Live bait made all the difference, pretty much a no-brainer. If the prey hungered, it was best to use someone like me.
I needed to attract my quarry’s attention so I dressed outside the Budapest nightlife norm. The beautiful, exotic eastern European women filled the place with their form fitting, dark clothes and smoky make-up. This fashion did not complement my five foot, two inch, olive
skinned, ‘holy cow she’s got curves’ frame.
Instead, I tousled my shoulder-length, dark-blond curls and applied a little lip gloss. The high-waisted, filmy white dress, which possessed a neckline low enough I had better not sneeze, with the silver stiletto heels, made me a beacon. Time I hooked me a monster and reeled him in.
The popular nightclub jammed, and on any other night I’d be having a great time, but the crush of people made it difficult to spot anyone. Even with heels I’d have trouble seeing Rurik. I twisted and swung my hips to the pounding music as I grooved across the sunken dance floor. Tables stood around the edges so the patrons could watch.
I should have shimmied instead of turned when someone’s elbow made contact with my forehead. Flailing, I tottered on my heels, tripped over someone’s foot, and landed on the empty staircase.
Legs sprawled, white dress twisted too high and pulled too low, I gripped my throbbing head in surprise as the world spun. I was the picture of American class abroad.
A shadow blocked out the colored lights reflecting off the mirrored walls. It distracted me from my revealing predicament. Large, strong hands grasped my shoulders. I gazed up and my heart raced.
Rurik. The target I had hunted for in every ruin-club, open-air party, and disco in Budapest. A delicious, hunky, make-me-swoon vampire.
He lifted me to my stiletto-laden feet.
Most people don’t believe in vampires, thinking them myth or legend. I know otherwise. My job comprised of luring these monsters to their executioner.
I was bait.
Rurik said something in Hungarian.
Tourists had a better grasp on the language than I did. I shook my head. “English?” My heart hammered faster than the music’s beat. I’d searched weeks for him and he found me, I couldn’t have planned a better scenario.
His cold, arctic, eyes bore into mine. Even with me wearing heels he towered over me. I couldn’t help but admire his dark, slicked back hair, exposing fine sculpted cheekbones, a narrow face, and a set of full lush lips—all male and very tasty.
Once assured I could stand on my own, he released m e, and brought my hand to his mouth to brush those lush lips against my knuckles. “You’re an unexpected treasure, my angel,” he translated over the loud music.
“Thanks.” I’d lost hope of ‘bumping ‘ into him and just complied with Colby’s—my employer’s—routine orders. Seduce him into following me to the hotel room close by where they waited.
Vampire or not, he provoked a forbidden lust. I was still a woman, after all.
Rurik belonged on the cover of GQ. His black Italian suit contrasted nicely with his white dress shirt and pale skin, tailored to fit his athletic build. Everything about him was simple and elegant.
Everything except the ring on his left pinky finger. A gold antique, with a rock set in it big enough to choke on. Only the Overlord of a city could wear such a ring. It symbolized his power—like a king’s crown.
His hand trailed up my arm, to touch the thin, white fabric of my dress. He said something but the music drowned him out. I didn’t really need to hear him. The hunger in his eyes told me everything. He liked me.
“Do you still want to dance?” He shouted and gestured to the packed floor.
“No, I think I should quit while I’m ahead.” I pointed to my forehead, where a welt throbbed with my racing heart.
He chuckled. “Then let me buy you a drink. My name is Rurik.” His grasp tightened on my arm as he led me away from the dance floor. The corners of his mouth lifted into a small pleasant smile as he turned from me. It wouldn’t do to flash fang and scare dinner away.
It irked me he just assumed I’d say ‘yes ‘ to his invitation. I stuffed my annoyance to the back of my mind, I didn’t have the luxury for personal preferences, and I had a role to play.
We made our way through the throng of Saturday night cruisers to a table in a secluded corner. Some men sat there, then stood upon our arrival, and moved to join others who hovered within eyesight of the table. Rurik’s guards. Things were quieter here; we could talk instead of yell.
He assisted me to a chair, then slid his closer to mine. Close enough to touch. “Are you American?”
A server walked up and set a bottle of Popov vodka in front of us with two shot glasses.
“Last time I checked.” The smell of his mild, spiced cologne drifted around me.
He laughed at my wiseass remark and filled the shot glasses, placing one in my hand.
“I don’t drink,” I confessed. “It goes straight to my head,” I lied.
“Then bottoms up.” He leaned forward, slipped his arm around mine, and tossed his vodka down.
Playing along, I faked taking a small sip, but he moved his arm up quick, and tipped my glass to a steeper angle. The contents emptied down my throat and burned as it cascaded to my stomach. I coughed and grimaced at the awful taste. Vodka never was my drink of choice.
My annoyance grew to outrage. I bit the inside of my cheeks; worried the verbal lashing on the tip of my tongue would slip out. Forced to flirt with this obnoxious creep wasn’t worth my pay, but not all my job satisfaction came from the bank. I would enjoy watching Colby stake this jerk.
Rurik smiled tight-lipped. “Forgive me. I couldn’t resist the temptation.” He brushed a wayward curl from my face.
I leaned into his touch—even though I wanted to pour the vodka over his head—and forced a smile. Talented enough to put laughter into my eyes while thinking violent thoughts made me good at my job.
He filled the glasses again, amusement sparkling in his eyes.
I glared at the repulsive drink instead of at him, and tried to pull the reins on my mounting temper. His phenomenal packaging must only be skin deep.
Rurik gave a gentle laugh. “You’re angry with me.”
Perceptive. “I told you, I don’t want to drink.” He was a real detective, this one. I smiled at him, putting an extra quirk to my lips. “Angry is a strong word, though. Life’s too short to be angry.”
Waving the waiter over, he ordered something I couldn’t understand, then returned his attention to me. “You haven’t told me your name.”
I stopped giving my shot glass the evil eye. The vodka stirred my stomach something fierce, yet called to my old vices. “I’m Connie Bence.” I offered him my hand. Damn, his arrogance distracted me and I gave him my real name. Just call me competent.
“Nice to meet you, Connie.” He took my hand and traced lazy circles in my palm. “Such a sweet morsel should have a name like...” His gaze lifted from my hand and pinned me to the chair . “Rabbit.”
My already angry stomach rebelled. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and focused by visualizing myself not being sick on my target. That would be two weeks of hard work down the drain, literally.
“That’s lovely, Rurik, but I prefer Connie.” I peeked and saw Rurik had moved in closer.
His eyes followed the shape of my face, down the lines of my neck, to the curves of my breasts. “I’ve noticed you before tonight, Rabbit, at other clubs.”
I blinked. He’d noticed me before tonight? Why had he waited until now to introduce himself? A chill crept up my spine. I learned to listen to those instincts. It was time to bail out.
My employer, Colby, would be pissed. I didn’t know all the details of this case, I never did.
He would cast me out to a choice location and hope I’d bring in his prize. He led a group of mercenaries I met a year ago, in Las Vegas, who taught me the ropes of my job. They scraped me from the bottom of a bottle and gave me a new life. I owed them.
Colby only dusted vampires gone bad—those who killed. If he accepted a contract, it meant he had concrete proof, and he wanted Rurik. That’s all I needed to know.
A hand on my knee startled me from my worries. “I’ve resisted your temptations, but unfortunately you’ve caught someone else’s notice.” Rurik’s fingers traced along the inside of my thigh. They caressed their way up, making contact with the hem of my very short dress.
My skin tingled but not from his touch.
An aura of power drew around my mental shields. His strength of will felt solid. It wrapped around me like a warm lover on a cold winter’s day. Comfortable and secure, I wanted to give in, tired of the long, cold winter my soul experienced this past year. His power was deep and throbbing. It spoke of age and experience, more than what I’d ever dealt with.
It drew me in. Invited me to come out from behind the mental walls I’d built.
I knew better. If I did, the chances of my winning that deadly contest were nil. He’d own me. I needed to allow him to seduce me, then bring him to Colby, not get caught by mind tricks.
My mental shields were built well and strong, yet he hammered at them.
Sweat trickled down my back. I’d never struggled with anyone so strong. Most humans wouldn’t have noticed such an intrusion but Colby trained me well.
I met his stare and opened my legs.
Rurik raised his eyebrows and his smile widened. My distraction worked and the assault eased. “You never seemed interested in partying at any of these clubs. Just mingled, roughed up the men who got too personal. Are you going to rough me up, Rabbit?” His voice caressed me as fingers climbed my thigh to trail along my silk panties.
Bad guy or not, my libido really liked him. I had better taste than this but his naughty behavior and arrogance appealed to my darker nature—the one that wanted to be punished.
The waiter disrupted our intimate moment as he placed a drink on the table. Rurik didn’t move away. He remained glued to me, one arm around the back of my chair, the other warming my loins. But mentally his attack continued to ease off. The blanket of power fell away as I focused on the waiter.
Rurik nibbled on my ear—my major weakness—which shot shivers along my sides. “I ordered you something milder to drink. It’s a local delicacy, a blend of fruit juices. No alcohol.” He handed me the drink.
“Thank you. I’m parched from all the dancing.” It tasted like ambrosia after the vodka. It slid over my tongue and instantly relieved my thirst. “It’s wonderful. I haven’t tasted anything like it on my visit here.”
Rurik ran his hand through my soft curls. He didn’t bother with the mind tricks anymore. Instead, he looked down my dress.
I thrust the girls out. “Enjoying the view?”
He chuckled. “Immensely. You have such a natural, sweet beauty. Very old world. Lovely skin, soft hair, beautiful eyes and such feminine ... curves.” His fingers started to explore more than the silk of my undergarment.
I clamped my legs together and laid a hand on his. “Maybe it’s time you take me somewhere more private?” It surprised me to hear the slur in my speech. I’d only drunk the one shot and the fruit juice. The vodka must have been excellent quality to hit me that hard.
He nodded then gestured to his men to follow as we rose from the chairs.
My legs wobbled when I first stood. It concerned me. What made them so weak? Not that I’d win a race against vampires, but a stable stance gave me a better chance if things went south and I needed to run. My mental shields felt whole so I didn’t think he affected my gait. Maybe the dancing did this and I should hit the gym more often.
Rurik slipped his hand into my grasp and we left together, hand in hand, weaving through the crowds. I almost lost him as a cluster of people pushed between us to get to the bar. Lost in a sea of giants, I turned a slow circle until he returned for me.
He clasped my hands around his waist and wrapped his arms around my shoulders to keep me close, pressing our bodies together as he quickened his pace.
I grinned in satisfaction.
Colby had men planted in the club, to help protect me. He ran a tight operation and had my back. They always placed a tracking device in my clothes, just in case they lost sight of me. Tonight it hid in the hem of my dress. As long as I didn’t take it off the team would be close, waiting for me to bring Rurik to them so they could make a move.
I got the impression Rurik didn’t plan for me to wear this dress much longer. Colby better be ready.
The guards trailed around us, slinking through the crowd.
We came out a side door where a black sedan waited. One guard got in the driver’s seat while another held the back door. I stopped my forward motion. “Where are we going? I have a room just across the street.” A lightheaded spell made my ankles wobble and I gripped Rurik’s waist tighter.
He misunderstood my action, taking it as an invitation. He grabbed the back of my head and kissed me. His supple mouth brushed against mine, seductive and gentle. Not what I would have expected from a killer. It warmed the night.
I pulled away from his embrace. My thoughts blurred. Not a good sign. Alarms rang in my head. “What was in the drink?” I sounded dreamy, even to my own ears.
“No alcohol,” he replied.
That’s not what I asked.
His power built around me again.
This time my mental shields crumbled, gone on a fuzzy holiday. Where could Colby be? Rurik was too strong for me. His power swallowed me whole.
“We are going to a private party, Rabbit.”
“Connie,” I mumbled.
He sat me in the car. “It’s for an important magnate in this territory. You caught his eye the other night and I want to introduce you to him.” He placed my legs into the car and closed the door. That was nice of him. He wanted to set me up on a date.
He sat beside me and grinned. The fangs didn’t bother either of us.
“I like parties,” I announced.
“I think you’ll love this one.”