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About the Author
Today, Dee is a bestselling, award-winning author of over thirty novels and novellas, including those penned by her erotica-writing alter ego, Morgan Sierra. To buy the next book in this series, please visit Dee's website at deecarney.com/bookshelf. To find
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The only reason he noticed her was because of the depth of despair shining from deep-set blue eyes. Hunched against the side of a red brick wall, she looked a little too thin. Hungry in a way that didn't remind him of food. The poor woman might have been attractive in her day, but her pale skin seemed to have lost a little of its luster. Just like those horribly sad eyes.
Something about her intrigued him though. Almost enough to make him forget about going inside, where already the scent of the nightlife called to him. The smell of densely packed bodies. Lust. Sin. As he waffled, those enticements made up his mind for him.
He'd come to the nightclub to get laid. Period.
Bast Kent strode inside without bothering to look back, the woman and her haunted eyes forgotten within seconds.
Ignoring the seductive looks a few women gave him on the way in, he went straight to the bar, twisting in between bodies that bumped and gyrated. Touched and fondled. Danced, so they called it.
Laying a crisp hundred on the spit-shined wooden surface drew the attention of a bartender without having to open his mouth to back it up. Benjamin was always a good friend to have in a place like this. A place he didn't frequent often. There were better venues for finding willing booty. But he had his pick of slurries in a club. And slurries were so much easier to bleed "Armadale. Neat."
The blonde woman tilted her chin and filled the drink order without saying a word to him. At the same time she stopped pouring with her right hand, she used her left to palm the c-note.
He slammed down the vodka, savoring the smooth burn of alcohol sliding down his throat and heating his belly. If he needed another, he'd return, but with as much adrenaline pulsing through him tonight, he wanted to get sexed up sooner rather than later. No pretending he was interested in buying anyone a drink of any kind, especially not a Goddamned cosmopolitan. Definitely no small talk about what she did for a living or what she liked to do for fun. Just one good, long fuck. In the club's restroom, in her car, her place. Whatever.
Bast searched through the writhing bodies of people on the dance floor, looking for just the right woman to bed that night. A human, preferably.
His teeth pulsed with a familiar ache, and his favorite appendage thickened at the impatient prospect of a long night of sweaty sex and decadent feeding. For whatever reason, his libido had kicked into high gear over the past couple of weeks and in this past week particularly. No matter how many times he alleviated the problem himself, he never felt relieved. So, if his own hand wasn't going to solve the problem, he might as well let a woman with legs from here to eternity solve it for him.
No, this place wasn't his scene, but it would serve the purpose. Undulating bodies moved like liquid to the beat of the blaring music. He scented their perspiration and a heady mix of alcohol and sex on the dance floor.
A subtle haze of fresh blood drifted to him from time to time and he knew he wasn't the only vampire on the hunt here. A lot of the humans were already so high or inebriated with alcohol, they were ripe for picking. Low-lying fruit on a tree. And Bast was so hungry.
Yeah, he should give a fuck about using them, but it's why their kind existed. To keep him and his kind fed and sated. In exchange, they were kept very unaware of the turmoil that raged on around them. Bast and warriors like him kept the danger of other creatures of the night far away from their doors.
He signaled to the bartender. "Another."
The vampire nodded and went to work pouring the next one. Had to be another vampire simply because the place was too noisy for people to hear themselves think above the din, much less a few feet away.
"Hey, sweetheart. You buying?"
Bast turned to the exotic woman at his elbow. She pressed a finger into one ear and leaned close enough that he was afforded a healthy blast of her warm breath when she shouted. Some Asian ancestry ran through her genes. Bone-straight hair and distinctive eyes declared it for her. The makeup around her eyes had been plastered on, the lipstick she wore too bright, but she was pretty. And based on the way she ogled him, about to become the next notch in his bed post.
"Just out playin' the game," Bast replied. No sense in getting her hopes up for anything more. She'd either stick around or head for deeper pockets. He swallowed down the vodka chaser, already scanning the crowd for another woman in case this one didn't pan out.
"Yeah?" She edged closer, allowing her breasts to brush his torso. "What are you packing?"
Bast's lips twitched with amusement. "Enough. You interested?"
She peered past him, and her moment's inattention gave him the opportunity to notice too-large pupils. The chick was high and whatever she floated on was taking her for a nice ride. When he fed from her later, it should give him a nice momentary buzz too. The prospect of fucking her became that much sweeter.
A few weeks ago he might have felt like a shit for taking advantage of her state, but lately, he couldn't stop the craving. It had become almost unbearable. He needed to feed, and she'd do nicely.
"Today's my birthday," she said with a smile. "Why the hell not? What's your name?"
The polite thing to do would have been to at least offer a "happy birthday." At the very least, toss her a fake name to call him by. Instead, Bast took her by the hand and wound them through the throng of bodies and into the back. His gift to her would be allowing her some dignity by staying out of the restrooms, but against the wall in a dark corner proved an appealing idea.
"Always had a thing for the strong, silent type," she muttered. Sensitive hearing picked up every syllable over the rhythmic beat of music. Bast grinned to himself. He didn't have the abilities of full-born vampires, but his lineage offered him enough bennies.
The smugness faltered for a moment when he thought of what he was doingwhat he was about to do.
He was going to feed, yes. But while he drank from her, another need, some primal call, demanded to be sated. The urge taunted him, and he felt an addiction to something he'd not yet partaken of. Something in the back of his mind tugged at him, whispered of caution. Ravenous Bast ignored it.
By the time they'd crossed the room, he couldn't get them away from the crowd fast enough. He swore he felt the blood race through every vein. Inside of him swelled with life, as if something within was trying like hell to get out. The urge, the gnawing in his belly, the craving became almost unbearable. He staggered as a wave crashed into him. Heat flared like summer in the air-conditioned room.
"Hey, you okay?"
Bast nodded, hiding a grimace behind tightened lips. "Fine. One shot too many."
Vampires didn't get inebriated off two shots of booze, and they sure as shittin' didn't get sick. Whatever this was almost had the ability to frighten him. Almost.
The woman's grip on his hand tightened, but she kept pace with his long stride, winding with him through bodies and toward their ultimate destination. He knew once he got them there, he would feel better. He would feed, and the sensation would die away.
He'd been training too hard. Ignoring his basic needs for too long. That his body finally retaliated made sense.
"Are you sure?" His companion might have been tipping toward oblivion a few minutes ago, but a new edge to her voice at once made her seem sober. "You're kind of warm."
She tugged on his hand, forcing him to slow. He caught the concern on her face when he glanced at her over his shoulder. "You might be coming down with something, sweetie. Maybe tonight's not your night for this."
Bast's eyelids felt heavy, his body sluggish. "I'm fine," he mumbled.
Vampires don't get sick, he tried to tell himself. Then his stomach lurched, an immediate reminder that as often as he passed himself off as a full-born vampire, he was anything but.
Putting one foot in front of the other took all of his strength, but somehow he managed to stagger forward. To the dark corner. To a door. Through it.
The cool night air blasted his face, and he almost moaned in pleasure. It felt so good against his skin. He'd begun to burn up, and the night kissed away some of the hurt.
The scent of a nearby garbage bin made his stomach roll again, and this time when his stomach heaved, everything he'd consumed lately spewed forth, covering the ground until it shone crimson. All that blood, gone to waste.
The woman screamedhe still held her hand, needing it like a lifelinebefore blazing heat swallowed him whole.
Alice looked toward the commotion coming not far from where she crouched. She'd been peering into a crumpled white sack, hoping the grease stains on the outside meant still-edible fried food on the inside. She'd stopped near the parking lot between the two buildings in case she had to try again, if the bag's contents were rancid. In three days, she could afford to shop in a grocery store, buying manager's specials on things past their expiration date or anything a dollar or less, but until then she had to eat. No matter where it came from.
With a mystery illness running its course, she didn't make the assumption she'd live to see sunrise. Each day was a gift. Seeing a new one was all she could ask for.
She almost squealed in delight when she saw the doughnut inside a wax paper holder only had a single bite taken from it. Two gifts for the day!
A woman screamed, and there was more noise. The sounds of someone retching. Once upon a time she might have thrown up herself just from the gagging sounds, but after spending so many months tending to Richard it took a lot to faze her now. One of the many things she'd learned while living with a junkie brother was how to clean up shit and vomit. Instead, Alice clutched the bag tighter, intent on keeping her newfound delight.
But the scream caught her attention. The curiosity of a woman's terror urged her feet forward.
Alice followed the source, intent on just seeing from a distance why someone needed help. The staccato clicks of heels on pavement echoed into the lot, past cars she couldn't have afforded even in her employed days. It was the sound of uncertain running, and she recognized a woman's tiptoe dance in shoes meant for little more than looking pretty.
The woman had stopped screaming and decided to get the heck out of Dodge, it seemed. She'd left behind someone still moaning and coughing though.
Alice edged closer.
A man elevated himself on hands and knees, swaying like a drunkard. Apropos, seeing how they were just outside the doors of a nightclub. Alice almost turned back to more important matters, but a glint of light reflecting off something on the ground beneath him made her gasp.
"Mister?" she called softly. "You okay?"
There was no way he was okay. Even at her distance she recognized the blood pooled around him. The man tried to rise, stumbled, almost slipped in the blood. He lifted his head, looked at Alice then began to shake.
God, she didn't want to go to him. She didn't want to know if he'd been knifed or shot. It was none of her business. But then she thought of Richard, of the times he'd been brought home simply because of the kindness of strangers. This could have easily been him. Richard might have forced her out onto the streets with his backsliding ways, but he was still her brother. Whether she wanted to get involved or not, if this had been him, she would have wanted a stranger to help.
With a sigh, Alice ventured closer. "Hey, where are you hurt?"
He made a noise then dry-heaved. His mouth opened, and she grimaced, ready to watch him vomit. She tightened her stomach, mentally preparing herself for not getting sick with him. Nothing came out of either of them though, and she exhaled, relieved.
"Hey do you have a phone? So I can call nine-one-one?"
His head lifted again, his attention coming to focus on her. Alice caught sight of his dark eyes and immediately thought it a trick of the light. They were eyes capable of seeing into tomorrow, she was sure of it.
"What's wrong with your eyes?" he asked, his voice croaking.
"My eyes?" Under other circumstances she might have laughed. Maybe even thought he was flirting with her.
Beads of perspiration raced down the sides of his face, the crown of his dark hair almost black in color. If she hadn't seen the clear sweat, she might have considered his head the source of all that blood.
"They're wrong," he replied.
Ignoring their ridiculous conversation, she crouched right next to him. The scent of copper rushed at her, almost triggering her gag reflex. "My eyes aren't at issue here. I need to get an ambulance or the police for you. Can you wait here alone for a minute? Do you know how to press on the wound?"
"Where you're bleeding from."
"I'm not bleeding." He attempted to rise again, but he'd managed to put his hand at the edge of the blood, where it slipped. "I don't think."
How much had he been drinking? He was too stoned to know he'd been shot or worse? "Why don't you tell me your name?"
Who took a perfectly good name like that and shortened it into something so ugly? Bast, indeed. "Look, Sebastian, I'm going for help." If he was talking, he seemed okay enough to leave for a minute. "Stay here." As if that might be a problem. He looked weaker than a wet kitten.
Sebastian's hand, the same one that had just been slicked down with blood, shot out and caught her arm. Alice cried out at the grip, which would surely leave behind a bruise. "No!" he said.
"No?" She tried to wrench her arm away to no avail. "You need some help. I don't think"
Sebastian glanced up into the night sky. He scanned the stars, as if searching for something. "My car. Just to my car. I can't stay out here like this."
His paranoia catching, Alice couldn't help but look around them. "Dude, I'm not trying to get in the middle"
"My car. That's all."
For the first time, she noticed the way her skin heated beneath his hold. "I'm going to get you there," she said slowly. "But then you need to do something about that fever and wherever you're bleeding from." No doubt his injuries explained his behavior. The blood was a mystery he was content to leave alone, and so was she. Good Samaritan duties only went so far.
If he heard her, or if he cared, she couldn't tell. Sebastian wrapped his arms around her neck and used her as leverage. Alice almost toppled over as he rose, the solid weight of him enough to drag her back down to the ground. By the time he stood, he towered over her.
Wanting to weep for her meager clothes, Alice pressed herself against him, into the wall of muscle and heft and simultaneously into his own bloodstained clothing. Beneath the overpowering scent of blood, she smelled some cross between clean linen and coconut coming directly from him. Had they been at the beach, slathered beneath sunscreen, she could understand the memories of summers by the waves he conjured, but this man was sinfully sexy and erotically dark. Nothing summery or beachy about him.
She recognized him now. The man from not even twenty minutes ago who'd stopped to look at her while on the way into the club. Now that she knew he was in serious shit or at least seriously sick, she pushed aside stirrings of attraction and focused on getting one foot in front of the other without allowing him to bring them both down.
Sebastian reached into his back pocket and retrieved a key fob. He pressed it in the general direction of a row of cars, and they made their way forward to the one that chirruped back at them. Richard's old toy collection, and the unforgettable prancing horse medallion, were the reasons she recognized the Ferrari Sebastian leaned against when they stopped.
"Help me. Inside." His voice sounded shaky again.
She realized she'd been gawking at the silver vehicle worth more than she used to make in five years combined. Maybe more than five.
Between the blood, the shakes and the car, he had to be a drug dealer or something close. Had to be. "I'll get you inside and then I'm gone." Her damned conscience pinged. "And you need to get on a phone. Get to a hospital."
Sebastian unfolded into the passenger's side he opened. "No hospital. Just inside."
"Hey Sebastian?" She shook his shoulder and unresponsive, he slumped forward. "Bast?"