Dante has a shiny new cuff wrapped around his ankle, and he doesn't like that mess one bit. His new accessory comes straight from Big Guy himself and marks the former demon as a liberator. Despite his gritty past and bad boy ways, Dante Walker has been granted a second chance.
When Dante is given his first mission as a liberator to save the soul of seventeen-year-old Aspen, he knows he's got this. But Aspen reminds him of the rebellious life he used to live and is making it difficult to resist sinful temptations. Though Dante is committed to living clean for his girlfriend Charlie, this dude's been a playboy for far too long…and old demons die hard.
With Charlie becoming the girl she was never able to be pre-makeover and Aspen showing him how delicious it feels to embrace his inner beast, Dante will have to go somewhere he never thought he'd return to in order to accomplish the impossible: save the girl he's been assigned to, and keep the girl he loves.
The Dante Walker series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 The Collector
Book #2 The Liberator
Book #3 The Warrior
About the Author
Victoria Scott is the author of the DANTE WALKER trilogy (Entangled Teen), and THE BRIMSTONE BLEED trilogy (Scholastic). Victoria has a master's degree in marketing, and lives in Dallas with her husband. When not writing, she can be found munching cotton candy and snuggling obese cats.
Read an Excerpt
I Ain't No Angel
Real men don't cross their legs.
In an emergency situation, like if you need to adjust your junk, a dude can place ankle to knee. But that's it. There shouldn't be any danglage. I shouldn't see one leg lying limply over the other, and I definitely — definitely — shouldn't see you bounce your dangling foot.
The guy in front of me is breaking this Man Rule. And about a dozen others.
He's wearing black-framed glasses I'm sure he doesn't need and a Burberry scarf that's as phony as he is. Even worse, he's sipping champagne from a friggin' crystal flute.
And he's talking to my girl, Charlie.
And making her laugh.
Music from the party throbs and echoes off the basement walls. I'm not sure how I got here, and I'm certain I don't know how Charlie ended up on the other side of the room with Guy In Touch With His Emotions. Raising a bottle to my lips, I watch as the guy uncrosses his long legs and recrosses them.
His tampon must be killing him.
I know perfectly well why this dude is moving in on Charlie. She's completely beautiful. But I can't complain. I'm the one who did this to her.
A month ago, I was given an assignment from Boss Man, aka, Lord of the Underworld, to collect Charlie's soul. Like the champ I am, I pulled out all the stops to complete the job. Why wouldn't I? I was a collector from hell, after all, and there was a huge promotion on the line. So I offered Charlie something she couldn't refuse, something in exchange for her soul — beauty.
My past is working out real well for me right about now.
A girl struts by slowly, drinking in my appearance. I know, fancy face. I'm effin' hot. But you're blocking my view.
I raise a hand and flick my wrist, dismissing Ogling Girl. She rolls her eyes and clicks away in Payless heels.
When my eyes return to Charlie, they nearly pop from my head. Feminine Man has his arm around the back of her chair and is leaning in way too close. I take a moment to see how Charlie reacts. She isn't leaning into him, but she's not leaning away, either.
Time to break this crap up.
I try to stand but immediately stumble back into my chair. Oh, man, I think, I'm plowed. Steadying myself, I try again to stand. This time I'm successful. A guy near me holds his hand out, and I slap him a high five.
Then I cross the distance between Charlie and me. She looks up, and her mouth curves up in a cautious smile.
"Hey," D-bag says. He looks at me like I'm the one interrupting.
"Oh, hey," I say. "Did you want me to come back when you're done with my girlfriend?"
"Dante," Charlie says, sensing I'm about to blow.
I place my hand on her shoulder and give her a gentle squeeze, but my eyes never leave his face.
The dude looks at Charlie, then up at me. "Relax. We weren't doing anything." His words are innocent, but there's an arrogant tilt to his chin that I want to crush.
"Of course you weren't," I say. "Why don't you get yourself something to drink?" I nod toward the other side of the room. "Over there."
The guy stands up and steps in close, the smell of his cologne burning my nose. He nudges those black-rimmed glasses, and I consider jacking them, since I'm having a hard time seeing straight.
D-bag looks down at Charlie and smiles wide. "Hope I run into you again, Charlie," he says. "We have a lot in common."
I rub my jaw to keep from breaking his. The old demon in me wants to crack his skull for even looking at Charlie, but I know it'd cause a fight between me and her, and I won't risk that. Nothing is worth hurting her again.
Charlie stands and twines her arm around mine. Her lips brush my ear, and goose bumps rise on my skin. "Careful, Dante. I'm not your property." She pulls back and smiles, though I can tell she's still a little peeved. Her head falls to one side. "Besides, you can't kill them all."
I turn my head, looking into her blue eyes. They're bright and alert and unlike my own, which I'm sure are bloodshot as hell. "I can try." I cup her cheeks and pull her mouth close.
She kisses me for a moment, then jerks backward. Her hand covers her lips. "You've been smoking."
"I thought you were going to stop." She wraps her arms around herself, and my heart tugs at the distance between us.
"Why would I stop?" I ask. "I'm already dead. It's not like it's going to hurt me."
"But you're an angel now," she retorts.
"Please," I say, but the gold cuff around my ankle reminds me she's right. Big Guy, aka Lord of the Heavens, gave me another chance after I died saving Charlie from hell's collectors. He said I could be useful as a liberator on Team Heaven, but he's wrong there, 'cause I ain't no angel.
I grab a bottle of tequila from the table and take a swig as a bunch of drunk chicks bump into me. At once, tequila races down my throat and the front of my shirt. I pull the bottle away and brush off my dark red jacket.
"Damn it," I snarl.
Charlie shakes her head. She's disappointed I didn't turn into Golden Boy following my rebirth as an angel. But I can't help it, because deep down, I'm still a demon.
She pushes the jacket off my shoulders and folds it over her arm. The look in her eyes crushes me. It says that even though I'm not behaving like an angel, she accepts me anyway. "We should get out of here," she says.
"Why? Because of that guy?"
"No, because ..."
"Because you think I'm drunk." I nod like I've nailed it. "Girl, I'm stone cold sober."
Charlie laughs and shakes her head. Then she reaches into my jacket pocket for the keys to Elizabeth Taylor, my candy apple–red Escalade. She jiggles them in front of my face. "Come on, I'm driving."
I pull her close and breathe warm air onto her neck. "You saying you want to take me home?"
She leans into me. "That's exactly what I'm saying."
"Then by all means," I bellow. "Take me home and have your way with me."
Charlie shushes me as people stop and stare. I flip them off nice and hard and allow my girl to drag me outside.
"Get in," she says, pointing to Elizabeth Taylor.
I bow like she's my queen and I her simple servant. Then I climb into the passenger seat and blast Rob Zombie as Charlie drives toward her grandmother's house. I glance over when I notice her going for the Skittles in her pocket, and sigh with pleasure that some things never change. For the first time, I wonder if there's a story behind those way-too-hard, way-too-brightly- colored candies.
Pulling into her driveway, she kills the music. The two-story white house is covered in red-and-white Christmas lights that I strung up, even though I insisted I don't do such things. Grams usually does the job but couldn't hack it this year. She's has been sick for a while now, and though she's tried hard to hide it from Charlie, I'm pretty sure her adopted child knows full well what's happening, even if she won't acknowledge it.
"Want to stay here while you sober up?" Charlie asks, taking my hand.
"Girl, I told you, I'm —"
"Stone cold sober." She rolls her eyes. "Right."
I form my hands into guns and fire them off in her direction. "Smart girl."
She shakes her head. "Drunk boy."
I hop out of Elizabeth Taylor and walk toward the house. Then I decide crawling on my hands and knees would be more convenient. I drop down and instruct Charlie to mount my back and ride me like a horse.
She does it without hesitating.
I fall in lust all over again.
Outside her grandmother's house, Charlie pauses. "Meet me in my room, okay?"
I stand up and give her a soldier's salute. Worrying Grams will catch my ass, I throw on shadow — my ability to become invisible thanks to the cuff on my ankle. Then I head toward the lattice beneath her window. Twice, I fall off and land in the bushes. When at last I'm victorious, I shake off my shadow, and Charlie slides the window open so I can crawl inside.
Her bed is a beacon for my drunk bones, and I stumble toward it and collapse. Sitting beside me, Charlie pushes the hair from my forehead. She leans over and blows a cool breeze across my neck. Within seconds, my entire body is on fire. I push myself up and look at her.
It's been six weeks since hell put a target on Charlie Cooper. Five weeks since I collected her soul. Even now, I carry it with me. I place a hand to my chest, remembering. Charlie wraps her hand around mine and closes her eyes. I imagine she's remembering, too. I wonder if she feels the same thing I do about her soul. That somehow it feels off. I tell myself it's because it's her; she's destined to do great things, so of course her soul would feel different. But sometimes, I'm not so sure.
Admitting this is hard, because one of the most esteemed parts of my old job as a collector was knowing when you'd absorbed a soul, and when you'd successfully deposited it in hell. A soul doesn't feel like a brick inside your chest — quite the opposite, actually. A soul is feather light, and the subtle variations between how one soul feels and another can lead to confusion. But collectors take pride in sensing a soul inside their body. It's like a surgeon guiding a blind hand toward where they know an injury lies. The sensation, that knowledge, isn't solid, but it's there, nonetheless.
But with all the souls I've carried, all the variances I've felt — it's never been like this.
I often wonder why I can't simply return her soul to her body, but Valery says it's unsafe. That it must be stored with Big Guy where it's untouchable. Though why we don't do that immediately is beyond me.
Watching Charlie, my breath catches. Her blond hair falls in waves over her shoulders, and her skin has a glow only happiness brings. Someday, this girl will save the world. Her charity and her work will bring about Trelvator: a hundred years of peace. But right now, alone in this room — she's mine.
I kiss her closed eyelids, and they open to reveal two blue gems. I take her lips in mine, slipping my tongue inside the warmth. I feel her body respond to my touch. Before she can protest, I wrap my arm around her waist and in one solid movement sweep her beneath me.
Parting her thighs with my knee, I lower myself down. Those blue eyes stay locked on my face, and I see her pulse quicken along her neck. I press my lips to that spot and hear her breath rush out.
"Charlie," I whisper.
She responds by running her fingers through my hair and pulling me closer. They slide up and down my back like she's tracing the lines of my dragon tattoo.
Kissing her, I lose my friggin' mind. I yearn to be closer to her, to show her just how close we can be. But I also want it to be perfect for Charlie, because if anyone deserves a perfect first time, it's her.
"Dante," she says quietly, but I already know. She's not ready, and I don't blame her. I haven't exactly been the ideal boyfriend these last few weeks.
I start to lift myself up but stop. I can't help kissing her one more time. I push my mouth over hers and, reaching down, pull her thighs up and press my hips down harder. She moans, and the sound touches my lips, rousing me. I'm reconsidering my earlier conviction about being patient — when a sound crashes through the house.
Charlie grabs onto my elbow and we both listen.
It comes again, louder.
"The door," Charlie says. "Someone's at the door."
I roll to my side, and Charlie jumps from the bed and leaves the room. I follow after her, watching as she thump-thumps down the stairs. When her hand reaches for the knob, my mind screams.
"Wait," I yell-whisper. Though I'm fairly sure collectors wouldn't bother knocking, it still bugs me that someone's outside her house past midnight. I jog down the stairs and pull Charlie behind me. Only then do I open the door.
There's a flash of red as a woman turns and faces me.
The spitfire twenty-something with bright red hair is a liberator. She helped me rescue Charlie from Rector, head of the collectors, but would just as soon castrate me as admit we're friends.
"Thought you said you and Max were going on vacay," I say.
"Postponed." Valery starts to stride into the house, but I grab her wrist.
"No," I say, glancing upstairs, where I know Grams is sleeping. "If you want to talk, let's go outside."
She shrugs her slender shoulder and sashays out the door. When Charlie heads after us, Valery holds up her hand. "I've got to speak to Dante alone, sweetheart."
I wrap my arm around Charlie and pull her close. "Anything you have to say to me, you can say to her."
Valery looks at me for a long time. "Fine."
She reaches into her purse and pulls out a long white envelope.
"Oh, hell, no," I say as a chill races down my spine. "Get that crap away from me."
"What'd you think? That He'd look the other way while you partied your ass off?" Valery shoves the envelope against my chest. "You haven't sealed a single soul for heaven, Dante. You were practically begging for an assignment."
Beside me, I can almost feel Charlie brighten. She's been praying for something to get me off my sin spiral. And now her wish has been granted.
I cringe and step away from the envelope like it has chlamydia. "Tell Big Guy I'll take a pass."
"Actually, this comes with a message from Him." Valery glances at Charlie, then back at me. "You're on probation."
"Probation?" I say, laughing. "Ooh, I'm friggin' terrified."
And I am. Terrified. Because I'm a badass, but he's like ... you know ... God.
"You have two options," Valery says, ignoring my mockery. "You can either complete this assignment or turn in your cuff."
My hands curl into fists. "Wow, those are generous options. So I can do His bidding or I can die a final death? Real nice."
Valery shrugs. "You didn't leave Him much choice." She holds the envelope out again, and this time I take it. In my drunken state, I imagine it burns my hand. Maybe it does. Who knows?
"Max says hi," Valery finishes before heading to her car.
Charlie's eyes are round with surprise. We both knew I worked for Big Guy now, but I don't think either of us was prepared for this. She recovers quickly, reaching up on her tiptoes and nuzzling my neck. "This will be great, you'll see," she says. "Come back in when you're ready." She kisses her fingers and presses them to my lips. Then she goes inside and closes the door behind her.
I stare down at the envelope in my hand. For several minutes, I just stand there, drunk and swaying and panicking about what it'll say. Then I snap the hell out of my trance and pull myself together. How bad could it be?
I tear the envelope open, rip out the sheet of paper, and start reading.
And then I laugh.
Because there's no way in hell I'm going to cold-ass Denver to liberate a girl named Aspen.
Valery is climbing into her car, a black Mercedes S500, when I realize there's something else inside the envelope. I reach in and pull out a pair of small, curved ivory things that look like horns. One is slightly larger than the other, and both confuse the hell out of me.
I call out to Valery, "Hey, Red."
She turns and looks at me, making a face like she's simultaneously asking me what I want and cursing my existence.
"What are these?" I hold up the horns.
"How should I know?" She shrugs. I think she's about to drop down into her car, but she pauses and glances over the top of the hood, the look in her eyes softening. "They're from your father."
Valery disappears from view, starts the engine of her Mercedes, and pulls away. I had more questions for her, questions she's dismissed for weeks. But right now they don't seem so important. Not when I'm staring at the horns in my palm. From my father, she'd said. My father, who died in a car crash minutes before I did. The guy I've seen only once since.
As I think of him, my chest feels like it's on fire. He's given me these two crescent-shaped things, and I have no earthly idea what they are. The fact that he left anything for me blows my mind. Doing this, it's like he cares. Thinking of my dad also reminds me of my mom — of how Rector was dating her in order to learn more about me, and to show me he could get close to those I care about. My dad told me he had that issue nipped in the bud. I'm not sure how, but if there's one thing I know, it's that Pops will make sure that bastard doesn't get near her again. Game over.
Overhead, I hear a knock. Glancing up, I spot Charlie standing in the window, her slight figure framed by the glow of a lamp. I grip the ivory horns and slip them into my pocket. All I want to do is keep Charlie Cooper safe, because even though her soul was taken by collectors, that doesn't mean the same guys won't come for her body, too. But protecting her seems impossible when no one will tell me what the H is going on.
I don't understand why I can't turn Charlie's soul in to heaven yet.
Excerpted from "The Liberator"
Copyright © 2013 Victoria Scott.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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