Smashed-3D-web-whiteBook 8.5

Dealing with the FPA is a burden that Alexa usually bears, but when the government op makes a serious threat, it falls on Arys to handle. And he likes to do things a little differently.

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Urban Fantasy
Editor: B. Leigh Hogan
Cover art by: Michael Hart

Chapter One:

Her eyes were blue.

I could still see the way she’d looked at me. Such loathing. Such fear. Those dark-blue eyes were so deep, so encompassing. They were my eyes. And it pained me to see them on her now that she had risen.

“Hey, brother, are you in there?” Jenner’s inquiry broke through my thoughts, pulling me from the memory. “You’re turning out to be a really shitty wingman.”

“Sorry,” I murmured, unable to tear my thoughts from Alexa. She wasn’t just my lover; she was a piece of me that I couldn’t function without. Jenner didn’t fully get that, nor did I expect him to.

Jenner huffed, impatient and on the prowl. He eyed up the stripper gyrating on a pole atop the stage before us. It had been his idea to come to such a place after I’d refused to step foot back inside The Wicked Kiss.

Since the birth of the original blood den back in Las Vegas many years ago, I’d held the place in contempt. It was a filthy way of satisfying the hunger. It turned vampires into business partners with those they fed on. Being a predator was natural, instinctive. The Wicked Kiss dirtied that up, turning the hunt into a business transaction that gave humans the power to say yes.

I’d never believed in that kind of thing. Willing victims made the entire process a complete bore. There was no excitement, no rush in taking a victim who wanted it. Sure it might be a means to an end that kept the newer vampires in line, but I wasn’t new and I wasn’t about to be neutered by such a ridiculous place.

Of course, the fact that Alexa and Kale owned and operated the local club had much to do with my avoidance currently. It was their domain. Not mine. And I wanted nothing to do with it.

So Jenner and I sat at a table near the front of the stage, watching as various women danced about with the intent to titillate, never knowing that they were being appraised for much more than their bodies.

“I bet that one’s a screamer,” Jenner mused, grinning as he stood up to slip some cash into the woman’s g-string. The dark-haired dancer smiled coyly and blew him a kiss. “She’s going to be blowing a hell of a lot more later.”

I repressed the urge to pummel him. Try as I might to convince Jenner to return home to Vegas, he’d insisted on staying. He meant well. Still his appetite was insatiable, and his determination to get me out of the house was tiresome.

“Have you picked one out yet?” I asked, boredom heavy in my tone.

The dancer on stage shimmied out of her tiny g-string and threw it into the face of a man at the next table. He clutched it tight in a fist and hollered victoriously.

“Me? What about you?” Jenner countered, his watchful gaze scrutinizing me. “It’s been a week now, Arys. You can’t keep torturing yourself like this.”

“The only torture I’m experiencing is the sound of your nagging voice,” I said with a smirk.

He frowned and smoothed a hand through his short, dark hair. Heaven forbid even a strand be out of place. Jenner was very concerned with his appearance. It was in his nature. He was a performer, always on stage inside his own mind.

“Look, I get it. She’s the last one that you…drank from. But she can’t always be the last one. Abstaining is dangerous, especially for you. Pick out a girl. We’ll get a private dance. It will be fun. Like old times.” Jenner gave me a hearty pat on the back and awaited my choice.

Arguing with him was pointless simply because he was right. Holding out was only going to make things a lot worse for me and my unlucky victim when I did snap.

“Fine,” I said with a forced sigh of exasperation. “That one.”

My victim of choice was a tall, curvy redhead working the guys at the next table. It was easy enough to get her attention without saying a word. I wanted her, and with that intent in mind, I drew her gaze my way with no effort at all.

She gave Jenner and me a once over before abandoning the table of human men and gravitating toward us. Her dark eyes held an eager glint. Adjusting her ample cleavage, she leaned on our table, giving us a good view.

“How’s your night going, boys?” she purred, most likely having performed this routine countless times.

Jenner’s face lit up, like a kid in a candy shop. “It’s looking better now.”

“Can I interest you in a private dance?” She held out a hand to Jenner who took it graciously. “I’m Brandy. I promise to send you home happy.”

Playing along, Jenner brought her hand to his lips. Brushing a kiss across her knuckles, he used his vampire wiles to draw her in. A blush spread across her cheeks.

“How does two at a time sound?” he asked, his gaze locked on hers, drawing her deeper.

“Ah, so that’s how you like it, huh?” She managed to tear her gaze away long enough to look at me. “I think I can manage that. It’ll cost you double.”

“Not a problem. Lead the way.”

Jenner’s eagerness was palpable. It was infectious, waking my bloodlust for the first time in many days. I followed the two of them through the seedy little strip club to a door marked as private. We entered to find an area with small, sectioned off rooms, similar to the change area in a clothing store but bigger. It was filthy, reeking of sweat, sex, and dirty money. As I anticipated spilling her blood, none of that mattered.

“Money first,” she said, closing the door to a private room behind us. She gestured to a small couch with more stains than the human eye could see. “Have a seat.”

Jenner slapped a handful of bills into her hand. “Is that enough?”

Without a word, Brandy tucked the money into a purse too tiny to hold anything else and got to work. Music pounded through overhead speakers, something loud and raucous. She began to sway to the beat, her movements intentionally seductive.

I took a seat on the couch beside Jenner and flashed him a warning look. He merely shrugged and turned his attention to the scantily clad woman. I began to have second thoughts. Perhaps I wasn’t ready for this yet.

Then Brandy climbed onto my lap and thrust her breasts in my face, causing me to forget everything but the pulse beating in her throat. My gaze was transfixed on the creamy expanse of her neck. The sound of her heart thundered in my ears despite the annoying music.

With a hand beneath her chin, I made her peer into my eyes. My intent to seduce was stronger than hers, and she easily fell prey to my manipulations. I made her mine with little more than the right look.

“Holy shit,” she breathed, grinding her groin against me. When I broke the no touching rule by running a hand up her side, she closed her eyes and moaned.

Jenner slid a hand into her hair, pulling her head towards him. With a brazen kiss, he had her melting into a puddle in my lap. With the glassy eyes of one entirely under our hypnotic enchantment, she grabbed for him, kissing him hungrily.

Her arousal was immediate and intense. Despite playing the role of seductress all night, the tables had been turned. Now she was the seduced, and now she belonged to us.

I breathed in the pungent scent of her desire. It coaxed my hunger to life. The need for her blood was powerful, rivaled only by the need for her moans and maybe even her screams.

For just a moment, I flashed back to the last time I’d shared a woman with a man. Just over a week ago, Shaz and I had shared Alexa. It felt like years ago. I groaned and tried desperately to shove the memory aside. It wasn’t Brandy I hungered for; it was Alexa.

With a low growl of frustration, I grabbed Brandy’s wrist and bit deep. She gave a small cry but otherwise noticed nothing. Jenner did a fine job of keeping her enthralled. He tugged on the strapless top she wore, freeing her breasts from its hold.

I tipped her sideways, spilling her onto the couch between us. With her head in Jenner’s lap and her legs splayed across me, she surrendered completely to us.

The trickle of blood from her wrist filled my mouth, encouraging the need for more. Abandoning her wrist, I eyed her throat. Brandy wasted no time freeing Jenner’s constant erection. He leaned back against the couch with a happy groan.

It had been quite some time since I’d taken a woman to bed who wasn’t Alexa. I had no intention of starting now. Sexual desire was part of the feed for an incubus vampire. I needed the arousal and lust of my victim the way fish needed water and flowers needed sun. There were many ways of achieving that without sex, of course. However, it had never been as good as it was with Alexa. God how I missed her.

Dragging my fingers over the warmth between Brandy’s thighs threw her into a state of crazed lust from which Jenner seemed to benefit greatly. She exuded a dizzying sensual energy that I could happily get drunk on.

I watched as Jenner captured her bitten wrist and flicked his tongue over the bite I’d put there. He caught my eye and smiled, a sly twist of his lips that revealed wicked intentions.

I shook my head, sure that I wasn’t sharing his intent. It had been decades since Jenner and I had shared in this kind of activity. Returning to those days was likely not in anyone’s best interest, though it was tempting. We’d certainly had our share of fun back in the day.

Being part of Harley’s bloodline meant blood orgies on a nightly basis. The first few decades of my undead existence had been a sea of blood and bodies. I existed from one night to the next among so many nameless, faceless victims. It was all history now.

I’d like to think I had toned it down considerably since then. No longer did I spend endless nights driving victims into a frenzy. That’s not to say it didn’t happen on occasion.

“Do you want her?” Jenner asked, motioning to the tiny skirt Brandy lifted in invitation.

“Not like that.” I gestured for Jenner to have his way with her. I certainly wouldn’t stop him.

“You seriously only fuck one woman?” Jenner shook his head as if he couldn’t possibly wrap his mind around that concept. “Alexa must be a hell of a lay.”

A frown creased my brow. I knew he didn’t mean any harm, but his flippant remark carried more weight than he realized. “It’s not about fucking one woman, Jenner. It’s about belonging with one woman. No one has ever made me feel the way Alexa does.” Talking about her made me think about her, which was dangerous for many reasons.

Jenner ran a hand down Brandy’s body to her thigh. Her attempts to please him grew more frenzied. The very human scent of her was enticing. The more he touched her, the greater her desire grew. It washed over me like a wave, and I enjoyed the potent sensation of it.

“Well, seeing as I don’t have a great love to pine after, I’m going to fuck this chick senseless. Unless you have a problem with that.” Jenner’s words ended on a groan.

“Not at all.”

We traded places. I was happy to nuzzle her neck while Jenner positioned himself between her legs. In search of encouragement, he got her talking, telling him how much she needed him inside her. It was all part of his act. Jenner had to be the star of the show.

It was fine with me. I hadn’t been the one to seek out this encounter. Though now that I was here, I was going to take what I could from it.

Jenner made a big display of pleasing her. His hand disappeared beneath her skirt, and right away she was purring like a kitten. It took much effort to refrain from piercing her jugular. I needed her to bleed.

“I’ve gotta say, the women here are eager, aren’t they?” Blood stained Jenner’s face from a nip he’d taken of her inner thigh. Running his tongue over the smear, he laughed. “I could get used to this.”

“Don’t,” I chuckled. “You’ve already overstayed your welcome.”

While manually guiding Brandy to greater pleasure, Jenner studied me with a knowing grin. “Do you remember Paris? Those people were fucking amazing.”

“I couldn’t forget Paris if I wanted to.” The years I’d spent in Paris were among some of the best. Together, Harley, Jenner, and I had dined on the city’s finest folks. Some of my best work had been done in that city.

“Sometimes I still rub one out while thinking back on those days. We had some good times.”

“We sure did.” I wasn’t surprised by his blatant confession. “You’re so obsessed with yourself, Jenner. It’s ludicrous.”

With pupils so large that his eyes were black, Jenner shrugged. “What can I say? I know what I like.”

Not bothering to await my response, he busied himself with the victim writhing between us. With the right touch and a few whispered promises of things to come, he had her begging.

Brandy clutched at me, trying to get me to kiss her. I avoided her greedy advances by seeking out her jugular. I wasn’t in the mood to draw this out.

I couldn’t do it. My fangs grazed her skin, and she shuddered. But I couldn’t bring myself to bite into her neck. Being so close, ready but unable, it flashed me back to the best and worst moment of my existence. The moment I killed Alexa.

No kill had ever been so satisfying and no kill ever would be again. There was no word to describe how it felt to be one with her in that delicate place between life and death. She was mine as fully as one could be. It was wonderful.

And then it was absolute misery. Death stole her from me, severing the tie that joined us. It was like having a piece of myself torn away, ripped from my very soul. For a time, I thought I would die too. Then she came back and we were whole again. If that’s what this was.

The memories were fresh, always lurking, ready to blindside me again. I had waited for a century to have it all happen in just a few minutes. Never would I forget the way she’d pleaded for me to do it. I kept waiting for it to wash me clean of the guilt. It hadn’t so far.

It should have been a relief to know that Alexa was still here on this earth with me. If I hadn’t blood bonded her, she’d just be dead now. Perhaps it would have been better that way. A creature like her should never have to be what I am.

Alexa dominated my thoughts. It led me down that mental pathway that joined us, plunging me into her mind. It was sudden and disorienting. Then I was seeing through her eyes, an unwelcome visitor in her head.

It was dark. A cold fall breeze blew her long blonde hair about in a mess of tangles. The hunger drove her, guiding her actions. Her focus was on the couple engaged in an intimate embrace on a park bench. Together with Kale Sinclair at her side, the two of them slaughtered the lovers.

I tasted the blood in Alexa’s mouth. The screams echoed in the stillness, silenced quickly by Sinclair. While he feasted on the fear of one victim, she drove the other into a sexual frenzy.

When she sat atop the man, cooing sweet nothings into his ear, she felt my presence. Immediately she stiffened, her concentration broken.

With our minds joined it was impossible to withhold my feelings. I couldn’t hide the mix of emotion that stormed me. Being in Alexa’s head while she made a victim hers was a rush. It was a turn on to be there while she took command.

It was also a crushing disappointment to see what I’d done to her and to feel so conflicted about it. Worst of all was Sinclair being the one there with her.

Before I could attempt to communicate with her, Alexa brutally thrust me out of her head. There was a desperation to her panic as she did so. Try as she might to hide it, I was able to see that she was coming apart without me.

That made two of us.

The violence of her rejection combined with the excitement of her hunt brought me back to myself with a jolt. With a burst of madness-infused anger, I grabbed a hold of Brandy’s hair and jerked her head so her neck was exposed. Ignoring Jenner’s protests, I plunged fangs into her artery, finding satisfaction only when blood filled my mouth.

Even then, it wasn’t enough. I thought of my lover with another man, and I couldn’t keep my shit together. She was my other half. She belonged with me, goddammit.

I left the stripper there on the couch, dead, her throat mangled. Licking the blood from my lips, I strode from the private room with Jenner shouting after me.

“Arys, what in the fuck?” He struggled himself back into his pants and hurried after me. Grabbing my arm, he jerked me to a halt. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Just a little bit. Get off me.” I shook him off and pulled a wad of cash out of a pocket. “Here. Leave extra for their troubles. I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has died back here.”

Without waiting around for him, I stalked out, knowing that I was on the edge of a killing spree. My hands clenched into fists, I somehow kept from ripping the head off the doorman who sneered at me as I passed.

“Where the hell are you going?” Jenner called as he chased me to the car.

I opened the door to the Firebird and leaned over to unlock the passenger door. I didn’t drive much if I could help it. Being a passenger was more my thing. At least according to Alexa it was. She didn’t trust my driving, though I couldn’t imagine why not. I was certainly no worse than the majority of humans that miraculously passed a driver’s exam.

“I’m going to the park Alexa is at,” I said, starting up the cranky old car.

“That’s a terrible idea.” Knowing better, Jenner didn’t offer an explanation. He didn’t have to. He knew me well enough to know it would have been wasted.

Killing Brandy had been a mistake. It had never truly been my intent. Remorse wasn’t my strong suit. It never had been. Public kills were very amateur. Alexa’s park bench-kill being a prime example of that. Why Sinclair would go along with such a thing was beyond me.

No, it wasn’t. I knew why. It was a thrill.

Alexa was long gone when we arrived. She’d known I would come, and she’d had no intention of being there when I showed up.

Her victims remained, however. It was easy enough to find them with the blood so heavy on the air. The atmosphere screamed with the residual energy of terror and death.

“Fuck.” Running a hand through my hair, I stared at the mess, unable to accept that she had done it.

Jenner surveyed the scene, nodding as he walked around the slaughter. “You two are so much alike. It’s scary. This looks just like something you’d do. Oh wait, you pretty much just did the same thing.”

In response to his sarcastic remark, I shot him a deathly glare. “That’s helpful, Jenner. Thanks.”

“If this is the two of you apart, I’d almost hate to see what you could do together.”

Though I didn’t say so, I agreed. Alexa and I brought out both the best and the worst in each other. Still, I continued to believe that I could help her through the challenging aspects of being a new vampire. If only she would trust me.

“We need to get rid of the bodies,” I said. “I don’t want to leave anything for the FPA to trace back to Alexa.”

As soon as the words left my lips, the darkness was lit up by flashing lights. Two black sedans pulled up on the grass beside us. Juliet O’Brien got out of the first car. In her hand was a crossbow pistol ready with a bolt in place. It wasn’t all that big, but it could be deadly. She held it easily with one hand, though being a werewolf made her stronger than the average human. Evidently the FPA had upgraded their weaponry since their last run in with Alexa.

Pointing the pistol at me, Juliet aimed for my heart and said, “You and I need to have a little talk.”

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