Vampires Gone Wild (Love at Stake #13.5) by Kerrelyn Sparks
V is for VampWoman
AS A MAN of few words, Mikhail Kirillov never stated the obvious. His companions were smart enough to reach the same conclusion he had. Zoltan’s snitch had double-crossed them, and now they’d teleported into a trap.
Mikhail quickly scanned the group of Malcontents as they emerged from the nearby forest and gathered on the moonlit meadow, snarling and thumping their fists against their shields. They were armed with swords, spears, and axes. A mortal might assume these vampire thugs were hopelessly stuck in the past, but Mikhail knew better. The Malcontents preferred their battles up close and bloody. The scent of blood in the air drove them wild.
He completed his headcount. “Thirty-six to four.”
“Could be worse,” J.L. whispered.
“We each take out nine,” Jack said. “We can do it.”
Zoltan nodded. “We should fight in a circle, so our backs are protected.”
Mikhail frowned as his companions drew their swords. Zoltan’s idea wasn’t bad, but it would severely limit their mobility. And if there was one thing Mikhail valued, it was a life free from limitations.
Freedom from the ravages of time and disease. Freedom to live however he liked and fight however he wanted. In over six hundred years of battle, no one had come close to defeating him. As a result, he had become a fiercely aggressive warrior but never much of a team player.
Not that he didn’t care about his friends. Just twenty minutes earlier, Jack had announced with a huge grin that his wife, Lara, was pregnant. Mikhail would single-handedly annihilate an entire army of Malcontents to ensure Jack returned to his wife even though it was unlikely that he would need assistance. Jack, aka Giacomo di Venezia, was probably the best vampire swordsman on the planet. Jean-Luc Echarpe would disagree, but he was too busy designing silly clothes, while Jack and Mikhail were helping Zoltan destroy a Malcontent human-trafficking ring based in Albania.
As Coven Master of Eastern Europe, Zoltan Czakvar could handle himself in a swordfight. It was J.L. Wang who had Mikhail concerned. The former FBI Special Agent was a young American Vamp and probably more comfortable with a pistol in his hand than a sword.
A metallic screech pierced the air as the Malcontents drew their swords. They shouted taunts across the field, no doubt feeling arrogantly secure in their superior numbers.
Time to improve the odds. With one swift move, Mikhail reached overhead to draw his weapon from the leather scabbard on his back. It was a huge broadsword, heavy enough that most mortals found it difficult to lift with two hands. With his left hand, he pulled a freshly sharpened battle-axe from his belt.
His roar boomed across the field, causing the Malcontents to flinch. As he charged toward them, he saw the calculations in their gleaming eyes. Just like the weathermen who watched incoming hurricanes, they were predicting where and when he would make landfall.
Dead center. The vampires in the middle lifted their swords and shields in anticipation. The ends of the battle line inched forward, hoping to close in and surround him.
Mikhail teleported to the right flank, and with one mighty swing of his sword, he lopped off three heads. Before the dead could fully disintegrate into three piles of dust, he teleported to the left flank and decapitated three more Malcontents. With one last stop at the center of the line, he took out three more, then teleported back to his companions. The entire maneuver had taken less than five seconds.
Shocked, the Malcontents fumbled about. A dozen succumbed to fear and teleported away.
Mikhail took a deep breath, then bellowed another war cry as he lifted his sword and battle-axe overhead. That alone was enough to make three more Malcontents piss on themselves before teleporting away.
Behind him, his companions chuckled.
“Now it’s twelve to four,” Zoltan said.
“Way to go, Mikhail,” J.L. added.
“What are we waiting for?” Jack asked.
With a shout, they charged toward the Malcontents. Mikhail dispatched two with one swing of his sword, then spun around to take out a third with his axe. A quick glance assured him that his companions were doing well. Jack had killed two and engaged a third, an ugly guy with a scar down the side of his face. Zoltan and J.L. had each killed one and were fighting a second opponent.
That left two Malcontents. Mikhail spotted them attempting to sneak up on J.L. and Zoltan from behind. Typical Malcontent behavior. Stabbing someone in the back.
He teleported to the first one, turned him to dust, then glowered at the second Malcontent. “Boo.”
With a squeak, the second Malcontent teleported away. Mikhail wedged his axe beneath his belt, then turned to watch the end of the battle.
A burst of music joined the clanging of swords. Mikhail tilted his head. The music appeared to be coming from Jack’s jacket. A lively rendition of “That’s Amore.”
With a muttered curse, Jack lunged at his opponent, causing Scarface to jump back six feet. With his left hand, Jack pulled out his cell phone and glanced at it.
“You don’t have to answer it,” Mikhail muttered.
“It’s Lara.” Jack continued to fence with Scarface. “If I don’t answer, she’ll worry.”
Mikhail snorted. Thank God he’d avoided the trap most of his friends had fallen into. Marriage and children? Never again.
“Hello, bellissima,” Jack answered the phone. His opponent tried to take advantage of his divided attention by rushing forward, but Jack easily drove him back.
“This is not a good time, Lara. Can I call you back in about twenty minutes?” Jack glanced to the side as Zoltan finished off his assailant. “Make that ten minutes.”
There was a pause as Jack parried with Scarface. “No, there’s nothing going on. We’re perfectly safe.” He deftly handled a well-aimed thrust. “That clashing noise? Oh, it’s just a few of the guys doing sword practice.”
Stifling a groan, Mikhail slid his sword back into the scabbard. J.L. Wang jabbed his opponent in the heart, turning him to dust. He joined Mikhail and Zoltan as they stood nearby, watching Jack.
“No, sweetheart, you don’t have to wait on me for dinner.” Jack jumped, missing a low swipe intended to slice through his knees. “I’ll be home soon. Could you put a bottle of Blardonnay in the fridge for me?”
Mikhail rolled his eyes. With a resigned sigh, Zoltan sheathed his sword. Jack could have killed Scarface five minutes ago if he weren’t so distracted.
“If you’re hungry, go ahead and eat.” Jack easily fended off another frenzied attack. “You’re eating for two, you know.”
Mikhail groaned. J.L. glanced at his watch.
“What? No, I don’t think you’re fat. I think you’re—merda!” Jack leaped to the side to avoid disembowelment. “No, bellissima, I wasn’t referring to you—”
“Enough!” Mikhail zoomed forward, caught Scarface’s hand in his fist, and squeezed till vampire cried out in pain and dropped his sword. Then Mikhail punched him in the jaw, sending him flying back twenty yards, where he slumped onto the ground in a daze.
Jack gave Mikhail a grateful nod, then walked away a short distance to continue his phone conversation. “Lara, I think you’re more beautiful than ever.” He slid his sword into its sheath. “I know you miss working in the field, but we agreed you shouldn’t be taking any risks right now. Yes, it’s perfectly safe here, but—why is my voice echoing? Did you put me on the speakerphone? Lara—” He stopped as a form materialized nearby.
It couldn’t be Lara, Mikhail thought, as a dark form took shape in the moonlight. As a mortal, Lara didn’t have the ability to teleport.
This was a vampire and definitely female. Her head was covered with a black spandex cap that included a mask over her eyes. Whoever she was, she was stunning. Black leather boots and gloves, and the rest of her encased in body-hugging black spandex. Long, slim legs, nicely rounded hips, a trim waist cinched tightly with a leather utility belt, and breasts that were firm and full. Not too full, he amended his assessment, but full enough to fit nicely in his hands. Not that he intended to—
His thoughts screeched to a halt. Her body looked familiar. Only the lower half of her face was exposed, but that, too, seemed familiar. Where had he seen those lips? So pink and delicate. And the way she lifted her chin with a slight tilt, as if she could shrivel a man’s balls with one arrogant, disdainful glance—he’d seen that before on a reality show on the Digital Vampire Network. He didn’t usually watch television, but that was one show he hadn’t missed.
Was it truly her? How many times had he imagined her naked on a pile of furs?
She twirled around, her black silk cape rippling through the air as she scanned the surroundings. Apparently convinced she was in no danger, she faced them, assuming a dramatic pose. Black boots wide apart, gloved fists on her hips, chest thrust forward, and chin lifted as she looked them over. She gave an imperious nod to Zoltan, then J.L.
Mikhail watched her closely as her gaze moved to him. Her eyes widened, then she quickly focused elsewhere.
It was definitely her. Her eyes were an odd shade of blue. Lavender blue. In over six hundred years, he’d never seen anyone with eyes quite like hers. She was the most beautiful female vampire in the world. Unfortunately, she was also the snootiest.
There had been many occasions over the years when he could have met her in person. He always spotted her across the ballroom at Roman’s big parties. She would wear one of her wispy Regency-style gowns and pile her shiny blond hair on her head with a few curls trailing down her lovely neck.
Naked on a pile of furs. He’d always been careful to keep his distance, for he knew if he drew too close, he’d want to drag her off to a cave.
Not that he had a cave. There was just something about her that stirred the centuries-old Norseman in him, heating his blood till he was driven to conquer and pillage. No doubt, she wanted to perch on a satin chaise in an elegant parlor while she sipped hot Chocolood from a china teacup and engaged in witty conversation. He wanted her naked and wet on a pile of furs.
She had a long, fancy name, but he preferred to think of her simply as Pam. Naked and wet and panting on a pile of furs.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” she addressed them with her crisp British accent. “Jack, you may inform Lara that I have arrived safely.”
Jack lowered his voice. “Lara, what have you done?”
Mikhail leaned to the side to watch Scarface, who was still on the ground. The Malcontent’s eyes were open, and he was leering at Pam.
“I know I said it was safe here,” Jack continued, “but you shouldn’t have let her come.” He glanced at the woman in spandex. “Who the hell is she?”
Behind Pam, Scarface jumped to his feet. Mikhail tensed, ready to attack.
“I am VampWoman!” Pam gripped the edges of her cape and lifted her arms suddenly as if she planned to take flight. All she managed to do was clobber Scarface as he made a lunge for her.
“Oh, dear. So sorry.” She glanced back at his crumpled body on the ground. She must have realized he was a Malcontent, for she swiveled to face them with a victorious flourish of her cape. “I meant to do that.”
Mikhail snorted. Snooty as always.
She lifted her chin and attempted to glare down at him, an impossible task since he was a good foot taller than her. He stared calmly back until her cheeks flushed a rosy pink, and she looked away.
Zoltan stepped toward her. “Lady Pamela?”
“Who?” Mikhail asked, unable to resist goading her.
She shot him an annoyed look, then turned back to Zoltan. “This is a most unfortunate development since I had hoped to keep my true identity a secret. I did not anticipate that anyone would see past my clever disguise.”
With a sigh, she waved a hand in the air. “In hindsight, I now realize that it is nigh impossible to conceal someone as well-known as myself.” She cast another irritated look at Mikhail.
One corner of his mouth curled up, and she stiffened before turning back to Zoltan. “At any rate, it hardly signifies. Since we are all on the same team—”
“We?” Mikhail asked. Her eyes flashed at him. Damn, she was beautiful even when she was angry.
She turned away from him. “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted—since we are working together, I feel certain I can rely on your utmost discretion.”
“Lady Pamela,” Zoltan began.
“VampWoman,” she corrected him. “I will thank you to address me properly while I am in costume.”
“Lara, I’ll call you back.” Jack pocketed his cell phone. “What are you doing, Lady Pamela? Is this some sort of game where you masquerade as a superhero?”
She planted her hands on her hips. “This is not a game. I am quite serious, I’ll have you know.”
“Could be worse.” J.L. grinned. “She could pretend to be a supervillain.”
“I am not pretending,” she insisted. “I labored for a fortnight on this costume. And I studied fencing and martial arts for six months. I assure you, I am quite prepared to battle evil.”
“Why?” Mikhail asked.
She gave him an exasperated look. “Why not? I have my reasons, and they are of no concern to you.”
While Zoltan launched into an explanation that six months of lessons hardly sufficed when the Malcontents had centuries of experience, Mikhail tilted his head to look around her. In the nearby forest, a large group of Malcontents were teleporting in. Apparently, the cowards who had fled earlier were now returning with reinforcements. There had to be over fifty of them.
“Weapons?” he interrupted Zoltan’s lecture.
She gave him a frosty look. “When did you acquire the ability to speak more than one syllable at a time?”
He stepped closer. “Weapons?”
Her chin went up another notch. “Of course. I came well prepared.” She flipped back her cape to reveal her utility belt. “I have a sword, an assortment of knives and ninja stars, an automatic handgun with extra clips, and several hand grenades.”
“Hand grenades?” J.L. gave her an incredulous look. “Why would you want those?”
“They were on sale.” She gasped when Mikhail grabbed at her waist. “Unhand me, you brute!”
He wrenched a grenade off her utility belt, ripped out the pin, and tossed it into the forest.
“How dare you—” Her voice broke off when he pulled her against his chest as he twisted around.
A loud explosion boomed, followed by screams. He hunched over her as branches and leaves rained down on his head and shoulders.
Zoltan, J.L., and Jack drew their swords and rushed to the forest to destroy any survivors. He needed to go with them, but Pam was clinging to him, clutching handfuls of his black T-shirt in her fists.
She was in his arms at last.
Naked on a pile of furs. He shook his head. He couldn’t risk those thoughts right now. Too much lust, and his eyes would glow red. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, her face pressed against his chest. “What happened?” She lifted her head, and their eyes met.
Lavender blue. The color instantly sparked a surge of longing so intense he forgot to breathe. Time froze, and he was drowning as memories flooded his head, memories of love, joy, and everything that was beautiful in the world.
With a shake of his head, he squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t fall into that trap again. The grief and guilt had nearly destroyed him.
“Oh, dear. Are you in pain? Were you injured?”
Yes, he was in pain, but it had been a slap in the face he sorely needed. He’d vowed centuries ago never to involve himself with another vain and selfish woman. The damage from the first one had ravaged his heart, and he could never allow himself to be that vulnerable again.
His mind made up, he opened his eyes. Unfortunately, with one look at her, he was instantly rocked by another wave of lust. It gripped him by the balls and squeezed tight. Damn, he wanted her bad.
Grasping her by the upper arms, he moved her back a few inches. “I’m fine. Release me, so I can help the others.”
She gave him a blank look, then gasped. “Oh! I didn’t realize.” She released her grip on his T-shirt. “Oh, dear, I’ve wrinkled your shirt. I do apologize.” She attempted to smooth out the wrinkles.
He gritted his teeth at the feel of her hands rubbing across his chest. Naked and wet on a pile of furs. His groin swelled. Not now, dammit!
Her hands stilled. “Are you wearing body armor beneath this shirt?” Her gaze lifted and locked with his once more.
His leather pants bulged. “No.”
“Oh.” She stepped back, her cheeks blushing. “I beg your pardon. I didn’t know a man could be so . . . hard.”
You have no idea. He turned away abruptly as his vision turned pink.
“Oh dear, I must have offended you,” she said in a rush. “Obviously, I don’t make a habit of feeling men’s chests. I don’t recall my late husband being so . . . well, he was much more refined. A viscount, actually.”
A candy ass. Mikhail willed his eyes to stop glowing, but it didn’t work. Prim and proper Pam would be shocked.
“I don’t believe we have been formally introduced,” she continued. “I am Lady—”
“I know who you are.” And why not shock her? Why not show her how he honestly felt? Was he such a coward that he intended to keep it a secret for another hundred years? He turned back to face her.
With a gasp, she stepped back.
She was tinted pink, along with her surroundings, a sure sign that his eyes were glowing red. There was no need to write a sonnet in her honor or woo her with fine gifts. No need to say a word. He could simply let the fire in his eyes blaze the message to her soul.
Yes, I want you. I lust for you. Deal with it.
He could hear her heart racing. She opened her mouth, but no words came out. For the first time in centuries, Lady Pamela Smythe-Worthing had been rendered speechless.