Chains Of Jericho
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by Vivien Dean
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Romance
Description: Declan Jericho is a vampire with a purpose. His best hope for success rests on the shoulders of a brilliant young cancer specialist, but saving the undead isn't exactly the career path Dr. Maya Sheldon has in mind. When Dec kidnaps Maya from work, the last thing she wants to do is help him. Then she discovers what he wants her for: develop a cure for the mysterious illness killing the young vampires in his care. Vampires or not, she's unable to abandon them. Her interest in Dec quickly shifts from professional to something more intimate, but as their attraction grows, darker secrets threaten their newfound relationship. Dec has his own reasons for wanting the young vampires cured, and he's not telling...
eBook Publisher: Atlantic Bridge/Liquid Silver Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
24 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [421 KB]
Reading time: 259-362 min.
The silent ones were the worst. The ones that stared back at her with Precious Moments eyes, trusting that she could take their pain away because their mommies and daddies always said that doctors made everything better.
Sometimes, Maya wanted to gag every parent who ever uttered the platitude. It was hard living up to the image of being God.
Pulling the door closed on little Jason Hsu's room, Dr. Maya Sheldon leaned her forehead against the cold metal, her eyes closed as she tried to focus on her breathing. Inside the tiny private room, Jason was dying, and what was worse, Jason knew it. His parents weren't ready to accept the grim reality, and Maya wasn't ready to stop fighting, but somewhere deep in her gut she sensed the little boy's resignation every time she checked in on him. He'd spent the last year of his short six on this planet in and out of the hospital, and his spirits were beginning to show the first signs of defeat. His cancer was proving resistant to all their treatments, but even as she ordered new tests and researched new techniques, Maya refused to give in to the disease. This was why she'd become a doctor in the first place.
"You were supposed to leave two hours ago."
Though the voice was soft, Maya still jumped at its sudden intrusion, whirling to gaze down into the weathered features of Karen Ponti, the head nurse. She was a tiny woman, deceptively fragile-looking, with snow-white hair and gentle brown eyes. In spite of her placid appearance, however, she had a spine of steel and tolerated little weakness within her domain. She was even hard on the doctors. They walked on eggshells every time she came within earshot.
Maya wasn't scared of her, though. Very little frightened Maya. In fact, most of the time, Karen amused the hell out of her.
She pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen loose from the utilitarian low ponytail she always wore on rounds. "Actually, it was supposed to be four."
"I was already taking into consideration the two hours you usually stay late."
"And I'm going, I'm going. Jason was my last call for the day."
Karen's gaze slid to the door. "Is he sleeping yet?"
"Dozing. He'll likely be restless for the night. The new meds aren't working like I'd hoped they might. His dyssomnia is back."
"I'll make sure the staff knows. Now go home. I don't want to see you again until the weekend." She lifted a warning finger. "And don't even think about showing up tomorrow just to check up on your patients. They can go one day without you hovering in their door, worrying."
"Yes, ma'am." Maya offered a mock salute. Brushing past, she started down the hall, her tennis shoes silent against the linoleum. "And I don't hover," she called out without looking back.
She dropped off Jason's chart at the nurses' station, barely noticing the dark-haired man seated in the waiting area across from it before heading to the elevator. She was exhausted. Her day had begun at dawn when she'd come in early to offer moral support to the parents of a little girl who was undergoing surgery; it had been non-stop from there. Such was the life, though. It was what she'd signed up for when she'd accepted the position in pediatric oncology, and she wouldn't have traded it for the world.
Well, she might have loaned it for an hour in exchange for a good night's sleep. Maya was going to do everything in her power to hold true to Karen's order to stay away.
In the locker room, she didn't bother considering a quick shower, opting instead to splash some cold water over her face so she'd be alert enough to drive home. An examination in the mirror over the sink revealed the shadows beneath her wide brown eyes, the pinching that happened around her full mouth when she got tired. Even her chestnut-colored hair was showing signs of fatigue, she decided with a grimace, and tucked the same lank strand she had earlier back behind her ear. It was no wonder she was still single. With plenty of rest and lots of attention, she could pass for "intelligently attractive," but after her eighth consecutive seventeen-hour shift, Maya considered herself lucky not to be giving her young patients nightmares. She didn't know how other women did it.
Grabbing her leather jacket, she reached inside her locker for the backpack stuffed in its recesses. Usually, she left it at the hospital, but with the determination to actually take a day off, she was going to need what it contained. Just because she wouldn't be around didn't mean she couldn't still do something for her patients. Research was never a bad idea.
She went down the back stairs to the parking lot. It was easier that way, faster, not to mention there was absolutely no chance for her to get stopped by someone she knew. These days, everyone and their brother seemed to have an opinion on how she should run her life--she was working too hard, she wasn't taking care of herself, she was sabotaging her love life by being so antisocial. Was there any wonder she was antisocial when the last time she went out on a date, the guy turned out to be breaking his parole? Not that she had a problem with cons; she just didn't care for the police knocking on her door in the middle of the night to arrest the guy she'd been about to sleep with. The first guy she'd even considered sleeping with in almost two years.
It made a girl wary. Justifiably so, she thought.
Welcoming the cool blast of air on her face when she pushed open the door to the lot, Maya paused beneath the safety light to savor the November sky stretching overhead. Some days it felt as if she lived in a plastic world, all crisp whites and ammonia. It was the world she'd worked for, but sometimes she couldn't help but wish that maybe part of it could be a little less sterile.
She shook her head, dispelling the thoughts as quickly as they appeared. She was tired. She just needed to get home and get a good night's sleep for a change.
Maya was halfway to her car when a woman's pained scream shattered the air. Immediately, she halted, stiffening, her head snapping in the sound's direction.
The lot was devoid of life.
She peered into the darkness. The cry had come from the alley alongside the hospital. The narrow strip was often used by both staff and visitors as a shortcut between the parking lot and the road, but this sounded like the woman had taken the byway and encountered someone not so willing to let her pass. Though the scream faded into a soft echo, Maya was already moving, her hand diving into her bag for her cell phone.
She'd punched in the numbers when the second scream came. The tinny voice of the operator came through on the line, requesting the nature of her emergency, and she winced when another piercing shriek ripped through her.
"What do you think is wrong?" she snapped.
"Are you hurt, ma'am?"
"It's not me. I think someone is being mugged, or attacked, or ... something."
"Where are you, ma'am?"
"The parking lot behind Sisters of Mercy Hospital. There's an alley that runs out to the street. I think she's there."
"I'll send medical assistance--"
"I am medical assistance!" Maya shouted in frustration. "Just send the damn police!"
Snapping the phone shut, she barely got it shoved back into her pocket before she reached the alley, pausing only for a second before plunging into the darkness. The familiar scent of blood reached her nose, and she saw the crumpled form of a woman at the far end, the streetlight filtering in just enough to outline her in black shadows. No one else was in the alley.
Maya skidded before she reached the woman, her heel catching on an unseen bottle and rolling out beneath her. The rough concrete scraped her palms as she caught herself from falling, and she lurched forward the last few feet to fall to her knees at the victim's side.
"You better not die on me now," she muttered as she gave the body a cursory examination for her injuries.
The woman was young, younger than Maya by more than a couple years, probably barely twenty. Her skin was deathly pale, her hands abraded from where she'd tried to fight off her attacker, and her torn shirt exposed a lacy bra. Blood poured from a series of cuts across her upper body, with the worst a series of puncture wounds in her neck. It looked very much like she'd been viciously mauled by some kind of wild animal.
In the middle of urban California?
She didn't have time to consider the nature of the attack. The woman was dying. Maya had to do what she could to save her.
Dropping her backpack to the ground, she exposed the remaining injuries, ripping off strips of cloth to use to staunch the flow of blood. As she pressed them into the wounds, Maya reached to take the woman's pulse. And then froze.
There was none.
Her nerves sharpened. The blood was still free-flowing, which meant the heart could only have just stopped.
Abandoning her efforts to slow the bleeding, Maya bent over the body, tilting the woman's head and pinching her nose to start CPR. The tepid temperature of the lips frightened her into thinking she may have been too late, but it didn't stop her from continuing her efforts, going through the motions with the brisk efficiency that always took her over in the face of an emergency.
Vaguely, she became aware of footsteps approaching her from behind, and thanked whatever god that was listening that the police decided to be fast for a change. When she straightened to start the chest compressions, Maya risked a glance over her shoulder, and frowned when she saw the tall man emerge from the shadows.
No uniform. No sense of haste to indicate he was here for an emergency. His pace was slow and measured, and instead of the traditional plainclothes attire she'd seen some of the policemen wear, this man wore jeans and a worn, black leather biker's jacket. Cops didn't dress like that.
Turning away before he could see her flash of alarm, she resumed the CPR. "If you're here to help," she said, her voice eerily calm, "go to the ER and send someone out with a gurney so we can move her."
"You don't need a gurney, Dr. Sheldon."
Her first instinct was that he was offering his aid in carrying the woman inside, but then the rest of his words sank in as he rounded the body to obstruct them from anyone looking from the street. When she glanced up again, she saw his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his muscles still. He had no intention to assist her.
"If you work for the hospital, I'm going to make sure you end up fired if you don't help me," she warned.
"I don't. Get up, Katie."
Muscles tensed beneath Maya's hands. When the woman without a pulse opened her eyes, Maya jerked away and fell back onto her ass.
"What the..." Her heart pounded against her ribcage. As Katie rose to her feet and stood next to the stranger, Maya swallowed to quell the surge of panic rising inside her. "But you were dead--"
"Am I done here?" Katie asked the man.
Taking off his coat, he put it over her shoulders, covering her nearly naked torso. "Go home," he instructed, and in that second, with his greater height and the protective tone of his voice, he appeared very much like a father to her. It was impossible, of course. Even in the dim light, Maya could see that he was no more than thirty, his long face unlined. But there was still something about the way he guided her toward the back of the alley, and the way Katie glanced back at him as she went made Maya believe there was more to the relationship than met the eye.
"What's going on here?" she demanded, scrambling to her feet. She pointed at Katie's retreating form. "She needs medical attention. Those cuts--"
"Will be gone by morning," he interrupted. He took a step forward, prompting her to counter with her own step back. "I just needed to get your attention, Dr. Sheldon. I needed the chance to speak with you in private."
That was the second time he addressed her by her title. "And you couldn't have made an appointment?"
"You and I don't exactly keep the same hours."
He took another step. This one positioned him beneath the streetlamp, clearly highlighting his features for the first time.
She'd been right about the age. He towered above Maya, probably standing around six four or five when all was said and done. It was impossible to tell what color his deep-set eyes were, but they glittered with intelligence and pinned her in place just as effectively as if he'd used his hands. Dark hair tumbled across a low brow, and his aquiline nose had to have been broken at least once in the past. Noting his powerful chest and the strong hands that now had nowhere to hide, Maya could only wonder if the other guy in that particular fight had even survived.
As he moved closer, every flight instinct in Maya's body screamed at her to take action. The best she managed was slowly backing off, her gaze fixed on his face as she tried to determine what it was he wanted with her. Clearly, this had been a set-up of some sort, though how the girl could've faked not having a pulse, Maya had no idea. But this man radiated danger, from the top of his head to the sole of his scuffed boots, and she was terrified that if she turned and made a run for it, it would be the last thing she ever did.
"Who are you?" she asked instead. Maybe she could talk her way back to the parking lot. There were more options for her there, more things she could use as a potential weapon. Her backpack was already lost to her, resting on the ground between them, and she kicked herself for not picking it up when she'd had the chance.
"I don't wish to hurt you," he said, ignoring her question. "But I need for you to come with me."
She realized he hadn't said, "I won't hurt you," which made her terror about what he really wanted burn just a little bit brighter. "I'm thinking ... no," she started to say, and then stopped when she saw the familiar strobe of police lights at the end of the alley. Relief flooded through her as her pace hesitated, but it must've shown in her face because the stranger's head whipped around to see what she was looking at.
"What did you do?" he asked.
"It's called 911, asshole," she retorted. "Now's the time you might want to think about running before they lock you up."
He moved so quickly, she didn't even have time to scream. One moment he was six feet away, the next he was behind her, his hand over her mouth, dragging her backward toward the parking lot and away from the police in a whirlwind that left her breathless.
"It didn't have to be this way," she heard him say.
Fury overwhelmed the fear that had been holding her rigid, and Maya began to fight back, shoving her elbow into his solar plexus as she tried to use her feet to kick at his legs. It only worked for a moment before his arms turned into iron bands around her, and she was locked against his unyielding chest, his hand cool over her mouth. The chilly air stung her cheeks from the speed at which he was moving, her eyes watering as her exhaustion began to help the stranger out, and by the time she'd blinked the tears away, they were already on the far side of the parking lot.
He stopped beside a dark van, opening the unlocked door on the back to reveal darkness within. This can't be happening to me, Maya thought as he climbed in and shut the door behind him. This only happens in the movies. Or to other people. This can't be real.
Except it was, and her legs were now more exhausted than the rest of her from struggling to free herself. The stranger wasn't even letting her go, moving through the inky interior with the comfortable ease of familiarity. The clink of metal hitting metal echoed between the walls, and then something cold snapped around her wrist.
"I'm going to sit you down now." His mouth hovered at her ear. "You can scream if you want, but it's not going to do you any good. Nobody's going to hear you."
The instant his hand moved from her mouth, Maya gulped at the fresh air. "Just tell me what it is you want from me," she pleaded. "I've got money. Just tell me--"
"I don't want your money. All I want is you."
With that, he was gone, out the back doors of the van, leaving her alone and terrified. A forceful pull against the handcuff around her wrist demonstrated just how stuck she really was when she nearly pulled her arm out of its socket and it didn't budge.
Maya sank to the cold, metallic floor with tears in her eyes. How the hell was she going to get out of this?