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
His irises heated to red-gold and dialed wide, all pupil with thin coronas of copper, like twin solar eclipses. His nostrils flared and his lips parted, as if he was having trouble breathing. He stepped next to me and bent until his breath was warm on my skin.
Close enough to kiss me.
My own breath quickened. I hadn’t had the release of sex in a while, concentrating on my plans for the future.
But here was a vampire, Mr. Insta-sex, dropped in my lap.
Desire rose hot and thick, more than usual, bubbling like a head of beer, foaming up until it threatened to overflow.
I was at work but between patients, the door was shut, and besides, I’d never kissed anyone above seven-point-two on the sexiness scale. Did an angel taste different?
Well, there it was. I had to do it. Scientific necessity, really.
Just a taste.
My eyelids slid shut and I shivered in anticipation.
His mouth alighted on mine like the brush of angel wings. Brief sweet touches that said,
Hello, that’s nice, you’re nice.
So. For the catalog, angels’ lips tasted deliciously sweet.
My heart beat faster, my belly shimmering. My lips parted on a soft sigh of invitation, coming all the way from my curling toes.
His tongue answered playfully, with short little licks that teased and tempted. Not so much tasting me as letting me get a taste of him.
I flicked a tiny lick back.
He purred his approval. His artistic fingers came to cradle the back of my head. He worked his lips and tongue against my mouth, revving my feminine engine with a fine skill and precision. I opened to him. His tongue thrust inside.
Angel lips were sweet; angel mouths were hot, spicy and boldly male. A shiver of desire threaded me, pooling as golden heat low in my belly, bubbling up as a soft moan of pleasure.
I stood, palms on his chest, and pressed flush to him.
A thin layer of cotton shirt covered hot boulders beneath my palms. I’d touched well-built men, toned muscles and warm skin. I’d never felt a man like him, like scaling bare rock cliffs. A moan tore from my throat.
His groan twined in. “You taste amazing. All hot and wet.” His head slanted, his tongue beginning to plunge. Angel wings became angel fire.
I gasped. That driving tongue pistoned with intense male power. His heat rushed in, waking every bit of my mouth. Like biting a cinnamon red-hot, my lips, then my whole body flushed with desire, a flame spiraling through me like a coiled, lit fuse.
Luke might look like an angel, but his kiss was hotter than sin.
Hunger rushed through me, dark and powerful. Suddenly I was the most excited I’d been in my life. Ready to hop up on the exam table, pull out the stirrups and play doctor. My fingers curled, digging into iron-hard pectorals, and I swirled my hips against him.
As if my hip bump was a cue, something unlocked in him. Strong arms wrapped me, pulling me into an inferno of lust. He wasn’t playing anymore. He kissed me in a flurry of lips and teeth and tongue, driving me mad with desire. I pressed into his hard body. He embraced me so tightly, we melded.
Against my belly, a hard length grew enticingly.
I was two seconds from suggesting we put the exam table to good use when the door clicked open.
Instantly I found myself shunted behind Luke’s broad back. My cheek pressed against his sleek braid and a thrum rattled my skull, as if he was growling.
The clunk of plastic hitting floor made me peek out.
A young woman stood frozen in the doorway, her uniform that of a medical assistant, her name tag reading Connie. A spray bottle lay on the floor beneath her slack fingers.
“I-I’m here to put the room in order.” From her plate-eyed face, she’d dropped the bottle in shock.
I wondered which she’d found more shocking—Luke’s threatening growl, or seeing me kissing at work. My best friend, who also worked at the hospital part-time, had told me I had a bit of a rep as an ice queen, and that I was called Dr. Frozen and Bones behind my back, but I didn’t know why. Bones was for orthopedic docs.
“It’s all right, Connie.” My voice emerged satin-sheet husky. Wincing, I cleared my throat and tried again. “Everything is all right. Right, Mr. Steel?”
His growl continued, so I poked his ribs.
I was a doctor plus I studied martial arts, and I knew exactly where to poke. “
He huffed, twitched an irritated glance at me. “Yes, all right.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your assistance with your niece, Mr. Steel, and I enjoyed our chat after.” Holding out my hand to him, I kept my gaze cool and professional.
“Chat?” He ignored my hand, his hazel gaze on me narrow as a brain surgeon’s knife.
” My arm dropped with that sort of hesitant wilting of a handshake ignored. I decided I’d had a close call. I’d nearly let six-three of golden angel distract me from my job. From my
While that kiss had been a nice diversion—okay, more than nice, actually more like fabulous multiplied by
—it was still a diversion. It
to be. “I must get to my next patient. Good meeting you.”
I sailed out without looking back, though I could feel Luke’s sharp eyes follow me the whole way.
I hurried along the corridor, not fleeing, but the sooner I got back to work, the better. The more I thought about what had happened, the more appalled I was with myself. How had I so totally lost focus? Kissing at work was bad enough, but sex?
Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. It’s both exercise and a cleansing release for the body and the mind.
But the Grand Plan was working. Lizelle, my bestie since first grade, had finally left her abusive husband. I’d moved us back to small, safe-as-pillows Meiers Corners where we’d both grown up. I got a job here. She was working here. I was opening a domestic violence shelter here and though I hadn’t yet figured out what to name it, it would take every penny I could earn.
What if that stick-up-his-butt hospital administrator had walked in on Luke and me, rather than the assistant? What if he’d been a few moments later? He’d have gotten an eyeful of us bumping goodie parts, and I’d have been out of a job. What was wrong with me? Normally, I knew better.
Normally, I could compartmentalize each important part of my life—Lizelle, leisure and livelihood. There’s Miller Time and Crisis Time, and I knew the difference.
But that kiss… It blew down the walls, rupturing my nice neat life.
Chest pumping, I stopped outside the exam room door and reined hard on my control. Was this simply my stupid, almost-forty, last-chance-to-procreate hormones going so far into overdrive they were wrestling me to the mat?
Ooh, wrestling with Luke on a mat with a whole lotta oil…
Stick to the Grand Plan—or disaster will follow.
Forcing a calming breath, I stuffed my emotions away, pasted on my best professional smile, knocked on the door to my next patient and walked in.
Luke Steel called on every shred of self-discipline, drilled into him by the fiercest Ancient in the world at a time in Luke’s life when such brutal training felt like salvation, and tried to put the beguiling Dr. Alexis Byornsson from his mind.
What the hell had happened? Though his kind was highly sexual, vampires also mated forever. Luke hadn’t been able to fully function since his wife died.
Yet one kiss with Alexis and his soldier was saluting and ready for duty.
Agitation and heartache kicked him into a vampire run, forty miles per hour leaving the hospital, keeping to the darkest shadows to hide him from human eyes.
Almost immediately, his ear buzzed, two short
the vibrational equivalent of a personal ring tone, available only on specialized Steel Security equipment. His brother.
He tapped his ear, activating the experimental voice-over-IP phone in his ear canal, the size of a pea. The thing was a marvel of tech, if you didn’t count battery life for shit. “Logan? Where are you?”
“Emerson’s.” Both Logan and Luke had guest rooms with master vampire Julian Emerson. “Meet me here.”
“Don’t tell me your mate still wants to attend the party?”
Logan’s family was visiting the small city of Meiers Corners, Illinois not for its quaint German charm, but because Logan’s wife, despite her advanced pregnancy, had lobbied to attend a wedding shower of all things. If she’d been Luke’s mate, he’d have nipped that in the bud, but Logan was all soft on his pretty milkmaid of a programmer wife.
Luke mentally shook his head. It was a male’s right to protect his mate, and a master’s right to guide his humans.
Yet Logan did neither.
His twin had tried to explain it to him, that modern women needed their independence. That vampires’ mates needed it even more. His wife couldn’t stand to be coddled.
Coddling. Since when had protection devolved into coddling? Not being allowed to protect his mate? The very idea was absurd.
“Don’t worry,” Logan said over the earbud phone. “We’re going home as soon as Liese and the babies can leave the hospital, but I have to ask a favor. And there’s a message for you. Come to the secret meeting room.”
“Oh, joy and rapture. What’s the message?”
“The kind that needs a secret meeting room.” Logan’s tone was droll as he ended the call.
Minutes later, Luke keyed in the code to allow him inside the anchor apartment of Julian Emerson’s household, two side-by-side townhouse fourplexes. He ghosted inside, his destination the basement stairs.
He ran into a tangled web.
His fangs and talons erupted, and his vision ran with blood, four hundred years of vampire instinct riding him. He whipped out his blade and whirled it through the trap. Gossamer strands parted like paper. He smiled in satisfaction. This trap wasn’t planned for a vampire. He’d free himself, then take revenge on whoever dared try to harm him—
“Hey! I just got those streamers put up.”
Two deep breaths and his vision cleared to a tiny, blonde, punk rock musician sporting a
Fick mich, I’m German
T-shirt, a Slinky of earrings marching along one ear, and tiny tiger clips in her blonde curls matching a tattoo on her arm. Her fists were planted in a very determined manner on her hips and her glare said that unless he wanted a meat-cleaver vasectomy, he’d better grovel fast.
Because this was Nixie Emerson, his host’s mate and wife.
Blocking in a fight was automatic; defending himself here was even more vital. “I’m sorry. I thought it was a trap.”
“News flash, model boy. If I were trying to snare you, I’d pick something stronger than crepe paper—like reinforced titanium cables. You’re lucky I was only testing themes for tomorrow. Logan’s downstairs.” She pointed behind her. “Careful in the kitchen. Ms. Hinz is putting the cake together. If you bull through that like you did my streamers, she’ll frost your balls for decorations.”
“Got it.” Both hands raised, he cautiously slipped past men and women busy turning the front room into Nightmare in Pastels. If this was a test, he dreaded to think what the actual decorations would look like. The kitchen smelled of sugar and baking—
le bon Dieu,
was that a cake or Vlad the Pink’s castle? He hurried down the back staircase before the cloying smell of icing coagulated his blood.
The stairs opened onto a basement corridor studded with doors. Studio apartments for the most part, although Julian and his mate’s personal quarters were down here, but Luke wasn’t looking for a regular door.
Julian had Logan’s most recent security upgrades. The entrance to the secret room was behind one of these wall panels.
Luke smiled faintly. Actually, it was
plural. A maze of corridors existed behind these walls. Randomly moving blocks ensured that, on any given day, only one entrance actually worked.
He wondered momentarily what was so sensitive it required this level of secrecy. Maybe Julian had demanded it. The male
a lawyer. Obfuscation was a career.
An app on Luke’s phone revealed today’s portal was behind panel number ten. As he glided toward the panel, he wondered why Logan was here, instead of with his wife at the hospital.
called to mind curvy Dr. Byornsson, and her honey-and-fire taste that had taken Luke’s breath away…
He found himself halted mid-corridor.
taken his breath away, or was still doing it? Damn it, a distracted protector was a dead protector. Clenching his teeth, he
to the entrance—determinedly
thinking about her sweet lips, that kiss…
damn it and its big brother fuck.
He sucked in a centering breath, then hummed it out as seven notes of a long-forgotten tune.
The humming buzzed his lips, exactly as Alexis’s kiss had…
He clenched his eyes. As a hidden panel slid open, he told himself he was not thinking about that kiss, even though it had totally blown his mind, first time
His eyes sprang open. No, first time in three hundred years. Surely his wife’s kiss had blown his mind too. Surely Adelaide’s lips on his had outshone the sun, and only his memory painted it tepid and dull. His faded memory was at fault.
His failure, as so much was.
He slapped a palm against the panel beside the open one. This passage was booby trapped, sleeping gas for humans but more deadly pitfalls for vampires. He had to have his head on straight.
But how, when he was having a helluva hard time trying to put a certain delicious doctor out of it?
All right, so what if he followed up on that incendiary kiss and took her to bed? It wasn’t as though he could “finish the mission”, as it were. Oh, he could rock her world if he chose. But for himself, he hadn’t been able to function as a male since he’d lost his wife, despite evidence earlier tonight.
He’d lost his sex drive; she’d lost her life. For the first hundred years, he thought she’d gotten the worse end of the bargain. Now, after centuries of guilt, he wasn’t so sure.
He stepped into the corridor. The panel slid silently shut behind him, cutting off all illumination. Pitch black for a human, but vampire eyes made their own light.
As his world took on a red glow, he glided forward two steps, paused for the flurry of tranquilizer darts, then immediately executed a flat leap over several tripwires. Behind him, ultra-fast laser beams sliced the passage like a food processor.
Luke found himself before a metal door guarded by a retinal scanner. He crouched slightly to level his eye with the peephole. The setup was specially designed by Logan and his mate, but Luke had helped test it, so he was in the system. When a discreet LED turned green, he knocked on the door a precise three times.
The panel slid open to six-foot-plus of black-haired, blue-eyed vampire lawyer—his host, Julian Emerson.
“Steel.” Julian nodded him in.
Behind the lawyer was a boardroom, if executives’ walls were normally festooned with M16s and crossbows. A central heavy wood table was empty except for Luke’s brother and Thorvald Thorsson, a tall Viking of a male with leather vest, pierced ear and array of rings like brass knuckles, modernized by blue jeans over soft leather boots.
The diabolical pastel preparations upstairs were in honor of Thor’s upcoming wedding.
“Hold the door, Julian.” Nixie came steaming in after Luke. She waved at Thor. “Hey, Viking Two. Howzit hangin’?”
Luke smiled slightly. The tiny punk rock musician had a vocabulary all her own that took colorful from infrared to ultraviolet.
“We’re good, thanks.” The male had a smoky baritone, like a fine old whiskey.
It struck Luke that Alexis’s alto was as rich and vibrant.
No. Not thinking of her.
Nixie latched on to her mate’s arm and dragged him toward the vested Viking. As improbable as a puppy dragging a Husky, and just as sweet.
Julian, with a surreptitious smile, surrendered to the inevitable with, “Shall we sit?” He and his mate took the head of the table. Logan sat on Julian’s right and Thor on Nixie’s left.
Luke sat next to his brother and prepared a fist.
Logan raised a teasing brow. “Sitting within punching range of me?”
“You and your terrible jokes? I have to.”
“I object. My jokes are quite punny.”
“Hah. That’s one.” Luke jabbed his twin in the triceps.
“Ow.” Logan rubbed his upper arm. “You’ve been practicing.”
“I’m always practicing.”
“Great, you’re in one of
moods. Then before Thor delivers his message…” Logan glanced around the table. “If it’s all right with everyone, I want to ask my favor.”
Luke didn’t like that. It meant Logan thought whatever Thor had to say wouldn’t put Luke in a good, favor-granting mood.
Logan turned in his chair toward Luke, another bad sign—he was getting ready to block any more punches. His brother said, “You know that Liese originally insisted the girls and I come with her for the wedding shower?”
Luke’s frown deepened. It was
a bad sign when Logan started recapping. Luke had arrived two days ago at Logan’s compound in Redfox Village to help with the new babies’ birth, only to find Logan’s mate packing, not for the hospital, but for a visit to Meiers Corners.