Ian didn’t know why he was torturing himself this way. He’d watched the woman for months, and she showed no signs of betraying her friends or their secret. Her obvious loyalty counted for much in his mind. From what he had observed, the female doctor had formed deep friendships with Christy, Kelly and Lissa, the three new vampire mates who had been recently claimed and turned. The women had become fast friends in college and those bonds would not be easily broken. Jena seemed okay with the notion that some of her best friends had been converted by their new mates.
She was curious, of course, since she was a highly trained medical professional, but accepting that her friends and their new husbands were immortal. Ian admired the woman. She was strong, like the women of his clan had been back in the days of endless war with the English and then later in his travels through the Holy Land and along the Silk Road. But Jena was also soft and caring, with a gentle heart. He’d observed her at the hospital when she was on the night shift-though he was careful to mask his presence in such a public place-and he’d seen both her skill and her compassion.
He’d also watched the pathetic excuse for a man who now sat across from her ask her out on this ludicrous date. Silently, he’d been hoping she’d tell the weasel to take a hike, but to his consternation, she’d agreed to dinner with the other doctor. It had been all Ian could do not to reveal his presence and pound the smaller man into the floor for even daring to think he had a chance with this special woman.
Coming here tonight was immature, he knew, but Ian couldn’t help himself. He had to watch over her. He told himself he was just doing the duty he’d sworn to perform as an enforcer for his kind, but really, he was here for himself. Jena wasn’t going to tell weasel-boy about vampires, and even if she did, the mental munchkin sitting across from her wouldn’t believe it. He just didn’t have the imagination.
But he did have audacity. In vast quantities. Ian saw him reach across the table to snag her hand at the same time his leg moved and his sock-covered foot brushed over her calf. Jena jumped, moving her chair back so she was mostly out of reach of his marauding footsie, but she couldn’t pull her hand away without causing a scene.
If that little twerp touches her one more time, Ian thought loudly in their direction, it’ll be the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre all over again.
Really, Ian. The feminine flavored thoughts landed gently in his mind, shocking him down to his Italian leather loafers. Please try to behave yourself.
You heard me? It didn’t seem possible the little human doctor could have any psi ability-and certainly not this kind of strong, delicious-tasting telepathy. Ian could count on one hand the number of humans he’d met over the centuries who could communicate with him this way.
Obviously. Her tone was dryly amused.
Fascinating. The observation escaped through his astonishment. Do you make a habit of listening to other people’s thoughts?
Actually, no. I’ve only ever been able to pick up on really strong personalities and practically no one ever hears me when I talk back in their minds.
‘Practically’ no one?
Well, my mother can. And a few others.
More and more intriguing.
Dick Schmidt interrupted their silent conversation by squeezing her hand.
What do you see in a guy like that? He’s on the make, plain and simple. And if you dare take Romeo home with you tonight, I may not be able to control myself.
His name is Dick.
You wouldn’t really hurt him, would you?
Ian paused. I’d try not to, but honestly, Jena? I can’t be certain. I don’t like seeing you with him.
But is it so wrong to want someone in my life, Ian? Compared to you, my life is so short. I want to find love, if I can. Her tone was so wistful, it lit the dark recesses where he’d buried his heart.
You won’t find love with the likes of him. And you still have many years to consider, and find the man who will treat you right.
Not as many as you might think-or that I might wish for.
Ian would have asked what she meant by that cryptic comment, but Dick reclaimed her attention, shoving a small box across the table. Ian’s hackles rose.
“For you, dollface.” Ian’s sharp hearing picked up the other man’s smarmy tone.
Ian’s only consolation was that Jena didn’t seem all that thrilled at the prospect of receiving a gift from the other doctor. She opened the small package as if it were contagious, an expression of guarded curiosity on her beautiful face.
When she lifted the lid and dropped the box back on the table, Ian almost rose and rushed to her side, but she was quick to recover her composure. She pasted a patently false smile on her face and thanked the man for the lovely thought, but demurred from accepting what Ian now saw was a chunky silver bracelet. Even from across the room, he could smell the metallic tang of fine silver, more pure even than sterling.
Pure silver was the fastest, most painful way to kill a vampire. It reacted with the special agent in their blood and tissues, frying them from the inside out. Ian had seen one or two of his kind die that way in his many centuries and the agony of their deaths haunted him sill.
Give it back to him. I don’t want that poison anywhere near you. Ian knew he was being unreasonable. She was human after all, silver wasn’t lethal to her. But all his protective instincts rose when he saw the otherwise pretty ornament.
Believe me, neither do I. Silver and I just don’t mix.
Jena slid the box back over to Dick using just the tip of one finger. She thanked him again for the sentiment, but explained her allergy to silver. She also said-much to Ian’s satisfaction-she couldn’t accept such a costly gift from a man she hardly knew.
You’re allergic to silver? The idea made Ian pause. Few humans were truly allergic to the precious substance.
My skin turns black and a sort of disgusting shade of green. It’s pretty gross, so I steer clear.
Curiouser and curiouser, Ian thought carefully to himself. The fair skin, the allergy to silver, preference for working the night shift…all these things suddenly made him suspicious. They brought to mind legends about how once in a very long while, a child might be born of a vampire and a mortal. It wasn’t common at all, but every few hundred years or so, such things did occur.
The resulting children were often sickly, but usually survived into their thirties, and sometimes had children of their own. Demi-vampir, these oddities lived on the fringes of both worlds, often totally unaware of their connections to the supernatural unless they came into contact with a true vampire who was willing to clue them in.
Perhaps Jena, or one of her ancestors more likely, was the product of such a union? Then her abilities and proclivities would make a lot more sense. Ian wondered if she could be one of these—the rarest of the rare.