Vampire Nikolai Kuznetsov enjoys his life of blood drinking and torture. The first he must do to continue living, and the second he does to keep his family safe. Plus, it gives him a chance to play with his knives. He loves his blades, wielding them with elegant precision. At his brothers’ urgings, Nikolai attends poker night…just to do something that they deem as normal. Finding himself drawn to the blood of a mild-mannered, somewhat reclusive wolf shifter is the last thing Nikolai expects. Except, Parker Jones walks away without giving the slightest indication that he feels the same pull…other than his aroused scent, of course. Nikolai studies Parker, trying to figure out why the shifter would ignore the pull between them. He discovers the wolf shifter is still mourning his long deceased human lover. Tenderness and understanding aren’t in Nikolai’s nature. Can Nikolai find another way to connect with his beloved?
“I challenge you to a blade slinging contest.”
Nikolai Kuznetsov lifted one brow in interest—and some amusement—as he focused his attention on the human. Jared Templeton stood almost half a foot shorter than Nikolai’s own six-foot-three inch height, and his build was that of a lean runner. Still, the way the human’s lips curved in a self-assured smirk and how his hazel eyes sparkled with mischief peaked Nikolai’s interest.
“Blade slinging contest?” Nikolai repeated slowly. English was not his first, or even second, language. “You mean you wish to compare knife throwing abilities?”
Jared’s thin lips widened into a grin. “Yeah. I heard you like knives,” the human stated in Russian, making it easy for Nikolai to understand. “I do believe I can best you.”
As a vampire, Nikolai had enhanced strength, reflexes, and speed. The idea of a human being better than him at throwing knives was almost laughable to him. Still, he couldn’t resist a challenge, either.
“I accept,” Nikolai responded, pushing away from the wall where he’d been leaning. He didn’t play poker, but he found watching the men’s facial expressions interesting. Knife throwing, however, would be far more fun. “I advise going outside to the deck.”
Jared nodded and followed him.
Nikolai led the way around the room, nodding at his older brother, Borscht, who sat at one of the poker tables with a few other men…and their sister, Natalia. The larger, older vampire was the leader of their little coven. His brother had been the one to convince him to make an appearance at the poker party they were hosting.
The scents permeating the room practically caused Nikolai’s nose to twitch. There were a number of shifters, of many different types, as well as humans. While he knew all of them by sight from pictures he’d studied, he hadn’t been formally introduced to most of them.
As Nikolai passed a table with five men, a heady musky scent filled his nostrils. Pausing, he swept his gaze over the males there, making a mental note of who they were. He recognized wolf shifters Leopold Caldwell, Parker Jones, and Carson Angeni—Jared’s mate—as well as the cat shifter, Dillan Shoreman and his human mate, Derek Sommers.
Nikolai knew both Leopold and Parker were single, and he made a mental note to seek both out later.
Putting the pleasant smell out of his mind, Nikolai reached the sliding door and opened it. He led the way onto the deck and inhaled deeply, clearing his lungs of the myriad of scents. Never had he seen the recreation room so full.
Nikolai also never would have imagined his coven would welcome shifters of various kinds into their territory—territory that was now in the United States—all because Borscht had found his beloved in a small Egyptian fruit bat shifter named Sekani.
Still, Nikolai would always back his brother, and not just because the man was his coven’s master. He respected the huge vampire. He’d always kept them safe, with plenty of opportunities to remain well-fed.
Borscht had also never condemned any of Nikolai’s proclivities…like his love of knives.
Reaching the edge of the deck, Nikolai pointed at a tree fifty paces away. “Is that distance acceptable?”
Jared followed where Nikolai pointed and nodded. “That knot is the target?”
Nikolai nodded, too. “Right. The top one.”
“Looks good,” Jared confirmed, his hazel eyes sparkling as he pulled a knife from a sheath under his jacket. He fingered the knife’s edge, perhaps checking for sharpness. “Shall I go first?”
Holding up his hand, Nikolai indicated for Jared to throw. He backed a few steps away from the human and watched him. The human immediately lifted his arm and, with a flick of his wrist, sent the knife sailing through the air.