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Yeah, the cover’s a little freaky. This story is from very early in my epubbed career, when I was still trying to get my footing writing series. Love Bites came easier than I expected because of Quentin. He appeared as the best friend of my hero in the first My Immortal Knight book and was so arrogant and droll I didn’t want to say goodbye to him. Here’s a snippet from the story when he nearly loses the one thing he can’t live without.
“…congratulations to Ms. Devlin for creating a masterpiece. This story has all the elements that a Gold Star book has in it. The novel has intense suspense that was thrilling and delightful,…” Gold Star Award, Just Erotic Romance
“… LOVE BITES is a delicious, emotional romp of a story, a tale that builds powerfully on the old, often-used love triangle and succeeds beautifully in creating something new and exciting.” Sensual Romance
On the trail of a serial killer, vampire Quentin Albermarle is mistaken for the killer by a police special task force. Once the smoke clears, Quentin finds himself in a delicious position-atop one of the unit’s crack officers, Darcy Henry.
In need of Quentin’s access to the vampire sub-culture, the task force leadership invites Quentin to join the crime unit as a special advisor, much to the chagrin of the men in the unit, and especially, of Darcy.
A no-nonsense cop with no time for romance, Darcy suddenly finds herself embroiled in a steamy love triangle between her mortal partner, Joe, and the handsome vampire. Going from abstinence to wantonness, she is unable to resist the two men’s relentless seduction or her own sensual curiosity about a vampire’s special “kiss”.
When the real killer threatens the life of someone close to her, Darcy makes a choice that forever binds the three of them together.
The radio crackled in Darcy’s ear. “Nicky and his crew just pulled into the marina,” the Captain said from the command post—the team’s van in the parking area. “Remember, we’ll wait to strike until he brings his men in to move the cargo.”
Thank God! She’d been afraid she would disgrace herself. The wait had been interminable. The storm that threatened to break over their heads had whipped up waves in the inlet, setting all the boats tied to the dock bobbing in the water. Her stomach pitched right along with them.
“I’m gonna barf if this doesn’t go down soon,” Phil moaned.
Soft chuckles sounded from seven mikes. Darcy commiserated with Phil. Glad she hadn’t eaten any dinner, she kept silent beside Quentin, nausea roiling in her belly and clammy perspiration breaking on her forehead. This was one stakeout she’d be happy to see the end of.
“Too many of Bets’ meatballs, Phil?” Emmy broke in, her voice full of sympathy.
“God, don’t mention it,” he groaned.
Above the sound of the gathering wind, footsteps echoed hollowly on the wooden planks of the dock. Quentin crouched so close behind her she felt his body grow rigid. It felt right to have him watching her back even though she still missed Joe. They’d taken up a position on the cabin cruiser tied next to Rupe King’s. Hunkered down behind the gunwale of the boat, they listened tensely for the order to move in for the kill.
Quentin had stuck to her like glue all evening. It was annoying, but sweet, how protective he was of her. And totally unnecessary. When things turned ugly—and they would—she’d be moving fast. She didn’t want to trip over him.
The rumble of voices sounded in the next boat, but they were too low to make out their words. There was a sudden burst of laughter and a door opened, spilling light from the cabin onto the dock.
Darcy rose up to peek over the rail, but Quentin’s heavy hand pushed her down. She turned to glare at him. “What do you think you’re doing?” she whispered angrily.
“Shhh.” He lifted his chin in the direction of the other boat.
Darcy saw one of Nicky’s boys on the bow with a radio next to his ear. “Tell them it’s clear,” the teen said.
Ignoring Darcy’s glower, Quentin whispered into his headset, “Get ready. Nicky’s given the all clear. The others will be closing on the boat.”
“Roger that,” Max replied quietly. “No one moves until I give the signal.”
With the team in position on neighboring boats and inside cars in the marina, the gang would be encircled in moments.
Darcy held her breath. Once the noose tightened, Nicky would react like a trapped animal. She’d seen the mayhem he was capable of when he held all the cards, now she’d get a glimpse of a monster in full rage.
The heavy tread of half a dozen of Nicky’s “soldiers” echoed dully in the night. Darcy hugged her crossbow to her chest and concentrated on the sound of her breaths to make her racing heart slow its pace and give her thoughts focus.
Slower, calmer, centered. She drew on her inner reserve of peace, visualizing the team’s victory.
She was ready.
“Get cocked,” the Captain said.
Darcy rose on her knees, lifted her bow, and sighted down the shaft of her arrow, and then rose a fraction higher to point it over the railing. In the dim light provided by the lamps strung from boat slip to boat slip, Darcy couldn’t sight on Nicky.
“I don’t see Nicky,” she whispered.
“Must still be in the cabin,” Max replied. “Take out the men on the dock you can see when I give the order.”
With the deck of the boat pitching beneath her knees, Darcy struggled for balance. “I’ll take the first in line.”
“I’ve got the second target,” Max replied.
Once the team had selected their marks, the airwave was silent. The only sounds coming from boats nudging their slips and booted feet on wood.
Suddenly, one of Nicky’s men lifted his nose into the wind.
“Now!” Max shouted.
Darcy pulled back on her trigger, letting her arrow fly. Her first target staggered, and then disintegrated. When she reached for her next arrow, Quentin leapt over the gunwale and landed on the narrow walkway between the two boats.
The rapid tattoo of gunfire erupted and her team members shouted in their mikes as they took cover.
Cursing beneath her breath, Darcy quickly pulled back her bowstring, latched it in the spring clip, and slid the arrow along the track. Armed, she slid over the gunwale, intent on following Quentin.
From all along the dock came the sounds of the ensuing battle. Curses, and the sharp staccato of machine fire ripped through the night.
“How many?” Max’s voice demanded.
“I counted nine,” the Captain said, his voice sounding raspy as he ran along the dock to join the fight.
“That means six to go.” Max grunted, and then roared. The sounds of fists meeting flesh filled Darcy’s headset.
“Emmy, get back to the van!”
“Dylan, I have a stake in this too. You’re not leaving me behind.”
“God dammit to hell!”
As she crept aboard the drug lord’s cruiser, Darcy ignored the voices in her ear and the flashes of gunfire that burst brilliantly around her. Getting Nicky was her sole focus. Oh, and saving Quentin’s butt. They were partners now. He shouldn’t have proceeded without her.
She climbed up the gangway and slipped over the side, making her way toward the steps leading down into the cabin. The lights had been doused, but she sensed movement inside. Careful not to make any noise, she inched her way toward the shadowed compartment.
“Well, if it isn’t GI Jane.” The voice came from behind her and she stiffened, her heart lurching in her chest. “I’d recognize your sweet scent anywhere.”
The team went instantly, eerily, silent. With her heart picking up its pace, she slowly turned to face Nicky Powell, her bow raised level with her chest. All she could think was where the hell was Quentin?
Quentin watched from the shadow of the cockpit, his hand tightening around the puny stake he held. Nicky had a gun pointed at Darcy. Quentin didn’t dare make a move or he might distract her.
Nicky took a step toward her.
“Don’t come any closer,” she warned.
He sniffed the air. “I smell Quentin. He’s been all over you, hasn’t he?” His smile sent a shiver down Quentin’s back.
“You’re surrounded,” Darcy said, her voice steady. “You may as well lay down your weapon. You aren’t stepping off this boat.”
Quentin’s chest filled with pride at her courage.
“But I have you, therefore I have the advantage.”
A soft click and the blur of her arrow flying toward Nicky’s chest happened so quickly, Quentin didn’t have time to react.
The arrow sank only to its tip.
Nicky’s laughter, soft and ominous rang in the air. “Do you think you’re the only ones who own flak jackets?” He plucked the arrow from his shirt. “Let’s stop wasting time. Come here.” He waved her closer with his gun.
Quentin watched Darcy’s face and knew the exact moment she’d decided not to cooperate. She drew a deep breath and her hands clenched at her sides. He started to rise from his hiding place when she took a step toward Nicky. Suddenly, she feinted to the side.
The roar of Nicky’s gun spurred Quentin from his hiding place. From the corner of his eye he saw Darcy pitch forward and over the side of the boat, her body splashing softly in the water below. He roared and launched himself at Nicky, desperate to get to Darcy.
He raised his stake and Nicky fired again, striking Quentin in the abdomen. He dropped the stake, but the bullet didn’t slow his advance. His charge carried him into Nicky and down onto the bow of the cruiser. His progeny roared, his face transforming and pulling Quentin into his bloodlust.
Quentin’s body and face expanded and he flung back his head with a roar of fury. He rolled with Nicky, fighting to keep his “son” beneath him. He spotted a coil of rope and reached out his hand to close around it.
Nicky pounded at Quentin’s sides with his fists, but Quentin was undeterred. He grasped the rope in both hands and wound it once around his opponent’s throat.
Nicky’s eyes bulged as the noose tightened. His mouth gaped and his body bucked in powerful surges, trying to unseat Quentin, but Quentin pulled tighter until the nylon cut into the other vamp’s throat.
With adrenaline surging through his veins, Quentin snapped the rope, severing Nicky’s head from his shoulders.
When the din of his bloodlust quieted in his head, he heard the shouts of the team and Dylan as they ran toward him. He lurched toward the side of the boat and jumped into the water. As he entered it, he heard splashes all around him and bright lights shown into the murky depths.
He swam deep to the bottom of the inlet, but he didn’t see her. His heart breaking, he reached into the silt and waving fronds of seagrass, searching for the place her body had settled. How long had it been? Please God, I have to find her.
His lungs burning from the lack of air, he refused to return to the surface. Every moment was precious. His hands sank below the swirling green seaweed as he swam along the bottom.
Then he saw a pale oval glimmering among the fronds. He reached and snagged Darcy’s braid, pulling her into his arms. He swam for the surface, his lungs nearly bursting, praying he wasn’t too late.
When he surfaced, many hands reached for his burden. Although reluctant to let her go, he lifted her body gently into their waiting arms, then heaved himself onto the planks beside them.
Max made quick work of removing her Kevlar jacket and her T-shirt. Then he placed two fingers to the side of her throat. “Her heart isn’t beating.”
A raw, burning sensation tightened Quentin’s throat. With every fiber of his being, he fought the need to push everyone aside and gather her close to him and howl. Darcy couldn’t be gone. Eternity without her was unthinkable.
His breath sounding harsh in his ears, he watched Max press his clasped hands against her chest. Captain Springer knelt beside her head and lowered his mouth to hers, breathing into her lungs. Dylan pressed her T-shirt against the furrowed wound high on her shoulder that seeped slowly with her blood.
An arm settled around his shoulders and Quentin looked up into Emmy’s misty face. Then he realized he was crying. She kissed his cheek and hugged him tightly to her breasts. His arms slipped around her while his eyes burned, watching the men work over Darcy’s still form.
“Breathe dammit,” he whispered, willing her to live. If only, he’d moved more quickly, he could have taken the bullet for her.
The men continued to work and Quentin’s dread grew. He was responsible for this. He had made Nicky. God damn his soul.
Max stopped the compressions and checked her pulse again.
Quentin saw a flutter of an eyelid. “Wait,” he said, his breath catching. Please don’t let me have imagined it.
Darcy’s body convulsed and water burbled from her mouth. Max rolled her to her side and she choked, vomiting water. Her eyes remained closed and the group waited to see whether she’d recover.
Slowly, her hand fisted and she coughed. Her eyes opened and she stared straight at Quentin.
Quentin didn’t care that everyone saw the tears that streaked down his cheeks. He crawled toward her and reached out his hand to cup her cheek. “Don’t you ever give me another scare like that,” he said, not recognizing the sound of his voice, it was so clogged with emotion.
Darcy’s hand settled over his. “What? You think I planned to suck down the entire Atlantic?” She coughed again, the sound rattling harsh inside her chest.
“Let’s get this one to a hospital,” the Captain said.
Darcy’s eyes sought Quentin’s. “Nicky?”
“He’s dead,” he said flatly.
“As are the rest of his minions,” Max said.
Darcy settled back against the wooden planks, her eyes closing. “So tired.”
Quentin gathered her into his arms and lurched to his feet. “Sleep, baby. I’ve got you now.”
She sighed and pressed a kiss to his throat.
Quentin held her to close to his heart as he followed the Captain toward the waiting van. He’d never let her go.
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