Midnight Bite(9)

By: Cynthia Eden


Her heartbeat thundered in her chest. She knew he’d hear the telling sound. With their enhanced hearing, vamps could hear almost everything. “Why are they after me? I’m not exactly in the family business. I walked away from it when I buried my mom. The beasts are supposed to stick to their world, and I’m sticking to mine.”

“Oh, love, it’s not that easy.”

Love. The guy had an accent. A slight British rumble that was ever so sexy. That was the thing about vamps—they usually were sexy. Even asshat Charles had been sexy. It was the whole undead allure gift thing. Vamps were able to charm and seduce their prey. They were the elegant ones. The werewolves were the wild and fierce predators. Wolves were savage while the vamps were all about seduction.

“Your protection is at an end. It ended with your birthday.” He paused. “Happy birthday, by the way. Twenty-six today, I believe?”

Yes, she was. She’d been born on New Year’s, shortly after the stroke of midnight. Another reason she’d decided to go out on the blind date from hell. It was bad enough to ring in the new year alone, but to celebrate another birthday by herself?

I totally should have just stayed home.

Voice not very regretful, he explained, “The bargain ended with this birthday. I’m afraid you’re fair game now.”

The stake was smooth and cold in her grasp. “What bargain?”

“Your mother killed an awful lot of paranormal creatures. She made it her mission to abolish them. She didn’t even care if they were guilty of crimes. Didn’t matter to her whether or not they’d broken the covenants in place—”

“Stop.” Memories swirled up. Memories she didn’t want to face.

He didn’t stop. “Rage drove her, I suspect. Rage and hate. She’d been tricked, so she wanted to exact punishment.” A pause. “Vengeance. That’s what she wanted.” Devereaux sprawled back against the leather seat and watched her. His gaze dipped over her body. “It’s what they want now, too. The protection ended for you, the old promise not to harm a hair on your head—it vanished with the dawn of the new year. You had years of freedom. So many years when the beasts wouldn’t touch you. But now, my love—”

Again, with the love thing. He needed to stop that.

“You’re fair game. Every beast out there—every paranormal monster who ever lost a loved one because of your mother—will be at your door. Wolves, witches, demons, dragons—they’ll all want their pound of flesh from you.”

Her breath came faster. She looked at the stake, and it seemed so incredibly small to her. He had to be making up a story to scare her. “I don’t…I don’t have a hunter’s skills.” Her shame. A shame her mother had never let her forget. Her mother had come from a very, very long line of monster hunters. The power had been passed from mother to daughter over and over again for centuries. Hunters were faster, stronger, and far more agile than normal humans.

But Lark didn’t have those skills. Not any of them.

She’d also never been able to stare into a monster’s eyes and kill. Though her mother had tried to get her to attack. Again and again.

The scars on her side—scars she always kept hidden—seemed to burn Lark.

She swallowed and glanced toward the front of the limo. A privacy screen was up, blocking her from seeing the driver. “I need to give him directions to my house.”

“Totally unnecessary,” Devereaux dismissed with a wave of his long, elegant fingers.

“You know my address?”

“I know every secret you possess.”

No. “Don’t be so sure of that, Dev.”

“Dev?” Surprise rumbled in his voice.

“Yeah, well, if you keep calling me ‘love’ like I’m your sweetheart, then I can sure give you a nickname, too.” Devereaux felt far too formal to her. But then again, he was a prince. So…

“What do you know about me?” Devereaux asked her. “I’m sure your mother told you all sorts of things.”

“You mean before she was brutally killed by a band of coyote shifters on my sixteenth birthday?”

Silence.

She had a flash of her mother’s body. All of the blood…No. Don’t go back there.

“Yes,” he responded softly. “Before that moment.”

Lark rolled the stake between her fingers. “She mentioned your name. Told me to always stay the hell away from you and any royal vamp. Royal vamps are stronger and more dangerous than the others.”

“We are.” He stared at her. Waited.

Only she didn’t have anything else to say.

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