Shades of Wicked Page 2

Ian snorted. “Sleep better telling yourself that, do you? You make my sins look forgivable, and that takes some doing.”

“Enough.” How dare he judge me? “Now, come.”

His brows rose, as if he couldn’t believe I’d spoken to him the same way some people called their dogs. Well, if he insisted on acting like a beast, I’d treat him like one.

“All of you, leave,” Ian said to the prostitutes, who’d been watching us with more boredom than interest. They’d probably thought our exchange was more role-playing. “My compliments for the day’s entertainment, but now it’s over. Go,” he stressed when some of them hung back instead of joining the ones that began to file out the door.

I bit back a disbelieving laugh. “Are you getting them out of the way because you’re intending to fight me?”

Ian flashed a smile that increased the intensity of his unusual beauty. “You must not have done your research if you thought I’d come willingly.”

The silver from his piercing must have gotten into his bloodstream and damaged his brain. That was the only explanation. “I’m more than four thousand years older than you.”

“Really?” he said with mock surprise. “Here I was thinking you didn’t look a day over twenty, little Guardian.”

I’d been older than that when I was changed into a vampire, but his guess was a common mistake. People put far too much emphasis on appearances. “Is ‘little Guardian’ supposed to be insulting? If so, do better.”

“Not being insulting,” he replied in an easygoing tone. “But if you’re half my weight, I’d be surprised.”

Yes, I currently looked more delicate than formidable. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t help him. With age came strength, and I had thousands of years on him. “Stand down, Ian, and I won’t punish you for attacking me.”

“Why don’t you try begging me to stand down?” he suggested. “Make your plea interesting enough, and I might consider it.”

I was done negotiating. I plowed into Ian hard enough to shatter the bones in his upper body. To my surprise, he did nothing to block the blow. Instead, he flung me upward with a strength he should never have had. I hit the ceiling with such force, I went all the way through. For a stunned moment, I stared at him through the hole my body made in the floor.

“Stop now and perhaps you’re the one who won’t get punished,” he said in a pleasant tone.

I suppressed the urge to immediately charge him again. Never underestimate an opponent twice, if you’re lucky enough to survive the first time. My vampire sire, Tenoch, had taught me that. Following Tenoch’s advice had saved my life many times, so I pushed back my urge to retaliate.

Ian was wrong—I had done my research on him. It hadn’t revealed anything unusual except for a voracious sexual appetite, an open disdain for rules, and a penchant for collecting the rare and expensive. My previous assault should have left him on the ground, not whistling along to that awful circus tune while looking more bored than concerned.

Maybe his unusual strength came from the demon brands? They did more than act as a leash between Ian and the demon who’d seared them onto him. Over time, those brands would also endow Ian with some of that demon’s strength and power. Ian had only been branded for a few weeks though. Not nearly long enough for him to manifest parts of the demon’s strength or abilities.

I’d find out his secret later. Right now, I needed to take him down, and thankfully, I had some surprises for him, too.

I gave Ian a level look. “My turn.”

His smile grew into a grin. “Come and get me, little Guardian.”

Chapter 2

I didn’t jump down through the hole above him, which was what he would have expected. Instead, I made a new hole in the floor on the other side of the room. Ian leapt back to avoid my instant grab, then kicked me during the split second my back was turned. I sprawled forward, but even as he pounced, I spun away, leaving him to hit the floor instead of me. Then I jumped onto his back and clamped my legs around him to hold on.

He began to buck at once. I tightened my grip until his ribs broke. He didn’t slow. I began to whack the back of his head, using strength I normally kept dormant.

His head rocked from the blows, though he still bucked hard enough to throw us both around the room. Those demon brands might not be the source of his bewildering strength, but they must be causing him to heal even faster than a vampire’s normal swift regeneration. Soon, I was gripping him just to keep from being thrown off. Then he began to fly, smashing me against the walls, the ceiling, and the floor, all while bucking like a crazed, rabid bronco.

My bones began to break and my head rang after being repeatedly bashed against various hard surfaces. If he were anyone else, I would kill him, but I needed Ian alive. And cooperative. Maybe his brains hitting the floor would help with that last part.

I whacked his skull even harder to force him to the ground and hold him there. It took a lot of effort, which was why I kept punching his head while shoving his body against the carpet. I couldn’t allow him to get enough leverage to start flying again. If he did, I might have to reveal powers I’d rather he not know about and . . . wait. What was that sound?

I stopped hitting Ian to listen more closely. It almost sounded like . . . no. He couldn’t be.

“Are you laughing at me?”

He was, and now his chuckles sounded louder since they were no longer competing with the noise from our fight. I also realized that the long, hard object I’d felt near my foot was not a concealed weapon. He wasn’t just amused by my attempts to beat his skull open—he was aroused by them!

“Your bouncing up and down on my back plus all this rough chafing is really doing the trick,” Ian said, still chuckling. “Soon, I’ll have to pay you along with the rest of the whores. In fact, if you take requests, a bit more effort on your downstroke, luv—”

I threw a punch that should have sent my fist all the way through his head. His neck bent at the last second while the back of his body surged up. Too late, I realized the trap. My fist ended up flying past his head while the rest of me was catapulted off him.

Before I could regroup, he leapt on top of me. In the next instant, he was holding me down, and I felt the distinct burn of silver stabbing me between the ribs.

Damn him! He’d managed to goad me into recklessly acting without thinking again. If my legs hadn’t been pinned by his, I might have kicked myself for being so stupid.

“Don’t move,” Ian said in a conversational tone. “I don’t want to kill you, but I will if you force me.”

“Where did you get that knife?” I hadn’t been so distracted before that I’d forgotten to frisk him.

“From my jacket.”

“Liar. I felt you for weapons when I was on top of you.”

“Was that what you were doing?” His lips twitched. “Thought you were feeling around for something more interesting.”

At my contemptuous look, he shrugged and said, “You didn’t feel the knife before because it was only a small silver ball a few moments ago.”

My eyes widened. “You’re admitting to a Law Guardian that you used magic to transform a silver ball into a knife?”

“Did I forget that using magic is a death sentence for vampires?” Ian used his free hand to mime clutching a strand of pearls. “And so is striking a Law Guardian. Dear me, I’ve condemned myself twice! Please, have mercy!”

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