Overview

Werewolves, vampires, and demons are myths, right?

There’s a reason you don’t know about them: The Team.

It’s their job to patrol the city armed with both magic and specialized weapons, ensuring the secret stays secret. Killing any creature that threatens human life.

J.C. Bailey has a natural talent for the job.

Unfortunately, a heavily ...

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The Team

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Overview

Werewolves, vampires, and demons are myths, right?

There’s a reason you don’t know about them: The Team.

It’s their job to patrol the city armed with both magic and specialized weapons, ensuring the secret stays secret. Killing any creature that threatens human life.

J.C. Bailey has a natural talent for the job.

Unfortunately, a heavily armed woman isn’t what most men are looking for in a date. At least not the men her mother keeps fixing her up with.

Nick Corellis, also a member of the team, and a man of many secrets, has suddenly taken an interest in J.C. An interest she finds hard to believe.

Especially when she can read his aura, and knows every time he’s slept with another woman.

And then there’s Gareth Rynne. A legendary vampire known as the Dark Knight, the most revered and feared hunter on the planet, always worked alone.

Until now.

Find out what happens in your city, when the sun goes down and the paranormals come out to play.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595783189
  • Publisher: Liquid Silver Books
  • Publication date: 2/26/2007
  • Series: Orion Authority , #1
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 191
  • Sales rank: 1,272,164
  • File size: 577 KB

Meet the Author

Lisa Andel was born in Iowa City, Iowa. When in grade school, her family moved to Illinois, where she found she had a knack for telling stories. Most of them got her into trouble. It wasn’t until she had lived in Ohio for several years before she finally found a constructive outlet for her creativity. Lisa writes contemporary erotic romance that features vampires, shapeshifters, dragons, demons, sorcerers, gods, and beings that you’ve never dreamed of before. You’ll even find some humans. Lisa lives with her lover, two mentally challenged dogs, and an ever-changing number of freshwater fish. Dead Again is her first published novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

J.C. Bailey here. I live in a town pretty much like yours. We've got a population of around sixty thousand souls. Mostly human.

We're also home to Hastings University, a school that has become exceedingly popular because of its kick-ass football team, and its reputation for having been the home of the artificial intestine. Now there's some bragging rights for you.

Anyway, I grew up with a very special bunch of boys. We came together because odd things kept happening to us. We stayed together for the same reason. Over time, the group expanded, and we eventually turned it into a paying venture. We simply call ourselves The Team.

It's our job to keep the human population of West Park from learning about the existence of supernatural creatures, as well as keeping those same people safe from them.

We are very good at our jobs.

And we're definitely not children anymore.

* * * *
Chapter One

Nick and I were both eyeing the last piece of pepperoni pizza. I slapped my right hand into his lap and caressed the length of his cock, distracting him while I scabbed the slice with my left. Hey, it was from Trecaso's.

He pried my hand off, but was laughing as he settled for a slice of mushroom and onion. Brad dropped another six-pack on the coffee table, and we all helped ourselves.

"So who's the new guy?" I waved my pizza in the direction of the kitchen where the man in question was sitting with the rest of our group.

"Indor Brackston. Moved into the old Anderson place a couple months ago." David spoke with his mouth full.

"Indor?" I slanted a look around the coffee table.

"Family name ofsome kind. Haven't quite gotten a straight answer out of him." Evan reached for another slice of pie while he spoke.

"I thought we got garlic bread." Dryden levered himself off the floor and headed into the other room.

I licked my fingers and slouched back onto the couch. We'd be heading out for the evening in about an hour. This was our planning time, figuring out who was going to work with whom, and where.

We weren't always this formal, but there'd been a rash of preternatural activity in the area, and that's what we did. Something that we were just drawn to, or drawn into. Had been that way most of our lives.

Nick slapped his hand on my chest, and if I didn't know him so well I'd have thought he was copping a feel.

"Can I see it?" His hand was already going for the neckline of my shirt.

I didn't help, just watched as his hand disappeared under the fabric. The knife he was going for was hanging in the center of my chest. I didn't quite manage to keep from jumping when his fingers slid into my bra, and cupped my right breast.

"Hey!" Not that I didn't enjoy it, but God only knew where Nick's hands had been.

"Just returning the favor," he said as he rolled my nipple, then moved his hand to the blade.

"Ass." Though I couldn't keep from smiling.

Nick snapped the blade and let it drop out of the tip sheath into his hand. "This is sweet." He studied the knife as he weighted it in his palm. "How's it throw?"

"Like a wet dream." It was the nicest blade I'd ever owned. The composite metal held enough silver to take care of the nasties, without my having to forfeit too much tensile strength. Its unique triangular shape caused it to fly like an arrow when thrown.

"Hey, Bailey, Corellis, you two are stuck with each other tonight." Reynolds scooped up the empty pizza boxes and headed towards the kitchen.

Nick slid the knife back into its sheath, then took his time replacing it inside my shirt.

I slapped his arm when he cupped my other breast and squeezed. "Hands off, Corellis."

He leaned into me, his hand still on my boob. "You know you want to."

My heart fluttered in my chest. Yeah, I wanted to, had wanted to ever since I'd lost my virginity to him, on a dare, a decade ago. But the man was a player. Had commitment issues, as far as I could tell. Hadn't ever had a girlfriend, but never lacked for company. "Not if you were dipped in Lysol."

His eyes darkened, dropping to my lips and staying there. We both noticed when my nipple beaded against the palm of his hand.

A wicked grin curved slowly over his lips and I held my breath. The rumble of conversation faded into the background as my awareness narrowed down to the man in front of me. He lowered his face until his lips were a whisper away from mine.

"I've dreamt about tasting you again." His voice was husky as he closed in for a kiss.

I dropped to my back and rolled off the edge of the couch, coming to a stop in a crouch facing him. I was vaguely aware of money changing hands between the rest of the group around us. Rolling my eyes, I straightened, then stood looking down at Nick.

"Come on, hotshot, let's go collect our toys."

* * * *

Nick followed me to my house, then parked next to me in the garage. I swung out of the cab of my pickup and trotted inside, pausing only long enough in the kitchen to grab a beer.

I made a quick side trip to my bathroom for the ointment, some gauze, and an ace bandage, then I headed for my armory. It's really my office, but I've got more weapons in there then anything else. Hell, I've got some of everybody's weapons here. We all left supplies at each other's houses so we'd always have something familiar to work with.

Nick strolled in, beer in hand, and headed for the cabinet where he stored his stuff.

"Can you give me a hand here a moment?" I held out the first aid supplies to clue him in to what I was asking for.

"Sure." He set his beer down on top of the desk and removed the supplies from my hands.

I pulled my T-shirt off, then turned my back to him. "Unhook the bra."

The back of the bra came apart and I shrugged it off my shoulders. I felt his hands, warm on my sides, then he stepped into me, curving his fingers over my breasts, while he nipped a path along my shoulder to my neck.

I leaned into his hands. At first to move the wound on my back and shoulder away from his chest, then momentarily forgetting myself as his fingers teased my nipples, and his lips and tongue caused shivers to race over my skin.

One of his hands started to track down my stomach, wrenching me out of the haze of lust that had settled over me.

"Just change the dressing." I'd meant to sound hard. Or at the very least indifferent. I don't think I managed either.

His hands were unmoving, one covering a breast, the other just inside the top of my jeans. We'd flirted off and on over the last ten years. Hell, I flirted with all the guys to some extent. To tell the truth, most of it was just in good fun, I'm not sure that the guys on the team ever thought of me as a girl.

Nick shifted closer, his chest brushing the wound, and I was momentarily blinded by the flash of pain. I concentrated on my breathing, trying to will away the burning sensation.

I hadn't been paying attention. Even with the pain I should have kept an awareness of what he was doing. He'd worked his hand down between my legs, and was preparing to stroke a finger inside of me. Christ. "What is wrong with you?" I tugged on his arm, unable to budge it. He'd never gotten this out of hand with me since I was sixteen. Might have had something to do with the fact that I'd stabbed him the next time he'd tried anything.

His finger plunged inside of me, causing me to jerk back against his erection.

"Nothing some hot sweaty sex won't cure," he breathed against my neck.

I felt my resolve weakening as he worked his magic in my pants. My body melted against his, my wound forgotten as he brought me closer. He bent his legs and pressed the hard ridge of his cock into my butt, as he added a second finger, his thumb brushing over my clit. I don't know if I would have caved or not. Right then I heard a couple of the guys talking as they came down the hall towards the office.

Nick cupped my sex, and for a moment I thought he intended to continue, audience or not. Then he sighed, and drew his hand away, stepping back to pick up the antibiotic cream. I bent over and placed my palms on the top of the desk, just before Dryden and Armo walked into the room.

Nick peeled off the old dressing, then sent Armo into the washroom for a soapy cloth.

"You haven't been changing the dressing often enough," he scolded.

"Kind of a tough spot for me to work." I shrugged.

Dryden was digging through one of the drawers along the wall.

"You got any weapons you wouldn't mind loaning to Indor for a couple of months until he can get himself outfitted?" He pulled up several pieces, glanced at them, then dropped them back into the drawer.

Armo returned with the cloth, and Nick gave me a heads-up before he pressed it to my wound. I gritted my teeth, and still a grunt escaped me.

"Sorry," he mumbled. "Shouldn't have turned your back on a demon to begin with."

"If you'll remember, it was his pet that did this," I groused.

He used the other cloth that Armo had brought to rinse the soap off, then patted the area dry. I didn't have to look to know that the three men were exchanging glances. I'd been out with a guy that had only been hunting with us for a couple of months. Didn't really know him, but everyone he'd hunted with said he did a good job. Until he'd been paired with me.

We'd come upon a demon and his erkat stalking a couple of teenaged girls. James had done everything right for the first part of the fight, but I lost sight of him when the demon had focused on killing me, instead of fighting the two of us at the same time.

I had the demon down, and was digging in my pouch for the saltwater mixture that I'd developed, with a little assistance from a mage, to eradicate the remains, when the erkat swiped its talons across my back. I was quick to dispatch the ugly little pet, doused them both with my mixture, and waited until there was nothing left of them.

James had also disappeared and, as far as any of us knew, he'd never been seen again.

Of course, we knew the demons didn't have him. We'd checked. Beyond that, we had no idea where to look.

Nick coated the cuts with the special ointment our wizard had concocted, placed the gauze over the entire mess, then wrapped the ace bandage around my middle to hold it in place. Ending high enough that his hand brushed the bottoms of my breasts.

When he was done, I flexed my back to make sure it was going to stay in place. I happened to glance at the other men when I turned to find my shirt. I almost shook my head when I saw that Dryden and Armo were staring in fascination at my boobs.

"You'd think you guys never got to see breasts." I tugged my shirt over my head.

"Not like those." Armo stated, shifting his feet, making me wonder if he were reacting to the sight. You know, down there.

"I was just checking out the knife; it's a new one." Dryden turned back to the drawer now that I was covered up again.

"And you guys wonder why we never get any new women on the hunt with us." I did shake my head then, and opened the cabinet where I kept some of my older stuff. I dug through it, and found a boot sheath and an older dagger. It was a nice dagger, but the newer ones were lighter and easier for me to use.

I also found some silver-tipped darts and a belt pack for them. After considering the other items on the shelves, I added a pouch of bluent a local witch prepared for us--not that there'd been that many rogue fae lately, but we'd have to supply the stuff to the guy anyway. I also threw in half a dozen vials of the saltwater mixture we used to dispose of the bodies.

Dryden was dropping all the items we were handing him into a soft leather duffel.

"You got any iron in there yet?" Armo was holding a custom Benchmade push dagger. Flipping through the other items on the shelf, he found its sheath. "I've got a boot sheath for it." He tossed the two items to Dryden, who plucked the blade out of the air with one hand while he snagged the sheath with the other.

"I think we've got enough." He zipped the bag closed. "You two hear about the lamias working the college bars?"

"I thought David and Russell were working that sector tonight." I was pulling out my own weapons and strapping them on while we talked.

"Armo and I are working it with them, we're just not sure four of us will be enough. I've got a feeling there's going to be more of them then we're expecting."

"Has anyone talked to Reinhold?" Nick finished buckling his back sheath, then slid a fourteen-inch custom sawback into it.

I wondered when Nick had gotten the knife, but didn't bother asking. He wouldn't tell me anyway, let alone tell me who was making this stuff for him.

I finished strapping on my knives. I had a dagger strapped to my right ankle, a Dieter/Ray fixed blade on my right thigh, and a set of Colt throwers on my left upper arm. Add the neck knife and my back dagger, and I was set for blades. At least for tonight.

I clipped on my inner pants holster for my Glock, and my ankle holster for the Taurus PT22 that Nick had given me when I got out of the hospital last. I grabbed a couple of spare mags, and clipped some darts along my waist over my left hip.

Since Dryden was talking about the number of lamias out, I threw a dozen of the special vials into a padded fanny pack, then I had to reclip the darts to the strap on the pack.

Figuring I was ready to go, I made eye contact with Nick and raised an eyebrow at him. He nodded, and we both turned to the door at the same time.

"Call us if you need help at the U," I shot over my shoulder as we left.

* * * *

Nick and I had been patrolling the northwest quadrant of the city for three hours when the call came in.

"Christ, Nick, I don't know where they all came from, there's got to be a couple dozen of them, at least." Armo shouted so loudly I could hear him.

Nick hung up, shot a glance at me, then smiled. "Couple dozen lamias just showed up at Mike and Terry's."

"Who called us?" I turned in my seat for a better look at Nick's face.

"Armo."

"How many of us is he asking to the party?"

Nick's cell phone rang again. This time he pulled to the side of the road when he answered. He was quiet for a moment then said, "Not that I'm aware of." After another moment, he disconnected the call. When Nick told me what was going on, I worked the calendar in my head to see if there was something significant about tonight that would explain the excessive activity.

Usually the lamias hunted in small packs, and there were never more than one or two packs widely spaced in a single city on the same night. They weren't nearly as powerful as their blood-drinking brethren which was one of the reasons they liked to keep a low profile. That they were drawing such attention to themselves made me think there was something else going on.

I didn't like not knowing what that something else was.

Reinhold still wasn't answering. I hung up, and thought some more about the situation.

"We're missing something here." I tapped my phone against my chin while I thought. "There's some reason that so many lamias are out tonight. I'm just not seeing it."

"Know anyone that's up on their vampire history?" Nick flipped the turn signal, and I realized we were running out of time.

"Not on my speed dial."

There were too many possibilities, an historical date, some ancient custom, the phase of the moon. I ran through my mind everything I knew about them. They were a lesser vampire, feeding on the energy that humans gave off during sex. What they did didn't kill humans, but could permanently cause damage if taken to the extreme. Rarely happened. They were also easier to kill then most of the other kinds of vampires.

So why tonight, of all nights?

Reinhold still hadn't answered by the time we'd pulled into a parking space on a side street a couple of blocks from the bars. I checked my gear, then hopped out of Nick's SUV. An almost electric current stirred across my skin, filling the air around me, even as I moved to meet Nick at the front of the vehicle.

"Do you feel that?" Nick asked as he dropped an arm around my waist.

"Yeah." I fell into step with him.

It neither lessened nor strengthened as we neared our destination. But the constant itch of it across my senses was beginning to irritate me. I pulled Nick to a halt.

"What the hell is it?" I rubbed my arms, surprised that the hair wasn't standing up on them. "It's irritating."

"Work with me here," Nick said, before he drew me into his body and lowered his face to mine. Our lips met, and the desire inside of me that I always had around Nick flared hotly as we kissed. He nipped me lightly, then stroked between my lips with his tongue.

With his free hand he brushed down my back, across my hips, to my buttocks. He kneaded my ass while he held me closer, tighter. I found my hands running over the muscles in his back, moving one down his spine then over the curve of his ass, the tight muscle there causing a rush of arousal to flood my core.

Groaning, I rocked myself against his erection as I clutched his buttock, ate at his mouth. He dropped his other hand to my ass, picking me up, dragging my crotch along the hot, hard length of his cock.

If not for the surge in energy around us, we would probably have shed our clothes and taken each other right there. But the sizzle of power that washed over me broke through my lust.

I fought my way free of his mouth, and worked my lips over to his ear.

"It's the lamias, Nick. They've found a way to amplify people's lust. They're feeding off the result."

Nick was breathing hard, still grinding my sex over his shaft. "Christ, I'm not going to make it." His voice was rough, his features harsh.

He put me down, wrapped his fingers around my wrist, and started dragging me back to his vehicle.

"Where are we going?" I had to trot to keep up with him.

He didn't answer me, just hauled me to the back of the SUV, keyed open the lock, and shoved me inside. I scuttled backwards as he followed me in. Shutting the door, he turned and stalked towards me on his knees, his eyes shining, visible even in the darkened interior.

He grabbed my ankles, and tugged, causing me to fall flat on my back. Then his hands were at my waist, quickly opening my pants. I wasn't helping him, but the urge to do so was building inside of me. He pulled one boot off, then the other, released the clip on my thigh sheath, then my fanny pack, and wrenched my pants and underpants down and off my legs.

I flipped the ankle sheath off, as anxious as he was by now to get down to business.

He freed his erection, shoving his pants down to his knees, then moved between my legs. Our eyes met, and for one brief moment, we knew we wouldn't be doing this, actually taking it to this level right here, right now, if not for the compulsion.

Then he fell on me with a hunger that was answered by my own.

I raised my knees on either side of his rib cage, and he was there. Plunging into me without preamble. But I was wet, very wet, and tight. It had been a while. The scream of my inner muscles as he cleaved his way through them only served to heighten my need. He bit my lower lip as he locked his arms around my shoulders in an iron grip. I bit back, digging my elbows into his sides, my fingers into his shoulder blades.

His cock plowed into me, my inner walls clutching at him, squeezing him. The nerves burning with pleasure, needing more.

I inched my knees higher. He changed the angle of his thrusts, and we both groaned. A heaviness in my pelvis started building, my clit throbbing, sending sparks of pleasure through me whenever the crisp hairs at the base of his shaft ground into it.

Then the release, an explosive absence of pressure that sent shock waves of ecstasy racing outward from my core.

Nick cursed, muttering a constant stream of expletives, just before his semen started splashing across my womb. He came in a series of short bursts, but continued to thrust, his shaft hard yet, his curses taking on a harsher edge.

I felt myself winding towards another orgasm, the muscles tightening, bringing me closer, but still building. He bit my neck, and I screamed as I exploded outward from my uterus. My vagina convulsed around his cock. Then I shattered again when he swelled and hardened further.

His body stiffened; he shouted an incoherent word, then he was spewing, driving his shaft hard against my womb, lengthening my orgasm. With a final slam of his hips, a final wash of release, he collapsed on top of me.

I was still twitching, having trouble focusing, when he levered his chest off mine, and stared into my eyes. "Can you do anything to help us with the compulsion?"

Nick was one of only three men in our group who knew I was more than human. It was one of the few things I didn't talk about. The only reason Nick knew was because I'd lost control of it when he took me to his bed when I was sixteen. Then again, I knew Nick's secret, too, and exactly why he couldn't help us out in this situation. His magic was too similar to the kind that we were fighting.

"Crap. I should have thought of that when the lust started getting to us."

He grinned, and for a moment I thought he was going to kiss me. Then his grin widened, and I knew the idea had occurred to him, and he hadn't said anything. Super ass.

"Better let me up so I can concentrate," I grumbled.

Forcing ourselves to withdraw from each other, we gathered and separated our stuff. Then I pulled my clothes and my sheaths back into place, finding it took a lot more effort than I would have imagined. All the while I tried to think of something I could do with my magic to counteract the compulsion.

In the end I fashioned what was basically a full body condom for each of us that would protect us from outside contamination. It was the best I could come up with on short notice.

"I think that should do it." I started scooting towards the tailgate.

Nick stopped me with an arm across my chest. "I think we should test it out."

He drew me into a kiss, which quickly became heated. When my hands began working on dragging his shirt off, my brain finally kicked in. I shifted my hands to his chest, and pushed.

He backed away from me, enough to see my face. "What?"

His eyes were hooded with lust, his pupils so large they nearly consumed the brown of his irises.

"Oh yeah." He smiled wickedly at me. "We've got to check out the bars." Then he brushed his knuckles down the side of my face.

I suddenly realized that he'd been testing me, seeing just how much desire I had for him without the compulsion.

"Ass," I muttered as I climbed out of the vehicle behind him.

* * * *

Nick had his arm around my waist again. We'd decided to try to appear like a couple, out on a date. I wasn't sure why we were bothering since we were both carrying weapons out in the open. Just two heavily armed lovebirds, that's us. Maybe they'd think that's how we got our thrills.

Why was I even thinking so much about it at all? I realized then that my shields were good, but not perfect. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad for the other men out tonight to think I was attached. It was a scenario I'd used with other guys on the team, and it worked.

I stumbled to a stop when we rounded the corner. Mike and Terri's was half a block down, on our side of the street. The sidewalk between where we stood and the bar held scattered couples engaged in various levels of sex. At least three of the couples were actually copulating. No, make that four; the last group held two males and a female. One of the males was in the middle of the bunch.

"Interesting." Nick's fingers were absently wandering over my hip.

"Different." I agreed with him, snuggling closer to his side.

"Why aren't the police doing anything about this?" Nick's hand stroked down over the curve of my ass.

I pointed towards a cruiser on the other side of the street. We could see feet in the rear side window, with fabric bunched around the ankles, and nothing else.

Nick started guiding me through the bodies, finding the closer we drew to the bar, the harder it became to move forward.

Suddenly he shoved me up against the nearest storefront, plastering his body up against mine. "Strengthen our shields or I'll be fucking you against this wall in a matter of seconds."

He smashed his mouth down on mine, and I struggled to keep my concentration, fought to be able to think enough to bolster our defense.

He broke the kiss so he could attack my neck.

"If I draw power, the lamias, or whatever's casting this spell will notice me." I was breathing hard, having difficulty forming the sentence.

He didn't answer me, just sucked on a section of my neck and ground his cock into my abdomen. I closed my eyes, felt myself sliding into the lust, but marshaled my will, and reached out with my magic, stretching outward along the invisible lines of it toward the source of all my power.

I touched it between the cracks in the sidewalk, and on the devil strip. I sank into the crust of the earth, and let it surround me, shield me. I coaxed it back along the lines until I had a steady stream of energy flowing back into me, filling me.

Then I worked it with my mind, shaped it to my desires, and let it fall over the two of us.

I opened my eyes as Nick's hips slowed, then stopped. He'd been dry humping me, his arousal still bound within his pants, while I'd been otherwise occupied.

Letting go of my neck, he took a deep, shuddering breath. "Damn. I was looking forward to fucking you in public."

"Pig." I figured if I called him an ass again it would start losing its effect. Oh, who was I kidding? Calling him an ass never had an effect on him anyway.

We continued towards the bar, trying not to be distracted by the sights and sounds around us.

"The big, bad guy probably knows we're coming now," I said, just as the man to my right tipped his head back and cried out, his hips working as he came inside the guy's ass beneath him.

I'd come to a stop and was watching the threesome, and when I realized that, I started walking again. I had to tug on Nick to drag his attention away.

"I've never seen anything like that before." He sounded awed, and I raised an eyebrow at him, wondering if he was more into men then he'd let on.

"No, hell no. I am not interested in men." He narrowed his eyes at me, never realizing I hadn't said the question out loud.

"Come on." I yanked on him again to get him moving.

We paused at the outer door, Nick resting his hand on the surface. To my knowledge, I was the only one of our group that knew that Nick was not entirely human.

"Ready?" He gave me a rakish grin and winked at me just before he opened the door.

We stepped into the lobby of the bar, a place the entire team had been before, so at least we were familiar with the layout. Without discussing it, Nick and I stayed together, and moved past the coat room on the left to the archway that led into the bar proper.

I reached ahead of us with my senses, stopping when I felt the vibrations in the air of a foreign magic. I tested around the edge of that power, tried to taste it, smell it, determine what kind of creature was the cause of it.

Nick moved behind me and pressed himself to my back, asking without words that I let him feel what I was. I opened a connection with him, a simple power connection that let him glide along my magic.

We hovered at the edge, a fine tension building within us, the air turning heavy, expectant.

Nick bent to my ear, and on a puff of breath, said, "Master."

I reeled in my power, knowing now, thanks to Nick, that we were facing a master vampire. A blood drinker, no less.

Reaching into my pocket, I dug out a couple of silver crosses I carried for this type of situation. Nick didn't carry holy items as a rule, since they tended to interfere with his powers. But we'd found, by accident, that if I possessed the item, he could not only wear it, but use it against an enemy without harming himself. At least for a few hours.

I doused my wrist knives with holy water, then nodded to Nick that I was ready. He threw one arm over my shoulder; with his other hand clamped down on my breast, he fondled it while we stumbled into the other room. Since Nick was taller, he fell back against the wall, pulling me against his chest while he kissed me, and checked out the competition.

Why we bothered with the charade, I'm not really sure. The master knew we weren't bespelled like the rest of the people, and he'd felt me call power from the earth. We certainly weren't fooling him with our little show.

Then again, maybe we were confusing him, a little. At least, he didn't attack us immediately.

Nick told me the position of the other players by drawing a picture on my breast. I thought it was pretty clever of him actually. He drew a square around the mound, placing his thumb at the lower edge to indicate our location. Then he spiraled his fingers upward, over my nipple, and splayed them out over the top indicating the general location of the supes.

I figured the middle finger he was pressing hard into my flesh represented the master.

He felt me drop the knife into my hand, and quickly swished his fingers over the center of my boob, letting me know there were civilians between us and the bad guys.

I moaned a "yes" into his neck, pushing lightly with my palm against his chest to let him know I was ready for action. The bastard had the nerve to lock his mouth over mine and kiss me thoroughly. By the time he let me up for air, I needed another minute to get my brain to function properly again.

Taking a deep breath, I stabbed him with a finger and narrowed my eyes at him to let him know not to fuck with me this time. He grinned wickedly, but loosened his hold, his muscles tensing in preparation.

We turned as a single unit. I knew he'd take the lamias so that I could concentrate on the bloodsucker. Restricting my focus to that single individual, the couples writhing on the floor between us melted away.

The vampire stood facing me, his tall body sleek and leanly muscled. He had long, fine blond hair, and ice blue eyes that I could see clearly across the darkened bar. It should have given me pause, since the phenomenon indicated he was potentially powerful enough to capture my gaze. But my heritage allowed me, among other things, to enjoy a certain immunity to a vampire's mind control; I just had to hope it held up here.

I smiled at him, knowing exactly the kind of smile that curved my lips. It was the smile I wore in anticipation of a good fight; the kind of smile that never reached my own hazel eyes, which would be burning a brilliant emerald green right now.

I sauntered across the room, stepping around obstacles without taking my eyes off the vamp. I felt the cool pressure of his magic as he sent it out to greet me. The earthy scent of the grave swirled around me, my own magic rising up to caress his.

"Come to me, little one. Come and let me kiss you." His voice whispered in my mind, but unlike a regular human's, it didn't seduce. Too bad for him.

I continued walking towards him and didn't stop until I was standing almost close enough to touch him. If he'd been shorter, I'd have stood even closer. I wanted to contain what I was about to do, so no innocents were caught in the backlash.

A look of triumph passed over his face as he closed the distance between us. He bent his head, his hair spilling over his shoulders, as he lowered his mouth to mine. When our lips met, I brought my power up, drawing on the threads I'd created outside, feeding the energy, stoking it higher.

He delved inside my mouth with his tongue, and I had a moment's regret that I was about to end the existence of a man who knew how to kiss so well.

"I want to taste you," he breathed against my mouth. His mind sent me the suggestion that I wanted to feel his fangs sink into my neck, feel the incredible arousal that only a blood drinker could create with his feeding.

"Tell me your name," I whispered back, noticing the flare of his eyes as he realized I wasn't as far under his seduction as he'd thought.

He should have taken the opportunity to step away from me. Instead he held me tighter, and raised the level of his own power. He pushed harder at me as he crushed his mouth down on mine.

"You think of nothing but how good it will feel to have my cock thrusting inside you while my kiss brings you over and over again."

"Nice visual," I shot back. "Whether you give me your name or not, you are bound by the same covenant we all are." I referred to a covenant that had been instituted a couple of centuries ago as the number and variety of supernaturals increased among the human population.

He raised his head and blinked at me. "Why do you kiss me?"

I shrugged. "You do it well."

"Yet you would still try to kill me?" He sounded confused.

My smile returned. "In a heartbeat. You broke the rules, you pay the price."

I watched him with all my senses as his thoughts raced behind his eyes. I was ready when he made his move. He stepped back, drawing his powers sharply to a fevered pitch, then sending them spinning towards my head.

His was the power of the dead earth, mine of the living. In a rush of sensation, mine rose in a wave and engulfed his magic, enclosed it, consumed it. I lanced a spear of energy at the center of his chest while I snapped my wrist knife back into its sheath, then slapped my thigh, drawing my Dieter/Ray.

I was aware, on a separate level, of Nick engaged with the lamias. I felt the life force of the humans in the room, knowing I needed to advance on the vamp to take myself out of their range.

His second blast of magic washed over me, lifting the hair on my head and my arms.

I laughed, a cold, throaty sound that I'd been told sent chills over lesser prey. His eyes became two burning pits as he let the change overtake him. His features sharpened, hardened; his body became denser, his fangs longer. His fingers sprouted claws three inches in length, which he slashed in front of his body to keep me from moving too close.

I circled him, drawing him farther into the hallway that led to the restrooms, reaching out in search of the gate he and the other vamps had used to enter the club. I found it behind me, near the rear door. The vampire chose that moment to lunge at me, one great-clawed hand slicing lethally through the air in a downward arc that would have opened me from shoulder to hip if I'd been standing there. I flinched backwards, narrowly missing the deadly talons, then swung my blade.

Because of his height, I went for a crippling blow, not a killing one, not yet. I caught him in his exposed side, the edge cleaving cleanly between his ribs.

He howled, swiping at me with a series of lightning quick slashes. I left the blade in his side, unwilling to take the time to tug it out before I danced backwards.

I felt a disturbance in the air behind me, then the unmistakable presence of another vampire. I threw a wall of energy at him while I reached over my shoulder and withdrew my dagger. The new arrival shattered my magic with a brittle crash of his own. I changed angles with my dagger, realizing I had only moments before the new vamp would join the fight.

Sighting on the spot in the center of his chest, just beneath his rib cage, I flashed my magic into him, following close on its heels with the tip of my blade.

Striking up and under the bone work, I felt when the silver in the metal entered his heart. My power blasted into the wound. I held the hilt tight, knowing my magic would take it from here as long as I kept the dagger where it was.

I sensed movement behind me and had barely skipped sideways when a shaft of heat streaked past where I had been standing. I tasted the residue of its passing, noting this one was older, farther from the grave. This magic I could not feed off of like the others.

The vamp at the end of my blade ignited in a flash, his magic rushing down my sword and into me. As he turned to ash, I faced the new threat, fairly vibrating with the influx of power.

He was taller, broader, and darker than the first one had been, with black wavy hair that fell artfully around his face and halfway to his waist. His features were too strong for beauty, but deeply masculine, and extraordinarily handsome.

I raised the sword with one hand, and my magic pulsed.

He raised his hands in front of himself, and held them palms out in the universal gesture of "wait."

"What has my cousin done?" His deep voice stroked over me.

"He cast the entire neighborhood under a lust, and brought a couple dozen lamias in for a feast."

He shook his head, and moved several steps closer. I raised my blade, weaving it lightly from side to side to remind him it was there.

"I'm Gareth. Though you may know me better as the Dark Knight."

Rumors, I had thought they were only rumors. "You don't exist."

His self-deprecating smile looked genuine. "I believe I do."

The Dark Knight was legend. The tales told of this super-hunter that worked alone, taking care of some of the deadliest threats to both humans and supernaturals.

Since he wasn't actively attacking me, I put up my sword, then leaned back against the wall, crossing my arms under my chest, allowing my hand to rest close to my gun. "Huh." I scanned him from head to foot, impressed with his physique, but not sure of his claim.

He came to stand in front of me, his size more impressive up close. "You don't seem particularly impressed."

"I have no way to verify your claim." I shrugged, trying to ignore my body's reaction to his nearness.

He studied my face, a confused expression on his own. "Have I no effect on you?" He placed a hand on the wall next to me, and leaned closer. "None at all?"

I had to crane my neck to look into his eyes. I gave him credit for not using any vampire wiles on me, though I had no idea what was blocking him from feeling my reaction to his body.

"You're an attractive man." What the hell was he expecting?

He choked on my comment, his other hand finding the wall, caging me in. "I wonder." He brought his face close to mine. "Perhaps..." He captured my mouth in a heated kiss.

I'd thought the blond knew what he was doing with his mouth. This man stole my will with his lips and tongue. Opened me, possessed me, with no other contact than his mouth on mine. Had he thought to press his body against me, I think I would have come.

He broke the kiss and studied me again, his eyes narrowing. "Would I find you wet, and ready for me? Are you not aching for me to fill you?"

"Uhhh..." What was I supposed to say? I was spared having to answer when Nick walked up. "Everything okay here, Bailey?"

"Fine." I glanced at him over Gareth's arm, getting a grip on my thoughts. "This one says he's the Dark Knight."

"He is." Nick made it a simple statement.

I gaped. "You know him?"

Nick shrugged, letting me know this was another aspect of his life he wasn't going to talk about. "I'll go check in with the team over at Flannery's. Wrap it up here, and get your ass over there." He gave me a hard look, and if I didn't know better I would have said he was jealous.

"I'll be right behind you." I turned back to the vampire, wondering what he planned to do next.

He was giving me a puzzled look. "I don't know what to do," he admitted in a frustrated whisper.

"I don't think I'm following the conversation." Had I missed something?

His eyes focused harder on mine, giving me the full brunt of his attention, and it shot a jolt of arousal straight to my crotch.

"I want you." He still sounded confused.

My vagina clenched.

"I've never run into a woman that I couldn't read before."

"Spit it out, whatever it is you're trying to say. I've got to meet the others."

He closed the distance between us again, this time taking me into his arms. Smashing my body against his, grinding himself into my stomach so that I had no doubt what he desired.

He kissed me, then trailed his lips along my jaw, down the side of my neck. He hovered over my pulse point, opening his mouth and planting his fangs on my skin. He stayed like that, neither piercing the flesh, nor backing off, for several beats of my heart.

It took everything I had not to squirm in his embrace. I wanted to rub myself against him like a cat.

He worked his way back to my mouth, stroking a hand up my side, cupping it over my breast. He deepened the kiss, pinching and rolling my nipple while he rocked his erection against me.

I couldn't stop the moan that escaped me, his body relaxing into mine at the sound.

"I could come to you later." His voice shivered over my skin.

"Look, Gareth, just because I find you attractive doesn't mean I'm going to fuck you."

"Why not?" he asked, surprised.

Crap. "Haven't you spent any time around humans?"

"What's that got to do with it?" He narrowed his eyes at me, and I knew that he knew I was more.

"Everything." I rolled my eyes, and started pushing on his chest to get him to back up.

He didn't take the hint. "Tell me."

"I tend to be wary of strangers. Having sex with someone requires a certain level of trust with me, and I don't give my trust away. So unless, or until, you earn that trust, no sex."

"You must go days, even weeks without having sex." He sounded appalled by the idea.

"I've been known to go months without it."

He gasped. I swear to God he gasped.

"Look." I dug in my pocket until I found a scrap of paper and something to write with. I jotted my cell phone number down, and offered it to him. "That's my name and phone number. You want to get to know me, give me a call."

He stared blankly at the paper. "I have to date you to get you into my bed?" He looked up at me, incredulous.

"Honey, you have to date me for me to even consider getting into your bed."

I left him standing there, totally bewildered.

* * * *

Flannery's was next door to Mike and Terri's. I was happy to note that all the copulating couples had disappeared. I ran into Nick in the foyer of the bar, an irritated expression on his face.

"About fucking time. What took you so long?" he growled at me.

My eyebrow rose at his attitude. "He couldn't understand why I wasn't throwing myself at him."

Nick grimaced at me. "What?"

"He had a real hard time accepting the fact that I wouldn't just hop on his dick right there in the bar." I tried to move past Nick into the place, but he blocked me with his body. "I had to explain to him that if he wanted me to even consider it, he'd have to take the time to let me get to know him better."

At least that brought a grin to his face. "The Dark Knight, legend among immortals, most eligible and sought after male on the planet, would have to date you?"

I gave him my "innocent" look. "Yeah, that pretty much sums it up."

Laughing, he threw his arm around my shoulder and led me into the main part of the bar.

The guys all called out "J.C." or "Bailey" as we neared the back corner they'd appropriated for our group. Nick planted me on the bench seat of the booth and slid in beside me. Indor, the new guy, and Brad both sat across from us. There were three tables shoved together, next to the booth, which held the rest of our crowd.

"Everybody do okay tonight?" I asked the table in general.

"We lost about half the guys to the compulsion, but Scott remembered the salve, and we got them back before..." Brad trailed off, and I figured I knew what he wasn't saying. Before they fucked each other.

"We get a count on the bad guys?" I snagged a breaded ball of something that was sitting in a basket on the table.

"Twenty lamias, one master vamp, one lamia enforcer." Nick picked up a jalapeño pepper and popped it into his mouth.

"Heard you met the Dark Knight," Dryden yelled from the other table.

"Yup," I shouted back, going for another breaded tidbit, having found it to contain some really tasty cheese.

There were snickers from the other tables. "So that's what took you so long to get over here," one of the guys said.

Nick stilled beside me, his hand dropping to my thigh, his fingers wrapping around it possessively. I shot him a look, but he was watching the other table.

"So, what's he like?" I had to assume that Indor wasn't asking about the Knight's sexual prowess. Though I raised my eyebrow at him before I answered.

"From what I could tell, he's a decent guy."

He'd only taken one shot, and in retrospect he might very well have been shooting the blond vamp that was causing trouble.

"Did you see him in action?" Brad leaned eagerly forward in his seat.

"Not really." I took a sip of my beer. "Nick and I had pretty much wrapped up the situation by the time he showed up."

The evening wound down after that, and people started leaving.

Nick finally got up from the booth, reaching a hand back for me. I took it, and let him help me to my feet. He slung his arm around my back, and we headed for the door.

When we got back to my house, I didn't think anything about it when he followed me inside. I headed straight for my bedroom, stripping my weapons and clothes off as I went. I turned the water on in the shower, and while I waited for it to heat up, I unwrapped the ace bandage and the gauze beneath.

The water felt wonderful, though it stung when it trickled over the scratches on my back.

I lathered shampoo in my hair, strong hands joining mine on top of my head. I was too tired to argue the wisdom of this with Nick, so I let him bathe me. Let myself enjoy the feel of his hands gliding over my breasts, the tingle of his magic across my shoulder and down my back as he found a way to numb my pain, the electricity that he generated when he dug in between my legs.

We were eating at each other's mouths by the time we'd finished washing up. We stumbled out of the shower, across the room, and dove onto the bed. Nick came over me, impatiently tugging my legs around his waist, nipping at my neck, my jaw, my lips. I bit him back, then laved the stinging spots with quick brushes of my tongue.

He drove himself inside of me with one mighty flex of his hips. My back arched, and I cried out with the pleasure of it. Then he was driving into me in a frenzy.

I blew, and still he continued pumping.

I was screaming incoherently, my body wracked with another orgasm, before he joined me in release. His power, so different from my own, blasted into me with his cum. It shot straight up my body, and through my heart. He dug into me, and spewed again, his magic staying silent. When he'd finally deposited everything he had to give inside of me, we collapsed together.

Exhaustion stole over me, and I rode the wave, barely noticing when Nick moved to my side, and curled his body around mine.

As my eyes were drifting shut, I could have sworn that I saw the Dark Knight, leaning against my bedroom wall, a look of satisfaction on his face.

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