Ambrose walked down the front steps and out onto the street.
He stopped and looked back.
The neon sign shined bright like a beacon. “The Bad Vampire Club.”
He thought about the men inside and their relaxed camaraderie.
He thought about Raven.
Mark Caten won’t touch them. Not if he’s after me. But…What if? There’s always that what if. And what about Elsie? He threatened to kill her.
Complicated feelings rushed and surged through him. “She’s strong. She can protect herself.”
But she is injured.
“Oh!” squeaked a woman behind him.
She was an insipid looking blonde in a midriff-baring shirt and blue cargo pants.”Oh. Are you a vampire?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Well, you’re here at night and that place—”
His mental alarms went off. “Why are you here? Are you looking for a vampire?”
“Who me? No. I’m…I’m lost.”
“Sorry. I don’t buy it.”
“Why would someone like you be wandering the streets this time of night?”
She smiled, bright and perky. “I could ask you the same question. Word for word.”
“I have my reasons for being here. You?”
“Like I said. Lost.”
His mental alarms just wouldn’t shut up. He walked up to her. “Are you?”
He trailed his finger along her jawline, stopping at the point of her chin. “I think you’re lying to me.”
“Me? Oh, ne—”
He curled his hands around her neck and smiled. “Why don’t you start all over? Begin with hello and finish with the truth. But before you do that, please. Change into your true form, fey.”
“I’m not fey.”
“You have no scent.”
She smiled and it was all too bright of a smile. “You aren’t stupid. You know that?” She transformed into a fey, complete with gilded black wings.
Even though he knew that she could just disappear out of his grasp, he held on to her neck. He liked the sense of power and control it gave him.
“Hello, Ambrose Smith. I come from Mark Caten.”
He snarled. “I thought you all were stuck on his island of rocks and dirt.”
“I don’t belong to Lady Queen Preyuna’s circle. I am an independent contractor, which means I can come and go as I wish.”
“How lovely for you.”
“He wants you to return to his humble abode and give yourself up.” She smiled and it looked all wrong on her fey face. “Those were his precise words. Not mine.”
He tightened his grip. “Or else?”
“Or else I will scream.”
“Oh, what a threat that is.”
“If I scream, it will summon the police back to this place. We fey have excellent control over certain people’s minds. They will return to this den of diseased carcasses. I will tell them to burn the place down. They will obey me without question.”
Ambrose thought about Raven and his pride in keeping his bad vampires safe. “If I surrender, what happens?”
“To me. To this place. To Raven and his…” He almost said friends. But no. They are so much more than friends. “To Raven and his family.”
“We will leave them alone. You…” That awful smile stretched further across her face. “I will leave that up to Mark Caten.”
Ambrose shivered. “I know what that means. What about Elsie?”
“What about her?”
“What happens to her if I don’t surrender?”
“Mark Caten will send his squadron of vampires to her house. They will bite her. Every single one of them.”
Ambrose squeezed her neck so tight it should have snapped. But it didn’t. “And if I surrender, what then?”
Her complacent expression made him wish that her neck would snap. “She will be safe and sound.”
I can’t go back. I can’t. But if I don’t. But I can’t. I can’t. His chest hurt so much he expected to see a stake stuck in it.
He released her neck.
“Are you coming?”
His mind raced with answers and ideas and plans. “All right. I’ll come. I’ll surrender. But first. Grant me one favor.”
“You can’t drink my blood. I don’t have any.”
“I know. But that isn’t what I want. What I want is something less but a whole lot more than that. I want to go out on a date with you.”
She blinked. “I’m sorry, but what?”
“A date. You and me. Anywhere you want to go.” He chuckled. “Except Mark Caten’s place.”
“What’s the trick? There’s always a trick with you vampires.”
“Not this time. I just want to go out with a beautiful fey woman. The most beautiful I’ve ever seen.”
“You haven’t seen Lady Queen Preyuna.”
“I have.” He stroked her face. “Your beauty far surpasses hers.”
She blinked fast. “I’ve never heard such a thing.”
He smiled. Gentle. Kind. Irresistible. “I know. So? Where do you want to go?”
She smiled and it almost looked right. “Anywhere?”
“Anywhere at all.”