Sneak Preview

Hello! I hope you enjoy this sneak preview of the first three chapters of Valkyrie’s Spear!

Chapter 1

That dark feeling of emptiness returned, forcing Matthew awake for another night. The only option to quell his sleepless torment was to kneel and pray at the transept until he was blissfully numb again. That numbness did not come easily. It was close to four in the morning, and he should have locked up his church hours ago but his thoughts had hit him hard and fast.

Dark.

Empty.

Alone.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven…”

The creak of the large oak doors woke him from his meditations. Matthew watched over his shoulder as they opened into the shadows of the candlelit nave. He stood, the hairs on the back of his neck rising as a tall, lithe figure slipped inside. He knew what it wanted. Only a few weeks ago his church was almost set ablaze so of course they would return. His fists clenched.

They won’t get it as long as there is a breath in me.

“Hello?” A feminine voice called out.

A female this time?

Soft footsteps padded down the aisle, and her figure grew more distinct as she strode closer to the surrounding candlelight. Matthew cursed himself for leaving the doors open, not wanting to fight in the house of his Maker.

“It’s four in the morning,” he said, hard and cold. He was a warrior once. Granted, he hadn’t battled in centuries, but he was still intimidating. Despite the growl under his words, she continued forward. “Service will not begin until nine o’clock. You may return then,” he added, giving her an easy out.

“Oh, someone is here. Fantastic!” Whoever she was, she was unperturbed by the threat in his tone.

The footsteps grew quicker and soon she appeared in the flickering glow of the tall pillar candles. Matthew’s breath caught at the sight of the goddess that marched towards him, proud chin lifted, red lips twisted into a smart little smirk. The sway of her hips was swift and rhythmic, making his heart pound with every step.

Matthew pressed a hand against his chest fearing that she would hear the intense beat thundering through his ribcage. He could tell her body was taut under that tight purple t-shirt and those faded blue jeans. Strong. Athletic. Her long raven locks swung as she walked, glossy and thick, pulled back into a neat ponytail at the base of her neck. She came to stop before him. So close. So dangerously close. Close enough that he could catch the heady scent of jasmine on her tanned skin. It made him dizzy.

“Sorry to barge in on you, father,” she said in a warm purr. “But the door was unlocked.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose tight, he closed his eyes. If he couldn’t see her, he wouldn’t have the impure thoughts that were racing through his head.

“It was my mistake. It should have been locked for the night.” Matthew fought to keep the irritation out of his voice. After a deep breath he faced the woman. It didn’t help. She was still incredible. “How may I help you?”

The woman smiled. Her eyes were green and gold strands woven into a mesmerizing blanket that he longed to fall into. Gritting his teeth, he swallowed down the unwanted desire.

“My name is Valerie. Valerie Constance.” She offered a hand to him.

Constance.

The name brought back memories of an old friend with curly hair and a soft face filled with compassion. One he trusted.

“Cybil,” Matthew murmured.

He took Valerie’s hand. The touch of her palm sent a jolt of delicious electricity sizzling up his arm. It was the first time he had touched a woman, well at least a woman that was so exquisite. Her grip was like a vice and he had to squeeze back, both to relieve the pressure as well as keep his dignity.

“You know my mother?” Valerie asked. Her head tilted curiously.

“Cybil Constance is your Mother?”

“Yes.” The space between her brows tightened before she gave him another radiant smile. “You knew her?”

“A long time ago.”

Matthew remembered when Cybil was just a novice. Lord, the things she had seen while so young and naive. He had hoped to shield young humans like her from his world, but somehow Cybil had managed to find it. It hadn’t been long before she had spoken of leaving the veil to fight evils in the Wyrd.

“I didn’t know she had a daughter. We lost touch. How is she?” Matthew ran a free hand through his dark hair, realizing how cold his fingers were. He tore his hand away and straightened his spine, shoulders spread back.

Valerie pursed her lips into a tight line. “She passed away.”

Matthew’s stomach dropped. “Passed away?”

That vibrant life was snuffed out?

Tears push forward. Matthew always knew he would outlive Cybill but not so soon. Gone. His only friend was gone. If he hadn’t been so hell-bent on hiding from the world, maybe he would have known. “I’m sorry. Truly.”

Valerie shrugged, her hazel eyes growing glassy before she blinked them clear. “I found the name of this church in some of her notes. I’m looking for someone with the initials A.R. I believe he or she has something I’m looking for.”

The sadness evaporated, turning to cold suspicion.

She knows it’s here.

Matthew arched a brow looking deeper, beyond Valerie’s beautiful exterior to the light blue aura pulsed around her. He had seen that aura before but not often. She was a Valkyrie. His suspicions grew even more.

“No one with those initials resides here,” he said.

Valerie leaned her elbow on the altar beside them, cocking a hip to the side as a slow grin grew. “You sure about that, father?’ she asked.

“Very.” Matthew turned away.

“No one? Not even you?”

Matthew paused. He clenched his jaw then snuffed out the tall pillar candles with his thumb and index finger. “My name is Matthew DeAngelis. Do you hear the initials A and R in that name?”

The coldness in his voice didn’t even put a dent in her sly smile. She just shrugged with a little chuckle. “Maybe not at the beginning,” Valerie said. Matthew replied with a growl. “My, my, aren’t we testy this evening.”

“Being barged in on makes a man irritable. Now if you will please excuse me. It’s past the time I lock up.”

The final flame was snuffed out, casting the church in blue tinted darkness. Faint streetlight poured through the stain-glass windows, outlining every lean muscle of Valerie’s statuesque body in cool highlights. As soon as he ripped his gaze from the seductive image he turned and headed to the doors.

Valerie pushed herself away from the altar and followed right on his heels. Matthew could feel her warmth radiating against his back, could smell her intoxicating perfume as it wrapped around him.

“Alright, I probably should have waited until the morning. My bad. But I like to jump right into the thick of things,” she said.

“Truly, this will be your downfall someday. Tragic. Good night.”

Her hand fell heavy on his shoulder. “The fact is I know who tried to burn down your church and what they want. I’m trying to beat them to the punch.” Her voice lowered as she said, “Tell me where the spear is and -”

Matthew snagged an iron candlestick and spun on his heels, holding the makeshift weapon in his fists like a sword. Valerie backed up a couple steps, stance wide and solid. She was experienced, someone who would give him a more than fair fight. The sudden shift from seductress to warrior made him grip the iron tighter.

Oh what a fight that would be.

A rush of adrenaline pulsed through his body, swelling his muscles, stealing his breath, and making him hard as iron. By the Maker he hadn’t felt such a rush in a millennium. Valerie’s hand went into her purse and stayed there. Did she have pepper spray? A Taser? Not that either would do much harm to him.

“Easy there, tiger,” she said. “Let’s not get violent.” When she caught his gaze, she removed her hand from the leather bag, holding it out with her empty palm exposed. “I’m on your side.”

“Your kind is usually quick to rile,” Matthew said. “I’m impressed with your self-control, Valkyrie.”

“Half Valkyrie.” Valerie frowned. “How did you know?”

“I just know. I also know that Cybil Constance was not of the Wyrd let alone a Valkyrie. There is no way you could be her daughter.”

Valerie blazed. She clenched her fists then raised her chin with a haughty expression. “My mother adopted me, asshole.”

Matthew’s blood burned, the urge for violence rising. “Watch your language in the house of the lord, Valkyrie,” he hissed.

She stepped forward, teeth bared. “If you really were as good a friend with her as you say, you’d know she couldn’t have children naturally. And if I didn’t just get my nails done, I would punch you in the nose. She may not have been my blood but she was mine. Don’t you ever say that Cybil Constance wasn’t my mother, you pompous prick.”

What little light that was in the room reflected off the shimmering tears that shrouded her expression. Matthew swallowed, burning hot with shame. He loosened his grip on the candlestick, letting it fall to the floor with a dull thump. “I apologize. That was rude of me.”

“Yeah, it was,” Valerie said. She tossed her pony tail over her shoulder with a cavalier air. “You can make it up to me. Let me know where the Spear of Destiny is.”

“I can’t do that,” he said.

“How come?”

“Because it is my responsibility and none of your concern.”

“So you’re A.R.? And actually you’re wrong. It became my concern as soon as those fuckers used my sister in an attempt to find it.”

Matthew winced again. “Language.”

“Sorry.” A tint of red polished Valerie’s cheeks. Matthew softened, the blush making his mouth quirk. “Look, those mages aren’t going to stop until they have the spear and you’re dead.”

He couldn’t fight the laugh that bubbled up. “Mages couldn’t desecrate this house of God.”

Valerie smirked, his laughter making her temper flare. “Sorry to tell you this, Father Dumbass, but they’ve already desecrated three.”

“What did I say about your language here?”

That frown turned into a devilish air as she put her hands on her hips. “What are you going to do? Spank me?”

The thought had crossed his mind. In fact it crossed it twice, much to his chagrin. He snorted and turned towards the door.

“Miss Constance, I assure you they will not find the spear as long as I am standing. They tried once and failed. They know better now.”

Valerie’s gaze raked up the length of him, caressing every inch of his body with a wanton heat that oozed right onto his core.

“You’re not human, are you?” she asked. His silence seemed to confirm her suspicions. “You scared them off with your magical priest powers or something. That’s why you’re so confident they won’t come back.”

“They won’t cross this threshold again. That is all you need to know.”

He took a few more steps but when Valerie did not follow, he slowed, hoping she would. He longed to take another breath of her sensual perfumed skin.

Control yourself!

The Valkyrie bewitched him. That was the only explanation. She had somehow put a seduction spell on him, and his mind was in a muddle.

“I figured that would be your answer,” Valerie sighed. “You need my help, Father. Those mages are ruthless. They’ll just find another way inside.”

“And what can you do for me?”

“Protect you.”

He wanted to dismiss the idea that she, a half Valkyrie, half human could possess the strength to protect the likes of him. But he could feel the power pulsating from her body. There was a fire in her expression and proud stance. Valerie was a warrior, like him. She is capable. Matthew had to respect that despite her foul mouth and body built for sin.

After a tiny nod he said, “I will consider your offer.”

When she lit up, he fought for breath. She strode towards him, that wonderful scent of jasmine once again tickling his nose.

“Well, if that’s the best answer I’m going to get out of you Father, I’ll take it.”

She took one of Matthew’s hands, her fingers smooth against his flesh. If he didn’t think his body could grow hotter, her touch proved him wrong. He craved to clutch that hand tight, press it to his cheek then to his lips. A trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face but his expression was unmoved, cold as ice.

Valerie reached into her purse and pulled out a pen. “This is my contact information. If you need me, you come get me.”

The ballpoint tickled as she wrote on his palm and he flinched, almost pulling away. A laugh snorted through his nostrils. She said nothing but appeared amused as a smile threatened to appear.

“You don’t have any paper in your purse?” he asked.

“Paper is easily lost. This will help you remember me better.”

Nothing will help me remember you better than this.

He shuddered then pulled his hand away when she finished, glancing down at the address she had scribbled onto his skin. Matthew was just about to ask her to stay longer when the robust sound of a woman singing came from outside the church doors.

“Singing? This late?” Matthew asked.

The windows began to rattle and Matthew tensed, looking to Valerie for an explanation. Valerie paled. The pen fell from her hands and she took a step to the doors.

“Dell,” she whispered, before she broke into a run.

Frantic banging shook the heavy oak and the muffled sound of a young woman’s voice screamed, “Help! Val! Oh God, help!” through the music outside.

“Phoebe!” Valerie screamed and picked up her pace. Matthew sprung after her, snagging a hold of her arm before she reached the doors.

“It may be dangerous. Don’t go out there,” he demanded.

“My sisters are in trouble! He’s going to kill them!”

Before he could ask who, Valerie pulled her arm free and yanked a shimmering silver sword from her purse. The brown leather of her bag stretched and molded into a sheath and she slung it around her back.

“Come with me! Help me!” she said.

Matthew stared at the doors, clenching his teeth. The same rush from before coursed through his veins and his palms grew slick, eager for a weapon. The thrill of the fight surged in his breast drowning out the pain and numbness.

But the battle would lead him away from his duty. The last time that happened he was damned for eternity, forever to walk the earth with no forgiveness, no chance to ever be welcomed back into the arms of his brothers. Walking out those doors could destroy his endgame. He’d be trapped with only his pain for company forever.

Beyond those doors is not your concern.

His duty was to protect the spear, protect his church. Not this woman.

He set his mouth into a grim line. “I can’t,” he said.

Valerie went cold at his refusal. “What?”

“I can’t help you. It’s beyond my control.”

The brightness of her blue aura turned black with fury. She glared, burning through him like a hot knife through butter.

“Coward,” she growled then ran out the door. They slammed, making him jolt in disgust.

The sounds of struggle echoed through the windows. Matthew wanted to cover his ears to drown out the din but he knew it would do no good. Soon, the singing stopped. Soon the screaming stopped. Soon there was nothing but a thick silence.

“Damn me,” Matthew snarled. “Damn me for doing such a thing.”

His feet were heavy as he trudged back to the transept, falling to his knees. He clasped his hands tight and pressed them against his forehead.

“Our father, who art in heaven….”

Chapter 2

Three Months Later

“You look cold so drink this.”

A cup of coffee was shoved into Valerie’s line of sight, blocking her clear view of the nightclub below. Her sister Adelle hovered over her, holding the cup patiently. The wind whipped her sister’s bright red curls against her cheek, and with a free hand she tucked the wild strands behind her ear. Valerie stared at the coffee as if it were a mirage. The delicious smell wafted into her nose as steam curled over the paper rim and into the chilled air. She had missed her caffeine that morning. Hell, she had missed sleep that morning too.

“Go on, take it,” Adelle said. “Stop staring at it like I’m Houdini.” She chuckled and pressed the large cup in Valerie’s hand then stepped aside to crouch down beside her. “You’re a complete zombie lately. And while it is entertaining to watch you walk into walls, I’d rather you have some wits about you when you’re out in the field.”

Valerie sipped eagerly. The hot elixir hit her taste buds and her eyes opened just a bit wider. No cream, just sugar. Adelle always knew how Valerie liked her drug of choice, thank God.

“Where did you get the coffee?” she asked.

“Downstairs, about half a block down. I told you I was going, but I had a feeling you didn’t hear me.” Adelle rubbed her hands together and shivered.

Even for San Diego, it was a chilly evening. Being perched on the roof of a tall apartment complex added to the wind chill but gave them a perfect view of Numeros, a night club down in the local Gay-borhood, Hillcrest.

“Shouldn’t we be patrolling the sidewalks?” Adelle asked.

Valerie sighed. “You wanted to come with me. You do things the way I do them.”

The reply made Adelle snort.

Alright, maybe it wasn’t how she usually did things. Valerie patrolled the streets on a regular night but tonight she was watching for that damn priest.

Again.

Every Thursday was Goth Night at Numeros and for some reason that brought Father Matthew DeAngelis out of hiding. Not every week but enough times to make Valerie stake out the place. Of course she didn’t tell her sisters about her current obsession. Adelle had already told her to leave it be.

“If mom trusted him with the spear, she did it for a reason,” Adelle had said.

Adelle was right but Valerie couldn’t turn off her gut instincts. She needed to get her hands on that spear. Besides, she only listened to Adelle seventy percent of the time and couldn’t kill that track record.

“I’ve had a lot on my mind,” Valerie said. “After what happened to us, I’ve been on my toes.”

“After what happened to us I figured you’d need a nap. Lord knows I did,” Adelle said.

Valerie gritted her teeth, growing flushed. “Those mages tortured you Adelle. They made me and Phoebe watch. How can you be so calm about that?”

“Who said I was calm? Val, I got my own demons to deal with about that.” Her sister pressed a gentle hand against Valerie’s shoulder. “Stop blaming yourself.”

The touch was soothing but not enough to chase away the cold tendrils of failure that curled around her chest. Valerie took another sip of her coffee then sucked in a breath, pushing all the dark thoughts to the back of her head. Fight the shame spiral. Fight it. The smile she flashed seemed to reassure Adelle, and the subject was dropped.

“Jeeze! It’s cold up here!” Phoebe, their baby sister, stomped over, rubbing her hands across her arms. “Why are we even up this high? I mean, is this legal?”

Valerie waved a hand to her. “I have an agreement with the super here. It’s fine.”

“So you slept with him,” Phoebe said.

Valerie cackled, shaking her head.

Adelle shared the laugh. “Sheesh, Pheebs. Val doesn’t sleep with everyone she has agreements with,” she said.

“Oh I don’t know. I’ve been known to throw the whore grenade around once or twice,” Valerie replied

Phoebe hmmed at Valerie. “Once or twice. Riiiiight.”

Phoebe giggled then settled herself down on the other side of Valerie, holding her small cup of hot chocolate. She popped off the lid and blew over the top, watching the party ready locals spill out onto the street. Valerie bit her lip then scooted a bit closer to Phoebe, hearing her sigh as she crept near.

“Talking to me again?” Valerie murmured.

Phoebe looked into her cup a long moment, her pink lips pursed in thought. “Maybe,” she said. “Are you going to keep lying to me still?”

Valerie sighed, running a hand through her thick dark hair. “I did it for your own good.” Phoebe turned her back on Valerie, sipping her hot chocolate with what could only be described as righteous indignation.

“I don’t like that you did it at all. I don’t want you to do it again. Sisters shouldn’t lie to each other like that, Val.”

“I didn’t lie. I just withheld some things that -”

“I would’ve liked to have known I was half dryad. You should have told me about my powers years ago, no matter what mom said.” Phoebe gave her an icy glare. “I could have helped fight those mages outside the church if I had known.”

“You helped us escape later,” Valerie said.

“But I could have prevented it from even happening if I had known,” Phoebe snapped. “Why can’t you just admit that Mom wasn’t always right about everything?”

Valerie pointed a finger at Phoebe, swallowing her annoyance before it exploded in a shout. “Don’t even go there, Pheebs. Mom was right about a lot of-”

Phoebe didn’t let her finish. She jumped to her feet and padded to Adelle, plopping herself down beside her. Adelle shook her head with a groan.

“Am I going to have to lock you two in a room until you play nice?’ she asked rubbing her temples.

“I’m willing but little Miss Foo-Foo Britches here -” Valerie jerked her thumb towards Phoebe, “Won’t put her big girl panties on and forgive me.”

“You haven’t earned it yet,” Phoebe said. “At least say you’re sorry!”

“Sorry for what? Protecting you? Letting you have a normal childhood like Dell and me?”

Phoebe snorted. Valerie snorted in return then rose to her feet, eager to leave the hefty shroud of anger behind.

“Well, that was productive,” Adelle said.

Valerie waved a hand, dismissing the argument. “Dump the family drama. We have work to do,” she said, slipping to the edge of the roof. The silence that followed told her that her sisters had complied.

“Whoa, look at this sad little party of ladies.” A sultry voice with the faintest touch of a Russian accent cut through the cold air. Valerie turned to see a female vampire perched on the lip of the building, decked out in her finest black attire; tight leather black pants and mesh top all encased in a silver corset. “You look like you’ve just gotten back from an aggressive funeral,” she said.

“Well look at you Mistress Reina.” Valerie grinned, putting finger quotes around the word mistress. “All dressed up just to sit with us?”

Mistress Reina Vetrov was head of the west coast vampire clans. After Cybil had saved her life, she had pledged her loyalty to the Constance family and seamlessly settled herself into their lives. Reina had been around as far back as Valerie could remember. It was hard to imagine her life without the silky tonged blood sucker.

Reina tossed her dark hair from her forehead, stepped over the ledge, and strolled across the roof moving with the grace of a predator. She smiled, little fangs glinting. “You’ll have to exist without my presence tonight. I have a council meeting in a few hours. I just wanted to make sure you were all alright.” Her red gaze darted between the three of them and the crease of concern deepened between her brows. “You are alright, yes?”

Valerie put up a hand before Phoebe could spill her guts about their spat. “We’re all good. Just out for a routine patrol.”

“It’s my first,” Phoebe added, grinning from ear to ear. “And it’s really boring.”

“Gods you have no idea how right you are.” Reina nodded over to Adelle. “Where’s your dragon, Dell?” she asked.

Adelle shrugged absently, looking across the rooftops. “Probably one building over.”

“Wrong,” a man’s gravelly voice chimed in. “Same building and hiding. And you girls call yourself pros.”

A tall drink of water sauntered out from behind the stairwell door, hands in his pockets and a crooked grin plastered on his face. Jack was a masculine piece when in human form comprised mostly of muscle, scars, and sarcasm. Adelle’s expression turned giddy when he wrapped his thick arms around her shoulders and pressed a kiss against her cheek.

The sight brought a pang of emptiness as usual. But Valerie wasn’t in the market for a man. Especially when ‘the one that got away’ actually got away… before she could kill him.

She clenched her fists at the thought then took a deep breath, letting the burning rage pass. She didn’t need anyone. She didn’t want anyone. Love like that only led to heart ache and betrayal, maybe not for her sister but definitely for her. So a single bed hopper she would remain. Still, the way Jack looked at Adelle slapped her across the face every time. Yeah, she was jealous.

“Get a room,” Valerie mumbled then stared back out to the streets.

“Any luck on the hunt?” Jack asked.

“All quiet on the western front,” Valerie said. “No mages, no baddies. Nothing but smooth sailing.”

No action whatsoever. Dammit.

That sudden bout of jealousy made her itch for a fight. She was so damn pent up emotionally and sexually that punching a smarmy goblin or overzealous vampire would be welcomed. She took another swig of her coffee, stretching her arms above her head before her mind wandered back to Matthew. Valerie groaned.

Speaking of pent up sexual frustration.

Matthew had dropped in the day after they escaped the mages. She had found him on her porch in his black vestments looking pensive. Freya, the black Pontiac Firebird she had to abandon, was parked on the curb behind him. The son of a bitch had brought it to her? Valerie had fought the urge to sock him one, but he was nice enough to return her beloved Freya so she refrained. Besides, punching him would be like punching a Grecian statue. She couldn’t desecrate a work of art like him.

Valerie had seen her fair share of gorgeous males and probably slept with more than her fair share but Matthew was nothing she had ever seen before. He could have easily been mistaken for a fae born with his elegant long fingers, aquiline nose, and angular chin but the lack of pointed ears and his broad chest said otherwise. Sweet lord, those eyes were as blue as a winter morning’s sky, rimmed with a deep indigo ring.

Matthew made every other male she encountered look like a goblin with a skin disorder. Not something you wanted to touch with your genitals. If she had her druthers, he’d be naked in her bed twenty-four hours a day as a reward for a job well done.

You’re lucky you’re gorgeous, asshole.

“I thought you would want your vehicle returned,” he had said as he handed her the keys. She didn’t even remember that she had dropped them.

“Thanks,” Valerie muttered, fisting them in a white knuckled grip, still sore that he had left them to fight alone.

Her body tightened with resentment but when he ran his hand through his thick black hair, shoulders curling in a shy manner, she almost swooned. She, the Valkyrie who brought most men to their knees, almost swooned. Without another word, Matthew had turned to walk away.

“Wait,” Valerie said. “Come in for a minute. We need to talk.”

Matthew’s back tensed and he growled at her in warning. “There is nothing more to talk about. Stay away or else.”

That didn’t scare her one bit.

“At least meet my sisters. If you meet them maybe you’d, oh I don’t know not be such a stubborn prick?”

He winced. “Language, Valerie.”

“Just wait here.” Valerie dashed to gather Adelle, Phoebe, and Jack but by the time she had wrangled them all to the porch Matthew was gone.

And thus the stalking began.

Despite the fact that he infuriated her, there was an electric connection they shared that fueled her obsession. But her sex life wasn’t why she was chasing him. The spear was what she wanted.

The Spear of Destiny.

Not Matthew’s spear.

Jack’s voice took Valerie out of her deep thoughts. “If it’s quiet, I’m taking your sister home to bang her senseless then.”

When Valerie peered over at him, he still wore that devilish grin, possessive arms tight around Adelle’s shoulders. Adelle just shook her head in reply.

“Yeah. Gross,” Phoebe said.

“You see Phoebe, when a daddy dragon and a mommy siren love each other very much -” Adelle jammed an elbow into his gut and he grunted.

“Down, Simba,” she said.

Valerie’s grim expression melted into a laugh. She was just about to jump into the banter when an all too familiar form caught her attention. She turned back towards Numeros.

Gotcha.

Matthew’s tall figure strode down the street, his sharp gaze darting this way and that. He wasn’t in his vestments, just a plain pair of black slacks and a button down navy blue shirt. Simple, non-descript, and well-tailored for his lean build. He hovered outside the club, chatting with the large bouncer out front. That bouncer was Big Eddie; not only a retainer for Reina but her right hand man and bodyguard. Anything Mathew said to him he’d tell Valerie in a heartbeat. Valerie’s mouth curled into a triumphant smile.

“What’s Eddie doing down there?” she asked.

Reina parted from her conversation with Adelle and grinned, her little fangs gleaming. “Being my eyes for the night. How else do you think I know all?”

Big Eddie waved Matthew along but before he stepped inside, the priest paused, stiffening. He slowly looked over his shoulder with a fierce scowl. Did he sense her gaze on him? Valerie’s teeth sunk into her lower lip as she waited for him to move again.

 Be a good boy and don’t turn around. Just go on inside. Nothing to see way up here.

When he stepped into the club without looking up, Valerie blew out a breath, scattering wisps of hair from her forehead.

“What is it?” Reina asked.

Valerie turned, her demeanor melting into one of causal interest. She slung her purse over her shoulder. “I’m going to ask Big Eddie if he’s seen anything interesting tonight.”

Reina appraised her, rolling her tongue across one of her fangs. The vampire had keen ‘something is up’ senses and might have detected the bullshit so Valerie raised her shoulders and smiled, feigning innocence. After that hard red stare did some silent judging, Reina nodded.

“Don’t know how much information he can give you considering this club isn’t his full time position but alright.”

Well, Reina seemed convinced. Adelle though, was glaring death daggers at her. If Reina’s bullshit detector was keen, Adelle’s was the Hubble telescope.

“I’ll just be a minute or two,” Valerie said. Her words only deepened the skepticism in her sister’s expression.

“Uh huh,” she replied, folding her arms across her chest. “About that…”

Before Adelle could interrogate further, Valerie flashed a cocky grin and leapt off the side of the building. She swung from ledge to ledge effortlessly until her boots tapped the pavement with a soft click. After smoothing back her hair she rolled into an easy stroll, unzipping her blue leather jacket. Matthew was already inside, long gone and unwitting about her approach, just how she wanted it.

She bypassed the line that formed at the door, pressing a hand against Big Eddie’s shoulder as she passed. His head swung around, huge fists balled. The fierce visage faded as soon as Eddie saw her and a smile brightened his features.

Eddie was a looker in that brutish ‘I’ve been through a ton of fights and won all of them’ way. He would have been right at home in a gladiator ring or on a Viking long ship but Big Eddie wasn’t that old a vampire, only twenty or thirty years into the unlife tops. Deep under all the scars and that crooked broken nose was a big teddy bear. Valerie knew Big Eddie had a soft spot for her and her sisters for two reasons; they never feared him and always sassed him.

“Here comes trouble,” Eddie said.

Valerie spread her hands wide, flashing him one of her most flirtatious looks. “You know me, big boy. Bringing trouble wherever I go,” she said. “Mind if I bypass the line?” She jerked her head towards the gothed up crowd and they rolled their dark lined eyes at all once.

Big Eddie nodded, ruffling his blonde hair. “Sure. No skin off my nose. What brings you here?”

“I’m meeting a friend inside. The guy you let in earlier. The tall one with the dark hair.”

“Who, Matt?”

Valerie arched a brow. “So you know him?”

Big Eddie gave a shrug of his enormous shoulders. “Not personally. Only met him twice. The regulars say he pops in every few weeks or so.”

“Did he ever say why?”

“Nope. Quiet type. He just talks to Rath behind the bar. I guess their dating.”

Dating the satyr bartender? With how Matthew reacted to her when they first met she was pretty sure he was not batting for the other team.

“Eddie, you’re a prince. I owe you a beer.” She gave him another winning flash of her teeth before slipping past him.

“You know I can’t drink beer!” Eddie whined.

She shrugged and smiled. “Sorry. I owe you something, then.”

The scent of booze and sweat stung Valerie’s nostrils. Made up faces glowed in the flashing purple lights, bouncing in time to the pulsating industrial music. Valerie hovered by the DJ booth keeping to the shadows as she struggled to pick out the one nondescript body in a sea of corsets, leather, and eye liner. Soon she spotted Matthew by the bar, backlit by the blue neon that illuminated the shelves of shimmering liquor bottles. He was chatting with Rath just like Big Eddie said. Valerie wet her lips, staring at that lean, lithe animal.

Rath served a few drinks to the club goers then leaned in to exchange some soft words with Matthew, scratching his fingers through his ginger goatee. After Matthew spoke again, Rath’s mouth fell open. He adjusted the backwards cap that hid his tiny horns then shook his head, hiking a finger over his shoulder.

“What are you talking about, padre?” Valerie muttered to herself, attentions locked on Matthew’s back as they continued to converse.

Her concentration was jarred when someone shoulder checked her. She glanced up in time to see a skinny young man pass by. He peered over his shoulder, popping the collar of his long black coat and with a hiss he opened his mouth, revealing small white fangs. Valerie glared at him with a mocking expression.

“Faaaaaake,” she sang, gesturing to her own teeth. The young man hissed again and a fang fell out of his mouth, hitting the floor with a tinkle. While he searched on his hands and knees for his press-on fang, Valerie turned back to her target. She found Rath by himself, wiping down the bar.

“Shit!” Valerie snarled. She nudged fake-o the vampire out of her way, heading towards the door when a strong hand curled around her wrist. She stumbled as she was yanked back.

“I thought I told you to stay away.” Matthew snarled into her ear.

Chapter 3

Her arrogant mean made his blood boil. Matthew’s fingers tightened on her wrist, giving it a slow twist. Valerie flinched but stood strong. A twinge of regret flickered within him but when her flinch turned into a smirk he kept his grip firm.

“Easy there, Father,” Valerie said. “No point is losing your temper just because you’re out of uniform.”

That cocky smile quickened his breath which enraged him even more. When the sensual scent of jasmine wafted from her raven hair the growl he was trying to lock down escaped. Matthew stared, able to look her in the eye without stooping. He had forgotten how tall she was. It would be so easy to tilt her head and take her mouth. Instead, he shook his head.

“You have been following me for weeks,” he said. “Still clinging to the pathetic belief that you are going to help me?”

“I know I can help you,” she said. “You’re just too God dammed stubborn to know you need it.”

“Language!” he shouted.

The people on the dance floor stopped gyrated and gawked at them. Matthew bit the inside of his cheek and after a deep breath he reduced his voice a low rumble. “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”

“Oh contraire, mon frère,” Valerie said.

Again with that exasperating smile. He tightened his hold. “Having Valkyrie’s blood in your veins and owning a sword hardly makes you a warrior.”

Valerie’s playful smirk turned into a glare. She yanked her wrist back with surprising strength. “Oh yeah, being underestimated by an ignorant jackhole. I’m not used to that at all.”

Matthew was ready to reprimand her once again for her filthy language when he realized he had no idea what a jackhole was. Was that a curse? Valerie darted away, heading towards Rath, and he sprung after her on long legs.

“Get back here this instant!” he demanded. If she found what he was keeping behind the bar, he was doomed.

She turned around and let out a throaty laugh. “Really? Didn’t you want me to go away a second ago? Well, this is me, going away.” She raised her hand palm up, waving it from side to side in a queenly fashion. “I’m just going to go over to the bar and ask Rath what the hell you two were talking about.”

Matthew expression narrowed. “How do you know Rath?”

“Oh honey, I know a lot of folks in this city.”

She sauntered to the bar, the crowd of humans parting for her, some practically drooling over the beautiful Goddess. After watching that hypnotic backside sway from side to side, Matthew dashed after her again, bumping right into her back when she stopped in her tracks. Valerie peered over her shoulder, alive with mischief.

“What’s the matter, Matt? Afraid that I’ll find something behind ol’ Rathy’s bar that I should be staying away from?”

After a grunt, Matthew straightened his posture, smoothing his hair back with both his hands. He knew Valerie could sense the sweat that had broken out across his forehead. She probably could even smell it with those keen Valkyrie senses of hers.

“You know nothing,” he said.

“So why are you here? Is Big Eddie right and you’re dating the bartender?”

Matthew’s jaw dropped open. “I beg your pardon?” he sputtered.

Valerie leaned towards him and whispered, “I don’t know if you noticed this but this is the gay part of town.” She pressed her hands against her cheeks with a mocking gasp. “Scandalous!”

Matthew pinched the bridge of his nose, shaking his head. “I am perfectly aware of that. It makes no difference to me. Rath is a trusted colleague.”

“And clearly he is helping you. So why can’t I?” She hiked a thumb over her shoulder. “Or should I go ask Rath?”

He gritted this teeth and ground out, “Because you are -”

“A mere girl?” Valerie snorted.

Matthew fixed a cold glare on her. “I have battled beside females before. You’re half human and that’s where you are in over your head.”

Valerie blinked in surprise. Matthew folded his arms tight across his chest, keeping his smugness under a terse visage.

“Alright, you’re fine with me being a woman. I respect that,” Valerie said “But trust me. My human blood makes no damn difference. I’m a big girl and can handle my own.”

Fury climbed up his back, pressing down on him with a fiery heat. She had no idea what she would cost him by getting involved. Guarding the spear was his only path home, the only task he could perform to prove to his Maker he was worthy. And she had just jammed herself between him and salvation because she was stubborn as a mule.

He snagged the collar of her leather jacket and yanked her forward. The sound of her gasp made his heart thunder in his ears.

“I will not have you stand in my way,” he said. His mouth was inches away from hers, her hot breath fanning over his chin. The urge to close that gap with a kiss struggled with his anger. Valerie reached up, wrapping her long fingers around the hand that gripped her jacket.

“You’re kind of sexy when you’re angry,” she purred.

The warm touch of her fingertips made the hair on his arm stand at attention. Valerie’s grip tightened. He felt callouses scaring her palms, ones that no doubt came from years of handling a sword. He knew those well and had many of his own.

Valerie closed the gap between them and Matthew held his breath, eagerness pooling in his belly. He ground his teeth, fixed on her lovely heart shaped face. Soon, she was pressed against him, her breath falling in rhythm with his own, nipples hardening through her t-shirt. A sharp pang of lust shot through his veins and he groaned with need. She glanced down then back up at him arching a dark brow.

“Well damn, Father Matthew. I didn’t know you cared,” she said. One shift of her hips made him realized his shaft was hard as iron.

Matthew couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had an erection or if he’d even had one before this moment. He was usually immune to the baser urges. A woman was just another bundle of curious flesh and bone to him, another human to protect. Yet Valerie made his body go mad.

Emotions lit up like fireworks; lust, anger, need, all of them drenching him in a downpour. His head spun. He wanted to slam his hands over his ears and scream out in anguish. Why now? Why her? He craved cool air in his lungs, needed to get out of this sweaty, pulsating den and feel the open sky over his head.

Matthew grabbed Valerie’s elbow and ushered her towards the door. Even in the sudden panic, he wasn’t letting her out of his sight.

“Where the hell are you taking me?” Valerie snapped.

“Away from here,” Matthew said.

Valerie raised a fist. She readied to strike but pressed a hand against her belly and groaned. She doubled over, teeth bared with agony. Another trick no doubt. Matthew was not impressed.

“Move,” he snapped.

Her lips parted but before any words were said the music abruptly cut off, drenching the club in awkward silence. Both looked up as the crowds of club goers whined in protest. When the lights flickered out, the whining turned into terrified shouts. With a metallic thunk the emergency lights turned on, flooding the room in red. From a distance, Matthew heard Eddie at the main door shouting, “Alright! Everybody out! Orderly fashion, front door, now!”

Matthew released Valerie, shoulders knotting. Every nerve screamed danger, danger! Whatever ailment that had struck Valerie had faded fast. She straightened, muscles coiled tight as she shoved her hand into her purse, gaze locked on the ceiling.

“Are you getting just as bad a feeling as I am right now?” she asked.

The sickening smell of brimstone and excrement permeated the room, making him twitch. That horrible odor was far too familiar. No. It cannot be. His stomach lurched, sensing something evil growing closer. Closer.

“Worse,” he growled.

Matthew turned and Valerie followed suit, their backs pressed together, their diligent gazes sweeping across the room. Club goers were dropping their drinks and hurrying to the doors the louder Eddie shouted.

“Eddie! What’s going on?” Valerie called.

“Your guess is as good as mine!” he bellowed back.

Boom.

The building shook, dust raining from the ceiling. The crowd screamed, trampling each other to get to the exit.

“Get them out of here!” Matthew barked.

“Working on it!” The vampire practically threw people out of the door.

Another boom and plaster crumbled. The wretched scent grew stronger, smothering his lungs. An ear splitting screech and the walls rattled like they were made of paper. Matthew’s blood went cold. It had been so long since he had heard that horrible cry but there was no mistaking it.

“Demons,” he whispered.

“What?” Valerie sucked in a surprised breath. “Demons? Seriously?”

“I know that screech anywhere.”

Matthew had battled demons many times, almost became one himself at one point in his long existence. They had never drawn him into their fold. For centuries they believed him dead. Now that they had found him, they would never stop coming.

The few stragglers ran around in panicked circles, tears streaking their make-up. Matthew raised a hand to them, gaining their attention. In an instant they calmed, feeling his presence.

“You’ll be fine just head to the door. Quickly now,” he said, and they darted towards Eddie without a sound. Out of all the powers he still possessed, calming the masses was the most useful. The club emptied and Eddie slammed the door shut, baring it with a pool cue.

Four on his side with only him and Valerie as trained warriors. Rath was by no means a creature of battle, and Eddie? Well, he looked intimidating but had probably never gone up against something as treacherous as a demon. By the Maker, he wished he had a blade on him.

As if reading his mind, Valerie slapped a long silver dagger in his palm. Matthew glanced down to it then turned to Valerie questioningly.

“You looked anxious,” Valerie said. She pulled her sword from her purse, the shining blade glinted red in the emergency light. “Figured that would ease the tension.”

“You guessed correctly,” he said, swinging the short blade in an arc. It felt so good to wield it. “I’m afraid to say that your chance to escape this battle is long gone, Valerie. It’s going to be messy.”

That same cocky smile that had once infuriated him now filled him with confidence. “I like messy,” she replied.

The roof blew in with an explosion of debris, and three large winged monsters landed in the middle of the dance floor, shaking the dust from their long black horns. Glowing red veins webbed across their stark white muscles with sinister light. As soon as they spotted Matthew, they let out a shriek in unison, baring their dripping fangs.

“Only three?” Valerie raised her sword. “Oh this is going to be easy.”

The back door burst open. One by one an army of grey fleshed ghouls lumbered inside, their vacant lamp like eyes shimmering in the dim light. With arms outstretched, they grabbed for them, squealing out dry hisses through their ashen mouths.

“You spoke too soon,” Matthew growled.

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