She flashed her little claws at him, and Brett had to bite back a moan. With anger radiating from every line of her delicious curvy body and those claws waving in his face, lust hit him broadside. Male instincts clashed with the deadness in his body, demanding that he get some blood down to his cock, pronto. His heart heard the call and gave a painful lurch all on its own.
He locked it down and focused on her. She’d asked sensible questions, and despite what she’d been through, didn’t seem to be on the edge of hysteria. Yet, anyway.
“My name’s Brett.” He nodded toward the couch. “You might want to sit down for the rest though.”
“Brett. Nice name.” She reached down and upturned the couch, setting it back on its feet in a casual display of strength that made him narrow his eyes.
Did all Bloods gain control of their new abilities so rapidly? There was none of the Blood-rage he’d heard about on base. All new Bloods were supposed to be subject to an intense, feral need to feed in the first few weeks of their new existence. It was the reason the Blood barracks had been off limits to all but specially-trained personnel. And even they had only dared venture in during daylight hours, when the Bloods were at their most sluggish and lethargic.
He’d have to ask Dom. Brett had never worked in the Blood section, but the other man had. In fact, the only Blood Brett had seen a lot of was Major Fielding, the female Blood the powers-that-be had often assigned their squad to. She’d turned out to be one of the good guys though, helping a rogue Lycan pack break into the base and help them all escape.
Trouble was, just as he and the other SARAs weren’t from the same batch as the original Re-animates, the rest of the Bloods weren’t from the same batch as the Major. She was from an older batch, and it seemed the newer one created assholes. Assholes with a habit of kidnapping and turning women, by the looks of it.
She sat, looking up at him in expectation and he sighed. No putting it off any longer, but how the hell did he explain shit like this?
“Okay. I’m Brett,” he started, then grimaced. He’d said that already. She’d think he was a complete idiot. He coughed to cover and carried on. “Brett Perkins, and I was a soldier. A year ago I was re-assigned to a base about twelve hours from here.”
He paused, captured for a moment by the image she presented on the couch. Perched on the edge of the seat, she had her arms loosely folded over her knees. The position pressed her breasts together, and the enticing swell at the neckline of her top made his mouth water. Dragging his gaze up, he focused on her black on black eyes. Blood eyes.
Better. He could just about concentrate. If he didn’t think about the kiss of those little claws over his dead flesh. His heart flared into life unbidden, his cock hard and thick in an instant. She started, her nostrils flaring as she obviously picked up on his pulse and the scent of arousal that hung heavy in the air. She didn’t look down, thank goodness, but he didn’t miss the little smile that flirted with the edge of her lips. The witch knew the effect she was having on him.
“Let me guess….” She took up where he left off, prompting him. “Something happened at this base?”
He nodded. “And then some. The base was Top Secret—”
A little snort of amusement escaped her. “Why does that not surprise me?”
He stopped to glare at her. “Okay, who’s telling this story… me or you?”
She held her hands up, palms out in surrender. “Take it away, handsome. I was just making an observation. Have you ever watched a horror movie? Things always go wrong at Top Secret bases. Well-known fact.”
He fought back the smile that tried to crawl over his lips. Sass. Even with her world turned upside down and having been bitten by vampires, his sweetpea still had sass. She moved, brushing a loose strand of hair from her face. His vision was so much more acute now since his death, so he caught the fine trembling of her hand. He frowned. Watched her closely.
The more he did, the more noticeable the tremor in her limbs and the forced element in her smile became. Okay, perhaps she wasn’t doing as well as he’d thought she was. Just as he’d hidden his smile before, now he hid his concern. If she was trying so hard to hold it together, she wouldn’t appreciate him pointing it out.
“The base is Top Secret for a very good reason. One none of us found out until we actually got on site and realized what the hell was going on. But, by then, it was too late.”
He sighed and ran a hand over his close-cropped hair. It was a holdover from his days before the army, when he’d had long hair and no worries to care about. But patriotism and the need to have his life actually mean something had reared its ugly head, and look where that had gotten him.
“Once you’re in the Project, you don’t leave. There are only two ways out. A bullet in the back of the head and an unmarked grave somewhere, or….”
“You become something else?” Her soft voice finished for him. He snapped his head up to find her watching him steadily.
She shrugged and smiled, but there was no happiness in the expression.
“Didn’t take a genius to figure out. Top Secret bases. This….” She motioned to herself, flashing the tip of a partly descended fang for a second. It disappeared as she looked directly at him. “You.”
He stilled. “Me?”
“You.” She stood, stalking towards him, and for a moment he wondered who the predator and the prey was here.
A few minutes ago, he would have said hands down that he was the predator. After all, in the ring, he’d taken down more Bloods than he could remember. In a straight-out fight, he’d bet on a SARA against any number of Bloods. But the way she stalked towards him… he wasn’t sure the playing field was stacked the way he remembered it. She wasn’t reacting like a normal Blood, and that both scared the shit out of him and excited him all at the same time.
She didn’t stop until she was barely a foot away from him, looking up into his face and studying him. A little line creased her brow, and her lips pursed into a sexy little bow. He bit back a groan, wanting nothing more than to lean down and claim those lips for his own. He managed to hold off and met her gaze. What did she see when she looked at him? A man or a monster?
“You already said that.” Her lips curved up at the corners as she lifted on tiptoe to look him in the eye. Not a tall woman, the increase in height made little difference. She wavered a little, putting a hand out for balance.
He captured it, letting the shiver as they touched race over his skin. Her hand was delicate. Fine bones beneath satin skin that were too fragile for the touch of a monster like him. She bit her lip, white teeth mangling the plump fullness he ached to claim, and his control slipped.
“Did I?” Her hand under his, he placed it in the center of his chest over the steady beat of his heart. Her gaze flicked down to their joined hands, then up again. Held his. “What about me?”
“You’re not human. But you’re not what I am. What are you?”
He leaned down and grazed his lips over hers. The gathering darkness around them added to the feeling of intimacy, and right at that moment, he couldn’t have cared less if they were the only two people left in the world. Her lips were soft, and warmer than he’d thought. A lot warmer.
She whimpered, the soft sound in the back of her throat so sexy that he wanted to imprint it on his memory forever. She lifted her lips, as though begging for more, and his control shattered. Reaching out with his free hand, he caught her around the waist and yanked her toward him. His lips crashed down over hers. Hard. Hungry. Demanding.
Oh. My. God.
The moment his lips covered hers, Julia knew she was lost. Whatever he was, human or not, the guy could kiss. His kisses were hard, but not cruel. Firm lips covered hers, moving over them once… twice, then his tongue swept against the lower one to demand entrance.
Heat warred with the darkness inside her, and she opened up for him. He growled in approval, the deep sound doing things low down in her body that should have been illegal, and moved closer. He wrapped her up in his embrace, strong arms surrounding her at the same moment his tongue drove deep.
She slid one hand up around the back of his neck and matched him kiss for kiss. Their tongues dueled in a wet, slick ride of pure sensation as he held her cradled against his chest. She didn’t care what he was, only that he kept kissing her the way that he was.
The darkness inside her swelled, surging through her veins along with a deep, visceral need the likes of which she’d never felt before. She needed him. Wanted him with a craving so deep it should have frightened her, but it didn’t. It felt right.
Shifting in his arms, she ran her hands across his shoulders. Solid muscle met her explorations, solid and unyielding, all covered in silky skin that was a little cooler than she expected. His skin warmed as she explored, as though the heat followed her touch. An ache set up in the ends of her fingers and, without warning, the claws hidden there burst free. Before she could yank them away, they caught his skin, and the rich scent of his blood blossomed on the air.
“Oh my god, I’m sorry!” She tore her lips from his, pulling her hands up into the air to avoid hurting him more. “I didn’t mean to do that.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He shook his head, tipped it back and closed his eyes. When he looked at her again, the tight, near-feral expression on his face sent a thrill through her. Like he wanted to eat her all up. “I liked it. Do it again.”
She shivered, and he yanked her closer. The long, hard bar of his erect cock pressed against her soft stomach. “But there’s blood. I cut you.”
“I know,” he breathed against her lips, teasing the corner with his. “It turns me on. I want to feel your claws all over my body.”
She couldn’t help the moan that escaped her lips as the dark need, the one that had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the scent of blood in the air and worse, rose within her. The part that wanted to use her claws and rip through the flesh that covered his body, just to see what was inside.
“You’ve got it, haven’t you?” He used a thumb to tilt her head up. His lips grazed over her throat. She moaned again, way more vocal than she’d ever been before, wanting to roll over like a cat and show him her stomach in submission. “That thing inside that wants unspeakable things.”
She swallowed, the sound raspy in the silence of the room. How did he know? His tongue brushed the hollow at the base of her throat, and heat over-ruled the darkness, her hips grinding against his. It knew what it wanted, and that was him, filling her. Now.
“It calls to me,” he admitted, his voice hoarse. The hand not holding her jaw swept down her back to cup her ass. Strong fingers dug in. Not enough to hurt, but more than enough to have her gasping and squirming against him. He hauled her closer, trapping his hard cock between them so tight it must have hurt. “The darkness in you. I feel it, and it calls to me. Makes me want to take you…claim you. Make you all mine.”
She bit her lip at the words, soft gasps tumbling from her mouth as he worked his way along her collarbone. His thumb traced along her jaw until his fingers burrowed into the thick fall of her hair, cupping the base of her neck. He moved, looming over her again to look down into her eyes.
“We have to stop,” he told her, but didn’t let her go. The heated shadows in his eyes kicked her arousal up another notch. “You’re not through conversion yet. Not fully. We can’t risk this.”
Slowly he let her go, as though he was convincing himself every step of the way, and stepped back. She pouted, feeling the loss of his body against hers like a physical pain. Gritting her teeth, she fought the urge to follow him, to press herself against him and beg him to continue what he’d started. What was wrong with her? She was never like this over a guy.
In desperation, she gave in to the ache in her gums and relaxed. Sharp pain lanced through her mouth as the fangs there tore through. The pain distracted her from the need surging through her veins and brought her back to the questions she had asked.
“What did they do to me?”
She tried hard to keep the panic and fear out of her voice as she asked, but it crept in anyway. Screw it. The world had gone mad. She was entitled to be freaked out. All in all, she thought she was handling it well.
“Oh, sweetpea.” The heat dropped out of his expression, replaced with tenderness as he reached for her. She fought the urge to step back, but let him pull her into his embrace. “Come on. Let’s sit down…. Hell, what’s your name?”
“Julia,” she murmured, and yielded to his strength as he led her to the couch. “Julia Collier.”
It felt nice to be able to lean on someone, even if just for a little while. They sat, side by side, in the growing darkness. It was odd. She’d always been a little scared of the dark before, a holdover from childhood terrors, but now she welcomed it. The shadows held safety and comfort, easing something deep within her soul.
“Okay.” He turned to her. Took one of her hands in both of his, like he was ready to comfort a bereaved relative. “You were right. They did something to us, so we became something else.”
She nodded. The new instincts, the ones she didn’t understand, told her that whatever they were, he and she were different, and not just on the boy-girl level.
“The Project had three areas of experimentation. Viruses, serums.” He shrugged and a piece of medical tape peeled away from his ribcage. She frowned. She hadn’t noticed he was injured before. “I’m not sure of the science. I’m…was...a soldier, not a scientist. Long story short: the Project injects its subjects with one of three viruses. Lycan, Blood and Re-Animate. Some don’t survive the conversion. The unlucky do.”
“Lycan. Blood and Re…?”
“Re-Animate.” He smiled, the curve of his lips visible to her even in this low light. Surely she shouldn’t have been able to see anything by now? “The living dead. Zombies in other words.”
“Uh-huh….” She nodded, absorbing it all. “I’m a Blood. That’s what…your friend called me. Said I was fair game. Why?”
Brett tipped his head back and blew out a sigh. She fixed her gaze on his throat. On the pulse that should be beating there, but wasn’t. In fact, his heart wasn’t beating at all. Frowning, she extended her senses a little more. Neither were the hearts of the three men in the room next to them. She could smell them, an odd dry smell that reminded her of spiders and cologne, but there was a strange silence where she expected their heartbeats to be. A void area.
“Okay…now things get a little more complicated. It all started with a Lycan pack. Alpha Three. Good team, all of them came through conversion okay, and they were the best the Project had. Bloods don’t work so well in teams; they’re more loners, but the Lycans? They’re pack animals through and through.”
“You refer to them as ‘they’,” she commented. “So you’re not a Lycan then.”
He shook his head and carried on. “But the scientists got nervous about them. Something to do with the way they shifted form—”
She blinked. “Form? What you mean, like…?”
“Werewolves, in a word,” he finished for her. “The Project doesn’t use those names, but Bloods are vampires. Lycans, werewolves and Re-Animates…well, zombies. Science imitates art. Ironic, isn’t it?”
“Crap.” This was unreal. She struggled to take it all in. The army had done this…created vampires which had gotten out? And then attacked her? She looked back at him. “Okay. Alpha Three?”
“The base commander ordered them locked down and assessed pending termination. But we lost contact with the holding location. Our squad was sent in with a Blood to check it out.”
She arched an eyebrow. “They send you guys in after werewolves? That must have been an interesting encounter. Did any of them survive?”
“Ah, no.” He stroked his thumb over the back of her hand, the movement so small she wasn’t sure he was aware of it. “We were human. Didn’t get the Lycans, as it happened. We just got caught in the crossfire as they escaped. All four of us sustained injuries and were shipped back to the base. That’s when they hit us.”
His movements stilled, and she could almost feel his frustration and rage in the air.
“Injected us with the virus. Changed us. We woke up in cages, like this.” He waved toward himself. “Not human anymore. The project used us for…clean up.”
She wanted to press him more, but the ominous tone of his voice and the tortured look in his eyes made the words dry up in her throat. Shit. Whatever they’d been through, it had left a scar on his very soul.
He shuddered and blinked, his eyes clearing as if he returned to the present. “Uh, Alpha Three attacked the base to get one of their members out. The distraction gave the rest of us a chance to escape . Trouble was…we weren’t the only things to get out. The Bloods, the ones who took you, did as well. Do you know anything about what they’re up to?”