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Hoodwinked (The Demon Exchange Series Book 1) by Beth Hendrix (1)

1

About twelve years ago, all the paranormals showed their true natures to humans. It was pure chaos for a few years until the Paraoffice opened.

It was so cold out and all I could smell was stale booze coming from the bar that I was walking in front of. It was late, but there were still people stumbling about. I was in downtown Louisville, where the nightlife was banging. Why I thought hunting in the heart of the city, in the dead of winter was a good idea was beyond me. But there was a vampire somewhere out there, killing in my town. So they called me in...

“Alex!”

I turned to see who was yelling out in such a panic. There, up against the side of the wall, a vampire had its prey. Another body I could only assume was her boyfriend was lying in a heap further up the alley. I creeped in closer as the smell of garbage hit me in the face from the dumpster that was on the other wall of the dingy alley. I had to hold in a squeal as a rat scurried by my foot. Luckily, I had bought an invisibility charm from the local coven, so I was good to go in silently. I took a moment to study my target. He was average height for a vampire. Most were usually tall and slim. He had wild, blonde hair, and if my eyes were seeing correctly, it had red speckles throughout it. I wonder where his last victim was because there wasn’t enough blood for these two to have caused the splatter in his hair. I slowly removed my stake from its holster on my hip and inched forward. As I drew closer, I could hear the faint slurping sound that always grossed me out when I was close enough to hear them. I would probably attack random people too, if I sounded that bad when I ate. I swear, some vampires are just lazy eaters.

When I was almost to him, my feet decided they wanted to give away my position. I tripped over some cans that had been left on the pavement, smashing my invisibility charm and dropping my stake in the process. Maybe he was too caught up in eating to have heard me? Landing on my hands and knees, I took a second to breathe before looking up into the red eyes of a now super angry vamp. This had been a bad idea.

“I don’t suppose you can pretend this didn’t happen. Could you?” I asked.

Unfortunately, the vampire did not share my sense of humor. He jerked me up by my neck and yelled, “Who are you? And why are you here?”

“Would you believe me if I said I was out for a walk?”

I was hoping to stall him long enough for me to shimmy the knife out of my front pocket. The smell of his breath right now was enough to make me want to toss my cookies all over him.

“Tell me who you a–” he hissed menacingly through his fanged teeth.

Before he could speak that last word, I had my knife out, stabbing him in the gut. He stared, astonished that I hadn’t just allowed him to continue to question me. The poison on my blade was fast acting and could have a supernatural creature completely immobile in sixty seconds. As the poison made its way through his system, he just continued to stare at me until he lost the ability to stand. I would like to say I was graceful and didn’t land on the ground like a sack of potatoes when he dropped me. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I did.

Standing back up, I wiped off my blade and put it back in my pocket. These pants had been specifically made for my weapons with a hip holster for my stake and specialty pockets for the knives I wore. I also had a sheath for my katana down the middle of my back. Many at the office thought it was overkill and not good for undercover jobs. But since I had long, thick hair, it hid the handle of the sword. With my jacket on and my hair down, no one would notice it was there unless I wanted them to.

I found my stake up against the wall beside the victim, who was so blissed out from the vampire’s bite she had yet to move. After checking for a pulse to make sure she was still alive, I checked on her presumed boyfriend. He had a pulse, so hopefully he would be fine. I made my way back over to my paralyzed prey. As I stood over the vampire who had killed twelve humans, I felt no pity. His eyes showed no remorse for what he had done and I knew without a doubt that he would tear me to pieces if I gave him the opportunity. I might not have a lot in my life, but I did protect my city. I took the stake in my hands and plunged it deep into his heart. Dust flies everywhere when you kill a vampire and he went up in a big poof of ashes. Nasty things. I can’t even kill one without it messing with my sinuses.

Speaking of him being dead, I should probably call this into Paraoffice. My bosses police all supernatural beings. If a paranormal steps out of line they send in the hunters. However, all the different species still stick with their own kind. It was very rare to see multiple species in one place for very long; because of the bad blood between the different factions. Humans are a totally different story though. They usually fall into one of three categories: paranormal haters, groupies, or express a complete lack of interest.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed the number to the Paraoffice.

“Paraoffice. Janet speaking,” said the operator. “Hey, Janet. Gwen here. I need to speak to Derrick.” I began thinking about Derrick. He had started off as a hunter, same as me, but was now my boss. The giant kiss ass had worked his way up to head of the Hunter Division. He and I had a small fling back in his hunter days, but he was way too insecure and controlling for me to date. He has curly red hair, bright green eyes and pale skin, reminding me of the sexy Scottish men you always see on the romance novel covers. He was super hot though, so he’s still in line for the occasional booty call. I wonder if I could talk him into wearing a kilt?

“This is Derrick.”

“Hey, Derrick, I found that vamp that has been killing. I took care of it. I have two victims out in the alley behind the Black Horse Bar. Both victims have a pulse, but one is unconscious and the other is blissed out of her mind. We need a clean up crew and ambulance.” Our clean up crews consisted of a healer and a vampire. One to heal and another to wipe the victim’s attack from their mind.

“Got it. Maybe we could get together later?”

I hung up the phone, wishing I could hit him in his face with it, then I started the walk back to my bike. There's no way I’m going down that road tonight. I really need to end the booty call thing with him. I’m single though and my battery operated boyfriend does get old after a while. I’m just so sick of his I own you attitude. He tries to act as if I’m his property and I can’t handle that. It does nothing but piss me off. The sex is good though as long as he keeps his mouth shut, which is rare. Another good reason that I’m trying to keep from going back to him. I’m not wasting anymore time on Derrick tonight, though. I have more important things to do – like buying doughnuts as a treat after the night I just had.

Heading towards my bicycle, I realize, it’s the one thing I absolutely loved more than junk food. I have a vintage muscle bike. It’s chrome with big wheels and a banana seat. When I had first gotten it, it had been a bitch to get on and off because of the height, not to mention to learn how to control it. Then, I rarely rode it to the job because I was learning how to ride. Now, it’s a wonder I’m not in perfect shape with as much as I bike and work out. However, my love for junk food overcomes any benefits of the “stay in shape” variety.

I’m average height and build for a woman but I could never be stick thin. My love for chocolate and doughnuts makes sure of that. Yum… chocolate-covered doughnuts, cream-filled doughnuts, or strawberry glazed doughnuts. Damn, how can a person choose which type to eat when there were so many? Lost in thought about how I could make it to the doughnut shop before they closed and which type I wanted, I was hit by what felt like a train. Only seeing black I fell to the ground. What the fuck?

“Ugh,” groaned whatever it was that had landed on top of me. When the weight was lifted, I finally opened my eyes. Hovering above me was probably one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen in person. He had piercing blue eyes and long blonde hair that made me want to run my fingers through it.

“Are you okay?” he asked, looking down on me.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Can you quit hovering so I can get up, please?“ I replied.

Slowly sitting up off of the dirty pavement, I took a second to brush off all of the dust, and who knows what else, that had gotten on my arms. It took me a second to completely orient myself to what had happened. I would swear I had a concussion, because the man who ran into me smelled like chocolate. Totally drool-worthy.

“Sorry about that. I was out jogging and wasn’t watching where I was going.”

He was watching me with sincere eyes and scrubbing his hand through his silky looking hair. Finally, he reached over and offered me his hand as if I was a damsel that needing saving.

“It happens. You should be careful, though. Someone as big as you could do some damage.” I pushed his hand away as I stood the rest of the way up. He may be good-looking, but I didn’t need his help. Wait? What? Did I really just say that? No wonder I was almost thirty and still single with lines like that.

“My name is Donovan. Could I get you a coffee or something to apologize for running you down?” he said with a smirk, offering me his hand once again.

I know he probably thought I was concussed because I just stared at him dumbfounded for a few moments. There is no way a guy like him would ask me out, and I knew better than to touch him. I knew once I did I would go with him and I had no time for that.

“I would love to, but I’ve got somewhere I have to be. I would say it was nice to meet you, but getting run over is never nice,” I say jokingly. Now I had given myself the out in true Gwen fashion.

“Can you at least tell me your name?” he asked, touching my arm as I was about to walk by him. As soon as he touched me, I could feel the chemistry between us. So I did what any sane female would do: shook off his hold as quickly as I could and stepped back. Maybe getting some space between us would help me rein in my attraction to him.

“My name is Gwendolyn, but most people just call me Gwen. Maybe I’ll see you around.” I turned my head, trying to act nonchalant as I walked off toward the donut shop. Maybe a small part had hoped he would call after me or attempt to keep me talking, but no such luck. Oh well, I don't have any time in my life for a man, even if he did smell like candy.