Midnight Bite(3)

By: Cynthia Eden

But the big vamp didn’t lunge at her. And she didn’t have to shove a stake at him.

Instead, he straightened to his very formidable height. Had to be close to six-foot-three and the guy was solid. A muscled wall. He inclined his dark head toward her. “My name is Devereaux Mancini.” A pause while he waited for her to respond.

She backed up a step. Two.

His lips thinned. “Prince Devereaux Mancini.”

No, absolutely not. She could not be staring at the guy who was the leader of the freaking North American vampire kingdom. Yes, she knew his name. Mostly because it had been whispered in fear back when she’d been a kid. Why the hell was he standing in front of her?

He smiled. “You know me?”

It wasn’t a good thing that she knew him. “Stay the hell away from me.”

His smile dimmed. “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

A long, black limo slowly pulled down the road.

“That’s our ride,” Devereaux murmured. “You’re chilled. Let me get you out of this cold air and to safety.”

“Safety?” Lark laughed. “Like it’s safe to get into a car with a vamp?”

His gaze was on her throat. “They will all be coming.” He took a step toward her. “I’m here to offer you protection. Choose me, and I can save you from the others.”

“Who is coming?” Another shiver slid over her.

He cursed and shrugged out of his coat. A blink later, the coat was around her, and it seemed to carry a rich, masculine scent. His scent. And he was back to standing two feet away from her.

Her gaze sharpened on him. “You just gave me your coat.” Since when were vamps into the chivalry routine?

The limo braked. Exhaust blew from the rear of the vehicle.

“You’re cold. I don’t need the coat.” He wore a tux. Looked fancy and rich and all…handsome. Sexy.

For a bloodsucker.

He even had a hot little cleft in his chin.

“It’s not safe for you out here, Lark.”

Lark. He knew her name. That was like the tenth bad sign of the night.

Devereaux lifted his hand toward her. “Choose me,” he urged her, his voice all low and deep and rumbling, “and I’ll keep you safe forever.”

Sure. Forever being a key word. She backed up one more step. “Vamp magic and compulsions don’t work on me.” Her mother had seen to that.

“I’m not using a compulsion on you.” His head cocked to the side. “I was trying logic. It’s late and cold, and you’re on your own. There’s one hungry vamp already running in the streets, desperate for you. Charles tasted your blood, so he’s just going to want more. I would have killed him for you, but you ran away, and getting to you—making sure you stayed alive tonight—was a bigger priority for me.”

She laughed. “Because a vampire prince cares about what happens to me?” To her…The daughter of a monster hunter. She wouldn’t believe that lie.

“I care very much about you.” Devereaux’s head turned, and he stared into the distance. “They’re all coming. When midnight strikes, they know that you’ll be fair game. That’s why you have to choose me before then. It’s why Charles tried to force you to choose him. I’m not like Charles. I’m giving you the option.”

She was so confused, but if she had a choice… “I’m choosing to go home on my own, thanks so much.”

A growl broke from him. “You know how hard it is for a vamp to resist fresh blood, but I haven’t touched you…yet.”

“Do you know how hard it is…” Lark tossed right back, “for a monster hunter to resist the urge to plunge a stake into a vamp? But I haven’t touched you…yet.”

He laughed. Laughed. The dark sound was oddly sexy. She was so messed up. Always had been, though. Hadn’t her mother warned her, time and time again, that she had too much of a fascination for the beasts? Hadn’t she been punished because she hadn’t been hard enough on them? Because she hadn’t always gone straight for the kill?

But his laughter faded, and he seemed to stiffen. Devereaux sucked in a deep breath. His hands fisted at his sides. “Get in the limo, now.”

He was being way too bossy. Turn-off. “Seriously? Do I look like I have a death wish? There is no way I’m getting into that ride. My mom taught me long ago to never get in a car with a stranger. Especially a strange vamp. That’s asking for trouble.”

“I’m sure your mother taught you all kinds of things.”

Yes, she had.

“But I’m afraid she told you some lies, too.”

What? Lark’s eyes turned to furious slits. “Did you just insult my mother?”

His hands were still fisted. “I need you to choose me. Get in the car.”

Wow. Again, with the bossy bit. Did being arrogant go hand-in-hand with being a vamp prince? He’d obviously confused her with one of his vamp subjects. Unlike them, though, she didn’t give a damn about his orders. “Since you make it sound so appealing…” Lark drawled. Then she yanked out her back-up stake. “No. I’m not in the mood for a ride with you, and if you try to come near me, I’ll shove this guy into your heart.”