The Ripple Effect
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rhiannon's Law Series: Book Three
There is always a price to pay…
Rhiannon Murphy visited the future, witnessed hell on earth and made choices to change things for the greater good. Unfortunately there are consequences for her actions, the penalties for her interference possibly more than she can bear. Determined to sever her debt with a fallen angel, she pushes everything aside, focusing on locating Marigold Vesta’s resting place.
Until death comes knocking at her door.
When Disco’s maker arrives in New York, he resents Rhiannon on a level she can’t begin to comprehend. Yet Marius isn’t her most dangerous adversary, not by a long shot. Marius’s sire -- a half-demon -- is determined to see the necromancer who stunned the vampire world on her knees. If she won’t bend, he’ll do everything in his power to make her break. No price is too high, meaning no one is safe -- including Disco and Paine.
Dealt a blow from which she can never recover, Rhiannon turns to the only person who can help her: the fallen angel who is relying on Rhiannon to save her soul. Bartering with a creature from Heaven is probably just as dangerous as starting a war with a demon from Hell, but with nothing to lose it’s no longer about life or death.
It’s about getting even.
The vampires with her yanked on the arms of the man between them shackled in wrist and ankle cuffs with chains. He stopped in front of the half-demons, chin lifted in defiance. His brown hair was heavy on his brow, nearly falling over his whiskey colored eyes. Even beneath his shirt, I could see the definition of his muscles, the broad lines of his shoulders. Standing at six-feet, he wasn’t huge, but he was deadly. There was a glint in his gaze I knew only too well, one I’d seen staring back at me when I looked at myself sometimes in the mirror.
“Matthew Johnson,” Revenald said, flicking his hand at me, “meet Rhiannon Murphy. Rhiannon Murphy, meet Matthew Johnson.”
We didn’t say a word, sizing each other up. He was bigger and bulkier than me, meaning he would be slower on his feet. I glanced at his arms and hands. Jesus. I’d have to avoid those guns at all costs if he aimed them in my direction. Just the right punch could and would break bone.
“You’re dead,” Victoria chimed in softly and I looked at her. She didn’t smile, her expression unreadable and set in stone. “Before the evening is done, I intend to drain the life from you.”
“Don’t start, Victoria,” Revenald chided. “The night has just begun.” He waved at the guards beside the man in chains and they started removing them. “Let us begin the festivities.”
Revenald motioned me forward and waited until I stopped beside the now unchained necromancer. “This is your first test, servant of my blood. Matthew has defied his mistress more than once, meaning he is challenged by death—the same as you. I’ve been told you prefer violence, which works nicely in this case. The two of you will engage in battle in this room, but there’s a catch.” There was a sinister spark in Revenald’s eyes when he said, “Only one of you will survive. It’s a fight to the death, after all. Win and you will be given the opportunity to absolve yourself of your crimes against my home. Die and, well,”—he chuckled, shrugging—“you die.”
“Kill her and I’ll release you, Matthew.” Victoria tossed out. “Her life for your freedom.”
Why did she have to do that? My palm twitched, itching to connect with the side of her face. Matthew’s gaze went from intent to lethal. She was going to reward him with the very thing he’d done—the thing he wanted most.
Damn it to hell. I was as good as fucked.
“Stand back,” Revenald commanded. “Give them room.”
"You can do this," Disco whispered in my mind. "End things here and now so we can leave this wretched place."
"You got it," I thought back, more than happy with the thought of leaving Revenald and The Land of Oz. "Let the games begin."
Disco, Marius, and Paine moved away from me, so that I was alone with the man that looked like he was ready to bust my nuts. We faced each other, neither of us afraid.
Damn it. So not good.
Either he didn’t realize I could hold my own, or he knew and didn’t give a shit.
I kicked off my heels, sending them sailing toward the center of the room, when Matthew lunged. Fuck me. He was faster than I thought. His knuckles grazed my cheek as I dove to the side, out of his range. The big bastard didn’t give me time to decide what to do next, charging me like a bull intent on staking its horns through a red flag.
I hated running in circles and fleeing like a coward, but the truth was I had to wear this one down. I couldn’t let myself get anywhere near his fists. His first punch told me exactly what I was dealing with, someone who’d trained in the ring on a daily basis. Street brawlers and gym boxers were the worst types of people to fight. They had no rules; anything goes. I heard Revenald’s jeering taunts as I bobbed and weaved, dodging the asshole who had to kill me or die. It wasn’t easy. Despite trying to stay one step ahead, Matthew landed a couple of bruising blows to my shoulders and ribcage.
“Enough of this,” Revenald said after a few minutes had passed. “Corral them.”
I heard footsteps and saw the vampires who had been standing at the far wall form a circle around us—closing us in.
No, no, no!
I had to rethink my strategy. Balls to the wall the motherfucker.
This time when Matthew came at me, I waited, timing it so that I went into a saddle split just as he stopped inches from me. To my relief, my leather pants didn’t rip or tear, gliding with the motion like a second skin. I reared back, aimed, and delivered a punch to his family jewels.
He grasped his newly crushed balls, howling in pain.
Bringing my legs together, I rose to my feet. The next part of my plan was something the movies made look easy—total bullshit, by the way. Breaking someone’s neck was damn hard, nearly impossible. Matthew tried to pivot when I swerved around and launched onto his back, wrapping one arm around his throat and fisting fingers through his hair with my free hand. Although I tried to get my legs around his waist, I failed. I shook it off, focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. I’d practiced this move afterhours with my trainer and self-defense coach, Mike, but I knew it wasn’t as simple as putting weight behind a swift jerk and getting the job done. The angle had to be just right, the motion along with the pressure in equal amounts.
I screamed when Matthew lowered his head and used one of my own dirty moves against me—biting down hard on my forearm. His teeth broke the skin and he didn’t ease up. It hurt, a pinching sensation that radiated up to my shoulder, but I couldn’t let go. He’d kill me if he gained the upper hand. All he needed was a nice, level punch to my nose. He’d send bones into my brain and it would be game over.
He wrapped a fist in my hair, twisted his wrist and thrust his upper body forward. I slid with the movement, my abdomen resting against his head, and the world spun as I landed on my back. Within a second, Matthew had his hand around my throat, his thick fingers applying pressure. He didn’t want to break my neck, he wanted to fucking strangle me.
Dots swam before my eyes and I reached out with both hands, trying to grab onto something—anything. A couple of times my fingers swept over feet which quickly moved away. I brought my hands up and tried to gouge Matthews eyes. He prevented the connection, using his elbows. Left with nothing else, I clawed at Matthew’s fingers, digging my fingernails into his knucklebones.
"Next to your head," Disco thought frantically. "Let him go and reach above you."
What position was I in to argue? Abso-fucking-lutely none.
I released Matthews fingers, reaching over my head. I came in contact with a thin piece of wood—one that was attached to a shoe: the heels I’d removed before the fight. It was a miracle, a saving grace. Grasping the heel in my right hand, I gripped the shiny layer of leather where my feet went and made my decision.
Thank you God and Christian Louboutin.