Milan Markovic pressed the sole of his boot into the Grakhen vampire’s abdomen with a satisfied grunt. He’d kept close tabs on him and his clan for nearly two years, searching for a reason to invade their residence, waiting for one of them to slip up. Three days ago, one of them did, linking himself and the clan to the murder of a young man. That was all The Organization needed to perform a raid on the Grakhen residence. Even tranquilized, the vampire required two men to hold him down. Milan had dealt with dozens of vampires over the years. This evil bastard was exceptionally strong and had no doubt sucked the life out of several people.
Milan leaned his forearm on his perched leg and met the vampire’s soulless black gaze with a smile.
“Ready for a makeover, Lucian?”
The vampire’s muscles clenched beneath his boot. “You stupid half-breeds. You think some rehab program will destroy my need to feed?” he snarled. “I’ve lived off human blood for a hundred and sixty years.”
“Ooh. You’re old. No worries—genetic alteration always works. You’ll be enjoying raw steaks in a couple of months.”
Lucian thrashed around for a moment before calming. A frigid sneer curled his mouth. “I’ll kill those pathetic humans for the fun of it.”
Milan saw red. It was all he could do to stop himself from ripping the monster’s throat out with his bare hands. How could he have believed that a vampire like Lucian would simply turn into a good citizen like most other conformed vampires?
He pulled his semi-automatic from its holster. “Move away from him.”
“Are you sure, Milan?” Tom asked.
Lucian had the gall to grin as the men released him. When they’d moved to a safe distance, Milan fired three rounds of silver bullets into the vampire’s heart. For a split second, as Lucian grunted and began pushing himself up, Milan froze, afraid the bullets wouldn’t be enough. Then a spurt of dark blood erupted from Lucian’s mouth as he went into a violent convulsion. Milan stood over him, weapon aimed. The vampire’s pale complexion turned gray and he let out a final, painful howl, which echoed across the room. Out of the corner of his eye, Milan saw the team of FBI agents gather close. All vampire raids were carried out with the support of a special FBI team. When the body finally stilled, he stepped back to let the agents remove it.
The FBI commander approached him with a piece of paper. “I believe we’ve located the two missing clan members. Police received a call from an employee at a gas station just before Beecher on Route 1. He overheard two men talking about a dhampir raid and hiding in a stable in Beecher. A second call came in shortly after from someone who lives next to an abandoned stable in Beecher. He witnessed two men drive onto the property and park behind the stable. Here’s the address.”
Milan took the report. “Thanks, Commander. We’re going to need backup. One unit, I’d say.”
“You got it.”
Milan called Tom over, and the two men were out the front door in minutes. He briefed his partner on the situation as they climbed into their SUV, and handed him the report so he could log the address into the GPS. He waited for the FBI team to get into their vehicle before swinging around toward the entrance of the driveway, where he slowed just enough to check the street. A car was leisurely coming down on the right. He didn’t have time to wait. It was inconsiderate, but he pumped the gas and hooked a sharp left onto the street, knowing that the FBI car was close behind and would cut the driver off.
“Whoa, cowboy!” Tom exclaimed as he looked over his shoulder. “That was close.”
“I know. We’ve got two bloodsuckers to catch before sunset.”
* * * * *
Tess Nielson cursed and slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into the big black vehicle that swung out in front of her. “Damn lunatics,” she added as her eyes narrowed on the tinted windows and the municipal license plates of the car, instantly recognizing it for an unmarked law enforcement vehicle. Most likely FBI.
“Who are you guys chasing?” Something big was going down. And big was newsworthy, maybe even front-page news. Her blood stirred with a shot of adrenaline. It was one thing to be fed a story from the news desk, to describe events without having witnessed them, and quite another to be in the thick of the action. She sped up and tailed them at a careful distance while flipping open the glove compartment to remove her digital camera. Her reporter’s mind began drawing up a possible scenario. This neighborhood was fairly affluent and quiet, normally not the type of locale for organized crime. She suspected the case was on a domestic level. Murder most likely, but perhaps something more complicated than that if the FBI was involved. She’d find out soon enough.
The vehicles picked up speed once they swung onto I-294, and this time the emergency lights came to life on the rear windshield of the vehicle ahead. She had to break the speed limit to keep up, hoping she wouldn’t be stopped by a state trooper. She cursed again, afraid she’d lose them when they barely slowed through a toll, but she eventually caught up. Good thing traffic was generally light this evening, because these guys were flying. She followed them onto the 394 S toward Danville and then onto the IL-1. Where the hell were they going? They’d left the tidy Chicago bedroom communities over fifteen minutes ago. Dense corn and wheat fields now flanked the two-lane road, vast properties dotted by solitary farmhouses and silver silos. She’d glimpsed a couple of signs earlier, indicating the village of Beecher and the Cardinal Creek Golf Course farther south.
The flickering lights on the SUV died as the vehicles slowed and made a right. Tess waited several seconds before following so she wouldn’t be spotted—if she hadn’t been already. The homes were more spread out here, the fields longer. She felt a twinge of apprehension, not knowing what she was going into, but her strong sense of curiosity shoved it away. The cars finally pulled onto private property some hundred feet ahead.
Tess eased her car onto the long, gravelly drive that inclined slightly and curved in front of a small ranch house. Most of the land in front of the building was overgrown with weeds and grass. The vehicles weren’t where she’d expected them to be. She spotted them past the house, parked on another leg of the drive, near a red building that looked like a stable. She cut the engine several feet away, grabbed her camera, and stepped out. No need to hide—she was here to get a story. She walked alongside the vehicles, noting the Suburban—typical FBI car—and the Explorer. Neither one was occupied. She continued toward the red building, which was eerily still, and took a few pictures of it. About two acres of open land stretched out around the two buildings, enclosed by a wooden rail fence.
A warm June breeze danced through her hair, stirring her senses with the sharp country air. She paused and gazed up at the sky, now splashed with streaks of gold, orange and pink. Too bad she couldn’t enjoy this. The sound of male voices caught her attention.
A group of men emerged from the stable dressed in SWAT-style black uniforms. This was getting more interesting by the minute, Tess thought. As they approached, the group parted and revealed two subdued, unnaturally pale young men, escorted by two officers. Behold the culprits. She snapped a picture once she had a good angle.
“What the hell?” one of the officers rumbled.
She expected her presence wouldn’t be welcome.
“I’ll take care of this,” said another, breaking away to head straight for her.
Her heart skipped several beats. A big, solid panther had her in its sights, and all she could do was stare. Oh, but her insides were a fiery ball of chaos. He moved with a sensual, predatory grace. Virility, primal and dark, rolled off him in waves. Awareness arced through her like a hot current, making her knees weak. Her mind broke through the haze long enough to assess his features. They were all hard angles except for a sinfully full mouth and dark green eyes, a shade she’d never seen before. His hair was short, thick and midnight black.
“What are you doing here, ma’am?”
She didn’t miss the forbidding undercurrent in his voice. Tess forced her parted lips together and pulled in a steady breath through her nose. She had to tilt her chin up to meet his gaze because he was at least a head taller than her. “My name’s Tess Nielson. I’m a reporter with the Chicago Times. My press pass is in my car.” She noted the dusting of stubble that shadowed his square jaw and experienced a second jolt of awareness.
Green eyes flicked to her car before returning to her. “You followed us?”
“Yes. You guys nearly ran me off the road in Palos Park, but I realized something was going down so I wanted to check it out.”
“You smelled a story.”
Before she could respond, he snatched her camera.
“This case is confidential.” He went through her recent pictures and deleted them.
She was pissed, but she glanced at the Suburban as it roared away, using the interval to gather her thoughts. She angled her chin as he returned the camera. “Those men you apprehended—they’re vampires, aren’t they? And you work for that dhampir organization.”
Despite the low profile dhampirs kept, she’d met a few in small social circles—three women and one elderly man specifically. The half-vampire, half-human race shared certain distinctive traits. Keen senses could pick up the animalistic essence, the unusual intensity in the eyes. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. Excitement bubbled inside her at the prospect of writing her very first vampire-related story. If only this guy would talk to her.
He gave her a quick once over, yet the heat in his gaze brushed every inch of her body. Then he shrugged and walked to his car.
She sensed the other man hovering nearby but paid no attention. “The public has a right to know about this incident.” She came up beside him. “Why did you arrest them?”
When he looked at her this time, his gaze lingered on her mouth. Her heart fluttered and she clamped her lips to keep them from parting. She didn’t like the effect he had on her, and on top of it his mouth curved into an amused half smile that suggested he knew exactly what she was thinking.
“How about I answer your questions over dinner tomorrow?”
The other man chuckled. “I’ll wait in the car.”
“You want to write this story, right? I can give you the information you need.”
Her eyes narrowed. That was too obliging. “How about you come over to the Times in the morn—”
“No. Restaurant or nothing.”
Devil. She’d be an idiot to walk away from this opportunity, though. Vampires and dhampirs were a mysterious lot—toss in a serious crime, a covert operation, and you’ve made headlines. Her editor would do a backflip.
“Have a cell phone handy?”
He grinned and pushed his arm through the open window of the vehicle. “Tom, can I have my phone?” An iPhone appeared in his hand. “Shoot.”
She recited her cell number and caught his gaze. “So, tomorrow evening?”
He inclined his head. “Just give me a time.”
“Six works best for me. And it’s an interview—not a date,” she added, stamping it in her head as well.
He gave a low chuckle as he swung the door open. “Drive safely, Ms. Nielson.”
Tess returned to her car and climbed in as the Explorer rolled past. Her fingers clasped the wheel. It suddenly occurred to her that she didn’t know his name. She didn’t bother scolding herself for not asking—the encounter had been rather intense on several different levels. Any woman with a pulse would have been affected.
Before her fantasies went into overdrive, she dialed her editor’s private number and told him she had a news-breaking story for Wednesday’s paper. She kept the conversation short, promising to give him details tomorrow. Then she started the car and headed home while her mind strayed to him again. The man tempted the very primitive part of her female nature, so she’d have to keep her wits about her during their meeting, guard herself against his dangerous sensuality. God, his mouth alone evoked sinful pleasure. A sensible woman didn’t get involved with such a man for her own good. She wasn’t sure if it was the dhampir’s sexual energy or his roguish grin, but she was willing to bet he was a committed bachelor, which was fine if she was looking for a fling. But the casual relationships she’d had in the past had left her feeling empty and used. She wanted a steady relationship with a promising future, wedding gown and all.
There was, however, no risk in fantasizing. Her mouth curved slowly. It would be the perfect end to a long day.
© Evie Balos
Dhampir Desire 2: Primal Passion
Author: Evie Balos
Publisher: Cobblestone Press.
Genre: Erotic Romance
Crime reporter Tess Nielsen is determined to get an exclusive vampire story, even if it means indulging a certain dhampir agent, whose dangerous sensuality sets her blood on fire. She lands in a bit of vampire trouble, but she can take care of herself, which is why she’s infuriated when the sexy agent intervenes and carries her off to his home.
Milan Markovic likes his affairs hot and brief. Spirited Tess Nielsen stirs his most primal instincts, but she suspects his only motive is seduction. It isn’t until Tess is kidnapped that he realizes his feelings for her aren’t limited to physical pleasure. Losing her isn’t an option