Hello! I am hosting an excerpt stop for the blog tour of Cursed by J A Cipriano today.
Actually, that last part isn't true. I know why the death cult is after me. It's because I saved that damned girl from them. I didn't know who she was at the time, but I'd have done it anyway. I just don't like it when girls get beat up, call me old fashioned.
Still, I can tell she's hiding something behind those devilish eyes, and if I want to find out what it is, I'll have to help her.
My name is Mac Brennan. I have no memory, and I'm a werewolf-hunting, hellfire-flinging version of Faust himself.
“I’d caution you to mind your tongue when speaking with the alpha, but I know you won’t bother,” Loraine said, her voice hushed and strangely reverent as she pressed her hand against the wall.
A little wooden panel slid away to reveal one of those biometric hand readers. Loraine touched it, and green light flashed from between her fingers for several seconds before the door opened, exposing a long dark tunnel. The only light from within came from a strip of white LEDs set into the cement floor.
“Please tell me we aren’t going into a dark tunnel,” I murmured as Jack shot me a look that had a frailness to it I hadn’t expected. It shook me. He’d been cocky a second ago, but now he was scared. Well, screw this.
Loraine shot me a pleased smile rimmed with wicked intentions. “Ricky is just through there—”
I cut off her words with a bullet to the face. The right side of her skull evaporated in a cloud of blood and thicker bits. Not bad for a left-handed shot. Instead of falling, she staggered backward, her remaining eye fixing on me with hate. For good measure, I fired the Beretta twice more. The two shots caught her in the center of the chest, knocking her body to the ground with a thud I couldn’t hear over the sudden ringing in my ears.
“How about you get Ricky out here before I get mad?” I barked as the crack of the gunshots faded.
I stepped up to the woman as blood gushed from her perforated chest, staining both the carpet and her blue blouse scarlet. I ground the toe of my cheap loafer into the wound. She half-gasped, half burbled a cry of pain that let me know she was still very much alive. Good, I hadn’t wanted to kill her.
Truthfully, after what I’d seen from the two low level werewolves I’d tangled with earlier, I wasn’t exactly worried about killing her. I wanted to let the wolves know I was serious. Since I could already see her bone and tissue starting to knit itself back together, I decided to kick it up a notch. If I let up for long, Loraine would be fully healed and pissed. That wouldn’t help.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Jack cried, reaching out toward me, but I held up my right hand as the smell of rotten eggs filled the air. He stopped midstride and stared at me, mouth agape. “You’re going to get us both killed.”
I ignored him and turned back to the woman struggling beneath my shoe like a wounded animal. Her skull had already reformed in a way that reminded me of watching a candle melt in reverse. I’d definitely have to hurry. I sucked in a breath, filling my lungs with the coppery tang of her blood and the tattoos along my right arm blazed to life. Scarlet light pulsed along my arm as I bent down and grabbed her by the throat with my right hand, careful to keep my gun at the ready in my left. If anyone came through that hallway, I wanted to be ready.
As I tightened my grip on her neck, hellish light spilled from my tattoos, and just like that, her healing stopped. A surge of energy rushed through me, bringing with it the scent of pine forest and brisk nights. I wasn’t quite sure how, but I was somehow directing her energy into me. My heart hammered excitedly as her eyes went wide in sudden fear. I shot her my biggest grin, and a shudder shook her bleeding body.
“See, I’m tired of doing things all crazy. You people helped them take Sera,” I said, lifting Loraine into the air and marching her toward the big window along the left wall. “That is not allowed.”
With an almost absent effort, I put a round in the glass. The sound of it shattering filled me with a sense of triumph, but the look on the werewolf’s face when I held her outside the window by her throat was positively priceless. It told me one thing. She hadn’t expected this. Good, neither would her alpha. Now, it was time to kick things up a notch. “Tell me where to find these Stars and Moons clowns, or I’m going to drop your second.”
“I’m surprised you knew I was here,” said a low, silky voice from just to my left. I didn’t even bother to look in her direction. It wasn’t like she could do anything to me before I flung Loraine out the window. Best case scenario right now was me joining the girl on the way down. Somehow, I was pretty sure Loraine couldn’t survive such a fall.
Loraine gasped, trying to say words that bubbled out of her mouth. It was a little surprising because I didn’t normally expect people with holes in their faces to talk, but hey, first time for everything.
“I’m going to guess this is where you threaten me. Well, I know a thing or two about healing, and while I’m not sure if your friend will survive the fall, I’m pretty sure if she does, she won’t enjoy the sudden stop at the bottom of twenty or so stories.” I relaxed my grip, allowing Loraine to slowly slip from my fingers. “But she is heavy, so I hope you’ll just hurry up and tell me.”
“Your friend is a dead man,” the woman to my left growled, and this time I gave her a quick once over. She looked no more than seventeen with short red hair, freckles, and a body that screamed “I’m just one of the guys.” Her white teeth were marred by braces with flecks of gunk sticking to them, but the snarl on her lips nearly made me want to go run and hide.
“Time’s a wasting.” I gestured at her with the gun. “Tick fucking tock.”
“You’re going to regret this,” the redhead said, taking a menacing step toward me. Her eyes absolutely filled with amber so it was like she was staring at me with a pair of solid-colored marbles.
I let go of Loraine, and she fell a few inches before I grabbed her by her stupid blonde ponytail. “Whoops. Guess she was slipperier than I thought. Still, I wonder how long her hair can support her weight. Give me Sera’s location, and we won’t have to find out.”
“Ricky, you should just do as he says. He’s a Cursed. You know what they’re like,” Jack pleaded, and his eyes were full of worry. I wondered if he thought we’d get out of this alive. I was giving us fifty, fifty odds.
“Go ahead, drop her. If you do, you’ll have zero leverage—” I cut Ricky off by putting another round into Loraine’s chest, spraying her insides out across the expanse of air.
“What was that?” I asked, tapping my ear with the Beretta. “I must have missed the part where you told me where to find Sera’s captor.”
Ricky snarled and bunched her hands into fists so tightly I could see blood dripping from her palms. Thought flashed through her eyes as she presumably weighed her options.
“Okay,” she said, slowly relaxing her fists before telling us an address. Watching the calm ripple over her features and settle there was one of the most unnerving things I’d ever seen.
“Do you know where that is, Jack?” I asked. When the vampire nodded to me, I let out a sigh of relief. “Good. Get the elevator will you?”
Jack did as he was told and hit the button beside the elevator without a word. Ricky continued to stare at me with flat, empty eyes and edged a hair closer, no doubt about to spring at me. Her movement made me wonder if she had expected me to see it. I was as good as dead in her mind, so it could have gone either way. That was fine. I could live with her wanting to kill me.
“So what’s your play now, Cursed?” Jack asked as the elevator behind him opened, and he stepped inside, keeping one foot out to block the door from closing. Well, that was nice of him. Part of me wondered if he’d just leave me here to die. I really hoped not because after we rescued Sera, I had another mother and son to save.
“We go get Sera,” I replied and dropped Loraine. The next few moments were sort of a blur as Ricky dove for the falling girl while I leapt for the elevator. Her hands grasped empty air as she hit the ground on her chest and slid half out the shattered window frame. She turned, rage painting her face into a gruesome mask as the elevator doors closed, and we lurched downward.