Enter a goddess gone mad, a band of immortals set on furthering the destruction of humanity, and one sassy tiger, and you’ve got a set of problems entirely too big for one gal to handle on her own! Luckily for Nikki, she’s got her own ass-kicking team on her side to help her defeat the undeafeatable.
Check out Divine Descendant, the final installation in the super-fun Nikki Glass series by Jenna Black about a cunning private investigator—who also happens to be an immortal descendant of Artemis—with an uncanny ability to find trouble, among other things, when she’s not even looking for it.
Oh, and find out what happens with her close encounter with this BA magical tiger below…
I moved a little farther away from Jamaal, closer to the water’s edge. I didn’t know if the water would discourage a real tiger, much less a phantom one with human or near-human intelligence, but if she came after me, I figured I’d dive in and find out. The edge of a wave lapped against my bare heel, and it was all I could do not to jump and yelp at the sudden cold.
Diving in would not be fun, and I hoped like hell it wouldn’t be necessary.
Sitting cross-legged on the sand, Jamaal closed his eyes. It used to take considerable time and effort for him to summon Sita, but the process was getting faster. Five hundred pounds of surly tiger appeared on the sand beside him before I felt even remotely prepared to face her.
Sita greeted me in the usual way, with a tooth-baring snarl that made my bones rattle. Her eyes fixed on me with unnerving intensity, and she lowered herself into a crouch as she began stalking toward me. Jamaal opened his eyes and reached out to her, touching her flank.
“Let her be, Jamaal,” I said. Inside, I was practically gibbering with fear, very aware that I was prey in the presence of an apex predator, but I think I sounded relatively calm. “She and I have to work things out between ourselves.”
I don’t know whether Jamaal did as I asked and let her be, or if Sita just chose to ignore him, but she kept stalking closer, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. My pulse pounded in my throat, and it took a hell of a lot of willpower to stop myself from backing away.
I held my ground and met Sita’s eyes, hoping she wouldn’t take that as some kind of challenge. “I’m not your enemy, Sita,” I told the tiger. “You and I both love Jamaal.” Internally I winced at hearing myself use the L word. I hadn’t intended to, but now was not the time to act embarrassed and equivocate. “I want what’s best for him, and I hope that’s what you want, too.”
Sita snarled again and kept coming toward me. This time, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a step back, even though it put me within reach of the chilly waves. A little cold water was the least of my problems.
“You’re hurting him,” I said. Sita didn’t appreciate that, and her snarl turned into a mini roar. “I know you don’t mean to,” I hastened to continue, “but you are anyway. Humans need contact with other humans, and Jamaal has been isolated for so long. You’ve helped him so much with managing the death magic! Because of you, he can finally have real friends without worrying that he’s going to lose control and hurt them.” I hoped phantom tigers liked flattery as much as most humans do.
“But the problem is you won’t let him. He’s not afraid his own temper is going to be dangerous anymore, but he has to worry about what you’ll do, and that’s just as bad.”
Sita was still moving toward me, but I was mildly encouraged by the fact that she hadn’t attacked me yet. She could cross an enormous distance with a single bound, so I was already well within her kill zone. Either she was listening to me, or she was playing with me. I took another couple of steps backward just to give myself a little more space. I now had water up to my ankles and I had to fight for balance as the sand shifted beneath my feet, but at least Sita didn’t speed up her approach.
“You know him,” I told her. “Better than anyone else. Think about how he would feel if you hurt someone he cared about. Do you really want to put him through that?”
Sita paused and narrowed her eyes at me. Her tail twitched, and she showed me her teeth again.
“We both want what’s best for him,” I said, and this time I was determined not to back away any farther. “There’s going to be a fight tomorrow, and he’s going to need both of us there to keep him safe.” Jamaal probably would have bristled at the suggestion that he needed our protection, but my slow retreat toward the water had put enough space between us that he probably couldn’t hear me over the waves. Either that, or he was giving me one of those looks that kill, but I wasn’t about to take my eyes off Sita to check.
Sita started forward again, and I dug my toes into the sand to keep from retreating.
“Please, Sita,” I said. “Let’s work together. Jamaal deserves so much better than what he’s gotten from life.”
I was being consciously manipulative, and yet my own words made my throat tighten and my eyes burn. Jamaal had suffered so, so much over his life, and though he wouldn’t appreciate anything that resembled pity, I hoped he could at least tolerate some empathy. Aside from practical matters, I wanted this for Jamaal, wanted him to have Sita and still be able to have relationships with other people, to be loved.
Sita was close now, and a wave lapped at her front paws. She looked down at them with a soft snarl, lifting and shaking first one, then the other. I fought a sudden urge to giggle. She started toward me again, and another wave wet her paws. Once again, she flicked the water off before taking another step. And another. Step, flick. Step, flick. Step, flick. I had to suck my cheeks in to keep from laughing. It’s hard to look dainty and menacing at the same time, even for a quarter-ton tiger.
I swallowed past laughter and fear and took my life into my own hands. “How about if I come to you, since you don’t like the water?”
Sita froze in midflick. I’m not much of an expert in reading feline facial expressions, but I interpreted the way she looked at me then as total shock. There was no question that she understood what I’d just said.
Gathering my courage, I took a cautious step closer to Sita. Her lips twitched with a warning snarl, but I ignored it and took a second step. She finally put both her paws down, now ignoring the water that lapped at them. Behind her, I could faintly see the man-shaped shadow that was Jamaal, and I could almost imagine him holding his breath.
I was ashamed to feel the quivering in my knees as I continued to approach, one careful step at a time. Sita wasn’t leaping to attack me, but the narrowed eyes, bared teeth, and twitching tail didn’t look all that welcoming. Maybe I was just shivering because I’d been walking in the cold ocean water and not because I was quivering in fear. Yeah, that was it.
“Can we make peace?” I asked her softly as I took a final step, one that put me solidly within reach of her dishpan-sized paws. She looked up at me and made eye contact.
Her sudden snarl caught me by surprise, and I made an embarrassing bleating sound as she lunged. She moved so fast that I had no warning, couldn’t even take a step backward.
The top of her head made solid contact with the center of my stomach, knocking the wind out of me while not actually hurting me. However, the blow was easily hard enough to push me off my feet, and I landed on my butt in the water. Sita did the lift-flick thing with each of her front paws, sending sprays of water right into my face, then turned around and sauntered back onto the beach, where Jamaal awaited her.