Blackmailed. Betrayed. Sometimes Destiny Sucks.
In HAVEN, San Francisco nightclub owner Carina Tranquilli survives a vicious attack by her vampire family’s longtime archenemies. Several weeks later, as she struggles with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, supervillain Dixon resurfaces and kidnaps two of her best friends. To save them, Carina must comply with the evil bastard’s unusual demands. The kicker? She must tell no one what she is up to.
Meanwhile, she has a new dance club to open for the preternatural community, a fated soul mate acting secretive and distant, and a sexy, new, undead friend who’d love to take Alexander’s place in her heart and bed.
Blackmailed, betrayed, tempted…sometimes destiny has a wicked sense of humor.
My day moved from ordinary to interesting when the deliveryman handed me a box that smelled of blood.
The scent made my mouth water. Pungent iron mixed with, of all things, lavender. My thoughts flew straight to Tessa, my surrogate vampire mother. When she pulled out one of her specialty powers, the one I fondly referred to as vampire valium, this relaxing, floral herb scented the air and reduced friend or foe to a boneless, helpless puddle.
I shut the front door on the retreating back of the deliveryman and wiggled the box. Nothing rattled inside. Not particularly heavy, less than ten pounds.
A peace offering, perhaps? Tessa certainly owed me one.
She’d commanded her minion, my boyfriend Alexander, to star in a two-month classical music tour of Italy, performing nightly for vampire dignitaries and their lucky minions. While I, the good little predestined, vampire apocalypse averting, Chosen One in training, remained behind in San Francisco to learn how to kick naughty vampire ass with my latent and rather unwieldy fire power.
“Hey boys,” I called up to the second floor where my friend Adrian and his lover, my mentor Jonas, took their sweet time descending for breakfast. “Bloody prezzie just arrived. And I do mean that literally.”
Silence answered my shout, followed by the whoosh of water in the master bathroom shower and a husky laugh from Adrian. Given that sexy sound, I could expect a delay. Jonas tended to make their showers last forever.
A jolt of jealousy stabbed my stomach. Wish I could enjoy some fun and sexy time with my guy. I shrugged off the sensation and strode into the kitchen. “Fine. More for me.”
I parked my ass in a chair and slid the box onto the table to study it. No return address or package info. Not that surprising. Vampires tended to aim for stealth and subtlety, to fly under the radar of the general human populace. One of Tessa’s minions probably compelled the delivery dude, or he belonged to the circle of humans already in-the-know.
I ripped off the tape in one pull and peeked inside. No packing peanuts, but rather a nest of lavender branches speckled with droplets of blood, as if the branches themselves bled. Beautiful, aromatic, and so very vampire.
A wine box large enough for two bottles rested in the nest. Cold to the touch, indicating recent refrigeration. I lifted it out, trailing my fingers over the gold latch, the dark, glossy wood, the Celtic knots carved into each end, and finally over the initials on top. My initials, C A T. Short for Carina Agostina Tranquilli.
What a well-crafted and thoughtful gift. I bet the wine inside would be equally well-made.
I flipped the latch and opened the lid. My brows collided. Not wine.
Nine vials of blood about the size of my ring finger rested side by side in black velvet bedding. A stopper sealed with red wax and stamped with my initials secured the blood inside each vessel.
I pulled one from its nest and held it up in the light streaming through the kitchen’s bay window. The liquid glowed a rich, ruby red like a shard in a stained glass window.
“Beautiful.” And odd.
Sure, I was a half vampire and could appreciate a fine bit of blood, but I was still a human female and for me, nothing says, I’m sorry for disrupting your entire life like high-end jewelry or better yet an all-expenses paid trip with my boyfriend somewhere secluded, luxurious, and far away from vampire politics. Hell, I’d settle for the return of my boyfriend to San Francisco.
My attacker pinned me face-first to the trunk, grinding an erection into my backside. Panic and pain pierced my gut. Oh, hell no. I struggled to free myself, my power eager to fry the bastard. But a familiar wintery power slid under my skin and doused my fire as if it were a weak matchstick.
Warm breath teased my earlobe. “Hello, pet.”
I froze. Fuck me. Dixon.
He nipped my ear lobe with wicked sharp fangs. “Miss me?”
“No.” The cut stung. Blood trickled, warm and wet, down my neck.
“No? I’m hurt.” Jolts of icy power secured me to the tree trunk while Dixon’s skeletal hands roamed over my body.
“Back off, you undead wanker,” I snapped, refusing to surrender to my fears.
He chuckled. “I do so love it when you speak my language, my little kitten.”
The world spun when he flipped me around and lassoed me tighter to the trunk with his power, his lean, tall body caging mine. Head lowered, gaunt face too close, his silver eyes shone like moonlight. Mesmerizing, seductive moonlight.
Shit. He was trying to compel me. Very few vampires could do that, and they had to be old. Unfortunately, Dixon was as old as Stonehenge. Maybe older.
I lowered my gaze to his thin, blue-black lips. They curled up in a creepy smile under my inspection, crinkling the lightning bolt tattoo streaking across one hollow cheek. He circled one long fang with the tip of his tongue.
“Come now, pet. No more words for your favorite admirer?”
Anger almost had me hurling insults at the bastard but I clenched my teeth. You’re bat shit crazy, and I’m going to kill you if I can get my hands free.
He slipped a bony finger under my chin and tilted it upward, trapping my gaze again. I met his challenge for two whole seconds before pain closed my eyes. He’d likely dislocated my shoulder with his aerial stunt, and so far my vampire quick healing genes had failed to fix it.
“Oh dear, is my favorite toy broken?” He poked my shoulder hard, chuckling when I cried out.
“Bastard.” Moisture beaded on my forehead, and nausea knotted my stomach. I should puke on the smug jerk. That would teach him.
“Here my pet, let me help.”
Pain clogged my throat as he reset my shoulder with surprising medical precision.
He slid his hand over my repaired shoulder and down to the curve of my waist. “There, all better now.” His hand inched lower and squeezed my ass.
“Back off, perv.”
“Hm. Still spicy I see. Very good.”
He leaned into me until his erection pressed against my belly. Inside my power paced like a caged tiger, roaring and swiping at the metaphorical bars Dixon had placed around her. God, how I wanted to grab his head and fry him, starting with his too-perfect, spiky platinum hair, then his tattooed face and on down until he was nothing but an ash statue standing in his studded leather boots.
My anger surged. I bucked against his hold, hating his gaunt body plastered to mine, his cigarettes and leather scent searing my nostrils, just…hating him.
He trapped my arms above my head and rubbed his cheek against my forehead. “Yes, move like that kitten. Right there.” He lapped at my bleeding ear. “Don’t stop now, my lush little pet.”
Bile burned my throat, making a bid for freedom. “Screw you.”
“Oh, yes. Quite soon in fact.”
Panic ripped my gut. “Never.”
“Forever,” he shot back.
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About the Author:
Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for vampires, werewolves, and the Fae.
When not writing, you’ll find her exercising, reading a good book or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies.
Web site: http://www.celiabreslin.com/