An Extract from ONE MORE BITE
Jennifer Rardin’s 5th Jaz Parks book is out in January from Orbit. Enjoy this extract, and be sure to visit the author online at www.jenniferrardin.com.
“Jasmine, do not pull that gun.”
Vayl spoke in a voice so low even I could barely hear him, which meant the people in the blue and white seats next to the bathroom door where I stood still had no idea what I meant to do.
“I’m gonna kill him,” I growled. My fingers tightened on the grip of Grief, the Walther PPK I kept stashed in the shoulder holster under my black leather jacket. I couldn’t see my intended victim at the moment. Vayl had set his hands on the edges of the doorframe, spreading his black calf-length duster like a curtain, blocking my view. But I could hear the son of a bitch, sitting near the front, chatting up the flight attendant like she was the daughter of one of his war buddies.
“You do understand what a bad idea this is, do you not?” Vayl insisted. “Even poking fun at murder on an airplane could bring the passengers down on you like a mob of after-Christmas sale shoppers.”
“Who says I’m joking?”
He fixed me with warm hazel eyes. “I would hate to see you beaten to death with that woman’s boot.”
He jerked his head sideways, directing my attention to an exhausted traveler who must’ve made her armrests squeak when she’d squeezed into her seat. I glanced her way, and as people will when they feel eyes on them, she looked back at me. For a second her saggy pink cheeks and black-framed glasses swam out of focus. A lean, dark-eyed face sneered at me from beneath her shoulder-length perm. It said, “Are you certain you know my name?” I squeezed my eyes shut.
You’re dead, Edward Samos. I saw your smoke fade into the night. I ground the bits of ash and bone you left behind into the dirt of the Grecian countryside. So stop haunting me!
I turned my head so that when I opened my eyes they fell on Vayl’s short black curls, which always tempted me to run my fingers through them. And his face, carved with the bold hand of an artist whose work I’d never toss aside.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
Yeah, sure. For some bizarre reason I’m seeing the last vamp I assassinated on innocent people’s mugs. I can’t stop thinking about my boss in a totally unprofessional and yet toe-curling way. And, at age twenty-five, I still haven’t escaped the man who made my childhood pretty much a misery. I’m cruising, thanks for asking!
I picked the part that bothered me most and ripped. “You’re the one who let my father tag along. I told you it wouldn’t work. I warned you blood could be shed. But did you listen?”
“It is partially my fault,” he allowed. “If I had taken time to fly home between my trip to Romania and this mission, I do not believe this would have happened. But meeting you in London seemed more efficient. And without our Seer along to warn me otherwise, how was I to know your father would rendezvous with you there as well?”
I said, “I miss Cassandra.” Especially on days like today. Not just because her psychic abilities could’ve detoured this steamroller. But because she always seemed to know what to say to keep me from ruining my so-called life.
Vayl’s eyes traveled to my hand, still stuck inside my pocket. Or was he checking out my boobs? And if not, should I be even more pissed? His half smile showed he knew exactly what I was thinking.
He said, “Perhaps we should consider bringing Cassandra with us more regularly. As for the bloodshed, I supposed you would wait until we had reached Inverness.”
“Who brings baby pictures with them on a trip?” I griped. “If I’d wanted my bare ass paraded in front of all the premium ticket holders I’d have mooned everyone before we took off!”
Vayl knew better than to tell me the photos were adorable. Then I’d have had to kill him too. If that had been the real issue. Problem was, when my dad had cracked that old album, he’d done it upside down first. So the picture that had caught my attention was a copy of the one I’d locked in my safe nearly eighteen months ago. A shot of Matt and me just after he’d slipped his ring on my finger. I wondered if two people had ever been so sure they were headed for eternal happiness. Or had their mistake shoved so violently in their faces two weeks later.
“Look into my eyes,” Vayl said.
“What, so you can hypnotize me? No thanks.”
He shook his head. “We both know my powers have a minimal effect on you. Come now, my pretera. Humor me.”
“What’s a pretera?”
“It is a Vampere word, meaning wildcat.”
“Oh. In that case . . .” I locked stares with the guy who’d started out as my supervisor, upgraded to sverhamin, and ended up . . . well, sometimes the possibilities practically made my skin steam. Other times I still felt like Matt’s traitor. Can you betray a dead man? Since I didn’t know the answer to that one, I forced my mind to pettier subjects. “I can’t believe my father’s here. This is like my first date times ten.”
“How do you say? Money talks.”
So true. In this case, the bucks had come from Albert himself.
“What are we, the Russian Space Agency?” I demanded. “Selling seats on our trips to the highest bidder?”
Vayl said, “I realize the shock is only now wearing off. Once again, I want to assure you that I would have warned you. But Pete did not inform me Albert would be joining us until he called just before I met you in London. Apparently your father felt you would strenuously object to his presence—”
“Thus the secrecy surrounding his joining us at Gatwick.”
“He must’ve known I’d have thrown him off the plane in Cleveland,” I muttered. I realized I’d taken my hand out of my jacket and Vayl had used the chance to curl his fingers around mine. No romance in that touch. He was probably just trying to keep me from reaching again.
I sighed. “Okay, I won’t kill him yet. But you get those pictures out of his claws, and keep him away from me, and—”
Vayl slid his fingers up my arm, sending trickles of awareness shooting through me. Suddenly I couldn’t think of anything but his touch. A deliberate move on his part—underhanded and mean. I kinda loved it. “I never thought I would say this,” he murmured, leaning in so his lips nearly brushed my ear. “But I would suggest you spend the rest of this flight concentrating on Cole.”
Who? Oh. Damn, Jaz, would you kick your brain into gear? Remember Cole? Your third for this piece-o’-crap job? The one Pete has decided to fund using your dad’s 401(k)?
Jerking my arm from Vayl’s hand so I could think, dammit, I began plotting a revenge so intricate and satisfying I barely heard him say, “I will deal with your father.”
“Fine.” Wait, maybe not. “Um, Vayl? Do me a favor?”
“Be discreet, will ya? He doesn’t know about . . . us . . . yet. And I think I should probably be the one to tell him I’m involved with a vampire.”
(c) 2009, Jennifer Rardin