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Chapter 1 | Catherine Vale

Chapter 1

To Catch A Cheetah

Chapter 1

 

The stench of a vampire hit Chase’s nostrils as soon as he entered the nightclub.

A normal shifter wouldn’t have necessarily zeroed in on the revolting combination of blood, grave dirt, and death, which was masked by the many other scents drifting about the popular, upscale nightclub. Men dressed in anything from t-shirts to leather jackets, to suits, spread their combination of cologne and testosterone about, and the sheer amounts, and types, of perfume worn by the women, were generally enough to dull even the strongest nose.

But Chase was specially trained to sift out certain scents from his surroundings. It made it easier to track and kill, his targets, especially when he had to do it in crowded areas like this.

Thankfully, he was on assignment tonight, but his common sense told him it would be best to locate the vampire, whoever he was, and establish whether or not he was a threat before even thinking about having a drink.

Annoyance tickled the back of his throat, threatening to erupt into a low growl at having his evening so rudely interrupted this way. But then, that was just par for the course in the life of an assassin. Ever watchful, ever vigilant.

After all, being at the top of the food chain meant someone else was always trying to knock you out of your step.

His booted feet made little noise as they sank into the dark carpet that was decorated with large, swirling laurel leaf patterns, and he hardly displaced the air as he moved through the gastro-lounge, tastefully done in dark browns and bright golds. He scanned the throngs of people who sat around oak tables, perched on square white leather seats that resembled ottomans, or lounging back against the high-backed, suede-covered booth seats that lined the walls, but none of them had the pale, faintly luminous skin of a vampire, nor their sickly sweet scent.

Where is he?

Ignoring what his ocular senses were telling him, he honed in on the scent and followed his nose to the bar, which was fairly crowded. It led him to a mysterious woman perched on a corner stool, dressed in a slinky black number that complimented her slim figure. Her mahogany locks obscured her features as she dipped her head to take another sip at her martini, but he didn’t need to see her face to know that she was human.

Nevertheless, the vampire scent was definitely coming from her. It overlaid her natural fragrance – a combination of strawberries and cream he found oddly alluring, and quite different from the expensive perfumes clouding the air – but was strong enough for him to draw the conclusion that she was likely a sycophant, or at the very least an occasional blood donor. Virtually harmless.

Mission accomplished, he told himself. You can now go ahead and find yourself a willing woman for the night.

But he didn’t move from where he stood, which was roughly ten feet from the bar – close enough to observe, yet far enough away that she wouldn’t take notice of him. He knew he should move on – a woman involved with vampires was no one to mess around with – but he had a sudden urge to catch a glimpse of her face, to see if it was as delicate, and graceful as the rest of her curvy body. Plus, he wanted to know if she really was sycophant – humans who willingly offered themselves up to vampires as both sex and food, and he couldn’t see any marks on her from this angle.

Mind made up, he walked up to the man seated to her right, a boring accountant type who was unsuccessfully trying to make conversation with her. Chase tapped the accountant on the shoulder and raised an eyebrow as the man turned around, then jerked his head to the left in a motion that clearly said leave.

The man straightened up, clearly preparing to defend his position, but Chase simply leveled his alpha glare on the man, and he wilted. Satisfied, he slid onto the bar stool the man had vacated, then proceeded to ignore the woman who was now staring at him as he leaned over, and signaled the bartender.

“Scotch on the rocks,” he told the man, his voice low and rough – perhaps a few shades away from a smoker’s gravely voice. “And a refill for the lady here.”

“Well that was a bold move,” the woman said dryly. “Kicking my date out of his seat just so you could buy me a drink. Something tells me that you’re going to be a problem for me.” She had a throaty voice, like rough velvet, and instantly Chase was turned on as he imagined that voice moaning his name as he pleasured her between the sheets of the king bed that waited for him back at his apartment. The king bed that he had never once brought a woman home to.

Chase chuckled, still not looking at her as he picked up his drink and sampled the scotch. Damn, that was a good single-malt. “If that guy was your date you have bigger problems than me,” he said, finally turning to look at her. His breath caught for a moment as he studied her face, the high, rounded cheekbones and pointed chin that formed a perfect heart, the slightly up-tilted nose, the wide, emerald green eyes that shimmered in the soft light from the wine-barrel chandeliers that hung from the vaulted ceilings above them.    

She laughed a dark and enchanting melody that drew him in so fast he wondered if she was part-fae. But he could smell no glamour about her, nothing except the faint stench of vampire, and even that was dissipating. “Touché,” she said with a rueful smile. “Honestly, he was starting to get on my nerves, so I suppose I ought to be grateful you stepped in.”

“I’m a veritable knight in shining armor,” he agreed, and she snickered. Sitting back, Chase couldn’t help admire the way her eyes lit up, the green orbs growing luminous with humor and mischief. He could just imagine her as a pixie, flitting about with fluttering wings as she caused all manner of trouble and strife. But there was nothing otherworldly about her, except the scent clinging to her, and as his eyes roamed over what exposed skin he could see – her wrists, her throat, her legs – he saw no bite marks in any of the obvious places.

“So,” she said, placing her half-empty martini glass onto the counter. “What brings you to this little corner of the Avenue? If you’re looking for a lay, I imagine there are better choices here tonight than me.” Her eyes flickered as she swept her gaze across the room briefly, and Chase knew she was cataloging the other women watching him. He’d felt their stares the moment he’d walked in, and knew that no matter which way things played tonight, he would be spreading a pair of long, luscious legs before the end of the night.

If you had any shred of common sense, you’d leave this woman’s legs alone, and go find someone else’s, a voice in his head snapped, but he ignored it. He was too far into the game now… and depending on how she reacted to his next move, he was either going to seal the deal or fall flat on his face.

“I noticed you the moment I walked in. The scent of a vampire isn’t something I can easily ignore.”

A cloud of fear instantly enveloped the woman, and she sat up straight, her spine stiffening and her hands clenching in her lap. She started to slide off the bar stool, but Chase’s hand shot out, lightly but firmly clasping her wrist. “Relax,” he said, his voice low and hypnotic. “I’m not going to hurt you.”      

“You’re a vampire hunter,” she said, her voice shaking, but she didn’t move, likely frozen to the spot.

“No…I’m not.” Chase shook his head, then released her arm as a show of faith. “I just scented you when I walked into the room, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t walking into enemy territory.” He allowed his eyes to glow briefly, revealing to her what he was in the most discreet way possible.

She relaxed instantly, her shoulders softening, her lungs deflating as she let out a breath she likely didn’t realize she’d been holding. “You’re a shifter,” she said, an odd gleam in her eye.

“I am. Does that bother you?”

She shook her head. “I’ve… I’ve always wondered what it would be like, with a shifter,” she said softly, and this time there was no mistaking the gleam in her eyes as lust. The air around them thickened with sexual tension, and Chase breathed in deep, savoring the hint of arousal that had changed her scent.

“I might be able to help you with that,” he said softly, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. Her skin was silky smooth, the color of fresh cream, and he had the sudden urge to run his tongue along her jaw and taste her. “If you answer my question first.”

She sighed a little. “My father has some rather unsavory business associates,” she explained. “They come to the house often for meetings, and I have to deal with them every once in a while.”          

Chase frowned. She wasn’t exactly lying to him… but he sensed she wasn’t telling him the whole truth either. “If I were your father, I don’t know whether or not I’d want you around men like that.”

She shrugged. “He’s always careful, and I’ve never been bitten,” she told him, fingering her neck lightly. Chase’s gaze was drawn to her fluttering pulse, and his jaw ached with the desire to lick, nibble, and tease the skin there. But some of the tension had returned to her face again, and Chase sat silent for a moment, debating whether or not to press her for the information he knew she was withholding.

 “Do you want to talk about it?” he finally asked.

She shook her head. “No,” she said softly. “I come here specifically not to talk about these kinds of things. None of my father’s associates typically frequent this club. They prefer… darker pastures.” A brief cloud passed over her face. She banished it with a seductive smile, then leaned in and placed her hand on his knee. “I wouldn’t mind if you decided to… um… help me forget.” Her lips were curved into a sensuous line, an amused smile, as she watched him intently, and it was all he could do not to reach out and run his fingers over her lips.

Chase sucked in a breath as she squeezed his knee. His body was all too ready to give her what she wanted, but his conscience hadn’t fully stopped screaming yet. Was this going to come back and bite him in the ass someday? If she was the property of a vampire, it absolutely could… but all signs pointed to the fact that, despite the scent on her, she was a normal human… and one all too willing to subject herself to him, for that matter.

“If you’re not interested,” she murmured, her hand trailing a little higher across his denim-clad leg to knead his powerful thigh muscles. “I’m sure I can get Jared back here. He’s sulking a few tables away, waiting to see if you’ll leave without me.”

Fuck that. No way was he letting that ratty accountant guy slide his spindly hands up this beautiful woman’s slinky black dress. It was a possessive thought, and one he knew he shouldn’t be having, but he couldn’t help himself. Tonight, he wanted this woman, and he would be damned if he was going to let some loser one-up him just because he was being paranoid.

She leaned forward slightly, clearly yearning for contact. Her eyes, a brilliant green, were swirling with desire. 

“Well, what’ll it be, stranger?” Their lips were almost touching now, his eyes locked with hers. She moved even closer, aching for his kiss.  She stood up, moving between Chase’s legs, and he slid forward, drawing her in.

Without hesitation, she moved even closer, lips parted. Chase slowly ran his hands up her arms, his fingers leaving behind a trail of goosebumps on her skin.

“I’m ready when you are.” Her voice was barely a whisper, tinged dark with lust.

“You’re one hell of a talker.” He sat forward; his lips so close to hers he could feel her breath, smell her feminine scent. His eyes drew her closer, held her enthralled, captive.

When his lips brushed against hers, it sent a wave of heat through his body. Chase felt her shudder, and she closed her eyes, letting him claim her lips with his, moaning against the sensual feel of his mouth against hers.

The tip of his tongue traced along her lower lip, and she gave herself over to the kiss, opening her mouth, meeting his tongue with hers. She settled her body against him, arching her back as his hands moved from her arms to slide up her torso.

He held her easily, his hands spanning the curves of her body, resting just beneath her breasts. It felt as if she were weightless, suspended against him, as he slid further down in the chair, as her body rested against his. She was aware of his growing erection pressing against her stomach, hard and hot, and she wiggled in his grasp, seeking more contact. Chase flexed his hips upward, pressing himself against her, moaning against her mouth.

Time seemed to stand still, the kiss deepening, intensifying, and sending frissons of pleasure through his body. It could have been minutes or hours, but when Chase finally sat up, gently setting her feet on the floor, it was clear that she was weak and breathless.

“Come with me,” he told her, taking her hand and tugging her off the barstool.

He led her up one of the glass split spiral staircases, up past the second-floor mezzanine, and towards the third floor, where the club offered private rooms to his patrons. The concierge – that was the phrase that came to Chase’s mind, since the man was dressed impeccably in a suit with gold cufflinks, his salt, and pepper hair slicked back from a distinguished face – showed them to a room on the left, and Chase thanked him, then shut and locked the door behind them.

When he turned around, the woman had already taken off her dress and was toeing the puddle of black silk to the side with her black stilettos. His cock hardened to full mast at the sight of her curvy dancer’s body clad in nothing, but a black lacy bra, and thong. Looking up at him, she smiled, her beautiful green eyes sparkling in the dim light, a dark angel just begging him to sin. Curving the corner of her mouth into a seductive smile, she sat down on the edge of the mattress, crossed her legs, then crooked a finger, a clear invitation for him to take what he wanted.

Instead, he took his time, removing his dark leather jacket, then slowly pulling his shirt over his head, giving her plenty of time to admire his ripped physique. He was lean but muscular, and he knew women enjoyed looking at his body. When he was done, he toed off his boots, making sure that the knives tucked into them were still secure, but before he got to his jeans she was on him, tugging him by the waistband back toward the bed.

“I want to finish unwrapping you,” she said, pressing a kiss to the spot just above his navel.

“It’s occurred to me,” he said slowly, closing his eyes as she trailed her mouth lower. “That we don’t know each other’s names.”

She paused, her mouth hovering above the waistband of his jeans. “Should we?”

 “Well, I figure you should be allowed to scream my name when I’m making you come,” he teased, then hissed as she nipped at his skin in response.

 The woman laughed. “Well tell me then, so I can scream appropriately.”

“Sam,” he said after a moment, tempted to give her his real name, but knowing he should not. Her chances of finding him, should she decide she wasn’t satisfied with their one-night-stand, would be much slimmer if she didn’t know his name.

“Alice,” she offered, and Chase was amused that she’d lied, though admittedly the name Alice suited her far more than Sam suited him, at least in his opinion. He might have continued down that train of thought, but all thoughts flew out of his head when Alice unzipped his fly and wrapped her hand around his throbbing length.

“Oh fuck, yeah,” he breathed as she stroked his cock, her slender hand gliding smoothly along his length. “That’s it, baby.” He slid his hands into her hair, curling his fingers around the mahogany locks as he guided her mouth to the tip of his cock. “Yeah,” he groaned as she took the length of him into her mouth, his balls tightening as his pleasure heightened.

 He allowed her to suck his cock for a few minutes, then pulled away, and pushed her back onto the bed. She squealed in surprise as he moved on top of her.

“I want to see your pussy,” he whispered against her calf, pressing soft kisses along the inside of her leg. He nibbled at the soft flesh of her inner thigh, and she trembled, a soft sigh escaping her pouty lips that made him burn for more. Slowly, he slipped her panties off, over her legs, careful not to rip the delicate lace on her stilettos, then settled himself between her legs. Her pussy was bare and wet, the pink folds glistening in the dim light, and he slid his thumb along her slit, watching in fascination as the beads of moisture gathered on the pad of his fingers.

He lifted his head to see Alice watching him through heavy-lidded eyes, her mouth slightly parted. “Do you want me to fuck you?” he asked, watching her face as he teased her folds with his thumb.

“Yes,” she whispered and then moaned when his thumb found her clit. “YES!” He circled the sensitive nub with his thumb, his excitement growing as he watched her chest rise and fall more rapidly, her cheeks growing pink as the beginnings of a flush began to spread across her creamy skin.

“Oh God,” she moaned when he used his other hand to slide two fingers inside her. Her hips came off the mattress when he found her g-spot, and Chase grinned as he massaged her in earnest, her moans growing louder.

“Yes, yes, yes!” she screamed, and then exploded, her juices gushing over Chase’s fingers. Ducking his head down, he started sucking on her clit until he drove her into another orgasm.

 “Jesus,” she gasped after he’d made her come for the second time. “Do you ever quit?”

“What can I say? I’m an overachiever,” he growled, slipping off his jeans and kicking them to the floor. “Sit up,” he murmured, sliding his hands under her arms and helping her up. “I want you on top of me.”

He scooped her up easily, squeezing her perfectly rounded ass. She cried out softly beneath him as he slowly lowered her onto his cock. She met him fully, her hips grinding down onto him, accepting all of him completely, her tight sheath enveloping him, inch by exquisite inch. Alice moaned his name as he settled himself fully inside her, his back propped up against the wall, as she straddled his hips. Her red hair formed a wild halo around her flushed face as she leaned her head back, her long lashes curving against her cheeks as she savored the feel of him inside her.

She tilted her face to his and his lips were on hers, harsh and primal. He growled against her mouth, and the sweet taste of her lips set off a deep thud of arousal low in his belly. He tried not to focus on that barely controlled passion that was lurking under his calm exterior. Besides the obvious sexual arousal that came off of him in waves, he’d radiated pure animal magnetism, but somehow – some way, she soothed his beast, calmed his raw, powerful need.

“I want you naked,” he growled, reaching around her. His breath was hot against her neck, as she leaned into him, giving him free access to her back so he could unclasp her bra. The lacy black garment slid free, exposing round, perky breasts that were almost too perfect to be real, if not for the fact that they were on the smaller side. But what they lacked in size, they made up for in shape, and her pale pink nipples, which had hardened into peaks, were practically a work of art. Chase’s pupils were dilated, his dark eyes searching hers, wordlessly warning her that he was about to go beyond the point of no return.

“Fuck me,” he demanded, leaning forward and capturing one of her nipples between his teeth. His breath was hot against her flesh. He nibbled the taut bud, and Alice moaned, her eyes dancing with desire, moving her hips against him in the age-old dance of lovers. He suckled on one nipple, then the other, his hands digging into her hips as he urged her faster, up and down, up and down, her smooth skin sliding against his as she rode him.

Their lips met again, hers soft against his, as lush as the rest of her. He traced his tongue briefly along her lower lip, and she opened her mouth to him instantly, her tongue meeting his fully, almost aggressively.

Time seemed to stand still for Chase. The movement of their bodies together, the intense feeling of her surrounding him, drawing him further into a mindless space where nothing existed but his intense hunger for the mysterious woman. The desperate need to claim her almost drove him out of control. Every thrust of his cock, every response from her moving on top of him, driving him crazy, pushing him closer to the edge, making him want more of her, even as he took her with wild abandon.

And she demanded as much from him as he took from her, her movements matching his, her passion and arousal just as intense as his own. Her body was one continuous moving wave of pleasure, crashing over him, pulling him deeper into her, pulling him further out of control. He gave in, let her sweep him along, finally letting go of any illusion of restraint he thought he still had.

When she came, it surprised him, both with the suddenness, and the intensity. She arched up above him, her head thrown back, her nails raking across his chest and shoulders, brief sharp pain searing his skin that only added to his intoxicating pleasure. He looked up at her, watching her face in the throes of her release, feeling her twisting above him, the contractions of her pussy so strong and gripping around his cock, pulsing waves that fueled his own release.

He could feel the desperate need for release building up into a crescendo, pushing them closer and closer to the edge, and he pulled out just before he came, spurting his seed onto her stomach as he groaned in pleasure. As the final waves of his orgasm faded, and his body began to relax, and as she moved off of him, he collapsed, rolling onto his back.

“That was intense,” Alice teased afterward, her tone laced with dry amusement as she cleaned herself up with the paper towels provided by the club.

Chase grinned, then leaned in and captured her lips in another kiss. “That’s one way to describe it.”

They sat together for a few minutes before he pulled her against him, nuzzling her neck, losing himself in the soft tangled mass of her hair. She turned toward him, curling her body against his in surrender, and they moved in another dance of pleasure, fitting his angles against her curves, the sheet now nothing more than a tangled mess between them.

Chase was beginning to consider the idea of bribing the concierge to let them bed down for the rest of the night when Alice suddenly rolled off the bed and reached for her dress.

“Where you going?” he asked, sitting up, his mouth curved into a frown.

“Home,” she said, slipping on her clothes and her heels. “I may be a grown woman, but as long as I live with my Dad, I’ve still got a curfew.” She grimaced that dark cloud from earlier passing across her face.

 “Wait,” he said, reaching out, then wondering what the hell he was doing. This was a one-night stand, right? So why was he stopping her from leaving?

Alice shook her head, then stepped back and opened the door. “It was nice to meet you… Sam.” She winked, and then she was gone in a swish of auburn locks, and a click of black stilettos against marble.

Chase stared after her for a moment, debating whether or not he should go after her, and then he chuckled, finally realizing what was wrong. Usually, he was the one who left, not the other way around, so the fact that Alice had walked out before he was ready had caught him off guard. That was all. It wasn’t like he wasn’t going to miss her or anything. He didn’t even know the broad.

Shaking his head to snap himself out of the daze, he got up and dressed, then headed home, with the scent of strawberries and cream still lingering in his nose, and a pair of large green eyes watching him from out of the darkness.