The Last of the Monsters

BOOK: The Last of the Monsters
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Dedication

For everyone who fell in love with the monsters. Thank you for reading, this one’s for you.

Prologue

There was a cool breeze wafting across the patio. Akta pulled her hair over her shoulder, twisting it into a rope. It was long enough to sit on, and on warm nights like this she imagined cutting it. She never would, it was too much a part of her image, as well as a way to honor her heritage. America’s favorite Indian actress couldn’t go from traditional long hair to a bob without causing a stir.

The sliding door opened and a tall man appeared. A little thrill went through her as Henry stepped out of her living room onto the patio. He was tall and lean, but not too skinny. His face was classically handsome, his brown hair short. But it was his eyes that called to her. He had the most intense blue eyes. When he looked at her it was as if there were no one else in the world. Akta was used to attention—it was part of her job as an actor—but attention from Henry was something else altogether.

“Henry, I didn’t know you were still here.”

Henry and his friends had come to her house for a casual party. She’d assumed all the guests were gone. He carefully closed the door, then made his way to her large outdoor dining table. He took the seat next to her and accepted the bottle of beer she passed him from the drink tub on the table.

“I think they forgot about me.”

Akta laughed. He sounded both forlorn and relieved. “I’m sorry. I’ll take you home.”

“If it’s all right, I’d like to stay for a while.”

“Of course. I need to sober up a bit before I drive anyway.”

Akta pushed away her half-empty beer and fished out a bottle of water. The table was littered with dishes and cups, the remnants of a good party. She stacked a few unused napkins that the breeze had scattered, placing the beer bottle on top to hold them down.

“Thank you for dinner. I’ll help you clean up.” Henry grabbed a few other napkins and passed them to her.

“You’re welcome. It was nice to have everyone here, and to celebrate Margo and Runako.”

Two days ago, Akta and three of her best friends—Lena, Jane and Cali—had gone to rescue their other friend and the fifth owner of their movie production company, Calypso Productions. Margo had disappeared over a week ago, and they’d been in a panic, assuming that their newest project had put her in danger.

It had, but not in the way they thought.

Margo had been kidnapped by Runako, one of their clients. Runako was a new—and reluctant—addition to the client group. They’d originally been approached by just three men, Luke, Michael and Henry himself.

Runako kidnapped Margo because he had some very cavemanesque ideas about romance, though from what she’d heard, Margo gave as good as she got in her brief time as a sexy captive. The kidnapping and subsequent rescue attempt ended in an unexpected way—a proposal.

Now they were back in LA, and the guys had spent the night alternately cursing and congratulating Runako. He wasn’t the first of the men to fall for one of Akta’s business partners. Lena’s asking Luke out on a date is what had started this whole project, while Jane and Michael had fallen for each other when she’d used him as a resource for information while writing the screenplay.

Akta tugged at her hair again, using it to shield her face as she looked at Henry. The moonlight made a silver halo around him, while the sputtering candles lit the planes of his cheeks. There was no indication that he was anything other than what he appeared to be—a good-looking guy drinking a beer.

But Henry wasn’t a guy. He was a monster.

An actual monster.

And so were all his friends.

“Your home was beautiful,” Akta said.

“I wish you’d seen it under other circumstances. Not all the caves look like that.”

Henry and his people—he called them his Clan—lived in a network of caves in the Rocky Mountains. They’d made their home in the inaccessible peaks of the mountains, places where the terrain made it almost impossible for humans to go. That didn’t matter for Henry and his friends because they all had wings.

Huge, scary bat wings.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they don’t look so much like…caves.”

Akta laughed at that. Runako had taken Margo to a place they called the Captive Caves, a remnant from a time when humans had been hiding from the monsters, and for good reason. They’d assured Akta that they never ate humans, but in the past they’d kidnapped humans to help them build or make things. Humans were much smaller and more dexterous—because their fingers didn’t end in talons the size of kitchen knives. As Akta’s rather caustic friend Cali had said, humans had been their equivalent of the child factory workers at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

But all that had changed. Human communities’ isolation had meant information couldn’t be spread easily, relegating tales of winged monsters to folklore and myth. In the past one hundred years, humans had spread far and fast. The monsters had retreated, moving to physically inaccessible locations and hiding from the humans. There had once been scores of different clans, each made up of its own type of monster. But now many of these groups had been forced to band together for security, forming one Great Clan in Colorado.

The monsters knew they couldn’t hide forever. They had to either disappear entirely from the Earth or prepare for an all-out war with humans. A third choice had become available to them not long ago. The Clan’s Seer had discovered a spell that allowed them to shift-shape and become humans. Henry and his friends had first come to Calypso Productions’ offices looking like nothing more than three attractive, everyday guys.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

“What does yours look like? Your…cave, I mean.”

Henry tipped his head back, staring at the stars for a moment before answering. “It isn’t too different than your home. There are bedrooms, bathrooms, a living room. Everything is larger, and the furniture is very different, but at its core they are the same.”

His gaze shifted to her. “I suppose it’s because we want the same things as you. Security, comfort, safety.”

“And love?”

The words seemed to hang between them and Akta had to look down at her lap. She was a sappy romantic at the best of times, and her intense crush on Henry was only making it worse.

“Yes, and love.”

Silence, save for the rustle of palm fronds swaying in the breeze, fell over them. There was more to this silence than the ones before it, a note of tension Akta’s question had put there.

When it got to be too much, Akta stood, grabbing a few things to take them inside. “I’m just going to clean up a bit.” She reached for the tub of drinks, the few remaining ice cubes clinking as she heaved it.

“I’ll take that.”

Henry reached out, his hand closing over hers.

An electric thrill went through Akta. She twisted her head to the side so he wouldn’t see her reaction to his touch. It had been a long time since Akta had felt so out of her depth with a man. She had no idea if the lingering looks he gave her when he thought she wouldn’t notice were the result of interest in her, or if he was just curious.

“Akta.”

She took a breath. There was no doubt now. That single word, her name, was laden with longing and promise.

Lowering the tub to the table, she turned to face him. Hesitantly, he raised his hand, smoothing her hair away from her face.

“You are beautiful.”

“Thank you.”

He scrutinized her cheeks, her lips. Akta licked them, and he stiffened.

Kiss me.

Henry seemed frozen, one hand cupping the side of her head. Now that she was so close to him she could see the hunger in his eyes. Excitement swelled within her.

“Henry.”

“Yes?”

“Do you want me?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so.”

Akta lifted onto her toes, cupped his head in her hands and kissed him. He was stiff for a moment, before he relaxed into the kiss, his arms twining around her. Akta kept the kiss light, lips closed, until he pulled her tighter against him, their hips pressed together.

Akta leaned into Henry, giving him her body weight. She waited for him to take charge of the kiss, but he seemed content with the rather chaste meeting of lips.

He
may have been, but Akta wasn’t. She wanted more.

She parted her lips, touching his with her tongue. His mouth opened and she slipped her tongue inside to taste him. She savored the earthy, bitter taste of hops as his tongue met hers. He seemed unsure what to do, and Akta had a jolt of realization. This was probably the first time he’d ever kissed a human woman.

She took control then, something she’d never dared do before. Head tipped to one side she coaxed him into the kiss, nipping and sucking his lower lip, deepening their connection. With each passing moment his hold on her tightened, and now she could feel the rigid line of his cock against her belly.

They broke apart, both drawing deep, gasping breaths. She dropped onto her heels, calves aching, and looked up at Henry.

Even in the moonlight she could see that his cheeks were flushed, his eyes soft.

She smiled, touched his cheek. “You’re blushing,” she teased. “Am I the first human you’ve kissed?”

Henry’s reaction was not what she expected.

He pulled his hands away from her and took two jerky steps back. His face was twisted in an expression she couldn’t even begin to understand. He looked down at his hands, as if he’d never seen them before.

“Henry? Henry, I’m sorry, I was just teasing.”

His gaze snapped to hers and as she watched the irises went from a deep ocean blue to bright purple.

He ripped his shirt off, then shucked his jeans.

It took Akta a moment to figure out what was happening. It was only when he turned his back to her, revealing the large tribal tattoo, that she understood. He was changing.

Akta screamed as the skin on his back split open, two massive blue wings emerging, unfurling and expanding as she watched. Akta stumbled back, biting down on a second scream. She’d never been alone with one of them before, never been the only human present when one of them changed.

In that moment, every ounce of fear and distrust she’d buried deep within her rose to the surface. She kept retreating until she was at the far side of the table. She’d seen them fight, knew that if he wanted to attack her she was doomed.

The change was complete, and where there had once been a nice-looking guy was now a massive gargoyle-like monster. The one other time she’d seen Henry in this body he’d had pale blue skin and wings, the color of the summer sky. But now his skin was changing color, the pigment seeming to swirl just under the surface of his skin like ink in water.

It was probably a trick of the light, but his skin looked almost red rather than blue. Akta pressed her hands to her mouth and sank down, crouching behind the table.

Without another word, Henry leapt into the sky and disappeared into the night.

Chapter One

One year later

This was a disaster. Akta knew it, the director knew it—she could tell by the look on Cali’s face—and Akta suspected her reluctant costar knew it too.

They were almost two weeks into principal filming of a movie about the monsters. The film would serve as official notice to the world that they weren’t folktales and stories, but were real. Akta and Henry had the starring roles—Akta as Padma, the human girl who fell for Henry’s character, Ebon, when she was too young to realize who and what he was.

Movies were usually shot out of order, though there were famous exceptions, like
The Maltese Falcon
, which was so complicated that they had to shoot it in order so the actors could follow what was happening. Their own shooting schedule was dictated by locations. Because they were doing everything they could to keep the movie under wraps, they were using locations outside the city limits, ones that didn’t require permits. For the most part, that also meant that they were using locations that weren’t dedicated or experienced filming spots, so they had to be in and out quickly and cleanly.

BOOK: The Last of the Monsters
12.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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