Lover's Bite Chapter 6

"We're being followed again," Reaper said.

"Are you sure?" Topaz wasn't as much surprised as she was worried. "I thought you said you'd lost them."

"We had. That's the point. Someone must have tipped them off to our location. And the only people I told were our people. You, Seth and Vixen, Roxy and Ilyana."

She lifted her eyes to spear Jack with a steady gaze, having no doubt he could hear every word of the conversation. Could he have been the one? "How sure are you about Ilyana?" she asked.

"We barely know her. But I do think she hates Gregor as much as the rest of us do, having been his captive. Don't you?"

"Yes. But we know she has other motives. Secrets she's keeping. Who knows what they might cause her to do."

"Hang on, Topaz. Got to check something out." And then he switched from speaking aloud, to speaking mentally. She knew he was allowing his thoughts to be heard only by her, and she quickly blocked her own mind to keep Jack from listening in.

We have to at least consider the possibility that it could have been Jack.

She thinned her lips. All right. What do you suggest we do about it?

Tell him I'm heading to Pennsylvania. Say...Philly. I'm not, I'm actually going to the western end of the state to meet with some vampires who might be able to help us with this situation. But you tell him Philly. I'll have someone watching. If the CIA end up in Philly, we'll know.

Did you tell anyone else about this plan?

No one. And then he returned to speaking aloud again. "Sorry. It was nothing. Here's the address where we'll be spending the next day or two."

She nodded slowly, committing it to memory as he recited the phony address. "Philly, huh? Ring the Liberty Bell for me, will you?"

"Thanks, Topaz." I hope to God I'm wrong.

I do, too. "Goodbye, Reaper." She disconnected, a thumbnail to a button, then slid the phone back into the holster that rode on her slender hip.

Jack was studying her closely. "He okay?"

"You must have heard. The CIA spooks nearly caught up to them again. He can't figure out how they knew where he was."

"They're the CIA, that's how."

She nodded. "Yeah. Well, they're heading to Philadelphia. We've got this safe house out there. Vampire-owned, usually vacant, safety features built in-"

"The one on Mariposa. I know it."

"I figured you did. I just hope those assholes don't find them again."

"Me, too. Or if they do, that they're still a few steps behind."

She narrowed her eyes on him.

"So who's the next daddy candidate on your list, hmm? The actor or the mobster?"

"Wayne Clark Duncan's last known address was all the way down in Laguna Beach, so he'll have to wait for tomorrow night. The mob guy, though..."


"Well, it's a Saturday night. According to the police reports, he's a silent partner at a nightclub not far from here-or he was, then, anyway."

"I think a night out is exactly what you need," Jack said with a smile. "Besides, I'm starved."

"I don't have anything stored up. Maybe we could go find a blood bank or a hospital on the way?"

As he thought, the dimples in his cheeks deepened, making her gut tighten and clench. She found it extremely difficult to believe he would betray Reaper for money. And then she wondered why, when he'd done it to her. And why it was she had some idiotic desire to trust him again.

"What would you say to a good old-fashioned vampire hunt?"

"Human prey?" She widened her eyes at him.

"We don't have to kill them. Come on, it would be fun. And this nightclub, if it still exists, should provide a ton of potential victims."

She smiled slowly. It was her nature to relish the hunt. It couldn't be helped. "We erase their memories afterward?"

"If you insist."

"I'm in." Then she glanced down at her attire. "But if we're going to do this, we really need to, uh, dress for dinner."

His smile was quick and bright and devastating. And everything in her reacted to it, just as it always had. She ran upstairs to change into an elegant, full-length dress, scarlet, with a slit up one side that would make Jack's eyes pop. She lowered her head, shaking it slowly. What was wrong with her? She shouldn't want to make any part of Jack pop.

But she did. And in spite of their history, in spite of the fact that he'd already proven himself untrustworthy, she still didn't believe he was informing on Reaper. She couldn't.

The club was called The Underground, and it didn't look like a mob hangout. Music thrummed from inside, strobe lights flashed blindingly through the windows, and the last thing Topaz wanted was to go inside. So instead they struck up a conversation with the doorman to try to find out what they needed to know.

As they'd approached him, Topaz had flashed a smile and a good bit of thigh as she said hello.

He looked her up and down, unimpressed, then picked up a clipboard. "Names?"

"You won't find them on the list," she said.

"You aren't on the list, you don't get in. Move along."

She pursed her lips. "I didn't want to go in, anyway. I just wondered, didn't this place used to be owned by Tony Bonacelli?"

His head came up slowly, and he met her eyes. "Who's asking?"

Topaz held his gaze and exerted the full strength of her will. "I'm asking. And you're going to answer me. You want to answer me. You want to tell me anything I need to know. You know you do."

He blinked, looking dazed. "Tony Bonacelli's been dead for five years. His son Vic owns the place now. Took over business."

"And is Vic here tonight?"

"Yeah. He's here with his girl. Tiffany Skye."

Tiffany Skye. The name rang a bell. "Should I know her?"

"She's done a few movies. Recording a CD now."

"Right," Topaz said. Another of the young blond celebrities who appeared to have gained fame for no apparent reason. "I really would like to talk to them. Are you sure you won't let us in?"

"Yeah, if you want, but they're leaving. I just called for the limo. It'll pick 'em up around back."

"Why, thank you, Bruno. You've been very helpful."

"Name's Dave," he muttered.

"I don't particularly care." She placed her palm on his cheek. "You're not going to remember any of this conversation, Dave. Not even that it happened."

He didn't answer as she turned and walked away, Jack falling into step beside her. Once they were out of sight, she released the bouncer's mind from her control. From around the side of the building they watched as he frowned, blinked and looked around, clearly aware that something had just happened, but at a loss as to what.

The vampires stalked the night, moving silently through the shadows near the rear of the nightclub. Or at least, they were silent when Topaz could suppress her occasional laughter-and it was odd that she could laugh at all, but Jack was right. She was having fun. Stalking, hunting, using her vampiric powers to elicit the information she needed-it gave her a rush. Vampires, for the most part, had become far too civilized. Most rarely embraced their nature these days.

"It's a shame Bonacelli's dead and gone," Jack said.

"There's still hope. He might have let something about my mother slip to his son. And if this Vic knows anything, he'll tell me."

"Oh, I believe it. You had Bruno eating out of your hand." Jack shrugged. "Then again, he is male."

He sent her a wink, and she averted her eyes. She loved flirting with Jack. Always had.

He nudged her with an elbow. "There's a limo skulking toward us," he said. "No headlights."

"That's a good sign. She's a celeb, so they probably want to be discreet."

Near the rear door, which had Dumpsters flanking it, they waited as the limo pulled to a stop.

Eventually the club's back door opened, and a young starlet staggered out, a hot-looking Italian on her arm. He was, Topaz guessed, twenty years older than she was, but he didn't look it. Both of them were wasted, though, and she was pretty sure Tiffany was underage.

Topaz met Jack's eyes, and he nodded. This had to be Tiffany Skye and Vic Bonacelli.

They stepped out of hiding, blocking the couple's path. The drunken pair came to an unsteady halt, looking at them, false smiles beginning to falter. Vic's hand instantly moved toward his side. Topaz felt the rush of Jack's power as he stopped the motion with nothing more than mental force.

"You want to invite us to ride with you in the limo," Topaz said softly. "You're compelled to."

"She's right," Jack said. "You need someone you can trust to be sure you both get home all right. And you know the driver's probably on some tabloid payroll. But you trust us."

"You trust us more than anyone," Topaz added.

The couple's smiles had died completely by now, and their eyes seemed vacant.

Jack slid his arm through Tiffany's, which was about as big around as a pretzel. Topaz did the same with Vic, pleased to feel some decent biceps lurking beneath his shirtsleeve. Smiling and chatting as if they were old friends, they walked toward the limo.

The driver emerged to open a rear door, glanced at Vic and asked, "Mr. Bonacelli?"

"These are friends of ours, Ralph." He spoke in a monotone, his voice without any hint of inflection. "They're going to..."

"See you home," Topaz told him.

"Yeah. They're going to see us home."

"Yes, and put the divider window up, Ralph," Topaz said, sending him a killer smile. "We have private things to discuss."

"Very well."

He held the door as the four of them climbed in. They settled in seats facing one another. Jack sat beside Tiffany, Topaz beside Vic. The driver got in and put the car into motion. A second later, the divider window, darkly tinted, rose with a soft hum.

Topaz turned to the man. "So you're Vic?"

"Yeah," he said, staring into her eyes, mesmerized.

"You're Tony's son?"


She patted his hand. "And you're dating an actress. Like father like son, I guess."

"I guess."

"I think your father knew my mother. She was an actress, too. Mirabella DuFrane. Have you heard of her?"

He nodded, his gaze still stuck to hers like glue. "Everyone's heard of her."

"Well, yes, but I meant-did your father ever speak of her? There's a rumor they were lovers."

Again, he nodded.

Impatience jabbed at her, but she fought it down, took her time. "What did your father say about her, Vic? I'd really like to know, and I know you want to tell me."

He nodded slowly. "He put a hit out on the guy who killed her. Called a sit-down with the other bosses. Put up a million bucks to the guy who could take out Mirabella's murderer."

Topaz felt her brows rise as he spoke those words. Tony Bonacelli would hardly have done that if he'd been behind her mother's murder. Dammit.

"Did anyone ever collect on it?" she asked.

"No. The offer stands to this day. He made me promise to see it through."

She swallowed and glanced at Jack, who was gently moving Tiffany's platinum curls behind one ear, exposing her slender neck.

Don't take too much. She's bird-sized.

Yeah, I noticed that.

She focused again on Vic. "Did your father ever tell you that you might have a sister out there, Vic?"

"You mean Mirabella's baby?"

"Yes. That's who I mean."

"He told me once that he wished she was his. But the timing was way off. He didn't say more than that."

"I see."

Jack was looking at her again. Let's get on with this and get out of here, Topaz. We got what we came for.

She nodded. "Vic, you know what a rush you get from drugs? Like ecstasy?"


"I'm gonna give you an even bigger rush." Topaz leaned in to brush her lips over the guy's neck. She found it corded and firm. Nice. "You want this. You know you do. Just relax," she whispered. "Close your eyes, and let your head fall back and rest against the seat. Oh, it'll be so good for you."

"Yeah," he said, obeying her every word.

She glanced at Jack and found his gaze on her, his eyes ablaze with the bloodlust, just as hers must be. She smiled at him, and he smiled back. And then they bent to feast at the throats of the two lovers.

It was good, Topaz thought. The guy's blood was strong and vital and rich, and packed just enough toxins to give her a slight buzz above and beyond the normal rush of feeding.

She drank, relishing it, lifting her eyes every few sips to glance toward Jack, always to find his gaze fixed on her.

When she'd taken all she could without doing harm, she lifted her head and dabbed at her lips with the back of one hand. Vic was unconscious-not from blood loss, but because she had mentally commanded him to be.

She saw that Jack had done likewise with his party-girl waif.

"Mmm," he said. "That was good, what little I dared take, at least."

"It was. I'm glad you suggested it."

"I'm glad you're open to my suggestions."

She glanced at the sleeping beauties. "Now, what sort of memory shall we give them? That this was all just a dream, or maybe a bad reaction to too many drugs and too much booze?"

"The latter," Jack said. "Might actually do them some good."

The limo came to a halt. "Better hurry, so we can wake them. Ride's over." She took a tissue from a built-in dispenser and dabbed the droplets from their victims' necks, then stopped in mid-motion when the driver's door suddenly opened, and Ralph dove from it and ran like his pants were on fire.

"What the-"

Then a voice from outside shouted, "Get out of the car, hands in the air. You're completely surrounded."

She met Jack's eyes, her brows raised. "You have got to be kidding me."

Jack was peering out the tinted window. "I don't think they're kidding, babe. I think we'd better cooperate. Stay behind me, okay?"

"It's not like they're going to shoot us."

He was still studying them, and she looked, as well. Armed men with shotguns pointed their way stood on all sides of the car. She frowned. "Jack, those don't look like cops."

"I don't think they are."

"Shit. Leave it to me to pick a victim with his own private army."

"Driver must have known something was off," Jack said. "I should have seen it coming." He hit a button and lowered the window slightly. "We're coming out. We're unarmed. And we've done nothing wrong."

He pushed the door open and slowly, with his hands over his head, got out of the limo. He moved about three steps forward, then waited for Topaz to emerge.

"Vic! Tiffany!" the guy who'd spoken earlier yelled. "Are you all right in there?"

Topaz closed her eyes. "Shit. We really should have woken them up."

"Looks like they're down," one of the armed men said. "You two," he commanded Topaz and Jack, "take five steps forward and then lie facedown on the ground, hands behind your heads."

They took a step, then another. On step four, run for it, full speed. Jack sent the words mentally. I'll be right behind you.


Three. Every shotgun muzzle was aimed directly at them.

Four. Topaz hesitated.

Go! Jack ordered.

She flew into motion, and shots rang out. Jack launched himself with a burst of speed a heartbeat after she did, and they vanished like blurs of color in the night. They didn't stop until they were miles from the scene, at the edge of the desert, a sprint that took them only minutes.

Topaz sank into a dune and waited. "Jack," she called, verbally as well as mentally. "Where are you?"

He came into sight then, walking slowly, exhausted-more so than he should have been from the brief burst of speed. She smelled blood.

"Jack!" Surging to her feet, Topaz ran to him.

Blood soaked his shirt. He'd lost the elegant black dinner jacket he'd been wearing somewhere along the way. "God, you're hit."

"Yeah, slightly."

"Slightly, hell, you're bleeding out." She eased him down into the sand, then reached for the high end of the slit in her sexy red dress and tore it all the way around. Using her teeth, she tore the fabric into sections, then wadded up several pieces as she dropped to her knees beside him.

She was glad the feelings roiling in her belly hadn't paralyzed her. The sight of Jack bleeding and the fear of losing him permanently were raging in her mind and in her heart. But instead of slowing her down, they only seemed to spur her into quick action.

She tore open his shirt. The wound was low, just above his hip bone on the right side. And it was pulsing blood at an alarming rate.

"Hold on, Jack," she told him, and willed it with everything in her. She pressed the wad of fabric into the wound, using all her strength to exert pressure. Then she took his hand and laid it over the makeshift dressing. "Press hard."

"Pressing." The word was more of a grunt. His eyes were on her face, but she couldn't look into them. She would lose track of what needed doing if she looked into those eyes. They did things to her.

She took a larger piece of fabric and wrapped it around him to hold the dressing in place, knotting it as tightly as she dared.

He grunted in pain. "Jesus, woman, you can't tourniquet a waist."

"I can damn well try." When she finished, he let his body fall backward in the sand, his eyes heavy. She sensed his pain, and as magnified as it was in their kind, she knew it was crippling him.

"Jack, you can't rest here. Not here."

"Just for a minute."

"We need to get you to shelter." His eyes closed, his head falling to one side. She shook his shoulder gently. "Jack, we're in the desert. And the sunrise is..." She looked at the sky. The stars were fading, and in the distance, a thin ribbon of gray, paler than the midnight-blue above, had appeared. "We've got less than an hour. Come on."

She hooked her arms beneath his and tugged him upright. "Come on, Jack."

He tried, bending a knee and pressing his foot into the sand in a weak effort to rise. But he only toppled again. "Can't. I'm too weak."

"Dammit, Jack!"

He hooked his hand around her neck, cupping the nape, tugging her face close to his. "I have something to say."

"There's no time-"

"I'm sorry I hurt you, Topaz. I really am."

She stared into his eyes, shocked into stillness by those words. She had never expected an apology. And that it came now, when he was hurt and maybe bleeding out-she believed it. She believed he meant it. And, unable to do otherwise, she kissed him. Something possessed her, something beyond reason. His fingers threaded in her hair, and his tongue danced over hers, and he kissed her like he'd never kissed her before.

She was aching, hungry, when their lips parted, but he was still kissing, his mouth trailing over her cheek, her jaw, her neck.

She tipped her head back. "Do it, Jack. Drink."

As his mouth moved against the sensitive skin of her throat, he spoke. "No. Not from you. The bond-"

"I know it forms a bond. The truth is, Jack, we already have one, as much as I hate to admit it. Now drink, dammit, before we both roast in the sun."

His lips trembled as they parted. She felt the graze of his teeth on her skin and shivered from sheer pleasure. And then he bit down, and his fangs sank through her flesh, popped through the vein. His lips closed, and he sucked from her.

Pleasure-no, ecstasy-washed through her like a warm elixir. Her entire body writhed and heated, and her head fell back. She closed her eyes and moaned in pleasure even as she clutched the back of his head to hold him to her, to offer him more and still more.

He pulled away at last and enfolded her in his arms as he lay back. She relaxed atop him, lying across his chest as the sensations slowly ebbed. She knew he was feeling the rush of power now. It would surge through him with the influx of powerful vampiric blood.

Eventually he sighed. "Thank you."

"Thank you." She said it jokingly, but she meant it. God, that had been so good. Only sex could have come close. "Think you can walk now?"

"Yeah. Let's get out of here."

She got up off his chest, regretting the loss of that intimate contact with everything in her. He sat up, got to his feet, reached a hand down to help her. She swayed just a little.

"I didn't take too much, did I?" he asked, concern etched on his face as he searched her eyes.

"No. I'm fine." She wasn't, though. She was drunk with passion, with need. And he was the only man who could fulfill it. The only man who ever had.

"You suppose there's time to get the car?" she asked.

"No, and we can't make it back to the mansion, either. There's barely time to get to the crypt," he said with a brief glance at the night sky.

"We'll make it," she promised, and, clutching his hand in hers, not even wondering why, she got moving.

Jack's pain was excruciating, but at least it was less than it had been before Topaz had replenished him with her blood. Damn, even with the physical agony, his body had come alive when he'd been feeding from her tender throat. Smelling her, tasting her, touching her. He'd felt as if he'd been about to burst into flames.

He wanted her more than ever now; there was no question about that. And he knew that the bond between them, whatever it had been before, had been magnified by the sharing of their blood. It was inevitable. It was also why he'd never partaken of her when they'd had sex in the past, no matter how sorely he'd been tempted. He hadn't wanted to make her any more attached to him than she already had been, knowing he would leave her in the end.

But now they'd done it. Topaz would never get him out of her system now. That thought made him smile just a little, until its echo whispered through his psyche. And you'll never get her out of yours. Then again, you never really have, have you?

His smile died.

Jack was lying on the air-mattress-enhanced bier inside the crypt, while Topaz secured the door, changed her clothes and unfolded a blanket. He watched her every movement, though she never revealed enough to sate him. He didn't think all of her would be enough for that. As hard as he tried, he'd never been able to forget her, to stop wanting her, thinking about her.

She climbed into the makeshift bed beside him and tugged the covers up around them both. Then she rolled onto her side, facing him. He was on his back. "Twenty more minutes, give or take. How's the wound?"

"It's bleeding again, but only a little. I'll last."

"You sure?"

He turned his head toward her. "You'd care, wouldn't you? If you woke up to find me dead tonight, you'd really care."

She lowered her eyelids, hiding her emotions behind them. He could have probed her mind for them, but he was too weak and tired to make the effort, and she was probably blocking, anyway.

"When you have sex with someone, especially if it's only them and for an extended period of time, it creates a bond. It doesn't matter if you want it or not, it just does. That person becomes important to you. It can't be helped. So yeah, I may hate your guts most of the time, but I care."

He nodded. "Is that what it is, you think? A physical bond created by all the sex we had?"

She nodded. "And it'll be stronger now, with the blood sharing. But you know that."

He hadn't thought it could get much stronger. But he liked her theory. He was this drawn to her and this obsessed by her because they'd shared intimacy over a long period of time. It made sense that sex could create a bond as surely as the sharing of blood could. It wasn't any sappy emotional thing, like love, for example. It was physical. Simple. Cut and dried.

"We didn't really get anywhere tonight, did we?" she said. "With the Bonacelli connection, I mean."

"Yes we did, Topaz. We learned a lot. Enough to rule him out."

"As my mother's killer, yes," she said softly. "He wouldn't have put out that reward just to make himself look innocent. A man like him wouldn't worry about looking innocent to his peers. He was too powerful for that. And he certainly didn't broadcast the reward to the authorities to avert suspicion."

"No, that would have gotten him arrested."

"But we still don't know if he was my father," she said.

Jack sighed. "If he told his son the timing was off-"

"I know, but he could have been lying. It's just not as compelling to me as the reward and the hit and all that."

"We'll find out the truth, Topaz. We're getting closer all the time."

She sighed softly. "It's just that we're running out of options. One more interview to conduct. And I don't know where we go from there."

"Mmm, the actor. Retired by now, no doubt."

"It's a long shot," Topaz said, and he could hear the disappointment in her voice. "He didn't even try for custody."

"Don't assume anything." He reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from her face, breaking their deal by doing so, but grateful when she didn't object. "Thank you, Topaz. You probably saved my life tonight."

"You're welcome," she said. He held her eyes for one long moment, and he thought she might just be willing to let him kiss her. But then she lowered her lashes, rolled onto her back and took a long deep breath. "Good night, Jack."

"Good day, Topaz."

Jack had another one of his "errands" to run shortly after sundown. He dropped Topaz at the mansion and left, only to return an hour later with a thick file folder.

Topaz wasn't in the house. Frowning, he opened his senses and felt her outside, on the beach. So he went, file folder in hand, and found her there. She was sitting in the sand, legs stretched out in front of her, staring out over the nighttime sea as the waves rolled lazily, not quite reaching her bare feet. The way the wind moved her hair mesmerized him, and for a moment he just stood there, a few feet from her, watching.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" she asked. "I love the ocean."

"Well, it's wet." He kicked off his shoes and moved closer, setting the folder across her thighs.

"What's this?"

"Dossier on the actor. Thought we might as well go in prepared."

She nodded, but she wasn't looking at the folder. She stared at his face instead. "Where are you getting all this stuff?"

"I know people. Can't tell you more than that."

"Are you blackmailing someone? Conning them?"

"Does it matter?"

She studied him intensely. "I've been thinking about you, you know."

His smile was slow and deliberately suggestive. "Oh, believe me, I've been thinking about you, too."

"I mean about your childhood. Your mother abandoning you. I got to wondering if that's why you treat women the way you do. If maybe, every time you take a female for a bundle of cash and then walk out, you're kind of getting payback. Punishing your mother symbolically."

He pursed his lips, saying nothing.

"Do you think that's why you do what you do?" she pressed.

"I do what I do because I'm good at it, and because it's lucrative. And if I want a shrink, I'll make an appointment with one, okay?" He got to his feet and stomped back to the villa.

"I hit a nerve, didn't I?" she called after him.

"Don't try to analyze me, Topaz. This isn't some kind of mind-meld we've got going on here. We want to fuck each other's brains out. And we will, before this is over, I guarantee it. But that's all it will be. The sooner you figure that out, the easier it'll be for you when it's over."

She would have winced at the words, but she didn't, because he hadn't blocked, and so she felt what he was feeling in that moment. He was afraid, she realized, stunned to the marrow. Jack Heart was scared to death-of her.

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