Silent is the Knight
In the aftermath of a terrible hurricane, 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 indulgences—a bottle of wine and a willing woman.
What starts as a night of sensual delights ends in a revelation of mutual discovery when Noelle quickly creeps into his heart. The ancient vampire, so jaded from life he never speaks, must now persuade her to flee the city before it’s too late.
Note: This novelette is approximately 12,500 words long and was previously released as Silent Knight.
Read an Excerpt
With a sigh, 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.
Feeling alone although surrounded by many, and weighed by air so heavy it muffled sound, she wheeled the cart down St. Ann St., heading toward the alley way where she stored her cart.
“Joyeux Noël, Noelle!”
“Ha-ha,” she said, a smile tugging at her mouth as she waved to her friend Gerard, the owner of a small Cajun restaurant. Not wanting to pause to exchange small talk, because she was too disheartened to keep up any pretense of holiday cheer, she continued around the back of the eatery and 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 city residents to roam the streets in light jackets. No one believed in a future amid the chaos—and some questioned her psychic ability since she’d received no divination of the coming catastrophe. Indeed, Noelle questioned her gift daily as she sat beneath her colorful umbrella in front of the embroidered cloth advertising “Loving Hands—Palms Read, Futures Told.”
If not for the little nest egg 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 Bourbon Street, the shortest route toward home, although tonight’s meandering crowd slowed her steps.
Something in the air crackled. A teasing flare of electricity that lifted the hairs on her arms. Something she hadn’t felt in a while. Her interest piqued, she opened her mind, tuning in to the quiet whispers, searching for the source of the other worldly energy. And then a voice entered her mind, so clear, so near she heard it above the disjointed snippets of thoughts…
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 sensed the quiet determination in the fleeting thought as she passed through the crowd ambling along Bourbon and spun to locate the owner. The inner voice that accompanied the thought was masculine and raspy. She must have touched him at one point, because 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. The dark emotion 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 season? 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 tormented—so much so he was losing touch with reality. He believed himself a thousand years old. And he meant to end his life—with a sunrise?
Perhaps so great was his sadness, he only felt a thousand years old. 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, she had a responsibility to save him. He’d touched her. Now his fate belonged to her.
Quickly, she walked back the way she’d come, letting her hands drift out from her sides, skimming the tourists, musicians, and garbage collectors, finding nothing darker than desire for the dulling buzz of alcohol and a quick, illicit screw. Then her skin tingled again the moment before she touched him, and she instantly recognized his painful soul.
Suddenly overwhelmed, she paused. She shut her eyes as dark, erotic pictures blurring like 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. She ducked her head, to protect herself from meeting his gaze, and 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 tortured soul from a terrible sin.
Then he tucked a finger under her chin and lifted it, slowly dragging up her face until their gazes collided.
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, eerily bright blue gaze and instead, let hers drift over him.
Lamplight struck the damp tangles of his dark hair. 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 firm jaw and the stark slant of his cheekbones lent him a feral aura and 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 expelled 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 escaped through her lips, and he deepened the intimate caress, rubbing his mouth 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 the firm muscle 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 light-hearted sound, but dry and raspy as though his voice was seldom used.
His thigh slid from between hers, and again, he snagged her wrist.
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 was no longer touching him.
Don’t think too much. I won’t harm you.
She shook her head, a frisson of fear prickling her spine. She often caught disjointed thoughts from those around her, which grew more focused when she cradled hands inside hers, but she’d never held a conversation inside her mind. And she wasn’t touching him now. How was this possible?
Even without the physical connection, his voice slipped inside her mind again like a stealthy wraith. You followed me. You want this, too.
Do I? She shook her head again. Her gift led her to him. “I wanted to…save you.”