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An Excerpt from Rosalie Stanton's Possession
More often than not, Arianna ignored the stirring of uneasiness that crept in her belly; it merely came with the package of being a single white female alone in one of New Orleans's shadier neighborhoods. While she could most definitely take care of herself, and had on more than one occasion, that didn't mean she enjoyed the solemn walk to the burned-out streetlight from the corner where her cab dropped her off. This terrain was more Kade's area, and truth be told, he likely didn't think twice before setting up the typical meet and greet. After all, vampires and other similar half-breeds didn't share the concerns of human females. Noise didn't scare, worn buildings didn't intimidate, and the knowledge that anyone could be lurking in the protection of a shadow barely blipped on the radar. Business as usual at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Simon Bolivar.
Perhaps Kade's carelessness wouldn't bother her so much if he acted as if he paid attention every now and then.
She hated demons. They always found a way to ruin her night.
“So,” Kade drawled, lighting up a smoke. “You wanna know about the Eros, do you?”
“Have I been talking to myself the last ten minutes?”
“Well, I wouldn't look at it that way.”
“Really? How would you look at it?”
He shrugged. “I thought we were catching up and all that.”
“Yeah. I'm out here to socialize.” Arianna rolled her eyes. The only thing she hated more than demons were vampires. They often didn't look favorably on demon hunters such as herself, which was why she relied upon Kade more often than not to keep an ear to the ground in the demon community. Kade appealed to the lowest sort of low: the vamps who would trade in their brother for a spot of cash. Granted, she never actually paid him; something propelled him to spill the goods to her regardless, always had for reasons she didn't understand. Only tonight, he wasn't as chatty as usual.
Tonight he just annoyed her. She had one question—one!—and he insisted on making their encounter a huge ordeal rather than a pit stop. The Eros would attack soon, and as fun as that might sound to a morally ambiguous half-breed, it likely wouldn't shape up to be a picnic for the rest of the city.
“Just tell me what I need to know,” Arianna implored, her tone low. If he didn't watch his step, he'd find himself on the business end of a stake. “The Eros.”
“Not for the rest of us.”
Kade's brows perked. “Why not? Loads of sex could do these humans good, far as I can figure.”
“The Eros wipe your inhibitions—”
“Hence the fun.”
Arianna's jaw tightened. “According to my sources—”
“What? You have other sources? I'm hurt, really.”
“You're one second away from becoming someone's hay fever. You know that?”
His lower lip poked out, edging her nerves. On some people the gesture would look ridiculous; sadly, Kade was not one of them. Most vampires had the Anne Rice syndrome: too pretty for their own good, and Kade certainly fell into the category. He topped her in height by just a few inches, something she could begrudgingly appreciate, as being rather short, most men towered over her. His playful attitude made it annoyingly simple to forget he was the enemy. Regardless of how many times he stepped off his high horse to lend her a hand, he remained the enemy, one she would likely have to kill one day.
Her vocation as a demon hunter made it an occupational hazard. Any demon or vamp she met went on her list. Once they stopped being useful, they were dead.
She didn't want to think of Kade as dead for reasons she didn't particularly care to explore. Yet it seemed easy to forget she somewhat liked his annoying ass when he behaved like this.
Kade lowered his head, lips sucking intently on his cigarette before blowing out a pillar of smoke. “All right, then,” he drawled. “The Eros.”
“Yes, that would be nice.”
“So I gathered.”
“They release these pheromones and make everyone jump each other's bones.” Kade grinned. “Fun times.”
“No, not fun times. Chaotic times.”
“And here I reckoned chaos implied fun.”
“Look, I just need to know—”
“When they're gonna strike.” Kade nodded. “'Cause someone wants to ruin everyone's fun.”
Arianna rolled her eyes. She seriously did not have time for this. Word of the Eros attack had swept through the underworld like wildfire. She'd only heard of it by making her normal rounds to the typical demon haunts, listening in on conversations to find the local hot spots, as they so often rotated. A demon hunter had a lonely life, but she couldn't see herself abandoning it any time soon.
She still had to find the demons responsible for killing her parents.
Cue vampire confidant. Kade had happened across her one night in an alley as she battled off three attackers. He'd stopped cold, blinked, reached for a cigarette, crossed his arms, and watched.
“You're good,” he'd said as the last demon fell.
He'd smirked. “And modest.”
For demon hunters, identifying vampires often seemed a game of hit-and-miss. That night, she hadn't had to guess. Men simply weren't made that pretty. Kade looked very pretty and very deadly. Dark brown, near-black hair offset his pale skin, making his every expression seem exaggerated. High cheekbones accented deep azure eyes, and his perfect mouth practically appeared painted on his face. He seemed a man who very much knew how good he looked and what those dangerous looks could do to unsuspecting women. That sort of cockiness drove Arianna mad, and had she moved just a hair quicker, Kade would have been nothing but a footnote in her history.
But she hadn't moved. She'd stood dumb for a few seconds, then blinked.
“Wow,” she'd said. “You'd think the vamps in this town wouldn't go out of their way to annoy people like me.”
“No fun in that,” Kade had replied. “And here I thought I was in for a dull night.”
“Want me to fun it up for you?”
“Didn't peg you for that sort of girl.”
Arianna's fist had drawn back, intending to send the cocky bastard to the ground. His hands had hit the sky in mock surrender, brows reaching his hairline. “Watch it,” he'd snapped, “or you'll never hear what I have to say.”
“And yet I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight.”
“Vamp nest. East side of town. Nasty sort, drawing in all kinds of little girls.” Kade had watched her for a minute, then slowly lowered his hands. “Thought we could take them out, you and I.”
Arianna would never forget that moment. Never before had any creature of the night approached her, talked with her as if she were something other than a killer of their kind. There stood every chance he meant to throw her off guard and take her out himself, but she hadn't thought so. Something in his eyes gave him away, something she couldn't explain.
“Why?” she'd asked.
Kade had sucked a long drag on his cigarette before consigning it to the pavement. “Why not? I'm bored, you're here, and it sounds like fun.”
Arianna had since come to appreciate that sentiment. If nothing else, Kade made life interesting.
When he didn't annoy the piss out of her.
Like now, when they had a problem that demanded immediacy.
“The Eros rob you of your inhibitions,” Arianna said, drawing herself back to the present, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder. She didn't miss the way the vampire's eyes widened or how his nostrils flared. A very real, womanly part of her knew Kade wanted her, and the knowledge absolutely empowered her. “The last time they decided to interfere with our business, we were cleaning up the mess for weeks.”
Kade shrugged. “To be fair, it was Mardi Gras.”
“Just tell me what you know, jackass.”
He looked at her a minute longer, then broke his gaze away and shrugged. “Cemetery,” he said.
“Metairie, to be specific.”
Arianna's nose wrinkled. “The Eros are hanging out in a graveyard?”
“In this town, kitten, it's almost romantic.”
“So says the undead.” She blew out a deep breath. “Are you coming with?”
Kade's eyes found hers again, and his brow furrowed. “To face the Eros? This a date?”
“Had to ask,” he assured with a smirk. “It's the Eros. With their reputation…”
“Don't make me hurl.”
Kade slapped a hand across his chest and staggered as though shot. “You wound,” he said. “Yeah, I'll come along for the ride. Don't mind if we pop by my place to get some supplies, do you? Didn't bring anything with me. Hadn't exactly planned to go on the hunt tonight.”
Arianna's eyes went wide. She'd honestly never given thought to where Kade went when they weren't annoying the crap out of each other. “What?”
“Supplies? Shiny weapons?”
“You…have a place? You know…where you live?”
“Of course I have a place.” He frowned. “What? You thought I slept in the gutter?”
“Wouldn't put it past you.” Arianna sighed again, her eyes rolling heavenward. “All right. Let's go get these supplies.”
* * *
Demon hunting seemed all Arianna knew anymore. Ever since her parents' death, ever since she had learned what sort of uglies went bump in the night, she'd committed every day to ensuring no one else grew up the way she had. Demon hunters lived alone, had no family, formed no attachments, and usually did not rely upon others in their trade for information or assistance. Most hunted to silence an inner rage, to atone or seek revenge for a wrong committed, to even the balance between good and evil.
Arianna had met three or four demon hunters, perhaps, but they didn't go to bars and nurse drinks while swapping war stories or ritualize their trade in any way glamorized by Hollywood. She felt very alone most of the time, to the point where she looked forward to her meetings with Kade… Something she recognized as very wrong, yet it remained the truth, and she couldn't do anything to change it.
In all honesty, the Eros had served as a handy excuse to seek him out. He might annoy her to death, but she felt better annoyed than she did with herself as her only company. It seemed strange that a vampire remained her closest link to humanity; she didn't know what to think about it on most days.
Likewise, she'd jump into a snake pit before confessing as much to Kade. The bastard had enough of an ego as it stood.
“Wasn't planning on having people over,” Kade warned over his shoulder as their walk came to a halt. He'd escorted her to a ratty apartment complex not far from where they'd met. For whatever reason, she'd expected something less normal than a place that required an actual lock and key, though why, she didn't know. The vamp nests he'd led her to had all been in warehouses or places like this; she supposed she always expected vampires to lurk in cemeteries, thanks to centuries of flawed myth.
The room revealed only a bed and a scattering of clothing across the floor, along with several choice weapons.
Arianna made a face. “God, you're filthy.”
Kade shot her a sideways glance. “It's just a place to sleep.”
Her eyes landed on the mattress shoved against the far wall. It was easy to overlook in a quick glance. On appearances alone, she couldn't decide whether he slept in it every day or had just now come home after a long leave. “How do you find the bed?”
“Wouldn't you like to know?”
She shivered at that and crossed her arms. “Well, get a move on.”
“Aren't we in a hurry?”
“The Eros aren't exactly going to wait around.”
Kade's brows flickered. “Fancy yourself an authority on the Eros, then? Been doing your homework?”
“I just know they—”
“Are demons. I know. Try singing me another tune sometime.”
Arianna frowned. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“Whatever you want it to.” He began peeking under bits of clothing, though she couldn't help but feel stalled. Why on earth would he stall? “So how's it you knew about the Eros?”
“I told you,” she replied. “I have sources.”
“I thought I was your source.”
“I have others.” Well, that was almost true. She overheard things when she lurked in the right places. The last time the Eros attacked had seemed calamitous, but thankfully, the authorities chalked it up, as Kade had mentioned, to Mardi Gras and hadn't bothered investigating further.
Eros thrived on human passion; as long as they felt it, they survived, and every now and again they released certain pheromones that had women wetting their panties for pretty much anything male. Men suffered a similar response, and in a blur of debauchery, entire lives wound up ruined by people who didn't realize their actions were dominated by creatures from the underworld.
Arianna shivered, patience running short. “Look,” she said sharply, “are you stalling?”
Kade looked up. “What?”
“The weapons… Are you stalling?”
Might as well go for broke. “Are you hoping the Eros attack before we leave?”
“So… What? I get a taste of your precious self?” Kade snickered and rolled his eyes. “Someone has an ego.”
“You're one to talk!”
“No,” he replied, throwing down a shirt. “Really don't think I am. You really think I'd lure you up here—”
“That's what vampires do! They lure!”
“I couldn't give a fuck; you got it? I'm here to do what I said. Get supplies. If you want my help, you're just gonna have to wait for it.”
Arianna gestured emphatically. “We don't have time to wait!”
“Look, you're the one who asked for my help, all right? Then you come up here and ask me if…” He frowned in disgust. “You really take my little remarks to heart, kitten? Note to self… Be more careful what you say around cock-starved demon hunters.”
His eyes widened. So did hers.
“Sorry,” he said quickly, looking away. “I didn't… Sorry.”
Heat crashed over her. She felt dizzy but shoved it aside. Kade had never spoken to her that way. Not once, and she felt sure she'd feel furious if she weren't so…
“You are so beyond dust,” she snapped.
“Oh, yeah? Do your worst.”
So she did. She totally did. Well, she did if her worst consisted of leaping into Kade's arms, wrapping her legs around his waist, and tugging his mouth up to hers. If her worst meant rubbing herself wantonly against the hardened strain of his denim-clad erection and sucking his tongue into her mouth. Kade growled and seized her shoulders, pulling her flush against him and nipping at her lips.
“Stop,” she gasped, trying vainly to pull away from him. “Stop!” She tugged him up for another kiss and thrust her pelvis against his. “God, Kade, let me go!”
“I'm trying,” he snarled, and he sounded so bewildered and furious that she believed him. Bewildered, furious, and beyond aroused. “Get your grubby paws off me!” He concluded his tirade by fisting the loose material of her blouse and ripping it clean off her body, his mouth breaking from hers to kiss a wet path down her throat.
“Kade…” Her stomach tightened in ways that it should not tighten around Kade. And God, she felt wet. She felt on fire. Every nerve in her body blazed, and he couldn't touch her enough. “Stop touching me!”
“Are you deaf?” he growled, his teeth nipping at her breasts before ripping her bra away. “I'm trying.”
Arianna's insides trembled, trying futilely to stop. Every time she attempted to shove him off, she wound up foiled by treacherous hands that tugged him closer and a mouth that felt hexed to want nothing more than his kisses.
I can't stop. Oh God, I can't stop.
And from the way he made quick work of her clothing, it didn't take much to guess where they would end up.
The Eros. They had fallen too late.
Definitely time to panic.
© Rosalie Stanton, January 2010
All Rights Reserved