As the others file out, I lay my hand on the sleeve of Dria’s jacket. Wait, my love. Let them all go ahead.
What’s on your mind?
Joanna worries me. Are you sure her obsession is connected only to the blood lust?
All young vamps want the blood of master vamps to increase their own power. What else could it be?
Has her mind been damaged permanently by your prolonged occupation and control?
No, Dria’s voice comes through loud and firm. Angie suffered worse for a full year before I rescued her from Ivan’s sadistic dual raping of her mind and body. She came out fine.
She did not come out fine, I gently remind her. Best not to anger her before greeting the guests. Your considerable skills repaired her mind and you saved her.
Are you suggesting I go back in and try to fix Joanna more?
I back off from the topic; happy I’ve planted the seed. No liebling, it was just a thought. Give her more time before you take such a risk at exposing yourself.
Reaching out, I pull her forward with a gentle tug on her glorious long hair. My mouth molds to her fuller one and lingers over a kiss. Snaking my tongue between her lips, I graze the sharp peaks of her canines, deliberately urging the involuntary reaction of her predatory nature.
Dria’s hand comes forward, her fingers run through my short hair grasping it to pull me closer and deepen the kiss. In return, she draws an base reaction from me. Blood rushes from every portion of my body to my cock. It never fails to amaze me that no matter how often we make love, she can still call a reaction from me at any time.
I break off the exchange—despite my growing physical discomfort, this is not a good time. “Later. We’ve got work to do.”
The pout underneath her cute button nose is almost comical. “Fine. For now. But you know I’d make them all wait for a chance to break in the new conference room.”
The urge to satisfy the lust in her eyes makes me almost give in. “How about we do so when this week ends and no one is manning the control room, like they are now?”
“Good point. You win.”
As we rise to leave, I reach down to readjust myself before moving on. Goddamn dress pants; they never look good with an erection. Why does she make me wear this shit?
I heard that. And it’s because you look damn good in it.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Lead on, dear. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Dria heads down the hall past a holding room for Paul—designed for a young vampire’s darker moments while learning to control the blood lust—and a few other empty rooms that haven’t been assigned yet. The work Asa and Drew have done down here, and in such a short time, really has been miraculous. The dingy, concrete-block basement with hidden escape tunnels and ladders leading up to guestroom closets now looks like a modern office building—but one with no windows.
I follow Dria’s silk-covered ass, barely registering the many flat screens and keyboards set up in the large command center at the end of the hall.
“Come on, boys. Let’s go greet the new guests,” she calls out, walking by.
Asa and Drew look up from their posts as we pass, exchanging a look.
“Both of us?” Asa asks.
“Yes,” comes Dria’s reply from halfway across the old basement workroom. “You’ll learn a lot more from observing the arrivals than you will from their pretty dossiers. Trust me.”
The four of us head up the stairs leading into our personal suite. I’m not happy with this current entrance to the basement. Expanding the seethe was my idea, but when I first suggested it, I hadn’t bargained on a bunch of vamps coming and going through my personal space at all hours of the day. I’m seriously considering Asa’s expensive idea to cut a hole in the hotel kitchen’s floor and put in a secret spiral staircase.
Dria’s energy feels even and low key. She seems like she’s in a good frame of mind to meet the newcomers. I wonder… You don’t plan on touching these hunters to read them, do you?
Hell no! Not if I can help it. They can keep their freaky ass desires—to maim, rip-apart, kill, and drink the blood of a rogue—all to themselves, thank you very much. Ugh. Why did we do this again?
We pass through the small-scale commercial kitchen of the hotel and cross into the dining room.
To not only earn our new members some huge pocket change, but to hopefully track down which member of the Tribunal wants you dead.
The list of vampires who want me dead is way too long, my dear. I made a lot of enemies during the two-decades I was an enforcer.
I’ve always wondered exactly how much of Dria’s life she’s hidden from me. At times, I see a lot when she rests from the sun—her emotions and thoughts roiling close to the surface. The disturbing images I do see make me wish I could take all of the pain away from her and take it on myself.
Well then, I assure her, rest easy that no matter who you face in the future, you will always have me by your side to help defeat them.
With my own Wolf Killer at my side, I know I’ll be fine.
I stumble but catch myself easily. You haven’t referred to me by that nickname in ages. Any reason to bring up my slaughter of those heartless Nazis now?
The horrible part of my life when I became a crazed man bent on revenge—stalking down the men responsible for my daughter and first wife’s death—seems like a lifetime ago. One thing I love about Dria: She knows all my demons and accepts them fully.
Dria’s voice, sounding cold and detached, comes through my mind, Facing anyone from the Tribunal always makes me think of slaughter.
I think she’s still worried there are parts of her past so horrific, I would be repulsed to learn of them. Nothing could keep me from loving her, no matter what.
Our private conversation comes to an end as we enter the lobby. The entire seethe lounges in deceptively calm poses around the large space. Each one positioned to watch the interchange between Dria and the hunters as they arrive.
This is one time I wish Dria had a telepathic bond open with all of the seethe vampires. It would be a good way for all impressions to be shared instantaneously. But I doubt I could stand more than five minutes of hearing that damn werewolf lust after my wife – and no doubt opening a communal bond would include the furball too.
From outside the main entrance comes a screeching metal-on-wheels sound of the van door sliding open to dispel our new guests. A moment later the front doors burst open, the chill Arctic temperatures flood the area like a tidal wave of frost.
“Good afternoon,” Dria addresses the arrivals. “Thank you for coming to share a unique week with us at The V V Inn. My name is Vivian and I’m one of the owners.”
I notice Dria’s habit to shake hands is omitted. Her stance appears welcoming, but her hands gesture the guests forward rather than to her. The six people shuffle into the vaulted three-story space toward the front desk as the door behind them closes.
A man who reminds me of Ricardo Montalban from the Wrath of Kahn, minus the mullet and clothed in a sleek suit, stands closest to Dria. He extends his hand to her in greeting.
Damn! Jumping forward from my spot next to her, I quickly grasp his hand while Dria pretends to not see his offer.
A flicker of surprise crosses his face as the warmth from my human hand encounters the slight chill of his vampiric one. As we shake, a tingle of power sparks between the two of us.
“Thanks for staying with us. I’m Rafe, Vivian’s mate, and co-owner of the inn.”
“I’m Donald Swanson. I’ve heard a lot about your previous properties and this one as well. I’m looking forward to this trip.”
Nearly two centuries ago, Dria started running vacation properties for the undead. She realized it was a great way to use her power as a master manipulator without exposing herself to her fellow vampires. Manipulators are still captured, hooded in silver, and put to death when discovered to ensure no vampire can ever mind-control another.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Swanson,” I say, deferring to a respectful address of the master vampire hailing from Bath, England. If I remember correctly from the dossier, he’s the one connected to the string of murders spanning five decades. “How was your flight from across the pond?”
“Good, thank you. I must admit I didn’t expect you to have power with such an average mate.” I know he’s referring to the spark when we shook.
Dria’s head whips around while greeting the next guest in line. Hiding her true age from the guests comes second nature to her—but my own shielding skills are lacking. The small amount of blood I drink from her not only keeps me from aging, but infuses me with some of her extensive power as well.
“Yes, well,” I wink into the killer’s eyes with a calmness I can’t completely claim, “I never said she was my first vampire.”
Donald nods his head, accepting my lie over sensing there might be more to my curvy wife, and then proceeds to move past me to check in.
Dria throws me a quick look before turning away, Whew! That one was close. Perhaps you shouldn’t touch some of the guests either, studly, eh? My wife’s shock colors her mental voice, but her outward appearance is calm and refined as she pretends she didn’t hear the entire exchange.
“Rafe, darling. I’d like you to meet Stephen and Stan as well.”
Christ. These two appear to be average guys, until you look into their eyes. There’s no way that mask of crazy stays hidden all the time. I guess they’re letting it all hang out on vacation because the average neighbor must surely be able to see what I see, right?
Nodding my hello to Stephen, I’m surprised the Johnnie Depp look-a-like from Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, didn’t have a thicker dossier. Despite his skinny frame and the fact that I outweigh him by seventy pounds, he scares the shit out of me. Wow, Dria is right. This is going to be one odd week.
Stan, the next vampire, breaks into a good ‘ole boy grin. His relaxed I’m-your-friend expression makes him look safe at first glance. He stands shorter than me, a little stouter, and has a receding hairline. Stan is the one with a squeaky clean, no-info-found dossier. I can see why—the insanity lurks in his eyes, but you could honestly think it’s part of his act.
Nodding hello is my only required action in our greeting, thankfully. I’m not even sure what to say to either of them. Hi, glad you whack-jobs paid half-a-million to visit our hotel to hunt a fellow vampire? This is not a normal setup for us, to say the least. I can only imagine what hell is going to break loose over the next five days. It won’t be anything like the sexcapades we normally get from the vampire guests. Those I can handle fine. Dria runs a great show with her master illusions, mental projections, and subtle manipulation of their minds.
Once they walk past me, I’m able to take in the next two vampires. The woman stands slightly in front of her male companion. Both are Indian and so good-looking, they could have walked off the set of the latest Bollywood flick, which is one area my film knowledge is sadly lacking.
“Pleasure to meet you both,” she says. “I’m Sanji and this is my companion, Vikram. He will not be participating in the hunt, but has come to relax instead.”
At the mention of his name, Vikram steps forward with an offer to shake my hand in greeting. The calm expression of the man triggers an automatic response of manners and before I know it my hand is in his. There’s something about him—he has charisma.
Instead of a spark, his peaceful energy flows up my arm in an almost subtle flare of warmth. I can see why the bloodthirsty Sanji keeps him by her side. When she can no longer control her urges, he could bring her back from the edge of darkness – just like I sometimes do for Dria.
“Welcome, Vikram.” Our hands drop. “The inn was designed as a retreat for relaxation and decadence. I’m sure you will enjoy yourself while Sanji is on the hunt.”
As the pair moves past us, the last hunter by the door shrugs off her floor-length fur coat. She’s a stunning woman, nearly as tall as me. Her dark Brazilian good looks, palm-sized breasts, and round, fuckable ass make me think of an Amazonian porn goddess. I quickly slam my mental guards up into place.
No need for Dria to know what I’m thinking all the time.
Approaching us both, the woman does the absolute worst thing she ever could have done. She ignores Dria and offers her hand to me.
“I’m Bebe.” She pronounces it like Beh-beh. “And I want to know if the redhead shares.”
Dria’s control remains in place and the freaky calm she sometimes gets before she explodes into violence spreads across her face. She grasps the younger vampire’s hand in what looks like quite a firm grip—that is if I’m reading the flare of annoyance over Bebe’s face correctly.
Dria stares into the woman’s irritated eyes. I can tell the moment my wife slips into the exotic beauty’s mind. Bebe’s haughty expression slackens and a timid smile replaces her earlier predatory look.
“Welcome, Bebe,” Dria’s strong voice carries out across the room. “What an amusing thought. I never would have pegged you as one with such an amazing sense of humor. Please check in, the gentleman at the front desk will be going over the house rules for feeding shortly.”
Bebe walks past me, as if she wasn’t about to tear my clothes off and offer to suck me off just a moment ago.
Is it safe to bet you’re going to picture me as that tall, ignorant slut next time I’m on my knees?
Dria’s voice holds no trace of anger; only amusement at what could have been a fatal mistake for the aforementioned ignorant slut.
Now, why would I do that when I have your perfection to gaze upon?
Puh-lease! Amazonian porn goddess? You need to work on your shielding, babe.
I’m going to remain silent and not dig my hole any deeper.
Good for you hon. You do that. But I will tell you one thing to rock your little fantasy world.
Hmm? Do I dare even wonder at what she’s hinting at?
Bebe prefers women. But she does like to pin her male victims down, while in a sixty-nine position, rip their cocks off with her teeth, and then drink them dry from the wound.
I think I’m going to be sick at the image her words paint. My body gives an involuntary shudder.
Dria looks over at what I’m sure is a horrible expression on my face and says, Hope that doesn’t mess up your musings too much, my love.
Ah, the joys of being married to a woman who knows your every thought and can read the desires of everyone she touches. It’s not always conducive to enjoying an active imagination.
Have I told you lately you’re a freak? I can’t resist one last jab. I love you, but damn, sometimes your extra sharing is harsh.
Her mental laughter sounds loud and clear as she gently closes the link between us. The phone vibrates again at her waist, just as the next van pulls up.
Liam and Francesca, guests who were here during the Ivan incident, stroll in. Liam looks stoic as always. He’s like a movie extra from Braveheart, with a similar intensity and Scottish lilt. Francesca could pass for a Raquel Welch double, she’s so beautiful.
“Good to see you both again so soon,” Dria says as her phone clicks shut. She reaches out to give Francesca a hug. “Your help on the last visit was invaluable.”
Liam cracks a small grin. “We had to come back for one of your dungeon rooms upstairs, if nothing else.”
Francesca giggles musically in shared remembrance. “Now hush, Liam. I bet we won’t get a tour like that ever again.”
“I’m sure,” Dria diplomatically interjects, “that you’re here not only for the fun rooms on the third floor but also for the excitement the upcoming hunt promises.”
Jet Natsuhara, who traveled with his mate Matt in the van as well, chooses that moment to introduce hearty back slaps and hand shaking into the mix.
“Not going to mist around the property this time are you, Liam?” asks the tall Asian vampire with a slight grin. “I bet this hunt will be more on the ground.”
“No, not this time. But I did bring my broad-handled axe so I wouldn’t have to use the resort’s inferior sparring-quality choices.”
“I’ll have you know,” I feel inclined to point out, “Asa has remedied the weapons problem. We are now equipped with a plethora of items to choose from.”
“All of the highest quality, I assure you,” adds my smiling wife.
Nods of approval come from the vampires, as the group of four head to the front desk to get their room keys.
Who was on the call you received? I ask, referring to the vibration on her cell a little while ago.
It was Bob. Dria answers while leaning in to give me soft kiss on the mouth. The Tribunal has arrived with the rogue. He’s driving them up.
Ah… goody. We’ll finally find out whom the guests get to hunt.
Heading up to their rooms on the second-floor’s north and east wings, the hunters and their companions leave the gleaming wooden lobby area via the dual winding staircases. We don’t have long to wait for the final batch of undead. Within minutes, the sound of snow-chained tires is distinct on the driveway outside. The moment has arrived for us to see who decided to deliver this criminal all the way from Argentina for two million dollars in the Tribunal’s coffers.
Dria’s face freezes into a mask. She must know one of the minds exiting the van from a previous encounter because as far as I know, she can’t see through walls.
The door opens and a small woman with curly, blond hair walks in.
Venom drips from my wife’s tone as she utters one word.