Home > Unforgiven (Vampires in America #7.5)(3)

Unforgiven (Vampires in America #7.5)(3)
Author: D. B. Reynolds

Juro was in a less charitable mood than Cyn, however. He gave Elke a single quelling glance and she shut up. Because that same don’t-fuck-with-me vibe of Elke’s was amped up about a thousand times coming from Juro. Cyn bit back a smile as she settled in for the trip to Luci’s.

The drive from Raphael’s Malibu estate to Luci’s place in West L.A. took longer than it should have. But then, any time you climbed into a car in L.A., you entered the great lottery of traffic jams. One day a ten mile trip could take ten minutes. The next, the same journey could take an hour. Today was in between, but by the time they finally arrived at Jessica’s House, the shelter for runaway teens that Luci and Cyn had founded several years ago, Cyn’s anxiety had skyrocketed. Luci was a very competent woman. She dealt every day and night with a bunch of rowdy, unhappy and maladjusted teenagers, and she did it without blinking. If this new guy was worrying her, then there was a reason to worry.

Juro pulled up in front of the house, his eyes on the entrance as he drew to a stop. Cyn followed his gaze but saw nothing other than a few teens slipping out the front door with wary glances in the direction of the big, black vehicle at the curb. There didn’t seem to be anything about the house that warranted the kind of intense scrutiny Juro was giving it, but then he was a difficult guy to read. His default facial expression was a carefully cultivated blank. He and Cyn got along fairly well, and she’d known him to crack a tiny smile on occasion, but that wasn’t what she was seeing there now.

“Juro?” she asked.

“Lucia is right,” he murmured, his voice so deep that it was little more than a rumble of sound.

Cyn opened her mouth to ask what he meant, but he was already out of the vehicle and striding up the walkway, taking the four steps to the front porch in a single, graceful bound and pulling the screen door open.

“Who the fuck put a burr up his ass?” Elke muttered as she slid out of the truck, but her feet no sooner hit the grass than she was snapping out an arm to stop Cyn from following Juro into the house. Or at least she tried to.

“Fuck that, Elke,” Cyn said, slipping around her bodyguard. “I’m going in there.”

“Of course you are,” Elke agreed, rolling her eyes. “Why do I even bother?”

“Enough with the long-suffering bullshit,” Cyn said as she climbed to the porch and yanked the door open. “You live for this stuff. Before I showed up, you were bored to tears guarding Raphael’s front door from all those threatening bimbos.”

“Yeah—” Elke snorted, “—now I only need to worry about the one.”

Cyn gasped in feigned outrage. “Are you calling me a bimbo?”

“If the shoe fits, sugar. Everything here looks—” Elke’s words cut off as she put on a burst of vampire speed to get ahead of Cyn, then stopped so suddenly that Cyn nearly ran into her. Any shred of playfulness disappeared as Elke blocked Cyn from moving any farther into the house, her entire body stiffening into readiness like an immoveable stone statue, her fangs emerging from her gums in an unmistakable display of aggression.

Cyn didn’t try to get past her, but she did take a step to one side so that the weapon she drew would hit the bad guy and not Elke. Her eyes were on Juro as he moved purposefully down the short hallway to the back of the house where Luci was engaged in earnest conversation with a teenaged boy. He was taller than she was, slender, with dark scruffy hair, and wore battered jeans and a T-shirt, along with a pair of athletic shoes that stood out not only because they looked too new, but because they were a recent and highly coveted design. On runaway kids, it was a red flag that the shoes had probably been stolen. He was also standing too close to Luci, looming over her and invading her space with clear intent, if not to intimidate, then at least to establish dominance in the conversation. But Luci dealt with young men like him all the time, treating them with compassion and a real affection that the teens inevitably warmed to. For all this kid’s aggressive posturing, he was just another unhappy teenager, and Cyn didn’t understand Elke’s extreme reaction.

At least not until she saw Juro insert himself between Luci and the boy. Without a word, Juro reached one huge arm behind him and tucked Luci into a protective curl against his back. Normally, that proof of the big guy’s affection would have been enough to catch Cyn’s attention, but not today. She was too focused on the threatening glare that Juro was directing at the teenager, who Cyn abruptly realized wasn’t a teenager at all. He was a vampire, and he was the reason they were all here.

“Elke?” Cyn whispered. “Do you know him?”

Elke shook her head sharply. “But Juro doesn’t like him, and that’s good enough for me.”

“Who are you?” Juro’s deep voice rumbled. “And why are you here?”

“My lord,” the newcomer said smoothly, “forgive me. It was not my intention to disturb anyone as exalted as yourself.”

When Juro didn’t react to the blatant flattery, the strange vamp gave a longsuffering sigh. “My name is Pascal, and I’ve come from Chicago,” he offered grudgingly. “Nothing against Aden, but he does carry a grudge, and he’s none too welcoming for those of us who worked for Klemens. I thought I’d try my luck out here. I’ve nothing but respect for Raphael.”

Cyn frowned. Aden was the new Lord of the Midwest. He’d defeated, aka killed, all other challengers after the former lord Klemens’s unlamented death. Klemens had been an asshole of the worst sort, so she could understand why Aden wouldn’t want any of Klemens’s old henchmen working for him.

“You’ve a strange way of showing your respect—lurking among teenagers, threatening friends,” Juro said, not making any attempt to conceal his distrust. The intruder shrugged, the simple gesture demonstrating an otherworldly grace that Cyn had only seen with vampires. She chastised herself for missing the obvious. She shouldn’t need Juro or anyone else to identify a vampire for her. Cyn lived with vampires. She knew the little things to look for, the unmistakable signs. That she’d missed this guy told her she was getting too complacent, too reliant on her vampire bodyguards. And that was never a good thing.

“I meant no harm to anyone,” the vamp was saying. “But I wasn’t certain of my welcome. I’d heard on the street that vampires hung around this house, so I did what we’ve always done to survive. I blended, hiding in plain sight until I could figure out a way to contact Raphael without getting summarily executed.”

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