When he'd said he'd been the best lover...? Gods help her, she'd believed him.

But she'd also been anxious about him possibly biting her. She didn't think she'd ever forget the look in his eyes this morning. "We'll never find out about the kissing, will we?"

His brows drew together, as if she'd uttered something monumental. "No. We won't, then. Ever." They walked on in awkward silence until she directed him off Bourbon.

"What's this store like?" he asked.

"It's owned by a purported voodoo priestess named Loa." Her very name meant voodoo spirit.

"Loa is a female shop owner?"

When Danii nodded, he perked up. And considering what Loa looked like, Danii mused that this might be a bad idea.

But Nix often dropped by there, and even if Loa knew nothing -  doubtful - any of her patrons might have information.

"Does she have powers?" he asked.

Just as they reached the shop, Danii drawled, "You have no idea."

On the door hung a sign with the universal symbol of the Lore, recognized by all Lorekind - except for the Forbearers. Beside it was a sticker with the word Vampires overlaid with a cross bar. Beneath that were the lines, "No shirt, no soul, no service. We use UV protection."

Advertisement..

Murdoch frowned. "UV protection? Is that a joke?"

She shook her head. "It's candlelit inside, but along the ceiling are UV lights that can be turned on with a panic button - a fail-safe vampire security system." The Valkyries had wanted a similar setup for Val Hall, but their shrieks would just have shattered the bulbs.

As unabashed as ever, Murdoch shrugged and opened the door for Danii.

"Are you sure you want to go in?"

"You said the owner of this place is a woman? Well, I have a way with women. No panic buttons will be pushed tonight."

She rolled her eyes, then entered, with him closely following.

The front of the shop was a typical tacky tourist haunt, with preserved gator heads and fake gris-gris bags made in China.

But, like many of the Loreans in the Big Easy, Danii knew there was a back room. Inside those walls was everything from demon-size condoms and non-acetone horn polish to intoxispell hangover relief and ghoul blood remover.

As expected, candles lit the darkened shop, the bulbs above unused. For now. A lazy, old-fashioned fan buzzed softly, making the candle flames dance.

"Does that UV really work?" he asked with a glance at the ceiling.

"Oh, yeah. I was going to swap out the overhead light in your Porsche with one before I left town."

"Left New Orleans? Where are you going?"

Loa sauntered out from the back room, saving Danii from answering. As usual, the sight of Loa made Danii scowl. Gifted with flawless cafe-au-lait skin and a brick-house body, she spoke with a lilting island accent that men found sexy as hell.

Would Murdoch?

Tonight she was wearing an impeccably fitted red silk dress that highlighted her every abundant curve.

Murdoch gave Loa an appreciative glance, but so far he hadn't looked like a slavering cartoon wolf in a zoot suit.

Loa was an enigma. She'd come here - to a town filled with immortals at the most tumultuous time in the Lore - as if she wanted to be first in line for the unrest and war of the Accession.

When Loa had taken over the shop for her grandmother, Loa Senior, a voodoo high priestess, she'd assumed her new role almost too well.

Danii recalled telling her at her first open house, "There's something puzzling about this island vibe you've got going. Loa Senior told me her granddaughter was raised in a ritzy suburb outside Parsippany and graduated from Notre Dame. So how'd you get the Caribbean accent?"

Loa had narrowed her bright amber eyes and answered, "Loa Senior tells tales to impress a Valkyrie." Then she'd added under her breath, "Don't try to stuff me into one of your little mental boxes. I won't fit - any more than you would."

"Well, Valkyrie," she said now, making the word sound like Vakree. "Slumming with vampires, I see. If your sisters found out..."

"They won't. Because you won't tell them if you want to stay in business."

"What are you thinking, bringing a vampire into my shop? Can you not read the signs?"

Loa's attitude rankled. Her red, curve-hugging dress rankled. "Probably not as well as you can, since I don't have a fancy college degree from Notre Dame."

Between gritted teeth, Loa said, "Damn you, I did not go to Notre Dame."

"Go Fighting Irish, rah-rah."

"I'm Murdoch Wroth, of the Forbearer order," the vampire interjected smoothly, extending his hand. Loa offered her own out of habit, then clearly thought better of it, but he'd already leaned down and kissed the back of it. "And you must be the incomparable Loa."

Could his deep voice be any sexier? It reminded Danii of how he'd sounded in bed this morning.

Loa gazed up at the vampire, looking a bit thunderstruck. "Murdoch Wroth? Aren't you one of the legendary Wroth brothers?"

"One and the same." He cast Danii a superior grin.

"If I recall, you were the wayward, bed-hopping one."

Danii thought a muscle ticked in his jaw, but he was all polished composure as he said, "Only when around women as lovely as you."

Loa actually tittered. "Well, I suppose if your eyes are clear, I could make an exception to my no-vampire rule."

"Thank you. It's a pleasure to meet such a beautiful proprietress."

I'm going to be sick. Except I don't eat.

"And I can hear that you've been blooded," Loa said. "Surely not by the ice maiden?"

"Yes, by her," he answered in a noncommittal tone.

Loa smiled. She should. Vampires simply didn't flirt like this once they'd been blooded. At least, not with anyone but their Brides.

"What a rogue this one is, ice maiden. You'll never tame him, child."

"Don't want to."

"So you won't mind if I put you two in Loa's betting book? The notorious rake blooded by the ice queen - but how long can her frozen clutches keep him from straying?"

Knowing Loa would do it regardless, Danii affected an unconcerned demeanor. "Knock yourself out." Cold as a block of ice.

"I suspect we'll soon be calling you the Forbearer's forsaken one - "

"Can we just get to what we came here for?" Danii interrupted sharply, her cold façade cracking.

"Ah, yes," Murdoch said. "Loa, have you heard any information about Ivo the Cruel?"

Loa turned to Danii. "Why ask me?"

"Ivo's in the city."