EXCERPT: THE BURNS DEFIANCE
The Fire Salamander Chronicles Book Three
~ Zane Burns, a.k.a. Gunz ~
Modern day. Somewhere in Florida… Probably…
The roars of a demon were supposed be scaring him but mostly annoyed him. Gunz watched as the demon carelessly launched his whole bulky body into a frontal attack and rolled his eyes. The monster was over six feet tall with a massive body wrapped in a thick layer of muscle.
The demon obviously thought highly of himself, sure in an easy victory, but Gunz knew better. No matter how much muscle-power this monster packed, how impenetrable he thought the shield of his iron muscles was, there were always a few weak vulnerable points on his massive body. Besides, compared to Gunz, the demon was extremely slow.
He watched the demon’s fist sail by his face and took a quick step to the side, meeting his opponent with a powerful strike to his neck. The monster choked, losing his balance. He fell down clutching his neck, his eyes bulging. In a split-second, Gunz reached him and pulled him into a sitting position. He wrapped his arm around his neck and clasped his hands, his forearm set firmly into the demon’s back. He pushed with his forearm and yanked his hands, applying a brutal choke.
The demon was thrashing in his arms, struggling against his hold. Gunz squeezed harder, putting the monster to sleep. Then he got up, dropping the unconscious body on the floor and turned around, staring through the net of the cage at the raging crowd. He found the eyes of Mr. Kogan, the man who owned all supernatural fighting pits in Florida and watched him turn his thumb down.
A cold smirk split Gunz’s face as he knelled next to the demon and drove his fist through the monster’s face all the way to the floor. Blood and brain matter splattered all around the place where the demon’s head used to be. Gunz rose, staring down at his dead opponent with disdain.
The crowd exploded in carnivorous screams. The referee opened the door into the cage and approached Gunz. He seized his wrist and yanked his arm up, blood – demon’s blood – slowly trickling down his forearm. Gunz pulled his arm out of the referee’s grip, wiped the blood on his cargo pants and walked out of the cage.
He headed to the backroom where he could clean up and relax for a few minutes before leaving. As he walked with his head bowed down, the roar of the crowd followed him. He felt a few hands touch his arms and shoulders, but he didn’t react. It wasn’t his first fight and he got used to ignoring everything, never paying attention to what people around him were doing or saying.
Gunz made his way into the backroom and dropped down on the bench. The room was small and dark, a tiny electric light bulb hanging from the ceiling, illuminating the room with a fluctuating yellow light. The thick smell of sweat and blood seemed to be permanently rooted into everything within its walls. A small dirty sink was installed in the far corner of the room and even drops of water were falling from the rusty faucet.
He leaned forward slightly and rested his elbows on his lap, hiding his face in his hands. He wasn’t tired – the fight was over so fast it hardly spiked the adrenalin in him. He felt hollow inside, indifferent to everything, inwardly wishing that the late demon put up a better fight.
He heard the phone ring and snapped his head to the side. Gunz reached for his bag and pulled the phone out, staring at the screen. This is exactly what I didn’t need, he thought with a sigh, but answered the phone.
“How did you get this phone number, Agent Andrews?” asked Gunz coldly.
“And hello to you too, Mr. Burns,” replied Jim, ignoring his tone. “Where are you and what are you doing?”
“A little preoccupied at the moment,” muttered Gunz, unwilling to get into a conversation with his boss.
“What are you doing, Gunz?” repeated Jim, softer notes in his voice. “You disabled the GPS tracker in your watch and just fell from the face of the Earth. This is the first time in months you answered my phone call. Even Aidan can’t sense you. What the hell are you doing, man? There are people here who actually care about you!”
“I’m doing my job, Agent Andrews,” replied Gunz dryly. “You wanted me to bring the ring of supernatural underground fighting down? So, I’m doing just that. I’m trying to get you all the names and information you need to make it happen. I concealed my fire energy because I’m undercover. I believe you know what it means to be undercover, sir?”
“I got to go, Jim. Try calling me in a few hours,” Gunz interrupted him as the door into his room opened.
He hung up the phone and looked at the woman who walked inside and halted in front of him. She was tall and slim, dressed in the latest style black dress and high-heels. Her wavy blond hair was styled to accentuate the soft oval of her face and her skin was covered in a generous layer of makeup to conceal her true age. Gunz lowered his head, not willing to meet her eyes.
“Gunz, you were as magnificent as always today,” she purred, her hand resting on his shoulder, slowly moving down along the shape of his bicep. “I love watching you fight, darling. You’re an untamed brutal beast. I can’t believe you’re just a wizard.”
“Um… Thank you, Mrs. Kogan, I guess…” replied Gunz without looking at her and carefully took her hand off his shoulder. “I’m covered in blood and sweat after the fight, ma’am. I don’t want you to get your hands dirty.”
Mrs. Kogan squatted down in front of him, pulling her elegant black dress up just enough to expose her shapely thighs. She glanced up, searching for his eyes and reached forward. Her hand wandered down his bare chest, tracing the shape of his muscles.
“Mmm,” she purred. “What can be more exciting than a young handsome sweaty savage.”
Her eyes were dark with lust and her hands seemed to be restless, traveling down his stomach. Before he could say anything, her fingers found the button on the waistband of his pants and pulled the zipper down. Gunz wrapped his hand over her wrist and gently pushing it away.
“Your husband, ma’am,” he said frostily, flicking his eyebrow at the door where a tall man was standing with his hand on the door handle.
“My husband? The thrill is gone. He doesn’t excite me anymore,” she replied, not paying attention to anything except him.
“Just like I don’t excite him. We live in an open marriage and he wouldn’t mind if I had a taste of this.” She grabbed his crotch and squeezed slightly. “I wonder if you’re just as mighty in bed as you are in the cage.”
Gunz grunted, his aggravated gaze meeting the eyes of the man in the doorway. The man in his late fifties was tall and thin, dressed in an immaculate business suit and a blue shirt underneath. With his gray complexion and deep, dark circles around his yellowish eyes, he wasn’t exuding a healthy vibe. Mr. Kogan watched his wife’s fruitless advances with an uneven smirk on his hollow-cheeked face.
“Clarissa, darling,” said the man, approaching his wife, and pulled her up to her feet, “go get your busy hands into someone else’s pants, preferably with someone who doesn’t mind the intrusion. I need a few minutes to talk to our undefeated fighter here.”
Mrs. Kogan pivoted on her high heels and sauntered away, swaying her hips. “I’ll see you later, darling,” she promised Gunz, blowing an air-kiss to him as she walked out the door.
Mr. Kogan waited until his wife had left the room and shook his head chuckling. He put his hand in the pocket of his pants and pulled out a wad of cash held by a money clip.
“Your cut,” he said, counting out a few hundred-dollar bills and offered them to Gunz.
“Thanks.” Gunz took the bills and threw them into his bag without counting.
“Oh, no, thank you,” replied Mr. Kogan, a wide grin on his face. “You’re my biggest moneymaker after all. I’m sorry about my wife’s behavior. She can be a little forward.”
Gunz smirked. “She wants my body. There is nothing more to it,” he said with a shrug without lifting his eyes. “And I don’t give a damn.”
“I know,” replied Mr. Kogan nonchalantly and waved his hand at the bench. “May I?”
Gunz finally lifted his head and glanced at him. Then he nodded and lowered his eyes again.
Mr. Kogan sat down next to him. “Why are you doing it, Gunz? Why are you fighting every night, risking your health and possibly your life?”
“I need money,” replied Gunz evenly.
“You don’t care about money,” objected Mr. Kogan sharply. “I watch you every night and I’m sure that you couldn’t care less about money, or vanity, or women. None of it. You make enough money fighting in these pits to live in a five-star hotel in any city we travel to, but you choose to live in a cheap fleabag motel. So, what drives you inside that cage?”
Gunz didn’t reply. He didn’t even change his position.
“Well, allow me to ask another personal question then,” continued Mr. Kogan. “You look like you’re in your late twenties – early thirties, but I’ve been around the supernatural community long enough to know appearances can be deceiving. Magic slows down the aging and there are enough immortals roaming this world who don’t age at all. How old are you, Gunz? Are you really as young as you look?”
Gunz nodded. “Yeah, I’m twenty-nine…”
“I wonder what made you so cold and cynical at such young age?” asked Mr. Kogan quietly. “I see the way you kill your opponents in the cage – you don’t care whether they live or die. When you fight, it’s like you’re begging for trouble. You’re a wizard. You undoubtedly know how to use your magic, but I saw you using it only once. It’s like you’re inviting the pain or possibly even death.”
Gunz remained silent, staring unblinkingly at his hands, covered in blood.
“Fine,” said Mr. Kogan rising, “then let me do something unusual for you. After all, whatever drives you into this shithole makes me richer. Usually the Heads of the Houses don’t socialize with their fighters – not even with unattached fighters, but I’d like to treat you to dinner tomorrow night. Would you be open to that?”
Gunz lifted his head and glanced at Mr. Kogan, slightly surprised. The Heads of the Houses not only didn’t socialize with the fighters, they hardly even noticed them, treating them as low-level scum, which most of the fighters were. They were the rogue demons, vampires, werewolves, dark wizards and other monsters who were trying to either make a few bucks or satisfy their thirst for blood without getting into too much trouble with local authorities.
“Thank you,” said Gunz.
“Thank you yes or thanks but no way in hell?” asked Mr. Kogan chuckling.
“Yes, thank you,” replied Gunz quietly. “Just please, don’t ask me any personal questions, sir.”
“I’m wondering what bothers you more – the questions I ask or my wife’s groping technique,” he muttered and laughed. “Don’t answer that, please. Is there anything I can do for you tonight, Gunz?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Gunz rising. “You can get me one more fight tonight.”
“Are you serious?” asked Mr. Kogan with a tone of shock in his voice.
“Deadly serious,” said Gunz. “And if they don’t have a strong enough opponent for me, get me in the cage with two fighters. Or three. Whatever will get you more money.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said Mr. Kogan heading out of the room.
One hour later, Gunz was walking toward the cage again. The crowd was shouting, chanting his name. Everyone was staring at him – women with lust, men with blood-thirsty hunger in their eyes. Women were reaching to touch him, but he saw nothing, felt nothing, thought of nothing as his eyes locked on the two monsters inside the cage.
Carefully he probed them with his Salamander senses and wanted to laugh. One of his opponents was a demon. Just like the demon he fought earlier today, he was tall and bulky. The second opponent was a dark wizard, and out of all the magic tricks he could pull out of his hat, he chose to use fire magic. Both of them were at least a few inches taller than him and they glowered down at him with arrogant smirks on their faces.
The bouncer opened the door of the cage for him, ushering him inside. Gunz stepped on the blood-splattered floor of the ring, a frosty lopsided smirk on his face.
“I’ll wipe that smirk right off your face, wizard,” hissed the demon. He exchanged a boastful look with his partner and they both nodded.
“Please,” muttered Gunz dryly. “Do your worst.”
The bell rang announcing the beginning of the fight and the demon charged him at once. The shouting of the crowd dimmed down and disappeared as his mind immediately was set to a high alert.
Fire Salamander – go! Gunz thought as he drove his fist into the demon’s face, knocking him out cold in one punch.