Demon's Kiss (Page 6)

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Reaper was lying in the bed, as instructed, surrounded by the freshly laundered scents of the white sheets and leopard-print comforter, when Roxy returned with his sustenance. She handed him the glass, and he drank and prayed she didn't want to stay and talk until the sun came up.

She sat down on the bed, though, so he figured he was doomed. Still, it wouldn't be more than a few minutes before dawn came and saved him from her knowing, probing mind.

“You're fuming,” she said.

“I don't like being attacked by my own kind.”

“Bullshit. You relish a good battle. You're fuming because you needed help tonight.”

He slid her a look. “Don't go there. I didn't need help.”

“No? You know you would have died in that car, Raphael. You were bleeding out, unconscious and about to go up in flames. Your stubborn fledgling hunk refused to leave, even though he could have been toast.”

He nodded. “You don't have to sing his praises to me, Roxy. I know he has the soul of a hero.”

“Really?” She seemed surprised to hear him say something nice about Seth.

“You think I would make a vampire out of an ordinary human? Even one with the antigen? No, he's special.”

“I agree. You, um, might wanna think about telling him that.”

“And let it go straight to his head? Please.”

“You're a mean bastard, you know that?”

“I'm mean? Could you have teased the poor kid any harder, do you think?”

She shrugged. “I was only being myself.”

“Right. It's not your fault young men want you.”

“All men want me, hon. Young, old, humans, vampires. There are dead men who want me. Is it any surprise your young Seth wants me, too?”

“Don't-“

She shot him a look, a dangerous one. And he knew better than to presume to tell Roxy, the most independent female on the planet, not to sleep with his pain-in-the-ass charge. She slept with whomever she wanted. And God help anyone who presumed to judge her for it.

He licked his lips and started over. “Don't break his heart, okay?”

“I'm not planning to jump him, Raphael. He's got important work to do, and a night of my incredible body would only distract and confuse him.”

“Important work, huh?”

“Hell, yeah. He's on a mission, that one. I don't know what it is-don't think he does, either-but it's practically sparking from his aura. Something big is in store for him.”

“So he keeps telling me.”

“Believe him.” She got up from the bed. “Sleep, now. At sundown, the van will be packed and ready to go.”

“Roxy-“

“You don't have wheels of your own anymore,” she reminded him. “You can't go on foot, after all.”

“I can get a car.”

She shrugged. “Fine, get one. I'll follow you.” She reached out a hand, as if about to lay it over his, but then she hesitated, because she knew he disliked touching unnecessarily. Drawing her hand away, she went on. “I know you hate accepting help, Raphael, but you'd damn well better believe me when I tell you that just this once, you need it. I feel it all the way to my gut. You'll die if you don't let Seth and me go with you.”

“And you and Seth could die if I do.”

“We won't-“

He reached out and grabbed her hand, maybe just to show her how damn serious he was about this. “You know what I'm capable of, Roxy. You're the only one who knows. Anyone who's near me for any amount of time is at risk.”

“All the more reason to take me along. I won't let you hurt him. Or me. Believe me, I can handle you.”

“No, you can't.” He released her hand. The sleep was coming on strong and fast, but he had more to say. “I'd planned to come to see you while I was here. I'd planned to ask you to keep Seth, teach him until he's ready to be on his own.”

“Yeah, I already figured that out. But it's not going to work. We're going with you. If you're so worried that you might hurt us, then I'll see to it we're both armed.”

“You wouldn't be willing to shoot me. I know you-” His eyes fell closed. He opened them again. “You'd be too afraid of killing me.” Again his eyes closed.

“You let me worry about that. As if I'd hesitate to kick your oversized ass to the grave and back if I thought you were gonna hurt me. Hell, Raphael, don't kid yourself. Now, get some sleep.”

He tried to reply, but the sleep was on him before he could make a sound.

Vixen waited in the cell, wondering what was taking so long. She still wasn't sure she could do what they asked of her, but she couldn't stand any more torture. Why these people delighted in causing pain, she could not fathom.

Their footsteps came, just minutes before dawn. Briar was not alone this time. The one called Jack was with her. Longish brown hair, shot through with streaks of blond, parted on one side, so that it tended to fall over his eyes. An unshaven look that was always just that. Never more, never less. As if he meant it to be that way. Light blue eyes, almost shockingly pale.

Jack looked at her, smiled slyly, shook his head slowly. “Damn, she is a pretty thing, isn't she?” He stuck his arm between the bars of her cage and made smacking sounds with his lips, like calling a pet. “Come here, hon. Let me feel that silky hair, hmm?”

She backed up to the far wall, her eyes wide and darting from Jack to Briar. Of the two, it was the female she most feared.

“Fine,” Jack said. “Your loss, babe.” Then he turned to Briar. “So what is it you wanted to show me?”

“She's not human.”

“No, not anymore. Not since Gregor changed her.”

Briar shook her head. “Not even before. She's a shape-shifter. Spent half her time as an animal.”

Jack grinned. “Right. Briar, have you been feeding on crack addicts tonight or what?”

“Gregor knows. That's why he wanted her. He had me stake out the places where she tends to show up when she's in human form and tell him her habits, so he could follow her. He set a trap, caught her in it when she was an animal, then waited for her to shift back and transformed her.”

Slowly Jack's smile died. “He didn't make you do it for him? You know, he didn't have you suck her blood and then make her drink yours…?”

“No,” she said with a disgusted look.

Jack pushed a hand through his long hair and shook his head. “Damn, that would've been hot.”

“She's a shape-shifter. Are you even getting this?”

He shrugged, then looked at Vixen. Then, frowning, he really looked at her. His brows drew together. “Vixen. And that hair. And those eyes.” He glanced at Briar again. “You saying she's some kind of a fox?”

“Pull your hair back, Vixen. Show him.”

Vixen lowered her head, but not in shame, for she knew no such thing as shame. But she hated defeat. She hated obeying the girl with the blackest heart in all the world. Still, she pulled her hair back, and Jack looked, and then his brows shot up.

“Are her ears slightly…pointed?”

“Mmm-hmm. And now she's going to try to shift back into her animal form. If she can still do it, she can be of invaluable help to Gregor. I mean, can you imagine the places she could get into where we couldn't fit? Hell, we could set her loose inside a bank, then have her shift back and let us in after closing.”

“Gregor's got more money than God already.”

“You can never be too rich,” Briar said. “You ready, Vixen?”

“I think so.”

“Then do it.”

Vixen nodded and sank down onto the floor. She lay down on her side and pulled her long, copper hair around her face. She closed her eyes and pretended to will her form to change. But in fact, she wasn't willing it at all. She didn't know if she could change, but she wasn't going to do it just for them. Especially not for Briar. She had to wait, because she wasn't sure she could fit between the bars. So she had to wait.

She lay there for several minutes.

“Dammit, Vixen, do it,” Briar snapped.

“I'm trying….”

“This is bullshit. She ain't a damn fox.”

“She is, I'm telling you. Do it, Vixen!”

Vixen said nothing, just lay there, trembling, because she could feel Briar's anger, and when that one got angry, it didn't go well.

“You are gonna be so fucking sorry,” Briar whispered.

Vixen heard the keys in her cell door. Yes. Finally. Vixen focused. She honed her energy and saw herself in her mind's eye as a fox, running free, and then she felt her body shrinking, growing smaller, vanishing into her long protective hair, until the hair was her tail, curled around her body like a warm coat and covering her face.

She'd changed. Just as Briar swung the cell door open and came charging inside, probably to hurt and punish her, she sprang onto her toes, her clothes falling away behind her, and darted right out of the cell, racing between Briar's feet, dashing past Jack, who jumped and dodged her as if in fear for his life.

“Well, I'll be damned,” she heard him say as she raced past.

“Don't just stand there laughing, get the damn thing!”

She didn't know which way to go and sought wildly for some means of escape. There! The door, and that gap in the bottom. Please, let her fit! She ran up to it.

Then the door swung open, and the master himself stepped in. She darted fast, intending to race between his feet and outside before the door swung closed, but Gregor was faster. He grabbed her by the tail as she rushed past and lifted her high.

“Well! So she can still do it after all!”

Vixen twisted her little body around, and sank her claws into his arm and her teeth into his hand. She sucked blood from him as he howled, and a hunger reared up inside her such as she had never known. They'd been starving her to keep her weak.

She drank all she could before he flung her away so hard that her body slammed into the stone wall and sank to the floor. Energy spent, she felt herself changing again, becoming a woman. A vampiress. She lay there, naked, her head aching, her tailbone throbbing, the taste of Gregor's blood on her lips.

“Jack, toss her back into the cell. Briar, you have some explaining to do.”

“I didn't mean to let her get out,” she began.

“Not about that. I understand you sent one of the drones on an assignment last night, without clearing it with me first.”

Jack scooped Vixen up into his arms, and she remained limp, not because she was acting, but because she was exhausted, half starved and in pain. He seemed to try to be gentle with her, as he carried her into her cell and lowered her down onto the cot that was the only piece of furniture.

“You said this person, this hit-man vampire, was coming after you,” Briar said. “I caught wind of where he was, and I didn't see any reason to delay and risk losing track of him again. So, yeah, I sent a drone to take him out.”

“Well, the drone failed. Any task that takes thought isn't exactly their forte. But that's irrelevant. Next time, Briar, do not even think about giving orders. I'm in charge here, not you. You have no authority.”

“But…but-“

Vixen heard pain in the dark one's voice. She was hurt and confused. The black-hearted bitch deserved it-and more.

“The thing is, Briar, I want him to come after me. I need him. Alive.”

Briar blinked slowly. “Well, you could have just told me that.”

“Easy, Briar,” Jack said. “Haven't you figured him out by now? He operates on a need-to-know basis. And you didn't need to know. Just like I didn't need to know about our guest here and her special abilities.” He looked at Gregor. “Even though I'm his right-hand man. Right, Gregor?”

Gregor shrugged, but the look in his eyes was chilling. “You complaining, Jack?”

“Not me. Not a chance. You're driving this rig, and I'm content to sit in the passenger seat and ride along. Always have been.”

Gregor grunted but said nothing more. Instead, he looked down at his hand, which was dripping blood. “Briar, come with me and patch this thing up before I bleed out. Damn. Good thing it's almost dawn. Jack, you see to the vixen here. Make sure she's staying put for the day. We can use her.” He took Briar by the arm, and left the horrible underworld where Vixen was forced to exist on stale air and darkness.

Jack closed the cage door, double-checked the locks, and then she heard his footsteps moving away. She expected that to be the end of her torment, but no. Only moments later, she heard his return, caught his scent.

Her cage opened once more. If she'd had the energy, she would have shifted again and tried to escape. But she was so tired.

She opened her eyes, saw Jack come closer. He was hesitant, as if he were approaching an animal that might bite, which was probably wise of him, because that was what she was. His gaze kept lowering, sliding down her nude body, but he seemed to be trying to keep it from doing so. She didn't feel any shame about her form, or any shyness. It was just a body, after all.

He had a blanket and pillow under one arm, and a glass of red liquid in his free hand. He held the glass out.

She took it, noting how quickly he jerked his hand back. Sniffing, she wrinkled her nose, but drank, too hungry to be fussy. Then she handed the glass back to him, and he gave her the pillow and blanket. She tucked the pillow under her head, spread the blanket over her and curled onto her side.

“You're welcome,” he said, an odd tone in his voice.

She frowned and lifted her head to look at him.

“When someone does something nice for you, Foxy, it's customary to say thank-you. And then they say, 'you're welcome.'”

“Oh. And you consider bringing me this blanket and pillow and that blood, to be nice?”

“Well, yeah.”

“I'm being kept prisoner in a cage against my will. If you want to be nice, let me go.”

He lowered his head. “Man, I can't do that. Gregor would have my hide.”

“Then don't expect my thanks.”

He shrugged, turned slowly and started to walk out of her cage, but then he stopped. “If you'd escaped tonight, you would have died, you know.”

She frowned and looked up at him.

“You're a vampire now. It's almost daylight. If you go outside in the sun, it'll burn you alive. We can't tolerate it, Foxy.”

She blinked three times, weighing his words. “Are you saying this so that I'll be too afraid to try to run away again?”

“Why would you be? You'd just try it by night.”

“Are you forgetting that I'm in this place where I can't tell day from night?”

“Sure you can. When day comes, you fall asleep. It's irresistible. You feel that coming on, you know it's almost morning. When you wake again, it's just past sundown. Understand?”

Tilting her head to one side, she said, “Why are you helping me?”

One corner of his mouth pulled into a half smile. “I have a weakness for pretty women. And you are a-Well, hell, you're a fox.”

She frowned at him, unsure why he was stating the obvious, but he just touched his forehead as if it were a way of saying goodbye and turned to leave her alone. He locked her cage again on his way out, though, the bastard.