On my extensive list of enemies, the top two spots belonged to Lavinia Kane and time. One I planned to kill as soon as possible. That is, if I didn’t run out of the other one first.
The dashboard clock flipped to 10:01. The ones mocked me like two extended middle fingers. Impatience was my third enemy.
I’d already been sitting in the white van parked on a windy stretch of road near Pacific Palisades for twenty minutes. The hood of the van stood open, but the engine idled in preparation for the ambush.
“Giguhl, any visual on the car yet?”
“Negative.” His voice crackled through the earpiece, but his body was perched in a tree just outside the Dominae compound.
I sighed. “Okay, thanks.”
“Don’t you mean ‘roger’?” he responded.
“Whatever,” I said. “Let me know the minute the gates open.”
“Yeah?” I said a tad more impatiently than I intended.
“Why can’t I have a gun again?”
I rolled my eyes. “I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid, G. Now focus.”
“I live to serve,” he grumbled.
I settled back into the seat. Outside the van, the landscape offered little distraction from my impatience. Scrub brush, low stone walls, and roadkill speed bumps. Light from the City of Angels rose above the shadowed hilltops like a dusty halo.
Los Fucking Angeles.
Whoever said you couldn’t go home again was full of shit. The truth is you shouldn’t go home again. And when I’d left California, I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t return. Ever. But Fate— that fickle bitch— made a liar out of me. Again.
Three days earlier, my twin sister, Maisie, had been kidnapped from a mage estate in New York. Three weeks before that I hadn’t even known she’d existed. The long-story– short version is our vampire mother died in childbirth a few months after our mage father was murdered. Because mating between the races was forbidden, Maisie and I were separated at birth by our vampire and mage grandmothers to keep the peace. Maisie was raised by the mage side of the family in New York, and I got the short straw— a vampire upbringing in Los Angeles. The desire to meet my long-lost twin was one of the reasons I’d left Los Angeles.
The fact our vampire grandmother, Lavinia Kane, wanted me dead was the other.
But now the tables had turned. Lavinia had kidnapped Maisie in an effort to hurt me. So now I would do a little kidnapping of my own.
Giguhl’s voice bounced off my eardrum, making me jump. “Big Black is on the move. Should be on your tail in T minus sixty seconds.”
A sudden rush of blood. My hands tightened on the wheel. Showtime.
“Be ready when I summon you,” I replied in a calm tone.
In my previous life as an assassin, I’d disposed of problem vampires for the Dominae. Therefore, despite the personal stakes and the adrenaline surge, my body had kicked instinctively into mission mode.
I shifted the car into drive. The sweat on my palm meant it took two tries to manage.
“Hey, Red?” This from Adam Lazarus— hottie mage and the third member of our little team. We used to have a fourth— a Vanity demon— but she’d been kicked off the team twenty-four hours earlier after an unfortunate incident involving a vampire strip club, a large explosion, and a lover’s quarrel with Giguhl.
“Are you ready?” The mage always had a frustrating knack for breaking through the insulating layers I’d built around my feelings. Damn him.
Two pinpoints of light turned onto the road several blocks back. I took a deep breath and willed my heart to slow. “Are you kidding?” I snorted. “Totally.”
He knew me too well to buy that. “We’ll get her back, Sabina.” His tone had a hint of unwelcome pity.
I ignored the spark of fear that flared at his words. “Of course we will.” Not getting Maisie back was not an option. “Okay, everyone, switching to radio silence. Let’s do this.”
My hands contracted on the steering wheel, my knuckles pale in the dim light. I tried not to focus on the only glitch in our plan: We were about to kidnap the wrong Domina.
In a perfect world, the vampire in that Mercedes would be my grandmother. When she’d taken Maisie, she’d sealed her fate with me. Although, to be honest, she was pretty much at the top of my “must-kill list” for a host of other reasons that included manipulation, lying, kidnapping, attempted murder, and the destruction of my prized Ducati.
Yeah, I know. We make the Manson Family look like the Brady Bunch.
Anyway, Lavinia wasn’t an option for the kidnapping plan, because she rarely left the Dominae compound. But Persephone left the grounds each Tuesday to host a mass for the plebian vamps at a temple located in Santa Monica. And with the war between vampires and mages looming, the Dominae needed to spread anti-mage propaganda to strengthen support for the war. Where better to do that than at a religious service?
Besides, of the three Dominae who ruled the vampire race, Persephone was the weakest. Weak is relative when discussing ancient female vampires, of course. But Persephone tended to be more interested in preserving history and promoting spiritualism among the vampire bourgeoisie than in crushing opposition or amassing obscene fortunes like the other two Dominae. That meant she’d be far easier to manipulate than Lavinia or Tanith— the Beta Domina, who controlled their business interests. The plan was to nab Persephone and deliver her to the faery and mage leaders for interrogation and a possible hostage exchange. Simple.
If we survived.
The Mercedes was about two blocks back now. A few car lengths behind that, I spied the headlights of the beater pickup we’d boosted. Adam held the truck back at a conservative distance as he waited for my signal.
“Wait for it,” I said, my eyes glued to the mirror. When the target was a block back, I tensed my foot over the gas pedal. “Nothing to see here.” With each turn of the sedan’s wheels, my heart picked up speed. “Just a broken-down van.”
The Mercedes’ dark-as-midnight windows prevented me from counting heads. Looked like we were going to have to do this the hard way, as usual.
I punched the accelerator. The tires spun for a moment on gravel before jumping out onto the road. Squealing brakes and a blaring horn. Every muscle rigid as I braced for impact. The scream of crunching metal. Vertigo and pain as the van tipped and slid several hundred feet. The seat belt dug into my skin but kept me from being tossed around like loose change in a dryer. When the world stilled again, ominous silence reigned. Scratch that, not silence exactly. The van’s radiator hissed, and someone was groaning.