We’re four days in, and we’ve already raised nearly $300 for our Greater Chicago Food Depository Virtual Food Drive! Great job everyone, and keep those donations coming! And don’t forget that ANY donation–big or small–will get you entered to win a Wi-Fi Amazon Kindle!
Since ya’ll are being sooooo incredibly generous, maybe I should tempt you with another HARD BITTEN teaser?
And if anyone feels motivated to give a gallon of milk to the GCFD as a thank-you, go right ahead! Just CLICK HERE.
Oh–and before I forget–you still have FIVE DAYS LEFT to enter the GOODREADS ARC contest. Penguin is giving away 12 ARCs of HARD BITTEN!
And now, without further ado . . . .
* * * *
As much as I loved casual, and as steamy as August had been so far, I knew jeans and a cotton tank top weren’t going to cut it tonight. We were heading to a rave. At best, it was going to be a party for vamps, and I needed to look the part; at worst, it was going to be a battle of vamps, and I was going to need the protection.
No, tonight was a night for leather. Well, leather pants, at least, since it was much too hot for the full ensemble.
I know, stereotypical vampire. I had that thought every time I pulled the leather out of my closet. But you ask any Harley rider who’s experienced road rash, and he’ll explain why he wears leather. Because it works. Steel can slice, and bullets can pierce. Leather makes those things a little harder to get through.
I pulled a longish, flowy, gray tank top from the closet and paired that with the leather pants, then pulled my hair into a high ponytail, leaving a fringe of bangs across my forehead. I skipped the Cadogan medal—I was attempting to fly undercover, after all—but I pulled a long necklace made of strands of pewter-colored beads over the tank. With my black boots, the ensemble looked half-runway, half-party-girl. It didn’t scream vampire soldier, which I figured could only help. Element of surprise, and all that.
I slid my dagger, inscribed on one end with my position, into my right boot, then stuck my phone and beeper into a tiny clutch purse. I wouldn’t take the purse or the beeper to the event, but at least I wouldn’t have to carry a handful of gadgets to the car. En masse, they weren’t exactly ergonomic.
I’d just added blush and lip gloss when there was a knock at the door. Luc, I assumed, having been sent upstairs by Ethan for a last-minute strategy session.
“About time,” I said, pulling the door open.
Green eyes stared back at me. Ethan hadn’t sent Luc upstairs; he’d come on his own. He scanned my outfit. “Date night?”
“I’m trying to fit in with the rest of the partygoers,” I reminded him.
“So I see. You’ve got weapons?”
“A dagger in my boot. Anything else would be too obvious.”
The emotion was clear in his eyes, but I needed to stay focused. I kept my voice neutral, my words careful. “I’ll be safe. And Noah will have my back.”
Ethan nodded. “I’ve updated Luc. The guards are all on standby. If you call, they come running, immediately. If you need anything, you call one of them. If anything happens to you—”
“I’m immortal,” I interrupted, reminding him of the biological clock he’d stopped from ticking. “And I have no interest in taking liberties with my immortality.”
He nodded, regret in his eyes. That look made it seem he was seeking a discussion between two lovers, not between boss and employee. Maybe he did have feelings for me. Real ones, unbound by obligation or position. But even if I was interested in pursuing that lead, now was not the time. I had a task to perform.
But before I could remind him of that and send him on his way, he cupped my face in his hands.
“You will be careful.” It was an order that brooked no argument. That was convenient, since words failed me.
“You will be careful,” he repeated, “and you will stay in touch with me, Luc, or Catcher. Darius will be here, so Malik and I may be indisposed. Get in contact with whomever you can. Take no unnecessary risks.”
“I promise I wasn’t planning on it. Not because you asked me to,” I hastily added, “but because I like being alive.”
He clearly wasn’t dissuaded, and stroked my jawline with his thumb. “You can run. You can keep running to the ends of the earth. But I won’t be far behind you.”
“No. I will never be far behind you.” He tipped up my chin so that I could do nothing else but look back into his eyes. “Do the things you need to do. Learn to be a vampire, to be a warrior, to be the soldier you are capable of being. But consider the possibility that I made a mistake I regret—and that I’ll continue to regret that mistake and try to convince you to give me another chance until the earth stops turning.”
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to my forehead, my heart melting even as my more rational side harbored suspicions.
“No one said love was easy, Sentinel.”
And then he was gone and the door was closed again, leaving me standing there, dumbfounded, staring at it.
What was I supposed to do with that?
(Copyright Chloe Neill and all that jazz)