Knight in Transition
Night Fall Series, Book 3
On Sale: August 31, 2015
A member of an elite police unit sworn to hunt vampires, Joe Garcia’s life is turned upside down when he’s transformed into one. On a quest for a cure, Joe’s search brings him to New Orleans in a last-ditch effort to recover his humanity.
Professor Lily Carlson, a renowned expert in vampire lore, has a condition of her own. Her sexual libido has been in hyper-drive for months. Her only defense is to hide behind her glasses and tweed suits and stay as far away from men as possible. However, she’s thrilled to discover vampires really do exist when Joe shows up on her balcony.
Although Joe deflects her attempts to make him a case study and confirm a few vampire statistics, he is drawn by her powerful allure. When werewolves join the chase and track her through New Orleans, Joe’s cop instincts tell him there’s a mystery to solve. Intent on protecting her, he must seek help from the last vampire on Earth he wants to ask.
While his hopes for deliverance from his fate dwindle, Lily’s life is forever altered by an unexpected inheritance.
Note: This book was previously published as “All Knight Long”, but has been revised and expanded.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
The small sign in the café window read: Welcome Vampires and Sanguinarians! (No blood products provided-none permitted on premises! The Management).
Joe Garcia snorted. Every human in the place was a walking, breathing blood product — a portable soda fountain for the Fanged Ones.
He pushed through the glass door and tried to dampen the hope that rose in his chest, causing his heart to beat faster and his hands to sweat. Thusfar, he’d met only disappointment in his long search. This might be just another dead end-the last one he could afford before his cash ran out and his credit card was maxed.
Professor Carlson was his last hope.
Inside the cafe, enticing aromas assailed him. The smell of roasted coffee beans, which had been his life’s blood in another existence, was overlaid with the tangy scent of the real thing-the warm, viscous red stuff. The latter reminded him he hadn’t fed this evening, and hunger gnawed at his belly, making him edgy and irritable.
And something else enticed him. Something dark and sensual perfumed by a female musk with a tincture so unique it immediately sent a curl of heat to his groin.
He walked past the coffee bar without acknowledging the barrista’s greeting and wound his way through the tables, ignoring the human appetizers. His gaze was fixed on a menu board at the entrance of a roped-off area in the back, that read, “Vampire Survey Here”. An arrow pointed down to a table laden with a stack of pamphlets.
He brushed past the table, searching the back of the restaurant for his quarry.
“Sir, are you here ’bout da survey Professor Carlson is conductin’?”
Joe turned toward the voice flavored with a deep Louisianan accent. A pleasant-faced girl with black corkscrew curls all around her head sat at a table near the cordoned entrance.
He bit back the rude retort that immediately came to mind and answered, “Yes. I need to speak with her.”
“Well, you’ll have to complete a screenin’ survey first,” she said pleasantly but firmly, holding up a stapled document.
Joe sighed and accepted the papers. What the hell? Five more minutes wouldn’t kill him.
“Do you have a pencil?” she asked. When he shook his head, she gave him a superior smile and extended a short, sharpened pencil.
Joe didn’t like her attitude one bit, so he reached for her hand, running his fingers over her palm before taking it.
Her smile slipped and Joe could well imagine her thoughts. Another vampire wannabe was hitting on her. He smiled and let her see his teeth.
Her eyes narrowed and a single brow rose. She wasn’t impressed.
That actually gave Joe hope he was in the right place after all. His sharp fangs hadn’t fazed her.
“You can take a seat with the other guy,” she said, indicating the first booth along the back wall.
Joe walked over and slid across the vinyl seat opposite a young man dressed in black leather and sporting no less than five facial piercings. The piercings glittered like tinsel in the dim light and Joe wondered how the kid could stand leather in May-New Orleans was already sweltering, even at night.
Turning over the top page of his survey, Joe quickly scanned the questions. He hoped like hell they were only meant to screen out the weirdoes and pretenders. Otherwise, he was screwed.
He wet the tip of his pencil on his tongue and read the first question.
“Do you consider yourself a Vampire or a Sanguinarian?”
Since he had no clue what a Sanguinarian was, he checked, “Vampire.”
“If you checked ‘Vampire’, skip to question 6.”
Maybe this wouldn’t take so long after all.
In the middle of the page, he found 6. “How often do you have the urge to drink blood?”
He checked the block beside, “More than three times a day.” Three times a night would be more accurate.
“How often do you drink blood?”
“Once a day.”
“Do you drink your own blood?”
“What would be the point?” he muttered, and checked “No.”
When he reached the question, “Do you drink blood during sexual encounters?”, he’d had enough.
He tossed the survey to the table and started to rise.
“She won’t see you unless you finish the survey,” Metal Boy said, without looking up from his form.
“She’ll see me.”
The young man’s mouth twisted into a sneer. “You’ll have to wait your turn. I was here first.”
Joe lifted his lips and showed him his fangs.
Metal Boy smirked and then lifted his lips, displaying a whole row of sharpened teeth.
Joe took a quick glance around the café to make sure no one was near, and then leaned over the table and shook his head. He let the change come over him, reveling for once in the wildness that surged in his veins as the bones in his forehead and brow shifted, and his skin stretched tightly.
The boy’s eyes widened until the whites symmetrically framed his irises. “I-I’ve just thought of somewhere else I need to be,” he said, and quickly scooted off the seat and ran for the exit.
Satisfied that vamping was good for at least scaring the shit out of punks, Joe took a deep breath and relaxed, feeling his face reform to his human mask. Then he headed back to the girl with the wild hair.
“I’ll see her now,” Joe said, not even trying to conceal his impatience.
“Have you finished dat survey?” she asked, her nose buried in her Cosmo magazine.
When he didn’t respond, she raised her eyes.
Something in his expression made her hesitate. “I’ll see if she’s free.”
Joe smiled grimly. “You do that.”
She was back in a moment. “Professor Carlson’ll see you now. You left your survey on the table, but I gave it to her.”
He followed her to the farthest corner of the café, toward another booth. A green lamp suspended over the table lent the corner a warm glow. When he drew alongside the green vinyl seat, the girl indicated he should sit and promptly left. Joe turned his gaze to the figure seated on the opposite bench.
His research had told him the professor was considered an expert in vampire lore. She’d written papers, magazine articles, and books, and even been consulted by more than one movie producer. When he’d typed “vampire expert” in the Internet search engine, her name had popped up everywhere.
All his research told him she might hold the answer, but it hadn’t said anything about how young or drinkable she was. Her hair was neither blonde nor brown, but the warm color of whiskey. Her eyes, hidden behind a pair of wire-framed glasses, glinted cognac. Her lips were a pale rosé.
The hunter within him woke.
Realizing he’d been staring, he cleared his throat. “You’re Professor Lily Carlson? The author of ‘Vampires: Myth and Reality’?”
Her gaze swept over him. An action so swift, he thought he might have imagined it. “And you are?” she asked, leaning over the table to extend her hand.
Joe froze. That indefinable scent was all over her. He had the urge to rub on her like a kitten in catnip. He eyed her small hand, afraid to touch it and feel the blood humming below the surface of her creamy, white skin. He was that close to jumping her. “I thought the survey was anonymous.”
“Oh, it is,” she replied quickly, withdrawing her hand. “You’re responding to the ad, then?” At his nod, she looked vaguely disappointed. “Well, I suppose I should review your answers. Please have a seat,” she said, waving him toward the bench seat opposite hers. “Thank you for taking the time to help me with my research.”
Bemused, Joe slid onto the seat. He knew he should get straight to the point, but he stalled. For just a few minutes, he wanted to be with a woman while she looked at him as if he was just like any other man. Well, perhaps like he was a man with a serious mental disorder. But at least, she wasn’t recoiling in horror or inspecting him like the Bearded Lady at a freak show.
Not that she was a great beauty, nor even as strong and fierce as his ex-partner Darcy. Dressed in a boring-beige suit, her whiskey-colored hair piled in a loose knot on top of her head, and her glasses sliding down her shiny nose, she looked like the schoolmarm she was. But while all the beige and brown should have made her look muddy, she glowed golden in the lamplight. And her scent-richly textured with something wild and animalistic-was extraordinary.
The woman opened his survey and glanced at his answers, then flipped the page. Her lips pursed for a moment, drawing his gaze to her full lower lip. “There are a few more questions I need answered. Do you mind if I learn a little more about you?” she asked, glancing up at him from beneath her gold-tipped lashes.
The surge of heat that centered in his groin was way out of proportion to her innocent question. Afraid he’d stutter over a tongue that suddenly felt too large for his mouth, he merely nodded.
“You understand the questions I’m about to ask you are part of a sociological study I’m conducting about our vampire subculture?”
Again, he nodded.
“All information you provide,” she recited as if from rote, “will be completely confidential. I hope you will answer me honestly,” she gave him a doubtful stare, “or to the best of your ability.”
She looked expectantly at him, so he nodded again.
Her gaze returned to his survey and she cleared her throat. “You…are a vampire?”
“Yes.” This was the first time he’d admitted that fact out loud, and he knew how ridiculous it sounded.
“So, are you a Psy or a Sang?”
“There’s more than one kind?” Joe asked.
“A Psychic vampire feeds on a human’s energy; a Sanguinarian is a blood-drinker.”
“I guess I’m a Sang.”
“You drink blood once a day?” she asked, her head still bent over the paper.
He shrugged, hoping she’d glance up at him again so he could see whether her eyes really were a warm, golden-brown. “More or less.”
She scribbled something in the margin of his survey. “Well, which is it?”
“Do you drink human blood?”
Joe wished she’d end this line of questioning, or he’d be drooling shortly. Her scent had every appetite revving into high gear. “Yes.”
She glanced up from the survey. “How long have you had the urge to drink blood?”
“Since I woke up, tonight.”
She blinked. “No, I meant.since ever.”
“Did you by chance suffer some sort of emotional trauma?”
Joe stiffened. If you consider I died, and the woman I loved had her boyfriend turn me, then hell yes! “Yes.”
“Was the trauma centered around a love relationship?”
He drew a deep breath. The professor was determined to hit every sensitive nerve he owned. “Yes.”
He glowered at her and didn’t respond.
She did another of those little sweeps of her eyelashes that left him feeling confused.
“Woman,” she said softly and annotated his answer. “Was it a sexual relationship?”
Every muscle in his body contracted. The memory of the last time he’d seen Darcy, the last time he’d been inside her, had his cock straining inside his jeans.
“Was it?” she insisted.
Joe nodded, feeling his face harden, knowing he looked as dour as the Grim Reaper right about now.
“You say, you drink blood during sex.”
He felt like howling. “Sometimes.”
She looked up, her head canting to the side. “Why?”
“To give myself and my host greater pleasure. The orgasms are worth dying for,” he said, hoping to give her a taste of his discomfort.
“Oh.” Her face suffused in pink, and she cleared her throat. “Do you use lancets to bleed your host?”
He didn’t understand her question and stared.
“Do you use something sharp to pierce your host’s skin?”
“My teeth. I bite them.” He lifted his lips and let her see the teeth he couldn’t convince to recede into his gums-he was just too damn hungry.
“Oh.” Her expression remained professionally frozen, but Joe had the feeling she wanted to roll her eyes. She reached into her handbag and pulled out a silver cross, and then held it in front of him. “Do you get a burning sensation when you see this object?”
“Does this produce any sensation at all?” She touched his hand with it.
Air hissed between his teeth at the first touch of her hand. He was on fire. His hand curled beneath hers, curving into a fist.
Her eyebrows lifted and she quickly scribbled something else on his survey. “Do you believe in Satan?”
“Yeah, if he’s the evil that lurks in a man’s heart.”
“Do you worship Satan?”
She reached into her purse again and pulled out a tiny bottle of water and a sharpened stick.
Joe stared at the items she stacked neatly in a row in front of him and his blood began to boil. Silver crosses, holy water, and a fucking stake. Shit! The woman had studied Buffy 101 . She was a fraud. She didn’t know the first thing about vampires-hell, she didn’t believe they existed. “I don’t suppose, Professor, that in all your research you’ve ever actually met a vampire?”
She blinked and pushed her glasses up her nose. “I’m the one asking the questions here.”
“And I’m finished answering,” Joe said, his eyes narrowing. “Have you ever met a real vampire?”
The little Professor sniffed and raised her chin. “No, I haven’t.”
Joe slumped in the booth. His last hope dashed.
“Are you all right?” she asked, eyeing him with suspicion.
“Just pissed and hungry.” He let his gaze fall to her neck. “Want to know what it feels like?”
“What?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“To be sucked by a vampire.”
The Professor’s cheeks turned a fiery red. “Certainly not.” But her words lacked true outrage.
Joe’s mouth stretched into a smile. The lady had a dirty mind. Although, now that she had him thinking about it, the idea took root. She might not be able to give him the information he needed, but she could certainly share a little blood in exchange for the sweet release he’d give her.
“Can I come home with you?” He hadn’t meant to blurt it out quite like that, but she was too delectable to pass up-and she owed him. He’d come halfway across the country just to speak to her.
Now, she looked truly alarmed. “I-I think that’s all the questions. Thank you for coming.”
Joe smiled and settled his back against the seat, stretching his arms across the top of the bench. He knew the action pulled his T-shirt taut across his chest-a well-developed chest, or so he’d been told.
Her next nervous sweep indicated she’d noticed.
“Don’t you want to complete your research? Don’t you want to know what it’s like to feel a vampire’s kiss?”
Her chin came up. “I think if there was truly any merit to the legends, I’d have discovered that by now,” she said primly, her hands clenched on the table. “Stop playing with me.”
He dropped his voice to a purr. “Don’t you want it to be true?”
She stared at him, her face growing solemn and her gaze haunted. “I’ve wanted that more than you could ever know.”
Joe tired of baiting her. He reached across the table and grabbed her hand.
She tugged it back, but he turned her hand and brought her wrist to his nose. He inhaled deeply. “Not perfume. You.” He licked her delicate wrist, his breath deepening when he felt her heart rate increase.
“What are you doing? Unhand me!”
“I’m going to give you a kiss,” he said, never letting his gaze leave hers. “Here.” He slid his lips on her wrist. “I’ll show you what a vampire can do without ever being inside you.”
Her mouth fell open and her cheeks paled. She drew her hand back, again.
“Just a taste,” he whispered, not letting go.
“You’re going to bite me?” she asked, her tone incredulous. “What about shots? Blood tests? There’s a pamphlet on the table that describes safe bloodletting techniques — biting isn’t one of them! Christ, think of the bacteria!”
Joe’s eyes narrowed and he sank his teeth into a vein that trembled just under her skin.
“Ow!” she gasped, her eyes rounding.
Then he sucked, and she gasped again, only this time her body fell back against the upholstered seat. Her eyes closed for a moment and her lips formed around an astonished ‘O’. “That’s.incredible!” she moaned, her back arching.
He mouthed her skin while he continued to feed, drawing her rich blood across his tongue, down his throat, pulling her scent into his nostrils-as overcome with sensation and rising passion as his shocked little hostess.
“Please,” she said, her voice quavering. “Please, stop.”
Joe withdrew his teeth immediately, though it damn near killed him. His body was wound tight as a spring. Then he looked at her. Her eyes were wary and wide, like a doe’s caught in the crosshairs. Wild color flooded her cheeks.
The poor Professor had enjoyed her lesson a little too much!
Satisfied he’d planted a seed of sensual curiosity, he dropped his gaze to her wrist and the blood dotting her pale skin. He licked her until the small wounds closed, and then he laid her hand on the table. “Do you see now?” he asked softly, feeling not the least ashamed he’d used his persuasive “powers” to excite her.
She drew a long shaky breath. “I see that my research needs to be expanded. I should make a point to appeal to the Sanguinarians for input. Of course,” she said, looking at her wrist under the lamplight and frowning, “I should probably make sure my tetanus is up to date, first.”
Joe stared at her, wondering what it was going to take to prove he was a vampire. Morphing wasn’t an option-it tended to kill his victim’s sexual interest. “Jesus, you still don’t get it!”
Surprise at his outburst caused her face to pale. “What’s to get? Other than you think you’re a vampire?”
Joe stood, and then leaned over the table, crowding the professor into the corner of the booth. “Lady, you wouldn’t know a vampire if he bit you in the ass!”
“I beg your pardon,” she said, a frown drawing her eyebrows together.
“You don’t know a damn thing about vampires. Hell, you can’t even tell when one’s fed off you!”
“Now look here, I’ve studied all the texts, from every country with vampire traditions-China to Transylvania.” She folded her arms over her chest. “I’ve also read quite a bit about blood-drinking behavioral disorders and blood fetishists.”
“Tell me you didn’t feel it, too.” His gaze fell to her tweed-covered chest. “Did your studies tell you that a vampire’s bloodlust is linked to sexual lust?”
“Th-there is an erotic allure to vampirism,” she said, reaching to tuck a strand of hair into her bun. “After all, blood is the source of life and passion — which is what I’m assuming you’re experiencing now. The clinical term is haematodipsia — a sexual thirst for blood.”
“You’re babbling,” Joe said, leaning close enough now that he could look into the cleavage at the top of her beige blouse and draw in her heated scent. “Tell me why your pulse is elevated and you’re perspiring.”
Her hand fluttered on her chest, and she closed the collar of her shirt. “There’s no doubt a term. I just can’t think-”
“Well, I’m not talking about sexual disorders. I’m talking about lust that grows in proportion to the amount of blood shared by a host.”
She blinked. “That happens?”
“You don’t know a lot of things, do you?” He drew back and glowered. “You don’t know how fast a vampire can drain a human dry. And do you have any clue how dangerous this is?” He raised the survey and crushed it into a ball, unaccountably angry with her. “You could have drawn a bloodthirsty bastard with a nasty sense of humor. Someone who wouldn’t have a qualm about taking your head off to get at your blood.”
Her small pointed chin lifted. “I took precautions against being accosted by unhinged characters,” she said, glaring pointedly at him. “I’m in a public place with people around me.”
“Do you know a vampire’s strength and speed is many times that of a man? You wouldn’t stand a chance against one.”
“I’ll concede that- if — you were a vampire,” she said her voice rising, “I might indeed be in trouble.”
He leaned closer, his hands clutching the table and the top of the bench seat. “Don’t you want to know for sure, Professor?”
“Short of you taking a bite out of my neck — yes! But biting me with capped teeth won’t prove a thing. Hell, I have a mirror here somewhere-” she dug into her purse again, “we’ll just check your reflection.”
Joe shook his head. The woman watched way too much Buffy . “If I’m telling you the truth, will you take me home? Feed me?”
Her breath hitched, and she licked her lips. “If you’re telling the truth, shouldn’t I be afraid of you?”
“Lady, you haven’t a thing to fear from me. I need you.”
“To feed from?”
“No. To make me human.”