The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters
Page 8

 Sierra Dean

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He smirked.
Large hands grabbed me from behind and lifted me off the ground. I hadn’t anticipated the damn guards reacting so fast, especially given how well-trained they were in ignoring everything. The mammoth of a man was crushing me, and the pressure on my broken bone brought pink-hued tears to my eyes.
Vampires cry blood. Half-vampires cry something a little more diluted. Neither variety cried often, but when someone is squeezing you so hard your broken bones grind together, it’s sort of hard to stop yourself.
I gave myself points for not dropping the sword when the guard got a hold of me. He lifted me high and walked us towards the edge of the balcony. It didn’t take a genius to know what he was planning to do with me, and a sword isn’t much of a defense against a forty-story drop. But the guard was in a hurry, and he was a little too sure of his plan. He threw me before I was clear of the railing.
My ribs smashed into the glass edge of the wall, and my own weight tipped me over the edge, threatening to drag me down. Thankfully I’d known what was coming, otherwise I would have bounced off the edge and fallen the whole way, meeting a grisly end on the sidewalk below.
As soon as I hit the railing I caught the sword, despite my broken arm. I knew I’d still need it when I made it out of this mess. Even holding the lightweight weapon sent fresh shock waves of pain through my shoulder. With my free hand I grabbed the slick wall and used the momentum of my body to swing myself upward and over. I moved in a smooth arc, sweeping across the glass, until I could hook my knees over the edge of the railing and propel myself back onto the balcony, where I landed behind the stunned guard.
I rose from my crouched stance, transferring the sword back to my good hand, and didn’t waste time waiting for the guard to turn for a second attack. He spun on his heel to face me as the sword sliced through the air, and it didn’t falter as it bisected his head from his shoulders. My arm was still extended, sword out and glistening with blood where it had gone through the vampire.
For the briefest second it didn’t look like I’d done anything to the guard. He blinked and his lip curled in disgust. Charlie watched with detached amusement, and I knew he thought I’d missed until he saw the blood on the sword.
We both watched the guard as his eyes widened before they went dull. He fell to his knees, and with the force of his big body hitting the ground, his head lolled to the side, then toppled off his neck where it had been severed with surgical precision. It landed at his knees, his unseeing eyes staring at my feet.
“What are you?” Charlie roared.
“My name is Secret McQueen.” My broken arm was held against my stomach. I rested one of my gold Jimmy Choo heels on the severed head of the vampire guard and pointed my sword at Charlie. “I’m here to kill you.”
He hadn’t recognized my face, but he knew my name. Most vampires did because it had become vampire legend. This time I didn’t think he’d forget it so easily.
“I didn’t leave L.A. just to get killed by some council lackey.”
It never ceased to amaze me that no matter how familiar rogues were with my name, they always believed they’d be the one exception to the rule. No rogue got away from me, but I guess I shouldn’t expect them to roll over and let me kill them. It would be nice if someone died quietly one of these times.
Charlie wasn’t going to be that one. He jumped onto the railing, and before I could cross the balcony, he had jumped. Vampires couldn’t fly, nor could they land on their feet from a forty-story drop without some ill consequence. I looked over the railing in time to see him grab hold of another balcony about ten floors down.
Sure, they couldn’t fly, but they could annoy the hell out of me with their agility.
The second guard had shown up, having heard the commotion from wherever he’d been hiding. He was just reaching the door when I blitzed past him and through the emergency stairwell next to the elevator. I heard the elevator doors sigh open as the stairwell door shut behind me, and by the time I was one floor down, I heard the door bang open again and two sets of feet pounding on the stairs behind me.
The guards were gaining on me as I spilled into the penthouse foyer, sliding into the wall and jarring my injured shoulder with an agonizing thump before I ran out the door. I had to catch up with Charlie before he left the hotel, and it pained me to admit the elevator would be the fastest route to the lobby.
I wanted to grab my cell phone, which I’d stuffed into the front of my bra after leaving my clutch with Holden, but with one arm broken and the other maintaining a death grip on my sword, I just had to hope Holden would be waiting in the lobby. The elevator doors closed at the same moment the men barreled into the hall. I gave them both the finger with my disabled arm.
After what felt like an hour, the doors opened into the lobby, and I stepped out and surveyed the space to see if Charlie had been there yet. Holden sat in an armchair near the entrance and got to his feet when he saw my arm. I was thankful for the late hour, because most of the tourists were gone, and the only guests in the lobby were the ones coming from the bar. I didn’t think drunk businessmen would be the most likely candidates to notice the sword I had against my leg.
Holden was halfway across the lobby when the stairwell door burst open and Charlie skidded out across the Plexiglas floor. He saw me and snarled. I curled my lip in return. I wasn’t going to back down because some sorry excuse for a rogue flashed his fangs at me. When the night was over, I knew which one of us would still be standing.
He turned to run for the door but stopped cold when he saw Holden.
“Charles.” Holden was gritting his teeth, doing nothing to hide his anger. He looked past Charlie, and his gaze fixed on my arm. He was pissed, and I didn’t need to see black pupils or fangs to know it. The low growl in his voice told me everything.
“By God,” Charlie said. “The council has you as their whipping boy now?” His surprise led me to wonder about their connection again. My Holden lived and breathed dedication to the vampire council. “I never thought you’d be one of them, brother.”
“And I never thought you’d abandon all sense and go rogue. So I guess we don’t know each other as well as we thought. Brother.” The last word sounded like a swear rather than a familial greeting.
My gaze flicked between the two, trying to figure out if it was just a turn of phrase or if I had failed to notice a physical similarity between them. No, they looked nothing alike.
“Love to stay and chat,” Charlie said. “But I’ve got a pesky death situation following me.” He didn’t wait for Holden to reply before he dashed through the door with me trailing after him only a few seconds behind.
“Secret?” Tyler was passing through the door on his way in, while I was heading out.
His timing couldn’t have been worse.
“I, uh…” I stammered and saw him scrutinize my arm, which seemed to hurt worse whenever someone looked at it. Then he noticed the sword and followed my own wandering gaze to where Charlie was barreling across Bryant Park. “Sorry.” I gave a limp, apologetic shrug, the motion turning my pain from a searing ache into an exploding blossom of misery.
I ignored my arm as it throbbed along with the beat of my heart, and was down the steps and across the street before Tyler could say anything. But damned if he wasn’t running down the stairs with Holden, following the vampire who was following me. Behind them, the two guards had made it to the lobby and were joining in the chase. We made quite the sight, had there been anyone in the park to watch us.
The small parade was the least of my concerns. I saw where Charlie was going and it threw, as Holden might have said, a huge monkey wrench into the gears of my plan.
Charlie Conaway, Hollywood star, rogue vampire and giant pain in my ass, was heading for the stairs leading to the 5th Avenue subway station.
Chapter Seven
“Get out of the way!” I screamed, hurtling down the stairs behind the vampire, trying to dodge the people he’d just displaced.
“Hey, lady.” The twenty-four-hour booth operator was pounding on thick Plexiglas wall that protected him from thugs and thieves. I had taken a running jump, propelling myself over the turnstile Charlie had vaulted without breaking a sweat. I wasn’t as fast or nimble as the vampire, and needed to use my feet to continue my forward motion.
My heel slid against the smooth metal of the turnstile, and I staggered, landing none too prettily, and used my sword to help me regain my balance. This was the exact reason I didn’t wear high heels when I might be required to work.
Judging by the various shouts and swears coming from the lower platform for the number 7 train, it didn’t take a Mensa scholar to figure out where Charlie had gone. I ignored the booth operator, who turned his attention to shouting at Holden, the two guards and lastly Detective Tyler, who was now at the back of the line behind the vampires. They too ignored the man in the glass box and passed over or under the turnstiles behind me.
A few late-night passengers going through the exit gates looked to see what all the fuss was about, but no one stopped.
I blessed each of their callous, cynical New York hearts.
I slid down the metal handrail that separated the up and down staircases leading to the number 7 platform. On one side, a heavily populated Queens-bound express was about to depart, and on the opposite side an almost empty Times Square-bound regular.
If it had been me running for my life, I’d have gone for the Queens train. More people meant a better chance of hiding, and once he got out to Queens he wouldn’t have to contend with threading through crowds. A smart vampire would have taken the express, so I moved towards that train.
That was until someone swore a “Fuck you, buddy” towards the end of the other platform. There was a clamor of irritated voices, and a few people exited one of the cars in a hurry.
Charlie was going for the regular.
On cue, the doors on the express closed with a warning ding-ding-ding. The train left the station, and everyone who was a part of my chase, including the breathless human detective, were sharing the barren platform with me.