Read An Excerpt

by Jeannie Holmes

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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Varik leaned against the trunk of his Corvette, arms folded across his chest and dark sunglasses hiding his eyes. He’d taken off his denim jacket and the black dress shirt he wore clung to his broad shoulders and accentuated his well-toned biceps.

He watched Alex exit the bar and his pulse quickened as the sunlight turned her auburn hair into a fiery veil. She hesitated and then walked toward him. He could see her eyes, could tell they were a mix of amber and emerald. She pulled a pair of sunglasses from her pocket and slipped them over her hypnotic gaze. The urge to sweep her into his arms was almost overwhelming, but the ache along his jaw reminded him that he no longer had a place in her life.

“What are you doing here?” She stopped a few feet in front of him and folded her arms beneath her chest, mirroring his stance.

“Getting the hell knocked out of me, apparently.” He raised his hand to gently touch the cut in the corner of his mouth.

“It’d take more than one punch to knock the hell out of you.”

Varik smiled then winced. Stephen had caught him off-guard, but he’d make certain it didn’t happen again. He reached his hand out to her then let it fall when she pulled back. “It’s good to see you, Alex.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

He took a deep breath and jammed his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. “The Bureau sent me to check on the investigation’s progress.”

“I thought you were retired.”

“Not anymore, thanks to Damian.”

“Why did he send you?”

“He seems to think you need my help.”

“You mean he sent you to spy on me.”

“That’s the second time I’ve been accused of spying today. If you want to see it that way, then so be it, but I am here to help.”

“You can help by getting in your car and leaving. I’m doing just fine, thank you.”

“Is that so?” Varik leaned forward, looking at her over the top of his shades. Her sunglasses reflected his molten-gold eyes. “Then why were you risking blood-hunger on-scene?”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Lieutenant Lockwood was very accommodating.”

Alex scowled. “I was under control.”

“Rii-ight”— he drew the word out— “sure you were.” He looked around the parking lot and the surrounding area. Cars turned into a strip mall across the street. A white Cadillac had to brake hard to avoid crashing into a small red pickup that darted into an empty space in front of one of the shops. Varik shook his head and turned back to Alex. “If you don’t have time to take care of yourself, then you can’t very well care for the investigation. You know that. Hell, I taught you that.”

 “You’re going to lecture me?” Alex laughed and tucked a strand of windblown hair behind her ear, showing the edge of a jagged pink scar. “I’m not the one who killed dozens of people.”

“I was following orders.” He pushed away from the car and stalked a few steps toward the bar.

For centuries, human parents had ruled their children with tales of the bogeyman hiding the closet. Vampires were no different, but instead of the bogeyman, they had threatened their misbehaving children with the Hunters, vampires who punished those who broke vampiric law, and the only punishment had been death. Varik had been a bogeyman to generations of vampire children. But that was all in the past, before—

He turned back to Alex. “Yes, I killed people. Yes, I was a Hunter but it was a different time then, Alex. Humans didn’t know we existed. Secrecy was our only means of survival. We kept the peace through force.” 

“Don’t try to romanticize it, Varik. You were nothing more than a hired assassin.”

“When are you going to understand that what I did was a long time ago, a hundred years before you were even born? I’m not that person any more. I haven’t killed anyone in over fifty years.”

“Good for you.”

He charged forward, and she immediately dropped into a fighting stance, fists held in front of her chest. He stopped, watching her, not moving so as not to provoke her any further. “Don’t think yourself to be so high and mighty. Enforcers are nothing more than Hunters dressed up in political correctness to please the humans.”

“Enforcers don’t kill people.”

He laughed.

“We uphold the law.”

“Believe what you want. I can’t change the past, no matter how much I may want to. I’m tired of trying to explain myself to you, Alex.” He propped himself up against the trunk of his Corvette, staring at his boots.

They stood in silence, looking everywhere but at each other. The first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony broke the silence, and Alex jumped. She fumbled with her jacket and retrieved her phone. “Sabian,” she answered breathlessly.

Varik strained to hear the conversation. He managed to catch part of it, enough to know it was the coroner calling.

Alex glanced at her watch. “Okay, I’ll see you at two.” She snapped the phone closed.

“Autopsy. Sounds like fun.”

“Damn your ears.”

He smirked. “Listen, I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot here.”

“No shit.”

“We’re going to have to find some way to work together.” He heard Alex’s stomach grumble loudly. “Why don’t we go grab a bite to eat? My treat.”

She shook her head. “I have things to do.”

“Damn it. Does everything have to be an argument with you?”

She pulled her keys from her pocket. “No, not everything. The Bureau sent you to check on the progress of the investigation. I told you it’s under control and I don’t need your help. No argument there.” Turning on her heel, she walked away. “Good-bye, Enforcer Baudelaire.”

Varik watched her climb into her Jeep and then slam it into reverse. She zipped past him, and tires squealed and horns blared as she darted into traffic, nearly causing a three-car pileup. Picking up his jacket, he watched her speed away from the bar. “Good going, Varik,” he said to himself. “Next time, try not pissing her off for a change.”