Vamps and the City (Love at Stake 2) - Page 43

"Thank you." Darcy walked into the building and went up the elevator to the fourth floor. The hallway was long and dimly lit. Austin's apartment was halfway down, facing the street.

A sudden reluctance swept through her. What was she doing? Sure she was pissed, but this confrontation was going to hurt her as much as it would him. Because, dammit, she still cared. For the past few weeks, she'd felt attraction, desire, worry, even love for this man. The emotions had poured into a deep, hungry well, and it couldn't drain empty in just a few minutes.

She tried the doorknob. Locked, of course. Would he hear her if she knocked? Would he even let her in?

She considered finding Ian to let him fiddle with the locks. Or there was another possibility. She'd never tried it before. She'd never wanted to admit she was capable of it. It was a vampire thing.

But she was a vampire. Time to stop pretending she was merely a human with an eating disorder who kept odd hours. She was a creature of the night, and that was the reason Austin Olaf Erickson had come into her life.

She rested a palm against the door and concentrated. She only had to teleport to the other side -  only move a few inches through space. She closed her eyes and focused her thoughts. Slowly, the floor beneath her feet disappeared. The door beneath her hand vanished. She quelled a sudden burst of panic and willed herself forward a few feet. Now, she concentrated on regaining her form. The room came into view, the same room she'd seen on Connor's surveillance disk. A quick look around assured her the room was empty.

She'd done it! She glanced back, noting the three deadbolt locks and alarm system control panel by the door. With a surge of pride, she realized even a macho, international spy couldn't keep her out. Now, where was that lying scumbag?

She moved quietly across the room. Austin obviously spent a lot of time on the leather couch that sat opposite the television. The coffee table was littered with videotapes, a laptop, and old computer disks. Not very modern for an international spy. And not very sober, either. A dozen empty beer bottles decorated the end table.

In one corner of the room, a workout bench was surrounded by an assortment of weights. To the left, the living area opened into a small kitchen. To the right, she spotted a closed door.

She opened it and wandered inside. Moonlight from the window illuminated several pieces of furniture - a dresser, a bedside table, and a queen-sized bed. Her eyesight and hearing had grown keener since becoming a vampire. She could hear his soft and regular breathing, see each fold and twist of the bed sheet around his legs and hips. Apparently, he moved a lot in his sleep. He'd pushed the sheet down to his hips. She could see the waistband on his boxer shorts.

He was a beautiful man. Moonlight caressed the breadth of his back across the shoulders, the golden tint of his skin, the indentation of his spine as it came down his lower back. Darcy circled the bed, looking at him. The curve of his biceps, the soft, curly hair on his chest, the thick, tousled hair on his head, the little crease on his cheek where his dimple was. His skin looked bronzed and warm. How she had loved that warmth. But she had confused his body warmth with a warm, loving character.

Her eyes brimmed with tears. She'd fallen for him so fast. His jaw was shaded with whiskers, darker than the sun-bleached hair on his head. It gave him an aura of danger, as if a pirate lurked beneath the golden surfer-boy. But the skin along his cheekbones was soft and smooth. His thick eyelashes rested against the soft skin, lending him a look of sweet innocence.

She had believed in that innocence when all along there'd been a pirate underneath. How could you? Her thoughts screamed in her head. How could you lie to me?

He moaned and turned onto his back.

She stepped back. Had he heard her thoughts?

He shook his head slowly, his face contorting with a grimace. "No," he mumbled. He kicked at the sheet. "No." His hands fisted. His eyes moved rapidly beneath his closed eyelids.

A bad dream, that was all. Well, he deserved bad dreams.

"No." He curled into a fetal position. "Darcy."

She inhaled sharply. He was dreaming about her. And his voice had sounded wrenched with pain. A guilty conscience? Or had he fallen for her, too? She backed out of the room. She recalled the way he had looked that night in the greenhouse when he'd thought no one was watching. He'd looked miserable.

She approached the couch. Were all these empty beer bottles his way of drowning the pain? The labels on the videotapes caught her eye. Local Four/Darcy Newhart. What on earth? She grabbed one and inserted it into the VCR. She located the remote control on the couch, then turned on the television. The volume was fairly low, but she punched the mute button just in case.

The tape started. Her knees gave out, and she plopped onto the couch. Oh, God, she remembered this. It was the opening of the dog park in the Bronx. She was there, alive, walking in the sunlight. She pressed a hand against her mouth. Her eyes stung with tears. Dammit. She wasn't going to cry. That life was over.

She turned off the television and examined the videos. A dozen in all, they covered her entire career and beyond. The last one's label read Darcy's Disappearance/Death? With a gasp, she dropped it on the table. Good God. She squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on taking deep breaths.

A calmness settled over her when she realized Austin Erickson had been watching those tapes. He'd studied her like a test subject in order to manipulate her. The lying scumbag.

She picked up a computer disk and read the label. DVN/employee records. That bastard. She picked up two more. DVN/subscribers. DVN/advertisers. Good God, he must have downloaded everything from DVN. Is this what he'd done in her office? He'd come pretending that he wanted to see her, but all along he'd been seeking a way to destroy her workplace, her acquaintances, her entire world.

She glimpsed something yellow beneath the disks and pushed them to the side. She lifted the yellow legal pad to make out the writing in the dim light. Her name was scrawled on the bottom of a list. And in the top margin, he'd written Vampires Must Die.

With a strangled cry, she dropped the pad on the table. A shudder coursed through her body. Die? He meant to kill her? She clenched her hands together and looked at the list once more. Gregori, Vanda, Maggie, the list went on naming all the people she cared about. Panic flooded her, threatening to drown her with the full extent of Adam's betrayal.

She leapt to her feet. She would not be victimized like this. Her life had been stolen from her before, but never again. That bastard, she should march in there and knock his head off. But first, she needed to protect her vampire friends. No more pretending she wasn't one of them. She was, and this was war.

She ripped the first few pages off the legal pad and tore them up into tiny pieces. She eyed his laptop. It was probably full of information. She'd take it with her when she left. As for the disks, they needed to go.

She gathered them up and strode into the kitchen. She opened the microwave and tossed them inside. Three minutes should be enough. She pushed the start button and stood back, smiling grimly as the sparks began to sizzle inside. Maybe the whole damned thing would blow up.

"Hold it right there," a deep voice spoke quietly. "Put your hands up where I can see them."

Darcy turned slowly and saw Austin move from the doorway of his bedroom. Moonlight glinted off the metal revolver in his hand.

As he advanced, he pivoted from side to side, aiming his gun at the shadows. "Did you come alone?" He couldn't see well, Darcy realized. "I'm alone." He froze at the sound of her voice. "Darcy?" She flipped on the kitchen light and enjoyed the shocked look on his face. "Surprised to see me, Austin?" She motioned to his revolver. "If you're planning to kill me now, you'll have to do better than that."

Chapter 18

She knew who he was.

In a moment of crisis, Austin's training usually kicked in, allowing him to shove all emotion into storage and react with cool logic and precision. That was how it was supposed to work. But one look at Darcy's face, and his emotions were screaming to be let out. She knew who he was. Crap.

He scanned the room to make sure she was alone. The locks on his door were secure. The control panel was still blinking, so the alarm was still on. She must have teleported in.

A videotape was partially ejected from the VCR. She must have watched some of the tape. The computer disks were missing from the coffee table. Bits of yellow paper littered the table and floor. The list he'd made with the title Vampires Must Die. She'd seen it. With her name on it. The emotional door cracked open. "Shit."