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Other Books in the Hell Kat Series
Read an Excerpt from Inferno:
Not again. Oh, please, God, not again.
That was all Hades could think of when he stepped into the dank, dark chamber of his dreams and smelled the familiar metallic tang of blood.
She was there, hanging by her wrists, shackled to the ceiling of the cold, empty cemented-room. Blood pooled beneath her feet. Hades knew there would be long raised welts across her slender but muscular back. He’d seen them before in his dreams.
With slow hesitant steps, he neared her swinging body. Praying under his breath that she still had a pulse, he reached toward her and stroked her leg. Her waxy skin was cold to the touch.
Swallowing down the bile rising in his throat, Hades swung her around and glanced up into her face. With a heavy sigh, he closed his eyes.
It wasn’t her. It wasn’t Kat.
He didn’t recognize the dead woman. Her anonymous face would, hopefully, not haunt him in the future. But if he was here again, in this nightmare, Kat was here somewhere, too.
He never came alone.
Cautiously, he strode through the lofty chain room to an open metal door. Stepping over the threshold into a dimly lit hall, Hades had the distinct sensation of being led. As if some phantom chain had been attached to his neck and he was being tugged forward into the unknown.
With each step, the overhead fluorescent lights flickered. When Hades reached a T-intersection in the hall, each thin bulb blacked out one by one, and he was once again thrust into darkness.
There were only two ways for him to go. And he suspected that horror lay in wait in either direction.
Turning to his right, Hades reached out blindly for the door. He grasped the metal handle and pushed down. The door unlocked with an audible click and creaked open of its own accord.
At first, the room seemed just as dark as in the hallway. But then, Hades could see a glow emanate from the middle of the room. Compelled, he stepped into the room and walked toward the faint yellow light. It grew brighter as he advanced.
Eventually, he came to a four-poster bed. A red candle burned brightly in a glass holder on a small table next to the bed.
The bed was empty. But Hades could hear movement near him, a soft swishing sound, like flesh rubbing against fabric. Undeniable aromas of sweat, musk and arousal floated to his nostrils. The overpowering aroma of sex.
Scrutinizing the mattress, he could see the bed covers ripple and bunch as if one or two people were moving over top of them. Clear indentations of a hand, a knee, and other body parts pressed into the mattress.
A low whimper reverberated from the bed. He recognized that low husky sound. He’d heard it before in his ears.
She was there. Somehow, she was on the bed in front of him although he couldn’t see her.
A light breeze of air blew over his arms as if someone was moving in front of him, moving toward him. Within seconds, he felt a hand on his forearm. Her hand. Unable to pull away, he allowed the phantom fingers to stroke him, trailing up and down his skin. He sucked in a raspy breath when that hand brushed his crotch with a knuckle or two. It didn’t take much for his cock to respond to her touch.
Iron hard and aching with desire, Hades allowed the apparition to pull him onto the bed. Reaching out, he found her body, all hard planes and slopes but soft and pliant where a woman should be. He molded his hands over her breasts, teasing her rigid nipples with his thumbs.
Again, she moaned. This time it was in his ear. He could feel her lips so close to him, so warm and inviting. Turning his head, he captured her mouth with his. She tasted as he remembered, like rain, cool and refreshing. She swept her tongue over his, and then nipped at his bottom lip.
Before he could respond, he could feel her pulling away. Blindly he reached out, but couldn’t find her again. He knew she was still there, could feel her heat, and smell her scent. Why couldn’t he touch her?
He motioned as if to sit up, but was forced back down onto the mattress. A heavy weight settled on his legs, as if someone had straddled him. Hades reached forward and touched warm inviting flesh. He moved his hands up over the smooth skin of Kat’s muscular thighs. When he could reach no further while lying down, he felt her take his hands in hers and raise them up.
Sighing, he closed his eyes when a pair of soft full lips touched his skin. A tongue traced a wet path over his wrist, suckling every now and then. His eyes sprang open when he felt the scrape of pointed fangs on his flesh.
Shocked, his stomach roiling over in revulsion, Hades watched as two forms materialized on the bed.
With smiles, blood dripping down their chins, Kat and Baruch reached out to him, and spoke in unison. “You can’t escape, Hades. You’re ours.”
Heart hammering in his chest, Hades bolted up in his bed. Cold sweat dripped down his forehead and into his face. The salty liquid stung his eyes. Lifting a shaky hand, he wiped at them.
It had been over seven months since he’d had a nightmare like this. One his mom would have called a premonition.
When he was a child, she had called him a Dream Seer because of the constant images in his head that had come true. Like so many times before, he hoped that this was just a dream and nothing else.
Swinging his legs off the bed, he set his feet on the cold wood floor and peered around his small bedroom. It was still dark and the air felt crisp. He had heard that there might be a frost in the night. Frost. Cold. These things were still so new and surprising to him that he welcomed the ice on the ground and the bitter chill in the air.
He’d spent his whole life on the outer rims where the scorched earth tried to resurrect itself from the devastation caused by nuclear war. Snow, cold, and ice were foreign occurrences. Ones that he had read about only in books, and heard through rumors of the Promised Land in the North. A land he had finally found.
With practiced ease, he found his fur-trimmed leather slippers with his toes, without the aid of light. Sliding his feet into them, he stood, wrapped his deerskin robe around his bulky form and shuffled to the small window. Cracking open one wooden shutter, he peeked outside. The sky was still dark, but the promise of the sun started to trim the edges with a dull pink. Dawn was close by.
A little earlier than he wanted to be rising, Hades resigned himself to starting his day. He still had wood to cut and a fence to mend before winter settled in for the year. Rubbing a hand over his bald head, he sighed and shuffled into the kitchen to make tea and start his breakfast. Maybe a shot of whiskey would help erase the bloody images of his dreams.
Even in the dark, Hades made his way around his cabin with proficient effortlessness. When he neared the stove, he opened the little iron door, tossed in a few logs, and grabbed the box of matches sitting on the counter. Before he could strike the flint, the hairs on his arm stirred to attention.
Someone was in his cabin.
Dropping the match, Hades reached for his knife lying on the counter near the sink. Even now, his weapons were not far from him. When he spun around, knife poised to strike, a soft light emanated from the kitchen table. The lantern set on the wooden surface sparked to life and the person, sitting in one of the chairs behind it, took form.
A pale luminance played over Kat’s sharp angular face. “You’ve lost your edge, Hades. Country living and clean air have made you slow.”
The sound of her voice instantly tightened things inside him. She had that effect on him. Her laugh alone could spurn a raging hard-on. He must be getting lax, if he didn’t notice the moment she had stepped into his cabin.
He eyed her, taking in everything. Some things had stayed the same. The way her full lips lifted at the corners, in a sexy sneer. The sharp cut of her cheekbones and chin. That devilish dark look in her eyes that sent shivers down his back.
Other things had changed.
She no longer possessed the tumbling mass of ebony hair. Instead, shocks of dark hair stuck up in random order over her head. Short and spiky, her hair was a carefree mess. Somehow, it suited her and only helped to accentuate her piercing facial features. Hades also noticed the absence of her eye patch. Her eye no longer looked opaque and useless but seemed to be changing back to its original emerald green even as it tracked him from across the table.
Turning, Hades set the knife back on the counter and reached for the banged up teapot. “Do you want some tea?”
There was a long pause while Hades lit the stove, and set the teapot on the burner.
Taking two cups from the cupboard above, Hades set them on the counter and added some peppermint and sage herbs from his tin canisters. He grew his own herbs in a small, boxed-garden in the den. Kat, he was sure, would laugh at that¬¬–Hades having a garden. But he wouldn’t feel ashamed of it. He had earned this little thing. Had bled for this place in utopia where he had found relative peace and sanctuary. A haven that he had hoped to, one day, share with her.
“Nice place. Very cozy.”
Hades turned back around. Leaning against the counter, he crossed his arms across his chest to cover his hands. He hoped she didn’t notice the slight quiver in them. They ached to reach across the table and touch her. To fill his palms with her hard hot flesh. It had only been in the past three months that he had stopped aching for her in the middle of the night, stopped having sweaty, erotic, wet dreams where he could find no release.
“Built it myself.”
“Huh.” She nodded. “Who knew you had skills?”
“You know I do, babe,” he chuckled.
His heart skipped a beat when the smile finally lifted the corners of her delicious mouth. The woman didn’t smile often, but when she did, it squeezed him in all kinds of places.
He sighed. “Damn, woman, where have you been?”
“All over the fucking place.” She spread her hand over the table and leaned back in the chair. “Ended up in Atlantis for a month.”
“You’re kidding? That’s the last place I’d expect you to go back to.”
“I guess I needed a place to heal and think. I even did their weird cleansing ceremony.” She rubbed her hand through her cropped hair as evidence of her words.
“Hmm, I was wondering about that.” He smiled, lifting his brow. “So, is it growing back in other places too?”
He remembered watching one the Neried’s cleansing ceremonies where the young woman had all her hair removed. Even over her pubic mound.
When she cocked her brow with that sexy grin, Hades realized how much he had truly missed her. And how much she had hurt him when she had left. Seeing her now, made him realize that he could go on without her, maybe even find some happiness, but he damn well didn’t want to.
Breaking the uncomfortable silence, Hades turned and surveyed the bubbling teapot. He busied himself by pouring the hot water into the cups. “How are Nemo and Kele?”
Turning, he set a steaming cup in front Kat and then leaned back again against the counter to sip his.
Hades was sure that the last person he ever wanted to see again in his village was another person succumbing to the virus. He had done that before and lost many of this people to the blood-lusting rage that a dweller goes through after being infected.
“Nemo is frustrating as usual, but I convinced him to let me stay,” she chuckled, and then sobered as if laughing hurt too much. “Kele is healing. I’m sure it will be some time before she can truly forget what she went through at the hands of Baruch and his ghouls.”
He noticed that she lowered her gaze when she spoke Baruch’s name. Hades wondered if he still haunted her dreams as well.
“What about Leucothea? How is she?”
Kat smiled slightly when Hades mentioned the young Neried’s name. “A pain in the ass. She followed me around like a puppy.”
“I think the girl’s in awe of you. The mighty warrior Hell Kat,” Hades chuckled remembering how the girl had eyed Kat with wonder and longing in her pale innocent face when she had helped them, after being discovered near death on the outskirts of the Wastelands. The girl had sobbed something fierce when they had left the first time to travel to the Vanquished City.
“She even annoyed me enough to teach her some self-defense moves.” Kat met his gaze, something akin to sorrow swimming in her eyes. “I told her she needed to be prepared in case more Dwellers come to the village.” Kat smiled, but it was not a grin of happiness. “Dwellers are a nasty lot.”
Hades saw the pain in her face and could hear the edge in her voice. He couldn’t imagine the agony she suffered, knowing that the same thing that made these scavengers heartless, sadistic, killers was the same thing that poisoned her blood.
Taking a step forward, Hades uncrossed his arms. “Kat, I…”
She smirked. “No worries, Hades. I’m a tough bitch remember?”
“I remember more than that.”
She met his gaze, and then noticeably swallowing, lowered it. Putting her nose to the table, she took in a deep breath. “Who’s the woman?”
The change in conversation knocked him off guard. “What woman?”
Putting her feet on the table, she leaned back in the chair. “The woman you’re fucking.”
“I’m not fucking her.”
“But there is a woman.”
Hades sighed and leaned back against the counter. It was obvious, Kat wanted to fight. It had always been her way to deal with emotions she wasn’t used to dealing with. That particular personality trait obviously hadn’t changed.
“I can smell her,” she continued. “She usually sits here when she’s in your kitchen.”
“You can smell her?”
“Yeah,” Kat scoffed. “One of the many joys of turning DD.”
Hades drank the rest of his tea and turned to set it on the counter, giving her his back. Probably not the best idea considering. “What does it matter Kat? You left me, remember? We never made any vow of commitment.” He glanced over his shoulder at her.
She slid her feet off the table and sat forward. “You’re right, I did leave. But you knew why.”
Hades reeled around, anger and hurt fueling his movements. “Bullshit! You didn’t tell me anything when you split. I could only assume that you felt you needed to.”
“I had to leave, you dumb ass,” she remarked. “With this…this virus running rampant in my veins, I would have killed you. Do you understand? You would have been my first victim.”
Hades had understood. He knew the reasons she had left, but still it had ripped him apart, knowing there was nothing he could have done about it. No way could he have aided her. In the end, he had felt useless and impotent. He hated that feeling and never wanted to feel that way again.
“So.” He lifted his lips in a mischievous grin. “You don’t want to kill me now?”
There was a long pause before her resolve broke and she laughed. “That’s debatable. Give me some time, I’ve only been back an hour.”
“Why are you here, Kat? I have a feeling it’s not because you want to play house with me.”
“I need you to get me some place.”
“Ahuh, I’m still listening.”
Hades didn’t need to think about it. “Nope, you broke into the wrong house this morning, sweetheart. Inferno is a one-way ticket to hell.”
Kat rose from the chair, rounded the table, and sat on it in front of him. “Hey, we’ve been to hell remember?”
“Shit, the Vanquished City was purgatory compared to Inferno.”
“I need to go, Hades. It’s my only chance.”
“Only chance at what?”
“To find a cure.”
He wanted to cross the distance between them and touch her. Grab her and cradle her in the security of his arms. He wanted to tell her it was okay, that he would do anything for her, to help her. But he couldn’t make himself move.
“What if there isn’t one, Kat?”
“There has to be, because I refuse to become one of them. I refuse to become a vampyre.”
Her gaze was piercing, and he had the unsettling urge to turn and run. He could see the rage and violence of the alien blood racing through her system, contorted in her beautiful haunted face.
He didn’t know how long it took for the virus to possess a person, but he knew Kat had been fighting it fiercely since being bitten seven months ago. He wondered if she had taken blood lately. If she had finally succumbed to the insatiable lust for it.
“What’s your plan?”
“To find a man named Onyx, a scientist who I hear has an antidote to the DD virus.”
“Okay, let’s say you find this man, then what? What are you planning to do with him?”
“Take him out of the city and help him distribute the antidote, starting with me.”
Hades laughed. “No one walks out of Inferno. Not without paying Satarah first.”
“I’ve got money.” She motioned to the pack sitting under the table.
“You can’t bargain with Satarah. You think Baruch was bad…Satarah makes him look like a choir boy.” Shaking his head, he continued, “She’s ruthless, sadistic, and has…” He paused.
He shook his head. “Nothing.”
“No, go ahead. Say what you were going to say.”
“It’s said she has magical powers.”
Kat laughed. It was a hoarse barking sound, and not her usual deep sexy giggle. “Magic? Please, don’t tell me you believe that.”
He rubbed a hand over his face. “Hey, a year ago, I would’ve said bullshit. But with what I’ve seen Baruch do…” his voice trailed off. “I don’t know what to believe anymore.”
“Mutations, Hades. Mutations and diseases. That is all it is. The fucking war fucked us up for a long time.” She lifted her arms and turned them over, revealing black lines on her wrists and forearms, where the DD virus flowed rampantly. “I should know.”
Hades didn’t want to see what had happened to her, what was still happening. Her pain reminded him of his failure. Failure to protect her.
He sighed. “What you’re planning is impossible, Kat.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing I came to you. If there’s anyone that can get around impossible, it’s you.” She pursed her full lips into a sexy pout. One that he was sure she knew could unravel the tightest knot.
Hades couldn’t resist any longer.
Closing the distance between them, he gathered her in his arms and crushed his mouth to hers. With his tongue and teeth, he took her. She tasted as he remembered. Like a cool breeze on a hot day. Something he longed for on a daily basis.
She responded in kind, and wrapped her arms around his waist, digging her fingers into his back as she met and matched every nip and tug of his teeth and tongue. She moaned into him as he deepened the kiss and ran his hands through the silky spikes of her hair.
She was everything he remembered. Strong, rough, sexy and infuriating. She made every single emotion he had respond, and almost at the same time. Damn the woman, made him weak with desire. Weak. Something he vowed never to feel again.
Hades broke the kiss and took a distancing step back, his heart racing like his motorcycle and sweat trickling down his back. Trying to control his breathing, he closed his eyes and sighed.
“I don’t know, Kat. My life has changed.” He motioned around him, at his cabin. The one he had built with his own hands, while the anger and pain of her abandonment ate at him from the inside out. “I’m not the same man.”
She slid off the table and stood defiantly in front of him. “Like hell you aren’t. I know the man I…” she paused took in a ragged breath and continued. “I know you, Hades. You’re here, standing in front of me, the same man I traveled to Van with, the same man I survived death with, the same man I fucked. You’re standing right in front of me. I could be blind and still see that.”
She reached under the table, grabbed her pack and slung it over her shoulder. “Think about it. I’ll be back tonight.” She made for the door.
“You didn’t even ask about her.”
Her hand stilled on the door handle. He saw the slight tremble in it. “I didn’t because I know she’s not here. I would’ve sensed it the moment I stepped into town.”
“I looked for her like you asked. Madeline was here, Kat.”
She looked at him then and he could see the pain in her eyes.
“She lived here for a year or so then left with another family. A good family I hear.”
Kat didn’t say anything, she didn’t need to, he could see everything written on her face.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She nodded. “It’s all right. I wouldn’t be any good to her like this anyway. She’d only be in danger with me.”
Then she turned the door handle and opened the door.
Once again, emotion clamped down around his heart and squeezed. He wondered if it would always be that way with Kat. If he would crave her with such intensity that it knocked the breath from him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to find out, but at the same time, he couldn’t stand to see her leave again.
“You can stay here.”
She turned and met his gaze.
“My bed’s comfortable. And there’s only one window, so…there won’t be much light to bother you.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Good,” she chuckled. “At least I know I still keep you on your toes.”
“That you do, Hell Kat. That you do.” He motioned toward the open door leading to his bedroom.
With her pack still slung over her shoulder, she strode past him and into the room. She gripped the door but before she shut it, she looked at him. “I…” she paused. “Thank you.”
He said nothing as she shut the door behind her. He didn’t know how long he stood there watching the closed door, expecting her to come out again. By the time he turned to finish preparations for his breakfast, the sun was streaming through the kitchen window and birds were twittering on the branches of the apple tree just outside his door.