Available now at Cobblestone Press
Reclusive vampire Sapphire McKenzie lives in her penthouse apartment with fortress-like security run by her AI computer, Van. She’s been hailed as the greatest armchair detective since Mycroft Holmes and has solved every case she’s ever been asked to investigate – and even some she hasn’t.
Her ex-lover, Drake Chastain, is a retired basketball star living off his fame and fortune until women he’s dated begin disappearing, then reappearing…dead.. With Drake framed for murder, Sapphire has to leave behind the safety of her home to save the man she loves…or die trying.
Fighting back a swell of nausea, Sapphire watched the shadow under the door recede. Whoever had attacked her apparently wanted her alive, and not dead. She pressed a hand to her temple and shuddered when it came away sticky with blood. Or perhaps he just wanted her to die slowly. She hadn’t lost a lot of blood, but being unable to manufacture more of the precious life force put a crimp in her situation. She needed to feed.
She knew she had recovered from the blow to her head much faster than her attacker had anticipated. Then she’d hidden in her closet. Now, if she could just get him to open the door…
She rested her ear against the thick wooden panel, hoping to get a clue as to his location. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on picking up the tiniest of sounds, and was rewarded when she heard a flurry of noise. Running footsteps, a slamming door, and then…silence. Had her attacker been disturbed? Or had he just left her to die? She slowly twisted the door knob and pushed, but the door remained stubbornly closed.
It was insane. No doors in her penthouse locked of their own accord. Access to all rooms, heating, air-conditioning, and security—indeed, absolutely everything inside the apartment was controlled by her assistant, Van Helsing. She had always known people were not a good security risk. Someone downstairs had to have let the intruder onto her floor and disabled the alarm when the security system was breached. That’s why she’d created Van.
He was the perfect assistant, simply because he wasn’t human. Van was an artificially intelligent computer program she’d designed five years ago. No way would he ever turn against her. Perhaps he thought that by keeping her locked away, he was keeping her safe.
She raised her fists to start banging and shouting for help, when the small amount of light seeping under the door dimmed.
Damn it. The intruder hadn’t left after all.
Her first moan was unintentional. But the intruder paused, as if he were listening. So she moaned again.
“Come closer, you bastard, and open the door. I’ll give you a taste of pain,” she murmured under her breath. Then she moaned again, theatrically.
This time, she clearly heard someone approach the door.
She put her hand on the knob and felt it turn. Whoever was on the other side was strong; the door shuddered. But it obstinately stayed shut.
“Well then, don’t open, damn it.” A male voice cursed.
Sapphire went still. She knew that voice. Drake Chastain? If Drake had broken into her apartment and hit her on the head with a baseball bat, then he was surely responsible for the disappearances and deaths of all those other women. The world spun dizzily for a moment. But if he were responsible, then she was wrong about everything. In which case, being locked up was the safest place for her for the time being.
The door shuddered under her hand again.
“Oh, please,” Sapphire murmured. “Don’t open.”
To her surprise and chagrin, the door swung wide and sunlight flashed in, blinding her.
Although she couldn’t see, she did the only thing that came to mind. She lunged out, fangs bared, and prepared to dispense with her attacker before he killed her first.
A spitting wildcat was Drake’s only thought as he held the tall, thin redhead at arm’s length. Once again, he was glad for his height and long reach. A hurricane brewed in the depths of Sapphire’s sea-green eyes, and with each toss of her head a sinister hiss slid through her gleaming fangs. She kicked out at him with her long legs and managed to land a few blows dangerously close to his balls.
He didn’t want to risk her disabling him, so he tossed her into the middle of the bed.
“Damn it woman, I’m here to rescue you.”
He braced himself for impact when she pulled up into a crouch. She stared at him, her breath coming in harsh gasps. That’s when he saw blood and a fast-coloring bruise on the side of her beautiful face. Instinctively, he reached out to push her long curly hair aside and take a closer look at her injuries.
She flinched, as if she expected him to hit her.
“What happened?” he whispered. “You’re hurt.”
“As if you don’t know. You broke in and attacked me.”
“No, I didn’t. ” Drake shook his head. “Your apartment security had already been breached when I arrived. You can ask ; he’ll back me up.” Drake hoped so, anyway.
“? Management fired him six months ago.”
“What? But—I –” Caught off guard, Drake motioned behind him, as if he could miraculously conjure up the doorman to substantiate his story. When he looked back at Sapphire, she was smiling. “What?”
It might have been nothing, but her smile changed her entire demeanor. To his relief, he realized she was no longer afraid of him.
“Well, if you didn’t break in, who did?”
“You didn’t see who attacked you?”
“Nope.” Sapphire shook her head, and then grimaced with pain. “I only heard the whoosh of air right before something hit me. I take it you didn’t see anyone, either?”
“I wasted the opportunity. When I first came in, I thought there might be someone in the kitchen, but I came to the bedroom instead. As soon as my back was turned, I heard someone running. Then the front door slammed.”
“You didn’t go after them?” Sapphire’s voice sounded odd, and Drake shot a sharp look in her direction.
“Are you okay?”
She raised her hand to her forehead, and before Drake could cross the room, she fell, hitting her head on the footboard of the bed.
He lifted her off the floor and placed her in the center of her bed. Then he ran a hand across the back of his neck. He recognized her symptoms and knew what she needed. Blood. She’d obviously lost just enough to make her weak. She’d need to feed…and soon.
His cock hardened as he looked at her. She was dressed for bed in a filmy white nightgown that showed off more than it hid from view. He could see her nipples through the fabric, and at the junction of her thighs was a mound of darkness he knew hid the pink lips of her sex. The soft curve of her breasts rose and fell with each breath she took. It had been over two years, but he could still remember the feel of their weight in his hands. He ached to touch her, to taste her. To fuck her. All he had to do was climb onto the bed with her. She needed him.
No. He shoved his hands into his pockets and turned away. She didn’t need him. She needed blood. Anyone’s blood. She had a stable of young studs on whom she fed regularly. It was also a given that her nightly feeding was probably accompanied by a generous dessert of sex. Yet the thought of her being with someone else, even if there were no feelings involved, sickened him.
She had left him. He was the one who had called her, sent flowers, and tried everything to win her back. But she had spurned all his efforts. So what made him think she’d want him now? Hell, just a few minutes ago, she’d seemed convinced he was the one who’d attacked her.
Yet…he glanced back over at her thin build, and his heart tugged painfully in his chest. He still loved her. It would only take one word from her, and he’d offer up his neck and his heart.
Sapphire stirred and moaned, her hand fluttering to her head. Then she opened her eyes and looked at him.
Hell, it didn’t even take a word.
Heat coiled up from her belly. She had wanted Drake for so long. It had taken every ounce of willpower she had not to call him. Now, he was here. She had to clench her hands in the bedspread to keep from leaping from the bed and tearing off his clothes. But this had to be something he wanted, too.
When a look of indecision flitted across his features, her heart shattered. She had caused him so much pain, of course he was going to just walk away. It would be so much easier for both of them if he did.
His eyes bore into hers before he turned toward the door. A whimper of pain and regret filled the air, and with a start, she realized it came from her. She closed her eyes and forced back the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. Although it would break her heart if he left, she wasn’t going to let him see her cry.
A rough thud made her jump. She opened her eyes and blinked in surprise. Drake had shut the door and propped a chair under the knob to jam it shut.
He turned to her with a grin and a shrug. “The lock wouldn’t work.” Then he paused, as if suddenly realizing she’d thought he was going to leave. His grin widened, and he struck an erotic pose and waggled his eyebrows at her. From where he was standing, Sapphire had a perfect view of his front, and his back was reflected in the full-length mirror on her bedroom door. He blew her a kiss, and then slid his hand up and down his torso before unbuttoning one button on his shirt.
She started to get up, but he motioned for her to stay still. Then he undid another button and shifted his pose. Through his tight slacks, the muscles in his butt clenched.
Heat flamed between Sapphire’s thighs, and she ached for his cock as much as she hungered for his blood.
His hands hovered over the next button. But instead of slipping it through the material, he grasped the shirt and pulled it off over his head in one graceful movement. His chest and arm muscles rippled, but before she could get a good look at him, he turned his back, teasing her. He rocked his hips to music only he could hear, and she suddenly realized he was undoing his belt. She heard the rough rasp of his zipper and found she was holding her breath.
Copyright 2008 Ericka Scott