Authors: Kimberly Raye
Tags: #General, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction
For Sue Groff,
my vampire-loving mother-in-law!
You’re the best.
I would like to say an extra-special thank-you to the following people who helped in the writing of this book: the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, for kindly answering all of my questions, no matter how ridiculous; the Fairfield Police Department, for answering even more ridiculous questions; friend and confidante Tammy Ramsey, for falling in love with Lil and boosting my confidence; fellow author Gerry Bartlett, for reading on a moment’s notice and giving me her honest opinion. Thanks, everyone!
And many thanks to my readers who send notes and e-mails. Your encouragement means the world to me!
need a man.” The attractive woman sitting across the desk from me leaned forward.
Her name was Viola Hamilton and she was the latest client to come walking into the small but well-furnished office that housed my latest business venture—Dead End Dating, Manhattan’s first and only hook-up service for vampires. And humans. And any other creature who could fork over my pricey (but well worth every red cent) fee.
I’m the Countess Lilliana Arrabella Guinevere du Marchette. Lil for short. The latest and greatest when it comes to matchmakers, and a five-hundred-year old born vampire with an ever-expanding wardrobe and a serious cosmetics addiction.
I’m a five-hundred-year-old born vampire with an ever-expanding wardrobe, a serious cosmetics addiction,
enough outstanding Visa charges to fund a small third-world country.
But enough about the ever-fantabulous me.
“Actually,” Viola went on, “I need twenty-seven men, to be exact. Tall, dark, handsome, smart. Preferably human. But with only two weeks until the full moon, I’m willing to negotiate on that last point.”
Viola had long, dark hair, jet black eyes, and lips slicked with Chanel’s Crimson Dream. She wore a black Gucci jacket and matching slacks. A Cartier watch with a diamond band glittered from her slender wrist. She was president of the Connecticut chapter of the Naked and Unashamed Nudist Sisterhood, aka the NUNS, aka a group of female werewolves who met weekly at her Fairfield estate.
She was also the reason my father had nearly decapitated himself with a pair of hedge clippers last weekend. My old man detested thick, overgrown bushes almost as much as he did female werewolves, and so he religiously trimmed the azaleas that separated the two estates. Viola, on the other hand, detested short, puny vegetation and snobby, pretentious born vampires, and so she religiously put up a fight.
I, on the other hand, welcomed any and everyone with my arms wide, my mind open, and my deposit slip ready.
A smile spread across my face as I mentally calculated what twenty-seven men (preferably human) meant in terms of outstanding credit card payments.
“So can you help me?”
“That depends,” I heard myself say. Wait a second. I knew Viola could fork over the cash. I should be shouting “Yes!” After all, I’m a born vampire: the PC term for unconscionable, pompous, money-hungry, bloodsucking aristocrat.
“On what you’re going to do with twenty-seven men.” Okay, so I’m not exactly PC. Sure, I can be as pompous as any ancient born
I am most certainly money-hungry. I’d also recently fallen off the wagon on the bloodsucking part (I’d been going for the bottled stuff up until a few weeks ago when I’d been staked in the shoulder and nursed back to health by a megalicious made vampire named Ty Bonner).
I am also an aristocrat (French royalty and all that). It was the unconscionable part that I had trouble with. “I’m a matchmaker, not a personal chef.”
Viola smiled, revealing a row of straight, white teeth. “We’re not going to eat them, dear. We’re going to have sex with them.” She stubbed out her cigarette in the small crystal ashtray on the corner of my desk. “And procreate. Female werewolves only ovulate during a lunar eclipse, which means we get one, maybe two shots a year to actually conceive, if any at all. Last year, we got nada. Since we females carry the actual were-gene, we can mate with any creature and still produce a were-baby. We NUNS feel a social responsibility to keep our race as pure as possible and so we prefer humans. That way we don’t have to worry about any otherworldly genes mixing in with our own.”
Okay, so I already knew this. Not firsthand, mind you. While I am now a hot, hip, happening vampire, I was raised in a very sheltered environment. Most of my friends were born vamps and so I’d never actually talked (for more than a few minutes) to a real werewolf. Until now. Of course, I am as educated as the next born vamp, and so I’d learned all about sexuality and the various species early on. But hearing it told by a holier-than-thou
tutor named Jacques whose lesson had been extremely brief (other creatures weren’t deemed worthy of our precious time) and hearing it straight from Viola (complete with details) were two very different things. She spoke from actual experience.
“How can you keep the race pure if you mate with a human?”
look slid over her beautiful face. “Come now, dear. They’re
Our superior DNA obviously outranks their extremely weak genes, resulting in a pure were-child.”
Obviously. “Why not a male werewolf? Wouldn’t that be the ideal? Surely a double shot of were DNA would really kick ass?”
“Do you know twenty-seven available male werewolves?”
“Um, not at the moment.”
“Neither do we. There are a total of fifty-two members of our organization, nearly half of whom have mates and don’t need your services. I’m here on behalf of the single, uncommitted, aging NUNS. Unlike you vamps, we only have a small window for procreation. Fifty years, to be exact. Desperation always makes one less choosy. Besides, male werewolves are bossy and overbearing and extremely territorial. You have their child and
they’re ready to pee on every tree in your front yard. While I wouldn’t mind it if I found the right male werewolf, I haven’t and I seriously doubt I’m going to in the next two weeks.”
“Why not just go to a sperm bank?”
“We only ovulate during an actual sexual encounter. Our reproductive system requires a barrage of stimuli. One can’t kiss or touch or nibble a turkey baster, dear.”
“I see your point.”
“We have only one requirement for a human partner: He can’t be a wimp. Forget those sensitive, quiet, thoughtful, equal opportunity types that are all the rage these days. We need old-fashioned men who are blatantly physical and very domineering. Werewolves are a very aggressive race and wimpy men simply don’t stimulate us sexually. The more turned on we are, the more likely we are to conceive.”
“Alpha males only,” I told her. “Got it.”
“Wonderful.” Viola smiled and opened her Christian Dior clutch. “I’ll write you a check for the first half of the fee. The second is payable once everyone is matched up?”
“That’s the Dead End Dating policy.” As of this very moment, that is. I usually asked for a third up front, but if Viola wanted to dish out half, who was I to argue details?
That was my motto.
At least, it was right up there with
Shop ’Til You Drop.
I was just about to reach across the desk and kiss this month’s bills good-bye when the intercom buzzed.
“Lil?” Evie Dalton’s voice floated over the line.
Evie was my devoted assistant. She had great taste in belts, lived for the latest MAC lip gloss, and could spot a fake Fendi at twenty paces. Had I been a lesbian human instead of a heterosexual born vampire with a screaming biological clock, I would have married her on the spot.
“I know you’re with a client,” she went on, “but could you come out here?”
“Give me just a second.” My fingers closed around Viola’s check.
“It’s really important.”
“So is this.” I stared at the five-figure sum the female werewolf had scribbled in.
While it wasn’t my ultimate fantasy (me plus the megalicious Ty Bonner plus this cute little number I’d spotted over at La Perla equaled dreamo supremo), it was certainly a windfall to a struggling entrepreneur.
“There are some, uh, men here to see you,” Evie said.
“If Brad Pitt isn’t one of them, they can wait.” I smiled at Viola, slid her payment into my top drawer, and turned toward my laptop. “Let me just get you a receipt and—”
“They’re not really into waiting.”
“They’ll have to make an exception.” I punched the off button. The light blinked and the intercom buzzed again, but I ignored it.
“That’s twenty-seven matches,” I said as my fingers flew across the keyboard.
“Alpha matches,” Viola added. “They
to ooze testosterone. Otherwise, we might as well forget the whole thing.”
“Twenty-seven testosterone-oozing alpha matches,” I corrected. “At the usual amount per match. Plus a bonus for our deluxe, ultra speedy service. Plus an additional alpha-only fee and—”
“You can’t go in!” Evie’s voice rose to a shriek a split second before the door crashed open and half a dozen men clad in cheap suits burst into my office, none of whom looked even close to Brad.
“Lilliana Marchette?” The question came from the first man to reach my desk. He wore a navy blue polyester number, a haggard expression, and the worst black and yellow striped tie I’d ever seen.
“She’s not here,” Evie shouted from the doorway. She hung on to one side of the door frame with both hands to keep from being ripped away by the rush of suits. “She left early. This well-dressed woman is her assistant. Because if she wasn’t her assistant,”—she gave me a pointed, pleading stare—“she would be in big trouble.”
“How big?” I asked, my gaze darting from one man to the next before swiveling back to my frantic assistant.
“Plead the fifth,” Evie blurted before two of the men managed to pry her hands loose and push her back into the outer office.
“What’s going on here?” I shot to my feet.
“We need you to come with us,” the man with the black and yellow tie said as he flashed a silver badge and motioned to two of his men. They quickly pushed Viola out of the way and rounded the desk for me.
Detectives. Badges. Handcuffs.
The pieces started to fall into place and panic bolted through me.
“But you can’t!” I wiggled away as another man (FYI, navy and red tie) reached out. “I didn’t mean to put a dent in that soda machine. I was just trying to get my money back and—”
“I don’t know anything about a dented soda ma chine.”
“The jury summons,” I blurted, rushing down my mental list of offenses. “I meant to call about that but my cell phone’s been out and I don’t like to use my business phone for anything other than—”