Dark Mercy (Preternaturals #0)

Chapter 4

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He quickly wiped that thought from his mind. Murder was obviously worse than sex—at least a little worse.

She raised herself, and he tried not to stare at her breasts as they dangled free in easy reach. As disgusted as he was with himself and with her, part of him wanted to do it again.

“And we will,” she said. “I just had to take you for a test drive before I made a full commitment.”

Hadrian narrowed his eyes. He knew he hadn’t just spoken out loud. He may be feeling out of sorts, but he knew that much. She was responding to things he hadn’t yet verbalized. How was that even possible? He pushed her away and scrambled off the altar, searching for his clothes, trying to get a clear thought to pulse through his muddled brain.

As the fog cleared further, he entertained the idea that there was something preternatural about Angeline’s seduction. She couldn’t be a demon, but she was something. She must be. It was the last thing he was holding on to, reassuring himself that this wasn’t something he’d do of his own free will.

“What are you?” He’d known something was off from the beginning, but now he was sure. She wasn’t a normal woman. Perhaps she was a witch. Maybe he should have taken such a threat more seriously rather than treating it like a joke.

“I am your maker,” she said.

“My maker is God.”

“Originally, perhaps. But I’m about to upgrade you, elevate you to something truly remarkable.”

Hadrian’s eyes widened as Angeline’s lovely face transformed. Her eyes went from brilliant, hypnotic blue to a fiery red in the blink of an eye.

She’s a demon. Of course. But how?

“Actually, half-demon. Vampire, in fact. But good guess.” Fangs descended, and then she moved impossibly fast.

He jumped back, thinking surely he was about to die, but she was only playing with him, showing off.

“How are you able to be in a church? Have you worked magic to breech the protections?”

“Half demon,” she said with exasperation. “The other half is human. And if you think you are stupidly optimistic about people’s ability to change, you’ve got nothing on the man upstairs. If I was full demon, I wouldn’t get past the threshold of a church, but that human half gives me an in.”

Hadrian had been backing away an inch at a time. When he bumped against the altar, he took down a crucifix that had been hanging on the side on a small nail. She advanced toward him, not having seen the danger.

When she was close enough, he pressed it against her face. It wasn’t right that she should be able to get inside a church. Once he got rid of her, he’d find a way to ban her from entering ever again. She let out a horrified shriek and leapt back as smoke rose off her flesh, leaving behind a bright burn mark.

“I see I was still left with some weapons to defend myself,” he said, “thanks to the man upstairs.”

The mark began to fade, leaving her perfect, creamy complexion behind.

“That was stupid. When I’ve turned you and you are mine, you will pay for that. We’re alike, you and I. In more ways than you know.”

“I will never be yours.” He gripped the crucifix more tightly.

A dark smile. “You’ll be my little bitch begging for a bone when I’m done with you. You have NO idea the power I have.”

Since the revelation of Angeline’s true nature, Hadrian had been going through each bit of vampire lore he’d ever heard. He wasn’t sure which parts were true and which were untrue. He hadn’t made eye contact with her since the word vampire had passed through her lips, and he hoped it was enough to keep her from enthralling him further. He had a plan, but it required keeping control of his own mind.

She moved like a viper and struck. Father Hadrian took in a sharp breath at the sting of her fangs, but a moment later he got his bearings and began to chant.

“Exorcizo te, immundissime spiritus, omnis incursio adversarii, omne phantasma, omnis legio… ”

Angeline pulled away from his throat. Her face was gruesome, her lips painted with his blood. “Ooooh baby, talk Latin to me some more.” She laughed maniacally as if she were the author of the best joke ever told, then went back to feeding.

Father Hadrian could feel himself weakening, but he continued the chant until he lost consciousness.

Angeline picked up the priest and laid his body out over the altar like a human sacrifice. He’d lost consciousness only a few moments before. He truly was a beautiful specimen. She allowed her fingers to run over the contours of his face, down his chest to more intimate areas.

She’d sealed the wound on his neck from her bite, but there was still a trail of blood down his neck and shoulder, and a bit on the upper part of his chest. She’d always been a messy eater. Angeline trailed her tongue over the remaining bits of blood to clean him up.

Maybe it was the long time he’d gone without a woman, but she’d felt him, been inside his head as he’d been inside her. It had been everything she’d hoped. He looked so peaceful in the in-between place.

She could still let him die. Until her own blood was inside him, he was on borrowed time. She could almost hear the imaginary clock ticking, counting down to the moment when she couldn’t bring him back and he’d cross over for good into the next world.

She nuzzled Hadrian’s throat, soaking in the last bit of warmth from his skin. She’d miss it. Perhaps she should have kept him alive longer. Human pets were common enough. It was nothing to be ashamed of, but she’d already closed the door to that option by drinking too much. She’d been too greedy. The taste of him had burst across her tongue, a unique blend of despair, guilt, goodness, and a kernel of something darker. Something she recognized. Something she could work with.

His emotions had been a sophisticated blend meant for a discerning palette. After druggies, drunks, whores, and the random simpletons on the street, Hadrian had been the one intoxicating agent she couldn’t get enough of. It had been hard to stop in time. She still felt herself spinning with it. Her skin hummed and buzzed with the euphoria of flavors so passionate and complex, so much repressed power and desire and darkness.

Hadrian’s pulse slowed; time was running out. For the briefest moment, Angeline thought about letting him go. What if he wasn’t the right priest for her? He’d seemed almost resistant, even with all of her hypnotic powers thrown into the mix. He might be hard to tame. But she’d been searching for so long already.

It would be a waste to let a fine specimen like Father Hadrian die and decompose. Worse than a mortal sin, even.

Angeline winced as she tore into her own flesh with fangs. She held the priest’s mouth open and allowed the blood to flow into him. It was so poetic. Only moments ago he’d been inside her. Now she was inside him. It would link them forever and give her power over him—at least for a time. She vowed that by the time she was finished with him, by the time he got old enough and strong enough to break free, he wouldn’t want to. He’d want to be hers forever.

Her own sire had only wanted a toy to play with, someone to abuse and break, but Angeline wanted a mate. Surely Hadrian would see that in time. He’d come to understand that it was all for a greater purpose. He’d love her and she’d find a way to love him. That ability had to still be in there. She just hadn’t used it in awhile.

It took only a few moments for her blood to revive him enough for his throat to start working of its own accord. She breathed a sigh of relief as his mouth formed a suction around the wound, and he drank with the desperation of a man who wanted to live.

That had to be a good sign.

Hadrian found himself bathed in a bright, yellow light. It was a light of judgment, the kind no evil could pass through. No one had to spell this out, he just knew. It was knowledge like the sun is bright and people breathe air—self-evident. A short man stood behind a golden podium in a white robe. In order to see over the top, he had to stand on a small ladder.

Hadrian looked down to find himself wearing his clerical clothing. It was the only normal thing in a sea of pure weirdness. He spun in a slow circle, taking in the vast, circular golden room with the many doors; he moved curiously toward one of them. His hand wrapped around a doorknob, ready to explore the environment further when a throat cleared behind him.

“Father Hadrian? I’m afraid you can’t venture beyond this waiting area.”

“Am I dead or am I dreaming?” They were the only two options he could think of.

“Neither. You’re transitioning into something else.”

The balding man didn’t have to say anymore. The fuzzy memory was becoming sharper. Angeline. Hadrian winced as memories of what they’d done—what she’d done to him—drifted through his mind. He had the vaguest sense of having drunk her blood, as well as the vaguest sense that it had been the best thing he’d ever tasted. Something was wrong with that thought.

“So this is where you go when you die?” He knew how things worked, of course, but his training hadn’t included an afterlife diagram or map. He only knew of reincarnation and the many dimensions and the demons, and that earth was hell. It was more than the laity knew, but not much more.

“It’s a sorting area, so to speak,” the man said.


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