Read The Price of Discovery Online
Authors: Leslie Dicken
I would like to dedicate this book to my family, who put up with my time on the computer; my pals at Writers At Play, who always encourage me; and to Jessica at Samhain for giving me the chance.
One dead male.
He was the key to saving Erin Price's career. It may be an odd lead, but she had nothing more to lose.
And if this story, given to her by an old friend at the police station, turned up zilch she'd have to find another. Erin had lived with this gnawing sense of failure and shame for long enough.
Damn, it was hot in the backwoods of Virginia. Erin glanced up at the intense sun. Vibrant and round like a dandelion in bloom and just as annoying. Her skin sizzled under the sun's fiery licks. June shouldn't be this hot. Nor should she be standing at the doorway of a perfectly recreated Victorian house.
Instead of the burned-down little cottage she'd expected to find, Erin stood facing a Victorian, bedecked like a lady in all her finest jewelry.
Tucking her hair behind her ears, Erin shifted the bag on her shoulder. She had come to poke around for clues on the dead male. He died a few months ago from unknown causes, with an odd disorder in his bone marrow. The trail on who he was and what had happened to him had run cold.
She knocked on the colorful lady's door to get her answers.
Erin waited, the voices behind the door hushed like the gentle rustling of treetops. She tucked her notepad in the bag and waited.
The voices quieted and then the door swung open. Oh God.
The dark hunk in the doorway was at least six feet tall, powerful shoulders stretched the white polo-style shirt from one side of the door to the other. Black hair flowed wild and careless to his shoulders. He could be a god, recreated from a Greek statute, but he certainly didn't belong here.
Her stomach fluttered, her mouth dried. No way was this guy from around here. Exotic. Mesmerizing. Sexy. This creature seemed as out of his element in a renovated Victorian as a mighty lion would in a gilded cage.
Her gaze lifted from his full sensual lips to a pair of piercing black eyes. His stare spoke of predatory skill, as if he could eat her alive without ever touching her.
Erin tried to swallow, but her mouth was too dry. Heat pooled deep between her legs. Those three years of celibacy suddenly seemed like three decades.
He leaned against the doorjamb and crossed his arms, tendons rippling. “Not interested.”
The smooth timbre of his voice sent an unexpected shiver over Erin's skin and her nipples pebbled in response. Even the unique accent coloring his words tickled that aching spot in her groin.
She licked her parched lips. Sweat collected under her breasts. “Your house,” she managed to squeak. “I was driving by and wonderedâ”
His stare didn't waver. “No, thank you.”
Erin wasn't giving up that easy. She had a story to investigate. Though she wouldn't mention John Doe, she had to make up somethingâ¦like doing research on restoring old homes. Besides, she couldn't leave now. Not when those eyes held her to the spot.
“It's so beautifulâ¦the house. I wanted to ask some questionsâ”
“I do not wish to be disturbed.” He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing under swarthy stubble. A blink and a catch of breath and, for the first time since he opened the door, Erin noticed a crack in his armor. It seemed he had something to hide. Unfortunately for him, his secrecy was her personal invitation to stay.
“Have a pleasant day.” He began to shut the door.
“Excuse me, sir!” Damned if she was letting him get off that easily.
He opened the door again, but those sexy lips were now set in a grim line. Damn it, she felt the urge to feather her mouth over his, nibble the bitter into sweet.
She had to stop fantasizing and get inside to check the place out. “Before I go,” Erin said in her most pleasant voice possible. “May I have some water to drink?”
He looked at her blankly.
She prompted, “Water? From your kitchen?”
This man was infuriating. And yet, she noticed a tic leaping on the shadow of his hard-planed jaw.
“No?” More refusals lured her like a shark to blood in the water. She had to get in there now. Next time, he may not open the door. “Please, sirâ” she fanned her face with her hand, “âit's extraordinarily hot out here today.”
Finally, after another hard glare, he stepped back.
Erin moved in past him to the dim interior, the air suddenly cool, almost crisp. His clean, masculine scent sparked fire along her skin. Sexual awareness enveloped her, weakening her knees. She glanced at him, almost expecting to see flames shooting from his gaze, but instead he looked pained.
For a moment, Erin felt the urge to reach out and trace his lips with her fingertip. Instead, she quickly looked away and focused on the interior furnishings.
Beyond the foyer, an oak staircase rose to the second story. Past that, a parlor. Burgundy-striped wallpaper lined the walls. Heavy blue curtains at the stained-glass window. Hell, there was even a painted fire screen in front of the carved fireplace. Chairs galore, a piano in the corner, and gas-looking lamps helped to make this parlor something straight from a book.
It was all so prim, so precise, so unlived-in. What secrets did the perfection hide?
“I'm Erin Price, by the way.”
Did she hear him right? “Dracula?”
His eyebrows knitted and he shook his head. “Drakor.”
Ah, it was close. But he sure had the untamed dark hair and olive skin to match the legend. Her neck tingled with the anticipation of his bite.
Before Erin could ask if he had a last name, he pointed down a dark hallway. “Please be swift. The kitchen you seek is that way.”
She was nuts.
Here in this house in the middle of nowhere, in an unlit hallway, next to a stranger who could have her sliced into bits within minutes. But his scent enticed her to run her tongue along the curve of his neck, his firmly sculpted shoulders begged to be caressed. Best of all, his odd behavior snagged her investigative intuition with a glaring red flag.
She'd nail this piece, she'd get that front page, and she'd prove she hadn't lost her edge. As long as she could keep her panties on.
More than ever, Erin needed water.
But instead of Drakor taking her in the room and getting her refreshment, he practically shoved her against the swinging door.
The touch of his fingers on her back sent a tempest of heat scorching through her veins. Water. Oh God, she needed water.
Erin stalked to the kitchen cabinets. The room looked barely used. The tile counter tops were barren; nothing was in the sink, not even dishwashing soap on the corner. She opened an oak cabinet. Empty. Opened another. Empty. Opened all cabinets in the room. All empty.
Nothing. No food, no plates, no cups, no spices. Not even a box of crackers. Everyone had crackers in their cabinets. This situation grew stranger by the minute.
But her throat was still dry, her blood still burned. She wanted water.
Maybe they hadn't unpacked everything. But if that were the case, where were the boxes? And why could they set up each little individual useless Victorian knick-knack in the parlor, but not have time to get out the cups and silverware? Did they go out to eat for every meal?
She could turn on the faucet and just drink from her hands. But somehow she didn't quite trust the water in this house. Better to choke on the dirt in her throat than to drink unused, rusty water.
Erin swallowed her spit and pushed the swinging door. Whispering on the stairway stopped her. Drakor's deep growl was easy to discern, but who was the woman?
Erin cleared her throat to announce her presence and the voices stopped instantly. Drakor met her before she reached the foyer. She could barely see his face in the dark, but his dangerous eyes pinned her, seized her. Erin bit back her whimper.
“You're satisfied?” he asked, his voice low.
God, no. She wouldn't be satisfied unless his tongue was licking its way up her thigh or her hands were buried deep in that flowing mane.
He meant the water, of course. “No.” But she was satisfied with the curious emptiness of the kitchen. Its oddness fueled her brain, stirring more questions. “You have no glasses in there. You have nothing in there.”
His expression didn't change. “You'll be going now.”
He ushered her to the front door. Footsteps clattered behind them down the oak stairs. Erin looked beyond Drakor to see a beautiful woman approach with long hair, a voluptuous figure, and exotic features.
Without warning, jealousy slammed through Erin's gut. Oh God. Had he just been up there with this gorgeous woman?
Erin heard Drakor groan beside her but didn't look over at him. Instead, she stood enthralled as the woman approached.
“I am Ankra,” she said, her smile dazzling.
Erin hesitated, but then put out her hand. “How do you do? I'm Erin Price.”
Ankra glanced down at her hand, thought for a moment, and then gently shook it. “Joyful to meet you, Erinprice.”
Joyful? And why did she include the last name? Maybe odd word choices went along with the unique accent.
“I am Drakor's sister.”
Sister. Jealousy trickled away leaving an unsettling sense of relief in its place. Yes, Drakor was sexy, but that meant danger in Erin's book.
At least this sister spoke sentences and didn't utter two-word commands. “You and I could chat sometime. I'd love to ask about this exquisite house.”
Ankra nodded, but that must have been too much for Drakor's requirement for secrecy. He snatched Erin's elbow and he pulled her outside into the hot summer air.
Ferocity lurked in his eyes as he slammed the door closed behind them. But now it only made her grin. She could handle ferocity. It was the animalism she couldn't manage, the beast in heat that robbed her of breath.
Besides, Drakor was definitely hiding something. And she frightened him. Hell, he even took a step or two away from her. How could she, at almost half his weight, scare him?
He wiped the sheen from his forehead, then jammed his hands in his jeans. She glanced at the rounding apex of his legs. Was it just the lift from his full pockets or had he felt the pulsing awareness too? She gulped. It had been far too long since she'd gotten laid.
A cramp tightened in her chest, making it hard to breathe. She had to get out of here. A sexy man had gotten her into far too much trouble once and Erin swore she'd never let lustful yearnings sway her from her purpose again.
A man was dead, his life and death a mystery.
Another man lived in a house upon the same spot.
Somehow the two must be connected. It was up to her to find out how.
“Have a good afternoon,” she called, trotting down the wooden steps to her car. She slid into the driver's side, where the blistering vinyl seat immediately stuck to her back and thighs.
Drakor stood on the porch, his strong arms folded across that come-bury-yourself-against-me chest, his bewitching eyes watching her.
“You don't mind if I come back on Saturday morning, do you?” she called and gave a small wave out the window. Then, without waiting for his refusal, she started the car and left him to choke in its dust.
Yeah, she might be nuts. But desperation did crazy things to people.
was he on this planet? Drakor just wanted to retrieve Alaziri's body and return home.
But instead of finding his best friend, Drakor stood on the brightly painted wooden porch watching the small blue vehicle disappear behind a line of tall trees. Brown clouds of dust billowed behind it like an oncoming storm of Elliac's sand dunes. His blood pulsed hot, and an erection throbbed behind his zipper.
Drakor gripped the porch railing, clenching his jaw. That girl. That Erinprice.
I'll be back on Saturday morning
He couldn't chance her seeing them again.
, he couldn't risk being close to her again.
Drakor swallowed, remembering the way her knees poked out beneath her short blue pants. He'd wanted to trace his tongue along the jewelry surrounding her smooth white throat. Small, firm breasts begged for his stroke, especially when their two points emerged for his pleasurable viewing. His arousal pulsed.
A warm breeze lifted his hair but did not cool the inferno in his veins. He shouldn't feel this way. Not on Earth, not with a human. No one but his
, his lifemate, should make his heart accelerate, his willpower weaken.
But then why did his fingers itch to caress that sand-colored hair, his palms crave to yank her thin body against him? Her scent, something fruity, had enveloped him like the aroma of sexual awakening.
Drakor slammed his fist on the railing. “No!”
He had to make it disappear. Despite learning the techniques during his Crossing, no amount of mind control or even breaths could calm his raging bloodstream. His inward focus, thoughts of Elliac's windswept hills, did not take away the alluring images of that human female. Erinprice.