So, have you read any of my Night Fall series? The 11th story in the series is set to release on April 25th! Woot! I promise if you start with that story, you won’t be lost, but wouldn’t you rather immerse yourself in the darkness? All the stories, except for Silent Knight and My Sweet Succubus are novellas. Those two are novelettes—slightly longer than short stories. So, you really do have time to blow through the books before Bad to the Bone arrives…
And it should go without my saying that ALL the stories are sexy as hell. Because I’m a tease, I’m letting you look inside the beginning of Bad to the Bone. Read all of chapter one below. See if you can resist ordering so you can have the rest of the story… 😉
For a chance to win your choice of one of my previously released
Night Fall series stories, answer me this!
Do you love paranormal romance? If so, what flavor of heroes
do you prefer—vampires, werewolves, other shifters, witches, fairies?
(Click on a cover if you’d like to learn more!)
Bad to the Bone
One night of pleasure…
His name is Viper–a dark mysterious enigma who rules the seedy, dangerous vampiric underworld. For one night, he will escape his murky prison and tempt an innocent.
…can last a lifetime…
Beautiful Mariah haunts him. Lures him from his den with a glimpse of his past. One she doesn’t remember. This night, he’ll be her dream lover. He’ll seduce her, make her fall in love with him–then leave her. Again.
One night of pleasure is all they must know.
But Viper leaves her a clue. One he hopes deep down will lead her back to him although he dreads the consequences, because he’s not the same man he was. He’s not a man at all…
Pre-order your copy here!
Excerpt from Bad to the Bone…
One week ago…
Slim hips swished beneath a short, flirty skirt, drawing his gaze like iron filings to a magnet. The splash of large pink flowers on white stood out like a beacon in the darkness. Beneath the hem stretched a pair of nude legs, toned, and nicely curved at the ankles. Perfectly made to lightly clasp a man’s waist as he slid into moist heat…
He suppressed a low, rumbling growl from the beast rising inside. Something he rarely bothered to do in the squalid dens he roamed most nights. The creature lurking deep within was a sexual animal, a lustful, ravenous host who found partners only too willing to let him feast. But this woman was different. Her soul was pure. Her mind unawakened to the darkness.
He followed her as she left her apartment, sticking to the shadows, ducking into stairwells when she looked behind her as though checking whether someone followed. A frown marred her smooth brow, and her lips tightened. The clip of her heels on the pavement quickened.
Shoulder-length, flyaway brown hair bobbed across the tops of slender shoulders. The creamy skin of her exposed arms and legs swung in a rhythm that his heart picked up and matched, beat for stride.
Feeling more than ever like the true predator he was, he tamped down the shame that burned like battery acid in his stomach and continued stalking the woman who walked more briskly now along the darkened sidewalk.
When she turned onto a crowded walkway, her shoulders sank and her footsteps slowed as she relaxed.
Now, as she mingled with others strolling along the promenade, she believed herself safe. Little did she know, but her “spontaneous” decision to leave her apartment had been at his suggestion—a message telegraphed with tantalizing snippets of the smell of fresh salt air, the caress of a soft breeze, and a glimpse of sensual pleasure.
She hadn’t heeded her own natural inhibition. Hadn’t paused to check the clock and note the waning evening hours. Instead, she’d made her decision, wriggled into a sexy little skirt and snug pink tee, slid her feet into strapless sandals and bounded down the stairs, ready to kick off winter’s gloom in an unseasonably warm spring night.
He’d made sure she didn’t glance even once at the calendar resting on the bureau in her foyer. Nothing would trigger a fleeting memory. And while he’d provided himself the opportunity to see her, he’d decided days ago he wouldn’t use his persuasive gifts to bring her straight into his arms.
Tonight, he wanted to savor a natural seduction.
She paused along the gangway that followed the curving street through a long, outdoor strip mall. At the bottom of one set of stairs leading into a seafood restaurant, she lifted one foot, planting it on the first paved step.
As he drew back the suggestion that had led her here, her brow furrowed, and she shook her head. Her foot slipped off the step and slowly settled beside the other.
In a blur of movement no human would detect, he slid in behind her. “Did you forget something?” he murmured, careful to keep his tone innocently inquiring.
A gasp escaped, and her head jerked to the side then tilted up to meet his gaze. Her eyes widened, and then slid over his shoulders before rising again. “You frightened me.”
The deepening frown that bisected her brow amused him. She was annoyed and not bothering to hide it. Her eyes narrowed. “I know who you are.”
Viper jerked imperceptibly. His heart tripped, and then thudded dully again. She couldn’t mean what he thought. “I doubt that. If we’d met, I would have remembered,” he lied, giving her a rueful twist of his lips. More of a smile than most ever saw.
Her head shook, sending her fine, dark hair shivering silkily across her cheeks.
The urge to tuck her hair behind her ears was almost irresistible. He curled his fingers and stuffed both hands into the pockets of his faded jeans. “Who do you think I am?”
Gaze narrowing, she hesitated. “I’ve seen you before. At a club near the water. You’re the manager.”
Viper suppressed a grin, relieved her clouded mind hadn’t jumped to the right conclusion. She was talking about Dylan’s club. “I’m just filling in for a friend at The Cavern until he returns home. I have no ambition to run his place permanently.”
“The Cavern.” She nodded. “That’s the one. It’s a strange place. I did a piece there about the rise of Sanguinarian blood rituals. A whole subculture devoted to the practice exists, and most of them in this area hang out at your friend’s place.”
“You’re a writer then? Or are you a television reporter?” he asked, knowing full well she wrote a column for the social section of the Seattle Times.
Her casual shrug belied the fact she was serious about her work. Ambitious even. Or at least she had been. The social section wouldn’t encompass her ambition for much longer. A worrisome thought. However, he’d always loved that about her. She kept her eyes on the prize and rushed headlong wherever her curiosity and drive led. An excellent quality for a reporter, but one that had spelled disaster for him.
But then, she didn’t remember any of it. She hadn’t retained that lesson, because he’d needed her to remain safe.
“You know, they have a dress code here,” she murmured, eyeing his black leather jacket and T-shirt, and then sliding her glance quickly down his legs before rising again. A faint blush tinged her pale cheeks.
Viper’s eyelids dipped. “I’m not planning on going inside. I was waiting for someone.”
“Lucky girl,” she said softly, then shook her head again. “I don’t really have a reservation or anything, and I’m not dressed for it either. I’m not really sure why I stopped…”
His glance panned the line of people waiting patiently for their names to be called by the restaurant hostess who roamed outside, jotting on a clipboard. “Doesn’t look like my friend is planning to show. Would you like to go somewhere else?” he said quickly, not wanting her to decide to return home before he had a chance to chat her up and build a little trust and interest.
Time stretched between them. Her gaze flitted down the row of well-lit shops, still open with people walking leisurely along the covered walkway. A soft evening mist muted the glare of the streetlamps, as well as the sounds of the people passing them by as they stood at the bottom of the steps leading into the trendy restaurant.
“I promise I don’t bite,” he added, fighting the urgency building in his body to keep his words light and casual. “We can just take a walk. Find a cup of coffee, if you like.” He wanted her to say yes without any of his extra “persuasion.” Wanted her to choose him of her own free will.
A long indrawn breath lifted her chest, and she gave him a small, tentative smile. “A Starbucks is at the end of the strip.”
Warmth seeped into his chest. And although he knew tomorrow he’d pay a heavy price, he needed this night with her, whether it ended in her bed, as he hoped, or not. Simply standing this close, feeling the warmth of her body and breathing in her fresh, sweet scent flooded him with joy.
Viper tugged his hands from his pockets and crooked an elbow, feeling a little foolish for the old-fashioned gesture. These days he acted with reckless arrogance around the opposite sex. His gentleman manners felt a little rusty. Unnatural.
She didn’t seem to notice as her hand slid around his forearm, her fingers lightly resting atop the distressed leather. Through the barrier he shouldn’t have noted the heat of her hands, but he did. His blood stirred with pleasure, and he fought to keep the muscle she touched from tensing. “Shall we?” He stepped out, shortening his natural stride to allow her to walk comfortably beside him.
As she cleared her throat, she made a feminine sound. “You haven’t even asked my name.”
It’s Mariah, my love. “You haven’t asked mine,” he murmured.
Soft, rueful laughter floated around him. “True. I’m not like this. I don’t let strangers lead me around.” She ducked her head, perhaps to hide the new blush staining her cheeks. “I’m Mariah Cohen.”
To halt the automatic protest regarding her last name, he pressed his lips tight. Tonight, he wasn’t Viper. “I’m Daniel Vacarro,” he said softly and held his breath. Would the name niggle at her memory?
“Daniel. Not Danny?”
He gave an exaggerated shudder.
She laughed again. “Not manly enough?”
He narrowed his glance and arched a brow.
“See?” she said, a smile curving her soft, plump mouth. “We’re already getting to know each other.”
His gaze darted upward to catch a hint of amusement in her sparkling eyes. He gave a gentle snort. “Are you always such a smart ass with complete strangers?”
Her head canted as she peered into his face. “We aren’t strangers, Daniel. I admit, tonight I feel just a little reckless, but I recognized you right off. We’re just taking a short walk in the middle of a crowd of people.” She flipped her hair off her cheek. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Viper shook his head. The woman was crazy. But she was right. The only danger he posed tonight was to her sweet, curvy body. His fingers curled over hers, pressing them against his forearm. “This is the place.” He swept her into the coffee shop and halted at the end of a long line.
As the people waiting in front of them peeled away, one at a time—some patting pockets for “missing wallets”, some squinting at the menu board as though they suddenly couldn’t read it—Mariah stood quietly beside him, bewilderment rounding her eyes as the line melted completely away. “This never happens.”
“What would you like?” he deferred to her, hiding a smug smile. So, he’d worked a little of his magic on the other customers. Bite me.
She placed her order, and then lifted a brow.
“Nothing for me,” he murmured.
“You didn’t come for the coffee?”
“I’m not the addict.”
“Afraid you won’t be able to sleep tonight?”
“Who’s going to sleep?” he muttered under his breath.
Her tongue swept out to wet her lower lip as rosy color crept across her pale cheeks. She let him pull her aside to wait at the end of the barista’s counter. “But you didn’t pay.”
Viper shrugged. “I know them.”
“Right,” she said, her tone indicating she didn’t quite believe him. “Did you wink at the girl or something?”
“Why? Do you think my charm’s irresistible?”
Her soft feminine snort was followed by a slow, dazed shake of her head. “I’m here, aren’t I? And we just met ten minutes ago.”
For a second, Viper closed his eyes, trying to keep his memories at bay and just enjoy the moment. She had no way of knowing how much her innocent comment ate at his resolve. They’d met a long time before this night.
Her name was called, and he opened his eyes, catching her gaze.
She gave him a concerned look, lips turning downward, then stepped forward to claim her cup. “Do you want to stay here?”
The press of warm-blooded bodies around him felt suffocating and far too tempting. “Let’s walk.” Outside again, he raised his face to the warm breeze and drank in the cleansing air. “Sorry about that. I don’t like crowds much.”
“I kind of figured that out. Tables are just down the way. Want to sit?”
He nodded, hoping his sudden melancholy would vanish. He had only a few hours to spend with her, if she let him, before he had to return to his world. He didn’t want to waste a moment thinking about things that could never be.
As she walked, she played with the plastic lid then took a quick sip. Her eyes drifted closed. “Mmmm…this was just what I needed.”
They reached the tables outside another café. Viper chose one at the outer edge of the extended courtyard and pulled out a chair, waiting as she settled before taking his own beside her, rather than across the table. His gaze swept the harbor, noting the glints of moonlight sparkling on the water. For a long moment, he remained still while he forced himself to relax once again.
She waited, just sipping her coffee quietly while eyeing him above the rim of her cup.
He wondered what she saw. He’d been careful with his appearance. Sure, he wore the same weathered jacket, a plain T-shirt, and jeans. But he’d polished his boots and used a brush instead of only fingers on his long, black hair. He knew most women found him attractive, but Mariah wasn’t into dark, dangerous men with sharp-edged features and hungry eyes.
Or at least she hadn’t been.
She lowered her cup. “Are you always this talkative?”
Right. He should at least pretend to be polite, however out of practice he felt. “Does it bother you? My not talking.”
“It’s a little unnerving.” Her glance met his then slid away quickly, but her shoulders tilted toward him. “I expected you’d be hitting on me by now.”
The subtle body language, crossed messages of shy interest and trepidation, set his blood simmering. “Are you disappointed I’m not?”
“Just a little uncomfortable.” She placed her cup on the table and wrapped her hands around it.
“Because I’m tempted to hit on you.” She wrinkled her nose. “I did just say that, didn’t I?
His lips stretched. “Yeah, you did.”
Her head canted as she eyed his mouth. “Are you gay?”
He jerked and nearly laughed. “Do I give off that vibe?”
“Not at all. But in my experience, a man doesn’t need more than a smile as encouragement to make a move.”
He chuckled softly at her disgruntled tone. “And you think I might be gay because I’m trying to be a gentleman?”
An eyebrow arched. “You have to try?”
Never harder than tonight. He nodded slowly.
“That’s a relief.” She blew out a breath between pursed lips. “Although I’d already guessed you’re a predator.”
Ah, here it came. He lifted both eyebrows. “Do I seem that sinister?”
She gave him a direct stare. “Not like a serial killer, but you could probably have any woman you want without much effort. So why haven’t you tried…with me…seeing as you’re not gay?”
He adjusted his legs, stretching them in front of him, parting them slightly to make room as blood began to fill his sex. “I wasn’t sure you were interested. Back there at the restaurant, you seemed to hesitate. I didn’t want to spook you.”
“So, you do…” Eyes flashing, she sucked her lower lip between her teeth.
His gaze speared hers. “I do what?”
“Want me?” Her gaze rose slowly to his again. Her breath hitched, lifting her small breasts.
He swallowed, wondering if he’d subconsciously sent out the idea, making it impossible for her to choose of her own free will.
Her eyes blinked rapidly. “Don’t feel like you have to,” she blurted. “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I guess I’m just in a funny kind of mood. I don’t want to say goodbye. Not yet.”
Viper settled back in his chair. “If all you want is company, you don’t have to invite me to your bed,” he said gruffly.
Again, her glance slid away as she studied the string of lights surrounding a toy shop across the courtyard. “But what if I want more?” she whispered.
Because he wanted to read her expression, he gave in to the urge to touch her hair and tucked a softly curling lock behind her ear.
Her gaze swung back, and her lips parted as she drew in a soft, shaky breath.
He cleared his throat and leaned closer to whisper for her ears only, “I’d ask, why me? Why tonight?”
Again, her plump lips pressed together then parted. “Well, it’s not because you were the first man to say hello tonight, if that’s what you think. I wasn’t really prowling for sex.”
“Then what was it?”
“Fishing for compliments?” When he didn’t respond, she lifted her shoulders. “Guess you don’t need them.”
Viper held himself still, determined to wait her out.
Her finely arched brows drew together, and her jaw tightened for just a moment. “All right. I just feel…I don’t know…a little lonely tonight. I thought maybe you felt the same way.”
Viper felt a burning at the back of his eyes and looked away. Because he couldn’t speak past the lump lodged at the back of his throat, he only nodded.
Her hand reached out and smoothed over the top of his.
Viper shivered. Her large brown eyes looked at him with a sadness that mirrored his own.
“Maybe we just need each other tonight. That’s all it has to be.”
She was reassuring him that there wouldn’t be any strings? “You should expect more,” he rasped.
Her small, tight smile made the sadness in her eyes more poignant. “Maybe tomorrow I will. But tonight, I’d just be satisfied to know you don’t want anyone but me.”
Viper forced a matching smile. “Would you like to fall in love with me tonight?”
“Does that sound so silly?”
His hand lifted and cupped the side of her face. “Your idea sounds just about perfect.”
Mariah pressed her cheek into his palm. “I don’t live very far from here.”
He couldn’t believe how quickly things had progressed. How naturally. “Sure you want to bring me back to your place?”
She wrinkled her nose then nodded. “I’m inviting you, aren’t I?”
“You’ll be safe with me. Tonight.”
Her eyes widened. “I just shivered.”
A genuine smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Call a friend. Knock on a neighbor’s door. Let them see my face; I’ll give them my ID. I don’t want you to worry about me.”
For a long breathless moment, her gaze locked with his. Then the corners of her lips lifted in a whimsical smile. “I’m not worried you’ll murder me or anything. And since I’ve already offered you my body—that pretty much rules out any molesting, unless it’s me doing you.”
Viper drew in a deep breath and began to relax, determined to enjoy her gentle aggression. “We haven’t even kissed. How do you know you’ll like being with me?”
“Are you kidding me?” One brow slipped upward. “Have you looked in a mirror lately? Maybe you don’t find me all that attractive.”
“Who hit on whom?”
Her smile deepened. “Ooh! A man who knows his grammar. I’m completely turned on now. Not the most elegant sentence, but something can be said for brevity.”
“Are you nervous?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You’re rambling,” he murmured. His fingers tugged at the lock of hair that kept slipping from behind her ear. “Come closer.”
Her glance dropped to his lips. “You’re thinking about that kiss we haven’t shared?” she whispered.
“I want a taste of that coffee you sighed over.”
A smile quirked her lips as she leaned closer. “Did I sound too orgasmic?”
“Is that even possible?” he said, his lips curving again. Lord, he’d missed their sexy bantering.
“Why do I get the feeling you don’t smile very much?”
“Because I don’t.”
Her dark eyes melted with a sheen of moisture. “You don’t have to be lonely, so why are you?”
He drew back a fraction of an inch. “You’re attractive enough a thousand men would want you. Why are you lonely?”
“I guess I just haven’t felt a connection. Do you know what I mean?”
Viper knew exactly what she meant. He sat beside the only woman he’d ever felt he belonged with…and lied. “I never gave it much thought.”
Her eyes narrowed. “That is such a man thing to say.”
Because he didn’t want to lie again, he raised his other hand slowly and slipped it behind her neck.
Her eyelids fluttered closed, and her head fell back, supported by the palm cupping her now. He shifted toward the edge of his seat and leaned close, staring at her parted lips.
The first tentative touch almost made him come unglued. His body tightened against the urge to take her to the ground that instant and cover her.
Instead, he breathed softly through his nose, pressed his lips against hers, and canted his head to deepen the pressure.
A low, breathy moan seeped into his mouth.
Slowly, he circled his head, dragging his lips over hers, suctioning softly until she gasped, and he gently thrust inside his tongue.
The taste of her—coffee, a lingering hint of mint from her toothpaste, her own sweet flavor—sent a fine tremor racing down his spine.
Her head drew back, and her tongue traced her bottom lip. “Are you reassured now that we’ve got that out of the way?”
The glibness of her words were betrayed by the breathless delivery. Viper settled his forehead against hers. “How far did you say your place is?”
“We can be there in five.”
“Make it four,” he muttered, and then stood, holding out his hand to pull her up.