Home > First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1)(8)

First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1)(8)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

There was a way around that, however. Spade chose his words carefully. "I know this won't be easy on you, Denise, but I could help with that. I wouldn't even need to bite you to do it. A simple suggestion for you to be calmer when you're around vampires or ghouls would - "

"Absolutely not." She turned her attention away from the traffic to glare at him. "Don't you dare mess with my mind. I mean it, Spade."

Stubborn woman. He shrugged. "If that's your decision."

"It is," she said, still glaring. "Promise me you won't do it."

The harsh scent of fear, anger, and mistrust swirled around her. Very slowly, Spade pulled out one of the silver knives from his coat. She went a shade paler when she saw it, but he ignored that, using the knife to slice a line in his palm.

"You know what a blood oath means to my kind, right?" he asked, holding her gaze. "By my blood, Denise, I swear I will never manipulate your mind."

A sliver of crimson clung to the blade even as the wound closed. Spade kept his hand well below the window that separated the driver's line of vision from the backseat. Only Denise could see what he'd done, and her scent changed even as the color returned to her face.

"I believe you."

Spade put the knife away, wiping the scant amount of blood onto his pants. They were dark enough that no one would notice. Well, no human would; a vampire or ghoul would smell it, but they wouldn't care.

The cab jerked to a stop. Spade handed over a twenty, then was outside opening Denise's door before she'd finished lowering her hand to tug on the handle.

"You don't need to keep doing that, I can get it," she murmured, looking embarrassed. She tucked a strand of her hair back, the color in her cheeks darkening ever so slightly.

It was such a lovely, feminine response, without the wariness she normally had with him. Though he would have done the same with any woman - no amount of time could erase the strict etiquette he'd been raised with - Spade found himself enjoying her reaction.

"Just because a lady can, doesn't mean she should," he teased, amused to see her color deepen as she glanced away. Christ, she was lovely.

He slid his gaze over her, unable to help himself. Under her coat, Denise wore a cowl-necked sweater and a long black skirt, her boots peeking out from under its hem and gloves covering her hands. The only skin visible on her was her face and neck. Spade found himself staring at her pulse with a hunger that had nothing to do with blood. What would she taste like, if he placed his mouth there?

And what would she taste like everywhere else he put his mouth?

Denise shivered, snapping his attention back to the fact that they were standing outside on a sidewalk when they should be inside looking for Nathanial.

"This way," he said, extending his arm.

She placed her hand in it with another shiver, not meeting his gaze. A good thing, too, because his eyes had probably gone green with lust.

"What's it like in this place?" she asked, still looking away.

Spade forced his control back into place. "It's exactly what you'd think a vampire bar would be like, if you didn't believe in vampires."

That made her look at him. "Huh?"

He grunted. "You'll see."

Chapter Eight

I am so overdressed, Denise thought, looking at the people inside the Crimson Fountain. The patrons had a decidedly Goth edge, with black clothes as an apparent must. She felt out of place in her blue sweater, although her skirt and boots were black, at least. Leather and vinyl also seemed to be everywhere, along with various gothic necklaces, earrings, piercings, and tattoos.

Spade led her through the dense crowd of people dancing. She was careful to look at everyone she passed, hoping one of them would be Nathanial. But she wasn't prepared for the fang-filled smile directed at her when she brushed by a dancer whose skin was as warm as her own.

Surprised, Denise touched his arm again. Warm living flesh, all right. The man's smile widened, showing more fang.

"Want to dance with the undead, beautiful?" he crooned, swaying his hips.

"But you're not a vampire."

His smile faded. "Yes I am."

Denise looked at the man, his faux fangs, and the people around him. Exactly what you'd think a vampire bar would be like, if you didn't believe in vampires. Spade was right. This place looked like every bad undead stereotype come to life. It even had some coffins propped up on the stage behind where the band performed.

"Excuse me," she said, brushing past him.

Spade waited for her a few feet ahead. He had a slight grin on his face. "What do you think?"

"That you have a sick sense of humor, telling Ian to bring his people here," she replied. "And that you're overdressed, too."

Spade also wasn't wearing a speck of leather or vinyl. Instead he had on a long-sleeved, creamy silk shirt and slacks that were some sort of thick, expensive-looking material. His floor-length coat only made him look more elegant. She marveled that all the leather-clad wannabes had no idea the classily dressed man was actually the creature they were imitating.

He leaned in, his mouth almost brushing her ear. "It's the perfect meeting spot. Who'd think real vampires would frequent a place like this?"

Spade didn't move back after he spoke. Denise wasn't sure if he was waiting for her to reply, but her mind was suddenly blank. His hair rested against her cheek, dark and silky, and his lips were so close to her ear that her slightest movement would connect them. He was also so tall, she couldn't see past his shoulders, and with the edges of his coat brushing around her, she felt like one step closer would result in her being swallowed up by him.

The thought was somehow tempting.

Denise jerked back, confusion, guilt, and fear com peting in her. Was her reckless train of thought due to the growing demon essence within her? The inhuman in her drawn to the inhuman in him? Had to be. Spade was a vampire, the same creature that promoted panic attacks in her, and besides that, Randy had been dead for only a year...

Spade stared at her until Denise had to look away. His gaze was too knowing, too intense. From the corner of her eye, it almost looked like he'd taken a deep breath, but of course that was impossible. Vampires didn't need to breathe.

"Ian's this way," he said, turning around. His voice sounded lower. Throatier.

She followed him, keeping her eyes on his shoulders as he maneuvered through the crowd.

Ian was seated in an open booth, two women on either side of him. Denise felt her former angst melt away, replaced with incredulity. Even in a room full of people pretending to be vampires, Ian stood out.

Black boots with crisscrossing chains adorned his legs, the same color as the leather pants that dipped low on his hips. And aside from the studded slave collar Ian wore around his neck and the studs pierced through his ni**les, that was all he had on.

Ian grinned at her, trailing a pale hand down his chest. "Luscious, aren't I, poppet? Go on, stare. I don't mind."

Denise tore her gaze away, but not because she'd been transfixed in admiration. Sure, Ian had an abdomen that could double as a washboard and his face was eerily handsome, but he also had monster written all over him. Couldn't those women sense the menace oozing off him? If she'd met Ian in an alley, she'd run like hell, no matter how much beautiful skin he showed.

"You look like a Dracula p**n movie reject," she managed.

Spade laughed, but Ian winced. "Let's not speak of him. Like the devil, Vlad might appear if we do."

The word devil sobered her. That's right, she wasn't here to focus on Spade, or Ian, or anything except searching for Nathanial. Her family's lives depended on it, and so did her humanity.

As if in response, her stomach let out a growl, even though it had been only three hours since she'd eaten. Ian raised a brow, hearing it even over the pumping music. Spade glanced down at her, hearing it as well, then gestured at Ian's booth.

"Wait here whilst I see if there's anything for you to eat."

A slow smile lit Ian's face. Denise didn't want to be left with him, but insisting on following after Spade sounded too clingy. The brunette to Ian's left scooted over, making a space for Denise. She sat, concentrating on searching the faces of the men in the club, not the vampire to her right. Or the one on his way to the bar.

"How amusing," Ian drawled.

Denise didn't look at him as she replied. "What?"

"Charles, going to fetch you food as though he were a servant," Ian replied. "Master vampires don't do that, poppet. Makes me wonder even more about the two of you."

Denise glanced over, noticing that neither of the women reclined on Ian seemed to care about him saying vampire. Maybe they were humans who belonged to him. Or maybe he'd tranced them into not caring.

"We're, ah...he's...it's none of your business."

What had she been about to do, tell Ian Spade was with her only because she'd coerced him? Or how it was demonic essence that had turned her into a compulsive overeater? It had to be. Normally when she was stressed, she ate less, not more. Besides, if this wasn't something supernatural, she'd have put on ten pounds this past week.

"He's only being polite. You should look the word up," Denise settled on.

Ian snorted. "And angels fly out of my arse when I fart. All his chivalrous tendencies aside, I haven't seen Charles this attentive with a human in almost a hundred and fifty years."

Denise was still shaking her head over Ian's crude imagery when the rest of what he said penetrated.

"What human was he attentive with a hundred and fifty years ago?"

Even as she asked it, she wished she hadn't. For one, it was none of her business, and for another, she was starting to sound like a vampire, with "human" this and "human" that. She had to get away from this world. Back to hers, where there were nothing but humans to distinguish between.

Ian's eyes gleamed. "Hasn't he told you about her yet?"

She couldn't help herself. "Her who?"

"Ah, ah." Ian tsked. "That's not my tale to tell, poppet."

"Then you shouldn't have brought it up," she snapped, her temper blistering in an instant.

Both of Ian's brows went up. Denise fought for control. This wasn't she. It was the damn demon marks. She had to get focus on priorities. It didn't matter what happened with Spade and some woman a century ago.

To distract herself from the inexplicable rage still simmering in her, she turned to the brunette at her right.

"Sorry, Ian didn't introduce us. I'm Denise. Nice to meet you."

No fewer than eighty of Ian's people passed through the Crimson Fountain's door. An impressive number, considering Ian summoned them only earlier this afternoon. In addition to that, Spade counted several vampires not of Ian's line, plus more than a few ghouls, and dozens of humans with a distinct undead scent that marked them as someone's property.

But Denise hadn't recognized her relative among any of them. By three A.M., the scent of weariness and dejection coming from her was palpable.

"We'll be leaving shortly," Spade told her.

Denise nodded, her head propped up on her hand, her shoulders slumped.

"You did very well tonight," he added, trying to lighten her mood even as he cursed himself. He wasn't here to be a bloody cheerleader, after all. Still, the iron will Denise had exhibited, pushing back the PTSD he could tell had risen more than once, impressed him. Denise was a better survivor than she gave herself credit for. With time, she'd be able to defeat her anxiety around vampires and ghouls entirely.

But she doesn't want to, he reminded himself. Once Denise had those marks off, she'd have no need to, be cause she'd never willingly associate with a vampire or ghoul again.

The thought soured his mood. He stood. "I need to feed before we leave. Stay here with Ian."

He didn't wait for her response, but grimly headed for the dance floor. Even at this late hour, it was crowded enough that he could have his pick of people to feed from. The Crimson Fountain didn't close until dawn, still a few hours away.

Spade tore his thoughts away from Denise and concentrated on the moving feast before him. A young woman didn't wait for him to make his decision. She sidled over, smiling as she snake-hipped to the music in front of him.

"Hello, gorgeous," she crooned.

Spade raked her with a gaze. Human and healthy; she'd do. He wasn't feeling particular at the moment.

He let her lead him deeper amid the other dancers, smiling back as he pulled her to him, fitting his body along the length of hers. She gasped when he began to move, swaying and bending her in time to the pulsing rhythm. Lust reeked off her, and she gave him a seductive look as she began to unbutton his shirt, trailing her hands down his flesh once it hung open.

Spade allowed her to explore for another minute. Then he spun her around, her warm back heating his chest, her pulse - so close to his mouth - jumping with excitement. She rubbed, catlike, against him, letting out a moan as he brushed her hair back and nuzzled her neck. He kept dancing as he held her, unconcerned about letting his fangs show in this crowd, or in bending his head to her throat. Anyone watching would think it was an act, the same pantomime that had been played out countless times tonight. And she'd never know it had been the real thing once he was done mesmerizing her.

Right before he sank his teeth into her neck, however, a sharp whistle jerked his head up. Ian stood next to the railing over the dance floor, gesturing almost lazily toward the exit.

"Thought you'd want to know. Denise just ran off."

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