Authors: Suzanne Wright
The Deep in Your Veins Series
Copyright © 2015 Suzanne Wright
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2015 Suzanne Wright
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Every avid reader knew you didn’t fuck with a girl’s Kindle. You just didn’t. So when the bitch in front of me slammed my purse on the floor and I heard my precious baby crack, things were destined to go to shit.
Initially, I’d ignored Marla’s efforts to goad me into a bar fight. If she’d convinced herself that a certain male vampire rejected her because of me, it was her issue to deal with. Besides, it was easy to dismiss someone who clearly had such a low IQ that it would be surprising if she could pass a blood test.
I mean seriously, who would confront a member of the Grand High Vampires’ legion—especially when that member was sitting with the other six members of her squad? And
when many others in the bar were part of the legion? It just wasn’t done.
Pissed she wasn’t getting a reaction, Marla had grabbed my purse and slung it in a huff. As a Pagori vampire, she had some serious strength. The impact had broken my baby, which was why everyone at my table slowly rose to their feet.
“You need to go,” Paige hissed at Marla and her nervous-looking cronies. My BFF wasn’t easily riled, but if someone pushed her too far…well, things tended to end badly. That was most likely why Cassie and Alora edged closer to her, ready to hold her back.
Our behaviour reflected on the entire legion. Marla wasn’t a threat to vampirekind, just a dumb shop assistant who was plagued by jealousy issues and needed her roots done
As such, despite that I wanted to lunge at Marla, I dug deep for calm. But as I looked down at my purse and recalled the telling crack, anger pumped through every vein and my fangs descended. That little device had got me through some crappy times; given me the escape I occasionally needed. I’d taken it with me pretty much everywhere; I admittedly had an unhealthy attachment to it. Now it was in pieces, thanks to Marla, and I wasn’t good with that. Not at all.
It just went to prove that I was right and you couldn’t trust people with perfect teeth.
Marla’s eyes narrowed. “What did you say to Butch to turn him against me? He was pretty welcoming last night. Now he’s giving me the cold shoulder.”
Oh it was like she
me to hurt her. Butch might not be mine, but I sure didn’t like anybody thinking he could be theirs. Since becoming a member of the legion, I’d learned a lot of ways to kill a person. Those ways were swirling around my head, tempting me to act on the fury riding me.
It was clear that my girls were having similar thoughts, especially since Maya’s jaguar claws had sliced out, Jude had whipped out her knife, and Ava was eyeing Marla with lethal precision. One tiny signal from me would have them all leaping at these bitches.
“You told him about what happened at the store, didn’t you?” continued Marla.
She was referring to when she had accidentally-on-purpose knocked my tub of milk on the floor, causing it to burst open and soak my jeans.
“Yeah, you told him to turn him against me. The legion sticks together, right?” she mocked.
you need to go
,” repeated Paige, her green eyes blazing.
Marla put a hand on her hip. “Yeah? Well, I wasn’t talking to
. I was talking to
One of Marla’s cronies grabbed her shoulder. “Come on, let’s just leave.”
Marla shrugged her off and arched a thinly plucked brow at me. “Nothing to say?”
I sighed. “Not really. I like intelligent conversation.”
She smirked, cocky. “You’re not denying what I said because it’s true.”
“You mean that I turned Butch against you? That’s your own paranoia at work. You know he’s a one-night stand kind of guy. If he rejected you, it has nothing to do with me.”
“I don’t believe you. Shall I tell you what I do believe? That the reason he has one-night stands is that you quickly turn him against any female he touches. Yeah,
what I believe.”
“Well, everyone should believe in something.”
“Do you think if you get rid of all the competition, he’ll go back to you?” Marla snickered. “How pathetic.”
Paige shook her head. “No, blaming Imani is pathetic. I mean, taking into account your peroxide hair, pitch-black roots, blotchy fake tan, and whiny little voice, it shouldn’t be a shock that he turned you down.”
Marla gasped in horror and slung her drink all over
Oh the hell no.
I sucker punched her—no warning, no hesitation. Marla’s head snapped to the side, her knees buckled, and she lost consciousness before she even hit the floor. Gasps came from the little group at her back. As one, they lunged for me. So my squad and I lunged for them.
It was amazing how quickly a bar fight could escalate. None of us used our vampiric gifts. No, this was a true catfight. There was scratching. Punching. Kicking. Screeching. Slapping. Hair-pulling. And dress-shredding.
All the while, male vampires surrounded us, cheering ‘Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!’
It was a great outlet for my anger and actually kind of fun…until my earring was ripped out.
Snarling, I fisted my hand in the bitch’s hair and—
A strong arm curled around my waist and started heaving me away. I knew who it was, because I’d know that masculine scent of dark spices and sandalwood anywhere.
“Put me down, Butch!”
He didn’t, but I kept a firm grip on the long dark hair in my hands—I wasn’t letting go of my prize any time soon. My girls didn’t look any more willing to end the fight than I was, which was why it took the combined efforts of the Grand High Pair’s personal squad to part us all.
Still, I managed to take a chunk of dark hair with me. Smirking, I showed it to the heifer. She waved a hand my way, and it was like something slammed into my head,
my skull…and then I was seriously freaking tired.
“Fuck,” cursed Butch.
Then it all went dark.
I’d woken up in this bed before. Several times before, in fact. But this time, I wasn’t naked. That was the only reason I wasn’t silently cursing myself.
I slowly turned my head. And there he was. Sharp-boned face. Five o’clock shadow. Sleep-tussled bronze hair. Solid chest and delicious abs. I didn’t need to look beneath the covers to know the rest of Robert ‘Butch’ Richardson was just as spectacularly masculine. Asleep, he looked no more peaceful than he did while awake. There was something untamed about him. A buzz of raw energy seemed to always hum beneath his skin.
The first night we’d slept together had been the night of Ava and Salem’s Binding ceremony a year ago; a one-night stand that had turned into a month of several wild and unforgettable one-night stands. I’d hoped it would turn into something more, but Butch had made it clear—though not in an asshole way—that he didn’t do ‘more.’ So I’d cut my losses. I wanted something that had possibilities; that had the potential to go somewhere. Anything with Butch was a dead end.
It wasn’t that he had commitment issues. He just didn’t connect with people. Furthermore, he didn’t
to connect with people. Despite having known him for over a year, I didn’t
him at all. He never revealed anything personal. Never shared anything about his past. Never confided his feelings or thoughts. He was literally a closed book.
I didn’t judge him for it. It wasn’t wrong that he didn’t want to connect with others or that he didn’t do ‘more.’ It just meant he couldn’t give me what I wanted. That didn’t mean it was easy to walk away. No. But I’d done it. I’d moved on. I’d even found someone else—a human I’d dated right up until a month ago.
Dean was nothing like Butch. He was relaxing, fun, and safe—or, at least, he had been until he betrayed me. Butch was far from a relaxing presence. He had a way of unnerving people. And he definitely wasn’t ‘safe.’ Many called him sociopathic and a natural born killer.
Sam—the female half of the Grand High Pair—had once remarked,
‘I can’t help but be fascinated by how Butch can stand there plotting someone’s death while looking cool and calm, like we’re strolling in the park.’
It was true. Butch’s air of downright coolness went to a whole new level. But I liked that about him. I liked his air of self-assuredness. Liked how at ease he was in his own skin. Liked how daring and determined he could be. Hell, I just plain liked him.
I wasn’t the only one.
Many females flocked around him. I loathed them all on principle, especially Marla, the Kindle-killer. Butch wasn’t a slut, but he was no choir boy either. Honestly, I’d probably find him boring if he was.
Despite how much I liked him, I’d walked out eleven months ago, swearing to myself that I wouldn’t return. Yet, here I was again in his bed. Only, I hadn’t made my own way here.
I recalled the catfight, recalled struggling against Butch’s grip and then…suddenly I was tired. Obviously the female’s vampiric gift had been to induce sleep.
It wasn’t often that there was trouble here at The Hollow, which was a gated community surrounded by a tropical rainforest and situated on an off-the-map Caribbean island. There were cafés, stores, bars, a nightclub, and a bowling alley—all of which were centered round a man-made beach. The Hollow was also the home of the Grand High Vampires, Sam Parker and Jared Michaels—a mated couple that nobody with an ounce of intelligence dared to fuck with.
They had a legion of over one hundred male vampires. Sam was forming an all-female squad of ten, and she had offered me a place. I’d snapped up the offer, and I hadn’t once regretted it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy position. The training was rigorous and exhausting. Even though our squad wasn’t yet fully formed, we were sent on risky assignments; saw things that would haunt the hardest hearts. But in the legion, I felt something I’d never felt before: a sense of belonging. It was cheesy, granted, but it was true.
I was the youngest of five in a family of academics. Two were lawyers, one was a CEO of his own company, and the other was a surgeon. Me? I liked to read and sketch. That was pretty much it. I wasn’t academically minded. I’d never had great aspirations or any drive to do something with my life. They’d never understood that; never understood me.
As such, although they had involved me in family events, I’d always felt like an outsider—my nose pressed to the window, watching this perfect little family but never being part of it. Thanksgiving had been a nightmare; a day of them making passive aggressive comments that suggested I was lazy, directionless, and a dreamer. Then when I’d speak up and tell them to stop, they would say I was too sensitive and needed to learn to take a joke.
I’d just never fit. And they’d never let me forget it.
Here, I fit. Here, it was okay to be different. Here, we were
different. Each and every one of us had freaky preternatural quirks and gifts.
All three vampire breeds were born with an individual gift. Pagoris, like Butch, were the most powerful; known for their aggressiveness, their enhanced speed and strength, and their potent bloodlust. They also had a red tint to their irises that glowed when they were thirsty, angry, or horny.
Keja eyes had the same quirk, only the tint to their irises was amber rather than red. My breed also had hypnotic beauty, allowing us to lure in our prey very easily—whether they be vampire or human. We were also the only breed that possessed fangs.
Sventés were often considered human-like because their bloodlust wasn’t strong, they only had notable agility to boast of, their irises were completely normal, and their vampiric gifts tended to be only defensive. Personally, I didn’t think being ‘tame’ made them weak. To me, it was their strength. It allowed them to blend in easily with their prey without losing control.
It was safe to say I’d lost control last night when—
Butch’s eyes opened, and his watchful brooding gaze took me in. I’d heard a lot of people describe his eyes as ‘eerie’ because they were so dark. I didn’t think so. Oh, they could sure look scary when he was facing down an enemy. Other times, like now, they could be so languid and slumberous that my insides melted.
I swallowed. “Why did you bring me here?”
“I wanted you here.” The response was almost child-like in its simplicity. It was also rather typical of him. If he wanted to do something, he did it. If he wanted something, he went after it. And he made no excuses.
“That heifer sent me to dreamland, huh?”
“I was concentrating so hard on keeping hold of you that I didn’t get my shield around you in time.” Butch was a Negator; he could negate or deflect any power directed at him. As part of his gift, he could form a defensive shield.
Me? I had the rare ability to sever blood-bonds. There were two types of blood-blonds: the kind formed between fully mated vampires, and the kind that formed between a person and the vampire who created them. I’d long ago severed the bond between me and my Sire, and for very good reasons.
“Well…” I sat upright, smoothed out my shredded top and adjusted the thin straps. At least my wounds had healed. “I’d better go. We have a meeting soon.” Both our squads met with Sam and Jared most evenings.
I went to get up, but his hand landed on my thigh. A hand I knew was seriously talented. Even with my pants separating his skin from mine, it made something low in my stomach clench.
“Starting a bar fight…I wouldn’t have expected that of you.”
I frowned. “I didn’t start it.”
“You threw the first punch. I saw you.”
He was watching me?
“What did she say to you?” Something dark and dangerous moved behind his eyes.
I forced a dismissive shrug. “Not much.”
“Bullshit.” He braced himself on one elbow. “You don’t start fights. You don’t punch people for no reason. And you don’t go bat-shit for the fun of it.”
“Maybe I do. You don’t know me.”
His gaze raked over me, lingering a little on my cleavage. “Oh, I know you.”
“In the biblical sense,” I allowed.
“I know plenty of things about you. I know you disappear into a book every time you’re stressed out. I know your biggest fear is again being used to hurt people with your gift—so much that you even have nightmares about it. I know you have an aversion to toads, and you can’t lie for shit.”
I narrowed my eyes. That was the thing about him. He paid attention. Was perceptive on a level I wouldn’t have thought possible. And I could
lie, thank you very much.
His eyes dropped to my throat. “And I know you taste like fucking heaven. Everywhere.” He skimmed his nose under my jaw, inhaling. Then, in under the time it took to blink, he’d slipped from the bed and pulled on some jeans. It was a struggle to tear my eyes away from his bare, well-defined chest. The guy was deliciously ripped. Moreover, he oozed a dark, raw sex appeal that commanded attention.
“I have coffee-flavoured NSTs. You want one?” He was referring to Nutritive Supplemental Tonics that contained blood and vitamins. The previous ruler, Antonio, had developed them. They quickly got to work on the thirst and they gave a good boost, but only pure blood quenched the thirst. “Or I can fix you something to eat, if you want,” offered Butch.
I pursed my lips, eyeing him as I slid into my shoes. “You’re being weird.” I mean, it wasn’t like him to be…courteous. In general, Butch never did anything he didn’t
to do. Interfering in the bar fight, bringing me here, offering to make me breakfast—none of those things were necessary. The times I’d woken here before, he’d been distant, sending me an ‘it was just sex’ message. “Is this your way of trying to apologise for what you did last week?”
“What should I be apologising for?” He wasn’t being flippant. He seemed genuinely confused.
“Chasing away the guy I was dancing with.” He’d stalked right over to us in the club, caused a scene—
“You should be thanking me for that.”
I picked up my purse and followed him into the kitchen. “
“You barely even knew the guy,” he said, pulling two NSTs out of the fridge. “But you were hurting. Something was bothering you, and you wanted to forget”—I’d wanted to forget there was a blonde trying to rub herself all over Butch at the other side of the club—“so you were going to go home with that asshole. You would have regretted it at dawn.”
Actually, he was probably right.
He pointed an NST at me. “If you wanted to be fucked that badly, Imani, you should have come to me.” He slammed one bottle on the breakfast bar, twisted the cap off his own, and drained the bottle—his dark gaze never leaving mine.
“Did you really just say that?”
Chucking the empty bottle in the trash, he braced his hands on the breakfast bar. “I did. And here’s the thing: I’m done waiting for you.”
I tensed, confused by his words and stunned by the raw need that momentarily blazed in his eyes. I hadn’t seen that look in a long time. It took a few seconds before I could speak. All that came out was, “What?”
“I had to watch you with that human for seven months. Seven. Long. Fucking. Months. The only thing that stopped me from hurting him was that he made you happy. But then he didn’t, and now he’s gone. I decided to give you a month to get your head straight before I made a move. That time is now up.”
I shook my head. “I told you I was done with being a bed-buddy. I want—”
“More. A relationship. The problem is I’m not good for people. I don’t know how to make another person happy. That was why I let you go. And I’ve regretted it ever fucking since. I didn’t think I’d get another chance with you. But I have, and I’m taking it. You want a relationship? Fine. But I won’t be easy to deal with, Imani. Know that straight up. I’m aggressive and selfish, not to mention dangerously fucking possessive when it comes to you.”
He had to be kidding…but I knew he wasn’t. Butch was a direct person. He didn’t play games. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Wouldn’t say it if I wasn’t.” He opened my NST and slid it to me. “Drink.”
Feeling a little dazed, I picked up the bottle. “Where is all this coming from?” It felt seriously shit. “You’ve never acted even
possessive.” Protective, sure, but that was different.
“Why do you think I almost snapped Leo’s spine?”
Leo was a member of the legion who I’d liked right up until he grabbed my ass and mentioned how much he’d like to fuck it. “It was
that beat the shit out of him?”
“He touched what wasn’t his to touch.”
I could only gape. This whole conversation was just…I mean…what the fuck? It had totally blindsided me. Seemed too bizarre to be true. I didn’t know how to process it, and I didn’t know how to feel about it.
He watched my throat work as I drank the NST. “Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I’m thinking I need to go.”
His hand shot out and grabbed my wrist. “You know what I like about you, Imani? I don’t have to play guessing games with you. You let it all hang out. If you’re pissed, you show it. If you’re happy, you show it. If you’ve got something you want to say, you just say it. Right now, you’re closing down on me. Tell me what you’re thinking.”