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Authors: Trina M. Lee

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BOOK: The Wicked Kiss
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Shaz didn’t even look up from where he kneeled on the grass. He clenched his clawed hands into fists, drawing blood from his palms. Arys stared defiantly at Kylarai but never dared to speak a word against her.

Her eyes came to land on me, flashing with an irritated fury. “You really need to deal with this crap.”

I tried to swallow, but my throat was dry. This was my fault. She was totally right. I nodded, but nothing came out when I opened my mouth.

Arys huffed and walked up to my energy barrier, dissolving it with a touch. I gawked at him incredulously. It seemed that this sharing of power was becoming quite the double-edged sword. Pulling a silver key ring from his pocket, he flipped through the keys until he got to the one he wanted.

As he approached me, I sensed both Shaz and Ky stiffen. Arys paid them no attention. His right eye was black and swollen; blood oozed from a gash on his lower lip.

My heart sunk. I couldn’t believe these dumbasses beat each other because of me.

The mystifying vampire looked down at me from his six-foot-four frame, a fire smoldering in his eyes. In a sudden motion, he practically slapped the key into my palm.

“I’ll expect you at dawn.” His voice was low and rough. “If you don’t show, I’ll be back tomorrow night. And, it won’t be pleasant for either of us.”

It wasn’t so much the threat that he uttered as much as it was the drowning black of his pupils. His eyes, more black now than blue, glittered with the driving force of the undead. Hunger for blood, power and control swam in those inky orbs, and I felt my defense die.

“I’ll be there,” I heard myself say. The urge to lick the blood from his lip was stronger than I was.

As I reached for him, he embraced me just long enough to press his lips to mine in a mind-shattering kiss. The bloody smear he left on my mouth was tantalizing, causing me to crave him like an addiction.

Before I could say or do anything, he turned on his heel and stalked from the yard.

Only the sound of the gate that led to the front street indicated his exit.

I looked at Ky, expecting a motherly scolding. When she saw my defeated expression, she shrugged and went back in the house. Shaz remained where he was, and I went to him, dropping to my knees and taking his face gently in my hands.

He tried to resist at first but gave up when I wouldn’t be deterred. The gash in his eyebrow was ugly and looked like it might actually scar. It should heal quickly though it continued to ooze slowly. The blood from his nose was drying and flaky. Looking into his battered face was gut wrenching, and the guilt ate at me like a disease.

“Don’t baby me, Alexa.” He swiped half-heartedly at me but allowed me to look closely at the ugly facial injuries.

“What were you thinking you were going to do to him?” I asked gently, hoping he didn’t take offense. “I mean, what if he had fought dirty and bled you dry?”

He looked up suddenly as if I’d slapped him. A slow smile spread across his youthful face, chilling me in its intensity with those razor sharp fangs. The length and ferocity of them looked so wrong in Shaz’ twenty-three-year-old face.

“There are a lot of viable possibilities when it comes to how I may bite it. But, it will never be by the hand of that goddamn vampire.” His tone ended on a low growl. “Mark my words.”

The energy he exuded was extremely aggressive, especially for Shaz. It tantalized my wild side, sending a shot of adrenaline through me. At the same time, when paired with his glazed predator’s eyes blinking at me, I was also a little anxious.

“You scared the hell out of me.” I searched him for a sign that he wasn’t out of his mind. “Don’t ever call him out like that again. I can’t watch you two kill each other.

Please, don’t make me.”

His touch was soft when he reached to brush the hair out of my face. I leaned in to the warmth of his fingers as he stroked the outline of my lower lip.

“Don’t worry about it. We just needed to blow off steam. I doubt either of us is really intent on killing the other. Yet.” The way he said it did nothing to fool me. I was starting to think that if he had the opportunity to see Arys in ashes, he wouldn’t hesitate to make it happen.

“So, how about that run, hmm?” There was a glint of the wolf within Shaz when he grinned and winked a bruised eye at me. The true beast inside was so much more than the soft, sensitive Shaz that I was used to. It was strong in him now, pressing the surface.

“Are you sure you’re up to it?” Looking at his injuries was more painful to me than they were to him. He seemed oblivious.

His t-shirt hit the ground, quickly followed by his jeans. “I’ve never felt the wolf in my blood as deliciously as I do right this moment. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

He stood against the night sky and stretched. I allowed myself a moment to take in his hard, nude body before accepting his offered hand.

My pulse raced and my face felt flush when he pulled me against him, biting my bottom lip. That act of dominance sent an excited thrill to the tips of my toes.

Shaz certainly had a tendency to get a little extra attitude going on when Arys had been around. But, this cocky edge was new. Though I found it intriguing, I also found it frightening.

“You’re all pumped up from that fight. Which I’m sorry about, by the way. It shouldn’t have come to that.” I motioned for him to unlace the back of my corset, which he was more than happy to do.

“Don’t apologize. I’m looking forward to next time.” His breath came hot against the back of my neck, and I trembled slightly as the corset slipped free. The night air was soothing despite the fall chill.

Shaz made as if to cup my breasts, but I turned swiftly, capturing his hands in my own.

“Now, now,” I said, stepping back to shimmy out of my pants. “Don’t let the testosterone make all of your decisions. Do me a favor and don’t let Arys get to you so much. I think it just empowers him.”

Shaz made a sound low in his throat but didn’t respond. His eyes followed my naked silhouette, hungrily and possessively. Even as he reached for me again, his fingers lengthened into massive claws. The change continued until his body was a mass of fur. In less time than it takes to blink, he was the most beautiful, white wolf.

“I’ll give you a head start.” I nodded to the stretch of field behind the house. A kilometer beyond that, the forest began, and with it, the tree that we always raced to. I was nearly undefeated every time.

His tongue lolled out, and he wore a look of serious contemplation. No sooner had I embraced the change and gone to my knees than Shaz shot past me, through the back gate and into the field beyond.

As the Were energy rolled over me, there was the briefest moment of agonizing pain as bones shifted and reformed, then sudden splendor on four feet. I gave a great shake and a stretch before bounding after the flash of white in the distance.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

I had come to count on watching the sunrise with Shaz almost every day. Those rare mornings that we do not run together feel strangely incomplete. As the sun broke over the horizon, we sipped hot coffee on the back patio.

I knew that Arys would be watching the clock tick until I got there, but I was in no immediate rush. The key to his house was in my pocket where I’d dropped it upon getting dressed into fresh clothing. Leaning against Shaz where we sat on the top step, I almost wished that I could trade Kylarai vampires. Facing Kale would have been easier than dealing with arrogant, domineering Arys.

“You’d better go soon.” Shaz didn’t look too enthused, but since our run, he had lightened up considerably. “I never thought I’d hear myself tell you to go to that bastard.

But, you should go. Find out what the deal is with The Wicked Kiss. And, next time you want to walk into a nest of vampires, I’m going with you.”

I smiled as his words warmed my heart. He never even attempted to discourage me from going back like most men would, Arys included. Instead, he offered to face potential danger alongside me rather than tell me what to do. It was just one more thing that set him apart from the rest.

“You know you’re the greatest, right?” I nudged his ticklish spot with my elbow, and he squirmed.

“Yes, but keep telling me.” With a laugh, he ruffled my hair so that it fell haphazardly around my face. It was something I detested, and I bit my lip in an attempt to resist flicking him in the nose.

“You don’t have to leave.” I pushed his hand away and finger-combed the red and blonde tangles. “I won’t be long … if you want to wait.”

His face softened as he reached to twist a red strand of my hair between his fingers.

“Normally I would, but you shouldn’t rush on my account. I think I’m going to head home and catch some Z’s.”

I studied the broken railing where it lay in pieces on the grass. I wondered if either of the fools planned to fix it.

“Alright, well, call me later.” I paused, thoughtful. “Jez and I are going shopping for Halloween costumes later this week. What do you think I should be?”

He raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Playboy bunny. And, I’ll be Hef.”

I laughed outright at that. “You’re in dreamland, honey. I wasn’t thinking along the lines of something that skimpy.”

“But, it’s Halloween!” He protested as he rose to go and pulled me up with him.

“Oh, I’ll be back at some point to fix that railing. You can model it for me then.”

“It won’t be what you’re thinking.” I promised, ignoring the mischievous wink I received.

I followed him to the bottom step. He produced a set of keys on a Chevy keychain before leaning in to kiss me. “I’ll see you later. If that vampire gets out of hand, punch him in the eye for me.”

“Scout’s honor.” I pulled him in for one more embrace, lingering just a little.

After he had let himself out of the yard, I turned to go back in the house through the patio door. Kylarai was leaning on the kitchen counter with an anxious expression on her finely featured face.

“What’s wrong Ky? You know, you don’t have to go to Kale. Not if you don’t want to.”

She held her coffee cup in a white knuckled grip. It wouldn’t be the first mug she’d broken that way. “But if I don’t? What then?”

“What do you mean? He's a big boy. He’ll get over it if you don’t show. He may not even be expecting you.” I went to the sink, depositing our coffee cups before reaching into my pocket to touch the small key. “I’d trade you vampires if I could.”

She laughed bitterly and grabbed her cell phone from the top of the microwave. “I’d love to go tear a strip out of Arys for you. Especially since you won’t do it.”

“I will, too!” I protested, looking at her sharply.

“Oh please,” she scoffed. “You let that one get away with too much. And, he damn well knows it.”

It was no secret that, though Kylarai and Arys were on good acquaintance terms, she didn’t understand why I bothered with him when I had Shaz. She also didn’t understand that I needed him. It might be the way a junkie needs a fix, but it was undying and inescapable. It was as much a part of me as the need for water or air.

“Bah humbug,” I muttered, sticking my tongue out at her. I received an eye roll and a middle finger in response.

“I’m going to get moving. If you don’t hear from me by noon, send a search party.”

“Very funny.” I grabbed my shoulder bag and keys and turned to follow her down the hall. “I’ll walk out with you. I think I’m more likely to need the search party.”

I slipped a pair of casual sandals on my bare feet and locked the front door behind us. Ky’s Escalade chirped as she disarmed it with the key fob. I flinched in response; my nerves, already jittery.

I gave her a wave as she backed out of the garage and onto the street. Double checking my bag for things like my phone and wallet was my way of stalling because I really didn’t want to do anything but curl up in bed for a few hours. I’d been awake almost twenty-four hours.

I was also embarrassed that I couldn’t even follow my own advice. I’d told Ky not to go if she didn’t want to, yet here I was screwing around because I wanted to put off more dramatics with my vampire.

 

* * * *

 

“I didn’t think you were going to show.” Arys lounged in a comfy leather La-Z-Boy chair, clad in a black robe made of the softest fleece. It was dark in the living room. Heavy curtains sealed every side of the window, effectively eliminating any trace of sunlight. The only light came from the glow of the TV. The news played with the volume low.

“You would have liked that, wouldn’t you?” I crossed my arms and gave him a sly smile. “A reason to come storming over again to trash some other part of my house? I wasn’t willing to take that chance.”

His dark gaze followed my movements as I crossed the span of the room, purposely taking the easy chair across from him rather than the couch beside him. His jaw clenched and unclenched, and I knew that he wanted to say something. I figured I would get it out of him easier if I let it come naturally. Prodding would get me nowhere.

The energy rolling off him was heated, like he had been nursing a low-level anger while waiting to see if I’d come. It was tantalizing, teasing me with the promise of bigger things. I had half a mind to crawl up on his recliner chair and straddle him beneath me.

The challenging expression on his handsome face only enhanced the urge.

“I suppose I should apologize for tearing your railing off. But, I’m not apologizing for smacking the wolf pup. He had it coming.” He studied me when he spoke, as if awaiting my protest.

“You both had it coming. I hope you each got it out of your systems because if it happens again, I’m stepping in.” The veiled threat wasn’t missed by Arys who grinned as if enticed by it. “I’ll be doing a little skull bashing. And, enjoying it.”

“I look forward to it.” His broad grin flashed fangs, and a shiver crawled up my spine in response.

His bruised eye was rimmed purple, and the cut on his lip was like a target that drew me. I was dying to nibble that soft tender spot, knowing that it would hurt and that he would love it.

“I’m serious Arys. I won’t allow you to take another shot at Shaz without having to take one at me, too.” My smile faded, and we stared at each other like the adversities that I sometimes felt we were.

He looked absolutely vicious when he bared his teeth and said, “You are so dramatic.”

I laughed outright then, long and hard, with as much melodrama as I could muster.

“Spare me the hypocrisy, love. Drama is a lifestyle as far as you are concerned.”

“Don’t pretend you don’t love it.” He purred like a cat, beckoning me with a finger.

My senses were blazing as they grew in intensity. The light dab of cologne Arys liked to wear invited me to get closer so that I could breathe in the heady scent of him. I resisted the instinctual need to go to him.

After the last few months, I’d gotten used to the power driven needs and urges, though there were parts that I would never get used to. I knew when the energy was the driving force and when it was worth fighting or giving in. I wasn’t giving in this time.

“Be straight with me, Arys. Why do you want me to stay away from The Wicked Kiss? Because you’ve got more enemies than I’m aware of, or because you’ve got something to hide?” I sat back with my arms crossed over my chest. A toss of my head flipped a lock of hair out of my face and earned me an appraising glance from Arys.

“Perhaps both.” He waved a hand in a noncommittal gesture. The sudden shift in the atmosphere had me wary. “But, the fact remains, you are not safe there. And, I won’t compromise your safety.”

I took a deep breath and braced myself. “It isn’t yours to compromise.” He narrowed his eyes, and I went on before he could release whatever retort he held ready. “I won’t be told where I can and cannot go. I live my life taking risks every night. Risks that I don’t see you objecting to. So, I want to know, what’s with the sudden change?”

All I heard then was the weatherman giving the forecast for the next four days. Arys sat quietly, and I knew he was weighing his words, deciding what to tell me. There was mention from the TV that we most likely would not see snow until well after Halloween.

That sounded good to me. Alberta winters were harsh. Starting late was always a welcome reprieve from icy roads, head colds and frozen paws.

Arys slid from the recliner with a motion as smooth as butter. His robe flashed his broad, taut chest but otherwise stayed together, thankfully. He went to his knees before me on the plush carpet so that we were at eye level. Taking my hand in his, he interlocked our fingers, sending a wave of excitement and power crashing through me.

The tingle that burned in the palm of my hand traveled a steady path to my loins, which caused my heart to skip a beat.

“You are a predator that needs no assistance when it comes to you and your prey.

The risks you take are of your own choosing. My concern is that you will become the hunted in a place where you’re at a disadvantage. And, it will be my fault.” He took my other hand then, completing a circuit so the energy flowed freely between us.

The outcome of calling a lot of power had its drawbacks. There were negative repercussions, which is why I make a point to cross the boundary only when necessary.

Since Arys’ hungers had become my own, I had certainly learned my lesson. The things you put out always come back with a kick in the ass. Energy is the driving force of all magic and supernatural ability. But, every action has to have a reaction, and it’s rarely a pleasant one.

“I made the choice to go in there, and I made it out in one piece. It’s just a damn vampire junkie bar. Don’t make it bigger than it is.” I smiled to lighten the mood that had settled. His expression remained stone cold serious. “I never even realized you frequented that place. You always shit talk Kale’s patronage.”

“I don’t frequent that place. I remain firm on my opinion when it comes to feeding from the mentally unstable rush addicts in that club.” He leaned in to press a brief but strangely tender kiss on my lips. The metallic ring in his lip was cool against my skin.

“Look, Alexa, I’ll be frank with you. I have contacts at The Wicked Kiss. But, there are a lot of people that would enjoy wiping me out. They have their reasons. I am the most powerful vampire in the city. You have helped to clarify that. Anyone that wishes me dead has been walking this earth far longer than you have. And, that fills my heart with fear.”

It wasn’t an easy admittance for him. I could see the strain in his pinched features.

He gnawed his lower lip anxiously, grimacing when he bit the healing cut.

It went without saying that anyone possessing great power or ability of any kind was at risk. Jealousy and fear are strong driving forces behind the motives of the weak.

“Who are you worried about? It must be someone specific if you’re this upset about me going to the Kiss. What’s the deal?” I briefly reflected on the reactions to me when I’d been at the vampire bar. “Nobody seemed to want to do anything but snack on some potent Were blood. Until they realized I was the one they’d heard about. Then it was smooth sailing.”

The conflicting emotions in Arys’ eyes had me nervous. Was it possible that I’d walked right past potential death and hadn’t even known it?

“Then he wasn’t there. Thank God.” Arys closed his eyes and murmured what sounded like a small prayer. Of everything he’d said so far, that scared me the most.

In all the time I’d known Arys, I had rarely heard him reference the big boss upstairs.

Something about it set off an alarm that chilled me.

“Who? Who wasn’t there?” Panic gripped me, and I squeezed his hands painfully.

He seemed oblivious. “Tell me what’s going on. Who the hell am I supposed to be afraid of?”

I wanted to slap him across the face like they do on television, but I was the one feeling hysterical. I’d seen a lot of crazy shit in my life, but I wasn’t dumb enough to think that I was the biggest of the bad. If Arys had inadvertently endangered me, I needed to know.

“You’ve shared my most intimate and personal memories. You know the one vampire that I loathe more than any other.” His words instantly generated an image in my mind.

When Arys and I had joined metaphysically, we had shared every piece of our past memories. It had not been pleasant. We all have something we’d never share with anyone. Arys and I no longer had that luxury. At times, we’re literally inside one another.

Our shared memories were mostly a blur, but the most poignant ones had a way of standing out with amazing clarity.

The image was that of a vampire that had the charm and persuasion of Bill Clinton with the distinguished forty-something appearance of George Clooney. Looks were deceiving though, and I knew he looked nicer than he was.

Harley Kayson. I knew him only from Arys’ memories. And, they were far from good. Harley was a vampire with as much authority as a mob boss and about as many connections, too. He was a smooth talker with a penchant for gorgeous men in addition to his harems of women. He was the vampire that had turned Arys.

Arys had been working the streets of New York City more than three centuries ago when Harley’s mistress had taken a liking to him. She was the last client Arys would ever entertain. Once Harley discovered the angelic beauty she’d brought home to play with, the greedy vampire simply had to have Arys all for himself.

Harley had envisioned the stunning, dark Arys to be the partner in crime he’d always longed for. But, despite Arys’ enjoyment of the vampire lifestyle, it hadn’t always been that way. Arys had been a troubled young man that resented Harley for making choices for him, especially the one to leave his human life behind. It wasn’t a case of foreboding vampire syndrome but rather the fact that it hadn’t been his idea. Arys was too headstrong and confrontational to be what Harley wanted him to be. He was no one’s sidekick.

As far as unhealthy predator and prey relationships go, those two had one of the worst. They had parted ways on the worst of terms. Of course, Arys having burned Harley’s house to the ground with his vampiress lover inside may have played a role in that.

“Why would he be in Edmonton? I thought the last time you saw him he was living in Vegas.” Fear caused my spine to tingle uncomfortably. A knot formed in my throat, and my stomach hurt.

Harley was a sick bastard who divided all people into two categories: those who could be toys and those who were just food. I couldn’t help but wonder which one I’d be.

“He was. And, still is.” Arys stood up, pulling me with him. “Harley owns The Wicked Kiss, Alexa. That’s why I don’t want you there. He owns a string of them across the entire country.”

I tripped over the question on the tip of my tongue. “He owns it? Thanks for thinking to share that information sooner. Are you trying to get me killed?”

“You’re going to get yourself killed. And, I’m sharing it with you now.” He reached out for my hand, and I surrendered it but didn’t budge from where I stood.

He gave my arm a gentle tug, pulling me toward the darkened hallway and the bedroom beyond. “Come, lie with me.”

“Arys, I can’t.” I resisted, though I wanted desperately to cling to him. “I have to go home and get some sleep.”

He never let go of me, forcing me to walk along beside him. “You can sleep here. I won’t bite.” He raised a dark eyebrow then and grinned. “Unless you ask me nicely. And unfortunately, there’s more.”

“I’m not doing anything to reward your bad behavior. And, what do you mean, there’s more?”

He visibly shuddered. The tangy scent of fear came off him in small traces, but it was still there. On most other people, the scent would have been enticing. On my dark vampire, it was all wrong.

“He’s here because he knows about us. Being my sire, he likely sensed the changes in me despite our lack of communication. He’s curious to see if I’ve blood bonded you.”

He pulled me in close so that my nostrils filled with the wonderful scent of him and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Come to bed. I just want to hold you until I fall asleep.”

It was such an unexpected request that I couldn’t deny it. I followed him in to the bedroom, which was even darker than the living room. It was always impeccably clean and smelled like scented candles. I knew how soft the thick black comforter was, and I began to anticipate getting under it.

Arys wasted no time dropping his robe over the desk chair in the corner. He looked like a marble statue of some great angel. I let my gaze linger over him as if he were a fine piece of artwork. When he caught me staring, he actually looked embarrassed. That’s no easy feat for that vampire.

“For a girl who isn’t looking for any action, you’ve sure got the hunger in your eyes.”

My cheeks warmed as I began to take my clothes off. “Just admiring the view.” I left my lacy black bra and panties on and climbed on the bed.

We sat awkwardly in the bed side by side. It occurred to me that we had never been in this room together without being in the throes of passion. When we were together, it was usually a combination of metaphysically driven intimacy and the predatory urges and gratifications we desired by nature.

It wasn’t that we had no deeper emotion for each other but rather that we had never acknowledged it. The sweet romantic side of me only came out with Shaz. Likewise, the worst of my predatory nature was reserved for my time with Arys.

He moved quickly to pull me into an embrace that was as tender as it was surprising.

BOOK: The Wicked Kiss
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