I’m taking a break today from cruise pictures to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! ~DD
If you post a comment today, you’ll be in the running
for a free download of this book!
Today, I’m giving you an excerpt from my one and only holiday story. Silent Knight was released in December 2005 by Ellora’s Cave and exists in the My Immortal Knight realm.
From Romance Divas: “…[SILENT KNIGHT] is a sizzling hot vampire story tht will take you on a short escape — the perfect read for a busy holiday season. Sexy and fun, make sure Silent Knight is on your holiday “must read” list!”
From A Romance Review: “Erotically decedent and thrillingly carnal, Noelle and Magnus’ story is enough to make a person self-combust with want.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Noelle Moyaux questions her gift of sight until a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger sets her on a path to save his soul.
Magnus Thornton is a millennium-old vampire who has found evidence of an old foe’s evil at work in the demolished city of New Orleans. Weary of the fight, he decides to greet the coming dawn after a night reveling in his favorite things—a bottle of Bordeaux and a willing woman.
Noelle seems the answer, but she quickly creeps into his heart-the vampire, so jaded from life he never speaks, must now persuade Noelle to flee the city before it’s too late.
Noelle Moyaux flicked off the battery-powered Christmas lights that ringed her metal cart, folded her purple tablecloth into a small tidy square and tucked it and the folding table inside the cart before latching the lid closed.
She wheeled the cart across the busy street and waved to her friend Gerard, the owner of a small Cajun restaurant. Continuing around the back of the eatery, she stowed her palmistry kiosk in the storage unit she’d rented from Gerard since before the troubles.
Today’s earnings were slim, despite the unseasonably warm weather that allowed the thin-blooded residents of the city to roam the streets in light jackets. No one believed in a future amid the chaos—and some questioned her ability since she’d received no divination of the coming catastrophe. Indeed, Noelle questioned her gift daily as she sat beneath her umbrella in front of the embroidered cloth advertising “Noelle’s News”.
If not for the little nest egg of money she’d saved from substitute teaching before the flood, she’d be in dire straits.
Clutching her purse close to her side, she headed down the street toward home.
One last night. One last chance to lose myself in The Hunger, a fine glass of wine and the body of a willing woman. Before my last sunrise—the first I will see in nearly a thousand years…
Noelle heard the quiet, fleeting thought as she passed through the crowd ambling along Bourbon Street and spun to find the owner. The inner voice that accompanied the thought was masculine and raspy. Added to the familiar spark of connection when her skin had brushed against his was a wash of the blackest melancholy she’d ever sensed. It nearly drowned her in despair.
But whose? No one stood out among the evening crowd of construction workers, disaster-junkies and uprooted residents looking for diversion from the daily serving of desolation New Orleans had become. Was he an out-of-town contractor lonely for his home and family during the holiday? Or a N’awlins native who’d lost his friends and community to the terrible storm with the pretty name?
Whichever, she had to find him. She’d spent months second-guessing her place in the world, wondering if her gift served a higher purpose or just provided a distraction from true contribution. This brief glimpse into another’s pain seemed the answer she’d been seeking.
Filled with a renewed sense of purpose, she reminded herself God didn’t give away special gifts without expecting extraordinary sacrifice. The man was clearly demented. He believed himself a thousand years old. And he meant to end his life—with a sunrise?
Perhaps he only felt a thousand years old, so great was his sadness. And maybe she hadn’t understood the flash-burn of light and the acrid scent of singed flesh that accompanied the dour thoughts. But if someone intended to blow himself up or set himself ablaze, it was up to her to save him. He’d touched her. Now his fate belonged to her.
She walked back the way she’d come, letting her hand drift out from her side, skimming the tourists and garbage collectors, finding nothing darker than desire for the buzz of alcohol and a quick, illicit screw. Then she touched him again and instantly recognized his painful soul.
She paused, suddenly overwhelmed. Dark, erotic pictures blurring like an out-of-focus film spooled through her mind—limbs sliding sinuously apart and together, lips and fingers gliding over sweat-slick skin, powerful, full-shaft surges into warmth so tight and hot Noelle’s nipples beaded in response to the lustful images.
A finger trailed down her cheek, taking away her breath, and she blinked back into focus. He stood close. Large, black Spanish boots, polished so well they reflected lamp glow, were braced apart.
Afraid to look up, she swallowed, tempted to continue past and forget all about trying to save his soul from a terrible sin.
Then he lifted her chin, dragging up her face until their gazes clashed.
Amid the bustle, called greetings and the jazz blaring from several bars, a blanket of quiet fell around her, around him, as she stared at his stark, rugged beauty. She blinked, unable to hold his steady blue gaze and instead let hers drift over him.
Lamplight reflected against curling brown hair with glints of gold interwoven in the shoulder-length strands. His height and the breadth of his shoulders made her wonder how she’d ever missed him in the crowd. Clad in black from head to boot, he must have seemed like one big shadow. A square jaw and blunt nose emphasized the strength evident in his frame.
But those blue eyes disturbed her most. Bleak, wintery blue that pierced the space between them, drawing her closer like a fishing reel—only she was the trembling catch.
When she stood so close his breath stirred her hair, she drew a shaky breath.
His gaze dipped to her mouth, and Noelle felt the heat of his glance lick a searing path across her lips. She touched them with her tongue, half expecting to feel blisters.
His eyes narrowed, nostrils flared, and his hand slipped around her wrist.
His lips hadn’t moved but she read his intent. His head dipped and she found herself incapable and unwilling of resisting while he dragged firm lips across hers.
Eyes wide open, she shivered, unable to break the spell holding her immobile. A shallow gasp broke from her lips and he deepened the intimate caress, rubbing his lips on hers, sinking strong fingers into her hair to bring her face closer still.
When he drew away, she realized they stood with bodies pressed as close as lovers, a thick-muscled thigh thrust between hers, anchoring her quivering frame. The heat of that masculine thigh pressed through her cotton skirt and she rocked her hips, rubbing on it like a cat.
Suspended on that thigh, she stood limp in his arms. “I will,” she whispered, and realized he may not have heard her. “Don’t stop.”
Not here. Where?
“Close, I’m close.” And she was. Warmth pooled between her thighs, her breasts tightened against his solid chest.
He chuckled—not a lighthearted sound, but dry and raspy as though his voice was seldom used.
His thigh slid from between hers, and he snagged her wrist again.
Swaying on her feet, Noelle fought the haze of desire that fluttered around her body and mind like a wispy curtain. How had he done that? Made her forget herself and her mission?
Then she remembered—he’d wanted a willing woman for one last night.
Despite the sensual languor he’d built, she pulled free of his hold and straightened, lifting her chin. “Not so fast, mister.”
He stood still as stone, the slight breeze lifting his hair the only motion. You followed me.
“I thought you…” Wait a minute. She stared at his lips. They hadn’t moved—and she wasn’t touching him.
Don’t think too much. I won’t harm you.
She shook her head, a frisson of fear prickling her spine.
Even without the physical connection, his voice slipped inside her mind like a stealthy wraith. You followed me. You want this too.
She shook her head again. Her gift led her to him. “I wanted to…save you.”
A mirthless smile curved his lips. Too late. I’m already damned. He stepped back and gave her a short bow. I’ll not keep you.
That old-fashioned courtesy struck her as odd. As did the sadness tightening the smile on his lips. As he turned to leave her, the quiet that had enveloped them lifted and the jarring sounds surrounded her again, disconnecting her from the compelling figure disappearing into the crowd.
Then she remembered the deep searing pain she’d felt when she’d first encountered his desolate soul. This last night she’d been placed in his path to find him. Just because the saving might require an intimate surrender to slip inside his walls, she shouldn’t be dissuaded from her mission. And she was honest enough to admit he’d stoked her curiosity as well as her libido.
“Wait!” she called out to his rapidly disappearing figure. “Don’t go!”
He halted but didn’t look back.
Slowly, her steps faltering as her heartbeats increased, she reached him and slid her palm along his. Only when his fingers curved around her hand did she take a deep breath. Enveloped again in warmth and the odd quiet, she let him lead her down the street.
Magnus knew he shouldn’t care so much that the woman had changed her mind. But from the moment he’d heard her gasp and the muffled footsteps he’d picked out from among the throng as she’d turned and followed him, he’d decided she would be the one.
Her scent was delicious. Above the fetid smells of a wounded city, she smelled of sunlight—like delicate, juicy slices of tangerine. When she’d drawn closer, her wide cognac-colored eyes seemed to look inside him and find something…worthy. That look, and the way she canted her head in wonder when her gaze roamed his body, had heated him more than the anticipated release she’d provide.
Waving tendrils of glossy brown hair settled across the tops of her breasts, clothed but dimpling beneath the brown, woolen peasant shirt she wore. The rest of her figure his imagination had to fill in because she wore one of those flowing, crinkled skirts that brushed ankle-length suede boots. She looked like a flower child from a less-complicated era.
Her hand trembled inside his. His usual persuasion hadn’t lasted long, but still she was there, striding beside him, her face averted and her heartbeat fluttering fast as a bird’s.
Where can we go?
“Turn on Duvall. To the right,” she said, her voice breathless. “I have an apartment.”
A neon sign, bright red and gold, curved to invite him to fulfill the second part of his mission. The liquor store was busy, but Magnus forged a path through the other customers. They moved aside without ever realizing they followed his command.
How had she resisted his persuasion? No one ever had before. Do you have a preference for wine?
“No, I don’t drink much,” she murmured, looking around at the others who were leaving the store without their purchases.
He selected a Bordeaux, rich but fruity to compliment her flavor, and took it to the counter.
The sales clerk rang him up without a word of greeting and handed him the bottle without bagging it.
Magnus caught the woman’s interested gaze following the clerk’s motions, her expression sharpening when the clerk returned to his newspaper without another glance.
Outside, he continued down the street to the corner of Duvall, her hand tucked inside his arm. He listened while she betrayed her curiosity with deep breaths as though readying herself to ask a question, then sighs when she changed her mind.
She repeated the process three times before he realized he was amused. Amused, but not ready to appease her. Your place?
Her steps lagged and she chewed her bottom lip. “What’s your name?”
“Just Magnus? What kind of a name is that? Sounds like a gun.”
She was nervous—and resistant enough to put a spoke in his plans for the night. Magnus Thornton. Will we be alone?
“Ye-es,” she said, her pale face tight, “although I must be crazy for telling you that.” As they approached a whitewashed, two-story apartment building, she tugged his arm. “This is it.”
While she rummaged in her bag for the key, he looked around. No dark figures lingered in the shadows. No prickling awareness alerted him to nearby dangers. He relaxed, taking in the façade of the building.
It was a little shabby with paint peeling around the windows. Each apartment had an iron-skirted balcony and French doors. The doors faced east. Perfect.
In the morning before she woke, he would step through the window to watch the sunrise. The notion struck him as romantic. One last night to lose himself inside this woman’s body…her citrus scent still on his skin. The sun would peek over the gable of the shop across the way…
She gasped and drew away the hand that had pulled his sleeve to get his attention. “Are you coming?” she asked, her voice sharp.
Not yet, he said with a wry twist of his lips.
He followed her inside to a narrow stairwell and a set of iron steps that led to the second floor. Up they walked. She struggled with another lock and then shoved open the door.
Magnus stepped inside to the lingering aroma of incense and furniture polish. He took in the apartment in one quick glance. With an open floor plan, the living room and kitchen area was cozy—the space between the kitchen counters so slim that two bodies passing each other in the small confines might constitute a sexual act. Light from streetlamps outside the French door spilled over the sofa bed that lay open, the sheets mussed.
She flicked on the overhead fan and light and walked around the room, turning on a lamp on the kitchen counter, another on a small iron and tile table next to the sofa.
When she bent to lift the end of the bed to fold it away, he placed his hand over hers. Why bother?
“Perhaps I’d like to pretend this means a little more than it does?” Her cheeks reddened and she dipped her head to hide her expression.
If I tell you this means everything, will you leave it?
She straightened, looking him in the eye. “This isn’t me. I don’t bring strange men to my apartment.” Then she shrugged and her glance fell away again. “I just wanted you to know that.”
And I’m strange?
She shot him a disgruntled look. “You can carry on a whole conversation without ever opening your mouth.”
This time, he shrugged and gave her an unrepentant grin. There is that.
Her gaze dipped to his mouth and her frown deepened. “Do you know you haven’t even bothered to ask my name?”
He waited, letting her struggle with her scruples.
She stood still as she fought a silent battle that filled her eyes with resentment and a hint of tears. “My name is Noelle,” she blurted. “Since I’m guessing you’ll never ask.”
Just Noelle? he teased, although he felt a twinge in his chest. He hadn’t really wanted to know her name. Names made the fucking more intimate.
Her chin came up. “Are you a serial killer?”
“Then why can I hear you inside my head?”
I have this gift… he shrugged. It’s easier.
“Well, I know about gifts,” she murmured. She gave him one last frosty glance and stepped around him and into the postage-stamp kitchen. “I’m out of my mind,” she threw over her shoulder. “My dad always told me it was okay to bring home strays, just make sure I took them to the vet first.” She drew two wine glasses from a cabinet and set them on the counter, then pulled a corkscrew from a drawer. When she faced him again, another challenge lifted her chin. “You’ll be wanting your glass of wine.”
Magnus narrowed his gaze but opened the bottle and tilted it to pour. He didn’t want to know more about her life but knew she needed to talk to get beyond her unease. Some women were like that—needed words and the deeper emotions to accompany their verbal release. He’d help her along—they had hours of darkness left. Your father didn’t mind an extra mouth or two to feed?
“My father was a preacher. He loved all God’s creatures.”
Magnus snorted and handed her a glass. Certainly not all.
Her frown cleared, her expression softened. “Yes, all. God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Magnus was struck with the sincerity of her tone. So naïve—so beautifully unaware. How does one distinguish between God’s creatures and those fashioned by someone else?
“Even the demons that haunt us are part of his plan.”
Her pointed glance made him uncomfortable. You said he loved. Past tense?
She sighed, a winsome sound that matched the sorrow reflected in her moist eyes. “My parents both died a couple of weeks before the hurricane.” Her attention fell to her wine and she sipped.
Not a good year, he said, and tipped his glass into his mouth.
“For the wine?” Her lips twisted.
No, for you.
“For all of New Orleans. It helps. All this suffering.”
He quirked an eyebrow. Misery loves company?
Her lips curved in a sheepish smile. “That sounded really cold, didn’t it? What I meant was my problems don’t seem as great or tragic. Mom and Dad lived full lives.”
Magnus leaned toward her, suddenly struck with the need to warn her. If I told you things will only worsen here, that the tragedy isn’t finished, would you leave?
Noelle’s unease evaporated like rain on a hot pavement. This was the desperate man she’d first encountered. “Leave New Orleans?” She shook her head and smiled. “I believe everything happens for a reason. I have to keep my faith. My father would be disappointed if I didn’t.”
His lips twisted in a sneer. Preacher’s daughter, do you really think God can protect you from pure evil?
“He’ll protect my soul. And in the meantime, I do my part.” Even if I only hold strangers’ hands and lie to tell them everything will be fine, because I can’t see what will come.
Magnus set down his glass.
Noelle knew the moment had arrived by the tensing of his body and the tightening of his features. His expression, predatory and alert, set her pulse skipping.
Smothering the excitement that shot through her body, she dragged up an obligatory resentment that he expected her to sleep with him. She sought the shame that should accompany the thought—but found none.
She knew less than nothing about him but recognized the need hardening his body, filling the erection pressing against the front of his dark jeans.
Oh yeah, she’d noticed—and thrilled to the fact she elicited that response.
When he held out his hand for her glass, she opened nerveless fingers to let him sweep it away. Then his arms closed around her, his hands cupped her head, and she was lost to the heat of his searing kiss and the images that flooded her mind of a fiery hell.