Authors: Mary Hughes
Tags: #vampire;erotic;paranormal romance;undead;urban fantasy;steamy;sensual;vampire romance;action;sizzling;Meiers Corners;Mary Hughes;Biting Love;romantic comedy;funny;humor;Chicago;medical;doctor;adult
A broken vampire and a driven doctor, seized by a passion neither can afford.
, Book 9
Dr. Alexis Byornsson has her hands full in the ER when her patient’s uncle blows into the exam room. Stitching up a five-year-old’s cut is hard enough without a blond god distracting her all to hell.
To say she’s furious is putting it mildly—not that anyone would notice. Not with the legendary control that’s earned her the nickname “Dr. Frozen”.
Luke Steel never knew a woman chastising him could be so sexy. But for the first time in three hundred years, passion stirs in his gut—along with panic. Since his wife was taken before his eyes in a brutal attack, he’s sworn he’d never feel that powerless again.
Almost before either Luke or Alexis realize what’s happening, they’re sharing a blazing kiss that shatters her logical armor and unleashes his wholly unwanted mating instinct. And spurs a closer-than-skin enemy to put into motion a devastating plan for revenge.
Warning: This book contains a hot doctor and a hotter vampire messing up sterile surfaces. The usual rogue shenanigans, but this time covering deeper motives. Hang on to your stethoscopes at what’s revealed!
Thank you to Roxy Mews for the skinny on twins. Thank you to paramedic James Hughes for reading and correcting the parts on emergency medicine. Profound thanks to CD for insightful guidance on domestic violence issues. Thank you to RAR and KR for answering questions on building plans. All mistakes are my own. Waves to TT for chatting with me online about Luke’s mate and RLC for chatting about Luke’s psychological pain. Thanks to Roxy Mews, Jodi Redford and SL Carpenter for helping make the first half of the year survivable.
Thank you to brilliant editor Christa Soule, for loving the story enough to be tough. I’m in awe and feel honored to write for you.
Thank you to Gregg Hughes, for the suggestion of
which put the final piece into place, and for the touches to both story and life that make each that much more worthwhile.
Above all, my profound thanks to you, Dear Reader. In books, we have a unique connection that spans space and time.
Alliance Vampire Households
Kai Elias—aka The Ancient One. Leader of the Iowa Alliance, headquartered in Coralville, Iowa. Annoyingly omniscient.
Luke Steel—Elias’s first lieutenant and Logan Steel’s younger identical twin. Same gold-flecked hazel eyes, same long blond hair, but what is graceful insouciance in Logan carries an overtone of pain in Luke, frankly making him more dangerous.
Logan Steel—master vampire for Redfox Village, near Meiers Corners. Computer security expert. Blond, six-three, with a love for puns almost as big as his love for his mate, Liese. Was first lieutenant for the leader of the Iowa Alliance, now runs his own household.
Liese Schmetterling Steel—computer geek, CEO of Steel Security.
Sarah Jane and Ellen Ripley Steel—their identical twin daughters.
Julian Emerson—a master vampire in Meiers Corners. Six-feet-plus of black-haired, blue-eyed, multisyllabic lawyer.
Nixie Schmeling Emerson—five-zero of punk rock pizzazz.
Jessica “Jaxxie” Emerson—their daughter.
Nikos Sparta—Julian’s Spartan first lieutenant.
Twyla Tafel Sparta—five-four of curves and competence. Daughter of a German-American and an African diplomat. Meiers Corners city administrator.
Reece—lieutenant trainee. A lanky, sullen teen.
The Hinzes—family in the anchor apartment. Does the day-to-day admin of the household.
Owun Smith—new member of the Emerson household. Heroically built, but is he heroic?
Bo Strongwell—master vampire for the city of Meiers Corners. Six-four of handsome Viking warrior.
Elena O’Rourke Strongwell—Meiers Corners’ top detective. Five-nine of Irish-Latina determination, intelligence and grit.
Rorik Strongwell—their son. Above average in all growth indicators—almost preternaturally so.
Steve Johnson—Bo’s lieutenant. Mated to Gretchen. Daughter Stella, son Steve Johnson Junior.
Nieman’s Bar Household
Camille Lebeau—a master vampire in Meiers Corners. Green eyes, black hair, a cross between Elvira and Cleopatra in leather lederhosen hot pants.
Thorvald Thorsson—six-three of Viking vampire power, his body wrapped in jeans, a sleeveless vest and weapons, and his intelligence wrapped in quiet observation. Originally, Bo Strongwell’s first lieutenant, now Camille’s.
Serendipity Braun—engaged to Thor. Takes down her schoolmarm bun when she wants to get wild and creative.
Rebecca “of Sunnybrook Farm”—looks like the kind of woman who wrestles bulls for fun. Wears bib overalls with no shirt and likes to chew on long stalks of grass. Was Julian Emerson’s second lieutenant, now Camille’s.
Buddy “The Bartender” Butler—a silver-haired gent, originally part of the Strongwell household. Now Camille’s “donor”, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
Solomon Stark—a master vampire in Meiers Corners. An undertaker straight out of a Tim Burton film. Dolly Barton’s mate.
Dolly Barton—some say she knows more secrets than the Sphinx. Stark’s mate.
Mayor Meier—Meiers Corners mayor, a cross between Santa Claus and a schnauzer. Affects a heavy German accent as part of his charm.
Heidi—Mayor Meier’s secretary. Heidi looks exactly like the title character from the book with her blonde braids and blue eyes. Well, except for her spike-heeled hip boots. And her heavy hand with the clothes studs. Oh yeah, and her penchant for all things black leather, including her whip.
Dirk Ruffles—originally a human beat cop on third shift, then partner to Detective Elena Strongwell, Dirk is now a vampire lieutenant outside of Meiers Corners.
Bruno Braun—Sera’s brother. A shaggy brown bear of a guy, runs MC’s survivalist store, Armageddon Three. A big guy dripping hair and conspiracy theories, ex-SEAL, has tattoos braided in with all the hair, and is the sweetest guy anyone would ever want to meet.
Brunhilde “Granny” Butt—moonlights as an exotic dancer at Nieman’s Bar, if stripping out of a girdle and orthopedic hose counts as exotic.
Chicago Coterie Vampires
Nosferatu—aka Nosy. Leader of the Chicago Coterie. In his hidey hole, licking his wounds after getting punked in the Battle of Linesville…or is he?
Giuseppe Marrone—second lieutenant. Wears so many bad disguises, no one is sure what he really looks like. Behind the development of vampire drugs.
Cutter—Nosy’s new third lieutenant. Looks like an Austrian body builder. Wears suits. Promoted because Nosferatu has basically stopped caring.
Ruthven—old first lieutenant. Overdramatic asshole, with a cackle like an evil chicken.
Foreign words and phrases used in this book:
Fuck me (German)
Gott sei Dank—
Thank God (German)
Thank God (French)
My darling (French)
Thank God (French)
Golden joinery (Japanese)
I never believed a mere forty-eight hours could change my life. But even as I went about my ER rounds that warm June evening, events were winching up the first hill of the biggest rollercoaster ride ever.
Midnight. I knocked briskly and opened the exam room door—and walked straight into two-hundred-fifty pounds of Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, with the unfortunate (or appropriate, depending on your point of view) name of Nurse Battle.
She sorted hypodermic needles by size, horse to horror, regimenting them on a cart tray.
Just past her, a little girl sat with her feet tucked against the exam table, mouth agape, eyes like saucers.
I couldn’t tell if the child was more horrified at the big stabby things or the battleship in nurses’ white. Battle was an excellent nurse, though her detractors said she didn’t heal so much as scowl people well, but frankly, I was in awe of her.
“Thank you, nurse. Hello, sweetie.” I sidled between the child and the tray, smiling to take the girl’s attention off the needles. “What’s your name?”
Our patient—a blonde youngster of maybe five years—cradled her arm and peered at me with big, dark blue eyes. “Sarah Jane.”
“Last name, Steel.” Battle read from the girl’s e-chart. “The father brought her in but immediately left. His wife is apparently in labor.” She said “Shteel” and “vater”, her accent more German than a native’s.
“Liese and Logan Steel. I heard.” I’d happened to be in the reception area when a blond god of a man who exuded sex appeal like a hammer, albeit a terribly distracted hammer, had swooped in with the child, melodiously informed us the girl’s uncle would be in to care for her, slashed his signature on the blank release forms and swooped out. Totally against policy, but everyone jumped to do his bidding.
Only after the tickly sex vibes dissipated did I realize why Steel’s baritone was so compelling—he wasn’t a man. His tones echoed in my skull exactly like a deep voice I’d heard on the phone five years ago, the day I’d had it confirmed that vampires were real and living in Chicago.
What do you know of my kind?
Nothing I’m not supposed to.
Apparently vampires were living in little Meiers Corners too.
“Hello, Sarah,” I said. “I’m Dr. Alexis Byornsson.”
.” The girl relaxed enough to start kicking her small MySnarkyPony runners against the side of the exam table. “I’m named after a very brave woman.”
“And you’re a very brave girl.” I checked the computer chart. Sixty-seven months, or about five and a half, here for treatment of a nasty laceration. A very, very brave girl. “Where does it hurt?”
“My arm.” She held up her thin limb, padded and wrapped in gauze. Battle would have done that. Behind her on the counter was a plastic zip bag with what looked like a bloody T-shirt, probably used to originally staunch the wound.
“How much does it hurt?” I signaled, and Battle held up a chart of smiley-type faces, from the sunny “No Pain” through straight-mouthed “Hurts a Little” to crying “Hurts Most”.
She pointed to the super-sad four, “Hurts a Lot”.
I patted her shoulder. “We’ll take care good of you.”
The girl’s vitals, recorded on the computer, were elevated but within parameters. Tetanus up to date, thank goodness.
I did a quick CMS test (Circulation, Motor, Sensory), starting with capillary refill time on her thumb. While I worked, I asked questions, both to get information and to distract her. “Where did you cut your arm?”
“The playground. I came inside right away, but Mommy’s having the babies so I told Uncle Luke.”
“Ah.” The uncle, who was supposed to be caring for the girl but wasn’t here. That didn’t bode well. I wondered what kind of “uncle” he was. “Was it daytime or nighttime?”
“A little nighttime.” She ducked her head. Apparently not supposed to be out that late.
But it let me gauge how fresh the injury was. A little dark probably meant around sunset. In Meiers Corners in June, that was around eight-thirty, which meant the injury was within the last four hours. “Good. Can you move your fingers?” Motor test.
She wiggled a “hi”.
“Hi.” With a smile, I touched her wrist, for the sensory test. “Feel that?”
“All right. Let’s see what we have to deal with.” I gently unwrapped the gauze to reveal a long gash, shallow but irregular. Definitely needed stitches.
“Put together a suture kit, would you?” I turned to the nurse, couching my terms so as not to scare the child. “A covered kit, please?”
Sarah Jane must’ve been a smart little cookie because she caught the gist. “Are you going to sew my arm up? With a…
” Her voice trembled on the word.
While I didn’t want to upset her, lying wasn’t an option.
“You won’t feel a thing,” I reassured her. “A little tug is all.”
“Maybe we should wait for Uncle Luke.”
“It’s okay, sweetie. It won’t hurt.” I had no idea when—or if—the uncle would actually show up. To divert the girl while Battle worked, I asked, “What were you doing on the playground?”
“Playing horses. There was a stampede in the corral, and I got pushed against the fence. Some of the metal links are pretty sharp.” She squirmed on the table. “Why won’t the needle hurt?”
“I’m going to give you some medicine first. Nurse, after you’re done, get me .9 mL of lidocaine for infiltration, another 3 for topical and an antibiotic ointment from the Pyxis, would you?” I glanced at her array of hypos, shaking my head. “We’ll administer with a small gauge.”
A click interrupted me, the door opening.
“Sorry I’m late. Logan had instructions for me. I’m Luke.”
The deep male voice following the click flowed into my ears like smooth whiskey down a parched throat after a long, long day.
I admit I was expecting a sleazy drunkard of an “uncle”. But what I got was
Blond God Part II
and hey, the sequel was better than the original.
“How’re you doing, tiger?” His attention was all for the girl.
Good thing, because I was in no shape to respond, at least not with words. My own eyes ah-oo-gahed, and my tongue fell out of my head, landing on the floor with a flat splat. Not really, but my reaction wasn’t doctorly dignified in the least.
I know that because, in my periphery, Battle openly snickered.
Luke was a tall angel of a man, gliding to the exam table with the grace of a tiger. He passed me, revealing a bright blond braid lining the middle of an extremely well-developed back, braid tail tickling his tight butt.
Yeah, my eyes leaped out of my head at that, trying to follow him.
He glanced over his muscular shoulder at me. Chiseled cheek, sweeping lashes, gorgeous, gold-flecked hazel eyes—burnished by old deep pain.
Angel yes, but a tortured angel.
I was immediately torn, the woman half of me wanting to melt into a puddle of massage oil to sheen his golden skin, and the doctor half wanting to heal him—or maybe that was the woman half too, because healing suddenly meant smashing his head into my considerable bosom and comforting the hell out of whatever ailed him.
Luke’s eyes, on me, widened for a split second. Then he abruptly turned away.
Seeing my attraction and rejecting it.
That stung. I’m not as beautiful as my younger sister, but I’m not dog barf.
Then he said, “This woman taking good care of you, tiger?”
The doubt in his voice stung more. I’m a damned good doctor, and I always take the best possible care of my patient.
My spine snapped straight. “I have over a decade’s experience in emergency room medicine. Only a surgeon could do better.” Professionalese for “shut the fuck up”.
“Then maybe we should get a surgeon.” Luke turned a hard stare on me.
I stalked up to him to give him a good eye-to-eye glare in return, but it backfired—at five-nine I’m not small, but he had at least six inches on me. His intense gaze would’ve awled through my skull if I hadn’t already experienced medical peer reviews. I could take scrutiny, even the ant-burning kind. I upped the ante and lasered back.
Mistake. It was like challenging a wolf. Hazel eyes narrowed and kindled to red-gold. My cool wavered. A prickle of perspiration ran down my nape when lengthening canines peeked from between his lips.
Yes, I know some vampires are on our side. Doesn’t matter squat when you’re in one’s fangy sights, and the age-old awareness that you’re prey kicks in.
Battle cleared her throat. “I’ll just go get those meds.” She lit out of the room with rockets for feet.
“Uncle Luke, your slip is showing.” Sarah Jane’s tone was that of a child mimicking an adult’s admonition. “And you scared the nurse away.”
To my surprise he relented, fang-tips receding, waving a palm like a flag of truce. Slowly his lips relaxed into a sensuous almost-smile, and his eyes cooled to that gold-flecked hazel, so gorgeous I wanted to go panning for precious ore.
A lush feminine heat shivered through me.
“Yes, all right,” he said.
All right? What did he mean by that? All right, take my blond masculine head and bury it in your comforting bosom? All right, let’s find someplace private? All right, spread your thighs and let me show you how wicked an angel can be? “All right, what?”
“You’re the doctor. Besides, I’ve been scolded for frightening the nurse.”
“I like the nurse,” Sarah Jane piped up. “She let me listen to my heart with the stet’oscope. And she promised me a sucker. Cherry, Uncle Luke.”
A corner of Luke’s mouth turned up. “There, that seals it. Sarah Jane would never forgive me if I lost her a cherry sucker.”
It was cute and sweet and coming from such an obviously powerful man trilled along my skin like effervescent summer wine. So when Battle knocked at the door I nailed Luke with a final glare but I had to work at it. “Don’t scare her off again, okay?”
His mouth quirked as if he knew I was putting on the stern and why, but he gave me a single nod.
I opened the door to Battle. “It’s safe.”
Cautiously, she brought in the meds.
Briskness in the ER soon gets everyone past awkwardness and anxiety. “Prep the infiltration, will you?” Snaring a square of gauze, I dosed it with anesthetic.
“Okay, sweetie, this will help protect you from the owies.” With one gloved hand, I pressed the pad firmly to Sarah Jane’s cut, keeping my body between her and Battle, blocking the sight of the hypodermic. I kept my ears open for any dangerous growls but heard only the soothing clicks and clacks of efficient preparation.
After a moment, I removed the gauze and motioned for the hypo. “Only a little more to make you absolutely comfortable. You’ll feel a little pinch.” I kept my voice and attitude very calm. “What color are my eyes?”
The little girl’s gaze, following the needle, twitched up to me. “What?”
“My eyes. My sister says they’re orange. Like a pumpkin.”
“They are not.” Her tone was the one reserved by children for adults being especially silly. “They’re blue.”
“They are?” While her attention was snared, I tapped the injection area then rapidly inserted the small needle into the edge of the wound, avoiding piercing intact skin. I infiltrated the subcutaneous slowly and steadily while withdrawing. “Maybe she should get glasses. All done.”
“Really.” I passed the hypodermic behind my back to Battle. “I think two cherry suckers is appropriate.”
“Hear that, Uncle Luke?” Swinging her shoes, she beamed.
“I did.” His tone was thoughtful. As if he’d seen me in a different, better light.
Well, good. I don’t have to be liked—emotions are fleeting and misleading—but I work hard to be the best healer I can, and he’d impugned my professionalism. Or as my best friend would say, he’d challenged me where I lived.
When the area tested numb, I debrided the wound (removed foreign material and damaged tissue) with gauze and normal saline.
“I like your shoes, Sarah Jane. Which SnarkyPony is your favorite?” Keeping up a constant flow of distracting talk, I started the first suture mid-cut. I bisected the remaining gaps while Battle laid out more gauze.
The door clicked and Sarah Jane’s father silently slipped in, joining his brother. Now two blond gods lounged in the room, both with bright blond hair tumbling past shoulders broad as sixteen-lane freeways.
Oh, to be a sculptor, to chisel them as life-size marble bookends.
They were identical twins, but seeing Luke next to Logan—the new father exhausted but satisfied—showed up Luke’s aura of wounded pain. Maybe something dark in his past, but it probably made him the more dangerous of the two.
I finished suturing, applied the antibiotic ointment and started bandaging, chatting with practiced ease as I padded and wrapped. “All done, sweetie. You were very brave.”
She beamed at me. “Thanks. Can I have three suckers?”
little one.” Nurse Battle softened enough to hand her four.
“I’ll take my daughter now.” Logan gently scooped up the girl.
“Not yet.” I took my attention off him a split second to wheel my stool to the computer station. “I have to give you instructions for care and information for follow-up with your pediatrician…” I glanced back.
He was already gone.
“Damn.” I scowled at the computer screen. “There’s no discharge option for a father simply whisking the patient away.” I’d have to improvise. I pecked at the keyboard, trying to make a fifty-letter issue fit a two-radial-button field. Computers make all our lives better, when they’re not clucking them fup.
Battle glanced at Luke and cleared her throat. “I will be bringing in the next patient. Room Two.” “Vill” and “brinkink”.
“Thanks.” Busy with my little computer issue, the click of door as she left barely registered.
But gradually, an intense stare on the back of my skull ate through my concentration, setting off a shiver low in my pelvis. Squirming a bit on my seat, I turned.
Luke’s eyes burned gold on me. “You remind me of someone…” He slipped two long fingers under my chin and tipped my head from side to side, studying my face so intimately I burned for his hot gaze lower.
lower. “Especially about the