Home > Twice Tempted (Night Prince #2)

Twice Tempted (Night Prince #2)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

Prologue

Ignoring a ghost is a lot more difficult than you'd think. For starters, walls don't hinder their kind, so although I shut the door in the face of the specter loitering outside my house, he followed me inside as if invited. My jaw clenched in irritation, but I began unloading my groceries as though I hadn't noticed. Too soon, I was done. Being a vampire married to another vampire meant that my shopping list was pretty short.

"This is ridiculous. You can't keep shunning me forever, Cat," the ghost muttered.

Yeah, ghosts can talk, too. That made them even harder to ignore. Of course, it didn't help that this ghost was also my uncle. Alive, dead, undead . . . family had a way of getting under your skin whether you wanted them to or not.

Case in point: Despite my vow not to talk to him, I couldn't keep from replying.

"Actually, since neither of us is getting any older, I can do this forever," I noted coolly. "Or until you ante up on everything you know about the a-hole running our old team."

"That's what I came here to talk to you about," he said.

Surprise and suspicion made my eyes narrow. For almost three months, my uncle Don had refused to divulge anything about my new nemesis, Jason Madigan. Don had a history with Madigan, a former CIA operative who'd taken over the secret government unit I used to work for, but he'd kept mum on the details even when his silence meant that Madigan had nearly gotten me, my husband, and other innocent people killed. Now he was ready to spill? Something else had to be going on. Don was so pathologically secretive that I hadn't found out we were related until four years after I started working for him.

"What happened?" I asked without preamble.

He tugged on a gray eyebrow, a habit he couldn't break even after losing his physical body. He also wore his usual suit and tie despite dying in a hospital gown. I'd think it was my memories dictating how Don appeared to me except for the hundreds of other ghosts I'd met. There might not be shopping malls in the afterlife, but residual self-image was strong enough to make others see ghosts the way they saw themselves. Don had been the picture of a perfectly groomed, sixty-something bureaucrat in life, so that's what he looked like in death.

He also hadn't lost any of the tenacity behind those gunmetal-colored eyes, the only physical trait we had in common. My crimson hair and pale skin came from my father.

"I'm worried about Tate, Juan, Dave, and Cooper," Don stated. "They haven't been home in weeks, and as you know, I can't get into the compound to check if they're there."

I didn't point out that it was Don's fault Madigan knew how to ghost-proof a building. Heavy combinations of weed, garlic, and burning sage would keep all but the strongest spooks away. After a ghost had almost killed Madigan last year, he'd outfitted our old base with a liberal supply of all three.

"How long exactly since you've seen them?"

"Three weeks and four days," he replied. Faults he may have, but Don was meticulous. "If only one of them was away that long, I'd assume he was on an undercover job, but all of them?"

Yes, that was strange even for members of a covert Homeland Security branch that dealt with misbehaving members of undead society. When I was a member of the team, the longest undercover job I'd been on was eleven days. Rogue vampires and ghouls tended to frequent the same spots if they were dumb enough to act out so much that they caught the U.S. government's attention.

Still, I wasn't about to assume the worst yet. Phone calls were beyond Don's capabilities as a ghost, but I had no such hindrances.

I pulled a cell phone out of my kitchen drawer, dialing Tate's number. When I got his machine, I hung up. If something had happened and Madigan was responsible, he'd be checking Tate's messages. No need to clue him in that I was sniffing around.

"No answer," I told Don. Then I set that phone aside and took another cell out of the drawer, dialing Juan next. After a few rings, a melodic Spanish voice instructed me to leave a message. I didn't, hanging up and reaching for another phone from the drawer.

"How many of those do you have?" Don muttered, floating over my shoulder.

"Enough to give Madigan a migraine," I said with satisfaction. "If he's tracing calls to their phones, he won't find my location in any of these, much as he'd love to know where I am."

Don didn't accuse me of being paranoid. As soon as he'd taken over my uncle's old job, Madigan had made it clear that he had it in for me. I didn't know why. I'd been retired from the team by then, and as far as Madigan knew, there was no longer anything special about me. He didn't know that turning from a half vampire into a full one had come with unexpected side effects.

Dave's phone went straight to voice mail as well. So did Cooper's. I considered trying them at their offices, but those were inside the compound. Madigan might have enough taps on those lines to locate me no matter how I'd arranged for the cell phone signals to be rerouted.

"Okay, now I'm worried, too," I said at last. "When Bones gets home, we'll figure out a way to get a closer look at the compound."

Don regarded me soberly. "If Madigan has done something to them, he'll expect you to show up."

Once again, my jaw clenched. Damn right I'd show up. Tate, Dave, Juan, and Cooper weren't just soldiers I'd fought alongside for years when I was part of the team. They were also my friends. If Madigan was responsible for something bad happening to them, he'd soon be sorry.

"Yeah, well, Bones and I had a couple months of relative quiet. Guess it's time to liven things up again."

My cat Helsing jumped down from my lap the same time that the air became charged with tiny invisible currents. Emotions rolled over my subconscious. Not my own, but almost as familiar to me. Moments later, I heard the crunch of tires on snow. By the time the car door shut, Helsing was at the door, his long black tail twitching with anticipation.

I stayed where I was. One cat waiting at the door was enough, thanks. With a whoosh of frigid air, my husband came inside. Snow coated Bones, making him look like he'd been dusted with powdered sugar. He stamped his feet to dislodge the flakes from his boots, causing Helsing to jump away with a hiss.

"Clearly he thinks you should pet him first and deal with the snow later," I said.

Eyes so dark they were nearly black met mine. Once they did, my amusement turned into primal female appreciation. Bones's cheeks were flushed, and the color accented his flawless skin, chiseled features, and sensually full mouth. Then he took his coat off, revealing an indigo shirt that clung to his muscles as if reveling in them. Black jeans were snug in all the right places, highlighting a taut stomach, strong thighs, and an ass that could double as a work of art. By the time I drew my gaze back up to his face, his slight smile had turned into a knowing grin. More emotions enveloped my subconscious while his scent - a rich mixture of spices, musk, and burnt sugar - filled the room.

"Missed me already, Kitten?"

I didn't know how he managed to make the question sound indecent, yet he did. I would've said the English accent helped, but his best friends were English and their voices never turned my insides to jelly.

"Yes," I replied, rising and coming over to him.

He watched me, not moving when I slowly slid my hands up to lace them behind his neck. I had to stand on tiptoe to do it, but that was okay. It brought us closer, and the hard feel of his body was almost as intoxicating as the swirls of desire that curled around my emotions. I loved that I could sense his emotions as though they were my own. If I'd realized that was one of the perks of him changing me into a full vampire, I might have upgraded my half-breed status years ago. Then his head lowered, but before his lips brushed mine, I turned away.

"Not until you say you missed me, too," I teased.

In reply, he picked me up, his grip all too easily subduing my mock struggles. Smooth leather met my back as he set me onto the couch, his body a barricade I didn't want to dislodge. His hands settled around my face, holding me with possessiveness as green filled up his irises and fangs slid out of his teeth.

My own fangs lengthened in response, pressing against lips that I parted in anticipation. His head bent, but he only brushed his mouth over mine with a fleeting caress before chuckling.

"Two can play at teasing, luv."

I began to struggle in earnest, which only made his laughter deepen. My high kill count had earned me the nickname of the Red Reaper in the undead world, but even before Bones's startling new powers, I hadn't been able to best him. All my thrashing did was to rub him against me in the most erotic way - which was why I kept doing it.

The zipper on my hoodie went all the way down without his hands moving from my head. My clothes accounted for most of his practice with his fledgling telekinesis. Then the front clasp on my bra opened, baring the majority of my br**sts. His laughter changed to a growl that sent delicious tingles through me, hardening my ni**les. But when the buttons popped open on his indigo shirt, its color reminded me of Tate's eyes - and the news I needed to tell him.

"Something's up," I said in a gasp.

White teeth flashed before Bones lowered his mouth to my chest. "How cliche, but true nonetheless."

The baser part of me whispered that I could postpone this talk for an hour or so, but concern for my friends slapped that down. I gave myself a mental shake and grabbed a handful of Bones's dark brown curls, pulling his head up.

"I'm serious. Don came by and relayed some potentially disturbing information."

It seemed to take a second for the words to penetrate, but then his brows rose. "After all this time, he finally told you what he's been hiding about Madigan?"

"No, he didn't," I said, shaking my head for real this time. "He wanted to let me know that Tate and the others haven't been home in over three weeks. I tried their cells and only got voice mails. Actually, that distracted me from pushing Don about his past with Madigan."

Bones snorted, the brief puff of air landing in the sensitive valley between my br**sts. "Clever sod knew it would. I doubt it was an accident that he gave you this information while I was out."

Now that concern for my friends wasn't foremost in my mind, I doubted it was an accident, too. Don had been by my house enough to know that Bones left for a couple hours every few days to feed. I didn't go with him since my nutritional needs lay elsewhere. Inwardly I cursed. Finding out if my friends were okay was still of paramount importance, but so was discovering what Don knew about Madigan. It must be monumental for my uncle to keep it under wraps even when we didn't speak for months as a result. After all, I wasn't just the only family Don had left - as a vampire, I was also one of the few people who could see him in his new ghostly state.

"We'll deal with my uncle later," I said, pushing Bones away with a sigh of regret. "Right now, we need to find a way into my old compound that doesn't involve both of us ending up in a vampire jail cell."

Chapter 1

Four weeks earlier

I stood under a waterfall of flames. Vermilion and gold spilled over me, twining through my hair, separating into rivulets along my body before sliding between my fingers to fall at my feet. The flames were so dense that I couldn't see through them, reducing my world to a glowing arena of sunset-colored hues. Being engulfed this way should have killed me, but I was unharmed. I wasn't even afraid. A strange sense of longing filled me instead. I kept trying to catch one of the flames but I never succeeded. Fire might cover me from head to toe, yet it still managed to evade my grasp.

"Leila," a voice called, too faintly for me to discern who it was. "Leave before it's too late."

Logic urged me to do what the nameless person said, but I didn't want to. The flames didn't seem to want me to go, either. They kept gliding over me, caressing instead of burning my flesh. See? I thought in defiance. They wouldn't hurt me.

"Leila," that voice said again, more emphatically. "Leave."

"No," I replied, and tried to clasp the fire to me again. As usual, those brightly lit bands slipped from my hands, but this time, their lustrous color darkened. When they landed at my feet, they looked like ribbons made of tar. Then the waterfall above me abruptly dissipated, leaving me na**d and shivering in the sudden, overwhelming blackness.

Fear turned my insides to ice. The voice was right. Something bad was about to happen . . .

I didn't have time to run before fire lit up the darkness again. It didn't spill gently over me like it had before, but crashed into me from all sides. Pain ravaged me as the flames attacked me with all their devastating power, charring and burning every inch they touched.

"Why?" I cried, betrayal second only to the agony I felt.

"I warned you," that unknown voice replied, safe outside of the wall of fire. "You didn't listen."

Then I didn't hear anything but my own screams as the fire pitilessly continued to annihilate me.

"No!"

In my head the word was howled in anguish; in reality, it left my lips in a whisper. It was enough to wake me up, though, and I jerked away in horror until I realized I was covered in sheets, not flames. The only fire was safely contained in the hearth on the other side of the room.

It took several deep breaths to shake off the aftereffects of the nightmare. After a minute, my heart quit thudding and settled into a more normal rhythm. With a stab of dismay, I saw that the bed was empty. Now I wouldn't have to admit I'd had the same nightmare again, but I didn't like that more and more frequently, I went to sleep alone and woke up that way, too.

If I were superstitious, I'd worry that the recurring dream was an omen, but when I got warnings about the future, they didn't come as vague metaphors in my sleep. They used to come as merciless reenactments where I had a full sensory experience of whatever was going to happen, but I hadn't had one of those in weeks. I'd long wished that I didn't pull impressions - and images of worst sins - through a single touch, but now that I needed the ability, it was on vacation.

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