Authors: Karen Fuller
Courting the Darkness
World Castle Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
World Castle Publishing
Copyright © Karen Fuller 2011
Library of Congress Catalogue Number 2011928380
First Edition World Castle Publishing July 1, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.
Cover Artist: Karen Fuller
Editor: Brieanna Robertons
I would like to thank my sister, Kimberly Sturm, and my friend, Chasity Brooks, for their enthusiasm and encouragement. It was their eager pleas for the next chapter that kept me motivated to complete this book.
I would like to give a special thanks to Clarrissa Zamora, for her assistance in some of the technical issues concerning the magic.
Desiree Dupuis hastened her steps down Bourbon Street. Pushing her way through the crowd of Marti Gras revelers, icy fear danced down her spine. She turned her head, looking back over her shoulder, eyes darting over the laughing faces in the street. Costumed revelers danced before her in a nightmarish menagerie, drinking merrily, looking past her frightened expression with a blind eye. Her heart sank. She was alone in a crowd of uncaring people, which, in itself, was nothing new, but at this point, she needed a safe place to hide. Someone or something unnatural was after her. She felt it in the pit of her stomach. Having lived in New Orleans for the last 125 years, she had developed street-smart instincts, which had thus far kept her alive. She had not managed to live that long by taking foolish chances.
Ducking into the first shop she came to, she pressed herself up against the wall to hide from the people on the street. Heart racing madly in her chest, her body involuntarily quaked in fear, allowing the panic to engulf her. Her eyes remained glued to the door, expecting it to spring open any second.
What if he followed me into this shop? Would I even know before it was too late?
To her surprise, the shop door remained closed. She tore her gaze away from the door to dart frantically around the room, searching for danger, catching the curious stare of the shopkeeper. The man was relatively slight in stature, not affording much protection. She nodded, giving him an uneasy smile, looking away, not wanting to draw any further attention to herself.
The shop was small, not leaving too many places to hide. She rubbed her face with trembling hands, unable to shake that uneasy feeling that she was missing something. She frantically searched the room again. “Girl, you need to get a grip.”
Closing her eyes, she willed herself to calm down. Slowly, her heartbeat returned to normal. Opening her eyes, she inched up toward the plate glass window, gripping the sill, peering into the packed street, studying the crowd in frustration; with so many people on the street, it was impossible to tell if someone had followed her or not. She turned her back to the window, suddenly feeling foolish. “Stop being a coward,” she whispered under her breath. “There’s no one following you.”
Squaring her shoulders, she pulled her coat tighter. “Here goes nothing.” Opening the shop door, standing briefly in the doorway, she held her breath and visibly tensed, expecting someone to jump in and grab her. Nothing leapt out at her from the shadows; there was no boogeyman waiting for her. She allowed her body to relax and laughed at her own foolishness, stepping out onto the crowded sidewalk.
“Did you think you could hide from me, witch?” She felt a sudden jerk from behind her as her foe grabbed her by the back of her jacket. Her mouth gaped in a silent scream. She froze in mid-step, cold chills racing down her spine. Whipping her head around, her eyes locked with amazing blue ones. He smiled menacingly, fangs glistening from the lights of the building. “Did you forget that you are late for your appointment with Drake? He’s not as patient as I am.”
Her eyes rounded with the realization that a huge vampire held her captive in his iron grasp. Now she knew what chased her from the shadows. That gave her no comfort. Knowing about the existence of vampires was one thing, but meeting one this way was an entirely different matter. Catching her breath, her gaze dropped from his eyes to the sharp fangs. Those teeth could easily end her so far immortal existence. Tearing her eyes away, she whipped her head back around to the street, searching for anyone to help. Her gaze darted frantically into a sea of faceless strangers, leaving her with the realization again that she was alone in a crowd.
As the oldest and most powerful witch in her coven, she was not defenseless. However, she knew her powers had very little effect on vampires. Also, her lack of confidence in herself didn’t help much. She could conjure an illusion to trick one into thinking that she could destroy them. She could also conjure a powerful energy ball that would kill an ordinary human, but a vampire wouldn’t be fazed much. Their undead immortality only left them truly vulnerable to a few things: beheading, a wooden stake to the heart, fire, and, of course, the sunlight. She prayed that this one was unaware of her limitations. Squaring her shoulders, she turned to face her captor. “I don’t answer to a vampire.” Only a trained ear would detect the falter in her voice. “Go back and tell your master that he’s not my boss.”
For over a hundred years, Sean Devereux had loyally served as Drake Bouvier’s bodyguard. Drake’s orders to him that evening were quite clear. “Bring in the witch.” So, that was exactly what he intended to do. Tightening his grip on her jacket, he narrowed his eyes. “Those are bravely spoken words for a slip of a girl like you, even if you are a witch.” A slow smile played across his lips, exposing his fangs once again for intimidation. “You will come quietly—or not. Either way, you’re keeping your appointment.”
Looking away, Desiree’s mind raced for excuses to give her assailant. She had no idea what Drake could possibly want with her, but she was smart enough to know that once in his clutches, he would force her into his personal service as his witch to do as he commanded, resulting in her losing all of her freedom. That scenario did not set well with her at all. “Please let me go.” She turned, facing her captor again. “Tell Drake you couldn’t find me. Or, uh, tell him I left the city.” His unwavering glare silently answered her plea, frustrating her further. Rolling her eyes, she threw out both hands. “Oh, I don’t care what you tell him as long as he quits looking for me.”
Lifting an eyebrow, he shook his head callously at her attempt at reason. Releasing his hold on her jacket, he alternately placed her arm in his steely grip. “Sorry, child, no can do. Drake has commanded your presence, and I am under orders to bring you in. You can come willingly or I can throw you over my shoulder and carry you. It’s your choice.” He shrugged, uncaring, either option suiting him.
She glared, raking her eyes over him, assessing for possible weaknesses. He was a gorgeous blond vampire, about six-foot, dressed in black leather pants and jacket. His black T-shirt stretched tautly across his muscled chest. She found none.
Under normal circumstances, she would drool over him, but only from afar. Her track record with mortal men was not too great. Once her Wiccan status was established, most men hightailed it in another direction in fear. She had learned over the years to avoid showing her interest, which in turn, saved her a lot of heartache, but it left her with a very lonely existence.
The thought crossed her mind to try flirting with him as a method of distraction, but the cold, uncaring gleam in his eyes showed her how unyielding he could be. Usually a good judge of character, she assessed that further attempts at protest would be futile. Nodding in resignation, she allowed him to lead her back up the street toward the docks.
He pulled her behind him, forcing her to keep up with his long strides. Stumbling unexpectedly, his grip kept her from falling, and to her surprise, he slowed his pace for her to keep up. “Thank you,” she mumbled reluctantly. He did not even glance her way or acknowledge her comment.
A lone immortal witch was a prime target for witch hunters or those who coveted her magical abilities. She lived in forced seclusion, being very careful to remain anonymous in order to keep her freedom.
Somehow, word leaked out to Drake Bouvier, the vampire king, exactly how old she really was. She didn’t look a day over twenty-five. She was actually a hundred and twenty-five. A hundred years prior, she had been experimenting with her witchcraft, and had conjured a spell that backfired, resulting in her immortality. That backfired spell left her feeling insecure about her abilities. That same insecurity is what hampered her now.
Several times over the years, she had tried to reverse the spell, but to her dismay, remained unsuccessful, inadvertently cursing herself. Watching her loved ones die over the years, without aging a day herself, was painful. All her loved ones were long dead, leaving her sad and alone.
Her mind raced, worrying over what Drake might want from her. It figured the one failed spell she cast could further curse her into servitude for eternity. Since Drake was already immortal, she was not sure why he wanted her services, but she was smart enough to know that he might never let her leave once he actually had her. A powerful, immortal witch would be a coveted commodity for someone in power.