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|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
"I'm not sure. As soon as I know more, I'll send word."
"Cristoff will kill him the moment he renews the magic."
Jeff nodded. "No doubt about it."
Richard's gaze narrowed as he looked over the group. "What do you mean to do with this lot?"
"There's a rumor that several new slaves managed to escape V.C. through sunbeams. We're going to try."
The older Slava rolled his eyes. "I've heard this rumor. It's false. And you're fools." He shrugged. "But be my guests and try. You don't have much to lose, do you?" With that, he left them.
Jeff met her gaze with what might have been a smile but was probably a smirk. A short while later, two women brought a couple of large baskets over to them, baskets filled with dried apples and drier rolls, along with a large jug of water. They ate in silence.
With the edge off her hunger, Quinn tipped her head back against the wall to attempt to get some sleep.
"Use my shoulder for a pillow, if you want, Quinn," Marcus said quietly. "Or my thigh. I did two tours of duty in Iraq a few years ago. I can sleep standing up, sitting down, even standing on my head, if I need to."
Quinn smiled. "Thank you. I'm going to take you up on that." She tried getting comfortable against his shoulder and finally gave up, curled up on the floor beside him, and laid her head on his thigh. His warm hand curled around her shoulder, and the last of her tension dissipated. She was safe. For now.
"No! Richard, don't let them hurt him. He's one of the good ones!"
Quinn woke, sitting up as commotion erupted in the hideout. Half a dozen Slava males dragged a seventh, struggling, male into the room.
"He's a monster, Delilah," Richard said coldly. "They're all monsters."
"That's not true!" The woman, an attractive redhead, was growing frantic, and Quinn could see in her face that she had feelings for the captured male.
She glanced at Marcus, watching tensely beside her. "Is he a vampire?"
"I think so."
"I would have thought a vampire could throw them all off. Or dart away."
"They've cuffed him."
Quinn stared in consternation at the vampire, whose hands were clearly unbound. "What do you mean?"
"See the silver chain around his throat?"
She did. Its large links made it look like a choke chain.
"Silver doesn't burn them, but it acts as a powerful damper for their powers if it encircles their heads or necks. You'll never see a vampire wearing a silver necklace. As long as we humans can get our hands on silver, we have a weapon, though a minor one. It's damn hard to collar something that can move faster than the eye can see."
"You have to use something . . . or someone . . . as bait," Quinn murmured. Is that what had happened here? She watched as the vampire was thrown to the floor and chained on his back, spread-eagled.
The woman, Delilah, ran to him, falling at his side. "You idiot! Why did you come after me?"
"I thought . . . you were in trouble."
She slammed her fist against his chest. "I hate you!"
"No," he said quietly. "You don't."
Delilah made a sound like a sob. "Damn you." When she looked up, tears gleamed on her cheeks. "Richard, please. Don't hurt him."
"Don't be a fool, Delilah." Richard turned to one of the other males. "Get her out of here."
"No!" the woman cried.
As one man grabbed her arm and pulled her away, another pulled out a knife and stabbed the vampire in the side, sinking the blade all the way to the hilt.
The vampire threw his head back in pain. The metallic scent of blood, an oddly-spicy-smelling blood, began to fill the room.
A second human stabbed the vampire through the throat as the first human pulled out his knife and stabbed the vamp in the stomach.
Quinn looked away, breathing through her mouth. She neither wanted nor needed to see this. "I thought he had to be stabbed through the heart."
"He does. And only a wooden stake will kill him."
"So they're just torturing him."
"Yes. Taking out their hatred on him."
If it were Cristoff they were stabbing, she'd have watched. She might have even enjoyed it. Arturo? God, no.
Delilah sobbed, begging them to stop. "He's done nothing! Hurt no one."
By the time the blood-coated men and women backed away from the prone vamp, Quinn was sick to her stomach. And angry as hell.
"Enough." Richard turned to one of the attackers. "Jose, you get the killing blow. You've lost the most at their hands."
Quinn rose. Marcus grabbed her arm, but she shook him off and stepped into the circle of bloody attackers. "What is this vampire accused of?"
Richard threw her a sharp look of warning. "Proceed, Jose."
A broad-faced, broad-shouldered Mexican stepped forward and positioned himself over the vamp's chest.
"No, Jose!" Delilah cried. "He's not evil!"
"Have we become the monsters, now?" Quinn asked. "Do we kill the innocent because we don't like their eating habits?"
She didn't see the fist coming until it was too late. The male beside her punched her in the mouth, splitting her lip and knocking her back in a minor explosion of pain.
Cara! Arturo's voice.
Careful hands gripped her, pulling her back. Through tearing eyes, she saw Jose lift a wooden stake. "For my wife and my children," he snarled. And drove the stake down into the vampire's heart.
Delilah screamed, the sound cut off suddenly as Richard clipped her beneath the chin with a swift uppercut, knocking her out. Quinn allowed Marcus to turn her away, to lead her back to the wall. Jesus.
Tell them you're the sorceress, Quinn. Tell them you're their only chance of survival. Don't let them hurt you!
He thought she was the one being tortured.
Jeff moved beside her, his face a mask of fury. "Are you trying to get us thrown out?"
"Oh, go fuck yourself." She sank to the ground, angry, frustrated, hurting.
Vampire, if you can hear me, don't follow me here. Please. They've just killed a vampire who I don't think deserved to die. I don't want that to happen to you.
He didn't deserve that kind of death. She wasn't sure anyone did.
These people had suffered too long at the hands of the vampires. They'd had too much taken from them - lives, freedom, loved ones. They'd been tortured repeatedly, whether they remembered each instance or not. And had been made to suffer in God only knew how many ways. They couldn't strike out at the ones they hated, so they struck out at the ones they could. It was wrong. Horribly unfair. And sadly inevitable.
The vampires, through their own cruelty, had created another breed of monster.
Richard stalked over to them, turning a vivid glare on her. "Out. You're not welcome here."
She rose, meeting his gaze. "A little truth presents that much of a threat to you?"
Jeff leaped up beside her and grabbed her arm. "Shut it, Blondie." He turned to Richard, his demeanor changing in an instant. "Richard, I'm sorry. If I'd known what a bitch she was, I would never have agreed to bring her along, but I made a promise, and I'm stuck with her. Let her stay until morning, please? Then we'll all go."
Richard snorted. "To find a sunbeam. You're an idiot." His rancor spewed over the lot of them. "You're all idiots! And I want you all out of here at first light." He turned and walked away.
Marcus pulled her back down beside him and put his arm around her shoulders. "You've got a soft heart, Quinn, but soft hearts have a way of getting torn to pieces in this place. I've crossed paths with that vampire before, the one who just died. He had a streak of compassion a lot of vamps lack, but he was far from the paragon Delilah seemed to think he was. More than once, I saw him torture Slavas in front of new slaves just to scare the new ones. Yes, he cleared the minds of the Slavas when he was through, but torture is torture. Even the 'good' ones are monsters, Quinn. The sooner you understand that, the better off you'll be. There's no such thing as a good vampire."
He patted his thigh, and she curled up and laid her head down as she had before, his words living in her head beside thoughts of Arturo. She knew that the vampire couldn't be trusted to tell her the truth, but she had seen goodness in him. At least she thought she had. Was that just one more lie, or was he truly the exception to the rule?
Did it even matter? If she succeeded in escaping Vamp City this time, she would never see Arturo again.
She was lying on the beach, the towel beneath her soft and sun-warmed, the sun a blazing ball in the clear blue sky. A breeze blew across her heated skin, cooling, soothing. Heaven.
A shadow fell across her closed eyelids, and she looked up, blinking at the man standing over her. He was dressed all in black, his skin hinting of the Mediterranean, his dark eyes gleaming with a heat that had nothing to do with the sun.
In the blink of an eye, his shirt was gone, his broad, muscular chest on full display. For her. Only for her. There was no one else on the beach, no one in the world but the two of them.
He wanted her, she could see it in his eyes. And she wanted him.
She only had to think the words and he was kneeling beside her in the sand, lifting her hips as he pulled off her bikini bottoms. Then his hand was between her thighs, his other pulling aside her bikini top as his mouth dipped to claim her now-bare breast. His fingers stroked her sensitive flesh, back and forth, sliding through her wetness, delving into the dark heat of her body.
You were made for me, cara. Though she heard no words, his thoughts flowed freely into her head. You are mine.
And then he was over her, his pants mysteriously gone, his cock pressing against her, sliding inside her. And it was good. So good.
Arturo's sharp voice startled her awake and she sat up, blinking in the dim light in confusion. Someone had turned out all but one of the oil lamps.
"You okay?" Marcus asked quietly beside her. Around them, the others slept, some snoring softly.
"Yes. Just . . . dreaming."
Ah, were you asleep, cara? Were you dreaming of me? I felt your passion rise, and I admit to a strike of jealousy.
The dream had fled, thanks to him, but she couldn't deny the feeling of restless heat that still throbbed between her legs or the tingling sensitivity of every inch of her skin. That had been one hell of a dream. She supposed she should be grateful for the interruption, or she might have truly embarrassed herself.
I think of you, cara, constantly. The way your skin smells when you're aroused, the way it flushes a beautiful shade of rose when I stroke my hand over you.
Quinn groaned. Go away, Vampire. If only he could hear her.
If only she could deny she felt any attraction for him. But she tried hard never to lie, especially to herself. She might have seen the last of him, but it would be a long, long time before she forgot Arturo Mazza, her onetime vampire master.
The flicker of lanterns beat against her eyelids, waking her. Quinn sat up, feeling more rested than she should, considering her midnight visit. Around her, the others rose as the Slavas once more lit all six oil lamps. With no windows, and no real light either way, morning had to be manufactured.
Jeff came over to them, handed out chunks of hard-as-rock bread. "Eat, then we'll leave." He cut her an annoyed look but didn't say anything more. It wasn't like they'd intended to spend more than the one night here. She certainly hadn't. This morning, she was heading for the gladiator camp and nowhere else. The others could come with her or stay behind. Their choice.
The bread was truly awful, not much better than cardboard, but she managed to get it down. As they rose to go, Delilah came over to them, her eyes swollen and red from a night of crying, her jaw resolute.
"I'd like to travel with you if that's all right."
Jeff looked at her stonily. "It's not."
"Jeff . . ." Marcus said quietly.
"I don't trust a vamp-lover."
Quinn had had enough. "You're welcome to come with me, Delilah."
Jeff rounded on her. "You selfish little bitch."
Quinn whirled until they were face-to-face. "You, who considers no one but yourself, is calling me selfish? That's rich."
Temper, cara, Arturo chided.
Oh, shut up, Vampire, she snapped, wishing that for once he could hear her.
"If you want me to lead you - "
She cut Jeff off. "I don't need you half as much as you need me, and you know it."
Marcus's hand landed firmly on her shoulder. "This isn't the place for this discussion."
He was right, dammit. Not unless she wanted Richard and every Slava in here to know she was a sorceress. Maybe a weak one, but a sorceress all the same. Quinn pulled back, folding her arms across her chest. "Delilah comes. Nonnegotiable."
Jeff shook his head in disgust. "You're a fool." He swung one of the packs onto his shoulder and stalked toward the front door.
The others hesitated only a moment before following.
Quinn looked at Delilah, motioning her with her head to join them.
With a look of relief, the Slava fell into step beside her. "Thank you. I'm sorry I've caused you so much trouble."
"Is there ever anything but trouble in this place?"
The Slava smiled weakly. "I suppose not."
Jeff led the way outside, where the streets were dim and colorless, faintly lit by the steel gray of day. But Quinn no longer trusted him to lead her to the gladiator camp.