Enjoy the snippet. And Happy Holiday!
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.
Be sure to check out the snippets on these other authors’ blogs: