Hot Demon Nights

By: Elle James

Chapter One

It started out as a typical late, summer night in the city. The weather had yet to really warm up enough to call it summer, but I chose to sit out on the deck. Well, I call it a deck, but it’s really the fire escape landing, a tiny postage-stamp stretch of wrought iron outside the living room window of my closet-sized Manhattan apartment. Anyway, I was minding my own business, thinking through a crappy night on the job as a cop with the Fifth Precinct in Manhattan. I’d arrested no less than three prostitutes, two indecent exposures and chased down—and caught—one mugger, all before midnight and shift change. And after all that, what did I get? Grief on the way to the locker room.

I came into this job with five years experience on the Chicago police force—not a friggin’ cakewalk. But that didn’t seem to mean a thing to the other officers. At best, they’re condescending pricks, patting my head as if I was a favored pet cocker spaniel. No respect. At worst…well, at worst, they reminded me of why I left Chicago. Today, I took down the guy who patted my ass. Slammed his face into the concrete floor before he knew what hit him. Caught hell from my super for that, but the bastard deserved it.

It’s no secret why every guy in the precinct and every jerkwad on the street thinks I’m a powder-puff lightweight contender. I’ve been cursed with light blonde hair, big boobs and the kind of curves most porn stars would die for. Hell, they could have them.

Anyway, back to the story. I was coming down off the adrenaline rush of the job, having a glass of cheap wine, trying to wind down so that I could get a wink or two of sleep before the next round of Manhattan nightlife. About the time I thought I had the adrenaline high licked, a smell reached my nostrils, a stench so powerful I couldn’t escape it. I pressed my hand to my nose, my stomach roiling, waiting for the smell to pass, only it got stronger by the minute. When it became too much, I pushed to my feet, and glanced around.

Did I tell you I had a super sniffer? I could sniff out dead bodies from half a mile away. I’d always considered it a curse, never more so than at that moment. Because this one wasn’t a half mile away, which meant the smell was so strong I nearly choked on it. A scream from the landing above me made me glance up. I leaned over the railing, trying to see what the heck was going on.

Another scream was quickly followed by a woman shoving a man out her window. He thumped onto the landing one up from me. What the hell was going on? I slipped back into my apartment to get a weapon. My service revolver would have been my first choice, but it was buried in a pile of clothes. Digging it out would take too long. On the other hand, the special butcher knife I use to chop vegetables was right there on the kitchen counter, the long stainless steel blade gleaming in the night lights of the city.

I had just stepped back out on the landing, prepared to climb up the ladder to the floor above me, when the man tipped over the edge of the railing, slid down the fire escape, and landed on top of me.

Trapped in the ladder enclosure, I struggled to get out from under him. The knife, knocked from my hand, lay a couple of feet away from me. The guy had to outweigh me by a hundred pounds. The stench of rot overwhelmed me, triggering my gag reflex. I swallowed hard on the bile rising up my throat and shoved my way out from beneath him, rolling across the metal mesh, stretching toward the knife.

The man grabbed my ankle and yanked me back, his hand cold as death. I rolled onto my back and kicked him in the face, shaking free of his grip long enough to grab the knife.

I sat up at the same time as he lunged for my throat. With little time to aim, I plunged the blade into his neck, expecting to be drenched in blood. But none fell and neither did big-bad-and-smelly.

The knife wedged in his throat, he hesitated only a moment before coming at me again. With my hand still on the handle of the butcher knife, I ripped it to the side with all my strength, severing my attacker’s head from his odiferous body.

Instantly, he went limp. Like a dead weight, he fell on top of me, his head rolling to the side, held only by a thin strap of skin.

We slammed backwards onto the metal mesh floor, knocking the wind out of me. When I got my breath back, I shoved and pushed, struggling to breathe in air so polluted by the stench I thought I’d die before I finally rolled free. I scrambled to my feet, tugging my T-shirt up over my nose, hoping to muffle the aroma as I stared down at my attacker.

His blue-gray skin wasn’t natural for a man freshly killed. I bent to touch my fingers to him, drawing my hand away as if it had been burned. The guy was icy cold. The head had wedged against the railing, the eyes staring up at me through a milky film. There was still no blood. This guy had been dead far longer than the few minutes since I’d sliced through his throat. How in hell had he attacked me?

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