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Authors: Nicola Claire

Tags: #Vampires, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Adult

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BOOK: Blood Life Seeker
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I swallowed as I approached the corner of an old slightly dirty brick building, which was on a lean towards the centre of the cobblestoned road. I knew what was behind that corner, I knew I wasn't going to like it and I knew without a doubt that I couldn't walk away. Go the big bad hunter, me.

One last breath to centre myself and I stepped out into the weak glow of a nearby lamplight. I felt the soft spray of its light bathe me as I stood stock still in the centre of its circle. The vampire wouldn't be able to see me, the human wouldn't either, the light was all for me. There's just something about facing your worst fears, light makes it easier, there's just no denying it.

Down the alleyway - it's always an alleyway, somehow they just seem to be drawn to creepy dark dead end places - about three metres away stood a tall man dressed in a long black cloak. It was summer here in Italy, I could tell, because even though it's dark, it was still really warm. So, the cloak alone gave me a hint. Not to mention the ooze of
Sanguis Vitam
pouring all over the alley. His hood was down, so I could see his long black hair, tied back at the nape of his neck. It shone slightly in the residual glow of the street lamp. His head was bent over a smaller figure; male, about 5'8” I should think. Making the vampire well over six feet, he was having to bend significantly to get fang to neck.

I was late, usually I can get there before they bite, but this was not a usual hunt. I wasn't even in my own city for crying out loud. This was so far from usual it wasn't funny. The man being served up for dinner was dark skinned, although I only knew this from his arms, desperately tying to pry the vampire's grip from around his shoulders and chest. His face, in comparison, was deathly pale. The human wasn't succeeding and by the look on his face, he'd been trying for a few minutes. Michel only feeds for about 30 seconds, no longer, but then again, he is a mega Master Vampire. This vamp although powerful, wasn't quite at Michel's league. Still several minutes can mean a death sentence and is not necessary if you're just satisfying hunger. I was guessing this vampire was satisfying a hell of a lot more than just hunger.

What to do? I'm unarmed, but I am strong. Stronger than your average bear, that's me. Just another freaky perk from Nosferatin ancestors and joining with a kindred vampire. But even if I get him off the man, what then? Frighten him off with a growl. Well, it was worth a chance, wasn't it?

I started walking toward the horror scene at the end of the alley. I can't be heard, unless I talk, in this realm, so I wasn't trying to sneak. That's why when I accidentally kicked a pebble into the brick siding of one of the buildings bordering on the alley and it made a loud clattering noise, I didn't jump. But then, why did the human? And why was he now staring at me with big brown, almost black, eyes showing way too much white?

Shit. He was a Nosferatin and I hadn't even noticed. His eyes flicked from me to the vampire and then back again.
Yeah, I got it dude, hang tight I'm coming.

I jumped at the vampire and tore his grip from the man. Somehow he managed to withdraw his fangs without taking half the guy's neck with him. This vampire was old and had centuries to practice. He spun to face his attacker and stopped. No one there, whoopee for me. I grabbed his arm, which had been hanging out in front of him ready to grab his assailant's neck and threw him against the wall of the alley. The Nosferatin had slumped to the ground with his hand to his throat to try to staunch the blood flow. Blood continues to flow from a vampire bite unless they lick it, something in their saliva coagulates the blood. But this vamp hadn't had the time nor the desire to be so kind, so the blood flow was still pretty impressive.

The vamp's head pounded into the brick wall causing a dent. Bricks don't normally dent, but then neither do vampire heads unless you use something sharp, preferably silver coated. In the world of physics I'd just discovered a new substance stronger than concrete, yippee. He didn't stay still for long but rounded on me in a flash. I'm not a novice, I've been hunting for two years now and picked up a few tricks along the way, especially play fighting with my best friend Rick's shaper shifter Hapū, so when he turned I had already moved up beside him. My knee hit his groin and when he doubled over I gripped both my fists together and brought them down hard on his neck. He stumbled to the ground landing flat on his stomach.

I didn't waste time, I jumped on his back, with my legs around his arms and chest and gripped his long hair in one hand twisting his head to the side and grinding his face into the cobble-stoned ground as hard as I could. He tried to buck and nearly succeeded in dismounting me. I'm not heavy, I'm a little person. Only 5'4” and trim and fit. I'm a box of tissues to a vampire, they wouldn't bust a gut lifting me one-handed that's for sure. But my grip on his head was enough to keep him down for now. That wouldn't last too long though.

“Where's your stake?” I asked the Nosferatin without shifting my gaze from the vampire beneath me.


Che
?”


Your stake?” I mimed stabbing with my free hand, you know, the Norman Bates look:
ee ee ee!

“Oh,
Vampiro gioco
. It is gone, he throw it away.” His English was not perfect, but I got the gist of it.

“Spare? Do you carry an extra one?” I always carry two stakes when I hunt, plus a silver knife as back up, you can never be too careful.

“No. No spare. Nothing.”

You have got to be joking. Maybe European Nosferatin had it easier than the antipodes, but still, no spare? What an idiot. And now what? I'm sitting on 110 kilos of super strong and buff vampire arse, without a stake. We're just dinner waiting to be served.

“You are unarmed, Hunter. What now?”

The vampire's voice was low and even, smooth like a hot chocolate drink, dripping in sweetness and marshmallows. Something you just wanted to devour but knew you shouldn't. He had a hint of an English accent, laced with something else, something older, but I couldn't tell what. Not many vamps can capture me with their voices any more, nor their gaze, just the powerful ones. They
can
still glaze me if I'm not careful or I'm injured and by the judge of my increased heart rate, this vamp wasn't having any trouble coating me with his voice right now. Damn.


What's an old chap like you doing slumming it for your meal? A bit
Bela Lugosi
isn't it?” I asked between clenched teeth.

He laughed at that, actually laughed. Here he is with his face in the dirt, an invisible entity sitting on his back managing to hold his arms against his sides and he laughed. Comfortable bastard wasn't he?

“Your accent is unmistakable, Hunter. You are a long way from home. And as I cannot see you or sense you, I am picking you are Dream Walking. Not a common Nosferatin trait. The
Iunctio
will enjoy this piece of information.”

Shit. The
Iunctio
was the vampire equivalent of the Net, but all telepathic and supernatural. All vampires could connect to it, download the latest information; where it's safe and where it's hot, or find out what the rules are for any given city. It's the power that keeps the vampires in line, protects the humans from mass hunting and genocide, and offers a great gossip network when required. It's run on both Nosferatu and Nosferatin power, but controlled by the Nosferatu, somewhere in Paris I think. Basically, it's the eyes, ears and head honcho of the vampire world. Michel and I had been trying to keep my new powers from the
Iunctio
since the get go. This vamp wasn't the first to threaten my exposure. The others are no longer alive.

“Shame you wont be around to tell them then, isn't it?” I replied coolly.

His responding laugh was warm and comforting, it wrapped around me like a familiar coat, snuggled in against my cheek and neck and ran it's fingers down my spine.

“Cut that out!” I said as I banged his head against the ground.

He stopped laughing, but his chest was still moving, little rumbles rolling across his shoulders. It was doing nothing for my equilibrium, let alone my pulse. What was with this guy?

Suddenly I was airborne, the vampire had jumped to his feet in a smooth glide, like he had been lifted up by puppet strings. He spun around before my feet even touched the ground and thrust his hand out towards my neck. I don't know how he managed it, he couldn't see me, he couldn't sense me, but somehow he managed to grasp my neck.

And he had no intention of letting go.

Chapter 2
Deal

“You know, I think I can smell you.” The vampire's face was against my neck, under my hair, his nose resting on my skin. My hair is straight and shoulder length and I don't normally wear it tied back, but as I was in my nightwear it was a bit bed head messy.

He ran his free hand through my hair, softly, gently, a complete contrast to his firm grip at my throat. My heart was hammering like a jack rabbit, I could hear my pulse thumping in my head. I couldn't swallow and could hardly breathe. I'd been in tighter situations before, but somehow they all seemed to pale to this.

“You smell of sunshine and candied apples, spring and honey. I can almost taste you.”

And then he did just that. His tongue lapped at my ear, the soft skin behind my lobe. His hot breath making my body shiver where it touched the wet trail of his mouth.

“You are a delight. I shall enjoy meeting you in person. Michel has done well for himself.”

Whoa. Back up the trolley. “You know Michel?” I croaked.

His grip lessened slightly, as though he had no intention of hurting me, killing me, feeding from me. As though he hadn't realised he was hurting me at all.

“An old friend, you could say.” His face hadn't left my neck when he spoke. I guess if he couldn't make eye contact with me, there was no point. He seemed to be enjoying himself snuggling up against my side though, smelling me, breathing on me. A shiver ran down my spine.

“Do I affect you, Hunter? Do I send shivers down your spine? Would you like the feel of me against you, flesh on flesh? I can smell your fear, but I can also smell your desire. You are a quandary, aren't you?”

“I'm cold, that's all.” I knew he couldn't really smell me, I was Dream Walking, vampires couldn't sense me in this realm. Or at least I hoped that was the case with this one. He seemed so sure of himself.

His hand ran down my sides, feeling the satin material of my nightdress, running it through his fingers until he found the very short hem. He then traced his hand up over my stomach, past my breasts, found my thin straps, one of which had fallen off my shoulder, half way down my arm, exposing way too much flesh. His hand lingered over the exposed skin, not touching but so close I could feel his warmth.

“I feel your heat, Hunter, I smell you. I have never wanted to see something which is not there so much before. Do you always hunt in lingerie? Tell me, what colour is it?” His voice had lowered to a husky whisper on that last question.

“Go to hell!”

“I'm already there.” He chuckled then, as though it was a private joke and pulled back from me, allowing himself to really get going with the laugh. It rocked through his body and down his arm to my neck, shaking me against the brick wall.

I could see him clearly for the first time. His black hair had come loose at the base and now framed his face, hanging loosely over the black cape. Underneath the cloak he wore a tux; modern, elegant, expensive. This was no run of your mill vampire, this was a Master with some class. What the hell was he doing in an alley with a Nosferatin by the fang?

He opened his eyes finally and I was blinded by the most brilliant shades of grey. Silver streaked with platinum, hints of deep granite in the mix. They weren't a flat colour either, but bright and clear and shining, undulating and swirling. Hypnotic. The eyes were why I had not noticed his scar at first, but now I could see it. A ragged cut from his right eyebrow down his temple and cheek, maybe 8-10 centimetres in length. Something had nearly taken his eye when he was still human, before he had been turned.

I reached up and traced it. I don't know why, it just seemed to call to me. He stilled, vampire still, that preternatural calm; no breathing, no heartbeat, nothing, but didn't pull away.

“How did you get it?” I asked quietly.

He had an odd look on his face, puzzled, as though he couldn't quite figure me out. I didn't blame him, I should have been a blubbering mess, but somehow I knew that this vampire did not want to kill me. The evil that I had felt before was gone. How he could turn it off like a faucet I didn't know. I'd felt the evil when I entered the alley, but now it was simply no longer there.

“A gift from an admirer.” His voice was low, soft, it ran along my arms and curled around my shoulders, pulling me closer. I could feel myself actually leaning in to him, against his grasp. He weakened his hold slightly, bending his elbow a little more, allowing me to come closer. He would have been able to feel my breath against his skin, his mouth. I studied his face, he eyes, his smooth cream coloured skin, his scar. He was beautiful, but aren't they all?

“You're stunning. Your eyes are amazing,” I said, with a little awe, chiding myself immediately for the telling tone.

He pulled back and shook his head, a small smile edging his full lips.

“What are you, Hunter? A temptress, I have no doubt, but there is more to you, is there not?”

“I'm a kindred Nosferatin joined to the Master of Auckland City. Isn't that my official title? The one you guys always want to hear?”

His smile hadn't wavered, he couldn't see me, so focusing on me was difficult, but I think I had killed the moment for him and he no longer wanted to go in for a sniff. He glanced over his shoulder at the Nosferatin man, still on the ground, hand to throat, eyes now shut. He was pale, but I could still see his chest rising and falling. He was still alive.

“I am afraid I got carried away, Hunter. Nosferatin blood calls to me. I find it difficult to stop when I lower my guard. I had not meant to hurt him so.”

Huh? Confessions of a blood addict. Who would have thought.

“You know the rules, vampire, no feeding on the unwilling.” I crossed my arms over my chest. He wouldn't have seen it, the move was lost on him, but it made me feel better.

“The name is Gregor and he was willing. At least at first.”

He released my neck then, which was more of a surprise than the sudden pain of swallowing without hindrance. I've felt
that
before. It's not the first time I've had my throat almost crushed by a vampire. Hell it's not the second or third either, they seem to have a fixation with necks. I wonder why? However, it was the first time a vampire had let me go that I had been intending to kill. But then, there's the thing, I had no intention of killing him now. Which was strange, he had broken the law, the rules set by the
Iunctio.
Even if the Nosferatin had been willing, Gregor had taken it too far. He should have stopped.

I rubbed at my neck while I studied him. He stood still, looking at the fallen Nosferatin with a slight sadness to his eyes.

“You know I should still kill you for this,” I said softly.

He turned towards the sound of my voice and smiled a slightly wicked smile. Somehow vampires can master that look so well.

“But you won't tonight will you, Hunter?”

“No.”

There was no point denying it, I was still unarmed. And he was, I realised now, a very powerful Master Vampire. He had been containing his
Sanguis Vitam
well, but I could feel it now, he was way older than the 300 years I had at first thought. But by how much I couldn't be sure and besides, something was telling me this bad boy wasn't all bad. And if there is one thing I have noticed from my recent discovery of Nosferatin skills, bringing the vampires towards the Light is the most prevalent of our desires. It's what rules us, what makes us tick. If the vampire can be saved, we just want to do it. I didn't want to kill this man.


Maybe, I shall be careful what I tell the
Iunctio
after all, Little Hunter.”

“Deal,” I replied instantly.

He hadn't actually offered me one, but if I could let him go without a rap across the knuckles, he could keep my secret a little longer. Fair was only fair after all.

He smiled and took a step backwards, his cape swirling about his long legs. He gave a little bow, similar to those I had seen Michel give to other vampires of equal standing, hand fisted across chest and said, “Until we meet in person, Little Hunter. It has been....intriguing.”

With that he shot up in the sky and simply disappeared. I couldn't see where he had gone, or if he had just vanished into thin air.

I let the breath I had been holding out slowly and then turned towards the Nosferatin on the ground. He was still conscious, but had lost a lot of blood. I grabbed the edge of his T-Shirt and ripped a strip of cloth off, then padded it into a ball to press against his neck. His eyes flicked open and he looked at me.

“You like angel come save me. How you know to come?”

I smiled at him, I wasn't going to let him know I hadn't controlled this Dream Walk. I certainly wasn't going to let him know I had the ability to home in on any Nosferatu throughout the world. That little secret was still all mine, but I did say, “Female intuition, I guess.”

He smiled blankly at me.

“What's your name, soldier?” I asked.

“Marco.”

“Hi Marco, I'm Luce. Have you joined yet?”

“No, not yet. I not found a kindred. I think maybe this vampire tonight be right.”

I laughed, it sounded harsh even to my ears, as if I'd seen too much of the world already, way too much for my 25 years.

“I don't think Gregor is the joining type. How long have you got?”


I am just 24, one year left.”
One year left
, yeah it sounds pretty fatal doesn't it and it is. A death sentence hanging over your head unless you join with the creatures of the night, those creatures you are born to hunt.

“Have you found the website?” I asked him.

He looked at me blankly and shook his head. The website is the site that saved my sanity. It's run by Nero, an Egyptian Nosferatin who is close to 500 years old and my trainer. I found the website by surfing and searching the net and then getting a friend of mine from the our local shape shifter Hapū to hack it. It's a place my kind can go to get answers, to find kin like us. It led me to Nero and I don't know where I would be now if not for him.

I told Marco the website address and latest password. “Try it out, the guys will be able to help you. What about now, how are we going to get you home?”

The bleeding had stopped on his neck, so he didn't need two hands any more to staunch the flow. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a cellphone, flipped it open and pressed a button. A few short words in Italian into the mouthpiece when it was answered and it was set. His friends would come for him.

“I'll wait with you,” I said as I sat down on the ground next to him.

He had propped himself up against the brick wall of the alley, a little colour had begun to come back into his face. He'd be all right. I just hoped he didn't throw himself at too many stranger fangers in the near future. You should always try to get to know your date first. Of course, with vampires, that can be a little tricky. They are a secretive lot.

“Where you come from? And why you dressed in night wear?” Marco's gaze had lowered from my face and was brushing the length of me slowly, as only an Italian can do. Somehow managing to undress you with a glance. Not that it would have taken much tonight, I was practically naked in this thing.

I sighed and leaned my head back on the wall behind me, keeping my eyes on the leering Nosferatin. “I can Dream Walk, it's one of my talents.
This
, is what I was asleep in when I heard the call.”

Marco looked suitably impressed and then just as quickly puzzled. “You don't think a stake be good idea when Dream Walk?” he asked.

I laughed. “Yeah a stake would be a bloody good idea, Marco, a bloody good idea indeed.” Just how was I to take a stake with me when my Dream Walks happened unexpectedly like tonight, I didn't know. Sleeping with a very sharp weapon in my bed was a little unnerving. I guess I was going to have to divulge my little dark secret to Michel and Nero to get some answers.

When I turned 25 I came into some of my powers, or more accurately some more of my powers. I had already come into several before I joined, which was well before my birthday. But on the day of my 25
th
birthday and at the exact time of day that I had been born, I came into a woozy of a power. I could sense all the Nosferatu in the world. Like I was drawn to their
Sanguis Vitam
, like it called to me. This latest Dream Walk could only have been the product of this new power. But, and here's the clincher, I haven't told any one about the power yet. It kind of scared me. And to be honest, when I saw the look on Michel's face when all that power came pouring into me, I wasn't quite sure what he would do with the knowledge of my newest talent, so I hid it. I said I had only received the increased strength and speed, heightened senses and such on my birthday. It's not unheard of, most Nosferatin powers come to them over the course of a couple of months after their 25
th
birthday, so I think he believed me. I think.

But now, I was going to have to 'fess up and I could just imagine how that conversation was going to play out. Michel did not like being left in the dark. Metaphorically speaking of course.

“How are you feeling now?” I turned my troubled thoughts back to the young guy in front of me.

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