Authors: D.B. Reynolds,
They flew to South Dakota by private jet—Raphael and
, plus their security.
personal team consisted of
and Robbie, the former Army Ranger who was her daytime bodyguard and friend. She loved Robbie. He’d gone through hell and back with her, and that was a bond not easily put aside. Raphael’s team was much larger, of course.
Not that he couldn’t defend himself,
but vampires were very big on appearances, which meant Raphael had to travel with a suitable security cadre.
was with them, naturally, since he was Raphael’s Security Chief.
got along just fine with
. The big Japanese vampire had been the only one of Raphael’s inner circle who’d argued in favor of telling her everything about their plan to bait the assassin last March.
Jared was with them, too, but he was another matter.
would have liked to ignore him altogether, but as Raphael’s lieutenant, he was constantly around. And she knew the distrust between them troubled Raphael, so she made the effort to be civil.
There were three SUVs waiting for them when they landed in Rapid City, which was the closest airport able to handle Raphael’s Learjet. Lucas had provided drivers along with the vehicles, but being the hyper-paranoid personalities they all were
immediately replaced Lucas’s people with his own. Not surprisingly, Lucas’s people were prepared for that eventuality, and all piled into a fourth vehicle. The team leader lingered, offering to lead the way back to Lucas’s estate, which
had done her homework and knew that Lucas lived in the back end of nowhere, so a guide was a good thing. That didn’t mean
wouldn’t double-check everything, though.
over to the middle of their three SUVs, which was kind of predictable if any bad guys had plans to take Raphael out on the road. But then, if any bad guys tried to ambush Raphael’s convoy, they’d be in for a few surprises.
And not the happy kind.
slid behind the wheel, and
hid her grin as he immediately reprogrammed the in-dash
system. His fingers flew over the screen’s keyboard in a blur of vampire speed as he replaced whatever data Lucas’s people had already put in there.
Trust among friends
thought to herself. It was touching, really.
They made good time once they left the city behind. There were very few cars on the road. The only light was from the nearly full moon overhead, the only sound the hum of the tires on the road and the occasional murmur of voices from Jared or
in the front seat.
sank back into the comfort of Raphael’s embrace, her eyes closing almost of their own accord. The days leading up to this trip had been unexpectedly busy. Two days ago, she’d had the fortunately rare pleasure of participating in a big meeting with the legal team managing the Leighton Family Trust, a meeting which naturally included her grandparents and her father.
her vote to one of the lawyers she trusted when it came to such things, but this particular meeting had required her presence. Seeing her father had been especially stressful, since he was still pissed off about Raphael buying the
property out from under him last year. He was convinced
had something to do with it, and she supposed indirectly she had, since it was her father’s disregard for her that had motivated Raphael to buy it. But the truth was,
or not, she and her father didn’t have much in common. So there had been that charming encounter, and then several other business matters, all of which had to be handled during daylight, and, of course, Raphael continued to claim her nighttime hours, which was not exactly a hardship. But it did mean she’d gotten very little sleep, and as they sped through the black night, she drifted off to the familiar sounds.
It was a break in the familiarity that woke her. She sat up, abruptly wide awake, every sense on high alert as she tried to figure out what had changed. One of the security SUVs was in the lane next to them, and then sliding past as their SUV sped up and the security vehicle dropped back to trail behind them. She frowned and leaned forward to look out the front window. There had been two SUVs in front of them, one with Lucas’s people and the other with their own. There was now only one, which meant the threat, whatever it was, was coming from the rear.
“What’s going on?” she asked no one in particular.
It was Jared who answered her. “Trailing vehicle thinks we have a tail.”
“Who’s that in front of us?”
“That’s our people. Lucas’s team is dropping back to check out the unknown.”
turned to stare out the back, but could see nothing, not even headlights. With the bright moon out here, the vampire drivers had all turned off their lights, but what about their uninvited visitor? She strained to see something, her hand automatically creeping to the 9 mm
that rode in its usual shoulder holster, touching it like a talisman for good luck.
Although she didn’t really believe in luck.
She believed in being prepared and kicking ass.
Raphael’s hand touched her thigh, his fingers squeezing lightly. “They know their jobs,
She grimaced unhappily, but scooted back and settled close to him. “I know that,” she muttered.
“Doesn’t mean I don’t worry.”
“You wouldn’t be you otherwise.”
scowled, not sure she liked that idea either. But she pretended to relax while listening avidly to the murmured conversations in the front seat and wishing she’d worn her own ear bud.
Finally, Jared turned around to say, “They’re gone, my lord. Whoever it was saw us reacting and took off across country. No lights.”
No lights. That meant … “Vampires?” she asked.
“Not necessarily. The moon is bright tonight, and locals would know the terrain well enough to travel in the dark and conceal themselves successfully.”
“So our guys lost them?”
“Lucas’s guys, but yes.”
She glanced at Raphael, but he didn’t seem particularly perturbed by any of this. He seemed to sense her doubts, though, because he gave her a small smile, and said, “I trust Lucas absolutely, my
. Whoever this was, Lucas had nothing to do with it.”
“Then who did?”
is something we’ll discuss with Lucas when we arrive.”
wasn’t particularly happy with his answer, but she knew it was the best she was going to get. And she had to admit that there was very little else they
do at this point. She slouched down in the seat unhappily. Raphael’s arm came around her, and she supposed he meant it to be comforting. It might have worked, too, if not for the grin he was fighting unsuccessfully. She elbowed him, and he gave up the fight, chuckling softly.
pretty sure she’d never manage to get back to sleep. “I was having a great dream, too,” she muttered.
“What were we doing?”
She smiled up at him. “What makes you think
were in it?”
“You said it was great. I assumed that meant it included me.”
loudly. “What an ego you have.”
So, what were we doing in your dream?”
regarded him evenly, then rolled her eyes and said, “What do you think?”
He laughed and pulled her into a hard embrace, hanging onto her when they hit a pothole so deep the whole SUV tilted to one side.
“Jesus, did we blow a tire?”
“That’s just Lucas’s idea of a security perimeter.”
The road continued rough for a short distance,
smoothed out as a white fence appeared seemingly out of nowhere, gleaming in the headlights like a guideline to whatever came next. That turned out to be a big barn, surrounded by white-fenced paddocks in the distance.
leaned across Raphael to see
Raphael stroked a hand down her back and nodded. “Lucas breeds them.”
“Pretty,” she said as they drew closer. She sat up and looked at Raphael. “Do you ride?”
“You forget how old I am, my
. I grew up on a farm before the invention of the combustion engine.”
“Doesn’t mean you ride, old man.
Maybe you drove a buggy or something.”
Raphael stroked a finger slowly over her cheek. “You do enjoy poking at the beast,
I believe we’ll continue this conversation later,” he growled, his eyes glittering with power.
“When we’re alone.”
swallowed hard as she met his silvery gaze. Raphael would never hurt her, but she sometimes forgot just how much power he wielded. And he was right, she loved teasing him. But that was partly because he
so powerful. Everyone constantly catered to him, and she felt it was her duty to keep him humble. Well, okay, not humble. Raphael would
be humble, but she teased him as a reminder of his humanity.
She leaned forward and bit his lower lip, licking away the blood as she slipped her tongue into his mouth and gave him a slow, sensuous kiss.
“I look forward to it,” she whispered.
Raphael’s gaze was heated as he gazed back at her. “I love you, my
“I love you back, my Raphael.”
At that moment, the SUV made a final sweeping turn and Lucas’s main house came into view. It was a clearly modern construction, but an effort had been made to include a strong Southwestern flavor in the overall Craftsman style. It was built into the hillside, giving it a low profile, but the roof was high and peaked, with red tile and skylights. The skylights were an unusual touch in a vampire’s home, but maybe Lucas liked to look at the stars and moon, or maybe he just liked the way it looked. The structure shone almost golden against the dark night, all lit up by artistically placed landscape lighting. The front door opened as they arrived at the house, casting an even brighter rectangle of light down the stairs and right onto the spot where their SUV pulled to a stop.
Jared said from the front seat, asking, without saying it specifically, if Raphael was ready to disembark.
“Give the word, Jared,” Raphael said.
muttered a few words into his Bluetooth
The doors on the two security SUVs popped open at once, and Raphael’s vampires poured out, forming a security phalanx up the stairs and right to the open doorway. This wasn’t their usual deployment, and it gave lie to Jared’s early assurance that the trailing vehicle had been nothing to worry about.
loosened the safety strap on her
just as Jared opened the passenger door next to her. He glanced up, meeting her eyes briefly, then stood back without offering his hand to assist her.
didn’t need help getting out of a fucking truck, and second, she wouldn’t have accepted his hand even if he’d offered it. She knew it was petty, but she’d always been good at holding a grudge, and apparently that hadn’t changed.
Raphael exited behind her, his arm slipping around her waist.
grinned inwardly at the show of possessiveness. Lucas was not only a
he was also madly in love with Kathryn, his newfound FBI lover. But when it came to these guys, possessiveness trumped pretty much everything, even when it wasn’t necessary.