Home > First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1)(10)

First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1)(10)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

The resulting heat in her loins exceeded the fire running through her veins. She dug her nails into his back at the next twist from his hips, rocking with him to feel more of that incredible friction. A sweet dizziness filled her as he drew more strongly on her neck, holding her in a grip she couldn't break - and didn't want to.

"Spade," she whispered, her eyes fluttering, the treetops and stars blinking in and out of her vision.

He tore his mouth from her throat, somehow crouched several feet from her in the next instant. The sudden absence of his weight and that luscious feel of his body pressing into hers left her confused. She reached out to him, only to have his growl stop her.

"Stay away."

His eyes were blazing green while blood dripped from his mouth. She reached for her neck. A slow trickle met her fingers. It throbbed with the same demanding ache she felt between her legs.

"Is something wrong...?"

He started toward her, and then flung himself backward so hard, he hit a tree. It tilted with an ominous creak.

"Run," Spade said tightly. "Run away from me right now, or I will drink you to death."

The feral hunger in his gaze finally penetrated through her haze of dizziness and lust. She managed to get to her feet, still holding her neck and feeling the wetness between her fingers. Spade's eyes were transfixed there, his mouth pulling back in a snarl that revealed fangs so long and sharp, his face looked more animal than man.

"Go."

She turned and staggered away. Soon she was back on the path, heading in what she hoped was the same direction they'd entered from. The hotel was on the next street, Spade had said.

A crashing noise directed her gaze up. It was dark, but she could make out something big jumping impossibly high up from tree to tree. Was Spade following her? A sick fear lurched in her stomach, covering the sensual warmth that had so recently filled her. Was he hunting her?

"Faster," his unmistakable voice snarled.

Denise ignored her lingering dizziness and ran for all she was worth, bursting through the same part of the park she recognized as where they'd entered from. She glanced around wildly, hearing more branches snap above her. Then she ran toward what she hoped was the street Spade had pointed to earlier.

A dash across the street revealed the sign she'd been looking for. The Plaza. Denise fumbled in her skirt pocket, glad she'd stuck her room key in there instead of her coat at the beginning of the night, and ducked inside the ornate doors. She kept her head down, holding her hair over the bloodstained spot on her neck, and made it into the elevators without any of the employees calling the police. The early hour probably helped; the few people Denise passed looked sleepy when she glanced at them.

By the time the elevator opened on her floor, that previous, heated need was gone and she was disgusted with herself. She'd practically begged Spade to take her right there in the snow. Was that why he'd been thrown into a feeding frenzy? Had her lust-crazed reaction pushed him past the normal control a vampire had? And what was wrong with her, responding like some sort nympho from a vampire bite? Yes, it had been well over a year since she'd had sex, but that didn't explain the intensity of her reaction.

Denise was still lashing herself when she closed the door to her room. She leaned against it in weariness - and then wrinkled her nose. What was that smell?

Raum rounded the corner of the bedroom. "Hello."

The demon was at the door before she could yank it back open, the sulfur scent emanating from him almost choking her.

Raum smiled. "Alone at last."

Spade used the last of his willpower to make sure Denise made it into the hotel. When he saw her stumble through the glass doors, he couldn't hold back the effects of her blood anymore. The dark magic in it, instantly addictive, merged his reality with hallucinations and the present with the past.

Spade fell from the tree, barely registering the impact of the ground. Naked branches waved in the wind as he and Crispin rode past, following the grooves the carriage made in the dirty snow. They were from earlier that morning at the most. Spade leaned forward, urging his horse faster.

He rolled on the ground, hearing his own guttural moans as he tried to push the memories back. No. I don't want to see that again. Not again.

He got to his feet and began to run. The trees morphed and seemed to reach for him, their branches turning into skeletons that bent down and swiped him as he passed. Then the trees grew thicker, transforming into the Argonne forest from that day a century and a half ago.

"No," Spade said, gritting his teeth. He ran faster, stumbling over the large rocks he somehow hadn't seen that jutted out of the earth. This wasn't real. It wasn't real.

Or was it? What if he was back there? What if it wasn't too late to save her?

"Giselda," he shouted. "I'm coming!"

Crispin spotted the wheel first, turned on its side off the lip of the road. For a moment Spade was relieved. Her carriage had suffered a mishap, that's why Giselda had been delayed. But then he smelled it. The scent of blood and death.

Spade bounded off his horse, streaking toward the carriage without even touching the ground, not caring that he was flying for the first time.

Crispin flew faster, grabbing him from behind and wrestling him to the ground. "Don't, mate. Let me go instead."

Spade flung him off, his hand going to his knife when Crispin started toward him once more.

"Touch me again and I'll kill you," he growled, whirling and running in the direction where Giselda's scent was the strongest - and where other harsh, vile scents intertwined with hers.

He didn't pause to check on the footman sprawled in a heap at the edge of the woods. A scrap of material clung to the thorny bush just beyond the footman. Spade dashed into the woods, following the reeking scents, seized with terror as he saw the multiple footprints in the mud and snow. She'd run, but she'd been chased.

The torn-up spot of earth he came upon next brought him skidding to a stop. It stank of sweat, blood, terror, and lust. Rage exploded in him as he saw pieces of a woman's pantalets strewn about, the circling imprint of boots, then a larger impression of a body pressed into the earth, blood and other stains at the center of it.

Spade swung around, following the trailing scent of blood until he came to a large splatter at the crest of a hill. Everything in him tightened as he looked down the steep incline.

A redheaded woman was crumpled at the bottom, her dress half ripped off, her bruised body twisted and motion less. For a split second Spade felt overwhelming relief. It wasn't Giselda; her hair was blond. Perhaps this poor lass had been traveling with her -

Realization crashed through him in the next instant. He flung himself down the ravine, a cry tearing out of him when he turned the woman over. Giselda's frozen, pain-ravaged face stared back at him, her hair red from the blood soaked into it, her throat sliced open to the bone.

"You lied to me," Raum said, tutting with the sort of disapproval one would use on a child. "You told me Spade was human, yet that's a vampire you were rolling around in the snow with, calling by that name."

Denise glanced at the door, hoping that Spade would somehow magically appear. But there was only the demon in front of her, his light brown hair in a ponytail again, wearing an Ozzy Osborne T-shirt over his jeans.

"How did you find me?" Had Raum been following them the entire time? He'd obviously been spying on them in the park, at least.

Raum cocked a brow. "You didn't think I'd let you loose without a leash, did you? These" - he grasped her arms and the brands under her gloves - "have many uses. I would have called on you before, but the vampire was always there. Glad he's finally gone. Got a bit too excited drinking from you, hmm?"

Denise was too scared to be embarrassed over what the demon had seen. "You haven't done anything to my family, have you?" Please, no.

"I will," Raum said bluntly. "It's been a week. What progress do you have to report?"

"It's not as easy as I thought it would be," Denise began.

Raum released her. "Off to kill your father," he said in a cheery tone, reaching for the door handle.

"Wait!" Denise grabbed him, panic welling in her. "I'll find Nathanial soon, I promise! Please don't do that."

The demon considered her, a little smile still hovering over his lips. "I do so enjoy begging. It would be even more fun if you were covered in blood when you were doing it - but there's some here, isn't there?"

Raum yanked her head to the side with a fistful of hair, sniffing deeply near her neck.

"You stink like vampire. Is this how you repay my generosity? I offer you and your family a reprieve, but you squander your time feeding vampires instead of finding Nathanial. I'm beginning to question your usefulness."

Denise blinked back tears from the twisting grip Raum had on her. She'd probably be missing a hunk of her hair when he let go.

"What do you think the vampire wanted in exchange for his help?" she lied, thinking fast. "We're close. We have a good lead and we're closing in on Nathanial. I just need a little more time."

Raum let go of her. As she'd anticipated, he had several strands of her hair still wound around his fingers.

"An extension," he mused. "And you want me not to kill any of your family during this extension, I suppose?"

"That's right. Please," she added, hatred burning inside her at his delight over her anguish.

"But I have to punish you for your slowness," Raum said, as though that were the only logical con clusion. "Still, I'm in a good mood, so I'll give you a choice. Pick which family member you want to die. It can be anyone, even a second or third cousin. Or I'll increase the effect in those brands."

Denise glanced down at her wrists. She couldn't see the marks, but they seemed to throb in Raum's presence. She wanted nothing more than to get his foul stamp off her, not amplify it, but what he'd offered her was no choice at all.

Denise took her gloves off and then slid her hands into Raum's grip. "Go ahead."

He grinned. "Are you certain? This will hurt."

She braced herself even as she met his gaze. "I wouldn't expect anything less."

Raum's hands closed over her wrists. Denise promised herself she wouldn't scream, but once he started, it was impossible not to.

Spade heard the voices as if from a long way off.

"...body of a white male, late twenties to early thirties, no identification," a female intoned. "Preliminary cause of death appears to be a stab wound. The knife is still embedded in the victim's throat..."

Bollocks, Spade thought, listening to the multiple heartbeats and the shambling of feet around him. He must have passed out and been taken for a corpse. From the sounds of it, there were too many witnesses for him to get up, thank them for their time, and get the hell away, either.

Now that he was conscious, the silver burned in his neck and his head banged with a truly awful clamoring. The pain from the silver he expected; the headache was a mystery. It's a hangover, he realized in amazement, noting how sluggish and ill the rest of him felt as well. Thought I'd experienced the last of those when I was human.

But at least his mind was clear, painful as the banging in his head might be. Denise's blood had caused him to hallucinate for who knew how long, until it occurred to him that he had to purge himself of the poison in him. That's when he'd taken a knife to his throat, wedging the blade in and willing his blood to flow out of the wound. Only when he'd drained himself to a trickle had he felt the worst of the hallucinations leave him, but apparently that was also when he passed out.

And now he was being photographed, printed, and processed as a murder victim. Why couldn't the citizens of New York go back to not caring when they stumbled across a body? Everyone had to be such a Good Samaritan nowadays.

It took another hour of him lying there, waiting for the coppers to finish with him, until Spade was zipped inside a body bag and wheeled into an ambulance. He waited until the ambulance was well away from the park before ripping the heavy plastic with a fang and pulling it open.

"Jesus!"

A white-faced paramedic stared at him, shock and horror competing on his face. Spade yanked the knife out of his throat, tucked it into his trousers, and gave the lad a cool smile.

"Not nearly, mate."

The ambulance swerved as the driver stared back at him with equal shock. Spade rolled his eyes. Poor bloke would wreck if he wasn't careful.

"Watch the road," he said, letting power leak out of his gaze. "You didn't see me get up. You don't know what happened to me."

"Don't know," the paramedics mumbled in unison.

Spade climbed into the front and then went out of the side door, not bothering to tell them to stop first. A quick leap into traffic and then he was back on the sidewalk, heading for the Plaza. He was anxious to return to Denise. He'd taken quite a lot of blood from her while in the initial throes of its druglike effects. She'd looked stable when she made it to the hotel, but what if she'd gone into shock since then?

The strange looks from the people he passed reminded him that he was covered in blood and missing his shirt. Right, that would draw too much attention. Spade ducked into the nearest alcove and then grabbed the next person walking past.

"Quiet," he said, glaring at the young woman with his gaze lit up. "Give me your coat."

She handed it over without another word. Spade put it on. It was several sizes too small. Still, it covered what it needed to and he wouldn't be wearing it long.

"Off you go," Spade told her.

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