Mate Marks: Thirst
by Kate Hill
Cover by Sahara Kelly
Coming Soon from Changeling Press
While unpacking antiques belonging to Arias Del Rio, a little known explorer, museum curator Malika Carter Young is stunned to discover a Spanish vampire in a sarcophagus. He's arrogant, gorgeous, and his fangs are an exact fit to the birthmarks on her breast.
Shamed by the greed and violence of his mortal life, Arias Del Rio has spent his centuries as a vampire atoning for his sins. After years of loneliness, he has finally found his destined mate, but an enemy from his past has returned and intends to destroy everything Arias loves, beginning with Malika.
Around six o'clock that night, Malika stood in a private room at the museum, unpacking trunks from Spain. She'd hoped to spend the entire day with Arias Del Rio's belongings, but other issues had interrupted her and she still had lots of boxes to go through. One in particular she'd been saving. It was a beautifully carved sarcophagus. She wondered where Del Rio had gotten it, as it appeared to be of Chinese origins and she had never read anything about Del Rio traveling to the Far East. Of course so little was written about his life that he could have gone there. She hoped that within these boxes she'd find some written records of his life.
At the moment she was sorting through a variety of antique swords while waiting for Clara who had gone to find the museum's two maintenance workers. By the size and weight of the sarcophagus, all four would
be needed to open it.
"Here we are, Malika," Clara said, stepping into the room, John and Isaac at her heels. They were a father-son team, both tall, redheaded and sturdily-built. John was around forty years old and very well preserved, if you like the biker type. Isaac was eighteen, lankier than his dad but with the same denim and leather, long-haired style.
Clara, on the other hand, was just over five feet, wore a plain tan pants suit and kept her mousy hair in a twist behind her head. Thick glasses with dark brown frames rested upon her snubbed nose. She reminded Malika of a schoolteacher and the maintenance guys her bad boy students.
"All right. I know this thing looks indestructible, but we need to be really careful, guys," Malika said.
"What do you think is in there?" Isaac asked. "Looks like a coffin to me."
"Technically, that's what it is," Malika told him. "But don't look so worried. I seriously doubt there's anything in there at all. Del Rio probably took it back with him from a voyage to the Far East."
"If you say so," John said. He and Isaac glanced at each other and shrugged.
Moments later, all four grunted and strained as they pushed aside the heavy lid.
"Uh. . .uh. . .uh," stammered Isaac who was near the end of the sarcophagus.
"What's wrong?" Clara demanded.
"D. . .d. . .dead guy," Isaac whispered, pointing inside.
Not that he needed to tell them. By now all four were staring at the contents of the stone box. At first everyone stood, speechless, except for Clara who kept repeating, "Oh my lord. Oh my lord. Oh my lord" until
Malika elbowed her in the ribs.
"I thought you said it was empty?" John demanded.
"How was I supposed to know?" Malika snapped. Now that the initial shock had worn off, adrenaline kicked in. Her heart pounded and her mouth went dry. She wasn't sure if it was a result of having a dead body in her museum or because the corpse was so damn handsome.
Thick brown hair draped shoulders as broad as the sarcophagus was wide. He had rather fine features, except for that square, ultra-masculine jaw. His nose was long and well-shaped and his lips just as fine. Those thick, dark eyelashes had to be about two inches long. Sure, he was on the pale side even for a white guy, but he was dead after all.
Shit, Malika, that's sick! You're ogling a dead man?
"Okay, we need to be calm about this," Malika said.
"I'm going to call Michael."
Malika's brother, Michael, was with the town police.
"I'll go wait for him at the entrance," Isaac said, walking backward toward the door, his gaze never leaving the body.
"Get your ass back here, boy!" John growled. "We can't leave these woman alone with a dead body."
Isaac looked guilty and stepped back toward them.
"You're right, Dad. Sorry."
"That's better." John nodded. "I'll wait for the police."
"Hey!" Isaac glared.
"Both of you go wait for the police," Malika said.
The men exchanged glances.
"Go on," she told them, shooing them with her hand.
Once they'd gone, she turned to Clara who stood, frozen. The woman swallowed rather loudly and said, "I can't believe this, Malika. What are we going to do?"
"Just like I said. I'll call Michael. This is his department. I handle antiques and artifacts. He handles drugs, domestic violence and dead bodies. Be right back."
"No! Don't leave me alone with him!"
"Girl, what's your problem? He can't hurt you."
Clara shook her head and Malika sighed. "Fine. Then you go call my brother."
"Will you be all right?"
Raising her eyes to the heavens, Malika said, "What can happen?"
"You're right. Okay. I'll be back." Clara hurried out of the room.
Finally alone, Malika realized that maybe she'd been a little hasty. It was creepy knowing there was a dead body just a few feet away. As if drawn by some morbid fascination, she approached the sarcophagus again and stared at its occupant. He couldn't have been dead long. He was still perfectly intact without a sign of degeneration.
What was his story? Who had put him in the sarcophagus and why? Was it possible that he'd died in Spain and been mailed here? No. Wouldn't customs had discovered a dead body? That meant someone had put him in the sarcophagus here in America. Had he died of natural causes or had he been murdered?
"You were damn fine, though, weren't you?" she murmured, her gaze drifting over his wavy hair and chiseled face. He wore a simple black shirt, probably made of silk by the way it draped his chest, making it easy to see that he had the sleekest most sculpted pecs on the planet. The lid of the sarcophagus still concealed most of his legs, but from what she could see of his thighs beneath his black pants, they were long and lean.
Looking at his face again, a strange feeling tightened her gut. There was something very familiar about him.
No wonder. This was the guy from her dreams, the one who had eaten her pussy while she'd been stretched into a split on the balance beams.
Malika stepped away from the sarcophagus, her heart pounding.
"No," she said. "No way. Malika, honey, you need to get a social life. Right now, just get back to work. Don't even think about the body."
She turned her back on her unwanted guest and returned to the boxes. It struck her that maybe she shouldn't touch anything. It was probably considered evidence. There were other boxes in the room that hadn't come from Spain. In fact there was a crate that had arrived yesterday and she still hadn't gotten to it.
Malika picked up a crowbar and approached the crate. The lid was on pretty tight and her hand slipped on the crowbar. She grunted in pain and sucked on her sore finger.
"Damn," she muttered.
"Perhaps I could be of assistance," said a soft yet husky male voice with a rather heavy Spanish accent.
A hand reached toward the crate and easily tugged off the lid.
Malika turned, took one look at the tall, handsome should-be-dead-man and let loose an earsplitting scream.
"Please, Miss Young, I didn't mean to frighten you. Calm yourself," he continued, reaching a hand toward her cheek.
"Get the hell away from me!" she shouted, backing up as he advanced upon her. She glanced toward the sarcophagus just to be sure she was really seeing him.
"Do not be afraid."
He backed her toward a chair and she tumbled into it. She knew her eyes must be bulging out of her head from fear and she could scarcely breathe. This man had been dead just moments ago. What the hell did he want from her? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good.
She'd fight him, of course, but he looked strong. Broad shoulders. Hard chest. Biceps that even the shirt couldn't hide. No way could she beat him off with a punch, but as a gymnast, her legs were strong as hell.
He took another step toward her and she braced her hands against the chair arms, raised her legs and locked them around his neck.
Screaming again, she twisted her body, his head still trapped between her legs, and flung him onto his back.
He landed with a grunt. Malika wasted no time. She pounced on him, trapping his head between her thighs and keeping him pinned to the floor.
"Are you crazy, woman?" he demanded, staring up at her with utter shock in his beautiful blue eyes.
"You better start giving me some answers!"
"I don't even know the questions!" He grasped her thighs and pulled, but she had him trapped tightly and wasn't about to let him go.
"Why were you in the sarcophagus?"
"I wanted to see you."
"So you couldn't pick up the phone and make an appointment?"
He forced a smile and began lightly stroking her thighs. It felt so damn good that she nearly closed her eyes.
Then she curled her lip, grasped his wrists and said,
"Who are you?"
"Now we're getting somewhere. Let me up and we can
"You're not going anywhere until the cops get here."
No sooner had she spoken than she found their positions reversed. She'd scarcely seen him move!
Now she lay, trapped beneath his big, hard body. His gaze locked on hers and a wicked little grin curved his lips.
"Yes. I like this position better," he purred. "A man should be in control."