"I have to leave now, Nick," I said. "Thanks for the drinks."
He stroked my arm. "Have another one. Let me enjoy your beautiful face a little longer."
I stifled a snort. Wasn't he flattering? But if he liked my face so much, then his eyes wouldn't have been glued to my cleavage.
"All right. Bartender ..."
"Let me guess." The loud voice came from across the bar. An unfamiliar face grinned at me. "A gin and tonic, right, Reaper?"
Nick froze. Then he did what I was afraid he'd do-he ran.
"Code Red!" I barked, vaulting after the fleeing figure. Heavily armed men in black clothes sprinted into the bar, shoving the patrons aside.
Nick threw people at me as I went after him. Screaming, flailing bodies hit me, making my attempts to catch them and fling a silver knife through Nick's heart even more difficult. One of my blades landed in Nick's chest, but too far center to have hit his heart. Still, I couldn't just let those people splatter to the floor like so much garbage. Nick might think of people that way. I didn't.
My team fanned out, guarding all the exits and attempting to herd the remaining patrons out of the way.
Nick reached the far end of the bar and glanced around frantically. There was me, advancing with my silver knives, and my men with their Desert Eagle handguns pointed at him.
"You're surrounded," I stated the obvious. "Don't make me angry, you won't think I'm pretty anymore when I'm angry. Drop the girls."
He had two of them in his grip, one hand on each vulnerable throat. Seeing the terror in those girls' eyes made anger flare through me. Only cowards hid behind hostages. Or murderers, like Nick.
"I leave, they live, Reaper," Nick hissed, no romance in his tone any longer. "I should have known. Your skin's too perfect to be human, even if your heart beats and your eyes aren't gray."
"Colored contacts. Modern science's a bitch."
Nick's icy blue eyes bled to glowing vampire green and his fangs slid out.
"It was an accident," he yelled. "I didn't mean to kill her, I just took too much."
An accident? Oh, he had to be kidding me. "Her heartbeat slowing down would have warned you," I replied. "Don't try that accident crap on me, I live with a vampire, and he hasn't had an `oops' moment once."
If possible, Nick looked even more ashen. "And if you're here ..."
"That's right, mate."
The accent was English, and the tone was lethal. Invisible waves of power rolled over my back as my men parted to let Bones, the vampire I most trusted-and loved-through.
Nick's gaze didn't shift, which I'd been hoping for. No, his eyes didn't leave me as he suddenly yanked my blade from himself and then stabbed one of the girls in the chest.
I gasped, catching her instinctively when Nick threw her at me.
"Help her!" I yelled to Bones, who'd lunged at Nick instead. With that wound, unless Bones healed her, she had only seconds to live.
I had time to hear Bones mutter a curse before he spun around, abandoning his pursuit of Nick to drop to his knees beside the girl. I vaulted after Nick, doing some cursing myself. Gunshots went off, but only a few. With the rest of the bar patrons still scrambling for the doors, plus Nick holding the other girl like a shield, my team couldn't just open fire. Nick knew that, and so did I. Nick leapt across the heads of the crowd in a gravity-defying burst, flinging the girl at a member of my team as if she were a weapon. Helpless, the nearby soldier fell back with the girl on top of him, just in time for Nick to swoop down and yank his gun away.
I flung three more of my knives, but with all the jostling from the people around me, my aim was off. Nick let out a yell as they pieced his back, missing his heart. Then he turned and fired at me.
I had a fraction of a second to realize that if I ducked, those bullets would hit the people around me instead. They weren't half vampire like I was; it would likely kill them. So I braced myself ... and was spun around in a blur in the next heartbeat, my head jammed into Bones's chest while three hard vibrations shook him. The bullets meant for me.
Bones let me go, whirling around and flying across the room to Nick, who tried to snatch another hostage. Nick didn't make it. Bones plowed into him hard enough for both of them to smash through the wall. I ran, hopping over people, in time to see Bones twist his knife in Nick's chest.
I relaxed. Silver twisted through the heart meant curtains for Nick-and any vampire.
Bones gave one last twist for good measure and then drew his blade out, his eyes flickering over me.
"You're bleeding," he said, concern creasing his face.
I touched my cheek, where someone's belt or shoe or whatever had scored me when Nick was using people like human speed bumps to slow me down.
"You've been shot, and you're worried about a scratch on me?"
Bones came over, touching my face. "I heal instantly, luv. You don't."
Even though I knew what he said was true, I couldn't help but feel his back to reassure myself that his skin was smooth, no more shredded flesh from the bullets.
"Speaking of, there are dozens of injured people here you need to heal. You can get to my scratch later."
Bones ignored that, drawing his thumb across a fang and touching the cut it made first to my cheek, then to my mouth.
Excerpted from At Grave's End by Jeaniene Frost Copyright © 2008 by Jeaniene Frost . Excerpted by permission.
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