Effortlessly, the uninvited guest plucked the tricorder from the air just before it would have smashed into his face.
“There’s no call for that,” he reprimanded McCoy, and his golden eyes dropped to the glowing screen. With one finger, he tapped it. One eyebrow rose and his piercing gaze pinned McCoy right to the wall.
Standing on the cot in his sock feet, in the corner, McCoy felt decidedly vulnerable and exposed.
He couldn’t remember shutting off the tricorder before he had fallen asleep. The report on the lone Starfleet vampire recruit would still be visible. With the speed at which vampires could read, the unknown male would be finished in seconds.
If that was Bella’s non-husband, he was being a little too composed. McCoy had had the distinct impression the fellow was a little high strung.
Sweat broke out on McCoy’s upper lip. His harsh breathing was the only sound in the dim room, and he struggled to get it under control. He wondered if the vampire could hear his heart hammering in his chest as well as McCoy could hear the wind picking up and whistling around the eaves.
He flinched when the tall stranger, after several long moments, gently placed the tricorder on the far side of the table and returned to his previous position, resting his arm on the table top.
“An article on vampires.” The male tilted his head a fraction. “Judging by your reactions, I’d say you know what I am, so you know you can’t escape me. Have a seat.”
McCoy’s legs turned to Jello and refused to hold him up any longer. He slid down the rough wall to the cot. Under the large male’s emotionless regard, a chill crept over his body, raising prickly goosebumps over every inch of skin.
There had been something in the report about the blood drinkers being able to stun or incapacitate their victims with their scent and voice. Bella’s voice had certainly dazed him a few times, and her natural perfume had rendered him speechless. Was that what he was doing? Was McCoy about to become dinner? Was it possible every hair on his body was standing straight up?
The man … vampire … had made no threatening moves, and McCoy doubted he’d even see it if he did, so why was there a shrieking voice in his head urging him to run?
Something about the seemingly relaxed young man simply exuded murder and mayhem. McCoy clutched at his uniform over his heart because it rammed repeatedly against his ribs like it was trying to make a jail break.
“I know she’s been here.” The intruder’s head tilted slightly the other way. “Where is she?”
McCoy’s jaw flapped a few times before he could stammer out, “How … how …”
Raising his head, the vampire’s eyes narrowed to glittering slits. “I can smell her. Just as I can smell your fear.”
He didn’t think it was possible, but McCoy’s heart tripped and took off at warp speed. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if it exploded. Fuzzy charcoal grey blobs danced and swirled around the edges of his vision. Unconscious oblivion would have been very welcome about then. He’d heard of people dying of fright, but had never seen it. He was about to witness it firsthand.
The already shadowy room was growing dimmer. If every muscle in his body hadn’t gone as taut as violin strings, McCoy knew he’d collapse in a boneless heap. At least he wasn’t blubbering like an idiot.
Bella had saved him a couple days before—or was it three? Those last moments with her were some of the best of his life. Her laugh was the song he would carry in his heart until its last beat.
Which should be any minute now.
Closing his eyes to shut out the visitor’s glare, he longed for one last look at the warmth and caring concern that radiated from Bella’s golden eyes—so unlike the malevolent yellow of the creature across the room.
In time with each harsh breath, Bella’s name was a whisper of yearning through his mind and his very soul.
He would be forever grateful for the time spent with the earth-bound angel, because that was what she had been to him. To honor her, he would meet his end as bravely as he could.
A mighty crash and a rattling slam shook the entire cabin, and McCoy startled but didn’t bother to look. The last images he wanted to see were Bella smiling and laughing; her embarrassment when she asked him if he was an insane asylum escapee; pulling off her parka and wrapping it around him, and then filling the little wood stove to keep him warm. Her voice would be the last music he ever heard.
“What are you doing here?”
A Heavenly chorus of one with an undertone of Hellish rumbling asked.
McCoy would recognize that voice anywhere. It was seared into his brain. His eyes popped open. Standing between him and the Instrument of Death across the room, was an avenging Angel of Mercy with deep brown hair, and wearing blue jeans and a green sweater.
She sparkled. Or maybe that was snowflakes caught in her hair and on her clothes. It didn’t matter. She was exquisite, and McCoy had never been so happy to see anyone.
But what if she was hurt? No, Bella would be able to handle herself.
The terror that held his muscles so tight he thought the ligaments would rip from the bones, released him, and he sagged into himself. The constricting iron band around his chest was gone and he sucked in a lungful.
The angel glanced at him and back to the Pale Horseman casually lounging in her chair. “What did you do to him?”
Eyes as inky black as the pits of Hell flicked to McCoy and back to Bella. “I didn’t touch him.”
While he was desperately trying to resupply his oxygen-starved brain, McCoy would have sworn he felt the vibrations of Bella’s growls traveling across the floor, through the cot, and into him.
Her head dropped back and she aimed a frustrated, “Arrrgh!” at the ceiling. “You are such a jerk!”
McCoy began to suspect the visitor was not the back-to-school-shopping ex-husband. However, they did seem rather well acquainted as the blond demon didn’t appear to be insulted.
Gesturing wildly at McCoy, Bella spit out, “I can see you didn’t touch him, but I could hear his heart racing a quarter mile away! You know you could have given him a heart attack?”
“Of course, you did. I could just smack you,” she ground out through her teeth. She took a deep breath through her nose, blew it out through pursed lips, and angrily crossed her arms.
With the heated glare she sent him, McCoy wondered briefly if the unrepentant scoundrel would burst into flames.
“How did you find me?”
One disdainful eyebrow rose. “Really, Bella?” A glimmer of a smile teased one corner of the male’s mouth. “Anyone who bothered to pay attention could see you were going to blow. I gave you a two-hour head start. I’d have caught anybody else later that night. Emmett? I’d have had him in fifteen … twenty minutes tops.” The frigid wastes of his eyes melted into a smoldering umber. “It took me five days to catch up with you. You did well.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Bella brushed away the compliment with a dismissive flap of her hand. “Not well enough to keep you from finding me.” Then her body grew rigid and her hands curled into fists at her sides. “You led them right to me,” she accused.
“No,” he vehemently countered.
Palm pressed to her forehead, Bella inhaled deeply. When she removed it, she attempted to give McCoy a smile of reassurance. “Leonard, I guess I should introduce you to one of my former associates. Jasper, this is—”
“He told me his name,” Jasper rudely interrupted in a voice as frosty as the weather. “Former associate?”
McCoy peered suspiciously at her non-brother-in-law. Bella calling him a jerk had had no effect—why take issue with being called a former associate?
“Yes,” Bella hissed. “He doesn’t listen, so I’m done talking. I’m not going back, and you can’t make me.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest it.”
Obsidian eyes drilled into McCoy, and he gasped, feeling, once again, like he was being examined under a microscope and some sort of heavy restraints locked him in place.
“Stop it!” Instantly, Bella was beside him on the cot, shielding him with her body. She took hold of McCoy’s hand, but was glowering at Jasper. With another growl, she warned, “Don’t you even—”
Jasper coolly raised a hand to halt her warning. “I’m not.” His laser-focused scrutiny dropped to their hands. “So, what is this? He followed me home, can I keep him?”