Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hollow Eyes (Book Two of Salt Lake After Dark) by J. K. Walker Chapter 1

Hollow Eyes (Book Two of Salt Lake After Dark) by J. K. Walker

Three months ago, Jasmine learned she’d been born a snow wereleopard. Since then, she’s been hunted by a serial killer, started dating a hot dhampyr—who’s probably far too old for her—and in general had a crash course in living in a paranormal world. Now she works for the local supernatural council solving problems and running errands, in between university classes.

Just as she starts looking forward to winter break with friends and family—not to mention a little alone time with her boyfriend—a cannibal turns the city’s homeless into its all you can eat buffet and it’s Jazz’s job to stop it. If that wasn’t bad enough, now a berserker is dead set on pounding her into paste. To top it all off, her lover is strangely distant and she has an itch that seriously needs to be scratched.

Can she determine whose eating people in her city, resolve a conflict that’s almost as old as she is, and figure out what’s happened to her and Logan’s relationship, all before Christmas?

For readers 16+

Chapter 1

I knocked, the heavy steel door barely making any noise. After several minutes, when no one had answered, I pounded the door with the side of my fist, hard enough to bruise my hand and shake the door in its frame.
Just a minute!” someone yelled from inside the apartment.
After slamming my fist against the door one more time for good measure, I folded my arms across my chest and cocked my hip to one side, placing most of my weight on my right leg. Only a whisper of sound came to me through the door as someone moved around inside.
Several more minutes later, the door finally opened, and a bare-chested man, his hair still dripping from the shower, opened the door. His scent, under the Irish Spring, was musky, familiar, and decidedly male. I had no idea how he could stand to use such a strongly scented soap. Maybe he didn’t use his nose. He matched the image sent to me by Mitchell, having an ordinary face—neither attractive nor ugly—and the lean physique of a natural athlete. My gaze couldn’t help but glide up and down his taut abdomen before I realized what I was doing.
When my eyes returned to his face, the corner of his mouth was turned up in a knowing smirk. Embarrassment caused blood to rush to my cheeks, and I stammered, “Are you... Mister Johnson?”
The smirk turned into a leer. “Call me... Dick.”
I rolled my eyes. If that’s really your name, your parents need professional help. Looking him in the eyes, I didn’t let my gaze waver. “Could I come in? We need to talk.”
With a casual shrug, he turned and walked into the apartment. Considering that an invitation, I followed, closing the door behind me.
Leaning against the wall, his eyes glided up and down my body—clearly appraising. The look they gave me and the scent of arousal pheromones told me clearly what was on his mind—even if I could ignore the growing bulge in his jeans. “Soooo, what’s your name, beautiful?”
He raised an eyebrow at that and adrenaline joined the musky scent of his arousal. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly before the confident smirk returned to his lips. “Would you like a drink? Coke? Beer?”
Beer, this early? Are you hoping it will cause my panties to fall off?”
The confident smirk turned into a lecherous grin, his eyes gliding up and down my body.
I looked at the ceiling, thinking, Why me? before meeting his eyes again. “I’m just here to talk.”
With the twitch of one strong shoulder, he pushed off the wall and turned towards the kitchen. “Well, I could use a Bud.”
I moved to follow. “Look, I—”
Before I could finish, he kicked out behind him. His foot took me in the abdomen, driving the air from my lungs in a whoosh, causing me to stagger back into the wall. Gasping, I tried to catch my breath, but Dick didn’t give me a chance. I felt, more than saw, him move and sidestepped at the last moment. The crash echoed through the apartment. Wood groaned, splintering as his fist smashed one of the wall studs into kindling and making me extremely glad it had been the door and not my face.
Wiping drywall dust out of my eyes, I jumped into the air, kicking off the wall. Bringing my right hand down and across, my fist slammed into the side of Dick’s skull, backed by my full body weight and every ounce of strength I could muster. His head snapped back, and he spun almost a full circle before he tried to stagger away from me. Growling viciously, I spun, whipped around, and threw a back kick into his chest.
Dick flew almost ten feet across the room, smashing through the flat screen television before finally coming to a stop against the far wall. Knuckles popping, I clenched my fists and stalked across the room while he tried to untangle himself from the broken electronics and wires.
I just came here to talk to you.” My voice was at least two octaves deeper than normal, more of a growl than words. “And you go and kick me!”
Throwing off the last of the destroyed TV, he held his hands up and out. Our eyes met and he looked down and away, submitting to my dominance. I couldn’t help the smile that turned up my lips at that. “Fine, what do you want to talk about?” he asked.
His posture was submissive, so I relaxed and the moment I did he broke into a run, heading into the kitchen. Where the hell is he going? He’s on the second floor, there’s no back— The sound of shattering glass answered that question.
Oh hell!” I spat, darting into the kitchen after him. He only had a moment’s head start, but he’d made good use of it. Catching the scent of blood, I glimpsed red on the new-fallen snow as I stepped out to the balcony. Without thinking, I sprang onto the railing and leaped to the snow-covered parking lot below. The impact shot through my calves and my ass as my feet slid out from under me, hitting the ground hard.
A vehicle door slammed as I pushed myself to my feet. Way to look stupid, Jazz.
My eyes darted left and right as I tried to find my quarry. A powerful V8 engine roared to life, and I dove to the side as a large ‘80s Blazer careened toward me. Rolling to my feet, I barely stayed out of its way. Coughing, I spat out the filthy snow, the taste of oil and asphalt fouling the slush. Road-flavored Slurpee, yuck.
Our eyes met, and I bared my teeth with a growl. Dick threw the truck into gear, the tires whirring as they spun on the frozen pavement. I took a step forward, the Chevy catching traction and squealing toward me. Purely on instinct, I leaped strait into the air. My right foot barely touched the roof—Michael Jordan eat your heart out—and I twisted, trying to find purchase on the slick metal surface as the SUV continued to move beneath me. Sliding off the back, I landed lightly on my feet and stared at the tail lights of the truck. My mind reeling at what I’d just done, it took me a moment to realize Dick was getting away.
The Blazer spun, and I gave chase, catching the bumper before it got out of the parking lot. My shoes slid across the slick ground; it was all I could do to hold on. One of the other residents chose that moment to pull into the apartment parking lot. Dick was utterly out of control, and there was nothing he could do to avoid the impact, the large truck smashing the small Honda out of the way with the sound of squealing metal and the crash of breaking glass. Losing my grip and my footing, I rolled across the sidewalk before finally coming to a stop. I just lay there, trying to catch my breath.
Why can’t anything be easy?” I asked, staring at the cloudy, gray sky. “I don’t get paid enough for this shit.” Hell, you really should get paid something before spouting clichés.

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