They’d moved fast and in the complete silence Brett had become used to. He carried his precious burden easily, not wanting to hand her off to any of the others, even though they offered. Instead, he kept her close to his chest. Every shudder that racked her body and whimper that escaped her lips tore at his heart.
He’d never seen a Blood conversion. Plenty of Lycan ones, but never a Blood. He’d always considered Lycan conversions to be rough. The infection hit as soon as the serum was in the veins. He shuddered at the memory of heaving bodies and the snapping of bone accompanied by screams of pain. LY infection was rough, but immediate. Once the first change was over, most slept through the rest of the process.
He’d never envied them that sleep before. It was the last sleep of innocence before they had to face a new reality in which their humanity had been torn away. But now, feeling the shudders of pain that tortured the woman in his arms, he bitterly resented the Lycan’s last easy rest.
“Heads up.” Dom’s voice from ahead broke the silence. “Building at one o’clock.”
Brett showed his pace, letting Dom and Kelwood take the lead as Fredericks covered the rear. Despite the woman in his arms, he sank to a crouch when they stopped and had to suppress a smirk. Seemed you could take the Zombie out of the army, but you couldn’t take the army out of the Zombie.
The undergrowth rustled as Dom and Kel made their way forward to recon the building. Within minutes they were back, moving silently into Brett’s line of sight. Both crouched, movements easy.
“Some kind of garage.” Dom pitched his voice so only the three of them could hear. “Looks like it’s been abandoned for a while.”
“Perfect.” Fredericks joined them, barely a rustle of the undergrowth as he moved through it. The woman in Brett’s arms moaned fitfully. “Let’s get her inside.”
The four of them moved as one, circling around the building to check all approaches before congregating in front of the doors. A dirt road led away, possibly to the house the garage belonged to. No one had come that way for a while. The woods around had begun to reclaim it, extending creepers across the dirt.
Brett turned to the doors, shifting the woman higher in his arms so that her head rested against his shoulder. Vegetation covered the front of the ramshackle building, blocking the double doors, but the smaller one to the side was only partially covered. With what though, he had no idea. Greenery was greenery as far as he was concerned. Now that he was immune to stings and the like, he no longer cared what their Latin names were.
He stood to the side as the others tore the vegetation away and opened the door. Like wraiths, they slipped through it and entered the small building. Obviously a workshop, it was filled with bits of engine, fishing equipment and broken furniture. Dust lay thick on all the surfaces, and a line of overalls hung neatly by the door. He cast a glance around. An old guy’s place. There were no weights or film posters. No paraphernalia that would indicate a younger man.
Spying another door, Brett headed for it. Flimsy as it was, it gave easily when he kicked it, revealing a smaller room. A battered couch was pushed up against the far wall. A rumble of relief slid from his throat. Even though it was old and dusty, the couch would be more comfortable than the floor. He crossed the room in three quick strides and laid the woman down gently.
“There we go, sweetpea,” he murmured, trying to arrange her as comfortably as possible. She whimpered and reached for him, as though the loss of his body against hers was too much to bear.
He didn’t let himself think; he just reached for her. Settling himself on the couch with her in his lap, he held her through the horrors of her conversion. She shook and shivered as cold sweat poured from her. Moaning pitifully, she heaved and threw up black bile, her changing body rejecting whatever food she’d had in her stomach. By the time the muscle spasms hit, Brett had devised over a hundred ways to make the Blood who had done this to her suffer.
All the time his mind churned. Why change a human? They’d all seen the nightmare The Project had become. Even the Bloods, as sick and twisted as some of them were, surely weren’t so cruel as to condemn more innocents to become what they were? It had to have been an accident... a Blood letting his food get away from him.
Anger followed hard on the heels of that thought. That she’d been simply food for some asshole Blood pissed him off on a level he’d never previously experienced. A loud crack sounded like a gunshot in the small room. He looked down to find his fingers buried deep in the ruined mess of the couch’s arm. He’d crushed it as easily as he would crumple paper.
She turned in his arms as though she could sense his anger and sought to comfort him. Her hands stroked over his shoulders and chest. Small, placating movements. A soft murmur escaped her lips that brushed softly against the side of his throat. Arousal slammed into him for the second time that night and kick-started his heart. Male reaction took over as what seemed like all the blood in his body rushed straight to his cock.
She wriggled, clamping tighter around him at the sound of his beating heart. Her shapely ass ground against his rigid cock, dragging a moan from the depths of his chest. A groan which became a moan of utter need when her tongue brushed the skin over his jugular. He dropped his head back, exposing his throat to her. That she’d have developed a Blood’s fangs during her conversion didn’t bother him. Far from it. In fact, the idea of her biting him, or those fangs slicing through his skin and deep into his flesh while he filled her with his dick , turned him on so much that he almost shot his load then and there in his pants.
The door cracked open to reveal Dom. His keen gaze flicked over the two of them on the couch. His eyebrow winged up, but wisely he didn’t comment.
“She’s going to need something to eat soon,” he said softly, leaning one broad shoulder against the doorframe. Brett just nodded. Dom was the only one of them who had pulled duty in the Blood area. If anyone knew about Blood infection and how to deal with it, it would be him. “The medical staff on the base used to say the first meal sets the personality. Animal blood....” He shuddered. “Not gonna cut it. We’re gonna need to find a blood donor for her.”
“No!” Brett snarled, fury at the idea snapping every muscle in his body taut. There was no way he was letting her sink fangs into anyone but him. “Not gonna happen. If she feeds from anyone, it’s going to be me.”
Dom folded his arms across his massive chest, his expression grim. “Uh… did you miss the part about ‘first meal sets the personality’? You really want her first meal being one of us? With what we are?”
Brett shifted her in his arms, looking down into her face. The tiny shimmer of moonlight from the window somehow found her, caressing the delicate lines of her face with a touch as light as any lover’s. He reached up to stroke his fingertips over her cheek. Her skin was the softest thing he’d ever felt, and instantly he knew he’d never get tired of touching her. A beer and sports game date kind of guy, he’d never been the romantic sort, but the way her eyelashes curved and fluttered against her pale skin made him wish he was. A small, up-tilted nose was set above lips he suddenly found himself unable to look away from. Neither overly full nor thin, their sensuous curve teased him. Filled him with curiosity. What would they taste like when he finally made her his?
“And did you forget she’s a Blood?” Dom reminded him softly. “One of the assholes we’re chasing?”
“She’s not like them,” Brett said softly, brushing a lock of hair gently from her face. “She didn’t choose this.”
Not moving from the door, Dom grunted. “None of us did. Fucking Project.” He straightened up and cast a glance into the room behind him. “Okay. If you plan to keep her, we need to hunt. Leave her here; she’ll sleep for a few hours yet. Then we’ll see about getting her something to eat.”
He didn’t want to leave her, but couldn’t deny the truth in Dom’s words. It had already been too long since his last meal. If he planned to bring in a human for his little Blood, he was going to need a lot more juice in the tank.
“Okay. Gimme a few, and I’ll be right there.”
Dom nodded, the rapid side to side movement at the end one Brett had become used to. The light of battle and the hunt shone in his eyes before he slipped through the door.
It didn’t take Brett long to slide the sleeping woman off his lap and settle her more comfortably on the decrepit couch. She murmured in protest, somehow aware of his intention to leave her, and reached for him. Baby Blood claws erupted from the ends of her fingers to snarl in his flesh.
He sucked in a hard breath as arousal hit him broadside again, and fought the need to start his heart beating. He didn’t need blood surging through his system eating up what remained of his energy. Because with it would go his ability to think, and left to operate on sheer instinct, he wasn’t sure which urge would win out. The need to fuck, or eat. And the latter certainly wasn’t the “fun in the bedroom” sort of eating.
“I won’t be long, sweetpea,” he promised, leaning back to shuck his shirt off. Ripped and torn, it wasn’t much to write home about as a garment, but it held his scent. As soon as he tucked it in under her chin, she quieted down, wrapping herself around the battered fabric with a sigh of contentment. Allowing himself a look and a small smile, Brett turned and headed out of the door.
Julia woke with a crick in her neck. Grumbling, she wriggled to find a comfortable position, but her bed wasn’t co-operating. Overnight it seemed to have changed configuration so that there was a hard board down the top and one side. With a sigh, she flipped on her back, only to have something soft flop over her face. Damn pillow always did that. Fighting a wave of irritation, she moved to grab it and throw it as far away from her as possible, but paused halfway as the most delicious scent washed over her.
God, what was it? A moan escaped her and she grabbed the source, holding it to her face as she breathed in deeply. Rich with dark undertones, it was a treat for the senses, one so beguiling that her mouth watered. Opening her eyes, she looked at what was in her hands. It was a bundle of torn cloth. Frowning, she unfolded it. Not torn cloth. It was a man’s t-shirt.
Memory returned. Nightmare images and pain assaulted her. She remembered agony slicing through her neck and fire filling her veins as pain like icy razor blades clawed at her insides. Through it all, she heard a man’s voice. Deep and reassuring, she’d latched onto the sound to help her through the worst of the pain. He’d held her. Strong arms supported her when she’d thought her own body was trying to kill her. Gentle fingers brushed her hair back from her face when the slightest touch had felt like a brand over her skin. Even the pressure of her own clothes had been almost too much to bear, but somehow his skin was cool. Soothing.
The nightmares faded to a dull roar in the back of her mind the more she concentrated on the memories of him. She focused on the T-shirt in her hands again. It belonged to him. The delicious scent... that was his as well. She clutched the scrap of fabric to her chest like it was the most precious thing in the world. Which it was, to her. Until she found him. But who was he? Although she couldn’t remember anything since she’d been... attacked, there was no doubt in her mind that he’d saved her.
How though? They’d been...she made herself face the word...Vampires. How could one man face so many vampires and survive? Her breath caught in her throat as sudden fear assaulted her. Shit, what if he hadn’t survived?
She sat bolt upright in a rush and looked around, finally taking note of her surroundings. She lay on an ancient couch in a small room. Dust and debris collected in the corners, and a work surface ran the length of the wall down one side. From the battered, out-of-date calendar on the wall by the door, to the chipped mug on one corner of the cluttered surface, it screamed workshop. No blood splattered up the walls though, nor was there a body on the floor. She shifted, arching her back to look behind the couch. Nope, no body there either. She closed her eyes in relief, only for them to spring open again at the sound of an unfamiliar male voice.
“I can see why Perkins likes you. You’re a pretty little thing.”
She snapped her head around. A tall man stood in the doorway, arms folded over his chest. He wore jeans that rode low on lean hips, and his tattered T-shirt was ripped enough to display a rock-solid six-pack. Her gaze travelled upward. Piercing light blue eyes were offset by a hard masculine beauty that under other circumstances would have drawn her like a moth to a flame. Not now. His scent was all wrong. As she watched, his head moved in a rapid side to side motion that was nowhere near human.
The hiss started somewhere near the pit of her stomach and surged upward to explode from between her gritted teeth with the force of a freight train. The darkness within her welled up in response to whatever he was. More than that, it hated whatever this man was with a deep, instinctive passion.
The ghost of a smile flirted with the corners of his lips as she watched, hunger filling his eyes. But it wasn’t the carnal hunger of a man looking at a woman he wanted. It was the hunger of a man looking at a meal.
Almost before she registered it, Julia moved. Springing up to balance on the back of the battered couch, she scanned the room for another way out. No way was she going anywhere near him and the door.
“Looks like the conversion is complete. Good. Means you’re not human. Not human means fair game.”
Conversion? What was he going on about? Following his gaze, she looked down at the hand she was using to balance herself on the back of the rickety furniture. Only her hand wasn’t the same. Instead of merely gripping the decaying leather, claws extending from her fingertips, puncturing the hide of the couch and anchoring themselves in what lay underneath.
Claws. The hiss. Shit…. She’d seen that before.
“So…that makes you a Blood.” His voice broke into her thoughts and she snapped her head up to find him a couple of steps closer, eyes bright with anticipation. “That makes you prey.”
He lunged for her at the same time she pushed off from the couch, her body singing with dark energy as she bounced off the wall to the left and jumped for the door. She was… something else. Like the creatures who had taken her. The vampires. At the thought, pain sliced through her gums, her own blood filling her mouth followed swiftly by thick fangs.
A hard hand closed on her shoulder from behind. He had her. She snarled and swung around, dislodging his hold and flashing her new dental work at him. He just laughed and backhanded her heavily across the face. The blow was like being hit by a truck.
A silent scream filled her head as she was lifted and thrown against the door. The door knob hit her in the center of her back, a blow around her kidneys that had to cause fatal internal bleeding. But her body had other ideas, moving almost before she’d slumped to the ground. She twisted to the side, a large fist slamming into the floor where her head had been a moment before, and a look of surprise crossed her opponent’s face.
“Fucking Blood. I’ll rip out your heart and eat it.”
She lashed out, her body moving of its own accord, and opened his face from temple to lip with her new claws. He didn’t even flinch, not even when the flesh slipped, revealing the whiteness of his teeth. He had fillings. Fuck. What sort of monster had fillings?
“Yeah? Not if I rip yours out first.”
Her words were borne of anger, rage, and frustration at the bizarre turn her life had taken. One thing was for sure: fuck the vampire who had bitten her, and whatever this guy was. She was not going down without a fight.
Still on the floor, she pulled her feet back and bucked upward, slamming her heels into his chest in a copy of a martial arts move she’d only ever seen on the television before. He stumbled backward, crashing into the couch and falling over it. Snarls of rage erupted from behind it, but she didn’t wait around. Getting her feet under her, she raced for the door, hauled it open….
And ran straight into a broad chest.