Authors: Eve Langlais
Copyright © September
2011, Eve Langlais
Cover art by Mina
Carter © September 2011
No part of this
e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means,
including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior
written permission from Amira Press.
To my hubby, he
Fear gripped her so tightly,
she couldn’t scream. Heck, she could barely breathe with that
This must be a nightmare.
What else could explain the towering,
gaunt creature that approached her with its facsimile of humanity and glowing
red eyes. Where else but from the dark depths of her fearful subconscious could
a monster with fangs and such a cruel smile exist?
“You’re not real,” she
muttered, her tone unsure and wavering in the dank air of the cement-block
cell. She turned her head, refusing to stare at the smirking monstrosity that glided
toward her with unseemly grace.
However, taking in the scene
around her didn’t do anything to reassure her already shot nerves.
Like a scene from a horror
movie, she found herself manacled to a wall, her arms stretched up over her
head, drawing her up on tiptoe and forcing her muscles to strain. Naked, the
chill air of the room rolled over her helpless body, raising bumps on her skin
and tightening her nipples in fear.
The room she hung in appeared like
a jail cell, with gray walls and a heavy door containing one small barred
window. Worse than the putrid stench, which she tasted with each inhalation, more
frightening than the sense of decay and the chokingly thick dust, but not as
frightening as the creature in the room with her, were the moans and gibbering
cries she could hear. The pitiful sounds, full of abject misery—and madness—wafted
through the partially open door, causing her to shiver.
Will I sound like that once he’s done with me?
She could delude herself all
she wanted that she would wake from this nightmare. That such a horrific
scenario could not exist. Another part of her knew better. A part of her
already screamed in her mind.
The monster halted before her, a
creature she clenched her eyes tight against as she tried so hard to pretend he
did not exist. A futile wish.
Fingers tipped with long claws
grasped her chin in a painful vise, the sharp points digging into her skin. A
whimpering cry escaped her.
“Open your eyes.” The words,
whispered across her face, clung to her skin like a tenebrous spiderweb.
“Now.” The force of his command
invaded her, touched her mind, and even though she didn’t mean them to, her
eyes opened to and fixed upon him. Then, despite herself, she could not look
Up close, she could see every
detail, from his hair gone silver with only passing streaks of ebony, to his
face creased and lined with age. But it was his eyes that frightened her most. They
shone a ruby red, inhumanly so. Evil was all she could think of. She gazed upon
His voice, when he finally
spoke, emerged low and smooth with a gravelly undertone. “Despite what you keep
telling yourself, as you can see, I’m very real. Not perhaps alive by any sense
of the human definition, but definitely a force to be reckoned with.”
“What are you?” The question
whispered from her lips, but she discovered she didn’t truly want to know.
Didn’t want to believe something like
“I am everything, king, master,
and god. Once a Lycan, now also a vampire, I am unique and more powerful than
anything this world has known.”
And certainly conceited
her hysterical mind thought. Face-to-face with a myth, she couldn’t deny his
existence, although she longed to with all her might. “What do you want with
A cruel smile tilted his lips,
and the molten glow of his eyes darkened. The red pinpoints bored into her like
lasers. “Oh, you are going to do a lot of things for me, Bailey.”
He knew her name. For some
reason this made her terror ramp up to a higher level. She tried to rationalize
that he must have gotten it from her wallet in her purse, or overheard it
somehow when he’d kidnapped her. However, the forcefulness of his stare and the
pulsing pain in her head told her that he’d acquired his knowledge from another
source, her mind, torn it from her psyche along with untold other secrets.
“Dear Lord, help me.”
A low laugh spilled from the
monster, made more chilling by its lack of actual humor. “There is no help for
“Is gone,” he interjected. “Don’t
you understand yet? I know you, dear Bailey. I’ve been watching you. Waiting
for you. You have no secrets from me. Let me see . . . orphaned only last year.
Recently single after your boyfriend took up with your best friend. Such a lonely,
desperate girl. No one left to love you. No one to notice you’re gone. What a
sad, pathetic human you are.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks at
his bleak assessment of her life. Less a life than a tale of depression.
The creature inhaled deeply.
“Ah, the sweet smell of misery. You truly do tempt me to taste your essence. To
drain every drop of your blood until you pass into oblivion.”
“So do it,” she replied, her
voice lackluster. Perhaps she could hope for a quick death and avoid the
hopelessness she heard echoing about her.
“Such a tease. If I didn’t have
other uses for you, I would. But fear not, if my plans don’t come to fruition,
then you will feed me. Perhaps, I’ll even let you live long enough that my troops
might partake of your flesh. Those brutes are ever rough with the playmates I
bring to them. Always requiring fresh pussy.”
Bailey couldn’t misunderstand
his meaning, and her lips trembled as the tears flowed unchecked down her
“Pleasant as our chat has been,
it’s now time to introduce you to your destiny. I’ve searched long and hard for
you, dear Bailey. The voices you hear all around are those who’ve come before
and failed. But you . . . you are different than those other girls. With you, I
shall succeed and thus forge ahead with my plans. I warn you, though. The
transformation from your mediocre humanity will most definitely hurt, so feel
free to scream. Actually, I insist.”
Bailey did wail, not to please
him, but because she had no choice. The liquid agony he poured into her veins
proved excruciating beyond anything she could have ever imagined.
However, her living nightmare
had only just begun.
Twenty-four hours earlier
Bailey looked around her one-bedroom
apartment and sighed. Friday night, and once again, she found herself alone.
And not just alone, but without even a television for entertainment because
hers had decided to die after a bright burst of light on the screen shrank
until only a black reflective surface stared back at her. Replacing it at eight
thirty on a Friday seemed foolish—and piteous. However, without it to numb her
mind, exactly what would she do with the rest of her evening? The thought of
reading didn’t appeal, and neither did going to bed, or staring at her wall.
I could go see a movie.
Alone? That seemed too pathetic even for her.
Just a month ago, none of this
would have required any thought. She’d have either spent the evening with her
boyfriend, Tom, or called her girlfriend Becky to go out. Not anymore, although
chances were Tom and Becky were hanging out—together. The two-timing jerks.
The discovery they’d gotten
involved and lied to her—and probably also laughed at her ignorance while
cavorting naked in her bed, on her sheets, sheets that she’d burned—still hurt.
Add to that the death of her parents in a car crash the year before, and it was
But most of all, lonely.
All she currently had to occupy
her mind and time was her work. Boring, mind-numbing employment as a call-center
operator for a furniture store. Worse, she didn’t even have an office to go to
or other employees to fraternize with or befriend. Working from home, which
used to seem such a boon, was now its own form of prison, as she didn’t get the
chance to meet people.
And that’s not going to change unless I do something about it.
She needed to stop wallowing in self-pity.
Stop waiting for life, love, and friendship to come knocking on her door—because
apparently that plan wasn’t working or destiny had lost her address. She
yearned for change, a new life, and it needed to start tonight, that very
Time to get on with living, and get back on that damned horse called
Instead of bemoaning her fate
over a gallon of ice cream—cookie dough winning top spot—she was going to get
dressed in her tightest jeans—tight more because of the pounds she’d put on than
design—her prettiest blouse, and cute little boots that she had paid too much
for. She would go for a drink, maybe two, and some dancing. She might not find
her next BFF at a bar, but damn it, at least she could get out and meet other
people, pretend she had a life.
Decided, she prepared herself,
slapping on a light coating of makeup, brushing her curly dark hair until it
crackled, and dabbing a light perfume behind her ears. All the time she
prepared, a chant ran through her head, a pep talk that would have worked
better with pom-poms:
You can do this.
People go out and make friends every day. You can do this.
Grabbing her cordless phone,
she called a cab, not foolish enough to walk around alone even at this early
time of night. As she exited her apartment, locking it behind her, she caught a
furtive movement at the end of the hall by the stairs. She took a step in that
direction, straining to see if someone hid there, ready to scream if there was.
Her paranoia had basis.
Just two weeks ago, and only a
few blocks away, a young woman was abducted and her apartment ransacked. Worse,
the cops never caught the guy. Caution had become her middle name since that
Craning on tiptoe, she stared
hard at the semi-reflective window of the stairwell, wondering if she’d finally
let paranoia take over. She saw nothing, and yet, she still took a step back,
the certainty that someone hid there increasing despite a lack of evidence.
, whispered a voice in her mind.
The ding of the elevator
distracted her from her paranoid delusions. Turning around, she saw it
disgorging the couple who lived across the hall from her. Relieved at their
timely arrival, which broke the spell of fear that had frozen her, she dashed
into the empty cubicle and stabbed the button to go down. Arriving at the
lobby, she saw the yellow cab already sitting at the curb. She clambered in.
“Where to, ma’am?” asked the
“Um . . .” For a moment her
mind went blank. Where did she want to go? The places she knew were also
frequented by Tom and Becky, a pair she definitely didn’t want to run into. “Do
you know of any bars nearby with good music and a dance floor?”
“Sure do. What do you prefer,
country, dance, or jazz?”
Jazz and its usual blues might
prove too depressing for her current state of mind. Dance music, while her
usual fave, a little too hyper still for her mood. “Country, please.” She
leaned back against the seat as the taxi sped away from the curb.
A partial smile tilted her lips
as she thought of hooking up with a cowboy. It made her think of that song that
said to ride a cowboy and save a horse. She didn’t think she was ready for
anything that intimate yet, but some good old-fashioned attraction to the
opposite sex, and some slow dancing plastered against a tall, jean-clad hunk,
would probably go a long way toward soothing her tender heart.
Arriving at the bar, which
proved a little further than expected at the town’s limits, she paid the driver
and got out. The place didn’t look like much, and seemed a little too
stereotypical with its weather-beaten wooden façade and flashing neon sign comprised
of red cowboy boots. The parking lot appeared packed with pickup trucks and
SUVs, with the occasional car thrown in, a true cowboy haven that almost made
her question her choice. However, the beat of the music, catchy and toe-tapping,
filled the air outside. Loud as it seemed out here, it would probably prove
thunderous indoors. Perfect. She wasn’t ready to socialize yet, not until she
got a drink or two in her. Despite her lone state and the corny setting, she
found herself drumming her foot to the rhythm, excitement threading through her.
Taking a deep breath, she ignored the trepidation that tried to chip away at
I can do this.
Bailey walked in. A wave of
noise, heat, and scents washed over her.
She almost ran back out.
Standing for a moment,
breathing evenly, she took in the scene of chaos. Voices battled for supremacy with
the music, which consisted of a lot of guitar and crooning. The crowd seemed
evenly split for the most part, with both sides of the sexes represented from
what looked like barely legal to wizened in the last century. And everywhere
she looked, jeans, plaid, and boots were the agreed upon dress code, the only
variation occurring in the color and newness of said clothing. She fit right in
with her ensemble.
The door behind her opened, and
she knew she couldn’t stand there like a ninny forever. Forcing her feet into
motion, she weaved her way through the crowd, making her way to the bar, not as
simple as it sounded with the press of bodies. However, she needed a boost of
A jostle from behind saw her
pushed into someone seated on a stool, a man obviously descended from boulders
considering how hard and unyielding his body proved.
Her hands flailed out to steady
her, one landing on a thickly muscled thigh, the other caught by a warm and
firm grip. Another hand, belonging to the man she’d bumped into, settled on her
waist. A tingling awareness of his touch made her suck in a breath. Raising her
eyes, she opened her mouth to say sorry, but ended up gaping instead.
Was Lady Luck or fate listening when I said I wanted to meet a handsome
Deep blue eyes framed in dark
lashes perused her, at odds with the light-colored brows and blond hair that
crowned his head. A slow, sexy smile that shot heat through her curved his sensual
lips. He leaned closer, almost enough she could have tasted him, and her tummy
tightened at the musky scent of him, a mixture of cologne and
He spoke loud enough for her to
hear him above the music. “Well, hello there, darling. Crowd’s a little rowdy
tonight for a little thing like you.” He pulled back to peer at her.
obviously not gotten a good look at her. Tongue-tied for a second, Bailey could
only nod her head as embarrassment stained her cheeks. “S-Sorry about that.
It’s kind of hard to get around in here.”
She didn’t speak as loudly as
she should have, and she doubted he could hear her over the music, but he
nodded as if he did. He leaned over until his lips hovered just over her ear,
his warm breath in the shell of it making her bite back a sigh. “That it is. Why
don’t you sit here out of harm’s way?”
Before she could protest, he’d
slid from the barstool and plucked her up effortlessly to seat her in his
place. His casual strength caught her attention. While not a really huge girl, Bailey
owned a few extra pounds on her hips, butt, boobs, and thighs, giving her a
nice cushion—she wasn’t exactly a dainty flower.
The stranger leaned into her
again, his lips this time actually brushing her ear, sending shivers down her
“What are you drinking?” he
asked before signaling the bartender.
“Oh, I couldn’t.” Mum always
told her not to accept drinks unless she wanted a man to get the impression she
intended to put out. Although, given how her heart raced, and the heat pooled
her cleft, perhaps, this was one time she could test that theory.
“I insist,” he murmured, his
voice low and caressing. Bailey swallowed and clenched her legs together as her
whole body reacted to his sensual promise.
The nameless cowboy, dressed in
a worn plaid shirt and even more broken-in jeans that hugged his lean hips,
held up two fingers. A moment later two beers landed in front of them,
condensation rolling down their brown glass sides.
“Thanks,” she muttered,
dropping her eyes.
“My pleasure. Come here often?”
“My first time actually.” She
blushed as she realized how that sounded.
A chuckle escaped him, and
brushed her skin almost like a caress. “So you live around here?”
“You meeting somebody?”
She heard the question in his
Do you have boyfriend?
smiled and shook her head. “Nope. Trying to be brave and make some friends.”
The moment she said it, she wanted to slap herself. How corny and desperate did
He, however, smiled at her, not
an ounce of pity in his gaze, but lots of sensual interest. “Well, you’ve met
one. My name’s Gavin, by the way.”
Before she could reply and give
her own name, a second body closed in on her other side. Bailey gulped because
the new stranger, glaring at her blond cowboy, appeared just as hunky. Dark-haired,
he sported a tanned complexion that proved a striking combination with his dark
eyes. Dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans, he appeared as hard and muscled as
Gavin. Sandwiched between them, Bailey fought an urge to swoon—and touch.
As if sensing her racing heart
and sweaty palms, intent black eyes belonging to the stranger swiveled to meet
hers and locked. Bailey blushed under the newcomer’s perusal and dragged her
gaze away to stare at the top of the scarred bar.
“I now see what has you
distracted,” the dark-haired hunk stated, his gravelly tone low, but loud
enough for her to hear. “But your plans for seduction will have to wait. What
we’re seeking isn’t here.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of
that,” said Gavin, tossing her a smile that heightened the color in her cheeks.
“Cute as she is,” the dark one
replied, grabbing her attention, “you’ll have to explore your interest later.
We have a job to do.”
Confused at the undercurrent
that passed between the two men, Bailey turned her head to see her blond cowboy
now sporting a grimace.
“Sorry, darling. I’m afraid my
friend here is being most adamant about reminding me I have some business to
take care of. I don’t suppose you’d give me your number so I can call you?”
Ha, like he’d call her. He must
have seen the doubt in her eyes because he smiled at her.
“I understand your caution. We
are, after all, almost strangers, but I would like to change that. Since you
just arrived at the bar, I’m hoping you’ll hang around for a bit. I shouldn’t
be gone more than an hour or two. If you stay, will you save a dance for me?”
Bailey wordlessly nodded, then
blushed furiously as he swept in close and brushed his lips against her cheek.
A scorching, yet brief contact that made her heart pump double time.
It was with bemusement that
Bailey watched her fair-haired hunk and his darker companion, who tossed her an
enigmatic look over his shoulder, stride through the crowd to the outer doors
and leave. She couldn’t help watching the door for a moment, almost wishing
they’d turn around and come right back—for her.
Foolishness, of course, but
definitely fantasy worthy. Talk about heart-stoppingly gorgeous—both of them. She
didn’t for a minute believe Gavin would remember her once he finished whatever
business called him so late, but it stroked her ego to know she’d even caught
his interest in the first place.