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Kiss Me Deadly: Tales of a Paranormal Romance

An anthology of stories edited by Trisha Telep

Introduction

Love in the Time of ... Zombies?

Somehow that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize – winning author Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s famous novel, Love in the Time of Cholera (read it if you haven’t!), but my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that.

Welcome to the other side of love. If love has a dark side (and, thank the sweet heavens, it does), then this is it. We’re through the looking-glass here, people. This is where Alice got into all that trouble. And who can blame her? The other side of everything is always the best, and conventional love will only get you so far. (And don’t let the “deadly” fool you. It’s not all that bad. It’s more like “bad” in that good Michael Jackson – type way. But then sometimes it is ... bad—really, really, truly bad, in the horrifyingly not-so-good, totally unfun way.)

Deadly kisses are light and bright, and full of magic—light enough to dispel all the evil in the world, light enough to make you invincible and be your lifeline in a world of chaos and uncertainty. Deadly kisses are also pitch black, full of desire, deadly desire—dark as midnight, as dangerous as deception, as deadly as uncontrollable, heart-stopping, desperate addiction (that stealing-car-stereos-and- rifling-through-your-Grandma’s-pocketbook- for-spare-change kind of addiction). These are kisses given and taken in the shadows, anonymous and unsaid, locked away from prying eyes. All secrets. And you know what they say about secrets...

Better to just steal a kiss and head back to the light, to the land of the living. Best not to stay too long in your paranormal lover’s arms when the lights go out or you’ll never find your way home in the dark. This is the other love, the flip side of love, love with a capital “ L ”: Love. Who told you that it was all going to be so nice? Didn’t you realize that love is a trap, a lie, an evil deed, a spell woven by magical creatures for nefarious purposes to soften you up for the death blow?

Choose to dabble in a little paranormal activity and your home life will become intolerable. Your parents will probably frown on double dates with demons (“ Shouldn’t you be doing your algebra homework rather than learning to communicate with the dead, young lady?”). Everyone knows that pretty boys with glowing eyes only whisper words of love so you’ll taste better when they finally gobble you whole. Surely you’ve read enough fairy tales to know this by now? (Oh, but it’s not all bad. Remember Michael Jackson ... see above.)

After death, mortal love lives on in the lover’s memory, a sweet, gentle reminder of the life-affirming splendor of everlasting devotion (aw...). But, is that it? Is that really love? A love that can ... die? What kind of cruddy love is that?

Choose paranormal love and make your relationship last forever! I mean, shouldn’t all true loves be able to survive a reanimation ... or two?

—TRISHA TELEP

The Assassin’s Apprentice

BY MICHELLE ZINK

I made my way through the crowd, trying not to be jostled by the men around me. It was always difficult to get my thick, blond hair under a hat, and I was never quite certain it would stay there. If it came loose, I would be a beacon not only for the rough men in the room, but for the demon lurking among them.

And be revealed as both a female and a Descendant, either of which could get me killed—or worse—in company such as this.

The men were filthy, wound tight with an energy that rippled through the crowd. I could feel their agitation. Their rising excitement. Their despair. They would work their whole lives through and find little more than a meager wage, an occasional night at the street fights, and an early death. I felt a moment’s pity for them as I made my way along the outskirts of the crowd, but my sympathy quickly dissipated.

Perhaps these people would never rise above their station. Perhaps they would die young from breathing coal dust or in an accident at one of the factories in our New York town.

But they would never see their families executed by a demon like Bael.

And that, in my opinion, made them far better off than I.

The closer I came to the front of the crowd, the more the men pushed and shoved. Their shirts hung limply against their skin, sticking to their sweaty bodies as they angled for a better look at the makeshift ring in the middle of the derelict building. The first two contestants had not yet entered the patch of ground reserved for the fighters, making this the best chance I would have of spotting Bael. Once the fight began, the men would surge forward and pack even more tightly together.

I made my way to the front, looking for a place to hide and finding it in the shadows that lurked near the wall. It was too far back to see the fight properly, but perfect for surveying the room in its entirety. Stepping into the darkness, I leaned back against the crumbling wall.

I scanned the crowd, my eyes skipping over the bearded, dirty men until I spotted Bael, standing against the wall opposite mine. He stood in the shadows, much as I did, his face only half-visible through the broad shoulders and bearded faces of the mortal men. Even so, it was easy to be certain of his identity, for his skin was as smooth as a child’s, his clothes crisp and unsoiled.

I knew it for the lie it was. There was no doubt in my mind that the demon who had murdered my family lay under the guise of the handsome blond gentleman leaning against the wall. Fury rose in me like a tide, beginning at my feet and continuing until my face was hot with it.

The time for waiting was passed. Now it was time to be done with it. With him.

Now it was time for him to pay.

My fingers found the hilt of my Blade without looking, and I had a flash of Father, standing near me as I assumed the ready position. I could still feel his hand on my shoulder, steadying my arm as I focused on the targets across the field in the distance.

Hit your mark, Rose. Hit your mark.

I stepped forward, itching to drive the Blade through Bael’s black, black heart.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It was not the murmured voice in my ear that gave me pause, but the hand, tightly clenched around my upper arm, that made me stop in my tracks.

I knew better than to expose my back to Bael. Instead, I tipped my head so that my body was still facing forward, glaring from under the brim of my hat at the young man who had spoken.

“And I wouldn’t do that.” I let my eyes skip to his hand, still encircling my arm. “If I were you, I mean.”

In the noise and activity of the room, the young man’s face was a series of quick impressions. Angular cheekbones, dark hair curling at his ears, deep blue eyes flashing even in the dim light of the room.

“I understand,” he said, loosening his grip on my arm. “But he’ll kill you, too, if he sees you.”

For a moment, everything seemed to still, and all I heard were his words.

He’ll kill you, too, if he sees you.

As if he knew about the murder of my family.

I removed my hand from the hilt of the Blade, looking at him in surprise. “First of all, you don’t understand. Couldn’t possibly understand. And second of all,” I pulled my arm violently from his grasp, “who are you?”

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