Authors: D. B. Reynolds
“No,” she said in the same implacable tone. “This is who I am. This is what I’m good at. I won’t be stupid, but I won’t sit on my hands when someone’s trying to kill you.”
“How do you know he wasn’t after you?” Raphael demanded tightly.
“Because I was out there in full view for a good thirty minutes before you showed up. You were the target, Raphael, and you know it as well as I
Raphael looked over her head. She turned to see what he was looking at and spun around, backing up against him protectively, wishing she had a gun with her. Any gun would do, though her vampire killer rounds would be most welcome, because there was a strange vampire filling the doorway.
Where the hell was
? And how had this stranger gotten into the house?
Raphael’s arm came around her from behind, circling her shoulders and pulling her against his broad chest. “It’s all right,
.” He raised his head to address the stranger.
“My office, ten minutes.”
The vampire bowed a little at the waist and disappeared down the hall.
that?” Cyn demanded.
Raphael didn’t answer, but instead called out
name. When the security chief came into view, Raphael said, “Close the door.”
did so, stepping back into the hallway and closing the door behind him so that Cyn and Raphael were alone in the room.
“Sit with me,” Raphael murmured. He didn’t give her a choice, but pulled her down next to him onto a short leather couch which was part of a compact conversational corner of the big conference room.
be pulled down, but immediately turned to stare at Raphael. “What aren’t you telling me?”
telling you,” Raphael said, his perfect mouth lifting in a smile. “I intended to tell you earlier, but things got rather out of hand.”
Cyn frowned. “It’s about that guy, isn’t it? What is
. . a new bodyguard or something? Did you know someone was gunning after you? Is that why you brought him on?”
Raphael’s smile grew. “Someone is always
gunning after me
, as you put it.
is more than capable of handling any security threats.”
“If you will give me a moment, I will tell you.”
Cyn tightened her mouth in irritation and gave him an impatient look.
Raphael laughed, and it was such a happy sound, she couldn’t help smiling. If he was relaxed enough to laugh, it couldn’t be that bad, unless . . .
“He’s not a new bodyguard for me, is he? Because I’m perfectly safe with—”
“No,” Raphael assured her.
“Although I haven’t completely decided against finding a human female to add to your daylight security.”
“I don’t need—” She cut
off that time and gave him a narrow look. “Okay, spill. Who’s the new guy?”
“His name is Jared Lincoln. He’s one of my own children and has been with me nearly as long as
. In fact, he and Duncan are rather close friends. But Jared has spent most of his time in places other than
, performing a variety of tasks for me.
Most recently in
, based out of the
The community here is much larger than the one in the
area. Vampires seem not to like the snow.”
“Imagine that,” Cyn said dryly, thinking of Raphael’s obsessive aversion to cold weather. “Perhaps it’s a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.”
Raphael acknowledged her point with a quirked eyebrow before continuing. “Jared is to be my new lieutenant,” he said without warning.
Cyn stared at him. She blinked once,
said, “I guess I thought
would move into that position.”
was given the option. He declined. Being my lieutenant necessitates a great deal of contact with humans, which
prefers to avoid. He wishes to remain security chief instead.”
“But he goes with you to human gatherings all the time.”
“As my security chief, yes.
But by definition, the role of bodyguard involves very little interaction with the humans I encounter. Unless they pose a threat, of course, in which case, conversation is hardly called for. On the other hand, my lieutenant needs to deal personally with the human authorities and with the various corporate leaders with whom I do business.
was a master at dealing with humans. It made him the perfect vampire representative for
, but it also makes him nearly irreplaceable to me personally. Unfortunately, replace him I must.”
“And this Jared is good with us mere humans?”
Raphael wrapped a hand around the nape of her neck and pulled her into a searing kiss.
heart was pounding so loudly she could barely hear the words he murmured against her lips.
“There is nothing
about you, my Cyn,” he said, his tongue sweeping over her lips in a final, sensuous caress. “And besides, you’re mine, not theirs any longer.”
“Oh good God,” she muttered, licking her lips and trying not to smile. “You guys have really got to get past this
obsession of yours. Emma and Sarah both—”
Raphael’s expression warned her to stop talking. He still hadn’t gotten over that kidnapping episode during Sarah’s wedding weekend. Even worse, he persisted in blaming it on what he referred to as their “unholy trio,” aka, the friendship between the three women. As if it were somehow
fault they’d drawn the attention of a couple of Neanderthals.
“Anyway,” Cyn said, wisely moving on. “Jared is auditioning for the job of lieutenant, is that it?”
“I am a vampire lord, my Cyn, not a choir director. There is no audition. I know my people and have made my choice. I invited Jared here to meet you before I formally announce his new position.
knows, of course.
But no one else.”
“Okay,” Cyn said, somewhat doubtfully. She didn’t know why, but somehow she thought she should have been consulted
Raphael made a decision like this. But even as she had the thought, she knew it was stupid. As Raphael said, he was a vampire lord. He knew his people inside and out, especially when it was one of his own children.
“Cyn,” Raphael said patiently, seeming to know her thoughts. “I value your input, I value your instincts. If you don’t like him, he will remain in
Okay, so she felt a little bit better about the whole thing.
“I should get dressed,” she said, suddenly aware she was still wearing her wet bathing suit beneath the thick robe.
“Indeed,” Raphael agreed. “That bathing suit is entirely too skimpy for my peace of mind.”
Which is why I’m wearing this huge robe!
Besides, I intended to change before that fucking sniper screwed up my clothing plans.”
Raphael’s cell phone rang. He didn’t need to check the caller ID before answering.
See to your arm,
join us in the conference room.” He disconnected and said to Cyn, “They’ve lowered the daylight shutters on the pool side of the building. The other side is far less exposed and should be safe.”
“It’s unlikely the sniper would try to move around to the front anyway,” Cyn commented. “It would take too long, and your security is on alert now. Besides, the valley’s crawling with vampires by now. He’ll be too focused on getting away to worry about setting up somewhere else.
At least for tonight.”
She stood, tugging on the tie to her robe. “I’m going to take a long, hot shower.
, too bad you can’t join—”
Her words were cut off as Raphael was suddenly there, right next to her, his arm around her waist tugging her against his hard body. “Do not toy with my desires, sweet Cyn. Not tonight.” He kissed her again, his lips crushing hers, his tongue exploring her mouth.
Cyn responded eagerly, snaking her arms around his neck, pressing herself against the long line of him. She moaned when he yanked the tie of her robe open, but then he released her abruptly, his eyes sparkling with humor. “Ah, but we’ve no time.”
Her eyes flashed to his. “That’s cruel,” she gasped, her fingers fisted in the fabric of his shirt as her body demanded more.
“No more than you tormenting me with images of your naked body beneath a hot shower.”
“Touché,” she granted with a groan, then raised herself onto her tiptoes and touched her lips to his. “I think we should turn in early tonight,” she whispered against his mouth. “We need to rest and recover from our earlier brush with death.”
Raphael’s black eyes burned with silver fire. “A sensible idea,” he rumbled in his velvet voice. “Perhaps only a quick shower, then. The sooner you get back to the conference room, the sooner we can . . . rest.”
Cyn grinned. “I’m gone, fang boy.” She gave him a hard, fast kiss, then spun around and headed out of the conference room, pausing only to blow him one final kiss before leaving. In the hallway, she ran into
on his way back in to see Raphael. He’d changed clothes. Or at least he’d changed his shirt and donned his regular suit jacket. And his arm was no longer hanging quite so uselessly at his side.
“The arm?” she asked him, her eyes daring him to pretend nothing was wrong.
“Broken,” he admitted. “Shattered,” he amended, when she raised a cynical eyebrow. “I’ve taken blood, and it’s bandaged. It
be healed by tomorrow night, Cynthia.”
Since those were probably the most words
had ever spoken to her at one time, Cyn believed him. “Look at it this way, big guy,” she said, grinning when his expression tightened at her use of the affectionate nickname. “You slowed the bullet down enough that I bet we can recover it, right?”
He nodded reluctantly, clearly aware that Raphael wouldn’t want her anywhere near this investigation.
“As the door was still open, it passed through my arm and lodged in the stone of the fireplace,” he said.
“Excellent. It won’t help us catch the guy, but it might narrow the possibilities, and it will definitely help confirm his identity once we’ve got him.”
Another brief nod.
“See?” Cyn said, patting his uninjured arm. “That wasn’t so bad. I’m going to change, but I’ll see you back in the conference room with the new guy, right?” She laughed and hurried down the hallway toward the room she shared with Raphael.
Once she got there, however, she was deadly serious, punching in numbers on her cell phone as she stripped off the robe. Little bits of dirt fell from the robe and peppered the carpet, reminders of her dive to the deck with Raphael when the shooting had started. She shivered, though whether it was from cold or the memory of how close Raphael had come to being killed, she wasn’t sure. She tucked the phone against her shoulder, listening to it ring on the other end while she peeled off her clammy swimsuit. It was a clingy one-piece that she wore when doing laps. She rolled it into a wet ball, walking into the bathroom to drop it into a corner of the shower stall. The water would wash away the chlorine, which she wasn’t used to. The pool at the house in
The phone stopped ringing as the call was answered. “
, Leighton,” Colin Murphy said cheerfully. “Boyfriend
you’re calling me?”
you answer when I call?” she fired back.
“Got me there.
“I need some information about snipers.”
“Planning on taking someone out? I thought you preferred to work close-up.”
No, that’s not why—” Cyn stopped, suddenly aware that she was about to tell another vampire lord that someone had tried to assassinate Raphael. Granted, she wasn’t actually telling Sophia, but she had no doubt Colin would tell her. He was Sophia’s mate, and on top of that he was in charge of her security. Of course, he’d tell her.