“I’m not hunting demons with him. No way.” Gina Santangelo glared and folded sweaty arms across her hard leather vest, but her belly tightened. Heaven, strike me dead. Rip hell asunder and devour me whole. Anything but this.
“Nice to see you, too, Santangelo.”
That dark male chuckle tingled heat down Gina’s spine. The guildmistress’s modern office was warm, but not that warm, and Gina’s cheeks scorched, surely the color of the fresh blood she’d gulped down for breakfast. No, she wouldn’t meet his gaze. Wouldn’t even look at him.
Might as well beg hellfire not to consume.
Screaming hells, even after five years of hating him, Luka Dragovic was still hotter than the devil himself.
Piercing eyes, greener than envy and as dangerous. An aristo’s cheekbones, full lips that made her think dirty thoughts, sharp white fangs just the right length for the kind of rough games she liked. He wore hunters’ leathers, like she did, black pants and boots and a buckled black chestplate with shoulder guards that showed off his massive arms. His whole body was tightly muscled from decades of physical training. Powerful thighs, a killer ass, a palpable aura of strength. She could taste his magic, salty and hot like blood. Around his neck on a leather strip, a blood-red gemstone glittered bright. A bloodstone was the focus of a vampire’s magic, and his was dazzling. The man oozed power.
Her own bloodstone burned. Hunger growled in her stomach, as well as in more secret places, as he draped his arrogant gaze over her body, and the spelled hunting knives strapped to her thighs glowed hot.
Recognition—and sultry challenge?—flamed golden in his eyes, and she squirmed, the thick heels of her hunting boots scraping the soft carpet. Boots notwithstanding, he was taller than she. His sheer size threatened her, which was a total turn-on. So many men were too short. And that tousled coalblack hair was surely the eighth deadly sin. She’d always had the hots for longer hair on a man. Crisp ends curling about his neck in sultry invitation, begging to be wrapped around her fists while he sank those sexy fangs into her throat…
Gina swallowed, and tore her gaze away. She’d crushed that hair in her hands once, five years ago, and he’d humiliated her. “Lady, is this necessary?”
“Afraid so.” Guildmistress Nyssa tidied papers on her curved white desk, dismissive. At four hundred and fifty years old, Nyssa was still a beautiful woman, though her skin was roughening with age, her blond ponytail riffled with silver. In the modern era of incredulity, even vampires aged eventually. Few people believed in magic anymore, and without belief, magic failed.
A blue glare. “In case you’d forgotten, Santangelo, tonight is Samhain, when the hellflux is at its thinnest. Demons are breaking through in ever greater numbers. We need our very best hunters on the job.”
Gina’s stomach flipped. The hellflux was the invisible barrier between the human and demon realms. Hell wasn’t underground—it was everywhere, occupying the same space as the visible world, yet separated from it by the thinnest of skins. With her magical vampire sight, she could see the hellflux everywhere, crackling in the air like a web of static, a cosmic bubble that kept earth in and hell out.
Some vampires had long desired mastery over demons, believing that demonic powers were the key to the vampires’ lost eternal life. Secretly, they used their magic to weaken the hellflux, giving the demons what they wanted in return—access to human souls. And lately, their faction, known in the Hunters Guild as the hellmongers, had gained ascendancy, infiltrating positions of political power in both vampire and human worlds.
The Hunters Guild disagreed. Humans weren’t just food animals to be sacrificed. But humans were weak, and needed protection from soul-hungry demons if both vampires and humans were ultimately to survive. The existence of vampires was no longer a secret, but they still weren’t widely accepted by humans, and the Hunters worked in clandestine accord with top-secret levels of human government, using blood magic to keep the hellflux fresh and the demons in hell where they belonged, in return for free access to blood banks for food.
The thought of going into action made Gina’s heart skip faster, her fingertips sizzling with latent spells. Demon hunting was perilous—vampires healed from injury with inhuman speed, but they weren’t indestructible. But Gina was a skilled Hunter, and she loved the adrenaline, the crackle of her magic as she hauled a screaming demon through the hellflux for slaughter. The danger only excited her more.
Maybe something was wrong with her. She didn’t care. A good fight was better than sex. At least, better than any sex she’d had lately.
Nyssa sighed. “Luka, welcome back. You’re sorely needed. I assume your team is assembled?”
Gina bristled. His team? “Lady, you can’t be serious! This… this person left us in the lurch for five years and you want to trust him? He could be in league with the hellmongers.”
But even as she spoke, she hoped it wasn’t true. Dragovic might be a lying, manipulative asshole, but he was a damned good demon hunter. The best. Everyone’s hero. If even he was tempted by demon lies, no good remained in the world.
Still, resentment stung. She’d risen quickly through Guild ranks, testament to talent and hard work. She wanted to be the best. And now, he’d returned…
Dragovic didn’t answer. Didn’t even look at her. But scarlet threat flashed in those piercing eyes, and Gina knew with a shiver that he meant it for her.
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that accusation,” Nyssa snapped. “Dragovic has my full confidence.” But her gaze slipped.
Gina felt like rolling her eyes. Confidence, my ass. Back for five minutes, and already he was bedding the guildmistress to gain her favor.
But the double standard stung. Gina liked to play the field, to try all the flavors before buying. She craved the sexual variety, and men liked that she didn’t expect commitment or even a phone call. That way, neither party got attached, and she didn’t have to remember they all only wanted her for her power. Mingling magic during sex was highly pleasurable, the more so the stronger the spells, and Gina’s bloodstone glowed brighter than almost anyone’s in the Guild. Fending off lecherous magicians was an occupational hazard.
Still, she’d taken care not to get a reputation for screwing around to get ahead. So why was it okay for a man?
She tried again. “But—”
Nyssa silenced her with a spell-crackled glare. “If you keep questioning my orders, I’ll boot you from the team altogether and replace you. Understand?”
Gina bowed her head, fuming. “Yes, Lady.”
“Good. The team, Luka?”
Dragovic just dipped his head in a sharp salute. “Locked and loaded.”
“Good. Proceed.” Nyssa rose and marched out, digging out her phone to make a call.
Gina sighed, defeated. And the man she’d vowed never to speak to again swept his hot green gaze onto her face.
“Hello, Gina. How are you?” His voice was soft, a hint of centuries-old Slavic accent, but it still crept warm shivers all over her body.
Shivers he had no business putting there. Not the way he’d humiliated her. Not after he’d abandoned them all for five long years. And not now he’d come sniffing after her job like the selfish rat fink weasel he was.
Determination tempered like steel in her heart. She was older now, more experienced. She’d show him—and Mistress Nyssa—who was the better hunter. And then her place on the Guild’s crack hunting team would be unassailable, and she’d never think about his knee-melting kisses again.
She rounded on him, fangs springing out, her hand flashing to the knife at her belt beneath her leather jacket. “That’s ‘Santangelo’ to you, Hunter. I don’t know where you’ve been for five years and I don’t care, so let’s get a few things straight. I work for you, fine. That doesn’t mean I have to talk to you, and I sure as hells don’t have to like you. So keep your smart-ass chit-chat to yourself and let’s kill some demons. Okay?”