Here’s a snippet from Chapter Six of Nightmare City, in which Eden is sent to confront a client’s manifested dream – and gets more than she bargained for.
A nightmare stood on Rodeo Drive. With its heavily muscled neck, the square head, and powerful jaw, it might have been mistaken for a real dog. A giant mastiff perhaps. But the eyes gave it away. I felt the heat of their ruby glow fixed on me, as if the creature knew I had come to eliminate it. No natural animal’s eyes shone from within, like windows into a volcano.
“Hellhound,” my sword named it, mirroring my thoughts.
From its dreamer’s description over the phone, I’d been hoping it was one of the dumb, one-purpose kind of shades – easy to approach and eliminate. Not many shades had the intelligence or self-preservation to run from a shade hunter decked out with an assortment of weapons. But it was clear from the way this creature watched me that it considered me a threat. It wouldn’t stand still while I laid my hands on it and unmade it.
“This one’s going to fight,” Aunt Vy agreed, delighted at the prospect of bloodshed.
“Fine.” Like my sword, I loved a good fight. I rolled my shoulders to loosen up and flipped my long dark braid behind me. “The hard way it is.”
I drew Aunt Vy from the sheath across my back. Her blade pulsed, growing a couple of inches in anticipation, edges turning so sharp they would slice through bone in a whisper second. She sighed in pleasure and settled into my hands like an extension of my arms.
The hellhound bared its fangs with a rumbling growl, eyes fixed on my gleaming blade. Only cobblestones, early morning sunlight, and silence separated us. Thankfully, the curfew had only been lifted half an hour ago and it was too early for the boutiques to be open. The shoppers wouldn’t start rolling in for another two hours at least. I didn’t have to worry much about people becoming collateral damage, which made my job a whole lot easier.
I lifted Aunt Vy into attack stance and walked towards the shade. The growl turned into a vicious snarl. Spittle flew as the beast snapped its jaws. I stared back at it, unflinching. Come and get me, dream spawn.
A ridge of red-glowing spikes snapped up on the beast’s spine. The hellhound broke into a run, charging straight at me. I strode forward, staring into its murderous eyes. Before it got close enough for me to swing my sword, it launched itself into the air and shot towards me like a missile.
I sidestepped and slashed Vy upwards. The beast twisted in midair as if the laws of physics didn’t apply to it, evading the blade by a hair’s breadth. It flew past me and thudded to the ground. Sparks flew from red-tipped claws. Muscles bulged on its haunches as it spun and leaped again. I dropped into a crouch and snapped my sword up. Blood sprayed as Aunt Vy’s tip sliced the beast open from chest to belly. She screamed a curdling battle cry only I could hear as the beast’s hot blood spilled over her hungry blade.
The shade dropped to the ground, deadweight. The red spikes on its back withered and the infernal glow in its eyes sputtered and died.
A howl froze my triumph. I faced the end of the empty street. No shade. I scanned the area, feeling Aunt Vy squirm in my hands in anticipation of more prey.
“We are here!” she screamed. “Come and get us!” The taste of the first hellhound’s blood had been just that for her – a taste, a teaser, a stoker of hunger.
My sword’s fervent prayer was answered by another howl. A second beast bounded into view, jolting to a stop when it saw me. A streak of light crackled to life on its hide, coursing down the length of its body like a bolt of electricity. The bolt leaped off the beast’s skin and zapped a potted zinnia decorating the side of the road. The flower disintegrated in a puff of smoke and the terracotta pot cracked, spilling charred earth onto the cobbles.
Okiday. Better not get in range of that deadly little trick.
Electro-Hound growled and lowered its head, a challenge in its eyes. I raised Aunt Vy who squirmed in my hands.
“Come and get us!” she repeated.
A sound reached my ears. Claws clicking on stone. Lots of claws.
Electro-Hound’s snarl turned into a bark that whipped through the air. The clicking sounds quickened and my heart joined them, beating a wild staccato against my ribs. Please don’t let there be—
A pack of hellhounds charged around the corner of a building.
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