Her chin lifted. “I’m sorry but I don’t think that is any of your business.”
“You can’t be more than seventeen or eighteen,” I countered, intrigued by the emerald fire in her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here alone.”
“You’re not much older than me. And I’m not here alone.”
“I’m older than I look,” I replied, unsure if I was annoyed with her or myself for feeling this unreasonable swell of jealousy at her words. I didn’t know a thing about this girl; why should I care if she was here with another male?
I ran my hand through my hair and gave a silent groan of frustration. What the hell is wrong with me tonight?
“Nikolas,” called Chris, and I turned to see him in the doorway wearing an amused expression. “Ready to move out?”
“No,” I almost said, because I was suddenly reluctant to leave this mysterious girl who drew me like a moth to a flame. I didn’t even know her name, for Christ’s sake.
But I would. She was a young Mohiri out in a part of the city where vampires prowled. It was my duty to protect her and to discover who she was and what had brought her here. The glint in her eyes told me she was not going to be forthcoming with me if I asked her straight out. There was a wariness about her that said she did not trust easily.
“Be out shortly, Chris,” I told him, though I’d already decided we were not leaving. We were going to stick around and watch the girl to make sure she was safe here. Then I was going to follow her home and find out who she was. It had nothing to do with the strange protective instinct she stirred in me. I was a warrior, and she was my responsibility.
My mind made up, I strode to the door, turning to her before I reentered the club. “Stay with your friends. This part of town is not safe for a girl alone at night.” Not that she needed to worry. Chris and I would make sure she and her friends got home safely.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said quietly.
Chris grinned at me when I joined him inside. “You sure you’re ready to leave, my friend?”
“Not quite.” His grin grew, and I scowled at him. “It’s not what you think. She’s Mohiri.”
“What?” His eyes widened. “She can’t be more than eighteen. What is she doing here?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out.” I scanned the crowded club for anyone who looked like they could be with the girl, but no one stood out. “She said she’s not here alone. I plan to watch her and her friends, and make sure she gets home before I start asking questions.”
Chris looked behind me at the girl still standing on the deck. “You know, she reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“I know what you mean. It feels like I’ve met her before, but I’d remember her if I had.”
He gave me a sly look. “Memorable, is she?”
“She is different,” I admitted. Then I got down to business. “Let’s split up. I’ll watch the girl, and you keep an eye out for trouble.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
He melted away into the crowd, and I settled back into the same shadowy corner I’d inhabited before the girl caught my eye.
Less than a minute later, she entered the club and passed by me without looking in my direction. My eyes followed her as she crossed the room and joined two teenage boys at the edge of the dance floor. The tall, dark-haired one grinned affectionately at her when she stood beside him, and she gave him a sweet smile in return.
Something dark and savage reared up inside me, making my entire body stiffen and my hands clench into fists at my sides. My Mori growled, and a fierce possessiveness roared through me.
Mine? What the –? I forgot how to breathe as the truth slowly filtered through the turmoil of my emotions. It can’t be.
Solmi, my Mori insisted angrily.
“Khristu!” I sagged against the wall as my strength deserted me.
She was my mate.
Mate. The word sounded foreign, alien, as it repeated in my head. How was this possible? In my almost two hundred years, I must have met a thousand Mohiri women, with not a single potential mate among them. What were the odds of me finding one in a night club, in a city I hadn’t been to in fifty years? I wouldn’t even be here now if I hadn’t been doing a favor for Tristan.
My gaze travelled across the club, drawn to the girl. As soon as I found her, my heart thudded against my ribs, and I felt the swell of raw emotions again. Mate.
I tore my eyes away from her. I knew males who had bonded – Tristan was one of them – but I’d never asked them what it felt like. I hadn’t wanted to know. We were taught about bonding when we were children, but nothing in my education had prepared me for this barrage of emotions for someone I hadn’t known existed thirty minutes ago. I’d talked to her for all of five minutes, yet every detail of her face from her emerald green eyes to her full pink lips was etched in my memory.
Pushing away from the wall, I moved through the crowded club until I found a spot closer to her and her friends, but out of sight. This close, I could hear her laugh when her dark-haired friend said something to her. The sound was warm and rich, and it sent heat straight to my groin. Jesus. I took a deep breath and released it slowly. I was behaving like a goddamn teenager.
Stop it, demon, I commanded, and then I realized I was actually talking to my Mori. Who the hell did that? But from the moment I touched the girl, the damn demon had been straining against me and flooding me with irrational emotions.
I set my jaw and pushed all those thoughts aside. No matter what was going on with me, the girl was a young Mohiri who should be in a stronghold, not out here in a club. She had to be an orphan; that was the only explanation for her presence here. But why hadn’t she shown any sign of recognition when we were together, and why was her Mori so quiet? If she was an orphan as I suspected, how was she in control of her demon at all? I had too many questions, and she was the only one who could answer them.
My phone vibrated, and Chris’s name flashed on the screen.
“Find something?” I asked him.
“Just got word that someone reported a body in the parking deck down the street. Thought we should check it out before the police arrive. I can go if you want to stay and watch the girl.”
I looked at her again. She was dancing with her friends, and they didn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon.