Authors: Colleen Gleason
The Vampire Voss
has all the right ingredients for a sit-down-can't-get-up-until-I'm-done kind of novel. The writing is delightful, and the story brings us into new realms of the traditional. I loved this book!”
New York Times
bestselling Heather Graham
“In a world where every third title seems to be a vampire story, it's a pleasure to come across a series that is as unique as Colleen Gleason's. Fresh, unique, sassy and fun, Gleason's Regency Draculia trilogy is one of a kind, and destined to become a classic. A must-have addition to the bookshelves of vamp enthusiasts everywhere.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
“Count on Colleen Gleason for a scorching page-turner.”
New York Times
bestselling author of the Night Huntress series
“Dark and decadent, sultry and seductive, Colleen Gleason's sexy Draculia series will hold you in its thrall. This is Regency romance the way I like itâwith a bite!”
New York Times
bestselling author of the Midnight Breed series
“Witty, intriguing and addictive.”
“Deliciously darkâ¦and entertaining.”
“Sophisticated, sexy, surprising!”
New York Times
bestselling author J. R. Ward
“Nobody does historical paranormal like Colleen Gleason.”
New York Times
bestselling author Robyn Carr
“The paranormal romance genre has met its next starâ Colleen Gleason.”
bestselling author Kathryn Smith
“Ms. Gleason's writing is brilliant and powerful, without even a whiff of the clichÃ©.”
Vampire Romance Books
A small village in the hills of England
imitri stared down at the blood. Everywhere. It was every where. On the bedcoverings. On the floor. On the table. On his hands. His arms.
The tasteâ¦still in his mouth. Rich, hot, full.
He swallowed the last vestiges on his tongue.
He blinked, trying to focus, but his head pounded. When he tried to lift himself up, his sore muscles protested. Yet, life shimmered through him. His skin prickled, alive. Dimitri tried to breathe, but every breath he took in was laden with the scent. Bloodscent.
And then he remembered.
He remembered how it had happened.
Horror seized him.
And only then did he look over at the bundle of blankets and clothing, the lifeless form in a triangle of sunlight on the floor. One pale, plump arm hung out, marked and
torn. Blood seeped everywhere: through thick quilts and the heavy layers of her dress. The mass of graying hair, loose and streaked with blood.
He held his temples, closed his eyes.
But he couldn't deny it.
And even as he sat there in a room half shadowed and half blazing with sun, Dimitri was filled with loathing and hatred.
I don't want this. I want out.
“Do you hear me, Lucifer?” he said, his voice hoarse and broken. “I want
For like all angels, fallen or no, Lucifer's preferred method of communication was via dreams. In the deepest of night.
When one was the most vulnerable. The most suggestible.
The most easily lured and tricked.
“Release me, you damned bastard!”
But Dimitri already knew there was no way out. He'd already attempted it, tried to break the covenant in the last year since he'd left Vienna. He'd already denied himself what Lucifer had recreated him to need, twenty-five years ago: blood. Rich, warm, lifegiving.
The devil's Mark, depicting the insidious crack in his soul, was imprinted on his back and would never leave him. Thus it had been, for two decades.
And his attempt at self-denial, his attempt to thwart the devil and to break free?
The result was on the floor, a horrifying mess of limbs and tendons and mutilated flesh, destroyed. Dead.
Dimitri pinched the bridge of his nose, hard, a black ball of anger swelling inside him. His eyes stung.
Damn it allâ¦he'd
He'd left Vienna after the fire, left a world of opulence and hedonism that he'd never truly enjoyed, and refused it all. A year ago.
For a year, he refused to feed, to drink from anyone. He'd die first, damned or no. Surely if a vampire didn't drink of the lifeblood, he'd grow weak and die. He'd
Lucifer to release him.
But it hadn't worked at all, and it was his very weakness that had caused this tragedy.
For when the old woman had found him, near death, weak after a year without sustenance, he'd been naught but a loose-limbed mass of bone and flesh. Ready to leave the life he'd been tricked into, back when he'd saved Meg twenty years ago. When he'd given up everything for her.
The old woman found him here, and tried to help himâfor she couldn't have known. She was an innocent. She induced him to drink ale and broth, neither of which could save him.
And Dimitri: all through the night and into the day, day after day, he watched those solid blue veins. He lusted for the curve of her plump neck. He had to close his eyes to keep from taking what every humor in his body demanded.
And he was in control, despite the burning pain from Lucifer's Markâthe agony that bespoke of the devil's displeasure with Dimitri. He resisted. He fought it.
Nothing was stronger than his resolve. Not even the devil.
Until she nicked her finger with a knife.
And he smelled the blood.
One hundred thirteen years later
ho in Lucifer's bloody hell did Miss Maia Woodmore think she was, giving orders to an earl?
Dimitri, the Earl of Corvindale, glared down at the elegant script covering a piece of thick stationery. Feminine, perfectly formed, with only the occasional embellishment and not one ink splotch, the words marched across the page in ruler-straight lines. Even the descenders and ascenders were neat and properly aligned so that none of them over lapped. The stationery smelled like feminine spice and lily of the valley and some other intriguing note that he refused to expend the effort to define.
Naturally her demand was couched in the most proper of syntax, but Dimitri was obviously no innocent when it came to female machinations. Though he strictly avoided womenâ
of them, especially the mortal onesâhe was
well-schooled in the way they worked and in reading between the lines, so to speak.
And from what he read between the lines here, Miss Maia Woodmore was annoyed and filled with indignant self-righteousness, just as she had been during that incident in Haymarket three years ago. And she expected him to jump to her whim.
forgive me for contacting you in this untoward manner, but it is only upon the specific direction of my brother, Mr. Charles Woodmore, that I am doing so.
(Here he could fairly feel her outrage at being ordered thus by her sibling.)
Mr. Woodmore (who I understand is a business associate of your lordship's) left word that, should I not receive correspondence or communication from him within a fortnight after leaving on his most recent trip to the Continent (which would be by yesterday's date, 18 July, 1804) that I must contact you in regards to the wardship of myself and my two sisters, Angelica and Sonia (the latter of whom is safely ensconced at St. Bridie's Convent School in Scotland).
Dimitri paused in this, his third perusal of the letter, to blink and frown at the precise, if not overlong, sentence. And then he went on to roundly curse Chas Woodmore for somehow convincing him to agree to this madness. It had been more than six years ago that Woodmore had culled such a vow from Dimitri, who'd hardly given it another thought since.
Naturally he never expected Woodmore to do anything as imbecilic as he'd done, running off with Narcise Moldavi instead of killing her brother, which was what he'd gone to Paris to do. Narcise's brother, Cezar, one must assume, would be livid.
But at least Woodmore had made arrangements for the safety of his own sisters, in the event Cezar Moldavi realized
who was behind his sister's abductionâor perhaps it was an elopement, not an abduction. He would have no compunction about taking out his ire on three innocent young women.
Cezar certainly hadn't changed since Vienna. If anything, he'd become even more obsessed with power and control.
Dimitri returned to the letter, trying not to acknowledge the exotic perfume that permeated the paper. One of the many curses of being Dracule was his extraordinary sense of smell. Not terribly pleasant, when out and about on the streets of London, and even less so when trying to avoid scenting something he wished to ignore. Reluctantly he read on.
My brother impressed upon me the seriousness of this manner, and it is only because of his specific and unrelenting urgency that I dare send this letter.
I wish to assure you, Lord Corvindale, that the only reason I am contacting you is because of my brother's express wishes. There is truly no need for you to concern yourself with the guardianship of myself and my sisters, for Chas has often been away on business trips and we have fared just as well during his previous absences with the chaperonage of our cousin and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Fernfeather.
He recalled that, based upon his single previous interaction with her, Miss Maia Woodmore was also this long-winded in person.
In addition, my upcoming wedding to Mr. Alexander Bradington will shortly put me in the position to act as chaperone for my younger sisters.
Dimitri realized he was crinkling the paper and he reminded himself that the written word, regardless of from whom it came, what language it was in, and what message it bore, was precious. Yes, he'd seen the engagement
announcement in the
some months ago. The news had been welcome to those who followed that sort of
âwhich certainly didn't include the reclusive Earl of Corvindale.
At that time
(Miss Woodmore's perfect hand continued in its no-nonsense manner)
your services as guardian to my sisters and myself will no longer be necessary.
, (here her penmanship became the slightest bit thicker and perhaps even more precise)
I see no reason for you to bestir yourself in regards to my sisters and myself at all, Lord Corvindale. Despite my brother's concern, which I can't help but believe is overly cautious and more than a bit exaggerated, Angelica and I shall fare perfectly well in London on our own until Chas returns.
I look forward to receiving a response at your earliest convenience.
Which meant, Dimitri knew, immediately upon receipt of the letter. Miss Woodmore was thus doomed to disappointment, for the message had arrived early this morning, when he was still asleep at his desk. Not that he would have jumped to respond to her anyway.
She signed her name simply,
And there, for the first time, was a bit of feminine embellishment, just on the lower curve of the
and on the upper swoop of the
Unfortunately for Miss Maia Woodmore, Dimitri had already beenâ¦what was the word?
Indeed, he'd been more than merely bestirred relative to their guardianship. And, he snarled to himself, it was only going to get worse. He was going to have to bring the chits into this very household if he meant to keep them safe from Moldavi and his private army of vampire goons. Damn Chas Woodmore's mortal arse.
Dimitri happened to know that Moldavi was in Paris
with his nose permanently inserted in the crack of Napoleon Bonaparte's arseâor perhaps this fortnight he was licking the new emperor's bollocksâand it would take him some time to send his men after Woodmore and his sisters. But not very much time, despite the war between their two countries.
Which meant that Dimitri must move quickly.
He looked around his study, swathed in heavy curtains to keep out the sun. Books and papers were piled everywhere and shelves lined the walls, crammed full with even more tomes and manuscripts. An utter mess, Mrs. Hunburgh claimed, but she wasn't allowed into the chamber at all except for a weekly dust and sweep. No one else was allowed in but for the occasional visit by Dimitri's butler or valet.
And blast it, he'd intended to visit the antiquarian bookstore next to Lenning's Tannery again today. He meant to ask the blonde woman, who dressed as if she were a thirteenth century chatelaine instead of a shopkeeper, about referencesâscrolls, papyruses, whateverâfrom Egypt in particular. He cursed under his breath. Now he wouldn't have the chance.
Napoleon Bonaparte had brought chests and crates of antiquities back from his travels through and conquest of Egypt, and the objects were being sold and distributed throughout Europe. Surely there was something in the ancient world of pharaohs and sun gods that would help Dimitri banish the demon of darkness who'd lured him into an unholy contract decades ago. Even though Vlad Tepes, the Count Dracula, had made his agreement with Lucifer in the fifteenth century, Dimitri suspected that his ancestor hadn't been the first mortal to sell his soulâand that of his progenyâto the devil. The legend of Johann Faust had become popular after
Vlad's agreement, but there had to have been others since the beginning of time. He'd studied manuscripts and writings of the Greeks and Romans, even some from Aramea and other parts of the Holy Land.
Perhaps there would be something he could glean from the Egyptian antiquities and hieroglyphs that would give him direction. Not that anyone had been able to break the code of the Egyptian alphabet yet, but Dimitri was determined to try his hand at it.
After all, he had forever to do it.
And now the stele that had been found in Rosetta several years ago by the French, and was currently in the possession of the Antiquarian Society here in London, looked promising for translating the hieroglyphs. Thus, Dimitri was hopeful. He would love to get his hands on the stone himself, but that would mean having to be around
and playing politics and listening to gossip and jests and having to avoid the sun in public companyâ¦and all sorts of things he'd much rather avoid.
He'd considered stealingârather,
the so-called Rosetta Stone for a time in order to work on it himself, but in the end decided against it. Perhaps he might break into the British Museum, where it was kept, and make a rubbing of it one nightâif he didn't have to spend his bloody time accompanying debutantes to masques and balls. His jaw hurt where his teeth ground together.
There was no way around it.
The two elder Woodmore sisters would soon be overrunning his solitude, upsetting his household and interrupting his studies. And, blast it all, so would Dimitri's own so-called sibling, Mirabellaâfor naturally, he'd have to bring her into Town, as well. He'd adopted the foundling as his sister some years agoâand he supposed he'd put off her debut as long as
he could. The very thought of three debutantes in his house made him grind his teeth sourly.
All of them would be disrupting his schedule and nattering on about parties and fetes and balls and whatever else they did. Squealing, laughing, atomizing perfume and spilling powderâand Luce's dark soul, Dimitri would have to ensure no one had any rubies with them.
Bloody black hell.
But Dimitri knew that the worst of it was going to be the very proper, very demanding presence of Miss Maia Woodmore.
Here. In this house. Under his very nose.
If Chas Woodmore was still alive when they found him, Dimitri was going to kill the bastard.
Maia Woodmore was fumingâwhich was something she rarely lowered herself to do.
In fact, unlike her younger sister Angelica, Maia had forced herself to become a paragon of poise and containment and propriety. Except, it seemed, in the case of contrary, arrogant, annoying
It was as if all of the men in her lifeâwhether she wanted them there or notâhad decided to go off all shilly-shally and leave her to pick up the pieces and manage their leftovers. A task she was, thankfully, more than capable of doing, regardless of whether she wanted to or not. After all, it seemed as if she'd
been in charge,
trying to make things right, trying to keep her younger sisters safe, well loved and well cared for.
At least, since their parents died.
Included in Maia's mental tirade, along with Corvindale, was her elder brother Chas, who was always haring off somewhere and leaving her to manage thingsânot an easy task
when one was an untitled, unmarried, somewhat-rich young woman of the
It was his great fortune that she was not only up to the task, but efficient and capable of doing so.
And also included in her annoyance was her fiancÃ©, Alexander Bradington, who'd proposed on her eighteenth birthday, and then went off on a trip to the Continent three months later. He'd been gone for eighteen months.
But the Earl of Corvindale was the absolute worst of the bunch.
Alexander had been engaged in Rome and Vienna for the past several months, delayed because of the war with Franceâwhich was hardly his fault, she allowed. But she
him, and if he were here, they could just get married and chaperone Angelica and Sonia themselves.
Chas had once again gone off on some mysterious business trip, but this time, things were different. He'd left behind a note that made it sound as if the world was to end like it had in Pompeii, or France was to invade if he didn't return within a fortnight. To Maia's increasing concern, he hadn't. She'd be blazingly furious with Chas for foisting her and Angelica on the dratted Earl of Corvindale if she weren't so worried that something horrible had happened to their brother.
But Corvindale was here in London, and he had not only ignored her very polite missiveâwhich had only been sent out of courtesyâbut now, as she looked up at his dark, hawkish, arrogant face, he raised an eyebrow and eyed her as if she were some sort of crawly insect.
“Of course I received your letter,” Corvindale said. His voice was flat with boredom. “I am the only Corvindale, am I not?”
“But you didn't deign to respond,” Maia replied, attempting, rather admirably she thought, to keep her voice level.
Although, due to the fact that they were in the midst of a rather large crush at the Lundhames' annual summer ball, she did have to raise its volume to be heard over the conversation and music buffeting against them.
She and Angelica hadn't chosen to attend this event merely because they expected Corvindale to be here; in fact, she rather assumed he wouldn't bother to show at the Lundhames' any more than he had lowered himself to respond to her letter. Everyone knew the earl was a recluse who cared only for ancient manuscripts and scraps of parchment.
But here he was. Lifting that dark brow and looking down at her from his excessive height as if he couldn't spare the time to converse with her. Well, she fumed, the feeling was quite mutual.
“I consider the fact that we are conversing a fair response,” Corvindale replied. “Particularly since, as I recall, we've never been properly introduced.” His dark eyes gleamed.