Hooked on the Vampire King: A Fated Mates Vampire and Vampire Slayer Romance (Dating Monsters Book 8)
Hooked on the Vampire King: A Fated Mates Vampire and Vampire Slayer Romance (Dating Monsters Book 8)
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- Fated Mates
- Vampire Romance
- Vampire King!
- Protective Hero
- Kickass Heroine
- Found Family
ONCE A SLAYER. NOW HIS PROTECTOR.
"But you, Maddie, are my happily ever after. I have no doubts about that. So I need you to stick around so we can share our lives together, okay?"
Just when I thought falling head over heels for a vampire couldn’t get any more complicated, the universe says, “Hold my beer.”
In round two of my ever-so-interesting life, I’m healing from a near-fatal demon attack while simultaneously playing bodyguard to my hunky vampire king. Believe me, there are far more interesting games I’d prefer to play with him.
Our future dangles precariously, so when a new threat emerges, it’s time for me to do what I do best.
They want a fight?
They’ll get one.
Because nothing and no one is going to come between me and my vampire. Not if I have any say in it. Buckle up. This is one ride you won’t want to miss.
I lurked in the shadows, my focus locked on the tall figure nestled within a small copse of trees. His dark as night, medium-length hair moved in the gentle early spring breeze. The soft moonlight highlighted his sharp features, illuminating his chiseled jawline and otherworldly eyes. Everything about him screamed predator, from his laser focus to the tips of his sharp fangs that peeked out from beneath his lips.
Except tonight, I was the predator. And he was the prey.
Exhilaration jolted through me, and I smirked. My werewolf senses hummed in response to the thrill—something I hadn’t felt in the week since the demon had plunged its claws into my chest.
Flexing my muscles, I crept through the trees, my steps silent as I inched toward my mark. Every step was deliberate, every breath measured. My target had sensitive hearing—more sensitive even than mine—and a keen nose, so I had to keep upwind. The main issue was my heart. It pounded in my ears like a war drum. I couldn’t get too close, lest he hear it. And if he heard it, I’d fail my mission. I had to be strategic. Had to move fast and take him down before he could react.
I braved another step, then paused and cocked my head.
He seemed completely oblivious, lost in thought. But I knew the slightest sound could alert him to my presence. I had to be silent. Careful. Deliberate.
I took another step.
Then another, meticulously avoiding the fallen leaves and dead vegetation.
Suddenly, my target’s head tilted, and my traitorous heartbeat quickened. He turned slightly, his eyes scanning the dark woods surrounding us.
I froze, releasing a breath as quiet as the wind. I couldn’t let him spot me, and I wasn’t close enough yet to make my move. Not that it mattered. If he turned his head even a fraction of an inch, he’d see me.
My heart simultaneously pounded and stuttered. One, a symptom of adrenaline. The other, a symptom of my most recent injury, one that had left me comatose for three days. If I was being honest with myself, I’d know that I should be in bed, tucked beneath a swath of blankets, rather than out here, hunting someone in the dark night.
Nah. I refused to quit. I’d already come so far.
My target’s gaze swung to the left. Knowing he was about to catch me, I ignored the erratic pounding in my chest and launched myself at him. The look of utter surprise on his face was worth every ache in my body and every ounce of effort I’d put into this attack.
Everyone believed I needed more time to recover, that I was far too weak to join in on their reindeer games. Maybe they were right, but I could still be useful, and I needed to prove that. What better way to do that than to take out the Vampire King himself?
Or as I knew him, my mate.
I slammed into Gabriel, sending us tumbling. For a moment, we were airborne, and then we were falling.
Gabriel reacted quickly, his muscular arms encircling my waist. His grip tightened around me mid-air, and he grunted when we hit the ground. His back absorbed the impact, but his hold never once loosened.
I chuckled, then rested my arms on his rock-hard chest and stared down at him. “Surprise!”
His expression went through a myriad of emotions from surprise to concern, then relief. After a moment, he loosened his grip and tenderly traced the sunken pit beneath one of my eyes. I’d studied my reflection in the bathroom mirror this morning—I knew how I looked. Even after a week of recuperating, it wasn’t pretty. Almost dying did that to a girl. But regardless of my wan complexion and weight loss, I wanted Gabriel and everyone else to know I was still alive and could help.
“You nearly gave me a heart attack,” he grumbled in his thick British accent.
A smirk curled my lips. “Can’t have a heart attack if your heart doesn’t beat.”
He rolled his eyes but slowly smiled. “Alright, then you nearly put me back in my grave. Does that work better for you?”
“Not really,” I said, laughing. It brought horrific images to mind, ones I didn’t want to picture right now. I lowered my head to his chest and snuggled into the crook of his neck. His arms came around my waist and he held me so tightly, as though afraid to let me go. Gabriel had been like this since I’d woken up four days ago. According to him, my three-day nap had been the most harrowing time of his hundred-and-seventy-five years of life.
“Sorry,” I finally said, lifting my head and meeting his gaze. “I want to prove to everyone that I’m perfectly fine. Lucy and Sam act like I’m made of glass. They won’t even let Annabelle or Fynn come to my room, fearing they’ll stress me out. And Anna and Vlad treat me like I’m some porcelain doll on the verge of shattering right in front of them.”
Gabriel’s expression shuttered. He’d been trying so hard to rein in his protective nature, but I could see the struggle on his face.
“You have to understand what it was like for them, Maddie,” he said. “What it was like for me. To see you standing there, that demon’s hand impaled in your chest.” He shuddered. “I never want to see anything like that again. We may be a bit protective of you right now, but we all love you. We want nothing more than to see you well again.”
I cringed at the mental image he conjured. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to experience again, either. At least we were all in agreement on that.
“Don’t say fine,” he argued, his accent thickening. It did that when he became agitated. He fell silent and closed his eyes, his hands moving in soothing circles across my back. I had a feeling it was more to calm himself than it was for me. “You forget, I can hear your heart. It’s damaged. You’re healing, yes. But you still have a long way to go. I know you’re frustrated, but you can’t rush this.”
It warmed every inch of me to see how much he cared. But I was going a little stir crazy, and I needed him to see that. “Gabriel, I am fine. I am werewolf. Hear me roar,” I said, butchering the song lyrics.
“Yes, and a fearsome one at that,” he said, his tone quite serious. “But you need to be gentle on your body for a little while longer.”
I pushed off his chest and rose to my feet. “See? I’m good.”
I extended a hand to help him up. His fingers slid through mine, but he didn’t use my weight to help him stand.
“I’m better than—”
My words died when the world suddenly pitched sideways. Gabriel, the trees, and the stars all blurred into a dizzying swirl. I swayed, unable to find my center of balance. My knees buckled, but before I hit the ground, a strong pair of arms encircled my middle, steadying me.
I forced myself to swallow, tamping back the nausea that rose from the pit of my stomach. My heartbeat quickened into a panicked staccato, drowning out everything except the urgent sound of Gabriel’s voice.
“Maddie? Maddie, stay with me.”
I clung to him, using his touch to ground me. He wasn’t swaying like a drunken sailor. I could trust him to keep me standing.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I fisted my hands in his shirt and held on for dear life. “S’okay,” I mumbled. “Just need a moment.”
So maybe I had overtaxed my body a little.
Gabriel gently stroked my hair, his voice calm and steady despite the situation. “Take your time. I’ve got you. Breathe.”
I pressed my face against him, his chest a firm wall against my cheek, and counted to thirty in my head while slowly breathing in and out.
His scent wrapped around me like a comforting blanket. Gradually, the spinning slowed and the roaring in my ears ebbed, allowing me to gain control of my body. Finally, I managed to pry open my eyes. The trees stood still, and the stars hovered above us, twinkling like beautiful diamonds in the sapphire sky. Everything was back to normal.
I met Gabriel’s gaze, his steely eyes shimmering with concern in the moonlight. “You scared me,” he murmured, his thumb brushing my cheek.
I offered him a weak smile, hoping to ease some of his concern. “Sorry. Guess I’m still getting my sea legs back,” I teased, hoping to lighten the mood. “No big deal.”
I hated this. Hated being so vulnerable and weak. I hadn’t felt this way in years—not since I’d become a werewolf. Losing the strength I’d gained from that change made me feel weaker than a newborn pup.
Gabriel’s eyes never once left mine, as though he feared I’d drop dead if he so much as blinked. He lifted a hand and rested it against my chest, right above my fresh, jagged wounds. The demon had etched the memory of its attack on my body in an imperfect pentagon shape—a permanent reminder I’d carry with me for the rest of my life.
“You have nothing to prove to us, Maddie,” Gabriel said. “We know you’re strong. No one is questioning that.”
A weak, breathy chuckle slipped past my lips. “Strong and stubborn, some would say.”
One corner of Gabriel’s mouth ticked upward. “Can you stand?”
I braced my hands on either side of his waist and slowly straightened. When my knees didn’t buckle, he slowly drew his arm back, then lifted his hands to cradle my face. Without a word, he leaned in and pressed his lips to mine in a slow, sweet kiss. In the four days since I woke up from the demon attack, he hadn’t done anything more than this. Too afraid to hurt me, I suspected.
Still, I reveled in his kisses, refusing to take a single one for granted. One thing about near-death experiences: they certainly put things into perspective, the things people rarely consider. Who knew how many more kisses we’d get? I hoped a lifetime’s worth, but throughout my twenty-seven years, I’d experienced more than my fair share of the universe’s sick sense of humor. That which it gave, it could also quickly take away. I’d learned that lesson the hard way.
Leaning into Gabriel’s kiss, I grabbed his shirt again, this time for an entirely different reason. Regardless of my healing injuries, my body craved more than a kiss. But after everything that’d happened in the past few minutes, I knew better than to push myself. Besides, Gabriel had made it quite clear he wouldn’t be delving beyond kisses for quite some time. Probably until I could tackle him without fainting.
The kiss ended too soon for my liking, and as Gabriel pulled back, a second wave of dizziness hit me—just to fuck with me a little more. The world blurred and I swayed, but Gabriel was there in an instant, catching me before I could stumble.
“Took your breath away, huh?” Gabriel teased, though his voice didn’t quite hit a playful tone. He slipped his arm around my waist again, then helped me lean against the nearest tree, his worry-filled eyes never straying from my face. “Give yourself a moment, alright?”
I nodded, resting my head against his chest. His free hand immediately cupped the back of my neck, and I felt the soft press of a kiss against my head.
“Once you’re up for it, we’ll get you back to the house and into bed.”
Ugh. I hated that bed. Understandably, the doctor had confined me there since waking. And truly, four days wasn’t the worst sentencing. But it was the longest I’d ever been bedridden before, and I wasn’t handling it all that well.
The stubborn part of me—which, admittedly, was a large part of me—wanted to sprint through the trees and prove I was fine. But the small, rational side of my brain pointed out that I’d barely been able to kiss Gabriel without passing out. Deep down, I knew I had to take it easy and stop pushing myself. Not doing so would only slow my recovery. And that was the last thing I wanted.
“No more stalking me through the woods, okay?” Gabriel said, his voice a soft rumble.
“Aww. And here I thought you’d enjoyed our midnight rendezvous,” I said, my voice still a bit weak.
“We can sneak away into the woods any time you want.” He held up a hand before I could speak. “After you’re better.”
“Okay,” I whispered, hating the word. I was so used to being the one on the front lines protecting everyone else. I was a slayer. It was literally in my job description. Being sidelined felt like a punishment.
Gabriel brushed another gentle kiss against my forehead. “I can’t lose you, Maddie. You’re far too important to me. To everyone. Promise me you’ll take it easy.”
Both frustration and warmth filled my chest. I loved having people who cared about me. It was something I never thought I’d find in life. At the same time, I was so used to only caring about myself that I was finding it hard to do things for the sake of others.
“I promise,” I finally said. “It just sucks, ya know?”
He gave a soft laugh, his chest vibrating from the sound. “I do know. But this is necessary. For your own good and mine. I don’t think I could survive going through this all over again. As you pointed out, I don’t have a beating heart, so I need yours to keep beating for the both of us.”
The heart in question beat a little faster from his words. I stood straight and lifted my head, smiling when the world didn’t sway. “I can do that.”
“Good,” he said. He leaned down and gave me another kiss, this one even gentler than before, if such a thing was possible. He parted from me and ran a hand down my back.
“Guess we should get back the house,” I suggested. “Meredith cleared me to remove the bandages today.”
I hadn’t yet. The thought of peeling them off made my stomach twist. I’d caught a quick glimpse at the wounds once when Meredith was changing the wrappings. It’d sickened me. But I couldn’t hide from them forever.
“She also cleared me for baths and showers again,” I continued, my thoughts flashing to the massive Jacuzzi Lucy and Sam had installed in their en suite bathroom. “Maybe I’ll take a bath tonight and pamper myself a bit.”
A mischievous glint sparked in Gabriel’s eyes. “Do you think you’ll need some help with that? Because I’m here. You know, to help. To be helpful.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” I said, chuckling.
“Well, we can’t risk you fainting and drowning, now can we?”
“Of course. And that’s the only reason you want to watch me bathe, huh? To protect me?”
“Naturally,” he said, winking.
I shook my head, laughing. Then I stretched up onto my tiptoes and kissed his stubbled jaw. “Thank you, Gabriel.”
His brows rose. “For what?”
“For caring about me,” was all I said before taking his hand and slowly leading him back to the house.