Vampire Territory 6: Last Call

Allie Ritch

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Victor Rafe is built for war, not love. He has sworn to fight for Alex and Lucas—the master vampires he serves—but this battle is personal. Taspar Tong murdered his human family long ago, and now the Eastern vampire is plottin...
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Victor Rafe is built for war, not love. He has sworn to fight for Alex and Lucas—the master vampires he serves—but this battle is personal. Taspar Tong murdered his human family long ago, and now the Eastern vampire is plotting to take over Lucas’s territory. All Victor can think about is revenge…until a certain vampiress distracts him.

Cierra refuses to play the fool for any man, even for the sexy warrior who makes her long for his kiss. She wants Taspar dead as much as anyone, but she won’t sit back and watch vengeance destroy Victor. The stubborn vampire is willing to fight for everything else. Why won’t he fight for her?

Get caught up in the exciting finale to Allie Ritch’s Vampire Territory series and find out who is left standing when the battle ends.

Excerpt
Victor left Istvan and went to talk to his last unattached guard. He found Kody in the kitchen, draining a glass of blood.

“I miss getting to drink the live stuff every night,” the blond vampire complained when he was done. “Not to mention the other benefits while I was running the Hornet’s Nest.”

There was no need to clarify what benefits the younger vampire meant. The only reason Kody hadn’t found a woman yet was because he was having far too much fun chasing every woman. He used his fair looks and charming smile to seduce the opposite sex. If only those females knew he wore that same grin while chopping his enemy into bits.

“I’m sorry to have torn you away from your dream job,” Victor said drily, “but I needed you back on guard duty. The only reason you were running the Hornet’s Nest was because we thought Taspar’s men might return to the blood bar.”

“They did, and we took out Drew,” Kody boasted. “Mission accomplished. I have to admit Maribeth is doing a good job taking over the Hornet’s Nest. Who would have thought we’d see a human running a blood bar?”

Alex and Lucas were breaking new ground on several fronts. They were also the first turned vampires to become masters, which was a feat in itself. Most born vampires looked at those who were turned, or the Nouveau vampyre, as low-class servants.

“I want you with Eryx on patrol tonight,” Victor told Kody. “Nobody gets anywhere near this house without us knowing who it is. Understood?”

“Got it. Where will you be?”

Victor heard the front door open and realized his fifteen minutes were up. “In Charlotte, looking for trouble.”

They probably wouldn’t run into Taspar’s men tonight, but he suspected most of his trouble would be riding right beside him.

He headed for the door. By the time he got outside, Cierra was unlocking one of the cars parked in the driveway. If she could have slain him with her glare, he would have been in little bloody pieces by now.

“I’m driving,” she announced.

He resisted the urge to grin at her sharp tone. Nobody could call him a sensitive man, but he did know a thing or two about women. He certainly knew enough to hide his amusement in the face of one’s rage.

“I’m just your bodyguard tonight,” he told her.

She stared at him for a second and then got behind the wheel.

Victor slipped into the passenger seat before she decided to hit the locks. She started the car and pulled out, and soon they were passing out of the upscale neighborhood that surrounded the house. As they got on the highway and headed for Charlotte, the tension between them grew in the silence.

Always one to attack a situation head-on, he decided he needed to clear the air. “I’m sorry I kissed you.”

“I bet you are,” she bit out.

“I mean I’m sorry I kissed you and then pushed you away,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention to play games with you.”

Cierra tightened her grip on the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened. “Of course not, Victor. I doubt you know how to play.”

Was that an indictment?

“I owe you an explanation.”

“Yes, you do,” she agreed. “I never pegged you for the moody type to blow hot and cold.”

“It’s not that.” He only had one mood around her, and it was definitely hot. “Last time, I chased Taspar all over Europe before I lost his trail. I can’t lose him again. A relationship right now is a distraction I can’t afford.”

She glanced at him. “What about after you kill him?”

“Then things will be different.”

“Oh, I guarantee they’ll be different,” she told him. “I won’t stand in the wings until you decide a relationship with me isn’t too inconvenient. I made a fool of myself for a man once. I’m not doing it again.”

It had never occurred to him that she wouldn’t wait for him. He felt the blow to his ego, but more than that, he experienced the first tendril of concern. What if she went to someone else? Due to the misogyny of the previous masters in this area, there were far more male vampires than female. A smart, beautiful vampiress like her could have her choice of men. The thought made him want to castrate every unattached male within two territories.

He opened his mouth, about to say something stupid, when she cut him off.

“And that’s a ridiculous excuse,” she announced, as if there hadn’t been a lull in the conversation.

Victor stared at her profile as she drove. “What?”

“You’re supposed to be a great tactician,” she said, “yet you can’t multitask? Just admit you’re not interested.”

He found himself gaping, which was rare for him. She thought he wasn’t interested? It was all he could do to keep his hands off her! If she weren’t driving, he’d have her pinned against the back of the seat, and he’d kiss her so thoroughly she’d never doubt his desire for her again. Except then they’d be right back where they’d started.

She must have taken his silence as agreement, because she changed the subject. “I’m concentrating on recently sold condos first. With a rental property, Drew might have had to worry about a landlord or superintendent stopping by during the daytime. Owning his own place would have given him more security.”

A moment later, she was driving through the glittering lights of the city and parallel parking in front of a stone-and-brick building that was seven stories high. There was no inset at the top, so no penthouse, but he got out and walked with her to the glass front door. The entryway was unlocked.

“Poor security,” he remarked as he followed her inside.

“You’d be surprised by how many vestibule areas are left unlocked, especially when the mailboxes are right inside the entrance.” She pointed to the rows of keyed boxes along one wall.

It took only a couple of minutes to check the locks used on the unit doors. They looked at the ground floor and the top floor to make sure all levels used the same brand. This building didn’t have a match. Cierra pulled out her phone to look up the next address.

The yellow-and-orange building they visited after that held more promise. It was ten stories above its own private garage and had a two-story loft-style penthouse. Unfortunately, there was no sign of a Corvette, and the locks were the wrong type again. That was also the case at the tall glass condominium they looked at next.

“No vampire would stay in a place with so many windows,” Victor pointed out as they walked away.

“Not during the daytime,” she quipped. “Most penthouses are going to have large windows and panoramic views.”

“They’re still a status symbol. Drew didn’t strike me as the practical type.”

“No,” she agreed. “He had expensive taste, but he was stylish, not fussy. His clothes were trendy and all designer labels.”

“You’re kidding.” Victor looked at her. “He wore faded jeans.”

“What he paid for those faded jeans could have fed a starving family for a month.”

He shook his head.

“Here we go.” Cierra maneuvered them into a spot across the street.

Even from this distance, Victor had to tilt his head to see the top of the building. It was modern in design and made of concrete and glass. The front door was sheltered by a metal overhang, and the building’s name was written in fancy letters above the entry. Unlike the previous places they’d checked, the door here was locked, and he could see a security guard sitting behind a desk inside. The human stood up and walked toward them after Cierra tapped on the glass, but the man pulled up short when he realized there was a pair of vampires at the door.

“I represent Lucas Thane,” Cierra announced in a loud voice. “We’re not here to cause trouble. We just need to ask you a couple of questions.”

The guard rested his hand on the sidearm holstered at his belt. A place this ritzy would have hired someone well trained. Thanks to Lucas’s and Alex’s efforts in their territories, humans ventured out after dark on occasion, but nighttime security would have been put in place to protect the residents against vampires.

“Do you think he heard me through the glass?” she asked. “I didn’t want to shout the whole neighborhood awake.”

“He heard you,” Victor assured her.

The guard must have decided it was better not to antagonize them, because he walked the remaining few steps a moment later and unlocked the door. He only cracked it open an inch.

“Yes?” he asked.

There was only the slightest strain to the man’s voice, which was impressive under the circumstances.

Cierra offered the human a tight-lipped smile that didn’t reveal her fangs. “Are there currently any vampires living in the building?”

“No. None.” The guard kept his answers clipped short.

“Could you please tell me what brand of lock you use on the condo doors, especially the penthouse?”

Victor could see the man swallow. “I can’t tell you that. That would be a security risk.”

“So the person I talked to on the phone said. Perhaps we could try this another way. I’m looking for a particular unit that matches a key I have. All I want to know is if it’s possible I’m in the right place. Just answer that.” Cierra gave the human the name brand of lock they were looking for.

The guard hesitated a moment before agreeing to check. He locked them out while he went to look and didn’t return for several minutes. This time, he didn’t bother to open the door. He simply shook his head.

Victor walked with Cierra back to their vehicle to continue the hunt. They hit a condo that resembled a castle from the outside and a fancy old gentleman’s club inside—the last sort of place a young man like Drew would have lived. An old brick building with lots of steps up to the front door came next, followed by an oddly round-shaped condo that looked like some kind of sculpture. The last one actually had the right brand of lock, but they quickly determined that the building was almost entirely full, and all of the occupants were human.

“It’s a mixed-use building,” Cierra announced when they moved on to the next address on the list. “Retail on the bottom floor and condos above.”

He could see that. The three-toned building had a warm, lived-in feel to it while still exuding wealth. Although the penthouses on the top floor weren’t obvious from down below, he knew there had to be more than one in a building this size. He counted at least twenty floors, though the narrow street made it difficult to take in the whole scale.

Not surprisingly, the garage had controlled access, and there was round-the-clock security manning the vestibule. They went through the same questions with the guards there as they had at the other place. This time, though, Cierra asked something else before they left.

“How much does a penthouse unit here run?”

The guards exchanged a worried look, no doubt concerned that she was interested in moving in.

“Over two mil,” the older of the pair finally said.

Cierra thanked them, and Victor returned outside with her.

“Two million dollars,” she repeated. “Would Taspar really have shelled out that kind of money for Drew?”

Victor thought about it. “Not millions, no. Taspar only turned Drew as a way to hurt us. He got sick amusement out of it. I’m sure he threw some money at Drew to get the traitor to do what he wanted, but he wouldn’t have invested much. Drew was only a turned human with fangs, after all. A servant.”

“Then I can eliminate at least five or six more places based on price. Maybe Drew still went for the penthouse, but it had to be in a cheaper building.” She scrolled through her list again. “Let’s try this one that faces the square. The penthouse sold for under half a million, and the timing is right. There are also a lot of units up for sale.”

It only took them fifteen minutes to drive to the address. The twelve-story beige building sat at the corner of an intersection, the gray awnings on the ground floor making it blend in with the hotel and restaurants that surrounded it. There was an attached garage around back, and since it had no door or gate, they drove right in.

“Stop.” He barked out the order when the tail of one of the parked cars caught his eye.

Unlike the sedans and SUVs around it, this sporty car rode low and had sharp lines. The emblem and name on the back also confirmed it. He was looking at a silver Corvette—the paint job still glossy and new.

“There’s your status symbol,” Cierra remarked.

He fished into his pocket for the key. As soon as he pressed the button on the fob, the lights flashed.

“I can’t believe we found it,” he admitted.

“I told you I had it narrowed down. I’ll call Lucas and let him know.” She pulled out her phone to place the call.

Copyright © Allie Ritch

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