Authors: Dee Carney
By Dee Carney
Jasmine is sick in bed when a sexy stranger breaks in and reveals she's suffering an irreversible case of vampirism. And because her turning wasn't approved by the Council, he must kill her once the transition is complete. In the meantime, the executioner offers to ease her torment with chocolate, hot peppers or sexual release. Fortunately for them both, Jasmine's kitchen is bareâ¦
Corin's honor demands he do his duty, but he cannot execute the lovely woman while any part of her humanity remains. He must also findâand killâher sire. Jasmine denies ever having contact with a vampire, causing Corin to question the justice of his orders. Sensing his hesitation, the Council dispatches another executioner, forcing the pair to make a run for it.
Every hour they spend togetherâevery sensual encounter they shareâfinds them growing closer. Now Corin will have to choose: kill the woman he loves, or go against everything he believes to set her free.
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Executive Editor, Carina Press
To Tina B.âwho didn't let two time zones stop us from watching gladiator hotness together. Who says watching television can't spark the imagination?
To Rhonda S.âtwo years and twenty-odd stories later, I still have a lot to learn. Thank you.
Sweat trickled down the sides of her face, creating a path that sometimes tracked along her jaw or curved around the shell of her ear before plummeting to her scrub top. The drops created haphazard circles of moisture that covered both the blue material then seeped on to the sterile coat above it. Attempting to wick it away from her skin would involve moving an arm made of stone, so Jasmine ignored the irritating tickles.
The effects of this flu would be the death of her if she didn't get some medical attention soon. With her constant exposure to kids, the elderly and sometimes the homeless right in the height of flu season, she'd been stupid not to get vaccinated before the season started. There had always been something that needed her immediate attention though. By the time she made it to employee health or the local pharmacy, they were either closed, temporarily out of stock or providing vaccination services at a different time.
She could have been more diligent. She could have insisted, but noâ¦
A shiver sliced through her. Uselessly, Jasmine tried to burrow into the long-sleeved lab coat she wore by pulling it tight around her torso. It didn't stop the chill deadening her fingertips and toes.
Someone sensed her plight and a warm hand stroked over her back. “You okay, sweetie?”
The brown eyes of her supervisor, Natalie, were laced with concern when Jasmine turned to look into them. That she could make the woman's normally stony gaze soften was a true testament to how shitty she must have looked. Not to mention Natalie calling her “sweetie.”
Jasmine released a humorless sound meant to provide comfort. The croak probably made matters worse. “I can't seem to shake this bug,” she said, patting Natalie's hand. “Nothing some chicken soup won't cure.”
This time Natalie's eyebrows furrowed in a frown. “No way do you get sick unless it's one of those migraines of yours.”
“Not this time, thank goodness. Right now, though, I feel like death warmed over, and nothing in my medicine cabinet is touching it.”
Natalie took a half-step back. She might as well have crossed herself too. “Yikes. Maybe you should go home.”
“I'm not contagious!” Jasmine protested. As far as she could tell, she'd long since bypassed the incubation period when she'd been most susceptible to passing the illness along.
“Don't make me order you to leave, young lady. You can afford to use up a few hours of leave. They don't give bonuses for having the fewest sick days used up, last I checked. I also think, by some miracle, in some strange way, the dozen staff members you leave behind will be able to function without you here.”
Jasmine laughed, a sound that quickly degraded into another croak. “I'm not that bad.”
Natalie snorted. “Yes you are. Go home. You've long since earned it.” Natalie's gaze dropped to Jasmine's hand in a small subconscious move. The gesture alone made the small red dot itch, and she almost made a move to rub it. The tests had come back negative, so everyone said she had nothing to fear. Of course, if she had nothing to fear, she wouldn't have to come back to employee health for more tests in six months,
just in case.
“Yeah.” Jasmine stretched, using the movement to stifle her growing worry. Maybe getting some rest wasn't such a bad idea after all. “I guess I'll head home early if you think you can spare me.”
“Just make sure you call me if you need anything. Anything at all. You look about ready to fall over.”
Jasmine tried to grin, but the protests of her facial muscles stopped the motion midway. “I feel that way too.”
“Then get. We'll be fine without you.”
“I'm feeling the love, Natalie.” She emptied her pockets of alcohol swabs, gauze and a single prefilled syringe of saline and placed them on the nearby medicine cart.
Clocking out took longer than usual, but Jasmine dragged herself through the routine. Stethoscope in her locker, one final rinse of her hands beneath warm water, remove her uneaten lunch from the communal fridge and finally, oh sweet heaven finally, swipe her badge through the red automated machine. The chime from her completed transaction never sounded so wonderful in all her years at the urgent care center.
Her steps along the pavement made her head flare in response, but calling a cab for a three-block ride made no sense. Sure, she probably made passersby wary as she leaned on buildings for support, but they could all go to hell. Thank God Natalie made her leave early. No telling how much more she could have stood while tending to others. The last thing she needed or wanted to do was make a careless mistake because she was a little under the weather.
Her outstretched hand led the way, grasping on to bricks and solid concrete. She let her feet follow. They knew the way home by now. Her job at this moment was to make sure she didn't run intoâ¦
If she hadn't been looking up, if she'd let her hands run across the broad expanse and simply allowed her legs to follow their direction, she might not have realized the chiseled male in front of her was, well, male. His face had been carved from stone and his body equally erected. He'd planted his feet against the ground and stared down at her with eyes blacker than pitch. With what couldn't have been anything but fury blazing from his very pores.
Except that made no sense. She didn't know him from Adam.
Not that she would have passed up the opportunity.
He was gorgeous. Not in the conventional sense, but with the combination of Grecian nose and boxer's jaw, she would have sculpted his face if she had the skill. His Daniel Craig pout made her lick her own lips in response. Tension drawn so tightly around his face made him that much sexier. She had the crazy, sparse-love-life driven thought that he looked just like this during sex. Intense. Driven. Wild.
Her dry mouth wanted nothing to do with her attempt at speaking to him. Not like she knew what to say. Instead, she dipped her head in greeting and staggered past him. He said nothing in return, and she didn't stop to see if he acknowledged her, but the one thing she did know was the heat of his gaze as she made her way around him. It weighed on her, a heavy caress that started at the top of her scalp and made its way all the way down her short frame. There was something savage and brutal about it. She'd bet her life she didn't know him, but his intensity hinted at familiarity.
God, if she wasn't so tired, she'd maybe stop and gauge any interest on his side by offering him a smile. Maybe even say “hi” to get the ball rolling. Perhaps he'd been a patient before at the urgent care center and knew of her that way. In the end, why or how he knew her didn't matter this minute. Her focus had to be on getting home. On how she'd fall into her bed, pull the covers over her head and sleep the weekend away.
She almost turned back, just for another glimpse at pure masculinity at its finest, but she lacked the strength. With every passing minute she thought she might pass out. Darkness hovered at the edge of her vision, wavering in and out like some annoying fruit fly she wanted to swat away. This feeling wouldn't be moved so easily though, so she kept forward. Kept moving in the direction of her home.
Only a few more steps to go.
Corin smelled the beginnings of her change. He understood why someone would have been tempted to turn the little goddess, but vampire law was vampire law. No one was changed without permission. No one.
Their world was so tightly regulated he knew the names and faces of the two males slated sometime in the next couple of weeks for transition. He'd double-check to be certain, but to his knowledge, the next female being turned wouldn't happen for another three months. This
to be unauthorized.
He remembered the days when chaos ruled. When fledgling vampires were made without thought and during the heat of passion. When humans hunted them down in fear they might overrun the races. Those memories haunted him daily, a cruel reminder of his impotence at saving the lives of those weaker than he. His job was to make certain those days never came back and he took his responsibilities very, very seriously.
One look into wide blue eyes lined with bruises of fatigue, into a face whose pallor leaned toward unnatural, and he knew without a doubt what awaited her. Small capillaries stood out in stark relief against her creamy skin. Her pink tongue darted out to wet plump lips a shade darker than they should be. The blood had rushed to the surface as if she'd already spent hours biting down on them. And that time would come. The instant her incisors began to elongate, she would thrash and moan with the changes thrust upon her.
The kicker, though, was the sweet cinnamon smell transitioners acquired in the early stages. Exotic and erotic as all hell. A phenomenon designed to keep a sire near and a need stoked. Corin couldn't help but inhale deeply as she went by. He didn't need to breathe, truly a habit he performed out of habit, but by the gods he wanted to take in the scent of herâan instinct that made zero sense. None.
Not only was he rewarded with the cinnamon intoxication, he latched on to the clean scent of shampoo in her curly brown locks. Hair he could imagine threading his fingers through, using it to anchor her head above his during a heated kiss. Or better yet, above his cock.
An amused grunt escaped him.
He hadn't had thoughts like that in a long time. As a rule he didn't like such petite women, no matter how pretty a face she had. The women he fed from needed to be made of sturdy stuff to handle what was happening to their bodies. Now he studied this woman's retreating back, mildly curious about his initial reaction. As sex-driven as the next vamp, this wanting shouldn't have been altogether foreign, yet it was for him. The little vixen managed to arouse it from a long slumber, though. Perhaps it'd been too long since he'd gotten laid.
All of it meant nothing in the end. He had a job to do. When he received the kill order, exterminating the new vampire would have to come without hesitation. A terminal blow to an innocent, but one he swore to deliver when appointed to keep up with their kind's population growth. Now, hundreds of years later, he still followed those orders in one of the big cities of the United States.
He matched her pace from behind, keeping a good distance in case she decided to turn around. Thankfully, she staggered forward without looking behind her. Each laborious step she took made Corin's stomach clench, but she managed to make it to what must have been her home. And the home of her sire. Now that he knew where they resided, he would get in contact with the Council to let them know of the new development.
There went his vacation.
Luckily for the seven men and women of the Councilâone for every continentâexecutioners were never truly on vacation.