Chapter Four of Hunters is live!. Warning: Adult content. Feedback is appreciated
Also, check out my short story Harsh Mistress, along with thirteen other great stories, in the Saints and Sinners Anthology. In this prequel to Hunters, the pirate Sebastian Essex sails his ship Harsh Mistress into Hell on a quest to save the woman he loves. On sale now at Amazon.com!
Previous chapters can be found on the Hunters page.
Compare the latest version with the first draft here!
I said I was going to kill Sebastian Essex, but I really meant I’d try. I didn’t like my chances despite every weapon I owned crammed in the trunk of my car. Sebastian had at least two centuries on me. Age meant power for a Cursed, and even if I weren’t beat to shit from the Andrasi this was going to be a bitch if it came to a fight.
Lucky Sebastian hated physical confrontations. Might mess up his suit.
My puke-green Mercury Montego looked twice as shitty in front of Millennium Tower, a luxury high-rise where base floor studios went for a million. The hundred I handed the college-aged valet didn’t soften his horror at having to park the relic. Maybe he would at least get a contact high from the coke Gordon had snorted with the bill.
I disguised my limp as best I could as I crossed the lobby to the bank of elevators. Mirrors and brushed steel abounded. The staff were too fixated on my bruises and ripped clothing to notice my lack of reflection, but that wouldn’t last. I couldn’t risk staying down here.
“Can I help you, miss?” The clerk asked. His voice cracked on the last word.
“Sebastian Essex.” I punched the elevator button. The doors slid open in seconds.
“He’s on the-”
“Top floor, I’d guess.”
“But he had to buzz you in!”
The closing doors cut off any reply.
I pounded the button for the penthouse and waited.
The elevator buzzed and rumbled to life after a few seconds. No preamble, no questions. Sebastian knew who the elevator’s empty video feed wasn’t showing.
The doors opened onto a dim condo. A wall of windows looked out over the glittering night sea of the city, the glow painting in silver the modern lines and sweeping curves of the room’s stark embellishments. Leather couches and recliners faced a cold hearth. No artwork, no plants, no color but black and white. Even the granite, appliances and tile in the overlooking kitchen lacked any disrupting shade.
Two lean and severe bodyguards stepped out of the shadows as I entered. One held a metal detector wand. I was used to some level of desire fogging eyes that looked on me, but both their gazes were numb, lifeless.
“The hand comes off with that thing,” I said without looking at the one with the wand.
Both guards paused at my tone and shot blank glances toward the living area.
A flare of red – the tip of a cigarette – winked to life in the darkness.
“Patricia fucking Praest,” Sebastian Essex said, proper British weaved thick through his words. “Already threatening to remove limbs. You’ve been in America too long.”
“So have you.”
“I was keenly aware of that the second I got off my jet. Please, humor them. They’re only doing their vertical jobs.”
I glared the two monkeys away, then slid the kukri from their sheaths and dropped them on to the countertop. The machine pistol followed, then the pistol shotgun, knife and phosphorous grenades. Each landed in the pile with a hollow clang.
“Aren’t you the good little Yankee now? Ready to start a Goddamn war.” The cigarette tip floated across darkness as Sebastian stepped into the light.
Sebastian Essex might have been black in life, I’d never asked. The ages had scoured all color from his skin save alabaster and pale lead. The eye not covered by an eye patch shone dark as he regarded me. Black dreadlocks cascaded to his shoulders and a goatee the same color framed lifeless gray lips. A golden coin, its markings burning a dead orange, rested snugly in one ear.
I made a show of looking around the penthouse. “Nice place.”
“It will do. I refuse to live in squalor while in this shitpile of a hemisphere.” He made a slow, appraising circle around me. My gaze didn’t follow him. “You’re still the ray of sunshine I remember.”
“Possessed of the same ten word vocabulary, I see.”
“Says the Cursed who swears every other word.”
“My dear, I am Shakespearian in my use of the profane arts. Your vulgarity seldom strays from the comforts of fornication and defecation.” He took another pull from his black Sobranie cigarette, let the pale smoke slither into the air. His eye lingered on my bruises and the blood on my clothes. “I thought you were the only Cursed in Seattle. Only you could manage to pick a fight here.”
“I just had the shit kicked out of me by an Andrasi.”
“And I assume said Andrasi got the shit kicked out of him in return.”
“If you’re here, of course he fucking is. I would think pack demons would know to stay clear of you.”
“They came after me because you’re here.”
“Well, glad to be of service. If you need a topper, feel free to fuck one of my guards. They’re rubbish outside bed anyway.”
The bodyguards again gave no outward reaction. Sebastian had dominated every fiber of self out of them.
“Speaking of,” he continued, “how long has it been since you enjoyed a proper shag with a proper Cursed?”
Our eyes met, and his domination scraped my mind. Compulsions to submit, a succubus surrendering herself to the merciless fucking of a Pride Cursed. I slid off my jacket, shuddered against the temptation to drop to my knees before him. Jealousy swallowed the empty eyes of the bodyguards.
Then I realized what was happening. I sprang forward and grabbed Sebastian by the lapels. My injuries screamed, but my rage shoved the pain aside. I smashed him against the penthouse windows and pinned him in place with my forearm. The downtown lights sparkled along the cracks that spiderwebbed across the glass.
“Get out of my head,” I snarled.
He smiled. “You’ve let your mental guards slack over the years.” He shook his head at the two bodyguards, who had their guns out and ready to fire.
“Something that won’t happen again.”
“That’s lesson one. What’s the next one I should teach you, Tricia?”
The cracks in the windows squealed as they spread under my pressure. I snarled once, low, ominous, and threw him across the room.
Sebastian crashed to the floor. I pounced, pinning him under me. Even without his attempts to govern my will, the allure of sex with another Cursed was luxurious. I ripped his suit open. Tumbling buttons glimmered in the city lights.
“Don’t ruin a perfectly adequate fifty thousand quid suit,” he grunted. His glamour dropped, leaving his Belethi appearance unmasked. White skin, no blemish or variance but his black hair and goatee. His single eye burned a cold diamond blue.
“You’ll buy a new one.” I dropped my own glamour. “After I teach you a lesson.”
My body devoured him with such demonic Lust the entire tower came with us.
“That made the trip a bit less shitty,” Sebastian murmured, hours later when we’d finished. His dreadlocks spilled in a tangle across the white silk pillows of his bed. The slanting light of the overcast morning trickled through a break in the curtains to cut a colorless line across the room. The scent of sex perfumed the air.
I twined my fingers through his chest hair, black and wiry against porcelain skin. Ran them across the hairless swaths of scars from his mortal life.
“How’d you get the scars?” I had never thought to ask.
“Chasing the woman I loved.” He turned to me at my sound of disbelief. “She didn’t make the scars, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
The glint of the coin in his ear caught my eye. He had left it in the whole time. As I studied the unfamiliar markings, a faint, maddening babble brushed my senses, words I knew I could understand if I concentrated enough. I looked away and the sounds disappeared.
“It has been too long,” I said, stretching in the languid afterglow.
“It’s nice to have your partner survive coitus for once, I suppose.”
“Not as nice as you think.”
He let out a one-breath laugh. “Your pillow talk is still shit.” His hand moved to caress my breast and tease the nipple until it hardened. I moaned and swung myself up to straddle him, felt his cock respond under me. But his eye dropped to the cross dangling from my neck above him. “Do you ever take that off?”
“Our Curse doesn’t allow us to change much over the years, does it?” He grimaced at the slash of light creeping across the floor. “Be a dear and pull the curtains shut, will you?”
I pressed my cheek against his and bit his ear, the one without the coin. “Let your goons do it.”
From somewhere he pulled a black cigarette and spewed smoke within seconds. “Their brains are still mush from the collateral of a succubus fuckfest.”
I shoved him away and glided across the room to the curtains. A Pride Cursed that hated the sun. Sebastian hadn’t changed, either.
“Finally got you to do something I want,” he said. “And without having to try.”
Less than five minutes after a night sex and I was already done with him. “Why were you checking up on me?”
He propped himself on an elbow and studied me. A grin, neither playful nor humored, crept across his mouth. “What makes you think I give a fuck about you?”
I couldn’t keep the surprise from my voice. “I’m the only Cursed you’d care about in Seattle. Maybe in the whole country.”
“You’ve gained that American arrogance, too.” He sighed. “You are a blunt instrument, Tricia. A comely one, true, even when it looks like someone worked you over with a sledgehammer, but no great mystery. The only way you could garner my attention is if you enthralled the entire city. Which, let’s be honest, would take a while even with the spectacular cunt you’ve got.”
Sebastian used degradation with such frequency that I hardly noticed anymore. “Then why are you here?”
“Because,” he said, taking another drag from his Sobranie, “Hinge is here.”
I snapped invisible out of reflex. My senses lashed out around the condo, hunting for the presence of my former master.
Sebastian grinned. “You think he stayed in the closet the whole time?” He swept his hand in the direction of the curtained windows. “I meant in Seattle somewhere. Even I’ve got difficulty feeling his presence, and he’s not hiding from me.”
I slipped back into visibility. “What’s he doing here?” The panic in my voice was humiliating.
“You’re his long-lost daughter. You didn’t think he would leave you alone forever, did you?”
“I’d hoped. It’s been decades.”
“Hinge had many irritating qualities, but the most vexing is his patience. Which runs contrary to his batshit insanity.”
I watched Sebastian’s face. His expression betrayed nothing, but I could feel it. “You’re scared of him.”
His gaze narrowed. He turned away from me, dropping back on the bed. “Let’s just said we notice when a five hundred year old Cursed picks up and runs to the New World.”
“The most powerful of us keep an eye on each other in case anyone gets up to truly monumental fuckery.”
“Why did they send you, then? Victorian and the Roman are older than Hinge, for Christ’s sake. Why aren’t any true elders here?”
Sebastian’s eye hardened. The reaction disappeared fast enough that I was sure it meant something. “No one sent me. And no one else wants to muck about with him. These days, even a mildly content Hinge is a disaster of biblical fucking proportions.”
“And this disaster is in Seattle. How powerful is he?”
“Powerful enough that mortals don’t even remember him. He can rewrite memories, even those of newly Cursed, with impunity.”
“Then he’s worse than I remember.”
“Hard to believe. But never underestimate the power – or arrogance – of a Cursed who Descended.”
I stared at him. “Hinge Descended.” It was as much a statement as a question.
“Get off. You didn’t know? He told you fuckall about anything.” Sebastian rolled his eye. “No one made him. Being an inquisitor fucked him up enough that Hell Cursed him all on its own.” He pointed his cigarette at the cross around my neck. “He must still have got some Catholic guilt knocking around for that thing to work.”
“I never knew,” I breathed. “If he Descended, his age is meaningless.”
“Not meaningless. It just means he’s got a metric fuckton more power than he should.”
“And you came alone to watch him? That’s stupid.”
“This from the blunt instrument.”
I glared at him. “I came here ready to destroy you. I still might. Don’t treat me like an idiot.”
Sebastian let a cloud of smoke stream from his lips. “You are definitely not an idiot.”
The clues began to coalesce in my thoughts. “You snuck in to Seattle. You didn’t think I’d find you. You meant me to be your bait.”
Sebastian shrugged. “That plan’s shit now. At least I got a night of succubus out of it.”
I ran a hand through my hair. I never expected Hinge to care about me, much less come after me.
“I can’t very well find him if he doesn’t want me to.” I reached down and started pulling on my clothes. They were in worse condition than when I came in. “What am I supposed to do? Wait till he comes after me?”
“I don’t care what you do. Flee him, fight him, fuck him, it makes no difference. I only care what his plans are for you.”
I was tempted to rip the curtains open and bathe the asshole in daylight, just to see what would happen.
My body tingled as my fingers cupped and tugged my breast. I moaned and started to slide my hands under my skirt, then swore and wheeled on Sebastian.
“Don’t fuck with me,” I growled.
“I just wanted to see if your aura was as potent when you masturbate,” Sebastian said. “I’m still up for another go.”
Rage burned my cheeks. I could never let my shields down even for a second around him. Or Hinge.
“Stay out of my way, Sebastian.” I headed for the elevator. “Or I’ll do worse than open your fucking curtains.”
“Tricia,” Sebastian said. I turned to him in surprise. For a second, his voice held a note of concern. “Don’t trust any memories of your time with him. There’s no telling how long he’s been fucking with any of us.”
“Hopefully that means my past was a lie.”
“Oh, no. You were a stark-raving bitch. You still need forgiveness for that.”
His words were thick with mockery. At the mention of forgiveness my thoughts skittered to Pastor Rosie. Worry started to prickle my spine.
“Stay out of my way,” I repeated, with even more venom.
“Oh, I plan to enjoy the show from afar.”
I couldn’t even muster a retort. I spun on my heels and headed for the door.
“I’m sure you’re off to do some soul-searching after murdering three rapists, killing a demon and fucking another,” Sebastian said from behind me. “Better not forget your guns. Who knows what shit you’ll manage to get into when you leave.”
Anger again swelled at my vulnerability – Sebastian had laid bare how out of practice I was at guarding my thoughts – and I stormed to the kitchen to scoop up my weapons. I needed to get out of here before I got into some shit right here in his penthouse.
(c) 2015 by William Reid Schmadeka. All Rights Reserved.