Authors: Laurann Dohner
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Paranormal, #Vampires
“Son of a bitch!”
She rose to her feet and stomped over to the table where she’d dropped her vest. She tore open a pocket and grabbed two darts. She spun, met his gaze, and slowly approached.
He glanced at her fisted hand. “Thank you, lass. It’s kind of you to knock me out so I don’t suffer an agonizing death.” He paused. “The sex was amazing. You’re a beautiful lass and I hope you find the one who took your sister from you. If you decide to leave that note, tell them to go after him for Morgan McKay. Tell them it’s an honor debt. Those words will always protect you from my friends.”
She hesitated. “Why?”
“We do have honor. The use of my birth name will be proof to them that it’s not a trap when they go after the rogue. They’ll know I want him punished for what he did to your sister. They’ll do it.”
She wanted to believe that but she wasn’t a pushover. The sex had been really hot, the best she’d ever had, but she’d never admit it to him. “I’m going to make the sun seem like a fun, delightful way to die if you’re lying to me.” She straddled his thighs again and leaned forward, planning to jab the darts into his arms.
A smile lifted the corners of his mouth as his gaze fixed on her cleavage. “I can die happy with your bonny breasts the last thing I see.”
A charming vampire. Who knew?
She almost hated to hurt him but he didn’t wince when she sank the tips of the darts into the muscles near his elbows. His eyes closed and his head slumped to the side when he lost consciousness.
Lacey experienced a bit of guilt for staring as the washcloth cleaned away the small amount of blood from the naked body stretched across the bed. She’d put a sheet over Lethal’s lap but she’d seen it all when she’d stripped him of his tank top and leather pants. She’d looked plenty.
A quick glance at the bedside clock assured her that he’d wake soon. She’d run out of drugs to keep him down two hours before. She hadn’t wanted to risk him coming around while she’d run errands. Her worried gaze lifted to the solid wood bedposts, praying he wasn’t strong enough to break them. If so, she’d find out quickly if she’d miscalculated. He’d kill her faster than she could suffer regret.
The side of her hand brushed warm skin as she washed away the last drops of his blood from his extended arm where the dart had broken his skin. The marks from them had already healed. It shocked her that not even a faint scar remained.
Her vampire had a tattoo on the side of his hip, something beautiful in some strange language she didn’t know. It curved along his hipbone, down to the side of his thigh. Another one graced the back of his shoulder, a sword with more strange writing on the blade. It was stunning and whoever had inked him was a true artist. Of course the canvas they’d used was perfection. The guy had the best bod she’d ever seen.
Her cell phone rang but she ignored it. She knew Jeff would call and it didn’t matter anymore. The ashes from the last vampire they’d fried were spread where Lethal would have been if she’d opened that skylight. It might fool the team into thinking she’d completed her job but she wasn’t willing to risk it. Whoever got cleanup duty might notice a missing jar of ashes when they added the new one.
Jeff would see her as the enemy if he even suspected she’d grown softhearted. She wouldn’t put it past him to torture her until he learned Lethal’s location. He could be that much of an asshole. It wasn’t a concern that they could trace her disposable cell. The team feared that law enforcement might discover their operation. Officially, vampires didn’t exist so her team would be viewed as dangerous crazies with guns.
The team would go to her place, not find her there, and wouldn’t know where else to search. She’d always had a secret place to hide in case one of their group was ever compromised. She hadn’t told anyone about Beth’s life insurance money. Jeff would have wanted the money to fund the team. The basement apartment afforded her privacy and the auto store above it had gone out of business. She’d bought the building at a steal. No one would hear Lethal if he raised hell.
The body next to her jerked and Lethal’s sapphire eyes flew open. He frantically peered around the room until he locked gazes with her. Surprise was clearly displayed on his face.
“You moved me.” He paused. “You didn’t kill me.”
“Not yet.” She lifted the damp cloth away from his body and dropped it into the bowl of warm water. “I did what you said and left a note for your friends. I guess I’m going to find out how honest you are.”
She crawled across the big bed to set the bowl on the nightstand and turned to face him. He stared at her bare legs and the nightshirt she wore that fell to mid-thigh.
“I’ve had a busy day and forgot I needed to do laundry. My nightshirt was the only clean thing I had here.” She sat back on her legs next to him. “I showered and didn’t want to put on my dirty clothes. The load I washed is in the dryer.”
He lifted his head and stared down his body before glancing back at her. A black eyebrow arched. “You’re washing my clothes too?”
“No. I stripped you because I had to leave evidence that you’re dead, back at the warehouse—make it look as if you burned. I called dibs on your jacket but the pants were leather and probably wouldn’t have totally gone up in flames with you. I torched them and left what remained on the bench with the other ashes. You’re still naked though because I’m hoping it will dissuade you from attempting to escape. I know you can move fast but someone your size streaking around would draw a lot of attention. Nothing I’ve got will fit you. You’re really tall and big.” She smiled. “I highly doubt you could even wiggle into a pair of my sweats.”
He let his head drop. “Where are we? How did we get here?”
“I threw a tarp over you, backed my car into the warehouse and rolled you from the bench into my trunk. Getting you into my hideaway wasn’t so easy. I dragged you out into a wheelbarrow inside the shop to keep you out of the sun, and threw the tarp back over you. I’m amazed I managed not to dump you down the stairs since you weigh a ton. You can yell but no one will hear you.” She paused. “We’re below ground, there’s steel covering the windows and doors, and only I know the code to unlock them. You’re going to slowly starve if you kill me.”
“Why didn’t you open the skylight?”
Hell if I know
. She blew out a breath and changed the subject, not willing to discuss her inner turmoil. “Are you hungry?”
His gaze flicked to her neck and seemed to slightly glow. His lips twitched but didn’t part. She crawled off the bed, opened the cooler, and withdrew one of the bags. She tried to hide her aversion as she stared at him.
“Will fresh animal blood do it for you?”
He nodded, refusing to open his mouth.
“Can you drink cow blood? Sorry but I have no idea how to get human blood. It was hard enough finding this. I don’t even want to tell you the wild story I had to come up with to sweet-talk the butcher into selling me some. Let’s just say he thinks I’m probably the worst ex-girlfriend a guy could have to want to pull such a vicious prank.”
Her gaze narrowed and she realized why he wouldn’t speak. “Fangs out? It’s okay. I’ve seen them before.” She glanced at the bag. “I’m not sure how to feed you. Should I put it in a glass with a straw?”
“Just bring the bag to my mouth,” he rasped, his white fangs showing when he spoke. They were long, menacing things. “I won’t bite you.”
She hoped he meant that as she crawled closer to him and grabbed the towel she’d used on her damp hair. She settled it over his chest up to his neck, not wanting any blood to spill and drip onto her bed, and carefully put the bag against his lip. He struck fast, the sharp tips of his teeth puncturing the plastic, and she was amazed at how quickly he drained it.
She removed it when he was done and watched him. “More?”
“That’s good.” He licked the blood from his lower lip and fangs and kept his mouth open as they retracted, not hiding it from her this time. “Thank you.”
“Sorry it’s cold.”
“I’m used to it. We store human blood in the fridge. Just don’t freeze it.”
“I’ll remember that.” She dropped the empty bag on the towel, wrapped it into a ball and tossed it toward the bathroom. It hit the tile floor just inside. “Here’s the deal, Lethal. I’m not okay with killing you if you were being honest about what you do and if you don’t kill people. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt regardless of my inner voice wanting to bitch-slap me for stupidity.” Her gaze wandered down his body, hesitated at the sheet across his lap, then rose. “You’re not like the other bloodsuckers I’ve met and it’s not just because you’ve got a rocking bod or beautiful hair.”
His eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“I’m not dead either. You’re hot, you know it, and I think it would be a shame to waste you unless you’re a monster. I’m going to do a little research on you, find out if a lot of people have disappeared or died around that club you use as a nest, and if not, I’ll let you go. If I find a string of missing persons or death reports, you’re baked goods. Do we understand each other?”
“Perfect. Now be a good vampire and relax. Do you watch TV?” She nodded toward the corner. “Sorry it’s not a big screen but just having this place is a drain on my finances. I’m going to consider you a big serial killer if you try to escape.”
She hesitated. “I’m going to check my clothes and grab something to eat. Behave, Lethal.” She lifted the remote, turned on the news and left the bedroom.
Lethal watched Lacey closely as she disappeared. He cocked his head, heard her bare feet on the carpet as she moved around the other room, and lifted his arms. The handcuffs she’d used were quality ones but he smirked. He could easily snap them. His arms relaxed.
He inhaled slowly, breathing in his surroundings, and concluded that she’d lied. She lived alone but the smell of fresh air promised freedom if he wished to escape. A sealed location wouldn’t have much if there were no windows or doors easily accessible. His gaze traveled the room, saw where a cabinet had been recently moved, and he smiled. It didn’t belong in a bedroom, looked out of place. He guessed it now covered a window she tried to hide from him.
The human intrigued him. His lass was a smart one. He listened to a microwave drone, ding. He heard her sigh. The smell of a TV dinner wafted into the room and he grimaced. He wouldn’t feed them to one of the stray dogs who haunted the alley behind the bar yet the sexy blonde ate it.
He closed his eyes and tested the restraints on his ankles, shifted his legs, and knew he could free himself if he wished. He hesitated. He should just leave but curiosity held him in place. He wouldn’t hurt her, never would. He opened his eyes when she tried to sneak up on him.
She peered at him with a hint of fear, which she believed she hid, and hesitated outside the door. He refrained from smiling. She was damn cute and that big nightshirt showed a lot of leg. A hundred things he’d enjoy doing to her filled his thoughts. Stripping her out of the garment topped that list.
“I’m still here.”
“I see.” She stepped into the room. “I worried the handcuffs wouldn’t hold you but they are police issue.”
“You’re a cop?”
She blushed. “Uh, no. My ex-fiancé was and he kind of left a few spare ones in our apartment when our relationship ended. He forgot them in my nightstand.”
Lethal detested the jealousy that rolled through him at the thought of another man touching her. “What were they doing there?”
“What do you think?” She lifted her chin. “That’s why I’m hoping my bed can hold you. He couldn’t break free but he wasn’t a bloodsucker or nearly as big as you are.” She walked closer. “Do you know all the vampires in the area? Beth’s killer was average height, had short brown hair, and he moved really fast.”
He shook his head. “I need more than that. I’m aware of those of my kind who have set up ‘nests’, as you call them, but I believe the one who attacked your sister is on his own. Loners are harder to find since they hide in the shadows and change locations often. They’re like rats in the sewers. They only come above ground to feed.”
“That would explain why the ones we catch always smell so bad.”
He hesitated. “What was listed as the cause of your sister’s death?”
“The police thought it was a homeless guy on drugs.”
“That’s probably why we missed it. We take note of serial killers and murders that have the same MO or mysterious circumstances. Vamps tend to have a routine when they take victims. Her death was probably considered a random crime. Your team consists of family members of the victims?”
“That’s how you’ve been successful in catching them. You know the details and locations of the killings.” He cocked his head. “What led you to my club?”
“One of our guys dated a girl who talked about going there and suddenly came down with a bad case of anemia. He put it together.”
He grimaced. “I see. I’ll have a talk with a few of my members about taking less blood.” His chest expanded as he took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. “What else do you know of your sister’s killer?”
She cautiously sat at the end of the bed. “I have a copy of the surveillance video from the library. My ex got it for me before he decided to leave. You could watch it. Maybe you’ll recognize him. I left a copy at the club for your friends.” She chewed on her bottom lip. “Were you telling the truth? Just be honest. Please? Will they go after him for real?”
“Yes. We call them rogues. The days of killing for feedings are long past and it’s barbaric. They risk exposing us all when they take human lives and obviously that isn’t something we want.” He paused when she didn’t appear to believe him. “The last thing we need is police investigating excessive numbers of missing persons or deaths. We live in secrecy, keep a low profile, and that’s how we survive. Otherwise we’d be hunted to extinction.”
“You honestly don’t kill people when you feed?”
“I don’t. There’s no need.”
“I bet.” Her gaze ran down his body and she frowned, obviously not liking his answer.
“The women who visit our club are willing and I don’t hurt them. They all walk away healthy and very much alive. The woman with anemia should convince you of that. She would be dead if we killed everyone we took blood from.”
“Do they know what you are?”
He shook his head. “I can seal a bite mark with my tongue. I distract them and they never realize I’m taking blood. They just think I nibble on their bodies.”
He noticed how her lips compressed into a tight line. She tried to appear nonchalant but failed. He wondered if it bothered her that he took blood unbeknownst to his donors or if she might not like the idea of him with other women. He hoped for the latter. A little jealousy implied she might like him enough to offer up her neck.