Excerpt from Out of the Box 9


“The play room is this way.” She led the way down a corridor, stopping a few feet from the closed door and dropping her voice to a murmur. “He doesn’t know you’re coming, and he won’t know it’s you until you decide to let him know. Show him a good time, won’t you?”

Looking at the door, she smiled, a small, almost wistful smile, then handed me the silver key on its ribbon. I took it with a hesitant hand and watched as she turned on her heel and started back toward the elevator.

“Wait,” I said, keeping my voice quiet as she had. She looked back toward me. “I still don’t understand—”

“I hadn’t seen him in almost a hundred years,” she cut in quietly. “He only ever comes back to me when he’s hurt. Really hurt.” She gave me a once-over look again and shrugged. “I still don’t see how you could have hurt him like that, but you did. So go ahead and fix what you broke.” Her gray eyes hardened, and suddenly they seemed like ice. I shivered. “Be careful, though. If you make things worse, I’ll make you regret it.”

And with that warning, she left me to contemplate a door I was both scared and impatient to open.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a second. It didn’t do much to calm my heartbeat or my thoughts. I shoved the key in my pants pocket and entered.

The door opened with a murmur of metal well oiled. I stepped in and let my eyes adjust to the near darkness. On each wall, a series of three sconces lit up the room with the wavering flames of thin candles. The light reflected on various metal objects hanging from hooks on the walls. I barely paid them any mind. All I saw was Anando. Chains strung from the ceiling bound him in the center of the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

A whiff of incense reached my nose even as I found his face. I understood, now, why she had said he wouldn’t know it was me. The incense would cover my scent, and the blindfold over his eyes would take care of his sight.

“Come on, Mary. Let me go.”

He sounded halfway between annoyed and exasperated, and I could easily see why. Manacles on each of his wrists bound him to thick chains that kept his arms over his head and slightly apart. I wondered how long he’d been chained there like this, but I didn’t say a word. At least now I knew what the key in my pocket was for.

I took slow steps toward him, drinking in the sight of his body. He was wearing faded jeans and a short-sleeved shirt that hung open on his chest, revealing glimpses of his skin to my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to touch him.

“Mary,” he repeated, sounding like he was losing patience. “If you think…” His voice trailed off and he tilted his head to one side as though listening intently. I could imagine his frown as he realized that yes, there was a heart beating like thunder just a couple of feet in front of him.

My hand trembled as I reached over and rested it in the middle of his chest.

“Listen,” he said urgently, “however much she paid you, you don’t—”

My hand clenched and my nails dug into his skin. He hissed and jerked back as far as the chains would allow him.

“I’m a vampire,” he growled, and flashed his fangs in my direction. “You’d better think twice before pissing me off.”

“Or what?” I asked very low, low enough, I thought, that he might not recognize my voice immediately. “You’ll bite me?”

I came closer to him and pressed my body to his. I wrapped an arm around his waist to stop him from jerking back, and pressed my other hand at the back of his head, pushing his face into my neck. I felt him become completely rigid against me when his lips touched my skin. He sniffed once and sighed, the fight draining out of him.

“Virginia.”

… continued in Out of the Box 9

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