Hanging out with a vampire while she feeds on someone is kinda like being in the room while your best friend makes out. It is awkward as hell. Not that the guy Selena was feeding on wasn’t totally hot. He reclined against the arm of the couch, black shirt unbuttoned and open to reveal the sculpted perfection of his musculature. One of his strong legs was bent and against the back of the couch. The other stretched out so his foot rested on the floor. His hands fisted in Selena’s sleek blonde hair. The vampire was all over him, but the guy didn’t seem particularly aroused, unlike most vampire prey.
His stubble appeared a couple days old, but it was probably more of a fashion choice than laziness. It accentuated his chiseled features. His skin tone had a Mediterranean glow, a stark contrast to Selena’s fair complexion. His dark hair was on the short side yet long enough to have the artistic messiness of a male runway model. Criminally good looking, a guy this stunning stole more than hearts, of that London had no doubt. Scratch the stealing part; the girls probably lined up for him. The direct gaze from his black eyes hit her hard. Oh yeah, this guy knew he was dead sexy. Probably got him most anything he wanted, too, which put him firmly into the “probably a jerk” column in London’s book.
Jerk or not, Selena appeared to be enjoying him immensely. Her formfitting red dress pulled nicely over her bottom, which swayed as she slithered against him. London couldn’t see her friend’s face, but the moans and writhing made her enjoyment hardly a mystery.
London wasn’t the only spectator. One of the vamp bouncers from the club stood guard by the door. His mouth worked some and London suspected that he was licking at his fangs. The stud on the couch apparently didn’t just affect women. Or was it just a blood thing that had the vamp staring like a beta wolf waiting for his chance at the kill?
London doubted that he’d get his turn. Not with the two bodyguards watching the scene from the other side of the immaculately furnished room. Their jackets had been tossed aside so nothing impeded their access to the multiple holstered weapons strapped to their chests and hips. That was fine by London. She was armed, too. Both of the bodyguards were decent looking. London would have even admitted that they were hot, but next to the guy sprawled under Selena, they didn’t even begin to compare. No, he was stunning enough to make a smart woman do stupid things.
This scene had all the earmarks of a business feeding, with both sides bringing backup to make sure the transaction came off smoothly. One of the bodyguards glanced at his watch. “Time.”
The muscles in the stud’s forearms flexed as he pushed Selena back, controlling her by her hair. Her neck arched back as she glanced over her shoulder at London. Blood glistened on her teeth, but had not dribbled down her chin. Uncharacteristically tidy for a vampire. Selena hadn’t permitted even a single drop to escape. Even still, she licked her lips. She turned her glare on the bodyguards as she stroked her hands over the man’s body one last time before dismounting, as if daring them to say anything about it.
Interesting, London thought. She’d never seen Selena give up anything she desired for any reason, and she clearly desired so much more than just the brief feeding. The vampire smoothed her hair to its usual sleek perfection. She seemed to flow in that liquid way she had as she crossed the room.
“London,” the vampire’s voice had a breathy tone, as if blood still coated her throat. “You got my message.”
“I could have waited until your transaction was completed,” London quirked a smile as she watched one of the bodyguards hand the guy a handkerchief to press to the pinprick wounds on his neck.
“This is Rico, your new client,” Selena indicated the guy on the couch. “You’ll regret having met him, I am certain. I know I do.”
With a sharp nod to her vampire guard, Selena directed him to precede her from the room. Selena reached the doorway before turning back to London. “Don’t touch him or you’ll regret it.”
The words had not been a threat. Not in the conventional, “don’t touch my man” kind of way. What exactly she meant by that warning was a mystery, but Selena left without further explanation.
The force of Rico’s striking gaze brought London’s body to immediate attention. She became hyperaware of herself as a woman in the presence of a dominant male. He sat up and gestured for London to come closer. Those dark eyes beckoned and she obeyed. The whole scene had a serious “come into my web”, said the spider to the fly vibe to it. Only she had a sinking feeling that she was already snared in his web.
London settled for the red velvet wing-back across from Rico. With effort she tore her attention from the smooth, muscular chest revealed by his open shirt. His face was just as potent, with eyes as hypnotic as a cobra’s. She crossed her legs, a protective gesture. “Selena may have introduced us, but she does not select my clients.”
Rico pulled a business card from the pocket of his slacks and read it out loud. “London Eyer, Special Investigations and Security.” He held the card between his first two fingers as he grazed his thumb over the raised ink. “This is your business. Money is not enough for you?”
Was it wrong that seeing him fondle her business card made her blush? Or that it turned her on knowing he had been carrying something of hers in his pants? Yeah, most definitely wrong. Something more insidious than just the magnetism of a pretty face was affecting her.
“Money is a start, but I don’t just do anything for money.” The two bodyguards wandered closer to her, but stopped when she snarled. “Wanna stay on your own side of the room, boys? I’d hate to have to kick your asses in front of your employer.” Bravado on her part, acting like she was all badass, but it worked. When they retreated a few steps London focused back on Rico. “What’s the job?”
He leaned forward so his elbows rested on his thighs. One hand still cupped the handkerchief against his throat. He turned the card over in his fingers, as if something might be written on the back, then tossed it down onto the coffee table between them. “Selena said you have contacts among many of the parahuman and nonhuman groups. Which ones?”
He’d ignored her question and kept on asking his own, she noticed. Probably a control freak. London let it go for now, but in the end if she didn’t like the job, she’d walk. Period. “Vampires, obviously. Weres. Demons. Wizards.”
“Wizards,” he repeated, calmly. As if he’d been waiting for her to reveal that one. “How good is your contact?”
“You worked for them? These wizards you know?” He removed the handkerchief and tossed it down next to the card. His wounds had healed. She could not see any marks marring the perfection of his skin.
“That is confidential information.” She gave him the shadow of a smile. “Just like your case would be. Certainly you can appreciate that.”
Rico rose, graceful and swift. “If you work for me, you work for me. No one else.”
London bolted to her feet almost as soon as he started moving. “I don’t work for you.”
The bodyguards flicked out of sight. Teleporters.
London reached for her gun as Rico stepped up onto the coffee table. The bodyguards reappeared beside her, one snatching each arm. London struggled uselessly against them. Rico dropped down to the floor before her. Nothing but calm confidence shone on his wicked handsome face. “This is not the way to work a deal.” She jerked against the restraining hands. Besides bruises she accomplished nothing else with the effort.
Rico touched her face. His palm caressed the curve of her jaw and immediately a jolt of pleasure shot through her. She jerked away from his hand. It didn’t matter. The magic was in her like a seductive venom, spreading a heated desire across her skin. Her panic spread faster. “Incubus? Lust demon? What are you?”
Rico didn’t seem the least deterred. As his hands pushed beneath her blazer, she knew she should squirm away or kick out at him. Instead she arched her back, lifting her breasts to brush against his hand. He did not fondle her body as she anticipated. Instead he merely lifted her gun from its holster. His hands brushed the small of her back, down her hips, and stroked around her ankles. With each incidental contact London gasped, but nothing he did now matched the initial touch.
Rico passed her gun to one of his men and they released her. London swayed; queasiness made the room tilt. She barely managed to stumble away a few steps. Even clutching to the back of the chair didn’t slow the room spins. “What did you do to me?”
“You want more, don’t you?” Those dark eyes, so cold and yet so seductive, seemed to see right into her.
“Yes,” she breathed. The magic from his brief touch had already faded inside her, but it left a yearning void in its wake. The more she tried to control the shakes, the more violently she shivered. The flash of pleasure had torn through her system like a power surge.
“What did the wizards want?”
London stroked the lingering tingle on her cheek. It was hard to process everything with her teeth chattering and eyes watering. Her insides twisted. Reaching for… wanting… demanding… something.
The two bodyguards flanked Rico. “Tell me what I want and I’ll give you what you need.”
London glared. “What did you do? Poison? Spell?”
“I hired you. Now tell me what I want to know.”
Her gut clenched like she’d eaten some bad leftover Chinese food. Shaky legs gave way. The floor caught her but listed from side to side, riding the waves of whatever bad magic trip she was taking. If the nausea got any worse she was going to barf. “Fine. They wanted to find someone. Some Changeling called Deacon.”
“You delivered a Changeling into the hands of the wizards?” Rico snarled. All sensuality vanished. Nothing but pure fury remained.
“I didn’t ‘deliver’ him. I just arranged an introduction.” Her fingernails raked the carpet, wanting to do that same to Rico, knowing instinctively that he possessed what she needed inside him and wanting to rip it out of him. She growled, “I told you what you wanted to know. Now make this stop!” The aching need burned her muscles like lactic acid.
Rico gave a quick nod to his men. This time she didn’t recoil when they grabbed her arms.
The closer she came to Rico the heavier the air felt. Thick with magic. London trembled. She tilted her head up to gaze into those deep eyes. Body heat spread over her like oil. His hands settled at the small of her back and pulled her body against his. His easy strength supported her even when her legs couldn’t. The first brush of his lips against hers sent a tingle through her. The flick of his tongue made her lips part to inhale him.
The kiss was sensual. Slow and deep. London closed her eyes. Breathing him in, the magic cascaded into her once more. It tasted like rain. His power soaked into her, drenched her body in bliss. London circled her arms around his neck, drawing him deeper into the kiss.
More… She wanted more…
His hands slipped down to grip her bottom. She wrapped a leg around him and ground needfully against him. The magic drove into her core, intense with sexual pleasure. She shuddered as it spared no part of her being. The magic-induced orgasm exploded within her. Power spilled from Rico into her mouth, thick and rich. The scent of storm clouds filled her awareness. The kiss washed away everything. Everything but this moment, this fulfillment, this manifestation of perfect passion. She cried out into Rico’s mouth, but refused to let their lips part so it could escape.
Suddenly, the magic ceased. Just like the flick of a switch. London’s eyes snapped open.
“You work for me,” Rico informed her. “You work for no one else. You will tell me all you know, with no hesitation.”
His words wormed their way through her blind lust. “What?” London snatched her arms back, forcing her body to obey, to back away when she desired to clutch to him. “You kiss like a million bucks, but that don’t buy me.” The magic washed through her, glorious and cleansing. Her head swam as the lingering power overloaded her equilibrium. She fought the narcotic effect of the magic, feeling herself tripping.
One of the bodyguards shoved a card into her pocket.
“We require your help. You will give it to us. Willingly or otherwise.” Rico brushed his fingertips over her lips.
London froze, expected the jolt of magic again, but nothing happened. Nothing except the heated craving that flooded through her. “What are you? What did you do to me?”
“Find out what treachery Deacon’s performing for the wizards.”
“Answer my question.”
“Call me when you have something.” With a nod to the others all three of them vanished, leaving London in devastated silence.
She retrieved her gun from the couch. She’d not seen them leave it, but there it was. London checked it and then slipped it back into her holster. Fat lot of good it had done her. She must have been insane to let Rico touch her. He was gone, but the lingering sensations from his magic still moved inside her. When she closed her eyes, visions of dark clouds rolled in her mind. The fresh scent of rain clung to her. The pressure of his lips left a ghostly impression of a kiss. Wiping at it didn’t make it fade any faster.
Rico might be gone physically, but his essence drenched her. Her thoughts tangled in fantasies about him, and she didn’t even like him.
London scrambled from the parlor. Yards ahead of her, Selena leaned back against the bouncer. His arms circled her, hands absently rubbing at her silk-covered stomach. They had the vibe of casual lovers, but London knew the Mistress controlled all of her men with velvet-lined handcuffs. They loitered at the end of the hall, where they could watch the party inside the club, but were not a part of it. Selena saw London coming and, from the look of it, she hadn’t expected to see her in this state.
“You let him Touch you?”
“There was no ‘letting’ involved.” London clutched Selena’s upper arms, demanding. “What did he do, Selena? Huh? You know what he did, don’t you? What happened? What is Rico?”
Selena brushed off the man’s hands before drawing London back to the privacy of the parlor. She closed the door, cutting off the music from the club.
London touched her fingers to her lips. Coming back to this room spiraled a mixture of emotions through her belly, making her nauseated like a fun house ride that was never going to end. The kiss hovered ever present on her lips, as if stained by magic. The afterglow of the orgasm buzzed within her, her traitorous body reveling in it even now. At what price, though? What price for this unwanted pleasure?
Other people got themselves into trouble. She got them out of it. She was not the one who stepped on landmines. She found ways to sidestep them. There had to be a way to sidestep this. There had to be! “Tell me what you know, Selena. Please!”
“Rico is a Sidhe, one of the noble elves. His boys are fey, too, but not Sidhe. You can’t mistake anyone for the Sidhe once you’ve encountered one.”
“Sidhe? I thought the Sidhe weren’t around anymore.” London stared at the vampire as realization sunk in. “Oh, don’t tell me. No… No…” She shook her head, refusing to believe, refusing to look at Selena for fear of seeing the truth in her eyes. “No, he did not curse me. No. It is not possible.”
“I said no, Selena! I won’t have it!”
“I honestly didn’t think he would Touch you. He’s always dismissed the notion of Touching humans. They aren’t normally to his taste. I can’t imagine why…” she paused, and then tilted her head. “Why did he Touch you?”
“He wants me to work for him.” She heard the waver in her voice.
“Work for him? He shouldn’t have cursed you for that. I wouldn’t have turned someone for a quick job. Only if I had long-term plans and couldn’t cajole them any other way.”
“Not everyone thinks like you, Selena.” London hugged herself. “I feel his power inside me. Feeling all glorious and sexual. Is there no way to get it out?”
“Getting it out isn’t the problem now. The magic will fade in time. When it does, that is when your trouble will begin.”
London cut a sharp glance over her shoulder back at Selena. “That ache?”
“It will only get worse, the longer you’re without the Touch.”
“You commit suicide, most likely. To end the agony.” Selena never sugarcoated things. The vampire’s thin hand squeezed London’s shoulder. “Unless he gives you the Touch again. But each Touch only buys you time. Each time the magic will fade again.”
London shivered. “Has he Touched you? Is that what was going on earlier?”
“The Touch does not affect vampires as it does humans.” Selena purred, “Their blood holds magic. The taste is like nothing else. Quite addicting. A younger vampire could turn feral if tempted with it. The fey are intensely succulent, and the Sidhe are the ultimate fey.”
“Figures.” London sank onto the sofa feeling boneless. Succulent? Addicting? Those words echoed in her brain, knowing from her experience how perfectly they described the Touch. “How long do you think I have? Before this becomes unbearable?”
“Depends on how much he gave you.”
“I need to find a cure.”
“I don’t know of any cure, London. I can make some inquiries.” She stroked London’s hair until she turned toward Selena. The vampire settled weightlessly beside London. “If I turned you…”
“You know I don’t want that.”
Selena’s arms loosely circle London’s neck. The vampire kissed her cheek, and sighed. “You will do what you must, London.”
London slumped against Selena. The vampire’s ice blue eyes were anything but cold. She kissed London. More than friendship, less than lovers. Selena twisted her fingers in London’s short hair. The vampire whispered. “Do what you need to survive. Whatever it takes.”
The adventure continues in Cursed - Touched #1