Eternal kiss, p.6
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       Eternal Kiss, p.6
 

         Part #2 of Mark of the Vampire series by Laura Wright
Chapter 6

 

  Every time the train stopped, Kate made a point of changing cars. It was a bitch and a half, and she got the crazy-chick looks from some of the passengers, but as long as she kept moving the chances of the Order pinpointing her location with any true accuracy declined.

  So was the life of a felon. Bugged until the day you were set free.

  As the train slowed to a stop somewhere near Albany, Kate ducked out of business class and headed for coach. If she could just get back into her credenti without anyone knowing she'd been gone or had been in the presence of Mirabelle and the boy, life could resume and so could her two months of work release. But after a ful day and night missing in action at the school and her room, she was wil ing to bet there'd been some guesses as to her whereabouts, some questions about her involvement in Mirabelle's death and Ladd's disappearance.

  Shit. She spied an unoccupied sleeper berth and stole inside. She closed the door and sat down on one of the chairs attached to the wall. Was she an asshole? A fool for thinking she could walk back into the credenti , explain away where she'd been and with whom? Her gaze darted outside the window. Night had descended over the lush New York landscape and snow was fal ing against the glass in elegant little dots.

  Come on, train. Move your metal ass.

  But what choice did she have? Run, keep running-

  always running, the bug in her leg a promise that its master would be forever on her trail? Or return to the credenti of her own free will, lie her ass off about Ladd, and beg for forgiveness and the completion of her prison sentence?

  Oh, Ladd. Poor kid. She knew he was probably feeling abandoned, pissed off, and was stil in shock over the loss of his mother. She'd been there too-the loss of both parents, in fact, in one miserable fucking day. But Ladd was safer than he would ever be with her or in the hands of the Order, and if she had to do it al over again, she'd make the same choice: hand him over to Nicholas Roman and split.

  The train lurched forward and started off real slow.

  Looking at her from the outside, she seemed like one cold bitch, but she hadn't gotten there picking flowers and having picnics by the lake in summertime. Hel no. When you watched one parent slowly kil the other every day of your life, then see that parent turn around and kil her abuser, wel it forces you to see the reality of life, especial y the ugly, painful, suckass reality.

  After her two months were up, she'd go back, make sure Ladd was al right. It was the best she could do.

  A sharp knock on the door had her up, her back against the wal beside the door, knife to her side. She'd learned much in the dregs of Mondrar society. "Yes?"

  "Tickets, please. "

  Just do what you normally do. Flash your ticket, act Just do what you normally do. Flash your ticket, act surprised when you're in the wrong place.

  Keeping the weapon hidden, Kate opened the door a crack and came face-to-face with Nicholas Roman. Fuck me! On a grunt, she slammed the thing shut, but not before his scent got inside. Kate tried not to breathe it in, but it was like ice water to a dehydrated desert dwel er. Her lungs demanded it, demanded him. Goddammit, what was with this paven?

  "Sniff me out, Roman?" she cal ed through the door.

  "No need to. You made no secret of your plan. Only one train going to Vermont tonight. "

  Kate's teeth ground together. "I don't take returns. "

  "I came alone. "

  "You left the boy?" she cried, wanting to punch him through the metal door. "What the hel ?"

  "He's with my brother's mate. He's safe. "

  Bul shit, she thought. The Order could track morphed pavens, and if they had any hint about Mirabelle's relationship with Nicholas or who Ladd's father real y was, they could be at his door in an instant. But perhaps sons of the Breeding Male were different? Untraceable. She sure as hel hoped so.

  "What do you want?" she cal ed.

  "You say you don't know Dare. "

  "Yeah, about half a dozen times. "

  "I want to believe you. "

  "Real y? Why's that?"

  "I don't enjoy kil ing veanas. "

  "I almost want to tel you I'm lying to see if you'l actual y put some lead behind your threats. "

  She heard him exhale, loudly, showing off his annoyance to anyone who might be passing by her sleeper car. "We can do this quick and easy," he said, "or I can stay on this carnival ride, fol ow you al the way back to your credenti, and find out what real y happened to Mirabelle up close and personal. "

  The paven was quick on the threats, but Kate truly didn't like the sound of that one. She wanted him nowhere near her credenti or the Order. With an aggravated curse, she turned and opened the door a crack. Again, his scent rushed in like a damn river, nearly drowning her in its heady, delectable intensity. She had a feeling that if this paven ever touched her, she'd melt into the ground and never recover.

  He stil wore the coat, but the col ar was down and she could see his ful face now. Damn, it sucked to be her. The devil had come up from hel looking hot, al sharp angles, heavy lips, and blazing black eyes. His Breeding Male brands were round and smal on his cheeks and sported some faded-looking symbols inside their circles. As a descendant of the Breeding Male, he could either be mated to an Impure or a Pureblood, just as his brands could sport a whole symbol or a half looking for its match.

  When he saw her, his eyes softened just a hair. "Listen, I'd like to hear the story. From beginning to end. If the balas is mine, if you real y are an emissary from Mirabelle, I think I deserve it, don't you?"

  Interesting way to go, pul ing at the heartstrings . . . and well, it was possibly a valid point. "Perhaps. "

  "Good. " He kicked his chin forward, aiming for the inside of the berth. "Can we do this in there?"

  Kate hesitated. Having Nicholas Roman in close proximity seemed dangerous in more ways than one, but then again pul ing in an audience of passengers and staff while they discussed the murder of a vampire wasn't a good idea either.

  Jaw tight, she let him in. His scent moved into the room with him, past her cheek, her shoulder, a life of its own.

  Way past six feet tall, he nearly grazed the ceiling as he walked into the room. At once, the space seemed too smal to contain him, and Kate moved back in a hurry. He went over to the window, stood with his back against the glass.

  The car rocked like a piece of driftwood on a stormy sea, but the paven remained solid and unmoving.

  His black eyes narrowed under long black lashes. "How did she die?"

  The memory of Mirabelle's murder flashed through her mind like nauseating bolts of lightning, stil shots of a horror movie. "We were outside Ladd's school; Mirabelle was late picking him up. " She shook her head. "It was only seconds after she got there-she didn't even get to touch the kid one last time, you know?"

  "What happened?"

  "A male came out from the trees real fast, jumped on her"-she shrugged, hating herself in that moment-"sliced her through before I could do anything. "

  Nicholas frowned, his eyes momentarily haunted as he was no doubt coming up with his own version of what she'd witnessed. "Pureblood or Impure?"

  "Not sure. "

  "Did you see his face?"

  She nodded.

  "Did you know him?"

  "Never saw him before. "

  "Did he say anything? Why he was there? What he wanted?"

  "Nothing. "

  "Did he go after you or Ladd?" There was palpable ferocity in his query, and it surprised her. Maybe he'd loved Mirabelle, maybe stil did.

  The very thought made Kate both dislike him more and want to jump on him and lick the scent of him off his solid neck.

  "He started to come at us," Kate began, trying to force that grotesque revelation out of her mind. "But then he stopped and took off. "

  "What stopped him?"

  "No idea. "

  He growled with irritation. "You're extraordinar
ily helpful, you know that?"

  "Hey," she returned just as fierce. "I'm giving you the only answers I have. Besides, why should I be al that helpful?

  You don't believe me anyway. "

  "There are ten reasons engraved into your neck why I shouldn't," he said.

  "And you have two carved into your face that should make me loathe your very existence," she shot back. "Did Mirabelle even want to screw you? Or did you take her by force?"

  "Fuck you. "

  "No, thanks. "

  "Saving yourself for a paven who gets turned on by ex-cons?" he said with a flash of venom. Or was it barely disguised passion? It was hard to tel rage and fervor apart at times, and for a second Kate wondered if he felt an attraction to her too. And if he did, did he despise the feeling as much as she?

  His eyes probed hers. "How long have you been working for Dare?"

  "Seriously?" she said on a dark laugh. "Are we real y going back there?"

  He crossed his arms over his chest. "Did he get you out of prison? Did you make a deal? Your freedom for my life?"

  "Fuck you. "

  "No, thanks. " He grinned.

  She nearly returned that grin. "You have your answers.

  Now, why don't you get the hel off this train and back to the boy?"

  "Oh, I am getting off this train, but you're coming with me. "

  "Not a chance. " She said it al tough and as-if, but her insides started churning with nerves.

  "You seem to think you have a choice. "

  "I'll always have a choice. I'll kil to have the choice. "

  "I just bet you would," he began, pushing away from the window. But as he started toward her, a hard knock at the door stopped him cold.

  And a low, male voice cal ed out, "Tickets, please. "

  Nicholas had been halfway to her, and if that asshole on the other side of the door hadn't interrupted their little chat he'd have been nose to nose with the veana right now.

  And wasn't that what he wanted? What his fool body was screaming for? Nose to nose, her breath on his face, her hands brushing his hands-her delicious scent enveloping him as he warned her that she was never getting away from him?

  There was another knock. "Come on, now. I know you're in there. "

  Nicholas hissed. He ought to break the human's neck or at the very least remove his voice box.

  "I'll go," Kate said, starting for the door. "I have the ticket. "

  "Fine. Hurry up and get rid of him. "

  "Yeah. Sure thing. " She went to the door and opened it wide. Too wide, in fact. What the hel was she trying to do?

  Get him noticed? Instigate a fight? Because that's what was going to happen if the ticket taker saw his vampire ass.

  "Evening, miss," Nicholas heard the guy say. "May I see your ticket, please?"

  "Of course," Kate answered, al nice and soft and obliging.

  There were a few seconds of looking and reading, then a tsk-tsk, and the human said, "You don't have a sleeper ticket, miss. "

  "Oh," Kate said innocently. "Are you sure?"

  The guy chuckled softly. "You need to leave now-head back to coach. In fact, I'll escort you there. "

  "Okay, thanks. No problem. Sorry about that. " And that was it.

  Nicholas waited.

  Where the helll. . . What was she . . .

  She slipped out the door without even a look back at him.

  And then there was the ticket taker, his meaty hand pul ing the door closed.

  Staring at the windowless slab of metal, Nicholas nearly had an aneurysm. His body was wound so goddamn tight al he wanted to do was rip the door off its hinges, flash down the corridor, and tear that human to bits-drain him dry and take the veana back.

  "Are you always helping sil y girls like me get back to where they belong?" Nicholas heard Kate ask as she and the ticket trol walked down the hal together.

  The guy laughed. Yeah, he was into it, into her, the whole flirty female routine. Sucker. Mondrar had been most instructive . . .

  "It's not a good trip unless someone's trying to sneak into the wrong room," the guy responded.

  Nicholas was panting, sweating, his hands bal ed into fists.

  Christ. Something was off with him.

  Way too much predatory anger for the situation.

  Had to be morpho-had to be. Or some kind of magic Dare was using to rev up his engines and lure him into a trap. Nicholas didn't even want to contemplate the other option. A blond, brown-eyed True Mate, who was as sneaky as a python and just as trustworthy.

  Sara enjoyed a quiet house. But she knew that the peacefulness of the moment was nothing more than the calm before the storm.

  Another storm. One that wouldn't let up without two very important Impures getting what they deserved-death and life.

  Sara glanced down at the seven-year-old balas with hair the color of clouds who was asleep on her lap. His breathing was easy now, though a moment ago, he'd been dreaming. His painful, soft cries were difficult on the ears, yet devastating on the heart. As a psychiatrist, Sara understood the stages of grief that a child went through when they lost a parent, but as one who had lost her father at an early age, she felt for Ladd on a whole different level.

  "What's al this?"

  Sara looked up, smiled. Dillon stood in the doorway, her hazel cat eyes narrowed playfully.

  "Are we babysitting tonight?" she asked.

  Sara laughed softly. "Not we. Me. You know no one would ever trust you with a kid, D. "

  "True. " The ripped, badass bodyguard to a human senator pushed away from the doorframe and strode in.

  Her auburn hair had grown in the two months since Alexander had hired the veana to guard Sara when her patient had flipped out and done the scary stalking thing.

  Now D was back working for the senator from Maine, but stopped by once a month or so to bust bal s and check in on certain people.

  As Dillon dropped into the chair opposite, Sara felt the old rush of teasing antagonism that suited their friendship so wel sizzle between them.

  "Slumming again, vampire?" Sara asked with a grin.

  Dillon shrugged. "Your mate wanted to talk about a few credenti males who left the Maine compound last week. My cel is top-of-the-line, even have Skype-don't know why I feel the need to do this in person. "

  "'Course you do. " Sara's grin widened. "You get to see me. "

  Dillon pointed a finger at her. "You can't flirt with me anymore, human. " It was what Dillon had cal ed her back when they'd both thought she was a human. They knew differently now, but a nickname that annoyingly cute just couldn't help but stick. "You're mated now. "

  "I have had no Veracou," Sara said, referring to the vampire wedding ceremony that was given only to Pureblood mates.

  "Technicality," Dillon tossed out.

  "Come on, D. You know you'l always be my guilty little secret. "

  Dillon gestured to the sleeping balas in Sara's arms.

  "Not in front of the kid, Fang Tease. And whose kid is this anyway?"

  "Could very wel be a little Roman brother. "

  Dillon's cat eyes grew wide. "Alexander's?"

  "Nicholas's. "

  "No shit. "

  After helping out Sara with her stalker and the Roman brothers when they were trying to off Ethan Dare the first time, Dillon had become more than just a body for hire. She didn't have much of anyone to cal family, and even if she acted like a pain in the ass sometimes, they had al made her understand she was not only needed, but welcome in their house and in their lives.

  "Speaking of brothers," Dillon said, kicking her feet up on the coffee table. "How's Gray doing?"

  Al playfulness ceased, and Sara shrugged. "He's functioning, I suppose. "

  "Interesting answer. "

  Sara laughed softly. "It's kind of the only one I've got.

  He's barely here and when he is it's like he doesn'
t hear me or see me . . . " She shrugged again. "He stil lives inside his head. "

  "Is he helping the Romans?" Dillon asked.

  "He trains with them sometimes. Alexander thinks it's good for him to be physical, to feel needed and part of a pack. "

  "What do you think?"

  "I think he wants to be anywhere but here. I think he's miserable and has no idea who he is or what he wants. "

  Sara's gaze dropped to the boy in her lap once again. She hadn't been al that much older than Ladd when she'd accidental y started the fire that had kil ed her father and disfigured her brother. For years, she'd watched Gray turn inside himself, stop talking and give up on life. She'd become a psychiatrist for him, spent every day inventing ways to bring him back to life, spent every night dreaming of ways to remove the traumatic memories from his brain.

  She'd failed every time. Later, she'd found out it was because he was half vampire, and instead of using therapeutic methods, he'd needed his memories bled.

  Dillon shrugged. "The guy was trapped inside himself for years. Blowing off steam, staying out, lack of communication, screwing females-you're the shrink-it's kind of expected, isn't it?"

  Releasing a heavy breath, Sara nodded. "I guess. "

  "But . . . you're worried. "

  "I don't begrudge him a few wild nights. I just don't want him getting hurt. Again. "

  Dillon sat forward, swiped a magazine off the table. "He's not a balas, Sara. Extend the leash or he'l break it. "

  Yes, that was entirely possible. But it did nothing to quel her anxiety. "Maybe if you're in the city again soon, or while you're here now, you could check on him?"

  "You want me to spy?" Dillon asked dryly.

  Sara smiled. "You're so good at it. "

  Dillon chuckled, flipped through the magazine. "I think you need to let him be. For now. If things get real y out of control, I'll check it out. Deal?"

  "Yeah. Okay. " Sara stood up, the heavy balas in her arms. "Want to help me put him to bed?"

  Dillon didn't even look up from her Entertainment Weekly. Clint Eastwood was on the cover sel ing his latest film, and the veana was a wreck for a good Western. "I'm meeting up with your mate in a minute, and besides, Eastwood wil always come before diapers and drool. "

  Sara laughed softly and headed for the door. "You're so sensitive, D. "

  After sitting in coach next to a teenager who smel ed like warm Fritos, waiting for the ticket guy to get distracted and take off, Kate escaped the car once again and without garnering notice headed for the end of the line-the caboose. She needed off this train, and when it slowed into the next stop she was jumping. Between the watchful eyes of the train service crew and an overly amped Pureblood paven who thought he was going to control where she went and when, she was done.

  Hell, she could hitchhike if she had to. No one was going to mess with a female with fangs.

  She moved down the hall, didn't slow as the train rocked from one side to another like a carnival ride. Son of a Breeding Male-son of a bitch. Nicholas Roman had no idea who he was dealing with. Granted, she had a few soft places left inside her, but when it came to her freedom, she was one hundred percent hard-ass.

  She slammed her palm into the black push sign and the doors leading from one car to the next opened. When she saw it was empty, she ran, fast as she could down the corridor, night spil ing in through the wal of windows to her left. She knew that if Roman could find her once, he could do it again, and he seemed pretty hel -bent on taking her home despite al the information about Mirabelle she'd given him. Seriously, what more did the paven want? Why couldn't he just keep what he had, deal with it, and let her move the fuck on.

  And she was moving on. Hell, if she had to she'd jump off this two-hundred-ton bul et at ful speed.

  Spying the final car up ahead, she hustled forward.

  Through one set of doors, then to the padlocked door to a large baggage and storage area. Pul ing out her knife, she settled the tip of the blade into the keyhole and twisted a few times. When the thing sprang free, she pulled it out and tossed it aside.

  Across the storage room, the door to the caboose was open, the metal slide retracted. Crisp winter air hit her face and neck as she hustled toward it. It was a perfect night for a crazy jump-over the railing, off the side, into the snow and grass-then head south to the highway.

  She was nearly through the door to the caboose when a sound behind her made her whirl around.

  "Where's the boy, bitch?"

  For one brief second, Kate thought it was Nicholas standing there, but the male before her had a heartbeat and was a mouse with a bad attitude compared to the Roman brother. This pale, dark-haired male was a coward, an Impure-and the bastard who'd kil ed Mirabelle Letts in cold blood before her child's eyes.

  "Where is the boy?" he said again.

  Kate gripped the railing, but stayed calm. "I don't know. "

  "Bul shit," he spat.

  "Maybe I dropped his little vampire ass somewhere in the city. "

  "I'm not playing, veana," he sneered, walking toward her.

  She shrugged, acted casual. "Fine. I gave him to the Eyes, okay?"

  "What?"

  "Sold him. "

  "I don't believe you. "

  "Do you see the kid on me? He's long gone. " She shrugged. "I needed the money. Hard life living outside the credenti. "

  His eyes registered just a hint of panic. "What member of the Eyes?"

  "Haddad. "

  "Try again," he said menacingly. Clearly, he knew the Eyes and that she was bul shitting him.

  "Fine. It was Cambridge. "

  "Better. "

  Kate felt like a shit, but there was nothing for it.

  Cambridge was the only member of the Eyes she knew.

  The tricky bastard had occupied the cel next to hers in Mondrar for a year and a half. He was the one she'd gone to for information on Nicholas. Oh, he was going to be thril ed she'd sent this jerkoff his way, but then again, Cambridge was pretty fearless. He knew how to handle any sticky situation he found himself in.

  "Now, if you want to live," the male uttered, flashing his fangs, "tel me exactly where you dropped him. "

  "Maybe I don't want to live," Kate tossed back, even as she slowly eased the knife from the back waistband of her jeans.

  There were many days in Mondrar when she'd have asked this piece of shit to send her off the planet permanently with one bul et to the brain. But that day wasn't today. She had a chance, a possible future for herself, and this Impure asshole wasn't going to take it away from her like he had Mirabelle.

  "You want to die, do you, veana?" he said, closing the distance between them. "Well, I'd be happy to help . "

  Forced to move back onto the platform of the caboose, Kate flashed her knife and crouched down. "Didn't say I wanted you to be the one to do it. "

  Beneath the staccato of snowfall, she jabbed out with her blade, hoping to catch him off guard, hoping to buy herself a moment or two. But the Impure moved shockingly fast, a sudden blur. Adrenaline rushed through Kate's blood. She hated this, hated that this was her life-fighting and escaping, running and praying.

  She jabbed at him low, but got nothing but air. When she pulled back, it was the Impure's blade that made contact, slashing her hand. She hissed at the sting of pain.

  This wasn't right. He was a freaking Impure. He shouldn't have speed or strength.

  She felt the railing at her back, felt the cold-the sting of her flesh wound. And she felt him, the Impure, he was going to kil her. Breathing heavy, wielding her knife at any part of him that came near, she weighed her options. Truth was, when you couldn't win a fight, you knew it in your gut and you needed to turn and run.

  Or in her case-jump.

  Like a bloodhound, Nicholas fol owed Kate's scent, stalking through the train cars, his height, facial brands, and fierce attitude scaring the shit out of passengers w
ho were stumbling out of their bunks, half asleep to hit the bathroom.

  It wasn't his intention, just an unfortunate part of being himself.

  He came around the corner and moved through coach, hoping he wouldn't run into any of the crew. His brother Alexander was one lucky Pureblood. The ability to mask oneself from view would've real y come in handy right about now. Apart from the regular enhancements of morpho, the only additional talent Nicholas possessed were the ribbed fangs in his mouth-not exactly something he could use to disguise himself.

  He pushed through the door leading from one car to the other, headed down a hal way, then came to the end of the line-a storage car and the caboose. He was halfway through storage when he heard her. Her and someone else. . .

  Holy shit. He sprinted across the car and sprang through the door to the exterior, winter air, pelting snow and the faintest scent of sewer slamming him ful on. But he barely noticed any of it. There was Kate, knife in hand, her face a mask of fear and rage as she slashed in sharp X patterns at a dark-haired male.

  "I should have gutted you back at the credenti," the male screamed over the train and wind, his back to Nicholas as he easily avoided her stabbing motions, "let your blood run into the snow right alongside that sad little veana. But that would've been a waste, wouldn't it?" He grinned. "Now you can be al mine to consume. "

  Nicholas's fangs shot from his mouth, and he flew forward, had the Impure bastard in a headlock in under a second, gun to his temple. "The lady's spoken for, asshole,"he growled into the male's ear.

  With one quick glance over his shoulder, the male Nicholas had yet to see grinned up at him, then flashed out of his arms.

  Nicholas bared his fangs and howled into the night air.

  "Mother fucking Ethan Dare!"
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