Bad to the Bone
Night Fall series, Book 10
Genre: Paranormal, Vampire
On Sale: April 25, 2017
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…
NOTE: The first three chapters of this book were previously published in Her Soul To Keep. The last six are new and give Viper his happy ever after…
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Her 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, 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 inside 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, fly-away 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.
She believed herself safe now as she mingled with others strolling along the promenade.
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 the 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 clock or 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 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 it. It’s a strange place. I did a piece there about the rise of Sanguinarian blood rituals. There’s a whole subculture devoted to it, and most of them 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. The social section wouldn’t encompass her ambition long.
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 letting her glance slide 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. “It’s not like I have reservations 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 numbers to be called by the restaurant hostess who roamed outside, jotting names 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. “There’s a Starbucks 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 his body 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 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 asked, and then stepped out, shortening his natural stride to allow her to walk comfortably beside him.
She made a feminine sound as she cleared her throat. “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, 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.