Read The Dark Side Online

Authors: M. J. Scott

Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #Urban Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Vampire Romance, #Werewolf Romance, #Werewolves, #Vampires, #magic, #Accountant, #The Wild Side Series, #FIC027120, #FIC009060, #FIC009000

The Dark Side (4 page)

BOOK: The Dark Side
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Crap. “Won’t sending in an accountant raise suspicions anyway?”

“There have already been accountants doing due diligence for the sales. You can be one of them. Or we’ll come up with some other story. But you will have to work during the hours of operation, just like the others do.”

Luckily I was good at juggling. My schedule was starting to approach seriously crowded territory but I would make it work. I had to make it work. And hope none of the balls in the air were chainsaws in disguise. “I’ll need staff. At least one assistant. Someone I choose.” Backup was not negotiable.

“Anyone but the FBI agent. Or any other FBI agent.”

I wanted Dan. And I didn’t want Esteban to think I was a pushover. “My employees are my business.”

He straightened. “And this is
my
business.”

I gripped the arms of the chair. “I can’t help you if I don’t have the necessary resources.”

“Ms. Keenan, do not make the mistake of thinking I am Lord Marco. I am not so...lenient.” He stared at me and the wolf bristled at the challenge.

Wolves don’t always have great survival instincts. But my human side knew a threat when it heard one. Both sides of me knew better than to show weakness to a predator so I had to say something. “I—”

I didn’t finish the sentence. Esteban lifted one finger and lust engulfed me. Fire blazed along my nerve endings, branding them with need. My heartbeat sped and I moaned as quivers started to roll through me—the first tremors of an orgasm.

“Quite frankly, I could make you do whatever I wanted,” Esteban continued. His finger lifted again and the sensations doubled, leaving me panting and writhing. I wanted the pleasure, wanted completion, but he left me hanging, unfulfilled, to the point of pain. But underneath the physical delight, my mind twisted, knowing this was wrong. That I was helpless. I bit my lip, trying not to scream.

Esteban cocked his head. “I could leave you like this. Send you back out to your wolf so needy that you’d fuck him in front of me if I asked. I wonder what he would think of that?” He bared his fangs. “Would he be pleased?”

I managed to shake my head.

“Then do you understand me? In my domain, you will do things my way?”

I bit my lip harder, hard enough I tasted blood. Blood that suddenly tasted way too good. I fought to still my body and nodded.

“Good.” He smiled and there wasn’t the slightest hint of anything human or kind in the expression. “What a pity Marco found you first. We could have fun, you and I.”

Not any sort of fun I wanted to have. I dropped my eyes, still fighting the need screaming at me to go to him and do whatever he wanted if it meant satisfaction.

Then just as suddenly as it had started, the sensations died. My heart still pounded and it took me a minute to unscramble my brain as my nerves tried to figure out what the hell had happened to all those very pleasurable feelings.

I lifted my head, reluctantly. “No FBI, got it.” My voice was steady.  Just.

Esteban laughed. “Very good, Ms. Keenan. I begin to see what Marco likes about you. When can you start?” He leaned back in his chair like he hadn’t done anything wrong.

I dug my fingers harder into the leather as my wolf raged with the need to strike back. If I wanted to, I could rip the arms clean off the chair and take a swing at him. But that wouldn’t end happily for anyone. I was under Marco’s protection, yes, but Marco was a long way away and there were probably any number of vamps of Esteban’s lineage in the club tonight.

None of whom would hesitate to hurt me or Dan if Esteban ordered them to do so. So I had to be sane about this. Play things his way. Besides, Esteban’s little display of power—and the fact he hadn’t had to thrall me to make me feel what I’d felt—had awakened a healthy dose of fear. I’d had a vampire take over my mind and make me feel things against my will before but I’d never expected to have one do that to me when I was still in control.

I wanted out of there.

Fast.

So I had to do the job. I reached for my best locked down auto-pilot professional mode and kept my face neutral. The icy sour smell of my fear hung in the air around me but I couldn’t let fear rule me. Esteban’s pleased smile told me he smelled it too.

Do the job. Get out of there. Get him out of my life for good.

I ignored his smile and thought about what he’d told me. If he was like most clients, now that he’d admitted his problem, he’d want the problem solved. Immediately.

The accountant part of my brain understood the urgency. I’d be pretty unhappy to discover someone had waltzed off with ten million dollars of mine. And, quite frankly, all parts of my brain were pretty keen to get Esteban out of my life ASAP. “I’ll check my schedule tomorrow and then set up some initial meetings. Is there someone I should deal with?”

“No. This goes through me.” He leaned across the desk, opened a heavily engraved silver box, and withdrew a business card. “You can reach me with these.”

He held the card out. I reluctantly leaned forward to take it, not sure what would happen if he actually touched me. Thankfully, the cool brush of his skin didn’t ignite another firestorm.

All the same, I pulled back quickly, pretending to study the card. It was heavy white stock, slick and cool to the touch. There was no name, just a single dark red E in the right hand corner along with a single cell phone number and an e-mail address. I slipped it into the back pocket of my pants. There were probably lots of people in Seattle who’d love to have Esteban’s card but I was wondering just how soon I’d be able to burn it and forget I’d ever had it in the first place.

“I’ll call tomorrow,” I said, and rose before I could dig myself any deeper.

* * *

I closed the door to Esteban’s office behind me, tempted to lean back against it and sigh with relief. Or cry. Or maybe both, I wasn’t sure. One thing I did know was that I wanted to go home and sleep. Tomorrow—or rather later today—could only be an improvement over the last few hours.

Dan stood sentry a couple of feet from the door. He still smelled mad and his ‘just try me’ vibe made the hairs on my arms stand to attention. Niko was nowhere to be seen but Leah lounged against the wall a little away from Dan, just close enough to be pushing the boundaries of his personal space, looking amused. I wondered what she’d been doing to him while I was inside with Esteban.

Asking would be pretty dumb. I didn’t need Dan exploding on top of everything else. His control was very good but everyone has limits and he’d been at the edge of his the last few weeks. So I ignored the satisfied smirk on Leah’s face, and focused on Dan.

For a moment we just stared at each other, me trying to let him see I was sorry, him looking even more tightly wound than I felt. His eyes scanned my body as if reassuring himself that all my limbs were still attached. I couldn’t think of anything clever to say, so I stayed quiet and let him look and hoped he wouldn’t be able to smell the lust Esteban had aroused.

Maybe he could. His hand snaked out, closing around my neck and pulling me close while his mouth found mine. His kiss burned through me, igniting the fire all over again. Heady. Wild. Intense. I moved closer, wanting more, but Dan slowed the pace, gentling the kiss, before he eased me back from him completely with a tiny shake of his head.

Current mood assessment: worried, glad I was okay but still pissed off. There was nothing I could do about that with Leah as an audience.

“What a touching reunion,” Leah said into the silence.

I turned. “What’s wrong? No one waiting to kiss you hello at home?” She bared her fangs. I ignored it. If her boss needed me, she couldn’t actually do anything to me.

“Shall we go?” I said to Dan.

Leah’s muttered, “Don’t hurry back,” floated to my ears. I kept walking. Behind me, I felt Dan start to follow. Since I’d become a werewolf, I no longer felt a buzz around shifters but I could tell when Dan was close. It wasn’t a tingle on my skin like shifter buzz but rather an awareness, like a distant hum inside my head. I wasn’t sure if the connection was part of being bonded. Something else to put on my growing list of questions to ask Ani.

Knowing Dan had my back made me feel a little better. After letting Esteban kick him out, I’d half wondered whether he’d be waiting or whether he’d leave me to wade back through the crowd alone.But apparently he wasn’t mad enough to completely abandon his good guy instincts.

The screeching music grew louder as we descended, sharpening my headache until the throbs in my temples synchronized with the pulse of the bass. Wincing, I dodged through the throng, making a beeline for the doors.

A slow beeline. More people were packed into the club than before and the atmosphere had sharpened—more anticipatory, more focused. Expectation saturated the air, sliding over my skin like the gleaming edge of a razor and making me shiver.

All that hungering energy seemed to be focused toward the middle of the dance floor. Toward the stage. Toward whatever it was that Esteban considered suitable entertainment for this crowd. I didn’t want to know. Instead, I kept my head down and pushed my way past one person after another, breathing deeply to try and ease the pain in my head.

Bad idea.

Mingled with the sweat of too many bodies was the faint metal-salt trace of fresh blood. Faint enough that a human wouldn’t notice but the wolf did. The instinct to find the source flared strongly. I pushed it away. I’d accepted hunting animals in wolf form. I wouldn’t go any further than that. I might be a werewolf but I didn’t have to be a monster.

And I didn’t want to be around anyone who held a different view.

I shook my head, trying to clear the scent from my nose and almost walked straight into the vampire who’d been guarding the stairs. I managed to avoid a collision at the last second but only by rocking back on my heels. Fortunately my boots weren’t the stilettos Jase had pushed for or I would’ve ended up on my ass. Instead, I just wobbled like an idiot for a couple of seconds.

“What’s the rush?” The vamp grinned down at me. “The show’s just starting.” He jerked his head toward the stage and my eyes followed the movement automatically.

Mistake.

Big
mistake.

The stage wasn’t empty anymore. Instead, a silver whipping post spiked up from its far end, complete with mostly naked blond girl chained in place. Welts streaked her back, some of them a deep enough red to make it clear she was the source of the blood I smelled.

The man wielding the whip wore a black leather mask but I saw short light brown hair and the bulge of muscle as he drew back his arm. The rattle of chains as the woman shuddered and cried under the blow made the stage seem to blur and shiver. I was suddenly back in Tate’s room with him standing over me, my blood staining his mouth. Icy fingers of dread clawed my stomach and my hand clutched my throat reflexively.

“Ash?”

Dan’s voice brought me back and I sucked in one unsteady breath then another, fighting nausea as I tried to believe I was okay.

Tate was dead. I’d killed him. He couldn’t hurt me anymore.

At least not physically. But the emotional aftershocks of the events he’d set into motion were doing a pretty damn good job at fucking up my life.

The faint scars on my throat seemed to throb and I closed my eyes, struggling to breathe. I couldn’t afford to do this. Not here. Not now. Tate was dead and I was damn well going to stay in control.

The blonde on stage was there voluntarily. Her choice. And not illegal. Nothing I had any right to interfere with.

The rational approach worked for a few seconds until the whip cracked again, making me flinch as though it were my skin seared by leather. My head started spinning as panic sucked all the air from the room.

The crowd surged toward the stage, their eagerness and excitement tainting the air around me with sex and bloodlust. To my horror, the same sensations flared in me. Pulse pounding, head reeling, I looked back the way we’d come.

Esteban stood at the top of the stairs. His eyes locked with mine then he smiled and made a sweeping gesture over the crowd. The bloodlust grew fiercer around me. The room reeked of violence and hunger. Hunger that called to me.

I swayed, fighting Esteban and the fear tearing at my control as bodies seemed to press in on me—bodies that suddenly smelled very tempting. The scent of blood pulled at me, rich and thick, making my mouth water as the wolf hungered.

I had to get out of there before I became like everyone around me. Enjoying the pain and fear. Wanting it. Before Esteban’s power unraveled the control I’d fought so hard for and dragged me under. But I couldn’t move.

Frozen to the spot by the pull of the blood and my inability to fight the twin hungers Esteban invoked. My stomach wanted to heave even as my body ached.

Dan’s hand clamped around my arm, his shifter-warm skin burning like a brand. “Ash.”

Esteban’s smile widened and I took a step toward him. Dan’s grip tightened.

“Ash, look at me.” He stepped between me and Esteban. “Look at me. Don’t think about him. Think about me.”

Him? Blood roared in my ears and a growl rose in my throat. I wanted blood or sex or—

“Okay, we’re leaving.” Dan spun me around and yanked me forward.

Motion broke the spell and as the lust for blood drained away, panic flooded in to take its place.

With a sob, I dodged around the vamp and plunged into the crowd, redoubling my efforts to get through the bodies, shoving at people blindly, almost running through the doors once I got clear of the worst of it. The sudden volume drop as I hit the street was like going deaf.

Thankfully the bloodlust vanished too, leaving me feeling battered and suddenly exhausted like the downside of an adrenaline surge. Worse than the exhaustion was the lingering sense of fear and disgust. God.

Esteban had done this to me. Controlled me and the whole club without breaking a sweat. And I’d agreed to work for him. I was going to have to face him again. Return to his world again. Put myself within his grasp. What if I couldn’t handle it, couldn’t stay in control under his influence?

BOOK: The Dark Side
6.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Sevarian Way by Justine Elyot
The Catching Kind by Caitie Quinn
Chasing Jane by Noelle Adams
The Book of David by Anonymous
To Glory We Steer by Alexander Kent
Light by Adrienne Woods
Darkness Arisen by Stephanie Rowe