Release Day: Almost Human by Honoria Ravena

Title: Almost Human
Author: Honoria Ravena
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: February 16, 2015
When Alaric’s brother turns Casey, the daughter of a prominent vampire hunting family, Alaric knows they’re all in deep trouble. He’ll do anything to keep his family safe, even if it means murdering Casey’s sister before she kills them all. His sister-in-law’s family will never stop hunting them now.

Kori was given the task of hunting down her sister and the leeches that turned her. Her primary target is Alaric, the head of the family. But when she loses the fight and Alaric is unwilling to kill her, she goes against everything she’s been taught abandoning the hunt to give Alaric and his family time to escape her mother’s wrath. 

Kori’s mother has other plans. If Kori won’t take care of her evil sister then her mother knows someone who will. She raises the first witch in their family line from the dead to finish the job and Kori knows she has to warn Alaric before it’s too late. However, there are other things at work far more dangerous than a zombie, and it will require cooperating with her new family to defeat them.

Excerpt from Almost Human © Honoria Ravena 2015

“How long are you going to stalk me, vampire hunter? Am I supposed to be the monster in this story? Because you’re awfully creepy.”
I paused in the mouth of the alley. Crap. So much for the element of surprise. How had it spotted me? Usually vampires I hunted didn’t know someone was tracking them until it was too late.
He kept his back to me. “You’re interrupting my hunt. I haven’t fed in a long while and would appreciate it if you backed off.”
A chilly blast of wind swept through the space. Could that be his magic? Sometimes the blood suckers were impressive. And the wind did carry a dark sense of foreboding that made me want to turn tail. If I’d been human, and not a witch, I probably would have.
He spun around and I shrank back into the shadows behind a dumpster. Not the most pleasant place I’d ever been, but not the worst either.
“Really? You can’t hide from me. I can feel you…taste you, even if I hadn’t spotted you two blocks back.”
I usually only hunted for money, but as soon as I’d brushed past this vampire in the street outside the coffee shop I’d known what he was. Being raised to hunt vampires, I couldn’t resist the call to follow him and take him down before he had a chance to hurt anyone. Even if I wasn’t getting paid, sometimes there was a higher calling to consider. And seeing another Amber Alert pop up on my phone? Another body on the news? I wasn’t willing to risk that.
Though taking on this big, blond son of a bitch without being able to surprise him hadn’t been my plan. I drew my knife. Oh well, coming out guns blazing might shock him, too. I stepped around the dumpster and faced him.
He smirked. “Well, you certainly are prettier than most of the hunters after my ass. Can I help you with something, sweetheart?”
“Well, if you’d like to stand still while I put this knife in your heart and then behead you, I’d appreciate it.”
He tipped back his head and chuckled. The sound was sexy, but vaguely threatening. “Yeah, not going to happen. I’d prefer it if you came over here, tilted your head to the side and let me take a little bit of blood. Promise it won’t hurt.”
His power beat against my skull, and I ground my teeth together. If I’d been human, I probably would have walked straight to him and done as he asked. As it was, it was almost an insult for him to try to influence me.
“I’m a witch, idiot. You can’t use your powers on me.”
He scowled. “Always good to give it a try. Who knows, you could have been weak, but like I said, I haven’t fed in a while. My magic isn’t up to scratch.”
He pulled a knife from the sheath at his waist. He was so fast I almost didn’t see the movement. He was trying to intimidate me. He didn’t need that kind of speed at this time of the fight. He sighed and tossed the knife end over end before catching the handle again. “Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, I like to play with my food a little, but I’d hate to actually hurt you.”
It was my turn to laugh. Granted, the situation wasn’t ideal, but I’d been born to kill his kind.
My heart throbbed and I rubbed my chest with my free hand. What was that? I was in perfect condition. There was no reason for this tightness I was feeling in my ribs or my stomach to feel queasy. Something was wrong.
He arched an eyebrow. “Problems?”
I glared at him. Was he somehow doing this to me? I built up my psychic walls and the feeling abated a little. Either way, it was time to push through the pain.
I rushed him, aiming my knife for his throat. He blocked hard and I lost my footing, stumbling into the wall. Thunder cracked and the sky opened up, dumping a deluge of water on us both.
A flash of lightening illuminated his puzzled stare. “What the hell is wrong with you, hunter? As cocky as you are, I wouldn’t think you were this inept.”
I rammed my foot toward his knee, but he sidestepped easily.
“Slow too?”
He was right. Something was wrong with me. Paralyzing weakness swept through me. I wasn’t even sure I could keep my feet without the wall’s help.
In a blur of motion he was there. The back of his hand connected with my face and I tumbled to the ground. I wasn’t sure if the dizziness and inability to breathe were from his blow or whatever was happening to me. But whatever was going on was about to get me killed. I’d dropped my knife when he’d hit me.
His boots came into my line of vision and I glanced up at him. He dropped into a crouch next to me and I flinched. He tangled his hands in my hair, yanking my head up.
“You’re very lucky I’m not a bad guy. I could rip your throat out, huntress, and believe me a day ago I would have. I’m not going to help you, but I’m not going to kill you either. You’d best stay away from me in the future.”
He released my hair and was gone.
I curled into the fetal position, shaking. Each breath caused my chest to clench. I didn’t have time to consider the fact that I was damned lucky he’d left me alive. I was still worried I would die anyway.
Suddenly, I knew what the problem was. My sister was in trouble. She was dying. The knowledge sank like a stone in my gut. I needed to get to her. I managed to gather my strength and shove myself to my feet. Using the wall as support, I made my way down the alley. My apartment was a block away. I needed to pack weapons, grab my car keys, and get moving.
I’d never make it in time. What I was feeling couldn’t possibly be true…but if it was, I was too late. If she was in this kind of pain, there was something horribly wrong.
It couldn’t be true. I refused to believe. I would make it to her house and she would be fine.
The weight in my chest vanished, and my headache subsided to a dull roar. I was still unsteady, but it no longer felt like I was dragging an anvil down the street. However, the dark pit in my stomach expanded. She was dead. That was all it could mean.
I made it to my apartment and grabbed my phone. I’d assumed I was going on a ten minute coffee run and wouldn’t need it.
“Please, let this be a nightmare.” It was a reoccurring one of mine. I dialed my sister’s number. “Casey, damn it, pick up your phone. Please, baby sister, pick up.”
It went to voicemail and I sank down next to the bed, resting my head on my knees. This wasn’t a dream. If something wasn’t wrong, I’d eat my shoes. I reigned in the need to throw the damned phone down the hallway and dialed my mother’s number.
I stumbled to my feet and rushed back into the bedroom. I pulled the suitcase out from under the bed, pressed the speakerphone, and started going through drawers, throwing clothes into the suitcase while the phone continued to ring. I had to go to her now. She couldn’t be dead.
I took a deep breath and tried to center myself. “Come on, Kori. You have a deep connection to Casey for sure, but it’s never been anything like this. You’ve seen a lot of fucked up shit lately, and you’re having a mental breakdown. This call is just going to interrupt your mother’s REM cycle and she’ll be pissed.”
“McCormic.” My mother’s voice was sharp and cold over the line. Nothing unusual about that. Maybe everything was fine. Our line of witches hunted vampires exclusively, and attempted to deaden our emotions. Many people said my mother was the perfect hunter, but they were wrong. She felt, even if the only emotion she was capable of was anger. Constant anger.
“Hey, Mom. It’s Kori. How is Casey? Where is she? I want to talk to her.”
“She’s been damned.” My mother’s chilly voice didn’t change as she said it, but I knew she was close to violence.
I froze. I had thought she was dead. Being a vampire was worse. I couldn’t have heard it right. “What?”
“She’s damned. She’s been turned into a vampire and she hasn’t killed herself. She’s evil.”
I shook my head even though she couldn’t see the gesture. “How do you know that? I thought I just felt her die. How do you know she was turned?”
“I caught her with a vampire. I knew when I disowned her for not killing him, she would go running to him. I watched them fight and his love for her is stomach churning. A pitifully twisted demon refusing to kill his mortal enemy. When I felt her die, I simply assumed he hadn’t killed her.”
Bile rose in my throat. I swallowed hard and composed myself. Either way, the sister I knew was dead. Just because her body walked the Earth didn’t mean her soul was in it. “I’m coming home.”
“I was going to tell you to. She must be dealt with before she becomes a black mark against this family. With a fallen daughter, what will the rest of witch society think of this family? Even vampires will cease to think we’re a threat. We can’t have one of them associated with us. We would never be trusted to execute them. You would never get one of your ‘jobs’ again.”
My family had a problem with me hunting vampires for money. They did the job because witches were meant to. We were the protectors of the humans. Personally, I felt I had a specialty, and I should be paid for providing the service. Greedy of me, but at least I could pay the bills.
“As the eldest of the new generation you’re expected to handle something like this, Kori. But if you don’t have the stomach for it, I’ll be forced to. You’ll never be Matriarch of the line if you allow the task to fall to me, but I don’t believe you have the power to lead the witches when I’m gone anyway.”
I narrowed my eyes at the phone. Sometimes I wanted to strangle her. Personally, I didn’t want to be Matriarch. I’d taken off to get away from duty, honor, and the responsibilities that had been pressed upon me from birth. But I also didn’t want the position torn away from me. Things inside witch society needed to change. If I became Matriarch, I would have the power to force changes.
“I know what I’m supposed to do, Mother. I know that it’s not my sister in that body. Just give me the details and I’ll take care of it.” Even if it killed a piece of me. As long as that demon inhabited her body, my sister’s soul couldn’t move on.
“She was turned by Misha.”
“Misha? Like of the three brothers that decimated Europe in the middle ages? Murdered great grandmother Sherra, among others?”
“Yes. If they’d been smart, they would have murdered her children. Celebrate their stupidity, and make the kill in the name of our ancestors. Don’t fail me, Daughter.” She hung up.
“Well, what a wealth of information you were”. But she’d told me all I needed to know. I could find out from my sources where the infamous band of brothers lived.
They weren’t incredibly old compared to most vampires, but they were damned skilled. The rumors about them were ridiculous, claiming they had a body count that rivaled the Black Death.
It would be hard to kill her if they protected her. I needed to kill them all, because I planned to kill Misha, too. The brothers would definitely come after me if I even attempted that. It was best to take them all out. It wasn’t going to be an easy feat either. I would have to get them alone and surprise them.
I changed clothes quickly before going to my weapons locker. I unlocked it and started filling my suitcase with everything from guns to swords to pocketknives. Guns weren’t terribly effective on vampires unless you got in a head shot, but they would slow one down…or really piss it off. The best way to kill a vamp was to behead it. If the thing was old enough, it could heal a dagger to the heart.
I zipped the suitcase and collapsed across it. My sister was dead. I hadn’t been able to save her. But then, had I ever saved anyone? Our father was dead. Casey’s twin had never been found, but it was assumed that she was dead. Vampires weren’t likely to keep a sickly eight year old alive. She would be seventeen by now.
A tear trickled down my cheek and I swiped at it angrily. The McCormic witches didn’t cry. The McCormic witches didn’t feel anything. But then, I’d never been like the rest of the family. My mother must have been proud. One dead daughter, one vampire daughter, and one weak, emotional, royal fuck up.
I shook my head and pushed myself off the luggage. There was time for self pity and debilitating grief later. Right now I needed to load up the car and head home. Or Hell, depending on how you saw it.

HONORIA RAVENA is the author of Fear of Darkness, The Devil's Trap and My Cyborg Savior. When not writing or reading romance she’s belly dancing, traveling or spending quality time with friends and family at her home in Texas. Visit her website and join her monthly newsletter to stay up to date on new releases, win prizes and enjoy tidbits of wisdom from a dancing writer’s daily life. 
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