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Authors: Tracey O'Hara

Night's Cold Kiss (7 page)

BOOK: Night's Cold Kiss
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7
Mother, Oh Mother

Sitting bolt upright, chest heaving, Antoinette shook herself out of the nightmare. Perspiration ran down her face and the dress clung to her damp skin. Gulping back air, she looked at her watch. Only about fifteen minutes had passed.

It’d been several years since he’d visited her sleep. Dream demons and memories haunted her as she stumbled into the bathroom. The reflection of her flushed face blurred as tears filled her eyes and her brain hammered against the inside of her skull.

The night Dante Rubins slit her mother’s throat Antoinette had been six years old and just as helpless as she was in her dream. The image of Mama’s blue eyes dimming as death took her had haunted Antoinette ever since. Dante had maintained a total hold over Antoinette’s mind and body, making her watch the lifeblood seep from her mother’s jugular to soak the front her dress.

Maybe the dream was an omen, warning her against becoming too complacent, reminding her of who and what Christian and his friend were. Things were never as they appeared on the surface and she sensed they were hiding something. The Aeternus were not to be trusted. Ever.
She’d never turn her back on a dreniac, nor should she on an Aeternus.

After Antoinette tidied herself up, she found her shoes and slipped them on. When she reached the door, her shaking hand stopped inches from the handle. Her heart pounded as the nightmare aftershocks haunted her.

Déjà vu.

Get a hold of yourself—it was just a dream.

Still, she had to crack the door slightly to be able to hear anything in this soundproofed room. Through the gap she heard familiar voices, speaking in low tones and relaxed her forehead against the wall to gather herself.

“Are you certain she doesn’t know?” that Viktor-guy said.

She pressed her ear closer to the crack.

“Yes,” her uncle’s voice answered. “If she did she would have…” His voice trailed off as he moved away and she could no longer make out what he was saying.

Would have what? Who were they talking about?

“Still, she’ll have to be told eventually,” Christian’s voice said with a sting in his tone.

“Da.
But not yet.” Sergei only reverted to his native tongue when he was drunk, very tired, or stressed, and he didn’t sound all that drunk or tired.

“It’ll have to be soon if she is going to help with the investigation,” Christian said.

“Let me find out what I can from my Guild contacts first. It’s a matter requiring…delicacy. Not Antoinette’s greatest forte.”

She stiffened in stunned silence, her hand now resting on the handle. Why would Uncle Sergei keep things from her? There was only one way to find out.

 

The suite door flew open and crashed against the wall. Christian turned as Antoinette exploded into the room, eyes firing and face flushed.

“What’s going on here?” she demanded, her fists clenching and unclenching.

Sergei leaned forward against his cane. “Antoinette, I—”

She turned on him. “Even you…” Her voice rose a hysterical octave. “Sneaking around behind my back, keeping secrets from me. I would never have expected it of you, Uncle.”

Sergei looked away, his shoulders slumping.

“That’s enough.” Christian’s voice was controlled, belying the anger that seethed within—she’d pushed too far.

Turning on him, she met his gaze squarely. “You mind your own business, vampire,” she spat.

“I’ve told you not to call us that, and this is my business. You’re a guest on my plane and you’ll respect all of my guests.”

“I’ll not be spoken to like a child.”

“Then stop behaving like one,” Sergei barked.

Her eyes widened in shock and then they narrowed dangerously on Christian before she crossed the distance between them. “What’ll you do? Throw me off the plane?”

“Don’t tempt me.”

“You could try, bloodsucker.” She pulled back her arm and punched him right in the face.

He did nothing to block it and after his head rocked back he looked her in the eye as he licked the drop of blood that trickled from the corner of his mouth.

“Antoinette,” Sergei roared, coming to his feet.

Christian caught her next swing by the wrist mere inches from his face. “Is it any wonder you’ve not been told anything when you go off half-cocked—attacking first and questions later?” he said through gritted teeth.

Tears welled and she stopped struggling against him. Then he noticed her flushed face, the beads of sweat on her brow and upper lip, and the way she flinched when he held her arm. Christian pulled her closer, placing his hand on her forehead. Heat radiated from her in waves. She struggled, trying to push him away but he held her tighter.

“You’re unwell,” he said.

Her eyes widened.

“Is that true?” Sergei asked, his brows knitting in worry.

She slowly nodded and turned to Sergei. “I thought it was just a headache.”

“Your wound,” Sergei said. “It’s infected, isn’t it?”

Christian guessed the same thing.

Antoinette shrugged her shoulders. “You know how quickly these things can turn.”

“Damn it—why didn’t you say something earlier?” Christian demanded.

“Because I thought it was just a headache,” she repeated, her eyes glittering feverishly highlighting her black eye.

“Well, we’d better get this infection under control—now,” Christian said. “Come on.”

“I’ll see a doctor when we reach New York.” She backed away a step.

“NO—We’ll take care of it now.” He took her by the wrist.

She stubbornly raised her chin.

Stupid, proud little fool. But he didn’t have time for this crap.

Grabbing her by the elbow, he pulled her closer—her eyes widened and she turned from a deep pink to a flaming flush. She stamped hard on his foot. An Aeternus he may be, but he still felt pain.

The last of his patience evaporated. With one smooth movement he scooped her up and carried her into the room she’d erupted from so dramatically minutes earlier.

When he reached the crumpled bed, he dumped her unceremoniously on it. Her face screwed up as she grunted and scowled at him; he felt a momentary stab of guilt for his rough handling.

“How dare you?” she spat.

“I dare as I please,” he said coolly.

Sergei stood in the open door. “Let Christian tend to it, niece.”

“I want to see a human doctor. What would an Aeternus know about humans?”

“Sorry, but I’m the closest thing you’ve got.” Christian
crossed his arms. “I’ve practice medicine on humans before, now—take off that dress and let me have a look.”

Her stubborn chin rose higher as she glared at him.

“If you don’t take it off I’ll be forced to do it myself,” he warned. “And with the mood I’m in, it won’t be gentle.”

From the corner of his eye he saw Sergei back out of the room, shutting the door behind him. When she didn’t move he took a step toward her.

“Okay.” She held up a restraining hand. “Okay—I’ll do it.” She climbed off the bed and reached for the zipper on the side of the dress before looking at him over her shoulder. “Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” He leaned his shoulder casually against the wall. “I’ve seen a naked body or two in my time.”

“Not mine, you haven’t,” she said, then swore under her breath before turning her back to him to slip the dress over her head.

His stomach knotted as he ran his gaze over her semi-naked curves covered only by tiny lace panties and a matching bra. The ivory lingerie against her creamy skin was more than he’d been prepared for. Her body was honed to Venator perfection by hours of martial arts training, yet soft in all the right places.

A red and black dragon tattoo sat in the small of her perfect back, the tip of the tail disappearing into the crevice between her buttocks just beneath her panties. His pants suddenly seemed tighter and fangs nudged his gums on either side of his front teeth.

He hadn’t lied when he said he’d seen a female or two. He’d seen literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of women in varying stages of dress and undress in his life time. But he’d rarely seen anything of such beauty. Antoinette was put together perfectly. Her muscles danced beneath her skin enlivening the tattoo dragon—he swore the beast watched him. What would it be like to run his lips across this skin art? Would it feel as alive as it looked? And how he’d love to trace that tail to its conclusion…

“Well, now what?” she asked, her back still to him.

Thank goodness his loose top covered the bulge in his jeans. “Um…lie down on the bed while I wash my hands,” he said, swallowing hard.

He closed the bathroom door and leaned his hands against the counter, trying to regain a hold of himself. “She’s just another human—there’s nothing special about her.” But he could hear the lie in his own voice.

“Did you say something?” she called from the other room.

“No.” He glanced at his reflection before retrieving some medical supplies from the cabinet under the counter.

He hadn’t lied about practicing medicine—although he purposely hadn’t mentioned that it was mostly during the American Civil War, and not on many women patients. Now that had definitely been a baptism by fire—or, should he say
blood
.

 

Antoinette felt embarrassingly naked, something she’d never felt before. She’d grown up in a unisex Venator preparatory school where there was little room for modesty with communal showers, locker rooms, and absolutely no privacy. Now she had her own room back at the school dorms, but she still shared the rest.

He didn’t say she couldn’t cover herself. As Christian rattled around in the bathroom she grabbed the bedspread from the end of the bed and drew it up to her chest. Unfortunately, the movement set off a wave of nausea and the pain flared again. She lay back against the pillows, breathing through the throbbing ache. It wasn’t nearly as bad as before, though, when he’d picked her up—she’d had to bite her lip to stop from crying out.

She could endure pain; it was part of being a Venator. What she had trouble with was his hands on her skin. His cool touch felt too good against her fevered flesh, like a welcome breeze on a hot summer’s day.

She clenched the blanket in her fists. Damn, she must be really sick to get all girly and poetic. Her stomach roiled. She wasn’t sure if this was nausea or the memory of the way he’d unceremoniously dumped her onto the bed.
Bastard.

Then again she had asked for it by punching him. And in a perverse kind of way, she’d liked it. Normally she had better control over her tongue and temper, but Christian seemed to bring out the worst in her for some reason.

The bathroom door opened. Christian carried a tray into the room and pulled a nearby stool closer. As he sat down, he reached out and ripped away her covering and the old dressing in quick succession before she had a chance to prepare herself or argue.

“Ow!”

“Keep still,” he growled.

She tried to sit up and see what he was doing, but he pushed her back against the pillows.

“I said, keep still.” Christian’s stony face had a slight frown creasing his brow.

“I just want to see.”

He silenced her with a glare and she decided not to push it any further as he poked and prodded around the wound. Antoinette became suddenly aware of how close his fingertips were to the sensitive underside of her breast and swallowed hard. Every burning brush of his touch spread heat across her already feverish skin.

“We need to put a poultice on the wound to draw out the infection.” He rose and returned to the bathroom.

The sound of movement from the other room piqued her curiosity and she propped onto her elbows to look at the angry flesh around the parallel gashes just above her right hip bone. She had never allowed a wound to get this bad before. Christian was right, though, if it remained untreated, she’d be very sick indeed. The fever made her body feel on fire.

“Can’t you behave yourself for five seconds?” he said from the bathroom doorway. “I told you to stay still.”

“I just wanted to see,” she said for a second time. “It was healing really well.”

“Dreniacs can carry some nasty shit,” he said.

“Yeah, this one was especially…” She frowned, rising higher onto her elbows. “I never told you it was a dreniac wound.”

“I assumed, given your profession.” He looked away quickly and she got the sense he was hiding something, then his unyielding eyes met hers. “Now, lie down and let me finish.”

When she did as she was told, he raised a questioning eyebrow. “What, no arguments?”

Tiredness washed over her. “No,” she said, closing her eyes.

Antoinette opened them in time to see him pick up a scalpel from the tray on the bedside table and nick the tip of his finger. A few drops of dark blood fell onto the salve smeared on the dressing.

“What are you doing?” she asked in horror.

“This will heal you faster than any human medicine can.”

“No.” She tried to climb off the bed. “Get it away from me.”

He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her back. “I don’t have time for this crap,” he growled, the menace in his voice raising goose bumps on her skin. She struggled but he held her helpless and then his voice softened. “This may burn a little.” And he placed the dressing to her wound with gentle fingers.

A fiery intense pain lit up all the nerve endings in her side and she sucked back her breath, grimacing. “I thought this was supposed to make me feel better.”

“Give it time,” he murmured, fixing the dressing in place with some tape.

Fire exploded in her side, and her vision grayed from the pain, then slowly the searing dulled to a burning and finally to a slight tingling warmth.

“I’m also giving you a shot of painkiller.” He picked up a needle and drew in clear liquid from an ampoule.

She quashed an instinctive flash of distrust and held out her arm.

He shook his head with a malicious smirk. “Roll over.”

“You have got to be kidding.”

“Nope.”

“Surely the arm is just as good.” She held it out again—hopeful.

He shook his head.
Shit.
She huffed and rolled gingerly onto her side, holding her breath. His pulled down the top of her panties and she swallowed nervously, his touch setting off a tingle in her lower back. She heard the flick of the syringe, smelled the sharp scent of an alcohol swab before its cold touch and then the sting of the needle.

BOOK: Night's Cold Kiss
8.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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