Eternal kiss, p.3
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       Eternal Kiss, p.3
 

         Part #2 of Mark of the Vampire series by Laura Wright
Chapter 3

 

  Kate stared up into the hard-angled, menacingly dark face of the devil himself and loved what she saw.

  But that was her way, attracted to pain and torment in any form.

  Within the greasy, blood-spattered wal s of Mondrar prison, the stories of the Breeding Male were whispered from cel to cel late into the night. As Kate had huddled close to the bars, trying to gather warmth from the coal fire that sat in the very center of the cel block, she had listened, heard al about his offspring who roamed the earth. She'd heard of their escape when the Breeding Male program had ended abruptly a few hundred years ago. She'd heard they were predators, animal ike Purebloods who lived in the shadows, waiting for the day they were morphed, waiting for their genetic codes to awaken and set them free to rut any female they encountered.

  She wondered about this one who held her against his painful y hard chest, his thick black hair licking at his neck, his cruel mouth ready to do battle. Was he on the hunt? Had he awakened? Was that a trace of lust in his black gaze?

  "Are you going to let go of me anytime soon?" she said, remaining still, calm, despite her instinct to jab her elbow deep into his groin. She knew when to fight and when it was wisest to play the soft veana.

  "No," he uttered, pul ing her closer, forcing her elbows to lock straight, al owing her to feel the true force of his size.

  "Any closer, paven," she said, "and my relations wil force you to mate me. "

  "Who sent you?"

  "The mother of the balas. "

  He didn't believe her; it was clear as hel in those severe black eyes. "How did you text me? How did you get my number?"

  "The Eyes passed it along. "

  "Those Impure pieces of shit," he muttered. "They'd sel their mother's beating heart straight from her chest if they could get enough for it. "

  Sounded about right, Kate thought.

  "What it is you want, veana?" he asked, his voice a hotbed of irritation. "You need money?"

  Kate didn't blame him for not trusting her, but she didn't have time for this. "I need to get this done, get the boy with his father, and move on. "

  His eyes scanned every inch of her face as his lower half pressed closer to her hips. "Are you working for Dare or one of his recruits?"

  Heat rushed through her, proving once again that fear and hard handling were the keys to getting her hot. Jesus, she was pathetic. "Don't know anyone named Dare. "

  He chuckled. "Nice. "

  "Listen, I'm here for the balas. That's it. We came on the train from the Vermont credenti. " Her gaze slid from his to the boy. Ladd, who remained in the pool of hazy red light, wore an expression of confused anguish. Kate felt her wore an expression of confused anguish. Kate felt her chest constrict. She hated it, hated what had happened to him-hated that she was going to have to leave him here with this paven who appeared closer to predator than parent. But shit, she had no choice.

  She turned back to the Roman brother and laid it al out.

  "Mirabelle Letts asked me to bring her son to you. Your son. "

  His grip on her suddenly eased. "Mirabelle. "

  "That's right. " She watched the aggressive ire slip from his expression and knew a nerve had been hit-knew that if she was going to get away she'd need to amp it up right now. She whispered so the boy wouldn't hear, "Remember her, do you? Pretty, dark hair, soft eyes. Maybe eight years ago? Your bed? Or was it against the wal in a club like this?"

  He released her then, thrust her toward Ladd. "Enough of that. "

  The pain in his face was evident. Kate wasn't a fan of playing with people's emotions, but she did what she had to do to get free, stay free.

  "Why didn't Mirabelle come herself?" he asked.

  "She couldn't. "

  He sniffed bitterly. "How convenient. "

  "She couldn't," Kate repeated darkly, moving closer to Ladd, "because she's dead. "

  At that moment, the redhead with the dragon tats sent her electric guitar into a perfect high-pitched scream. It resonated throughout the club, and vibrated through Nicholas's body. Hell, in that moment, it was his emotional fucking sound track. It wasn't as if he'd loved Mirabelle Letts. God, he didn't love anyone, least of al the bodies he screwed for money. But he remembered her, her gentle face, her tears when he'd made her climax. And he remembered how lonely she was. Her mate hadn't been into females, but had mated with her out of duty, and had never touched her after the first night they were together.

  Nicholas stared at the balas before him. He remembered Mirabelle Letts because, like him, she had been dying on the inside for a long time.

  "When did it happen?" he nearly shouted over the guitar solo.

  "About ten hours ago," the veana said.

  "How?"

  When she didn't answer, he looked up. She had her arm around the balas, and her eyes trained on him. She shook her head, as in Not in front of the boy, dumbass.

  His gaze returned to the balas. Eight years ago. Yes, that sounded about right. "What's your name, boy?"

  The balas looked tired, scared shitless, but he said in a strong, clear voice, "Ladd. "

  "And yours?" Nicholas said, shifting his gaze upward.

  The veana shook her head. "Doesn't matter. "

  "Like hel it doesn't. "

  "Let's stick with Messenger. How's that?"

  "Hiding something, veana?"

  "Aren't we al ?"

  The question hidden inside a statement thing made his blood heat and he closed the distance between them. Her scent pushed into his nostrils again, clawed its way into his lungs, and if the boy hadn't been there, he was pretty damn sure he'd have yanked her back into his arms and taken her mouth, tasted her tongue. But the balas was there, huddled against her hip, and Nicholas needed to get to the whole truth of what was before him.

  Then, like a magic trick revealed, he spotted something, something on the veana's alabaster neck. What the hel was it? The mark of her true mate? The bruise of a sweet, hard suck-a blood drain from a hopeful lover?

  He cocked his head to one side, narrowed his eyes.

  No.

  Fuck him. No.

  A growl vibrated in Nicholas's throat, and grew in both volume and ferocity until the balas ducked behind the veana and clung to her waist.

  He knew it. Goddammit! The scent of her, the overwhelming desire he felt-it was al a deception, a trick by an Impureblood who knew that the Romans were after him, and that his time was almost up.

  And this veana had the cheek to stand there looking confused, pissed off even as strands of her long blond hair attempted to hide the whip marks branded on her neck.

  Nicholas leaned in and took a count. One, two, three . . .

  Ten in all. Ten years in Mondrar, the vampire prison. His nostrils flared. A fucking criminal, punished by the Order.

  And to use a balas . . . No wonder she knew the Eyes. No doubt one of them had been a cel mate or a fel ow yard scum.

  The veana suddenly saw where his eyes were trained and blanched in the red light, pushed her hair forward in an attempt to hide the marks.

  Nicholas shook his head and grinned at her. "You nearly had my sympathy, veana. Nearly. " He felt her stiffen as he leaned in and whispered in her ear, "Listen well, sacro bitch. Tel Dare he can send a hundred balas my way, but the only trap to fal into is the one I'll be setting for him. "

  Without another look at the pair, Nicholas turned and walked away. Veana who used their balas deserved nothing less than misery.

  Nice, France

  1892

  "Wake her up!"

  The male who had come blustering into their flat stank of liquor and refused to leave, even though Nicholas had told him that his mama could not service tonight. She was sick.

  More than usual. More every day. The vampire drug gravo, the dried, poisoned blood she loved so dearly, was taking her mind away, her body too, perhaps even taking away her
love for her son.

  "I wil have my suck, boy," the male slurred, gripping the wal for support. "Wake her up or I wil shove mon grand bitte up her ass. "

  Frightened now, Nicholas hurried to his mother, who lay prostrate on the sofa and shook her. "Mama, Mama, please. Un homme is here for you. "

  "I wil pay well," the male put in, grinning. "If she uses des crocs, that is. "

  Fangs for francs. It was what the humans always wanted from her. Nicholas didn't understand why they would want to feel such pain.

  "Nichola," his mother rasped, her eyes flickering open.

  Nicholas dropped to his knees beside the sofa. "Mama. "

  "What is it he wants?"

  "I want turlutte!" the male said with a drunken chuckle.

  "The wee garçon can watch if you'd like-see how his mama's open mouth and wil ing throat earns her her francs. "

  "Nichola," his mother whispered. "Wil you help me?"

  "What is it, Mama? What can I do?"

  Her eyes, so red from the gravo, her lips so pale. She needed blood, but Nicholas couldn't give her his anymore

  -he had grown too weak. And she could not feed him, as her own blood was near to poison now.

  She turned her head, tried to focus on the male. "My balas wil care for you, monsieur. "

  From his position near the wall, the male looked down at Nicholas. There was no shock in his eyes at the suggestion, only mild irritation. "He has barely huit ans. "

  Nicholas nearly told the male that he was indeed eight years. Last Sunday was his birthday. But he didn't have a chance. Stumbling toward him, the male grabbed Nicholas off the ground, stood him up, and forced open his mouth.

  As his rotten breath beat down on Nicholas's face, the male ran his thumb roughly over Nicholas's tongue and fangs.

  When he felt the ridges, he smiled. "Yes. This is good, nice.

  I wil accept him. "

  "Go with him to my room, mon petit. " Nicholas's mother started coughing, a bitter, harsh sound that he was more than used to. "Get his ten francs first. "

  Nicholas understood what his mother was asking him to do and his entire body shook with fear and revulsion. "No, Mama. Please. No. "

  "Just this once, mon petit. " Her eyes implored him. "For Mama. I am so tired. And we need to feed. "

  The fear inside the boy was nothing next to his love for his mama. He would eat crushed glass for her if she asked it of him. He supposed that to eat another male would be nothing.

  And yet, when the monsieur led him into his mother's room and closed the door, he nearly froze in terror.

  "On your knees, boy," the male commanded, taking down his pants and releasing his thick manhood. "And drop your fangs. "

  Kate watched Nicholas Roman disappear into the sea of writhing, sweat-drenched bodies and tried not to panic.

  What the hel did she do now? Time was running out. She needed to get back to the credenti before the Order knew she was gone, before they connected Mirabelle's body and Ladd's disappearance with her-before they took away the one thing that mattered in her unlivable life-her freedom.

  She reached for Ladd's hand and led him toward the back door of the club. "Come on, kid. "

  "I'm tired. "

  "I know. " Me too.

  "Can we go back home?"

  "No. "

  "Where are we going, then?" he whined, though it wasn't the sound of the petulant seven-year-old on the credenti steps anymore. This was a child who was truly and understandably scared.

  "I'll let you know when I figure it out. " She looked down, gave him a weary smile. "Okay?"

  He bit his lip, but nodded.

  Taking the boy's hand, Kate headed out of the club into the dimly lit al ey. Screw Nicholas Roman. Seriously, what was she supposed to do? Run after him and beg him to take the boy? It was clear he thought she was a con and that the boy was part of that con. And there was something in him that wanted it that way, expected it, was relieved by it.

  She'd figure something out, always did. Maybe the Eyes knew where she could take Ladd, where he'd be safe for a while. She just needed two months and then she could come back-

  A sudden jerk of fear moved through her, made her tighten her grip on the boy. She glanced around, her eyes hitting every dark corner, her ears listening for any sound that wasn't expected. Nothing. Nothing she could connect to and yet she felt something.

  Some one.

  Again, her gaze jumped from dark corner to dark corner, to windows with bars slashed across them, her skin prickling at the feeling of whatever it was that was watching from the shadows.

  She shoved the boy behind her back and slowly turned around in a circle. A come out, come out, wherever you are that she hoped wouldn't be fruitful, and yet the need to know what was out there nearly had her shouting into the black.

  Final y, when nothing appeared or advanced, she gave up. Time to hit the road. And fast. Pul ing at Ladd's hand, she hurried him forward, down the remainder of the empty al eyway. The energy of whatever it was fol owed them, but Kate just kept going. At first she wondered if it was the Similis, the Impure guards of Mondrar, come to take her back, but she knew their scent-had felt their eyes on her every moment of every day for ten years.

  This was something else.

  "Let's go, Ladd," she urged the boy. "A little faster. "

  If they could just get into the light, into traffic, maybe whatever it was would back off.

  Half a block. That was it.

  She caught her heel on the edge of a pothole and stumbled a little. Loose gravel went flying, but she remained upright and moving, sensing the nearness of the hidden presence, the shadow of whatever fol owed them gaining ground. For the first time, she wondered if maybe this thing was after the boy, not her. What if it wanted to hurt him?

  Shit! Maybe she should just take him back, go back to the credenti right now, give up . . .

  Suddenly, like a miniature bolt of lightning, the al ey exploded with white. Panicked, Kate glanced behind her and saw Nicholas Roman practical y flying toward them, sunglasses, black hair, long coat-a devil with angel's wings. In under a second, he scooped both her and Ladd into his arms, and they were gone-flashed out of the al eyway and hovering somewhere between light and darkness.
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