Josh & Sophie|
The steady beat of the drums vibrated through the club, mingling with screeched guitars and the lead singer’s baritone. It was a sold-out crowd, the band playing tonight on the verge of breaking through. Joshua’s hand rested on the curve of the hip of the woman beside him and watched the dancing mob. He smiled.
Another successful night. The last six months had seen the club filled to capacity almost every evening. Most popular was Battle of the Bands, which he held every Saturday. Up to five local bands or singers played short sets, hoping to get noticed by one of the music industry’s movers and shakers who were likely to be present. Joshua was known as having a keen ear for talent, and giving opportunities to those good enough to make it in the business. Many agents and talent scouts turned up in the club hoping to find the next Madonna, or Bruce Springsteen. And mingled among the celebrity crowd were those of Joshua’s kind, though no one really knew what they were or that they were there.
The woman beside him lifted her face. “Josh, honey, we aren’t going to stay up here all night, are we?” Her voice held a note of pleading, and her blue eyes promised him much. She waved a well-manicured hand around his office and flipped her long red hair over her shoulder. He let his gaze wander to the column of her neck.
“You don’t like it here?” He nodded toward the window overlooking the club floor. From here, he could see everything, including the entrance. Thick one-way glass muted the sound, which was perfect when he had to conduct meetings or simply needed some privacy. Besides, as much as he loved the music, the volume could be overwhelming at times.
“I wanted to dance tonight.”
The whine in her voice grated on him, but he pushed it aside. He smiled and drew her close, letting his hands wander over her firm buttocks. He squeezed gently. She sighed and pressed against him. He held her gaze. “We can dance right here. No one can see us. The glass is only one-way.”
Still holding her gaze, he concentrated on focusing her thoughts only on him, away from the crowd below. Her eyes glazed over and she nodded. “Then let’s dance.”
He held her closely against him, letting his lips brush along her neck and bared shoulder. The tube top she wore barely covered her ample breasts, but he liked the access it gave him. Before the night was over, he’d be satisfied. In more ways than one.
As he held her and they swayed in time to the music, he let his hands wander over her, caressing and kissing her until she was highly aroused. With an easy motion, he lifted her and laid her on his mahogany desk, which took up nearly a third of the room. She reached for his trousers, freeing him as he climbed up to kneel above her. Her heart raced, and his own picked up the pace. The pulse at her neck jumped, drawing his gaze, and he licked his lips. Just a little longer. Her soft hands were caressing him, heightening his sexual pleasure, until he was driving into her, almost too forcefully. He eased his pace, careful to make sure she was lost in desire before baring his fangs and sinking them into the flesh at the base of her neck. She gasped, but his hands quickly made her forget what he was doing as he fed, letting the rich sweet blood pour down his throat. As he neared completion, he drew away from her neck, careful to remove any traces of blood before letting his release wash over him. As he sagged above her, she closed her eyes, and was soon asleep.
He eased himself up and licked his fingers, pressing them against the tiny wounds in her neck. Tomorrow she’d have a painful hickey, nothing more. And if he ever needed her again, all he had to do was send a telepathic message. He set about cleaning himself up, and carefully replaced Tiffany’s clothes. He picked up the phone and pressed a button.
The door opened, and a bald man the size of a delivery van entered the room. His beady eyes searched the room, and settled on Tiffany. Understanding lit his gaze, and a grin of white teeth appeared underneath his dark goatee. “Usual?”
Joshua nodded. “Yeah, thanks Buck. Take her to her place, and be discreet. And make sure you have some flowers sent over in the morning.”
“No problem, boss.”
As Buck set about rousing Tiffany, Joshua slipped through the side office door. To his sanctuary. He pressed a few buttons in the keypad set in the wall, and at the end of the corridor, a door slid upward. He entered the room and pressed another code, and the door closed. Made of titanium, it could not be penetrated. He was safe here. He entered the elevator and rode up to his rooms at the top of the fifteen story building.
He flicked on some lights and went into the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of water. With a sigh, he strode to the living room and went to the windows.
He loved staring out at the city on a clear night like tonight. When he bought the place, he’d had the walls blown out and replaced with floor to ceiling windows of impenetrable glass. One of his mentor’s inventions. He smiled as he thought of du Lac. It had been several months since he’d heard from his master. He assumed all was well.
The lights of the city glistened below. He could hear the faint sounds of traffic, muffled voices. If he paid close enough attention, he could probably eavesdrop. But that guilty pleasure had lost all its allure years ago. The one voice he longed to hear was silent. It had been years since he’d heard it, but still he waited, hoping he might one day here it again, despite the hurt and anger still burning after all these years.
Sophie, where are you?
She ran through the park, the pain in her shoulder almost blinding her. Still, he pursued, she could hear his heavy breathing. She was weakening and wouldn’t be able to maintain this speed for long. Where could she go?
With clarity she knew. It was only a block from the park, she could make it. She had to. It was the only place she’d be safe. She glanced over her shoulder. The hunter wasn’t close enough to be seen, but she could hear him gaining on her. She’d wasted too much time. She hurried to the park entrance, and kept going, almost into the street. Frantic, she looked around to orient herself and headed north. Before she reached the cross-street, he appeared before her.
“Shortcut,” he taunted. He stalked closer.
He wouldn’t take her out in full view like this, would he? But his eyes were crazed, and she wasn’t about to take the chance. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to the entrance of Underground Haven.
While she’d been successful, another obstacle awaited, the crowd outside the entrance. Damn, she had to get inside somehow, but it didn’t look like the beefy bouncers posted outside were letting anyone past the red velvet rope. Her shoulder throbbed, she wasn’t sure she had the strength to do it. She ducked into the alley and closed her eyes.
And was immediately assaulted by the ear-shattering drums and guitars of tonight’s band. She covered her ears and made her way to a corner. She had to find him, she needed tending. He would know what to do.
She stared up at the huge mirror covering one wall of the upper floor. That was his office, was he there? How would she get up there? She leaned against the wall, and glanced around.
Her senses vibrated. She was relieved to feel others like her present. Many others. She made eye contact with someone, and knew she was safe. This club catered to the underground clientele, and any inquiries would be handled discreetly. Even if the hunter somehow made it in, he wouldn’t be able to touch her here. She walked over to the dark haired young man who still held her gaze.
“Hi.” She smiled.
He didn’t return the smile, just watched her appraisingly. “Hi. You look a little unwell.”
“Just tired. Hungry.”
He nodded. With a snap of his fingers, a waitress appeared beside them, her tray holding two glasses of dark red liquid. The young man took them and handed one to her when the waitress disappeared once more into the crowd.
She lifted the glass, savoring the sweet coppery taste of the blood. Already feeling renewed, the pain faded a little.
“Don’t recall seeing you here before,” said the young man. “First time?”
“No, actually, I’ve been here. It’s…been a while.”
“Hi Marc. I’m…”
She spun about. Joshua stood behind her, his warm brown eyes wide with surprise. She wanted to weep with the joy of seeing him, but held herself back. Their last meeting had ended so badly, she wasn’t sure what he felt anymore.
“Hi, Josh.” She offered a tentative smile.
“What are you doing here?” His eyes hardened, and his mouth set in a grim line.
She glanced at the young man. He shrugged and exchanged a glance with Joshua before turning and melting into the crowd.
“Sophie, why are you here?” Joshua repeated once they were alone.
She hesitated. He was still angry with her, she could feel it very faintly, even though he was shielded against her. “Can we go somewhere...private?”
His eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why?”
“Please, someone attacked me tonight. I’m wounded.”
She pulled her jacket open and revealed where the stake had broken through her flesh. His jaw clenched, and he grabbed her arm and led her to the stairs.
He said nothing as he pulled her behind him, and into his office. As he locked the door, he released her, and she took the brief opportunity to study him.
His dark hair was unruly as ever, and stubble covered his cheeks. She recalled the feel of that stubble against her skin, and longing knifed through her. He turned to face her again, and she sucked in her breath at the hatred she read in his dark eyes. She shouldn’t be surprised. It was her own fault he despised her. He averted his gaze and motioned her to follow him through another door.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to teleport?”
“No.” His curt answer stung as she followed him through the steel door and to an elevator. What had she expected, that he would welcome her with open arms? He remained silent as he punched in security codes and led her into his spacious penthouse. When he shoved her onto the couch, she jumped back up.
“Are you going to talk to me?” She followed him into the bathroom.
“About what?” He rummaged through the medicine cabinet and removed a small vial.
“How I was wounded, for one.”
“Looks to me like you picked the wrong guy this time.”
The bitterness in his voice made her flinch. She’d done that to him. She’d heard of his exploits with women. She’d read the headlines describing his promiscuous ways. A different woman every night, some gossip rags speculated. The wildest after hours parties were always at The Other Side. Because she had driven him to this.
“Actually, I’ve been underground for a while.”
He motioned to her to remove her jacket. She obeyed silently, placing the black leather garment on the counter. He pulled aside her blouse, his dark eyes softening with concern. His gaze shot up to hers, and for a moment, she felt a burst of love so powerful it sucked the breath from her lungs. Then his eyes hardened once more and he turned his attention back to her chest.
“Looks pretty nasty, like it was soaked in holy water.”
She nodded, recalling the burn as the wood had pierced her. The sting of the liquid brought back memories she’d thought long suppressed. She shuddered, and Joshua gripped her shoulder. His touch was a comfort, but she wouldn’t admit that to him.
“This is going to hurt.” He pulled the cork from the vial with his teeth and let a drop of liquid pour onto her wound. Agony scalded her and she hissed through her teeth, fighting the urge to shove him away and curl up into a protective position.
Another drop landed, and a high keening scream escaped her. Then suddenly, the pain was gone and she sagged weakly against him. His arms came around her to hold her near, and she sighed, savoring the safety of the haven he offered.
Then suddenly, she was stretched out on his bed, and he was tucking the blankets around her. For several moments, he said nothing, then stood and left the room. Tears stung her eyes, and she wiped them away. She recalled her last words to him all those years ago, and knew he would never love her again.