"Dani?" Please let her be home. He smelled her, but bell she permeated his thoughts and if he didn't catch her scent, he'd be worried."Dani."
Danica opened her front door. Clad in rumpled sleep shorts and a race tee, she gave him a hard on."It is four in the morning. People sleep at this hour. Make it good...are you okay?" Her lips parted and worry clouded her jade eyes. "What's wrong?"
A shiver skated up his spine. Hell. "Just let me in. Please?"
She stepped back from the door and nodded."Anything."
Malachi pushed past her and slumped down in front of the space heater, flicking it on. Damned doctor anyway."Lock everything. I mean it."
"Sure." Moments later, Danica settled down next to him. She draped a blanket over his shoulders."I locked the doors and the windows like you demanded. I’ll just say it--you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?”
Malachi puffed out a long breath and raked his fingers through his hair. He didn’t need to breathe—that was part of the allure of being dead, but still. “There’s this doctor that wants me dead.”
“Dead? Um, Mal, you’re already dead.”
He loved her witticism, just not right now. “Cute, you’re real cute. He wants me dead, dead—after he siphons me the rest of the way.”
“The rest of the way?” She scooted closer to him, brushing her hand over his. “For what?”
Malachi slipped his hand out from under hers and adjusted the blanket to cover his stiffy. The moment she smiled, he got hard. Having her hand on his was almost as good as a kiss. He longed to actually get the chance to kiss her. Hell, he was probably more in love with her than he’d like to admit.
“Are you okay? My breath smells doesn’t it.” She rolled her eyes and tipped her head back. “I know nothing about personal space sometimes.”
“No, Dani. You’re fine. I’d say you smell wonderful if I knew you wouldn’t deck me.” He smoothed his fingers over her cheek, bringing her gaze to his. “I’m an aphrodisiac.”
“You’re full of shit.” She huffed and folded her arms across her ample chest, bunching her breasts under the thin cotton of the t-shirt.
Malachi reached for her. He needed the comfort in her touch and the calm in her eyes. “I’d love to say I’m pulling your chain. I’m not. I’ll kid all night long but this is serious.”
She sat quiet a moment and stared at him. The corner of her mouth twitched and she brushed the wrinkles out of his shirt. “Okay, I’m confused. You’re cute and all, but how are you an aphrodisiac?”
“Don’t be droll.” He rubbed his thumb along the sweep of her cheek, delighting in the softness of her skin.
Danica closed her eyes and moved against him. Her lips parted as she opened her eyes. “I’m not. I’m lost.” The dreamy expression melted from her face and her brows knotted together. “What’s this clown going to do—eat you so he can get a boner?”
“You know I know you are dying to run with that.”
Malachi took a moment to compose his thoughts. Things were all of the sudden a little much for him. “According to a study done at the Fae University, of all the supers vampire blood has the most health benefits—but not to other supers. Only humans.”
“No, that was a hoax on television to scare people.”
“Well, if it’s a hoax, then why is Dr. Bowie coming after me? He bagged me on my way here six hours ago.” He put his hand in the air. “Before you give me the riot act, read this.” He pulled the paper from his back pocket and placed it on her lap.
Dear Mr. Reeves,
My name is Josiah Bowie. I am a doctor, specializing in sexual abnormalities. I would like to discuss an exchange. Your blood for my money. Your blood is critical for the health and well being of the human race as it will aid in procreation purposes.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
Dr. J. Bowie.
“Bowie? Like the knife?” She snorted. “And this letter is crap. At your earliest convienence. If he took you, it wasn’t convienent.”
“I knew you’d notice the knife reference.” He gritted his teeth. “It doesn’t matter. He’s got a sample from me. Word on the street is he already killed Zep and Mariah. There aren’t too many vampires left and I don’t want to be a vampire creating machine. Sorry, but no.” He shook his head and stood. “If this stuff is as valuable as that report claims, then I am screwed."
“Maybe nothing. Dani, hon, you don’t get it.” His shoulders sank as Malachi turned away from her. “I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about this whole blood thing.”
“You know lots of things. Now, what about being a vampire? Are there any loopholes?” There had to be something. Anything to help him. “Come on. This is something you had better know a lot about.”
“Don’t you think I’ve tried to come up with something?” He threw his hands in the air and turned to face her. “I don’t do well under stress.”
“Liar.” She smoothed her hands over his shoulders. Man, he was tense. She massaged the tight muscles and breathed him in. Dani loved the smell of Mal—spicy man and the hint of a tangy cologne. “Calm down and think.”
“I’ve heard of sharing blood with a partner – the whole neck biting thing,” he said drolly, but didn’t move away from her massage. “There’s a sexual high, but it’s only between mates. Once the mate is found, he or she is the only one who experiences the high. To everyone else, it would be worthless.”
That she could use. Dani stopped rubbing his shoulders and tapped the tip of his nose. “Okay, so we find you a mate.”
“It’s not that simple.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged from her grasp. “Love and sex aren’t in the cards for me. I’m a monster in blue jeans. You’ve said so plenty of times.”
“Just when I got mad at you and it wasn’t cool to say that.” She gritted her teeth. Screaming at him hadn’t been her best move, but the jealousy had been way too much to handle. She swallowed the rush of fear and pressed forward with what she needed to say. “I know who your mate might be.”
His eyes widened. “Do I really want to know?”
No time like the present. “You might.” She took a breath to fortify her nerves and let it out slowly. “Look, he can’t trespass on my property and if you’re engaged in other activities...”
“Are you—” Mal backed up and plopped onto the couch. He stared at her with his jaw agape.
“Saying we should have sex? Yes, yes I am.” Her heart thundered in her chest and arousal pounded through her veins. Admitting the truth was both empowering and scary as fuck.
Was he upset or turned off? She couldn’t tell. She held her head high. “Come on. I want to jump your bones. I have since I met you and you knew, so don’t act shocked. Remember when I just about tore Ashleigh Hartwell a new asshole for cutting in on our dance.”
Mal chuckled and a smile started at the corner of his mouth. “But other than the first night, you’ve never made a pass. How was I supposed to know? I hate looking stupid—all the time.”
“Are you turning me down?”
“Hell no.” He stood and stroked his palms down her arms. “Not at all.”
“Perfect.” She allowed herself to breathe. “Now drop your pants.”
His mirth-filled expression fell. The look in his eyes turned serious. “Dani.”
This, this was what she was afraid of. The man who made her heart beat didn’t want her. Fine. Still didn’t make it hurt less. “You’re turning me down. I finally get up the nerve without alcohol to boost my pride and you’re turning me down. I should’ve known. Damn.” She scrubbed her hand across her forehead and turned away so he wouldn’t see her cry. Maybe it was the time of the morning, but she hated to come apart in front of people.
Mal eased up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He rested his chin on her shoulder and held her tight. “I never said no.” His voice rumbled in her ear and along her nerve endings.
“Then what?” she whispered. “What’s making this so hard? I like you. You need someone.” She blinked back tears. “What am I doing wrong?”
“Besides being blunt? Nothing.” He turned her in his embrace and leaned down until his lips hovered a whisper from hers. “You haunt my dreams and fill my deepest desires. Hearing that you like me does things to me that you can barely imagine. I want to fuck you until we both drop, but I’d rather do this right.”
“Yeah?” She buried her face against his shoulder, reveling in his strength and sheer size. “I’m embarrassed and speechless.”
“You’ve never been speechless in all the nights I’ve known you, but I like it.” He scooped her up into his arms and started towards the bedroom. “Now let’s go to the bedroom and do this right.”
Lust, desire, and excitement rushed through Mal’s body. He’d had sex before. Lots of times, not that he’d brag, but to be with Danica was completely different than the rest. He cared about her. Oh sure, he cared about the others, but there was something stronger with her. When they finished, he wanted to see her again. Hell, he wanted her for the rest of his undead life. He had the ability to turn her, but where would that get him? What if she only wanted to help and then run like hell?
He needed to be sure she wanted more than a one night before he even thought about biting her. But damn, the urge to bite was so fierce.
Mal placed her on the bed and paused. The view of Dani, wild hair fluffed about her face, pink tinged cheeks, and breathlessness on her lips... He could stare at her for hours. And then make love for hours. Besides, there was more to his feelings than sex. There was the need to claim her—claim...where had that come from? Did he truly want to claim her?
Again, what if she wasn’t really into it? For a guy who normally had the bank of confidence fully stocked...his confidence was nowhere to be found.
Danica’s eyes widened. “Um...what are you staring at?”
“You.” Mal crawled onto the bed before her and nudged her legs apart with his elbow. Probably not the sexiest move, but it got the job done. “I don’t know why we didn’t do this before.” He eased her onto her back and brushed his fingertips across her swollen nipples. Her breath hitched and her body jerked under his touch.
“Do you like?”
Dani nodded and placed her hands on his sides. Mal jerked in turn. Not because he hadn’t expected her to touch him, but he never expected the feeling to be so heady. Like being zapped with an electric current. His cock twitched and heat filled his balls. All from a touch.
He dipped his head and nibbled along her collarbone. Such soft skin. He loved her scent—rosy and bright and oh so sexy. His cock raked over her panty-covered pussy, liquid fire scorched along the thick vein of his manhood. Condom. They needed a condom and freaking fast. He couldn’t wait if he’d tried. And damn it, he’d tried.
“I need a condom,” he gasped. The fact that vampires didn’t have human diseases and couldn’t impregnate their partners wasn’t up for debate at the moment.
Dani tilted her head. “Nightstand.”
Good enough for him. Mal sat up, careful not to hurt her as he straddled her. He rummaged through the worn nightstand and finally found a condom. The writing was clear and the seal fine. He couldn’t help but grin. The date on the condom was damned close.
“It’s old,” she murmured and looked away.
“So? Still useful.” Mal shimmied off the bed and he ripped his torn shirt up over his head. He tossed the garment onto the floor and unzipped his jeans. Within moments, he’d be right where he’d longed to be for too long.
As he worked himself free from the constricting denim and his boxer shorts, Danica did what he never expected to see. She opened her legs wide, eased her panties to the side and ran two fingers over her slit.
Fuck him sideways, that was hot.
“Will you bite me?” she whispered and wriggled her hips.
He jerked his attention to her face. She swallowed hard, the lines of her neck undulating slightly. Her pulse throbbed. So tempting. Mal licked his lips. He shouldn’t want this so much. She was his friend, the one person to take him in when everything else went wrong. He rolled the rubber down his cock and climbed back onto the bed. His hand joined hers as he helped keep her underwear to the side. He ground his hips and eased slowly into her creamy pussy.
Her eyelids fluttered shut and her lips parted. “Malachi.” His name came out in a cross between a groan and a whisper. Damn it sounded like sex in a voice. He shivered. The desire to bite her came back, ten-fold. But he couldn’t just take. She had to grant him permission. His mouth watered as he worked himself fully into her. She grabbed him like a fist. So perfect and snug. Dani’s nails tore into his back.
Forget sweet and delicate. He began to thrust and unleashed the full power of his desire into each push. Grunts, moans and whimpers filled the air. He watched her, careful to not hurt her. The smile and deep crimson blush on her cheeks and the tops of her breasts told him what he needed to know.
“Malachi,” she breathed.
God, how could she talk at a time like this. He held onto his composure by the tiniest thread. “Yes, babe.”
Yes, sir, she’d said it. He laid down the rules, told her what was what and she went not only with her gut, but with her heart. And for the first time in a long, long time, she didn’t regret her decision. She let out a long breath and exposed her neck to Mal.
“I have to offer myself, really want it, and ask you. I’m asking you. Make me your mate.”
Mal seated himself deep within her pussy and stilled. The lusty look in his eyes cleared and the smile grew a tiny bit. “I love you, Cherie.”
Cherie? She froze. Who the fuck was Cherie? She wanted him to love her the same way she loved him. Not love someone named Cherie. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes. The one man she loved more than anything...
“I don’t say I love you to just anyone, my Cherie. It’s a term of love.” He kissed her hard on the lips, sweeping his tongue over the seam of her mouth. “I love my girl, my Danica.”
Wow. Okay, so that was a strange situation she’d created. She closed her eyes and fought back the tears. Damn trust issues anyway.
He broke the kiss and rested his forehead on hers. “I’ll never hurt you, Dani.” He brushed away tears with the pad of his thumb. “You’re the one I looked for all my life and my undead life.”
Her heart swelled and her desire for him soared. This is who she needed—him. “Bite me. Make me yours.”
The brown in his pupils shimmered silver and his fangs elongated. He blazed a line of kisses from her mouth to her neck, murmuring between each kiss. Dani turned her head again, granting him access.
“Mine.” The sound of his declaration rang out through the room. His thrusts started up again and he nibbled harder on the ticklish bit of skin that connected her shoulder to her neck. “My beloved.”
She tensed as his fangs pierced her skin. Pressure compounded on her neck and in her pussy. She tingled all over, like thousands of tiny pins pricked her skin, but it didn’t hurt. Her thoughts fuzzied and her breathing grew ragged. “I love you,” she whispered. “I love you, Malachi.”
Malachi withdrew from her vein, rolling the iron rich blood around on his tongue. He could taste the sweetness in her soul in every molecule of her blood. He grunted and spilled his seed into the condom. Too bad. He wanted to fill her as she’d filled him. Later. He’d explain everything to her later. He braced himself on one hand and gave her room to move.
Dani stared up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. She’d said something right when he came, but damn if he heard the actual words.
“I don’t know what time it is, but I feel like we’ve been screwing around all night.” She trailed her fingers down his chest. “It’s got to be near morning. Stay with me.”
Best possible idea. “Yes, babe.” He sat up and removed the rubber. Dani skinnied out from underneath him and disappeared into the bathroom. Mal glanced at his rumpled clothes. What was the standard practice? Sleep in lumpy clothes or was it cool to sleep naked? And why was he thinking about it when his body screamed to take her again? Her blood invigorated him and made him feel ten feet tall. Screw the doctor. Mal had his claimed mate.
“Is it crazy that I finally feel special to someone?”
Mal stood and crossed the room to hold her. Tears slipped down Dani’s cheeks. “You’ve always been special to me. Always.” He guided her to the bed and helped her slid between the sheets. He took his place beside her and wrapped her in his arms. “There’s so much I need to tell you, but it’s getting late for me.”
“Tell me tonight.”
Dani ground her ass into his groin and snuggled up close. Within moments, her breaths evened and her body stilled. Sleep did sound nice. Yeah, he’d tell her when he woke that night.
“Wake up, you shit.”
Malachi jerked from sleep and stared into the blackest eyes. Devil’s eyes as they said in a movie he’d seen long ago. He knew the voice. Mal didn’t care what the doctor might do to him—but he’d die again to keep Dani safe.
“Don’t try to fight me, fool. She’s happily asleep in her beddie-bye. She doesn’t even know you’re gone.” Dr. Bowie slapped Malachi’s face twice. “You thought you could pull the shit over my eyes, didn’t you? Fucking that whore.”
Enough insulting his mate. Malachi strained to move forward. Nothing happened. He looked down. Silver bands encircled his wrists and ankles. The doctor hadn’t the decency to cover Mal’s groin. The fucktard.
Dr. Bowie crossed the room, flicking a needle in one hand and grinning from ear to ear. “She’ll wake up in a few moments and realize you aren’t there.” He flicked the needle once more and waved it in front of Mal. “By the time she figures out where you are, you’ll be a shell of your former self. Good night vampire.”
The needle pierced Mal’s arm, tearing the flesh. A raw cry ripped from his throat. Knowing Dani, she’d find him and rip the doctor a new asshole. But the maniac was right. She’d never get there in time. Fuck. Blood drained from his body, her rich, bright red blood. His head dipped and his vision blurred. If he couldn’t tell her anything else, he’d tell her the words on his heart.
Love you, my mate. I love you.
Danica rolled over and buried her nose in the pillow. She breathed in the scent of Mal on the cool fabric. Sighing, she reached out. Instead of semi-warm vampire body, all she felt was chilled sheet. Dani opened her eyes and glanced around the room. Empty bed. Odd. She sat up. Mal’s clothes still lay strewn all over the floor.
Maybe he was in the bathroom.
She tipped her head, listening for movement in the bathroom. Anything. Water splashing. Footsteps. Singing. Grunting. Hell, at this point she just wanted to know he was there and God knew Mal couldn’t be in the bathroom without making some sort of noise.
Her blood chilled in her veins. Would he really stroll off? Sunlight streamed in through the window. Maybe that was it? He went to the living room to get away from the morning sunshine?
Without his clothes?
Another thought crossed her mind. The crap about the doctor seemed like bullshit the night before. What if it wasn’t bull? She shivered and fumbled for her sleep shirt. I’m not going to check out the house in the nude. She yanked the rumpled cotton garment over her head and freed her pony tail from the collar. Deep breaths to steady herself weren’t working. With shaky hands, she palmed her cell.
Danica crept from the bedroom into the living room. The silence damned near broke her. He wasn’t the type to leave without fanfare—even when they weren’t sleeping together. Her chest squeezed. They’d crossed a line the night before. A damned scary line they couldn’t go back on.
A flutter across the room caught her eye. The front door wobbled on its hinges, wide open. He wouldn’t go for a walk...he’d never get back before he crisped. The object fluttering on the door stopped moving.
Hesitant, Dani crossed the room to the door. Was someone there waiting for her? She’d seen enough scary movies to know the most mundane things led the demise of the minor characters.
Writing festooned the paper—a loopy script, written in red. Red?
I warned you, Miss Burke. Mr. Reeves belongs to me.
Belonged to him? To Dr. Bowie? The bastard. She flicked open her phone. No one fucked with her friends and Mal was so much more than a friend. She punched the numbers to make the call.
“Make it good, little girl,” came the voice from the other end of the line.
“Daniel, I need help.” Danica ripped the paper down and slammed the front door. “Something’s happened.”
“Fingers and toes.”
“Daniel, I don’t have time for this.” She stomped through the apartment to her bedroom. “Mal is gone.”
“Like poofed?” Her twin snorted. “I’m sorry. What’s wrong with your mate?”
“Mate?” She tugged the phone from her ear and stared at it. Mate? She shook her head and resumed the call. “Look, this Dr. Bowie wants him for his blood. I need you to help me find Mal before he’s drained.”
“You got it.” Something rustled on Daniel’s end of the line. “Meet me down in the Warehouse District in ten. Building F, but don’t get any ideas. We’ve had our eye on him for more than a year.” The line clicked dead.
She’d ask Daniel about the mate business when she saw him.
Danica pulled to a stop beside Daniel’s patrol car. Her twin nodded and waved her to him. The boxy buildings loomed before them, practically blotting out the sunshine. No wonder Dr. Bowie worked there. He could do what he pleased with the vampires and keep them half-dead long enough to really kill them. She rubbed her arms. The chill seeped into her bones.
“He drains them, leaves them in the dumpsters and lets the sun do the rest.” Daniel held one finger up and spoke into his radio. “Copy.” He turned his back to her and continued talking into the device.
Uneasy, Danica scanned the area. Two dumpsters, one in full sun. The other sat in partial sun, but if there was anyone in there, they’d be toast in less than ten minutes. Something flopped from the top. She squinted. Looked like a piece of fabric.
Danica elbowed Daniel. “Hey. Is that someone or something?”
Daniel clipped the radio to his shoulder holster and withdrew his gun. “Stay back.” Inching forward, he made his way to the dumpster. Three other officers in SWAT gear moved in behind him. With catlike movements, Daniel cased the dumpster. The radio crackled, making her jump.
“Fuck. We need a bus. He’s still moving.” Daniel’s voice popped and skewed over the radio frequency. “Now.”
Still moving? Her heart lodged in her throat. What was still moving?
“Get my sister. She’s the only one who can help him. Now, damn it.”
Danica broke into a sprint. She had the SWAT for protection. Whatever Daniel wanted her for, she’d be there. She slipped to a stop in the pebbled gravel on the pavement. The thing she’d noticed flopping wasn’t a shirt—it was Mal. She fell to her knees. The poor vampire’s skin was paler than normal. His hair lay in sticky clods against his forehead. She glanced at Daniel.
“What do I do?”
“Feed your mate.” Daniel nodded and handed her his pocket knife. “Go on. The team has the doctor under control.” He removed his jacket and placed it over Mal’s nude body. “I’ll give him back his modesty.”
Cut herself to feed Mal. When had her life turned so bizarre? She shook her head and closed her eyes, slicing the knife across her wrist. Wincing, she gritted her teeth, opened her eyes and placed her wrist against Mal’s lips.
Words flickered across her mind. I love you, my mate. Had Mal said that before he left? She’d thought it was dream. Tears burned at the back of her eyes. Take it, damn it. She shoved her wrist at him a little harder and forced his mouth open.
“Don’t leave me, Mal,” she whispered. “Please?”
A gentle suction pulled at her skin. Behind his eyelids, his eyes moved. Moved! Danica cradled his head in her arm and stroked his matted hair. The pull grew harder and his hands twitched.
Should she pray? Did vampires pray to God? The devil? Didn’t matter right now. All she wanted was her vampire back. She closed her eyes and held her breath. The twitching could be the first stages of death for all she knew.
The sucking stopped. Dani opened her eyes and blinked back the moisture. “Mal?”
Through heavy-lidded eyes, he looked up at her. “Dani.”
Tears fell fast and hard. She gathered him tight in her arms and sobbed. “I thought you were dead.”
“I am dead, love.” He rubbed his nose against hers. “You saved me.” He struggled to sit up, only to go limp in her arms. “Sorry. Where’s the asshole?”
“Daniel says the SWAT’s on it.”
Daniel stood. “Good to see you among the undead. There’s a foot chase in progress. I’ll have Alonzo get you both home and he’ll stand guard ‘til we get the bastard.” Nodding, Daniel turned on his heel and broke into a sprint.
As noted, Alonzo strode to their position. “Want help getting him into the car?”
“Thanks.” Danica allowed herself to breathe. Things would be alright. Not right at the moment, but soon. She could handle soon. She watched Alonzo help Mal into her car.
“I’ll be right behind you.”
Dani climbed into her car and settled beside Mal. She placed her hand on his.
“Take me home, babe. Please? I feel like death warmed over.”
“You’re already dead.”
“Then warm me all over?”
“You got it.”