Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(3)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(3)
Author: K.F. Breene

Crap-tastic.

Lazily, the lead vamp slashed. Claws sprang from his hand as it sailed toward my face.

Holy tater tits, he was powerful.

I bent backward, Matrix-style, before straightening back up and punching him in the face. His head whipped back as his expression turned to shock.

Yeah, I’m fast and super strong. Surprise!

I rocked a punch to his middle, another to his face, and then paused. That rhythm-breaking hesitation had him flinching, as though another strike had come. I followed with a kick. Faster than before, he blocked with his shin. Bone met bone.

It hurt like the bejeebus!

I struck for his middle next, but he was onto me. He dodged and swung claws toward my neck. I shifted out of harm’s way and struck again, watching the elder’s minions out of the corner of my eye. A spell rocketed toward me. I ripped out my sword, sliced through it, and made another lunge at the lead vamp. My blade cut through his designer shirt right before he slashed.

I bent out of the way of his strike. I slapped him across the face. Not punched. Slapped. Because I knew how to piss people off, and angry people made mistakes.

His eyebrows lowered over his deep-set eyes. I braced for his retaliation. His minions responded from an unseen cue. They pushed in, readying for severe violence, I could tell. Considering how old they were, and how plentiful, there was no way I could get out of this without ending up dead or worse. He was way better prepared.

I clenched my jaw and stepped back, throwing up my hands. “Fine. Take him.”

He relaxed, his muscles no longer pushing at his dress shirt, and stared at me. The minions kept creeping forward, which wasn’t happy news.

Still he stared.

“Here.” I gestured at Baldy. “Take him. I give up.” Still the minions came. “Is this going to get messy?”

“Will she escape?” Lou asked in a theatrical voice. Hopefully the onlookers missed the underlying terror in her tone. “Or will he bite her neck?”

There was no way this critter would get anywhere near my neck.

Animal shapes jogged out from the sides, behind the vampires. An onlooker gasped.

The wolves had shown up. It was the first time I was happy to see them. If they could just distract the vamps long enough for me to grab the mark and make a run for it—another run for it, I guess—that would make my night.

“They are fighting on public streets,” I yelled, backing up to stand right next to my mark. “That violates the…thing you are paid to uphold…” Yelling about magic in public would also be a violation of the magical decree, and the last thing I wanted to do was give the shifters an official reason to take me in.

The lead vampire, still assessing me, tilted his head slightly. A grin worked at his lips. I had no idea what he found so amusing.

A fierce snarl erupted from the side. A wolf lunged at a vampire minion. The other shifters ran in, ready to take down the gathering.

Sensing my golden opportunity, I snatched up Baldy and threw him over my shoulder. Before I could turn and run, clawed hands reached for me. I slashed with my sword, nicking a minion’s arm. A wolf lunged, his jaws snapping at my knee.

“I’m the good guy,” I said in a harried voice. “I’m on official business!”

Baldy’s body was ripped away.

Clutching at air as I turned around, I was just in time to see the lead vampire toss Baldy at his minion. The other vampire caught him like a doll. Before I could even open my mouth to say, “Hey!” the lead vampire had given me a poignant stare and then bolted away at an awe-inspiring speed. He was one old-ass vampire.

The rest of the vampires took off, not even sparing a kick for the animals trying to kill them. Wolves took up the chase. In a moment, the streets were bare of all things magical except me and my sword.

There went my air conditioning.

“Crap,” I said softly as someone started hesitantly clapping. The rest of the onlookers joined in, applauding me losing my mark. It was not an awesome end to the night, that was for sure.

I stashed my sword and gave the onlookers a bow. Lou would smooth everything over.

As I started walking, one question nagged at me: what were vampires doing coming after my company’s marks? Vampires were supposed to get clearance for things like that.

A thought struck me that I couldn’t shake.

Suddenly, I knew exactly what was going on.

Chapter Two

I burst into the office early the next morning with a chip on my shoulder and a hole in my bank account. Cubicles dotted the floor in systematic rows, one of the many reasons I wouldn’t succumb to being a paid employee of this establishment. In front of me was an aisle leading through the best of the best, my competitors in the bounty-hunting gig and the A-list of the Magical Law Enforcement office. The ones who got all the jobs I wanted, leaving only the insanely dangerous marks for me.

Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I wished I were in a position to get a regular paycheck from a comfy job. I’d deal with cubicles for a little security, but that option was denied to me.

“Look who it is. Miss I-Can-Bring-In-Anybody.” Garret, the man who constantly taunted me for being an outcast, rolled to the edge of his cubicle and laughed. “I heard you screwed the pooch last night. Useless.”

Nearing his cube, I caught the edge of his chair with my toe and thrust my hips forward, shoving. His chair rolled backward so suddenly that he tipped out and tumbled onto his face.

“Not entirely useless,” I said with a smirk, continuing onward.

Snickers filled the floor as I reached the large corner office. The covered windows and closed doors didn’t exactly scream welcome. Neither did the underpaid receptionist who sat out front.

“He in there?” I asked her.

“You need to make an appointment,” she said in a bored voice.

“Will do.” I kicked the door. The hinges tore free. Wood groaned as the door fell inward, crashing to the ground and wobbling.

Captain John Lox looked up, startled. After seeing me, his expression mellowed. He leaned back in his chair.

“So you don’t think I can bring in a mark, is that it? You have to resort to the vampires to do it?” I stepped on the door on my way into the office.

He threaded his fingers together in his lap, studying me. His gaze flicked to the chair facing his desk, a silent invitation for me to sit down and speak about this calmly.

I grabbed the chair, picked it up, and threw it at the doorway.

I missed.

The chair hit the frame and ricocheted, hurling back in my direction. I dodged it, then stumbled on the edge of the fallen door.

This confrontation wasn’t playing out how I’d hoped.

“You owe me ten grand,” I barked, trying to regain control of my intimidation tactics. Humor sparked in his eyes.

After a silent beat, he said, “Come again?”

“You owe me ten grand,” I repeated slowly.

“You got the mark?”

“I did not. You know why.”

His brow furrowed and he shifted, his chair squealing under his weight. “The bloodsuckers got him first.”

I rolled my eyes. “Bloodsuckers? Really? Every vampire TV show ever called—they want their catchphrases back.”

“Vampires suck blood. Hence the term.”

“Use a little originality. They screw like rock stars, too. So why don’t you call them rock-star screwers?”

“Besides the clumsiness of that phrase, rock stars are mortal. They couldn’t possibly screw as well as vampires.”

“Whatever. Regardless, yes, the vampires got the mark. They brought enough people out of the Realm to organize the effort. The shifters couldn’t compete with that kind of power, but they knew the vampires were around. Which means there is no way you didn’t. Being that you didn’t give me a heads-up, what do you think that says to me?”

“I have no idea.”

I cracked my neck in frustration. “Clearly you are covering your bases again.”

“I did that one time.”

I glared at him.

“Fine, twice. I didn’t realize you found out about the second.” He leaned against his desk and spread his hands in front of him. “They didn’t tell me they wanted the mark. The first I heard of it was this morning, when the mark’s head was delivered in a cooler.”

   
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