The sexy little vampiress walked into the bar as if she owned the place.
Since Howling Moon was a low-rent dive hidden on the shadier side of Miami, a bar that catered to werewolves, well, the lady was very much out of fucking place. And, if she wasn’t careful, she might just become the night’s entertainment.
Jace Vaughn tensed when he saw her. He wasn’t as drunk as the other wolves, not yet anyway, so he recognized the deceptively delicate woman instantly.
He could see the hint of her small fangs peeking out just behind the plump fullness of her too-red lips. Vamps’ fangs always came out when they were about to fight or fuck.
So which one was the vamp about to do?
She stilled inside the doorway of the bar. Her long blonde hair tumbled behind her as her gaze raked to the left. To the right. Huh. Looked like she was hunting for someone—or something. In this place, the only thing she’d find was a pack ready to rip her to pieces.
Vampires and wolves weren’t exactly playing nice these days. Or any days.
She should know that.
But then her gaze swept by him. Swept by, then came right back. Her blue eyes—bright with a vamp’s power—caught his. She stared at him, and Jace found he couldn’t look away. A vampire’s trick of compulsion?
Nah…more likely just his own lust. Because the lady was hot. Most female vamps were, those pureblood ones anyway. And Jace knew he was looking at one of the elite pureblood Florida vamps.
A pureblood, in a werewolf hell.
He smiled. Fate must be laughing her ass off somewhere.
Then, she smiled too. A lick of heat shot straight through his body, and the beast that he kept chained inside stretched and growled.
She started walking toward him in her high, fuck-me or fuck-off black boots. Jace shoved away from the bar.
But the others had noticed her now, and they were closing in.
Three males. Big and hulking because that was the way of the beast.
“Vampire…” The snarl floated in the air, and the males reached for her.
“No!” His roar broke a second too slowly.
Two of the males crashed into nearby tables. They’d made the mistake of actually touching her. You didn’t touch a vampiress who didn’t want to be touched. Fools should know that rule.
Purebloods were especially strong.
Excitement had the beast inside yanking on his leash.
Every person in the bar froze for a moment, then instantly turned their attention on her. The vamp had the third wolf on the floor in front of her. He hadn’t shifted, not yet, but his claws were already lengthening. She had one small hand at his throat while the other held tight to his hair, yanking his head back to better expose his neck.
Vampires always went for the throat. So predictable. Their hunger made them weak every time.
“Kill the bitch…” Ah, that mutter came from one of the guys she’d tossed a good ten feet. He was already rising with his claws out and blood dripping from his busted cheek.
Jace lifted his hand, staying the men even as they rose. “Not…yet.”
He knew no one would disobey. They couldn’t. He was alpha, and if they tried, he’d be the one kicking ass.
Even the shitty band stopped playing as he crossed the room. The few human females in the bar glanced around curiously, and he saw a couple of the shifters push them toward the back. The women came to play at Howling Moon. Or rather, the wolves played with them. Those women knew the score about the supernatural world, and they knew to keep quiet about the paranormal society.
The vampiress didn’t release her grip on her prey. Jace took his time stalking toward her. Like most vamps, she had pale, ivory skin. Her features were…damn, pretty perfect. Wide eyes, high cheeks, small nose. Her chin was pointed a little, giving her a slightly stubborn edge, but then, bloodsuckers were not exactly known to be easy going.
Neither were wolves.
She wore all black. Tight black shirt, a very short black skirt, and those boots that oozed sex.
Sex and violence. Yeah, that was pretty much how vamps and wolves rolled.
As he closed in on her, Jace picked up her scent, separating the light perfume of her skin from the booze, sweat, and the cigarettes in the air. The vampire smelled sweet, tempting.
Her kind always did. The better to lure their prey in for that deadly bite. But she was—
He inclined his head toward her. “Let him go.”
“Of course.” Her voice rolled lightly, soft, sensual, but had no accent. She dropped her hold on the wolf instantly.
Then Mike made the mistake of lunging back up and slicing at her with his claws.
Rage exploded inside of Jace, and he leapt forward even as his own claws broke from his fingertips.
She stepped back, ducked, then shoved her fist right at the wolf’s heart. Her punch threw Mike back against Jace.
Jace grabbed the wolf and twisted him around. He lifted the other guy off the floor and glared at him. “I don’t remember giving you permission to attack, Mike.”
He heard the vamp’s breaths panting lightly and knew she wasn’t as controlled as she appeared. No scent of fear, not yet.
“B-bloodsucker…comin’ in here…” Mike snarled. “She can’t just…walk in…”
“I was invited here,” she said smoothly.
Still trapped in Jace’s grip, Mike twisted and glared over his shoulder. “Who the hell…would be dumb enough to invite a vampire here—”
“Your alpha.” Her answer came with a shrug as her gaze lifted back to Jace. Then she inclined her head in the smallest of subservient gestures. Submission. “I was told of your offer, and I’m here to accept.”
Mike’s head swung back toward him. “Jace?” His voice was stronger now. Wolves always healed fast. “What bullshit is she talking about?”
Jace slammed his forehead into Mike’s nose. Bones crunched and blood spurted even as the smaller wolf howled. Then Jace threw the guy against the nearest wall, one that was about fifteen feet away. When Mike crashed, he didn’t get up.
Silence. So thick it covered the whole bar. Jace stared at the vamp, trying to keep all emotion from his face. Then, slowly, he closed the remaining space between him and the woman who was going to change everything for him.
He caught her hand and turned her palm over. Hell, yes, the mark was there, cradled inside her left hand. Just like he’d known it would be. A blood-red rose.
He stood close enough to see the circle of gold in her eyes. The faint gold that marked her just as her hand did. She was something far more than an ordinary bloodsucker.
She was a vampire princess. His key to power, immortality, and she was the perfect weapon that he needed to kick the ass of the demons who’d come to town looking to wipe out his people.
Her lips parted as she stared up at him. He glimpsed her deceptively delicate fangs.
And he caught the scent of fear as it swept through her.
She was right to be afraid. Now that she was there, within his grasp, he’d never let her go.
“I’m Jace.” He let her see his own fangs. “And you’re mine.” A claim made before all the wolves in the room. From now on, any wolf who touched her would face him—and death.
She swallowed and tilted her head back to better meet his stare. “Hello, husband.”
The wolf within growled…Mine.
When you were stuck between death and hell, sometimes, you had to turn to a big, bad wolf for help.
The door to the small storeroom closed with a soft click behind Morgan LaBeaux, and she tried hard not to tense her shoulders.
Alone. With him. The werewolf’s footsteps padded around the room.
She kept her chin up and knew that he’d smell her fear. Dammit, she hated being afraid. But the idea of bonding with this male and staying with him for the rest of her very long life—hello, fear.
Morgan didn’t fear many things, but every vamp in lower Florida knew it was smart to step cautiously around Jace Vaughn. He hadn’t earned the alpha title by playing nicely.
No, he’d earned it by cutting a bloody path through his rivals and leaving their savaged bodies in his wake.
And I get to marry him?
Some days, a bride was just lucky.
“I didn’t think the vamps were going to accept my deal.”
His voice sounded more like a beast’s than a man’s. Deep. Rumbling. He propped his shoulders against the wall in front of her and crossed his powerful arms over his chest. His eyes, so dark they almost looked black, swept over her once more. “A real fucking princess,” he muttered as he shook his head. “I’ll be damned.”
Probably. They all would be. That’s why they were monsters. Though she really hadn’t been given much choice since she’d been one of the few vamps actually born to the blood’s call.
She cleared her throat. “At first, the Council didn’t plan to accept your…ah…offer.” The Vampire Council—the strongest vamps in the area—hadn’t exactly been keen on Jace’s plan. But then the game had changed when their guards started showing up dead, courtesy of the demon bastards who’d come to town.
Once upon a time, the supernaturals had all lurked in the shadows, content to exist only in the nightmares of humans. Why take the spotlight? Death and persecution would only follow. The witch trials had taught them all that.
Vampires had never sought attention, still didn’t.
Wolves, yes, they got a little wild and some rumors had been known to circulate about them, but they’d kept fairly quiet over the centuries, too.
But the demons—those assholes who were escaping hell in increasing numbers—they weren’t in the mood for quiet. They’d amassed in Miami and were planning one deadly coming out party. But first, they wanted to prove they were the biggest, toughest prey in the night.
So they were eliminating their supernatural competition.
A war was coming. No, it had already started. Vampires versus demons. Demons versus wolves.
The enemy of my enemy…
Is my husband.
“The demons want to wipe us out,” she said. “You want them stopped as much as we do.” He still hadn’t moved. Just stood there with his arms crossed. But at least there was no sign of his claws, not anymore. “You were right. The best way for us to end this battle is to team up.”
He smiled, a half-smile that didn’t lighten his face. It just made him look all the more dangerous.
The guy exuded danger like no one she’d ever seen. Darkly tan, golden skin covered a body hard with muscles. Jace Vaughn towered over her, easily passing six-foot-three or six-foot-four. He wasn’t handsome, no, his face was too savage for that. His long, dark mane of hair brushed his shoulders. He had hard, tense features.
Not handsome. But…sexy. Dammit, sexy.
Wolves and their animal appeal. She hadn’t thought that appeal would work on her. She’d been wrong.
“Wolves are holding their own…” Now his arms dropped as he stepped toward her.
“So far,” she whispered. That would change soon enough. Once the demons started concentrating their full strength on them. “You know we have to find the doorway that’s letting these demons out of hell and close it. If we don’t, they’ll take over.”
And their coming out party to the humans would be a nightmare.
His eyes held hers. When he took another step toward her, Morgan held her ground. She had an image to maintain. A vampire can’t tremble before a werewolf. But the slight flare of his nostrils told her that the wolf was drinking in her scent, and no doubt picking up on her fear.
When his hand lifted toward her, she tensed.
“Easy, princess,” he murmured, “it’s just a touch.”
Right. And if they were going through with this bargain, he’d be doing a whole lot more touching.
What’s one life versus the fate of your people? That had been the Council’s big selling speech to her. Sacrifice yourself. Save everyone else.
Go be food for the big, bad wolf…because he can save our asses.
“My name’s Morgan,” her voice came out huskier than she’d intended, but his hand was on her cheek, smoothing over the flesh, and she wanted to shiver. Don’t. She couldn’t show that weakness. His hands were hard, but his touch felt whisper-soft. “Morgan LaBeaux.” There was pride in the words because she was named after the first pureblood vampire ever to be born, Morganna La Fey.
The first, but not the last.
His gaze swept her face. “I can’t believe…they’d really trade…you?”
She swallowed. In the end, it wasn’t about the Council. It wasn’t their lives that would be offered. “It’s my call.” His hand slipped down her throat and his fingers pressed lightly over the pulse that raced beneath his touch.
Yes, her heart still beat. She breathed. She wasn’t dead, despite what humans thought. Purebloods were born as vampires. They simply stopped aging around their twenty-fifth year. Stopped aging and developed a lust for blood.
The others…those who’d been brought over by the bite, well, they did die, but only for a few moments. They came back, stronger than before, and their hearts beat again when they took their first breath of air as a vampire.
“So you’re willingly offering yourself to me?” The wolf asked, voice darker than before.
The weight of his hand felt too heavy against her throat. Wolves were always so big, too big. In a second’s time, their claws could emerge, and they could rip apart their enemies.
And when they went into a full shift…
We need their strength. “Once you help us to defeat the demons, I’ll marry you.” The wolves and vampires would be irrevocably bound.
Any supernatural that wanted a piece of them would find an alliance that was unbreakable. Unbeatable.
Jace laughed. The sound was sinister and strangely sexy. This time, Morgan couldn’t stop her shiver, and she knew he felt it.
“Doesn’t work that way.” His head leaned toward her and his lips hovered over hers. “You want the demons taken out, then you give me what I want first.”
What he wanted…
“Marry me, bond with me, and you’ll have your own personal guard who’ll tear apart anyone who comes near you.”
She licked her lips. “It’s…ah, not just about me.” She wasn’t doing this to save her own skin. “It’s about all the vampires in my nest. They all need protection. Your pack has to give to all—”
“You are my concern.” He shrugged. “But if they matter to you, then they can have pack protection. We’ll take out the demons and leave a bloody trail to warn all others never to fuck with us again.”
Yes, he was good at that kind of trail.
Over the years, the vampires had become, well, some said too civilized. They’d taken to drinking blood from handy little plastic bags. They married humans. They blended almost perfectly with society.
Because so many of them wanted to be human.
Morgan had wanted that, too. Then she saw how easily the humans died.
Now she wanted to be strong. A fighter.
The vampires were falling too quickly to the demon horde. The wolves—they were lasting longer. Because they’re stronger now. If they were going to stop hell, then the vampires needed the wolves at their sides.
“Marry me…” Jace’s whisper.
She knew she’d do anything, but before she could speak, a hard thud shook the wall. Morgan jerked. “What is—”
He wrapped his hands around her shoulders and lifted her up so that she had to stare straight into her eyes. “Demons followed you here tonight.”
“No, that’s not possible, I was careful, I—”
“Now my pack is tearing them apart.”
If only. But, sadly, she’d discovered that it wasn’t simple to kill a demon. You had to sever its head, and cleaving through demon flesh wasn’t an easy task. While a demon’s flesh looked like a human’s, it was harder to penetrate than any armor she’d ever seen.
“Do I have your agreement? You will marry me right away?”
Why did she like the rumble of his voice so much? Morgan nodded.
Another thud shook the wall, and she was pretty sure she heard a scream.
“Good.” A growl. Then the wolf did something she hadn’t expected. His mouth took hers.
Her lips had parted in surprise, and his tongue thrust inside her mouth.
He didn’t taste like a vampire or a like a human. She had experience with those types of men. But Jace…
He tasted wild. Hot.
Her arms curled around his neck as she pulled him closer.
A growl worked in his throat when she sucked his tongue. Oh, yes, she liked that.
Vampires had the wrong image. Cold, stiff. Unfeeling. She’d never been like that. She’d always wanted. Needed.
Maybe he can give me what I want.
Her nipples were hard, stabbing against his chest, and her sex began to moisten. Wolves weren’t easy lovers, or so the stories said. No quick tumble in the darkness for them.
Instead, sex that lasted for hours.
The Council elder’s face had been sad when he’d said, “We hate for you to make this sacrifice…”
It didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to her.
Just felt like white-hot lust.
Her fangs started to lengthen. What will his blood taste like?
She couldn’t wait to find out.
His hands were on her ass now, holding her up and against the hard bulge of his arousal. No missing that fierce length of flesh. The wolf was big all over.
Very slowly, and only after he tasted her once more, Jace lifted his head and lowered her to the ground. “Didn’t expect that.”
She could still taste him.
“Guess vampires can feel more than hate for the wolves.”
Morgan pulled in a deep breath. “And I guess wolves can lust for the bloodsuckers they claim to despise.”
He stared down at her, and she realized she didn’t hear any muffled voices from the bar any longer. No more thuds. No screams.
His hand took hers and his palm felt red-hot against the mark on her flesh.
Wolves were so hot, when she’d known only the cold for so long.
Do it. Go. Don’t back down now. Just because she’d tasted the wolf and realized that controlling him might not be as easy as she’d planned, well, that didn’t mean she could run away.
He opened the door. The smell of blood hit her. But it wasn’t the normally sweet, tempting scent that called to her kind.
Rancid. Brimstone. Hell.
Their bodies lay on the floor. Their heads had been severed, and their eyes—as red as the hell they’d escaped—stared straight up at her. Two demons down…
“How?” She breathed the word in surprise. The vamps had taken hours to kill demons, while the wolves had decapitated these two in mere minutes.
The wolf shifter that Jace had called Mike lifted his hand. His claws glinted. “We can slice through anything.” His gaze seemed to bore into her. “Anything.” The unmistakable threat was in his eyes.
That wolf would be a problem.
She might just have to kill him soon.
Jace caught her hand and threaded his fingers through hers.
But the killing would have to wait. Because, ah, first, she’d have to marry her alpha wolf.