EXCERPT: Deliver Me from Temptation by Tes HilaireThursday, December 20, 2012 14:00
If you’ve not begun to read Tes Hilaire‘s Paladin Warriors series, it’s not too late to start now. Deliver Me from Temptation is just the second book, so there’s time to get to know the characters and their history, which I enjoy quite a bit. These books are perfect for the paranormal addict.
Logan is the Paladin heir, something that weighs heavily on him, duty uppermost in his soul. Until he meets his mate. A mate he can’t have.
She’s human. Jessica is a cop with an agenda: keep all scum off the streets the best she can. She’s single-minded in that focus. Until Logan. And his world she just can’t believe in.
Logan Screwed Upâ€¦Big Time
When things go bump in the night, Logan bumps back. Vampires, demons, succubiâ€”you name it, heâ€™s fought it. His job as a Paladin angel warrior is to pretect humans. Not fall for one.
She Never Believed in Divine Interventionâ€¦Until Now
Detective Jessica Waters protects humans tooâ€”with her Glock and a good set of handcuffs. She doesnâ€™t believe in fate. But if anyone looks like a gift from the gods, itâ€™s Logan. And he clearly knows more about her case than heâ€™s letting onâ€¦
Now prepare to be hooked as you meet Logan and Jessica…
Logan Calhoun III was going to die. Not as a result of fighting evil, as was his mission and destiny, nor was he dying of old age, though if he were merely human heâ€™d be but dust in his grave. Nope, Logan was going to die from the most rudimentary form of torture in the world: Boredom.
Ever since the skirmish at the end of the summer where the Paladin order had literally kicked evilâ€™s ass, the normally dark-edged city, which was the preferred hunting ground for the treacherous Ganelonâ€™s demonic army, had been all but peaceful. Which was not normal or natural, and all that peacefulness was making Logan itch.
Something had to drop. But what, where, and when?
Five nights straight, Logan had stood in the maw of the Bronxâ€™s various â€śsinâ€ť clubs scoping the movement of writhing bodies across the floor and so far? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Human stuff. Normal stuff the world overâ€”since Lucifer set his sights on mankind. But he detected no demonic powers at work. Nothing to suggest the presence of true evil.
Oh where, oh where have all the merkerÂ gone? he thought to himself, scanning the writhing room yet again. Same as before. No demons. Nor their harder to spot, half-blood, merker relatives. Not even a vampire or an imp to provide some entertainment for the night. He shook his head, fighting off a yawn. The death of him. Truly.
â€śDonâ€™t look so interested to be here, Cal.â€ť
Logan straightened, shifting enough to glance toward the bull of a man whoâ€™d been mirroring him on the other side of the arched opening. Legs crossed, shoulder butted against the rough plaster, eyes scanning, he was a bulk of shadow to the average observer, nothing more. Only something evil would know he was akin to death waiting in the wings.
Alexanderâ€™s attention shifted from the floor of grinding bodies to Logan, one of the heavy eyebrows arching in challenge. â€śIâ€™m just saying. Look much happier to be here and youâ€™re going to get us kicked out.â€ť
Logan grunted. â€śI wouldnâ€™t worry about it. Weâ€™re pretty much hidden. Besides, you should talk. Your sorry mug does a fine job of keeping everyone away.â€ť
â€śNot for much longer. That one doesnâ€™t even notice me. Sheâ€™s been watching you all night.â€ť Alex jerked his chin toward one of the strategically placed shot bars.
Logan followed the motion, focusing on the corseted brunette who sat on the edge of her bar stool twirling an empty martini glass. Heâ€™d skimmed over her a dozen or more times without thought, but this time, as their gazes lined up, he realized it wasnâ€™t the first time they had and he knew heâ€™d screwed up. Big time. The girlâ€”yes, she was a girl, no way she was legal, not without a fake IDâ€”flashed a row of straight white teeth that probably still became intimate with a retainer at night, shifted off the black faux leather and struck out uncertainly on her towering heels toward him.
â€śAw, fuck.â€ť He wacked his head back against the wall a few times, the rub of the rough plaster seeming like insufficient punishment for his indiscretion.
â€śDonâ€™t be alarmed,â€ť the big warrior across from him murmured.
Easy for Alex to say. He wasnâ€™t being eyed down by the recently-out-of-braces, probably-still-slept-in-Hello-Kitty-flannels. It would be one thing if it were a first for Logan. But it wasnâ€™t. Something about himâ€”his best friend Roland claimed it was the damn dimplesâ€”seemed to draw the young and innocent like moths to a flame. Or, in his case, a raging bonfire.
He was definitely too old for this crap. Too old and too cranky. Damn. He didnâ€™t have the patience or the desire to let this innocent wish-I-were-a-big-girl down gently.
Drawing in a deep breath and trying to muster up the patience of a saint, he fortified himself for the challenge ahead: HowÂ to get her out of here and on her way home.
The girlâ€™s smile burned into him, hopeful and anxious: The first strike, though with his hardened shell it didnâ€™t even draw blood. He started to push away from the wallâ€”never good to be backed into a corner during a battleâ€”but found his path of attack blocked by one of Alexanderâ€™s tree-trunk arms, followed immediately by Alexâ€™s freight-train body.
Logan jerked back, his body smacking into the rough archway, peeling plaster sticking in his hair as he tried to inch away from the warrior. â€śWhat the hell are you doing?â€ť
Alexander blinked down at him, his mouth drawing into a pout as he answered, his voice taking on a pathetic, whiny edge that was just not natural coming out of the rock-solid man.
â€śWhat are you doing, baby? I thought this was our night. I thought we were here to have fun.â€ť Alexander shifted in closer, his breath brushing Loganâ€™s temple as he dipped his head down toward Loganâ€™s ear. â€śYou want that girl to run home crying to mom and dad? Then play along, Cal.â€ť
The voice may have been low and dangerous like the warrior he knew, but the shock of that breath froze Logan stiff. No way. Yeah, he liked the man, as a friend, a brother in the war they waged, but not that way. His hand fisted, ready to pull back and strike out in a not-at-all-amused gut punch, but then he caught sight of the girl over Alexâ€™s shoulder. Sheâ€™d stopped a few feet away, her eyes round as she shifted from one foot to the other, her cheap stilettos poised to run toward him or the door depending on what he did next.
Suck it up. Deal. So what if Alex was turning out to be a star actor? Find him a square on Hollywood Boulevard and chisel his name in it. But first, get this girl out of here.
He forced himself to unfurl his hand and lay it on Alexâ€™s waist. Turning his full attention, and what he hoped looked like an engaging rather than an Iâ€™m-going-to-kill-you-later smile on his Paladin brother, he said loudly enough for the girl to overhear, â€śOf course this is our night, XE. I was just going to get us a drink.â€ť
â€śAh baby, thatâ€™s sweet. But I donâ€™t need a drink. You know all I thirst for is you.â€ť
And then Alex did something that really did ice Loganâ€™s blood. Alex shifted his hands from the wall beside Loganâ€™s head and slid them alongside Loganâ€™s jaw. Those hands, deceptively gentle to an observer, closed around Loganâ€™s face like a vise, his golden eyes blurred together they were so close.
â€śRelax, Cal,â€ť Alex hissed, his breath like a scalding furnace across Loganâ€™s face.
â€śThen back off!â€ť Logan shot back in an undertone.
â€śJust a few more seconds,â€ť Alex replied calmly, not moving in any closer, but not budging either.
Logan counted them off, each second punctuated by a hissing breath through clenched teeth. It wasnâ€™t so much the playing along as the feeling of being trapped. And it took all his control not to break the lock Alexâ€™s body had against his.
â€śThere.â€ť Alex shifted back, resuming his cross-legged stance across from him on the other side of the archway. â€śAnd look, gone.â€ť
Logan stifled the growl that wanted to escape. Alex was right. It was the results that counted, not the method, if the girlâ€™s perceived humiliation would be enough to deter her from doing something so stupid againâ€”at least for a few more years. He should be pleased with the victory, and was halfway to convincing himself to forgive Alex for his extreme, albeit successful, methods of counterattack when he felt the brush of a chuckle in his head followed by, Â«XE?Â»
Valin. Of course the eavesdropper was present for that. Crap and hell. There would be no end to the bastardâ€™s ribbing now.
Â«You think that was funny?Â»
Â«Why yes, I do.Â» There was a pause, then, Â«But, thatâ€™s not why Iâ€™ve reached out to touch someone. Though you boys seem to be way ahead of me there.Â»
Â«Valinâ€¦Â» Logan growled the name, at least as much as he could through projected thought.
Logan sensed Valinâ€™s thoughts shift from his natural state of black-edged humor, his voice coming through crystal clear and all business like. Â«I think Iâ€™ve got one. Lone bogey, coming your way.Â»
Finally. It was about frigginâ€™ time. Logan pushed off the wall, jerking his head toward the back of the club. Alex tilted his head quizzically.
â€śValâ€™s found one,â€ť Logan explained.
â€śWhatâ€™s the strategy?â€ť Alex fell into step beside him, his face showing no evidence of residual awkwardness from the scene theyâ€™d played out a few minutes ago. Oscar worthy indeed. Well, if Alex could do it, so could he.
â€śBait and trap.â€ť
â€śAnd then?â€ť Alex reached out, pushing open the heavy metal door to the back alley.
â€śThen?â€ť Logan smiled as he stood in the opening, breathing in the dark-edged night. Maybe tonight wouldnâ€™t turn out to be so bad. â€śThen we make it wish it were back in hell.â€ť
Slouched down in the Chevyâ€™s cracked vinyl seat, Jessica stared through the fogged up window as she absently brought her hands to her mouth for another poof of heat, then rubbed them together. It was a routine sheâ€™d perfected over the last half hour. One she vowed sheâ€™d quit if she had to sit here for another ten. She wanted to turn on the goddamnÂ heater but a running car would be suspicious, wouldnâ€™t it? Not that there was anyone here to be suspicious. Grim was late and so, obviously, was his buddy.
She pulled her cell from the seat beside her, glanced at her notices. No texts. With a curse she tossed the phone back down and resumed her wait. In general Grim was a reliable source, his take on the Bronx party circuit were normally spot on. So when he contacted her the other day, saying he had information on her unidentified suspect in a case that seemed to be heading toward sub-zero levels, her interest had been piqued.
According to Grim, their stiff, Thomas Rhodes, had croaked because heâ€™d gotten messed up in some really freaky paranormal shit. Of the sharp and pointy fang variety to be precise. And the guy he was going to introduce her to could prove it.
Uh huh. Thomas Rhodesâ€™s death mightâ€™ve been freakyâ€”as in freakinâ€™ frustrating due to lack of concrete evidenceâ€”but there was nothing paranormal about it. The guy had tried to date-rape a coed, and some vigilante type had taken exception and pummeled the shit out of him in a back alley. Jessicaâ€™s problem was she couldnâ€™t prove the last part. All she knew for sure was that the coed and vigilante left together, and Thomas Rhodesâ€™s body had washed up along Hunts Points shore, unidentifiable, more than a week later.
The only thing she considered inexplicable in Tomâ€™s murder was that it hadnâ€™t happened earlier. No one liked him. Not his boss, not his drinking â€śbuddies,â€ť not even his own mother. And after learning from those bar-hopping acquaintances that this wasnâ€™t the first time heâ€™d drugged some coedâ€™s drink, well Jessica didnâ€™t like him much either. Okay, â€śdidnâ€™t likeâ€ť mightâ€™ve been mild for what she thought of assholes like Thomas Rhodes. Very mild. Still, it was her job to find his killer and bring him to justice. And though sheâ€™d love to bury the file in the cold case death morgue or, even better, somewhere south of Antarctica, she owed it to Lady Justice to at least follow up on this new lead.
Jessica blew on her hands again, this time stuffing them between her jean-clad thighs. What she wouldnâ€™t give for some coffee. Just to hold. She thought of the local Dunkinâ€™s down the street but didnâ€™t dare leave. Though it was tempting. Sitting in her beat-up Chevy at two in the morning was not how Jessica wanted to spend her night, especially when she had to be up bright and early for her real shift the next day. Tired and exhausted didnâ€™t cut it, her recent MO was as close to zombiehood as she could get and have a heartbeat.
She blinked, rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hand. It felt so good she stayed there a moment: head tipped forward, palms cradling her forehead, elbows braced on her rib cage. Just a couple seconds, maybe a minute.
There was a loud bang, the sound of metal on metal. Jessica jerked, grabbing for her phone as she scanned the street both behind and before her. Nothing. In fact, there were very few cars other than her own, and they were all where theyâ€™d been when she arrived.
â€śWhat the hell?â€ť She sat up straight and squinted down the one-way street diagonal from her car. If the street she was on was all but deserted, that one was more so. No cars there. Abandoned. Rundown. No, rundown was too mild. Safety hazard was more like it. The only sign of life was the half-erected set of scaffolding that fronted a building partway down and that looked like it had been set up long ago.
She was studying the rickety lawsuit-in-waiting when something caught the edge of her vision. A flash of shadow on shadow, something that might or might not have been a human melting into the darkness behind the Dumpster left to collect the debris of the never-started renovations.
Her informant? Or someone else?
Hand shifting from phone to gun, she pulled the Sig from its holster, thumb flicking off the safety. With adrenaline coursing through her system, she eased from the Chevy.
The darkened street stretched before her, curling shadows formed the hazy edges of doors and windows of the abandoned buildings. She shivered as she crossed the street, her gaze honing in on the dumpster a few yards beyond the rusting scaffolding. She couldâ€™ve sworn thatâ€™s where she sawâ€¦whatever it was she saw. But no matter how hard she peered into the dark shadows, nothing morphed into substance.
â€śGrim?â€ť she ventured, but tensed when a flash of movement up in the scaffolding caught her eye. She spun, gun raised and ready and came up againstâ€¦a discarded newspaper entrapped in one of the x-joints and flapping in the breeze.
â€śBrilliant.â€ť She lowered her hands, removing her shaking finger from the trigger as she calmly counted to ten.
Damn it. Obviously her chronic case of exhaustion had frayed her nerves to distressed denim levels. Jumping at shadows and the wind? Staying up to listen to a wild story from a man two leaps ahead of crazy? She could imagine what the guys at the station would have to say about it.
Squaring her shoulders she glanced down at her watch, frowning at the digital read out. Almost three. Where in the hell was Grim?Â He said 2:30.
Five more minutes. Then, intel or not, she was out of here.