Luc lay in bed savoring the large body wrapped around him. His blood-sucking teddy bear was back. Whether it was because Nikko was a closet snuggler or because he knew Luc needed the physical contact, the fae didn’t know, but the skin-to-skin connection kept him grounded and calm.
He needed calm.
With Luc’s days and nights messed up, he didn’t know if the seven on the alarm clock was morning or evening. Sighing, he carefully eased from beneath Nikko’s clutches.
His stomach growled.
Well, that was one thing he could do. Pulling on his shirt and pants—he never bothered with underwear—Luc left the room. For a moment, he felt a tingle from the magical wards, but it passed once he closed the door behind him.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Gabriel stood before him, a scowl on his face.
“Aren’t all good little vampires supposed to be asleep?” he asked with his most disarming smile.
The scowl didn’t leave. “Not all vampires sleep through the day. Just most of the ones here do because we run a nightclub.”
Luc was confused. “But doesn’t the sunlight burn you?”
Laughter filled the air. Rather unkindly to Luc’s thinking.
“No. The only reason that rumor exists is because it’s easier to hunt in the dark. Humans only saw us at night while we were hunting because the rest of the time, we look just like them. That’s how it got started that we only come out at night. There’s no reason that consuming blood would have any connection to sunlight.”
Luc felt his face flush. “Now I feel stupid.”
Gabriel wrapped a friendly arm around his shoulders. “That’s okay. You still have your looks to fall back on.”
Luc pinched Gabriel’s side, causing the vamp to jump.
“What’s going on?” Nikko’s sleep creased face glared at the other vampire. “Are you touching my boy?”
Gabriel paled even for a vamp. “No, sir. Well, not the way you mean.”
Nikko pinned Luc with a fierce look. “Didn’t I mention you aren’t to talk to other vamps without my permission?”
Luc laughed. “Nope. I’ll sit at your side, but there’s no way I’m not going to talk to someone if they talk to me first. If that’s part of the deal, I’ll go and find a new home today.” He meant it too. There was no way he was going to be some automaton who didn’t speak unless given permission by his master.
Nikko sighed and ran a hand through his short black hair, making it stand up in messy spikes. “How about a compromise? When it’s just my tribe, you can talk to whoever speaks to you, but when we’re at the club among strangers, you only address people when I give you permission.” The alpha vampire played with a curl on Luc’s shoulder while he waited for his response.
Luc thought about it for a moment. He didn’t really want to give Nikko any problems. He just wanted a bit of peace. If the cost of that calm was sitting quietly beside his master as if he were a good little sub it was a small price to pay, and the necklace was rather spiffy.
Luc nodded. “Fair enough, but if you pet me on the head, I’ll bite you.”
“Deal. Now why are you out here instead of in bed with me?” The look in the alpha’s eyes should’ve set the building on fire.
“I’m starving.” Luc gave a pout guaranteed to get him his way.
“Get my baby some breakfast, Gabe. He’s got other things he needs to do.”
Before Luc could protest, Nikko grabbed him and dragged him back into the room and into his arms.
It was much later before he got his promised meal, but it was difficult to bitch while sporting a wide smile.
Nikko couldn’t remember the last time he was this nervous. As he sat there waiting for his beautiful thrall to dress in the clothes he’d bought, he remembered the scene earlier that afternoon.
The pack beta, Sal, had come into his office accompanied by two of his bodyguards. “I brought this for you.” The werewolf placed a leather-bound book on his desk.
“A present for me?” Nikko couldn’t help the skepticism in his voice.
The beta scowled. “No, it’s for Luc.”
Nikko opened the book. It had to be over two hundred pages. The first page had a handwritten title, ‘The Care and Feeding of Lucifer Hellbourne’. “What kind of sick parent names their child Lucifer with a last name like Hellbourne?”
“You’ll find out,” Sal said before hastily continuing. “It has his food preferences, what to do if he gets the fade, his likes and dislikes and who to call in an emergency.”
Flipping through the pages, Nikko was amazed at the incredible detail that went into creating the book. “You love him, don’t you?”
The beta’s eyes burned with a fierce fire. “If I didn’t know it would upset Luc, I would’ve snapped Bran’s neck in a second for tossing him aside. We’ve only been friends, Luc and I, but I would give him anything.” The werewolf sighed. “However, I’m not what he needs right now. After Bran’s betrayal, the pack no longer means home for Luc and there’s nothing I can do to take that pain away. As it is, our alpha isn’t bonding with his wife.”
“You mean his mate,” Nikko interrupted.
The werewolf shook his head. “I’m pretty sure that Luc is Bran’s mate, which means the alpha will always live a half-life as he pursues his goal of having pups. It weakens the pack, and if he doesn’t do something soon, I’ll have to take over alpha duties.”
“Will you challenge him?”
Sal shook his head. “No, the pack will do an intervention. He can’t be a good leader if his heart is torn. I’m hoping we can get him to step down. Bran’s been our leader for a hundred years. We’d hate to lose him now. But a good leader listens to his wolf half.”
“I’m not giving him back.” Nikko felt it was important to let the beta know up front that he would fight to keep his little fae.
Shrugging, the beta gave him a challenging look. “I’m all for leaving Luc here. Bran has hurt him enough. But keep in mind, the pack will be watching and if you hurt him, I have no problems with snapping your neck.”
The memory of his conversation with the beta wolf made Nikko smile. As a vampire, he was no lover of the wolves but the fact the beta still felt protective of the gentle fae said good things about his little love.
“Well, what do you think?” Luc’s satiny voice cut through Nikko’s thoughts.
He looked up and almost swallowed his tongue. Soft, buttery leather faithfully molded Luc’s thighs, showing that the man couldn’t possibly have anything on underneath his pants. The silk shirt in brilliant blue brought out the fae’s coloring and made his eyes even greener.
“Wow.” Really, what more could be said.
Luc smiled. “Thanks. You look pretty hot too.”
“Why don’t you go ahead to the club and I’ll catch up with you in a minute. I need to meet with my lieutenants before I go down. I’ll send you down with Sheila so you won’t be unprotected, and Jerrod will have a plate ready for you.”
“Sounds good. I feel like dancing.” Luc didn’t even comment about being sent down with a girl for protection. He had the impression that Sheila was much tougher than she looked.
After a hot, bone-melting kiss they parted.
Luc met Sheila at the top of the stairs. “How’s it going, girlfriend,” he teased, batting his eyelashes playfully.
She looked him over carefully, her eyes cool and calculating. Her gaze stopped at his neck. “Did the master give you that collar or did you knock off a museum?”
“Meow,” Luc said with a taunting smile.
Sheila laughed. Linking her arm with his, they walked down the stairs arm in arm. Eyes turned towards them as they reached the landing. “I love walking in with the most beautiful person in the room,” she said with a smile. “Now keep close to me. If I lose you in this crowd, Nikko will slit my throat and drain me dry.”
Luc started to laugh but the expression in the vampire’s eyes told him she wasn’t kidding. “Oh. I’ll be careful to stay close until Nikko arrives. Would you like to dance?”
“I can’t dance,” Sheila said, biting her lip.
“Sure you can. Everyone can dance. Besides if you’re going to live for centuries, you might as well enjoy it.”
See him give life advice.
With a smooth turn of his heels, Luc swept Sheila into his arms and moved her around the dance floor. As he swung her about, he mentally calculated how far she could step in her tight black dress and high heels. Luckily, it was still a little early for the hard partiers so there were pockets of emptiness on the dance floor. With fancy footwork and a little mind influence, he spun Sheila around in an intricate pattern that matched the rhythm in his soul.
Luc didn’t notice other people watching until the music ended and applause thundered through the club.
He held out his arm to Sheila, giving a graceful bow while she gave a short curtsy. She wrapped her hand around his biceps as they walked regally off the dance floor and straight towards the bar.
“Thanks, Luc.” Sheila’s voice was subdued, bringing Luc’s gaze to her.
He sat her down on a bar stool and took the one next to her. “What’s wrong, pretty girl?”
“I had a lot of fun.”
“That’s bad, how?”
Sheila sighed. “Because it’s hard to find a sweet man who dances like a dream and when I do,” she looked up, pinning him with her blue eyes, “they’re already taken. And even if you weren’t, I wouldn’t appeal to you.”
Luc gave her an understanding smile. “Don’t fall for me, beautiful. I’m all about heartache.” He motioned for two beers from the bartender who promptly placed them on the bar and waved away the money Luc offered.
“The boss would kill me if I charged you,” he said with a wink before moving on to serve another.
Sipping on their beers, the pair watched the crowds move about the dance floor. After a while, Luc noticed a few vamps sliding through a doorway in the back.
“Where does that go?” he asked, pointing at the quickly exiting vamps.
Sheila looked where he pointed. “Oh, back there are rooms for private parties.”
“Yeah, what kind of parties?”
He looked over to see Sheila blushing. Wow, he didn’t know vampires could blush. “Ooooo sex parties?”
She shrugged and Luc could see she was trying to regain her nonchalance. “Sometimes. Sometimes blood parties.”
A tremor snapped across Luc’s senses. Pain, someone was in a tremendous amount of pain. As a prince of hell, Luc could always sense when someone else was suffering. His brothers used the talent to savor the screams of the ones they tortured. Luc always used it to find and help others.
He could feel the pain emanating from the back where Sheila said the private rooms were located. “Be right back,” he said with what he hoped was a charming smile.
Sliding off his stool, he took one step from the bar before Sheila’s hand wrapped around his arm. “No, you don’t. If I lose you, the master will be angry with me.”
Luc shrugged, knowing he wasn’t going to get away from her any time soon. “Then come along.”
They walked through the crowds, avoiding the mass of bodies in their trek to the darkened doorway. Once they passed through the entryway, the quiet was so intense Luc thought he’d gone deaf. Magic filled the air, but he could still feel the screams in his mind. Someone was suffering.
Someone he knew.
A long dark hallway spread before them with doors on both sides.
“The rooms are soundproofed for added privacy,” Sheila whispered as if not wanting to disturb the unnatural quiet.
Even the feel of the air was different here. Instead of the honest odor of heat and sweaty bodies whipped about by overhead fans, the air was still, almost hushed with absolutely no scent. It was like walking into a bubble, the entire area purged of sensation.
Luc pulled Sheila behind him. If she insisted on going with him, she wasn’t going to go first and there wasn’t room for them to walk side by side.
As they passed each door, Luc held up his hand, sensing the occupants hidden inside.
The third door was the one. He could feel the pain rumbling through his bones.
Sheila grabbed his wrist as he reached over to open it. “No.”
Luc turned to look at her. “What do you mean, no?”
“I mean, I know the guy who rented this room and he’s an old vampire, deadly. You don’t want to mess with this guy.”
“On the contrary, my dear,” Luc replied with a smile. “He doesn’t want to mess with me.”
As he opened the door, the first thing that hit him was the smell of blood. It soaked the air like a thick, wet fog trying to seep into his skin. The lights in the room were so dim Luc had to blink a few times for his eyes to adjust. It was a bigger room than he’d expected, and the lack of light made it difficult to see.
There was a cracking sound followed by a scream of pain.
Turning towards the sound, Luc was amazed to see vampires filled the room. They draped across couches, chairs and even on the floor—more vamps than he thought belonged solely to Nikko’s tribe. All eyes were turned towards the ceiling.
Luc’s heart leapt to his throat. From his vantage point he could see a skinny, naked male dangling from manacles in the ceiling, while a tall, muscular vampire stood with a bullwhip slashing away at the pitiful creature.
The mental feel of a room full of vampires washed over Luc like a cool wave, but over the slightly metallic feel of the vampires, was the scream of piercing pain from the body in the center of the room. Cuts slashed the pale skin, traversing the entire body in bloody lines like a horrible street map of torture. It took him a moment to realize that the bloody mess was his favorite cute blond waiter with the puppy dog eyes. Jerrod.
That asshole was whipping his waiter.
None of the vamps standing around were doing one damned thing. They all wore varying expressions of disgust, horror or plain fucking indifference.
Luc used the voice of authority he’d learned from his father. “What’s going on here?”
The vampire with the whip snapped his head around, baring his fangs. “Stay out of this thrall or you’ll be under my whip next.” The vampire’s voice was breathy, and his face had that skinny skull-like definition, like someone who hadn’t seen a good plate of food since the dawn of time.
So, not attractive.
If Luc wasn’t so pissed, it probably would’ve been frightening, but he was beyond angry. He’d lost his home, his former lover and now this fucker with a whip was harming his waiter.
Righteous anger shot through Luc’s body, causing hellfire to crackle through his veins, burning his bones from the inside out.
The vampire continued to ignore him confident Luc was frightened away. Pulling back his whip, the sadistic bastard wound his arm up for another slash. Without conscious thought, Luc shifted through time and space to appear behind the whip wielder.
Taking advantage of the vampire’s distraction, Luc grabbed the vamp’s whipping arm at the wrist. Using all his weight, Luc bent back the vamp’s arm and snapped it. The sound ricocheted in the room as the vampire screamed with pain.
“I’ll kill you,” the vamp shrieked.
Luc laughed. A sound that was scarily reminiscent of his father’s laughter.
He couldn’t be killed.
But not killed.
“Good luck with that, buddy.”
Unimpressed by the vampire’s struggles to be free, Luc did the only thing that would keep this asshole dead. With a soft whisper, he let the hellfire burning through his body free. In his peripheral vision, he could see the runes glowing red on his arms. Releasing the vampire’s arm, Luc gripped the sadist’s head with both hands and freed the flame rushing through his body, sending hellfire straight through the vampire’s skull.
Screaming, the vamp wrenched out of Luc’s grip and dropped to the floor with a thud. Burning alive, his inhuman cries filled the room. Within moments, the corpse disintegrated into a pile of grey ash.
Did bad vampires go down to his father or were their souls lost during conversion? A question to answer another day.
Looking up, he saw that there was finally some emotion on the onlookers’ faces. Complete and total horror.
Served the fuckers right.
The dangling boy let out a whimper, drawing Luc’s attention away from the others. “Hey, hey, it’s all right, sugar. Shh.” Jerrod was making low frightened sounds like an animal in pain.
Anger towards Nikkolai burned through him. How could the master vampire let this happen in his club? This was not the sort of man Luc was looking for as a life mate.
Not to mention his life was a fucking long time.
With a snap of his wrist, the cuffs crumpled, releasing the waiter into his arms. Carefully, he lowered the kid to the floor, mindful of his wounds.
Luc crouched in front of the injured vamp, making soothing nonsense noises. Using both hands, he scraped the hair back from the face to get a good look at the waiter.
Frightened. Big blue eyes filled with tears.
“Shh. Shh.” Luc ran a hand down Jerrod’s head in a soothing gesture he’d learned while living with the weres. “It’s okay, honey. I’ve got you.”
“T-thank you, L-Luc,” the damaged vamp said in a sad, shaky voice while tears dripped down his blood-soaked cheeks.
“It’ll be all right. I want you to stay still. I’m going to heal you now. I’m not very good at this, so don’t move.”
“Luc, what are you doing?” Sheila asked behind him. Her voice held a tremor of fear that wasn’t there a moment ago. Maybe burning vamps alive in a nightclub wasn’t the best way to make a good impression.
“Make yourself useful, honey, and find the kid some clothes.”
Sheila snorted. “The kid’s much older than you are.”
“Well, then get some clothes for the old man. Just go.”
Sheila went while Jerrod gave a soft laugh. “Old man?”
“She left, didn’t she? Now stay still. I’m going to move a little healing energy through you to encourage your speedy recovery.”
Jerrod tried to be still, but Luc could still see small uncontrollable tremors shaking his skin. Obviously, someone used to taking orders.
Luc had dealt with the pack omega before, so he knew all about submissives. If the whipper had been this kid’s master, Luc was going to make sure he got a better one the next time around. He didn’t care if he had to fucking interview them himself.
He was so going to kick Nikko’s ass.
“Heal,” Luc said, his voice not much louder than a whisper. He felt golden seraphim magic pour out of his fingertips. While he might be the devil’s son, his soul wasn’t damned, and he could still call upon the magic of the angels. Wherever his magic glowed, the boy healed instantly, whip marks sealing in a flash of power.
The look of wonder in the boy’s face made Luc question whether anyone had ever sent Jerrod to a healer before.
Seeing the boy start to shake harder, Luc wrapped up the healing, unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it off and settled it around the blond’s shoulders. It didn’t really cover much, but it stopped the worst of the tremors. The vampire was more in shock than injured at this point.
Pulling Jerrod onto his lap, Luc treated him as if he were a frightened pack member, with long soothing strokes along the head and back.
Until fire shot through his right hand, stinging like a burning brand.
“Shit,” Luc screamed. Flipping over his hand, he saw there was now an imprint of a pair of golden wings glowing in his palm. “What in the ten hells is this?”
Jerrod’s face took on a look of wonder and for the second time that night the smell of burning flesh filled the air. Sliding off Luc’s shirt, the waiter exposed his upper arm to him. A perfect set of wings was branded there. A beauteous smile crossed Jerrod’s lips. “I belong to you now.”
“What?” Luc jumped up, unceremoniously dumping the vampire on the floor.
Tears filled those sad blue eyes. “D-d-don’t you want me?”
Torn with indecision, but not wanting to hurt the vamp further, Luc sat back down and cradled the waiter “It’s okay. We’ll figure this out. Just stay calm.”
It was good advice. He just hoped he could follow it. Being responsible for another person wasn’t on his list of things he wanted to do. He’d have to figure out how to transfer Jerrod to someone else—preferably a vampire who didn’t enjoy whipping him for fun.
Sheila returned with a stack of clothing. “We usually have stuff on hand for when things get a little rough. These should fit him.”
Snapping out of his reverie, Luc helped the other man to his feet.
With the supernatural grace of a vampire, Jerrod dressed quickly.
“Where do you live?” Luc asked the vamp once he was clothed.
Jerrod’s face fell and Luc could sense tears in his voice. “I was living with Mal.”
Luc took from his expression that Mal was the guy he dusted.
“Hey, don’t worry, sweet.” He rubbed a hand across Jerrod’s back. “We’ll find you another place to stay. Maybe you can stay with Nikko. It’s the least he can do.”
“What’s the least I can do, darling?” Nikko’s smooth baritone rubbed across his senses like warm cream.
Despite his anger at the vampire, Nikko’s voice still sent shivers of need down his spine as memories of their night together flashed through his head like a high definition porn video.
Jerrod shook beneath Luc’s hand, snapping Luc out of his thoughts and reminding him how angry he was with the master vampire.
“I came downstairs and found your club room rented by a fuckin’ psychopath who was whipping your waiter. And not one of your vampires did a thing to stop it.”
Nikko’s eyes swept the crowd. “Is this true?”
A red-haired vamp came forward. “Yes, Master, but it was Mal. He would’ve killed us, and since it was his boy, he was within his rights.”
“Fuck rights,” Luc screamed. “How about decency?”
Nikko held up his hand. “Calm down, Luc. You’re new to the vampire society so you don’t know all the rules. It’s illegal to interfere with a vampire and his people. To do so is to invite a duel to the death and Mal’s one of the strongest vampires in the state. Where’s Mal now?” Nikko’s gaze swept the crowd.
Luc tried his best to look innocent.
The redhead cleared her throat. “Your boy killed him.”
Nikko laughed. “No, really, what happened?”
The vampires just looked at each other. They weren’t prepared for complete denial.
Luc decided distraction was the way to go. “Nikko, I am very angry with you.”
“Angry with me? What did I do? Even if I was here, there wouldn’t be much I could do if Mal was disciplining his boy.”
“He wasn’t disciplining,” Luc argued. “He was torturing.”
Nikko shrugged. “He looks all right to me.”
Luc stared at the vamp. He could feel the vein throbbing in his forehead. He wondered idly if his head could be seen from space, exploding like one of those cartoon mushroom clouds.
“Jerrod was almost beaten to death in your own club, a man who works for you, and you don’t even ask how he is doing?”
“He’s doing fine,” Nikko said, flashing a fang at the other younger vampire, “or he wouldn’t be standing there touching you.”
For the first time, Luc noticed a tentative hand rubbing his back in soothing circles. He tilted his head and Jerrod gave him a shy smile.
He could get to enjoy this treatment.
What he couldn’t stand was a man who’d let someone be injured under his roof and do nothing about it. He could tell by Nikko’s behavior that even if he’d witnessed the scene, he still wouldn’t have interfered.
“Look, Nikko. I like you a lot. I think you’re really hot.” Nikko had a wide smile on his face. “But I can’t date a guy who allows people into his club that will abuse others just for their enjoyment. There are some things even I won’t be privy to. For now just stay away.”
Luc turned to the waiter. “Coming Jerrod?”
The boy nodded. “Your will is my will, Master.”
“Master?” Nikko asked.
Luc held his hand palm out. “Yeah, apparently I’ve adopted a vampire.” He turned and walked towards the door with Jerrod close on his heels.
Nikko called after him. “Luc, my love.”
Luc stopped and looked back.
“Where are you going?”
He shrugged. “I guess it’s time I stood on my own two feet.” He walked back and started to remove his necklace.
“Keep it,” Nikko said with a sad smile. “You’ll be back.”
Luc took a deep breath to loosen the knot forming in his chest. Really, how many men could he break up within a week? “Don’t count on it. I’ve decided to give up on having a big strong man take care of me.”
Nikko smirked. “You’ll have to come back eventually to learn how to be a vampire master.”
“I can’t be a vampire master. I’m not a vampire.”
“You just keep telling yourself that. Come to me when you decide you want to learn the truth.”
Luc frowned at Nikko. “We’ll be fine.”
Maybe he could find a Caring for Vampires for Dummies book.
He was out the door before he realized he didn’t have his cell phone or his guitar with him. Luc sighed and continued walking down the street with his vampiric sidekick.
At least he still had his wallet.
“Tomorrow, I’m sending you back for my stuff,” he told Jerrod. “Tonight, we’ll find a hotel room until we can rent a place.”
“Yes, Master,” was Jerrod’s gentle reply. The kid wasn’t a chatterbox that was for sure.
Luc spotted the wolf detach from the shadows then follow them down the street. Let him follow. He still wasn’t going to forgive his ex-lover for his betrayal no matter how much he stalked him.