The air hummed with bass guitar and rampant lust. He'd come to the right place.
Ian MacPhie strode across the renovated warehouse, his steps falling into rhythm with the pounding drums. The Horny Devils was the best place he could think of for finding a woman. The nightclub was teeming with them. All lovely and all Vamps.
Bright red and blue laser lights zipped here and there, highlighting the ladies' scantily dressed, bouncing bodies as they danced close to the stage. They surged in time with the pounding music like a wild sea at high tide, and he was sucked toward them in a greedy undertow.
One of the red lights zoomed past him, flashing in his face and blinding him for a few seconds. A burst of panic shot through him. What if none of these ladies found him attractive? What if he'd suffered twelve days of agonizing pain to look older and...ugly?
As a Vamp he couldn't see his new face in a mirror. He'd appeared in a few digital photos at JeanLuc's wedding, or he thought he had. He hadn't recognized the strange man in the pictures. Heather had assured him he looked good, but she'd been such a happy bride, she'd thought everything was beautiful that day.
As Ian's vision readjusted, he realized his moment of panic didn't matter. None of the ladies were looking at him. They all faced the stage, their gazes riveted on the male dancer who strutted down the runway with an Indian warbonnet on his head. The war paint on his hairless chest depicted an arrow that pointed south where a bunch of strategically placed eagle feathers hid his wampum.
Ian took a deep breath and assessed the situation. True, the ladies hadn't noticed him, but he hadn't really tried to get their attention yet. These lassies were certainly in a lusty mood, so his chances were good. Time to put his new face to the test.
He eased into the crowd. Now what should he say? Jean-Luc had successfully courted Heather using charm and wit. He'd give that a try. "Good evening, ladies."
The roar of the music was so loud, only two lady Vamps heard him. They turned their heads and boldly inspected him.
"Not bad," one of them yelled at the other.
Ian gave them what he hoped was a charming smile, though it faltered a bit when he noticed the second girl was wearing black lipstick. He supposed the modern lassies considered that attractive, but it gave him flashbacks of the bubonic plague.
"Nice kilt," the black-lipped girl yelled. "Cute knees."
"Aren't you a dancer?" the first girl shouted.
"Nay. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ian Mac--"
"Oh, I thought your kilt was a costume!" The first girl laughed. "Do you seriously dress like that?" The black-lipped girl joined in on the laughter.
"We need to see more than your cute knees!"
Ian hesitated. He needed a witty, charming response. "I'm sure that could be arranged."
Unfortunately, his attempt at flirtatious banter went unnoticed. A sudden surge of high-pitched screams distracted the two girls, and they turned back to the stage. Feathers were flying, and the crowd of women bounced up and down, determined to catch a feathered souvenir.
"Begging yer pardon." Ian tried to regain the two girls' attention. "Could I buy you a drink?" "That one's mine!" The black-lipped girl shoved the other girl to the side so she could nab a feather.
Ian stepped back, dismayed at how the ladies were pushing each other. He glanced at the stage and gulped. By all the saints, the women had plucked the dancer like a chicken. These modern lassies were more aggressive than he'd realized. When it came to finding his mate, he had assumed he would do the hunting.
Ian moved back to keep from getting jostled by the frantic feather-grabbing women. Perhaps it was a matter of timing. Aye, timing was very important when hunting prey. He would sit back and wait for the right moment. Sooner or later, the dancers would have to take a break, and maybe then the ladies would be more easily impressed.
And while he waited, he'd fortify his nerves with a stiff drink. He strode toward the bar. He had it all figured out. He was searching for a girl who was honest, loyal, pretty, and intelligent. In that order. And of course she would need to be madly in love with him.
That last part was a little tricky. How did he go about making the perfect girl fall in love with him? He doubted his alleged cute knees would be enough.
The female bartender had a phone to one ear and her hand pressed to the other to muffle the loud music. "Sure, I'll keep talking. So you're from California? Land sakes, that's far away."
Two young ladies materialized beside her. They'd used the sound of the bartender's voice as a beacon to help them teleport to the right location.
"Welcome to the Horny Devils." The bartender smiled as she hung up her phone. "What would you like to drink?"
"Two Blood Lites," one of the California girls ordered. She snapped her sparkly rhinestone- covered cell phone shut, then dropped it into her shiny handbag.
The second girl pointed toward the stage. "Oh my God, he's so hot!"
The girls forgot all about their drinks as they scampered toward the stage.
Ian lifted a hand in greeting. "Good evening, ladies."
They passed him by, their gazes glued to the dancing Indian, who was down to his last two feathers.
Ian sighed. What was the world coming to when a man with honorable intentions had to compete with a male stripper? How could he impress these modern lassies? Maybe Vanda could advise him. With her purple spiky hair and spandex clothing, she'd become a very modern woman. And a very successful one since Vamps were teleporting from the West Coast to come to her club.
Ian settled on a stool at the bar and received a bright smile from the bartender. Miss Cora Lee Primrose no longer wore hoop skirts and her blonde hair in ringlets, but she still sounded like a Southern belle from the Civil War.
"Hey there," she greeted him. "How'd you like to try the latest thing in Fusion Cuisine?"
"There's something new?" He'd been away for too long.
"Yep. It's called Bleer. Synthetic blood mixed with--"
Cora Lee looked disappointed. "You've already had it?"
"Nay. Lucky guess. I'll take a glass." Ian removed a fiver from his sporran and set it on the counter while she filled a glass with amber liquid. The aroma of blood and yeast made his mouth water. By all the saints, it had been centuries since he'd tasted beer.
"Here you go." Cora Lee set the glass in front of him.
He took a long drink, then licked the reddish foam off his lips. "Excellent."
She grinned. "Glad you like it. Are you new in town?"
Bloody hell. He had thought her initial smile meant she recognized him, but she hadn't. He took another gulp of Bleer to ease the sting. Cora Lee had been in Roman's harem for fifty years, living in the same house where Ian lived and worked as a guard. Had he changed that much?
"It's me, Ian."
Her blue eyes widened. "Ian?"
"Aye. Ian MacPhie."
"You can't be Ian. He's just a young'un."
He glowered at his glass of Bleer. It was a wonder he hadn't gone crazy from being treated like a child for five centuries. "Ye used to ask me to help tighten yer corset. Ye must have thought I was too young to be eyeing the curve of yer h*ps or the way the corset pushed yer breasts--"
"Why, I never!" Cora Lee stepped back.
"Nay, no' with me, that's for certain."
She huffed. "I would never bed a child."
"I'm three hundred years older than you," he growled.
She tilted her head to study him. "I do declare, your eyes bear a remarkable resemblance to Ian's." "That could be because I am Ian."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. Who else would I be?"
She gave him a suspicious look. "It's just that...I don't recall you being so..."
"Grumpy." She sighed. "Ian was such a well-mannered and friendly boy. I was quite fond of him, really."
"Bloody hell, I dinna die. I just look twelve years older now."
"Land sakes. How did you do that?"
Ian hesitated. Roman's Stay-Awake drug was best kept a secret. "It was something I...ate. In Texas."
"Something you ate? You wanted to look older?"
"But why would you do something so awful?"
He gritted his teeth. Being trapped for centuries with a fifteen-year-old face had been a living hell. If Cora Lee couldn't figure that out, well, he didn't feel obliged to explain. "Maybe I just want to get laid."
She huffed. "And you were such a nice young boy."
"Aye." He gulped down the last of his Bleer.
Cora Lee studied him, frowning. "If you got what you wanted, then why are you so grumpy?"
"I'm no' grumpy!"
Her eyes suddenly widened. "Oh, I get it. You haven't gotten laid yet. Maybe I can help."
Bloody hell, he could do his own hunting. He noticed the music's volume had decreased. The Indian dancer had left the stage, and the female natives were restless. He needed advice quick. "Is Vanda here? I need to see her."
"Just a minute." Cora Lee rushed to a table where a lady Vamp sat, chatting with a few male customers. "Pamela! You'll never guess who that fella is over there."
Was Cora Lee trying to set him up with Lady Pamela Smythe-Worthing? No. Hell, no. The Regency-era viscount-ess from Britain had also been in Roman's harem, and she'd spent fifty years sneering down her nose at him.
Lady Pamela stood and examined him. Her frilly Regency gown was gone. She'd completely embraced the modern age with a red miniskirt and black leather camisole.
"Oh dear, look at that shabby old kilt." Lady Pamela's snooty accent was still the same. "He must be another barbarian from Scotland. Doesn't anyone from that dreadful country die a natural death anymore?"
Ian arched a brow. She had to know he could hear her.
Cora Lee grinned. "Pamela, that's Ian!"
Pamela's eyes widened. "Surely you jest. I shall be quite overset if you're toying with me."
"It is Ian," Cora Lee insisted. "He grew a bunch."
"He certainly did." Pamela's gaze raked over him. "I must say, this brings to mind a question of the utmost importance."
"You mean how did it happen?" Cora Lee guessed. "He told me it was something he--"
"No." Pamela waved a dismissive hand. "The question is"--she leaned close to Cora Lee--"is he a virgin?"
"Land sakes!" Cora Lee giggled. "He did say he wants to get laid."
"Hmm." Pamela tapped a finger against her cheek as she considered. "A five-hundred-year-old virgin. This could be interesting."
Bugger. Leave it to Lady Pamela to make him feel like a circus freak. Ian turned his back to her and strode toward Vanda's office.
"Whoa there!" Cora Lee zipped over at vampire speed and blocked the door. "Vanda gets all riled up if we interrupt her while she's busy."
"Indeed." Lady Pamela sauntered over. "Vanda is the brains behind this business." She smoothed back her long blonde hair. "We're the beauty."
"We sure are." Cora Lee fluttered her eyelashes.
"Congratulations," Ian grumbled. Did the two ladies realize they'd just admitted to being brainless? He silently raised the attribute of intelligence on his wish list from number four to number three.
Cora Lee cracked the door and peeked in. "Woohoo, Vanda! There's someone here to see you."
"It had better be a sexy new dancer," Vanda growled. "Business is down this month."
"I say, capital idea!" Pamela gave Ian a sly grin.
He strode into the office.
Vanda glanced away from her computer screen. "Nice costume. Let's see what you've got under the kilt."
"Oh goody!" Cora Lee clapped her hands together.
"Indeed." Pamela shut the door behind them.
"I'm no' exposing myself." Ian crossed his arms, frowning. "And this is no' a costume." "Oh, the girls will love that accent." Vanda stood as she looked him over. She was wearing her usual purple catsuit with a black whip around the waist. "You'll need a plaid thong to match your kilt."
"With a red tassel on the end," Cora Lee added.
"Smashing," Pamela murmured.
"Could you make the tassel twirl?" Vanda circled a forefinger in the air. What the hell? Ian stepped toward her. "Vanda--"
"Come now, we're embarrassing the poor chap." Pamela sidled up to Vanda and whispered, "We think he's a virgin."
He glared at them. "Vanda, do ye no' recognize me?"
She smirked. "Honey, if I'd met you before, you wouldn't be a virgin."
Pamela laughed. "Now which one of us will have the honor of deflowering him?"
"We could draw straws," Cora Lee suggested.
"I'm no' sleeping with any of you," Ian growled. "Vanda, it's me, Ian."
"What?" Vanda blinked, then she narrowed her eyes. "No, I don't think so."
"Bloody hell." He ran a hand through his long hair and accidentally pulled a strand loose from the tied leather strip in the back. "I thought ye might cut my hair like ye used to. And I--I need to talk."
"Ian?" Vanda walked up to him, looking at him closely. "It's really you? What happened?"