Amanda Bonilla

Blood Before Sunrise

The second book in the Shaede Assassin series, 2012

For Drew because you are daily proof that a person can do anything they set their mind to and it inspires me to keep going. And for Jacquelyn, thank you for being my sounding board. You’ve always got my back no matter what. And you know I’ve got yours.


Again, I find myself overwhelmed by what exactly it means to be a part of this amazing community of writers, readers, and book professionals. I have been reminded so many times over the past year of how fortunate I am, and I am truly thankful.

Juan, as always, you’ve been a trouper. I know it’s been tough at times, and despite the fact that my laptop is sometimes considered “the other man,” you’ve been supportive through it all. The fact that you tried to pimp my book to every person who passed it in Barnes & Noble with such pride in your voice is the only affirmation I need that no matter what, you’re behind me.

Mom and Dad, thanks for bragging me up and being proud of me no matter what I do. Niki, Cassidy, Nancy, and Jess, what would I do without you guys? I spend most of my time with fictional people. The fact that you understand it and encourage it means so much to me.

Sarah Bromley, you are the brainstorming master of the universe! I know that when I’m stuck, all I need is to call you up and in an hour or so, you’ve helped me talk my way through an entire story. You’re an idea machine!

Windy Aphayrath, I know I can count on you to call me out. Your eye for detail has saved my butt more than once. You get my angst and support me even when you don’t agree with me. Plus, you survived the killer rooster. You get extra points for that!

Suzanne Hayes, I wish I had your talent for poetry. All I had to do was send you my thoughts and you helped to weave the words into music. I can’t rhyme my way out of a paper bag. I owe you.

To my partners in mayhem, Shawntelle Madison, Sandy Williams, and Nadia Lee, I’m so glad we’re on this journey together! Thanks for having my back. And Cole Gibsen, you rock out loud! Thank you for offering a shoulder to lean on when I needed it!

To my too-fab-for-words agent, Natanya Wheeler, and everyone at NAL, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. It’s the most wonderful feeling to know I have your support and encouragement!

Jhanteigh Kupihea, my editor, you are amazing! You know exactly what to do to bring out the best in me. My craft improves every day because of you. Thank you. Thanks also go to my production editor, Zachary Greenwald; my copy editor, Jane Steele; and my cover designer, Katie Anderson.

And last but certainly not least, to the reviewing and book blogging community. Your passion for a good story is exactly why I write. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Many of you spend hours working for free, networking, maintaining blogs and Web sites, and hosting contests, charity events, and blog tours. Thank you for your hard work. You are so, so appreciated.

As always, if I’ve missed anyone, and chances are pretty good that I have, you know who you are and how I feel. I take full responsibility for my scattered state of mind. In fact, I may or may not be thinking about nachos right now.

Chapter 1

“What are you looking at?”

I tore my gaze from the delicate curve of the dagger’s blade, my eyes drawn to Azriel’s dark, handsome face like a magnet to metal. “Nothing,” I said, though that wasn’t entirely true.

“Ever lacking patience,” he said with humor. “You’ll never make it as an assassin if you can’t wait more than a few minutes to get a job done.”

True enough, I supposed. I liked to wait about as much as I liked to be doused with gasoline and set on fire. “Lorik’s late,” I said. “It’s not like him.”

Azriel stroked his finger along my jaw, and his eyes burned with an intensity that had nothing to do with business. “It matters little to me if he shows or not. Either way, my night won’t be wasted.”

I flushed at the innuendo, knowing all too well where a jobless night would lead us. Not that I’d complain…

An engine growled in the distance, followed by the squealing of tires. The Cadillac LaSalle Roadster came to a halt inches from where I stood, and the driver’s expression was full of adrenaline-infused excitement. Lorik loved flashy cars, and despite his need to lie low, he could never resist showing off. What was the point in not putting that engine and sleek body to use? He’d consider it a waste. Besides, I had a suspicion that the fancy car coupled with his pin-striped suit and fedora pulled low over his brow, made Lorik feel as if he’d just pulled a bank caper. Driving into the sunset and immortal glory would be the icing on the cake. And I’d be willing to bet a Chicago Typewriter rode shotgun to round it all out. I mean, what self-respecting gangster didn’t have a machine gun in the front seat?

“Looks like your clothes will be on for a while longer, my love.” Azriel leaned down and pressed his mouth to the pulse-point just below my ear.

I shivered at the contact, suddenly not caring whether Lorik’s life was in danger or not. Though the guy’s father did pay our bills, I supposed I could put my erotic thoughts on hold. But if he didn’t get down to business-and soon-he could rot in hell for all I cared.

“What are you looking at?” Tyler asked again, his tone bemused when I didn’t answer him right away.

“Nothing,” I finally said as I stared at the spot near the alley where that LaSalle had come to a skidding stop all those years ago. “Not a damned thing.”

God, I hadn’t thought of that crazy Armenian in decades. He had to have been dead for a while now, if someone hadn’t managed to do the deed in his youth. Lorik had been the closest thing Azriel had to a friend. I always wondered about it, the comfortable way Azriel had with him. Usually we lay lower than low, but with Lorik, Azriel had allowed us to let our guard down a bit. Maybe I’d do some digging just for shits and giggles and find out what really happened to him after he went off the grid. Because I had so much free time on my hands these days.

My annoyance wasn’t so much about memories of Lorik-and Azriel-intruding on my thoughts, or even my lack of actual downtime. Rather, it was more about the fact that I stood at yet another dead end. It’s damn hard to catch someone who’s always one step ahead of you.

And chasing an Oracle is like chasing the wind.

I drove my katana into the scabbard at my back. Yet another close call, and the bitch had slipped right through my fingers. You wouldn’t think someone as blind as a bat could escape so easily.

But she had.

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