The club music blared, the bass from the speakers making the room thud around them. Star glanced up from adjusting her sword grips and tried to ignore the irritating wolf on the sidelines. As if. Ranger was a force of nature, like some crazy hurricane blowing through her control. She just couldn’t ignore the irritating male.
She spotted her next opponent through the sea of onlookers and let out a long breath in relief. Finally. A real challenge. Only a good fight could take her mind off Ranger.
The immortals crowding the fight club’s floor parted to let the big blond demon through and she grinned at the look of pure mischief on Agni’s face.
“Agni, so good of you to give me some sport.”
Dark eyes reflected the low lights of the club as his grin grew. Shoving his golden hair off his forehead, he gave her a full once-over. Tall, at least six foot six, the demon was an eyeful, and knew it.
“Always willing to oblige a female—you know me, Star.”
Tilting her head, she eyed him closely, biting the inside of her cheek to keep in a laugh at his teasing. They’d been friends for a long time, since she’d cared for him after his family beat him nearly to death—if that was possible for a demon, anyway. Families were a pain in the ass. At least blood related families. Agni, or Fire as she liked to tag him, ’cause he was a hottie, had a family rivaling her Vampire ‘House’ for evil.
House. The term had her anger, already high, stoking up a notch. The Vampires took pride in their pure lines, their little Houses and the lineage they could trace back to the father, or in her case mother, of their line.
She snorted. She’d rather drive a stake through her own heart than claim any kind of relationship to her House. She had her few friends and an adopted family. She didn’t need or want anything from the past. Agni should feel the same, but she’d heard he still bowed to the wishes of his messed up brother. Still, the male had always come through for her, always been there since the first years of her freedom. He’d even returned the favor she’d shown him years later when her world had crashed down around her with Selenia’s death.
“Ah, good, then. You’ll be hitting the mats soon, Fire.”
He tipped his head back and gave her one of those full body laughs she loved.
“Ah, Vamp baby, you have no idea how much I love to hear those words fall from a female’s lips.” Flexing his arms, he proudly displayed all his golden muscles from his biceps to his hands. His tight, black tee didn’t hide anything either, merely added to his sensuous strength. The fabric clung to his hard chest and tight six-pack above his loose-fitting jeans. Too bad all his hot skin and intensity just didn’t turn her on. She’d been vaguely considering taking a lover over the last few months, but not her demon friend.
Ranger stepped forward into her line of sight. Her stomach bottomed out. She focused her attention onto her sword, trying not to notice how her hand trembled a little just from that one glimpse. Gripping the hilt tighter, she wished she could avoid him and put him out of her thoughts forever. Hard to do when he ended everywhere she went, though.
Even her favorite club.
Glancing up from under her lashes, she wanted to groan. Her heart rate increased and she grew wet between her thighs—both reactions irritated her even more. Did she smell something spicy, a bit warm and musky, over the heat of the demon’s fire? The subtle aroma tickled her senses then drifted on.
Ranger. She knew him that well. Sadly, an irresistible pull she fought tugged at her whenever the male appeared.
She focused on Agni’s handsome face.
She lifted an eyebrow, held out one hand and pretended to examine the back for the shakes.
“Nope, not quivering in fear.”
“Damn right, I only want my females shivering in delight, not in fear.” Agni laughed again. He winked and startled her by pulling her in for a quick hug. He smelled clean—like soap and something woodsy. Warmth radiated from his skin, skin almost too hot to touch, much like his nickname, Fire, she thought with a smile.
She tossed her head, not impressed, but amused. They’d been flirting like this for over a century. “Yeah? I’d heard you lost your vibe in some alley? Flat on your back, knife at your throat, a wolf ready to skin your hide? Samantha was all over you like nobody’s business and you had nothing to do but spill.”
She’d heard more than that from a grumbling Derrick, the one Lykae worth a spit, in her opinion. He’d not been too happy when Samantha had dodged him to go and make a play for information from Agni about Susanna. Star had told Samantha she could trust Agni, but at the time, Samantha hadn’t trusted anyone, least of all a demon she thought had fed her misinformation while she was on her hunt for her sister.
All was well now, though. So well it was almost eerie. Samantha was mated to Derrick, a Lykae who’d supported and loved Samantha when word had come that her sister, Susanna, had been murdered. Even now, the pain sliced at her when she thought of Susanna gone from this world. Susanna, so sweet, so kind, so willing to do whatever she had to do to make everyone around her happy—gone from them all. It was beyond cruel.
Even Agni had played his part in trying to find Susanna. The man was worth his weight—and knew it.
A big grin split his handsome face, revealing his own set of impressive fangs. Demons were so cool. They made a Vampire feel at home.
“Damn, that’s low, Star.”
“Aw, don’t be such a baby. Your ego seems still intact.”
“Baby? Damn, you don’t even have a hint of sympathy for me, do you?”
She shrugged at his wounded act and examined her black nail polish. “Not really, since you’re going to be flat on your back again real soon.”
He laughed harder and shot her another wink. “Fine, let the games begin, Vamp baby.”
She smirked and returned to her corner, accepting a bottle of water from her friend Tara, a Faye with a touch of witch blood. She and her bonded, Daren, also from the Faye, had come with her tonight, but she could tell they were both interested in other things. Other things being themselves, and a bed with nothing more to do than each other.
Star tried not to let jealousy sour her stomach, but the green-eyed monster still did. Both immortals had been her friends for centuries. They’d always been looking for a bed. And in all that time, their bond had never bothered her.
A lot of things had never bothered her before, she thought with a glare at the wolf man. Ranger hovered near the edge of the crowd, gazing in her direction.
“Are you going to be done any time soon?” Tara asked.
Eyeing Tara’s beautiful but impatient face, Star shrugged. “You don’t have to stay,” she reminded her. She needed this night. Thus, the past two hours of fighting. Even now, the workout had barely taken the edge off. What she wouldn’t do for a real battle—Death Stalkers or something equally bloody. “But this shouldn’t take too long.”
“Well, that’s comforting.” Tara ran a hand up Daren’s arm, curling her long, slender fingers around his big biceps before reaching up to brush the dark hair off his brow. The two were making her sick. “We might get that fun time sooner rather than later, hunk.”
“Simmering is good, no, my love? Besides, our friend will win and we will cash in.”
Even Star laughed at that one. She usually won. Against Agni, she might, if she fought dirty, but tonight, she sensed the demon had some steam to let out. It might be a draw.
“Don’t count on an easy win,” she said, smiling when Daren merely shrugged.
He was dressed as usual in a hip gray pin-striped vest with a soft tee underneath. The combo looked good on the lean mage. And Tara matched him hip for hip in her jade silk blouse and black, skin-tight leggings with killer knee-high, black-heeled boots. The two made a stunning couple and knew it. The Faye always do, though, she thought with another irritated glance.
Gag her. Really. They needed a bed.
She resisted the urge to glance around the club, feeling someone’s attention on her and betting on Ranger. His elusive scent tickled her nose again, distracting her and making her blood race. She just couldn’t be attracted to the big lug like this. Her interest in him bordered on insane. Not to mention that it was wrong on so many levels she wanted to hit someone—herself first of all, him second.
Across from her, Agni tested his blade, and she stifled her unease and focused on him and their impending fight.
Anticipation rushed through her system like a triple shot of espresso. It wasn’t often she could fight without having to worry over harming her opponent too badly.
Glancing at the immortal keeping score, she nodded. There were no referees at this level. The fight ran for six rounds with no rules. The huge male, a cloud demon judging by the blue swirls traced around his broad face and shaved head, merely kept time, made certain that they broke off when the bell rang, and called the match. He waited until Agni nodded before hitting the bell and getting the hell out of the way.
She didn’t have long to wait. Agni never let her being a female hinder his attacks. Swords out, they met in the middle with a loud scream of steel on steel. Blue sparks shot off their blades. Didn’t matter. She shoved the hard strain of muscle. Agni was full of tricks, all of them familiar. She wasn’t about to let him get her too close. Knocking him back with a swift kick, she then went low and hit him hard enough to unbalance him. She tried to beat him to the punch, but he waited for her when she landed, forcing her to give him ground or get her head nearly taken.
She grinned. This was why she fought. Fighting was a dance, but with pain.
Excitement hummed through her veins, awakening every nerve, every muscle, every sense. She was the fight. Her twin swords were merely an extension of herself.
Not ducking back fast enough, she took a blow to the ribs, catching most of his wicked blade with her own. She gained his back though and hit him hard enough to knock him to his knees. She jumped at the opportunity and gave him three swift blows with her sword hilt to the upper shoulders then topped off her attack with a knee to his jaw.
A second later, she found herself flying through the air, only to land flat on her back, her jaw aching. A low, threatening growl sounded near her, but she focused all her energy on the fight, barely registering the noise above the cheering crowd.
She pivoted and landed on her feet in time to stop Agni’s downward stroke. She twisted and caught his big feet with hers and nearly had him down.
The bell rang and they slowly lowered their weapons.
She grinned. Power throbbed through her.
He split a smile too and shook his head.
“Damn, female. What has your panties in a bind?”
“Males like you,” she shot back before thinking. Ah, so very true. Males like him. Handsome, too-masculine-for-their-own-good males. Muttering a soft curse, she refused to glance around for Ranger.
“Damn,” Agni grumbled, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “You’re taking out your male troubles on me?”
“Quit your whining. Why shouldn’t I?”
The bell rang and they were back on.