destined blOOd excerpt
NEPHILIM’S DESTINY: BOOK 2
I could hear the couple yelling at each other the moment I got out of the cruiser even though I was outside on the residential street and they were, from the muffled sound of it, still inside their apartment building. I could also hear the traffic on the busy street five blocks over, the buzz from the streetlight fifty feet away, and, if I concentrated, the calm steady breathing of Hank, my partner, who stood on the other side of the car from me.
The woman screamed something incomprehensible, but my partner’s expression didn’t change, which meant he couldn’t hear it, proving that my senses had in fact been enhanced.
I hadn’t been sure of it when Amiah — the head of the medical team at the Joined Parliament Operations Building — had released me from her mini hospital. Of course, it had been hard to think past anything with my painful, grating buzz clawing under my skin, but even after I’d managed to medicate that down to a manageable level — now requiring two nicotine patches at the same time — I hadn’t been sure.
Yeah, there’d been moments when I’d suspected, but nothing quite as definitive as this. With its surprisingly subtle only-seeming-to-appear-when-I-concentrated manifestation, it had been easy to keep myself distracted and to pretend that life as I knew it hadn’t completely changed two weeks ago.
In a way, it hadn’t. I was back in my apartment — and the skylight and hole in the wall had been fixed — and I was back to my job in the Union City Police Department. And yet…
I couldn’t deny that, core deep, everything had changed. And that scared me.
Yes, I’d survived having an unnatural angelic mating brand forced upon me by an archnephilim — a monster that was part archangel and part demonic wraith — and having his power tear through me as he’d tried to rip out wings I was sure… well, pretty sure I didn’t have. But I hadn’t gotten through that unscathed. My buzz was stronger than before, feeling more like I was in constant contact with a medium-voltage electric fence and not just a low-level one. Not to mention my eyes still glowed from blasting a massive amount of divine light into myself to stop him.
And it was my eyes that worried me the most. I couldn’t pretend to just be a human if my eyes were glowing. I’d purchased enspelled contacts from a shady witch who’d promised discretion, and they were supposed to hide the glow until the divine light left my body.
But even after a week and a half the light hadn’t faded, and I feared it was still around because I was a nephilim and blasting all that magic into me had somehow awakened the angelic part of my DNA. To make it worse, I was sure my essence — readable by those supernatural beings who could sense magical essences — still said I was human, which made the angelic glowy eye thing look really suspicious.
Add to that my enhanced hearing… oh, and the ability to see in the dark… and my goal to live as a nothing-to-see-here human just serving and protecting my city had become nearly impossible.
It was only a matter of time before someone started asking questions, and those questions could get me imprisoned, experimented on, or killed. Probably all of the above.
At least I could attribute my enhanced senses to Jacob’s vampire claim on me. The claim, at least, would go away… eventually… I hoped. But I wasn’t sure how long the effects would last, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask.
At least none of the guys had tried to contact me in the week and a half I’d been gone from Operations, so the risk of being revealed wasn’t as great. I hadn’t expected Marcus to. He’d been adamant in respecting my wishes to have nothing to do with the supernatural world, and had been gone before I’d even woken in Amiah’s hospital. Jacob and Kol hadn’t contacted me either, and much to my surprise, neither had Gideon, even with his angelic mating brand on my arm permanently bonding us together.
And I was going to ignore the empty ache in my chest over him— over all the guys. It had been growing within me from the moment I’d returned home.
It would go away.
Just like the effects of Jacob’s vampiric claim.
“Dispatch said the call came in for unit one-o-seven,” Hank said, adjusting his duty belt at his slightly paunchy waist as we headed for the apartment building’s front door. “That must be at the back or maybe they’ve resolved their differences and have stopped yelling.”
Glass shattered and the woman screeched something else, her voice still too muffled with the building between us for me to make out her words even with my enhanced hearing. Hank still didn’t react, but I was sure as soon as we got inside, he’d be able to hear them as well.
The building was a tired six-story structure that had been built in the 60s or 70s. Its utilitarian construction hadn’t aged well and the owner had done little upkeep. Through the filthy glass front door, the vinyl tiled floor was scuffed with at least a quarter of the tiles missing. Holes and graffiti scarred the walls and paint peeled from the ceiling.
Three homemade missing person flyers were taped to the window beside the door, two for guys who looked like they were teenagers or in their early twenties, and the other for a middle-aged woman. The number of missing persons — all over town, with the exception of the precinct in the downtown core — had spiked in the last month and a half, and no one in the department had a clue as to why. Although I suspected it was probably one of the many after-effects of the war. Michael’s slaughter to exterminate all humans and supernatural beings had only ended twenty-three years ago and most of the world’s population was still coming to terms with what had happened. Some people dealt with that by running away.
Hank opened the door, not bothering to buzz the superintendent to unlock it. Every few months or so we’d get a call to this building, and, for as long as I’d been with this precinct — just over five years, which was as long as I’d been a cop — the building’s door had been broken.
A man’s angry voice roared around me as we entered. If I hadn’t known I had enhanced hearing, I would have sworn the guy was standing in the hall with us.
“Hunh, guess they’re still at it,” Hank said, and he headed down the hall, his walk quick but his body language calm. Thankfully, not much bothered the middle-aged cop, or he was able to keep his emotions in check, which was good given how my next-to-useless weird empathic magic reacted to strong feelings. He had almost nine years of experience on me, and while he hadn’t been happy to be partnered with the rookie who’d gotten another cop seriously injured, he hadn’t tried to make my life difficult.
Of course, he hadn’t tried to become friends, either. Four and a half years together and our partnership was still awkward. Which, given that I was trying to stay under everyone’s radar, was better than a partner who wanted to know everything about me and stick his nose in my business — like why I didn’t have a social or dating life.
My nerves, however, thrummed with adrenaline and fear. This wasn’t my first domestic call and it wouldn’t be my last, but even with experience, I couldn’t help but worry about how dangerous the situation could get.
The temperature rose as we drew closer to apartment 107, turning the early summer evening that was already unusually warm and muggy even warmer… at least it did for me because my empathic magic manifested as temperature changes and not something useful like being able to actually sense emotions.
Another glass something shattered, sounding like it had been thrown against the wall, and the man yelled obscenities at the woman. The woman screamed back.
Hank reached up to knock on the door, when a gunshot exploded inside the apartment.
My pulse leaped into a fast tattoo, and Hank’s eyes flashed wide.
We drew our sidearms, and our gazes met for a split second, confirming we were good to go.
“Police,” Hank yelled, and he kicked in the door.
Inside lay a living room filled with garbage — empty pizza boxes and beer bottles, food wrappers, and crumpled clothes — along with old, chipped, dented, and even broken furniture. We stood at the far end of the unit, which ran parallel to the hall, and while from my position I could see fully into the room, if both of us wanted a clear view of the entire room — and more importantly a clear shot — someone was going to have to enter.
I gritted my teeth and hurried inside. This situation was all human. There wasn’t a super in sight. I had nothing to worry about.
At the back, near the closed patio door, stood a brawny man with swarthy skin in his twenties, wearing a black wife-beater and navy cotton-knit shorts with frayed ends. He pointed a Ruger 9mm at a short curvy woman, also in her twenties, with bleach-blond hair and a dingy yellow sundress. The guy had fingernail marks on his cheeks and arms — nothing supernatural looking about them — and the woman had a black eye and a fresh bruise in the shape of a handprint on her left biceps. She didn’t look like she’d been shot, but both had ashen complexions and wild eyes.
They stared at us for a tense second and their expressions twisted with rage.
The room’s temperature shot up another ten degrees, and sweat instantly slicked my body, making my uniform stick to my skin.
On the floor between them lay a spilled bag of little purple pills, and I inwardly groaned. Zip. Again? Jeez, this was twice in just over two weeks that I’d had to deal with someone high on zip. Except given their expressions, I was pretty sure they weren’t high. They were starting to come down. And that meant aggressive mania and violent hallucinations enhanced by magic.
Just great. I pointed my Glock at the guy. “Police. Drop the weapon.”
The guy snarled.
“Drop the weapon,” Hank repeated.
The woman screamed and lunged at the guy. He fired two shots as she slipped on a half-empty pizza box and crashed to the floor. I dropped to the floor as well. The guy’s rounds slammed into the wall above me, and my pulse jumped with the knowledge that I’d almost taken two in the vest.
“Drop the weapon,” Hank yelled, not taking a shot because the woman was climbing to her feet and in the way.
The guy snarled and lunged toward the patio door. He wrenched it off its hinges with a burst of zip-enhanced strength and bolted outside, gun still in hand.
“Shit.” I scrambled to my feet and gave chase. Hank followed close at my heels and called the change of situation in to dispatch on his radio.
The guy raced across the building’s uneven parking lot and onto the street. This neighborhood had been old and tired before the war and had yet to see any revitalization money. Only half of the streetlights worked, making footing on the crumbling sidewalk dangerous, and the farther we went down the street, the fewer buildings had lighted vestibules or front doors that weren’t boarded up.
I pumped my arms, trying to keep up with the guy. He ran with bursts of wild speed that came and went, making him jerk and stumble, but not enough to let me catch him.
Hank’s footsteps pounded behind me, getting farther away. He was starting to trail, but I knew he wouldn’t give up. He might not have the physique of any of the guys on Gideon’s JP team, but he wasn’t completely out of shape, either.
The guy stumbled, his arms windmilling to keep his balance, and he skidded into the narrow alley beside a seven-story building with a boarded front entrance.
My nerves thrummed stronger, more fear than adrenaline. The last time I’d run blindly into an alley, I’d gotten the shit beaten out of me and been branded by a serial killing archnephilim.
I gritted my teeth and pushed on. I couldn’t let this guy get away. He’d already tried to kill his girlfriend, still had his weapon, and was in the middle of coming down from a magically induced high. He was a danger to others and himself, and I was pretty sure the violence-inducing hallucinations hadn’t started yet.
The alley was narrow, not even wide enough for two people to walk side by side, and smelled of stale urine. A flashlight beam hit my shoulder and spilled against the alley walls on either side of me. If Hank had brought his light out, the alley was too dark for him to see properly, which meant it was supposed to be too dark for me.
Shit. I was supposed to be hiding my enhanced abilities. I could only pray that with the heat of the fight and the crazy zip addict with a gun, Hank wouldn’t think much about my running down the alley without light.
Hank’s light rose a little higher and caught the back of the guy we were chasing. The guy reached the end of the alley, crossed the street, and ran to a boarded-up entrance. With a roar, he ripped off one of the boards and darted inside.
I barreled out of the alley. Ahead of me stood a three-story partially-standing condemned school. The guy’s footsteps pounded inside, drawing farther away. If he thought enough to slow down and hide, he might be able to slip past us while we searched the school.
I pulled out my flashlight, even though I didn’t need it, waited a beat for Hank to get closer, and rushed inside. This had been a side entrance to the building and it opened into a gymnasium, the space vast and empty, smelling of mold, dust, and decay as if an animal, or more than one animal, had died there. The sound of the guy’s footsteps headed straight away from me but didn’t echo, so he was already through the door and into the hall across from me.
Then his steps changed to the rapid patter of going down a set of stairs.
“He’s in the basement,” I told Hank, and put on a burst of speed.
I ran into a hall lined with metal lockers, their doors a mix of closed, opened, and missing, all tagged with graffiti on top of graffiti, while electrical and lighting boxes hung precariously from the walls and ceiling, their wiring scavenged for reuse. The smell of dead animal had thickened and a heavy layer of dust, marked with dozens of different footprints, coated the floor.
I hurried down the stairs into a dark corridor running right and left and stopped, nearly choking on the reek, the smell of death clinging to my nose and the back of my throat. More footprints trailed in both directions, and I couldn’t tell if any of them were fresh.
I really didn’t want to lose this guy.
Hank reached the top of the stairs and clattered down, but I ignored him and drew a steadying breath. If the guy was still running I should be able to hear him.
Hank stepped close, his nose crinkled in disgust, his sidearm raised, and his flashlight sweeping into the hall behind me.
“Did you see which way he went?” he asked.
“No idea.” I squeezed my eyes shut, focusing on slowing my pounding heart and hearing past the rush of blood in my ears. Hank’s breath came fast, and I could hear the faint thu-thump of his pulse.
Protocol said in a situation like this we had to stick together, even if that meant losing the perp. If the guy had been normal— or rather, if he’d seemed normal, we could have made a judgment call and separated, but no Union City officer faced anyone or anything magical alone. Ever. That was a policy only the dumbest or most desperate cops broke. And I was neither dumb nor desperate… not any more.
“Dispatch, two Charlie eleven in pursuit at Washington Park High School on Glendower,” Hank said into his radio, his voice soft. “Requesting backup.”
The radio crackled and clicked. “Ten-four two Charlie eleven, backup is on its way.”
“Do we honestly think backup will arrive in time to trap him in the school?” I asked, still straining to hear the guy’s footsteps.
“No, but at least there’ll be more of us in the area to answer a call when he loses it on someone.” Hank glanced the other way down the hall, his expression grim. “So which way?”
“It’s fifty-fifty. How about—”
The temperature plunged and a scream ripped through the air. My pulse, not even back to normal, shot back into a rapid beat.
“Left,” Hank said, passing me to take point.
We hurried down the hall. The guy screamed again, a desperate, wild sound that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
A door jerked open, and I could see the guy racing to get back out into the hall. But something yanked him back, pulling the door partially closed after him. Cold stung my hands and cheeks, the guy’s fear a sudden, deep-winter freeze.
Oh, shit. This is bad. The memory of running into the alley and finding the archnephilim flashed through my mind’s eye. Please let it be a hallucination making him terrified of whoever is in that room.
“Second door down,” I said. “Someone else is in there.”
“I see it.” Hank hurried to the entrance, but the crack wasn’t big enough to see inside.
The guy screamed again, followed by a low growl, crunching, and the sound of something wet.
Shit shit shit. That really didn’t sound human.
I opened my mouth to warn Hank, but he shoved the door open and rushed inside to make way for me in the doorway.
I jerked into the opening to cover him and my thoughts stuttered. Time froze and all I could do was stare at the horror in front of me and wish to God I couldn’t see in the dark.
The room was large, with no windows, and filled with massive pieces of equipment. Large pipes ran along the low ceiling and up the walls, snaking deeper into the room and beyond my ability to see in the gloom even with my enhanced vision.
The temperature had snapped back to normal, and I knew our perp was dead or awfully damn close to it. Hank’s flashlight shone on him, his throat ripped out, his body limp and held in the arms of a pale, almost translucent-skinned woman. Blood covered her face around her mouth and her lips were drawn back in a feral sneer, revealing vampire fangs. Her eyes were all black, but didn’t hold any of the intensity I’d come to recognize as pure vampire. All I could see was animalistic fervor and hunger. Desperate, consuming hunger.
Behind them, piled in the corner between two big pieces of machinery, were more bodies. All were mangled in some way, missing limbs, throats ripped out, faces smashed, and all in various stages of decomposition, the worst at the bottom of the pile. So many bodies. I could count at least two dozen, but with the size of the pile there had to be a lot more.
Bile burned my throat and I couldn’t make my mind fully accept the horror. Vampire dens like this, with piles of discarded bodies, only existed in horror movies. They weren’t real. Even before supernatural beings had come out of hiding to save themselves from Michael’s war, vampires had had laws governing their behavior. Sure, some disobeyed those laws, but vampire society had been swift in controlling them. They were swifter now since humans knew about them, and there were enough interested in becoming blood bunnies that they didn’t have to kill anyone to keep their secret.
But this was more than just killing to keep a secret. This was primal, feral, inhuman in ways not even vampires or demons were inhuman.
The temperature plunged, this time with Hank’s fear. Blood spurted from our perp’s neck with his heart’s last desperate beats to keep him alive. The viscous liquid oozed over the woman’s arms and splattered to the concrete floor.
She hissed at us, her fangs extended and eyes filled with a wild hunger, and leaped at Hank.