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Forbidden Nights with a Vampire

By´╝ÜKerrelyn Sparks

"Ye're late." Connor greeted her with a disapproving frown.
"So?" Vanda Barkowski returned the Scotsman's frown as she stepped into the foyer of Romatech Industries. "I'm not a harem girl anymore. I don't have to come running whenever the great Master snaps his fingers."
Connor arched a brow. "Ye were sent an official summons that clearly stated the East Coast Regional Coven Meeting would start at ten o'clock tonight." He locked the door behind her and punched some buttons on a security pad.
Was she in trouble? That «official» summons had worried her all week, although she hadn't let anyone know. She would have arrived sooner if she'd been allowed to use her Vamp skill of teleportation, but the summons had warned her not to teleport inside Romatech. Such an act would trigger the alarm, interrupt the meeting, and result in a hefty fine. So she'd driven from her nightclub in Hell's Kitchen with a detour first to Queens to pick up some costumes she'd had custom made. The traffic had been awful all the way to White Plains, leaving her much too tense. Damn, she didn't want to be here.
She took a deep breath and fluffed up her spiky, purple-dyed hair. "Big deal. So I'm a few minutes late."
"Forty-five minutes. Late."
"So? What's forty-five minutes to an old goat like you?"
"I believe it is still forty-five minutes."
Was that a glint of humor in his eyes? She chafed at the thought of being considered amusing. She was tough, dammit. And he should have been insulted that she'd called him an old goat. Connor Buchanan didn't look a day over thirty. She would have considered him very handsome if he hadn't fussed at her so much over the years.
She adjusted the black, braided whip she wore around her waist. "Look. I'm a businesswoman now. I'm late because I had to open the club and run some errands. And I need to get back to work soon." She had a meeting scheduled at eleven-thirty with all the male dancers so she could give them their new costumes for the month of August.
Connor looked unimpressed. "Roman is still yer Coven Master, and when he requests yer presence, ye're expected to arrive on time."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm quaking in my little boots."
Connor pivoted toward a table, causing his red and green plaid kilt to swing around his knees. "I'll need to search yer handbag."
She winced inwardly. "Do we really have time for this? I'm already late."
"I check every bag coming in."
He'd always been a stickler for the rules. How many times had he reprimanded her for flirting with the guards at Roman's townhouse? Well, just one guard. A mortal day guard who worked for MacKay Security & Investigation. A deliciously handsome day guard.
Connor worked for MacKay S&I, too, so he knew guards were never supposed to fraternize with their charges. As far as Vanda was concerned, that old rule needed to be tossed out. Ian had gotten involved with his mortal guard, Toni, and her love for him hadn't weakened her one bit. In fact, her love had empowered her, enabling her to kill Jedrek Janow in spite of the Malcontent's attempt to stop her with vampire mind control.
However, when it came to security at Romatech Industries, Connor had good reason to cling to his precious rules. Since the nasty Malcontent vampires hated the friendly, law-abiding, bottle-drinking Vamps, they also hated Romatech, where the bottled blood was manufactured. They'd managed to bomb Romatech three times in the past.
Vanda sighed. "I didn't bring a bomb. Do you think I would blow myself up? Do I look crazy to you?"
A glint of humor sparkled in his eyes. "I believe that will be determined at the coven meeting."
Damn. She was in trouble. "Fine." She tossed her hobo handbag on the table. "Knock yourself out."
Heat crept up her neck as he rummaged through her bag. God, she hated embarrassment. It made her feel weak and small, and she'd sworn never to feel vulnerable again. She lifted her chin and glared at Connor.
"What's this?" He pulled out a scrap of fabric that looked like a stuffed yellow tube sock with a large brass nozzle on the end.
"It's a dance costume. For Freddie the Fireman. That's his personal fire hose."
Connor dropped the thong like it was on fire, then resumed his search of her handbag. He pulled out a sparkly flesh-colored thong with fake ivy twisted around the tube. "I hesitate to ask…"
"Our theme for August is 'Hot Jungle Fever. Terrance the Turgid is doing an ode to Tarzan. He'll swing across the stage on a vine while he's stripping."