Angler Christmas Two (between Bait and Catch)
Boredom shouldn’t be something to long for, but as I hung from our room balcony by my fingertips, blinded by Christmas lights, I dreamed of a day where I could do nothing.
“Let go. I’ll catch you.” Rurik’s harsh whisper grated on my nerves. We’d only been together a few weeks and this was the second time an old jilted lover of his tried to kill me.Vampires had long memories and their broken hearts didn’t mend. Of course, I’d have to be dating the most notorious heartbreaker in the northern hemisphere.
Sweat coated my skin. Don’t look down. Don’t look down! Our room was on the eighth floor. If he missed, I be a Connie shaped Picasso on the hotel’s pool deck. I looked down between my dangling legs. My heart stopped. I never said I was smart.
Rurik appeared small with his arms held out. “Come on, baby,” he whispered again.
“Don’t baby me.” My words came out as a furious hiss. I wanted to shout but the vampires who wanted to chop me into pieces were in the building trying to find our room. They didn’t need me making it easier for them. Why did I think things would go well dating Rurik? Really, did I believe we’d buy a house with a picket fence and no one would ever bother us?
The lock to our hotel room clicked open, the sound audible in Iceland’s quiet pre-dawn. After leaving Budapest, Rurik offered to show me the world. This was one of many ports we had traveled, and the second where one of his ex-lovers had tried to kill me.
Magdalena had sent Rurik an invitation to visit when we first arrived in the country and hadn’t taken it well when he had brought a date—me. We hadn’t stopped running since and we were on a freaking island. Not like we could just drive off into the moonlight, and she had all the airports watched tight.
I pried my gaze from the ground and listened to the room door crack open. Ah hell, I’ll only live once. Being caught by bad vampires up here or the bad vamp below, I’ll choose below. He, at least, loved me. Releasing my death grip on the balcony, I fell so fast I didn’t have time to utter a sound before landing with an oomph into Rurik’s solid arms.
He clutched me to his chest then ran with vampire speed from the hotel. The third place we’d hidden in as many days. “I had hoped Magdalena’s scorn would fade by now.”
“You must have made quite an impression on her.” I could comprehend her infatuation since I was under a similar spell. Rurik oozed sexual magnetism. With one glance, anyone who spotted him just knew in their gut he was a god in bed. Some men were just born gifted and Rurik had had centuries to hon his skills.
A smug smile was his response. Yeah, I thought so.
“Are any of your ex-lovers sane?” Spending the rest of my life looking over my shoulder sounded like a horrid future. I had run away with Rurik to find happiness, not to grow into Mrs. Paranoid.
“You can’t judge a vampire’s sanity by human standards.” He ran through the dark streets of Reykjavik toward the ocean. “She sees you as an obstacle. By destroying you, she thinks she can reclaim my affection.” He scowled. “Yes, she’s insane.”
I rested my head on his shoulder. Blaming Rurik wouldn’t help our situation. He didn’t break hearts on purpose. Or at least, I hope he didn’t…
In the distance, car engines sped closer. “Hurry,” I spoke into his ear. Rurik would do his best to protect me. He’d done it in Budapest, but one vampire against many didn’t offer me much defense. In their world, I was the equivalent of a kid’s juice box. Just one poke and they’d suck me dry. The added benefit of being Rurik’s blood slave only meant I didn’t age or sicken. I could still die, say by, being hit by a speeding vehicle.
“Look out!” I gripped his shoulders as a red sports car swerved around a corner and aimed in our direction.
Rurik leaped straight up in the air, and the car raced under us. He used the momentum of his leap to push against the building we’d been running next to, sending us over a stone wall. He landed, knees bent to the ground, taking the brunt of the impact. He raised his chin, his gaze riveted on the harbor. “Have you ever taken a cruise?”
I twisted around. A commercial cruise ship, lights dimly sparkling against the water, was moored to the dock. “No.” Until I had started working for slayers, I’d barely had enough money to feed myself let alone go on vacation.
“It’s time we changed that.” He carried me to the dock where he finally set me on my bare feet.
I tugged on my t-shirt, trying to cover my panties. There hadn’t been time to dress before leaping over the balcony. “I can’t board wearing this, and we don’t have our passports.” Or money.
What Rurik wore was no better. He’d hiked on a pair of jeans from the floor when he heard the bloodsuckers roaming the halls of the hotel. I’m not sure how he could tell the difference between them and humans, but he could. Good thing we’d just crawled into bed and hadn’t been asleep yet.
Resting his arm across my shoulders, he led me to the gangway. “I’ve got this covered. Watch.” The turn of phrase made me smile. It was something I said frequently. Seemed like I was rubbing off on him.
“How do you plan on getting us on board?” I leaned against his solid frame. Exhaustion pulled at my limbs. We’d been at this for days and unlike Rurik, I needed more than a couple of hours of sleep a day.
“Follow my lead, Rabbit.” He used my pet name. I’d stab anyone else who called me a rabbit, but Rurik had won the right. He’d given it to me since my job required me to run for my life often. We hurried onto the ship where we were met by a sleepy security crew of two. Rurik caught their gazes with his vampiric powers. “Do you have any empty suites?”
The guards’ dreamy stares moved to the computer screens. “This shows that the Tiny Dancer, the Solarium, and the Show Stopper are not in use.”
Rurik gave him a slow blink and glanced at me.
I shrugged. This was his idea. I hadn’t a clue what those names meant. “Not the Solarium.”
He chuckled. “We’ll take the Show Stopper. Log us in as if we boarded on the departing port as Mr. and Mrs. Miller.” Rurik held out his hand as the officer offered the keycards and gave us directions.
“That’s a neat trick.” I followed Rurik through the empty halls decorated for the holidays complete with massive Christmas tree as a center piece. With our constant moving, I hadn’t had time to buy Rurik a present. What a sucky first Christmas together. “How long will the effects last?”
“They won’t fade. They’ll remember us as the Millers who boarded on the original departure date. There are limitations though. Other crew might question our presence or ask for papers. We should keep a low profile.” He took us to an elevator to the top floor. “So room service only and no extravagant charges.” He glanced at my outfit. “Except some clothes.”
“No vampire attacks either.”
He shot me an annoyed look. “No.” The elevator opened and he stormed ahead to unlock our suite. “After you.” He bowed.
I swept into the room and stalled just over the threshold. The stars twinkled in the vast night sky, mirrored by the vast calm ocean. Huge windows lined all the walls, leaving little room to hide from the on-coming dawn. “Umm…where will you sleep?” The curtains didn’t look thick enough to block sunlight.
From behind, he wrapped his arms around me. “The bathroom. Wouldn’t be the first time, I’ve spent the day hiding in a tub.” He sighed. Sleeping in a cold tub was not comfortable.
I leaned against him, scanning the king sized bed and elegant living room space. “We stowed away in style.”
“Only the best for you.” He kissed the top of my head.
“Will we be safe here?” Magdalena’s vampires had tracked us across the country. Relentless in their effort, they found us in each hiding spot after a few days. Even the airports had been guarded so why hadn’t there been vampires at the dock?
He shrugged. “I thought we would be safe at the last hotel but look how that turned out. Magdalena’s spies are very thorough.”
“We didn’t leave her any credit cards or names to trace this time.” The edge of the horizon became more defined as we watched the approaching dawn. “We should get off at the next port and fly a good distance in any direction. Is there any country where I won’t be hunted by an ex-lover?”
He stayed silent, holding me in his steel grip.
I glanced over my shoulder.
He aimed another smug smile in my direction. “I doubt it.”
I elbowed him in the stomach and pointed to the bathroom. “Off you go before you get sun kissed.” Or booted in the ass.
“I didn’t know Magdalena had moved to Iceland or that she still carried feelings for me. It’s been decades since we’d been together and we had lived in present day Turkey.”
“I know, I know. It’s not your fault women trip over themselves to stab me in the back to get to you.” Yet I couldn’t help but feel betrayed. I turned away from him. Come on, this was the second time in less than three months. His track record sucked. What did that mean for our future?
“Order yourself some breakfast and clothes.” He kissed my cheek before retreating into the windowless bathroom.
Shoulders slumped, I sat on the edge of the bed. I didn’t want to join Rurik’s crazy ex-lovers fan club. Was this his hobby? Woo some lovesick girl then dump her when things go serious? Nausea rolled in my gut, or maybe I was hungry. I rubbed my stomach and curled into a ball on the bed. I didn’t have the energy to order room service. Sunlight crested over the water in a beautiful display of oranges and pinks.
The world had once been so big. Sometimes I missed being naïve about the existence of vampires. I wasn’t sure how long I stared out the window, but when I blinked, the sun hovered in the sky. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and stretched. I was tired but I’d grown accustomed to sharing my bed.
A grunt came from the bathroom followed by Rurik shifting position in the tub.
I pulled the curtains closed but, as I had suspected, too much light filtered through. He would have to dodge sunbeams like security lasers. We couldn’t risk him getting burned when vampires hunted us. So I grabbed a blanket off the bed and knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you awake?”
“Yes.” He sounded miserable.
“Close the shower curtain so I can come in.” They should block any stray beam when I slipped inside.
I entered the bathroom with the blanket, shutting the door behind me. “Move over.”
He yanked the shower curtain open, his eyebrow quirked in a silent question as he scooted in the cramped tub.
I crawled into the narrow space—my body pretty much draped over his—and pulled the blanket over us. “Why aren’t you asleep?”
“I was going to ask you the same.” He held out a toilet paper flower. “I made you something. Merry Christmas.”
I laughed and set it in my hair. “You have many hidden talents.” I rested my head on his shoulder, ignoring the ache in my chest.
“What?” I sucked at hiding my feelings. I wore my emotions on my sleeve. Not to mention, Rurik could sense my thoughts when I didn’t shield my mind well. Being tired made me sloppy.
“Your whole profession before meeting me was being hunted by vampires. This Magdalena thing is bugging you more than it should. Why?”
I ran my tongue over my teeth, wishing I had brushed them before crawling in so close to Rurik. We’d promised each other no more secrets. This technically wasn’t one but he asked for my honesty. “How much longer before I become like her? Five years? Ten? One?”
“Never.” He answered so fast it gave me whiplash.
“What happened between you and her? And with—”
With his thumb under my chin, he tilted my face so our gazes met. “I never loved them and never uttered those words. Especially to Magdalena. She was a means to an ends at the time. I love you with all my heart and wonder how long before some other vampire will lure you from me.”
I snorted, but he didn’t laugh. “You’re serious?”
“I count myself lucky that I don’t have to share you with anyone.”
Sighing, I melted against him. “Never.”