Authors: Amanda Ashley
Muttering an oath, he drew in a deep breath. Patience, he chided. He must have patience. He would drink a little each night, nothing more. He would relish each taste, savor it like rare, vintage wine, until he took it all.
In the clear light of morning, Savanah told herself she had imagined the whole incident. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened on the dance floor. She had been caught up in the thrill of being in Rane's arms. After all, she had never been with a man who radiated such raw sensuality. All that potent masculinity was bound to have an intoxicating effect on a girl's senses.
She could hardly wait to see him again. Tonight, she would keep her wits about her. She would ask the questions she had intended to ask last night. And she would try again to get that interview. She grinned inwardly, remembering how Yoda had informed Luke that there was no try. Either she would get that interview or she wouldn't. And she would.
After taking a quick shower, she dressed in a pair of tan slacks and a white sweater, brushed her hair, and then went downstairs to have breakfast with her father.
He was waiting for her in the kitchen. She smiled as the smell of freshly brewed coffee tickled her nostrils. She had always loved sharing this part of the day with her dad.
“So,” he asked, looking up from the morning paper, “how was your date?”
Her father lifted one brow.
“We went dancing.”
“He must be some dancer, to put that glow in your eyes,” her father remarked dryly.
“Oh, he is.” She smiled at the memory. “He is.”
“I don't like it,” her father said. “If I thought it would do any good, I'd tell you not to see him again.”
Savanah frowned at her father. “Are you having one of your mysterious premonitions?”
“Not exactly. There's just something about himâ¦and I don't just mean the obvious. I mean, why does he keep changing his name every few years?”
would be obvious, but I'll ask him.” She patted his shoulder as she moved toward the fridge. “I can't get a story if I don't see him.”
“Your life is more important to me than any news story.”
“I know, Dad. I love you, too,” Savanah said, then paused. “Do you think I'm in danger?”
“No, not really. The shape-shifters have never been a threat to us. I was just being an old worrywart, I guess.”
“I'll be fine.” Going to the fridge, she pulled out a carton of eggs for French toast, a package of bacon, and a bottle of orange juice, and proceeded to fix breakfast.
When it was done, she dished it up, got the butter and syrup, then sat at the table across from her father.
“So, what's up for today?” he asked as he tucked into his breakfast.
“I'm going over to the high school and see what I can dig up on that car accident, and then I'm going to the morgue to see if they turned up anything new on that John Doe those kids found in the vacant lot last week. Nothing really exciting. How about you?”
Her father shook his head. “End-of-the-month paperwork. Interview with some kid who wants to be a reporter. Like you said, nothing really exciting.” He pushed his plate away and reached for his coffee cup. “Ask Chang if there was an unusual amount of blood loss in the John Doe.”
“All right.” Savanah quickly cleared the table. “I've got to run. See you tonight.”
“All right, honey. Be careful.”
Frowning, Savanah left the house. It wasn't unusual for her father to tell her to be careful, but there had been something in his tone this morning, something that bothered her, almost like he was expecting trouble.
Shaking it off, she got into her car and headed downtown.
William Gentry sat at his computer, his fingers flying over the keys. He had asked Savanah to do a story on Santoro the Magnificent, or whatever the hell his name was, on the off chance that she might turn up something on the man that he couldn't. She was a pretty woman, after all, and men had been known to betray confidences and countries for less.
Leaving the Web, he pulled up the story he was working on. A story in which the magician was the lead suspect. There had been suspicious deaths and disappearances in every town where the man had performed, far too many to be mere coincidence. There was no rhyme or reason to tie the deaths together, other than the fact that all of the victims had been drained of blood.
In truth, the story he was working on would never see the light of day. It wasn't an assignment for the paper, just more research in an effort to find out who had turned Barbara. In his mind, the Vampire who had done so was also responsible for her death.
Gentry muttered an oath as another Web site turned out to be a dead end. Whoever said you could find anything you were looking for on the Web obviously hadn't been trying to track a Vampire. For the last few years, he'd had a niggling suspicion that Santoro the Magnificent was more than a magician, that the reason the man could do such amazing tricks was because he possessed Supernatural abilities. He had suspected that Santoro might be a Vampire, but according to Savanah, the magician claimed to be a shape-shifter, creatures that had little in common with Vampires other than their ability to change shape.
Gentry shook his head. It had been a Vampire who had turned Barbara; there was no doubt about that. Even as the thought crossed his mind, he was reminded that Vampires could take on many shapes. Perhaps Santoro the Magician was a Vampire masquerading as a shape-shifter.
He swore softly. Maybe there was no story. Maybe Santoro was nothing more than a talented magician with the ability to change shape. Maybe the fact that people died wherever he performed was just a bizarre coincidence.
Gentry blew out a sigh. But what if Santoro was indeed a Vampire, the very Vampire that had turned Barbara? Was he willing to risk his daughter's life to find out? He knew Barbara would never have done anything that would put Savanah's life in danger, not for a few columns of newspaper space, not even to avenge her own death.
And yet, what if Santoro had killed Barbara? The thought repeated itself over and over again. Savanah was his best chance to get close to the magician, a chance that might never come again. Vampire or not, Santoro was hiding something, and Gentry was determined to find out what it was.
Savanah sat back in her chair. A glance at the clock on the wall behind her desk told her it was almost quitting time. She'd had a busy day and the time had passed quickly. She had gone to the morgue and talked to Bobby Chang, the mortician, who had informed her that there had been about a teaspoonful of blood left in the John Doe's body. The mortician had no explanation for the blood loss, other than two small puncture wounds located on the inside of the corpse's left arm.
Returning to her office, Savanah had read and answered her mail, gone to lunch with one of her coworkers, done a little writing on the story she was working on, and spent every minute she wasn't busy thinking about Rane.
She had Googled his name on the Web. Lots of links came up for various products and services. There was even an old movie titled
but none of the links applied to her magician. She felt her cheeks heat at the thought of Rane being hers. When she Googled the stage names he had used in the past, she found numerous rave reviews of his shows posted by fans all across the country, as well as dozens of online videos, and at least fifty fan sites. But nothing she didn't already know.
Feeling as though she were banging her head against the proverbial stone wall, she shut down her computer, grabbed her bag, and headed for home, figuring she had just enough time to get out of her work clothes, take a quick shower, and get ready for her date with Rane. Just thinking about seeing him again put a smile on her face.
“And a song in my heart,” she said, and giggled like a teenager with her first crush.
It was near dark when she pulled into the driveway. Switching off the ignition, she grabbed her handbag and her briefcase and hurried into the house.
No lights were on, but out of habit, she called, “Hey, Dad, are you here?”
When there was no answer, she went into the kitchen to see if he had left her a note. Finding none, she hurried upstairs. In her room, she undressed and headed for the shower. She stood there a minute, letting the hot water ease the tensions of the day. She wondered where her dad had gone. It was unusual for him to take off without letting her know he was going out.
Stepping out of the shower, she pulled on her robe, quickly did her hair and makeup, and then spent ten minutes going through her closet trying to decide what to wear. She settled on a pair of camel-colored pants and a white silk shirt.
She had just posted a note for her dad on the fridge when the doorbell rang.
Her date had arrived, right on time.
Taking a deep breath, Savanah stepped into her sandals, her heart pounding a mile a minute.
Rane whistled softly when she opened the door.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling.
“You look good enough to eat.”
“You always say that.”
“It's always true.” He couldn't wait to taste her again, to savor the sweetness of her life's blood, to feel the warmth of it on his tongue.
“Come on in. I just need to grab my coat.”
Rane followed her into the living room. He glanced around, noting the room looked comfortable, clean, and lived in. A home, he thought, something he hadn't had in more years than he cared to remember. Looking at the photograph on the mantel, he felt a sharp stab of recognition. He had seen the woman before, he was sure of it, though he couldn't recall her name, if he had ever known it.
“Ready?” Savanah asked, coming up behind him.
He gestured at the photograph on the mantel. Savanah bore a striking resemblance to the woman in the picture. “You look a lot like her.”
“Yes. She was beautiful, wasn't she?”
“So are you.”
“She died when I was a little girl.”
Rane glanced at the photo again. He remembered the woman now. She had been a Vampire hunter, and a good one. But for her, he would have been dead years ago. Did Savanah know her mother had been a hunter? Was it something that ran in the family? It wasn't the kind of question he could ask without arousing her curiosity, but he needed to know the answer.
Murmuring Savanah's name, he trapped her gaze with his. “Listen to me,” he said. “I'm going to ask you a question, one you will forget as soon as you tell me the answer. Do you understand?”
She stared at him, unblinking. “Yes.”
“Did your mother ever hunt Vampires?”
“Are you certain?”
Releasing his hold on her mind, he said, “You must miss her very much.”
Savanah blinked at him a moment, then nodded. “Every day,” she replied wistfully.
Rane felt a sharp stab of guilt. His mother was aliveâhe could visit her any time he wishedâbut he hadn't seen her, or anyone else in his family, in decades.
Pushing the thought aside, he followed Savanah outside, waited while she locked the front door, then walked her to his car. He held the door open for her, then went around to the driver's side. Sliding behind the wheel, he turned the key in the ignition and the engine purred to life.
The car reminded Savanah of the manâsleek and sexy and way out of her league.
“Does it hurt?” she asked abruptly.
Rane glanced at her, one brow lifted. “Does what hurt?” he asked as he pulled away from the curb.
“When you shift into the wolf. Does it hurt?”
“Where does your clothing go?”
He looked at her a moment, and then he laughed. “Beats the heck out of me.” It was a good question. Werewolves had to disrobe before they changed or risk shredding their shoes and clothing. He had never before wondered what happened to his own attire when he shifted.
“Why do you change names so often?”
He shrugged. “Boredom?”
“And how do you justâ¦” She lifted one hand and let it fall. “Just disappear?”
“Ah, now, that's a secret,” he said with a wink.
“Does it have to do with shape-shifting?”
“Hey, we're on a date,” he reminded her. “No more questions unless they're of a personal nature.”
“Personal, huh? Like, do you wear plain old white cotton boxers or sexy briefs?” Savanah clapped her hand over her mouth, unable to believe she had uttered the words out loud.
Rane waggled his eyebrows at her. “Or maybe nothing at all,” he said with a wicked grin.
“I didn't meanâ¦Just forget I said that!”
“Oh, I don't think so,” Rane said, chuckling.
He pulled into the parking lot a few moments later, sparing her the necessity of coming up with a retort.
Rane bought their tickets and they went into the theater. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of buttered popcorn, nachos, and hot dogs.
Being a gentleman, he asked Savanah if she wanted anything to eat or drink, relieved when all she asked for was a small Coke.
There were only a dozen or so people in the theater when they took their seats.
“Hardly seems worth running the film,” Savanah remarked, looking around.
Rane grunted softly. “I hope the small crowd is due to the late hour and not because the movie stinks.”
“Well, I heard it was good,” Savanah said, and then shrugged. “Of course, you never know about critics.”
“Yeah, I rarely agree with the reviews.”
“I know what you mean,” Savanah said, then sat back as the lights dimmed and the previews started.
Rane tried to concentrate on the trailers but it was difficult. He was all too aware of the people in the theater, and particularly aware of the woman beside him. Her scent filled his nostrils. Her nearness stirred his desire and his hunger. He could hear the steady beat of her heart, as well as the heartbeats of other people sitting nearby. It took a great deal of effort to shut out the siren call of all those beating hearts, to close his mind to the scent of prey. It was easier when he was performing on stage. His mind wasn't on the hunt then, but nowâ¦he had an almost overpowering urge to unleash the beast within him. It would be so easy. He could take them all before they realized what was happeningâ¦.
Taking a deep breath, he glanced at Savanah. Her scent wrapped around himâthe fragrance of her skin, the soap she had bathed with, a hint of perfume. And overall, the heady, musky scent of the woman herself. Oblivious to his inner turmoil, she appeared lost in the love story unfolding on the screen. His gaze moved over her face, admiring the delicate curve of her cheek, the fine line of her jaw, the way her nose tilted up at the end just a tiny bit. Her hair fell over her shoulders in a sheen of pale silk.
Muttering an oath, he glanced at the screen, and swore again as the hero swept the heroine into his arms and carried her up a long, winding staircase. At the top of the stairs, he kicked open the first door he came to. Striding inside, he dropped the heroine on an enormous bed. Ignoring her outraged cry and her struggles, he sank down on the mattress beside her. With his hands holding hers captive over her head, he covered her body with his and kissed her, a long, passionate kiss that put an end to the heroine's struggles and soon had her purring like a kitten.
The rapid beat of Savanah's pulse and the quickening of her breath reached his ears. Was she imagining, as he was, that he was the hero and she was the heroine?
She looked at him and smiled when the movie ended and the lights went on. “Well, the critics were wrong that time,” she declared. “I loved it! What did you think?”
“Chick flick,” he said with a grin.
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Chauvinist.”
“I don't see anybody else sitting there.”
“Okay, okay, I give up,” Rane said as they left the theater. “Where do you want to go now? That is, if you don't mind being seen with a chauvinist pig.”
“I don't mind, but I should probably go home. It's late, and I have an early interview in the morning.”
With a nod, Rane took her hand and they walked toward the parking lot.
“So,” he asked, “who are you interviewing, or can't you talk about it?”
“I have an appointment at the morgue.”
“Yeah, you wouldn't want to be late for that,” Rane said dryly.
They were passing an alley when Rane's senses went on alert. Before he had time to react, someone shoved a gun against his spine.
“Don't turn around,” the assailant warned, his voice gruff. “Don't even blink. Just give me your money. You, too, lady.”
Murmuring, “This can't be real,” Savanah pulled her wallet from her handbag. She wouldn't miss the money, but she hated to lose her driver's license. The thought of waiting in line at the DMV was almost more frightening than being robbed at gunpoint.
Not daring to so much as look at Rane, who stood a little behind her, she thrust her hand behind her back, her wallet extended, and prayed the robber would be content to take their money and spare their lives.
A muffled thump, like a body hitting the pavement, sent her heart leaping into her throat. Had the robber killed Rane? Wouldn't she have heard a gunshot? Unless, oh, Lord, unless the robber had a knife, too.
She almost jumped out of her skin when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Relax,” Rane said. “It's over.”
Slowly, Savanah turned around, relieved to see that Rane was apparently unhurt. She started to ask where the robber had gone when she saw him lying facedown on the pavement. Was he breathing? In the dark, she couldn't be sure. “Is heâ¦did youâ¦?”
“He's still alive,” Rane said curtly. The man would never know it, but if it hadn't been for Savanah's presence, he would have been dead.
“How did you overpower him?” she asked, stuffing her wallet back into her handbag. “I mean, you're unarmed, and he had a gun.”
“This is hardly the time to discuss it.” And so saying, Rane grabbed the man by the ankles and dragged him into the alley.
“Shouldn't we call the police?” Savanah asked when Rane returned.
“Probably, but we're not going to.”
A dozen thoughts flitted through Savanah's mind. She was a reporter. This was news. How could she let it go? A man had tried to rob them on a public street near the theater. He should be arrested and locked up.
As if he were reading her mind, Rane said, “I don't need the publicity, if it's all the same to you.” He also didn't need to be interrogated by the law, or summoned to appear in court if the man went to trial.
Rane rocked back on his heels, prepared to erase the incident from Savanah's mind if she insisted on doing the right thing.
“I can't ignore it,” she said, reaching into her handbag for her cell phone. “Not just because it's news, but because he might try something like this again and the next victim might not have you to protect her. You understand, don't you?”