Kiss Me Before Dawn

She can't decide which she hates more

My name is Mystic. I’m a private investigator-slash-bounty hunter in a world gone sick. Eight years ago a swift parasite turned 80% of the population into brain-dead, flesh-eating monsters. It was like any zombie movie you’ve ever seen, and then again, it wasn’t. With their food source threatened, vampires came out of the closet and established a shaky alliance with surviving humans. Yeah right. Not in this lifetime, thank you very much. Before anyone ever knew vampires truly existed, I saw one kill my mom. I will never trust a vamp, let alone allow one to dine from my vein.

Now my boss expects me to team up with one to find some lost kids who’ve been kidnapped by their money-extorting mother. Christophe is as hot as a cherry pie baked in August, but a vamp is a vamp. Still, I need the perks that come with the job, so shoot me, I accepted the assignment. A girl’s gotta eat.

If I can only stick to the case without getting my jugular, or any other body parts penetrated, I might come through this in one piece.

Excerpt from Chapter One

God, I hate vampires.

The night creature glaring at me opened its mouth, showing its fangs to intimidate me, and spit out a hiss like a cat. Good thing I’m not afraid of cats.

Bad thing I’m deathly afraid of vampires.

The blade in my hand would only get me in trouble, but I held it in plain sight anyway. I desperately wanted to look up, to scan the shadowy buildings and their rusting fire escapes making this alley such a repellant place, but doing so would show my fear.

“Back off. I’m taking him home.”

“Not before I feed.” The bloodsucker drew out the word feeeed in a menacing hiss.

I shook my head. “He’s a minor. You can’t feed from him, not even if he says it’s okay.” My knees were quaking and I knew the vamp could sense my fear; my pulse was pounding and my blood racing. Hell, even another human would know I was scared shitless by the tremor in my voice.

“Then I feed from you, Muñoz.”

Jesus, how could he possibly know I was immune? Could he smell it on me? Despite my terror, I laughed.

“Not in this lifetime, corpse.”

A scraping sound above made me certain we were not alone and the vamp probably had friends watching our little tiff with amused expressions on their creepy faces.

I looked past the night creature to the young man cowering against the Dumpster and held out my hand. “Come here, Mike. It’s all right. Come on, we’re leaving.”

Mike Peterson, the sixteen-year-old son of Senator Dwight Peterson, was an immune—or Muñoz—like me. Being Muñoz meant he had a better than fighting chance against the Infected, but Mike Peterson was trouble in its purest form, doomed to be his own worst enemy. He was rebellious: a delinquent with a juvie record a mile long, and now he was a runaway minor. Too young and too stupid to realize that even though he was immune to the virus turning most of the human race into undead flesh-munchers, it didn’t mean the Infected couldn’t tear him to pieces, or the vamps wouldn’t eat him alive. Also too stupid to realize that his influential father was the only reason anyone gave two shits about his welfare. If a nobody’s kid goes missing, the parents better have a lot of friends to recruit because there just weren’t any resources left to search for missing kids anymore.

Or they’d better be rich, like Mike’s father.

Now that the senator had hired my boss’s firm to retrieve his sorry ass, young master Mike was my problem.

The gangly teenager who dressed so tough in his black everything and chain-studded leather jacket didn’t look so tough now. His spiked hair was smashed flat on one side of his head, and his Goth makeup had been smeared off one cheek. Black eyeliner left tearstains down his face, making him look like a sad mime. He wasn’t currently crying, but it was obvious he had been, and his nose was running. Lovely.

Mike had watched our exchange with frightened eyes, and sensing I was his salvation, had climbed to his feet. He glanced from me to the vamp and back again.

“Move your ass, dumbshit,” I snapped. This kid really was too stupid to live, Muñoz or not.

He started toward me, but the vamp clamped a hand down on his shoulder and sent him to his knees. “Not so fast, appetizer.”

Mike screamed, the peal cracking with pubescent fear. He flailed his arms, smacking the vamp in the face. The split second was all I needed to close the distance and put my knife against the dead thing’s throat. God, I hated their stench. His breath could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon from ten yards.

“Let. Him. Go.”

“Bitch, I could rip your throat out and sip from your spurting jugular.”

I pressed the blade deeper, bringing a black line of blood from a shallow slice. “But you won’t, because you’d be marked for death if you did. I, on the other hand, could slice you down to the vertebrae and call it self-defense.”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed the two dark wounds on Mike’s neck. Some vampire had already fed off the kid, and recently.

When the bloodsucker hesitated, I bared my teeth. “It would hurt, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah.” He jerked his hand off Mike’s shoulder in a dramatic show. “It would.”

I didn’t move. Crisp footfalls moving slowly up the alley behind me seized my attention. I held my breath, not sure of my next move.

When the virus was first identified six years ago, vampires came out of the closet and formed an uneasy truce with the living. They needed us—the unInfected, especially the tasty Muñoz like me.

But that didn’t mean a couple of them wouldn’t get so pissed off they wouldn’t kill me.

“What’s going on in here?” The footsteps continued tapping out their easy saunter. Irrational relief strengthened my resolve. That didn’t sound like a vamp, and another human meant one more on my side.

“Everything all right?” The voice was deep, relaxed, and confident. Kinda sexy in a way. I have a weak spot for men who can maintain their cool in dangerous situations.

I stepped back and lowered my knife. “Our nightwalker friend was just leaving,” I said, not taking my eyes off the vamp.

“Yeah,” he sneered sarcastically. He turned the other way and disappeared in a blur. Damn, I hated that they could do that.

I turned around. The figure coming toward me was tall, with broad shoulders and long legs. Even though he was little more than a silhouette, I could see he was nicely dressed. Light from the street and a weak bulb overhead somewhere gleamed off the shoulders of his leather jacket. He wore loose-fitting trousers that appeared to be crisply ironed. The shoes had the snappy sound of expensiveness.

And then I noticed Mike was gone.

“Shit!” I started off at a run. Those damn expensive shoes had been all I heard as Mike fled quietly on his rubber-soled Goth boots. “Which way did he go?”

The man caught my arm, wrenching me to a stop. I noticed his face then, and for a moment my tongue went numb. He was more than handsome: he was downright angelic. His pale blue eyes made his vanilla-cream skin look buttery, and his mouth, with its full, perfectly shaped lips, was positively edible.

“There’s a mob of Infected moving up Union.”

I jerked my arm. “I’m immune.”

He held fast. “There are twenty of them.”

“I can run fast.” I waited a heartbeat. “Let go.”

He waited two. His hand loosened, and then slipped away. Damn if I didn’t find it strangely erotic. His fingers lingered in a slow caress of the underside of my arm that gave me tingles even through my two shirts.

“North,” he said, somehow managing a sexy half smile even as he spoke.

I ran. If the mob caught Mike, Rudolph would have my ass. It would not look good to return the senator’s son with multiple munch marks, Immune or not.

At the end of the alley, I glanced back. The stranger had vanished.

Damn. This job could’ve been over five minutes ago if only I’d been paying attention. Now Mike was gone, and I was running toward Union Street on a collision course with a roving band of Infected.

So instead of obeying curfew law and sipping artificial hot chocolate mix on my couch in my fuzzy jammies, I was running through the dark streets of a very dangerous city, hoping I didn’t encounter the police, the Infected, or any more stinking vamps.