Mystery of the Alien Blood

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Chapter 1

“Dr. Faberman. Dr. Faberman!”

Alexa heard her name being called. Or at least she thought she had. Was she dreaming? She couldn’t tell, but she felt leaden and foggy-headed like she’d been asleep.

She cracked open an eye, but couldn’t see much in the dark room. Searching her mind for some bearings, she remembered dragging her exhausted self to the physician’s break room for a much needed nap.

“Dr. Faberman! Wake up. We got a gunshot victim bleeding out in triage.”

That got her scrambling

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off the hard, lumpy, patient reject bed she’d been sleeping on. Her head slashed toward the door. Light from the hallway illuminated her surroundings enough for her to make out a person standing just inside the room holding the door handle. She squinted and was able to see Brandon’s shadowy features. He was one of her ER nurses.

She groaned and cleared her throat as she walked over to him. Before her nap she’d been on a brutal forty-eight hour shift with only snatches of sleep. She sucked in a huge breath hoping to sort out her fuzzy head.

“I’m coming, Brandon. What room?”

“Three.” He jogged off, leaving her standing in the doorway.

Alexa sighed, then hurried off after him. By the time she reached triage three she was feeling a bit more alive. The room was a flurry of activity. Nearly every nurse on the night shift was doing something for the man on the table. Her PA, Dalton Cummings, was giving him chest compressions and Brittney, one of the RN’s, had both hands pressed against a spot on his upper chest. Her hands and the gauze beneath them were bloody. So was the guy. Not a good scene. Not good at all.

She strode over to the patient. “Dalton, what have we got?”

He looked up at her, but kept right on with his hundred per minute, chest compressions. “We got a gunshot wound slash motorcycle accident victim. He’s been here just under ten minutes and he coded approximately five minutes ago. I started a transfusion on him immediately because we got a serious bleeder on our hands.”

“Have you shocked him?”

“Of course.”

“Time to do it again.”

Alexa grabbed the paddles off the crash cart, called for an all clear, then placed one on his chest and one on his side. She shocked him and the guy’s body convulsed, his upper body lifting off the table for a brief second. Alexa looked at the heart monitor. Flat as an Oklahoma prairie. “Again.”

The second shock was a winner. Erratic waves ran across the screen. Beat interval and rhythm was less than spectacular, but the guy at least had a heartbeat.

Alexa let out the breath she’d been holding, placed the paddles back on the crash cart, then turned her attention to the guy’s other major problem—the gunshot wound. The amount of blood seeping through the nurse’s fingers was staggering. No wonder he’d coded. No, the wonder was that he was still alive. Right now seconds were precious. She gave the order to take him to surgery. Dalton, kick ass PA that he was, had already informed surgery the guy was on his way before he’d coded. In case he decided to code again, Alexa decided to be a part of the escort team. It wasn’t until they were all in the elevator headed to the fourth floor that she really looked at the patient.

She studied his face first. His skin coloring was pale, almost grey in fact. No surprise there with massive bleeding. Dark eyelashes longer than her own, contrasted starkly against his skin, as did his long, shoulder-length hair that was so black, it had a blue hue to it. He had full lips and a long, but perfectly proportioned nose. The sum total of his features was nothing short of magnificent. Youthful too. She guessed him to be around the age of thirty-five. If someone told her the guy was a model she would have believed it, despite the fact his arms were sleeved with tattoos. In fact all the ink he wore would probably just make him more enticing to some modeling agency.

Before the EMT’s had gotten ahold of him, he’d been wearing a black t-shirt. Someone had cut it down the middle and his chest was completely exposed, not to mention bloody. Still it was an impressive chest, belonging to a man with a health club membership, no doubt. Those tattooed arms looked like they could curl a fifty pound barbell with little effort. Impressive male specimen, Alexa thought. She sure hoped he made it. Well, she always hoped and prayed every patient in dire straights made it, but for some reason she really didn’t want to see this man meet his Maker. He was far too young and gorgeous to be another statistic of gun violence.

She wondered what other injuries he’d incurred from the bike accident. No one would have had time to find out yet. She also couldn’t help wonder how he’d been shot. No telling.

Once the surgical team took over, Alexa and the triage team returned to the ER. She went directly to the nurse’s station to check on the patient roster. It was around three in the morning, but an ER was like an all night diner—always bustling with activity. Next up was a guy complaining about an acute, right abdominal pain. No doubt an appendix issue. She’d soon see, she supposed.

Three adult patients and a colicky baby later, Alexa returned to the nurse’s station to take on whoever was up next. She felt shades beyond exhausted, but she still had three and a half hours to go before her shift ended. When she got there she saw Dalton, two ER nurses and Lacy Adams, a lab tech, standing in a circle talking. She frowned at the phlebotomist who had a well known reputation for gossip. Especially about patients.

Determined to nip her tongue wagging in the bud, Alexa marched over to the group. Just as she opened her mouth to ask what they were talking about, she heard Dalton ask, “What do you mean he’s not human?”

Alexa’s curiosity was peaked. Unfortunately, she’d been spotted and everyone had shut up and now stared at her. “So what’s up, guys?”

Dalton glanced at Lacy and shook his head. “I ordered a type and crossmatch on that gunshot victim who coded earlier. Apparently, Lacy couldn’t match him.”

Alexa frowned because her PA wasn’t making a lick of sense. “What do you mean she couldn’t match him?”

Lacy answered her question. “Just that. His blood doesn’t match up to any known type. In fact when I took the liberty of examining his blood, it wasn’t even human blood. It wasn’t animal either. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. His red cells were twice the size of a human’s red cell. I freaked out, then came straight here to tell Dalton.”

Alexa jerked her head back, stunned. “You did something wrong. Everyone has a blood type. He probably just has a very rare one.”

Lacy shook her head. “Ran it three times. You run it if you don’t believe me.”

Alexa didn’t. What Lacy claimed was impossible. Besides, he needed blood and lots of it. O positive always ran short and if surgery wasn’t screaming for the labs result on Dalton’s test they would be soon.

Leaving Dalton in charge, Alexa went back to the lab with Lacy. First she read through the man’s type and crossmatch results, starting with his name. He was a John Doe. Apparently, he’d had no identification on him. Lacy had indeed ran the test three times without a successful match. Alexa ran a fourth one and had no better luck then the lab tech. Confused, she placed a drop of the man’s blood on a slide and gave it a look. Lacy hadn’t been lying. The blood sample was not human, nor was it similar to anything resembling a mammal, bird or fish. It was completely alien is what it was.

Dear God! Could all those men from outer space stories she’d heard as a kid be true?

“Well, what do you think?” Lacy asked her.

Alexa lifted her head. She’d been staring down the lens of a microscope and had totally forgotten about the girl. “Uh, well, it’s obvious someone switched the blood samples. I don’t know who would do such a thing, but if I find the person responsible they’re going to be out of a job. This isn’t cute or funny. A man’s life is on the line.” Alexa gave her a stern, disapproving look.

Lacy’s eyes widened and she bit the nail of her forefinger. “I-I swear it wasn’t me. I’ll go get another sample from him if you’ll write me an order.”

“Never mind. I’ll do it myself. That way I’ll know no one’s tampered with it.”

Alexa snatched up a lab caddy, marched out of the room and hurried to the surgical unit. She was pleased to discover the guy had made it and was now in recovery. After gaining his room number from one of the surgical nurses, she went there with the intention of drawing his blood. She nearly dropped the plastic caddy on the floor when she saw him sitting up on the side of the bed yanking his heart monitor leads off his chest.

She sat the caddy on the floor next to the door and rushed over to him. “Sir. Stop that!”

His head shot up and he pinned her with a look so fierce it took her breath away. Then she got a good look at his eyes. They were gold like a cat’s only more vibrant in color and they were sparkling like diamonds. She gasped and backed up a step.

“What do you want?” he growled.

“Wh-what are you?” Alexa couldn’t quell the question in time, but she wished she had. He’d looked menacing before, but now he reminded her of a coiled snake primed and loaded to strike.    

“Trust me. You don’t want to know the answer to that question.” He looked down at his arm, then grabbed hold of his IV line and yanked. He tossed the needle and tape on the floor, then went back to ridding himself of the EEG leads.

Alexa knew that by herself she wouldn’t be able to get him back into the bed. The man was huge, ripped like a body builder and at least six five, maybe taller. She had two choices, run for backup or try to talk some sense into him. Figuring it would take six or seven men to wrangle him back into the bed and tie him down, she opted for the latter.

“Sir. You need to listen to me. You just came out of surgery. You were shot and you’ve lost a lot of blood. You won’t even make it out of this room, let alone wherever you think you’re going. If you’ll just tell me what you want maybe I can help you.”

His eyes narrowed and he growled. The sound reminded her of what a wolf might sound like when in attack mode. She backed up two more steps and swallowed hard.

“I don’t need your help,” he snapped.

His voice was deep and a bit gravely. Everything about him, looks, hair, tattoos and especially his voice put her in mind of a quintessential biker dude. She’d never gone for that type, but something about this guy was just plain sexy. She chastised herself instantly for the thought, but still she couldn’t help appreciate just how beautiful of a male he happened to be. Nevertheless he was a male trying to leave against medical advice. She couldn’t have that.

“So you’re really leaving?” She didn’t believe he could actually follow through with the notion. In fact, he was probably going to faint any moment. Hopefully, she could get him back in the bed before that happened.

“Damned straight. Where the fuck are my clothes?” He looked down at himself and scowled.

He wore a hospital gown now, which of course surgery had put on him. “Gone. I’m sure they were cut off of you and discarded.”

That information got her another brittle scowl and more cursing. “Go get me some scrubs or something. Where the hell am I anyway?”

“Washington Regional Hospital in Fayetteville. You were brought here because someone shot you and apparently you had a motorcycle accident as well.”

More cursing. “I gotta find my bike.”

“I’m sure it’s been impounded. If you’d just chill for a minute and think about things logically, all your worries can be dealt with at a later date. Your health is most important right now and trust me when I tell you, you’re in no condition to leave.”

Those amazing gold eyes were shooting sparks again. The phenomenon was the most eery thing she’d ever seen, yet so beautiful she couldn’t tear her gaze from his.

“Who are you? Some human quack?”

Alexa found it odd he’d inserted the adjective human in that last sentence. What else would she be? “I’m Dr. Faberman. I was with you in the ER. You coded. What I mean by that is you died, sir. We worked on you and brought you back, but you’re not out of the woods yet.”

“What the fuck ever. And quit calling me, sir.” He glanced up at the IV pole where a bag of blood and saline solution hung and licked his lips.

“Okay. So what should I call you?”

His gaze slashed to hers. “You can call me a cab. How about that?”

“Not happening. You’ve lost too much blood to be going anywhere. Now either get back in bed or I’m going to go get some guys to help me tie you in it.”

He smiled, but is was so mirthless and predatory, Alexa shuddered. She knew he was too weak to hurt her, but he scared her nonetheless. Her fear was not unfounded. A second later he grabbed her throat. Maybe it was less than a second. All Alexa knew was that he’d been sitting on the bed, then in the blink of an eye he manifested himself in front of her and now cut off her air supply. She hadn’t even seen him move. Oddly, that frightened her worst than being choked.

Chapter 2

Alexa grabbed the man’s wrist with both hands and dug her nails deep into his flesh. She would have struggled harder if she hadn’t been afraid he’d crush her trachea. His eyes bored into hers with malice and Alexa knew he intended to kill her. She’d pass out long before that though. It took several minutes to choke a person to death.

Alexa knew she was on the brink of oblivion. White dots were flitting around in front of her eyes like drunk pixies. The need to breathe set off the panic centers in her brain. She couldn’t plead with him to stop so she used her eyes, pouring her heart and soul into them, hoping if there was a thread of humanity within him he’d have mercy on her.

Their gazes married. The malice that had been there a second ago was gone, replaced by bewilderment. His chokehold on her loosened, but he didn’t remove his hand. Instead, he ran a finger down the side of her neck, pausing directly over her carotid pulse. Her heart thundered as hard and erratically as a smoker who’d just ran a four minute mile. She knew he could feel it. Why he wanted to made no sense given the fact he’d been choking her a minute ago.

Finally she inhaled a full breath and instantly went into a coughing fit. At least her struggle for air got him to back up a step. Her mind was telling her to flee and she would have if she hadn’t been so darned light headed.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured.

She shot him what was likely a withering look. “Sorry? You tried to kill me!”

His gaze dropped and he sighed. “I wouldn’t have killed you. I only wanted you to pass out so you wouldn’t cause trouble for me.”

“Oh, that’s all. Well, isn’t that comforting,” she snarled, still rubbing her tender neck.

He looked contrite, but Alexa wasn’t buying it. She posed no threat to him. Sure, she’d been trying to get him back in bed, but that was for his welfare. She’d laid out the facts for him. Was he too dense to realize that he could die if he exerted himself? Maybe. He wasn’t the first patient in her two year career that had blown off her advice and left the hospital. Still she’d never witnessed a person fresh out of a major surgery trying to leave. The anesthesia alone should still have him somewhat loopy. It would a normal person anyway. Alexa was beginning to believe he wasn’t normal. What he was she didn’t know, but if his blood work had been telling the truth, he wasn’t human. His eyes weren’t human either. Add to that the way he’d moved. No human could cover the distance he had faster than an eye could see.

He let out a long, exaggerated sigh, then said, “Are you okay?”

Alexa fingered her throat and wondered if she’d find bruises there. “No, I’m not okay. I have half a mind to report you to the police.”

“I don’t normally attack humans and never females. I just—“ He broke off and shook his head like a wet dog. “I don’t know what came over me.”

Maybe his behavior had been triggered by the shock of waking up alone in foreign surroundings and he’d been scared. It could have even been the drugs. “Some people have bad reactions to anesthesia. I’ve seen people act out after surgery. It’s rare to behave in a homicidal fashion, but it does happen.”

He nodded. “I have to go.”

“Says who? What could be more important than your life?”

His scowl came back, but it was more irritated than menacing this time. “Nothing, which is why I need to get the hell out of here.”

Alexa widened her eyes. What had this guy so spooked? Was he in some sort of trouble? The police would be around eventually to question him because he’d been shot. Maybe he’d done something and feared being arrested. “What are you afraid of?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, he pivoted and looked out the window where the sun peeked through pink and blue clouds hovering over the horizon of the city. He cursed, then walked back over to the bed and sat down, shoulders slumped.

“What is it?” Alexa pressed.
“I’ll stay a little longer if you’ll do something for me.”

Alexa was willing to bargain with him if it would get him back into that bed. She really shouldn’t do anything for him after what he’d done to her. Still he was a patient and she had an obligation to see to his care. “Depends on what it is you want me to do.”

“I need you to find me some clothes and sunglasses.”

“You’ll just bolt if I do that.”

He genuinely smiled for the first time, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. It wasn’t a particularly friendly smile, more cunning than anything else. “I’m going to leave with or without your help. Timing is the only factor in the equation.”

Stubborn man! Her inability to get through to him was frustrating her to no end. “All right. I have a bargain for you then. I’ll get you what you’ve asked for if you’ll stay in bed while I do it. That means the IV goes back in because you need more blood. The heart monitor stays on so we can keep an eye on your ticker. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

He snorted and shot her a derisive look. “Fine, I’ll give you an hour.”

Alexa smiled at him, pleased to be making some progress. She couldn’t do much for him in an hour, but she supposed it was better than nothing. “Then if we have a deal please get back into bed and let me have a quick look at you.”

He scooted further onto the bed, swung his legs onto the end and laid back. Alexa walked over to him and studied his face. His skin coloring was still a bit pasty. She picked up his hand, intending to check his fingernails, but an odd, electric-like jolt caused her to gasp and drop it. Her gaze clashed with his surprised one that surely mirrored her own.

Alexa found herself at a loss for words and a little nervous too. She’d never had a reaction like that to any man before, let alone a patient.

She cleared her throat. “Um, I need to get a look at that entry wound on your chest. Will you let me untied your gown?”

“As far as I’m concerned you can take the damned thing completely off.”

Alexa had seen hundreds of naked bodies over the course of the eight years she’d spent in medical school and her two years as an ER doctor. For some reason the thought of seeing this man naked stirred up a very inappropriate longing low in her belly. “Let’s not do that until I get you something to change into.”

Those gold eyes began to sparkle again, this time with mirth. It was most bizarre and stymied her, yet beguiled her at the same time.

She reached both hands behind his neck and searched for the strings. He stared at her, which caused a slight tremor in her hands. Eventually she found the end of one of the ties and gave it a tug. Next she pulled the left side of the gown down his arm, revealing the bandage the surgical team had placed over his chest wound. It was stark white, which surprised her. She would have expected some bleeding after he’d exerted himself the way he had. Satisfied, his stitches had held, she tugged the top of the gown’s sleeve over his shoulder.

“Well, no sign of any bleeding. That’s good.”

He grunted. “What’s next.”

“Re-inserting your IV.”

He shook his head. “No more needles.”

“Sir, you need blood and I can’t state that any more emphatically.”

“I told you to quit calling me sir.” He scowled at her.

“Then tell me your name.”

“Raul.”

“Raul.” Odd name, Alexa thought. “All right then, Raul, the deal was I get you what you want if you do what I want. I need to put an IV in you. I’m very good at it and I promise it won’t hurt.”

His eyes narrowed with impatience. “I’m not a coward when it comes to pain, I just prefer a different method to acquire my blood needs.”

Alexa frowned. “And what method would that be?”

He got out of bed, circled around her and grabbed the blood unit off the IV pole. Then to her abject horror, he ripped open the top of the bag and guzzled the blood like a college kid slamming a can of beer.     

“Dear, God,” she breathed. The guy was clearly mentally unstable.

He swiped the back of his hand across this lips then laid the empty bag on the bedside table. “I’ll take another one if you have it.”

Alexa backed away from him, appalled. Whether his bizarre behavior had to do with the affects of the anesthesia or he was deranged, she didn’t know, but her lofty goals to aide this man were starting to waver.

“No need to look so shocked, Dr. Faberman. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m no ordinary man.” He smiled wolfishly.

“I can certainly see that.”

“You’ve ran tests on my blood, haven’t you?” He quirked a brow.

Alexa nodded.

“And what were your findings, doctor?”

“Very strange and inconclusive. Do you know why?”

He gave her another of those predatory smiles. “Yes.”

“Care to share?”

He shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me.”

“Try me.” 

“You already know I’m not human. You’re asking yourself a number of questions, I’m guessing. Such as what kind of person drinks blood, yet has a type of blood that can’t be identified. Am I right?” 

She nodded, anxious to hear his explanation.

“Then think about it for a minute. You strike me as a smart woman. I think you already know the answer to all your questions.” He smirked.

“You—you think you’re a vampire.”

He chuckled, then went back to the bed and sat down. “No, I don’t think it. I am what I am.”

Alexa no longer believed the guy suffered from the affects of his surgery, his accident or anything that had happened to him. He was just plain certifiable. “No one is immortal, Raul. Not a physical being anyway. Vampires are a myth. Some people drink blood but that doesn’t make them a vampire.”

“Did I say I was immortal?”

“No.”

“It seems you believe in vampires despite the fact you say they’re a myth. You have the opinion they’re immortal, which is false. Vampires are just as mortal as humans only they live much longer and they heal much quicker. And they move much faster.”

Then he was just there in front of her, his body inches from hers and smiling that wolf-like smile that made her entire body tingle with trepidation and something else she didn’t want to put a name to. “How did you do that? How did you just appear in front of me?”

He let out a deep, rumbling laugh that was a bit mocking. “The same way you got to my bed a few minutes ago. I walked, just more quickly than you did.”

Alexa swallowed hard. The urge to back up again was overwhelming. “It’s not possible for anyone to move that fast.”

“It’s not impossible. You’ve seen me do it twice now. Can’t deny that, can you?”

“What else can you do?” She should not have asked that question. It only made him grin bigger.

“I could make you do anything I desired if I wanted to.”

That statement did cause her to back up a step. He was simply too close. Too overwhelming and not only because he was a big man. He had a powerful presence about him, and a very unique, enticing scent that was musky and spicy, a little woodsy too. She was having a really hard time picking an emotion to dwell on because so many swirled inside her right now. Fear seemed the sensible one to choose, but desire was running a close second. That bewildered her. How could she be attracted to a man who was disturbed and dangerous? Deep down she really didn’t believe the man would hurt her. When he’d tried earlier he hadn’t been able to follow through. The remorse she’d seen in his eyes had seemed very real.

“What’s your name?” he asked softly.

“I already told you. Dr. Faberman.”

“Your first name.”

He had such a beguiling voice. It was deep, smoky and downright sexy. She feared if she heard him say her name she might very well do anything he desired her to do. Still, she felt compelled to tell him. In fact, she felt an irresistible desire to hear him say her name. “A-alexa.”

The corners of those full lips lifted a fraction. “Alexa. A beautiful name. Are you afraid of me, Alexa?”

She shook her head, but the silent reply was a boldfaced lie. Her body’s reaction to him had her terrified.

“Good.” He took a step forward, gapping the distance between them, then lifted his arm and tucked some of her blonde curls behind her ear. “You’re a beautiful woman, but something tells me you don’t see yourself that way. Your not wearing any make-up to enhance those deep green expressive eyes of yours or those full pouty lips that I intend to kiss now.”

He leaned in and closed his eyes. Warnings were going off in her head like tornado sirens, but Alexa couldn’t move. Even when his lips lightly brushed hers, she couldn’t muster resistance. She needed to. It was the right thing to do, but those thoughts fled when he pressed his mouth hard against hers and went to aggressively kissing her.

Her arms snaked around his neck. She cupped the back of his head, urging him on, knowing it was wrong, but absolutely powerless to stop him or herself. It was as if she were in a trance and someone held the reigns of her will.

She kissed him back. Tongues tangled. Their individual moans of pleasure too. Alexa was on fire. She’d felt passion before, desire and lust too, but what she felt now was in a league of its own.

He was the one that eventually ended the kiss. To her mortification she groaned, throughly disappointed.

Her face was burning hot. She couldn’t look at him, but he had other ideas. He lifted her chin forcing her to meet his gaze. The desire and need she saw there made her gasp.

“You surprise me, Alexa. There’s great passion in you. In fact you exude it in everything you do. You pour your heart into your work. Your relationships too. You even give it wholly to those less fortunate than you by volunteering to treat people who can’t pay you.”

“H-how could you know about my work at free clinics?” Dear God! Was he able to read her mind? She hadn’t been thinking about that while she’d been kissing him. Her mind had been solely in the moment and wallowing in the intense pleasure she’d been feeling.

“The answer to your question is yes.”

“I didn’t ask a question.”

The corner of his mouth quirked upward. “Didn’t you just ask yourself if I could read your mind?”

Alexa shook her head rapidly, hoping to dislodge some of the confusion rattling around in her brain. “That’s impossible.”

“For most people.”

“But not for you?”

“Not for me.”

Alexa lost the power of her tongue. She couldn’t even think straight. Reason being, she believed him. She was more scared now than when he’d had his hand wrapped around her neck. She couldn’t believe she’d kissed him especially in light of his attempt to choke her. Add to that he was a patient. She took pride in her professionalism. This man had systematically caused her to throw her morals, scruples and good sense out the window. She had to get away from him.

She turned and literally ran for the door. As she jerked it open, he said, “You will keep up your end of our bargain won’t you, Alexa?”

She pivoted and stared at him. He was smiling again in that cunning way that gave her chills while causing a weighted sensation in the lowest region of her torso. She didn’t want to ever lay eyes on him again, yet she yearned to feel his lips on hers once more. Was she loosing her mind?

“Alexa? Your word?”

Being a woman of her word, she gave him a nod, then fled out the door and ran down the hall. She finally stopped at the elevators to catch her breath, then looked back to make sure he hadn’t followed her.

Her mind had slipped a little. As much as she wanted to blame it on exhaustion, Alexa knew that wasn’t the case. The man had enchanted her somehow. How much of her behavior had been his doing she didn’t know, but what rattled her most was her body’s reaction to that kiss. That had been all on her.

Chapter 3

Raul watched the spirited human doctor rush out of the room and slam the door behind her. He chuckled and not because he’d scared her, which he had. When he’d been in her head he’d felt her fear, uncertainty, longing, lust, passion—everything. No, he laughed because of the argument she’d been having within herself over that kiss.

He really couldn’t say why he’d kissed her. She was beautiful and desirable, but he was never at a loss for those sort of women. Lust had certainly been a motivating factor. Mostly he’d just wanted to find out if she tasted as good as she smelled. There was something about her scent that called to his vampire. He wanted to taste more than her mouth though. As strong as the hunger was at the moment, he was surprised he’d restrained himself from biting her. He’d scared her once because his own fear had gotten the better of him. He wasn’t about to do it again, which he would have if he’d fed from her.

Damn. He should have requested another unit of blood from her while they’d been bargaining. No matter. He could hunt later once he had his bike back. His Harley needed to be his first priority once he got out of here.

Raul climbed back into the bed and crossed his arms, wondering if Alexa would keep her word or try to have him moved to a psych ward. Generally, he kept what he was from humans, but she already knew he wasn’t human. He understood enough about hospitals to realize they would have drawn his blood. Granted that could get him into some trouble, but he wasn’t going to sweat it. He’d be out of here in an hour or so. Long before the hospital could get government agencies involved that would cause him trouble. There were branches of the government who abducted vampires, studied them and performed ungodly tests on them. He ought to know. He’d been their guinea pig once.

Raul was going to be two hundred and ninety-eight next month. He’d lived a long time and had experienced much in his life, both good and bad. He was a loner though, these days. He avoided people, even his own kind. The reason was simple. He wanted to live and on his own terms. He’d made the mistake of getting involved in the Syrian/American war in twenty-thirty five. That had been ten years ago. A diabolical government agency had been after him ever since he’d taken a bullet and the army discovered he wasn’t human.

He’d gone there to help allied forces fighting a terrorist faction trying to take over the country because those same terrorists had been raining down havoc on his own country. He’d been born in the U.S. right before the war between the states and he’d lived more years here than abroad. He might be a vampire, but he was loyal to his country and had fought in a number of their wars.   

He deeply regretted getting involved in this last one. He no longer had a home. He hadn’t seen his sister, Adeline, in years because he couldn’t risk her becoming a victim of the SFVO, the studies for vampires organization. He was constantly on the move. Setting down roots somewhere was an impossibility. He’d tried it twice with new identities and the lowlife bastards had still somehow found him.

Now he just rode his bike across the country and back again. He was a professional gambler. When you were a vampire and could manipulate minds and practically anything mechanical or technological, it only made sense to capitalize on that gift. Unfortunately, every single casino in Las Vegas and Atlantic City had blacklisted him. Sure he could enchant his way back into those casinos, but the SFVO knew he’d been in Vegas and Atlantic City, so it was best to avoid those cities completely. Of late he’d started gambling in the midwest and ultimately ended up in Arkansas.

Raul looked at the clock on the wall straight across from his bed. Around forty minutes had passed since that doctor had left. She had twenty more minutes until he went hunting for her. One way or another he would get what he needed from her—clothes and sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from the sun. He could find the city’s police impound lot if he had to, but he couldn’t get there without his eyes covered and he really preferred not to do so in a hospital gown.

He stretched out his left arm and made a fist to test the soreness in his chest. It was mild and wouldn’t restrict him from normal, everyday activities such as handling his hog. He didn’t recall everything about taking that switch back curve on a back road just outside of Fayetteville, when he’d had the bike pegged out at around one-fifty. He did remember the crash and being thrown off the bike into a grassy ditch. It was a miracle he hadn’t broken a bone. That would have had him out of commission for a few days. Anyway, he’d given his bike a quick examination before he’d ran off. Dents and scratches were all he’d observed. He wouldn’t know if there were other issues until he could take a good look at it.

He couldn’t help but wonder if those SFVO bastards had been trying to kill him when they’d shot at him. Maybe they no longer wanted to study him. Maybe they just wanted him dead. He still couldn’t figure out how they’d found him. Had to be the casinos. He’d thought Native American run casinos to be safe because they tended to stay out of government affairs. Apparently, he’d been wrong. The SFVO agents had caught up with him in Seneca Missouri and had been tailing his ass for three days using helicopters and even highway patrol to locate him. Honestly, what he needed was a new mode of transportation. He loved that damned hog though. It would be a fucking shame to abandon it.

The sound of the door opening drew his attention that way. He fully expected it to be Alexa, but his visitor was a gray-haired, older human male wearing green scrubs beneath a white lab coat. Another doctor, he presumed.

The man smiled and walked up to his bed. He glanced at the IV and heart monitor leads laying on the floor and frowned. “What happened there?”

Raul shrugged.

“Hum. Well, you’re looking good considering you lost almost half the blood in your body, Mr. um,”

“Raul Claybourne, but Raul is fine.”

“I’m Dr. Beaumont. I preformed your surgery, which went well by the way, despite all the blood you lost. Do you want to tell me how this happened?”

Raul shook his head. The doctor frowned at him. Raul had the distinct impression the man disapproved of him. Not that he cared.

“Very well. Raul, I’m afraid we’re going to have to put that IV back in. You’re going to need another couple of units of blood before you feel like your old self again.”

That was true, but he wasn’t going to take them through an IV. Many young vampires these days used the IV method for their blood needs due to ethical reasons, but Raul had spent too many centuries hunting. He saw no reason not to. The humans never remembered the experience. That being the case, what difference did it make how he got his blood? He probably would never understand the youth of today.

“All right then, Raul. I’m going to send a nurse in to put your IV back in. Do you feel like you need something for pain?”

Raul shook his head again. He didn’t bother telling the doctor he didn’t intend to have another IV put in him. No sense in riling the old man. He’d just enchant the nurse into giving him a blood unit without involving a needle, which is exactly what he did when a young, red-headed, male nurse entered with a unit of blood and IV supplies around fifteen minutes later.

After the nurse scrammed, he peeled apart the top portion of the plastic bag of blood, put the corner up to his mouth and drank. He had his head back, guzzling the last few drops when he heard the door open. A second after that he heard a gasp.

“Raul! Drinking that isn’t going to do anything for you, but make you sick to your stomach.”

He sat the empty bag in his lap and turned his head toward the door. Alexa held a stack of folded clothes, jeans, what looked like a t-shirt, his boots and a pair of sunglasses. Good woman. Now he could get the hell out of here. He smiled. “Vampires may absorb the nutrients they need in human blood a bit slower when taking it orally, but we still metabolize it like we’re supposed to. So quit worrying.”

She walked over to the side of his bed wearing a disapproving frown. “Still sticking to that vampire story, huh?”

He nodded. “I have a feeling you won’t be questioning it much longer. You need to prepare yourself. You’ll be meeting some guys soon that aren’t very nice. They’ll be asking you questions about me. I suppose you can tell them whatever you want. But what I wouldn’t do is tell them you believe I’m a vampire.”

“Why’s that?”

“They’re nasty. Let’s just leave it at that.”

“No worries. I don’t believe for a minute that your a vampire. An eccentric. Absolutely. A man with some especially intuitive gifts? Perhaps. But you’re no vampire.”

He wasn’t going to argue with her. Time was not on his side at the moment. He took the clothes in her hand and sat them on the edge of his bed, then shrugged out of the hospital gown. Having lost his modesty years ago, he tossed the thing on the floor, got out of bed and put on the t-shirt first. As he was stepping into the jeans, he looked up and caught her staring at his parts. He grinned, but when he felt himself stir, his humor quickly fled.

He tugged the jeans over his ass, then adjusted himself the best he could before he zipped them up. Done with that he slipped on the sunglasses, then propped them on the top of his head. He began tugging on one of his boots as he said, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. You look better, but I still don’t think you should leave.”

“Gonna miss me?” He couldn’t resist the little goad.

She blinked rapidly a few times and frowned. “Why would I miss someone who tried to kill me then forced himself on me?”

“If I wanted you dead you’d be dead. I told you I’m sorry about grabbing you. As far as that kiss, no force was involved there and you know it.”

She didn’t like his reply one bit, Raul thought. Her face was pinched and those pouty lips were drawn into a thin line. She opened her mouth to say something, but must have heard what he did—the door opening. She turned around just as two men in black suits wearing sunglasses entered. Raul could smell them for what they were—humans. Not just any humans. They were SFVO agents. He’d been found.

Chapter 4

Alexa stared at the two unfriendly looking fellows who had just entered Raul’s room. Their eyes were covered by sunglasses. She found that odd. Whether they stared at her or Raul, she couldn’t tell. They gave her the creeps though, and she was pretty sure they weren’t here to wish Raul a speedy recovery.

Could they be the men he’d mentioned? Did they mean Raul harm? “Who are you?” Alexa asked, then put herself in front of Raul.

“We’re here to talk to Mr. Claybourne. Are you his doctor?” This from the man on the left with short blonde hair and a fairly healthy tan.

Alexa nodded. “Are you family?”

The other man who had black hair smiled mirthlessly. “Not exactly. We have business with him though that involves a member of his family.”

She heard the mattress shift and a second later Raul was standing beside her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We’ve been visiting with Adeline. It would be a pity if something should happen to her,” the black haired man replied, then smiled in a way that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

Alexa could have sworn she heard Raul growl. Whether she had or not, he proved himself very upset when a moment later he transported himself from her side to the man with black hair. He grabbed the man’s throat like he had her’s earlier, but actually lifted him off the floor with just that one hand. Alexa didn’t know what to think. The guy wasn’t as big as Raul, but he had to be close to two hundred pounds.

The blond guy pulled a gun from beneath his suit jacket and pointed it at Raul’s head. “Let him go. Now!”

Alexa gasped. She didn’t know what to do. Both of the men didn’t strike her as reasonable, especially the one with the gun. He seemed pleased with himself and the other one dangling off the floor looked terrified, his face now a sickening shade of purple.

She considered backing up and finding the nurse call button, but realizing that might get her or a nurse shot, she refrained. These had to be the men responsible for Raul’s gunshot wound. If they shot him once, they’d surely do it again. Dear God, they might even kill her. Alexa began to tremble and her legs suddenly felt very close to folding on her. As much as she wanted to do something to stop this insanity, she feared anything she might do could make things worse.

Raul bit off a curse, but he sat the man on his feet, then released his hold on his throat. The guy grabbed his neck and started coughing and heaving.

“Neither one of you are going to make it out of here alive. You’re fully aware of what I’m capable of doing.”

The blond replied with a smirk, “Of course we are, but I’m sure you wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to your sister, now would you?”

“Where is she?” Raul snarled.
“Safe for now.”

“If she’s with your people she’s anything but safe. Bring her to me unharmed and you have my word I’ll give myself up to you.”

Alexa was completely confused. What did these men want with Raul? One thing was clear though. The two were extortionists. They’d kidnapped Raul’s sister to get to him. Alexa was scared, mostly for Raul, but she felt more indignant than anything at the moment.

The blonde man holding the gun flashed a calculating grin that made Alexa shudder. “You have no bargaining power anymore, Raul. All it would take is a phone call and your sister would be euthanized. That would be a shame really. She’s proved to be a very interesting specimen.”

“What the hell have you done to her?” Raul roared.

“Calm down, Raul. Your sister is fine. I will say she’s spirited and quite powerful considering the fact she turned a number of our staff into blubbering idiots. Got her to behave herself finally when we told her we had you.”

“If I find out you’ve hurt her I will kill you and everyone in that sick compound.”

“Oh I don’t think so. Not if you want to see your sister live. You have our word we’ll let her go if you come with us. And no tricks. If something should happen to us, the little vamp will wind up a cadaver. Maybe when they dissect her brain we’ll get closer to discovering what makes you sick freaks tick.”

Alexa simply couldn’t hold her tongue a minute longer. She couldn’t stand by and do nothing while they kidnapped Raul at gunpoint. “Excuse me.” Once she had both of the awful men’s attention as well as Raul’s she continued. “Raul is not well enough to go anywhere with you. He’s staying right here until his surgeon deems him well enough to go home. Guns are prohibited here, and you should both know that. This is a hospital. Now either leave or I’m calling security.”

The blond man gave her a smile that was pure evil, then trained his gun on her. “You won’t be calling anyone, doctor. In fact you’ll be coming with us to prevent anyone from giving us trouble getting out of here.”

Alexa swallowed repeatedly, but the lump in her throat wouldn’t go down.

“Leave her out of this,” Raul hissed.

“Not hardly. She’s heard too much and we can’t have that. Now get moving. Both of you.” He pointed the gun at Raul.

Raul turned his head and gave her a look filled with regret and worry. Alexa wished he hadn’t done that. She had a feeling she was in mortal danger. She had heard too much. Far more than she’d wished to hear. Things were adding up and the sum was grim and terrifying. Whatever organization these men were with intended to run tests on Raul and his sister against their wills. What they wanted to learn from them she couldn’t guess. What was clear however, these men and whoever worked with, them wanted to keep their evil deeds secret. In order to do that witnesses would need to be eliminated.

Chapter 5

Raul stared out the window of the black sedan being driven by one of the SFVO thugs. He, Alexa and those two miserable excuses for humans had been traveling west in it for nearly twelve hours. He’d seen a sign about an hour ago that told him they were now in Nevada. It was dark, but Raul could see the desert landscape with it’s cactus, brush and mesquite trees just fine. A vampire’s night vision was stellar and the full moon breaking through some strings of dark clouds aided him in viewing his surroundings.

They were getting close to the SFVO compound. It had been close to ten years the last time he’d been in that hellhole, but he knew it was about an hour’s drive from the Utah/Nevada state line and around a hundred miles north of Las Vegas.

He shuddered and squeezed his eyes tight, trying to get the pictures of the horrors he’d endured there out of his head. He wasn’t so much worried about what the humans might do to him this time around. It was Adeline he worried about. Like himself she was a mature vampire and could certainly take care of herself, but not in the condition those bastards would have her in, he was sure.

Some of the drugs the SFVO doctors used on vampires either kept them unconscious or immobilized. Typically they were gassed with an agent that caused all loss of muscle control. A terrifying thing in of itself, that was, but the worst part had been the experiments he and the other vampires endured during that awake time. One of their favorite debaucheries was to test how much pain a vampire could endure before they lost consciousness. Of course they also wanted to know the best methods to get them there. Since vampires healed so rapidly, they could carry out their testing just about everyday, depending on the previous day’s method of torture.

Thinking about Adeline going through those horrors made his gut cease up. If they’d done any of the cruelties to her that they’d done to him, the horror he’d inflict upon those so-called doctors would make the things they did to vampires seem like a pinch and tickle session in comparison.

Raul turned his head and studied Alexa sitting across from him in the back seat of the sedan. Last time he’d checked on her she’d been asleep. She was awake now, staring out the window. He couldn’t see her face, but he didn’t need to. The little human was scared out of her mind. He knew this because their eyes had locked a few times during the long drive and he’d seen terror along with questions there. He couldn’t think of a thing to say to assuage her fears. It was a given they were going to kill her. He’d do everything in his power to prevent that, but getting Adeline out of there was his number one priority.

She must have felt his eyes on her. She glanced his way, her expression questioning and turbulent. Wisdom told him it would be best to remain indifferent to her plight, but there was something about the female that stirred his soft side. Plus she’d saved his life.

He couldn’t talk to her out loud or those two SFVO scum would overhear. He decided to take a risk and speak with her telepathically. Maybe he could offer her some comfort, a few buyable lies that would help ease her trembling. Why he cared to comfort her eluded him. Maybe he was just tired of hearing her teeth chatter.

He stared into her eyes and imagined a portal to her thoughts. The channel wasn’t hard to find due to the fact her mind was so chaotic. His pity and concern for her multiplied when her fear and sorrow came barreling through the portal he’d created.

Alexa, calm yourself and listen. It’s Raul. We’re almost to the place their taking us and I need to say some things before we get there.

Her eyes popped and her mouth gaped. Raul knew she tried to process hearing him speak in her mind. Of course she told herself it was impossible for him to project his thoughts to her. The mind of a person of science had so much trouble believing in the supernatural. He sighed and tried a different tact.

Look, doll, I know you’re scared. I know hearing me in your head is overwhelming and hard to compute, but it really is me. Don’t say anything out loud. Just think what you want to say to me. If you understand nod your head once.

Slowly she lowered her head then lifted it.

Good girl. Now look back out the window. Those two bastards up front know I can do this and I don’t want them thinking we’re formulating some sort of plan, even though we’re going to. Okay?

Um. Okay. Can you hear me?

Loud and clear.

This is so weird. Obviously, you’re telepathic, but I’ve never heard of a telepath able to make something like this happen.

Just consider it a gift. Why and how I can do this isn’t important right now. What is important are the things you need to tell these guys that are going to be interrogating you. I’m going to try to keep that from happening, but I can’t make you any promises.

Wh-what will they be asking me?

What I’m capable of. What you’ve seen me do. They’ll want to know what you think I am. You can’t tell them I told you I’m a vampire. That will get you killed. And so will your findings regarding my blood work. Here’s the story I want you to stick to. You treated me in the ER for a gunshot wound. You never drew my blood because there wasn’t time. I was taken to surgery minutes after arriving and the reason you were in my room was to check on me to see if I made it. Whatever you do just keep your story simple.

What if they don’t believe me?

I won’t lie to you, doll. It could get ugly, but if it’s possible I’ll get you out of there. You have my word.

Thank you. So, um, why do these guys want you and your sister?

Alexa, you already know the answer to that. You know what I am and I wish to God I’d never told you, but I did. They study us. No telling how many of our kind they’ve captured, tortured and killed over the years.

Raul, that’s unspeakable! What are they trying to figure out about you and the others?

This organization is called the SFVO, studies for vampires organization. They captured me once before about ten years ago and I’m not going to horrify you with the details of what they did to me. Basically they use our blood to turn human subjects into vampires. They also impregnate our women and groom the children of our kind to become warriors. Once those kids reach their majority they train them as assassins, soldiers and basically weapons of warfare. They’re trying to create vampires they can control and they’ve succeeded. But no matter how much they learn about us they’re always testing our limits to see what more they can get us to do for them. Someone like me and my sister, older vampires, are very valuable. We have extremely honed psychic and telekinetic abilities, far more advanced than their little army of infant vampires. I’m guessing they want to figure out a way to control our minds so we’ll do whatever they want us to do.

That’s absolutely diabolical. Someone needs to know about these people and stop them. If all you say is true, what they’re doing is criminal.

Raul snorted. There’s no stopping them. The government knows what they’re doing and they’re funding it.

Oh God! There’s got to be something that can be done.

Not without people dying. By the end of this day I intend to see that a good number of them do.

Despite what he’d told her she turned her head and stared at him with shock. Surely you can think of another way to free your sister without killing people.

There isn’t another way, Alexa. We aren’t humans, therefore to these people we’re merely creatures to study and manipulate. Our lives have no value to them and their lives have no value to me.

Her pretty chocolate eyes held a wealth of confusion and sorrow. What they’re doing is awful, but to kill them makes you no better than them.

I don’t care to be like them or better or worse than them. I just want to survive and I want my sister out of there. I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

She shook her head then stared back out the window. So where does your kind come from?

Everywhere. We’ve existed for eons. Our scientists say we evolved from humans and that we need their blood because our own can’t metabolize the food we eat. Without human blood our bodies would starve to death.

That’s very strange. Your kind has scientists?

Yes and doctors, attorneys, engineers, Wall Street executives, you name it. Alexa, we live right alongside humans, have the same jobs as they do, live in the same suburbs and high-rises they do. Few humans know what we are because our kind have been taught to keep silent about who we are.

All of this is so hard to believe. I-I don’t know what to think or say.

You can think what you want, but you say very little to these people and you don’t tell them what you know about me.

If I do that do you think they’ll let me go?

He honestly didn’t, but he couldn’t tell her that. She was too smart to buy lies. Avoiding the question seemed the best tact. An opportunity manifested itself when the car began to slow. Raul whipped his head Alexa’s direction and looked out her window. They were about to make a right turn onto the road that led to the compound. In the distance he could make out some buildings. Most of the compound was underground and it was huge. Finding Adeline wouldn’t be easy, but maybe he wouldn’t have to. They might keep their word and take him to her if they thought it would get him to cooperate with them.

Raul? You still there?

Yeah. We’re here. Stay brave. I’ll keep this connection between us so if we get separated I can find you. Okay?

Raul?

What, doll?

You’re a good person. I’m sure all you can think about is getting your sister out of there. That you’d risk your life trying to help someone you just met is very noble.

Him noble? Hardly. Maybe he used to be, but a life on the run made a man selfish by nature. Do you believe in God, Alexa?

She glanced his way, her expression questioning. Yes. Why?

I’d get to praying if I were you. Whether I’m noble or not remains to be seen. I will do my best to get you out of there, but I won’t risk Adeline’s life doing it.

She nodded once

, then again faced the window.

No more was said between them. The blond man who’d been driving passed through the gates of the compound and pulled the sedan into a bay of a massive hanger. Inside were vehicles of all sorts, mostly military along with a couple of small jets.

Alexa was glancing about, taking it all in. She trembled again and her fear pumped through the portal he’d created right into his head, mixing with his own. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for the inevitable.

When the car came to a stop right behind a Jeep, the guy in the passenger’s seat turned around and honed a gun on him. “No tricks, Raul, or things won’t pan out well for that sister of yours.” An oily smile inched across his ugly face.

He couldn’t wait to crush the guy’s skull with his mind. Soon, he assured himself, and tamped down his rage.

He and Alexa were led at gunpoint to an elevator at the rear of the hanger, then down two floors to the lowest level of the compound. When they stepped out of the elevator into a long hallway, two guards toting automatic rifles were there to greet them. Both were vampires wearing camo fatigues. There was no doubt in Raul’s mind whose side these mind manipulated vamps were on. It saddened him.

Their entourage escorted them down the long hallway, then into another, finally stopping outside an iron door with a small, bulletproof glass window that had steel bars between the panes. One of the guards took a keyring off his belt and unlocked the door. He and Alexa were ushered inside.

The ugly bastard with dark hair said, “Don’t think about going anywhere, Raul. If you aren’t here when we get back your sister dies.”

“Bring her to me or the deal we made is off. And when I start cleaning up this shithole, you’ll be the first on my list to eliminate.”

The guy flashed what was probably supposed to be a menacing smile, but it turned out quite nervous instead. “You’ll see her, asshole, but if you think we’re letting her go, you’re a fool. Neither of you are getting out of here.” He laughed, backed out of the room and slammed the door.

Raul immediately began scanning the small eight by ten cell they’d been placed in. There was one cot with a brown, wool blanket folded on top. In the center of the room was a metal table and two wooden chairs. He looked at the ceiling and spied what appeared to be two rows of sprinklers, but he knew better. Soon someone would release a gas through those that would paralyzed him and Alexa completely. He wasn’t about to let that happen.

Raul marched over to the door and peered out the window. The two vamp guards were posted on either side of the door, but he couldn’t see anyone else in the hallway. He had very little time to get him and Alexa out of here. He wasn’t worried too much. The two young vamps would be no problem. It was who else he and Alexa might encounter once they were out of this room that concerned him.

“Raul?

He turned around. “Yeah?”

“Do you have some sort of plan to get out of this place?”

He smiled. “I’m working on one. No worries. I’ll have us out of here in a minute.”

She appeared a bit dubious, but nodded.

Raul went to work on the lock first. It was a double bolt with an iron flap made in the fashion of those found in correctional facilities. He merely imagined the bolts sliding into the door slowly so they’d make as little sound as possible. Unfortunately, one of the guards heard the distinct click it made when the lock fell into the open position. The guy opened the door and the other guard rushed in, his weapon honed on Raul. Before he could utter a word, Raul had hold of his mind and the guard turned around and pointed the gun at his buddy. Raul went to work on the other one immediately. Once he had both vamps under control, he collected their guns and corralled them both into the room.

Raul walked over to Alexa and handed her one of the rifles. “Take this. You want to hold it in front of you like this.” He demonstrated how he wanted her to carry it by showing her with his own. Next, he pointed at the trigger. “Pull on that when you’re ready to fire. You don’t have to worry too much about your aim. It’s an automatic.”

Her expression became abjectly horrified. She tried to hand the gun back to him. “I can’t use this. I’m not going to kill people.”

Raul growled at her. Whatever principles she operated under were starting to piss him off. “I’m done candy coating stuff for you, doll. These people will kill you if they catch us trying to escape. Hell, they’d probably kill you anyway just for being associated with me. Hold that damned thing the way I showed you and stay by my side. Let’s go.”

Alexa looked back at the two guards who were staring off into space like zombies. “What did you do to those two?”

“Let’s just say I got them thinking my way.”

Just then Raul heard a hissing noise. He looked up and saw a mist of gas seeping out of the sprinkler devices on the ceiling. He grabbed Alexa’s arm and hauled her out of the room, praying she hadn’t breathed in a lungful of that shit. He slammed the door shut and turned toward her. “Are you all right?”

She bobbled her head. “I’ve been better. What was that stuff coming out of the ceiling?”
“Nerve gas. Viciously poisonous. It won’t kill you, but when they get ahold of you after breathing it in, you’ll be wishing you were dead.”

The reality of their dilemma was sinking in for her. Her eyes were round and her mouth too. He had no time to comfort her and there wasn’t much to offer her anyway. “Come on.”

The moment called for some serious multi-tasking. Raul listened intently for movement in the adjoining hall they were about to merge into while connecting his mind to his sister. He hoped to hell she was conscious.

Adeline. It’s Raul. I’m here. Can you hear me?

Instantly she replied. Her sweet, soft voice infused him with relief. Raul? You’re here? Are you okay?

For now. Addy, where are you? I’m going to get you out of here, but do you know where they’ve taken you?

I’m on the lowest level in a room with concrete walls and an iron door. But, Raul, I can’t move. They keep pumping gas into my room. Ever since it started I haven’t been able to move a muscle. And—and they’ve done such sick, awful things to me. One of my legs is broken. Even if I could move, I’m not sure I’d be able to walk.

Fury and the desire to slaughter every last human in this place swept through him like a fire out of control. Revenge would have to wait. Getting Adeline out of here in the state she was in wouldn’t be easy.

Addy? Can you remember getting to the room you’re in?

The lower level was a labyrinth of hallways with a dozen or more rooms on each of them.

Let me think. We passed three hallways after getting off the elevator. I think it was the fourth hallway to the left that they put me on. It’s a room toward the end on the left. There are guards outside my door, Raul. They’re vampires. I tried to enchant them, but I couldn’t. They aren’t fledglings. I’m not even sure you could enchant them.

She could be right. He was pretty proficient at enchanting vamps. The ones he’d just enchanted had been fledglings. If the vamps guarding Adeline were mature ones he’d just have to eliminate them another way if he couldn’t control their minds. He hated the thought of killing his own kind, but nothing would stand in his way of getting to Adeline. Besides, any vampire under the control of these SFVO bastards would probably be better off dead.

Raul, be careful. Every time they’ve taken me out of here to do—well, what they’ve done, the halls down here have been a flurry of activity.

It’s late. Maybe seven or eight at night. There won’t be too many people down here now.

Sit tight, sweetheart. I’ll be there soon.

Okay. Take care.

There would be armed guards monitoring some of the hallways. He’d enchant as many as he could, but Raul knew some would have to die. The trouble would occur when shots got fired. Every guard within earshot would flock to them. If it came to that he and Alexa might not survive.

Raul glanced over at Alexa and frowned. She’d be little help under attack. He knew she’d hesitate in firing her weapon, which would get her shot. For some reason it mattered to him what happened to her and he hated that it did. She was a complication he didn’t need, but she’d saved his life. It was only right that he tried to save hers. Damn his scruples!

When the hallway they were on ended to merge with a main corridor, Raul stopped and listened. He scented too, picking up four distinct smells, all of which belonged to male vampires. They would be armed guards he was sure.

Alexa looked at him questioningly. Raul held up his hand indicating for her to be still and wait. He peeked around the corner, looking right then left. There were two guards at the end of two different hallways. He needed a diversion.

He picked the closest guard up the hall on the right and imagined squeezing his head in a crushing grip. The man dropped his weapon and grabbed his head. The sound of the gun clattering to the floor gained everyone’s attention. Raul dashed across the hall and plastered his back against the wall, then motioned for Alexa to join him. She hurried over and stood beside him. She was shaking again, Raul noticed.

The guard he’d telekinetically influenced to think his head was about to burst open started wailing, which got the guards on the left moving. They rushed past him and Alexa. One shouted at the guy, asking him what his problem was.

The guard just continued to wail. Raul poked his head out to look again. The one he’d gotten ahold of was on his knees clutching his head and making a god awful amount of racket. He had the full attention of the other guards. Perfect.

Raul looked back down the left side of the main corridor and tried to count hallways. He was sure they’d passed at least six that branched off to the left. That meant he needed to backtrack to the fourth one from the end of the hall where the elevator was located. Hopefully Adeline had been correct in her counting.

Since the guards were distracted, all he had to do was make a mad dash to the hallway where they held Adeline. Moving with preternatural speed they wouldn’t be able to see him. He had a problem with that scenario. Alexa. He didn’t want take her with him because she couldn’t move with preternatural speed, but he couldn’t leave her here. The chance was too great someone would spot her. He’d have to carry her and that would leave him vulnerable once he rounded the corner into that hallway. Damn it! If the woman didn’t get him killed it would be a miracle.

“Here. Hold onto this.” He handed her his weapon, then swept her into his arms and held her tight to his chest.

“What are you doing?” she hissed.

“Be quiet. Hang on to those rifles and be ready to use the one I gave you.”

“Oh god.” She squeezed her eyes closed and clutched both rifles by the barrels, the butts resting on her thighs.

Raul took off. Seconds later he rounded the corner of the fourth corridor from the elevators. As soon as he stopped and sat Alexa on her feet, he grabbed one of the rifles in Alexa’s hand and pointed it at the two guards posted outside a cell door near the end of the hall. He knew in his heart Adeline was in that room.

The guards spotted him and Alexa instantly and honed their own rifles on the two of them.

“Halt!” one of the vamps yelled.

The other one hollered out, “Drop your weapons or we’ll shoot.”

Raul rushed them and body slammed one of the vamps, propelling him backwards with such force, he flew through the air a good twelve feet and hit the back cinderblock wall behind him. His rifle fell to the floor with a clatter a second before he bounced off the wall and fell face down on the ground.

Unfortunately, that vampire’s demise hadn’t distracted the other one. Something hard plowed into his temple, knocking Raul off his feet. Pain exploded in his head like a keg of dynamite a second before darkness swallowed him whole.

Chapter 6

Alexa gasped when she saw the guard hit Raul in the side of the head with the butt of his rifle. The force of that blow had been so vicious and powerful, she had no doubt it had crushed Raul’s skull on impact. Raul was unconscious, lying on the floor. To her amazement she saw no wound or any blood, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been mortally wounded. Her instinct was to run over and see if she could help him if he was still alive and that was a big if.

The huge, imposing beast who had hurt Raul, now had his weapon pointed at her and the hopes she’d had to get to Raul went out the window.

“Drop that rifle, woman. Now!” he bellowed.

In the midst of the chaos, Alexa had relaxed her grip on the gun Raul had given her. The barrel was now pointed at the floor. Her first notion was to heed the guy, then she looked back over at Raul. She knew if she laid down the rifle her fate would be the same as Raul’s or worst.

It took great effort due to the tremors wracking her body, but she lifted the heavy rifle and pointed it at the man. “No. You drop yours or I’ll shoot you. I mean it. Put it down now.”

A brittle smile inched across his face. “Fine. Have it your way.”

A second later Alexa felt a foreign, evil sensation wash over her, then words that were not her own popped into her head.

Place the gun on the floor and raise your hands.

Oh no! The guy was a vampire. He was in her mind like Raul had been earlier, but he wasn’t merely talking to her telepathically. He was doing something to strip her of her will because she felt an irresistible urge to obey him. To heed him would be suicide and she knew it. She closed her eyes and let the worse case possibilities of giving into his will race through her mind. She imagined being shot or taken, forced into another of those awful rooms and being gassed, then tortured until she told her tormentors everything they wanted to know. The trembles ceasing her body increased, but she fought them and the man’s unholy grip on her mind.

She opened her eyes. It took all the strength she had to hold the rifle on him, but she was determined to do it. “I know what you’re trying to do and it’s not happening. You’re going to have to shoot me to get this gun, but it’s very possible I’ll get a shot off before you do.”

His triumphant, evil smile morphed into an expression of fury. “Then we’ll just see who wins, won’t we?”

Alexa knew she had a split second decision to make. It was her or him and although taking a life went against everything she stood for, losing her own trumped her morals and ethics. She closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger. The gun released a hail of bullets and the butt of the gun pounded repeatedly against her shoulder. She’d hit her mark though. The vampire lurched backwards and fell to the floor. She stared at him and felt the icy fingers of shock creeping across her skin and all through her insides. She let out a strangled cry and lowered the gun.

“Freeze!” someone yelled from behind her.

Alexa knew the guards who had been down the hall had heard the shots and here they were, no doubt with a gun or guns pointed at her back. It was over. If she swung around and tried to fire at whoever was behind her they’d shoot her.

“Don’t shoot! I’m putting the gun down now.” Slowly, she bent over and laid the rifle on the floor at her feet. She stood up and raised her hands, then closed her eyes and prayed they wouldn’t decide to shoot her anyway.

A moment later someone behind her grabbed her upper arm and swung her around so fast and hard, she lost her footing and would have fallen if they hadn’t been holding onto her. The man who had her in his grip, looked primed to kill her. He was holding a rifle in his other hand and jabbed the barrel underneath her chin.

“You’re going to pay for what you’ve done here, bitch.”

Alexa swallowed hard, but she didn’t dare move. The man’s eyes were crazed. Also out of her peripheral vision she could see two more men on either side of him and a few feet behind, their guns pointed directly at her. She was going to die. As that knowledge infused her mind so did an abject sense of hopelessness.

A menacing growl behind her echoed through the corridor. On the tail of it, the man holding her careened backwards right into the other two men. They all hit the floor like a series of bowling pins falling down at the end of a lane. Raul picked up one of the guns the men had dropped on the floor when they’d fallen, then to her horror he pounded the butt end into the center of each of their faces. She literally heard bones crunching with every vicious blow he delivered. In seconds it was over. She didn’t even have time to process the murders she’d just witnessed. Raul grabbed her arm and dragged her down the hall where the two other men laid.

He stopped outside a door and peered into the room through a small window with iron bars running through the middle of two glass panes. He let her go then, closed his eyes and bowed his head. She heard the locking mechanism on the door make a loud click, then he grasped hold of the handle and yanked. Alexa watched him dash inside and over to a cot where a young woman with long black hair laid. Her eyes were open and they were the same amazing gold color as Raul’s. Tears streamed out of them, but they were honed on Raul and filled with such sorrow, Alexa’s heart ceased up.

“It’s okay now, Addy. I’m going to get you out of here. You just need to be brave for a few more minutes, baby girl.” He laid his rifle on the bed, then very gently he picked up the woman who Alexa knew now was his sister.

He turned around and looked at her. “Alexa, go get one of the rifles out there, then you run for all your worth toward the stairwell by the elevator. I’ll be right behind you. Anyone you come across with a weapon you shoot. Do not even hesitate for a second. I mean it. Clear?”
Alexa nodded her head, then dashed out of the room. She glanced around the floor, picked up the first rifle she saw, then took off running. She could hear Raul’s footfalls behind her, which gave her a small measure of comfort. When she reached the end of the hall she glanced right and left, then spied the stairwell left of the elevator. She ran to it, opened the door and turned.

Raul went through then yelled at her to go. She ran up the two flights of stairs as fast as her legs would carry her. She glanced back once and saw Raul right behind her with his sister in his arms. He wasn’t even breathing hard. Her lungs were about to explode, probably more from fear than being a bit out of shape. Finally, she reached the door that went to the ground level.

“Crack the door, Alexa, and tell me how many men you see,” Raul said softly from behind her.

Alexa prayed there weren’t many, but a quick peek dashed her hopes. Beyond the door was the hanger they’d been taken to upon arrival. She counted at least a dozen men milling about, some working on vehicles, but others were armed guards, several of which were very close to the door.

She quietly pushed the door closed and turned to Raul. “There’s quite a few out there. I saw three just several feet from the door talking.”

“Good they’re distracted.” He looked down at his sister and smiled.

Raul was quiet for a good minute as he stared into Adeline’s eyes. Alexa saw deep affection in the woman’s, but she remained silent too. There was no doubt in Alexa’s mind that the two were speaking telepathically or that the woman was unable to move a muscle. Indignation and empathy warred within her for dominance. Alexa couldn’t fathom what Adeline had been through or what kind of person would execute such inhumane acts on another living being.     

Raul gently laid Adeline on the floor just right of the door, then turned to her and held out his hand. “Give me the rifle.”

She handed it to him. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going out there. No matter what you hear, do not open this door. I’ll be back as soon as I deal with what needs taking care of. Understood?”

More people were going to die, that’s what she understood. That troubled her initially. Right or wrong Alexa wanted to live and she wanted Raul and his sister to live. No one in this place would let them leave alive. She sighed and nodded, accepting what she could not change.

Raul threw the door open, then literally just disappeared. Before the door swung closed she heard several thwack sounds, then harsh grunts and something clattering on concrete. Just as the door clicked shut there was an explosion of gunfire followed by a series of pings. Alexa glanced at the door and saw holes that hadn’t been there moments ago. Realizing bullets had made the holes, she fell to the ground next to Adeline.

The woman stared at her with eyes holding a wealth of worry. Alexa offered her a shaky smile and said, “It’s going to be okay. Raul will get us out of here.” Unfortunately, no confidence backed those words and the woman knew that apparently. She looked toward the ceiling and closed her eyes.

Alexa’s own widened. If the woman could move her eyes perhaps the drugs that had immobilized her were wearing off. She scrambled to her knees and knelt over Raul’s sister. “Adeline? Can you try to move? Maybe wiggle a finger or try to talk?”

Adeline looked at her and frowned as if concentrating. Alexa glanced at her hands. She wiggled all five fingers on both. “Beautiful!” Alexa exclaimed. “Now try lifting your right arm.”

Her face scrunched into a grimace. Slowly, she raised her right arm off the floor several inches, then dropped it. “So heavy.”

Alexa smiled. She was talking. Progress. “Adeline, whatever they gave you is wearing off. Keep talking and try to lift your arms and legs or move your head side to side. It will help. Promise.”

She turned her head and stared at Alexa. “Who are you to my brother?”

There was a bit of suspicion and disapproval in her expression. Alexa wasn’t sure why. “I was his ER doctor. He was brought in with a gunshot wound and he coded. Obviously, we were successful in bringing him back.” She smiled and Adeline did as well.

“Thank you for taking care of him. I know now why he’d risk both of our lives to help a human.”

“I suppose he’s grateful, but I was just doing my job.”

Adeline shook her head. “It’s more for Raul than gratefulness. When our minds were connected I felt what he feels for you, which is a rather strange affection. I find that odd.  On a whole he hates humans.”

Alexa had no response for that. She too felt affection and gratefulness for the man. There was no denying she desired Raul. It was foolish and made no sense. He wasn’t even human, but her body didn’t seem to care about that.

Another burst of rapid fire beyond their hiding place made Alexa flinch and squeeze her eyes shut. It went on and on and on, causing her to grind her teeth so hard she feared she might crack a couple. She felt a warm hand take hold of one of hers, which had been resting in her lap. She opened her eyes and searched Adeline’s determined features, certain her own were riddled with worry and terror.

“He’ll be back.”

Alexa nodded, wishing she had the woman’s faith in Raul. Granted he was armed, but so were a dozen or more men out there. Add to that how much blood he’d lost from the bullet wound in his upper chest. The rapidness of his recovery was astounding, but that aside, he was so greatly outnumbered.

Adeline gasped and turned her head toward the stairs. Alexa heard footsteps echoing in the stairwell beneath them. Someone was coming!

Adeline sat up and scooted backwards toward the wall Alexa was leaning against. Her gaze slashed her way. “We have company.”

Alexa knew that company would be more of the bad guys and Raul had less than a minute to rescue them. If the gunfire still going on out there was any indication, Raul wouldn’t be back for them anytime soon. They were trapped and Alexa couldn’t think of a single notion to save herself and Adeline.

“I don’t know what to do, Adeline. I know Raul told us not to go out there, but we can’t stay here. Do you think you can stand?”

She shook her head. “Normally, I could create a shield that a person can’t penetrate, even bullets, but I’m so very weak. I’ve gone without blood too long. I’ll try to erect the shield but I can’t promise I can keep it up.”

“Would blood make you stronger or would it take awhile for results?”

“It would help tremendously and immediately. Why?”

Alexa extended her arm toward Adeline, wrist up. “Do-do you have fangs?”

“Of course.”

“Then bite me and be quick about it.” She closed her eyes and turned her head, preparing herself for pain. Adeline grasped her forearm and raised it. A second later there was a very acute, sharp, stabbing pain in her wrist, then it just faded away and a rather weird, euphoric feeling came over her.

The rapid footfalls echoing in the stairwell were louder now, telling Alexa whoever was coming would be upon them any second. She opened her eyes and wished she hadn’t. At the base of the flight of stairs she counted four armed men jogging up the steps single file. Her gaze slashed to Adeline who was sucking on her wrist with vigor. Her eyes were closed and her expression was way too relaxed and peaceful for the danger facing them.

“Adeline, stop. They’re coming,” she hissed.

Adeline’s eyes flashed open, but she didn’t stop nursing her wrist. Instead, she projected words to Alexa’s mind.

The shield is up, but I need a bit more of your generous donation to keep it there. Relax and try to block them out. Blood tainted with adrenalin affects my concentration.

Relax? You’ve got to be kidding. I’ll try. Just hurry.

As soon as the first man mounted the landing, he yelled out, “Stop you freak, or I’ll shoot!”

Adeline patently ignored him. Alexa lowered her head and started praying for a miracle. She tried to regulate her breathing so her heart would slow down, but fear pumped through her system like oil rushing through a pipeline.

A rapid series of gunshots rang out, the sound deafening in the small confines of the stairwell. Alexa fully expected to take a bullet or two in that awful moment and Adeline as well, but to her surprise neither of them had been shot. She ventured a peek at the shooter. He appeared shocked, as did the four men standing around him. Then to Alexa’s horror all five of them raised their guns and started firing. Alexa screamed and yanked her arm free, covering her head with both. Shots rang out for what seemed an eternity, but not a one hit her, which truly was a miracle. Apparently, Adeline’s shield held.

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When the firing stopped, Alexa lowered her arms and turned her head toward Adeline. She had her eyes closed and her facial muscles were completely relaxed. Alexa knew better than to say or do anything to break her concentration. She returned her attention to the men trying to murder them. Their weapons were still pointed at them, but each looked stymied and bewildered except the one in the middle who had spoken earlier. He looked pissed.

“Nice trick, vampire. You can’t keep that shield up forever though. When you finally do lower it I’m going to fill you with so many holes, none of these doctors here will be able to patch you up.” His gaze cut to Alexa. “Who are you and why weren’t you fighting that filthy bloodsucker?”  

“I’m Dr. Faberman. What crime has this woman committed that warrants you trying to kill her?”

“She escaped and in the process killed seven men. We have orders to exterminate her.”

“From whom?”
“That’s none of your business, Dr. Faberman,” he snarled, drawing out her name sarcastically. “I know all the doctors here, but I’ve never seen you before. Tell me who the hell you really are or you’ll die too.”

Alexa knew better than to tell him she was a prisoner. She wracked her brain for a good lie that might buy them some time if Adeline’s shield did go down. “I just arrived today. Apparently, you haven’t heard, but I’m here for her. I’m a specialist in the study of telekinesis. I’m told she has an incredible skill that the doctors here want to test further with an expert.”
He raised a brow and studied her as if weighing the lie. “No one informed me another doctor would be joining the team.”

Alexa jutted her chin out and tried for a condemning expression. “And why would they? It’s my understanding that what goes on here is top secret. You appear to be nothing more than a minion to keep these creatures in line. Therefore why would you be privy to top secret information?”

That got him sporting a scratch-the-head kind of look. “Fine. If you are here for the reason you claim, we’ll find out in short order. Come with me.”

“Where to?”

“General Daniel’s office. No one comes or goes from this place without his knowledge or permission.”

Crap. Now she was backed into a corner with nowhere to go. If she went with him it would be curtains for her and Adeline. All she had for options was the hope Adeline could hold that shield until Raul returned. If he returned.

She had to think of something to say though. “I—I’m not leaving my patient. She’s ill. Bring the general to me.”

He smirked. “You don’t demand anything from the general. If you’d been briefed on protocol here you’d know that.”

“Well, there hasn’t been time for that. I haven’t even been here an hour and I was immediately taken to see the patient.”

“Then I’m sure the general will be very anxious to meet you.”

Stymied again. Damn it!

Although, Alexa’s ears were still ringing from the hail of bullets earlier, they now picked up on the silence beyond the door. What could that mean? Had they captured Raul? If not where was he?

Not knowing what else to do, she stood, then glanced over at the door. She had to peek. If Raul wasn’t out there, she and Adeline were screwed. 

Chapter 7

Raul paused to catch his breath and access the situation. He hadn’t kept a head count of the SFVO scum he’d eliminated, but it had been well over a dozen. Most he’d shot, but the unarmed ones he’d subdued mentally to keep them from calling for backup. All who had been in the hanger were now either dead or unconscious. At least he hoped someone wasn’t out there waiting to shoot him when he came out from behind the HumVee he used as a shield.

Raul wasn’t fooling himself. This nightmare was far from over. Others would be coming, which meant he had minutes if not seconds to get the three of them out of here. To do that he’d need wheels. He spotted a black Expedition, which was the closest vehicle to the stairwell door, but still a good distance away. It would have to do. The less ground Alexa had to cover the better, due to the fact she couldn’t run as fast as a vampire.

He dashed over to it, closed his eyes and imagined a key turning in the ignition. Whether there was one in the ignition or not, he didn’t know. Nor did it matter. There wasn’t anything mechanical that Raul couldn’t telekinetically manipulate.

He sped back to the stairwell door next to the elevator. Instincts from centuries of battles caused him to pause outside the door and listen instead of rushing in to get the women like he wanted to do. Good thing he had. Someone was speaking. He picked up Alexa’s voice as well as a man’s. Raul heard the man ask Alexa who she was. She told him then demanded to know why he’d tried to kill Adeline. This told him the men were armed guards. He would guess they’d found the dead bodies on the lower level and Adeline gone. Animals that they were, they’d try to murder her for that, the consequences to themselves be damned when the doctors found they’d killed one of their test subjects. If they’d tried to shoot Adeline and failed, that could only mean one thing. Adeline had a shield up. He smiled. Good girl.

Alexa and the guard were still talking, which might be the distraction he needed to get in there. Raul reached down to grab the door handle, but the door opened a fraction before he could.  Alexa peeked out and upon seeing him, she dashed through the door and threw herself at him. Raul’s rifle was between their bodies, but she didn’t seem to care. She was clinging to his neck like a little monkey while sobbing and trembling.

“It’s okay, doll. I’m fine and you’re fine.”

He petted her head and placed a couple of kisses on top. The luscious, feminine fragrance of her shampoo along with her beguiling personal scent stirred his base desires, to taste her and to mate with her. Talk about poor timing on that one. There was no help for those feelings or the compassion and protectiveness he felt for the little human. Why he cared what happened to her alluded him, but he did.

Without warning, Alexa jumped back and palmed her cheeks. “Oh god, Raul. There’s men in there with guns and they tried to shoot me and Adeline, but she’s put up some sort of shield. She’s still so weak though. I don’t know how much longer she’s going to be able to hold out.”

“I’ve got this. Get behind me and keep your eyes open. I expect more company any minute now.”

Alexa nodded, then dashed behind him. Raul yanked the door so hard he broke the top hinge. The second he sighted the guards with their guns pointed at Adeline he opened fire. The hail of bullets at such close range sent all four men careening backwards. Raul rushed inside and scanned the stairwell for more of the bastards. All he saw were the four fallen ones, two lying on the stairs, two on the landing below.

He spun around, his gaze honing on Adeline. She was sitting up, huddled in a little ball with her back against the wall and her eyes closed. He tried to reach out and touch her but encountered her invisible shield. “Addy. Open your eyes. It’s Raul. It’s okay, baby girl. It’s over now. You can lower your shield.”

She cracked an eye open, then the other. Both were questioning and absolutely filled with terror. Bastards! How he wished he had the time to hunt every being in this place down and exterminate them for hurting his Addy and the hundreds of others of his kind over the years.

“Raul?”

“It’s okay, but we have to go right now. More will be coming.”

That news got her moving. She scrambled to her feet and like Alexa, threw herself at him. He held the rifle to his side and gave her a big squeeze. Thinking of her injuries, he backed up and looked her over. “You said your leg was broken. How does it feel?”

“It hurts. I can stand on it, but it’s going to slow me down. The human woman will be able to run faster than me.”

Raul smiled, grateful to see the gas had worn off and his sister looking more like her old self. “You won’t be running anywhere on a broken leg that’s still healing. Here. Hold this.” He shoved the gun toward her and she took it. “Hang on and be prepared to use that thing if we encounter more of the bastards.”

“You’ll get no argument from me there.” She gave him a vicious look then settled the gun butt against her shoulder.

Raul rushed back out into the hanger. Alexa stood right where he’d left her wringing her hands. “Follow me and run for all you’re worth.”

She nodded and Raul took off. The pace he set for Alexa’s sake made him feel like an old man out for a leisurely Sunday morning power walk. The progress was slow going for a vampire, but Raul kept his eyes on the prize. The Expedition. They were all about a hundred yards away when each and every one of the overhead doors began to lift. Raul knew what would be coming next.

He glanced back over his shoulder and yelled, “Alexa, run for that black SUV and get in!”

Raul covered the remaining distance in an eye blink. He place Adeline on her feet, took the rifle from her, then yanked open the back door of the SUV and pushed on her back. “Get in and hunker down. Things are about to get real ugly.”

From the corner of his eye he saw Alexa dash past the front of the vehicle. She got into the passenger’s seat while Adeline crawled into the back. Those precious seconds cost them dearly. The overhead doors weren’t even halfway up and men began streaming in like ants marching toward a picnic. The ones coming in directly behind the SUV spotted him instantly and began firing. Raul was quicker though. He’d picked off three of the front ones before the back ones let the bullets start flying.

The gunplay gained everyone’s attention. Raul couldn’t even begin to count how many men started running toward them, firing their weapons. It was time to retreat. Raul opened the driver’s side door and scrambled inside. He handed off his rifle to Adeline, knowing she was the better marksmen of the two women. Plus she wouldn’t hesitate to kill like Alexa might. He started the engine, shoved the gearshift into reverse and floored it, taking out a good half dozen of the bastards firing behind him.

Once he was far enough away from the building, he did a one eighty, shoved the gear shift into drive and floored it again. He could hear the rapid, repeated firing of many automatic rifles, yet strangely, not one bullet had hit the SUV. He craned his head around and saw his sister’s eyes closed. He smiled, thankful her gift for erecting a telekinetic barrier was stronger than his own abilities to do so. He’d always envied her that, but he wasn’t envious now. Just glad.

One more barrier faced them and that was the chainlink gate to the compound just ahead. He stopped several feet in front of it and pictured the gate opening in his mind. Instantly, it began to slide to the right at a snail’s pace. When he had enough space for the SUV to fit through, Raul stomped on the gas and passed through the narrow opening.

“My God. How are we still alive?” Alexa whispered. She was turned around, looking back at the men firing at them.

“Adeline. I’ve yet to meet another vampire that even comes close to possessing her telekinetic skills. Her shield saved us. For now anyway.”

“What do you mean for now?”

“Alexa, they’re going to follow us. These men don’t give up. They’re wired to die for the sick cause they’ve taken up.”

She sighed. “You’re making it sound like we have no hope.”

He offered her a smile. “We have hope. We’ve got a tank full of gas which will get us to Vegas. They won’t pursue us in the city. Too many cops. If they get too close along the way Adeline will keep us from taking fire. I’m pretty confident we’re going to make it.”

Alexa let out a long ragged breath. “I’m so thankful we’re out of there and thank you for getting us all out of there.”

“I think we all did our part.”

“So now what? Where will you go?”

The question stirred up a host of frustration and resentfulness. Adeline couldn’t go home now. She’d have to go on the run with him. He had no place to lay his head at night that he could call his own and the fact he hadn’t for over ten years made him want to turn the car around and finish off every last sick and twisted person in that place. That was a pipe dream of course.

He glanced at Alexa and realized she couldn’t go home either. They’d assume she knew too much, especially after all she’d witnessed inside the compound. She had a target on her back now and the poor woman didn’t even know it.

“Sorry. Maybe that’s none of my business.” She cast a contrite glance his direction.

“It’s not that. Getting to Vegas is the only thing on my mind right now. I have to keep moving, Alexa. They want me desperately and they’re never going to stop hunting me. Now the same is going to happen to Adeline and I’m very sorry to say this, but you too.” He looked in the rearview mirror and saw headlights. The bastards followed them and unfortunately he couldn’t go any faster. The speedometer was in the red. He’d be lucky if he didn’t blow the engine.

Her eyes rounded and her jaw went slack. “No! I’m not going to let them turn my life upside down. I’ll go to the police or the FBI if I have to. I’ll post stuff about them on social media sites to gain public awareness about what they’re doing. Running may be your way to handle things, but I’ve spent too many years building the life I have. I’m not giving it up.”

She jutted her chin out and made a little pout with her mouth. Raul admired her determination to fight, but he knew any fight she put up would just get her killed quicker. “Look, doll, I’ve always been an advocate of fighting for a good cause, but there are just some fights you can’t win and this is one of them. Think I haven’t spoken with the cops and the FBI and other government agencies to try and get them involved in this mess? The majority of them wrote me off as a nut case. The FBI knows about the SFVO. They tried to arrest me so they could take me back there. As far as social media, forget it. Tried it too. A few believed my posts about the experiments and torture the SFVO is doing to our kind, but none of my posts ever went viral and certainly no one volunteered to picket outside their compound. You’re going to have to face the facts. These guys will not rest until you’re dead.”

She shook her head then lowered it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t just disappear. It will kill my parents. And what about my career? It will kill me if I can never practice medicine again.”

Raul pitied her and he hated that he couldn’t offer her hope. “It may not seem like much to you now, but I’ll protect you as long as you want my protection.”

Her head slashed his way. “Really? Why?”
He hunched his good shoulder. The other still twinged a bit. “I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I don’t like thinking about you dying.”

“Is that your way of saying you care about me?”

“I suppose.” Not wanting to overthink his reply, he glanced up and stared into the rearview mirror again. A convoy of the SFVO bastards followed them. How many he couldn’t tell, but the lead car was about a quarter of a mile behind him. Last time he’d checked they’d been further back than that. If they gained anymore distance they’d start firing again. That made him think of Addy.

He turned in his seat and saw her hunkered down. Her worried gaze met his. “How are you doing back there?”

“I’m fine. How close are they?”

Her expression seemed merely curious, but Raul knew she was as scared as he and Alexa were. “They aren’t within shooting range. Yet. I’m keeping an eye on them. I’ll let you know if and when you need to do your thing.” He smiled and winked at her, then glanced out the windshield to make sure he wasn’t headed for a ditch. “So how do you feel?”

Alexa turned in her seat and looked at Adeline just as she answered. “Thanks to Alexa I almost feel normal again.”

Raul quirked a brow. “Is that right? Can I ask what transpired between you two ladies?”

Alexa said, “Adeline was very weak. She needed blood and I gave her some of mine.”

Raul’s other eyebrow raised. “You allowed her to feed from you?”

Alexa nodded.

He had a great deal of respect for Alexa, but that news multiplied it ten fold. She was turning out to be a very sweet and caring person that he could honestly say he trusted, which surprised him. Raul trusted very few humans. “Thank you, Alexa. Your donation means a great deal to me and Adeline.”

She shrugged. “It was a small thing compared to all the risks you took to get me out of there.”

Raul didn’t respond. He didn’t yet feel comfortable revealing the whys involved in getting her out of there. He didn’t even want to admit to himself she was growing on him. There was a great deal to like and admire about Alexa. Still getting emotional over her wouldn’t be wise. It might be too late for that though. Raul knew himself well enough to realize at some point he’d bed her. She might balk at first, but there was no question in his mind she desired him. Neither one of them were going to keep the other at arms length indefinitely if she did agree to let him take care of her.

They had a long row to hoe before he could get the three of them somewhere safe. The bastards following them might give up when they got to Vegas, but it would only be a matter of time before SFVO agents picked up their trail. They’d need money. In Vegas there was only one way to get it. Gambling. Since he couldn’t gamble there anymore, Adeline would have to do it. As long as security didn’t catch on that they were together, they could probably get out of one of the casinos with a couple hundred thousand grand.

He looked in the rearview mirror again, pleased to see their pursuers were no closer than they’d been the last time he’d checked. The dark, desert highway stretched out in front of them straight as an arrow and they were making great time. They’d be in Vegas in under an hour. He’d yet to make a plan for their next destination, but come morning he’d have one and the cash to get them all there.

Chapter 8

Alexa still couldn’t believe those crazy people had turned around at the Las Vegas city limits and let the three of them go. She was supremely relieved though, even if she was a bit confused as to why Raul had taken the three of them to a casino. Shouldn’t they still be running for their lives?

What was he up to, she wondered? He’d led the three of them to an ATM machine not far from the front doors. Raul now stood in front of it. She and Adeline, who could barely walk, stood on either side of him. Not a one of them had a credit card so she didn’t see how he planned to get money out of the thing. He just stood there staring down at the screen as if in a daze. She was about to ask him what he was doing, but all of a sudden the machine began making a quiet clicking noise and started spitting out bills, twenty after twenty after twenty.

“How did you—“ Alexa began, but Raul cut her off.

“Hush. There are eyes and ears everywhere in here.”

“Oh. Right.” Alexa glanced toward the ceiling and did see a number of small, black domes hiding cameras.

“Here.” Raul thrust a wad of twenties at her.

“What do you want me to do with this?”
“You and me are going to play slots while Adeline buys into a high stakes Texas Hold ‘em game.” He handed Adeline the bulk of the bills the machine had given him. “Remember how to play don’t you?”

She let out a throaty laugh that Alexa was sure any man would find sexy. Well, pretty much everything about Adeline was sexy, except for the baggy, white scrubs she wore. She looked like a nurse who had just gotten off duty. A good coverup, Alexa supposed. She herself looked the same. When she’d been taken from the hospital, she’d been wearing blue scrubs beneath a lab coat. She’d wisely left that in the SUV, knowing that wearing a lab coat in a casino would make her stand out.

Adeline said, “How can you ask that? Can you recall one time we’ve played together that I haven’t beat your ass?”

He chuckled. “Maybe I just let you win.”

Adeline rolled her eyes. “Right. You just keep telling yourself that.”

Raul’s smile faded. “How’s the leg?”

Adeline glanced down at her right one. “Tender, but it isn’t throbbing anymore like it was before Alexa helped me.” She gave her a grateful smile.

“Can I ask when you broke it?”

“Day before yesterday.” Adeline glanced off, but not before Alexa saw the mutinous look on her face.

“Dear God. If your leg was actually broken, I don’t see how you could be standing and walking on it.”

Adeline turned a sage look on Alexa. “Our kind heal very quickly and I assure you they made sure it was broken. They didn’t bother to set the bone afterwards. I had to do that myself.”

Raul growled. “I’d have given anything to get to the military personnel and doctors responsible for the cruelty and injustice they’re doing to our people there.”

Adeline lit her hand on his upper arm. “To what end? The humans executing the atrocities  as well as those giving the orders are just as expendable as we are to the higher ups of the organization. More would just replace them, my dear brother.”

Raul nodded. Alexa hated knowing that Adeline was probably right. The organization doing the cruel, inhumane testing on vampires was probably much bigger than any of them could fathom.

Adeline patted Raul’s shoulder, then turned and hobbled off toward the card gaming section of the casino. Raul led Alexa through several rows of slot machines, picked one and took a seat in front of it. Alexa sat down at the machine next to him to watch what he did. She’d never been in a casino in her life or played a slot machine. She took note of where he’d inserted a twenty dollar bill, then fed one into the same slot on her machine. When she saw Raul pull down a lever on the side of his machine, she did the same on her own.

After about twenty minutes of repeatedly pulling the lever and feeding twenties into the machine, Alexa was getting bored. The little cherries, lemons and other fruits and numbers coming up just weren’t matching or doing what they were supposed to for her to win anything. Raul’s machine had made happy ding, ding, ding sounds a number of times. At least he’d won something.

Alexa’s stomach was bothering her. Now that all the carnage and chaos was behind them, her body demanded food. She was on the cusp of telling Raul she was hungry when her machine went off like a tornado siren on her last lever pull.

Raul jumped off his stool and grabbed her shoulders from behind. “Nice job, doll. You just hit the jackpot!”

Alexa knew something was going on. People around them were staring and clapping. It also drew the attention of one of the casino employees. He came over to her machine, took a key and opened the back of it. He fiddled around inside for a second and the siren sound stopped.

She glanced back at Raul still standing behind her grinning like a cat. “How much did I win?”

He pointed toward the top of the machine where in big bold numbers the amount of ten thousand six hundred and fifty four dollars was displayed. “You’ve got to be kidding?” she whispered.

“Nope. Cash out and let’s go get your money.” He took off and Alexa followed with the ticket the machine had spit out for her.

When they got to the cashier’s desk and the lady asked to see a driver’s license, Alexa froze. Once again Raul amazed her. He must have enchanted the lady somehow. She opened a drawer and actually produced someone’s driver’s license and entered its’ number into her computer. When she asked for a social, Raul rattled off one and a short time later they left with a major pile of bills. Raul gave the money to her and Alexa poked it into one of her pockets, which created a ridiculous bulge on her hip.

“So now what?” Alexa asked once they were away from the cashiers.

“Adeline will be awhile. We might as well get a room for the night. Everyone’s going to need a good night’s sleep. Especially Adeline. I don’t want to imagine what she’s been through since those bastards got ahold of her, but I’m sure they didn’t let her get much rest.”

“I agree. In fact if I were her doctor I’d have her on bedrest longer than one night. But, Raul, what if those men find us here? I mean won’t they be turning Vegas upside down looking for us?”

“Eventually, yes, but we’ll be long gone by the time they find out we’ve been here. Tomorrow we get a vehicle as soon as the dealerships open and we leave town.”

“And then what? Where do we go, Raul?”

He appeared contemplative for a few moments, then he smiled. “How does St. Martin strike you?”

“Seriously? The Caribbean? Why there?”

“Why not? It’s beautiful and depending on the island, we might be able to find a place that’s remote. With any luck, we may be able to stay there for years before they catch up with us.”

“Years? Us? Are you saying you’re committed to protecting me from those crazies for years? Raul, you don’t even know me. Why would you care about what happens to me?”

He reached out and cupped her cheek. A wry smile played at the corners of his mouth. “To be honest, I don’t know. I loathe most humans. I’m completely bigoted where they’re concerned. Few would go out of their way for a fellow human being. Until you, I’ve never met one that would do a solid for a vampire. You saved my life and you gave Adeline your blood. You didn’t have to do that. You could have let her suffer. But I don’t think it’s in you to let anything or anyone suffer. That’s rare. The world needs more people like you and that’s why I think you deserve a chance at life. Even if it isn’t the one you wanted.”

His speech left her without words. For some reason as an ER doctor praise was in short supply. Her parents had always been cheerleaders for her, but then that’s what parents did. No one had ever said what Raul just had about her. For some reason if felt really nice to know he saw her as a good person.

His hand was still on her cheek. She covered it with her own and rubbed her cheek against his calloused palm. Another fact about her life is she didn’t have one. It had been over two years since she’d been intimate with a man. To have one touch her and say nice things about her—well it was seductive to say the least.

Their gazes married. Alexa knew he was going to kiss her. Those strange, but gorgeous gold eyes of his were brimming with desire. When his lips did touch hers, she sighed and instantly gave into the passion he aroused in her. The kiss started out sweet and exploratory, but it quickly went from a warm flame to a raging firestorm. Their tongues fought, searched and explored as did their hands. She loved his silky, soft hair and couldn’t help play with it. And his ass was hard as a rock. He had hold of hers too and held her steady while he ground his erection into her belly.

How long this would have gone on and what more they would have done to each other, Alexa didn’t know. A security guard, busted up the intimate moment. Alexa was mortified when he gruffly told them to go get a room.

Raul just grinned. “Thanks. I think we will.” He gave her a devilishly suggestive look.

Alexa wasn’t sure how far she might go with Raul if they were alone in one of the casino’s rooms. That scared her in light of how little she knew about Raul. Plus he wasn’t even human. That should have mattered to her, but for some reason it didn’t. She still desired him. She also wanted to get to know him. He was intriguing in a host of arenas.

She felt him take hold of her hand and she stared at their entwined fingers.

“So. What do you say we book a room?”

“A room? I think we can afford one for both of us.”

Her comment caused that wry smile to return. “Do we really need two rooms?”

Her body was saying hell no, but the part of her mind that never allowed her to do anything spur of the moment was clamoring for her to say yes. Sometimes being logical and pragmatic felt like a huge pain in the ass. This was one of those times. “How about a compromise. Let’s get a suite with two rooms and then we’ll see if we need one or two. To be honest with you it’s not a decision I want to make on an empty stomach.”

“Ah, the lady is hungry. Let’s fix that as soon as we get our suite. Room service sound good to you?”

She smiled. “Heavenly.”

What ended up being heavenly was the huge suite they’d booked. It was classically modern with lots of leather and chrome in the sitting room. Ceiling to floor windows took up half the suite. They were on the twelfth floor, which gave them a wonderful bird’s eye view of downtown Las Vegas.

Together she and Raul explored the bedrooms. Both had California king beds and jacuzzis. They were identical with a single window and a red comforter to match the curtains. The carpet in both were a white, thick plush pile. She took her shoes off and walked around the room, enjoying the simple luxury.

“You seem content with this room,” Raul said.

“I’m content period. This place is amazing, but incredibly expensive. I know it was free money, but we could have used it toward a car.”

He waved a hand dismissively. “I’ve spoken to Adeline. The pot she’s playing for and will win is three hundred thousand dollars. If we’re frugal that money will get us a good used car and the rest will last us for a very long time.”

Alexa didn’t even need to ask him how he knew Adeline would win. She already knew what this sister and brother were capable of. She wasn’t quite sure how she felt about Adeline cheating to win the pot though. On the other hand if she didn’t win, they wouldn’t be getting much of a car or living very long on the ten grand she’d won. Had she won that money fairly?

Her gaze clashed with Raul’s and she scowled at him.

“What?”

“Did you somehow mess with my machine downstairs? Is that why I won the jackpot?”

He chuckled. “No. You won fair and square. I gamble for fun, but I do cheat when I need a windfall. I’ve done it for a lot of years so I’m what you’d call a pro. The reason I chose the machines I did had to do with the two people playing them before us. They were an older married couple I think, and I’d noticed they’d been playing for awhile. Old people tend to do that, thinking eventually the machine will pay out. When someone who’s been playing the same machine for a good spell moves on, many times the machine will pay out if you’re persistent with it. Bottom line is you got lucky.”

“You swear?”

“Swear, doll. Now if you’re done drilling me, let’s see if we can get something to shut up that noisy stomach of yours.”

Alexa grabbed her belly, embarrassed he’d heard the awful noises her stomach kept making. He headed out of the bedroom and she followed him over to a small curio table that held a landline and a menu for the casino’s restaurants. They each chose a surf and turf from the fine dining restaurant.

Alexa never splurged on herself. The money she made wasn’t bad, but she was by no means wealthy. Still she could afford to treat herself once in a while. She chose not to because she had no one to splurge with. There was no boyfriend. Medical school and her current, or rather previous job, had kept her far too busy for a relationship. For some reason she wanted to splurge with Raul. Maybe it was the casino atmosphere. Maybe it was finally being with a man she was attracted to for the first time in longer than she could recall. She didn’t know and supposed it didn’t matter. All the worries she’d be carrying around for a long time to come would be back tomorrow. She might as well enjoy tonight.

She noticed Raul was no longer on the phone, but he’d turned around and stared at her somewhat quizzically. “Something wrong, doll?”

She tried for a casual smile. “No. I was just thinking how I never spend much money on myself.”

“You don’t? How come?”

She hunched a shoulder. “I don’t really know. Part of it has to do with the fact I’m so busy. Or was. I lost touch with the girlfriends I had in college, which was my fault. I was always too busy to go do things with them while I was in medical school. Most ended up getting married and having kids. Now they have a whole new set of friends.”

“So no boyfriend?”

She shook her head. “Again, a time issue. Med students and new doctors don’t have much of that precious commodity.”

“You’re going to miss the life you had. I can tell by that sad, far-off look in your eyes.”

“Of course. I love being a doctor.”

Raul sighed and glanced down at her bare feet. “I’m sorry that your job’s gone, Alexa. In a way it’s my fault you lost your life. I should have tried to run you out of my room at that hospital, but I didn’t because you intrigued me. I shared things about me that I’ve told few humans in my very long life. Maybe if I’d kept my mouth closed you wouldn’t be here right now.”

She tapped on the bottom of his chin and got his full attention. “I’m not sorry that I met you. Not at all. You’re a special person, Raul. Anyone can see that. I’m sure those creeps would have taken me regardless of what you’d told me, so don’t beat yourself up over anything that happened. If they’re as diabolical as they seem to be, they would have eventually learned I ran your blood. What has me worried are the other staff members who saw those results. They might become victims of that SFVO too.”

Raul didn’t answer, but his narrowed eyes told her the concern was a valid one.

Alexa decided a subject change to be in order. His comment about his long life had peaked her curiosity. “How old are you, Raul, if it’s okay for me to ask?”

He smiled wanly. “Two hundred and ninety-eight.”

Alexa gasped. “I don’t understand. You’re definitely mortal. How could you be that old and look like a man in his mid-thirties?”

“Vampires have a longer life span than humans. Why I couldn’t say. Our typical life span is around six or seven hundred years, but some of us live longer than that. We all get old and die though. Generally our hearts just give out. We don’t get cancer or the many diseases humans are riddled with.”

Since they were standing right by the door to one of the bedrooms, Alexa walked over to the end of the bed and sat down. He followed, but stood in front of her. “Raul, that’s fascinating. I can see why humans would want to study your kind. I’ll never understand why those SFVO people are abducting vampires and forcing them to become test subjects. History proves groups of humans can band together to do heinous things to other people, but it’s hard to believe it’s still going on in this day and age.”

He leveled a cold look at her. “Money motivates humans to do great evil. Millions of your tax dollars are funding their research. Those who created the SFVO have convinced the humans who work for them that we aren’t people and what they’re doing to us really doesn’t hurt us. Those who know better, like the medical staff, simply don’t care.”

Alexa shook her head. At this moment she almost felt ashamed to be human. “There has to be a way to expose them. They can’t keep getting away with what they’re doing to vampires. Why haven’t a number of your kind banded together to try to stop them?”

“Sadly, the one thing different about our kind than humans is species unification. We’re all loners by nature, with the exception of those with families. Vampires simply don’t band together to war against humans. Individually, we might fight for a cause we find worthy, but not collectively.”

“That is a bit odd. I take it you’ve known about the SFVO for some time. Haven’t you talked to other vampires about them? What do they have to say?”

Again he looked at the floor and Alexa could tell he was ashamed. “Most don’t want to get involved. They’re afraid they’ll be targeted by them. Vampires tend to lay low and avoid conflict with humans at all costs. Surely, you can see how chaotic it would be for our kind if humans knew we existed. We need their blood to survive. They’d naturally assume we’d kill them to obtain it. That would create widespread pandemonium.”

“I can see that. How do most of your kind meet their need for blood?”
“These days younger vampires use blood banks run by vampires for vampires. Some of us still hunt, but with the exception of a few evil ones of our kind, we don’t kill our donors. In fact we go to great lengths not to hurt them or allow them to remember being used.”

“And which category do you fall into? Blood banks or live donors?” Alexa was pretty sure she already knew the answer to that. Raul just didn’t strike her as a guy who would use a blood bank. He was on the run, always trying to hide. Those SFVO guys probably knew which blood banks were ran by vampires. It was a wonder any were still in business.

He looked her square in the eye and said, “I hunt. Always have. Always will.”

Alexa couldn’t help wonder if he’d use her at some point to gain what he needed to survive. And if he did? Should he force her, it would kill everything sweet and exciting budding within her for him. But if he asked? Of course she’d say yes. She’d never stand by and let another person suffer if there was something she could do to prevent it.

“I know what your thinking.”

Alexa snorted softly. “Are you snooping through my thoughts again?”

He smiled and shook his head. “No need. You’re a very transparent individual. I’d never take your blood without asking. Of course if you offered….” He shrugged.

Alexa laughed. “You’ve thought about it, huh?”

“Of course. I find myself drawn to you, which is why I’ve kissed you. If tasting you is anything like kissing you I’ll be hooked for life.”

His honesty made her face burn, but the lust shimmering in his gold gaze caused desire to flair through her like quicksilver. She wanted him tasting her, on her, in her—anyway she could have him. It certainly wasn’t wise to hook up with a guy she hardly knew and one she would be sharing a lot of time with in the future, but Alexa had never felt such a burning need to mate in her entire life.   

He stalked toward her and placed his knees even with hers. She gasped when he ran his thumb across her lips. His touch tickled, teased and sizzled. She fully expected him to lean down and kiss her, but instead he picked up her hand, turned her arm wrist side up and placed a lingering kiss on her radial pulse point.

He lifted his head and whispered in a husky voice, “May I? Just a taste. You’ve already donated to Adeline today. I wouldn’t take more than a few drops.”

Alexa swallowed hard. Having gone through the experience already, she wasn’t afraid of pain. She was afraid she might be opening a door to something she’d never want to end. As much as she wanted this man, she wasn’t so sure where his feelings for her stood. Would he be willing to explore something with her, or did he just want a diversion from his troubles?

Despite her concerns she nodded. She might be nursing a broken heart tomorrow, but tonight she intended to live in the moment.

Chapter 9

Raul knelt in front of Alexa. He took more caution piercing the skin on Alexa’s wrist than he’d ever taken with a human in his entire life. He didn’t want her to feel an ounce of pain, only the pleasure feeding from her would cause, but she did gasp when his left fang punctured her vein. He paused to make sure she was okay.

“Did I hurt you?”

She gave him a shaky smile and shook her head. “No. It felt like a pinch. Really. It’s all right. Continue.” She lifted her arm toward his face.

A mere drop of blood beaded on her tiny wrist, but it was enough to incite a riot within him. The smell alone had him hard as a rock. He was almost afraid to taste it. He had a feeling once he did, he’d never be able to get enough.

Raul rarely denied himself pleasure. It came so infrequently in his life. He wasn’t about to deny himself now. Never had he wanted a woman as much as he wanted Alexa and in every way. Tasting her would lead to more, which probably wasn’t wise, but he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. Or not.

He licked the bead of blood off her wrist and savored it. Ambrosia, he thought. He knew it would be, just like he knew one drop would not be enough. He pressed his lips against the tiny puncture wound and sucked. That only gained him a few more drops, but they were enough to set him on fire.

The need to know what she felt was beyond his power to resist, so he connected to her mind. The sexual euphoria swirling in his head and causing every cell in his body to burn, merged with those same sensations within her and became almost more than he could handle. It got even crazier a few moments later when he felt the pleasure centers in her brain trigger an orgasm for her. As it spread through her body, he actually felt it in his own, which set him off as well. He lifted his head and caught her gaze. There was so much going on in her eyes and expression, particularly delight, surprise and ecstasy. The amazing experience was happening hard and fast for them both. When the orgasm peaked for him, hers peaked as well and he felt it merge with his own. It was unquestionably the best orgasm of his life. Together they cried out. Actually, she screeched his name and he just yelled the word fuck.

Seconds later she fell backwards onto the bed and he collapsed onto the floor causing him to regret the position they’d started in. He was too weak to join her on the bed, which is where he felt he should be, holding her tight in the aftermath of something he was sure was going to change their lives forever.

As he laid on the floor breathing hard, his mind recalled the tales he’d heard over the years about the life mate bond. Generally, only two vampires could share the life mate bond, but sometimes it happened between a vampire and a human. Whatever the case, life mated couples who had shared their experience with him said it was like an internal nuclear explosion of the sexual nature. Nothing could compare to it, they’d claimed, and once it happened to a vampire, he or she would know with certainty they were meant to bond with the person they’d had the experience with. Is that what had just happened between him and Alexa?

Raul had fed from more female humans than he could count. Nothing like this had ever transpired. Sex occasionally occurred after feeding, but to have an orgasm just from feeding from a human? Never. Not in his experience anyway.

When he could move again, he pulled himself onto his knees and looked at Alexa sprawled out on the end of the bed. She was still breathing fairly hard and her gaze was locked on some spot on the ceiling. She did turn her head and look at him when he crawled up on the mattress and laid on his side next to her.

She gave him an accusing look, but negated it by laughing. “What the hell just happened? I guess what I really mean is did you make that happen?”

He brushed off a wisp of her blonde hair that had caught on her lower lip. “No, I did not. I’m as shocked as you are right now. I don’t know what the hell just happened. Well, not exactly.”

She sat up and drew one leg into her chest while scrutinizing him. “What do you mean, not exactly? If you have a clue, I think it’s only fair you share.”

He opened his mouth without a fool’s notion as to what might come out, but the gods must have been with him. The doorbell to the suite went off. Both of them glanced toward the open bedroom door.

Raul scrambled off the bed and stood. “That I’m sure will be our dinner. I’ll go let them in.”

She scowled at him. “I do want an answer to my question at some point.”

“Sure, doll.” Like he had one.

* * *

Alexa watched Raul hurry out of the bedroom to go answer the door. It took some time and effort to get to her feet. Her body was still weak and trembling from that orgasm. She wanted to understand the experience. There had been no fondling, foreplay, nothing. All he’d done is suck on her wrist, which had turned her on, but how could that alone cause her to have the most powerful orgasm of her life?

She had no reason to doubt his claim that he hadn’t caused it by mentally manipulating her body in some way. Even if he had, she wouldn’t have cared. He could do it as often as he liked if it caused those kind of explosively, delicious results.

My god, what would it be like to have sex with him? If real lovemaking caused a climax more powerful than the one she’d just had, she might not survive it.

She took a few deep breaths, hoping they would help strengthen her wobbly legs so she could get to the other room. It didn’t. She hobbled off anyway, anxious to be with Raul. She found him standing by a table he must have placed by the circular windows and he was setting up for their meal. A little food cart sat next to the table. She smiled as she watched him transfer their plates, utensils and wine glasses onto the table.

“What a nice idea to have us dine by the window,” she said as she approached him.

He looked up and smiled at her. “Seemed logical considering the view.”

She noticed he’d set their forks, knives and spoons in the proper order beside their plates. Their wine glasses sat to the right of their domes plates, their salads to the left. Two tapered candles had been provided and a book of matches. Those he’d put in the middle of the table and they were already lit. The only thing remaining on the cart was the bottle of cabernet they’d ordered. It was open and breathing.

“Wow, everything is perfect. Something tells me you’ve done your fair share of fine dining.”

“True. Once I dined like this every day,” he said while pouring their wine.

Alexa’s curiosity was peaked. “Care to tell me about those days?”

He hunched a shoulder. “Why not. Have a seat.” He hurried around her and pulled out her chair. Once he’d removed the silver domes from their plates, he settled himself into his own chair.

Alexa picked up her glass of wine and took a sip, waiting for him to continue. He stared out the window for a good minute or so, a wistful expression on his face. Finally, he met her gaze  and began his story.

“My parents were very young when they life mated. I came along nine months later.”

“And Adeline?” She appeared to be in her mid-twenties. Alexa was curious about their actual age difference given the fact he’d claimed vampires lived six or seven centuries.
“She came along much later when things were better for us all.”

“I see. Go on.”

“At the time I was born, my parents lived in London and were servants in the household of an earl. They were poor to say the least and remained that way for years. I became a kitchen servant in that same earl’s home at the age of eight. He was not a kind man, nor was his lady. I hated every minute of my life there. If it wasn’t for my parents I probably would have become a street urchin at a very young age. But they loved me very much and I loved them as well. By the time I was sixteen I couldn’t take it anymore. I left intending to make a better life for myself. I promised my parents I’d come back for them once I made my fortune and that they’d never have to work another day in their lives. Unfortunately, it was many years before I fulfilled my promise to them.”

“That’s awful that you were put to work at such a young age. So what did you do after you left?”

“I took on an apprenticeship with a glassmaker. I worked three years for him and didn’t even manage to save enough to buy a shop for myself. Again, I’d had enough, quit and got a job on a merchant ship. I made more money, but I was getting no closer to my goal of being financially independent. One night in a pub I met a man who offered me a job on his ship. The pay was double what I’d been making so I jumped at the chance. I was pretty naive back then. I didn’t realize he was a pirate until our first voyage from England to Tortuga. We attacked a ship one night and I watched in horror as the pirates I’d gotten myself involved with slaughtered every man on an English navy vessel that happened to be carrying a host of valuable goods. Among the treasures they stole was a massive fortune in gold coins. That pirate captain was a black hearted scoundrel to say the least, but a fair one. He kept half the gold then divided the rest among his men. I ended up with more money than I’d ever laid eyes on, let alone possessed. I know it was ill gotten gain, but once I had a taste of the things riches could buy a man, I guess you could say I lost my soul for awhile.”

“That’s quite a story.” She was a bit sad not to mention shocked to find out Raul had once been a pirate, but considering his life’s beginnings she could understand how greed had led him astray.

He chuckled and his face took on a sardonic air. “It gets worse. I’m not sure I should continue. You seem disappointed in me.”

Alexa adjusted her expression, trying for compassion. She’d been raised to never judge others, rather to try and understand what motivated them to become a person that society looked down upon. Her parents were advocates of helping the poor and homeless and often made a difference in others’ lives by giving them a leg up to start a new one.

“No, Raul. I’m not disappointed in you. You were young and got involved with bad people. That doesn’t make you bad.”

“But staying with them and continuing to pirate did. Once I’d saved a sizable sum, I bought my own ship, hired my own crew and ran my own pirating racket for nearly two years. That was wrong and I’m not proud of it, but it made me rich and I was able to fulfill my promise to my parents. I went back to London, bought a house more grand than that self-absorbed, miserly earl and put my parents in it. At that point I had more money than I could ever spend in a life time, but I wanted more. I went straight though, and bought a fleet of merchant ships and ran a legitimate shipping business for seventeen years. That gained me even more wealth. Long story short, I was able to live off both what I’d made as a pirate and a shipping merchant for the rest of my life. I have homes and lands in over twenty countries and haven’t been able to live in a damned one of them for the last ten years.”

“Because of the SFVO?”

He nodded. “I made a foolish decision to get involved in the Syrian war around a decade ago. One day me and some American troops were trying to flush out a gang of terrorists in a demolished mosque. I was shot and that’s how the Army found out I wasn’t human. The SFVO got ahold of me shortly thereafter. Eventually, I escaped and I’ve been running ever since.”

Alexa shook her head. The pity and empathy she felt for this man overwhelmed her. He’d lost so much. A tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and tracked down her cheek. She quickly swiped it away. Raul noticed and frowned.

“I’m spoiling your dinner, which is probably cold by now.”

She laughed, but it sounded sad even to her own ears. “Raul, food is the last thing on my mind. You blessed my heart by sharing those very emotional and somewhat sad parts of your life with me. Doing that tells me you trust me, which is good. It appears our futures are going to be entwined for awhile. Trust is going to be essential in order for us to work together to survive this god awful nightmare we’ve been caught up in.”

He picked up his wine glass, swirled the contents a few times, then downed the entire glass. As he picked up the bottle and poured himself a refill, he said, “I’m surprised I trust you as much as I do. I’m not sorry for it, even if you are a human.”

“You hate humans, you said.”

“As a rule. Not you. I could never hate you.”

His pretty eyes began to do that shimmering thing. She couldn’t tear her gaze from his. “Your eyes are absolutely remarkable. I could stare at them all day.”

He chuckled and placed his wine glass on the table in front of his plate. “I’ve thought the same about yours more times than I care to admit. I think a lot of things about you I’m not inclined to admit.”

His tone had been low and sultry and gave her goosebumps. Was he telling her without telling her that he had feelings for her? There was no doubt in her mind he desired her. But did he want her for more than just sex? She couldn’t bring herself to ask him outright. Instead she decided to resurrect the conversation they’d been having prior to the arrival of their food.

“So what did you mean when you said you didn’t exactly know what happened regarding what we experienced in the bedroom earlier?”

He pursed his lips and frowned. “Eat and maybe I’ll tell you.” He picked up his fork, dug it into his lobster tail and dipped it in a ramekin of butter, then placed the bite in his mouth.

Alexa sighed, then started cutting off sections of her steak. They ate in silence and rather rapidly. Apparently they were both starved. When she was finally stuffed, she picked up her  glass, leaned back in the chair and daintily sipped the decadent wine.

She watched Raul eat and his mannerisms as he did so, which were elegant and juxtaposed to his appearance. She stared at the tattoos sleeving both of his arms, then let her gaze wander upward to his long, unruly hair. It was mussed a bit and gave him a dangerous, bad boy aura. The dark, stubble on his face just added to the image she’d formed of him in her mind. He was the kind of man who could walk in a room and instantly command the attention of every soul there. He possessed this powerful, you-don’t-want-to-mess-with-me presence, which was so damned sexy.

She wanted him any way he’d let her have him. A slutty side she didn’t even know she possessed was starting to rear it’s head. She was never going to get any sleep tonight if she didn’t stop drooling over the guy.

He sat his fork and knife on his empty plate, then dabbed his lips with a linen napkin. His eyes connected with hers and she looked away afraid he’d guess her naughty thoughts.

“Did you not enjoy your meal?”

She tried to school her features as she met his gaze, which thankfully was merely curious. “It was amazing. Did you enjoy yours?”

“Very much.” He placed the napkin on his plate, then picked up his wine glass and studied her acutely. “I know something’s on your mind and I’m pretty sure I know what it is.”

She huffed. “Then tell me if you think you know me so well.”

He nodded once. “Very well. You’re still trying to process what happened between us and it’s driving you crazy, because it’s not computing in your mind in regard to a normal sexual encounter. Am I warm?”

“You’re red hot. You could at least tell me your take on it even if you’re not exactly sure why it happened.”

“Would you agree it was good?”

Alexa gasped. “Good? You think it was just good?”

“I didn’t say that.”

Oooh! Alexa was getting mad at his evasive, cavalier attitude. “It wasn’t normal and you know it!”

His eyes narrowed with irritation. “I realize it wouldn’t be normal for you. You’re a human. An event like that can happen for a vampire, but it’s rare.”

“I see. If you’re trying to say it’s just a vampire thing then why did it happen to both of us?”

He looked out the window and shook his head. “I’m still trying to figure that out.” His gaze swung back to hers. “How about when I know something definitive I tell you, but let’s just table it for now and chalk it up to some damned good sex.”

Alexa threw her hands up in the air. “But it wasn’t sex. That’s the whole point.”

“Your scientific mind is not going to grasp something that was clearly supernatural.”

“That’s such bullshit. I can’t believe that just came out of your mouth. After everything I’ve witnessed both you and your sister do, you honestly think I can’t grasp the supernatural?”

He was getting mad. His eyes were narrowed and there was a tic going on in his right cheek. “I told you that if and when I figure it out I’ll discuss it with you, but for some reason that’s not good enough.”

“No it’s not because I know you’re not telling me everything.”

He slapped his palms on the table and popped to his feet. “I’m going to go check on Adeline. I suggest you get some sleep. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.” He stalked off across the room. Once he reached the door, he yanked it open, then slammed it behind him.

Alexa grabbed her glass of wine and guzzled the contents. Knowing she would need a lot more if she hoped to get any sleep, she picked up the bottle, but cursed when she found it empty.

Screw this. She wasn’t the slightest bit sleepy. If Raul could go traipsing around the casino, so could she.

Alexa only took a small portion of her winnings with her to find something entertaining to do. She’d had her fill of gambling for the day so she decided to explore other areas of the casino. To her delight she discovered a women’s clothing shop not far from the where the hotel’s lobby was located. Once again she hit the jackpot.

The shop had strictly designer clothing and upon checking a tag or two she experienced severe sticker shock, but that didn’t deter her from hunting for some outfits. Knowing travel was in her future, she picked out four sets of running suits. Two for herself and two for Adeline in various colors so they didn’t appear quite so twinsy. Adeline was curvy and bustier than her, so she chose a size ten sundress for her and went with large on the running suits. Alexa intended to grab a couple of sundresses for herself and did choose one. Then she spied a sexy, red dress on a mannequin that was absolutely drool-worthy. It was a bit shorter than she would have liked, but it was so pretty and she knew it would look good on her.

The clerk helping her managed to find one in her size. Alexa tried it on in the changing room and decided to just wear it out of the shop. She also ended up buying a purse and a pair of gold sandals with four inch heels since her nurses’ shoes would look ridiculous with the dress.

Purchases in hand, she continued on and discovered a shop that sold make-up, skin and hair care products. She lightened the wad of money she’d brought with her considerably there, buying items for both herself and Adeline. She felt a bit guilty spending so much money, but assuaged the concern by reminding herself it was all stuff they would be needing.

Raul would be needing things as well and sure enough she came across a men’s shop. There she bought several pairs of jeans and t-shirts along with a leather jacket, the largest size they had. She hoped everything she’d chosen fit him. He was quite tall and broad chested, not to mention built like a gym worshiper. She supposed if she’d guessed wrong on either Raul’s or Adeline’s sizes they could exchange the items in the morning.

The last shop she visited resembled a mini drug store. She purchased toothbrushes, and hairbrushes, razors, along with other toiletry items they’d be needing. Arms loaded, she took her purchases back to the suite.

She wasn’t surprised to find it empty. Raul had been pretty irritated when he’d left. Well, his evasiveness had irritated her too. She knew their sexual experience had been supernatural in some way, just as she knew he had answers he was keeping to himself. Since getting him to cough them up seemed out of the question, and she was still keyed up, Alexa decided to do more exploring. First she used some of the make-up she’d bought since she wore her harrowing day on her face. She brushed out her hair then headed back downstairs quickly finding a bar.

She ordered a glass of merlot from the bartender, then turned her attention to the stage at the back of the place where a country/western band crooned out a popular modern country song. Country wasn’t her favorite genre of music, but having lived in Arkansas the majority of her life, she was quite familiar with it. She glanced about, searching for an empty table, but it was a futile effort. The place was packed with noisy fans of the band and it was standing room only, which didn’t appeal to her at all. Certain she’d find another bar or restaurant that wasn’t quite so rowdy, she finished her wine, then continued on and came across a piano bar. She walked in and glanced around, happy to see there were plenty of empty tables. She picked one and pulled out a chair to sit down when someone grabbed her upper arm.

She slashed her head to the side, her gaze clashing with Raul’s angry one. “What are you doing?” she hissed.

“I was going to ask you the same question. What have you been up to? I thought I told you to get some rest.” His gaze raked over her slowly and thoroughly. When their eyes met again lust was now mixed with irritation.

Although Alexa was a bit indignant with his attitude, her body had no trouble reacting to his desire for her. Immediately, a heavy sensation pooled low in her belly and her heart rate spiked. “Let go of me.” She jerked her arm free and scowled at him. “It’s too early for bed and I’m an emotional wreck. I thought a few drinks might calm me down.”

“Fair enough. Where’d the dress come from?” He crossed his arms and scanned her again, his gaze settling on her cleavage.

“I went shopping. We all need clothes. Especially Adeline. Those scrubs they gave her make her look like she escaped from a mental institution.”

He quirked a brow. “You shopped for Adeline?”

“Yes, and you too. I had to guess sizes, but I kept all the receipts so you two could exchange anything that didn’t fit.”

“That was thoughtful of you.”

“It was necessary.”

He pulled out a chair and motioned at it. “Sit. I’ll get you something to drink. What would you like?”

“Wine, I suppose. On second thought make it a vodka and cranberry.”

“As you wish.”

Alexa watched him place their drink orders with the bartender. Figuring he’d be a few minutes, she tucked her purse beneath her chair and settled into it, turning her attention to the piano player, a dark-skinned, middle-aged woman who sang The Way We Were.

“Here you go.” Raul set her drink in front of her then took a seat across the table.

“What are you drinking?”

“Kessler.”

“Oh. So did you find Adeline?”

“I just spoke to her. I don’t want security to see us together so I’m not going anywhere near that private poker room. In fact she’ll be booking her own room tonight.”

“I see. Why are you worried about security seeing you together?”

“Let’s just say I wore out my welcome here.”

“Ah. You’ve been to this casino before, I take it?”

“Definitely and all the others too. The SFVO eventually caught up with me here in Vegas, but not before I made a major nuisance of myself.” The grin he gave her was very sly.

“You’re so bad,” she teased.

“A turn off?”

Alexa snorted. “Unfortunately, nothing I’ve learned about you so far has turned me off. I do hope as a pirate you didn’t kill people. I guess that would be a big turn off.”

“The only time I’ve ever killed was to save my own hide or when I was in the military and under orders.”

“That’s good to hear. When you were passed out back at that compound, I did shoot a man who would have killed me. I’m afraid I may be struggling with that for awhile.”

“You’re a pacifist. I get that. You need to realize you did nothing wrong. Your ethics weren’t warranted in a situation like that. Everyone has the right to defend themselves.”

“I guess. So that’s how you’re dealing with what happened then?”
He glanced at her with a vicious gleam in his eyes. “I’m not dealing with anything. Every last one of those sons of bitches are murders or accessories to murder. I’d feel more remorse exterminating rats than those humans. The vampires bother me because I know they’ve been brainwashed into thinking what they’re doing is for a cause to help humans understand our kind better. They’re either completely deranged or they’ve been kept in the dark as to what’s really going on there.”

Alexa understood his anger and why he hated the SFVO so much. She couldn’t imagine what he’d gone through while he’d been there. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know, but if he ever felt inclined to share, she’d certainly be a compassionate listener.

“So nothing about me so far has turned you off, huh?” He appeared a tad smug.

“No, Raul. For someone I just met today I feel like I’ve known you for months. No one could ever accuse you of being a saint, but you are a good person. You’re love for your sister is inspiring. I think anyone you chose to love would be very lucky.”

“Humph. I’m pretty miserly with the emotion.”

“How sad. Who hurt you, Raul?”

He scoffed. “No one hurt me. Humans piss me off and sometimes certain vampires do too, but there are no deep, wounds on my soul.” He tossed back his whiskey, then slammed his glass on the table.

“Anger is almost always a coverup for hurt. Sometimes we just don’t want to admit we’re hurting. I know humans have hurt you. I can’t imagine what you went through when those SFVO creeps had you, but I’m guessing someone you actually cared about hurt you. A friend, family member, maybe a past lover. I don’t know.”

He snorted so loud, the couple at the next table turned to look at them. “My family are the only ones who ever gave a shit about me. I don’t make friends and I don’t do lovers. I don’t do relationships period. They’re too complicated.”

Alexa would sort of be the pot calling the kettle black if she tried to dispute that, instead she said, “Right now I can see that relationships would be difficult for you, but I’d bet the remaining money I won tonight, that if everything wasn’t such a mess you’d be a great friend and maybe you wouldn’t be so jaded about having a woman in your life either.”

He picked up his glass and stared at it. “You’re right about my life being too fucked up for relationships. It would be just my luck though to find my life mate while my life is in the crapper.”

She tilted her head and studied him. He seemed worried. “Is a life mate like a soulmate? I’m not sure I’ve heard that word before.”

He turned his head and gave her his full attention. “I guess so. For a vampire a life mate is the other half of your soul. All vampires seek one because they’re restless and incomplete until they find that person they’re meant to mate with for life. I don’t have one so that might be why I seem hurt to you.”

Alexa frowned and tried to process what he’d said, but it just wasn’t jelling in her head. “I’m still a bit confused. If you’re as old as you say you are, I can’t believe you haven’t run across a woman who was special to you.”

“Of course I have. Many, but none of them were my life mate.”

“How do you know that for sure? Did you give them a fair chance?”

His eyes narrowed. “You just don’t get it.”

“No I don’t, but I’m trying to.”

He sighed, then leaned on the table, fully facing her. “A vampire figures out who their life mate is when they feed from the person who connects with his or her soul.”

“How does a vampire determine if they’ve connected with another’s soul?”

“That I haven’t quite figured out yet.”

“Maybe it has happened and you missed it.”

“Maybe it’s just as well.” He stood. “Do you want another drink?”

“Sure.” She’d hardly touched the one she had, but she needed to get busy with it if she had any hope of finding sleep.

“Be right back.”

She sucked on the straw in her drink and took several big swallows. Drowning her sorrows in booze was neither wise nor healthy, but considering the life she’d had was over, she supposed it didn’t matter. At some point she had to call her parents and explain things to them. They would be so devastated. She sighed and drank more.

Her cat! Until now she hadn’t thought about Raven. Her parents would take her, but knowing she might never see her sweet puddy again tore at her heart. It all tore at her heart. She’d lost everything. Her career. Her family. Her cat. All because of Raul.

Tears began to fall. She knew she couldn’t allow resentment to build within her. None of this was Raul’s fault. The blame laid squarely on the shoulders of that evil government organization. One thing she was beginning to understand was Raul’s anger. She was angry too. If how she felt now was anywhere near Raul’s feelings, she could understand completely why he hated humans and avoided relationships.

She heard the sound of a chair scraping across the floor and looked up. Raul sat another vodka and cranberry in front of her, then took his seat. He seemed concerned. No wonder. Her face bore the evidence of her pity party.

“Why are you crying, doll?”

“Why not? My life is trashed. My future lies with virtual strangers that will probably end up resenting me.”

“Why would Adeline or I resent you?”

“Because I’m a third wheel. I’m just another person for you to worry about when you already have a full plate of woes. You should just leave me here. You and Adeline should go to St. Martin without me. That would be the smart thing to do.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Alexa, even if you want me to. Taking off on your own would be suicide.”

“Why do you care what happens to me?”

“Why do you keep asking me that question? I’ve already given you an answer.”

She sniffed and rubbed her nose. “Not one that makes sense to me. I get that you feel gratitude toward me, but I don’t know why you’d complicate your life to keep me safe. You made it clear you prefer being alone.”

His expression softened as he reached across the table and extended his hand palm up. Alexa looked at it for a moment then placed her hand in his. He gently squeezed it. “You’re growing on me, Alexa. Other than Adeline, you’re the first person in ages I’ve wanted in my life. And don’t ask me why because I don’t know the answer.”

She wanted to get to know him better too. She very much wanted to go to St. Martin with him or anywhere he wished to go. She couldn’t quite determine why she was so attracted to Raul, but she couldn’t deny that she was. It looked like she’d have plenty of time and opportunity to get to the bottom of her feelings.

Chapter 10

At promptly eight the next morning a taxi deposited Raul at a Ford dealership on the outskirts of Las Vegas. He paid the driver, then got out and headed across the huge lot to the used car section. He had around eight large in his pocket, which was the remaining amount of Alexa’s winnings. He had no intentions of spending all of it on a car he’d only need for a day or so. He never had problems when choosing a new mode of transportation. One of his hobbies had been rebuilding engines on classic cars and motorcycles prior to his life on the run.

He was after an older, foreign car, preferably something with good gas mileage. His plan was to drive straight through to Miami and buy a sailboat large enough to safely get them to St. Martin. He’d have

to get passports for all of them. Luckily he knew a guy in Fort Lauderdale who made a living creating documents for illegals. His name was Rex and Raul always used him when he needed a new identity. He was a bit eccentric and a drug addict, but he was damned good at what he did.

Raul spied a silver Jetta and made a beeline for it. A salesman caught up with him while he’d been checking out the interior. The young human ended up being a chatterbox, but Raul ignored him as he inspected the engine. He couldn’t find any faults with the vehicle except for the price. Paying cash got him a discount though and a price he could live with.

Adeline and Alexa were waiting for him in front of the casino when he pulled up a short time later. Alexa he’d woken before he’d left to get the car and told her to be ready and out front at ten. He’d been keeping in touch with Adeline telepathically. She’d found a shop inside the casino that sold sunglasses and bought several pair. A vampire could never have too many. Before he’d left the casino he’d stolen a pair from a young, human kid wearing them on his head while playing slots.

After breakfast at a Denny’s they headed out of Vegas for the long trip ahead of them. Adeline and Alexa were fast becoming friends. Over the course of several states they’d chatted, asking each other questions about their lives. He’d thought he’d known everything about his sister. These last ten years he’d missed out on a lot of things she’d been up to. She’d written a Regency romance novel that had become a best seller and several more after that, all of which had made her a fair pile of cash.

Raul had moved Adeline to a town the size of a postage stamp around fifty miles from Amarillo shortly after he’d escaped the SFVO. She’d been hiding there ever since, working as a waitress in a twenty-four hour greasy spoon so she’d blend in there. He hated that she’d been forced to leave the luxurious home he’d bought for her in Napa, but the place had been in his name, making it easy for the SFVO to find her.

Throughout the trip he’d learned a great deal about Alexa too. She volunteered at free clinics around Arkansas. She ran to stay in shape and had won first place in a few charity runs. He could believe that. He’d seen those legs of hers last night. They were tone, shapely and sexy as hell. He didn’t think she’d noticed, but nearly every male in that bar last night had their eyes on her. That pissed him off and so did that little red number she’d been wearing that showed off every asset she had.

Raul felt possessive toward her, which was something vampires with life mates were inclined to do. When he added that to what happened between them last night, it created a very disturbing sum. He didn’t want a human for a life mate, unless she was willing to become a vampire. Humans had a pitifully short lifespan and widowed vampires simply didn’t fare well.

Thoughts of Alexa plagued him all the way to Fort Lauderdale. He ignored her attempts to draw him into a conversation the entire trip, which he could tell hurt her feelings. He felt bad for that, but he was worried and scared that Alexa was his. Like any vampire he’d always longed to find his other half, but not since all this SFVO shit started. He was in a position where a life mate could wind up being a huge liability for him. If they got ahold of her, they would use her to get to him. Of course he’d suffer anything they put him through to keep her alive. Ultimately, they’d kill her. They understood the depth and power of the life mate bond and knew a widowed vampire lost his or her will to live, making them far easier to manipulate.

Eventually, he came to the conclusion that Alexa was going to be in his life for some time to come and the chance of her being his life mate was a pretty solid one. He already had feelings for her. They were convoluted at this point, but what Raul did know with certainty was that he’d be devastated if something were to happen to her.

It was around midnight the next day when Raul pulled up to an old warehouse in one of the seediest areas of Fort Lauderdale. Rex, the guy who could create their passports, lived there. Although it was late, he knew the guy would be awake. He had a rather sick addiction to hook up sex sites and often met sleazy women who were up for a late night fuck. Raul just hoped he wasn’t out on a hook up. He wanted to get this business done and over with.

Both Alexa and Adeline were asleep. He shook Alexa’s shoulder to roust her. Her eyes flashed open and she instantly sat up straight. Her head slashed toward him. He noticed her long blonde hair was a bit mussed and he imagined himself getting it in that condition after a lengthy session of lovemaking.

“Where are we?” She yawned.

“Fort Lauderdale. There’s a guy we need to see before we can go any further.”

“Oh. Why do you need to see him?”

“Passports.”

Her brows lifted, then she looked through the windshield at the rundown warehouse covered in graffiti. “He lives here?”

Raul nodded.

“Nice,” she drawled sarcastically.

Raul turned in his seat and saw Adeline lying on the bench seat, curled into a ball sleeping. He slapped her knee a couple of times and she bolted upright and blinked at him.

“What’s this place?” She squinted and stared out the front windshield at the dilapidated building.

“I told you about Rex.”

“Right. The guy.” She grinned.

“Let’s go.”

Raul popped the trunk, then got out and went around to the back and pulled out a rifle he’d used at the SFVO compound. He trusted Rex, but not the scum who lived around here or the seedy guys that often hung out at his place.

Rex had cameras and laser sensors all around the building. When someone got too close, the sensors tripped an alarm inside telling him he had company. Raul wasn’t worried about any of Rex’s security measures. As soon as Rex recognized him, he’d be down to open the door.

His main entrance was a rusty iron door on the right end of the building. He headed that way. Alexa and Adeline followed quietly. There was a camera right above the door. Raul looked into it and waited. Minutes later he heard metal scraping against metal. Rex had rigged the door with a steel bar on the inside making it impossible for a human to kick in. Seconds later the door opened and Rex stood there grinning at him.

“Hey, dude. Long time no see. How’s it hanging?” He glanced behind Raul with a bit of surprise and eyed the women greedily. He licked his lips. “Whoa. Who’ve we got here?”

“They’re off limits, asshole. Now let us in before I whip your ass.”

Rex knew Raul’s threat wasn’t idle. The guy was shady and he’d had to shake him up a time or two for price gouging him on documents he charged illegals a couple hundred dollars for.

“Sure, dude. Come on in.” He stepped back and opened the door wider.

The bottom of the warehouse was abandoned and filthy. It had once been some sort of factory and old, dust covered machines with conveyor belts filled up the majority of the huge first floor. There were a set of metal steps against the wall just right of the door. After locking them in, Rex headed up the stairs to the second story.

The guy was skinny as a rail, covered in tattoos and had huge rings in his earlobes that in Raul’s opinion made him look ridiculous. His hair was short and spiky and not from hair jell, but grime. Rex was a serious methhead and wasn’t keen on personal hygiene.

The room Rex led them to was his office slash studio. He had a big, light blue screen hanging on one wall like one would see at a department of motor vehicles. A camera on a tripod sat in front of it. Around ten computers were lined up on a long wooden counter build into the wall several feet from the door. Why he needed that many and what he did on them Raul didn’t know.

On the other side of the room he had a wall covered with some of the vilest pornography Raul had ever seen. He glanced over his shoulder at the women. Both were studying his sick art. Alexa’s mouth was open and she looked shocked. Adeline’s expression was one of disgust.

A ceiling to floor black curtain about eight feet wide broke the wall of filth in half. Raul had never been behind it and had no desire to know what disgusting things Rex hid in there.

“So I assume this is a business call,” Rex said, as he went over to his display of computers and took a seat in a old, beat up, black, leather office chair.

“Yep. I need passports for all three of us.”

“You got it, man, provided you have the cash.”

Raul rolled his eyes. “Get to work, asshole. I’ve got somewhere to be.”

“No problem.” He got up and walked over to the camera on the tripod. “You first, Raul. You know what to do.” He glanced at Alexa and Adeline and smiled revealing a host of black, rotted teeth. “Ladies, the two of you go stand in front of that curtain over there.”

Raul watched them do so. The guy was such a dick. He could have offered them the chairs or the couch by the door. Rex started messing with his lighting and Raul noticed his hands shaking more than they normally did. He chalked it up to drugs and figured he’d be needing to find another guy who specialized in illegal documents soon. At the rate Rex was going, he probably wouldn’t be alive much longer.

“So, dude. You going to put the gun down or what?” Rex asked, nervously eyeing the rifle in Raul’s hands.

Raul laid it on the floor to his right, then centered himself in front of the screen to wait for Rex to take his picture. Rex glanced over at Alexa and Adeline and sucked his lower lip between his rotten teeth. Raul was starting to get a really bad feeling and he didn’t know why. He found out though seconds later when two men stepped through the curtain. Each grabbed one of the women’s arms and shoved the barrel of a gun against their temples.

Both men had military haircuts and wore the black suits SFVO agents were notorious for. Raul felt like he’d been punched in the gut. His first instinct was to go for his gun, then thought better of the notion. He could miss the bastards and shoot Alexa or Adeline.

The man holding Alexa said, “Walk slowly toward the door, Raul. No tricks. I’m sure you wouldn’t want something to happen to one of these lovely ladies.”

Raul glared at Rex. “Why?” he asked. He’d never exactly trusted Rex, but Raul was one of his best clients and he always paid him more than what was fair. Plus Rex hated big brother and the government as a whole. Money. Had to be money.

Rex hunched a shoulder. “Sorry, dude. Couldn’t pass up a million dollars.”

Raul stared at the scumbags holding the two women he cared about more than any other beings on the planet. His sister had her eyes closed and wore a serene expression. That told him she had a shield erected around both her and Alexa. Poor Alexa appeared anything but serene. Tears streamed down her face and her lower lip trembled. Her features were a study in terror. Raul connected to her mind, determined to comfort her.

Alexa, relax. Adeline has a shield around you. You’re safe.

Her eyes widened and relief replaced fear. Is there one around you?

I don’t know. Adeline can only do one at a time I think. I need you to create a distraction so I can get to those two bastards.

She bit her lower lip and groaned. What do you want me to do?

Scream and fight the guy holding you. He can’t hurt you. Promise.

I’m afraid. What if he shoots you?

Don’t worry about me. I’ve got this. You need to hurry before those two catch on to what we’re doing. Scream, Alexa. Do it now!

She let loose one that would have made a director of a horror flick proud. She snatched her arm free and ran toward him.

Adeline’s eyes were open now and drenched with fear. Alexa had broken her concentration when she’d caused the commotion. A shot rang out. Alexa lurched forward and threw her hands up in the air. She stumbled and fell face forward onto the floor. Raul knew she’d been shot and a moment later the evidence manifested itself as blood began to bloom in the center of her back on her white jogging suit.

Rage and terror ceased him, spawning murderous intent. With preternatural speed he rushed the shooter, knocking him into the wall. Raul grabbed his head and jerked it viciously to the side, breaking his neck.

Another shot rang out a second before a searing pain ripped through his head. Raul fell to his knees, then collapsed onto his side. His vision blurred and darkness threatened to consume him. He fought for all he was worth to remain conscious, knowing if he passed out, all of them were as good as dead. It was no use. He felt himself being drawn into a swirling, black vortex. He pictured Alexa bleeding to death on the floor, which caused a pain in his chest far worse than the one in his head. In that pivotal moment he knew Alexa was his life mate and sorrow tore through his insides like a vicious disembowelment. He’d lost her before he’d been able to claim her. He lost his battle with consciousness too. Regret and an all consuming darkness swallowed him whole.

The end for now.

   

   

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Lana Campbell

Writer and Reader user