Authors: Sierra Dean
My great thanks to Eric Domond and Julie Walsh for their help with Secret’s French translations.
To the incredible staff at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. I’ll never forget that weird and wacky estate.
Catriona Churman and Jessica Groopman, for their enthusiastic suggestion of the creepiest places for villains to hide out in San Francisco. That warehouse scene is all for you two.
To Christoph Waltz. Because you titillate and terrify me in equal measure.
A weird thank you to Fall Out Boy for “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” which got more than its fair share of listens during the writing process.
Always and forever to Sasha Knight and my mother Jo-Anne MacLennan. You two are my biggest fans and champions, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without your love and belief. I can’t think of two greater women to have in my corner.
In the paranormal world there is no such thing as witness protection.
Which meant if someone in the supernatural community was in trouble, they had to turn to their own kind for help. Werewolves hid within the safety of the pack; vampires had such a vast network of sycophants, aides and supporters they could hide anyone without too much effort.
But who was going to hide a half-vampire/half-werewolf who was being hunted by both monsters at the same time?
That was the problem I’d been presenting to my friends and colleagues for three months, and we’d yet to come up with a good solution. I was the proverbial hot potato, and I was running out of people to catch me.
Part of the issue was I didn’t want to hide. I wanted to fight, and more than anything I wanted my damned life back.
Unfortunately for me the head honchos—the bossy vampire elite—said I was too important to put myself at
. As far as I was concerned any risk was necessary if it meant getting back what I’d lost.
I didn’t have the most normal life to start with, but having it taken away from me was making me pretty cranky.
Well…crankier than usual. Which was saying something.
I sat in a grubby living room, pizza boxes strewn over the coffee table and dirty socks leading a trail to a makeshift bedroom made from a sheet hung off the ceiling. The space took bachelor living to a whole new, disgusting level.
Yet a radiant young woman was sitting cross-legged in a dingy, secondhand armchair, staring at me uncertainly.
I gave her a once-over. She was light-skinned with an explosion of freckles over her cheeks and shoulders, and her copper-red hair was pulled back in a braid. The dress she wore might have been stylish in the mid-nineties but had long since dated itself. I wasn’t sure if she was wearing it to be hip or if she genuinely had no idea it was tacky.
Ugly to be trendy, that was a thing with kids today, right?
“I am,” I answered her.
“I expected you to be…scarier.”
I arched a brow at her and glanced down at what I was wearing. Jeans, knee-high black leather boots, a demolished leather motorcycle jacket and a pink shirt that read
Little Miss Trouble
Maybe the shirt was diminishing my badass bounty hunter vibe a bit.
But the SIG P226 in my lap and the katana I’d put on the table should have balanced it out. I mean, what’s scarier than a chick with a gun
“Siobhan O’Malley.” She reached forward and offered me her hand, which I shook.
“And how do you know Shane?” I’d come because Shane Hewitt—vampire council bounty hunter—was going to be my newest babysitter for the week. I’d been shuffled from house to house, apartment to apartment, back and forth across New York City for three bloody months.
The logic was: if the bad guys couldn’t find me, they couldn’t kill me.
Initially it had been suggested I be shipped out of New York altogether. While I understood it was the most realistic way to keep me safe, I wasn’t about to spend whatever was left of my life—however short it might be—on the run. In New York I had connections, people who could help me if shit hit the fan. On the run I’d be on my own. I had put my foot down and said if I was going to die, I wanted it to be on home soil.
I should have been more specific and said I wanted
to be my own Hell’s Kitchen apartment, but it was too late to make those distinctions. My apartment was too obvious a target, even with its supernatural safeguards. When everything had gone sideways, my mother had shown up there hell-bent on killing me as I walked outside.
Mercy hadn’t killed me, obviously, but every damn day I wish she had. Because instead of taking me out, she killed my best friend Brigit, and it was my fault. The guilt I felt when I killed someone was something I’d learned to live with. Guilt over someone dying in my stead was something I didn’t know what to do with.
I’d have given anything, my life included, to bring Brigit back. But in spite of all the magic hidden in the world, there was no resurrection spell or potion to turn back time and make the dead undead again. She was gone forever.
And I was alive.
In this dodgy fucking apartment.
“I saved his life. Then he took my virginity so I didn’t have to be sacrificed to a giant fae who looked like a devil horse,” Siobhan said, sitting back in her chair.
“Standard boy-meets-girl story.”
“I was going to tell you to stop boring me.”
Siobhan smiled. “Do you want something to drink?”
Unless Shane had a stash of bagged blood in his fridge, she wasn’t going to offer me anything I needed at the moment. “No thanks. Do you know where Shane is? He was supposed to meet me after sundown.”
“How much did he tell you?” I asked. She knew about fae, so she couldn’t be too ignorant, but I wanted to watch what I said until I figured out how in the loop she was.
Oh Lord, where to begin? “Everything.”
“You mean about the vampires he hunts for the council? Or how you’re his boss, which makes you one of the three members of the Vampire Tribunal? That sort of thing?” Siobhan looked at her nails like she was bored.
are you?” I rephrased, changing my tactic. She was human—my nose told me that much—but no human I’d ever met would be so cavalier in talking about the council and vampires.
She took a blanket off the back of the armchair and draped it over her head like a cowl. “
“As in…Stonehenge and human sacrifices and dancing naked by the light of the moon?”
“The naked moon dancing is more of a Wiccan thing.”
I had a witch for a grandmother. I could attest to the truth of Siobhan’s statement. Unfortunately. No one needs to see a woman pushing seventy years of age getting jiggy in her altogether to celebrate the coming spring.
“What does a druid do in New York?”
“I guard a fairy gate.”
My eye twitched. It was an involuntary response, but I tended to react poorly to the word
these days. “There is only one fairy gate.”
She raised her hand and made a peace sign, holding two fingers apart. “One in the fae realm, one in ours.”
“So you’re the guardian of a magical gateway to another world, and you’re sleeping
Siobhan didn’t bother looking around the room. She evidently didn’t need another glance at the apartment to know what I was alluding to. “A messy home full of affection is better than a grand house filled with people who don’t care about you.” Her smile hadn’t faded, but it had lost some of its joy. There was sadness in her words she seemed all too accustomed to.
“You love him?” I hadn’t thought of Shane in romantic terms during the time I’d known him. He was handsome enough if you were into the whole scruffy bad-boy thing, but he was also my underling. It’s hard to think of someone as sexy when you had control over their life.
“Love’s a funny thing.”
Oh yeah, it was a laugh riot. “If by funny you mean something only an idiot would participate in…then yes.”
“I hear you’re quite the idiot.”
I laughed, probably for the first time in a month. Being called an idiot had never felt so good. “Yeah, you could say that.”
The front door swung open with a crash, cutting our laughter short. Siobhan and I pivoted, her hand going for a baton on the coffee table, while I chambered a round in my gun and aimed it at the new arrival.
Shane stepped through the entrance, completely soaked by blood and holding a machete. There was a feral glint in his eyes, and I wasn’t sure he noticed I had a gun aimed at his head.
“Shane?” Siobhan put the baton back on the table. “What’s wrong?”
He acknowledged us then for the first time. “Secret?” He shifted his attention from his diminutive lady love over to me. “You’re here?”
“You drew the short straw this week, remember?”
He might have looked confused, but it was hard to tell with the blood coating his skin and clothing. “Is your gun loaded?”
“Yes.” When did I ever carry an unloaded weapon?
“Good,” he said. “I need your help. We have to go kill something.”
Music to my ears.
Since Shane didn’t bother cleaning the blood off himself before we left the apartment, I had to assume whatever we were hunting was a baddie of the biggest variety.
I wasn’t keen on Siobhan tagging along, but Shane didn’t tell her to stay home, so maybe she could hold her own. Far be it for me to assume a girl, especially a small one, couldn’t kick butt in a fight.
We skirted the block Shane’s shitty apartment complex was on, and Siobhan and I followed the bloodstained hunter down an alley and through a minefield of moldy cardboard boxes. Between the puddles and the stench I was relieved I’d opted for boots that evening instead of open-toed heels.
“Where are we going?” I jumped sideways when one of the boxes groaned. A scraggly homeless man swore at me and fixed the wall of his Frigidaire palace.
“It went this way.” He pointed at a nearby building, an apartment identical to Shane’s own, but this one appeared vacant. Leave it to our quarry to pick an abandoned building for its lair.
The shittier the digs, the happier the monster.
Shane wasn’t waiting for us. He ducked under a peeled-back section of chain-link fence and vanished around the back corner of the building.
“He’s gotten faster,” I observed.
“He had to.” Siobhan moved ahead of me, following Shane’s route.
I’d vanished for three weeks over the summer, time lost in a fae realm, and though three months had passed since then, I was still learning how much I’d missed during that time. I didn’t know what had happened to Shane and Siobhan, and I was only getting snippets of what had occurred in the lives of my other friends, but I wasn’t too fond of being in the dark about things.
It made me feel like a shitty friend and a bad ally. Whatever Shane had experienced to make him a stealthier fighter, I hadn’t been around to witness it. And what if things had gone the other way? What if instead of adapting, he’d failed?
We might not be besties, but he’d been around for a lot of crappy stuff that had gone on in my life, and he’d toughed it all out. I’d go as far as to say we were friends. Friends with a weird working relationship.
Anything less than friendship and I probably wouldn’t have followed him into the dark unknown. But he
part of my life, and was willing to keep me in his house at his own peril. Plus he’d promised we’d get to kill something.
I checked the safety of my gun and made sure it was off before crouching low to the ground and ducking under the fence.
Shane was halfway up a rusted fire escape, and my gaze traveled past him over the brick wall of the building. A shattered window ten floors up was his most likely destination. Siobhan clambered after him, and I brought up the rear. Shane paused outside the broken window and waited for us to join him, holding a finger to his lips to signal for us to be quiet.