City of the Damned
Marie Treanor
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2008 Marie Treanor

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Lara knew he was watching her.

She couldn't see him, and she refused to turn and look, but still she knew. The tiny hairs at the back of her neck stood up. Her scalp tingled, and all her senses sprang to full alert. All except hearing, which was still being battered into submission by the raucous music shaking the whole building. She'd been wary enough entering this weird club in the first place, but she had been a cop back at the Dome long enough to trust her instincts, which positively shrieked at her now to take great, great care.

Poised for any action necessary, she forced her foot to continue tapping out the music's relentless beat. She began a wide sweep with her eyes, taking in the heaving mass of gyrating bodies directly in front of her. Beyond them, on a raised and precariously vibrating stage, was the band -- a very small collection of wild and unkempt individuals to be responsible for such a huge noise.

Lara's eyes lifted to the high rafters under the crumbling roof, from which hung large braziers that scattered leaping flame lights and shadows across the walls and the faces below. Halfway up to the ceiling, a platform ran the whole way around the hall, making a mezzanine floor round which several people prowled. Some leaned there against a very temporary-looking grill in order to gaze greedily down at the sweating dancers, as if searching for prey -- which they probably were. Of one kind or another.

But the eyes observing her weren't up there. They were -- directly behind her.

Spinning on her heel, her fist clenched and ready, she caught a flash of silver light, the tiniest, blurred glimpse of a swiftly moving figure, before another man blocked her view by standing mere inches in front of her.

"Hey, looking for someone?" the obstruction asked, grinning. He shouted expertly over the din of the music, without appearing to use excessive effort. He was big, chunky, mostly muscle. Yet his smile reminded Lara of a snake.

"Actually, yes," she murmured, peering past him.

There he is. A tall young man with long hair that glinted peculiarly silver in the club's weird light. There's my man. He made no effort to hide himself now, which made her wonder if he ever had. His face looked pale in the strange, flickering light, with heavily hooded eyes and deeply shadowed hollows beneath rather delicate cheekbones. He wore a light-colored leather jacket, maybe grey, and jeans that stretched tight across his thighs and hips. He looked lean and dangerously hungry. With his shoulder against a concrete pillar, he gazed directly at her.

He was certainly worth gazing back at. The words lithe, predatory and raw crossed Lara's mind. So did beautiful, but she managed to squash that one before it fully surfaced.

"Anyone in particular?" enquired the chunky snake annoyingly. A group of young people wandered past, blocking Lara's view, and reluctantly she shifted her attention back to her interlocutor.

"Very particular," she returned. She thought he was staff. Some kind of bouncer. Either way, he gave off the air of knowing.

He smiled again. "Perhaps I can introduce you. I know several very nice -- and not so nice -- men who want to meet you."

"They're not my kind," Lara said impatiently. The snake, clearly, was the club pimp. In the Dome, she'd already have arrested him. Here she just looked beyond him once more, but the man with silver hair had gone. A pang of disappointment twisted through her stomach. Oh well, interest stirred and interest died. It wasn't as if she was prepared to pursue it anyway. But hell, it had been nice to look.

"Wow!" said the snake. "Swift decision-making, I like that! Well then, what is your kind? Whatever it is, I can help. A young boy? An older woman? A vampire to suck your blood? Or a willing man who'll let you suck his? A werewolf to…"

"A werewolf?" Lara interrupted, staring at him. "For God's sake, what sort of perverts do you encourage here?"

"All sorts," the snake replied frankly. "Werewolves are particularly popular. They can fuck all night. And, baby, I mean all night. So if you change your mind, just let me know."

A little shiver ran down Lara's spine. His coarse words struck an unexpected chord in her, an ache of secret loneliness and frustration, a sudden rush of lust not dissociated from the silver-haired young man. Now him she probably wouldn't mind in the least fucking her all night. But some arsehole who thought he was a werewolf? Or, even worse, some other arsehole who imagined women wanted him to be a werewolf! Dear God, she'd rather cross her legs and take a vow of celibacy.

Dragging her mind back to the moment as her chunky snake began to move away, she said, "Hey. I am looking for a man, tallish, thirty years old, short black hair, glasses, mole on his right cheek…"

The pimp blinked. "Particular? You weren't kidding!"

"Know one like that? Anywhere in the city. I'd pay you whether he's yours or not."

"Can't see moles in this light," said the snake dryly.

"All right. What about a blond girl, mid-twenties, pouty lips, heart tattoo on her left shoulder? Pretty, curvy, looks like a fallen angel…"

"I fancy her already."

"I'll take that as a no."

Lara felt tired. She was wasting her time here too. Even the promising instinct when she had felt herself being watched had turned out to be nothing more than an attack of lust, no doubt reciprocated. But since she had neither the time nor the stupidity to screw strangers in this God-forsaken city, it was time she went back to the lodge and began her search afresh in the morning.

Ignoring the snake's leer, she swung round and began to push her way through the dancers toward the exit.

He emerged from nowhere. One moment she saw only a sea of swaying, writhing bodies, reluctantly parting to let her through, the next, he stood in front of her, quite still. The silver blond hair fell forward over his forehead, stirring faintly with the motion of the dancers.

Lara's hand, halfway up to push at the next shoulder, paused in mid-air. Shadows from the braziers above flickered crazily across his lean face, emphasizing the dark hollows below his cheekbones. His eyes, strangely pale, reflective eyes, glinted orange in the flaring light. They gazed straight down into hers, paralyzing her.

Oh yes, interest definitely stirred. He had something, some power of personality or sexual magnetism. He hadn't even spoken to her and yet she felt a rush of moisture between her legs. Too long without a man, Lara

Slowly, he reached up toward her poised hand. Shocked at last out of her paralysis, Lara quickly balled it into a fist. But his movement changed, suddenly quickened, so that before she could even twitch in defense, his big hand closed over her knuckles.

His touch was electric. Astonishment prevented her from even trying to fight back, and in fact there was nothing aggressive about his grip. It was firm, but light, allowing her to escape easily if she wanted to. But curiosity -- yes, truly, curiosity -- kept her still. As a sop to her pride, she lifted one interrogative eyebrow at him. She meant it to be haughty, though she doubted it turned out that way for in response his lips -- full, expressive lips -- only curved upwards as if she had granted some kind of permission. He lifted his other hand toward her, palm upwards. Slowly, without really meaning to, Lara laid her own free hand in it.

Excerpt from Loving the Wolf

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