Home > Hot Vampire Kiss (Vampire Wardens #1)

Hot Vampire Kiss (Vampire Wardens #1)
Lisa Renee Jones

Chapter One

Thirst tore through Evan Brooks -- a craving far richer, far more demanding, than anything the patrons of the bar he tended would ever experience. It was a clawing need that had nothing to do with alcohol and everything to do with blood. Her blood -- the petite blonde who'd walked through the doors of the Temple, Texas bar "Shooters" in a gust of hot wind that melded with her scent and insinuated it inside his nostrils. She smelled of jasmine and innocence, of temptation he didn’t dare act upon. And he would bet the last breath he had in his lungs that she tasted of honey and sighed like an angel.

He watched her cast a furtive look around the room, evaluating the clusters of the Friday night crowd gathering at wooden tables, clouded with smoke, and exhaling chatter that fused with the Hank Williams honky-tonk tune. Her hair was piled haphazardly on top of her head, and she swiped at a long strand falling from a clasp, a nervous tremble to her hand confirming what he suspected. Going to a bar alone was unfamiliar territory for her.

Abruptly, she started walking across the hardwood floor, toward the lonely end of the bar, with the six vacant high-back dark oak seats that matched the paneled walls. Focusing on her destination as if it offered her some form of escape. Had she glanced to her right, to where Evan stood, she might have reconsidered the wisdom of seeking solitude in a place where there would be only her and a big, overpowering male with long raven hair and midnight black eyes smoldering with…lust. No. His little Blondie headed straight for him. A woman living dangerously and she didn’t even know it.

“Two more beers down here,” came a shout from the other end of the bar.

The interruption was both irritating and perhaps ideal. Evan had no desire to see this woman run away, though it was exactly what he should want. He didn’t have time for distractions. He was a "Warden," a vampire who hunted those who preyed on humans. In this case, a werewolf. Unfortunately, the wolf had killed five Houston women before the Vampire Council had gotten word and sent Evan and his brothers to track it down into south Texas, in the small city of Temple.

Yet, despite knowing the business at hand, Evan found his gaze lingering wistfully on the soft sway of the female’s hips, a moment before he yanked two Buds from a cooler and walked them down to the two thirty-something guys at the far end, who, like the woman, wore scrubs. Most of the crowd here were either staff or visitors of Scott and White Hospital directly across the street.

"Shooters" was the staff’s place of escape, where they all came to drink away whatever ailed them that couldn’t be cured by modern medicine. This is where they talked about what happened inside that hospital, and that is exactly why Evan needed to be here. The wolf had a thing for young girls, and their sisters and friends. The sooner he knew of one victim, the more chances he had to save another.

Evan plopped the beers in front of the men and left them to their drinking. In the week since the owner had taken one look at Evan’s big, intimidating – don’t cross me or dare to cross anyone in this bar – persona, and hired him. Evan already knew these guys as regulars. They’d run a tab of at least a half dozen each before paying out, and they were nowhere near that now.

Hopefully, he wouldn’t be around long enough to find out anything more about them, or anyone else in this bar — besides Blondie, perhaps. Her, he wanted to know about. But once he found his prey, he’d be gone, and for everyone’s sake, that needed to be soon.

His gaze attached to the woman again, a predatory thrum in his veins as he sauntered down the length of the bar to where temptation called. She’d found a seat and sat primly at the counter, fingers laced together. He wanted to have them laced around his cock, her legs around his waist, all that primness melting into wild abandon.

He stopped directly in front of her and dropped a napkin on the bar. “What can I get ya there, ma’am?”

She blinked up at him with gorgeous baby blue eyes that the shadowy lighting did nothing to conceal from his vampire sight, her lips parting in a silent gasp. “You’re…the bartender?”

“I take it I don’t meet your expectations?”

“I…” she blushed. “It’s not you. It’s…” She tilted her head slightly, seeming to gather her wits and lay it on the line. “To tell you the truth, I’ve walked by this place several times this past month, and it always seemed fairly quiet. One of those sparsely populated places where you hang out at the bar, get drunk, and bore the friendly, unintimidating bartender with your troubles. But this place isn’t sparsely populated, and you're… well…you’re…”

He arched a brow. “I’m?”

“Not short, bald, and unintimidating like I pictured, that’s for sure,” she said quickly.

“Short and bald,” he repeated, his lips twitched with what threatened to be a smile. Not something he remembered doing a whole hell of a lot in the past century, but something about this woman’s nervous rambling absolutely charmed him. He was used to being seduced, not charmed. He believed she was doing both.

“Yes,” she said and waved off the words. “But that’s okay. I think you’ll get shorter once I get started drinking.”

He rested his hands on the bar, leaning in closer, subtly inhaling her scent. “I thought it was the opposite? Men get taller and better looking once a woman starts drinking.”

“I don’t think that’s possible in your case,” she said a second before her eyes went wide, clearly recognizing she’d inadvertently admitted she thought he was good looking. “Not that I was saying, I mean you are…” She sighed. “I need a big, fruity alcoholic concoction 'stat,' please. And since I normally don’t drink, I’ll take whatever you suggest.”

Evan would suggest she have a nice, long drink of him, but he decided that was a conversation better left untouched. For now. Probably not ever, he thought regretfully. “I’m certain I can come up with something to please you,” he assured her with no intention of being subtle, his gaze lingering on hers a steamy moment before he sauntered away, down the bar.

After making quick work of filling another order, Evan mixed a Kahlua and cream mixture, light on the alcohol, and set it in front of the lovely little piece of angelic temptation.

She took a long sip. “Perfect,” she said. “I can barely taste the alcohol. Thank you…bartender.”

“Evan,” he told her, finding himself amused yet again.

“Evan,” she said slowly. “That fits you much better than ‘bartender.’” She reached over the counter and offered him her hand. “I’m Marissa.”

His gaze locked with hers, his long fingers sliding around her tiny ones, consuming them, the way he wanted to consume her. His stare held hers, sexual tension spiking with an instant charge. What fit him, was her. And damn he wanted to find out how well. To know how sweet she would be all na*ed and soft in his arms.

Reluctantly, he released her hand, “Bad night?”

“Bad month,” she said. “That’s how long I’ve been working in the ER. You see I…” She waved off her words. “You don’t want to hear this. You don’t even know me.”

“But I do want to,” he said softly, every damn inch of her.

Her lashes fluttered and lifted. “You do?”

Damn the woman was charming. “Very much,” he assured her. “Tell me about your night. What brought you in here?” She leaned forward, sipping her drink, the shift in her chair tugging her shirt tight over the curves of her breasts, a brush of a nipple puckering beneath thin material, drawing his gaze and thickening his blood.

"Okay then,” she said. “Just remember though. I gave you a chance to run for the hills.”

“I’d be willing to bet you’d run away much faster than I would,” he said.

Her cheeks flushed a pretty pink. “I guess we’ll see about that after you listen to me chatter a bit. So here goes. You wanted to know what brought me here tonight. Like I mentioned, I‘ve been working at the hospital a month. Before that, I was a secretary. No blood, no pain beyond boredom. Just the plain ole, same ole, everyday. I was miserable. Then two years ago, I turned twenty-five and had this whole soul-searching, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-besides-typing-memos-for-my-boss thing going on. My mom is gone now and I have no one else, so nothing was holding me back, but me. The result was me deciding I had to blow out my birthday candles and then make the next year count. I had to do something that mattered. So I went back to school and ended up as a nurse at Scott and White.” She crossed her arms in front of her and shivered. “And that was when the hell started. The blood. The horror. The tragedy. Do you know what happened my first night on the job?” She didn’t wait for an answer, her hands flattening on the bar, as if she suddenly needed extra support. “I had to tell two sisters that their parents were killed in a car accident. Now, tonight, I told one of those sisters that the other was mauled by a wild animal and killed. I had to drive that poor woman home on my break. She had no one to pick her up.”

Evan’s reaction was immediate, instinctive. He covered her hand with his, created a physical connection that strengthened his command of her mind. “I need the address of the sister, Marissa,” he ordered.

She blinked. “I know it. I wrote it down. Three thirty one Maple Avenue.”

“Good,” he said softly, before erasing her memory. “Excuse me, Sweetheart. I have to go make a quick phone call. I’ll be right back so you can finish telling me your story, which I very much want to hear.”

Her eyes softened and she touched his hand with her free one. “Hurry back.” There was a soft readiness to her voice.

“I will,” he promised, wishing like hell it wasn’t for all the wrong reasons.

Tonight, Marissa had done more than gain the attention of a vampire. She’d put herself in the path of a killer werewolf.

Chapter Two

The instant Evan let go of her hand, Marissa drew a long, cool sip of her drink. She was on fire. Which was both unexpected and, she supposed, just what the doctor ordered. She’d come to Shooters for a distraction, a way to escape the bloody hell of this night, and Evan was that and more.

With a sigh, she watched him depart, long hair draped down the center of broad, defined shoulders. Oh how easily she could picture him, savage with passion, na*ed … on top of her, all that long, black hair draped around his shoulders. She bit her bottom lip. The man was hotter than the Texas sun, and that was pretty darn scorching. The kind of man a woman fantasized about, but didn’t think really existed.

Especially since she hadn’t had a man in her life, let alone in her bed, in a good six months, not since the Austin police officer who’d had a bondage hang-up that he’d taken into the creepy, rather than sexy, territory.

She hadn’t trusted that man to tie her up. Heck, she hadn’t trusted him to touch her favorite Snoopy mug for that matter. Of course, it was a special mug, given to her by her former best friend from high school. Ex-friend because Marissa had called her friend’s husband a cheating SOB when he’d cheated. Somehow, Marissa had ended up the SOB with her friend. But the mug still held memories of a friendship long past, it still mattered to her, still held a special place in her heart. And if a guy couldn’t even manage to be mug worthy, he darn sure wasn’t going to be allowed to cuff her to a bed and have his wild way with her.

But Evan -- he was another story. She had this instant want-to-get-wicked-and-wild urge with the man that threw caution to the wind. And she liked caution. She liked planning and structure. She liked to get to know a guy before she got na*ed usually, normally. Apparently, not so with Evan.

The fantasy of getting na*ed with Evan, as in tonight, slid away abruptly as her gaze latched onto the television hanging above the bar, showing a flash of the hospital and then the house where she’d dropped off the sister tonight. Subtitles talked about a gruesome animal attack. A flash of Ellen’s face, the surviving sister looking pale and wrenched with pain, had Marissa drawing another long sip from her straw. And then another.

Her head started to buzz, and somehow that only made the reality of her life, and this day, clamor louder in her head. She had no family, nothing to lose – her mother had died in childbirth, and her father was a drunk who’d kicked her out when she was sixteen. But Ellen, poor thing… she’d had a wonderful family — a family that Marissa envied — who had been ripped from her life in a matter of weeks. Marissa wanted to help Ellen. She wanted to help people, to make her life count. But the things she’d seen this past month — the pain and hurt, the loss — were eating her alive. She didn’t know if she was cut out for this, and guilt twisted inside her for her own weakness.

“How about another,” Evan asked, suddenly in front of her, and she hadn’t even seen him coming. Which said a lot about how much of a zone she’d been in – Evan was hard to miss.

She drew a sip from her straw and emptied the glass, pushing it toward him. “Considering I’m already buzzing,” she said, thinking his lips looked even sexier with a little alcohol to heat her blood, “that’s probably not a good idea. I’d planned to take a taxi home, but I want to be sure I can actually find the taxi.”

“You weren’t joking about not being a drinker, I guess.” Dark eyes assessed her with a probing, intimate inspection and, she had a feeling, he saw far more than she would have liked right about now. She shook her head. “It’s a control thing,” she said, “which is probably why the ER is exactly where I don’t belong. I can’t control anything there. Nothing. Horrible things happen – death happens – and I can’t do anything to stop it.”

“You’re focusing on the lives lost,” he said. “Not the lives saved.”

“I know,” she said. “I do. In the logical part of my mind, that makes sense. But I go home and think of the lives lost or the people that will never walk, talk, or see again. Those are the people who haunt my dreams. I left Austin to come here, and I think…it was a mistake.”

“You’ll find a place to put the bad stuff,” he assured her. “It just takes time.”

“And if I don’t?”

“You will.”

He said the words with such certainty, she found herself curious. “You say that as if you speak from experience.”

His lips lifted, but the smile didn’t touch his eyes where sadness danced in the shadows. “I’ll get you that drink.”

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