Vampire slayers mourned those of their ilk who got caught. While most died a true death, some of the very things they hunted lured them to cross over and they became creatures of the night. Or in my case, blood bound with one. Colby and Red, my former comrades-at-arms, treated me as if I was dead, but I never felt more alive.
Jardim Botanico was a botanical paradise famous for its peaceful landscapes. Minutes away from my hotel, it sat in the heart of the south side of Rio de Janeiro. I’d spent the night sneaking along its gardens, ponds and well-manicured lanes, desperate to escape the predator who stalked my trail. Every time I got close enough to make a run for the streets, he’d pop out from hiding, almost as if daring me to try.
An envelope of silence surrounded me as I hid under the dark green leaves of a tropical plant. The scents of nutmeg and cinnamon lay thick in the air, I hoped they covered mine. My heart raced and sweat made my curls stick to the nape of my neck, not only from the heat, but from anticipation of the chase. I’d been smart this time, wearing a black sleeveless t-shirt, sport-shorts and water bottle clipped to my hip so the Brazilian weather wouldn’t sap my strength. My hair color, though, gave me away most of the time. So pale and yellow, sometimes it seemed like a neon sign saying ‘here I am’.
I’d gotten pretty good at running away from vampires. Connie Bence, live bait extraordinaire, was my last job, but I quit and tonight wasn’t a trap.
It was a game.
The night blanketed everything. I thought a city like Rio would be up at all hours, people partying in the streets, especially on New Year’s Eve. I was right. They were. Just not around here. The Copacabana Beach probably swarmed with people. One nervous human and one lusty vampire were the only creatures roaming the botanical gardens tonight.
A humongous, lighted Christmas tree floated on the central lagoon as a landmark. From the hotel window, I could see it to the northwest. This meant I needed to go southeast. Or did I? Ah shit, I suck at this stuff. Don’t throw me in the woods, no matter how manicured.
Laughter drew my attention and I peeked through the leaves. The street was ten yards in front of me through a small stone archway. The noise drifted closer.
I’d been waiting for a witness. It sounded like a group celebrating, probably heading to the beach where the fireworks would be going off in a few hours. If I could make it to them, my vampire wouldn’t be able to finish the hunt.
He had to keep his people’s existence a secret. If he broke that law, the big nasties would come and punish him.
Even vampires had nightmares--the Nosferatu.
I crouched under the foliage and did my best imitation of an Olympic sprinter waiting for the start pistol. My adversary strolled out from the shadows next to the archway.
Clenching my teeth, I swore under my breath. Dirty, freaking bastard knew what I was going to try.
With his hands clasped behind his back, he whistled a little Hungarian ditty. He wouldn’t kill me, this wasn’t about life and death. It was about winning.
The small group of people, my would-be rescuers, appeared.
My vampire blocked the exit with his body, waved at them and called out something in Portuguese. They laughed. It appeared they found him hilarious.
I didn’t find it funny.
The muscles in my legs trembled with the strain. They wanted to take off and run with all their might. It took some effort to make myself relax and slow my breathing. Rurik, the vampire, knew I was close, however not my exact position or he would have taken me by now. How did he follow me? Maybe the blood bond we shared gave my location. If that were true, shouldn’t I sense something about him, too?
For once, I’d like to win this game, just once. Make it to our hotel before he captured me. It would mean he’d finally submit to my whims, instead of the other way around. The irony that I couldn’t dominate him without his consent wasn’t lost on me, but I’d make do.
He now stood in the center of the exit, his arms extended to touch the stone walls of the archway. The dim light from the streetlamp outlined his lean muscled frame. “Run, Rabbit, run.” The softly spoken words sent shivers down my spine. “Try to get away.” He’d named me Rabbit when we’d first met in Budapest a little over a year ago. Only he could call me by that nickname, he had earned the privilege. No one else had my permission.
My options for escape narrowed. The garden contained more gates, but I didn’t know where. We’d been playing since sunset and he already prevented my leaving three other times. If I gave up he would be disappointed. I understood his need to hunt, yet I grew tired of losing, too.
I eyed a wide Banyan tree by the fence. Long vines hung from the branches, waiting to root themselves one day. Before Rurik bound me to him, I wouldn’t have considered the crazy plan formulating in my head. The blood we shared made me faster and stronger. I healed quicker and didn’t get sick. Best of all, I stayed young. Worst of all, if he died, so did I.
Marriage vows seemed weak compared to that. So if he needed a little hide-and-seek in the dark, I played with him.
He suddenly jumped and twisted to look over his shoulder.
I almost stood, thinking he was in danger, until I saw the small figure of an old woman poking him with a cane.
She rattled a string of Portuguese as he retreated, dodging her slow swings.
Grinning at my unknown heroine, I ran for the fence, grabbed a vine from the Banyan tree and hauled my ass over the old stone wall, only to tumble over the other side like a drunken spider.
Luckily the road broke my fall. The scrapes on my hands burned while I untangled and re-oriented my limbs. Rurik wouldn’t chase me in front of a witness. Someone might actually call the cops. This gave me a head start, but the race had just begun. Good thing I wore my best sneakers.
Down the street, around the corner and through a parking lot I pumped my short legs as if the devil ran after me. In some religions, technically, he was.
A cab drove toward me and I waved my arms over my head. Knights in shining armor came in all shapes and sizes these days. I even had money to pay for it. After a little mishap in London, I always carried currency now. The cab stopped and I dove in.
“Fasano Hotel.” My breathing made it hard to talk, which concerned me, I shouldn’t be out of breath. For the last few months my improved strengths had started to diminish, yet my hunger for Rurik’s blood grew. It should be the other way around. He joked about my blood thirst being stronger than his. It didn’t make me laugh.
The cab pulled in front of the hotel and the doorman helped me out after I paid for the ride.
“Senhora, are you well?”
I turned my head from searching the streets for my pursing vampire. Still no signs of Rurik. Could it be possible? Did I win?
“Senhor Rurik, I didn’t see you in the cab.” The doorman’s comment made my hopes drop like a rock.
My lover’s hands rested on my shoulders before he whispered, “Gotcha.”
“Motherfucker.” I shrugged off his hands then stomped through the entrance to the elevators, leaving a wide-eyed doorman and a grinning vampire.
When I hit the up button, the doors slid open. Rurik stopped them from closing with his hand and stepped inside. He cornered me and leaned in for a kiss.
“Hold on.” I pushed against his chest, but may as well have tried to stop a bus. His lips brushed along mine with a feathery skill that curled my toes as his hands caressed my waist then my ass.
“You did good.” He spoke against my mouth.
“I made it to the door. We should consider it a win.” With a quirk of my eyebrow, I gave him a shove and tried to squeeze past his solid mass. The elevator stopped on our suite’s floor at the top of the building. I didn’t get far.
Rurik flung me over his shoulder one-handed. “No, it’s a loss but I’ll reward you for good effort.” He entered our room and crossed to the bedroom.
I twisted around as we passed the bed. “What are you doing?” My heart skipped a beat, the pace quickening.
He opened the closet door, pushed the clothes aside and set me in the small space.
“Don’t you dare lock me in!” The walls felt close and even though the ceiling towered over me, the space lacked air. I reached out the doorway to grasp at anything to help pull me out.
Rurik clasped my hands to his chest. “Connie, when have I done something you didn’t like?” The calm in his voice soothed me enough to listen and the use of my real name drew my attention. He didn’t use it often. Not giving me anytime to respond, he slipped my shirt over my head.
“Sex? Here?” I glanced over my shoulder to the sparse clothing on the closet rod and a cute pair of black heels on the floor. I planned to wear them later to the fireworks at the beach.
He skimmed my shorts and panties off my hips then knelt to remove my running shoes.
“I’m sweaty and I smell.”
As he stood, he pressed his clothed body to mine and reached around me. “It makes you spicy.” The bra clasp sprung behind my back. It tumbled to my feet, allowing my nipples to harden as the cold air conditioning hit them. He stepped back, his hungry stare never leaving my cleavage.
I didn’t know this game. Closet sex? If he kept the door opened, maybe I could manage. He sort of won the hunt and got to be the boss for the night. Next time we needed to change some rules to the game, I’ve never managed to escape. Either he tracked prey very well or I sucked at running away.
Rurik told me once I subconsciously wanted to get caught.
He yanked off his t-shirt and exposed a fine set of six-pack abs.
Maybe I did want him to catch me.
A discarded black silk tie lay on top of the dresser. He picked it up and snapped it against his hand.
The sharp crack made me jump and retreat farther into the closet so I stood under the rod. Getting whipped didn’t turn me on, but I needed to remember this was the vampire who’d given up being the Overlord of Budapest to be with me. Not once in the last seventeen months had he hurt me, no matter how extreme his tastes, or how vigorous our bed play. His smile reassured me and I placed my trust in him.
“Raise your arms and grasp the bar.”
I obeyed his order, swallowing around a dry throat.
With quick sure motions, he tied my wrists to the wooden clothes rod. The soft silk tie bit into my skin while a hunger sparked to life. Not just for the flesh that rippled with lean muscles in front of me, I wanted the blood pulsing in his veins.
It got worse every night. Different things set it off, I never figured them out, but the impulses have been getting stronger. It gnawed at my soul, this craving for Rurik’s blood.
With a tug, I tested my bonds.
“There’s no point in struggling. I’m very good with knots.” He undid his pants and stepped closer, a stern thin frown made him sexier. “You put some effort in escaping this time.” His whisper brushed the skin on my neck. “I appreciate it.”
“So where’s my reward?”
His icy blue eyes sparkled with amusement though his face remained grim. Dark smooth hair framed his fine, high cheek bones, the hair longer than when we met. He’d gone from a slick controlling aristocrat to a sultry fun lover. We left his city after he killed his insane Nosferatu master and traveled the world, which brought us to Rio for New Year’s Eve.
Rurik’s gaze traveled down the length of my body. The intensity of it, the desire held within, made it seem solid enough to touch me. “We should have played this game a long time ago, Bunny.”
I kicked out my foot. “Don’t call me that.”
He jumped back and grabbed my ankle. The pulse in his neck quickened and the urge to partake in his blood began to burn inside me. I needed it, craved it, couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into him. Wiggling naked almost in mid-air, I struggled to free my foot.
His feral grin intensified as he snatched my other foot and his hands slid up my legs, supporting my weight until he knelt before me with them over his shoulders.
Oh my, I now understood what my reward would be. Maybe I should have let him capture me sooner. A shiver ran up my spine at the touch of his hands. I relaxed into his grip.
“Rabbit.” He rolled the ‘r’ and made it purr from his throat, aiming the vibrations of his voice at my bud. The arrogant bastard knew how to push my buttons and how much power he held over me. Thank goodness he didn’t abuse it--much.
His voice grew huskier as he repeated my pet name. It made me tingle, I couldn’t stop my eyes from fluttering shut. Sharp fangs nipped at my thighs. “You will get thoroughly rewarded.”
A groan escaped me. Trussed up like a Sunday ham, my discomfort disappeared as a wave of anticipation crashed over my body.
He kissed my nether lips with as much enthusiasm as embracing my mouth, all the while supporting my weight with his shoulders and hands.
This vampire brought so much love and passion to my life. He saved me from myself. It’s pitiful that I needed to learn how to live from someone who’d been dead for centuries.
The pleasure intensified and I ground against his face, needing and finding my release. “Yes...oh yes,” I cried out. Ecstasy coursed through me and left me panting.
My legs became rubber when he set them back on the floor. I didn’t need to support myself long, though. He pulled his tight jeans down enough to expose his hard cock before lifting me to his hips. With a rough shove, he thrust his full length inside and took me with ravenous force. One of his hands under my ass, the other braced the back wall of the closet. Ecstasy and passion escalated, the force of his consistent pounding had my back against the wall, my arms stretched out in front of me still tied. He leaned in to kiss me, but knocked his forehead against the clothes rod.
“Merde.” He swore with venom then ducked under the obstacle and came up between my arms to kiss me. I could taste myself on his lips. Each stroke got fiercer, the muscles in my shoulders ached from the pull on the bindings.
Then the rod snapped, the sharp edge scratched my forearm as we fell and landed in a tangle on the closet floor. My dresses and his suits became our mattress while he continued his demanding rhythm. I floundered with disorientation only for a second before he found my sweet spot, the one that rendered me into a screaming wild animal.
Whenever he discovered this trigger, he could never outlast it. His cries joined mine not moments after.
He rested his head on my chest with one hand caressing a breast. “The rod is lodged in my back. Can you pull it out for me?” He asked in a calm manner, as if asking me to pass the salt.
It stuck out at a forty-five degree angle. I wrapped my fingers around it and yanked. It wasn’t embedded deep. “You almost got staked.” I tossed it away from him, as if it was poisonous. Such a small thing could have destroyed what we had. I always thought of Rurik as indestructible.
“What a way to go.” He kissed me again while wiggling out of his jeans.
As I tried pressing him closer my hand slid on something slick. I glanced over his shoulder. Blood. It glistened red and thick. The hunger made its presence known again.
“I fed you only two days ago.” My hunger must have shown on my face. I could have lied, but my secrets almost killed him once.
“I know.” My voice shook. This urge made me ashamed when it first appeared a year ago. I was beyond shame now. Even alcohol didn’t grip me like this when I used to drink. A void expanded inside my soul and Rurik’s blood never filled it. The hunger slept for a little while, but came back roaring. In the last month, it never slept.
“Maybe you should reconsider crossing over and become vampire. I never thought the blood lust would be so strong with a bond.”
“No, I’m not ready to give up the sun.”
He caressed my cheek. “Stuck between two worlds, you have all our vises and none of our strengths.” With his fingernail, he opened a wound on his neck.
I didn’t require any further invitation to drink. The metallic flavor flowed down my throat, what was left of my humanity cringed, the other part savored every drop. It satiated my hunger beast but never touched the void it created.
Maybe Rurik was right and I should take his offer. Bound to each other, only he could make me vampire. Other vamps could kill me, but never cross me over.
He rose before I felt satisfied. “I bought you a gift.”
I licked my lips and watched my lover pull a garment in a dry cleaning bag from under us.
“It’s a dress for tonight.”
It should be against the law for men to shop for women without supervision. Don’t get me wrong, Rurik had wonderful taste--what he liked me to wear bordered on pornographic though.
My smile wavered. “Let me see it.”
“No.” He strode across the room and laid it on the bed. “It’s Rio, Rabbit. On New Year’s Eve, live a little. You’ll look beautiful in it.” Then he left me alone, lying in the closet on a pile of wrinkled clothes, a broken closet rod at my side. “I’ll run us a bath,” he called out from the bathroom.
I wandered to the bed and opened my present. With a little glue in the right places, the red dress might actually cover the important parts. A note pinned inside the bodice caught my attention. Romantic gestures kept relationships alive and this one made me happy. I opened the paper.
It wasn’t the kind of love note I expected. This one came from my ex-boss, Colby.