Warrior (Relentless #4)(2)

by Karen Lynch

“I don’t mind staying here for a day or two. They’re having a problem with lamprey demons in Bywater, and I told Denis we’d give them a hand.”

“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” he replied dryly.

I let out a laugh. “What’s her name?” Chris only suggested we take some downtime after a job when he’d met a female he wanted to get more acquainted with.

He grinned over the top of his beer. “Nora. She’s a student at Tulane, and she invited us to a party at her sorority tonight.”

“I think I’ll pass.” Intoxicated coeds were not my idea of an entertaining night. I could think of more pleasurable ways to spend an evening. An interesting book, a good game of poker, a bottle of Macallan, to name a few. Or a beautiful female friend who knew me well, in and out of the bedroom.

“Let me guess your plans for tonight. Prowling the streets to keep the good people of New Orleans safe, or staying in your room with a book?”

I suppressed a chuckle. He knew me too well. “Neither, actually. Viv’s in town.”

“Ah, the lovely Vivian. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Two years.”

“That long?” He smiled over the rim of his glass. “I guess I won’t be seeing you for breakfast then.”

“Probably not.” Or for lunch, knowing Viv.

Our food arrived, and as we ate, we talked about the job we’d just finished. A week ago, we’d gotten word of an increased vampire presence in New Orleans, along with a rash of missing persons, mostly teenagers. New Orleans was already a hub of supernatural activity that kept the local unit busy, so Chris and I had come to help them out with the vampire problem.

It had taken us three days to find one of the elusive vampires and trail him back to the nest in the Garden District. It didn’t require much guesswork to know what had happened to the previous owner of the old house the vampires had claimed for their own. We’d watched the place for a day and then made our move.

I hadn’t expected to find human survivors, and that made the job even more satisfying. I’d told the vampire I cared about the hunt more than the humans, but that was a lie. Nothing was more important than protecting human lives.

Chris crumpled his napkin and tossed it on his empty plate. “I was thinking we could head west when we leave Louisiana. There’s always something going on out that way, and we could pay a visit to Longstone while we’re there.”

“How long has it been since you were home?” Longstone was the Mohiri stronghold in Oregon where Chris grew up. His parents moved to Germany a few years ago, but he still had family at the stronghold.

“I haven’t been back since my parents left, almost three years.”

I pushed my plate away and reached for my beer. “Sounds like a plan. We can stop over at Westhorne on the way.”

His phone buzzed, and he smiled when he looked at the screen. “Right on time. I need to go meet my date.” He stood and threw some money on the table. “Say hello to Vivian for me.”

“Will do.” I pulled out my phone and texted Viv, asking if she was up for some company.

I smiled when she replied immediately. Do you need to ask?

Tossing some cash on the table, I stood and headed for the door. See you in ten.

Vivian’s suite was on the top floor of the Ritz-Carlton, and she answered the door wearing a white silk robe, with her long, blonde hair loose around her shoulders.

“Nikolas!” She pulled me into the room, hugging me before she’d even shut the door. “It’s so good to see you.”

Chuckling, I hugged her back. “Great to see you, too.” I pulled back and looked down at her short robe that came to mid-thigh. “If I’d known you’d greet me like this, I would have come to visit you a lot sooner.”

A throaty laugh slipped from her. She pulled my head down to hers for a slow, languid kiss that was sensual, but also warm and familiar. My other sexual encounters were just about mutual pleasure. Vivian Day was more than that. She was a good friend whose company I enjoyed, and there were no strings attached. She wanted to be tied down even less than I did, if that was possible.

Breaking the kiss, she took my hand and led me into the living room of her suite that had a great view of the French Quarter. She sat on the couch and made me sit beside her.

She arranged her robe around her legs. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard you were in New Orleans. It’s been too long.”

“It has. But then you’re the one who’s always off on some mission for the Council whenever I’m on your side of the world.”

“Maybe if you’d agree to work for them, we’d see each other more.”

I stretched out my legs. “I love you, Viv, but I have zero interest in working for a bunch of bureaucrats. I respect the Council for what they do, but I prefer to work my own way.”

She gave me a knowing smile. “Still haven’t outgrown that little aversion to authority.”

I laughed. “And you still know me better than anyone.”

I’d known Vivian most of my life, our friendship going back to my early years in England when my sire was leader of Hadan Castle. Vivian and I had trained together, and the two of us had been competitive, driving each other to work harder.

She got up and went to the bar. “Drink? They didn’t have any Macallan, but they brought up a bottle of Bowmore.”

“Only if you’re having one.”

“Of course.” She poured two drinks and came back to the couch, handing one to me. “I can’t believe it’s been two years. I remember when I couldn’t imagine not seeing you every day.”

“What was it you said back then? When we became warriors, we’d go off and hunt together, just the two of us.”

Her eyes sparkled with laughter. “That’s because I was afraid you’d beat me in vampire kills if I left you alone.”

I sipped my drink. “And it had nothing to do with the huge crush you had on me?”

“Ha! If anyone had a crush, it was you. You were a lovesick fool that first time.”

“I was a horny teenager, and the prettiest girl I knew wanted to have sex with me.”

When she’d come to me one day and told me she wanted her first time to be with her best friend, my sixteen-year-old self had needed no persuasion. We still laughed over how awkward the two of us had been that first time.