The book should be out now so this is the last snippet.
Iron Angels – Snippet 38
“Where have you been?” Rao flipped up his sleeve and twisted his wrist over, examining a gleaming band. He was one of those people who wore the face of his watch on the underside of his wrist.
Lali’s fascination with the man had begun a few months ago, but everything happened so quickly afterward. An odd man had sought her out at the diner. He lacked distinguishing features, but the man’s oddness remained with her — shaved head, bleached eyebrows, and face dull and smooth. At first, she’d thought the man plastered his face with an off-white powder.
The mushy-faced man was curious over her relationship with the young Hispanic man, Carlos.
She’d dated Carlos, but they’d broken up after he decided he wanted to work things out with his wife. He still insisted on coming around the diner afterward, and to what end? Taunting her? Tormenting her? Carlos was lucky she’d never dumped hot coffee in his lap. But the bastard only ordered water, and began meeting cops at the diner.
“I summoned you well over an hour ago,” said Rao harshly. “If this is how you respond to Rao’s commands, perhaps you need another lesson.”
Lali’s hand twitched, but she resisted the urge to touch her cheek where he’d slapped her earlier. He’d roughed her up a bit, but she didn’t hate it when Rao did so — she was biding her time.
“Are you listening to me?” Rao stood a few inches from her, invading her personal space, which he’d taken from her over and over the past few weeks and in so many ways. The man had an insatiable appetite.
“I am listening, Rao.”
He raised an open hand, but she grabbed his wrist. “Wait, please. I have information.”
His hand remained open and raised, but she squeezed harder. What would he do with this defiant display?
“You know the consequences of such insolence.” He ripped his arm from her grip. “Rao does not tolerate such.”
The odd man who found her at the diner had then invited her to a party, telling her the experience would be unlike anything she ever witnessed. She agreed and he picked her up at the diner after her shift ended. He drove what she called a child molester van — the cargo type with no windows down the sides. She went along willingly with the strange man, not thinking much about the van. She never turned down a good party, and she could take care of herself if push came to shove. Even now, she carried with her a small pistol, secreted strategically.
An abandoned hotel, the Euclid Hotel — and like the van, she didn’t give it much thought, not until she figured out the fate they’d planned for her: sacrifice. Rao spied her from an area beyond the basement — behind not a wall, but a divider of sorts. Rao stepped through, draped in white robes with crimson gashes running diagonally across the chest. He mesmerized her when he approached; his supplicants melting away into the shadows.
“What is this news of yours?” Rao’s harsh tone snapped her from the reverie and back into the present.
“I may have located something of interest. A company named Wayland Precision.”
“And?” Rao stepped back. “Why does Wayland Precision matter?”
She suppressed a laugh — the mighty Rao, obtuse? And people always misjudged her based on her piercings and tattoo adorned body, not to mention the way she wore her makeup and hair. For a Latina woman raised by good God-fearing Catholics, she was as far out there as Pluto to most people who crossed paths with her.
“Carlos visited Wayland after he met with the police.” She put a hand on her hip. “Met with the FBI, to be exact — they didn’t try too hard to conceal their conversation, either.”
“Now, this is fascinating, but how do you know they were at Wayland Precision. Did they mention it during the conversation?” Rao folded his arms and stepped back a little.
“No, I followed them.”
“What? You what?” His voice cracked as the pitch and volume increased. “You followed FBI Agents to what may be the hiding place of Völundr’s Hammer?”
Lali stepped back. Her heel caught something, sending her tumbling backward, and sprawling on the metal flooring.
Rao stood over her, hands balled into fists. “You remained hidden, right? Assure me both the FBI and the guild remain ignorant of where your allegiances lie and your role in Câ Tsang.”
She swallowed, and for the first time since she’d met Rao, no, the second time, she feared for her life — the first being the night of her sacrifice. But the sacrifice never happened. Rao took Lali as his own, saving her life and indebted her. But had Rao really saved her life? He’d been the one who ordered the kidnapping and sacrifice in the first place.
“The FBI Agents were too busy following Carlos. So it was a simple matter, remaining hidden.”
“You are overly confident,” Rao said. “You’d better pray they were unaware of their surroundings. We need another successful sacrifice before we can stop caring if anyone finds us. Finds me.”
His fists unclenched and his breathing slowed.
“I’m not going to punish you, at least not in a way anyone will see.” He bent over and yanked her to her feet. The sudden show of force exhilarated her — a taste of the power from beyond? The nâga and what their world had to offer those of the Câ Tsang? “We’ll discuss the next course of action once you’re fully one with Rao, the Tip of the Horn, leader of the Iron Thorn.”
Rao popped the buttons of her blouse as well as the button on her jeans. He tore the clothes from her and stepped out of his robe. He wore a chain with either a horn or thorn dangling from the links. Rings adorned every finger, including thumbs. He discarded the watch, also.
He scooped her into his arms, carried her up another flight of stairs, his bare feet thudding the metal. Upon their entry to his sleeping platform in the abandoned plant, a red light flicked on, casting an eerie glow upon everything.
She’d been up here many times in the past few weeks, but he’d never been this angry with her.
Rao tossed her on his bed as if she were nothing, like a backpack or something. He was very strong, much stronger than you’d expect of a man whose size was no larger than that of an average male.
He stood over her once again, and pointed toward a carved headboard, the images nearly impossible to make out other than they represented some kind of orgy taking place in a hellish nightmare. She pushed herself upright and scurried for the headboard. Rao approached and tied her wrists to thick wooden rings protruding from the orgiastic scene.
Given her Catholic upbringing and repeated viewings of the Exorcist while growing up, she wouldn’t have been surprised if Rao sported hooves or spewed pea soup. He exhilarated her, as the Exorcist movie had back in the day.
Rao took her with force and rougher than was his usual way. The bastard never protected himself during sex, and he forbade her to use birth control, but Lali always protected herself without him knowing.
Once he’d finished, he paced the room, his naked body glistening against the red light, lending the entire scene a sordid, no — debauched — appearance. He kept her tied up as he paced, and beneath her, a wet spot like one of the Great Lakes welled. What if everything about Rao was now affected by the other world, that of the nâga? Would she contract some sort of disease or give birth to some demon baby? No. She used birth control, the pill, and if worse came to worse, she’d toss herself down some stairs. She’d never give birth to this man’s child, and certainly no half-nâga hybrid…
“We’ll find out more about this Wayland Precision, Völundr’s Hammer, whatever they name themselves. If they are truly the guild and are indeed lurking here, they must be dismantled.”
She remained silent — interrupting him while her arms and legs were bound was foolish.
“We need to sacrifice the leader of Völundr’s Hammer. Yes. You will lead this for me. But first, we need to deal with the FBI Agents. Now tell me, who are these people?”
Lali related all she knew of them from what she’d overheard at the diner — which had been fairly substantial.
“Rao is pleased. Very pleased.” He paced, his bare feet padding against the metal platform.
At least the bed was comfortable, though her arms were falling asleep now and her wrists ached, not to mention her insides.
“Will you accept the following plan,” Rao paused, “no matter what it entails?”
“No matter what you’ll have to do or sacrifice?”
“I need your oath.” He leapt on the bed and straddled her naked body. “Speak.”
“Yes, I swear to you, Rao, and pledge loyalty and devotion to the Câ Tsang.” She desired power, and a glimpse of the fantastic, a taste of the fantastic.
“Manage to do what I set forth and you’ll be promoted to the rank of an adept — a khäp.” Rao beamed. “You begin tonight.”
Rao took her again. Her eyelids drooped and she nodded off.