Thank you also to all the amazing readers who bought The Stubborn Dead, with an added thank you to everyone who pre-ordered Ravenous. And a very special thank you to every single reader who has posted a review of Stubborn and/or Ravenous – I deeply, deeply appreciate that you took time out of your busy day to share your thoughts.
Rachel Miller brought the sharpened tip of the Italian rapier’s blade to rest in front of Kit’s Adam’s apple just as Jon Bon Jovi began hollering the first line of “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Her heart beginning to beat a little faster, she held her position and stared at him, waiting for him to make a move.
Kit dove backward, snickering like a schoolboy.
Rachel sighed, lowering the sword slightly. “How old are you?”
“I’m sorry.” He tried to stifle his glee, his “aw shucks, ma’am” good looks in full effect. “I just can’t take you seriously with that thing.”
“How is it you can’t take me seriously when I’m wielding a live weapon?”
“I don’t know.” He rubbed the back of his head and shrugged. “I mean, I guess it’s a bit of a girlie sword. If you had something with a significant blade on it, like a long sword, I might feel threatened. But then you’d look even sillier–”
Rachel spun around and speared the punching bag hanging from the ceiling in one elegant lunge. She recovered immediately and turned on Kit before he had time to fully comprehend that the blade had pushed clean through the bag as though it had been made of tissue paper.
“What the–?” He stepped back.
She lunged at him, aiming for his head.
Kit ducked with millimeters to spare. Rachel didn’t hesitate, going after him again and again, using the music to maintain an aggressive tempo. Years of competitive swordplay and dodging violent entities for a living allowed her to anticipate and counteract his movements with little effort.
It wasn’t enough.
Opening her heightened sense of empathy, she could pick up that Kit was perturbed but not afraid. They both knew he “wraithed-out” when he was mad. Mention his back-stabbing sister who’d tried to have him killed while he was stuck in his wraith form, and Kit just about transformed on the spot. Rachel had a solid hunch that he would shape shift in reaction to other strong primal emotions, such as fear. If they could nail down the range of emotions that caused uncontrolled shifts, they’d know what frames of mind to tap for controlled changes.
First things first.
“Rachel–what the hell?”
She feigned a strike one way and then sliced from the other. This time she made no effort to miss him. The blade tip nipped across the flesh of his cheek. Blood immediately beaded along the wound.
“Holy shit! Stop it!”
He tried to dive for a nearby dumbbell. She blocked him, her blade seeking out and opening up the softer flesh on top of his reaching hand.
Confusion finally gave way to fear.
The room temperature dipped dramatically.
One more push.
Kit’s back slammed against the wall, his hands raised in a surrender position on either side of his head. A small, red smear bloomed on the wall as the back of his wounded hand swiped across the dusty wallpaper. At the last moment he made an attempt to escape.
Rachel brought the sword to within millimeters of his face in what to her was a very controlled lunge. Kit, though, must have seen his life pass before his eyes.
Human-Kit literally poofed into wraith-Kit.
Or at least he came close. Rachel could have sworn she saw him transform, his body elongating, darkening, edges blurring as he replaced his human body with the otherworldly, cowl-like visage of the wraith. But just as quickly as it started, the transformation reversed, leaving a panting, sweating, wide-eyed human-Kit glaring at her.