I would go back and re-read the series but hell, just thinking about doing a complete re-read makes me tired.
But it’s Sundown.
His book is finally out and I’m fangirly enough to get some kind of rise out of that and what’s even better, it comes out tomorrow and St. Martin’s Press has posted the Prologue over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.
WILLIAM JESSUP “SUNDOWN” BRADY
MAN. MYTH. MONSTER. 1873
Written by Solace Walters
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of William Jessup Brady, it’s been hand carved with a lever-action Henry rifle over his shoulder and a Smith & Wesson six-gun strapped to his hip.
At a time when the world is at its most violent, he’s the meanest of all. Untamed. Uncivilized. A half-breed mongrel dog spawned from the bowels of the Devil’s lowest pit, he is the worst of the scourge that haunts our towns and kills indiscriminately. No one is safe or immune from his wrath. No one is safe from his aim. A gun for hire, he doesn’t shirk from any target. Man, woman, or child.
If you have the cash, he has the bullet. A bullet he will deliver to his victim right between the eyes.
There are those who would make a romantic hero of this villain. Some who think of him like Robin Hood, but Sundown Brady takes from everyone and gives only to himself.
He is truly soulless.
The bounty on this man is $50,000—a fortune, to be sure—and still people are terrified even to try to bring him in. In fact, authorities continue to find the scattered remains of the poor, virtuous marshal who made the mistake of shooting at him in Oklahoma when Brady was robbing a bank. Not one shot hit its mark. Is there any doubt Brady sold his soul to Lucifer for immortality and invulnerability?
Though Brady takes pity on no one, this reporter wants to know if there is anyone out there with the temerity to end Brady’s wickedness. Surely one of you fine, upstanding, decent men would like the fame and money that would come from ridding the world of the most sinister being ever to walk it. I pray you courage, good man.
Most of all, I wish you luck.
Everything changes today. Unable to believe he’d lived long enough to see this undeserved dream, Jess Brady stood outside the church in his best, itchiest clothes. This was the last turn he’d ever expected for his miserable life.
He’d been robbing banks and staring down experienced men in a gunfight without flinching or breaking a sweat since he was thirteen years old. Yet here, right now, he was as nervous as a one-eyed buck in a barn fire. Every part of him was on edge. Every part of him fully alive, and for the first time since his birth, he was actually looking forward to the future.
His hand shaking, he pulled his old, banged-up gold pocket watch out to check the time. In five minutes, he’d leave his brutal past behind him forever and be reborn a new man. No longer William Jessup Brady, cardsharp, gunslinger, and hired killer, he was about to become William Parker, farmer. . . .
Inside those bright white church doors was the most beautiful woman in the world, and she was waiting for him to come inside and make her his.
Dreams do come true. His precious mother had told him that when he was a boy, but his harsh life and drunken father, who’d been consumed by jealousy of and hatred for the entire world, had kicked that out of him by the time he was twelve years old and standing over her pauper’s grave. Nothing good had happened to him since the day she took sick, and the years of her suffering had left a deep-seated bitterness inside him. No one so pure of heart should ever hurt so much.
Not a single thing had ever given him pleasure or made him think for even a second that the world was anything but utter misery for the fools unfortunate enough to be born into it. Not until Matilda Aponi had smiled at him. She alone had made him believe that the world was a beautiful place and that the people in it weren’t all vicious animals out to punish everyone around them. Made him want to be a better man. The man his mother had told him he could be.
One free of hatred and bitterness.
He heard the sound of a horse approaching. That would be his best man, Bart Wilkerson. The only other person in his life he’d ever trusted and the one who’d taken him in when he was a thirteen-year-old runaway. Bart had taught him how to survive in a cold, hostile world that seemed to begrudge him every breath he took. He’d taken bullets for Bart on three separate occasions, and the two of them had been through more turmoil together than two demons scaling Hell’s thorny walls.
Like Jess, Bart was dressed in a long dark coat suit with his graying hair freshly combed. No one would ever be able to tell, looking at them right now, that they were two notorious outlaws. They looked respectable, but Jess wanted more than that. He wanted to be respectable.
Bart slid from his horse and tied her up beside Jess’s buggy, which he’d bought just for this day. Hell, he’d even decorated it with lilies—Matilda’s favorite flower.
“You ready, kid?” Bart asked solemnly.
“Yeah.” Scared though he was, there was nothing else in this world he wanted.
He’d already given all his ill-gotten gains away so that Matilda wouldn’t find out about his past. For her, he’d do anything.
Even be honest.
Jess started for the doors with Bart one step behind him. He’d just reached the steps when a gunshot rang out. He sucked his breath in sharply.
Sudden pain invaded every part of his body as the impact of the shot knocked his hat from his head and sent it flying. It landed a few feet away and tumbled until it got caught in a nearby bush. Jess tried to take a step forward, but more shots followed the first. And all of them hit various parts of his body.
Those shots made him do something he’d never done before.
He fell to his knees in the dirt.
His fury igniting, he wanted to return that fire, but Bart knew he’d sold his guns to buy Matilda’s ring—that had been his final act of ridding himself of the old Jess Brady. He was completely unarmed. The one thing he’d sworn he’d never be.
How could I be so stupid? How could he have put someone at his back when he knew better?
Maybe this was his penance for the sins he’d committed. Maybe this was all a bastard like him deserved.
Gunned down on what should have been the happiest day of his life.
Bart kicked him to the ground.
Panting from the weight of the pain and tasting blood, Jess stared up at him. The one man he’d risked his life for countless times. “Why?”
Bart shrugged nonchalantly as he reloaded his gun. “It’s all about the money, Jess. You know that. And right now, you’re worth a fortune.”
Yeah . . . how could he have forgotten their code? Having killed him, Bart would be the richest man in Gull Hollow. Not that he wasn’t already.
Bart was the one Jess had given all his money to.
Jess coughed up blood as his vision dimmed. He was so cold now. Colder than he’d been even as a kid working in an early-spring field without shoes or a coat. His father had always told him he’d end up like this. You’re trash, boy. All you’ll ever be, and you won’t live long enough to be nothing else. Mark my words. You’ll come to a bad end one day.
And here he lay dying at age twenty-six. So evil, God wouldn’t even let him reach the doors of Matilda’s church.
But in the end, he was Sundown, and Sundown Brady didn’t go quietly to his grave. No damn man would kill him and live. “I’ll be back for you, Bart. Even if I have to sell my soul for it. So help me, God. I will kill you for this.”
Bart laughed. “Give the devil my best regards.”
“William!” Matilda’s agonized scream hurt him more than the bullet wounds did.
He turned for one last look at her, but before he could take it, Bart coldly finished the job and denied him even the solace of seeing her face before he died.
Jess came awake with a curse. At least, he thought it was awake. Hard to tell, though, to be honest. It was darker here than the corner of his father’s heart that had been reserved for any tender feelings the old bastard might have had for him. The silence was so loud, it rang in his ears.
He didn’t even hear his own heartbeat.
’Cause I’m dead.
He remembered the pain of being shot, of trying to see Matilda in her wedding dress. . . .
So this is hell.
But to be honest, he’d expected flames and excruciating agony. Demons flying at him with pitchforks and smells akin to the stuff he’d mucked out of stables as a kid.
Instead, there was nothing inside the blackness.
“That’s because you’re on Olympus. At least your soul is.”
He turned as a lonely light came up to show him the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Tall, lithe, and curvy, she had hair so red, it shimmered in the dim light. With glowing green eyes, she looked ethereal. More like an angel than like a demon, especially given the flowing white dress she wore that hugged her body. Something about its style reminded him of the white statues he’d seen in some of the fancier hotels he’d boarded in after they’d made a good haul over the years. “What’s Olympus?”
She made a sound that reminded him of a filly about to buck off her rider for irritating her. “I grieve for the poor education of so-called modern man. How can you not know the name of the mountain where the Greek gods dwell?”
He rubbed his jaw and forced down his own irritation at her insult. Until he knew who she was, it probably wasn’t wise to make her too mad. “Well, ma’am, no offense, but it probably has a lot to do with the fact I’m not Greek. I was born in Possum Town, Mississippi, and ain’t been no further east than that.”
She growled low in her throat, then spoke angrily in a language he couldn’t understand, which was probably for the best. No need in both of them being angry.
Clenching her fists, she settled down and pinned him with a killing glare. “I will try to speak so that you can understand me. I am the Greek goddess Artemis.”
“I don’t believe in gods and goddesses.”
“Well, you should, because this one has a deal for you that I think will interest you.”
Now, that made his ears perk up. “Deal how?”
She closed the distance between them so that she could whisper in his ear. “I heard what you said when you were dying at the feet of your best friend. Your soul screamed out for vengeance so loudly that it summoned me here to intercept you from your final destination.”
He locked gazes with her. “You can send me back to kill Bart?”
“Yes, I can.”
Rapid joy tore through him at the mere prospect. For that, she could insult him all day. “At what price?”
“You named it when you were dying.”
She inclined her head to him before she patted him on the cheek. “That’s the going rate for vengeance around here. But don’t fret. There are other perks to being soulless. If you agree, I’ll give you twenty-four hours to do whatever you wish to the one who betrayed you. No consequences for you whatsoever.”
That he could sink his teeth into. His blackened soul had never been much use to him anyhow.
Artemis smiled. “You will have immortality and all the wealth you could ever imagine.”
“I can imagine a lot.”
“And still it won’t fill even a corner of what you’ll be given.”
When something sounds too good . . .
He ran his thumb across his bottom lip as he eyed her suspiciously. “What’s the mouseprint?”
She laughed evilly. “You are intelligent, after all. Good. It makes the job easier.”
“Hmmm. You will serve in my army of Dark-Hunters.”
He scowled. “Dark what?”
“Hunters,” she repeated. “They are immortal warriors, foot-selected by me.”
“Foot selected?” What was she talking about?
“Whatever the term is,” she snapped irritably. “They are my soldiers who protect the humans against the Daimons who prey on them.”
Technically, they were speaking the same language, but dang . . . Hard to follow a woman who used so many words he’d never heard before. “What’s a Daimon?”
She set her hands on her hips as she paced in front of him. “In short, my brother Apollo’s mess. Centuries ago, he created a race called Apollites.” She paused to look at Jess. “Arrogant of him, no? He thought man was weak and that he could do better.” Then she returned to her pacing. “Anyway, he set them loose on mankind, and the Apollites turned on him and killed his favorite human concubine and my nephew. Not really wise. Why they thought Apollo wouldn’t figure out who killed them is beyond me. So much for improvements, no?”
She rolled her eyes. “Apollites . . . ridiculous. At any rate, they are now cursed by him, and the only way they can live for more than twenty-seven years is to kill humans and steal their souls—we have an Atlantean whore goddess to thank for that little benediction to them.” She flung her hand up in a gesture of supreme agitation. “Don’t even get me started on how badly I’d like to kill her.”
Artemis dropped her hand and faced him. “Anyway, that’s where you come in, if you’ve been paying attention. You sell your soul to me, and you will spend eternity seeking and destroying the Daimons—the name given to the Apollites who feast on humanity. Are you out?”
“You mean in?”
Jess considered it. Last time he’d made a bargain to go in with someone was Bart.
That hadn’t worked out so well in the end.
“I don’t know. I need to think about it.”
Artemis splayed her hand out and waved it to her right. A shimmering light flickered there until images appeared. Jess gasped at the sight. It was incredible. He saw everything as if looking through a glass window—so real, he felt that he could reach out and touch it.
The images showed Bart kicking him to the ground and then the final bullet that went straight into his skull. This time, he saw not only Bart killing him from a distance, but also what Bart did after he stepped over his body. Rage swelled up as Jess watched him kill Matilda’s father and the preacher, then drag his bride into a back room.
“Enough!” he roared, unable to take any more. He’d always known Bart was part animal, but that only proved it. How dare he defile Matilda like that . . .
God damn him.
His fury raging, he glared at Artemis as he literally shook from the weight of his need to bathe in Bart’s blood.
“There are a few more details you should know, such as—”
“I don’t care,” he snarled, cutting her off. “So long as it starts with me gutting that bastard, I’ll do anything. And I do mean anything.”
“All right, then.” A bright gold medallion appeared in her palm. She grabbed his arm and pressed the medallion to it.
Searing pain tore through him as he gasped in agony. Still, she kept that medallion on his bicep, oblivious of the smell of burning flesh, which was so foul, it made his stomach pitch. When she finally pulled it away, he felt completely drained and weak. And there was a strange double bow and arrow mark on his arm, where she’d pressed the medallion.
Just as he was about to ask her how he could fight anyone like this, a new warmth crawled up from his toes to the top of his head. Suddenly he felt stronger than he’d ever been before. More alert. He could hear things that made no sense. Things like Artemis’s heartbeat and the whisper of voices from far away. He held more knowledge than he’d ever been taught.
It was like being a god, and yet he knew for all his newfound power, it was nothing compared to what Artemis had.
Cupping the medallion in her hand, she stepped away from him. “You have twenty-four hours, horse guy, to kill your betrayer any way you see fit and to take your revenge. Make them count. Oh, and know that you can’t let daylight touch you. If you do . . . Well, you don’t want to die without your soul. It’s highly unpleasant. Sometime in the next few days, a man named Acheron Parthenopaeus will find you and teach you everything you need to know about being a Dark-Hunter. If you’re smart, you’ll listen to him.” She gave him an evil smirk as she stepped back and raised her arms. “Welcome to the madness.”
Copyright © 2011 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve read these books, this excerpt makes me want to pick it back up again. Sundown, it’s been a long time coming that’s for sure.