Home > Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)

Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

Chapter 1

This had better be the right whorehouse.

It didn’t look like the seedier brothels I’d recently been to. This three-story structure could pass as the meeting place for an elite social club. Despite its unexpected prettiness, if I had to wade through another flesh-fest only to turn up empty-handed again, I wouldn’t be responsible for what I did to my quarry when I finally found him.

To vent my aggravation over weeks of fruitless searching, I kicked the door open. Politeness had been wasted at the last several establishments anyway. No smart proprietor willingly gave up a well-paying client, and I’ll say one thing for the bordello-loving vampire I was after: He obviously paid well.

To my surprise, I didn’t see anyone in the elegant foyer. Brothels usually had several prostitutes lingering around the entryway to welcome new customers. I was further surprised when I didn’t hear sounds of carnal activity coming from the upper floors of the house. I pulled out my mobile and checked the GPS pin. Yes, this was the right place. What’s more, it certainly smelled like sex, once you got past the choking scents of various perfumes and colognes.

But where was everyone?

Faint vibrations in the floor made me stride toward the hallway. Ah, so the party must be downstairs. I followed the strongest scents of perfume until I found a staircase that descended two floors. It ended at a locked door that I also kicked in. No point in being dainty now.

Noise blasted out. The basement must have been soundproofed for me to miss it before. Now, I wished I couldn’t hear what was going on. A boisterous chorus assaulted my ears, repeating over and over. Thunder and Blazes, the favorite opening song of the former Barnum and Bailey circus.

And I had walked into a circus, I saw now, although one without any real animals. About a dozen naked women and men frolicked on the ground, doing woefully inadequate impressions of the creatures their full body paint represented. No work ethic, I thought when three faux lions appeared more interested in petting each other than in more realistic fights for dominance, and don’t get me started on how they ignored the two faux gazelles that walked by them.

The dozen or so prostitutes dressed in clown suits showed more dedication for their roles. They emerged from a fake car in the far corner of the room, some falling forward in rolling somersaults once they exited, some tripping each other with comedic exaggeration, and some blowing up balloons into explicit body parts that they then graphically connected.

An eruption of fireworks yanked my attention to the other side of the room. They were going off around what looked like a throne, haloing its occupant in a blaze of sparks, fire and smoke. The mini pyrotechnic display was so bright, I couldn’t make out the enthroned person’s face, but when he called out, “Act Eight will now begin!” I heard a distinct English accent.

Then the smoke cleared enough to show a tall man wearing a blue circus-ringleader jacket. The smoke still concealed him from the waist down, but I didn’t need to see more to know I’d finally found my target. The vampire who’d blazed a trail through a dozen whorehouses in only two weeks had a face as beautiful as an angel’s, not to mention that his fire-and-umber hair was as distinctive as his looks. When he got off the throne, revealing he wore nothing beneath the ringleader jacket, I realized those weren’t Ian’s only notable attributes.

For a moment, I stared. What vampire in his right mind would pierce himself with silver there?

I was the only one shocked by the silver piercing through the tip of Ian’s cock. Everyone else stopped what they were doing and rushed toward him. Even the glitter-covered acrobats leapt from their swinging perches near the ceiling, gracefully landing near the pile of limbs that now formed around the red-headed vampire.

It wasn’t enough that I had to be burdened with a vampire so mentally deficient that he’d willingly given himself a case of perpetual cock burn. He also had to be depraved enough to indulge in carnival-themed orgies. I wasn’t about to find out what the rest of Act Eight entailed. I made my way to the growing flesh pile and began flinging people aside, taking care not to throw them too hard. Their heartbeats meant they were human, so they couldn’t heal the way my kind could.

“What’s this?” Ian asked in an annoyed manner when I reached the bottom of the bodies. Then he let out an appreciative noise when I yanked him up with none of the care I’d shown the other people.

“Why, hallo, my strong blonde sweeting.” Now he didn’t sound annoyed at all. “Are you the surprise I was promised?”

Why not let him believe that? “Sure,” I said. “Surprise.” And I grabbed him by the cock. I had one more thing to verify before I went any further.

Ian chuckled. “That’s the spirit, poppet.”

I dropped to my knees. I wasn’t about to do what he thought. Still, this act allowed me to zero in on my goal with the least amount of resistance from him. Once I got a good look at the smoke-colored brands near the base of Ian’s groin, I released him. Only one demon branded people with these particular markings, and it was the same demon I’d been after for thousands of years.

“Ian,” I said as I straightened. “Say good-bye. We’re leaving.”

He laughed outright. “I don’t think so. You might be lovely, but two’s lonely, while a dozen is a party.”

I gave a disparaging look around. “No great loss. The clowns were fine, but none of your faux animals fought each other or even attempted to jump through the fire rings.”

At that, he gave the animal-painted prostitutes an accusing look. “You didn’t, did you?” Then, his eyes suddenly narrowed as he looked back at me. “Wait a moment. I know you.”

We’d only officially met once before, so I hadn’t thought he’d remember me. Someone with his tendencies had to have crossed paths with vast numbers of blonde women.

“Veritas, Law Guardian for the vampire council,” I confirmed. Then my hands landed on his shoulders. “And as I said, you are coming with me.”

His eyes changed from their natural vivid turquoise into glowing, vampiric emerald. “Leave it to a Law Guardian to try and ruin a perfectly good orgy. Sorry, luv, I’m not going anywhere. Now, take your hands from me before I remove them.”

He couldn’t mean that. Merely striking a Law Guardian was enough to garner a death sentence, if the council was in a testy mood. Only the vampire council itself was above us in undead society. That’s why I ignored his threat and tightened my grip.

“There’s no need for empty threats—”

The next thing I knew, I was thrown several meters away. I blinked, more startled by his quickness than by his reckless disregard for the punishment his actions merited.

“No need?” he repeated, contempt edging his tone now. “I remember the last time I saw you. I’d say your complicity in the murder of my friend’s daughter more than qualifies as a need.”

She isn’t dead.

The words rang in my mind, a comfort I drew on whenever I thought back on that awful day. But if Ian didn’t know that the child’s supposed execution had been nothing more than a clever ruse . . .

“That was the council’s decision, not mine,” I said, my voice roughening from the memory. I’d nearly lost my position as Law Guardian arguing against the girl’s execution, but fear and bigotry had made the council unmovable. At least they hadn’t succeeded in taking her life as they’d intended to.

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