Authors: Jenny Allen
Kaidan Garrus Allen, the light of my life
Emily Kirk, Travis Tramble, Robin Sullivan, Andrea Christensen and Amanda Clark. My “test bunnies”
And Chris Howard, the best book cover designer I’ve
blessed to work with.
The Lilith Adams Vampire Series
Rose of Jericho
Rose of Jericho
n just a week and a half Lilith’s life had gone from boring routines to an absurd plot in some steamy, romantic horror novel that littered the shelves of bookstores. Well, at least the stores that e-readers hadn’t put out of business yet. It was hard to believe that just nine days ago she was investigating the staking of an emo teen who thought dental caps, black fishnet and glitter made him a vampire. It seemed like years ago. No. It seemed more like vague memories of a past life. Hazy remnants of standing in a cliché apartment, surrounded by empty take-out boxes, black candles, teen vamp books and sloppy black paint.
Her life on the Major Crimes unit of the NYPD forensic team was nothing like the cop shows covering TV like shingles. She never chased leads or interrogated suspects. Hell, even normal forensic investigators didn’t do any of that crap. You’d never see a DNA analyst working a crime scene or even leaving the lab while still on the clock. And you definitely would not see a coroner getting into a gunfight with a suspect. That was all Hollywood fantasy, right along with the completely inappropriate lighting they used to amp up the drama factor.
In fact, Lilith only had a gun and a permit because it was required. Most nights she’d arrive at a scene, do a test or two, inspect the body and leave. On the more interesting cases she forwarded notes to the homicide detectives just to keep her brain active.
She was simply a specialized crime scene tech and ninety percent of the time she felt completely useless, a safety measure against some remotely possible publicity nightmare. Contrary to pop culture, Vampires were a small, civil community spread out across the world, and too smart to rely on territorial angst. Still, as her father constantly reminded her, it only took one case, one story, to put them all in danger. One slip could reveal them to a world that historically has not been known for its acceptance of new things. However, understanding the purpose for her job didn’t make her feel any more useful.
In that moment, in that dead kid’s apartment in NYC, all she’d wanted was a real mystery to chase down, an adventure, a sense of purpose for her forensic talents. How naïve she had been. It was an age-old story, the Monkey’s Paw, be careful what you wish for. The universe has a perverse sense of humor and you’ll get exactly what you want in the worst possible way. She’d give anything to be back in that crappy apartment, testing the blood of some dead teenager in Hot Topic couture with Alvarez chirping in her Bluetooth about Gloria and the girls.
Everything was different now. Her one and only partner and dear friend, the man that taught her everything, Detective Philippe Alvarez, was dead and buried in the ground. Most of the family she had left was gone. Her once fantastic relationship with her father was shattered and that alone left her feeling completely adrift. She’d almost died several times, and now she had some crazy incubus blood in her veins that made her flypaper for other people’s emotions. To make matters even worse, she was still wearing the black dress from Alvarez’s funeral. As much as she’d felt unsatisfied in her life, it was nothing compared to the heart-crushing tragedies that had occurred since that moment.
Now, here Lilith was, handcuffed in a plane, heading to some unknown destination at the whim of some mysterious enemy. And how did she end up in this predicament? A monster with crippling vocal chords dressed up like a bad Marilyn Monroe impersonator complete with own regimen of SWAT style henchmen.
If it hadn’t all been true, she’d just laugh hysterically. This was like Jerry Springer’s idea of the Golden Ticket. The ratings would have been through the damn roof if the show hadn’t already been canceled. Somehow she didn’t think that was how her father intended to bring vampires into the limelight anyway, center stage in some ratings junkie’s circus of dysfunction.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t some bizarre plot in a movie or the imaginings of some creative lunatic. It wasn’t “reality TV” on steroids and LSD with a side of ‘shrooms. This was all real. This was her world now and it would never be the same. There was no reset button. She couldn’t take back her Monkey Paw wish.
Now any normal person would be panicking, fighting, screaming if they’d been abducted by a SWAT team and a banshee. It was useless, of course. They were on a private jet ten thousand feet above anyone who would care. Besides, she’d already done that for the first half hour. Now, after two hours in the air with only her guilt for company, she was just bored, tired and numb.
Her olive eyes scanned the cabin for the millionth time, resting on the three anonymous henchmen in her section of the plane. Two of them were silently installed across the aisle in matching first class seats facing each other like deadly bookends, while the third man paced the aisle. To her immense relief, the bombshell with the ear-splitting vocal chords was still out of sight in the rear of the plane. Thank the fates for small miracles.
Her eyes glided over each guard looking for some kind of clue, but they all wore the same black tactical gear with the same blank expressions on their bland faces. They didn’t even have name badges. They were just deadly background fixtures complete with stun rods. Lilith had always wondered if stun rods existed outside of Demolition Man. Apparently they did, though they looked more like cattle prods then sleek wands with cool sound effects.
“So… do you guys have a good anonymous henchmen benefit package or is it more like a freelance, independent contractor kind of gig?” The men across the aisle sat still as stone, staring straight ahead. “Does conversation cost extra? I’m pretty sure I have a twenty in my pocket…” Nothing. Not a single muscle twitch or even an emotional flicker. Guess she didn’t rate any in-flight entertainment.
She’d at least expected some sort of underlying current of anger considering three of their men were killed during the ambush at Chance’s place. On the rare occasion that they actually looked at her, only cold, calculated caution lit their eyes, nothing else. Nothing personal. Either the henchmen weren’t a close-knit team or they were experts in the military mindset. She was leaning toward a mixture of both.
Lilith sighed and slouched back into her seat, adjusting her arms. The handcuffs were digging into her wrists and she had no idea how long she’d have to wear them. Dammit. Who would have this kind of arsenal to throw at them and why would anyone want to? None of it made any sense. Ashcroft was her only enemy and he was well and truly dead. Besides, he wasn’t exactly a team player. No one would care if he was dead. Lilith shook the infuriating mystery out of her head. It didn’t matter if she figured it out or not. It wouldn’t change anything right now.
With nothing else to distract her, her olive eyes finally drifted over to Chance and conflicting emotions roared to the surface. Even unconscious, Chance Deveraux was insanely handsome in his black button up shirt and his black slacks - very Johnny Cash. The suit only accentuated the 6’3” leanly muscular frame slouched into the seat. She could see the soft stubble covering his strong jaw, making him look completely irresistible. Even his chestnut hair was casually messy in a way most guys spent hours in front of the mirror trying to achieve.
Lilith breathed a pained sigh as she looked him over more carefully, like some intricate puzzle she wasn’t positive she’d ever solve. Chance Deveraux was her co-prisoner …bodyguard …boyfriend …guardian …knight in shining armor…complete pain in her ass… None of the labels seemed to fit and yet they were all true.
The torrent of tumultuous emotions vibrating under her skin was precisely why she’d avoided looking at the handsome man handcuffed to the seat across from her. Still, she couldn’t avoid dealing with Chance and the jumbled mess in her head any more than she could escape the handcuffs and stale, recirculated, airplane air.
Everything with Chance was raw, unpredictable and very tenuous. This romance, or whatever it was, had blossomed in the midst of the most horrific moments in her life. Could anything real truly be built on that? Could one incredibly intense moment in an alley really be called a relationship?
Chance may have been holding a torch for the past ten plus years, but everything had escalated in a matter of days. They hadn’t exactly had time to sit down and talk about what happens next. The scariest part of things that develop fast is that they usually end just as quickly. It had been too much to process even before a banshee and her generic henchmen busted into her life.
That Marilyn Monroe wannabe had just waltzed into his apartment and forced Chance’s complete, mindless adoration with a voice like a circular saw chewing through metal. In fact, it only took one piercing note to put Lilith on her knees in crippling pain and knock Chance out completely. He’d been unconscious ever since with that happy half-smile on his chiseled face.
It was a good thing both her wrists were handcuffed to the seat. She wanted nothing more than to slap that peaceful look right off his handsome face. She couldn’t really explain why she was angry at him and she certainly didn’t have the energy to try and figure it out. It just didn’t seem right that Chance was lost in happy thoughts while handcuffed on a plane heading toward some ominous destination.
Lilith was in the middle of her muddled thoughts when Chance groggily opened his eyes. He tried to lift his hand, but it was restrained by the handcuffs. His hazel eyes with their green flecks snapped open and confusion contorted his chiseled face. “What the hell?” He looked up to see Lilith sitting across from him. For the briefest moment his face softened into something that made her blush, but in a flicker it was replaced with concern as his eyes caught on the cuffs around her wrists. “Lily,
, are you okay? What the hell is going on?”
Lilith shifted in her seat again, suddenly feeling a little uncomfortable and defensive for some reason. Maybe it was the slight Cajun accent in his deep voice or maybe it was the fact that seconds ago she was secretly wishing she could slap him in the face.
“Yeah, while you were napping we were shoved on a plane and handcuffed. Look. Matching jewelry.” Her voice sounded harsh even to her as she rattled her restraints. She hadn’t intended it, but her illogical war of emotions was still in full swing.
Chance frowned at her, his head tilting to the side inquisitively. “Is there something else I missed?” His warm eyes studied her and the attention made her both flustered and irritated at the same time. How was she supposed to answer that question? She was hurt that he’d made moon eyes at some creature wrapped in a Marilyn Monroe costume that could control his attention with her voice? It not only sounded insane, but completely not his fault. Still, logic was out on vacation and emotional irrationality was firmly in control.
Lilith did the only thing she could think of. She pulled on a small smile and lied through her teeth. “No, I’m just not a fan of flying.”
Chance crooked an eyebrow at her and settled back into his seat with an easy grace, his eyes never leaving hers. “I’ve been on a plane with you before, remember? In fact, if I remember correctly, you were the one lecturing me about controlling my fear of enclosed spaces.”
Lilith frowned and chewed at the corner of her lip. If she was going to lie, she sure as hell could have picked a better one.
what is really going on?” His skeptical eyes felt like they were boring into her, piercing right through all the protective layers of sarcasm and wit that she normally wrapped herself up in. He knew there was something she wasn’t sharing, of course that could be because of the demon blood she’d given him to save his life. She wasn’t the only one with the new and unpredictable ability to sense emotions. Thankfully for her, emotions alone were not a complete tell. There are hundreds of reasons that would explain her fear and apprehension. She only needed one he’d believe.
With a sigh, Lilith twisted her wrists, trying to find a position that didn’t pinch her skin. There wasn’t one. Why did the cuffs suddenly feel tighter? “I wasn’t exactly hand cuffed to the seat with armed guards staring me down, Chance.” She wasn’t sure whether Chance completely bought it or not, but either way he decided to drop it.
Instead, he glanced over at the book end guards before looking back at her. “Then maybe you could tell me what the hell happened in my apartment? The last thing I remember, two of those mercs jumped you.”
Lilith cocked an eyebrow at him. She couldn’t hide the skepticism or the surprise that had nothing to do with the subject change. “That’s really the last thing you remember?”
She could feel his confusion like roiling clouds before a storm. His eyebrows knitted together as he watched her face carefully. “Uh, I get the impression I’m missing something major?”
Before Lilith could even think about it, she flashed a smartass smile and snickered. Something major was a bit of an understatement. She’d never been a believer of the supernatural. Yes, she was well aware of the irony considering she was, in fact, a vampire. Of course, in reality there was nothing inherently supernatural about vampires. It was all just a bunch of media hype.
However, her logical brain was now trying to deal with a second new supernatural enemy in roughly a week. Well, three if she counted the abomination that was Ashcroft. It was a whole world that she never knew existed. Suddenly it wasn’t very difficult to imagine how humans would feel when, and if, vampires came out into the public spotlight, scared as hell. That kind of fear would always lead to discrimination and violence, not necessarily in that order. She sure hadn’t experienced anything positive with her newfound knowledge and she definitely wanted to put a bullet in the banshee chick’s head.