Vanda leaned into Phil as he kissed her. It was a languid, leisurely kiss. No doubt he intended to make love to her slowly and thoroughly. But the rhythmic stroking of his tongue against hers, the feel of his soft skin under her roaming hands, and the earthy, manly scent of him filling her senses—it made her bones melt, her heart race, and her desire spiral out of control.
She dug her fingers into his back and arched into him. She pressed her hips against his groin, rubbing his hard length. The aching emptiness between her legs grew hot and demanding.
To hell with leisurely lovemaking. They could do that the second time. Or the third.
She broke the kiss. "Let's get on with it." She fumbled with the knot on her terry-cloth belt. Everything was tinted red, so she knew her eyes were glowing.
"Sweetheart, I love the eagerness, but we need to talk first."
"You've got to be kidding." She yanked her robe off and tossed it on the floor.
He sucked in a breath. "Good God, you're beautiful."
"Thank you." She noticed his groin was even larger. "Enough chitchat." She grabbed hold of the waistband of his flannel pajama bottoms.
He clasped her wrists to stop her. "We really do need to talk."
"Why?" She yanked her hands from his grasp and glared at him. "Are you dumping me?"
"No! I love you. I want to spend my life with you."
Her heart swelled. "Really?"
"Then what's the problem? I can't get pregnant. I have no diseases. Your gorgeous body will not be harmed in any way." She grabbed her whip off the coffee table. "Unless, of course, you piss me off."
She huffed. "That was supposed to scare you into submission. The whip or personal love slave—which will it be?"
His blue eyes twinkled. "You don't have to resort to threats. I gladly volunteer."
She tossed the whip onto the table. "Then stop talking and kiss me. Make me scream. That's an order."
He shifted his weight. "I have to say something first."
Vanda groaned with frustration. She should have used the damned whip.
"Remember how you mentioned that the Nazis sent wolves after you?"
She froze. Her skin chilled with goose bumps, in spite of the blazing fire nearby. "I don't want to talk about it." She couldn't let Phil know. He'd never look at her the same way again. "The past is gone. There's no point in talking about it."
"No! You love me, don't you?" Tears sprang to her eyes once again. "Isn't love supposed to be enough?"
He searched her eyes. "I hope it is."
"It is." She wrapped her arms around him. "Please. Just take me as I am. Love me."
"I do love you. More than anything."
"Good." She tugged his pants down. "Then hurry."
"We have all night. Don't rush me."
But he was ready. So ready. "I want you." She reached out to touch him.
"Wait a minute." He lowered her to the floor, and she immediately locked her legs around his waist.
"Love slave." She lifted her hips to rub herself against him. "Take me now."
He pushed her hips down. "Not now."
"Yes, now. What about the term 'love slave' do you not understand?"
He chuckled. "I was the first one to declare my love. So I get the first turn."
"We're taking turns?"
"Yes. Me first."
She suppressed a smile. For a love slave, he was very domineering. But even their little power struggles turned her on. "You think you're in charge here?"
"I know I am." He fished her terry-cloth belt from her robe.
"Maybe I just let you think you're in charge." She frowned as he looped the belt around her wrists. "What are you doing?"
"I intend to explore you thoroughly. I can't do it if you keep rushing me." He pulled her arms above her head and tied the terry-cloth ends around a leg of the coffee table.
She tugged at the belt, then smiled. He'd tied her so loosely, she could free her hands whenever she wanted. "So who made you the boss?"
"I did. Feel free to register your complaints."
"I will. You—You're—" She sucked in a breath when his tongue tickled her neck. "You're overbearing."
"Mmm-hmm." With his tongue, he licked a path down to her breasts.
"You're a caveman." She shivered as his tongue circled her nipple. "Pushy and completely ob-ob—"
He sucked her nipple into his mouth.
He tugged on the hardened tip, and she moaned.
The ache between her legs grew more desperate. "Phil, please."
"You're not begging, are you?" He nibbled down her belly.
"Good, 'cause it won't sway me. This is still my turn, and I'm not done with you." He slipped two fingers inside her.
"You're so wet." He waggled his fingers. "So beautiful."
She panted, gasping for air. Oh God, it felt so good.
Her legs tensed. Her hips lifted.
And his fingers withdrew. The building crescendo keeled over and fell flat.
"Ack!" She'd never felt so desperate. "What was that?"
"Trust me." He dove between her legs.
She squealed at the feel of his tongue. He tickled and teased, suckled and nipped.
The tension slammed back into her full force, stealing her breath away. Oh God, if this was how he took his turn, he could take the whole night. A whole fortnight. Her sight dimmed. Her ears hummed. All feelings, all thoughts, zeroed in on his wicked mouth.
She screamed as a massive convulsion racked her body. She writhed, oblivious to everything but the delicious shudders.
She gasped when he entered her suddenly. "Phil." She freed her hands from the belt. "Are you trying to kill me?"
He smiled and kissed her brow. "Hang in there, sweetheart. It's still my turn."
Several hours later, Phil lay flat on his back in a sated stupor.
"Phil," Vanda whispered in his ear.
He groaned. Was it his turn again? He'd lost count. After his last turn, he'd thought he was completely spent. He'd been half asleep when she'd started massaging him with a warm, wet washcloth. She was so gentle, he'd floated in a drowsy, semiaroused state.
But then she took him into her mouth. In a flash he was fully awake and fully erect. She tortured him till he begged for mercy, and then she straddled him. He didn't know what was more exciting: feeling her hot sheath sliding up and down his penis, or watching her make love to him. He'd adored watching the expressions on her face, the flush on her skin, and the bounce of her breasts. He'd relished hearing the soft moans and hoarse cries. He had never experienced anything so beautifully erotic.
She'd nearly killed him.
"Phil," she whispered again.
"You fell asleep. It's four in the morning."
"That's nice." He pried his eyes open, but they fell shut again. "I sleep at night. Guard during the day."
"I know. But all that exercise left me with an appetite."
"That's nice." He drifted off.
"I'm hungry." She traced his carotid artery with her finger.
His eyes popped open.
She grinned. "I thought that would get your attention. I was going to call Connor, but I thought I should let you know first, in case one of the guys teleports here with synthetic blood and sees you sprawled naked on the floor."
He sat up. "I see what you mean." It would be obvious that he and Vanda were engaging in forbidden activities. He blinked, realizing for the first time that she was wearing flannel pants and a man's T-shirt. "You're dressed."
"Yes. I found these clothes on the dryer. And I took another bath. Vamps have a really strong sense of smell."
Werewolves did, too, and Vanda's scent was all over him. "I'd better wash up." He hurried to the bathroom to scrub himself clean.
When he came out with a towel wrapped around his hips, he discovered she'd loaded the washing machine with the blanket and everything else that smelled of sex.
She paced around the room. "I think I got everything. I don't want to lose you as my guard. If Connor figures out what we're doing, he might reassign you."
"Then I would quit." Phil found one last T-shirt and pair of flannel pants on the dryer. He pulled them on. "I'm not leaving you."
"Phil." She looked at him with so much love in her soft gray eyes. Then her gaze shifted to his neck. Her eyes gleamed, and she turned away. "Make the call, please."
"Right." He wasn't afraid of Vanda's fangs, but he knew if she bit him, she'd realize he didn't taste like a normal human. That wasn't the way he wanted her to learn the truth. He'd tried to tell her earlier, but she'd refused to listen.
He was halfway to the bathroom to retrieve the cell phone he'd left in his pants when he remembered it never got good reception at this cabin. It would be dangerous to have a Vamp teleport here using an unstable beacon. He went back to the phone on the kitchen counter, then punched in the number for the security office at Romatech.
Connor answered. "How is it there?"
"Quiet. Vanda's hungry, so we could use a delivery."
"I'll send Phineas. Expect his call in a few minutes." Connor hung up.
Phil frowned as he set down the receiver.
"Something wrong?" Vanda asked.
"Connor seemed more…curt than usual. There must be something going on. We'll find out when Phineas comes."
Vanda nodded and paced toward the fireplace. The fire had dwindled, leaving a few glowing coals in a heap of ash.
The phone rang, and he grabbed the receiver. "Hey, Phineas. I'm glad you made it out of the nightclub."
By the echoing sound of his voice, he realized he was on speaker phone. He continued to talk so his voice could guide Phineas to the right place. When the young Vamp appeared, his arms filled with a big cardboard box, Phil hung up.
"Hey, bro." Phineas set the box on the kitchen counter and turned to greet Vanda. "Whoa, dudette. Looking a little crispy."
She gave him an annoyed look. "Thanks a lot." Her expression softened as she approached the kitchen. "Actually, I do want to thank you. Not just for bringing the food, but for helping everybody get out of the club."
"No problem," Phineas said. "Sorry about it blowing up. You know, your bouncer was really pissed. Insisted on teleporting back with me to Romatech so he could volunteer to fight the Malcontents. Angus was glad to hire him."
"Angus is at Romatech now?" Phil asked.
"Oh yeah." Phineas removed a plastic case from the box and set it in front of Phil. "These are some weapons Connor wanted you to have."
"Good." Phil opened the case and found two handguns and numerous clips.
"I wish I could have brought you some silver bullets," Phineas said, "but I couldn't teleport with them."
"I understand." Phil loaded a clip into a handgun.
"What about my food?" Vanda peered inside the box.
"Right here, Miss Toasty." Phineas began unloading bottles of synthetic blood and setting them on the counter.
Vanda grabbed one, yanked off the top, and chugged the contents down.
"Whoa, baby." Phineas slanted an amused look at Phil. "I wonder why she's so hungry?"
Phil ignored him and stashed the rest of the bottles into the refrigerator.
Phineas looked back and forth between Phil and Vanda. "Matching lumberjack outfits. How…interesting."
Vanda plunked her empty bottle on the counter. "Stow it, Dr. Phang, before I get creative with this bottle."
"Ooh, kinky." Phineas grinned. "I like it."
Phil loaded another handgun, switched on the safety, and offered it to Vanda. "Have you ever used one of these?"
"No." She eyed it warily, then gave Phineas a sardonic look. "But I know where to aim for target practice."
"Ooh, kinky and freaky." Phineas winked.
"Will you get serious?" Phil grumbled. He offered the gun once more to Vanda. "You need this."
She took it reluctantly. "I prefer my whip."
Phineas snorted. "I bet you do."
"Do I need to knock your fangs out?" Phil growled.
"All right, all right." Phineas held up his hands in a surrendering gesture. "The Love Doctor's just having a little fun, that's all. Things are so…grim back at Romatech. It's a lot nicer here at your little love nest."
"It's a hunting cabin," Phil corrected him.
"Phil and Howard are hunters." Vanda strode to the coffee table and set her handgun down next to her whip. "Phil moved them all to the basement 'cause I didn't like them, but there used to be animal trophies mounted on the walls."
"Yeah, I know what you've been mounting," Phineas muttered. When Phil elbowed him, he whispered, "Don't worry, bro. I won't tell anyone."
"Now that's weird." Vanda pivoted as she scanned the cabin. "I just noticed there aren't any hunting rifles here. How did you kill those animals?"
Phil winced inwardly. No rifles had been necessary. A fully shifted bear and wolf could kill the old fashioned way.
Phineas let out a slow, whistling breath and gave Phil a knowing look.
Phil cleared his throat. "Howard never keeps rifles here. Someone could break in and steal them."
"Oh. I see." Vanda perched on the arm of the couch, apparently satisfied with his answer.
"So what's happening at Romatech?" Phil changed the subject.
Phineas moved the empty box to the floor. "Angus arrived a few hours ago. He converted the conference room across from the security office into a war room."
"War room?" Vanda asked, her eyes wide.
"It's highly probable that things will escalate," Phil explained. "Especially now that Casimir is in America."
She made a face. "Why couldn't he stay in Eastern Europe? That's where all the creepy vampires hang out."
Phil winced. He needed to tell Vanda that the creepy vampire, Sigismund, was here, too. "It makes sense for Casimir to come to America. He wants to destroy all the modern, bottle-drinking Vamps, and this is where the majority of them live. The power base is here."
Phineas nodded. "Angus was saying the same thing."
"Well, the leaders might be here, but the followers…" Vanda groaned. "Did you see those guys at the party last night? When they thought Phineas was poisoned by Malcontents, they freaked out and wanted to run away. Our side has a bunch of wimps!"
Phineas stiffened. "I'm not a wimp."
"And neither am I. We have plenty of good fighters," Phil insisted. But he knew Vanda was making a valid point. The Vamps who chose to drink bottled blood did it because they disliked attacking mortals. By their very nature, they were peaceful, law-abiding creatures.
Casimir's followers, on the other hand, were aggressive and violent. They'd been murderers and thugs as mortals, and as vampires, their cruel natures had worsened. Give a criminal super speed, strength, and mind control abilities, and the result was a vicious monster with allusions of grandeur and invincibility. How could the Vamps hope to defeat them? But if they didn't, there would be no one to stop the Malcontents from terrorizing the world. The Vamps had to fight, like it or not, not just for their own survival, but to protect the mortal world.
Phil strode to the back door and slipped on some rubber boots. "I haven't checked the perimeter in a while. You want to come?" He gave Phineas a pointed look.
"Yeah, sure, bro."
Phil smiled at Vanda. "This will take just a few minutes."
She crossed her arms, frowning. "I get it. You want to talk about gory war stuff without scaring the little lady. Well, I've been through war before, you know. I'm tough, dammit."
Not nearly as tough as she pretended. Phil wished he could take her in his arms and kiss away the frown lines from her brow, but he couldn't in front of a witness. "We'll be right back." He slipped outside with Phineas.
He waited on the back porch a few seconds while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Then he descended the stairs to the gravel walkway. The moon, three-quarters full, hung low over a dark silhouette of evergreens. A breeze rustled the branches, filling the air with the scent of pine.
He strolled down the walkway, the gravel crunching under his rubber boots. Phineas walked beside him, peering into the dark woods.
"This way." Phil turned to make a clockwise circle around the cabin. Their footsteps became soft on the grass. He listened carefully. Birdsong, the scurrying of little paws through the underbrush.
"How bad is it?" he asked.
Phineas kicked a pinecone. "The Russian Malcontents attacked the townhouse. No one was there, but the alarm went off at Romatech, and by the time we got there, they all teleported away."
"Cowards," Phil grumbled.
"We're going to bunk down at Romatech till things settle down." Phineas sighed. "If it ever settles down. That Sigismund dude made it sound like all the Romatechs were in danger. Angus sent Mikhail, Zoltan, Jack, and Dougal to the other facilities to beef up security."
Phil glanced at the cabin's front porch as they passed by. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention Sigismund in front of Vanda. I want to break the news to her myself."
"Does she know him?"
"He's the one who changed her and her sister."
Phineas whistled. "Hot damn, bro. No wonder you nearly squeezed his head off. That was really awesome, though, the way your hand turned into a paw."
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention that either."
Phineas halted. "You haven't told her yet?"
"No. I tried, but…" He groaned inwardly. He should have tried harder. Vanda had been so adamant in her refusal to talk. What was she trying to hide from him?
Phineas resumed their walk around the cabin. "Connor wanted me to pass on a message. Keep your furry paws to yourself while you're guarding Vanda."
Phil gazed into the dark woods, saying nothing.
"Obviously, Connor's warning is too late," Phineas muttered.
"I'm not discussing it." Phil rounded the corner of the house and headed for the back porch.
"You don't have to, bro. The Love Doctor senses these things. Besides, you're an animal. You're going to act like one." Phineas howled like a wolf.
"Enough," Phil growled. "This has nothing to do with my animal nature. I love Vanda. And I think she loves me."
"Dude, she doesn't even know you. Not until you tell her the truth."
Phil winced inwardly. "Okay. You made your point." He could only hope his shape-shifting nature wouldn't make a difference. Vanda claimed his love would be enough. But she hated shape shifters. And she was terrified of wolves.
As they neared the back door, he heard the phone ring inside. "Hurry." He rushed to open the door. "I'd rather Vanda not answer it."
Phineas zoomed inside at vampire speed, beating Vanda to the phone. "Hello?"
As Phil locked the back door, he noted the shocked expression stealing over the black Vamp's face.
"How—How did it happen?" Phineas asked. He grimaced as he listened to the response.
Vanda retreated to the fireplace, a worried look furrowing her brow. She crossed her arms, her shoulders hunched.
"All right," Phineas said quietly. "We'll be right there." He gently replaced the receiver, then turned slowly to face them. He still looked stunned.
"What happened?" Phil asked.
Phineas swallowed audibly. "The Romatechs in Texas and Colorado were bombed. Fourteen Vamps are dead. More were injured."
Vanda sucked in a breath and pressed a hand to her mouth.
Phil felt a tightening in his chest. For the last few years there had been tension between the Malcontents and Vamps. There'd even been a few minor skirmishes. But nothing on this scale.
He looked across the room at Vanda. Somehow, he had to keep her safe. And he also needed to fight. "The war has begun."