Authors: Mary Hughes
Tags: #vampire;erotic;paranormal romance;undead;urban fantasy;steamy;sensual;vampire romance;action;sizzling;Meiers Corners;Mary Hughes;Biting Love;romantic comedy;funny;humor;assassin;Chicago;police;cops
Only her light can burn away his shadows.
Biting Love, Book 8
On her first night as a police officer, Sunny Ruffles takes down three felonsâ¦only to be attacked by a gang of vampires who are a whole new level of hurt.
Then a mysterious shadow man intervenes, saving Sunny before he disappears. She runs after him, telling herself her pursuit has nothing to do with his sharp, stubbled jaw, his powerful shoulders, or his sexy-as-hell, kissable lips.
Rescuing the humans makes Aiden Blackthorne late for a critical meeting with the vampire Nosferatu's daughter. Yet clompy, bumbling Sunny draws him back like wild honey. He kisses her, and he's almost got her down to her underwear when a bomb meant for him explodes.
The last thing Aiden wants is to drag Sunny into his hellish conflict with Nosferatu. But Aiden's a loner whose only friend has mysteriously disappeared, and the woman who smells and tastes like his mate is the only backup he has left. He'll need her, everything he is, everything he wasâand everything he might have beenâto defeat his evil master and claim the love he never dared hope to have.
Warning: This book contains shadowy assassins
off vampire heads, cops bumbling in at the worst of times and opposites attracting, colliding, and exploding in lustâa.k.a., explicit fighting, humor, and sex.
To Gregg. Yep, another one. Deal with it: you're stuck with me.
To Christa Soule, who makes me a better storyteller than I knew was possible. Since Aiden was a favorite, I sweat over each word, making him live up to your expectations. Hope I had some success.
To Carole L. Gonzales and the great folks at the Oconomowoc Public Library, friendly, helpful and expert staff who made me feel welcome in what, for many years, was my home away from home. Some of my best words were written there.
Thanks to SPC Boom for ordnance sound descriptions. Thanks to authors and brainstorming pros Edie Ramer, Leigh Morgan and Barbara M. Britton for their help with Sunny's character. Thanks to CP Roxy Mews for taking the time from her own writing to read this in its early stages. Thanks to Leigh Morgan for her martial arts expertise, and the image of “clean and naked”.
The dark city revealed itself in flashes of light, streetlamps strobing across the police cruiser's windows. The old brick buildings appeared peaceful, but my stomach roiled and my fists clenched.
This was it. Two intense years of criminal justice, seven grueling months of academy training, and ten weeks of field training all led up to this chilly March night.
My first night as a cop.
“Looks quiet,” I said hopefully to my partner, Norris Don't-Call-Me-Chuck Jones, aka Jonesy.
,” Jonesy said. “Be alert.”
“Copy that.” Somehow I clipped it like Joe Friday. I made myself relax. “I hope it stays quiet, though.”
Jonesy grunted in response. He was the epitome of grizzled cop, a twenty-five-year veteran who'd driven the streets of Redfox Village longer than I'd been alive. He was deft with a gun and I couldn't be in better hands.
So I forced myself to unclench my fists. Surely I wouldn't blow it on my first night?
Sure, because we Ruffleses had such a great track record, being in the right place at the right time.
My fists clenched again.
Jonesy cornered onto Grant. I scanned the shops marching resolutely up the street, anchored by the solid Redfox Village library and StoneGiant Bank. I was overreacting. What could possibly disturb the tranquility of this law-abiding Chicago suburb?
Sure enough, that was when I saw the flash of movement ahead.
“Something's wrong.” I saw it again, out Jonesy's window. I leaned forward.
Jonesy slashed me a glance and slowed the car. I zeroed in on the dark causeway cut between a bakery and a pet store.
The narrow gap sliced a single moment in time, frozen like a snapshot on my retinas. I closed my eyes and processed.
A man raised hands in trembling surrender. Hulks with homemade masks surrounded him.
One pointed a gun.
“Stop the car. Damn it.” My heritage was coming home to roost. Not the Korean-Anglo partâthe Ruffles part. Somewhere in my family tree was the bastard child of Loki and the Keystone Cops.
“Details?” Jonesy barked.
“Mugging at seven o'clock. Eight-one-eight Alpha.” RVPD code for assault with a deadly weapon, in progress. “One victim and twoâ¦” I shut my eyes and saw it again. “No, three perps.”
“Radio it in, Officer.” Jonesy jerked to a stop. He switched off, double-parked; the neighborhood was one-car garages in a three-car age and the street was full.
I hit the dash-mounted radio and connected with dispatch as Jonesy hustled across the street, amazingly nimble for such a beefy man.
I reported my badge number and the situation, keeping eyes on Jonesy. He hit the sidewalk, seamed his back to the pet store and soft-footed it toward the dark causeway. He drew his weapon passing a sign, “Special on Cockatiels”.
“Backup on its way,” dispatch said. “ETA ten minutes.”
“Ten-four.” I released the transmit button, checked my side firearm and ankle-holstered backup gun, quietly exited the squad car and tiptoed toward the crime in progress.
My brand-new thick-soled cop shoes hit the asphalt like mini-explosions.
a Ruffles. I'd lovingly baked my first boyfriend a birthday cake, only to have big brother Dirk miss lighting the candles and set him on fire. Now, as I tried to surprise the muggers, my spiffy official shoes crashed louder than cymbals.
“What the fuck?” The biggest mugger spun, gun waving. Jonesy shot me an exasperated glare then dashed into the mouth of the causeway, leading with his SIG P226. “Police,” he bellowed. “Hands up.”
I clomped up behind him and drew my Glock 23, minimum weight for maximum magazine capacity, to back up my partner. A sudden urge to blurt the Miranda rights seized my tongue. Too many crime shows. We only needed to Mirandize when we were going to interrogate. We weren't there yet.
“The hell.” The guy side-stepped with a glance over his shoulder, prelude to running. The other two stopped frisking the vic to eye my partner, their toes already turning too.
.” I pitched my voice low and macho. It hurt; I'm barely twenty-two and it wasn't that long ago I was singing first soprano in Good Shepherd's children's choir. I firmed my grip on my gun. “Hands in the air.”
Ice hit my chest. I'd done it wrong and they were going to run. Worse, I might actually have to shoot them.
Something dark inside me raised its head.
Jonesy barked, “You heard her. Hands in the air.” He stepped in front of the biggest perp and pointed his muzzle straight between mugger eyes.
The mugger signaled his cooperation by slowly, conspicuously removing his finger from the trigger. Then he carefully laid his gun on the ground before raising his hands. His two pals followed suit.
I let out a breath.
“Officer.” Jonesy nodded toward the muggers. “Cuff them.”
I holstered my weapon, released my cuffs from my duty belt, grabbed the nearest perp, spun him and brought his hands behind him. The adrenaline had drained from him, leaving him weak and shaking, and I moved him like a rag doll.
Clapping him in irons, I felt ten feet tall and covered in hair. Not really, but score a win for the good guys. It felt great.
One done, two to go. I disarmed the biggest mugger next and secured him with my backup plastic cuffs. I suppressed a grimaceâshould have done him first. What the hell. First night, my first collar and my own adrenaline was still pumping hard. I cut myself a little slack as I pulled the third perp's wrists behind him for cuffing.
A tornado seized him and ripped him from my grasp. He flew away into the bakery.
The force slammed him into the brick wall. Bits of plaster and dust poofed at the impact. A dry scrape of filth stung my nostrilsâalong with something more corrosive.
Something like death.
My gun was already out, my heart pounding. “Stop, police!”
My brain caught up with what, or who, had stolen my collar.
At the end of my gun's sight was a tall, skull-faced man. My field of vision narrowed to his eyes, a glinting brown that was almost red. The impression of a leather duster swirled around him.
I forced myself to widen my focus. The skull-faced man held the mugger tightly by the neck. Too tightlyâthe mugger's face was dark with congested blood.
Jonesy had his own leather coat to deal with. I firmed my grip on the gun. “Release that man.”
Skullface's head turned slowly toward me, an inhuman roll that sent ice skittering down my spine. He grinned, his canines unnervingly long.
“Let him go!” My voice was tight, shrill. I told myself it was adrenaline, a lie, because the breath puffing from my lips was cold.
.” His voice echoed, throbbing in my skull like a bad headache. “
You will leave us alone
The unnatural tone shivered into me, penetrating my very cells, softening my determination. My gun drooped. I started to turn away.
Elena would fight.
The thought broke my stupor. Damn it. He'd done some sort of mind control trick on meâlike a damned vampire.
I'd never encountered a bloodsucker in person, but my brother talked about them all the time. Nobody paid him much attention because, well, he was a Ruffles. But that dry, dead smell combined with that sibilant voice and the mind control said that if anyone was a vampire, it was Skullface.
I refirmed my grip on the gun. “Leave? Like hell.”
Then I spoiled it by glancing at my feet to check my stance. Nerves, understandable, but never let an enemy see any weakness and from what Dirk said, double that for a vampire. I cursed and made myself look him in the eye.
Red bled through his irises.
My gun trembled. I swallowed hard.
Clattering came from the mouth of the causeway. I cut a glance to see Jonesy, shambling away like a sleepwalker. “Jonesy! Hey.” He kept walking as if he hadn't even heard me.
Damn it. Whether I could handle it or not, I was it. I swiveled back to Skullface. “Release that man.” I tried to drop my voice an octave into Jonesy's authoritative bellow and ended up gurgling like used motor oil. “He's dying.”
“Terror makes the blood sweeter.” Skullface grinnedârevealing two long, sharp fangs.
Air exploded from my lungs, into vocal chords so tight I would've won the Jamie Lee Curtis Scream Award except I threw the clutch in my throat and the air escaped as a frightened hiss. Better than a girly shriek, but not by much because the hiss came out in waves, driven by my hammering heart.
Skullface's eyes danced with red flames. “I
With a weird spiral windup of his head like a cobra about to strike, he sank his fangs into the mugger's neck.
Protect and serve.
I jettisoned the fear freaking me. Brought my gun up. My dark self came up with it.
I shoved it viciously away and focused on the vampire. My vision narrowed.
A slight gap between the bloodsucker and his victim meant I had a shot. I inhaled, breathed out, timed for the space between my heartbeats and squeezed the trigger.
My gun gave a comforting kick in my hands. I'd only done this on the range but it felt like a sweet shot.
The bloodsucker's shoulder jerked.
He went on slurping at the mugger's neck.
A bellow erupted behind me. A volley of shots went off. I sliced a glance.
The gun's report must have snapped Jonesy out of his trance. He was frantically emptying his clip into another bloodsucker whose mouth worked at a second mugger's neck. The original mugging victim fainted. A third vampire pinned the third mugger to the pet store and repeatedly sank fangs into his fleshy neck, groaning in ecstasy. My stomach heaved.
I swallowed ruthlessly. Whoeverâ
ever they were, they were committing assault in a city I'd sworn to protect.
Job to do.
I twisted back to Skullface and launched into a sidekick. Like hitting a couple of heavy bags, but I nailed his ribs and managed to knock a space between him and his victim. I landed through and put three bullets into his heart.
I hit all three. I know I did because his heart blood surged through the holes like water pulsing from a faucet.
But he only lifted his head and
at me. Growled, through lips stained red.
My heartbeat stuttered. As I stood there, the blood running from Skullface's chest holes slowedâ¦and stopped.
My gun quivered in my hands.
The bloodsucker grinned again, grabbed the mugger, dark threads still trickling, pulled him to his mouth and went back to sucking.
The insolent son of a bitch.
It jolted through my fear and plain made me mad. I shoved my gun between them, jammed the muzzle in Skullface's belly and pulled the trigger. I felt the kick and smelled scorched leather.
He lifted his headâand laughed. “Keep it up, cunt. Remember you're next.”
My bowels turned liquid. Sheer terror burned my nerves and clamped my finger on the trigger. I squeezed. The gun barked. Panting, I pulled the trigger again. And again. And again. Andâ¦
.” With a snarl, he dropped the mugger and grabbed me by the throat.
Pain lacerated me, talons digging through my collar into flesh. My eyes felt like balloons about to pop. Attempts to drag in air only sucked emptiness. Fear iced my veins.
Instinct kicked in. Martial arts honed by the Academy snapped my knee into his groin and swept my forearm into his wrist.
My arm hit steel. My ulna rang with pain. I yowled.
My knee was luckier. It connected with everything soft and swingy.
He gasped. For a bare instant his fingers eased. I sucked a breath and mentally cheered.
Too soon. His eyes narrowed and red bled through his entire cornea. “Fucking bitch.” He grabbed my neck two-handed and squeezed.
Windpipeâ¦crushing. I tensed all my neck muscles, turtling my chin, trying to buy timeâto do what, I didn't know. If a sidekick barely moved him, if even bullets didn't slow him, what would it take? Dynamite?
Behind me. My partner.
Jonesy needed me.
Curling a fist, I punched Skullface in the sensitive point of his jaw. At least, it was sensitive in humans. With Skullface it was like hitting a cliff and only produced a grunt of pain.
In a last-ditch effort, I reached up with both hands, grabbed his temples, stuck my thumbs into his lachrymal glands and swiped down and out, like scooping a pair of cherries.
Skullface howledâand threw me away from him with a spin that sent me crashing into brick so hard I bounced off. He caught me on the rebound and slammed me spine-first onto concrete.
From skull to tailbone my spine sang with bright shocks of agony. My lungs wouldn't work. Skullface fell on me. I tried to roll away but my body wouldn't respond.
He pinned my abdomen with a knee. His fists were coming. I managed to shield my face. He pummeled my ribs instead. I writhed, trying to get away. My thick wool jacket absorbed most of his hits but he punched hard.
My diaphragm finally kicked in and I sucked in oxygen. His growls and my whimpers echoed against bricks and concrete. I tried levering my hips under him to get loose. Like trying to move a house. I was strong for my size, but this guy was a whole new level of hurt.
“Yeah. Fear me. You're dead, bitch.” He seized my neck with both hands and
. My vision darkened. He kept squeezing until my sight spangled with death.