The Jettison Brotherhood, Book 1
His fangs hovered above her beckoning pulse.
“You like that, darling?” His tone shifted into a seductive drawl meant to tease, ensnare, and control her mind.
Not a difficult feat.
Humans were so easy.
To the average bystander, Armen Jettison and his companion appeared to be lovers, a young couple lost in a moment of passion. Dozens of streetlights, spaced every one hundred feet, did little to lift the blanket of darkness. Their failure, like a well-practiced con artist, concealed his true intentions. Mortals rarely recognized the truth anyway, too engrossed in their shallow lives to see the monster lurking beneath his skin.
Armen cradled the woman tighter within his warmth, pressing her against his truck’s passenger door. Nightfall brought with it a chill that made his bones ache. Fall in Anchorage, Alaska was far colder than he had expected. He hated this climate, despised every inch of snow layering this damn town. What he wouldn’t do for some sun and sand. Another blast of arctic wind struck his chafed face like a haughty slap. He rebounded with a petulant moan.
Demons ran ten degrees warmer than the average human temperature. A trait bred into them to enhance their immune systems or some shit like that. He never did pay attention to all the biology crap. They were who they were, and that was that. All he knew, on a night like tonight, it came in handy.
Cigarette smoke and cheap, flowery perfume clung to the woman in his arms like a leech. Why she chose to drown herself in poison and frill was beyond him. He listened to her heartbeat, a steady rhythm, pulsating beneath his palm resting against her soft, warm breast. Blood coursed through her veins, a sweet hot river, flowing for him alone. Over a century had passed since Armen fed from a woman off the street. He found his eagerness both disturbing and arousing.
No matter their classification—vampire, shifter, or demon—whether they slithered in the depths of the underworld or were exiled into the human realm, all creatures spawned in hell required blood to thrive. A curse passed down by Lord Lucifer himself. In Armen’s opinion, tapping a vein seemed a small price to pay considering the weight of charges against the Lord of Hell. Then again, forcing an audacious, haughty son of a bitch like Lucifer to be dependent on the very race he held in contempt…priceless.
The Jettison Clan no longer needed to enthrall a donor to feed, not when several dozen recruited females were aware of their existence and willing to bare their throats. However, being three thousand miles from the nearest conscript left him little choice but to hunt. His inner demon remained smug, the fiend eager to execute a little seduction.
As a rule, Armen offered his donors a warm bed and a few rounds of unbridled passion before he siphoned what he needed. As if an Incubus would have it any other way. He chuckled. Several orgasms seemed a fair exchange for a few miniscule sips of blood. Armen sighed against her throat, and he licked her salty flesh. The act elicited a shiver from them both.
For tonight, Armen would have to cast aside his rules of engagement. Lives were on the line, not to mention, souls.
This was business, not pleasure.
Well, a few moments of bliss wouldn’t hurt. He flashed his perfect white teeth, baring the tips of his fangs.
He resented the human definition of his kind. Wikipedia claimed an Incubus to be a demon who had sex with sleeping women. He should sue them for slander. Women never slept in Armen’s bed.
He preferred his definition; viral beings who offer untold pleasure in exchange for a taste of feminine essence.
He didn’t sneak into the bedrooms of innocent woman, and he sure as hell didn’t rape them. Cowards conducted those actions, weak-minded monsters that blindly followed Lucifer’s lead. The Jettison Clan followed no one.
Sure, he used seduction to sway unattached, bashful companions. At times, he grabbed hold of their minds in order to strip away inhibition, but he never forced submission. In the end, if their desire didn’t taste genuine, he moved on.
“Mmm, yes…yes.” The female arched her spine.
Armen wedged his erection deeper between her thighs, the need to fuck a force all its own. An inflexible nuisance, his jeans locked his stiff cock to his pelvic bone. Her long trench coat acted as an impenetrable leather shield, reminding him this wasn’t the place or time.
Buried beneath his conscience, his inner demon snarled, furious Armen resisted his true nature. To take blood without sex was like a midnight sky without stars, dark and lacking. Frustration forced a growl to roll up his throat. His knees brushed the cold steel of his truck’s quarter panel, spreading the woman’s thighs wider. He nuzzled the curve of her neck, parted his lips, and sunk his fangs deep. Power surged through every artery, branching to each corner of his body. No drug, human or otherwise, would ever compare to the powerful rush of a feeding. Intense pleasure infested his donor’s mind as well, reimbursement for her oblivious contribution to the help-a-guy-out fund.
Armen didn’t dare to take too much, not wanting to weaken her in this dangerous Alaskan climate. He lifted his lips from dual puncture wounds before basting his marks with a healthy dose of curative saliva. One slow flick of his tongue removed any traces left by his fangs.
He never left his mark. The possessive display was meant for a mate, not thousands of countless, nameless women he fed from over the centuries.
With fresh blood coursing through him, his senses sharpened. He scanned the coal-colored shadows. Silence assured him he had not drawn unwanted attention. Winds danced all around him as Mother Nature dragged her icy fingers over any skin he dared expose. His pretty, young donor remained motionless. Her eyes closed tight, a wide grin gracing her features.
Armen snapped his gaze toward the other end of the block. A strange enticement awakened his instincts. His eyelids slid shut. Needing to pinpoint the lure, he inhaled as much of the frozen air as his lungs could tolerate. There, carried within the blistery northern winds, hid an unmistakable scent. He released a feral growl. His cock rose harder than steel, jerking against his zipper with some erotic Morse code.
The scent danced in the breeze, settling on his lips. His tongue darted out, tasted temptation. Oh, and the flavor was sweet, like desert lavender, exotic spice, and warm, sexy woman.
“Soul Tie,” Armen whispered.
Curson, his illustrious leader and pain-in-the ass big brother, had warned him before he left on this little search and rescue mission that an unclaimed Soul Tie’s scent might cause a slight reaction.
“Slight reaction? Lucifer’s curse, can you say extreme understatement? How in the hell did Curson expect me to protect anyone, when all I want to do is fuck?” Armen exclaimed.
A sharp whimper caught his attention. Armen dropped his gaze to discover his fingers, strangling his companion’s arms. Her eyes wide with fear. He had let his mind control slip. He lost focus. Appalled, he released her biceps. He lifted his hand to the side of her face and slid his fingers along her cheek.
“Shh…easy, darling, you’re safe.” She instantly calmed.
Armen prided himself on control. Not once in all his years had he injured a female while feeding. No, those lucky enough to donate to his hunger received pleasure, intense pleasure. Never had anything brought him to such a level of distraction as the damned fragrance teasing his instincts.
“I’m afraid our time together must end. Duty calls.” He forced a great sense of peace into the woman’s mind. “You had a great time tonight.”
Her lips curved slowly. “Yes, a great time.”
“You’re very tired now.” His gaze cast a faint teal glow on her cheek. “You will return to the bus stop on the corner where you were waiting when we met. You will take the bus home as usual.” She nodded with a yawn. “Go home. Get some rest. In the morning, this will all seem like a strange, fantastic dream.”
“Yes, a dream.”
He tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “Oh, and no more cigarettes, darling, you’re far too pretty to waste your life on such a nasty habit. Don’t you agree?” She nodded with a dazed smile. Armen reached into her purse, stole the pack of cigarettes lying on the bottom, and flung the box into the nearest snow bank. “Now, go on.” He patted her ass.
The woman twirled on her heels and strolled up the sidewalk. Armen watched her step up to the bus stop. He leaned against his truck as he waited, giving her his protection until she disappeared behind the folding glass doors of public transportation. He owed her that much.
After the bus turned the corner, Armen shifted from protector to predator. When on a mission, he allowed nothing to deter him, certainly not freezing temperatures or unseasonable blizzards. Nothing short of death stood in his way. After a dozen centuries, he doubted he’d take his last breath anytime soon.
Armen lifted his chin. He sniffed the air with flaring nostrils and grinned.
“Sweet Soul Tie, I’ll be seeing you soon.”
* * * *
Heads spun as Ariella Segreti and her best friend, Dee Masters, stepped into the crowded tavern. The Polar Bar featured live bands on the weekends. This Saturday night fared no different. Located in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, the old-style saloon attracted tourists as well as locals. Tonight, the rhythm of pointless chatter and classic rock echoed throughout the paneled walls and wood-beamed ceiling. Not even the prior blizzard deterred the masses from a night out.
Crammed inside, hordes of desperate singles congregated in a less than modest attempt to get lucky or find love, whichever came first. Various potent aftershaves and a garden of perfume mingled with the sweet, smoky mist of cigars and the harsh scent of stale liquor, reminding Ariella of the very reason she disliked going to these places.
Ariella and Dee wiggled their way through the thick crowd. They found an empty spot at the end of the bar between a plump man drowning in cheap cologne and a middle-aged woman whose rough, orange skin screamed tanning salon overload.
Dee slid the long mink coat down the slope of each bare, bronzed shoulder. “It’s sure hot in here tonight.” Her manicured hand fanned her face. “They really need to get a coat check in here, carrying this around all night is going to drive me crazy.” She rested the heavy titanium-colored fur over her lap.
“You should have worn your ski-jacket, Dee.” With a tug, Ariella freed each arm from the sleeves of her well-worn leather jacket. Her coat had grown tighter in the last few months. A fact that made her want to scream.
“Are you insane? I have a reputation to uphold. That jacket with this dress screams a definite fashion no-no.”
“As my nana always said, the goal is to remain functional, child, not fashionable.”
Dee gasped. “Hold your tongue. Jeans and tees are your thing, darling, but this shake and jiggle prefers silk and lace over denim and jersey.” Dee grabbed her hips. She popped each curve left and right.
Ariella tried to hold back a giggle, but failed. “You’d look great in a paper bag.”
“I’d work it,” Dee agreed with a wide grin.
Ariella adjusted her position on the barstool. She inspected the crowd. “It’s packed in here.”
Dee waved a twenty at the bartender.
Ariella crossed her arms over her chest. Her best friend had promised a nice relaxing evening, this in no way constituted relaxing. What if Tony shows up? He loves places like this. One glance from her ex-husband and she would crumble. She scanned the room once more, her fingers clutching the edge of the bar stool. “This wasn’t a good idea.”
“Come on, Ella.” Dee pointed her red-tipped finger. “No negative thoughts. You promised. We look hot. The music is rocking, and there are too many fish in the sea to worry about one foul guppy.”
Ariella held back her frown. She folded her coat over her forearm and dropped her eyes. Emotionally, she was about as useful as a flat tire. If not for her little girl, Katie, she would have drowned in misery months ago.
“It freaking kills me to watch you waste your life on that narcissistic cheating bastard. Leaving you was the best thing Tony ever did.” Dee placed her palm over Ariella’s hand. “You are a strong, beautiful woman. One incredible mother too. It’s hard breaking out of that protective shell. Believe me, honey, I know. You have to do it. Otherwise, you’re merely existing, and sweetheart, that’s far from living.”
“Easy for you to say, you’re gorgeous, Dee…perfect. Look at me.” Ariella caught her reflection in the mirror decorating the far wall, and her shoulders fell. “If I could turn down that damn double fudge ice cream, maybe my ass wouldn’t resemble a modern day flotation device. I want to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans, is that too much to ask?” She didn’t expect to walk a catwalk. Her hips were too wide and her breasts were too big to aspire to anything that grand. Even at her thinnest, Ariella possessed curves. All she wanted was to walk down the street with pride and confidence as she used to. Not worry about what wiggled where or jiggled here. “I’ve become the oldest balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—big, fat, and worn out. You’re like Santa’s sleigh, sleek and beautiful.”
“Everyone would love you if you gave them a chance,” insisted Dee.
“I’ve given plenty of chances. I—”
“Hiding away in a dark room is not giving chances, it’s giving up.” She drew closer. “I’m not letting you give up. You are amazing. You have a beautiful smile, diva-like eyelashes, perfect skin, and, I’m not kidding when I tell you, I’d kill for those babies.” Dee dropped her eyes to Ariella’s ample chest and so did the chubby man beside them.
“Hey.” Ariella quickly crossed her arms over her breasts.
“Excuse me. Private conversation here,” Dee warned, before rolling her eyes.
The man grunted, but did a complete one-eighty.
“What is this really about, sweetie? The other day you were all for a night out on the town, ready to put Tony-Two-Timer behind you and look ahead.”
“Yeah, I know, but…”
“But nothing, Ariella. Why the sudden change of heart? You were so happy when I talked to you Thursday.” Dee studied her. Sudden understanding flashed over her features. “Oh. My. God. You talked to your mother, didn’t you? There are only two people able to put you in a mood like this, and I sure as hell know you haven’t run into Tony. You would have called me immediately.”
Sometimes, she hated that Dee knew her so well. She groaned. “She called me last night.”
Dee shook her head. “And you answered the phone. I would strangle her myself if she didn’t live a thousand miles away. What did sweet Desiree have to say this time?”
Ariella’s mom, Desiree, had the ability to sour anyone’s mood with a single, haughty sentence. Dee had met her once at Katie’s first birthday party, and according to Dee, once was more than enough.
“You know the usual. Complaining, how I ruined my life and Katie’s. It’s my fault that Tony left. If I hadn’t packed on the pounds, I’d still be married. Oh, she did add a new one to her usual rant. Seems no man wants a woman with thunder thighs and a bubble butt, so I’d better start starving myself now if I intend to ever find someone worthwhile.”
“That fucking bitch,” Dee muttered. “She’s pissed, because she lost her free ride. No more scrounging off you. I guess she’s gotta lie back down and earn her keep like she used to. It’s her only skill after all—money grubbing. How much did she ask for this time?”
Ariella covered her grin with her palm. Dee’s crack about her mom should offend her, but her friend was right. At her father’s funeral, Desiree admitted she only married her dad for his money, not love. No big surprise. Ariella spent her entire childhood watching her mother squander his money. According to Desiree, she only had Ariella to appease her husband’s request for an heir. Unfortunate for all, considered she was born female.
“She wants a lot more than I can spare. I guess all those trips to Greece and Europe have taken a toll on her finances. She already spent most of my daddy’s inheritance.”
“You better not give her a dime.”
Ariella laughed, and then she shook her head. “Nope, that’s why she started ranting. Apparently, Tony was the catch of the century, best husband, and a number one father.” Ariella shrugged. “You know her typical guilt trip.”
“If you had given that skank a dime, I would have pulled you on my knee and spanked your ass red.”
The chunky man beside them cast another side-glance. He cleared his throat and tugged at his collar, his interest obvious.
Ariella and Dee ignored him.
“I’m not stupid ya know.” Ariella crossed her arms over her chest.
“Well, you’re stupid enough to let your bitch ass mother get to you.” Dee frowned. “You do know everything that woman says is crap? Right?”
Ariella lowered her head. “I know.” Her response held no confidence.
“And you’re not going to let that snotty gold-digging slut ruin your first real night out in months. Right?”
Ariella smiled under Dee’s stern expression. “Right,” Ariella affirmed.
Dee moved closer. “And you will, without argument, grab the first, hot, viral, piece of ass that comes your way and drag him to whatever dark corner you find first for some crazy, feral, animalistic sex. Right?”
Beside them, the nosey chubby man choked on his ale, spitting liquid all over himself.
Ariella burst out in laughter, shaking her head. “Right,” she exclaimed.
“You’re the real thing, sweetheart,” Dee continued with a snap of her fingers. “A sexy woman, an entire package from the inside out, and I guarantee that someday you’ll come across a man dying to unwrap such a gift.”
She draped her arm around Ariella’s shoulder and drew her close. “Now, enough of the mushy gushy stuff, I need a drink, first shots on me.”
Ariella lifted her head, unable to hold back the grin Dee brought to her lips. “Absolutely.”
Dee ordered two shots of whiskey. Ariella raised the tiny glass and swallowed the firewater. After a quick shiver, she bought a Corona with lime and ordered Dee a Tequila Sunrise.
Her attention shifted toward the stage. Ariella admired the aged musicians as they played a flawless version of the song “Angie,” originally created by one of her favorite bands, The Rolling Stones, and leaned against the bar.
At that moment, as the rhythm soothed her soul and the liquor warmed her blood, Ariella made a promise to herself. No matter how painful, she would put aside her cynicism and have some fun. Nothing mattered, not her weight, her ex, her mother, or her overzealous appetite.
She swallowed another sip of her beer and let the ice-cold brew erase the last of the whiskey’s after-burn. Tonight, she would take the first step and change her life for the better. Without a doubt, after tonight, nothing would remain the same.