He affected a wounded look. "Sweetheart, be fair. I was an arrogant bastard long before I became a vampire."
She was tempted to ask how old he was, but his personal history didn't matter. He was like all the others. An evil murderer. She assumed her favorite attack posture. "A fair fight. No cheating."
The corners of his mouth tilted up. "On my honor."
She attacked with a quick series of kicks and punches. He blocked each one.
She jumped back and prepared for another round. Damn, he was good. "Where did you train?"
"In Japan. I've been going there for lessons for the last two hundred years."
Her mouth fell open. Good heavens. The things he must have seen. "How old are you?"
"Five hundred and twenty-six years, if ye include my time as a mortal."
She gulped. He was a walking museum. He'd lived through the Renaissance, the Restoration, the Age of Enlightenment. He'd worn the clothes, walked the muddy streets, seen history unfold before him.
"Och, the stories I could tell ye," he whispered.
She stiffened. He'd read her personnel file. He knew she'd been a history major at the University of St. Andrew in Edinburgh. She'd been totally immersed in the mysteries of the past until that cold night when her parents' murder had snapped her into harsh reality. She'd put away the books and her dreams, and had changed her studies to law, martial arts, and firearms.
"Damn you." She lunged forward, kicking and spinning to kick again.
He blocked each move. She danced back and assumed another pose. He waited. And that's when it struck her. He was only defending himself. Not that she should complain. If he did attack, she'd be sore pressed to stay conscious. Still, he was so arrogant, she couldn't help but goad him. "Why don't you attack, vampire? Haven't you worked up an appetite?"
He planted his hands on his hips, looking annoyed. "I havena fed off a mortal in eighteen years. I take my meals from a bottle."
"Well, isn't that noble of you? I believe that leaves about five hundred years unaccounted for."
"Aye, I fed when I needed to, but I never killed for food." His gaze wandered down her body, then back to her face. "In fact, I left the lassies feeling... verra satisfied."
Her skin tingled. She could almost believe him. "It was a false feeling for your victims. You used mind control on them."
"To give them pleasure, aye." He stepped toward her. "A great deal of pleasure."
"Stop right there." She yanked the third stake from her belt. "Are you controlling the queen's mind? Is that why the British government thinks you're some kind of hero?"
"Och, ye've done some research on me. I'm flattered."
"Don't be." She raised the stake.
He sighed. "Sweetheart, can we no' talk without ye threatening me with yer wee stick?"
"Stop calling me sweetheart and answer my question. Are you controlling the queen's mind?"
"Nay. I have always been a loyal subject." He shrugged slightly. "Except for the time I was a Jacobite. But I have always served whomever I believed was the rightful king."
Did he actually know Bonnie Prince Charlie? Good heavens, the questions she would love to ask. But he was tempting her on purpose, luring her in, no doubt, to make her easier prey.
"I read that yer parents were murdered," he whispered.
Her hand squeezed tight around the stake. "It's none of your business." She was wrong about him using temptation. That was too gentle a word. This was an outright psychological attack. The bastard.
"And ye lost yer brother. And yer aunt." His gaze was full of sympathy. "I know how it feels to lose loved ones."
Rage boiled within her. Pity from a vampire? He was the same kind of monster as the fiends who had murdered her parents.
"Shut up!" She charged at him. One way or another, she'd take him down and use her stake. She kicked at his groin.
He jumped back into a crouch and spun, knocking her legs out from beneath her. She fell back.
"Bugger." He dove for her with amazing speed. Her rump hit the ground as he landed beside her, reaching a hand behind her head.
"What?" She stared at him, dazed. For some reason, he was lying beside her, cradling her head a few inches above ground.
He leaned over her, so close she could see the reddish glint of whiskers along his jaw. His massive chest pressed against her. What was he doing? Examining her neck?
"Stop!" She swung the stake toward his back.
"Enough!" He yanked the stake from her hand and tossed it into the woods.
She had only one stake left in her belt. She'd have to be careful. Catch him by surprise. For now, she'd act calm, subservient.
He leaned over her again, fiddling with something behind her head. His breath wafted across her face, surprisingly sweet. In fact, his whole body smelled surprisingly good. Clean and masculine. How could that be?
"What are you doing?" she whispered.
Slowly he lowered her head to the ground, but kept his hand on the back of her neck while he rested on his elbow. "I dinna want ye to fall on this." He showed her a sharp rock in his other hand. "'Twas on the ground where yer head was about to hit." He tossed the rock into the woods.
"You - you were trying to protect me?"
"I apologize for making ye fall, but I was a wee angry after ye tried to kick me below the belt." He frowned at her. "Whatever happened to yer fair fight?"
"You're faster and stronger. I had to do something to even the odds."
"Ye're a fierce fighter." His gaze wandered to her mouth and lingered there. "We're more evenly matched than ye think."
A shiver coursed through her. Had he actually tried to protect her? But there was no such thing as a nice vampire. This had to be part of his psychological warfare. "What do you want from me?"
His gaze lowered to her neck.
"If you bite me, I swear I'll kill you."
"Ye have so much rage trapped inside." His gaze drifted downward. He placed a hand lightly on her thigh and dragged it up to her hip. "There are other ways to find release."
Her heart thudded. She was wrong again. He was using more than psychological warfare. He meant to seduce both her mind and her body. And it didn't help that his gentle touch was igniting a trail of sparks along her thigh and hip. She sucked in a shaky breath. Okay. She could play this game, too. And once he was thoroughly distracted, she'd use her one remaining stake.
She placed her palms on his forearms and glided up and over his bulging biceps. Good heavens, no wonder he wielded that heavy sword so easily. "I suppose you're just the man to help me." She slid her hands onto his shoulders and gave him what she hoped was a seductive look.
She gasped. His eyes were red. And glowing. Her fingers dug into his shoulders. Shit, this had to mean he was hungry. She needed to act fast. Remain calm. She forced her fingers to relax and slid her hands down his chest.
"Ye're so beautiful," he whispered, brushing her shoulder-length hair away from her neck.
Oh God, he was preparing her neck. But she was ready. Her hands had reached his waist. She fisted one hand and punched him in the gut while she whipped the final stake from her belt and aimed for his godforsaken heart.
"The devil take it, woman." He yanked the stake from her hand and slammed it into the ground beside her head.
With a gasp, she turned her head to look. Only an inch of the stake showed above ground. She'd be dead if he'd impaled her with it.
He placed a thumb on the rounded end of the stake, and with a growl, he pushed it so far into the ground, it made a hole. He glowered at her, his eyes still red but less luminous. "I was a fool to think ye could like me."
For some strange reason, she actually felt bad about disappointing him. "I had to defend myself. You were going to bite me."
"Nay, I only wanted to kiss you."
She snorted. "Right. A kiss with teeth. You were looking at my neck. And your eyes were red and glowing. You were hungry."
"Ah, lass." He closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, they were turning back to their usual forest green. "'Tis a hunger of another sort."
What did a vampire need besides blood? Her question was answered when he shoved his sporran aside and lay close beside her. She gasped. He was pressed against her in a big way. Very big. Very swollen. Very hard. How could a cold, dead creature be so turned on?
And why did her hands itch to touch him? He had to be playing with her head. "You - you must be controlling my mind."
The corner of his mouth quirked. "Are ye having naughty thoughts?"
"No! I... " She didn't know what to say. Or think. She was supposed to be killing vampires, not lying next to one with a hard-on. She glanced over at the rhododendron bush where her bag of stakes was hidden. She'd never reach it in time if he attacked her. "If you try to rape me, I'll hunt you to the - "
"Emma." He sat up with a jerk. "I would never harm you."
"You wouldn't have to. You would take control of my mind to make me willing. That's how you turn a woman into a victim."
"I have no desire to make ye a victim. I admire yer strength and fiery spirit."
Did he really? No. Emma rejected the warm, fuzzy feeling. Nothing was warm and fuzzy when it came to the Undead. "You're trying to confuse me. I won't have you playing games with my head."
His mouth twitched. "Can I play with yer body then?"
"No! I want you to leave me alone."
He nodded, his face growing sad. "Ye're right. Nothing good could come of this." He hefted himself to his feet.
She felt suddenly cold without him next to her. She sat up slowly and hugged herself for warmth.
He wandered to the tree where his knife was embedded. "I'll leave ye alone if ye agree to one thing." He yanked the knife loose. "Ye'll give up slaying."
"Never." She scrambled to her feet. "Your fellow vampires are murdering people. I have to protect the innocent."
"I know about evil vampires, lass. I've been fighting them for centuries."
"Yeah, right." She scoffed. "Then how come there are so many of them? You haven't been doing a very good job." As if she believed him in the first place.
"They have us outnumbered, that is true." He slid his knife into the sheath beneath his knee sock.
"Then I'm helping to even the score. I know what I'm doing."
"Nay, ye do not." He straightened, scowling at her. "Ye'd never survive a real fight. I lost count of how many times I could have killed ye tonight."
She raised her chin. "You can't make me stop."
"Then I'll need to be more persuasive." The look he gave her made her heart pound. "I'll see ye tomorrow." He picked up the stake she'd dropped by the trap. Then he strode over to the rhododendron and grabbed her bag of stakes. "Face the facts, Miss Wallace. Ye're out of business."
"You can't stop me. I have more stakes at home."
His wide mouth curled up in a smile. "Then perhaps I should drop in for a wee visit. Ye live in SoHo, aye?"
She swallowed hard. Her and her big mouth.
"Be sure to wear something sexy," he whispered, then vanished right before her eyes.
She glanced around to see if he had reappeared behind her. Or somewhere in the woods. No, he was gone. He knew she couldn't hunt without her stakes. Wear something sexy. Was he going to appear in her apartment tonight? Maybe she shouldn't go home.
Maybe she should.
Damn him. He was messing with her mind. It was supposed to be so simple. Vampires were evil and deserved to die.
But he had refused to hurt her during the fight. In fact, he'd tried to protect her. Was it all a game to get her into his bed? And then what? Would he drain her dry like the bastards who'd killed her parents?
Slowly she wound up the rope she'd used to trap Angus MacKay. This much was clear. He meant to keep interfering. He meant to seduce her. The safest thing to do was a preemptive strike. Kill him. After all, it was self-defense.
Last night, that decision would have felt good. Now, she felt hesitant. Even sad. Damn him. His psychological warfare was already working.
On the fifth floor of Roman's townhouse, Angus dropped the sack of stakes on the desk with a noisy clatter. He'd teleported to Roman's Upper East Side home so many times over the years, he no longer needed a sensory beacon. The journey was embedded in his psychic memory. He had merely closed his eyes, concentrated, and he was there. Even so, he lifted his kilt to make sure he'd arrived intact.
Bugger. He was still swollen. What the hell was wrong with him? It was one thing to lust after a mortal, but to desire one who wanted to kill him? Roman would have a field day analyzing that. Over the centuries, Angus had come to rely on the former monk for advice and counseling. Roman would probably announce that good ole Angus was suffering from some sort of middle-aged crisis, trying to prove his youth and vigor by seducing a beautiful mortal young enough to be his great, great, great, great granddaughter. Come to think of it, that was probably not enough greats.
He was being a fool. All he had to do was talk to her. Convince her to quit slaying. Getting her to like him wasn't on the agenda. She would never like him. Why torture himself by longing for the impossible?
"Och, 'tis you." Ian spoke behind him.
Angus quickly dropped his kilt and turned to greet Ian. "I've just returned."