Authors: Katie Reus
Taste of Darkness
Taste of Darkness
Copyright © 2014 Katie Reus
Cover Art by Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs
Editor Deborah Nemeth
Copy editor JRT Editing
Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.
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For my wonderful husband.
Drake glanced at Victoria out of the corner of his eye, trying not to flinch when she ran through another light. Yellow-ish, she liked to call them, when in reality they were already turning red by the time she blew past them. “Perhaps I should have asked someone else to teach me to drive.”
She looked at him, her emerald green eyes flashing with confusion. “Why?”
“You might want to keep your eyes on the road,” he gritted out.
Her head snapped back to face forward, her long, midnight black hair making a swishing sound as she moved. “You’re such a baby,” she muttered. “My driving is awesome. I don’t know why you want to learn anyway, you can fly anywhere you want.”
He just grunted. As a dragon shifter, yes, he could fly anywhere, but he needed to learn to drive because he needed to blend in to this new, human world. After being held captive in Hell for most of his life—over fifteen hundred years—this new world was jarring. Especially all the technology and these stupid vehicles. He would survive a crash but he didn’t like the sensation of being trapped in these small metal boxes.
Victoria took a sharp turn, and when he gripped the handle on the door, she giggled. Which told him she’d done it to intentionally rile him up. That immediately relaxed him. He enjoyed their relationship and the subtle ways she teased him. He hadn’t experienced innocent teasing since he was a young boy. If he had at all. He didn’t have memories so much as impressions that his life had been different once. He’d been locked in Hell for so long that sometimes reality was difficult to decipher.
Four months ago he’d broken out of Hell because an insane vampire—now dead—had done a ritual spell to open a Hell Gate and release Akkadian demons. The male deserved his death for that alone. Akkadian demons were the scourge of Hell and would have ruined this beautiful planet. Drake had managed to escape and in the process helped Vega, a young hybrid vampire-shifter escape captivity. In doing so, he’d been taken in by Vega’s pack. And then he’d found his future mate in Victoria.
Of course Victoria didn’t know this. No one did. And he wasn’t telling her or anyone. She deserved a male who could drive a vehicle and who understood her world.
Not a fucked up loser with no family and no way to support her. That would change soon though. He was smart and a hard worker. He just needed to learn a few more things. Then he would cross the bridge of admitting all the things he’d done in Hell. Maybe. He hadn’t decided if Victoria needed to know everything about him yet. Especially since he couldn’t be sure she’d accept his darker side.
He heard her phone buzz in her purse on the floorboard next to his feet, but she ignored it so he did too.
“Okay, we’re going to start here,” she said as she pulled into a parking lot behind the local mall. His first trip to the mall had been disastrous but he didn’t want to think about that now. She parked in an empty spot then got out of the truck so he followed suit.
They met at the front of the vehicle as he rounded toward the driver’s side. Stopping her, he gently touched her hip, the possessive action as instinctive as breathing. “Thank you for teaching me,” he murmured. He’d been too embarrassed to ask anyone else in the Stavros pack, but more than anything he wanted to spend time with her and this had been as good an excuse as any.
Her cheeks flushed pink as they always did when he touched her. So he tried to do it as often as he could without seeming obvious what his intentions were. He wanted to kiss and lick every inch of her. It didn’t matter that he’d never been with a woman, he knew exactly what he wanted from Victoria, what kind of pleasure he wanted to give her. That fresh mountain spring scent of hers intensified. It always happened when he touched her and he wasn’t sure what it was, but he liked it. It didn’t matter that they lived close to the beach, she smelled like the mountains, crisp and fresh. He’d been in the mountains before, although he didn’t yet remember where and when. He was determined to reclaim his past, and one day soon he’d remember everything.
“You’re welcome.” She looked as if she wanted to say more, but she quickly averted her gaze and pulled away from him.
Her dark hair was an inky waterfall down her back, making him fantasize about what it would be like to run his fingers through it if she ever let him kiss her. When his cock started to harden as it always did in her presence he thought of other things to force it down. All he had to do was drag up one of thousands of images or memories from the last thousand plus years of his life and his erection disappeared instantly.
As he slid into the driver’s seat, Victoria was already buckling herself in. “First things first. Always strap in. As supernatural beings we’re pretty much going to survive any crash, especially you, but the police are more likely to pull you over if you’re not strapped in.”
“I’m certain they could pull you over for many other infractions,” he murmured, doing as she instructed with the seatbelt.
She blinked once before letting out a loud laugh. The sound reverberated through him and something told him that hearing it would never get old. After living so long in the worst place imaginable, hearing Victoria laugh soothed his soul.
Shaking her head, she didn’t deny his claim. “All right, funny man, today we’re just going to pull out of the parking space and let you get used to using the brake and gas as you drive around in this small area.” She motioned with her long, elegant fingers to the empty parking area around them.
He swallowed hard and tried not to imagine what her hands would feel like on him. The truck was still idling so he listened as she told him to put his right foot on the brake while he put the gear in reverse. He’d already done some reading on how to drive so he wouldn’t completely embarrass himself.
After an hour of driving around the parking lot, she smiled at him as he parked once again. The sight of her so relaxed with him made his entire body tighten with the need to touch her, claim her. He loved seeing her smile. “You’re really good. I should have known, considering how fast you pick up things.”
When her phone buzzed again, she sighed and grabbed it from her fallen purse. “Ten bucks says it’s Gabriel.”
Drake had heard the phone go off a few times during his driving lesson but Victoria had ignored her cell as she usually did when with him. He gritted his teeth, sure that she was correct in her assumption that it was Gabriel, the pack’s Guardian. The male was obnoxious and overprotective of her. The overprotectiveness was his only redeeming quality. Drake wasn’t sure why the male was so protective, but he guessed it was because he and Victoria had both joined the pack around the same time. Victoria had been abandoned by her family and Gabriel…well, he didn’t know his history, but the male didn’t look at her in a romantic light at least. The only thing that mattered to Drake.
“I was right. I don’t know why he’s bugging me when he knows I’m with you,” she muttered.
“That is exactly why he’s texting.” Gabriel didn’t think Drake was good enough for Victoria. The male was correct, but it didn’t matter, because he would be some day. And she was Drake’s. He wouldn’t deny what she was to him, what his inner dragon had sensed from even before he’d laid eyes on the beautiful female. Her scent had filled his nostrils then taken over his entire being and he’d been consumed with the single-minded need to protect her. For some reason it didn’t matter that she was a wolf shifter. Or werewolf, as she would have been called thousands of years ago. Victoria had told him that was sort of an old-school term, though many in her pack still used it.
She shot Drake a glance he couldn’t read before she shoved the phone back in her purse. “Well, he can just wait to talk to me until I get back. I think you’ve got some good driving time in. Did you want to try the main road? Maybe a couple side streets?” Her expression was so open and sweet, it jarred him. He wasn’t used to sweetness. Even four months after his escape he was still adjusting to everything. When she frowned at him and said, “What?” he realized he was staring too hard.
“Yes. I can drive us back to the compound since the thought of your driving is beyond terrifying,” he said dryly.
She raised a dark eyebrow, and her lips twitched as if she was holding back a grin. “I’ve seen you burn trained vampires to a crisp and swat supernatural beings away with your wings as if they were insects bothering you, and
driving is terrifying?”
“Well it’s not good.”
Her brows crashed together. “Then why did you want me to teach you?” she demanded.
“I like spending time with you. And I knew you wouldn’t laugh at me.” Something he wouldn’t have admitted to anyone else in the pack.
But she was a healer and kind to everyone. Her expression immediately softened. “I would never laugh at you, Drake.” When her phone buzzed again she let out a frustrated growl and whipped it out of her purse as she cursed Gabriel under her breath. But when she saw her screen her eyes widened. “Uh oh. Vega has a date. With a human boy. Change of plans, I’m driving us back.” She was out of the truck before he could move.
They quickly switched seats and before he’d strapped in she was taking them back to the pack’s sprawling mansion in the heart of Biloxi. The United States hadn’t existed when he’d been thrown into Hell but he was slowly catching up on history and geography. Not that any of that concerned him now. Not when the pack Alpha’s daughter had a date. Drake was just as protective of Vega as he was of Victoria. The young girl had been the first person he’d met after escaping Hell, the first one to show him kindness in over a millennia. “Who the hell is this human boy?”
Victoria shot him an incredulous look as she pulled out onto Beach Boulevard. “What is it with you males? She’s seventeen, old enough to date. Besides, I’m pretty certain she could annihilate any human who got too fresh with her.”
He frowned. “Fresh?”
“Oh, uh, like too handsy. If a male tried to, you know, get physical with her without permission.”
His frown deepened at the thought. He’d seen enough violence in Hell like that for ten lifetimes. Vega was definitely too young to be dating. Or he assumed. “How old were you when you had your first date?”
To his surprise she flushed that delicious shade of pink. “Nineteen,” she muttered. “And I know it’s a little old but it was because of…circumstances.”
“Gabriel?” Drake was sure it had to be the Guardian. As the designated second and defender of the Alpha he was a born protector and it made sense he would guard Victoria as well. She was valuable to their pack as a healer but the male also seemed to view her as a little sister. Which was lucky for him because if he’d looked at her with any other intentions, Drake knew they’d have already come to blows.
“Yes! He made dating or anything else difficult during my teenage years.”
“What about Valentine’s Day?”
She shot him a quick glance before looking at the road. “What do you mean?”
Drake gritted his teeth. He was so unused to ordinary conversation that he often found himself jumping from subject to subject without a normal lead-in to a new topic. It was why he tended not to talk around most of the pack. But with Victoria he let his guard down. There were still things he needed to tell her about himself, like the things he’d done in Hell, but he kept finding reasons to hold off. He didn’t want her to look at him differently.