Immortal and a member of the Sinistra Dei, a secret order designed to eliminate threats to the Vatican, Giovanna was created to do the dirty work of the Church. This requires creative thinking and the ability to tap dance on the line between right and wrong.
As the commander she loves slowly sinks into insanity, she learns that dark immortals—the Execrati dedicated to destroying her kind— have snuck into New Orlean’s legendary French Quarter to hunt her friends. With the further discovery that one of Rome’s own has faked his death, and the unexpected evolution of her supernatural powers, Gia is no longer able to play by the rules.
How can she defy the man she loves, break the trust of a close friend, and explain the new set of wings on her back?
The answer is simple… she can’t.
Nightfall brought music and drunken laughter. She followed the man, waiting for the opportunity to judge and, perhaps, to kill. Above her Torben crouched on the rooftop waiting.
“Where are you?” she whispered.
“I’m right here.” A man stepped into the dim light. Shadows deepened his gaunt features, accentuating the hollows of his cheeks.
“You selling?” She feigned a nervous catch in her voice.
“Naw, but I’m buying.”
Gia caught the gleam of metal in his hand. Even from six feet away she detected the sour scent of chemicals mingled with sweat, liquor, and stale cigarettes. The man before her was dangerous by human standards.
Gia took a step in the addict’s direction, and he lunged for her. She sidestepped his advance and shoved him against the wall. The scent of human blood assaulted her senses, made her stomach turn.
Torben leapt from the roof, landing a foot to her right. He looked every bit the part of a tenth century Norseman—dark blond hair, blue eyes, well-muscled, and a scruffy pointed beard. He could have stepped off the cover of some cheesy Viking romance novel. Even his name was a cliché’. Torben, “the Bear of Thor”.
He hoisted the man up and held him at arm’s length while the little bastard flailed in mid-air. The man struggled, kicking and stabbing to no avail. Torben’s height gave him the advantage.
“Drop it.” Gia laced her words with compulsion.
The knife clattered to the ground.
The addict renewed his effort to break free. Torben wrapped an arm around the man’s midsection. “Be still.”
He stopped moving. “I got money. You want money? Take it. Got drugs too.”
Gia frowned. “I miss the old days when we had wars to fight. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind an assassination order. At least I could have some fun, get creative, you know?”
“Peace never lasts.” Torben adjusted his grip on the human.
She rolled her eyes. “Ever the optimist.”
“Do you want to read him or shall I?”
“I will.” Gia stepped in front of her would-be assailant. She pressed her fingertips on the exposed flesh of his wrist and closed her eyes.
Her mind exploded with images of the human’s life, memories, emotions, regrets, evidence of past sins laid out for her judgment. He preferred the intimacy of killing with knives and took trophies from the bodies—a finger from one, a pretty blue eye from another. She counted four women in total.
She detected no remorse. If he regretted his sins she could choose to release him unharmed, or perhaps release him with the knowledge of the pain he had brought to others in hopes that he would choose a different path for the future. The monster in Torben’s arms laughed as he relived the worst of his sins. There would be no mercy.
“Death. He had only pride in his skill. He was ... nostalgic for his kills.”
Torben nodded and pressed his hand to the junkie’s face. “I’m not surprised.”
Without a word Gia rose to her tiptoes and wrapped her hand around the man’s neck. She opened a link between herself and the human, feeding from his energy, his prana. As she fed, her pale skin illuminated and she dipped her chin to allow her dark hair to hide the light.
“I love it when you glow.” Torben chuckled and began to feed.
“It’s fun in private but it draws too much attention on the streets.”
“I remember how fun it was in private.”
Gia narrowed her eyes. “What has gotten into you? Are you flirting with me? Again?”
“What if I am?”
“It’s been a couple of centuries since you have.”
“Have I told you lately how beautiful your eyes are? Like icy-blue jewels.” He grinned.
“Have I told you lately that you are a class-A pain in the ass?” She cut off the energy flow from the human but maintained the mental connection.
“What are you doing?”
“I want to read his thoughts as he dies.”
Torben’s eyes widened. “That’s rather morbid.”
“It’s fascinating. Sometimes I can see a light. It reminds me there’s more to this world than we can see.”
“You need to read a human to believe there’s more than the physical world?”
Gia shrugged. The connection between herself and the dying man flared to life. She shared his terror as ghosts of the women he murdered crowded the alley. Some cried for justice while others laughed. Even his mother came—not to comfort, but to condemn. They crowded around and pulled at him with cold dead hands. He struggled to escape, but his heart convulsed, and he clutched his chest. He died in the alley while his victims called for his soul.
Gia broke the link, dazed. No longer in his head she couldn’t see the spirits. “I wonder if the ghosts are still here.”
“They are manifestations of his mind. There are no such things as ghosts.” Torben eased the body to the ground.
“How can you be certain?”
“I can’t, I guess.” Torben slid his arm around her shoulders and led her out of the alley. His shoulders tensed and his expression grew more serious.
“We need to talk.”
She stepped out from under his arm. “I’ve noticed you seem more ... attentive toward me. But, Torben, we can’t cross that line.”
“This is far more serious than our relationship, or lack thereof.”
“That sounds ominous.”
Torben stopped walking and turned to her. “It’s Lochlain. He’s—”
“He’s worried about Marin. It’s been a long time since he imbued a human. He’s fine.”
“He’s not fine. The day is coming when I’ll be forced to take control of the clutch.”
Gia refused to let his words sink in. “You’re wrong, and committing treason. Lochlain won’t let you take the clutch.”
“He may have no choice.” Torben met her gaze. “I’m worried about your safety, Giovanna. Lochlain isn’t in his right mind. He is losing himself to the darkness. You of all people have to know this.”
She pulled away. “I need to get back to work.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
Torben fell in beside her as they walked back to the bar on Bourbon Street. Gia lost herself in her thoughts. What would become of the clutch if Torben forced Lochlain to step down? Could they survive it?
Gia turned to him. “Torben, you’ve been by Lochlain’s side since you joined the Order of the Sinistra Dei. What? A thousand years ago?”
“Something like that.”
“If what you say is true you need to help Lochlain. You two are like yin and yang. The clutch will fall apart without that balance.”
“I know you love him, Giovanna, but it may be too late.”
She ran her hands up his chest, using his desire for her to her advantage. “Lochlain has a quick temper and loves the sound of his own voice, but that doesn’t mean he’s evil.”
“There’s more to it than that.” Torben put his hands over hers and removed them from his chest, though he didn’t release them.
“Torben, you’re scaring me. Not many of us remain in the world. Letting even one slip into darkness, or be put to death by the Church—”
“I’ll do what I can for Lochlain.” Torben conceded.