Raze's hungers, of all the Fallen, are some of the blackest and most voracious. Losing his wings on account of his brazen seductions, has left him soulless and immortal; the most dangerous of seducers. Hunting the rogues of his kind and protecting the humans who provide him with blood, he has roamed the earth for what seems an eternity. Raze is satisfied with his life and the short-lived pleasures that stream through it ... that is until everything is changed by one woman in a single night.
Kimberly is intelligent, beautiful, and rich. Even though she can possess any man she chooses, the instant she meets the dangerously stunning Raze she knows he's the man she desires. As one steamy night turns into something deeper and far more zestful than either expected, an antagonist from Raze's past spies a chance for retribution. Warped by contempt, she will steal from Raze what was stolen from her--the priceless gift of love.
Raze hit the ground running in the Windy City. Within an hour of his plane landing, he'd swept through the building that had once housed Grimm's operation (presently a printing shop) and checked his way through a quarter of the list of Grimm's known haunts. Then, impatient, he took a chance and headed to Wrigley Field.
Although the ballpark was dark and quiet for the night, Raze knew wrong when he came across it and he damn well felt it as he drove by. Parking a few streets away, he slid out from behind the wheel and opened the back door of his rental to grab his blades. He strapped them on with the efficiency of long practice: daggers on each thigh and two katanas crisscrossing his back. Then he darted over on foot, moving so quickly the mortal eye couldn't catch him.
As he approached, he picked up the faint sound of a melodious male voice coming from the field, followed by a chorus of murmurs in reply--sounds too slight for anything but a vampire's hearing to catch. Grimm had been big on staging, too, which made Raze wonder just how close this prot?g? had been to Grimm and how long he had been working in the shadows.
Rounding the back of the ballpark, Raze climbed up the rear of the bleachers. He pulled his head up over the top, and looked down at the darkened field below. A lone man stood before a group of approximately two hundred robed and kneeling minions. Segmented into pairs with the men in black and the women in red, they formed a perfect pattern of stripes in the center of the field.
Raze listened to a couple lines of bullshit about the supremacy of the vampire nation, then he tuned it out and focused on the leader. The man was tall and lean, dark-haired, and dressed in a three-piece suit. He had a mesmerizing cadence to his speech, a lulling sonorousness that was evident even though Raze had stopped picking out the words.
He debated his next step, knowing this was an elaborate trap for him, one that would be designed with the expectation that he wouldn't come alone. Which was why he'd done exactly that.
But he could still take them by surprise.
Pulling out his phone, he jumped the hoops necessary to reach Adrian.
"Mitchell," the Sentinel leader answered.
"It's Raze. I've got a situation you'll be interested in."
"Where are you?"
"Yes, that is interesting. So am I."
Raze stilled, his hackles rising at the softness of Adrian's tone. "That's not a coincidence."
"No, it's not. Location?"
He wasn't surprised that the angel was so far from his home base in Anaheim, California. That was Adrian's way. While Syre was cerebral in his leadership, using Raze and Salem to investigate and Vashti as his iron fist, Adrian was the opposite. The Sentinel leader left the administrative duties to others so he could remain a hands-on hunter in the field. A vampire hunter and gaoler--those roles being the sole purpose of his existence.
Raze gave his location, then pointed out, "I wouldn't have called you if I just needed a hand or two. If you're going to send a couple lycans and call it a night, don't bother."
"Don't tell me how to respond to a request for a favor." The lack of inflection in the angel's voice was more disconcerting than an outright threat would have been.
"If you'd let us establish some cabals and covens in the major cities, I wouldn't need to call you at all." The Sentinels used their lycans to keep vampires contained in rural, lower population areas. They said the policy was to protect mortals, but the side effect was the hindering of the Fallen's ability to police their own minions. And every transgression was another mark against them, another smudge barring them from any possibility of redemption.
"How many more rogue minions would there be if vampires were allowed access to such a smorgasbord of food? The spread would become uncontainable. It's already out of control as it is or you wouldn't be calling me."
The line died, leaving Raze cursing at his cell phone. One of these days, he and the angel were going to have it out. But not tonight.
As the couples swayed like hypnotized king cobras, Raze leaped over onto the uppermost bench, then started taking the stairs down, applauding as he went. "Man, you've really got your delivery down. I mean, I could almost buy it ... if I was a whacked-out moron."
The man lifted his head and looked at Raze, his eyes glowing in the darkness. "Raze, how nice of you to join us. We've been expecting you. You are, after all, the guest of honor."
Although the distance between them was great, neither of them needed to raise their voices to be heard. "I'd say I was more of a bouncer. One who's going to bounce all your nutty asses into Hell."
"Where are your friends? Surely you didn't come to such an occasion alone?"
"Yeah, it's just me. I tried to round up more of a party, but everyone said it'd be a dud. They were right." Although he kept his descent easy and casual, Raze was hyperaware of new participants to the game as black-clad minions crawled toward him like ants. "Who are you?"
"Don't you remember me?"
"Nope. You don't ring any bells." He could tell being forgotten really chafed and that made him smile. In the back of his mind, he considered the possibility that Adrian might leave him hanging in the wind--the Sentinel hadn't actually agreed to show up. But Raze had no choice but to proceed as if reinforcements were on the way. "Why don't you enlighten me?"
"That's my goal." The man walked closer, his arms extended in dramatic fashion. "The Fallen are so busy wishing to be the angels you once were that you never enjoy being what you are."
Raze pulled one katana out of its sheath, the moonlight glinting off the silver-plated blade. "The only thing I don't like about what I am now is how much time I have to waste hunting dickheads like you."
"Ah ... you'd prefer to continue your quest to f**k everything willing to sate your lust. Of all the Fallen, you're one of the most pitiable. At least the others fell for love. You fell only because you can't keep you dick out of warm, wet holes."
Pivoting, Raze sliced the head off the minion who'd attempted to come at him from behind. He took out two more who lunged from the sides, his speed and strength fueled by the bitter truth that had been thrown in his face. Grimm's eternal love bullshit was why Raze had volunteered to hunt him down to begin with. The twisting of love to achieve an even more twisted end stirred violence and fury inside him. He'd watched his fellow Watchers give up their wings for it, and Grimm's doctrine made a mockery of that terrible, heartrending sacrifice.
"See how he slays the bravest of us?" the idiot prophet asked his minions. "His own people. Weakening us from within. We've elected to follow the Fallen, yet they lead us nowhere! We remain in the shadows, hidden from the world, while--"
"Are you going to shut him up," Adrian asked, landing gracefully on a bench and swatting away the incoming surge of minions with an impatient swat of his massive wings, "or is that what you needed me for?"
The vampires on the field had staggered to their feet when Adrian appeared and now they scrambled in every direction. It was a natural, instinctive urge to run from an apex predator, but the Sentinel leader himself inspired a unique awe and fear. Like Syre, Adrian had been blessed by the Creator, gifted with a face and form that was the height of angelic perfection. The thirty-foot expanse of his alabaster wings glimmered in the moonlight, the pure pristine white of the feathers framed by crimson tips, as if he'd trailed the edges through freshly spilled blood. That band of red was a vivid reminder of what he was--a weapon tasked with punishing the Fallen and containing their minions.
"He's mine." Raze raced down the steps and vaulted onto the field at the same moment a dozen lycans in lupine form hit the grass, converging on the panicked mass. He went after the leader, who surprisingly stood his ground and faced off with a pistol in hand.
"I could change your life, Raze."
"Gimme your name."
"Does it matter?"
Raze shrugged and twirled his blade with practiced ease. "Always good to have a name to go with a kill."
The man smiled. "You won't kill me. You need me to tell you if there are more of us, and if so, how many more and where they are. And I won't kill you because I need you, too. If you'd think outside the box, you'd realize that you could be the cornerstone of massive, sweeping advancement. You could have the mate you deserve. You could--"
"You don't know what I deserve."