SHOULD THERE BE
The Vampire Assassin League
by Jackie Ivie
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A PIRATE’S CREED
Piracy is Rafaele de Jesus y Santiago’s world. His motto. His creed. All he’s known. Vampirism only expanded his wake of destruction and his booty potential. There’s no order to his eternity. No goal. No direction. He’s got all he needs with the Brethren Code: Pillage, plunder, deceit, and self-gratification. He doesn’t even realize he’s lonely. Until one night, when he least expects it…
A WOMAN’S NEED
An emergency situation. A desperate plea. Lenna Hendershott got scared enough to reach out for help – and dialed a wrong number. Just her luck, as always. Bad. She should have known. Reliance breeds weakness. Weakness guarantees pain. She’s had enough of that to last a lifetime. Now, she’s got an agenda. Plans. A vision. She’s not letting anything stop her.
AN UNDYING LOVE
The moment they meet, Rafaele’s smitten. Enthralled. Enrapt. He didn’t believe it possible. He really does have a mate - and he actually found her? It’s every member of the elite Vampire Assassin League’s dream. Now, if only he knew how to break through the barriers she’s erected to reach her heart…
He did a very strange bow before standing upright again. It was a long way up, too. Six foot five had never looked so good. Lenna stopped her own thoughts. Sometimes her chosen field gave her a pleasant view and a bit of fantasy during her downtime. But nothing like what was happening now. If she didn’t know better, it felt as if every bit of her actually leaned toward him.
“Please. Call me Rafaele. I insist.”
“Very well. Rafaele.” Lenna forced her eyes back to his chart on the floor, bent to gather the scattered papers before standing again, trying to focus around the blur of numbers. This was ridiculous. She’d been around good looking, well-built men before. Nothing to the extent of Rafaele here, but still, he was just a client. A paycheck. Rent and groceries. Lenna cleared her throat. “It says here you wish to drop about thirty-five pounds.”
“That many? Hmm. Is that difficult?”
“For some. But I have to ask why. Why would you want to lose so much?” She slanted a glance to where his cotton shirt clung to rock-hard abs, before returning it to her chart. Wow. The guy was just…wow.
“It is too much?”
“You’re a certain weight and definition already. It took some work to get in the shape you’re in. Major work. And probably some sacrifice.”
“Foregoing cheeseburgers and alcohol is always a sacrifice to you guys. And that makes me wonder why you’d want to undo all of it.”
That eliminated any last thought that this might be her rescuer from last night. If that man existed, he’d been confident. Definite. In control. This Rafaele fellow didn’t look sure of much. He looked rather like a fish out of water, which was patently ridiculous. Anybody with a body like his spent a lot of time in gyms. Lenna scanned a finger down the paper for something to do. To her dismay, it trembled. “What kind of routine are you used to?”
“What weights do you lift, and in what combination, and how many reps?” She lifted her head to ask it.
He looked confused now, and that just made him look adorable, and that just added unnecessary ballast to the impact he already had on her. And she really needed to look elsewhere. Lenna moved her gaze to his collarbone. Dang! Even his traps were well-defined. His kind of trapezoid muscularity took years to develop - lots of repetition at pulling, with ever increasing weights. Which was a lot of work and sacrifice.
“You have to have a routine. Every body builder does.”
“You’re not a body builder?”
“You’ve never competed?” What a dumb question. If he competed, she’d have seen him. He’d have some trophies, or at the very least, he’d have a ton of fans - mostly female.
“I’m unsure of the question.”
Lenna folded her arms, securing his folder beneath one. “You’re very fit, Rafaele. It’s almost a sacrilege to take any weight off you. Someone in your shape – and with your looks – is a shoo-in for major fame. And yet here you are. Out of the blue. With me.”
“Is that wrong?”
“My expertise is getting you in shape, not setting up posing routines for IFBB competition. I think you’re wasting your money.”
“Posing?” His brows drew together. “For a portrait?”
Lenna huffed, the sigh hard enough to lift her bangs. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“So…where you from? East coast?”
“Iberian Peninsula. Grenada. Originally. Now? I am from everywhere and anywhere. I, uh…travel. Extensively.”
Iberian Peninsula. Hmm. Spain. She was looking at a Spaniard. A really hot one. The thought created way too much intrigue and interest. She had to swallow to get her voice to work. “So…what gyms have you used?”
“Gyms? Oh. You mean gymnasiums. I do not patronize such installations.”
“You’re in one now.”
“It looks like you’ve been in them a lot. And I do mean a lot.”
He was pulling her leg, and it wasn’t pleasant. He looked like he spent at least four hours a day working out, and packed in major calories, too.
“Let’s just cut to the chase, okay?” she asked.
He moved a step closer to her, alerting every bit of her to a sensation akin to excitement. That was weird. Due to Chet, this sort of proximity usually caused her heart to hammer with something akin to fright. That’s why she took self-defense classes. But this Rafaele was making everything tingle with something close to anticipation and interest. Lenna forced herself to stay right where she was, pretending it didn’t matter how close he’d moved.
“If I’m going to work with you, Rafaele, I need some basics. You’ve got a great physique. You’ve obviously worked hard to get it. I’m trying to nail down how. That way I can figure out what we need to reach your goal, odd though it is.”
“You really think my physique is great?” He tilted his head to one side to ask it and gave that devastating smile again.
Lenna dropped her gaze. Looks like she had one of those clients: a trainer’s bread and butter. Narcissistic. Gorgeous. Fit. Young. Light on the I.Q. Great looking on posters. Lost in a conversation after the word ‘hello’. Every trainer had stories on how dense some of their hottest clients were. She’d never joined in - not just because she was a loner, but mainly because she’d never had one. Until now.