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Authors: Nina Croft

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Death Defying (Dark Desires)

BOOK: Death Defying (Dark Desires)
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Death Defying

A Blood Hunter Novel

Nina Croft

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Nina Croft. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Edited by Liz Pelletier and Candace Havens

Cover design by Heather Howland

Ebook ISBN
978-1-62266-050-6

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition
February 2014

To Rob—who I’d be quite happy to spend eternity with!

Table of Contents

Prologue

Fifteen years ago…

Tannis lay in the darkness on her narrow cot, every muscle locked rigid as she waited for the guard to pass. Instead, he halted outside her door. Her heart stuttered to a standstill and then started a rapid beat that threatened to explode from her chest.

Oh, God, oh, God
.

She pressed her fist to her mouth so hard she tasted the metallic sweetness of her own blood.

No one had been near her in a week. She’d known what that meant. However much she hated the experiments, the alternative was far worse.

The harsh rasp of her breath sounded loud in her ears. She wanted desperately to hide. But there was nowhere to go. The cell she had lived in for the last fourteen years was a mere ten feet by ten feet, with bare white walls and only a small cot for furniture.

She had two choices. Submit or fight. Not really choices at all.

Sliding her hand beneath the thin mattress, she fumbled
for the makeshift knife and then wrapped her trembling fingers around the rough hilt.

The hulking figure of Grady, one of her guards, stood silhouetted in the doorway. He flicked the switch on his belt and light flooded the small room. Tannis’s grip tightened around the knife, and she swung her legs off the cot and sat up. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he hadn’t come to tell her…

But he wouldn’t meet her gaze as he stepped inside and shut the door behind him. “Get your things together. You ship out in the morning.”

Nausea rose hot and acrid in the back of her throat. She must have made a noise because he shifted uncomfortably, guilt flickering across his face. She hated all the guards. Some were pure evil, but to her mind, Grady’s sort were the worst—they knew they did wrong but still continued.

“I…” He shrugged. “I can’t help—It’s more than my job’s worth.”

In a flash, a tidal wave of black rage drowned out her fear.

His job. Her life. No competition
.

She gritted her teeth against the need to leap at him, tear him with her nails, sink her teeth into his flesh. But he’d just put her in restraints if she did, and tonight she needed to be free. At least one good thing had come of this hell… The long years had taught her to hide her feelings, to keep the rage and terror locked tight inside.

He turned to go, and she pushed herself off the bed and took a step toward him, hiding the hand with the knife at her side. She couldn’t let him leave.

“Wait!”

He turned back, a question in his eyes, and she stretched her lips in what she hoped was the semblance of a smile. “Don’t go.”

Grady wanted her. She had seen him watching with his pale, protuberant eyes. She had to use that, however repugnant.

One chance, that’s all she would have.

Tomorrow, they would send her to the Meridian mines, and a slow and agonizing death. It seemed like all her life, she’d lived with that fear hanging over her. She’d known that once her usefulness was over, once they learned what they could from her particular genetic mix, they would dispose of her like so much trash. And at eighteen, she wasn’t ready to die. She wanted to live so badly, the need was like a blade piercing her heart.

Along with the knife, perhaps she had another weapon. They regularly drained the venom from the glands at the base of her incisors, but nobody had been near her in days. All she had to do was get close enough.

She would do this or die trying. As she accepted that, her fears calmed, her mind cleared, and she went to a peaceful place where the world seemed to slow down.

Taking the few steps toward him, she came to a halt only inches away, and gazed up into his fat, ugly face. “Please, Grady. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be alone tonight.”

Shock flared in his eyes, but he was definitely listening.

“Just hold me,” she whispered. “Tomorrow, it’s over. I’m going to die, and I’ve never even kissed a man.”

Jesus, would he actual believe this crap? Hysterical laughter rose in her throat as his face softened. The stupid oaf was probably deluding himself into believing he was doing her a favor. For a minute, he appeared undecided, and Tannis held her breath. Then, he gave a slight nod.

Relief made her limp.

She took the last step, which brought her flush against him. So close that the hot, sour sweat of his body flooded her nostrils. Swallowing her revulsion, she lifted her hand to curl around his neck. He was a good six inches taller, and she had to tug him down in order to reach his throat. She pressed her lips to his skin, and his hands closed around her. Panic clawed at her insides, and every cell of her being fought the urge to tear free.

Parting her lips, she tasted the saltiness of his skin and almost gagged. Instead, she bit down hard. Her incisors pierced his flesh and his hot blood flooded her mouth. He tried to shove her away, but she wrapped her arm tight around his neck and clung while the venom pumped into his system.

As the first spasm hit his body, she brought up the knife, her hand slippery with sweat, and stabbed him in the neck. She hit the jugular and blood spurted from the wound, blinding her for a moment.

Blinking, she stepped back as he fell to his knees, then crashed to the floor. She stood, staring down as a final spasm shook his body and finally, he lay still.

Tannis edged away, snatched the sheet from the bed, and scrubbed her face while she waited to feel some sort of exhilaration. Instead, all she felt was numb.

The thick, cloying scent of blood was heavy on the air, and suddenly she doubled over, retching. After a minute, she swiped her hand across her mouth and sat while she considered her next move. Killing Grady was the easy part. Now, she had to get out of her cell and off the research station, but she had no clue how. Maybe stow away on a ship. In the back of her mind, she knew she was kidding herself. She would never get off this place alive. They would kill her first. But better that than the mines.

After pushing herself to her feet, she crossed the room to study the body. The knife was still lodged deep in his throat. She reached down and tugged it free, wiped the blade on his shirt, and slipped it into her pocket.

The doors were controlled by handprints. Though Grady was big, she was strong, and she managed to drag the body across the room. He was a deadweight. She almost smiled at the thought as she maneuvered him into position and leaned him against the wall as she pressed his palm to the panel. For a moment nothing happened, then the door slid open with a hiss, and she allowed Grady to slump to the tiled floor.

Out in the corridor, all was quiet. Despair threatened to swamp her as she stood, glancing both ways. She needed to get to the docking bay, but she had no clue which direction to take.

“Over here!”

Tannis jumped at the sound of the low voice. Had she been discovered already? She could see no one, but then he spoke again.

“Here.”

The voice came from another of the cells that lined the corridor. She edged forward and peered through the grill in the center of the door. A man stood on the other side, and she gasped. He was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, with high cheekbones, dark eyes, and midnight-black hair that hung loose to his shoulders. But lines of exhaustion etched his face, and his long, lean body propped against the wall as though the effort to stand was too much.

He stared at her through the grill. “Hey, snake-girl, you’ve killed the guard?”

She frowned. “How did you know?”

He breathed in deeply, then licked his lips. “I can smell the blood.”

A shudder ran through her at the hunger in his eyes, and she made to turn away.

“Wait.”

She hesitated, and he spoke quickly. “You’ll never get off this place on your own. They’ll kill you if you try. But I can help you. Trust me.”

“I don’t think so. And how? How can you help me?”

“I have a ship. I can get us both away. Get me out of this cell, and I promise I’ll get you out of this shithole.”

Itching to run, she glanced down the corridor. What choice did she have? On her own, she would fail. But could she put her trust in a stranger? There was a darkness and hunger in his eyes, something not quite human, but despite that, she sensed no evil. Then he smiled and the darkness vanished. She bit her lip and nodded.

His cell looked the same as hers, presumably with the same security. She hoped Grady had access. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Back in her own cell, she looked down at Grady. His open eyes returned her stare, bulging with shock.

No way could she drag his body all that way; he was too big. She took the knife from her pocket and crouched beside him. The blade slid easily through the flesh but stuck at the bone, and she gritted her teeth and sawed. Finally, she wrenched the hand free and lifted it gingerly.

Something caught her eye: Grady’s shirt bore the company’s insignia. She ripped it off and shoved the scrap of material in her pocket to serve as a reminder. One day, if she got away, she was going to make them pay for what they’d done to her. To her sister.

She hurried back to the stranger’s cell and peered inside. Relief flared in his eyes—he’d probably thought her gone. She showed him the severed hand, then pressed it palm down to the panel. The door slid open and she let out a breath. Maybe there was a small chance she would get out of here after all, and a first flicker of hope awoke inside her.

The man stood just inside the door. She was tall, but he was far taller. His nostrils flared, and at the last moment, her mind screamed at her to run. Too late.

He reached for her, his fingers biting into her shoulders. She had no time to struggle, just the impression of vast, inhuman strength as he hauled her into the cell.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured. Then he turned her in his arms and dragged her against him with an arm wrapped around her below her breasts. His cool breath shivered across her skin as his teeth sank into her throat.

No pain, just a rhythmic tug that pulled at places deep inside her. The life drained from her body as he fed voraciously, his hunger an almost palpable thing. Darkness grew behind her eyes, the light faded to a pinprick, then nothing.


When she came to, she was moving. It took her a second to realize she was clasped in muscular arms, held against a rock-hard body. Blinking open her heavy lids, she looked straight into the handsome face of the bloodsucking monster. Instinctively, she struggled—she hated being held—but his arms tightened around her, holding her easily, and she forced herself to relax. She wasn’t dead, which was a surprise. She’d thought it was over.

“You bit me.”

He glanced down. His eyes were no longer dark, but tinged with crimson. “Hey, I said I was sorry. I had to eat, or we weren’t going anywhere.” He studied her through narrowed eyes. “
Dios
, I hope you’re not the type to hold a grudge.”

“What are you?”

“I’m your worst nightmare, darling.” He grinned. “Actually, I’m a vampire, but I’m also the vampire who’s going to get you off this crap place.”

A vampire? She’d thought they were the stuff of legends.

“Where are we going?”

“To my ship—if she’s still here. If not, we’ll find another.”

He carried her in silence for a while and she closed her eyes. The night had taken on a surreal quality, and she was filled with a sense of fatalism, as though what would happen was now out of her hands. When he came to a halt, she opened her lids reluctantly.


El Cazador’s
still here.”

She heard the satisfaction in his voice and peered over his shoulder. Through the doorway, she could see a large open area that must be the docking bay. A space cruiser stood at the far side of the room, sleek and black, with a name written in silver along the side. “
El Cazador de la Sangre
,” she murmured. “What does that mean?”

“The Blood Hunter.”

Her gaze flew to his face. “Oh.”

He flashed her a smile that revealed the tips of his razor-sharp fangs, and she shuddered, her hand darting to the small wound at her neck.

Two guards came into view, patrolling the area in front of the ship. Her heart sank. How could they take on heavily armed guards? They’d be cut down before they got close to the ship.

The vampire lowered her gently. For a second, her legs refused to hold her, and she gripped his shirt while the room swam around her. “I feel woozy.”

“Blood loss. I took a little too much, but you’ll be fine.”

He studied the ship and the guards, then turned to her. “Can you walk?”

She tested her legs and nodded.

“Okay. I want you to approach the guard on the left, distract him, and hopefully draw the other one closer.”

“What if he shoots me?”

“He won’t—well probably not.” He reached across and ripped the shoulder of her dress, baring the curve of her breast. “Just to increase the odds. Now off you go.”

Tannis glared at him for a second, then nodded. She limped onto the docking bay, doing her best to look pathetic. It wasn’t hard. Both guards swung around to face her. She didn’t recognize either man, so hopefully they wouldn’t recognize her. At least they made no move for their weapons.

“Help,” she whispered, then crumpled gracelessly to the floor. The guards hurried over. One crouched next to her, and the other hovered behind. There was a blur of movement and the standing guard vanished from her sight. Blood sprayed over her as the body was hurled across the docking bay.

The second guard fumbled for his weapon but was yanked away before he could draw the pistol. Tannis rolled onto her feet and rubbed the blood from her face. The vampire had the man in a death grip, his fangs buried in the guard’s throat. Fascinated, she watched him swallow convulsively, his face a rigid mask, all signs of humanity obliterated.

He finally released his grip, and the body collapsed to the floor. Wiping his hand across his mouth, he grinned. “Let’s get out of here.”

She shivered. Was she right to put her life in the hands of such a creature? But she hadn’t fared too well with humans up to now, so why not trust the monsters instead. Could they be any worse?

BOOK: Death Defying (Dark Desires)
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ads

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