Read the first chapter of Marked by Sin for FREE!
In an alternate London, where ancient Hindu gods rule, one woman holds humanity’s fate in her blood-stained hands…
Have you heard about the new Hindu mythology-based urban fantasy series I'm releasing with Debbie Cassidy this year? The first book is out next month, and since that's a long way off, I've decided to give you guys a little taste by posting a new chapter of the book each week until release day.
Marked by Sin is the first in a trilogy, so if you want it delivered straight to your Kindle on June 15, click HERE to pre-order it on Amazon. Otherwise, scroll down to read the first chapter! And don't forget to comment when you're done and let us know what you think. <3
“You bitch!” the bouncer yelled, clutching his nose and stumbling back into the club door. Blood gushed between his fingers, unable to be contained by the meaty hand covering his face. “I’ll have you arrested for this!”
“I don’t think so,” I pulled a handkerchief from my dress pocket and calmly wiped my knuckles. Punching a six-foot, two-hundred-pound gorilla in the face probably hadn’t been the best idea. Men didn’t like being shown up by a woman, and he’d hold a grudge against me until the end of time for humiliating him in front of the long queue waiting to get into the club.
But then, if Mr. Tall, Dark, and Thuggish hadn’t wanted his face rearranged, he should have kept his hands off my assets.
The head bouncer strode out of the club entrance and took in the scene. “What the—” He hauled his colleague up by the collar. “What the fuck did you do?”
The bouncer glared at him. “She broke by nose,” he said thickly.
I wiped the blood off the top of my dress. “He grabbed my arse.” Good thing my outfit was black, or I would have done a lot more than break his nose. This dress had been expensive.
The head bouncer, Bunty, shook the guy. “We do not grope the patrons.” He shoved him away. “Get the fuck out of here. You’re fired!”
The recently unemployed bouncer stumbled away, still covering his mashed-up nose. “Fuck you!” He turned his furious gaze on me, as if he were thinking about giving a little tit for tat. My hand drifted unconsciously toward the dagger strapped to my thigh under my dress.
Not that I would use it against him. The dagger was for targets, not for stupid thugs. But I liked to reassure myself that the weapon was there, just in case.
“Don’t even think about it,” Bunty growled, stepping toward the guy. “I’ll have a constable here before you can blink.”
The ex-bouncer’s face blanched, and he turned and legged it. Several of the waiting patrons protested loudly as he barreled through them, and a woman in a white fur stole shrieked as he got blood on her. I smirked. Served her right. The cow had been looking at me earlier as if I’d been the troublemaker.
Bunty sighed, scratching the back of his bald head. “Sorry for the violence, Malina. He was a new hire.” He held out a hand, gesturing for the bloodied tissue I clutched. “I’ll get rid of that for you.
“Thanks.” I handed it over, offering him my sweetest smile. “Don’t worry about it, Bunty. Wasn’t your fault.”
His shoulders relaxed. “Have a fab night, Malina.”
He stepped aside to let me enter the club.
I checked my coat in with the gum-popping, kohl-abusing attendant, then slipped through the elaborate arch into one of the hottest spots in London. The noise enveloped me with its varying cadences. The clash of competing perfumes masked the heat of body odor. My heightened senses went into overdrive as I worked to control the overload. This was background noise, nothing more. The scents and clamor dulled enough to bear. What I wouldn’t give for takeaway food and Saturday night television—my go-to activity when not on the job. But my life as an assassin made it way too easy to disconnect from the world. Socializing was the only way to stay grounded, to pretend I was normal.
As if slitting throats wasn’t just a regular day on the job for me.
I pushed through the throng of writhing, bopping bodies—the bass beat traveling up my limbs to settle in my head like a second pulse—and scanned the room for my friends. Whatever Carmella and Aaron had planned, it better be worth missing my favorite game show. Breaking free of the worst of the crowd without being fondled was a feat. Carmella’s silver-blonde head came into view as she leaned over the bar. Her skirt rode up, exposing tanned thighs as she spoke to the bartender. A nearby group of guys nudged each other and ogled.
My friend peeled herself off the bar. “Malina!” She threw her arms around me in an overexuberant gesture, enveloping me in a cloud of Gucci Rush. My nose twitched in reaction to the overpowering fragrance, and I held back a sneeze. Carmella would kill me if I sneezed all over her dress.
The bartender caught my eye over Carmella’s shoulder.
“How much has she had?” I asked.
“Enough.” He pushed a Cosmo my way and set a bottle of water on the bar, jerking his head toward Carmella. “She needs to drink that.”
I extricated myself from her death grip and handed her the bottle. She pouted but took a swig. Satisfied she was hydrating, I sipped my drink, ignoring the leering lads hovering around the table to our left.
“Where’s Aaron?” I asked.
“On the dance floor, being a slut.” Carmella pointed in the general direction.
Aaron was grinding with a petite brunette under the spinning strobe lights. He looked up, as if sensing my presence, and shot me a saucy grin. I raised my glass. Aaron was a slapper, no two ways about it—a different girl every week, sometimes two in the same week. Where did he get his energy? Just hearing about his conquests, sometimes in lurid detail, was exhausting. If only my love life could be as colorful, but relationships meant disclosure, and disclosure meant having to lie about who I was and what I did for a living.
“So what was the big deal about coming out tonight?” I asked Carmella.
A couple of the guys broke off from the leering group and sauntered over.
Carmella hadn’t noticed yet. “Oh, we just wanted to celebrate—”
“Hello ladies, looking hot.”
The pickup line was accompanied by a flash of fang and the invasive scent of cheap cologne. Bloody vamps. “Piss off, dead boy.”
“Oh, honey, this dead boy can make you feel alive.” The younger of the two grabbed his crotch.
“Real classy.” I rolled my eyes. “Get lost before I lose my temper and slap the fangs out of your face.”
Carmella’s fingers dug into my wrist, but I ignored her. Glaring at the young guy, I willed him to take the hint and leave. He was probably the oldest one in the group. Being an entity that could reanimate a dead human body had its perks. The buggers got to pick and choose their skins. The Inter-Entity Pact prohibited them from feeding directly off humans, but not all the bloodsuckers complied, and The Pit—a prison for supernatural creatures, had become flooded with lawbreakers.
Give me a yaksha over a vamp any day, I thought. At least they stuck to their own territories, unlike the vamps, who thought the entire world belonged to them. The itch to do hurt something warred with common sense. Inflicting pain wasn’t worth risking my kill marks. The tattoos were a status symbol among my kind, letting my colleagues know how good I was at my job.
Carmella clearly felt the same way…or at least, she didn’t want to be anywhere near the vamps. She was practically standing on my pretty new boots to get away from them.
The vamp stepped closer. “Oh, come on, there’s no need to be so…hostile.”
Kicking ass in heels was not a problem, but these were brand new, and this dress was not designed for high kicks. Not unless I wanted to flash a little muff. On the other hand, it had been a long time since I’d gotten to blow off steam. Slitting throats and slipping poison into tea didn’t do anything to alleviate pent-up aggression. Those were quiet activities, done from the shadows.
No, what I really needed was a good brawl.
The older vamp sidled closer, his breath sickly sweet with a hint of copper. “You have beautiful eyes…I love women with long hair.” His gaze traveled down my body. “That dress is killer.”
I’d opted not to wear my contacts today, and my natural amber irises always drew attention. He was wrong about the dress, though. It wasn’t killer, but the person wearing it was.
“Did you not hear the words coming out of her mouth?” Carmella asked in her best Chris Tucker impersonation. I smiled my shark smile, and Carmella stepped back, pressing close to the bar.
I inched forward. “You think my eyes are pretty?”
“Oh, yeah, like embers.” He reached to touch my face.
Faster than a snake strike, I grabbed his hand and bent it back. A crack cut through the air. He screamed, falling to nurse his broken wrist.
The younger vamp hissed, his pupils glowing crimson.
“And there’s the demon.”
“You fucking bitch!” He lunged.
I braced myself, ready to counter his attack.
A tingle ran up my spine and settled at the base of my neck as the scent of cinnamon filled my head. The vampire froze, arms raised, hands curled into claws in the perfect parody of a horror-flick zombie. The vamp nursing his wrist stepped out of our personal space as a smooth, cultured voice drifted over my shoulder.
“Go somewhere else. Now.”
The young vampire stumbled back, suddenly released from his mystic freeze, baring his teeth to show his displeasure. Both vamps skulked over to their group.
Carmella stared over my shoulder with a starstruck expression. That girl had it bad.
“Perfect timing as always, Loki.” I turned to face my unnecessary rescuer, preparing for the impact of his presence.
An electric ripple skimmed over my skin, the hairs on my arms standing to attention. Suppressing a shudder, I met his mesmerizing hazel eyes and tried not to lose myself in counting the flecks of gold floating in them. I smiled at the powerful witch, not wanting to expose how he affected me. It took a lot of power to remain independent of the covens, and the energy radiating off Loki was only a fraction of his mojo. His lips curled into a wicked smile, telling me he was in no way fooled.
“Attracting trouble again, I see,” he said.
“Why the heck do you let them in?”
“Because the law is clear, Malina. If bar them, they can go to the authorities and get me shut down. If I let them in and they try to suck on one of my patrons, I get to do some hurting.”
Carmella giggled, drawing Loki’s attention.
“Looking as ravishing as always, Carmella.” He rolled the R in her name, bringing a flush to her skin.
Carmella was striking. Her tanned skin and silvery hair stood out in a crowd, not that she got out much. Being the guild librarian, responsible for the armory and library of artifacts, involved a ton of underground time.
There was no doubt in my mind Loki was drawn to my friend, but for some reason, he always kept a polite distance. Like now, instead of buying her a drink or asking her to dance, he politely excused himself and melted into the crowd.
The spot where the vamps had stood was now empty. Loki’s presence had done the trick.
“I give up,” Carmella said. “He is so not into me.”
“Hey, my favorite girls!” Aaron slid between us and placed his an arm around each of our shoulders, pulling us toward his sweaty torso. “Ready to celebrate?”
“Yeah, what are we celebrating anyway?”
Aaron dropped his arm from Carmella, spun me, and cupped my shoulders. “Your fiftieth.”
“What?” My eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
Carmella eeped again.
Aaron grinned. “I overheard Barrett talking to Constance. The job should be coming in tomorrow.”
I stared, stunned, trying to absorb this monumental development as Aaron flagged down the bartender to get us celebratory drinks. My fiftieth kill was coming in, which meant my fiftieth mark, ascension in the ranks, a huge pay raise, and the chance to get out of my crappy flat on the shitty side of Hackney. I’d been working toward this ever since I’d graduated five years ago. At twenty-one, I’d be the youngest guild member to achieve the honor.
Yeah…so worth missing that game show.
Taking the tall cocktail Aaron passed me, I joined in the toast they gave and took a slug. This dress wasn’t made for fighting, but I could get in some serious moves on the dance floor.
A few hours later, I was back at the bar, eyeing the exit longingly. Aaron had gone off with two women about thirty minutes ago, and Carmella was flirting with a blond hunk next to me who was completely enamored with her. Or maybe it was her low-cut top. Either way, I was sure they’d end up in bed before the end of the night. Carmella was temptation personified, and she usually ended up going home with someone.
I, on the other hand, was pretty sure I was going home tonight. My hard edge repelled most men on an instinctual level. Not that I couldn’t get a one if I was interested enough to let my defenses down—I was attractive in my own way. But there was nobody around who appealed tonight, and that was just fine. My bed and I had a long-standing date anyway.
Once I was satisfied Carmella was in safe hands, I said goodbye and headed for the cloakroom. Visions of a tasty kebab and my bed were dancing in my head when a prickle of awareness danced down my spine. I turned, my gaze connecting with a man a few feet away. An electric thrill rushed through me, and I knew instinctively he’d been watching me. Maybe for longer than I’d realized.
Man, he was huge. His shirt strained across a broad chest and shoulders. Shaved head, sharp cheekbones, and suck-on-me lips. The strobe lights reflected off his eyes, making it impossible to pinpoint their true color.
He stood a few meters to my left, leaning against a balustrade, a bottle of beer dangling casually from his fingertips, except there was nothing casual about that look. I was the sole focus of his attention, and a strange heat flooded my veins just as his nostrils flared. I squared up to face him, and his body tensed. His eyes flashed neon green, his upper lip curling in a snarl.
What the fuck?
My gut twisted, and my pulse kicked up.
He took a step toward me, and I turned and ran.
To be continued…
Want more of Marked by Sin? Check back on the blog next Monday for Chapter Two…and don't forget to pre-order your copy on Amazon today!