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Midnight bite, p.4

Midnight Bite, page 4

 

Midnight Bite
 


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  “Lark!” Now her name was a thundering bellow.

  She didn’t stop. She kept surging forward, not even feeling the ground beneath her feet. She ran and she ran and—

  Bright lights hit her.

  She was in the middle of the road and those lights were barreling toward her. Lark stopped, staggering, and she threw up her arms, expecting to feel an impact that would probably kill her.

  Instead, brakes squealed. She smelled burning rubber as the tires screeched over the pavement. And when her hands lowered, she found herself staring up at the front of a massive big rig.

  Lark glanced behind her. There was no sign of Devereaux. No sign of the limo. Just how far had she run? It had only been a few moments, but, damn, she’d been speeding like a race car. How is that even possible?

  The big rig’s door opened. “Girl, are you all right?” A woman jumped from the rig. A woman who barely topped five feet and who wore a thick, puffy coat. Her gray-streaked hair shot from her head in cork screw curls. She came toward Lark with lines of concern carved onto her face.

  The big rig’s lights illuminated the scene as Lark stood there, her whole body…not the least bit tired. She’d run and run, and she wasn’t even a little winded. The scenery had passed her in a blur because she’d moved so fast.

  Lark only knew of one paranormal creature who could move that way. One being who had super speed. A vampire.

  She’d just moved like a vampire.

  Impossible.

  “Honey?” The other woman touched her arm. “You okay?”

  “No.” Her voice was hoarse. Mostly because Lark was freaking terrified. “I’m not okay.” She swallowed. “Will you please help me? I-I need a ride.”

  The driver nodded. “Of course. Where are you going, hun?”

  “Away from here.” Anywhere. As long as I get out of here and escape the vamp on my trail.

  The woman smiled at her. “Hop in the truck.”

  Lark could have kissed the woman. Instead, she rushed to the passenger side and climbed into the seat. Heat blasted from the truck’s vents, warming her.

  “You all right?” Her rescuer frowned over at her. “Looks like your neck might be bleeding.”

  Crap. It was. Lark covered the bite marks with her fingers. “I’m okay.”

  The driver grunted. “How the hell did you get out here?” She cranked the engine and the truck shuddered. “No one else is around for miles.”

  Not true. There was a vamp out there, somewhere. Hunting her. But Devereaux wasn’t going to get her that night. She’d given him the slip.

  Lark turned toward the window. See you in hell, vamp.

  ***

  Fucking hell.

  Devereaux watched as the big rig hurtled down the road. He hadn’t gotten to Lark in time. She’d outrun him. Something that should have been insulting, considering he was the current ruler of the North American vamps. Only, he didn’t feel insulted. He felt proud.

  His mate was far more powerful than he’d expected.

  And the bites she’d been given—they’d unlocked her powers. There would be no going back now. No trying to pretend that she was normal.

  Normal was overrated. Lark had never been meant to be normal.

  A new world waited for her.

  He stepped into the middle of the road, staring at the red tail-lights of the big truck. His nostrils flared as he pulled in the scents that had been left behind. Lark’s sweet scent. It could be quite addictive. But…

  His body tensed.

  There were other scents out there, too. Other threats.

  “Sonofabitch.” Lark didn’t get it. She probably thought she was safe now that she’d ditched him.

  She was dead wrong.

  And if he didn’t get to her in time…

  Someone might just try to send his precious mate straight to hell.

  CHAPTER FOUR

  New Year’s Resolution Number Four: Look for the good in people. Maybe you’ll find it. Maybe you won’t.

  “What’s that in your hand, hun?” The big rig’s gears grunted as the driver shifted.

  Lark glanced down at the stake. Why was she still gripping it as if her very life depended on the thing? “A weapon.”

  “Ah, yes, a woman alone can’t ever be too careful. You have to always be on your guard, Lark. Always.”

  Lark stiffened. She…she hadn’t revealed her name to her rescuer. “I think I see the lights of a gas station up ahead. You can just let me off there.”

  The driver started humming. A really creepy-as-hell hum. It sounded way too close to the Jaws theme song.

  Lark’s rescuer passed right by the gas station.

  “Uh, you missed the stop,” Lark mumbled as her stomach clenched.

  The driver turned toward her. Smiled. “That’s no safe place for you.”

  She didn’t think being in the truck was a safe place for her, either.

  “My home is actually just up the road,” the woman continued crisply. “You can get some rest there, doctor that wound on your throat, and—”

  “How did you know my name?” Lark interrupted. The gas station was only a tiny flash of light in the distance.

  A sigh filled the interior of the vehicle. “I think we’re far enough away now.” Once more, the truck shuddered. Then it stopped.

  Lark tried to shove open her door.

  Only to find it locked. Her hands flew over the door, but she didn’t see any method for opening the door from the inside.

  Laughter grated in her ears. “Surely you don’t think you’re the first hitchhiker I’ve picked up?”

  Oh, Jesus. Her head turned toward the woman she’d thought was a friendly savior.

  The driver smiled at her, revealing razor-sharp teeth. “Your mother killed my lover.”

  Shit. “I’m sorry about that.”

  “We’ve all been waiting for this day. Every paranormal in a two-hundred-mile radius is looking for you, and I’m the lucky one who found you.” She licked her lips. “You just ran right up to me, like a lamb to the slaughter.”

  I’m no lamb.

  “Stakes don’t work on my kind.” The driver’s fingers were changing—her nails turning into claws even as fur popped up on her skin. “I’m going to rip you apart. Same way my pack did to your bitch of a mother after she killed Tom.”

  Coyote shifter. No, no. But she was totally staring at a woman in mid-shift. Claws. Fur. Gravelly voice.

  “Her death was payback, for my mate. She should have kept her damn hands out of our business. Especially considering the freak that she brought into this world.” The woman’s hard gaze showed her disgust as she glared at Lark.

  Lark’s shoulders pressed to the door. She had fallen down the rabbit hole, and there was no way to get out. No way.

  The coyote shifter’s claws swiped at her.

  Lark reacted without even hesitating. Her hand flew out. She grabbed those claws, and she snapped bones. Lightning fast. Like she’d been some tough, kick-ass fighter all her life…and not the constant disappointment that her mother had called her.

  The coyote shifter screamed.

  Since the passenger door wouldn’t open…Lark drove her stake into the window. The window cracked, so she hit again, harder. Again. Again. She kept hitting until the window shattered.

  The coyote came at her again, and Lark drove the stake at her attacker. The weapon might not kill her, but it could sure hurt the shifter.

  The scent of the coyote’s blood filled the interior of the big rig. The stake had plunged into her shoulder and that coppery smell was…good.

  No. It should have been bad. Very, very bad.

  What is happening? Since when did Lark like the smell of blood? She liked chocolate, she liked fresh bread. She didn’t like the scent of blood!

  Lark hauled ass through the broken window. The remains of the glass cut her, but she didn’t care. She tumbled onto the ground, scraping her palms over the pavement and shredding her dress before she st
aggered to her feet. Happy birthday to me…this night sucks! She took a trembling step forward—

  Growls. Snarls. And then a pack of coyotes seemed to hurtle right out of the darkness. Lark screamed as they surrounded her, coming at her with their jaws snapping and eyes burning bright with rage.

  She could feel their hot breath against her as they formed a circle, closing in tightly. This was how her mother had died. Outnumbered, surrounded. A pack of savage coyotes had charged at her and left death in their wake.

  Lark’s hand curled around the bloody stake. It was the only weapon she had, since she’d lost her earrings in her last tussle with a shifter, but she didn’t plan to go out without a fight.

  If she could just take one or two of them down, then she could create a path to escape. A hole in their circle, and she could run. If she ran as fast as she’d been able to run when she rushed away from Devereaux, she might have a real chance at survival.

  Except more coyotes were coming. She counted at least a dozen. One of the bigger beasts lunged at her, and she drove her stake into his side. He let out a long, furious howl and swiped at her with his claws. She braced for the pain of those claws to rip into her—

  The claws didn’t touch her.

  Because Devereaux was there. Standing in front of her even as she blinked in shock. The coyote’s claws tore into him as the beast leapt up, but Devereaux didn’t even grunt. His hands locked around the coyote’s throat. “You would dare?”

  Snap.

  The sound of the coyote’s neck breaking echoed in the night.

  Every single beast there went dead silent.

  The scent of Devereaux’s blood filled her nostrils.

  He didn’t turn to face her. Instead, he put his hands on his hips and glanced around at the coyotes. “That’s your alpha on the ground. I can rip him open before any of you so much as touch me.”

  None of the coyotes moved.

  “You want a war with the vamps? You want a war with me? Then come after what’s mine again, and you’ll find yourselves on the fucking endangered species list. You don’t touch Lark. You don’t hurt her. If you try, you’ll all die.”

  He was protecting her. Again. Even after she’d ditched him. Lark was not understanding the vampire, but in all honesty, she had never, ever been so glad to see anyone in her entire life. It was all she could do not to tackle hug him.

  The paranormals out there—they really were all gunning for her. And as crazy as it seemed, the vamp was her knight in shining—or bloody—armor.

  “Her mother took my mate.”

  Uh, oh, it was the truck driver. Lark peeked around Devereaux’s shoulder and saw the woman. Blood trailed down her shirtfront.

  “I am owed a blood debt.”

  “Your pack killed her mother. You are owed nothing.”

  Her gaze darted to the coyotes around her. She was truly staring at the exact same pack that had destroyed her life when she was sixteen years old. No, no. A keening cry broke from her lips as pain surged through Lark.

  “We aren’t afraid of vampires!” The shout came from the darkness and then…

  They attacked. The coyote shifters—those in human and animal form—attacked. They swarmed, a storm of claws and razor-sharp teeth.

  There was a fast rush of wind. Shadows that seemed to sweep from the darkness.

  Hard hands grabbed her, and Lark found herself suddenly surrounded—not by coyotes, but by tall, powerfully built men. At least four of them formed a wall around her.

  She tried to peek beyond them. Desperate, Lark yelled out, “Devereaux!” She didn’t see him. Couldn’t find him in the chaos. The scent of blood grew heavier. Growls and screams filled the night. She tried to surge forward to help Devereaux, but one of the men guarding her turned back. She saw the flash of fangs as he shook his head.

  “They should have been stopped a long time ago. They’re rabid. They’ve killed more humans than you can possibly guess.”

  What?

  “Devereaux,” she whispered. “Where is—”

  Silence.

  The battle was over already? Barely a minute had passed. But the guards around her stepped away, and she saw the bodies on the ground. Dead shifters. Blood. So much blood and in the middle of that carnage, standing tall and dripping blood from his own wounds…

  Devereaux.

  “Consider your mother avenged, Lark.” He put a hand to his stomach. Blood seeped through his fingers. “My wedding present to you.”

  His wedding—what?

  Then the vampire prince—the apparent killing machine—staggered.

  “Devereaux is weak! Too much blood loss,” she heard one of the vamps grunt. “He needs help, now!”

  She ran to Devereaux. Lark caught him, trying to brace him with her body. “Take my blood.”

  He smiled at her. And didn’t look the slightest bit weak. “I was so hoping you’d say that, love.”

  Only this time, he didn’t bite her on the neck. He lifted her wrist to his mouth. His fangs pierced her skin, and the pleasure was so strong, so completely overwhelming and consuming—

  The whole world just went black.

  ***

  Devereaux caught Lark as she fell. Bite number three from a vampire. There would be no going back now. Her body had fully entered the change, and she’d been knocked out by the pure power coursing through her.

  He lifted her into his arms, cradling her against his chest. He didn’t look at the carnage around him. He’d warned the coyotes. Tried to give them a chance to back the hell off.

  Instead, they’d chosen to attack what was his, and they’d paid the price for their mistake. And he’d sent a message. Anyone else wanting to come after Lark would suffer the same fate. No paranormals would deliver their vengeance on her. She was off limits. Untouchable.

  Except…by him. He would touch her. He would protect her. Possess her. Always.

  A cough sounded near him, and he glanced over to find the chief of his guards, Salvatore, staring at him with solemn eyes. “It’s done then?” Salvatore asked as flecks of snow settled in his dark hair.

  Almost done. Devereaux still needed to get Lark to drink his blood, and then her transformation would be complete. But he had a plan for that. “We’re going to my house. She’ll wake in my bed. We’ll have the bonding ceremony by sunset.”

  Salvatore whistled. “Fast, isn’t it?”

  It was, but speed was necessary. The bond would ensure that Lark was never threatened again. She couldn’t be threatened. If she died…

  Then what in the hell will I do?

  She was his one chance. He couldn’t afford to lose her. Too much was on the line for him.

  The limo rolled to a stop beside him as Helsing finally made it to the scene. Devereaux kept his gentle hold on Lark as he stepped over the dead and avoided the bloody snow. Soon he was in the back of the limo, the warm air surrounding him, and Lark pressed close to his body.

  “I thought telling her you were weak from blood loss was a nice touch,” Salvatore said as he stuck his head into the limo. “You owe me for that one.”

  He laughed. “You’ll collect.”

  “Count on it.” But Salvatore’s bright gaze cut to Lark. “She doesn’t…hate our kind?”

  That was up for debate. “She’s not aware of her past, not yet.”

  A low whistle came from the vampire. “You are playing with fire.” A pause. “And you know what happens to vamps when we burn.”

  They turned to ash.

  “I won’t get burned.” That wasn’t an option. He had a plan in place. A perfectly organized plan. He would make Lark need him so much that she never, ever considered turning away. She would want to stay with him forever. She’d beg to stay with him forever.

  And he, being the awesome vampire prince that he was…he’d give in to her pleas. Before she knew it, Lark would be hooked on him. She’d never want to leave him.

  That was good…because he didn’t plan on ever letting her go. If he wa
s going to keep his kingdom, he had to keep her.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  New Year’s Resolution Number Five: Don’t wait for Prince Charming. The guy doesn’t exist. And even if he did exist, he’d be boring as hell.

  The bed was too soft and comfortable. The covers felt like silk against her skin, and the pillow beneath her head was so plush that Lark figured she must be sleeping on a cloud.

  Since she normally slept on one seriously lumpy pillow and a paper-thin mattress, alarm bells went off in her head even before Lark’s eyes opened. When they did open, Lark spied the heavy, wooden furniture around her, the massive four poster bed that she currently occupied… and the bedroom that was very much not her own. She took in the scene with a frantic glance, and she kind of flipped out.

  A quick scream broke from her as she jumped from the bed. And that was when the next shock of the day hit her.

  She was wearing a soft, silken gown. Again, not hers.

  “Easy…” His low, deep voice came from the corner. Her gaze immediately snapped to said corner. Sunlight trickled through the blinds, but didn’t reach him.

  The vampire prince. The prince who’d just been—apparently—sitting there and waiting for her to wake up. On a scale of one to creepy, that was super creepy. Super, super freaking creepy.

  Devereaux smiled at her. “You wake up with a lot of energy.”

  “Where the hell are my clothes, you bastard?”

  His smile dimmed. “And you wake up…grumpy?”

  She growled.

  He sighed. “Your dress was dirty and covered in blood. I sent it to be cleaned. You’d lost your shoes long before we met, remember? Anyway, when you passed out—”

  “Because you bit me!” She bounded toward him. Glared down at him. “I probably passed out from blood loss because you bit me—twice!”

  He stared up at her. And, damn him, he still looked sexy. Maybe even sexier than he’d looked the night before. “You asked for my bite. Both times.”

 
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