Deception and Desire by Mina Carter : Page 1

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Chapter One

“Yeah? You and whose army, bloodsucker? Now piss off before I get irritated and decide to introduce you to a few friends of mine… They’re a bit boring when it comes to conversation, but they really get the point across,” Tiny snarled at the vampire facing him down. He flicked the side of his jacket open to reveal two short and businesslike stakes nestled along his ribcage, right under the Glock in the shoulder holster.

They weren’t the rough hewn, chair-leg type stakes of the amateur vampire slayer either. These were iron-banded custom beauties, made to Tiny’s precise specifications. When it came to weaponry, the demon believed in multiple redundancies so the wooden shaft dealt with the vamps, the iron bands put a crimp in the day of any Fae he had to sort out, and anything still standing with six inches of banded wood stabbed through their ribcage… well, that’s what the Glock was for. To say Tiny was loaded for bear was an understatement. He was loaded for anything that breathed.

He needed to be. Working as a doorman at the city’s premier paranormal nightclub, Tiny and the other guys on the security team saw most things in the course of a night. They’d had a dragon in last week. Well, a were-drake to be precise -- one of the Keller brothers -- and even the bosses, Jaren and Daelas, had come down onto the floor to make sure Mr. Keller got everything he wanted. No one wanted a pissed off dragon, not even Tiny, who was one of the tougher of the paranormals on the staff, barring the head doorman Knuckles.

Dragons, though, were the exception rather than the rule. Normally the club got small fry, like the vampire glaring at Tiny because his pathetic attempt at a Jedi mind-trick had failed.

“Try it on someone with human blood, pal,” Tiny advised with a small smile that was nowhere near pleasant. “But not on my watch. Now piss off.”

“Fucking vampires… should be put down,” the woman next to Tiny muttered as the vamp gave up to slink back into the shadows. He paused to cast a baleful glare over his shoulder at Tiny, who smiled and waved.

A long-suffering sigh sounded beside him. “Will you please stop pissing them off? You know it causes problems at chucking-out time.”

The demon chuckled and slid a glance sideways at his partner. Misty was a walking, talking frat boy’s wet dream. She was Amazonian tall, with pale ivory skin that made a man’s mouth water, and masses of midnight hair which fell to curl lovingly about a waist small enough for Tiny to wrap his hands around. Add a stacked rack and full lips which gave any red-blooded male ideas about them running over his nak*d body and you had a woman capable of stopping men dead in their tracks at a hundred paces.

This was a useful skill on the front door of Moonlight & Magic, where the humans sometimes got a little out of hand, like the group of young males approaching them, an edge in their laughter that said this was not the first stop of the evening.

“Yeah, yeah… whatever. You like a little rough and tumble just as much as I do, doll. Don’t try and deny it,” he threw back. He nodded towards the group approaching the door. “You’re up. Work your magic, girl.”

Tiny stood back, his hands clasped loosely in front of him with the fingers of one wrapped around the wrist of the other as Misty swung into action. Dressed in the black slacks, shirt and jacket of the door staff, an outfit not known for its sex appeal, she still managed to garner the attention of every man in the vicinity as she made her way down the steps by the main doors.

How she did it, Tiny didn’t know. She didn’t sashay or roll her h*ps as she walked. In the heavy boots she marched more than walked, but it was all done with a sensual grace so unstudied it had to be natural.

However, that wasn’t the appeal. What drew men to her wasn’t her stunning looks, but the sense of danger clinging to her like a second skin as though to touch her would be to glimpse heaven, just for a moment, before the reaper moved in for the kill.

A rather accurate statement, Tiny mused, acknowledging wryly he’d had to resist temptation himself a few times. Resist he did because, unlike the young mortals ogling her with “God, I’d like a piece of that ass” looks, Tiny knew what Misty was.

Brave he might be -- indeed, he’d been called suicidal in some circles -- but even he wasn’t going to start messing about with a Valkyrie.

In her case, la petite mort might be too permanent for comfort.

“Now, now, lads, gonna need you to calm down a little before we let you in…”

After another glance to make sure she had the situation under control, Tiny looked away, eyes scanning the queue waiting to get in and the passersby in the street.

A cold night, it seemed all the colder for a demon-born like Tiny. Shuddering, he hunched into the turned-up collar of his thick jacket. His gaze swept the road. A rush of jealousy -- sharp and immediate -- rose as the vampires circled like sharks waiting for a meal. If any of them wore a coat, it was for effect rather than any need for warmth. They didn’t feel the cold.

“Bastards,” he muttered under his breath and wondered if he could crawl inside his jacket completely. Tiny hated being cold with a passion. But then, for any creature born and bred in the warmth of one of the seven hells, cold was pure torture. The fog put a layer of moisture in the air that coated everything, the dampness penetrating deep into Tiny’s bones. He was never going to be warm again -- no doubt a punishment for running away from his duties.

Shivering again, he muttered another curse about the weather as a bunch of vamps having a little tête-à-tête on the corner opposite caught his attention. He ignored his discomfort as the little group whispering between themselves didn’t break up as he’d expected. Tiny flicked a glance at Misty, who had calmed down the group she had approached. The line moved quickly now.

Feeling his gaze on her, she lifted her head, silent communication passing between the partners for a second before Tiny turned his attention back to the vamps.

Misty would keep an eye on the line and call in backup if needed, whilst he dealt with the circling predators intent on picking off the weakest of the human herd.

He didn’t move for a moment, just leaned against the wall, his eyes sharp and alert. Vamps were predictable creatures most of the time, but occasionally one would get a kick in their gallop and try to make a play for someone in the queue, a decision which ended with them having a little chat in a side alley with Tiny or one of his colleagues. There was a running book on how high they could get vamp blood and snot on the brickwork.

However vamps weren’t normally pack animals and they didn’t hunt together.

This little group seemed to have missed that particular memo. Tiny’s eyes narrowed as two of the group sauntered across the road and engaged a trio of young women in conversation. Human women, of course; they wouldn’t bother with any of the paranormals in the line.

The third was slower to approach, piling on the vampire “glamour” as he did.

The vampires moved in a slick routine, separating the women, who were easy marks.

They herded the last girl toward an alley, the arm of her new “friend” wrapped around her shoulders. The tall demon sighed. Vampire charm was hypnotic and she was getting it full force, her head back against the vamp’s shoulder as he gazed deep into her eyes.

“Great, just what I need tonight. A f**king synchronized vampire feeding squad.” Pushing off from the wall, he rolled his shoulders, cracking his neck as he readied himself for action. There was going to be blood and snot on the walls again.

Perhaps with three vamps to play with he’d beat Knuckles’ record…

His lips compressed as yet another vamp moved to follow the others into the alley. What was this, an all you can eat until the meal drops dead buffet? He turned, angling his walk to intercept the new player as his heavy boots crunched over the road.

Then he got a good look at the newcomer and his step faltered.

She was gorgeous. She was a vampire, but she was gorgeous.

Tiny’s eyes widened in surprise as his brain tried to reconcile the two words in one sentence, even as his body reacted. She was average height… the perfect height to wrap into his arms, slide his hand into her hair and tilt her lips up…

Tiny snapped out of his reverie, his eyes narrowing as he clamped down on the reaction of his body to a fine piece of female ass and forced himself to study her.

She didn’t seem the “type” to be a vampire was the first thing to hit him after the immediate “I want” reaction. Vampires, especially the ones who hovered around Moonlight & Magic, played up to the stereotype: pale skin, dark hair, dark clothing…

Goths with attitude, or Lestat knock-offs.

This one could have been the poster-girl for the wholesome, all-American, girl next door type. Not blonde, but in the light cast by the street lights, he could see her hair wasn’t the midnight black most vamps preferred, either. Instead, it contained a waterfall of autumn colors.

She had a tan, as well -- not at all the norm for a vamp. When even a small dose of direct UV turned you into crispy critter, tanning was a high risk option. Fake tan, unless his instincts were fooling him.

Were they? Was she something other than a vampire?

For the first time in a couple of hundred years Tiny found himself holding back.

He’d always been a player, watching his back and ready for action of any sort -- although in the demon courts the more pleasurable kind always came with a price -- but this was the first time he’d doubted his instincts.

Face set, he watched the vamp chick head into the alleyway after the couple and tried to ignore the seductive sway of her hips. He noticed anyway; his body had completely different ideas about the matter, his c*ck already at half mast in his pants.

Damn vampires, messing with a guy’s head. He glared at a couple of humans who cut in front of him, then walked into the alley.

Whatever Tiny had expected from tonight, it wasn’t for the problem to be solved before it became a problem. As he entered the alley, he expected to find the vampires fang-deep in the girl’s throat -- or other appendage of choice. He expected to have to deal with them in short order whilst trying not to get the human killed. His hand was already reaching for one of the stakes along his ribcage when the woman’s cool voice drifted on the night air to him.

“Okay, honey-bun, we can do this the easy way or the hard way… No, now that was just unpleasant, wasn’t it? No need for language like that at all, especially in front of a lady… Oh really? How about we don’t and say we did…”

Tiny had barely a second to react as the human was thrust into his arms with a

“Here, hold this,” before all hell broke loose.

* * *

To say she was annoyed didn’t begin to do justice to the emotions running high through her slender frame as Cassia watched the three musketeers do their “divide and conquer” routine yet again. “You guys never learn, do you?” she muttered as the vampires moved into action, each charming smile digging their graves deeper. New town, new threads… and looked like they’d been here a while, long enough to get themselves established.

No matter. It was too long. If the agency hadn’t called her off in the last place…
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