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Authors: Amanda Ashley

As Twilight Falls (7 page)

BOOK: As Twilight Falls
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“That’s true.” His eyes narrowed ominously. “I would remind you, though, that this is
my
town.
My
house. The vampires do as
I
say. The humans do as
I
say. You would be wise to remember that.”
“You can threaten me all you like. It won’t change the way I feel.”
He laughed softly, but there was no humor in it. “You put on a brave front, but it’s all bravado. I can smell the fear on your skin, hear it in the rapid beat of your heart, see it in your eyes. Try as you might, you can’t hide your thoughts from me.”
She glared at him, hating him because he knew there was nothing behind her bluster but sheer terror. Try as she might, she couldn’t wrap her mind around the reality sitting across from her. If vampires were more than myth, what of the other storybook monsters? Maybe there really were trolls under bridges and monsters under the bed.
Saintcrow unfolded from his chair and rounded the table. He stood next to her, his expression enigmatic, and then he lifted her to her feet. “I’ll show you what’s real,” he said, his voice whiskey smooth.
Before she had time to think what he might mean, he bent her back over his arm and kissed her, his lips punishing hers, his tongue invading her mouth.
There was nothing of tenderness in his kiss. It was meant to humiliate her, to prove he was the one in control.
She didn’t fight him. What was the use? There was no escape from the arms that imprisoned her, just as there was no escape from Morgan Creek.
He deepened the kiss, one hand sliding up and down her back. His lips were warm and firm. His kiss gentled, his arm loosened around her, and she found herself kissing him back, clasping her hands at his nape.
He whispered something that sounded like an endearment in a language she didn’t understand, and then he kissed her again. Heat engulfed her, spreading to every part of her body, arousing a need deep within her unlike anything she had ever known. What was he doing to her?
She was gasping for breath when he let her go.
He stared down at her for stretched seconds, his dark eyes flashing ebony fire. “Go to bed, Kadie,” he said gruffly.
She didn’t argue.
Her first instinct was to run up the stairs as fast as she could, but some ancient sense of self-preservation reminded her that she was prey and he was a predator. With that in mind, she made her way slowly up the stairs and quietly closed the door.
 
 
Saintcrow stood in the kitchen, hands balled into tight fists, as Kadie climbed the stairs to her room. He had known hundreds of women in his time, perhaps thousands. Old and young; pretty and not so pretty; sassy and submissive. None had appealed to him the way this one spitfire of a girl did. She didn’t beg for her freedom. She didn’t pretend to like him in hopes that he would relent and let her go. She would never stop trying to escape. He had to admire that.
He drew a deep breath, his nostrils filling with her unique scent. He could taste her on his tongue—warm and sweet, vibrant and alive. He had taken women in the past, used them as long as it pleased him and then thrown them away without a second thought.
But this woman—Kadie—he had known the moment he’d woken to her scent that he had to have her. He had sought her out in the library and other places, making sure she didn’t see him.
He grinned inwardly. One of the perks of being the oldest, biggest badass of his kind was that no one ever dared oppose him.
Which meant Kadie Andrews was now his for as long as he wished it.
And whether she liked it or not, it was going to be for a good long time.
 
 
Kadie stood with her back against the door, her thoughts spinning round and round like a hamster on a wheel. She couldn’t escape Morgan Creek. Saintcrow knew everything she did. She wasn’t sure how, but it didn’t alter the fact that her comings and goings, her innermost thoughts, were his. He was like a Greek god and she a lowly mortal, a minor piece on the chessboard of his life.
She trailed her fingertips over her lips. She couldn’t escape from Saintcrow. And now, with the memory of his kiss and her reaction to it fresh in her mind, she didn’t know if she wanted to run from the man or beg him to kiss her again.
She had been kissed before, many times. Most had been pleasant, a few had been remarkable, but none had been as amazing as Saintcrow’s. Of course, he’d had over nine hundred years to perfect it.
Nine hundred years. Feeling suddenly weak, she slid down to the floor. What would it be like to live that long? She shook her head. It wasn’t normal. Or natural. People weren’t meant to live forever, at least not on Earth. Even contemplating eternity in the hereafter was beyond her comprehension. What would people do when forever stretched ahead of them?
Leaning her head back against the door, she closed her eyes. Saintcrow’s image immediately sprang to the forefront of her mind. Piercing dark eyes. Broad shoulders. A massive chest. Long, long legs. Large hands . . . She shivered, remembering the touch of those hands in her hair, on her skin. The hard length of his body pressed against hers. The way his tongue had ravaged her mouth . . .
“Vampire.” She forced the word past her lips. “Vampire,” she repeated, more forcefully this time.
But first a man
. Saintcrow’s voice slid through her mind like honey warmed by the sun.
A man who wants you. Who burns for your touch. Who hungers for your sweetness.
And with his words came the image of the two of them locked in each other’s arms.
Clapping her hands over her ears, she shouted, “Get out of my head!”
She felt his withdrawal like a physical ache.
Gaining her feet, she undressed down to her underwear. Crawling under the covers, she pulled the blankets over her head, curled into a ball, and burst into tears.
Chapter 8
Darrick Vaughan stared at the dark crimson liquid in his glass. Bottled blood. It was enough to make a vampire gag, yet all the females were off-limits for the next few days. It didn’t happen often, but it was hell when it did.
As always, his thoughts turned to the new woman. The one who should have been his. Would have been his if Saintcrow hadn’t asserted his right to have any woman he wanted at any time. One of the perks of being a master vampire, Vaughan thought glumly, and felt his jealousy and his frustration grow in equal measure.
Of course, he could have challenged Saintcrow, but he wasn’t insane. There was no way he could hope to beat the older vampire, one-on-one.
He grimaced as he sipped his drink. If he could sway the other vampires to his way of thinking, they might be able to destroy Saintcrow and take over Morgan Creek, run it the way they saw fit. Instead of waiting for unwary mortals to stumble into town, they could go out and round up a dozen, a hundred, and gorge themselves to their hearts’ content. But that would never happen as long as Saintcrow existed.
He drained his glass and set it aside. Right now, only Lilith agreed with him.
With enough persuasion and a little luck, he might be able to change that.
He thought again of asking Saintcrow for permission to leave Morgan Creek, but he was reluctant to do so. This place was a haven, a refuge from the hunters and slayers who were determined to wipe their kind from the face of the earth. Leaving Saintcrow’s protection could be dangerous.
After signaling for a refill, Vaughan drummed his fingers on the bar top. Slow and steady wins the race, his father had always said. The best thing to do was try to sway the others to his way of thinking. It might take a year. It might take ten. But what the hell. If there was one thing he had, it was time.
Chapter 9
Kadie woke late after a surprisingly restful sleep. She had slept like the proverbial log, with no dreams that she could recall.
She stared up at the high ceiling. It was Sunday. Had she been at home, she would have eaten a late breakfast, read the paper, taken her little sister, Kathy, to church, if Kathy was feeling up to it. After lunch, she would have gone through her latest batch of photos, deciding which to keep, sorting them into groups, deciding if the pictures deserved a story and where she would send them. In the evening, after dinner, she would have read her e-mail, updated her Web site, maybe played cards with her mom and dad after Kathy went to bed. Her parents must be worried sick. She had promised to call as soon as she reached Wyoming.
Sitting up, she glanced around the room. She hadn’t paid much attention to it before. It was a nice-enough room, large, with bare, off-white walls. The rug was deep green; matching drapes hung at the single window. The four-poster bed looked like an antique, as did the rocking chair in the corner. But maybe that was to be expected, since the owner of the house was somewhat of an antique himself! An old-fashioned mirror stood in one corner. What was that doing here, she wondered, since it was commonly believed that vampires had no reflection.
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed. She had a horrible taste in her mouth. After her grand exit from the kitchen last night, she had been too upset to wash up properly. Now, she was eager to shower and brush her teeth.
She did so quickly, thinking how much she hated Rylan Saintcrow for keeping her here.
Exiting the shower, she slipped into her bathrobe, then stepped into the hallway.
Were there bedrooms behind the other five doors? Did Saintcrow sleep in one of them?
Curious, she padded down the carpeted corridor, peering into each room. They were all furnished much the same as hers, and appeared to be unoccupied. Why did he need so many bedrooms when he lived alone? Had he once kept a harem?
In the kitchen, Kadie put on a pot of coffee. She scrambled a couple of eggs, made some toast, poured a glass of orange juice. While looking for the silverware the day before, she found the catalogs Saintcrow had mentioned. He had brochures and catalogs from dozens of stores and manufacturers from coast to coast. She couldn’t help thinking that shopping online would have been a whole lot easier.
She browsed through several while she ate. He had told her she could have anything she wanted. She quickly made a list—a sofa from Jonathan Adler that cost a mere $3900.00, along with an equally expensive love seat and armchair, a pair of end tables, new lamps, a kitchen table and one chair (Mr. Saintcrow could stand, thank you very much—he didn’t eat, anyway). She added a portable DVD player and fifty DVDs, a blender, a microwave, a new set of silverware, a set of Spode Blue Italian china, Egyptian cotton sheets for the bed, sage green towels for the bathroom, ten bars of imported soap, a bottle of Clive Christian No. 1 perfume (the world’s most expensive fragrance—a steal at only $2150.00 a bottle), the same scent worn by actress Katie Holmes on her wedding day. Lastly, she added a diamond tennis bracelet, something she had always wanted but could never afford.
Kadie sat back, smiling. She couldn’t wait to see Saintcrow’s face when he read her list.
 
 
“Is this all?” Saintcrow asked as he perused the items she had selected.
Kadie stared at him. If she had hoped to anger him or get a rise out of him, she had failed miserably.
He folded her list and stuffed it into his pants pocket. “What would you like to do this evening?”
“Do?”
“I thought you might like to get out of the house. Have you eaten dinner?”
“ No.”
“There’s a nice little Italian restaurant not far from here. Would you like to go?”
“You mean, leave Morgan Creek?” she asked, her mind racing.
“If you’d like.”
“I would! Just let me change clothes.” Not that she had anything really nice to wear. When she’d left home, she hadn’t planned on eating out in nice restaurants, or being gone long enough to need anything other than jeans, T-shirts, and boots.
But she had packed one nice pair of black slacks and a blue silk shirt, just in case, and she donned them now, along with a pair of black sandals. She brushed her hair and her teeth, applied fresh makeup, then scowled at herself in the mirror. What was she doing? Was she actually dressing up for him?
“Of course not,” she told her reflection. “I’m doing it for me.” She grabbed her handbag. If things went as planned, she wouldn’t be coming back here tonight. She hated to leave her cameras behind, but it was a small price to pay for her freedom.
Saintcrow stood when she entered the room. A flash of admiration gleamed in his eyes when he saw her. She ignored it, just as she ignored his hand when he offered it to her.
In the car, she stared out the window, refusing to be drawn into conversation with him. She didn’t know what he was up to, or why he was being so nice, but she was sure he had some ulterior motive.
They crossed the bridge with no trouble at all.
Kadie felt a sense of anticipation as they approached a red light. With as much stealth as she could muster, she took hold of the door handle, held her breath as the car slowed to a stop.
Now! She jerked on the handle.
And nothing happened.
She tried again, with the same result.
Shoulders slumped in defeat, she slid a sideways glance at Saintcrow. He was looking straight ahead, but she didn’t miss the wry grin on his face. He had known, she thought. He had known all along that she would try to escape and so he’d used some of that notorious vampire mojo to thwart her.
Anger and frustration rose up within her, threatening to explode like a cork from a bottle. She took several deep breaths. If only she had a dagger, she thought darkly, she would cheerfully drive it into his black heart.
“I had no idea you were such a bloodthirsty little baggage,” he remarked mildly.
She glared at him. “Stop reading my mind!”
“It’s hard not to when you broadcast so loudly.” Minutes later, he pulled off the freeway and into the restaurant parking lot.
Inside, Saintcrow asked for a table for two.
In spite of her anger, Kadie couldn’t help noticing it was a lovely place as she followed the hostess. Murals of Italy covered the walls, the tables were spread with red-and-white checkered cloths. Music played in the background.
The hostess handed them menus and assured them that their waitress would be there shortly.
Kadie put her menu aside without looking at it.
“Have you already decided?” Saintcrow asked.
“I’m not hungry anymore.”
“So, you only agreed to this in hopes of escaping.” It wasn’t a question.
She stared at him, mute, her hope of freedom shattered.
The waitress arrived just then. “
Buona sera,
” she said, smiling as she placed a basket of garlic bread in the center of the table. “Have you decided yet? Or do you need a few more minutes?”
“A bottle of your best chardonnay,” Saintcrow said.
“Very good, sir.” The waitress looked at Kadie askance.
“You may as well eat,” Saintcrow said.
“Spaghetti and meatballs,” Kadie said sullenly.
“Soup or salad?”
“Salad, please, with Italian dressing. And iced tea, no lemon.”
“And for you, sir?”
“Just the wine.”
With a nod, the waitress collected their menus and left the table.
Kadie spread her napkin in her lap. “You knew what I had in mind all the time, didn’t you?”
He nodded. “It wasn’t too hard to figure out.”
“They told me no one has ever left Morgan Creek. Is that true?”
“You have.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, no one’s ever left.”
“Do you think that’s right, keeping us all prisoners for your amusement?”
“I’m no longer concerned with right and wrong the way you know it.”
“Of course not. You’re a . . .” She glanced around. “What you are. I guess the rules the rest of us live by don’t apply to you.”
“Exactly.”
Kadie bit back her retort when the waitress arrived with the wine, Kadie’s iced tea, and salad.
Saintcrow poured a glass of wine for himself, then looked at Kadie.
She shook her head.
“Are you sure? It’s a very good year.”
“I don’t like wine. I don’t like you, and I never will.”
“You might not like me,” he said quietly, “but you want me.”
“I do not!” she said hotly.
“You can lie to yourself, Kadie, but you can’t lie to me.” He leaned forward, his gaze intent on her face. “I can taste the longing on you, smell it on your skin, hear it in the beat of your heart.”
She stared at him, mesmerized by the blatant desire in his eyes. His words wrapped around her, his breath caressing her.
Swearing softly he drew back when the waitress reappeared with Kadie’s dinner.
Kadie drew a deep, shuddering sigh. She could deny it until she turned blue in the face, but he was right.
She wanted him.
 
 
Kadie remained mute on the drive back to Saintcrow’s house. She felt him watching her several times, but she refused to meet his gaze. He wasn’t human. He was keeping her a prisoner in this accursed town. She might hate him, but there was no denying the attraction between them. But was it even real? If he could keep people from leaving here, if he could read her mind, how did she know that whatever she felt for him was genuine and not just more of his vampire tricks?
And even if what she felt was real, she wasn’t going to do anything about it.
As soon as he pulled into the driveway, she jumped out of the car and hurried up the porch steps. When she tried the door, it was locked.
He took his time getting out of the car.
She was all too aware of him when he came up behind her. Every nerve and cell in her body came to attention. His breath fanned her hair, his arm brushed hers as he reached past her to unlock the door, which he did merely by touching it. A little push and it swung open on well-oiled hinges.
Lights came on when she crossed the threshold.
More vampire magic? Or merely some sort of sensor? Without a word, she walked swiftly toward the staircase. Her hand was on the banister when his voice stopped her.
“Kadie.”
Taking a deep breath, she turned to face him.
“I’m still hungry.”
She frowned. What did he expect her to do about it? she wondered, then felt her blood run cold. He wasn’t asking her to fix him dinner.
She
was dinner.
She turned away, her only thought to dash up the stairs to her room and lock the door, but her feet refused to obey. Was this how it was to be from now on? Would he feed on her every night? She told herself that wouldn’t happen. The vampires weren’t supposed to feed on any of them more than two or three times a week. But maybe the rules didn’t apply to Saintcrow.
He closed the distance between them in three long strides and then he was standing on the stair beside her, towering over her. His hand slid around her nape, his fingers gently massaging her neck.
“What you feel for me is quite real, Kadie,” he assured her, his breath warm against her cheek. “I could compel you to want me, but there’s no fun in that. I could mesmerize you, make you do whatever I wished, whenever I wished. But again, there’s little pleasure to be gained from bedding a robot.”
“I can guarantee you’ll find no pleasure in my bed if you take me against my will.”
He lifted one brow. “That sounds like a challenge.”
“It’s not!” she said quickly.
“No?” He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her gently, his tongue sweeping over her lips.
Kadie refused to kiss him back. She kept her body stiff, her eyes open, even though she wanted nothing more than to surrender to the need burning deep within her.
He kissed her again, his hands stroking her hair as he pushed her back against the banister, his body pressing against hers, letting her feel the hard evidence of his desire.
She fisted her hands at her sides, determined to resist.
He gazed into her eyes, his own filled with amusement. “You are a stubborn wench,” he remarked. “But I can wait. I have all the time in the world.”
And so saying, he released her and vanished from sight. Feeling suddenly weak in the knees, Kadie grabbed the banister, clinging to it as she climbed the stairs and hurried into her room. She locked the door, though there seemed little point to it. Nothing as flimsy as a lock would keep him out.
She climbed into bed, fully dressed except for her shoes, pulled the covers up to her chin, and closed her eyes. But sleep would not come. His scent was all around her. She licked her lips, and tasted him there. Her body throbbed with longing everywhere he had touched.
She wanted him.
Knowing what he was, how could she feel this way about him? He was a vampire, a monster.
A single tear slid down her cheek. How long would she be able to resist before she surrendered to him? How could she give in now, when she had so adamantly declared that she never would?
Kadie dreamed of him that night . . .
 
She was a peasant girl in a medieval village when Saintcrow came to town in the company of a dozen other English knights.
She had never seen anything like them, the stalwart men who rode into town, spurs jingling, banners flying. The village children ran to meet them, cheering and waving. There was little excitement to be had in their day-to-day lives. It was a struggle just to plant and grow enough food to survive from one year to the next. Church feasts proclaimed the time of sowing and reaping. From time to time, there were fairs, a chance to put aside all thought of work and enjoy music and acrobats. Knights came to challenge each other in the lists, merchants sold their wares, games of chance were held in the local tavern.
BOOK: As Twilight Falls
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