Authors: Kerrelyn Sparks
“Yes. I’m Dougal Kincaid.” He bowed.
“Welcome.” Kyo motioned toward the school. “Let’s go in now.”
They followed him up a steep path to the top of the bluff, then crossed the snow-covered schoolyard to the stone steps leading up to the front door.
“My friend, Yoshi,” Kyo introduced the square-built man who was standing guard at the top of the stairs.
Yoshi bowed, then held the door open for them to enter the foyer.
“It’s warm in here.” Rajiv was the last one to enter.
“Yes, we had a new furnace put in.” Kyo motioned to the walls. “And new paint. Let me take you to the lab first so you can set down your supplies.”
Dougal and the other guys followed him down the hall to the right.
“This side of the school has the security office, lab, and large clinic for holding prisoners. Yuki!”
A man stepped out of the security office and bowed. “I’m putting in cameras now, and monitors.”
“Excellent,” Angus told him. “Thank you.”
Yuki bowed again and went back inside the office.
“The next room is the lab.” Kyo strode inside.
Dougal and the guys set down the supplies. The lab was small. Black-topped tables were covered with microscopes and other equipment. Desks with computers lined the two side walls. The wall facing the ocean had bookcases on the bottom half and windows on the top.
Kyo motioned to the large room across the hall. “This is the clinic for holding the prisoners.”
Dougal peered inside and saw a row of stretchers with restraints. IV poles and monitors were interspersed among the beds. It looked like Kyo had spared no expense.
Kyo led them back down the hall, crossing the foyer into the hallway on the left. “Here we have dormitories and restrooms for men and women.”
“What about us Vamps?” J.L. asked.
“We fixed a room in the basement, boarded up the windows.” Kyo opened a door to show them the staircase to the basement.
“Something is cooking.” Rajiv lifted his chin to sniff. “Smells good.”
“Oh, our daytime guard is making herself dinner. Gu Mina. Shifter from Korea.” Kyo opened the double doors at the end of the hall. “This is the cafeteria and kitchen.”
Dougal and the others filed inside. The cafeteria was small, with only six square tables with plastic chairs, and a row of windows overlooking the ocean. The kitchen was half-hidden behind a tall counter. A microwave sat on a small table next to a refrigerator.
“This is stocked with blood.” Kyo opened the fridge and handed some bottles to the Vamps. They unscrewed the tops and stuffed all the bottles into the microwave.
Rajiv sniffed. “Smells like beef.”
Kyo smiled. “You must be hungry. I will ask Gu Mina to share her food with you. Mina!” He yelled something in Japanese, and a female voice answered back.
Rajiv’s eyes widened. “A girl shifter? Is she a tiger like me?”
“No, but she’s an excellent fighter,” Kyo told them in English. “She has worked for me for one year.”
A young woman appeared in the window above the tall counter. Dougal figured she was short, since only her head could be seen. She smiled and set a tray on the counter, containing a bowl of steaming beef and noodles and a set of chopsticks and long spoon.
Rajiv smiled back and took the tray. “Thank you.” He hurried over to a table, his eyes twinkling. “She’s pretty,” he whispered.
Angus chuckled as he removed warm bottles of blood from the microwave. “What kind of shifter is she?”
“A fox.” Kyo took a sip from a bottle. “With nine tails.”
Rajiv gasped and dropped his tray on the table with a clatter. “A nine-tailed fox?”
“That’s a lot of tail,” Gregori muttered.
Rajiv shook his head in horror. “Nine-tailed foxes are very bad. Evil!”
“She’s fine,” Kyo insisted. “She’s very good at martial arts. Excellent with swords and knives.”
“Right! So she can cut out your liver.” Rajiv shuddered. “Nine-tailed foxes hate men! They eat our livers!” He backed away from his bowl of food. “She cooked a man’s liver?”
“It’s beef,” Kyo said with an annoyed look. “I teleported it here myself. Very expensive, but it is her favorite.”
“You don’t believe me?” Rajiv turned to J.L. “You know the story of Korean Gumiho, right?”
J.L. shrugged. “Supposedly, the female fox shifter likes to seduce men so she can eat their livers. But it’s just a fairy tale.”
The female shifter sauntered from the kitchen carrying a tray. She was short and slim, with long black hair and silvery gray eyes. She set her tray on the table next to Rajiv and gave him an amused look. “Scaredy-cat.”
He jumped back and hissed.
“Oh, I forgot to say,” Kyo chuckled. “Gu Mina speaks very good English.”
Rajiv grabbed his tray and scurried across the room. “How soon can Pooh Bear and Phil get here?”
“Tomorrow night.” J.L. sat beside him. “Don’t worry, bro, it could be worse.”
“How?” Rajiv frowned at Mina, who was ignoring them and eating her food.
“She could have a taste for tiger meat,” J.L. said, grinning.
Kyo and Angus sat down with Mina to keep her company.
While Dougal drank his bottle, he took Leah’s suitcase to the female dorm room.
Gregori joined him, depositing Abby’s suitcase on one of the twin-sized beds. “I guess I won’t be able to sleep with my wife for a while,” he grumbled.
“Yeah.” Dougal eyed the bed he’d picked out for Leah. How would he ever find any time alone with her? With a sigh, he grabbed his duffel bag, then headed down the stairs to the Vamp room in the basement.
Eventually the rest of the Vamp guys joined him, dropping their duffel bags on one of the eight cots. Kyo pointed out the three cots that he, Yoshi, and Yuki were using.
Angus stretched out on his cot. “We have a few hours before we can move on to Mikhail’s place in Russia.”
Rajiv clambered down the stairs to their room. “You guys can’t leave me alone with the fox!”
“She’s not dangerous,” Kyo muttered.
Rajiv sidled over to J.L. and Angus. “Let me go to Tiger Town so I can see my grandfather.”
“Tiger Town?” Gregori asked.
“It’s a village on the Mekong River in China where the were-tigers live,” J.L. explained. “It has a name in Chinese, but you guys would have a hard time pronouncing it, so Rajiv and I call it Tiger Town.”
“Dougal would be able to say it.” Angus slanted him a curious look. “Ye never did tell us how ye know Chinese.”
“Can I go to Tiger Town?” Rajiv asked again. “I want to see my grandfather. And you can bring me back tomorrow night.”
Angus sighed. “I suppose so. There willna be anything happening until we return.”
Rajiv grinned. “Thank you!” He grabbed onto J.L. “Let’s go.”
J.L. vanished, taking Rajiv with him.
Dougal rummaged through his duffel bag till he found the small box containing the chain and pendant he’d bought in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
“What’s that?” Gregori peered over his shoulder when he opened the box.
Dougal groaned inwardly. There would be no privacy for the rest of this mission. “I bought it for Leah.”
“You’re serious about her then?” Gregori asked.
“Aye.” He’d wanted to buy an engagement ring, but he was worried that he was pushing her too fast. Marriage to a vampire was a commitment that could last for centuries if she was willing to become Undead.
He ran a finger over the jade dragon and rolled his shoulder when his tattoo sizzled. If she wore the dragon, then they would each have one. Hopefully, hers would protect her from harm.
as he sleeping? Leah leaned over to peer at Dougal. He was sprawled on the couch at the beach house in Hawaii. He had to be exhausted. After circumnavigating the globe, he and the other Vamps had arrived at the townhouse in New York City almost twelve hours ago.
When the time had come to teleport to San Francisco, Angus had taken Howard the were-bear, J.L. had given werewolf Phil a lift, Gregori had taken his wife, and Leah had traveled with Dougal. As a Vamp, Laszlo had been able to teleport himself, along with some additional supplies and luggage. Angus’s wife, Emma, was staying behind to run MacKay S&I.
After their arrival, Dougal had taken Leah to Chinatown, where she’d enjoyed a nice meal while he sneaked sips of blood from the bottle in his sporran. A few hours later, they’d arrived in Hawaii at Finn Grayson’s beach house. He’d arranged a luau on the beach for them, although only the shifters and mortals had been able to enjoy the roasted pig, rice, and fruit. The Vamps had looked so tired by then that they’d excused themselves to find places in the house to rest.
Leah perched on the edge of the coffee table to look at Dougal. The luau had wound down an hour ago. Finn, Phil, Laszlo, and Howard were lounging outside on the patio. Abby had run off to a bedroom with Gregori.
Leah’s gaze started at Dougal’s scruffed-up shoes, then wandered up his muscular calves, encased in knee socks, to his bare knees. In his relaxed state, his kilt was a bit askew, revealing a glimpse of his strong thighs. How easy it would be to reach underneath his kilt and give him a squeeze. That would probably wake him up. She smiled to herself.
“Are ye planning to molest me?” he asked softly.
She started. “I thought you were asleep.”
“Just resting.” He gazed at her with drowsy green eyes. “I think ye were about to get under my kilt.”
She scoffed. “You wish.”
“I do wish.” He reached down to his sporran. “I have something for you.”
“I know you do. It’s quite a doozy.”
He chuckled. “No’ that.” He rose to his feet and extended a hand to her. “How about a walk on the beach?”
“Okay.” She held hands with him as they sauntered out the patio doors and past the pool.
“Way to go, Dougal,” Howard called from a lounge chair.
Phil howled like a wolf, and the guys chuckled.
“Bugger off,” Dougal muttered, and they laughed some more.
Leah smiled, relieved that even Laszlo looked amused.
They wandered down the beach, and she admired the way the moon glinted on the water. The breeze was gentle, and the scent of flowers filled the air.
“I wish ye could see it during the day.” Dougal stopped to face her.
“It’s still lovely.”
“I have a present for you.” He reached inside his sporran and pulled out a small box.
Her heart lurched. Was it a ring? Was he proposing? Her mind raced. What would she say? Everything had happened so quickly. Three weeks? Was that enough time to know how to answer something that would affect the rest of her life?
He opened the box, and she froze as she stared at the contents. Not a ring. Not a proposal.
She inhaled sharply. What a relief. Definitely a relief, she told herself. Then why was she feeling this strange little jab of disappointment? “It’s a necklace?”
“Aye, there’s a chain underneath.” He gave her a worried look. “Ye doona like it?”
“It’s beautiful.” She ran a finger over the jade dragon. It was intricately carved and stunning in its detail. “I love it.”
He exhaled in relief. “Good.”
She lifted it out of the box and looped it around her neck. The dragon nestled between her breasts.
“Now we each have a dragon to protect us.”
She glanced up at him. “You’re still worried about me.”
“Aye.” He dropped the empty box back into his sporran. “I doona want to fail you.”
“I’m not helpless, you know.” She touched his face. “And I love you.”
“Och, lass. I love you, too.” He pulled her into his arms. “I was sorely tempted to buy you a ring. But I dinna know if ye were ready for that.”
Her pang of disappointment melted away, and she glanced up at him. “You mean an engagement ring?”
He gave her a wary look. “Aye.”
Her heart raced. “Are you proposing?”
“Only if ye’re ready. If ye’re no’ ready, then pretend this dinna happen.”
Her mouth twitched. “You don’t want to be rejected?”
“Nay.” His arms tightened around her. “ ’Twould break my heart.”
“Ah.” She nestled her cheek against his chest. “We can’t have your heart breaking. That would break my heart.”
He was silent a moment, then whispered, “Was that a yes?”
? “I-I need a little more time. I’m about ninety percent there.” Somehow she would have to explain an Undead fiancé to her family. They would probably think she’d lost her mind.
“Ninety is good.”
She glanced up at him, and her heart swelled. He was so sweet, honorable, loyal, and handsome. How could she ever reject him? “More like ninety-two percent.”
“Mmm, I like that.” He leaned down and kissed her so deeply that her knees trembled.
She drew in a shaky breath. “Make that ninety-five percent.”
He chuckled, then squeezed her bottom. “If I get in yer pants, will it improve my odds?”
She grinned. “I never thought I’d say this to a guy, but I’d like to get in your skirt.”
“That could be arranged.” His cell phone dinged, and with a groan, he removed it from his sporran. “Aye, we’re coming.” He hung up. “That was Angus. The sun has set in Japan. ’Tis time to go.”
he difference was startling. In just a few seconds, Leah had gone from a warm, cozy beach with golden sand and green vegetation to a frigid, bleak shore with a bitterly cold wind. Dougal had warned her, and she’d put on a sweater and insulated jacket, but the abrupt change still came as a shock.
Dougal wrapped an arm around her. “Let’s get you inside.”
The icy ground crunched beneath their feet.
“Brr—” Abby shuddered. Gregori swept her up in his arms and dashed up the bluff to the school.
“I could teleport you inside if ye like,” Dougal offered.
“I’m fine.” Leah pivoted around. This was her first trip to Japan, so she was eager to look about. Maybe tomorrow in daylight she could do a little exploring.
A phone dinged.
“That’s mine.” J.L. checked his phone. “A text from Rajiv. He says the sun’s still up in Tiger Town. And stay away from the fox.”
“Fox?” Phil asked. “What fox?”