Adapting Instincts, Book 4 in the Instincts Series
A single soft kiss, just a gentle brush of lips…but was it meant as a beginning, or a good-bye?
Every day, Carl Anderson wondered if the man…the vampire…who gave him that kiss would appear in his life again. In that time, he’s worked to come to terms with the existence of vampires, and the dangers they and their enemies pose. Always looking over his shoulder for a vampire or hunter stalking behind him, Carl wishes he could feel safe again, like he did when Egill was at his side.
As a Viking warrior and member of vampire society’s ruling body, the Tribunal, Egill Dalgaard is used to being in control of all things. But months ago, he did something that started to unravel his orderly life. He gave a kiss to a man who he was drawn to, and now, he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about. He has his reasons for keeping his distance, but when he sees Carl again, all logical thoughts begin to fade.
When Carl’s actions inadvertently put Egill’s immortal life in danger, Carl must decide which path to take; whether to walk deeper into vampire society, or turn his back on the only man who’s ever made him feel secure.
Carl stopped outside the habitat for the spider monkeys. He released the cart’s handles to place his hands on his hips, fixing Davy with a disapproving look. “Really? Is that necessary?”
Davy quit banging the bowl on the mesh and stared up at him with intelligent black eyes.
Carl swore the monkey was trying to play innocent. A smile broke over his lips despite trying to stay stern. It was all Davy needed. The monkey scurried up the mesh to be at eye level with him, reaching through with his left hand, the one missing the index finger.
Carl held a finger toward him, and Davy wrapped his others around it. The warm, soft leathery feel of Davy’s palm made him grateful he’d been able to save the monkey’s hand. When Davy and the others came to the zoo, starved and sick from the poor care they’d received in a backyard zoo—or deathtrap, as he called it—Davy’s hand was so infected from a baboon biting his finger off, he didn’t know if he’d be able to save it. But he had, and after months of diligent care, Davy and his brothers were healthy and sassy.
Carl patted Davy’s hand with his other. “All right. Now that you’re behaving, I’ll get you your dinner.”
He reached in the cart, picking up half a mango. He handed it to Davy, who stuffed it in his mouth and bounded away.
Carl stretched to collect more food, pausing as a chill came over him. His sixth sense tingled with the sensation of being watched. He froze, thinking it was his mind playing tricks, like it so often did these days. Unable to resist the urge, he started turning to see behind him.
Strong arms clamped around him. A hard body pressed against him from behind. Panic held him in place, his throat too tight to breathe, let alone call out.
Warm breath washed over his ear as a deep voice whispered, “I vant to suck your blood.”
All panic fled before a rush of excitement and happiness. Not even the horrible fake Romanian accent could disguise that voice. He jabbed an elbow back, planting it into the ribs of his “attacker.” A hard grunt followed and the arms holding him dropped away.
Carl spun around to a laughing Andreas.
Andreas rubbed his side. “Well I see how much you missed me.”
Carl flung his arms around him in a crushing hug. “When did you get back?”
Andreas hugged him tight. “This morning. Now that we’re settled in our new house, we wanted to come back and collect a few things from here. You know we kind of left in a hurry.”
Carl nodded, still not loosening his hold on Andreas.
“And,” Andreas continued, “I wanted to give you a kick in the ass to get you moving faster so you can join me at the sanctuary.”
Carl laughed and leaned back from him. “You might not have to kick too hard. I was thinking I’d be on a plane at the end of the month.”
“Yeah, I…” Carl’s voice stopped, his gaze moving over Andreas.
Andreas still looked very much like himself, but even more attractive, and he hadn’t thought that was possible. There was a healthy glow to his olive-tinted skin, his blue-gray eyes seemed even richer in color. His curly, ebony hair shone in the fading sunlight, and it hit him how much harder Andreas’s body had felt against him, as if he’d gained extra muscle. Andreas didn’t look much more bulked up, but he could tell there was definitely a difference in him.
Carl took a step back to get a better look at him. “Damn. Look at you. You look incredible.”
Andreas flashed a glowing smile. “Yeah, it’s amazing how good lots of rest, sex, good food, sex, the blood of an Ancient vampire, and sex are for you.” He glanced over his shoulder.
Carl followed where Andreas was looking and met the silver gaze of Titus Antonius Calidus, Andreas’s boyfriend. Or eternal partner, as Andreas called Titus now. His white-gold hair captured the sunlight, and Carl swore the very air around Titus hummed with confidence and strength.
Next to Titus stood the beautiful Daniel Valente, who he’d lusted over terribly after first meeting him. With Daniel’s shoulder length black hair, dark brown eyes, and delicate features, he thought that lust was very well placed. Daniel had never given him much more than the time of day, and now was on the arm of Ryunosuke Kimura, the rock star looking samurai vampire whose beauty made him feel totally inadequate for even fantasizing about Daniel.
But at that moment, none of those past emotions touched him, because standing behind everyone, a head taller than Titus – who was the tallest in the group – was the man he’d wanted to see and speak to for months.
A smirk on his lips, Andreas leaned toward Carl. “Egill’s here with us, by the way.”
His gaze still locked with Egill’s, Carl said, “I see that.”
Egill lifted his hand in a wave, his mouth opening to speak, only to have his words blocked by a cultured English accented voice.
“Monkey Boy!” Daniel blurted out. “How lovely to see you. You look…well, honestly, you look like shit.”
Titus shot a glare at Daniel. “He looks fine.”
Daniel flipped a hand toward Carl. “You can’t be serious. Look at how pasty and thin he is.” He looked back to Carl. “And really, darling, those circles under your eyes. You should invest in some cream, or at the very least, a cucumber.”
Ryunosuke nodded at Titus. “Daniel’s right. He looks like shit.” His gaze moved to Carl. “Guilt will do that to a person.”
Carl’s joy deflated under Ryunosuke’s accusing tone. He felt like tucking himself behind Andreas and hiding. It seemed while the others had forgiven him for his role in Andreas’s kidnapping, Ryunosuke hadn’t. And really, Ryu had every right to hold a grudge. What he’d done was wrong, even if at the time he didn’t know what else to do.
Egill knocked Ryunosuke on the arm with the back of his hand. “Give it a rest. It’s been months and the man did what he had to. We’ve all been there at one time or another. And you,” he patted Daniel on the back, “not everyone primps like a peacock.”
Daniel folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not saying he should primp. Just do a little something with himself so he doesn’t look so much like his charges here, because I’m not sure if that’s food or monkey poo in his hair, but either way, it doesn’t belong.”
Andreas reached toward Carl’s head, plucking a small piece of papaya from his hair. “It’s just a piece of fruit.” He grinned at Carl as he spoke to Daniel. “Sometimes his little simian friends get carried away at mealtimes.”
Boosted from Andreas’s smile, Carl managed a grin himself. “Hey, it’s better than getting blood all over you from handling raw meat. But I guess you like that now.”
“I can’t deny it. But not animal blood.”
Carl saw the loving and lustful look Andreas aimed at Titus. He couldn’t stop his own gaze from going to Egill, and saw that Egill’s was already on him.
Egill stepped forward and offered his hand to him. “It’s good to see you again. I hope you’ve been well.”
Carl placed his hand in Egill’s, only to have Egill cover it with his other so it was held in both. Egill’s hands, so warm and large, the palms a little rough as if he worked with them. He wondered what Egill could do to make them so.
On Egill’s left index finger, he noticed a large gold ring, the band thick with runes etched into the side. The top of the ring was flat and round, and atop it was a beautifully carved image of a bear in profile. Carl knew it must be Egill’s signet ring, and couldn’t help but think how fitting the bear image was for him.
Carl looked up from the ring to Egill’s eyes. “It’s good to see you, too. I’ve been…okay. How about you?”
The moment broke as the clanging resumed.
Carl snapped his head to the side, glaring at Davy. “Shh, Davy, no.”
All his words got him were a few high screeches.
He looked back to Egill with an apologetic smile. “I’m so sorry. I better feed these guys real quick.”
Daniel interrupted. “Yes, please do, so we can leave. I can’t take the smell much longer. I feel like it’s attaching to me.”
Ryunosuke slid his arms around Daniel’s waist, burying his nose in Daniel’s neck. “Don’t worry. You still smell like lavender and lust.”
Out the corner of his eye, Carl saw Daniel showing his appreciation to Ryunosuke for his words by delivering a passionate kiss to him. Once again, as if operating on their own, his eyes turned to Egill. At the same moment, Egill looked away from them to him. He glanced to the cart, his back to Egill, and allowed himself a smile. Not that he could’ve stopped it from the giddy rush going through him.
Copyright 2013 by MLR Press and S.J. Frost