Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Wicked Bite, Page 1

Jeaniene Frost




  Dedication

  To Gypsy and Loki, and every other pet

  that’s brought immeasurable joy to someone’s life.

  The world is a much brighter place with all of you.

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Acknowledgments

  Announcement

  About the Author

  Praise for Jeaniene Frost

  By Jeaniene Frost

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Prologue

  Ian

  “Why am I waiting for the bride of Dracula to grace me with her presence when I should be out looking for my runaway wife?”

  Ian watched as his best mate, Crispin, glanced around to make sure Vlad hadn’t been close enough to overhear him. Ian didn’t care. Vlad owed him for . . . something. Ian couldn’t remember what since it was tied to his mostly missing previous month, but he knew it was significant. Sod his host’s temper tantrum if he overhead Ian calling him by his most-hated nickname of Dracula.

  “The fact that you can’t remember the real reason behind your new . . . attached state is why we’re here,” Crispin said. “Vlad’s wife knows a secret you were hiding from the rest of us. If it’s the cause of your partial memory loss, we need to find it out before we proceed.”

  Attached state. Ian’s lips curled. Crispin still couldn’t bring himself to say “marriage.” Every fiber of Ian’s being should reject that word, too. Instead, he was driven by a near-crazed need to find Veritas, also known as the little vixen he’d wedded.

  True, he couldn’t remember why he’d married Veritas. That part hadn’t survived whatever process had torn most of his memories of the past several weeks from his mind. But he had a vivid recollection of their binding ceremony, even if the notion of him marrying anyone, let alone a Law Guardian, was laughable. Crispin had certainly believed Veritas’s denials about their matrimonial state when she dumped Ian with Crispin a few days ago, then left with only a vague warning about an angry demon.

  Ian didn’t remember that part, either. He’d been unconscious, and with a vampire’s near-instantaneous healing ability, that shouldn’t be possible. Whatever had stolen his memories had also left him—briefly—as vulnerable as a human, and the only person who knew how both had happened had fled.

  Sometimes, Ian was so angry over that, he could scarcely focus on anything else. But the rest of the time, his need to find Veritas had nothing to do with anger and everything to do with the more powerful feeling burning through him.

  “Ian.” He looked up to see a raven-haired woman in the doorway, her scowling spouse right behind her. “Sorry to keep you waiting,” Leila continued before glancing behind her at Vlad. “We were late because we were fighting.”

  “Over me?” Ian let a sly smile lift his mouth. He would have taunted Vlad anyway—it was his nature—but for some reason, he had a stronger-than-normal urge to annoy his host. “Don’t tell me I forgot something else significant about the past few weeks?”

  Vlad’s growl at the innuendo caused Leila to shoot her husband a look. “Your famous temper is why you’re waiting outside during this conversation,” she told Vlad. “I can’t trust you not to get your flame on otherwise, even if Ian is just being Ian. And really.” Now Leila’s attention was back on him. “Can’t you resist being sleazy for five minutes?”

  Ian gave her his most innocent grin. “Me? Innocent as a lamb, I am.”

  “Yeah, if that lamb also had a werewolf curse,” Leila murmured. Then pity filled her gaze.

  Ian stiffened, though his grin remained in place. Whatever secret Leila knew about him, it was bad.

  “You need to go, too, Bones,” Leila said, calling Crispin by his vampire name instead of the one he’d been born with. “What I have to say is for Ian alone.”

  Crispin’s features drew together until he duplicated Vlad’s scowl. “I hardly see why that’s necessary.”

  Vlad’s sharp laugh sliced the air. “If I couldn’t convince her to change her mind, you think you have a chance?”

  Crispin looked as if he did. Before he could open his mouth, Ian pushed him toward the door. “Don’t start a row, mate. Don’t know what you’re fussing about. I can tell you what she says afterward.”

  “You didn’t before.” Crispin’s voice was tight. “You refused despite that refusal endangering your life.”

  Phantom pains stabbed the back of Ian’s head. He managed not to flinch. He’d shared much of what he remembered about the past month with Crispin, but not this.

  “Things have changed,” Ian replied. What Crispin didn’t know, he couldn’t fret about. “Go on. The faster you leave, the faster we’ll have answers.”

  Crispin looked at Leila. Her expression hardened into a perfect mask of “you don’t stand a chance.” He sighed in defeat, then followed Vlad as the Impaler, who, after a final glance at his wife, also left the room.

  “Let’s tour the dungeons,” Ian heard Vlad say. “I have a sudden urge to stab something with a hot poker.”

  Leila shut the doors, cutting off whatever Crispin’s response was. Ian waited until he was sure Crispin and Vlad were far enough away, then said “Spill,” to the lovely brunette.

  “What’s the last thing you remember from the time you spent helping me and Vlad?” Leila asked him.

  “Driving away while wanting to kill your husband,” Ian replied, shrugging. “Don’t know why. I can’t remember much of the month after that, either, except for the slivers shoved into my mind a few days ago from a creature I’m fairly certain was the Grim Reaper. But those memories mostly consist of the woman who married me, then fled.”

  And ignored his repeated calls and texts in the three nights and four days since. Why? Another clear memory he had was of Veritas shouting, “Don’t go!” at him with the same blindingly intense emotion he felt for her. Yet she’d abandoned him when he’d been at his weakest, and he had no idea why.

  “If you have more to add, be quick about it,” Ian went on. “You’ve already cost me two days’ looking for her by insisting this meeting be in person.”

  “This isn’t the kind of news you relay by text or over the phone,” Leila said softly.

  “Does it have to do with Dagon?” When Leila’s eyes widened, Ian grunted. “Crispin told me Veritas warned him that a demon named Dagon was after me. Happen to know what I did to brass him off?”

  Leila looked away. “No. But Dagon really hated you, and you avoided him with a warding spell until you t
hought Mencheres had been murdered—”

  “Murdered? By whom?”

  Leila edged away from the new harshness in his tone. Then a sparking line of white extended from her right hand; a reminder of the voltage running all through her body. The lights in the room also briefly dimmed as she pulled power from them, too. She was readying herself in case he attacked.

  Must be very bad news, indeed.

  “A group of necromancers had the power to kill me,” she replied in a steady voice. “They told Vlad they would unless he killed Mencheres for them. Vlad faked Mencheres’s death to buy time to find them, but you were there when Vlad made the supposed execution video, and you didn’t know the person Vlad killed was only glamoured to look like Mencheres. So, when you saw what you thought was Mencheres’s body, you . . . you cut off your protective ward to summon Dagon. He came, and you sold your soul in exchange for Mencheres’s life.” At that, her voice cracked. “I saw it, but I couldn’t stop you. I’m so sorry, Ian. So very, very sorry . . .”

  She kept speaking, reiterating apologies, regrets, and other platitudes he paid no attention to. He was too stunned by sold your soul. He would’ve sworn she was lying, except his vampire sire, Mencheres, was one of the few people in the world he would have sold his soul to save. And had, if Leila were to be believed.

  This must be why his blood tasted wrong. He hadn’t told Crispin this, either, but since he’d woken up in that whorehouse four days ago, his blood had been altered. He’d hoped there was another reason aside from being branded by a demon who now owned his soul. Apparently not.

  After everything he’d overcome in his life, he’d been taken down by a simple trick involving a glamour spell? Gales of harsh laughter broke from him. Leila backed away, her electric whip growing until it coiled at her feet.

  “No need,” he finally managed to say. “I’ve never harmed someone for merely being the bearer of bad news.”

  “And Vlad?” she asked in a cautious tone.

  Another burst of bitter laughter left him before he controlled himself. Oh, he would like to kill Vlad, but he couldn’t. His own fault was glaringly clear. “I should’ve sensed the glamour Vlad used on the poor bloke he killed. I also should have verified that Mencheres was dead before bargaining away my soul. I didn’t do either, so that’s on me, not Vlad.”

  Leila’s whip disappeared back into her hand. Then she sprang forward, taking his hands. “Once again, I am so sorry.”

  Ian jerked away from her pity. Leila gasped, then her eyes narrowed and she tried to run her right hand over every inch of his skin that wasn’t covered by his clothes.

  “Stop that.” What sort of pity-pawing was this?

  “It’s gone,” Leila said with shock. She got in a few more swipes before he held her wrists in front of her. She only rubbed his hands with her fingers, repeating “It’s gone.”

  “What’s gone?” Her sanity, clearly.

  “Everything! Take off your pants. I need to see if that’s still there, too.”

  Ian rolled his eyes. “It is, and while I would’ve found it hilarious to cuckold Dracula under his own roof a short time ago, I’m not interested now—”

  “Neither am I,” Leila interrupted. “But I am interested in seeing if you still have Dagon’s demon brand on your groin since nothing else on your skin is the same.”

  Ian loosened his grip on her wrists. “Explain.”

  “You remember that I pull psychic impressions from people when I touch them with my right hand?” At his impatient nod, she went on. “When I touched you months ago, I saw your worst sin, same as when I touch anyone for the first time. Your skin was also littered with emotional imprints from other people, but now, they’re all gone.” She tapped him with her right hand for emphasis. “Makes you wonder what else might be gone, right?”

  Could he have somehow gotten out of the soul deal? Ian let her go and unzipped his trousers. Leila knelt down, whisking the hem of his shirt out of her way. At the same moment, the drawing room doors opened, revealing Vlad and Crispin.

  Ian began to laugh. “For once, I can honestly say this isn’t what it looks like.”

  “I imagine it’s not,” Vlad replied coolly. “Were you examining his cock because you suddenly decided you were in the market for erotic piercings, darling? If so, I would have modeled some for you. I’m a much better subject.”

  Ian snorted his disagreement while Leila sputtered, “I was looking for demon brands, not that!”

  “Yes, so could someone either look under my cock or hand me a mirror?” Ian interjected. “I’m flexible, but even I can’t bend that far.”

  Leila backed away, flustered. Crispin strode over, frowning as he bent down. “No brand of any kind,” he said after a moment.

  “I’m telling you, it was there,” Leila insisted. “I saw Dagon put it on Ian when he sealed their soul bargain!”

  Crispin rose to shoot a horrified look at Ian. “You bargained your soul away to a demon? Why?”

  “What you’d expect—more power,” Ian said, giving Leila a warning glance. He couldn’t have word of his real reason reaching Mencheres. His sire didn’t deserve that pain.

  “But now the brand’s gone,” Leila said. “So is the original memory of Ian’s worst sin and a bunch of other stuff. I need to check the rest of him to see what else is missing. Take off all your clothes, Ian.”

  Ian drew his shirt off and stepped away from his crumpled trousers. Then he couldn’t help himself—he winked at Vlad over Leila’s shoulder as she began to run her right hand over his naked body. Vlad glared at him, but not a hint of fire or smoke escaped him. Must be secure in their relationship.

  Leila was brisk yet thorough. When she was done, she said, “Not only is the demon brand gone, there’s no psychic evidence that it was ever there. In fact, your whole body reads as new.”

  “I’m more than two hundred and fifty years old,” Ian reminded her.

  “Your skin isn’t,” Leila said bluntly. “It’s so new, there are only essence imprints from four people on it. You left one, Bones, when you were very worried about him. Cat left a worried one, too, and the essence trails by Veritas are practically screaming with worry and regret. Lastly, some terrifying creature left one on your head, but aside from that, you’re a blank slate, and unless you were recently skinned or you somehow regrew a whole new body, I have no idea why.”

  Those phantom pains stabbed him in the head again. For a terrifying moment, he felt swallowed by darkness. Then his vision returned and he saw Crispin glance away as if he knew something he didn’t want to admit.

  “Mate,” Ian drew out. “Have something you want to add about the story you fed me concerning how I spent my last month?”

  “I might have left a few pieces out,” Crispin began.

  Ian was gripping Crispin by his collar before Leila could finish gasping. “Holy crap, you can teleport!”

  “What?” Ian bit out.

  “She said it was safer if you didn’t know,” Crispin said, hedging.

  Crispin had been hiding the reason why Veritas had left him? “Know what?”

  Now Crispin’s gaze didn’t waver. “Four days ago, Veritas called me and Cat to retrieve your mostly withered body from an abandoned amusement park. You were surrounded by dozens of demon corpses. Don’t know how either of you survived such an attack, but Veritas said that your marriage was a sham, your memory was gone, and more powerful demons would be after her. She made us promise to feed you lies about your whereabouts this past month, saying you would only be safe if you stayed far away from her.”

  She’d left him to protect him? And Crispin, who definitely should have known better, had let Veritas face that danger alone while stalling Ian’s attempts to find her? He’d roast Crispin’s arse and shove the burnt pieces down his throat! But first . . .

  Ian pushed Crispin away, then turned to Leila. “Your psychic abilities include finding people in the present through essence trails, do they not?”

 
She sighed. “Yes. Come here.”

  Leila placed her right hand on Ian’s cheek. The voltage she emitted made his jaw ache, but he didn’t flinch. After several minutes, Leila dropped her hand. “I can feel Veritas, but I can’t see her at all.”

  Of course not. With demons after her, Veritas had cloaked herself from every tracing spell imaginable. He hadn’t married a fool.

  He teleported out of there without another word, leaving Crispin and the rest of them behind. Sod his mate’s attempt to protect him. Sod Veritas’s fear for his safety, too. He wasn’t about to lose her by playing it safe.

  Don’t go! her pained shout rang again in his mind.

  “Don’t fret,” Ian muttered. “I’m coming.”

  Chapter 1

  Three weeks later

  I dropped out of the dark Egyptian sky, landing near a Jeep that stood out like a neon sign against the sea of sand around it. Unlike the famous section of the Valley of the Kings, this stretch on the western edge wasn’t popular with archeologists, tourists, or anyone except criminals.

  Lucky for me, my job was hunting criminals.

  No one was inside the Jeep, but it was overloaded with what appeared to be ancient Egyptian funerary artifacts. I walked around to the back and saw a small stone slab half pulled back from a hole in the ground. Ah, a hidden tomb. Two distinct voices came from it as well as lots of odd swishing sounds.

  Grave robbers. I hated grave robbers.

  I pulled out a sharp silver knife and a double-pronged bident made of demon bone. Now, I was armed to fight two out of the three supernatural species that existed. Right before I jumped into the hole, I lit my gaze up with vampire green.

  Two men looked up at me in surprise. At first glance, they were normal Middle Eastern men, but then their eyes turned glowing red. Demons. And the ground around them slithered in every direction.

  Snakes. I hated those even more than grave robbers.

  I landed on the nearest demon, knocking him down while ramming both ends of my bone weapon through his eyes. His eyes burst into flames as death cut his scream short. I yanked the bident out and immediately flew up, leaving the other demon to smack into the wall instead of me. Before I could stab his eyes out, too, he teleported away.