Hello! I am slammed on deadline (as usual) but I wanted to come up for air to share this exciting sale with you! PUMPED is a #FREE download for a limited time. Please share with your romance loving friends and I hope you’re having a great summer.
The Official Dead in the City Cocktail Contest
To celebrate the recent release of my latest Dead in the City title, VAMPIRE TROUBLE, Sourcebooks is holding a contest to create the official Dead in the City series cocktail!
Before Monday, July 28th they’re asking readers to submit their unique cocktail recipe to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com for a chance to have their creation named the official Dead in the City cocktail and have it featured in my next Dead in the City title, VAMPIRES NEVER CRY WOLF (March 2015). I will be announcing the winner in a video where I make the drink!
Additionally, everyone who sends in their recipe will also be entered in a random drawing to win a Dead in the City themed prize pack including martini glasses, drink supplies, and other sweet treats!
For the record…I enjoy vodka
No book release month would be complete without a blog hop around the internet! Below are my blog hop dates and locations. Be sure to pop by because my publisher is giving away copies of my books at every stop!
Night Owl Reviews
You Gotta Read
Ramblings from this Chick
The Book Nympho
Casa Authors Blog
Manga Maniac Café
Long and Short Reviews
The Reading Café
Romancing the Dark Side
Reading Between the Wines
The Book Nympho: Stomp vs. Romp
Book 2: Dead in the City
The second installment of the Dead in the City series and those of you who read TALL, DARK, AND VAMPIRE can probably guess that based on the title…this is Maya’s love story. Maya is a pain in the ass but she’s one of my favorite vamps in the coven. I’ll admit she’s a troublemaker but in VAMPIRE TROUBLE you’ll find out why Maya is so unsettled.
Shane Quesada, a four-century old vampire sentry, is known for cold, unemotional precision when hunting rogue vampires.
Maya Robertson is a youngling vampire who will not be controlled—and to prove it, she rejects Shane’s protection—only to find herself in over her head with an alpha werewolf.
Soon, a war between the coven and the werewolf clan ignites, and Maya and Shane flee to Louisiana, where their passion for each other grows—as does Maya’s power. When she finds herself at the center of the conflict, will she finally trust Shane with her life—and her heart?
“[A] powerful love story that proves that while our past is inescapable, it is the core of our strength.” – Sarah MacLean for The Washington Post
“Humphreys is undoubtedly a rising star in the genre… The sparks that fly between the leading couple are totally irresistible, and the tension that unfolds between the vampires and the werewolves will have readers on the edge of their seats!” – RT Book Reviews
Remember to send your proof of purchase to email@example.com to get your #FREE #NYCVAMPS #GIFT
Romance Panel featuring: Megan Hart Flying; Sara Humphreys Vampire Trouble; Geri Krotow Navy Rescue
Monday, June 30th 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is FREE!
If you’re in the Philadelphia area tonight, please join us! We’ll be chatting about all things romance and our latest releases!
Here’s a bit about my co-panelists…
Megan Hart is the author of more than 30 novels, novellas, and short stories in many genres of romantic fiction, including historical, contemporary, romantic suspense, romantic comedy, futuristic, fantasy, and erotic. Her books include Tear You Apart, The Favor, Precious and Fragile Things, Deeper, Naked, and Dirty. In Flying, a woman travels to a new city every other week in search of no-strings-attached romance and an escape from difficult memories at home.
Recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Romantic Suspense, Geri Krotow is the author of six contemporary and historical romance novels inspired by her former career as a Naval Intelligence Officer. Her 2007 debut, A Rendezvous to Remember won the Yellow Rose of Texas Award for Excellence. Her new book, Navy Rescue is a suspenseful story of attraction, trust, and following orders.http://gerikrotow.com
Books will be available for purchase and we will be available to sign books after the event!
See you there!
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember and food has controlled me in one way or another. I weighed my heaviest in high school and clocked in over 200 pounds but my senior year I got active and lost a lot of it. I was able to maintain a healthy weight after the birth of my first two children. However, after my twins arrived (boys 3 and 4)…my weight got out of control again.
I thought that was where my body was “meant” to be and try as I might I couldn’t lose the weight for more than a few weeks. It would always creep back up.
A couple of years ago, I reached a personal and professional milestone and quit my day job to write full-time. It’s been a dream come true to do what I love for a living but as with most things there is a downside. Sitting at a computer 6-8 hours a day 5 or more days a week is not good for the waistline.
While attending a reader convention in Florida this year in early February, I saw pictures of myself that people were posting and I could no longer deny it. I’d let my weight get out of control. It wasn’t the lighting or the angle…I’d gotten fat again and I felt disgusting. While in my hotel room crying about the state I’d gotten myself into, I saw a commercial for Nutrisystem. I knew that’s what I needed to help me take control. I picked up the phone and ordered it that day. Nutirsystem was a wonderful program to help me get my eating habits under control.
While chatting with my college roommate about our weight struggles, she said something that struck me to my core. “Food is the good girl’s drug.”
She was right. Food was my drug of choice. I used it to numb uncomfortable feelings for my entire life and I knew it had to stop. However, I also knew that diet alone wouldn’t get me to where I wanted to be. I needed to get moving. I’d seen the infomercial for T25–clearly those work on me–and I ordered it. 25 minutes a day? Now that I could commit to.
I put in my goal of losing 30 pounds–to get back to my pre-baby/wedding weight. To be honest, I really didn’t think I would be able to do it. I thought, well…I’m 44…I’ve had 4 boys…this may just be where I’m supposed to be.
NOPE! I not only hit my 30 pound weight loss goal but surpassed it and thanks to my 6 day a week workout schedule I wear a smaller size now at 44 than I did at 24!
So far I’ve lost 32 pounds and 33″ and I went from busting out of a size 12 to wearing a 6 or an 8!
I feel incredible!!! My energy is great. My blood pressure, which had gotten high, is back in the healthy range. My skin looks better. I look and feel younger. For the first time in 40+ years I will be wearing a bikini at the pool and beach this summer!!!! Now THAT is a huge personal milestone and I still can’t quite believe I can do it.
I wish I could bottle how I feel and give it to everyone I love. In that spirit, I signed up as a Beachbody coach. We’ve got a T25 Challenge Group started on Facebook and we’re kicking off on Monday, July 7th after the big holiday weekend.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to make a change? Do you want to take control of your life, body, and health? Then join us!!! If you can commit to 25 minutes a day and healthy eating at least 85% of the time–you WILL get the results you want! Take it from this 44 year old mother of 4 boys….It’s never too late to take control and get the body you want!!!
With the release of VAMPIRE TROUBLE just 2 weeks away, we thought it would be fun to give you a taste of Shane and Maya’s story. In the spirit of sharing, Sourcebooks got some of our blogger peeps to join us on a pre-pub excerpt tour leading up to the release date!
The schedule below is our excerpt tour for Chapter 3 and at each stop you’ll get a bit more of VAMPIRE TROUBLE.
16-Jun Urban Reader #1
17-Jun Fiction Vixen #2
18-Jun Under the Covers #3
19-Jun Romancing the Dark Side #4
20-Jun Manga Maniac Café #5
23-Jun Literary Escapism #6
24-Jun Talk Supe #7
25-Jun Ramblings From This Chick #8
26-Jun The Book Nympho #9
27-Jun Bumbles and Fairy tales #10
Tune in tomorrow at the next stop for more of Shane and Maya’s story…
Order Your Copy Today!
Remember to send your proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org to get your #FREE #NYCVamps #GIFT
Before Maya could answer him, Olivia’s all-too familiar voice interrupted their conversation.
“I’m glad to see you sent that kid on his way.” Olivia let out a weary sigh and sat on the barstool to Shane’s right. Her bright green eyes studied Maya carefully. While rubbing her swollen belly she said, “I’m impressed you showed such restraint, that one was right up your alley.”
Maya said nothing. Shrugging, she cast a glance at Shane who was giving her a smug, satisfied look. It made Maya want to punch him square in the nose. The house lights flicked on brightly, bringing Shane’s arrogant grin into full view and when the music shut off, his voice seemed to fill the entire club.
“Yes.” Shane pushed his hands off the bar and folded his arms over his chest. “Impressive, indeed.”
“Seriously, Maya.” Olivia ran one hand through her long red curls and smiled. “You’ve come a long way in the last few months. Listen, I know I’ve been kind of bitchy and cranky but this pregnancy has me all screwed up. Do you know I actually ate food the other day? Actual human food. I made Doug go out in the middle of the afternoon to get me a hot dog.”
“A hot dog?” Shane asked with more than a little disgust. “I won’t even eat the hot dog vendor because of the stench.”
“I didn’t realize you were such a snob,” Maya teased.
“I prefer to think that I have high standards,” Shane responded with a lopsided grin.
“Sounds snobby to me.” Trixie hoisted herself up onto the bar and sat behind Olivia. “Doug was probably just happy to have an excuse to go out in the sun.” Trixie cracked her knuckles and stretched her arms over her pink-haired head. “Damn. I’m not much for monogamy but if I have a Bloodmate out there, he better get his ass to New York quick. I’d love to feel the sun on my skin again– but I could do without getting knocked up and eating hotdogs. Gross.”
“Yeah.” Olivia made a face. “Don’t ask me why or how but I ate the whole thing and the worst part is that I freaking loved it or the baby did. Anyway,” she said on a sigh, “I’m sorry if I’ve been tough on everyone but you know how important it is that we leave the customers alone. It’s in the best interest of the coven. My weirdo pregnancy is drawing enough attention from the supernaturals.” She rolled her eyes and let out a short laugh. “This is the pregnancy heard round the world and apparently it’s high on the list of things to discuss at this year’s summit in Geneva.”
“Why do they even have that stupid meeting every year?” Trixie snorted. “Were, Amoveo, and Vamp stuffed shirts all in one place? Sounds like a fuckin’ bore”
“And the Fae, the Brotherhood and the witches,” Olivia added. “Don’t forget them.”
“They gather to share information and keep the lines of communication open.” Shane’s voice cut through the room. “It started centuries ago. The first summit was the catalyst for the truce between our race and the werewolves..”
“Truce or no truce, I still don’t trust the wolves.” Olivia’s tone grew serious. “”I think it’s ridiculous that a pregnant vampire warrants attention from the world’s supernatural leaders.” Olivia shrugged. “Whatever.”
“Why are they even going to discuss it?” Maya’s brow knit together with concern. Olivia may be bossy and a killjoy but she was also Maya’s maker and her friend. No matter what rules she made Maya follow, she’d love Olivia like a mother for her entire existence. “What are they worried about?”
“Human politicians aren’t the only ones who waste time and money.” Olivia’s words were laced with exasperation. “The other supernaturals probably want reassurance from the Emperor to assure he’s not plotting some kind of master vampire race or something.”
“Will they all be in attendance?” Shane asked casually. Maya noticed the way his body seemed wound tight and ready for action at all times. “I assume the Emperor has a sentry attending with him?”
“Yes and Yes. King Heinrich of the wolves, Prince Richard Muldavi of the Amoveo, Zemi the Fae Queen and Willow from the Witches Council. I heard the Brotherhood is being represented by Asmodeus. Anyway, thanks again, Maya, for sending that guy on his way. I like to avoid trouble with humans on a regular day and especially during the stupid summit week.”
“Actually, I didn’t send him away.” Maya tossed the rag into the sink without taking her eyes off Shane. She jutted her chin toward him and leaned back against the register. “He did.”
“Really?” Olivia’s red brows flew up and she looked from Shane to Maya. Running one hand over her rounded belly, she said, “Then I should be thanking Shane while I remind you of the rules.”
“Maybe I’m sick of the rules,” Maya snapped, frustration crawling up her back. Olivia said nothing but arched one eyebrow in response. “Maybe I’m tired of living and working under a damn microscope all the time with every vampire in Manhattan trying to control me and tell me what to do.”
“No one is trying to control you, Maya.” Olivia’s tone softened and she looked at Maya with something akin to pity, which only made it worse. Nobody else knew the extent of the attack Maya suffered like Olivia did and whenever she gave Maya that look, it made her feel pathetic. “This is not just about you, Maya, and you know it. Everyone has had to adjust to the new rules and really it’s only one new rule. No feeding on customers in the club. We live in a big city, Maya, with millions of able-bodied people. Why are you fighting me on this?”
“I’m tired of everyone butting into my life. Maybe I just want to be able to go to work without feeling like my every move is being watched.”
“What are you saying?” Olivia asked with genuine curiosity. “I thought you liked working at The Coven.”
“I do—I mean I did–but it’s just too much, Olivia.” Maya kept her attention on Olivia but could feel the weight of everyone else’s stares. Even Damien had come in from his position bouncing at the door and now stood by Shane. “All of us working together all night and living right next door in the apartments downstairs. Besides with everything going on, I thought you’d be happy to be rid of me for a while.”
“You’re one to complain,” Trixie interjected. “If I have to listen to one more Celine Dion song, I might scream. That shit seeps through the apartment walls and makes me crazy but you don’t hear me complaining.”
“Trixie.” Olivia held up one hand but kept her concerned expression on Maya. “Let her finish.”
Maya straightened her back, finally voicing the frustration she’d been feeling over the past few months.
“I mean it’s different for you and Doug, Olivia. You guys are mates and have your own place at the Presidium’s offices but….I don’t know…living and working together….it’s too much. I feel like I’m suffocating and the walls are closing in on me.”
Before Maya could respond, an unfamiliar voice boomed through the club.
“This isn’t the only joint in town, kid.”
Irritation flickered over Shane’s face at the sound of Rat’s voice slithering into the club. Maya didn’t have to look at Olivia to know how displeased she was by the vampire’s arrival.
“Hello, Rat,” Olivia said wearily.
“Dude, your timing sucks,” Trixie laughed.
“To what do we owe the pleasure?” Shane murmured, turning slightly to his left and peering down at their unwelcome visitor.
Rat was short and bald with a wiry build and while he was stronger than any human, he was no match for Shane. The guy owned a strip club in the city that catered to both humans and vampires but everyone knew it was a cover for a prostitution ring. Maya gave Rat a quick smile and fiddled with the emerald in her necklace. She didn’t miss the look of disapproval from Shane but of course, that only encouraged her. Maya knew Rat found her attractive, and even though she wasn’t interested, if flirting with him would annoy Shane, then she was all for it.
“Don’t you have your own club to tend to?” Shane said tightly.
“Nice to see you too, Quesada.” Rat sat on a bar stool to Shane’s left and winked at Maya and when he grinned, his two gold front teeth glinted at her. His bald head gleamed like a light bulb and the tattoo of a viper slithered out from beneath his collar, around his neck and up the back of his skull. “You’re a barrel of laughs, Quesada. I’m starvin’. You got anything back there for your non-human clientele, blondie.”
Shane interjected before Maya could respond.
“Her name is Maya,” Shane said evenly, slicing a glance toward Maya. “You would do well to speak to her like a lady.”
A lady? Yeah, right. Maya almost scoffed out loud. She nestled the necklace in her cleavage before plastering on a big smile.
“Don’t you pay any attention to him, Rat. You can call me whatever you like. Shane might be the sentry of the city but he’s not my maker, my daddy or my husband.” Maya smiled broadly at Rat, reached beneath the bar and pulled out a bottle of blood. It was common practice for all vampire establishments to keep blood on hand, just in case. Leaning both elbows on the bar, she wiggled the bottle at Rat and if she didn’t know better, she’d swear she heard a growl coming from Shane. “Shall I heat it up for you?”
“No that’s okay, Maya,” Rat said dramatically as he took the bottle from her. “Room temp is just fine.”
Shane watched Rat remove the cap and drink the blood down greedily while keeping his beady eyes on Maya, or more specifically, her cleavage. Shane pulled out a stool and sat between Rat and Olivia and directly in front of Maya.
“I may not be Maya’s maker but I am in charge of keeping order in this city among our kind. “ Folding his hands on the bar, he didn’t miss the face Maya before pushing herself away from the counter. Shane smirked and flicked his attention back to Rat. “State your business or be on your way because as you can see, the club is closed and I’m sure Damien and the ladies have things they need to be doing.”
“I came by to see the Czar, not you, so how about if you go fuck yourself. As far as the ladies are concerned,” he said with a wink to Maya, “I have plenty of things they can do.”
“Not with you,” Trixie cringed.
“Oh please,” Olivia sighed.
In a blink, Shane grabbed Rat by the neck, stood from his seat and held him in mid-air like a rag doll. The smaller, younger vampire flailed his legs uselessly, bared his fangs and clawed at Shane’s hand but it was no use. Standing away from the bar, Shane continued to dangle Rat a foot off the ground with absolute ease. Maya didn’t realize she was backing away until her butt hit the register. Trixie hopped off the bar and linked her arm through Maya’s in a reassuring gesture.
That is one bad-ass vampire. Trixie’s voice, laced with awe and admiration, flickered into Maya’s mind.
More like bossy. Maya shot back.
And sexy. Trixie bumped her hip into Maya’s playfully. Damn, girl. Can’t forget sexy. I’d give my left fang to take a tumble with him but if you ask me he’s got it bad for you.
No way. Maya didn’t want to admit that she thought Shane was sexy. She locked eyes with Shane and her stomach flip-flopped, reminding her, briefly, of what it was like to be human.
His lips lifted at the corners briefly before he looked back at Rat.
“You try my patience.” Shane’s tone, low and deadly filled the club, which had fallen silent. Sadie, the club’s DJ and Olivia’s oldest coven member, flew down from the DJ platform and stood in a protective position next to Olivia. “As you can see, the rest of Maya’s coven is not in the mood for you and your misogynistic attitude either.”
“Misogynistic?” Sadie folded her arms over her breasts, nodding her approval. “I’m impressed. You’re full of surprises, Shane.”
“No surprise how bossy he is,” Maya muttered.
Shane slanted a doubtful look in Maya’s direction before turning his attention back to Rat. “Olivia is the Czar of this district and when you are in my presence you will treat her and every other woman you encounter with respect.” He put Rat back on his feet, yanked him close and growled in his ear. “Or you will deal with me.”
“Let him go, Quesada,” Olivia said evenly. “We’ll give him three minutes to say what he came to say and then he’ll be leaving. Won’t you, Rat?”
Maya did her best to stop staring at Shane but it was an effort in futility. In spite of his annoyingly over-bearing nature, he was magnetic, powerful and frightening all at once. Maya’s fingers drifted to the necklace again as she studied him. It was no secret that Rat was a troublemaker and would probably stab Olivia in the back in a hot minute, so she couldn’t really blame Shane for his reaction.
“Yes,” Rat gurgled and his eyes bugged out.
“Speak.” Shane released him but stood ready to take further action. He glanced briefly at Maya. “And choose your words carefully.”
“Thanks.” Rat rubbed at his neck absently and took a step backward, increasing the distance between himself and Shane but he backed right into Damien, the club’s bouncer. Rat almost jumped out of his skin. “Shit, your coven just seems to come out of the fuckin’ woodwork, Olivia.”
“Two minutes and thirty seconds,” Shane murmured.
“Alright, alright.” Rat held his hands up. “I just wanted to let the czars know that we’ve got some special visitors coming into the city and given Olivia’s condition, I thought she’d want a heads up.”
“What visitors?” Olivia asked quietly.
“Werewolves.” A smile slithered over his face. A collective groan rose from the group. Wolves and vampires had battled each other since the beginning of time and even though a treaty was in place, the tension still ran thick beneath the surface. There were a few lone wolves who lived in the city but not an entire pack. “Not just any wolves. It’s the prince and his little pack of bachelors.”
“Royalty?” Maya asked with genuine curiosity. She’d never met a werewolf before, let alone a royal. “That’s exciting.”
“That is not the word I would choose,” Shane murmured.
“What a shocker.” Maya rolled her eyes.
Shut-up. Trixie elbowed Maya. Can’t you tell how freaked out Olivia is?
Maya looked at her maker and guilt tugged at her. Trixie was right. Olivia seemed unsettledby Rat’s announcement.
“Shit,” Olivia groused. “King Heinrich’s son? I am in no mood to placate an over privileged little werewolf punk. Damn it. I’m sure that Emperor Zhao is going to be annoyed,” Olivia said, referencing the leader of all vampires.
“Do you think it has to do with your pregnancy?” Sadie asked with concern. Sadie was the first vampire Olivia had turned and her dearest friend. She tucked a long strand of brown hair behind her ear and wrapped an arm over Olivia’s shoulder. “A pack comes to town right before you give birth? That’s just too much of a coincidence for me.”
“Do you think they’re coming here looking for a fight?” Trixie asked. “Or maybe they’re on some kind of recon mission?”
“I suppose it’s possible but I doubt it. King Heinrich has always been forthcoming in the past which is why I’m surprised he didn’t mention this visit to the Emperor. I’ve always gotten a heads up from the Presidium’s main office in Hong Kong before a visit like this. Hell, even the lone wolves or couples who visit here notify us before they arrive, let alone an entire pack.”
“And they’re coming into the city while we are down a sentry,” Shane said. “Pete is not scheduled to return from paternity leave for another month. This sounds more unappealing by the second.”
Shane was referring to Pete Castro, a vampire sentry whose mate, an Amoveo shapeshifter, had delivered twins about six months ago. Olivia had granted him time off to be with Marianna and the babies but it seemed really weird to hear this centuries old vampire say the words paternity leave.
“You and Paxton sure have modernized your little corner of the vampire world,” Rat said with thinly veiled disgust. “What’s next? Sun insurance?”
It was glaringly apparent to Maya that it wasn’t just other supernaturals who were irked by Olivia’s pregnancy but other vampires too. Bloodmates created daywalking vampires and based on Olivia’s pregnancy, they could possibly create daywalking offspring. If more vampires found their Bloodmates, then what would that mean for the good, old-fashioned burst into flames in the sunlight vampires?
“When are they arriving and how long are they staying?” Olivia asked.
“They get here tomorrow night and are planning on staying for a week. I heard they’re staying in the Presidential Suite at The Plaza.”
A look of concentration settled over Olivia, one that Maya recognized. She could tell Olivia was telepathing with Doug, the other czar and her mate. Her green eyes refocused and flicked back to Rat.
“How did you come across this little tidbit of information, Rat? King Heinrich should have been the one to alert us to his son’s visit.”
“Viola, one of my familiars,” Rat said, referring to the handful of humans who know about the vampire’s existence. “She hooked up with one of the prince’s flunkies when she was back home in Alaska visiting her Mom. Anyway, all of my familiars are loyal to me.” Rat smirked and Maya didn’t miss the look of annoyance on Olivia’s face. Having too many humans involved in vampire business always made her uncomfortable. “Viola came in to work tonight blathering on about how her new werewolf boyfriend was coming to the city for a visit. She’s a bit of a star-fucker and is moony eyed that she’s banging a guy directly connected to royalty. The King is at the fuckin’ summit or something , so I’m getting the feeling that the kid didn’t ask daddy’s permission. Otherwise, I’m sure you would have known about this before me.”
“I don’t blame Olivia for being concerned. Our truce with the wolves has been solid for the past two centuries but it was King Heinrich’s great-grandfather who signed the treaty on behalf of the wolves—not him. You also said it’s a pack of bachelor wolves which makes them even more dangerous.” Sadie’s expression grew dark and her voice wavered. “They’re even more vicious when they’re unmated.”
“Wolves can not be trusted,” Shane said quietly. “We should take every precaution.”
“Which son is it?” Olivia’s brow knit together. “If memory serves, he has a couple.”
“No clue.” Rat shrugged. “I told you everything I know.”
Yeah, right. Trixie’s sharp tone touched Maya’s mind. This guy is such a dirtbag.
He did come and warn Olivia. Maya responded. He didn’t have to do that.
“Thank you, Rat.” Olivia smiled tightly. “However, next time you have a message for Doug and me—for the Czars—I suggest you follow the proper channels and get an appointment at the Presidium. As you, and the rest of the community know, Suzie, one of my coven members is now the Presidium’s secretary. No more Presidium business at my nightclub.” Her green eyes glittered and she bared her fangs. “Got it?”
“Sure.” Rat shrugged. “Whatever you say.”
A breeze whisked through the room and a second later, Doug was standing behind Olivia and glaring at Rat. “That didn’t sound very sincere to me,” Doug ground out. His hands were placed protectively on Olivia’s shoulders and he stared Rat down. A pang of longing struck Maya when she watched the tenderness Doug showed Olivia.
I wonder what it feels like to be loved that way? Maya thought wistfully to no one in particular.
What did it feel like to have a man be so loving and protective like that? She swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and glanced at Shane, who to her surprise, was staring back at her with a look of curiosity. Studying her intently, he tilted his head to the left and his eyes narrowed. For a moment, it seemed like he was going to ask her something but the sound of Rat’s voice quickly broke the spell.
“Like I said,” Rat leered. “They come out of the freaking wood work. Yeah, I got it. No more politics in the bar. Speaking of which, I better get back to mine. Gotta clean the place up nice for our visitors. I’ve never had royalty come by The Dollhouse before and my girls are pretty psyched—even my vampire dames are giddy.”
“Please remind your dames,” Doug said with mild irritation, “that feeding on werewolves in strictly forbidden. From what I hear,werewolf blood is like a fuckin’ drug, so tell them to steer clear .”
“That is so weird, man,” Trixie snorted and shook her head. “If we get bitten by a werewolf, their saliva can kill us but if we drink their blood it gets us fuckin’ stoned and hopped up like super-vamps?”
“Well, I don’t know why any of this supernatural crap works the way that it does. “ Doug looked at each of them earnestly. “All I care about is this coven, my mate, and our baby. I heard about the war with the wolves and the last thing I want is to rekindle that crap. Especially with Olivia so close to giving birth. So remind your girls there’s no feeding on the wolves.”
“No problem,” Rat said with an insincere smile. His beady eyes flicked to Olivia’s swollen belly and he smirked. “Daddy.”
“What about the prince?” Maya asked with genuine curiosity. “Is he single?”
“That is irrelevant.” Shane’s fangs erupted and he sliced a dark look in Maya’s direction. “You will do well to steer clear of the wolves, Maya. They are savage, unpredictable creatures and aren’t the kind of men you want to toy with. Unlike the czar, I do remember the war and it is not one we want to risk starting again.”
“Oh really?” Maya seethed. “Well, old man, I don’t recall asking for your opinion or advice.”
Shane arched an eyebrow at her and an amused expression flickered over his face. “Old man?”
“Maybe not,” Olivia added. “But I am your maker and I have to agree with Shane.” She rose from the bar stool and stepped back so she could look each of her coven members in the eyes. “I would like all of you to refrain from hunting while the wolves are visiting. The last thing we need is trouble and in my experience, wolves are exactly that.”
“So we’re grounded again?” Maya asked.
“You’re not grounded,” Doug said. He smiled and slipped his arm around Olivia. “It’s more like self-preservation. Just no hunting while the wolves are here in town and bottle-feeds only. We all know that the live feeds can get us all charged up.”
“In fact, I’m going to send a district wide email to alert the community.” The line between Olivia’s eyes deepened. “I’ll be asking all vamps in the city to refrain from live feeds and hunting while the wolves are in town. I just hope everyone behaves themselves and does what’s requested.”
“Shit,” Maya whispered. She enjoyed hunting because it was the one time she felt free. “Well, since they’re not here yet, can we go out and hunt tonight?”
“Sure.” Olivia nodded and smiled at Doug who placed a large hand on her belly. “Just keep an eye out. Like we’ve said the wolves are unpredictable and could decide to come into town earlier than expected.”
“There’s plenty of blood behind the bar,” Shane interjected. He folded his arms over his chest and leveled a stern gaze at Maya. His voice dropped low. “I’m sure that will suffice but if not, I will accompany Maya on her hunt tonight.”
Maya’s mouth fell open in shock. After everything she said before, he still insisted on monitoring her every move. She slipped out of Trixie’s embrace, holding Shane’s stare she stepped closer to the bar. Leaning both hands on the smooth surface, she met his challenging gaze. “I don’t want or need a babysitter.”
“I disagree.” Shane ground out.
Silence fell over the room again. Even though everyone looked from Shane to Maya, she barely noticed them because she was too pissed.
“Like I said before,” Rat shouted. Maya was so fixated on Shane that she hadn’t even noticed that Rat was leaving. “This isn’t the only joint in town, Maya. If you want a change of scenery, we could always use a pretty little thing like you over at The Dollhouse. I’ve got a bartending gig that’s all yours if you want it.” He tapped the big promotional picture that hung at the front of the club, the one that featured all of the girls dressed in vampire garb and baring their fangs. “I may not have slick advertisements like this but The Dollhouse is still a fun place. You know where to find me, kid.”
Rat breezed out and the doors closed behind him with a muffled thump. A smile spread over Maya’s face. Rat just offered her a job and an opportunity to get some breathing room and maybe even create a life of her own.
“Awe, man,” Trixie moaned. “If Maya quits, does that mean we have to do another stupid photo shoot without her. Vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.” She rolled her eyes. “So freakin’ lame.”
Maya ignored Trixie’s comment and smiled at Shane. “Looks like I have another job offer.”
“Over my dead body,” he murmured.
“Don’t you mean un-dead?”
“You will not work for a piece of slime like him.” Shane’s jaw set and the muscle flickered beneath his stubble-covered jaw. “Not a chance.”
“Like I said before,” Maya continued, dropping her voice to a breathy whisper. “I wasn’t asking for permission.”
“Olivia, can you please talk some sense into her?”
“Our coven is a family, Shane.” Olivia’s voice, edged with sadness, pulled Maya from her battle of wills with Shane. “Maya isn’t a prisoner here. If she needs some space and wants to get a job somewhere else, then while I may not agree with it, I respect her right to choose.”
“Really?” Maya’s voice was strained.
“Yes.” Olivia leaned into Doug’s embrace and lifted one shoulder. “I’m not thrilled at the idea of you working for a guy like Rat but you have every right to make this kind of decision for yourself.”
“Thank you.” Maya fought back tears and looked around the room at the rest of the coven. All of them looked at her with the same accepting and slightly sad look that Olivia had. Except for Shane. He was visibly furious.
“You would allow her to go work at the very club where a pack of wolves are about to congregate?”
“It doesn’t thrill me but I’ll have to trust Maya to behave properly.” She leveled a stern gaze at Maya. “And if you do decide to work there, I will expect you to be back at the apartments immediately after work, at least while the wolves are in town.”
Without another word Maya launched herself off the ground and flew over the bar before gathering Olivia in a weepy hug.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much, Olivia.”
“You’re welcome.” Olivia pulled back and looked Maya in the eyes. Brushing Maya’s blonde hair off her face, she cradled her cheek lovingly and her tone grew serious. “Just remember what we’ve said about the wolves, Maya. They are nothing like human men…do you understand what I’m getting at?”
You can’t glamour a wolf the way you can the human boys. Trixie’s voice drifted into Maya’s mind with sisterly concern. You better be careful, girl.
Have you ever tried it? Maya asked. When Trixie didn’t respond, Maya knew what the answer was. Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.
“I understand.” Maya nodded and swiped at the tears that fell in spite of her best efforts to stop them. She knew Olivia didn’t want her toying with a werewolf the way she did with the humans and that was fine by Maya. She didn’t miss the glare Shane was giving her but avoided catching his eye. “And no live feeds while the wolves are in town. I promise. But tonight…I’m going hunting.”
In a blink, she flew to the front doors of the club and stopped just before leaving. Maya spun around, her long, blonde hair spilling down her back, and winked at a visibly annoyed Shane. “If you insist on tagging along then you’ll have to catch me first…old man.”
“Fine.” Pulling on the leather sentry gloves, Shane took a step forward with his sights set firmly on her. “I’ll even give you a head start.” He took one step closer. “Ready?”
A surge of anticipation mixed with adrenaline shot through Maya and she placed one hand on the massive wooden doors of the club. Her chin titled defiantly and she nodded. “Always.”
Shane took another step nearer. “Set.”
“Seriously? There are only a couple of hours until sunrise. I won’t be out that long.” Maya’s eyes narrowed and in spite of her best efforts, she couldn’t stop the smile that played at her lips. “Don’t you have better things to do?”
Shane shook his head and whispered, “Go.”
The last thing Maya saw before flying out into the crisp November night was the sexy smile on Shane’s face. Flying swiftly through the dark Manhattan sky, with Shane in hot pursuit, one thought kept racing through her mind.
For the first time, in a long time, Maya wanted a man to catch her.
Tune in tomorrow for more of Shane and Maya’s story…
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Shane and Maya’s story will hit shelves and e-readers everywhere in just 18 days! Instead of making you wait for the whole thing, I’m going to give you a little bit every day until we reach the release day on July 1st! Today you get Chapter 1 and tomorrow I’ll post Chapter 2. Then on Monday we’re starting a pre-pub excerpt tour with a few of my blogger buddies around the net. You’ll get part of Chapter 3 every day and then before you know it–BOOM! It’ll be release day!
The air around him was void of the normally incessant sound of fluttering human heartbeats or the typical noises of New York City nightlife. No honking horns. No inane human conversation. Nothing.
For a split second Shane thought he’d awakened somewhere other than his apartment within the Presidium’s New York facility. Standing ramrod straight, fangs bared and senses sharp, he surveyed the empty, hauntingly quiet Manhattan street.
Shane Quesada hadn’t been blanketed by silence like this in over four hundred years, not since that fateful summer night so long ago. Though it had been decades, he still recalled that hot August evening with vivid clarity. The mysterious woman visiting his village seduced him, turned him and then after toying with Shane for a century, Selena left the way she’d found him. Broken and alone.
That man, the one who wept for the woman who abandoned him, no longer existed and Shane knew this particular moment was certainly not the time to revisit that period of weakness. Shutting down the unpleasant memory with the cold, calculating demeanor of a vampire sentry, he focused on figuring out where in the hell he was.
Struggling to understand what was happening, Shane’s hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched. He could see he was standing outside The Coven, the club owned by the new Czar of the North Eastern Territory, Olivia Hollingsworth. It was a place he frequented most nights over the past several months and it certainly wasn’t for the ear shattering music, the stench of sweating humans or the undrinkable swill that was served.
It was the blonde, youngling vampire bartender who captured Shane’s interest and drew him there night after night. Most evenings he wouldn’t stay long, only a few minutes before or after his sweeps of the city but he’d discovered that skipping even just one night made him surprisingly agitated. Even if it was only a moment or two, he simply had to have a glimpse of her. Maya Robertson, the flirtatious beauty who had a penchant for toying with human men, had become both the bane of his existence and the object of his long dormant desire.
It had been years since he actually wanted a woman for more than her blood. However, the moment Shane encountered the curvaceous beauty with the compelling blue eyes, lust gnawed at him. The sudden and instant attraction to the beautiful little vampire was highly unsettling. The nagging, pulsing need for her clawed relentlessly, deep in his gut and even though he wanted nothing more than to claim her, Shane resisted.
He had no time for an emotional entanglement, let alone with one of the czar’s progeny. Emotions were dangerous and distracting. He was known as one of the finest and most focused sentries within the Presidium’s ranks and he had no interest in losing his position or getting sloppy.
Aside from the fact that Maya was a youngling, only turned five years ago, she was reckless and if there was one thing Shane couldn’t abide, it was recklessness. Maya had a fondness for human men and from what he could tell she’d taken many of them to her bed. His jaw clenched and anger fired through him at the mere thought of her with another man.
Shaking his head, his mouth set in a tight line and he fought to remove the image of her gorgeous oval-shaped face from his mind. Her skin was fair with not a freckle on it and the only thing more alluring than her hourglass figure were her enormous blue eyes. They were almost lavender and she seemed fully aware of their hypnotic power. Maya may not be able to glamour Shane, or any other vampire, the way she could a human, but she certainly seemed to have him under her spell.
The woman had become a distraction and in his line of work it was things like that, which got a vampire dusted. Shane sharpened his focus and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand, like where the fuck he was and why the city had suddenly fallen silent.
What Shane found even more perplexing than the unsettling quiet, was that the world around him was painted in black and white. Normally, with the night vision of a vampire, he would see the colorful world in varying shades of sepia tones but not now. He blinked and turned slowly, surveying the familiar neighborhood but things remained colorless and mute, as though he’d stepped into a silent film. There wasn’t a flicker of color anywhere and the only sound was from his bare feet when he moved along the sidewalk.
He looked down to find that he wasn’t wearing his sentry uniform– only a thin pair of cotton pajama pants. The same ones he’d put on before going to sleep for the day. He held his arms out and looked disapprovingly at his outright state of undress.
What the hell was going on? He would never in his right mind leave his apartment in only his pajamas. A sentry, and well-known soldier for the Presidium, he had made far too many enemies over the years to leave his home unarmed—let alone half naked.
Shane stilled when the realization of where he was washed over him.
He was walking in the dreamscape for the first time in almost four hundred years. A smile cracked his face and he ran both hands through his dark, thick hair while looking around in pure awe. The absence of dreams was something he’d grown accustomed to and hadn’t particularly missed. When he finally stopped dreaming, about ten years after being turned, it was the last step to letting go of his human life.
His smile faded when the gravity of what this might mean settled over him. Was he ill? Had he been bewitched in some way? Why now, after all this time, would he suddenly begin to dream again?
With unanswered questions rattling through his mind, two humans rounded the corner ahead of him. Shane stepped back into the shadows as they approached but he kept his sights on them. The man had his arm wrapped tightly around the blonde woman who stumbled and was behaving as though she were highly intoxicated. Her hair fell over her face and she was shaking her head, trying to push the man away.
Shane stilled, uncertain of what to do. Could they see him? Were they merely a part of his dream or were they sentient dreamwalkers like he was? It soon became abundantly clear that neither of them saw him when the human male tugged the young woman against him and started kissing her. She pushed him away, telling her aggressor to stop but it fell on deaf ears.
She struggled harder but it only served to infuriate the man. I bought you dinner and fed you drinks all fucking night. We both know where that leads.
The brute spun the blonde around and tried to kiss her again but she continued to refuse.
No. Shane heard her whimper. I want to go home.
I don’t think so. The man looked around, certain no one was in sight and started dragging her into the alley next to the club. I own your ass.
Fury shot up Shane’s back at the increasingly violent scene and any restraint he felt shattered when he got a glimpse of the woman’s face. A pair of terrified and familiar lavender blue eyes locked with his just before she was dragged into the alley. ? Maya.
Rage consumed him as Maya’s desperate pleas from the darkest corners of the city filled his head. Shane bellowed ferociously and flew out of the shadows toward the tortured cries for help. He tore ahead, expecting to find Maya with her attacker but the tunnel of darkness seemed to go on forever.
Shane flew faster, extended his sonar-like senses in search of Maya and her whimpering calls but all he found was a limitless void. The tunnel of darkness went on forever, with no end in sight. No sign of Maya, the city or the bastard who attacked her. Nothing except screams in the dark.
Shane woke with a start and leapt from his bed with Maya’s name on his lips. Body tense, senses alert and eyes wild, he stood motionless in the sparsely furnished but familiar bedroom attempting to regain his bearings. He was no longer flying through darkness surrounded by Maya’s pain but standing alone in his studio apartment and very much awake.
Razor sharp fangs retracted when he sensed the slow descent of the sun and the impending arrival of darkness. He’d been correct about one thing. He had walked in the dreamscape after centuries of slumbering in the dreamless, leaden sleep of a vampire. However, it wasn’t his dream. Truth be told, it wasn’t a dream at all. It was more like a nightmare. More to the point, it was Maya’s nightmare and somehow, he had been pulled into it.
Shane went to the bathroom and switched on the shower, waiting for it to be almost painfully hot. Standing with his fingers under the steaming streams of water, anger flared at the memory of what he witnessed. Doug, Olivia’s mate and the other Czar of New York, told Shane that Maya had been brutalized on the last night of her human life but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.
Knowing about it was one thing. Witnessing it and not being able to stop it—well, that was entirely another.
The empty glass bottle skittered across the mahogany bar and the smooth, wet beer slipped easily into Maya’s hand. She winked at the handsome, young human male when he slapped down a twenty-dollar bill with black painted fingernails and a cocky smirk. Maya made quick work of getting him a fresh drink while giving him the coquettish looks she knew he wanted.
The music thrummed through the nightclub with the usual thundering noise but she could still hear the fluttering human heartbeats as they milled and danced around the club. Though the crowd was smaller than usual, it remained a target rich environment. She’d had her eye on this one from the second he’d arrived. Yes, indeed. Young Spike was just her type.
Tonight’s boy-toy was big, studly, arrogant, horny and not the sharpest tool in the shed. Just the way she liked them. Maya tended to the two other customers at her end of the bar but didn’t miss the scolding look from Trixie, the other bartender.
Lay off, would ya? Trixie’s voice touched Maya’s mind with the familiar ease of a fellow coven member. Her co-worker glanced over her shoulder and nodded toward Olivia, who was the head of their coven, their maker and owner of the nightclub. Olivia was making her rounds before closing and like always, she kept one eye on Maya.
You know how much Olivia hates it when you mess with the customers. Trixie’s voice, edged with irritation, filled Maya’s head.
Jeez, I’m not a child, Trixie. Maya’s voice touched Trixie’s mind on an exasperated sigh and she rolled her eyes. Leave me alone and mind your own business.
Yeah? Then you leave him alone. Trixie kept their telepathic conversation moving, all while tending the three customers at the other end of the bar. Come on, girl. Olivia is gonna fucking flip out if you try and feed on this guy. No more live feeds from any customers at The Coven, remember? Like it or lump it. That’s the new rule and it’s not that new. It’s been almost six months, so I don’t know why you’re looking to break it and catch a world of shit.
Yeah? Maya flipped her long blonde hair over a bare shoulder and shot Trixie a narrow eyed look. Well, maybe I’m sick of the rules and having everyone in my business.
Maya slammed her mind shut, preventing any further communication, which clearly annoyed Trixie. She flipped Maya the bird with a ring-studded hand and shook her head disapprovingly. Maya was so aggravated she wanted to fly over there and yank her pink, spiked hair right out of her head. For a girl who looked like a punk rock rebel, Trixie was sure stuck on following the rules—and unfortunately even in the world of vampires there were rules and limitations.
Can’t go in the sun or risk turning to dust.
No more sterling silver jewelry because it burns like a bitch.
No feeding on customers from the club.
Blah blah blah.
Maya was getting sick and tired of other vampires telling her what to do at every turn and it was starting to make her crazy. So what if she liked to play with human men? She fed on them and teased them a little. She took them right up to the brink of sex and then denied them the one thing they wanted– but she never hurt them. Hell, after she glamoured them, they never even remembered being with her.
Like all live feeds, Maya absorbed blood memories of her prey and every time her suspicions about what kind of men they were–were confirmed. She had a knack for picking out the boys who liked to hurt girls and their blood memories always proved what her gut instinct told her. Most of the men she fed on thrived on dominating women in and out of the bedroom.
In her experience, all men wanted sex and most were driven by lust and desire. The majority of the guys Maya toyed with had used violence at some point in their lives to get sexual gratification. Sex and sexual power were all they wanted and Maya swore she would never give it to another man again.
Nor would she let anyone take it.
Maya didn’t want to kill these men or even hurt them. She simply wanted to know she had control and possessed the power she never had as a human woman. None of the men she dallied with had any real memories of their time with her—but Maya did– and it was the only thing that helped quiet the nightmares.
After Olivia turned Maya, she said that within the first ten years of being changed, all vampires stopped dreaming. Maya couldn’t wait for that particular part of being a vamp to kick in because she was still having dreams.
Well, not dreams exactly. They were more like nightmares.
She let out short laugh and punched buttons on the touch screen of the register. Dreams? Far from it. The dreams she had as a human would have been a welcome respite from the dark, frightening memory that haunted her sleep more days than she cared to count.
Maya’s final mortal night, the last terrifying minutes before she died, replayed when she slept. No matter what she did, regardless of how she much begged and pleaded—her attacker didn’t stop. In fact, her cries seemed to excite him more. No one heard her screams for help or her whimpering pleas from the alley, at least not until it was too late.
That’s where Olivia found her five years ago. Raped, beaten and a heartbeat away from death in the alley behind the club. Left there like garbage by a man who treated her like less than nothing. He was like so many other men who passed through this club night after night, looking for a woman to use and abuse with no second thoughts, no remorse.
The first few days after Maya had been turned, she didn’t remember what happened. In fact, most of her human life was a fuzzy blur, but about a week after she became a vamp the nightmares started and horrifying terror came with it. She never felt safe but more than anything else, she loathed feeling like a victim.
Before Maya moved into her own apartment beneath the club, she’d stayed in the guest room of Olivia’s place. Some nights Maya’s cries woke her maker and she would come running. Olivia would always ask Maya about it but she’d pretend that she couldn’t remember and insist it was nothing.
To speak of it with anyone would only feed the fear. The only thing that helped ease Maya’s anxiety and gave her some semblance of control was to dominate the human boys who attempted to seduce her. Sometimes, it would even keep the nightmare away for a sleep or two but eventually the dark memory always came back.
Maya closed out Spike’s tab and slid his receipt to him with one pink manicured nail. She smiled, knowing how easily his human mind could be manipulated by the glamour of a vampire. Male or female, no human was a match for her kind, which meant Maya could play all she wanted. There was never any question about who would come out on top and that was just how she liked it.
Spike was babbling on and on to her about his motorcycle and how hot she would think it was to ride on it. Maya smiled and fiddled with the teardrop shaped emerald in her gold necklace, playing up the dumb blonde bit, pretending to be impressed by his blathering.
The cool smooth stone whispered beneath her fingers and she fiddled with the ropy gold chain. Though she wore the necklace every day, there was something soothing about holding the heirloom in her hands but she had no idea why. Her foggy, jumbled memories of her human life were like puzzle pieces scattered over the floor.
However, she suspected the necklace had been in her human family for generations. When she concentrated and really focused, Maya could picture a smiling, elderly lady wearing the necklace. Her gut instinct told her it was her grandmother and most of the disjointed memories she had included this woman.
The sad truth was that she had no clue who her family had been or who she had been. When Olivia found Maya, she had no identification and in the days following the incident, there were no missing persons reports on the news with her picture. Olivia even did an extensive search online but nothing showed up. Even Maya’s blood memories were limited to the night she was killed and the only other piece of information Olivia was able to get was Maya’s name.
It was as though Maya never existed until the night she became a vampire.
Tears pricked the back of her eyes at the reality of what that meant. It was heartbreaking to realize that no one was looking for her. What kind of person had she been? Apparently, she wasn’t one worth finding.
“So, you wanna take a ride?” Spike asked, bringing Maya from her thoughts.
Maya let out a sigh and nestled the stone safely in her ample cleavage. No point in dwelling on things or people that no longer made any difference. Her human life was behind her and the powerful existence of a vampire was the only world that mattered. The gnawing hunger tugged at her gut while she smiled at the human. She was itching for closing time and running out of patience. Thankfully the place had almost totally emptied out and she wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
“Sure, baby. I’d love to take a ride with you.” Maya ran one manicured nail over his fingers that clutched the beer. “Just gotta take care of a few things and then I’m all yours.”
Maya glanced past her would be suitor and caught a glimpse of Olivia’s long, curly red hair as she ushered out the stragglers. She shot Maya a disapproving look and pointed at her while mouthing—stay there.
Maya suppressed a satisfied smile. Normally, vampires could telepath with their makers, siblings or progeny. However, ever since Olivia found her Bloodmate, Doug, more than a few changes had taken place. There was one side effect of Olivia and Doug’s unique mating that impacted the rest of the coven, at least aside from her mood swings. Olivia was no longer able to telepath with the rest of the coven. Ever since she mated with Doug, Olivia could only telepath with him.
To complicate matters for the coven even further, Olivia and Doug were now the czars of New York City, and both of them had become Daywalkers. But the real kicker, the cherry on top, was Olivia’s pregnancy.
Jeez, and she thought Olivia was cranky before she got pregnant.
It had been unsettling at first, not to have that comforting connection with her maker, but at moments like this it was a blessing. At least the scolding would be limited to verbal lashings.
“Last call, sweetie.” Maya winked a long-lashed eye at him and leaned on the bar, a move she knew would accentuate her ample cleavage.
The black leather bustier did a fine job all on its own but a little extra pop couldn’t hurt. She noted that his lascivious gaze flicked to the sizable emerald in her necklace. With any luck, he’d try to steal it and give her an excuse to kick his ass. Maya never hurt the men she toyed with not only because it would cause trouble for the coven. Violence like that just wasn’t in her nature.
Being violent was almost as frightening as being victimized by it.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Sure,” Spike said with a lopsided grin. He took a long pull off his beer and leered at her over the bottle. “Come with me after you get out of here and I’ll get you off about ten minutes after that.”
Maya suppressed an eye roll but kept a smile plastered on her face and just when she was about to tell Spike she’d meet him outside, a dark shadow loomed large next to the young man and a powerful wave of energy wafted over her.
Maya flicked her gaze to the hulking form that appeared out of nowhere and though he wasn’t looking at her, and his energy was tuned into the human, she was transfixed.
Shane Quesada was one of the sentry soldiers for the Presidium here in New York, and was easily the best-looking specimen of a man she’d ever laid eyes on. Maya was only five foot five and he loomed over her at well past six feet. He had gorgeous olive toned skin, a thick muscular build and a head of wavy, chestnut brown hair that looked silky soft.
The man was a feast for the eyes and the only thing hotter than how he looked was how he sounded. Something about the deep, rich baritone of his voice made her weak with desire but after meeting him a few months ago, she quickly discovered that Shane was about as much fun as a nun at a keg party.
He was totally uptight, all about following the rules and she was pretty sure he left his sense of humor in another century. Not only that, he moved like a ghost, and had developed a nasty habit of messing up her dates like it was part of his freaking job.
“It’s time for you to go.” Shane’s voice, quiet and powerful, captured Spike’s attention.
Spike held the bottle in mid-air and stared straight ahead, wavering slightly when the glamour effect took hold. Watching the scene unfold, it dawned on her that Shane wasn’t making eye contact with the kid and was glamouring the human with only the sound of his voice. Maya swallowed and took an involuntary step back, unnerved by the scope of Shane’s power.
The combination of Shane’s inescapable presence and the unsettling attraction she felt for him created an overall feeling of unease. It made Maya feel out of control and vulnerable—two things she loathed. Since becoming a vampire, the only other time she felt that way was when she relived the attack in her dreams.
“You did not enjoy yourself here and therefore, you won’t return.” Shane leaned closer, his voice dropping to almost inaudible tones before he flicked his dark, piercing gaze to Maya and whispered, “Never again.”
Maya’s stomach fluttered and when his eyes locked with hers and an odd sense of recognition crept into her mind. From the deep corners of her memory, an image of that dark, piercing stare ran through her mind and in a rush of panic…she remembered.
Shane had been in her nightmare.
Those deep brown eyes, intense, laser sharp and full of fury had been in her nightmare yesterday. Her brow furrowed. Shane had been there, lurking in the shadows of her nightmare. Watching. Maya’s body tensed and shook with confusion as the gravity of this revelation settled over her.
Shane’s eyes narrowed and he stared back at her but his hulking form didn’t flinch. Was it really possible or was she imagining it? Could Shane have been in the dreamscape? Was he so powerful a vampire that he’d found a way to infiltrate the dreams of a youngling vampire like her?
Maya’s jaw set. The how wasn’t important but the why. Why would he spy on her and watch her be attacked but do nothing to help? What kind of sick, evil son of a bitch gets off on watching that? Not only that but who the hell gave him permission to spy on her in the dreamscape or right here in the bar?
Anger and confusion flashing, she shoved herself away from the bar and glared at him. Shane didn’t retreat but simply held her stare with his usual calm arrogance. Was it arrogance or was it something else…distaste? Did he think she was a whore for flirting with this human and others like him? Did Shane think she deserved what happened to her that night?
Maya bit back tears, refusing to cry in front of him even though the accusing voice of shame kept rolling around her head. The truth was, it wasn’t Shane saying those things, it was her. She had been drunk that fateful night and flirted with her date from minute one.
Maybe she had asked for it.
“This place sucks.” The boy blinked and put his beer down while giving Maya a wary look. He took cash out of his back pocket and tossed it on the bar before mumbling something inaudible and walking away. “I’m outta here.”
“Good riddance,” Shane murmured as he watched the boy leave.
“You’re a killjoy,” Maya said, scooping up the money, turning her back on Shane and closing out the sale. “What’s your deal, anyway? Do you get off by ruining my fun?”
Maya slammed the register drawer shut, grabbed a wet rag from the sink and started wiping down the bar. She had to create busy work for herself and get out from under the weight of Shane’s accusing gaze. She was remarkably unsettled by that flashing memory of his eyes in her nightmare but was determined to shake it off. Maya refused to allow this stodgy, old vampire to steal the tiny bit of sanity she clung to.
Maya swallowed the urge to scream and rubbed at the bar faster. She glanced at Shane. He was walking slowly along the opposite side of the bar, keeping his eyes on her with his hands at his side.
It was ridiculous. How could Shane have been in her dream…unless?
What if he had actually been there that night five years ago? What if he was there, outside that alley, and witnessed what happened but did nothing to help her? Maybe she’d repressed that part of the memory until now.
Panic, fear, and shame filled her but she refused to cry.
“That human was beneath you,” Shane said quietly. He stood in front of her with his large, dark eyes tracking her every move. His long leather coat, undoubtedly lined with various sentry weapons, hung over his massive frame with almost regal perfection. “You should know that.”
“Exactly,” Maya said with forced sweetness. She refused to let Shane know how unsettled he’d made her. “That was kind of the point.”
“Why do you insist on wasting time with these human men?” He cocked his head to one side, the sharp angles of his masculine face and the chin covered by a perpetual five o’clock shadow, was revealed in flickers by the strobe lights of the club. “It’s not simply for their blood is it?”
“I’ll tell you what it is. It’s none of your business.” Maya paused mid-swipe and puffed a long, blonde strand of hair off her face, wrestling with her waning patience. “Why is everyone so damn concerned with what I’m doing?”
“It may not be my business.” Shane stepped closer, so the buckle of the belt on his leather pants clinked against the edge of the bar. He rested both hands on the bar and leaned in, that mesmerizing gaze latched firmly with hers. “But I’m asking anyway.”
She needed to create some distance between herself and the powerful vampire. He unnerved her. Not because she thought he was going to hurt her but simply due to the power he possessed and the way her body reacted to his.
Every time those glittering eyes locked onto hers, it was like a light switch went off inside her but she willed away the sensation. What was the point of entertaining feelings like that when she had no intention of acting on them again?
However, he was unavoidable and night after night for the past few months, he’d been coming to the club, staring her down but saying little. His mere presence was unsettling. Shane was centuries older than she was and radiated raw, unadulterated strength.
She’d heard stories about his skills in battle and the other girls in the coven, speculated about his skills in the bedroom. Trixie and Sadie took bets to see who could bed him first but he seemed oblivious to their advances. He was a warrior. A sentry with hundreds of years of experience and by all accounts, the man was death incarnate.
Shane moved in between shadows like a phantom. Even for a vampire he was fast.
“Tell me, Maya.” His voice seemed to surround her and pulled her from her thoughts. Her belly quivered as he leaned closer. “Why?”