Blood Bond: Parts 1, 2 & 3
Dante Gabriel is starving. What he craves is red gold—human blood. After being held captive as a blood slave to a female vampire for years, he has finally escaped. Unchained at last, he follows his nose to the nearest blood bank to sate his hunger.
ER nurse Erin Hamilton expects just another busy night shift…until she finds a gorgeous stranger vandalizing the hospital blood bank. Though her logic tells her to turn him in, she’s pulled by stronger and unfamiliar emotions to protect the man who seems oddly infatuated with her scent. Chemistry sizzles between them, but Dante, plagued by nightmares of his time in captivity, fears he won’t be able to control himself…especially when he discovers a secret she doesn’t even know she’s hiding.
Other Books In This Series
I used to dream of severed human heads.
They hung above me, their skin gray and pasty as the elixir of life flowed out of them. I inhaled, and the metallic scent of iron infused itself into my cells. It was the iron and other nutrients in blood that our bodies needed, but that wasn’t the scent that drew us, the scent we craved.
Humans don’t realize they each possess their own scent beyond perspiration and pheromones, a fragrance that comes from their very life force—their blood.
From one neck, a drop of citrusy blond female fell onto my tongue. From another, the leathery and musky flavor of a brown-haired male, this one muscular and full of testosterone. A third fed me with the floral flavor of a female redhead. Redheads were rare, and their blood tasted better than the finest Bordeaux. Redheads with green eyes tasted the best—a lusty concoction laced with essence of lavender yet acidic enough to make a vamp’s mouth water for more and more.
Then there were the dark-haired ones with light skin—those who, somewhere hundreds of generations ago in their family tree, were descended from a vampire. Their blood was the ultimate concoction, the Champagne of plasma. Bold and tannic yet fruity and divine. Peach, plum, blackberry. Leather, coffee, the darkest of chocolate. Tin, zinc, laced with violet and apple and estrogen. Even the men smelled of traces of milky estrogen.
All this plus the one-of-a-kind flavor unique to every human.
I lapped it up, gaining strength, finally able to pull hard enough to release my leather bindings.
I roared, flexing my muscles, ready to bolt—
But before I could escape my prison, my eyes would open. I always awoke.
Those fragrances had been denied me for years, perhaps decades. But I remembered, my memory exaggerating each aroma. The only scents in my enclosed space were the remnants of the two human servants who fed me. Who tortured me.
She would be hovering above me, gazing at me with her cold, evil eyes before she bent down and sank her fangs into my neck.
She never drained me, only took enough so she could maintain her control over me and keep up her own strength. The worst days were when I had to feed.
She forced me to drink from her. I had no other choice. I needed blood to survive, and hers was my only option.
Feeding from her kept my muscles from atrophying, even though I couldn’t move much while in captivity. A good thing. The only good thing.
The dream of sustenance pouring into me and giving me the strength to break free recurred again and again, but escape was always only that—a dream.
Until the day it wasn’t.
Somehow—still, as I crouched in an alleyway, starving for blood, I didn’t know how—I’d drawn on all my adrenaline and broken the bonds that had detained me for so long. I’d stumbled a little getting out of the compound, but my muscle memory had now returned.
Free from her.
I’ll find you, Dante. You’re mine forever.
Get out of my head!
You are and always will be…mine.
With the last shred of strength I possessed, I forced her out of my mind.
My guts churned and my gums itched. Hungry. So fucking hungry. I’d scavenged some scraps from a dumpster to stave off the hunger in my stomach, but they lacked all the nutrients necessary for my diet.
I needed blood.
I’d caught and released not one but five different stray animals since my escape. Their blood would have sustained me, but they were so small that they wouldn’t have lived through my feeding.
I would not take a life.
Never. I would not violate another living being. Not after the way I’d been violated. I’d survived hell. I could go a few minutes longer to find a source that wouldn’t require killing something.
I hid in the shadows, avoiding the all-night commotion of Bourbon Street. The music and voices were muffled in my mind, as my sense of smell and my hunger overrode everything. Humans slid by, each taking the shape of a giant beating heart. I breathed through my mouth so as not to be tempted by the earthy and unique scent each one possessed. But the fact remained.
I had to stop one of them.
I had no choice.
I needed clothes, shoes, money.
When I pounced on a homeless man, so ravenous that I was able to glamour him into submission, I promised myself I’d take only his garments and cash.
But the pulsing artery in his neck proved too delicious to resist.
Only a few drops, just enough to get me to a better source. Just enough… The itching in my gums intensified as my canine teeth elongated. I suppressed the growl so as not to draw attention from anyone.
Before I punctured his skin, though, a beaming light shone in my eyes.
“Hey, you there. What’s going on here?”
I quickly retracted my teeth and shielded my eyes against the illumination. The man was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, but he held up a badge.
A cop. A fucking cop. I inhaled. Dark chocolate, blackberry, and copper. Testosterone plus a sliver of milky estrogen. A really good-smelling cop—a cop with a vampire somewhere in his ancestry.
“I asked you a question. I’m Detective Jay Hamilton, NOPD. Is that man okay? Why doesn’t he have any clothes on?”
Close your eyes.
The homeless man complied.
“I…don’t know, Detective. I found him like this.”
“Looks like he’s out cold. I’m going to need to ask you a few questions, sir.”
Despite the heat of the night, a chill swept over the back of my neck. I suppressed an urge to look behind me.
“Not a good time.” I fled past, hoping I was still strong and quick enough to get away and that the cop would stay to help the homeless man.
The detective didn’t follow me, thank God, and a block later, I picked up a scent.
A blonde. No, a brunette with dark-blue eyes. A child. Not a child. Couldn’t do that. Now an older woman, a bad clotter. Iron and tin. Witch hazel and African violet. Traces of methamphetamine…
The tingles in my gums began again.
Blood. Lots of blood in a cramped space. A hospital or a blood bank was near.
I raced toward the aroma.
I raced toward life.
“Female, early thirties, gunshot wound to the abdomen.”
“Thanks,” I said to the EMT as I took over bagging the patient. “Doc! Gunshot wound.”
Dr. Adele Thomas hurried over. “She’s a bleeder. Pull three units of O negative.”
Shit! Where were all the orderlies? I’d have to do it myself. I scampered down the hall to the small refrigeration unit in the ER. Red gold, the docs called it. Other people’s blood saved lives every day. I’d seen it perform miracles. As a nurse, I donated as often as I could.
No O neg. Not a huge surprise. O negative was the universal donor. We used a lot of it in the ER when a patient’s life was at stake and we didn’t have time to do a blood panel. We had O positive, but I couldn’t take the chance. What if the patient was Rh negative? I had to go out of the ER to the University Hospital blood bank down the hallway.
The main hospital was just north of the French Quarter and was never quiet at night. I hoped I could get the blood and return quickly.
The door to the refrigerated blood bank was wide open. Not overly unusual, though no one but the ER staff would be grabbing blood in the middle of the night.
I walked in cautiously—
The high-pitched scream had come from me.
In a flash, a hand was clamped over my mouth.
A bloody hand.
“Easy,” a low voice said. “I won’t hurt you, but you can’t scream again. Do you understand me?”
My heart thundered, and my skin, already chilled from the cool temperature, turned icy. My breath came in rapid pants as blood from his hands oozed between my lips. Metal. Blech. I darted my gaze around the large unit. Blood. Everywhere. Bags had been ripped open, and blood dripped from the walls, pooling on the tiled floor.
Fear raced through me. Fear…and something else. Something I couldn’t identify. An invisible warmth was trying to relax me, almost like my mother’s kiss on my forehead when I was a child.
I fought against it and screamed again, this time muffled against his hand.
He clamped onto me more tightly. “Damn it! Why isn’t it working?”
Why wasn’t what working?
“You can’t scream again. I don’t want to harm you.”
I had no choice but to believe him. I was at his mercy. His strength was apparent as I tried to maneuver against him.
I wasn’t going to get away.
He brushed his cheek against my neck and inhaled. “What are you? You smell like…truffles. Black truffles. Black coffee. Dark chocolate. Hints of blackberry. Tin. Copper.”
“Mmm,” I said against his hand. His strange words, any other time, would have made me pause. Now? I was too frightened to give them any credence.
“Okay. I’m going to take my hand away. Don’t scream.” Slowly he released his hand.
And I screamed.
Back went his hand. “Damn it! Now what are we going to do?” He inhaled again. “Cabernet Sauvignon. Fuck. Fuck, you smell so good.”
His hand was lower on my mouth this time, and I bit into the top of it as hard as I could.
“Ouch!” He tore his hand away from me.
I turned to run out the door, but he blocked my exit.
A man. A man with black hair tangled around a face stained with blood. Eyes as dark as strong coffee stared at me. Not in a menacing way. In a pleading way.
“You have to help me.”
Without meaning to, I reached toward him and touched his cheek. Something pulled at me, forced me to do it, yet I wanted to touch him, wanted to feel him beneath my fingertips.
He whisked my hand away. “Don’t,” he said. “I won’t be able to control myself.”
“C-Control yourself?” My hand tingled. Had to touch him.
His stubbly cheeks were covered in blood, some of it already drying into brown, and more of the red fluid rimmed his full lips.
Then, a voice. “Erin, Dr. Thomas needs that O neg!”
I pushed the man behind the door. “Don’t move!” I whispered urgently.
I quickly grabbed three bags of the necessary blood and ran out of the bank, handing them to Steve, one of the orderlies. “Here. Sorry.”
His eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Shit, Erin, what happened to you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, willing my voice not to shake.
“Uh…well, you’ve got blood all over your face and hands.”
Crap. Think fast, Erin. “A couple bags exploded in the fridge. I need to get custodial down here stat.”
“I’ll do it. Doc needs you in the ER.”
Words forced themselves into my mind. Can’t leave him.
“Just take the blood to Dr. Thomas, Steve. Please. I’ll be there in a sec. I have to wash up, obviously.”
“Okay. Sure. I’ll get custodial on this as soon as I can.” He walked away quickly with the O neg.
I walked cautiously back into the blood bank. The man looked even wilder now. But he didn’t frighten me. What had originated as fear had morphed into something else—something I couldn’t name. Something that sent prickles all through me but kept me on high alert. Something that warmed my core, made me feel…lusty, yet oddly protective.
“Listen,” I said to him. “Someone’s coming down to clean up. You need to get out of here.”
“Still hungry,” he said huskily.
“I’ll find you some food, okay? But right now I need you out of here or you’re going to get arrested. You broke into our blood bank, and now you’re a mess. Did you think you’d find food in here?”
He didn’t respond, just glared at me with those gorgeous and expressive dark eyes. How a man whose face was stained with red gold could look so enticing disturbed me more than a little.
“I need to get back up to the ER. We’ve got a gunshot victim, and the doctor needs me.”
I pulled him out of the bank and down the hallway to the restrooms. Not too many people came down here during the night shift, thank God. I opened the door to the men’s room and pushed him inside. “Clean up,” I said, “and then stay out of sight until I come find you. My shift is over in two hours. I’m Erin, by the way.”
I scurried into the ladies’ room and faced myself in the mirror.
Lord. I looked like I’d just engaged in some heavy cannibalism. No wonder Steve had freaked. I washed my hands and face as best I could and then went to the locker room for some clean scrubs. I trashed the ones I’d been wearing.
Then I hurried back to the ER.
“Where the hell have you been?” Dr. Thomas demanded.
“Sorry. A problem in the blood bank. Didn’t Steve tell you?”
“Yes, but he didn’t tell me why you were dealing with that when you should be up here. We’ve had two new cases come in while you were gone. I’ve got the surgical chief resident on the gunshot victim. I need you in room eight. A baby with croup. Prepare a nebulizer treatment and get in there.”
Though she could be harsh at times, I liked Dr. Thomas. She was my favorite of the four ER docs I worked with on the night shift. My least favorite was Dr. Zabrina Bonneville. She was brilliant, but she lacked bedside manner not only with her patients but with staff as well.
I prepared the neb treatment and rushed to room eight. The poor baby was on his mother’s lap, barking like a seal. Yup. That was croup. Parents tended to get over-worried about the common cough.
“I’m Erin,” I said, holding out my hand.
“Cathy Murphy,” the woman said, “and this is Brian.”
“Hi there, Brian.” I smiled at the cute baby, red in the face from his cough. I turned back to his mother. “I know how worried you must be, but croup is rarely serious. We’re going to have him feeling better in no time.” I asked Cathy my litany of questions and got the right dosage prepared for Brian. Within ten minutes, he was breathing Albuterol from the oxygen mask.
“I’ll be back to check on you in fifteen minutes. In the meantime, if you have any trouble, just push the red button on the intercom and someone will be right with you.”
As I left room eight, more EMTs rushed in. “Male, late twenties. Unconscious. Found naked in the street. Possibly homeless. BP a little low, other vitals fine. His eyes are open, but we can’t wake him up.”
“Let’s get him into room four right away,” I said. “Looks like an OD to me. We’ll need to run a drug panel. I’ll get the doc—” I gasped.
The unconscious man on the gurney had grabbed my wrist.