Dark Secrets [A Taste of Darkness]
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by Temple Hogan
Category: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Description: Lucas was a driven man with secrets that haunted him from his childhood. Kat was a woman with her own dark secrets, but from the first moment the two of them met, sparks flew. There was no denying their passion even as they joined forces to fight the evil of vampires that infested the west country of Ireland.
eBook Publisher: Resplendence Publishing, LLC, 2011 September
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [166 KB]
Reading time: 105-148 min.
The darkness was so deep, she couldn't see the path, but she sensed someone was nearby, someone was skulking about! She paused, letting her eyes adjust to the opaque shadows, thinking of what must be done. Lightly, she leaped to the top of the brick wall and climbed the trellis to the roof where she took up a position to watch. She sniffed the air. She could see the dark outline moving stealthily, could smell him--not an altogether unpleasant scent, in fact, quite enjoyably masculine. He smelled tall. She licked her shoulder and refocused her attention.
A sound, quickly squelched, came to her, nothing more than a tiny scrape of leather against the pavers. If his intentions were good, why come silently? Why not come whistling against the dark?
She sniffed the air again. No sign of fear in whoever approached. She caught sight of him and watched, silent, curious. He was as cautious as a cat, pausing now and then to look around.
She sat up primly and arched her neck, her eyes glittering, expanding in the darkness. The intruder approached, and she drew a deep sigh, thinking how she must always protect her father. And at moments like this, she had to admit, she enjoyed it a bit. She liked the excitement, the danger, the unknown. Bunching her muscles, she mentally crossed herself and leaped down, nails extended, scratching his chest as she fell against his neck.
"Christ in hell," he cursed when her nails sank in, and he tried to shake her loose.
But she'd planned carefully, and now her hold on him was too good. To get rid of her, he was going to have to shed some blood. She purred at the thought, then, lest he think her easy, turned it into a ferocious snarl, dug in her nails and hung on for dear life.
For a moment, he met her gaze, eye to eye, and she swished her tail at him and smiled, then she felt his hands tighten around her throat. His look was black and determined. This fellow could be dangerous, she thought, and considered how best to extricate herself from his tightening grip. Fortunately, her father must have been alerted by the noise, for he threw open the door.
"What the devil's going on out here?" he demanded.
At once, the grip on her neck loosened and disappeared altogether as the man she'd been stalking dropped her on the ground. Luckily, she was able to twist and land on her feet. She voiced her feelings at his bad manners and sauntered toward the door.
"I'm afraid your cat has taken a disliking to me," the man said.
She liked the sound of his voice. She might forgive him his dirty tricks.
"I'm Lucas Stanislaus," the man continued and he had a lovely, sexy accent that didn't go with the hard, street thug persona. "Are you Professor Ennis Donovan?"
"I was the last time I looked in the mirror," her father replied mildly.
"You agreed to see me this evening."
"Ah, yes, Mr. Stanislaus. You're a vampire slayer as I recall."
"Actually, I'm a Doctor of Forensic Psychology," the man replied. "But you might call me a vampire slayer, if you wish. I'm a member of the Society of the Holy Brotherhood, and that's our aim, to hunt down vampires and rid the world of them."
"All of them?" her father asked faintly.
"Yes," Stanislaus said implacably.
Now that he was in the light, Kat could see that he wasn't a handsome man, by any circumstances, but there was something highly appealing about him, some challenging vibe that made her want to bite him. He was quite sexy, or would have been if he wasn't fixated on killing vampires.
She hissed at him, just to show her disapproval.
"Please come in. I've just opened a bottle of homemade Irish whiskey--moonshine, I believe you blokes call it."
"Not for me, thanks," Stanislaus said. "I don't drink. I'll just have a cup of coffee if it's no trouble."
"No trouble at all," her father said jovially. "My daughter will make a fresh pot for you."
Kat hissed again and was pleased Lucas gave her a wide berth.
"Pay her no mind," Ennis said. "She's having a bad mood today."
Lucas looked startled then uttered a stiff chuckle as if he'd identified his host's joke.
In the library, which also served as her father's office, Kat leaped onto a table beside a pile of her father's books and unblinkingly stared at their visitor. She sensed it would annoy him. Sure enough, he frowned and glared back.
"I thought my daughter was around, and she could make you tea or coffee, but she seems to be indisposed," Ennis said petulantly and shoved Kat off the table.
She landed on her feet and leaped to the back of their guest's chair.
"How do you like Ireland, Mr. Stanislaus? Or have you been here before?" Ennis poured a shot of fine Irish whiskey and handed it to the doctor.
"No, I don't--" Politely, Stanislaus accepted it and sat it on the end table.
Kat took the opportunity to swipe at him with her nails extended. He jerked back, but wasn't quick enough. Her nails raked across the back of his hand, leaving three perfectly lovely lines of red. Cradling his hand against his chest, he glowered. She purred with satisfaction. He was so easily manipulated.
Devilishly, she stretched seductively, knowing he was watching her warily, knowing, too, that her sleek, feline body was beautiful to behold. She knew from experience that when men watched her move, they couldn't resist touching her, whether she wanted them to or not. Shamelessly, she arched again, sensing he felt an urge to stroke her delicate limbs and sleek torso, although he gave her a hard stare. She narrowed her eyes and stared right back, daring him to make a move.
"Kat, be nice," her father said with some irritation as he sipped his whiskey. "How can I help you, Doctor?"
"I'm sure you've heard about the recent odd deaths in Kilkinlea, a small village just south of Abbeyfeale," Lucas said. "And that wasn't the first. There was one some months ago in Kilmeedy, northeast of here."
Ennis nodded. "Yes, most strange, most strange indeed." He sipped some more whiskey and laid his head back against his chair. "I'm afraid, I have no knowledge of what's brought about these deaths, save what I've read in the paper."
"I spoke to the constable here in Broadford and he said you might have some ideas," Lucas pushed, obviously frustrated.
Impatiently, he swiped the hair off his forehead with one bony hand and glared at Kat. She continued to sit on the back of his chair, silently watching him, her stare enigmatic. She made the poor man nervous. She preened.
"I'm afraid not," her father replied.
"But surely, you must have formed some opinions, Professor. You're well known for your studies in criminology."
Lucas sat forward in his chair, ignoring Kat now in his intensity. Annoyed, she stretched with feigned nonchalance. He didn't seem to notice. Miffed, she lay across the back of his chair. Let him lean back on her, she'd give him a fist full of claws.
"Each and every one of the bodies in every village round about has been drained of its blood. Surely, that has some significance."
The professor shrugged. "It means, they bled out," he said. "If a wound is severe enough and the victim isn't found in time, that's what happens."
"The wounds they sustained hardly seem serious enough for them to lose all their blood," Lucas insisted.
After a long beat, Ennis raised one shoulder in an oddly defensive gesture.
"What wounds did the victim's suffer?"
"Consistently the same," Lucas said without inflection. "Puncture wounds on the neck." He fixed his host with a hard gaze.
Ennis rose and paced slowly to the fireplace where he took his pipe down from the mantel and tapped it against the stone. When it was empty and cleaned to his satisfaction, he took down a bag of tobacco and leisurely refilled it. Then he lit it and drew on it several times. Kat knew this was the professor's way of stalling for time, and Lucas seemed to know it as well. He waited patiently.
Finally, unable to stall any longer, Ennis turned to face his visitor.
"They didn't mention that in the papers," he said somberly. "But then, the police always hold back something from the public, something that might help them trap the killer eventually."
"Yes, I'm aware of that," Lucas spoke sharply. "But now that you do know about the puncture wounds, I'd appreciate your opinion about them."
The professor shrugged. "They could be anything."
"I might buy that for one death," Lucas said, "but not for the number of victims who've showed up so far."
"How many deaths have there been?" Ennis asked, although Kat was fairly certain he already knew. She'd often come upon him muttering angrily after reading the newspaper articles.
"The number is up to nine," Lucas Stanislaus said.
"Sounds like a serial killer to me, and this is his modus operandi." Her father drew on his pipe and blew smoke toward the ceiling.
She'd seen him do it a hundred times before with an air of serenity about him, but this time, his movements were discordant. She forgot about the trap she'd set for Lucas and leaped down on the chair arm so she might study her father more closely. Why did this visitor, with his intense air, agitate her father so?
Lucas barely glanced at her before he went back to studying her father, waiting for his response, waiting like a tiger about to spring.
"I think we both know this is no ordinary serial killer," he said, getting to his feet. Her father looked relieved to see his visitor preparing to leave.
"I'm sorry I haven't been of more help," he said with an air of regret Kat wasn't sure was sincere. "But I'll ask around the village and see what I can find out."
"That would be helpful." Lucas nodded. "I'm staying at the local pub. Can you meet me there at noon tomorrow? We'll have a bit of lunch and discuss what you've found out."
"Certainly. They make a hearty mutton stew at the pub." Her father twinkled his little grin when he thought he was pulling one over on someone.
"Thank you for your time and patience," Lucas said and as he retrieved his jacket, contrived to touch Kat.
She snarled at him and slashed her tail to show her displeasure.
"It doesn't like me much, does it?" Lucas observed.
"No, I fear she's becoming a bitter old maid and takes it out on anyone who calls here."
Kat stuck her nose in the air and left the room. She was standing in her human form out on the stoop when her father walked Lucas to the door to show him out.
"Oh, Kat, you've come back," Ennis said. "I--we've a guest."
"So I see," she replied and held out her hand. "I'm pleased to meet you, Dr. Stanislaus."
He looked startled. "But how did you know my name?" he asked, taking her hand and shaking it firmly.
His fingers were long and their touch on her wrist made her shiver.
"I heard my father say he had an appointment with you."
"Yes, of course." Again, the puzzled glance from her father back to her. "I heard him call you Kat and he called the cat, well, Cat."
"My father calls everyone Cat. That way he doesn't have to remember a lot of names."
His eyebrows rose, and he nodded as if he understood, but she wasn't certain he did, especially when she didn't herself. Her father's household had always been chaotic and without commonsense, especially before her mother had died but even since, when Kat had tried her best to bring organization to his life, things had remained as before.
"By the way, I understand you're staying at the pub. Be sure to tell Jenny to make your toast from the fresh bread, otherwise you'll get week-old stuff."
Lucas smiled and nodded then held her gaze. "But how did you know I was staying there?" he demanded. "You weren't here when I told your father."
"There's nowhere else in the village." Kat smiled.
He gave a jerk as if of recognition, then looked even more perplexed.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Doctor," she said, putting a purr in her voice then, stepping around her father, she entered the cottage and closed the door.