Vampires Don't Give Hickeys (The Slayer's Harem Book 1), page 1
Vampires Don’t Give Hickeys
A Reverse Harem Paranormal Romance
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Vampires Don’t Give Hickeys © April 2018 Holly Ryan
First edition, expanded and revised from the short novella originally released in NIGHT FIRE, © 2017.
Copyright notice: All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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If I were going to get sprayed with vampire blood, I preferred it happen at night, and not in the summer when the word “moist” was an everyday part of my vocabulary. Lucky for me, it was fall, the end of October to be exact, but not quite the dead lull of Halloween. Unlucky for me, I had blood trickling between my boobs right now.
I flicked some of it to the vampire I’d just dispatched, who’d had the nerve to actually fight back. You would think, me being a slayer and all, and coming at you with the business end of a stake, you would just accept your fate and be okay with it. Some did. Most tried to run, but they never made it far.
But this guy... Well, let’s just say I might’ve staked him more than once.
A thick fog had rolled in about midnight and now clung wispy fingers to the headstones behind the iron fence. The fence I stood outside of. Yep, I hadn’t even made it inside the cemetery to do my duty, and I was already kind of done with tonight.
Once the vampire’s body went poof and went to wherever it was dead vampires go, I eased the chain away from the lock on the gate and slipped inside the cemetery. The cemetery’s grounds man, Tim, and I had made a deal that he’d make it look like the gate was locked if I actually locked it when I was finished. Easiest deal I’d ever had to make. He hadn’t even asked me why, and judging from his age, I suspected I wasn’t the first slayer he’d made this deal with.
I stuck to the rocky paths, aglow in the moonlight, my stake at the ready. More were stuffed at various points on my body, like down inside my boot, the inside pocket of my black leather jacket, and even one shoved horizontally through my messy bun like an odd fashion accessory. Or, I had to admit, like Pebbles from The Flintstones.
I didn’t care what anyone said, my love of cartoons would last me well into my sixties or better. My childhood had been put on hold at age nine because I’d been chosen as the slayer. The old one had apparently died. That was a lot of pressure for my nine-year-old self. Even at close to twenty now, I was still embracing the childhood I’d never finished.
Around the first bend in the path, a faint rustling sounded. The fog smothered it, almost carrying it off and swallowing it altogether, but I zeroed in on it. Rocks crunched under several footsteps. Whatever it was, it didn’t move stealthily. It was either a dinosaur or a newly risen vampire.
Please be a dinosaur, please be a dinosaur...
Just this once, I would love to be surprised. I wished the world would throw something else at me.
Famous last words. That’s the last time I’ll ever wish for anything, thank you very much.
Following the curved path with my stake held high, I found a man with red eyes, hovering two feet above the ground. Vampires don’t hover. They also don’t have red eyes. Vampire eyes were amber, as if the natural color had bled from them when life had drained away. These, though... These were demon eyes.
Below him, a small pit of hellfire boiled, and I would bet my Animaniacs T-shirt that was where he’d just come from. No wonder his dark suit was smoking with the scent of brimstone.
Without wasting a second on introductions, I hurled my stake at him. He plucked it out of the air and dropped it into the incinerator below him with all the nonchalance of ridding the world of a pesky fly.
“You mother fucker,” I hissed. Multiple stakes or not, that one had been my favorite. My fingers had fit the grooves in the wood just right and everything.
He arched an eyebrow and dropped lightly to his feet beside the pit. Hellfire glinted in his spiffy, shiny shoes. “Belle Harrison, I presume?”
His velvet voice wrapped a chill around me and squeezed. That was the kind of voice meant to trick you into all sorts of wicked things, but it didn’t work on me.
“Never heard of her,” I said.
“Right.” He smirked but it twisted into a glower just before he lunged.
I dodged to the side, arming myself with the stake in my bun. With him, I probably needed to pull out the big guns though. I just wished I knew what those big guns were. I’d never fought a demon before. Never seen one up close, either, and they weren’t pretty. His skin was ridged with what looked like lava boiling behind it and crisping it black in places.
We circled one another, staring each other down and gauging the other’s weaknesses. Hopefully he didn’t see that I had hundreds of those.
“What do you want?” I demanded.
“The slayer,” he answered matter-of-factly. “Whether you’re Belle Harrison or not, you’re armed with stakes at night in a graveyard, so I’ll go out on a limb and say you are the slayer.”
What could he need me for? Were there vampires in hell too? I’d never thought about asking them where they went after I killed them.
“I don’t know who Belle is, but we all need a hobby, and walking around cemeteries at night just happens to be mine.” I shrugged.
He stopped suddenly and sighed, the lava cracks in his face steaming. “You’re wasting my time, Belle Harrison. His Majesty has chosen you as his bride.”
I blinked. “What?”
“I’m going to be honest with you, Belle Harrison.” He steepled his fingers in front of him and looked down his nose at me. A lock of black hair fell across one red eye. “He’s offering you a way out for what’s to come.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“There are dark things coming, darker than you’ve ever faced, and it will kill you. If you marry His Majesty, you won’t have to fight anymore.”
Well, that didn’t sound ominous at all. “You mean I won’t have to be the slayer anymore?”
He nodded. “Besides...” He stepped
A burst of heat flared out to my clenched fists. “I don’t owe anyone anything,” I said, my voice edged in steel.
The demon shrugged. “Well, His Majesty is the one who’s been sending you monthly checks since you were nine.”
My jaw dropped. “That’s him?”
Since the golden letter had arrived informing me of my elevated slayer status, I’d been receiving checks on the first of the month signed Luc Morningstar. My stranger danger alarm had triggered because I didn’t know a Luc Morningstar, so I’d never cashed the checks, even though Mom and I could have used the money. We’d been broke but not desperate, and no amount of money could have saved her anyway. Her cancer didn’t care how much we did or didn’t have in the bank.
“I believe he felt sorry for you for being chosen as the slayer at such a young age and wanted to help,” the demon said.
I heaved a sigh, suddenly exhausted. “I’m not for sale. Tell him thanks but no thanks, but I’m not interested.”
“He’s offering you a new life, Belle Harrison.”
“Yeah, I heard you the first time, and the answer’s still the same. And can you just call me Belle?”
His mouth twisted into a frown. “I’ll come back for you on Halloween, the night of your twentieth birthday.”
Did this guy not know the meaning of the word no? “Dude. I’m not marrying your boss.”
He arched an eyebrow. In a blur of smoke, he vanished into the hellfire pit, and it sewed itself back up behind him.
I shook my head at where he’d disappeared. The nerve of him, thinking I would just drop everything to go marry a devil I’d never met. My world didn’t work like that. I had a duty, and as much as I sucked at it and resented it, I didn’t plan on giving up.
Still, I had to wonder what he meant by dark things were coming. As in darker than a demon with the devil’s marriage proposal?
He’d said he’d be back on my birthday, but how many other ways could I say no? Not with a stake through the heart, that was for sure. This whole situation sank an uneasy feeling into my gut that I wasn’t even offered a choice.
“No,” I muttered. “It literally means one thing.”
A tingle licked up my spine, and I shivered, a reminder that I probably wasn’t alone in the cemetery and that I was talking to myself like a crazy person.
I turned, in no mood for another battle. “Look, can you just fall on my stake and...”
It was them. Two vampires standing like male beauty pageant contestants. Except in my version, they were both winners. Tall, broad shoulders, flawless skin, and three pairs of amber eyes trained on me. Three, because there was a third vampire hovering in the fog near the gate. I could just make out his faint outline if I squinted. I’d seen the three of them before the last few months, but never this close and never as a threat.
“Belle Harrison.” The one on the right said it with an undertone of a purr that trembled up my thighs. He wore a simple black T-shirt and jeans that hugged every curve of his impressive form. His eyes glinted in the moonlight and were outlined by lashes as dark as his short hair.
The one on the left wore black-rimmed glasses with a button-up white shirt, its sleeves rolled to the elbows. His blond hair spiked in all directions as if he’d just speared his fingers through it. When he caught me looking, he prowled away a short distance and then back again, a wild animal caught in a cage.
“Please.” I held up a hand to ward off the combined power of their hotness. “If I ever hear my full name again...well, I suppose it will be from that demon when he comes back on Halloween.”
“Vampires and demons don’t mix, but...we could sense him,” Black T-shirt purred.
“What do you mean you don’t mix?” I asked.
The wild animal vamp stopped his pacing, gazing at me sideways through his tumble of blond hair. “They’ve erected demonic magic so we can’t go anywhere near them, because we’re beneath demons on the supernatural totem pole.”
“Ah.” I was learning all kinds of things tonight.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what did he want?” Black T-shirt asked.
It wasn’t his business, but since I still needed to sort it out in my head, I figured there wasn’t any harm telling them. “Apparently the devil needs a bride, and I’ve been summoned for the job.” Honestly, I was getting tired of never being able to choose my own career path.
“It’s not your night, is it?” A grin broke out on Black T-shirt’s face, effortless, so beautiful that I dropped my stakes.
Nope. Never mind. I hadn’t been carrying one to begin with. My remaining ones were all tucked inside my clothes. Because this was how I usually faced off with vampires—defenseless. Geez, tonight really couldn’t get any better. And what was I doing engaging in conversation with them when I should’ve been stabbing them? It couldn’t be that they were hot personified. Couldn’t be.
“You’re thinking about slicing and dicing us, aren’t you?” Black T-shirt gave me another one of those disarming grins that tightened and lit my body up all at once.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could feel the vamp hidden in the fog watching me, anticipating my eventual lunge for the stake in my boot.
“That depends,” I said. “Were you thinking about biting me?”
“Yes,” the vamp with the glasses growled, and he licked his lips as if for emphasis, eyeing me like a cheeseburger.
If there was ever a time I wouldn’t mind being a piece of meat, it was right then, because the hunger in his orange-yellow gaze pooled a delicious heat between my thighs. Maybe, if I let him eat me, that would be where he’d start. In one of the very few books I’d found on the topic of vampires, it had said that some liked to bite during sex.
Black T-shirt glared at Glasses. “What did I tell you, Eddie? Keep it to yourself.”
“Fucking smell her, Jacek,” Glasses—Eddie—said.
I was wrong. This night could get weirder. My stake was definitely coming out if they tried to sniff me.
Jacek, the vamp in black, turned to me again. “Before you slay us, maybe we can help with your demon problem. We have a pretty extensive occult library back at the nest. Eddie here can show you around it.”
I crossed my arms and quirked my eyebrows. “You want me to go to your nest with you.” Had I accidentally stamped my forehead with “idiot” instead of “go away”?
“That’s what I’m saying, yes.” The way Jacek’s mouth tipped up at the end hinted at more than just library research on his mind.
Yep. Idiot. Because God help me, I wanted to see what else was on his mind. What the hell was wrong with me? Had it really been that long since I’d gotten laid? Carry the one, minus the zero, and yes, it had been that long. The last time had been with my downstairs neighbor, and he’d been so clumsy that I couldn’t be sure we’d actually had sex. There had been a lot of sweat and panting, and it was all over way too soon. Scratch that. It was over before it had begun. Plus, he’d left me with terrible hickeys that no amount of makeup could cover and had marked me with a tramp stamp until they’d faded.
Still, I knew zilch about demons, and the public library here didn’t even have Harry Potter because of some overzealous breeders who had a problem with good versus bad stories.
“If I go with you, will there be minimal sniffing?” I asked.
Jacek laughed, a pleasant sound that tripped up my heartbeat.
“No way I can guarantee that,” Eddie growled and flicked the tip of his tongue to his upper lip.
A heated flush crept over my chest, tightening my nipples into hard buds I could tell without looking were poking through my T-shirt.
A low rumble sounded from one of the vamps. The one near the gate shifted ever so slightly in the fog.
“If I go with you,” I said, “then I’ll flay you if you even breathe on me wrong.”
Jacek shrugged, all smiles. “We’re dead so...there’s not a whole lot of b
I sighed. “I’m going to pretend I meant that as an expression. I would appreciate if you pretended I meant that too.”
He chuckled. “Sure. No problem. No breathing. No expressive breathing. Just a library. You can even take some of the books home with you to read through.”
“Why would you want to help a slayer?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “What’s in it for you?”
Jacek exchanged glances with Eddie. “Maybe you can repay us a favor at some point in time. Quid pro quo.”
“Right. Quid pro quo.” It was crazy that I was even considering going to their nest with them, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued. I was armed with stakes. I could leave right after a little library research, and then go write my five-page economics paper I was so excited about. So excited I’d waited until the last possible minute to get started. One of Mom’s wishes was for me to graduate college, and even though she wasn’t here, I refused to let her down. Still, my sophomore year mostly online course load on top of my job at the coffee shop and slaying and training was killer. “How far do you live?”
“We’re vampires,” Jacek said. “We live almost right next door to the cemetery.”
“Of course you do.” I waved toward the gate. “Lead the way.”
Eddie raced toward the gate, his movements only a blur. Jacek turned slowly, his seemingly permanent smile cupping his full lips.
I followed, automatically trailing my gaze to his ass because I...needed to make sure it was still attached to the rest of him. Just doing my civic duty. Shaped to perfection, it flexed as his long strides ate up the distance. He moved so sensually through the fog like he did indeed own the night.
But I wasn’t so enthralled with him that I didn’t keep my surroundings in mind. The third vamp didn’t budge as I drew near, but I still couldn’t really make him out through the fog, either.
“And you are?” I asked.
“Sawyer,” he said, his deep voice a seductive kiss. “I’ll follow you.”