A chill seeped through Emma's skin. "Whose file was it?"
"I see." Her voice sounded far away. "Thank you." She set the phone down and took a deep breath to steel her nerves. So Angus was checking her out. He would know all about her. Her gaze drifted to the naughty e-mail he'd sent. If he was a vampire, tomorrow night would be his last.
And even a pardon from the queen couldn't save his gorgeous ass.
At twenty minutes till eight, Emma spread dead leaves over the ground to hide the rope. She was in a wooded area of Central Park, secluded enough that she didn't need to worry about innocent people blundering into her trap, but close to the place where she'd met Angus MacKay the night before. Her black jeans were topped with a bright red sweater to make her easier to find. She stashed her bag of stakes under a nearby rhododendron and wedged four stakes under her belt.
Fifteen minutes till eight. Would he be on time? The minutes stretched out, ticking by at an incredibly slow rate. What would it be like to have an eternity of nights? Or the ability to teleport somewhere in an instant? With their superior abilities, Emma could understand why vampires considered themselves superior. But in her experience, all serial killers considered themselves superior.
That's all vampires were, really. Serial killers with superior abilities that made them harder to kill. The only good thing about them was that they were already dead. She didn't have to capture one and wait for a slow justice system to deliver a satisfactory ending. No delayed gratification here. When she found one, she killed it.
Ten minutes till. She circled the oak tree where the rope was anchored. She needed to keep her muscles warm and her senses alert. She'd have to act quickly. Not think about how handsome he looked in a kilt. Not think about witty, clever conversation. Her mission was two-fold. Discover his status - human or monster. Then kill him if he was the latter.
She cringed at the thought of watching the sparkle die in his lovely green eyes. She'd never talked to a vampire before killing one. The four she had killed had been in the process of attacking and raping a woman while they fed from her. The sight had been so horrid and repulsive, she'd had no trouble delivering justice.
She couldn't imagine Angus doing that to a woman. He'd seemed offended by the flasher. And he'd lectured her on safety. What vampire would act that way? Oh God, she prayed, don't let him be a vampire. Let him be the queen's hero and the grandson of a knighted war hero. Let him be the man of her fantasies - a fierce, honorable warrior who could fight evil by her side.
She whirled toward the deep voice but could barely discern his dark silhouette in the distance. Her heart raced. He looked wonderful. He looked dangerous.
He stepped toward her, and his kilt swirled around his knees. "Thank ye for coming. We need to talk."
"Yes, we do." She put her psychic defenses up. If he was a vampire, he could try to manipulate her mentally. She edged toward the middle of the small clearing. All he needed to do was walk straight toward her, and he'd step into the trap. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming."
"I am a man of my word."
But are you alive? That was the real question. If he was undead, he wouldn't know the meaning of honesty. Or honor.
He sauntered toward her, close enough that she could see him more clearly. His kilt was the same blue and green plaid he'd worn the night before, but tonight's jumper, or sweater as the Yanks called it, was blue. There were no leather straps crossing his chest like last night. He hadn't brought his sword. Her gaze lowered to his socks. He wasn't completely unarmed. His sgian dubh was in place beneath his right sock.
He paused, tilting his head to study her. She held her breath. Did he suspect something? With two more steps he'd be in the trap, swinging upside down. She knew good and well a vampire wouldn't stay trapped for long. He'd simply teleport away.
She shrugged one shoulder. "Better safe than sorry."
He frowned. "Ye are safe with me, lass. I would never harm you."
He glanced down. "A mere habit. I usually have my claymore, too, but I left it behind so ye'd know I meant ye no harm."
"Are you confessing to being my enemy?"
He looked so sincere. What if he really was a champion for the queen? What if he risked his life for his country, asking for no recognition or credit in return? He could be a hero. He could be everything she'd ever dreamed a man could be.
"Miss Wallace?" He stepped toward her.
A surge of panic swept through her. Suddenly she didn't want to know the truth. She wanted to believe that strong, gorgeous men in kilts were heroes, not demons. She held up a hand. "Stop!"
Too late. He stepped right into the center of the noose. It snapped tightly around his ankle. He shot her a look right before the rope jerked him off his feet.
That look had hurt. Shock, anger, betrayal - she'd felt it all in his eyes. Shit! It couldn't be helped. She had to know if he was friend or foe. She whipped a stake from her belt. If he was a vampire, she'd have to act quickly.
She looked up. And her mouth fell open. The stake tumbled from her hand. Good heavens.
Angus MacKay was hanging upside down with the hem of his kilt dangling around his neck.
Emma blinked. Good Lord, she'd never been mooned by such a heavenly body. Narrow hips, muscular buttocks, smooth skin kissed with silvery moonlight. The tree branch overhead swayed from his weight, causing his body to bob softly up and down. She matched the rhythm, nodding like a bobble-headed toy to stay focused on his glorious bare bum.
She jerked herself from the rump-induced hypnosis. How long had he been talking to her? "Excuse me?"
"Or shall I call ye Emma, since apparently ye're better acquainted with me now?"
Heat invaded her face. How long had she stood there, ogling his rear end? And good heavens, what was she doing staring at his backside when she could get the full panoramic experience by simply walking around him?
He twisted, trying to look at her. "Why have ye strung me up like a smoked ham? Surely we could have a wee chat, face to face."
It wasn't his face she was thinking about. "Feel free to talk." She edged slowly around. So far, he hadn't attempted to escape. Did that mean he was human? Hallelujah!
Of course, this meant she owed him a big apology. Emma smiled to herself. She could certainly help him get over this.
He wiggled like a hooked fish. Her breath hitched. Oh yes. She would be very apologetic.
A soft, scraping noise drew her attention. His wiggling must have loosened his knife from its sheath, for it was sliding downward. He doubled over, reaching for his sock. His fingers curled around the hilt.
"No!" She ran toward him. With a flying kick, she knocked the knife from his hand. It flew through the air. She landed, then quickly jumped out of Angus's reach. While he muttered curses, she sprinted to where the knife had fallen.
"Nay!" he shouted behind her.
She dove for the knife, rolled over, and sprang to her feet, the hilt grasped in her hands. She pointed the sharp, seven-inch blade toward him.
He was gone.
Her heart froze. Quickly she spun about, looking for him. The rope remained dangling from the tree limb, uncut. A crushing sensation squeezed her heart. No hero. No man of her dreams. He'd failed the test and teleported away. He was the enemy.
She'd have to kill him.
She tamped down the growing ache of disappointment within her. She couldn't afford sentimentality. The battle had begun, and he could see better than she. He was stronger, too, but she had his weapon.
She advanced slowly toward the center of the clearing, revolving in a circle to look for him among the trees. The woods were quiet but for the sound of her accelerated breathing. There! Was that him? Yes, she could make out his dark silhouette. The bastard was leaning against a tree with his arms and ankles crossed like it was just another day at the office.
She pointed the knife at him. "Now I know the truth about you."
He adjusted the folds in his kilt. "And I know about you. Some women will do anything to look under a man's kilt. Did ye enjoy the view?"
She scoffed. "That's quite beyond the point. I know you're a vampire."
"I know ye're the slayer." He pushed away from the tree. "'Tis time for ye to stop."
He meant to kill her, the thought shuddered through her. She widened her stance and prepared for an attack. "Tonight you die by your own weapon."
He shrugged. "I died once. Dinna care for it much." He stepped toward her.
She raised the knife so the blade was even with his neck.
He gave her an annoyed look. "Put the knife down so we can talk. Ye're no match for me in battle."
"Come a bit closer and find out."
He regarded her silently, then nodded as if he'd reached a decision. "Verra well. I'll give ye a demonstration."
She blinked as his body zoomed past her on the right. She spun to keep him in view.
He halted on the other side of the clearing. "Ye missed."
Vampires were such an arrogant bunch. But she could use his over-inflated pride against him. "I didn't think you'd run like a coward."
His brows shot up. "Ye expect me to stand still while ye stab me in the heart?"
"I expect you to face me like a man."
"So to prove my manhood, I should act like a lamb before the slaughter?" He chuckled. "Ye slay me."
Her mouth twitched with amusement. Damn him. Why couldn't she find a live man this charming and attractive? Apparently all the good men were married... or dead.
He zipped by her again, but she was faster this time and swatted his rump as he passed by. He laughed and kept dashing about the clearing like a pinball racking up points.
"All right, I get it. You can move really fast." Maybe she shouldn't complain. After all, he hadn't attacked her. Yet. But she was getting dizzy, whirling about to keep him in view. Was that his plan - to totally disorient her before he attacked?
She halted. His body was a blur as it swept past. "Coward! Be still."
Suddenly he grabbed her from behind, pulling her hard against his chest. His hands locked down on top of hers on the knife. She gasped. His breathing was fast and stirred the hair by her temple. His chest moved against her back with each breath he took.
He lowered his head and whispered in her ear. "Is this still enough for you?"
She shivered. "Let me go."
"Not only am I faster than ye, but I'm stronger." He forced her arms to bend. She resisted, her arms shaking with effort, but he soon had the knife up to her neck.
She swallowed hard. Normally, in this situation, she would stomp on the assailant's foot while doing a back jab into his ribs with her elbow. But she couldn't move her arms. He had her hands pinned beneath his.
"Ye see how easy it is, lass," he whispered in her ear.
"I won't let you kill me."
"Sweetheart, I only want to talk to ye." His breath wafted across her neck, causing little hairs to stand up.
She jumped away, turning to slash him with the knife. He dodged her attack, then yanked the knife from her hands and flung it to the side. It spun through the air with a whirring noise, then the blade embedded itself into a tree with a thud.
She grabbed the second stake from her belt and charged.
He seized her by the wrist and ripped the stake from her hand. "Sweetheart, 'tis difficult to have a wee chat if ye keep trying to kill me."
"There's nothing to talk about." She backed away, breathing heavily and rubbing her wrist.
"Och, did I hurt ye? I dinna mean to."
She snorted. "Like you care. You've been feeding off humans for years. How many people have you killed?"
He threw her stake far into the woods, then faced her, scowling. "I have killed more than I wish to remember, but I only kill in battle."
Like tonight. Her blood chilled. "If you have any honor, you'll give me a fair fight."
"Lass, ye've already decided I'm evil. Why would an evil man have any honor?"
He had her there. She swallowed hard. He hadn't even bothered to deny his evilness. She crouched in a defensive position, watching. Waiting. She ripped the third stake from her belt.
"Bugger," he muttered. He folded his arms across his broad chest, frowning. "Ye're a black belt in Tae Kwon Do?"
"You should know. You read my personnel file."
"Aye. Put away yer stake if ye want a fair fight." He glanced around, then pointed to his left. "We'll fight over there. The ground is softer for yer fall."
She huffed. "I'm not falling. You are."
"We'll see." He turned his back to her as he sauntered over to the area he'd chosen.
Arrogant vampire. She wedged the stake under her belt, then charged. After a few running steps, she leaped into the air and caught him square in the back with a flying kick. "Aagh." It was like hitting a brick wall.
She landed on one foot and scrambled to a defensive pose. Meanwhile he merely stumbled forward one step. Damn him.
He turned with a smile. "An eager lass. I like that."
She snorted. "Typical vampire arrogance. It's your greatest weakness, and you're too arrogant to even know it."