One More Bite


By Jennifer Rardin

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It’s Jaz Parks. I’ve already smoked the guy who was the pain in the CIA’s you-know-what for the past few years. But now, in the power vacuum left by the death of Edward “The Raptor”Samos, a struggle for supremacy has begun between his former allies.

The CIA feels the balance must be maintained. So when an agent planted among the Weres discovers a plot to assassinate the Coven’s leader, my vampire boss and I are brought in to take out the woman hired to do the deed, a killer who might be as wily and Gifted as ourselves.

So it’s off to the Scottish Highlands for some twisted fun among murderers, demons and half-crazed relatives. Sometimes being a top-secret CIA assassin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Rardin

Excerpt from Bite Marks copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Rardin

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


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First eBook Edition: January 2009

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The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN: 978-0-316-04076-1


Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Another One Bites the Dust

Biting the Bullet

Bitten to Death

One More Bite

Chapter One

Jasmine, do not pull that gun."

Vayl spoke in a voice so low even I could barely hear him, which meant the people in the blue and white seats next to the bathroom door where I stood still had no idea what I meant to do.

"I'm gonna kill him," I growled. My fingers tightened on the grip of Grief, the Walther PPK I kept stashed in the shoulder holster under my black leather jacket. I couldn't see my intended victim at the moment. Vayl had set his hands on the edges of the doorframe, spreading his black calf-length duster like a curtain, blocking my view. But I could hear the son of a bitch, sitting near the front, chatting up the flight attendant like she was the daughter of one of his war buddies.

"You do understand what a bad idea this is, do you not?" Vayl insisted. "Even poking fun at murder on an airplane could bring the passengers down on you like a mob of after-Christmas sale shoppers."

"Who says I'm joking?"

He fixed me with warm hazel eyes. "I would hate to see you beaten to death with that woman's boot."

He jerked his head sideways, directing my attention to an exhausted traveler who must've made her armrests squeak when she'd squeezed into her seat. I glanced her way, and as people will when they feel eyes on them, she looked back at me. For a second her saggy pink cheeks and black-framed glasses swam out of focus. A lean, dark-eyed face sneered at me from beneath her shoulder-length perm. It said, "Are you certain you know my name?" I squeezed my eyes shut.

You're dead, Edward Samos. I saw your smoke fade into the night. I ground the bits of ash and bone you left behind into the dirt of the Grecian countryside. So stop haunting me!

I turned my head so that when I opened my eyes they fell on Vayl's short black curls, which always tempted me to run my fingers through them. And his face, carved with the bold hand of an artist whose work I'd never toss aside.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Yeah, sure. For some bizarre reason I'm seeing the last vamp I assassinated on innocent people's mugs. I can't stop thinking about my boss in a totally unprofessional and yet toe-curling way. And, at age twenty-five, I still haven't escaped the man who made my childhood pretty much a misery. I'm cruising, thanks for asking!

I picked the part that bothered me most and ripped. "You're the one who let my father tag along. I told you it wouldn't work. I warned you blood could be shed. But did you listen?"

"It is partially my fault," he allowed. "If I had taken time to fly home between my trip to Romania and this mission, I do not believe this would have happened. But meeting you in London seemed more efficient. And without our Seer along to warn me otherwise, how was I to know your father would rendezvous with you there as well?"

I said, "I miss Cassandra." Especially on days like today. Not just because her psychic abilities could've detoured this steamroller. But because she always seemed to know what to say to keep me from ruining my so-called life.

Vayl's eyes traveled to my hand, still stuck inside my pocket. Or was he checking out my boobs? And if not, should I be even more pissed? His half smile showed he knew exactly what I was thinking. He said, "Perhaps we should consider bringing Cassandra with us more regularly. As for the bloodshed, I supposed you would wait until we had reached Inverness."

"Who brings baby pictures with them on a trip?" I griped. "If I'd wanted my bare ass paraded in front of all the premium ticket holders I'd have mooned everyone before we took off!"

Vayl knew better than to tell me the photos were adorable. Then I'd have had to kill him too. If that had been the real issue. Problem was, when my dad had cracked that old album, he'd done it upside down first. So the picture that had caught my attention was a copy of the one I'd locked in my safe nearly eighteen months ago. A shot of Matt and me just after he'd slipped his ring on my finger. I wondered if two people had ever been so sure they were headed for eternal happiness. Or had their mistake shoved so violently in their faces two weeks later.

"Look into my eyes," Vayl said.

"What, so you can hypnotize me? No thanks."

He shook his head. "We both know my powers have a minimal effect on you. Come now, my pretera. Humor me."

"What's a pretera?"

"It is a Vampere word, meaning wildcat."

"Oh. In that case  .  .  ." I locked stares with the guy who'd started out as my supervisor, upgraded to sverhamin, and ended up  .  .  .  well, sometimes the possibilities practically made my skin steam. Other times I still felt like Matt's traitor. Can you betray a dead man? Since I didn't know the answer to that one, I forced my mind to pettier subjects. "I can't believe my father's here. This is like my first date times ten."

"How do you say? Money talks."

So true. In this case, the bucks had come from Albert himself. "What are we, the Russian Space Agency?" I demanded. "Selling seats on our trips to the highest bidder?"

Vayl said, "I realize the shock is only now wearing off. Once again, I want to assure you that I would have warned you. But Pete did not inform me Albert would be joining us until he called just before I met you in London. Apparently your father felt you would strenuously object to his presence—"

"Ya think?"

"Thus the secrecy surrounding his joining us at Gatwick."

"He must've known I'd have thrown him off the plane in Cleveland," I muttered. I realized I'd taken my hand out of my jacket and Vayl had used the chance to curl his fingers around mine. No romance in that touch. He was probably just trying to keep me from reaching again.

I sighed. "Okay, I won't kill him yet. But you get those pictures out of his claws, and keep him away from me, and—"

Vayl slid his fingers up my arm, sending trickles of awareness shooting through me. Suddenly I couldn't think of anything but his touch. A deliberate move on his part—underhanded and mean. I kinda loved it. "I never thought I would say this," he murmured, leaning in so his lips nearly brushed my ear. "But I would suggest you spend the rest of this flight concentrating on Cole."

Who? Oh. Damn, Jaz, would you kick your brain into gear? Remember Cole? Your third for this piece-o'-crap job? The one Pete has decided to fund using your dad's 401(k)?

Jerking my arm from Vayl's hand so I could think, dammit, I began plotting a revenge so intricate and satisfying I barely heard him say, "I will deal with your father."

"Fine." Wait, maybe not. "Um, Vayl? Do me a favor?"


"Be discreet, will ya? He doesn't know about  .  .  .  us  .  .  .  yet. And I think I should probably be the one to tell him I'm involved with a vampire."

Chapter Two

When I retire I'm going to write a book. Not about the CIA. I know too many secrets that could get me killed. Or worse, elected. Nope, this one's going to be called My Dad Is an Asshole: The True Story of a Shithead's Daughter.

As I stared out the window, using Cole as a buffer between the butt-flap and me, I knew I should be trying to figure out his game. Mostly retired consultants to the Agency don't just pop into the field whenever they feel the urge for some exercise. Especially ones who've just recovered from a major vehicular collision. But I was still too pissed to follow any logical train of thought for long.

I heard Vayl say, "Perhaps we should stow your album under the seat for now, Albert. I understand we are about to land. And we have had so little time to discuss football. I understand you are a Bears fan?" At which point I decided I owed my sverhamin an elaborate dinner that would not include any of the gross dishes I'd heard some native Scots preferred. Haggis? Who eats something that sounds like an eighty-year-old husband-beater who sees Jesus's face in her porridge every morning but devours it anyway?

"When do you think they'll let me get my cell out?" Cole asked. "I promised Mom I'd text her as soon as we land. I'm going to stick my phone up some guy's kilt, flash a picture, and then challenge her to guess what she's seeing."

"That is so disgusting."

"What? I'll get his permission first."

"Sending dirty pictures to your mom?"

"She'll laugh so hard her teeth will probably fly across the dinner table. She lost them in a car accident, you know."


"She was drag racing. Oh, I'm supposed to tell you she won. She made me promise to always say that when I mention her dentures."

I shook my head. Not just because Cole probably needed psychiatric help. But because he liked his mom. And she reciprocated. Weird concept, that. Mine had suffered a fatal heart attack. Currently the unburiable part of her resided alongside the other skeptics and unrepentants in a version of hell I never wanted to see (or smell) again. Oddly, that reminded me of Matt. One of our last conversations had been about my parents. I'd been bitching about my dad.

"He's all right, you know," Matt had said between bites of the burgers we'd just grilled on the little deck outside our cozy country-themed duplex. "Once you get past all the bark there's a quality human in there. Your mom's the one to watch out for."

I'd violently disagreed with him about Albert. After all, he hadn't grown up listening to the man's lazy-ass lectures. "Get your lazy ass off the couch and do your damn chores!" But he'd had a valid point when it came to my mother. What a depressing duo.

"Your mom can bake too, right?" I asked Cole.

He nodded. "Like a pastry chef. She said Grandma Thea made her try a bunch of girly hobbies after the car crash, and baking was the only one that stuck. She and my dad run a little coffee shop in Miami that's famous for its homemade desserts. In fact, she likes to say her cinnamon rolls put all four of her boys through college."

"You got any sisters?"

"No. Why?" Cole turned curious blue eyes my way, his bronzed face and surfer's 'fro making me long for a pristine beach and a bottle of SPF 80. Anything that would put thousands of miles between me and my dad while preventing skin cancer had to be a good thing.

I shrugged. "I thought your folks might like a daughter. As in me. I'm in the market for a new set." When his glance wandered below my neck I punched him in the arm. "Of parents, you nimrod."

"Then we'd be siblings," he said. "Which would make what I want to do with you illegal."

I sighed. "Dude, you can't still want to marry me. Now that you know I'm with—" I jerked my thumb toward Vayl.

"Why won't you say his name out loud if you two are such a pair?"

I yanked my tray out of its upright position and depocketed the poker chips that had become a balm to my troubled spirit ever since I'd had to give up my playing cards. As I divided and recombined them, the familiar clack of clay against plastic eased the kinks out of my knot-infested muscles. "My dad doesn't know."

When I felt Cole's shoulder shaking against mine I glanced over. He was laughing so hard he couldn't make a sound. As soon as he paused for a breath, the plane's cabin would be filled with the echoes of his mirth. And I'd have to kill him too.

I whispered, "You make a sound and I'll tell Pete you compromised this mission and should be reassigned to a desk. Forever."

The giggles blasted out of him in a single shocked whoof. "You wouldn't!"

"Okay, not forever. Two weeks, max. But, believe me, it feels like eternity."

Cole's eyes narrowed. "Remind me never to break my collarbone. Apparently all the forced rest causes you to peel the skin off your face and reveal your inner monster."

"It was more of a crack than a break. And I've been perfectly reasonable—"

"Save it. I didn't want to believe the rumors, but now I have to think they were true. You really did come off sick leave three weeks early to answer the phones at the office, didn't you?"

"Martha hadn't had a vacation in years. So I just thought—"

"Is it true that you repainted the whole floor? One-handed?"

"The walls were turquoise. Who can concentrate with that color looming over them all day long?"

"Did you, or did you not, reorganize all of Pete's files so now he can't find anything?"

I bit my lip. "I don't see what the big deal is. Most of it's just backup for what's on his computer. But that was when he sent me to Florida, which, in my own defense, I'm pretty sure he was planning to do anyway—"

Cole shook his head direly. "Not so fast. I saw you plowing toward the back of the plane just now like you meant to tear off the tail and stuff it down Albert's throat. No, don't get that dreamy look on your face. I want some straight talk from you, dammit!"

I gulped. Cole didn't swear much, and never at me. In fact, he'd been nothing but charming, funny, and pretty much perfect since we'd met in a women's bathroom when he was still a PI specializing in supernatural cases. "Okay," I said. "What do you want to know?"

Cole turned fully toward me, bracing his hand against the seat in front of him. He lowered his voice to intimate. "To me this is just another aspect of your recently upgraded weirdocity."

"That's not a word."

"Shut up."

Since the alternative was kicking a huge dent in his face, which he really didn't deserve, I pressed my lips together and listened. He said, "Why do you keep holding back with Vayl if it's the real thing? You won't tell your dad. Nobody in the department knows. Isn't true love something you want to shout about from the nearest rooftop?"

I murmured, "Dude, every time I step onto a roof somebody tries to throw me off. Plus that's so  .  .  ." I rolled my eyes and made an ick-I-swallowed-a-gnat sound.

"That's not an answer," he insisted.

I took one of the chips off the pile I'd made and turned it between my fingers. "It's Matt." I didn't need to remind him that my fiancé had been murdered, along with my sister-in-law and the rest of our vamp-killing crew. It was one of the first personal stories I'd ever told him. Which said a lot about the kind of guy he was.

For an answer he draped his arm across my shoulder.

Once I would've blown off this conversation. Too hard. Major chance of a marshmallowy aftertaste. Now I stuck with it. Although I did entertain the fleeting thought that personal growth sucks. "Every time I think I'm ready to move on, something happens to remind me of him. That's one part of it. But it's not the hardest."

"What's the rest?"

"I guess I'm more superstitious than I realized. One corner of my brain is convinced that if I make some big announcement, that'll be the same as a challenge."

"To who?"

"I don't know. God? Fate? Whoever thought it was okay to wipe out everybody I really cared about in the first place."

"First of all, that chapter of your life was written by Aidyn Strait. He was the vampire who killed your people, and nobody else should get the credit. Also, don't you think you're exaggerating? Just a little?"

Where did Cole get off with the superior attitude? "I have no idea what you mean," I snapped.

"Your brother survived that massacre."

"Only because he was already in the hospital."

"What about your sister? Don't you love her?"

"You're missing my point."

"I don't think so. Look, I'm not trying to undercut your loss. It was huge. I'm just saying, maybe you're not seeing it clearly because it was so horrific to start with."

"Did you want me to answer your question or not?" I growled.

"Well, yeah."

"That's all I'm doing. I'm telling you that I'm not anxious to make anything official between me and Vayl. Because I think that if I do he'll die."

Cole smiled. "By that logic, you should date me, then."


"Think about it. Why would Fate want to turn Vayl into vapor if It thought you and I were getting busy?"

"That's nuts."

He leaned over and kissed me, smack, on the cheek. His breath, smelling faintly of grape bubble gum, blew across my lips as he murmured, "You said it, not me."

When he sank back into his seat nothing was left to block my view of Albert. In the time since Vayl had settled beside him, my dad had managed to extort another bag of peanuts from the flight attendant. I watched him pop them into his mouth one by one and chew them without once closing his lips, so that the sound of his masticating between complaints about his favorite team's lame-ass secondary bounced off the curved walls of the Embraer like the wet plopping of a knife slicing through layers of bloated animal skin.


I stuck my fingers in my ears and glued my eyes to the window. The landscape should've cheered me. The green fields and thick trees that surrounded Dalcross Airport had always lifted my spirits. They were the part of the landscape that reminded me most of home. But the deep blue of the Moray Firth flowing off into the North Sea let me know I'd come a long way from Ohio. As did the knowledge that if we turned this plane just a touch to the west and kept flying we'd be sweeping into the Highlands, where peaks with names like Liathac and Ben Dearg made you think of the old gods. The ones who probably still lolled among the mountains, gouging out grooves with their elbows and asses, joking about how the mountaineers would have a fine old time ascending their dirty new cracks. Yeah, my sense was that they had the humor of thirteen-year-old boys. Except for the goddesses, who had none.

Since Vayl was with me on this trip, the fact that I could see anything besides runway lights and the sparkle of a growing city should've seemed miraculous. But I was too disturbed to get all slobbery about the reason he'd begun to wake early, which had everything to do with his way-cool ability to suck another vampire's powers into his permanent arsenal. During our last mission, his former nestling had tried to make their arrangement eternal. She'd literally shoved Vampere magic through him, forcing him to stay awake through an entire day. The process had left him changed. Now he woke at least three hours before dark and stayed up about that long after the sun had risen.

This can be a problem for a guy who sizzles in the sun.

Enter Bergman, our tech consultant, whose genius had saved our asses so many times I'd considered tattooing his name on mine. He'd come up with a lotion that temporarily blocked the sun's rays so Vayl could at least walk from building to building without frying. Unfortunately it darkened his skin so radically he looked like he'd fallen asleep inside a tanning bed.

I looked over at him now, wondering how the hell we were going to pull off this mission with so many variables to control. Then his eyes met mine. And when they lightened to amber I knew that as long as we stuck together, nothing could stop us.

Chapter Three

Driving is my thing. Not only do I kick ass behind the wheel, but I love controlling thousands of pounds of road-eating people-hauler with little more than a twitch of the pinky. I had planned on playing chauffeur out of Dalcross, since the route to Tearlach—Floraidh Halsey's bed-and-breakfast—mapped "tricky" when you typed in the address. But Jack turned out to be a fearful flyer and needed major comfort. As soon as I transferred him from pet carrier to leash he ducked between my legs, which meant I practically rode him to the urine-yellow Alhambra we'd rented. Actually, I could've hopped on and he wouldn't have noticed. He weighs twenty more pounds than I do. And eats twice as much. We won't even discuss the pooping. Gawd.

Yeah, I know, I'd said I was gonna adopt him out to a good home after I killed his master on my last mission. Samos had loved the malamute more than anything or anyone else he'd ever known. And why not? He was a fabulous dog. Good humored. Obedient. Smart and sensitive. I could go on, but I'm pretty sure I'd start sounding like one of those batty old ladies who eventually gets devoured by her forty-two cats. In the end, I couldn't let him go. But Jack had come with a few issues, which meant I couldn't leave matters in their original state either.

"Tell me you're joking!" Cole demanded as we sat in the second row of seats with my dog lying between us. Vayl, at the wheel, wearing dark glasses and a black fedora, glanced in the rearview. Albert sat next to him, immersed in the map he held, trying to make sense of directions that, while written in English, still needed a translator.

"I'm dead serious," I insisted. "I got him fixed."

Cole threw his arms up and hunched into the corner of the ivory seat. He rolled his eyes at the canine, who'd undergone a dye job for this mission since we figured he'd mixed with the coven while he was still Samos's pet, and we didn't need his seamy past coming back to bite us in the ass. The vet said he'd been cheerful about the shampooing that would leave him coal black for the next three weeks. But that was Jack, always willing to play along, especially if you offered him something to nibble as part of the deal.

Now he regarded Cole curiously, as if trying to divine whether or not somebody who smelled like bubble gum could be a source of doggy treats. "Sorry, Jack," said his disgusted buddy. "If I'd known about this, I'd have done more to protect your manhood."

"He was humping everything in sight!" I fumed. "I had to throw out my ottoman!"

"That's no reason to snip a guy's nuts!"

"He's not a guy; he's a dog. Who won't be making puppies. Or screwing my shoes anymore! Yeehaw!"

Cole shoved his hands into the crooks of his elbows. "Well, this mission sucks."

"It's barely started! And I should be the one bitching!"

"Turn left here," Albert told Vayl calmly, as if the two of us yelling didn't even exist. Suddenly I could hardly keep myself from kicking the back of his seat.

"What are you doing here anyway?" I demanded.

Albert speared a glance over his shoulder. In the fading light, his silvery hair and wrinkles seemed to disappear and he looked much more like the dad who'd continuously barked at me to Sit up straight, dammit! I won't have any slope-shouldered daughters in my unit! Only after I'd pulled myself upright did I realize the old fart had done it to me again. Gotten under my skin like a sliver of bamboo.

"I'm just here as an observer," he said. "Pete knew I was interested in what you did for a living, so we found terms we could agree on."

"If you think I'm going to buy that line of crap—" The tiniest jerk of Vayl's head stopped me. I've worked for him long enough to pick up on every gesture, because they all come with their own backstory if you just know how to interpret them. I couldn't see his eyes through the shades, but the thin line of his lips spoke volumes.

Let it be, they told me.

Okay, but only for a while.

Good enough.

"We are happy to have you, Albert," Vayl said. "Did Pete fill you in as to the details of our mission?"

"All he said was that he'd assigned you to eliminate an assassin." Albert glanced at the map. "Looks like we take the next right."

"This inn is somewhat secluded, is it not?" Vayl said.

"Better for us," I said.

"Why is that?" asked Albert.

I raised my eyebrows at Vayl. "Tell him," he said.

I scrunched down in my seat because I knew it would irritate my dad. As I patted Jack on the head I tried to remember everything in the right order. "About four weeks ago we took out a major player in the supernatural community called Edward 'the Raptor' Samos. This was one evil dude. We're talking multiple efforts to cause worldwide death and destruction. He forced a lot of others into partnerships with him. Crowds that wouldn't normally mix it up, except maybe in a territorial dispute."

"Sounds like a real douche bag."

I swallowed a surprised chuckle. Did Albert even know the literal meaning of the word? I said, "Definitely. We do know that three groups willingly entered into alliances with him. They were the Valencian Weres, an American vamp gang we call the Flock, and the Witches of Inverness."

"Aha. So you've come to take out the coven?" Albert guessed.

I shook my head, irritated to have to reject such a logical conclusion. "The Big Bosses have decided it's in our best interests to maintain the balance of power between the three groups. So when one of our guys, who's in deep cover with the Valencian Weres, told us they'd contracted an assassin to kill Floraidh Halsey, the coven's leader, events began to unfold. Now we're here, under orders to take out the killer before she has a chance to change the balance and trigger a war between the factions. According to our source she's going to be staying at Floraidh's B and B."

"The assassin is a girl?" Albert asked.

"Why do you sound surprised?" I demanded. "So am I."

"You're Vayl's assistant." He's the assassin, said the stubborn set of his jaw. You just take messages and clean his guns.

"I kill bad guys, Dad. It's what I've done for a living since I graduated from college. And I'm good at it."

His eyes dropped to Jack. I saw his hand twitch, as if he wanted to reach out and sink his fingers into that thick fur, but he wouldn't let himself. "So how are you going to make sure I fit in?" he asked.

We're not. We're going to kick your ass back to Chicago where you belong! I nearly said it. But Cole put his hand on my clenched fist and said, "Our cover can take another member, easy. We're going in as ghost hunters attending a big shindig called GhostCon. Good timing for a hit with all the strangers coming into town, which is probably why the assassin chose this week. Anyway, the lectures and whatnot are taking place at Castle Hoppringhill, which is pretty close to Floraidh's B and B. One or two of us will have to poke our faces into GhostCon every few hours just to make sure our cover sticks. Having you along to do that will give the rest of us an even better chance to identify the assassin."


On Sale
Jan 5, 2009
Page Count
336 pages

Jennifer Rardin

About the Author

Jennifer Rardin began writing at the age of twelve. She penned eight Jaz Parks novels in her life. She passed away in September 2010.

Learn more about this author