Page 20

 D.B. Reynolds

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But he surprised her by saying, “Fine. You want to see how the game is played, you can come along. Just remember, habibi, human law does not apply here. There will be no Miranda warnings, no worrying about civil rights. The only law that will matter is mine.”
“I’m not some delicate flower to be afraid of a little bloodshed, Aden. And I don’t give a damn what happens to those animals.”
She didn’t quite trust the smile he gave her, but he nodded his head and said, “Then be here an hour after sunset. You can wear similar clothes,” he added, glancing down at her jeans dismissively. “But bring a dress for later.”
“I don’t know why I need to bring—”
“Because I like skirts. They make you more accessible.”
“More accessible?” she repeated, frowning. “What does that—Oh,” she said, suddenly understanding what he meant. A skirt made it easier for him to fuck her. Part of her was outraged at the very idea of him saying something like that to her. But then a suddenly vivid image flashed through her brain, a picture of him bending her over his desk, his big hand shoving up her skirt . . . Lust punched her in the chest, and she shuddered uncontrollably. Clearly, her brain was going with her body on this one.
Aden’s hand on her hip startled her back to awareness. His fingers tightened, and he pulled her flush against his body. “You should sleep today,” he crooned. “Because you won’t be sleeping much tonight.”
Sid’s mouth went dry. “You mean, because we’ll be raiding the holding house tonight?”
“Of course,” he said, a smile playing around his lips. “Did you think I meant something else?”
His hand slid down to the curve of her butt before he lowered his head and kissed her, a sensuous tangle of his tongue and lips, slow and seductive. Sid sighed into his mouth, reluctant to let the kiss end.
“Tonight, habibi,” he said against her lips.
And Sid didn’t know if it was a promise or a threat.
Chapter Nine
SID FINALLY KNEW what it meant when people said they were on pins and needles. That’s what it felt like to her, as if every inch of her skin was being pricked by tiny little pins . . . from the inside. She sat with Aden in the back seat of his big SUV. Bastien was in the front passenger seat, and Travis drove as they raced through the streets of Chicago, going at what were surely illegal speeds, and definitely reckless. This wasn’t some wide open highway. This was Chicago. Even at midnight on a weekday, there was traffic. But Travis had reflexes worthy of the Indy 500, and apparently no fear of death or dismemberment. She only wished she could say the same. Tonight was going to test every inch of her resolve, every ounce of her courage. She’d never confronted the slavers directly before, had always settled for doing recon, gathering information. That was the sensible thing. She was a journalist, after all, not a soldier or a cop.
But tonight was Aden’s show, and he and his vampires were definitely ready for a fight. Assuming she survived the trip to the house where the slaves were being held, there would be a showdown between Aden and his guys and whoever was in charge at the house. And she doubted they’d go down easily.
Even more than the impending violence, though, she was worried that the slaves had already been moved. That the vamps had somehow gotten word they were coming and spirited the women away. But Aden’s man on the inside, Elias, had reported that tonight was the night.
Despite her trepidation, the inevitable violence, and everything that could go wrong, Sid was jumping with excitement, exhilarated by the prospect of finally doing something real to stop the slavers and avenge Janey’s death.
And if that wasn’t enough to leave her taut as a bowstring, there was the vampire sitting next to her. The vampire who only a few hours ago had been balls-deep inside her. Every time he moved, every time he spoke, she was reminded of what it had felt like to make love to him, to have him murmuring her name as he thrust between her thighs. She was almost embarrassed to find herself sighing dreamily, wondering how long it would be before he did it again.
“Heavy thoughts, Sidonie?” Aden’s midnight voice had chills skating over her skin, his words like warm honey sliding into her ear and down her throat into her belly.
She shook her head sharply. “Just . . . I’ve worked so hard on this and now . . . it might all be over.”
He chuckled and let his arm, which had been stretched across the seat behind her, fall heavily onto her shoulders. His hand dropped to her chest where his fingers began to play idly along the swell of her breast. Sid wanted to roll her eyes at her own pathetic response to him, her heart racing, her skin heating to his touch. Aden leaned close and pressed his lips to the side of her face. She felt the wet touch of his tongue as he tasted her skin. It was a not-so-subtle reminder that he could sense her reactions to him.
She didn’t even have to look to know he’d have a smug expression on his face, and she’d have loved to smack that look away. But, one, she’d already established that she wasn’t exactly qualified to smack anything off of anyone, much less a vampire lord, and, two, he’d stop her before she even got close. And then either there’d be hell to pay, or he’d find the whole thing oh-so-amusing. Neither of which appealed to her.
“What’s the plan?” she asked, trying to think of anything other than sex.
“The plan is simple. We go in two teams, front and back, and kill every vampire present.”
“What about the women?”
“The van will transport them to a safe location,” he said, referring to the second vehicle following behind them. She’d been surprised when they’d started out to see the plain, full-size passenger van in their mini-convoy. “Any injuries among the women will be treated,” Aden continued, “and they will have the option of returning to their homes, or being settled in this country. Either way, they will be well cared for.”
Sid blinked in surprise. She hadn’t expected that. In fact, she’d been prepared to put up a fight, to demand something close to those very arrangements.
“You seem surprised,” Aden murmured.
“No, it’s just—”
He licked her face again. Not a delicate taste, but a blatant doglike lick.
“Fine,” she admitted, rubbing her wet cheek. “I’m surprised.”
“I’ve no tolerance for slavery.”
“I see that.” And she did. It was the second time he’d made that point very strongly, and it made her wonder again about his background. She’d assumed he’d been born rich, simply because he was rich. She’d told him as much. But what if he hadn’t been? According to Dresner—assuming anything that bitch had said was true—the powerful vampires were all extraordinarily old by human standards. Not because age equaled power, but because those who gained power as a result of their transition to Vampire won every challenge as they took their time learning to use their newfound power. So, Aden could be old. Old enough that he’d been born in a time when slavery was common.
She remembered the fantastic silk wall hanging in his sitting room. Her mother would have known instantly where and when it was from, but Sid could only guess. Maybe she could get a picture for her mom next time she was in Aden’s room. She smiled ruefully. Might as well call it what it was, the next time they had sex. And please let there be a next time, her body was begging silently.
“This is it, my lord,” Bastien said from the front seat. “White house, fourth one down on the right, broken street light.”
Sid was jerked out of her lust-filled thoughts by his announcement. She looked around and found herself back in the same Woodlawn neighborhood where she’d been skulking around . . . was it only the night before? So much had happened, it seemed longer ago.
“There’s an apartment house in the back,” she told them. “You can sneak in through—”
“There’ll be no sneaking,” Aden said, cutting her off. “Trav, Bastien,” he continued, “we’ll take the front.”
They parked two houses away. Sid climbed out after Aden, listening as he conferred with Freddy and Kage, the final two members of his inner circle who’d traveled in the van, telling them to come in from the back. She watched them slip away into the shadows, thinking about her own clumsy spying and wishing she could move with even a fraction of their stealth. Bastien and Trav had already started up the walk. She pushed away from the truck, intending to follow them, but Aden wrapped his fingers around her arm, pulling her to a stop.
“Sidonie, this will not be civilized by your standards. You may want to wait—”
“I’m going in with you,” she insisted stubbornly.
He eyed her steadily, and she thought she saw a glimmer of approval in his dark eyes before he nodded sharply and said, “As you wish. But you will go in last and remain by the door. I wouldn’t want to kill you by accident.”
Sid scowled, pretty sure he was joking about that last. But she hung back when the vampires climbed the stairs, not wanting to chance it. Her main objective tonight was to be there for the captives afterward.
Bastien reached the door first, and Sid waited to see if they’d knock and then rush the entry, or—
One kick, and the door flew inward.
Okay, well, that worked, too.
ADEN WOULD HAVE entered first, but Bastien shoved his way through the door ahead of him. It went against Aden’s nature to let someone else take a risk for him, but he was gradually coming to terms with the necessity. If he was going to rule a territory, he’d have to surrender to the requirements of security. Not for his own sake, but for the sake of those whose lives he would hold in his hands.
Once inside, however, all bets were off. There were half a dozen vampires in the living room as they came through the door, with more rushing in from other rooms in response to the noise. His inside man had told him to expect ten or more fighters, all vampires. The slavers were moving their captives tonight, and that meant the entire crew would be present. Which was what made this night perfect. Aden could wipe out the entire filthy operation with one blow.