**I want to apologize in advance for any typos. The manuscript is currently in my editor's hands, so my eyes are the only ones that have seen this excerpt. Still, I wanted to share it :)
Madame G must really be pissed.
Agent X swung gently, listening to the incessant drip drip of her own blood hitting the dank cement floor. A narrow slice into her jugular kept the blood draining slowly out of her upturned body.
X didn’t bother to look up at her battered form anymore, knowing full well what she’d see. Naked, bruised flesh, her feet hooked into chains attached to the ceiling in a pulley system. Her arms hung down, barely touching the cool floor where her blood pooled and congealed, until the next set of Agents came in to teach her a lesson.
X affectionately called this form of punishment the piñata treatment. Beat to hell, stripped down and strung up upside down to bleed out slowly, keeping the subject weak and confused as they continued generating enough blood to remain alive. She might be weaker, but as Agent…dude, which Agent was that? K? Z? Ummm…didn’t matter. He got the shit pounded out of him for trying to take advantage of her tortured state. X would tolerate the abuse until Madame G got her panties out of a wad and decided to put X back on duty. She wouldn’t tolerate anyone getting off on her demise.
Unfortunately, X was starting to think her dark mistress was holding a real grudge. One where she might decide having indomitable Agent X around wasn’t worth wondering if she was playing for Team Sigma or Team Kill Madame G.
How long had she been strung up? Roughly one beating a day, let’s see – X counted seventeen beatings so nearly three weeks of punishment. Three weeks of hanging upside down, waiting for the next beating, enjoying getting hosed off with frigid water so she could repeat the process. Either Madame G forgot about her (doubtful) or she was waiting for a moment that was not in X’s best interest.
Normally, subjects got lowered to get a proper kick-and-break-all-your-ribs, take a boot-to-the-face treatment before getting fed, but X was too risky to lower any longer than to eat. As Agent S found out – Yes! I knew I’d remember! – even hanging by her shapely ankles, bleeding out, she was a force to be reckoned with.
Not for much longer. Being held prisoner for weeks, she hadn’t had time to feed and oh yeah, there was no one safe to feed from around these parts anymore. Her partner, Agent E, had made his escape to freedom with his wife and kid. He’d been her primary blood source for over ten years after finding out her dual species secret when he’d been thrown in a room to defile her.
That day was the end of Alexandria King.
After her life got ripped away by the sadistic bitch that ran this chapter of Sigma, she survived everything the female had put her through. Madame G wanted her broken, begging to live, begging for it all to stop. X never begged. When E had been thrown into her cell, doped up on the powerful aphrodisiac that Madame G preferred, something about X had reminded him of his humanity and he couldn’t carry out his task. Something about E had reminded her of how ravenous she was and she had ripped out his neck vein and half his shoulder to feed.
When he healed and regained consciousness they had formed a solid alliance. X’s resistance had earned a grudging respect from Madame G, so when X and E offered to partner up and serve Sigma, the dark mistress listened. She decided it would be fun to have a shifter on the payroll, a minion that would be trained to seek her own kind and destroy them.
With E’s help, they constantly undermined Madame G’s authority. It was like a game, setting their own limits of what the evil bitch could push them to, and researching every possible way to get close enough to take her out. E offered his blood to X’s vampire half and kept her secret, she covered for him so he could monitor the family he’d been forced to leave behind.
Then Madame G had gotten greedy and put E’s family at risk. In order to save them, he had to abandon the plan he and X had staunchly carried out for the last decade. As a nice in-your-face to Madame G, his new chemistry ala Sigma’s Agent enhancements allowed him to mate his wife and save his son. Maybe he could’ve done all that without X’s help, but she couldn’t have handled failure. Not when it came to E and his family.
God, X missed her partner. She would say he was like a brother to her, but once upon a time, she had a brother, whom she loved very much. Her relationship with E was so much deeper. Not sexual, not like a BFF, but hell, like her other half, a twin.
E was gone, his family needed him more. X needed to remain, to continue on with the plan. Her plan was never about revenge. Like E, she had a family. A family who could never live freely while Madame G was alive. The madwoman was after a vampire-shifter hybrid, a female, who was reputed to be the Achilles heel to Madame G’s power.
X was that hybrid.
Swinging gently, her fingers trailing through her own pool of blood, she didn’t feel like much of weapon of madam destruction. Circling her fingers through the blood, she lifted them up to her mouth, wincing at the pain shooting through her stiff joints, to suckle her own nutrition back into her body.
Gross? Hell yeah. But necessary.
Repeating the process until she grabbed up all the blood her wooden fingers could reach, X went back to rocking gently and wondering what all the downtime meant for her future.
Which might be terribly short because she felt a malevolent presence headed her way.
The door drifted open, revealing a blood red kimono clad tall female with pitch black hair pulled into a high and tight ponytail. Eyes that felt like they could swallow souls landed on X’s upturned form.
X bit back a To what do I owe the honor? feeling she was treading pretty deep water as it was. Instead, she remained silent, being as respectful as a naked shifter hanging upside down, covered in blood, could be.
“You’ve disappointed me, Agent X.” The female’s ominous tone made X’s stomach fill with dread.
Her one goal in life, her only goal, had been to wipe this evil female off the face of the earth. Bonus points to destroying everything she had built. X was prepared to die for her mission, had sacrificed nearly everything. It’d be a damn shame if she was killed before she could carry that out.
“My apologies, Madame G.”
The dark presence loomed over her. X kept staring at where Madame G’s feet would be but were always covered by that damn kimono. She and E had a running bet: whether Madame G wore spiked heels that could impale an eyeball, or if she went barefoot. X’s money was on sadistic heels - in fuck-me red.
“I’d ask you questions, but I can no longer trust you so it’s a moot point.”
Madame G started pacing in front of her and X strained to get a glimpse at the madam’s chosen footwear. Whoever was wrong had to wash the blood and ashes out of the trunk of their work car for two weeks. E wasn’t a Sigma lackey anymore, and X’s keys were no doubt yanked permanently, but she’d hang on to the gloating rights.
Come on spiked heels.
“Seer said she sees you at my back when I rise over the shifters once and for all.” The pacing stopped. “So I can’t kill you,” Madame G spit out. “I want to make you suffer, but you and I both know you’ve been through everything I have to offer so it’d be a waste of resources.” Pride almost rang in Madame G’s voice.
One thing commanded her respect, and it was a person that could tolerate pain and humiliation, yet still have backbone. No Agent refused Madame G and lived. X had. Plenty of times. There were a few missions, X and E had stood before the madam, their necks bared and ready to lose their heads because they refused to carry out certain commands like oh, kidnapping and torturing children. Both X and E had mad field skills, a brain in their pretty heads and neither one was bat shit crazy, unlike a lot of Agents, so Madame G made other use of their talents.
Despite their transgressions against Sigma, X and her partner felt the burden of guilt at being nearly powerless as those distasteful and morally wrong missions they had refused were carried out by other Agents. Sure, they did what they could to cause those missions to go awry, unknowingly set up conditions for them to fail and prisoners to escape. Then they’d come back to the compound and hear about the innocents other Agents had brought in who were currently in misery or meeting their end of life requirements. Or there were the interferences that failed. Those weighed heavily on X’s heart.
“But Seer didn’t say,” Madame G continued, daintily squatting down, moving her knees to one side so she could peer into X’s eyes with her depthless black orbs, “that you had to be in good condition. Therefore, consider yourself terminated.”
Jobless, huh? Madame G continued to drill into X’s eyes. Was she expecting an aww, shucks?
“So you will hang here, X,” she hissed, making a point of not addressing her by the title of Agent, “until I dominate the pathetic species of shifters and use their slave-prophesied hides to take over all Sigma chapters. I will use my power to control those ancient, frail male vampires that dare to lead our superior species.” Madame G spit in the fresh pool of blood under X’s head.
Damn, now she’d have to wait until the next hosing before she could take in nutrition. No way was she going to take in any more of Madame G than had been put into her when she had been captured.
“Make no mistake X,” Madame seethed, leaning down further, “I will dominate. And when I do, I will drag your sorry hide up to rejoice in my celebration.”
Reaching a long, blood red nail down into her splatter of spit, she scraped some off the ground and jabbed her nail into the non-healing wound at X’s neck, ensuring that it would stay open and seeping for days. Usually, the Agents had a special pre-made concoction to coat their knives with to reopen the cut every few days, or a shifter like X would eventually heal themselves. But Madame G’s special form of evil exuded from every facet of her being, thus her spit seemed to have its own powerful anticoagulant. A vampire whose bite no one could recover from.
Make no mistake Madame G, X mocked in her head, I will dominate you.
As Madame G shifted to rise, X peeked under the floor-length garment before it settled back down straightened legs. A flash of a thick silver post in lieu of a heel and a spike-lined red leather toe-box could be seen by X’s acute vision before the whisper of fabric blanketed them.
In your face, E! X totally won that bet and as the dark madam left the room to let X continue to bleed out, X had one other thought beyond destroying the female. Where the hell did she get those sweet shoes?
“We need to make our move now.” Dickhead. Commander Rhys Fitzsimmons left that part unspoken. It was certainly implied, and the arrogant prick of a vampire standing in front of him knew it.
“Rhys. Dude,” the male tried placating him, “all my people aren’t in place yet. If you want this done once and for all, I need time.”
The haughty male shifted into deeper shade, giving the commander some satisfaction that he was uncomfortable in the fading daylight. But it was the safest time for the male to sneak away from Sigma’s compound. He was powerful enough to withstand fading sunlight, especially under the shade of the thick trees in the woods surrounding the Guardian’s headquarters.
“She doesn’t have time, Demetrius.” The male was willing to help Rhys save X, and that was the only thing that kept Rhys from pounding his face in.
Demetrius rolled his pale green eyes, regarding Rhys as he would a petulant child. “Madame G isn’t going to kill her, Commander, just keep her incapacitated for an indeterminate amount of time. I need to get my people in place.”
When the aggravating vampire first approached him, all Rhys cared about was how Demetrius could help rescue X. And that was still all he cared about. The vampire’s grand plan meant shit to Rhys other than it would help destroy Madame G and Rhys could get back to his normal job of policing his species. Yes, Demetrius proposed a change so severe, it would rock the vampire world. As far as Rhys’ duty went, nothing would change. He woke up, hunted criminals, kept his species safe, went to bed.
Only now he couldn’t sleep, because there was no vivacious green-eyed hybrid with the funky, glossy black hair that she kept shaved on the sides. With her longer hair, she constantly styled it in various formats: faux hawk, slicked back, slicked to one side, hanging over one eye. Her hair had almost as much personality as she did. For years, he stalked her dreams, keeping them terror free so she could get some decent sleep and not get killed the next day.
For almost three weeks, he couldn’t find her, no matter the time of day.
As soon as he had laid eyes on her all those years ago, he knew she was his destined mate. While he was trying to reconcile why, after centuries, he had finally met his mate and she was an evil Sigma Agent, X had nearly gutted him with her wicked silver-lined blade, leaving a nasty scar along his ribs.
That began a long, contentious feud between the two of them to ignore that they were meant to be together; meant to be lovers, not fighters. It only took a few skirmishes for Rhys to realize there was more to not only his mate, X, but her partner as well. He gave orders to his shifters that only he was to deal with X, the others would only defend themselves and others as needed, but in no way try to terminate her. To their credit, they followed his commands impeccably, maybe they even suspected the underlying issue.
Rhys didn’t want to wait for this arrogant prick to tell him when he could go and save his mate. “You have intel that says she’ll be kept alive?”
“From the evil horse’s mouth.” Demetrius lifted a heavy shoulder. “I asked her if she was offing my favorite toy. Not that it’d be hard for me to find another shifter willing to give me her potent blood,” he finished haughtily.
Rhys let the rumbles of a growl through before he could stop it; hated being reminded that he was basically talking to his mate’s ex-boyfriend. Not that there was anything serious between the two of them, just a little my-body-for-your-information exchange. It didn’t mean Demetrius had to act so cavalier about the pleasure of being with her. Rhys only had one physical interaction with her, and it was…it was just…She was pretty damn special.
“Chill, my man. You know it didn’t mean anything beyond what we needed it to be. Our relationship, if you can call it that, kept her safe and kept my identity secure. If I had to call someone a friend, it’d be Agent X.” Demetrius’ mouth twisted in grimace. “Except she told me once she hoped my true mate will be a virgin. What kind of twisted soul wishes that for a vampire like me?”
Rhys nearly smiled in spite of himself. X knew how to get to someone. A vampire like Demetrius is either hoping he never meets his true mate so he can continue living his lothario lifestyle, or wants a provocative seductress to match himself.
“If you don’t get your people ready in two days, I’m going to top her virgin comment and hope that your true mate gets pregnant after your first time together.”
Demetrius paled and he physically recoiled. “Commander Fitzsimmons! I thought we were starting a budding bromance here, and then you have to go and say something like that.”
Crossing his arms, Rhys ruefully shook his head, not wanting to warm up to the guy. “When you meet your mate, you won’t care who she is, or isn’t, because you’ll realize you weren’t living before you met her.” Demetrius waved Rhys’ words off, so he kept going. “And when you realize you made another life with your most cherished, you’ll find out how superficial everything else is.”
“Wise words. For some other dude. Let’s move onto the important stuff.”
As Demetrius began a run-down of how to put their plan in place when the time came, Rhys couldn’t help but hope he’d be around to witness the full-of-himself male get taken down by the love of his life. Then, if Rhys and X, or Alex as he’d begun thinking of her, were still around, then they could kick back, throw in a bag of popcorn, and watch the show.