Authors: Bianca D'Arc
Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal, #Romance
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
One and Only
Copyright © 2008 by Bianca D’Arc
Edited by Bethany Morgan
Cover by Angela Waters
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Publication: 2003
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: November 2008
One and Only
To my family. For believing in my dream even when I didn’t.
What was that noise? It was subtle, yet it grated on the ancient one’s sensitive hearing. A metallic twang-slap-grind that set his teeth on edge and made him wonder just how mechanically sound this old shuttle bus really was.
Once again, he marveled at how a being as powerful as he still needed to conform to the expectations of mortals—especially in the brave new world of technology. It was becoming harder and harder to reinvent himself now that his image was captured routinely in a myriad of different official ways. The next time he had to “die” and come back, he’d have to alter his appearance drastically. Mortal memories might be short, but photographs, it seemed, lived forever.
Of course, that was supposing he’d bother to come back this time.
Atticus Maxwell had been alive longer than he believed any being rightly should. The centuries had become endless. The business of living was tedious, with no one to share it with. Atticus had always been a loner, but had held a secret hope that someday he’d find at least one person in all the world—and all the centuries—to share his life.
It was the dearest goal of many of his kind. After a few centuries, most bloodletters settled down and began the search for the one person who could complete them. It was a serious business, and a quest he didn’t take lightly, but after all these years, he’d almost given up hope.
Atticus had searched longer than most, but he was still alone.
Lissa hadn’t wanted to board the shuttle bus, but there was no other feasible way to get to the mountain retreat where the business conference was being held. The place was on a rocky hillside that bordered wine country. The views were said to be magnificent and the five-star cuisine was not to be missed. Or so the travel agent had promised.
She was at a crossroads in her career, having just lost her job as an account manager due to company downsizing. This professional conference was supposed to help her network for new contacts in her field and also had the advantage of hosting a small job fair of sorts. She had two interviews lined up for tomorrow, in fact, but she couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of foreboding she’d had when boarding the hotel’s private shuttle bus.
It happened that way sometimes. She had a very small psychic gift that had helped her avoid trouble in the past, but tonight she was getting mixed signals from her sixth sense. She didn’t want to board the bus, but she didn’t know if that apprehensive knot in the bottom of her stomach was due to the shuttle bus, the passengers or the conference that awaited her.
Then he’d appeared.
A man. Out of the night. He’d stolen her breath, and all her senses—both mystical and mundane—had gone on alert. He was dangerous, she could tell just by the aura of power around him, but he was also the most handsome and enticing being she had ever encountered. Her sixth sense pulled her toward him. It made her yearn for him in a way she had never yearned before. Something about him was arresting and fearsome at the same time, yet he drew her as a moth to a flame and she was powerless to resist.
So she boarded the bus, even encroaching on his personal space to the point where he stumbled over her foot, crushing her toes for a short moment while her cheeks flamed in embarrassment.
“I’m so sorry.” Alarmed blue eyes met her gaze for a brief moment as shock passed over his features. “Please excuse me,” he said.
His voice rolled over her, rich and deep. It rumbled through her very being, awakening every synapse in that brief moment that was over all too soon.
She smiled at him and mumbled her acknowledgment, but he’d already turned to claim his seat farther back in the crowded shuttle bus.
And that was the extent of their contact. So little to build such a lasting impression. Lissa knew she would never forget the man as long as she lived, though she’d probably never even know his name.
Atticus pondered the small woman he’d unwittingly touched. She was a drab little thing in her buttoned up navy blue suit, but there was something very appealing about her. He had sought the mountain retreat that overlooked his own land in the valley far below for a bit of peace, but his thoughts were in more turmoil now than they had been in many decades.
Who was that woman? And why did she claim so much of his attention?
He really should be concentrating more on the strange sounds coming from the van’s undercarriage, but he couldn’t bring himself to look away from her. He could just see the top of her head and lustrous brown hair over the top of the seat a few rows in front of him.
Lightning flashed close by, distracting him, and the bus swerved on the slick mountain road. The driver pumped the brakes and the grinding sound elevated to a screeching metallic twang ending with a sickening snap. Quick as that lightning flash, the bus slid sideways on the wet pavement, overturned, then tumbled over the edge of the ribbon of road into the void.
The shuttle bus rolled violently down the steep ravine. Atticus was thrown from side-to-side, top-to-bottom in a violent thrashing of metal against soft tissue that had no chance at all against such devastation.
The shuttle bus came to rest, after long moments of sickening freefall, at the bottom of a cliff, deep in wet foliage. The only sound was the creaking of metal as it rocked to a stop and the steady drip of soft rain on the leaves of the forest.
He was going to die.
Finally, after over a thousand years of walking the earth, his life was going to end. Atticus almost welcomed it.
But the girl would die, too, and that bothered him. He thought it odd. By now he probably shouldn’t have a conscience left, but the thought of her death—when he could, in all likelihood, save her—plagued him.
His thoughts seemed very far away while lying in a pool of his own blood, with some kind of support beam making a hole in his chest. Atticus felt his immortal life slipping away, but the faint, struggling gasps for breath issuing from the small woman called him back. She was alive. For the moment.
Everyone else on the shuttle bus was dead. Atticus knew they were gone when their heartbeats ceased echoing in his ears. He no longer sensed the motion of their blood swishing through their veins.
They were all gone. All except for the quiet girl who’d smiled so kindly at him after he’d accidentally stepped on her foot while boarding.
Atticus never touched mortals, except to feed. Such acute hearing and senses made it painful to get within touching distance, unless they were under his thrall. Yet, somehow, this quiet, shy woman had invaded his personal space earlier that night. She’d crept up on him without his knowledge. Or perhaps it was Atticus who had invaded her space. He couldn’t be sure. But whichever way it happened, it had shocked him.
He hadn’t been so surprised in years. Centuries even.
Yet this nondescript woman, with the soft-looking, mousy brown hair and hazel eyes, somehow managed to invade not only his space, but his thoughts as well. Incredible.
And now she would die, alone in the night, on the side of a deserted mountain road, along with the rest of them.
Unless he fought against the darkness. And won.
Regardless of what he was, with such injuries as he’d already sustained, it would not be an easy battle.
When Lissa Adams woke, darkness engulfed her. Straining to see in the absence of light, her breath accelerated as she panicked. Her apprehension only grew when she realized another person lay beside her. A soft dripping sound echoed through what she supposed was some kind of underground chamber or cave. That’s what it sounded like—and smelled like. She felt rough rock and scattered grains of sandy dirt beneath her palms.
She knew the mountains were dotted with such places, but she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten here. Or why she was so groggy.
She tried to sit up, but the effort it required nearly blacked her out again. The being beside her stirred at her movement, and she felt more than saw the person rise to lean over her.
“Where are we?”
“I moved us to shelter.”
Rich and warm, his voice bathed her senses in a dark and dangerous way.
Sexy, she thought. She’d heard that voice before.
It was accompanied by flashing eyes and chiseled features. A man’s face flickered through her mind. She’d been fascinated by him and instantly captivated. She remembered thinking he was quite possibly the most striking man she’d ever seen.
“You stepped on my foot.”
He chuckled at her innocent observation, setting her insides aflame.
“Indeed. But that was more than twenty-four hours ago.”
He stroked a gentle finger down her cheek and she shivered, not in fear, but in surprising arousal. If just the brush of his finger could elicit this response, she wondered what he could do if he really tried.
That thought stopped her cold. Men like this one didn’t usually go for women like her. Better to focus on the peculiar situation she found herself in than daydream about her rescuer.
“What happened? I remember the bus swerving…”
“Ah, yes. Just before we rolled down the side of the mountain. You hit your head very hard, I’m afraid. That’s probably why you’re still a bit fuzzy.”
“Where’s everyone else?”
He paused only slightly. “Dead.”
Her breath caught in shock as her mind raced. “How did we…?”
“Relax, sweetheart.” He moved closer. “I pulled you from the wreckage and found shelter, but I was badly damaged in the accident as well. I’m sorry for it, but I need your essence to speed my healing.”
“My what?” Hot breath bathed her ear as he settled closer to her side. His strong arms enveloped her shoulders as his mouth stroked over the line of her jaw and lower.
“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you, but I need your blood, and I’m too weak to cloud your mind. You’ll have to trust me.” His words whispered against her shivering skin. He dragged sharp teeth back and forth over her jugular as if savoring the moment before the feast.
She barely had time to take in his words before he struck. A piercing pain registered only for a flash, followed by the greatest bliss she had ever experienced. Intensely sexual, it engulfed her in a way she’d never known. He sucked at her neck, licking at the essence of her, swallowing like a thirsty man in the desert. Yet reverence and gentleness communicated through his tender handling of her bruised and battered body.
Oddly, she didn’t object. She knew she should be afraid, but an intense arousal overwhelmed her. She didn’t have the strength to voice even the faintest protest.
He drank for what seemed a long time, his hands moving over her body, molding her breasts and stroking her skin. Only then did she realize she was naked. She gasped as his long fingers stroked down between her legs, angling inward, invading her most intimate places as his mouth caressed the tender skin of her throat.
He knew his way around a woman’s body. Those skilled fingers knew just where to stroke, just where to pinch to drive her excitement to the highest possible point. She teetered on the precipice as his fingers slid in the arousal he drew from her body. His mouth sucked at her neck, his breath feathering through her hair, his pleasing masculine scent teasing her senses. And the feel of him. He was hot and heavy against her, hard as only a man could be and muscular in a way she hadn’t expected.
One hand cupped her breast, teasing her nipple as his fingers finally pierced the imaginary boundary, sliding inside her, where few men had ever been. But this man—though she’d known him only a few minutes, really—was like no other man she’d ever encountered. He fired her senses like no other, sending slick, hot arousal to her core. Even the thought that he was some sort of dark creature out of legend couldn’t stop the most intense sexual experience of her life.
That one tantalizing finger pumped into her, stretching her. He added a second digit as she whimpered in need. She hadn’t had sex in a long time. She was tight, but her body remembered pleasure, and this man—this vampire!—proved himself a master at manipulating her responses. He
Two long fingers stroked within, his thumb teased higher, rubbing in perfect counterpoint. She came with a wrenching jerk of hips that threatened to dislodge him, but his great strength kept her easily in his clutches. He continued the stimulation, extending her orgasm for long, intense moments while his upper body covered hers, his lips feeding hungrily from the small incisions he’d made in her neck. The pleasure washed over her in the most intense waves she’d ever known and right then she didn’t care if he was a vampire, werewolf or Indian chief. All she knew was his mastery. And she already knew she wanted more.
Gods! She was sweet. The sweetest woman he’d had in all his many centuries.
And he’d had many.
Temptation lured him to drain her dry and take all of her precious essence, but he hadn’t gone through the trouble of saving her—and himself—for nothing. He’d had a hard time dragging himself off the makeshift stake that had only narrowly missed his heart and then hauling her out of the wreckage in a very weakened state.
He wasn’t about to kill her now.
Not when he wanted to taste of her again and again. No, he would keep this female around and keep her healthy. She was fast becoming an addiction.
He realized, belatedly, that he’d never healed as quickly as he had in the past twenty-four hours with her blood in his system. He’d taken her blood out of necessity before he could find a safe place for them to seek shelter. Luckily, she hadn’t bled much in the crash, but her brain injury had looked serious. He would need more of her essence to heal himself before healing her more fully. Already, he’d reduced the swelling in her skull somewhat with his healing gift. She would be much better, if not fully recovered, after a second session. But to do that, he must be stronger.
Her blood energized him. And her responsive body tripled the energy he derived from her blood. She’d been potent before, but now that she’d come so beautifully for him, his energy level peaked. He was near full strength. As she would be, as soon as he found the strength to tear himself away from her juicy neck and give her the healing she needed.