The Last Lullaby Excerpt 1

A line of blooders stood before the main building of the country club. They posed in the aggressive manner employed by determined defenders throughout history. There were quite a lot of them, all armed despite the fact that they were blooders, and could have been considered weapons themselves. But I suppose when you faced an army of your own kind, your talents, no matter how impressive, negated themselves.

At the head of this fierce flock stood Cerberus, towering over Banning’s gura. His massive muscles looked a little too He-Man next to the more mundane physiques of the previously human blooders. Cer’s long, dark hair was pulled back in a no-nonsense ponytail, and his even darker eyes were narrowed on the oncoming army. Until he saw me.

Cerberus smiled, an altogether chilling thing to see since it showcased a set of prominent canines that were a little thicker than your average blooder’s. He let out a triumphant howl, and the line of mercenaries paused to look around at what had excited the shifter god. When they saw only me, a woman in a sports car, they went back into attack mode. Obviously I wasn’t a threat.

A guy at the center of the horde paused a little longer than the others, watching me carefully as I sped past him. I had my chosen playlist on pause, my iPod hooked up to the car’s stereo, and I hit the button as I raced alongside the golf course. Music blared: Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark”going into its long intro. I shot up the drive before the club, and pulled the car to a screeching stop right in front of Cerberus.

The door slammed open with my violent shove, and I leapt out. Music blasted out of the vehicle as I jumped on the hood. I could feel the beat of it in my bones, vibrating through the metal beneath my feet. I glanced back at Cerberus and winked, my eyes briefly catching the shocked expression of the man beside him. He was blond and a blooder. Had to be Cer’s friend, Banning. Not that it mattered. I turned back around just as the lyrics began pelting my ears.

I started singing absently as I thought out my battle strategy. I knew I’d have to rein in these mercenaries as fast as possible so that they didn’t make a run for it before I could get to them all. I couldn’t leave any alive to make a second attempt. That’s just sloppy work.

Fire would be perfect for forming a blooder-proof barrier. But I had to work up to it, wait for the words in the lyrics that would magnify my intent. So I started with the poor sods in front. My hand lifted to them as words shot from my mouth like bullets. Aggression blaring in my ears. Tension coiling in my thighs. The stuttering strength of the song cut through the cold air. Every blooder I pointed to exploded as if I’d blown their heads off with a missile launcher.

The crowd behind me started muttering as Cerberus chortled.

“Isn’t she wonderful?” Cerberus sauntered up to lean over the top of the car and watch me work. “An artist. A true artist.” He laid his chin in his palm.

I continued to slam out the vicious verses, ignoring Cer. The song was filling me, becoming a part of my being, and the strength of the spell was rushing around me. A tornado of charged molecules clambering for motivation. Waiting for me to give them a direction. An objective. I felt glorious, powerful enough to make all those mercenaries mine. And I did, I snatched up their minds. Their will. Then I used the next line to vent the brewing musical malice. The blooders before me turned on their companions, and started tearing them to pieces.

“Holy fucking hellfire.” The blonde man moved up beside Cer.

I sensed him there, felt his intense stare on me, but didn’t have the time to look at him. Still, his face flashed in my mind–a picture of aloof male beauty. Strong jaw, regal nose, eyes glowing green in the shadows. Nice.

“I told you!” Cerberus laughed harder as I continued to pour my lyrical rage over the mercenaries. “She’s worth every penny.”

The chorus came, giving me what I needed to manifest fire. I angled my hand flat, bringing it down like a blade with every sharp word. Each slice brought a line of flames surging up around the faltering army, causing many of them to shriek in terror and stumble back into their companions. The hand motions were more for me than the magic, like a conductor directing his symphony. This symphony didn’t need me to conduct it. All the magic required was for me to picture the result I desired, and sing. That was it. So I let my arms fall limply to my sides as I screamed the cataclysmic conclusion to the chorus, and my fiery prison penned the blooders in. The ring closed, and the magic surged through me, responding to the triumph I felt.

“Oh my god, I think I’m in love,” I heard one of the blooders behind me groan.

“Of course you are,” Cerberus called back to him. “For fuck’s sake, I’m rock hard right now.”

The blooder who had watched my approach more carefully than the others rushed forward. He snaked through the terrified mass, but he wasn’t trying to calm them; he was simply trying to reach me. I was obviously his biggest threat, and he was obviously a take-action sort of guy. It had to be Lincoln, coming to kill me before I could slaughter his entire army. It was a smart move, probably the best option available to him. Cut the head off and all that.

Too bad it was useless.

The song turned truly tragic, as if sensing my need. I looked right at Lincoln, directing the destruction at him alone. The merc leader flared up like a torch, blooders pulling back from him in horror. But the bonfire didn’t last long. It burned so hot, so intensely, that it turned Lincoln into cinders within seconds. He exploded into sooty snowflakes, swirling down over his army. Blooders cringed away from the remains, hardened soldiers turning into bawling babies.

The song surged on, and I spread my arms out in welcome to it. It was a confession now. A baring of what I had been born. A show of the hand that life had dealt me, and what I had done with it. What I had become. A creature of nightmares. A sorceress of songs. The villain no one could escape. The lyrics couldn’t be more perfect for me. It was a declaration of pride in my own monstrosity, and a deep, secret fear of it. I let them see me.

And that’s when the real screaming started.

It went on for another two songs, during which I killed every mercenary there in various lyrical ways. The blooders behind me were cheering, some of them singing along with me, and some even mimicked the motions I made. I had blooder backup dancers. Maybe we could take this act to Vegas. A song, a dance, and some magic. We were perfect for Sin City.

By the time I ended the third song, I was trembling, on the verge of passing out. But it was okay; the threat had been eliminated. My fire-oriented playlist had kept the heat up, ensuring that no one escaped, and those within the ring were dead or dying. I let the flames die down as well, until the only illumination originated from the building behind me and the scattered lampposts. The soft glow gently lit a field of corpses, slowly turning into the ash of the undead. One good thing about killing blooders; there was very little clean up involved.

The next song started to play. My shoulders fell in exhaustion. I turned to Cerberus and held my arms out to him like a little girl. Even with me standing on the hood of the car, he was still nearly as tall as I was, and he easily picked up my five-foot-four frame. Cer set me down on the road, but held onto me long enough to make sure I could stand on my own. He gave me a concerned look, blocking my shaking body from the cheering crowd. We never let others see our weaknesses. I nodded that I was all right.

Cerberus gave me a kiss on the cheek, and backed away. “Thanks for coming, El.”

“No problem, honey.” I smirked, then looked at the blond.

“I’m Banning Dalca.” The blooder held his hand out to me.

“Nice to meet you.” I went to shake his hand, but he did that suave, old-school vamp thing and kissed my hand in a way that was so much more sensual than a human could make it.

“Thank you for your assistance, Ms. Tanager.” Banning smiled slowly at me, his eyes lingering over my face.

“Just make sure my payment goes through by tonight,” I said abruptly as I pulled away.

Banning’s eyes widened, and he looked as if he was going to say something more. But I was too tired to deal with him. I needed to get out of there before I passed out.

“I gotta run.” I looked back at Cerberus. “I’ll wait for you at the place, babe.” I spoke vaguely on purpose. The last thing I needed was for an entire gura to know where I was crashing for the night.

“Of course,” Cer said with a smirk, as if we were an item.

I smiled back; it was our routine when some client flirted with me. Cer acted like I was his, and the guy usually backed off. This guy didn’t buy it, nor did he back off. As I slid into the front seat, and turned down the music, Banning Dalca followed me. He leaned in, his eyes fading to mint under the car’s interior light, and gave me a very unsettling look.

“Please don’t leave, Ms. Tanager,” he whispered. “I’d dearly like to speak with you.”

This seemed way past some mere flirtation. It was weird, and it sent chills racing down my spine. The guy was hot, but I didn’t sleep with clients, and I especially didn’t sleep with blooders. Blooders were bad news.

“Maybe another time.” I tried to reach past him for the door handle, but he didn’t budge.

“Please,” he said again.

“Get away from the car, Mr. Dalca,” I said in a dangerous tone.

“Ban,” Cerberus growled. “What the fuck, man?”

“Five minutes of your time.” Banning tried once more.

“No,” I snapped. “Now are you going to back away or do I have to make you?”

“All right, Ms. Tanager,” he sighed, but produced a business card, and stuffed it into my hand. “Please call me after you’ve rested. I promise you, I have the most honorable of intentions.”

“Uh-huh.” I slid the card into my bra. “Thanks; I got it.”