Authors: D.B. Reynolds,
“Raphael!” Lucas’s pleased shout had
glancing up to see the Lord of the Plains flanked by his own security team and waiting just beyond the front door.
rolled her eyes. They had enough security here to start a small war.
Ignoring his bodyguards, Lucas stepped out onto the porch with a big grin on his face. She had to admit he was a handsome devil. Not as handsome as Raphael, naturally, but then her own personal vampire lord was unusually beautiful. Still, Lucas was very pretty with his black hair and almost golden eyes. Unfortunately, as far as
could tell from their brief acquaintance, Lucas’s favorite pastime was tweaking Raphael, which was
favorite pastime. She resented the hell out of anyone usurping her rightful role. Why Raphael put up with it, she didn’t know, although she’d gotten the impression at their previous meeting that the two powerful vampires had an almost father-son relationship.
“Lucas.” Raphael’s greeting was much more restrained than Lucas’s, although he did step forward to accept the other vampire’s hug, going so far as to offer an abbreviated embrace in return.
Releasing Raphael, Lucas turned his laughing gaze on
, arms outstretched, but she gave him a warning glare. She wasn’t a
“Lucas,” Raphael growled, adding his own warning.
“Lucas, our guests have barely arrived. Be good.”
Good luck with that
thought to herself, then held out her hand to the tall blonde standing a step back and to Lucas’s right. “You must be Kathryn,” she said.
The woman grinned. “And you’re Cynthia.”
,” she corrected immediately. “I’ve been dying—”
Lucas cleared his throat loudly and interrupted, saying, “Raphael, this is Kathryn Hunter, the love of my life.”
Kathryn rolled her eyes, but smiled as she reached out to shake Raphael’s hand. “It’s an honor, my lord. Lucas has told me so much about you.”
“And all of it good,” Lucas added.
“I’m sure,” Raphael said dryly,
turned his attention to Kathryn.
“A pleasure, Agent Hunter.”
“Oh, call me Kathryn, please. Let’s not stand on ceremony. Lucas tells me we’re all friends here.”
,” Lucas said, “and absolutely right. I apologize for not coming out to greet you, Sire, but my security people were all hot and bothered about your shadow on the way here. Your people too, from what I’m told. Come inside, let’s be civilized.
You, too, Jared.
, you’re looking spectacular, as always.”
didn’t say anything, only growled deep in his throat.
Predictably, that made Lucas laugh, as he took Kathryn’s hand and led the way deeper into the house.
and Raphael followed, with Jared and
in their wake.
looked around curiously, wondering if the interior would hold up to the lovely exterior, and she wasn’t disappointed. Keeping with the Southwestern style, the floors were all tiled, with the rest of the decor following the theme. They passed a huge open room that looked like someone’s man cave, with a giant flat screen and multiple game consoles and other electronics.
recognized the room’s functionality, because they had one just like it back at Raphael’s Malibu estate. It was where the vamps hung out when they weren’t on duty, but weren’t quite free to leave the estate either.
Lucas led them past that room, turning left down a hallway until they reached a pair of double doors that stood open on another spacious room, this one with an open-beam ceiling and a big stone fireplace with a good-sized fire burning cheerfully.
moved automatically toward the warmth, smiling her greeting at yet another good-looking vampire who waited for them just inside the room, looking very frat boy in his faded denims and black crewneck sweater.
“You know my lieutenant, Nicholas, of course,” Lucas was saying, and
nodded, remembering him from the briefing at Raphael’s Grand Junction house after the assassination attempt.
“Nicholas,” Raphael acknowledged.
“Sit,” Lucas said, indicating a pair of overstuffed sofas facing each other across a gorgeous coffee table made of artfully distressed wood.
Kathryn gave Lucas a quelling look and amended the offer, saying, “Please. Have a seat.”
He responded by grabbing her around the waist and giving her a loud smacking kiss on the cheek. “What would I do without you, Katie mine?”
“I think we all know the answer to that,” Nick muttered, and Kathryn shared a snicker with him.
Lucas ignored the exchange, collapsing onto one end of the sofa and slouching down, stretching his long legs out and plopping his booted feet on the heavy coffee table.
Raphael sat with a bit more care, taking the other end of the sofa and opening his leather jacket as he settled back into the cushions.
eyed him appreciatively. He looked like someone off the cover of a glossy magazine and she wished they were alone, so she could
him up one side and down the other. His black eyes came up to meet hers, hot with intent. She gave him a lopsided smile, and he winked back at her.
A promise for later.
“Sit over here with me,
,” Kathryn said, drawing her attention as she sat on the facing sofa. “That way we can listen to what we want and tune out what we don’t.”
“You wound me,” Lucas said, clutching his heart dramatically. “I thought my every word was music to your ears.”
“In your dreams,” she muttered back. “Come on,
. I have cookies, and coffee, if you want it. If you’d rather—”
“Coffee would be great,”
assured her. She unzipped her jacket before sitting down, giving her easy access to her weapon. Sure, Lucas was a friend, and yes, Jared and
were here to provide security, not to mention Raphael himself being fully capable of defending himself. But
was a control freak, especially when it came to Raphael’s security, and she couldn’t help noticing that there was a telltale bulge beneath Kathryn’s jacket, too.
“What a pair we are,” Kathryn confided as she poured some coffee. “In a room full of killers, and we’re worried about protecting
agreed, sucking down the hot caffeine. “But I can’t seem to stop myself.”
“I noticed the horses when we drove in,”
said, wanting to change the subject. She loved Raphael, but she spent most of her waking hours with vampires and welcomed the chance to talk about something else. “Raphael says Lucas breeds them, but do you ride, too?”
“I rode a lot when I was younger, but I hadn’t done so in years. I’ve been getting back into it since I met Lucas.”
“You ride at night?”
Kathryn nodded. “Have to, don’t we? The horses are used to it, though, and the trails are well-marked. Why? Do you ride?”
“I’m afraid so. My various handlers felt it was something a properly raised young woman should know.”
“That’s what I call the parade of nannies and private school administrators who were in charge of my education.”
“Your parents were … gone?” Kathryn
her voice hushed and full of sympathetic understanding.
nodded. “Definitely gone, but not the way you think,” she replied, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice. “My mother left when I was three, and never looked back, and I don’t think I exchanged a hundred words with my father the first two decades of my life.
Poor little rich girl, huh?
But at least I don’t fall off when I try to ride a horse.”
“We should go riding then,” Kathryn said, politely leaving behind the subject of
childhood. “I’m on duty most of this week. My nights are free, but I’m saving my days off for the big Chicago blow-out this weekend. I’m off tomorrow, though, and it would be nice to ride in the sunshine for a change.”
“I’d like that, but let me just check something.”
pulled out her cell phone and punched Robbie’s speed dial.
“It’s the middle of the night, woman. This better be good.” Robbie and the other daylight guards had arrived a day earlier so they would be set up and ready for Raphael’s arrival. Robbie and the others would be sleeping somewhere nearby, though she didn’t know exactly where everyone was yet.
“This is what I get for trying to be nice?” she joked.
“What do you mean?” he asked cautiously.
“Gee, am I really that bad?”
“I was sleeping,
Do you know how to ride a horse?”
“You woke me up for
He groaned. “Yes, oh wonderful one, I ride, courtesy of the US Army and too much time in the fucking sandbox.”
“Excellent. Wear your spurs tomorrow, then.”
“I can hardly wait. Is that all?”
“Love you, too.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she heard him grumble as he disconnected the phone.
“My daytime bodyguard,”
said to Kathryn’s questioning look.
“You have a bodyguard?”
“Sure, don’t you?”
“She won’t let me,” Lucas said, eavesdropping shamelessly.
“I’m an active FBI agent,” Kathryn said, directing the words at Lucas, her long-suffering tone indicating this was an old argument. She switched her gaze to
. “I can’t have a bodyguard trailing me around, and at night I have Lucas and all of his team. What more do I need?”
“I have two,”
said with a scowling glance toward Raphael. “A vamp for nighttime—her name’s
—and Robbie during the day. And if it was up to Raphael, I’d have a whole team following me everywhere. He thinks I might get into trouble by myself.”
Across the room Raphael caught her eye with a skeptically raised eyebrow. “Might?”
“Okay, so it’s possible there’s been a time or two.”
Raphael laughed, and she threw a cookie at him. Of course, he caught it smoothly and tossed it back at her.
“Anyway,” she continued, with a glare at the love of her life, “I’d love to ride tomorrow, Kathryn, and you’ll like Robbie. He’s a sweetheart under the gruff exterior.”
“It’s a date. We’ll aim for afternoon, since we’ll be up all night. Sunset’s early this time of year, so I’ll meet you out front around two, if that’s okay?”
“Great. I can fill you in on all the inside scoop without big ears listening in.”
, secret handshake stuff?”
“At the very least,”
agreed, blowing a kiss at Raphael who was shooting evil looks at her.
* * * *
“Forget them,” Lucas told Raphael, waving a dismissive hand at the conspiring women. “The worse they’ll do is