Full Moon Rising
Chapter Ten

 Keri Arthur

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Don't move," the cop behind the gun warned. "Or you'll taste lead."
What happened to the right to remain silent and all that crap? That they didn't even bother to say the words meant they were after us specifically
Obviously, it had been Gautier in the shadows. But why would he send state coppers after us rather than Directorate personnel?
Though we had stopped, maybe the reason was that simple. We would have been more suspicious of an unmarked car swooping down on us so quickly
My fingers tightened around the door handle, but otherwise, I obeyed the cop's orders. The fact that Quinn hadn't reacted in any way had me worried. Until I knew what was going on, I intended to play along with the current scenario
"We were only speeding," I said, forcing fear into my voice. "Surely pointing guns at us is a bit of an overreaction?"
The cop ignored me, looking over the top of the car again. It suggested they considered me no threat. They'd learn soon enough just how wrong they were
"The vamp out of action?" the cop with the gun asked
"Yeah. The new tasers certainly do the work."
Tasers. Great. That was all we'd needed. Though the weapons had been around for a while, it had only been recently they'd developed one with the right electrical current to affect vampires every bit as efficiently as humans. Quinn would be out of action for hours
A hand reached into the car and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the wig being tugged off. "It's definitely not Brown."
So Gautier had been suspicious of Quinn rather than me. I wondered what Quinn had done or said to tip him off
"You want to call the retrieval in to headquarters," the gunman continued, "and ask what they want us to do with them?"
The other cop made a grunt of agreement and walked away. I waited a few more seconds then grabbed the gun, wresting it from the cop's hand as I thrust open the door
He staggered backward with a yelp of surprise. I threw the gun into the back and flowed out of the car, knocking the cop out before he knew what had hit him
A booming retort bit through the silence. I dove for the shadows along the side of the road, heard the scream of air, and the sharp sting of pain as the bullet scraped my rump, then I hit the ground and rolled to my feet. Wrapping the shadows around myself, I ran toward the other car. The second cop was still standing near the car door, his gun aimed at the spot where I'd disappeared from sight
I shook my head. When were the authorities going to learn and stop pairing two humans together? It made no sense, not with the introduction of recent incentives that included a fresh, free blood supply to vamps who joined the force. Of course, the Directorate skimmed the cream, while the psych and physical tests prevented a good percentage of the remainder from joining the cop ranks. But there was such an influx of applicants it could take years for the cops to work down the remaining list
I picked up a small stone and padded quietly to the back of the car. The cop was starting to look around. I tossed the stone, waited until it clicked against the road up ahead, then let the shadows unravel and ran at him. He never stood a chance. I had the speed and power of both wolf and vampire, and he was only human. I tucked his unconscious body into the car, turned off the camcorder, then collected the second cop and shoved him into the car as well. Then I ran back to Quinn
I didn't bother feeling for a pulse, mainly because the slow metabolic rate of vamps would make it extremely difficult to find one at the best of times. I unclipped his seat belt and dragged him around to the passenger side. Once he was safely belted back in, I ran around to the driver's side and started the car. Cop central would have called in reinforcements once they'd seen what was happening. We had to get off the freeway, and get rid of the Porsche, as quickly as possible
But I didn't take the first off-ramp, continuing on instead to the Mickleham Road exit. The mob Quinn had hired the Porsche from had a depot at the airport, but I couldn't risk taking the car there with Quinn unconscious. Mickleham Road had an old hotel not far from the freeway, one with the parking tucked nicely around the back and stairs rather than elevators to the rooms. I'd get a room and dump Quinn there, then get rid of the car and return
I pulled off the wig and took out the lenses as I waited for the lights to turn green. Looking a whole lot less ghostly, I pulled into the hotel and stopped at the side of reception rather than out the front under the bright lights. After grabbing my purse from the security box behind the passenger seat, I did up my coat and climbed out. No sense in giving the woman the wrong idea
As it turned out, I shouldn't have bothered. The woman at the counter wouldn't have cared who rented the room as long as they paid up front. When I not only paid up front but asked for their best room - which turned out to be their one and only honeymoon suite - she practically danced on the spot. Obviously, times were a little tough with all the new hotels opening at the airport
I drove around to the back and parked. After opening the room's door, I half carried, half dragged Quinn up the stairs, mighty glad the place was almost empty or that no one came out to investigate the source of all the noise. Explanations weren't something I could be bothered with just then. I made him comfortable on the bed and wrote him a note, leaving it on the table with the folders, the gun, and my wig so he'd see them all if he woke, then headed out
Returning the car proved no problem, so I headed over to the less exotic rental area and hired an everyday-type Ford
By the time I got back to the hotel, an hour had passed and Quinn was still out of it. I grabbed the phone and dialed Jack's vid phone, which had been left with Liander. Only it wasn't Liander who answered, it was Jack
"What are you doing back?" I asked, worried something had gone wrong
"We got in and out faster than we'd expected. Listen, I can't talk long. Alex tells me a tracer has been placed on this number. You've got one minute, max."
"Gautier ran into us as we were coming out of Brown's room. He didn't recognize me, but something tipped him off that Quinn wasn't Brown. He set the cops after us. We were pulled over, and Quinn's been tasered unconscious. It could be a while before we get there."
"Alex mentioned that an alert had been placed on the car. She didn't countermand it because we want to see where this all leads. You obviously coped."
"Obviously," I said dryly. "And no, I'm not hooked on the adrenaline rush of it."
He laughed. "Did Quinn place the bug?"
"Yes. And we found a couple of interesting files that speak of a White Phantom Project."
"Good. Don't worry about hurrying back because the cops have set up security checks on the freeway, and they'll be there until peak hour. We can't do anything else now until we have the cover of darkness again, anyway."
A whole day to play with Quinn. How cool was that?
"What grid reference are you?" he continued
I hesitated, trying to remember the codes, then converting the name of the hotel into something that resembled map references. I passed them on, and he grunted
"Call if there's trouble or if you shift location."
"Will do." I replaced the receiver, then walked over to the old spa that dominated the corner of the room. Big enough for two to play in. My smile grew when I saw the line of essential oils against the wall. Paying for the honeymoon suite had its benefits
I threw the coat and dress on the nearby chair and continued on to the bathroom to inspect my shot butt
It wasn't bad, just a scrape that stretched from one cheek to the other. It hadn't even bled much. I took a quick shower to wash all of Liander's goop from my skin, then toweled off and padded naked to the bed. Quinn didn't stir when I climbed in beside him. I half wished I'd taken the time to strip him completely, because skin was far better than cloth to curl up against. But right then, I didn't have the energy to get up and complete the task. Besides, my imagination was up to pretending. With a smile teasing my lips, I closed my eyes and went to sleep
When I woke hours later, it was to the reality of flesh pressing against flesh and the pounding of desire through my veins. Breath caressed my shoulder, punctuated by butterfly kisses that sent shivers of pleasure coursing through me
When I stirred, his fingers brushed from my hip to my stomach and flowed upward. My breath caught in anticipation. Tension quivered through every muscle, so that when his thumb rubbed one aching nipple, it felt like I was going to explode. For several seconds, I couldn't even breathe, the need was so bad
"Do you know how frustrating it is to wake beside a beautiful woman," he said, the seductive lilt back in his soft voice, "and find yourself fully clothed?"
Oh, I understood frustration, all right. I'd been experiencing it, in one form or another, since he'd walked naked into my life
"Clothes have never stopped anyone with determination." I turned around to face him. His dark hair was damp and his face free of the muck that had made his handsome features ghastly. I ran a finger down his still-wet cheek and outlined his lips. "How are you feeling?"
"As horny as hell." His lips parted, drawing my fingertip into his mouth, sucking on it gently. Anticipation crashed through me. I couldn't wait for him to sample other parts in the same manner
"How are you feeling?" he continued, after a few moments
"Much better now that you're awake and aware."
His hand was resting on my hip again and the heat of his touch flared through me, spreading like a wave that had my whole body tingling. He might want our first "real" lovemaking session to be a long slow seduction of the senses, but I didn't think he had much hope. Not given the need that surged between us
"Do you remember what happened last night?"
He frowned, but there was a distracted look to his eyes as his fingers began another agonizingly slow journey up my body. "Not much after that cop reached my door."
"He used a taser on you. Gautier did suspect us."
"Lucky, then, that the woman with me was capable enough to take over when things got tough."
I grinned. "Very lucky. Had to give the Porsche back though. You'll have to settle for a Ford."
"Right now, the car is the last thing on my mind."
I raised an eyebrow, a smile playing on my lips. "So what is on your mind?"
"This." His hand slipped behind my neck, his fingers tangling in my hair as he brought my lips to his. Suddenly we were kissing as if our lives depended on it. And maybe they did, because I'd sure as hell bust if he didn't fully consummate the tension that had been simmering between us since the beginning
After what seemed like hours we came up for air. The rapid pounding of my heart was a cadence that filled the silence, accompanied by the heated rush of blood through my system
I opened my eyes, stared into his. Saw the desire burning bright - desire that was both sexual and blood need. He was controlling both urges, but the first only just
He kissed me again, and whatever slivers of control I'd had were totally and irreparably smashed by the force of it. By the passion behind it
No one had ever kissed me like that before
But right then it wasn't his kiss I wanted. I was ready for everything he could give
I pushed him onto his back and climbed on top, claiming him in the most basic way possible. He groaned, his hands sliding to my hips, pressing me down harder. I arched upright, echoing his groan at the way he filled me, completed me, in a way not even Talon had. It was almost as if I'd found that one perfect piece of the puzzle, the one and only fragment designed to perfectly fit the space that was me
He began to move, and thought became impossible. All I could do was move with him, savoring and enjoying the sensations flowing through me
Then he reared up and pulled my legs around his hips so that I was sitting in his lap, impaled by his body, my breasts crushed against his chest. His dark eyes burned into mine, stirring me in ways I'd never thought possible
"I want to be kissing you when I come inside you," he all but growled
The words were barely out of his mouth, and I was there, kissing him, tasting him, my arms wrapped around his neck, holding him close as he moved inside me. My body quivered with the sensations tumbling through me, my thighs clenched against his sides as the pressure built and built, until I felt so tightly strung that everything would surely break. Then everything did break, and I was unraveling, groaning, with the intensity of the orgasm flowing through me. His kiss became as fierce as his body, and as he poured himself into me, his mouth left mine, his teeth grazing my neck. I jerked reflexively when they pierced my skin, but the brief flare of pain quickly became something undeniably exquisite, and I came a second time
When the tremors subsided, he took my face between his hands and gently kissed me. "Now that the edge has been taken off need, we can get a bit more serious."
"Can't get much more serious than what we just did." My lips were close to his, and as he breathed out, I breathed in. It felt as if the very essence of him was invading every pore
The heat in his gaze lit fires deep in my soul, yet I had the strangest feeling that I hadn't even begun to plumb the depths of what this vampire could do to me
He brushed another kiss across my lips, then said, "How much time do we have left to us?"
"All day. Jack doesn't want us back until dusk."
"Then I have time enough to seduce you as I'd originally intended." He paused, and his devilish grin made an appearance, causing my heart to stutter. "And time enough to make you scream."
I smiled. What a very male thing to say. "I don't scream for anyone."
He raised an eyebrow. "Then you haven't been loved right." He lightly slapped my hip. "Off, woman. I have a seduction to attend to."
I slipped to one side and stretched out on the bed. He twisted around, retrieving the gossamer dress from the chair. "Let me tie your hands together."
"Because this is about me pleasuring you. I don't want you touching me just yet."
Excitement surged, and I held out my hands. I'd tried restraints in the past and couldn't really say that I'd tripped on the experience, but the dress was flimsy and I could tear free if I needed to. He tied my hands together, then sat back and spent a minute simply looking at me. The hunger in his eyes made me grin
"See something you like?" I teased, shifting my hips provocatively
"I see lots of things I intend to taste. But for now, turn over."
I did as ordered, then watched him walk over to the spa. The man looked great from all angles, but he certainly had a fantastic butt. He leaned over the tub, giving me not only a view of great butt, but well-hung balls and lovely muscular thighs as he grabbed one of the essentials oils. "Cinnamon should do, I think."
He'd picked my favorite scent. I smiled, watching him walk back, amazed to see that he was more than ready to go again. A vamp's stamina was indeed every bit as good as a werewolf's. He knelt at the end of the bed, poured a large dollop of oil into his hands, and rubbed them together
"Close your eyes," he ordered
I did as he bid, and sighed in pleasure when his thumbs pressed into the arch of my foot. As he deftly began working the oil into my skin, the rich scent of warmed cinnamon curled through the air, arousing my senses almost as much as the gentle, erotic caress of his fingers. Gradually, he worked his way up my leg, his fingers weaving a spell that left me both aroused and relaxed
When he finished one leg, he started the other. I was all but thrumming with pleasure, totally enjoying every nuance of this sensual pampering
"What happened here?" he said, his finger lightly tracing the bullet burn
"One of the cops tried to rearrange my rump."
"Obviously he doesn't know perfection when he sees it."
"I think he was more worried about the fact his partner had just been knocked out by a scrap of woman."
He was straddling me now, his fingers working their way up my back. If I'd been a cat, I would have been purring
"I don't think anyone would call you a scrap of woman."
As if to emphasize his point, his fingers brushed the sides of my breasts, sending tingles of electricity through every nerve ending
"Well, I'm certainly not an amazon."
His smile was a warmth I felt rather than saw. "On the outside, no. But inside, there's a warrior desperate to get out."
"No warrior, just a woman ready and willing to defend herself and her pack."
Quinn's fingers worked their magic on my neck and shoulders, and by the time he'd finished, I was all but boneless. And as horny as hell. When he climbed off, I sighed in disappointment. I'd more than half hoped he would have finished what he'd started and take me from behind
"Roll over," he commanded again
I did. He drew my arms over my head and tied the free end of the dress to the headboard. Then he moved down to my feet and began the whole massage process again, this time holding my gaze every inch of the way and taking extra care, and extra time, once he'd got to my breasts. It was an erotic and sensual experience, and by the time he'd finished, every inch of me was quivering with the need to have him deep inside
But the carnal glint in his eyes, and his sexy, knowing smile, suggested he had no intentions of hurrying
"Now it's challenge time." His low, rich tones vibrated across my skin, as intimate as any kiss. "I intend to make you scream for me, Riley."
"Not a hope in hell." Yet even as I said it, I had a vague suspicion that if any man could, it would be this vampire
He reached across me, placing the capped oil on the bedside table, then leaned down and brushed a kiss across my mouth. "Then let the games begin," he said, his breath as hot as the glint in his dark eyes
I grinned. "Go for it."
And he did. Using mouth and tongue alone, he left no part of my upper body untouched or unexplored. He discovered erogenous zones I had no idea existed, and exploited them to the full, bringing me to the crest of orgasm time and again, only to back away each time, until sweat sheened my body and every inch of me vibrated with the need for release
Then he moved down
When his tongue flicked over my clitoris, I jumped in sweet bliss, a whimper escaping my lips. He chuckled softly, his breath fiery against my moist skin. Then he suckled on me, and that was the end of any form of restraint on my part. I leapt over that edge with abandon, twisting and moaning and shaking as he continued to stroke and suckle me
The trembling had barely subsided when he said softly, "Are you ready to scream for me, Riley?"
His breath caressed my thighs, a kiss of air that had me quivering. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sensation, wanting him inside and yet wanting to prolong this lovemaking session as long as I could
"I told you, I don't scream for anyone."
It came out breathy, and he chuckled softly. "Then I shall continue as I am."
He did. And every bit as thoroughly as the first time, only this time he used his hands rather than his tongue and mouth. He brought me to the edge so very quickly, but this time offered no release, backing away, claiming my mouth, kissing me fiercely and thoroughly, until the threatening tremors had subsided. Then he started all over again
I'd wanted foreplay, and now I was getting it - in spades. Only I wasn't sure if I was going to survive it much longer
"Please," I panted. "Oh, God, please... I need you... inside."
He knelt over the top of me, his body as hot and as sweaty as mine, his grin wicked. "You know the price."
"Yes, yes, anything. Just do it."
He reached above me, undoing my hands, then shifted slightly so that the long hard length of his erection nuzzled me, seeking but not entering. "Shall we take it long and slow?"
I made a strangled sound and he chuckled. "Didn't think so."
With one swift, hard stroke, he was inside, and it was such a sweet, glorious relief I almost wept. Then he began to move, thrusting deep and strong, and there was no calm, no control, in any of his actions now. It was madness and passion and heat and intensity, and though I could barely even breathe let alone think, I knew this is what I had been seeking, what had been missing in my life. Because it was more than just sex, more than just a connection of bodies and desire. It was almost as if in this one, glorious moment in time, we'd become one, physically and spiritually
Then his teeth entered my neck, and everything exploded into ecstasy. Together, we fell screaming over that edge, plunging into a sea of bliss more powerful than anything I'd ever experienced
When I remembered how to breathe again, I took his face between my palms and kissed him long and slow. "That was amazing."
He rolled to one side and gathered me in his arms. "And I made you scream."
His warm, sexy tones held a hint of contented male arrogance and I smiled. "Only because I needed you inside."
He chuckled softly and brushed a sweaty strand of hair from my forehead. "Sounds to me like I have to prove it was no fluke."
And I thought Talon had stamina. I smiled and dropped a kiss on his chin. "Sounds like."
Over the course of the day, he did indeed prove it was no fluke
But late in the afternoon, as we lay hot and sweaty and entangled in each other's arms, I knew I was in deep, deep trouble. Because the intensity that burned between us suggested this vampire could be more than just a sex partner
It didn't matter that I barely knew him. Didn't matter that he didn't want me in any way other than physically. I had no more control over my emotions than I did the moon urges
I wanted him. Wanted to explore the full boundaries of what we had
Only that was the last damn thing he wanted
But as I'd warned him not so long ago, I was a wolf ready to fight for what she believed in
And I was more than willing to fight for the possibilities that lay unexplored between me and this vampire
Well, well," Rhoan said, his gaze jumping from me to Quinn and back again as we walked up the path toward him. "Looks to me like a good time has been had by all."
I grinned. "We didn't have a pack of cards handy, and had to do something to while away the time."
His gaze centered on the bite scar on my neck. Quinn had been careful to keep using the same entry point, so that I didn't have bite marks littering my neck. But we'd made love more than a few times, and the wounds were taking a little longer than normal to heal
"Hope you didn't exhaust her too much. We have a lot planned for tonight."
What he was really saying was that he hoped Quinn hadn't taken too much blood, and we all knew it
Quinn placed a hand on Rhoan's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "I took no more than necessary." He looked at me, a smile touching his lips. "And if you're worried about anyone getting exhausted, try worrying about me."
"I didn't hear any complaints at the time," I said dryly
His smile grew, making my hormones do their mad dance. "Nor are you ever likely to. You can exhaust me anytime you like." His gaze switched to Rhoan. "Where's Liander? I need to return his modulators."
"Inside cooking dinner. Apparently he likes my attempts about as much as my sister does."
Quinn's gaze took in mine for a moment, then he headed inside. I followed, enjoying the view before heading upstairs to get some decent clothes on. Then I went back outside and plopped down on the bench beside my brother. "So, how did last night go?"
"A cinch, once the power was knocked out. The guards were out in force, but there weren't any vampires amongst them, and both Jack and I were careful to neutralize our scent beforehand."
"Did you find anything?"
He snorted softly. "Sperm and eggs, and lots of them."
"Did you find and destroy your lot?"
"I believe so. We found some interesting files, but other than that, nothing. As we suspected, Moneisha is little more than a collecting point. It's not where these duplicates are coming from."
"So they weren't set up for research of any kind?"
"Yeah. But basic stuff."
I frowned. "I thought it was Moneisha who had isolated the cluster of genes that make a vampire a vampire?"
He gave me a perplexed look. "Where did you hear that?"
"It was apparently reported in the newspapers."
"Not in any I've read."
Now I was confused. "Maybe we don't read the right papers."
"Who told you that they had?"
"Misha. He said there'd been protests outside Moneisha because of their genetic research."
"There have been protests all right, but mainly because they've been buying up residences in the area with the intention of expanding."
"Maybe Misha mixed up a couple of stories." Yet even as I said it, I doubted it was the case. Misha had the best memory I'd ever come across
"Maybe." Rhoan didn't sound any more convinced than I was
I chewed on my lip for a moment, then asked, "Have you found out any information about Konane?"
"Konane. They apparently own Moneisha."
"Where did you hear this? Because I know Director Hunter is still working her way through the paper trail."
"Misha told me."
He frowned. "I wonder how he knew?"
"I can ask, when I next see him."
"Tell Jack and see what he says." He paused. "So how come Gautier suspected you?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. He was standing at the office door as we were coming out. Maybe he heard something."
"Those offices are soundproof."
"Then either he has a nose as sensitive as a wolf or something Quinn said tipped him off. Though what that could be, I have no idea."
Rhoan frowned. "You know, the few times I've worked with him, I've noticed he has extraordinarily keen senses for a vamp. If he is one of the lab-built creatures, then maybe he has got the nose of a wolf."
I leaned back against the sun-warmed wall of the old shed. "Has Jack checked all the military installations? Couldn't this be a government program?"
"The military is certainly working on implanting vampire genes into other nonhuman races, but from what Jack says, the longest any of them has lived is a couple of years."
I remembered the smell in the parking garage. Remembered the feeling I was facing dead - or at least dying - things. "Whoever is behind this, I don't think they're having much luck in the longevity stakes, either."
"They're living long enough to do some pretty nasty stuff."
I raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
He hesitated. "You know we've had ten guardians gone missing?" When I nodded, he continued, "From what we can glean from the remains of those we've found, it appears they might have been forced to fight for their lives in some kind of arena."
I closed my eyes and prayed that Kelly hadn't joined their number. Hadn't become just another means of testing some madman's grotesque creations
She didn't deserve that sort of end. None of the guardians had
But once again I shoved the thought away, not wanting to face the hurt of it until the moment hope was totally gone and I knew for sure she was dead. "Obviously, the bodies were dumped in areas out of the sunlight; otherwise, there wouldn't be any remains to study. Which in itself suggests someone wanted the Directorate to find the remains."
He nodded. "Jack says there was an enormous amount of growth accelerant in the body of the vamp they discovered in Quinn's plane. And the prelim results Quinn got back on Gautier's clones also show high dosages."
I frowned. "Sounds like they don't really care if their creations live all that long."
"Maybe just long enough to complete a task." His expression was grim when it met mine. "A vampire's body degenerates pretty quickly once he's dead. Can you think of a better killing machine than one designed to get in, do its job, then self-destruct before any evidence can be pulled from it?"
"It's not something I actually want to think about." I watched a willy wagtail flit across the backs of the nearby cows. "How come Gautier has been allowed to stay with the Directorate? Especially after his clones started appearing everywhere?"
"We think Gautier is working with someone in the Directorate - someone other than Alan Brown. Until we can ferret that person out, Gautier stays. It's better to have an enemy where you can watch him."
"You're not exactly watching him now."
"Director Hunter is."
"Ah." I closed my eyes, listening to the wind keening through the nearby gums. The storm that had hit Melbourne earlier that afternoon was on its way. "As a guardian, Gautier has to undergo regular health checks. I'm gathering nothing out of the ordinary has ever been found?"
"No. And Jack's told you about his history - or lack thereof."
"Yeah. Bit by little bit."
Rhoan grinned. "He wants you in the program, sis, and he's just trying to reel you in."
"So he's already said."
The man in question came out of the trees as I spoke
"Riley," he said, a smile touching his lips but his eyes all seriousness. "We need to talk if you can give me a moment."
I glanced at Rhoan, who shrugged at my unasked question. I pushed to my feet, and said, "Sure."
Jack followed the path back into the trees and I trailed him. We walked down to the dam and stood on the edge, watching dragonflies buzz the water
"What's up?" I said, after a moment
"Something you may not like." He looked at me, green eyes hard with anger. "You remember the blood sample I took?"
My stomach dropped. "Yes."
"We got some interesting results back."
I briefly closed my eyes, not sure I really wanted to hear this. "So, I was drugged?"
"Yes. There was N529, a fast-knockout drug designed for use on nonhumans, and one which is not due to come onto the market until next month. The other was ARC1-23."
I raised an eyebrow. "Which is?"
"It's a drug that's still on the experimental list because of the serious side effects it appears to have on some nonhumans." He hesitated. "It seems someone is trying to get you pregnant."