On Becca Wallins' twenty-ninth birthday, Micah St. Aubin knocked on her door, declared them blood-bonded, and began jeopardizing the law enforcement career she sacrificed everything to build. Deep in the midst of a murder investigation, Becca doesn’t have time for irascible vampires, but with every order Micah issues, she must obey. With each new command, Becca fights for control of her mind, and as they spend more time together, can she resists her body's response to him as well?
How high is the mound of dirt on the grave supposed to be? Ground level? Higher?
I tossed another pile on the small mound arching above the edge of the hole, then punched the shovel into the earth so it protruded like a ghastly gravestone to join its brethren. Looking around, I tried to spot a fresh grave to emulate but the ground lay flat, save a few headstones here and there.
An ancient graveyard dating back to the 1800s. It made sense that no graves were fresh. The grass brushed my knees before I started digging and thankfully, no one stirred to see my fall from grace.
The cracked stones and jagged granite lay against other headstones and even a few trees. No, this place hadn’t seen life in years.
The moonlight caught the glint off the detective’s badge attached to my belt, and I sighed, thoroughly sickened with myself. How many felonies had I committed in the last two months? How many times had I put my life and my shield on the line for a stupid cause I had barely any knowledge of?
Micah’s face flashed in my mind. The perfectly etched features that made me want to punch him out of sheer spite for his beauty. There was no way to look at him and not know he wasn’t human. He called himself a vampire when he claimed to have inherited me two months ago. Those crystalline blue eyes that somehow snared me when they caught mine. Not to mention how perfectly coiffed he always seemed to be. The man was a 24/7 walking GQ ad.
My phone vibrated in my pocket. No. Not my phone. Micah’s phone. The stupid contraption he saddled me with in order to keep some sort of leash on me, as if my own blood wasn’t traitorous enough. I pulled it out and flipped it open. Yes, a flip phone even.
Static cut through at first, then his smoke-and-mirrors voice. “Don’t you mean, ’Hello, Master’?”
I snorted. “The day I call you Master is the day I’ll be dead.”
“It’s not nice to tease.”
Rolling my head around to relieve some of the tension, I let a little of my mood slip into my tone. “What do you want, Micah?”
He exhaled into the receiver, as if I disappointed him yet again. Apparently my ancestors set a higher standard than I did.
“I want you back here when you’ve finished with your little errand. And clean yourself up this time, won’t you? I don’t want mud traipsed through the house.”
As if his precious original hardwood stood a notch higher than I did. “You mean when I’ve finished burying the mutilated body of the man your psychotic brother murdered? Yeah, sure.”
He tisked. “Sarcasm is the last resort of the witless, little one.”
“I am a grown woman, not a child. I will be both witless and sarcastic as the muse strikes, and you will not patronize me.”
He hung up, as there really wasn’t much point in saying anything further. He issued a command, and I had to obey.
I grabbed the shovel and headed to the unmarked car sitting by the curb. I left the headlights off because the moonlight had been enough light to dig by. Now I needed to thoroughly detail my vehicle to remove any trace evidence that might remain there. Tossing the shovel in the passenger side, I climbed in and slammed the door. Inside the confines of the car, the heat began to cocoon me, and sweat beaded at my temples and washed down my neck.
Micah wouldn’t like me looking anything less than perfectly coiffed, so I didn’t wipe a single drop away as I started the car and pulled out of the abandoned, overgrown parking lot. I took pride in my little rebellions, but part of me wondered if it would be worth it.
The route to Micah’s was ten minutes. I reached into the glove box and took a long draw of the cheap whiskey I kept inside. There were flaws in the blood and magic, as most slaves lived with their masters and were able to perform commands in mere seconds or minutes. The longer a slave took to complete an assigned task, the more the slave’s body pushed against the mind to complete it. In the ten minutes it took me to reach Micah’s, I might start bleeding from my ears. But every time I asserted my independence, it was worth it. If this one time were to kill me, so be it. At least they would have to do the digging this time.
My phone vibrated around in the cup holder, and I snapped it open as I raised it to my ear. “Hello?”
A sigh. He was still waiting for me to say, “Master.”
“I feel you resisting me, my love. What is it? Are you trying to run away again? We know how well that went the last time.”
I swallowed before the memory swamped me. “No, I’m on my way to you now.”
“So, what is it then?”
I swallowed the answer my body tried to rip from my throat. He hadn’t commanded an answer, so I wouldn’t give him one.
“Answer me, now.”
Pain rang in my ears, and I blinked, trying to hold on to consciousness. “Micah, I’m driving. Do you really want to do this now?”
Another sigh. “Very well, don’t answer, but you will when you arrive.”
He hung up, and I sighed as some of the pain receded. I flirted with the idea of turning on my lights to reach him faster. These little rebellions cost me more than it did him. He could care less, because he knew I would do whatever he commanded, in the end. I took a deep breath and dug my work phone from my back pocket. There was no way I’d make it into work today.
I hit my partner’s number, and he answered with a sleepy grumble. “Wallins. What is it?”
“Hey, man, sorry to wake you, but I won’t make it in today. Can you cover for me?”
He chuckled, a deep, rich sound that washed over me and calmed my frayed nerves a touch. He was my best friend. Of course, he would cover. “Sure. Get some rest. You sound like shit.”
“Thanks. See you later.”
I clicked off and jammed it back in my pocket. My vision began to waver, and I shook it off, taking another drag of whiskey. Not like another police officer was going to pull me over for it. Even if they did, maybe jail time would ease my aching conscience.
Speeding up, the shakes overtook me, and my hands quaked against the steering wheel. “I’ll make it. I’ll make it. I’ll make it.” I repeated like a mantra as I pulled up the long drive toward the ruin of his house. Well, the outside was a ruin.
As I rounded the fountain and parked in front of the house, my vision failed, and I groped at the car door. Vaguely, I heard the squeak of the house doors opening, and I headed in that direction.
His voice cut through some of the pain, but not quite enough. “You wouldn’t have to go through this if you would do as I bid.”
I swallowed the taste of blood in my throat. Maybe this would be the time I died. Maybe this time.
I reached out, groping for the door, and caught his suit jacket between my hands. “Call it off.”
His energy wafted from him, a mix of charisma and a warming. At least that was how it came to me. He once told me it could be different for whomever he encountered.
“No, my love. I think this time I will let you learn your lesson the hard way. You won’t die, but you will wish for it before I release you.”
I swallowed again—more blood. My knees began to shake, and I collapsed at his feet and wound my hand around his shin. I hated the bastard, but being with him lessened the pain somewhat.
He entwined his fingers in the top of the messy bun holding the mass of curls I barely bothered to tame. “You know what?”
I looked up toward the sound but still could see nothing. Waves of pain had begun to assault my body, and all I could do was hold on through it. They stabbed and serrated me head to toe.
“I think I will clean you up myself, and then we shall call this done.”
“No,” I managed to grit out before releasing him and crawled away on my hands and knees.
He followed, his footsteps leisurely on the concrete sidewalk. “Whatever it is that you have kept from me, I will learn of it, and that shall be your punishment.”
“No,” I whispered, still crawling, my fingers digging into the grass, the scent of earth wafting up to mix with the smell of blood.
He picked me up, and I thrashed. Plucked me off the ground as if I weighed nothing. “Be still,” he whispered fiercely.
I couldn’t resist that command with him touching me, and I stilled, already hating him, my mind the only way of rebelling now. He had yet to read my thoughts or even acknowledge that ability.
He carried me up the stairs, and I jostled slightly with each step. I could smell the humidity when we entered the bathroom. The bathroom of my dreams, even I had to admit. He put me in the bathtub and turned on the hot water while holding me down. As the water climbed up, I stopped trying to resist. He commanded, and I had no choice. The fight was gone, and my rebellion was done, for the moment.
“That’s better,” he said, easing the press of his hand on my abdomen. The water rose up my jeans and washed into my socks and shoes. I still couldn’t see, but the pain lessened, and I swayed in the water, sloshing as I began to grow free of its press.
He ripped my shoes off my feet, tossing them away before easily lifting me to peel the jeans off my legs. I should have been embarrassed. I should have covered myself, but what was the point? He would force me to stop, and it would only hurt me more.
He pulled the light jacket off my arms, tossing it away as well, and I sagged down into the ever-climbing water. It was hot, but not so hot that it burned. He somehow knew exactly how I would like it. A halo began in my vision, and I could see a hazy outline of his face as he reached under the water to lift the hem of my shirt, but remembered my gun and holster. The metal made an audible click against the granite countertop.
When he returned, he grumbled under his breath before ordering, “Lift your arms.”
I complied without a word, and he peeled the wet fabric over my head. It made a slap against his marble floor as it hit. My vision cleared some more, so I could see again, and I sighed in relief until terror washed over me as he released the clasp to my bra with accompanying curses.
“Women’s undergarments are ever changing. How is a gentlemen supposed to keep up with the current trend?”
He got it and tossed it away, barely sparing me a glance before grabbing the edge of my panties and forcing them down my legs and off. To my relief, he turned his back to me. “Now wash off the graveyard. Once you are presentable, we can talk like civilized adults.”
I reached out to the side table and grabbed a sponge and the soap sitting there. It was the sandalwood scent he favored. I didn’t really want to smell like him, but I didn’t want to lose my vision again either. Picking the battles had yet to be a skill I’d mastered.
I made quick work of it.
“Your hair too,” he piped in, his back still turned away.
“I can’t wash my hair here.”
He spun around. “And why not?”
I covered my breasts, sinking into the gray, sudsy water. With the other hand, I released my hair from the confines of a large elastic, and it fell out in a tumble around my shoulders. It was curly on the borderline of frizzy, especially since it had been stuck in a ponytail holder for 24 hours. “If I wash my hair, it will be a mess in a few hours. I need product to put in it so it doesn’t tangle and get crazy.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You mean more than it is now?”
“Yes. More than it is now. Which I know seems to defy physics.”
He exited the bathroom and returned with my purple, polka-dotted toiletry bag. The one that usually sat under my bathroom sink.
“Where did you get that?”
My hand slipped off the edge of the bathtub. “What? When were you in my apartment?”
“While you were doing my business. My brother and I contracted a moving agency to move you into the manor. You will live here from now on.”
The absurdity of it began a slow slide into my pain-addled brain. I wasn’t particularly attached to my apartment, but was it convenient to work, and it was mine. I swallowed the litany of curses that danced on my tongue. “Is this my life from now on? I will belong to you completely? To live, breathe, eat, and fuck at your convenience?”
He jerked at my curse but folded his lips in a thin line. “You will do as you wish until I have need of you. As for whom you fuck, I couldn’t care, but don’t bring them here or I will enjoy the taste of them.”
I shuddered at the thought and continued washing. It didn’t matter. None of my resistance mattered, because he would have his way in the end regardless.
He set the bag on a table beside the tub and left the bathroom without another word. With mumbled complaint, I moved through the process of washing my hair. Once I finished, I drained the water, stepped out, and looked for a towel.
This time when he entered the bathroom, I noticed he’d changed. He wore his usual three-piece suit, but he was no longer covered in mud and water.
I covered my breasts and other areas. “I need a towel.”
He smiled, or something that looked like it might have been a smile a hundred years ago. He walked out and returned seconds later with a plush, cream towel, but instead of handing it to me, he shook it out and held it up between us.
I didn’t want to, but the command reverberated through me, and so I turned. I heard his sharp intake as he caught sight of my back, but thankfully he said nothing and wrapped the towel around my torso. The scent of him was everywhere on my skin and around my body. When he released me, I stepped away.
“I guess you better show me to my room.”
He gave me a nod and turned. I followed him from the heavenly bathroom to come face to face with Andrew, Micah’s murderous and somewhat insane little brother.