Detective John Boehler has no problem dealing with vampires--not even the city's newest bloodsucker, a notorious serial killer John had failed to bring to justice. He does have a problem with the attractive vampire-hunter recklessly following the murderer's trail. But when John falls prey to a power he could never have predicted, Jessica must tempt his now all-consuming hunger--and taste her own uncontrollable desire.
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Tempted in the Night
By Robin T. Popp
WARNER FOREVERCopyright © 2007 Robin T. Popp
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTell me something, Boehler, just what the fuck were you thinking?" Assistant Chief Gamble's voice was loud enough to rattle the windows in his small office.
"I'm sorry, was that a rhetorical question?" Veteran homicide detective John Boehler remained unfazed as he faced his boss across the desk.
"What the fuck do you think?" Gamble bit out sharply.
Another rhetorical question, John thought but this time said nothing. He was too tired to sit through much more of this ass-chewing, not that he had any hope of getting to bed soon.
"Why in the hell would you even approach Simon Brody after the trial, much less threaten him in front of every reporter in the greater D.C. metro area?"
"I didn't threaten him," John said with as little inflection as he could.
Gamble picked up the TV remote on his desk and aimed it at the small television sitting on a nearby bookcase. Soon, the news footage outside the courthouse was rolling across the screen. John didn't bother to watch. He didn't want to see Simon Brody strolling down the steps of the courthouse with that smug, self-satisfied grin plastered across his face.
It was harder to ignore the little cocksucker voicing his seemingly heartfelt reaffirmation of innocence, especially when Gamble turned up the volume. As it had before, both Brody's tone and his words ignited a slow, white-hot burn of rage deep inside of Boehler.Today, justice had not been served. The jury may have found Brody innocent, but John knew the truth.
"Don't get too comfortable, Brody. You're going to hell-if I have to drag your sorry ass there myself." John found himself silently reciting the words as his televised voice echoed across the room.
Gamble shut off the television and the silence that followed was deafening, if brief. "Sounded like a threat to me, and the media's having a field day with it."
John didn't bother to respond. When he'd uttered his threat, the media had been the least of his concerns. Five long months of hard, by-the-book investigative work flushed down the proverbial toilet because someone in the department had managed to "lose" a critical piece of evidence. John had no doubt that Franklin Brody and his millions were somehow involved.
Daddy might have saved his spoiled son from death by lethal injection, but who was going to save the young women of the Washington, D.C., area? Now that Simon Brody was free, it was just a matter of time before he killed again.
"I want to know what's bothering you, Boehler," the assistant chief continued in a surprisingly sympathetic tone. "You haven't been yourself lately. You used to be one of the best detectives I had. I never had to worry about you. Lately, though . . . I don't know." He studied John's face closely in a fair imitation of the department's psychiatrist trying to see inside his head. "Are you having problems at home? With your wife?"
John wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the question. "I'm not married." He had been once, fifteen years ago, if one could call a drunken night, a quick trip to Vegas, and eleven months of sheer hell a marriage. John didn't.
"Then maybe you need to find someone; settle down; start a family."
Yeah, John thought, because it had worked so well the first time. Gamble's attempt to counsel him was pissing him off. "I'm fine. Just a little tired." He didn't want to continue this particular line of conversation, so he changed the subject. "Sir, I'd like permission to look into how that evidence against Brody disappeared."
"That's not your job."
"I realize that. However-"
Gamble waved him to silence. "Forget that. You've got bigger problems to deal with."
"First, you practically accuse the late Miles Van Horne of being involved with terrorists. Now, you've publicly threatened the son of Washington's second most influential man. Is it the rich you hate, Boehler, or are you just tired of being a cop? Because I assure you, you're well on your way to committing career suicide."
John felt himself grow very still. "Van Horne wasn't a random target. The Exsanguinators killed him because he tried to double-cross them. I'd call that being 'involved.'"
Gamble heaved a frustrated sigh. "Well, his mother disagrees. Now Marcie Van Horne has got the D.A. breathing down my neck to reopen the case. I have to bring in someone from Internal Affairs to take a second look."
John wasn't stupid. He read between the lines. Gamble was bringing in IA to investigate him as much as the circumstances of Miles Van Horne's death. And if they got too close ...
John wondered how much time he had to "clean up" his files and was about to make his excuse to leave when Gamble pressed the button on his intercom. "Gail? I want to know when Dresden gets here. He is? Good, send him in."
A moment later, the door to the office opened and a short, stocky man walked in wearing a pressed suit, polished shoes, and an attitude that said his shit didn't stink. John hated him instantly.
"John, meet Richard Dresden, with Internal Affairs. He'll be handling the investigation into the Exsanguinator cases. I expect you to show him the same respect you'd show me-and give him your full cooperation."
Yeah, John thought, he'd show Dick some respect. Count on it. He managed to keep his mouth shut and his face expressionless.
At his boss's dismissive gesture, he stood and headed for the door. He was seconds from freedom when the assistant chief dropped the last bomb on him. "Don't let me catch you anywhere near Simon Brody or anything having to do with him, got it? Right now, you've got two strikes against you. One more and you'll be so far out, not even God will be able to get you back in the game."
A couple of hours later, instead of being at home in bed relaxing, John was driving around town, scanning the dark streets for . . . he wasn't sure what, exactly. If anyone had asked, he would have told them he was looking for members of a fanatical group of serial killers-a group he had dubbed the Exsanguinators because of the way they drained their victims' bodies of blood.
Of course, he was more likely to find one of their victims than the actual killers. In over a year of searching, that's all he'd ever found.
His first exposure to the Exsanguinators had come when several Navy SEALs disappeared under violent and mysterious circumstances. Days later, one of them was found dead in an abandoned building. There had been no obvious wounds and yet, the body had been drained of blood. Later victims would be found also drained of blood, each having two puncture wounds in the neck that were to become the group's signature mark.
That case had been a first for John, and in his search for answers he had called in the dead SEALs' commanding officer, Admiral Charles Winslow. John had met the older man years earlier when the admiral had been a guest lecturer for one of John's college classes. They'd instantly struck up a friendship that had survived the years.
To his surprise, the admiral had claimed to be familiar with both the modus operandi and the group responsible, leading John to believe that the problem was something the government was handling. This wasn't the first time the police and the government had worked on the same case, so John started calling the admiral or one of the members of his security team whenever he found another victim, hoping the collaboration would help him solve the cases.
The admiral and his team, however, had not exactly been forthcoming with information, John reflected as he found a place to park his car. He'd been left to draw his own conclusions, which were as disturbing-and bizarre-as the killings themselves.
Then, a couple of months ago, the case had taken an interesting turn in a new direction as the victim demographics changed. Instead of killing average citizens, the Exsanguinators were targeting criminals; scum of the earth who had, through power, money, or the negligence of the legal system, managed to escape justice. In one sense, the Exsanguinators were now performing a community service. John wasn't so sure he wanted that to end.
Getting out of the car, John started walking. The park loomed before him like a graveyard, silent and eerie, the shadows of trees obstructing his view. A chill raced down his spine and he pulled his coat tighter to keep out the stiff February breeze and continued on, wondering if his purpose tonight would still make sense in the morning.
Last week's snowfall lay in dirty piles of slush along the edges of the street, and he had to step over several small puddles to avoid getting his shoes wet. When he reached the park, he stepped onto the paved path. His senses were hyperextended as he strained to pick up even the slightest sound, and though he heard nothing, he sensed he wasn't alone.
Walking as silently as he could, he continued on, eyeing the large grouping of bushes ahead to his right. He was less than twenty yards away when a figure suddenly appeared ahead of him.
Time stood still as John stopped to study the man whose features were too shadowed to see clearly. It wasn't unusual for there to be someone in the park at this late hour and the man could be anyone. He didn't have to be a killer. Yet, when he lifted his head, John noticed that his eyes glowed with an unnatural red light.
Before John could decide if what he saw was more than a trick of the moonlight, the sound of running feet caught his attention. He turned just as the lithe figure of a woman came racing out of the darkness, long black hair flapping wildly in the wind behind her. The exact details of her other features were lost in deference to the sword, which she wielded with apparent confidence and purpose.
Screaming like a banshee, she raced toward him, showing no signs of slowing.
"Police-stop right there!" John shouted, pulling his badge from one pocket at the same time he reached for his gun. The woman merely glanced at him as she continued to run. He realized then that her target was the dark stranger, who seemed to come to the same conclusion, because he turned and raced off, the banshee hot on his trail.
Knowing he couldn't shoot her in the back, John shoved his badge into his coat pocket and raced after her. He was almost close enough to tackle her when she suddenly whirled around, slashing her sword through the air.
"What the fu-" John stopped short, arching his body into the shape of a ITLITL so the sword barely missed slicing open his midsection.
"Stay out of this," she yelled at him, turning again to race off.
John shot after her and, praying she didn't turn around, launched himself through the air and tackled her to the ground before she could race past the next stand of bushes. They landed with a painful jolt that should have knocked the wind out of her, especially with his added weight on top of her. She recovered quickly and immediately began trying to buck him off, all the while shouting at the top of her lungs.
"I'll kill you, you bloodsucking-"
"Settle down," John ordered, noting the British accent even as he ripped the sword from her hand and tossed it a safe distance away. "Don't make me hurt you."
She continued to struggle, bucking her hips to throw him off balance. Her efforts were distracting, drawing his attention to the gentle swell of her hips and her pert, round butt as it came in repeated contact with his groin. It'd been too damn long since he'd been with a woman, he thought, almost groaning aloud.
Get a grip, Boehler. Cuff her, read her her rights, and haul her hot ass to jail.
She bucked again, and a part of his anatomy stirred to life. Reacting like he'd been hit with a hot brand, he shifted his body enough to be able to shove a knee into her back, pinning her to the ground.
"Oompf! Bloody hell," she swore. Her long hair spilled about her head as she twisted this way and that, trying to look at him. "What are you doing?"
"I would think it's obvious." Trying to remain professionally detached, he ran his hands along her body, searching for hidden weapons, enjoying the feel of her even as he resisted the urge to take advantage of the situation.
"You're letting him get away! Let me up now before it's too late!" she demanded, breaking into his thoughts.
John glanced up and saw that the other man had, in fact, disappeared. "Who was that? Your boyfriend?"
She huffed at him in anger. "Not bloody likely."
Yeah, right. Not anymore, he thought. A woman like this-hot body, spirited, probably great in bed-there was always a catch. In this case, the poor bastard had gotten involved with a woman who thought nothing of racing through the park at night with a sword, no doubt intending to execute her own "Bobbitt" maneuver. She was clearly psychotic, and the man was lucky to have gotten away.
Pulling handcuffs from his belt, John secured her wrists behind her back. Then he flipped her over and helped her to sit. "You want to tell me why you're running around the park at night with a sword?"
When she glared at him, he got his first good look at her face. She was stunning. It was too dark to see the color of her eyes, but her lashes were long and full. Her eyebrows were like dark accent marks above her eyes, and her oval face tapered to a delicate but firm chin. A slender nose with a slightly rounded end gave her an impish look, and her full lips, slightly parted now, were a temptation all their own.
John cleared his throat. "Look, you're in serious trouble. A little cooperation would go a long way. Who are you?"
Still, she refused to answer him.
He tried to read her expression as she looked up at him through disheveled hair. When she spoke, her words were soft and beseeching. "Please, you have to help me. People are going to die if we don't stop him. You have to let me go."
She sounded so sincere, he almost found himself believing her; wanting to help her. Almost. "I don't think so."
She immediately renewed her struggles to break free, cursing and issuing threats of violence. John stood and picked up her sword. Then he reached down to grip her arm and hauled her to her feet. This was a deeply disturbed, possibly psychotic woman in desperate need of a seventy-two-hour lockdown and a Thorazine drip-and John knew a judge who owed him a favor. He'd get Zorro checked in and then would go home where, if he was lucky, he might still grab a couple of hours of sleep.
Hours later, John was jerked from a deep sleep by the sound of his home phone ringing. As he lay there debating whether or not to answer it, the ringing stopped. He held his breath, waiting to see if it started up again, and when it actually seemed that it wouldn't, he closed his eyes and let his mind drift . . .
He came awake at the sound of his cell phone ringing.
Glancing at the clock on the bedside table, he saw that it was almost noon, which meant he'd had maybe two hours of sleep. Throwing back the covers, he half-rolled, half-fell out of bed, still fully clothed in yesterday's wrinkled outfit, and stumbled across the room to where his coat lay draped over the back of a chair.
Hauling it up, he dug in the pocket for his phone and answered it just before it rolled over to voice mail.
"Boehler here." His voice sounded like wet gravel under rolling tires.
"I want to see you in my office. Now," Gamble ordered.
"Yes, si-" The line went dead. John stared at the phone in dumb fascination for a minute. "Good morning to you, too," he mumbled, wondering what he'd done wrong this time.
The events of the prior evening came racing back-the dark figure in the park, the sword-wielding, screaming banshee-whose name he still didn't know because she'd had no ID on her and had refused to talk to him, even when he'd checked her into the psych facility for observation.
Excerpted from Tempted in the Night by Robin T. Popp Copyright © 2007 by Robin T. Popp. Excerpted by permission.
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