Vampire. Rock star. Begotten son of the fallen angel Lucien. Dante Baptiste still struggles with nightmares and seizures, searching for the truth about his past. It is a quest as seductive as his kiss, as uncontrollable as his thirst, and as unforgiving as his determination to protect one mortal woman at any cost.
FBI Special Agent Heather Wallace now knows the extent of the Bureau corruption that surrounds her, but worries she is losing the battle. And when Dante and his band Inferno come to Seattle on tour, Heather can't help but be drawn back to the beautiful, dangerous nightkind. But what Heather and Dante don't know is that new enemies lurk in the shadows, closer than they think...and even deadlier than they fear.
Shadowy government forces have pledged to eliminate all loose ends from Project Bad Seed -- and Heather and Dante are at the top of the list. Elsewhere, the Fallen gather in Gehenna, intent on finding their long-awaited savior, the True Blood nightkind whom Lucien DeNoir would die to protect. And a damaged and desperate adversary, with powers as strange and perilous as Dante's own, plots to use Dante as a pawn in a violent scheme for revenge. But only one of these lethal forces holds the key to Dante's past -- a key that could finally unlock the secret of his birth and the truth of his existence...or destroy him completely.
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Adrian Phoenix lives in Oregon with her three cats and travels to New Orleans whenever possible.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
City of the Dead
New Orleans -- St. Louis No. 3
"So where's this weird-ass bit of hoodoo supposed to be?" Von asked.
"Beside a tomb," Dante said as they scaled the cemetery's locked, wrought-iron fence, both vaulting with ease over the black bars and onto the path below.
"Yeah, but which tomb?"
"Baronne, I think," Dante said, pushing his hood back. He chose the paved central path and followed it past gleaming white crypts. He drew in a deep breath of cherry-blossom-scented air. But beneath the sweet scent, he caught a whiff of decay, moldering bones, and old, old grief.
"These N'awlins cemeteries are creepy as hell," Von commented. "I can't imagine what they'd look like in daylight."
"Didn't you ever check 'em out when you were still mortal?"
"Hell, no," Von snorted. "Like I said, creepy. Especially for a delicate flower like moi." He paused, touching a finger to his ear. "Wait...breaking news. Correction, seems I ain't a delicate flower." He shrugged. "Who knew? Mama musta lied."
Dante laughed. "Yeah, you're gonna be fun on the tour bus."
"Man, I'm fun anywhere. And we should be heading to the airport soon."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
Dante read the names on the tombs as he passed: DUFOUR, GALLIER, ROUQUETTE, and listened for the quiet pulse that had drawn him to St. Louis No. 3. When he caught the letters BA, he stopped, his heart kicking against his ribs.
He hears the sound of his own voice, raw and demanding, the words echoing in the cathedral's vaulted silence. "What was her name? Genevieve...what?"
Dante's hands clenched into fists as he struggled with the memory. He closed his eyes. His breathing quickened and fire flickered to life within his veins. Smoldered within his heart. He opened his eyes. Pale moonlight shafted through the thick, twisted oaks, dripped from the Spanish moss.
"Baptiste," he whispered.
<You okay, little brother?> Von sent.
Dante nodded. He looked at the tomb and finished reading the name chiseled into the white stone: BASTILLE. He released his breath. His hands unknotted and an emotion he couldn't name curled through him, damping the flames into embers.
Did his mother even have a grave?
A hand squeezed his shoulder and he looked up into Von's moonlit, green eyes. The nomad had shoved his El Diablo shades on top of his head.
"You sure, man? No pain? Cuz I thought I felt -- "
Dante cupped Von's whisker-rough face between his hands. He brushed his lips against Von's, tasted him, whiskey and road dust, then smoothed his thumbs along the edges of the mustache framing the nomad's mouth.
"I'm good, mon ami," Dante replied. Dropping his hands, he twisted free of the nomad's grip. "And I don't need a fucking nanny."
Von extended a middle finger. Arched an eyebrow. "How about that? You need that?" Extended the finger on his other hand. "How about some more?"
"I'll take it all," Dante said, "gêné toi pas."
Dropping his El Diablos back over his eyes, Von shook his head and sighed. "Boy's hopeless as hell."
As they resumed walking the moonlit path, a hush swirled through the city of the dead, isolating it from the world beyond the wrought-iron fence like a deep black moat. The air was so still the muffled clink of the chains on Dante's leather jacket and the creak of Von's leather chaps echoed in the silence.
But beneath the hush, Dante caught the faint rhythm that had -- for the last couple of weeks -- filled his mind just as Sleep swept over him. Primal. Like a tribal drum beating within the earth's heart.
Like the wordless song that poured, at times, from Lucien and into him, its complicated melody meshing with the refrain of his answering song. Similar, yeah, but not the same. This rhythm reminded him of the unfamiliar song that had rung through his mind that night in Club Hell.
The night Jay had been murdered, dying as Dante had struggled to reach him.
I knew you'd come.
The same night he'd found Lucien broken and impaled on the checkered floor of St. Louis Cathedral, his wings torn, his song nothing but cooling embers. And had learned that Lucien, his closest friend, his ami intime, was something else altogether.
You look so much like her.
Pain prickled at Dante's temples. Send it below. Focus on now. Focus on here.
The song wisped into his mind again like smoke. A muted, desperate rhythm. Beckoning him. He moved, racing past whitewashed and time-weathered statues guarding tombs, standing sentinel to loss. Trees and marble monuments blurred into one flickering shadow as he picked up speed.
The song's deep-earth drumming pulsed in time with the blood flowing through his veins, increasing in intensity until he felt it resonate within his own chest. Then the sound vanished.
Dante slowed to a stop. He stood next to a tomb marked BARONNE. And crouched beside it, holding a bouquet dead and dried, its wings curved forward, mouth wide-open, was a stone angel.
The one rumored on the streets to have appeared in the cemetery overnight.
Magic, some said. Gris-gris, others believed. A sign.
So mortals whispered, yeah.
And nightkind said nothing, their silence uneasy.
A gust of cool air smelling of leather, frost, and old motor oil fluttered his hair as Von stopped beside him. "Well, there ya go," the nomad said. "Weird-ass hoodoo shit."
"Ain't just hoodoo shit, llygad," Dante murmured, his gaze on the stone angel. He felt Von step back a few paces as he took up his duties as Eye.
Observing. Safeguarding. Composing.
Candles in glass holders burned before the stone angel. The smell of vanilla and wax curled into the air. Plastic Mardi Gras beads hung from the wing tips and around the corded throat. Good luck xs chalked in blue, yellow, and pink decorated the path in front of the statue, and curled scraps of paper nestled against the taloned feet.
"One of the Fallen, looks like," Dante said. Something else Lucien hadn't bothered to mention. "And someone's turned him to fucking stone."
Dante knelt, picked up one of the pieces of paper and read it. Loa of the stone, grant me protection from evil. Keep me safe in the night. He returned the prayer to its place beside the stone foot.
He studied the squatting shape. Moonlight glimmered and sparkled like ice along faint patterns etched into the wings. But not feathered wings, no. Like Lucien's, these wings would be black and as smooth as warm velvet to the touch, the undersides streaked with purple. Waist-length hair framed the screaming face. The figure was nude, except for some kind of thick collar-bracelet twisted around the throat and a bracelet around one bicep. And most definitely male.
Von sent an image of the collar-bracelet. <Torc. Celtic. Ancient.>
Moonlight illuminated a dark stain on the statue's forehead. It looked swiped on, a blood symbol of some kind, maybe a hoodoo vévé. Dante leaned forward, leather jacket creaking, and touched the stain. Residual power crackled against his fingertips like static electricity. A tiny blue flame arced in the space between his hand and the statue.
Catching a whiff of Lucien's pomegranates-and-dark-earth scent from the blood symbol, Dante pulled his hand back and regarded the angel, wondering what Lucien had done and why. To turn one of his own kind into stone...
Then he remembered Lucien's words from that night: Shield yourself. Shut it out. Promise me you won't follow.
Dante would bet anything he was looking at the reason why for that promise. Touching a finger to the collar -- torc -- around the angel's throat, he closed his eyes and listened. Song whispered in through his fingertips. His breath caught in his throat as his own song, chaotic and dark, answered. The stone beneath his fingers tremored like a rung bell.
Pain suddenly bit into his mind. White light strobed behind his closed eyes. Migraine storm warning. Dante opened his eyes and started to rise, then hesitated, one knee still down on the pavement. The fading song plucked at him like desperate fingers.
He wrapped his left hand around the angel's dead bouquet. The sun-dried stems and shriveled petals crackled beneath his fingers. Flaked away like cindered wood. Like unspoken truth.
You look so much like her.
You knew all this time? And you never said a word?
Anger swept through Dante and music pulsed white-hot at his core. He poured energy into the wasted bouquet's remains. Song, dark and driven and wild, raged through his mind, from his heart, and spiraled around the skeletal stems. Blue fire kindled in his palms and shimmered against the stone.
The cupped stone fingers now held green stems topped by tightly closed buds. But pain shafted through Dante's mind again and his rhythm shifted, blasted harsh and dissonant notes, and his song spilled away into the night.
His hand slid from the angel and he staggered up to his feet. Pain twisted through his mind, snagged his thoughts like barbed wire. He clenched his jaw. Tried to will the pain away.
Send it below.
The cemetery spun; the moonlit tombs wheeled white beneath the cypress. Blood trickled from his nose. Spattered the pavement at his feet.
Behind, he heard Von calling his name.
Within, voices whispered. Dante-angel?
Above, he heard a rush of wings.
Dante closed his eyes and touched fingers to his temples. Sweat slicked his skin. A familiar, cool touch pressed against his mind, seeking admittance. Lucien. He tightened his shields, refusing.
Fingers squeezed his shoulder. "How the hell do you do that?" Von's voice, low and tight, sounded uneasy.
Dante opened his eyes. A black-flowered and thorned bouquet swayed within the angel's stone grip as though caught in a gentl...
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