He lifted her in his arms.
"No." She was fainting away. She couldn't let this happen. With one last feeble attempt, she opened her eyes.
His face was close. The world was fading away, and still he studied her, his eyes slowly starting to glow.
His eyes were red. Red like blood.
Dead, she would soon be dead. Like Karen. "Save yourself. Please," she whispered. Then all went black.
Unbelievable. If Roman didn't know better, he'd swear she wasn't mortal. In more than five hundred years, he had never met a mortal who could resist his mind control. He'd never met a mortal who wanted to save him instead of kill him. God's blood, she even believed he was innocent. And incredibly handsome - those had been her words.
But she was mortal. Her body felt warm and soft in his arms. He dipped his head lower and inhaled deeply through his nose. The rich aroma of fresh, human blood filled his senses. Type A Positive. His favorite. His grip tightened. His groin swelled. She was so vulnerable in his arms, her head dropped back to expose her virginal white neck. And damn if the rest of her didn't look just as tasty.
As much as he craved her body, her mind intrigued him even more. How the hell had she managed to block his mind control? Every time he'd attempted it, she'd slapped it back in his face. The struggle of minds hadn't angered him, though. Quite the contrary. He had still managed to read a few of her thoughts. Apparently she was frightened by the sight of blood. And her last thought before fainting had been about death.
But she was very much alive. She shimmered with heat and vitality, pulsed with vibrant life, and even unconscious, she was giving him one hell of an erection. God's blood. What was he going to do with her?
His extra-sensitive hearing caught the sound of male voices on the front sidewalk.
"Shanna! Don't make this hard on yourself. Let us in."
Shanna? He noted her fair skin, pink mouth, and light sprinkling of freckles across her pert nose. The name suited her. Her soft, brown hair looked dyed. Interesting. Why would a lovely young woman hide her true hair color? One thing was certain. VANNA was a poor substitute for the real thing.
"That's it, bitch! We're coming in." Something crashed through the front of the clinic, splintering glass. The mini-blinds rattled.
God's blood. These men truly meant to hurt her. What could she have done? He seriously doubted she was some kind of criminal. She'd been too inept with her revolver. And too trusting of him. In fact, she seemed more worried about his safety than her own. Her last words had begged him to save himself. Not her.
The sanest course of action would be to drop her and run. After all, there were other dentists out there, and he rarely involved himself in the mortal world.
He looked down at her face. Save yourself. Please.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't leave her to die. She was.. different. Something in his gut, an instinct that had rested dormant for centuries, flared within him, and he knew. He was cradling a rare treasure in his arms.
More glass shattered in the front office. God's blood. He'd have to move fast. Luckily for him, that wasn't a problem. He hefted her over one shoulder and grabbed her strange handbag with pictures of Marilyn Monroe printed on each side. He cracked open the back door and peered outside.
The buildings across the street were jammed together with metal fire escapes zigzagging up the walls. Most of the businesses were closed. Only a restaurant on the corner was still lit up. Cars dashed along the busier street, but this side street was quiet. Parked cars lined both sides. His extra-sharp senses detected life. Two men behind the parked car across the street. He couldn't see them, but he felt their presence, smelled the blood pumping through their veins.
In an instant, he pushed the door open and swooshed to the end of the block. As he zoomed around the corner, he saw the two mortals just starting to react. They ran toward the open door, their pistols drawn. Roman had moved so fast, they hadn't even seen him. He rounded another corner to the street in front of the clinic. There he hid behind a parked delivery van and watched the scene unfold.
Three black sedans blocked the street. Three, no, four men were there - two acting as sentries while the other two smashed their way through the glass storefront. Bloody hell. Who were these men who wanted Shanna dead?
His arms tightened around her. "Hang on, sweetness. We're going for a ride." He focused on the roof of the ten-story building behind him. A second later, they were there, and he was looking down on the group of thugs.
Shards of glass littered the sidewalk, crunching beneath the shoes of Shanna's would-be killers. Only jagged stalagmites remained of the clinic windows. One of the thugs reached a gloved hand through the broken glass door and unlocked it. The others drew pistols from their coats and entered the clinic.
The door banged shut behind them, causing a shower of glass bits to rain down onto the sidewalk. The mini-blinds swung back and forth with a metallic rustling sound. Soon the scrape and crash of furniture could also be heard.
"Who are these men?" he whispered, but received no answer. Shanna lay still across his shoulder. And he felt stupid, standing there holding a woman's purse.
He spotted some plastic patio furniture on the roof - two green chairs, a small table, and a chaise lounge left in a flat, horizontal position. As he lowered the dentist onto the chaise, his hand glided down her body and knocked into something hard in her pocket. Felt like a cell phone.
He set her purse down and removed the phone from her pocket. He'd call Laszlo and have him return with the car. It was possible to contact other vampires mentally, but telepathic communication didn't always guarantee privacy. Roman was in a dilemma he didn't want accidentally overheard by another vampire. He was short one fang and had just kidnapped a mortal dentist in worse trouble than he.
He zipped back to the building's ledge and peered over. The thugs were leaving the clinic, six of them now, since the four in front of the clinic had been joined by the two from the back. They gestured angrily. Their muttered curses filtered up through the air to his extra-sensitive hearing.
Russian. And they were built like defensive linemen. Roman glanced over his shoulder at Shanna. She'd have a tough time surviving with these gorillas on her trail.
Abruptly, the men halted. Their voices hushed. Out of the shadows, a figure emerged. Damn, so there was a total of seven thugs. How had he missed this one? He could always sense the flowing blood and heated body of a mortal, but this one had completely escaped his notice.
The other six men slowly gravitated toward one another, as if they felt safer in a huddle. Six against one. How could six hefty thugs be afraid of one man? The dark figure moved to the front of the clinic. Stripes of light shot through the ravaged blinds and lit his face.
Bloody hell! Roman stepped back. No wonder he hadn't sensed the seventh man. He was Ivan Petrovsky, coven master of Russian vampires. And one of Roman's oldest enemies.
For the past fifty years, Petrovsky had divided his time between Russia and New York, keeping tight control over Russian vampires worldwide. Roman and his friends always kept themselves up to date on this old enemy. According to the latest reports, Petrovksy was making good money as a paid assassin.
Hiring oneself out as a killer was an age-old tradition among the more violent vampires. Murdering mortals was easy, even enjoyable for them, so why not get paid for the pleasure of going out to eat? The logic obviously appealed to Petrovsky, and he was making his living doing a job he could really love. And no doubt, he excelled at it.
Roman had heard that Petrovsky's preferred employer was the Russian mafia. That would explain the six Russian-speaking, gun-toting mortals in his company. God's blood. The Russian mafia wanted Shanna dead.
Did the Russians know Petrovksy was a vampire? Or did they merely think he was a hired assassin from the Old Country who preferred to work at night? Either way, they clearly feared him.
They had reason to. No mortal would stand a chance against him. Not even a gutsy young woman with a Beretta hidden in her sequined Marilyn Monroe handbag.
A moan drew his attention to the gutsy young woman. She was wakening. God's blood, if the Russians had hired Ivan Petrovsky to kill Shanna, she wouldn't live through another night.
Unless.. unless she was under the protection of another vampire. A vampire with enough power and resources to take on the entire coven of Russian vampires. A vampire with a security force already in place. A vampire who had fought Petrovsky before and survived. A vampire who badly needed a dentist.