Hidden by Blood

By: Laurie London

A Sweetblood Novella


Two weeks ago

“This shouldn’t hurt. Well, maybe just a little.”

Finn McKentry clenched his fists and arched his back off the squalid mattress. The metal cuffs around his wrists and ankles dug painfully into his skin as heavy chains clanked against the cold stone floor. With a groan, he struggled, twisted and pulled against his restraints. As usual, nothing gave way, but that never stopped him from trying.

His captor arranged the supplies neatly on the metal tray and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Come now. You must relax, or you’ll create unnecessary bruising on the skin. And we don’t want that, do we?”

The man filled a syringe with a small amount of clear liquid, held it up to the light filtering into the room, and flicked it with one finger.

The alcohol-dipped cotton ball was cold on the inside of Finn’s arm and he turned his head away. He knew what was coming next but was powerless to stop it from happening. Frustrated by his helplessness, Finn tensed every muscle. Beads of sweat trickled down from his hair despite the cool air. He hadn’t entirely given up hope that he’d figure a way out of here, but with each passing day, that hope was quickly diminishing.

“Calm down, please. If this vein collapses like the other, I’ll be forced to use the one behind your knee, which I understand is a very tender area. Either that or your groin. And that wouldn’t be pleasant for either of us, I’m afraid.”

Finn sucked in a loud hiss of air as the needle went in. That damn anticoagulant stung like a sonofabitch every single time. With a deadly efficiency, the man attached vial after vial to the needle, carefully capping each one after it was filled.

Finn tried to distance himself from his emotions, focusing instead on every individual detail with a detached curiosity. It was a technique from Army Ranger SERE training, where they were taught survival, evasion, resistance and escape tactics. Little had he known at the time that he would end up using those skills not as a prisoner in Afghanistan or Iraq, but stateside, after retiring from active duty to run his own helicopter sightseeing business.

It had been after dark when he’d met the man at the small regional airport last week. The guy had seemed sincere enough on the phone when he made an appointment to see the city lights by helicopter. He’d said something about a wealthy employer. However, when he’d stepped out of the Bentley and Finn had walked up to shake his hand, everything had changed.

The man’s pleasant, cordial expression had suddenly disappeared as he’d hurriedly pulled out a white handkerchief and touched it to his upper lip. At the time, Finn had assumed it was nerves—many people were anxious the first time they flew in a helicopter. The man had glanced around and steered Finn to the back of the car using some flimsy excuse about needing to change his shoes. Before Finn knew what was happening, he’d been overpowered and shoved into the trunk. During the bumpy ride here, the knots on his restraints had proved to be so tight that even his survival school trainer would’ve been stumped.

He scrutinized his captor now. With his neatly trimmed dark hair and country-club clothes, he seemed laughably out of place in this hell-hole. At no more than five-foot-seven, the guy was almost feminine in stature, with narrow shoulders and small hands. Finn could easily picture a gust of wind buffeting him on a city sidewalk. His back would be hunched against the rain; he’d have a newspaper in one hand and the collar of his GQ wool trench coat clutched tightly in the other.

But as Finn had learned all too well, fancy clothes and a Fifth Avenue haircut couldn’t hide the monster underneath.

“That’s a good patient.” The man smiled without looking up from his task, the tips of his fangs making small indentions on his lower lip. His pupils had expanded as they always did the minute Finn’s blood started filling those vials, leaving just a narrow ring of his pale-green irises visible. “When you give in and stop fighting, it makes it so much easier for both of us.”

Anger boosted Finn’s resolve. “Bloody sonofabitch, I’ll kill you.”

If the guy were human, Finn would’ve kicked his ass. He might have spent the last few months running San Juan Aviation, and visiting relatives in Scotland before that, but taking down an enemy combatant wasn’t something a Ranger forgot how to do.

Yeah, he’d have snapped the little fucker like a toothpick if he’d been human.

But considering the guy was a vampire, Finn knew he didn’t stand a chance.



Chapter One



Brenna Stewart couldn’t wait for the evening to end. She refolded the curled scrap of paper in her lap and turned to the friend seated next to her.

“Thanks, Lil, for road-tripping it down here with me. I don’t know if I could get through this without you.”

“An hour or so southeast of Seattle is hardly a road trip. Besides, I wouldn’t have missed it.” Although Lily DeGraff smiled, the absent look in her eyes didn’t fade. Brenna thought about poking Lily with the toe of her shoe or flashing her a goofy smile, but she didn’t do either quickly enough, and now the master of ceremonies was getting ready to announce another name.

She sat up stiffly, hoping it wasn’t her turn yet. Lily reached over and gave her a reassuring pat on the hand.

The two of them had met shortly after Lily was assigned to the Seattle field office. Although they had very different backgrounds, they shared a lot of the same interests and could talk for hours about books and the latest documentary on PBS. Lately, their lives had gotten so busy that they didn’t get together as often as they used to. But when they did, it was as if no time had passed at all, and they easily slipped into the banter of old friends.

Brenna lowered her voice. “Are you sure I don’t have lipstick on my teeth?”

“For the hundredth time, no,” Lily said with a dramatic sigh. “You look great, Bren. You’re well prepared for this. It’s not every day you get awarded a full-ride scholarship that allows you to attend medico school. Focus on your goal, not this current unpleasantness.”

Brenna had been working as a vampire medic, the equivalent of a human EMT, but her dream was to continue her medical training with the goal of becoming a physician. She wanted to treat and solve injuries and illnesses, not just put bandages on them.

“I’m a creature of habit, Lil. I don’t handle new and different very well.”

“Then I’d say you’re hosed, love.”

Brenna found her friend’s exasperated tone mildly reassuring, yet it did nothing to stop her racing pulse. No matter how many times she told herself she was ready for this speech, she was still a bundle of nerves. Was this what Jung had meant when he’d talked about dynamic opposition, two opposing forces colliding? Glancing around the elegant ballroom, she recognized a few faces from Seattle’s small vampire population, including several Council elders, and her heart thundered even louder in her ears.

“Gee, thanks, but—”

“Shush. You can put up with a little—” Lily hesitated as a dark-haired man rose from a nearby table when his name was called. He dodged the tables and chairs with the grace of a jungle cat. But just as quickly, she finished her thought. “—discomfort.”

It’d be good for Lily to hook up with someone, Brenna decided. Get her mind off things. As the man sauntered past their table, he touched the back of Lily’s chair, his gaze lingering on her bare shoulders. There was a time when a look like that would’ve meant the two of them would be hooking up before the night was over. But tonight Brenna wasn’t so sure.

Like most of their kind, her friend regarded her voracious sexual appetite as a natural way to channel excess aggression. Hunting humans for bloodsport was considered barbaric today—only Darkbloods, rogue vampires who lived on the fringe of their civilized society, believed otherwise.

Centuries ago, when the elders realized they could survive on only the occasional sip of blood combined with regular absorption of human energy, vampires had begun to live peacefully and in secret among the human population. But because vampires had learned to contain their need for blood, this excess aggression had to go somewhere, so their need for sex increased. Vampire-owned establishments often had private rooms where their patrons could engage in sexual activity. This elegant old estate was probably no exception, Brenna thought, remembering a bank of doors in the vestibule.

“He was totally checking you out,” she whispered.

“What?”

“That guy up there. Mr. Handsome. He was checking you out.”

Lily didn’t even look at the stage, just picked at her red-tipped nails. “Bren, I’m not ready for that. Not now.”

“I think it’d be good for you. I’m not talking commitment or anything. Just, you know, a distraction.” God knows she could use one.

Just over a year ago, Lily’s significant other had been presumed killed in a massive explosion when Guardians stormed a Darkblood facility where macabre experiments were being done on sweetbloods, humans with a rare blood type that was extremely addictive to vampires. He had worked undercover in the Darkblood Alliance for years, with Lily as his Agency contact. A few months later, Lily had discovered he hadn’t died after all. He just hadn’t wanted to be with her any longer. She’d taken his betrayal pretty hard and hadn’t fully been herself since.

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