Alexa O'Brien Huntress Book Four
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Bloodlust and power. Werewolf Alexa O’Brien is a slave to them both. As she falls deeper into the seductive embrace of blood and death, the dangerous desire is encouraged by a forbidden attraction.
While trying to run the problematic local vampire hotspot, The Wicked Kiss, Alexa learns that someone is seeking the killers of its former owner. One of those killers just happens to be her. For Alexa’s vampire lover, Arys Knight, it takes a personal twist and soon becomes clear there’s something he’s not sharing. Something that could unlock the mystery of where their power comes from and why it is so deadly.
Editor: B. Leigh Hogan
Cover Artist: Michael Hart
I watched them flock to the dance floor with drinks in hand, a sea of bodies crushed together in a swarm of sexual heat and forbidden desire. The majority of the patrons were human, like usual. But, The Wicked Kiss wouldn’t be what it was without the regular turnover of vampire clientele. Not to mention whatever else wandered in.
Cymbals crashed as the music came to a crescendo, drawing my gaze to the stage and the burlesque dancers that seduced the crowd. Live entertainment was a relatively new addition to the club, which had recently undergone a bit of a makeover. After killing Harley Kayson, my vampire lover’s sire, and taking over the club, I’d been forced to look around and accept the cold hard fact that I ran a whorehouse for vampires. There was no way to sugar-coat it. Just call me, “Madam.”
Of course, that didn’t mean I had to run a blood whorehouse that looked tacky and cheap. The first chance I got, I made changes, a much-needed therapy. The décor, the entertainment, the security, I’d overhauled everything in my attempt to wipe out any trace of the former owner and to take The Kiss from trashy to classy.
Hardwood replaced the carpet. A delicious blend of dark colors replaced the garish mix-and-match disaster. Replacing the DJ with a live band and adding the dancers two nights a week had been a key factor in changing the atmosphere of the place. Re-launching The Wicked Kiss had taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, literally. But, this was worth it.
“Easy pickings,” Jez observed between sips of her bright pink cocktail. “I can see why this appeals to some vampires. Seems like it would take a lot of the fun out of it, though. No thrill of the hunt.”
I agreed completely. The rush of the hunt was almost better than the kill itself.
Jez and I weren’t vampires. Well, Jez wasn’t. I had more than my share of vampire power, thanks to Arys, but I wasn’t one, at least not until I died anyway. As Weres, a leopard and wolf respectively, Jez and I desired the hunt. While some vampires shared that need, the bloodlust ruled them.
A few people came through the front entry, and I automatically looked up in scrutiny. I thoroughly trusted everyone working security, especially my mate, Shaz. However, a vampire tried to stake me a couple of months back, and I was a little leery of the patrons.
That had been an odd twist. I’d never been as scared as I was with that stake piercing the flesh just over my heart. The vampire had been pretty clear on his intentions. He believed that someone like me shouldn’t exist. I had power that included that of both the wolf and the vampire. It made me more than each of them. Clearly, some people were threatened by that. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder a little more than I used to.
“So where’s Kale?” Jez sucked the last of her drink through a cocktail straw, making a slurping sound worse than nails on a chalkboard. “Isn’t he usually here, partaking of the goods?”
“Yes, usually. I don’t know where he is. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen him.”
Kale legally owned The Wicked Kiss due to some string pulling on my end. He’d been a regular patron of the club longer than I cared to think about. When I killed Harley, I arranged for Kale to take over ownership with me as a silent partner.
“Strange. I haven’t seen him lately, either. I wonder what he’s been up to.” Jez mused, suspicion in her eyes.
Thankfully, Kale’s absence didn’t affect The Wicked Kiss too drastically. Like a living, breathing entity; it would continue to operate regardless of who was present.
A flash of platinum blond hair moving through the crowd caught my eye, Shaz; every other man in the building paled in comparison to him. With blue jeans and a black staff t-shirt that showed off his delicious build, he was casual but damn sexy.
“Lex, a vampire that Shawn doesn’t recognize is trying to get in. He seems sketchy. I don’t like him.” Shaz awaited my decision, looking down at me with jade green eyes that sparkled with the wolf within. Just twenty-four, he was still so youthful, but he held wisdom far beyond his years.
“Kale’s not here to check him out. Tell him to come back another time. Let me know if he makes trouble.”
“Yes,” Jez added with a sly smile. “I have a pointy little friend that I’d love to use tonight. It’s been a while.”
Shaz smirked at her. “I hope that means what I think it means.”
“That depends what you think, I guess.” Jez winked and waved over a passing waitress for another drink.
Shaz gave her a friendly shove before heading back to the lobby. I was anxious and resisted the urge to follow him. I didn’t want to act as if I didn’t trust him to take care of an obnoxious vampire. Shaz was an Alpha wolf; he could hold his own. I’m just a control freak by nature.
I gave Jez a quick once over, wondering where the hell she was hiding a stake in tight leather pants and a midriff baring halter top. I was betting on those calf-high, kick-ass boots.
I turned a keen eye to the dance floor. Vampires didn’t give a shit about dancing. But, their alcohol-driven donors sure did. The writhing human bodies, most of them scantily clad, were more than some weak-willed blood suckers could take.
I’d seen a lot of crazy shit in this place. Sex and bloodshed were simply the more common occurrences. When Kale and I took over The Wicked Kiss, I had assumed I could change things, make it a place that spawned less death and fewer new vampires. So far, I’d been wrong.
The waitress brought Jez’ drink and asked me if I’d like one. I wanted to keep a clear head since Kale wasn’t here. Although I could have definitely gone for a Jack Daniels on the rocks, I shook my head. Jez dropped a healthy tip on the tray, receiving a broad smile before the waitress sauntered off to the next table.
“I love that you guys own this place. Free drinks are almost enough to make me a regular here.” Jez raised her drink as if toasting the air before taking a large swallow.
“Oh yeah? You stick around long enough, and you’ll have vampires crawling all over you, begging for that supreme Were blood.”
“I was propositioned the moment I walked in the door. I almost punched the guy in the throat. Now, if he’d been a smoking hot vampiress instead … I might have considered it.”
I opened my mouth to make a smart ass remark but was quickly silenced by a woman who threw herself through the entryway, shrieking bloody murder. Blood poured from a ragged wound in her neck and covered her hands. Her words came in a rush, most of them incomprehensible.
It took a moment for me to react. I was stunned by what I saw. Only when Shaz rushed in behind her did I snap into action.
“She just came screaming past me,” he shouted over the music. “I don’t know what the hell happened.”
Many vampires nearby noticed the strong scent of her blood. I reached her quickly, grasping her by the shoulders. She was hysterical, barely focusing her eyes on me. It was obviously a vampire bite, a serious one at that. The blood was pumping fast, and her hysterics were only encouraging the flow.
“Go see if you can find who did this,” I told Shaz as I tried to get the woman to look into my eyes. “He’s got to be close by.”
“Can you speak? You’ve got to calm down,” I said to her, shaking her slightly to get her to look at me.
Instead, her eyes started to roll back in her head, and she said something that sounded like, “I didn’t know.” I could feel the hungry energy of a few younger vampires that lacked strength and control. This was not looking good.
Everything happened so fast. I sensed the vampire’s attack a split second before it happened. He lunged at the bleeding woman in a blur of speed, knocking me aside in his haste to get to her. She didn’t make a sound when he bit her, causing another gush of blood to flow.
Jez was suddenly there with stake in hand, trying to find a clear shot. The vampire drank greedily from the gushing fount. A few cries rang out from the onlookers, the human ones. A few weaker vampires backed away from the scene, but the older, more powerful ones merely watched with mild interest.
I grabbed the vampire by the shoulders, but he wouldn’t be budged without tearing a nasty hole in his victim. Shifting to an alternate method of attack, I focused on forcing metaphysical power into him, burning him from the inside out. He responded by back handing me hard enough to take me off my feet. Bloodlust empowered vampires the way nothing else could.
Jez took a shot at him next, landing a solid punch to his temple, but he never released his fanged hold on the woman. Jez didn’t let up, hitting him again and again. When that didn’t work, she plunged the stake into his back, aiming for his heart. She missed. Cursing, she reached for him with fierce leopard claws. Jez grabbed him by the back of the neck, sinking those razor-sharp claws deep into his flesh.
He finally whirled to face her. Blood dripped from his mouth to stain his chin. His eyes were wild, and his pupils were enormous. He moved with inhuman speed, grabbing Jez with both hands. The bleeding woman swayed on her feet. Her eyes rolled up in her head, and she hit the floor.
Instinct said I should help Jez tear apart the crazed vampire, but I couldn’t just leave that woman laid out on the floor. As soon as I touched her, I knew she was dead. I was too late. Fuck. This was exactly what I was trying to prevent in this damn place.
Arys was going to love this. He was my biggest skeptic; he doubted I could control my patrons.
I turned back to Jez in time to see her slash those vicious claws across the throat of the snarling vampire. The force took his head right off, and it came straight at me. Without thinking, I ducked, but it burst into ash with the rest of his body. A shower of dust rained down all around me, and I cringed.
The crowd of onlookers quickly dispersed then. Some of them didn’t want to end up like our dusty friend, and others just lost interest that fast. The humans were staring at Jez with wide eyes. Bloody claws and wild cat eyes, she was a hell of a vision. She looked far more frightening than the vampires in The Kiss.
I brushed at the dust and ash on my clothes and gave my hair a shake. Well, this was just fucking great.
Then, Shaz appeared in the doorway. His eyes were pure wolf, and blood stained his clothing. And, standing behind Shaz with crossed arms and a smirk was Arys. Fabulous.
I surveyed the mess of vampire remains. That wasn’t much of a cleanup. A good vacuum would get the job done. However, that was the least of my concerns. A woman lay dead on the floor of the nightclub I’d sworn to change. So far, things were not going my way. Now, I had to listen to Arys gloat about being right.
He sauntered over to me with a grace possessed only by vampires that had lived for centuries. His sexy, bedroom-messy, raven black hair shone deep blue beneath the dim lighting. The fang-revealing grin he wore irritated me as much as it enticed.
“Go ahead and say it.” I threw both hands in the air and glared. “I know you want to. Have at it.”
His chuckle stroked me deep inside, and our power sparked when he grasped my upraised hands in his, lacing our fingers together. Leaning close enough to brush his lips against mine, he murmured, “I told you so.”
I couldn’t help the way my power instantly mingled with his. We were bound by blood, so it would always be this way. Though I’d recently gained more control over my abilities, Arys could always strip me of it with the right touch, look or careful whisper.
“Since you’re enjoying this so much, you can clean up the body.” I flashed him a smirk of my own and pulled away before the flame burning between us could grow into a blazing inferno.
“I got him.” Shaz stepped up beside me with a bleeding gash below his eye. I hadn’t noticed it in the chaos. “Pretty easy take down.”
I gently touched his face, trying to get a better look at his superficial wound. It looked worse than it was. I couldn’t resist letting my pinky finger slide through the blood that ran in a single rivulet down his cheek. He watched as I brought it close, smelling his powerful werewolf blood. I would have tasted it, but Arys intercepted the motion.
Gripping my wrist tightly, he brought my hand to his mouth and slowly licked Shaz’ blood from my little finger. His tongue was warm and inviting as he stroked it along my flesh. My breath caught, and I was flush with unbidden desire. Arys’ gaze was intent on Shaz, watching for his reaction.
“You are such a dick.” Shaz shoved past us, purposely shouldering Arys as he went. Arys just laughed. He liked to get under Shaz’ skin, and Shaz made it far too easy for him.
“Don’t start with him tonight,” I warned. “If you haven’t noticed, I have enough to deal with here without you playing with him. One of these days, he’s going to lose it on you, and then you’re on your own.”
Arys’ smile vanished, but the mischievous glint in his eyes remained. “I wish he would.”
“Oh, you do not.” I shook my head, exasperated.
Arys’ fun with Shaz stemmed from their intense dislike for one another.
They’d gone from fist fights to stubborn acceptance. A ménage à trois thatresulted in a bite and even a kiss between the two of them had reminded Shaz of what he hated about Arys: everything. Of course, that had a lot to do with Shaz’ resentment that he’d enjoyed the bite of the vampire he despised.
“Look, just leave Shaz alone. Help me clean up, and you can rub my total failure in my face later.”
I turned away from Arys. People packed the dance floor as if nothing had disrupted them. Newcomers made their way through the lobby into the main part of the club. I had to get this body moved.
Arys swept past me, lifting her easily in his arms and retreating through the rear exit. I caught his eye and nodded my thanks. Ok, so things weren’t going as planned, but they could be worse. Right?