Publisher: Hailey Edwards
ISBN: 978-1-63211-012-1 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-1-63211-013-8 (print)
eBook release date: July 30, 2015
Print release date: July 30, 2015
Black Dog, Book 4
Black Dog, Book 4
While Thierry is away, the Morrigan will play. Snatching the crown from her daughter-in-law’s head wasn’t the motherly thing to do, but Thierry doesn’t mind trading the throne in Faerie for the ratty couch in her Texas apartment. The old crow is welcome to it. But ruling one world is not enough. The Morrigan wants an all-access pass to the mortal realm too.
An attack on the marshal’s office leaves Thierry shaken…and Shaw missing. Now the fight brewing since Thierry took up the Black Dog’s mantle has landed on her doorstep, and the only way to save the man she loves is to defend the title she never wanted.
Titles available in this series include:
Old Dog, New Tricks Excerpt
Blood clotted in my nostrils. I was scent-blind and choking on dust kicked up by my opponent’s shuffling footwork. Vicious pain spiked in the center of my face, radiating from my busted nose. My swollen jaw rested on the hot ground. Spit dribbled from the right side of my mouth, tickling my cheek as it rolled back to my ear. My perspiration, blood and saliva quenched the cracked prison-yard soil.
“Do you yield?”
A slender fae man with a hooked nose bounced on the balls of his feet a yard away from my leg. The elastic band of his prison-issued pants rode high on his narrow waist. Sweat plastered a plain tee against his birdlike chest. The rich crimson bandana tied around his head dripped blood into his eyes.
A growl pumped through my chest in response to his question.
The wet sound made the redcap’s grin widen. He lunged forward inhumanly fast, swiped his kerchief under my crooked nose and then darted a safe distance away before retying it over his head.
Redcaps were a type of goblin who dyed their hats with their victims’ blood. Lore said if the blood staining their hat dried, then the redcap died. Red’s bandana was soaked through, which meant his powers were at their peak. I was bleeding worse and healing slower, so his magic was tampering with my ability to regenerate.
With the way my nose kept intercepting Red’s fist, he was in no danger of hitting a dry spell.
“Simple question.” Fresh blood smudged his fingers until he licked them clean. “Yes or no?”
A hot punch of earthy fragrance struck the humid air at the same time as a rumbling snarl raised the hairs on my nape. The pungent lure hit the redcap hard. His head whipped toward the scent. Even I could smell it, citrus undertones and all, and my aching body responded. Need coiled low in my belly.
As much as it hurt, I tilted my head back until Shaw came into view. The color had leached from his skin and hair. His bone-sharp claws hooked in the chain-link fence separating us. White voids stared back at me. He was hungry. Starving. So was I. But right now he was a distraction. A dangerous one.
I ran my tongue across my gritty lips and barked an order at him. “Stand down.”
“You’re hurt,” he growled, lips quivering.
I braced my palms beside me. “I got this.”
Please, God, let me have this.
“Is he yours?” Red’s voice grated. “I might be willing to trade. You for the incubus—”
I shoved upright, the snap of vertical motion making my ears ring. Rolling forward, I got my feet under me, threw my weight into the action and slammed my shoulder into Red’s gut. He grunted, thrown backward, arms windmilling for balance. Too late. He toppled, back slapping the compact dirt, momentum carrying me over him. I landed on top of him, my chest covering his groin.
Chin braced in the dimple of his navel, I threw my arms out to the sides and captured his flailing limbs. I brought them together in front of me and used a restraining Word to bind his wrists together.
“That—” I panted, balancing my weight on my palms, “—is my incubus. Get your own.”
Linking his fingers, Red made a giant fist with his hands and socked me across the jaw.
I slid sideways, head bouncing off the ground. My split lip reopened, and he was on me in a second. He straddled my hips, tore the kerchief off his scalp and wiped the sopping-wet fabric across my mouth. He let me taste my own blood and the promise of my death if I didn’t get my head in the game.
This was my third bout, third opponent, and damn it, I was tired.
Bite me, Mac.
The day’s activities were sponsored by my father, Macsen Sullivan. The scenic prison locale, an endless supply of hardy combatants, all his idea and sanctioned by the conclave magistrates, who fully supported his whack-a-doodle agenda to get me in prime fighting shape for our trip into Faerie.
Ours is not always a fatal gift, Mac had said. We rule our hunger. Our desires do not control us.
More than anything, I wanted to believe him. I wanted to be—not normal. That wasn’t possible. But not a danger to those I loved. That’s why I had tucked my glove into Shaw’s back pocket. Why I was fighting a convicted murderer with a sadistic streak barehanded, runes firmly in the off position, and also why I was letting my ass get handed to me. Mac wanted me beaten, starving and still in control.
So far I was three for three.
That split second of inattention while my mind wandered cost me big time. Red cocked his hands back over his head, then swung them down hammer-fist style and smashed my nose. Newly healed cartilage crunched, and hot blood spilled down my cheeks over my mouth, which Red happily sopped up with his kerchief.
“Thierry,” Mac bit off my name.
Anger set my teeth on edge. “I’ve. Got. This.”
Red slapped the bandana on his head. While his hands were otherwise occupied, I drew back my arm and punched him under his left eye. He rocked back, bound hands clutching for a hold on me. He toppled backward, and I scissored my legs, twisting my hips to flip him off me. This time I clamped my hands around his ankles and spat a stronger restraining Word. Cold magic snapped them together. Anger simmered in his eyes. He tensed his abs, levering his feet in a kick that almost clipped me on the chin.
All day I had sipped and sipped and sipped when what I wanted was to let magic sink its teeth in one of these guys and rip out chunks of soul-meat to quiet the steady grumbling in my poor stomach. Snacking like this was worse than crunching rice cakes to fill the hole where a thick-cut T-bone ought to be.
Grabbing Red by the pants, I slammed his feet to the ground and crawled onto them. He popped up into a sitting position like a pissed-off jack-in-the-box, and I swung my arm hard, the ridge of my knuckles uppercutting his jaw. Red grunted. His back slapped dirt, and the air whooshed from his lungs. Panting, he peeled his lips back from his teeth, and core muscles tightened to launch another attack.
Caution forgotten, I lunged forward, pinning him under me. His heart beat steadily beneath my palm, and my magic zinged from my fingertips and sliced into his chest in search of that most precious commodity. His soul. As black and withered as it was, my inner scales had no trouble balancing. He deserved death for his crimes. Willing as I was to mete that justice, Red was not mine to punish. So instead of slurping his essence down like a tasty oyster on the half shell, I made a tight fist and reined in my power. The teeth of my control snapped at him. Tiny bites. Tiny bites. Nibbling. Not killing him. Not crossing the line Mac had drawn for me and not filling my cramping gut, either.
“You can’t…kill me,” Red wheezed.
“Probably not.” I patted his cheek with my right hand. “That’s kind of why you’re here.”
Mac had chosen fae impervious to true death. Gulp this guy’s soul and it would regenerate. All I had to do was keep his bandana damp with fresh blood and his magic would revive him. Eventually.
A giant shadow fell across my face. “How close are you to finishing?”
I squinted up at the brawny correctional officer monitoring his inmate charge. The plastic name tag on his shirt read T. Littlejohn. “Ten minutes?”
“Make it five.” He jabbed a thick finger toward the prison entrance. “It’s time for shift change.”
Blocking out my audience, I shrank the thrumming cord of magic wending through Red’s chest until only a wispy filament of power remained. Oh so slowly, I withdrew every spark of my strength from the redcap’s body. There. Done. Somebody call time. I shoved off him and staggered to my feet.
I had fed, sort of, and my donor was still breathing. If this had been a case assigned to me by the conclave, I could have led him to the office like this instead of dried out and rolled up under my arm. Wary of leaving Red with so much of my blood—blood he could use to work all kinds of nasty magic on me later—I squatted beside him, pinched his bandana between my fingers and held it up so I could get a good look at it. No wards stung my hand. No spell-scent flooded my nostrils. No magic vibes hit me at all. From here his lifeline seemed no different than any dirty rag due for a toss in the washing machine.
“No need to be cruel, Marshal. Give ol’ Red back his do-rag.” The guard lumbered over with his hand outstretched and waited for me to toss him the bandana. He caught the rag in his meaty fist then slid it onto the redcap’s head. “He’ll die without contact with it.” He wiped his hand clean on the redcap’s pants. “Not that I care, but the higher-ups do. His execution is on the books, and I’m not going to be the guy explaining to Sarge why we’re short a prisoner for the chair that day. He gets cranky when things go sideways.”
“The chair?” I whistled. “As in electric?”
His lips pursed while he rolled his answer around in his mouth. “Something like that.”
Clicking sounds sent his gaze seeking past my shoulder. His thick brow creased at what he saw. I turned, curious at what he found so interesting. Shaw stood with one hand spread like a claw where it hooked through the fence. His other palm rested against the nearby pole. The razor nails on those fingertips tap, tap, tapped. The anti-violence enchantment coating the metal sparked with his intent.
“I’ve never seen an incubus up close. We don’t keep them here. Not enough guards with natural immunity.” His gaze flowed over Shaw, assessing the washed-out skin and claws, the blunt fangs set in a cutting smile. “Are they supposed to look like that? I thought they were all…sexy.”
Wild laughter burst from me in a rush that left me sagging, dependent on the arm he threw out to steady me. Otherwise I might have collapsed on top of Red during my giggle fit. But Shaw had been pushed hard today too, and that innocent touch made the air thick with tension between the two men.
Shaw’s guttural claiming rumbled through the air. “Mine.”
I grinned, tiny bubbles bursting in my chest. What can I say? Jealousy looked good on him.
“Your hotness meter is busted,” I told the guard. “He’s the prettiest incubus I’ve ever seen.”
Behind me, Shaw snarled. He probably wished I had used deadliest or most dangerous or other words I couldn’t argue described facets of his personality, all attributes I admired, but pretty fit too, and ever since we’d kissed and made up, all I could think about was him finally being mine. Mine. No take backs.
Now if we could get more than five minutes alone to celebrate, preferably naked, that would be awesome.
Three days had passed since the magistrates had sequestered themselves in their chambers, and Mac had stuck to me like glue since then. He was crashing on the couch at the apartment I shared with my best friend, Mai, and he invited himself along every time I stepped out of the building, which sucked.
Behind us, the fence hissed and spat. Or maybe that was Shaw.
Between the beatings I had taken today, which he’d had a front-row seat for, rousing his protective instincts, and the tiny problem of my father dubbing himself my new bodyguard to replace the ones who had betrayed me, thereby limiting make-up and make-out sessions, Shaw was close to snapping.
I was too. But I couldn’t fault Mac’s logic. After witnessing Shaw drink me down one too many times, he’d decided to educate both of us on how not to kill each other via our feeding circuit. We both appreciated the advice. That he felt our lessons were best learned celibate? Well, that was just icing on the cake.
Guess he was trying to make up for all the years of being an absentee parent by smothering me with his fatherly wisdom and concern.
The guard unclipped the radio from his utility belt and called for a relief officer to escort Red to his cell. He refastened it, jerked his chin up and called to my guys, “You can pick her up around front.”
Shaw was out of sight before the guard finished mouthing the last syllable.
Fifteen minutes or so passed while I was patted down for contraband and signed out all official-like. A female guard passed me a baby wipe to clean my face. Scrubbing off all the sweat and blood made me feel human again. Human as I ever got anyway.
A buzzer sounded, and she gestured toward the booth. “Push through the next door on your right, and you’re a free woman.”
I tucked the used wipe in my pocket while locating the hulking male guard. “Hey, Littlejohn, what did Red want in exchange for his cooperation?”
The prison had taken volunteers from a small pool of Mac’s preapproved candidates.
“He got one last taste of fae blood—half-fae blood at least. Any blood will work. He’s been living on pig’s blood for about sixty years now.” He rolled his shoulders. “You got your practice, and he got his last meal. Even trade.”
“Yeah.” I shivered. “I guess so.”
I left before he filled me in on what the others had wanted. Pretty sure I was better off not knowing.
Past the guard booth and the sparse reception area, I walked through a metal detector and startled the new guard on duty with the amount of blood I was wearing. After assuring him I was fine, I shoved through the front entrance. Out on the sidewalk leading into the parking lot, Shaw waited with his hands stuffed into his pockets. The quarter hour since we parted in the yard had given him time to find a slice of calm, and he no longer resembled the whited-out feral incubus the guard had insulted.
No. This was Shaw in cucumber mode. As in cool as a. Faded T-shirt stretched over a wide chest. Worn jeans low on his lean hips. Scuffed boots encased his tapping foot. Okay, so cool might have been stretching it.
Shaw was always hot, hot, hot as far as I was concerned.
Rich mahogany hair curled over his ears. His eyes were molten copper when they met mine, and my gut tightened when his lips hitched in a slow smile that sent warmth spreading through my chest. Heat raced up my arm when he took my hand.
He touched my bruised cheek. “How bad is it?”
“Not bad.” I squeezed his fingers. “Sore and hungry, but I can handle it.”
The sound he made wasn’t a happy one.
I tugged on his hand. “How are you feeling?”
With us bound together and me feeding lighter these days, that meant he was too. Our diet made for shorter tempers and general crabbiness, but when Shaw stepped into me, his arms circling me, his hands sliding into the rear of my jeans pockets to squeeze my butt, I forgot the pain and grumpiness of the past week and let him mold me against him. I had his ear between my teeth and my hand sliding down his chest when I heard rapid static zaps that lifted hairs down my arms.
My father stood three feet behind us holding a stun baton like the ones some marshals carried. It was a twenty-one-inch-long piece of telescoping black metal with a one hundred thousand volt arc running the length of the entire unit above the molded plastic handle. The click, click, click told me Mac had powered up in case our necking required a four milliamp intervention.
The stun wouldn’t hurt Shaw, but it would make him think twice before using his mojo.
Wearing a pleased smile, Mac had dressed for our training session in crisp, dark wash denim jeans and a faded Metallica shirt he’d found in my bathroom. His arms hung at his sides, the baton’s hot spot pointed downward, toward the cement.
He flexed his trigger finger again. “Six inches of personal space, please.”
A soft growl pumped through my chest as I leaned my forehead against Shaw’s chest. No fair.
Mac took a step closer. “You must not complete the circuit until you have each mastered the control required.”
“Complete the circuit?” I turned my head so I stared at Mac when I said, “You mean have sex?”
A pained expression twisted his features, and the soft green glow emanating from his left hand caused his new toy to splutter and go quiet.
“Stop traumatizing your father.” Shaw rested his chin on top of my head and clenched his hands, drawing me closer, forcing a whimper past my lips. “All this is for our own good.”
“Stop sucking up to him,” I muttered.
True, I had almost devoured Shaw when the circuit first snapped into place. Truer still, Shaw’s control had eroded over the past year without regular feedings. Right now he functioned in feast-or-famine mode. And possibly truest, there was a real possibility that sex, which generated its own energy and sated his hunger without poaching from me, was hella dangerous until we found our balance together.
But parts of me—the portions currently pressed against him from hip to chest—were willing to gamble.
He nuzzled my cheek. “I’d rather be sucking up to—”
This time the low growl wasn’t mine. Apparently, Mac wasn’t a fan of dirty talk. At least not where his daughter was concerned.
Shoulders bouncing with laughter, I tilted my head back. “I’m grabbing a shower at the office.”
“I should head back too.” Shaw’s eyes smoldered. “Got to get ready for tonight.”
“Movie night,” I agreed with a nod.
Mac approached us and pried the ruined baton between our chests until we separated.
“There are several showers if I recall correctly,” Mac said thoughtfully.
During his first and only visit to the communal showers, he had worn a dayglow yellow panther-sized cat skin.
Diode. Crazy to miss someone who never really existed, but there you go.
“Yes,” I answered cautiously. “There are six.”
“Excellent. We will wash and then go to dinner together before your movie night.” He patted my head like I was a good pup who had made her sire proud. “Good thinking.”
Good was not the word I would have used. Bad worked. Terrible really fit the bill.
But nothing iced sexual frustration quicker than showering with your father in the next stall.