Just a quick note! My dd gave birth to a baby girl yesterday. Everything went well. Mom and little girl will be in the hospital for a couple of days. Siobhán Etaine is 7 lbs. 11 oz. and gorgeous! I’ll be back at the hospital, and then staying with the family to help out for a couple of weeks. I got the privilege of changing her first diaper. 😯
Back to the snippet. I don’t usually write smooth operators. My heroes tend to be gruff and to the point, but there have been a couple… Quentin from My Immortal Knights and Nicolas Mountfalcon from the Dark Realm series. I adore them both, and so did readers.
Nicolas makes his first appearance in book 1, Into the Darkness, and although he was a secondary character there, he made quite an impression. I think you will see why when you read the excerpt.
“Ms Devlin has created a suspenseful masterpiece against the back drop of the impending Hurricane Katrina. Her characters are passionately and elegantly written and the plot is full of twists that keep you turning the page.” ~5 Stars, Single Titles
“…INTO THE DARKNESS starts off running and never lets up…From its intriguing and twisted storyline, in-depth and well-written characters, to the torrid sex scenes, INTO THE DARKNESS is a must read for those paranormal lovers who love to live on the edge.” ~Romance Reviews Today
“In a field of plenty, Ms. Devlin cut a new vein in the paranormal/vampire genre with INTO THE DARKNESS. […] An amazing blend of storytelling smothered in carnal ferocity…” ~Paranormal Romance Reviews
Natalie Lambert’s life has changed in the space of weeks — and she has no idea why. Her parents were murdered, she has her first taste of sexual desire — and she feels out of control, afraid, desperate to understand her changing world. She flees to New Orleans , hoping to lure the murderer out of the dark and bring to an end the trail of dead loved ones. Instead, she’s attacked by crazed birds, swarmed by locusts, and saved by a Cajun cop who awakens all her latent desires.
When Rene Broussard rescues a virgin vampire, he ends up in her bed and becomes hers for life in one lusty bite. Rene awakens the vampire within Natalie, and she awakes the passion within him. Together, they fight the evil threatening to destroy The Born vampires amidst the horror of Hurricane Katrina while they discover a treasure of love they can share for all eternity.
A crunch sounded outside—a crisp scrape like a footstep on grit. A sound Natalie knew was distant, perhaps from the courtyard below the window, but it jerked her awake in an instant just the same.
And just as quickly, she knew something wasn’t right.
The sound might have been the rustle of drying leaves as they tumbled across the paving stones or a small animal slipping between the iron bars of the gate, but she knew that wasn’t true.
She no longer questioned how she knew—she accepted the prickling warning the same way she did the fact she was a vampire. Instinctually.
The hairs on the back of her neck lifted and alarm tensed her muscles, readying her for flight.
Only she wasn’t the same frightened girl she’d been before tonight. Now, she’d gained a measure of personal power. She was becoming a monster in her own right.
And she had Rene.
Only he wasn’t here, now. His musky scent lingered in the bedroom, clung to the pillow beneath her nose, but he’d been gone for some time.
Was he aware of the furtive movements outside his house? Had he left to investigate? Or had he tried to escape her once again?
She couldn’t aford to wait for him to come to her rescue. This time, she’d be ready for whatever stepped out of the shadows. Refusing to huddle beneath the covers, she slipped from the bed and crept to the French window.
Standing to the side of the casing, she pulled back the edge of the hazy curtain and stared into the darkened courtyard below.
At first, it appeared empty. Wind whipped the tops of the short trees, stirring the leaves into an agitated whisper.
If she’d blinked, she might have missed the blurred gray shadows that streaked across the tiny courtyard.
Holding her breath, she willed her heart to slow its frantic beating so she could continue to listen above the rapid tattoo. Then she padded to her suitcase lying open on a small padded bench beside the door. She reached beneath wadded clothing until her fingers closed around the hard plastic grip of her handgun.
As she pulled it out, she felt a cool, fresh breeze lick across her bare skin and knew the window to the balcony had opened.
Natalie whipped around with the weapon pointing outward to find a large male figure silhouetted by moonlight between the open doors. Not Rene’s thickly muscled frame. This man was taller and leaner, with midnight hair that brushed the tops of his broad shoulders. His clothing was crisp-edged—a long-sleeved shirt covered with a thickly padded vest, topping military style pants and boots. A holster rode along the side of one masculine thigh.
With her finger poised on the trigger, she drew a shaky breath. “You really should have tried the front door.”
His head canted, and she realized that while his features were hidden in darkness, her pale skin was a beacon.
“I seem to have you at a disadvantage,” he replied, French undertones cloaking his voice in silk. His tone was amused, his posture disturbingly relaxed.
“So, I’m naked,” she blurted, “but I’m the one with the gun in my hand.”
A soft snort indicated laughter, which only heightened her fear. “Even if you managed to hit where you’re aiming, you can’t win this battle, Natalie.”
A shiver racked her body. “I’ll manage just fine, but you might have a little problem finding me without a head attached to your shoulders.”
This time the laughter sifted around her like a soft, dusting of confectioner’s sugar—delicious, light, tempting.
And before she could pull back on the 5.5-pound trigger, he was beside her, his hand wrapping around hers on the weapon. “Let go.”
She whimpered from fear and a sudden, dampening thrill. “How?” she croaked, as curious about the speed with which he’d moved as she was afraid and aroused.
“I’m not going to hurt you, mon infant.” He stepped closer and wrapped an arm around her back, then leaned down to nuzzle her cheek. “Just let go.”
Her body betrayed her. But unlike the powerful lust that had driven her to take Rene past his good intentions, a strange, enervating lassitude had her leaning into his solid chest.
Had he done this to her with just his voice?
He tipped the nozzle of her weapon down and dragged it from her nerveless fingers. “There,” he said, “no fuss. You’re a brave girl.” His chest rose beneath her cheek as he drew a deep breath. “And a naughty one, it seems. Good for you.”
Was this how her friend Vicki had felt the moment before her throat had been ripped open? Resigned, relieved—willing to let death come without so much as a whimper?
But she wasn’t ready to die. Not tonight.
With one last attempt to resist, she rallied her dulled wits and shoved at his chest, lifting one knee to ram between his legs.
He easily sidestepped her attack, then slipped a hard thigh between hers and pushed her against the wall, trapping her hands against his chest. One large hand gently cradled the back of her head; the other still held her weapon. He drew the cold metal slowly up her naked side, over her hip, letting it bump against each rib, one by one, and then follow the outside curve of her breast.
Natalie drew a ragged breath, knowing she was entirely at his mercy. The odd thing was all she could concentrate on was the rasp of the coarse fabric that clothed the muscled thigh pressed against her sensitive, heated flesh and the fresh-washed scent of the man holding her. “What have you done to me?” she asked, recognizing the familiarity of the words. Now she knew how Rene had felt. Compelled beyond his will to respond.
She sensed his smile against her cheek. “Just a trick. One I promise to teach you…if you’re good.”
The teasing note in his voice calmed her. His hand gripped her hair and he tilted her head to kiss her lips, then he released her hair.
She heard the rasp of Velcro opening and felt the sting of something sharp stabbing into her neck. She whimpered, but curved her fingertips into the stiff vest cloaking his chest and clung to him as darkness closed around her.
Rene prowled the house, sticking to the downstairs rooms this time. He’d checked his cell phone again and left Chessa a blistering message. What the hell was keeping her anyway?
Although his body still felt mildly drugged by his roll in the sheets with Natalie, his emotions felt edgy and alert. Standing at the sink in the kitchen, he ran cool water to wash his face—anything to stem the heat building again inside him.
He cupped water in his hands and stared at his palms, remembering the feel of her soft breasts with their erect little points. He muttered an oath and splashed the water into his face. If he dunked his whole head beneath the spigot, he still wouldn’t clear the image or the feelings from his mind.
He was mad as hell at himself—and Chessa. She hadn’t given him adequate warning. Partners didn’t leave partners swingin’ in the wind.
If he’d known what he faced, the potent, irresistible temptation she embodied, he might have stood a chance of deflecting Natalie’s allure—hell, he’d have tied a knot in his cock sooner than fuck a vampire!
Sweet as she’d been, he didn’t need that kind of trouble. Worse, he couldn’t trust that what he was starting to feel for her was real.
But what exactly was he feeling? Desire? Certainly. Lust? Absolutely. Connection? That possibility terrified him. Natalie was quickly becoming an obsession.
He poured a glass of water and took a long drink, hoping the coolness slipping down his throat would somehow halt his body’s arousal.
Even now, she lay naked in his bed. Moonlight bathed her curved body. The lemon and apple smell of her still scented the air—still clung to his own skin. He’d fled the room before the musky scent of sex overwhelmed him, hardened him—again.
Earlier, moonlight had revealed his deepest fear. Natalie’s eyes had glittered with longing and trust. That had been the scariest thing of all. Not that she was a vampire, but that she trusted him to keep her safe and not betray her heart.
He just plain couldn’t give her what she wanted.
A floorboard creaked behind him and he caught Chessa’s reflection in the darkened window above the sink. She was dressed in SWAT gear. “It’s about damn time you got back here,” he growled. He placed the glass on the countertop and turned in time to catch Chessa’s downward-sweeping glance.
His cheeks heated. Wearing only blue jeans and his shoulder holster, he knew she’d jumped to all the right conclusions as her lips thinned.
When her glance met his again, the stillness in her set his heart thudding with unease.
Then he heard footsteps coming through the hallway and saw several men dressed entirely in black, walking quietly through his house and up the stairs. He pushed away from the counter. “What the hell’s goin’ on, Chessa?”
She glanced briefly over her shoulder and then turned slowly back toward him. “We’re taking her out of here.”
“Let me go up to wake her. You’re gonna scare her.”
Her lips tightened. “And you’d care, wouldn’t you?”
He heard a muffled whimper from above and stepped toward the doorway.
Chessa stuck out her arm, blocking his exit.
Close enough now that he could have pushed past her, he glared down into her face. “Chessa…”
“You can’t help her now, partner.” Her head tilted slightly. “Damn you, you can’t even help yourself. You fucked her.” She inhaled, her nostrils flaring as she sniffed. “Hell, you reek of sex. You couldn’t keep away, could you?”
She didn’t sound angry—which he would have preferred. Instead, he read disappointment and resignation in her tone.
Feeling off-center and ashamed, he retorted, “You could have told me what I was facin’—spelled it out so this human would understand. Cheech, she was fuckin’ irresistible.”
“And now?” she said, her sharp gaze roaming his face. “What do you feel now?”
“Nothing,” he lied. “Not a goddamn thing.”
Another rustling sound came from above, and then a thin cry. He pressed against her arm.
“You need to let me handle this.” Her eyes narrowed and seemed to catalog every twitch he made that gave away his concern.
Rene fought against the overpowering need to surge past her and up the stairs. This was Chessa’s business now, but he sure as hell hated not knowing what was happening.
“Did you come inside her?” Chessa asked, her voice dead even.
His gaze slid away from hers. He refused to answer. The shame burning his cheeks told her what she wanted to know.
“Of course, you did.” She reached into a pocket on the top of her Kevlar vest and pulled out a syringe.
He eyed it warily and stepped back. “What the fuck’s that for and what are they doin’ up there?”
“We don’t want her alarmed. Or harmed. So we’re going to put her out for transportation.”
“Are they stickin’ her now?” he asked, anger stiffening his spine.
“Yeah, and this one’s for you.” She shoved her forearms into his chest, slamming him against the wall.
Rene roared and pushed back, but for the first time, he experienced the strength in her wiry muscles that could take down a linebacker. It happened so fast, he didn’t have time to consider another strategy. He tried to pull back, but for the second time that night, he wasn’t the one in control.
Her whole body strained against him, and she used one elbow to press into his neck so hard his vision quickly filled with prickling lights.
Her hand shot out, and she jabbed the syringe into his neck.
He pulled at her arm, but his already sapping strength was fleeing. His muscles felt more leaden by the moment.
As he found himself slipping to the floor, he heard Chessa mutter, “Dammit Rene, you really fucked up this time.”
Chessa rode in the back of the panel truck.
Both Rene and Natalie, wrapped in sheets, lay in the center of the floor between the long bench seats flanking either side of the vehicle, snuggled close together.
The sight rankled.
“You don’t look happy. Everything went according to plan.”
She heard mockery in the voice of the man sitting across from her and wished Nicolas had chosen to ride in the vehicle with the rest of the security team. These two weren’t waking up anytime soon—she didn’t need help.
Worse, she hated his sharp-eyed perception. He’d read her interest as she’d cradled Rene’s body on the floor and tenderly pulled out the needle from his neck after she’d shot him up with enough sedative to keep him down for the rest of the night.
“So, we have a baby vamp. That’s cause for celebration, is it not?”
She leveled a glare at him, knowing he was only making conversation to annoy her. Her mind was still reeling, and she needed time to think. She’d taken a risk leaving Natalie with Rene, but she’d hoped he would be strong enough to resist her hormonal appeal.
Chessa’d had plans of her own for the Cajun. Four years of sussing out his strengths and weaknesses to determine whether he would be the right sort of man to enter her life. Four years of yearning for his hard, toned body, patiently learning the secrets that kept him from committing to a woman.
She’d been kidding herself there would ever be a time for them. He’d never really let her close, never shared the intimate details of his life.
Sure, they’d spent half their waking lives in each other’s company. But she couldn’t claim to really know him.
However, she did know he didn’t particularly like preternatural creatures. He distrusted what he couldn’t explain. Over time, he’d come to tolerate her well, despite the fact she had a second strike against her.
Rene hadn’t wanted a female partner of any kind. Ever.
It had taken deliberately choreographed incidents to prove her physical abilities. Without revealing the true extent of her powers, she’d cultivated a relationship with him built on mutual respect. Eventually, he’d come to trust she wouldn’t let him down or get in his way.
Tonight had dashed her hopes he’d ever see her as a potential lover. After this, he’d have eyes only for Natalie.
Over the years, she’d taken lovers for blood and sex, but she’d carefully avoided entanglement. Although the hurt that kept her heart apart and untouched was decades old, she’d been unwilling to risk it again.
Despite his sometimes coarse manner, at the core he was a gentleman with a deep streak of integrity she admired. More than once she’d wished she had found someone like him for her life mate the first time around.
The truck slowed and bumped onto a gravel road.
“Almost home,” Nicolas murmured. “Time to get these two to bed. Sure you know whose bed you want to him tied to?”
The sly humor in his voice set her teeth on edge while his words conjured a vision that pricked her sensual awareness, making her shift on the thinly padded seat.
The thought of Rene stretched across pale sheets, his hands and feet in manacles, tightened her body and sent a flush of heat across her cheeks.
Nicolas tsked. “He’s not for you, but maybe you’d settle for something else, eh chère?”
Chessa stiffened and lifted her chin. “Why? You offering?”
A single eyebrow rose like a dark wing. “I’m not nearly so brave as that.”
“You think a man needs courage to be with me?”
His glance swept down her body, and he lifted his shoulders in an indolent shrug. “I think he needs many things to take you on. Courage is only one of them.”
Chessa snorted. “That almost sounds like a compliment.”
“Just telling the truth.” He tilted his head toward the floor. “Our baby girl’s a lot like you. She’s got courage in spades. She’s not even fully cooked, and she tried to take me.”
Chessa didn’t want to hear about any virtues Natalie Lambert might possess. She was ready to hate the woman’s guts. “Sounds like a fool to me,” she muttered.
When his smile widened, she realized she’d given him exactly what he wanted. She bit back a curse at his soft laughter.
“I think it’s a very good thing, you’re not the one charged with her safety.”
“I know my duty,” she bit out.
His smile dimmed, and his gaze bored into hers. “Yes, but you have yet to learn your place.”
Pure, intoxicating fury blasted through her. “And where might that be?”
The white flash of his wicked smile had her wishing she’d bit her tongue rather than rise to his bait. “Princess, if I have to tell you, you’re not ready for the answer.”
His laser wit always had a way of flaying her self-control. Just once, she wished her temper wouldn’t flare so readily in response to his jibes.
She’d give anything to be on the sticking end of the skewer. “Shut the fuck up, Nic.”
* * * * *
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