If today were my last day, then there was no place I’d rather be than nestled in the arms of the most gorgeous vampire, Webb London. I’d never imagined a world where my heart—and, quite possibly, my soul—connected to another so strongly as it did to him. I was drunk from his touch, his kiss, his presence, and I didn’t want our date to end.
But reality trumped the world I lived in, and life knocked on the door. It was time to leave.
Reluctantly, I slid back into the limo. I had three hours before I lost my glass slipper. Midnight loomed, and Dad was expecting me.
Threading his fingers through my hair, Webb kissed my temple. “I had a great time today, Jo,” he whispered. “Did you?”
“I did.” I sneaked my hand under his shirt, tracing circles around his navel.
Any chance he gave me I explored his body, learning every curve, dip, and valley above the waist. I had an inkling my bloodlust was going to take a back seat to my craving for the sexy vampire.
As the limo rolled down the coastal highway, I reminisced about the magnificent day that Webb and I spent together at his secluded house on the coast in Maine. It was my first date ever, and I’d had no idea what to expect. Most of the girls in school went out on dates to movies or out to eat. My best friend, Darcy Rose, had shared her experience with me. Her first date had been with a boy who had taken her to see one of the Harry Potter movies. At first she’d been nervous. They hardly talked on the way to the theater, but after the movie ended they went for pizza and discussed what they liked and disliked about it. According to her, the movie was a great icebreaker.
I couldn’t think of an icebreaker that released some of the nervous tension I had except maybe time. As the day progressed, I became more comfortable with Webb. We took advantage of the sun and sand as we walked along the beach, dipping our toes in the surf. Maybe the soothing sounds of the waves helped to relax me. When we weren’t outside, we snuggled in front of the windowed doors, which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. I’d learned Webb had built the house four years ago as a place to relax and find peace.
The moon lit the way as we continued our trek home, towards what I’d hoped were better days. A light tickle at the base of my spine, however, warned me to be cautious. Why? I didn’t know. I was still growing into my vampire body. Yet my sixth sense grew stronger and more acute every day.
George, a family friend of Webb’s, was driving. He’d picked up Webb and me from the military base earlier that afternoon. The little amount of time I had to chat with him, I’d found he loved the game of basketball. I wasn’t surprised, given that he was tall and lanky.
The soothing hum of the tires caused my eyelids to droop. I tried desperately to stay awake. I wanted to spend every last minute with Webb.
“I don’t want to go back,” I mumbled as my fingers roamed north over his toned abs.
Sure, I wanted to see Dad and my brother, Sam, but I didn’t want to deal with whatever lay ahead. We had actually gotten through a day without any craziness—no phone calls, no explosions, no fires to put out, and no one kidnapping me or trying to kill me.
He groaned, gently pulling back my hair. We locked gazes for a second before his lips devoured mine, far from gentle as our tongues collided. He broke away, breathing heavily.
“What you do to me,” he whispered.
I blushed as I kept my eyes locked on his.
“You have no idea how much you affect me, do you?”
I kind of did. We’d been inseparable the entire day. Still, I wanted to hear his words, so I gave a slight shake of my head, my stomach fluttering in anticipation.
Suddenly he lifted his head, his eyes widening. “George? What’s wrong?”
What could possibly have Webb spooked? I sat up.
To my horror, the limo was barreling down a steep incline.
“Sir,” George said. “The brakes…”
The headlights illuminated a warning sign. Slow down. Ten miles per hour. I glanced at the speedometer, and my body turned to ice.
We were traveling at sixty miles per hour, and the needle was ticking higher.
“Emergency brake,” Webb called.
I checked my seat belt. It was already fastened.
To the left, the ocean whizzed by, as did the high mountain range outside my window on the right.
“It’s on, sir,” George said frantically.
“There should be a runaway for truckers before you reach the curve,” Webb said without a hint of fear or panic in his voice.
How the heck were we going to survive? This was a limo, not a NASCAR vehicle.
His hand grabbed mine. I leaned back and closed my eyes.
What a freaking way to end a date.
My eyelids flew open as the car banked around the curve. George’s hands clutched the wheel so hard, his knuckles glowed white.
“Now, George!” Webb shouted.
George turned the wheel hard, and the limo barreled up the hill where it stopped for a brief second before rolling backward.
“Straighten out. We’ll go up the embankment behind us and slow some more. Then we can get out,” Webb said, still without any trace of panic.
George did as Webb instructed. The car rolled down before creeping a bit up the hill behind us.
I gripped the seat belt, ready to free myself and jump out, when I spotted a glow in the distance. I dialed my vampire vision, zeroing in on several pairs of eyes gleaming in the night. I couldn’t tell if they were animals or…
I didn’t get a chance to figure it out before a rumbling noise pierced my ears.
“Jo. George,” Webb said calmly. “Get out and run up the hill behind us. Whatever you do, don’t look back.”
A large boulder up the mountain crunched over the gravel, making a beeline straight for us.
“Out. Now!” Webb growled.
I punched the release on my seat belt, but either my hands shook too much or the flippin’ belt was stuck. I tried again. Nothing. Panic grabbed me.
Halfway out of the car, Webb turned, glancing between the seat belt and me. The rock clipped the front corner of the limo. My head bounced off the leather seat. Webb fell from the car out of sight.
The boulder rolled down onto the pavement, breaking through the concrete barrier between the road and the ocean, and disappeared into the night.
Time stood still. I dared a peek out the window. The vehicle sat at a slight angle, facing the road.
Holy hell! Much more movement forward, and the limo would likely plummet into the Atlantic.
Webb suddenly appeared and grabbed the door, nudging the car forward.
“Rip off the belt and jump. Now!” His inky black eyes were wide with fear. “I’m not losing you tonight.”
And I wasn’t dying tonight, especially not in that ocean. I’d recently had a close call when the boat Ben Jackson and I were on sank during a freak storm.
Tearing the belt from me, I opened the door. I took in a breath, ready to leap, when the limo started sliding down the gravel incline, fast approaching the road.
Jump, tuck, and roll had been what the gym teacher had taught me in gymnastics class. So this should be easy. Not.
“Jo. What are you waiting for? Get out!” Webb barked from somewhere, panic in his voice.
I tucked my chin, covered my head with my arms, closed my eyes, and jumped. My hands hit gravel before my entire body slammed against the ground. I rolled as though I were a snowball, barreling down the hill and gaining momentum. Pebbles embedded in my skin. Larger rocks jabbed me in the legs, back, and stomach.
I opened my eyes. The gaping hole in the concrete barrier grew closer, and at the rate I was going, I’d probably plow right through and into the Atlantic Ocean. I had to find something to stop me.
“Jo, grab onto the pole,” Webb shouted.
Pole? What was he talking about? I didn’t see anything except death.
As I hit smooth pavement, a bright light lit up the roadway. Didn’t people see a bright light just before their life ended?
I rolled once then twice before I relaxed my body, prayed, and braced for whatever fate had in store for me.
The light grew brighter before the sound of an engine roared in my ears. I was either going to roll through the broken barrier behind the limo and into the dark depths of the ocean below, or the car speeding toward me would claim my life.
Out of nowhere, a strong wind hit me, followed by a whooshing sound. All the air left my lungs.
“Stay still,” Webb whispered.
How could I move? His weight kept me pinned to the ground. While I loved the vampire’s arms on me, even his body on top of me, which was a new position for him, I couldn’t freakin’ breathe.
“Um…can’t…breathe,” I managed to squeak out.
A loud crash echoed. A bright orange light graced the sky followed by pillows of smoke. Was it the limo or the other car that fell to its death?
Webb eased up slightly. “Are you okay?” he asked, sweeping his gaze over my face, his hands furiously searching my body. His heart was beating uncontrollably.
“I will…be…when I can breathe…better.”
“Oh. Sorry.” He lifted up slightly.
I gulped in large amounts of oxygen, and the tightness in my chest slowly dwindled.
His hands were still checking every inch of me.
“I tried to roll over so you wouldn’t take the impact. I’m sorry. I didn’t have a good hold on you. You sure you’re okay?”
“I will…be.” I sucked in more oxygen.
“Stay here. I need to check on George.” He jogged down to the road.
I sat up as George met Webb.
“Are you two all right?” George’s brown eyes were wide with fear.
Webb opened his mouth to respond but quickly shut it when a woman appeared behind George.
“I’m so sorry. I narrowly missed you and that car.” She stabbed her thumb toward the ocean.
“Can you give us a ride into town?” Webb asked.
“Sure. But I need some help. My car stalled for some reason after I skidded to a stop. It’s a ways down the hill.” Her brown hair glinted in the moonlight as she flicked her head to her left.
I stood up, brushing the dirt and rocks from me.
“George. Help the lady, please.”
“Yes, sir. Hang tight.”
George and the brunette made small talk as they both disappeared.
Webb walked back to me, pain painting his handsome features. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m breathing.” I looked into his molten onyx eyes.
Webb’s eyes shifted between the most amazing cobalt blue and black when his emotions changed.
“Why aren’t we going?” I asked.
“She’s human, and I want to make sure your thirst is okay before we get into the car.” His heart beat wildly.
“Hey.” I reached up and touched his face. “What’s wrong?”
He cocooned me in his arms. “You scared me. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I’d lost you.” He again ran his hands over my entire body before easing back and sweeping his gaze over me for the tenth time.
“I’m fine, Webb.”
His forehead kissed mine. “You would tell me if you weren’t?” Apprehension threaded through his words.
My throat closed with emotion. So, I gave a slight nod and blinked my answer.
He sighed heavily, and his heartbeat began to slow. Mine followed suit. It seemed our hearts were in sync.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He pushed his strong hand through his shoulder-length brown hair.
A crescent moon dotted the sky, and smoke lingered in the air. I imagined the crashing waves put out the flames from the burning limo.
“Do you think someone messed with the brakes?” Given the way my life was going, I had to be suspicious of everything.
“The thought has crossed my mind.”
George was a longtime family friend, so I couldn’t imagine it would be him. However, stranger things had happened. Like how Webb’s sister, Kate, had switched sides and was now sleeping with our archenemy, Edmund Rain. Plus only a day had passed since Kate staked her brother with a cobalt sword, missing his heart by only an eighth of an inch.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he said, “It’s not George.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.” He scanned the area.
“Not good enough. If someone is trying to kill us, we need to look at everyone. Even you know this.”
I didn’t want to play the Kate card, but if I had to I would.
He grasped my shoulders, hard. “George…has been loyal to me for many years.” Anger supplanted the worry on his face. “Besides, why would he tamper with the brakes then get in the car with us?”
He had a point, I guess.
“Webb, you’re hurting me.” I didn’t know if he realized his grip was like a vise.
His left hand slid down to the small of my back while his right hand cupped my cheek. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to.”
I leaned into his palm. “It’s okay.”
I wanted to shoulder some of his pain. I didn’t want to see him hurt any more than he wanted to see me hurt, whether physically or mentally.
He peppered kisses down my neck, his fangs grazing the skin.
I shuddered at the sensation. When I did, an image materialized of me sucking on his wrist the night in the woods. My body quaked at the remembrance of how his blood tasted, sweet and sinful. How he reacted, melting into me, moaning in pleasure as I sated my hunger.
I mewled as I tilted my head to give him better access.
My fangs dropped. I desperately wanted to taste his blood again. As I licked my lips, I stilled. What was I doing? What was he doing? Our laws dictated new vampires could only drink from another vampire if it were an emergency, meaning if I were hurt or needed blood. Neither was the case at the moment. But was he hungry? Was it legal for him to drink from me?
“Webb?” I breathed.
“Yes, angel,” he said in a husky voice.
“Are you hungry?”
I didn’t want to get in trouble with the Council of Eternal Affairs. They were the vampires who governed the laws in my world. Regardless, I would do anything for Webb, even though my head was on the chopping block for the death of my nemesis, Blake Turner. He’d been a product of Edmund Rain’s sick plan of converting ordinary humans into vampires.
“I’m not.” He jerked up his head as if I had thrown ice-cold water on him.
“If you are, I don’t mind.”
His expression flickered with confusion or something I couldn’t figure out. Did he think he would hurt me if he bit into me? He smiled as though he had found the answer to whatever was plaguing him.
“Why are you smiling? Seriously, if you’re hungry—”
His finger grazed my lip. “I’m fine. It’s…” His gaze penetrated me as if he were searching my soul.
Now I was confused. “What? I know it’s not legal for new vampires like me, but can you drink from another vampire?”
“I’m not bound by the law like you are. Soon enough, you will not be, either.” His eyelids dropped to half-mast. “My struggle right now…is my desire…to taste your blood. And, beautiful, it has nothing to do with my blood thirst.” His seductive voice caressed every inch of my body, inside and out.
My lips formed a silent O. I’d remembered how sensual it felt when I drank his blood.
“Exactly,” he said in response to my facial expression.
Heat stung my cheeks while a butterfly winged through my abdomen.
“Don’t be embarrassed. It’s life and part of being a vampire.”
I thought back to when I witnessed Edmund sinking his fangs into Kate. I felt as if I’d interrupted some private make-out session.
“Webb?” George called from the road.
“We’ll talk more later. We need to go.”
Oh, my was all my brain kept repeating.
He took hold of my hand, and we walked to the car. Well, Webb walked, and he pulled me. I was still in zombie mode, trying to get my brain unstuck. How would it feel if he drank from me? My cheeks were going to be red and hot the rest of the night.
When we were strapped into the back seat of the car, the fragrant strawberry scent inside snapped my brain back to the present, reminding me the woman driving was human.
Webb threaded his fingers through mine as the lady turned the wheel and gave the car a little bit of gas, then we were moving. I let out a sigh, grateful we were alive. After the boating accident and fighting Edmund and his gang, I was beginning to think I had nine lives.
“What was wrong with the car, George?” Webb asked.
“Not completely sure, but the engine seemed to be flooded. It took a few tweaks, and then it started.”
“Thank you, George, for your help,” the lady said. “And again. I’m so sorry about what happened.” Her voice was soft but shaky.
She looked to be in her thirties. A studded clip secured her brown hair into a chignon. She had pale skin, which I imagined might be from her almost killing me or herself.
“By the way, I’m Lauren. I’ve met George here.” She flicked her head toward George, who was sitting in the front. “And you are?” She checked in the rearview mirror.
I slid a sideways glance at Webb. “I’m Webb, and this is Jo,” he said.
“So what happened?” she asked. “One minute you were in the road, and the next you were gone. Like in a flash.”
“We’re not sure,” Webb replied. “We lost the brakes on our car.”
I didn’t think that was what she was asking. Webb had swooped me up at vampire speed.
“You don’t even have a scratch on you.” She looked at me in the rearview mirror with a suspecting look.
“What were you doing up here?” Webb asked.
Way to change the subject.
“My dad owns one of the homes up on the hill,” she said. “Webb, you must be the gentleman who owns the magnificent house not far from his? I have to say. You look awful young to own that home.”
There were two other homes that sat along the coast about ten miles from Webb’s home.
Webb and I exchanged glances. I was surprised she directed the checking question to Webb and not George. Sure, her father probably told her. But Webb didn’t spend a lot of time at his house. He lived on the naval base ninety-nine percent of the time. Plus he’d told me it had been awhile since he had been up here. To me that meant Webb had little interaction with her father.
“Actually, I own the house,” George answered.
She eyed him briefly. “Oh,” she said in a surprised tone.
She seemed to know George was lying.
“Well, my dad is getting old,” she offered.
“Who is your father?” George asked her.
She’s fishing for something. Webb’s voice sounded loud and clear in my head.
“Robert Pride.” Her eyes stayed on the road ahead.
“Both of those properties are vacant right now. Their owners aren’t here yet for the summer,” George said.
“My father will be up in a couple of weeks. “I came up to unwind. It’s quiet up here.”
The lights of the town came into view as Lauren maneuvered the last curve on the winding road.
“There’s a diner up ahead on the left. Do you mind dropping us there?” Webb asked.
“No, not at all. I’ll stop a minute with you before I make my way back to Boston,” Lauren answered.
We rolled into the diner, and a neon light flashed Open in the window. All of us exited the vehicle.
“You should be okay to make it back to Boston,” George said. “But now that we have more light, let me take one last look at the engine.”
“That would be wonderful,” Lauren said. “I need to use the facilities.” She snatched her purse and headed inside.
“George.” Webb followed him to the front of the vehicle. “Did she say anything to you when you were helping her?”
George popped the hood of the Lexus and buried his head underneath, fiddling with a few things.
“Just small talk. She’s a bit shaken up,” he replied. “I’m not sure she is who she says she is. A Robert Pride does own one of those homes, but I wasn’t aware he had a daughter.”
“Is he a vampire?” I asked.
“No. He’s not.” He stopped what he was doing. “And he doesn’t know most of this town is made up of vampires. The folks who own those two homes up on the coast are only here a few times a year.”
“When you left the house earlier, where did you go?” Webb asked him.
“I came down and sat with Trina for a bit and had some pie. Then I got gas and a few things at the store. Afterwards, I worked in the yard. The only time the limo was out of my sight was when I was in the diner and in the store.”
“Mmm. When you finish, can you round up Stan from the sheriff’s office and alert him to what happened tonight? I need to call in.” Webb reached into his pocket for his phone.
“No problem, sir.” George bent forward and resumed tinkering with the engine.
Switching my attention to Webb, I followed him across the parking lot to the edge of the diner. “Are you calling my father?”
“If we want to get back tonight, I think it’s wise. He is expecting us.”
I’d overheard Webb telling him before we left we’d return by midnight, and we were at least three hours away.
Webb talked on the phone as I leaned against the building. The area outside was quiet. A gas station sat across the street. A trucker was filling up. Two blocks down, a marquee for Tam’s country store lit up the darkness.
My mouth was parched, and water sounded good, although George had mentioned pie. For some reason, the thought of something sweet tickled my taste buds. Food had not been appealing to me since I became a vampire. Dad had said we needed to eat human food, protein mostly, and although I did consume a few of my favorite meals like hamburgers and pizza, they didn’t have the same lure to me anymore.
I pushed off the building only to be stopped by Webb. I swatted away his hand as he continued to listen to my dad.
“Um. I need some water.” I glared at him.
“Hold on, Commander.” He pressed the phone to his chest, covering the speaker. “Wait until that woman comes out. I don’t trust her.” He planted a soft kiss on my nose then resumed his conversation with my dad.
How could I refuse? Smart vampire.
He draped an arm over me, and I snuggled into him. My senses tuned in to Dad’s voice.
“Lieutenant, do you think it was on purpose?” Dad asked.
“Not sure. I can’t check it out, either, since the limo is in the ocean. My instincts tell me this wasn’t an accident.”
I jerked up my head as Webb pulled me tighter. He must’ve known how I was going to react.
“Well, stay put for the night,” Dad said.
I stiffened in his arms. Stay overnight with Webb? Alone?
My heart sprinted.
Webb rubbed a hand down my back, as though he were telling me we’d be fine, just the two of us.
Silence reigned over the line.
I envisioned Dad biting the inside of his cheek. I glanced up. Webb’s eyes waffled from blue to black then blue again. I flushed, remembering our recent conversation about how he wanted to taste my blood.
“Commander?” Webb probed.
“Sorry. Tripp walked in,” Dad said. “Mr. Jackson is here. We’ll talk tomorrow. By the way, how much blood did you take for Jo?”
“I brought a few extra containers in case of an emergency. If it’s not enough, I’ll check with Dr. Vieira. He’ll advise if she’ll be okay with what we drink.”
“Can I talk to my daughter?” Dad sounded bothered by something.
Webb handed me the phone.
“Pumpkin. Are you okay?”
“It was a little scary, but I’m fine.”
“Will you be okay for a couple of days?”
“Wait. You’re asking me? I should be asking you that.” I wanted to laugh and run at the same time. I was nervously excited at the idea I’d be spending time alone with Webb. Nevertheless, I couldn’t believe my father, the old-fashioned vampire, was allowing me the freedom.
Dad laughed into the phone. I couldn’t tell whether or not he was nervous. “First, Jo, I can’t keep you chained, although part of me would like to.” He laughed again. “Second, you’re growing into an adult, and I need to let you make decisions. Finally, Webb knows I’d cut his head off if he did anything.”
I didn’t want to know what he meant by “anything.” Dad must’ve put the fear of God into Webb before we even left the base today.
“What’s going on with Mr. Jackson?” I moved on to something less awkward.
“I’m not sure,” Dad replied.
Mr. Jackson was becoming more curious about Sam and me. I couldn’t blame him. One minute we were living with him, and the next we had all but vanished. Lately though, his concerns were more about his son, Ben, Sam’s best friend, who always seemed to end up in our medical facility. He’d had a few encounters with Edmund Rain and the team.
“Don’t worry about Mr. Jackson. Before I forget, the council pushed out the hearing another few weeks, so I’m working on getting you a tutor for the summer,” he said.
“Why are they postponing it?” Not that I wanted to go back to school right now. The whole incident with Blake Turner was still raw, and I didn’t want any reminders.
“Something came up on their end. No need to be concerned about it,” he said. “Look, pumpkin, put Webb back on. Be careful, and I love you.”
I smiled. Mountains had moved, it seemed, for me to hear those three words from Dad. We had just shared our feelings about our father and daughter relationship a few days ago.
“I love you, Dad.” I handed the phone back to Webb.
Lauren walked out of the diner and over to George.
Webb said, “Yes. Don’t worry. She’s safe,” then he pocketed his phone. “Everything okay?” Webb asked Lauren as we met her at her car.
“Fine. Why?” She dropped her phone into her purse.
She seemed to take forever in the ladies’ room.
“I want to make sure you’re okay to drive back.”
“Thanks for your concern,” she said, eyeing Webb.
What the heck? She was checking him out. I didn’t blame her for looking. Still, a tinge of jealousy zinged through me. I almost growled but caught it in my throat. I didn’t want to call attention to us, given that Webb was suspicious of her.
George closed the hood. “Everything pans out. It was probably a fluke.” He wiped his hands on a towel.
“I should be fine. Boston isn’t far anyway.” She got into her car, started the engine, and rolled down the window. “Mr. London, here’s my card. If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to call me.”
Webb didn’t flinch when she said his last name. I didn’t remember him telling it to her. He just took the card and quickly read it before glancing up at her.
“I don’t think we’ll be needing a lawyer, Ms. Dryer,” he said with no inflection.
“If you ever do, you have my number.” Then her gaze flicked to George. “Thanks for all your help. I’ll tell my dad to look you up when he’s here.”
George nodded. “Be careful driving.”
With the good-byes out of the way, she drove off.
“How did she—?”
“Don’t know, Jo.”
I racked my brain, trying to figure out how Lauren knew Webb’s full name. We’d only told her our first names.
Her last name was Dryer, not Pride like her father.
I shrugged it off. The difference in her last name could be from adoption, marriage, or even divorce.
“I didn’t say anything,” George added before we even looked his way.
“Well, let’s not worry about Lauren right now. Did you happen to get ahold of Stan?” Webb asked George.
“I did. He should be here shortly. He was out at the Millers’ farm. They had some cattle killed recently.”
“Let’s go see Trina.” Webb slipped Lauren’s card in his jeans.
The bell dinged when we entered the diner. A couple stood at the register. Webb nodded at the pair as though he knew them. Then a short stocky man rose from his seat, taking money out of his wallet. Webb guided me to a stool at the counter, and the three of us settled in as the patrons paid their bill. No sooner had the couple and the short man left than did the waitress turn the Open sign to Closed and glided over to us.
“Webb, darling,” she cooed, throwing her arms around him. “I haven’t seen you in ages. Where have you been?”
Webb stood and embraced the petite blonde. “Trina. Nice to see you.” He kissed her on the cheek.
She had a perfect white smile and deep green eyes. Her short hair was pulled back with a wide headband, exposing her smooth, high forehead.
“Trina. I would like you to meet a friend of mine. Jo, this is my dear old friend, Trina.”
She rested her fists on her hips and looked me over, her eyes growing wide. “She’s lovely, Webb. Wherever did you find her?” She ran her fingers through the ends of my hair.
Why did people do that when they met me? My headmistress, Ms. Lawrence, did the same thing when she first laid eyes on me.
Webb glanced around before saying, “Jo, Trina is a vamp.”
I rolled my eyes. Well, I’d known that, since her green eyes had flickered toward black when she first spotted Webb. Plus she certainly didn’t have the delicious, sweet scent of a human.
“So, Trina…” Webb kept looking around.
“No worries, young man. Aside from the love of my life in the back, no one else is here.”
I guess I didn’t have to be jealous of the woman.
“Did you see the brown-haired lady who was in here earlier?” Webb resumed his position on the stool next to me.
“The human? Yes. She was arguing with someone on the phone in the ladies’ room. I couldn’t make out the whole conversation, but she repeated your name a few times.” She wiped the countertop. “Do you know her?”
“No” was all Webb said.
“So, she didn’t ask you about Webb?” George asked.
“George, old man, you know better than that. She didn’t, but if she did, I wouldn’t share any information about any of my friends.”
“I had to ask,” George said.
The concern in his voice led me to believe he wouldn’t betray Webb.
“What happened, anyway?” Trina propped her elbows on the counter. “Someone said they saw an orange glow up on the coast.”
Webb explained what happened while Trina served apple pie à la mode to George and me. I found it curious that she didn’t give Webb a piece.
“Have you seen that woman in here before tonight?” Webb asked.
“No.” She filled a cup with coffee and placed it in front of George.
The bell dinged, and in walked a tall, dark-haired man with a badge and a smirk.
“Gee, London. How many times do I have to tell you this is a quiet town? We try to keep a low…” He let out a whistle as his brown eyes swept over me. “Who’s the beauty at your side?”
Webb growled, jumping to his feet.
“Easy, London. I know she’s off limits.” The man with the badge held up his hands.
I swiveled on the stool toward him while Webb decided to lean against his stool with his back to Trina. He and the sheriff exchanged handshakes.
Then the sheriff offered me his hand. “Hi. I’m Stan, the local sheriff around here.”
“I’m Jo.” We shook.
“Pleased to meet you, Jo,” Stan said. “Be careful. He’s one of the most possessive vampires I know.”
I’d thought Webb was being protective. Yet the more I said the word possessive in my head, the more it started to make some sense.
Then again, what alpha male wasn’t? Heck, my father exemplified the word and seemed to be proud of it. “You haven’t met my dad.”
Stan laughed, letting go of my hand. “If he gets too smothering, you let me know.”
“Stan,” Webb barked.
“Cool your jets, London.” He rolled his eyes.
“You’re a vampire too?” I knew the answer. I was just trying to break the tension between the two.
Stan nodded. “Now. What happened?” he asked, shifting to an all-business demeanor.
Webb explained to Stan that he’d been on the beach most of the day with me, and George added in where he saw fit. While the men chatted, I bit into a piece of the apple pie and lost all sense I was a vampire. My human memories flooded back. None of our foster parents had been big on giving Sam and me sugar, especially before bed. But that hadn’t mattered to us. We would still sneak into the kitchen late at night and steal dessert.
As I closed my mouth around the next spoonful, I wondered… Who was Lauren Dryer? How did the brakes fail? Was someone trying to kill us? How did she know Webb’s last name? Did she know vampires existed? As the delectable treat melted on my tongue, the questions likewise vanished.
By the time I scarfed up the last of the pie, Stan and Webb had finished their conversation. I suddenly became queasy. I guessed my vampire system wasn’t used to sweets. Placing a hand on my abdomen, I stood.
“What’s wrong?” Webb asked.
“Not feeling good.” I blew out a breath.
He looked at the plate then at Trina before his eyes landed on me.
“Are you going to throw up?” Stan covered his mouth as though he were, too.
Acid rose in my throat. “Bathroom.” My body became warm, and the room began spinning.
“This way,” Webb said in a strained voice.
I followed him around the counter and down a small hall into the ladies’ room. I threw open the stall door before dropping to my knees.
“I shouldn’t—” I lost every bit of apple pie.
“You’re right,” Webb whispered as he held my hair behind my head.
How sweet was he to help me when I was puking?
After I heaved the contents from my stomach, Stan drove us back to Webb’s place. I relaxed against Webb as the police cruiser rolled up the coast. Dizziness still lingered, so I closed my eyes. In the front, George repeated his day’s routine to Stan. Both speculated about what could’ve happened to the brakes.
Webb didn’t contribute to the conversation. Not that I wanted to read minds like my father, but right then I would have loved to be in Webb’s head. His heartbeat was rapid. I couldn’t imagine he was nervous. Was he thinking about the sleeping arrangements, like me? He only had two bedrooms. One was his, and the other belonged to George, since he stayed at the house most of the time, helping Webb with the upkeep of the property.
Stan pulled into the long driveway and let the engine idle. “George, buddy, why don’t you crash at my place? I’ll let you borrow one of my trucks in the morning.”
“Not a bad idea,” George said, turning and looking at Webb. “My car is in Boston. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure,” Webb responded. “Jo and I will be staying for a few days. I want to check out the accident site tomorrow. Maybe we can fish the car out of the ocean.”
“There are a lot of rocky areas off the side of the cliff,” Stan said. “More than likely, it’s sitting on the rocks. However, I doubt you’ll be able to find much, especially if it went up in flames. But I agree. We’ll take a look tomorrow.”
We said our good-byes and slid out of the cruiser. We waved as the headlights faded from the driveway. When darkness replaced the light, my heart jumped into gear. Now what?
“No need to be nervous,” Webb said as he unlocked the front door. “I’m not going to bite.”
I laughed nervously. Maybe I wanted him to.
Once inside, an awkward silence stretched between us. Webb sauntered into the kitchen. I didn’t move from the small foyer. It was as if someone had injected lead into my feet. Or maybe it was the ten thousand needles pricking my stomach. After all, a sexy-as-hell vampire and me alone all night spelled all kinds of heart-racing, mind-twisting thoughts.
He said something, but the buzzing in my head drowned out his voice. I closed my eyes, trying to calm my nerves, and his hand touched my cheek. “Hey?”
The closeness of our bodies only served to increase the jittery little beasts poking sharp pins into my tummy. My lids slid open, and his eyes latched on to mine.
“I told you I don’t bite.” He traced my bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. “But I do kiss.” A smirk tugged at the corners of his mouth.
My heart did several jumping jacks. Nope, I wasn’t going to make it through the night.
“You take my bed, and I’ll sleep on the couch.” He must have sensed my trepidation.
“I…can…sleep on the couch.” I swallowed. “Or I could sleep in George’s room tonight.”
I couldn’t take Webb’s bed. This was his home.
His thumb moved to my cheek. “No way. George’s room isn’t clean. No arguments on this.” He placed a soft kiss on my nose before taking my hand. “Come on. Let’s get you tucked in.”
I released a long, pent-up breath, and the pricking sensation in my stomach slowed. “Webb, I can stay on the couch.” I didn’t move.
I’d slept in worse conditions in foster care. I even slept on the floor once. It had only been temporary, since one of the other foster kids was scheduled to leave the home the next day.
“I insist. And if I have to carry you up to my room, I will. Your choice.” He raised one eyebrow.
I stared at him. I could protest, but his don’t-argue-with-me look told me I wouldn’t win, and I just wanted to get through this freaking awkward moment.
“Would you stay with me?” my mouth said ahead of my brain.
My blood stopped flowing.
His eyes darkened to vampire black.
I lost my vision for a split second before my own eyes shifted while my heart fell to the floor. I mentally whacked myself a few times. What was I thinking? I wasn’t ready for this. Sure, I’d slept next to him in his hospital bed, but that was a place where Dr. Vieira came in to check on him, and even my dad sat in the room, talking to him while I slept.
This was different, very different. It was him and me. Alone.
Copyright © 2021 by S.B. Alexander.