The flash of fur reveals one of the wolves stood outside watching while I swam. A gentle reach of my mind confirms who: Jon.
We need to find him a mate and fast. The seven years he’s been here are starting to take their toll. This past winter he tried ramping up the sexual pheromone levels he sends out, in a last ditch effort to try and seduce both of us. Its been hard, each of us wanting to give in to Jon’s call and invite him into our bed.
I love the werewolf and want him, but I will not risk my relationship with Rafe for anyone. Rafe is not comfortable with the emotions Jon stirs up and has pleaded with me time and again to find the sexy Were a mate. The time has come. If I don’t do it soon, I risk hurting Jon beyond repair. Or ripping his clothes off and mounting him like a dog in heat.
Which, come to think of it, sounds like a lot of fun, so I know I’m in trouble.
I finish drying off and go to the locker room to put on some yoga clothes. I knew with the hunters out, and the early hour, our human guests would not be around and it was safe to swim au natural, like I prefer.
The birds remain in the safety of the large potted palms, having done their dive-bomb on me when I first arrived to enjoy the water.
“Braaack! Oh! That’s it Dria, fuck me hard, you randy bitch!”
“Yeah, keep it up pea-brain. You may sound like Rafe now, but those phrases won’t do you any good when I set you free this spring.”
“Suck me dry!”
Geez, he sounds awful. I’ll have to have another talk with Rafe about Mikey, the winged green menace. I want the birds out and can’t understand why the guests all like the Amazon parrots. Oh wait, maybe it’s because I’m the only one they attack?
I ignore the bird’s last comment; secretly relieved no one is here to witness his latest learned phrase. That will be the last time we make love in this room, that’s for damned sure.
The lower temperature of the lobby hits me like a blast of air-conditioning after the pleasant eighty-five degrees of the east wing. Miranda sits at the front desk. Tommy’s shift ended at seven, so she hasn’t been here long.
“Any messages for me?” I ask.
“Okay, I’ll be in the gym.”
I head to the real gym, not the play-gym up on the third floor. That one is equipped more for sexual fun than working out, although, both activities do lead to sweating if done with enough gusto. Besides the dungeon rooms being used by Liam and his mate, I doubt the theme rooms will get much use this week. Wonder if I should let the employees have a turn in them for a break. After all, with the added curfews in place during the hunt, they could use a bit of extra fun.
Opening the door in the north wing to the gym, I push inside with the only goal in mind to erase the past few hours from my mind. A buzzing washes over my skin, alerting me to the presence of another undead in the room. A slight form, dressed all in white, appears hunched, rather than relaxed, in front of my eternal flame focus. The pale, olive-skinned man, who accompanied Sanji, looks deep in thought.
The door shuts behind me, with an audible whoosh of air, and breaks into Vikram’s peace. He starts slightly and turns to face me.
“So sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I say.
“Hmph. Damage is done. I must start my chants from the beginning.”
Arrogant jerk. It’s not like it’s a church, for crying out loud. Oh and wait, it is my freakin’ inn. Best to keep my nastiness inside. Man, I do need to calm down. The swim didn’t do as much as I’d hoped.
“I’ll leave you in peace and place a do not disturb sign on the door.”
He ignores me. I rifle through the magazine basket by the entrance, looking for the sign Miranda made up one day, after she walked in on Rafe and I using the weight bench inappropriately. I can’t find it and give up searching before I annoy our guest any longer with my scrounging. A heavy sigh reaches me as I leave. Sounds like I bugged him despite my best intentions.
I cross the hall to the dojo, debating on working out with some weapons before returning to my suite. Hopefully, Jon will be back with some news soon and maybe Drew will have a report. I glance at my watch. It’s seven-thirty in the morning and the hunters have been out since ten last night. They’re way past due for needing to come in and heat up. Sounds like the one-upmanship has already started, with none of them willing to come in until another breaks.
The peace and calm of the sparring room wraps around me as I enter. Well-oiled, blunt, wooden weapons glisten from their spots on the wall. Grabbing a hardwood bo staff, I head to the middle of the rubber-matted space. The end of the staff rests on the floor, near my foot, while I stretch into a standing mountain pose.
Running through a series of movements, in ever-increasing speed, helps to loosen my muscles and drive some on the tension out. The staff thrusts forward in what would be a blow to the chest or trachea of an opponent, then I spin it one hundred and eighty degrees for the opposite end to connect in a secondary hit to an enemy’s head.
Solidly planting the leading end of the weapon into the floor, I thrust myself into the air, mimicking a pole-vaulter over a high bar. A soft touch to my mind brings me whirling back to the door, staff raised in a defensive posture.
“Looks like you could use a good thrashing.” Rafe says his spot, casually leaning against the doorframe. He’s dressed in a tight t-shirt that hugs every curve of his wide, sculpted chest and a pair of tiny running shorts.
I raise one eyebrow at his ensemble. Normally he wears baggy clothes to spar, so I’m wondering at his revealing choices. “You up for doling one out?” I ask.
He pushes away from the door and saunters toward me. His solid thighs flex with each movement, effectively distracting me from my thoughts of a mock fight. Rafe walks past me, much to my surprise, and grabs a matching bo staff from the weapons rack. I stare a little too long at his tight, well-rounded ass, and almost miss the quiet calming of his thought.
In a blur of motion, my husband whips his staff out, while still faced away, and knocks my own staff from my hands. A thunk hits me on the side of the head, spinning me the opposite direction of my staff. Pain spikes in my skull and quickly dies. I turn back the way I was facing to see my husband in a defensive crouch.
“Wake up, Dria. Or I’m going to trounce you good.”
My pulse picks up and I can’t tell if it’s from the excitement of the challenge or a response to taking the first hit. And I don’t care. The increased hammering in my chest reminds me I didn’t die with my turning five centuries ago, but evolved into something more.
I take a quick double step and throw myself into the air, executing a front flip in an attempt to avoid my lover’s quick offensive strike. I scoop up my staff and face one of the best fighters I’ve ever had the joy to practice with.
My God, he’s beautiful to watch. The precision and placement of not only his feet for a move, but his stance and rippling strength behind each slice or thrust through the air, is akin to a kind of poetry of the body. My gaze lingers a little too long and Rafe comes at me again. In a flurry of strike and counter-strikes we dance around the room, our heavy breathing echoing back in the vast space.
Within minutes, Rafe’s sweat permeates the air. His color is high and a sheen of wetness covers his exposed skin. The strong scent of his natural muskiness fills my head and distracts me from moving in for a body blow. He removes one hand from his weapon and reaches up to rip the t-shirt from his body.
The tearing of the fabric draws my eyes to his lightly haired chest and my canines start to elongate with my increasing desire. The warmth from my exertions has not created the same sweat response as it has in him, but it makes me aware of all of my body parts, especially the ones longing to writhe against all the hard muscle on display.
Rafe’s face sets as he advances on me. His seriousness snaps me out of the moment, but not fast enough. After a sweep to my legs, I’m airborne for a split second and then crash down onto the mat to face the ceiling.
“You’re allowing your base needs to distract you,” he pants from above me.
“Well, what do you expect when you start ripping your clothes off?”
He smiles and locks eyes with me as the end of his staff comes sailing down at my face. I roll to the side and push up off the ground to regain my stance.
“I was taught to use everything against an opponent.”
Since I was the one who taught him the strategy, I can’t exactly complain. He’s landed quite a few blows on me this session, and while none of them caused me damage, they have made me more aware of my lack of concentration.
A smack with the length of his bo against my shoulder pushes me up against the room’s back wall. In a quick move, Rafe pins his weapon horizontally across my chest, holding me in place. He presses his body up against mine, showing me quite clearly he is not unaffected sexually by our sparring either.
“Is this what you want?” I mewl deep in my throat at the feel of his hardness bearing into me. “Or is this what you need?” He holds the staff to my chest with one hand and drops his other to rub against the moist juncture between my thighs. “Is the pretty vamp randy?”
His teasing hand pulls away and his knee launches up to plant a solid hit to my middle. While the pain reels through me, Rafe steps back and lands a hard open-handed smack to my face.
“Get in the game! You need to focus!”
The shock coursing through me settles in the pit of my stomach. He’s right. While we do have sparring sessions that often turn into lovemaking trysts here on the rubber mats, this is not the time for such an encounter. I need to work out my anger and tension. I won’t be able to do so if I keep lusting after my hot husband.
Geez, it’s not like I didn’t just make love to him a few hours ago. I allow my inner anger to come to the front, not something I normally do. Asa killing Joanna. Melvyn murdered before the hunt starts. Emiko almost feeding from Jon and semi-raping Asa. Bebe ripped apart by the rogue and another hunter draining her dry. The seemingly total loss of control in under twelve hours.
I push off the wall, dropping my weapon, and attack the man in front of me with bare hands. Punches to the head and body, kicks to his torso and legs, all rapid fire and most not landing on target. My opponent matches my every move, almost anticipating how I’ll strike next.
Frustration fuels my movements, instinct and years of practice taking over, rather than a carefully planned attack. Grunts of pain and exhalations of breath result, enticing me to continue. Blows to my head send sparks flying through my mind, but don’t slow me down.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Rafe yells, while grabbing a knife hanging from a sheath mounted to the wall.
His longer reach is now accentuated by the blade—forcing me to alter my attack and weave around this new threat. My focus narrows down to the pulse beating at his throat. It calls to me on a base level and no matter my perceived danger, I’m aware of the blood coursing under the surface of his skin.
Hot and thick – the most perfect elixir on the planet.
A ribbon of pain down my left arm jolts me out the intense longing and draws my eye to the red on his knife. He raises the edge to his mouth and licks off my blood, staring at my face for a sign to betray my next move.
“Better. You’re allowing the anger out. Don’t let desire re-direct you yet. You need this.” With that last comment, he throws the knife at my heart.
I dodge to the side and it sails past me. As I regain my stance to advance, multiple glints of metal come racing at my torso—he’s picked up a bag of throwing stars and is doing his damnedest to sink one into me.
“Hey!” I croak. “Are those silver?”
“Don’t worry. They won’t hurt unless they hit you.” He grins in a sick kind of way and launches the rest in rapid-fire succession.
He knows I can only spar really well when there is some actual danger present, and I have been hurt before when we practice. True fighting involves pain, and if your sparring doesn’t hold some hint, then you will never know how to work through the pain and focus.
Liquid fire spreads across my side as one of the blades skims through my shirt and causes a flesh wound. “Dammit!”
“Tsk, tsk... Better get a move on, babe.”
As the blood trickles down my side to soak the waistband of my pants, I force a bit of my will to the wound. Normally an injury will heal on its own pretty fast, but one made from silver either requires more time or a conscious effort on the vamp’s part to push life energy to the damage.
“You will repay in kind,” I whisper as I advance on him, feeling the stitch in my side ease, and for the first time deciding to attack with determination.
The next few minutes become a blur of cat and mouse, with Rafe retreating and attacking when an opportunity presents itself. Sweat now drips freely from his face and the entire room reeks of vampire blood and human musk. At some point, I unconsciously switched from fighting to hunting and I’m now stalking my tiring prey around the room.
Rafe hesitates in his step, deciding to change his direction at the last moment. I sweep my leg out to take him down. A resounding thump reverberates through the floor when his thick form hits, cascading up my planted leg like a trumpet blast of victory on a noisy battlefield.
I’m on him in an instant, straddling his wide, flat waist and pinning his head to the side with a firm hand to his forehead. I sink my fangs into the pounding pulse at his neck and drink down the spoils of my win. A sharp tang coats my mouth as the rich, full flavor of his life pours down my throat.
“Good move. I was tiring anyway,” he rasps.
I pull back, only wanting to take a taste and not drain too much of his strength, but it’s hard. I want to keep going and rip his tiny shorts off. Licking the puncture holes to help heal them, I sigh and collapse against his chest.
“Can I convince you to get naked and continue our workout?” I ask.
He runs his hands up my bloody t-shirt to cup my full breasts through my athletic bra. “I don’t need much convincing,” he replies while thrusting up with his hips to show me he’s ready.
The phone I always have clipped to me starts to ring. We both groan, knowing our interlude will have to wait. I push forward and grind my crotch over his thick cock. “Damn, and you riled me up good.”
His hands lift me off, setting me to the side. “That was the point. But duty calls. You going to answer it?”
I grab the ringing bit of plastic, and flip it open.
“One of the hunters, Stephen, has just come back in from the cold.” Miranda informs me. “And he’s hungry.”
“Direct him to the dining room. I’ll be there in a moment.” We click off and I turn back to my lover. “Meet you in our suite in a few?”
His eyes smolder with pent up desire. “Yup. I’ll be there.”
Smiling and less tense, I head to the dining room to greet Stephen.
“Is O-positive, okay?” I ask while fishing a blood bag out of the specialized fridge.
“No preference,” answers the slight, black-eyed vampire with the blank expression. “I’ve never experienced such cold in my entire existence.” A shiver wracks his frame.
Such a lingering physical reaction speaks volumes, and I can tell by the chemical scent wafting off him that he’s come from the much warmer east wing. From his damp hair, I’d guess he took a dip in the pool as well.
I heat up his sustenance and mix it in a huge commercial-sized insulated mug with a generous portion of coffee. “Here,” I say, handing him the lidded container. “Why don’t you go back to the pool and slip into the sauna while enjoying this? It will bring your core temp up much faster than blood alone.”
“Yeah, in a minute. Am I the first one back?”
I hide a smile at what is, obviously, a point of pride amongst the undead. “The others are on their way, difference of only a few minutes.”
“Nice place you’ve got here. I’m sorry I didn’t come for a purely pleasure visit.”
Stephanie, one of our chefs, stops by his table to enquire if he would like anything else and he eyes her with hunger.
“No thanks, Stephanie,” I say, not liking the look in the crazy bastard’s eye. “Take a twenty minute break and leave the kitchen.” She nods and scurries off. I’d rather have the place free of temptation when the exhausted vampires come in to congregate.
He grins a sick little smile at me; aware I’ve taken her out of his reach on purpose. “Guess she’s not on the menu?”
I allow a fraction of my power to come to the surface, and push it out at the dark-haired, skinny killer. “No, she’s not. And you’d do best to remember that.”
Stephen waves a hand in the air and changes his demeanor in an instant. Calm, cool and collected appear etched into his expression and look equally personified in the relaxed drape of his frame in the chair. “I’d never want to end this little party sooner than is absolutely necessary.”
He takes a long sip from his mug, making disgusting slurping sounds. I rein my power back in, unsure if I made my point and make a mental note to keep an eye on him.
“You said the sauna would help warm me up?”
I nod. “Yes, ten or fifteen minutes should do the trick. You’ll find the entrance near the changing rooms.”
With a grunt, Stephen rises and shuffles off in the indicated direction. “Fucking cold.”
Odd man, but then all of the hunters seem strange. Did they think this hunt would be a piece of cake? Since no more hunters have come in yet, I sneak into our suite in the hopes of picking up with Rafe where we left off.
Jon lounges at our kitchen table and my husband is nowhere to be seen. A quick mental scan finds him in our bedroom, getting dressed. Damn work. I’m not happy when it interrupts sex.
“Hey, Jon. What do you need?”
The pain in the werewolf’s eyes crushes part of my heart. I’d do anything to save him hurt, but not at the expense of harming my husband. “Rafe called me when the first hunter came back in to warm up. The mean-looking skinny dude in the dining room doesn’t match the scent of Melvyn’s killer.”
A sigh escapes me. “Yeah, that would have been too easy.”
Rafe comes in wearing jeans and a turtleneck. The brief look he gives me shows his equal frustration at having to handle the hunters coming in right now. We seriously need a long vacation from the inn and all the cares of a seethe; preferably a trip with no clothing.
“Jon told me what happened between Asa and Emiko and then the fledgling’s subsequent clean up of Bebe’s remains,” he says. “Don’t you think his recent actions prove his loyalty to you?”
“I didn’t doubt his loyalty. He’s bound to me and unable to harm me. I’m not sure I trust his judgment when in a crisis.”
Jon gets to his feet. “The man put up a good fight and he did it to save me. I think his judgment in a split second was spot on. She acted like were-blood addict and could have easily drained me dry.”
“Which makes me wonder if she could have gone batty and drained Melvyn, too.” Rafe says.
“No, I already told you her scent wasn’t in the cabin,” grumbles the wolf. “Why not assign me a useful task like hanging out in the dining room to see if the killer comes in?”