Flowers and Fangs (Stake and Dust, Book 2)
Publisher: Twin Star Books
Print: $9.95 Ebook: $2.99
SW ISBN: 9781370998210
Heat index: sensual to stimulating (2 flames) Pages: (about 58k)
Cover Artist: Karen Michelle Nutt (Gillian's Book Covers)
Award: IDA 2nd Place Winner
About the Book:
The Hayeses stake and dust preternatural beings. They do not fall in love with such creatures or so Derek believes until his heart tells him the vampire destined to be staked by one of his siblings, is the only woman for him.
Derek Hayes and his family are preternatural hunters. Stake and dust is their motto, but Derek has a difficult time accepting his sworn duty when Sloane McBride, his ex-girlfriend from high school, is the one he's been sent to eliminate. Once infected from a Nosferatu bite, there is no turning back. Sloane has been bitten and she will eventually change.
It proves a race against time when Derek puts aside his core beliefs and teams up with Sloane. The Nosferatu wants Sloane for his own, Derek's brothers are hunting her, and every second brings Sloane closer to changing into the very fiend they want to kill.
The shadow blocked the porch light for a flicker of a millisecond, but it proved enough to alert Derek Hayes of the vampire's presence. Supernatural presences tended to feed off energy. "He's heading toward the back of the house," Derek whispered into his earpiece as he motioned to his brothers Axel and Wade with a quick flick of his hand.
Axel nodded and jogged around the corner of the house with Wade trailing behind him with his claymore—his sword of choice—gripped tight in his hand.
Over the years, Derek had catalogued over fifty different vampire septs, some more lethal than others. Quite a few could feed off the humans with no ill effect—as long as the vamp didn't lose control, while other vampire bites would insure the human would turn from just one nick of their bloodthirsty fangs.
The vampire Derek and his brothers hunted tonight happened to be from one of the nastier septs called the Nosferatu. They were as mean as they were hideous with long jagged teeth and deep set red eyes. In their true form, they looked more like the black and white horror flick vamps, but they were known to glamour the humans they chose to feed upon. One bite and they were able to work their charm. The victim didn't have to be drained of their blood to be turned by a Nosferatu. Their bite infected the victim like a terminal disease. They were doomed no matter if they survived the initial onslaught.
The vamp had targeted Grift Wilkins and his family. He already killed Grift, his wife, his daughter, and even went after his ex-wife.
As far as they could tell, the vamp infiltrated the family's life by posing as a therapist for the youngest child, Kylie. She was seeing the therapist to help her cope with family issues. How effed up was that? Now the child was dead and so were the rest of the family—except for Kylie's brother who had given them the slip. T. Wilkins—the 'T' standing for Trent or Tim. Unfortunately the details emailed to them by the Preternatural Regulating Bureau hadn't been clear on the guy's name, but they knew the male was in his early twenties, the son of Grift and his ex-wife, Marla. As soon as they took care of T. Wilkins, they needed to dust the Nosferatu that caused this devastating mess.
Derek took careful steps, making sure to keep his handheld crossbow ready. He would only have one chance to get off a shot. If he missed, it could cost him his life. Sweat trickled down the side of his face even though the temperature was a crisp forty-five degrees.
Reaching the end of the house, he leaned against the siding and waited for Axel and Wade to be in position. The paint on the eaves above him were peeling, but otherwise the Wilkins' house was well maintained. It was a two-story home in the midst of charming suburbia, a good neighborhood where most would be thrilled to make their home. Where the neighbors knew each other and probably had a block party every Fourth of July.
He once dreamed of such a life—boring, mundane…normal…
However, he'd been born into the hunter's life without a choice in the matter. The Hayes family hunted down vampires, demons, basically anything that used humans as their playthings…or their meal.
When most children played outdoors with their friends and rode bikes to the park or played some kind of sport, he and his siblings were given years of grueling training to kill Otherworldly beings. He'd killed his first vampire on his tenth birthday; a bloody long battle, but his training had kept him alive.
He had two brothers and one sister. He could rely on all his siblings to have his back, but he was closest to his sister Cassandra…or at least he used to be. A few months back, she'd been sent to the Hamptons to find and kill a vampire from the Oiche Sith sept, but instead she did the stupidest thing imaginable—she fell in love with the blood drinker. A great big no-no. Hunters did NOT fall for their prey. Stake and dust was the Hayes' motto. You didn't invite the preternatural being back to your place for a nightcap. He knew all this, had it drilled into his head the rights and wrongs of a hunter's life, but he still envied his sister's audacity to defy the odds and find love with a creature they all thought incapable of such a feeling.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Now was not the time to think about his sister's life choices. The vamp they hunted wouldn't want to be all nice and cozy. Rip his throat out...yep, but he didn't like to play nice either.
From where he stood, he could see a swing set with a slide and bars. It saddened him to think Kylie Wilkins would never again enjoy an afternoon in the sun. The vamp devoured Kylie Wilkins. Only a pool of blood in her bedroom was left of the little girl. These nasty fellows thought of children as a delicacy and they didn't waste a morsel.
Finally, the familiar static tickled his ear and Axel's voice came through the earpiece.
"Ready to stake and dust," he replied.
"Let's do it on three. One…two…Go," Axel's war cry caused his ears to ring. He really wished his brother wouldn't do that. He charged, too, expecting to see the vamp waiting for them, but the yard stood empty. He met his brothers' gazes from where he stood. Axel in his leather jacket and lethal glare, made him look like a leader of a motorcycle gang, wicked guns, broadsword and all. Wade sported a black Stetson that had seen better days, worn out jeans, T-shirt with the logo of some country band he'd gone to see, and a pair of snakeskin cowboy boots. Country singer came to mind. Well, all except for the lethal claymore he gripped in his hand instead of a guitar. No doubt he sported daggers and other weapons in his jean jacket.
He shifted his gaze, searching for any sign of where the vamp hid. The creature had to be near.
When they arrived at the Wilkins' home, they found the vamp in Kylie's room, rummaging through her drawers. Most likely hunting for a souvenir to take back to his nest, a memento of his successful kill.
No, the vamp hadn't left. He wouldn't leave without what he came here to retrieve.
A whoosh of wind blew the ends of his hair off the base of his neck. "Look alive, bros," he warned his brothers as he spun in the direction, he believed the vamp to be, with his weapon ready to shoot.
"Holy effin' hell," Wade cursed. His Stetson no longer sat upon his head, but lay a few feet to the left of him, but Wade knew better than to let this distract him.
The vamp toyed with them, flitting in between them like a ghost before hiding in the shadows.
The chains clicking like wind chimes drew his attention to the swing set. The swing blew in the breeze. He narrowed his eyes and shifted his gaze toward the large oak tree, the vamp sat no more than a few feet away among the foliage and flowers. Two glowing red eyes peered back at him. "Gotcha." His forefinger pressed on the trigger and the arrow flew.
The vamp bellowed and stumbled forward. Derek didn't waste any time and loaded another arrow, but the vamp had already dislodged the weapon from his shoulder and flitted.
"Behind you," Wade shouted.
Derek heard his brother's warning as he swung around to fire off another shot. The vamp stood a foot away with his hands outstretched and his fangs a nasty length meant for tearing. If he'd been a millisecond slower, he would have been this vamp's next victim. The vamp fell to his knees then face forward, landing hard. He had hit the vamp's heart, paralyzing him, but the creature was far from dead.
Derek rolled his left shoulder to loosen it up. Too bad the legends had it all wrong. A simple stake to the heart didn't dust a vamp; the wood only immobilized it. To truly kill a blood drinker, they had to relieve it of its head. This took a good deal of muscle, but once done the blood drinker literally turned to ash. Yeah, dust to dust, ashes to ashes…yada yada yada…
"Do you want to do the honors or shall I," Axel leaned on his sword, waiting for his reply.
"I'm good. Go for it."
Axel strode forward and rolled the Nosferatu over. The vamp snarled and snapped its jaws. He wished the stake through the heart rendered the vamp's vocal chords, too.
"Don't think this is over hunters," the vamp spat.
"Damn, it is an ugly bastard," Wade grimaced. He placed his hat on his head.
"Where is Trent Wilkins?" Not that Derek expected the vamp to be forth coming, but life sometimes was full of surprises.
"Trent?" It snickered. "Double the trouble." It chortled again. "His gal is a real pal, too."
Derek exchanged glances with his brothers.
"Just off the wanker." Wade bored easily, but it would be better to hear what the fiend had to say first.
"So Trent has a girlfriend?" Derek asked.
"Girl, yep. Friend, yep." Then he laughed again and gurgled up blood when he chugged his spit wad. "Double the trouble." He paused then and sniffed the air. He leveled his gaze on Axel. "You smell different, hunter."
Derek frowned and stared at his brother. Axel didn't answer, but lifted his sword and brought it down with one swift move. The head rolled to the side, still grinning. It cracked, shriveled then disintegrated into a pile of ash, seconds before the body followed suit.
A screech from behind them, made them whirl around to see a young male, early twenties and no doubt a vampire with his fangs showing. He was perched on the roof of the patio cover, glaring—his eyes glowed stoplight red.
"Trent Wilkins," Derek murmured. Had to be. What other vamp would be so put out that the Nosferatu met its death. He hadn't expected the guy to be hanging out with his maker, but perhaps the vamp was teaching his new recruit how to hunt for prey.
"You're dead!" Trent screeched as he leapt off the roof, sailing through the air like a bat taking flight.
Wade did the honors and his dagger flew from his fingertips, hitting Trent squarely in the chest, right where his vampire heart lay beneath. The newly made vamp fell to the ground mid-flight like a stone effigy.
They strode over to the last remaining Wilkins. He looked momentarily stunned as if he couldn't wrap his mind around why his brain worked and his limbs had taken a snooze.
"So who's your girlfriend?" Wade asked. "Did you turn her, vamp?"
Trent blinked then snarled. "Go to hell."
"I'll consider the holiday if you cooperate." Wade sat on his haunches next to the vampire and rifled through Trent's pockets. He retrieved his wallet and stood.
"Give that back," Trent demanded.
"In a moment, vamp. We want to take a looksie." Wade pulled out the driver's license. "We have a winner, boys. This is Trent Wilkins." He leafed through the other compartments of the wallet. "Twenty dollars." He pocketed the money, which had Trent cursing and snarling all over again. "And…" He held up a photo with a frown.
"What's wrong?" Axel asked and Wade handed him the photo.
"Oh, hell." Axel then thrust the photo to Derek.
Derek stared at the photo. One female, Trent and… another Trent? "He has a twin?"
Trent chortled. "My brother will wipe your—"
Wade pressed his boot into Trent's windpipe. "Shut the eff up. If anyone's doing anything, it's us. Got it? Blink if you got it," he demanded.
Trent's eyelids closed and reopened.
"Good." Wade removed his boot and let the vamp breathe again. "Now if you help us out, I just might see fit to let you go."
Trent licked his lips. "You'll let me go?" he asked.
"I said I might, didn't I?" Wade tipped his hat back on his head.
Trent was silent for a moment, processing his options and coming up with one. "Tim's my brother and his girl is Sloane McBride."
Derek's gaze narrowed onto the vamp with renewed interest. Sloane McBride? He'd known a Sloane McBride in high school. Thick dark hair, light eyes, kissable lips… His breath hitched at the thought of her, but really, what were the chances that it was the same girl? Crap, he really hoped it wasn't. He really liked her. He had kissed her… more than a few times. He shifted his weight uncomfortably and focused his attention on Trent's next words.
"Don't know if my brother has changed her or not," Trent rambled on.
"We'll need an address," Wade said.
Tim didn't have the street number, but he had the street name, the color of the house and the name of the dog. Good enough to roll.
Wade turned toward Axel who stood leaning on the hilt of his broadsword. It was an ancient weapon belonging to a highlander back in the sixteenth century. Axel kept it in good shape and extra sharp. "He's all yours." Wade stepped aside and Axel took his place.
"Hey, you said you'd let me go." Trent's voice held a note of panic.
"I said I might consider letting you go," Wade said with a grin. "I considered… Ain't goin' to happen."
Trent's fangs lengthened as Axel brought down the sword. Trent's mouth opened in a silent scream before crumbling into dust like his fallen master. Axel wiped the sword off on the grass.
Derek eyed his older brother, Axel. He'd become distant in the last few months. Granted he wasn't much of a talker in the first place, but now more often than not, he kept his time with them at a minimum. "So what do you think the vamp meant by you smelled different?" Derek smirked.
Axel's gaze riveted to his in alarm before he concealed it with a smart mouth response. "How in the hell am I supposed to know how the vamp thinks? Maybe he didn't like my cologne."
"Yeah, Ode to Motor Oil ain't a big seller," Wade teased.
Axel turned on Wade. "Well, Waddel," he drew out Wade's full Christian name. No one called him by that name unless they expected a punch in the nose. "Perhaps the vamp—"
He didn't have a chance to finish his intended insult, which was probably as juvenile as Wade's comment. Wade shoved Axel, making him stumble back, but Axel managed to stay on his feet. He went after Wade, tackling him to the ground.
Derek frowned. He expected Wade to be a hot head, but usually Axel kept his temper in check. Something was going on with him, but unfortunately the bro wasn't into sharing. "I really hate to break up playtime, but we still have a vamp on the loose and possibly a second."
Both brothers stopped their grappling and glared at him.
"You're right." Axel shrugged off his anger and rose to his feet. Wade grumbled, but he reached for his hat and weapons and also stood.
"We need to check out the girlfriend's house," Axel said. "See what we find."
"I'll go," Wade volunteered.
"Good." Axel nodded. "Take Derek with you. You don't know what will be waiting there. I'll stay here. Tim's still out on the loose and if he's not at his girlfriend's place, he might come back here to find out what happened to his brother and his maker."
Ms. Nutt has created a wild and wicked ride in “Flowers and Fangs”. The character development is outstanding and the depth and emotion she is able to convey makes it easy for readers to quickly get lost in this story. The plot isn't totally unique but it is fast paced and has an even tempo. Although unclear of where and when the story takes place, it develops nicely over time. Perhaps the scene is better set in book one of this series. Reading it first may give readers a better grasp, otherwise this book stands alone. Those who may not be big fans of paranormal and other worldly beings may be surprised by the enjoyment and relationships created in this read.