The Reluctant Vampire

Chapter Eight

Harper stared out the window, Drina's hand warm and so in his. He couldn't seem to let it go; it was a lifeline keeping him tethered as his mind suggested the most incredible and impossible things, the wildest of which was the sugges on that she was his life mate. He'd nearly taken Drina there in an alley, up against a wall, during a freaking blizzard, for God's sake.

Harper wanted to think it was the Sweet Ecstasy, and it just might have been, he acknowledged, but what had happened in the bar itself was plaguing him. On the dance floor and then at the table, when he'd touched her it had caused him pleasure, and not the "it-pleases-me-to-please-you" kind, but actual physical pleasure. Tingles of awareness and excitement had shuddered through his body with every caress he'd given her, urging him on to do things he'd never even considered prior to this night. While the way he'd turned his back to the rest of the club had hidden what he was doing, touching her the way he had in their booth, with people all around, had been madness. But even worse, he'd wanted to do more, and wasn't really sure how he'd managed not to. It had taken great effort. He wanted to touch her now too and was holding her hand to keep from grabbing her by the waist and pulling her onto his lap. He wanted to push her coat and dress off her shoulders, remove her bra, and feast on her flesh. But mostly he wanted to tug her skirt up, rip her pan es off, and sink himself in all that warm, moist heat he'd found between her legs. And he didn't par cularly care whether the driver was watching while he did it.

Harper had never wanted anyone as badly as this, never felt such a bone-deep need. Not even for Jenny. The thought shamed him. Jenny was dead, she'd died leaving few to grieve her, just himself and her sister, and yet he couldn't remember her face and now wanted another woman with more passion than he'd ever felt for her.

It's the Sweet Ecstasy, Harper assured himself.

But the Sweet Ecstasy wouldn't allow him to experience Drina's pleasure, another part of his mind argued, and he'd definitely felt ngles race through his body when he'd extended his fingers and let the ps brush across her nipples. The first me had been an accident. He hadn't realized his hand rested that close to her. But the excitement that had coursed through him had made him do it again, and more. Perhaps it was just the excitement of what he was doing, combined with the Sweet Ecstasy. Because there was no way Drina was his life mate. He'd just lost one, and if there was one thing he'd learned, life wasn't kind enough to throw him another so soon.

I am ea ng again, though, Harper thought, his mouth ghtening. But he'd already explained that away to himself sa sfactorily . . . along with his eager libido. Both were just a result of his appe tes being reawakened by Jenny, his true life mate. They simply hadn't died with her death, they'd just been superseded by grief and depression for a while, but now he was ge ng out again and feeling be er, and they were making their presence known once more. And Drina was a beau ful, sexy woman. Any man would desire her if he had the least interest in sex at all.

Oddly enough, while that explana on had sounded reasonable earlier in the day, it wasn't sounding as reasonable to him at the moment. Especially since he'd never experienced this kind of passion with Jenny.

His mind immediately tried to shy away from that thought, but Harper forced it back. He hadn't felt this depth of passion for her. He'd felt some, but she'd always kept him at arm's length, never le ng him even kiss her. So it had remained a seed, never blossoming like his desire for Drina had the moment his mouth had closed on hers.

The Sweet Ecstasy, he decided. That was the only thing that made sense. Only it could create a passion so overwhelming it surpassed what he'd experienced with his life mate.

S ll, the excitement he'd felt when he'd touched Drina bothered him. He needed to test it, Harper decided. He needed to touch her without her touching him in return to confuse the ma er. And he needed to do it somewhere normal and boring, where there was no chance that the situa on and possibility of getting caught might inflame his passions.

His apartment, of course. There was nothing more pedestrian than an apartment or home. Certainly it was more pedestrian than a public booth or alley. Once they got to his place, he would calmly and methodically caress her and prove to himself that he wasn't experiencing her pleasure. He would even avoid kissing her to ensure he wasn't excited, he decided. At least, he would un l he had reassured himself that he hadn't been experiencing the shared pleasure that immortal couples raved on about. It would be hard, Harper acknowledged with an inner grimace. He had two Sweet Ecstasies roiling through his blood, which wasn't likely to make it easy. But he would prevail.

"Is this your building?"

Harper's eyes refocused at Drina's ques on, and he saw that the car was easing to a stop in front of his apartment building. Taking a breath, he nodded, and then opened the door before the driver could get out. He welcomed the frigid blast of air that hit him as he slid out of the vehicle, pulling Drina behind him. The arc c air would help to cool his ardor further, Harper assured himself, and didn't rush to the building after closing the door to the car but moved through the swirling snow at a sedate pace. Drina returned the smile the guard at the door gave them as they entered. Her gaze moved curiously over the large, luxurious lobby as Harper led her to the last of four elevators. She wasn't surprised at the swank to the place. The man had arranged for a helicopter to pick them up for the evening. She'd already known he had money. Not that it ma ered to her. She was no slouch in that area either. Her me as a privateer and some sensible - as well as a few lucky - investments since had ensured she would never need to worry about money.

The elevator was silent and fast, and it seemed like they'd barely entered before it was sliding to a halt at the top. Harper led her out into a hall, s ll holding her hand, and she glanced around, and then came to a stop as she realized they weren't in a hall, but a foyer.

Harper turned, an eyebrow rising in question.

"I take it the whole floor is yours?" she asked wryly.

"Yes." He smiled faintly. "That's my private elevator."

"Right," Drina said with amusement. "And yet you stay at Casey Co age with only a room to call your own?"

"It's a nice room," he said with a shrug, and added solemnly, "and all the wealth in the world isn't as comfor ng as friends in mes of need." Harper then grinned, and said, "Besides, the rent for the room is cheap."

Drina chuckled and pulled her hand free of his to remove her coat. The apartment was toasty warm, too warm for the coat. Harper quickly shrugged out of his own coat and moved to the closet to grab two hangers. He hung up his own, and then took hers, set it on the hanger, and hung it up as well. He closed the door and turned toward her, only to pause.

Drina's eyebrows rose, and then she followed his a en on to see that when she'd removed her coat, she'd tugged her gown off one shoulder, and it now hung down her arm, leaving a good portion of one red and black bra cup exposed. She almost tugged it back into place, but then just didn't. Why bother? She didn't plan to wear it long, she decided, and turned her gaze back to Harper, not at all surprised to see the silver coming back to life in his eyes. They had been almost pure green by the me they'd go en into the elevator, all the earlier passion apparently washed out by the passing moments of the ride here, or perhaps the cold as they'd walked to the building. Now they were beginning to glow silver again, and it made relief course through her. He'd been so silent in the car, she'd worried -

Her thoughts sca ered, and she held her breath as Harper suddenly closed the space between them. She expected him to take her into his arms and kiss her. At least it's what she was hoping for, but instead he moved behind her. Drina started to turn, but he caught her shoulders and turned her himself, but so that her back was fully to him again.


Drina peered where he was poin ng to see them reflected in the mirrored surface of the sliding closet doors: a tall, fair-haired man in a charcoal suit, and a shorter, dark-haired and olive-skinned woman in a black dress. The moment she was looking where he wanted, Harper's hands slipped from her shoulders and she felt them at her back, and then her dress loosened as he slid the zipper down. Drina swallowed, figh ng the urge to turn to him again. He obviously didn't want her to. She didn't know why, but was willing to play along . . . for now, she decided.

His gaze met hers in the mirror again, and then his hands appeared, one at her shoulder and the other catching the already fallen arm of her dress and tugging both down un l the dress dropped away to pool around her feet. It le her in the red and black lingerie and the thigh-high boots, and Drina had to admit she looked damned good. Hot even. A little like a dominatrix maybe, but still hot. She would have to thank Stephanie, she decided. That thought sca ered when Harper skimmed his fingers lightly up her arms, raising goose bumps and making her shiver. She gave up her quiescence then and tried to turn, but Harper slid one arm around her waist, holding her in place.

"Watch," he whispered by her ear, his breath bringing on another shiver.

Drina returned her attention dutifully to the mirror and forced herself to stay still. The moment she did, he began to move, his eyes burning as he withdrew his arm un l his hand was flat on her stomach. He then raised it to slide over one breast as his other hand appeared to cover the other. Holding her that way, he pulled her back against his chest, his fingers beginning to knead and squeeze her through the flimsy material of her bra as he lowered his head to press a kiss to her neck.

Drina lted her head back on a moan and covered his hands with hers to urge him on, but he stopped at once.


She blinked her eyes open with confusion and met his gaze.

"Watch, don't touch," he growled by her ear.

Drina hesitated, but then let her hands drop again. The moment she did, he began to caress her once more through her bra, and then he let one hand dri away and slide down her belly and between her legs to cup her there. A groan rose from her throat, and Drina had to fight not to close her eyes and give in to the sensa ons his touch evoked. But she wanted to see now. The sight of his hands on her was incredibly erotic.

Harper con nued to caress her through the silky red material for a moment, tweaking the nipple of the breast he held and rubbing her pan es against her core un l her breath was coming in li le pants, and then he suddenly withdrew both hands to find the back of her bra. When it slipped away to join her dress on the floor, his hands replaced it, and Drina leaned her head back against his shoulder, watching through half-closed eyes as he fondled her.

"Beautiful," he growled, biting her ear almost painfully.

Drina shook her head slightly though she couldn't have said if it was in denial of the compliment or out of sheer frustra on. She wanted to touch him, and being forced to stand there quiescent while he played with her was becoming unbearable.

"Harper," she growled in warning, but froze as one of his hands suddenly slid down again, this me slipping inside her pan es and between her legs to dip unerringly between her folds to find the bud hidden there.

She heard a sound halfway between a cry and a moan and realized it was coming from her, and then he withdrew his hands and moved in front of her. Drina immediately felt relief course through her, but before she could reach for him, he was urging her backward. She stepped out of the circle of her gown, but he continued to urge her back until she came up against a wall.

Harper then dropped to his haunches before her. Kneeling at her feet, he leaned forward to press a kiss to the skin above one boot. He then peered up the length of her body and watched her face as he reached for the waist of her panties and began to draw them down.

Drina stared back, li ing first one booted foot and then the other so he could remove the delicate cloth. He tossed it on her growing pile of clothes and moved his mouth to the skin above her other boot, this me licking along the rim to the inside of her thigh, his head forcing her legs farther apart before his mouth began to travel up.

"Harper," she gasped, grabbing for his head as her legs began to tremble. He braced her with his hands at the backs of her thighs, using his hold to urge her legs even wider to allow his lips to travel farther up un l he reached what he was searching for. The moment his mouth closed over her most tender spot, she cried out and threw her head back, damned near knocking herself out when it slammed into the wall. Stars danced behind her closed eyes, but she didn't get the chance to worry overmuch about it; Harper was pushing everything away with his ac ons, driving everything but pleasure from her mind and building the pressure until she was nearly sobbing with need.

Drina was teetering on the edge, wave a er wave rolling through her and pushing at her when he suddenly straightened in front of her.

She blinked her eyes opened and peered at him, then grabbed for his shoulders when he suddenly caught her behind the legs and raised and spread them as he had in the alley. Pinning her against the wall with his body, Harper urged her to wrap her legs around his hips.

Ins nct alone had Drina obeying the silent order. Certainly, she wasn't capable of much in the way of thought. Her eyes slid past his shoulder to find their image in the mirror, and she saw that his coat jacket was gone, his shirt untucked, and his suit pants hanging low on his hips. She wondered when he'd removed the jacket and undone the pants, but then he was sliding into her, and she just didn't care. Drina cried out and closed her eyes, no longer interested in watching . . . or anything else outside of the force building inside her. The world could have crumbled and fallen away around them, and she wouldn't have cared as he pounded into her, sending wave a er irresis ble wave of unbearable passion searing through her body and brain until it exploded bright and hot in her mind. It then receded, leaving darkness. Drina woke to find herself sprawled naked in the silk sheets of a king-sized bed and alone. Si ng up, she peered around the darkened room, making out furniture, blackout blinds, and several doors, but no Harper.

Frowning, she slid her feet to the floor and stood up. She started toward the nearest door, hoping it led somewhere besides a closet, but stumbled on something on the floor and paused to glance down at her boots. She stared at them blankly for a moment, some part of her brain working out that Harper must have removed them for her while she was unconscious, and then continued forward again. The first door she tried was an en suite bathroom. The second was a closet, but the third led out into a hall, and she padded down it on silent, bare feet, only pausing when it ended at a set of four steps down into a large open living room. Eyebrows climbing up her forehead, she ran her eyes over the huge fireplace, the elegant black and white furnishings, and the wall of windows that surely stretched fi een or twenty feet to the ceiling at one end of the room. That's where her gaze stopped. Harper stood in the center of the wall of windows, dressed in his shirt and pants, staring out over the lights of the city. She would have bet a lot of money that he wasn't seeing anything outside, however. There was a moroseness about his pose and expression that convinced her he was lost in thoughts, and not pleasant ones.

"We're life mates."

Drina s ffened at the grim announcement. Apparently, he'd heard her approach despite her silence. Or perhaps he'd simply seen her, she realized as she spo ed her reflec on in the glass. And then his words sank in.

Crap. He knew.

Of course, she supposed she should have expected as much. As it was fabled, life mates did apparently faint a er sex. No doubt he had too, though it appeared he'd recovered more swi ly than she had. And she'd obviously been deep in it. He'd not only carried her to bed but tugged those boots off without her stirring. She'd been out like a light.

Sighing, Drina continued forward, crossing the room toward him. "Most people would be happy about it."

"I am," he said, and she snorted in disbelief.

"You don't sound happy," she pointed out, pausing beside him and considering his face. "And you definitely don't look happy."

"Did you know?" Harper asked.

Drina turned to peer out the window. "Yes. I tried to read you the night we met, and then there was the eating and . . ." She shrugged.

"And you didn't say anything."

Drina sighed. "Marguerite said you might have some trouble accep ng it, and it was be er to let you figure it out on your own."

"Marguerite," he muttered wryly.

"She said you feel guilty about Jenny's death and have been punishing yourself."

"It was my fault," Harper said wearily.

"I know you feel that way, but - "

"It's true," he barked. "If she'd never met me, she'd still be alive."

"Or she might have had a heart a ack jogging. I mean, it was her heart that gave out, wasn't it? Some unknown defect she had?"

"Still, it was the turn that - "

"Harper, I do understand," Drina interrupted quietly, and he turned on her sharply.

"How the hell could you understand? Have you killed a life mate?"

Drina's eyes narrowed, and she said dryly, "Not yet, but there's still time."

He blinked in surprise.

"Don't yell at me. I know you're upset and hur ng, but don't take it out on me," she said firmly. "It's one thing to punish yourself for what you think is your fault, but I won't be your whipping boy."

Sighing wearily, Harper ran a hand through his hair and turned away, mu ering, "Sorry. I shouldn't have snapped."

"No, you shouldn't. And whether you want to believe it or not, I do understand your guilt over Jenny. I have my own guilt."

"For what?" he asked with surprise.

"Hello. Were you listening when I told you my history? I'm pre y sure I men oned Beth and the girls in detail." Mouth fla ening, Drina turned to peer out the window again. "I'm pre y sure Jimmy only picked them for vic ms because of their connec on to me. If I'd never entered their lives, they might have lived to a ripe old age and never endured the horrors that twisted them at the end."

"That wasn't your fault," he said quietly. "You can't blame yourself for that. You did your best for them."

"Just as you did your best for Jenny," she pointed out. "But the fact that we were doing our best, and had no idea how that might play out, won't make either of us feel less guilty."

Harper turned back to the window and sighed wearily.

They stood like that for a minute, and then Drina shi ed restlessly. "Marguerite said that you are so determined to punish yourself that you might do something foolish like avoid me to keep from acknowledging we were life mates."

"A little late for that," he muttered.

"Only because you weren't given the opportunity," Drina said with certainty, and then added, "She said not to confront you with it, and to let you realize it for yourself, but to be prepared for you to try to push me away once you do realize it . . . which, of course, you're doing."

"I'm not pushing you away," Harper denied, glancing around with surprise.

Drina rolled her eyes. "Oh, please, I'm standing here not six inches away, naked as the day I was born, and it feels like there are miles between us."

She felt his eyes glide over her, and held her breath, hoping he'd bridge the emo onal gulf he'd created between them, but she wasn't terribly surprised when he turned away and looked out the window again.

"I just need me to adjust to this," he mu ered, leaning one arm on the window and pressing his forehead to it.

"Right," Drina said. Her temper was s rring, but her voice was calm as she asked, "What exactly are you adjusting to?"

Harper straightened and frowned. "I need to wrap my brain around it, is all. This has taken me by surprise."

She nodded. "And how long will that take?"

He shrugged helplessly, and then said miserably, "I don't know."

"Fine," she snapped, finally unleashing the rebellion s rring within her. It was a familiar sensa on for Drina, and she turned on him, and said coolly, "Well, first off, I resent that in punishing yourself, I too will be punished. And second, I should warn you, I don't intend to take that punishment for very long. You may want to wallow in your guilt and shun what we could have, but that doesn't mean I intend to wait around forever for you to 'adjust.' You have two weeks. Once Victor and Elvi return, and I leave here, I'm asking Marguerite to ac vely look for another possible life mate for me. One who will actually want me." She smiled coldly into his stunned face, and added, "And I'm sure she will manage it. A er all, I'm your second possible life mate in two years. With Marguerite ac vely looking, it might not even take that long."

Much to her relief, Drina saw alarm flash across his face at the sugges on. Perhaps there was hope for them, she thought, but merely turned on her heel and started back across the living room, adding, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got two doses of Sweet Ecstasy s ll coursing through me and don't intend to suffer any more than necessary. I'm going downstairs to give the doorman the night of his life. It won't be as sa sfying as it would have been with you, but you're obviously more interested in wallowing in your guilt than me . . . and beggars can't be choosers."

Drina wasn't terribly surprised to hear him curse. Nor was she surprised to hear the quick pa er of his footsteps as he gave chase. She didn't speed up or break into a run, simply continued on, making it all the way across the room and up the four steps to the hall before he caught her arm and jerked her back around with enough force to bring her crashing up against his chest. Catching his hand in her hair, he dragged her head back and slammed his mouth down on hers. She could feel his resentment in that kiss, his anger that she wasn't going to sit sadly sighing and pa ently wai ng for him to fight his demons un l he felt he'd suffered enough that he could allow them to enjoy this gi they'd been given. She could almost hear his conscience ba ling with his desire as he struggled between what he wanted and what he felt he deserved.

Drina stayed completely s ll and unresponsive as she waited to see which side would win, but when the caress turned from anger to passion, she knew his conscience had lost this round. The moment it did, she relaxed and reached for the buttons of his shirt.

"You'll drive me crazy," Harper muttered, tearing his mouth from hers to trail it along her neck.

"Probably," she agreed, finishing with his bu ons and turning her a en on to tugging his shirt out of his pants. Pushing it off his shoulders then, she ran her hands over his muscled chest and sighed with pleasure, teasing, "For a cook, you have a good body."

"Thank the nanos," he mu ered, sucking in a breath when her fingers skimmed down his belly to work at his pants. He caught her hands as she finished with the fastening and began to slide the zipper down, then waited un l she'd raised her eyes to his in ques on before asking, "You wouldn't really have gone downstairs and - "

"I never make idle threats," Drina interrupted, dropping to her knees before him.

"Good to know," Harper mu ered, as she shook his hands from hers and finished what she'd started, drawing the zipper down.

Drina caught her fingers in the waist of pants and boxers, and pulled them down, smiling as he sprang free. Reaching out, she closed her fingers around him, her eyes closing at the sha of excitement it sent shooting through her own body.

Shared pleasure. Another symptom of life mates.

This was really her first chance to experience it. Prior to this, Harper had insisted on doing all the -

Drina's thoughts died as she realized there was no way he couldn't have known they were life mates earlier in the night. He would have experienced this both at the bar and a erward. What did that mean?

He hadn't run at the first touch. Was there more hope for them than she'd been led to believe?

Her ponderings scattered as he spoke.

"Maybe we should move to the - " Harper's words choked off as she leaned forward and ran her tongue lightly along the side of his growing erection, sending little licks of excitement through them both. Bracing his hands on both walls of the hall, he mu ered, "Next me," and then groaned with her as she took him into her mouth.

The ringing of a phone drew Drina from sleep and had her shifting grumpily.


Blinking her eyes open at the sound of Harper's voice, she peered at his chest, which she presently nestled on, then raised her eyes to his face. They were in his large king-sized bed. He'd obviously woken first, as usual, and carried her there again because they'd been in the kitchen when unconsciousness overtook her. Drina had gone there in search of food, but of course Harper hadn't even lived here for a year, and while he had told her he had a cleaning service come in weekly anyway, he hadn't eaten in centuries before the trip to Port Henry, so hadn't had food in even then.

There hadn't been a crumb in the kitchen. No blood either. Fortunately, Harper had woken and come to find her as she'd realized that and managed to distract her from both hungers with a different one. Really, kitchen counters were the perfect height for such a distraction.

"I'll call you back," Harper said, glancing to her when she began to draw invisible circles on his chest. He reached out to set the phone in its cradle, then turned, rolling Drina onto her back and coming down on top of her with his face at chest level.

"Who was that?" she murmured, stretching beneath him and smiling as she felt something hard press against her leg.

"The pilot," he mumbled, catching her hands and pressing them down on either side of her head as he nibbled his way along her collarbone. "The storm's over. We can fly now."

"Oh." Drina sighed with keen disappointment that this idyllic period was over. "We should go."

"We will," he assured her, his mouth moving lower now, making a beeline for one breast. "After."

Drina hesitated, but her sense of duty made her shake her head. "I should - "

Harper released one hand to cover her mouth, then li ed his head and peered at her solemnly. "It's midafternoon. We can't land in the schoolyard until evening. It's a school day."

"Oh," she said, and then smiled slowly. "Well, in that case . . ."

Turning abruptly, she caught him by surprise and managed to roll him onto his back again, and immediately rose to straddle him. Smiling down at his surprise, she said, "You should feed me."

Harper peered at her for a moment, his eyes narrowing in calcula on, and then he heaved a reluctant sigh. "Yes, I suppose. I am hungry."

Drina blinked and managed to hide her disappointment. She'd rather hoped for some protest, maybe a li le wrestling session, and then round six of mad passionate sex . . . or maybe it would have been round seven. She'd lost count. It didn't matter anyway, it seemed Harper was more hungry for food than her. Forcing a smile, she started to slip off of him, to stand beside the bed, and then cried out with surprise when she was caught around the waist and tugged back onto the bed.

Drina landed on her back on the ma ress, and he was immediately coming down on top of her again. Harper did seem to like to be the one in control in the bedroom, she'd no ced. Oddly enough, Drina found she didn't mind, which was kind of unexpected when she considered that she had spent most of her life struggling for independence and control in the rest of her life. But then, perhaps that was why. It was nice to lay down the burden and let him steer the boat, especially when it was such a pleasant journey.

"I thought you were hungry?" She laughed, as he set about pinning her legs with his own and pinning her hands down by her head again to be sure she couldn't roll on top again, or even move really.

"I am," Harper assured her, and then bent his head to flick the p of his tongue repeatedly over one hardening nipple, before adding, "And we will eat. After."

"After," Drina agreed on a moan as he stopped teasing and finally closed his mouth over her nipple.

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