Unchained, p.1
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       Unchained, p.1

         Part #1 of Nephilim Rising series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
 
Unchained
Page 1

  Chapter One

  The rhythmic tap of Lily Marks’s combat boots echoed off the steel roof of the Nancy Hanks Center, sending pigeons scattering into the dark sky. No one could hear her far above the corner of Twelfth and Pennsylvania Avenue.

  Lily estimated the distance between the clock tower and observation deck to be about a hundred feet. Her emerald eyes narrowed on the tower as she clutched the bag close to her chest. Her plaid skirt swished around her thighs as she whirled, then leaped over the gap, grabbing the tower window’s ledge. After hoisting herself up, she sat on the edge, legs dangling in the air. Tucking a strand of auburn hair behind her ear, she glanced furtively over her shoulder.

  No one had followed her.

  She ripped into the bag to retrieve her prize. As she sank her teeth into the burger, she immediately moaned at the taste of perfectly cooked, greasy mystery meat. In this world, where she spent most of her time knocking the crap out of stupid creatures that thought they could take her on, it was the little things that made her happy. Give her some artery-clogging burgers, and she was in heaven. Pathetic as it was, she needed moments like this.

  She flicked a fry into her mouth and then froze. The feeling snaking down her spine was undeniable. He came so close, so fast, that she knew it was him.

  “Damn it,” she muttered. Solitude and the privilege to eat her food in peace couldn’t even be gained sitting on a damn clock tower.

  Ignoring him would be a pointless endeavor. The tingling sensation grew as Lily peered down onto the observation deck and, like every time before, the mere sight of him stole her ability to form an intelligent thought. He had a name she couldn’t begin to pronounce or spell, so she’d always known him as Julian.

  And when he wasn’t around, she simply knew him as the pain in her ass.

  “Hello, my Lily. ”

  She closed her eyes. Damn his voice to Hell and back. The sound, the deep timbre of the way he’d said her name, crawled all the way to the pit of her stomach, where it smoldered.

  She pried one eye open.

  Julian’s lips formed a predatory smile. A full bottom lip and a thinner one on top curved in a way that was downright sinful. Those lips whispered promised pleasures, and they also carried an intensely real threat.

  She needed to remember that.

  Her wry gaze flickered over his face, and she bit back a sigh. She knew he was bad. Oh, he was so bad that almost all of her kind feared him. That knowledge did nothing to dampen her appreciation of his beauty. Male or female—both were in awe of him.

  After all, Julian had been an angel.

  Tonight, he wore black trousers and a buttoned-down white shirt. He must have grown bored with the buttons, though. Only half of them were done, and hard, pale flesh peeked through.

  She found an ounce of common sense along with her voice. “What do you want?”

  His smile widened. “Isn’t that a loaded question?”

  She rolled her eyes, taking a bite of her burger. “I’m on lunch break. So if you expect me to chase you off, you’re mistaken. ”

  He inched closer, the soft breeze tugging at his shoulder-length blond hair. “What kind of Nephilim doesn’t chase a fallen angel?”

  “A hungry one,” she muttered.

  “Perhaps I’ve grown on you. ”

  She thought about that for a moment. He’d been her shadow for nearly eight years. Sometimes she looked forward to their interactions. They were usually amusing if nothing else. “No. ”

  “I don’t believe you,” he said softly.

  His voice did funny things to her stomach, and she shifted uncomfortably. Her eyes met his brilliant blue gaze. “Don’t you have something better to do?”

  He tipped his head to the side, chuckling. “After all this time, are you still afraid of me, my Lily?”

  What the hell was up with this “my Lily” crap? She hated it when he called her that. It was like she belonged to him in some way. That was a big, fat no. Lily belonged to no one. Okay, that wasn’t true, either.

  She belonged to the Sanctuary.

  “Are you?” he prodded when she didn’t answer.

  The skin puckered between her brows. He could kill her with a single blow, but he had never seriously injured her. Not even once when she had managed to shove her blade between his ribs. He had simply knocked her away like a fly and continued about his business.

  She remembered that night like it was yesterday. It was the second time she’d seen him. At seventeen, she’d been out hunting alone for the first time and was cornered by a deadhead while three more had snuck up behind her. She’d taken care of the one with no problem, but the others had been wound up. One wrong move and Lily had been cornered. They’d circled her like vultures and, just when she thought she was about to bite the big one, Julian had swooped in from out of nowhere, disposing of the gruesome threesome.

  Lily had stabbed him for it.

  The second time he’d saved her life was something she refused to think about. Like ever. “No. I’m not afraid of you,” she said finally.

  He flashed a set of perfect white teeth. “You lie. ”

  “You’re annoying. ” She took another bite and briefly considered dumping the fries on his head.

  “How can you eat that crap?” he asked.

  “It’s not crap. It’s delicious, and you’re interrupting. ”

  “I only care about the state of your arteries. ”

  Total bullshit and she knew it. “I seriously doubt that’s what’s going to kill me. ”

  “I worry about you. ”

  Her fingers dug into the sesame bun as she flat-out disregarded that statement. “Why are you always following me?”

  “I have to. ”

  “Why?” The better question was how he was able to follow her in the first place. Nephilim like her were protected by a celestial shield that prevented the Fallen and their stupid, little minions—a cheesy nickname others of her kind had called Nephilim who’d been corrupted—from sensing their whereabouts.

  He flashed her a wicked smile as the hue of his eyes deepened.

  “How can you find me?” Since he appeared to be in a chatty mood and wasn’t going anywhere, she asked something she’d always wondered. “Is my heavenly mojo not working or something?”

  “Your celestial shield is fine. ” He tipped his head back, exposing his neck. A stupid move considering how vulnerable that made him, but then again, Lily knew he wasn’t afraid of her at all. “I will always know where you are. ”

  A shiver tiptoed down her spine. “That’s…that’s kind of creepy. Care to explain?”

  “Care to come down here, my Lily?”

  “Stop calling me that!”

  His laugh was overtly masculine, dark. “I think you like it when I do. ”

  Her mouth dropped open as she stared in disbelief. Her temper, which she never really had a good grasp on, rose to the occasion. Shoving her half-eaten burger into the bag, she placed it on the ledge and then jumped from the clock tower. Landing in a nimble crouch a few feet from the fallen angel, she popped up, releasing the blades from the silver bracelets around her slim wrists. The polished bracelets weren’t just for looks.

  His smile spread. “You’re incredibly sexy when you’re angry. ”

  Something akin to pleasure shimmied over her skin, and that just pissed her off. There was a good chance she was angrier with herself than him, but at least she could act like a Nephilim was supposed to when confronted with their most dangerous of all enemies.

  “I’m so done with you tonight. I have things to do. Like deadheads to hunt, minions to kill, and an order of fries with my name on it. ” She stopped in front of him, craning her
neck to look him squarely in the eye. Being that he was well over six and a half feet, this wasn’t easy to do for someone who barely stood five foot three…in heels. “Now get going or else. ”

  “Or what?” He reached out, running the tip of his finger over the sharpened edge of her blade. The way he caressed it elicited another shiver from her. “What will you do?”

  She smiled sweetly. A second later, she spun around and slammed her booted heel into his midsection. He grunted but did little else, which really ticked her off. She swung at him.

  Julian caught her hand and whirled her around, drawing her against his chest and pinning one arm between her heaving breasts. “You can do better than that, my Lily. ”

  Her first thought after he’d subdued her so quickly was, wow. The second was, holy shit, I’m dead. She drew in a ragged breath, fully aware of how her body fitted against his hard slabs of muscles and the…other thing that seemed equally proportioned to his large body. He smelled decadent, like deep, rich male spice. Liquid heat pooled low in her belly, which was wrong on so many different levels it wasn’t even funny.

  And worse yet, behind the tempting heat building inside her was raw fear. Not good. Fear wasn’t something Lily was accustomed to, but Anna hadn’t known fear, either. And wasn’t she doing the same thing Anna had done? Allowed one of the Fallen to get too close, to get under her skin? Her heart picked up as ice drenched her veins. Look at what happened to Anna.

  Anna was dead—slaughtered like an animal.

  Heart racing, she gripped Julian’s arm as she shoved her elbow into his chest with all her strength. Startled, he let go. Not wasting any time, she darted away and whirled around, raising her— What the hell? Where were her blades? She shook her wrists, releasing them from the silver cuffs once more. “Don’t ever do that again. ”

  “I can smell your fear,” he said softly.

  “You smelled my revulsion. ” She stepped back. “Never my fear. I’m not afraid of anything, especially not you. ”

  “You’re a terrible liar. ” He prowled forward, stopping when she moved into an offensive crouch. His hands clenched at his sides. “Do you know what else scents this air? Your arousal. ”

  Her cheeks burned. Thank God it was night or she would have to stab him again. “You’re insane. There’s no way I’d ever think—”

  He tsked softly, and then he was in front of her, moving faster than even she could. “You want to test that out?”

  “No. ” She tried not to breathe. His scent was purely intoxicating. Taking another small step, she wondered how in the world she kept ending up in situations like this. Of all the Nephilim in the world, why was she the one stuck with a Fallen who liked to play with his food before he devoured it?

  He lifted his chin, and his nostrils flared. A smug smile graced his lips. “Ah, yes, you’re afraid and you’re…aroused. I can practically taste it on my tongue. ”

  Heat flared somewhere it shouldn’t. “That’s disgusting. ”

  His smile turned indulgent as he leaned forward. “You know what?”

  Lily inhaled. The smell of him swamped her senses. Julian usually stayed at arm’s distance unless he was feeling particularly froggy. Guess tonight was going to be one of those nights. “What?”

  “Twice tonight you’ve disengaged your blades. ”

 
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