Authors: Michele Hauf
THE DARK'S MISTRESS
Copyright © 2013 by Michele Hauf
Cover artwork copyright © 2013 Odile Stamanne. Cover words/font added to artwork by Michele Hauf.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments or events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Kambriel Saint-Pierre had lived in Paris for six months. Or had it been six years? Surely, she’d come here in winter and now it was spring. The inability to track the passing days didn’t concern her.
Most of the time.
The night was slashed with vivid neon flashes. Strolling casually, Kam turned the corner in the bustling Pigalle neighborhood, the red-light district. Metal thrash music echoed out from a club fronted by a rusted door on which was carved a red X. Her lover’s hand clasped hers.
No. Not her lover. Their intimacy was defined on a level set apart from the ordinary.
You have to leave
Innately, she knew she was trapped in the relationship. Until she relented and gave him what he demanded of her. However, he remained content so long as she did.
Was she content? He gave her everything she desired. Everything. Sometimes she received the yearned-for object before she knew she craved it, but once in hand, she couldn't imagine life lived without it.
Hers was a good life.
The life she’d once led grew dimmer and less important in her mind, so this life she led now must be good in comparison.
Humming the tune she recognized as a heavy-metal lament to eternal darkness, Kam strolled up to a tattoo shop window. Her steel-heeled stilettos clicked smartly on the sidewalk. They lashed around her ankles with leather straps. She loved them. They matched the leather hip-hugging maxi dress slashed up one thigh to her derriere, with laddered leather straps from there up to her neck.
Looking over the brightly colored flash, she traced a particular design with a fingertip.
“You like butterflies?” her boyfriend asked, his clasp tightening about her other hand. He brushed his lips across her sleek black hair, nudging her earlobe. The scent of him had grown familiar, yet she often wondered if mortals could sense his otherness. His utter darkness.
She nodded. Butterflies epitomized freedom. Yet, as a bloodborn vampire, she wasn’t able to get a tattoo. Vampires healed so rapidly the ink never stayed in the skin long enough for it to scab over.
The growl of the distant singer scorched the night. A group of women laughed, staggering drunkenly down the sidewalk past the tattoo shop, leaving in their wake the cloying scent of cheap perfume.
“I’ve always wanted a butterfly on my shoulder,” she said dreamily. "Maybe in black and red."
“Anything you desire, my dark angel.”
His kiss bruised Kam’s shoulder. The man’s kisses were always shockingly cold and then brutally hot. She could never refuse them, no matter how painful. And she wasn’t sure if it was because she liked the torturous kiss, or that she simply couldn’t deny him a thing.
Sometimes it felt as though her mind was not hers to direct. Yet she would continue to refuse him the one thing she kept most precious. For as long as she was able.
Kam pressed a palm to the flash featuring a delicate butterfly. At the same time a soft flutter warmed her skin. She tilted her head to eye the gorgeous artwork that had appeared on her bare shoulder. Outlined in intricate black so fine no tattoo artist could achieve such precision, it was filled in with crimson on wings that gleamed as if a living creature.
“It’s so pretty," she said, stroking the new ink. "Another please?”
Another bruising kiss gifted her with a crimson and black butterfly, and then another, until her shoulder was crowded with the indelible artwork.
“Anything else you desire, my darkest angel?”
Hmm… He’d given her so much in form of material things. Her flat in the eighth arrondissement was filled with treasures and luxuries she might never have the time to enjoy even if she lived centuries—and she would. But all those gifts were just…stuff.
Lately, she’d grown bored. She needed something to physically
beyond wallowing in treasures, fine clothing, lavish shoes and pretty young bites.
“I’ve always wanted to sing,” she decided. “I love the heavy metal bands. The lyrics are so dark and wicked. They call to me. I’ve only ever sung in the shower. Do you think I could develop my talent?”
He spread an arm about her shoulder and hugged her against his tall, muscle-strapped form. Tonight he wore his hair long and black as hell, his pale blue eyes irresistible beacons amongst the surrounding neon glow. She preferred him to look this way—which is why he did. He always appeared to others in human form, and as their greatest temptation, unless he purposefully deemed to show his true form.
His kissing the crown of her head sent an electric, piercing shiver down the back of her scalp. Kam sucked in a breath, her lungs expanding. A tight chill radiated through her system, clenching in her chest only to dissipate quickly.
“You have the talent now,” he assured, leading her down the sidewalk with a firm hand. “Where would you like to sing first? No. Wait. I will create the perfect venue to showcase your charms. Someplace dark and sensual yet spiked with a vexing stab of sweetness.”
“That’s me,” Kam agreed. “I do love to vex you. Send me home now, please. Call me to you when it’s ready.”
“You do love surprises. Give me a few days.”
He bent and kissed her on the cheek. No chill this time. Just the persistent wrongness she could never dispel. With a whispered command, he sent her away from him.
Kambriel landed in the black marbled foyer of her penthouse flat. Illumination from the nearby shops lining the Champs Elysees flickered in through the window at the end of the hallway. She twisted and pressed a palm to the closed door designed to replicate a medieval portal, replete with iron studs and arched framework.
However, she could open the door and walk out. She could go wherever she pleased in Paris. She could see whomever she chose to see, and of course, she could feed her incessant hunger with whomever she desired.
And yet, she could never escape Him.
A moment of clarity arrested her breath. She clutched her throat. Heartbeats jittered.
“Someone save me,” she whispered. “Before it’s too late.”
* * *
Club l’Enfer had been open six months. It was one of those gothic death-metal caves that appealed to mortals with dark fantasies and the paranormal breeds who liked to cater to those fantasies. The club had appeared out of nowhere, as if the structure had pushed up from the bowels of Paris through layers of subterranean labyrinths as if to form an aboveground lair for the very devil Himself.
The marquee advertised tonight’s band in red slash letters: The Dark’s Mistress. They were loud, raucous, grinding, and every note the lead songstress growled, wailed, or keened, vibrated in Johnny Santiago’s chest as if a titanium stake sliding gracelessly beside his heart and out through his back.
As a singer, he could appreciate the singer’s chops. His own band, Bitter/Sweet, wasn’t currently playing gigs. The drummer had a coke habit (dude was mortal), the lead guitarist (a fellow vampire) had a faery dust habit (idiot), and the bass player (another vamp) had given up the guitar for goats, cheese, and a buxom redheaded shapeshifter all situated in some idyllic Swiss village. Go figure.
Johnny wasn’t worried about the void in his career. Lead singers were always in demand. He drifted from band to band, and would stay put when he finally found the perfect fit. He was young, a new singer on the Paris scene. While honing his chops, he planned to learn all he could about the profession and the music industry. He had dreams of a big stadium tour some day, but he was in no rush.
Immortality tended to grant a man a relaxed schedule and life goals were planned in terms of centuries as opposed to decades.
He and his tribe mates staked out the metal-studded black leather booths in club l’Enfer a few times a month. None of the Incroyables—as Damian, who hailed from the Enlightenment, called them—would claim the cheesy nightclub their scene, but each of them had their own reasons for hanging out in its gray and blood-silver shadows.
Dante d'Arcangelo had recently broken off a three-month liaison with a pretty vampiress. The dark-eyed Casanova with a penchant for frockcoats and lace was heartbroken, horny, and looking for a bite.
Brutus knew a fight could always be found when demons started mingling amongst vampires. Two demonesses gyrated below on the dance floor lighted to look like a flaming chasm opened to Beneath; they'd yet to give off aggressive vibes. Brutus could wait.
Christian de Baureaux, former Comte d’Artois, nursed his third whiskey, his eyelids heavy, while a leanan sidhe sporting pink hair and a nose ring slid her tongue along his cheek and to his ear to whisper illicit promises.
Damian Desrues was not to be found tonight. The blond vamp with the Botticelli curls had lived in Paris since the eighteenth century. He’d once been mortal and had been bitten. He’d tried to fight the vampire taint and had gone mad—though had managed to make it to the full moon without transforming. Turns out he’d been bitten again after that fruitless struggle, and had become vampire anyway. Damian traveled the scale from sane to insanity like a monkey climbing for coconuts.
A few others in the tribe were not present. Johnny had been hoping Kindred would show tonight. The brains of the organization, Kindred LaRoque had been helping Johnny create a stock portfolio. Only a few years out from his parents’ household, Johnny knew he had to start investing if he were to survive the centuries looming before him. Because rock n’ roll certainly wasn’t going to pay the bills.
A spatter of vodka hit Johnny’s cheek. Brutus gulped down another shot then slammed the mug onto the table. The three mortal women clinging to his biceps knew he was vampire. Fang junkies. Rarely did an uninitiated mortal cross the portal into l’Enfer. The demonic doormen were meticulous. Their glowing red eyes could see mortal souls before their noses detected the foul mortal blood scent. If the club were to survive they didn’t need any trouble with the law, or the Council.
It was rumored the proprietor of l’Enfer was someone with whom no one should challenge, not even the toughest werewolf or most muscle-bound shapeshifter. Johnny assumed he was demon, or perhaps some ancient vampire who got his rocks off watching the young paranormals writhe in the crowded darkness of the club interior.
The band segued into a heart-thumping beat that suddenly paused—prompted by a single drumbeat, the singer sighed out a wanting breath that shivered through the air and permeated Johnny’s throat as if a lover’s release during climax. He whipped his head around, and heaving in anticipation, leaned over the wrought iron balcony.
The entire dance floor twisted their heads to admire the singer, poised before them, prepared to lead them into their darkest desires while she doled out her achingly seductive lyrics.
Gorgeous was an insufficient word to describe the goddess who mastered the black metal stage edged in red neon focus beams. A true mistress of the night. Make that the Dark’s mistress. Heh. He liked the band name, corny as it was. Tall, slender and poured into some crazy black latex number that hugged her curvy torso and ended high on her thighs, it seemed likely she was flashing the dancers below. Her arms were dipped in the same black latex; her fingers tipped in hematite talons.
For all her sensual gyrations and head-banging under the intense red stage lights, she should be a sweaty mess. Yet she was pristine, a tattered angel dredged up from the depths, exquisite in her darkness. Not to mention seductively deadly. Johnny ogled the way the latex hugged her ridiculous curves, gliding over hips and clenching her waist, wrapping up and around generous breasts. He had the sudden urge to bury his face in those plump breasts for a lick—and then a bite.
Thick, curling and lush, her hair was a life form unto itself. The obsidian tresses billowed about her arms as if a cloud and down her back where they dusted her hips. He wanted to bury his face in that hair, too. He wanted to fuck that hair.
The horns at her temples, jutting a foot into the air, were crisscrossed with red ribbons. Part of the costume, he assumed. She wasn’t demon. Or maybe so? Demons didn’t bother him. He'd dated one once, but would never bite. Black demon blood was thick and acrid. He preferred vampires because sharing blood was an experience he liked to engage as often as he could. Consuming mortal blood made him stronger and sustained his life. Quaffing down vampire blood did the same, but also super-charged his libido like some kind of vampire Viagra. There was nothing like having sex and biting at the same time. Nothing.