Armored Hearts by Angela Knight

Armored Hearts by Angela Knight

Armored Hearts

by Angela Knight

Changeling Press

Ebook ISBN: 07419-02393

[ SciFi BDSM Romance, MF ]

Lieutenant Zara Tahir needs Nick Rand as badly as he needs her. Without Nick’s blood, Zara’s overactive immune system will kill her.

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Chapter One


Hunger chewed Captain Nick Rand until he felt like a bone in a wolf’s jaws. It wasn’t just a hunger of the body, though his gut felt hollow and his hands had a tendency to shake. Didn’t matter how much food he ate, how much water, coffee, or whiskey he drank. None of it touched the craving that gnawed at his brain, making it hard to think about anything but what he needed. Even now, when the enemy might be drawing a bead on his skull, all he wanted was blood. Hot, red and seductive as a siren — a taste that reminded him of sex and the cool touch of a woman’s hands.

Rand fought to ignore that bottomless need. He didn’t have time for it now, no matter how hungry he was. Enemy temp shelters surrounded him, dome shapes dappled with camouflage until they were indistinguishable from the forest floor.

They made his shoulder blades itch.

Invisible, a silencer field muting the sound of his footfalls, he padded between the shelters, beam rifle raised as he swept its muzzle from side to side, scanning for potential attackers. His stomach growled so loudly he wondered if the noise could be heard outside his silencer field. He ignored his hunger, fighting to concentrate past the savage need. As he’d been fighting for every endless hour of the previous nine days.

Instead, Rand focused on the familiar process of searching the enemy camp. He could hear the rasp of his breathing in his helmet as he ducked into one empty tent after another, though the silencer muted the sound past four or five centimeters.

In his helmet com, he heard the murmur of his men reporting in as they filtered through the camp, searching for the enemy. They had no more luck than he’d had. The Falaran Coalition battalion had melted into the surrounding forest, leaving behind smashed equipment, hastily abandoned meals and wrecked temporary shelters. Apparently they’d been alerted to the approach of the G.A.E. force at the last minute, dropped everything, and run like hell. Wise of them, considering they were outgunned and outmanned. The colony was small, without the economic resources Godsson’s more established planetary population could command. Their armor was certainly no match for the G.A.E.’s.

Still, they could have left someone behind. Maybe in camouflage armor like his own, surrounded by a field of energy that bent light, rendering the sniper invisible.

But you could bend all the light you wanted to, and it wouldn’t stop Rand from picking up your scent. Vampires had great noses. And great speed, great endurance, and enough raw strength to take on a mech unit with no backup at all. Which was why he had been hired in the first place, despite the G.A.E.’s disdain for mercenaries in general and vampires in particular. The generals who led the Glorious Army of the Enlightened didn’t know a damned thing about war. Nick Rand, on the other hand, had spent the past two decades fighting in a dozen wars on a dozen planets. His combat reflexes weren’t just muscle memory — they were burned in all the way down to his DNA.

Which was why the G.A.E.’s brass had decided they could ignore his food preferences.

He moved in a liquid glide into the next tent. Sweeping his rifle over the whole space in a smooth arc, he ordered a sensor scan. The answer came back a heartbeat later.

Sensor scan completed. No enemy located, said the computer implanted at the base of his brain. He breathed deep, scenting the air just to be sure. And froze.

The tent belonged to a woman. Actually, more than one. Perfume lingered in the air: lilacs and star roses and the natural scent of female bodies. Rand inhaled, drinking in the lush aroma. His eyes closed for just a heartbeat as he imagined the taste of blood and pussy.

Months. It had been months since he’d had a woman. Godsson taught females were corrupting influences who’d blunt his soldiers’ warrior instincts. He insisted women belonged at home, teaching their children piety and submission to the will of their Most Exalted — i.e., Godsson himself.

Yeah, right. Why the female cultists tolerated this airlock blow, Rand had no idea. It was no wonder the million or so Falarans had refused to join Godsson’s six million plus worshipers, badly outnumbered or not.

I should never have taken this fucking job. Never mind that he’d needed work. Peace had broken out all over with its usual rotten timing. Absolutely no one had been hiring. Had it not been for Godsson’s decision to invade the neighboring planet Falara, Rand would have been forced to find a security job, and he hated bodyguard work with a passion.

But after a year with the G.A.E., the idea of keeping some arrogant prick alive was starting to sound pretty damned good. For one thing, he wouldn’t be slowly starving to death among zealots who considered him a pervert.

He wished G.A.E. HQ would quit fucking around and send him a new hemosynther. The last time he’d commed them, Supplies and Requisitions claimed the ‘synther was on order, scheduled to arrive from Earth next week in a shipment of medical equipment. Rand had told the requisitionist it had better, or he was coming to HQ to sink his teeth into something with a pulse.

The man had blanched. As if Rand would touch his sweaty neck with a nine meter radiation probe. His blood would probably taste like burned coffee and stale doughstries anyway.

Growling under his breath, Rand left the tent — and heard the scream coming from the other end of camp. A woman’s voice, crying out in rage and pain.

He was running before the echo died.

* * *

If she hadn’t been so sick, she could have made the G.A.E. bastards pay a higher price when they found her in the middle of the camp. Unfortunately, it had been more than a month since her vampire had died, and Lieutenant Zara Tahir was deep in blood sickness.

They surrounded her, a yelling, laughing mob of massive shapes in helmets and black armor emblazoned with Godsson’s halo and planet logo. Those suits gave them enough raw power to take on a blast tank and win.

Even so, Zara hadn’t made it easy for them. Even in her lighter V.S.S. armor, she had the advantage in speed and agility. Fighting ferociously, she triggered a spontaneous nosebleed. Feeling the hot wetness rolling down her upper lip as she spun and kicked, she snarled. It had been far too long since she’d tasted vampire blood. Wouldn’t be long before her own immune system killed her.

Not that these fuckers would give it the chance. They were pissed, and they planned to kill her. And worse.

It took all ten of them to get her down, spread eagled, and stripped. Their strength enhanced by their mechsuits, they shredded her light V.S.S. armor like wrapping paper. Hands clamped down on her arms and legs, pinning her to the camp’s packed dirt so painfully she knew she’d have bruises.

Assuming she lived that long.

“Hold her still!” A man in lieutenant’s armor straightened, reached down to his belt and clicked something. The groin cup of his armor slid aside, revealing a jutting erection.

Zara bucked again with a desperate wrenching twist that caught her captors by surprise. Snatching a fist free, she plowed it at the officer’s balls. He jerked back and she missed, though so narrowly she felt the brush of his pubic hair against her knuckles. “Shit!” he swore, spinning away. “That’s it, bitch!” To the men around him, he snarled, “Don’t you fuckin’ let her move. I’m going to teach that cunt her place. You can have whatever’s left.”

When he returned a moment later, looming behind the men who held her down, the lieutenant held a pulse rifle in both hands. He aimed the rifle butt at her face.

Knowing the blow would quite likely kill her, Zara sneered. “Go ahead, you cowardly son of a whore.”

The butt flashed as it began its descent…

“What the fuck is going on here?”

At the furious male roar, her attacker stopped dead in mid-swing, his eyes widening behind his faceplate. The whole mob jerked to face the roar’s owner, their body language shouting guilty alarm.

Good, Zara thought. A senior officer. Maybe he’d save her.

Then again, maybe he wanted to be first in line.

She’d heard Godsson had recently decreed that raping enemy female combatants was not a sin. They were, after all, unnatural creatures in daring to resist Godsson’s “holy” plans for the colony. He said it was his warriors’ responsibility to teach them proper submission.

That kind of callous bullshit was exactly why Zara had joined the Falaran Coalition Army. She had no desire to live under any cult leader’s thumb — especially an asshole who called himself God’s Son.

“We, ah… found an enemy combatant,” the mob’s leader stammered.

“Yes, Lt. Godshammer, I know,” the officer said, his voice steely with sarcasm. “I heard her screaming from the other end of the camp. What, you boys thought you’d commit a war crime or two? Not on my watch. Get the hell away from her.”

“But His Most Holy said…”

“You are not raping that woman, Godshammer.” His tone dropped into a menacing hiss. “Get. Off.”

They let her go and scrambled away with a speed that was almost comical. Without even being told, all ten fell into formation, lining up at attention as if hoping it would save them from their commander’s rage. The lieutenant paused to close his groin cup, fumbling in his haste.

Zara lay in the dirt where she’d been left, too bloodsick to do anything else now that the immediate threat was over.

Boots padded toward her. “Are you all ri…” The officer broke off.

Oh, hell, what now? She looked wearily up at him as he stared down at her.

Zara froze.

He was the biggest damn vampire she’d ever seen in her life. It looked as if they’d turned somebody who’d been genetically engineered to begin with. She’d heard rumors that the G.A.E. had hired vampire mercenaries in response to the Falaran Coalition Army’s Vampire Defense Program. Godsson had ranted against vampires being perverts too many times for the G.A.E. to produce them outright, so hiring mercs was the best their army could do.

In any case, the G.A.E. had obviously gotten its money’s worth. The vamp — a captain by his shoulder stripes — was at least two meters tall, and his shoulders looked about a meter wide in his black combat armor. His open faceplate revealed a sharply sculpted face that was all chiseled masculine angles and eyes the metallic gold of ancient coins. His black hair was cropped in a ruthless military cut that only emphasized his brutal good looks. That staggering male beauty hit her first, but an instant later she realized something much more frightening.

Judging from his pallor and the raw hunger in his eyes as he stared down at her, it had been a week or more since he’d fed.

“Shit,” she said wearily. “Your hemosynther’s on the blink.”

“You blew it up nine days ago,” he told her hoarsely.

* * *

Sweet Jesus, the grunts had captured a bloodsub. Rand glanced around for downed G.A.E. bodies — unconscious or dead — and was surprised there weren’t any. They’d been lucky she hadn’t managed to take a few of them out before they got her down. Bloodsubs had more than enough strength, speed and skill to take on armored troopers and kick their collective asses. That was, after all, what ‘subs had been designed to do… along with keeping vampires alive and sane.

And where the hell was her vampire? If he’d had a woman like this, he sure wouldn’t let her get attacked and almost raped. Not as long as he was still breathing, anyway.

Which meant her vamp had to be dead.

The bloodsub lay panting in the shreds of her red Vampire Support armor, looking like a gift from the gods, beautiful even with dirt smeared all over that luscious body. Her legs looked delightfully long and curving, her breasts round and white, with candy pink nipples that seemed to beg for his teeth. Her waist was tiny, her hips just wide enough to cradle a hungry vampire. And her swan’s throat was white and long, carotid beating a rhythm of temptation Rand could hear where he stood.

Her face was fully a match for that exquisite body, from Slavic cheekbones to full pink lips, green eyes wide as she looked up at him, lashes long and feathery. A gorgeous blonde mane of hair foamed around her face. He wanted to wrap it around his fist while he fucked and fed on her. Now.

Rand fought down the lust enough to manage speech. “Are you all right?” he asked hoarsely. “Did they… ?”

She shook her head and climbed wearily to her feet. “You got here in time.”

Rand tried not to stare as her lovely breasts juddered with each panting breath. Dragging his famished gaze away, he turned the approach of the small squad of men he trusted at his back. The five jogged up in their black mechsuits, staring at the naked Falaran. He picked out a familiar round face with guileless blue eyes. “Corporal Rainsley, check the shelters. Find this woman something to wear.”

“Yessir.” Rainsley turned and loped away like the earnest young idealist he was.

Rand turned back to the captive — only to find her staring at him with a bloodsub’s erotic hunger. Sucking in a breath, he somehow managed not to fall on her like the ravening animal he was one deep breath from being.

Nine days, nine hellish days without blood, surrounded by Godssonist zealots he didn’t dare feed from. It would probably set off a mutiny, Godsson’s theology on the subject of vampires being what it was. Rand had worked too hard for too many years to win a reputation as a capable, coolly disciplined merc to blow it all just because he was a little hungry.

Scan that woman, he ordered his computer implant. What’s wrong with her?

Her body temperature is abnormally high, and it appears her immune system is attacking her cells. High probability of blood sickness. I estimate it has been weeks since she’s drunk vampire blood.

Well, shit, Rand thought. He had never actually seen a sub with a case of blood sickness, but he knew how it worked. Her immune system was killing her as it tried to destroy the vampire virus that infected every cell of her body. She needed a blood exchange in order to reinforce the virus, subdue the autoimmune disease, and return her body to health and strength.

Rand had exactly what she needed.

As if in an effort to seduce him, her body was pumping pheromones that called to his with such power he had to fight the instinct to jerk her into his arms.

Rainsley returned to hand her a bundle of clothing. She took it, thanked him stiffly, and started to dress, her gaze wary, her movements slow with exhaustion. Her hands shook.

Rand growled, gesturing at the bruises that speckled her smooth skin like blue and purple camouflage. “This is utterly unacceptable. The next man I find abusing a captive will…” He let a little pause develop and bared his aching fangs, letting their imaginations fill in the threat. “… Definitely regret it.”

Lieutenant Godshammer spoke up again, sullen rebellion in his eyes. “Begging the Captain’s pardon, but His Holy Exalted did say we have an obligation to, ah… discipline female soldiers for their lack of femininity. I realize you don’t walk the True Path…” Which was the bastard’s “subtle” way of reminding his fellow soldiers that Rand Was Not One of Them. “… But we have the right to…”

“… Commit war crimes?” Rand demanded, losing his temper. “Violate the interplanetary treaty Godsson himself signed? Because that’s exactly what the attempted rape of an enemy combatant is, lieutenant.”

“But…”

“But nothing. I took an oath to uphold the Treaty of Vermillion when I became a mercenary, and I will not permit those under my command to violate it because somebody had a fucking boner. Is that clear?”

Godshammer flinched just slightly from the rage on his face, though the man obviously tried to suppress his reaction.

When he said nothing, Rand looked from the lieutenant’s face to his accomplices. “I will review your combat comps’ recordings of this incident, from the moment you first detected her until I pulled you off. You’ll be informed of my decision.” He swept another acid glare over them. “Dismissed. Finish securing this base. And if you find any other enemy combatants, notify me.”

At that, all the men saluted, lowered their faceplates, and scattered, armored boots thumping as they hurried off.

Rand turned toward his new captive and took her elbow, steering her gently toward a nearby shelter. “In here. I’d like to have a word.” He had to get her somewhere private. It wouldn’t do to lambaste his men for trying to rape her, only to let them see him taking her blood. Never mind he could smell her desperation, which was every bit as great as his own. They knew nothing about the relationship between bloodsub and vampire dominant, wouldn’t understand the difference between a blood exchange and rape. Still, he needed her. Had to have her.

If she lets me.

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