Corrigan Lust (Corrigan Series Book 5)

By: Helen Harper

Book Five of the Corrigan series

Chapter One

It was a dick move. I knew it was a dick move but I couldn’t help myself. Frankly, it was either this or go and get myself so blindingly drunk that it’d take my liver half a generation to heal.

All the same, it was a dick move.

I’d whirled out of Alcazon after being publicly dumped by Mack. Traitorous bitch. Staines had been shouting after me and I knew that both Tom and Lucy were worried. It was my job as Lord Alpha to reassure them all, to gather the Brethren together and tell them that we would do whatever was necessary to bring down Endor, the freakish necromancer who was responsible for the near genocide of the dryads. It was my job to contact all the rural Packs and make sure they were on the lookout and it was my job to project calm authority and strong leadership. I didn’t do any of that, however. I just strode away from the popular Otherworld restaurant with disbelief buzzing through my veins and a burning ache buried deep in my chest. At least all three of them were too sensible to come after me. If they had, I may well have ripped their heads off. I needed to be alone.

I’d had neither a plan nor a destination in mind. The few passersby still out on a sleepy Sunday at this hour took one look at my face and gave me a wide berth. I just kept on, my back ramrod straight and my jaw set so hard it was becoming painful. I wasn’t really thinking straight. I wasn’t really thinking at all. I must have traversed three miles of the city in the same fashion before the high-pitched scream broke through my vicious swirl of emotions. Truth be told, I was so focused on myself that it took a moment to register.

Initially, I assumed that it was a standard mugging. It would have been a piece of cake to run down any human bag snatchers but I certainly would have enjoyed showing them the error of their ways. It was only when I rounded the corner and realised that the scream had come from an old cemetery, incongruously situated between a primary school and a boutique coffee shop, it occurred to me that I might have inadvertently stumbled across something more serious.

Vaulting over the tall iron fence, and landing between two ancient grave stones, I scanned the area. Many of London’s graveyards were surprisingly pleasant places to visit, steeped in history and offering a quiet respite from the bustle of the city streets. They also often contained the graves of famous people, encouraging all manner of macabre pilgrimages. This particular cemetery, however, seemed rather nondescript and with little to recommend it. It was fairly well kept, with neatly mown grass and a lack of litter, but that didn’t mean much. I couldn’t fathom for the life of me why anyone would want to visit this place. It certainly wouldn’t be to visit any relatives. The newest grave that I could see was at least a century old.

When the scream came again, my gaze narrowed in on the far corner. There was a small shed, no doubt used by the cemetery’s caretaker, which was obscuring my vision. The sound was definitely coming from behind it. I cricked my neck, first one way then the other. Then I launched myself towards it.

It was a kid. A young boy of around seven or eight with dimpled cheeks, a cheeky t-shirt, and terror in his eyes. Considering what he was up against, that last part was hardly surprising. The beast facing him would have caused even Mack to pause.

‘Help me!’ he shrieked.

I smiled. ‘It’s your lucky day, kid. I’m one of the few people in this country who actually can do just that.’

A flicker of confusion crossed his face but there wasn’t time for anything else. The creature lashed its huge head out towards him, jaws snapping. I lunged forward and grabbed him by the waist, tossing him behind me for safety.

‘Hello,’ I cooed. ‘If I’m not mistaken you’re a Scitalis.’

The gigantic serpent hissed, its forked tongue flashing out towards me in a show of aggression.

‘You’re not welcome here,’ I told it, in no uncertain terms. ‘This is my fucking city and no snakes or necromancers or damned dragons are going to take it from me.’

It obviously wasn’t much of one for talking. With surprising fluidity and speed, it launched itself at me. I snapped out a punch, managing to land it directly onto its nose. It didn’t like that one bit, using its tail to attack back. I danced away, causing it to hiss even louder in annoyance.

It was actually a remarkably beautiful creature. The scales along its back were a myriad of shimmering colours, each one catching the fading light and glinting. Unfortunately they were what almost proved my undoing. As the Scitalis changed direction, the scales flecked with yellow gold – like Mack’s eyes, damn her – refracted the light, momentarily blinding me. It was for less than a second but that was all the creature needed. With one heavy swoop its tail lashed out again, this time going not for a blow but for capture. Almost before I knew what had happened, it had coiled its cold length around me and started to squeeze. The boy choked out another scream.