Bianca & Varick
The skin on the back of her neck prickled. Danger neared. Beneath the pounding drums of the band, Bianca Maresca felt its cold tendrils. The chill grew and mingled with the heat of the writhing dancers. The sensation morphed into an icy energy and sapped some of the brightness from the stage lights. Only she noticed. Her gaze darted among the crowd. Where was it? Though her first experience of this eerie sensation, she recognized what it meant.
Vampire. Her training had given her enough knowledge to make that clear. What now? Shouting to the crowd useless. Even if they heard her, yelling "vampire," would only raise eyebrows and laughter. She would be tossed into the street.
Though she had set out to hone her skills tonight, she hadn’t expected to be successful. All her other attempts at sensing vampires had failed miserably, why should tonight be any different? Exhilaration for her success warred with fear. How long before her target sensed her? She had no idea if she would be able to cloak herself.
Another rush passed along her spine, cold now mixed with heat. The sensation evolved into a confusing force that sparked with a power that staggered her. She leaned against the wall. Just as she’d been taught. First the cold, then the heat. The intensity indicated more than one vampire. Maybe many more. She searched the crowd again. Frustration welled. How would she warn the innocents who risked being consumed? She couldn’t separate them from the undead. If she didn't do something, the whole place would be the scene of a frenzied bloodletting. The energy increased, thumping in time to the beat of the music.
The heat now seared her, and though she’d never actually faced a vampire before now, her first encounter loomed. Her heart raced, and she shut out the presence of those nearby, tuning in to the surges of warmth that passed along her spine. She wasn’t ready, her mind screamed. Everything she’d worked for was about to culminate in her first confrontation. Now that the moment had arrived, she began to doubt her decision to try something like this publicly. She stiffened, turning toward the gaze she knew rested upon her.
A brief ray of hope rose. Varick LaCorte, the club’s owner. Thanks to the presence of the creatures, she would finally get her chance to meet him, but this wasn’t how she’d planned the encounter. He factored heavily into her decision to stay behind tonight. She wanted to get his attention. Judging from the way he looked at her, she had it now. No man had ever looked at her with such intensity. She flushed, hating the way her knees shook, reminding her of all the months of fantasies. If he could do that with only a look, what could he do if he actually kissed her, a hungry kiss that devoured and searched, even as his hands roamed her body, making her… What the hell was she thinking? Of all times to recall her fantasies. She tossed the salacious thoughts aside. So much for trying to impress him. She had to convince him she wasn’t insane. She’d be lucky if he didn’t think her a lunatic when she explained that his club crawled with vampires.
He strode toward her. As he neared, she couldn’t tear her eyes away. His gaze scorched her. A knot formed in her stomach as she recognized the tinge of gold in his dark eyes. The searing heat came from him. She stifled a gasp. The danger she sensed came from him, the realization closely followed by stomach roiling disappointment. Her secret fantasy shattered. Her heart pounded. He drew closer still, with a hint of a smile on his lips. She held her ground. One hand slipped into a pocket to caress the crucifix. She could discreetly flash it to keep him at bay. His smile broadened, and she realized he knew her intentions. Before she could pull the cross free, he had gripped her arm, his hold gentle, yet firm.
"You must be a novice. Or you would know this weapon has no effect on me. Especially in here." The sensuous silk of his voice, laced with a French accent, sharpened the spurts of warmth. She tried to tell herself the sensation had nothing to do with the feel of his hand on her arm. Or the image of him pulling her close and…damn, she had to stop this!
“I think not.” He tugged, compelling her to follow. His grip wasn’t tight, yet she knew struggling against his superhuman strength would get her nowhere. She opened her mouth to scream, hesitating when he turned and fixed her with a fierce glare.
“No one can help you here.”
“I don’t think your patrons would take kindly to your manhandling me.” She jerked her arm again. His relentless hold didn’t give.
“Who would deny that this is merely a lover’s spat?”
She gaped at him. “We’re not…I would never…” she sputtered. But she knew she would, given the chance, no matter how much she wanted to deny it. He took advantage of her moment of indecision and pulled her through the back door.
LaCorte’s lair. The sudden silence overpowered, her ears still ringing from the music. She took a moment to glance around the dark room, luxuriously appointed with elegant mahogany furnishings. She committed the layout to memory, for the future. Because if she survived this, she would be back.
He released his grip. She made a dash for the door, only to find it blocked by his body. He towered above her, forcing her to tilt her head to look at him. Too late. Caught in the hunger and promise in his dark gaze, she could do nothing as his desire held her motionless, overpowering her more than she could ever imagine.
“What brings a novice hunter to my club?”
The husky timbre of his voice broke the spell holding her immobile. She shook her head and backed away.
She forced her voice to remain steady. Fear would not help her survive this encounter; she had to mask it somehow. “What makes you think I’m a novice?”
“I know. You haven’t destroyed your first yet.”
How the hell did he know that? True, she had started her training late, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t capable. He chuckled, following as she backed away. She came up against a desk. He leaned forward, trapping her between his arms. Regret and anger sliced into her. Her first hunt shouldn’t end like this! Even so, she couldn’t ignore the way her heart pounded at his nearness.
“I know many things about you, cherie. But for someone who hunts my kind, you are ignorant.”
He brought a finger up and stroked it slowly down her cheek, and along her throat. She shivered under the caress. Was it a threat? Or something else? She almost didn’t care, the touch like fire, searing her with wanting.
“Be careful, LaCorte. I can destroy you.”
He threw back his head and laughed. The sound vibrated through her, despite herself, another wave of heat washed over her. An unruly lock of dark hair tumbled across his forehead. She resisted the ridiculous urge to brush it aside. Silently, she cursed the damned crush that apparently still held her in its grip. Even knowing what he was did nothing to stop the longing from growing more intense. His piercing eyes locked on hers and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.
“Many have tried and failed. Once we’re through here, you won’t even try.”
She slipped a hand into her pocket, fingers closing around the short stake. Before she could remove it, his hand followed, brushing against her skin with lightning speed. He pulled the stake free. Long slender fingers crushed the wood into powder. The former weapon dusted the floor beside them.
His eyes grew cold now, angry. “There is a reason hunters are not permitted in my club.”
“Please.” What did she ask for? She didn’t know.
He pressed more tightly against her and shook his head. The contact almost made her groan, but she held it back. The heat rose, she could feel beads of sweat breaking out along her hairline.
“No, cherie, I have a more enjoyable way to deal with you.” Those fingers were once again on her throat, stroking, caressing, making her senseless with longing. She couldn’t fight. As he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers, all desire to resist vanished. Only one desire held her now, rendering her helpless against its onslaught.
He suddenly crushed her against him, arms wrapped tightly about her. His mouth devoured hers, just as she’d imagined, stirring her senses to fever pitch. Her arms crept around his neck, as if she tried to draw him still closer. Her fingers tangled in the shoulder-length dark hair and she marveled at its velvety softness. His tongue brushed her mouth, urging her to open and she did, knees buckling as he swept inside, tasting deeply. Each hungry stroke made her whimper.
He left her mouth then, to trail along her jaw and finally her throat. As his fangs brushed against her pulse point, she stiffened. Reality cut through the haze he wove about her, alerting her to the danger. She released her hold on him, shoving at his shoulders, panic rising to choke her as she tried to push him away. Another whimper escaped, all she could manage. Suddenly, he drew away, that dark gaze questioning.
“You are afraid?”
She nodded, her voice elusive when she tried to answer. No matter how hard she tried, though, she couldn’t force back the yearning that still held her in its powerful grip.
“Don’t be. Just a taste, to show you what is between us.”
“No. This is wrong.” Finally her voice worked, though she barely recognized her hoarse whisper.
He slowly shook his head, his eyes never leaving hers. She felt as though he could see into her very soul. “It is very right, cherie, and soon you will agree.”
“Never. Let me go!” She pounded on his shoulders, but he may as well have been carved from stone. She choked on a sob, trying to compose herself. Her fright would make her careless, giving him a further advantage.
Never let them see your fear. Her father’s words echoed in her mind, bringing her a moment of peace. She could withstand LaCorte’s assault. She lifted her eyes once more.
The promise in his gaze shredded the remainder of her fear. No threat lingered in his eyes, only reassurance. And desire. Despite her determination, that desire called to her, and she found herself unable to resist the lure. He kissed her again, lightly, now all thoughts of refusal faded. She relaxed in his arms as his hands cupped her head and gently tilted it back. She didn’t protest as he laved her neck with his lips and tongue, softening her in his embrace.
A growl from low in his throat heightened the growing desire he stoked. His fingers skittered lightly along her arm and the last of her resistance fled. Once more, she pressed against him. Urgency cascaded through her and eradicated rational thought. Nothing mattered except the hunger raging in her. A warning voice sounded, but her chaotic senses disregarded the call. She wanted him to continue kissing and caressing. She wanted more. As if in response to her silent plea, his mouth once again returned to hers, her stomach tightening at the contact. She moaned, desire like thick fog obscuring everything but the invigorating taste and scent of the lover who could bring her to such heights with just a kiss. Her whole body came alive with excitement, coursing through her veins, pooling with heat in her core.
His mouth moved along her cheek, his lips finding the sensitive shell of her ear. His warm breath and hot tongue brought shudders of delight. The voice in her head faded, the faint whisper warned against his embrace, his touch, but it felt so good, she never wanted the kiss to end. The magic he stirred had grown, unlike anything she’d ever experienced. Her underwear already soaked, her thighs pressed together to bring a delicious friction that only made the hunger within her soar even higher.
His hand cupped her breast, the strange coolness seeping through the fabric of her shirt and oddly inspiring a searing heat that threatened to consume her. Her nipple hardened as his thumb brushed it and she found herself pressing herself further into his hand. When he gave a her a light squeeze, she moaned, the shock of the pressure shooting through her like an out of control fire. His knee wedged between her legs, pressing against her mound, making her arch against him. Nothing mattered but the passion flaring within her, taking over every conscious thought. Deep in her core, she throbbed, needing something, anything, to soothe the growing ache.
When his mouth returned to her throat, she sensed the impending. Instead of fighting, she tilted her head further back in welcome, granting him access. His faint chuckle swelled through her, but she again ignored the warning. She knew she should fight, resist him, but she didn’t have the will. The tremors racking her body were too delicious to resist.
His fangs pierced the flesh of her throat, the first twinge of pain briefly muting the pleasure. She stiffened and tried to cry out. Suddenly, his voice sounded in her head, soothing her.
Relax, cherie, and feel the pleasure in my kiss. You are sweet, like nectar for the gods. Like nothing I have tasted before. Incredible.
The bite seemed to go on forever, yet lasted only moments. He continued to offer endearments and comfort, leaving her relaxed and floating in a sea of ecstasy. She closed her eyes, as waves of delight swept her away. This blew away her fantasies of kissing him when she thought him a mortal man. The blackness came then, and she couldn’t fight it.