Naked, one arm twisted behind her back, Gwen stumbled down the spiral stairs. The stench of stale urine and filth stole her breath. The cacophony of hisses echoed toward them, chilling her soul. Red eyes peered through the darkness. Focused. Hungry. Inhuman. Fixed on her.
A huge natural cavern spread before her, colder than the North Pole. Iron bars stretched across its narrowest point, each thicker than a bodybuilder’s thigh. Mold crept from algae-covered puddles and stained the rock walls.
One glance at the red-eyed, skeletal mob penned inside and her knees buckled. Goosebumps erupted over her naked body and her stomach churned. Pressed against their cage, blood-starved vampires waited, fangs bared as they howled for fresh meat—for her.
Darkness blocked her vision until only the smell of neglect and dirt remained. Bile rose in her throat. Her muscles trembled like half-set Jell-O, and she struggled to breathe. If her captors tossed her in with those monsters, she’d be toast. Well… vampire catnip. Whatever, she’d end up dead.
The fat warder’s breath came straight from a pigsty. His celery-stalk–thin friend sported enormous boils on his cheeks and hands. Don’t these creeps understand personal hygiene?
The way Fatso groped her exposed breasts made her flesh creep. Until today she’d delighted in her Marilyn Monroe curves, but around this pervert, she felt dirty and ashamed. When the boil-covered guard unlocked the entrance, hungry blood-drinkers surged forward.
The other guards approached the cage, nightsticks swinging. The prisoners howled, wrapped their arms around their heads, and dropped to the floor. Weakened by their hunger, they were no match for well-fed soldiers. Wary now, they backed off and formed a semicircle, penning her in the entrance.
Fatso released her arm and whacked her between her shoulder blades. Her breasts bounced as she stumbled farther into the dark cavern. Behind her, the door shut with a clang. The sound of the oversized key turning in the lock sounded her death knell.
She slammed one hand over her bare cunny and wrapped her other arm across her chest. Darkness choked her and terror froze her bones. As her eyes adjusted to blackness, a mass of ragtag creatures shuffled toward her. Their fangs gleamed through the cavern’s endless night.
When her spine pressed against the bars, they felt like icicles branding her flesh. Worse, her generous curves stopped her squeezing between them. Her pulse hammered three hundred beats a minute.
Palms clammy, she batted away the filthy hands that clawed at her naked body. Not that she had a hope in hell of coming out of this alive. “I’m a trained killer. Come near me and die.”
The feral vampires parted like the Red Sea before Moses. For one brief, beautiful moment, she thought her bluff scared them. No such luck.
A giant of a man strode toward her, his muscles bulging beneath his black leather jerkin. Shaven-headed, with a goatee beard and neat moustache, he could have passed for a member of an old-style biker gang. His dominant swagger and bulk made her pulse pound in a mix of bone-deep attraction and stomach-churning fear. Again she tried to cover her nakedness with her hands.
This gorgeous man-mountain’s eyes glowed with smoky red-gray lights—burning coals that illuminated the darkness. He dominated the other vampires by sheer force of will. “Disperse. Now.”
The mob dropped their chins and edged away.
His wide-legged, chin-high stance proclaimed him the biggest, baddest thing in there. To her, he seemed like sunshine and strength, a savior come to rescue her—unless he considered her his next meal.
With his pointed fangs and red-eyed gaze, he should terrify her. Instead, her tongue crept over her lips, and her nipples pearled as she took a step toward him. Then her common sense kicked in. He was a vampire—a natural-born killer who’d drink her dry.
His arm shot out, yanking her against him. The contact made her cunny ache for more. Determined to escape him, she thrust her knee toward his balls. Lightning fast, he stepped sideways, but his grip on her wrists tightened.
With a sexy growl, he hoisted her over his shoulder. “No dirty tricks, cupcake.”
God, his voice. Rich with bass notes, it reverberated through her bones. Everything about him, except his incisors, sent wicked desire blazing through her. But cupcake? She’d show him cupcake.
An amused laugh rumbled around his chest as she pounded her fists on his spine. He landed a single hard slap on her bare bottom. She squealed at the unexpected pain. Her cunny clenched, but hung like a slab of meat over the giant’s shoulder, she felt powerless and vulnerable.
His oversized hand stroked her naked behind before he slapped it again. The sound echoed around the cavern. Squealing, she beat on his back. Another inmate drooled as he crept closer. “Need a taste.”
Her captor shoved at the overfamiliar vamp’s face. “Don’t touch what’s mine.”
A blast of dark, sensual heat shot through her as he claimed her as his. If she wasn’t careful, this mammoth with the toe-tingling, growly voice could consume her in more ways than one.
Gore’s stomach plummeted. This newcomer—this human—completed him. He’d never looked for a mate, never intended to take one, either. Now fate thrust her on him. He didn’t know how to deal with that.
His mating instinct hit him in a bomb blast of possession and need. Resentment too, but he still wove dark sensual fantasies around her. He was menacing and terrible, a vampire to be respected and feared. Touching her eased the ever-present anger churning in his gut. Helped him forget how everyone, his parents included, rejected him for his berserker heritage, too.
His fury that the fates dumped her on him faded when he stroked her arse. The way she wriggled against his shoulder added a swagger to his gait. Need swamped him, and if he didn’t bury his cock balls-deep in her cunt, he’d explode. This tiny woman with her brilliant red curls and generous curves was temptation and sin.
All this eternal love stuff wasn’t for him. His parents had taught him that. Not that he’d stand by while the mob got their hands—or their fangs—on her. She roused unwelcome, carnal instincts within him, but he protected his own.
Her defiance impressed the hell out of him. Few creatures, whatever their species, had the guts to start a fight they couldn’t win. When the conditions killed her—and they would—he’d be hollow inside. That or he’d go into a tailspin of violence and out-of-control rage. Confused and conflicted, his thoughts scrambled. She’s an anchor, to weigh me down, but I’d die to protect her.
His throwback heritage made him stronger and meaner than most. He’d never expected to be part of a triad or to become the left hand of the true vampire king. He took pride in his role, stopping trouble before it started. Without Bronte’s calming gaze and his muscular backup, the blood-hungry vampires in here would have turned on each other in a last-man-standing bloodbath.
Protecting the weak came naturally to him. Bronte and Plato might overrule him, but never in public.
Cock hard, brain reeling, he caressed his human’s curvy arse. She shivered at his touch. Everything about her made him want to throw out his chest and scream Mine. He pictured himself fucking her until she collapsed in an exhausted heap beneath him. It curdled his stomach that he couldn’t safeguard her from starvation or the sub-zero conditions.
Her kissable lips bewitched him, and he wondered how they’d feel wrapped around his cock. His instincts screamed, Screw her into multiple orgasms. Their fledgling mating bond meant she’d become his addiction and his delight. Had she been an immortal, she’d have craved him as desperately as he did her. Yeah, right back to her mortality.
Furious that fate tied him to a human, he stomped through the dungeon’s squalor. His triad brothers would guard her while he got his head straight. Only she’d die without food or warmth. His inability to supply her most basic needs drove the air from his lungs.
Most paranormal species screwed like hound dogs in heat until they found their fated mates. Then that was it for them. He didn’t do love or emotions, ever. And yet… He wanted to lay her on silk sheets and shower her with rose petals before he thrust his cock in her hot little mouth and face-fucked her so hard she could barely breathe. When the hell did I develop a romantic streak?
Three years ago, when he and his triad brothers woke in this arctic cavern, they’d expected their escape to be easy. Using their paranormal speed and strength, they’d clawed at the outer walls until impenetrable basalt blocked their way. Angry and frustrated, only Bronte’s birthright gifts had kept them sane.
Teams of desperate prisoners still dug at the short tunnel daily, but it’d take decades to break free. With their get-out-of-jail attempt foiled, Gore, Bronte, and Plato claimed a small alcove and extended it into their living space. A few yards in, they’d broken into a bricked-up medieval cell, complete with skeleton, rotted blankets, a wooden chair, and shackles on the walls.
Beyond the solid oak door, a manmade wall of basalt barred their way. The previous inmate had died in the dark, walled in to await his death. Defeated, they tossed the bones on the communal dump and declared the cell their sleeping quarters and de facto headquarters. The tattered blanket doubled as makeshift curtains and afforded them a sense of privacy.
Gore hated that, thanks to his stupid mistake, they’d gone from playboy-style luxury to inmates of the world’s worst jail. The utter darkness, harsh conditions, and lack of fresh blood left the captives teetering on the edge of insanity. This place was lethal to mortals, but as immortals, they never got ill.
In an ideal world, Gore would shower his little human with jewels or feed her the finest foods. Or he could pretend she wasn’t the missing part of his soul and walk away. That way he wouldn’t get let down or hurt. His heart would explode in his chest if she rejected him. For all my muscles and unnatural size, I’m an emotional coward.
A feral growl rumbled through his chest. Compared to vampires, humans were so damn frail. That’s why the plague had run rampant through them. Human males verged on extinction now. Most females, mortal or otherwise, were infertile. Society had gone into meltdown. That had cleared the way for paranormal species to emerge from the shadows and take charge.
His little captive kicked her legs and hammered her fists on his back, but his slap stilled her. Thanks to the damp and the cold, she’d cough up her lungs. That or starve to death.
Her rounded bottom fascinated him. Almost against his will, he stroked it. Instant hard-on. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he fought his all-consuming need of her. His erection chafed against his jeans. One-handed, he adjusted it as he stormed onward.
When she gave a soft, needy mewl, he wondered what noises she’d make when he sank his shaft deep inside her. From today, he lived to watch over her and keep her safe. Yeah, like she’d ever let me into her heart.
Women fell for Plato’s charm or Bronte’s innate goodness, not his imposing bulk and berserker rage. Every time he touched his human female, it soothed his surly nature, but his emotional side wanted nothing to do with a mate—especially a doomed one.
Just once, he’d dropped his guard. That mistake had cost them their freedom and condemned them to this cold, dark hell. He blamed himself, of course. Now this godforsaken cavern would kill the woman who roused his most primal needs. He blamed himself for that, too.
Part bard, part historian, part judge, Plato had been all womanizer before their imprisonment. That’s what had caused their downfall. Since their incarceration, he spent his days learning ancient lore and customs from the other prisoners.
Before he started his crash course in vampire ethics, he hadn’t realized his own ignorance. Now he could hold his own in any court, paranormal or otherwise. His newfound respect and knowledge would help Bronte claim his heritage once they broke free. But he still needed to learn more.
Information overload set his skull throbbing. He’d rather have gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali than feel so drained. Add in his constant hunger and he teetered on the brink of an abyss. Thankfully, his affection for his triad brothers grounded him. He stood and put his emaciated body through a series of battle poses. “Sorry, gentlemen, but I’m done. Thanks for your patience. I’ll need time to absorb everything I’ve learned today. I’d like to continue when my head’s clear, though.”
This pigsty of a prison sucked the joy out of his life. He loathed the dirt, the damp, and the cold that defined his existence. Although, in hindsight, their upmarket lifestyle had been as empty as it was meaningless.
Since their imprisonment, wisecracks and corny jokes had become his modus operandi. Bringing even the smallest smile to his triad brothers’ faces made his playing the clown worthwhile. Inside, he fretted over every detail of their existence.
He sat in his triad’s inner chamber, eyes closed, brain on fire from his trying to cram too many facts in it. Gore’s arrival forced him to don his jester persona. His berserker friend dumped someone on the floor in the antechamber. “Sit. Stay.”
He must’ve found the new inmate, but he spoke to them as if training a dog. Before Plato could put a stop to that, the sweet scent of roses twined around his soul. He’d not smelled anything so uplifting since his imprisonment made his life dank and dirty.
He shoved the grime-encrusted curtain aside. A naked female shivered on the mud floor, head down, knees pulled against her chest. Her shoulder-length red locks infused a shot of color into his featureless world.
From beneath lowered lashes, she glowered at Gore. Despite the terror emanating from her, her scarlet curls and porcelain skin took his breath away. More important, she was his. My mate. Mine.
He ached to stroke his thumbs over her nipples or feast on her pussy. Needing to touch her, he ran his finger down her cheek. Static electricity tingled through him, and he half expected his shoulder-length hair to stand on end. His actions earned him her best Medusa stare. Mostly, it bounced off him, but his cock turned to stone and stood like a monolith in his pants. “What smells so good?”
Chin raised, she glared defiance at him. “Nothing. This place stinks. You two included.”
Her quick comeback amused him, but he faked a cough to disguise his laugh. With her generous breasts, hand-span waist, and wild rose essence, she’d stepped out of his wettest of dreams and into this stinking cavern. Tension etched frown lines on her forehead, and her lips thinned into a straight line. If I can’t coax a smile from her I’ve lived in vain.
Digging into their meager pile of possessions, he found their few remaining matches and a stubby candle. Within seconds, an oasis of candlelight made her blink.
Turning his practiced charm up a notch, he crouched beside her. In the past, the mischievous glint in his eyes and killer smile broke hearts—or so his triad brothers told him. Since his evenings often ended with him getting in some female’s panties, he’d take that. His one-night stands had been as numerous as they were legendary, but no more. Now that his soulmate had come into his life, she had his loyalty and his heart.
Once she accepted him as her mate, he’d bring her to orgasm so many times she’d beg him to stop. That or spank her bare bottom until red handprints covered her arse and her thighs. Afterward, she’d snuggle close and sleep with her head pillowed on his shoulder. Yeah, like I have somewhere comfortable for her to rest. Their poverty shamed him.
As he hauled her upright, he buried his nose in her hair. Bloody hell, she’s human. His stomach plummeted. Briefly, his jaw clamped and his eyes narrowed, but needing to see her smile, he relaxed his features. “You smell of summer and freedom, things I’ve not enjoyed since the imposter king drugged us.”
Inwardly, he cursed her humanity and its fatal consequences. If he’d found her outside of this arctic jail, he’d have wooed her with expensive meals, fresh flowers, and walks on the beach. In here, she’d die within weeks, possibly days.
Dazed that his one-and-only soulmate had turned up in this hellhole, he spoke without thinking. “Gore, you went to search for the latest prisoner, but you brought lunch.”
His ill-thought words added to her distress. He could have kicked himself for that. While he should keep his distance, touching her illuminated his world. He gave into compulsion and stroked her hair. Soft and silky, he wanted to wrap it around his fist and drag her lips against his. That, or spank her until she screamed for him to screw her. He’d show her a breathtaking mix of pleasure and pain that left her begging for more.
She stiffened as though spiders ran over her flesh and punched his arm. “Get off me, you creep.”
Wishing he’d kept his mouth shut, he flashed her a grin guaranteed to make women drop their panties. Her angry glare ripped strips from his heart, and for the first time, his fabled charm deserted him. Almost, he dropped to his knees and begged her forgiveness, but he was the dominant here.
Terror radiated from her as she kept her hands over her tits and her cunt. He tugged down their tattered curtain and wrapped it around her. “I’m sorry we have nothing better.”
His cock demanded he tie her down and hammer it inside her. Her fierce glower wounded him, but her warrior spirit entranced him. Her future’s darker than this blasted dungeon. She’s mine, but not to keep.
Once the prison door had slammed behind her, her lifespan shrank to days. Hours, maybe. He ached to cosset her, but all he could offer her was a quick death. Whatever I do, I lose her. There could be no happy-ever-after for her.
Gore yanked her out of his embrace and into his arms. Fists curled at his side, Plato hissed and bared his fangs. She was his to nurture and protect. His to kill if the necessity arose.
Gwen stared between them, mesmerized by their presence. The giant with the shaved head and piercing gray eyes oozed protection. The one with the dirty blond hair and panty-dropping smile dripped charm. Just my luck that I’m stuck in this icebox with the two sexiest males ever. Between them, they overwhelmed her. Their sort abused humans, but around this pair, her heart stuttered and cunny dampened. They’re scum of the earth. Vampires! My sex drive has the brain of a gnat.
Given their murderous intent, preserving her modesty seemed as stupid as her trusting the refugee convoy. They’d accepted her and her sister, then swapped Gwen for safe passage through Stefan the Spotty-Faced’s territory. The muscular giant—Gore—terrified her. Fascinated her too. One touch of his hand and he’d become her heart’s forever home. Confused, she couldn’t decide if he’d protect her or snap her in two.
She should hate him for manhandling her, but a small voice in her brain whispered, You love it. Hard as she tried to push her erotic desires aside, her cunny dampened again.
With his come-screw-me smile, the movie-star blond’s set her insides aflutter. When he’d stroked her cheek, her flesh had tingled. Even now, she wanted his hands in other, more personal places. One kiss from his fine, curved lips would fill the yawning emptiness inside her, but his loud-mouthed comments chilled her soul.
Hell wasn’t brimstone lakes, sulfur fumes, or burning brands. It was a pitch-black cave crammed with starving vampires. She shivered, so cold she wondered if they’d transported to polar bear territory.
The outer curtain jerked aside. A third vampire swaggered toward her, dark-haired and weary. Goodness knows how the newcomer managed designer stubble in this godforsaken place, but it looked good on him. With his ebony black curls and golden-brown gaze, he reminded her of a half-starved Greek god on steroids. Hades, perhaps. That’d be apt since he lived in a hellhole.
His built-in swagger made her womb contract and her nipples pearl. Oh, lord, there’s three of them—each hotter than the next.
As the raggedy fabric dropped back into place, the newcomer’s weariness swirled through the cavern. Gwen’s heart went out to him. Her newly awakened inner slut demanded she wrap her arms around his neck and drag his mouth to hers. Me? Lip-locked with a vampire? Not happening, but…
He managed a wan smile for his friends. “It’s harder to calm the mob every time I do it. At least you found the latest inmate. Sheesh, I didn’t expect her to be human.”
My humanity isn’t a crime, whatever they think. Anger tore through her like a crossbow bolt, destroying any sympathy she felt. Normally independent and free-thinking, it irked her that this threesome’s sex appeal had almost charmed the fight out of her.
Expression tender, eyes glowing, he hauled himself upright. Her throat dried as he moved toward her. His intense gaze burned her as he buried his fist in her hair and licked his lips. That’s another one who sees me as an involuntary snack on the hoof.
Spine stiff, she refused to cower or beg. His smile held a world of sorrow. “She’s perfect, so young and beautiful, it’s a pity to…”
He stared at her as if she mattered, but his words trailed into nothing. Gwen understood too well. “To what? Drain every drop of blood from my body? I’m not dumb enough to think your intentions are good.”
Gorgeous but deadly, his expression darkened. His voice brimmed with regret and yearning. “If I could see another way, I’d take it, but logically, it’s for the best.”
Gwen’s jaw tensed. “Thank you, Mr. Spock. You’re all crazier than that spotty-faced king.”
Face stern, the golden-eyed one dragged her deeper into their lair. “There’s nothing royal about Stefan Tenebris. He’s no more than the jumped-up keeper of Bamburgh castle. The day we bust out of here, he’s a dead man.”
Like a reluctant toddler, she dug her heels in the ground. Regret for all the things she hadn’t done and family she failed hit her in a blast of cold fury. He dragged her closer, holding her with her back pressed against his chest. The contact started a happy tune in her brain. Who do I think I am, Snow White? Forget the cute, furry animals, and concentrate on getting out of here.
His breath warmed her neck as his lips brushed against her jugular vein. “I’ll make this fast.”
Instinctively, she threw her head back, trying to break his nose. He blocked her head butt with his free arm before flicking his tongue down the side of her neck. Rough and damp, it set hot shivers through her cunny.
His mouth hovered over her ear. “Relax, sunshine, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Hypnotic and soothing, he sounded like a feather bed she longed to sink into. Damn, he’s using some weird psycho power on me. Determined to stay strong, she kicked backward, her heel connecting with his shins.
Molasses smooth, his voice slipped past anger and into her mind. “Stop fighting and let me take care of you.”
Brain fogged, she struggled to find a snappy comeback. When his fangs pierced her flesh, her fears exploded into passion and need. Her nipples stood to attention and liquid heat dripped between her legs. Her breath came in short, sharp pants as she writhed her bare ass against his denim-clad groin.
She didn’t care how needy she seemed, or that she wouldn’t survive this. With his fangs in her vein, her body burned and her hips circled against his thighs. Lost in a sensual haze, she arched her back, inviting him to toy with her breasts. The intimate connection overwhelmed her, making her yearn for all the wicked things she’d never experienced before. As he dined on her blood, she felt beautiful and beloved. Euphoric even.
Her pulse raced, and her legs buckled. Primal lust blazed through her. Her world narrowed into the explosive pleasure of his bite. Dying in this cave didn’t worry her if she went down in a blaze of carnal bliss.