Vampire Huntress (Rebel Angels Book 1), page 15
The epitaph read:
1896 — 1918
I don’t die; I sleep
Except, when I’d traced her name — Violet — given to me too because I’d been found at the statue’s feet, I’d spent years hoping she’d wake up and claim me as hers.
Yet she’d been dead for a hundred years.
And I wasn’t even human.
When I smashed my fist against the marble, I gasped with the pain, as my knuckles split.
But I needed it.
To wake up.
This is no dream, Feathery-death, this is a slab of hot reality.
You have to work out why that sky-blue cutie pie of crazy, and his merry band The Pure, want you so bad or—
Get out of my head, J.
You asked, remember?
For the first time in a month, this is my choice.
Since when was I a lodger? I own this mind, hooker, I don’t get my hoochie ass booted out.
Who am I?
I shrieked, tugging at my hair. I couldn’t breathe.
Rebel stroking Evie’s corpse lips… The tumble of mud in the tunnel… The rise and fall of Rebel’s sword thrusting into the vampire…
‘Stop that.’ Rebel shoved himself up, his back against the stone. He held his leathered arm across his red-rimmed eyes; this time his eyeliner had run. ‘Don’t go hurting yourself because of—’
‘You?’ When I turned my predator gaze on Rebel, he shrank back. ‘A liar? Kidnapper? Killer? How about we have that quiet chat about respect, trust, and how angels don’t fib to monsters?’
I was breathing too fast but I couldn’t control it.
Rebel scrabbled for Eclipse, at the same time as I drew Star. Twin violet flames lit up the snow shrouded cemetery.
Rebels eyes widened as he realized — at the same time as the twisted awareness coursed through me — that I was no longer his prisoner.
And he was now alone: a grieving angel in the snow.
I shuddered. Star’s power surged and swelled with mine, driving me higher and higher, until I shook to slash and burn the world.
I craved my freedom, rather than a Custodian: to carve out Rebel’s secrets bloody. Now I was no longer a prisoner of the witches, I wouldn’t be Rebel’s.
The powers coiled inside me, whispering that this was the only way to survive, save my sister, and stop the Hackney disappearances.
It was time for a bitch to wake up.
Yet weak and broken as he was, Rebel also knew the stakes of the fight; his lips thinned. Then he slashed his sword in a sizzling arc straight for my head.
As a teenager, I’d hacked and customized avatars for the geeks of the gaming world.
Hell, I’d been that geek gamer.
Angels, vampires, knights, or beasts… whatever a bitch desired to be, I’d woven their dream. Then watched, as my customers had disappeared into their drug of choice, far away from the real world.
Later, I’d followed them down the rabbit hole. But only because I’d been able to control the avatar. An avatar I’d created.
Real blokes? I hadn’t been able to control or create. Their free will had disappointed me.
Until I’d met Rebel.
A stream of flames hissed towards my face.
I spun away, raising Star.
My panted breaths were loud in the silence of Hackney Cemetery. Snowflakes landed on my pale eyelashes, melting when I blinked. A blast of light and tremors shook through me, as the blade reflected Rebel’s attack.
The bastard had been aiming directly at me.
I flinched, pinching my lips together to stop them quivering.
This was nothing like training. This was kill or be killed. No game.
I booted the olive wood spurge, flattening it against the snowy ground. When I stared at Rebel, shuddering with a raw hurt I didn’t know I could feel, even though I’d been the one to start this dance, I gasped.
Rebel crouched by the lion monument, his eyes sparking with the same righteous fury as the day he’d snapped Toben’s neck.
I backed against the hornbeam, snaking my arm around the icy trunk.
Rebel’s lips curled into a sneer. ‘What’s wrong, Feathers? You’re woeful bold taking on an angel, but then you reckon I’m broken. You never did understand. Or are you after getting off on kicking me, when I’ve just lost…’
I thrust away from the trunk, leaping over a granite gravestone. Rage buzzed through me, hungering to taste his pain, just as he’d hurt me. A flash blasted from my hands at him, but he dodged, springing onto the lion’s head. The wood spurge burst alight beneath him.
The Blood Familiars howled, hopping back from the blaze.
I was shocked by the fox brothers’ furious gekkering chatter as they turned, shooting me accusing glares over their shoulders. Then they skulked away, flashes of red weaving between the gravestones, into the oak woodland.
‘Hey, get your arses back here, foxies.’ The familiars ignored me, although their ears twitched. I swished Star through the air like a wand. ‘How about always serving me?’
‘Everything’s about you, so it is, princess,’ Rebel rubbed his throbbing temple. He might not be broken, but he was weak. And that’s when you shanked sharp. ‘I protect and train you. Risk my life. But it’s never enough for Lady Muck. I fell that day for you, but when have you ever fallen?’
The fox brothers had vanished into the gardens of Hackney Cemetery.
There was nothing left to control me now. No Custodian or Blood Familiars.
I’d even banished J.
I shuddered, stiffening. Rebel had taught me self-discipline in his sessions. But the chains had snapped.
Time to let out the dark.
‘Are you still channelling Bambi, wallad?’ I smirked, licking my lips. ‘You’re the kidnapper, and I’m the innocent prisoner. You shackled me that day, and when I win, I’ll be free.’
I roundhouse kicked Rebel, knocking him back.
He let out a shocked yowl. His knees buckled, and he staggered off the monument into the fire.
Bubbled in violet and soaring on Star’s power, I swaggered to Rebel, who was crawling out of the burning patch of undergrowth and beating frantically at his smouldering leathers. When he flung himself on his back, swinging Eclipse at me, I stamped on his wrist.
He howled, dropping the sword; I kicked away Eclipse.
‘Is your victory worth this?’ He panted
I straddled him, pinning his hands above his head. The first flash of true panic skittered across his face.
Unlike the time we’d trained together in the glade behind the House of Rose, Wolf, and Fox, and I’d pinned Rebel like this, he didn’t arch or buck beneath me. Instead, there was only a resigned stillness. And nothing hard in his red bondage trousers.
I grinned. ‘I won, and this time without tricks. We can be equals now. Partners.’
‘You do talk some shite.’
‘Then let’s not talk, pretty boy.’
A wicked rapture surged at my triumph. Rebel didn’t want to be equals? Then I’d be top boy.
Hurt me, kiss me, burn me…
I pushed my lips against Rebel’s, forcing my tongue inside his resisting mouth. I bit his lip, sucking at the sweet copper, trembling as the — slam — sweetness shivered through me.
His blood was mine. I needed it. And I’d take it.
Then I tasted the salt.
It soured the sweet, shaking me out of the ecstatic haze.
Rebel’s eyes were closed, and he was weeping.
His family had killed themselves. His home had been burnt to the ground. And I’d just tried to…
I scrambled off him, backing up onto my heels.
Rebel didn’t move. His face was turned away from me. His hands were clenched.
Slowly, I stood up. Everything ached. Now the angelic power had ebbed, it all felt mo
Is this what it was like for Rebel? When he soared on his righteousness?
I flushed as I held out my hand to him. When I didn’t say anything, he carefully opened his eyes. Then he glanced at me, startled. He wetted his lips, before grasping my hand and allowing me to haul him to his feet.
‘It turns out,’ I scuffed my foot backwards and forwards against a mossed gravestone, ‘I talk a lot of shite.’
He stared at me, before barking with laughter through his tears. ‘Nobody’s perfect. Not even a princess.’
When I raised Star, I hated that Rebel flinched. But then, I had just forced him to fight for his life. ‘We’ll search for your dad.’
Rebel touched the velvet pouch at his neck. ‘And your sister. But…’
‘No secrets. Honesty only from here on, or the angry monster comes out to play.’
‘No secrets,’ he wiped away his tears against the back of his sleeve, ‘just a promise. I’ll punish Eden and the bloody gits who killed my family.’
After what Eden had put me through? The bastard was top of my List of Asses to Kick too.
Yet I reckoned there was more to this than a feud between angels and vampires, or even Rebel and Eden.
I didn’t know why, but I was also top of Eden’s List.
I was free. I’d defeated Rebel. Yet I was still the hunted.
I’d passed from Dr Watt’s Walk onto the boggy heath of Chapel lawns, striding briskly through the crisp snow, crunching my boots on each step, when I’d sensed, like an electric buzzing in my shoulder blades, that I was being watched.
A Big Bad lounged in the shadows of Abney Park Chapel: a fanged stalker.
I stopped, clutching my plastic shopping bag protectively to my chest. I’d broken into the back of a closed corner shop for essentials: water, baked beans, and painkillers for Rebel’s migraine.
It’d been a risk though, taking the precious cargo.
I glanced at a silver birch, whose white trunk was slashed with diamond wounds, before stashing my shopping at its base. I straightened, eyeing the path back towards Rebel and edged out Star from my waist. Finally, I swaggered towards the sharp spired chapel. It rose up: bleak and Gothic.
As the shadow of the Victorian stone chapel swallowed me, for a moment I couldn’t see.
Then I was spun, a hard body tight against mine. Tall and powerful. A mouth murmured hot against my cheek, ‘What’s with the dagger, babe? This is a Christmas day parlay.’
Parlay? The Geek Fang could’ve been one of my gamer mates.
I elbowed Geek Fang in the guts. When his grip loosened, I reversed our holds, slamming him back until he was pinned against the dilapidated chapel. Slates tumbled from the roof at the impact, shattering across our shoulders.
We both yelped in unison.
Geek Fang laughed, but I scowled.
I raised Star to his throat.
The army of vampires…skittering on the roof…trying to burn us alive…
Geek Fang’s charcoal-grey eyes widened.
I stilled, the blade slicing into the delicate olive skin across his neck; crimson beaded and teared down, staining his black shirt.
The Fang looked like he’d stepped out of the eighteenth-century military, in long red army coat, but it hung open, over casual black jeans and leather boots.
But then Eden had been beautiful too.
I pressed the knife harder, not understanding why I was hesitating, even as Geek Fang’s aromatic scent wrapped me in warmth, like a clove studded orange.
Rebel had trained me to know one thing: between hunter and vampire, one of us equalled dead.
So why wasn’t I pushing in the shank? And why wasn’t the Fang struggling to stop me?
Why wasn’t he fighting back?
‘Call me babe again,’ I hissed, ‘and I’ll decapitate you with a butter knife.’
Geek Fang sniggered. ‘Creative. And painful. But do you always kill first, kiss later?’
I wrinkled my nose. ‘That’s not nice.’
Geek Fang pushed his hips against mine, with a smirk. ‘Who said I was nice?’
To my surprise, instead of burning his head from his shoulders, I slapped Geek Fang, and then shoved away from him as quickly as possible, back into the patch of sunlight beyond the chapel’s shadow.
We stood staring at each other, as I panted…
And why was this all suddenly…so confusing?
Geek Fang slouched back against the chapel wall like it was a bed. He crossed his arms behind his head, with a small, secret smile, as if he knew what I was thinking.
It made me want to slap him again.
‘All right, parlay time.’ He rolled his shoulders and widened his legs, like he was settling down to sleep. ‘I’m Ash.’
‘And I don’t put a name to Fangs. It’d be like naming the cow you’re about to butcher and eat.’
Ash’s eyes sparked: silver flashes. Dangerous as a panther.
I took one step back.
Then Ash blinked, and his eyes were normal again.
For a vampire.
Except…Ash was different. The fiend surged under my skin, seeking to touch him and whispering he was something new.
Rebel had admitted that not all vampires were the same, but that didn’t mean they were good. Yet Rebel was a bad angel, and I hadn’t killed him.
I paced back to the silver birch, before steeling myself. ‘Hold out your hands.’
‘You know, that’s never a sentence that ends well.’
I sighed. ‘I’m not going chop or burn happy, bro.’
Ash pushed away from the wall, sauntering towards me, although he winced as he stepped into the light. He ran one hand through his sable wave of hair thoughtfully.
I couldn’t help the swell of desire to tangle my own hand through his mane and smooth it. Not push him to his knees, like I would with Rebel, but simply stroke the wildness.
For once, I didn’t crave to control. Ash wasn’t an avatar. He was the gamer.
‘Even my nails are clean on this special day,’ Ash held out his hands for my inspection.
I traced the strong palms, turning them over and caressing the long fingers.
No steel claws.
‘Wolverine up,’ I tapped his knuckle.
‘I don’t have that mod,’ Ash pulled his hands out of mine and shook them.
My mouth twisted. ‘You’re not pure enough?’
Ash dragged his scarlet army coat closer around himself. His eyes were suddenly vulnerable and fragile, as he looked away. ‘I’m not pure, Violet. I wish I could be for you.’ It took a moment for me to register that he’d used my name. But then he brightened. ‘I’ve got a shooter. You pull a sword… I go bang, bang.’
I lifted my eyebrow. ‘Fight a lot of hunters then?’
He shrugged. ‘I don’t fight. Unless someone fights me.’
There it was again. That sense Ash wasn’t the same as Eden and his army. And that I’d been fed only secrets and half-truths by Rebel.
How could I be this relaxed, leaning against a silver birch, with my shopping at my feet in the snow, chatting to a vampire, like he was some bloke from Utopia Estate?
Yet this was the most…human…conversation I’d had since the supernatural had fallen into my world.
I rubbed my hand against the rough bark. ‘Your lot don’t call me Violet. Get down with the monster insulting already.’
Ash flinched. Then he pushed against me, gently but insistently, holding me against the birch.
I could’ve thrown Ash off, but I didn’t want to give up the thud of his heart, the heat of his cheek, and his heavy coat warming me against the winter breeze.
In the arms of a Geek Fang, I felt…safe.
He stroked a light touch to the base of my neck and I shuddered; explosions of buzzing nerve endings, for once nothing but pure pleasure, radiated down from my shoulder blades.
As I quivered, he murmured, ‘Y
I laughed. ‘Yeah, got the point.’
‘Do you?’ He licked up my neck, over my quick beating artery. My breath faltered. How had I forgotten the fangs? Maybe about the time he’d been calling me sexy? Or maybe Phoenix had been right and I craved death. ‘And your blood? Just like you, it’s powerful.’
Ash’s fangs grazed my neck.
I should’ve been disgusted. Furious. Terrified.
Instead, I closed my eyes and flew on the thrill.
A growl, and the reassuring weight of Ash was lifted away from me.
Bellows and snarls echoed through the heath and up to the grey snow skies.
Bereft, I opened my eyes.
Rebel — in all his righteous wings out glory — towered next to a veined marble memorial. He’d yanked Ash away from me, tossing him into a patch of dead bracken.
Rebel’s glance at me was assessing. Then he unsheathed his sword.
Ash sprawled in the bracken and beamed. ‘What’s with the possessive boyfriend act, angel.’
It was like two gang leaders at school fighting over the same girl. Romeo and Juliet Hackney style.
Ash’s hand edged towards his waist.
Heart pounding, I strode towards Rebel. ‘Put your dick away, punk boy, this isn’t a pissing competition.’
Rebel blushed, but he slipped his sword back.
Ash rested his hand across his stomach, as if he’d never intended to go for his weapon.
‘What’s with the Don Juan act, Brigadier?’ Rebel hauled Ash up by the collar of his coat, backhanding him and splitting his lip.
Ash hissed, before clouting Rebel in the guts.
I shook my head as I dived between them. ‘So much for your I don’t fight routine.’
I gripped Ash by the arm, but he shook me off.
‘I didn’t lie,’ Ash was watching me closely like it mattered to him that I believed him. ‘I said, unless someone fights me. Including crazy retro angels.’
Rebel roared, launching himself at Ash, but Ash laughed as he dodged. Then he slipped off his army coat, and his wings burst out in dove grey majesty.