Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy) (5 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
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“Pull a female out of the herd and bring her to the house,” he said, turning left in the direction of the village. “I’m starving.”

Anders nodded, taking a sharp right toward the mill and its dank, partially collapsed basement where their humans had been tethered since the previous night. Since Aidan bonded his
humans, Owen’s scathe couldn’t feed from them. They’d had to provide their own, and it was a sorry lot—mostly junkies grabbed off the streets of Atlanta.

He continued to a small, white-framed house at the dead end of Cotton Street, digging a cell phone from his pocket and punching a number as soon as he’d slipped inside.

The voice answering the call didn’t bother with a greeting. “Did you set it up?”

“A fine evening to you as well, Matthias,” Owen said. “And how are things with our esteemed Tribunal leader? Relaxing over brandy and cigars, are you?”

“Shove the sarcasm, Murphy.” Matthias’s hard-edged Yank accent annoyed Owen more than the stale beer at most of Atlanta’s so-called pubs. “You said you could get a meeting with Aidan. Did you?”

“I sent the invitation, and he’ll bloody well answer,” Owen said. “He’s too much of an optimist not to. He’ll try to convince me to go back to Dublin and leave him and his little town alone.”

“And you’re willing to end it?”

“You mean, will I kill him? What’s wrong—don’t want to get dirty by saying the words?” Owen swung the door open for Anders, who sauntered in gripping the arm of a young woman with dead eyes and a slack-jawed expression. Owen flicked his eyes over her body and nodded. Almost used up, that one, but she’d do.

Matthias snorted. “You get extra credit for getting Aidan out of commission for good, but first priority is to get that town of his shut down and his scathe broken up. He’s getting too powerful.” He paused for a moment, and then resumed in a softer voice. “And you know what’s waiting for you if you don’t.”

Yeah, Owen knew. A date with the Tribunal’s executioner. The current one. The guy might not make you suffer as long as the Slayer would have, but at the end of the day, your head would still be lying in a separate plot from your body.

Speaking of which. “So, Matthias, guess where your old friend the Slayer is spending his time these days?”

Ludlam snorted. “Saw Mirren Kincaid already, did you? We want him back in the fold so don’t kill him unless you have to. As for you, we have others who can take you out if you don’t perform.”

“Oh, the job will be done, but your price just went up.”

Owen flopped down in a threadbare plaid armchair that smelled of mildew and poverty, and pulled the woman to his lap, grabbing the scruff of her neck to turn her head toward him. Her eyes grew glassy, and she leaned into him, running a dirt-smudged hand between his thighs.

“You’re a lucky bastard that my brother pisses me off even more than the Tribunal,” Owen said, closing his eyes as the girl worked him through his jeans.

Matthias laughed, a brittle cackling sound. “Come on, Murphy, you’re only doing this to save your own miserable life. You had half the cops in Dublin looking for the so-called Vampire Killer.”

“It would have blown over.” He grabbed the girl’s hair to get her attention and shook his head when she began fumbling at his zipper. Not yet.

“You’re reckless, Murphy. Lucky for you the Tribunal is split on this little social experiment of Aidan’s.” He paused, and Owen heard the clink of a glass. “Aidan has friends on the Tribunal, so remember—I’m not involved. No one on the Tribunal is involved. Don’t forget that.”

Owen walked to the window and looked out, jerking the shade into place as a dark sedan crawled down the street, paused in the cul-de-sac, then turned and slowly rolled the other way. Aidan had started patrols around the mill and village after the murder of the town doctor, which meant that most of Owen’s people had to stay in the woods, living in the dark like beasts.

“Look, we don’t have enough people for an all-out war, so I have to hit slow and strategic-like, especially with the Slayer in the picture,” Owen said. “Besides, Penton has more than twice as many humans as vampires, and near as I can tell, every human is bonded directly or indirectly to Aidan. Once he’s down, the rest of his people will run.”

Another long silence. When Matthias spoke, his voice dropped a few decibels. “I can’t send you fighters, but I can send a courier to Atlanta with a new weapon.” He paused. “And if I ever hear you link it to me, there’s nowhere you can hide. Understand?”

Owen grinned. “Must be a fine bit of stuff, that. Tomorrow night’s kill is going to make me a free man.”

“T
hat woman’s gonna be a handful.” Mirren followed Aidan down the hospital corridor. “Not too late to change your mind about keeping her here.”

“Yeah, it is.” Aidan couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry. First Doc and now Mark. He wasn’t likely to be the last of Owen’s victims. “Get someone to bring her car in and stash it.”

Mirren grumbled something beneath his breath but headed out the front door when Aidan turned left toward the clinic office for a quick meeting with Will.

He slowed his pace, wishing he had time to feed before encountering Krystal Harris again. Because no way he’d have reacted this way to her if he hadn’t been hungry and angry—skin heating, slow vampire heart speeding, every blood and sex urge igniting. She was pretty enough, sexy as hell, but he was acting like a besotted vampire who’d encountered a potential mate.

He’d never felt it before, and he didn’t want to feel it now—especially about this woman. Not only was she human, but he’d
spent the last two hours planning her abduction. How screwed up was that?

After all these years, he should know better than to get into an emotional situation around that much blood when he hadn’t fed.
Idiot.

Now that he’d met her, he hated what he was about to do even more, but the plan to keep her had to move forward. He’d worked hard to turn Penton into a place where his scathe and their human fams could live in peace, so he’d just have to suck it up—even if Krys Harris pushed all his buttons. Besides, she was responding to him as a man, not as a vampire. He’d seen desire turn to fear in a woman’s eyes in the span of a heartbeat.

He needed to get a grip before she came in for her interview. And he needed to find out why Will had picked her.

Aidan unlocked the office door and flipped a switch that simultaneously turned on the three lamps scattered around the room. Their soft light cast dramatic shadows on the deep teal walls and cherry furnishings—and the head of spiky blond hair emerging through an opening in the far corner floor.

“About time you got here. How’s Mark?” Will Ludlam pulled himself out of the hatch and slid the interlocking wooden panels back into place to cover the opening. He brushed imaginary dust off his pants legs before reclining on the sofa beneath the window and taking a not-so-subtle glance at his watch. Aidan chuckled; it was Will’s way of saying that night was burning and he had more interesting things to do than to check the locks on a suite for an about-to-be-abducted human.

“Mark’ll be fine. Owen hurt him enough to scar him, not kill him, so I’m guessing he sent a message. Haven’t had a chance to get Mark alone yet, though.”

Aidan sat behind a cherry desk roughly the size of a football field. Scathe members had been using the office as a general meeting place since the town’s doctor had been murdered, but nobody had had the heart to move his furniture or take down the ugly-ass primitive oil paintings that dotted the walls.

He paused for a beat. “How sure are you about your research on Krystal Harris? She’s a lot tougher than I expected.” Tough didn’t cover it.

Will straightened the shirt cuffs peeking out from beneath his jacket sleeves. “You asked for a human doctor who hadn’t been vaccinated for the pandemic, and that’s what I got you. She’s perfect.” He counted off points on his fingers. “She’s unvaccinated, estranged from her family, no close friends, finishing a residency in general medicine, looking for a job in rural medicine. Probably meek as a kitten and homely as a toad.”

“Wrong and wrong.”
Holy hell.
Aidan rolled his head from side to side, cracking his neck. “Hard to believe no one will miss her.”

Will looked at him sharply. “What’s with you, man? You look rattled. But you and Mark and Melissa are tight. I get that. Something else going on?”

Rattled. Right.
“So the doctor is—”

“She’s perfect—believe me. I hacked into the friggin’ personnel files of every human hospital in the Southeast looking for an unvaccinated doctor and she’s the best I found. Besides, we have a bigger issue.”

He didn’t have enough problems between his homicidal brother and a soon-to-be-abducted doctor he wanted to wear like a glove? “What’s wrong?”

“When I came into the office to check the locks on the suite door, the hatch wasn’t covered and the panel was hanging open.
Whoever went down there last needs a serious reminder about security.”

“Lucy, who else?”
Shit.
One of his best fighters had turned into a head case since Doc had been murdered. The pain of losing her human mate wouldn’t dull any time soon, so the faster she learned to work through it, the better. Aidan knew that firsthand. “I’ll talk to her. I know she’s hurting, but she’s really been screwing up.”

“If you’d let me work security, she could take some time off.”

Aidan stifled a sharp answer. They’d had this argument before. He wished Will could help them hunt Owen—they could use his muscle and smarts. But it was too risky. “You can’t fight with us, not as long as there’s any chance the Tribunal could be backing Owen. Last thing we want is your father declaring war on Penton to get to you. We have enough trouble without Matthias making us a personal project.”

Anger and resignation fought on Will’s features before he finally slumped back on the sofa. “Daddy dearest—screwing up my life one day at a time, unhappily ever after.” He shook his head, and Aidan saw steeliness settle in his brown eyes. “Fine, then. When you figure out what you need me to do, I’m there.”

“What’s the status of the doctor’s apartment?”

“I have a couple of our humans taking care of it,” Will said. “As soon as you let me know for certain we’re going to take her, I’ll send our guys to Georgia, pack up her stuff and put it in storage, and then leave a month’s rent and fake forwarding address in the landlord’s mailbox. As far as our people are concerned, it’s a normal move.”

Aidan nodded, hating this idea more every minute. “What about her job at the hospital in Americus?”

“The chief of staff will receive a letter with her resigna—”

Will grew still and silent, his eyes trained on the hallway. They listened to the staccato sound of heels hitting the linoleum floor, gradually growing louder.

Aidan’s senses shot into hyperdrive. He could smell the light fragrance of her perfume, and he shifted uncomfortably in his chair simply from the knowledge that she was coming toward them. He glanced at Will to see if he was having the same reaction; hoped he was. But Will looked toward the door with polite interest and nothing more.
Shit.

A sharp knock and Krystal pushed the door open, pausing uncertainly. She blinked when she saw Aidan behind the desk, fought a grin, and burst into laughter—a rich, musical sound that contradicted the no-nonsense demeanor he’d seen earlier. It sent a jolt of heat right down to Aidan’s gut.

“Sorry.” She shook her head. “It’s just weird seeing you behind a desk and trying to do a job interview after what’s happened tonight.”

Aidan took a deep breath. Time to try Plan A and charm her into staying voluntarily without freaking her out or letting his vampire crap get out of hand. “Let’s just start over, although I don’t have any doubts about your medical skills.”

He introduced her to Will. “He’s our IT guy. You have a problem—Will can solve it.”

Will treated her to his best playboy smile. “Nice to meet you—I hear you got hijacked on the way into town.”

One of these days, I’m going to have to slap the shit out of that smart-ass.
“She was nice enough to stop and help Mark,” Aidan said, giving Will a warning look.

Krys laughed. “Not like Mr. Murphy gave me much choice—it was either stop or turn him into roadkill.”

Will grinned. “Roadkill? Oh, I’m going to like you.” He looked at Aidan. “Hire the woman already,
Mr. Murphy
.”

Aidan shook his head. Will was such a pain in the ass. “Call me Aidan,” he told Krys. “And say good-bye to Will. He has work to do.”

“Bye, Will. Nice to meet you.” Krys held out a hand for Will to shake.

He held it a few beats longer than necessary, and Aidan felt a long-dormant stirring in his gut. He was surprised to realize that he didn’t want Will touching Krys. Since when did he get territorial over a virtual stranger?

He nodded at Will as his lieutenant paused on his way into the hall. Will didn’t look any happier about taking Krys than he felt. His mental comment to Aidan was clear:
We’re predatory assholes; might as well act like it.

Once Will closed the door behind him, Aidan left his desk and approached Krys. “We got off to a bad start, Krystal, so I’ll try a do-over. I’m Aidan Murphy.” He held out his right hand, relishing the touch of her long, slim fingers.

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
10.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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