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“No,” he said firmly.
Duncan used his vampire speed to step very close to Emma, very fast. To her, it would seem as if he hadn’t moved, that he was suddenly just there. He was close enough that her breasts brushed against his chest when she inhaled, close enough that he could feel the heat off her skin and hear the pounding of her heart. And he saw the flash of arousal in her eyes.
“Emma,” he said softly. He brushed the back of his fingers against the velvet softness of her cheek, wishing he didn’t have to leave her here. But there would be other nights. He would make certain of it. “It will not be safe for you where we’re going,” he said. “You’ll have to trust me on this.”
He leaned closer, barely touching her mouth with his lips before stepping back with a pang of regret. “Miguel,” he said and turned, heading for the door.
Louis twisted the doorknob and stepped into the opening, pausing long enough to check out the street and get the go ahead signal from their security people by the SUVs before starting down the steps.
Duncan walked through the doorway. Behind him, Emma called out, “Hey!”
He didn’t respond, knowing first that nothing he said would satisfy her, and second that there was no way he was going to let her go with them. Even if he didn’t have plans to stop at the blood house, he agreed with Miguel’s assessment from last night. He had a bad feeling about this Leesburg house of Victor’s, and he didn’t want Emma anywhere near the place. He frowned, wondering at this sudden protective impulse he had for her.
Emma’s footsteps hurried across the wood floor behind him as he descended the stairs outside. Louis was already holding the SUV’s door open while his driver, a vampire named Ari, stood in the open driver’s door and confirmed that they were now heading for Leesburg. Miguel was close at Duncan’s back, blocking Emma from trying to follow.
“Go back inside, Ms. Duquet,” Miguel said impatiently. And then suddenly Miguel was swearing softly, and Emma was crying out in pain.
Duncan spun back, his anger flaring abruptly. Miguel stood next to Emma, his hands in the air, indicating to Duncan that he hadn’t touched her. But Emma was rubbing her arm and there were tears brightening her eyes.
“What happened?” Duncan demanded.
“My lord—” Miguel began, but true to form, Emma overrode him.
“Your guard dog here is built like a brick wall. I tried to follow you and ran into him.”
Duncan’s anger cooled instantly. “Miguel is my lieutenant, Emma, not a guard dog. He is also very serious about my security and trusts almost no one. You cannot go with us this evening. As a friend of mine would say, deal with it.”
He nearly laughed at her expression—she was gaping at him in outrage, speechless for a change. He and Miguel were down the stairs and inside the SUVs before she’d recovered her wits, and the last thing he saw as they pulled away from the curb was Emma standing on her porch staring angrily in his direction.
* * *
Emma glared at the departing SUVs—two big, black monstrosities that looked like tanks driving down the narrow street of her old neighborhood. All they needed was a big woofer in the back and they’d look like every other pimp in this town.
She pursed her lips thoughtfully, and suddenly remembered the feel of Duncan’s mouth on hers, the press of his hard chest against . . . She shrieked angrily. He’d done that on purpose! He was trying to distract her, to lull her into being a good little human. An obedient human.
“We’ll just see about that, vampire.”
She rushed into the house, snagged her keys and her cell phone from the table, grabbed her bag, then turned around and raced back outside, delaying only long enough to lock her front door. It was cold, but she pulled her hood up and tucked her hands into the front pocket of the sweatshirt. Her car was right in front of house, and once she got inside, she could crank the heat as high as she wanted.
But she was not going to let them get away with this. She’d heard what that vampire had said, the one driving the SUV with Duncan in it. He’d called over to his buddies and said something about Leesburg, something like, “We’re heading to Leesburg now?” Or close enough.
Well, it was a free country. She could go to Leesburg, too. Even better, she could find out if Victor had a house there. Did Duncan think he was the only one with connections? Well, think again. She worked for a damn congressman. Hell, her job was handling problems for constituents too lazy to do it for themselves; people who thought a few thousand bucks bought some help from their congressman . . . or his staff. And, come to think of it, they were right. But the upshot was that Emma had connections. And finding out who owned a piece of property pretty much anywhere in the country was a piece of cake.
She snapped her Bluetooth over her ear and was already placing phone calls by the time she turned toward the Beltway.
The Leesburg blood house was crowded when Duncan and his team arrived. This was no elegant house in the suburbs, like the one where Brendan and Erik hosted their tasteful weekend get-togethers. This was a blood house through and through. Backing up to a thick stand of trees and sitting on a wide open expanse of what had probably been farmland once upon a time, the house was a two-story red brick with white trim and an attached garage. It was a good-sized place, but dwarfed by the huge lot, making it seem smaller than it was. Cars were parked haphazardly all around the front, and Duncan couldn’t help wondering what the neighbors thought was going on here. Not that they were close. The lights of the nearest house were barely visible in the distance, but the traffic of so many people coming and going from here should have been noticeable. Or maybe the people who lived on those comfortable estates didn’t bother with what happened outside.
His driver, Ari, grunted unhappily at the mishmash of cars parked in front of the house. Jerking the wheel to one side, he cut across the field and pulled around back instead. Miguel and Louis both bailed from the SUV when it stopped, but Duncan sat and waited while the second vehicle parked behind them and his security team piled out and took up positions. He spent that time probing the crowded house, separating humans from vampires, or perhaps the other way around. Vampires burned so much brighter to his empathic senses than the humans did. And there were two or three very bright vampires inside this house. Interesting.
Miguel opened the door next to Duncan. “My lord,” he said.
“Thank you, Miguel,” Duncan said and stepped out onto the half-frozen ground. He studied the back of the house. There were low lights in every window, and this close, he could feel the deep thumping base of the music playing inside. The garage was off to the left. To the right was a small porch with a closed door.
Miguel signaled as Duncan started for the porch. One of his vampires went ahead, making quick work of the lock. Not that it was a bad lock, but his staff were very good at such things. He tamped his power down, wanting to size the place up before announcing his presence.
The music hit him as soon as the door opened, much louder than he would have expected from hearing it outside. Someone had invested in some serious soundproofing, because modern houses weren’t usually built that way. The extra sound dampening was a good sign, however, telling him the house was well run, that whoever was in charge was paying attention.
Duncan entered the house with only Miguel and Louis, leaving the others to secure the outside perimeter. If he needed them, they could be at his side in seconds, but he was more concerned about someone coming up behind him than taking him down from the inside.
The house was as crowded as he’d expected, given the parking situation out front. The back door opened onto a long, narrow kitchen and den area, with a breakfast bar in between. The kitchen was nearly empty, but the room beyond was packed wall-to-wall with vampires and humans, some dancing to the music, and some only pretending to dance while they engaged in other pursuits. What furniture there was had been pushed up against the walls to make more room for the dancers. And he could both hear and sense more people upstairs, mostly having sex from the sound of it, which was perfectly normal for a blood house this big. That’s what humans came here for, after all. They offered blood from the vein in exchange for a sexual high like no other. A hundred years ago, vampires hunted and took what they needed. Today the humans lined up for the privilege of opening their veins.
A pair of vamps were deep in conversation as Duncan came through the door. They glanced up, and one of them automatically straightened into an aggressive posture, but he took one look at Duncan and dropped his eyes, backing away until his ass hit the kitchen counter. The other vamp only stared, eyes wide.
“Who runs this place,” Miguel snarled.
“Otis,” the wide-eyed vamp offered eagerly. “He’s in there. I mean, through the next room and past the stairs. That’s his place.”
Miguel glanced over at Duncan, his expression somewhat troubled. Duncan was sure his lieutenant and he were sharing the same thought. Why had the vamp been so happy to give up Otis’s name?
Only one way to find out. They started forward. The music was blaring as loudly as ever, as Duncan stepped into the room. He stood still for a moment, simply observing, and then he released his power. It rolled across the crowded room like a wave. One by one the dancers turned to stare, their eyes wide with recognition. They shrank back, pressing against the walls and taking their humans with them. Some fell to their knees, others whispered, “Master,” as Duncan passed, following the suddenly wide open path through the crowded room.
He proceeded past the stairs, where a few more vampires froze in mid-step, staring at their new lord, and strolled into the high-ceilinged room beyond.
Otis, at least Duncan assumed this was Otis, was ensconced on a big, black leather sectional in a corner. The room was no doubt intended to be a formal living room, with its tall windows, elaborate chandelier and elegant stone hearth. Otis had made it his throne room. He sat in the light of a brightly burning fireplace. Holding court. There were no other words to describe it. His arms were stretched out to either side of the couch, while a human woman knelt between his wide spread legs performing oral sex. Thankfully, she was finishing her performance right about the time they walked into the room. She tucked Otis’s cock gently back inside his jeans, then zipped him up with agonizing slowness, clearly terrified of making a mistake.