Bitter Blood - Chapter One

The scent of blood hit her—sweet and tempting—and New Orleans Police Detective Mary Jane—just Jane—Hart clenched her teeth as she rushed toward the yawning mouth of a nearby alley. She also prayed that her new fangs wouldn’t decide to burst out right then and there…because that would be bad, very, very bad.

The victim ran toward her and yelled, “He stabbed me! The crazy bastard stabbed me!”

The bleeding victim was young, probably in his early twenties, with bright blond hair and blue eyes. It was dark right then, well after midnight, and the alley was nearly black, but Jane could still see him perfectly.

At least there was one benefit to being a vampire. Excellent night vision.

But that guy is getting way too close to me. Her teeth were aching because the coppery scent of blood flooded her nostrils. “Stop!” Jane ordered as she lifted a hand. “I’m a cop!”

He staggered to a stop. “I need a freaking ambulance!”

Yes, he did. But if he kept coming at her, he was going to get bitten. She didn’t like human blood. Actually, she couldn’t keep it down at all, but her vamp instincts were still kicking in with a vengeance. When fresh blood came running right up to you, well, it was hard to resist a bite.

“Just stay there,” Jane gritted out.

She looked over her shoulder. She’d been walking the street alone, trying to get her damn thoughts together. She wasn’t even on the clock that night. But, no, of course, she would have run into a bloody victim. That was her luck, right?

And helping him is my job, whether I’m on the clock or not. I might be undead now, but I’m still a detective.

“Where is your attacker?” She inched deeper into the alley. Her gun was holstered at her side. With her new vamp strength, she didn’t even need it anymore. Not really.

“B-back there…” His voice stuttered as he glanced over his shoulder. The blood had soaked through his coat.

Her eyes narrowed. The alley was only about six feet wide, but it was long, stretching between the old buildings. She didn’t see anyone back there but…

I can hear him. The faintest rustle of footsteps. The perp was probably hiding, just out of sight. Waiting.

Jane determinedly marched toward her victim. “It’s going to be all right.” Going closer to him meant the smell of that tempting blood just got stronger. Human blood makes you gag. Remember that. It may smell like candy, but you can’t handle that crap. Her gaze slid over him. The blood was all coming from his right shoulder. A stab wound? “The wound isn’t that deep. You’re going to be all right.” A few stitches and he’d be good as new. Provided she got him out of that alley and away from the attacker who could spring again at any moment. “Just stay behind me.” She slid past him and—

Bitch,” the blond victim whispered. “I know what you are.”

She whirled back to face him.

Too late, she saw him reaching into his coat. The guy didn’t look so scared and hurt any longer. His face was twisted with hate and he was—oh, hell, he was yanking a wooden stake out of his coat!

I know what you are. Yes, yes, he did know.

And she heard the fast rush of footsteps coming from the back of that alley. The guy that she’d thought was the attacker—hell, he must be working with the blond male.

I’m their target. I’m the victim.

Or, at least, that was what they thought. Adrenaline fired her blood and when that stake came slashing toward her heart, Jane grabbed the guy’s wrist in a tight grip, stopping him. “I don’t think so,” Jane whispered. Then she snapped his wrist. One fast jerk. He howled and immediately went down to his knees, clutching his broken wrist desperately.

Jane whirled to face the other threat. “You think you’ll stake me, too?”

The guy coming at her was big, easily over six foot two, and built like a linebacker. He lifted his hand—

No stake. A gun.

“Blood loss, vamp,” he snarled. “I know it can take you down.”

He fired.

She dodged the bullet. Actually freaking dodged it. Jane was still not used to the increased speed she had—moving that way made her feel dizzy, but being dizzy was better than having bullets littering her chest. The guy cried out in fury when he missed her, then he started just firing wildly.

Left, right. Up. Down.

His partner screamed when a bullet hit him. But nothing had touched Jane, not yet.

And she was now close enough to grab the shooter.

She swiped the gun from his hand and threw it against the alley wall. Then she locked her hand around the shooter’s neck and shoved him against that alley wall. He outweighed her by at least one hundred and fifty pounds. He dwarfed her smaller frame but…

He couldn’t get out of her hold. She was stronger. Far stronger than he’d ever be. “Now who is the bitch?” Jane whispered and she flashed her fangs at him.

He screamed.

That was right. He should be afraid. He should—

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The bullets slammed into her back, one after the other. Her body jerked, like a puppet on a string, and she spun to see the blond guy on the ground—he’d pulled out a gun from his coat. How many damn weapons did he have hidden in that thing? The blond was still on the ground, the gun still clutched in his shaking hand, and he was preparing to fire at her again. I should have broken both of his wrists. Her mistake.

Jane!” The roar of her name shook the alley. And she knew the two men who’d come here for her—humans who had made such a terrible mistake—were about to pay.

In the next moment, Aidan Locke was there. Tall, strong, too powerful. His blue eyes glowed with the rage of his beast even as razor sharp claws sprang from the tips of his fingers.

The blond with the gun fired at him, but the fool—he wasn’t using silver bullets and the hits didn’t slow Aidan down for even a moment. Aidan slashed out with his claws, cutting that guy’s wrist, and blood flew into the alley.

More blood.

Jane’s clothes were soaked with blood. She sagged to her knees. “Aidan…” His name came from her as a rasp.

The blond jumped to his feet and charged at Aidan. He ran right at him and—

Jane’s eyes sagged closed. She fell forward, slamming into the cement.

Footsteps thudded toward her and a hard hand fisted her hair. “Not so tough now, are you?”

It was the linebacker-wanna-be. Spittle flew from his mouth as he wrenched her hair back even more. “You’re not nearly as strong as I—”

Bam. This time, she was the one who’d fired. Good thing she still carried her service weapon. And here I was…thinking I didn’t need it any longer. The blast went right into his chest, a perfect hit to the heart, and her attacker fell down beside her, gasping out his last breath.

Jane forced her eyelids to stay open a little longer. She was bleeding so much, and an insidious cold swept over her body. Aidan. She needed to get to Aidan…

“Baby, what the hell did they do to you?”

He was above her, no, bending over her. Aidan gently scooped her into his arms and held her so very carefully.

As if she were precious.

As if she weren’t a monster.

Because to him, she wasn’t.

“S-set-up,” Jane managed to whisper. Humans lying in wait for her. Not a good thing. And that could mean… “Need to g-get out of here…could have…r-reinforcements.” She was stuttering. That was bad. She never stuttered and she never felt this cold.

Aidan’s handsome face was locked in lines of fury. “They’ll find the dead when they come looking for their men.”

So he’d killed the blond. Too bad. She would’ve liked to question him. She—

“Shit, baby, how much blood have you lost?”

Enough to make her weak. “Think the bullets…are still…in me…”

He cursed—wonderful, dark inventive curses that had a smile tugging at her lips even as he clutched her tighter and raced from that alley. She hurt, so much, but Jane wasn’t scared. Not when Aidan was there. He’d take care of her. She knew it with certainty.

Death wasn’t an option for her. He’d give her his blood—his wonderful, strong alpha werewolf blood, and she’d heal so quickly.

And once she was healed…

I’ll find out just who the hell planned that set-up in the alley.

And payback would be such a bitch.

***

He waited until the werewolf left. The alpha had been in such a blind rage when he rushed away, looking neither to the left nor the right as he hurried to get help for the vampire.

Mary Jane Hart.

His prey of choice.

He stepped over the body of the first human. His gaze swept over him carefully. Claws to the jugular had taken out that fellow. His face was frozen in lines of terror and blood had sprayed into his blond hair. The fellow probably hadn’t expected to die. He’d thought he was the predator.

Wrong. You were the bait. The test.

He kicked the blond with his shoe, wanting to make sure he was gone.

The man was.

So he looked at test subject number two. This fellow interested him the most because…Jane killed him. He’d had a small surveillance camera placed in the alley, the better to watch from a safe distance. Even when she’d been shot—four times in the back—Jane had still managed to kill this man before he’d had the opportunity to end her.

But, interestingly enough, she hadn’t used her fangs to attack him. She’d fired at him, shot just like a human cop would have done when confronted with an assailant who wouldn’t stop.

Blood permeated the alley, a temptation that no new vampire should be able to resist. Yet…

Jane Hart hadn’t taken so much as a sip. She hadn’t used her fangs even when biting would have saved her.

How very interesting.

He pulled out his phone and called his boss. “You’ll want to get a clean-up crew here. Immediately.” Before anyone stumbled into the alley and saw hell.

“Disappointing results? Did Jane fail?”

He smiled as he looked at the dead men. “No, it was a promising night. Very, very promising…” A near perfect start.

***

Jane’s blood was on his hands.

Aidan fucking hated that.

He carried Jane up the stairs and into his office at Hell’s Gate. The club was packed, filled with humans and werewolves, but no one even glanced twice at him as he held Jane. Why would they? The humans didn’t see the blood, he had her pulled too close for that. And the werewolves knew better than to question him about Jane.

He went up the stairs and two of his pack members immediately took up a position on the ground floor, blocking the bottom of the staircase. They’d make sure he wasn’t followed.

And he could focus on what mattered most—Jane.

“Aidan…” Her voice was so husky and weak. “I…I need blood.” A hushed confession. Shamed.

Jane should never be ashamed. Not of anything.

He took her inside his office. Kicked the door shut. Then he hurried across the room and put her on his couch. She gave a little moan when her back made contact with the leather.

“Baby…” He brought his wrist to her mouth. “Take everything that you need.”

Her lips closed over his wrist. He felt the quick lick of her tongue, the press of her teeth and then—

Pleasure. White hot. Seeming to race along his veins and go straight to his heart. Need, lust, a dark desire built inside of him. He clenched his teeth and locked down his muscles, refusing to move. Jane was hurt. Jane needed his blood—she didn’t need him falling all over her like a sex-crazed madman.

She was shot. Bleeding out. Those bastards wanted to kill my Jane.

And he was sick of her being prey.

Her dark eyes met his. He could see the strength coming back to her and the link they shared—that deep, basic, primitive link that always seemed to bind them—grew even stronger. She licked his wrist once more, then eased back. “Aidan.” Her lips curved faintly. A drop of his blood was on her bottom lip. “Aidan, you have to take the bullets out. I…I can’t heal until they’re out.”

He knew that, dammit. Just as he knew the last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt her.

But Jane was rolling over, his blood having given her strength. She pressed her stomach to the couch and her blood-soaked back was inches from him.

“Don’t worry,” Jane said quickly. “I won’t move, I promise.” Her voice was stronger. “I won’t make a sound…”

Because she didn’t want him to hear how much he was hurting her.

“I can get a doctor,” Aidan muttered. “Dr. Bob will be here in—”

“I need them out.” She spoke quietly as she added, “They…they’re close to my spine, Aidan, too close, and I-I can’t feel my legs.”

His heart stopped beating. He remembered when she’d been shot. The way she’d fallen. He’d thought her knees had just given way but—

Jane turned her head to look back at him. “Vamps heal.” She nodded determinedly. “Once they’re out, I’ll heal.”

Pain clawed at his insides. He wanted to bellow his fury. This shouldn’t be happening. Darkness bled around his eyes. The rage was so strong and hot—his claws burst out, his canines lengthened, and the beast he kept chained deep inside tried to leap out of him.

No. Not now. Not yet.

His fingers were trembling when he reached for her. The hands of a beast with dark claws that could—and had—killed a man in mere seconds. He cut away her shirt and saw the wounds in her back, wounds that still bled, and, yes, they were far too close to Jane’s spine.

“Let me get the doctor,” he said again, his chest aching as he stared at her skin. Dr. Bob Heider was the main medical examiner in town, but the doctor was also on Aidan’s payroll. When supernaturals needed patching up, Dr. Bob was called in for the job. Dr. Bob could come now and use far more care as he treated Jane. He wouldn’t cut into her with claws—

“No need for Dr. Bob. We both know…it will just prolong the pain.” Her eyes were closed. Her cheek was turned toward him. “Please, Aidan. Get them out.”

He swallowed and his claws cut into her skin. She stiffened at the first cut but didn’t make a sound, just as she promised. No moans of pain. No screams. Nothing.

But Aidan saw the tear that slid down her silken cheek and it felt as if she’d just gutted him.

One bullet. It came out easily—a fucking wooden bullet.

He’d known the men weren’t firing silver bullets. As soon as they’d hit him, he’d known. But…

Wooden bullets meant they were in that alley for one purpose—to kill a vampire. To kill my Jane.

His claws reached a second bullet. He pulled it out. Stained with her blood. So small.

So dangerous.

The third bullet was next. He had to dig deeper to get it. Still, Jane didn’t cry out. She was statue still beneath him. No anesthesia, no drugs at all. Just feeling the pain that he gave to her.

He wanted to kill those bastards in that alley all over again.

The fourth bullet was the hardest to get. Nausea swirled in him because he had to cut her so deeply to get it out. Her breath rasped out and another tear slid down her cheek. His fingers were shaking worse and he was afraid—

“I love you, Aidan,” Jane whispered.

She trusted him with her life.

He got that bullet out. Flung it across the room. Then he was putting his wrist back to her mouth. “Drink, now.” Because his blood was special. Sure, all werewolf blood was strong, downright delicious for a vamp, but…

An alpha werewolf’s blood could heal like no other.

Jane’s lips pressed to his pulse. Her little fangs slid into his skin. His eyes closed as he released a slow breath. Jane was alive. Jane was okay. Jane was safe…again. She drank from him and he bent his head, relief surging through him. His Jane. His fucking Jane.

Right then, he wanted to pull her close. To hold her against his heart and know that she was safe.

And after that…

He wanted to beat her sweet ass.

She’d told him that she was just going for a walk. A fucking walk. How had a walk turned into that blood bath?

Her tongue licked over his wrist. She pressed a soft kiss to his hand. “Thank you.” The words were soft, husky. He knew sleep pulled at her. She’d heal while she slept.

His fingers slid over her cheek, wiping away the tears. “When you wake up, we’re talking.”

Her long lashes cast a shadow over her cheek.

“You’re not doing this shit again,” Aidan growled. “You can’t risk yourself like this. I won’t allow it.” He was the alpha in the city. The one who controlled all the paranormals. And as of very, very recently…Jane was no longer human.

She was a paranormal, just like the others under his command.

Whether she liked it or not, she had to follow his orders.

And order number one for his beautiful Jane…

Don’t get hurt. Because her pain gutted him.

A sharp knock sounded at his office door. He knew only one wolf would have the balls to see him right then, only one guy would have been able to get past the guards below—Aidan’s first in command, Paris Cole.

Jane’s breathing was deep, easy. Humans thought vampires didn’t breathe—that they were cold. That their hearts didn’t beat. But that was all bullshit. Hollywood hype. Vampires breathed. Their hearts beat. They lived.

Their deaths were fleeting. They came back, stronger, far more powerful than ever.

He turned and headed for the door. Jane’s blood was still on his hands when he yanked that door open. Paris stood there, one brow raised and curiosity glinting in his golden eyes. The tall, African American wolf was dressed in a tux, and he looked as far from a beast as it was possible to get.

Then Paris inhaled and his gaze dropped to focus on the blood that coated Aidan’s hands. “What happened?”

“An ambush.” He stepped back so that his best friend could enter the office. At least, that was what it had looked like to him. Jane went for a walk and wound up nearly dead.

“Someone tried to take you on?” Paris demanded as he crossed the threshold.

“No.” Aidan shook his head. “Someone tried to take out Jane.”

Paris’s gaze immediately cut toward the couch—and a heavily sleeping Jane. Her back was still bare and bloody. “Sonofabitch.” His hands tightened into fists. “I’m assuming the fools are dead?”

“Good assumption.” Aidan nodded. “And I’ll be taking a team out to the alley because I want to personally search the scene. They had wooden bullets. If I hadn’t gotten there when I did…” But he stopped because he wasn’t going to finish that sentence.

He felt his friend’s gaze on him. Once more, Paris inhaled and then he said, voice halting, “All of the blood isn’t hers.”

No.

“You were shot,” Paris added.

He’d barely felt the pain. Now, he just shoved his claws into his gut and pulled out the two bullets. “Wood, not silver. They were for her, not me.” He’d just been in the way so the blond bastard had fired at him.

But Jane? Those two had wanted to kill her.

Paris gave a low whistle. “Okay, the way I see it…we have a few very big problems.” He paced toward the couch. Toward Jane. He put his hands on his hips as he stared down at her sleeping form. “Problem one…Jane’s secret is out. Obviously, there are people who know exactly what your girlfriend is.”

Vampire. Only Jane hadn’t been a vamp, not until a few days before. Then her human life had ended and—well, shit, they were still adjusting to the change.

His pack was adjusting.

He was adjusting.

So the hell was she.

Normally, vamps and werewolves were natural enemies. When a werewolf scented a vampire, the primitive instinct to attack, to kill, took over. As an alpha werewolf, Aidan should have immediately killed Jane when she turned.

But he hadn’t.

Because she’s mine.

Jane wasn’t like other vampires. Because of him, werewolf blood had flowed in her veins before her change. So when she’d transformed, she hadn’t just woken as a vampire. She was something so much more.

And too many people were afraid of that more.

Some in New Orleans believed that Jane was too dangerous. That she was going to be the end of them all.

“Since Jane is so new to the vamp world,” Paris continued, voice thoughtful, “humans shouldn’t know what she is, not yet. Hell, I would only think one vamp in town knew what she was.”

The vampire who’d helped to end Jane’s human life. Vincent Connor. Only that bastard had made himself absent lately. Probably because he knew Aidan intended to kill him at the absolute first opportunity. Payback is coming, asshole.

Paris glanced back at him. “You think Vincent is spreading the word about her?”

Aidan’s claws were still out. “I think it’s past time for me to have a little one-on-one chat with the guy.”

Paris exhaled slowly. “Problem two…The people who know Jane’s secret? Well, the fact that she’s covered in blood means they want her dead. They know what she is, and they want to end her.”

“Two humans were in the alley with her. Neither of them made it out alive.” That meant there were two less people hunting Jane.

“So either they’re the only two who were involved in this mess and the threat to her is already gone or…” Paris shook his head. “Or there’s a boss somewhere, hiding in the shadows. Someone who set that attack in motion.”

That was precisely what Aidan feared. “Stay with Jane.” The order came out fast and hard. There were two people in the world that Aidan trusted completely. Paris…

And Jane.

“Uh, I stay—and what do you do?” Paris asked as his brow furrowed.

“I go back to the alley. I follow any scents left behind.” Because no one else had a nose like an alpha. “And I hunt down any other fools who were in on the attack tonight.” He knew the attack went beyond the two humans who’d died that night. More was at play, he could feel it. When it came to the paranormal world, there was always more at work than what met the eye. It was a rule to live by.

He hurried back to Jane. She slept deeply, a healing sleep. His hand lifted and his bloody fingers lightly smoothed over her cheek.

“Yeah,” Paris’s voice was grim. “That brings me to problem three.”

Aidan pulled his hand away from Jane, but before he could move back, Paris had grabbed his wrist. Paris turned over Aidan’s hand, staring at the faint bite marks on his inner wrist.

“Problem three.” Paris slowly lifted his gaze to meet Aidan’s. “Problem three is that you can’t keep giving her your blood.”

Aidan yanked his hand away from Paris. “What the hell did you think I was going to do? Let Jane bleed to death?” Hell, no. Not an option for him.

“I think…I think you have to be careful.” Paris seemed to measure his words. “Every time that you give her your blood…she could become more powerful.”

Aidan tensed. “You worried she’ll grow too strong?”

“I worry that she isn’t done changing.” The faint lines near Paris’s mouth tightened. “And that you aren’t, either. You’re giving her your blood, man. A werewolf wasn’t meant to feed a vamp that way.”

A werewolf wasn’t meant to feed a vamp at all. They were supposed to be natural enemies.

“We don’t know what the connection you have with her…” Paris said doggedly. “We don’t know what it will do to you. Or her.”

Because there’d never been another mated pair like him and Jane. When she’d transformed, she should have killed him.

He’d been duty bound to kill her but…

I didn’t. Neither did she. “Watch her,” he snapped out. “Make sure that she stays in this room until I get back.” He turned on his heel and stalked to the bathroom. A new sink and countertop gleamed in the spacious bathroom. He washed his hands at that sink, watching his blood and Jane’s blood disappear down the drain. Then, his hands free of blood—for the moment—he marched back into his office. “You are going to keep her here, right, Paris?” He threw out the question as he headed for the door.

“Oh, right,” Paris drawled. “Because it’s easy to keep a super vamp in place. I mean…the woman is just prophesized to be the end. No big deal. I’ve definitely got this covered.”

Aidan glanced back at him and Aidan just stared at his best friend for a moment. Stared, glared, same thing.

Paris swallowed. And straightened. “Right, alpha.” He gave a quick little smart-ass salute. “She won’t leave the room.”

Good. Because when Aidan got back, he and Jane were going to fucking clear the air. She didn’t get to risk herself over and over. She didn’t get to run into danger.

She was his.

And if something happened to her…

I will go insane.

Hell, maybe he already was insane. Plenty of his pack members suspected he was. After all, what sane werewolf would mate with a vampire?

I would. I’d do anything for Jane.

That was the problem.

But he was also the paranormal boss in the city, and it was time that Jane started paying attention to the rules in place. His rules.

···

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