Why had I let my friends talk me into this?
I looked around the crowded biker bar and sank even farther back into my shadowed corner.
This was so not my scene. So why had I let my two best friends drag me here tonight?
Oh yeah. To celebrate my hundredth birthday. Quite a milestone, even for a vampire, hitting that first century mark. I'd been turned just before my eighteenth birthday by a selfish man I thought I'd been in love with. He'd seduced me away from my home in New York, turned me then kept me a virtual prisoner, dependent on his every whim. He'd never even taught me to feed myself. But he had made me immortal and after fifty years, he'd dumped me, starving and helpless on the streets of Chicago.
"Is anyone using this?" A man who looked barely old enough to drink turned from the crowded table next to me and pointed at the fourth stool. Since there were only two other drinks on the table, I smiled and shook my head. He thanked me then dragged the stool over to the empty table, leaving me once again on my own and watching other people have fun.
So here I was on a cold March night in suburban Chicago at a bar called Lunatics. I sipped my white wine cautiously and watched Danette and Jessamy gyrating with two leather-clad hunks out on the dance floor. The two female vampires had found me, taught me to survive, even helped me get my first job. I owed them everything.
If it was my birthday, how come only those two were celebrating?
"Come on. Let's dance." A big, burly guy in a black leather jacket loomed above me, grabbed my hand and pulled me off my barstool.
I didn't want to dance, but I didn't want to make a scene either. Sure, with my vampire strength I could take care of myself, but it seemed like the easy way out to just dance with the bruiser. I let him drag me out onto the dance floor and pull me into an uncomfortable embrace.
He was a lot taller than me, so my nose was pressed into a T-shirt-covered chest that smelled of beer, tobacco and sweat. Ugh! It was so strong I could barely catch the underlying hint of rich, warm blood. Now that got my senses going a bit. Apparently I was hungrier than I'd thought. Maybe I should convince this guy to take me out to his car so I could have a snack.
About ninety-nine percent of the time I feed off bagged blood. It's easier, cleaner, and much more convenient for a vampire who'd rather stay home with a book than go out in public. But that didn't mean I'd forgotten my lessons on how to feed off the hoof. A little flirting, a little mind control then I have a meal and he'd think he had a great time. I smiled up at him, and said, "You want to get out of here?"
"Hell yeah." He pretty much dragged me toward the back entrance of the bar. As soon as we were outside, he pulled me close and kissed me, shoving his tongue into my mouth just as my fangs started to lengthen. "Ooh, a hot little vamp," he growled with a nasty chuckle.
Shit. Since very few humans know that vampires really exist, this meant trouble. If he wasn't human, then I couldn't be sure I could overpower him. I can't manipulate most immortals' minds and at only five foot three I'm kind of puny. I looked up at the bruiser and saw a cagey smile that revealed just a tiny bit of fang - not pointy, retractable ones like mine, but something bigger and blunter - wolf maybe? Great. This wasn't just a biker bar, it was a lycanthrope biker bar.
I pushed both hands against the man's chest. "I changed my mind. Let's go back inside."
"No way, bitch." He slammed me up against the wall, overpowering me easily. "No teasing the bears and running off." He forced his lips down on mine again, nearly making me gag. A werebear? Oh damn, was I in trouble. I struggled but couldn't budge him, and he was up too close for me to get a knee into his groin.
Frederic, the man who'd made me a vampire, had controlled me for fifty years with a combination of intimidation, threats and flat-out abuse. Now thirty-two years later, I was at least strong enough that I wasn't ever going to take it again. I struggled for all I was worth.
Then suddenly he was gone, wrenched away from me so fast my eyes could barely follow the movement.
"Marshall, what have I told you? No means no. Now get the hell out of here and don't come back. That was your third warning."
I looked over at the man who'd just pulled the bear off me and nearly melted. He was gorgeous - just absolutely gorgeous. Almost as tall as the bear, he had to stand more than six and a half feet, and the tight white T-shirt and soft, faded jeans he wore outlined muscles I didn't even know a person had. Two other men stood just behind him - backup I supposed, in case the bear got mean.
Instead the bear just yelled, "f**k you," and stomped off to the parking lot.
"Are you okay, miss?" Mr. Tall-dark-and-dangerous looked me up and down, his expression gentling considerably.
"Yeah." My voice was only a little shaky. "Thank you."
He held out his hand. "Come on. Let's get you back inside."
I took his hand, and the warm strength of it sent a tingle all the way from my fingers to my toes. Without a thought I followed him back into the bar.
"Are you here alone?"
"No, I have friends out on the dance floor." Even if I hadn't, at this point I wasn't sure I'd have admitted it. He was strong enough to toss around a werebear. He could make mincemeat of me if he wanted to.
"Why don't we have a seat?" We'd come back into the main part of the club and he nodded to a roped-off booth, right next to the hallway and across from the bar. I probably should have said no, but I couldn't prevent the shiver that shuddered through me at the sound of that whiskey-soft voice, deep and dangerous. So I sat, finally getting a good look at the man who slid into the seat across from me.