Prisoner of Deception
By Wendy Stone
Layna Castle came from a home that was cold and unfeeling. Her mother was a vampire, her father was a dead-beat dad that she'd never met. She was sure he was magical but knew nothing else. She was living on the edge, taking any kind of job that would pay her rent.
Tynan Staveros worked for the Wolfe family. He was a devoted and loyal employee until he met Layna. She plagued his thoughts and his libido until thoughts of his job and the girl he protected became second only to her.
Then Layna's father showed up. He wasn't the dead-beat dad she thought he was but a visitor from another planet. Will she go with him and ignore her blossoming love for Tynan? Will Tynan go to her and bring her back to his arms and tell her of his own feelings? Will she forgive him for making her a Prisoner of Deception?
She heard three. One was breathing quickly, fear making him or her hyperventilate. The other two weren’t breathing. She concentrated upon those two.
The vampires were playing with their victim. They weren’t hungry. Their eyes were clear, their fangs still hidden. They were bored and hunting was something to do to take the edge off.
Layna Castle stood at the opening of the dark alley, the streetlight above her playing in the thick blackness of her silky hair. She closed her pale blue eyes for just a moment, letting them adjust to the shadows. She kept her other senses trained on the vampires, hoping they had not yet tired of the game.
She stepped lightly into the alley, opening her eyes to let them guide her way now that she could see in the dimness.
The victim, a frightened college student, was huddled in a corner, her backpack pressed to her chest, doing her best to stay out of reach.
“Come on, babe, come out and play,” one said, not hearing Layna as she stepped up behind him. It took little more than a second for her hands to come out, grabbing his chin with one hand and yanking hard. She broke his neck with an ease that spoke of long practice. He fell to the ground, and she stepped on him, her toes pointing towards the ceiling. The angle forced her three-inch silver-tipped spiked heel cleanly into his heart.
The burst of flames was his partner’s first clue that his buddy wasn’t playing anymore. He turned, seeing Layna and the small pile of sparks and ash, all that remained of his friend. “You bitch!” he growled, his face changing as his fangs grew. “Are you ready to die?” He took a first step toward her.
Layna calmly lifted the crossbow she held, letting loose the wooden bolt. It shot towards the vampire. A human would have taken it in the chest.
But the vamp moved faster than any human. His arm flew up in defense and the bolt pierced it instead of his heart. He hissed in pain, but the wound was far from fatal.
He rushed her, and she quickly tossed the crossbow aside. She brought the hand up in a closed fist, hoping to shatter his jaw. He jerked his head sideways. His fangs raked her forearm as the fist roared past his face.
The scent of her blood, combined with his wound, sent him into a frenzy. His good arm reached up and snagged a handful of hair. He yanked her down, eyeing her neck.
Layna grasped the bolt still sticking out of his arm and pulled it free. He roared in renewed agony and stumbled back.
She thrust the short, sharp weapon forward in a fencer’s lunge, tearing through his heart. She released it and he glanced down at the wooden bolt quivering in his chest.
“I am a bitch,” she said, reaching out and grabbing hold of his chin as he burst into ash and sparks. For a single instant, she held his skull in her hand and then it too was gone, leaving her holding nothing more than a small pile of ash. She let it fall to the ground.
“A-are t-they dead?” the girl asked, startling Layna.
“Yeah, that’s what happens when they burst into flames,” she said sarcastically. She turned to look down at the girl. “Usually they run.”
“W-who?” she said, her voice shaking as much as her body.
“The victims,” Layna said. “Specifically...you.”
“I-I wanted to thank you.”
Layna took a better look at the girl. She wasn’t as small as she seemed. “Don’t you know how dangerous it is in this neighborhood?”
“There was a party,” she said, shrugging.
“Well if you’re going, shouldn’t you go?”
“I don’t think I’m up to a party now.”
Layna heard the sound of an engine and glanced around. A long, low-riding black Monte Carlo pulled by the far entrance to the alley. She groaned, rolling her eyes and pushing her hair off her forehead.
“Then you should go, girlie. I’ll walk you out to where you can get a cab.” She started down the alley, her long strides easily eating the distance. She heard the girl squeak and stopped, waiting for her to catch up.
“Come on,” she urged the girl. She yanked up the zipper of the form-fitting black leather vest. Ducking her head, she grabbed the girl’s arm and hurried her down the sidewalk, glancing back once and sighing with relief. The Monte Carlo was nowhere to be seen.
It took all of ten minutes to shove the girl in a cab and on her way, ignoring her effusive thanks. Layna sighed. Her feet hurt, her head was buzzing, and she was tired; she just wanted to go home and climb into bed. But she couldn’t, not yet.
Her shoulders lifted at the sound of that no-nonsense voice. The Monte Carlo pulled up next to her. Donovan’s head was hanging out the window.
“You look like a dog when you do that,” she said, letting the sarcasm drip from her tongue.
“And you look like someone from a bad vampire movie. Black leather? I always thought you had more taste.”
“And I always thought you had a brain. What the fuck do you want, Donovan?” She lifted one foot, wiping blood off the silver heel with her fingers.
“You’re supposed to be working for me,” he grouched. “You haven’t checked in for two days.”
“It would have been three.” She cocked a hip and gave him a look that held little in the way of respect.
“Well, we found you. Now, are you taking the bodyguard job or not?”
Layna rubbed absently at the scar on her shoulder. “You need to know now?”
“Callan Wolfe is a big man, kitten. When he wants a bodyguard for his youngest daughter, you don’t make him wait for an answer.”
“Donovan, call me kitten again and I’m going to string you up on a light post with that ugly tie.” She sighed. Freelancing didn’t pay the bills. But the idea of pandering to a ditzy rich bitch didn’t sound any better. “There’s no one else?”
“Sorry, kit...Layna. Callan Wolfe wants the best.”
“Fuck!” she growled. “She’ll be in town starting when?”
“You got the weekend off, toots. They want you there on Monday. You’ll go to the airport and pick her up off their private jet.”
“Fine,” she snapped, turning on her heel. She started down the sidewalk. Donovan followed, waving for his driver to keep up with her.
“Where are you going?” he called.
“Out to kill something so I don’t kill you,” she snarled back at him. “You’ve got your answer, leave the details on my voice mail.”
She stomped off, ducking down an alley.
“Layna?” he called. “Dammit, Layna! You don’t use your voice mail!”
There was blood on her arms. She ignored the other people in the elevator, though she growled at the small orange dog that yipped at her feet. Getting off on the fourth floor, she dug her keys out of the small pocket sewn in her black leather pants. She stuck the key in her door, opening it slowly. When nothing jumped out at her, she reached in and flipped the switch, sending light through the apartment.
Layna walked inside, closing the door behind her and locking the three heavy-duty locks that Donovan teased her about every time he came to her apartment. They made her feel safe and she wasn’t going to be made to feel stupid for it.
Dropping her keys on the hall table, she caught sight of herself in the small mirror by the door. “Oh shit,” she whispered. Her hair was a mess, and her skull throbbed where the vampire’s long nails had raked. Her arm ached as well, the twin cuts deeper than they’d first seemed. Bad enough that if she’d been human, she might have bled to death.
She limped into the bathroom and closed the door. The tight leather of her vest stuck to her skin as she pulled it off. . Sighing, she reached into the shower and turned it on before sitting on the toilet and unzipping her boots.
Layna rubbed her feet, moaning in delight at the relief of having her boots off. She tugged at the button of her leather pants, pulling them off her legs and leaving them with the vest. Standing in only socks and a pair of tiny, red silk panties, she leaned against the sink to stare in the mirror. Dark circles framed the pale blue beauty of her eyes. Her cheeks were just as pale, though a slash of blood stained one cheek.
She slid her panties down and off her feet, pulling off the socks as well before she turned away from the mirror. Layna was leanly muscled, her body long and lithe. Her breasts were full, rounded with tight pink tips that always seemed to be hard. She had a slim waist and a flat stomach that flared out into round hips. Over her hipbone was a long scar, the flesh welted like only a burn could do. Her body was a mass of bruises and she forced herself to stand under the hot water, letting it cook life back into her sore body.
Her muscles loosened and she yawned, her own fangs showing. She was careful to keep them hidden, especially when she was hunting. Vampires detested all hunters, to be sure. But a vampire hunting one of their own would be an even more unwelcome thing, though she wasn’t exactly a regular vampire.
She was almost asleep standing up, her eyes closed, and her head taking the brunt of the water pressure. Arms came around her from behind, hands reaching under to cup her breasts. She went from half-asleep to attack in less time than it took to blink. Her hand caught the intruder’s throat and her knee pressed against his balls. One false move and she’d take him down. Then she caught a glimpse of the intruder’s face and groaned.
“Anthony, go home. How the fuck did you get in here anyway?”
Anthony’s hands motioned for her to let go of his throat, so he could answer.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. You surprised me.”
“I picked your locks,” he said, his voice a mere croak.
“You did not.” His expression didn’t change, and she knew he had indeed. She smacked the wall next to his head. “Fuck! Now I have to get the locksmith out here again. I should drain his ass. He told me those locks were pick proof.”
Anthony waited for her to get over being mad. They were lovers, or at least had been until Layna got mad at him for wanting too much.
“What the hell are you doing here anyway?” Layna asked, leaning back into the shower so she could wash her hair.
“You used to like it when I would come over and help you get clean. Then you’d help me get clean, and then we’d see about getting each other sweaty again. Remember?”
“Tony, you know damn well we aren’t doing that anymore. It was fun, but it’s over. Get used to it and go find another girl’s locks to pick, okay?”
After soaping her hair, she ducked under the water again, luxuriating in the feeling of the suds sliding through the sleek black length of it. She heard his voice through the roar of the water in her ears, but missed the words. When she opened her eyes, she could see his feelings in the puppy brown of his eyes; so sad, so trusting.
“Goddamn it, why do you make me feel like I kicked a dog? I don’t have anything to be guilty about. I told you at the beginning that I didn’t want serious, just someone to get rid of the rest of my pent-up energy. That’s what we shared, until you had to fall for me. Dammit Tony, that’s it.”
She grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him out of the shower, reaching out for a towel to hold against her body. She pushed him in front of her then gathered his clothes and handed them to him. Without giving him a chance to put them on, she went to the door of her apartment, unlocked all three locks and pushed him out the door. “Go home and leave my locks alone. Next time I won’t be so nice,” she told him with narrowed eyes.
“But...Layna.” His clothes fell to the floor as he held his hands out to her. “I can’t help how I feel.”
“And I won’t be able to help ripping out your throat in another minute.” She felt the water that was dripping off her soak the carpet in front of her door. “Go home and leave me alone.”
“Am I interrupting something?”
The words came from a tall, well-built man. His eyes dropped to her haphazard hold on the towel, which wasn’t doing much to conceal her. Layna saw his eyes and cursed succinctly, quickly pulling up the towel and wrapping it more securely. “Who are you and what do you want?” She stepped further away from the door.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Tony tried to sneak back into her apartment. She reached out and gripped his throat until he squealed, grabbed his clothes and ran.
The stranger chuckled, watching Tony’s naked ass running down the hallway to his apartment, just down and across the hall from her. “Boyfriend troubles?”
“More like puppy dog troubles. He has a crush.”
“He has good taste.” The man’s eyes roamed over her barely-covered skin.
“I could say the same.” Layna’s eyes widened at the sight of him. He wore a long leather duster, one she’d kill to own. What was under it was worth drooling over as well. He stood a good head and a half taller than she, something she’d never experienced in a man. It made her feel tiny. The golden curls of his hair fell well past his shoulders, silky strands that her hands itched to touch. His eyes, which she could see as his sunglasses slid down his nose, were the color of spring leaves as they first opened on the trees. His body was muscular, with wide shoulders and a narrow waist that slid into a pair of well-worn denim jeans she’d love to run her hands over.
“Well, now that we have the mutual admiration out of the way, did you want something or can I go back to my shower?”
“What if I wanted to go back to your shower with you?”
“Then I’d have to ask your name. I don’t shower with strangers.” She enjoyed the husky sound of his laughter.
“I’m Tynan Stavaros and you have to be Layna Castle. I was told to look for a beautiful woman who knew how to take care of herself.” He held out a large hand, and she put hers into it, amazed once more simply by the size of him.
“Told by who?” she asked.
“Your manager, Donovan. He told me where to find you. We’ll be working together for the next few weeks.”
“Aww, now that is too damn bad, gorgeous. I don’t shower with people I work with or for.”
“Can’t you make an exception?” He grinned, his green eyes darkened as he moved a bit closer.
“Nope. I went that route once and almost ended up dead. Sorry. I guess we’ll have to wait until the job is done.” She shrugged her shoulders, causing one side of her towel to droop again. Layna smiled as he watched it slide. She grabbed it just before it left her exposed. “So was there a reason for this meeting? I mean, I left my water running when I yanked stalker boy out of there.”
“Well, heaven forbid you run out of hot water. Here, I’ll just come in. We can talk while you shower.” Tynan grinned winningly and waved for her to precede him.
“Nice try, stud. It isn’t going to work though. Tell you what, I have some beer in my fridge. You give me a couple minutes to get cleaned up and then we can discuss anything you want over one of them.”
Tynan considered for a moment and then smiled. “Sure thing.”
Layna gave him a cautious look and her eyes narrowed. “Just remember, slugger, my manager made a point of telling you that I know how to take care of myself.”
“I’m the perfect gentleman.” He held his hands up in surrender.
“Yeah,” she laughed, but she turned back and went inside. “Through there, the beer’s in the fridge.” She started to drop the towel as she closed the door in his face, letting him get a glimpse before it clicked shut. A moan from the other side of the door made her laugh and she slipped back into the shower. Instead of her usual odorless soap, she splurged, opening the bottle of expensive bath soap that had been a gift from Donovan. She’d never thought she’d use it, but the soft and exotic scent that came from the thick suds made her wish she’d done so earlier. She’s see how her visitor enjoyed it.
She finished her shower and grabbed a dry towel and then picked up her leathers and put them in the bag she kept in the bathroom for work clothes. Her robe was on the back of the door, so she wrapped her hair in a towel and threw on the short, terrycloth garment.
Tynan was sitting at her small table, a bottle of beer in his hand. He stood as she walked in, making her smile.
“I guess you are a gentleman.” She took the beer from his hand. He’d opened it for her and she brought it up to her lips, savoring the taste of the cold brew. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He smiled. “Mr. Wolfe will be pleased.”
“Oh, is that why you’re here, to make sure I’m good enough for the vaunted Wolfes?” She sat down at the other end of the table.
“Well, he is concerned. His daughters were both kidnapped before and held in some kind of mad scientist’s lab.”
“You’re kidding, right?” She tipped her beer at him when he just held her gaze. “You’re not kidding?”
“No, I’m not.” He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here. Tallie is very delicate.”
“She was injured during the time she was there, and I don’t think she’s ever really recovered.”
Tynan was having trouble keeping his attention on his assignment. Layna Castle was an enigma. He was having problems figuring her out. And the scent of whatever she’d used in the shower was making it even harder to concentrate.
Her kitchen had been a surprise. He’d expected something adventuresome but everything was neat as a pin and even her refrigerator deftly organized. He just couldn’t quite place where she fit.
“Tallie is young and she needs someone who’ll understand her as well as protect her.”
“Sounds to me like you don’t think I’ll be able to do the job.”
“Well, she’s a quiet young woman who’s been through a hell of a lot. You seem more like the forward type.”
Layna sat up; the towel came loose and tumbled from her head and fell to the floor. She picked it up and stared at him as his eyes went to the V of her robe.
“So you think I’m fast, loose and not good enough for your precious Tallie, huh?” She stood and drained the rest of her beer. She slammed the bottle on the table and started out of the room, then stopped and turned to look back at him. “Tell your Mr. Wolfe that I’m too good to take his money. Tell him that I’m not right for the job. Fuck, I don’t care what you tell him, but you need to get out of my apartment. Now.”
“Wait, Layna, wait just a minute.”
“No, you wait. Get the fuck out and get out now.”
She turned and waited for him to pass her. He stopped, his hand almost touching her before he heard the growl from her throat.
At the door, he tried one last time, but she was having none of it. “Out.” Her voice was soft now and sounded even more threatening than when she’d yelled.
Tynan turned and left.
Layna turned the locks and then, grumbling as she thought of Tony, pulled the chain across and fastened it. She kicked the towel on the floor, disgusted with herself for her quick temper and with him for being so damned good-looking that it almost fooled her into relaxing. “Men!” She pushed open her bedroom and pulled down the spread. She shed her robe before she fell face down in the bed. She beat her pillow, a picture of Tynan’s face predominant in her mind’s eye.
She rolled onto her back and stared up at her ceiling as the sky outside her black blinds and heavy drapes lightened to dawn. It took a few minutes, but her eyes closed and she fell asleep, still angry.