Read an Excerpt
Kiss of the Night
By Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2004 Sherrilyn Kenyon
All rights reserved.
February 2003 St. Paul, Minnesota
"Oh, honey, major stud alert. Three o'clock."
Cassandra Peters laughed at Michelle Avery's lust-filled tone as she turned in the crowded bar to see an average-looking, dark-haired man facing the stage where their favorite local band, Twisted Hearts, played.
Swaying to the music's beat as she sipped her Long Island Iced Tea, Cassandra studied him for a minute. "He's a Milk Man," she decided after a thorough scan of his "attributes" that comprised his looks, his carriage, and his lumberjack attire.
Michelle shook her head. "No, ma'am, he's a Cracker for sure."
Cassandra smiled at their rating system, which hinged on what they wouldn't toss a man out of bed for. Milk Man meant he was attractive in an unusual way and could bring a glass of milk to bed anytime. Crackers were one step up, and Cookies were gods.
But the ultimate in masculine desirability rated a Powdered Donut. Not only was a powdered donut messy, it violated their perpetual diet mentality and begged a woman to bite into it.
To date, none of them had ever met a Powdered Donut in the flesh. Still, they were ever hopeful.
Michelle tapped Brenda and Kat on their shoulders and inconspicuously pointed to the man she was eyeballing. "Cookie?"
Kat shook her head. "Cracker."
"Definitely Cracker," Brenda confirmed.
"Oh, what do you know? You have a steady boyfriend," Michelle said to Brenda as the band finished their song and took a break. "Jeez, you guys are tough critics."
Cassandra looked back at the guy, who was talking to his buddy and drinking a longneck beer. He didn't make her heart pound, but then very few men did. Even so, he had an easy, open manner and a nice, friendly smile. She could see why Michelle liked him.
"Why would you care what we think anyway?" she asked Michelle. "If you like him, then go up and introduce yourself."
Michelle was horrified. "I can't do that."
"Why not?" Cassandra asked.
"What if he thinks I'm fat or ugly?"
Cassandra rolled her eyes. Michelle was a very thin brunette who was a far cry from ugly. "Life is short, Michelle. Too short. For all you know, he might be the man of your dreams, but if you stay back here, drooling and not acting, you'll never know."
"God," Michelle breathed, "how I envy you that live-for-today attitude. But I can't."
Cassandra grabbed her by the hand and hauled her through the crowd, over to the man.
She tapped him on the shoulder.
Startled, he turned around.
His eyes widened as he looked up at Cassandra. At six feet one, she was used to being a freak of nature. To his credit, the guy didn't appear offended by the fact that she was a good two inches taller than him.
He looked down at Michelle, who was a normal five feet four.
"Hi," Cassandra said, drawing his gaze back to her. "I'm taking a quick survey.
Are you married?"
He frowned. "No."
He passed a puzzled look to his friend. "No."
His jaw dropped. "Excuse me?"
"Cassandra!" Michelle snapped.
She ignored both of them and held tight to Michelle's hand as her friend tried to run away. "You like women, yes?"
"Yes," he said, sounding offended.
"Good, because my friend Michelle here thinks you're exceptionally cute and she'd like to meet you." She pulled Michelle between them. "Michelle, this is ..."
He smiled as he met Michelle's stunned gaze. "Tom Cody."
"Tom Cody," Cassandra repeated. "Tom, this is Michelle."
"Hi," he said, extending his hand to her.
From Michelle's expression, Cassandra could tell her friend wasn't sure if she should strangle her or thank her.
"Hi," Michelle said, shaking his hand.
Assured that they were semicompatible and that he didn't bite on the first date, Cassandra left them and headed back to Brenda and Kat, both of whom had their mouths hanging wide open as they stared at her in disbelief.
"I can't believe you just did that to her," Kat said as soon as Cassandra rejoined them. "She's going to kill you later."
Brenda cringed. "If you ever do that to me, I will kill you."
Kat draped an arm over Brenda's shoulders and gave her an affectionate hug. "You can yell at her all you want to, hon, but I can't let you kill her."
Brenda laughed at Kat's comment, not knowing that Kat spoke from her heart. She was Cassandra's covert bodyguard and had been with her for five years now. A record. Most of Cassandra's bodyguards had a job expectancy of about eight months.
They either ended up dead or quitting the minute they caught a look at exactly who and what was after her. To their way of thinking, not even the exorbitant amount of money her father paid them to keep her alive was worth the risk.
But not Kat. She had more tenacity and chutzpah than anyone Cassandra had ever met. Not to mention the fact that Kat was the only woman Cassandra had ever known who was actually taller than her. At six feet four, and stunningly beautiful, Kat made quite an entrance everywhere she went. Her blond hair hung just past her shoulders and she had eyes so green they didn't look real.
"You know," Brenda said to Cassandra as she watched Tom and Michelle talking and laughing. "I would give anything to have your confidence. Do you ever doubt yourself?"
Cassandra answered truthfully. "All the time."
"You never show it."
That's because, unlike her companions, there was more than just a slim chance Cassandra might only have another eight months left to live. She couldn't afford to be scared or timid of life. Her motto was to grab everything by both hands, and run with it.
Then again, she'd been running all her life. Running from those who would kill her if they had a chance.
But most of all, she'd been running from her destiny, hoping that somehow, some way, she could avert the inevitable.
Even though she'd traveled the world since she was six years old, she was no closer to discovering the truth about her heritage than her mother had been before her.
Still, with every day that dawned, she was hopeful. Hopeful that someone would tell her that her life didn't have to end on her twenty-seventh birthday. Hopeful that she would be able to stay someplace for more than a few months or even days.
"Hub-ba!" Brenda said, her eyes wide as she looked toward the entrance. "I think I just found our cookies! And ladies, there are three of them."
Laughing at her awed tone, Cassandra turned around to see three incredibly sexy men entering the club. They were all well over six feet in height, golden in skin and hair, and drop-dead gorgeous.
Her laughter died instantly as she felt a horrible, stinging tingle run through her. It was a sensation she was all too familiar with.
And it was one that branded terror into her heart.
Dressed in expensive sweaters, jeans, and ski jackets, the three men scanned the bar's occupants like the deadly predators they were. Cassandra trembled. The people in the bar had no idea how much danger they were in.
None of them.
Oh, dear God ...
"Hey, Cass," Brenda said. "Go introduce me to them."
Cassandra shook her head as she made eye contact with Kat to warn her. She tried to herd Brenda away from the men and out of their dark, hungry sight. "They're bad news, Bren. Really bad news."
The one virtue of being half Apollite was her ability to spot others of her mother's kind. And something in her gut told her the men walking through the crowd, scanning women with seductive smiles, were no longer simple Apollites.
They were Daimons — a vicious breed of Apollite who chose to prolong their short lives by killing humans and stealing their souls.
Their unique, powerful Daimon charisma and their hunger for souls bled from every pore of their bodies.
They were here for victims.
Cassandra swallowed her panic. She had to find some way to get out of here before they got too close to her and discovered who she really was.
She reached for the small handgun in her purse, and looked for an escape.
"Out the back," Kat said, pulling her toward the rear of the club.
"What's going on?" Brenda asked.
Suddenly, the tallest of the Daimons stopped dead in his tracks.
He turned to face them.
His steely eyes narrowed on Cassandra with intense interest and she could feel him trying to penetrate her mind. She blocked his intrusion, but it was too late.
He grabbed his friends' arms and inclined his head toward them.
Damn. This sucked.
With the bar's crowd, she couldn't open fire on them and neither could Kat. The hand grenades were in the car and she had opted to leave her daggers under the seat.
"Now would be a good time to tell me you have your sais with you, Kat."
"Nada. You got your kamas on you?"
"Yeah," she said sarcastically, thinking of her weapons that looked like small handheld scythes. "I tucked them into my bra before I left home."
She felt Kat force something cold into her hand. Looking down, she saw the closed uchiwa fighting fan. Made of steel, the fan was sharpened on one side so that it was as dangerous as a Ginsu knife. Folded up and only eleven inches long, it looked like an innocuous Japanese folding fan, but in the hands of either Kat or Cassandra, it was lethal.
Cassandra tightened her grip on the fan as Kat pulled her toward the stage where there was a fire exit. She drifted back into the crowd near the exit, away from the Daimons, and away from Brenda before she endangered her by being close to her when the Daimons struck.
She cursed both their heights as she realized there was no way to hide. No way to keep the Daimons from seeing them even in this heavy crowd when she and Kat stood so tall against everyone else.
Kat stopped dead in her tracks as another tall, blond man cut off their escape.
Two seconds later, all hell broke loose on their side of the club as they both became aware that there were more than just three Daimons in the bar.
There were at least a dozen of them.
Kat shoved Cassandra toward the exit, then kicked the Daimon back, into a group of people who shouted and shrieked at the disturbance.
Cassandra opened her fan as another Daimon came for her with a hunting knife. She caught the blade between the slats and twisted it from his hands, then used the knife to stab the Daimon in the chest.
He disintegrated instantly.
"You'll pay for that, bitch," one of the Daimons growled as he charged her.
Several men in the bar moved to help her, but the Daimons made quick work of them while other patrons headed for the exits.
Four Daimons surrounded Kat.
Cassandra tried to get to her to help fight them off, but couldn't. One of the Daimons caught her bodyguard with a vicious blow that sent Kat flying into a nearby wall.
Kat hit it with a thud, then landed on the floor in a heap. Cassandra wanted to help her, but the best way to do that would be to get the Daimons out of the bar and away from her friend.
She turned to run, only to find two more Daimons standing directly behind her.
The collision of their bodies distracted her enough so that one of the Daimons could wrench the fan and knife from her hand.
He put his arms around her to keep her from falling.
Tall, blond, and handsome, the Daimon held a rare sexual aura that pulled anything female toward him. It was that essence that enabled them to prey effectively on humans.
"Going some place, princess?" he asked, taking her wrists in his hands and blocking her ability to fight for her weapon.
Cassandra tried to speak, but his deep, dark eyes held her completely captive. She felt his powers reaching into her mind, numbing her ability to flee.
The others joined him.
Still, the one before her kept his hands on her wrists, his mesmerizing gaze on hers.
"Well, well," the tallest said as he dragged a cold finger down her cheek. "When I came out to feed tonight, the last thing I expected to find was our missing heiress."
She snapped her head away from his touch. "Killing me won't free you," she said. "It's only a myth."
The one holding her turned her around to face his leader.
The Daimon leader laughed. "Aren't we all? Ask any human in this bar if vampires exist and what will they say?" He ran his tongue over his long canine teeth as he eyed her evilly. "Now, come outside and die alone, or we'll feast off your friends."
He slid his predator's gaze over to Michelle, who was far enough away and so captivated by Tom that she wasn't even aware of the fight that had gone on over on Cassandra's side of the large, crowded bar. "The brunette is strong. Her soul alone should sustain us for at least six months. As for the blonde ..."
His gaze drifted over to where Kat lay surrounded by humans who didn't appear aware of how she'd gotten hurt. No doubt the Daimons were using their powers to fog the minds of the humans around them to keep them from interfering.
"Well," he continued ominously, "a little snack never hurt anyone."
He grabbed her arm at the same time the Daimon holding her let go.
Unwilling to go quietly to her slaughter, Cassandra reverted to her strict and intensive training. She stepped back into the arms of the Daimon behind her and brought her heel down on his instep.
She buried her fist into the stomach of the Daimon before her, then darted between the other two and headed for the door.
With his inhuman speed, the tallest Daimon cut her off halfway there. A cruel smile curved his lips as he pulled her viciously to a stop.
She kicked out, but he prevented her from hurting him.
"Don't." His deep voice was mesmerizing and filled with the promise of lethal harm should she disobey him.
Several people in the bar turned to look at them, but one vicious glare from the Daimon and they headed off.
No one would help her.
But it wasn't over yet ... She would never surrender to them.
Before she could attack again, the front door of the club swung open with an arctic blast.
As if he sensed something even more evil than himself, the Daimon turned his head toward the door.
His eyes widened in panic.
Cassandra turned to see what held him transfixed and then she, too, couldn't tear her gaze away.
The wind and snow swirled into the entranceway around a man who stood at least six feet six.
Unlike most people who walked around in ten-degree weather, the newcomer wore only a long, thin black leather coat that rippled with the wind. He had on a solid black sweater, biker boots, and a pair of tight black leather pants that hugged a lean, hard body that beckoned with wild, sexual promise.
He had the confident, deadly swagger of a man who knew he had no equal. Of a man who dared the world to try and take him on.
It was the gait of a predator.
And it made her blood run cold.
Had his hair been blond, she would have presumed him another Daimon. But this man was something else entirely.
His shoulder-length jet-black hair was blown back from a perfectly sculpted face that caused her heart to pound. His black eyes were cold. Steely. His face was set and impassive.
Neither pretty, nor feminine, the man was such a Powdered Donut, he wouldn't even have to share it in her bed!
Drawn like a homing beacon, and oblivious to the crowd in the bar, the newcomer swept his dark, deadly gaze from one Daimon to the next, until it settled on the one by her side.
A slow, evil smile spread over his handsome face, displaying the tiniest hint of fangs.
He headed straight for them.
The Daimon cursed, then pulled her in front of him.
Cassandra fought his hold, until he took a gun out of his pocket and held it to her temple.
Screams and shouts erupted in the bar as people ran for cover.
The other Daimons moved to stand by his side into what appeared to be a battle formation.
The newcomer gave a low, sinister laugh as he sized them up. The light in his jet eyes told her how much he looked forward to the fight.
His gaze actually goaded them.
"Bad form to take a hostage," he said in a deep, smoothly accented voice that rumbled like thunder. "Especially when you know I'm going to kill you anyway."
In that instant, Cassandra knew who and what the newcomer was.
He was a Dark-Hunter — an immortal warrior who spent eternity hunting down and executing the Daimons who fed off human souls. They were the defenders of mankind and the personification of Satan for her people.
Excerpted from Kiss of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Copyright © 2004 Sherrilyn Kenyon. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.