Death Watch Excerpts
A pair of guards opened the giant doors, bowing at Thomas as he guided me through. It was an actual struggle not to freeze at the entrance and stare. But man, did I want to. This place—while definitely what I would consider on-brand for a vamp nest—was one of the most magnificent buildings I’d ever been in. I wasn’t particularly interested in other churches, but this cathedral was just a beauty. A gallery of pews sat to the left and right of a wide aisle that led to a raised dais. Vampires filled the seats, dressed similarly to Thomas and me, their voices a low buzz of conversation. More people were sitting in the upper gallery, their opulent gowns and sharp tuxedos a happy reminder that Thomas had my back. Had I walked in here with leather pants and a whip on my hip, I had a feeling I would have been just a touch out of place.
Thomas continued his leading, guiding me down the aisle toward a stunningly severe woman sitting on what appeared to be a throne. Skin paler than death, eyes vamped out in a way that seemed permanent, and painted lips the color of blood, she was the most beautiful and yet most frightening woman I’d ever seen. Dark hair was piled on her head in purposefully haphazard curls, a few tendrils snaking out of the complicated up-do to artfully caress her neck. She wore a brilliant green gown that was so simple, and yet so achingly complex, it had to have cost a fortune.
We reached the end of the aisle, and Thomas bowed his head slightly. I copied him, wishing I would have received an etiquette lesson on the hour-long drive here. All I’d gotten was Thomas’ clenched jaw and silence.
“You have some nerve,” a woman growled, drawing my gaze from what had to be the queen of this nest to her right.
I quickly realized that the voice did not belong to a woman at all but a child. Pale-blonde hair and blue eyes were set in an elfin face of a vampire who had likely been no more than ten when she was turned. And that had to have been centuries ago. This little whisp of a “girl”—and I use that word lightly—had the look of a being older than dirt. Dressed in a black lace confection appropriate for a child beauty queen, she stood from her chair.
She then launched herself at Thomas.
I couldn’t exactly say why I did it. I mean, she had me by centuries, and Thomas could take care of himself. But as soon as her feet left the dais, I had the knife Clem had given me yanked from its sheath and was in front of the man in an instant.
Thomas owed me, not the other way around, but he’d been kind to me when I’d needed it, and I wouldn’t let him get attacked. No way, no how.
It was as if everyone froze. Conversations halted, guards stood stock-still, and even this slip of a thing stood arrested at the end of my blade, which was poised at her throat.
To this tiny—but by no means less deadly—vampire at the point of my knife, I said, “Settle down there, Blondie, or we’re going to have a problem.”
I had a feeling we probably already had one.
“Haunting rooftops again, I see,” Bastian called from behind me, startling me out of my intense stare-down of an inanimate object, namely, a door.
The only thing special about this door was that behind it lay a raging arcane club. The music radiated up from the ground, through the building, rattling my bones even from across the street, but that door was nothing more than a metal barrier to the world beyond. I’d always wondered what went on in clubs like those. Would it be sex and alcohol and dancing bodies—which wasn’t much different from a human club in that scenario—or would it be darker? Blood and death and all the dark things about the arcane world that I hated? I was smart enough to know that the human world had its darkness, too, but it seemed the more I lived in this world, the more I realized that what I thought was evil didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
“It’s a hobby,” I muttered, shaking my head to clear the dark thoughts as I stretched from my crouch, my joints protesting loudly. One thing about this life that was the same were the aches and pains. I’d sat in one spot too long, staring at that stupid metal door to that stupid arcane club that wouldn’t provide any more answers than the last one had.
My search so far had given me one dead end after the other, and after two straight months of nothing, I was starting to get annoyed. It was bad enough that I had the habit of haunting rooftops before the man who’d killed my parents left a note on my pillow.
Now, it was an obsession.
In the last two months—in between bounties and training—I’d been scouring every nook and cranny of Ascension. And my questioning methods hadn’t exactly been in line with what I would call pleasant.
Bloody would be a better descriptor.
Hopping off the ledge, I knocked the dark hood from my white hair, letting the spring air cool me down. Sweltering under my lightweight jacket, I yanked it off, trying not to rip the fabric. Clem would be pissed if I ripped another one, and as the house’s weapons keeper and person in charge of my solid food intake, pissing her off would not be a smart move on my part. Plus, if Bastian found me, there would be no more sleuthing tonight, and the need to hide my beacon of a hair color was no longer necessary.
I’d need to pick harder to find locations if I wanted him off my ass. Well… I kind of wanted him on my ass, just not while I was in the middle of my special project. I stared down at the skull don’t-find-me ring I’d conned Simon into making for me. Leave it to Bastian to find a way to work around Simon’s magic.
Bastian stood in the darkness, the faint light barely kissing the high points of his face and leaving the rest in shadow. To everyone else, he was a bruiser with his heavy dark brow and bulking frame. To me, he seemed akin to a big teddy bear—a giant, angry teddy bear, but one, nonetheless.
Even if he was spoiling my stakeout.
“Some hobby,” he groused, snagging my hand and reeling me in. “You know, instead of skulking around, you could actually go inside one of those clubs. Take a night off from your ‘creature of the dark’ persona and actually have fun.”
Fun. It was a struggle not to audibly scoff and even harder not to show the derision on my face. I hadn’t had fun in ages. Hell, I didn’t even know what that word meant anymore. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a night off—definitely pre-orphanhood, for sure.
“‘Creature of the dark?’ What am I, a Batman villain? Do I get a cool costume? Is there a car in this deal?”
Bastian’s smile gave me legit butterflies, the wide, white pull of his full lips making me all giddy.
Ugh, hormones. Why must you betray me like this?
Annie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she’ll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life… interesting.