Los Angeles Detective Shaine Conlon gets more than he bargains for during a routine inquiry with Gavriel de Pamana, owner of an elite, mysterious security company called C.L.O.S.E. Shaine’s partner, Jesse, is convinced the firm is shady and wants to investigate claims that one of C.L.O.S.E.’s star bodyguards, a young Asian woman named Tinglan, may have come onto the female pop star she was supposed to protect. For Shaine, visiting the office of the company’s Century City headquarters is disturbing. Giant white paintings lining the hallways seem to have bleeding wounds. As for the owner himself, he’s the sexiest man, and also the most troubling Shaine’s ever met.
Gavriel de Pamana runs a tight ship in the new world of female bodyguards trained in China and dispatched all over the world to protect the richest people on the planet, so he’s stunned by allegations that his star employee would behave in any way to reflect badly on the company.
But Gavriel has secrets...deep and undeadly ones. He’s a vampire, and so are his staff members. When Tinglan vanishes, he wonders if somebody in his firm is working to destroy him. Not only that, but Gavriel finds himself attracted to Shaine Conlon.
But he can’t get close to a cop, a human one at that. Or can he?
Aware of de Pamana’s scrutiny, he asked, “What is that?”
“It’s a yue.” When Shaine stared at him, de Pamana elaborated. “It was an ancient weapon in China. Highly prized. It’s an ax, actually, decorated with the image of a loong, which was a magical animal in ancient China.
“I see a tiger, I think,” Shaine said before he could stop himself.
“Very good. Both animals are in it. The tiger represents lofty dignity, and combined with the loong means solemnity and mystery.”
Just like you. Solemn and mysterious.
“This was a weapon used only by military commanders. It was both a ritual ax and one used consistently in torture.”
Shaine’s blood froze. He blinked. He glanced at Jesse, who stared at the man over the rim of his coffee cup.
“You keep torture tools in your office for kicks?” Dullane might have his little quirks, but Shaine liked the way the guy always asked the questions everyone else wanted to know but was afraid to ask.
“I have a military background and a discipline in many forms of combat.” De Pamana sipped his tea then smiled. “I’m in the security business. Weapons and unusual tools fascinate me.”
“You’re interested in combat,” Shaine said.
De Pamana held his gaze. “I’m interested in…conquest.”
For some reason, Shaine’s belly did a backflip. He blinked a couple of times. He didn’t know how to react and wondered if he was overreacting when he thought he sensed a sexual tone to the man’s response.
Is he gay?
Why do I care?
Oh, heck, I’m being stupid…