I Hunger for You
(From Pocket - March 2005)
"The suspects finally answered the phone. Looks like we have a robbery gone sour. Maybe we can work with their demands." The negotiator's voice, heard through the earpiece of Colin Foxe's headset, sounded relieved.
"Do you want us to hold?" his team leader questioned. After a considerable pause, the negotiator said, "Get your team in place, but wait for a go."
It was known that there was already an officer down inside; a cop who'd noticed something suspicious while driving by. She'd called it in, then gone inside. Shots had been fired. The situation escalated quickly after that, and now his S.W.A.T team was on the ground and on the move.
Colin could smell the wounded officer's blood drifting on the evening breeze through a bullet hole in the office window. He could also sense the faint flutter of her heartbeat. She wasn't dead, but she didn't have much time. Even he couldn't see inside, since curtains had been pulled across the wide windows at the front of the building, but he could sense a tangled mixture of physical markers and high emotions.
It was everybody on the team's job to stop this situation, but Colin took it very personally. He'd taken vows to protect and serve humanity that were far stronger and more binding than even his oath as a Los Angeles police officer.
He and his S.W.A.T team were here to see that the hostages and injured cop were saved. It was a great team, well-trained, well-coordinated, well-led; he was proud to be a part of it.
Dressed all in black, he moved in line with the rest of the team. Crouching low, they were strung out in a loose circle that was stealthily closing in on the one story building. Their target was the offices of a small publishing company located in an office park on a quiet side street. There were at least four armed men inside, holding as many as a dozen hostages.
A cloudy night covered the team's movements as they left behind the police vehicles that filled the street and dodged carefully around the cars in the parking lot. They used nightscope goggles to focus on their objective, all but Colin, who'd perched his on the brim of his helmet. He could see in the dark.
He was outwardly calm, but the excitement of the hunt burned through him. He was aware, the extra senses he reined in much of the time fully focused. He could smell fear, and taste it as well. The threat of violence hung around the office building like a pall of smoke. And one touch of anger scratched across his senses like nails on slate.
He didn't think the fury was coming from one of the perps. It was one of the hostages, and she - yes, that was definitely a strong sense of femaleness - she was royally pissed off. In a hostage situation, it was better to be scared than angry. Scared people were more likely to keep their heads down and do as they were told; increasing their chances of survival. Colin didn't like this, it added risk to the situation. If this woman did something stupid-
Telepathy wasn't his strongest sense, and using it might distract him from the team effort. Besides, there were far too many people with heightened senses inside for him to affect one individual. But he did risk sending one thought toward perps and hostages alike.
I am calm, came the immediate reply.
It took all his training to keep the surprised Colin from surging out of a crouch. She heard him! And answered! And the brief touch of her mind on his made him red hot.
Shouts erupted in his head before he could do anything to calm down. Then he realized the shouts were actually coming from the building. Followed by shots. And screams.
He was up and moving even as the command came.
And he was the first one through the door, rushing in just in time to see the flying side kick that knocked away the gun of the man who would have shot him.
"Hey!" Colin shouted at the woman who'd disarmed the shooter.
"Thanks for the distraction." Then she jumped and kicked again, straight up, taking the bad guy under the chin. He dropped like a rock. Colin grabbed her by the waist as she came back down, and pushed her to the floor.
"Stay put," he ordered, as the rest of his team came boiling in through the door he'd broken down.
Big brown eyes looked up at him, full of shock, and fury that sizzled all the way through him. He motioned for her to get under a nearby desk, then turned and took out another gunman. There was already a third man down. No doubt the Karate Kid had gotten him. Which was probably why the shooting had started. Further back in the building in the rooms beyond this reception area, he heard shouts and screaming. Members of the team were heading that way, at a cautious run. A medical team was already working on the injured cop. Others were cuffing the downed men.
"You could have gotten everybody killed!" Colin paused long enough to yell at the woman.
"Well, I didn't!" she shouted back.
This was no time for an argument. Colin quickly rejoined his team, got into the well-practiced rhythm of a rescue operation. But even as he went about helping to secure the rest of the bad guys, a part of him was still aware of the impression of soft warm flesh over hard muscle he'd gotten in the moment he held her. Her skin held the scent of ginger, and her psychic signature was pure heat, like her blood was laced with chili peppers.
He couldn't let it go, and marched back to the front of the building as soon as the whole place was secure. By this time she was out from under the desk, and one of the medics was arguing with her. Only now did Colin notice that one side of her face was badly bruised, and she was cradling her left hand with her right.
Anger shot through him, and a hot, possessive protectiveness. "Who hurt you?" he demanded.
She looked around, and her dark brown eyes locked with his. "I'm fine."
"That doesn't answer the question."
Her gaze flickered to an unconscious perp on the floor, then back to Colin. "I took care of it."
Her response only served to redirect his annoyance at her. He ripped off his helmet and headset, so he could glare at her with all his attention. "You had no business doing what you-"
"Hey!" she interrupted him. "I saved your ass."
"No, you didn't."
"He was going to shoot you when you came through that door."
"He wouldn't have." He took the woman by the shoulders. He was instantly and intimately aware of the warmth of her skin. "My job is to do the rescuing."
Her anger was incandescent. "You were a little late. Those men held us hostage for four hours. Where were you?"
"Organizing a safe rescue." Everything about her burned him, but he liked it. She infuriated him, needed to be tamed, and he liked that too.
"Did you stop at Starbuck's for a few hours on the way?" She jerked her head to where the medics were working on the wounded officer. "She could have died. We all could have. Somebody had to do something."
"So you took it upon yourself to play hero? Bad move, sister." Her head came up sharply, brown eyes flashing. He could have kissed her then and there. "I am not your sister."
"And you're no hero, either," Colin shot back.
"Officer," the medic cut in. He put a hand firmly on Colin's arm. "Officer."
The Prime part of Colin almost turned on the medic with bared fangs, as if the man was challenging him for a mate. It shocked him that this instinctual impulse was nearly triggered by a mortal. As it was, it took him a moment to get the vampire part of himself under control. He had to close his eyes, take a deep breath - and let the woman go.
"Ms. Luchese's injured," he heard the medic say. "We need to get her to the ER."
"I told you I'm fine," she said.
This reminded Colin that a few moments ago his impulse had been to make someone pay for her being hurt. Now he looked at her and said, "Luchese, you always think you know best, and never do what you're told, right?"
She smiled. It was wicked, and edgy, and that lit a different kind of fire in him.
"Yeah," she acknowledged.
"Go with the medic," he told her. She would have protested further, but he sent a stern command into her mind. Go
Then his team commander called his name, and Colin went back to work.
Several hours later he met the Luchese woman in the ER waiting room as she came out of a treatment room. There were plenty of cops around, making his presence fairly anonymous in the frantic hubbub in this part of the hospital. So, it didn't look like he was hanging around waiting for her. But she spotted him instantly, like she was as drawn to him as he was to her. He watched her look at him, look away. He felt her consider walking past him and out the door. Her left arm was in a sling, and a shiny cream covered the bruises on her face. Her shoulders had a tired slump to them, that she consciously straightened when she saw him. Apparently she was ready to do battle all over again.
"You look beautiful," he said, coming up to her.
Her eyes went wide in surprise. She thought he was making fun of her, and asked, "Officer, are you supposed to talk like that?"
"I'm off duty."
"You're not here to - take a statement, or something?"
"Didn't an officer talk to you already?"
"Yeah. He told me everyone got out okay. But why are you-?"
"I wanted to check on you." He couldn't help but run a hand up her uninjured arm. He felt her shiver. "How are you feeling?"
"Nothing's broken, just a sprained wrist," she answered. "I don't need the sling, but I promised the nice intern who looked at it that I'd wear it until I'm outside the hospital door." She took a deep breath, and made a wry face. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. You risked your life to save us. Thank you."
He gave a slight shrug, and carefully refrained from telling her that she shouldn't have risked her life when he was there to take care of her kind. Mortal life was precious; it was an honor to protect the helpless - even if Luchese here didn't think she was.
"I was scared," she went on. "That made me - testy."
"What were you doing out in the front office with your captor? Why weren't you tied up in the back with the others?"
"I thought you weren't here to ask questions?"
"Not officially. I'm curious. You were up to something, weren't you?"
"They were making ransom demands," she answered. "They were incompetent idiots with guns. They--"
"Had the wrong building," he filled in. "We know that from questioning them. By the time they figured out they'd screwed up, the officer had called the robbery in. But what were you doing?"
"Trying to split them up, so I could take one down and get his weapon. They were demanding a lot of money, and threatening to kill people if they didn't get it. So I spoke up and said I was an heiress, and if they'd let me call my family they'd be rich. I got one of them to take me up front so I could use the receptionist's phone, while one of the others was occupied talking to your negotiator in the back. It worked." She laughed, but the sound was a little shaky. "And I was only there to pick up my friend Courtney for lunch."
He shook a finger under her nose. "Luchese, that was very stupid of you. But brave," he added, as a flash of annoyance went through her. He touched the tip of her nose, then found himself tracing the outline of her lips. Soft, full, warm lips. This sent a wave of hunger through him. He was going to kiss those lips, soon. The smoldering look she gave him told him she knew it too. He was going to taste her. But this was not the place.
He made himself take a step back. "My name's Colin Foxe," he finally introduced himself. "You have a first name, Luchese?"
"Mia," she answered. "Mia Luchese."
Mia. A short, pretty, uncomplicated mortal name. It had nothing in common with the complex, beautiful names of vampire females. Someday he was going to bond with a vampire female, but right now he wanted this human woman.
He reached out and took her uninjured hand. "I'll take you home."
Copyright © 2004 by Susan Sizemore