Same rules, different city. Vamps liked to get their prey in the easiest possible way.
Sex worked. Always had. Always would.
While the men were getting ready, so busy fantasizing and stroking their dicks, the vamps locked those teeth on ’em and took.
Some humans liked the pain of the bite.
Some were scared shitless.
Some fought. Some died.
Vamps didn’t usually care, no matter what the victim did.
Erin’s fingers rose to the front of her shirt and fumbled with the buttons.
Jude swallowed. Okay. She was stripping. Right in front of him. He could see the edge of her bra, dark blue. So if she was stripping here instead of heading to the bathroom, she wanted him to look and that meant—
Her fingers paused and she glanced up at him. The woman totally froze him with her stare.
It meant jackshit.
“You’re a hard man, Jude Donovan. Dark—darker inside than I realized.”
A slow rage began to simmer in his veins. He took a step toward her, then another. His hands fisted. “I’m not a man, sweetheart. You can’t make that mistake with me.”
Her lips parted. Pale and moist and he could see the tip of her tongue.
The beast inside lunged against his leash.
Maybe he’d let the tiger go. Show her how dark he really was.
“You’ve killed, haven’t you, Jude?” The top two buttons on her shirt were undone, but the striptease seemed to be over.
And the interrogation had begun.
He hadn’t lied to her yet. Wouldn’t start now. So he kept his eyes on hers, didn’t look at those sweet breasts, and left the leash in place, for now.
“Hell, yeah, I have.” And to protect himself, or her, he’d do it again. In a heartbeat. “Want to know how old I was the first time? Want to know how I did it? Want to know who I—”
She turned away from him, and he clenched his jaw, biting back the words. What the fuck did she want? She knew what he was. She’d seen everything. Every fucking thing.
Man to beast.
She hadn’t run. She’d turned to him. Taken him after the brutal shift. But now, because he’d gotten rough with the undead scum in order to help her, Erin was acting like he wasn’t good enough for her.
Because maybe I’m not.
He hadn’t told her about his folks. Not yet. With that asshole after her, he just hadn’t wanted to—
Make her run.
Make her fear me.
“I want to be normal.” A whisper that he could hear all too easily. “I want a normal life, normal—”
He lunged across the room. Grabbed her elbow and spun her back around. He was afraid, very afraid, that her next word would be—
I want a normal lover.
He sure didn’t fit that bill. “You’re not normal. You’re damn better than normal. Normal isn’t for us. Fire, lust, the power of the beast— that’s for us. Ball games and barbecues aren’t our cup of tea.”
She didn’t blink. Just stared up at him, her gaze stark.
He fought to pull back the fury. Because she was slipping away.
Standing right in front of him, but slipping away.
“I’ve killed, and if it comes to it, I’ll kill again. My job’s not easy.” Hunting freaks like Burrows sure wasn’t easy, and he had the scars to prove it. But someone had to do the dirty, bloody work. He’d been born stronger than others so hunting, yeah, he could do it. Sometimes, he needed to do it. “And yes, there’s darkness in me, but, sweetheart, that same darkness is in you.”
He’d seen it from the beginning.
Her lashes lowered.
Then, softly, she said, “I know.” She looked up at him again. “That’s what scares me.”
Her hands lifted to his chest and he felt the sting of her claws press into his flesh.
“Erin, what are you—”
She rose on her toes and kissed him. Not an easy kiss. Hard and fierce, bruising in its strength.
The tiger jerked free of his leash.
They fell onto the bed. Hands ripping, fighting the clothing. Mouths taking. Hearts pounding.
He tossed her bra across the room, then caught her breasts in his hands. The nipples were tight and hard and when his fingers plucked them, she moaned into his mouth.
He pushed her onto her back and took her breast in his mouth. Jude sucked and licked and bit and had her arching off the bed toward him. The scent of her rich cream flooded his nostrils and the drumming beat of his heart just grew louder in his ears.
Her claws raked down his back.
His shirt was gone—hell knew where.
He caught the waistband of her skirt and yanked it down, jerking her panties away at the same time.
Jude shoved her thighs apart. He eyed the ripe flesh just waiting for him. Dark pink, plump, glistening and—
He put his mouth on her. Jude swiped his tongue over the button of her need, got that taste of sweet and tangy cream and wanted more.
So he took more.
Her hips slammed up toward him as he drove his tongue inside of her. She came against his mouth, shuddering, legs trembling around him, but he didn’t stop.
No, he wasn’t even close to stopping.
Lips and tongue took. Learned every curve. Every secret. Drank up her taste and had her twisting against him.
His head lifted and his tongue snaked over his lips. Damn but she was beautiful.
Spread and open, ready for him.
She might not be his forever, but he’d take her for as long as she’d let him.
“Roll over.” Guttural.
He heard the rasp of her breath. The hitch that could have been fear or hesitation, but he also caught the surge of her arousal. The thickening of that rich scent in the air.
One thigh lifted over him and she rolled onto her stomach.
“No, like this.” He caught her waist, lifted her up onto her knees. That perfect heart-shaped ass stared him right in the face.
Her palms pressed into the mattress and she rose up, glancing back over her shoulder. “Now.”
Yeah, oh, yeah, now.
He gripped his cock in one hand. Pushed the head toward the gleaming entrance of her sex. Sank deep.
This time, he was the one to moan.
She gripped him, squeezing so tight he thought he’d go insane and he withdrew, only to thrust deep again.
Even as she slammed back against him.
The rhythm was wild, unsteady. Deep and hard. Sweat slickened his body and the bed sagged beneath them.
Thrust. Her ass was so soft and round.
Thrust. She gripped him so tight. Fuck!
Thrust. His. She was his.
The release barreled through him, a white-hot burst of pleasure that rocked every cell in his body.
He moved by instinct. Jude clamped his mouth over her right shoulder. That sweet, sweet curve near her neck. Pleasure spot.
And he bit.
Her sex contracted around him as she came.
The power of his release seemed to double. Emotions flooded through him. Needs. Whispers of longings he’d buried years ago.
He held her tight, held her wrapped in his arms and rode out the fury of the climax.
She sagged against him, and he kissed her flesh.
The word trembled through his mind. No, no, that wasn’t possible. The sex was great, but there was no way she could be a mate for him.
She turned her head, looking back over her shoulder at him, and her eyes were sleepy and satiated.
Talk about a case of seriously screwed up bad timing.
Fate, you bitch.
“Why did you join Night Watch?” Her quiet voice pierced the silence that had hung so thickly in the room. Her hand was on his chest, right above his heart. The sheet curved around her, hiding her hips and breasts, revealing a hint of the flesh along her side.
At her words, he tensed. He’d known he’d have to tell her. Sooner or later.
He’d just wanted the later part.
He brought her hand to his lips. Kissed the palm. “Dawn’s coming. We need to catch a few hours of sleep before going back to the station.” There’d be more files to search. Witnesses to question.
Then, when the darkness fell, they’d get the wolf.
“I want to know about you.”
He turned his head, just a bit, and met her stare. He could see her so well, even in the darkness.
“There’s more to you than you let the world see.”
More than being a hunter.
“Hate to tell you, sweetheart, but there’s not.” The words were cold and distant, but he couldn’t make himself let go of her hand.
Her eyes narrowed, but she repeated, “Why’d you join?”
Okay, so the beast inside had recognized her. It was the way with his kind. The animals could recognize potential mates. It was a physical thing. Genetics.
Mates could produce children. Shifters couldn’t reproduce with just anyone. Their genetics were too complicated for that.
But the animals knew…they always knew.
It was survival of the fittest kicking in. The beasts inside were sure all about surviving. Propagating the species.
But just because someone was your mate didn’t mean you loved them. Or that they loved you.
His parents were proof of that.
And proof of just how screwed up and twisted the world could be.
When I tell her, she won’t let me touch her again. She’ll fear me, just like she fears that bastard out there.
Her stare was so steady. Her body so soft and warm against his.
Lie. The whisper came from deep inside. He could invent some sob story for her. Get her to keep trusting him. Get her to keep giving him that beautiful body.
Her fingers moved in the smallest of caresses against his heart.
Can’t lie to her. Not her.
“I joined Night Watch because the tiger needed prey.” Staying in control—when he wanted to hunt and fight every day, when the tiger wanted to roar and bite and claw—had been pushing him to the very edge of his sanity.
Night Watch had been, was his release. “I know just how dangerous the Other are in this world. I know that humans can’t handle them. They don’t have a clue. And the bastards that cross the line, the ones that torture humans and kill ’em…they have to be stopped.” He knew too well the nature of the beasts hidden inside the façade of men. Too well.
“The men I’ve hunted”—mostly paranormals, though he’d been sent after a human or two in his time—“you don’t want to know what they’ve done.” Even he’d had nightmares. “I stopped them. I made a difference.” When he hadn’t been able to before. “You might not like my methods, but I get the job done.” Period.
“Making a difference…that’s important to you?”
You can’t change the past, boy. You got to look to the future. His grandfather’s words. Hard with grief. He’d been twelve that day. And he hadn’t really understood what his grandfather meant.
But he did now. “Yeah, it’s important to me.” He inhaled, catching her scent and the lingering fragrance of sex in the air.
Not the best time to tell her, but, hell, when was there ever a good time to say something like this? “Erin, my parents…there’s something you need to know about them.”
A frown pulled her brows low, and she eased to a sitting position beside him, dragging that damn sheet up with her. “What is it?”
Trust. He’d give her all of his. For the first time in his whole damn life.
Can’t look into those eyes and keep the truth back. “They were mates.”
A faint smile curled her lips. “Well, they would have had to be or you wouldn’t be here.”
True. But…“My mom didn’t love my father.” He’d known. Always felt the coldness there. But he’d seen the heat in his father’s stare every time he looked at her. “He was crazy about my mother though.” Crazy. Good word.
Hell. It was hard to tell this story with her watching him with those big, golden eyes. Hard to speak when he was scared spitless that his words would send her running away.
Not just one screwed-up asshole in her life—two.
“This story doesn’t have a happy ending, does it?” Quiet, tense. Her knuckles had whitened around the sheet.
He gave a hard shake of his head. If only…“Most of the talk in the Other world about the shifters who go fucking psycho, well, it’s about the wolves.”
She tensed a bit. “Did a…wolf do something to your family?” Her voice seemed stilted.
“No.” The wolves had hurt plenty of others, but not him. “The Lones are the wolves you know to avoid. For tigers, we have our own twisted assholes who love to kill.”
“Ferals.” A whisper.
They were rare, luckily, but every now and then, a tiger shifter gave into the bloodlust of the beast. When he did—and it was always a male, no one knew quite why—the hunger took him over. The only way to stop a Feral was to put him down.
“My mom didn’t love my dad. Never did.” Matings couldn’t force feelings. Nature didn’t work that way. “One day, she told him she was leaving him. She fell for a human. She wanted to start a life with him, and she wanted to take me with her.” His mother had loved him. He knew that. Never doubted it for even a single moment.
His grandfather wouldn’t let him doubt it.
“I could see the pain in my dad’s eyes, but what could he do? Not like you can make a tiger stay.” Not when the tiger wanted to be free, and his dad had loved his mother enough to let her go. “She went to the human. She was going to send for me as soon as she was settled but—”