Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy) (3 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
3.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

No, by God, she should not. She’d at least lower the window enough to tell the jerk how close he’d come to ending his life as a hood ornament on a green Toyota Dinosaur.

He held up his empty hands in a gesture of peace. Right. Like he was going to hold up a sign that said Beware of Murderous Backwoods Whack Job.

She snaked her right hand to her purse in the passenger seat, wrapped cold fingers around the handle of a small pistol, and slipped it into the pocket of her suede jacket—after she was sure the man had seen it. The .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nose was her security blanket, and she knew how to use it.

His only reaction to the gun was a raised eyebrow. “I have a man injured here.” His voice was deep and melodic, and he had a trace of an accent, as if he’d grown up not speaking English but had been around a few too many Southerners. “You the doctor coming to Penton for the interview?”

She lowered her window an inch and stared as he knelt next to the driver’s side door, putting his face at eye level. And damned if it wasn’t one of the most beautiful faces she’d seen since...maybe ever.

He’d pulled his dark hair into a short ponytail except for one wavy strand that had pulled loose and blew against his cheek. The streetlight cast enough illumination for her to see the dark lashes fringing blue eyes that reminded her not so much of summer skies or robin’s eggs but of the richness of an arctic sea flowing over darker depths. They appeared to lighten as he studied her with an intensity that almost robbed her lungs of air. He had a strong jaw, full lips, and a slight cleft in his chin. If he was a serial killer, he was at least a pretty one.

He cleared his throat. “Are you Dr. Harris?”

Krys caught her breath. Good Lord, what was wrong with her? She’d been practically drooling through a half-open window as though he were Adonis personified. He could be Charles Manson’s separated-at-birth, unidentical twin.

Except he knew her name. “Who are you?”

One side of Adonis’s mouth twitched. “I’m Aidan Murphy. Please, my friend is unconscious.” He jerked his head toward the parking lot to their right. Warped plywood covered most of the front windows of the square cinder-block building, the single light illuminating a dingy sign advertising Camels at twelve dollars a carton. The Quikmart appeared to have been closed for a long time.

A lump lay on the ground near the edge of the lot. Krys eyed Aidan Murphy a heartbeat longer, and shifted the Dinosaur into drive. She turned into the lot and parked between a silver compact car and what would probably have been a gorgeous black or midnight blue BMW if it hadn’t been coated in mud.
Something had hit the driver’s window with quite an impact—it looked like a strong gust of wind would crackle it into a zillion pieces.

She glanced in her rearview mirror at the man walking into the parking lot behind her and then at the motionless figure on the pavement. How dangerous could this be? Aidan Murphy was the Penton Clinic administrator she’d been scheduled to interview with, although he didn’t look like any health-care admin she’d ever seen. Besides, she’d be damned if she let an injured man go untreated because she was a chicken.

Streams of icy air whipped around her as she exited the car, and the streetlight didn’t quite reach the heavy shadows at the edges of the parking lot.

Aidan stopped a few feet away. Maybe he was afraid that if he got any closer she’d shoot him.

She slammed her car door. “Have you called nine-one-one? Where’s the nearest hospital?” She’d bet there wasn’t one within thirty miles.

He came a few steps closer. “Just look at him first.” Aidan’s expression was unreadable.

Shaking her head, she squatted beside the injured man and mentally ticked off what a fast glance could tell her in the dim light. Breathing was labored but steady. Abdominal injuries—maybe a stab wound plus some surface cuts, judging by the way his shirt had been ribboned and by the darker blood pooling at the bottom of his rib cage. Swelling and bruising on the temple. She placed her fingers over his carotid artery and closed her eyes to focus on his pulse. Fast but strong.

“You know his name?” She flicked her gaze up to Aidan and shivered at the keenness with which he watched her. It would be easy to stare into those eyes all night.

He blinked and took a step back. “His name’s Mark Calvert.”

Weird—Aidan looked almost fearful. Maybe he was freaked out by all the blood. Krys had seen grown men faint dead away at no more than a pinprick. She tapped the injured man on the cheek and repeated his name. A flutter of lashes, and then his glassy eyes opened, didn’t quite focus, and closed again.

“Well, hell.” Krys clambered to her feet, no easy task in a skirt, and brushed past Aidan on the way to her car.
The Hippocratic oath sure can be inconvenient.
She reached in the driver’s door, grabbed the keys from the ignition, and walked around to open the trunk—no remote-controlled locks on the Dinosaur. She considered rolling the heavy suitcase that served as her medical kit over Aidan’s foot as she passed him again. Would it have killed the oaf to put his muscles to use instead of watching her struggle while he lounged around with his hands stuffed in his pockets? She couldn’t tell much about his build because of the long wool coat, but he was tall and broad-shouldered and if she hadn’t been dead broke she’d have been willing to bet good money his body looked as fine as his face.

“What’s your role in this, Mr. Murphy? You need to help me out here. Call an ambulance, then call the sheriff.” If she lost the Penton job by being assertive, so be it. Aidan Murphy needed to know what he’d get by hiring her. She’d never be an administrator’s puppet.

Aidan didn’t move. “See how badly he’s hurt first.”

Krys dropped to her knees and cursed as the unmistakable tickle of a gravel-induced run raced up her pantyhose. Terrific.

She looked at the bloody man lying in front of her. And to think that fifteen minutes ago, she’d thought her biggest challenge was an evening job interview.

Aidan stared at the woman kneeling beside Mark.
Holy hell. Why didn’t I feed earlier?
In hindsight, taking the meeting in LaGrange before feeding had been stupid. And now here he was, ogling an unvaccinated woman with legs a mile long, a husky bedroom voice, and a give-’em-hell attitude.

His lieutenant, Will Ludlam, who’d found Krystal Harris among the meager pickings of unvaccinated human doctors, said she’d be a perfect Penton recruit. She’d had an abusive childhood, Will said, and was a loner. She’d like the easy pace and security of life as a vampire familiar once she got used to the idea. She had a wide do-gooder streak, school debts up to her ears, and could be tempted with a good salary.

Will obviously was full of shit. Krystal Harris struck him as more lion than lamb. And she was pushing his buttons, big-time, which had to be the hunger talking because he didn’t get mixed up with human women. Period. Wasn’t going to happen.

Yet here he was with his hands jammed in his pockets because his fingers twitched with the urge to touch her. His damned fangs even ached.

She pulled a portable light stick from her kit and cracked it, surrounding them with a bright greenish glow. He moved a few steps closer, watching the red highlights that shone in the dark hair she’d pulled back in one of those twisty braids women liked.

“I don’t hear you making phone calls.” She lifted Mark’s eyelids and shone a penlight in them. “Pupils reactive,” she muttered. “Good.”

She paused and looked up at Aidan, her dark eyes widening when she saw him. Shit. He was staring at her as if she were a fresh steak.

As quickly as her eyes widened, they narrowed in anger. “While you’re contacting the sheriff and an ambulance—and, yes, that was another hint—I’ll get Mark ready to transport to the hospital. We can reschedule our interview.”

Well, that wasn’t happening. No ambulance. No rescheduling. “I won’t call an ambulance until you tell me—”

The rest of his response was interrupted by a spray of gravel as an oversize, souped-up monster of an SUV pulled into the lot and lurched to a stop directly behind Krys’s beat-up car. Aidan smiled. Leave it to Mirren to make sure she couldn’t drive away even if she wanted to.

Krys paused with sterile wipe in hand, gaping as Mirren climbed out of the Bronco and approached. At six foot eight, he had eight inches on Aidan and at least sixty pounds of muscle. Those crazy tattoos and a serious investment in black clothing added up to one sinister first impression, and Aidan watched to see her reaction.

Krys’s gaze had frozen on Mirren. His second-in-command had that effect, even on other vampires.

“Dr. Harris, this is Mirren Kincaid. He’s law enforcement for Penton, and he’ll take care of any official reports that need to be filed. We’ll take Mark to the Penton Clinic in the truck and you can treat him there. Then we’ll have our interview.” Aidan’s gaze drifted to her mouth, which she’d clamped shut and tightened as he talked. Even angry and shooting storm clouds at both of them, she was getting to him. He hoped Mirren had fed so he wouldn’t be in the same shape.

Krys arched an eyebrow at Mirren. “Nice to meet you, I think.”

Mirren gave her a curt nod and assumed his normal expression, something between a sphinx and a turnip. Aidan stifled a laugh; Mirren considered that his friendly look.

Krystal turned her attention back to Mark, easing the lapels of his jacket away from his chest and gently cutting open what was left of his shirt. She tugged on vinyl gloves and pressed a couple of sterile wipes around the injuries. “The slashes across the abdomen are shallow—they’re just messy,” she said. “They’re masking a stab wound here”—she pointed to his side—“but whoever did this was either talented or stupid. It doesn’t look like it hit any organs, and that’s not easy to do with a knife to the gut. His vitals are good.”

She lifted the blood-soaked bandages off Mark’s cuts and tossed them aside, pulling fresh ones from her kit.

The bloody bandages landed near Mirren’s feet, and he stepped back with a hiss, crossing his arms over his chest and looking toward the cars.

Krys laughed. “Both of you are afraid of blood? I swear, men can be such babies.”

Aidan exchanged a bemused glance with Mirren. She had no idea what being around all this blood—and her—was doing to him, and probably Mirren, too.

She shifted position to look more closely at Mark’s head. “I don’t like the look of this bruise on his temple—we need to get the bleeding under control and get him out of here. There are a couple of towels in my trunk. Would one of you get them?” She pulled her keys from her pocket and tossed them at Aidan. He grabbed them on instinct, not thinking to slow his reflexes.
She stared at him a moment, shook her head, and turned back to Mark.

Krys worked quickly once she had the towels, cleaning off the blood to see the wounds better, then sat back, frowning. “What does it mean?”

Aidan stared at the cuts. “No idea.” Which wasn’t true. The letters spelled out “food” in Gaelic—Owen’s idea of a freaking joke.

“These are letters:
. They have to mean something.” Krys cocked her head and frowned at Aidan. “You’re lying about not knowing. In fact, you already have an idea who did this, don’t you?”

“We’ll damn sure find out.” He couldn’t take his eyes off Mark’s chest—the cuts were deep enough to leave a scar. He’d wear “food”
like a billboard the rest of his life. “Mirren, get the truck ready.”

Krys blew out a breath of frustration. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll get him ready to take to the clinic so we can get him warmed up and I can get a better look at him. But if you aren’t going to help, get out of the way. You’re casting a shadow.”

He took two short steps back, barking a quick laugh. “So feisty. I hadn’t expected that.”

She grumbled something he couldn’t make out, although he thought he heard the word “asswipe.”

Krys pressed the towels against Mark’s abdomen with one hand and used the other to tilt his head gently to the side. “OK, let’s get him somewhere warm. But he’s not a small guy, so we need to be careful about lifting him—”

Good. They were in business. Aidan slid his hands under Mark’s knees and shoulders and lifted him gently. He placed him in the Bronco’s cargo area and looked back at Krys. “Want
to ride with him, or with me, or follow us?” He wasn’t sure he wanted her left alone to follow them, but he’d offer it up and hope she took one of the other options. He didn’t want to enthrall her. Maybe he could get her to Penton voluntarily, at least until Mark was well. Then they could convince her to take the job.

Indecision warred on her face as she looked at her junk heap of a car. She slipped her hand into her coat pocket where she’d stashed her handgun, and Aidan felt a wash of admiration. She probably thought she could shoot them if they tried to hurt her. She had no idea it wouldn’t even slow them down unless it was a lucky close-range shot to the head.

With a final look at Mirren, she seemed to reach a decision. “I’ll ride with the patient.” She hitched up her skirt enough to crawl into the back of the Bronco, giving Aidan a heart-stopping view of those long, long legs, and settled next to Mark, placing a firm hand on the towels covering his wounds.

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
3.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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