Ana’s Penthouse, San Myshuno
Anastasia couldn’t see her reflection, but it didn’t matter. She was flawless. If Penny could describe her attraction, she would say it balanced on a knife’s edge. Ana was sharp—a solid steel spine and fearless.
Penny was not fearless. Being stripped down made her nervous. She thought they would do it right there in the kitchen, but the vampire said she wanted to take her time. Savor.
Savor what? Penny wanted to scream. She wanted the sex immediately, was ravenous for it, but savoring? That implied something slow, the opportunity for shame to be stretched out over the course of hours. Folding her hands in front of her, Penny kept her expression neutral. “The scar across my stomach is—”
“Perfectly formed,” Ana said.
She didn’t break eye contact as she stripped off her flimsy dress, then stepped forward, sliding her thigh between Penny’s legs. “Scars are such lovely things,” Ana murmured, her hand pressed into the small of Penny’s back, shifting her thigh and the friction, holy fuck the friction—
“If I would have seen you on the battlefield,” she continued, “I would’ve gloried in it. Celebrated it. Written songs about it.”
A litany of praise and filthy promises followed, but Penny tried to focus on the physical. The physical was good.
“I would have feared you,” she whispered, leading Penny to the bed. “Would have thought ‘what delicious mettle this creature has to survive such a thing.’”
The fireplace meant Penny couldn’t get a glimpse of herself in the wall of mirrors. Did she look stupid? Was the scar everything that Ana said?
“What do you need?” Anastasia asked, drawing her attention back.
To get the fuck out of a room of mirrors. To not be a werewolf. To be Penny again. “It’s way too bright in here,” Penny panted.
The vampire flicked off the lights and quietly stripped off the rest of their clothes, planting kisses every couple of inches. “I can always see you,” she promised as she straddled Penny.
“Even if you do not see yourself.” The vampire held her face so gently that for a moment, Penny was completely lost.
“Say it again,” she whispered and Ana complied.
Her hand dipped between Penny’s legs and she curled her fingers, playing her like an instrument she’d been making music from for years. Centuries.
Vampires were deliberate.
Ana tracked lower and lower until Penny was begging, hands tangled in her hair, trying to draw that wicked tongue to a spot that would give her actual relief. She was a well of tension—pleasure and worry warring as she fought to stay present in her body. It wasn’t until the vampire slipped in three fingers and bit down on the tendon in her thigh that Penny finally let go, the adrenaline spike drowning out all her racing thoughts.
They sat on one of the penthouse’s many terraces, nectar and fresh plasma in glasses. Before she became a monster, Penny might’ve been skeeved by Ana’s drink of choice but now? It smelled fresh, almost enticing.
She devoured the steak. Afterward, it seemed stupid not to talk about becoming a werewolf, but Penny couldn’t bring herself to say it. “Who turned you?” she asked instead, “Your ex-husband?”
“No, although he was one of my targets. I tracked him and found he cared as little for rules as I did. I suppose that’s why I didn’t kill him. The sex was exciting, and he was helpful with hunting.”
“He hunted vampires?” Penny drew her legs up onto the chair, trying to get comfortable enough to hear the story, “But he was a vampire. That doesn’t make any sense.”
At first, Ana didn’t answer. After a long pause, she rested her chin on her hand. “Are you sure this is what you wish to speak about?”
It was better than the alternative. “If you don’t care enough about me to tell me, then I guess we can talk about something else.”
Ana sighed, something flickering in her expression that Penny couldn’t parse. “Fine. Then this is a conversation for bed.”
“Vladislaus was an equal opportunity killer,” she began, as they laid down, “A mercenary willing to go after anyone for any price—well, almost anyone.” Bitterness colored her tone. “The job I wanted was taking out a vampire council member. I was sure we could do it together, but all he did was warn me that it would mean open war and said he had no interest in it.”
Penny slid an arm under her head, “Why?”
“Because she was ancient and powerful, and all those years we were hunting, he was saving his bounties to have babies and settle down.”
“Babies?” Penny made a face, “Gross. I like my friend’s kid, but that’s about it.”
Ana smiled. “They are gross. Although I should tell you I do have two children. Is that going to be a problem?”
Fuck yes! Penny had no intention of becoming a parent. And then there was the issue of Ana’s ex. “You have kids with Jimena?” Penny sat up. “I don’t want kids, and I’m not getting involved in some complicated custody dispute.”
“Calm down,” Ana waved a hand. “I don’t have children with that twat. My ex-husband and I adopted two mortal children. Stole them, really. They’re vampires now and quite self-sufficient.”
Did she ever think about what came out of her mouth before she said it? Penny shook her head, “I don’t understand. You just said you don’t like children and you hate your ex.”
“Sometimes you save each other.”
“The vampire who turned me was named Miko Ojo. She was the council member and despite Vladislaus’s warnings, I went after her. I got in over my head and woke up in the chapel in the orphanage. I thought I was recovered, but I was ravenous. Overly strong.” She pursed her lips, “I craved plasma. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. I turned into a vampire inside a house full of vampire hunters.”
Penny drew a sharp breath, “How did you escape?”
“He came for me, that son of a bitch.” There was no heat in her words. In fact, her tone was tinged with affection. “I made some kills, but mostly I was pathetic. Too unaware of how to use my new body or powers. He and his brother and cleared the room. Took me somewhere to patch me up. Young vampires are still vulnerable to dying.”
Penny reached over, gently brushing her arm. Maybe this was why Ana pretended to be so tough. Deep down, she was humiliated. Penny would be too.
“He went after her for me,” Ana continued, eyes slightly glazed as if she were deep in thought. “You don’t know him, but even at just a few centuries old, he was a beast. And yet, it took Miko three minutes to put him down and then she kept him like a pet for centuries.” She turned, grabbing Penny’s hand to press a kiss to her palm. “That’s why I married him. And that’s why I adopted two screaming brats. I don’t like children and don’t want any more of them. But my children belong to me.”
It was too much. How could Penny compete with an ex-husband who literally killed Ana’s monsters? And her kids were probably centuries older than Penny, which was a complete mindfuck. Didn’t werewolves and vampires hate each other? That’s what the internet said. What if Ana’s kids hated Penny’s guts?
“I’m a werewolf,” she blurted out, jumping to her feet. “And I destroyed your condo in a rage that I barely remember.”
“I know,” Ana replied, “I’ve been waiting for you to get past your denial. I hired a teacher to help you through your transition.”
“A werewolf teacher?” Penny reared back. Her eyes began to warm as she thought about how much of a psycho she must’ve been for Ana to take this step. “Are you expecting me to pay you back?”
“How?” the vampire scoffed. “Have you recently come into a fortune I’m unaware of?”
The guilt Penny was feeling teetered over into anger. “You’re an asshole. Why would you do this for me? Didn’t you hear me? I destroyed your condo, and I’m a wolf. We are enemies and I probably owe you a million dollars.”
“I wish that place was worth a million dollars,” Ana laughed. “I’m flattered by your jealous and destructive tendencies, and I own many houses. You can destroy them all if you like. I’ll give you a key.”
“Fuck off,” Penny growled. “I am serious. I don’t know why would you do this for me when I can’t give you anything back.”
“I don’t expect payment,” the vampire rolled her eyes, “Hiring them was half the fun. Now you’ve asked me enough questions for the night. I have one for you. Do you dislike being a werewolf?”
The room felt tight. Too tight.
“It’s fine,” Penny said, heading for the door, “Where’s the bathroom? I need to take a shower.”