|Home > Larissa Ione > Chained by Night|
In a secret club blaring rock music and laughter, raised shot glasses brimming with whiskey clinked together like death knells.
“Dude, it’s your last night as a single male. Why aren’t you starting drunken brawls or banging that female you just sucked?”
Hunter glared at his blond companion from across the scarred tabletop. As a human-turned-vampire, Riker held on to some strange human rituals, like the thing called a “bachelor party.”
“I don’t f**k outside my species.” Unlike Riker – and most vampires, for that matter – Hunter had never swum in the same gene pool with mankind. Thank the Great Spirit for that. “And it’s not my last night,” he muttered. “The mating ceremony doesn’t take place until next month.”
Riker gave Hunter a bullshit look. “She arrives at MoonBound tomorrow.”
Hunter groaned at the reminder that his future mate was arriving courtesy of an ancient vampire custom that required a “trial run” before a clan leader could be bound to his mate forever.
Forever. Sounded like way too damned long to Hunter.
He downed his shot of Jameson and changed the subject. “Where are Baddon and Jaggar?”
Riker’s leather bomber jacket creaked as he propped his hip against the table where they’d been standing for the last two hours. “They’re making up for your picky ass.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of one of the private rooms down the hall in the back. “They took off with that purple-haired chick and her friend.”
Hunter cocked an eyebrow at the sea of purple-haired humans milling around, all victims of the newest hair-color craze.
Riker clarified. “The one with the dog collar. The metal-spiked dog collar.”
Why did groupies think vampires liked dog collars? Not to mention the fact that they sort of interfered with the whole bloodsucking process.
With a sigh, Hunter shoved away from the wall he’d been leaning against. He was done with this cesspool of sex, drugs, and blood. He’d never liked the underground vamp-worship scene, and while this was one of the classier Seattle clubs that secretly catered to vampires, it still reeked of desperation.
The humans who came here to give their blood and bodies to vampires were desperate to be turned someday. The vampires who frequented this kind of club were also desperate, either for food or to reconnect with the humanity they lost, and Hunter was neither. As a born vampire, he’d never been human, and as an experienced warrior and leader of one of the largest vampire clans in the Pacific Northwest, he hadn’t wanted for food in a long time.
He strode across the blood- and drink-stained concrete floor, barely registering the way the crowd of humans and vampires parted for him. Technically, in a club setting, he was on equal footing with all vampires, but as a clan chief and one of the oldest born vampires in existence, Hunter was given a wide berth and undeniable respect.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was six and half feet tall and wearing an arsenal of weapons under his leather duster.
He broke away from the crowd and shoved open the first door he came to. Dim light from behind Hunter flooded the private room, spilling onto a stained sofa and an ancient, sagging bed in the corner. The heady scents of blood and sex billowed out into the hall, overpowering the lingering odors of stale cigarette smoke and grease from the boarded-up old burger joint next door.
A spiked dog collar rested on top of a messy pile of clothes on the floor.
“Yo,” he called out to the pair on the mattress and the other pair on the sofa. “Finish up. I’m outta here.”
The na**d human female tangled on the mattress with Baddon moaned. Baddon, his chest plastered against hers and his fangs buried in her throat, didn’t look up, but Jag did from the sofa, long enough to acknowledge his leader with a slow nod.
Hunter closed the door and returned to Riker, whose smirk of amusement didn’t quite hide the concern in his silver eyes.
“Knock it off,” Hunter growled. “I don’t need a pity party.”
“Your future mate is from ShadowSpawn,” Riker said, handing him a fresh glass of whiskey. “A clan that has been waging war against us for centuries. They have artwork made from MoonBound scalps and bones. And I’ve met Rasha. Trust me, pity is the least of what you need.”
Hunter pressed his spine to the wall and kicked his head back hard enough to hurt. It had been two months since he had struck a deal with the enemy clan’s brutal leader to mate with his daughter in exchange for the return of Riker’s mate, Nicole.
But Hunter had told his own clan about the deal just two days ago.
Riker was still pissed that he’d been kept in the dark, but Hunter had kept quiet for the guy’s own good. Riker and Nicole would have stewed in guilt or tried to do something stupid to break the arrangement.
“I’m sorry, Hunt.” Riker looked down at his steel-toed boots, his hair falling forward to conceal his expression. “This is my fault. What you did for me and Nicole —”
“Don’t.” Hunter cut his friend off. “I said I don’t need your pity, and I don’t need your apology, either. I made a choice, and I have to live with it. But I’ll tell you what I do need,” he said, focusing on the tense stirring in his muscles. “A good fight.”
Riker lifted his head and flashed fangs. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and run into some poachers on the way home.”
“Or,” Hunter suggested, “we could hunt our enemies here in the city.” The very thought of taking on the role of a predator, the way it used to be – the way it should be – drew a rumble of anticipation from deep in his chest.
Riker’s gaze cut sharply to the front door as two young male vamps entered. The guy didn’t miss anyone coming or going. “No way. It’s too risky.”
Hunter drained the glass of whiskey. “That’s the point. And it’s not that risky.”
“I said no. We can’t let our chief get killed. Or worse.”
Yes, there was worse than getting killed, and Hunter knew it. Humans loved their vampire slaves, and if he was captured alive, he could very well end up mopping some human ass**le’s floor after a year of “reprogramming and training.” More likely, though, because he was a born vampire – distinguished by the fact that his eyes were the same black-brown that they’d been when he was born instead of the silver color that defined a turned vampire – he’d spend the rest of his life in a Daedalus lab.
Nicole, former CEO of Daedalus, the company that had revolutionized slavery, had been clear about what happened to born vampires in the human world, and it wasn’t pretty. The poor bastards were in for a lifetime of being poked and prodded, studied, tortured, cut open, and possibly used for breeding. Hunter would rather die.
He swirled the ice cubes around in his glass. “You know I can do what I want, right?”
“And you know why you named me your second in command.” Riker waved off an approaching human female whose bite scars and lack of panties under a short denim skirt announced her availability for any vampire pleasure. “To stop you from doing stupid shit.”
Hunter snorted. “To try to stop me from doing stupid shit.”
“I do have backup, you know.” He jerked his head toward Baddon and Jaggar as they emerged from the bedroom looking sated and relaxed. But they were warriors through and through, and beneath their loose-gaited swagger was a deadly alertness that no amount of sex or blood could diminish. Their assessing gazes took note of every individual in the place as they made a beeline toward Hunter.
“How is it,” Baddon drawled as they approached, “that this is Hunt’s party and we got all the action?”
“Not me.” Riker held up his hands in denial. “I fed, but I have a beautiful mate I’m going home to.”
Jaggar punched Riker in the shoulder. “Lucky bastard.” He eyed Hunter. “I saw you with that busty brunette. Did you get some?”
“Depends on what ‘some’ is.” Hunter started out the door without explaining himself.
For the first time ever, he’d actually considered throwing all his crazy into the wind and doing the female who had crawled onto his lap and rubbed herself against him as he fed, but his impending doom – also known as mating – had weighed too heavily on his mind. He detested the ShadowSpawn female, and the mere thought of her put him in the mood to do anything but have sex.
Then there was the curse. Oh, and the possibility of a spy inside the clan who might be feeding info to ShadowSpawn.
Hunter was so screwed.
“Hunt!” Riker jogged after him. “No stupid shit.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered as they scaled the stone steps up a poorly lit passage that came out into a dark alley. The narrow street, cluttered by Dumpsters and crates, was otherwise clean and, even better, deserted.
The club sat on the outskirts of Seattle in a posh neighborhood the cops and vampire hunters left alone. It was possible that they were aware of the existence of the club, but as long as no wealthy humans were harassed or killed, the law tended to stay away. No sense in bringing attention to a “vampire problem” if there wasn’t one.
Except that there was a problem, and soon it would spill over into even the areas that had been ignored for decades. It was a storm Hunter had seen coming for years, one that had been brewing since the day humans discovered that vampires existed.
The smell of approaching snow rode the wind as they strode through the streets, mixing with the crowds of humans enjoying the 24/7 nightlife that kept this part of Seattle hopping even in the cold winter months. A siren blared in the distance, so distant that none of the humans milling about would hear it.
How these weak humans had conquered and enslaved the vampire race continued to baffle him. Sure, they had an advantage when it came to weapons, and they outnumbered vampires by a bazillion to one, but Great Spirit above, they were stupid.
Baddon took the lead as they approached the mall parking lot where they’d left the clan’s Land Rover, his hand tucked beneath his biker jacket, ready to draw a weapon. Eager to draw a weapon, probably.
The parking lot’s lights went out, shrouding the SUV in darkness, courtesy of Baddon’s ability to mentally manipulate electricity. The lack of light gave them an extra edge over human vampire hunters, and while Hunter figured that the heightened caution Riker insisted on was a waste of time and effort, he never argued. Rike was hypervigilant, and when the safety of clan members was at stake, wasting time and effort was a better alternative than being dead.
Jag and Baddon ranged out ahead to secure the immediate area around the Land Rover as Rike lagged behind, remaining at Hunter’s back. When Bad gave the all-clear signal, Hunter dug the keys out of his pocket.
“I’m driving. No arguments.”
There was some grumbling but no formal protests as they piled into the vehicle. Rike took the passenger seat and plugged classic Creedence Clearwater Revival into the radio, and Hunter got to listen to three big vampire warriors sing at the top of their lungs during the entire thirty-mile drive. Finally, as “Bad Moon Rising” faded out for the second time, they reached the private gravel drive that led deep into more than a hundred acres of land owned by the clan. The property was used for storage and hunting, and it also contained two small cabins that any clan member could use as getaways.
Or as hideouts.
He parked the truck inside the barn, where other vehicles were stored, from snowmobiles and four-wheelers to Jaggar’s classic Corvette and Baddon’s Harley. From here, the snowmobiles or four-wheelers could make it through the forest to the public lands where their headquarters were located in less than half an hour.
Unfortunately, a recent increase in human activity in the forests meant that vampires had to be more cautious. Now Hunter and his clan mates had been reduced to traveling on foot both for silence and to minimize the chance of leaving tracks that would lead humans to headquarters.
“Fucking humans,” Baddon muttered as they trudged through the woods.
There was a murmur of agreement from Jag and Rike, and then Hunter caught a scent that raised the hairs on the back of his neck.
Already on high alert, they drew weapons and squared off in fighting stances as Hunter lifted his face to the breeze. The stench of unwashed skin, alcohol, tobacco… and stale vampire blood drifted in the wind, mingled with the tang of distant campfire smoke.
“Poachers,” he whispered harshly. “At least a dozen.”
“Shit.” Baddon, his black hair longer in the front than the back, shoved his bangs out of his eyes as he flipped the safety off his crossbow.
They kept moving, taking it slow and quiet. But as they approached the edge of the lake that the clan used for swimming and fishing during the summer, a shot rang out. A bullet punched into a tree trunk mere feet from Hunter’s head.
“Stake Reapers!” Baddon shouted, and f**k, this was not good.
Vampires had been plagued by hunters and poachers for decades, but Nicole’s messy defection from Daedalus – and humanity – to join MoonBound and become a vampire had caused a shitstorm. Humans had begun to call for the extermination of free vampires and tighter controls on enslaved vamps. Now every sleazeball on the planet was out to bag a vampire, and some, like the Stake Reapers motorcycle club, were cashing in on the rush to grab as many vampires as they could sell before wild vampires became extinct.
Worse, the Stake Reapers had proved to be the most dangerous organized group Hunter had come across, and Baddon’s speculation that the outlaw club had a vampire at its wheel was even more disturbing.