Taylah felt a sharp pain shooting back and forth between her temples. Something in the back of her head throbbed; her arms felt weak and limp, her legs felt like two cement blocks fastened to the ground that made her feel as immobile as a corpse.
She tried opening her eyes, and after a few defeated attempts, she finally managed to lift open her heavy lids to see nothing but blackness.
What the hell had happened to her?
The last thing Taylah could remember before she blacked out was making her way through a vast field of endless corn rows that were all perfectly spaced apart and seemed to go on for infinite miles. The field was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in north-central Missouri that was as cold in late April as if was in mid February.
But the weather had little effect on a vampire.
Taylah was not only a vampire, but a hunter. She had been trained to fight, trained to kill, trained to track her prey, and how to survive in the most defenseless situations since the first night her skin bore the mark of her creator. She didn't remember much about that night, but since then her constant training had been burned into every thread of her mind until she no longer knew the woman who stared at her in the mirror.
She was no longer that woman. Now, she was a vampire, a cold-blooded killer who saw only death in her enemy's eyes.
Which is what led her here, to Missouri, to this god forsaken countryside, and to the extremely remote farmhouse that had nearly blown her to bits the moment she sped through the invisible shroud of spells that were no doubt designed to explode if any unwanted guests happened to trip the silent alarms.
Which was how Taylah had found herself face-first in the dirt, with countless rocks, trees, and clumps of dirt spraying her back and shoulders with a steady shower of sharp and painful objects. She remembered rising to her hands and knees to see through the messy tangles of long, midnight hair, to see the vague figure of a man standing on the front porch of the farmhouse. She could only make out his tall, lean statue; everything else around her went black and fuzzy, as if she had hit her head on something hard upon falling to the ground.
But Taylah knew better. The dizziness she felt consume her consciousness had little, if anything, to do with the sudden series of brief explosions that managed to numb a large part of her hearing.
It was him.
The bloody warlock she had been hunting for the past three weeks.
No matter what trick Taylah had up her sleeve, the man always seemed to be one step ahead of her. This particular demon was notorious for his extremely remote character who hid in the shadows of far away places without a single trace of the methods he used to escape.
Every time Taylah got close to sinking her fangs into his conceited, foul-temper, downright arrogant ass, the man simply vanished into thin air.
She knew the warlock was powerful, she knew that hunting him would take a special kind of skill and deceit that made Taylah think twice about his worth for her troubles. He was cunning, too, this ancient warlock who knew his enemies nearly as well as he did his friends. He was the nuisance that would name her the mistress of hunters, if she were ever able to mount his head upon her wall of fame.
And what a magnificent trophy it would be.
Not only was this man endowed with unlimited power to perform dangerous and threatening spells on any demon in the world, but he also happened to be the most heart-stopping, tongue twisting, palm sweating, six good feet of solid muscle and drop-dead sex appeal Taylah had ever laid her eyes on.
Which only pissed her off.
She was trained to avoid her emotions. She had spent many years learning to ignore all the frivolous acts of lust and desire that was considered unnecessary in her line of work. And she had never known a man to cross those unnecessary boundaries until the first moment she looked into those cunning blue eyes and smelled the rich, unearthly power of his arousal and eminence that somehow slipped through the fragile barriers of her mind, to devour the hungry soul she kept hidden beneath.
His scent, like honey and liquid lust that she could nearly taste. What she wouldn't give to feel this man beneath her, his hands exploring her body, the velvet stone of his erection thrusting inside her...
Get a grip, Taylah...
Taylah brushed aside the lingering memories with a gentle shake of her head. The pounding between her temples was still there, still forcing her eyes to narrow, even though there was no amount of light coming from the darkened pit of a room.
Where the hell was she anyhow?
Taylah tried moving her arms, only to find them stretched high above her head, her wrists bound by the cold sting of silver manacles clamped tightly around each of her wrists. She tried moving her legs, and with a sigh of relief she found them unrestrained and able to move about freely.
Not that she could move more than only a few strained inches.
And once her eyes finally adjusted to the thick darkness that seemed to cloak around her, Taylah could faintly make out a long line of iron bars, all neatly enclosing her inside of what appeared to be a prison cell.
How she had been foolish to get in this unfortunate predicament was no longer important. Taylah forced all her strength into figuring out a way to get the hell out before any more nasty surprises lay awaiting in the dead of night.
And just as she began jiggling the chains to test its strength, she heard the squeak of a rusty door open to reveal a small stream of light that lit up the cold, cement floor that was covered with dust, cobwebs, and dry traces of blood.
Taylah sucked in a sharp breath and narrowed her eyes to see more clear. And just when she was about to make out the tall figure casually gliding through the open door, a large, dull beam of light flickered on the reveal the warlock's tall, masculine profile, and the dirty, smelly, dark dungeon that held her captive to the most dangerous and seductive man in the world.
"I'm Lucian," he stared at her with a blank expression that held his too blue eyes in a firm line of mystic wonder. He was tall and built with obvious sheer muscle that bulged from under dark denim jeans and a white button-down shirt that was rolled up to reveal the splendid indention of his forearms. "And might I have the pleasure of knowing your name?" The unexpected, raspy sound of his voice sent waves of chills racing down her spine.
Taylah shivered, not from the cold, damp cell that was lined with silver that seemed to strip her of all her strength and determination, but because those blue eyes were staring at her, heating her body in all the right places that made it nearly impossible to remember that she was no longer a woman, but a vampire.
"Release me, warlock." She rasped against the painful shackles that held her a slave behind bars of steel and a brutalizing gaze of blue, erotic eyes.
He tilted his head to the side, revealing the shaggy brown sand of his hair that was longer on top, but cut short above his ears. He looked at her with intent, as if to contemplate walking back out the door to leave her to rot inside the filthy dungeon. And then with an abrupt, deep voice, he spoke. "What is your name, vampire, or should I make one up for you?"
The arrogance in his voice made Taylah twitch to hit him, but momentarily rendered helpless, she sucked in a sharp breath before obliging the infuriating warlock. "I'm called Taylah."
"Taylah." He repeated in that same raspy tone before he took a deliberate step forward. "Welcome to my humble home." He spread out those magnificent arms and glanced about the intolerable dungeon as if they were merely standing in a multi-million dollar mansion.
Taylah fought the urge to yank her wrists through the silver manacles to slam her fist between those chilling blue eyes, not really caring if she lost a layer of skin along the way. He was toying her, now and Taylah was not the sort of woman to submit to a rude, conceited, pain in the ass warlock who happened to disrespect the immortal power of a vampire.
"Release me." She said again, this time her voice firm with irritation. "My clan chief won't take it lightly when he discovers I have disappeared." Her words were threatening and true, but it didn't seem to faze the gorgeous demon who had nonchalantly strolled across the room to lean back against a shelving unit covered in decades of cobwebs and dust.
He stretched his arms down to cup the edge of the shelf as he looked at her. His eyes were cold and blue, too blue, and they seemed to invade her mind with unwanted thoughts of picturing this man naked, aroused, and on top of her.
He seemed to study her, as if contemplating the truth behind her words. "Your clan chief wouldn't have sent his best hunter to my door step without knowing the inevitable dangers you would be facing." He ran one hand through the messy length of his hair in a slow, casual path that made it damn near difficult to breathe. "Your clan chief knew the risk he would be taking. I doubt he's foolish enough to let another hunter perish by my hands."
Taylah was so pissed she could feel the tips of her fangs starting to pierce her gums. Her hands clenched into fists as she dangling in the center of the prison cell, her feet barely skimming across the cold, cement floor. "Come closer, warlock, and we'll see who is to perish."
Lucian threw his head back in a series of laughter, a laughter that sent bone-cold chills flowing through her veins with the need to sink her fangs into his arrogant throat and drain him of all his insolence.
Which would no doubt be a mouth full.
"Release me or I will kill you." She scowled with anger, no longer willing to play nice, but ready to end the bull shit and act like the true warrior her human flaws had derived from.
Bold, blue eyes narrowed from across the dungeon floor, adding a new wave of chills to lace her skin from the scrutiny of his stare. He looked at her with irritation, and then glanced toward the silver shackles holding each of her wrists high above her head. "Vampires." He muttered rudely, "I have yet to meet one smart enough to escape my prison."
"Is this the hospitality you show toward all your guests, or are you simply frightened by what you can never hope to match?" Her voice was firm—challenging, deliberately summoning his notorious foul-temper.
Those cold blue eyes jerked to regard her with warning. And with a fluid motion that nearly made her dizzy, he was inside the cell, locking the gate shut behind him. "Careful, Taylah; many vampires have died inside this prison." He walked forward, the strong scent of male dominance and supremacy flooded the tiny area with ancient power. He removed a silver dagger from the sleeve of his shirt and held the blade against the ivory satin of her throat. "My patience have their limits; it would be a shame to kill something so lovely."
"Do it." She nearly shouted, jiggling her wrists in a moot attempt to break free of the shackles. "If you end my life, my suffering dies with it."
His lips curved into a wicked smirk and those blue eyes burned into her soul with an ocean of desire. "That's where you're wrong, my sweet Taylah." He slid the dagger lower, purposely cutting loose the fabric that held her shirt in place. He was careful not to break her skin, but he cut through the tiny white fabric until there was nothing left to hide her breasts. "Your suffering is only about to begin."
Taylah fought the urge to bare her fangs; she struggling to breathe, to concentrate on anything except the liquid heat that was melting between her legs in a pool of desperate need. She closed her eyes, relished in the unfamiliar emptiness somewhere deep inside her that yearned to be filled. Her palms began to sweat and she instinctively struggled against her restraints that quickly brought her back to reality. "Stop doing that." She pulled away from him, so fast that his expression fell flat and the cool shift in his eyes collided with something near sullen.
"You are in my prison, vampire, and I can do whatever I please." His words were bitter with rejection, but it didn't wipe the handsome smirk off his slightly bronzed face. He stood within arms length, although made no attempt close the narrow space between them. Those blue eyes looked at her with a silent command that echoed about the one-room cage in a devastating cry of hunger. And then they slowly lowered to take in the small swells of her exposed breasts, only to drift lower to the firm muscles of her stomach and waist. "It pleases me to look at you, Taylah." His lips curved into a half smile that made his sharp, masculine features look nearly innocent and tame. "All of you." he finished with a husky drawl that laced her skin with goosebumps.
Lucian took a cautious step forward, hesitantly placing one foot in front of the other until he was standing directly in front of her. The heat of his breathe, and rich, succulent scent of his cologne, and the intoxicating whiff of pure male and ancient power submerged her senses with a violent force that she could no longer deny.
Taylah closed her eyes once again, inhaled deeply, and then felt the prick of her fangs slid down her lips to finally announce her strain of arousal. "Do it then, Lucian." Her voice was no longer her own, but a soft, low purr that fluttered over his lips as he took another step closer. "Take me as I am. I won't feel guilty about killing you once you've had your fill."
His eyes skimmed over her naked chest, searing her flesh with a brutal gaze that left her body smoldering in a pool of liquid lava. "I'm beginning to wonder, my sweet Taylah, if having my fill of you is possible."
Lucian didn't touch her, but he moved eager hands to skim over the torn fabric of her shirt until he ripped it completely off her back. He trailed firm hands down the long length of her back until he met with the waistband of her jeans. He slipped long fingers through the tiny loops and pulled hard, sending the button flying to the floor and the zipper inching down to stop just above her sex. And with a violent tug that made her heart shutter with anxiety, Lucian sank to his knees before her, heating and cooling her bare thighs with his breath, where he slipped her jeans off one leg at a time.
He slowly rose to his feet and took a step back to admire his work. "So beautiful." He murmured in that raspy voice. "So worthy to sate my hunger."
"Hunger, you say?" Taylah thought she understood hunger the moment she awoke as a vampire and felt the hollow void in her gut twist with the need for human blood. But this...this was something else entirely. "I'm unfamiliar with this kind of hunger."
Her fangs lengthened with a growing need that spread through ever fiber of her body. Her heart pulsed with a violent yearning that burned between her legs with a fire so hot, smoke rose from her shoulder, arms, and hair. Her body was on fire, screaming for satisfaction that only this man could supply. Her sex was melting, liquifying down the length of her thighs as she stood there, completely naked and humbled to his savage command.
Lucian inhaled her lust, his eyes glowing with a dark indigo blue that looked entirely unnatural and frightening. But it suited him. "In that case, vampire, allow me to introduce you."
And with a simple jerk of his hands, he pulled apart the fabric of his shirt to let the thin white satin slowly fall from his arms and shoulders to land at his feet. His chest and stomach was chiseled to perfection, and Taylah couldn't help the image of trailing her lips and tongue over the steep hills and low valleys of his hips, abs, and torso.
When he seemed satisfied by her unmistakable expression of pure lust, Lucian unbuckled his belt and unzipped his jeans, pushing the annoying fabric down thick thighs and two strong legs, until he kicked the mess aside. He stood before her in all his glory, naked, hard, fully aroused, and releasing tiny drops of lust to patter against the stone cold floor.
Taylah couldn't help but to gasp at the sight of him. No man had ever looked so perfect, no man had ever made her sex tingle—no--tremble with the need to feel him inside her.
"Taylah..." his deep voice whispered as he closed the space between them. His mouth brushed across her lips, sending a bolt of lightning to course through her veins. "You smell exquisite. I think I'm going to taste you."
And then he kissed her.
Lucian kissed her with demand, separating her lips to allow his tongue to explore the heat of her mouth. He kissed her hard and long, sucking her bottom lip into his mouth before nibbling his way back inside her heat. He clashed against her fangs, ignoring the tiny trail of blood that ran from the corners of his mouth as he kissed her harder.
His hands moved to wrap around her waist. He held her tight, insuring faint bruises to mark the ivory satin of her skin.
Taylah moaned into his mouth; her legs instinctively parted to allow his strong body to press against her. And with a forceful movement that nearly startled her, Lucian twisted firm fingers into the silk of her hair and tightened his fist.
Her head jerked back and a soft moan escaped her breath as his lips moved to the crook in her neck. He ran his tongue across her jawline, nipping the delicate satin of her skin along the way. His teeth scrapped against her, forcing her body to jerk with convulsions deep inside her that were on the brink of exploding. His hands, firm and aggressive around her waist, until they moved lower to skim across the moist heat of her sex. He gently rubbed against her clitoris in slow, painful circles that drove Taylah's mind wild.
He kept at a steady pace, testing her, tempting her, torturing her. And then those long, firm fingers moved deeper, until they plunged into the very center of her body. He bit down on her neck as he stretched her, flicking his tongue against the thick vein in her throat that throbbed for more.
The heat of his breath vibrated across her skin, sending jolts of lightning to spiral down her back as she spread her legs further, allowing him full access to her awaiting lust.
She moaned louder, her eyes snapped shut, her body trembling as he moved inside her with unbearable skill and heedless desperation. And when she thought she could receive no more pleasure, Lucian withdrew his fingers and sank down between her thighs, leaving a long, wet trail of kisses in his wake.
Taylah moaned again, this time from anticipation as she spread her legs and pulled against the shackles that held her in place before him. "Please." Her voice high with frustration. "Lucian, I can't take this anymore."
Lucian yanked hard on her hair that flowed clear to her waist in clumps of pure black ash. He knotted one fist into the sleek, straight strands and pulled hard. "Quiet, my sweet Taylah, or I won't let you come."
And before Taylah could blink her response, Lucian's fingers were deep inside her, moving in and out, faster, harder, his teeth nipping at the delicate folds that hid her arousal. He nipped again, this time sucking her lips into his mouth and running his tongue along the moist center of her body. He breathed heavily, alighting her body with fire all over again, until he released her to slide the silk of his tongue into the shallow entrance of her aching channel.
There, he tasted her, over and over, until the fire trapped deep inside her began to shutter. She could feel it starting to build; she could feel the rise of her climax reaching higher and higher until there was nothing left of her to stop it.
But Lucian swiftly removed his tongue and fingers, cutting her short of the building orgasm that threatened to succumb her every last nerve. He took a small step back, those magnificent eyes of blue heat dancing over her shaking body with an expression of wicked delight. "I warned you to be quiet, Taylah." He moved closer again, this time grabbing her waist in a chastising grip that sucked the breath from her lungs.