Defy the Dawn

Page 1

CHAPTER 1

London, England

Brynne Kirkland threw her head back and downed the shot of premium whisky in one throat-scalding gulp. Being Breed, alcohol wasn’t her typical drink of choice. This noisy bar and strobe-lit dance club in Cheapside wasn’t her usual after-hours hangout either. On those rare occasions when she socialized, the staid taverns and social clubs on the other side of the Thames were more her speed.

Then again, that was precisely why she was here.

She needed to decompress, let off some steam.

Get a little wild for once in her life.

Ah, to hell with the pretense of decorum. After the lousy day she’d just had, what she really needed was to get drunk and get laid.

Preferably in that order.

She also needed to feed. Although quenching that other self-inflicted dry spell was a problem she was hardly prepared to deal with on a good day, let alone now.

Setting the shot glass down on the mirrored surface of the sleek bar, she licked her lips and blew out a heavy sigh. The bartender was right there with the bottle of Glenmorangie as soon as she lifted her finger to beckon him over.

Ginger-haired, broad-shouldered, with a pair of sweet dimples bracketing his friendly smile, the twenty-something human wasn’t hard to look at in the least. And given his firm, muscular body, obviously honed by years of dedicated work in the gym, he looked reasonably able to withstand the intense cardiovascular workout he’d get from taking a Breed female into his bed.

Which is more than she could say for most of the other human men in the place tonight. She had already sized up and mentally discarded a dozen potential candidates for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the fear that sex with one of her kind was liable to kill a mere mortal from sheer exhaustion alone. She already had one dead human on her record this week; she damned well didn’t need to add another.

The bartender took in her conservative white silk button-down and dark navy slacks as he refilled her shot glass. She’d come straight from work, hadn’t even bothered to pull her hair loose from its tidy twist at the back of her head.

“Rough day at the office, luv?” The bartender asked over the throbbing pulse of the club music.

Brynne arched a brow at his unwitting remark. “You have no idea.”

She’d spent the past decade building her career as an investigator at the London branch of JUSTIS—the Breed/human law enforcement organization more formally known as the Joint Urban Security Taskforce Initiative Squad. She’d worked hard, devoted her life to her job. Hell, the job was her life.

Or, rather, it had been until a few hours ago.

Everything she’d worked for had gone down in flames—all the worse because she had no one to blame but herself.

Two nights ago, she’d secretly assisted a covert mission with Lucan Thorne and the Order, willfully withholding information about that mission from her colleagues and superiors at JUSTIS, well aware that in so doing she was gambling with her career. Thankfully, the Order mission had been a success. They’d struck a major blow against the terror group Opus Nostrum, taking out a key player in Dublin and unmasking another in London. Brynne’s cooperation had been instrumental in making that happen.

Unfortunately, JUSTIS didn’t see it that way.

Her superiors had no quibble with the Order exterminating the Breed male in Ireland. Fineas Riordan was a known criminal and underworld figure, but the human councilman who killed himself in London rather than fall into the hands of the Order was a scandal that JUSTIS could not afford.

Never mind that Neville Fielding had been corrupt and secretly on the take with Opus Nostrum. Never mind that the two men, along with the deadly cabal they belonged to, had declared themselves in war against the rest of the civilized world.

And never mind that Brynne had done what she believed was right—the result being two fewer problems for the world to worry about later.

None of that mattered, because in aiding the Order on their clandestine operation, she had willfully defied JUSTIS command. She’d broken the organization’s trust.

For the first time ever, she had followed her heart instead of her head.

Unfortunately, the price was her career.

If that didn’t call for a few shots of single malt and a rare, blindingly hot one-night-stand with someone she’d never see again, she didn’t know what did.

Wrapping her fingers around the small glass the bartender had generously filled to the rim, Brynne tossed it back. She felt his heated gaze on her, felt the ripple of his sexual interest thicken the air as he watched her swallow the fiery liquor then wipe the back of her hand across her parted lips.

“Another, please.”

His answering smile was slow, charmingly crooked. Framed by those endearing twin dimples. “Careful now, luv. Take things too fast here tonight, and you’ll leave me no choice but to carry you home.”

Was he serious? She stared at him, realizing he had no idea what she was. To anyone who looked at her now, she wasn’t identifiable as Breed. At a glance, she was merely a tall, athletically built, green-eyed brunette.

Her fangs only appeared when she was emotionally provoked in some way, be it hunger, anger, or desire. That was when her other Breed characteristics manifested too, from the fiery amber glow of her irises and the vertical narrowing of her pupils, to the awakening of her dermaglyphs—color-changing skin markings that every member of the Breed had on their bodies to varying degrees.

Right now, she felt nothing but the pleasant buzz of the alcohol seeping into her bloodstream. Well, that, and the lingering sting of useless, self-directed anger. What she wanted was to feel less sting and more buzz, thank you very much.

“I’d like another shot, please.”

“Jamie,” the bartender said, still holding on to the bottle. “And you are?”

Brynne smiled. “Thirsty.”

He chuckled as he leaned in close and poured more liquor into her glass. “All right, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Not that I’d mind carrying a pretty lady like you home. In fact, I’d consider it my chivalrous duty.”

Flirting. God, he was flirting with her. Or trying to, at any rate.

She had no skill in that area, had never imagined she’d have a use for it until this very moment. She licked her lips, casting about for a witty comeback or better yet, something to show him that she was ready, willing, and able to take him up on whatever he had in mind.

Except she couldn’t.

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