Seduced by Blood

Seduced by Blood

4.3 16
by Laurie London
     
 

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Deep within the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the battle for supremacy rages on between two vampire coalitions:

Guardian enforcers sworn to protect humanity, and Darkbloods, rogues who kill like their ancient ancestors…

Hot-blooded and hard-edged, Tristan Santiago has an uncanny ability to see beneath the surface—a skill that serves him

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Overview

Deep within the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the battle for supremacy rages on between two vampire coalitions:

Guardian enforcers sworn to protect humanity, and Darkbloods, rogues who kill like their ancient ancestors…

Hot-blooded and hard-edged, Tristan Santiago has an uncanny ability to see beneath the surface—a skill that serves him well as the Guardians' region commander. But when a deadly plot against his fellow vampires is uncovered, he must turn to the one woman he can't read: the beautiful yet mysterious Roxanne Reynolds, whose sensual presence soothes his tormented memories.

Roxy had put love before duty once before, with devastating results. But to root out a dangerous traitor in their midst, she must put her faith in Santiago, the one man skilled enough to break through her defenses. Posing as lovers, Santiago and Roxy work side by side—and discover a powerful craving that threatens to consume them both….

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dark and sinfully sexy....I'm totally addicted." -New York Times bestselling author Cherry Adair on Bonded by Blood

"A spellbinding look into a dark and dangerous world...readers will be thirsty for more."

—Publishers Weekly on Bonded by Blood

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373776696
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
07/24/2012
Series:
Sweetblood Series
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
4.32(w) x 6.46(h) x 1.03(d)

Read an Excerpt

When Roxanne Reynolds rounded the corner in her rental car, the last thing she expected to see in the headlights was a half-naked man stumbling on the side of the road.

She slammed on her brakes, pulled the car to the shoulder and fumbled to find the emergency flasher switch. Not only was this section of the Sea to Sky highway a terrible place to stop, but it wasn't exactly somewhere a sane person would be taking a walk, especially after midnight.

With his shirt ripped down the front and one of the sleeves missing, the man held up a hand to shield his face from the glare.

Her first thought was that he'd been involved in a car accident. But when she noticed he wasn't wearing shoes, she nixed that conclusion. Maybe a wild animal had attacked him. Given how remote this area was—the last town she passed had to be ten miles back—it wouldn't be too hard to imagine. She wasn't certain what sorts of predators lived in this part of British Columbia, but surely a bear or a mountain lion would be capable of taking down a full-grown man.

She found the switch and jumped from the car. But when she got her first big whiff of the cool night air, she knew instantly that it wasn't an animal.

Although some would argue that a vampire was an animal.

The sweet smell of the man's blood assaulted her senses, making her gums ache as her fangs prepared to drop. Running toward him, she automatically shut down her body's natural instincts to his very rare and highly addictive bloodtype and the sensation dissipated. Given her work as a scent tracker, she'd followed the trail of many sweetbloods, but unlike most vampires, she could control how they affected her without much difficulty.

The guy stumbled and fell to his knees just as she got to him, his legs clearly unable to support his weight any longer. He must have been running on pure adrenaline.

"Are you okay?" she asked, pulling him back to his feet. "What happened to you?" She'd come all the way from Florida to help out a friend, but this seriously wasn't how she'd expected her stint in the Northwest to begin.

Blood splatters covered what was left of his long-sleeved shirt, scratches crisscrossed his exposed skin—including his scruffy, somewhat pimply face—and an IV line dangled from a piece of tape on his arm. The fact that he was young, barely out of his teenage years, didn't surprise her. Sweetbloods rarely made it past the age of twenty, thirty at the outside, before a vampire somewhere came across them. The Darkblood Alliance made buckets of money selling vials of Sweet on the vampire black market. With just one taste, even those who had never killed a human before were likely to get carried away. A fact she knew firsthand but wished she didn't.

"They tried…to kill me," he choked, leaning heavily on her arm.

She didn't need to ask who—she had a pretty damn good idea who'd do something like this. "Where were you being held? How far away?"

"I don't know. It feels like… I've been…running forever." He put his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. "A few kilometers on the other…side of the creek.. just past those trees." Without looking, he stabbed a thumb over his shoulder.

Thick, old-growth forest pressed in on them from both sides of the highway. Unaccustomed to trees this tall and roads this twisty, she felt claustrophobic not being able to see long distances around her.

"I'm so dizzy…they took a lot…of blood." He pressed a fist to his forehead and his body swayed slightly. She held his arm tighter to steady him. "I know this is going to sound crazy but they…they were vampires." His gaze darted around wildly as if he expected them to pop out from the woods or drop from the trees.

That didn't surprise her in the slightest. She was half-tempted to track his captors herself, but that would mean the young man would have to stay here by himself. After what he'd just been through, she couldn't in good conscience do that to him, even if his memory would get wiped later.

"Okay, in the car. Let's get you out of here."

Other than the residual smell on the man's clothes, she didn't detect any active Darkblood odor in the immediate vicinity, but that could change in the blink of an eye. Maybe they hadn't discovered their prisoner was gone yet. If they had, they'd have quickly shadow-moved in the darkness, easily following the sweetblood scent, and retrieved him. Best to get out of here now.

"I'm serious," he said forcefully, as if she didn't believe him. His teeth chattered and his hands shook. "They kidnapped m-m-me in Vancouver…and brought me up here. They had fangs…black eyes…even their whites were black."

Darkbloods for sure, then, and not some random rogue who got carried away when he ran into a sweet-blood. A vampire's eyes would turn black over time when they only consumed blood. She put her arm around him, trying to comfort him as she steered him to the car. He was going into shock and he needed medical attention. If only there was a blanket in the car to keep him warm, but all she had were a few light jackets in her suitcase. She took off her hoodie and wrapped it around his shoulders, trying not to think about how insanely cold she was. "What's your name?"

"M-Mason."

"Well, Mason, I believe you."

His eyes widened. "You…you do? You're not just saying that?"

"Nope." And then, because she didn't want to sound patronizing, she added, "I know it's a fact because I've seen this before." She wasn't about to tell him she was a vampire and that she'd rescued lots of sweetbloods, including one an old lover had almost killed. The truth was necessary only up to a point. "Now come on."

Unarmed and most likely outnumbered because Darkbloods worked in pairs, she wasn't eager to confront the enemy if they stepped out of the darkness right now.

She helped Mason into the passenger seat, careful not to touch or focus on the bruises and scratches that ran up and down his arms. It was best to avoid contact with any of his blood, whether she trusted herself or not. "You're going to be just fine. I promise."

The medical staff at region headquarters would see that he was healthy before returning him to his normal life, the memory of his ordeal wiped from his head, and their agents could deal with the Darkblood situation themselves.

A pair of headlights pierced the darkness. Just her luck. They had company. Positioning herself between the young man and the roadway, she tried to block him from view. The last thing she needed was more human witnesses.

A red pickup slowed down and a man with a ball cap stared out at her. When she noticed the circular insignia on the side, her breath caught in her throat.

Cascade Search and Rescue.

Great. What were the chances that they'd simply drive past if they thought someone needed help? And what if they were actually out looking for this guy?

On the drive up here, she vaguely remembered hearing a radio bulletin about two hikers who'd failed to report back to their Whistler hotel, prompting authorities to organize a search. Maybe these guys were headed up there.

She smiled and gave a cheery wave to signify everything was okay. Manipulating the memory of one human who'd had an encounter with vampires was one thing, but multiple humans? Not only was she not skilled enough to perform a group mind wipe, but given that she hadn't taken any blood in days, most likely she didn't have the energy needed to perform one.

"Thank God, the authorities," Mason said. "Someone needs to…go after those monsters…who tried to…kill me before they do this…to someone else."

"I agree." The authorities, yes, but not the human variety.

Darkbloods often brought human prey back to their dens, where they drained their blood and disposed of the bodies. Given the IV line, that clearly was what they'd been doing to Mason. He was lucky to have gotten out of there, especially considering he was a sweetblood. But it was odd they'd locate their den in this remote area and in the same vicinity as the region office. This wasn't exactly a good place for an illegal blood siphoning operation and it was far from their clientele, who tended to stick close to larger cities where there were more humans to feed from.

Also, Darkbloods in northern areas weren't normally as brash or bold as they were down South. Because ultraviolet light in the Pacific Northwest was low for most of the year, the energy in the human blood supply wasn't as volatile. This in turn led to a less aggressive nature in the small vampire population who fed from them, including Darkbloods.

At least, that's how it worked in theory. She'd never been far north enough to experience it for herself.

Mason's hands couldn't fasten the seat belt, so she snapped it for him. But before she could jog around to the driver's side, she noticed that the red truck had eased off the road in front of them and turned around.

Damn. Her stomach sank like a pair of concrete shoes. They were coming to help.

Whatever happened to humans who didn't want to get involved? The kind of people who could watch a mugging from a balcony and not call the police. The kind who would hide behind a Dumpster, either too scared or too indifferent to come to the aid of a dying man who had helped them. It was just her luck that the truck was not being driven by that kind of person. An image of a similar situation many years ago stirred in her mind, but that one didn't involve humans. Cowardliness and apathy were common traits in both races.

But then she considered the flip side. The problem with being too concerned was that you could get sucked into doing something you hadn't planned, which, ironically, was what had brought her here in the first place.

Her friend and former student, Lily DeGraff, had told her about a pre-wedding trip she was going to take with her fiance and daughter—a trip that would have to be postponed because of her work with the Agency, the enforcement arm of the Governing Council.

Alfonso, her future groom, was excited to show them his ancestral home in the Hill Country of Spain as well as reconnect with his sister to invite her to the wedding this summer. Lily had dreaded telling Alfonso they'd need to change their plans.

As she listened to Lily's predicament, Roxy had recalled the last time she'd been in Spain. She'd also gone with a man she loved, but she didn't mention anything about it to Lily at the time. Some memories were best left in the past. No one had known the truth about Ian. Not their coworkers in the Agency, not his friends. Only his mother knew, and Roxy had vowed not to tell another soul. If the truth got out, it would've destroyed his family.

"He's going to be so disappointed," Lily had confided. "He's been looking forward to this trip for a long time. I'm not sure how I'm going to make it up to him."

Though Roxy had never met Lily's region commander before, Tristan Santiago had a reputation for being a hard-ass and totally inflexible. Maybe that was the issue. He wouldn't give Lily the time off. Roxy had worked with men like him, men who enjoyed their authority and weren't afraid to use it. Lily's commander needed to understand that he couldn't keep treating his people this way. Technically, Lily didn't actually work for him—she provided tracking services to his region. He couldn't expect to—

"No, it's not that," Lily had said when Roxy voiced her opinion. "Santiago would probably let me go if I asked. I mistakenly scheduled myself to teach a Tracker Academy prep-class and my students are counting on me."

Hearing the unhappiness in her friend's voice, Roxy had thought once more about her own long-ago trip. The beautiful countryside. The gracious people. The food. The vibrant energy.

So she'd offered to teach the class in Lily's place.

Getting involved did have its price, she thought now, and she sure as hell was paying for it. A dog barked inside the red truck as a man climbed out. Must be a canine search and rescue team. Good. She related better to people who liked animals.

She rubbed the onyx pendant around her neck, a habit she had when she needed a little luck. God, it was arctic-cold up here, especially without that thin sweatshirt. When had she last seen her breath fog in front of her face like this? If she had known she'd be outside, she'd have worn something warmer…like a heavy parka, ten pairs of wool socks, sheepskin boots, fuzzy mittens—

"What seems to be the trouble?" the man called, adjusting his ball cap as he approached. Mr. Search and Rescue wore jeans, cowboy boots and one of those quilted flannel shirts that acted like a coat. Clearly, a local who was used to the weather.

"Just picking up a guy who…ran out of gas." She rubbed her bare arms, trying to get warm.

"Out of gas? From what we could see when we drove past, we thought a bear had mauled him. You know, they have a serious black bear problem up here."

"Yes, I've heard that." Not really, but she didn't want him to go into a lengthy explanation about animal/ human interactions. She just wanted to be on her way with as little conversation as possible.

"So, he's okay?"

"Yeah, he's—" Something pricked the veil of her awareness and she jerked her head to the left. Something way off in the distance through the trees. A slight breeze ruffled her hair as her tracker senses stretched into the night like an arrow shot from a bow. Although the scents here were much different from those back home, there was no mistaking this stench.

Darkbloods. Two of them. Somewhere deep in the forest.

From the strength of the smell, she estimated they were a mile or two away. If they were shadow-moving, she wouldn't have much time.

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