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Authors: Amanda Ashley

As Twilight Falls (5 page)

BOOK: As Twilight Falls
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She turned off the road onto a trail that wound through the forest, hit the brake when she saw a deer bounding away. Easing her foot off the brake, she continued down the trail, her troubles momentarily forgotten when she saw a pair of deer grazing on the sparse grass. Braking, she spent several minutes admiring the animals. They were such beautiful, graceful creatures with their large eyes, big ears, and delicate legs. She watched them until, for no apparent reason, they turned and bounded out of sight.
Kadie drove on, her gaze darting left and right. Could this be a way out of town that no one else had found?
After a number of twists and turns, the trail ended at the foot of a mountain that appeared to be made of solid rock and went up and up, seemingly with no end in sight. Backing up, she turned left onto another trail. She’d gone about a mile when she saw the cemetery. Curious, she grabbed one of her cameras. Maybe she could get some good shots as long as she was out here.
She opened the rickety wooden gate and walked toward the nearest grave. It was marked by a wooden cross and nothing more. Glancing around, she saw row after row of weathered wooden crosses. No headstones. No flowers. No names or dates to identify the dead. Just crosses of various sizes. Maybe it wasn’t a real graveyard. Whoever heard of burying people without identifying the deceased?
She shook her head. It was just one more piece of the increasingly strange puzzle that made up Morgan Creek.
Ignoring a growing sense of unease, she took several photographs. “Good thing I don’t believe in ghosts,” she mused. But it sure felt like she was being watched.
As she approached one of the graves, she was struck by a sudden coldness, as if she had stepped into a freezer. A TV show she’d watched claimed that cold spots indicated a ghostly presence.
Deciding she had enough pictures, she left the graveyard. She wasn’t a Ghostbuster and if spirits of the dead lingered here, she didn’t want to meet one. She had enough supernatural creatures to deal with, thank you very much.
She thought about the peculiar graveyard as she fastened her seat belt, then put the SUV in gear.
A short time later, she reached a fork in the road. Wondering if she would ever find her way back to town, she turned right. She hadn’t gone more than a mile or so when she came to a large, square house made of gray stone. There were turrets at the corners of the building, which gave the place the look of an old English castle. Thick iron bars covered the front door and the windows.
Thinking maybe whoever looked after the graveyard lived here, Kadie opened the door of the SUV, hoping to find someone who could tell her how to get out of this accursed town. She gasped when an unseen force slammed into her.
Pulling the door closed, she put the Durango in reverse and got the hell out of there as fast as she could. An hour later, she was hopelessly lost and almost out of gas. Again.
Chapter 6
Whistling softly, his hands shoved into his pockets, Darrick left Blair House and strolled toward Main Street. Now that Saintcrow had returned, maybe he’d ask the head vampire for permission to leave, and to take the new woman with him. She was his now, to do with as he wished.
He was opening the door to the tavern when Kadie’s image popped into his mind and with it a frightened plea for help.
Letting the door to the saloon slam shut, he lifted his head and sniffed the air. Though faint, her scent was borne to him on the breeze.
With preternatural speed, he left town, heading for the forest that grew along the foot of the western mountains.
He found her shivering under a blanket in the front seat of her car, which was parked in the middle of a stand of timber.
She shrieked when he rapped on the window.
“Kadie, it’s me.”
She stared at him, wide-eyed, then opened the door and practically fell into his arms.
“Easy, girl,” he said. “You’re safe now.”
“I got lost,” she said, hating the tremor in her voice. “And I ran out of gas.”
“Come on, let’s get you back to town before you freeze to death.”
“My car . . .”
“I’ll have someone come out and gas it up tomorrow.”
“But . . .”
“We can argue about it later,” he said, and wrapped her in his arms.
The next thing she knew, they were standing on the front porch of her house.
Being told that vampires could move at light speed was one thing, being part of it was another.
Seeing her startled expression, Darrick grinned and said, “Vampire mojo.”
Before she could think of anything to say, her stomach growled loudly, reminding her that all she’d had to eat was a granola bar, and that had been hours ago.
She crossed the threshold, then paused to look over her shoulder.
Vaughan stood on the porch, his hands shoved into his pants pockets.
Kadie huffed a sigh; then, hoping she wouldn’t regret it, she said, “You might as well come in.”
With a nod, he entered the house.
A faint shimmer of energy played over her skin when he crossed the threshold.
Seeing her quizzical expression, he said, “Preternatural power. Not every mortal can sense it.”
She pondered that while she made a sandwich.
Darrick watched her from the kitchen doorway, his arms folded over his chest.
“Do vampires ever eat . . . food?” she asked, pouring herself a glass of milk.
“No.”
“Never?”
“Never.”
She nibbled on her sandwich a moment before asking, “How did you find me?”
“I followed your scent.”
Brow furrowed, she blinked at him. “But I was miles away.”
He nodded.
“More vampire mojo?”
“Something like that,” he replied with a wry smile.
“There was a house. A big house made of gray stone. With bars on the windows.”
He nodded again. “It belongs to Saintcrow.”
“Saintcrow?” She frowned. The name sounded familiar. And then she remembered where she had heard it. Pauline had remarked how lucky she was that Vaughan had found her first, and Shirley had said that none of the women taken by Saintcrow were ever seen again.
“He’s the oldest one of our kind I’ve ever met,” Darrick remarked. “Morgan Creek belongs to him.”
“He’s older than you?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. Saintcrow rode with King Richard during the Crusades.”
If she remembered her history correctly, the first crusade started in the year 1095 or 1096 and was fought to regain control of the Holy Lands. To the best of her recollection, there had been nine crusades. It was inconceivable that anyone living back then could still be alive.
She was about to say as much when there was a ripple in the air and a tall man with dusky skin appeared in the doorway beside Vaughan.
“Speak of the devil,” Darrick remarked sourly, “and he appears.”
“Kadie Andrews,” the newcomer said. “I think it’s time we met since you were prowling the grounds of my lair earlier today.”
Kadie stared at Saintcrow. He was taller than Vaughan, broad-shouldered, and lean-hipped, with an air of confidence and authority that was almost tangible. He wore black jeans, black boots, and a black silk shirt open at the throat. His inky black hair brushed the collar of his jacket; his eyes were like deep pools of ebony. A thin white scar ran from the outer corner of his left eye, down his cheek, and disappeared under his shirt collar. Power radiated from him, making the short hairs rise along her arms. Even if no one had told her what he was, she would have known he wasn’t human.
Saintcrow took Kadie’s hands in his. “I regret that I was not able to welcome you when you arrived,” he said.
Kadie nodded. His voice moved over her like a caress, deep and whiskey smooth.
Eyes narrowed, Saintcrow took hold of the black scarf hanging out of her back pocket and tossed it aside.
“I rather fancy her,” he said. “You don’t mind if I borrow her for a while, do you, Vaughan?” It wasn’t really a request, not the way he said it.
Clenching her hands into fists, Kadie sent a pleading glance to Vaughan. He looked at her, his eyes filled with pity. “As you wish, my lord,” he said, and vanished from sight.
Kadie stared at Saintcrow. She had been afraid of Vaughan, but that was nothing compared to the terror that gripped her when Saintcrow looked at her through those fathomless black eyes.
“Come along, Kadie Andrews.” His gaze burned into hers, hotter than hellfire, yet strangely compelling. When he held out his hand, she dared not refuse.
With a predatory smile, his fingers—long and incredibly strong—closed over her own. A rush of preternatural power surrounded her. It was like being caught in the center of a tornado. The world spun out of focus. Darkness swallowed her.
When she came to her senses, she was in a large, square room, trapped in Rylan Saintcrow’s embrace.
Kadie didn’t move, could scarcely breathe. He was close. So close. His power engulfed her, a mysterious pulsing energy unlike anything she had experienced before. His unique scent, alien and yet somehow enticing, filled her with an emotion she couldn’t define. When she risked a look into his eyes, she felt herself falling, tumbling from this world into times past where knights on horseback vied for supremacy in the lists. She saw brightly colored banners fluttering in the breeze, the spires of an ancient castle, swords flashing in sunlight, weary men gathered around campfires. It took her a moment to realize she was seeing scenes from his past. How was that possible?
When he released her from his gaze, she wriggled out of his arms. Retreating several steps, she glanced at her surroundings. A fireplace large enough to hold a horse dominated the room. The tables were made of heavy wood, the sofas covered in a dark green fabric. Oriental rugs covered the floor. A tapestry, its colors faded by time, hung from one of the walls. An ornate bookcase took up space on another. She ran her hand over the suit of armor in the corner, wondering if he had worn it in the Crusades. A pair of crossed swords hung over the fireplace. She jumped back, startled, when flames sprang to life in the hearth.
Wrapping her arms around herself in an age-old feminine gesture, she dared a glance at Saintcrow. “What are you going to do with me?”
She had intended to speak boldly; instead, her voice came out sounding as frightened as she felt. Belonging to Darrick Vaughan was suddenly very appealing.
“What does any man want with a woman?”
She didn’t like the sound of that at all. Gathering her courage, she lifted her chin. “You’re not a man.”
“You think not?” He took a step toward her. “Shall I prove it to you here and now?”
“No!”
His deep black eyes lit up with amusement. “Would you rather be with Vaughan?”
“Yes.”
He lifted one brow. “What is it about him, I wonder, that the women find so appealing?”
Kadie stared up at him, mute, her heart racing like that of an animal caught in a trap. He towered over her, as solid as a block wall. He might not be a man in the usual sense of the word, but he was undeniably, blatantly male. Something primal deep within her responded to him.
He took another step toward her. As though hypnotized, she watched him lift his hand. Her heartbeat increased tenfold when his knuckles caressed her cheek, slid down the side of her neck. She shivered when his fingertips traced her collarbone, then rested lightly on the pulse throbbing wildly in the hollow of her throat.
Every nerve and cell in her body came to sudden, vibrant life at his touch.
He smiled at her, an insufferably smug, knowing smile. “You’re mine now.” His voice was like the low rumble of distant thunder. “No other shall have you.”
She nodded, unable to speak or object when he was looking at her like that. Unable to move as he lowered his head and claimed her lips with his in a long, searing kiss that threatened to turn her blood to fire and her bones to mush.
She felt bereft when he lifted his head.
He gazed down at her, noting her bruised lips, the two bright spots of color in her cheeks, the slightly dazed expression in her eyes. She was a remarkably pretty woman. Thick, dark brown hair fell in soft waves down her back, almost to her waist. Her eyes were a warm golden brown above a nose that tilted upward at the end. And her lips . . . ah, those lips. Pink and perfectly shaped; made for his kisses.
He could take her, here, now, but he didn’t want to compel this woman as he had so many others. When he made love to Kadie Andrews, he wanted it to be her idea, and he wanted her to remember every glorious moment of it.
“How old are you, Kadie?”
“Twenty-four.”
He nodded. She would serve him well for a good long time. “Why me?” Marti had told her that none of the others had ever even seen Saintcrow. Shirley had said that those who were taken by him were never seen again.
“Why
not
you?”
She crossed her arms over her chest again. “Are you going to kill me?”
His brows rushed together in a frown. “What kind of question is that?”
“I just want to know. I was told . . .” She bit down on her lower lip, her courage failing her. Maybe she didn’t want to know the answer.
“The women. They told you it wasn’t safe here, with me?”
She nodded. “They said you kill the women you bring here.”
“And you believe them?”
“What kind of question is that?” she exclaimed. “Of course I believe them. You’re a vampire. Isn’t killing humans what vampires do?”
“It is, indeed.”
His hands, large and strong, folded over her shoulders, pulling her closer, holding her immobile. Every instinct urged her to flee, but she couldn’t escape his hold. Fear coiled around her insides, colder than ice. Shirley was right, she thought frantically. He was going to kill her.
“Relax, Kadie,” he said soothingly. “You’re in no danger.” He stroked her cheek with the knuckles of one hand, then drew in a deep breath. “Have you any idea how delectable you smell? So fresh and clean.” He brushed a kiss across the top of her head, his lips moving in her hair. “So soft,” he said quietly. “No wonder Vaughan wanted you.” He drew back abruptly, his gaze suddenly fierce. “Did he have you?”
“I . . . I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did he take you to his bed?”
“No!”
“I always knew the man was a fool. But in this case, it likely saved his life.”
Kadie stared at him, horrified. It was bad enough that he wanted to drink from her. That, at least, she could endure. But to share his bed . . . Revulsion speared through her. She would rather die! Still, a little part of her mind couldn’t help wondering what making love to him would be like. Did vampires make love like other men? If his lovemaking was as mind-blowing as his kiss, how would she survive?
He smiled at her in a way that made her glad he couldn’t read her mind.
Taking her by the hand, he led her to the high-backed sofa in front of the fireplace and drew her down beside him, his arm sliding around her shoulders to hold her close.
“Time for a taste,” he said, and bent his head to her neck.
“No!” Panic surged through her. She tried to wriggle out of his hold, but his arm, as hard and unyielding as iron, held her fast.
She gasped when she felt the faint sting of his fangs at her throat. His mouth was incredibly hot against her skin. He was drinking from her. She expected to feel revulsion, disgust, horror. Instead, a delicious warmth spread through her whole body, pooling deep within her, culminating in a rush of unexpected sensual pleasure that stole the breath from her body. Hardly aware of what she was doing, she grabbed a handful of his hair to hold him in place, afraid he would take his mouth away.
She moaned softly, heard his soft chuckle as he ran his tongue along her neck, and then drank again. She was lost, she thought, lost in a world of sensation unlike anything she had ever imagined. It was almost beyond bearing.
If only he would stop.
If only he would never stop.
When he lifted his head, she stared up at him, suddenly ashamed of the way she had responded to him.
“That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?” he asked, a gentle chiding evident in his tone.
“Of course it was.” She would not give him the satisfaction of knowing how much she liked it.
“What a little liar you are.” There was no censure in his voice, only mild amusement. “You will stay here from now on. You may have the run of the house, but you will not invite anyone else inside. You may come and go as you please, spend your days as you see fit, but your nights will be spent here, with me. Do you understand?”
She nodded.
“There are a number of bedrooms upstairs. Take whichever one pleases you. Redecorate if you wish. You’ll find several catalogs in one of the drawers. In the kitchen, I think. Make a list of whatever you want and I’ll see that you get it.”
BOOK: As Twilight Falls
6.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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