An Urban Fantasy Thriller
The vampire slayer is turning into a vampire? Over her dead body.
Dana McIntyre has been bitten by a master vampire. She's infected with the venom. And after killing hundreds of vampires to keep Las Vegas safe, she'd rather die than turn.
There might be a cure. But the only way to get it is through Nissa Royal, a vampire with close ties to the masters of Las Vegas. Nissa is dangerous -- too dangerous to be allowed to live, much less work alongside.
But if Dana dies, vampires win Vegas. If she doesn't die, she becomes one of the bloodless. The cure's her only chance. In this deadly game of hold 'em, Dana's drawing dead, and whatever happens next, there's no changing her losing hand. Dana only knows one thing: If she's going down, she's taking as many vampires as possible on her way out…
Nobody at the murder scene wanted to see Brianna Dimaria. Nobody got excited when she shuffled over with her bathtub-sized coffee and wooden pentacle charms, and a couple of the cops didn’t even make eye contact.
“I thought you said that the Hunting Club was coming out,” muttered one crime scene tech to another. Brianna prepared not to hear them.
She’d gotten to the Hunting Lodge at six o’clock that morning, right after sunrise, so she’d been the first person to check the answering machine. The cops had requested a consult on a murder. Brianna put the word out and headed in first.
Dammit, people should have been thanking her for how quickly she’d gotten there.
But no, there was all the whispering and glancing around, seeing if Brianna might be followed by one of the Hunting Club’s more famous associates. Chugging the coffee wasn’t waking her enough to deal with this crap.READ MORE
“Ugh,” she sighed once she’d drained her mug. She swirled the dregs of the black coffee around the bottom. “Anyone got chai, by any chance? Or any other tea?”
“The only thing we’ve got here is ash,” Officer Jeffreys said. “You don’t want that.”
“No. I don’t.” She set her mug on top of a police car, made a mental note to retrieve it later, then wiped her hands off on her tunic. “Okay, what’ve we got here?”
“Vampire. Permanently dead vampire.”
“No kidding,” Brianna said.
The corpses left behind by perma-dead vampires were distinctive from those left behind by humans. Sure, they had all the same parts, but every bit of a vampire was flammable in sunlight. If they found the body before sunlight wreaked havoc on the evidence, it looked like finding a human who had been barbecued. Bones charred as well as the soft tissue, and the skin got crispy fast.
Given a few more minutes in daylight, this vampire would have been indistinguishable as having ever lived, much less as a vampire. But right now, Brianna Dimaria was confident that the pieces crime scene techs had fished out of a Dumpster belonged to one of the bloodless.
“What’s that?” Brianna asked.
Officer Jeffreys lifted a piece of bone in his gloved hand, careful to keep it in the shade of the bar’s rear alleyway. “Judging by the curve, I think…skull?” He swallowed wetly.
Who could blame him for looking queasy? He wasn’t just holding a piece of skull. He was holding a piece of skull with clear characteristics of the person it had once belonged to. Probably a masochist, considering that they had screwed metal horns into their skull.
“Damn,” Brianna muttered.
There was no way that the Hunting Club wouldn’t get blamed for this dead vampire.
She heard the bass rumbling on a car’s stereo before it pulled up to the mouth of the alley. The crime scene had been taped off, but someone pulled the tape aside to allow the lifted pickup truck to roll up to the edge of the scene. The windows were opaque black, in stark contrast to the lime-slashed Pepto Bismol of the body’s paint job. The grill on the front looked like it had been used to literally catch cows, since there was dried blood and tissue caked to the bars. The driver was listening to music by Slipknot—Brianna recognized the frantic rhythm of the drums.
A couple cops had the nerve to start applauding when that pickup appeared.
“Oh, come on,” Brianna groaned.
“You can’t blame them. She’s got a legacy.” Chief Villanueva came up to stand beside Brianna. Charmaine hadn’t been doing fieldwork since her promotion, so if Charmaine was watching, then it meant Mayor Hekekia was watching. And so was the OPA.
“Legacy shmegacy,” Brianna said. “Did you know that I used to be high priestess of the single most prestigious coven in the world before Genesis?”
“You might have mentioned it twenty or thirty times,” Charmaine said with a good-natured smirk.
“That, and I show up to consults on time,” Brianna said.
The pickup door popped open. Beer cans tumbled out of the driver’s seat, scattering across the cracked cement, and studded platform boots struck a moment later.
Dana McIntyre glared murder at the cops who’d applauded her arrival, and that only seemed to make them all the more excited.
If a McIntyre was on the scene, they considered the case already solved.
There was nothing to get excited about at the sight of Dana. Her pink-tipped hair was styled into spikes, the solid mass of her body was held snug by a leather corset with stone pauldrons, and she wore a leather skirt. She had an open beer can in one hand and let a belch out of the corner of her mouth as she sauntered over.
“Dana, good morning.” Brianna was grinning crazily and speaking through her teeth again. “How nice of you to join us at a crime scene, with police, where you drove in a pickup while drinking beer. Which is so totally legal.”
“O’Doul’s.” Dana crushed the beer can and hurled it over her shoulder. “Like the flavor. Don’t drive drunk.”
Chief Villanueva was not surprised by this display from Dana. “Glad to have you.” She clapped Dana’s hand in both of hers and shook with genuine relief. “We could have used you last night when I had the master of the Paradisos in my office.”
“Good thing I was there,” Brianna muttered.
“I was on patrol.” Dana lifted her gauntleted fists, and magic sputtered from her elbows to her knuckles, which were just as studded as her boots. These particular studs were bloody on the tips. “There was a shifter brawl, so you’ll want to check in with jail intake later. You guys are full up. Brianna, help me strip.”
Brianna sighed. “What’s the magic word?”
“Ngou ho,” Dana said in hetânâ, the magic language both of them were fluent in. Ngou ho meant “fuck you.” The words had absolutely no power coming from a mundane like Dana, except that it made Brianna’s blood pressure spike.
“Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” Brianna said. “Try again or else I’ll show your adoring fans pictures of when I helped potty train you. I bet they’d love to hear how you insisted on wearing pull-ups until kindergarten.”
Dana’s eyes narrowed, as if she were evaluating whether or not Brianna was serious.
Brianna was completely serious. She’d been putting up with Dana McIntyre and her stupid family legacy ever since Dana was knee-high to a pig’s eye. When Dana had been a teenager—worst decade ever—awkward childhood photos had been the only threat to control her.
“Help me please,” Dana finally said.
“Happily.” Brianna undid the straps on Dana’s gauntlets, her pauldrons, even her belt. She was left standing with fifty pounds of enchanted gear, which she tossed into the back of Dana’s ugly-ass pickup while Dana herself went to examine the scene.
A crime scene tech handed latex gloves to Dana. She snapped them on and picked up the same piece of skull that Officer Jeffreys had been investigating.
Dana lifted it into the sunlight. It began smoking. She blew the fire off, then peered closely at the remaining bone.
“This vampire was killed by the Paradisos,” Dana said.
“How do you know?” Chief Villanueva asked.
“Because I’ve got fucking eyeballs.” She tossed the skull to Officer Jeffreys, who managed to transfer it to an evidence bin before diving into a corner to barf. “This vampire was starved. No Vegas vampire starves on accident, and no Vegas vampire gets held captive without Paradisos knowing. So the Paradisos did it.”
“Our lab will be able to confirm that the vampire was starving, but we’ll need more than that to pin it on the Paradisos,” Chief Villanueva said.
Brianna shot a sideways look at the chief. Did Charmaine want to pin it on the Paradisos? She’d made it clear that vigilantes and vampires in Las Vegas were on equal footing, and equally fucked if things went wrong.
“Don’t waste your resources.” Dana peeled her gloves off and dropped them into a trash bag held by another tech. “If the vampires are fucking around with a civil war, let ‘em do it. Vamps killing vamps is nobody’s problem.”
“Murdering American citizens is illegal, no matter who does it,” Brianna said.
Dana’s snort wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t meant to be. She reveled in being as disgusting as possible, even while consulting at crime scenes. Maybe especially while consulting at crime scenes. “But the vampires do it anyway, because they’re vampires. They’re killers. They aren’t capable of doing anything else.”
“Help me link this murder to the Paradisos,” Chief Villanueva said.
Dana said, “No.”
She climbed into her pickup. Brianna heard another can of O’Doul’s cracking open before the door slammed shut.
The truck backed out of the alley. Dana’s tailgate clipped a trashcan and knocked it over, spilling its contents across the pavement. She dragged a bag halfway down the street before it finally tore loose, and then she was gone, leaving wreckage and adoring cops behind her.
Dana McIntyre had been there less than five minutes. Everyone looked star-struck and it seemed like Brianna no longer existed.
“Yep,” Brianna said, glancing at her watch. “Just another Tuesday.”COLLAPSE