I liked the cover art for this book and the blurb was pretty interesting so here you go! Woot.
Born and raised close to North York Moors, initial setting of American Werewolf in London, one might be excused for thinking K. L. Kerr's interests might lie with those furry beasts. But she has always preferred monsters of the fanged variety, having written the very first draft of her novel, The Genesis, aged sixteen.
When not writing, Kerr can be found playing the MMORPG, World of Warcraft, or listening to music from video game soundtracks. She still lives in the North of England, close to The Moors (keeping to the roads, naturally), with two cats who--like all cats--think they're people.
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This isn’t right, Catrina thought to herself, throwing down another swig of beer without taking her eyes off the man sitting across the table. She couldn’t taste anything except bile clinging in the back of her throat, the only body part bruised more than her ego. Her head still throbbed from its recent encounter with concrete; the music and constant drone from the bar’s other occupants wasn’t helping.
This hole-in-the-wall establishment could at best be called an over-sized rattrap and felt about as pleasant as being in one. Bodies pressed close on the dance floor below, writhing together to the sound of strumming guitar riffs. An amalgamation of cheap perfumes and colognes mixed with alcohol and cigarette smoke in the sweat-slicked air.
He’d chosen a table upstairs, overlooking the dance floor; the tables up here were mostly empty. She wouldn’t have chosen this spot. While it gave them a visual advantage over the rest of the room, it was too far from any exits. After what she’d seen him do, she would’ve preferred easy access to an escape route. And witnesses. Then again, if he’d wanted to kill her, he could’ve simply let her attacker finish the job in the alley.
In return for saving her life, all the tall stranger had asked for was an hour of her time.
He’d already admitted that he hadn’t been there by coincidence, which set her immediately on edge. After assuring her he wasn’t involved with the authorities, an assertion she took on face value for the sake of argument, he claimed to represent an organisation that had been tracking her work for “some time.” Her initial hesitance had already subsided into suspicion, reinforced by his now distant composure and the fact he hadn’t said a word since sitting down.
She couldn’t take his silent stare any longer. “What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t.” His voice was harsh and gravelled, like boulders grinding together. He offered his hand across the table, as though noticing her for the first time. “It’s Fox.”
She shook Fox’s hand out of courtesy but was eager to let go, amazed to get away without broken fingers. “Catrina.”
“I know what your name is.” He picked up his drink—a double shot of whiskey, neat—and dipped the tumbler in her direction before having a taste. “I know a lot about you.”
“You mentioned that already,” she said, fairly sure he was bluffing. No one knew what she did, save for Tony. All other acquaintances—the total of which consisted of her apartment landlord, the staff at her local haunt, and the pizza delivery guy—thought she worked part-time shifts packing boxes in a warehouse.
“I could tell you what I know.” He made it sound like a threat. She spread her arms, wordlessly baiting him to do his worst. “Your name is Catrina Ann Malinka. You are nineteen years old. You despise being referred to as ‘Cat’ and will automatically correct anyone who tries to call you as such. For the last three years, you’ve been working as some sort of ‘gun-for-hire’ for Anthony Gostanzo, the man who fostered you when you were ten.” A lump rose in her throat, as he counted off the secrets of her life with indifferent ease. “Tonight was just another assignment, which I was perfectly content leaving you to get on with, until your gun jammed and your target almost killed you.” He paused to take another mouthful of whiskey, ignoring her gaping jaw. “You’re welcome for that, by the way.” His eyes—dark, like his hair and outfit—danced with the laughter his stern expression failed to show. “I should be expecting a cut from your fee, considering I was the one who carried out the job.”
Catrina overlooked the private information he was somehow privy to, the threat of damaged pride spurning her. “I had everything under control.”
He took out a cigarette. The lighter flame caught a distant gleam, a spark flashing across his eyes so brief and fleeting she decided she must’ve imagined it. “It didn’t look that way to me.”
“Maybe you should’ve left me, then. Now we’ll never know who was right.”
A thin line of smoke trailed through his barely parted lips. “Maybe.”
Despite the sculpted perfection of his face, arrogance was Fox’s most prominent feature.
“You said your people have been watching me for ‘some time’.”
“Are you planning to tell me how long ‘some time’ is, or even why—”
“It wasn’t my people watching you,” he interrupted, tapping excess ash from his cigarette. “It was just me.”
She put up her hands. “Whatever. Why have you been watching me?”
Completely ignoring her question, he said, “I’m going to get another drink. I’ll get you one, too.” He was already walking away. She must’ve still been light-headed from her fall, because she didn’t see him get up.
His presence was a distraction in itself. She leant over the railing, watching him descend the stairs to the ground floor, where the mass of people swallowed him up. His height and pale features were more accentuated within a crowd, but very few paid attention. He didn’t even need to avoid walking into people; they moved aside on their own. The sea of bodies parted for him to pass without acknowledging he was there.
Definitely not right, she reminded herself.
She ran her hand across the small of her back, feeling the reassuring presence of the Beretta handle protruding from her jeans. While in its current state the gun’s uses were limited, its mere presence provided enough reassurance.
Before she had chance to wonder how this complete stranger who she’d never seen before tonight seemed to know absolutely everything about her, Fox returned with another set of drinks.
“Where were we?” he asked, handing over a fresh beer to replace the empty bottle still in her hand.
“You were about to tell me why you’ve been stalking me.”
He lit up another cigarette, handling the flip-lid lighter, which looked older than both of them, with habitual detachment; he must’ve been smoking for years. “I wouldn’t call it stalking.”
“Following a girl around long enough to know the nicknames she doesn’t like?” She folded her arms. “I’m sorry, what would you call it?”
His smile was so slight, barely a smirk; in that brief moment, he appeared somewhat older than the early-twenties she’d initially assumed. “You should just be thankful I was there.”
While she wasn’t about to admit it, she was thankful, confident in the knowledge that she would’ve died out there, had Fox not intervened. That look of equal parts fury and glee in her mark’s rounded face would undoubtedly haunt her dreams for some time.
“Look,” she said firmly, “I’m grateful for the help. Really. But I want you to tell me why you’ve been watching me. Now.” She tried to make herself sound threatening, but she felt like a kitten arching its back and hissing at a lion.
The lion just raised a brow. “And what if I don’t?”
Between the immense strength already demonstrated and the wealth of information he held over her, she realised just how significant her disadvantage was. Before her temper made her retort to the challenge, she did the most rational thing she could think of and rose out of the chair to leave.
She found herself looking at Fox’s chest as she turned. She wasn’t imagining it; he was moving faster than she was. At five foot two, she’d always been considered petite, and in comparison to him—well over six feet—she should’ve felt overpowered. She just stared up at him, blue eyes ablaze, calling his bluff.
He relented. “All right. Sit down and I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
She slid back into the seat without taking her eyes off him, silently revelling in her victory.
“You can start by telling me what you are,” she said. Immediately, his expression hardened, brown eyes becoming cold as steel, mouth thinning into a tight line. Got you, she thought. “What is it? Secret service? Military? Are you genetically engineered?”
“I can’t tell you that,” he replied, taking back his second drink in one mouthful. “Not at this stage.”
This stage. Despite piqued interest at the mystery hiding behind his stony stare, she struggled to keep frustration from her tone as she asked, “So what can you tell me, Fox?”
“That you could become the same thing,” he replied without pause, “if you wanted. That’s why I’ve been charged with watching you. The organization I represent wants to hire you, and they couldn’t do that if you were dead.”
“And that’s what this is about?” She gestured between them. “Is this supposed to be an interview?”
“No.” He crushed out his spent cigarette. “They already know they want you. The job is yours, if you want it.”
She had come across plenty of powerful people in her life, but none had abilities the likes of which she’d seen in Fox. Whether it was some controversial muscle-enhancement drug concoction or military exoskeleton suit, she didn’t much care. A wealth of opportunity spread out in her mind’s eye. Just the idea that she could possess such power made her want to blurt out an acceptance right there and then. But as the thoughts came to her, so too did the guilt, gnawing in her gut and adding fresh stabs to her temples.
“You know all about me, right?” she checked, to which he nodded. “Then you already know what I’m going to say.”
“You need to consider your obligation to Tony, to weigh how much you owe the man who raised you, despite the fact you’ve been all but estranged the last six months. So you’re going to say, ‘Thank you for the offer, but I’ll have to think about it’.”
“I’ll have to think about it,” she echoed, offering no thanks, which earned another slight lip curl from him.
He swept his arms into his coat as he stood. He presented her with a slip of paper, which she unfolded to reveal a handwritten address she didn’t recognise. “Think carefully,” he said from over her shoulder now. She made a mental note to pay more attention while he was in the room in future. “This opportunity won’t come again. If you want to go ahead, be at that address tomorrow night, eight o’clock. If you’re not there, we’ll assume you aren’t interested.”
He’d reached the stairs by the time she turned in the seat. “Wait, that’s it? What about the details? What about the perks? Am I getting in on the company pension scheme or what?”
“We can cover details if you choose to go ahead.” While his expression remained unchanged, another spark in his eyes had the hairs on the back of her neck standing to attention. “You have all the information you need.”
“Right,” she said, glancing down at the paper between her fingers. Even though you haven’t really told me anything about yourself, or the company you represent. There’s “need to know” and then there’s just ridiculous.
She looked up to say this, but of course he was gone, leaving only a faint spice of cologne behind. She slipped her head into her folded arms on the table. The bruising around her neck hurt when she swallowed; it reminded her that while the night hadn’t gone perfectly, at least it wasn’t her last night alive—thanks to Fox.
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