The hammer of a gun clicked as it was cocked.
That small, distinct sound sent a shiver through me despite the summer heat shimmering off the sidewalk. My heart skipped. I froze with my right foot on the bottom step leading up to the tattoo parlor—so close to sanctuary, and yet I didn’t have a chance. The front door was locked. I was trapped, hanging helpless in that second waiting for the gunman behind me to finally speak or send a bullet screaming through the back of my head.
“you fucking lied to me, Gage!” snarled my assailant. The voice sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until I slowly turned around that I realized why my life was hanging by a thread. I had tattooed the man just a couple of weeks ago and apparently he wasn’t pleased with the result.
Russell Dalton was a large, beefy man full of muscles and a layer of fat around his waist from too many big Macs and not enough core exercises. He was loud, obnoxious, and cheap. In my opinion, he had gotten what he paid for, but then it looked like he wanted to take his anger and frustration out on my hide, as he remained in the shadows of the alley beside the parlor.
“I never lied to you,” I replied calmly, holding my hands open and out to my sides to show that I didn’t have any weapons. In this world, you couldn’t be too careful. I resisted the urge to look up at the sky, knowing that it was not long after noon—hours away from when the hulking bronx would be able to get to the tattoo parlor. Damn trolls and their weakness for sunlight. I was on my own for now, but then it was better that way. Just the two of us and no one watching.
“You promised me good luck,” Russell accused. “since I got this damn tattoo, I was fired from my job, my car was stolen, and my wife wants a divorce. That ain’t good luck.”
“You paid me fifty bucks for a shamrock tattoo the size of a quarter on the bottom of your foot.” balling my hands into fists, I let my foot fall from the step and turned around to fully face my attacker. “That was barely enough to cover the cost of the ink and my time and expertise, not to mention the leprechaun hair that I threw into the mix. Do you know how hard it is to get that shit?”
In all honesty, I had a contact at a popular beauty parlor across town and for a price she was kind enough to grab samples of hair for me. It wasn’t that hard to get my hands on leprechaun hair. The only problem was that it so easily turned bad if you weren’t careful. Obviously, my stockpile had taken an unexpected turn. I made a mental note that if I used it again I needed to cut the spell with water from a spring snowmelt or fuzz from a white rabbit to counter the negative energy from the leprechaun hair.
Unfortunately, this cheap-ass dirtbag hadn’t paid enough for me to take those kinds of precautions. Hell, he shouldn’t have gotten the leprechaun hair at that price, but I had been in a generous mood. sometimes I can be a real dumbass when it comes to my clients, but then, my motto was you get what you pay for.
“You have to fix it!” russell snarled, ignoring my question. “You have to make everything right again!”
“And let me guess, you want this work done for free?” I sneered.
“Damn right for free! you’ve ruined my life!”
I took a step forward, and to my surprise, russell slid half a step backward into the alley. That worked for me. I didn’t want this on the street should someone walk by. “If you want good luck, it comes with a price, and the kind of luck you’re looking for is extremely expensive. you blew through my front door demanding lottery-winning luck while waving fifty bucks in my face. You got what you paid for. buyer beware, buddy.”
“You fucking asshole! you’re not the only tattoo artist in low Town! I don’t need you!” he shouted, shaking the gun at me.
I took another step toward russell, backing him farther into the alley. “yeah, but I’m the best and that’s why you came to me instead of some broken-down backroom operation with dirty needles and shady ingredients.”
“You’re obviously not any better!”
I had had enough of this shit. keeping my eyes locked on his, I let the gym bag on my right shoulder slide off and hit the ground with a heavy thud. As I expected, he jerked the gun toward the bag. Taking advantage of his distraction, I edged forward and slammed both of my hands into the hand gripping the gun, knocking the weapon to the ground. still holding his right hand, I twisted it at an awkward angle while dropping to my knee, putting russell on his back in the dirty cobblestone alley. before he could get his wits about him, I slammed my elbow into his face, feeling his nose fracture beneath my forearm while the back of his head hammered into the brick-covered ground.
“Asshole,” I muttered. standing, I dusted off my jeans and stepped back. “Don’t show your face around here again or I’ll tell the cops what kind of tattoo you really came in my shop for.”
Sucking in a deep, cleansing breath, I summoned up a smattering of the energy that swirled around me, begging for my touch. I raised my left hand toward him and clenched my fist, as if I was grabbing his shirt, before throwing out my arm. Russell slid violently down the alley until his head clanged into the side of a Dumpster.
From the book ANGEL’S INK: The Asylum Tales by Jocelynn Drake. Copyright C 2012 by Jocelynn Drake. Reprinted by permission of Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
PRAY FOR DAWN
The bastard was fast.
The hard soles of his shoes echoed off the cobblestones that lined the alleyway, leaving the sound to bounce off the tall brick walls that rose up around us. He wasn’t even trying to be quiet any longer. He was hoping to outrun me, but he didn’t realize that just because he was faster didn’t mean I wouldn’t finally catch up to my prey. I could
sense him now, smell him out like a hound to a hare. Even if he went to ground, I would find him.
Popping suddenly out of the alley, we darted across a barren street, cutting between parked cars before shooting through another trash-strewn alley that fed into a network of back ways and dark streets. I took a corner too fast and my feet slid, sending my shoulder crashing into a building on my right. The steel of the blade in my right hand scraped against the brick as I pushed off. My prey was gaining distance on me, darting down one dark alley after another until I had
finally lost sight of him. But then I was there again, just over his shoulder, ready to plunge my knife into his chest.
A breath exploded from my lungs in a white puff as I leaped over an overturned trashcan, and a bead of sweat trickled cold down from my temple along the side of my face. The cold bit at my fingertips and my legs despite the fact that my blood was pumping from the chase. Sliding my left hand down to my waist, I grabbed one of the small blades that I kept in a holder there and pinched it between my thumb and index finger.
I had caught sight of the vampire as he strolled out of a dark alley on the other side of town. The scent of blood and death hung heavy in the air as I slipped after him to find a young girl lying limp among the bloated bags of trash, her breathing labored and her skin an unhealthy shade of white. She had lost too much blood and the vampire had left her for dead among the rotting garbage. He hadn’t even tried to hide her. I had spared a quick call on my cell to the local authorities, but I didn’t have much hope that the ambulance would
reach her in time. From there, the chase was on.
Taking only a moment to aim, I hurled the small blade at the vampire, embedding it right between his shoulder blades, deep into his back. He cried out. His right arm reached back for the blade, his fast gait slowing as he struggled to maintain his balance. Clenching my teeth, I fought back a smile as I moved in for the kill.
Nearly two millennia had passed at the blink of an eye, most of the time spent hunting down vampires, wiping their evil from the face of the earth. Each time, each kill, seemed to come just a little bit easier. They were getting younger, less experienced, careless, and I was just hitting my prime. Only one had eluded me so far, but I’d get Mira eventually. I had eternity on my side.
We took the corner going close to fifty miles per hour, skidding into the turn. I braced myself against the driver's seat and clenched my teeth, swallowing yet another curse as Knox narrowly missed a parked car as he whipped us down another residential street. A second set of squealing tires followed close behind as the Ford Mustang barreled toward us with increasing velocity.
"Get us out of the city, damn it!" I shouted at Knox. At this speed, we were going to hit someone, and with the naturi gaining ground, we couldn't afford to slow down. We had to get out of the city before we killed someone or the Savannah cops finally noticed a pair of cars rushing around the city at breakneck speeds.
"It's not that easy!" Knox shouted back. Both of his hands gripped the wheel tight enough to make his knuckles white. "We're coming from downtown and you said lose them, not get out of the city." "Well, I'm saying it now. Get the hell out of the city. You're going to kill someone," I snapped.
"Namely us," Amanda added from the backseat. The blond nightwalker sat next to Tristan, who seemed to be taking it all in stride. Of course, Tristan had been in far worse situations with me and survived. "I'm not going to kill us," Knox snarled as he took another turn going far faster than would be deemed sane. "This is a BMW M3. It's a race car for the rich and bored. The car can handle it."
"No, Knox, tell me what you really think," I growled. The BMW was my car. I had decided to let him drive when I noticed the naturi following us along River Walk-I knew I might need my hands free if we didn't succeed in losing them. I pulled my gun out of the glove compartment and checked the magazine.
"You know what I mean." The nightwalker glanced at me briefly, one corner of his mouth cocked in a weak smile.
"Rich and bored," I repeated drily.
"Are we really having this discussion now?" Amanda demanded as Knox skidded into another turn and clipped the bumper of a parked car.
"Mira!" he shouted back. "Let me drive or you do it!"
But it was too late for that. The naturi were gaining with every turn. They didn't care who they hit along the way, which was why we had to get them out of the city.
I relaxed a little when we turned onto Montgomery Street. The on ramp to Highway 16 was close by. We would finally get out of the city and into more open ground.
"Mira," Tristan said in a calm voice, grabbing my attention as I looked at him in the rearview mirror.
"Is leaving the city the wisest choice?"
Some of the tension might have drained from my shoulders, but a knot of worry still tightened in my stomach.
From the book DAWNBREAKER: The Third Dark Days Novel by Jocelynn Drake. Copyright (c) 2009 by Jocelynn Drake. Reprinted by permission of Eos Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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