The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legends)

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9780312946067: The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legends)
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There is no happily ever after for Damali and Carlos, even though they have finally tied the knot. There are bigger problems on the horizon: A band of human scientists conducting secret experiments has opened the dimension that holds Cain, the son of Eve and the new Chairman of the Vampire Council. And now that Cain is back into the human world, he's bigger and badder than ever.

Cain has amassed an army of creatures no one has ever encountered before...and he has plans of his own for his beloved Vampire Huntress Damali. So when she heads to Hell to serve justice―and faces a nemesis of pure, unforeseen evil―it's all Carlos can do to get Damali back. After all, his wife might be pregnant. The question is: Is Damali's child his―or the Chairman's?

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About the Author:

L. A. BANKS is the author of the Vampire Huntress Legend series and the Crimson Moon Novels. She had a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and a master's in fine arts from Temple University. Banks considered herself a shape-shifter. She wrote romance, women's fiction, crime and suspense, and of course, dark vampire huntress lore. She lived with her daughter in an undisclosed lair somewhere in Philadelphia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One La Paz, Mexico Total contentment wafted through Carlos as he sat on a kitchen stool in their honeymoon villa, watching Damali bop around the kitchen. He leaned on his elbows on the wide butcher-block island and smiled. She looked so thoroughly happy and so in her element, buzzing around trying to fix their last private supper, he could only shake his head. The last of the sun was bringing gold and rose-orange light in with the beach breeze from the decks and open windows, dappling the white rooms and Damali's beautiful brown skin. This was sanctuary; the Light had provided a few hallowed days of drama cease-fire and obligation so he could enjoy his new wife. It was a time that he thought would only happen when Hell froze over. Jesus. He silently wondered what their life together would be like with children. After the way they'd been at it for four glorious days and nights, the result was imminent. He smiled and briefly closed his eyes just thinking about it. Oh, yeah, this was a very personal gift from On High. He'd be reverent forever. The way Damali flitted from the counter to the refrigerator to the stove almost choked him up--the sight of it filled him up so. One day her belly would be heavy and loaded with a life they'd created. One day there would be a tiny little face with big brown eyes watching them tease each other and laugh. . . . He just wondered if what they'd make would have fangs or wings or both. He didn't care, as long as he'd made it with her. God apparently did answer prayers. Pineapple and papaya that he was supposed to be peeling sat waiting for him, but try as he might, he couldn't focus on the fruit while he gazed at her. He was just glad that they were on the same wavelength about not wanting to go out for this last honeymoon meal together. Going back to their waiting Guardian team that was family had definitely lost its appeal, too. Although kidnapping her or stopping time to keep life at bay wasn't an option, there was something so private and so profoundly peaceful about this time that he'd tuck it away to savor it beyond the grave. He loved her. Period. End of story. "You don't have to do this, you know," he finally said in a pleasant, mellow tone, just loving the way her white tank top fit her and the way her sheer white sarong hung low on her hips. He watched her unfettered breasts bounce as she moved. He wondered if she had on underwear. There was no visible line of a barrier, and the mystery of it all added to the excitement of watching her work. Did life get any better than this? "I know," she said in a cheerful voice, seeming oblivious to his thoughts; then she stopped to kiss the bridge of his nose across the counter dividing them and went back to her disorganized puttering. "But you're a vegetarian--you don't even eat steak." He laughed and poured them both another glass of merlot as a diversion, to give his hands something to do, rather than grabbing her. "So? I know how to cook one, though." Carlos raised an eyebrow. "Uh . . . you don't really have to cook it all that much for me . . . just a flash on both sides, and--" "Yeah, yeah, I know . . . leave it running blood." Damali sucked her teeth. "I still don't see how you can go there with beef, but I'm not gonna start." They both laughed. "What can I say?" Carlos ran his tongue over the slight hint of fangs that had begun to crest just from the sound of her voice. "Baby, I don't want anything green on my plate, and you don't have to put a bunch of mushrooms and onions and stuff on the steak," he added in protest when she began making him a side salad. "You do the tabouli and hummus, and pita, and rice and beans and all that . . . just--" "Carlos," she fussed. "You're still mostly human and need to eat a balanced meal. Vegetables are good for you." He sighed. "Then go light on the garlic, okay?" His smile widened when she waved her hand at him. "I know all the blood-cleansing properties and what the health food digests say, but truth be told, it still gives me wicked heartburn," he said, laughing hard as she frowned. "Not everything came out of the sunlight straight, and if you smother that steak with that marinade you're concocting, you might as well drag me back to the family house on a livery tonight." He arched an eyebrow again and gave her a sly smile as he began peeling the fruit she'd shoved toward him. "I had other plans . . . but, uh, whatever you fix, I'll eat." She set the small bowl of marinade down hard and chuckled. "Flash it, two seconds on each side--no salt, no pepper, no nothing?" "Au naturel works best for me . . . you know that." He glimpsed her from the corner of his eye, and was rewarded by her brilliant smile. "Fine." She moved to the counter and sipped her wine, keeping the butcher block between them, and then turned back to the stove. As she moved about, all he could envision was the way her white wings would slowly unfold from her shoulders at the height of making love. Her satiny smooth legs peeked out from the sarong each time she pivoted to get something out of the cabinets or the fridge, and her bare feet sounded like a soft sigh. Thank you, God. . . . She was his wife. He could get used to the institution, for sure. He burst out laughing as she pulled the steak out of the broiler, lifted it with a fork and a droll expression, then eased it onto a plate--her eyes saying yuck. "Now do I act like that when I hand you a piece of fruit?" he asked, cutting off a juicy hunk of pineapple and feeding it to her over the counter. "Fruit doesn't run blood, Carlos." "Oh, no? Then what's this?" he said, leaning in toward her and kissing the juice off her chin, totally ignoring the steak between them. "The fruit is bleeding . . . just 'cause it's sweet and almost clear doesn't mean it's not--" "Oh, man! You are ruining pineapple for me forever!" she squealed, wiping her chin with the back of her hand. "Then come over here and sit down and let me make it up to you. Gimme that terrible image . . . and let me work with it," he said, his laughter becoming a low rumble in his chest. "Sun's going down, too . . . sheeit. I'll make pineapple your passion again before the night's over." "Eat your dinner," she argued, playfully escaping his grasp but coming to sit beside him on a blond oak stool. "I went to all this trouble, the least you could do is taste it." "All right, all right," he said resignedly, pulling her into his lap. He kissed her slowly and then looked at her. "I do appreciate everything you've done for me, baby." Closing his eyes, he leaned his forehead against hers. "Bless this food and the one who prepared it. Thank you, God." They sat that way for a moment, her fingers stroking his hair, bare legs and bare feet touching, arms about each other in a loose embrace. "I still can't believe we're married," she whispered as her mouth swept his temple. "You're my husband." "Say it again," he murmured against her ear with his eyes still closed. "I love to hear you say that." "You're my husband," she whispered and nipped his ear. "You're my sexy . . . wonderful, forever husband," she said against his throat, making his embrace tighter as she dotted each word with a kiss. "My . . . husband," she said over his lips, and then pulled back. "So eat." He smiled and opened his eyes, then took her mouth hard. "The steak!" she squealed, laughing as he stood up, toppled the stool, and started walking away from the kitchen with her in his arms. "Oh . . . the steak?" he said, teasing her. "Oh, yes, the bloody steak." He looked at her, making her shake her head and laugh harder. "Decisions, decisions. My wife, or the steak--the steak, or my wife? Her now and microwaved beef later, or the steak now and her reheated later? I don't know, D . . . what should I do?" "In four days and nights, you've practically starved me," she groaned, still giggling. "Just let me get a little bite of something," she said, laughing harder as he tilted his head to offer her his throat. "I mean something that I can digest, Carlos. Remember food? I'm hungry." "Ah . . . the lady says she needs human nourishment for stamina. Okay." He paced back to the kitchen, plopped her down on the counter, and stood in front of their plates, one hand on her thigh. She swallowed a smile, the possessive move to keep her where he'd set her down not lost on her at all. With a mischievous grin, he began feeding her sections of pita dipped in hummus and seemed to revel in the way she slowly cut his steak and offered him a bite of it on his fork. This was heaven. She loved when he got that devastated expression in his eyes. But he shook his head. "Why not?" She pouted, disappointed that he wouldn't try the steak, and she looked at him hard then at the cut meat, wondering what was wrong with it. He smiled wider. "Take it off the silver and feed it to me au naturel . . . use your fingers." "Oh," she said with a grin. "Now that's good," he said in a sensual rumble, pulling the juicy meat from her fingers and sucking her index finger and thumb. "Way better. I think I...

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