Midnight bite, p.8
Midnight Bite, page 8
Lark’s eyes flew open, and she sucked in a deep gulp of air. She felt as if her lungs were starving for that air. Her heart thudded desperately in her chest. Jerking upright in the bed, she shoved covers away from her body and realized—
Holy crap, I’m naked.
She also realized—
That big vamp getting an eyeful of my body isn’t Devereaux.
Lark grabbed for covers that she’d just pushed off, and she yanked them over herself. “Who the hell are you? And why do I smell fire?”
His gaze whipped up to meet hers. A bright blue—and appreciative—stare locked on her. “I’m Salvatore, Devereaux’s friend and chief of guards.”
Devereaux. Anger simmered inside of her. He’d done something to her, and she wasn’t just thinking about the awesome sex.
Salvatore motioned to the singe marks on her walls—and the broken bulbs that hung drunkenly near her window. “The witches started a fire. They wanted to burn you to ash, but don’t worry, Devereaux’s handling them.”
Oh, wonderful. Great to know. She jumped from the bed and grabbed for her clothes. She kept her covers over her as best as she could, and Lark jumped and shimmied her way to being dressed again. “Handling them…how, exactly?”
“Ah, well, you know. Drinking them dry. Kicking their asses. Maybe killing them. Whatever it takes.”
He said it all so casually. She gaped at him.
“What?” A frown pulled down Salvatore’s handsome face. “He’s protecting you. Don’t you think you should be grateful?”
She thought about charging at the vamp. “What did Devereaux do to me?”
Salvatore winced. “Devereaux will be back soon. He can explain—”
Screw it. She charged at Salvatore. Bounded across the room and grabbed his shirtfront in her hands. Lark yanked him toward her. “What did he do?” Anger rose within her. Anger and—
Lust. Not a sexual lust for him, though Salvatore fit the tall, dark, and handsome bill. Instead, she felt a consuming bloodlust rise within her. Her teeth lengthened in her mouth, they burned her gums as they expanded, and her gaze sharpened on his throat. All she wanted was to sink her teeth into him. To drink and drink.
She bared her fangs and lunged for his neck.
“Not on the menu, sorry.” Salvatore’s hands clamped on her shoulders as he held her back. “If I let you put your teeth in me, I’m pretty sure Devereaux will kill me.”
She could barely hear his words. All she could hear was a racing heartbeat. His. The pump of blood. A haze of red covered her vision, and Lark just needed to drink.
“Dammit, he’d better get back soon. I swear, he was supposed to be here before you woke. It’s always hard when someone first transitions.”
She went for his throat again. Came within an inch of meeting her goal.
“Shit! You are fast!” He shoved her back. “Devereaux!” Salvatore bellowed. “Get your ass up here! Now!”
The red haze was darker. She needed to drink. Blood. She craved it. Her body ached. Her fangs throbbed. She was so thirsty. So hungry. Lark had never felt this way in her entire life.
“What in the hell are you doing, Salvatore?” Devereaux’s voice rang out from behind her. “Get your hands off Lark!”
“If I do that,” Salvatore grunted and tightened his hold, “she’ll rip my throat open. Someone woke up very, very hungry.”
Her teeth snapped together. She was going to get his blood. She’d have—
Devereaux yanked her out of Salvatore’s hold. His gaze raked her face, and then he just tilted his head to the side, baring his throat to her. “Take what you need. Take it from me. Only me.”
Her teeth pierced his throat. His blood slid onto her tongue, and it was so good. Greedily, she drank from him, moaning because his blood was delicious. The sweetest, most wonderful thing she’d ever tasted. Forget wine, he was a thousand times better. She’d get drunk on him and be a happy woman…
Be a happy woman…drinking blood?
Sanity flooded back as some of the raging bloodlust finally eased. Lark tore herself from him, watching in horror as a drop of blood slid down Devereaux’s throat.
She’d just bitten him.
She’d just taken his blood.
She still had her fangs out.
“Do you need blood, my friend?” Salvatore asked, voice quiet.
Without another word, Salvatore stalked toward him and offered Devereaux his wrist. Devereaux didn’t take his eyes from Lark as he sank his fangs into Salvatore’s wrist. He drank in silence for a moment, then… “Thank you.” He pushed Salvatore’s hand away.
Salvatore inclined his head. “The witches?”
“Gone, for now. I let them know how less than pleased I was that they were targeting my mate’s home.”
“I’m not your mate.” An instinctive denial from Lark.
Devereaux’s eyes turned to slits.
“Right now, I don’t even think I like you,” she snapped. “You lied to me.”
Salvatore retreated a few feet. “I think I need to go back outside and guard the perimeter. You can handle this, right, buddy?”
This? She shot him a disgusted glance before focusing on Devereaux. “I don’t want lies. I want truth.” She braced her legs apart. “We had sex. Great, mind-blowing sex.”
Salvatore cleared his throat. “I’m definitely out of here.” He sauntered for the door.
She ignored him and focused on her target. “Great sex, fantastic climax, and then I died.”
Salvatore stopped his retreat. He swung back around, his eyes wide. His stare jerked from her to an implacable Devereaux. “You didn’t tell her?”
“Keep walking, Salvatore,” Devereaux ordered. “This doesn’t concern you.”
“Uh, yeah, it does. If you didn’t tell her—”
“I told her that she was a hybrid. Lark knew that her father was a vampire. She knew her vampire traits were coming to the surface because my bites had woken her dormant side.”
She marched toward him, with her hands clenched at her sides. “You didn’t tell me I would die. I felt my heart stop.” Lark had to blink away tears. “Do you know how scared I was?”
Pain flashed on his face. “Love…”
“I didn’t know that I’d come back. I thought I was dying right there. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. I could just stare up at you and hate you for what you’d done to me.” Because she knew he’d lied. He’d deceived her. “Humans die. Humans get three bites and then taste the blood of a vampire. They die after getting the vamp blood, and they wake up as vampires. That’s how the change works for them.”
Salvatore watched in silence.
Devereaux gave a grim nod. “Yes, that is how it works for them. If they survive the change.”
Her hands clenched. “But you said I wasn’t human. I had fangs before I died. You didn’t tell me everything. You twisted the truth. You lied.”
His hands closed around her shoulders. “You would have kept a mortal lifespan if I’d never let you have my blood. Yes, you had fangs and a vampire’s strength and speed, but you would have aged. You would have grown sick. You would have died.” He shook his head. “I wanted you to stay with me, forever. I wanted to give you immortality. That gift only came with my blood.”
“Bastard.” Pain closed around her heart like an icy fist. “It wasn’t your decision to make. It was mine. You should have told me.”
“I was trying to! But I was balls deep in you, feeling the best damn pleasure of my whole life. It was fucking hard to think, much less talk. I know I should have told you more. Sonofabitch, yes, I should have! But you want to know the truth? I wanted you to transform completely. It was the only way for you to be safe. I hate you’re angry, I hate I hurt you, and I am sorry. Hurting you is the last thing I want. Now or ever.”
The best damn pleasure of my whole life. It had been the best pleasure of her life, too. And she’d been practically mindless at the
Devereaux’s chin lifted. “Your enemies are closing in. Even with vamp speed and strength, you would have been no match for them. They would have killed you. If you had not changed, I would have lost you.”
Didn’t he get it? “Still not your choice!” He should have told her everything. “I don’t want secrets.”
“I want you safe and protected.” Devereaux’s jaw hardened. “There is a war at the door. You’ve been shielded for years, but there is no hiding and there is no running any longer. Now that your body has completely gone through the change, you are as strong as you can possibly be.”
Her inner alarms were going off. “How many more secrets are you keeping from me?”
“Why are you so determined to help me? Why are you trying to make me stronger? Why did you just go outside and fight the witches or whoever the hell it was out there—”
His hold tightened on her. “Because you matter to me. I was promised you very long ago, and I will not lose you. Not to witches. Not to mortality. You were meant for me, and I will not give you up.”
A bitter laugh broke from her. “Back to the vampire mating thing.”
“No.” He blew out a rough breath. “Back to a fucking vampire engagement thing.”
She could only shake her head.
Salvatore gave a long whistle. Of course, he was still there. “She is not going to like this. And I swear, my friend, you used to be more charming with the ladies than this.”
Devereaux had clamped his lips together.
“Before I bite you again…” Lark definitely had the urge. “You’d better explain what’s happening. Everything. No more secrets. Explain it all to me right now.”
His eyes glittered. “It’s part of your protection agreement. Your father worked out a deal with most of the paranormals. But he also worked out a separate deal with me.”
Her stomach was doing flips.
Devereaux’s gaze held hers. “He promised you to me.”
“The hell he did.”
A muscle jerked along his law. “It’s a standard arrangement between families of royal blood, I assure you—”
She tore herself from his grasp and backed up. Way up. As in…across the room. “Standard in the Dark Ages.”
Devereaux sucked in a deep breath. “It was a…a sort of betrothal.”
Betrothal? She’d read too much about those in the historical romances she loved so much.
“I promised to wed you on your twenty-sixth birthday. Once we were wed, I would share my kingdom with you. You would rule at my side.”
The door squeaked open, then slammed closed as Salvatore finally made his departure.
Lark crossed her arms over her chest. “Doesn’t sound like you get much out of the deal.”
A shrug. “I get you. That’s all I want. Fuck the rest.”
But she jumped on what he’d said. “The rest? What rest?”
His hands clenched and unclenched. “In the event of your father’s death…”
Because the guy was still alive somewhere, and he’d never bothered to find her. Great fellow.
“If he dies,” Devereaux continued doggedly, “then his kingdom will fall to us. You and I will rule all he currently commands.”
A bitter laugh broke from her. “Okay. I get it. You want his kingdom. I’m a means to an end. You want—”
He was right in front of her.
“Stop moving that fast! It makes me dizzy!”
Devereaux didn’t touch her, but he reached out, as if he wanted to do so. “You are what I want. Fuck his kingdom. Fuck my kingdom.”
“I wanted you immortal because I don’t want you to die. I want you to live forever at my side. I’ve slipped into your life over the years. I’ve watched you, and I’ve yearned for you. But then, last year, you vanished. You left everything and everyone that you’d known before.”
Because she’d wanted a fresh start.
“I was terrified,” he added gruffly. “So afraid that something had happened to you. I sent every vamp I could find to hunt you. I needed you safe. I needed you alive.”
“So you could double your kingdom—”
“So I could be at your side when the other bastards came hunting you. So I could make sure I stood between you and any threat. So I could be with you.”
He sounded so sincere. But vamps could lie too well. Devereaux had already proven that he was a world-class liar.
“I am sorry for the way you changed. I’m sorry I didn’t explain things to you better. I was so fucking afraid of scaring you or of driving you away. Then, when I finally had you—when my cock was buried in you and paradise surrounded me—I didn’t have enough control to explain things the way I should have.” He released a ragged breath. “All I wanted was to have a chance with you. All I wanted was to have you. I’d intended to introduce you to my world slowly, but those plans were shot to hell.”
“Slowly?” Lark latched onto that one word. “Just how slowly?”
His gaze drifted over her face. She could see the longing in his eyes, and the need there made her stomach start flipping again. “I wanted to marry you today.”
“That is not slowly.” They needed to talk about the definition of the word.
“The speed is for your protection. As soon as we are bound, the others will stay away. Your protection comes first. Your safety is my priority.” Devereaux squared his shoulders. “As far as you drinking my blood…becoming immortal, yes, I wanted that. But when you were ready. I wasn’t going to force that onto you. But things got out of control. I lost my head when I took your body. You shattered me. I was lost—wanting only you.”
She might have been pretty insanely lost, too. Her control had been shredded. Had it felt the same way for him? Had he only known that savage, primal need? She swallowed. Twice. “I don’t forgive you.”
A muscle jerked in his jaw.
“But I wanted you so badly I went crazy, too.” She’d never felt such desire. It…the force of it scared her. It couldn’t be safe to want someone that much.
“Vampire instincts are strong.” His voice was low. “When we fuck, the bloodlust rises with the physical lust. I knew that. I should have warned you.”
“I knew it, too.” Vamp 101. “I still wanted you.” Her tongue ran over her teeth. Normal teeth again, fangs gone. “How often will I need to feed?”
“You’re royal. You won’t feel the cravings as badly as other newly transformed vamps. Your blood is very powerful.”
That still didn’t tell her how often.
“Every few days,” he allowed. “The hunger hit you hard when you first woke because your body had just gone through a difficult change.”
“I’m undead.” The technical term. Maybe. Her heart beat. She breathed. She’d just died for a bit. And woken as something else.
A shiver slid over her body. “Were there really witches outside?”
Again, he nodded.
“They were trying to burn my home?”
“I stopped them.”
His lips twitched. “You are most welcome.” His stare softened. “You’ll realize—soon enough—that I will do just about anything for you.”
“Why?” Had to be because the fellow wanted whatever kingdom her father possessed.
Devereaux offered his hand to her, holding his palm out. “Let me show you what could be. Before you decide I’m the villain of this story, just see what I have to offer.”
She gazed at his extended hand.
“You know that you need an ally. I’ve offered my protection and the strength of my vampires. You will not stand alone in the battles that come.”
“If I…marry you.” Wasn’t th
His hand remained outstretched. “Whether you bond with me or not, I will still protect you.” The words were gruff. “I will not just stand aside while you are threatened.”
A tender smile curved his lips, then he said, “Because I’ve discovered that you matter quite a bit to me. And were something to happen to you, I think the world would be quite…less.”
“That’s sweet…ish.” She reached for his hand because she didn’t have a whole lot of options, and, all things considered, the vamp was her best choice. And also, because—dammit, she just felt safer when he was near. As crazy as that was.
“I will have my men pack up all of your belongings.”
“The things that aren’t singed?”
He nodded. “They will be safe. You will not lose anything that matters to you.”
She just shrugged. “They’re just things. Things don’t matter, you know?” But she found herself leaning closer to him as she nibbled on her lip. “I get that you’re big into this whole protection thing, and you think we’re both all immortal and stuff, but I’ve seen vampires die. I know a stake through the heart will kill you.” Her gaze searched his. “I know that if you lose your head, you’re done. And I know fire can turn you to ash.”
“Immortality—living forever—doesn’t mean we don’t die. And I don’t want you to die.”
His dimples winked for her as he gave her another slow, almost tender smile. “I don’t plan on dying.”
“If that’s true, then why did you race outside to fight witches who could wield fire? Why did you put yourself at risk that way?”
His gaze never wavered. “Because you were worth the flames.”
“Don’t do it again.”
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of her knuckles. “That’s not a promise I can make.”
She glared at him.
His smile stretched. “I’m trying not to lie to you. I don’t like lying to you. I want you to trust me. So perhaps it’s just better that you know this—if witches come for you again, I will walk through their fire before it touches you.”
She didn’t get him. “I’m not worth you getting turned to ash.”
by Cynthia Eden / Romance / Thriller have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes