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By CYNTHIA EDEN
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2009 Cindy Roussos
All rights reserved.
Five years later ...
Adam Brody kept his eyes on his prey as she moved down the street. Her hair, dark, midnight black, gleamed in the moonlight, skimming just past her shoulders. Her body, slender but strong, moved fluidly as she ran through the night.
He had been watching her for days now. Watching as she prowled the streets at night. Watching as she fed. As she fought. Even as she killed.
There had been whispers about her for years. Tales of the vampire who hunted her own kind.
The vampire who fought demons, shifters, vamps — any damn thing that got in her way.
There was a price on her head. But for five years, no one had been able to collect that bounty.
Because Maya was one tough bitch to stake.
She approached a ramshackle building, a building with boarded windows and red gang tags shining on the exterior walls. Her hand lifted, banged on the door.
A man wrenched open the metal door. He took one look at Maya and stepped back, letting her inside.
Adam caught the scent of blood on the wind.
His body stiffened as understanding dawned. She'd just gone into a feeding room. One of the safe houses for vamps. A place to drink, to fuck, to do whatever the hell the vamps wanted with the humans who were unlucky enough to be inside. Often, the humans stumbled into the feeding room by mistake. They thought they'd just gone into a new bar, a trendy, secret spot. Then the vamps got then. Once the vamps took their blood, it was over for the humans. A vamp could link with his victim. It was so easy to slip into a human's mind after the bite.
The bitten humans never thought about turning on the vamps, or revealing the feeding rooms to the authorities. They were too addicted to the vampire's power, and too under the vamp's control.
Not that revealing a feeding room to the authorities would do much good, anyway. The cops had learned long ago how to hide the supernatural activities from the larger society. And the vamps ... they were so good at blending in — hiding in plain sight.
So they took their blood and they fucked, and they didn't care how many humans they hurt.
He'd wondered when Maya would feed again. It had been two days since he'd watched her drink from a man. Two days since she'd pushed a young dumbass up against a wall and locked those red lips of hers onto his neck and shoved those sharp teeth into his throat. Even from fifty yards away, he'd heard the man's cry of ecstasy as Maya fed.
He'd expected Maya to drain the man dry. To slash his throat and leave him dead on the street. But she'd lowered the guy onto the curb, whispered to him, and walked away.
She'd left her prey alive.
Damn odd for a vampire.
Of course, the same night she'd cut the head off a level-five demon who'd made the mistake of jumping her.
He sauntered slowly down the street, keeping his gaze on the feeding room, but listening intently for every sound on the block.
Adam had never thought that he'd willingly offer himself up as food for a fucking parasite, but it looked like this might be the only way he could get close to Maya. And he needed to get close to her, for now.
She kept her prey alive.
So, it looked like he'd have to become her prey.
He reached the black door. Didn't bother glancing at the red splashes of spray paint. He lifted his fist and pounded against the cold metal.
A big, bald, ugly-as-hell guy with a twisted nose and a scar sliding down his left cheek, jerked open the door. "What the 'ell do ye want?" A thick Irish brogue marked his words.
The scent of blood was stronger now. Moans whispered in the air, the faint pounding of drums, the light strum of a guitar. And then a scream.
Irish put one meaty hand on Adam's chest and shoved back. "This ain't yer place, mate."
Adam glanced down at the hand, thought about breaking it. Just one quick snap. He took a deep breath and glanced back up into Irish's beady green eyes. "I'm here for the woman."
"No woman 'ere." His lips curled into a snarl. "Now get your arse out of —"
The hand was still on his chest, pressing a bit too hard, and it was really pissing Adam off. So he grabbed the jerk's wrist, twisted — not enough to break, not yet — and shoved Irish back against the door. "The woman you just let inside," he whispered. "I want her."
Irish shook his head. "Ye don't want 'er." He jerked his hand back, clenched his fingers into a fist.
"Oh, but I do." And he wasn't leaving without her. Adam waited for the guy to attack. Waited —
A hard crack of laughter filled the air. "Dumb bastard." Irish stepped back, motioned him inside. "Yer funeral."
Adam walked down the long, dark hallway. Small, sputtering candles were on the floor, providing just enough light to see the passage, but shadowing the blood he could smell all around him.
The hall ended in a large room. A band played on a small, wooden stage. A drummer. A woman who sang as she strummed the guitar. Adam could see the blood trailing lightly down their necks. Could tell by the glazed expression in their eyes that they were the slaves of the vamps.
Damn. He fucking hated vampires.
His back teeth clenched as he glanced around the room. Doors led off in every direction. He already knew where all those doors would take him. To hell.
But he needed to find Maya, so he'd have to go —
"Don't screw with me, Armand!" A woman's voice, hard, ice cold. Maya.
He turned, found her leaning over the bar, her hand wrapped around the bartender's throat.
"I want to know who went after Sean, and I want to know now." He saw her fingernails stretch into claws, and he watched as those claws sank into the man's neck.
"I-I d-don't k-know." The guy looked like he might faint at any moment. Definitely human. Vamps were always so pale it looked like they might faint. But this guy, he'd looked pretty normal until Maya clawed him.
"Find out!" She threw him against a wall of drinks.
Adam stalked toward her, reached her side just as she spun around, claws up.
She glared at him. "What the hell do you want?" She snarled, and he could see the faint edge of her fangs gleaming behind her plump lips.
It was his first time to get a good look at her face. He'd seen her from a distance before, judged her to be pretty, hadn't bothered to think much beyond that.
He blinked as he stared at her. Damn, the woman looked like some kind of fallen angel.
Her thick black hair framed her perfect, heart-shaped face. Her cheeks were high, glass sharp. Her nose was small, straight. Her eyes were wide and currently the black of a vampire in hunting mode. And her lips, well, she might have the face of an angel, but she had lips made for sin.
Adam felt his cock stir, for a vampire.
He shuddered in revulsion.
Oh, hell, no. The woman was so not his type.
Her scent surrounded him. Not the rancid, rotting stench of death he'd smelled around others of her kind. But a light, fragrant scent, almost like flowers.
What in the hell? How could she —
Maya growled and shoved him away from her, muttering something under her breath about idiots with death wishes.
Then she walked away from him.
For a moment, he just studied her. Maya wasn't exactly his idea of an über-vamp. She was small, too damn small for his taste. The woman was barely five foot seven. Her body was slender, with almost boyish hips. Her legs were encased in an old, faded pair of jeans, and the black T-shirt she wore clung tightly to her frame.
He liked women with more meat on their bones. Liked a woman with curves. A woman with round, lush hips that he could hold while he thrust deep into her.
But, well, he wasn't interested in screwing Maya. Not with her too- thin body. Her too-pale skin. No, he didn't want to screw her.
He just planned to use her.
Adam took two quick strides forward, grabbed her arm, and swung her back toward him.
The eyes that had relaxed to a bright blue shade instantly flashed black. Vamps' eyes always changed to black when they fought or when they fucked.
Sometimes folks made the mistake of confusing vamps with demons, because a demon's eyes, well, they could go black, too. Actually, Adam knew that a demon's eyes were always black, and for the demons, every damn part of their eyes went black. Even the sclera. With the vamps, just the iris changed.
Usually demons were smart enough to hide the true color of their eyes. But the vamps, they didn't seem to give a flying shit who saw the change. If a human happened to see the eye shift, it was generally too late for the poor bastard, anyway, because by then, he was prey.
Gazing into Maya's relentless black eyes, Adam had a true inkling of just how those said poor bastards must have felt.
A growl rumbled in her throat, then she snapped, "Slick, you're screwing with the wrong woman tonight."
No, she was the right woman. Whether he liked the fact or not.
So he clenched his teeth, swallowed his pride, and in the midst of hell, admitted, "I need your help."
She snorted. "What the hell do I look like? The freaking Red Cross?" Her gaze held his as she bared her teeth. Her extremely sharp teeth. "I am not a helper. Now get your hand off me before I have to hurt you."
As if she could.
"Playing with your prey, Maya?" A male voice drawled from the shadows.
Adam's head jerked to the left as a tall, skeletally thin man stepped forward. The guy had bright red hair and a face that looked like it had been smashed by a shovel. His twisted smile showcased his glistening fangs.
"Ah, sweet, is that any way to greet an old friend?"
She moved in a flash, lunging across the room and wrapping her fingers around his throat. "You," she told him, her voice colder than ice, "are not my friend."
Rage sparked in his black eyes, but, to Adam's surprise, he didn't try to fight her. "Armand ... told me ... about Sean."
She slanted a quick glance back at the bartender and a satisfied smile curved her lips. "Ah, I knew he could get some information for me if he just tried."
Armand swallowed and lowered his head.
Adam didn't move. The tension in the air was suddenly, dangerously thick. The bar was quiet now. The guitarist had stopped strumming. There were no more whispers, no more moans. It was as if everyone were waiting, watching to see what would happen next.
Because that's exactly what they were all doing.
"Someone attacked my day watcher," Maya said, never releasing her hold on the vampire. "And let me tell you, Stephan, that really pisses me off." She drew back her right hand, and Adam saw her razor-sharp claws.
Why didn't the other vampire attack her? Why didn't they all jump her? Adam glanced around the room, confused as hell. Sure, the whispers and rumors held that Maya had woken to the undead world with almost abnormal vampire strength, but, hell, she was only one woman.
She couldn't be that strong.
"I-I've heard ... talk." Stephan licked his lips.
"And?" She lifted him up, holding him in the air with one hand.
Adam wasn't particularly impressed.
"Wasn't a vampire. Not one of us."
"Then who was it?"
"It was me." A huge guy stood just beyond the stage. Thick claws extended from his fingers, and unless Adam was very much mistaken, the fellow appeared to have horns in the middle of his wild mass of black hair.
"Ah, hell." Maya dropped the vampire and turned to face her new threat. "What is the deal? First that guy —" She jerked her thumb toward Adam, "and now you. Has Hugh gone mad-ass crazy and he's letting just any jerk inside who wants to come and play with the vamps?"
The man — no, couldn't be a man — smiled. Adam expected to see fangs. And he did. Each tooth the guy had — and he had a lot — was a sharpened fang.
He stepped back, not because he was afraid, but because he wanted to watch Maya work. He figured this would be a good test for her.
Unless he missed his guess, he was staring at a level-ten demon. A very old level ten. An ancient. The baddest of his kind.
There were ten levels of demons in the known world. The first three levels, well, they weren't anything to worry about. Sure, they could control a small flame, or make the wind dance. Not exactly earth-shattering.
Fours to eights — they were stronger. They could hypnotize humans. Control more of the elements. They were hard to kill. To slay 'em, the head had to generally be severed.
Level nines and level tens — those guys were the demons that folks really feared. The demons of the sort mentioned in the Bible. Monsters who slaughtered women and children for fun, bathed in blood, had unbelievable strength, and could sometimes live forever — provided, of course, that the demon didn't lose his head. The oldest of these demons had tails, horns, claws, and skin that couldn't be pierced with human weapons. Considering that fun fact, the level nines and level tens really didn't have to worry too much about a beheading.
That's why the bastards got to live and kill for so long.
In the supernatural world, they were considered the bad-asses. They feared no one.
Sure as hell not a slip of a vampire, Adam thought.
Maya circled the demon and the other vampires backed away, going way back.
The bleeding humans even seemed to finally sense that things had taken a deadly turn in the feeding bar. They hurried to the corners, shrinking back and gazing around with lost eyes.
"Hugh?" The demon spoke the name slowly, tilting his head to the side. "Oh, would that be the man who was guarding the door?" He held up his hands and Adam could see the blood dripping from the demon's claws. "He didn't want to let me in, so I had to convince him."
A faint tremble shook Maya's body. If Adam hadn't been watching her so closely, he would have missed it.
"You bastard. I liked Hugh, and I don't like many people." She stood in front of the demon now, barely five steps away. Legs braced shoulder-width apart, hands relaxed at her sides.
"And you killed Hydan, you bitch!"
Hydan. The light dawned. That had been the demon Maya had beheaded two nights back. A rogue who'd slashed a prostitute's face and then started on her body. Adam had been following Maya when she'd stumbled onto him, alerted by the other woman's screams.
Adam moved slightly, creeping around the bar so that he could get a better view. Ah, that was it. Now he could see Maya's face.
The woman was smiling. "Yeah, I killed him. And you know what? I'd do it again."
The demon's teeth snapped together. "I'm going to enjoy ripping you open, vampire."
"Um, are we gonna talk all night?" She lifted one dark brow. "Or is someone going to die?"
Her words seemed to push the demon over some invisible edge. He roared and launched forward, beefy arms raised and his mouth open.
Maya didn't move. She stood there, looking fragile, too vulnerable, as the seven-foot demon attacked.
Adam stepped forward, an instinctual move, because she looked so damn helpless.
A level-ten demon was too strong. She'd never survive, and if she got her heart ripped out and her head chopped off — a surefire way to kill a vamp — she'd never be able to help him find —
Maya's hands lifted at the last second. She grabbed the demon's claws, jerked his left hand back, and then drove his own claws straight into his throat.
Blood gushed down his chest, poured onto Maya, and covered the floor.
The demon began twisting, snarling, howling. His right hand raked her side, slashing deep and ripping her skin wide open.
She never eased her hold on him.
Adam saw her fingers tighten around the demon's wrist, then she yanked his hand to the left, to the right — and she cut the demon's head off.
With his own damn hand.
The head fell to the floor with a thud. The body stood stiffly for a moment. Swayed. Then the knees buckled and the demon's chest slammed toward the wooden floor.
Maya jumped back, barely avoiding being taken down by the headless corpse.
She stared at the demon's remains, her chest rising and falling rapidly, her fangs bared.
Now, I'm impressed.
Apparently, the rumors were true. Maya Black was truly one badass vampire.
Maya gazed down at the body, trying to swallow back the nausea rising in her throat.
Shit. The damn thing is still twitching.
She drew a deep breath, smelled his blood.
He wasn't human. I didn't kill a human.
But she'd killed.
And he would have killed me. He'd already attacked Sean, left him for dead. Murdered Hugh.
Excerpted from Immortal Danger by CYNTHIA EDEN. Copyright © 2009 Cindy Roussos. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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