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Authors: Rebecca Rivard,Michelle Fox

Ensnared: A Vampire Blood Courtesans Romance

BOOK: Ensnared: A Vampire Blood Courtesans Romance
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ENSNARED

A
VAMPIRE
BLOOD COURTESAN
S
ROMANCE

 

 

REBECCA
RIVARD
AND MICHELLE FOX

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE
: Star

Panic clawed my chest. I started awake, my heart
hammering like a wild thing.

What was I going to do?

The bar where I’d been waitressing had closed last month,
and I hadn’t been able to find a new job. I had enough to pay May’s rent, but
that would leave me less than a hundred dollars for food and utilities.

And I’d still have to come up with the rent for June.

I gazed around me, picking out shapes in the early morning
light. I rented an attic in a row house on Baltimore’s east side. My apartment was
basically one large room with a kitchen at one end, my bed at the other, and
three tall dormer windows in the middle. It was cramped, but it was mine and I
loved it, from the sloping ceiling that I’d painted sky blue to the sunny
yellow walls.

My gaze fell on the row of paintings along one wall. My
paintings. Maybe they weren’t any good, but they were all I had in the world.

I rolled onto my side and closed my eyes, but my mind was
racing like a hamster on a wheel. After a few minutes I gave up trying to fall
back asleep. Pulling on a hoodie, I crept down the two flights of stairs past
my landlords’ apartment and out the front door.

The sun wasn’t up yet but it was already warm outside, a
hint of the humid Maryland summer to come. As I sat down on the front stoop, a
soft predawn haze spread over the line of Formstone row houses that marched up
my street. On a nearby roof, a robin was singing to its mate, and a squirrel sent
me an inquisitive look from the trunk of a scrubby street tree.

At least if I lost the apartment, I wouldn’t freeze. But
what would happen to my paintings?

Panic grabbed me again. I hugged my knees and told myself
that something would turn up.

Suddenly the robin went silent as if it had been choked in
mid-note. The squirrel froze and then whisked itself into the tree branches.

Every hair on my body stood straight up.

I looked carefully around me. There. A dark swirl in the
shadows at the end of the block…and then a man emerged like a grim, powerful
magician.

Across the street, my neighbor was jogging down her stoop.
She glanced his way and did a double-take.

But the man was looking at me. My breath hitched. He was
gorgeous: broad shoulders, black hair that curled over his collar and a face
too beautiful to be real. He and his sleek charcoal suit stood out in my
working-class neighborhood like a Ferrari in a sea of Fords.

Wariness skittered up my spine. He was too out of place.
Rich, gorgeous men didn’t walk down our street. Ever.

And they didn’t stare as if they knew me…or wanted to.

I dragged my gaze from him and waited for him to pass.

Footsteps, soft and unhurried on the sidewalk. Then a low,
seductive voice. “Good morning, chérie.”

I knew enough French to know he’d called me ‘dear’ or
‘sweetheart.’ I shouldn’t have liked it, but damn, it was sexy, especially with
his faint European accent. Desire curled through me, warm and unexpected. I
scowled and returned his greeting curtly.

His nostrils flared, almost like he’d scented that curl of
desire. His gaze traveled down my body, lingering on my bare legs. I glared at
him and deliberately tugged the hem of my hoodie lower to cover my thighs.

His gaze snapped back to my face. This close, he was even
more beautiful, but in a chilly, glittering way, his eyes coal-black save for
an odd rim of silver-blue around the pupils.

Time stopped. I stilled, entranced by that shock of color.

“Who are you?” A dark murmur that stroked my skin like
phantom fingers. He was five feet away but it felt like he was looming over me.

I moved a shoulder. “No one.”

“No,” he said. “You are most definitely someone. A very
beautiful someone.”

I swallowed. I knew I should go inside but something kept me
there, staring up at him, a rabbit hypnotized by a wolf.

He tilted his head. “I’m making you uncomfortable. I’m
sorry—that is not my intention.”

I wrenched my ass off the stoop and stood up. That was
better. I was on the second step so he didn’t loom over me—but now I was
looking directly into his odd eyes. They seemed to glow in the dim light.

I gulped and took an involuntary step back. My heels hit the
marble rise behind me.

He put out a hand. “Don’t be afraid.”

I lifted my chin. “I’m not.”

“Non? You have no reason to fear me, I promise.”

I moved a shoulder.

He frowned. “I have to go, but I would like to know you
better. I may take you to dinner, perhaps?”

“Dinner? With you?” I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”

“I’ll give you cab fare,” he said. “You will meet me at the
restaurant. What do you say?”

“No, thank you.”

“I promise you may leave whenever you wish. You will be
perfectly safe. Please?” He gave me a winning smile.

Put like that, it sounded almost reasonable. And if nothing
else, I’d get a free dinner. But something made me shake my head. “Thanks for
the invite, but—”

“Star.” His voice stopped me in the act of edging up the
stairs. He set a black boot on the bottom step and leaned forward. “Why fight
it?”

“Fight what?” But my heart was thundering so hard I barely
heard my own words.

“This.” He touched the pulse hammering in the hollow of my
throat. His breath caught and he stared fixedly at my neck.

I swayed toward him. He leaned closer and I found myself
raising my mouth to his. It was as if he really was a magician working some
powerful spell on me.

“Stop it.” I pushed his hand away. “Whatever you’re doing,
stop it right now.”

His gaze sharpened and I felt his will like a physical
thing, beating against mine.

I narrowed my eyes. “I mean it,” I said in a low, hard
voice. “My landlords are right inside. Get away from me or I’ll scream so loud
the whole fucking neighborhood will come down on you.”

The man’s brows snapped together, and then, just like that,
whatever he was doing stopped. He stepped back. “You’re right. This isn’t the
time or place.”

My chest heaved. “It will never be the time or place.”

“Non? I want you, chérie. I promise I will make it worth
your while.” He put his hands in his pants pockets and regarded me through
hooded eyes.

It took me a few seconds to realize what he meant. Then I
gasped. Emotions chased through me: Anger, outrage—and temptation, God help me.

Why not? a sly voice asked. Because I was broke, and with
this man, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad way to make money.

But would I ever be able to look myself in the eye again?
And what would my mom have said? Shame twisted my stomach.

“Get the hell out of here,” I gritted. “Now.”

He quirked a dark brow. “As you say, Star.
A
bientôt
. Have a good day.” And with a parting nod, he sauntered back
the way he came.

I walked backward up the final two steps, afraid to turn my
back on him, until my butt hit the front door. I yanked it open and darted
inside.

It was only then that I realized he knew my name.

CHAPTER TWO: Remy

I settled into the limo and waited as my right-hand
man, Malik, shut the door and took a seat next to the chauffeur.

By all the dark skies, I wanted the pretty little human. It
had been a long time since I’d scented blood as sweet as hers. I craved her
freshness, that spark that made her stand up to me even when her frantically
beating heart signaled her fear. Her very youth was an aphrodisiac.

Too bad she’d made it clear she wasn’t for sale.

I was an old, powerful vampire. I could compel the woman to
do anything I damned well pleased—but what would be the fun in that?

I saw her again in my mind’s eye: dark, shiny hair. Golden
skin that hinted of an Asian ancestor. Soft curves and strong legs that would
wrap around my hips as I brought my mouth to her lovely throat…

My fangs lengthened. I shifted, the thought of feeding from her
as I thrust deep inside her tight little passage making me hard.

Patience
, I told myself.
Patience
.

For now, I would have to wait. But not long. Because I
would
have her.

What had made me catch her scent from a block away? Why had
I cracked the limo window at just the right moment?

I shrugged. These things happened. A wise man didn’t
question them.

The limo pulled out into the early-morning traffic, heading toward
the Inner Harbor and my hotel.

“Get her,” I told Malik in French.

He glanced over his shoulder. “
Monsieur
?”

Malik was a member of an Algerian-French family that had
served me for decades. He would do anything for me—up to and including murder.
He’d even taken a bullet for me, which although it wouldn’t have killed me,
would’ve weakened me at a crucial moment. I’d rewarded him by giving him a few
drops of my blood, saving his life and creating a blood bond between us. Not
that any of my employees would dare betray me, but Malik had my absolute trust.

“The young woman on the stoop. I have chosen her to be my
next blood courtesan. Her first name is Star.” I’d plucked the name from her
mind.

I gave Malik the address and he noted it in his phone.

“But be clever,” I added. “I want her to believe she has a
choice.”

“Of course.”

We both knew he would engineer it so she had no choice at
all.

I sat back, satisfied, and watched from behind black-tinted
windows as the sun rose over Baltimore.

CHAPTER THREE: Star

He was there. Watching me from a table in the corner.
Tall, dark and scary-with-an-accent.

What the fu—?

This was a small, shady gambling club, very much under the
radar. Play by invitation only. How had he gotten past the doorman? Unless he
was a gangster like most of the other patrons.

Around me there was the gruff sound of men playing cards at
the eight tables spaced around the room. There were only two games at Oakley’s,
poker and blackjack, played with hundred dollar bills—not chips—per house
rules.

His gaze went over me, taking in my uniform: crisp white
shirt, short red skirt and fuck-me scarlet heels. My nape prickled. My fingers
curled around the round tray in my hands.

“Hey, girl. Can we get our fucking drinks already?”

I wrenched my focus back to the three lethal-looking men
playing at the table next to me. The dealer, a thirty-something woman as
hard-eyed as the men, paid me no mind, her gaze fixed on the big blond scowling
at me.

“Of course. Sorry, sir.” I moved around the table, setting a
whiskey beside each man.

The blond’s jacket stretched over his massive frame as he
tossed back the whiskey in one gulp and then tapped the table. “Hit me. And
you”—he jerked his head at me—“stay right where you are.”

The other two men called, and the big blond won. The dealer
pushed the cash toward him, and he added the bills to his stack without so much
as a glance at them.

I blinked. The man had won close to thirty thousand dollars—more
than I’d made all last year—and he acted like it was nothing.

The blond lifted a hand and crooked a thick finger at me. “Here,
babe.” He tucked a folded hundred dollar bill into my neckline. “Get me and the
boys here another whiskey.”

The folded bill scratched as he shoved it deeper. His hand slid
under my bra, grazing my nipple. I stiffened and clenched my jaw as his
calloused fingers abraded my skin.

“Sure thing, boss.” I forced a wink.

But I could’ve sworn the dark man in the corner growled. No
one else seemed to have heard, but then, at Oakley’s, if you had any brains, you
minded your own business.

As I wove through the tables to the bar, my gaze returned to
him as if he was some kind of human magnet. Tonight he was all in black—his
suit, his shirt. He even had on a narrow black tie. The round lamp hanging from
a chain over his table illuminated only his hands and the lower part of his
face, leaving the rest of him in the shadows.

As I passed his table, he glanced up and I caught a flash of
silver-blue. I faltered and almost lost my balance in those damn high heels.
Then he shuttered his gaze and faded back into the shadows as if willing
himself to disappear.

I swallowed and continued to the bar to place the drink
order.

I didn’t wonder how he’d found me so easily. For a man like
that, it was child’s play. He knew where I lived, and he apparently knew my
name.

If he wanted, he could probably dig up things about me that
even my best friends didn’t know, like that my bank account was as empty as a
church on Monday and that I was alone in the world except for my landlords, a
gay couple I’d met at the last bar I’d worked at, a few friends and a father I
hoped never to see again. Hell, he probably even knew that I hated milk but
loved cheese and had a tattoo on my left hip.

This job had been an answer to a prayer. My friend Janelle
had called out of the blue to tell me the club where she worked was looking for
a cocktail waitress. “The owner only hires hot young things,” she said.

Well, I was young, anyway—twenty-four. I didn’t know about hot.

“The money is effing incredible,” Janelle added.

“I’m in.”

Ms. Jones, the elegant African-American woman who
interviewed me, looked me over with a professional eye. “You could use a
haircut, but you have nice eyes. And your body will do.”

I ignored the body remark to drag a hand over my straight
black hair. “I can get it cut.”

“Good. Get a swing cut—it will show off those big green eyes.
The men will eat it up, especially with your skin—they like variety. What are
you, anyway? You have a Spanish last name, but you look more Asian—”

“I’m Filipina—half. My mom was American by way of Croatia.”

“Ah, that explains the ethnic look. Excellent. Like I said,
the men will eat you up. We try to have something for every taste.”

I shifted uneasily. Lord knew I needed this job, but what
had Janelle gotten me into? We’d been friends ever since we were teens after
meeting in a homeless shelter during a bad time for both of us. We’d even been
roommates for a year.

But now I belatedly recalled that when I’d last seen her two
months ago, she’d been clinging to a big brute of a man with a gang tattoo running
down the side of his neck.

“I’m not for sale,” I blurted. “My body, I mean.”

“No?” she asked, not unkindly. “Everyone has their price.”

“Not me.”

“Suit yourself,” she said with a shrug. “We leave it up to
the girls. Now, tell me about your experience. I understand you’ve worked as a
cocktail waitress before?”

A few minutes later she came to her feet and offered me her
hand. “The job’s yours, Star.”

Janelle and her boyfriend had vouched for me, and apparently
that was good enough.

I wasn’t stupid. I knew Oakley’s wasn’t strictly legal—it sure
as hell wasn’t a licensed casino, and to enter it, I’d had to let them pat me
down for weapons and a wire—but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

It wasn’t until the first night that I’d realized that half
the members belonged to the same gang as Janelle’s friend. But Ms. Jones had
told me what the waitresses averaged in tips, and I realized that in a single
evening I’d make as much as I made in a whole week at my last job. I figured I’d
stay for a few months, earn enough to buy a used car and a few other
necessities—like the art supplies I craved like some people did drugs—and then move
on.

“Here you go, Star.” The bartender, Zeke, placed three
whiskeys on the counter.

I returned to the blond bastard’s table with the drinks to
find his stack of money gone save for a single hundred dollar bill.

I fought not to smile as he rose to his feet. “I’m going to
find a luckier table.” He grabbed his whiskey and stalked off.

I served the other two men and then moved onto my next
table. In the corner, Janelle was waiting on tall, dark and scary’s table.
Janelle was the kind of woman men stared at—big eyes, smooth coffee skin, and a
long, sexy body.

But the man barely glanced at her, simply took the glass of
wine and raised it to me.

I jerked my gaze away.

Antoine, the owner’s second in command, appeared out of
nowhere behind me “Mr. Oakley wants to see you, Star.”

“Me? Why?”

Antoine simply looked back, his dark face carved in stone.

Okay. I looked around for somewhere to put my tray.

Antoine jerked his head at Janelle. “Take it.”

“Yes, sir.” She hurried forward and took the tray without
looking at me. Not that I was surprised—if the Titanic were sinking, Janelle
would be the first on a lifeboat.

My gaze darted to the man in the corner. He was examining his
cards, but I knew, with a gut-deep certainty, that he was aware of what was
happening. I could feel it.

Antoine grabbed my arm and propelled me toward the hall at
the back of the club. Something about the way he was handling me made me wonder
if I should try and make a run for it. But I told myself not to be silly. Why
would I be in trouble? In the week I’d been at Oakley’s Club, I’d done my
damnedest to be a model employee: showing up early and pitching in with any
work that needed doing.

We walked down the hall to Oakley’s lair. And it was a lair—dark
green ceiling, rich cherry walls, expensive leather furniture—and Oakley at the
center like a spider in his web.

The door was open. Antoine jerked his head, indicating I
should go first.

Oakley was at his big-ass black-and-cherry wood desk. He
never looked up from his computer screen. He was average size, with light brown
skin and a tough, lean frame, but the man gave off power like some kind of
human generator. He glared at his keyboard and typed something, then swore
under his breath and unleashed an attack on the keys.

I chewed my lower lip and tried not to shift from foot to
foot as I waited for him to notice me.

Never let them see you’re scared. I’d learned that a long
time ago, after my mom died and my dad tried the same shit on me that he had on
her. He was bigger and faster than me, so the only way to avoid a beating was
to stand up to him. Sometimes it even worked.

“So, Star.” Oakley set his elbows on the desk and tapped his
long fingers together. “I understand you have something of mine.” His voice was
calm and so cold I felt the chill from two yards away.

My stomach twisted. Stay cool. Don’t admit anything.

“I beg your pardon, sir?” I hated that I sounded scared. But
damn it, I was scared.

Suddenly Antoine was right behind me. My spine crawled. I
drew in my shoulders and edged forward. Hands clamped onto my arms, holding me
where I was.

“What’s up?” I asked Oakley. “I swear I didn’t do anything.”

He regarded me over tented fingers. “The only thing I like
less than a thief is a liar. Even a pretty liar like you.” His eyes raked my
body.

Thick panic clogged my throat. I swallowed hard. “What do
you mean, a thief? Why would I take anything? I want this job. I need it, bad.”

Oakley glanced at Antoine, who spun me around and backhanded
me across the face so hard a white flash exploded in my head. The next blow knocked
me to my knees. I curled myself into a ball, but Antoine grabbed my hair and
yanked me up. This time, the blow split my lip.

Antoine raised his hand and I broke, cowering at his feet.
“Stop it, please. I swear I didn’t—”

 “That’s enough,” Oakley said in a bored voice.

Antoine jerked me upright and wrenched me around to face
Oakley. My face was throbbing, and when I touched my tongue to my lower lip, I
tasted blood. My breath was shuddering in and out, but I stood as tall as I
could and tried to face him calmly. I had a feeling my life depended on it.

“Well?” Oakley demanded. “What did you do with it?”

“I told you,” I said as forcefully as I could, “I don’t know
what you’re talking about.”

“You’re good.” Oakley leaned back and kept my gaze. “I
almost believe you. But we caught you on camera.”

He spun his screen to face me and tapped an icon. I stared,
dumbfounded, as a woman turned her head, scanned the corridor, and shoved something
into her backpack before slipping out the club’s back door. A woman who looked
exactly like me.

Oakley paused the video to show me the time stamp. It was
dated last night, a little after four a.m. The same time I’d been leaving
through the front door with Janelle and Zeke.

I swallowed sickly. “That’s not me. I swear it’s not me. I didn’t
even come into this hall last night.”

Oakley slammed his open palm onto the desk and I flinched.

“Enough.” He rose from the chair, his expression dangerous.
“I don’t know how you did it, but nobody fucks with Mark Oakley. I want that
cash on my desk by the time the club opens tomorrow night. Or we’re going to
have another talk—and the next time I won’t be so nice.”

I twisted my hands together. “But I swear, that’s not me. I
don’t care what it looks like, I never went near the back door last night. Ask Janelle.
Ask Zeke. I went out with them. That has to be on video too, right?”

“We did ask them. Neither of them knows for sure. Janelle
says you went to the bathroom around then. And the video of you leaving is ten
minutes later. It proves nothing.”

“No.” I shook my head slowly from side to side. “It’s a setup.
It has to be. Why would’ve I come back tonight?”

“Because you would’ve been the number one suspect if you didn’t.”

God, what a nightmare. I met Oakley’s eyes. “All I can say
is that it’s not me. I swear it’s not. You have to believe me.”

His mouth twisted. “You’re still saying you don’t have the
money?”

“Because. I. Don’t.”

Antoine grabbed my arm and jerked it behind my back. Pain
shot to my shoulder. I whimpered and came up on my toes to try and relieve the pressure.

“The truth,” he growled. “No more lies.”

A sob escaped my lips. “Okay, okay. I’ll tell you anything
you want. Just let me go.”

He eased the pressure slightly.

“How much?” I asked Oakley.

His eyes narrowed. “All of it, bitch. But let’s say a
hundred thou. That covers the interest, too.”

My stomach dropped. “A hundred thousand? You mean dollars?”

“What else would I mean?” he growled. “And I want it by
tomorrow night—or you’re a dead woman. Now get the fuck out of here. I’m a busy
man.” He turned back to his computer.

I stared at him, dazed, until Antoine grabbed my upper arms
and frog-marched me toward the door.

“And Star?” Oakley asked in a soft voice.

I stilled. “Yes?”

“Don’t even think about running. Because I’ll track you down—and
you don’t want to find out what happens to people who rip me off.”

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