Authors: Nina Croft
Twenty-two years ago, vampire Darius Cole abducted and seduced witch Gina, forging an emotional bond between them and leaving Gina with a daughter. Then Gina's sister witches tore them apart and the bond fadedâuntil she feels the Darkness within Darius threatening to take control and calls him to her instead.
Darius had wanted Gina from the moment he laid eyes on herâand he can still sense her arousal around him. Though he's bitter about her betrayal, he cannot deny their rekindled passion. But with the Darkness and Gina's fellow witches threatening them once again, will this be the last time they make love for eternity?
Thunder crashed overhead, and flashes of crimson lit up the night sky, bathing the city of London in a blood red glow. Darius Cole breathed in deeply, his nostrils flaring as he caught the acrid stench of fear drifting up from the alley ahead.
He'd been stalking his prey for an hour, but he was growing bored with the chase. Besides, this close to mid-summer, the nights were short and dawn was approaching. He needed to finish this soon. With that thought, he loosened his control on the blood-thirst. It rose hard and fast, flooding his body, and beneath the blood-thirst, the Darkness struggled to break free. He'd sensed it often in the past week, lurking in the recesses of his mind, and for the first time in his long existence, he welcomed its presence.
A voice whispered through his head, soft and low. He recognized her instantly and rage surged through him. Then he shook his head. It was nothing but his imagination playing tricks on him. Again.
Gina wasn't here. Why would she be?
She'd left him twice now, the last time only a week ago. If she'd wanted to talk to him, she could have done so then, face-to-face. Instead, she'd fought beside him, and when the fighting was over, she'd walked away without a backward glance.
The lightning flared again, and he caught sight of his prey cowering in the shadow of a parked truck. Darius stalked forward, no longer troubling to keep under cover. The young man's face was slack with fear, his eyes glazed, but it aroused no pity. Instead, the Darkness clawed its way a little closer to the surface.
Reaching out, Darius clasped one hand in the greasy blond hair, jerked back the head and exposed the line of the throat. He breathed in the rank scent of terror oozing from the skin, and then he lunged. His fangs sank into the flesh and he fed convulsively, gaining no pleasure from the act, but unable to stop as the Darkness gripped him.
Darius, no! You cannot take the lives of innocents.
Her voice was clearer now. This time he couldn't deny it. He raised his head, inhaling, as though he would scent her perfume on the warm night air.
Still, his fangs retracted, and the Darkness receded. He relaxed his tight hold, and the man slumped to the ground. Darius glanced down at him. “He deserves death,” he said. “He's a pimp and a drug pusher.”
But not at your hand.
He nudged the still form with the toe of his boot. The man stirred, his eyes fluttering open. Crouching down beside him, Darius stared into the terror-filled gaze. “Forget,” he murmured, his power flowing out to bind his victim's will. “Now, go.”
For a moment, the blond man peered up at Darius, his eyes unfocused, then he staggered to his feet and lurched away.
“There,” Darius said, “still alive. Happy, now?”
No, not happy.
Then she was gone.
He whirled around, searching the surrounding buildings, not quite believing she had left him, again. But she was close. He sensed it with every beat of his heart. She was here, in the city somewhere, and he would find her.
He raised his head and screamed up at the night sky. “Where are you?”
“Just two more days,” Gina whispered into the phone. “Give me two days, then I'll come back on my own. I swear.”
She held her breath as she waited for her sister's reply. In the background, she could hear the howling of dogs, and her whole body tensed.
“We don't have two days,” Regan said. “I've tried, but I can't stop this. You used the earth magic and blacked out the sun. Only you can restore the balance.”
Regan was the oldest and most powerful of her sisters, and Gina had prayed that somehow Regan could put things right. Now the last of her hope died. “I had no choice.”
“That changes nothing.” Regan's tone was harsh, but beneath that, Gina could sense a deep well of anguish. “The magic is out of control, and it will get worse until you pay the price.”
“I will pay,” Gina said. “But first, I needâ¦”
“There's no time,” Regan interrupted. “I'm releasing Diablo and Satan. Expect us soon.”
The connection was cut. Gina stared at the cell phone clutched in her hand, then hurled it across the room. She raised her head and listened, as though she would already hear the baying of the hounds as they raced across the night sky, hunting her down.
Regan had set the hellhounds after her.
How could she? Her own sister. But Gina knew how. She crossed the hotel room and drew back the heavy curtain. Outside, darkness had fallen and flashes of crimson fire lit up the night sky. She bit her lip. Regan was rightâtime was running out.
Gina dropped the curtain and sank down to the floor, hugging her knees.
She would never be sorry for what she'd done. There was always a price to pay for wielding the earth magic, and she had known the consequences would be severe when she'd used it to save Raven's life. She'd done it anywayâno price was too high to save her daughter, and Gina was willing to pay. Just not yet. First, she needed to be certain Darius was safe.
She knew she could never see him again. She'd accepted that when she'd walked away a week ago. She'd wanted to stay, desperately, but how could she after what she had done? Knowing what she must soon do?
Twenty-two years ago, Darius had abducted her, seduced her and taken her blood. In doing so, he had forged a bond between them, a bond so strong they felt each other's thoughts and emotions. That bond had faded with time, until now only a tenuous thread connected them. Then last night she had felt his bitterness, and realized how close he was to embracing the Darkness. Dread filled her at the thought; it would be the end of him. He would be an outcast, hunted down by his own kind.
She'd reached out to him. He had heard her and stepped back from the edge. Now she needed to be sure he would not give in.
A light tap sounded on the door.
Her eyes flew open; her muscles tightened. The hounds couldn't have found her yet. Then she breathed out, forcing herself to relax. After all, a hellhound wouldn't knock. Scrambling to her feet, she crossed the room and opened the door. Her breath caught in her throat, and a fierce wave of delight washed over her.
Darius was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his broad chest. He appeared outwardly relaxed, but the air around him throbbed with tension. A slight smile lifted the corners of his lips, but his eyes remained cold as black ice, and Gina's delight oozed away. She knew she should slam the door in his face, but was unable to move.
When she'd first laid eyes on him, she'd thought him the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her entire life. She'd lived for over two hundred years, and in all that time she'd never seen anything quite so perfect. His looks hadn't changedâhe was still perfectâbut
now there was a cold, bitter edge of cruelty to his beauty, and she knew the change was due to her.
Black hair fell in an unkempt, wild tangle to his shoulders, stubble lined his strong jaw and a vicious scar ran down his right cheek. Her finger trembled with the need to reach out and smooth away the angry line. His faded jeans hung low on his lean hips, and a faded T-shirt stretched taut over his wide shoulders and muscular chest.
“Are you going to invite me in?” he asked, and the coldness in his voice matched the ice in his eyes. If she'd had any notion he still harbored feelings for her, it disappeared in that moment.
But if he didn't have feelings, then what did he want from her? A flash of fear hit her hard, and Gina fought it down. She tried to tell herself she trusted Darius with her life, but that had been long ago. She knew in her heart this wasn't the same man.
His eyes roamed over her. They lingered on her throat, and her fear instantly vanished, replaced by something far more dangerous. She could almost feel the scrape of his fangs, and prickles of excitement shivered across her skin. Her body quivered with the memory of the pleasure she knew he could bring. The muscles of her belly cramped, and her insides turned molten. She could scent her own arousal on the night air and knew he could, too. He leaned closer and breathed in deeply, as though trying to inhale her.
“Pleased to see me?” he murmured.
Her eyes flashed to his face. He was making no attempt to hide his response, his eyes darkening to black, gleaming under heavy lids. He looked like a hunter who had scented his prey, and he was starving for her. The breath caught in her throat once more, and her blood thickened until she could feel it pulsing through her veins.
She'd forgotten the way he made her feel. Although that wasn't entirely true. The truth was she'd known she would be unable to get through the long years alone, with his memory haunting her at every step, so she'd built defensive walls around those memories. Now the walls were crumbling. She shook her head, forced herself to ignore the feelings, gather her self-control around her like a cloak.
She licked her lips. Opened her mouth. Closed it again.
A frown formed on his face as he watched her. He lifted his head to scan the room behind her, and her hand tightened on the door, ready to slam it in his face if he made a move to enter.
“Invite me in,” he said.
She shook her head again.
He raised an eyebrow. “Can't you speak? Somebody cut out your tongue?”
She swallowed, trying to ease the tightness in her throat. “What do you want, Darius?”
“At this moment, to come in andâ¦” He paused, his eyes running over her body again. This time she was ready, and steeled herself against any response. “â¦talk to you about old times.”
“I don't remember the old times.”
“Really?” He sounded as though he didn't believe her. “Well, we'll talk about new times then.”
“I don't want to talk about new times.”
“You might not, but I do.”
The sound of voices drifted down the corridor, and Gina jumped. She peered around Darius to see a couple of girls walking toward them, young, pretty and vivacious. Their steps slowed as they caught sight of Darius. They whispered to each other as they stopped by the door of the next room along, taking too long fiddling with the key card, and casting sideways glances at his tall, indolent figure.
Gina glanced at his face. He was watching them, a speculative look in his eyes, and something hardened inside her. The two girls finally managed to open the door and disappeared inside with a last longing look in his direction.
He turned back to Gina. “Perhaps they would invite me in.”
He looked after them thoughtfully, eyeing the closed door. He licked his lips, and her eyes narrowed. “Do you really want me to eat the neighbors?” he asked.
“Try me.” He smiled showing the tips of his fangs. “You know what I'm capable of. I could drain them dry and still come back to you for more.”
She shook her head. “What is it you want, Darius?” she asked again.
“Invite me in.”
She remembered then that he couldn't enter without her invitation, couldn't cross her threshold. If she closed the door on him, he could do nothing about it. Except go to the next room. She glanced at the closed door where the girls had disappeared. Did she believe he would coldly slaughter them?
She rejected the idea with her whole heart. If he hadn't been able to kill a drug dealer and a pimp, he wasn't going to kill two young girls, just to teach her a lesson. However, he might very well go next door and have his way with them, and she wasn't any happier about that. Less so, she realized, with an unpleasant jolt. She knew he was quite capable of taking their blood, sating himself in their bodies and wiping their minds of the whole thing. A vision of him flashed in her mind, his golden limbs tangled with theirs, and the thought of that happening made her want to go drain them herself. Or turn them into toads.
“You're thinking too hard,” he said. “Just invite me in, sweetheart.”
Her eyes flicked to his face at the endearment, but she could read nothing from his expression. She gave him one last, long look, then shifted to the side. “Come in,” she muttered.
He smiled and stepped past her into the room.