Once Bitten, Twice Deadby Bianca D'Arc
Thrills, chills, and a smoldering sexy hero combine to unforgettable effect in Bianca D'Arc's irresistible new novel of paranormal romance. . .
When police officer Sarah Petit investigates a disturbance in an abandoned building, she expects to find a few underage drinkers. Instead, she's attacked by creatures straight out of a horror movie. Waking a week… See more details below
Thrills, chills, and a smoldering sexy hero combine to unforgettable effect in Bianca D'Arc's irresistible new novel of paranormal romance. . .
When police officer Sarah Petit investigates a disturbance in an abandoned building, she expects to find a few underage drinkers. Instead, she's attacked by creatures straight out of a horror movie. Waking a week later in a hospital, Sarah is visited by Special Forces soldier Captain Xavier Beauvoir. The zombies who attacked Sarah are the result of military research gone terrifyingly wrong, and Sarah's immunity to the virus makes her the perfect person to help Xavier eradicate them. But his smooth Cajun accent, whiskey-colored eyes, and dizzying kiss are risky to her in a very different way.
Sarah attracts danger like a magnet--and the smart, fearless cop attracts Xavier too, instilling a bone-deep need that's undermining his steady façade. Enlisting her aid is a necessary gamble, but vicious undead creatures are not the only enemy they face. And the only way to keep each other safe is to trust in an instant connection that could be their greatest strength--or the perfect way to destroy them both. . .
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Once Bitten, Twice Dead
By Bianca D'Arc
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Cristine Martins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSarah woke with a pounding headache. Little jackhammers were beating against the inside of her skull, and her eyes didn't want to open. The fog in her brain lifted all at once and she gasped. Was she safe?
She forced her eyes open and a beeping sound interrupted her panic. She was lying in a hospital bed, and the beeping came from a machine to her right. The pace of the sound had increased as her heart rate began to spike higher and adrenaline hit her system.
She was safe. No need to panic.
A doctor moved hurriedly into the room. "You're awake," he said.
Sarah had to wonder why he sounded so surprised.
"Did they get them?" Her voice was a croak of sound that made her headache even worse, but she had to know.
The doctor looked confused. "Did who get who?" He didn't wait for her to answer. Instead he moved closer and took her hand. "Can you squeeze my fingers?"
Of course she could squeeze his damn fingers. She proved it, making him wince. What she really wanted to know was if they'd gotten the ... creatures, or whatever they were, who'd done this to her.
"Good." The man slipped his hand out of hers. "How are you feeling?"
Again, he seemed surprised. "As a matter of fact, yes. I assume your head hurts. How about the rest of you?"
The rest of her?What was he getting at? Sarah assumed the doctor would be more interested in the condition of her skull than anything else. Apparently, she was wrong.
"Aches and pains. Nothing major. Can you give me anything for the headache?" She squinted against the bright hospital lighting. "And can you shut off some of the lights?"
The doctor seemed to consider her for a moment, then walked over to the wall where there was a dimmer switch. He lowered the light level, sending blessed relief straight into her brain.
"Thanks." She sighed as the pain diminished.
"Now, can you tell me more about your condition? Where else do you have pain other than your head?"
He was looking at her like she was a bug under a microscope. Sarah didn't like the feeling at all, and the dude gave her the creeps.
"I ache all over. Everything hurts. Sort of a generalized pain." She didn't know what this guy wanted from her. "How long was I out? Did they catch the kids?"
"Kids?" His eyebrows rose.
"Had to be. I mean, what else could it have been but a couple of kids in Halloween makeup?"
"You saw them?" The doctor seemed a little too interested in her response.
"Yeah, but not well. It was dark inside and I lost hold of my flashlight pretty early on," she hedged. Some instinct for self-preservation was telling her to tread lightly where this guy was concerned. He made her uneasy, but she couldn't figure out why.
She looked him over, committing his image to memory. Something about this guy wasn't on the level. Trapped in a hospital bed with all kinds of wires stuck to her body, she wasn't in any position to do much about it, but she'd remember his face at least. If and when the time came, she'd be able to give a good description of him.
He seemed to bristle under her scrutiny. His hands clenched and unclenched in a staccato rhythm, a sure sign of nervousness.
"I need to draw some blood for more testing." He came closer, pulling a needle from the big front pocket on his white lab coat.
Sarah tried to sit up but was still too weak to go that far. "Why? It's just a concussion. I'm not sick."
"Nevertheless"-the man was now hovering over her-"you need a few tests in case of infection. That building they found you in couldn't have been very clean."
Now she knew this guy was full of it. If he'd been at all familiar with her case, he'd know she'd been found outside, near her patrol car, not inside the building. She didn't see any reason for blood tests and she didn't like the idea of this man poking needles into her. Who knew what he could be injecting her with? There was no way she could tell if there was already liquid in the chamber of the syringe. For all she knew, he could be trying to drug her ... or worse.
"Doctor, I really do have to object. I got a bump on the head, not malaria." She tried to make a joke of it but he wasn't laughing. Neither was she as she backed as far away from the menacing man as she could.
Movement at the door. A nurse walked in carrying a clipboard. She was wearing a face mask and looked at the man in surprise over the edge of the cloth that hid her nose and mouth.
"I'm sorry, Doctor. This room has been put under quarantine. Didn't you see the sign? You'll have to leave." Her voice was both firm and puzzled.
"By whose authority? This is ridiculous! I'm going to have a few words with the chief of staff."
The doctor-if he really was a doctor-seemed to want to bluff his way out. Sarah wasn't buying it, but the nurse hesitated, her expression uncertain. That was all the opening the man needed to get himself out of the room. He pocketed the syringe and swept past the flustered nurse, muttering about incompetence and putting her on report.
The nurse dropped her clipboard into a slot at the foot of Sarah's bed and looked at her. "I'm sorry about that. It's good to see you're finally awake. We called Dr. Singh the moment we noticed you stir. I don't know why that other doctor was in here. The army ordered the quarantine and things have been crazy since they showed up. How are you feeling? Headache?"
The woman could certainly babble with the best of them, Sarah thought. At least she was asking the right questions as she pulled a penlight out of her pocket and checked Sarah's pupils. But why was the army involved? What in the world was going on here?
First things first. Sarah submitted to the woman's fussing, answering her questions.
"Bad headache," Sarah reported. It felt a lot worse after being stabbed with the beam from the nurse's penlight. "That's to be expected. You were out for quite a while. Dr. Singh is our top neurologist. He's been concerned that you were unconscious so long, but the others seemed to think it was to be expected."
"What others? I have more than one doctor?" Sarah had a hard time following the nurse's chatter. "How long was I out?"
The woman stopped moving to look at her. "Almost a week, dear. You were brought in last Tuesday. Today is Monday."
"You're kidding." It felt like she had blacked out just a few minutes ago, although there had to have been time to get her from the scene to the hospital. She'd expected the nurse to say an hour or two, but almost a week? It didn't seem possible.
"Sorry. It really has been almost a week. I guess it probably feels like a lot less to you, huh?" The woman looked kindly at her. The door opened and a dark-haired man in a white coat and face mask entered. "Here's Dr. Singh now. He can tell you more."
The nurse moved aside to let the doctor examine her.
"Hello. I am Dr. Singh, head of neurology." He used his own penlight to check her pupils, then looked at the readouts on the machines at her bedside before turning back to her.
Sarah didn't have time to acknowledge him as he bustled about. The introduction seemed a mere formality to him, to which he didn't expect a reply.
"You're doing well. How are you feeling?" The man was abrupt, with a thick accent. Sarah liked his no-nonsense approach.
"My head hurts. Muscles ache a bit. I won't be running a marathon anytime soon, but I'm okay."
While he'd been talking, a few more white-coated people had entered the room. They formed a line near the wall, and she realized then that she was in a single room that seemed a lot larger than the average hospital cell. Everyone wore masks and at least one of the men in back wore camouflage fatigues under an oversized lab coat that wasn't buttoned, with a distinctive bulge under one shoulder. He was armed. Now, wasn't that interesting.
What the hell had she stumbled into?
"Who was the other guy? I take it he wasn't with you." She looked pointedly around the room, making eye contact with the armed man as he stepped forward. Concern was written clearly on his face.
"What other guy?" His voice rolled over her, smooth and faintly accented.
"The doctor who came in when I first woke." She looked over at the nurse. "She saw him."
The nurse looked flustered. "I didn't recognize him and he wasn't wearing containment gear. He left right before you arrived."
"Seal the ward," the man in the camo pants ordered, and two men scurried out of the room to fulfill his command. "Nurse ..." He seemed to search for her name tag.
"Aspen. Hillary Aspen, R.N.," she supplied.
"Nurse Aspen"-he seemed to make an effort to charm the woman, or maybe it just came naturally to him-"I'd like you to go with Sam over there and tell him what this other doctor looked like. If you see the doctor in the corridor, I want you to tell Sam and no one else. Okay?"
The nurse visibly gulped. "All right."
She allowed herself to be ushered out of the room with Sam, who'd been among the people standing in back. They were down to three now: the man who seemed to be in charge, another man who wore what looked like a perpetual frown, and a woman who just looked frightened.
Dr. Singh examined her skull with his fingers, then reached for her chart to make a notation. He took a moment to study a few pages in the chart before turning back to her.
"You should progress well from here. I was concerned that you remained unconscious so long, but my colleagues seem to think that might have been caused by other factors. Regardless, your head appears to be coming along nicely."
The man's thick accent made it hard to follow his rapid speech, but from the satisfied look on his face she gathered that she was doing okay. He dropped the chart back into the holder and abruptly left the room.
Dr. Singh didn't have the greatest bedside manner. That was for sure.
The man in charge-the one in camo-moved closer. His eyes were a whiskey shade of brown and focused on her as if she were the most fascinating thing in the world. Sarah knew she looked like hell. Such a shame, when she was faced with such a handsome specimen of manhood. Even with the mask obscuring his face and the shapeless lab coat hiding his true form, she could tell there was something special about this man.
He nearly crackled with power. He had a presence about him. She had no doubt he was used to being in command.
"Who are you?" The question slipped out before she could censor herself.
"Captain Xavier Beauvoir, U.S. Army, at your service, ma'am." He took off the face mask, much to the surprise of the others in the room. It looped over his ears, and the significance of the Green Beret attached to his belt, visible through the open front of his lab coat, wasn't lost on her. This guy was Special Forces. What in the world had she stumbled into? She wondered again.
"Aren't you afraid I'm contagious?" She looked pointedly at the others who still wore their masks.
"Darlin', there's not much in this world I'm afraid of. What's a few little germs among fellow defenders of the innocent?"
"Defenders of the innocent"? Was he flirting with her? The sparkle in those whiskey eyes, the warmth in his tone and the teasing lilt of his words made it seem like he was. Was the guy nuts?
"You're a cop. I'm a soldier. We protect and serve. Each in our own way."
She thought about it for a moment and had to concede his point.
"So what brings a U.S. Army Green Beret to my hospital room with a team of doctors?"
His expression closed up. Like a door slamming shut. "Why don't we let the docs do their thing, and then I'll tell you everything I can. I also want to hear your take on what happened to you. Deal?"
Grimacing as her head began to pound again, Sarah nodded. "All right."
"Just one more thing. Did that first doctor try anything? What did he say to you?"
"He seemed more interested in the rest of me than my poor, aching head. He asked repeatedly how I felt aside from the headache. And he wanted a blood sample."
"Did he get it?" The question snapped from him like a whip.
"No. Nurse Aspen arrived in the nick of time. I asked him why he wanted a blood sample for a concussion, and his answer was vague and not very convincing."
The soldier's lips thinned to a compressed line. He was annoyed and pensive. Her instincts had been on the money. That first doctor wasn't supposed to have been in here. Though why the army was so interested in her case, she had yet to understand.
"Can you describe him?"
"Caucasian, five ten, clean-cut, black hair, dark brown eyes. White lab coat, white dress shirt with a button-down collar, khaki pants, worn-in dark brown boat shoes and manicured hands."
The soldier looked impressed. "That's the nice part about working with a police officer. You're way more observant than a civilian. I'll have some photos to show you later. I assume you'd recognize his face?"
"Good." He moved back. "I'll get out of here so the doctors can do their thing. See you later, Officer Petit." He winked at her and left the room.
She hadn't been winked at since she was a little girl, but somehow this guy got away with it. She had to stifle a smile as he walked out of the room. The sexy soldier had a really nice smile and his accent was drool-worthy, not to mention his chiseled features. He was definitely too sexy for his shirt. Problem was, he knew it.
Sarah had dated a guy like that once. He'd been a fellow officer, back when she was a rookie. Good-looking and charming, Rob had spent a lot of time admiring his own muscles as he worked out each morning in the gym. She'd fallen for his practiced lines and killer smile, and had the scars on her heart to prove it. Since then, she'd stayed away from the handsome brutes who populated the gym and attracted aerobics groupies like flies on dung. Give her a normal guy who didn't spend more time on his appearance than she did, and she was happy.
Of course, even those kinds of guys were growing thinner on the ground the older she grew. Sarah hadn't dated much in the past year and she hadn't been really serious about anyone in longer than that. She was devoted to her work and her small garden. She had a quiet life staked out for herself, although she missed having a man in her life, and the social activities that went along with dating. She didn't get out much.
The handsome soldier whose voice dripped with sinful invitation could save his winks and flirtatious banter for someone who was interested. Yes, sir. Sarah didn't want any part of him. Of course, it couldn't hurt to look. And he did have a really nice, tight butt.
Sarah spent the next forty-five minutes being examined by two of the doctors. These legitimate doctors had extensive paperwork on her already, in addition to that in her chart on the clipboard at the foot of her bed. These doctors tested each and every one of her joints, checking her reflexes, and asked detailed questions about specific items.
They also told her details about her progress. They let her know what had been done to her over the time she'd been out of it. The only thing they didn't talk about was her head, but she assumed the concussion was Dr. Singh's specialty, and he was long gone.
About the time she was starting to get annoyed with the medical jargon and all the poking and prodding, the door opened and Studly the Soldier came strolling back in. He hadn't replaced his mask and the lab coat was gone. Hubba-hubba. He certainly filled out those camo fatigues of his. She admired his physique even as she caught him giving her bare legs a thorough once-over while the doctors finished examining her calves, ankles and feet.
When they covered her again with the blanket, Xavier's gaze roamed upward to meet hers. A hint of a grin lifted one side of his sensuous mouth. He knew damn well she'd caught him ogling her, and his expression said he didn't much care. Yeah, he was definitely a scoundrel. She'd have to watch herself around him.
"So what about the bite?" Sarah refocused her attention on the doctors. They'd talked about every bruise and contusion on her body but hadn't mentioned the bite yet.
The doctors drew back and looked at each other, then at Xavier. Neither of the medical personnel said anything for a long moment.
"It's all right." Xavier stepped up to her bedside as he spoke. "I'll take it from here. Why don't you two go back down to the lab?"
Excerpted from Once Bitten, Twice Dead by Bianca D'Arc Copyright © 2010 by Cristine Martins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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