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"Wow, just loved this book, this series is so unique and different than most of your vampire books ... Dante is just as hot and sexy as in the first book." - Michelle's Paranormal Vault
"Along with all this incredible action and excitement [Jefford] gives us great characters. Dante being one of my absolute favorites." - Consuming Worlds
"I found the fantasy sex scene between Aurora and certain other characters in the book to be seriously hot. I'm hoping that Aurora will get a real booty call soon." - Gizmo's Reviews
"I loved the action and the badassery (I know it's not a word but it really works here) of the characters ... Dante's absolutely perfect in this book. I didn't really go all out for him in the first book, but in this one? Dante all the way!" - City of Books
"Northern Bites takes a dark turn, much more so than I expected. It totally works, but I wasn't expecting it; that's part of why I fell in love with the novel." - Author S.M. Boyce
If fate were kind the only thing I’d have to kill tonight is time.
Our target home, one of two, had yet to draw their curtains, lighting the inside like an aquarium as the last traces of daylight receded into the shadows.
The switch from day to dusk happened in a matter of seconds, at least in Alaska, turning everything black and white.
My tennis shoes crunched over the salted walkway, grinding down pieces so big they felt like small pebbles under my feet. Tennis shoes in winter—not really the best way to keep my toes toasty. Neither was the short pleather jacket, but my parka and winter boots felt too heavy on a mission.
There was no way our targets lived here. A vamp house with skylights…about as likely as the red, white, and pink Valentine’s Day flag hanging off the garage.
I wanted to ram a dagger through the limp heart as I passed the stupid flag on the march to the front door. Even if I didn’t eschew vandalism, I couldn’t have. Not since Agent Melcher revoked my right to bear arms.
Melcher’s idea of easing Dante and I back into active duty came down to assigning us each an informant/stand-in assassin. Our duty, our only duty, tonight was to do the poisoning (i.e. get bit) then step aside and let our partner go in for the kill.
“No way, I’m all about follow up,” Dante said the moment he heard we were on probation.
“You’re lucky we’re sending you back in the field,” Agent Crist had snapped.
She and Melcher weren’t very happy with how Dante’s “training” mission with me in Fairbanks resulted in the death of an informant and human, followed by the vampire Renard and his cohorts tracking us down in Anchorage. Of course, Dante missed all that while the Natives in Kotzebue honored his slaying of a rabid vampire with a blanket toss and an all-you-can-eat moose buffet. Dante returned with a bear claw strung from a leather cord around his neck, puffed up like Popeye on spinach until Agents Crist and Melcher lit into him.
Melcher called the incident “too close for comfort.”
I still didn’t see the harm in keeping a knife hidden in case things went south. I’d been out of combat training for a week while I recovered from the multiple stabbings Renard’s crony inflicted over my body.
Great way to start my second week at a new school.
Strep throat. That’s what Melcher’s doctor’s note said.
More like stabbed throat.
If we ended up with the vamp house, I wouldn’t mind stepping aside and letting my partner take the beating. To add insult to injury, Melcher assigned Valerie to me and Noel to Dante.
We hadn’t spoken since the moment we climbed inside Valerie’s red Honda Civic.
Once our addresses checked out we were free to part ways. The sooner the better.
Two nights ago, a pizza delivery boy headed out on his route and never returned. The next morning a jogger found his body at Westchester Lagoon, naked and drained. Melcher felt certain the culprit resided at one of the five homes on the boy’s delivery route. When the police questioned them, every resident said they never received their order. The manager at Midnight Pie confirmed that every household on the route had called in to complain that their pizza never arrived.
Dante and Noel were assigned three of the five addresses, Valerie and I the remaining two. The manager at Midnight Pie could only guess which residence the driver headed to first, though he believed the police’s theory that the boy had been killed in a carjacking before ever reaching the first home.
The home in front of me did not emit evil. From ten feet away I saw a colorful welcome mat and floral wreath on the door.
Valerie flipped her head from side to side, sending strawberry-brown waves over the shoulders of her pea coat. She looked older without her usual wench’s costume.
We walked in sync, neither of us wanting to follow the other’s lead. As we bumped shoulders to get to the porch, I spoke my first words. “There’s no way this is a vamp house.”
“Could be a cover. You’d be surprised the lengths some vamps will go to hide their activities. I’ve seen it all.” Valerie lifted her nose. “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you.”
“Congratulations,” I said, reaching for the doorbell.
A woman in her late thirties came to the door smiling until she noticed the pamphlet in my hand.
“Good evening,” I said cheerfully. “We’re here to talk to you about Christ our Savior.”
“Oh, umm. This really isn’t a good time. We’re about to eat.”
“Is there a better time we could come back?” Valerie asked, suddenly all smiles.
My relief at not stumbling upon a vamp house outweighed my embarrassment at interrupting a family’s dinner with our phony solicitation.
Valerie and I stared at the woman with twin smiles.
“I don’t think so, but thanks for stopping by.” The woman quickly closed the door.
“God bless you,” Valerie said sweetly. She rolled her eyes the moment the door slammed shut. “Maybe Dante and Noel are having better luck.”
“They haven’t called,” I said, heading back to Valerie’s car.
She quickly matched my strides, sprinting for the driver’s side as though we were racing for it. At least Valerie respected the speed limit, unlike Dante. Thinking about him made me snort. I had a hard time picturing him sitting back while petite Noel rammed a knife in a vamp’s heart. Then again, he’d left me in Fairbanks to do just that without even sticking around. That’s what had gotten us into this mess to begin with.
The Honda’s headlights slipped across the mailboxes in the next neighborhood. Porch lights dotted the homes up and down the street. All but one house tucked back in the shadows of the yard’s prickly spruce trees.
Valerie came to a stop along the curb, three houses from our last address. She stuck her face in front of the review mirror and dabbed gloss on her rouged lips.
I might have kept my mouth shut but then she started rubbing and smacking her lips together.
The thought of those lips all over Fane’s made me want to shove the tube of gloss down her throat. It was bad enough that she blackmailed me into breaking up with him, but Valerie had taken it one step further, reinstating herself as Fane’s bitch the moment I stepped aside…or so my source told me. Fane neither confirmed nor denied this the last time we were together. I might have felt guilty over the way it all went down if he hadn’t moved on so quickly.
“We’re on a mission, not a date,” I snapped.
Valerie’s lips smacked as she gave her reflection one last pucker. She shot me a sly look.
“Maybe I have a date afterwards.”
Turns out Melcher had been wise to ban me from carrying a weapon. The temptation to do bodily harm to the vixen could strike me at any moment. Like right now.
For a brief second I hoped we’d get the vamp house. I wouldn’t mind watching Valerie get roughed up a bit.
“You’re despicable,” I said.
Valerie smiled with her now shiny lips. “All’s fair in love and war.”
“I could report you to Melcher.”
Valerie smirked. “You wouldn’t risk it. You care about Fane too much.”
“More than you, obviously.”
“Get over yourself, Aurora. I’d never rat out Fane. We have too much…history.”
As my fingers stretched down my leg, I had to remind myself yet again that I was unarmed.
“You dated him when you knew from the beginning it was forbidden,” I said. “I didn’t realize he was a vampire until later.”
Valerie faced me. “You moved in on Fane when you knew he was taken.” Her words dripped with scorn.
My mouth opened and closed. She sorta had me there. I did kiss Fane on a public bus when they were still together. Not that I could have known for sure. People break up all the time in high school. It’s not like I kept tabs on my classmates’ romantic status twenty-four seven. Besides, Fane followed me onto the bus, not the other way around.
Valerie took my silence as acknowledgement of guilt.
“Nothing to say? That’s what I thought.”
I yanked open the car door. “Let’s get this over with so we can go our separate ways.”
Valerie slammed her door shut. Good thing we weren’t trying to sneak up on anyone. She stormed down the sidewalk. Small wonder she slowed down when I did in front of the house hidden behind a patch of spruce trees.
A set of fresh tire tracks led through the snow to a rusted Oldsmobile beneath the carport.
I headed straight for the plastic trash bin by the side of the car with Valerie hot on my heels.
“What are you doing?”
I didn’t answer as I pulled the lid off the bin and placed it quietly on the ground. “Look,” I said, nodding into the can.
The vamps hadn’t even bothered covering the pizza boxes, a whole stack of them, with other refuse. I lifted the cardboard cover.
Not even a slice missing.
Valerie pushed down the cardboard lid with a huff. “We’re not here to go through their trash.” She shook her hair over her shoulders. “Let’s do this.”
Before I could respond, she charged towards the front porch. So Valerie was the jump in head first kind of girl? Why wasn’t I surprised?
Valerie knocked on the door.
Five seconds later a young twenty-something man stuck his head out. His greasy hair reminded me of the uneaten pizza sitting in the garbage can.
He didn’t say anything, or maybe he didn’t have time.
“Do you believe in Jesus?” Valerie demanded.
She leaned forward with her whole body. Valerie didn’t have to put on an act—righteousness came naturally to her.
The man looked Valerie and I up and down, his lips forming a sneer. “Boy, did you chicks pick the wrong house.”
I stepped forward, waving my pamphlet in front of him. “I think we came to exactly the right house. Are your parents home?”
He scoffed at that. “I don’t have parents.”
“You live alone?” Valerie demanded.
“Me and my two roommates.”
Oh joy. Three against two. And while Valerie’s personality might be toxic, her blood would be no help knocking these creatures out. How the hell was I going to get three vampires to feed on me at the same time? At least I was all juiced up from the stabbing incident.
Calling for backup would’ve been the smart move, but Valerie had already gotten up in the vampire’s face.
“I bet you boys could use some God in your lives.”
There’s no way Valerie would want to share this bust. The excitement practically bounced off her eyeballs.
“May we come in for a few minutes?” I asked in my best impression of an authoritative voice. I couldn’t have Valerie thinking I was some kind of chicken shit.
The greasy-haired vampire glanced over our shoulders into the dark yard. The bushy spruce needles blocked out most of the neighbors.
“If you insist.” He pulled back the door and motioned with his arm to come inside.
Valerie and I stepped forward, placing our first foot on the hardwood floor in unison.
The entry led directly into an open dining room. Two young men, vampires presumably, sat at the table sorting through a mountain of mail. One had piercings in his ears, nose, eyebrow, and chin. He shot me a menacing glare. “What the fuck is this?”
The doorman sniggered. “These young ladies from the church want to save us.”
“We ain’t the ones who need saving.”
I lifted my chin. “I think you are.”
Pierced guy’s chair scraped the wood floor when he pushed back from the table. His companion followed suit.
While it wasn’t exactly wise to turn my back on my enemies, I didn’t want to trap myself between the china hutch and dining table, either. I went for the living room, spinning around in the center as though prepared to deliver a sermon rather than a battle cry. The pamphlet I’d waved in Greasy Guy’s face at the front door crinkled in my hand. If only I could use it to squish them like flies.
Heavy curtains over the living room windows blocked out any passing cars. Good, no witnesses.
Pierced dude and Greasy Guy followed closely behind me.
“Now, where were we?” I asked.
“You were about to beg for your life,” the pierced vamp said.
His tongue ring glinted as he spoke. It made a ‘fuck you, I eat silver for breakfast’ kind of statement.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I was about to save you.”
The lips on the pierced vamp drew back so far I could see his sharpened molars.
Jackpot, I thought, right before the vampires closed in on me.
“You bitches came to the wrong house.”
Oh, we were at the right house all right. The pamphlet fell from my fingers settling by my feet on the hardwood floor. What did vampires have against carpeting? Or heating? I had to hand it to them for practicality. Great way to save on the electric bill and prevent bodies from decomposing too quickly.
Silver Tongue socked me across the face. I had no time to duck. I’d been expecting teeth not a fist. My face snapped sideways. Neck realignment would have to wait until later.
I dropped to the floor before the second blow connected with my jaw. Kneepads would have been nice, I thought, as pain exploded through my leg joints. The words “Jesus Loves You” looked up at me from the pamphlet, receding as Greasy Guy hauled me up by the shoulders.
Not ten minutes from here, Dante was preaching the gospel to some innocent household waiting to see if they took the bait or shooed him away.
Naturally, I’d get the house with the vampires in it.
I squirmed against the vampire holding me.
A bloodcurdling scream ripped through the house followed by crashing glass.
No surprise Valerie screamed like a banshee. The third vampire staggered away from the china hutch’s splintered glass. Valerie must have shoved him right through the wood frame. She cupped her left eye in one hand and gripped her dagger in the other.
I elbow jabbed Greasy Guy when he turned his attention to the commotion. He grunted but didn’t let go. His arms circled my chest to get a better hold. With Silver Tongue approaching I had to do something, so I bit down on my captor’s arm as hard as I could. He screamed and let go.
Take that, you homicidal, bloodsucking savage. Bet he wasn’t used to getting bit.
I spit his blood out on the floor. My second taste of vampire blood wasn’t any better than the first. Two weeks ago, Renard force-fed me blood from his wrist. Now that I’d tried it again, I could say there was definitely something off about the taste of vampire blood.
Not like human blood.
Silver Tongue smiled. “I see the church still promotes violence.”
Before I could answer, he had my arm in a bone-crushing grip. A yelp escaped my lips before I could suppress it. Silver Tongue twisted harder.
Oh God, he was going to break my arm. Just bite me, damn it!
Right before my bones felt ready to snap, Greasy Guy yanked me away from Silver Tongue and smacked me across the face. It stung but at least he didn’t punch.
Before I could land a blow of my own, he pushed me backwards toward Silver Tongue. The jerk laughed and flung me back to his crony who mimicked his laughter and motion. Back and forth they pushed me as though tossing a ball across the room. It reminded me of a nature program I once saw of two killer whales playing with a seal before they ate it.
The next time I landed against Greasy Guy, I twisted around and dug my nails into his shoulder. He stumbled as he tried to push me away. Before he had a chance to fight me off, I bit straight through his t-shirt to the skin beneath.
“Shit!” he screamed. He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “So you like to bite, do you?”
Without preamble, he leaned forward and bit my neck.
Silver Tongue took me by the arm. “Better say your prayers,” he said into my ear.
He took my earlobe between his teeth and bit down. What started out as a pinch turned into excruciating pain as his teeth pressed through my skin. What if he tried to tear off my entire earlobe? I shrieked so loud I was convinced I would have shattered the glass door on the china hutch if it weren’t already broken.
Greasy Guy fell to the floor convulsing, but Silver Tongue didn’t notice. He released my earlobe and covered his own ears while I screamed, then leaned back in to bite my neck. I never saw him convulse.
“Motherfucker!” Valerie screamed right before she plunged her dagger in Silver Tongue’s back.
He fell forward, nearly taking me down with him.
Valerie held on tight to her knife. Once Silver Tongue hit the floor face first, she pushed him onto his back with the heel of her boot. He looked dead, but that didn’t stop Valerie from kicking him in the side.
The greasy-haired guy twitched on the floor. His eyes widened as Valerie went for him next.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” she yelled, once she finished him off.
She had a shiner around her left eye.
Even though it hurt, the smile was worth it. “Better cancel that date, Val. You don’t look so hot.”