Try me, p.1

Try Me, page 1

 

Try Me
 


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Try Me


  * * *

  BelleBooks

  www.bellebooks.com

  Copyright ©2010 by Parker Blue

  First published in Trade Paperback, 2010

  * * *

  NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment.

  * * *

  CONTENTS

  Readers Raved About Val Shapiro and Fang

  Dedication

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead,) events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  A Note From Parker Blue

  Where Val's Adventures Began

  If you love Val Shapiro, you'll love Allie Emerson

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  * * * *

  "Val, we have to make sure your inner demon isn't hungry,” my cousin Micah said. “When was the last time you fed?"

  Fed? I hated that word, hated the way it made me sound like one of the bloodsucking vampires I fought on San Antonio's dark streets. “Uh, last night. I lost control a bit."

  "You can feed on Shade."

  Whoa. No way. I liked him.

  My cute little hellhound spoke inside my mind. THAT'S THE POINT, BABE.

  I glared down at Fang. “I can't. It's dangerous."

  "Really,” Shade said softly, “I don't mind.” He took my hand, grounding himself in this reality, in me, so that he no longer flickered through a dozen different dimensions. Because of that, I could see the shadow demon's features, though they were still partially hidden by his ever-present hood. Just as I remembered, he had shaggy blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and the face of an angel.

  Lola, my inner demon, wanted him. So did I, for that matter.

  Readers Raved About Val Shapiro and Fang

  in

  BITE ME,

  Book One, The Demon Underground Series

  ” . . . this book takes me back to my Buffy days—yep, that kind of smart and sharp-edged humor. Love it."

  The Bradford Bunch

  Wicked fun . . . And a cute hellhound. Come on, I couldn't ask for more."

  Cynthia Eden, author of Everlasting Bad Boys

  "I can't wait to the next Demon Underground novel!!"

  That Teen Can Blog

  "I couldn't put it down."

  Just Blinded Book Reviews

  "Engaging for readers of all ages.” SciFiGuy

  "I can't wait to read more about Val and her trusty sidekicks."

  Literary Escapism

  ” . . . a fun, exciting, action-packed tale that takes us into the dark side of society, but leaves us longing for more. I cannot wait for the next adventure . . . “

  NovelTalk

  "I absolutely adored Fang . . . !"

  Bookluver Carol

  [Back to Table of Contents]

  Dedication

  Many, many thanks to Karen Fox, Angel Smits, Jodi Anderson, Jude Willhoff, and Sharon Silva for their feedback, for sociable critique meetings I actually look forward to, and for unstinting support during some very tough times. That includes the rest of the Wyrd Sisters, too. You have no idea how much I appreciate your friendship every day.

  I also want to acknowledge the general awesomeness of the Belles. Deb Dixon is a wonderful editor whose questions and suggestions greatly improved the book, and it's great working with Deb Smith and her enthusiasm for marketing and trying new things. Thanks for making it fun!

  [Back to Table of Contents]

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead,) events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Bell Bridge Books

  PO BOX 300921

  Memphis, TN 38130

  ISBN: 978-0-9843256-6-5

  Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

  Copyright (C) 2010 by Parker Blue

  Printed and bound in the United States of America.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

  We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers. You can contact us at the address above or at [email protected]

  Visit our websites—www.BelleBooks.com and www.BellBridgeBooks.com.

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

  Cover design: Debra Dixon

  Interior design: Hank Smith

  Photo credits: girl—(C) Jose Antonio Sanchez Reyes | Dreamstime.com

  street—(C) Secondshot | Dreamstime.com

  Try

  Me

  Parker Blue

  Bell Bridge Books

  [Back to Table of Contents]

  Chapter One

  I watched from the trees at the edge of the Texas graveyard, too cowardly to face the people who grieved for the woman I'd murdered. They thought she'd been killed in a car accident. They thought her life had been cut short by the whim of fate. They were wrong.

  But I didn't plan on telling them anything different. They didn't really know her, didn't really know what she'd become. Let them keep their illusions.

  I shivered as a soft breeze with a hint of chill ruffled my hair. Someone sobbed, and it seemed totally weird that the night should feel so serene, the San Antonio cemetery still so lush and green even in November, when the people around the grave were so sad and depressed.

  Once darkness fell, the mourners finally left. Still, I hesitated in the darker shadow of the trees, rooted in place. It's not like Detective Dan Sullivan and I had a solid romance thing going on, but we had been more than friends and vampire-hunting partners. Now he was giving me the cold shoulder . . . just because I'd separated his girlfriend's head from her body?

  His ex-girlfriend, I reminded myself. She and Dan had broken up even before she started dining on people. And he'd said I was right to decapitate her in order to rescue the rest of us, including my step-dad and baby sister. But still.

  I hadn't heard from Dan for several days. Now I watched from the gnarled oaks and scruffy mesquite trees at the edge of a Texas graveyard, too cowardly to face the friends and family who grieved for his ex, the woman I'd murdered. They thought she'd been killed in a car accident. They thought her life had been cut short by the whim of fate. They were wrong.

  But I didn't plan on telling them anything different. They didn't really know her, didn't really know what she'd become. Let them keep their illusions.

  I shivered as a soft breeze with a hint of chill ruffled my hair. Someone sobbed, and it seemed totally weird that the night should
feel so serene, the San Antonio cemetery still so lush and green even in November, when the people around the grave were so sad and depressed.

  Once darkness fell, the mourners finally left. Still, I hesitated in the darker shadow of the trees, rooted in place. With just Fang and me in the cemetery, everything felt . . . more normal. We were used to working outside the rules of society. Of being alone, and at ease, in the darkness.

  Fang—part hellhound, part scruffy terrier, and all snark—nudged me with his nose. VAL SHAPIRO, HEAP BIG VAMPIRE SLAYER, AFRAID OF A DEAD BODY? he mocked. C'MON, DO WHAT YA HAVE TO, SO WE CAN GET OUT OF HERE.

  Did I mention the hellhound part allowed him to read my thoughts and speak in my mind? I was okay with the snarky comments most of the time, but sometimes, it was annoying. Like now.

  I nudged him back, but refused to rise to his bait. I hadn't hesitated because I was afraid. I hesitated because I wasn't sure why I was here. What could I possibly accomplish?

  Sighing and hoping to get a clue, I walked over to her grave. As I approached, the cloying fragrance of the lilies overpowered the scent of freshly turned soil and choked the air out of my lungs. “Lily Ann Armstrong,” one trailing floral ribbon read. “Beloved daughter."

  I felt like gagging. Partially because of the nauseating flowers, but mostly because of the sentiment. Beloved daughter? Depraved fiend was more like it. Or evil bloodsucker.

  Yet someone had loved her, had mourned her passing. But why was I here? Was I here to acknowledge the fact of her existence, to admit that I'd lopped her head off with one stroke of my blade?

  Tell me, what could you say to the grave of a woman you'd decapitated? Hey, sorry I murdered you, but you deserved it?

  Fang snorted. THAT WASN'T MURDER. YOU CAN'T KILL THE UNDEAD—YOU JUST COMPLETE THE PROCESS.

  He had a point. They thought Lily had died a few days ago at the age of twenty-five, but in reality, she'd died months before, when she'd made the decision to become a vampire. I hadn't killed Lily—she'd done that to herself, done the unthinkable to stay forever young, forever powerful, forever evil. Yes, she'd deserved it, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. After all, her hunger for power had put all of San Antonio in jeopardy, cost many lives, and almost cost me my family.

  So why had I come? I'd never visited the graves of my other vampire kills. Why was this one different? Because my partner, Dan Sullivan, had once cared for her?

  I didn't even know how I felt. Happy she was gone, sorry I hadn't caught her sooner . . . what?

  Fang leaned against me, compassion in his big brown eyes. IT'S OKAY TO GRIEVE. BUT ARE YOU GRIEVING FOR HER . . . OR YOURSELF?

  Good question. Because of Lily, I'd come into my power and unleashed Lola—the succubus lust demon inside me. I still felt mildly connected to the men I'd enthralled three nights ago, still fizzing with the energy I'd absorbed from them. The past three days, I'd felt more vibrantly alive than in my entire eighteen years of existence.

  It was exhilarating . . . yet scary, too. I'd fought against letting my demon free my whole life, but because of Lily, I'd been forced to let the succubus loose to save the people I loved. Thanks to Lily, I now knew what I'd been fighting against, knew how tempting ultimate power was, how powerful it made me. It made me understand her in a way I hadn't before. She'd felt this seductive power, too, and had given in.

  But I never wanted to be like her, never wanted to give in to the demon inside me. It meant a lifetime of battle between the two sides of my nature, but I was determined to come out on top.

  So, yes, I grieved. For both of us.

  THAT'S OKAY, Fang said, rubbing up against my leg. IT MAKES YOU HUMAN.

  Whoa. For some reason, that really got me, and I felt a huge wave of relief wash through my body. Yes, I was human. Only one-eighth of me was demon. Not enough to make me a monster, no matter how my mother looked at me.

  "Thanks,” I said simply.

  Fang grinned. NO PROBLEM. NOW, CAN WE GO KILL ANOTHER ONE?

  I laughed, just as he'd intended. It was what the Special Crimes Unit hired us to do, what I was good at, my reason for existence. “Sure, let's—"

  I broke off as Fang stared beyond me, wagging his tail. I turned around and smiled at the man who approached. Even in the dark I could sense his good looks. With dark wavy hair that curled around his ears, full lips, and a dancer's body, Micah Blackburn was the type of guy that girls drooled over. Everyone but me, that was. My succubus demon cancelled out his incubus, and he was the only guy I could be physically close to without having to worry about Lola getting all touchy-feely. He was kinda like the older brother I never had. We were probably related somewhere along the line, so I considered him my cousin.

  Too bad I didn't look like him, though. He was a total hottie while I was . . . so not. Blah brown hair, blah brown eyes, average height. Ordinary—that's me. On the outside, anyway. Inside, I was totally extraordinary. If I could figure out how to swap the inside for the outside, I'd do it in a nanosecond.

  Micah smiled. “I thought you might be here."

  "Why?” I hadn't known I was coming myself.

  "Lieutenant Ramirez mentioned the funeral. I figured you'd feel the need for closure."

  Closure. Muscles I hadn't realized were tense relaxed as I realized Micah had nailed it. I'd come for closure. And now, with the finality of her burial, I had it. I could let go of it all. “Yeah, I guess. Why did you track me down? Why didn't you just call?"

  "I did."

  "Oh, I forgot. I turned the phone off so it wouldn't ring in the middle of the funeral. “I pulled it out and checked it. Sure enough—two calls from Micah, none from Dan or Lt. Ramirez. Damn.

  "What's the matter?” Micah asked.

  I shrugged and plopped down on the grass and sat there cross-legged, staring at the ground to avoid his knowing eyes.

  Micah joined me, sinking down and looking all loose-limbed and graceful. Wistfully, I wished that was one of the traits of being our kind of demon. But no, it was just Micah.

  "Want to talk about it?” he asked.

  "Not really.” But I knew he'd bug me until I spilled my guts. As the leader of San Antonio's Demon Underground, Micah had an over-developed sense of responsibility for anyone in his organization. And that included me . . . and Fang.

  Fang snuggled against me. YEP. MIGHT AS WELL SPILL IT NOW AND GET IT OVER WITH. IF YOU DON'T, I WILL.

  The hellhound could read the mind of anyone who was part-demon or part-vampire, and project his thoughts into theirs if he chose. Usually, I was the only one he chose to share with. Lucky me.

  HEY, Fang protested, DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE READING THE MIND OF MOST VAMPIRES AND DEMONS? LIKE WADING IN A CESSPOOL. NO THANKS.

  Gee, I guess I should be flattered.

  YOU BETCHA.

  Micah stared into my face. “Val?"

  I sighed. “It's nothing."

  IT'S SOMETHING, Fang corrected, making it clear he was communicating to both of us. TELL HIM.

  "Okay, okay. Ramirez told me to take a few days off after I . . . stopped . . . Lily."

  "Because you killed Dan's former fiancee?"

  "No, because I let Lola fully free for the first time."

  Micah nodded. “Oh, of course."

  "Yeah. He wasn't sure I could handle it.” Heck, I wasn't sure I could handle it. And though Lola had been fully satisfied for the first time in my life, it didn't mean she was content to lie back and bask in the feeling. Far from it. Instead, she seemed to want more and more all the time. “You were right,” I admitted. “I should have been feeding her a little bit of lust all along. It would've been a lot easier to handle now.” For years, I hadn't let her feed at all. I'd starved her, then suddenly let her gorge to her heart's content. In hindsight, neither was a good decision.

  Micah shook his head, looking exasperated. “I told you before, there is no Lola, no separate demon inside you. It's part of you."

  "I know, I know. It's just easier to think of my demon nature
as a separate person inside me.” Someone to blame my urges on, someone else to take the fall for the lust I had a problem controlling. Too weird that I had men lusting after me all the time and I was still a virgin. “Leave me some illusions, will ya?"

  "All right, but tell me what's wrong."

  "No biggie. I got bored, tired of having nothing to do.” When Micah continued waiting patiently, I admitted softly, “Okay, I've been waiting for Dan to call, just to reassure me he hasn't had second thoughts about me. That he doesn't think I'm a monster, and he doesn't blame me for enthralling him and everyone else.” And to check out that spark, that closeness we'd felt immediately afterward. “He hasn't called."

  YEAH, Fang said. ALL SHE DOES IS MOPE.

  "Do not.” I paced a lot, too.

  So, I'd gotten on my Valkyrie motorcycle, plopped Fang in his seat on the back and driven off to blow the cobwebs out of my brain. Somehow, I'd ended up here, at the gravesite of the woman who still complicated my life even in her death.

  Micah gave me a one-armed hug. “I thought Dan was fine with . . . Lola."

  I leaned into the hug, and slipped my arms around his waist., laying my head on his shoulder, feeling warmth suffuse me at the rare contact with a person of the male persuasion. “I thought so, too. But maybe it was just a side-effect of the spell Lola cast over him."

  "Maybe,” Micah murmured. “But don't worry, he'll come around."

  I wasn't so sure, but a demon girl could hope . . . “Thanks, I—"

  Fang suddenly spun around, his eyes flashing purple. VAMPIRES, he snarled, and leapt toward the three onrushing forms.

  Lola surged to the fore. I scrambled to my feet and whipped out one of the stakes I kept tucked in my jeans’ back waistband. As the first vamp jumped at me, his hands outstretched and fangs gleaming, I stabbed him right in the heart. He dropped like a rock.

  Fang had the female vamp engaged so I turned to check on Micah. He wasn't doing so well. He'd never made it off the ground and was pinned by a vamp who was sinking fangs into his neck. Terrified, I grabbed another stake. “Go fang yourself, buster.” I plunged the stake into the fangbanger's back as hard as I could.

 
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