Angel Kin ONLY
an Angel Assassins novel by Tricia Skinner
While channeling Robin Hood’s “steal from the rich and give to the poor” attitude at a local politician’s house, ex-con Katie Logan witnesses a forced suicide. Dirty or not, supernatural or not, he didn’t deserve to die, especially not by his own hand. But with her record, stepping forward as a witness isn’t an option. On the run from the police and the murderer, she turns to The Bound Ones for help.
When a beautiful woman comes to The Bound Ones, half-angel assassin Cain is immediately drawn to her. But when she fingers him as the killer, he can come to only one conclusion. The twin he thought was dead is very much alive…and trying to send him a message. Unfortunately, that message is: “You’re next.”
It’s a race against time as Cain fights to save the woman he’s falling in love with before his brother Abel destroys them both.
Title: Angel Kin
Series: Angel Assassins, #1
Author: Tricia Skinner
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 268 pages
Release Date: April 2014
Imprint: Select Otherworld
by Tricia Skinner
Copyright © 2014 by Tricia Skinner. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Katherine Logan understood irony. Only a desperate thief dared steal from a notorious crook.
She drifted through Raymond Washington’s study and dropped carefully chosen treasures in her backpack. She skipped the jade dragon bust, the ivory elephant with ruby eyes, and the diamond-crusted bowling ball. Her gaze narrowed on the gold football encased in glass with up lighting. That she skipped as well. Wasting time on museum knockoffs would land her friends in the morgue.
The councilman’s house was stocked with a few valuables for her purpose. Once pawned, the loot would make a dent in the protection fee hanging over Raina, Sprocket, and Frazzle. Her musician friends were in deep—five grand— and the Black Fangs were the last vampire gang anyone wanted to piss off.
Katie surveyed Rip-Off Ray’s palace of undeserved wealth and privilege. The snake shifter drove a gold Cadillac,had a chef come in twice a week to sauté his rats, and owned a wardrobe allergic to nondesigner tags. He was also as dirty as the vamps hounding her buddies.
The heft of her haul felt promising and eased some of her worry. She passed through a set of French doors and scanned the dining room.Apart from an ornate china cabinet the room was a junk hoard. She swore and moved on.
In the home office, she walked to the desk and skimmed the loose papers and stacks of file folders bearing the official seal of Detroit’s Council for Supernatural Affairs. Katie shoved away the temptation to spit.
Ray was a bastard and voters shouldn’t have elected him to tackle issues specific to Others, the nonhumans in the community. Anyone with half a brain knew politicians like him had a steady second income provided by underworld organizations like the Black Fangs. The councilmen should have been drafting guidelines to benefit Detroiters; instead they took bribes and left honest humans and Others to suffer protection rackets. Don’t pay, and you or your loved ones end up hurt or six feet under.
Spurred by her hatred of Ray and his rich pals, Katie left the study empty-handed and found the game room. She’d finish there and head to the next house on her list. Ray’s place didn’t have five thousand dollars worth of good stuff, and if she stayed longer than planned, she’d give in to the temptation to set his animal-print rugs on fire.
Two more houses and she might have enough. God, it had to be enough. Raina, Sprocket, and Frazzle didn’t deserve this shit storm after they’d worked so hard chasing their music dreams. Katie couldn’t hold a tune, but she was the band’s manager. As soon as the vampires had demanded
a payoff, which was inevitable if Collapsed Star expected to play around Wayne County, she knew only her sticky fingers would get her friends out of their mess. But this was a one- off. She’d pay those bloodsuckers and then get her friends safely out of Detroit. A risky plan, but worth it. Nobody threatened people she cared about. Nobody.
A noise no burglar wanted to hear broke the silence, the sound of a locked door clicking open. She froze. Her heart stuttered, and she didn’t dare to even breathe.
She clutched her backpack, and her gaze darted around the game room. The space was crowded with a pool table, a Skee-Ball machine, and a miniature putt-putt golf course complete with pink flamingos.
When the front door banged shut, she dove into the carved mahogany coat closet and drew it closed, a thin gap providing a sliver of light from the exterior. Her breath hitched as heavy footsteps tapped a cadence of doom across the hardwood floor.
Katie’s muscles trembled as she waited. She’d studied Ray’s routine for weeks. He never arrived home before ten. Now, the night she’d picked, he switched his pattern. What a snake. If you couldn’t trust a politician to stick to a schedule, how could you trust him at all?
Even with her obstructed view through the French doors she picked out Ray’s stubby profile. He wore his signature coat, a blue wool monstrosity with a fur-lined collar. His green-and-black, mottled skin glistened, his bald head a shiny globe. Snake shifters couldn’t grow hair but he seemed like the kind of man who polished his dome.
“Can I take your coat? I’d offer you a drink, but I don’t
want to insult you,” came Ray’s wheezy—and nervous?— voice.
Coat? Shit. He turned toward the closet, and Katie fought to keep herself from bolting as fear-fueled adrenaline rocketed through her veins. Could he see her? He stopped and turned away.
“Insulting me would be unwise,” answered a deeper voice out of view. “And I won’t be here long.”
“I know the Renegades are impatient.” Ray shifted his posture and glanced at the game room door as if planning an escape route. “I’ve done what they demanded, but I can’t force the votes.”
Renegades. Figures. Katie knew Ray was a scaly weasel. Now he was a scaly weasel who hung out with a bunch of fallen angels from Heaven’s Most Wanted. If Renegades were involved, that was the same as hanging with the mob.
“You promised results, not votes, for our reelection assistance.” The stranger’s voice dipped and turned icy. “Your patrons are disappointed.”
The thump of apprehension she’d ignored increased in volume, jackhammering in time with her heartbeat and pounding against her temples. Then the stranger partially stepped into her line of sight.
A black hoodie cast his face in shadow, but he had a body like Conan—broad and muscled and unmissable. Giant Guy had to be almost seven feet tall. Short, blond hair spiked from under his hood like a gold crown. She squinted through the door, but couldn’t see his face.
Ray’s fingers twitched at his sides and his skin gleamed with natural oils. He was scared. Real scared.
“There are eyes everywhere. I’ve approached the
most—flexible—of my colleagues. Sure, the Renegades can keep the heat off from the cops, but they can’t protect me from Heaven’s wrath—or their fatal punishments.”
Fear exploded through Katie, forcing her to swallow a few times to clear her throat. For once, Ray wasn’t lying. Everyone whispered the Directorate, the angel’s ruling board, doled out tough justice to anyone who broke their laws. What those laws consisted of was anyone’s guess.
What the hell have you stepped in, Ray? She wanted to swear. What the hell have I stepped in?
Giant Guy moved away from the councilman and beyond Katie’s sight. A tremor of dread coiled deep in her chest. Scratch her earlier thoughts. She didn’t want to see his face.
“You admit failure.” Not a question. Giant Guy’s rough, low voice stated fact.
“N-no.” Ray retreated a step, adding more space between them. Katie didn’t blame him. Right now, the urge to blast past both men and run screaming from the room primed her muscles.
“Give me more time to work on the others.” Ray wiped his forehead with his coat sleeve. “I-I promise I can deliver results.”
Giant Guy’s massive body moved into view once more. Katie stared at the dagger in his hand as he turned the hilt toward Ray.
I am not seeing this.
“No, wait. Please. I only need more time,” Ray begged. His body shook the way hers wanted to.
“You’ve had enough time.” Giant Guy’s voice was cold. Fear cramped her gut and her muscles drew impossibly
tight. She locked herself into place in hopes the position would keep her still and silent. Hell, she’d bite a hole in her tongue if it meant staying alive. The view through the door blurred as her eyes watered.
“Take it,” Giant Guy ordered in a firm tone. Katie blinked and focused on Ray’s trembling body.
He reached shaking hands for the dagger and grasped the hilt. “Oh no. Please. Please.”
Giant Guy lowered his empty hand and tipped his head at Ray. “Stab yourself.”
The councilman’s body stiffened, and Katie slapped a hand over her mouth to squash the “oh shit” threatening to escape.
“Sweet Jesus, someone help me,” Ray babbled, his voice high-pitched like a girl’s. The air filled with a tear-inducing musk, the stench nearly triggering her gag reflex.
Giant Guy stepped closer to Ray and waited.
No one had the power to make you kill yourself. Right? Ray raised the dagger to his stomach.
The world Katie understood shattered in slow motion.
The roar of her frantically rushing blood dominated her hearing. She clearly heard the councilman’s sobs as he plunged the blade deep into his gut; the squishy, wet sounds of torn fabric and flesh, the patter of blood striking the hardwood, and his agonized screams filled the closet where she cowered. She clenched her pelvic muscles, afraid she’d piss herself.
“Again.” Giant Guy hadn’t turned away. Blood dripped off the hoodie, but he didn’t move out of the spray. “This time without the scream.”
His body shuddering and swaying, Ray struggled to tug the dagger from his lacerated midsection. The councilman managed to raise the blade once more. He didn’t hesitate, but slammed the bloodstained dagger into his mangled stomach and this time, his mouth clamped shut. His eyes went wide, his gaze wildly darting around the room. His legs wobbled a moment before he crumpled to his knees.
“Reach in and pull out your intestines.”
Katie screamed inside her head, loud and long. She tightened her body, desperate to stop the spasms crashing into her rigid spine.
One sound and she’d share Ray’s fate.
Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Don’t move. Don’t breathe.
The chant was a silent prayer in a room devoid of mercy. She closed her eyes, not wanting to watch Ray’s arm come down. A cough, followed by a gurgle, persuaded her to peek. The councilman’s body convulsed, and then he fell to the side, his grip still tight on the dagger. His entrails were sliced open, and the stench of shit drifted to Katie. She worked her throat in a frantic bid to hold down the vomit roaring up, seeking an exit.
Ray twitched, then stilled.
Giant Guy hovered over the councilman despite the grisly scene. He seemed to consider the body, and then he crouched next to it.
Fabric ripped. Giant Guy leaned over Ray’s corpse, engrossed in carving something into the councilman’s exposed chest. His attention was singular. When he finally finished, he stood and pushed the hood off his head and all Katie could do was gape in silence.
Giant Guy was handsome in an unearthly way. Silver eyes as cold as forged steel, strong cheekbones, and a broad forehead. Her gaze passed over his shapely lips and the faded tan that warmed his skin tone. His stance showed off torso muscles barely concealed by a tight black shirt.
In any other circumstance, this man would have been hot enough to burn down Victoria’s Secret. A slow, contented smile curved his mouth.
Stab yourself…This time without the scream.
The words he’d uttered to Ray blazed in her memory. They were ruthless. Heartless. Soulless.
Giant Guy studied his carving job and nodded as if he approved, and then he casually strode from the room.
The front door clicked shut. Katie didn’t move, her body remained pole straight behind the closet door; even as her muscles throbbed, her mind struggled to process what she’d seen.
Time to call the police. Whatever mojo he used, Giant Guy was still responsible for the councilman’s death. Before she could twitch, another thought froze her heart midbeat.
I burglarized Ray’s house.
Katie’s gaze roamed over the area near the body. Of course, Giant Guy had taken the dagger, so who’d believe Ray stabbed himself? No one. She swallowed the sudden burn of bile, and envisioned how the cops would play this. Katie Logan, a former juvenile delinquent, had broken into the house and killed the nonhuman city leader when he’d caught her.
And how could she ignore one last fact: probation. She was weeks away from finishing without another mark on her record.
Clink. Bars shut. Slide my food through the cell door.
She couldn’t involve the band, they had enough shit to deal with. Maybe Jon? Her brother had always listened first, and then formulated a plan. God, she needed him now.
Katie waited, craning her ears for the slightest sound. She flexed her cramped leg muscles and stamped her feet to circulate her sluggish blood, then opened the closet door and stepped into the room, careful to keep a wide radius from the corpse.
Pooled in his own blood and shit, Ray’s body had shifted in death. Now, his man-sized snake form lay on the floor, turning gray. Earlier tonight she’d hated him, now she pitied the guy. An image of Giant Guy floated into her thoughts and she shuddered, then ran for the back door.
She never wanted to see his face again.
Katie stumbled into Lafayette Coney Island, crammed her chin farther into her light jacket, and found an empty high- back booth in a distant corner. Normally the landmark’s homey smell of boiling hot dogs, diced onions, and toasty buns caused an impatient grumble in her stomach. Now the extra saliva in her mouth warned she was dangerously close to vomiting.
“What you have, lady?” asked the waiter bussing the table beside her.
“Faygo Red and water.”
He nodded and disappeared with his arms full of empty plates and dirty utensils, then returned with her drinks, dropped a straw on the table, and left her alone.
Katie eyed the fizzy pop and her stomach churned. The bright red liquid phased out, replaced by her mind’s eye. Blood red, like the stuff sprayed from Ray’s body, coated his killer’s black hoodie, pooled under his dead body. Tremors racked her and she pushed the glass away.
“Excuse me,” she said to another passing waiter. “Can I get orange instead?”
The guy removed her drink. Katie picked up the straw, twisting the paper off. She shrugged off her backpack, tossing it next to her in the booth. She eyed it for a full minute, wishing the damn thing would disappear. On instinct, her hand had closed on the bag when she’d sprinted from Ray’s house to reach her car.
How is this my life?
Stupid question. This was exactly her life, the one she’d created. An ex-burglar with a screwed up inclination to help her buddies. A witness to a murder that involved a supernatural bad guy. A kid sister who prayed her brother would know how to fix her mess. Hollywood didn’t create reality shows for this crap.
The backpack was a problem. The stash of stolen goods placed her at Ray’s house, but even if she’d had time to replace every item where she’d nabbed it, she couldn’t be certain they wouldn’t hold clues for the police.
Come on, think. She tapped the table with her fingers. The waiter returned and placed a glass of orange pop in front of her and she tried to smile, but her lips wouldn’t cooperate. Instead she raised the glass in her shaking hand and managed a minor miracle—she took a sip without spilling the liquid down her front.
Eventually her adrenaline drained away. Katie grabbed
her cellphone and called Jon’s mobile number. Four rings later, his voice mail picked up.
“It’s me. Call me back ASAP. Uh, please.” The “please” would tip her brother off that she was in trouble. She hung up and resumed tapping on the table.
What if she skipped town and headed to the family cabin in the Upper Peninsula? March winter would soon succumb to spring. The place wouldn’t be half-bad with groceries, possibly a Rottweiler.
She peeked at the wall clock.“Crap, crap, crap.” Fumbling with her phone, she dialed Raina and fiddled with her straw. “Come on. Pick up. Please pick up.”
“Hey, I was just about to head over to your place,” her friend replied.
Movie night with her bestie was the weekly norm, but she wanted to kick herself for nearly forgetting. “That’s why I’m buzzing you. Can I get a rain check? Something came up.”
“Aw. I drove all the way to Sprocket’s to pick through his DVDs,” Raina griped. “What’s more important than Thor and Loki fisticuffs?”
A murderer on the loose and a bag full of stolen knickknacks, Katie was tempted to say, but her second line beeped before she could answer. “I’m helping Jon with work junk. I’ll make it up to you, ’k? Gotta go.”
“Totally cool. Tell big brother hi for me.”
“I will. Bye Raina.”
Her heart slammed in her chest as she thumbed the talk
button, disconnecting her friend. “Hello?”
“I could get used to calling you at home,” Jon said. “No one-phone-call requirement.”
“I’m not at home.” Though his tone was light, he’d often received her calls from the holding area at a police precinct. “What’s wrong, Tiny Terror?” Jon’s humorous tone grounded her.
Katie’s gaze darted around the moderately full diner,
half expecting Ray’s killer to pop out of a dark corner. “Not on the phone. Can you come to Lafayette Coney Island?”
“Sure. I’m not far from there. See you in a few.”
She listened to the dial tone, then hung up.
“Damn.” Katie sighed and closed her eyes. She’d broken the promise she’d made to Jon the last time he’d bailed her out. No more stealing. No more trouble. Seeing his disappointment again was going to suck.
This situation was different, she reminded herself. Raina, Sprocket, and Frazzle were her family, too. She couldn’t let her friends suffer, or worse. And if the Black Fangs didn’t kill them outright for failing to pay, those vamps had nasty ways to make their victims an example to others.
Tonight, Katie had seen the kind of evil that could be committed.
“I can’t go to jail, and I won’t leave my friends to those thugs.”
The jingle of a bell drew her attention. Jon Logan’s six- foot body crossed the entrance, and then he made his way through the diner to her booth. She relaxed into the soft faux leather.
“Hey, Terror.” Strong arms settled around her shoulders in a half hug. “Did I miss the Coneys?”
“I didn’t order any.” Katie shook her head and gave him a weak smile. Her brother had come straight from the station. His wrinkled, navy-blue uniform shirt had a mustard stain on it. As he gestured for a waiter, she frowned at the dark circles under his eyes. At only thirty-four, Jon’s premature gray hairs curled through his light brown hair.
“You ever sleep?”
He shot her a boyish grin that had softened many hearts over the years. Jon turned his attention to the waiter, ordered three Coneys with everything, and Vernor’s Ginger Ale. Down-home Detroit food. “I didn’t drive like I was on a call so you could act like Mom,” he said. “You’re the one sitting in Lafayette’s without eating. Better tell me why I’m here, kiddo, or I’ll start worrying.”
“I saw a guy murdered.”
Jon’s body stiffened, but he reached across the table and cupped her hands. Worry lines etched across his forehead. “What the hell? Are you okay? What happened?”
The waiter returned with the meal. When he’d gone, Jon captured her fingers in his and stared into her eyes as she blurted everything she’d witnessed. “Wait. Slow down. Did they see you?”
“No. I was hiding.”
“Thank God.” He pushed the plates aside. “If you saw the killer, you can describe him to the cops. They have sketch artists who’ll work up an image.”
Ice fused to Katie’s spine as a continuous loop of the murder played inside her mind, complete with a horror- movie soundtrack. She was back in the closet, watching the blood spray, hearing Ray’s screams.
“Katie? Sis?” Jon squeezed her hand. “I’m here, okay? Nothing’s gonna happen to you. I’m not leaving you.”
She barely heard him. Even if she could go to the police, the killer would know someone saw him. He’d find out about
her. And if Jon tried to protect her…
That evil bastard didn’t look like the kind of guy who’d squirm over killing others to get to an eyewitness. He’d track her down, and even if she disappeared, it would put her family in danger. He’d never stop until he had her. Until she was dead.
“Sorry, sis. I know this is heavy shit, but you didn’t say why you were at Councilman Washington’s place. How do you know him?”
Katie pulled her lip between her teeth. “He, uh, wanted to talk about booking the band. I’d arrived early…and let myself in.”
“No. No way. You didn’t. Please tell me you weren’t there for that.”
The long silence that followed burrowed under her skin. Every reply she conjured withered on her tongue until all she could do was lower her gaze to her glass.
“Goddammit, Katherine! What the hell is wrong with you?”
A couple across the room turned at the outburst. Katie slumped in the booth. Her brother rarely swore at her, but on those rare occasions, all their shared Irish ancestry boiled over, leaving him red-faced. What could she say?
“I’m sorry.” She raised her chin and held his gaze. He had a right to be pissed. “I am.”
Minutes ticked by, but neither of them spoke. Finally, Jon expelled an anguished breath, and lowered his head.
“Tell me exactly how Washington died?”
“He didn’t touch Ray.” Katie’s eyes blurred, but the vivid scene haunted her. “He told Ray what to do like he had mind-control powers or something.”
“You have to go to the police,” Jon said. “A city leader was murdered, and no matter how strange the circumstances, the killer doesn’t get to just walk away.”
“I can’t.” Her throat tightened. “You know how cops are. They’ll do whatever they want to catch him. They won’t give a damn about protecting me.” Unless the police didn’t know she was involved. “Maybe I could leave an anonymous tip. Don’t the cops have a hotline? I could say everything over the phone.”
Jon sighed. His face creased with worry lines. “The victim was on the Council for Supernatural Affairs. That’s high profile. No way you’d remain anonymous long.”
Katie’s hope slithered away, leaving her empty.
Her brother dragged his fingers through his short hair. “If the killer was able to do that with his mind…he might be able to do worse.” Their gazes locked. “Police might be the least of your problems.”
“Going to the cops can’t be my only option.”
“Maybe they’re not.” Jon rubbed his chin. “You heard Ray refer to Renegades. If the killer is a fallen angel, or works with them, there’s one group who might help us.” She noticed he’d switched to a cautious tone. “They’re not cops, but still a kind of law enforcement. They’d protect you. I’ll contact the head guy and clue him in on the situation.”
Katie’s eyebrows stretched to her hairline. “What makes them better than regular cops?”
“I’ve never personally worked with them, but they have a solid rep. The killer’s Other, and these guys aren’t human either. Just tell them what you saw.”
“You want me to trust a bunch of strangers? They’ll turn me in.”
“No, they won’t. I’ll explain that they need to keep your identity secret. That’ll protect you from the maniac and keep you out of a police investigation for now.” Jon cut off her protest with a wave of his hand. “Look, if anyone can find a killer with supernatural powers, these guys can.”
Should she trust these strangers? She’d tell some not- quite cops her story, see if they knew about the killer, or had what it took to stop him, and if that didn’t work, then she could figure out how to get herself and her friends out of town. No matter what happened, she wasn’t leaving Raina, Sprocket, and Frazzle to deal with the Black Fangs.
“Okay. Set it up,” Katie said. “Who am I gonna meet?” “The Bound Ones. They’re a team of Nephilim.”