A Midsummer Night's Demon
Author:Brenda Sparks

chapter One

The fiery smell of the alcohol burned his nose long before the glass reached his lips. Ky Robinson slammed the last of his drink in a long gulp. The whiskey crawled fire down his throat to heat his belly. He leaned his elbows on the weathered bar and toyed with the glass, hands cradling the smooth tumbler with practiced ease.

“Another.” Ky tapped a finger on the lip of the empty glass.

He grunted a thanks when the bartender complied, never taking his eyes from the rest of the room. He was a hunter, a warrior, constant vigilance his creed.

He settled on a stool, the faux leather creaking under his muscular weight. He’d chosen a spot at the end of bar, one that put his back to the wall and gave him an unobstructed view of the room, just as he’d been trained to do centuries ago by the agency.

His position gave him the best possible advantage for observation. He barely noticed the décor. All these establishments seemed the same—dark, smoky with the stench of stale booze and sweat oozing from the walls. The kind of place a person could disappear from without anyone noticing.

The patrons…lowlife wasn’t quite descriptive enough a term. They were lower than low. Some of the seediest people on the earth. Most were human. Some were of his breed. Creatures of the night. Monsters lurking in the shadows that emerged to take the unaware to their graves.

Vampires.

And one of the worse sat not six feet from him chatting up an innocent.

No vampire needed to take from the vein any longer, for they could compel the minds of the people who worked in the blood banks or hospitals. Coerce them to hand over bags of blood. But some refused to relinquish the old ways. Known as the debauchee, they often allowed their bloodlust to consume them. They enjoyed violence and carnage, the thrill of the kill, and the agency he worked for hired vamps like himself to stop such miscreants.

Ky emptied his glass in three swallows, welcoming the burn. It felt good, like coming home, made him feel alive as the warmth spread throughout his body. He rolled his shoulders, his roped muscle and sinew flowed like water under the gray T-shirt he wore. He itched for a good fight, needed to burn off some excess energy and if his instincts were correct—and they always were—his itch would be scratched tonight.

Ice-blue eyes tracked the rogue’s movements, watching the male wrap his arm about the waist of his female companion to lead her toward the door with a deceptive gentleness. His body blocked Ky’s view of the woman, had all evening, but it didn’t matter that he’d not been able to get a good look at her, for she was not the one he pursued.

He wanted the male.

As if oblivious to the fact an agent stalked him, the male vampire paraded his escort out of the bar. They walked slow, taking their time like lovers out for a casual evening. But Ky knew better. Malevolence emanated from the male in waves.

The warrior sent his senses flowing out into the room in search of more debauchees, calculating how many he would face. His eyes scanned the room to see if any would follow the couple out the door. A slight disappointment settled over him when he realized none did. Seemed he would have only one to battle tonight.

Too bad.

Ky pulled his wallet from his jeans and laid a twenty on the bar to cover his tab. It would be a stiff tip, but he did not have time to wait for the change. Duty called, and he always picked up the phone to answer with an enthusiastic greeting.

Pushing through the door, his long strides took him across the pavement. The Florida air, hot and humid, clung to his skin in a fine sheen. A full moon cast its eerie light onto the loud night below. Music thumping through the walls of the bar and the buzz of passing traffic filled the night. Their brawl would not be heard, but if seen by human eyes, that would be a problem.

Ky worked for an agency that policed his kind, upholding its primary mission, take out those who would otherwise expose the breed. Agents like himself swooped in under cover, covertly took down the rogues, and left before anyone would be the wiser. They were more rumor than fact, ghosts whose identities were kept secret at all costs from both the humans and demons that roamed the world.

This night no other agents accompanied him. Tonight only he would face the rogue, and he preferred it that way. Ky wanted to be the one to take this monster out. He had been tracking him for months, since he noticed a pattern of missing person cases in his city. All of the people vanished within a ten-mile radius of this bar, so he spent most of his nights casing the place. Watching. Waiting for a lucky break, and it looked like he got one tonight.

He ghosted behind the couple. Following them on silent feet, staying deep within the shadows of the buildings. Ky noted the way the woman walked as they made their way along the sidewalk. Her legs appeared unsteady, most of her weight supported by the male’s arm around her waist, which seemed strange because she had not consumed all that much alcohol at the bar. Only two glasses of wine, by his count. The agent heard her speaking throughout the night and she had enunciated clearly. Yet now she seemed unsteady, and her words slurred as they left her lips.

She stumbled. Catching on a bit of raised sidewalk, her shoe flew off behind her in Ky’s direction. She turned and looked over her shoulder. When her eyes met his, Ky’s heart hitched in his chest, time froze.

The bronzed skin of her heart-shaped face appeared flawless. Long dark haired flowed around her shoulders with the turn of her head. Her chocolate eyes captured his, holding his gaze. The fall of her lashes broke the spell, creating dark crescents on her delicate cheekbones. Her petite nose led to full, pouty lips that sent a surge of desire through his body. His sure strides faltered under the weight of her beauty. She was a goddess.

And she was in grave danger.

His eyes darted to the disgusting male holding her, when the male looked back at him. His dirty blond hair fell over his forehead to shadow his eyes. Light brows narrowed over the male’s gray eyes. An assessing stare took in Ky’s powerful build before locking with his steady glare.

His warrior’s stride, confident and sure, quickened to close the space between them. The debauchee threw the woman over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry and took off toward a nearby parking garage with Ky hard on his heels. Ky knew a moment of relief when he saw the vampire turn into a garage. At least their confrontation would be somewhat hidden, more so than if they fought out on the street.

Ky followed the couple, allowing the male to take his prize deeper into the garage and up several flights of the tall building.

“Put her down.” Ky’s harsh tone brooked no argument as he ran toward the pair.

He sensed the vampire drawing his power, readying for the altercation about to come. Ky trailed the couple, watching as the girl bounced precariously with each running step. She moaned a soft, mournful sound that pulled at his heart. She struggled to find purchase on the vampire’s back, to push herself up, but her arms could not seem to find enough strength. As he closed in he realized why. She had been drugged, the pharmaceutical smell radiated from her skin. And his nose told him something else.

She’s a demon.

The realization shocked him. Most vampires avoided interacting with other breeds and yet this vampire not only had drinks with a demon, but apparently drugged her. It made no sense for the male to do either.

Ky’s hand clamped down hard on the vampire’s available shoulder bringing him to a halt. As he turned and faced Ky, the debauchee released the power he’d built. It flowed out from his body like the blast of a nuclear bomb, to send a wave of energy out over all surrounding objects.

Ky squared his body, shouldering the blast of power as the wave pushed at him and rocked the cars around them. He staggered under the onslaught, pushed several steps backward, but did not go down. As the power dissipated, he switched his stance to the balls of his feet and fisted his hands at his sides.

The show of power had been impressive. Power like that only came with age, but it did not matter to Ky. Several centuries old as well, Ky’s own power had grown over the long years, and he was well practiced at the art of the fight.

“I won’t tell you again,” he warned. “Put. Her. Down.”

The vampire’s eyes widened, clearly surprised that Ky not only remained standing, but spoke after his display of power. The look of concern on the rogue’s face told Ky the male realized he was in trouble. His opponent’s fangs lengthened from his gums as he pulled the woman from his shoulder, and placed her on her feet in front of his body like a shield.

With a movement well practiced, he pulled her hair from her neck and sank his fangs deep, earning from his victim a little moan and a drug-weakened endeavor to free herself. He held her against his body, drinking deeply from her throat, taking the life sustaining goodness into his mouth. Ky knew the rogue’s body would process the drug in her system ensuring no ill effects. He watched as the vampire let the precious liquid slide down his throat, to feed his cells and provide the energy he’d need for their fight.

Ky’s hands bunched at his sides as he called on the self-control he had honed over the centuries. He could not strike while his enemy fed. Tearing the male away from her neck could inflict a fatal wound. He waited, biding his time for the perfect moment to strike.

The vampire tore his fangs from the woman’s throat, and spit a chunk of her flesh on the ground. Ky steeled his features. The monster deliberately hurt the woman to distract him, divert his attention. And dammit, it worked. He didn’t have long to take this male down before the woman would die.

His opponent tossed the woman aside, her limp body fell against the tire of a nearby car. The debauchee turned and said nothing, simply wagged two arrogant fingers to encourage Ky’s advance.

He was no longer interested in capturing this vampire. This male needed to die. There could be no salvation for a person who would so callously waste a life. The debauchee obviously experienced no remorse for the damage he did to the woman. In fact, the evil grin on his face evidenced his shameless bloodlust.

Ky’s jaw flinched, the only indication he gave his attacker before he leapt and caught the vampire around the waist, taking him to the hard ground in a lineman’s tackle. He heard a rib crack, whether from the strength of his grip or the cement floor he couldn’t be sure. It didn’t matter. Every crack created a chink in the rogue’s preternatural armor that made it one step easier for Ky to destroy him.

Arms and legs struggled for supremacy as the two males wrestled on the cool concrete. Their bodies tumbled over each other in a bid for dominance. They rolled to a stop with Ky lying under the debauchee who unsheathed a gun holstered to his calf, then gave Ky a sanguine smile, the shiny barrel of the gun reflecting the sharp ends of his teeth.

Gripping the weapon with both hands, the rogue aimed for Ky’s heart. The warrior’s hands flew up, folding around the gun. Ky’s grip cranked down hard. The finger of one hand slipped behind the trigger to keep it from firing, while his other hand closed around the barrel. Strength would determine where the gun would aim. Their arms shook with their effort as the barrel slowly turned toward the rogue.

The vampire’s eyes widened, watching the weapon turn his way. Ky knew bullets, especially harmful to his kind, filled the magazine. He smelled the poisonous titanium that coated the ammunition within. The debauchee breathed hard from his effort to keep the gun pointed away; each inhale had to be a new experience in pain from his broken rib.

Ky’s finger slipped out from behind the trigger, allowing the gun to discharge with a deafening explosive shot.

The vampire’s body shook with the force of the blast, while the thunderous concussion echoed off the concrete walls. The bastard looked down, registering the spread of red over his shirt. Pain twisted his face. Though not a fatal wound, the injury would slow him.

The warrior ripped the gun from his opponent’s hands, and dug his heels into the floor. Using his powerful thighs, he bucked his opponent’s body, and sent the debauchee flying through the air to slam upright into a nearby wall. The concrete cocooned around his body sending little bits of the gray powder drifting to the floor.

In the blur of movement, Ky headed toward the monster. When he approached, the debauchee‘s leg shot out and connected with the gun in Ky‘s hand to send it skittering across the floor. Ky’s hand wrapped around his opponent’s throat, pinning the vampire against the wall. The agent pushed him up the rough wall, hoping the concrete would bite into the rogue’s back.

The vampire clawed at Ky’s arm to break the suffocating grip. His feet kicked against the wall, desperate to find a foothold so he could take the pressure from his throat. Ky’s iron grasp stopped his air, making his body jerk with the need for oxygen. The whites of his eyes turned red from bursting capillaries before his lids fluttered shut.

The rogue’s heart stuttered, his body fell limp, then before Ky’s eyes the listless form he held coalesced into itself, until only a wisp of black smoke remained. As it wafted through his empty fingers, he threw back his head, letting a roar of frustration escape from deep within his chest cavity. The sonorous sound reverberated off the concrete walls. The bastard had dematerialized! His fist punched into the concrete sending more ashen debris to the floor.

The sound of a soft moan behind him garnered his attention. Ky’s determined strides took him quickly to the injured woman. With gentle hands, he lowered her slumped body to the floor, turning her face so he could examine the wound.

He touched the skin around the gash on her neck and her eyes fluttered opened, wide with fright. Her drugged hand lazily smacked at his, as if trying to ward off an attack. He could smell her fear, knew only adrenaline kept her conscious.

He grasped her hand tenderly in his much larger one, stilling her trembling fingers as he leaned over her. “Shhh. He’s gone. I’m here to help you.”

She struggled to extract her hand. If she’d been at her full strength, she would not have been able to pull her hand from his unless he allowed it.

And he was surprised to discover he wasn’t about to let go. He wanted the connection. The moment he touched her something stirred within his heart, something drew him to her.

“It’s okay. You’re safe. You can trust me.” He put a subtle compulsion behind his voice, letting it flow over her mind to ease her worry, leaving no doubt that he intended to assist her.

The ragged wound gaped open and her blood flowed in a steady stream down her chest. If he did not staunch the bleeding soon she could die from exsanguination. He couldn’t risk taking her to a hospital—the doctors would ask too many questions. A wound like that couldn’t be from anything other than a bite, and it wasn’t as if a lot of wild animals roamed the city. He realized it would be up to him to take care of her.

Ky gathered her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her shock-chilled body. His saliva contained coagulation properties which would aid to stop the bleeding, though would not heal so savage a wound.

He leaned down to lick her ruined neck. His tongue flicked over the wound, careful not to do anymore damage. The first lick spun his world. Her blood, unlike any other, tasted like sunshine. It warmed him to the core, made his body come alive in a way no blood had done before. His vision swam, tilting the parking garage. His body reacted, every cell screaming…

MINE!

His body responded to hers like a schoolboy holding his first crush. His muscles tightened, his hold became possessive as he lapped at the wound.

Most among his kind believed that each of them had one true mate—a heartmate. A person who completed them, the other half of their heart and soul. They recognized that person by the taste of their blood.

Ky now believed in heartmates. He would never get enough of her addictive flavor to sate his hunger.

Blood now gone, his tongue continued over the flesh of her neck to find the delicate spot where her shoulder met her neck on the opposite side of the wound. His tongue flicked across the vein. It beat in time with her heart, enticing him to sample just a bit more.

Desire flowed through his body at the thought. His inner beast rose to the surface, demanded another taste of its mate. Carnal need flowed through his veins unabated, sending a surge of wanton lust to heat his body. Saliva filled his mouth at the thought of more.

She was his. His to savor and to have. His to protect.

Like a slap to the face, the need to protect his heartmate sobered him from his baser needs, giving him the strength to rein in his inner beast, take back control. She needed him, his help, and he could do no other than see to her needs. He forced his fangs to recede, then gave her sweet neck a tender kiss before he forced himself away.

Surprised to find her looking at him through leaden, half-opened eyes, he pushed into her mind to glean her thoughts. Despite her pain, she found comfort in his arms. She thought of him as an angel come to save her and take away her pain.

If she only knew.

He was more killer than savior. More devil than angel. He lived a dark life, but finding his heartmate made him want to become better.

Ky adjusted her on his lap, and looked deeply into her mahogany eyes, holding her gaze to his. “Tell me your name, honey.”

Her beautiful eyes drifted shut as she whispered, “Lyn.”

He lifted the unconscious woman into his arms, holding her tightly against his chest. Her head lulled against his shoulder, her lips resting over the pulse in his neck. The heady sensation compelled him to get his mate to safety before the vampire could return.

He carried her to his car, secured her in the passenger seat, and drove them as fast as he dared to the dock where his boat waited. The ride across the river to his private island was rough due to an impending storm, but they arrived safe if not a bit shaken. Ky gathered Lyn in his arms and made his way toward his home with quick strides. He reached the porch just as the heavy clouds let go. The downpour beat a pounding rhythm on the palm fronds as he carried her into his house.