The scent made my mouth water. Pungent iron mixed with, of all things, lavender. My thoughts flew straight to Tessa, my surrogate vampire mother. When she pulled out one of her specialty powers, the one I fondly referred to as vampire valium, this relaxing, floral herb scented the air and reduced friend or foe to a boneless, helpless puddle.
I shut the front door on the retreating back of the deliveryman and wiggled the box. Nothing rattled inside. Not particularly heavy, less than ten pounds.
A peace offering, perhaps? Tessa certainly owed me one.
She’d commanded her minion, my boyfriend Alexander, to star in a two-month classical music tour of Italy, performing nightly for vampire dignitaries and their lucky minions. While I, the good little predestined, vampire apocalypse averting, Chosen One in training, remained behind in San Francisco to learn how to kick naughty vampire ass with my latent and rather unwieldy fire power.
“Hey boys,” I called up to the second floor where my friend Adrian and his lover, my mentor Jonas, took their sweet time descending for breakfast. “Bloody prezzie just arrived. And I do mean that literally.”
Silence answered my shout, followed by the whoosh of water in the master bathroom shower and a husky laugh from Adrian. Given that sexy sound, I could expect a delay. Jonas tended to make their showers last forever.
A jolt of jealousy stabbed my stomach. Wish I could enjoy some fun and sexy time with my guy. I shrugged off the sensation and strode into the kitchen. “Fine. More for me.”
I parked my ass in a chair and slid the box onto the table to study it. No return address or package info. Not that surprising. Vampires tended to aim for stealth and subtlety, to fly under the radar of the general human populace. One of Tessa’s minions probably compelled the delivery dude, or he belonged to the circle of humans already in-the-know.
I ripped off the tape in one pull and peeked inside. No packing peanuts, but rather a nest of lavender branches speckled with droplets of blood, as if the branches themselves bled. Beautiful, aromatic, and so very vampire.
A wine box large enough for two bottles rested in the nest. Cold to the touch, indicating recent refrigeration. I lifted it out, trailing my fingers over the gold latch, the dark, glossy wood, the Celtic knots carved into each end, and finally over the initials on top. My initials, C A T. Short for Carina Agostina Tranquilli.
What a well-crafted and thoughtful gift. I bet the wine inside would be equally well-made.
I flipped the latch and opened the lid. My brows collided. Not wine.
Nine vials of blood about the size of my ring finger rested side by side in black velvet bedding.