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A Secret to Die For

A Secret to Die For

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A Secret to Die For

Länge:
345 Seiten
3 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 31, 2017
ISBN:
9781939291264
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

No one is safe.

Secret McQueen thought she’d seen it all, but that was before she, Desmond and Holden came home to find New York City burning and the streets overwhelmed with the walking dead. Now, in a race against time, she must find out who is responsible for unleashing hell on Earth.

For that, she’s going to need a whole new team of vampire wardens to help round up the perpetrators, who turn out to be a gang that makes Sons of Anarchy look like toddlers on tricycles.

Her quest across the city brings old friends and enemies out of the woodwork and reminds Secret once and for all why mercy and forgiveness are not always prudent. Lives will be lost, sacrifices will be made, and when the dust settles, nothing will ever be the same again.

With no time to mourn her losses, the only question remaining is if Secret can survive long enough to stop the apocalypse...or if this is the one challenge that will finally drown her in rivers of undead blood.

Warning: The final book in the Secret McQueen series has it all: hot kisses, unexpected guests, and enough tear-jerking moments to require a whole box of tissues. You’ve been warned.

This book was previously released by Samhain Publishing.
The new edition contains minor word changes but no story changes.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Mar 31, 2017
ISBN:
9781939291264
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Sierra Dean is the author of the popular Secret McQueen urban fantasy series. When not building worlds, she can be found knitting, reading, or pursuing her other passions of gardening and baseball journalism. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, she remains there even now, in spite of the cold winters and bug-filled summers, because you just can't take a prairie girl out of the prairie. She lives with her three cats and six TV streaming services.


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A Secret to Die For - Sierra Dean

justice.

Chapter One

Five months ago

Tell me something happy. I nestled up against Desmond’s side and gave him my best approximation of puppy-dog eyes, adding an imploring pout to the mix in the hope he might yield to my wishes.

His bare skin was warm, and I ran my fingers through the trail of dark hair leading from his chest down to his belly button. The trail went lower, but for the time being I was trying to keep things PG-13. Knowing me, it wouldn’t last long.

He was an awfully hard man to resist.

You want me to make up a story? His eyes were closed, meaning my cutesy faces had all been for nothing, but a hint of a smile played on his lips.

I rested my chin on his chest and stared up at his face. It doesn’t have to be made up.

Outside, a car honked, and the sounds of New York at night filtered down into my basement apartment. Soon I’d need to get out of bed and head to the council headquarters, but for now I wanted to spend the first few minutes of my night with my handsome werewolf boyfriend, and I wanted to think uncomplicated, cheerful thoughts.

Okay, I have a story for you. His voice was thick with sleep, and I suspected he’d only gotten into our bed shortly before I awoke. He had a day job, a real one, that kept him from sharing my weird nocturnal schedule. I rarely noticed because I slept the whole day, but his exhaustion was apparent enough right now.

Burying my arms under his back, I turned my face so my cheek lay against his stomach, and I smiled as his body rose and fell with each breath. Tell me.

Once upon a time there was a princess.

I grimaced at the word but said nothing.

This princess was beautiful, but also very stubborn.

"Hey."

Shush. This is my story.

Though it was impossible to see from my current position, I could imagine his self-satisfied smirk with little difficulty.

Fine, go on.

One day the princess met a handsome man in the woods.

Sounds dangerous.

Well, the princess isn’t too smart.

I bit his stomach playfully, and in return he grabbed my hair and gave it a tug.

So she meets a handsome stranger, I said.

Yes. They meet and fall in love. And even though the princess was betrothed to another prince, she figured, fuck that guy, and ran away with the handsome stranger.

I sucked in a breath. Ah, yes, the other prince. Or more specifically, the king. I had to wonder how long Lucas Rain was going to be an elephant in the room for Desmond and me. But this wasn’t the time to ask.

I kissed him on his abs, and he shifted, propping himself on his elbows so he was looking down at me.

And they lived happily ever after? I asked.

He smiled. I like to think so.

Now

New York City was burning.

I used to think I was the levelheaded one in a crisis. Usually when things got bad, I knew what to do and could react accordingly.

But standing outside the Lincoln Tunnel, looking up at the hazy orange glow of the city on fire, my mind had gone blank.

Sirens wailed in the distance, and I was vaguely aware of screaming. But there was too much going on for me to focus on any one thing.

What the hell is happening? Desmond came up beside me, reminding me I wasn’t alone. He put his phone in his pocket. On our way through the tunnel he’d been calling his mother to make sure she and his sister were safe. Since he didn’t say anything, I had to assume they’d gotten out or found protection.

I glanced back at him and then to Holden. The vampire, my friend and former lover, had placed his arm protectively around my sister, Eugenia. Genie, a witch and werewolf, had seen some pretty wild stuff in her eighteen years, but I was betting none of it could compare to what she was seeing now.

She was staring up at the sky wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

Even Holden, who was over two hundred years old, was gazing at the scene before us with barely restrained awe.

Secret? Desmond placed his hand on my shoulder, and I returned my attention to him. It was only then I realized I hadn’t spoken once since we got out of the car.

We need to find Keaty, I announced.

There were dozens of places we could have gone, people we could have sought out, and some of them might have been more logical than Francis Keats. But the fact was, there was no one in the world I respected more in a time of crisis than my business partner.

If anyone would know what to do, it would be Keaty.

The next problem we faced would be getting there.

The streets were littered with abandoned cars, some left with their doors wide open and the ping-ping-ping sound of interior warning chimes going off. Driving towards Central Park would be impossible—not that driving in the city was ever the fastest way to get anywhere.

We’ll have to walk.

Secret, Genie said, her voice quivering. Don’t you think maybe we should go back?

On our way into the city we’d seen hundreds of cars crawling their way out. It seemed like everyone was fleeing. Yet we had gone in. Now that we were here, there was no way in hell I was going to put my tail between my legs and run.

If our friends are still here, we’re going to find them. My voice sounded cold, even to myself.

The past week had been one hellish ordeal after another, culminating in me killing my two worst enemies—the rogue vampire Alexandre Peyton, and my mother, Mercy. I’d assumed when I got back to New York, my problems would be limited to settling debts and dealing with the council, but this…this was wholly unexpected.

The air smelled of burning metal and melting plastic, and big plumes of black smoke blotted the moon and stars from sight.

Returning to the car, I found the duffel bag with my weapons in it. I was already wearing my shoulder holster but added in a second gun and started loading my jacket pockets with ammo clips. I slung my katana over my back, adjusting the strap on the scabbard sling so it wouldn’t interfere with my ability to draw the guns. There was a silver knife tucked in my boot, and I didn’t think I could carry anything else without creating problems.

I tossed the duffel bag onto the street between Desmond, Holden and Genie.

If you guys want to leave, I understand. I don’t know what’s going on out there, and by the look of it, it could be freaking Godzilla. I have no idea. You can go if you need to, but Keaty, Nolan and Mercedes are out there somewhere. Same with Shane and Siobhan. My dad is probably still sitting in his apartment wondering what to do. I can’t leave them. After dropping my keys on the driver’s seat, I closed the car door. So, if you’re going, go. If you’re staying, grab a weapon.

For a moment Genie looked like she might make a dash for the car. I wouldn’t have blamed her. If I had a more finely honed sense of self-preservation, I would have gone that route myself.

Instead, she knelt and opened the bag, finding one of my old Glock handguns. She didn’t appear altogether comfortable holding it, but when she glanced at me, I saw the determination in her eyes. As Desmond filled his pockets with more clips for the handguns and slung a shotgun over his shoulder, my tension kicked into high gear. He looked ready to go to war, and for that one second I wanted to send him away.

My brand-new engagement ring—something he’d only put on my hand a day earlier—felt heavy, and I prayed when all of this, whatever it was, was over, I’d still have a fiancé.

The city was like a set piece straight out of an apocalyptic movie, but here I was worrying about my future wedding. Really, though, I was terrified of the idea I might lose anyone I loved tonight.

Holden didn’t take a weapon, but I hadn’t expected him to. Instead he picked up the bag—much lighter now with most of its contents removed—and strung it across his back. Never know when we might need more, he explained.

I could have hugged him, but I doubted he’d be too thrilled with me touching him.

Breaking a vampire’s heart tends to make them grouchy.

You’re all nuts, you know that, right? I said.

Genie offered a weak smile. It runs in the family.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the idea our family lineage was being brought up right now, considering I’d murdered our mother in cold blood only three days earlier. Genie was taking that particular bit of information in stride though.

The police cruiser blocking the tunnel exit made a crackling noise, stealing my attention.

One-six-seven, one-six-seven, do you copy? The voice coming from the car was distant and followed by static. A radio transmission. But if someone was calling the car, that meant somewhere in the city there were still cops on duty. I felt a glimmer of hope as I jogged towards the car.

One-six-seven? the radio asked again.

I sat in the driver’s seat and picked up the handheld radio from the dash. Desmond, Holden and Genie circled around, with Holden’s focus remaining on the streets rather than on the car.

This is one-six-seven, I replied. The car has been abandoned.

Who is this? the male voice on the radio demanded.

My name is Secret.

I don’t have time for games, lady. What’s your name?

I groaned. Just call me McQueen, I grumbled, not bothering to explain the misunderstanding. It wasn’t worth the effort.

McQueen. You got any affiliation? What are you doing in that car?

I glanced nervously at Desmond, chewing the inside of my cheek for a moment. This wasn’t how I’d pictured telling the boys about my new job, but if my connection could help us, maybe it was time to spill the beans.

I work for the FBI. I found this car abandoned at the Lincoln Tunnel. No sign of the officers.

The radio voice cursed. FBI? How’d they get you here faster than the military? Jee-sus. Well, hell, we need all the help we can get.

Desmond was staring at me, and when I met his gaze, he mouthed the word FBI to me, raising his eyebrows in question.

There’d be time to explain once we started moving again. I wasn’t really an agent, anyway. Officially, I was a government asset. Like, in the same sense a laptop or a car was an asset.

"What happened here?" I asked.

Weren’t you briefed?

No.

Jee-sus, he repeated. Agent, we’re under attack.

Terrorists? The idea sent a chill through me, but at least with a human antagonist we should be able to regain the upper hand with relative ease.

No, ma’am. For a long time after that he was silent, and I was about to ask if he was still on the line when he spoke up. We seem to be under attack by…well, by zombies.

Zombies? I had to be sure I’d heard him correctly. This was the same thing Nolan had said in his voicemail to me. I’d dismissed it then, but it was hard to brush it off a second time. That’s impossible.

For a half-vampire/half-werewolf to be dismissive of any supernatural entity might seem strange, but the fact was zombies didn’t exist. Not in the Romero Night of the Living Dead sense anyway. The dead did not rise up of their own volition and feed on the flesh of the living. It was one hundred percent impossible.

"Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I didn’t believe it either. But I’ve got literally thousands of bodies blocking the Midtown Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and every other goddamn exit out of this town aside from the one you’re parked in front of. You understand me. Bodies. And they’re walking."

I wanted to reiterate the impossibility of a zombie invasion, but this guy didn’t sound like the type to make up stories.

When did it happen?

Most of this is just in the last two hours.

"Two hours? So this had only begun as our plane was coming in to land. How could an entire city fall apart in two hours? Is there some sort of plan?"

Yeah. Don’t fucking die.

Static reigned on the radio, and I glanced to my friends, wondering if they found this entire thing half as mind-boggling as I did.

Zombies? Genie asked.

Evidently.

Holden snorted. There’s no such thing.

Says the vampire, Desmond countered.

No, he’s right, I said. Zombies aren’t real. There has to be another explanation for what’s happening.

The dead have risen, and they’ve invaded New York. It’s a pretty clear-cut explanation, Genie answered. "We really should go."

No. I got out of the cruiser, wondering if I shouldn’t wait for more details, but it didn’t sound like my cop buddy was coming back. There’s more going on here, and we need to figure out what it is. The dead don’t rise on their own.

Your plan is still to get to Keaty’s? You think he’ll even be there? Desmond asked.

Keaty has a frigging fallout shelter built inside his brownstone. He’s prepared for the actual apocalypse. If there’s anywhere we should go first, that’s it. I checked my guns again to remind myself I had them. "The isn’t like The Walking Dead, okay? Their bites won’t turn you into monsters, but don’t think that means you won’t get bitten. I don’t know what these things are, but they managed to take over the city in two hours. We have to be careful. And remember—they’re dead. Don’t feel bad about whatever it is you need to do to them. Do not hesitate. Understand?"

Genie gave a tight nod.

I don’t like this, Holden added.

What’s to like? I checked the car one last time, and since no one seemed to be abandoning ship, I reclaimed my keys and locked the doors. If we managed to make it through this whole ordeal in one piece, I liked to think the car might still be here waiting when it all blew over. Though it wasn’t like we’d get the rental deposit back.

I knew it was a long shot, but I was no stranger to those. Sometimes things went in my favor.

All right, guys. Eyes up, be ready. Let’s do this.

Chapter Two

It had only taken two hours for all hell to break loose in the streets.

After only a few blocks it became clear not everyone in New York had made a run for it. We started seeing signs of life the farther into the city we moved, and none of them were welcome ones. Since people were given no warning of what was about to hit, stores had been closed haphazardly, and groups of looters were busy smashing in windows and grabbing whatever they could get their hands on.

We passed a small bodega where a gang of thugs wearing bandanas tied around their faces were bagging up the contents of the cash register and collecting all the booze and cigarettes in sight. A few feet away a man in a nice-looking pair of khaki trousers was holding a tire iron and watching the thieves apprehensively.

At first I thought he might be the shop’s owner, waiting to mete out some street justice, but when the gang ran off with their spoils, the man darted in and began loading up a bag with canned food and diapers.

Jesus.

How had my city been reduced to madness this fast?

The deeper into the city we got, the thicker the smoke became, and soon I was thinking the gang had made a smart move with their bandanas. If things continued to get worse, it wouldn’t be long before we were unable to breathe. I didn’t think we could count on Holden to drag all of us to Keaty’s, since he was the only one who didn’t need to use his lungs.

We’d gone about a mile when we saw the first sign of the dead.

I lifted my hand, bringing the whole party to a stop. We were outside a row of apartment complexes, and at the end of the block, near a purple VW bug turned on its side, was a cluster of about six people.

At first I assumed they were looters, checking the car for valuables. But the more they jostled and bumped against each other, I quickly reconsidered my initial assessment. The longer I watched them, more signs of their wrongness became apparent.

All their clothes were tattered and stained with dirt. Their limbs hung loose like they were puppets with no master to guide their movements. In a lot of ways, the movies got it right. They certainly looked like zombies.

But there were things pop culture got terribly wrong.

These corpses had gone through an extensive embalming routine—as a majority of the dead in the city would—leaving their skin waxy and pale. Their eyes were not the eerie milk white I’d seen in dozens of horror movies. In most cases their eyelids had been glued shut, as had their mouths. This gave them the impression of being a group of ghoulish sleepwalkers, rather than flesh-starved zombies.

It was still creepy as hell to see the dead walking around like this.

The only walking dead I was used to was of the vampire variety, and they tended to be a slightly livelier bunch.

A disturbing hum emanated from the mass, and it took me a minute to realize the corpses were groaning, but since most had their mouths sealed shut, the groans were caught in their throats.

It sounded for all the world like a group of chanting monks.

I shoved my sister backwards, ducking us all down the steps of a nearby apartment and keeping hidden next to a garbage can. I had no idea how long it would take for the dead to pass us by, but I wasn’t in any mood to engage with them. Since we had no idea what they were, or what was causing them to move around on their own, I didn’t want to tempt fate by fighting with them.

No matter what I’d said about their bites not transferring some sort of zombie condition, I didn’t know that with a hundred percent certainty. I’d never dealt with anything like this before, which was ninety percent of the reason I wanted to get to Keaty. If anyone would know what the hell was happening, he would. He knew everything.

Genie’s breath hitched up, bordering on hyperventilation. I clapped my hand over her mouth and hugged her against my side, hoping the closeness could give her comfort since I couldn’t provide any with words.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity until finally the throng of dead slowly moved on to the next block, leaving us alone on this one. Keaty’s place was only about another mile away, but I had a feeling things were going to get more difficult for us from this point onward.

No such thing as zombies, huh? Desmond grumbled.

I don’t know what those were, but they weren’t zombies. I was adamant. In spite of every kind of supernatural being I’d encountered in my life, a handful of myths were just myths. Leprechauns. Unicorns. Zombies. That shit simply did not exist.

Banshees and mermaids—totally legit. I even knew a male siren, a landlocked merman of sorts. There was a lot of stuff I was willing to believe in, but zombies didn’t make the list.

We were back on the main street when my cell began to buzz. I’d assumed I’d have no service within the city, yet somehow it was ringing.

Hello?

Secret, oh my God, you’re okay. Tell me you got my messages. Where are you? Detective Tyler Nowakowski, also secretly my FBI supervisor, sounded frantic.

I’m on 57th and 8th.

You’re in the city?

Yes.

Why the hell didn’t you stay out? I called you. Didn’t you get my messages?

Yeah, I got them. I glanced to Holden and Desmond, who both seemed to think I was a maniac for having a chat on the phone right then. Tyler, what the hell is going on?

We’re not a hundred percent sure. Emilio is out in Jersey setting up a task force, but the origin of the event is still unclear. No one is taking credit for it yet, so we think there’s a chance it’s a supernatural phenomenon rather than a malicious assault.

"Wait, you think there’s a chance someone planned this?" I’d assumed right away something hinky had occurred and the dead had risen accidentally as a result. I hadn’t yet considered someone might have sent the walking dead into New York as a way to attack the city.

"No, I just said we don’t think that right now."

But there’s a possibility.

Sure. At this point anything is possible. I’ve got corpses littering the Brooklyn Bridge, Secret. I’m not counting anything out right now, y’know?

What about the fires? I don’t think these guys can even clap their hands, from what I’ve seen, let alone turn buildings into bonfires.

We’re not so sure how those started. Could be vandals. Things are kind of going to hell in a handbasket. The line crackled, and I feared I’d lost him. You okay?

Right now, yes.

You protected?

I smirked, because I wasn’t sure if he was worried about my personal safety or about the possibility he might lose one of his best assets for the government’s work with the supernatural.

I’ve got a vampire, a werewolf and a witch. And a heck of a lot of spare bullets. I’ll be okay for a while.

Get yourself somewhere safe. When things clear up, I’ll call you again, see if I can’t get someone out there to pick you up.

Tyler, I said quickly, before he could disconnect. Where are you? Do you know where Mercedes is?

We’re both at the precinct. Things are okay right now with a couple other cops, but this building wasn’t designed to withstand a siege. I don’t know what’s going to happen if things get any worse.

I looked around the street, the sidewalk littered in broken glass, glowing orange from the light of the fires.

How much worse can it get?

Chapter Three

Stupid question.

A block later we ran into the kind of trouble that still had a pulse.

Dressed in black and white, with red bandanas around their necks or mouths, a group of about twenty men was blocking our access to the next street. They had turned the sidewalks into a bottleneck, so any unlucky pedestrians were force-fed into the middle of 9th Avenue, where the gang had moved a group of cars into the center of the street as a makeshift fort. They milled around the perimeter, and there was no way to escape their attention when we stepped off 57th to cross.

Hey. Hey, hey. What we got here? A big dude with bulky arms hopped down from a nearby car, holding a huge hunting knife with the unnerving comfort of someone who got to use the weapon a lot.

Secret… Genie whispered.

It’s okay.

I don’t know what it was about our current situation, but I felt a sense of focus and control I’d been sorely missing for months. Ever since my return from California and my horrific torture at the hands of The Doctor, I’d been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Everything from flashbacks, to nightmares, to panic attacks. You name it, I’d been dealing with it.

But the moment I’d stepped out of the car, I felt…whole. I knew a point would come when my ghosts came back, and I would need to deal with my problems again. For the time being, though, I was grateful my brain was running on instinct rather than emotion. When I told Genie things would be okay, I meant it.

I wasn’t going to let a gang of street toughs touch my sister.

I would break every bone in each of their bodies before they did anything to me or my friends.

And I wouldn’t think twice about killing them if I had to.

I’d spilled a lot of blood in the last week. A little more wasn’t going to bother me.

Gots us some pretty girls. The man licked his teeth lasciviously, showing off a mouthful of silver grills.

We’re going to walk by. And you’re going to let us. Up until now I hadn’t reached for my guns or touched my sword. I didn’t want to draw a weapon too soon and set off an explosive chain reaction.

Hey? You think so, girlie? Then by all means. He did a mock bow and pointed his knife in the direction of the street opposite us.

Littered on the pavement around the cars were a dozen purses, suitcases opened and their contents strewn across the pavement. No wonder we’d seen so few people headed towards the Lincoln Tunnel on foot. It looked like these guys had set up a highway robbery operation to cut them off at the pass.

What worried me was how few signs of violence or struggle I was seeing. Were they just taking people’s goods and letting them go back the way they came? Or was it possible the empty cars were holding the bodies for them?

Either way I didn’t trust this guy to let us go by without a fight.

I want you to listen to me very carefully. I made sure he was looking at me. And I’ll say it loud enough so I don’t need to repeat myself for your buddies. At least a dozen other men were placed in various positions around the street, some perched up on cars, others pacing the road and watching for any other newcomers.

You gots something to say, you go ahead and say it, yeah?

How many people have you killed? Big tough gangbanger like you? You must keep track, right? Get a new tat every time you ice someone? Still I didn’t reach for a weapon. I stayed perfectly still and watched him. How many?

He gave a half shrug, then smirked. Twenty-one. Why, you wanna make it twenty-two? You keep asking me these personal-type questions, I might get real tired of you real fast.

Twenty-one. Good number. It’s almost impressive.

He snorted and pointed the knife back at me. Instinct told me to grab my

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