This one is for you, amor meus amissus. "Ne quid paeniteat quod causam dederit ridendi."
The monster's fangs almost connected with her skin.
The sudden realization fueled Raine's anger. With a swift flick of the wrists, she revealed the daggers hidden under her sleeves, determined to kill the abomination she faced.
The vampire's hair was gleaming golden under the waning light of the moon, his eyes sparkling a reddish hue, his deadly white fangs bared. His body was tense, arms held away from his sides as if waiting for the right time to pounce. The muscles on his arms and thighs were apparent through the clothes he wore, warning Raine of the incredible powers he possessed.
Not that she was afraid. Hell, she would gladly lay down her own life for a chance to face vampires in combat, always anticipating the moment when their eyes widen as they realized that they were against no puny mortal. For Raine had been trained to do just that—surprise these atrocities with a silver blade through their hearts.
A dozen—perhaps two. She had lost count of the number of vampires who turned to ashes by the work of her hands. As long as she could rid the world of these blood-sucking fiends, she did not care how many she killed. Indeed, she did not care if she were killed in the process. After all, there were many other slayers out there, hunting down vampires the way she was doing.
"Come here, vampire," she hissed in a whisper, readying herself for battle. "Show me what you can do."
No sooner had she finished uttering those words when the vampire attacked, intent upon killing her. To her surprise, he moved even faster than he had before, his intent to kill apparent with every move. Raine countered the attacks, her blade strokes swift, yet the vampire deftly avoided them all.
Above them the moon hid behind a thick gray cloud, giving way to an eerie darkness that Raine disliked. Already she seemed to smell the upcoming rain. She had to kill this one before the first drops prevent her from seeing as well as she could. Before the floors of the rooftop became slick and tilt the odds in favour of the vampire.
Distracted by thoughts of rain, she was unprepared for the blow that the vampire delivered to her side. The blade flew from her left hand as pain seared on her arm. Damn. It would have served her better if she had two daggers instead of one.
Seeing her frustration, the vampire flashed an overconfident grin. The very sight of it was an insult to humanity, Raine thought. She felt sorry indeed for giving him a reason to smile.
Not that the smirk would last.
She took out another dagger from her back, this time grinning at him. The vampire did not seem fazed, though. The same confidence radiated from him—the same murderous rage. What could Raine expect, anyway, when she killed his mate before his very eyes?
Serves him right, Raine thought, remembering her own shock and fury as she watched this same vampire drain the life out of Bram. She had almost attacked him then, if only she did not know better.
She had been injured then. With her right arm bleeding, she had no way of defeating the fiend. It would have been folly to fight; Bram's sacrifice would have been for naught. Wasn't it to buy her time to flee that he faced the vampire? So she left.
Yet, in that moment when she turned her back, Raine vowed she would inflict the same kind of pain on the monster who took Bram's life. She would kill him, but not before she had killed his mate.
The vampire attacked, his movements full of deadly purpose. Raine managed to avoid his blows, though she had to admit that the vampire was stronger than she expected. Power out of fury. Making him see his mate die might not have been the wisest thing to do, but the call for revenge was strong, and Raine answered it.
A movement to the left caught her eye. Raine tensed, the need to find out who moved battling with the need to keep a close eye on her opponent. The lack of any movement afterwards made her think that she was imagining things.
Another movement—behind the vampire this time. Raine had to look. Big mistake. For in that brief moment when her attention strayed, the vampire seized his chance.
With a blow to the spot where her wound was, the vampire disarmed Raine, who uttered a cry of pain as she clutched at the reopened wound. It immediately began bleeding. The vampire growled, pouncing on her in one swift motion. Before Raine could react, he had his mouth on the side of her neck, ready to sink his teeth into her flesh. She could feel the tips of his fangs grazing her skin.
And then, with a hair-raising growl, the vampire—unbelievably—roughly shoved her away.
Raine stared. His eyes, too, were wide with surprise as they looked at hers. Her brain seemed to have stopped working, stuck on one and only one thought. Why did he let her go?
As the vampire sank to his knees, Raine saw it: the tip of a silver spearhead protruding out of his chest, which even then was starting to burn away. The vampire made to turn his head, intent on finding out who struck him down. Yet no sooner had he seen did the vampire crumbled to dust, which was immediately scattered by the fierce wind that had started to blow. The silver-tipped spear fell to the floor with a metallic clang.
Raine, too, wanted to know who saved her life. Down on her knees and clutching at her bleeding arm, she stared into the face of her saviour—
He was tall, beautifully built, clad in tight black jeans and a dark purple tee over which a black leather jacket was thrown. The attire highlighted his physique—from wide shoulders, broad chest and trim waist, down to muscular thighs and long legs. His raven black hair was combed back, emphasizing his strong jawline and high cheekbones. His eyes were of a deep shade of blue, almost purplish in its hue: a strange colour for a man with black hair and slightly tanned complexion. A well-defined nose and kissable lips completed his features.
He radiated power and masculinity—a heady combination, especially in a man so beautiful the gods must have blessed the day he was born. Raine could imagine women falling head over heels into him, falling prey to his good looks and mysterious quality.
Which would serve him best, she concluded, as a pain so raw and inexplicable wrung her heart.
For in the long moments when they stood there looking at each other, with him standing as still as a statue and her kneeling on the cold floor eight metres away from him, never once had the man breathed. The only indication that he was alive was the blinking of those strange, beautiful eyes.
Raine reached for another dagger from her back, ignoring the pain in her arm and the ache in her heart. If this vampire attacked her...
"See to your wounds, woman," he said in a deep, slightly husky voice. "If you wish to kill me, hunt me down another time."
And with that, he left, as quickly as he had come, leaving Raine alone in the rooftop, stunned and confused, as heavy raindrops started to fall.
Raine rested an elbow on the desk, setting her chin on her palm as she stared at the computer screen. The fingers of her right hand drummed upon the wooden surface, betraying her impatience as pictures after pictures automatically flashed before her eyes.
"Really, Raine, what are you looking for, anyway?" her friend Myles asked, calling out from the kitchen. "You spend so much time browsing our database lately."
She ignored Myles' question and presented one of her own. "Are there no sightings of new vampires in the vicinity?"
Myles emerged from the kitchen with a tray containing cookies and two cans of pop. She put it down in front of Raine and grabbed one of the soda cans before settling herself on the sofa nearby. "I told you. All of the vampires known to us are included in that database you're looking at."
With a heavy sigh, Raine exited the database and turned to her friend. She has not yet told Myles what really happened on the rooftop after she killed the vampire Eliza. No use telling her and the others that it was not her who killed the vampire Boris, for they would ask her about the identity of the man who did. A question that Raine was unwilling to answer, for she felt as though she would betray the vampire who saved her life once she revealed his existence to them.
Damn it. She never had any such qualms before. A vampire was a vampire—bloodsucking fiend whose unnatural existence was both unwanted and unwelcome in this world. It should be an easy matter to tell the others that there was another vampire stalking the streets of the city—one who looked like a demigod and recently killed one of his own.
What was the matter with her?
Tried as she might, Raine could not forget the vampire's intense gaze, one that penetrated through the barriers of fact and fantasy as it followed her even into her dreams. Passionate, purple eyes piercing her soul. A musical voice lulling her to a trance. Lips calling her name, moving against her own. A powerful, virile body atop hers, barely concealing his powers as he entered her in hard, fast strokes...
It was the most frightening thing in the world! How could she fantasize about that man—no, that vampire? Granted, it was in her dreams that she melted in his arms, but if dreams were made of stuff from one's subconscious...
"Raine." Myles touched her arm, and as Raine looked up, she saw the concern on her friend's eyes. "Are you okay?"
Swallowing hard, Raine stood up, finally conceding defeat. Damn that vampire. "I think I need a vacation, Myles."
Myles smiled softly, her eyes full of sympathy as she took Raine's hand and squeezed it. "I know. The others and I have been discussing it since Bram died. We would have suggested it to you, if only we did not know how much you wanted to exact revenge on the vampire who killed him."
Raine smiled, accepting the kind words even though she knew that Myles and the others didn't truly understand. At least, they did not understand how things stood between her and Bram. They thought them lovers as well as partners, a misconception that Raine at first tried to correct but was never able to. It did not help that Bram really had feelings for her.
She wanted to correct it now, but what was the point? And if having everyone continue to believe that she was mourning a lover would make it easier for her to get away without having to answer difficult questions, so be it.
"Thank you, Myles," she said. "I'll go to my parents' cottage. I haven't been there since they died." Then, feeling guilty for the deception and the selfish reasons for running away, she added, "But, if you need my help, call me anytime."
"Of course," Myles agreed, giving her a hug. "Come back when you can, Raine. We'll hold up pretty well here. After all, there are always those vampires to hunt."
The memory of the yet-unknown vampire who invaded her erotic dreams flashed before Raine's mind. She closed her eyes and hugged Myles back.
"Yes, there are always those vampires to hunt."
She left the balcony door open.
Sighing in frustration, Raine slipped out of bed, grabbing her robe from where she left it earlier. She put it on, not bothering to tie the belt, though it still provided a sort of cover against the chill of the wind.
Leave it to her to sleep with windows—even doors—open in these dark and stormy nights. She would be quite lucky to have no colds come morning. And just when she was bound to take a vacation! She did not relish the thought of spending her vacation on the sickbed.
She parted the flimsy curtains and watched the sky. A fork of lightning flashed amid the darkness, for a brief moment casting the rest of her surroundings in vividness. A light drizzle was starting to descend, the soft drops barely audible as they struck the hard stone of her balcony.
Another crack of lightning followed by the rumble of thunder—all of it far from the building where she rented a room. Still, she heard something snap behind her.
Immediately on the alert, Raine whirled around, critical eyes examining the dimly-lit room. On the nightstand, one of the picture frames was lying face down. She relaxed a little. Nothing to be worried about, then. Just a frame falling on its face. She better close the door now.
A startled scream died in her throat.
She recognized that voice.
Raine snapped her attention back forward, if only to confirm her guess. He was standing there. On her balcony. Facing her. So close she could touch him if she so much as extended her arms. The purple-eyed devil who haunted her dreams.
She met his eyes, unable to speak. Unable to think.
She should go back into her room, grab a silver-tipped dagger, and plant it in his chest. End his despicable life. Let him turn to ash. Wipe her mind clean of the sinful thoughts and dreams she had been having since he saved her on that bloody rooftop where he ended Boris' life.
But she stood there, looking at him. Just looking at him. At that handsome face that she had never quite forgotten. Feeling the thunderous beats of her heart that had nothing to do with fear. Drinking in the sight of him and the soft smile that curved his lips.
What the hell was wrong with her?
"May I come in?" he asked in that sweet, musical voice he had—the one that had spoken words of lust and love in her dreams.
No. She could not—should not—let him in. If she did not give him leave, no powers on earth would allow him to enter her room and invade her life. He would have to stand out there on the balcony, under the drizzle that was slowly turning to rain.
Gods! He pronounced her name in that same melodious voice he had in her dreams. The supplication, the longing—it was all there, almost tangible in the night air. It stroked her heart, made it skip its beat, forced it to throb up her throat as a frenzy of emotions warred inside her chest.
The raindrops began to fall heavier—heavy enough to muss his hair and drench his clothes. Tonight, he was not wearing a leather jacket; just a tight-fitting turtleneck that clung to his powerful body as the rain continued to rage on around him.
"May I come in, Raine?" he repeated softly, his eyes speaking to her better than his words. He raised a hand as if to touch her face, the tips of his fingers almost connecting with her skin.
Raine shivered, closing her eyes. Her head barely moved, yet he must have seen her nod, for in an instant, his palm was on her skin, cold and wet with the rain yet delivering a kind of warmth that spread through her body like fire.
He spoke softly, yet she understood each word, owing to the fact that he stood close—so close that Raine felt his lips almost touching her ear. Another shiver washed over her body. Instinctively, she put her hands on his arms and laid her head on his chest as she tried to rein in her emotions.
Drenched in the rain, his body felt cold—colder than if he were a breathing mortal, yet warm enough to prevent Raine's teeth from chattering. His arm went around her waist, supporting her as he closed the door with his other hand.
"What are you doing here?" she managed to whisper, looking up at him.
The smile that crossed his face was simply gorgeous. His gaze travelled from her eyes to her lips, and Raine felt his hold tightening. Not enough to hurt her, but enough to make her feel the growing bulge in his pants.
"You are looking for me," he said smoothly, just as he traced the soft skin of her slightly parted lips with the pad of his thumb. A flicker of amusement lit his eyes. "To kill me, perhaps?"
She felt as if she were in a daze. She could not think straight. The words he spoke barely registered in her brain. Her body was responding only to his touch. She could feel it in her blood, in the liquid heat that pooled between her legs. She wanted him. Dear heavens above, how she did!
"Shall I fetch your daggers, Raine?" he teased, though his mouth moved ever closer to hers. He had let go of her, yet she kept standing where she was, pressed against his body, while he deliberately eased the robe from her shoulders. "Or shall I take you to bed and give you the pleasure you crave?"
The silk robe pooled at her feet. Breathlessly, she asked, "What do you want?"
There was no denying the hunger in his eyes, then. When he spoke, his lips were a hairbreadth away from hers. "You. Only you."
He took her mouth in a fierce, mind-boggling kiss. Raine gasped, holding on to him as if for dear life. He crushed her body close to his just as he thrust his tongue into her mouth. Beneath her palms, she felt the raw power of his tight muscles, tangible through the soaked fabric of his shirt. And she wanted him—she wanted him so much it was all she could think about. To have him naked on her bed. In her arms. Inside her.
As if reading her thoughts, he groaned, lifting her into his arms. Carried away by her desire, Raine wrapped her legs around his waist, responding back with the same fervour he put into his kisses. She ran her fingers through his wet hair, faintly wondering how it would feel like when dry.
He walked to the bed, lips and tongue still locked in a duel with hers. A groan escaped Raine as he lowered her down, his own body following so that he was on top of her. She shivered once more, partly due to his soaked skin, partly due to wild desire.
His hands were gentle as they ran over her body, stoking the fire already burning in her veins. Unable to stop herself, Raine slid her own hands under his turtleneck shirt. His chest and abdomen were hard with muscles, his skin tantalizingly smooth. No heartbeat under her palms, though Raine did not even notice that. She was beyond caring. All she wanted was him.
Their kisses became more languorous as their hands began exploring each other's body. Raine moaned as his hands touched her breasts, palms brushing against nipples that practically begged to be sucked. Her body arched closer to his as she tugged his shirt upward, a silent plea for him to take it off.
A soft chuckle bubbled up his throat, but he humoured her. Raine opened her eyes and watched as he took the shirt off. The light of the lampshade on her nightstand was enough to display to her hungry eyes the most delectable male body she had ever seen. His muscles looked as strong as they had felt, and Raine found herself more desperate to run hands and mouth on that tightly-packed torso, that muscular chest...
"Liking what you see?" he asked, an arrogant smirk on his face.
Raine licked her dry lips, saying nothing. With a body like that, he could afford to be arrogant.
His gaze slid from her eyes to her lips, then down to her body. Heat further suffused her as she recognized both admiration and lust reflected in his eyes.
"Beautiful," he whispered, drinking in the sight of her.
A soft blush graced her cheeks, immediately noticed by her admirer. His smile widened as he leaned in, running a finger on her smooth cheek.
"Incredibly beautiful," he murmured.
She should not feel as if the entire universe had just been offered at her feet. But she did. And all she wanted was in this world. All she wanted was in her apartment suite—looming over her, looking at her with that pair of sexy purple eyes.
He lowered his mouth, kissing the side of her neck just beneath her ear. Slowly, he raised the hem of her chemise, exposing the top of her thighs, her stomach, her breasts. His lips brushed along her shoulder, light as feathers, heightening her senses further. She held him close to her, moving her hands down his back, feeling the muscles of his body tense under her touch. She loved it—knowing that she could arouse such a reaction from him.