Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy) (6 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
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Earlier, he’d been so focused on her scent and his own warped reaction that he hadn’t realized how tall she was—maybe five foot nine without the heels. Long and rangy, with killer legs and dark auburn hair. Fair skin and a heart-shaped face would have given her a sweet look but for the sharp intelligence behind her dark brown eyes, which still held traces of laughter as she met his gaze.

“Call me Krys. I try to forget my parents named me after a fast-food hamburger.”

Aidan laughed. “My business manager wants a Krystal’s franchise in Penton, but I don’t think we can support it. Tell me that’s not really how you got your name.”

She shrugged, and the small action drew his eyes to her neck, where he could sense the pulse beating fine and strong. He was struck with the urge to put his mouth there, to taste her. He should have told Will to find him a substitute feeder for tonight.

“Knowing my dad, anything’s possible,” she said wryly. “He always said I was conceived after a drunken trip to Krystal’s where he ended up with food poisoning and a kid.”

Aidan knew all about bad parents—despite his best intentions, he’d been one. He met her gaze again and held it for a few seconds, concentrating, waiting for her focus to waver. It took a few moments, but she finally blinked and looked down. Her willingness to make eye contract was a strength in the human world but would make her vulnerable to enthrallment if he had to do it. Quite the paradox.

Just like the fact that he was getting all hot over a woman whom he planned to treat like prey in order to save a town he’d built so the vampires who had bonded themselves to him wouldn’t have to live like predators.

One big paradox.

Good Lord. Krys couldn’t believe the sparks and hormones flying around this room. On the way into Penton, she had assumed Aidan Murphy would be a little, old, retired country doctor with Irish ancestors, not an exotic-looking demigod in a sweater and jeans that played up his broad shoulders and slim hips. Things she shouldn’t notice in a potential employer.

That trace of an accent could be Irish, but she’d had nothing else right. He also had an intensity in his odd-colored eyes,
a way of looking at her that made her heart thump and her skin feel as if she’d spent an hour in the sun. She didn’t react that way to men, especially men she wanted to work for. He probably had women lined up down the block, waiting for him to look their way. He sure wouldn’t be interested in a flat-chested, geeky girl from the wrong side of Birmingham.

Get a grip, missy. You’re here for a job, not a man.

OK. Right. And it was a ridiculous hour for a job interview. “Are you sure you want to do this tonight?” She placed her briefcase in one of the armchairs and sat in the other as Aidan again took the power seat across the desk. “We can reschedule later in the week. It’s only a three-hour drive to Americus.”

“You’re here, so let’s talk if you’re not too tired.” He smiled. “Thanks for helping out tonight. We don’t have many emergencies, and Mark is a good friend.”

Good friend, huh?
Krys still wasn’t sure why this guy was the first person Mark had asked for. Then something clicked. “He works for you, right? I didn’t make the connection at first, but he’s the one who made my travel arrangements. Got the hotel room for me in LaFayette.”

Aidan nodded. “Right. Mark’s my main go-to guy, handles all of my day-to-day business transactions.”

Which brought them back to what a man like Aidan Murphy was doing running a small-town hospital. Krys eyed him with open curiosity. She might as well just ask him. If she was really going to consider living here, she needed to know the players, and Aidan Murphy dished out major-player vibes—not sexually, although there were plenty of those vibes, too, but in a leadership kind of way.

She studied him—neat, controlled, and except for the long hair, a better fit for the business corridors of downtown Atlanta
than the wilds of rural Alabama. “You are what, exactly? No offense, but you look too young for a hospital admin. I’ve rarely seen one under sixty, and all these people treat you like a mob boss.”

She paused, imagining massive Mirren Kincaid in a pinstripe suit with a tommy gun, taking orders from the dark and dangerous local godfather. Then she smiled. “Not that I actually know any. You’re not one, are you? A mob boss?”

Aidan smiled and leaned back in his chair. The change in his posture made Krys realize he’d been tense—the set of his shoulders had been tight. Guess his friend’s attack had shaken them all up. Laughter took five years off his age. He couldn’t be much over thirty. And when he laughed, a deep dimple creased his left cheek and made him even hotter. Like he needed any help with that.

“Not a mob boss,” he said. “I don’t own a machine gun, and there are no mobsters anywhere in my family—just a bunch of Irish farmers, although that’s been a while.” His look grew more serious. “So, Mark’s really OK?”

Krys crossed her legs, stared in horror at the run in her hose, and uncrossed them again, tugging her skirt down to hide it.
Boy, way to make an impression, Krys—he’ll think you’re a total hick. Oh, wait. Job, not man.

“Mark should be fine in a few days,” she said. “Although he’s going to have a scar in the shape of whatever that word is. Why would anyone carve him up like that?”

A flash of something—anger, maybe—flitted across his face before his expression settled into stony neutrality. “I have no idea.”

She’d been right earlier. Definitely lying. She’d had a lifetime of reading her father’s moods, and there were few expressions
she couldn’t interpret. He either knew that word or knew who had done it—and was royally pissed about it.

Still, not her problem. “Mark’s lucky his attacker didn’t know what he was doing. If the stab wound had been a few inches to the left, we’d be having a different conversation and your refusal to call an ambulance might have had serious consequences.”

“Looks like we were lucky, then.” Aidan flipped open a file folder on the desk. “Let’s see. You grew up in Birmingham, went to Auburn, med school at Emory, residency at Sumter Regional. Why are you interested in Penton? Do you have family around here? You mentioned your father.” He looked up at her, those odd eyes drilling holes in her as if mining for truths she might not tell him.

She shifted in her seat, laying her jacket in the adjacent chair alongside her briefcase. She bent quickly to catch the jacket as the Smith & Wesson in the pocket began pulling it toward the floor—she’d forgotten about the pistol. Thank God, the thing hadn’t fallen out. In hindsight, she felt silly for flashing it at him earlier.

“No family,” she said. “My mom is dead, and my father and I are not close.” Heck, she hadn’t seen the man since her mom’s funeral six years ago when she was a junior in college. He’d made it clear that he expected her to drop out of school and move home to assume Mom’s job as maid, cook, bartender, and emotional doormat. No, thanks.

“So what’s the attraction to Penton?” He steepled his hands in front of him, elbows propped on the desk, and watched her with those icy blue eyes that somehow managed to smolder.
Smolder?
What kind of thought was that to have during a job interview?

“I wanted to do a few years of rural medicine after my residency. I like the idea of being my own boss, of getting to know my patients as people, of going somewhere I’m really needed.” She laughed. “I sound like a real Pollyanna, don’t I?”

He didn’t need to know that after living under her dad’s tyranny for seventeen years, she wouldn’t hand over that much control to anyone ever again. If she had to live in the freakin’ woods to be in charge of her own life, so be it.

They spent the next fifteen minutes walking through the clinic, two wings with four patient rooms to the right, three exam areas to the left. There were also two well-stocked supply rooms, a couple of offices, and a lab full of diagnostic equipment set up for X-rays and other imaging tests, which she’d seen earlier while treating Mark. Even a small blood bank stocked with O-neg. The setup beat anything Krys had seen outside a hospital.

“I’m really surprised at how up-to-date everything is.” She stopped to examine a piece of ultrasound equipment.

“Our former doctor—the one whose job I’m about to offer you—made sure we had the best. He had a big equipment budget to use however he wanted. I’ll offer the same thing to you. This would be your little kingdom here, to run however you like. Anything else you think we need, just say so.”

Krys stared at him. He said all the right things, and he’d virtually offered her the job and what sounded like a carte blanche budget. Still, the whole encounter with Mirren Kincaid had been bizarre, even before he did the bloody-palm lick. Something struck her as
off
about Penton, and she’d learned to trust her instincts. She knew one person who could put her at ease, though.

“Did your former doctor retire? Is he still in town? I’d like to talk to him before I decide.”

Aidan’s face lost its animation as he motioned her back toward the office. “I wish he’d retired, but no. He died recently—a hunting accident. We all miss him.”

Krys nodded. Seemed like every weekend in November and December at least one deer hunter was hauled into the Sumter County ER. Either they shot themselves or each other—too often with alcohol involved.

They reentered the office and took the same seats. Aidan closed the file folder and propped his arms on the desk, studying Krys so intently that she got fidgety. She glanced at her watch and saw it was almost one a.m.

Aidan caught her looking. “Sorry, I know it’s late. Just a couple more things.” Krys hoped she hadn’t turned an unflattering shade of fuchsia. “I need to sell you on Penton. We have just under two hundred people and, as you saw, Doc made sure we have a well-equipped clinic. You’ll find the salary generous enough to compete with bigger cities.”

Krys blinked. There was small town, and then there was
really
small town. She’d been prepared for three hundred, but fewer than that? “Master of her own destiny” could easily devolve into “everybody knows your business.” “How do people support themselves with the mill closed?”

Aidan leaned back in his chair. “Most people own small businesses, or have business interests or investments outside town. We all support our local economy. I think you’ll find we have just about anything you’d need, a lot more than most of the larger towns around here, plus we’re only a couple of hours from Atlanta.”

Aidan stood and walked around to sit in the chair next to her, moving her things to the desktop—Krys let out a mental sigh of relief when the Smith & Wesson didn’t tumble out of her jacket pocket and shoot him in the foot.

He turned the chair toward her and his knee brushed hers. They touched glances, and Krys caught her breath before shifting away from him.

Aidan blinked, seeming to lose his train of thought for a moment. “Uh, that’s the sales pitch. How can I convince you to say yes?”

Krys looked at the floor, and then back at Aidan. She needed to give this a lot of thought, maybe make one of her side-by-side lists of pros and cons to see which side won—and she needed to factor in their chemistry, or whatever it was. If Aidan was her boss, he had to be her boss and not some guy she crushed on or did something stupid with. As tempting as that would definitely be.

“I promise I’ll think about it, but I can’t give you an answer tonight. Don’t you want to ask me anything? I mean about my qualifications?”

He laughed softly and stood up. “You had a trial by fire tonight, yes? The job’s yours if you want it. Could I convince you to hang around a couple of days, just to make sure Mark’s OK? We’ll pay you for your time, even if you decide not to take the job.”

Krys stood as well. “Look, I’d just be taking advantage of you. Mark’s going to be fine, and Melissa can watch for infection. I gave her a prescription for antibiotics just in case. Let me think about the offer for a few days and I’ll call you at the end of the week. Will that work?”

Aidan’s face tightened as he held out his right hand for her to shake. “If you’re sure.”

She grasped his hand, thinking she wouldn’t mind seeing him again under different circumstances. Definitely wouldn’t mind. But as a boss or something else?

She nodded noncommittally, and then remembered the Dinosaur. “I hate to ask, but can I get a ride back to my car? It’s still at the convenience store where Mark was injured.”

He didn’t answer, but moved closer, still holding her hand.

How weird was that? She tried to pull her hand free, but he only tightened his fingers around hers. She frowned and tugged. “What are you doing?”

Strong fingers cupped her face and pulled her gaze up to his. She could drown in those pale eyes—and not in a bad way. Her muscles grew languorous, and, holy cow, if he wasn’t the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. She wondered what his lips would feel like on hers.

“You’ll never believe this, Krys, but I am sorry.” His voice came from a few light years away as he led her to the sofa beneath the windows. She didn’t remember sitting down, but she awoke as if from a brief nap to find him next to her, pushing up the sleeve of her blouse and piercing the big cephalic vein in her forearm with a syringe.

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
2.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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