Scanguards Vampires #3
After Maya is turned into a vampire against her will, vampire and Scanguards bodyguard Gabriel is charged with protecting her and finding her attacker.Gabriel has never guarded a body as perfect as Maya’s. Moreover, Maya’s enticing blend of vulnerability and strength is difficult to resist. Yet resist he must. Even as the sexual tension between them rises and the rogue vampire closes in on them, Gabriel refuses to give into his desire. Despite the intimacies they share, Gabriel fears that if he ever reveals himself fully to her, Maya will react like other women have, running from him, and calling him a monster, a freak, a creature not worth her love.
Will Maya prove to be the one female who cherishes all that Gabriel is?
Wearing only his breeches, Gabriel gazed at the woman who stood before him in her virginal night rail. The lace trim around her neck and sleeves only accentuated her innocence. Earlier in the day, the minister had declared them husband and wife before God, but now it was time to make Jane truly his.
This was his wedding night, a night he had anticipated with the eagerness of a young buck ready to start his own brood. Except for a few kisses, he hadn’t been intimate with Jane. Her strict religious upbringing had demanded he wait to touch her until they were married. He’d waited because he truly loved her with all his heart, but also because he had his own inhibitions about making love.
Jane took a tentative step toward him. Gabriel met her halfway. His arms snaked around her back and pulled her to him. The fabric under his fingertips was soft and so thin it felt like he was touching her naked skin. As he lowered his lips toward hers, he inhaled her perfume, a mix of roses and jasmine which had been the flowers of her wedding bouquet. Underneath it was her own personal scent, the heady smell of Jane, a scent that had made him dizzy when he’d first taken it in. He’d been hard and ready ever since.
“My wife,” Gabriel whispered. The words felt right when they rolled off his lips and collided with her sweet breath. On a soft moan, he kissed her with all the passion he’d been holding back, waiting for her to become his wife. Her body clung to him more eagerly than he had expected, yielding to his touch, imprinting him with the love he’d seen in her eyes long before he’d asked for her hand in marriage.
Without breaking the kiss, he untied the little ribbons on the front of her gown, then brushed the garment off her shoulders and let it fall to the floor. With a soft rustle, it pooled at her feet. She would never again need a nightgown: he would warm her every night from now on. The shiver he noticed going through her lithe body wasn’t from being cold. No, she was nearly as aroused as he was.
Gabriel released her lips and looked at her. Small round breasts topped with dark hard nipples stood firm. Her hips were wide, her skin soft and yielding to his touch. When he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed they would share for the rest of their lives, his desire for her spiraled.
Already, his breeches were so tight he could barely breathe, but now his cock expanded even farther, impatient to impale her. He laid her onto the bed and watched her as he opened the buttons of his fly with trembling hands, his heart beating into his throat. Perspiration built on his brow. All the while his anxiety escalated. As he stripped, Jane’s loving gaze drifted from his face lower down his body. Then her expression suddenly changed. It was what he’d secretly feared most.
“Oh, God, no!” She jerked up, her gaze transfixed on his groin, horror distorting her features. “Get away from me!” she screamed and jumped off the bed on the other side.
“Jane, please, let me explain,” he begged and went after her as she ran out the door. He should have prepared her for this, but it was too late for that now. He’d hoped that if he was gentle and patient with her, she would accept him.
He caught up with her in the kitchen.
“You monster, get away from me!”
Gabriel snatched her arm and stopped her from running any farther. “Please, Jane, my love, listen to me.” If only she would give him a chance, he would prove to her that inside he wasn’t a monster, that inside he was the man who loved her.
Her eyes wild, Jane darted frantic looks around the kitchen, before she struggled free from his grip and turned.
“Don’t ever touch me again!”
“Jane!” He had to get her to calm down and listen to him. Their future depended on it.
When she turned back to him, all he saw were her horrified eyes. Too late did he see the gleaming knife in her hand—too late to turn away and avoid its blade slashing his face. But what hurt more than the stinging blade cutting his flesh was seeing his wife recoil from him in horror.
“Now women will shy away from you like they should—you’re a monster, Gabriel, you’re the devil’s creature!”
The scar that would form on his previously-handsome face reached from his chin to the top of his right ear, and it would be a constant reminder of what he was: a monster, a freak at best—not worthy to be loved by any woman.
San Francisco, Today
The click-clack of her heels echoed against the buildings. Maya could barely see the pavement through the fog which hung like a thick mist in the night air, amplifying every sound.
A rustle coming from somewhere behind her made her accelerate her already hasty steps. A chill so severe it felt as if an icy hand had touched her skin went through her. She hated the dark, and it was on nights like these that she cursed her on-call duty. Darkness had always scared her, and lately even more so.
She opened her purse as she approached the three-story apartment building she’d been living in for the last two years. With shaking fingers, she fished for her house keys. The moment she felt the cold metal in her damp palm, she felt better. In a few seconds, she would be back in bed and get a few hours of sleep before her next shift started. But more importantly, she would soon be back in the safety of her own four walls.
As she turned to the stairs leading up to the heavy entrance door, she noticed the darkness in the foyer. She glanced up. The light bulb over the door must have burned out. A couple of hours ago it had been burning brightly. She put it on her mental list of things to tell her landlord.
Maya felt for the railing and gripped it, counting the steps as she walked up.
She never reached the door.
Her breath caught as she spun on her heels. Engulfed in the dark and the fog, she couldn’t make out his face. She didn’t need to—she knew his voice. She knew who he was. It almost paralyzed her. Her heart hammered in her throat as fear inside her gut spiraled.
“No!” she screamed and scrambled back toward the door, hoping against all odds she could escape.
He’d come back like he’d vowed.
His hand dug into her shoulder and pulled her back to face him. But instead of his face, all she could focus on was the white of his pointed teeth.
“You will be mine.”
The threat was the last thing she heard before she felt his sharp fangs break through her skin and sink into her neck. As the blood drained from her, so did the memories of the last few weeks.
“And you’ve tried surgery already?” Dr. Drake inquired without looking up from his notepad.
Gabriel released a frustrated huff and brushed an imaginary dust particle off his jeans. “Didn’t work.”
“I see.” He cleared his throat. “Mr. Giles, have you had this . . . ” The doctor winced and made a nondescript hand movement. “. . . uh . . . all your life? Even when you were human?”
Gabriel squeezed his eyes shut for a second. After puberty, there wasn’t a day in his living memory that he’d not had this problem. Everything had been normal when he’d been a little boy, but the moment his hormones had started raging, his life had changed. Even as a human, he’d been an outcast.
He felt the scar on his face throb, remembering the moment he’d received it and jerked himself away from the memory. The physical pain had long since passed, but the emotional pain was as vivid as ever. “I had it long before I became a vampire. Back then, nobody thought of surgery. Hell, an infection would probably have killed me.” If he’d known how his life would turn out, he would have taken a knife to himself, but hindsight was always twenty-twenty. “Anyway, as you probably know better than I do, my body regenerates while I sleep and heals what it perceives to be a wound. So, no, surgery hasn’t worked.”
“I assume this has caused problems with your sex life?”
Gabriel pressed himself deeper into the chair opposite Dr. Drake’s, having ignored the coffin-couch with an internal shiver upon entering the office. His friend Amaury had warned him about the doctor’s choice of furniture. Nevertheless, the coffin that had been fashioned into a chaise longue by removing a side panel gave him the creeps. No self-respecting vampire would want to be caught dead in it. Pun intended.
“What sex life?” he mumbled under his breath. But of course, the doctor’s superior vampire hearing assured the words weren’t lost to him.
Drake’s shocked stare confirmed it. “You mean . . . ?”
Gabriel knew exactly what the man was asking. “Other than with an occasional desperate prostitute who I have to pay outrageous sums of money to service me, I have no sex life.”
He dropped his gaze to the floor, not wanting to see the pity in the doctor’s eyes. He was here to get help, not to be pitied. Still, he needed to impress on the man how important this was for him. “I haven’t met a woman yet who hasn’t recoiled from my naked body. They call me a monster, a freak—and those are the kind ones.” He paused, shuddering as the memories of all the names he’d been called came rushing back. “Doc, I’ve never had a woman in my arms who wanted to be with me.” Yes, he’d fucked women—whores—but he’d never made love to a woman. Never felt a woman’s love or tenderness, or the intimacy of waking in her arms.
“How do you expect me to help you? As you said yourself, surgery hasn’t helped, and I’m only a psychiatrist. I work with people’s minds.” Drake’s voice was infused with rejection, every single syllable of it. “Why don’t you use mind control on human women? They won’t know any better.”
He should have expected as much. Gabriel leveled a glare at him. “I’m not a complete jerk, Doctor. I won’t use women like that.” He paused before he went on, bringing his anger at the dishonorable suggestion under control. “You helped my friends.”
“Both Mr. Woodford’s and Mr. LeSang’s problems were different, not . . . ” He searched for the right word. “ . . . physical like yours.”
Gabriel’s chest tightened. Yes, physical. And a vampire couldn’t alter his physical form. It was set in stone. It was the exact reason why his face was marred by a scar reaching from his chin to the top of his right ear. He’d received the wound when he was human. Had he been injured as a vampire, there would have never been a scar, and his face would be untouched.
Two strikes against him—already the hideous scar scared plenty of women away, and once he dropped his pants . . . . He shuddered and looked back at the doctor who patiently sat in his chair.
“They both claimed you used unorthodox methods,” Gabriel baited him.
Dr. Drake gave a noncommittal shrug. “What one might call unorthodox, another might deem natural.”
That was a non-answer if there ever was one. Subtle hints wouldn’t get Gabriel the information he sought. He cleared his throat and nudged forward on his chair.
“Amaury mentioned you had certain connections.” He emphasized the word connections in such a way the doctor couldn’t mistake what Gabriel was referring to.
The almost unperceivable straightening of the doctor’s body would have escaped most others, but not Gabriel. Drake had understood only too well what he was after.
The doctor’s lips tightened. “Maybe I can refer you to another physician among my connections who might be able to help you more than I can. Nobody here in San Francisco, of course, since I’m still the only medically trained vampire here,” he confided.
Gabriel wasn’t surprised at the revelation: since vampires weren’t susceptible to human illnesses, very few became doctors. Given that San Francisco had a vampire population of under a thousand, it was lucky to have even one medical professional within its city limits.
“I see we both agree that we’re not a good match,” the doctor went on.
Gabriel knew he had to act now before the doctor dismissed him completely. When Drake moved to the Rolodex on his desk, Gabriel rose from his chair.
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary—”
“Well, then, it was a pleasure meeting you.” The doctor stretched his hand out, his relaxed face now showing relief.
With a light shake of his head, Gabriel dismissed the gesture. “I doubt the Rolodex contains the name of the person I’m looking for anyway. Am I right?” He kept all malice out of his voice, having no intention of alienating the man. Instead, he let a half-smile curve his lips.
A flash in Drake’s blue eyes confirmed he knew exactly who Gabriel was talking about. It was time to bring in the big guns. “I’m a very rich man. I can pay whatever you wish,” Gabriel offered. In his nearly one hundred fifty years as a vampire, he’d amassed a fortune.
The doc’s cocked eyebrow indicated interest. There was a hesitation in Drake’s movement, but seconds later he pointed to the chairs. They both sat back down.
“What makes you think I’m interested in your offer?”
“If you weren’t, we wouldn’t be sitting.”
The doctor nodded. “Your friend Amaury speaks very highly of you. I trust he’s well now.”
If Drake wanted to chit-chat, Gabriel would indulge him, but not for long. “Yes, the curse is broken. I understand that one of your acquaintances was instrumental in figuring out how the curse could be reversed.”
“Maybe. But understanding how to fix something and fixing it are two different things. And as I see it, Amaury and Nina reversed his curse all by themselves. No outside help was needed.”
“Unlike in my case?”
The doctor shrugged, a gesture Gabriel was getting increasingly tired of. “I don’t know. There might be a perfectly plausible explanation for your ailment.”
Gabriel shook his head. “Let’s cut to the chase, Drake. It’s not an ailment. What plausible explanation am I going to give a woman who sees me naked?”
“At least call me Gabriel. I think we’re past the Mr. Giles stage.”
“Gabriel, I understand your predicament.”
Gabriel felt heat rise inside his chest as anger churned up, something that was becoming more common as he dealt with his predicament. “Do you? Do you really understand what it feels like to see the disgust and fear in the eyes of a woman you want to make love to?” Gabriel swallowed hard. He’d never made love to a woman, never truly made love. Sex with prostitutes wasn’t love. Sure, he could use mind control like the doctor had suggested and lure some unsuspecting woman into his bed and do with her whatever he wanted, but he’d vowed never to sink that low. And he’d never broken that vow.
“You mentioned payment,” he heard Drake say.
Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. “Name your price and I’ll wire the money into your account within hours.”
Drake shook his head. “I’m not interested in money. I understand you have a gift.”
Gabriel straightened in his chair. How much did the doctor know about him? He knew Amaury would have never revealed any of his secrets. “I’m not sure I understand—”
“Gabriel, don’t take me for a fool. Just as you must have made your inquires about me, I have looked into your background. I understand you’re able to unlock memories. Would you care to explain your gift to me?”
Not particularly. But it appeared he had no choice. “I see into people’s minds and can delve into their memories. I see what they’ve seen.”
“Does this mean you can look into my memories and find the person you’re looking for?” Drake asked.
“I only see events and pictures. So unless I find a memory that shows her at her house or other such criteria, I wouldn’t be able to find her. I don’t read minds, only memories.”
“I see.” The doctor paused. “I’m willing to give you the whereabouts of the person you’re looking for in exchange for the one-time use of your gift.”
“You want me to delve into your memories and find something you’ve forgotten?” Sure, he could do that.
Drake chuckled. “Of course not. I have perfect recall. I want you to unlock another person’s memories for me.”
Hope deflated. His skill was only to be used in emergencies or when someone’s life was at stake. He wouldn’t rape someone’s memories for his own gain, no matter how important this was for him. “I can’t do that.”
“Of course you can. You just told me—”
“What I meant to say is I won’t do it. Memories are private. I won’t access a person’s memories without their permission.” And he was sure the person whose memories the doctor wanted revealed to him wasn’t going to give their consent.
“A man with high ethics. What a pity.”
Gabriel glanced around the room. “With the money I’m willing to pay you, you could redecorate quite lavishly.” And get rid of the coffin couch.
“I like the way my practice looks. Don’t you?” Drake gave the offensive couch a pointed look.
Gabriel knew then that the negotiations were at an end. The doctor wouldn’t budge, and neither would he.