Hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans,, Rylan Saintcrow strolled through the business district of Morgan Creek. All the stores and shops were closed at this time of the night. The only place still open was the hotel. He knew a moment of satisfaction as he passed by. Rooms and campsites were booked a year in advance. No one looking at the town now would ever guess it had once been a haven for a coven of vampires. Sometimes he could scarcely believe it himself. There was a lot of history here, all of it bad, he thought with a grin, until Kadie Andrews stumbled into Morgan Creek. From that night on, things had never been the same.
His head snapped up as a car drove across the bridge that separated the town from the highway. He muttered an oath when he recognized the young woman behind the wheel.
Rosa Ravenwood slammed on the brakes when a man stepped out in front of the car. Switching off the engine, she rolled down the window. "What are you trying to do?" she exclaimed. "Get yourself killed? Oh, it's you."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Saintcrow growled. "Why aren't you in Italy with Kadie and the rest of your family?"
"That's not a very nice way to greet a guest."
"No one ever accused me of being nice."
"Well, I can certainly see why," she retorted.
He blew out a sigh. "What are you doing here?"
"I have a favor to ask and it isn't something to discuss over the phone."
"Yeah? Must be a heck of a favor." Sliding into the passenger seat, Saintcrow closed the door. "You can tell me about it when we get to my place." He gave her directions, then stretched his legs out in front of him. With Kadie away from home, the big old house seemed empty. It might be nice to have a little company for a day or two.
Rosa recognized the house Micah had built for her sister, Sofia, as they passed it by. Her sister had sent numerous photos. Too bad she hadn't been able to ask Sofie if she could stay in her house while they were on vacation, but that had been impossible
Saintcrow's house was nearby. Large and square, it was made of gray stone. There were turrets at the four corners, which gave the place the look of an old English castle. Thick iron bars covered the front door and the windows.
She followed him through the heavy wooden door into a large living room that was beautifully decorated with expensive furniture and tables. Several paintings adorned the walls.
When he gestured for her to sit down, she perched on the edge of a leather couch, hands tightly folded in her lap. She had been around Saintcrow a few times before, but it suddenly occurred to her that they were alone in the house, and he was a vampire. And friend of the family or not, she was prey. The thought should have frightened her. Instead, it filled her with an odd sense of excitement. It was easy to see why Kadie had fallen in love with him. He was easily one of the most handsome men she had ever seen, broad-shouldered and lean-hipped, with inky-black hair that brushed the color of his shirt, and eyes that were black and unfathomable. A thin white scar ran from the outer corner of his left eye, down his cheek, and disappeared under his shirt collar. His preternatural power danced over her skin.
He stood at the mantel, watching her through narrowed eyes. "It's for damn sure that Micah doesn't know you were coming here."
Rosa shrugged. That was for darn sure. If her brother had gotten wind of the real reason she hadn't gone to Italy with the family, he would have lockedeher up and thrown away the key!
"So, what brings you to Morgan Creek?" Saintcrow asked for the second time.
"I want to meet a vampire."
"Don't you think you've already met more than your share?" he asked dryly.
"I want to meet one who's not family."
He wasn't surprised. Ethan had told him Rosa had asked a lot of questions about vampire life, the kind of questions that had led him to believe she was thinking she wanted to become one. "I'm not running a dating service."
"I know, but…maybe you could tell me how to find one. Or two."
With a shake of his head, Saintcrow dropped into the chair across from her. "I'm guessing neither Sofia or anyone else in the family knows you're here?"
"Of course not. They think I went to Florida with a couple of girlfriends."
"Why this sudden urge to meet a vampire?"
"I'm just curious."
She shrugged. "Sofia's one. Micah's one."
"And you're feeling left out?"
She made a face at him. But it was true. In a way, she did feel left out. But it was more than that. The last time she had talked to Sofia, Rosa had mentioned that she was thinking she'd like to be a vampire. To her surprise, Sofie had tried her best to talk her out of it.
Rosa wasn't sure why. Ethan and Sofia, Micah and his wife, Holly, Saintcrow and Kadie, were all vampires and seemed happy to be so. Her brother's objection was that she was too young, blah, blah, blah. How could she be too young when she was older than Sofie? Besides, she was intrigued by all the cool powers vampires possessed – think themselves wherever they wanted to be, read minds, never get sick, never grow old, light a fire with just a thought, run faster than The Flash, dissolve into mist. So many cool things that she couldn't do. Why did they want her to wait? She was old enough to make her own decisions.
Of course, she knew there was a downside. She would have to give up all the foods she loved and exist on blood. Say goodbye to the sun. Hunt for prey like some kind of wild animal. The blood thing gave her pause, but Sofia didn't seem to mind it, and neither did any of the others. Whether her family liked it or not, she was determined to meet a vampire, preferably one who would give her the Dark Gift if she decided she really wanted it.
"Why is everyone trying to talk me out of it?" she asked. "Why is it right for them and wrong for me?"
"You might want to enjoy being human for a few more years, that's all. Most of us were turned against our will," Saintcrow replied, his voice quiet and thoughtful. "Some accepted it to save their lives. Not many people go looking for it."
"What about Sofia? She asked Ethan to turn her."
Saintcrow nodded. "True enough. But Lilith turned Micah against his will. The vampire who made me turned me and left me. I never saw her again. As for Ethan, he was dying when I brought him across. You're a healthy young woman. There's no reason why you shouldn't wait a few years. You can't change your mind, you know. Once it's done, it's forever."
"I don't suppose you'd turn me?"
He shook his head. "And bring your whole family down on me? No way, darlin'."
He frowned at her. "How old are you, anyway?"
"What difference does it make?"
"None, I guess." Sofia was the youngest girl in the Ravenwood family and she was over twenty-one now, so Rosa had to be a couple of years older, certainly old enough to make her own decisions, no matter what anyone else thought.
"You won't tell Micah or Sofia that I'm here, will you?"
"No." Saintcrow blew out a sigh. He had never known anyone so determined to give up their humanity. And if he couldn't talk her out of it, well, it was better for her to go trolling with him than on her own. And he would be there to keep her out of trouble.
Besides, with Kadie out of town, he didn't have anything better to do.
"I know a place or two," he said. "Come on, I'll show you where to bed down. We'll go vampire hunting tomorrow night." Vampire hunting. He grinned inwardly, amused by the thought of one vampire hunting another, not for revenge, but matchmaking.