The Vampire With the Dragon Tattoo(10)

By: Kerrelyn Sparks
Chapter Nine





“Are ye ready to go?”

Leah’s heart leaped in her chest at the sound of Dougal’s voice. She looked up from her microscope and spotted him at the door, watching her intently with his emerald green eyes. Why was he holding a blanket?

“ ’Tis one thirty in the morning,” he added.

She glanced at the clock on the wall. She’d been so busy that she’d lost track of time. But her back and shoulders ached from sitting on a stool, hunched over her work.

She glanced at Abby, who sat beside her at the lab table. “Do you mind if I leave?”

“Of course not. I’ll be leaving soon, too. Gregori should be here any minute now.”

“Don’t worry about me.” Laszlo smiled at her from across the room. “I’m used to working all night long.”

Leah stood, picking her handbag off the floor. Dougal had stepped into the room. For a large man, he could move very quietly. “Are you driving me back?”

“Nay.”

Her heart stilled. “If you’re planning on teleporting me, I’m not comfortable with that.”

“I know, but it is something ye should accustom yerself to. Now that ye’re working with us, there will be times when ye’ll need to teleport with us.”

“I can take a cab.”

“Across the world? Ye need to learn how to travel with us. ’Tis a business matter.”

She supposed he was making a valid point, but still . . . She leaned close to Abby and whispered, “Is it safe?”

“Yes,” Abby whispered back. “And he can hear us.”

She straightened with an annoyed huff. He didn’t need to look so amused. “Why do you have a blanket with you?”

“ ’Tis no’ a blanket, but my tartan.” He draped it over one of his broad shoulders. The plaid design matched his kilt. “It could be a bit chilly where we’re going.”

“I thought we were going to the townhouse.”

“Eventually. We’ll make a short stop on the way.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Did you find a new underground lair?”

“Nay.” His mouth twitched. “We will definitely be aboveground.” He extended a hand toward her. “Ready?”

She eased toward him, frowning. “You’re not planning to invade my mind?”

“Nay. I know exactly where we’re going. I did a test run a few minutes ago.”

Now he was making her curious. She hitched her handbag onto her shoulder. “Where are we going?”

“ ’Tis a surprise.” He took hold of her arm and drew her into the hallway.

Her heart lurched. Damn. With his superhearing, he could probably tell that her heart was racing.

“Ye need to hold on to me,” Dougal said quietly.

Her gaze met his and froze. He was so close. She could see little specks of gold in his green eyes.

He gripped her around the waist and pulled her against him. “Hold me,” he whispered. “Trust me.”

Her heart thundered in her ears. Did she dare trust him? Tentatively, she rested her hands on his broad chest.

“Ready?”

To teleport? Panic shot through her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Everything went black. Then in a flash, she was surrounded by color and light. She stumbled, looking about, and he steadied her.

Her eyes focused on the graffiti-covered metal wall close to her face. For a good time, call Lorenzo?

“We’re in a bathroom stall?” She glanced at the toilet. “This is where you wanted to take me?”

Dougal smiled. “It was the safest place to arrive. I locked this door from the inside about five minutes ago.” He opened the stall door and led her into the restroom.

A woman gasped as they walked by.

The ladies’ room? Leah winced as they hurried to the exit.

“Where are we?” she whispered as Dougal led her through a glass door.

Immediately, a cold wind whipped at her.

She gasped, barely aware that he was wrapping the tartan around her shoulders. A starry sky was overhead, and before her, the bright lights of New York City stretched for miles in every direction.

“The Empire State Building?” She ran toward the barricade, then glanced back at Dougal, grinning. “This is so awesome!”

He smiled back. “Ye like it?”

“Yes!” It was cold and windy, but she didn’t care. She huddled beneath his tartan and looked out at the city. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”

“Ye’ve never been here before?”

“No.” She skirted the wall, gazing out at the sea of lights. “How far up are we?”

“Eighty-six floors.” He followed her.

She snorted. Definitely not an underground lair. “I didn’t know they were open this late.”

“Till two.”

She spun around, grinning. “It’s just like the movies. We practically have it to ourselves.”

“Aye.”

She continued to circle the observation deck, then stopped to look at the Chrysler Building. “This is great, Dougal. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Leah.”

She couldn’t recall him saying her first name before. It made her heart flutter, and she tightened the tartan shawl around her shoulders. The heat of a blush warmed her cheeks, but hopefully it would look like a result of the crisp wind. “I-I’m grateful. But I meant what I said earlier. We shouldn’t date.”

He nodded, gazing into the distance. “This is business. So ye’ll learn to trust us.”

“Right.” She winced inwardly. Were they both in denial? But as long as she didn’t confess to being attracted to him, she could pretend it wasn’t true.

She glanced at him, quickly admiring his profile, before looking away. “How old are you?”

“I was born in 1721. Transformed at the Battle of Culloden in ’46.”

“So you became a vampire when you were twenty-five?”

“Aye.”

“So young.”

He turned to her, his eyes glittering with humor. “I havena been called young in a long time. How old are you?”

“Twenty-three.”

“So young.”

She lifted her chin. “Old enough.”

“Aye.” He brushed back a strand of hair that blew across her face.

She turned away and wandered over to one of the binoculars. Dougal retrieved a few quarters from his sporran and inserted them in the machine.

“Thank you.” She peered through the binoculars, too tense to know what she was looking at. She could feel his presence close by. He made her heart race, and yet he was solid in a steady, comforting way. Dependable and exciting at the same time.

She moved closer to the barricade. “How does a person become a vampire?”

“A vampire drains you dry, then ye go into a coma until he feeds his blood back to you. Then ye wake up with a powerful hunger. For blood.”

She shuddered. “I can’t imagine having to live on nothing but blood.”

“It can be verra tasty.” He leaned close. “Can ye spare a pint?”

“No.” She glared at him when he smiled. “Not funny.”

He sighed. “According to Gregori, I’m supposed to make ye laugh.”

“So I’ll learn to trust you?”

“So I can win yer heart.”

She swallowed hard. “We’re not dating.”

“Aye, I know.”

The wind whipped her hair across her face, and she pushed it back. “Don’t your knees get cold?”

“Nay.”

The wind blew her hair in her face again, and she shoved it back.

“Here.” He pulled the leather tie from his hair and stepped behind her.

“You don’t need to—” She paused at the feel of his hands on her neck, gathering up her hair. When he finished tying the strip, she turned to face him.

The wind blew some strands of his long black hair across his face, and they caught on the whiskers along his jaw.

“Silly man. Now you’re having trouble.” She brushed his hair back, her fingertips lingering on his cheek. Her gaze met his, and the fierce yearning in his eyes took her breath away.

She spun to face the city lights. We’re not dating. I’m not falling for him. “How did you know I wanted to see this place?”

He moved to stand beside her. “Fidelia mentioned ye were watching a movie. After I investigated it, I suspected ye would enjoy this.”

“You investigated An Affair to Remember?”

“Aye. ’Tis what I do. I work for MacKay Security and Investigation.” He glanced at her. “Tell me about yerself.”

Her mouth twitched. “Are you investigating me now?”

He smiled. “Aye. I want to know all about you.”

“Why?”

He tilted his head while he considered. “Because ye’re you. From the moment I first saw you, I felt drawn to you.”

She shivered under his tartan blanket. “You first saw me on a security camera.”

“Aye.” His brows drew together in a frown. “ ’Twas difficult to watch. I wanted to teleport you away from the pain. My offer still stands, ye ken. If at any time ye want to leave, just let me know.”

She nodded slowly. “I appreciate that.” Just knowing that he was on her side made her feel all squishy and warm. He would be absolutely perfect if he wasn’t a vampire.

“What do ye like to do when ye’re no’ working?”

She shrugged. “I hardly know. It seems like I’ve spent my whole life studying. But I enjoy my work. I like helping people, even if I’m not very comfortable around them.”

“It must have been hard for you to start college so young.”

She nodded. “I was ready academically, but not socially. I was homeschooled by my parents. They’re both professors. I have two brothers, but they’re older than me. And they each started college at the age of thirteen, so I never got to know them very well.”

“Ye were lonely.”

Her eyes burned with resentment and unshed tears. How could her parents be so brilliant and never realize that sometimes a young child didn’t need another book or another assignment? Sometimes she just needed a damned hug.

Grandpa had understood. A wave of grief swept over her. “I had a grandfather in Ireland. He used to wear a kilt and play the pipes.”

“He’s gone now?”

She nodded, blinking away tears. “I miss him.”

“ ’Tis sorry I am that I dinna meet him.”

“Abby told me you’re a musician?”

He glanced down at his prosthetic hand. “I used to be.”

Did he lose his music when he lost his hand? That had to hurt something awful. “I’m sorry.”

He nodded. “Now I’m known throughout the vampire world as the guy who lost a hand. My friends try to make it sound swell by calling me the Bionic Man or the Terminator.”

She winced. After years of being called Dr. Freakazoid, she knew how it felt to be singled out for a certain trait that made her different from others.

He sighed. “I shouldna have told you that. I doona want to sound like I’m complaining.”

“Why not? Maybe you should tell your friends—”

“Nay! I would sound like a whiny, wee bairn. I should take it like a man.”

She bit her lip to keep from smiling. Apparently the male ego survived after death.

The wind blew the hem of his kilt up a few inches, revealing strong, muscular thighs. Wincing, he pushed it down.

She laughed. “Come on, take it like a man.”

He smiled. “Och, so I made ye laugh after all.”

She nodded. But did that mean he could win her heart?

Fear swelled inside her to the point of near panic. What was she doing here? She’d told him so much about herself. And she was enjoying being with him.

A vampire. A gorgeous vampire who made her heart race.

She couldn’t let this continue. “I’d like to leave now.”


She was still afraid of him. Dougal strode into the security office at Romatech, wondering what he should do next to earn Leah’s trust. When he’d teleported her to the townhouse, she’d barely looked at him. She’d thanked him before running upstairs to her room. He was reasonably sure she’d enjoyed the trip to the Empire State Building, and they had succeeded in getting to know each other a little better. That had to be progress.

“You’re back,” Freemont said from behind the desk.

“Aye. Thank you for manning the fort for me.” Dougal scanned the monitors. Abby and Gregori had left. Laszlo was working alone in the lab. The captured soldier was still in the silver room.

“No problem. You were gone for only half of your lunch hour.” Freemont stood. “I’ll do a perimeter check.” He headed out the door.

“Thanks.” Dougal retrieved a bottle of blood from the small fridge and popped it into the microwave.

What should his next move with Leah be? Should he take her to another place tomorrow night? What did modern people do on dates? Dinner and a movie? Dinner would be awkward, since he couldn’t eat. And Leah would object if it was too obvious that he was trying to date her.

He sipped from his bottle, recalling their conversation at the Empire State Building. She’d had a lonely life. He understood that all too well. After being kidnapped at the age of fourteen, he’d learned quickly that he was alone against the world.

She didn’t have to be alone anymore. She could have someone who admired her courage, her brilliant mind, and her strength of character. Someone who ached to touch her beautiful face and explore every lovely inch of her.

She could have him.

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