Love Me Madly by J. Hali Steele

Love Me Madly by J. Hali Steele

Love Me Madly

Dirty Rotten Vampires, Book 2
by J. Hali Steele

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 07254-02338

[ Vampire Romance ]

With one undead and the other full of fire, they had two choices — fight dirty and love madly.

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Chapter One

Heat has a smell. Magical and as sweetly perfumed as an exotic night-blooming jasmine, warm air whispered around him, gently brushing his face with butterfly-soft wings. Keeping his eyes shut tight, Split Kryder embraced the scent, allowing it to render him helpless, exposing memories buried deep a long, long time ago.
Shit. Opening his eyes to the real world, he spied a spider vanishing into a crevice between ornate moldings joined high up in a corner across from him. He shoved a booted foot against the desk and sent the antique piece banging against the wall. He jumped up and strode to the corner, stood on the desk, and reached to rip wood away.
“Goddamn Philadelphia.” The gray, dank atmosphere was colder than his undead heart. Split slammed his fist into the wall and pulled chunks of red brick away.
“Sophronius!”
Spinning, he eyed Vigier Stone, a vampire with slightly more skill and strength than himself. “Don’t call me that.”
“Have you lost the capability to levitate along with your mind?” Vig, a member of the vampire council, elicited fear and respect because of his position. “Get off my desk; that was a gift from…”
“There’s a spider in here.” Yeah, I’ve lost it. Screwing with Vigier was not wise, but the only thing Split feared at the moment was going fuck-nuts if he didn’t get the hell out of the City of Brotherly Love.
“You could have killed it with a flick of your fingers.” Vig blinked the behemoth desk with a myriad of cubbyholes and paper stacks back to its original position in the office, leaving Split hanging in the corner. “Fix that gaping hole or I send your sorry ass after the eight-legged horror.” He shuddered. “I can’t believe you disturbed the nest.”
Split contemplated the council member. “Whatever.” Landing lightly on the balls of his feet, he waved a hand and watched stone and mortar fly into place and the splintered wood bind together, forming a loose bond in the corner. “Has your almighty council found me a partner yet? I’m growing cobwebs sitting here.”
“Insolence has won you no friends on our council.”
“Those bastards sit in luxury while slayers keep demon mixes from chewing their lazy, fat asses off.”
Vig smiled wanly at the corner as he tightened the molding with a mental nudge Split didn’t miss. “Have you ever seen a fat vampire?”
“You get my drift.”
“I’ve a mind to send you to handle our problem with rogue vamps in upstate New York.”
“Ha ha. Who knew you had a sense of humor?” Split, hailing from the west, deduced the growing problem in the desert required the attention of a seasoned slayer. “The demons coming from below are much deadlier, and they are impregnating our females at an alarming rate, creating more mixed breeds than ever.”
Demi-vamps posed a serious threat when they turned malevolent and preyed on humans. Stupid shits craved blood, but without fangs to drink they left grisly crime scenes necessitating fiery obliteration. Pure demons remained unaffected by the contagion and refused lending aid in destroying those who were. Unlike vampires, they survived without partaking human blood, and Satan couldn’t care less how many souls they stole leaving empty shells only resembling a human.
“Therefore, we have to work harder at keeping our existence veiled from the masses.” Vig reached for a rolled piece of paper on his desk and handed it over. “Your partner is Tang Odette.”
“About damn time.” He opened the missive and perused the contract. A month wasn’t bad, in fact, he figured on six at the least. Split hadn’t hunted in a while… “Whoa a fucking minute.” He scowled at the vamp. “This has nothing to do with my being out of the game for so long?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Barringer’s home with my daughter and their child. That leaves me your best slayer. Why such a short assignment?”
“Your partner needs a break after this.”
Split eyed the name again. Odette. He hadn’t heard it before and being as old as Vigier, he knew everyone except some of the younger vamps. “Who is Tang, and please do not tell me you’re saddling me with him if he’s a beginner.”
“Not quite, but…”
The door flew open, and before Split turned, the smell assailed his nostrils.
Night-blooming jasmine.
He spun to face his soon-to-be partner. Suffocating heat vibrated through the room and red eyes glared at him. “No. Fucking. Way.”
A goddamn demi-vamp nearly as tall as him studied Split. The exotic odor, the warm air, it hadn’t been his imagination at all. The council probably closeted the bitch in the next room.
Vigier cleared his throat. “I did my best cloaking her to give you time.”
He jerked around. “Time?” There wasn’t enough time in the world to convince him to go after a band of deadly, malicious demi-vamps with a mixed breed in tow. Hell, if she succumbed to their powers and turned against him, Split would be on his own. “Enter my mind again; I’ll put you on your ass.”
Peering over his shoulder, he watched her lips curve into a smile. “I’m no different than Armada.”
The fact she even knew his daughter’s name and her heritage burned an acidic path from Split’s stomach to his throat. He’d always kept a tight rein on any thoughts of Armada and her heritage. Working in unison with Barringer Ganteau, his daughter’s lover and a vamp damn near as strong as Split, knowledge of Armada’s demon lineage should have remained buried too deeply to be discovered by the demi-vamp grinning at him. Someone stronger than both him and Ringer had a hand in this. He turned and glowered at Vigier. “If you allow anything or anyone to harm Armada, I will tear your world apart.”
Vig crossed his arms. “Split, did you not profess your daughter was a stronger woman than our pure vamps?”
“Armada’s different.”
“In what way?”
“Ringer and I educated my daughter, I know her abilities.” Shit, he had already lost this battle. “How long has she trained?” He squinted at Vig. “And why the hell can’t she dematerialize?” He gleaned that information from the demi-vamp’s mental path.
“In answer to your first question, much longer than Armada.” He pretended to straighten papers. “The last… we don’t know.” Vig’s nervousness, his hesitation, indicated he withheld vital information.
“Christ, she’s one of the mixed breeds kept alive and cloaked by the council.”
The lines around Vig’s mouth lessened. “Precisely.” He moved to sit behind his desk. “We need to know their capabilities and if they can be trusted.”
“Good idea, let’s throw my ass into the hellfire.”
“I am not invisible.” Something in her voice pulled Split around. Her eyes flashed from demon-red to vampire-violet and back again. “Don’t treat me as such.”
For the first time Split really saw her. Dark blonde hair fell in waves over squared shoulders and down her ramrod-stiff back. Wayward tendrils framed vampire-pale cheekbones. Tall and dignified, her long, muscular legs trembled and her chin jutted forward stubbornly as she pierced both men with a cold stare.
Hidden for how long, who trained her, and what torture did she tolerate? If anyone captured and treated Armada in that way, Split would have torn his fucking head off. He searched her mind hard for a parental name and came away empty.
It finally sank in and he whipped toward Vig. “Her father?” The undead motherfucker had to be old as dirt. “Is he a councilman?”
He shrugged. “Her name is…”
Anger permeated the office and Split fought hard to stem its suffocating effect. “I am Tangerine Odette — I have no family.”
Studying Vigier, Split nodded. “You owe her the name of her father.” He had speculated if Armada’s years of loneliness and not knowing him as her father would yet evidence fallout. Discounting whatever voodoo powers yet to be honed, her demon blood was as strong as her mother’s, and carrying his old vampire blood, she could wield destruction if she so chose. Thank God Barringer loved and guided her. Still, Split shouldered the responsibility of keeping information from Armada. Even though he cared for his daughter secretly, saw that she had financial stability, and set powerful shields to protect and keep her safe until she was of age to learn vampire ways, and taught her how to keep the council at bay, he had left her alone to fend for herself. When he did go to her, he found Armada close to death.
“I’m only a member of the council. My… my control is limited.”
“Fuck you, you cold bastard.”
“Enough.” Frigid air blasted through the room. “New York is still a possibility.”
“Kiss my ass.” Split reached Tangerine’s side in two strides. He gripped her hand and yanked her out of the councilman’s headquarters and into the atmosphere.
Sophronius!
He seethed inside at the idea the council treated Tangerine Odette badly. Sending a mental shove, Split annihilated Vigier Stone’s precious antique desk, splintering the wood into a thousand pieces.
When they reached his club, The Cemetery, in the high desert of California, he released her in a whirlwind and left her standing at the bar. After striding to his office, Split entered and slammed the door shut. Settling behind his desk, he placed his face in his hands and took a deep breath. As he leaned back in the chair, pain shot through his temples.
I expect a report on Tang’s performance after your first foray.
Vig, leave it.
She’s not your daughter, Split.
He rolled the name Tang around his mouth, tasted her sultry essence filling the air. No, Tangerine Odette was not his daughter. Split adjusted his cock and struck back at Vig with a mental hammer. Her name is Tangerine.
Annoyance washed over Split at the sound of the slightly older vampire’s laughter.
* * *
Though Tang appreciated Split Kryder’s kindness and acknowledgement of her as a sentient being, she was wary of the reason. She had spent days in the council’s well-appointed arena preparing for battle and wanted to destroy as many diseased mixed breeds as possible. If she had her way, she’d have already been in the field with another pure vampire. Those instructing her during her stay seemed oblivious to the fact their agendas were the same. They treated her as if she carried some sort of deadly demon plague that would destroy them if she so much as breathed on the cold, undead bastards.
Thoughts of her injured sister battered Tang’s mind, forcing her to tighten her shields before reminiscing. Kiwi Odette had stood with Tang against an extremely powerful band of demi-vamps and fought valiantly after their vamp familiar fell and the last horned piece of shit lay mutilated. Cremation became the acceptable way vampires obliterated every vestige of the foul, dead creatures, and any demi-vamp still alive vanished to the nearest council’s compound for examination. Without strength to see to that part of their duties, and with the sisters’ vampire guard dead, demon mixes rotted in the field until a fiery pit opened and swallowed their remains.
The council found Tang and Ki at a safe house days later. Aware the group ascertained the demise of the vampire and each deadly opponent while she and Ki remained battle-weary and unable to safeguard their minds; Tang waited for questions but they never came.
Bone-tired, almost dominated during the battle, and unable to dematerialize, Tang had witnessed a specter rampage through the demi-vamps, and with little more than a touch, it sent twisted, broken bodies to the ground. Had the council gathered that vision from her mind?
The bartender broke her reverie. “What you drinking?”
Split Kryder wasn’t the type to budge unless ready, so she sat at the bar. “Rye, neat.” Surrounded by vampires, Tang needed something to warm her insides. “Make it a double.” The effect of alcohol would be minimal, but she’d welcome the burn it would bring. She turned at the sound of the entrance door swinging open and eyed a tall, lean, and very handsome vampire wearing his dark blond hair in a mohawk with closely shaved sides. A young style for one Tang sensed was much, much older. His violet eyes pierced her and she felt him attempt to delve into her psyche. It wasn’t until he lifted into the air and slammed against the closed door that Tang realized Split had also entered from the back and shuttered her mind as if it were a steel trap.
“Smelled you a mile away.”
Standing, the vampire dusted the backside of artfully torn blue jeans and laughed. “You never change, Soph.”
“And you still carry the rank odor of a rotting whale carcass.” The stranger hit the door harder this time and a crack slashed down the heavy oak wood. “Eustace Gerlach, if you’re looking for a drink or a meal you found the right place.” Split strangely observed Tang before he continued. “If you’re searching for anything else, you’ve made a grave mistake.”
Tang watched the man and noted fire in his eyes as he rolled his shoulders. The smile was gone. “I don’t make mistakes.”
“There’s always a first time.”
Try as she might, she was unable to breach either master vamp’s shields because her mind remained anchored to Split. “Asshole.”
Satan’s spawn. The words slammed into her mind before he turned his attention back to the visitor.
“Guess I’ll settle for a drink while I watch the fireworks.” Fangs glistened and the vamp’s lips lifted at the corners as he strolled to the bar and took a seat two away from Tang. “Call me Staas, I’ll call you Split.” He chuckled. “Or I could call you grandpa.” Facing the bartender, he ordered. “Gin on ice.”
Tang expelled air trapped in her lungs when Split laughed. “You two know each other from medieval times?”
“She just called you old.”
“Dutch bastard, she called us old.” Split sat between her and Staas. “Three, four hundred years since you graced these parts.”
“The desert is too hot and dry.” Staas ran a hand nervously through his hair. “I much prefer the cold, crisp air and seaways of the Netherlands.” He shrugged. “It’s been some time since we fought rogue vampires together, a long time before the onslaught of demons rising from hell to disturb our supremacy.”
The two men began to communicate mentally, leaving her in the dark until Split asked, “Council doesn’t know?”
“Should they all know everything?”
“Goddamn it.” Split pivoted on the stool and peered at Tang. “Get some rest, we leave at dawn.”
“You can’t command me to sleep.” Tang realized instantly she’d misjudged Split’s earlier kindness.
“I can.”
She didn’t miss him using his hand to relocate his cock to a more comfortable position. Though the action gave her hope of having power, albeit sexual, over the old vamp, it astonished Tang how her own body reacted to such a small thing. Heat suffused her body and the seat of her pants grew uncomfortably damp. “I’m not as old and tired as you.”
“The old thing is wearing thin.” Violet eyes swirled red with more than anger. “I don’t know why you can’t dematerialize, but I do know I can vanquish your ass to a locked room in my cellar.” She shook her head when his voice continued to whisper through her mind. Small! Honey, your scent belies that belief.
“I dare…” Before she floated into the atmosphere, Tang heard Split question Staas.
“Why are you telling me?”
* * *
Tang bristled over her relegation to the bowels of the club until she glanced around. Surprise invaded her senses at how tastefully decorated the large space appeared. Overstuffed furniture upholstered in charcoal gray dotted dark, polished wood floors. A small, curved bar filled one corner and a big screen TV bordered by other pieces of electronic equipment managed not to vie with paintings by artists long dead hanging in places of honor on rose-colored walls. The apartment was located deep underground, perplexing Tang because, contrary to popular belief, vampires enjoyed daylight. Diseased demi-vamps, or malevolents, preferred to avoid the sun and stalked at nightfall. Probably why Split chose daybreak to hunt. The filthy creatures would be sated and seeking shelter.
She gathered one of two doors at opposite ends of the big room opened to a bedroom and one most likely led out. Walking over and trying one, she found the knob freezing cold and locked. “Dirty, rotten vampire.” Tang blew on her hand to warm it as she strode to the second door. Weary of touching anything as icy as the last, she hesitated before twisting the knob. It opened to a large, sumptuous sleeping area. A brass lamp rested on a nightstand, casting soft light over a heavy wooden four-poster bed with its headboard against one wall. Across from it, another door stood ajar.
Walking to peer into the smaller room, breath hitched in Tang’s throat at the size of Split’s sunken tub. “Guess he’s not that dirty.” Dark blue enamel outfitted with gold fixtures looked inviting. “Shit, he’ll be a while reminiscing about good old days.” Tang twisted the hot water tap to full blast. Finding a bottle of lavender body wash in the rack hanging over the showerhead, she poured it under the hot stream before stripping off her clothes and kicking the dirty leather garments into a corner. An enticing scent and steam beckoned her into the tub.
Tang lay back, closed her eyes, and gave herself up to an overactive imagination.
All her years closeted away receiving instructions, she’d given in to a handful of mixed breeds, taking full advantage of enjoying their company when possible. Currently, the only vision dancing in her head was that of an arrogant, cold, undead son-of-a-bitch.
She slipped one hand between her legs and teased her clitoris, while with the other Tang pinched her nipples. Alternating hard buds between thumb and fingers sent already hot blood racing through her veins. “Shit,” she grumbled at not finding an image aside from his powerful enough to hold her concentration. Jamming two fingers into her pussy did nothing but spark new embers of desire.
Split Kryder’s face, his overly long, chestnut brown hair and violet eyes took center stage. Tang envisioned his tall, muscular frame covering hers, giving her what she needed to put out the fire ravaging her body and rendering her weak. Working fingers back and forth, massaging her clit, felt good, but…
“I could do that so much better.”
Barely able to lift her eyelids, she peered at Split through the steamy mist. “Can you?”
“Come here.” The black tee clinging to his body disappeared and bared clenching abdominal muscles.
It was highly unlikely Split would step into a tub of skin-blistering hot water; however, Tang was more than aware he could do as he pleased once he eradicated the barrier. After all, he was a master vampire and his powers far surpassed any she’d known aside from councilman Stone. She continued to masturbate, hiking hips from steaming water each time she plunged fingers into her vagina. Excitement and lust careened into her mind watching him watch her. “Make me.”
Red eyes swirled and his chest heaved. “Get the fuck out, Tang.”
“If I don’t?”

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