A girls guide to vampire.., p.8
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       A Girls Guide to Vampires, p.8

         Part #1 of Dark Ones series by Katie MacAlister
 
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Chapter Eight

 

  It was one thing to prepare for a date, I mused as I walked briskly by the people streaming into the fair, but another entirely when the date one was preparing for was a vampire, and quite likely to feel a bit peckish at some point in the proceedings. I tried to decide if I was the type of woman who allowed a first date to drink my blood, and after weighing visions of me appearing the following morning covered in bandages against the erotic descriptions of lovemaking in Dante's books, I decided I'd just wing it.

  "I'm getting the hang of this believing-in-vampire stuff," I praised myself as I stomped up a grassy slope toward the hotel. "It's not so hard, really. You just have to carry around a really big grain of salt at all times. "

  By the time I arrived at my room I had my game plan well in mind. First, I'd have a long soak in the tub. I knew Raphael wouldn't be able to seduce me properly until after two a. m. , since his duties at the fair would keep him busy until then, so soaking time was not an issue. Following that, I would don an extremely sexy bit of nightwear, and lounge on the bed practicing provocative poses and seductive looks until Raphael arrived.

  An hour later, having had my bath, I paused as I was brushing my hair and stared into the mirror at my frowning face. Why hadn't the thought of Raphael's employment struck me before? Why hadn't I ever wondered why a vampire, a man who must be several hundred years old, was working for his living? Surely vampires were all independently wealthy. I knew the Dark Ones in Dante's books were. They never seemed to worry about money.

  "Just my luck," I told my reflection as I brushed my hair until it crackled with static. "I get the only poor vampire in town. Eternity on a budget. . . oh, happy day. "

  If I have to admit to having one weakness in life - and in truth, I have many, my reaction to a certain amber-eyed Dracula for one - it's that I love slinky nightwear. I fully admit to being a negligee connoisseur; I must own more than a dozen of them, all silk and satin, with oodles of lace. I'd brought only two with me to Europe, however, so my decision of what to wear for Raphael was not difficult, but it still took time.

  "Do I want the Take Me I'm Yours dusty rose with the rosebud ties that will make him think I'm shy and innocent, or the midnight blue Touch Me And You'll Burn that tells him I'll steam the wrinkles right out of his shorts? Oh, decisions, decisions. "

  Since I wasn't sure of what I wanted to have happen between us - certainly I wanted something to happen, I just wasn't sure how far I wanted it to go - I settled on the shy and innocent rose. I checked my hair, dabbed a little perfume behind my knees, and settled in bed with a murder mystery, figuring I'd read a bit before Raphael showed up.

  What does he do with his fangs when he isn't using them ?

  that pesky voice in my head asked as I was reading. I ignored it and read on.

  Where does he sleep? Is it in a coffin, like in the movies, or in a darkened chamber, like the Dark Ones in Dante's books use?

  I ground my teeth and read each word with deliberate slowness.

  If he sleeps in a coffin, does he have a coffin built for two? I gave up and put my book down. Fine, I'd play a round of twenty questions with myself if that's what it took to settle my mind.

  Question number one: Did I want to sleep in a coffin? I knew from Dante's books that although a Dark One's Beloved was made immortal, she was not vampire, so at least I wouldn't have to worry about drinking blood, but could I honestly say I wanted to spend the rest of my days sleeping in a coffin?

  "Mmm. . . think that's a negative," I decided. What about sex? my inner self wanted to know. I knew that Dark Ones were fully capable of having children, which meant that any exchange of body fluids beyond the third step would have to be conducted while pertinent parts of him were clad in the appropriate scrap of latex. I made a mental note to buy a package of condoms the following day.

  "Just to be on the safe side," I told my toes as they twitched with pleasure at the thought of Raphael's pertinent parts. "Not that I'm anticipating needing them soon - he may intrigue me and melt my knees and make me want to do wicked things to him with a pair of those fur-lined cuffs Roxy was going on about, but that doesn't mean I'm going to right away. I have some standards. I do not jump into bed with the first amber-eyed vampire who makes me go all girly inside!"

  My toes didn't look like they believed me, which, I reflected with a sigh, was probably because my protestations weren't particularly convincing.

  "Fine," I scowled at my toes, "I'm loose as a goose when it comes to Raphael. Are you happy you've shamed me into admitting it? Come to think of it, it's probably not even my fault. It's probably an aftereffect of his mind-seduction. I'm just an innocent bystander, caught up in his smutty imaginings!"

  I shut up after that. It was a sad end when one was driven to defend one's virtue to one's toes, especially when neither toes nor self was buying the story. I fluffed up my hair, checked the clock, and propped my book up to read. Four hours was nothing. I'd just read until Raphael arrived to sweep me off my jaded toes.

  Beloved, the voice echoed through my head. I woke up enough to realize I had been sleeping. My body was heavy, bathed in languid warmth so pleasant it seemed a shame to even try to move. A breeze rippled down my length, almost as if unseen hands were stroking and caressing the air above me.

  A face shimmered, then solidified in my mind's eye. Raphael. He had come to me. I tried to open my eyes, tried to lift up my arms to greet him, but I felt pulled down into the softness of the feather bed, my body unwilling to respond to my demands.

  Beloved, the voice repeated, the world trembling in anticipation of his arrival. I pictured him just beyond my door, dressed in his habitual black jeans and leather jacket, his muscled frame moving with the powerful elegance that sent shivers of delight down my spine. His pain filled my mind as he approached, drawing my awareness to his desperate need for me to soothe the blackness within him.

  Raphael. I knew every angle and plane of his face, knew the power in his eyes. I felt him seep through the door into my room, charging the very air with his presence, turning my small room into a warm, intimate sanctuary. I struggled to open my eyes so I could gaze into his amber fire, but could not make my eyelids move. Forced to rely upon senses I did not know I possessed, I shivered a delicious shiver of anticipation as the blankets melted off me, leaving me exposed to his gaze.

  Raphael. Warmth blanketed me as he hovered above, his long-fingered hands skimming me in a whisper of need. He opened his mind to me, filling me with images of stark longing and sexual need, erotic images mingling with the knowledge that I was created just for him. My body cried out for his touch. I turned blindly to catch the elusive essence that sank into my blood, but couldn't find it. A shadow crossed my mind as sudden hunger gripped him, a hunger for more than just sustenance, a hunger for my soul to merge with his, a blending of our life forces that would tie us together in a manner that could withstand the boundaries of time.

  Raphael?

  Give yourself to me. His demand rang in my head just as his mouth closed on mine, claiming me as his, urging me to surrender, swamping me with the rush of his hunger. A soulless voice cried out in my head with frightening intensity, making me call out in reply. Something was wrong; something was suddenly very wrong.

  Give yourself to me. The shadow of his thought swirled around in my mind as I tried to struggle against him, panicking as the shadow grew and took form. Peril. I was in deadly peril.

  "Raphael! Stop!" I screamed the plea at him, but he did not hear. His mouth moved over my neck, heading straight for where my pulse was strongest. I knew what he was going to do, and instinctively I knew he must not, that to do so would damn us both. I struggled in earnest, trying to bring my body back to my command so I could call out a denial.

  His eyes were, I was certain, blazing with a fire hotter than any in hell itself. I could almost feel the touch of his gaze as I could his mouth. I struggled harder, fighting to push him
from me, desperate to open my eyes so I could plead with him.

  I must do this. His words were meant to be comforting, but I was in full panic mode, screaming silent screams of frustration and terror. I felt his lips part over the pulse in my neck, his breath hot on my skin as he prepared to take what was not mine to give him.

  "Raphael!" I screamed, pleading one last time for him to stop, but the scream sounded to my ears like a weak sob of prayer.

  His breath remained where it was for a moment; then suddenly it was gone, leaving me cold and shaking, dizzy with fear, but safe. I felt sick to my stomach just as I had when the visions had struck before, but more than that, I was sick at heart. Why did Raphael want to harm me? Why was I certain with every molecule in my body that I was in deadly danger with him? Why did he want to harm me if I was his Beloved?

  Awareness slowly crept back to my limbs, my eyes opening to find myself alone in the room, the bedside lamp shedding a soft golden glow over the bed.

  "What the hell?" I asked, pulling the blankets up over my goose-bumped arms. I stayed that way for a good hour, shaking with cold and starting at every noise in the old building, my mind chasing around and around as it tried to analyze the threat Raphael posed to me.

  I fell asleep with the light on, not because I expected him to return, but because I succumbed to the childish fear of the darkness.

  The soft knock at my door woke me with my heart in my mouth. I swallowed it back down, and croaked to Roxy that I'd be there in a second, glancing at the clock as I slid out of bed. It was just ten minutes after two. She must have stayed for the bands.

  "You must be out of your mind," I said as I opened the door, intent on lecturing her for staying out so late dancing with a bunch of pierced teens.

  "Probably," Raphael replied, filling the doorway. "But I was invited. " His eyes widened as they traveled from my face down to my toes, and back up again. His Adam's apple bobbed a couple of times. He had a slightly stunned look around his eyes that would have pleased the feminine me excessively if, a few hours before, he hadn't been poised to damn me to eternal hell with his bloodthirsty desires.

  "You stay away from me," I warned, stepping backward and making the sign of the cross with my fingers. "I don't care how much you want to seduce me and do all those wild, erotic things you were thinking about doing with me - and as I'm on the subject, I have to tell you that some of them are just not physically possible, although I must admit that one or two struck me as particularly interesting - still, you're not going to! You're bad! You're a bad, bad, bad man, and I've changed my mind about you. "

  Raphael stood in the doorway for a moment, then stepped into the room, leaving the door open. I reached behind me to find something to protect myself against him, but stopped when he held up both hands. There was something. . . different. He was different. There I was, trapped - helplessly - in a small room with a man who a couple of hours before had scared the bejeepers out of me, a man who wanted to take my soul and suck my blood, and yet he felt. . . right. Good. Desirable.

  Maybe it was just all a nightmare? Maybe I had conjured up Evil Raphael to assuage the guilt I felt about falling madly in love with a man I didn't know? Maybe I really had gone insane, but the man who stood before me now, watching me with concerned amber eyes, was not a man who wanted to do me harm. I rubbed my forehead, too confused to figure it out, knowing only one thing: I trusted him. Despite the warning vision, despite the possibility that he was a vampire, I trusted him.

  "Well? What will it be? Should I leave?" he asked, one hand on the door.

  "I. . . er. . . " I swallowed and took a couple of steps toward him, waiting to see if my inner warning system was going to go off. It didn't. The cheerleaders woke up, though. "I'm sorry. I had a. . . thing. You can come in. "

  He closed the door, a little frown pulling his brows together. "I've never known a woman to run as hot and cold as you do. One moment you're stripping me with your eyes - "

  "Oh!" I gasped, filled with outrage. "I never stripped you with my eyes! Well, OK, maybe just the once, but you were looking in the other direction, so don't tell me you could see me doing it!"

  " - the next, you're recoiling like I'm a hair in your soup. Would you please just tell me what it is you want from me?" He ran a hand through his dark curls as he spoke. My fingers itched to do it for him, but I told my fingers to mind their own business.

  "What do you mean, what do I want from you?"

  He started to roll his eyes, but stopped himself, running his hand through his hair a second time. My fingers tingled in response. For that matter, so did the rest of my body. This definitely was not the same Raphael that appeared in my vision - this Raphael was tired, and a bit cranky, and sexy as hell. "It's not that difficult a question. You tell me you know who I am and what I'm doing, and invite me to your room in the dead of night. Since you're wearing a garment that molds to your body in a way that is illegal in three countries, I assume you want something from me. "

  "I don't know what you mean," I said with dignity, crossing my arms under my breasts. That just served to act as a push-up bra, a fact Raphael noted, and expressed his appreciation of by allowing his eyes to wander freely over the large amount of exposed flesh.

  He took a step toward me. I took a step back. He might not pose the threat to me he posed in the vision, but that didn't mean I was going to give in to my inner strumpet and throw myself on him the way my body was demanding.

  "What's the matter with you?" He frowned as I continued backing up, suddenly lunging forward at me.

  I squealed and jumped backwards, out of his reach, but he got to me first. He grasped my arms and pulled me forward slightly. "You were about to crash into the bureau," he explained, his fingers splayed wide on my arms. "Why are you backing away from me? I know it can't be because you don't feel the attraction between us - "

  His hand brushed my cheek. I quivered in response. Attraction? Is that all he thought was going on? And here I was thinking it was a consuming inferno of need and want and desire, topped off by a healthy dollop of love. Hmm. Maybe giving in to my inner strumpet wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.

  " - because it's apparent you feel the same thing I feel. "

  He tugged me toward him until I was flush against him, all my soft curves pressing against his hard planes. It was the moment of truth. Squished up against him, I couldn't help but remember the horrible feeling of danger he had triggered in the vision, but that feeling dissolved into a sense of Tightness as I basked in the glorious desire that heated his eyes, breathing in the wonderful scent of him that set my blood to boiling.

  "What is it you want from me?" he repeated, his lips almost touching mine. I leaned harder into him, noticed something, and looked down.

  "Wow," I said, wishing I could touch but knowing I probably shouldn't. At least not until I was invited to. "At least Miranda got that part of the order correct. "

  "What?"

  "Nothing; it doesn't matter. I've changed my mind, and since I don't feel like I'm in any danger, it appears we're on the same track together, so if you want to move ahead to the third step and kiss me, I won't object. " I offered my lips up and slid my hands under his opened leather jacket to the black sweater he wore beneath. Even through it I could feel his marvelous heat.

  "Ah," he answered, and sidestepped me to sit down in the armless chair next to the bureau. He crossed his legs, grimaced, and uncrossed them. "Perhaps before we get to the kissing stage, you might just tell me what it is you want from me in exchange for keeping your information to yourself. "

  What? He wanted to know what I wanted in exchange for keeping the fact that he was a vampire secret? Didn't he have any more faith in me than to know I'd never reveal who he was? Well, true, Roxy had blabbed the news to Christian, but I was sure he was trustworthy, and I'd warn Rox against telling anyone else. Beloveds did not turn their Dark Ones in. Surely he must be acquainted with how things work?


  I decided the time for inner strumpeting was now. Raphael was clearly under the impression that what we had was just a minor little attraction. Being a woman - the one who was more in touch with emotions - it was obviously my duty to clear that point up for him, and since actions were louder than words, I threw myself into his lap to set a few things straight. He grunted as my thigh connected with his groin.

  "Sorry," I apologized, sliding down his body just a bit. "Didn't mean to squash anything important. Big Jim and the twins OK? Good. Now, where were we?"

  Before he could answer, I slid my hands through his curls and grabbed his head, using him as an anchor as I let my tongue set sail in the wondrous sea of his mouth. He stiffened in surprise, and I thought for a moment he was going to protest my brazen action, but he relaxed back into the chair, groaning into my mouth as he grabbed my hips and pulled me forward.

  I twisted my lower body away from him, my mouth still pressed to his, the taste and smell and feel of him making me feel light-headed as I resettled myself so I had his hips between my knees.

  "Much better," I moaned, sucking his lower lip into my mouth so I could gnaw on it a bit.

  "You're driving me mad," he answered, his hands digging into my hips as he pulled me up against his erection, then reclaimed possession of my mouth. I hoisted the surrender flag and welcomed the boarding party.

  "You know that, don't you?" His hands released my hips and started pushing the filmy silk of my nightgown up my thighs, leaving trails of fire where his fingers danced on my flesh. "You're driving me barking mad. Everything about you pushes me to the edge. I've never met a woman like you, one who affects me this - "

  I cut him off with a particularly effective tongue move. He rallied to my en garde, his tongue a lick of flame on mine as he parried, thrusted, and lunged in a manner that made my whole body want to stand up and shout, "Ahoy, matey!"

  "Too much talking," I told him when I retrieved my tongue and paused to breathe for a second or two.

  "Mmm," he agreed, one hand leaving my thigh to slide up my hip, toward my waist and the two breasts that were screaming for his touch.

  I tugged on his hair until he tipped his head back, exposing a strong column of throat that desperately needed to be kissed. I nipped at that delicious spot just behind his ear, and started kissing my way down his neck. It was hard to keep my concentration on him, what with the inferno his fingers were starting as they weaved a path up my thigh, but I made an effort.

  "If a thing is worth doing," I murmured as the pulse in his neck raced under my lips.

  " - it's worth doing right," he answered, his hand sliding up to the center of my universe.

  "Oh, God," I moaned, sucking on the tender flesh beneath his ear as his fingers stroked the silk of my underwear.

  "Not God, heaven," he corrected, his other hand tightening around my breast.

  "Sorry, my mistake," I said as I arched back under the flames his hands were creating. His fingers slid under my underwear, curling into me at the same time he pulled me up until he could capture a breast in his mouth, suckling through the silk until I was sure the sensations were going to make me pass out.

  He kissed a path over to the valley between my breasts, his fingers below stroking and teasing, mimicking the motion of his hands on my breasts. His mouth was hot and wet and everything erotic, and the feel of it on my neck as he paused over my pulse made me frantic. He licked the wild beat of my pulse with a long, slow movement of his tongue. I tried to rally an objection to what he was going to do, but this time it was different, it was right. I was meant for him.

  "Go ahead," I breathed, tilting my head back to give him better access to my neck. "Bite me. Feed from my blood. I want you to. Let me give you my life. "

  His fingers stilled as I waited breathlessly for the feel of his teeth piercing my flesh, erotic descriptions of the act from Dante's books melting in my mind and making me wild with desire.

  He pulled back from me with deliberate slowness. I looked down on him in surprise. His eyes, moments ago brilliant with desire, were now shuttered.

  "I hadn't pegged you as someone who went in for that sort of thing," he said slowly.

  "What sort of thing?" I asked, confused. Why wasn't he diving in like earlier? I was sure he was going to feed then; what was holding him back now?

  "I'm not going to bite you. "

  I blinked at the disapproval in his eyes. "You're not?"

  "No. "

  "Not even a little nibble? Just a light snack? Dessert?"

  He just looked at me for a moment, his breath ragged as he withdrew his hands from the fun zones of my body and let them hang alongside the chair.

  "Joy, I don't know what you want - "

  I squirmed against his crotch.

  "All right, I do know what you want, but I don't know why you want it, nor why you're holding whatever you have found out about me over my head, but I do know this. "

  My heart did a little dive to my feet. He wasn't going to bite me and make me his Beloved? Not even after I went through all the angst to believe in what he was, to trust him with myself despite the disturbing vision?

  "I know that it's not going to be physically possible for me to remove you from your current position," he continued, his voice suddenly hoarse. It just added a new element of sexy to a man already at the top of the tingle-meter. "I thought I might be able to, but that was before you sucked the brains right out of my head with kisses so hot they could melt steel. My grandfather was right. "

  "Huh?"

  "When he told me that a St. John man knows from the very first meeting who the woman is that he will spend his life with. He was right. I know. "

  I sat perfectly still as my heart did a happy somersault. "I don't think that sentence is grammatically correct, but it is hands down the loveliest thing anyone has ever said to me. "

  He twitched in response to my words. We both looked down at the twitching part. Raphael's adorable lips twisted into a grimacing smile. "You see? Even my body knows. And if just thinking about you has this effect on me, how am I supposed to make you remove those long, glorious thighs from where they're burning every inch of my legs, and walk away? It's just not possible. " He shook his head for emphasis.

  I disentangled my fingers from his hair and sat back on his thighs. He shuddered, and his fingers spasmed, but he didn't grab me.

  I didn't quite understand what was going on here, but I was determined to figure it out. "Let me see if I have the sequence of events straight here. "

  He nodded, his eyes momentarily devouring the exposed parts of my breasts before he gulped back a big breath of air, and nodded again.

  "First you came into my room and did weird things to the air, and then you kissed me and were about to feed on my blood when I begged you to stop. "

  "What?" he asked, his eyes narrowing. "What are you talking about?"

  "You came into my room," I answered, a bit annoyed with this pretense he obviously insisted on maintaining. It wasn't necessary; he certainly had no need to fear I'd expose what he really was.

  "You invited me," he protested. "You gave me come hither looks, and you're wearing that flimsy little bit of nothing, and if that's not an invitation, then I'd certainly appreciate you telling me what it was. "

  "No, not just now; earlier. You nibbled my neck, and you were about to sink fang. "

  He stared at me, his jaw slack for a moment.

  "Then, when I beat you back, you went away, only to return a couple of hours later and refuse to do what you wanted to earlier. "

  "Joy. " Raphael put both hands on my thighs. He twitched again. "I want you to listen very carefully to what I say, because I'm not sure how much longer I can sit like this with you all warm and inviting and hotter than purgatory without actually going insane, but I did not come into your room earlier this evening. "

  I stopped staring at his crotch and blinked at him. "Yo
u didn't?"

  His eyes held mine in a solemn gaze. "No, I didn't. "

  "Are you sure?"

  "Absolutely. "

  "Maybe you forgot?" I really didn't want to think that my midnight visitor wasn't him.

  "Joy - " I shifted on his lap and he groaned, his face tight with strain. "God help me, woman, stop tormenting me like that! I'll say this one more time, and then you're going to remove your luscious self from my lap and allow me to go back to my own bed. I did not come here earlier and touch you. "

  "You make it sound like touching me is something repugnant," I said indignantly, pulling back.

  "Do I look like I'm repulsed by you?"

  He didn't Especially the bulgy parts of him. "Well, no - "

  His eyes smoldered into mine as his fingers clutched my hips. "I am a man, just a man, but a man who has limits to what sort of torture he can stand, and if you wiggle just one more time, I'm going to die and then you'll have to explain to the police why you have a dead Englishman in your room. "

  I resisted the urge to move again. He really did look like he was at the end of his rope. I decided to leave the subject of who had visited me earlier and tackle something else he'd said. "What exactly did you mean when you asked what I knew about you? Did you mean to imply that I was blackmailing you about something? Do you have some deep, dark secret that you're not telling me?"

  He grunted in pain as I leaned forward, the better to see into his shuttered eyes. "Forget I mentioned it. I was simply being overly cautious. It's of no matter. "

  I touched the frown wrinkling between his brows. "Are you in some sort of trouble?"

  He caught my hand and looked at it for a moment before kissing the tips of my fingers, his tongue flicking against my suddenly sensitized skin.

  "Joy, I want to make love to you, but I don't think now is the right time. You're obviously distressed about something that happened earlier, and. . . well, much as I would like to take you up on your offer, I don't think tonight is the best time for either of us. I think it would be better if I left. "

  I touched my fingers to his lips for a moment, disappointment warring with the knowledge that he was being wise when I was not. "You don't want me?"

  He put my hand on his groin. The evidence there was indisputable.

  "You do want me?"

  "So much that I'm willing to wait until a time when I can show you that with us, lovemaking will be more profound than just sex, yes. "

  "We'll be profound together?" Gee, I was just brimming with questions.

  He twined a strand of my hair around his finger. "Oh, yes, baby. We'll be very profound together. "

  I nodded and thought about what he said for a moment, then got off his lap. "Are you sure it wasn't you earlier?"

  "Quite sure," he said, standing up, grimacing as he adjusted his pants.

  I tried to piece the puzzle together - to see how the early Raphael and the present Raphael fit together - but they didn't mesh. I blinked a couple of times in an attempt to clear my mind. "Well, if it wasn't you who came calling, then who was it?"

  That, as it turned out, was indeed the question.

 
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