Sweet Dreams Page 1

Author: Dana Marie Bell

Series: Halle Pumas #2

Genres: Romance

Chapter One

Oh, yeah. Come to the masquerade party, she says. Simon will be there and he wants you, she says. You’ll have a blast, she says.

I am so gonna kick Emma’s ass over this.

A low, inhuman growl rumbled from Livia Patterson’s throat. Becky inched back, startled at the sound coming from the blonde. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as Livia slowly paced forward, her lips curling in a feral smile. Her teeth were way too sharp. Her eyes were weird, too. They gleamed like a cat’s in the dim light provided by the paper lanterns.

If I live long enough.

Becky took another step back, her heart pounding with fright. The woman’s nails had turned into claws.

“Wow. Neat special effects.” She laughed nervously. “It doesn’t really go with the genteel senorita costume though. You might want to rethink it.”

Livia’s answer was a hissing growl that revealed a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.

“Okay, not special effects.” Never had she been more grateful that she’d decided to wear live steel rather than a plastic toy with her bandita costume. She drew her rapier and pointed it at Livia. Thank God for those fencing lessons I took in college. “Damn, I always knew you were a bitch, but this is ridiculous.”

Livia lunged at her. Those sharp black claws swiped along her sword arm, shredding the lace and nearly causing Becky to drop her sword. “Ow!”

Becky gasped at the transformed Livia. The next time Livia lunged Becky parried, slicing Livia’s arm.

This time it was Livia who bled.

The weirdest sounds came out of Livia. They were scary as hell. She snarled, then growled, then finally screamed. It sounded like one of the big cats at the zoo. If Becky wasn’t so focused on keeping those claws off of her she would be seriously freaked.

“More of a pussy than a bitch, huh?” She grinned when the woman snarled, riding that adrenaline high that always kicked in during a fencing match. Everything came into sharp focus as she began fighting, parrying Livia’s lunges, making a few of her own. She knew the woman would rip her apart if she got her claws into her. They danced around each other, circling, lunging, parrying till both women were panting.

She had the advantage of reach, but the blonde moved faster, coming in under her guard and going for her stomach.

The good news was the tight red senorita dress Livia wore hampered her movements, while Becky’s flowing bandita outfit was almost perfect for fencing. The bad news was Livia was incredibly fast and agile, a fact that nearly made up for her hampered movements.

You know, I have better things to do on a Saturday night than get my ass kicked by Senorita Psychopath. Becky knew she was outmatched. She got a few good hits in, drawing blood along Livia’s stomach and a deep slash along her cheek, but unless something happened, and soon, she would lose.

She was covered in small bleeding cuts, far more than she’d managed to inflict on the other woman. The rapier hilt was becoming slippery with blood. She made sure she kept a death grip on it. From the look of raw hatred on Livia’s face dropping it would end in her death.

Livia whirled away after a missed blow and Becky took the opportunity to thrust in low, slashing into her stomach and earning herself another growl.

The two women slowly danced around each other, looking for an opening. Livia snarled again, fur rippling along her arms as she lunged for Becky. With a startled cry Becky backed up a step, ready to parry the blow but stumbled over a bush and landed flat on her ass. Her hat rolled away and came to rest against another bush. Her rapier was knocked from her hand as Livia landed on top of her.

Becky screamed in pain as Livia bit down on her shoulder. Her claws raked along Becky’s sides, drawing even more blood.

Livia sat up slowly, one clawed hand wrapped around Becky’s throat. “Emma’s coming,” she purred, tilting her head to the side as she listened to something only she could hear. “So happy she could join our little party.”

“Swell,” Becky coughed, digging her fingers into Livia’s forearm. She had to get the Bride of Satan off of her!

Livia hissed at her and arched down. Her teeth were pinching at Becky’s neck when Emma appeared.

Becky looked over Livia’s shoulder at Emma and saw the horror in Emma’s expression before it was quickly shuttered away.

Emma cocked one hand on her hip and stared at Livia like the blonde had lost her mind. “Okay, some of the peroxide must have leaked into your brains to make this seem like a good idea. What will killing Becky accomplish, other than to piss off Simon and Max and ruin your manicure?”

The bitch snarled again, but she didn’t tighten her hold on Becky’s throat. Those wicked black claws remained poised above Becky’s stomach.

“Did you run out of Liversnaps or something? Oh wait, that’s dogs.”

Livia dug her claws into Becky’s stomach, making her gasp. She really wished Emma would shut the hell up before Livia gutted her like a fish.

Beads of blood, black in the night, dribbled down her sides as Livia released Becky’s throat and lifted her head. Her hand flexed, driving her claws deeper into Becky’s stomach. “I want the Curana’s ring.”

Ring? What ring? Becky glared at Livia, but neither woman was paying any attention to her.

“A ring does not make you Curana, Livia.”

Livia sneered. “It does to them!” She tossed her head towards the house, her hand flexing and sending shafts of pain rippling through Becky. She held still and quiet through sheer stubbornness alone; no way was Livia getting another sound out of her. “If they see I took the ring from you, they’ll never acknowledge you as Curana.” She smiled, her fangs glistening in the moonlight. “They’ll see you for the weak, pathetic wallflower you’ve always been. Max will be mine, like he always should have been; he won’t have a choice. He and I will run the Pride the way it was meant to be run, and you’ll be seen as nothing but the Alpha’s whore.”

Curana? Alpha? What the fuck is going on?

Emma nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, all of that is true. Except for one thing. Well, two, really.”

“What’s that?”

“One, Max doesn’t want your double processed skanky ass.”

“Hey! I’m a natural blonde!”

And I’m the next Powerball winner. Looking past Emma, Becky thought she saw a flash of gold, and frowned.