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Authors: Tracey O'Hara

Night's Cold Kiss

BOOK: Night's Cold Kiss
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Night’s Cold Kiss

A Dark Brethren Novel

Tracey O’Hara

For my boys
David, Corey and Seamus

Contents

1

Hunter and Hunted

2

Over and Out

3

What Goes Around

4

A Dark Past

5

Goodbyes

6

Night Sweats

7

Mother, Oh Mother

8

BloodLust

9

Arena of Heroes and Fools

10

Lessons Learned

11

Black Ties and Attitude

12

A Tango with Danger

13

Date with an Ambassador

14

The Aftermath

15

Strangers in the Night

16

Home Alone

17

After Hours

18

Caught in the Act

19

On a Wing and a Prayer

20

The Scene

21

Vanished

22

Leaving on a Jet Plane

23

Blood, Sweat and Heat

24

Back to the Real World

25

Lovers Lost

26

Whispers in the Dark

27

Ever Changes

28

On the Run

29

Revelations

30

Rats in a Hole

31

Who’s the Abomination

32

Embracing Nature

33

Fire and Ice

34

A Cry in the Night

 

1
Hunter and Hunted

Antoinette crept along the alley, unknown shadows pressing in on her from the darkness. Perspiration beaded on her upper lip, and she swiped a hand across her face before the salty moisture slipped unwelcome to the corners of her mouth.

Sweat trickled down her back. She tugged the damp T-shirt away from her sticky skin. Sucking the humid air into her lungs was like trying to breathe through a warm wet blanket.

Damn this heat.
Why couldn’t he have picked someplace a little cooler?

But she knew why. Miami was the perfect hunting ground with its transient population.

Over the last two weeks she’d tracked the vampiric Necrodreniac across three states with her brother, Nici. The killer’s trail of bodies had led them here and now they were so close she could almost taste it.

A scream pierced the still darkness. She dropped, her hand wrapping around the pistol grip. A second cry ripped through the night and she relaxed. Only a couple of tomcats fighting.

Other sounds began to filter through: water dripped somewhere to her right, distant police sirens wailed, and
animals shrieked—both the two-legged and the four-legged varieties—but not a hint of her target.

As she turned her head, she caught a glint on the ground and looked up to her right at the broken window on the side of the old warehouse. Glass crunched beneath her boots as she gripped the windowsill to haul herself up.

She remained balanced on the sill until her eyes adjusted to the gloom. The stench from inside hit her with an almost physical force; the foul aroma was made up of musty wet paper, stale urine, and animal feces. But underlying it all lurked something more subtle—and much more disturbing. The smell of pain, the smell of evil, the smell of death itself. The reek of a Necrodreniac lair.

 

Christian waited, silent and patient. He heard her long before he saw her from his vantage point in the rafters thirty feet above the warehouse floor.

She entered through the same window he’d used earlier and he breathed her in, holding the scent, tasting it, savoring it. Human.

She perched on the windowsill, her nose wrinkled in disgust and her eyes narrowed as she peered into the far corners of the abandoned building. Even if she’d looked up, he’d have been safe from discovery, his position secured by shadow. After a few moments she dropped to land quietly, sinking into a low crouch with hands braced on the floor and head tilted to listen.

Her outfit—from her SWAT tactical vest down to solid black army boots—looked perfect for a covert mission and enhanced her slim, athletic, but unmistakably feminine figure. She wore no perfume or synthetic scent, only her own natural fragrance. A thick braid of pale blond hair fell over one shoulder, the end brushing the floor as she hunkered down. Definitely a Venator and judging from her actions, a well-seasoned one, although he guessed she could be no more than twenty-five.

A pistol was secured in the front holster of the SWAT
vest just under her left breast and a sheathed katana sword was strapped to her back, the handle within easy reach over her right shoulder. His interest piqued, she was either very stupid or an extremely skilled old-school hunter. Christian predicted the latter.

Rising to her feet, she continued to move along the wall. From the corner of his eye, Christian caught a blur of movement as a stray cat landed softly on the windowsill. The scruffy feline took one look at her then leapt inside to race behind some boxes piled near the wall.

The sound of her heart pounded, as clear and heavy as distant thunder. If he were closer, he’d be able to taste the fear on the air she exhaled, yet her first instinct had put the blade in her hand. Impressive. Watching her in action might provide a pleasing distraction. He breathed her in again and licked his lips, his appetite roused.

Wonder if she tasted as good as she smelled.

 

Antoinette closed her eyes and forced her breathing to slow as she slid the sword back into the sheath.

Bloody cat.

Inhaling deeply, she pulled herself together and glanced around. An involuntary shiver ran up her spine and she shook it out. It wasn’t like her to be so jumpy; something here was off, but she couldn’t put a finger on it. While she didn’t sense any immediate danger, the hair on the back of her neck prickled.

On the far side of the building was a door, the very thing she looked for. Antoinette ripped open a Velcro pocket on her vest. A drop of moisture slid down the bridge of her nose and dropped from the end onto the back of her hand. She flicked it away and cursed under her breath. Nici got to sit in the van’s air-conditioned comfort while she scrabbled around dark alleys and stinky abandoned warehouses.

She smiled and shook her head.
I wouldn’t have it any other way
. Waiting in the van would’ve driven her crazy. It was just as well she’d passed the Venator exams and not
Nici—he was much better at computers and all that technical shit.

Licking her dry lips, she pulled out her flashlight, crossed the room and placed an ear against the door.
Metal, not wood.
The unexpected coolness under her cheek offered a brief, but blessed, relief.

Nothing came from beyond, not a single sound. The handle turned easily under her hand—a sign of recent habitation—and with a gentle push, the door swung open.

The dreniac’s scent wafted from the basement, fresher than the lingering trace out here, but still not recent. If he was hunting, he’d return soon enough. She hoped. Swallowing hard, she stepped into the open doorway. Just because he wasn’t home didn’t mean there weren’t other nasty surprises waiting down there.

Antoinette looked down the narrow stairs leading into the inky blackness below and pulled the gun from its holster. Though her heart did beat a little faster, her palms were dry and hands steady.

Antoinette released the clip to check the ammo—the special hollow point bullets were filled with silver nitrate, the only poison effective on dreniacs. She’d checked it a dozen times before the mission, but better to be safe than sorry. Carefully she slid the clip back into place with her palm, flicked off the safety, and started down the stairs.

Each step took her deeper into the dark basement and each step a little more cautious. She flicked on the flashlight and braced it over her gun, pointing the beam straight ahead. The door at the top of the stairs shut with a bang. Her heart leapt to her throat and she twisted to check the staircase behind.
Empty
.

Sweat cooled on her skin with dropping temperature as she descended. Cocking her head from side to side, she listened for signs of ambush. Seconds grew into minutes without even a rustle and she continued on.

The sour tang of spilled whiskey and stale sex grew stronger as she continued down the stairs. She brought the back
of her gun hand against her nose to ward off the stench of other more disturbing odors, to little avail.

At the bottom of the staircase her footfalls echoed across the concrete floor, loud in the eerie silence. Her foot sent an empty wine bottle skittering across the newspaper-littered floor and she followed it with the beam of the flashlight. It rolled to a stop a few feet away…right by a high-heeled red leather boot.
Shit.

Antoinette swung the flashlight beam along the boot to reach a pale leg then a lingerie-clad torso, and, finally, a tousled head of blond hair. Her stomach churned as she moved to squat beside the body.
Damn.
She really hated this part of her job, especially if they’d been dead awhile. Tucking the flashlight awkwardly between her shoulder and chin, she reached over and pulled the fine hair away from the face to uncover glassy blue eyes staring into space.

A relieved chuckle burst free before she could stop it. A dummy—lifelike—but definitely just a dummy.

A wider arc with the flashlight exposed more dummies and blow-up sex dolls scattered among the debris.

Filth. This dreniac’s MO was sexual deviancy with a penchant for necrophilia. He must use the sex dolls between kills. Little wonder the bounty had doubled in the last week. But was he still here or had he skipped on to his next hunting ground?

Antoinette searched the litter with the flashlight beam. Lacking the scent of heavily decaying flesh, he obviously didn’t keep the bodies with him like some did. Probably tortured them here, judging from the smell of old blood and feces, then dumped them elsewhere.

Suddenly, the beam hit upon a backpack, half hidden in the garbage. Inside she found clothes and other bits and pieces, but nothing of any real interest…until her fingers brushed against something more solid. She pulled out a smaller bag and opened it to find a large wad of cash, some coins, and several items matching the descriptions of personal objects belonging to the target’s past victims. His souvenirs.

He’d return; there was no way he’d leave these behind. She put it back where she’d found it and wiped her palms on her jeans, her skin prickling with disgust.

There was nothing to do now except settle in and wait. But not down here, not in the dark, where he belonged and held the advantage.

The staircase didn’t seem nearly as long going up as it had coming down. When she reached the door, she stopped to listen. Still nothing, but then again, he could be out there…waiting. She stepped into the outer room and glanced around, aiming her weapon into the corners, at the window, toward the cartons. All clear.

Darkness concealed the corners and the high rafters. She sniffed the foul air, searching for fresh dreniac scent. The newspapers had reported a body found early this morning, tortured, throat ripped open, and raped after death—a trademark kill for this sick bastard. His stench would be ripe with the recent death.

As she turned away the hairs on the back of her neck prickled and she spun back around. There was something watching from those rafters. Something…or someone. She could feel eyes on her and stepped closer, squinting up into the darkness. She couldn’t make anything out, but—

A tinkle of glass came from outside and she ducked behind the cartons for cover. At the sound of something heavy landing on the floor, Antoinette tensed. Here he was. Finally. Adrenaline pumped through her veins; she felt the path it traveled through her bloodstream and welcomed the sharp focus it brought.

She circled around behind the dreniac, using the cartons for cover. He was much bigger than she’d anticipated. And he presented her with another complication—he wasn’t alone.

 

Christian relaxed a little. The scuffle along the alley outside had announced the target’s arrival long before the woman heard it. The dreniac had saved him from discovery as the Venator had been looking right at Christian—as if somehow
sensing his presence even in the darkness. Then she’d disappeared as the dreniac made his clumsy entrance.

Now the unmistakable reek of death marked the target for what he was—a Necrodreniac—the very worst of his Aeternus kind. Christian fought down loathing.

This one liked inflicting pain and fear. Heightening the emotions of a victim changed the flavor of their blood, and made the intoxication more potent for the dreniac when they killed. Each emotion offered a different experience. Sweet blood of passion gave a euphoric high, whereas tangy fear had a sharp, focused rush, not dissimilar to cocaine use in humans, or so he’d been told.

The dreniac wasn’t alone either. A young girl hung limply over his shoulder, and Christian knew from the rhythmic beat of her heart that she was still alive.

He decided not to interfere between the human Venator and the dreniac, not yet anyway. Venators were generally very territorial over their kills and it was against CHaPR directions for an agent such as himself to interfere with a trained Venator’s target. At the very least it should prove to be an interesting—if not downright entertaining—fight to watch.

Her cardboard hiding place must have hindered her line of fire, for she crept out with the handgun aimed at the dreniac. The pistol was steady in her hand, her heart rate only slightly elevated, a steely determination etched on her face.

“Clever girl.” Christian’s voice, no more than a whisper—like silk across glass—was far too soft for those below to hear.

The huge dreniac was more than a match for a human, even one as capable as she appeared to be. But her movements were smooth, confident and perfect, each step deliberate and careful as she moved in for the shot.

A squeal cut through the still air and the woman froze, her expression startled, her heart hammering. Two feet away from her the stray cat sat with its jaws clamped around the throat of a large twitching rat.

The dreniac glanced toward the feline and turned back to the basement door, taking another step before stopping and sniffing the air. A low growl hummed, building to a roar as he dropped the semiconscious victim and leapt toward the Venator with the lightning speed of his kind, reaching her within half a blink of a human eye. The dreniac’s huge paw-like hand swept sideways and she tried to duck. But the blow connected, snapping her head back and sending her flying into the pile of cartons.

If she’d been a few seconds slower in reacting, the backhand would’ve taken her head right off. She was on her feet in an instant, raising her hand to the side of her head and shaking it for a second. The blow had sent her firearm flying and she reached back to unsheathe the sword.

Christian leaned forward, eager to see what she’d do next but ready to intervene if things got ugly. Well, uglier. He could do it now, but that would invalidate any bounty she was due.

“Stupid girl.” The dreniac voice oozed contempt. “Do you really think you can take me with that puny blade?”

Again he leapt. This time she planted her feet and waited. With perfect timing, she moved left and sliced downward with the razor sharp katana. She spun back to face the dreniac, who gaped in horrified disbelief at his right arm, which now ended at the wrist. The hand lay twitching at his feet, severed with surgical precision. Dark blood spattered across her face as she brought the sword around.

BOOK: Night's Cold Kiss
4.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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