Authors: Marie Treanor
|Psychic Seduction |
|Ellora's Cave (2009)|
You’re not meant to fall for the bad guy…are you?On the rain-soaked, famously mean streets of Glasgow, Jenny, a reluctant psychic, hunts Karoly, a dangerous but incredibly sexy vampire.
Clad only in his antique kilt, he hangs around wedding receptions, biting the guests and seducing an unsuspecting vampire hunter—Jenny in particular. Half ready to stake him, half ready to beg him to have sex with her again, Jenny sets out to hunt Karoly.After amazing, intense sex and a dramatic exit from Glasgow, he follows Jenny to London, fueling both her growing awareness of her psychic powers and the hot, sexy dreams that fill her nights, leaving her to wake up panting.
When he shows up at Jenny’s workplace, cooking for her friends and apparently determined to share her life, Jenny has to figure out who’s hunting whom—and if she’s ready to share her life with the evil, sexy, gorgeous undead.
Marie Treanor lives in Scotland with her eccentric husband and three much-too-smart children. Having grown bored with city life, she resides these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing sensual stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.
An Ellora’s Cave Romantica Publication
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Hunting Karoly Copyright © 2009 Marie Treanor
Edited by Meghan Conrad
Cover art by Syneca
Electronic book Publication June 2009
The terms Romantica® and Quickies® are registered trademarks of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.® 1056 Home Avenue, Akron OH 44310-3502.
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
To the Transylvania trio and to my new editor, Meghan Conrad, for all her help, advice and input.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Spandau Ballet: Societe Civile Marbelow Intellectual Properties
Aren’t weddings great?
Well, no, actually, they’re shite. I don’t know about you but I find it incredibly depressing to watch my friends growing up and away from
while actually celebrating the fact. However, for Maggie, my best friend forever, I made a special effort to smile and dance. I had to, really, since I was her bridesmaid, easily spotted across the most crowded room by my flouncy, frilly pink dress and incongruously short hair. Ugh.
Of course, on the bright side, my post of honor did bring with it certain mitigating factors, namely an inexhaustible supply of free booze and a temporary claim on the best man, who was by anyone’s standards drop-dead gorgeous.
Falling into a vacant chair to recover my breath and my drink after dancing a hectic Dashing White Sergeant, I followed his weaving progress across the dance floor with predatory eyes.
Although apparently an accountant, like Maggie’s new husband, he had the distinct advantage of not looking like one. His long black hair curled around his neck, his fringe falling across his forehead with fetchingly boyish charm and in full Highland dress, he looked stunning. Not all men can wear a kilt with conviction but Davie Nicholls could. It swung around his strong, brown legs as he walked, his sporran bouncing jauntily over the potential source of my joy. Now that the formalities of the evening were finished, he had allowed his jacket to flop open and loosened his shirt at the throat to reveal a few rogue chest hairs. Sexy.
I almost purred.
The dancers blocking his way were indulging in the positively lethal version of Strip the Willow for which Maggie’s family is justifiably infamous. I know several people who reject all wedding and ceilidh invitations solely in case they’re obliged to partner McLeods for Strip the Willow. I admired the easy way Davie wove among these energetically twirling sets, single-mindedly preserving his pint from the smallest loss as he side-stepped the flying figure of Maggie’s Uncle Bill, who had been somewhat carelessly catapulted into his path by Big Aunty Cenga. For now that Davie’s misery—his truly dreadful speech—was over, he could and did join the rest of us in the main purpose of all Scottish weddings, which is, of course, to get well and truly plastered.
“Hi, Jenny,” somebody said, dropping into the chair beside me. “Good haircut.” Reluctantly, I dragged my eyes away from Davie Nicholls, ready to defend my enforced crew cut as a fashion statement, and looked into the face of an old friend. Instantly, I grinned.
“Nick! How’s it going?”
“Just dandy.” Nick grinned back, pulling down his jacket, presumably so that I could admire the figure he presented in his kilt. “Belle of the ball or what?”
“Definitely what,” I allowed.
“Don’t mock. It’s the only chance I get to wear a skirt. Although since all the other eligible men are in skirts too… Wow, fabulous muscle tone, don’t you think?”
Following Nick’s gaze back to Davie Nicholls, I said, “Very. And he’s straight, so lay off.”
“How do you know he’s straight?” Nick asked.
“Because he looks it,” I said serenely, and Nick snorted with laughter before quite suddenly sobering and sitting straight up in his chair. At the same moment I felt a shiver run all the way up my spine, a tingle of anticipation—or excitement—that I was at a loss to account for. Until my searching eyes followed Nick’s.
There, in the doorway from the main hotel to our function suite, I beheld a vision both dazzling and bizarre. Spandau Ballet meets Bonnie Prince Charlie, with Legolas somewhere in his ancestry. The man was simply beautiful. Well, no, not
… But if Davie was drop-dead gorgeous, I’d run out of superlatives for this one.
With his long blond hair drawn behind his head and tied at the nape, he looked as if there were some shining halo about his handsome, fine-featured face, yet there was nothing angelic or remotely feminine about him. His chin and full, curiously decadent lips were firm, his long, thin nose almost predatory. He stood straight, his posture disdainful as he paused in the doorway to rake us over with his flashing eyes.
Although he, like many of the male guests, was in Highland dress, his was somewhat…unconventional. For a start, his white shirt had full, almost billowing sleeves. Then, instead of the usual dark jacket with silver buttons, he wore some sort of tartan plaid which flowed down from his left shoulder across his chest and disappeared into his kilt as if it was all one garment, like that of the pre-Culloden Highlanders.
In fact, he looked more like a warrior from Walter Scott than a guest at a not entirely respectable Glasgow wedding. A well-used sword clanking at his hip would have been more fitting than a decorative skian dubh stuck in his sock. Except he wasn’t wearing any socks. His legs were strong and muscled, at least as far as the knees where the hem of his kilt began… I swallowed. For some reason, I felt again that odd, shivery tingle. I didn’t know if I liked it or not.
Nick breathed, “All right, Jen, I give in. The best man is yours.
is definitely mine!”
I said faintly, “How do you know he’s gay?”
“I don’t care if he’s gay. Who is he anyway?”
“Absolutely no idea. I’m sure he wasn’t here for dinner.” Lifting my glass to my lips, I discovered it was empty. “Bugger.”
Without taking his eyes off the stunning stranger, Nick reached across to the next table, picked up an almost-full glass and passed it to me. Without looking, I took the glass and sniffed the contents. Gin. Shrugging, because it had got to that stage in the evening yet again, I took a sizeable gulp and continued to watch the newcomer walking across the floor.
He didn’t thread his way among the dancers as Davie had. Instead, he paced around the outside like some graceful, watchful panther. He never bumped into the closely packed tables, never trod on anyone’s toes and people in his path simply seemed to move for him. Some of them even apologized.
“Maggie,” said Nick, grabbing the bride’s hand as she swished past us and pulling her into the chair beside him. Her fluffy wedding gown flounced around her. “
is that gorgeous man?”
“Bloody hell,” she said admiringly when she had followed his pointing finger. “Never seen him before in my life… Must be one of Jack’s lot. Nice turnout though, eh?”
“What about me?” Nick demanded, moved by pique to stand and twirl for her edification. His kilt swung high, almost embarrassing us with whatever he did or didn’t wear underneath.
“Aye, very braw,” said Maggie, barely sparing him a glance from her observation of the stranger. “Well. Bride’s duty to do the welcome thing!” And with that she rose and bore meaningfully down upon her unsuspecting new guest.
“Escort!” Nick offered, bounding after her in the hope of an introduction. I laughed aloud. Naturally, it had entered my head to tag along too, but I am nothing if not a realist and men like the handsome stranger, no matter how eccentric, don’t look at women like me. Actually, neither do men like Davie Nicholls as a rule, but at least he seemed a doable ambition, just as a one-night stand. A lumber, in my native parlance.
Yes, you’re right, I was
desperate. I’d had a bad week. Hell, I’d had a bad several months and I’d been looking forward to this weekend for so long, relaxing at last among trusted, comfortable old friends, getting rip-roaringly drunk with them… Only when I’d met up with everyone last night for the first time in ages, all they’d wanted to talk about was Maggie’s husband—depressing—and my new job in England—vilely depressing—so even with far too much wine it wasn’t exactly easy to lose myself in forgetfulness. I realized then that what I needed was a man, a good-looking, strong man to distract me with blind lust and sinful pleasures of the flesh. Just for one night.
Since meeting Davie, the lust was going well enough. The sinful pleasures, however, were disappearing with Jackie MacBride into the conservatory off the main hall.
Well, I decided, swallowing the last of someone else’s gin, sooner or later I was going to have to take charge of my life. It’s better to have fought and lost and all that stuff…and Jackie MacBride could keep her slutty little claws out of my lumber.
Purposefully, I stood up.
It was Catherine, yet another old friend from school and one I hadn’t spoken to yet this weekend. She hadn’t been at the previous night’s bash on account of the fact that she didn’t drink and had long ago got bored or embarrassed watching her best friends fall over in pubs. Now, in the words—possibly apocryphal—of the late, great Humphrey Bogart, I don’t trust any bastard who doesn’t drink. Except Catherine. I forgave her because most of her family are alcoholics. In fact, if it were my family, I wouldn’t drink either.
So, surrendering, purely temporarily, of course, to the unspeakable Jackie, I sat back down and tried to catch up with Catherine. But since she opened the conversation with, “Are you pissed again?” this was rather difficult.
“What do you mean ‘again’?” I protested. “I haven’t been as much as tipsy for bloody ages!”
“Aye, not since last night.”
Remembering last night, I grinned. “Well, that was fun. But before that, I promise you, it’s been months!”
“Are you telling me they don’t drink down there?”
“Not allowed to, are we? Not without a damned good reason and a special permission form signed in triplicate.” Then, dragging my gaze from the closed conservatory door to her startled eyes, I tried for a light recovery. “Well, got to keep our wits about us.”
Catherine stared at me. “What are you researching? Bomb disposal?”
I laughed. “Sometimes I wish it was!”
“No, seriously, Jen, what are you up to? It’s nothing
, is it?”
“Of course not!” I scoffed. Not if you were anyone but me. I had destroyed the best part of a house while I was actually still in it—got trapped in a cupboard and set fire to my own hair. Which was why it was now so short.
Catherine said, “I thought it was just more…librarian-type stuff you were doing, but in a research library.”
“Well, so it is,” I said with a dismissive wave. “Sort of…” It was the best story. After all, I was a librarian by profession. My last post had been as a high school librarian in one of Glasgow’s hairier housing schemes, which explains why I had been such easy meat for
. They had turned up at the school, subtly testing the kids for psychic potential and somehow had decided
had it. At the time it had seemed like an amusing and cushy way out.
Four months later, I suspected they were fully aware of their mistake. I just wished they’d hurry up and give me the boot, because the harsh training and the awful situations, combined with my humiliating inability to deal with either, was making me look at even the most diabolical and ignorant children of my home town with a worrying degree of nostalgic affection.
But I couldn’t tell Catherine this. I couldn’t tell anyone. For a start, they wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes I didn’t believe me.
“I miss home,” I said, just to get a little of the sympathy I craved.
“That bad?” said Catherine, deadpan and just as she’d intended, I laughed. Hastily, I turned the conversation on to her life and for a while forgot all about Davie and Jackie.
In fact, I remembered my mission of sin only on my way to the bar to collect another drink. That done, I took it with commendable casualness to the conservatory. And got the shock of my life.
At first I thought it was empty. Compared with the chaotic rabble and loud music of the main hall, the conservatory was peaceful as the grave and almost as dark. Someone had turned the lights off, so the only illumination was borrowed from the room next door. By its feeble glow, in the shadows of one corner, I made out two figures, arms around each other.
Davie and Jackie. I recognized the tartan of his kilt.
Metaphorically rolling up my sleeves, I closed the door with a purposeful click and marched across the room. Through the glass above, a cloud moved on, letting an unkind beam of moon light shine directly in upon the lovers and I saw that it was not Davie and Jackie. It was Davie and Nick’s handsome stranger.
The glass fell from my nerveless fingers, shattering on the ceramic floor at my feet, splashing house red over my strappy white sandals. At the sound, the stranger raised his head from nuzzling Davie’s neck and looked straight into my eyes.
God, his were beautiful. Green and gleaming, reflecting light even in that gloomy corner and unfathomably deep. But it wasn’t his beaux
that kept me rooted to the spot. It was…recognition.
Those bastards at the Centre had been right all along. I
psychic, just not in the ways they’d been looking for. But I knew
. I knew what he was just from his eyes and the cold frisson was terrible, a thousand times stronger than the shiver that had shaken me when I first saw him. That could have been anything—attraction, desire. This was earth-shattering. I saw his cold soul, older than time, and the awesome power of his destructive evil.
He was a vampire.