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Authors: Michele Hauf

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Dark Rapture

BOOK: Dark Rapture
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DARK RAPTURE

Michele Hauf

 

 

This remastered edition of DARK RAPTURE is the first digital edition published in 2012 by Swell Cat Press. 

 

Copyright © 1997 by Michele Hauf

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Author, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

Author Letter

Dear Readers,

Dark Rapture is the first book I wrote. Back in 1990, I thought it was about time I took one of the stories I carried around in my brain and put it to paper. I figured I could tell a good tale, so gave it a go. The story was bought by Kensington Books in 1993, and eventually published as a mass-market paperback in 1997.

What you now hold in your hands is the first digital edition of the story.

Nowadays, many authors are putting out their backlist—once only available in paperback—in digital format. This is an awesome way to make older stuff available to new readers. But it's also risky. It's been over twenty years since I wrote this story, and after proofing and re-editing (lightly) the story, I have to say, my writing has improved over the years. I told a great story in Dark Rapture, but if you read my current writing, you will definitely see the difference in writing style. It's not quite as purple as I once wrote. And my heroes have become a bit less selfish. ;-)

As well, this story was published as a paranormal romance, yet when writing it, I considered it a blend of horror and romance, sort of a macabre romance, if you will.

The second book in this digital set is Wicked Angels, and it is Scarlet and Sebastian's continuing story. That story was never published in paperback form (despite being purchased by not one, but two publishers). It's a long story, but suffice, it's here now for you to read.

The paranormal romances I currently write are set in my world of Beautiful Creatures. Dark Rapture can fit into that world, though some adjustments to creature traits have occurred since this first story, so please allow for a few 'differences', if you will.

I do hope you will enjoy this look at my 'classic' tale. Let me know what you think!

Michele

 

Prologue

As it jumped to the rain-soaked windowsill, the cat’s eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room. Quickly, the feline realized it should turn and high-tail it out of there. But it couldn’t.

Crimson droplets of blood slid slowly down the pale, slender neck of the young woman as memories of her dark lover slipped from her mind, disappearing into the realm of the subconscious, never to be willfully released again. Her breathing was deep and relaxed as her chest rose and fell to the beat of the rain against the window. She lay submerged in a trance of dreams, unaware of the curious visitor perched on the windowsill.

As the gray night sky shed tears of rain across the opened windowpane, the three-quarter moon’s reflection danced across the water-streaked window, casting an iridescent shadow play over the darkened walls of the small bedroom. A sodden curtain blew freely in the cool breeze, gray and wet, as if a soaked funeral shroud.

Claws scratched against damp wood as the saturated cat steadied itself on the edge of the windowsill. Its tail shuddered and flicked like a cobra on acid at the cold sprinkles falling outside. The rain had come suddenly, forcing it to seek shelter before reaching the safety of its master’s home. Thin lucid whiskers flicked nervously as the cat curiously surveyed the room, sniffing the fresh, dewy air, but detecting something more.

Something not right.

With a sudden hiss, the edges of its mouth pulled sharply back, exposing tiny spiked yellow teeth. The cat’s fur stood on end and its claws dug deeper into the wooden perch.

The vampire released his death grip, pulling his shiny daggers from the woman’s neck with a satisfied sigh. As her blood rolled from the opened wounds, he brushed back a wisp of coal-black hair that fell across his forehead, before a stray drop of blood touched it. When he raised his head, a moan of satisfaction escaped his reddened mouth, his dagger teeth glinted in the moonlight, and his face was flushed hot with the life he had tasted. The small taste he had taken from the donor warmed and replenished his body; his muscles felt strong and tight, and his heart beat with a renewed passion.

The swoon captured him and he hovered dizzily over the woman’s body, lightly touching the edges of her figure beneath the rumpled sheet. The blood rush was an orgasmic flood that surged through his body, quickening and strengthening, and finally, satisfying his deadliest cravings. Cravings for the life blood.

Life, which would in turn sustain his own.

A crash of thunder cleared his mind and the vampire shook off the last bits of subconscious bliss as the rapture subsided. With the woman resting limply in his arms, the dark figure turned toward the soggy creature perched on the windowsill. The vampire’s onyx eyes seized the moonlight and flashed a silent warning to the animal: beware!

Freed from its prison of terror, the cat sprang from the ledge, landing deftly upon the slippery ground, and bolted across the mud-spotted grass in search of more welcoming shelter from the rain.

The vampire rose from the woman’s bed. In a minute he was dressed, clad in faded jeans, t-shirt, and a worn leather jacket. His thoughts turned to the havoc outside. Fortunately, he had driven. The idea of battling the elements was distasteful.

As always, he bent to kiss his donor before leaving and inspected the puncture wounds on her neck. A bubble of blood formed where minutes ago she had felt the exquisite pain from the intrusion of his teeth.

He leaned in and caught the last precious drops as they started to roll down her neck. Spreading the smooth liquid across his tongue, he pressed it against the roof of his mouth to savor its sweetness the way one enjoys fine wine. He smiled to himself, relishing the elixir this unknowing woman had provided him. Then, as if saddened by his actions, his face smoothed and his brows angled down toward his nose as he fingered the woman’s pale strands of hair.

They were always so innocent, so unsuspecting of his true intentions. A quick drink with a handsome stranger in a bar, and then the pleasure of taking him home with you.

He smiled.

And once at home, his passion unleashed, his lovemaking was urgent but sweet, and the final rush of bliss that came with his bite was always a dream fulfilled. His donors experienced the same rapture as he, and then quickly slipped into dreamsleep, never to remember his face or the phony name he had given them. All they remembered were his charming ways. And the beguiling kiss of the vampire.

He sighed, then dismissed thoughts of remorse from his mind. “To immortality,” he whispered.

 

Part One

 

Chapter One

 

Though it was the middle of summer, the temperature inside the time-forgotten castle was brisk. Matthias rubbed his hands over his thin cotton sleeves to bring some warmth to his shivering body. His footsteps echoed as he padded down the darkened hallway that led to the small window set into the curve of the far tower. Small stones and broken shards of glass cracked beneath his tennis shoes, and he wasn’t sure, but—was that a mouse?

He hoped that his master wouldn’t like the castle, and that they would continue the search for a suitable place to take up residence. But he had the chilling feeling this dismal, cold, abandoned mansion would soon be his new home.

“Anything for you, master,” he muttered.

“Matthias!”

The teenager swung around at the sound of his master’s voice.

Francesco strode across the rubble, his knee-high black riding boots crushing the stones in fierce confidence. Incredibly handsome in the pale twilight, his long coat of red velvet, though decayed and torn around the swinging hem and wide cuffs, set off his fierce mane of wavy hair and made him appear paler than usual.

“Yes, master, I’m over here by the window.”

Francesco crunched over to the window and laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I like this place, Matthias.”

***

“This is going to be a great summer now that you’re here, Gary.”

“Then does that mean it’s okay if we stay here for a while? Just until the mansion is ready to move into?” Between words, Gary Rose chewed frantically on his ever-present gum. His light green eyes beamed happily.

“Yeah, it’s been sitting empty for quite a while," Vince said. "No one knows how long for sure. It will most likely need a little work before we can move in."

“You're both welcome for as long as you like.” Scarlet sat at the edge of her seat, barely able to contain her excitement at finally having her brother with her again.

The threesome sat around the kitchen table catching up on each other’s lives. Scarlet had missed a lot. When she'd left home two years ago, Gary had just been putting his band, Wild Child, together. Now, along with Vince as lead singer, Scott, the bass guitarist, and Rob on drums, they had achieved a dream: they had just signed their first record contract. They had been working on their album back home in Minnesota but jumped at the chance to move to California, knowing it would bring them that much closer to realizing greater success.

Gary spoke proudly of their accomplishments, and between voracious chomps on his gum, explained every detail of the deal. Scarlet set out sandwiches and pop and, unable to contain herself, kissed Gary on the cheek before sitting back down. He didn't miss a beat talking but reached to squeeze her hand. They’d always been close even though they hadn’t seen each other for over two years.

Scarlet listened intently but kept Vince in the corner of her eye. Though Gary had told her about him during their phone conversations, she had never met Vince before, and had been taken by surprise when she had first seen him. He was tall, compared to Gary’s average height, and very handsome. No, the word wasn’t handsome, but instead, beautiful. Vince’s long golden mane hung over his shoulders and to the middle of his chest, hair that any woman would be jealous of. He was quiet, but his shimmery, blue eyes spoke volumes.

For the last hour he had sat with his spindly legs tucked beneath his chair, content to listen while she and Gary exchanged memories. It took a while before he eventually warmed to her and joined in the chatter. Not that he needed to. Gary, always the one with the gift of gab, carried most of the conversation.

“I’m so proud of you guys," she said. “I know you’re going to make it big. This record contract proves it.”

“Yeah, this is what we’ve been working for.” Gary whipped out another stick of gum from the crumpled pack in his shirt pocket. “I can’t wait to get started recording. I’ve got a mind full of song ideas and riffs.” A slice of peppermint gum disappeared past his straight white teeth.

“You won’t forget your number one fan when you’re rich and famous, will you?” Scarlet asked, sweetly batting her lashes.

“Never.” Gary’s mouth flipped up on one side for a half grin and he winked.

Vince stretched his arms over his head and yawned, giving Scarlet an excellent view of his washboard abs. “Sorry, guys, but I have to crash. I’m tired.”

“Vince drove the whole way from the last hotel,” Gary added. “Ten hours.” He looked at his watch. “I’m pretty tired, too. I’ll catch ya in a few, man.”

“Vince, you and Gary can sleep in the bedroom on the right side of the hall.” Scarlet pointed behind her toward the stairs. “If you need anything ask, but there should be towels in the extra bathroom and I washed sheets yesterday.”

“Thanks.” Vince’s lanky body animated and he towered over Scarlet. “It’s nice of you to let us stay here until we can move into the mansion. I appreciate it.”

Scarlet watched him stride out of the kitchen, his cocky gait swiftly removing him from the room, then noticed Gary smiling at her as if he had a secret that was itching to be told.

“What’s with you?” she asked cautiously, knowing that look.

He laughed quietly and motioned toward the hallway where Vince had disappeared. “So, what do you think of him?”

“Vince? I think he’s nice, extremely good looking, but he’s so shy, I can’t imagine him on stage singing. And singing for a rock n’ roll band at that.”

“Wait till you hear him, he’s an amazing singer. And the way he works a crowd?” Gary bit the corner of his lip, shaking his head in admiration. “It’s sort of a Jekyll and Hyde thing with Vince on stage, you might not recognize him. When he sings the guy is the complete opposite of what he is normally. Which is great because that makes him the perfect front man for the band. He also attracts a lot of women, which is an added perk.”

“I’m sure you do your share of attracting the women,” Scarlet said, knowing Gary’s relative ease around the female of the species.

He tilted his head of corkscrew curls and cast her a delicious smile. “I hold my own. But don’t get me wrong, we’re not a bunch of sex-starved, wild and crazy rockers just looking to get laid.”

Scarlet quirked a brow, sure that he was stretching the truth.

Noting her disbelief, Gary pounded his chest. “There’s a nice guy in here. You know that.”

“I do. In fact, you’re a sweetheart,” She got up and put her arms around his shoulders. “And I love you.” She kissed his forehead and hugged him.

“God, I’ve missed you. You know these past couple of years I’ve been keeping myself so busy just trying to forget.” His eyes started to water. “But I could never forget you. You’re so beautiful, Scarlet.” He traced the side of her cheek. “You’ve changed in two years. I remember you used to be my curious little kitten, pudgy and freckle-faced. But you’ve shaped up nicely since I last saw you. You must have tons of men after you. Or maybe you already have a boyfriend, huh?”

“Nope, no man in my life.” She was glad he’d noticed the weight loss; it had been hell losing thirty pounds of baby fat.

And she wondered now if maybe her brother might know a few interesting men. She was in the mood for a change. All the men she had dated from the office were your basic nine-to-fivers and if the cell phone didn’t ring more than a dozen times, distracting them from her, maybe she got a good night kiss. Boring! She wanted someone different. Someone a little…wild.

A wild child.

“Besides, all the men after me are so boring and dull.” She sighed, hoping for a little brotherly sympathy.

“Oh yeah? Well, looks like we’re going to have to find someone for you.”

“Maybe you could introduce me to some of the people you know?”

“Really? You itching to take a walk on the wild side?”

“Maybe,” she answered, thinking it funny how he’d almost read her mind.

“Vince is free.”

Scarlet perked up. “Yeah?”

Interesting news. And Vince didn’t seem to possess any of the qualities she hated in men. Definitely not the three-piece-suit type.

“Sure, and I think he likes you anyway.”

“How can you tell? We’ve only just met. He barely spoke more than ten words to me.” Had she missed something?

“Vince and I are like an old married couple. We’ve eaten, slept, and when we were on the road, even showered together. I know him as well as I know myself and I can tell that he’s interested. It was sort of the way he was sitting.”

Scarlet laughed, her long dark curls swinging across her back. “Oh right, the way he
sits
shows that he’s attracted to someone?”

“Don’t get me wrong, he couldn’t keep his eyes off you. Didn’t you notice?”

She shook her head. If Vince had been looking at her she hadn’t noticed. Most of the time his head had been thrown across the back of the chair and he looked as though he’d fallen asleep, though he had nodded intermittently at things Gary had said.

“He likes you, I know,” Gary reassured.

“Fine. If he asks me out, I’d love to go.” She stretched and yawned, looking at the clock on the counter. It was almost midnight; they’d been talking since ten. “I’m tired, too, maybe we should reconvene in the morning.”

“Yeah, I’ve gotta take a shower.” Gary stretched his arms over his head. “I feel pretty crusty after sitting in the car all day. I’ll walk up with you.”

In the living room, he scanned the stark white walls, bare of any personal pictures or decorations save for a few potted plants. Scarlet had never been one to be too concerned about her surroundings, at least when it came to making a place look homey. Her mind was always on figures and, hence, her job at Hilliard Accounting.

Past the patio doors he noted the hot tub, and on the other side of the whitewashed wooden fence the ocean crested over a white sand beach. “This place is great," he said. "I never did get to come out here with Mom and Dad."

“I never did either. First time I came here was after their deaths.”

Memories of the funeral brought a stifling clutch to Scarlet’s stomach. The beach house had been their parents’ private ‘no-kids allowed’ vacation destination. They had been on their way home from just such a vacation when their chartered plane had crashed.

Pushing the memories to the back of her mental vault, Scarlet tried to regain the excitement of Gary’s presence. “It’s definitely out of my social status but it’s bought and paid for, so who am I to complain? I’ll show you all the snazzy controls for the hot tub tomorrow.”

She jogged up the stairs and he followed until she stopped at the door to the extra bedroom. He kissed her and she lingered in his arms, so happy to have family near her again.

“Good night, Gary. Say good night to Vince for me, too.”

With a wink he closed the door.

His mention of their mom and dad had made Scarlet’s heart sink. She closed her bedroom door behind her and at the dresser, picked up the silver-framed portrait of her parents. Running her fingers over the fine layer of dust on the glass, she traced a heart around their heads. Besides the thick Italian hair, she had inherited her mother’s brilliant green eyes and porcelain-fine nose. She smiled at the memory of her father, a lawyer. He’d given Scarlet her independence and an insatiable curiosity.

Thank God for her mother’s courage, she thought. Whenever Daddy’s curiosity and stubbornness got her in trouble, Mom’s fortitude was always there to help her out.

Scarlet pressed the picture to her chest as memories took her back two years to the stuffy attorney’s office three days after the funeral. Her father’s will had left the vacation house to her and her brother, but Gary had opted to stay in Minnesota and try to get his band off the ground. She had been more than ready to move to the coast and begin a new life. Not having any close friends or relatives to keep her at home she'd packed, reluctantly said good-bye to Gary, and left for sunny California with hopes of a brighter future.

Now, two years later, she was twenty-six, had a stable job, and finally Gary was back in her life. She wasn’t alone anymore. Now she could put all the memories behind her and start living her life for herself instead of trying to work day to day just to forget.

Yes, she told herself, it was time to have a little fun.

Undressing, she pulled a silky violet nightgown from the drawer, then brushed through her hair. Her mother smiled up at her from within the silver frame. Scarlet felt good knowing that her mother would have been pleased she was doing well. But she knew there was still one thing she hadn’t accomplished that her mother always worried about.

Find a nice man, settle down, and have lots of children, she’d always said.

“I’ll try, Mom,” Scarlet whispered, and then thought of Vince just a room away.

So he was interested?

***

“Good thing there are two beds in here.” Gary tossed his shirt to the floor and pulled the binder from his curly hair, shaking it out in front of the mirror. “Wouldn’t want to have to sleep next to you with the way you toss around all night.”

“Don’t worry man, I won’t touch you.” Vince laughed and pulled the white eyelet spread back on one of the twin beds. Before he could speak again, he suddenly bent at the waist, and clenched his teeth, while his fingers held the sheet in mid-air. His other hand swiped across his forehead.

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