The door burst open. Nicolucci scrambled to his feet and stood at attention as Angelo strode in, pointed at him, and then said, “Out.”
Nico didn’t move. When M’Rhal entered, she nodded at him and then followed Angelo, catching up with him at the doorway to the next room. She grabbed Angelo, spinning him around to slam him against the wall. Nico walked to the open door and then paused to watch his mistress pin Angelo in the corner, her French-manicured nails digging into his chest and she pressed her body to his with a growl that send a shiver up Nico’s spine. With a deep breath to fight back his own need, Nicolucci backed out of the room and, as he pulled the door shut, the parting memory burned in his mind: M’Rhal threw her head back, her chocolate hair tossed away from her face, just before she dropped her mouth to Angelo’s neck, her slender fangs piercing his neck. Angelo’s guttural moan reached Nicolucci’s ears from behind the closed door.
Nicolucci considered heading out, but his intermittent memories from the pazzia made him hesitant to hunt and blood unnecessary. He wandered down to the Hall of Gathering; a large, long room used for formal reception of guests, but also for bored members of the families to get together and hang out or make plans for other activities. Anyone with nothing to do, or eager for company would start in the Hall of Gathering before moving elsewhere in, or out, of the house.
Nicolucci cringed and turned a tired glare on Jackson as the man approached. Jackson walked with a strut that annoyed Nico. The man knew he was hot and he carried himself with that knowledge. Dark hair long in front to play coy, and rich brown eyes the shade of sun-baked mud, set off a smile of full, soft lips. Jackson, frozen in time a handful of months before his twenty-fifth birthday, had the body of an athlete, long, lean, and muscular, and his chest sported a thin matte of curly hair as dark as his head, both heads. The man wasn’t shy and loved to conveniently pass by vampires of interest barely dressed. Tonight he wore faded Levi’s hanging loose and low on his narrow hips, worn black high-tops, and a button-down black shirt with silver stripes, the buttons, all the way down, undone.
Focusing his gaze on Jackson’s eyes, though he wasn’t beneath enjoying the view despite hating the man’s attitude, Nicolucci narrowed his eyes and said, “You know my name, Jackson.”
“So formal, babe.” When Nico’s expression didn’t soften, Jackson said, “Fine, Nicolucci, relax already.”
“What do you need?”
“How about you?”
Nicolucci’s scowl turned into a frown but not before a brief moment of confusion passed over his face.
“Really, Luke – Nicolucci – Are you going to play that game? You’re twice my age. Certainly you’ve played both sides of the field.”
Folding his arms over his chest, Nicolucci licked his lips before responding. He didn’t fail to catch the way Jackson watched his mouth when he did. “I’m well aware that you like to use directness to throw people off. I’ll ask again. What do you want?”
“Same answer.” Jackson stuffed his hands in his pockets and struck a purposeful pose full of pure casual flirtation. “Forget lusting after the lady of the house, Luke. I can guarantee you’ll forget, if you give me the opportunity.”
“M’Rhal? She’s taken and I’m not stupid–”
“No, you’re not. I agree. You’ve also had her and she’s damn fucking hot.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Nico growled. He fisted his hands at his sides, body tensed and ready to take action should Jackson continue to mouth off.
Jackson stepped forward, boldness brushing his features into heated desire. “Shut me up, Nicolucci. I’ve seen the way you look at me, and I think you’re even more damn fucking hot than she is.”
Nico swung, his right fist connecting with Jackson’s mouth. Jackson didn’t flinch or try to block the punch. As Nico glowered, the split of the man’s lip knitted together. Jackson’s tongue flitted across the tear, cleaning the blood from his mouth and leaving unharmed, unsoiled skin behind.
With a solid nod that never broke eye contact, Jackson acknowledged Nico’s fury. “No more talking about your mistress,” he said. “I promise.”
Clearing the last foot between them, Nicolucci stepped into Jackson. The man did not move away; he squared his shoulders, keeping his hands at his side. Nico brushed dark hair out of Jackson’s eyes and then brushed his thumb over his mouth. “Yes, I’ve been looking, but my experience is that the ones that brag and strut as much as you do are overcompensating for their inadequacies.”
“Oh ouch,” Jackson said with no body language to indicate the comment truly hurt. He lowered his chin and studied Nico through lowered lashes. “Are we even, baby?”
Nicolucci planted a gentle, closed-lip kiss on Jackson’s mouth, and then, in a shaky breath, said, “Far from it.”
Up Next: From the Closet