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|A Blood Seduction(Vamp City #1) by Pamela Palmer|
"I trust you." She shrugged. "As much as I trust any vamp." Which was the truth. There was something about this male that she liked, though why, she wasn't entirely sure. Instinct, she supposed. For all the good her instincts had done her lately.
Besides, Arturo trusted him completely. Which really shouldn't be a rousing recommendation but somehow was. "So what's the plan?"
"To get you out of the castle without Cristoff's knowing we're involved." He pulled the bag off his shoulder.
"Is that what I think it is?"
A smile lit his eyes. "What do you think it is?"
"A body bag." No wonder it smelled bad.
"Then, yes. It is. And since it's imperative you act like a boneless corpse, I'm going to have to knock you out. I won't hit you any harder than I have to."
Quinn's eyes went wide as she took a deep breath and wondered if she was being a fool yet again for trusting vampires. What the hell. She didn't have a lot to lose at this point. "Okay. Shoot."
A flicker of admiration crossed his features a moment before the lights went out.
The smell hit her first, before she was even fully awake, a horrendous stench of decomposing meat. The bouncing vehicle and roar of the Jeep's engine brought it all flooding back. Kassius. The body bag. Eeuw.
You're safe, cara. Be still. Arturo's calming voice slid through her mind. Just a few more minutes. We're almost there.
She struggled to breathe through her mouth, trying not to think of where she was, of what had been in the bag before her. Instead, she remembered why she was in the bag. Cristoff. Zack.
Grief sucker punched her all over again, stealing what breath she'd managed to pull into her lungs. The pain was almost too much to bear. She wondered if this would happen every time she woke, this remembering. This agony.
Finally, the Jeep came to a halt. A moment later, she felt herself being lifted and slung over a shoulder. Boneless, Kassius had said. She did her best impression of a dead body as Arturo carried her up a couple of steps, then across a wooden floor, finally depositing her on something nice and soft. The sofa? Huh. If it were her sofa, she sure as heck wouldn't want a body bag on it. Certainly not one that smelled like this one. But she had to appreciate the soft landing.
She heard the zipper slide, then fresh air was rushing into her lungs. Arturo's hands slid beneath her arms, and he lifted her up and out as if she were a toddler and not a full-grown woman. They were in a living room, as she'd suspected - an old-fashioned, if decidedly masculine room, with dark wood paneling, heavy draperies, and bookshelves lining two of the walls.
Lamplight flickered over his face as he gripped her chin, tilting her head this way and that. "He didn't hit you too hard?"
"No, I'm fine. Other than the smell that probably singed off my nose hairs."
"I shall have a talk with Kassius about using cleaner body bags in future." At his deadpan expression, she almost smiled. Warmth and concern lit his eyes, and he stroked her jaw. "You are safe here."
She nodded, then pulled herself out of her misery and focused on him, lifting her hand to touch his jaw in return. He stilled, then leaned ever so slightly into her touch. "Thank you for getting me out of there."
His fingers slid into her hair, and he dipped his head, brushing his lips against hers. The kiss felt nice, stealing a measure of her grief, if only for a moment. She wanted more. She wanted to forget. Pulling back, she slid her hands to cup the back of his neck. "I must smell like death."
A smile lit his eyes. "You smell like sunshine, cara. You could never smell bad to me." Then he pulled her fully into his arms and kissed her with a fierce, drugging hunger as if he understood her need to forget. His mouth opened over hers, his tongue sweeping inside to lay claim, to plunder and dance and taste. She kissed him back, lost in the heady passion, her body heating, trembling. The terrible ache in her chest eased, and she was filled with gratitude. In that moment, it didn't matter that he was a vampire. Or that he was partly to blame for her loss. He was heat and light and life, and she needed that, needed him.
His mouth left hers, trailing kisses across her jaw, down her throat. Then he pulled back and took her hand. "Come." As he led her to the stairs, she knew where they were going. To the bedroom. To have sex. And she was ready for it, ready to lose herself in passion and forget everything else.
His hand tight around hers, he ushered her up the stairs and to the bedroom . . . her bedroom. Opening the door, he released her hand and stood back for her to enter.
As she stepped into the room, she faltered. There was someone on the bed. Curly red hair. The blood drained from her face and she swayed. Zack. He'd brought her the body.
"He's alive, cara," the vampire said quietly behind her.
Alive. The tears started to roll, and she took a tentative step, then another. She reached for her brother's bare shoulder slowly, her hand touching warm, vibrant, living flesh. "Zack." The word came out on a sob.
Her brother moved suddenly, and she jerked back as he rolled over. He blinked sleepily. "Quinn." The word croaked in his sleep-roughened voice. Then, unaccountably, he rolled back over, giving her his back.
She sat on the bed beside him, struggling against the tears that refused to cease, her mind stunned, her heart soaring. Zack was alive!
He wore faded, worn black pants of some kind and nothing else, his torso and feet bare, lash marks crisscrossing his back every which way, making her ache. She reached for him, her fingers in his mop of red hair.
"Go away, Quinn," he muttered with an edge of temper that was so unlike her brother. His rejection stung, but it barely penetrated her euphoric relief.
Arturo's hand landed lightly on her shoulder. "Come, cara. Let him sleep."
The last thing she wanted to do was leave Zack when she'd just found him again. When she'd thought he was dead. But he clearly wanted to be alone, and she'd give him anything. Anything. Even that.
She turned away, and Arturo curled his arm around her shoulder as he walked her out the door, closing it behind them. She opened her mouth to speak, but he put a finger to his lips and led her into the room across the hall, closing the door behind him.
This room was decorated similarly to the one she'd been staying in, though it was slightly larger, the plain wood bed mahogany instead of maple, the floral bedspread and canopy a navy blue instead of beige.
"He's been through a lot, piccola," he said, turning to her. "Do not take it personally."
She nodded, her emotions a wild tangle. She didn't know how to feel.
"Your brother is ashamed," Arturo said quietly.
Her gaze jerked to his. "Of what?"
"Of not being able to rescue the women he cares about."
"But that's ridiculous. He's just a kid!"
"He is not a kid, cara. He is a man. And he would have died as one in the arena had I not intervened."
"You took him from the gladiator camp?"
Arturo nodded. "I did. I'm not always the monster you believe me to be."
Quinn pulled away. "I'm not so sure about that. You also do nothing without a reason, Vampire. Why did you free him after you told me so many times to forget about him?"
He curved his arm around her waist, pulling her back against him, hip to hip. "Perhaps I wanted your gratitude."
"Please. If you wanted my gratitude, why did you make me think he was dead? Why did you ask me about him and let me sob with grief over him, never telling me you'd saved him?"
He looked away, which wasn't like him.
"What aren't you telling me, Vampire?"
With a sigh, he turned back to her. "Nothing, cara. I saved him on a whim after watching Cristoff hit you. I felt . . . guilty. But I had not yet considered betraying my master. I thought only of saving your brother, not what I was going to do with him after I did."
"And what are you going to do with him?"
He shrugged. "Horace could use some help, perhaps." He nudged her back against the door and nuzzled her neck. "Are you grateful?"
Her hands went reflexively to his shoulders to hold him away, though, of course, she couldn't budge him. "You know I am."
Lifting his head, he peered into her eyes, his own smoky hot. "Show me."
Quinn met that smoky gaze, her emotions slowly untangling. She would never fully trust this man, but, dear God, he'd given her back her brother. At risk to himself. If that didn't balance the scales with his betrayals, it came damned close. Closing her eyes, she released her frustration, letting her immense joy and gratitude wash over her all over again. Then sharing it with him as she cupped his face and kissed him without reservation, holding nothing back. With a deep moan of satisfaction, he pulled her tight against him, slanting his head to kiss her back, deeply, thoroughly, his tongue sweeping into her mouth, his lips drinking of her own. Picking her up, he carried her to the bed and laid her down gently. One by one, he removed her boots and dropped them to the floor, then he pulled off his shirt.
He was beautiful, his shoulders broad, his chest well muscled, his abs hard and lean. He made quick work of her clothes, leaving only her panties. Long fingers circled her thighs, caressing, teasing. "You're mine tonight." The faintest question laced his words. He wanted her acquiescence.
And she gave it to him. "Yes."
The smile that lit his eyes was hot and dangerous and very, very male. He crawled between her legs, leaning over her to claim one breast in his mouth as his hands pulled her panties down off her hips, and his hand slid between her legs.
She came up off the bed at the marvelous feel of those cool fingers sliding against her most private flesh, stroking, entering, claiming. Lifting his head, he kissed the skin between her breasts, then took her other breast in his mouth, twirling the first nipple between his finger and thumb, weakening her body, making her hot and damp and needy.
Rising, he pulled off her panties completely, then spread her thighs and dipped his head, licking, sucking, stabbing inside her with his tongue as her fingers dove into his hair, silently begging him not to stop. When she was whimpering, rocking, crazed with need, he climbed off the bed and shucked off his pants to reveal strong legs, lean hips, and a long, thick, gorgeous penis.
When she glanced up at his face, she found him watching her with fangs elongated, his pupils stark white. She swallowed. He didn't move, just stood there watching her, waiting for her to accept him or to push him away.
This was what he was. A vampire. A man. And while she felt a thrill of fear, it was only a shadow of the real thing. A scary-movie or roller-coaster fear. A safe fear. Which was a bizarre thing to think about a vampire. But she knew in her bones, this one would never hurt her, not physically.
She held out her arms to him, and he came to her, covering her body with his longer, harder one. Brushing her hair off her shoulder, she tilted her neck, giving him access. And he took it, dipping his head and sliding his fangs into her neck as he slid that thick erection into her body.
A low moan escaped her throat as the twin pleasures, his pull on her blood and his thrusting cock, shot her straight to orgasm.
Arturo thrust into Quinn's welcoming body, her sweet blood flooding his mouth, his pleasure mounting at an alarming rate, ripping through his senses. Warmth spread up into his body until he could swear he felt the sun on his back - not the burning, flesh-eating heat of his vampire existence, but the balmy caress he'd known for too short a time in his human youth. He smelled sunshine and summer on Quinn's flesh, in her hair, and tasted it in her blood.
Her arms curled around him, her fingernails digging into his back as she met his thrusts with low, sweet cries, her body rising for a second time, right along with his.
Despite the glorious sweetness of her blood, he forced himself to pull away from her neck before he took too much. His fangs retracting, he lifted his head, needing to see her face as he drove into her.
Lovely, her brow damp, her mouth open and gasping, she was angel and siren, sweetness and raw, carnal pleasure, and watching her nearly sent him over the edge. At his change in position, her lashes fluttered up, and she met his gaze, a smile, at once sexy as sin and sweetly delighted, lifting the corners of her mouth. How she pleased him! A well of tenderness flooded his mind and chest as she began to cry out with her climax, her body squeezing his until he leaped over that sensual cliff, flying with her straight into the warm embrace of the sun.
Slowly, they settled back to earth, and he kissed her, unwilling to be parted from her even now, loving the way she slid her fingers into his hair and held him as if she, too, didn't want to let him go. If only she were merely human. If only he could make her a simple slave and keep her, always, in his house. In his bed. But she was a sorceress, one claimed by Cristoff. There was nothing simple about Quinn Lennox. And she could quickly become an addiction he could ill afford.
With a sigh of regret, he rolled off her, pulling away, shoving his hands into his hair. The woman had been a problem since the moment she first entered Vamp City. A problem he had no idea how to solve.
Quinn was pulling on her boots when a rap on the door had Arturo striding across the room to open it. Looking at him, at that long, muscular body, once more dressed, at that devilishly handsome mouth, at those sexy eyes, only made her flush all over again with a heat that had barely begun to recede. After two orgasms, she should be replete. Boneless. Done. Instead, she felt energized. Incredible. And ready to go at it all over again.
It didn't hurt that her heart was light with the joy of Zack's rescue. Still, the sex had been outstanding. Was it always like this with vampires? Or only Arturo?
"Kassius is here, Master," the slave said, as Arturo opened the door.