When every male head turned simultaneously, Niles Gule’s did as well. Officer Jonas Williams of the Baltimore PD, who stood beside him in the crowded ballroom, let out a wolf whistle totally inappropriate for the occasion. Little Walter Cooksey, half the height of his partner Williams or the tall, lithe vampire, pranced on his toes to see what had everyone transfixed.
“Who’da thunk she could polish up so nice,” Williams commented.
Niles found his brilliant blue gaze caught as his own partner on the force, Mariella Cruz, sailed into the Christmas party with all the aplomb of a Hollywood siren. The luscious little Mexican wore a floor length gown of ruby red beaded from neckline to hem. Although, Niles thought, to call anything on that dress a neckline was a stretch. The dipping front revealed a good bit of curving pale skin between her breasts where a ruby pendant rested, demanding to be noticed. Spaghetti straps left her curving brown shoulders bare, allowing jeweled earrings to brush across them like a caress. She’d twisted her mass of thick black hair into a ball at the nape of her neck and covered it with a net glittering with sequins. The woman sparkled and not just because of her finery. Her dark eyes glowed.
“She can’t be our Cruz,” Krewelski complained. “Since when has the little spitfire been hiding that under her pant suits?” His comment earned him a slug from his chubby wife Veronica.
‘That’ was a wealth of curves fit for a Formula One race. Niles had always known his partner was a curvaceous creature, but the lines of the dress hugged every one of them. He found himself mesmerized.
As, apparently, did every other man in the ballroom.
Deshawn Jackson’s wife grabbed her hulky husband and steered him towards the buffet. Cooksey’s date — Niles suspected she was an escort — draped herself over her small, fat client to distract him. Williams, who sported a stunning blonde Russian on his arm, made no effort to appease her. He stared his fill.
“Who’s she with?” Niles asked as a tall, elegant man in black handed Cruz’s wrap to an attendant.
Williams’ gaze flicked from the equally tall, elegant vampire, also in black, to the man who led Cruz into the gathering. “That would be Malcolm Deschamps.” When Niles lifted a brow, he added, “Senior partner at Deschamps, Briggs and Waterman. Defense attorneys for the rich and famous.”
Niles felt his icy heart sting. Cruz looked so radiant on the arm of her dashing escort. They were the most striking couple in the room. While Cruz looked warm and cuddly, just begging to be snuggled, Deschamps was cool and supercilious. Every thread was in place, his shoes immaculately buffed. His dark hair, a match to hers, was carefully trimmed and dusted with just the right touch of gray to make him distinguished. His eyes held a certain condescension for everyone in the room. Niles hated him on sight.
He’s too tall for her, the vampire thought with a sniff, and too… oh…. Just too… perfect.
He must have spoken because Williams murmured, “Now you know how it feels.”
Niles lifted a brow. Williams lifted one right back.
“You came alone?” the man asked, noting that nothing female circled in the handsome vampire’s orbit.
“A good looking man like you?” The giant policeman studied Niles. “I’da thought you’d be crawling with women.” He wriggled his fingers. “All that vampire charisma. Voodoo stuff. Can’t you mesmerize a woman just by looking at her?”
Niles hissed, darting a glance at Williams’ date. “Exnay, Jonas!”
Williams waved. “Who her? She doesn’t speak a word of English.” He grinned. “She understands Polish though. Polish kielbasa.” He winked and made a lewd gesture.
Niles scowled. He resented that he was the only male there alone. Even little Cooksey had bought himself company for the night. Niles knew he could have done as Williams suggested, use his vampire charm to entrap any female he wished. When he hunted humans years ago he’d employed that skill. Made trapping dinner easy. He was not, however, going to use the power of persuasion to wrangle a date. He wasn’t that desperate. Was he?
The DJ sifted from background jazz to bluesy dance music. Couples drifted onto the dance floor, Cruz and her Adonis included. Niles tossed back a Champagne as he watched the dancers sway to the beat. Even Cooksey and his bimbo were on the floor. Niles was surprised to find the little man was smooth as he spun his lady of the evening amongst the police officers who’d arrested her a few times. Cooksey never ceased to amaze. As soon as Niles thought he’d gotten to the bottom of Walter Cooksey, the man managed to surprise him anew.
Williams’ didn’t dance. He considered Niles. “So why didn’t you bring a date?”
Niles grunted. “Who would I bring?” He lowered his voice. “I’m a damned vampire!”
“What about that little cookie who moved in next door? She’s a vampire, isn’t she?” He twitched his brows. “She’s a hottie.”
Niles scowled. “She’s a third my age.”
“I hear she’s got it hard for you.”
He earned himself a disgusted gesture.
Yeah, Tyra the fifty-something vampire had it hard for Niles. He was, after all, becoming the territorial lord of Baltimore and she wasn’t a fool. If she hitched her wagon to Niles Gule, she could go far. Most female vampires killed to land an alpha male for a mate. Another reason to stay away from the ladies, Niles thought glumly. He didn’t need Vampira Tyra killing them.
Three glasses of wine later, Niles felt only slightly better. He mingled and poured on the vampiric charm to a gaggle of older women. They were safe company. Niles wasn’t interested in them and although they found him pleasant to look at, none would proposition him with their husbands nearby.
Niles turned when a hand touched his arm.
“Let’s dance.” Cruz demanded. She didn’t wait for Niles’ approval. She hauled him onto the dance floor, spun him around and clasped his shoulders.
Niles heart melted. While his entire body went stiff with both the shock of holding her in his arms and the pleasure of all that softness pressing into him, his heart fell helplessly into her little hands. She smiled, her eyes shining. He got his rhythm and soon they were sweeping across the floor in step with The Girl From Ipanema. A bossa nova so fitting for Cruz. She was a fine dancer, as was he. The crowd opened to watch them.
When the dance ended, Niles and Cruz stood pressed together, both breathing a little harder than the dancing required.
“We’re under the mistletoe,” she whispered.
Niles nodded, mesmerized. He dropped his head and gave her the chastest of kisses, a brief touch before pulling away. He watched with intense pain and jealousy as Malcolm Deschampes reclaimed her with a snarky look at Niles. He forced himself to smile politely to his rival, a man far more fitting for Cruz than a vampire.
William’s heavy hand fell on his shoulder. “It’s painful to watch.”
Niles nodded in silence.
“Get her a really great gift, Ghoul,” he suggested. “Win her from that over-paid weasel.”
Niles blinked. “If I didn’t know better I’d think you liked me, Jonas.”
The big man shrugged. “You grow on people. Like a fungus.” He poked the vampire. “A gift, Ghoul. A really nice one.”
Niles watched as Cruz headed with her escort towards the buffet tables.
“Already done, Jonas,” he murmured. “I’ve given her the most precious thing I own.”
© 2016 Newmin