Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Exclusive Peek: Venom by Jennifer Estep


Exclusive Excerpt:

I wasn’t sure how long I lay there on the ground, drifting in and out of consciousness, but the lights pulled me up out of the soft blackness I was swimming in. Red and blue lights swirled around and around far above my head. I squinted into the glare. Someone had parked a dark SUV on the grass a few feet away from me. The vehicle doors opened, and two pairs of boots hit the ground. One set definitely belonged to a man, a giant judging from the size. The shoes were almost as long as my arm. The other pair of boots were decidedly feminine, smaller and smartly cut with a low, sensible heel.

The boots crunched on the frosty grass and headed in my direction, joining the ones of the security guard. I got the sense the three of them were staring down at me.

“Is this how you found her? Just lying there like that?” The woman spoke in a voice that was as light and high and delicate as a set of wind chimes. It would have been a pure, lovely sound if not for the cold, flat resignation in her tone. Mine wasn’t the first body she’d seen. Maybe not even the first one today.

“Yes, ma’am,” the security guard replied. “I was making my usual rounds and called you guys right away.”

Well, now that I had a proper audience, it was time for Gin Blanco to come back from the dead, so to speak. I pulled in a breath and rolled over onto my back. The dull wave of pain I’d been surfing on surged into a tidal wave that threatened to drown me. A low groan escaped my lips, and white starbursts filled my vision again.

Silence.

“You idiot! She’s not dead. Didn’t you check her pulse before you called us?” the woman snapped. “Call the fucking paramedics, Xavier. Right now before she bleeds out.”

Xavier? I knew him. He was the giant who worked as a bouncer at a nightclub called Northern Aggression. Xavier also moonlighted for the Ashland police force on occasion. He wasn’t what I would call a close friend, but he’d probably help me if I asked him nicely enough. And slipped him some money later. C-notes would buy you all the friends you wanted in Ashland.

When I’d pushed the pain back down to a bearable level, I opened my eyes. The swirling police lights on the SUV made it hard to see the three figures, but I still recognized the giant. At around seven feet tall, Xavier was hard to miss with his shaved head and jet-colored skin and eyes.

“Xavier?” I mumbled, trying to move my broken jaw as little as possible.

More silence.

Then the three figures turned to stare at me once more. Probably shocked I could form a coherent sentence, much less actually speak, given the way my face looked right now.

“Do you know her, Xavier?” the woman asked.

A large knee flattened the grass beside me, and a shadow fell over my face, blocking the bright lights. I stared up into Xavier’s dark eyes. The giant’s gaze flicked over my features, trying to see through the blood, bruises, and swelling. Finally, comprehension filled his face.

“Gin?” he asked.

“In the flesh,” I mumbled.

“Do you know her?” the woman asked again.

Xavier nodded his massive head. “Yeah, I know her. Name’s Gin Blanco. She owns the Pork Pit. It’s a barbecue restaurant a few blocks away. Geez, Gin, they really did a number on you, didn’t they?”

“You’re talking to her like she can actually understand you,” the woman said somewhere above my head.

“That’s because she can, detective,” Xavier replied. “Gin’s the toughest gal I know. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking, just like a Timex. Isn’t that right, Gin?”

“Right,” I croaked. “Now, do me a favor.”

“Name it.”

“Call Finn.”

Xavier nodded, pulled his cell phone off the holder on his belt, and flipped open the device. “What’s his number?”

I forced out the numbers, which Xavier punched into his phone.

A few seconds later, the giant smiled. “My man, Finn. It’s Xavier. Listen, I need to talk to you about Gin . . .”

I let myself drift as Xavier explained the situation to Finnegan Lane. After a brief conversation, Xavier snapped his phone shut.

“The man’s on his way. Should be here in about five minutes. He said to tell you that he’s calling Jo-Jo right now, whatever that means.”

I nodded. Jo-Jo was Jo-Jo Deveraux, the dwarven Air elemental who always healed me whenever I got into a rough scrape. Like the one tonight.

“Good,” I croaked. “Now, help me sit up. Please.”

“You really shouldn’t move her—” the female detective started.

Too late. I wrapped my hand around Xavier’s massive forearm, and the giant eased me up into a sitting position. It took me several moments to get my breath back and blink the white spots out of my vision. Once I did, I realized I was the center of attention. While I’d been unconscious, someone had strung yellow crime scene tape around the spot where I’d been lying. A small crowd of late-night students had gathered around the tape like vultures flocking to a fresh corpse. Several of them had their cell phones out, snapping pictures of my battered face to post on the local campus gossip websites.

I squinted against the glare, trying to see if I recognized anyone. I spotted a couple of other coeds from my classic literature class, but that was it. Hardly worth the effort of sitting up. The pain washed over me again, and I would have toppled over from the force of it if Xavier hadn’t been propping me up. Right now, all I wanted to do was lie on a soft mattress somewhere, whimper, and plot my revenge against Mab Monroe, Elliot Slater, and most especially Jonah McAllister. Because the three of them were going to die. By my hand. Sooner, rather than later.

“Xavier, put her back down,” the female detective snapped. “She needs medical attention. Immediately.”

My eyes flicked up, but all I could see of the cop was her navy coat, the longish shag of her blond hair, and the three small rings she wore on her left index finger, which tapped out a quick pattern on her thigh. I would have tilted my head up so I could get a look at her face, if I hadn’t thought the movement would make me vomit blood all over the detective’s boots. Still, despite my limited view, something about the woman seemed familiar. Strangely so. Then again, the way my eyes were ping-ponging back and forth in their sockets, anything that didn’t spin around felt familiar.

“You want her to asphyxiate on her own blood? Trust me. She needs to sit up,” Xavier replied. “Besides, her friend will be here in a few minutes. Gin can hold her own until then. Can’t you, Gin?”

“Oh yeah,” I mumbled. “This is nothing. You should see me on a bad day.”

The detective snorted. “Snappy comeback for a woman covered in her own blood.”

“Oh, that’s me,” I said, staring at her jeans. “Snappy to the bitter, bitter end.”

Against my side, I felt Xavier’s wide chest quiver with contained laughter. At least I was amusing someone tonight.

The detective hitched up her jeans and crouched down in front of me, so we were eye level with each other. I blinked away another round of white starbursts and got my first good look at her.

And my heart stopped.

Longish, wavy, honey blond hair that curled under at the ends. Cornflower blue eyes. Perfect, rosy skin. A full, lush mouth. The detective was a breathtaking woman. But her beauty wasn’t what made my raspy breath catch in my throat and my heart twist in my bruised chest. It was what was on the silver chain she wore around her neck.

A primrose.

A small silverstone rune shaped like a delicate primrose rested in the hollow of the detective’s smooth throat. A primrose. The symbol for beauty. The same rune, the same necklace my baby sister, Bria, had worn as a child.

Bria.

She looked exactly the same as she did in a photo I had of her. And exactly like my memories of our mother, Eira Snow. The only real differences were the hard glint in Bria’s blue eyes and her tight, remote features. Both were more pronounced in person than they’d been in the picture. Bria’s beauty was a cold, guarded one. An elemental Ice queen come to life in every sense of the word.

For a moment, I wondered if I was losing my mind. If I was already dead, and this was just some sort of bizarre dream or final wish fulfillment before the powers that be shipped me off to Hades. A brief, tantalizing glimpse of what I wanted to see most, only to be taken away as quickly as it had appeared.

I drew in a ragged breath and had to spit out another mouthful of warm, slick, coppery blood before it choked me. No, not a dream. A dream wouldn’t hurt this much.

Bria, my baby sister, the one I’d thought was dead for the past seventeen years, the one I’d thought I’d inadvertently killed with my Ice and Stone magic, was here, crouching right in front of me. And all I could do was just stare at her.

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Book Summary:

What kind of assassin works pro bono? 

It's hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.

To the public, I'm Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland's best barbecue joint. To my friends, I'm the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab's right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I'll take my chances. Then there's Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland's finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I'm a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.


Elemental Assassin Books 1 and 2:



Let's not forget the giveaway that's going on. You may also enter the giveaway by making a comment here in this post or by asking Jennifer a question.

And tomorrow, Jennifer will tell us more about the Elemental Assassin series and other stuff. See ya!

8 comments:

force-oblique said...

Oh that's interesting.Thanks so much for sharing. :)

I think I am gonna love these books! They are already on my wishlist! XD

Jennifer Estep said...

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

Anonymous said...

I. Love. It. Two (very long) weeks to go, can't wait!! :-)

lyonsbarb@gmail.com said...

Love this teaser, I am so excited to read the next installment in this great series!

Jennifer Estep said...

Cool. I'm glad you guys are looking forward to the book. ;-)

Pam S (pams00) said...

thank you for sharing the great excerpt. Venom is at the top of my wishlist ;).

Pam S
pams00 @ aol.com

Michelle said...

Thanks so much for that early glimpse Jennifer! I'm suuuppper excited for the release!

Jennifer Estep said...

Pam and Michelle -- Thanks! I hope you both enjoy the book. ;-)

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