Hot Toddy (multi-author series)
by Angela Knight
eBook ISBN: 1-59596-103-8
David Tate, the handsome cop Amelia once planned to marry, wants more than to make amends. He wants Amelia. As David takes revenge for his broken heart, Amelia realizes she doesn’t mind one bit. There’s sweet magic in a vampire’s kiss.
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Six Months Earlier
Amelia Patton clattered up the beige stairs of the apartment complex, the plastic dress bag hooked over one shoulder. It had been a long shift at the hospital, but the prospect of showing David her purchase had put a bounce back in her step. The gown was every little girl’s fairytale dream — seed pearls, white lace, and yards and yards of satin skirt, with a train that would reach halfway down the church aisle. The lace veil alone had her inner eight-year-old sighing in bliss.
Clutching her precious dress with one hand, she juggled the keys until she found the right one and inserted it into the lock. The door swung open, revealing the living room that had made real strides in livability over the past two months. When she’d first moved in, David’s furniture had consisted of a couch he’d bought at Goodwill and a really tacky table made from a cable spool. The big screen television and entertainment center were worth more than all the rest of the furniture in the apartment. God love the man, he was too butch for taste.
Amelia had coaxed him into replacing the castoffs with a lovely cream living room set, colorful pastel sketches, and a pretty floor lamp with a stained glass shade. She made good money as a nurse, she argued. They could afford it.
“Honey, I’m home!” God, she loved saying that.
No answer. She frowned. It was well after midnight; David would be home from his shift with the Atlanta Police. Unless something had happened… A frisson of fear slid up her spine, but she forced it away. “Hey, Dave! I went by the mall on my dinner break and picked up that gown I told you about. Wait ’til you see it…”
The bedsprings creaked from the next room. “Amelia.” His voice sounded hoarse.
“Hey, babe, you okay? Did you get into another fight?” That was how they’d met. David had come by the ER after a drug dealer resisted arrest with a little too much enthusiasm. She’d been smearing antibiotic cream across those sculpted ribs when he’d asked her to dinner. Amelia had looked into those crystalline blue eyes, and fallen helplessly in lust. She hadn’t been able to say no to him since.
A year later, she still lusted for him — but she’d also come to know and love his wicked sense of humor, strong character, and clever mind.
“Come here.” David normally reserved that cold, demanding tone for the prisoners he brought to the hospital after they’d tried to bust his head. He’d never before used it with her.
“David, what’s wrong?” Worried, Amelia hurried into the bedroom, the dress slung over her shoulder.
They’d bought the massive iron bedstead in an antique store when she’d moved in with him. David had teased her that its tall, ornate posts were perfect for bondage.
She’d still never expected to find him naked and shackled spread-eagle to it like a beefcake buffet.
David was a big man, as dark as she was blonde, broad shouldered and narrow hipped. He spent a couple of hours in the department gym four days a week, building the layers of rippling muscle he considered an occupational necessity for a beat cop. Adding to the impression of overwhelming masculinity, a dark ruff of hair spread across his chest and arrowed down his cobblestone belly toward his thick cock.
His face was just as broad and angular as his tough body, with prominent cheekbones and a regal nose, straight and narrow. His mouth added the only note of sensual vulnerability about him with its full lower lip and lush upper curve. A hint of a dimple graced one corner, giving his smile a boyish charm.
“Yum,” Amelia purred, grinning at the sight of him spread out in chains. “For me?”
“What do you think?” His cock stirred hungrily, and he stared at her like a cat watching a caged canary.
She rocked back on the rubber heels of her shoes and grinned. “This is an interesting switch. Usually I’m the one tied to that bed.”
“Come here,” he said again. His blue eyes blazed with lust.
Smiling wickedly, Amelia paused just long enough to hang the dress in the closet. Then, reaching for the hem of her scrubs, she started toward him. But before she could reach his side, she realized something was wrong. He was far too pale, in the way she’d come to associate with massive blood loss, and his face was drawn. She let the hem drop. “David, are you okay?”
“I said come here!” he roared, peeling his lips back from his teeth in a savage snarl.
He had fangs.
Sharp, white, damn near two inches long, they made his handsome, sensual mouth look alien and threatening.
They couldn’t possibly be real.
She gave him an uncertain smile. This must be some kind of new sex game, and yet… “What’s with the Count Dracula dental work? Halloween isn’t for three months.”
“Get over here!” He lunged at her so hard the bed danced on the floor, but he couldn’t break the chains. The iron posts began to bend.
Amelia jumped back, sick horror creeping over her with the knowledge this was no joke. Strong as he was, there was no way he should be able to bend the solid iron headboard. “Jesus, David! What the hell is going on?”
“What are you doing here?” a female voice demanded. Amelia whirled as a woman she’d never seen before stepped into the room. The stranger barely came up to her shoulder, a petite brunette with a wealth of sable hair and a small, heart-shaped face. She wore jeans and a black knit top that made the most of impressive breasts. Her frown was ferocious as she glared up at Amelia. “You don’t belong here, it’s too dangerous. You must leave until this is finished.” She stalked past on booted feet, pulling a familiar plastic bag out of her purse. Before Amelia could ask where the hell she’d gotten a unit of whole blood, she snatched a pair of scissors off the table, clipped the top off the bag, and thrust it into David’s mouth. He began to drink thirstily.
Blood. He was drinking blood.
Like some kind of vampire.
A sense of unreality crashed in. Amelia took a step back. David. Naked. With a strange woman. Chained to a bed. Drinking blood. “Who the hell are you? Will somebody please tell me what’s going on?”
“Get out!” the brunette snapped. She had an exotic accent, clipped and Slavic. “If he breaks loose from these chains, he’ll kill you. Go! When he is sane again, I will tell you.” She had fangs too.
Amelia’s jaw dropped. “You’re a vampire!”
The brunette shot her a glare. “Congratulations. Your grasp of the obvious is stunning. Now use those dubious wits and get out while you still can.”
Still drinking, David rolled his blue eyes in her direction. The depths of his eyes glinted red. There was nothing at all sane in his gaze.
Amelia whirled and ran.
She moved in with one of her nurse coworkers the next day. She never went back to the apartment; she was too spooked. Instead she bought new clothes and uniforms, changed her cell number, and did her best to disappear, broken heart and all.
Two weeks later, Amelia learned from another officer that David had resigned from the force.
She tried very hard not to think about him otherwise. She didn’t dare.
Yet for months it felt as if somebody had dug bloody chunks out of her heart with an ice cream scoop. The ache never went away, but in time she got better at ignoring it.
At least until the day five months after she left him, when the phone rang at the ER nursing desk. Amelia was closest, so she picked it up. “ER.”
It was like hearing the voice of a ghost. Her entire body flushed hot, then went ice cold. “David.”
“I’m… sorry. About what happened that night. The Change drove me a little crazy. You have no idea what it’s like becoming a…” He broke off. “But I’m back to normal. Or as close as I can come to it, without you in my life. God, Amelia, I miss you. I want to see you again. Please…”
Amelia hung up the phone and walked into the women’s bathroom. Sagging against the wall, she began crying in deep, ragged sobs.
The man she loved was a monster. And she didn’t dare see him again.
A brutally cold wind whipped through the hospital parking lot, and Amelia hunched deeper in her coat as she walked toward her car. She’d worked a double shift tonight, and she was exhausted. But she figured it was worth it. After all, her fellow nurses had families to celebrate Christmas with. Children. Husbands. Taking two shifts meant one of them got more time with the people who loved her.
And tired Amelia out too much to think.
Enough that she could face going home to the empty apartment she’d moved into four months ago. At least no tinsel and colored lights waited there to torment her with memories. Last year, David had tied her up and banged her brains out under the Christmas tree. She hadn’t been able to even look at holiday decorations this year without feeling a fist clench around her heart.
As she headed toward her car, a flicker of interest penetrated her depression. There was a black limo parked next to her car. A tall blond man stood next to it, his arm around a woman who was bundled against the cold. The two had their heads together, whispering.
A memory ambushed Amelia. David, standing with her in that same pose, his arms strong and warm around her. She caught her breath in pain and turned her face away from the pair. Trying to ignore them, she stepped between the cars and clicked her key fob to unlock the Honda.
“Amelia?” The man’s voice was deep, with a faint Slavic accent.
Automatically, she turned. “Yes?”
And froze, instantly recognizing the woman who stood beside him. It was the petite dark-haired woman who’d been with David that night.
Staring into those dark eyes, the world spun around her, propelled by raw terror.
“Turn around and put your wrists behind you,” the vampire said.
Like hell, Amelia thought. But to her horror, she felt her body turn, as if she was no longer in control of it. Fighting her rebellious arms as they obediently extended behind her, she gasped. “What? What the hell…? What are you…”
“Silence,” the woman snapped. “Dimitri?”
The blond man stepped up behind her. Amelia felt something cold close around her wrists. Handcuffs?
“Wait! Stop that!” Panicking, she tried to jerk away, but her body wouldn’t obey.
The woman opened the door of the limo. “Get in.”
“No!” Amelia wailed, even as her body mechanically slid into the car.
“Oh, do be quiet,” the vampire snapped. “This is your own fault. Go to sleep.”
Darkness crashed down.
* * *
Amelia regained consciousness to a metallic taste in her mouth. She was moving. Evidently they’d put her in that limo of theirs, since she could smell expensive leather. Her arms were twisted behind her in an uncomfortable pose.
“Are you ready to discuss this calmly?” a coldly familiar voice asked. The female vampire!
Fighting panic, Amelia lifted her head. By the looks of things, they were riding in the back of the limo she’d seen in the parking lot. The woman sat next to her. A man was driving; she could see nothing of him but broad shoulders and the dull gold gleam of his hair. The one the vampire had called Dimitri?
Amelia herself was belted in with her arms held behind her. She rolled her shoulders and discovered something cold — metal. That’s right, they’d handcuffed her. “What is this?” she croaked. “Where are you taking me?” Fear rose, cold and tight in her chest. They’re kidnapping me!
“Calm down,” the woman said. “I have no intention of hurting you.”
“Yeah?” Her voice cracked. Amelia grimaced, cleared her throat, and tried for a little more authority. “Just exactly what do you have in mind?”
Determination hardened her captor’s coolly beautiful face. “We’re going to put things back to rights.”
“We owe David Tate a debt,” the blond man said. Yes, that was definitely Dimitri. Amelia recognized the voice. “And we intend to pay it.”
“What kind of debt?” There, that was better. Much better to be pissed off than terrified. “Who the hell are you, anyway?”
The woman’s dark eyes fixed on her face. In the darkness of the car, there was a strange ruby glint in their depths, something not quite human. She nodded at the driver. “This is my husband, Dimitri. My name is Varina Karov. Your lover saved my life.”
Amelia licked dry lips. “I thought it was you,” she whispered. “You were with him that last night. You kept him from… hurting me.”
Those unhuman eyes narrowed. “He was not himself.”
“Yeah, I gathered that when he tried to rip out my throat.”
“He’s better now.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
Lush lips tightened with anger. Belatedly it occurred to Amelia that pissing off her captor wasn’t a good idea. “He’s through it now. He’s recovered.”
“As much as he can with you being so blindly stubborn,” her husband rumbled from the front seat. “You’ve hurt him badly.”
“I hurt him? He tried to kill me, mister!” Amelia glared at him, then turned to the woman beside her. “Where are you taking me?”
“To see him.” It was Dimitri who spoke.
“So he can kill me?” She wanted to scream.
Varina’s creepy ruby eyes flicked toward her. “Don’t be a fool. If I saved you six months ago, would I let him kill you now?”
“I don’t know. Would you?”
“We do not kill, no matter what your peasant superstitions say.”
“That’s not what you said six months ago.”
“He’d just made the transformation. It’s a dangerous time for us. But he has adjusted to his new nature. He’s come back to himself, and he wants to see you.”
“Well, I don’t want to see him.” Amelia turned her head away, surprised at the bitter jealousy she felt. David had spent the past six months — or longer — with this beautiful vampire. And now he wanted a reunion? She didn’t think so. “I told him I wanted nothing to do with him when he called.”
Not that her desires mattered, since she was evidently on her way to see him anyway. The thought of what he might do to her made Amelia feel faint and sick.
“He’s not a monster, Ms. Patton,” Varina said. “And neither am I.”
“Yeah, well, the whole kidnapping thing is not exactly a gesture of good faith.”
“We do not kill. We don’t even need that much blood. A pint or so, perhaps. Most of us take it from lovers, but he hasn’t touched another woman since you left. He drinks from blood bags.”
“Yeah? You obviously touched him plenty.” There it was again, that bitter stab of jealousy. This woman was so petite and delicate, she made tall, blonde Amelia feel like a cow.
“I was dying. I had no choice.” Varina’s lush mouth tightened in frustration. They were headed out of Atlanta, the lights of the city falling behind them. “And as I said, I’m married.”
“Happily married,” Dimitri growled. “I would have lost her if it hadn’t been for David.”
Despite the dictates of common sense, some aching part of Amelia had to know. “What happened?”
“Dimitri was out of town on business,” the vampire said. “I was hunting drug dealers…”
Varina shrugged and smiled slightly. “I get bored. I get hungry. And when Dimitri is out of town…” She stopped and sighed. “But it was stupid. I see that now. If I’d died, my husband would have died too.”
“We are linked in a blood bond,” Dimitri explained. “It’s a kind of psychic union we formed by sharing blood. She feeds from me, and though I am not a vampire, I drink a small amount from her. Her blood makes me immortal, while mine sustains her. But if one of us died…”
“The death would kill the other,” Varina finished grimly.
“Saved both of us,” Dimitri said.
Amelia licked her lips and turned her attention to the vampire. “So what happened?”
She hesitated a moment, gathering her thoughts. “That night I had my eye on a group of young dealers. They’d been the bane of their neighborhood, terrorizing elderly people and young families. I wanted to get them under control. If I drank from them, I could establish psychic dominance over the lot and stop them.”
“You didn’t drink from me, and yet you seem able to tell me what to do,” Amelia interrupted bitterly.
Varina shot her an irritated glance. “I’m in your presence. To control a group after I leave them, I must drink.” She shrugged. “But no sooner had I approached them than a rival group staged a drive-by shooting. I took a shotgun blast in the chest, and the dealers scattered.”
Amelia frowned. “But I thought it took a stake in the heart to kill a vampire.”
“Superstition,” Dimitri told her, meeting her gaze in the rearview mirror. “If you damage the heart badly enough, a vampire cannot heal.”
“I lay in that alley, bleeding out my life, when David found me. He bent over me.” Varina looked away, staring out the window at the darkness beyond. “I could smell the life in him. And I went… a little mad. I took him.”
“You attacked him?” Amelia’s jealous imaginings of vampire seduction vanished in a poof of sympathy. David had tried to help someone, and had had his life ripped away for his efforts. In a moment, he’d lost both his job and the woman he loved.
Varina nodded bleakly. “I lost control. By the time I regained myself, it was too late. He was dying. There was only one way to save him, and that was by making him a vampire.”
Amelia felt sick. If Varina was telling the truth, David hadn’t cheated on her — he’d been victimized through no fault of his own.
God, she wanted to believe that. But how could she trust anything Varina said? She wasn’t even human. How could Amelia even trust her own need to believe? What if Varina was using her powers to trick her?
Besides, no matter how he got that way, David was a vampire now. None of these people could be trusted. “Okay, fine. If David wants to call me and talk, I’ll listen. But in the meantime, stop the car and let me out!” That last emerged as a scream of mingled rage and fear.
The vampire shot Amelia a hard look, her pretty face impatient. “No.” She ground her teeth in frustration. “Eh, I’m wasting my time. I’ll let David explain — or whatever he cares to do to you.” Ruby eyes met hers. It was like falling into a crimson sea. “Sleep, you stubborn, jealous little fool.”
And for the second time that night, everything went black.
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Kindle ‖ Nook
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