An immortal and her mortal pilot are on the run from hungry vampires…and discover they’re life mates along the way.
Jet Lassiter likes being a pilot for Argeneau Inc. Perks included travelling to exotic locations and meeting interesting people, even if they are the blood-sucking kind. He’s living the good life, until his plane goes down in the mountains and four of his passengers are gravely injured. They need blood to heal… and Jet is the only source.
Quinn Peters never wanted to be immortal. Once a renowned heart surgeon, she was turned against her will and now she has to drink blood to survive. Before she can ask how her “life” can get any worse, she’s in a plane crash. One of the few survivors, Quinn is desperate to get the mortal pilot to safety before her fellow immortals succumb to their blood lust and drain Jet dry.
But hungry vampires are the least of their worries—the crash wasn’t an accident, and someone is trying to kill Quinn. Will she and Jet find their happily ever after as life mates, or will her assassin find her first?
MILE HIGH WITH A VAMPIRE, the thirty-third novel in the Argeneau series by NY Times bestselling paranormal romance author Lynsay Sands.
Mile High With a Vampire by Lynsay Sands
SERIES Argeneau | GENRE Adult Paranormal Romance
PUBLISHER Avon Books | PUBLICATION DATE September 28, 2021
KEEP READING TO SEE AN EXCERT
AND ENTER A FEW GIVEAWAYS!
MILE HIGH WITH A VAMPIRE
An Argeneau Novel
© 2021 Lynsay Sands
Quinn was torn from a deep sleep to find herself in a world of noise and chaos. Shivering, she peered around with confusion, trying to understand how it could be so cold in the middle of summer, and what was happening to cause the shrieking and screaming going on around her. It wasn’t easy to sort out at first. A bitter wind was slapping at her, taking her breath away and making her hair thrash and whip around her face, intermittently obscuring her vision. Between that and the lights blinking on and off, she caught brief images of seats and small tables around her, as well as smaller, loose items flying every which way . . . and then in a brief moment of light and no hair in her eyes, she spotted a coffee cup flying toward her head.
Quinn instinctively leaned sideways in her seat, and turned her face away to avoid the item. That’s when she spotted the women in the seats across the aisle from her own. Amazonian in size, both were screaming and clutching frantically at their armrests, their wide eyes focused on something ahead and a bit below them. The sight was enough to nudge her memory, and Quinn recalled that she was on a plane, traveling from Italy to Canada. She swiveled her head to see what the women were looking at with such horror, and her own eyes immediately widened with dismay. They were looking at a hole about a square foot in size in the side of the plane. Their altitude and that opening were the source of the cold, brutal wind swirling inside the cabin, some part of her mind realized, but it was the position of the hole that caused most of her alarm. It was above the seats along the wall, probably a smashed window, but it was below the women. Because the plane was in a near nosedive, plummeting toward the earth.
How had she missed that? The question had barely shot through her thoughts when something slammed into the side of her head. A surprised grunt of pain slid from Quinn’s lips and her hand started toward the now sore spot on her scalp, but a second blow from an unknown object made her give that up to simply bend forward, below the cover provided by the seat backs. She bent until her chest rested on her knees and she was staring at the carpeted floor, and then covered the back of her head with her hands. It was what the flight attendants always said to do during those safety run-throughs at the start of every flight, and seemed the smartest thing to do now.
Quinn had barely finished taking the position when she heard what sounded like an engine starting. It was only then that she realized the sound had been missing when she first woke up. The plane began to level off as if the pilots were fighting to get it out of its dive. She found herself holding her breath and listening to the engine with concern. It didn’t sound like it had when they’d taken off. The steady hum it had been now sounded more like a stuttering cough, she thought, and then her breath left her on a cross between a moan and a gasp when a violent shudder went through the plane. It was accompanied by a roar of ripping metal that seemed to come from all around as she was jolted painfully against her seat belt.
Gasping for breath now, Quinn looked toward the women in the seats across the aisle and blinked with confusion, followed by horror. A gaping hole had opened up along the side of the plane, and the women who had been seated across from her were gone, along with their seats and part of the floor. All that was left was a view of the world outside the plane, dark night with the darker shapes of trees whizzing past as the plane started to spin. They’d managed to level out too late and were now careening through what appeared to be a forest.
Sure they were all about to die, Quinn bowed her head and closed her eyes to pray. It was a simple prayer. “Oh God, oh God, oh God” slipped from her lips in an almost silent litany of despair and pleading, and then the plane jolted again with another accompaniment of tortured metal before coming to a shuddering halt.
Amazed to still be alive, Quinn sat up to peer around. Her gaze slid over the long rend in the side of the plane. It started where the broken window had been, went past where the two now missing women had sat, and stretched all the way to just before the back seats where the last two of her five companions on this flight were even now sitting up to look around as well. It was like some giant had reached out and peeled the wall of the plane away to look inside, she thought as she unsnapped her seat belt.
“Trees rip wing off. Take wall with it.”
Quinn blinked at that grim explanation spoken with a heavy Russian accent, and turned to the woman who had given it. Kira Sarka. The tall blonde and her much smaller bodyguard, Liliya, were already out of their seats and at her side.
“You are good, da?” Kira asked, her gaze skimming Quinn where she sat.
“Da,” Quinn murmured, and then cleared her throat and said, “Yes. Thank you. Are either of you hurt?”
They looked fine, but there had been a lot of things flying around inside the plane: the cups and glasses they’d used and other items from the little galley between the cockpit and the passenger area. She thought she’d even seen a laptop whiz past at one point.
“Nyet. We go find Nika, Marta, and Annika. You check pilots.”
Quinn frowned at the mention of the three women. Marta and Nika had been the women in the seats across the aisle from her own. Annika had been farther back in one of the two seats that had faced Kira and Liliya. Those seats were now missing too, she saw, as was the table that had been between the quartet of seats. She’d forgotten all about the third woman.
“Wait, I’ll come with you. They might be hurt and need me,” Quinn said, standing up. But she paused to grab the back of her seat to steady herself as she became aware of how shaky her legs were. It was to be expected after an incident like this, but annoying just the same.
“Nyet. Immortals need no doctors. Mortals do. See to pilots,” Kira ordered, and then was gone before she could protest further.
Not that Quinn would have protested. Kira was right. As immortals, the Russian women who had been torn out of the plane wouldn’t need assistance beyond blood if injured. But their pilots were mortal and would need her help. If they were alive, she thought with concern as she slid into what remained of the aisle and started forward through the destroyed cabin of the plane. That last shuddering jolt that had brought them to a halt must have been the plane crashing into something, and the front of the plane where the pilots sat would have taken the brunt of the impact. Quinn wasn’t at all sure of what she would find in the cockpit. While she and the other two immortals hadn’t been hurt, the air was heavy with the scent of blood. But that didn’t mean anything. The galley was awash with the thick liquid, a result of the refrigerator flying open at some point during their crash and vomiting its contents everywhere. The blood bags it had held had burst against the walls and counters as they flew around.
Grimacing as her feet squelched on the blood-soaked carpet, Quinn tried to mentally prepare herself for what was coming as she approached the door.
Pain pulled Jet from unconsciousness. Moaning at the brutal pounding in his head, he blinked his eyes open with irritation and frowned in confusion at the scene around him. He was seated upright in semidarkness with just the lit screens and a bunch of lighted buttons on the instrument panel and center console to see by. It was enough for him to recognize that he was in the cockpit of a plane.
Right, he thought a little fuzzily. Working. Flying a bunch of she-pires from Europe back to Canada.
They weren’t flying now, though, he noted. At least the hum of the engine was missing. Had they landed? Why did his head hurt? Christ, he must have fallen asleep on Miller and—
Jet’s thoughts died as he instinctively turned to look at the older man he’d agreed to copilot for on this flight. Jeff Miller was a good twenty years older than him, a damned fine man, and an excellent pilot. He had mentored Jet when he’d first started with Argeneau Enterprises more than four years ago. Jeff Miller was someone Jet respected and looked up to. He was also presently being attacked by one of the she-pires.
“Get away from him! Leave him alone!” Jet barked, grabbing the creature’s arm to jerk her away from where she was bent over his friend and coworker.
The woman straightened and swung toward him at once, and Jet gaped when he recognized her. He’d been told that they were shuttling some Russian princess type and her four bodyguards, as well as one American immortal, to Toronto, but had been doing the preflight checks when the women had boarded. Miller had been the one to greet them. Jet hadn’t realized that Quinn Peters was the American. Now his gaze slid over her pale face and petite figure.
Jet had first met the immortal on one of his first flights when he was called out to collect her, Marguerite Argeneau Notte, and Julius Notte from Albany, New York, and fly them back to Toronto. Six months later he’d flown Quinn to Italy to live with her sister and son. He hadn’t encountered her since, and looked her over now, taking in the changes time had wrought in her. They weren’t physical. The beautiful Asian woman looked much as she had the first time he’d seen her. She was still small . . . everywhere. Small nose, small pouty lips, small face with wide cheekbones. She didn’t stand more than five-foot-two, though he suspected she was closer to five feet, and she was still so slender he had the urge to take her out somewhere and feed her. Everything about her was small, except her eyes. Those were huge and a deep dark brown that was almost black, speckled with the silver flecks that gave away her status as an immortal.
The only thing that had changed about her in the four years since he’d first seen her was that her straight dark hair had grown out and now reached past her shoulders. Otherwise, she appeared much the same. At least physically. But the woman he’d met the first time had been in a bad way, her eyes bruised and caught between grief and horror as Marguerite had urged her onto the plane and seen her seated. Quinn hadn’t even seemed to be aware of where she was or who was with her. She’d appeared locked in some kind of semicatatonic state. Six months later she’d been more aware, but nearly as quiet, responding to his welcoming her aboard with haunted eyes and a polite smile that had seemed sad to him.
She was much more alert and sharp now as she turned from Miller to scowl at him for grabbing her so roughly. That expression passed quickly, though, superseded by an almost professional expression as she took him in.
“How do you feel?” she asked in a mild tone, removing his hand from her elbow and clasping his wrist as she looked into first one of his eyes and then the other. “You were unconscious when I entered. Was it hypoxia or did you hit your head when we crashed?”
Jet’s eyes widened at her use of the medical term for oxygen deficiency, but then he recalled that she was a surgeon, or had been in her previous life. Before she’d been attacked and turned into an immortal by her crazed husband after the same thing had happened to him. Jet had learned that from the other immortal passengers he’d flown around. Enforcers, the vampire version of cops, were surprisingly chatty on his flights. Part of it was because many of them considered him a friend, but he suspected another part was a natural need to unwind and work through what they’d experienced on their missions. A lot of them did that by rehashing what happened, and he was considered a trustworthy person to talk to despite being mortal himself. You didn’t fly for Argeneau Enterprises if you weren’t deemed trustworthy.
Pretty much everyone Jet flew around for Argeneau Enterprises was an immortal, which, according to the special training he’d been given when he first started flying for the company, was a more scientific breed of what was basically a vampire to his mind, although they disliked being called that. He supposed he couldn’t blame them. Vampires were dead and soulless. These people were not. They were humans who had been infected with bioengineered nanos that had been created to fight disease and repair injuries from inside the body. Unfortunately, those nanos used blood to propel themselves as well as to do their work. More blood than the human body could produce, which caused a need for taking in blood from an outside source. The nanos had altered their hosts to ensure they could get that blood, giving them increased strength, speed, and even night vision, as well as fangs to make them the perfect predator. And then, just to give them an edge in that category, the nanos had given them the ability to read and control their prey too. So . . . vampires. Just not dead ones. And fortunately, they retained whatever conscience they’d had before the turn. That being the case, most stuck to bagged blood from blood banks, rather than feeding “off the hoof” as their kind liked to call it. Those immortals who didn’t were considered rogue, and hunted by the others.
“Did you pass out from lack of oxygen or from a blow to the head?” Quinn asked, apparently assuming he hadn’t understood what hypoxia was. She was taking his pulse, and checking his eyes for signs of whatever doctors looked for in cases like this, he realized. And she’d had her fingers, not her fangs, pressed to Miller’s throat when he’d jerked her around. He’d seen that before he’d recognized her.
Jet was just about to explain that he understood what hypoxia was, and tell her that it, along with altitude awareness, were standard training for pilots when she spoke again.
“Mr.”—her gaze dropped to his name plate—“Lassiter?” she said, reading his last name. “Do you recall what happened?”
“Something hit me in the back of the head,” he muttered, his voice surprisingly raspy. “Knocked me out. I missed the landing.”
Jet glanced around as he admitted that, his gaze sliding over the darkness beyond the front windshield. It was full night outside the cabin, so there wasn’t much he could see. The dim glow cast by the instrument panel didn’t reach beyond the cockpit’s windscreen, but what it revealed inside was enough to alarm him. The windshield had shattered but remained intact on his side, leaving a spider’s web of cracks. But the glass on Miller’s side was mostly gone and the windshield frame itself had been pushed inward, as had the instrument panel and the metal around it.
Jet’s gaze followed the crushed and compressed metal to where it seemed almost to have swallowed a good portion of Jeff Miller. His legs and lower body appeared to disappear into the metal, which looked to be cutting into his chest. Jet lifted his gaze to the man’s face and then closed his eyes when he saw the gray cast to it. Miller was mortal like him, or had been. “He’s dead.”
“Yes,” Quinn said quietly, and then added, “He probably died instantly.”
Jet’s mouth tightened. He knew she was trying to comfort him, but nothing was going to do that. Miller had been a good friend. Ten minutes ago, they’d been chatting and laughing as Miller told him of his teenage daughter’s latest antics. Now he was dead and that daughter was fatherless.
“You’ve got a bump, but there’s no abrasion.”
Jet blinked at that announcement, realizing only then that she’d released his wrist and was now examining his head, her fingers moving gently through his short hair.
“I’m fine,” he growled, quickly undoing his seat belt and standing up to avoid her touch. A curse slid from his lips when the world immediately seemed to swing around him and he was forced to grab for his seat back to steady himself. Instead of his seat, he ended up latching on to Quinn’s arm.
While she stiffened, she didn’t shrug him off, but covered his hand with her own and cautioned, “Just take it slow. You’ve had a shock. You’ll be cold, clammy, light-headed, and shaky. Just take deep breaths . . . and put this on. You’re shivering.”
Jet blinked open eyes he hadn’t realized he’d closed to see that she was holding out his aviator jacket, though he wasn’t sure where she’d got it. He’d removed it earlier and set it over the back of his seat before buckling in for the flight, but he doubted it had still been there after the crash. Muttering a “Thank you,” he took the leather coat and tugged it on as he sucked in deep drafts of air. Those deep breaths caused a twinge of pain in his chest, but he continued anyway.
Jet knew all about shock. This wasn’t the first time he’d experienced it. Life had got hairy on more than one occasion while flying fighter jets for the navy. A completely different experience than his position with Argeneau Enterprises, a large umbrella corporation with several companies under it. The company was large enough that it had its own collection of planes and pilots to fly its executives and other individuals around the globe. It was a job every civilian pilot in the business dreamed of getting: well-paid and cushy with all sorts of extra perks to make up for the fact you were flying vampires around. Not that the pilots applying so eagerly for a job with Argeneau Enterprises knew that was part of the job. To the rest of the world there was no such thing as vampires, but any pilot who flew them around found out otherwise. It was information the pilots needed for their own safety, as well as that of their clients’. In case of situations like the one they were presently in, he acknowledged, and started to consider what had to be done now. He needed to call in an SOS and distribute the blood they carried to any injured immortals on board.
The thought made his mouth tighten with distaste. The whole bloodsucking business was the one part of the job Jet occasionally still struggled with. The only reason he’d been able to accept it at all was because Abigail, his best friend since childhood and more like a sister than anything else, had become one five years before. She’d been turned to save her life, but she was now a life mate for, and happily married to, an immortal who was more than a century old. Despite that, she was still the same old Abs he’d always known and loved. That had to mean something, didn’t it? So while his instinctual reaction to this business of “immortals” had been fear and repulsion based on the old horror movies about vampires that he’d grown up on—which is pretty much what immortals were no matter what they liked to call themselves—Abigail had made him decide to give them a chance. She couldn’t be a monster and be the same caring, loving woman he’d always known. At least that’s what he told himself, and while he’d mostly come to the conclusion that this was true, some small part of his brain still struggled with it a little.
“How are the rest of the passengers?” he asked after a couple more breaths, but the question was more out of politeness than any real concern. Quinn looked completely unharmed and he had no doubt the others were fine too. It seemed obvious that the cockpit had taken the worst of the damage. Besides, like herself, the other passengers were all immortal and therefore hard to kill, so he wasn’t really listening when she answered.
“We lost three of the women. Ms. Sarka and her bodyguard, Liliya, went out to look for them.”
“Good, good,” Jet muttered, and then blinked as her words sank in. Turning on her sharply, he rasped, “What do you mean we lost three of the women?”
“The side of the plane opened up and they, their seats, and part of the floor were suddenly gone,” she explained solemnly.
“What?” he gasped with disbelief, and then stumbled past her to the open door of the cockpit. He had to pass through the small galley to get to the passenger section, but could see the great gaping hole before he had. The whole right side of the plane was gone, from a couple feet into the passenger section, to just before the last pair of seats on that side. So was the wing, he saw, looking through the opening to the dark woods outside. Jet had never seen anything like it and shook his head with horror and dismay.
“Miller was just coming back from using the restroom when there was some kind of popping sound outside,” he murmured more to himself than Quinn. “We lost both engines and then the air pressure went, and with the cockpit door open all sorts of shit started flying around. I remember Jeff shouting and rushing to his seat, and then something hit me in the back of the head and . . .” He shook his head helplessly. The blow had knocked him out. Miller had been left to handle the crisis on his own.
Jet’s mouth tightened unhappily. Miller had a rep as a flying ace. It was how he’d got the job at Argeneau Enterprises. This landing proved he deserved the rep and the position. He’d got them down relatively intact. That being the case, it was damned unfair that he hadn’t survived the landing himself.
“They’re coming,” Quinn said suddenly, slipping past him and moving to the gaping darkness where the wall used to be.
Jet peered from her to the opening with confusion. He hadn’t heard anything, but wasn’t terribly surprised when two blondes, one petite like Quinn and one who could have passed for an Amazon, appeared out of the darkness and leapt up into the plane. Kira Sarka and her bodyguard, Liliya. Jet had been their pilot many times.
Kira, the larger woman, glanced from Quinn to Jet and then arched an eyebrow. “Where is Captain Miller?”
“He didn’t make it,” Quinn said quietly.
Regret and resignation crossed the woman’s face. “Is shame. He was good man. Fly me often,” she said somberly, and then shook her head and turned toward the yawning night outside the cabin. “We go.”
Quinn seemed as surprised at the announcement as Jet was, but started to follow the woman without comment. Jet was less easily led.
“Just a damned minute,” he protested, grabbing Quinn’s arm to stop her. “We need to call this in so they’ll send help.”
“We tried,” the smaller blonde, Liliya, told him. “Our cells get no signal out here.”
Jet frowned at that, but said, “Then the smartest move is to wait here where the ELT is, and there’s at least some protection from the animals and elements.”
“ELT?” Kira asked with interest.
“Emergency locator transmitter,” he explained, and then realized that probably meant nothing to her and added, “It’s an emergency alert installed in most planes. The signal will lead rescuers to us.”
“When what?” Jet asked with uncertainty.
“When will rescuers get here?”
“I don’t know,” he said with irritation. “Maybe a couple of hours, maybe tomorrow.”
“You do not have hours,” Kira assured him solemnly.
He scowled, but then suddenly narrowed his eyes and asked, “Where are the other three women? Didn’t you find them?”
“Da. We find,” Kira said, her mouth flattening grimly.
“They aren’t dead?” he asked with amazement, because that seemed the only reason the women might return without their comrades. Had they somehow been beheaded when they were ripped from the plane? Or had the engine attached to the wing of the plane that had ripped away, exploded, and burst into flame, burning them up? From what he understood, those were the only two ways to kill an immortal.
“Well, we should go get them and bring them back here,” Jet said, moving to the edge of what remained of the floor.
“Nyet,” Kira said sharply, stepping into his path.
“They are all three injured and unconscious,” Liliya said quietly. “Marta and Nika are in a tree, still strapped to their seats. Annika is on ground, but her seat is mangled, the armrests crushed around her.”
Jet winced, thinking that had to hurt, but said, “All the more reason to bring them back here and—”
“Let them tear you to pieces?” Kira interrupted with that dry suggestion.
Jet’s eyes widened incredulously. “What?”
“Their wounds are bad,” Liliya explained. “They are unconscious all of them right now, but when they wake up it will not take them long to free themselves from their seats. We need to get you far away before that to keep you safe.” When he stared at her blankly, she added, “When they wake up they will be desperate for blood.”
“We carry blood,” Jet said, turning to hurry back to the galley, but his footsteps slowed as he neared that area and he noted the open refrigerator door and the blood covering the floor and walls. It must have burst open during the crash, spilling its contents. The blood bags hadn’t survived the turbulent landing.
“It would not have been enough anyway if their injuries are as bad as I suspect.”
Jet stiffened at that calm voice from behind him and turned to find Quinn directly at his back with the Russians on her heels. None of them appeared surprised at the state of the galley. But then they’d probably noticed the problem earlier while he’d been too stunned at the missing side wall and wing to notice the thick crimson liquid he’d traipsed through to get to the passenger section of the plane.
“We go,” Kira repeated firmly. “The smell of blood will draw them here, and the only blood they will find is yours.”
“Where are we going to go?” Jet asked with concern. “We were somewhere over the Great Clay Belt in Ontario when we lost the engines. There are bears, moose, lynx, and fox out there. We—”
His words died as a long, agonized shriek cut through the night air. Jet had never heard anything like it; it was a mix of agony and madness. He actually felt goose bumps rise up on his arms and the back of his neck as the sound was echoed by another.
“They are waking,” Liliya pointed out with concern.
“Da. We go now,” Kira announced, and in the next moment Jet found himself hefted over the Amazon’s shoulder and carried off the plane.
LYNSAY SANDS is the nationally bestselling author of the Argeneau/Rogue Hunter vampire series, as well as numerous historicals and anthologies. She’s been writing since grade school and considers herself incredibly lucky to be able to make a career out of it. Her hope is that readers can get away from their everyday stress through her stories, and if there are occasional uncontrollable fits of laughter, that’s just a big bonus.