Lover Unveiled (Black Dagger Brotherhood #19) by J.R. Ward

Chelle moved her thong aside, and as she put a stiletto against the concrete, he pumped into her while she grabbed onto his bare shoulders.

The sex was hot as fuck. Because it turned out that if he respected the female? It made everything hotter.

As Ralphie lifted her up so she could put both her legs around his hips, he closed his eyes. The pre-fight rush, the coke, Chelle, the new G Wagon from the cake he was earning at BKC, it was all power in his veins. He was the man. He was the monster. He was—

Ralphie started to come, and he would have yelled out, but he didn’t want people catching his girl like this. Instead he gritted his teeth and held on tight, dropping his head into Chelle’s perfumed neck and squeezing out curses through his locked jaw.

And then he had to say it.

“I love you, I fucking love you,” he grunted.

He was so into his girl, so into the coming, so into the feel of her coming with him . . . that he didn’t notice who was watching them from the shadows about twenty feet away.

If he had, he would have packed up his true love and his crew, and left rubber on the road as he got the fuck out of the parking garage.

Most of destiny was on a need-to-know basis, however.

And sometimes, it was best that you didn’t get a heads-up on the inevitable that had your name on it.

Way too fucking horrifying.

2464 Crandall Avenue

Eleven Miles from Downtown

Mae, blooded daughter of Sturt, blooded sister of Rhoger, pulled on her coat and couldn’t find her purse. The little ranch didn’t offer a lot of hidey-holes, and she found the thing—with her keys, bonus—on the washer by the door out into the garage. Oh, right. She’d brought in her necessaries the night before and had lost control of so many bags. Her purse had thrown up on the tile floor, and she’d only had the energy to put the Humpty back in her Dumpty. Carrying the Michael Kors knockoff into the kitchen had just been too much.

The lid of the Maytag was as far as she’d gotten.

Grabbing the thing, she checked that the broken strap was still hanging on by the safety pin jury-rig she’d managed. Yup. Good to go. She supposed she could head to T.J.Maxx and buy a replacement, but who had time for that. Besides, “Waste not, want not” had always been the mantra in her family’s household.

Back when their parents had still been alive.

“Phone. Need my . . .”

She found the iPhone 6 in the pocket of her jeans. Her last double check? The mace canister she always had with her.

Pausing by the back door, she listened to all the quiet.

“I won’t be gone long,” she called out. Silence. “I’ll be right back.”

More silence.

With a sense of defeat, she lowered her head and slipped out into the garage. As the steel door slammed shut behind her, she locked the copper dead bolt with her key and hit the opener. The overhead light came on, and the cold, wet night was revealed inch by inch as the panels rolled up the tracks.

Her car was eight years old, a Honda Civic that was the color of a winter cloud. Getting in, she caught a faint whiff of motor oil. If she were human, instead of a vampire, she probably wouldn’t have noticed, but there was no avoiding the scent. Or what it meant.

Great. More good news.

Putting things in gear, she hit the gas and eased forward onto the driveway. Her father had always told her to back in, so she was ready in case she needed to get out in a hurry. In the event of fire, for instance. Or a lesser attack.

Oh, the sad irony on that.

Looking into the rearview, she waited until the garage door was locked back in place before hanging a right on her quiet street and speeding off. All the humans were settling into their houses for the night, hunkering down for the dark hours, recharging before work and school rearrived with the return of the sun. She supposed it was strange to be living so closely around the other species, but it was all she had ever known.

As with beauty, weird was relative.

The Northway was a six-lane byway running in and out of downtown Caldwell, and she waited until she was on it and cruising at sixty-one miles an hour before she got out her phone and made her call. She kept things on speaker and in her lap. There was no Bluetooth for her old car, and she was not going to risk getting pulled over for using a handheld—

“Hello? Mae?” came the frail, wobbly voice. “Are you on your way?”

“I am.”

“I really wish you didn’t have to do this.”

“It’ll be okay. I’m not worried.”