“He wanted to bite me. He actually wanted to bite me! Can you believe that?” The slender blonde girl dressed in an expensive looking professional gray suit sounded both incensed and incredulous. “I mean, who’s going to take the position when being bitten is one of the job requirements?”
Me, thought Sarah grimly. I will. Because I don’t have a choice. Because I need this job too badly to turn it down for any reason.
She looked down at herself, contrasting her ratty, ill-fitting black skirt and faded blue blouse with the blonde’s professional attire. One of the volunteers at the women’s shelter had kindly loaned Sarah a black blazer to wear with her outfit but it didn’t fit right, bulging oddly over her too-large breasts.
In fact, all of Sarah was too large—she was definitely what could kindly be called “plus sized.” But that was all right with her. It was better to be bigger, safer to be overweight at the Compound. Father Caleb was far less likely to notice you that way. In fact, Sarah had managed to be overlooked for years until—
She pushed the image out of her mind. Better not to think of that right now. She’d gotten away from the Compound and no one from The Brotherhood could find her—at least they hadn’t found her yet. And maybe, just maybe if she could get this job on the Kindred Mother Ship, they would never be able to find her again.
“Sarah Michaels,” called the bored voice of the attendant.
Sarah started at the sound of her name. She’d thought about giving a fake one but she had to have something real to put on her resume, which contained no actual work experience except for the secretarial duties she’d done in The Brotherhood’s home office.
She patted her thick chestnut hair, rolled into a bun at the nape of her neck, and adjusted her round glasses nervously on the bridge of her nose. The glasses were another part of her act—her camouflage. The lenses were clear, non-prescription glass—a pair she’d found in the drugstore years ago when her mother had first entered The Brotherhood, dragging Sarah and her father along with her. Sarah didn’t need them to see but they, along with her frumpy clothes and the extra weight she’d put on, kept her from being of interest to men.
Especially to The Prophet, Father Caleb.
Several strands of hair had escaped from her bun and she pushed them back impatiently, wincing at the small pain in her palm as she did so. She’d cut her hand somehow, on the steel side of the seat in front of her on the bus. The small wound had mostly stopped bleeding but she hadn’t been able to get a band-aid to cover it. Surreptitiously, she blotted it one last time on the underside of her rusty black blazer, glad that the blood stain wouldn’t show.
“Sarah Michaels?” said the attendant again. She was a slim brunette seated at a gray metal desk. It matched the gray couches scattered around the large lobby of the Tampa Human Kindred Relations building, where the interviews were being held. Beside her was a twelve foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with red and gold ornaments and tinsel. It was incongruously colorful in the bland surroundings and it didn’t match the weather either—which was hot.
Of course in Tampa, it was always hot.
I’m here,” Sarah said, in a voice that trembled only a little. “I’m ready.”
“All right—go in through the double doors. Commander Sazar is in the second office on the left. He already has your resume.”
“Thank you.” Sarah bobbed her head nervously. “So…I’m interviewing with him exclusively? I mean, there aren’t any other, uh, supervisors or—”
“Commander Sazar doesn’t let anyone else help make his decisions,” the attendant said briskly. “He’s very particular about who he hires and he won’t allow anyone else to have a say in it.”
“Oh…okay. So I’m going to be in there alone with him?” Sarah asked.
The attendant must have seen the look of uncertainty on her face because the bored indifference of her own expression softened a little.
“Hey, don’t worry—he doesn’t bite unless you give permission first. He’s a Blood Kindred—not a monster.”
So the blonde applicant who had stalked out of her interview in a huff had been telling the truth—Commander Sazar did bite. Or at least he wanted to bite. Oh God, what had she gotten herself into?
I haven’t gotten into it yet and I need this job, Sarah reminded herself grimly. I need to get away from Earth and hide somewhere The Brotherhood and Father Caleb can never find me.
She could still remember the last girl who had run away from the Compound—Jennifer Hastings—that had been her name though everyone called her Sister Jenny.
Sarah remembered how the Controllers had found her and brought her back, tied and gagged in the back of a van. The way she had screamed and struggled. And later, the drugged, dazed look on her bruised face when she stood before the alter to become a Bride of the Prophet, as all young women in The Brotherhood were expected to do so they could bear holy children to replenish the Compound…
Sarah pushed the memory away and gripped her tattered brown handbag firmly. Inside it was a cheap comb, a little tube of clear lip gloss she’d gotten as a free sample at the drugstore, and her birth certificate, which she’d managed to steal from the files of The Brotherhood before she ran. That was important because she didn’t have a driver’s license—women in The Brotherhood weren’t allowed to drive. She didn’t even have bus fare for a ride back. If she failed this interview, she’d be walking back to the shelter.
Well then, I’d better not fail.
Taking a deep breath, she lifted her chin and pushed through the double doors to go meet Commander Sazar—the man, or rather Kindred, she hoped would be her new boss.
* * * * *
Sazar looked up in irritation as the final applicant knocked timidly at his door. None of the other applicants had been right and the last one had been the worst of all—slim and blonde which reminded him entirely too much of Malinda.
The thought of his dead wife’s name caused a dull ache to rise in his heart. She had been his mate for just three years before she had been taken from him leaving only the boy behind. The boy who looked so much like her with his golden blond hair and large blue eyes…
He pushed the thought of his son away guiltily. He ought to go and see the boy—he knew he should. But work kept him so busy and every time he saw Tsandor it was as though Malinda was looking at him through those crystal blue eyes…
Commander Sazar?” The girl had a soft, low voice he found oddly soothing. Her appearance was soothing too—nothing at all like Malinda, he saw with satisfaction.
She was plump and short—she wouldn’t even reach his shoulder, Sazar estimated, taking her in with his sharp, pale eyes. She had a soft, pretty face and her hair was dark brown. Her eyes, somewhat obscured behind round lenses, were an indeterminate shade of hazel. Perfect—she didn’t resemble his lost wife in any way.
Then her scent hit him.
He stiffened a little as she walked into the temporary office he was using for Earth-side interviews. Gods, that scent. It was light and fresh and feminine but there was a deeper note underneath—a sweet, coppery aroma.
The scent of fresh blood.
Haven’t smelled blood that sweet since Malinda!
As a Pitch-Blood Kindred, Sazar had what other Blood Kindred considered a disability. Instead of biting only to heal or pleasure his mate, he actually needed blood. Not a lot of it and not often but it had to be from a willing female and right now it had been days since he’d had a female willing to let him bite her.
He could still remember his last executive assistant—her big, frightened eyes and the way she’d trembled when she allowed him to bare her wrist for his fangs. The way she’d fainted from the pain when he pierced her…
Sazar had let her go after that, much to her obvious relief. He couldn’t help it that his bite was so painful—it would hurt any female who wasn’t either his mate or at least reasonably compatible with him. There were ways to make it hurt less but he couldn’t engage in that kind of activity with a female who worked for him. He couldn’t help needing blood but he refused to take advantage in that way.
“Commander Sazar?” the girl said again and he realized he’d been sitting there, staring at her—More like smelling her, whispered a sarcastic little voice in his brain—and not saying a word.
Ms…” He looked down at the resume in his hands—which had hardly anything on it.
“Michaels,” she finished for him. “Sarah Michaels.” She walked up to the desk and held out her hand.
Sazar started to take it, then realized this was where the scent of fresh blood was coming from. Gods, it smelled good! So fucking tempting he wanted to drag her across the desk and bury his double set of fangs—which were growing longer and sharper by the minute—in the ivory skin of her throat.
No! He pushed the impulse away harshly. Yes, her blood smelled good—incredible to be honest—but that was only because he’d gone without for far too long. He would ignore his darker instincts and conduct this interview in a professional manner.
He had no choice.