Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy) (7 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
10.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Oh no, that couldn’t happen. “No drugs,” she whispered—it was the only thought she could express from the fog of her mind. Except that he wasn’t pushing anything into her vein with the needle. He was withdrawing blood.

She swallowed hard, trying to force her thick, useless tongue to work. “What...doing?”

He stroked her hair, and leaned over till his face was inches from hers. She had that crazy urge to kiss him again, and focused on his lips—the bottom one fuller than the top, firm and strong. A mouth made for kissing.

“Look at me, Krys,” he said softly, and as she raised her eyes to his again, her awareness fuzzed around the edges. The room spun. She fought it, struggled to keep her thoughts clear, but eventually a wave of nothingness washed over her.

hree a.m. tomorrow night, behind the mill. That was the message Owen had sent with Mark, or at least it was all he’d been able to tell Melissa.

After a meeting with the lieutenants, a shower, and a quick surveillance drive around town, Aidan returned to the clinic. Mark was zombied on Vicodin, so Melissa’s report had to do for now. Maybe he was naïve considering the brutality of Owen’s attacks, but Aidan still hoped he could reason with his brother—even pay him off if he had to.

Except nothing involving Owen had ever been that simple.

Aidan and Melissa walked to the clinic office from Mark’s room. Since he had a couple of hours to kill before sunrise, he might as well check in on Krys—she’d still be enthralled, so he wouldn’t have to worry about her testing his control. He pulled aside the area rug and deftly moved the wooden pieces to release the hatch lock. “Shut this up after me.” He looked back at Melissa. “When I leave, I’ll go through the tunnel.”

“Will do,” Melissa said. “You coming back to talk to Mark? He might know more than he told me—I know you boys have your secrets. And you need to feed.”

Aidan paused halfway through the hatch and met her smile. She’d been his human familiar—his feeder—for four years, and they’d become good friends, no benefits. Just the way he wanted it. “You know everything that goes on around here, Mel. Tell Mark I’ll be there as soon as I can after rising, and don’t worry about the feeding. I’ll get a sub for a few days.”

The hatch clicked shut above his head as he descended the ladder into the first lower level. They’d spent a year excavating another space beneath the existing basement, creating half a dozen subbasement suites with an elaborate ventilation system. A hidden escape tunnel branched off to lead to different spots in town, and a couple of the rooms, such as the one Krys was in, locked only from the outside. Sometimes guests in the vampire world couldn’t be trusted.

Krys was their first...well, he couldn’t exactly call her a guest, but
made him sound like the predator he’d spent years pretending not to be. Guess desperation brought out the blackest part of a person’s soul—if vampires had souls. He’d always believed so, but he couldn’t put in much of an endorsement for it right now.

Krystal Harris definitely wouldn’t when she woke up tomorrow and found herself drafted as Penton’s newest citizen. Aidan grimaced as he crossed the basement storage area to reach the hidden hatch into the subbasement. His reaction to Krys tonight had been way off the normal chart, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Sure, he was hungry and she was beautiful—but it wasn’t as if he hadn’t experienced either lust
or hunger in the last four hundred years and controlled both of them. Krys Harris was just a new kind of test.

He’d had his mate, and she was dead because he’d failed her. He wasn’t going down that road again.

The cool, damp air chilled his skin when he climbed down the ladder into the subbasement stairwell. The smell of cement and glue and wood remained fresh despite the ventilation system’s work to keep the heated air flowing. He might need to light the propane fireplace to take the chill off the suite if Will hadn’t done it.

Thick carpet blanketed the long corridor and ornate brass light sconces showed off Will’s luxurious taste in furnishings. Left to Aidan or Mirren, the ambience would have been somewhere between storage room and hunting lodge—strictly function and comfort. But he could appreciate Will’s sense of style.

He paused outside the door to Krys’s suite, key halfway to the lock. He sensed her presence, her heartbeat, her soft breath, the scent of her skin as she moved about the room. Shit. How the hell was she awake so soon?

He’d had trouble keeping her enthralled upstairs. She’d started coming around when he tried to withdraw blood to test for the pandemic vaccine and he’d had to roll her mind a second time to put her under. There were stories of humans strong-willed enough to resist mental manipulation, but he’d never met one. Well, maybe until now.

Chickenshit bastard that he was, he’d expected her to sleep well past daybreak, have her initial freak-out, and then be calm enough to talk by the time he rose at dusk. Think again.

Maybe he should leave, go home to relax for a couple of hours before his daysleep, and just let things play out. She wasn’t screaming, and he wasn’t picking up signs of fear—no
rapid heart rate, no quickened breath—so she obviously didn’t realize she’d been locked in. Maybe he could find out what she thought had happened, salvage this mess somehow, and talk her into staying. Worth a try.

He knocked softly on the door to give her a heads-up, and then slid the key into the dead-bolt lock. The heavy wooden door swung silently inward, and Aidan stepped into the room.

The quilt over the king-size bed had been thrown back, and the bed was empty. The sound of water splashing from a faucet trickled in. What would she assume had happened? How could he explain...

Krys appeared in the bathroom doorway and stopped with a surprised yelp. “Oh my God—you almost gave me a heart attack.”

Her nervous chuckle blossomed into that husky, throaty laugh he’d noticed before, the one that made him wonder what she’d sound like late at night, tangled in the sheets with his hands and mouth on her. The laugh wasn’t all that drove his desire—she’d pulled off her business suit and wore a tiny red T-shirt and black panties that exposed a thin line of smooth skin between the lacy waistband and the hem of her top. She’d unbraided her dark auburn hair, and it fell in loose waves around her shoulders.

She was magnificent and unself-conscious and, holy hell, why hadn’t he just gone home? His fangs and his cock were suddenly battling it out to see which one could ache with need the most, and the blast of desire that shot through him almost drove him to his knees.

She quit laughing and stared at him with a half smile. “Did I faint or something? I can’t remember what happened, and this”—she looked around the suite—“this sure isn’t the little
hotel room in LaFayette.” She tugged on the hem of the T-shirt. “I found this in the bathroom. Hope it’s OK I took it.”

“Ah, yeah.” Aidan shook off the mental shock and tried to focus. How had she come out of the enthrallment so completely and so fast? She didn’t even seem to have a post-enthrallment hangover.

He improvised. “You got light-headed, so I thought you could spend the night here in Penton—one of our guest rooms became available. Someone who stayed here earlier probably left the shirt.” Someone as in careless, grieving Lucy, whose come-to-Aidan talk couldn’t wait much longer. “I came back to check on you. How do you feel?”

Krys laughed again and leaned against the bathroom doorjamb. “A little woozy but maybe I went too long without eating. I guess low blood sugar caught up with me.”

“I’ll bring you something to eat,” he said automatically. But not yet. Forget trying to talk her into staying while she was half-dressed and he was hungry. He needed to get her enthralled again before she realized this wasn’t an ordinary hotel room and he wasn’t the small-town hospital administrator she thought he was.

But damn, he didn’t want to put her under. He wanted to wind his fingers through her hair, see if its shiny darkness felt as silky as it looked. He wanted to run his hands over every curve, taste her skin and her blood. He wanted to memorize her scent.

Her pulse quickened as if she sensed his thoughts. Such a tiny physical reaction, yet it almost undid his ability to stay in control of his raging instincts.

“Your eyes are amazing—I swear they change color,” she said, searching his face but not settling on his gaze long enough for him to study her pupils. Didn’t matter anyway—no way she
was still buzzed. Fully enthralled meant unconscious. Lightly enthralled, people were functional sleepwalkers. They didn’t stand there with bedroom laughs, tugging at the hems of little red shirts, ratcheting his hunger up until his damned body screamed for her. He hadn’t reacted to a woman with such raw need since—well, since he’d been turned. Mated males acted this way. He didn’t.

Aidan closed his eyes and regrouped. Enough already. He wasn’t going to have this woman—not tonight, not ever, even if she was setting off every alarm in his food-sex control panel. Even if she wanted him, he might as well brand a big H on his forehead for “hypocrite” if he gave in to his wants.

“Why don’t you get back in bed, relax, and I’ll see about getting you some food,” he said with what he thought was an admirable amount of restraint.

She cocked her head and looked at him with narrowed eyes for a moment, as if she sensed the change in his thoughts. Or maybe his eyes had darkened as he tried to drill some common sense into his thick vampire skull.

She walked to the bed, laughing softly as she tumbled onto the mattress, resting her head on the pillow, her dark hair fanning across the soft white cotton. Her lean body was relaxed, her long legs curled to one side, a hand resting on her stomach.

Aidan’s slow-beating heart almost stopped. He wanted that image etched into his brain.

“I’m OK now,” she said. “But you don’t have to go, do you?”

His heart did a ridiculous flip-flop. “Ahh...sure. I can stay a few minutes.”
Such a bad idea.

Getting closer to her was an even worse idea, but Aidan couldn’t enthrall her again if he didn’t get close enough to capture
her gaze. He sat on the edge of the bed, tamping down the urge to touch her.

“I didn’t imagine the evening ending this way, did you?” She smiled. “I don’t act like this normally—I really don’t. It’s just that when I met wasn’t what I kept thinking about.”

His breath released in a whoosh as she laid a hand on his knee and slid it up to his thigh.
She might want you now, big guy, but wait till she wakes up in the morning and finds herself locked in. She’s gonna hate your sorry ass.

He didn’t know Krystal Harris. Did she come on like this to any man she was attracted to? God knows she was pretty enough, but he caught a hint of vulnerability from her, even when she was moving her hand near his point of no return. He believed her when she said she didn’t normally act this way, so she must be reacting to their instant chemistry, same as he was. Only difference was, she didn’t know that when he left her tonight, her freedom was going with him.

He took her wandering hand, gently removed it from his thigh, and stretched out next to her on the bed, closing his eyes for a moment to take in the scent of her—a sweet, delicate floral overlaying clean skin touched recently by the sun. He took her face between his palms, his eyes seeking to lock with hers so he could enthrall her again before this went any further.

But she was focused on his mouth. “Kiss me,” she whispered. “Please.”

He was still thinking of excuses when she raised her head and pressed her lips to his, the softest brush that drew his lips down in response. He kissed her top lip, and then nipped at her bottom, keeping his fangs to himself, before covering her
mouth with his. Need jolted down his spine and straight into his groin as her tongue sought entrance to his mouth.

No more. He rolled away from her with a groan and sat up. “Krys, we can’t do this. Not—”

“Why not?” That laugh again, and he looked back to see her watching him with parted lips, her own hunger naked on her face. Her pulse thudded in his ears, and he knew that if he moved to touch her she would welcome him.

“Aidan, I can already tell you overthink things—just shut up and kiss me again. Unless...” She sat up and looked at him uncertainly. “Unless you don’t want me, and that’s OK. I know you’re probably used to more beautiful women than me and—” She looked down at her hands. “God, I’m just humiliating myself. Maybe you should go after all.”

Was she being coy? But no, she was blushing, her skin turning an enticing shade of pink. How the hell could she possibly think she wasn’t beautiful, or that he might not want her? Without thinking, he reached out a hand, brushed his fingers lightly across her cheek, and cupped them around the curve between her neck and shoulder. “You shine like the sunlight,” he said softly. “Don’t ever doubt how beautiful you are.”

She leaned into his hand and kissed his palm, then reached down and tugged at the bottom edges of the T-shirt, pulling it over her head. She bit her lip and her blush deepened as she sat holding the shirt, seeming unsure what to do with it.

BOOK: Redemption (The Penton Vampire Legacy)
10.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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