Hunted: An Ara Classen Novel

Chapter One

There was nothing Ara Classen hated more than arrogant vampires. Unless they happened to be arrogant vampires with a thing for committing blood rape.

Which meant the man sitting at the table in their interrogation room didn’t have to do anything else to make her hate him.

Her partner, Fen Blair, cracked his knuckles and hovered over the suspect. “The victim made a positive identification. She picked your picture out of the lineup we provided her. And the DNA from the scene is going to nail your ass to the wall.”

“I fail to see the problem. Since when is drinking from a live donor against the law?” Their suspect had the nerve to inspect his nails and brush a non-existent piece of lint off the shoulder of his black blazer.

“Since the first world war,” Ara said, resisting the urge to smack the guy upside the head. He had been a member of the Vampire Elder Council for decades. Her grandfather, another elder, would be mortified if she attacked a fellow vampire just because he was stupid. “We have used donated bagged blood since then, as mandated by law.”

The suspect scoffed. “There are circumstances where having a live donor is perfectly legal, and even encouraged.”

Some older vampires detested the very thought of bagged blood. Bagged blood severely limited vampire strength and senses. She didn’t notice the loss very much, given that she’d been raised on the stuff, but the transition had been hard for the old vampires. “So you admit you took blood from an unwilling human then.” Fen leaned down and braced his weight on the tabletop so only an inch of space remained between their faces.

She appreciated the way Fen made it a statement instead of a question. She also appreciated the way he loomed over the suspect, forcing the man to tilt his head back to look him in the face.

Fen would like the show of submission. His wolf drove him to show his dominance and there was nothing her partner liked better than to intimidate suspects, especially if they were guilty. Particularly if the suspects were pricks, like the guy sitting before them.

The suspect flinched just a little before gathering himself together again. “I fail to see the problem. I needed blood and the human was nearby. The law states I am allowed to use a human if I am in need of blood.”

“In an emergency, yes,” Ara said, making a show of flipping through the man’s file. “However, I have a delivery slip here that proves you accepted a delivery of blood just yesterday morning. With access to that much blood, your situation would hardly be classified as an emergency. Besides, the law also states you must have the express permission of the human donor before you take blood.”

She didn’t mention the fact that he’d nearly drained the young human woman to death. Nor did she point out that the young woman had tried desperately to fight him off, if her injuries were anything to go by.

Ara had promised the girl she would make sure her attacker received the stiffest punishment there was. She wasn’t about to let one tiny little loophole in the law stop her from keeping that promise.

The vampire drummed his fingers on the table. “Really, Arabella Classen. Has your grandfather been completely remiss about teaching you to respect your elders?”

“He taught me to use my brain and only respect those who deserve it.” It wasn’t a lie. He had taught her that respect had to be earned. The suspect didn’t need to know how Ara’s grandfather lectured her on how to be a proper vampire daughter every time they got together.

He continued to drum his fingers. He shifted in his chair and re-crossed his legs.

“Something wrong?” Ara asked pleasantly, pleased to get some type of reaction from the suspect.

“I need some blood.”

“Really?” Fen drawled. “You attacked the victim only three days ago. The amount of blood you took from that girl should have satisfied you for a week at the very least.”

The suspect clamped his mouth shut. A spark of something familiar rippled through her. The way he held himself, the way he clenched his fingers together until his knuckles whitened all screamed at her. A fine sheen of sweat glistened on his upper lip and his leg twitched as if he were trying to stop himself from bouncing it.

Next to her, Fen pushed his face even closer to the suspect’s and peeled his lips away from his teeth. They weren’t his wolf fangs; those only came out when he was in his animal form. Still, Fen’s human teeth were no joke. His pitch-black hair and eerie pale-green eyes made him look sinister and more than a little unbalanced. She almost felt sorry for the suspect.

Almost.

Then she remembered the young woman they’d visited in the hospital. Her throat had been practically torn out. It was a miracle she’d survived and even more of a miracle she’d been with it enough to point to a photo.

The girl would carry the scars of her attack for the rest of her life, both physical and emotional. No amount of therapy would ever erase the fear the girl would carry of vampires, and probably of all paranormals for the rest of her life.

Fen snarled and gripped the edge of the table. For a split second, she wondered if his beast would charge to the surface.

He took a breath and closed his eyes. She’d seen him do this often enough to know he was pushing the wolf back, forcing the creature further into his mind.

Too bad. She wouldn’t have minded if he tore this guy to pieces.

Her partner’s next words didn’t surprise her one bit. “You’re addicted.”

The suspect licked his lips. A manic light sparkled in his eyes. “Yes,” he hissed.

A snarl of her own slipped from her lips. She’d seen this situation dozens of times before. Suspects thought they could get out of their punishment if they played the addict card. It grated on her nerves. “The fact that you confessed to an addiction to live blood won’t help you.”

“I’m sure you can see I wasn’t in full control of my impulses. Surely, you can understand, Inspector Classen. You must have had live blood at some point in your life. The last time I checked, they still taught vampire young how to hunt in case of emergencies. And you are not so young to have been raised completely on bagged blood. I knew you when you were mere hours old.”

She brushed aside his words. She remembered the taste of live blood, the power that rushed through her veins and the strength that invaded her muscles, how acute her senses had been. The memory of the intense craving for human blood also stood out in her brain. “My experiences and self-control are not being investigated. Yours are. And while I have no doubt you are addicted, addiction does not happen overnight. It takes a series of experiences with live human donors to become addicted.”

The suspect’s expression hardened. “We should be returning to the old ways and you know it. We outnumber and out-power humans. Why are we bending to their will?”

There was no point trying to talk sense into this man. “Human lives matter.”

In the end, it didn’t matter if he was addicted or not—blood rape was against the law. Her gut curdled. How many people had this man attacked? How many had he killed before the human woman in the hospital survived to identify him?

The man curled his lip. “Humans are nothing more than paid labor for our industries and a food source. Their lives are worthless. Tell me, how does your grandfather feel about you lowering yourself to protect humans? Humans, especially their females, are only good for their blood. The adrenaline they pump into their blood during an attack is delicious. You should try it.”

His words brought her back to that hospital room, back to the young woman, barely out of her teenage years, pale, injured and terrified. She had been in that girl’s position before. She remembered the pain and the fear, remembered the decades it took to trust a male again. This girl didn’t have all those decades to rebuild her life.

And this vampire scum didn’t even care.

Shame welled within her. Once upon a time, she’d had plenty of human friends. Her mother had warned her of the pitfalls, but she hadn’t listened. Until her friends grew up and questioned why she wasn’t aging with them. She’d distanced herself from humans then. It had been difficult to separate herself from people she’d truly cared about because she couldn’t confess she was a vampire.

The 1950s had come along, ushering in a new era with both shifters and vampires revealing their existence. Suddenly, the need to hide her true nature was no longer required. By that time, she’d realized she would outlive any human she befriended. It didn’t seem worth the heartache, so the wall she built between herself and humans had remained intact.

Something in her snapped. Her gut boiled, blood thundered through her veins and sharp pain seared her mouth as her fangs exploded through her gums. She drew back her fist and punched him in the face.

His nose cracked under her knuckles, and blood, warm and wet, flowed over her hand. “You’re a bastard. And my grandfather will be happy to find out we’re getting rid of the likes of you.”

The man cupped his nose and looked up at her, his eyes wide. “You broke my nose.”

Fen laughed, low and rough. “You had it coming.”

The suspect was out of his chair and over the table before she could even process what was happening, scattering paper and notes everywhere.

Luckily, Fen was on the ball. Her partner gripped the crazed vampire by the neck and swung him sideways, slamming him into the wall.

The interview room door opened and Bo strolled in. “Got ourselves a lively one today, do we?”

“I’ll say,” Fen said, shaking the suspect a little.

“What happened to him?”

Fen laughed again. “Ara broke his nose for a little quip about human females not being worth more than a convenient meal.”

Bo shook his head. “When will they learn? What’s he in for?”

Ara spared him a look, confident in Fen’s control of the situation. “Blood rape.”

Her brother’s face darkened. “The girl in the hospital?”

She nodded.

If there was one thing Bo couldn’t stand, it was violence against females, of any race or species. “Well then, I’ll have to think things through. Should I prolong it? Then again, why would I want to waste my time on the likes of him?”

The assailant gurgled, clearly trying to say something. Fen loosened his grip. He smiled at the man. It would have been polite but for the flash of his teeth, the incisors sharp and deadly. “What was that?” Fen asked.

“Who the fuck is he?”

Swearing from a former Elder. Now they were getting somewhere.

She flashed the slime a sweet smile. “Meet my brother, Bo Classen. He will take things from here.”

The vampire struggled in earnest, stark terror replacing the faint fear. His face drained of color. Even his lips paled. “No. No. Nooo.”

Bo grinned, his expression so dark and twisted, she would have pulled back if she hadn’t known her brother reserved it for the criminals they worked with on a daily basis. “I see my reputation precedes me. And I don’t appreciate scum like you trying to harm my sister.”

Her brother grabbed the man and dragged him out of the room, the suspect’s screams echoing off the surrounding walls.

Amazon  iBooks  Barnes and Noble  Kobo  Google