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By SHARON PAGE
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Edith E. Bruce
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLondon, Two weeks later
As a mortal man, Heath had adored women's breasts. They seemed to be a stroke of genius. Plump, bouncy, and tempting, and all the fun of playing with them pleasured the woman, too.
As a vampire, he found them irresistible.
For the ten years he had been Nosferatu, one of the undead, he'd been plagued with the yearning to sink his fangs into a woman's breasts and taste her succulent blood that way.
He'd resisted. But hell, it had been hard.
And now, he was standing in a brothel's salon while some foolish woman thought to tempt him by baring her generous bosom. Henna-red curls bounced around her face. She flashed a coquettish look to him beneath thick lashes, pursed her scarlet lips, then let her silk wrapper slide from her shoulders.
He knew he should look away. The gesture would annoy her and she would move on to other prey. Half the men in the room were watching that scrap of silk as it fell from her shapely shoulders and snagged on the swell of her generous bosom. She gave him a wicked smile. Then she shimmied to make the fabric fall free. Two stunningly large breasts popped into view—full, ivory white, and topped with nipples rouged to an erotic scarlet.
Blinking, blazing hell.
The two vampires who sat in front of the courtesan traded lusty smiles, then bent to the two full breasts on offer. But neither men suckled the aroused nipples; each drove their teeth into the plump sides of her breasts. What they wanted was blood.
The seductive, coppery tang of it filled the salon.
The woman gave a sensual moan of pleasure. Her head fell back. The vampires knew how to take enough blood to give her a thrilling sexual sensation. They wouldn't kill her. They would show her unfathomable delights by lightly drinking her blood, while stroking her nipples and her hot, wet cunny.
Years of abstinence reared up inside Heath. His cock reared in front of him.
No. He would not let himself give in to temptation.
Watching two men experience his fantasy had him taut as a bowstring and ready to snap. His hand closed too tightly on the glass of brandy in his gloved hand. With a delicate ping, the glass shattered. He dropped the remnants to a table and glanced around. Where in blazes had Julian gone? He needed to get out of here.
With her red-blond curls, this woman was not the one he was looking for.
He had made it to the door when the madam of the place, a demoness of some sort, sashayed out of the shadows and planted her buxom body in his path. "Ah, my lord. Have you only come to feed tonight, or do you wish to indulge in other pleasures as well?"
"Neither." Heath cleared his throat, hiding the two weaknesses that tried to claim him. Lust and hunger. "I've come in search of my brother."
Her plucked brows drew together in a frown. "But your brother is not a vampire, is he?" The stout woman was about forty. A stomacher crushed her belly flat and pushed her enormous bosom upward in a shelf of whitened flesh. That was the specialty of this brothel. The women within possessed the largest breasts in London.
"He is now. A mistake on my part—" He stopped. Christ, there was no need to explain his private hell to a madam. Swiftly he gave a description of Raine.
The woman shook her head. "No, he has not been here. But you must feed, my lord. I can sense the anguish within you." She reached out for his arm.
And though he had immeasurable power, Heath jerked his forearm back like a frightened boy. "I do not need it," he said curtly. "I wanted to find out about a woman. One who was involved with my brother. Blond—her hair is a dark gold. Very lovely. Blue eyes. Large ones."
"That could describe many of my girls. You shall have to look through them, my lord."
He glimpsed the madam's thoughts. Visions hit him. A thousand personal, useless visions—of gowns, jewels, the location of the keys to her locked drawers, the bare chest of a footman she slept with. Then one image came forth and pushed all the others away. A man's face—with auburn hair, laughing green eyes, a spray of freckles across his cheeks. Raine. And then he saw himself, with his brother.
Raine had followed him here once. A year ago, while his young brother had still been mortal and had no idea what he'd been walking into.
In her thoughts, the madam would naturally conjure up the last time she had seen Raine. Which meant what she had told him was the truth.
He saw images of several blond women in her head. Her thoughts flowed easily to him. He wants a blonde. Sally? She has blue eyes. If he wants a specific girl ... how can I tempt him to choose one of mine instead?
Heath drew back from the madam's thoughts, the shutters in his mind falling back into place like iron doors. Clang. Clang. Clang.
"Come." She moved to his side, a bright smile on her crimson lips. "Let us find the woman you are searching for tonight."
He knew the game. She wanted to give him a reason to stay, to peruse her voluptuous, half-naked tarts in the hope he would find one he couldn't resist.
"No, thank you. I'm not looking for a woman to fuck, but for one to question."
"How ... odd. My lord, I sense great agony in you. I know you do not wish to feed, but I fear it is becoming painful for you to deny yourself any longer. How long has it been since you took blood?" she asked sympathetically, but he knew her concern was feigned.
"That is far too long. Dangerously so. Surely you know that, my lord."
"I have gone longer." Three months. That had been the longest. And he'd been left so weak, he'd thought he was going to die. Then a servant had wakened him, had told him Raine was dying. That had forced him to leave his bedchamber, drink enough blood to regain strength, and then race to his brother's side to give him eternal life instead of lose him forever.
It had been months since he had come to a place like this—a brothel where the negotiations for blood were as common as those for pleasure. He had sworn he never would again. Not after the last time, when he had lost control.
The longer he tried to go without blood, the more violent the hunger became. It was irresponsible of him to walk amongst the human world without slaking his thirst for blood in the ... kindest way he could. He should accept the offer here, where he could ensure the safety of the woman who let him take her blood. But he turned away and strode for the door.
Julian, come out from wherever you are. We are done here.
And he cursed the vampire council for sending Julian Tremaine with him. Tremaine was supposed to be his overseer, but Heath spent most of his time looking after the lad.
The madam chuckled behind him. His preternatural hearing easily picked out the sound, even as he heard Julian Tremaine's footsteps racing down a hallway. "You will be back," she murmured to herself.
No, he'd drive a stake into his own heart before he weakened.
The last time he had fed at this brothel, he had escorted a voluptuous lass to the bedchamber. The girl had flopped on the bed, swept back her hair to bare her throat, and waited for him with dead and resigned eyes.
He'd never lost an appetite so quickly in his life. This became an addiction for the women, like gin or opium. They needed to be bitten, to know the pain, to feel the earth-shattering pleasure of climaxing while being fed upon. The prostitute had told him, with whimpers, that her last client had been brutal and rough. She had clutched his arm, despair in her eyes. She was terrified, but she needed him to take her blood.
He had done it, despite his revulsion—with this world, mainly with himself. The girl had cried while he did it, and her emotions flowed to him, making her blood taste sharp as vinegar, foul as rotting fruit. He had paid her extra, a few gold sovereigns he had tucked in her closed fist, and placed against her heart. Since then he had fed from animal blood. It left him weak, unsatisfied. But it meant he did not have to touch a woman who truly did not want to be touched.
Heath shook off the maudlin thoughts and strode to the bottom of the stair. He was here only in his search for Raine and for the woman he had seen in the pool. He grasped the banister and barked up the stair. "Julian, get your arse down here. I'm gone."
A servant hastily opened the door to him. Heath jumped down the front steps and strode away from the house. Three brothels along this street catered to the "nocturnal brotherhood"—the male vampires of London who chose to slake their thirst with the willing and leave their meals alive.
"Heath, wait—" Julian came running out of the brothel, retying his cravat, though the placket of his trousers still flapped where one button was undone.
Heath rubbed his temple. "Your trousers."
"Oh, right. I was in the middle of something. Could you have given me a few more minutes?"
"You were in the middle of someone. And no, I could not give you more time."
Julian licked his lips, flicking away a trace of blood. "She tasted good, but I hadn't got to the best part, where I got to be deep in her while I was drinking and she was coming around me."
Julian scowled. He was a youth. Only two-and-twenty. A pup within the nocturnal brotherhood, he had not even spent a full year as a vampire. "You promised me I could. And in return I agreed to look the other way about your activities tonight. This is not one of our five crime scenes."
This had to be the vampire council's sadistic idea of a joke. Julian had been assigned to ensure he completed his mission: find a succubus who had killed five English peers. But Julian was young, rebellious, and obsessed with sex. Julian was so like Raine, Heath had been forced to spend every moment of those nights reliving the mistakes he'd made with his brother.
They were supposed to be examining the places where the men had died, questioning other men who knew the victims for a description of mistresses and lovers. Track the succubus down, in other words. But he had to find Raine.
The vampire council would have him destroyed if he did not unearth the demon before the next full moon. But the council had also issued a death warrant on his rogue brother. And his brother's existence came first.
Julian's lower lip protruded in a pout. He did up his trousers and drew out a cheroot from a pocket. "What exactly are you looking for?"
"They had those back there."
"Not the one I wanted."
"How can you be so certain?" Julian protested. Holding a match to the cheroot stuck between his lips, Julian looked longingly back toward the brothel. "We should have stayed there longer, to ensure we explored all the women and made sure none of them were the succubus we're supposed to find."
"I was able to determine that without wasting time, Julian. And for the love of Hades, don't make that pouting expression again."
He couldn't let Julian know the truth. Tonight he wasn't searching for the succubus. He was looking for the woman he had seen in the pool. And he had to ensure the council did not find out what he was doing. He couldn't reveal any clue that might lead them to Raine first.
Most vampires feared the vampire slayers who worked for the Royal Society for the investigation of Mysterious Phenomena. But Heath feared the vampire council more. The slayers knew it existed but since it destroyed vampires they left it alone. But it had grown more dangerous.
"What is a succubus exactly?" Julian puffed his cheroot. "The old vampires on the council never told me."
"A woman who can drain your soul while she's fucking you."
The lad stared, still holding the lit match. "Blast!" He waved out the flame as it burned his finger.
Heath shook his head at the naive shock on Julian's youthful, good-looking face. "You should be careful whom you drop your trousers for."
"What would a succubus want with us, Blackmoor? We've got no souls to drain."
It was a good point. He had no idea what happened when a succubus made love to a vampire. The council would know. They filled themselves on rules and legend and lore. "Let's make our way to another brothel. This one is a scene of one of the crimes—" He stopped. A soft sound floated to his preternatural hearing.
A second gasp of fear rippled from the shadows of an alley. A street flare threw light upon a sign. Derwent Lane was the name bestowed upon the narrow space that could barely let two people pass by each other. The light annoyed Heath; it prevented him from seeing as well as he could into the dark length of the alley.
The sound had come from a woman. A subdued, frightened cry of pain.
He doubted it would be the woman he was looking for; he'd scoured London for a week searching for her. He would hardly stumble upon her so fortuitously. But becoming the undead did not mean a man left his honor behind.
Heath stepped into the opening of the alley.
"Come 'ere, love." The harsh, raspy male voice broke in on Vivienne Dare's tumbling thoughts as she hurried down stinking Derwent Lane, rushing further into the depths of Whitechapel.
She looked up just as a brute of a man stepped out of a doorway and blocked her path. He was huge, large enough to fill the narrow lane. A leather apron splattered with dark stains covered him. He crossed his arms over a massive barrel chest and leered as his piglike eyes swept over her. "Ye smell pretty, lass. How much for a quick swive against the alley wall here?"
The stench of blood and butchered meat hung around him. It turned her stomach. But what frightened her most was his size. Vivienne knew what a man that big could do.
She felt for the pistol in her pocket and wrapped her hand around the smooth handle. She wore a long cloak with the hood pulled low. A tangled gray wig hid her blond hair. She had drawn wrinkles on her face with kohl. She should look like a wizened crone.
But the butcher seemed to know otherwise, despite the shadows, her makeup, and her stooped walk.
This kept happening to her, no matter how she disguised herself. Five times already, on her journeys to the apothecary, five different, large, dangerous strangers had pursued her. Each time she'd had to fight for her life. But she'd never faced a man this big.
He licked his lips, moving toward her. His apelike arms swung at his sides. "Come on, dearie." Smirking, he ran his hands over the front of his apron, mimicking the shape of an erection. "I've got a long pole and it's all for you. Now be a good girl. I don't want to have to hurt ye."
But he did. Want to. She knew it. She could see it in his lecherous, mocking grin. In the wild excitement lighting up his small, ugly eyes.
Just stay calm, girl, and think.
She had escaped this world. Had pulled her way out of the slums and into Mayfair's glittering ballrooms with her wits, not simply her tits. She had become London's most exclusive—and expensive—courtesan. Then she had walked away from that world. For her daughter's sake. For Sarah's sake.
She had vowed she would never let a brute touch her—or hurt her—again.
And she did not have time to waste. She pulled out the pistol, extended her arm, and took a bead on the stained apron. "Step aside and let me pass."
His eyes took on a wild, hungry, fanatical gleam. "Put that toy away and let me 'ave at ye."
Toy. Was he mad? Dear God, she had thought this would make him retreat. She did not want to shoot him. But she couldn't lose time, precious time Sarah might not have—
The ape of a man lunged for her in her moment of distraction. Her finger was nowhere near the trigger, so the pistol was pulled from her hand with more ease than taking off a glove. All because she couldn't kill him. Now he would rape and kill her. And Sarah would never get the medicine and she wouldn't live through the night—
Vivienne slammed her fists against his wall of a chest. They bounced off, but it gave her momentum to hit him again. Her gun flew from his grasp and clattered across the cobbles. She kicked at him, driving her sturdy boots into his shin.
"Shit! Whore!" he shouted. And his fist came at her like a brick and snapped her head back so sharply, she fell against the wall. Tears sprang to her eyes. She'd never known pain like this.
And his fist was coming again—
She slithered down the wall and his hand smashed into solid brick. He howled in sheer fury. He was going to kill her and he might not pause long enough to swive her.
Vivienne darted to the side, but he caught her stupid cape and hauled her back. Her wig plopped to the ground, and he leered at her.
Excerpted from Blood Wicked by SHARON PAGE Copyright © 2011 by Edith E. Bruce. Excerpted by permission of APHRODISIA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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