You can read the next part of One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews here:
Saturday, 30 July 2016
Saturday, 23 July 2016
You can read the next part of One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews here:
Friday, 22 July 2016
Teddy Jo took another step forward.
Roman’s dark eyebrows furrowed. “Watch it, birdie, before I break those wings off. I already got one of you. I have no problem adding another.”
The elevator doors opened. Twelfth floor. Rogan pushed the button, forcing the doors to close, and peered at Cornelius. “Is this my replacement?”
What? “I didn’t replace you!”
“Of course not. I’m irreplaceable.”
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Vlad slowed down, dropping us onto the manicured part of the lawn that surrounded the fortress as if keeping the forest at bay. “Stay here,” he said, striding toward the entrance.
I caught up to him instead. “What part of ‘we do this together’ did you translate as ‘leave Leila behind?’” I hissed, keeping my voice down since we weren’t the only ones with supernatural hearing.
His aura broke through his inner shields. Even though he’d released only a sliver of his power, it still felt as if I’d just gotten subconsciously scalded. If I were anyone else, I’d be terrified at pissing off the legendary Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a Dracula, a.k.a don’t-ever-call-him-that-if-you-want-to-live, but I was Mrs. Vlad Dracul, thank you very much. Uncrowned prince of darkness or no, Vlad wasn’t pulling this crap with me.
“We can fight about it until Branson hears us, or we can get him together quietly,” I went on. “Your choice.”
The high-arched portico covering the fortress’s main entrance exploded, jetting out fire and pieces of stone. I ducked out of instinct, but Vlad walked right toward the burning chaos, the fire parting to let him pass.
“Does that answer your question?” he asked.
Before I could respond, a wall of fire sprang up, spreading until it encompassed the entire castle. Guess he’d changed his mind about being stealthy! Worse, now I couldn’t follow him. Unlike Vlad, I wasn’t fireproof.
“That’s cheating!” I shouted. No need to talk softly now.
I thought I heard him laugh, but between the roar of the fire and the cracking of stone, I couldn’t be sure. Damn Vlad and his archaic ideas about women in combat, particularly me. He’d rather I be under heavy guard back at his castle in Romania. I probably would be, if an enemy hadn’t blown up his castle and kidnapped me from its rubble months ago. Otherwise, Vlad would never have agreed to go back on his “no wife allowed on killing missions” rule.
Or, I thought, eying the wall of fire only he could pass through, it seemed he’d just partially gone back on it. My teeth ground. I could stand here and futilely seethe, or I could make myself useful. Besides, revenge was a dish best served cold, and I would get him back. I just had to wait until everything around me wasn’t on fire.
I rubbed the belt buckle again, seeking the essence imprint on it. Once I had it, my surroundings changed into the richly-furnished room that our quarry was still standing in. Branson wasn’t looking at his phone anymore. He was staring out the window in horror at flames that went up all the way to the roof. Branson knew only one vampire in the world could control fire this way, and it was the same vampire he’d been caught betraying.
Then Branson ran, which I expected, but he didn’t head for the door. Instead, he pressed a panel near a one of the room’s many paintings. A hidden door swung open, and he darted inside a steel-lined room and closed the door before I could mentally switch channels.
Branson has a panic room! I sent to Vlad once I was tuned into him.
Vlad paused on his way up a long, curved staircase, giving an amused glance toward the second floor. “Then he’s in for another surprise.”
His words reached me through our link instead of the normal way, so the continual portico collapse must be drowning out everything else. Once, I had hated my psychic abilities so much that I’d attempted suicide, but now, they came in handy.
A red Porsche bursting through the wall of fire surprised me into dropping my link to Vlad. The car’s speed caused it to fishtail as soon as it hit the grassy terrain. Glowing green eyes revealed that the driver was a vampire, but it couldn’t be Branson. He’d locked himself in the panic room. With Vlad busy trying to bust into that, I was the only person standing in the way of this driver and his freedom. Decision made, I chased after the car. If it reached the driveway, I’d be screwed. Unlike Vlad, I couldn’t fly, and the Porsche could go much faster than me once it was on flat, paved ground.
The car shot forward with a burst of even greater speed. Damn, the driver must’ve spotted me. He was only a dozen feet away from the driveway. I put everything I had into a desperate lunge. If I could reach the car’s bumper, I could flip it –
I ducked when multiple cracks smashed through the back windshield. Two bullets whizzed over my head, and the third one struck me in the shoulder instead of the heart. From the burn that grew instead of going away, the bullets were silver. Of course. Any other ammunition was useless against vampires, as another vampire would know.
Pain caused my powers to flare. A long, sizzling whip shot from my right hand and I cracked it toward the car. The electricity it contained caused it to tear through Porsche’s frame as if it were butter. More gunshots had me spinning to avoid another volley of bullets, and I used my velocity to full advantage. When I swung back around, my electrical whip had lengthened, and I lashed the car with all the force I had in me.
It split in two, the front section still going several feet before the car’s weight caused it to cave in. A fire broke out, and I couldn’t tell if it was those flames that made the driver scream or if I’d sliced through more than the car’s frame. I stayed low as I circled around to the driver’s door, my whip crackling as I readied it to strike again.
“Drop the gun and get out, or -”
I didn’t get a chance to complete my threat. Flames shot over the car, too thick and numerous to be from the electrical fire. Then Vlad slammed down next to me, the ground shuddering from the force of his impact. He shoved me behind him and rounded on the burning car.
“You shot at my wife?” The flames intensified. High-pitched, panicked screams made me wince from more than their assault on my enhanced hearing.
I grabbed his arm. “Stop it, we might need him alive.”
Vlad glanced at me and saw the blood from the bullet wound in my shoulder. At once, his arm became so hot that my hand started to catch fire. I let him go, and he turned back to the car with a smile that made further argument useless.
I knew that smile. It meant someone was about to die.
Saturday, 16 July 2016
We landed in Cheshire, which thankfully was only a short trip from London. A chauffeur was already waiting for us, and the unfamiliar driver whisked us away to a manor that looked as if it belonged on the show Downton Abbey. The driver dropped us off at the front of the grand structure and then sped away.
The manor’s double doors opened before Mencheres could knock, revealing a startlingly handsome vampire with vivid turquoise eyes and shoulder-length, auburn hair. I had time to notice these particulars about his face because after my first glance, I kept my gaze firmly directed on that. Vlad muttered a curse. The auburn-haired vampire let out an aggravated huff.
“You said it was urgent, Mencheres, so do come in.”
“Ian,” Mencheres said in a chiding tone. “You should have at least gotten dressed.”
Ian glanced down, as if just now realizing that the only thing he wore was a very intimately placed silver piercing. “Do you see a seven foot tall woman on my face?” he asked in a conversational tone. “No, because I stopped everything I was doing and emptied out my house when you said you had urgent, secret business, so the least you could do is not scold me for failing to put on a tux, too.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. Hello seemed too trivial. Sorry to interrupt your cunnilingus! was probably more appropriate, yet I wasn’t about to say that, either.
“Ah, but who’s this?” Ian went on, angling his head to get a better look at me. “Mmmm, isn’t she stunning? If she’s my consolation prize for sending everyone else away, I accept-”
“She’s my wife,” Vlad growled before I could correct the misassumption. “And if your cock twitches one more time while you look at her, I’ll burn it off.”
“Vlad, you swore,” Mencheres said low.
“Castration won’t kill him,” Vlad responded at once. “His life was all I promised, and his extremities will grow back.”
Instead of being concerned, Ian laughed and gestured for us to come inside. “Here I thought today was going to be boring. Now, I simply must know what’s brought the infamous Impaler to my door, especially if it’s so important, my sire made you swear an oath not to kill me.”
His sire. I cast a surprised look at Mencheres. Ian didn’t seem like the type that the reserved, formal vampire would choose for a member of his line. Exhibit A: what had Ian been thinking, putting a silver loop there? He might not even notice if Vlad burned his cock off. It had to be burning like hell right now.
“Are you quite sure you don’t know anyone else, Mencheres?” Vlad said, ignoring the invitation to enter.
“Few vampires are foolish enough to risk the Law Guardians’ wrath by practicing magic, and fewer still are alive after such recklessness,” Mencheres replied. Ian shrugged, not disputing either charge. “Out of those, Ian is the only one I trust with our task – that is, after I secure his word,” he finished.
“My word? Mencheres, you wound me,” Ian said, sounding hurt.
“Do not trifle with me.” Mencheres’s harsh change in tone startled me. I had never heard him raise his voice before. “I know you, Ian. You would endanger Vlad merely for your own amusement, let alone if someone offered you financial incentive. That is why you will now promise to show him and his wife the same loyalty you would show to me, and you will swear it on the love you have for me.”
Ian’s mouth curled in what could only be called a pout. “That’s not fair.”
“Swear it,” Mencheres insisted. “And before you argue, when was the last time I asked you for a favor? Would you truly deny me now?”
“No,” Ian said, sounding as if the word soured in his mouth. “You are one of only four people in the world that I would never deny. Very well, I swear on my love for you that I will show Tepesh and his wife the same loyalty I’d give to you during the duration of whatever task you’re about to talk me into.”
A vow with conditions, but then Vlad had had conditions, too. Mencheres turned to Vlad. “See?” he said in his usual serene manner. “Now that that’s been settled, we can proceed.”
Vlad eyed Ian in a way that made me wonder if he was about to take my arm, turn around, and leave. Finally, he shrugged as if to say, so be it.
“My vow is void if you betray me or Leila,” Vlad said, flashing Ian his most charming smile. “And in that case, death will be a kindness compared to what I’ll do to you.”
Ian rolled his eyes. “Save your threats. Thanks to the promise Mencheres forced from me, you don’t need them. Now, what sort of magical trouble are you intending to get into? It must be more than casting a simple spell or Mencheres could’ve helped you himself.”
“It does involve a spell, but we don’t want to cast one,” Vlad said. “We need to break one. To do that, we’ll need access to the most skilled practitioners in the world. No posers or dabblers. Master sorcerers and their ilk only.”
Ian cast an annoyed look at Mencheres. “If you wanted to get me killed, you could’ve picked a nicer way to do it.”
“This is important, Ian,” Mencheres said quietly.
“Why?” Ian asked, turning to Vlad now. “Getting tired of offing your enemies the fiery way?”
I answered before Vlad could. “[censored for spoilers].”
Ian looked at me with utter coldness, as if he could care less whether I dropped dead at his feet that second. Then, he looked at Mencheres. In quick succession, affection, resignation, and irritation skipped over his features. I didn’t know what to make of that mishmash or of Ian’s admitted tendency to back-stab, but Mencheres must trust that he would hold to his word or we wouldn’t be here.
Finally, Ian’s expression settled into cheerful cockiness. When he flashed a smile at me that turned up the volume on his already-dazzling looks, I actually felt an instinctive feminine flutter that I immediately squashed.
“Who wants to live forever?” Ian said. “Right, then, we’ll start with a magic speakeasy in the heart of London, and I do hope you’re as tough as Tepesh, my lovely, raven-haired poppet, because this will get dicey.”