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Authors: Christine Edwards

Tags: #'vampire, #deep south, #georgia, #plantation house, #alpha male'

Savannah Past Midnight (2 page)

BOOK: Savannah Past Midnight
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With her hands still pinned tightly against the
thing’s neck, she slowly lifts her head. I hiss out a shocked
breath. “Holy fuck ….”

Long hair streams around her face and those stoic,
once arctic blue eyes are now pitch black and as freaky as a
demon’s. In them I see the remorseless look of a warrior—a
survivor. Scarlet blood drenches her face from right below her nose
to mid-neck. With her mouth half open, she reveals long white fangs
that are fucking terrifying.

She ignores my obvious shock, speaking clearly and
rapidly. “No time, there’s likely more. You want to live, human?
Then do
as I say. Take my Ducati. Keys are still in
it. Meet me in five minutes at the corner of Bull and Liberty.”

I shake my head and clear my throat. “No way. We ride
together or not at all. C’mon.”

“Single seat. You know that. Go, before I change my

“What about you?”

She’s vibrating with fury. Clearly this woman gets
her way and hates repeating herself. “I have another mode of
transport. Do as I say. Now go!”

She has no clue how stubborn I am. “Not leaving. Not
’til you’re outta danger and safe.”

Her eyes flare. She’s monumentally pissed.
even covered in blood and half-crazed, she’s absolutely fucking

“Fine. You want visual proof of my safety? How’s

Shoving off the fresh cadaver, she closes the short
distance between us, cranks her neck up to meet my eyes, and
hisses, “I expect to see you
my Ducati very soon. And if
you’re a no-show or if there is so much as a hair-line scratch on
my ride, what happened with that wolf will look like a play-date
compared to what will happen to

I lurch backward against the bricks as she suddenly
disappears right before my eyes.

“Impossible.” My astonished whisper goes unheard. All
that remains is the oozing fur ball and the creepy, surrounding fog
that’s settling in like the backdrop for a Wes Craven horror

“Fuck this.”

I’m not taking any chances that the freak-show’s
buddies could be hovering nearby, so I sprint the short distance to
the Ducati. Holstering my weapon, I pull on the too-tight helmet,
crank it up, turn it around, and head back up toward Bay

I wish I wasn’t still in a state of near-shock
complete with a full-blown case of the shakes over what just went
down, because the Ducati handles like a dream. Still, my mind is
playing a game of ping pong with images from the bizarre, grizzly
event along with the mysteriously captivating woman.

Jesus, have I been hallucinating? Could someone have
slipped something in my water bottle as I manned the front door
tonight? This shit is just wrong, and I’ve seen some fucked-up
situations firsthand in my twenty-nine years on this earth.

In an attempt to shake off the unease, I grip the
throttle tighter and squeeze my thighs against the body of the
machine. The performance and handling are exceptional.

I arrive at the corner of Bull Street, not ten yards
from the intersection of Liberty. I carefully pull the bike into a
narrow space between a tricked out Mini Cooper and a green

“Leave it running, cowboy.”

I just about jump out of my skin. As if from thin
air, she’s beside me, slim, soft hand covering mine on the

Practically growling, I swiftly pull the helmet off
and yell, “Jesus! Where the fuck did you come from? You seriously
might want to reconsider sneaking up on armed individuals,

Her porcelain face is now oddly free of blood and her
eyes once more their former soft hue. She watches me closely before
answering slowly, “Or … I might
Thanks for the
delivery. Now get off.” The dismissive tilt of her head to the
right sends my anger straight into the red zone as she adds
haughtily, “You’re a big boy. Certainly you can find your own way
home from here.”

I drag in air through my nostrils and fight the urge
to tell her
what I think of her snotty

There must be a reason behind her detachment, but
now is hardly the time or the place to find out why

Slowly I dismount and hand the helmet over to her.
She pulls it on, and I frown as the blacked-out visor is swiftly
clicked down, obscuring those haunting eyes from my view. Inside of
ten seconds she’s mounted up and begins to rev the engine to take
off. My hand clamps down on top of hers—not hard, but firmly enough
to make a point as her head whips toward me.

I know there’s no time to waste, that if she wanted
to, she could easily shrug me off, so I shoot the question at her,
even though I already know the answer. “You like fightin’?”

The raven-black helmet stares silently up at me.

I continue slowly, choosing each word carefully,
“Yeah, you do, woman. Wednesday night, one in the morning, the
vacant warehouse behind Clary’s Café. Your turn to come see

I hold my ground as she wordlessly guns the engine. I
still have hold of her hand and I’m half dragged toward the top of
the intersection. I manage to let go and stagger back up to my feet
in time to see the puzzling woman’s black silhouette run a red
light before swiftly disappearing beneath the moss-draped, shadowed
oak trees that line historic Bull Street.

After she and her bike are swallowed by the dense
night, I continue to stare, knowing that I’ve just crossed paths
with the first woman who’s fierce enough to handle me, and if she
ever chose to, ruin me.

August 17,
Plantation, 12 Miles S.E. of Charleston, South Carolina

ood afternoon, Grandfather,
are you busy at the moment?”

He pushes away from his massive mahogany desk and
stands with open arms to greet me. “Never too busy for my best
girl. Now tell me, what do you and Annalin have planned for today,
ma petite lapine

Grinning, I cross the room and embrace him tightly.
“We will be spending the afternoon on horseback. The humidity has
finally eased and we are both looking forward to a little jaunt
through the forest.”

His arms release me and his hands clasp mine. “I
approve, but only if you have both stable hands follow you on their
mounts for protection. You can never be too cautious.”

“I understand, Grandfather. I know how you

His eyes bore into mine. “I lost both your mother and
my son so yes, you are correct to assume that I am inclined to fret
safety. However, I know your wild spirit; Severin
was like you, untamable, but please allow this aging fellow to have
a little peace of mind. Will you?”

Rising up on tiptoes, I place a swift kiss onto my
grandfather’s wrinkled cheek. “Yes, yes, of course, Grandfather. I
assure you that we will both be cautious and will return well
before the evening meal.”

Spinning around, I’m just about to step across the
threshold of his vast office when his crisp French accent slices
through the summer air. “Cosette?”

I turn slowly to meet his eyes. “Yes,

“You will under
circumstances ride Sacred
Falls. Am I clear? I understand you being drawn to the stallion,
but he is far too wild. This is
a request, Cosette.”

My heart sinks as I try to recover, hiding the
crushing disappointment with a soft smile. “Yes, of course,

“Very well. You girls enjoy your day then.”

My best friend and I rush down the winding staircase
and are crossing the expanse of the emerald lawn toward the stables
when Annalin tugs on my forearm, bringing us both to a standstill.
“You’re not thinking of defying him, Cosette,
you? I’ve
seen the way you have been eyeing that horse ever since your cousin
shipped him over from France a fortnight ago. That animal is
positively aggressive. In fact, it should rightfully be named Evil
One instead of the beautiful name of Sacred Falls.”

I sigh and begin walking again. “Annalin, did you
stop to think of how exciting life might be if you ever
stopped second guessing everything?”

“Cosette, there is a massive difference between
hedonistic, reckless behavior and a little thrill now and again.
You heard Monsieur Beauvais; he was adamant that you not ride that
horse. Shall I warn him now?”

My eyes flare as I turn to pin her with a reproachful
look. “You would betray your best friend?”

Her cheeks flush. “N-no, of course not. I just know
you well, Cosette, and I think that you have a bit of deviltry
running through you. I’ll always be your best friend, no matter
what you do; however, I don’t like being placed in the middle of a
potentially dangerous situation. I beg you to rethink whatever
mischief is brewing in that gorgeous head of yours, for my sake as
well as your own.”

I squeeze her hands and smile reassuringly. “You just
let me handle everything.”

Our full skirts kick up a plethora of dust as we
enter the cool space of the barn.

“Well, good afternoon, Miss Cosette, Miss Annalin.
What can we do for you?”

“Good afternoon, John. Annalin and I would like to go
riding today. Please saddle up Regent’s Code and Sacred Falls.”

I hold my ground and arch a brow, waiting for his

“Now, you know, Miss Cosette, no man here has been
able to ride that stallion. Why you wanna go and get your pretty
self all injured, mam’selle? That horse ain’t fit to be ridden,
pure and simple.”

“John, I would only like to sit atop him and I will
do so today whether you saddle him or I do it myself.”

He shakes his head slowly back and forth as he
strides away, grumbling to himself. “Headstrong as a darn bull.
Theo! Gonna need your help. We’re saddling up Sacred Falls. Heaven
help us.”

“Cosette,” Annalin squeaks, “there is no way you can
ride that beast sidesaddle. You will certainly be bucked off!”

In a hushed voice I say, “I’m not planning on riding
him sidesaddle. Here, quickly, help me with this cumbersome

“You’re not …

“Either you help or I’ll manage alone. I’m about to
be married, Annalin. Do you understand what that means? At the age
of twenty my escapades will certainly come to a screeching halt.
I’m determined to live fully while I can. What on earth is wrong
with that? I’m not hurting anyone, am I?”

“Only my sanity,” she mutters with an exaggerated eye

“Oh, Annalin, stop being so dramatic and help get me
out of this voluminous monstrosity.”

We work together to undo the multitude of ties and
hooks to the point where I can shimmy out of it. “Ah, that’s much
better! Quickly, let’s hide it in this tack box.”

“It sounds like they’re having an awful time trying
to saddle him, Cosette.”

“They know what they are doing. Follow me.”

We make our way down the length of twenty stalls
until we reach the final one. Wood is banging and creaking as
agitated hoofs meet straining boards.

“There, Theo,” John says, “now get that strap up
around his belly and buckle it right quick. He’s unbelievably
strong. All right. I’ve got him by the bridle. You come on out now
and take the reins to head him out into the ring. We’ll see if we
can calm him down enough for her to sit on him for a minute or two.
That should satisfy her curiosity with no harm done to anyone.”

We follow behind the men and the seventeen-hand-high
chestnut-colored Arabian stallion who is snorting hard, his head
constantly pulling away from the confinement of his headgear.

The weathered stable master wipes his brow with a
handkerchief and asks pointedly, “Now, before I go and let you on
him, Miss Cosette, I need to know that Monsieur Beauvais gave his
approval for this.”

I can feel Annalin’s eyes boring into me.

“Actually, truth be told, he told me not to ride him;
however, he said nothing about briefly sitting atop him.”

His lips turn down in a frown as he contemplates what
to do next. I hold my breath, waiting for his answer. “Well, all
right then. I suppose there’ll be no harm done with all of us
holding him for you. Here, let me help you up. I’ll let you sit on
him here in the ring only. After that, we’ll return him to his
stall and then all go out on a nice long ride with some of the
tamer horses. I can’t take the chance of anyone getting injured
with this wild one. Understood, mam’selle?”

“Yes, of course, John.”

“Very well.”

“Here, let’s get you seated. He’s a tall fellow.”

The two stable hands easily lift me up to sit
sidesaddle on the magnificent horse. “There, see? All is well. I
think he might even like you, mam’selle.”

John nods to Theo. “Well, at least this turned out to
be an exciting morning, eh boy?”

While they are distracted I waste no time clasping
the reins tightly while shifting back to maneuver my right leg up
and over the saddle.

“Now, Miss Cosette, you shouldn’t be sitting like
that. It’s not proper for a lady.”

Ignoring John’s comment, I quickly lean in, gently
rub the side of Sacred Falls’ silken neck with my gloved hand to
purr, “I know what you want, boy, and I want it too. Let’s see how
fast you can go.”

I pull away from Theo’s hold and gasp in delight at
how responsive the horse is. In a flash I have him turned around
and urge him forward with a firm nudge to the ribs, knowing that
the only way out is to backtrack through the open-air stable. The
panic-laced calls are rising up from behind as John and Theo
frantically try to catch up to us.

Impossible. This could be my once in a lifetime
opportunity to ride a true thoroughbred stallion that is built for
nothing but speed … a racehorse by definition.

BOOK: Savannah Past Midnight
4.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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