Nora is more certain than ever that she is in love with Patch. Fallen angel or no, he is the one for her. Her heritage and destiny may mean that they will always be enemies, but there is no turning her back on him. But now they face their biggest challenge. Can their love survive a seemingly insurmountable divide. And in the end, will there be enough trust left to rebuild what has been broken? The lines are drawn - but which sides are they on?
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Becca Fitzpatrick lives in Colorado. Hush, Hush was her first novel, and after completing the series, wrote romantic thrillers Black Ice and the upcoming Dangerous Lies. When she's not writing, Becca is most likely to be found prowling sales racks for reject shoes, running, or watching crime dramas on TV. You can visit her on www.beccafitzpatrick.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I’M NOT A PARTY GIRL. THE EARSPLITTING MUSIC, THE gyrating bodies, the inebriated smiles—not my thing. My ideal Saturday night would be at home, snuggling on the sofa and watching a rom-com with my boyfriend, Patch. Predictable, low-key . . . normal. My name is Nora Grey, and while I used to be an average American teen, buying my clothes at the J. Crew outlet and spending my babysitting money on iTunes, normal and I have recently become perfect strangers. As in, I wouldn’t know normal if it marched up and poked me in the eye.
Normal and I parted ways when Patch strolled into my life. Patch has seven inches on me, operates on cold, hard logic, moves like smoke, and lives alone in a supersecret, superswanky studio beneath Delphic Amusement Park. The sound of his voice, low and sexy, can melt my heart in three seconds flat. He’s also a fallen angel, kicked out of heaven for his flexibility when it comes to following rules. I personally believe Patch scared the pants off normal, and it took off running for the far side of the world.
I might not have normalcy, but I do have stability. Namely, in the form of my best friend of twelve years, Vee Sky. Vee and I have an unshakable bond that even a laundry list of differences can’t break. They say opposites attract, and Vee and I are proof of the validity of the statement. I am slender and tallish—by human standards—with big curly hair that tests my patience, and I’m a type A personality. Vee is even taller, with ash-blond hair, serpentine-green eyes, and more curves than a roller coaster track. Almost always, Vee’s wishes trump mine. And unlike me, Vee lives for a good party.
Tonight Vee’s wish to seek out a good time took us across town to a four-story brick warehouse throbbing with club music, swimming with fake IDs, and jam-packed with bodies producing enough sweat to take greenhouse gases to a whole new level. The layout inside was standard: a dance floor sandwiched between a stage and a bar. Rumor had it that a secret door behind the bar led to the basement, and the basement led to a man named Storky, who operated a thriving pirated anything business. Community religious leaders kept threatening to board up Coldwater’s hotbed of iniquity for disorderly teens . . . also known as the Devil’s Handbag.
“Groove it, baby,” Vee yelled at me over the mindless thump, thump, thump of music, lacing her fingers through mine and swaying our hands over our heads. We were at the center of the dance floor, being jostled and bumped on every side. “This is how Saturday night’s supposed to be. You and me gettin’ down, letting loose, working up good ol’-fashioned girl-sweat.”
I did my best to give an enthusiastic nod, but the guy behind me kept stepping on the heel of my ballet flat, and at five-second intervals, I had to shove my foot back into it. The girl to my right was dancing with her elbows out, and if I wasn’t careful, I knew I’d get clipped.
“Maybe we should get drinks,” I called to Vee. “Feels like Florida in here.”
“That’s ’cause you and me are burning up the place. Check out the guy at the bar. He can’t take his eyes off your smokin’ moves.” She licked her finger and pressed it to my bare shoulder, making a sizzling noise.
I followed her gaze . . . and my heart lurched.
Dante Matterazzi lifted his chin in acknowledgment. His next gesture was a little more subtle.
Wouldn’t have pegged you for a dancer, he spoke to my mind.
Funny, I would have pegged you for a stalker, I shot back.
Dante Matterazzi and I both belonged to the Nephilim race, hence the innate ability to mind-speak, but the similarities stopped there. Dante didn’t know how to give it a rest, and I didn’t know how much longer I could dodge him. I’d met him for the first time just this morning, when he’d come to my house to announce that fallen angels and Nephilim were on the brink of war and I was in charge of leading the latter, but now I needed a break from war talk. It was overwhelming. Or maybe I was in denial. Either way, I wished he’d disappear.
Left a message on your cell phone, he said.
Gee, I must have missed it. More like I deleted it.
We need to talk.
Kind of busy. To emphasize my point, I rolled my hips and swung my arms side to side, doing my best to imitate Vee, whose favorite television network was BET, and it showed. She had hiphop stamped on her soul.
A faint smile quirked Dante’s mouth. While you’re at it, get your friend to give you some pointers. You’re floundering. Meet me out back in two.
I glared at him. Busy, remember?
This can’t wait. With a meaningful arch of his eyebrows, he disappeared into the crowd.
“His loss,” Vee said. “He can’t handle the heat, that’s all.”
“About those drinks,” I said. “Can I bring you a Coke?” Vee didn’t look ready to give up dancing anytime soon, and as much as I wanted to avoid Dante, I figured it was best to just get this over with. Suck it up and talk to him. The alternative was having him shadow me all night.
“Coke with lime,” Vee said.
I edged my way off the dance floor and, after making sure Vee wasn’t watching, ducked down a side hallway and out the back door. The alley was bathed in blue moonlight. A red Porsche Panamera was parked in front of me, and Dante leaned against it, arms folded loosely over his chest.
Dante is six feet nine with the physique of a soldier fresh out of boot camp. Case in point: He has more muscle tone in his neck than I have in my entire body. Tonight he was wearing baggy khakis and a white linen shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, revealing a deep V of smooth, hairless skin.
“Nice car,” I said.
“It gets the job done.”
“So does my Volkswagen, and it cost considerably less.”
“Takes more than four wheels to be a car.”
“So,” I said, tapping my foot. “What’s so urgent?”
“You still dating that fallen angel?”
It was only the third time in as many hours that he’d asked. Twice by text messaging, and now face-to-face. My relationship with Patch had gone through a lot of ups and downs, but the current trend was upward. We weren’t without our issues, however. In a world where Nephilim and fallen angels would rather die than smile at each other, dating a fallen angel was a definite no-no.
I stood a little taller. “You know it.”
“Discreet is the watchword.” Patch and I didn’t need Dante to tell us it was wise not to make a lot of public appearances together. Nephilim and fallen angels never needed an excuse to teach each other a lesson, and racial tensions between the two groups were getting hotter with each passing day. It was autumn, October to be exact, and the Jewish month of Cheshvan was just days away.
Every year during Cheshvan, fallen angels possess Nephilim bodies by the droves. Fallen angels have free rein to do as they please, and since it’s the only time during the year they can actually feel physical sensation, their creativity knows no bounds. They chase after pleasure, pain, and everything in between, playing parasites to their Nephilim hosts. For Nephilim, Cheshvan is a hellish prison.
If Patch and I were so much as seen holding hands by the wrong individuals, we’d pay, one way or another.
“Let’s talk about your image,” Dante said. “We need to generate some positive media around your name. Boost Nephilim confidence in you.”
I gave a theatrical snap of my fingers. “Don’t you just hate it when your approval ratings are low?”
Dante frowned. “This isn’t a joke, Nora. Cheshvan starts in just over seventy-two hours, and that means war. Fallen angels on one side, us on the other. Everything rides on your shoulders—you’re the new leader of the Nephilim army. The blood oath you swore to Hank is in effect, and I don’t think I have to remind you that the consequences of breaking it are very, very real.”
Queasiness pinched my stomach. I hadn’t exactly applied for the job. Thanks to my deceased biological father, a truly twisted man named Hank Millar, I’d been forced to inherit the position. With the help of an otherworldly blood transfusion, he’d coerced me into transforming myself from mere human into purebred Nephil so I could take over his army. I’d sworn an oath to lead his army, it had gone into effect upon his death, and if I failed to do that, my mom and I would die. Terms of the oath. No pressure.
“Despite every cautious measure I intend to implement, we can’t completely erase your past. The Nephilim are digging around. There are rumors you’re dating a fallen angel, and that your loyalties are split.”
“I am dating a fallen angel.”
Dante rolled his eyes. “Could you say it any louder?”
I shrugged. If that’s what you really want. Then I opened my mouth, but Dante was beside me in an instant, covering it with his hand. “I know it kills you, but could you make my job easy just this once?” he murmured in my ear, glancing around at the shadows with obvious uneasiness, even though I was positive we were alone. I’d only been a purebred Nephil for twenty-four hours, but I trusted my new, sharper sixth sense. If there were eavesdroppers lurking, I’d know.
“Look, I know when we first met this morning I carelessly said the Nephilim would just have to deal with me dating a fallen angel,” I said when he lowered his hand, “but I wasn’t thinking. I was angry. I’ve spent the day giving this a lot of thought. I’ve talked to Patch. We’re being careful, Dante. Really careful.”
“Nice to know. But I still need you to do something for me.”
“Date a Nephil. Date Scott Parnell.”
Scott was the first Nephil I’d ever befriended, at the tender age of five. I hadn’t known about his true heritage back then, but in recent months he’d taken on the roles of first my tormentor, then my partner in crime, and eventually my friend. There were no secrets between us. Likewise, there was no romantic chemistry.
I laughed. “You’re killing me, Dante.”
“It would be for show. For the sake of appearances,” he explained. “Just until our race warms to you. You’ve only been a Nephil one day. Nobody knows you. People need a reason to like you. We have to make them feel comfortable trusting you. Dating a Nephil is a good step in the right direction.”
“I can’t date Scott,” I told Dante. “Vee likes him.”
To say Vee had been unlucky in love was putting it optimistically. In the past six months she’d fallen for a narcissistic predator and a backstabbing slimeball. Not surprisingly, both relationships made her seriously doubt her instincts in love. Lately, she had unequivocally refused to so much as smile at the opposite sex . . . until Scott came along. Early last night, just hours before my biological father had compelled me to transform myself into a purebred Nephil, Vee and I had come to the Devil’s Handbag to watch Scott play bass for his new band, Serpentine, and she hadn’t stopped talking about him since. To sweep in and steal Scott now, even if it was a ruse, would be the ultimate low blow.
“It wouldn’t be real,” Dante repeated, as if that made everything just peachy.
“Would Vee know that?”
“Not exactly. You and Scott would have to be convincing together. A leak would be disastrous, so I’d want to limit the truth to the two of us.”
Meaning Scott would also be a casualty of the ruse. I did the hands-on-hips thing, going for firm and immovable. “Then you’re going to have to come up with someone else.” I wasn’t enamored with the idea of fake-dating a Nephil to boost my popularity. In fact, it seemed like a disaster in the making, but I wanted this mess behind me. If Dante thought a Nephilim boyfriend would give me more street cred, so be it. It wouldn’t be real. Obviously Patch wouldn’t be thrilled, but tackle one problem at a time, right?
Dante’s mouth compressed into a line, and he shut his eyes briefly. Summoning patience. It was an expression I’d grown quite accustomed to over the course of the day.
“He’d need to be revered in the Nephilim community,” Dante said thoughtfully at last. “Someone Nephilim would admire and approve of.”
I made an impatient gesture. “Fine. Just throw someone other than Scott at me.”
I flinched. “Sorry. What? You?” I was too stunned to burst into laughter.
“Why not?” Dante asked.
“Do you really want me to start listing reasons? Because I’ll keep you here all night. You’ve got to be at least five years older than me in human years—total scandal fodder—you don’t have a sense of humor, and—oh yeah. We can’t stand each other.”
“It’s a natural connection. I’m your first lieutenant—”
“Because Hank gave you the position. I had no say in that.”
Dante didn’t seem to hear me, charging ahead with his make-believe version of events. “We met and felt an instant and mutual attraction. I comforted you after your father’s death. It’s a believable story.” He smiled. “Lots of good publicity.”
“If you say the P word one more time, I’m going to . . . do something drastic.” Like smack him. And then smack myself for even considering this plan.
“Sleep on it,” Dante said. “Mull it over.”
“Mulling it over.” I counted to three on my fingers. “Okay, done. Bad idea. Really bad idea. My answer is no.”
“You have a better idea?”
“Yes, but I’ll need time to think it up.”
“Sure. No problem, Nora.” He counted to three on his fingers. “Okay, time’s up. I needed a name first thing this morning. In case it isn’t painfully obvious, your image is headed down the tubes. Word of your father’s death, and subsequently your new leadership position, is spreading like wildfire. People are talking, and the talk isn’t good. We need the Nephilim to believe in you. We need them to trust that you have their best interests in mind, and that you can finish your father’s work and bring us out of bondage from fallen angels. We need them to rally behind you, and we’re going to give them one good reason after another. Starting with a respected Nephilim boyfriend.”
“Hey, babe, everything okay back here?”
Dante and I swung around. Vee stood in the doorway, eyeing us with equal parts wariness and curiosity.
“Hey! Everything’s fine,” I said a little too enthusiastically.
“You never came back with our drinks, and I started to worry,” Vee said. Her gaze shifted from me to Dante. Recognition sparked in her eyes, and I knew she remembered him from the bar. “Who are you?” she asked him.
“Him?” I cut in. “Oh. Uh. Well, he’s just some random guy—”
Dante stepped forward, hand extended. “Dante Matterazzi. I’m a new friend of Nora’s. We met earlier today when our mutual acquaintance, Scott Parnell, introduced us.”
Just like that, Vee’s face lit up. “You know Scott?”
“Good friend of mine, actually.”
“Any friend of Scott’s is a friend of mine.”
Inwardly, I gouged my eyes out.
“So what are you two doing back here?” Vee asked us.
“Dante just picked out a new car,” I said, stepping aside to give her an unobstructed view of the Porsche. “He couldn’t resist showing it off. Don’t look too closely, though. I think the VIN number is missing. Poor Dante had to resort to theft, since he used up all his money getting his chest waxed, and boy, does it gleam.”
“Funny,” Dante said. I thought maybe he’d self-consciously fasten at least one more shirt button, but he didn’t.
“If I had a car like that, I’d show it off too,” Vee said.
Dante said, “I tri...
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