She was not what he expected.
Not that he knew what Professors or Doctors (or whatever one called someone with both PhD and MD as a suffix to their name) in molecular genetics looked like on average, if there was such a stereotype to begin with.
But he thought they might be…older.
Gray-haired with glasses and a wizened, wrinkled visage reflecting self-sacrifice (for how else would they have had the time to concentrate on their studies?) and solemnity (for what humor was there in such an analytical, methodological subject?).
For Ryu Takamura, who had been raised for the first ten years of his life in a whorehouse and abandoned thereafter at a Shinto shrine, formal education—hell—any education seemed foreign and antithetical to his own upbringing.
Perhaps this was why he always dressed and spoke with meticulous care.
To any observer, he appeared to be the immensely wealthy heir to a Japanese or Korean conglomerate, living a life of privilege and idleness with armies of servants to tend to his every need. His clothes were of the finest quality and tailored to fit his long, lean body to perfection. His wavy black hair was tousled just so, fuller on top and in the back and shaved closely on the sides to emphasize his aristocratic bone structure, all angles and points liked a laser-cut diamond.
He was so blindingly elegant, in fact, he could never have been mistaken for a real Asian heir. He represented what their alter egos might aspire to if they could ever look as resplendent as he. Rather like how K-dramas represented the ridiculously good-looking and wealthy on TV with actors who had undergone countless surgeries to mimic perfection.
If only they knew the truth. Ryu’s lips tipped at one corner in dark amusement.
He cast a surreptitious glance at the woman beside him.
She seemed determined to keep to herself and take up as little space as possible though she had plenty of it. She was—Ryu struggled to describe her—a study in contrasts.
Short. At just over five feet.
Round. At least where females were supposed to be round. She was extremely well-endowed in those areas, but relatively slim in others.
Dark velvety eyes like Bambi, full of innocence and ignorance.
Full, luscious lips like pillows, made for sin.
Ryu didn’t know whether her instant, palpable attraction to him was a good thing or a bad thing. Her body was still radiating an enormous amount of sexual tension and heat even as she tried to pretend normality and hide in her seat.
Ryu mentally shrugged. He’d deal with it later if he had to. Usually, such attraction came in handy.
And he hadn’t fed in weeks.
But for some reason, he didn’t feel like using her weakness against her. It didn’t seem fair.
He scoffed mentally. Then again, what did he care for fairness. It wasn’t as if the term had ever been liberally applied to himself.
Or applied at all, for that matter.
He closed his eyes and reclined his headrest to a more comfortable position, putting the luscious human morsel from his mind for the moment.
He had a mission to accomplish. Several actually.
First, he was following a trail the Russian mob boss left when he hightailed out of NYC after the expansion of the insidious fight club network had started stalling. The Chosen had eliminated one of the heads of the hydra recently, one of their own, in fact, but there were at least two others that they knew of still at large. Their sometime allies, the Pure Ones, had returned from their pursuit of Sergei Antonov with very few clues. But one of them pointed to the fact that Japan was Sergei’s next destination.
Second, he was to rendezvous with his ex-comrade Inanna and her Mate Gabriel within the fortnight. Being native to the land and familiar with the language, culture and history, having lived it himself over hundreds of years, he might be able to help them in their search for Inanna’s father, whose last and only proof of life was found in Japan, dating to a time Ryu was intimately familiar with.
Third, the New England vampire queen, Jade Cicada, whom he served as one of her most fearsome warriors, had gotten wind of some nasty development in which humans were experimenting with vampires, even gaining traction with some genetic engineering and splicing of human and Dark DNA together. The next step was cloning.
If they were not stopped, vampires, or some concoction of virtually immortal creatures, might soon be mass produced in test tubes.
Why anyone would want such an event was one question. What the world would look like overrun by bloodsuckers was another.
As a vampire himself who often saw the ugliest, darkest, filthiest parts of his Kind, Ryu would rather not contemplate such a possibility.
And if he had any downtime in the middle of saving the world and doing a favor for friends, why, he might just pursue his one personal vendetta that was long overdue.
He did relish multi-tasking.
The white noise of the airplane engine receded into the background as his ears adjusted to the sound, enough that he noticed the restless squirming in the seat beside him.
Ryu raised his right eyelid a fraction and saw that his erstwhile companion was struggling to get the lower portion of her seat lifted to elevate her legs. It was stuck.
“May I?” Ryu murmured, offering his aid.
But she had ear buds in and did not hear him, continuing to alternately push the seat buttons in the electronic panel by her arm and bend down to pull at the leg rest.
He reached across the narrow divider that separated their seats to get her attention just as she suddenly whipped upright and turned in his direction.
Rather than touching her shoulder as he’d intended, his fingers brushed her cheek and mouth. His palm cradled the left side of her face for a heartbeat.
But it was long enough to tilt the world on its axis.