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Midnight bite, p.11

Midnight Bite, page 11

 

Midnight Bite
 


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  “I’m a vampire! It’s what I do!” He heaved out a breath and strained against the metal binds around him once more. “Things only got…rough when you staked me.”

  “Rough?” Devereaux repeated in his low, lethal voice.

  It was a voice she was rather coming to love.

  “What Charles means,” Lark explained carefully to Devereaux, “is that’s the point when I believe he told me that I wasn’t getting away because and I quote, ‘I got to you first. You’re mine!’” Charles had screamed that last bit at her. Now she cocked her head. “Do I look like I’m yours?”

  Charles licked his lips. “N-no.”

  “The fuck she was meant for you.” Devereaux lunged forward.

  But Lark lunged, too. She threw up her hand and stopped Devereaux before he could plunge his fingers into the guy’s chest and rip out Charles’s heart. She glared at Charles and snapped, “If you were trying to make me yours, then that would seem to mean you weren’t following Dev’s order. You weren’t just searching for me.”

  Charles was sweating. “I made a mistake.” He swallowed. His Adam’s apple bobbed. “I mean, damn, a kingdom was at stake. Can’t a guy be tempted?”

  “A kingdom?” Lark pushed.

  Devereaux growled.

  Charles puffed out his cheeks then said, “There’s another offer on the table for you, Lark. I mean, it’s a really, really good one. Devereaux wanted you. Everyone knew that. But…your old man…he’s running another deal. Said that he would offer half of his kingdom to any vamp who could bring you to him. I thought that if I could weaken you from the blood loss, then I could take you to him.” He licked his lips again. “I could get my turn at some power. This whole royal bullshit—it was time for me to get a slice of that pie.”

  Her father was trying to get her?

  “You dad doesn’t want you bonding with Devereaux.” Charles focused totally on her. “Those two are at war again, did your new boyfriend tell you that? Your dad wants you away from Devereaux, and if he has to do it, he’ll destroy anyone in his path in order to get to you.”

  Oh, God. Seriously? She put her hand to her chest and spun toward Devereaux. “My father is fighting you?”

  His face hardened. “I can explain.”

  “He’s coming after me?”

  A nod. “He wants to void the deal he made with me. He wants to take you far away.”

  A father who’d never bothered to see her before…now he was ready to kill in order to get her? Ready to kill Devereaux? “No.” Her shoulders straightened.

  Charles laughed. “Take that, dumbass,” he sneered to Devereaux. “Always thinking you’re so big and bad. She doesn’t want you. She is going to run back to dear old dad and you’re going to—”

  He stopped talking.

  Mostly because Lark had wrapped her fingers around his throat.

  She brought her face right next to his. “I don’t like you,” she snarled at Charles. “And you don’t understand me. I said ‘no’ because I meant Devereaux wasn’t going to be hurt. My father doesn’t want me with Dev? Too fucking bad.” She tightened her hold on his neck. “This is what you’re going to do, Charles. You’re going to leave. You’re going to carry your little rat bastard self back to my father. You’re going to tell him that I choose to stay with Dev and that he isn’t going to touch a single vamp under Dev’s command.”

  “Wh-why…” Charles gasped.

  “Because if you don’t, I won’t let Devereaux tear out your heart…”

  Charles squinted at her.

  “I’ll do that shit myself. Then I’ll burn you until only ash is left.” She let him go.

  Charles bobbed his head, frantic. “I’ll tell him! I’ll tell him!”

  “Good. We’re done.” She headed back toward Devereaux.

  He was watching her with a faint smile on his face. And admiration in his eyes. Her spine straightened a bit. Oh, yeah, that had been her—monster hunter failure…turned world class actress. Lark didn’t think she could ever actually rip out someone’s heart, but Charles didn’t need to know that particular truth.

  She thought she’d just bluffed her way to an Oscar.

  Or maybe…maybe she hadn’t bluffed.

  If someone comes to attack Dev, what would I do? Lark wasn’t sure she really wanted to find out.

  Devereaux caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips. “You are perfection.”

  Not even close.

  He kept his hold on her fingers as he glared at Charles. “You will deliver the message that Lark has given you. Then you’ll stay the hell away from her and me. Because if I ever see you again, the death I give you will be slow and far more painful than anything you can imagine.”

  Charles whimpered.

  “Good talk,” Devereaux said as he turned and casually strolled away with Lark. “I think we all understand each other now.”

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  New Year’s Resolution Number Twelve: Reconnect with the past. Maybe you’ll learn something new.

  “You really think this is a good idea? To just let him go?” Salvatore’s gruff tone indicated he thought the idea was crap. “There are other ways to deliver the message. I mean, a text would work.”

  Devereaux touched the cold window pane in his study. “It was Lark’s order. From now on, I want everyone in my kingdom to know that her order has the same force as my own.”

  “But you’re not bonded to her.”

  “No, but I’m in love with her, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the same thing.” He dropped his hand and turned to face his friend. “Bond or no, I want everyone to understand that her word carries the same weight as my own. She is my partner. She’ll be right at my side, bonded or not. Everyone will give her the same allegiance that is given to me.”

  Salvatore’s brows shot up. “Uh, yeah, are you forgetting that she was a monster hunter like a day ago? Without a permanent bond, don’t go expecting the vamps to just—”

  Devereaux crossed the room and stopped right in front of Salvatore. “She wasn’t a hunter yesterday. Lark was just trying to live a normal life. She never hurt a paranormal when she was with her mother. She would have gone right on living her normal life if I hadn’t been so determined to track her. I brought danger to her. And, yes, I fully expect my vamps to follow my orders. If they can’t accept her, then they can get the hell out of my kingdom.”

  Salvatore took a step back. “So, that’s the way it is.”

  “The only way.” She was his only way.

  “I accept her. I give her my allegiance,” Salvatore replied slowly, “but…you’re wrong.”

  The hell he—

  “She wouldn’t have gone on living a normal life. You heard that piece of shit Charles. Her father is looking for her. And that can’t be good. He’s willing to offer part of his kingdom for her return? Uh, hadn’t the original deal been that you’d get all of his kingdom when you bonded with her? Sounds like the guy is double-crossing you, and I doubt that his intentions are any good where Lark is concerned.”

  “No, they can’t be good.” Devereaux sucked in a deep breath. “That’s why I want her to remain inside these grounds. I’ve already tripled the guard outside. No one will get to her. She will remain protected at all costs.”

  Salvatore cocked his head to the side. “Just how long will you keep her here?”

  “Until the threats against her have been eliminated. And when they’re gone, if she doesn’t want to stay…” Hell, she’d rip out his heart. But maybe he could charm her by that point. “If she doesn’t want to stay, then Lark will be free to leave.”

  “Charles should have been killed. Letting him live is a mistake.”

  Devereaux raked a hand over his face. “It’s hard to be fucking charming when you have a vamp’s heart in your hand.”

  “What?”

  His hand fell. “I was trying to show Lark that I could be merciful. Shit. I wanted her to think I possess a few good traits, okay? At least one,
maybe two.”

  Salvatore just shook his head. “You’re gonna have to kill the guy.”

  “Yes, probably.” But maybe the dumbass would actually follow the orders he’d been given. When he was released, maybe Charles would just deliver the damn message, and maybe Devereaux could show Lark that he was better than she believed.

  Maybe he could even convince her to love him.

  ***

  “I don’t understand,” Lark murmured as she turned and studied Helsing. He’d just delivered all of her belongings up to her room.

  Not a room. More like a freaking wing.

  Helsing had come in with a staff of about ten people, and they’d made short work of setting everything up for her. Now the others had filed out, and it was just her and Helsing.

  He gave her a warm smile. “The prince wants you to be happy. That’s why he had all of your materials brought here. Simple enough to figure out.”

  “No, ahem, I mean…how did a Van Helsing wind up working for a vampire?”

  Laughter slipped from him. “As a former monster hunter who has become a vampire, is it really so hard to understand?”

  Her hands twisted in front of her.

  “They’re not monsters.” His voice was kind. “Not the heart-less, soul-less beasts that we were led to believe they were. My grandfather found out that truth when Devereaux saved his wife and child. Fanatics were taking over the village back then, killing anyone who was different.” A pause. “We both know monster hunters are different. Too fast, too strong. With reflexes that are too good. The elders of the village decided that my family must have been touched by the devil. That their power came from darkness, so they had to burn.”

  A shiver slid over her.

  “Devereaux went into the flames. Even though fire can destroy a vampire—he went in. He saved my grandfather. Got the whole family out, and ever since then…” Now his shoulders straightened. “A Helsing has served with the prince. It is a post that I have carried with pride.” He gave a brisk nod. “Any other questions?”

  She’d pried enough. “Thank you.”

  He turned for the door, but stilled. “There were many stories about him. And he hasn’t always…been the man he is today.” A quick glance over his shoulder. “He isn’t Devereaux the Dark, unless he has to be.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “If Devereaux is pushed, if those he cares about are threatened, the darkness will come out. But it isn’t a darkness to be feared, it’s a strength. Remember that.”

  A moment later, the door closed behind him. She wrapped her arms around her stomach as her gaze darted around the wing. All of her things were there. She should go find Devereaux. Tell him thank you.

  Maybe jump the guy’s bones.

  Maybe—

  Maybe tell him that I think I could fall for him.

  She took a step for the door, but then she caught sight of a jacket that had been left on the back of a nearby chair. A long, sleek black coat.

  The coat had been her mother’s. Lark had kept it because it had been the only thing left that had belonged to the hunter who’d died so many years ago.

  Her fingers trembled as she reached for the coat. A hunter’s coat. She slid it on, and the thing fit perfectly. There were dozens of places to hide weapons in the coat, but she’d taken all of the weapons out long ago. Well, all of the weapons except one.

  Her hand plunged into the side pocket on the coat. Her fingers curled around the wooden stake. Never leave home without a backup. For just a moment, she could have sworn that she heard her mother’s voice. And then—

  “Hello, dear Lark.”

  That wasn’t her mother. That was Noren. Hellhound jerk.

  A blast of smoke appeared even as a boom of thunder echoed in her ears. She smelled brimstone and fire, and suddenly, Noren was right in front her.

  Only she sure as hell hadn’t summoned the hellhound.

  He grabbed her wrist. “Sorry about this, but I’ve always liked the idea of having my own kingdom.”

  “What?” Lark yelled as he yanked her toward him.

  “Your father wants you, and I’m the only lucky bastard who can take you to him.” He smiled at her, and his grip seemed to burn her skin. “No one else can get past the guards that your new boyfriend has patrolling this place, but since you summoned me with your own blood—and then you let me go, without sending me back to hell—that means I have a free pass to find you anywhere you go.”

  “Let me go!” Lark shoved against him with her vampire strength.

  He just pulled her closer even as the door to her wing flew open. Beyond the smoke circling her, Lark caught sight of Devereaux’s enraged features.

  “What in the fuck are you doing?” Devereaux bellowed at Noren.

  “Getting a kingdom.” Noren yanked her tighter to him. Flames flashed around them. “Stay the hell back or I’ll burn you to ash!”

  Flames leapt around Lark and Noren.

  Noren was going to vanish at any moment. She knew it. And he was taking her with him. Taking her to her father? She didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave Devereaux. She wanted him.

  “Lark!” Devereaux roared her name.

  “I want you!” Lark screamed back at him. I want you. Dammit, I think—I think I could love—

  Devereaux hurtled through the flames. She saw ash begin to appear as his skin burned away. That was what happened to vampires. They turned to ash too quickly when fire touched them. He was leaping through the flames and burning as he surged after her.

  “No!” Lark screamed. Thunder boomed again. “Stay back! Don’t you dare die—”

  The room—the wing—vanished. All of her things vanished. The fire disappeared. Devereaux disappeared.

  “Don’t die for me,” she whispered.

  Noren’s arms were around her. His ragged breaths filled her ears. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “But I have an endgame, too.”

  Screw his endgame. His hands fell away, and she lurched back. He was staring at her, all solemn and sad, and she drew back her fist and drove it straight into his face. Without the fire raging around them, she felt stronger, and she knew his magic must have been weakening her.

  She punched him once, twice, and he didn’t fight her. He stumbled back and let her hit him, the bastard. He let—

  Clapping. Weird, creepy, slow clapping filled the air.

  Lark whirled around. She only saw darkness. Thick, heavy darkness and then—

  His eyes. His green eyes.

  Eyes like her own.

  The darkness slowly faded, and she realized she was in some sort of room. A stone room with a big, giant chair. A throne? A man sat on the throne, doing one weird-ass slow clap as he smiled at her. A man who was handsome and fit, who barely appeared to be over thirty years old, a man who showed his vamp fangs when he smiled.

  “My daughter.” He exhaled on a long sigh. “You remind me so much of your mother.”

  She stiffened.

  “And of me. It’s great to see you got that killer instinct from us both.” He stared at her with pride.

  She felt a shiver slide down her spine. “I want to go back to Devereaux.”

  A furrow appeared between his brows. “Why?”

  “Because…” He makes me feel safe. He makes me laugh. He makes me happy.

  “You didn’t bond with him.” He rose slowly from his throne. There were honest-to-God diamonds embedded in the throne. “It’s after midnight, did you realize that? Your birthday is over. I made a deal with Devereaux, long ago, I told him that if he got you to bond with him before midnight on the day you turned twenty-six, he could have my kingdom. I would have kept up my end of the bargain.”

  Noren was dead silent. The asshole. She squared her shoulders as she faced her father. “Bullshit. You were working out a deal with Charles Hurley. You wanted me away from Devereaux. Isn’t that why you sent this hellhound after me?”

  Her father glanced over at Noren. His expression bec
ame even harder. “Hellhounds don’t get vampire kingdoms.”

  Rage flashed on Noren’s face. “I brought her to you, and in return, I want my freedom. I want the fuck out of the cage I’m in. You’re the one who can help me get that freedom. Because you’re the one who fucking trapped me. So forget the kingdom and give me my freedom. I’m not going back to hell.” His hands fisted. “Or if I do, I’ll take her with me.”

  Her father had put Noren in hell? How?

  Noren lifted his fists. Flames danced above his hands. “Your mistake was letting me get this close. Lift the curse on me—or I will take Lark back to hell with me. She used her blood in the spell to summon me. She called me, and then she let me out of the summoning circle.”

  Her father swore.

  “So now I can take her with me wherever I go.”

  Sonofabitch. No one had explained those rules to her. “This is the thanks I get for saving you?” Lark demanded as she glared at Noren. “Really?”

  He shrugged. “Nothing personal, dear Lark, but I’ll be damned if I spend another day burning alone. If I go back, you go with me.” He focused on her father. “Lift the curse or I take her to hell with me.”

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  New Year’s Resolution Number Thirteen: Decide what matters most.

  “You were burning!” Salvatore shouted. “Turning to ash right before my eyes!”

  The bastard had tackled Devereaux just as Noren’s flames had flared higher—and then the hellhound had vanished with Lark.

  “He took her!” Devereaux shoved his friend aside and rushed down the stairs. Noren had taken Lark, but Devereaux knew where the hound had gone. Just like Charles, the bastard probably wanted to make a deal with Lark’s father.

  Just like Charles.

  “Fuck!” He used his super speed to rush down to the basement. Charles was still there. The guy hadn’t been released yet. Devereaux went right to the prisoner, and he tore the metal bonds away, using extra strength born of fury and desperation before he yanked Charles toward him.

 
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