Authors: Yasmine Galenorn
Berkley titles by Yasmine Galenorn
Etched in Silver
The Shadow Mist
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Yasmine Galenorn
Ghost of a Chance
Legend of the Jade Dragon
Murder Under a Mystic Moon
A Harvest of Bones
One Hex of a Wedding
Yasmine Galenorn writing as India Ink
Scent to Her Grave
A Blush with Death
Glossed and Found
Flight from Hell
An Otherworld Novella
InterMix Books, New York
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A Penguin Random House Company
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
FLIGHT FROM HELL
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / August 2014
Copyright Â© 2014 by Yasmine Galenorn.
copyright Â© 2014 by Yasmine Galenorn.
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Revenge doesn't stop.
Love is like a war: easy to begin but very hard to stop.
âH. L. Mencken
Meredith Bernstein, my agent,
Who always has my back.
Berkley titles by Yasmine Galenorn
Several Months Earlier, in the Dragon Reaches
When they brought Shimmer before the Wing Liege, she had no clue what was going to happen to her. Stealing could be a capital offense, punishable by death.
She'd always been careful. She had always managed to escape before they caught up with her. But this time, there had been a simple miscalculation and bingoÂ .Â .Â . here she was, in a cell made of the strongest metals that existed. Metal bars even a dragon couldn't break.
With a sigh, she stared out the tiny window in the stone wall. The water seemed so far away right now, and she hung her head, missing the salt air and the feel of the wind on her face. Why had she been so stupid? It wasn't like she'd taken anything all that valuable. And she hadn't stolen anything sentimental. White dragons weren't given to sentiment, anyway. No, she had broken into the Greanfyr family dreyerie on a dare. She'd done it becauseÂ .Â .Â . well, that's
she was. A misfit, an orphan, an outcast. There was no place in society for her, and so she had created her own niche, and that included seeing how far she could bend the rules. But now, everything was shot to hell.
To her surprise, at the trial the Wing Liege hadn't been quite as terrifying as she thought he would be. In fact, Lord Vine had spoken gently to her. He gazed into her eyes, and for a moment, she thought she caught a glimpse of empathy. The sentence had been handed downâan odd punishment but it had been at his urging. After the council adjourned, it was over and he led her back to her cell.
He paused as she sat down at the marble table near her bunk. “ShimmerÂ .Â .Â . you'll be okay, you know.”
She glanced up at him, and for the first time, her walls came down.
“I'm scared.” She hated admitting anything like that, but it was the truth and now there was nothing to be gained by lying. She had put up a good frontâshe'd learned early how to bluff her way through difficult situationsâbut now the chips were down and she tossed her cards on the table. “I miss the ocean. I miss the water.”
“You'll be near the ocean where we're sending you. And I promise you, AlexÂ .Â .Â . well, he's interesting. He takes a little bit of getting used to, but I vouch for him. He's an old friend of mine. He'll keep an eye on you.” The Wing Liege's manner might be formal, but his words held real warmth. “Shimmer, you had a rough start in life. There's no denying that. That's why the Council is giving you a second chance.”
“Second chance? I never had a chance from the start.” She smiled.
“Well, consider this your chance thenâa chance to redeem yourself.”
He still didn't undertand. Born out of the caste system, she'd been persona non grata since the beginning. Her “second chance” amounted to being carted off. The sentence could have been far more severe but it still amounted to exile. “Out of sight, out of mind, right? Call the punishment what it is, Lord Vine. Banishment. The Dragon Reaches is my homeÂ .Â .Â . even if I don't have a clan or caste to stand by me. Now, you're taking that away from me.” She walked over to peek out the window, but all she could see through the barred opening were cloudy skies.
The Wing Liege pushed himself to his feet with a sigh. “Shimmer, face facts, girl. If you stay here, Greanfyr will hunt you down and destroy you. You know what the Whites are likeÂ .Â .Â . they're vicious, greedy dragons. You
from one of the highest families in their caste. I'm sending you away for your own safety. And maybe, maybe you'll figure out what you want to do with your life while you're gone.”
“What choices do I have? I have no caste, Lord Vine, due to my birth.”
“If you make it through these five years, you'll be granted the caste of your peers, Shimmer. That was part of my bargaining with the Elder Council. But you must go. This is the only way to keep you safe until what you did blows over.”
He headed toward the door, pausing before he exited. “You'll be fine. Earthside has its charms, though you'll have a lot to learn about the customs. But there
other dragons there, including Lord Iampaatar. You'll get along, and if you're in trouble, you can go to him. He and his wife Camille will helpâthey're philanthropists of a sort. And five years from now, if you've behaved yourself, you can return and we'll restore your full powers and give you a place in society.”
Before she could say a word, he was gone. And the future stretched in front of her like a terrifyingly blank canvas. Shimmer hugged herself, rocking gently. She'd really screwed it up this time. How was she going to wait out five years among a bunch of humans and Supes? How would she ever manage to work with a vampire? So many questions weighed on her mind.
“Well, at least I'm still alive. Which means, unfortunately,” she whispered to herself, “I'm going to have the time to find the answers.” But it was going to be a lonely five years, she had the feeling. Very lonely.
“I want you to find out who's behind these deaths.” Roman didn't look happy. “I'd send in my spies but they're too well known among the vampire community.”
I stared at him. He was the son of Blood Wyne, the Queen of the Crimson Veil. As Roman's official consort, I had to obey him, unless I could figure out how to cajole or argue my way out of the situation. That didn't mean I had to be happy about it, though.
“I already have more on my plate than I can deal with, what with the destruction going down in Otherworld, and the worries about the demonic war over here Earthside. You know I'm swamped.”
Tracking down rogue vampires who were killing innocent people was the last thing I wanted to do right now. Last time it had happened, I'd been on the receiving end of a hand grenade wielded by a freakshow vampire serial killer with identity issues. He'd been a priest before he'd been turned, and the combo of being a holy man and being turned into a rampaging monster had slammed his brain way out in left field.
“I know. But I need you to do this.” He stroked my hand. “If they think I'm on their trail, they may go underground and then who knows where they'll go or who they'll hurt next.”
“You aren't going to let me off the hook, are you?” I toyed with the bottle of blood sitting on the table.
“I wouldn't ask this of you, Menolly, but there will be more deaths if we don't put a stop to these rogue vamps.”
His hair hung in a smooth ponytail to mid-back, chocolate brown, and he was muscled, but trim. Roman was also one of the oldest vampires I had met, and he was ruthless when crossed.
Caving, I finally agreed. “Fine. I'll have a look around the area, and see what I can find out. And I'll ask Carter if he's heard anything through the grapevine.” As I stood, Roman slipped his fingers around my wrist. His touch was gentle, but firm. He could bring me to my knees with one word, but he chose not to.
“You don't have to leave just yet, do you?” His voice was seductive and it would have been easy to let myself fall into the energy, to race through the woods with him, throw him down in the wild weather that was brewing and ride him hard and long. My mouth watered, hungering for the taste of his blood on my tongue, but I reined myself in. Nerissa, my wife, was waiting for me at home, along with my sisters. I might as well get this show on the road.
“Rain check, please. But definitely, hold that thought for later.” I brushed his cheek with a kiss, trailing my lips across his, then slipped away before he could tell me he loved me. I was trying to break him of that habit, and so far, wasn't having much luck. But he knew full well that my heart belonged to Nerissa. Playtime with the boys was all well and goodâand we weren't exclusive when it came to men. But one woman, and one woman only, owned the key to my heart.
I put in a call to my sisters, Delilah and Camille, as I made my way to my Ford Mustang. The car was brand new and I still felt like I was betraying my Jag when I was driving it. But the Jag had been trashed by a would-be assassin.
“Meet me over at Severance Park. Roman's guards took down a couple newly minted vampires there last night. He asked me to check into it and figure out what went down, and who sired them. And once we find
out, we're supposed to put a stop to them.”
“Oh, jeez. That's all? Okay, we're on the way.” Camille hung up.
As I pulled out of the driveway leading to Roman's estate, I wondered just what kind of a mess we were getting into this time.
Severance Park was, as luck would have it, smack in the middle of the Greenbelt Park District, or as we'd taken to calling itâSpooksville Central. The most haunted area in Seattle, it was filled with faded memories of unhappy events, and angry spirits who would not rest. We knew this because we had fought too many of them.
Trouble was, a vampire on a killing spree wasn't a ghost. Vampires were corporeal. And vampires weren't tied to an areaâget bored? Easy enough to move to another part of the city. But the fact that the bodies had both been found, and then had risen, in this district, meant that it was the best place for us to start.
The streets in the neighborhood were dimly lit and poorly populated, the buildings weathered and run-down. Why the city didn't start an urban renovation project here confounded me, but when I thought about it some more, the answer was easy: money. Every city had its budget problems and Seattle was no exception. It was hard enough to come up with funding for the cops and firefighters, let alone street repair and upkeep of the more popular areas. Renovating a dilapidated and mostly deserted neighborhood? Not high on the to-do list.
As I pulled alongside the curbâparking here was easy to findâI felt an uneasy shift in the air. I glanced over at the building across from the park. Something was wrong.
Slipping out of the car, I locked it behind me. I wasn't worried about anybody hurting
a vampire, after allâbut my new car? Nobody was going to lay a hand on it and get away without a beating. And the first rule of car thieves: Look for vehicles that were unlocked.
Debating on whether I should wait for Camille and Delilah, I ticked off what I knew.
First: several bodies had been reported in the area but when the cops showed up, they had vanished. Which meant either the killer returned for them or they'd been killed by a vampire and risen between the time of the report and the time the police arrived.
Second: The night before, Roman's guards had discovered two newly minted vampires in Severance Park. They were freshly risen, which meant they'd been killed not long before and left to fend for themselves by their sire.
Third: A number of vampires couldâand wouldâlisten to reason when they first rose, but not all were in their right mind. Some were so manic, so eager to feed, that nothing in the world could get through to them. Some were set to hunt by their sires. I'd been like that, until Camille tricked me into the safe room back in our home in Otherworld, and summoned help.
Fourth: These vamps hadn't been tractable and had to be staked. They'd attacked, and the guards defended themselves, turning them to dust. There was nothing left to examine, because all their clothes and effects had gone up in the sudden incineration as well.
Which left us with no clue as to why this was going on. The only thing we had were the guards' descriptions, which we would run by Chase, the chief of the Faerie-Human Crime Scene Investigations Unit, to see if they fit the profile of any missing persons. But the odds weren't great on discovering who the victims had been.
I shivered. The energy of the area was volatile. And the fact that
could feel it, meant it was strong. I didn't work with magic, I didn't have that otherworldly ability to sense energy. When Camille got here, maybe she could make heads or tails out of what was going on. She was a witch, and she could perceive things that neither Delilah nor I could. Closing my eyes, I tried to suss out what exactly it was that I was feeling.
The air was damp and chill, and rain was headed in off the inlet. We were due for a nasty storm and it wasn't far away. But there was something elseâa sense of unease, of disruption just beneath the surface. Demonkin? Maybe. We were embroiled in a demonic war, and sooner or later, Shadow Wing would be sending a new demon general Earthside to harass us.
As I waited, the wind picked up and a scream echoed from the deserted brick walk-up across the street. I hesitated. The building was abandoned. There shouldn't be anybody there, and there were ghosts in the area. Ghosts that could send sharp objects through the air to impale me. Been there, done that. Didn't welcome a repeat.
But what if it
a ghost? What if a woman was in there and she was in trouble? My mind made up, I raced across the street, my feet barely touching the ground.
The building's front door was boarded over but one of the lower windows was broken. The iron bars were bent, telling me that somebodyâor some
âhad made it into the building. I climbed through the broken glass, smashing a couple of jagged edges to get them out of the way. The remnants of the pane shattered and I pulled my jacket sleeve over my hand to brush away the glass. It wouldn't really hurt me but might as well not take any chances.
Putting my foot on the windowsill, I levered myself up and over, cautiously jumping through to land inside the room. My boots scrunched on the broken glass as I hit the floor, and I quickly crouched down, just in case anything might have noticed me. After a moment, the silence of the room echoed around me and I slowly rose up as my eyes adjusted.
The room was dark, and even with my eyesight being what it wasâvampires could see better in the dark than just about any other creatureâit was hard to make out how big the chamber I was in, or what else might be lurking in the shadows.
I cautiously moved forward, feeling my way through the darkness. I had a miniature flashlight on my keychain, but if I used it, then I would alert anything or anybody else in the area. As I skirted the room, edging to my right, I began to see nuances in the darknessâdim light from the streetlamps outside filtered through some of the barricaded windows. A table here, a chair thereÂ .Â .Â . what appeared to be the remains of a broken-down sofa that smelled terribly musty but wasn't infested by mold yet. Apparently, there weren't any leaks, though with the window I'd broken, that could easily change.
I still didn't have a handle on what this place had been until I nudged into a sign leaning against a desk of some sort. Frustrated with the slow going, wondering where the scream had come from, I finally flicked on my flashlight.
So this office had been a temporary employment agency. While the light was on, I flashed the beam around the rest of the room for a quick look. Nothing in particular stood out.
As I was trying to get my bearings, another scream echoed in the building, this time from higher up. I could hear it through the ceiling, and this time I could smell the fear and I could smell blood.
That wasn't any ghost, that was a woman.
Catching sight of a door, I raced for it, ignoring the noise I was making. As I slammed throughâbreaking it off the hingesâthe scream echoed once more. My flashlight showed me that I was in a hallway, near a door marked S
and so I grabbed the handle and pulled. It was locked. But locked doors weren't really a problem for me. Gritting my teeth, I gave it a good yank. Metal screeched as the hinges twisted. I put my weight into it, and the door gave way as I ripped it off the hinges. Sending it flying behind me, the door splintered as it hit the wall.
Taking the stairs two at a time, I flew up them, pouring on the speed. The scream had sounded from the floor above, and so I busted through the second-story stairwell door, shoulder-butting it to slam it back against the wall. Stumbling through the opening, I found myself in a large open room, dimly lit by a handful of scattered candles.
Figures vanished into the shadows. VampiresâI could sense my own kind. At least three of them.
What they'd been up to was obvious. A woman lay on a dirty mattress in the middle of the room, either dead or comatose. Her clothing had been ripped away and blood trickled down from her neck, from her nipples, from between her thighs. I winced, grateful she wasn't awake at the moment.
Please, let her be alive,
I whispered. This was no way to die.
I debated. I could either take on the other vamps and chance letting her dieâ
she was still alive. Or I could bundle her up and get the fuck out of there. I wanted to follow them into the shadows, to drag them out by their hair and make them pay, but thenâin the silence of my hesitationâI caught the faint sound of the woman's breath.
Her chest rose and fell in a shallow beat. She was still breathing.
Hurrying before they figured out that I was alone, I gathered her up in my arms. Her flowing blood set off my hunger but I drove it back and made for the stairs. I took them two at a time, until I reached the first floor, and raced into the first room I'd entered. Shouts echoed down the stairwell from behind me. Apparently the other vamps had worked out that I wasn't leading an army, and no doubt they were planning on retrieving their stolen toy.
At the window, I debated the best way to get her out without hurting her further. Finally, I cautiously lifted her through the broken window and lowered her to the ground. She slowly crumpled to the sidewalk. Then, leaping out to land beside her in a crouch, I pulled out my phone and speed-dialed Camille.
“Where are you?”
“Almost there. You sound harried.”
“I just climbed out of the building across the street from the park. I have a wounded woman with meâvamp attack. She's alive, but she's really roughed up. The other vamps are behind me. I'm going to lock her in my car and go back inâwe can't let them run loose. Roman's right, there's trouble going down in the vamp community.”
Camille was brusque. “
. Wait for us. We're just around the corner. Make sure the woman is safe and I'll call the FH-CSI to send a medic unit.” She signed off.
I gathered up the woman in my arms and, still ignoring the allure of her blood, bundled her over to my car and into the backseat. I checked her pulse againâthe beat was thread but definite. She was so pale I could tell she'd lost a lot of blood. Her features made me wonder if she was Fae, but there was no time to focus on her ethnicity. Right now, I just needed to keep her alive.
Opening the trunk, I pulled out a blanketâwe all kept emergency supplies in our cars for situations just like this oneâand covered her to try to keep her from going into shock. The blood on her neck had slowed to a trickle. Reluctantly, I examined her thighs to check on the damage.