Published by Harlequin on 2014-04-01
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adult, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Supernatural, Urban
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Hunters of the supernatural, the Execution Underground are an elite group tasked with protecting humanity…but at what price?As an exorcist, David Aronowitz grew up the target of demonic assassins. Now he's a member of the Execution Underground, and hellspawn everywhere fear his name. But when a demon slips into the seductive body of the only woman he's ever loved, David must confront the heartbreak of their past to save her.The piece of her heart Allsún O'Hare gave to David so long ago left her trapped between two worlds: the Fae and the human. And when David comes to her rescue, fate reunites her with her greatest temptation—and her biggest mistake.Now, as they're swept together into a wicked game with the demon who controls her, David must decide if saving Allsún's life is worth sacrificing his own—and the future of humanity itself.
FOR THE FIRST time in all his years of hunting, David was late to a division meeting, and Damon was not going to be happy. Normally David was the first one there, ready to follow orders. He was also unofficially responsible for getting Jace to show up no more than twenty minutes late, something that generally took a long series of nagging phone calls and texts. This time was different.
He pushed open the door to the warehouse.
“You’re late. Better be for good reason,” Damon said.
David walked around to the far side of the table. He sat down, leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table, then rested his head in his hands.
His fellow hunter Trent Garrison, his fellow hunter who specialized in hunting non-werewolf shapeshifters, placed a hand on David’s shoulder. “David, you all right?”
Without answering, David unholstered the Beretta, placed it on the table, then quickly removed his other weapons. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t push the images of the victims from his mind. All the spilled blood and the way the demons had mutilated that poor baby girl. His stomach churned. The thought of it made him sick.
“Well, I’ll be damned.” Ash—short for Ashley—Devereaux, the division’s resident ghost/poltergeist hunter and medium, leaned back in his seat and eyed David. “If you’re actually carrying a gun, I’m a bit concerned,” he said, his thick Louisiana drawl drawing out the words.
“Enough,” Damon said. “Now that David and Jace are here, we need to get started.” He grabbed David’s weapons off the table and placed them in the large plastic container they used to check their weapons before entering the control room, a small hidden space that held all their supercomputers and the technology that connected them to their division’s underground ops center.
A chorus of screeching sounded as the men pushed back their chairs across the concrete floor. As they stood, Damon met David’s gaze. His eyes narrowed. David wasn’t certain whether it meant Damon was pissed off or concerned.
“You all right?” their boss mouthed silently.
David gave a single nod. Everything that had happened in the past hour weighed heavily on his shoulders. He was glad when Damon took the hint and didn’t ask any more questions. David followed his fellow hunters through the warehouse. He helped Ash move seven crates aside until they cleared a path to the key panel hidden in the wall. Damon typed in the code, placed the weapons in the containment drawer and entered first, passing through the scanner. They followed one by one until they were all crammed inside the small control room. Everyone took their usual seats. When all six men were settled, Damon cleared his throat and turned to David.
“You want to go first, since clearly you have something important to share?”
David shook his head. “Save the shitty news for last.”
Surprisingly, Damon obliged and didn’t push further. He turned his attention toward Jace. “You have anything for us?”
Jace shook his head. “Nada, mi capitán. Nothing to report. The wolves are behaving under my watch, with Frankie’s help. No rogues have come into the area, since the rumors of Robert are still pretty rampant. After hearing what happened to him, they don’t want to be met by the badass that is Jace McCannon.” He flashed a smug grin.
Damon didn’t look one bit amused. “You’re certain you have them under control?”
Jace crossed his arms over his chest. “Yeah, you doubt me?”
Damon ignored his question. “How would things be in your absence?”
Jace uncrossed his arms and sat forward aggressively.
There they went again, David thought. Another pissing contest. He let out a long sigh. He had more important things to think about than this. Like the fact that some sort of demonic shit-storm was about to go down, and his ex-fiancée was the last Fae outside some weird otherworldly faerie dimension, so all the demons were going to be coming after her.
“What the fuck are you saying?” Jace asked.
Damon growled. “Just answer the damn question.”
Jace scowled. “They’d be a bit more unsteady without me, but nothing Frankie couldn’t handle. Why?”
Damon met Jace’s gaze head-on, and if David hadn’t known better, he would have thought he was going to fire Jace right then and there.
Despite the cold fire in his eyes, Damon kept his tone calm and even as he spoke. “Headquarters requested you make a trip down to New York City to assist in a hunt there. They need someone with your experience to lead. Can I count on you to do that without fucking up?”
Jace’s frown deepened, but he nodded. “Yeah, I’ll get the job done.”
Damon twisted in his office chair and looked toward Shane, clearly happy to be done with Jace. “Anything?”
Shane straightened his glasses. “Well, actually something’s brewing—no pun intended—with the witch covens. There’s been some activity, but nothing I can really pinpoint. I don’t know the definite significance yet.”
Damon tapped his pen against the stack of reports in front of him. “Anything you need?”
“Not at the moment. No. I’ll keep you posted,” Shane said.
Damon scribbled notes on a blank sheet of paper. “What about you, Ash? How is everything going at the asylum?”
“Slowly,” Ash replied. “There are enough souls that need to be put to rest to keep a hunter busy for years.”
Damon raised a brow. “Mostly benign spirits?”
Ash gave a low chuckle. “Hell no. The mentally ill are tortured souls, treated badly enough in life as it is. Their problems only get worse when they become spirits. I’ve got poltergeists coming out my ears.”
Damon shook his head as he continued taking notes. “Not what I wanted to hear, but keep working at it. Just make sure no teenage assholes decide to show off and take their girlfriends in there again.”
Ash gave an ironic salute. “You got it. That place ain’t safe for anyone.”
Damon’s gaze flicked toward Trent. “You?”
Trent grinned like he was the cat who’d just swallowed Tweety Bird. Whatever he had to share, he wanted to tell it. “You’re not gonna believe this, with all the normal nasty monsters I have to deal with, but yesterday I found a pig shifter.”
A moment of silence passed before Jace, Shane and Ash all burst out laughing. Even Damon cracked the smallest of smiles.
Trent chuckled, his own grin stretching from ear to ear. “No joke, and I’ll be damned if that guy didn’t have the most pig-like nose I’ve ever seen when he was back in human form.”
In between laughs, Ash managed to choke out, “You didn’t kill the poor motherfucker, did you? Sounds like he’s got it bad enough as it is, bein’ a hog and all.”
Trent waved his hand in dismissal. “Nah, I didn’t kill him. There was no point. He wasn’t hurting anybody. Poor guy didn’t even have those badass tusks like some wild pigs do.” Trent faced Damon again. “Jimmy from the police department called me in on that one. Apparently they raided some pig slaughterhouse just outside the city and found the guy covered from head to toe in mud inside one of the pens. Jimmy figured it qualified as strange enough to call me. I got everything sorted out, though.” He shrugged. “Aside from that, I’m getting some of the aftershock of Jace killing Robert, too. Non-werewolf shifters seem to be steering clear of Rochester right now.”
A smug grin spread across Jace’s face.
Once the snickering over Trent’s pig-shifter encounter settled, all eyes turned toward David. No one spoke, not even Damon. A wordless understanding hung in the air. It didn’t take David saying so for his fellow hunters, the only men he called his friends, to know that what he was about to show them was tragic.
He reached inside a pocket and removed his cell phone, then handed it over to Shane. “The crime scene photos are on there. Can you bring them up on the big screen so everybody can see what we’re dealing with here?”
With a nod, Shane took the phone from David’s hand and pulled a cable from his messenger bag. He quickly hooked the phone to the main system, then started pulling up the photos. David immediately knew when Shane had seen them, because his fellow hunter’s eyes widened and the blood drained from his face. Shane passed the phone back to David once he’d uploaded the photos.
Shane shook his head as he spoke, as if he didn’t like what he was about to say. “Uh…guys, brace yourselves.” He hit a button, and the first of the crime scene photos appeared on the screen.