Read The Bite Before Christmas Online

Authors: Jeaniene Frost,Lynsay Sands

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

The Bite Before Christmas (17 page)

BOOK: The Bite Before Christmas
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Fifteen

“O
ne?” Ian repeated with the same incredulity I felt.

“ ‘My name is Legion, for we are many,' ” Balchezek quoted with an arch smile. “In that case, it was several demons inside one person, but the reverse can happen, too. One demon splits him or herself into several parts and simultaneously possesses different people. It's tricky to do, though, because—”

“Be quiet or I will kill you!” Bones roared, his voice now totally feminine and unrecognizable.

“—you can only branch off into members of your anchor's family,” Balchezek went on, flipping Bones the bird. “First you have to be lodged into one person good and tight. That's your anchor. Then you perform a ritual on yourself to split off into members of their family and remote-control them, but as a split, it'll make you appear like a blurry facsimile to other demons. And if all that sounds labor-intensive, it's even harder to do with vampires.”

“How so?” I asked almost numbly.

“For starters, you can only possess a vampire if you were already in him when he was human, then hung on through the transformation into becoming undead. You need to be crazy strong to do that, but even stronger to attempt simultaneous possessions of other vampires. The upside is that if you pull it off, you're not limited to only possessing your anchor's human family. You could also go up to the third or fourth generation of your anchor's siring bloodline. You'd need to stay within close proximity to your undead flesh puppets, though, and keep their attention focused on you, or a vampire might grab the reins back.”

All those stories Wraith kept telling. Was that his way of keeping everyone's attention on him so he could stay demonically implanted? This sounded too unbelievable even for me, and I'd seen—and done—a lot of freaky stuff in my day. Some of that must have showed on my face, because Balchezek sighed.

“You want me to prove it, don't you? All right. Let's get your boy on top again. He's far enough away from the demon's main anchor that it should be easier for him to pop up. Now, what would really, really upset him?”

I wished I could call a time-out to assimilate all the different pieces of information being thrown at me, but I mumbled my reply without pause.

“Bones briefly grabbed control when we were flying. He stabbed me, but instead of twisting the knife, he yanked it out and stuck it in himself.”

And said he had to die
while he still had her contained
. Oh God, Balchezek was right. Bones wasn't under a spell; he was possessed, and I didn't know of any way to get the demon out without killing him.

I swiped away a tear that escaped from my eye. Crying wouldn't do a damn bit of good, and there was no time for it, anyway.

“So stab me,” I finished, squaring my shoulders. “In the heart.”

Ian walked over, but instead of pulling out one of the silver blades I knew he had on him, he yanked me to him.

“I have another idea,” he muttered right before his mouth slanted over mine.

I was so stunned that I didn't move for a few seconds. That was long enough for Ian to grab my ass and plaster my hips to his. His mouth opened, tongue seeking entry, but I wrenched my head away.

“Have you lost your
mind
?” I demanded, slapping him.

Ian grinned. “Reminds me of the day we met. As you recall, I didn't mind you getting rough. Turned me on, in fact.”

Then he gripped my hair hard enough to pull off several strands, using that as leverage to latch his mouth onto my neck. I closed my fist and prepared to punch him into next week. “If Crispin's in there, this will enrage him into appearing,” Ian whispered near my ear.

Few things were ingrained as deeply into vampires as territoriality. It was strong enough toward anyone a vampire considered to be his, but practically rabid if you threw love into the mix. Plus, I might not luck out and live the next time someone plugged my ticker with silver. A few wrong twitches and it was hello, dirt nap.

I didn't really need proof to know that Bones was possessed, but if making out with Ian gave Bones the chance to stomp on top of the demonic bitch inside him, then I'd do it with gusto.

“Oh, yes, that feels so good,” I moaned, and instead of punching Ian, pulled him closer.

Breath tickled my neck as he laughed. “I know. I'm truly gifted.”

You're truly narcissistic,
I thought, but ground against him and raked my hands through his auburn hair, pulling it hard enough to elicit an approving growl. This wasn't the first time I'd had to make out on command; my old day job playing bait to hunt vampires had practically required it. But it felt beyond weird to have
Ian
nipping and licking my skin while I let out some groans and calls for more.

And though I'd never admit it, not all of my moans were faked. Ian had put his promiscuity to effective use because the bastard was good at what he did.

“Ooh, a sex show.” It sounded like Balchezek plunked onto the floor for more comfortable viewing. “Nice. And I thought coming here would be boring.”

To better access my neck, Ian yanked my collar away from my shoulder, ripping some buttons loose in the process. Not to be outdone, I tore his shirt all the way open, biting some of the skin it revealed before slapping him across the face twice more. Hard.

“I'm glad you like it rough, because I am going to tear your ass
up
.”

Ian turned his face away from Bones, but I caught his lips twitching. His eyes held a definite sparkle as he yanked the remains of my shirt from me, leaving me only in my bra and jeans. A dried blood stain near the center of my chest was the leftover evidence of how close to death I'd come. Ian bent his head there, licking it.

A low growl came from our left. Chains creaked and rattled. I didn't look in the direction, but pressed Ian's head closer.

“That's right, drink my blood,” I said, my voice low and throaty. “Now I'm going to taste yours.”

Power crackled through the air, growing stronger and yet also feeling ragged, like edges of broken glass trying to piece back together. I didn't turn toward Bones, but fisted Ian's hair and yanked his head to the side, exposing his pale, taut neck.

More rattling of chains, followed by a feminine hiss. I ignored that, too, licking my lips as if in anticipation of Ian's blood. Then I slowly brought my head down. Angled my face so that the vampire chained to the wall would have the best view of me sinking my fangs into his sire's neck, and then sucked in a mouthful of blood.

But when I swallowed that rich liquid, my moan
really
wasn't faked. It reminded me that I hadn't eaten in over a week, and though I might have been too distracted to think about food, my body clearly hadn't forgotten what it craved. My control cracked and I bit into him again, tearing his flesh in my haste to swallow more of that delicious crimson liquid.

“That's right, you nasty little vixen, bite me harder,” Ian urged. He raked his nails down my back and pulled my legs around his waist, supporting me with a firm grip on my ass.

Chains crashed together while that feminine hiss turned into a full-throated, masculine roar.

“Get your bloody hands off my wife!”

Sixteen

I
jumped off Ian like he'd burned me, even the lure of more blood unable to keep me from responding to the true sound of my husband's voice. Bones's eyes were glowing emerald-green, the rage in them aimed at Ian, and the currents rippling off him made me nervous that the chains wouldn't hold.

Then Bones looked at me, and that seething rage changed to something else. Pain sliced across my subconscious, so sharp and poignant that I ran those last few steps to him.

“Welcome back,” I said, touching his face, one of the few places on him that wasn't weighted down with chains.

He closed his eyes and inhaled near my palm, a spasm crossing his features. “You smell like Ian. Tell me you were only pretending, Kitten, or I'll have to kill him.”

I smiled through the sudden pink sheen in my gaze. “Me and Ian? Come on, Bones. You know better.”

His mouth twisted. “The pair of you looked very convincing.”

“That was the point, wasn't it?” Ian asked, sauntering over. “Though I'll admit to mild enjoyment on my part.”

Mild
enjoyment? My femininity was affronted but the rest of me could care less. I was too busy staring into Bones's eyes and feeling overwhelming relief that I recognized the person staring back at me.

“So you're not having sex.” Balchezek made a noise of disappointment. “Now I
am
bored.”

Bones glanced at the demon and then back at me. “He's right about everything. I woke up the morning after Wraith appeared and suddenly I was a spectator in my own body.”

“It's easier to possess strong people like vampires when they're asleep. Then their guard is down,” Balchezek offered. “Otherwise, she'd need to shed buckets of your blood to weaken you enough to force her way inside. A lot messier that way.”

Buckets of blood. I flashed back to Annette's hotel room and her odd behavior the night of Bones's birthday party. So she'd been the first one possessed. Wraith
had
been her attacker, but she hadn't accused him, because everything that had come out of Annette's mouth had been directed by the demon piloting her.

The same demon who was piloting Wraith, if Balchezek was right about him being the demon's main “anchor.”

“There are a few things I need to say, Kitten,” Bones stated, directing my attention back from piecing together the possession chain. “I don't know how long I'll be able to hold the demon down. She's very strong.”

“She's still in there?” The realist in me expected that, but I'd hoped his rage had miraculously booted her out.

“Yes,” he replied shortly.

“Of course she is.” Balchezek shook his head. “You think I was lying to you?”

I didn't point out that he was a demon, so lies went with the territory. He was our best source of information and I didn't want him leaving in a huff.

“You'll need to record me rescinding my disownment of you and your reinstatement as heir to my line,” Bones said, fury skipping across his features before he went on. “I'll also expose Mencheres, Kira, Spade, Annette, and Wraith as being possessed. Once I've done that, give me a silver knife. No one will doubt my statements when they see I'm willing to die for them.”

“No!” I said at once, horror flooding through me.

Bones closed his eyes briefly. “I'm sorry it's come to this, but I've no illusions about what must be done. Believe me, I would rather be dead a thousand times over than to again watch as my own hands smash into you because some bitch has control of my body instead of me.”

I grabbed his hair less roughly than I had Ian's a few minutes before. “But you stopped her when she put that knife in my heart. You stopped her!”

“Outing yourself and Mencheres as possessed will result in civil war within your line,” Ian warned. “Not to mention inviting all your enemies to attack when you're weakened. It will cause a bloodbath, Crispin.”

“Ian's right, listen to him,” I said, too concerned about Bones to be shocked at those words coming out of my mouth.

“I might not be able to stop her next time she attempts to kill you, and I refuse to risk it,” he snapped. “Even now she's ripping at my strength to regain control. You swore, Kitten. Years ago when Mencheres challenged you over whether you could kill me if your situations were reversed, you swore that if I murdered those close to you and wouldn't stop, you would do it. The demon in me will kill everyone in her way, and you cannot allow that. The only way to stop her is to kill me.”

No. No.
The words resounded through me so loudly that it took a second to realize someone else was speaking.

“ . . . might be another way, but it'll cost you,” Balchezek finished.

My gaze swung to the walnut-haired demon. “What? What other way?” If he said it would cost me my soul, God help me, but I might do it.

Bones closed his eyes, wincing a little. “She's getting very restless. Just as I was aware of everything when she had control, so she is listening now. Best not to discuss this in front of me, Kitten.”

“That's what I've been saying,” Balchezek muttered. He strode out of the room, tossing a “You coming or what?” over his shoulder.

I looked at Bones and gave an apologetic shrug. “We'll be right back.”

He glanced at his chains, the faintest smile curling his mouth. “Go on, luv. I'll wait right here.”

Seventeen

“I
'm not bargaining away my soul or anyone else's,” were my first words when I followed Ian and the demon outside of the subterranean garage. Maybe if Balchezek thought I was uncompromising on this point, he wouldn't press me for conditions that, in my desperation, I might take him up on.

The demon snorted. “Good, because I don't want yours, and—newsflash—you don't have authority over anyone else's, Miss Overthinks Her Importance.”

I was beyond relieved to hear that, but I pretended to bristle at the insult. Ian laughed. “She does at times, doesn't she?”

“Before we go further, why would you want to help vampires over your own kind?” I might be desperate, but I wasn't about to ignore the most logical question.

“Because I hate my job,” Balchezek said promptly.

My brows rose. “You consider damning souls a
job
?”

“What would you call something you have to do in order to fit in, where you're bitched at whenever you underperform, yet you're never, ever appreciated for when you do it right?” Another snort. “I guess marriage also qualifies, but for me, it's contracting souls.”

Was it possible that all demons weren't evil incarnate? That one could feel remorse over what he'd done? “So you don't like having to condemn people?”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “Some meat monkey comes crying to me about, oh, I need this or that, give it to me and you can have whatever you want. So I give it, then he bitches about the terms after the bill's come due, and
I'm
the one who's supposed to feel bad?”

All right, looked like I was wrong about him feeling remorse! “Yeah, because you're taking advantage of people when they're at their lowest,” I pointed out. “It's not fair.”

He rolled his eyes. “It's not like I was consulted when the downstairs went to war against the upstairs. I'm just supposed to do what I'm told, all day, every day, for the rest of eternity whether I like it or not. And if I don't do it, then I get thrown into the lake of fire. Don't talk to
me
about fair.”

“So what do you want in return for helping us?” I asked, giving Balchezek a calculated once-over. “You're offering us information to help beat this demon, and you just proved that it's not out of a sense of repentance.”

Balchezek smiled. “Not at all. I want a place in your world. If I try to abscond on my own, the higher-ups will come after me, and I'd rather die than get caught cowering among humans. But if I'm under a
vampire's
protection, I become more trouble than I'm worth. It's like I said, most demons don't want to poke the fang beehive if they can avoid it.”

“You want me to take you in as a member of my line?” I couldn't quite keep the appalled sound out of my voice.

“You take in ghosts,” he said, spitting out the word like it was foul. “Yet a demon isn't good enough for you? Besides, I don't want protection from
your
line. You're so priggish, you'd make me crazy. But you,” a nod at Ian, “are more my style.”

Ian inclined his head in acknowledgment of their similarities. “You're set in your decision? Because while I don't require morals from members of my line, I do expect loyalty. How can I be sure you won't change your mind later?”

“Know that movie where the underappreciated cubicle workers flip out, beat their copy machine to smithereens, and then rob their own company?” He flashed his teeth in something too feral to be considered a smile. “Consider that demon in your friend my copy machine, and my robbery is spilling secrets of my race to tell you how to save him, and your other friends, without killing them.”

Ian stretched out his hand, which the demon grasped without hesitation. “Fulfill your promise, and you are welcome in my line with my full protection.”

Balchezek shook his hand. “Great. That's part one of my terms.”

Why wasn't I shocked that the demon had more conditions? “What's part two?”

He let go of Ian's hand and smiled at me. “Life's not worth living without a few basic comforts, eh? I want money. An obscene amount of money, to be specific.”

I didn't have tons in the bank, but Bones had built up a fortune over his centuries of bounty hunting and investments guided by a vampire who caught glimpses of the future.

“Fine. When this is over, I'll be sure you get a check that'll make me vomit when I write it, how's that?”

Balchezek coughed. “I'll need a little down payment on that promise.” And then he nodded at my hand.

I glanced down at the red diamond ring Bones had given me the day he asked me to marry him. Its sentimental value to me was priceless. Because of the rareness of red diamonds and its five-carat size, its market value was also through the roof.

I twisted it off and handed it over without needing a moment to think. I'd rather have Bones alive than a rock that would break my heart with memories if he were dead. “Fine. When you've helped us boot that bitch out of everyone without killing them, you'll give that back in exchange for your obscene check. Agreed?”

The creature who had bound countless others to supernatural deals stuffed the ring in his pocket and smiled. “Consider it done.”

I smiled back, making sure to show my fangs in warning. “I'll hold you to that.”

Two vampires and a demon, allied together. It was a Christmas miracle alright, but of the macabre kind. Still, I'd take my miracles however I could get them.

BOOK: The Bite Before Christmas
6.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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