Unedited (This is book 2, grab Hounds of God here. This contains SPOILERS if you haven’t read book 1)
“I can’t continue working with a damned vampire!” Katherine stood in front of Mauro, hands on the desk. He sat in the chair opposite her, looking up at her with curiosity.
“You two were quite the team leading up to the downfall of Aldrick,” he said. “And you see the value of having him here.”
She closed her eyes, trying to ignore his calmness. It pissed her off that she was losing her temper while he was able to sit there and talk rationally with her.
“He’s a murderer,” she finally said. “It’s not just a matter of practicality, it’s a matter of right and wrong.”
“The world isn’t often as black and white as you’d have it.” Mauro stood and went to the window, looking out at the night sky where a sliver of moon was visible. “There are some who would’ve thought twice before accepting your friend, Danny. Heck, even I have a tarnished past from my days before all this.”
“We’re not talking about you,” she said, but he’d piqued her interest, so she waited.
He looked at her with a smile. “I wasn’t always a golden werewolf, nor a priest. We have many others to introduce you to, when the time is right. Maybe then you’ll hear my story.”
“Great, not only do you refuse to listen to reason, but you’re a tease.”
He laughed. “Perhaps, but the point remains that we need Matthew. His nickname, Hunter, now spreads fear among the Dark World, and—”
“Excuse me, dark what?”
“Just a term.” He folded his hands and assessed her. “There are those that would follow the path of light, and those that chose another path. I, and others in my group, call this second group the Dark World.”
“Sounds like it should be a ride at Disneyland or something,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“If it were, I’d advise you not bring children on it.” His eyes sparkled and she managed a smile.
“Stop it!” she said, remembering her anger. “You’re changing the subject!”
With a shrug, he walked around from the desk and put an arm around her. “I understand your reluctance. But is right now the best time to be losing a friend?”
“Not a friend,” she said, holding up a finger correct him.
“An ally then. Temporary, if it helps to think of him that way.” He opened a suitcase next to his desk, then pulled out a book. “There’s so much to this world that you don’t understand. That you never will, but, if this is what I think it is, we’re going to need Matthew as an ally more than ever.”
“Why?” she said, more of a challenge than a question.
“Because of who I think we’re dealing with here,” he said, and opened the book, flipping through the pages.
It was an old, leather-bound journal, its pages mostly filled with notes. She saw a few drawings, such as a dagger with intricate designs, a scepter and King of the Dead written next to it, a skull with runes carved into it and the name Aleski written beside it, and even one page of a full set of armor labeled The Armor of God. Several names were written beneath the armor, each scratched out, but for the latest—Allie Strom.
But then he turned the page to one full of symbols. The pentagram star was in its center, surrounded by sketches of wolves and maps of locations around Europe. A line pointed at the northeast tip of Africa on one map, and then to a sketch of a temple, somewhere below China.
“This is where your…” He paused at the next word, glancing at Katherine, “Ally got his powers. He didn’t finish though, when he was asked to kill an innocent and drink of his blood. Remember, this dark magic could’ve been completely within his grasp, but he rejected it. Not all have done so….”
“Including Grundy,” a voice said from the doorway, and they turned to see Matthew there. He stepped in, eyeing the book in Mauro’s hands, who made no effort to hide it. “But you know that already, don’t you?”
“I’m sorry,” Katherine said, irritation causing her voice to come out scratchy. “First of all, who the hell invited you? And second, what?”
“Alexander Grundy, as he went by when we traveled those mountains and found the temple together,” Matthew said, his eyes on the book as his finger traced the sketch of the temple. “He, too, had a craving for revenge, but he was willing to stop at nothing for his desire. I, on the other hand, had my boundaries.”
“You were still ready to kill indiscriminately,” Katherine shot out at him.
“Out of ignorance,” he said. “And an inability to believe your kind could be anything other than evil.”
“And now that’s changed?” She scoffed. “I just saw you kill that werewolf back there!”
“Who was trying to kill us. Was I hasty? In hindsight, we both know I was. At the time, I didn’t piece this tighter—it wasn’t until I saw Grundy that I understood.”
Katherine stared at him, wide-eyed. “You… you knew him and you didn’t say anything?”
“I wasn’t sure… Not until I went up to investigate and saw the purple haze of light left behind. Just like I see silver for werewolves. There’s apparently a connection to him, and maybe the rest of my kind as well.”
“Vampires,” she said, practically spitting the word in disgust.
“Yes, and no.”
Mauro leaned in now, curious. He flipped the page to more notes, checked them, and then said, “So… the legend of the two paths, it’s true?”
Matthew glanced at the notes, then nodded. “From my understanding, yes. There are those that would bring light into this world, and those that would bring darkness. I embraced darkness in my quest for revenge, and it corrupted me. Had I gone all the way, I would thirst for blood, I would burn when the sunlight touched my skin, and… I wouldn’t be here helping like I am right now.”
“That last part’s still up for debate.” Katherine folded her arms across her chest, fingers caressing the leather of her jacket as she rocked from one foot to the next. All this talk was bringing her mind back to places it didn’t want to go—she’d rather have the conversation over, but she needed to know the full story. “If it’s this man you say it is, why’s he here?”
“If he’s here, which I now believe one hundred percent,” Matthew said, “then that means he’s finally come for his revenge. He’ll use lesser beings, members of the Dark World not as powerful as himself, and control them so that they can carry out his revenge for him.”
“Yes, hatred, revenge, we get it,” Katherine said, her anxiousness growing. “But who is he after? Revenge for what?”
Matthew sighed, looking her in the eye with sorrow as he said, “His revenge isn’t simply against one person, but for everyone he blames for what happened to his wife when she was killed overseas. She was a doctor, and….”
“A bombing,” Mauro said, closing his book. “Misplaced, naturally. Civilian casualties, to include this man’s wife.”
“You’ve done your research, old man.”
Mauro shook his head. “That’s my job. And yours—the two of you and everyone else we can find to defy this man, Grundy—is to find him and stop him before it’s too late.”
“Hello?” Katherine held up a hand. “Am I missing something? Who does he blame? Who’s his target?”
“Not just one who,” Mauro said, his eyes taking on a distant look. “Am I right, Matthew?”
Matthew nodded. “Grundy means to see all of America burn.”
Katherine’s chest heaved, her ears ringing with the news. She’d hoped they were done with madmen when they’d defeated Aldrick, but now it was only getting worse. Someone with the power to control not only werewolves, but maybe other forms of dark beings… Maybe even spirits and demons? And to make it worse, he was some sort of twisted vampire.
She put her head in her hand, focusing, and then said, “What do we do?”
“Get some rest,” Mauro said. “Matthew and I will figure out what we can, and tomorrow we set off to put a stop to this.”
Triston had started falling asleep, waiting for Katherine to come back up to the room they were sharing.
When she finally came stumbling in and sat down at the foot of the bed, head in the palms of her hands, he knew something was wrong. Wiping the sleepiness away, he sat up and put an arm around her.
“We’ll figure this out,” he said.
She turned to him and, after a moment of hesitation, starting telling him all about Matthew and his journey to the temple in the mountains of Central Asia, how he’d met this Grundy person, and what sort of threat he presented for America.
Triston’s eyes grew wider with each word, until any lingering drowsiness was long gone.
“First I become the one thing I hate,” he said, grimacing as he remembered the werewolf that had killed his family, the same sort of creature he was now, “and now I find out that we’re fighting mind-controlling, dark-magic-practicing, freaking VAMPIRES?”
She stared at him, and then said, “There’s no reason to lose it. We can’t afford to right now.”
A quick breath escaped his nose and he said, “If there was ever a reason to lose it, I’d say this about does it.”
She took his hand and squeezed. “We’ll fight it together, right? You and me, taking on the world.”
“Saving the world, you mean.”
“Yeah, I guess.” She leaned her head on his chest. “Though, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”
“Come on,” he said, pulling her up to the pillows with him, so they were lying together, her head still on his chest. “We need to close our eyes and forget about this, until tomorrow when we’re rested and ready.”
“Is that how you forget about it?” she asked, and he felt her hand on his chest, caressing, then moving to his abs, pulling up his shirt so her warm touch sent tingles through his body. “I feel like there’re better ways to take our minds off of it.”
She lifted her head and kissed him, then adjusted her body so she was on top of him, her hips pressed against his.
“You know,” he said between kisses, “I think I like,” another kiss, “your way more.”
She smiled, and sat back to pull off her shirt. He was glad to see she was right, as the moonlight shone in from the blinds and highlighted her nude torso. He was already starting to forget what they’d been so worried about.
By the time they were done and she was asleep at his side, his eyes closing slowly, he’d totally forgotten.
FROM JUSTIN >>> Coming out in 6 days, I’ve gotten some great responses from hungry fans, waiting anxiously for this book. That’s awesome. Thank you so much for your excitement! I’ll probably post one more snippet before launch, so stay tuned!