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Kiss of Crimson (Chapter Fourteen)

Chase drove away from the Order's estate, itchy with frustration. There would be no patrol for him tonight. All of the warriors were out on solo missions, leaving Chase with several hours of darkness to kill on his own.

The death last night of Camden's friend still ate at him, making him all the more aware that the clock was ticking fast if he stood any hope of bringing his nephew home in one piece. Chase drove by some of the places Dante had taken him on their patrols of the city, both the known and lesser-known locations where humans and vampires tended to mingle.

He searched the streets and dockyards for Camden, prowling for any sign of him or any of his friends. Several hours into it, he was still coming up empty.

He was parked somewhere in Chinatown, about to head back to the Darkhaven, when he saw two Breed youths and a couple of human females enter an unmarked door up ahead of him. Chase cut the Lexus's engine and stepped out of the vehicle. As he approached the place where the group had gone, loud music bumped from somewhere down below street level. He opened the door and crept inside.

Down a long, barely lit flight of stairs was another door. This one had a human bouncer stationed outside it, but Chase had no trouble getting past the goth steak-head as he pressed a hundred-dollar bill in the guy's hand.

Deep, thumping bass filled Chase's head as he entered the crowded club. Bodies thrashed everywhere he looked, the dancing having overtaken the room in a giant, bobbing mass. He scanned the thick crowd as he waded in farther, blue and red strobe lights blasting his eyes.

He stumbled into a drunken female who'd been dancing with some friends. Chase murmured an apology that she probably couldn't hear over the din. Belatedly, he realized that his hands were on her tight, round ass as he tried to keep her from falling.

She smiled up at him invitingly, licking her lips, which were stained bright red from the lollipop she was nursing. She danced up closer to him now, blatantly sexual as she rubbed her body against his. Chase stared at her mouth, then at the slender white column of her neck.

His veins started buzzing, a fever rising in his blood.

He should go. If Camden was in here somewhere, the odds of finding him were low. Too many people, too much noise.

The female snaked her hands up around his shoulders, grinding in front of him, her thighs brushing his. The skirt she wore was ridiculously short, so short that when she turned around and pressed her bottom into his groin, Chase saw that she wore nothing beneath it.

Jesus Christ.

He really had to get out of here– Another pair of arms came around from behind him, one of the girl's friends deciding to play too. A third moved in and took the first one in a long wet kiss, both of them looking at Chase as their tongues slithered together like serpents.

His cock went instantly stiff in his pants. The female at his back reached down, stroking the bulge ever harder with her skilled, relentless fingers. Chase closed his eyes, feeling lust twine with another hunger, one he hadn't sated in nearly as long as his sexual urge. He was starving, his body craving both fulfillment and release.

The two females brought their kiss to him now, sharing his mouth while the crowd around them kept dancing, not caring about the carnal display taking place right there in the open. They weren't alone; Chase spotted more than one couple getting busy, more than one Breed vampire finding a Host amid the open sensuality of the place.

With a growl, Chase slid his hands under the first female's short skirt. He rucked the material up harshly, exposing her to his hungry gaze as her friend licked a hot trail along his neck.

Chase's fangs stretched long in his mouth as he plumbed the wet slit straddling his thigh. Her friends worked his zipper, tugging it down and reaching in to fondle his erection. Need coiled in him, the urge to fuck and feed overwhelming him. With a rough hand, he grabbed one of the females by the shoulders and pushed her down before him. She knelt there, freeing his cock and taking it into her mouth.

As she vigorously sucked him, and the other female rode his hand toward her own climax, Chase brought the third closer to his mouth. His fangs were throbbing even more than his sex, his vision sharpening as hunger slitted his pupils and heightened all of his senses. He parted his lips as the female's neck pressed against his mouth. With a sharp thrust, he clamped down on her, opening her vein and drawing the rich, warm blood through his teeth.

Chase fed quickly, if thoroughly, finding this uncharacteristic loss of control revolting. But he couldn't stop. He drank hard, and with each pull at his Host's vein, his release spiraled tighter in his groin. He pumped his hips, fisting one hand in the female's hair as she worked him toward climax. It was coming fast now, roaring through him…

With a furious thrust he exploded. His mouth was still latched tight on his Host. He smoothed his tongue over the puncture wounds, sealing them closed. She was panting from her own release, all three women pawing him as they mewled and whimpered for more.

Chase pushed away from their grasping hands, hating what he'd just done. He brought his palm up to the forehead of his Host and wiped her memory. Then he did the same to the other two. He wanted to get out of there so badly, he was practically shaking with the idea. Stuffing himself back into his pants, Chase felt a niggle of awareness travel along his spine.

There were eyes on him somewhere across the room. He searched the crowd for the intrusion… and found himself staring at one of the Order's warriors.

Tegan.

So much for holding himself to a higher standard than the Breed males who chose to live a life of violence and almost vigilante justice.

How much of Chase's degrading lack of control had Tegan seen? Probably all of it, although the vampire's expression betrayed nothing, just held him in a cold, flat, knowing gaze. The warrior stared for another moment, then simply turned and strolled out of the place.

A pair of bright yellow eyes with slivered pupils stared back at Dante from his flat-screen computer monitor. The beast's mouth was dropped open, lips curled back from a fairly impressive set of fangs. It was a look of hissing fury, but the caption beneath the photograph described the subject as a sweet and cuddly pa who would love to go home with you today.

"Jesus," Dante murmured, repulsed. He saw enough of that spitting, feral look every night he spent topside, hunting Rogues.

Hell, sometimes he saw the same hideousness reflected in his own mirror, when blood hunger, lust, or rage brought out his primal nature. Pain from his nightmare visions often did the trick too: slitting his pupils, turning his light brown eyes to fiery amber, and stretching his fangs out from his gums.

He'd had another one of those hellish dreams just today. It woke him out of a dead sleep around noon and left him sweating and shaky for several hours afterward. The damn things were getting more frequent lately, more intense. And the splintering headaches they left in their wake were real ass-kickers.

Dante nudged the wireless mouse next to his keyboard, scrolling past the Felines category to the Canines. He clicked the button to bring up the inventory of available animals, then did a quick scan through the photos. A few looked promising for his purposes, in particular a sad-faced hound named Barney who was in need of special care and dreaming of a nice place to spend the last of his golden years.

That ought to work. He certainly wasn't looking for anything long term.

Dante flipped open his cell phone and dialed the shelter's number. A gum-smacking young woman with a thick Boston accent picked up on about the fifth ring.

"Eastside Small Animal Rescue, can I help you?"

"I need one of your animals," Dante told her.

"Excuse me?"

"The dog from your website, the old one. I want it."

There was a beat of silence, then a loud crack of the girl's gum. "Oh! You mean Baah-ney?"

"Yes, that one."

"Well, I'm sorry, but he's been adopted. Is he still on our front page? They must have forgotten to update the website for him. What kind of dog are you looking for? We have several others who need good homes."

"I need an animal tonight."

She gave an uncertain little laugh. "Um, that's not really how we work. We'd need you to come in and fill out an application, and then meet with one of our–"

"I can pay."

"Well, that's fine, because we do require a small donation to help cover treatment and–" "Would a hundred dollars suffice?"

"Er… "

"Two?" he asked, not really caring what it cost. "It's very important to me."

"Yeah," she said, "I'm, uh… I'm getting that idea."

Dante lowered his voice and focused on the pliable human mind at the other end of the telephone connection. "Help me out here. I really need one of your animals. Now, let's give it some thought, and you tell me what it's going to take to make this happen."

She hesitated for a long few seconds, then, "Look, I could totally get fired for this, but we do have a dog that just came in today. He hasn't even been examined yet, but he doesn't seem like he's in the best shape. And I'll be honest with you, he's not much to look at either. We don't have space for him right now, so he's actually on the list for euthanasia in the morning."

"I'll take him." Dante checked the time. It was just past five o'clock, already dark topside, thanks to New England sitting on the front end of the Eastern Time Zone. Harvard wouldn't be showing up at the compound for another four hours. Plenty of time for him to complete this little transaction before he had to link up with the agent for the night's patrol. He stood up, grabbing his coat and keys. "I'm on my way. I'll be there in twenty minutes."

"Okay. We close at five-thirty, but I'll wait for ya. Just come around back and ask for Rose. That's me." She cracked her gum again, her jaw working audibly in a flurry of quick snaps. "Ah, about the money–the two hundred bucks? Can you pay cash?"

Dante smiled as he started for the door. "Done."

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