Read The Bite Before Christmas Online

Authors: Jeaniene Frost,Lynsay Sands

Tags: #Anthologies, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Adult, #Vampires

The Bite Before Christmas (10 page)

BOOK: The Bite Before Christmas
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Katricia gasped at the words, then swatted his arm and rolled him onto his back. She came up on top of him scowling, and began to poke him in the stomach and ribs, but he just chuckled and caught her wrists. Holding on to them, he tugged her down until her breasts rested against his chest and he could reach her lips. Then he kissed her passionately, his hips moving under her so that she felt the hardness pressing against her.

By the time he broke the kiss, they were both breathing heavily, so Katricia was a little surprised when he nibbled at her ear briefly before asking, “When is your birthday?”

“December twenty-fifth,” she answered breathlessly, and then gasped in surprise when he suddenly rolled her off of him and rose up over her.

“Christmas Day?” Teddy asked with dismay.

Katricia nodded uncertainly. “Yes.”

“Damn.”

Much to her amazement, he was suddenly off the bed. Katricia sat up and stared at him where he'd gone to rifle through his suitcase. When he retrieved a pair of jeans and began to drag them on, she frowned and asked with confusion, “What are you doing?”

“Getting dressed,” he said, doing up his jeans and frowning when he found them a little loose. Shaking his head, he dug out a sweater next and asked, “Those fellows who came to help out didn't happen to clean off my pickup, did they?”

“Teddy—”

“It doesn't matter. If they didn't, I'll clear away the snow myself. What are you doing?” he asked, pausing to frown at her where she still sat on the bed. “Get up. Get dressed. We have to go to town. You—” He stopped and blinked several times, then shook his head. “On second thought, don't. It's better if you wait here anyway. I won't be long.”

“Teddy,” she said with exasperation as he hurried for the door to the hall. She started to slide off the bed, but paused when he swung back halfway there. He wasn't responding to her voice, however, he simply rushed back to his suitcase for socks. Straightening with them in hand, he turned back the way he'd come.

“Teddy!” Katricia bellowed, getting off the bed as he started for the door again. “Dammit will you—”

The words died in her throat as he suddenly changed direction, heading for her instead of the door. He stopped in front of her, caught her upper arms, and pulled her up on her toes for a quick but very hard and thorough kiss. Then smiled wryly as he released her. “Sorry. Forgot. I won't be long.”

Katricia blinked and simply stared as he turned and hurried out of the room. The stupid man thought she'd wanted a kiss good-bye. Which she would have wanted had he been going anywhere, but he wasn't going anywhere. She had no doubt he would realize that as soon as he ran into Bricker and Anders, but sighed and moved to the closet to retrieve her robe and don it before following him out of the room just in case the guys were still sleeping.

The house was silent as she moved out into the hall, and Katricia could see the door to the room at the far end of the hall was open, revealing a stripped bed. The door next to it was open as well, but didn't face in her direction. Still, she didn't doubt that bed would be stripped, too. Bricker and Anders were up and would stop Teddy, she thought with relief but continued on anyway.

The setup here was similar to Teddy's cottage, but bigger and arranged the opposite way. She stepped out of the hall into a large room with the right side an open living area separated from the kitchen and dining room on the left by a long counter. Her eyes landed on the twinkling lights of a large Christmas tree in front of the windows on the living-room side, and she stared at it for a moment, a slow smile spreading her lips. Bricker and Anders must have set it up. It hadn't been there before. They hadn't done a half-bad job decorating it, Katricia decided and then glanced toward the kitchen, spotting Teddy at once. He stood in front of the refrigerator, reading a note stuck to the metal front of it with a magnet.

“What does it say?” she asked, moving around the counter to join him.

“Woke early and decided to head back to T.O. Hoping to make it in time for Christmas dinner with Mortimer, Sam, and her sisters. Little elves peeled potatoes and turnip, stuffed the turkey, and popped it in the oven for you. Merry Christmas, your favorite elves J.B. and A.,” Teddy read with bewilderment and then glanced to the stove and muttered, “I can smell the turkey. It must be nearly done.”

He moved over to open the oven door and frowned when he saw the browning bird inside. The smell was heavenly, to Katricia's mind, but it just made Teddy frown harder. Slamming the door closed, he straightened. “Where did the turkey come from? And why the hell would they put it on a day early?”

“The blood courier brought the turkey and a bunch of other food,” Katricia explained. “He had a trailer on the back of the snowmobile with that, the gas, the blood, and another snowmobile for us to use. But Bricker and Anders brought desserts and more food with the extra blood they brought up.”

“Well, that was nice,” he said grudgingly, and then asked with irritation, “But why the hell would they put it on today?”

“Because today is Christmas,” she said gently, and when he glanced to her with horror, Katricia sighed and moved to slip her arms around his waist, explaining, “You were out for more than twenty-four hours, Teddy. It's Christmas Day. Well . . .” She smiled wryly as her gaze slid to the windows that made up the front wall of the cottage and she saw the darkness outside. “It's Christmas night now, I guess.”

“Damn.” Teddy sighed and slid his arms around her, his chin coming to rest on the top of her head. He hugged her tightly and then simply held her and muttered, “I'm sorry.”

“For what?” she asked, pulling back to peer at him with surprise.

“I don't have a Christmas gift for you, or a birthday gift,” he said sadly, and then shifted with frustration and muttered, “You've given me so much, I wanted to—”

“It's okay. I don't have anything for you, either,” Katricia said soothingly.

Teddy stopped and peered at her with surprise. Then he snorted with disbelief. “You're kidding, right? Sweetheart, you've given me everything. You saved my life and much much more. You've given me a body that's young and healthy with not a single old-age ache or pain. And you've given me a smart, sexy woman for the rest of my days, not to mention a second chance at life.”

“A second chance at life?” she echoed with surprise.

“I never married or had kids as a mortal, Katricia. Now I can. With you,” he pointed out and then smiled crookedly and added, “And there won't be any more charity Christmases. I'll be spending them with you and our child when we have one.”

She had no idea what a charity Christmas was, but was distracted by the other thing he'd said. “Our child.”

“Yes . . . well, if you want kids,” Teddy said uncertainly. “I do, but if you don't, we can—”

“I do,” Katricia interrupted quickly and smiled when Teddy relaxed and grinned. She did want children. It just hadn't occurred to her until he'd mentioned them. She'd been too busy marveling over having a life mate to have moved on to the children part. But she did want them. Just maybe not for twenty years or so. Katricia figured in twenty years she should be used to having a life mate and not be trying to drag him off to the bedroom every five minutes. Maybe. She was certainly fighting the urge to do so now.

“I wish I had a gift for you. A whole passel of them for your birthday and Christmas both.”

That fretful mutter from Teddy drew her attention to his unhappy expression, and she tightened her arms around him briefly.

“Teddy, you are a gift,” she said solemnly. “I've been alive a long time and was starting to suffer the dark thoughts and depression that often lead to going rogue. But that's all gone now that I've found you.” She leaned back and smiled. “You're a life mate. That's the gift every immortal prays they'll find under their tree at Christmas.”

He peered at her silently for a moment and then his gaze slid past her and his eyes began to glow. Still looking past her, he asked, “With or without a bow?”

“What?” she asked with confusion and then gasped when he scooped her up into his arms.

“Did you want your life mate under that tree with or without a bow?” he asked, carrying her around the kitchen counter into the living-room area.

“Without,” Katricia said with a laugh as she saw he was carrying her toward the Christmas tree. He set her on her feet once they reached the tree and immediately undid her robe, but when he reached for the lapels to remove it, she stopped him by clasping his face in both hands. When he raised his eyebrows and met her gaze in question, Katricia said solemnly, “You really are a gift, Teddy Brunswick. The best gift of all, one that promises many, many Merry Christmases and Happy Birthdays to come.”

“For both of us,” he vowed, and then bent his head to kiss her as his hands pushed the robe off her shoulders.

H
OME FOR THE
H
OLIDAYS

by Jeaniene Frost

One

I
glanced at my watch. Ten minutes to midnight. The vampire would be back soon, and despite hours of careful preparation, I wasn't ready for him.

A ghost's head popped through the wall, the rest of his body concealed by the wood barrier. He took one look around the room and a frown appeared on his filmy visage.

“You're not going to make it.”

I yanked the wire through the hole I'd drilled into the ceiling's rafter, careful not to shift my weight too far or I'd fall off the ladder I was balanced on. Fabian was right, but I wasn't ready to concede defeat.

“When he pulls up, stall him.”

“How am I supposed to do that?” he asked.

Good question. Unlike humans, vampires could see ghosts, but tended to ignore them as a general rule. While this vampire showed more respect to the corporeal-impaired, he still wouldn't stop to have a lengthy chat with one before entering his home.

“Can't you improvise? You know, make some loud pounding noises or cause the outer walls to bleed?”

The ghost shot me a look that said my witticism wasn't appreciated. “You watch too many movies, Cat.”

Then Fabian vanished from sight, but not before I heard him muttering about unfair stereotypes.

I finished twisting together the wires along the ceiling. If all went well, as soon as the vampire came through that door, I'd use my remote transmitter to unload a surprise onto his head. Now, to set up the last of the contraptions I'd planned—

The unmistakable sound of a car approaching almost startled me into falling off the ladder. Damn it, the vampire was back! No time to rig any other devices. I barely had enough time to conceal myself.

I leapt off the ladder and carried it as noiselessly as I could to the closet. The last thing I needed was a bunch of metallic clanging to announce that something unusual was going on. Then I swept up the silver knives I'd left on the floor. It wouldn't do for the vampire to see those right off.

I'd just crouched behind one of the living-room chairs when I heard a car door shut and then Fabian's voice.

“You won't believe what I found around the edge of your property,” the ghost announced. “A cave with prehistoric paintings inside it!”

I rolled my eyes.
That
was the best tactic Fabian could come up with? This was a vampire he was trying to stall. Not a paleontologist.

“Good on you,” an English voice replied, sounding utterly disinterested. Booted footsteps came to the door, but then paused before going further. I sucked in a breath I no longer needed. No cars were in the driveway, but did the vampire sense that several people lurked out of sight, waiting to pounce on him as soon as he crossed that threshold?

“Fabian,” that cultured voice said next. “Are you sure there isn't anything
else
you want to tell me?”

A hint of menace colored the vampire's tone. I could almost picture my friend quailing, but his reply was instant.

“No. Nothing else.”

“All right,” the vampire said after a pause. The knob turned. “Your exorcism if you're lying.”

I stayed hidden behind the chair, a silver knife gripped in one hand and the remote transmitter in the other. When the sound of boots hit the wood floor inside the house, I pressed the button and leapt up at the same time.

“Surprise!”

Confetti unleashed from the ceiling onto the vampire's head. With a whiplike motion, I threw my knife and severed the ribbon holding closed a bag of balloons above him. Those floated down more slowly, and by the time the first one hit the floor, the vampires who'd been concealed in the other rooms had come out.

“Happy birthday,” they called out in unison.

“It's not every day someone turns two hundred and forty-five,” I added, kicking balloons aside as I made my way to the vampire in the doorway.

A slow smile spread across his features, changing them from gorgeous to heart-stopping. Of course, my heart had stopped beating—for the most part—over a year ago, so that was my normal condition.

“This is what you've been so secretive about lately?” Bones murmured, pulling me into his arms once I got close.

I brushed a dark curl from his ear. “They're not just here for your birthday, they're staying for the holidays, too. We're going to have a normal, old-fashioned Christmas for once. Oh, and don't exorcise Fabian; I made him try to stall you. If you were ten minutes later, I'd have had streamers set up, too.”

His chuckle preceded the brush of lips against my cheek; a cool, teasing stroke that made me lean closer in instinctive need for more.

“Quite all right. I'm sure I'll find a use for them.”

Knowing my husband, he'd find several uses for them, and at least one of those would make me blush.

I moved aside to let Bones get enveloped in well-wishes from our guests. In addition to Fabian and his equally transparent girlfriend floating above the room, Bones's best friend, Spade, was here. So was Ian, the vampire who sired Bones; Mencheres, his young-looking vampire version of a grandfather; his girlfriend, Kira; and my best friend, Denise. She was the only one in the room with a heartbeat, making her seem human to anyone who didn't know better. Our guest list was small, because inviting everyone Bones knew for an extended birthday/holiday bash would require me renting a football stadium. Therefore, only Bones's closest companions were present.

Well, all except one.

“Anybody heard from Annette?” I whispered to Denise when she left Bones's side and returned to mine.

She shook her head. “Spade tried her twenty minutes ago, but she didn't answer her cell.”

“Wonder what's keeping her.”

Annette might not be my favorite person, considering her previous, centuries-long “friends with benefits” relationship with Bones, but she'd be last on the list of people I'd expect to skip his birthday party. Her ties with Bones went all the way back to when both of them were human, and in fairness, Annette seemed to have accepted that her position in his life was now firmly in the “friends
without
benefits” category.

“She flew in from London to be here,” Denise noted. “Seems odd that she'd decide a thirty-minute car commute was too much.”

“What's this?” Bones asked, making his way over.

I waved a hand, not wanting to spoil the festive mood. “Nothing. Annette must be running behind.”

“Some bloke rang her right before we left the hotel. She said she'd catch up with us,” Spade said, coming to stand behind Denise. With his great height, her head was barely even with his shoulders, but neither of them seemed to mind. Black hair spilled across his face as he leaned down to kiss her neck.

“Why am I the only one without someone to snog?” Ian muttered, giving me an accusatory glance. “Knew I should've brought a date.”

“You didn't get to bring a date because the type of girl you'd pick would want to liven things up with a group orgy before cutting the cake,” I pointed out.

His smile was shameless. “Exactly.”

I rolled my eyes. “Deal with not being the center of slutty attention for once, Ian. It'll do you good.”

“No it won't,” he said, shuddering as if in horror. “Think I'll go to the hotel and see what's taking Annette.”

Denise snorted. “Way to make do with who's available.”

I bit back my laugh with difficulty. Denise's opinion of Ian—and Annette—was even worse than my own, but that didn't make her wrong. Still, out of respect for both of them being Bones's friends, I contained my snicker.

Far from being offended, Ian archly rose his brows. “Just following the American adage about turning a frown upside-down.”

Mencheres, ever the tactful one, chose that moment to glide over. “Perhaps we should turn our attention to gifts.”

Bones clapped Ian on the back. “Don't take too long, mate.”

“I'll try to limit myself to an hour,” Ian replied with a straight face.

“Pig,” I couldn't help but mutter. Hey, I'd tried to rein myself in! If vampires could still get diseases, I'd wish a festering case of herpes on him, but I suppose it was a good thing that Ian's ability to carry or transmit STDs died with his humanity.

Ian left, chuckling to himself the whole time.

Bones's arm slid across my shoulders, his fingers stroking my flesh along the way. I'd worn a backless halter dress, because I knew he wouldn't be able to resist that bare expanse of skin, and I was right. Heat spilled over my emotions in its own caress as Bones dropped his shields so I could access his feelings. The tie that existed between us wasn't only forged in love. It was also the blood-deep, eternal link between a vampire and their sire. Bones had changed me from a half-vampire into a mostly-full one, and ever since, I could tap into his emotions like they were an extension of my own. There had been some serious drawbacks to my changing over, but I'd do it again just to have that level of intimacy between us.

Of course, that wasn't the only undead perk. The ability to heal instantly, fly, and mesmerize people didn't suck, either.

“Do you know how lovely you look?” he asked, his voice deepening in timber. Hints of glowing green appeared in his dark brown eyes, a visual cue of his appreciation.

I leaned in to whisper my reply. “Tell me later, when everyone's gone.”

His laugh was low and promising. “That I will, Kitten.”

We went into the next room, where a pile of presents awaited. Vampires had been called many things, but “stingy” usually wasn't among them. Bones had barely made a dent in opening his gifts before his cell phone rang. He glanced at the number with a chuckle.

“Ian, don't tell me you and Annette are too occupied to return,” he said in lieu of a hello.

Supernatural hearing meant that I picked up every word of Ian's clipped reply.

“You need to get over here. Now.”

BOOK: The Bite Before Christmas
13.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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