Excerpt from CheckMate

Lilia was still a hundred yards or so from her goal when she saw him and knew that things wouldn’t go as planned. There was no mistaking that silhouette, a tall, lean man wearing a leather jacket even though the night wasn’t particularly cold, one hand in the jacket’s pocket, the other taking the red pinpoint of a cigarette to his lips and away in regular movements. No mistaking his scent either, when a light breeze carried it to Lilia. They had fought too often in the past for her not to recognize Vincent Jordan instantly. Too often, also, for her not to know that Nathanael would be pissed off. If Jordan was there, it undoubtedly meant that the clan’s newest recruit was dust already. There went the power Nathanael had been counting on.

Oh yes. Pissed off would not even begin to cover what Nath would be. If there was one thing Lilia had learned in the last seventeen decades from living with her Sire, it was that messengers usually deeply regretted bearing bad news. She had experienced it herself more than once already, her status as favorite Childe had never protected her from Nathanael’s fits of blind rage, and she had no wish to repeat the experience. 

That was why she continued to advance rather than return to the catacombs and report on this unexpected development. If she brought Nathanael good news along with the bad, such as a promise that Jordan wouldn’t be a problem ever again, she might be rewarded rather than punished. The so-called Special Enforcer had been after the clan for years, and he had killed a fair share of minions during that time, as well as Nathanael’s second-oldest Childe. More than once, he had ruined Nathanael’s plans to cement his hold over the town, although Lilia suspected that at least three instances had been coincidences and Jordan was unaware of the damage he had inflicted.

She would definitely get a reward for this, she told herself as she approached. And she wouldn’t mind either finally fulfilling the promise she had made the boy years earlier when they had first met. 

“You know these things will kill, don’t you?” she commented, gesturing to the cigarette Jordan had just thrown to the ground, when only a few feet were left between them.

His lips curled into a smile that seemed more feral than amused and he brought a hand to his heart in a dramatic gesture.

“I’m touched, Lilia. I’d never have thought you cared about my health.”

She returned the smirk, as she started moving sideways, circling him.

“Of course I care, Jordan. After all, you’re mine to kill, remember?”

He kept pace with her, so that he wouldn’t present her his more vulnerable side or back, and that brought his face exactly at the right angle for the sliver of moon that hung low in the sky to reveal his features. From the corner of his left eye down to the middle of his cheek and then perpendicularly toward his jaw, a L-shaped silvery line ran over his skin. She had put it there herself, and the sight of it never failed to make her grin in self-satisfaction. 

“You were too pretty,” she mused aloud as she rolled her shoulders in preparation of the fight.  “You looked like a boy with that angelic face of yours. Now you look like a man.”

On the last word, she attacked, leaping forward toward him. Her fist met only air; Jordan had, predictably, jumped back to his left. It was always his left. The habit would cost him dearly, some day. Maybe even tonight. 

“I am a man, Lilia,” he shot back, and she could hear the edge in his voice, could see the reawakening anger in his icy blue eyes. It was an old trick, one she had used many times before, but as always, she had touched a nerve. It was almost too easy. 

“You’re still a child, Jordan,” she said indulgently, giving all appearances of being relaxed when in reality she was entirely focused on him. “You were a child when we first met, and you’re still a child today.” 

Her eyes followed his hand inside his jacket where he retrieved a stake. Her ears strained for his breathing and heartbeat, trying to detect the telltale variation that would predict he was about to move. As for his scent, it was a mix of controlled anger and strong determination, with that usual accent of lust that always came up when they fought. 

Ignoring her taunt, he brusquely ran toward her, stake raised and ready. She knew even before he had reached her which way he would attack, they had fought so often she knew all his moves.  She parried the stake easily with a blow to his arm, and lashed out at his middle with her foot. Again, he escaped to the left, and she almost growled in frustration – not because she had missed, but rather because he wasn’t playing at his best level. They had danced like this before, a dozen times or so, and this was the worse he had ever fought. It was almost as though he weren’t really trying to kill her.

“Still a little boy,” she continued, practically spitting the words as they both attacked at the same time. The exchange of blows that followed yielded little results on either side and they fell back again. “You think you’re a warrior, a hunter, but…”

For an instant so brief Lilia thought she had imagined it, the air seemed to ripple around them, almost shimmer. And suddenly everything became blindingly obvious.

The many times they had fought without ever coming to a deathblow for either of them.

The banter that always served as a prelude to their fights.

The lust that came off him when they started trading blows. Her own arousal, always more intense than during any other fight.

Her irritation when he didn’t fight well enough, to the risk of letting her kill him.

Her pride at having marked him as hers with that scar.

All of it made sense in that second of clarity, and she couldn’t pretend anymore. Dropping her arms, she looked at him and, for the first time in ages, truly, sincerely hoped. She was used to taking what she wanted, but if he didn’t want it too, there was no point.

“You’re so much more than a warrior,” she murmured.

… continued in CheckMate

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