VIGNETTE 20 (a slightly late Christmas present for my wonderful readers)





a Vampire Vignette


Manhattan, New York, NY

“I can’t drink my wine like this,” Cynthia Leighton complained from where she lay flat on the couch. “But it feels so good just to lie here.” She paused. “I can’t feel my legs.”

Sarah Stratton laughed and took a sip of her wine, before biting down on a crispy cracker layered with soft cheese.

“Bitch,” Cyn said, then groaned as she sat up. “Give me some of that before l starve. We should have stopped for lunch.”

“Relax, there’s enough for both of us, and more where that came from. I’m the only one who usually eats around here.”

Cyn chewed and swallowed before responding. “Weird, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve daytime guards in Malibu, so there’s food. But…I don’t know about you, but I’m rarely awake during the day anyway. I often put notes on my calendar reminding to get some sunlight.”

“That’s not true. You’re just as golden brown as you ever were.”

“Genetics,” Cyn dismissed, and added a generous helping of warmed Brie cheese to a baguette slice. “This is good,” she said around a full mouth. “I didn’t eat much yesterday. I guess I was hungrier than I thought.”

“There’s a reason you’re model skinny. Bitch.” Sarah crossed the large living area to reach a modern kitchen that gleamed with shiny appliances and appeared brand new.

“I eat a lot!” Cyn protested. “It’s just usually while I work, so it’s not like I’m eating a five-course meal every night. And look who’s talking!” She added in mock outrage. I bet today’s the first time you’ve ever used that kitchen.”

“I use the microwave,” Sarah responded defensively. “Almost every day. And the refrigerator, too.”

Cyn laughed. “So sorry.”

Sarah grinned. “Let’s face it, girl. We’re married to vampires. Or, in your case living in sin with one. Elaborate dinner parties simply aren’t in the picture.”
Cyn snorted. “They never were in my picture. I like good restaurants.” She rubbed her hands together, brushing away bread and cracker crumbs, before reaching for one of the many bags that sat in a pile on the floor in front of her. “Is this one yours or mine?”
Her friend glanced over and pursed her lips in thought. “Both of us, I think. There must be another bag in the pile somewhere.”

Cyn peered into the shiny pink bag, pulled out a lacy bra, and checked the size. “This one’s yours. Pretty though. Which one did I buy?” She slid to the floor and rooted through the pile until she found a second, identical bag. “Ooh, I bought one, too. Mine’s aqua, though. That pink matches your skin way better.”

“Raj likes my pink skin.”

“I’m sure he does,” Cyn purred. “He can see your veins without trying.”

“Oh, my God. I can’t believe you said that.”

“Really? How long have you known me?”

Sarah nodded agreeably. “Long enough. Want some strawberries?”

“Do they have chocolate on them?”

“Of course.”

“Then, yes.”

The swoosh of elevator doors sounded from the hallway and had both women turning toward the room’s open double doors. Cyn dropped her right hand to the Glock at her waist with watchful eyes. It was an automatic gesture and one that she never ignored, even when sitting in the personal quarters on the highest floor of the Manhattan tower owned by the vampire lord of the Northeast. Not even when that vampire lord was Sarah’s husband, Rajmund, who was very powerful indeed.

But powerful vampires had powerful enemies–something Cyn knew from personal experience. And the only place she felt genuinely safe was in the underground quarters she shared with her vampire lord, Raphael, on their Malibu estate in California. As powerful as Rajmund was, Raphael was so much more. And still, his enemies had succeeded once in holding him prisoner not so long ago. The terror of those few days was still etched too deeply in Cyn’s soul to permit her to throw away caution in a strange city. Not that New York was much of a strange city to her. But it wasn’t Malibu, and for all Rajmund’s formidable security measures, it wasn’t home.

“Relax,” Raj growled, seeing Cyn’s ready stance, while Sarah was already sliding into his tight embrace.

Cyn shrugged. She never apologized for being ready to fight. Not to anyone.

“You leave anything in the store, sweetheart?” Raj asked Sarah, eyeing the massive pile of bags.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” she responded, grinning at the shopping hoard. “It’s just that we went to a lot of different stores, and each one gives you their distinctive bag. One tiny pair of earrings, and you get a bag that could hold a couple books. It’s free advertising for them.”

Raj grunted a response, then lifted Sarah off her feet and carried her along as he moved to the bar next to the kitchen.

Cyn rolled her eyes at the way Raj–who was a big guy–carried around his much smaller wife, as though she was a doll instead of a person. But Sarah seemed to like it,
so who was Cyn to object?

“Jesus, you two are world-class fucking shoppers!” a woman announced.

Cyn spun around with a grin for the new arrival. “Emelie,” she greeted happily. “It’s been a while.”

“My upcoming wedding,” Emelie agreed. “Raj won’t let me out of the city until I’ve said, ‘I do.’”

The vampire lord broke away from Sarah’s mouth long enough to give a derisive snort. “Look in the mirror, Em. I’m not the one who wants you in the city.”

“Guilty. But, that’ll have to change tonight.”

Raj’s expression was almost guilty as he nodded his agreement.

“Something happening in the territory?” Cyn asked.

“More or less.” Emelie crossed the room to accept the drink Raj was holding out to her. It was identical to his own, which meant it was vodka, on the rocks, with a twist. You could take the man out of Poland, but you could never take the vodka out of his hand. Though alcohol had little effect on a vampire’s system, Raj and Raphael both claimed to enjoy the taste and the burn. Raphael’s favorite drink was exactly the same as Raj’s, which Cyn attributed to the two of them originating in the same part of Europe, though Raphael was Russian to Raj’s Polish.

Emelie rejoined Cyn and took a long sip of her drink. “There’s no trouble yet, but we want to keep it that way. I’m heading up-state tonight to remind a few potential troublemakers who it is that rules this territory and what will happen to them if they forget it.

Cyn laid an almost caressing hand on her Glock. “You want company?”

Emelie’s brows rose in surprise. “If it’s you, then sure. But aren’t you confined to Manhattan?”

Cyn snorted. “Confined by whom?”

“Raphael,” came the dry response from Raj.

She shifted her gaze to him. “Confined is such a…confining term,” she said, chuckling at her own joke. “But don’t worry. I’ll call him before we leave, so he’ll know where I’m going, and that I’ll be delayed a day or two. He’s out of town anyway. That’s why I chose this weekend to go shopping with Sarah. And before you ask–” She met his stare. “–I can’t tell you where he is. Ask him.”

“What I’ll ask him is whether he knows what you’re going into up there.”

“Playing babysitter now?” she teased, concealing a flare of anger. She didn’t need anyone double-checking her whereabouts or reporting to Raphael, for fuck’s sake.

“I’ll be there, too,” Emelie reminded Raj, which didn’t seem to lighten his mood at all.

“I don’t think–” he growled, but Sarah’s delicate hand over his lips cut him off.

“Let it go, baby,” she murmured. “Cyn can take care of herself. Trust me.”

His eyes softened when his gaze shifted to Sarah, and he smiled against her fingertips. “I need a shower,” he said instead. “And you’re coming with me.”

Cyn made a face and said, “I believe that’s my cue to leave.”

“Mine, too,” Em agreed. “Why don’t we adjourn to the library downstairs and discuss our trip.”

Cyn gave Sarah a laughing wave and aimed an airy look at Raj, who was still glowering. She hoped, for Sarah’s sake, that his mood would improve after their “shower.”

She followed Emelie down the hall and through the usual metal push-bar door to the utilitarian fire escape stairway. They exited the echoing stairwell two floors down, and Cyn gazed around curiously at a part of Raj’s tower she’d never seen before. She recognized it anyway, though, as a recreation area for the many vampires–mostly fighters–who lived within Raj’s tower. Raphael had much the same sort of space allocated for the many vampires who lived on the Malibu estate. Most of them served as his private guard staff–although anyone else would describe them as a small army. Vampire lords fought many and different battles, and they needed troops who were trained and ready to go on a moment’s notice. But they also required downtime.
She and Em passed rooms with the expected game tables, mostly pool, and the ever-present and substantial bar on a far wall.

The next open door revealed a digital game room, which was just as full and noisy as the previous one, though it was a different sort of noise. Shouts of victory or dismay came from solo players sitting in game chairs or slouching on traditional furniture engaging in online battles with vamp and human players. Hell, for all Cyn knew, they were all playing other vamps in the same room, despite the computer headsets–or in some cases, VR headsets–that sealed them off from even the vampire sitting a few feet away.

“No matter where you go….” Cyn murmured.

“It’s all the same,” Em responded.

“They say it improves hand-eye coordination.”

Em made a dismissive noise. “They get plenty of practice for that down in the gym and in the ring, too. This room is just an excuse to play little boy games.”

“I don’t know about the little boy part. I know grown men who play religiously. Some women, too.”

“You ever give it a try yourself?”


“Not your thing?”

“Exactly the opposite. It’s too much my thing. I was worried it would consume me to the point that I did nothing else. No college, no job, nothing but sitting at a computer eating lots of bad food.” She shrugged. “I’ve always had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, even if that meant becoming a pale-skinned nerd who never left the house.”

Emelie laughed. “That was definitely never an option for me. Besides, I’ve been with Raj since long before computers were invented. And now I’m too busy to get lost in virtual reality.” She opened the door to yet another room.

It was another that Cyn recognized immediately. Not because of the crowd or the noise, but because of their absence. She smiled and drew a deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent of books. The room was a library, and a very impressive one, too. The closest section was furnished with deeply cushioned chairs and couches, with spacious tables of gleaming wood meant to accommodate however many books a reader might discover in the stacks. Cyn didn’t often think of “stacks” existing in a private library. The word more typically referred to institutional libraries with their extensive range of books and shelves. But while this library didn’t compare to those, it was still impressive. Every part of the room not used for sitting was filled with row after row of shelves, all eight feet tall and made of the same beautiful wood as the tables. An old-fashioned set of card catalog cabinets was set to one side, next to a long table with four computer terminals, which she assumed served the same purpose. Vampires were old, and not all of them embraced the new technology, hence the card catalog.

“This is beautiful,” Cyn said, practically whispering with reverence. No matter how small, every library could be considered a church or cathedral of information and learning. She’d never been a diligent student but had always loved books and reading. Although these days, she did almost all her reading on electronic devices. It might be considered sacrilegious by some, but the digital forms were more convenient and didn’t destroy any trees.

“Take your pick,” Em said, with a sweep of her arm that took in the empty seating area. “You want a drink?”

Cyn glanced up in surprise. “A bar in a library?”

“You should know by now that if vampires are present, there’s always a bar.”

“Good point. Sure, I’ll have hmm, how complicated can I get?”

“As much as my talents will handle, which I’ll be honest isn’t too far.”

“Okay, I’ll go easy on you. Tequila on the rocks.”

Em turned to the small wet bar and studied the bottles. “Hornitos Reposado, or …” She leaned closer to read a label. “Azul. I don’t drink tequila, so I don’t know which is better.”

“The Azul is more expensive, but I have plebian tastes. I’ll take the Hornitos rocks with a wedge of lime on the side.”

“And vodka for me,” Em said, to the clink of ice dropping into glasses.

“You’ve been with Raj too long.”

“I never had any alcohol before I met him. I was a proper young lady from the merchant class. Even grown-ass women only drank a tiny glass of sherry back then.”

“How old were you?”

“Nineteen and marriageable. It was World War I, and the last thing I wanted was to spend the rest of my life with some guy my parents picked out. Hell, I didn’t want to get married at all–” She paused meaningfully. “–for reasons that are now obvious. Though back then, everyone was in the closet. So I ran away to join the army and met Raj instead.”

Cyn hid her wince of sympathy. She knew the real story of Em’s encounter with Raj, and what came before it. And it wasn’t pretty. “Nineteen,” she said instead. “Fuck, I was doing my best to flunk out of college at that age and had not a care in the world.”

“I can’t complain,” Em said as she walked over, slid a coaster over in front of Cyn, and set down a glass full of tequila and ice, with half a lime sitting on a saucer next to it. “Meeting Raj changed my life in ways I didn’t even know were possible. I love being a vampire. I love the life it’s given me.”

“I can see that,” Cyn said, then raised her glass in a toast. “To free women.”

“May we all be free someday,” Em agreed.

They were silent for a few minutes as they both drank and settled into the deep cushions of the couch. “So,” Cyn began. “Tell me about your looming rebellion up-state.”


Somewhere over North America

Raphael had chosen his private Boeing jet for this flight to Washington, DC, because its speed and longer range meant there was no need for a daylight fuel stop while he lay asleep and totally vulnerable in the back bedroom.  His human pilots were utterly trustworthy and had been with him for longer than most humans lived–since before cross-country flights were even possible, in fact. So, it wasn’t the pilots he worried about.It was the local population at whatever airport itinerary or weather might ground the plane when necessary.

He’d finished the work he’d brought with him two hours into the flight and was lying stretched on the jet’s couch, watching the news, when his cell phone rang. Glancing over, he wasn’t surprised to see Cyn’s number light up. His visit to DC would be a short one, in and out in a single night. His ultimate destination was New York, where he would reclaim his mate from what had no doubt been an exhausting shopping tour with her friend Sarah. They would linger a day or two in New York while he met with Rajmund to discuss anything requiring his attention. And then Raphael would drag his Cyn away from Manhattan and back to Malibu, where they both belonged and frankly preferred to be.

“My Cyn,” he said, answering her call.

“My fang boy,” she replied.

He smiled. She was the only person in the world who could address him so irreverently and live to do it again. But then, she was his heart, the only woman he had ever truly loved despite his centuries of life before he’d met her.

“Have you and Sarah exhausted the poor shopkeepers of Manhattan?”

“Not even close. We did our best, but I’m ashamed to say we ran out of stamina before the shops did.”

“Will the pilot need to make room in the cargo hold?”

She snorted. “As if I’d trust anything I bought to a dirty and freezing cargo hold.”

“Of course,” he murmured. “What was I thinking?”

“Where are you?”

He shrugged, though she couldn’t see. “Somewhere over North America. Farther east than west, I hope. And you?”

“At Raj’s tower with Sarah,” she said lightly, then added words that always brought dread to his soul when she said them. “For now.”

“Cyn,” he said darkly.


Oh, such innocence in one small word,” he thought. This was going to be bad. He sighed. “What are you trying to tell me? Just say it.”

“It’s not that bad,” she protested.

“What’s not that bad?”

“Well, Emelie–you know Emelie.”

“Yes, Cynthia. I know Emelie. I’ve known Emelie far longer than you have.”

“Oh, well yeah. Anyway, Emelie is flying up to northern New York, pretty close to the Canadian border, though definitely not across. Raj isn’t even going himself. He’s sending Em up there to check out a small group of vampires who’ve decided they don’t want to be part of the territory anymore.”

“Whose territory?” he asked, curious as much for the facts of it as the danger his beloved mate might be flying into.

“Raj’s. Though I know he and Em have also spoken to Lucifer about it, given the proximity.”

“How many vampires?”

“That’s part of what Em’s verifying. Raj’s guy in Buffalo thinks it’s no more than ten or twelve. But Lucifer says it’s higher.”

“How much higher?”

“Fifteen maybe? The uncertainty makes Lucifer think they might be traveling back and forth across the border to conceal their true number.”

“Maybe. And how many fighters is Em taking with her?”

“Well, there’s me.”

“You’re not a fighter.”

“I am, too!”

“You, my Cyn, are a crazy human who loves violence, and who happens to be quite skilled at both causing and combating said violence. But when I say fighter, I mean those vampires whose only job is fighting and who spend their nights preparing for it.”

“Pfft.” Her opinion of that distinction made him smile, and he was glad she couldn’t see it.

“Emelie’s only taking two vamps from Manhattan. She’ll pull more from the Buffalo contingent, if necessary. Most of them were trained by Raj himself when he was still master of the city there.”

“I assume it’s pointless to request that you wait until I arrive in Manhattan.”

She sucked air through her teeth. “Yeah, well, Raj really wants Em up there tonight. Before, things get out of hand.”

“Mmmhmm. I suppose I should be grateful that you called to let me know about this minor addition to your shopping trip.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I mean, Buffalo is fairly cosmopolitan, but I don’t think the shops can compare–”


“Yes, Raphael?”

“I will join you in Buffalo as soon as possible. In the meantime, please be careful. Or as careful as you can possibly be,” he added dryly. “Finding a new mate would be tiresome and time-consuming at this juncture.”

“I’m irreplaceable, and you know it. And I’m always careful.”

He snorted loudly.

“I love you, too, darling.”

“Seriously, my Cyn. Please don’t get hurt. Let Emelie and the Buffalo vampires do the fighting. You take backup for change.”

“I’m not sure there is a backup on this one. But if so, I’ll volunteer. Just for you.”

He sighed. “I love you, my Cyn.

“I know,” she said softly. “And I love you.”

“Remember that. Give my regards to Rajmund. And let him know I’ll be entering his territory sooner than expected.”

“I tell him. Go to sleep now, fang boy. And dream of me.”


Wilson, New York, 3:00 am

Cyn stepped out of the SUV and looked around warily. It was the middle of the night, of course. But there was the middle of the night in Manhattan and the middle of the night wherever this place was. Manhattan was always brightly lit, even at zero dark thirty. This town, on the other hand, definitely wasn’t.  “Where the hell are we again?” she asked.

“Wilson, NY, it’s considered a suburb of Buffalo,” Em replied, gazing around. “Do you hear that sound? That’s the lapping waters of Lake Ontario. The American side, obviously.”

“Oh, obviously. Why’s it so dark?”

“Well, it’s cloudy tonight, which doesn’t help. But this is a small town, with a fair number of vacation homes and rentals, so it’s busiest in summer. When it’s cold like this, it’s quiet even in daytime, or so I’ve heard,” Em added dryly.

“Lake Ontario,” Cyn repeated. “Niagara Falls?”

“A short drive away.”

“Huh. Seems awfully quiet for a nest of rebels.”

“They probably haven’t figured out yet that we’re here. But they will soon.” Em walked to the middle of the narrow street. “See that big house straight ahead?”

Cyn walked over and followed the black line of  the asphalt street to the dim shape of a big pale-colored house. There wasn’t a single light on in there, inside or out. And beyond the house was the black nothing that her ocean-attuned senses recognized as water.

“They’re on the lake?”

Em nodded. “House has lots of windows for the view on the two above-ground levels, but there’s also a big basement, where our friends are probably hiding.” She glanced over as the two other Manhattan vamps silently locked the SUV and joined her and Cyn in the middle of the street.

“What’s the plan, boss?” asked one, after joining them in their study of the house.

“We’ll start by knocking politely and see what happens.”

All three vampires chuckled at that, by which Cyn understood that whatever happened wasn’t going to be good.

Two hours later

“Not going to be good,” Cyn muttered to herself, wiping sweat and blood from her cheek with a quick slap of her right arm–something that was neither quick nor easy, given the long knife gripped in her right hand. She was firing the Glock with her left. She could shoot just as well with either hand, especially in such close quarters, but she was likely as not to stab her own thigh if she tried using her left hand to wield the knife.

“Shoot, stab, shoot, stab,” she hissed, more tired than she could remember being as she matched action to words. Peace might be good for shopping with a friend, but it wreaked hell on one’s fighting skills, especially when your opponents were vampires. Fuckers never stayed in one place, much less where she wanted them. And too many of the vamps in this bunch were young enough that they didn’t go to dust when they died, which left crumpled vamp bodies everywhere, and no way to tell who was really dead from who might jump up at any minute and launch himself at her back.

On the other hand, those same young vamps weren’t yet skilled when it came to fighting with their new and unfamiliar vampire bodies. They tended to fight like the humans they’d been instead of the new and improved vamps they now were. Specifically, they didn’t know how know to use their new speed and strength in a fight like this. Though they’d clearly received some training, they hadn’t yet internalized those lessons. They kept letting their new abilities throw them off rhythm, resulting in bad decisions.

Unfortunately, even the rawest, newbie vamp was tougher than a human opponent. And when combined with Cyn’s uncertainty about who was or wasn’t really dead, her own usually well-honed fighting skills were being negatively affected. It irked that Raphael had been right about her skill, and with every missed strike she promised herself that when she returned to Malibu, she’d be talking to Elke about upping her training to full combat level…even against vampires, newbie or otherwise.

But it wasn’t only the dangerous effect of newbie vampires that caused a problem. There was also the sheer number of vamps they’d found waiting for them in the damn waterfront house. It might have a million fucking windows, but windows didn’t matter for shit at night. And the rebels had known what they were doing, when they’d chosen this house. It hadn’t been for the damn windows like some human tourist, but for the layout. Knowing that Rajmund was sending Emelie, or someone equally dangerous, the rebels had been smart enough to use the big house’s open floor plan, with its wide-open upper levels, to confuse the incoming vampires by clustering in a single corner of the house, but on all three fucking floors, including the basement. Three levels, three groups.

And oh yeah, that was another thing. There were a lot more rebels in the damn house than Em, or apparently, Raj had expected. Cyn figured twenty-five or thirty, but for all she knew, there were still more of these baby vamps lurking in the basement. As strong as Emelie was–and as Raj’s lieutenant, she was damn powerful–she didn’t have the ability that Raphael, and probably Raj, possessed to know just by examining a building from the outside, how many vamps and/or humans were hiding inside. Em had known it was more than they’d expected, but none of them had expected this many.

It was that last, not minor detail that had truly fucked over the tentative battle plans they’d made as they’d stood there studying the house from outside. First was the sheer number, of course. But because they’d misjudged the number, they also hadn’t allowed for the possibility of engaging in three separate fights simultaneously, which was what this clusterfuck had rapidly become.

Cyn knew that Raphael would be aware of her situation by now, because for the first time in a while, she was in real danger. But she also knew he couldn’t get here in time to make a difference. It was that knowledge that kept her fighting. No help from outside in time, and strategic withdrawal not an option if they wanted to preserve the lives of everyone in their small troop. And to do otherwise was unthinkable.

She also knew that sunrise was very close. Which meant this battle would be lost or won in the next thirty minutes, and she could damn well fight thirty more fucking minutes.

“Where’s a fucking wall-crushing vamp when you need one?” she panted to Emelie when the vamp abruptly managed to fight her way to a back-to-back position with Cyn.

“We’re too far for Raj. Raphael?”

“He’s probably with Raj by now.”

“Lucifer maybe, then. I called as soon as we figured there were more rebels.” She grunted and took down a big orange-eyed vamp who came at her. The vamp was one who dusted, thank fuck.

“How long?” Cyn gasped.

“Depends. Border sucks right now. Boat maybe.”

“Great. Sorry, sir,” she mimicked. “Your daughter died because customs took too long.” She laughed, but it was a desperate sound even to her own ears.

“Less talk, more fighting.” The deep man’s voice was unfamiliar to Cyn, which made her wonder if she was exhausted enough for hallucinations. But a moment later, there was a thundering crash from the vicinity of the front door, and a wave of raw power swept over the main room, taking down everyone except her and Emelie. And that only because they’d hit the floor on their own once the first crack of power had sounded a warning.

They stood and spun now, prepared for some new danger, but found instead a devilishly handsome Lucifer Scuderi grinning amid the ruins of the house’s front wall.

“Ladies,” he crooned. “Are there more rebels, or this it?” He cast a disappointed look at the piles of dust, as well as the dead and/or unconscious younger vampires who moments before had been doing their best to kill Cyn and Emelie.

Cyn narrowed her eyes at the implied suggestion that she and Em had exaggerated the threat. “There are more upstairs and downstairs both,” she snarled.

“Take your pick,” Em added. “But do it fast. I have fighters at risk in both places.”

“The sun is near,” he said quickly while running for the basement door. “You take upstairs. The youngest ones will be falling into sleep well before it rises.”

“Right,” Em snapped, and she and Cyn ran with renewed energy for the stairs to the open loft above.

The conflict ended quickly after that. Lucifer might be named lieutenant to the Canadian Vampire Lord Sophia, but everyone knew he had the power to be a vampire lord if he chose. He’d given up that path in order to claim the woman he loved, who was vampire now, though she’d been human when they’d been torn apart. Her name was Eleanor, and she’d been devoted to Lady Sophia long before Lucifer had found her again. And Sophia had also valued Eleanor’s service above all except her own mate. Lucifer had searched the world before finding his Eleanor and had longed for a life with her–human or vampire–far more than he’d wanted a territory. Unfortunately, his power made him far too strong to be Sophia’s lieutenant since two such powerful vampires couldn’t dwell in permanently close proximity without coming to blows themselves.

So Lucifer and Sophia had reached a compromise. All of what vampires referred to as the Canadian territory remained with Sophia as its Vampire Lord, but Ontario province and everything eastward was to be Lucifer’s sub-territory, though such a thing had never before been heard of. He’d sworn loyalty and annual tithes to Sophia and vowed to stand by her side in any conflict that arose. In return, Sophia would permit him to run his own sub-territory within Canada.

But on this night in Wilson, NY, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was a true vampire lord who’d arrived, and that the rebels were well and truly fucked.



Cyn walked out of the big house on the lake, bloody and bruised but alive, which she counted as a win. She had no doubts as to whether she and Emelie and their two vampire allies would have survived as they did without Lucifer’s assistance. But she was also certain that if he hadn’t intervened, they would still have walked out of there victorious. A lot bloodier, and maybe missing some body parts, but alive. Which was all that counted in the end.

For Cyn, the worst wasn’t the blood running down her arm or the screaming thigh wound that had her right pants leg turning stiff with blood. It was the ache in every damn muscle and joint from fighting non-stop for…how long had it been? More than an hour, that was for sure. An hour–and she was convinced it had been longer–spent fighting an enemy who not only couldn’t die, but who could suffer catastrophic injuries without missing a beat. It had been an hour or more on her feet without a single free-drawn breath, fighting an enemy who wanted her dead and would just keep coming until his heart was destroyed, or a leg removed, and sometimes not even then.

Emelie caught up to her and cursed. “Fuck! I smell blood.”

“Hard not to, coming out that place,” Cyn muttered.

“No, I smell your blood. What’s your status?”

“I’ll live, though I might not enjoy the next day or two.”

“Yeah? Have you seen yourself? It’ll take longer than that. I don’t recall you wearing pants with one red leg.”

“New fashion trend,” Cyn managed. She was so damn tired. She could barely form words. All day shopping with Sarah, walking up and down Manhattan, and then, she’d gon right into this fuck-up of a battle without so much as a nap in between. And it was all her own fault. “I may not be a vamp,” she rasped, but I do sleep with someone who’s generous with his blood. Raphael will make it all go away.”

“Just like that?”

“No,” and her lips stretched into a painful grin. ”He’ll be pissed and make sure I know it. But then he’ll be kind and help a girl out.”

Emelie looked up and choked out a laugh. “I hope you’re right because there’s a whole bunch of vehicles heading this way, and I can say for sure that my lord Rajmund is in one of them. Which I’m guessing means your lord Raphael is in there, too.”

“He’s my mate, not my lord,” Cyn muttered as she studied the parade of black SUVs just coming into her human sight. “And yeah, he’s definitely in there somewhere.” She and Emelie stopped where they were, letting the big vehicles come to them instead of the other way around.

The four SUVs stopped side by side, ignoring the available parking and making no attempt to avoid completely blocking the street. The back doors of the closest one opened, and Raphael and Rajmund stepped out together as if they’d planned it that way. Their dual appearance filled the empty night with so much power that the sudden air pressure intensified every ache in Cyn’s body without warning. She lowered her head and groaned, leaning forward to place both hands on her knees.

“Tone it down, please, Raphael,” she whispered. “The enemy are all dead.”

The pressure vanished in an instant, but she didn’t straighten right away. It required too much effort just then.

But Raphael was suddenly there, by her side, his strong hands pulling her gently upright while his magic slid seamlessly into her body, easing pain and soothing muscles strained beyond their tolerance. “Lubimaya,” he murmured. “What happened?”

She leaned into the solid strength of him, soaking up the warmth when his arms pressed her carefully against his chest. “There were a few more rebels than we expected,” she said against the smooth skin of his neck. She didn’t mention the open floor plan. They could get to that later.

His head lifted, and she knew he was studying the ruins of the house, reaching out to sense the number of dead and wounded vampires inside. “You seem to have acquitted yourselves admirably.”

“We did okay. Lucifer’s arrival at the last minute made the difference, though. We’d have won anyway, I think. Or stayed alive,” she clarified. “But maybe not standing.”

The breath of his sigh was cool on her sweat-soaked hair, and she shivered.

“You’re cold.”

“I’m soaked with sweat and cooling down too fast in this wet air.”

“Come, I’ll get you inside somewhere warm before I speak to Rajmund and Lucifer.”

Cyn was grateful beyond words when he lifted her into his arms and carried her from there into the back seat of the SUV before sliding into the front seat to start the engine. Returning to the open back door, he took off his leather jacket and draped it around her shoulders. It was like a heavy blanket on her smaller frame, and she reveled in the scent and retained the warmth of his big body. “Nice,” she murmured and pulled the jacket close over her arms and chest.

But the jacket, as wonderful as it was, was nothing compared to the wave of healing heat that flooded her body when he leaned in to kiss her. Tears ran down her cheeks from exhaustion, relief, and the tremendous love that flowed through her veins along with his kiss. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “We honestly didn’t know it would be this bad.”

“I know.” His voice was all velvet and midnight, and she shivered with desire, despite her pathetic state. “Will you be all right here?” he asked. “I need a minute with Raj and Lucifer before we leave.”

“I’m fine now. But where are we going?”

“The jet’s in Buffalo.”

“Oh, good. I need a shower.”

He gave her a look that said she needed a lot more than a shower.

She sighed. “I know. But it’s a start.”

He smiled and kissed her once more. “Don’t move from here. I won’t be long.”

The door closed, and she peered between the seats long enough to admire the lethal elegance of him as he walked forward to join the other two vampires. And then she closed her eyes and gave in to overwhelming exhaustion.


Raphael joined Rajmund and Lucifer just as Emelie did the same. “Thank you,” he told her.

“Thank me for what?”

“For keeping my Cyn alive.”

Emelie snorted. “She kept me alive, not the other way ‘round.”

Raphael sighed. “Of course,” he said and wondered, not for the first time, why out of the hundreds of women he’d bedded over the centuries, it was his Cyn, with her tremendous courage and love of violence, that was the only woman he’d ever truly loved. And close on that thought was another–that he would destroy the world if that’s what it took to punish anyone–male, female, vampire, or human–who dared harm her.

He smiled slightly, thinking perhaps her love of violence had only grown in response to his own. Turning to Lucifer, he said, “Thank you as well, Lucifer, for what my Cyn tells me was a very timely appearance.”

The powerful vampire grinned. “There wasn’t much left to do by the time I arrived. It was mostly taking out the trash.”

Raj chuckled. “I imagine the trash was easier to deal with once you removed the front wall.”

“Well, hell. I arrived late, so my options for mayhem were limited. And it’s been damn quiet on our side of the border.”

“Don’t jinx it,” Emelie muttered.

“Raj,” Raphael said finally. “Thanks for the loan of a vehicle. We’re heading out since this battle seems pretty much over, and I want to be well away before the sun rises.

“It’s no problem,” Raj said with a nod. “We’ll be flying back to Manhattan soon, too.”

“All right. Cyn’s already fast asleep, so farewell for now from both of us. But if you need anything–” He met Lucifer’s gaze to include him in the offer. “–you need only call, and my assistance is yours.”

“Geez. Double jinx now,” Emelie groaned.

Raphael gave her an amused glance, then turned and walked back to the SUV where his Cyn was now lying on the back seat, sound asleep. He considered waking her enough to secure a seatbelt but decided his vampire strength and reflexes were enough to keep her safe for the short trip to the airport.

Raphael parked the vehicle at the private jet terminal, and Cyn woke at once. “Where are we?” she asked groggily, then looked around. “I hear airplanes.”

“Very good, lubimaya. Your hearing remains acute as ever.”

“I’m too tired for snark,” she grumbled.

“We’re at the airport, where our jet awaits.”

“Oh. Good.”

Chuckling, he dropped the vehicle keys into the center console. The SUV, along with those returned by Rajmund, would be retrieved by the vampire master of Buffalo, to whom they presumably belonged. Buffalo had a strong vampire community, and the city master retained enough transport for his personal use, as well as that of his lieutenant and other agents.

Opening his door, Raphael slid outside and opened the back door for Cyn. “Can you walk?”

“Yes,” she immediately, then asked, “How far is it?”

He smiled. “No more than one hundred yards to the jet itself, probably less.”

“Hmm. I’ll make it.”

“No worries. If you stumble, I’ll carry you.”

“In what world?” she muttered and repeated, “I’ll make it.”

Closing both doors, he put an arm around her waist and guided her through the dark terminal and across the short distance to where the pilot was already warming the engines, in preparation for their departure, having been advised by Raphael that they were on the way.

The stairs were deployed, but as this was a big jet, the stairs were a significant climb. At least when one was injured and still half-asleep. Without asking, he swept Cyn into his arms and carried her effortlessly up the stairs and into the jet, where he kept going until they reached the master bedroom at the back of the cabin, where he lay her on their bed.

Stepping briefly into the aisle, he called forward to the human pilots visible through the open cockpit door. “That’s it, gentlemen. We’re ready. The sooner, the better.”

“Aye, my lord,” the pilot returned. “Traffic’s light all around, and we’re right on schedule. We can begin our taxi in twenty minutes.”

“Thank you.”

When he re-entered the bedroom, Cyn was already stripped down to her skin, leaving nothing but a pair of plain, black boy shorts, or whatever they were called. He eyed her naked breasts and the rest of her delicious body and experienced the same jolt of desire that always hit him with her, despite the years they’d been together. Glancing up, he saw her watching him.

“Don’t get any ideas, fang boy. Shower first.”

“As you say,” he agreed and began stripping off his clothes. “I’ll join you in case you fall.”

“Uh-huh. I’m on to you, vampire.”

“I would hope so.”

She laughed helplessly and fell back onto the bed as the engines revved higher in preparation for their taxi to the main runway.

“Strap in, my Cyn.”

“Only if you do.”

He made an exasperated noise. “I am vampire.”

“And I am your mate. Now strap in with me.”

He did so with mostly feigned annoyance. He was extraordinarily powerful and difficult to kill, but even he wouldn’t survive a plane crash that involved any type of midair explosion. It wasn’t the fall that would kill him, although it would be painful and take a very long time to heal the multiple injuries he would certainly sustain. But the explosion itself, and the fire…those were deadly even to one as powerful as he.

Besides, he didn’t mind strapping in next to a nearly naked Cyn.


Once they were in the air and cruising, and the pilot had called the all-clear over the intercom, Cyn unbuckled and immediately stripped off her underwear, throwing it into a pull-out bin along with the rest of her filthy clothes. She walked naked to the bathroom, reached in and turned on the water, then let it run. She needed super-hot water tonight. The jet’s shower was excellent, and the water always reached a suitably hot temperature eventually, but it took a bit longer right after takeoff. Something to do with power usage during takeoff, she thought. But tonight, she didn’t want to wait. If she ran the cooler water out of the system, the hot water would appear faster. Or so she imagined.

Raphael entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him just as she stepped into the shower enclosure. She watched as he walked the short distance and slid in behind her, his gaze on hers the entire time. God, he was beautiful.

“God, you’re beautiful,” she repeated in a whisper.

“I am male and a vampire. I am not built for beauty but for battle, which you naturally find attractive. On the other hand, you truly are beautiful.”

“Not so beautiful right now, I imagine.” She leaned back into his chest and smiled while pumping shower gel into her hands. Or so she intended. But he reached over her shoulder and put his hand on top of hers so that the gel ended in his palm instead.

“Save your strength,” he whispered into her ear. “I’ll wash you.”

Her stomach clenched with need for him, but she only dropped her hands to her sides, and from there around his powerful thighs behind her, as he began washing her breasts with firm, sensual strokes, scraping over her suddenly hard nipples. He moved down her body that way, scrubbing carefully at her injured thigh, which was already healing from his earlier healing bite, and down to her toes, before gliding back up again to reach between her legs, where he toyed lightly with her pussy, as he washed there.

She almost demanded more, but he was already standing and leaning toward her neck, which sent a pulse of desire from her clit straight up to where his warm breath was bathing the skin right over her jugular vein. She shivered in anticipation. He always bit her when they made love, and it was always that vein that he first slid fangs into. His bite was the most powerful, most intensely erotic sensation she’d ever experienced. And it was followed by a shuddering orgasm so strong that it seemed to build forever before slamming into her body and soul until she was helpless to think, much less move. Her nipples hardened painfully, and her inner muscles clenched as creamy arousal turned her pussy silky and hot.

“Raphael,” she whispered and pushed hard into his cock, which she could feel thick and long and fully erect against her ass.

He paused, and she was sure he was going to make her wait. But with a deep and sudden growl, he gripped her hips in both hands, and with a single, swift move, turned and lifted her, with her back against the tile. Then, stepping forward, he parted her thighs with his hips and slammed into her pussy. His thrust was hard and fast, and her body wasn’t quite ready, but the pain when he shoved his full length inside her until he crashed against her cervix was carnal and deliciously welcome. Because, just as when his fangs pierced her vein every time, Cyn enjoyed some pain with her pleasure. Yeah, she was sick, but who cared? She fucking loved it.

Raphael grinned, knowing what she was thinking, and understanding what she was feeling, just as he always did. He knew what she liked, and he always delivered. His grin faded, however, when he began a steady, hard movement back and forth, with furious thrusts deep inside her and hard, fast slides out that stretched her inner muscles as far as they could go. His thickness scraped her delicate tissues with every stroke until they were as aroused and sensitive as her nipples. Even her clit had begun to throb with a strong beat as it filled with blood and demanded release.

“Raphael,” she breathed. “God, I love this. Almost as much as I love you.”

His response was a deep growl and a quicker pace. Until without warning, one thick finger slid between their bodies and the swollen lips of her pussy, where he lightly stroked once over her clit, making her scream, and then bite her cheek to stop herself from begging for more. His eyes lifted to meet hers, and they gleamed with the silver of the stars for a moment before his mouth went to her neck, and she screamed when his fangs sank deep.

Cyn panted for breath while her vein heated to burning, and she felt the first draw of her blood into his mouth. She thought she’d pass out with the sheer ecstasy of the moment, but then his finger crushed against her clit, and she could only scream once more.

It took a while, but eventually, Cyn found herself lying on their bed and recovered sufficiently to sit up and croon, “My turn.” She slid her leg over his hips until she straddled him fully, and his cock began to twitch between her legs. One of the great things about a vampire lover–and there were so very many–was their incredible stamina. They’d fucked hard a short time ago–she was sure she’d slept no more than thirty minutes–and already Raphael was stiff and getting stiffer by the fucking second. She wiggled her hips back and forth, gliding along his aroused cock, using only the silky cream still slicking her pussy as lubricant.

“Cynthia,” he said, his voice deep and full of warning.

She grinned, but not wanting him to switch their positions, which he definitely would do if she made him wait too long, she bent over and rubbed her breasts against his chest, letting her hard nipples scrape over his wonderful muscles, then pushing down steadily until her soft fullness was crushed against him. He liked her breasts, liked to rub against and squeeze them in his strong fingers, just as he was doing now.

Cyn’s pussy flexed abruptly, and she threw her head back in a gasp of pleasure. “Fuck.” Inhaling a gulp of air to gain some control over herself, she leaned forward again, and watching him up the length of his torso, slid all the way down his body…and took him in her mouth.

Raphael fisted both hands in her hair and tugged the fine strands until her scalp burned, and he was struggling to breathe. “You have a wicked mouth, woman,” he finally rasped.

She looked up at him, her tongue still swirling around his cock when she pulled it from her mouth enough to say, “Why, thank you, mister.”

He growled when she bent to take him fully into her mouth again, only to hiss in pleasure when she closed her teeth over the marble shaft of his penis with just enough force that he felt it. Then she opened her mouth and drew him ever deeper between her lips, swallowing until the tip of his cock would have touched her tonsils, if she’d still had any.

“Jesus, fuck,” he snarled.

She grinned inwardly, but her mouth was too full of dick to do anything but try not to choke. Needing oxygen, she finally slid back just enough to draw a breath and then began a slow, sensuous slide with her mouth, up and down his full length, working her tongue along the sides and underneath, then pulling out enough to tease the tip before stroking back down again.

“Cyn,” he snarled, his fingers once more fisted in her hair. And she knew her time was up even before he gripped her arms and switched their positions with the ease of vampire strength. Before she could gasp out even a half-hearted protest, he plunged deep inside her pussy until he was buried to the hilt, and his balls rested against her ass. Then, kissing her eyes, her mouth, and her neck over that same spot where he’d bit her, he lifted up and drove himself between her thighs hard, over and over, with a speed and rigid thickness that only a vampire could have managed after what she’d done to him with her mouth.

So big,” Cyn thought deliciously. “So wonderfully big and hard. And all mine.” She wound her fingers through his short, black hair and yanked his mouth back to hers. She could kiss Raphael forever and never grow tired of it. He had the most exquisite, most sensuous mouth. And oh gods, what…? Raphael had lifted her legs around his hips and higher still until her knees were bent against her chest, and her pussy was wide open, granting him even deeper access to her shuddering core. Ripples of pleasure rolled over and through her body, her nipples crushed against his massive chest, and her sheath clenching over and over around his hard length. Her pussy wanted to keep him inside her body because he felt so very good there, and she was so close. So close.

But then, Raphael growled a deep rumble down in his chest. It was a raw sound that had shivers of desire racing down her body to settle in her clit, causing tremors of incredible pleasure to shake every nerve and muscle in her abdomen, her breasts, and finally, her entire body while Raphael’s cock still pounded inside her.

Drowning in sensation, Cyn tightened her arms around his neck and lifted her legs to cross her ankles over his back, afraid she’d be swept away on a wave of ecstasy as it built higher and higher. Until finally, it crashed, shoving her over the screaming edge of orgasm as every muscle in her body seemed to convulse all at once. Trembling, she managed to tug his mouth back to hers in time to drink in his roar of climax as the two of them orgasmed together until there was nothing left.

Raphael’s eyes were closed, his long, dark lashes a shadow beneath his lids. His breathing was deep and steady, and she knew the sun was rising somewhere not far away.

“Sleep, baby,” she whispered. “I’ll keep watch.”

His beautiful mouth curved into a soft smile, his big body relaxed completely, and she knew he would sleep until the sun began to set over the Pacific Ocean, and they were home.

(of this Vignette)

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