her mission and is killed by her drug-dealing boss.
If she wants to live a free life, she’ll need to take care of Kenneth once and for all. Since he won’t listen to reason and let her go, she’s determined to buy her freedom with his death.
Unfortunately, Kenneth isn’t the only problem in her life, and unless she does something about Rob, she’ll lose the independence she fought so hard for. Worse, unless she’s careful, he’ll make her like it…
his home with a katana and a gun. I wore the sword as a message and a promise I
wouldn’t go quietly if Kenneth or one of his other hounds tried to kill me
shoulder holster reassured me. Despite the early winter chill, I left my
leather coat open so I could reach my Beretta if I needed it.
comforting. The day was ripe for bloodshed, and my sword and gun wouldn’t help
me against many of the magical dae, but I did my best to ignore that fact. It
hadn’t been so long ago the bonded had been regular humans without the strength
and power the magical dae gave them.
The problem was getting close enough to kill them before they killed me.
wanted to find somewhere quiet to watch it, I didn’t dare. I had a limited
window of opportunity to act, and I couldn’t afford to waste it.
peaceful, safe, or quiet. The emergence of the magical had turned sunrise into
one of the serene parts of the day. Many of the dangerous dae were returning to
their homes to sleep while the more cautious and mundane remained indoors.
Smith so I could get on with my life, not that I was sure what sort of life
waited for me. While I hadn’t been expelled from college, classes hadn’t
resumed, and no one was really sure if they would.
police and military ruled in a state of martial law implemented at the
government’s decree. Despite the chokehold on the population—or because of
it—things were slowly returning to normal. Most businesses had reopened, and
life went on. Most of the bonded and their dae had adapted to their new
partnerships and circumstances, although there were still those like Arthur
around, who wanted to use their newfound powers to control, destroy, or change
they wanted, frightened me far more than I wanted to admit. With Rob’s help, I
had no scars from my time in captivity—not visible ones, at least. Some of the
wounds the fire breather had inflicted on me wouldn’t heal, not until I saw to
Arthur’s death myself.
could hunt Arthur, however, I needed to deal with Kenneth Smith once and for
favorite bitch, Lily, waiting on his doorstep. Unlike me, she held her gun out
in the open, and the instant her gaze settled on me, I understood her silent
and if I had to take out his favorite bitch first, so be it. Business was
the Dawn of Dae, they had been blue, accenting her porcelain skin. The
emergence of the dae hadn’t been kind to her, graying her complexion and
turning her irises a burning orange.
that much I had learned from Rob. Lily fidgeted, flexing her left hand. A thin
coating of yellow fur sprouted over her skin.
breather. In a way, I had hoped Lily hadn’t bonded with a dae, although the
development didn’t surprise me very much. People like me, the unawakened, were
few and far between, and most dae didn’t know what to make of us.
any. I’d yet to meet someone like me, someone who lacked a dae to teach them
the new ways of the world.
far older than my Beretta. Rust marred its surface. It was the type of weapon
Kenneth liked, so old the government didn’t view it as too much of a threat. If
the authorities found it, the deteriorating state of the pistol would convince
most it wasn’t a real danger to anyone.
as long as no one found any ammunition to go with it.
but if Lily cocked it and pulled the trigger, I’d die all the same. Kenneth
didn’t keep useless things around, people included.
the hammer of the pistol. “I’d be happy to leave a message for you, though.”
hidden cameras. “Yeah, I have a message you can give him.”
hammer, although she didn’t cock it.
with microphones, so if my boss was watching, he’d get my message loud and
clear. I matched the woman’s fake smile and crossed my arms over my chest. I
slipped my right hand beneath the leather jacket Rob had given to me.
pistol’s hammer. “Well? What’s your message? Tell me and leave. You don’t
belong here anymore.”
wanted to speak with me. Rob hadn’t been happy about relaying the message,
lot more to him than kill his favorite bitch. I’d ruin his wealth and
reputation before I murdered him and his dae.
and I had Colby. Maybe my future was uncertain at best, but I no longer needed
Kenneth to survive. New paths had opened to me.
given a message he wanted to see me.”
“Are those Kenneth’s orders?”
chance to turn around and walk away. I’ll shoot you and throw your body in the
river. No one will miss you.”
for my death in the way she smiled. We had been on neutral terms for a long
time. When I made her job with Kenneth harder, I bribed her, but because of my
stubbornness and my inability to sleep with our boss, she had many reasons to
hate me. Just hearing my name was probably enough to anger Kenneth since Rob
had stolen me from him.
the dae escape me, but that was another matter entirely. My sometimes roommate,
frequent lover, and partner-in-crime wouldn’t be happy when he found out I had
gone to see Kenneth alone.
life on the fringe while working for the elite. Kill or be killed, and I had no
intention of dying quite yet.
patience with Kenneth and his operations had grown thin. I pulled my gun out of
its holster, took aim, and before she could do more than gasp and flinch, I
until her blood stained the ground around her before stepping to her body, gun
ready in case she decided to get back up.
ash last month. Rob had sounded both pleased and annoyed by the development. I
touched my fingers to Lily’s neck in search of a pulse.
of her body right along with the fires that had burned in her eyes. Her blood
stained my hand. Some people loved to kill, but I wasn’t one of them. I
couldn’t even force myself to look at her. I swallowed several times so I
wouldn’t throw up, rose to my feet, and headed for Kenneth’s door.
body before turning his attention to me. “Was shooting her necessary?”
letting me in.”
call and inform the police you shot someone,” my boss hissed through clenched
illegal gun. She threatened me.” I stowed my Beretta, pulled out my wallet, and
flipped it open so Kenneth could see my concealed carry license. “Unlike her,
I’m allowed to shoot people who threaten me, Mr. Smith. Rob told me you wanted
to speak with me?”
in, he shut the door behind me and gestured to the basement stairwell. “I’m
surprised you came.”
he thought it was important enough to involve me in Kenneth Smith’s dealings
once again, I’d listen—and look for a way out of working with him permanently.
down the stairs to his basement lounge. I flopped on the couch, propping my
booted feet up on the antique coffee table. If Kenneth noticed the fine
leather, I hoped he would wonder if I had purchased them for myself or if Rob
had acquired them for me.
boots by doing tedious paperwork for him—one of the few activities I could
manage while my concussion and ribs healed.
dealing with Kenneth. Whatever he wanted had to be important if Rob wanted me
to deal with him again.
wouldn’t have talked with Rob. I just killed your favorite, and you’re ignoring
it. What do you need me for, what’s my pay, and when do you need it done?”
provided, and I want you to sniff out Terry Moore’s associates, including the
dean of your college. I also have a second job for you, if you’re up for the
were under the influence of Kenneth’s drugs. Not only had Terry murdered them,
he had raped them, and the drugs had ensured they enjoyed it right up until he
had killed them.
make an exception for the dean of my college. I still had the video evidence,
hidden away where no one would find it without my help. I still had a copy of
them on my personal laptop, too, waiting for me to delve into their horrors in
search of answers. I didn’t need them anymore, though. The videos’ content was
seared into my memories, and I woke too often from nightmares where I was one
of Terry’s victims.
nights I woke up drenched in a cold sweat. The dreams had gotten worse since
Rob had vanished, as though his presence in my bed somehow kept them away. A
few times when I had woken up from nightmares and Rob had been there, he chased
them away and replaced my fear with more pleasant things.
couch, positioning myself so Kenneth got a good look at my Beretta. “Likely
true. What do you need me to find out?”
my drugs. The earliest invoices were dated a week after I supplied him. Seems
like too much of a coincidence to me.”
summary of the effects. They can’t be detected on the current tests. They’re
mild. But what do they actually do?”
coming towards me. I whipped my hand to my gun, but Kenneth’s dae was faster.
He caught my wrist, yanked my arm back, and before I could even scream, he
jabbed a needle into my arm.
hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. I thrashed, but the two didn’t release me
until Kenneth’s dae pulled the needle out and tossed the syringe on the coffee
remembering what the drugs had done to Terry Moore’s victims.
Daegberht. It is, however, now yours. I expect a full report when it wears off.
Don’t worry. Jacob will take you home so you don’t have any unfortunate mishaps
on the way. I’ve been told by reputable sources it takes about twenty minutes
to kick in, no matter how it’s taken.”
wearing gloves. I shuddered.
snapped my teeth together and sat straighter. “You son of a bitch.” I rubbed
where I had been stabbed with the needle. Kenneth’s dae had also been wearing
addition to being drugged.
stuff you couldn’t afford even if you wanted it. You’ll finally have the
perfect high you’ve been searching for all this time. Don’t think I hadn’t
noticed you wanting another hit, no matter how good a job you did fighting it.”
pull the trigger. Don’t kid yourself. You won’t do it. You only killed Lily
because she always had what you wanted. Take her home, Jacob. No side trips.
However appealing she might be to you, she’s off limits—for now.”
arm and hauled me to my feet. In spite of Kenneth’s estimate of twenty minutes,
the drugs were doing something to me—something that made it difficult to resist
twelve hours. If my understanding of the drug is correct, I recommend you stay
home. Do try not to forget to write notes on the drug’s effects. It may be
important for your research later. We can talk more about your job after you’ve
recovered. Perhaps I’ll come visit you a little later tonight, once you’ve
gotten accustomed to the drug.”
me. My arms and legs were no better. Kenneth’s dae dragged me towards the
stairwell, and I stumbled along with him. By the time Jacob got me into
Kenneth’s car, I could barely stay on my feet, let alone fight him. Had Rob set
me up? If so, why?
the sensation of my clothes caressing my skin, the leather rubbing against me,
and the pleasure of even the lightest touch.
dropped me off in front of my apartment, although my skin’s hypersensitivity to
touch remained. The dae leered at me, leaving me with zero doubt of what he had
in mind for me.
chills through me. I scrambled out of the car, backed out of the dae’s reach,
and slipped my hand into my coat for my Beretta.
even thinks of backstabbing me again, I’ll start sending his hounds back to him
in pieces, and I’ll take out his most useful ones first. Lily was just the
start. No more tricks. If he really wants my help, he better get his head out
of his ass, because right now, I’m not feeling very benevolent. I may decide
Dean Lewis might be interested in knowing Kenneth Smith is gunning for him.”
I wouldn’t even hesitate. He broke his trust with me. If he’s stupid enough to
think I’m going to just accept his attempt to kill me was a part of the work,
he’s mistaken. He can also expect a hefty bill for this… stunt.”
of pleasure had faded, it hadn’t affected my ability to think. It didn’t
smother my anger, either. I closed my fingers around my Beretta’s grip,
wondering if I could get away with leaving another body lying around for
someone to find.
to miss the dead. Given time, once friendships and lives were rebuilt, people
would miss those who were gone, but the world was currently inhabited by the
strange who were also strangers. For all the dae often took on monstrous forms,
they were still a lot like humans.
had time to form.
up to reality: I’m tired of being stepped on. If he even thinks of trying to
ruin my schooling, remind him if I can go behind his back and get admittance
into Bach studies, there’s a lot more I can do, too.” While some of my speech was
bluffing, one important fact remained: I had leverage on Dean Lewis and
Kenneth Smith, if I could figure out the best way to use it. “Ask him if he
wants me on his side, or should I have a talk with Dean Lewis?”
me first. If he hadn’t sabotaged my gear, he wouldn’t be in this position right
now. Get the fuck out of my sight. You and your pathetic master sicken me.”
anything, I didn’t hear him over the bang of me slamming the front door.