Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #paranormal romance, #vampire assassin league, #short story, #vampire romance, #anthology
He hadn’t needed a 4-D team. And if this was Akron calling to offer one, he was going to thoroughly enjoy answering it.
“911? Oh, thank God. Please! You’ve got to help me!”
“I normally don’t panic. Actually, I don’t ever panic, but this is different. I’m stuck…”
A woman’s voice went on. Rafaele pulled the phone from his ear to check the screen. Some random number. Of little consequence and nothing at all to do with the carnage he’d just created and then left. He moved to click the phone off.
“…forgot to refill it. I don’t know why. And the elevator always sticks, but it’s never gone on this long…and I’m…well. I’m panicking here. Can you send help? Please? If I don’t get my insulin soon, I don’t know what might happen.”
A diabetic. With a sugar overload? Stuck in an elevator. Ripe and probably woozy, and easy pickings. As well as carrying a tang from her adrenaline. He was looking at a canned feast. It sounded interesting. Tasty. And extremely inviting.
“What is your blood type?” Rafaele asked.
. He grinned, licked his lips, touching on the canines that already started reacting to that information, and then sobered. “Can I have your address, Miss? And don’t worry. I’m on my way.”
Panic was a basic human instinct. It occurred in the span of time between any mortally dangerous situation and death. It was totally normal. Chucking her coat and hat and then her backpack at the walls, and screaming until she was hoarse, all the while pounding at the doors - couldn’t be all that abnormal. It sure felt stupid, but not abnormal.
Lenna admitted defeat and went into a squat in the back corner of the elevator, exhausted, short of breath, and with her heart hammering so loudly it overrode every other sound. Not that she wanted to hear the dying echo of her screams. That would only heighten her sense of impotence and fright.
Where was that 911 operator anyway? Hadn’t he said he was coming? And why should she need to ask? Operators didn’t come to the rescue…did they? Wasn’t the correct procedure to send an emergency response crew? And didn’t they have the caller stay on the line with them until help arrived? That way they could tape the call and play it back to all the media outlets, the better to explain their failure once the caller died. Why didn’t anything make sense? She’d call back and check, but she’d waited until the last moment, draining her cell battery reading an e-book, and then checking social sites, and then even the stock market as if she had any to check on. All of it wasting time while she attempted to stave off this stupid craziness called panic.
Lenna narrowed her eyes at the indistinct pinprick of red light that was all she had left for light in this little cubicle. It wasn’t as distinct as it had been before she’d gone berserk. Great. She’d hastened her own demise.
Think, Lenna. You’ll be fine
. Vision is just one symptom. There were others. This all-over massive ache. Immense thirst. Hunger. A real dose of weariness…
Uh oh. She was hot, too. She’d shed her coat, it was the middle of January, and the elevator wasn’t known for its heat. And yet she was panting with heat.
None of this was fair! She’d felt so good. She’d signed up six more New Year’s resolution clients, all paying a month in advance. If that wasn’t reason to celebrate, she didn’t know what was. She probably shouldn’t have splurged on a large mocha topped with whipped cream, but hey. It had been worth it. Delicious. Warm. Creamy. Caffeinated. The chocolate had been like pure heaven. Who cared about sugar?
Man! If only she’d walked and not taken the Metro Transit bus at the closest stop. That would have counteracted some calories. If only she’d taken a basal shot this morning instead of last night. Or…made certain she had a full fast-acting bolus pen supply before leaving her apartment this morning. If only she’d taken the stairs! If only…
Stop it, Lenna. It’s not helping.
There were so many things she could’ve done to counteract her impulsive celebration. And this is what she got? Death by chocolate? Unfair.
Well. Who says life is fair?
If it was fair, her adoptive parents wouldn’t have a son named Chet who became her worst nightmare. She wouldn’t have gone to Social Services to report him. She wouldn’t have had to look into the eyes of the only mother she’d ever known and tell her the son she doted on was a pervert. Or…she could have kept her mouth shut like Seth said and she’d probably still be there. Fed. Warm. Dosed with the correct measure of insulin through an expensive pump while studying for a bar exam.
She must be woozier than she thought. Dredging up ancient history like this. She’d made her own bed when she left. She didn’t need help from anyone. She didn’t even think about being a lawyer anymore. And she was fairly successful, if a bit short-sighted at the moment. Lenna Hendershott was self-sufficient. She even owned her own business. Her client list was pretty strong. She exuded self-confidence and assertiveness. Strength. Vitality. Health. Very few even knew of her condition. And that’s just the way she liked it.
What could be keeping the emergency guy? It felt like hours since she’d called. Maybe the snowstorm had gotten worse. Hadn’t that been the forecast? That would slow him. Lack of information was going to hamper her rescue, too. He hadn’t even asked her name; which apartment building; or even which elevator, since this place had two in all four buildings. Oh…hell. He was probably lost.
The little red light she watched must have a life of its own. That; or someone was trying to communicate with her via Morse code or something. That was an idea. If she was technically inclined, she could even figure out how to do it, and send signals herself. That would be cool.
A thump hit the top of her elevator, reverberating through the enclosure. Thank goodness! Help had arrived. The doors split open next, sending a short spear of light at her that was so bright it pained.
Lenna pushed up against the wall joint behind her, narrowing her eyes against the weapon of light. Apparently, the elevator had stuck short of a floor. Far short. Normally it wouldn’t be that difficult for her to climb out, even in that one foot of space. Right now, she was having a hard time standing. Which was just ridiculous. She was a physical trainer. She could do sit-ups for hours if she wanted to.
And…look at that. The building power wasn’t even out. Only the elevator was a big black void. It looked like the superintendent had replaced the fluorescent tubing with one thousand watt bulbs, though. The effect created a rainbow-hued halo around her rescuer’s head. She was being rescued by an angel? She hoped he wasn’t coming to take her with him.
What a depressing thought.
A hand entered through the opening of the doors and smacked, palm upward, against the elevator’s mirrored ceiling. Unbelievable. It looked like he was going to try and lift the elevator box. By himself. With one arm. That was imaginative.
The elevator made a low grumbling noise as it jerked up and into place, causing her body to lurch with it. Lenna stumbled against the wall before catching herself, then squinted up at an impossibility of physics. The view didn’t change. There was one man in the aperture. He’d lifted the elevator by himself, and now he just stood there, holding it, without one bit of issue with the weight.
He couldn’t be an angel. Not unless they’d taken to discarding haloes and wings in favor of calf-length black trench coats. He was wet, too. Moisture dripped off him in rivulets, creating a puddle the superintendent wasn’t going to like.
Her rescuer had a deep voice. Really deep. Throbbing with bass tones. Searching out the innermost portion of her and making it thump into life.
Lenna would have gulped, but her mouth and throat were too dry for the effort.
“You need help?”
He put his other hand toward her, as if this was an everyday occurrence. Better and better. She wasn’t being rescued by a heavenly being, after all, but a superhero. A real superhero.
She licked lips that matched the moisture content of the Gobi Desert and answered. It was croaked and barely audible. “No.”
Now that she had some light she should gather her scattered gym clothes. They were sweaty and needed washing. She couldn’t leave them. There was her backpack to consider. Those didn’t come cheap. Her wallet. Cell. She should gather stuff. Prepare. Do anything other than stare up at him.
“Leave it. Now.”
The elevator creaked slightly, as if the pressure of his hand might be bowing it. Lenna moved to slide around him, only her body didn’t work. She’d been in one position for too long and her legs were asleep. It was an awkward motion. Her knees didn’t bend. And he was too large to get around without touching. The moment that happened, his free arm grabbed her up, lifting her beneath the front opening of his coat. Lenna instinctively wrapped her arms about him, her left arm connecting with something hard and cold at his back. It was probably his equipment, although everything else on him had the same issue. Cold. Wet. Hard. Really hard.
Holy cow. Her superhero guy had an amazing body. Lenna had to resist running fingers along washboard abs and amazing pecs, all in perfect delineation since he was still holding an elevator up. Which was just imaginative. She was probably still in there having a hallucination because her sugar was out of control, and she’d suffered ketoacidosis before. She was prone to a reoccurrence.
He yanked his hand out. The elevator dropped the exact amount of space he’d raised it, and gave a loud squeal at not being able to fall further. And then it jumped a couple of times as if a bungee cord held it. All of it unreal and unbelievable. Lenna had never experienced anything like this. Not even the first time, when she’d gone comatose during her sophomore year of high school.
“Which one is yours?”
Lenna jumped. His arm tightened, pulling her even closer to him.
It was easier to just hold onto him and watch the indistinct weave of his shirt. Much easier. And soon she’d be in her very own kitchen, getting some much needed insulin into her system, and everything would be back to normal. She really needed a life. Just look at her; imagining superheroes coming to her rescue. In Minneapolis?
She was really pathetic sometimes.
“I can make it from here. I think.” Now, why did she have to add the last of that? He’d think she was a vapid female. A clinging, helpless, ditzy—
A growl stopped her musings.
Throbs of sound went right from his chest all through her, reaching the soles of her feet, the top of her head, tips of her fingers, and spreading all kinds of vibrations as it went. She’d never felt anything like it, either. Wicked. Sensual. Intense. Lenna tightened her loins against a tingling sensation that wasn’t possible, pulled her head back slightly, and looked up him.
He had black hair. Glossy. Thick. Long. No danger of early baldness here. All of that was fine with her. Nobody wanted an unattractive superhero, now did they? That was a fantasy killer. But…maybe it just looked black because it was wet. It was definitely dark. He wore it pulled into a tail, but wisps had escaped. They curled at the ends, where they stuck to his neck. He had a nice bit of whiskers, too, like he’d forgotten to shave. Or maybe he was one of those guys who didn’t have to work at growing a beard. Or maybe he liked the grunge look. Maybe he was lazy. Or, heaven forbid, he used it to disguise a weak chin.
She instantly discarded the last. The guy was sculpted. She’d taken a basic drawing class years ago and knew her facial proportions. His looked pretty good, even if his nose did appear a trifle large. That could be due to her angle, though. He was probably perfectly symmetrical and not half bad-looking. And then he looked down and took every wit left to her.
. And she had to think of a better expletive.
Her rescuer wasn’t just handsome, he was unreal. Stunning. Spectacular. Drop-dead, knock-them-out-of-their-panties, gorgeous. Her jaw dropped and she didn’t even think of stopping it. She didn’t imagine the instant uptick of her pulse, either. None of which he could miss.
This wasn’t remotely fair. But it was cool. It didn’t even matter if she was envisioning this while stuck in an elevator. Getting held in this guy’s arms and gazing into his dark eyes was worth it. Why, if she’d known who they’d send, she’d have called 911 earlier. She’d known paramedics were cute. Firemen, too. They took off their shirts to show endless muscle for their beefcake calendars every year. Some of them were on billboards. Television ads. Not one of them was this good-looking. If her rescuer had been on the cover they wouldn’t need donations.
“You live here?”
Bass tones rumbled through her again, sounding angry. They didn’t match his expression. The look in his eye was more than interested, and that just made the tingle start up again. Lenna tightened her buttocks this time. She nodded.
He pursed his lips, narrowed his cheeks, and gained another measure of beauty. She nearly sighed before catching it.
“Then cease wasting time and tell me. Which apartment is yours?”
Was he dense? There wasn’t any space between them as he accessed the stairwell and started climbing. The guy moved with a speed that blurred walls, making them look psychedelic, rather than graffiti-ridden. Or was he even climbing? Felt more like flying. She didn’t look to verify it. She couldn’t. She was in a realm of experience that had yet to absorb the impact from gazing at him. She shut her eyes and just existed. And then she had to deal with the assault on her other senses. Touch. Smell. His was a nice mixture of wet leather, some sort of cologne, and a unique scent that must be him.
She wasn’t mistaken earlier. He was perfectly toned and fit, meshing nicely where they touched, his muscles flexing as they moved. There wasn’t a hint of physical exertion from climbing stairs with her glued to his side. Not a bit of it from lifting an elevator that probably weighed more than a car, either. No heavy breathing. No trace of sweat. No elevated heart rate. Nothing. Just solid man.