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The Warrior Vampire

By:Kate Baxter

near Paul and his antiquated bullshit, and rented a house ten or so miles out of town. That way, when she needed space—like tonight—she had a secret haven in which to lay low. Only Santi and her cousin Luz knew about the house and that’s the way it was going to stay. Naya could trust them to keep her secrets.

With the switch on the back of her steering wheel she searched for an appropriate radio station. She found one that echoed her mood, all deep bass drops and screaming techno beats. Against the backdrop of night, blue and red lights flashed, reflecting off the wet street. A group of greasy-looking guys sat on the sidewalk, handcuffed, their heads hanging and water dripping from their lank hair into the gutters at their feet.

Criminals, more than likely.

And they deserved whatever those cops dished out.

Didn’t they?

The voice of reason scratched at the back of her brain, Yes. They did.

Naya brought her hand up and rubbed her sternum, wondering at the sudden twinge in her chest. Probably nothing more than a little residual mojo left over from the repo. The pain increased from mild annoyance to sharp, pounding, fuck me pain. And then, the music began to play.

Not the radio. But the music only she could hear. The siren song that was the essence of magic in use. Only a bruja could hear it. And it wasn’t an acquired skill. All of the women in her family had heard the sounds of magic since their birth. As fate may have it, she was one of only two living females in her family line. Which was why Paul had such a bug up his butt about her skipping tribal functions. In fact, she had a sneaking suspicion he was antsy to get her good and mated. And breeding a new generation of “ears” for their pod.

Lilting notes tugged at her chest, high, tinkling, and delicate followed by deep, hollow echoes. Whoever was using was close. And packing. Definitely not an amateur like the woman Naya had killed earlier in the night. This user had street cred and enough power to make not only Naya’s chest ache but her ears ring also. She lost focus of everything around her, the magic enveloping her senses until only the ringing cadence of its presence remained. Her vision blurred, the wet pavement becoming nothing more than a smear across her eyes. Shit. Those cops weren’t too far back; they’d notice if she swerved all over the rain-drenched road.

She eased her foot down on the brake, slowing to a cautious but not suspicious speed. Nostrils flared, she dragged in lungfuls of breath and expelled them slowly through parted lips. In through the nose, out through the mouth. She focused on the act of breathing in a futile attempt to curb the sensory deprivation caused by the magic’s song. Tears sprang to her eyes at the beauty of the tune. So perfect and pure, only to dive into a raucous, offensive noise that made her brain pound in her skull. What in the hell is going on?

By small degrees her vision cleared and the road came back into focus. Two repos in one night—almost unheard of—especially so close to each other. She’d popped the first mapinguari in a back alley not far from here. Maybe two or three miles.

Alarms sounded in her brain, caution flags flying high. The possibility for disaster imminent. But the power seeking her out was too great to ignore. No way could she turn her back. Not because she had any great sense of responsibility. But because if she ignored it, an innocent might be hurt. And no matter how divided her loyalty to her pod had been lately, she couldn’t allow another demon to be born of malicious magic tonight.

As soon as she was sure the cops couldn’t see her, Naya flipped the car around in the middle of the four-lane road. Right in front of a no U-turn sign. Heh. She retraced her route for a block and when her vision began to blur again she knew she was close. Pulling into an empty parking lot, she killed the engine and gripped the steering wheel while she took a few more deep breaths and centered her own energy. No use going out half-cocked. Trouble was, no matter how she focused, the meditation didn’t bring her an ounce of calm. She slipped out of the car, stumbling in the parking lot as she felt her way to the hatchback. As she pulled the latch, the door silently glided up and another wave of crippling sound caused her muscles to lock up. If she didn’t get to the abuser soon, the magic could level the entire block. Unchecked power had a way of backfiring in the wrong hands. Or causing a shit-ton of chaos in the right ones. Either way, it was a lose-lose situation.

She shook off the paralyzing effects of the magic’s influence and dug through the case she kept stashed in the cargo area. No way could she have hauled all of her gear in a little coupe. The case was more like a shallow trunk, with drawers and removable trays. At the very bottom of her arsenal, Naya found the ammo she’d been looking for. Though she wasn’t opposed to using real bullets when the situation called for it, the SIG had been modified to shoot rubber slugs. Great for stoppage. She didn’t shoot to kill, especially if she didn’t have a clean shot. That’s what the dagger was for.

The blade pre-dated history. Glowing citrine bright and ever sharp, it disappeared into an obsidian handle wrapped in old, oiled leather. Like an extension of her arm, the dagger was precisely balanced as if forged specifically for her height, weight, body construction. And when she held it in her hand, Naya felt a surge of power that nearly knocked her off her feet. It was a killing weapon, a ceremonial tool, and the only thing that could extract the magic from the heart of the thief. Magic was a fickle bitch, and if you didn’t follow every rule to the letter, well, you might as well kiss your ass good-bye.

She tucked the SIG into her waistband and held the dagger with a death grip. The target wasn’t far off. She sensed a wave of power from the far side of the parking lot toward the rear of the abandoned ret