Scarlet Heat (Born to Darkness)(4)

By: Evangeline Anderson

The look he cast from the other side of the truck was both incredulous and pitying. “You what? How the hell did you break all your bones? You into skydiving or something?”

I crossed my arms over my breasts and looked down. “I wasn’t the one who broke them. But that’s not the point—the point is that I can take a lot of abuse and still live.” I looked up at him. “But I won’t. Not anymore. Not from you or anyone else.”

He nodded thoughtfully and I thought I saw just a touch of respect creeping into his golden eyes.

“I got it. You’re tougher than you look. But you don’t mind me saying so—you don’t look too good.”

“Thanks a lot,” I snapped. “That makes me feel just great. Are you always this smooth?”

“No, damn it…” He slapped the steering wheel in frustration. “Look, it gets harder to talk when the moon is full. My wolf comes forward and that part of me…it doesn’t have words.” He took a deep breath. “I didn’t mean you’re not pretty—you are. Fucking gorgeous. I’m just saying you look, I don’t know, sick or something. Kind of weak and frail.”

“You’d be weak and frail too if you hadn’t had any nourishment in almost two weeks,” I said tightly. “I’m just thirsty that’s all.”

“Oh, right. I, uh, guess that’s my fault.” He gave me a sidelong look as he turned the truck onto a smaller dirt road.

I said nothing. He could assign himself the blame if he wanted to but I wasn’t going to say anything else. I’m not going to beg, I told myself, even though his warm scent was making my thirst for blood worse and worse.

Victor cleared his throat and killed the truck’s motor.

“Well, here we are.”

I looked out of the window and saw a large clearing inside a dense thicket of woods. This being Florida, there were plenty of vines and creepers too, all of them dark greenish-black in the deepening night.

The house itself looked like an upscale log cabin—one of the two-story kind with high ceilings, hardwood floors and a fireplace in every room. The arched eves managed to look graceful and rustic at the same time and the windows sparkled silver in the moonlight.

“It’s lovely,” I said grudgingly. “I’ve always liked log cabins.”

“Designed and built it myself.” There was an unmistakable note of pride in the big were’s voice. “Wait ‘til you see it in the sunlight. It’s really, uh…” He trailed off, obviously realizing what he was saying. “I mean, never mind. Come on.”

I started to open my door but he was around the side of the truck in a flash. He offered me a hand to get down from the high cab. After a moment’s consideration, I took it and stepped down onto the sparse grass of the driveway. His skin was as hot as I had imagined and I took my hand out of his as soon as I could.

“Can I get your stuff?” Victor asked gruffly.

I felt some of my resentment melt a little. Clearly he was at least making an effort to be less of an ass.

“I don’t have any,” I reminded him gently. “You didn’t really give me time to pack anything.” In fact, he had dragged me away from Under the Fang with nothing but the clothes on my back—a simple black skirt and a white button-down silk blouse with black flats. It was one of the plainest outfits I owned, which was why I liked it. Celeste always liked to dress me up and show me off like a doll in expensive dresses with the most elaborate hair and makeup possible. I was glad to put that part of my life behind me.

“Oh, sorry.” Victor rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, let’s go in. I’ll show you around and then I really have to go.”

“Right. You have to, uh, change.” I nodded stiffly and followed him to the wooden doorframe. Victor produced a set of keys and unlocked the front door with a muted jingle. Then he stepped inside, clearly expecting me to follow.

“Okay, so this is the kitchen,” he remarked, flicking on the light switches so that the long room was flooded with light. “I don’t guess you’ll use it much but—hey…” He turned with a frown to see me still standing in the doorway. “Why are you still over there?”

“You didn’t invite me in.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m a vampire—I can’t enter the dwelling of a living person without an invitation.”

“Oh, right.” He cleared his throat. “Damn it, I’m making a fucking mess of this whole thing. Uh, Taylor, would you like to come in?”

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