Seduction by Blood
Book 2 in the By Blood Series
A man who has lived a tortured life.
All of the London is convinced Jack the Ripper has returned to London, but Malik knows better. He knows the familiar scent of a Made, one that has survived longer than he should have. But, while he is pursuing the killer, he cannot keep his mind on it completely. Mrs. Diana Simpson has become too much to ignore. From her haughtiness, to the simmering passion he sees lurking behind the pain in her eyes, he recognizes his mate.
A woman determined to avoid love.
Diana has accepted this new part of her life, but she is not ready to bind herself to any man, human or vampire. Her first marriage left much to be desired and she is not ready for that disappointment again. Still, each time they are together, the passion they feel explodes and neither of them are ready for the repercussions of their actions.
A desire they cannot ignore.
Malik is overwhelmed by his need for Diana. But as he continues his quest to find the killer, Malik realizes he has stepped into the path of a deranged killer and he must do everything he can to stop him. Especially when the new killer sets his eyes on Diana.
Seduction by Blood
Book 2 in the By Blood Series
Seduction by Blood
Exhausted and irritated, Malik followed Nico down the alleyway. The dark London night made it difficult for humans to see, but for the two of them, they had no problems. Vampires had above average eyesight and nocturnal abilities. Of course, they spent most days sleeping and nights out and about, so it had always made sense to Malik. Still, it was times like these that he wished they did not have these abilities. The stench of rotting garbage and human waste filled the heavy air that seemed to cling to them as they walked silently. Usually, humans—the type that society had used, abused, and now had no use for—would lay scattered throughout the area. The lack of drunks passed out from the night before told him that everyone was avoiding the area. Unfortunately, it was for the same reason Nico had dragged him back to London.
“This is getting a bit old,” he muttered.
Nico glanced at him over his shoulder with a look of apology. “Indeed. But I agreed with Cordelia. We need to fix this issue before the press takes off with it. Humans love this sort of thing. Not to mention what our own kind will do if Mades are considered suspects. It will be a veritable feeding frenzy within society if that happens.”
Malik nodded, knowing his friend was correct. Within society, Malik was accepted, but every scare such as the one a few years ago, and now this one…would send the most powerful Vampire houses into a panic. The whispers would start and if they did not stop them in time, there would be problems. He just hated that it had dragged him to London. He would much prefer to be back in the country, being left alone. Since Nico had taken his seat on the council for the Vampire Alliance, Malik had found himself in London more times than he liked.
He continued to follow his friend down the alley. They came upon the woman they’d been called in to assess. The odor of tainted blood filled his senses. He stepped up beside Nico. Blood was everywhere. On her clothes, her face, and the wall behind her. The woman’s blue eyes were open, expressionless and cold.
“Lord, the smell.” Nico made a rude sound. “It is turning my stomach.”
He nodded in agreement and looked closely at the woman, who had been lying dead for hours. No one had noticed her. Not one person had stopped until a night watchman, who also happened to be a vampire, had found her. His alert was not to his supervisor, but to the Alliance. Malik had to hand it to the young vampire. Light was coming soon.
“It’s not her though.”
Nico glanced at him again, then back down at the woman. “Indeed. It’s the perpetrator. He has tainted blood. Do you think he’s Made?”
Malik walked around, careful not to step too close. They needed to preserve as much evidence as they could. Most of the time, being a Made himself, he could often detect one of his kind from scent. He did not get anything off the blood vapors that hung in the air.
“I’m not sure. If it was a Made, it wasn’t one in the throes of the bloodlust. She has not been raped. Unlike those attacks a few years ago, these are planned in a way. This person was definitely in control.”
“This is in control?” Nico asked, his tone filled with disbelief.
“Look at her.”
Nico frowned. “I am.”
Malik did not roll his eyes but it was close. He knew he often saw things others did not. He had always been this way. It was the main reason Nico called on him for things like these. Unfortunately, Malik didn’t have the patience for the work of investigation. Dealing with people, the crowded streets, and the constant social obligations irritated him.
“This is not a person out of control. Yes, her throat was torn to bits, but this was not a violent act with a sexual taint. It was just brutal violence and it was too calculated. More like the Ripper.”
Malik squatted back down to get a closer look. “But, I am not too sure it wasn’t a Made or even a Born. Unlike Jack, this one is definitely a vampire.”
He sensed Nico’s gaze. “Truth?”
“Smell the blood. T’isn’t hers, Nic. It’s the attacker’s. There is something very wrong with the man. The scent is on the blood, but I have a feeling it came about because of the attack. He fed first,” he said as he squatted to get a better look.
He gently moved the head of the woman, who had seen too much horror in her lifetime. Two puncture marks marred her skin.
“He must have been at least trying to feed, then went into a frenzy. As if he didn’t know what to do. Or maybe she resisted. She is definitely a Carrier.”
“Damn,” Nico said. “You know my father is going to want the Quad to step in.”
Malik rose and gave his friend a hard look. “No.”
“I do not like it either, but you know he will try.”
“It needs to be done beneath the surface. You call attention to this, everyone will start talking—including humans.”
“I agree. That is why I want you to head up the investigation.”
He sighed and shook his head, but of course, Nico would not let it go. He was going to be stuck in London for weeks now. There was no way he would get this wrapped up in under three weeks.
Nico must have sensed the direction of Malik’s thoughts. “You know I would not ask you, but you are the only one I trust.”
His best friend was not above using emotional blackmail to keep him there.
“I need you to do this. I can’t be running around London looking for the bastard. I’ve other things on my plate.”
The Council took up all of Nico’s time, but now that his wife Cordelia was expecting their second child, Malik knew Nico did have other priorities.
Malik did not.
“I will investigate, but my time in London is limited.”
Nico gave him a knowing smile. “Indeed.”
He knew his best friend understood his need to avoid London. The cloying royalty was enough to keep him away. The other big factor was the need he felt for Lady Diana. Since meeting Cordelia’s sister several years ago, Malik had avoided the woman. Never in his life had he felt this overwhelming need to conquer a woman. And one that was definitely not for him. She had exacting standards. Even as a widow, if she took a lover, he had not heard of it. And he would. He might try to avoid her, but it was impossible to avoid gossip. There was not a bit of it attached to Diana.
“Just know that I will do this and leave.”
Nico nodded. “We do not want to be here any longer than needed. Cordelia is nearing term, and I loathe having her here in this filthy air. It cannot be good for the baby or her.”
Malik nodded. “You should have left her at home in the country.”
Nico chuckled. “We are talking about my wife. You have met her, have you not?”
“Of course, how silly for me to think you have some kind of control over your wife.”
Nico motioned to some workers he had brought with them. “The woman is at the end of the alley. Be careful with her. Send her to Dr. Whittaker’s home. He is to do the exam.”
After they left the alley and the disturbing discovery behind them, Nico smiled at him.
“What?” Malik asked.
“I find it amusing that you think that every woman can be controlled.”
“They all can be controlled by the right man.”
“You do not believe me because you are controlled by your woman.”
Nico’s eyebrows rose and his eyes danced with humor. “Is that a fact?”
“Always truthful, Malik. It is one of the things that I admire most about you.”
“Many people hate it.”
Nico chuckled. “Many people are stupid.”
They stepped into the carriage, and he waited until they took off before he spoke again.
“So, you are not mad that I think you are a slave for your mate?”
“Every mated vampire is a slave to their Carrier mate. You know that. I assumed that is why you avoided it for so long.”
He felt his smile fade. “You know why I avoided it.”
Nico made a face. “I think it is a stupid reason.”
“You have said so before.”
“It is and my father agrees. Made vampires are not to be feared, not the ones like you who survived. Instead, they should be admired.”
Malik snorted and looked out the window of the carriage. “We know what Borns think of men like me. They are not about to marry their respectable daughters off to me.”
“You are looking for an arranged marriage?”
“No, just stating it is hard to get to know a woman if her family is shunning you like you bring the plague with you.”
Nico acknowledged that fact with a nod. “True, but nothing says you have to listen to them. I avoided society for so long and the one time I did show up, I met Cordelia.”
“True. And that is why I avoid it.”
Nico chuckled. “One of these days, you will learn Fate ignores all of our protests and finds the one for us.”
Malik knew his friend was correct, but unfortunately, the woman who was his mate, the one who should carry his children, was a woman who was completely repulsed by the idea of even being a Carrier.
Truthfully, they did not know if Mades actually had their own mates or not. The theory had not been tested, not during modern times at least. Either way, he was not ready to test any theory involving women. They were notoriously undependable in every instance.
Diana stepped down from the hired cab and hurried up the steps to her sister’s door. Her nerves were raw from a sleepless night. After all of these years, she should not have to worry about this. It was just not fair.
She had worked her entire adult life to retain the level of respectability. It hadn’t been easy with her family’s history. Her mother had been no better than a common whore, having children with a multitude of different men. Her father—the one who was not her birth father—had been no better. In fact, he probably drove her mother to the life she led. Drinking, whoring…selling his oldest daughter to the highest bidder. That had been her marriage, and the one her mother had endured. At one time, she had condemned her mother for what she had done in life, but at the ripe age of thirty-two, Diana now understood it.
She had often cursed her mother’s reputation when she had been growing up. Her mother had tried to find happiness outside of her marriage. While she could not condemn her mother, she understood when men approached her; they expected Diana to be like her mother. Her husband had made sure she understood that no good man would be attracted to her as a person.
The door opened before she could raise her hand to the knocker. Jameson was waiting for her.
“Good afternoon, my lady.”
She smiled, although she knew it probably looked false. “Good afternoon. Is my sister able to take visitors?”
“Your sister is always happy to take you.”
Diana had to bite her tongue before she blurted out the truth. Until a couple years earlier, her sister had not been that friendly. She could not blame her. Their family life had left all three of the siblings at odds. She was just happy Cordelia and she were at least friendly.
Diana followed the old retainer through the home. Before she reached the morning room, she heard her brother-in-law call her name. She turned in the direction of his voice and waited. Nicodemus Blackburn descended the staircase as if he were the lord of the manor. For all intents and purposes, he was. He was dressed casually, telling her he had not been out. Of course he hadn’t been out. Vampires didn’t go gadding about during the daylight. They could handle the sun, but it wasn’t always the most pleasant experience.
As with her sister, she did not have the best of relationships with her brother-in-law. The fact that the man lived a life she did not truly believe in did not help matters.
“Diana,” he said, his voice warm.
“Nico,” she said and his smile widened.
He had been attempting to get into her good graces for months. She did not know why, and at the moment, she did not care. And she did not feel guilty using it to get to see her sister.
“How is my sister this morning?”
He made a sound deep in the back of his throat. “I think she should be resting. Truth, I would rather not be here in London. I would be happy to take her up to my estate.”
Her sister was expecting their second child.
“You would not have a problem if she did not keep having children.”
“Indeed.” He looked amused. “Is it not considered bad form to talk of such things in mixed company?”
She felt her face heat, but she ignored it. “You are my brother-in-law. I can say what I want.”
His eyes danced with amusement, but before he could respond, Cordelia interrupted them.
“Diana,” Cordelia said from the doorway of her morning room. “It is so good of you to come by for a visit. Nico quit being mean to my sister.”
Nico frowned. “I was not being mean to her.”
Cordelia shook her head and came to Diana. Their relationship had been strained for years, but since she’d finally arrived in London and Cordelia’s marriage, the sisters had been trying to be friendlier. It was one of her deep regrets that she did not have a better relationship with Cordelia. She had so many, but at least this one Diana could try to repair.
The other major regret would never be undone.
“Come, let’s have some tea. You can tell me what you need from me,” Cordelia said, slipping her arm through Diana’s.
“What makes you think I am here for anything?”
“Call it intuition. Come.”
Diana let her take her to the morning room. The tea service was just being delivered. When they shut the doors, she sighed but started when she saw Nico standing inside the room.
He chuckled. “Diana, whatever you need to talk to your sister about will not leave this room.”
She sighed and nodded. She wasn’t happy about it, but it wasn’t as if Nico would spread gossip. Arguing about it was going to just make things take longer. She didn’t have the time or temperament for it today.
They continued to stare at her and she could not Now that she was there, Diana didn’t know how to explain things. That short respite she had when she arrived dissolved, leaving her nerves bare and irritated. How did she explain her situation?
“So, what seems to be the problem?” Cordelia asked.
“I killed my husband.” She blurted out the admission and immediately felt…relief. After years of hiding the truth from everyone but a select few servants, Diana released a breath she did not know she had been holding. The weight that had crushed her down was gone.
A moment of stunned silence filled the room. “Diana, he died in a…well…”
She leveled her gaze at her sister. “Whore house. You can say the word. It was his home away from home. Or maybe that was our house since father practically sold me to him. Do you know that until the very day he died, my husband never let me forget that? I was bought and paid for like a common whore.”
Why was she babbling? She sounded like a candidate for bedlam. Her sister and Nico shared a worried look. Of course they did. She did not show emotion and she definitely did not babble. Now she was doing both and sounding as if she had lost control of all her senses.
Nico cleared his throat. “What Cordelia is confused about is that it was reported he died at a whore house. Why are you saying you killed him?”
She closed her eyes trying to hold back the tears. The memories of that night were still vivid, rising up to haunt her. They woke her up in the middle of the night. There were times she could still feel his hands wrapped around her neck. Oftentimes, she would wake and look for the marks of his fingers around her neck. The bruises had remained for weeks after his death. She opened her eyes and realized her vision wavered. Oh, damn, she was crying. Again.
“Diana, anything you have to say will not shock me.” Cordelia moved over to sit beside Diana on the settee. She placed her hand over Diana’s fists. “And no matter what, I will be here by your side. I am your sister.”
She looked down at their hands and then back up at Cordelia. It was more than she had hoped for, and more than she deserved. So, after drawing in a deep breath, she gathered up her courage and blurted out the truth of that night.
“He did not die there. I killed him. And I would kill him again if I had the chance.”