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He felt a cautious sense of relief. She was listening to him, and trying to understand. "What do you propose?"
"We go to Florida and find Faryl and talk to him," she said. "He may let me take some blood samples. If the deterioration of his body isn't too bad, and there aren't any toxins present to prevent healing, I might even be able to reverse it."
"There is also Lucan," Michael reminded her.
"What is it with you and him?"
Michael thought of the centuries he had spent locked in a silent battle with Lucan for Richard's favor. "We are old enemies. He will not thank me for invading his territory."
"You're the seigneur of America. I'd say he doesn't have a whole damn lot to say about it." She pressed herself against him. "Come to bed."
"I thought we were packing."
"I can't remember the last time we were in that bed together." She brought his hand to her breast. "So we'll pack later." There was a polite knock on the door, and she looked over his shoulder and saw Phillipe appear. "I'm sorry; where's my tranquilizer gun?"
"Je suis désole." Michael's seneschal gave them an apologetic look. "There is a call from Chicago for you, master. It is Jaus."
Reluctantly he dropped his hand. He had asked Valentin Jaus, the suzerain of Chicago, to keep Luisa Lopez, one of Alexandra's former patients, under guard. "Forgive me. Jaus has been trying to locate the men who attacked Ms. Lopez—"
"Don't worry about it." She touched a finger to his lips, silencing him. "I'll pack. Tell Val I said hi, and to give my love to Luisa."
Sam was winded by the time she reached the second landing, and felt like crawling the rest of the way to her apartment. Her hand was throbbing like a tooth in dire need of a root canal, like both sides of her forehead. There was a place on the back of her head that she was pretty sure was going to explode any minute. She had saved some pain pills from her hospital stay, and the promise of that chemical relief got her up the last set of stairs.
The door across from hers opened, and a blue-haired head looked out. "Evening, Officer Sam."
"Hey, underage brat." Sam fumbled for her keys.
"You look like crap warmed over. Did you bring me some coffee?" Chris stepped out into the hallway. "I guess not. What's up with your hand? You get shot? You shoot back?"
Sam looked down at the hand Lucan's assistant, a funny little man with a bad head cold, had bandaged for her. The bullet-wound scar throbbed more than any of the cuts. "Yes. No." She leaned forward until her brow touched the door. "I had an accident with a glass." She turned around and for a moment thought she was hallucinating. "What's all this?" She gestured toward Chris's clothes.
Chris looked down at the leather cutout vest and silk leggings under the dozen or so silver-studded belts wrapped around her waist. "It's my look."
"Kind of, uh, black."
"I'm only wearing black until they invent something darker." The navy-blue lipstick she wore made her teeth look snowy. "You don't get it. Okay. I'm a goth."
That explained the hair, the piercings, and the attitude. "Aren't you a little young for that? What happened to grunge and punk?"
"It's postgrunge now. I think punk is buried next to disco. And, in my opinion, you're as old as you want to be. Steady." Chris reached out and grabbed Sam's arm, and only then did Sam realize she was swaying. "I am not making a pass at you, just so you know. Now let's get you inside, Officer."
With Chris's arm supporting her, Sam found her door key and unlocked the two dead bolts and knob lock. "I'm not gay," she told the kid. "And if I were, you'd be too young for me."
"I'm so relieved. Is that why Keri was so pissed at you?"
"She had the right." Sam couldn't get her key out of the bottom lock. "I didn't discourage her when I should have. Just so you get the gossip straight."
"I don't blab, and that shit can happen easy whether you're straight or gay." Chris pushed open the door for her. "You're kind of paranoid, though, huh?"
"Goes with the job. Thanks for the hand." She wandered back to her bathroom. When she had taken a pain pill and came back out, she found Chris standing in front of her bookcase.
"You're really into poetry," her neighbor said. "Old stuff, too. Keats, Byron, Shelley. Who's Rainer Maria Rilke? Is that a guy or a chick?"
"Rilke is the only one who makes sense anymore." Sam opened the sliding glass door to the balcony to let in some fresh air, dropped into her favorite armchair, and pushed it into recline. "He was a man."
"His mom fucked up his name, then. I bet Keri hated your place." She gazed around at Sam's shabby furniture. "What do you call this look? Early American yard sale?"
Sam considered smacking the kid, but she was too far away, and Sam wasn't getting up from the armchair again until Thanksgiving. Maybe Christmas. "Aren't you going somewhere, dressed up like that?"
"Down to the beach. They don't card as much, not that it's a problem for old chicks like you and me." She winked at Sam. "There's a new goth place my friends want me to check out."
Now the kid gaped. "How did you know?"
"I'm a cop, and this is my town. Don't go there." Sam cradled her sore hand against her chest. "A woman who was there a couple of nights ago was murdered."
"Oh, I can take care of myself." Chris put back the book she was reading and walked over. "Jesus, you're really pale. Like Snow White from the dwarf movie. Should I call nine-one-one or something?"
"No, I'm okay. I lost a little blood and it hurts, that's all." The pain pill was starting to work its magic, but Sam forced herself to focus on Chris. "I'm serious about that nightclub, though. There are some scary characters there. It's not a place for a young girl to hang out."
Another lightning smile flashed. "Good thing I'm not a young girl."
"I could run your ID just to verify that," Sam said. "Our lease agreements state that a sublet tenant has to be twenty-one years of age or older. We wouldn't want you to put Keri in danger of losing her security deposit."
Chris held up her hands. "Okay, Officer Do-Right, I won't go there. By the way, you left these in the door." She dropped Sam's keys on the side table. "I'll throw the bottom lock on my way out. Mind if I borrow that Rilke book?"
"As long as you bring it back." Sam's eyes began to close on their own. "You don't, I shoot you."
The last thing she heard before she fell asleep was her blue-haired neighbor chuckling.
Taking blood from two beautiful human females who came to dance at Infusion didn't satisfy Lucan. Neither did pacing the floor for several hours after the police had left. He considered sending for Alisa, but to use her twice in one day would be foolhardy, if not fatal for her.
That he was in such a state was not his fault. Detective Brown had done this to him.
He had been pleased by the suspicion and determination Samantha displayed as she confronted him about Lena Caprell. America was his country now; he was glad the humans put some effort into policing themselves. Shaking her composure had been mildly amusing as well. He so enjoyed disconcerting a woman of conservative sensibilities, and he suspected that the detective had inhibitions atop reservations wrapped in reticence.
If only he hadn't touched her.
Lucan could still taste her blood, still smell her skin; she was all over him. Taking another shower erased the physical traces, but wouldn't remove the lingering memories of her from his head, or ease the hunger surging through him.
What did the stubborn little bitch do to me?
All of this upheaval was because of the cross. Someone within his jardin thought to taunt their new suzerain by unearthing that relic from his past and using it to kill the human woman. What they did not realize was that the cross was now as meaningless to Lucan as Lena Caprell had been. He would have it retrieved from the police and then use it to ferret out whoever had thought to frame him for the woman's murder.
As for the detective, her resemblance to Frances was the only reason he'd temporarily lost his control. He had no interest in a paltry human female wasting her youth on avenging the dead. Her blood was sweet, and under her ugly clothes she had the body of a goddess, but other than that, the detective had offered little in the way of temptation.
Lucan was a connoisseur of some of the world's most beautiful women; Samantha Brown did everything but put a brown bag over her head to disguise her assets. She didn't smell of floral perfume or enticing spices, but of rich, dark-roasted coffee. Her pale mouth had certainly not offered any inducement, not until he had touched it and watched her lips tremble and her eyes go dark.
Frances had never done that. Frances had never permitted him to put one finger on her person, not until the night before she died.
Samantha had made things worse by resisting and then trying to run away from him. Nothing brought out the predator in him more than a female he couldn't have. He hadn't felt such a surge of lust since seeing Alexandra Keller for the first time in New Orleans.
Yet unlike Cyprien's sygkenis, Lucan could have Samantha Brown. As much and as often as he liked. He had only to bring her under his control. He remembered thinking that as he had taken her blood. Feeding from her hand had invigorated him. It was kissing her mouth afterward that had been his ruination.
Samantha Brown's mouth was as much a hidden banquet as her body: all heat and pleasure, lush and endless.
One moment he was tasting her; the next he was knocking things off his desk and stepping between her legs. His cock still ached with the memory of pressing her taut thighs apart and rubbing against her soft mound. Even as she had refused him, he had smelled and felt her body's response, even through the velvet of his glove. He had come very close to ripping off her ugly trousers and putting his mouth to her to taste it.