Authors: Celeste Anwar
(c) copyright Celeste Anwar, April 2003
Cover art by Eliza Black, (c) copyright April 2003
New Concepts Publishing
4729 Humphreys Rd.
Lake Park, GA 31636
The heavy bass pounded the air of the club as lights flashed to the deafening techno beat. Glowsticks twirled in the semi-dark. Dancers twisted in sensuous movements to the throbbing tempo that suffused their limbs. The floor was thick with scantily clothed, sweaty men and women rolling on X and other erotic drugs.
Curling wisps of smoke and artificial mist hung over the crowd, clinging in the half darkness like a lover’s touch.
It was Saturday night--and it was crowded. The club, Inferno, was the most popular night spot in the city since the blue law had been lifted. For the unwary, the naive, it was sometimes the last stop they ever made.
Across from the dance floor, shielded from the flashing lights and the near ear-splitting music, tables stood for those resting from the dance--or those interested in pursuing more carnal delights.
Cloaked in shadow, Raoul Etienne followed the movements of the dancers, two fingers of scotch sitting untouched before him on the scarred, wooden table. His gaze unwavering, he fingered the rim of his glass, watching one woman in particular—the same woman he’d come to see night after night. Clara. He’d learned her name the previous night when a friend had called out to her. His ears had perked immediately to the sound of her voice, as husky and seductive as its owner. Raoul caught glimpses of her through the crowd as she danced and tossed her hair, two shades too red to be natural but mesmerizing nonetheless.
He sensed movement to his left, and Navarre Lyssandro strode forth and sat beside him without a word. Navarre scowled as he followed the line of Raoul’s gaze. Raoul ignored him, unwilling to cease his vigil for a moment. He hadn’t since he’d discovered what had happened, and still that bastard had managed to mark her a second time. He would not allow it again.
“You’ve been here all week, just watching her. How long will this continue?” Navarre asked.
Though the music drowned out Navarre’s words to other listeners, Raoul heard him just as easily as if there’d been no music at all. Raoul didn’t spare him a glance. “It is the third night. The third mark.”
“You are certain?”
“I can smell it, practically taste it on my tongue.” He paused a moment, then said, “She does not know Danior has marked her.”
Navarre sniffed the air, looking at the dance floor. Past the sweat of many bodies, the smoke, the liquor, he caught the faint scent that he had missed before. Navarre was silent a moment, contemplating the weight of this discovery. “Better you take her against her will than he?”
Raoul turned fierce eyes on his friend. “At least she would not die,” he growled, menacingly low, then remembered to whom he was talking. He forced his raging blood to calm as if thrust into an icy river. It did no good to be angry at his friend--he was only pointing out the obvious. But if Danior Blake took her again tonight, she would cross over into the un-dead, into the festering world of the vampire. Already he saw her lagging endurance. He knew not how the vampire had enticed her here, but it was moot. The damage had been done.
“You would have her as your femme entretenue? You know she could never be your mate. She is not of our kind.”
“I need no permission to keep a woman, nor do you need remind she is not louve.” Not wolf.
Navarre remained stone faced regarding him. He leaned forward, propped his elbows on the table and cocked his head toward Raoul. “I know your true motives, mon ami. I should stop you. It’s foolhardy coming to his lair to take the woman.”
“That never stopped us before.” Raoul picked up his glass and threw back its contents in one swallow.
“No, it hasn’t.”
Raoul grinned, wolfish. “You hate them as I do, as do we all.” He stood abruptly, pushing his chair back with a scraping rattle.
Navarre leaned back and stretched his arms behind his head as he watched him. “You could start a war.”
“Then let it begin.”
* * * *
It was impossible for Clara Falkner to be unaware of the strange man’s attention. At every turn, she could feel his gaze roaming her body as palpable as a caress. It was intimate. Almost ... hungry. And she enjoyed it. Never had she been a woman to garner admiring glances from a man. The chill of goosebumps made her shiver despite the cloying warmth of many bodies pressed close.
He’d been watching her for the past two days---ever since she’d arrived at Inferno with no knowledge of how she’d gotten there. It could be her memory loss and lethargy were just coincidental with the stranger’s regard, but for some reason that teased the edges of her brain, she didn’t think so. And it merely intrigued her all the more.
In the movements of the dance, she casually turned to peer through the haze to where she knew he sat, watching her. He was talking with another man she hadn’t noticed before, this one as fair as he was dark. He seemed to sense the moment her gaze alighted on him, for he looked up and caught her staring. Clara felt a shockwave jump between them as their eyes met.
She looked quickly away, breaking the contact, then glanced back when she thought it was safe. The hairs rose on the back of her neck as she saw him rise from his seat and stride purposefully across the room, allowing nothing to distract him from his goal.
Her mind immediately conjured an image of a wolf moving in for the kill.
And he was coming for her.
She knew it as surely as she knew her own mind. The scene seemed to play before her like a movie moving in slow motion. Agonizing seconds ticked by.
Her heart pounded in her chest, her blood pumping furiously through her veins, throbbing deafeningly in her ears. She knew she should run, knew she shouldn’t be so fascinated by the stranger, but she couldn’t. The dance was forgotten. Clara ceased moving at all, became deaf to the music thumping in her ears ... and ignored that warning, inner voice that had shielded her all her life. Unable to do anything, she could only watch him move toward her with the confidence of a predator claiming his quarry. The throng parted unconsciously at his approach, allowing him an unobstructed path straight toward her.
Despite his height and muscular breadth, he exuded a predatory grace that was unnerving. The black mesh shirt he wore left little to the imagination. Rather, it enhanced the bulging muscles of his chest and the rippled abdomen that tapered down to his lean, leather encased hips. A silver ring in his nipple, barely hidden by the mesh, glinted in the flashing lights. Strands of long, black hair fell across his forehead, over his broad shoulders, drawing her gaze. On another man, it might have appeared effeminate, but there was no mistaking his masculinity. And Clara had always responded to men with long hair.
Eager to study his face, which she’d been fearful of looking overlong at before, she lifted her gaze, past full, kissable lips and his straight nose, until she met his eyes and was caught. He held her like a trapped bird, hypnotized. The amber orbs almost seemed to glow with an inner fire. She was helpless to look away from him.
Inexplicably, she could feel her heart slowing its rapid tattoo, calming as he reached for her. He placed a hand behind her waist and pulled her flush against him, against the hard bulge of his erection. She was instantly aroused.
Sound returned, fear and excitement, as the music swelled and he moved with her in the dance. Clara draped her arms over his shoulders, rolling her body against him, her breasts pressing tantalizingly against his chest with each rocking movement. He cupped the cheeks of her ass, grinding his hips into her, spreading her legs. Clara gasped as he rocked his erection against her sex, clinging to him. She was blinded to anything but his eyes, boring into hers. Her short skirt rode high on her thighs, and she felt moisture creep into her sex with his rough abrasion.
The tempo quickened, and he responded by holding her closer, moving into her as if he’d take her there on the dance floor, standing in the midst of a crowd. His faint, musky scent had the allure of something wild, savage. He bent his head to her neck, rubbed his faintly whiskered jaw across her sensitive skin, and nipped her earlobe with sharp teeth. His tongue was rough against her neck, tasting her. His breath hot against her already feverish skin, she shivered from the sensations, welcoming the alien feeling. Never had she danced this way before ... or allowed a man such intimacies. It was so close to making love, she thought she’d collapse from the delicious agony his proximity aroused in her.
“Leave with me,” he whispered into her ear, rocking his hard groin against her for emphasis, leaving her in no doubt of what he was asking. She tightened her arms around him in response, weakened.
Was it a request? A command? Her senses reeled with unfamiliar lust. She was past the point of caring about anything but satisfying that ache between her legs. Clara nodded, and breathless, said, “Okay.”
He straightened from her, almost smiling. She felt suddenly chilled without his body pressed tightly to her, and wondered briefly if she’d gone insane. He took her hand before she could change her mind and led her off the dance floor toward the back exit.
No one took note of their passage or barred their departure. They were quickly outside, pushing through the outer door into a dark alley. The heavy, metal door slammed shut with finality behind them as they exited, silencing the raging cacophony of the club. In the quiet, Clara felt almost deaf from spending hours inside.
Sanity was slowly returning, despite her best efforts to keep it at bay. She shouldn’t be doing this. She wasn’t the type of person to have a one night stand, to go off alone with a strange man whose name she didn’t even know. It was insane to trust him--but she did. Unfathomable as it was, she wanted this like she’d never wanted anything before. And she wanted him.
He turned abruptly, faster than she could blink, and pushed her into a darkened doorway before she could react. He propped his arms on the door on either side of her head, blocking her outward view. She could only see his eyes, shining gold from some light beyond her line of vision. Clara froze, mesmerized, unwilling and unable to fight.
“I’ve wanted to take you since I first saw you.”
She couldn’t deny the thrill that raced through her at the husky admission. His voice was incredibly deep with a hint of an accent. Perhaps French? The low timbre made her tingle in all sorts of forbidden places. He leaned forward, his mouth mere inches from her own, teasing her when all she wanted was to taste his kiss. Her lips parted of their own accord ever so slightly. She held back, waiting to see what he’d do, eager and afraid all at once.
Closing the gap separating them, he touched his lips to hers, slanting his mouth across her lips. Clara startled as a jolt of pleasure vibrated along her nerves at the contact. He growled and cupped her jaw, forcing her mouth open as he plunged his tongue inside. Greedy, demanding, he tasted her, sweeping his tongue through her crevices with a slow, thorough glide.
She sucked his tongue with near desperation and felt when the change came over him, when need overrode everything else. He’d been holding back before, though she hadn’t realized it.
He growled low in his throat and crushed her against the door, trapping her to the feel of his body, of total domination.
Clara moaned, clutching at him, needing more. Her knees went weak, her legs became as supportive as rubber. She draped her arms over his shoulders, pulling him closer as he guided a knee between her legs.
She clamped her thighs against him, reveling in the hard feel of his leg pressed intimately against her. It wasn’t enough. She’d worry over her doubts later. Right now, she needed his cock inside her.
Clara broke the kiss and he latched on to the base of her throat, sucking at the tender flesh. He was driving her crazy, and they’d shared no more than kisses. “I want you,” she gasped, running her hands down his back to cup his tight buttocks. She dug her nails into the leather, and he grunted with pleasure.
He lifted his head, looked at her. “You are sure, chere?”
Clara nodded and tugged at his waistband. It was all the prodding he needed.
He kissed her again, nibbled her lips as he hurriedly unbuttoned her blouse. He popped the remaining buttons off as he ripped her blouse open to devour her. Trailing searing kisses, he traveled down her jaw to her collarbone, sucking at each new discovery until he reached her breasts.
Clara groaned as he pushed her bra aside and drew one breast out from its lacy covering. Frantic to feel him inside her, she didn’t want him to take his time, but when he closed his mouth around her nipple, she forgot her objections. He sucked the small bud hard, teasing her with his teeth and tongue, with heat and wetness. He was greedy, rougher than she normally allowed. She felt as though he could consume her whole and she’d never utter resistance.