Read An Excerpt
Erotic Romance, Paranormal
Background: This is during the first 24 hours of Anwyn’s volatile transition into a vampire. This scene takes place after a bath the men shared with her to help her clean up. She’s asked for some privacy to collect herself now.
“We will be just outside, cher,” Daegan said. “When you are ready to come out, call and we will help you.”
She nodded. Daegan didn’t move, however, even as she turned away from him toward the mirror. Gideon understood why when she made a startled noise in her throat. Reaching out, she touched the glass with trembling fingers. Seeing himself through her reflected image, her stricken face, his heart ached in his chest like a weight. Vampires couldn’t be seen in a mirror’s reflection, just as the lore said, but he hadn’t known that a vampire in transition appeared as a ghost, a transparent image in the glass. He guessed it would keep fading, more and more, until it was gone. She’d never see her own image again after that, unless she had an old picture or someone painted her portrait.
Daegan reached out to close his hand over hers, but she drew it back to her, shook her head. “Please don’t touch me right now.”
Tucking her chin down, she let her hair slide forward to cover her face. “He wanted to see fear. I hope I didn’t give it to him. I tried not to give them anything. I fought, Daegan. I did fight.”
“I know you did. I saw their flesh under your fingernails.” Daegan straightened behind her, and Gideon saw his powerful hands close, an obvious struggle not to touch her. When he spoke again, his voice had a harsh note. “You call, cher. If you need anything. I will respect your privacy, but I can hear you.”
Her jaw tightened. “Afraid I might decide to end it?”
“No. I know you are too strong for that. Too strong. You don’t call for help when you need it. They were here earlier tonight. James told me. You should have called me then. Could have done so instantly, if you’d ever ...”
Anwyn jerked her gaze up to him, sparks in her eyes. The vampire stopped, his lips pressed together hard.
“Daegan.” Gideon spoke quietly. “Whatever this is, it’s not the time.”
The other male’s attention flickered to him dangerously, but after an apparent fierce internal battle, he inclined his head. Despite her stiff posture, he brushed a hand against Anwyn’s shoulder. “Right outside, cher.”
She didn’t acknowledge either of them further. Merely sat there, staring at her translucent image. Daegan looked as if he swallowed several creative oaths, and Gideon agreed entirely. But after they left the room and closed the door, Daegan jerked his head, indicating Gideon should follow him. He took him into the small TV and reading room off of the main sitting room, complete with two comfortable chairs and more shelves of books, as well as a portable furnace that emulated a flickering fire.
It wasn’t overly made up with female things, Gideon noticed, an indication that perhaps she was used to sharing her space with a male, or that Anwyn just had sparse taste in her decorating, choosing only the essential comforts. There was a Waterhouse on the wall, though. A Mermaid. The vintage look of the female mermaid, sitting amid lily pads, stroking her own hair, was oddly reminiscent of Anwyn, her unfathomable expression and yet intriguing, lush feminine appeal. Since he didn’t see Anwyn as especially narcissistic, he assumed Daegan had bought it, for exactly that reason.
“You will stay here with her while I go obtain the sire’s blood.”
Gideon turned from the painting. If he’d had his jeans and weapons on, he might have caught his thumbs in his belt loops and taken a hip-cocked aggressive stance that would tell Daegan Rei exactly how he responded to orders. Of course, wearing a towel made that a bit harder, but he still gave Daegan an eat-shit-and-die look. “Last time I checked, I don’t answer to a bloodsucker.”
As Daegan’s expression hardened, Gideon raised a brow. “You can throw down with me if you want, but a lot nastier things than you have tried to make me afraid of them. Think that’s what she wants right now, you and me tearing into each other?”
“You’re not listening.”
“No, you’re not being straight with me. Maybe if you do that, instead of trying to order me around, which will happen when hell freezes over twice on your ass, then we can figure out our best game plan.”
Daegan snarled. It was aggressive frustration, not an immediate threat, but it was still impressive. If Gideon gave enough of a shit to be scared of vamps anymore.
The vampire closed his eyes. “Put your clothes on. I feel like we’re in a fucking Roman bathhouse.”
Gideon shrugged, returning to the living area to retrieve the pile of clothes and weapons he’d left there when their remarkable interlude in the tub had begun. He waited to drop the towel until Daegan strode away from him, disappearing down one of the wide hallways. Since he heard a closet opening and closing, he assumed the vamp had gone to another bedroom. So she and Daegan didn’t always share a room. Though the fact he had one here was uncomfortably significant.
Third wheel, anyone?
Gideon pushed the ugly, useless feeling away, and finished zipping and fastening his jeans, threading the belt through the loops. When Daegan returned, he was wearing a pair of dark jeans, dark rubber-soled shoes, and a close-fitting long-sleeved shirt. He was going hunting, shrugging into another duster, under which Gideon was sure he would stash a variety of weapons.
Most vamps that emanated this type of power had a few centuries under their belt. In this section of the country, Gideon should have heard some whisper about him. The way Daegan handled himself, like some kind of supernatural Special Ops, Gideon knew he had to be dealing with a vamp who had a trained purpose. Would Lyssa know who he was? She was still privy to a lot of Council secrets.
His T-shirt and weapons were still on the chair. Before he could reach for either, Daegan picked up the shirt with two fingers, staying away from the firearms and knives. When he held it out to Gideon, he was close enough the cotton slid across his bare sternum. Gideon snatched it away.
“You were wearing that inside out when you came into the alley,” Daegan observed.
“I was more concerned about getting here than offending your GQ fashion sense,” Gideon responded. “You’re not going after this guy without me. No matter what’s crawled up your ass you don’t want to share.”
He refused to step back, even though Daegan had crossed his personal space barrier. Which, given how he felt about vampires, was somewhere in the next state. This one in particular made him feel boxed in.
Daegan eyed him critically, as if evaluating his ability to chew food and tie his shoes. Therefore, it surprised Gideon when the vampire at last gestured to the reading room. After pulling on his shirt and jeans, Gideon followed him in there. Daegan closed the door, putting another sound barrier between them and the bathroom.
“Before long, she will be able to hear conversations anywhere in these rooms, but for now this should be sufficient. Can you detach yourself enough to do what needs to be done, vampire hunter, even when it’s something you cannot bear?”
“Believe me, when it comes to this piece of shit, I’ll take him out singing ‘Howdy Doody’ and go to Chuck E. Cheese afterward to celebrate. What, is this bastard some kind of friend of yours? If you think—”
Damn it, it was the second time the asshole had gotten the jump on him. This time, though, Gideon was flat on his back on the floor, Daegan’s rubber sole on his throat, before he even knew what hit him. He stared up into eyes that had gone bloodred. All right, this was the scariest vamp he’d ever seen. Perhaps even scarier than Lady Lyssa in a temper, and that was saying a great deal.
“Shut up, human,” Daegan said with quiet menace. “Or I swear by all the Holy Relics I will rip out your tongue so it will cease annoying me.”
Gideon grabbed the shoe, twisted hard enough that Daegan was forced to pull back. When he rolled, reaching for his blade, Daegan spun with his movement, picked him up by the scruff and knocked him face forward into the chair. He held Gideon there, his body crowded up hard behind him. Personal space barrier completely eliminated. Gideon didn’t care to feel any man’s groin up against his own ass, particularly when it had been naked not too long before, but Daegan’s hiss of annoyance in his ear told him it wasn’t his virtue in danger.
He was being an idiot. He’d been captured by vamps before. Once they had you, you couldn’t go toe-to-toe with them. You had to wait for an opportunity. This was just a stupid, dumb-ass pissing contest, the two of them venting their frustration about what they couldn’t do for the woman behind the door. Who was probably going to come out any moment and kick both their asses in that demeaning way that only women could, with a disappointed look and a sharp tongue.
As if coming to the same conclusion, Daegan let him go with a shove and a curse, and stepped back. “While I am gone, the whole time I am gone, she will have to be restrained. Heavily restrained. Chained.”
Gideon rose to his feet, gazing at him warily. “Why?”
“You know why. You’ve been through this with your brother, as you said.” Daegan gave him a grim look. “When I took her blood in the bathroom, I exercised the right of a sire. I gave her a locater mark, vampire to vampire. If she gets away, I can track her, but that’s just a safety net. Under no circumstances can we allow that to happen. She will kill during fits of bloodlust, and she won’t care if it’s a three-year-old or a drug dealer.”
Gideon did know that. Jacob’s bloodlust had lasted a good several months, but they’d learned to anticipate its cycles. Keeping him at Mason’s estate during the worst of it, away from people, had allowed him more freedom. They’d had to restrain him only periodically for the first couple weeks.
But restraining her, after what she’d been through ... Realization dawned. Something you cannot bear ...
Daegan nodded, seeing Gideon’s comprehension. “It’s going to be far harder on her than it was on your brother. Not only because of what happened tonight. I have a bad feeling about this transition. It feels different from others I’ve witnessed. I can’t leave her alone during this. While you would not be my first choice, you are my only choice. Even that would not sway me, but she trusts you. Anwyn trusts no one lightly.”
“You’re giving me such a warm fuzzy feeling. Should we hug now?”
“Don’t push it,” Daegan warned. “One of us must go get the blood and one of us must stay. Someone must be here to reassure her. I’m best equipped to go get the blood.”
Gideon gave him an incredulous look. “Yeah, look under ‘nurturing’ in the dictionary and you’ll find my phone number.”
Daegan blew out a breath through his nostrils that should have billowed steam. “You are successful because you take time to plan your attacks. I will track them, find them and get that blood. That’s the extent of the plan, and it’s one only a vampire can execute, particularly when the odds are one against three.”
“Pretty confident, aren’t you?”
Daegan shook his head. “These vampires are not old. They are depraved, vicious and likely unstable. That fledgling I killed was young and his Master’s residual blood tasted weak. I can kill them as easily as you could decapitate four toddlers.”
“Thanks. The day hasn’t had enough disturbing images in it.”
“Will you stay with her?” Daegan said impatiently.
Gideon studied him a long moment. “It’s more than that. If something unexpected happens, I’m the only one who will know how to end her suffering the quickest way.”
“Yes.” Daegan held his gaze. “I also know, despite your feelings about my kind, you will make it as painless as possible. When you touch her, your hands are gentle, vampire hunter.”
Gideon cleared his throat, looked down at the carpet. “Okay,” he said at last.