Taste of Karma (Sinner’s Keepers)
Death, Sin, and Vengeance walk into a bar…
They all want something from Karmen.
Bish wants to get even with Karmen for her interference in taking Dahlia away from him. Cipher wants to punish her for abandoning his arms and his bed. Váli has wanted her for centuries but she never seemed to see him.
When Bish and Cipher conspire to teach Karmen a lesson, Váli seizes the opportunity and offers his services—after all, Vengeance is his grace. Too bad for them, he’ll extract a little for his girl and eliminate them as competition at the same time. These bad boys are no angels.
Karma has no deadline…
I’m not afraid of them. I’m not afraid of anyone.
Sin betrayed me, Death wants me to pay, and Vengeance? He’s all right, but we work together too much. Our methods are very different. When those three Keepers put their heads together, my spine tingles in warning. They’re up to something and it’s hard to miss. I’ve played this game for far too long. Are they really sure they want to mess with me?
Bring it on, boys. I’m patient and it’s hardly the first time I got my hands dirty.
*Please note this is a reverse harem and the authors suggests you always read the forward in their books. Warning, this is a standalone tale with a fierce and feisty heroine, three anti-heroes who are forces of nature, and a tale as old as time, with elements of revenge, humor, and a little bit of karmic justice thrown in.
Everything you do comes back to you. – Karmen
Back to Sinner’s I went, hands stretched over my head as I slipped in the slowly closing door behind Hattie. Ugh, if I’d realize she was going to be here, I’d have just gone home and grabbed my end of the night drink there. Thankfully, Sunny was already there, and Hattie was making a beeline for him.
The panic edging Sunny’s gaze, however, gave me pause. Hattie didn’t even slow as she reached the golden-haired Keeper with the devastating pair of dimples and unholy sun-kissed bronzed skin. Her fist knocked him clean off the stool.
Every Keeper in the bar went still as Sunny slammed into the floor, his Nectar splashing all over him before the glass tumbler hit the floor. The crystal splintered, cracking into four hard pieces and scattering. Hattie followed him right to the floor and popped him again.
I half-froze because what the actual hell? Warm, familiar arms threaded around my waist and tugged me backwards against a hard chest as a chin tucked against my shoulder. The sizzle and crackle of masculine amusement licked over me.
“Someone was a bad boy,” Váli murmured, the dark delight in his voice beckoning me to join in with the fun.
“What did I miss?” I settled against him and dropped my arms to rest over his. We worked together often, and in fact, of all the Keepers I encountered regularly, Váli was the most like me.
We got along well. It was part of why I considered him, albeit briefly, for Dahlia. He took such fierce joy in his work. She might have been able to appreciate it and he would have loved a soul that would have let him wreak havoc on all those who’d wronged her.
Even those three idiot brothers.
Still, it worked out better ultimately. Dahlia was happy. Judgment had his brothers back. Zhan wasn’t drowning his sorrows. Tarus was still a dick, but really, what else did I expect?
“He went drinking with Cipher and Bish,” Váli explained, laughter eddying in his voice. I grimaced at the mention of the Sin and Death Keepers. Ugh. They’d been thick as thieves lately. I hadn’t missed their little confabs. That, and Cipher was always in the damn bar these days.
Didn’t he know I preferred my Sinner’s without the original damn Sin?
Hattie was still whaling on Sunny, and while he fumbled to catch her wrists, he wasn’t hitting her back. If anything, he was laughing.
“He has a death wish,” I muttered. Still, nothing about either of them triggered the itch in the back of my head, so I could afford to just enjoy the entertainment.
“Probably,” Váli said, then nipped my ear. I slapped his hand and pulled away. For a split second, his arms tightened like he wouldn’t let me go, but then they went slack and I stepped out of them. His dark green eyes glittered in the half-light, and the sharp cut of his squared jaw offered the promise of not only his stubbornness but also his ferocity.
The Nordic good looks were just part of the package. A smirk twisted his full lips. Clean-shaven, he’d shorn his longer hair a year earlier in a fit of pique he’d refused to explain. “I like the black,” he said, catching a lock of my hair and twirling it around his finger. “What happened to the blonde?”
“I was bored.”
What? It wasn’t a lie.
Threading my arm through his, he led me to the bar. “Drink?”
“Oh yeah,” I said, then stole a look over to where Hattie and Sunny were now grinding on each other as he damn near swallowed her mouth. “Guess trouble in paradise is over.”
My companion said nothing for a moment. The faint unfocused look to his eyes told me he wasn’t all with me. Hot-headed and impatient on the best of days, he wasn’t ignoring me on purpose. I left him to it as I took over getting us to the bar. Quetta lifted her chin at me when I held up two fingers. Excess always brought me the best, and she gave my companion a narrow-eyed, almost flinty look.
Yeah, not touching that one. Whatever he’d done to get on her bad side? He was on his own. I liked my drinks just the way they were.
“What are you doing here, hun? I didn’t expect to see you again this week. Isn’t operation hideout underway yet?” Quetta cocked an eyebrow as she pulled a glass from under the bar, her attention now solely on me as if the Nordic Keeper didn’t exist.
“In what dimension do you think I would ever be hiding out?” Didn’t she know who I was? Karma hid from no bitch.
“Come on, Karmen. Anytime you’ve been in the bar lately when Cipher is here, I’ve had the sudden urge to climb in the stock fridge and wait until the danger has passed. And, girl, as the Keeper of Excess, it’s hard for anything to penetrate my zero fucks given demeanor. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.” She raised her brows and pursed her lips to the side like she didn’t even need me to answer.
“Yeah, well. Why does Cipher have to be here so damn much?”
Quetta rolled with laughter like I wasn’t serious. I was. I’d been coming here for decades, and that devil of a man had been here less than five times. Why every damn night all of a sudden?
He might not think I remembered, but he hated Dallas. Always had. He was more of a thrill chaser, snowboarding off of the highest peaks in Europe or scuba diving in the Bermuda Triangle. Hell, bull riding was what brought him to Texas in the first place. And it wasn’t like Sin couldn’t incite a little harmless sin from anywhere.
That was what attracted me to him in the first place, dammit. I had a thing for the bad boys. Sue me.
“You know this is his bar, right?” she said through gasping breaths and misty eyes.
“Like he doesn’t have hundreds of these places all over the world in his favorite haunts,” I grumbled and gave it up. This was my time to relax, soak in a little me time. Not spend it waxing about all the ways Cipher irritated me these days. “Give me—”
Cipher walked in through the back hallway with Bish on his heels. I didn’t need ten guesses to figure out what they had been doing. Actually, considering the sand trailing in their wake, maybe I did.
“You know what, Quetta? Give me A Short Trip to Hell. Seems fitting.”
Shaking her head, she took the glass and swayed over to the back counter where a plethora of hard liquors, mixers, and beautiful garnishes all waited for her to use them. And use them she would in my beautiful cocktail.
I hopped on a stool, leaning my back against the wooden bar while I waited for the drink I ordered every single time Cipher and Bish were here. Out of the corner of my eye, I tracked the two Keepers in question as they settled on their favorite stools on the very end. They pretended not to see me, and I returned the favor.
I could still enjoy an hour or so here before heading home. Maybe even dole out a dose or two of karma on my way out. Who knew? The night was young.
“Sorry about that,” Váli purred as he slid onto the bar stool next to me, effectively blocking out Sin and Death.
Shrugging, I tipped my head toward him, my new lustrous raven hair catching my attention over my shoulder. I really did love this color. It was so black, it almost seemed like there was blue in it. Inky perfection. “I get it.”
“Ah, I see Sunny and Hattie really made up.” He nodded toward the couple who were now twined around each other in the darkened corner.
“They’ll be out of here in the next ten minutes. How much?” A mischievous grin curled my lips as I flicked a glance at Váli. His answering smile almost had my toes curling.
Okay, who was I kidding? They totally did.
“Hmm, I’d rather wager something else. How about if they leave between now and ten minutes, I’ll complete one boon for you, but if they leave after that, then…” He smirked, his green eyes darkening to obsidian. “Then you’ll attend me on a vengeance run of my choice.”
“If you win, we won’t leave now? How do you know I won’t be busy when you want to exact a little comeuppance?” This actually sounded like fun. Karma and vengeance were so intertwined, I could be a wingman for him in a way I couldn’t for the other Keepers.
And let’s face it, a little deserved retribution was much more interesting than watching time.
“I’ll know.” He winked.
Váli could be such a terrible flirt. Still…I side-eyed him as Quetta slid me my drink. Only mine. Nothing for Váli. He shot her a smile, more teeth than sweet, and she just gave him a dour look.
“Oh, Quetta, my love…”
“Don’t,” she snapped at him. “Not one word out of that mouth if you know what’s good for you.”
My eyebrows climbed as I ping-ponged my glance between them. Hands on her hips, Quetta wore active bitch face like a fucking challenge, and Váli seemed torn between charging at it like a bull after a matador’s cape or obeying her.
Me? I just took a sip of my rich red drink and savored the heat blossoming in my belly with the fruity chaser. One could almost call it a Jägergasm of fruity proportions—sweet on the outside, with a fucking nasty ass punch on the inside.
As if drawn by the thought, I checked out Cipher via the mirror. His gaze locked on mine, even as a smirk curled his lips. Fucker winked at me and his smile grew, at least until I scoffed and refocused my attention to the stare-off between Váli and Quetta. From the corner of my eye, I didn’t miss Cipher’s smile vanishing nor his sudden scowl.
Aww, poor baby. I didn’t and would never be falling all over myself for him again.
He could kiss my wings goodbye. That body was long since dead and buried.
Which was why I shifted on the stool and squeezed my thighs together, locking my knees. I didn’t need to think about the last time he kissed my wings.
No I did not.
Another long swallow of the drink, and I almost had myself convinced. I knew better than to shotgun it though. Once you’d been kicked by that mule a few times, especially since Quetta always added a splash of the good stuff to mine, you learned to be careful.
Finally, Váli turned those soulful, mossy green eyes on me. “Work your magic for me, skatten min. Make the wicked woman give me a drink.”
I snorted. “First, calling her a wicked woman is not going to win you any points.”
“She is not the one I want to win points with.”
That was laying it on a bit thick. I rolled my eyes. Hand on my thigh, Váli leaned in closer until his breath whispered along my earlobe with each word. “Make the mean lady get me a drink, please?”
Mean lady. I laughed. It tickled and it was enticing, but it was because he put me at ease, even with Sin and Death giving me dark stares in the mirror. I could almost ignore them. They were up to something. While I wouldn’t run and fucking hide, I did keep my guard up.
I also had a few plans of my own. As long as they didn’t start anything, I’d leave them be. The less I had to do with them, the better.
“Fine,” I muttered like it was such an imposition and he’d worn me down. I gave his face a light push to give us some distance, and he caught my hand and held it to his cheek. His skin was hot against my chilled fingers.
“Quetta, could you get him an A.M.F. please?”
She gave me a solemn look and then just shook her head. “Hun, you know I love you more than my parties.”
“You do not.”
“This is true, I don’t, but I love you almost as much as my parties.” We both grinned. “My advice? Dump the dead weight and find someone else to play with.”
I gave her a little shrug. “We’re just hanging, nothing to worry about. Besides, we’ve been buds for how long?”
But Váli wasn’t looking at me, he was glaring at Quetta. Undeterred, she glared right back.
“One drink, and I’ll drag him out of here,” I offered as a concession. Not much of one because I wouldn’t keep him out.
“Fine,” she grunted. “And you lost your bet. We’re past ten minutes, and she’s got him half down her throat back there. They aren’t leaving anytime soon.”
As one, Váli and I glanced at Hattie and Sunny. She was, indeed, on her knees with most of Sunny’s dick down her throat. Well, fuck. Fine. I shrugged.
My boon or his, they’d both be fun.
Váli grinned at me, all predator and sharp. “The vengeance of my choice,” he reminded me.
“I know, I never welch on a bet.”
Beyond him, Bish met my gaze, and the cold smile on his face did something few other things had ever managed.
It made me shiver.
Little cold droplets of water splashed my arm as Quetta slung the A.M.F. at Váli. I guessed that was one way to give him a drink. Turning all my attention to Váli, I pretended like Bish didn’t wish he could use his death powers on innocent Keepers. Because really, c’mon. He was all wrong for Dahlia. It never would have worked out.
“Thanks,” Váli sneered as he grabbed a few napkins from behind the bar, dabbing at his silky shirt and slacks. For a Nordic Keeper with Viking vibes, he really had a fabulous sense of style.
Quetta humphed as she swayed down to the other end of the bar, where a human couple congregated.
I didn’t want to ask. I really didn’t. It wasn’t any of my damn business. But I was a nosy bitch and there were very few things that made Quetta that peeved. And I’d have an easier time getting information out of this tall drink of water than my feisty as hell best friend.
“Fess up. What’s the deal with you and Quetta?” I caught the straw with my tongue, sliding the tip around the edges before closing my mouth around it.
Váli’s black gaze tracked the entire movement, his body crowding closer seemingly without his realization. “Váli?”
“Yes, skatten min?” Tipping his head down, light bled through his light blond hair until he blocked out the overhead light all together.
“Why does Quetta look at you as if you killed her favorite party?” I lowered my voice, running a finger down his chest, just for giggles. But wow, Váli had a nice chest.
As if my words finally penetrated his single-minded focus, he plopped back down on the stool and grunted. “That’s a story for another time.”
Rolling my eyes, I took another sip. Fine. Whatever, it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I promised Quetta I’d get Váli out of here anyway. “Drink up, V. Then let’s get this revenge show on the road. I’m in the mood for a little more fun before I head home.”
He dropped his chin, looking much too smug for my piece of mind. Then he tossed his drink back, draining the entire A.M.F. in a few gulps. The way his throat muscles contracted was much more attractive than I’d ever given the movement credit for.
“Drink done. I wanted to wait until I had the perfect mark in mind, but I think there’s something else we can do that would be just as fun, hmm?” He stood, stretching his corded arms over his head, his light gray wings briefly appearing and extending to their full width. The black feathers covering the curve seemed to swallow the light. He usually kept his wings tucked away, so anytime they were out, I was fascinated with the way the black faded to the light gray of his primaries. In a purely platonic way, of course.
And that was exactly why I didn’t notice the two Keepers who sidled up on either side of Váli.
Steam came from my ears as I glared at Cipher standing in all of his dark and sinful glory. He was every woman’s fantasy, with midnight hair and a scruffy five o’clock shadow. But it was his eyes that always drew me in. His were dark blue bottomless pits, as if I were staring into the ocean under the light of the full moon. Eyes that right now, were smirking at me, even though his face was completely blasé. Oh, this Keeper knew exactly how to push my buttons.
Bish made a noise in the back of his throat, pulling my attention to him. Ah, the Keeper of Death, with his red burnished skin and golden-brown eyes that spoke of sun-kissed days in the Sahara Desert. He cut his gaze at Váli as he swiped a big hand down the man’s chest.
Váli just gave Bish a droll stare but didn’t try to remove his hand.
“Yes, Bish?” A hint of an accent came out as Váli looked between the two Keepers holding him hostage. “Cipher?”
“Oh, it looked like you were having so much fun with my old friend here, I had to join you.” Cipher roped an arm around Váli’s neck. He’d been in Sinner’s every night, but outside of the first time, he hadn’t actually approached me.
Narrowing my eyes, I refused to give him a rise. Fucker.
“I would actually prefer you didn’t. You and Bish were having your own fun over there. In the corner.” Váli jerked his head toward their end of the bar. “So why don’t you go back. Over there.” Now he removed Bish’s hand, the one still caressing his delectable chest, then stepped away from Cipher.
“We were having fun, but I feel a little Zhan coming over me.” Bish shrugged and sent another cold smile my way as he placed one hand on Cipher and one on Váli, then the three of them disappeared.
A little Zhan coming over him.
They kidnapped Váli to what? Try and seduce him on the beach? Maybe introduce him to Bish’s dogs? I snorted. If they thought they were going to get him in bed, I wished them much good luck with that. Váli didn’t go for dick. Not even sinful, delicious dick like Cipher.
I shoved the thought of him out of my head. If they wanted to play this game with me, fine. Didn’t mean I had to give chase. I drained my drink and cast a look to where Sunny was currently all boneless in the chair with Hattie curled in his lap. The stench of sex and happiness hung like a cloying perfume and seeped out into the rest of the bar. More than one patron was getting busy.
The human couple at the bar were already heading for one of the bathrooms for a quick and dirty, semi-public fuck. Keepers weren’t altogether unaffected either. Kindle stood trapped in the doorway for a moment, her eyes wide and her face flushed. We locked gazes, and I swore I could almost hear her little ‘eep’ before she blinked out.
Quetta let out a laugh behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to find her wiping down a glass with her towel and shaking her head. “Clueless idiots.”
Sure. Why not? I shrugged. “I think I’ll call it a night.”
“Probably a good plan,” Quetta began, then hesitated. Her brows gathered together to form a firm crinkle between them. “You don’t usually take advice.”
“You don’t usually offer it.”
At least, she didn’t offer it to me.
“Agreed. It gives me hives,” Quetta admitted. “So I’ll do this once, and we’re never speaking of it again.”
Turning fully, I rested my arms on the bar. “All right. Hit me.”
The other Keeper grunted, then narrowed the distance between us. Her words were just for me. I could respect that.
“Whatever game those boys are playing—skip it.”
“Not a bad bit of advice,” I admitted. “Wasn’t interested in it anyway.”
I rose, but Quetta just stared at me.
“You don’t usually lie to yourself,” she mused. “Probably a good plan to not start now.” With that, she whisked away, her back to me, and I stuck my tongue out at her, uncaring if she saw it in the mirror. Besties could be such a pain in the ass.
I glanced to the corner where Cipher and Bish had been all cozied up and then to where Váli had been before they took off with him. I owed Váli a boon and he wasn’t shy, he’d collect it when he was ready.
I also wasn’t that worried about Cipher and Bish trying to hold him hostage. Seriously, he was Vengeance. He ate douchebags like them for breakfast.
A delighted laugh escaped me.
That was better than if I’d planned it myself. With a little pat to my own back, I marked a point to myself in the air and then bamfed my way home. A hot bath, some wine, and maybe some MMA fighting if there was one on.
I could go for a little blood and bone tonight.