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CREAM by Zenobia Renquist

CREAM

On the Hunt (multi-author series)
by Zenobia Renquist

Ellora’s Cave

eBook ISBN: 9781419944659

She’s entered a world where blood, sex, and cash rules everything around her.

What do a four hundred-year-old vampire and a mid-level necromancer have in common? Money. Jeliyah needs it to pay off the people who trained her and Teaghan enjoys killing to get it. Together they hunt rogue vampires—assuming Teaghan can focus on something other than getting her in bed and Jeliyah doesn’t put a bullet in him first.

The uneasy partnership promises to be lucrative until Teaghan and Jeliyah get on the wrong side of a feud. Jeliyah is forced to use forbidden magic and finds herself bound to a man she should hate—but whom she can’t stop fantasizing about.

Every second they stay alive fuels a growing desire Jeliyah is unwilling to deny. Is it the magic? The danger? The only way to get the answers she craves is to outrun the enemy or kill them. She knows Teaghan’s preference but it’s Jeliyah who must put their mind-blowing sex aside and make the choice that will decide both their fates.

Inside Scoop: An interracial romance between a wannabe-gangtsa vampire and a career-focused magic user who go from being the hunters to the hunted in an exciting new urban fantasy world.

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Chapter One

High scores on all tests, deadeye status in marksmanship and commendations in spell casting—Jeliyah, as one of the highest necromancers in the middle class, had earned this promotion long ago. The day had come for her to get an enforcer.
Enforcer. That’s what the humans called them. The vampires called them bounty hunters and worse. They were opportunistic vampires who hunted rogues for the thrill of the kill and the rewards. Human government types had preferred a less provocative title when the human-vampire cooperation started. Bounty hunters became enforcers. A little whitewash to make everyone feel warm and cozy.
It didn’t matter what they were called. That didn’t change the job or how it was carried out. Enforcers partnered with human vampire hunters, also known as necromancers, to kill rogues and were paid a hefty sum for every rogue eliminated. If Jeliyah had been stationed anywhere else, she would have been partnered with an enforcer long ago.
She glared at the back of Hirsch’s head. Her boss had been making her ride a desk since she was assigned to his crew three years ago. He’d used every excuse he could pull out of his ass to keep her at that desk—not enough hunts to go around, no available enforcers, the enforcers prefer not to work with women and other crap that reeked worse than his cheap knockoff cologne. It all boiled down to him not wanting her there.
Hirsch’s crew had been all men until the higher-ups slapped him with an equal-opportunity citation and then shoved Jeliyah his way. She didn’t appreciate being the token in this situation. The higher-ups had interfered again when they noticed Jeliyah being passed over for getting an enforcer for the third year in a row, which wouldn’t have looked suspicious if the new guys weren’t being partnered with an enforcer two seconds after stepping foot in the building.
“And here she is,” Hirsch said as he swung the door wide and entered the room where the enforcer waited.
The necrome amulet—a flat, coin-sized disc with an intricate dragon etched onto one side and a tiger on the other—hanging against her collarbone hummed softly, alerting her to the presence of the vampire. She didn’t need the warning but was glad it worked the way it should.
The vampire stood with his hip resting against the back of the couch and one hand in the pocket of his suit slacks. The shades over his eyes completed Jeliyah’s idea of how an enforcer should appear—menacing and mysterious. Anyone else wearing shades indoors would be obnoxious but vampires abhorred fluorescent light. They said it was too harsh and left an afterimage, like staring at the sun.
Jeliyah tried to keep calm and her heart rate normal so the vampire wouldn’t realize how excited she was. A partner at last. Ever since being identified as a necromancer of the middle class, Jeliyah had looked forward to working with an enforcer. Years of training would finally have a purpose.
After placing her duffel bag near the door, she walked forward and held out her hand. “I’m Jeliyah Parsons.” She smiled when the vampire shook her hand. “I look forward to working with you.”
The man grinned, showing his long canines. “That’s sweet but I’m not your partner. I’m Fredrick, the messenger.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “He’s your partner.”
Jeliyah looked in the direction he indicated, not happy she hadn’t realized there were two vampires in the room. That was dangerous and sloppy and not completely her fault since the man had been sitting in a high-backed chair that obscured him from sight. Still, excuses like that were the reason necromancers died in this line of work rather than retiring.
She moved forward as the chair swiveled around. “Nice to meet you. I’m—” Her greeting and her smile died on her lips.
The man sitting on the chair pulled his shades down with one finger hooked around the edge and moved his ice-blue gaze over Jeliyah. He nodded as he edged his shades back in place. With his fist held out to the other vampire, he said, “Good looking out.”
The suited vampire bumped fists with the man while Jeliyah tried to come to terms with her new partner. He wasn’t at all what she had imagined after reading his file. Teaghan was a top enforcer with hundreds of kills under his belt, a fifth of those after the human-vampire cooperative started.
He’d retired seven partners in the last three years, which was high by anyone’s standards. Most partnerships lasted a minimum of one year before a necromancer was close to retirement. With Teaghan’s kill rate, a necromancer only needed to stay by his side for a few months.
Someone with a record like that should be the stoic, no-nonsense type. Jeliyah had been prepared for the militant type with a chip on his shoulder because he had to babysit a human, even if that human was giving him the edge he needed to keep his kill count so high.
She got flaming-red hair in neat cornrows that ended past his shoulders, a tight black tank top with thick gold chains draped over it, baggy jeans that were two sizes too big and tan work boots with the laces untied. His only saving grace was that he knew how to use a belt, though that didn’t change the fact that a vampire born in the seventeen hundreds was dressed gangsta.
This had to be a joke. Jeliyah looked at Hirsch. He was all smiles. The happy smiles of a man getting what he wanted, not the joking smiles people wore right before telling someone they’d been punked.
Teaghan sucked his teeth and she glanced at him in time to see one of his elongated canines capped in gold. That was her limit. There were certain things she had been prepared to handle and others she had been prepared to ignore. She refused to consider him.
She pointed at Teaghan and asked in a low, hard tone, “What is that?”
Hirsch startled. “What did you say?” His happy smile turned placating as he faced the vampires. “Sorry for her attitude. Jeliyah is new to the field.”
Teaghan stood. “S’all good, son.”
“Oh, hell no.” Jeliyah turned on her heel, grabbed her duffel bag and walked out of the room. No. No. There weren’t enough noes in the world to convey how much she wasn’t going to work with this man. Not when he looked and acted like that.
She made it to the elevator before Hirsch grabbed her elbow. “Hold it, Parsons.”
“Get off me.” She glared at his hand until he released her and then she turned the expression on him.
“Where are you going?”
“Away from here. You are not sticking me with that.”
Hirsch glanced over his shoulder as he made a loud shushing noise. He bit out, “Lower your voice.”
“Why?” Jeliyah stayed loud on purpose. “They’re vampires, Hirsch. They could hear whatever I’m saying even if I was talking on the elevator.”
The chime indicating the elevator had arrived sounded. Jeliyah looked between the four sets of doors to see which would open first.
Hirsch said, “Walk out now and you might as well pack your stuff.”
“You can’t fire me. This isn’t that type of job.”
“No, I can’t fire you but I can send your ass back where you came from.”
She turned toward him. “What?”
He crossed his arms with a smug look. “Go with Teaghan or go back to the campus. Either way, you’re out of my hair. I couldn’t give a damn which one you pick—but know that you’ll be going back to the campus with a rip.”
“What rip?”
“Refusal of a direct order.”
“You…you…” She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. Hirsch knew she couldn’t go back to the campus with something like that on her record. Necromancers were rare, so this wasn’t a job from which she could be fired, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be punished. An icy chill ran down her spine. “He can’t be the only enforcer who needs a partner.”
Hirsch grinned. “He’s not. There were a few others but I knew he would be the perfect fit.”
Jeliyah bit back her first comment, the one where she told him to go fuck himself. She didn’t like the man—he sure as hell didn’t like her and this was proof—but he could still give her a rip for insubordination if she said what she wanted.
“Up to you.” He stepped back so she could see the doorway leading to the vampires and a future she wanted to deny.
“I’m filing a complaint,” she said as she walked back to the room.
“On what grounds?”
“Racial harassment.”
Hirsch shrugged his indifference. “It’s not my fault he’s like that. I merely matched a high-middle class with a high enforcer like I’m supposed to. All the others rank beneath him. I wouldn’t want the higher-ups thinking I wasn’t using your full potential, now would I?”
She clamped her mouth shut against the litany of curses that begged to be given freedom. The sooner she got away from Hirsch, the better for her career. That meant leaving with Teaghan, who stood watching the door with the other vampire.
Teaghan had the nerve to grin at her when she walked through the door. “Welcome back.”
Her teeth scraped against each other as she held back more words she wasn’t allowed to say. Not yet. Not so long as Hirsch was there. As soon as she and Teaghan were alone, she planned to tell him just what she thought of him and his attitude.
“Let’s go,” she bit out.
Teaghan bumped fists with the other vampire again. “Thanks for dragging my sorry ass out here.”
“Any time. Have fun.”
“Plan to.”
Jeliyah exhaled a frustrated breath and stalked away.
Hirsch called after her, “Good luck on your hunts, Jeliyah.”
“Fuck you,” she said under her breath. “Fuck you hard with a rusted, spiked dildo, you son of a diseased bitch.”
Both vampires laughed. Jeliyah ignored them. She’d known they would hear her. Her concern was that Hirsch not hear her.
Rather than return to the elevators, she shoved open the door to the stairwell. Fifteen flights of stairs would work off some of her anger…she hoped. The situation might not be as bad as she thought. She was taking it at face value.
Teaghan was a top-ranked enforcer. No matter how he dressed or acted, he got the job done. If his track record held, she would only have to put up with his nonsense for the next four-to-six months. With the rogue incursions so high of late, their time together might be less than that. She hoped that was the case.
Endure. All she had to do was endure. Not everyone got a dream assignment. Not everyone got an assignment. Retirement was around the corner. That would be her mantra until this nightmare ended.
She exited the necromancer headquarters and breathed in the early evening air. A cool, crisp autumn breeze soothed her heated skin.
“Feel better?” Teaghan asked, placing himself in the path of the breeze.
Jeliyah had to look up to meet his gaze since the top of her head was level with his shoulder. She would like to say she had forgotten he was there. The hum of her necrome against her collarbone wouldn’t let her forget.
“Fine,” she snapped. A quick glance around showed no vehicles in the vicinity. She didn’t have a car—couldn’t afford one yet—so that meant riding with Teaghan. Joy.
Teaghan jerked his thumb to the company parking lot. “My ride’s that way.”
She prayed for something normal. She got a black convertible sports car—top down—that sat two people and had blue lightning racing along the sides. “Subtle.”
“Fast.” He hopped over the side and settled onto the seat. “You were expecting a lowrider, right?”
“Whatever.” She opened the passenger door and dropped onto the seat with her duffel bag wedged between her legs. Emphasis on the drop. She hated sports cars for this reason. Any car that required putting her hand on the ground to get out of it was too low. Cars like that might be fast but they were also death traps in a collision.
Of course a vampire wouldn’t worry about something like that. So long as his head and heart were intact, he could heal anything else.
“You can stash the bag in the trunk.”
Yeah, that would make sense though she was surprised the car had a trunk. She was already seated though. “Just drive.”
“Whatever.” Teaghan revved the engine to life and spun the tires before peeling out of the parking lot with the back end fishtailing.
Jeliyah sighed, not impressed. Cars didn’t do it for her. She didn’t know any woman who did get off on cars and the tricks men did in them. Then again, most of her former female friends were necromancers as well. With their background, a man needed to be a high class before Jeliyah and her friends began to think of him as potential dating material. Not that she had any delusions of catching the eye of a high class. A high-middle class like herself, maybe. Possibly a low-high class.
A regular high class was out of her reach even if she did manage to retire. Actually, everyone was out of her reach, retired or not. But retirement was still the goal. That was the only reason to put up with Teaghan.
The glint of a streetlamp off one of his gold chains made her sigh. If she could put up with. Guys like him got on her nerves.

 

Teaghan had been ready to put a bullet through Fredrick’s skull when the man dragged him off a hunt to meet his new necromancer partner. After a whole month sitting on his ass, Teaghan had finally gotten a call for a hunt. Fredrick had decided that was as good a time as any to stick Teaghan with a partner that Teaghan had to meet right that moment.
There were two things Teaghan didn’t tolerate—people interfering with his hunts and people interfering with his money. Since his hunts made him money, Fredrick was on Teaghan’s shit list…or he had been until Teaghan saw Jeliyah.
Actually, Fredrick had received a stay of execution the second Teaghan caught Jeliyah’s scent when she walked in the room. He’d drawn in a deep breath, inhaling her fragrance—cucumber and aloe mixed with cocoa butter. The cucumber-and-aloe scent came from her brown skin. That meant it was her bodywash or lotion. The aroma of cocoa butter originated from her straightened, shoulder-length black hair—hair grease was his first guess. The hint of something chemical under it all—also originating from her head—let him know she used relaxers to keep her hair straight.
All four of those distinct smells had revealed Jeliyah was black and female before Teaghan had swiveled his chair around. She might be disappointed with him but he found no fault with the way her jeans hugged her round hips and thick thighs or how her ample breasts strained the buttons of her shirt. Add full lips begging to be kissed and brown eyes that flashed with anger the same way he knew they would shine with passion and Teaghan had a recipe for a woman he wouldn’t mind being around for the next few months.
But he didn’t like necromancers. If not for the vampire-human cooperative, he wouldn’t have to put up with them. He did his job better than most without a necromancer at his side. The necromancers made him better but they made his competition better too. It was hard to enjoy the hunt and eventual kill when he had to worry about some asshole taking out the target before him.
“You been on a hunt before, sweetness?”
“My name is Jeliyah, not sweetness. And no, I haven’t.”
Teaghan rolled his eyes. Great. An amateur. That’s just what he didn’t need. “You’re about to get a crash course. I got pulled off a hunt to meet you.”
“Sorry to put you out,” she said in a sarcastic tone.
“You’re going to make it up to me or I’m taking your ass right back.”
Jeliyah inhaled softly and her heart rate sped up, letting Teaghan know he’d hit a nerve. He hadn’t missed her earlier conversation with Hirsch about sending her back to the campus. Teaghan might not know what the big deal was about going back to the campus, but he did know necromancers who refused to do their job caught shit the likes of which he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. Humans called vampires monsters but vampires couldn’t compete with cruelty like that.
He said, “Tell me you at least know what you’re doing?”
“I’m a high-middle class.”
“So?”
“Yes, I know what I’m doing,” she snapped.
“Good.” Teaghan grinned in the dark at her attitude, which further hinted at the presence of a backbone. At least she wasn’t mousy. The last necromancer he’d been stuck with had spent the entire partnership cowering in the background, afraid Teaghan would turn on him. Teaghan had had to keep an eye on his necromancer during hunts to make sure the man wouldn’t attack Teaghan and the rogue at the same time.
After Teaghan retired that necromancer, he’d told the reserve to go fuck themselves—in as polite a manner as possible—when they requested he come in to get his next necromancer. The stupid vampire-human cooperative required all enforcers to have a necromancer at their sides during hunts. Teaghan refused. He didn’t like babysitting humans. Hence why Fredrick had interfered with Teaghan’s hunt. A hunt he’d had to almost beat out of the dispatcher since the man had refused to give Teaghan any hunts while he didn’t have a partner.
If all Teaghan’s future necromancers looked like Jeliyah, he’d be there to meet them two seconds after the current one announced retirement status. But he knew better. Teaghan was in Hirsch’s jurisdiction, which meant all Teaghan’s future necromancers would be men. He did wonder who Jeliyah had pissed off to get stuck with Hirsch—or maybe it was the other way around. Small talk like that would have to wait for later though.
He parked his car in the empty lot outside the forest that led to the Marceaux estate. Rogues had a bad habit of being predictable. Most were assassins sent by one of the European families to take out the head of a clan. America had fifteen vampire families that had divided the country into territories. Those fifteen formed a parliamentary system that ruled over the American vampires. The only way for someone new to stake a claim—and become part of the parliament in one of the few nations that didn’t kill vampires on sight—was to take out the family in charge of the location they wanted.
Power struggles like this were as old as the vampires themselves. Humans had gotten involved once vampires were outed during a nasty little skirmish in the fifties. Two warring families had gotten carried away and revealed the existence of vampires to the world. Fast-forward a few decades and Teaghan was stuck escorting a necromancer on a hunt to appease some live-and-let-live treaty the vampire parliament had signed to end vampire-hunting season.
“Let’s do this.” He jumped out of the car then faced the necromancer.
She sucked in a deep breath before blowing it out and opening her car door. There was a little struggle while she clambered over the duffel bag between her legs to get out. Teaghan didn’t see this as a good start. Every vampire on the property could probably hear the noise she was making. That’s another reason he didn’t like necromancers. He might as well be hunting with a marching band following behind him. Humans didn’t know how to be quiet, not quiet enough so vampire ears couldn’t hear them.
Jeliyah opened her duffel bag and pulled out a gun shoulder harness and a palm-sized pouch. She put on the harness then opened the pouch. Teaghan felt the power the second she opened it. This was the other reason he hated necromancers. Their weapons made his skin crawl. Him and every other vampire on the planet.
Necromancers wielded weapons made of metal and magic using a recipe passed down from vampire hunters of old. Not every human had been oblivious of vampires prior to the outing. A few had turned killing vampires—assassins hadn’t always been rogues—into a lucrative business. The most famous of which were the Van Helsings, who humans had thought were nothing but characters in fiction until people found out vampires and their hunters were real.
The rings Jeliyah took from the pouch and put on her fingers all hummed softly. One ring on each finger, including her thumbs, and two bracelets, one for each wrist.
“Nice hardware. Planning to punch the rogue?”
Jeliyah met his gaze as she pulled her gun and leveled it at Teaghan’s feet. “Activate.” The gun hummed like the rings she wore. “The rings allow me to turn any gun or metal weapon I use into a necrome weapon. I happen to be ambidextrous.”
Teaghan whistled under his breath. Vampires moved too fast for bullets. Most vampires only dodged far enough to avoid being hit, preferring to let the projectile skim past them to show the shooter how useless the weapon was. Close vicinity to a necrome bullet would cause pain and eventual paralysis. Maybe he wouldn’t have to babysit this necromancer after all. “Ready?”
She nodded.
“Good. Where is he?” Teaghan turned toward the woods.
Jeliyah moved to his side. With her free hand, she rubbed the necrome hanging around her neck. “Locate.” She looked one way and then the other before saying, “There are three vampires in the woods. Two with markers and one without. The one without is skirting the perimeter in that,” she pointed to the left, “direction.”
“Fuck. Move your ass, necromancer. Some others are after my payday.” He ran forward but kept his pace slow so he wouldn’t lose Jeliyah. And the last reason he hated necromancers—they ran too slow. “Keep an eye on the markers. Let me know when they get close.”
Two others on the same hunt meant an accident might happen. And by accident he meant someone shooting him in the back to make sure he didn’t get the rogue before they did. Enforcers weren’t the work-together type. Not many people were when money was involved. But those other two had the same problem as Teaghan—they each had necromancers slowing them down.
He glanced over his shoulder and saw Jeliyah keeping pace with him. He sped up and so did she. Good. At least she could run. And the way her tits bounced every time her feet struck the ground was nice too. Oh yeah, he definitely liked this necromancer better than the ones in the past.

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4 Responses to CREAM by Zenobia Renquist

  1. sweetpea122 says:

    Wow a gangsta vampire? Now this should get real interesting!!

    sweetpea122 at rocketmail dot com

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