Chapter Five

Parker waited until he knew for certain Amara was sound asleep before slipping out of the huge, Craftsman-style four-poster bed to explore the room. He had to bite back a grin at that. Greg was right. Chickie has a four-poster. The simple, elegant bed rested on dark hardwood floors and was topped with a pearl-gray, checkered comforter. The walls were a grayish-purple, the ceiling painted a paler shade. Double doors led out to a Juliet balcony currently covered over by thick blackout curtains and a turquoise wing chair and white table sat by the window, the table piled with books.

He liked it. It suited her. It was simple yet feminine, uniquely hers. The only thing he could see changing was the overdose of purple; he’d love to see some other, more masculine colors. The turquoise chair would be an excellent starting point since he favored blues and greens and, apparently, so did she.

“Parker? Can I talk to you for a moment?”

The whispered voice of Brian, through the door, reminded him that he had some apologizing to do to his poor Renfield. The man must have been terrified when Parker went feral. He’d have to make sure to make it up to him. He glanced ruefully at his torn pants. No way would they stay up.

“Here.”

He looked up at the soft whisper to find Brian’s arm sticking through the partially open door, a pair of jeans dangling from his fingertips.

“Thanks.” Parker pulled them on and stepped into the hallway. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Brian was grinning. “You saw me touch your singele sotiei. Of course you lost it.”

“How did you know?”

“The same way I knew the words of the casuta. I’m a Renfield. It’s my job to know.”

Parker was impressed. “Yes, I suppose it is.” Parker shook his head. “I haven’t heard those terms from someone else’s lips in years.”

“Being a Renfield in Maggie’s Grove is an honorable profession. We’re trained in how to take care of our vampires. We all learn that singele sotiei are precious. We understand that and your reactions to them and how to deal with you when you’ve gone too far to control yourself.”

“What’s he talking about? And why the fuck did you go all Bram Stoker on us? You’ve never done that before.”

“He’s never had reason to before, has he?” Before Greg could respond, Brian continued. “Singele sotiei means blood wife, literally. The one person Parker’s beast can bond to, who will be with him for eternity. Sometimes that relationship is sexual. Sometimes it’s less. Sometimes it’s more.”

Parker had the feeling that with Amara it would be more.

“And casuta? What does that mean?”

Parker winced. Greg was going to love this one. “Obeisance. It’s the ritual soothing of the beast, lets him know the person being viewed as a threat isn’t one at all.” It also let the beast know the person chanting was his vassal, his to protect, but Greg didn’t need to know that. It was a holdover from when vampires ruled territories in places like Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains. Legend had it the gypsies who’d served them had come up with the casuta, and the beast responded to it in ways Parker didn’t understand but was grateful for. Especially now.

“Under normal circumstances, the chant and the display of submission would have returned Parker to normal, but I’d touched his unclaimed sotiei. I’m lucky Amara didn’t fight him, or I’d be passing through the Veil.”

“Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.” Parker’s smile was rueful. “How do we stop this from happening again? I have no desire to harm you.”

“You’d better not.” Greg sounded seriously pissed.

“I don’t. I actually like the little bugger.” Brian coughed, and Parker realized what he’d said. He flipped them both the two-finger salute. “Sod off.”

“We stop it by you claiming your sotiei.” Brian shrugged. “Or I learn yoga, because I’ll be in that position a lot.”

“Naked yoga?”

Brian bit his lip, a shudder passing through him. His eyes closed to half-mast. Parker had no idea what Greg was doing, but from the smell of lust, he’d bet Greg had his metaphysical hands down the Renfield’s pants. “People. Not in front of the children.”

Brian jumped and moved quickly to the right. “Um. Anyway. You need to finish what you started, or the beast will become even more aggressive as time passes.”

“What about Terri?”

“We deal with her, one way or another.”

“We finally get to kill the wicked witch?”

Parker leaned against the wall, his thoughts racing. “Looks like. The sooner the better.” Terri would not harm Amara, not now. Not ever.

“Down, boy.”

Brian’s eyes were wide, his knees partially bent. Parker licked his lips and realized his fangs had descended. He bet his eyes had begun to turn red, the color of hunting. “We’ll keep Amara safe, I swear.” Brian frowned, his expression darkening. “I think it’s time you met the mayor.”

Parker looked at his bare chest and feet. “Perhaps I should be dressed when I do.”

“I’ll make the call. You get the clothes.”

“No. You get the clothes. I’m not leaving Amara alone.”

Brian nodded. “Pick up the receiver and say Dragomir Ibanescu. I’ll be back in ten minutes.” The Renfield raced down the stairs and out the door.

“This town is very strange.”

He followed at a slower pace and took the opportunity look at the rest of Amara’s home. The wood of the ornate Victorian banister was smooth under his palm. Parker approved, even as he disapproved of the first room he stepped into.

Amara’s living room was much different from her bedroom. This room droned gloomy and period from the camelback couch to the dark wainscoting and rose wallpaper. Tufted leather armchairs with clawed feet flanked the green velvet couch. The couch faced an ornate fireplace, the carved mantle done in the same wood as the wainscoting. Brass and crystal sconces did little to lighten the atmosphere. Spindle-legged mahogany tables held porcelain lamps with heavy, gold-fringed shades. A cream ceiling completed the overly done Victorian look. The only truly good thing about the room was the nine-foot ceiling, and even that was barely noticeable with the dreary colors.

Unlike her bedroom, this room would require a complete makeover. He could live with the wainscoting. He could even live with the green couch. But the rose-pink walls, those sconces and…were those naked women on the lamps?

He wandered to the dining room, mentally flinching from the horror of naked brass women draped in fringe. Now, this room wasn’t nearly as bad. The Queen Anne table had the simple lines Parker preferred, and the chandelier, though dripping in crystals, didn’t make him want to break out in hives. Though the wainscoting remained, the color of the walls, a turquoise a shade or two lighter than the chair in her bedroom, managed to keep the room both formal and cheerful.

The kitchen was much more his style. Here were her Craftsman roots, with mission-style cabinets, Carrera-marble countertops and rubbed-bronze appliances that said old-fashioned without croaking out old.

So maybe the living room was a holdover from when the home had been Glinda’s. If this was more Amara’s style, he could definitely live with it.

He found the phone and picked up the receiver. “Dragomir Ibanescu.”

He heard a faint click. “Yes, Amara?”

Parker stared at the phone in shock. “This isn’t Amara.” Amara has the mayor on magical speed dial?

“Ah. You must be our resident vegetarian vampire, Dr. Parker Hollis. A pleasure to hear from you.”

“Thank you. My, um, Renfield suggested we meet to discuss a problem I have.”

“Very well. I’ll be there shortly.”

“That won’t be—” the dial tone cut him off, “—necessary. Bugger. I hope Brian hurries with those clothes. I’d look ridiculous in Amara’s.”

Parker sat down to wait for the town’s mayor, not entirely certain what he’d say to the man. Or even what kind of supernatural the man was. Neither Brian nor Amara had told him, and he found himself curious about what type of person the mayor was.

“Dr. Hollis?”

Parker whirled around to face the man standing behind him. The black-haired, gray-eyed man was a few inches taller than Parker and radiated power on a level he’d rarely felt. His gray suit and crisp white shirt were set off by a slightly askew bloodred tie. This man was much older than Parker’s two hundred years.

He was also a vampire.

Parker’s beast reacted, his only thought to protect his sleeping sotiei.

Dragomir held up his hands in the universal sign of peace. “I mean no harm to your sotiei, Parker, nor do I intend to steal her.”

Parker eased up. This must be the mayor. How the man had gotten here so quickly was—

Wait.

Was he wearing a fucking sign? “How did you know Amara is—”

“Parker!”

Greg’s bellow was so loud the crockery rattled. “Greg?”

Dragomir whirled around, searching the room.

“Help!”

Parker was out the front door in the blink of an eye. “Where?”

“Terri’s here, and she’s going after Brian!”

Shit, there was only one place they could be, and he doubted it was the dryad’s garden. Not even Terri had the bollocks necessary to confront a dryad in her own space. It had to be his. Terri needed greenery to work her magic. He raced around the back of his house, certain he would find the Renfield deathly injured, or worse.

What he found instead shocked him. His garden had come alive. The great oak waved its branches in front of Brian, caging him, protecting him from the encroaching weeds threatening to choke him. The philodendron whipped its thin branches around so quickly that they severed bits of the weeds away like a weed trimmer. Even the flowers were protecting the Renfield, forming a root barrier the weeds could not cross.

His garden looked nothing like it had earlier, and Parker couldn’t be happier. “Amara is somehow protecting him.”

“Amara is powerful, indeed.” Dragomir dodged a whipping branch. “When the Renfield is safe, I expect an explanation.”

“Behind you!”

Parker turned to find a single thick stem racing toward the elder vampire. He pushed the man out of the way and took what would have been a lethal blow to Dragomir’s heart on himself. The stem embedded itself in Parker’s arm. Parker screamed in pain as his arm broke, the bone snapping in two.

From Amara’s house, a low rumbling sounded.

“Fuck.” The mayor stared at Parker in astonishment. “Why did you do that?”

“It would have killed you.” Parker winced and tried to pull the weed out, but it was taking root, burrowing into his body. What fresh hell was this? “Damn it. Get this thing out of me!”

“Parker.” A vaguely familiar, deep, echoing voice filled the air.

Parker looked toward Amara’s house. Something told him his dryad was very, very angry. “Amara.” He gasped as the roots of the weed twined around his broken bone. Bloody hell, this was going to hurt when it was removed. If it had gotten into Dragomir, it would have wrapped around his heart; any effort to remove it would have killed him instantly.

“There are weeds in your garden, Parker.”

Parker watched in astonishment as a much-altered Amara stepped into his garden, covered in what looked like brown bark. Instead of being rigid, the bark moved with her. Reddish leaves blew around her in a nonexistent wind. Her green eyes glowed with angry intent, the whites completely obscured. And she was at least three feet taller, towering over the privacy fence, Parker and everything but the oak tree.

Amara shrieked, the sound filled with fury, the creaking and groaning of a thousand trees filling it with an inhuman rumble that shook the windows facing into the garden. She reached for his arm from across the garden, extending hers until her knobby fingers caressed his wound. “Weeds need to be pulled.”

Parker braced himself and was glad afterward that he had. The pain when Amara pulled was immense. It felt like she was ripping his whole arm off. He blacked out.

The fire in her belly burned even hotter as Parker fell. She pointed at Dragos. “Guard him.”

Dragos took a fighting stance, batting away anything that came close to touching Parker.

Amara was free to turn her attention to the weeds destroying his garden. She waded into the fight, ripping and tearing, searching for the woman who’d attacked Brian and injured Parker. The plants acted with a higher degree of awareness than usual, reacting to her attacks with lightning speed. That level of control told her Terri had to be close by, controlling their actions. No witch could command this many plants so easily without being able to see exactly what was going on, and a scrying spell wouldn’t give her the reaction speed she’d need, since it would take up most of her concentration.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she crooned. She grabbed a vine and tugged, pulling it from the weakening oak. “I know you’re here, Terri. Are you too frightened to face me?”

The moss beneath her formed distorted lips. “I’ll face you on my own terms, dryad, when I’m good and ready.” The odd voice echoed, and Amara couldn’t pinpoint exactly where it came from.

Amara grabbed the thorny weed and yanked it from the ground. “Bring it on.” She shrieked her challenge and began laying about her with the weed, using it as a spiked whip.

“Parker is mine. Stay away from him or suffer the consequences.”

A root tripped Amara up, and the whip got tangled in her legs. She righted herself before she landed on the mossy lips. “Fuck you. He’s mine.” She cracked the whip over her head, shearing off the edges of the vine that had dipped down almost to her hair. She moved faster, cracking at the vine until nothing was left but green paste.

More vines ripped the whip from her hands. “No, thank you. You aren’t my type.” Thorns tore at Amara’s side, unable to penetrate her bark. Something almost broke through the cage the oak had wrapped around Brian, but a shimmering light in the shape of a tall, broad man suddenly appeared, forcing it back.

“Nice try, bitch.” She snatched another vine and scoured the garden, searching for the bitch who’d hurt Parker. Where the fuck was she?

The mocking laughter only spurred her on.

When Parker came to, he was lying on the ground, his head cradled in Dragomir’s lap. “Amara?”

“She’s…gardening.”

Groggy, he sat up, his arm a throbbing mass of agony. His altered sotiei was pulling anything that resembled a weed, while the oak continued to guard his Renfield. Her mutters were too quiet for him to hear exactly what she said. “Greg?”

“Here. Parker, what did I tell you about the crazy?”

“Not now, Greg. Besides, Amara isn’t crazy.”

“Then what do you call that?”

Amara pulled something from the ground that was covered in vicious thorns. She waved it over her head triumphantly. “When I find you, I’m going to shove this so far up your ass it will wriggle out your nostrils,” she shrieked, using it like a scourge.

She was stunningly beautiful, a Boadicea, his personal warrior goddess, and he was more than willing to worship at her feet. “Magnificent.” Dragomir chuckled. “There are others you’ll have to convince of that, but in the meantime we should see about your arm.”

The reminder sent sharp shards of pain through him. His arm throbbed like a son of a bitch, and he could tell it was a bad break. The burrowing weed had made it worse, tearing through flesh and digging into bone. He didn’t know where Terri had learned that new trick, but it was one he planned on avoiding in the future.

He would heal, given time, but it would be a painful process. He would be lame with that arm for at least a week, possibly more. “Ow.”

“Dryads can’t heal others, can they?”

“No, I’m afraid not.” Dragomir was looking at something off to the side of the fight. Parker wondered if he too could see Greg. “But I have a witchdoctor on call who can. Let me send for her.”

“Greg? Where’s Terri?”

“Gone. Hell, I didn’t even realize she was here in the first place.” Greg’s voice was thick with remorse. “I’m sorry. I should have known she’d show up, should have been watching for her.”

“It’s all right. At least Amara stopped her from hurting Brian. That’s the important thing.”

“Yes, it is.” Dragomir cast Parker an odd look and helped him to his feet, careful of his injured arm. “Selena is on her way.”

“Thank you.”

Dragomir bowed to him, the gesture formal. “I owe you sange datorie.” Parker started. He didn’t think he’d done anything deserving such a deep acknowledgment of debt as sange datorie implied.

Parker bowed as much as his throbbing arm and light head would allow. “It was my pleasure, Dragomir Ibanescu.”

Dragomir’s lips twisted into a smile. “Call me Dragos.” He pointed with his chin over Parker’s shoulder. “Amara is done.”

Parker turned so fast he wound up on his ass again. The landing jarred his shattered arm, and Parker saw stars. “Ow. Fuck, ow. Amara?”

She came to him, her bark fading, the glow leaving her eyes, her body returning to human. “Parker!” She fell into his lap, curling around him like a vine. His lap was full of jiggling, naked dryad. If it hadn’t been for the agony radiating from his arm, he would have been one hell of a happy vampire. “Are you all right?”

Parker moved his arm from underneath her and tried to breathe through the pain. Too bad he didn’t really need to breathe, because it didn’t work. “Nope.”

She barely lifted her head from his shoulder, but he could feel the ridges forming on her skin. She was about to go dryad on someone’s ass. “Call Selena, Dragos.”

“Already done.” Dragos nodded hello to Brian. “Brian, it’s good to see you are safe.”

“Thanks to Amara and Greg, yes.”

What had Greg done, other than call Parker? Damn it, why did he have to pass out during the good parts?

A car pulled up outside Parker’s house. A woman stepped out and briskly strode across the lawn, neatly dodging various bits of dying plant life wriggling on the ground. The dark-haired, bountiful beauty striding briskly across his lawn would once have represented the best sort of temptation, but Parker was immune to her charms. Curly brown hair was held high in a ponytail, and her jeans were tight enough to tempt without being what Greg called ho pants. Her T-shirt strained over natural attributes that would have made a porn star green with envy.

But it was the phrase on the T-shirt that made him like her. It said Save Your Breath. You’ll Need It to Blow Up Your Date.

How could he not like a woman brave enough to wear that?

She halted in front of the mayor, but her eyes roamed the garden, taking everything in. “Hello, Dragos. What’s the problem?”

“Broken arm, among other things.” Dragos pointed toward Parker. “We have a situation to deal with.”

The woman pushed her glasses up her nose and smiled. “When don’t we? Selena Giannone.”

Parker held out his not-broken arm. “Parker Hollis.”

They shook hands, and Selena jumped. “You’re under a curse that’s…not. Strange. Very strange.” She clucked her tongue and shook her head, dismissing his not-a-curse curse. “Let me see that arm.”

Parker held out his arm, and Selena gently examined it. “Bad break. You’ve got some internal bleeding, torn ligaments, and—Yeowch. Do I want to know what did this?”

“I’ll explain later. Can you please? It hurts quite a bit.” And wasn’t that the understatement of the year? He almost wished Amara had ripped his arm off. It could hardly hurt more.

“Hmm.” She held her hand over the wound and hummed an unfamiliar tune that nevertheless eased him. Warmth radiated from her palm, soothing the pain, healing the damage. From the look on Amara’s face, it was taking longer than it should have. Had there been even more damage than he’d originally thought? That was frightening. Terri was becoming even more powerful as time went on. Amara’s lips were compressed, her eyes glowing with green light. She was close to shifting again into her other form.

The soothing heat of the healing dissipated. “There. That should do it.” Selena swayed.

Dragos whipped his arm around her, kept her from falling. “Are you all right?”

“Fine, big guy. That’s some powerful mojo you’ve got there, Parker.” She pried free of Dragos’s hold with a smile. “Mind filling me in on what’s going on?” She turned on Dragos and pushed her finger in his face. “And don’t give me that whole ‘you’re too precious to the community to risk’ bull-crap either.”

Dragos smiled tightly. “Of course not. Why would I do something as silly as that?”

Selena glared up at him, all five feet nothing of her. Her rounded arms crossed over her chest. “I mean it, Dragos.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Good.”

Parker swept Amara up in his arms, since it didn’t seem the dryad was going to get off his lap anytime soon. “My place or yours, sweet?”

“Mine. The protections are stronger.”

“Very well. Follow me, people.” Parker led the way back to the Victorian. “Anyone want to order pizza? I’ll take mine with extra hemoglobin.” He ignored the strange looks shot him by his merry band of followers and carried his sotiei over the threshold.

“All right. Spill it.” The witchdoctor stared at Parker with unholy amusement. “Why are you attached to Amara’s hip, and why are you cursed yet not?”

As Parker recounted his tale for Dragos and Selena, the fire burned in Amara’s belly again. The urge to hunt Terri down and rip her out of Parker’s life by the roots was strong.

Terri had hurt him. She’d made Parker bleed.

Amara wouldn’t stop until the bitch was a broken pile of nothing.

“Down, girl.”

Amara turned to find Brian standing over her. “What?”

“You’re…barking.”

Amara looked at her hands. They were covered in bark. “Oh.” Calming herself was proving to be difficult. Terri had eluded her, and she didn’t know how. Amara had battled back the weeds, but she hadn’t found the root of the problem.

Until she did, Parker was in danger.

“Amara. Sweet. Look at me.”

“What?”

“As lovely as you are, it’s much harder to cuddle with you when your bark is poking me. Would you mind terribly?”

She blinked. “Oh. Sorry.” She concentrated on her human form, drawing on the peace of her tree out in the backyard. She needed the extra boost her maple gave her. Just the thought of Parker in danger was enough to send her back into rage.

She took a deep breath and tried not to remember the spike sticking out of his arm, the look of pain on his face. She closed her eyes, hoping to block the image of Parker’s blood or the worried look on Dragos’s face when Parker couldn’t pull it free.

“Sweet.” He stroked her hair. “Come back to me, Amara.”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“Do you need to commune with your tree?” Dragos’s deep voice was full of compassion.

She opened her eyes to see Parker glaring at Dragos. “No! She stays with me.”

“It helps calm her when nothing else will.”

Parker narrowed his eyes, then smiled at Amara. That was when she realized she’d reverted to her other form. “How can you protect me if you leave me for weeks?”

Amara shivered, her leaves rustling. He was right. He’d be vulnerable if she communed with her tree. She always lost track of time when she did. “When this is over, when we know for certain you’re safe, I will have to. You understand?”

“Of course.” He took hold of her hand. “But I need you human for me, at least for a while. Can you do that, sweet?”

Her lips curved as she blinked away sudden tears. He wasn’t looking at her any differently, wasn’t treating her like a freak. The simple fact that he was playing with her fingers, unmindful of the bark covering them, touched her heart. “Sure thing, sour.”

Someone behind her choked off a laugh, but the only one who mattered was Parker. He was laughing; his acceptance of the private joke thrilled her. Not everyone got her quirky sense of humor. The knowledge Parker did made her fall just a little bit more under his spell. “I’m beginning to like when you call me that,” he whispered for her ears alone.

Amara shivered again, but this time it was to help shed her bark. She dwindled in size until she was smaller than Parker once again. “Better?”

“Mmm. Let me see.” He kissed her, barely tasting her before pulling back. “Much.” He cupped her bare rear. “But I’d prefer you clothed until we can be alone. Can you accommodate me on that as well?”

She rolled her eyes. “Everyone in this room has—” the red glow spreading deep in his eyes warned her not to finish, “—seen me in jeans. I’ll be right back.” And Amara dashed upstairs, praying the possessive nature of her vampire didn’t make him do something extremely stupid. Dragos would feed him his ass, and Amara was becoming partial to it.

She threw on a sundress, not bothering with underwear, and bounced back down the stairs. Parker was finishing the story of what happened that night in the California desert. “And here we are.”

Selena had her head back, the witchdoctor staring at the ceiling, her hands palm-up in her lap. Her right foot was tapping.

“What do you think?”

Amara shushed Parker. “She is.”

“Is what?”

“Thinking.”

“Oh.” Parker pulled Amara back onto his lap. She crossed her ankles and hands daintily, allowing her weight to settle.

“She knows what Amara is now, in more ways than one.” When the witchdoctor lifted her head, Parker gasped. Selena’s unseeing gaze was filmed over. Under each eye, three dots glowed with blue light. A rainbow-colored tree of life, crowned with the mark of the triple Goddess, arched across her forehead and down the bridge of her nose. The Goddess’s mark, a full moon bracketed by two mirrored half-moons, was so bright it almost hurt to look at. “She’ll begin to target her, to try to rip her away from Parker. She views Parker as hers. If Parker tastes Terri’s blood, then Parker will be hers forever, thus fulfilling the curse.”

“Is there any way to avoid that outcome?” Parker tightened his arms around her. He obviously didn’t want to be bound to Terri.

“Your bond with Amara must be completed before you will be immune to Terri’s curse. But doing so will permanently change your nature. You can never go back to living on pure human blood.”

Parker shrugged. “I can live with that.”

Amara gasped. “But that means that you’ll forever be cursed!”

Parker kissed the side of her neck, right over where he’d bitten her earlier. “No. I won’t. I’ll have you, so I’ll be blessed.”

Warmth flooded through her as Selena smiled her approval. Blessed? Really? He considered spending eternity with her a blessing? “What’s the bond we need to complete?” Amara tried to ignore the nibbling kisses Parker tried to distract her with. She had a mission to accomplish, damn it.

“You’re Parker’s singele sotiei, his blood wife. If he completes the vampiric ritual that binds you together for eternity, then he’ll be both free of the curse and forever cursed at the same time.” Selena’s words echoed eerily.

“Damn. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” The voice was deep, definitely male and had come from somewhere near Brian. She bet it was the infamous Greg, but how could she suddenly hear him?

Selena’s blind eyes turned toward that voice. “A very good thing. He’ll be the vampiric mate of a hamadryad and thus able to feed off of her.”

A what?

Before she could ask what Selena was talking about, Parker distracted her with a sharp nip that nearly drew blood. “She’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” Parker licked her neck, and suddenly Amara wondered how much blood he’d lost. The one thing Selena couldn’t heal with her powers, his blood supply would have to be replenished naturally. Which meant…

“Parker? Are you hungry?” She met Brian’s eyes, and he nodded, willing to donate whatever was needed for his vampire.

“Starving.” He nipped her again, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to drive his point home.

Brian headed for her kitchen, but his blood wouldn’t be enough. If she was Parker’s sotiei, she bet he’d need at least a few drops from her. “Brian’s going to make you a snack. I can’t feed you twice in one night, but I can add a few drops. Would that be all right?”

Parker pulled his mouth from her skin. “I suppose.” She hid her grin. He sounded like a sulky boy who wanted an ice-cream cone but was offered a graham cracker instead.

“Complete the ritual, vampire, but there’s no guarantee the witch won’t seek revenge if you do. If you are lost to her—”

“She’ll try to kill him.” Amara kept herself human. Barely. She desperately wanted to hunt down Terri and kick her ass, but she had to keep control. If she changed while sitting on Parker’s lap, she could seriously hurt him.

“If I can’t have you, no one can.” Dragos went to the window and looked out into the night. “Is she a danger to others in the town?”

“With that mentality? Hell yes. She’s c-r-a-z-y.”

“Thanks again, Greg.” Parker grimaced.

“You’re welcome.”

“Why can I hear you?” Amara looked at Parker, who shrugged, just as confused as she. “I couldn’t before.”

“Your connection to Parker, maybe?”

Brian shook his head before Greg could answer. “It’s Selena. She’s allowing Greg to be heard.”

“Selena, can you make him seen as well as heard?” Amara was curious about the man who’d apparently snagged the Renfield’s heart.

Selena smiled. Her markings flared. And off to her right, a large black man appeared. His long, braided hair was graying, his gaze was full of mischief and his arms were wrapped protectively around Brian.

“Wow. He’s big.”

Greg’s jaw dropped. “You can see me?”

Amara giggled. “I’d shake ectoplasm again, but I don’t think Parker will let me up.”

Brian was smiling so wide she thought his face might crack. “Isn’t he gorgeous?”

If ghosts could blush, Greg would be bright red. He buried his face in Brian’s neck, much to Brian’s obvious approval. “Thank you. But I think you’re the gorgeous one.”

Brian winked at Amara, pleased.

“Once Parker finishes the bond, I believe Amara will be able to hear you without my help.” The image of Greg faded, but Brian’s look of pleasure remained.

“I was wondering something, Brian. How can you feel Greg?” Parker waved toward the pair of men, one seen, the other not.

“I’m a physical medium.” Brian ran his finger down Greg’s arm. “That means ghosts can physically interact with me, share sensations, that sort of thing, and I can do the same. For some physical mediums, it’s as simple as feeling their presence or having the ability to channel them, allowing them to speak to the living. For those like me, it’s as if their bodies are really there. I can touch Greg in ways most mediums can’t.”

Amara cocked her head. “So that’s what you were doing when you were bent naked over Parker’s couch? Touching?”

Brian’s jaw dropped. He began choking. Greg’s deep laughter boomed through the room, tinged with the slight hysteria of a man who’d been caught with his pants around his ankles.

“My couch, Greg? My couch?” Parker buried his face in his hands. “Excuse me, I need to scrub my brain now. There’s this dirty picture in there I need to clean away.”

Dragos, still by the window, pressed his forehead to the glass. She’d bet just about anything he was biting back laughter. “Can we get back to the subject of the wicked witch?”

“Yes, please, and thank you.” Parker shifted Amara and grunted. “What can we do to keep Amara safe?”

“Keep you safe, you mean.”

Parker stared at her blankly. “Of course.”

Amara rolled her eyes. “Don’t go there. Maybe we should concentrate on both of us being safe, hmm?”

“I like that plan.” Brian leaned back against thin air, perfectly at ease in his ghost’s arms. His fingers danced over thin air as he petted Greg. Brian was turning out to be remarkably touchy-feely, which she hadn’t expected. “I say we call in some reinforcements. We’re dealing with someone who was a witch first. She probably thinks like one.”

“She might try magic to hurt us next, since her plant attack didn’t work.”

“And we have no magical protections.” Parker shook himself. “Greg, you’re a witch. Any suggestions?”

Brian started. Perhaps he’d forgotten his lover had once been the very thing they were fighting.

“I can’t cast anything anymore thanks to the grim reaper. I’d suggest we call in a living witch who has a connection to the earth.” Parker’s gaze drifted to Brian. “Do we know someone we can trust?”

“I can put in a few phone calls.” The Renfield reached for his cell phone.

“Don’t worry about it.” Dragos turned back around. “I’ll take care of that.”

Selena frowned. The markings had faded, her eyes hazel once more. “Who?”

Dragos smiled, his expression full of heat and desire. “Kate, of course.”

Selena sighed. “Of course. On that note, I’m out of here. It was a pleasure meeting you, Parker, Greg.”

Parker stood after placing Amara on the couch. “Ours as well, Miss Selena.” Parker kissed her fingers. “Please, feel welcome in my home.”

Amara damn near growled at the pleasure in Selena’s eyes. “Thank you, Parker.” Selena winked at Amara. “Have a good night, Amara.”

Dancing butterflies filled her stomach. She knew what Selena was talking about, and it had nothing to do with being good. “I’ll walk you to the door.”

She ignored the way Dragos’s shoulders had stiffened. If he didn’t want to acknowledge the witchdoctor, that was his problem. Whatever was going on between them, she couldn’t allow it to affect Parker.

Then again, maybe Amara could pay Selena back for helping Parker with a little magic of her own. “I’m thinking of throwing a party to welcome Parker to the neighborhood. Why don’t you come? It might be a good way to draw Terri out.” She leaned in close and whispered in the witch’s ear, low enough to pretend she thought Dragos couldn’t hear. “Besides, there’s this guy I’ve wanted you to meet.” She waggled her brows and winked, even though they both knew there was no man. But what Dragos didn’t know might lure him out into the open without Kate, his sometime lover and the town’s treasurer.

Selena’s eyes sparkled as she carefully did not look at Dragos. “Sounds good. I’ll be here.” She stepped out the front door with a cheery wave. “Night, everyone!”

Without a backward glance, the witchdoctor left. At least one pair of eyes stayed glued to her car until it turned the corner.

“So we have a plan to bring Terri to us. Any ideas on how to protect us from another attack?”

Trust Parker to bring her back from romance to the real world.

“I’ll contact Kate as soon as I get home. She will be more than happy to work for us, I think.” Dragos drifted toward the door. “Move into Amara’s home as soon as possible, Parker. She is, after all, your sotiei, and her home has better protection spells. Amara, you might want to see if any of Glinda’s wards are still in place.”

“How?”

“Greg might be able to see them. I know for a fact that just before she died, she keyed several of them so you could activate them.” Dragos stepped into the night. “It’s time I headed home. Call if you need anything. Good night.” Dragos sauntered down the walk, fading in a self-generated mist that floated off on the evening breeze.

“Can you do that?”

Parker laughed. “Turn into mist? Yes. It’s not as complicated as it looks, but I don’t think I have Dragos’s dramatic flair.”

“He does like to make an exit, doesn’t he?” Amara tilted her head, thinking through some of the things she’d learned that night. “I think Selena is his sotiei, but he doesn’t want to acknowledge that for some reason.”

Parker shut the door. “Is he sleeping with this Kate person?”

“I think so.”

“Then Selena cannot be his sotiei.

“How do you know?” She settled in next to him on the couch, trying to ignore the hungry gleam in his eyes.

“Because after one meeting with you, being with anyone else is unthinkable.” He pulled her close and nuzzled her neck, his warm breath tickling her. “One taste and I was ruined for anyone else.” He bit her gently, fangless, a reminder of how pleasurable his bite could be.

“Maybe if he tasted her, he’d know?”

Brian came back with a glass full of greenish-yellow goop and a bandage on one finger. “He could be resisting, I suppose. If he thinks claiming her would put her in danger, he might be able to distance himself enough to sleep with someone else. And the rejection of his sotiei when she found out would widen the gulf, until eventually the connection could conceivably break. Honestly, though? I don’t think she is. He showed none of the strain of being around his sotiei without touching her, and his beast didn’t react when she nearly passed out.” He handed Parker the glass. “Drink up.”

Parker sniffed and made a face. “It’s like being handed a fast-food cheeseburger after dining on filet mignon. No offense.”

“None taken.” Brian went back to Greg and leaned against thin air.

Amara touched one finger to Parker’s lips. “Give me a nip, Parker.”

A dot of red appeared in his eyes. Parker’s fangs descended, piercing her skin, there and gone again so fast she scarcely registered the pain, let alone the pleasure. She pressed her fingertip until the blood beaded, then added it to the concoction.

Parker drank his dinner in three long swallows and shivered. “That’s much better. Thank you, Brian.” He licked the wound on Amara’s finger closed. “And thank you, m’lady.” His heated look scorched her, turned her inside out.

She could hardly contain her answering smile. She wanted him every bit as much as he wanted her, and she’d prove it once they were alone. “You’re welcome.”

“I’ll wait until morning and run next door, pick up some clothes for Parker and myself. Greg and I will sleep in Amara’s old room.” Brian winced at Parker’s low growl. “Parker will sleep in Amara’s new room. With Amara.” She had a hard time stifling her giggle when Brian muttered, “Duh.”

Amara patted Parker’s arm. “He’s right. He’ll be most comfortable there. The bed is large enough for him and Greg to roll around in.”

She couldn’t help giggling at Parker’s reaction. Her big, bad vampire stuck his fingers in his ears and lalalal’d at the top of his lungs. He wished Greg and Brian good-night, grabbed Amara and practically dragged her to bed. He already had her in his arms and in her bedroom, the door slamming shut behind them, before she could offer them her good-nights. “Hi.”

She grinned up at him, remembering when he’d startled her the other night. That night she’d screamed in his face and tried to deck him.

Tonight she would give him a much warmer reception. She unzipped his pants, pulled out his semierect cock and toyed with it. “Hi.”

“I think I like your greeting better.” Parker cupped her breasts, stroking her nipples through the whisper-thin cotton of her sundress. She arched into the touch, licking her lips at the thought of what she wanted to do to him.

“Give us a kiss?”

She got down on her knees, ignoring his delighted smile, and took him into her mouth.

His head banged against the door. “Now that’s what I call a kiss hello.”

She chuckled, earning a groan. His cock jumped in her mouth, hardening more. She looked up at him through her bangs to find him staring at her, his fangs out, his eyes burning. He buried his hands in her hair, guiding her movements, and rocked his hips into her. He set the pace, fucking her mouth, giving her his pleasure, careful not to push too hard or too fast.

“Do you want me to come in your mouth? Hmm? Is that what you want?”

The thought of tasting him, drinking him down, filled her with need. She sucked harder, stroked the flared head of his cock with her tongue, eager to have him spill into her mouth. He hissed out a breath and tugged her hair. She’d have to tip him the rest of the way over.

Amara cradled his balls and rolled them in her palm, massaged them in time with her strokes. But it wasn’t until she accidentally grazed him with her teeth that Parker finally lost control. He held her in place while he fucked her mouth with total abandon.

“Yes,” he hissed. “Now. Goddess, now.” His come erupted on her tongue, more sweet than salty with a touch copper. She hummed her approval, drank him until he was drained. She didn’t let up until Parker started to laugh.

“Enough, sweet. Bloody hell. I think you sucked out my brain.” He helped her to her feet and guided her toward the four-poster bed. Parker touched one of the posts, an evil gleam in his eye. “I approve of your bed. All sorts of interesting places to attach hooks.”

Amara gulped. “H-hooks?”

“Mm.” Parker pushed, and Amara fell onto her back, her legs dangling over the edge. “The better to tie you up with, my dear.”

When he crawled on top of her, she put her hand on his chest. “I’m not into pain, Parker. Pain hurts me.”

He placed a soft kiss on her palm, then repeated the gesture on her other palm. “I know.” He took both of her wrists in his hand. Without taking his eyes off her, he pulled her arms over her head. “Don’t move.”

Did she want to play his game, or did she want to challenge him, see what would happen if she disobeyed?

He skimmed his hands down her body. Her breasts ached for his touch, but he avoided them, brushing the sides but ignoring the peaks. She considered moving her arms, but his next action left her motionless. He lifted her skirt and moaned at the sight of her bare pussy. “I love a woman who wears a dress without knickers.” He lapped once at her wet folds before forcing her legs apart. His stern look had her trembling. “My turn. Remember, keep your hands where they are.”

Amara gave a shuddering sigh when his mouth descended once more. She grabbed her wrist, determined to play along, to let her vampire be the dominant partner this time. He wanted to play, and she would let him. He wouldn’t hurt her, and if he continued doing that swirly thing with his tongue, she might grant his wish and put hooks in her bed. Her entire body was a giant instrument of pleasure, expertly played by Parker’s mouth. He took her clit into his mouth and sucked it, strumming it with the tip of his tongue in mind-bending strokes. She bucked, desperate for more, and the tips of his fangs grazed her wet folds. The thought of him biting her there both scared her to death and aroused the hell out of her.

Her body moved without conscious control. Her breasts were hard and aching, desperate for a touch, a lick, anything he cared to give them. She tightened her thighs around his head, then parted as her body raced toward orgasm. She lifted her legs and dropped them again, alternately thrusting her hips into Parker’s face and twisting beneath him, trying to find the angle that would send her screaming into the abyss.

But her hands stayed right where he’d left them, and that tiny bit of control she’d given him made the pleasure that much deeper. She trusted him, and he rewarded her in the best possible way.

“Goddess, Parker. If you stop, I will fucking kill you.”

Parker hummed around her clit, and Amara screamed as she came, unable to breathe, every muscle locked tight in ecstasy.

The tremors finally eased, and her sight returned. And oh what a sight it was. Parker was still lapping at her, keeping her vaguely aroused and unable to come all the way down from the incredible high he’d given her. He kept it up, over and over, licking her, tasting her until she moved under him again, frantic to keep his tongue right there.

Parker looked up at her desperate face and smiled. Something sparked deep within his gaze as it landed on her needy breasts. He focused his attention on one, and Amara shrieked. Phantom fingers plucked at her nipple, this side of the pleasure line of pain. That touch sent her once more over the edge, her body rippling under his touch in an explosion that rocked her to her core.

She opened her eyes to find Parker sliding into her. He’d lifted her legs, planted her calves on his shoulders. He cupped her ass, lifting her to meet his thrusts. His cock pounded into her, sending her bouncing. Only his grip on her ass kept her from sliding away from him.

He licked his wet lips and stared down at where they were joined as he took her over and over. “You were made for me. Made to take my cock.” He clenched her ass, and she knew she’d have some bruises from the strength of his grip. Their flesh slapped together, and Parker’s eyes narrowed to slits, leaving a ruby gleam beneath dark lashes.

Amara’s breasts ached. She needed to be touched, needed her nipples toyed with. She was so damn close to coming, but she couldn’t quite get to where she needed to be. Why wasn’t he touching her?

Parker opened his eyes. He must have seen how much she needed, because he moved her legs and wrapped them around his waist. “Hold on, sweet.” She did as she was told, holding him tight between her thighs. He shoved the dress farther up until it was above her breasts, exposing them to his greedy gaze. He moved his hand to hold her steady while he fucked her, his palm on her stomach. He stroked her breasts with his free hand, finally giving them the attention she craved. He plucked and twisted her aching nipples. She cried out, the mix of pleasure and pain driving her closer to the edge.

He slid his hand down her sweating stomach until his thumb brushed the edge of her clit, circling the soaking flesh until she was on the verge of coming. Parker’s jaw clenched. “So fucking close. Come for me, sweet. Come on my cock.”

Parker moved his thumb a hair, and that was all she needed. Her body bowed off the bed, the orgasm so intense she came close to blacking out. Her vision darkened, her lungs seized and she didn’t care that she could be dying. She’d be one hell of a happy dead woman.

Parker bellowed, his body throbbing as he emptied his seed into her. He gasped, barely able to catch his breath, sweating like a pig and more beautiful than anything she’d ever seen. He collapsed on top of her, his knees barely on the bed, his cock inside her, still hard despite the fact that he’d already come. His hot breath danced across her breasts; his forehead pressed against her breastbone. “Gods above.”

Amara couldn’t answer. She wasn’t sure her lungs worked right anymore. She couldn’t seem to gulp in enough air to do much more than pant.

He lifted his head and grinned, so full of male satisfaction that she tightened in response. “You’re a very good girl.”

Amara tilted her head. “Hmm?”

“You didn’t move your hands.”

Amara blinked. Hell. She’d forgotten all about them.

Parker laughed huskily and dragged her up the bed. “That’s my girl.”

Amara smiled. His girl. She liked the sound of that.

Contents

Обращение к пользователям