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|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
Memory returned with a frontal assault. The Gone With the Wind couple's attacking them, biting them. Vampires. She turned rigid with shock. No. It hadn't happened. It couldn't have happened.
"Zack." Her voice cracked with disuse as she stared at the man. "Where is he?"
He pushed away from the doorframe and started toward her, his eyes turning flat. Cold. "I suggest, cara, you worry about yourself."
"We were attacked." Was that part right? Or had it all been a hallucination? Well, it couldn't have all been a hallucination, or she wouldn't be tied to the bed of one of the players. Unless she was still hallucinating. "I need to know where he is. Did they kill him?"
"You worry about another when you're tied to my bed?" He smiled, revealing sharp, twin incisors. "At my mercy."
Oh God, this is not happening. He is not a vampire. But whatever . . . whoever . . . he was, she was in deep trouble. Her heart thudded like it meant to fight its way out of her chest. "What do you want?" Don't say blood, don't say blood. Vampires don't exist. They don't exist!
"You know what I want." He closed his eyes, tilting his head back as if he were in the throes of great pleasure.
Oh, Zack. What have I done? I never should have let you get near that column.
The man opened his eyes again and sat on the bed beside her, watching her with a piercing intensity . . . a hunger . . . that had panic clawing at her mind. She was utterly at his mercy. Tied. Spread-eagled.
He reached for her, and she flinched, her heart thundering in her ears as his cool fingers curled lightly around her throat. Her breaths came quick and shallow, fear a living thing inside her as she watched him, as she waited for him to . . . what? Strangle her? Rape her? Or, God help her, dip his head and bite her, sucking the blood from her body?
He's not a vampire!
She shook, in a fever of dread, yet he drew out her torment, sliding those fingers up and down her throat as he watched her with that expression, at once rapturous and hungry. And very, very sexual.
"Are you going to kill me?" she gasped.
A small, cold smile lifted the corners of his mouth. "Of course."
Of course. Her stomach cramped. Tears burned her eyes.
His look of intense pleasure only grew. "Eventually." His hand slid down, pressing against her chest, sliding lower to cover one of her breasts. "But not until I've had my fill of you." As her pulse raced like a runaway freight train, his fingers found her nipple, plucking at it, striking a discordant note of pleasure against the terror screaming in her head.
Still, he watched her with that dangerous intensity. He reached for her arm, the one tied to the bedpost closest to him. His cool hand curled around her forearm, his thumb tracing the vein from her inner elbow to her wrist, slowly, as if savoring the feel of the blood pumping beneath her skin. He dipped his head.
"No," she gasped, her heart ratcheting.
But he didn't stop. His nose teased the crook of her arm. His mouth tasted her skin as she lay, tense as a steel rod, dreading the stab of his fangs.
Instead, he slowly rose again, a dangerous smile in his eyes as if he enjoyed her fear most of all. The sadist.
He stood and moved to the foot of the bed, kneeling between her spread legs.
What are you doing? She refused to give voice to the question that burned in her throat. He enjoyed her fear, she could see it in his eyes. And she would give him no more satisfaction than she had to.
When his hands found her waist, her breath caught on a gasp. Pushing up her T-shirt hem, he unbuttoned her jeans, unzipping her fly with deft fingers.
"Don't," she breathed.
But he ignored her, yanking her pants down over her hips, where they got hung up on her spread thighs. But not before he'd revealed her black satin panties.
His hand shot between her legs, sliding along her most private flesh, stroking her through the satin. In the blink of an eye, he turned to the post where her right foot was bound and untied it.
The moment her foot was loose, she struggled to kick free, to knock him aside, but his grip was like iron as he forced her legs together long enough to push her pants down past her knees and off her right leg altogether. Then he was yanking her legs apart, tying her ankle again.
"Damn you!" She fought him, but there was nothing she could do to stop him.
He smiled, a darkly satisfied look on his face as he stared at her spread before him, only the small black panties barring his way.
Her breath trembled into her lungs, her body flushing hot, then cold, then hot again as he reached for her, this time stroking her inner thigh, watching her. "Do you have any idea how fast the blood flows out of the body when the femoral artery is breached?" As he spoke, his unusually sharp incisors began to lengthen and thicken. His pupils slowly turned white, surrounded by a sea of near black. Just as the other vampires' had. Vampires. Oh, God, how can they be real?
Slowly, he leaned forward, his face and those awful, sharp fangs dipping between her legs. Quinn bucked in panic, terror pulling at her mind as she struggled against the ropes tying her to the bed. Cool hands gripped her thighs roughly, holding her still. Teeth grazed the sensitive flesh of her inner thigh, and she quaked with terror over the fangs that were about to steal her life.
Tears blurred her vision. She should have kept Zack safe. If only she'd ignored that strange sight in front of her apartment. If only she'd turned and gone the other way.
Without warning, the vampire rose from between her legs and came to stand beside the bed, looking down at her. He leaned over, grabbing her jaw. "Look at me."
"I thought you were going to drain me."
One dark brow lifted. "Disappointed?"
"No," she gasped, her pulse pounding so hard she could barely breathe, let alone form words. "Of course not."
"I do not kill my slaves." He squeezed her jaw. "Nor do I wish them to fear me."
"I'm not your slave. And you love my fear. You love it!"
"Yes. But I've had my fill. And now you will forget."
She met his gaze stonily. "I'm not your slave."
A smile lifted his mouth. "Oh, but you are, piccola." He stared deeply into her eyes as if he were trying to hypnotize her or something, and slowly began to frown. His eyes narrowed. His grip tightened. "What are you?"
She scowled. "A woman. What in the hell do you think I am?"
True anger flashed in his eyes, reigniting her fear all over again. He leaned forward, crowding her, scaring her. "What are you?"
A freak. I'm a freak. A soon-to-be-dead freak, at the rate things are going.
The vampire attacked her without warning, turning her head, baring her neck, biting her. Like before, the puncture hurt for only a minute. And then he reared back, licking the blood off his lips as he stared at her.
Without explanation, he released her and strode out of the bedroom, slamming the door closed behind him. "Blood!" His voice rattled the windows.
Quinn stared at the closed door, her mouth open with disbelief. What in the hell just happened?
She tipped her head back as her heartbeat slowly returned to something approximating normal, even as her mind whirled, a suffocating mass of confusion, questions, and dread.
A half hour later, maybe - it had felt like twenty years - the door opened, and a pleasingly round woman bustled into the room, carrying a tray. Eggs, by the smell of them. And coffee.
What was the vampire doing, fattening her for slaughter? Quinn's muscles bunched, an instinctive reaction as she fought against pulling on her ropes. Her wrists were raw and abraded from where she'd done just that too many times already. But she hated being so vulnerable. Hated it.
"I am Ernesta."
Quinn's pulse, which had begun to jackhammer at the first rattle of the doorknob, slowly began to calm. How, she wondered, was she supposed to eat or drink when she was still tied to the bedposts?
"The master wishes you fed," the woman, clearly Latino, said in accented English. She had the broad face of a South American Indian and wore a drab, plain servant's dress. "I have brought you eggs and toast. You must eat."
The woman set the tray on the washstand, then turned to Quinn and began digging at the knot that held one of Quinn's wrists.
"Thank you, Ernesta. Are you . . . a vampire . . . too?" Her mouth didn't want to form the word any more than her mind wanted to accept that such a creature could possibly be real.
But the woman didn't laugh or smile or correct her in any way.
"No. I am one of his slaves."
Quinn really wished she'd laughed. "How long have I been here? It's still dark."
"It is always dark in Vamp City." The woman looked at her as if she were a moron. "Vampires shun sunlight. Even through clouds they can burn."
So, what, they'd figured out a way to enthrall the sun? "I thought vampires were a myth," she muttered.
"That is what we want humans to think."
"We?" Quinn looked at her in surprise. "I thought you said you weren't a vampire."
"I am something else." The rope came loose, freeing Quinn's wrist. As Quinn bent her arm, the blood rushing through it in a swift ache, Ernesta moved to her foot and the knot there. "Something equally impossible for a human to accept."
"May I ask what?"
The woman's smile didn't reach her eyes. "No." Moments later, one ankle was free.
Quinn lifted her knee slowly, easing the stiffness in her leg. "Can you at least tell me how this place exists?"
The woman glanced at her, her dark eyes enigmatic. "In 1870, the sorcerer Phineas Blackstone created a city just for vampires. A city where the sun never shines."
In 1870. And that's exactly what it looked like, wasn't it? A world created in 1870 . . . a duplicate of Washington at that time . . . left to rot and decay for over 140 years.
"But . . . where is it? Another planet or something?"
"No, no, no. It exists precisely where the original lies. One on top of the other, duplicate worlds. Duplicates at first. No more. The outside world has changed. And this one has moldered."
"Can the vampires get out? Into the real world?"
"Of course. At least, they could. They traveled freely between the two worlds, living here, hunting there when they chose. Until the magic began to fail." As she talked, Ernesta moved to Quinn's other ankle, freeing it, too.
Quinn moved her legs, closing them, groaning at the stiffness. Why was Ernesta untying her? The vampire must not believe she'd try to escape. Which was his mistake. Or maybe he was simply convinced she wouldn't be successful if she tried.
"Now the vampires are trapped by the failing magic," Ernesta continued. "If another sorcerer is not found soon, one to renew the magic, all those caught in Vamp City will die." She shook her head sadly. "But there are no more sorcerers. They are all gone."
All would die? Quinn's breath trembled. She had to find Zack and get out of here before that happened. She frowned as a thought occurred to her. Was Vamp City's failing the reason she'd started to see it outside her window at home? Were the two worlds starting to bleed together?
"Do you sometimes see the real world from here?"
Ernesta looked at her with surprise as she moved to untie her second wrist. "No. But the sunbeams break through sometimes. A vampire died out front just a few days before your arrival. None use the front door now."
So they must expect the sunbeam to break through in the same spot again. Is that what the beams do? Of course it is. She knew that from her own experience - the vision that kept appearing right in front of her apartment window.
When the rope at Quinn's wrist came free, Ernesta stepped back. Quinn slowly sat up, easing stiff muscles, then reached for her jeans. "Can humans ever leave Vamp City?"
A shadow crossed the threshold, freezing her in place. Ernesta glanced at the door. "Master."
The vampire. Her heart shot to her throat. Was he back for another bite?
Quinn struggled into her jeans with shaking hands, then slid off the bed on the side farthest from the door, fumbling to pull the jeans up over her hips as her captor stepped back to let Ernesta exit the room. Slowly, casually, he propped his shoulder against the doorframe and watched her.
She met his gaze, lifting her chin, trying to hide the quaking fear that was threatening to sweep over her again. She hated this place. Hated it!
His gaze slid leisurely over her like a predator assessing his next meal. "You ask if humans ever leave Vamp City, cara. The answer is no. A vampire may play with his food, but he never sets it free."
But what did she expect him to say? If humans did manage to escape, he'd never admit it. And it didn't matter. She'd find a way. Even if she had to be the first, she'd find Zack and get them both out of here.
He didn't move, just stood there leaning against the doorjamb. At least he looked normal again. No fangs, no white-centered eyes. Dressed all in black, he looked like a dark angel, the collar of his shirt open, revealing a vee of gold-dusted skin. He was good-looking, she'd give him that. Really good-looking. Too bad he was an evil monster.
His eyes drifting closed in visible pleasure, he tipped his head back. "Do not fear me, cara." Slowly, his lashes lifted, and he pinned her with a gaze that, thankfully, was still dark, still normal. "I have come to make amends."
Those certainly weren't the words she'd expected to hear. What game is he playing, now? She watched him warily, every muscle tensed to fight him if he flew at her again, even as she knew he'd move too fast for her to do a damn thing to protect herself. If only she'd known that vampires were real. If she ever got out of this mess, she'd never again go out without a silver cross and garlic bulbs in her pocket. And a wooden stake. Definitely a wooden stake.