Warrior (Relentless #4)(7)

by Karen Lynch

Suddenly, fresh air and distance from her sounded like an excellent idea.

“She’ll be okay here for a few minutes. I’ll meet you outside.”

Chris was waiting for me when I got to our bikes parked behind the club in the employee lot. He was quiet as I donned my harness and sword. When I looked up, I found him watching me.

“What?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. You seem distracted.”

“I’m fine.”

He didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t push it. That was one of the things I liked about Chris. He knew when to let something go and move on.

Normally, we’d walk the short distance to the parking garage, but we needed to be in and out before the police got there. We used our Mori speed to get us there in less than thirty seconds. The body was on the second level, between two cars, and thankfully, whoever had reported it hadn’t stuck around to wait for the authorities.

Chris went to examine the body. It was a young man in his early twenties, wearing a college letterman jacket. I could smell the blood before Chris rolled the body over to expose the neck wounds.

“Body’s still warm. He hasn’t been dead long.” Chris stood. “Definitely vampire. Looks like our guys were right about… Where are you going?”

“Back to the club for the girl.” I cursed myself for leaving her unprotected. Hadn’t I been the one to tell her this place wasn’t safe for her? I should have stayed with her and let Chris investigate the body. But I’d let emotion overrule my common sense and left her alone. Now that I knew there was a vampire in the vicinity, all I could think about was getting back to my orphan and keeping her safe.

My orphan? I shook my head. Jesus. I was already feeling possessive, and I didn’t even know her name.

“Nikolas.” Chris’s voice was laced with amusement. “Are you planning to enter the club looking like that?”

I glanced down at my leather harness, and my jaw clenched. Chris was right; I was distracted.

“I’m going to scout the area while you cover the girl,” Chris said before he headed off in another direction, no doubt having a good laugh over my odd behavior. Wait until he heard the girl was my mate. He’d probably fall on his sword from laughing so hard.

Potential mate, I reminded myself. Discovering you had a bond with someone didn’t mean you had to take it further. People had been known to walk away from bonds before they had a chance to grow. I liked my life the way it was, and I had no desire to add a mate to it.

Hell, maybe I was wrong about the whole thing anyway. A bond was a two-way thing, so the girl should have felt something. But she hadn’t shown a hint of recognition.

Then what the hell is wrong with me?

A muffled sound from the alley beside the club pulled me from my thoughts as I reached my bike. It was probably nothing, but with a vampire in the area, I had to check it out.

I stepped into the alley just as a terrified female voice floated toward me.

“No!”

That single word made ice form in my veins. My first instinct was to run to her, but almost two centuries of hunting made me move slowly into the alley to assess the situation before I acted on it.

I almost forgot every one of my years of experience when I saw her. The vampire had her pressed against the building with his mouth at her throat. Her eyes were closed, but the terror coming from her was almost palpable.

Red tinged my vision, and I had to force myself to think clearly and weigh my options. I could reach them in a second, but if the vampire was mature, he would rip her throat out before I got him away from her. If she was going to make it out of this alive, I had to approach this like it was just another job.

The vampire murmured something. Then his head jerked up, and he stared at the girl. It was time to make my entrance.

“Now, that is no way to treat a young lady.” The thought of any young Mohiri in the hands of a vampire angered me, but seeing this vampire touch her awakened something feral and dark inside me.

The vampire spun until he was backed against the wall with her body shielding him. “You are very brave, my friend, but you will move on if you know what’s good for you.”

“I have been told that I don’t heed orders well.” I walked into the light so the vampire could see me. Few vampires would stay and face an armed Mohiri warrior. If this one had any sense of self-preservation, he would release the girl and run.

The vampire let out a frightened hiss. “Mohiri!”

One of my rules was to never take my attention away from a vampire, but it required all of my self-control not to look at her. I could not afford to lose my focus now.

I laughed, feigning a calm I didn’t feel. “I see there is no need for introductions. Good. I hate to waste time on formalities.”

The vampire’s clawed hand went to her throat. “Stay back or I will rip her apart.”

I couldn’t stop myself, and my gaze flicked to her face. The fear and pleading in her eyes made my Mori push closer to the surface. It wanted out, but I had to play it cool. The moment the vampire realized the girl was more than a job to me, he would use that to his advantage.

“A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?” I said lightly as I took a step toward them.

His voice rose. “Her death will be on your hands, Mohiri.” He closed his eyes briefly, and my body coiled to attack when I saw a thin rivulet of blood trail down her throat. The smell of her blood was stirring his bloodlust, and the look on his face made it clear how much he wanted her.

My Mori saw it too, and it seethed beneath my skin, its voice melding with mine. “Do it and it will be your last act, vampire.”

“Brother, how like you to sneak off and sample the sweets by yourself. And look at the trouble it has brought you.”

I looked up at the second vampire standing on the fire escape. Damn it. I should have known he wouldn’t be alone. Sloppy, Nikolas. I flexed my jaw. I hadn’t been thinking straight ever since I’d met this girl. If I didn’t get it together, I’d get us both killed. Fortunately, two vampires was nothing I hadn’t faced before. My fear was the risk to her.

“Come now, Joel,” said the vampire holding her. His voice grew cocky with the arrival of his friend. “You know I always save some for you.”

Joel laughed. “I think I deserve a little more than a nibble this time. Mmm…she looks like a tasty little bit.”