Twilight Hunter

Execution Underground - 1


Kait Ballenger

To my mom, Jessica Schulz,

for believing in me when no one else would

and for always telling me I could achieve my dreams.

I’ll love you always, mama.


JACE MCCANNON PALMED the Mateba and clicked back the gun’s hammer. The cold grip panels of the modified revolver sat comfortably in his hand. Six silver bullets for a rogue werewolf. Limited shots. But he was feeling lucky.

He gripped the gun with both hands and lowered it to his side, slipping in and out of the shadows. The rank scent of garbage, car exhaust and piss wafted into his nose as he reached the alleyway. Ah, the sweet aroma of Rochester’s slums. He ran his tongue over his teeth, jonesing for a cigarette to drown out the smell and steady the adrenaline buzz creeping through his veins. Damn, he wanted to find this son of a bitch.

Resting his back against a brick building, he paused and glanced up. The white moon stared down at the Earth, calling him. Heat prickled beneath his skin.

He wrenched his gaze from the tempting sky and forced himself into the moment. Inhaling deeply, he rushed around the corner and scanned the area, pointing his gun into the darkness. No one. No werewolves, no hobos. Damn, not even the prostitutes were roaming.

Not that he blamed them. Regular killings weren’t anything to call home about—happened all the time. But this was different. Innocent women being found with their organs slung around their corpses, Jack-the-Ripper style. The worst part? Jace had no idea where to find the sick fuck responsible, and the thought of the young women’s pain sent his blood boiling.

He explored the alley, gun still at the ready and eyes searching for any sign of movement. A rustling noise hissed from around the next corner. Jace held his gun tight and sneaked down the narrow passage toward it. The sound grew louder, and he quickened his pace. When he reached the bend he stopped, listening closely. He threw himself around the corner, gun ready and his finger on the trigger.

A plastic bag caught on a Dumpster swished in the light wind. He cursed under his breath. Maybe he wasn’t so lucky tonight. He pushed his fingers through his hair. The cell phone jammed in the pocket of his jeans vibrated. He pulled out the annoying piece of shit and read the screen: David.

He jabbed his thumb into one of the buttons, hoping it was the right one, and shoved the phone to his ear. “Yeah?”

“Meeting in an hour.” David’s deep voice rumbled over the line.

Aw, hell. Jace shook his head. “Don’t toy with me. I’ve got business.”

“I’m not shittin’ you, J. One hour, and you better show or Damon’s gonna rip my head off. I told him I’d get you here.”

Jace frowned. He hated being forced to carry a damn cell phone. He didn’t enjoy people contacting him whenever they pleased. “It’s nearly the full moon, David. This is my prime time. You know that.”

“You don’t have to preach to me. Damon’s the one riding your ass like a Grand Canyon donkey, not me.” David paused for a moment. “He’s gonna want a report tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. I’ll have something.”

“Sure you hear me, and I like to dress up in tutus while my girl spanks me and calls me Big Daddy.”

Jace smirked. “Hey, if that’s what gets you off...”

“Shut it,” David said. “You’ve gotta report tonight or Damon will go postal. So what are you gonna tell him?”

Jace glanced into the empty darkness surrounding him. “Same thing I told him last time—jack shit. I’m not opening my damn mouth until I’ve got their packmaster bound and chained, or, preferably, I’m carrying his head on a silver platter courtesy of my bare hands.”

David let out a frustrated sigh. “I thought you said you had something.”

“I do.” Jace lowered his voice. It didn’t matter that he was alone; some things he couldn’t say aloud if he wanted to keep his sanity. “I’ve got a scent, and it’s familiar, so I smell it everywhere. Trailing this monster’s stink is about as much fun as shooting myself in the foot.”

“It’s something.”

“You better believe it’s something. But what do you expect me to do, David? Tell the whole damn division their werewolf hunter happens to be so good at his job because he’s a friggin’ half-breed?”

Silence answered him from the other end of the line. Another rustling sound blew through the alley, but Jace ignored the noise. “Look, I’ll deal with this, all right? Forget about it. I’ll be at the damn meeting with bells on and a smiling face, but let me do it on my own terms.”

“Yeah, fine. I better see you there or the next time I’m around, I’ll have a long rope and it’ll be coming straight for your neck.”

Jace huffed. “Talk to you later, Big Daddy.”

“Yeah, you too sugar.”

With a small click, the line went dead. Jace shoved the phone in his pocket again. The swishing sound continued, the noise growing. Jace rolled his eyes, ready to ball up the grocery bag and pitch it. He eyed the plastic.

Shit. The wind had stopped. The bag wasn’t blowing.

The faint sound of footsteps echoed, and the rustling quieted. Jace lifted his revolver from his side, launching himself down the alley and around the corner. He held his gun tight, prepared to shoot.

Streetlights illuminated what lay in front of him. He stopped midrun and stared at the horror.

He gaped, all his breath escaping in one large rush. “Shit.”

Blood. There was so much blood. Splattered everywhere. The light from the overhead lamps framed the corpse like spotlights at a play starring an innocent, mutilated victim. The girl’s head hung crooked, touching her shoulder, mouth open and eyes lifeless. Her features were contorted in a look of pure terror. Her arms lay limp at what had once been her sides, and her legs were spread wide, with her pants and underwear wrapped around one ankle. The middle of her body had ceased to exist, ripped to shreds by what Jace knew were large canine teeth.

Anyone with a weak stomach would have tossed his cookies at first glance. Despite all the crazy shit Jace had seen in his years as a hunter for the Execution Underground, even his gut did a flip. What the hell was wrong with this guy? Guy? No, this killer wasn’t a person. This sicko was subhuman, and not because he was a werewolf. This was beyond evil.

Jace fought the urge to punch his fist into the brick wall beside him. His rage overcame him, and the beast inside him longed to emerge. He growled, releasing the tension, and tried to calm himself. He needed to examine the body, and fast. If the police got here, he was screwed six ways to Sunday.

He knelt by the corpse. Bruises marred her forearms and neck. Based on their colors, they had definitely been made pre-mortem. She’d been dead at least thirty minutes. He breathed in, and underneath the overpowering smell of blood, the scent of sex lingered. She’d been raped before her death.

Power. That was what this freak was all about—power. He attacked young women, humans in their early twenties, who were no match for his supernatural strength. He preys on victims he knows he can take with ease. Deep down, he’s a coward. And from the carnage of his attacks, this wasn’t just about stealing women’s sex or overpowering them. With this kind of blood display, these attacks were either personal or

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