Vampire huntress rebel a.., p.2

Vampire Huntress (Rebel Angels Book 1), page 2

 

Vampire Huntress (Rebel Angels Book 1)
 



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  My arse was numb; I shook. Then I turned my head to the side and hurled.

  Someone nuke me from orbit.

  And you call me the drama queen.

  You’re back, then? Way to help a girl.

  I was never gone. And who says I’ve ever helped you?

  J was like having both an angel and a devil trapped in my mind. I never knew which one would battle for control and sass me.

  ‘So, I made a holy show of myself before,’ the punk peered down at me. He lounged against the glass front of Spirit and Fire with infuriating ease, his hands in his pockets.

  I mumbled something. I’m not sure it was English.

  Then the fog cleared and…

  My gaze cooled. The numbness of my arse was because someone — this punk — had carried, and then dropped me, with my head between my knees, on the veined marble steps outside my own office.

  Except I reckon it’s not your office, if you’re fired.

  ‘Where’s everyone else?’

  ‘With that muppet of a boss. I trapped them in when you swooned, and then—'

  ‘I don’t swoon. Who are you?’

  ‘My name’s Rebel.’ The punk took a wary step towards me.

  ‘Rebel? What the hell sort of name is that?’

  His eyes sparked with flames, and I gasped. ‘The sort you earn.’

  I scrabbled up, clasping my saddlebag to me like a shield. I couldn’t taste anything now but my own watery sick. The dizzy exhaustion from my migraine was catching up on me.

  Migraine induced hallucinations…? Today was messed up.

  When Rebel stuck out his hand towards me, like he was following through on a learnt script, I shied back. ‘You get me kicked out from the one job I’ve ever… You’ve no idea how hard it was for someone like me to even be allowed through the door of a company like that. And then you reckon I’ll shake hands with you?’

  He raised his pierced eyebrow. ‘Cop on! You didn’t need me to lose that job. You did that all on you own.’

  Boom! The collared redhead has just read you some realness.

  I shoved Rebel against the clouded glass skyscraper, pinning my arm across his throat. The safety pins in his ripped black t-shirt pricked my guts. His breath was fast and hot across my cheek, but he stilled. His thick eyelashes curved onto his cheeks as he looked down. ‘Belt me one, if it’ll make you feel any better, princess.’

  It coiled — like it’d been coiling for months now — a darkness.

  I could mess up his sweet face. Teach him what happened on the Utopia Estate when you disrespected. Take what was offered sacrificial from the stranger.

  This angel.

  But I didn’t believe in angels. And definitely not ones that fell out of the ceiling into my lap.

  I snorted. ‘I don’t gank crazies.’

  I pulled away from Rebel, but couldn’t help waiting for the moment his eyes opened, before I marched towards Hackney.

  Gizem was locked with Stanbury. The worst that could happen to her was dying from boredom, until security freed them. But I had a sister who’d be home from college and I needed to get back and explain just why I’d lost my job…almost a month before Christmas.

  I pulled my jacket tighter around myself against the bite of the wind as I trudged past the Caribbean supermarket — which was a red and green vegetable blaze in the grey day — and the boarded-up Vietnamese one next door. The line of empty properties squatted in tattered threads, amongst Turkish kebab shops and the hard glare of CCTV cameras. A greasy pall blasted from a burger bar.

  I grimaced, wiping my face.

  Don’t look now, your Feathery-highness, but someone may be following our fabulousness.

  The pretty boy in red leather will get himself beaten up looking like that on these streets.

  My, one would almost reckon you cared.

  Don’t push it.

  Or what...? You’ll punch yourself in the head or not talk to yourself?

  I grinned.

  I’ll stop playing, that’s what I’ll do. Hasn’t this all been a game? Since I was born?

  I’m hurt. You’re mine. I raised you. I’m inside you. I don’t play about that.

  I shivered. The bass of a grime song blared from a beat-up Ford cruising by, pounding my migraine harder. I stopped, before calling over my shoulder, ‘You’re not stealthy, bro.’

  Rebel’s head popped out from a side alley. He bit his lip, before sauntering towards me, as if his pale skin wasn’t blushing. He shrugged. ‘Look, I’m not awful good with all the…blathering and…’ His pink tongue licked out, swiping his lips. ‘It’s been a long time, what with…’

  ‘Being locked up?’

  ‘How’d you know?’

  ‘Wild guess.’ A gang of kids on bikes circled like eagles. They’d pulled up their hoodies and dragged scarves over their faces. Their gazes were sharp and assessing. ‘Trust me, you’ll be shanked wandering around all punk rocker without a clue.’ One of the boys spat in front of a bin; another swiped his hand through the globules of spit. A drug deal gone down. Then they both patted their navy schoolbags like a salute. We all knew the warning; they were carrying a knife, ammonia, or meat cleaver. I snatched Rebel’s hand, tugging him after me. ‘What is it with me and strays?’ I muttered. ‘You don’t even know my name.’

  ‘I do: Violet. But your mates call you Feathers. It’d be a fine thing if I could call you…’

  I crushed Rebel’s wrist; he howled.

  ‘Listen here, you’re not my mate. And I don’t need a fanboy. So, you’re going to tell me how you know all this. And if it involves cameras and the internet...?’

  I rolled his wrist from side-to-side; the bones rubbed against each other with a crunch.

  ‘Jesus, will you stop that woman and wise up. I already told you,’ Rebel’s smile through his pain was suddenly dazzling, ‘I’m an angel.’

  ‘Yeah, and I’m a unicorn, not the Bitch of Utopia Estate.’

  He laughed. The punk stood there quivering in my hold and he laughed.

  I threw down his wrist like it’d burnt me. ‘You’ve been watching me?’

  Shame flooded Rebel’s face. He dropped his gaze to the pavement, rubbing at his bruised wrist. ‘Can’t help it. I’m addicted. A month now.’

  ‘You…?’

  The slam of sugary copper couldn’t be because of Rebel…? I imagined the taste of his blood in my throat and its sweet kick, before shaking my head. I was a freak, but angels weren’t real.

  I staggered back from him. ‘Whatever you are, don’t come near me, you get me?’

  ‘It’s not safe…’

  A flash of silver, tumble of black, and then Rebel was yanked into a side alley.

  I froze.

  A bald bastard clutching a knife — his face tattooed with wings, like birds had exploded free from his mind — pinned Rebel to the redbrick wall, before punching him in the guts. A hook to the chin, and Rebel crashed into overflowing recycling bins.

  Rebel struggled up, shoving back the attacker.

  ‘Just give him your phone,’ I growled because I’d seen enough muggings to know the drill.

  Distracted, Rebel glanced over at me, and missed Bird Tattoo’s knee to his balls.

  I winced, creeping closer. But when I peered into the shadows, the sun glinted off the shank…

  My knees buckled; I swayed. The new powers burning through me since my twenty-first meant nothing in the face of that blade.

  And despite a flush of guilt, I abandoned Rebel and I ran.

  2

  Shanks, blades, or knives: call them what you like, I hate the bastards. The sleek primitive power that promises respect, but offers up some poor kid’s grave.

  Yet there’s nothing like the gasp as your mates watch the tip slash, and knowing one more push to the left or right could save or end your enemy’s life. Then as the quarry’s wide eyes watch yours, waiting on your decision, even if you never intended to kill them before you were drawn into the dance


  In that moment, you’re the god.

  When you grow up as an orphan, alone on Utopia Estate in London, the centre of drugs, gangs, and prostitutes, you learn how to survive.

  As a kid, I’d been nicknamed the Bitch of Utopia.

  I hadn’t just looked different, even if I’d tried to hide behind sunglasses, I’d learnt to pull off that edge of swagger, which is backed up by a shank.

  Until the day the blade had been turned on me.

  When I finally collapsed onto the faded purple swings in the playground on the Utopia Estate, holding myself against the biting cold of the chains, I knew why I’d deserted Rebel in the alleyway, leaving him to the mugger with the wing tattoos.

  It was the memory of a knife cutting into my neck. And Gizem’s scar.

  I sighed, scuffing my foot in and out of a muddy track as I swung.

  Drizzle ghosted from torn clouds; rain tears caught and shone down the slide. The broken monkey bars bared themselves like fangs. Somewhere high in Tower Block B, a baby bawled.

  Hey, scaredy cat, you left our pretty boy to bleed.

  The bloke — angel — wears a silver skull on his chain bondage trousers, J. If he can’t handle himself, he deserves to be knifed.

  My, we are in a lying to ourselves mood today. The first jackass you ever kissed, right here on these swings…

  I scrambled to jump off mid-arc, hissing as I landed hard on my ankle. I caught my sunglasses before they could tumble from my nose.

  …holds a knife to your throat, and then—

  I don’t need the replay.

  You need reminding we control, we’re not controlled. I didn’t raise you that way.

  You didn’t raise me at all.

  Gizem warned you not to sneak out of Jerusalem Children’s Home to see tall and shanky, but you ignored her. And that’s right, Little Miss Fabulous here warned you too.

  Then Gizem, your best mate, gets a blade in the face for rescuing you and a scar as a memento.

  Now go back and rescue pretty in punk.

  I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jeans. ‘I can’t hear you,’ I slung my saddlebag onto my shoulder, ‘too busy ignoring you.’

  I glanced up, caught in the shadow of the two concrete and purple tower blocks that glowered from either side. I pressed my sleeve across my mouth; the air was thick with traffic fumes and the stench of cooking fats.

  When I booted a beer can skittering, it crunched under the lopsided merry-go-round. Then I prowled towards the stairs, which wound up Tower Block A.

  A gang of my boyfriend, Toben’s, drug soldiers lounged on the concrete steps up into the block. They smoked joints with bored swagger as they waited for the deals to go down.

  They nodded to me.

  I slipped my iPod out of my jacket pocket, worming in the earbuds, whilst I plunged into the stairwell’s shadows.

  The heartbeat bass of EELS’ “Mental”, pulsed in time with my migraine. Then the aggressive, despairing vocals kicked in, along with the shock of the drums; I was caught in the disturbed howl, so raw it ripped at my soul.

  This wasn’t my iPod — it was Jade’s.

  I must’ve picked up my sister’s by mistake this morning, whilst rushing to get ready for the big meeting with Stanbury.

  My sister? I’d always been alone, but Jade was the brightest point in my world. I’d adopted her from the streets, or she’d adopted me when she’d agreed to stay. Either way, we called each other ‘sisters’.

  And she’d become the only family I had.

  I lifted my hand to pull out the earbud, as if I’d peeked at something private, because someone’s playlist is their life stripped bare.

  Then I hesitated.

  I’d heard this song playing through the thin walls between my room and Jade’s for days now.

  I swiped down the list.

  It was the album my little sister had fallen asleep to: Beautiful Freak.

  Jade had been quieter for weeks, although with the whole emo black hair with pink streaks and stripy socks look going on, it was hard to tell. It was simply a mask to hide the shy girl I’d rescued.

  Like me, Jade had been through the system and thrown out at sixteen. Unlike me, she’d had no one watching her back to save her from the monsters.

  Until she met me.

  Yeah, I have a thing about rescuing strays.

  Since the new term, Jade had been hanging around with a boy at college; she hadn’t hidden the love bites. But quietness, love bites, and alternative rock music don’t add up to an intervention.

  An interrogation though…?

  I wrenched out the earbuds, winding the iPod neatly, before dropping it back into my pocket.

  Bang – I startled, as a door slammed, echoing somewhere higher up the block.

  Only for thick fingers to wrap themselves around my neck, and dash me against the graffiti-sprayed stairwell.

  My jaw cracked together, slicing my teeth through my tongue. When the tangy blood hit, I groaned, closing my eyes. The memory of a flame-haired Irishman consumed me…

  Yet when the hold at my throat tightened, and I opened my eyes again, I found myself staring into the narrowed gaze of Bisi, the top boy of the Estate.

  And for top boy read boss.

  Thinking violet.

  Nothing: not even an irritated itch.

  I was as calm as a zen master.

  Go violet…or…you wouldn’t like to piss me off violet style.

  Nothing again, except now I’d sniggered into the outraged face of Bisi.

  The tiniest kid in class, Bisi had always been the first to get medieval with knives, acid, or guns. He’d taken over the gang when he was thirteen.

  Reckon that’s a joke?

  There’s bros who did too, until they found out first-hand that Bisi was more addicted to that moment when the knife goes in than I’d ever been.

  And yeah, Bisi reckoned he was a god.

  Why can’t I find my inner mojo, J?

  If I don’t get to play with the punk, you don’t get to play with your toys.

  Remember what I said about J being both angel and devil? I reckon J was all pouting devil right now.

  I clawed at Bisi’s fingers; panic choked me.

  ‘Baby girl, this is your man’s time for selling food.’ That’s what all drugs (spice, weed, cocaine, or whatever met demand), were called – food – as if it was as innocent as baby milk in a bottle. ‘So, what looks shady is why you be back from your…?’ Bisi thumbed up and down like he was shooting Big Bads on his controller.

  Wrong console, bitch.

  I shuddered. ‘The only reason I stay with Toben is because you’re cuckooing my apartment.’

  Here’s a story London style.

  One day a fat cuckoo shoves you out of your nest, moves in guns and food, and promises if you keep your mouth shut, then rainbows and unicorns… sorry, wrong fairy tale…then holes won’t be hacked through your heart.

  Or your sister’s.

  Bisi grinned; his golden teeth gleamed. ‘Then what you be doing here?’

  For a moment, I gaped.

  What kind of screwed sidewise day was it when getting fired had slipped my mind? ‘I lost my job.’

  Bisi’s laugh was like a seal suffocating on its own smugness. ‘The good girl geek ain’t such an angel, after all.’

  I shrugged but couldn’t help the grin. ‘Nobody’s perfect.’

  ‘Seems to run with you up in Number 333. First your man’s short—’

  My grin died. ‘How much does he owe?’

  Bisi shoved me back, before letting go of his chokehold. I could feel each finger still bruised deep. ‘It doesn’t matter. Short is short. Now I have to make his family suffer.’

  I hissed in my breath, but the shank was at my gut before I could stumble away. I panted, in and out, so fast, the stairwell spectre-dimmed.

  Only the tip of the blade pressed at my kidneys, worming at the khaki, as if nuzzling kisses.

  ‘I
t’s just business, baby girl.’ Bisi’s stiffie pressed into me, but it was the excitement of the knife, not the closeness to me, which had him hard. ‘You know the score. Your man needs some way to pay me back, so we’ve come to an arrangement. I clear his debt, and he sells me Jade.’

  My boyfriend was planning to sell my sister to the sadistic boss of the estate? Blokes settled their debts in pain and sex. Women and men nothing but slaves. But I’d rescued my sister once already from that life. No way was she going back to it.

  I roared, nutting back my head.

  I heard Bisi’s surprised oomph, just before he jabbed the knife forward and twisted.

  I gasped at the clear brightness of the pain, as he stabbed me. The blade was inside me, alien and wrong. My skin was sticky with my own blood. Yet all I could think was…

  Toben had sold my little sister. I hadn’t kept her safe.

  Bisi’s breathing hitched as he eased the blade in further.

  A familiar light-headedness invaded me; I stared unseeingly at the arm snaking around my waist.

  I could hardly think, but if I had to beg, there was only one person – J – real or not, who could help me.

  J, I’ll rescue the punk and I’ll never ignore you again…please.

  You only had to ask.

  At once, the violet built, like ozone on the ocean air.

  The power that terrified me because of the nightmares it whispered.

  And those nightmares were me.

  Bones and feathers, sugar and blood, all was crushed in the maelstrom of my howl. Whatever had been hidden inside, the fever had birthed it phoenix-like from the ashes.

  And now I no longer knew if I was even human.

  I snapped my elbow back into Bisi’s guts, stamping on his foot and grinding down the heel of my boot. He hollered, letting go of the blade’s handle.

  I spun away, kicking his feet out from under him.

  Then I reached behind my back, struggling in the slippery blood to get a tight grip, before yanking out the shank with a sickening jerk. When I staggered, Bisi snatched my ankle, tipping me on top of him.

  His teeth glinted, as he rubbed himself against me in the struggle. ‘I chose the wrong sister.’

  I slapped him, my bloody hands marking his cheek, and then it was me pressing the knife to Bisi’s chest. The handle of the Zombie Slayer glowed in the shadowy stairwell, as the tip of its blade broke the skin.

 

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