About a Vampire (Argeneau #22)(15)

by Lynsay Sands

“Yes. Thank you.” Holly said good-­bye and hung up, then headed upstairs to see what James wanted.

She found him in the bathroom, staring down at the clothes she’d stripped off earlier to take a shower. The black jeans, T-­shirt, leather jacket and makeshift bandana all lay in a crumpled pile on the floor. Holly bit her lip, knowing he would want to know whose clothes they were. In his rush to get to work last night he hadn’t seemed to notice the borrowed clothes she was wearing, but he wasn’t in a rush now and there was no mistaking them for anything but a man’s clothes. He would want to know whose they were and how she’d got them.

“Jeez, Holl, you give me hell all the time for leaving my socks laying around instead of putting them in the hamper, and then you go and just leave all of your clothes where you take them off?” he asked with a combination of amusement and irritation. “I saw them there when I came in, but then forgot they were there and tripped on them on the way out of the shower. I could have knocked myself out or something if I’d hit my head on the tub or toilet. As it is I think I wrenched my shoulder catching myself on the counter.”

Holly let her breath out on a slow sigh. He hadn’t noticed they were a man’s clothes. She supposed it was hard to tell from a crumpled heap . . . maybe. Her gaze shifted to his shoulder as he rubbed at it with one hand, his expression pained. James was shirtless, wearing only his pajama bottoms. He had a nice chest, muscular enough to have some definition, but not overly so, and with just the slightest paunch. He was an attractive guy. Always had been. It had always made her wonder if she even would have caught his eye if they hadn’t been thrown together by the lives their parents had led.

Holly’s parents were archaeologists. She’d spent the first eighteen years of her life being dragged from one dig to another. Most of that time she’d lived in tents and had been homeschooled in camp . . . by James’s mother. His father had also been an archaeologist and a lifelong friend to her father. They’d worked together. James’s mother, a teacher before she’d married his father, had traveled with them to look after her and James and had schooled them both. Holly had grown up with James. They’d been each other’s only friends. He’d been her first kiss, her first date, her first everything and she was the same for him. Marriage had been the natural next step and it was going beautifully. They never argued, never disagreed. In fact, this was the closest thing to a fight they’d ever had.

“I’m sorry,” Holly murmured, stepping forward and urging him to turn his back to her. Once he did, she began to massage his shoulder. “How was work?”

“Oh, same old same old,” he muttered as she pressed her thumbs into the knotted muscles. “That feels good. A little gentler though please.”

Holly eased her grip, her eyes following the line of James’s shoulder to the curve of his neck. He had his head turned away and her position behind and a little to the side gave her a perfect view of the muscle that ran down from his jaw to under his clavicle . . . and the external jugular vein that ran over it. She could almost see it throbbing under the skin. Holly found herself staring at it as she worked the muscles of his shoulder and had to fight the urge to touch and kiss him there. This wasn’t the day they had sex. James was always exhausted after work and she was always in a rush to get out the door. It was no time to initiate something and she knew it, so just waited for the desire to recede.

But, instead of fading away as she’d expected, the hunger inside her seemed to grow stronger, and she couldn’t seem to drag her gaze away from that pulsing vein. Holly had the oddest urge to run her tongue along it. Bizarre, but she blamed it on the smells coming off of him. James smelled . . . well, yummy. He’d just showered, so she expected it was a new cologne he was using or something. Whatever it was, it was heady with a deep rich scent, almost tinny but in a pleasant way.

“God woman, are you trying to dig a hole in my shoulder?” James said on a pained laugh. “Gentler, please.”

Holly tore her gaze from his throat and glanced forward, freezing when she spotted herself in the mirror. Horror was rushing up within her when Holly noted movement behind her. In the next moment something snaked around her waist even as a palm slapped over her mouth. She was dragged away from James and out of the room so swiftly, it left her off balance and struggling to keep her feet under her as she was whisked down the stairs and through the house. It seemed like barely a blink later that she was being released in the garage and left to find her own balance as her captor stepped away.

Managing to keep her feet under her, Holly turned sharply on her attacker, not terribly surprised when she saw that it was Justin Bricker. The note he’d left in her car had said he’d be here when she needed him . . . and she needed him . . . or at least someone right now.

“I have fangs,” Holly said faintly, hardly able to believe what she’d seen when she’d caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror upstairs.

Justin merely nodded and eyed her warily.

For some reason that infuriated her. At least, she was suddenly terribly furious, and demanded, “What have you done to me?”

“Saved you,” he answered at once.

“For what?” she asked sharply. “Some sort of living death as a vampire?”

“You aren’t dead,” he assured her solemnly. “I turned you to save your life, not end it.”

“Vampires are dead,” she snapped.

“But you aren’t a vampire. You’re an immortal,” he said firmly.

“Buddy, you can call it a retort, but it’s still just an incinerator to burn bodies in,” she said grimly.

He blinked in confusion at that. “What?”

“It’s—­ Never mind,” she said wearily. “The point is, you can call it immortal all you want, but if it has fangs and sucks blood it’s a vampire.”

“But if it has fangs, sucks blood and still has a beating heart and a soul, it’s an immortal,” he countered.

Holly merely stared at him as the last part of his comment repeated itself through her head. So she still had a beating heart and a soul?

“You should know you do . . . at least the heart. It’s thundering up a storm right now. Surely you can feel it?”

Holly glanced to him sharply. “I thought you couldn’t read me.”