Authors: Rachel Carrington
Tags: #vampires destined series, #vampire forgotten, #vampire romance, #vampire cursed
Vampires Destined Series
Copyright 2012 Rachel Carrington
Cover illustration copyright 2012 Elaina Lee
ISBN Not Assigned
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system-except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the Web-without permission in writing from the publisher.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
Charleston, South Carolina
“Look who’s awake,” Joaquin whispered in her ear, a sound which sent tingles down Ariana’s spine.
Does he even know what he does to me?
She turned in his arms to touch his face. “We slept the day away.” Could any man be more handsome? Dark eyes, a smile that could turn night into day, and dark hair that brushed his shoulders. Absolutely beautiful.
“It’s nothing unusual for me. I’ve always been more attuned to the night.” Joaquin winked and pulled her even closer, if that was possible.
Yes, she’d known that about him since they’d first met. He’d quickly informed her he was a night owl. She hadn’t thought he’d meant it literally.
Had it really only been three months since he’d walked into her life? It seemed like forever had passed.
Joaquin’s hands began roaming down her spine, and heat enveloped her lower core. “You can’t possibly have the energy to go for round two after the day we had.” A long, sunny afternoon spent in each other’s arms. Tasting. Feeling. Experiencing. She shivered a little at the reminder.
“It would be round three actually.” He nuzzled her neck, and delightful little shivers danced down her spine. “And I have energy enough for ten men.”
That she didn’t doubt. “Eventually, I have to work.”
Growling, he dipped his head between her breasts, stroking the globes with his velvety tongue. “Eventually isn’t right this moment.”
From the moment Joaquin had first touched her with his tongue, she’d known he was a master with that particular tool. And he knew just how to wear down her defenses. But, at this rate, she was going to be out of job. Common sense returned albeit regretfully. Somehow, she managed to push him away. “No. We can’t get started again. I haven’t worked in three days, and if I don’t get busy, I won’t make my deadline.”
“Busy?” He propped himself up on his elbows. “I thought that’s what we were doing together.”
“You know what I mean.” She scrambled from the bed before he could convince her to forget all about writing the article she had due in less than two days. Reaching for the robe, she gathered it close to her body before turning back to face him.
“I have to work—you know, the thing that puts food on the table.” She yawned. No matter how much sleep she got, she never felt rested enough. A small smile played at her lips, at least, not as long as she shared her bed with Joaquin. The man was insatiable between the sheets.
He patted the empty spot on the bed beside him, allowing the sheet to drop to his waist. “But you have all evening, ‘ma chérie’.”
The French words made her toes curl, and the sight of his hard, muscular chest made her seriously consider his offer. But sex wouldn’t put more money in her bank account. “I really can’t. I have to get this done.” Turning her back to distract herself from the mouth-watering picture he presented, she shoved her arms into the silky robe.
“Very well. I shall just lie here and contemplate the things we can do once you are finished with your article.”
Ariana huffed out a breath. “That might take a while.”
“I’m a patient man.”
She knew that for a fact.
The first time she’d walked into his embrace, she’d learned the many facets of his patience. He took his sweet time learning every inch of her body and committing it to memory.
“Well, okay, but you might get bored.” The hint couldn’t be any plainer. She needed him to leave, to give her some breathing room. Otherwise, she’d never sit down in front of her computer. All the man thought about was sex. Extraordinary, mind-blowing sex, so she wasn’t really complaining, but her editor would be if she didn’t finish that damned article on time.
Joaquin chuckled. “I do not think I shall get bored, my love.”
The robe suddenly felt constricting. “Why not?”
“Because I’ll be watching you.”
With a shiver, she tightened the sash around her robe and crossed the room to her desk. After turning her computer on, she seated herself in the swivel chair, all the while feeling Joaquin’s eyes watching her every move.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
“It’s hard for me to take my eyes off such beauty.”
Oh, the man was good, and it hadn’t taken her long to discover just how good. Only two days after they’d met, she’d been the one to initiate sex. All he’d had to do was talk to her in that smooth, velvety voice. Or whisper in her ear. Or touch her.
With a sigh of pure pleasure, she logged onto the Internet to check her e-mails. The first one caught her attention, riveting her eyes to the screen. The subject line was Joaquin Shepherd and inside the message, the words were simple yet powerful:
The man you’re with isn’t who you think he is.
She scrolled down, but the sender offered no further information. But then, that didn’t surprise her. This was one of many e-mails she’d been receiving over the past few days. The messages were never the same.
He isn’t human.
What do you know about the man you’re sleeping with?
Ask him why he hates the daylight.
You are his prey.
The last one she’d received only the day before, and it had stuck with her as much as she’d tried to shake it off. The messages had to be pranks, maybe from a bitter ex-girlfriend.
“’Ma chérie’, what is wrong?” Joaquin now stood behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders. She hadn’t even heard him get dressed, but he was fully clothed. His speed had always unnerved her. One minute he would be leaving to pick up something from the store, and the next, he’d be back, milk in hand.
“Just someone with too much time on their hands.” Ariana quickly clicked out of the e-mail just as Joaquin leaned down to massage her neck.
“You’re tense.” He pressed his cheek against hers. “Tell me about this someone.”
Along with the magic of his fingers, his warm breath intoxicated her.
“Every so often I get these ridiculous e-mails.”
“What information do they provide that disturbs you so?”
She gave a little laugh. “It’s always just a short note like the man you’re with isn’t human.” Her shoulders lifted in a shrug before she peeked up at his face. “I told you they were ridiculous.” She switched off the computer screen and stood, massaging the back of her neck.
Joaquin backed away to give her space, but his black eyes followed her. “Are you not going to work on your article? I thought you needed to get it finished.”
He hadn’t responded to her statement, but she tried to shake off the cold chill that chased its way down her spine. “I just don’t feel like writing, that’s all.”
“Ariana, look at me. What else has this person told you about me?”
She shrugged. “Nothing much. Most of it is very cryptic.”
“Do they worry you?”
The uneasiness intensified. Why hadn’t he just laughed? The serious tone of his voice nearly destroyed her determination to ignore the e-mails. “Of course not.”
He ran one hand down her arm. “You’re shaking.”
“No, I’m not. I’m fine. In fact, I think I’m going to go for a walk.” She needed space, time to clear her head and figure out why doubts were crowding into her mind like a packed subway train.
Joaquin was at the door before she could take a step. “You cannot go out into the dark by yourself. It isn’t safe.”
“You go out at night all the time.” Actually, that was the only time he stepped outside the house. Long after the sun had dipped low in the sky.
Ask him why he hates daylight.
Just as suddenly as she repeated the e-mail to herself, Ariana began sorting through their time together. All the nights she’d spent with Joaquin and the days they spent indoors. Never outside until the sun went down. The unlimited supply of money he had, but yet, he never went to work. His exhaustion during the afternoons and disappearance shortly after dark without telling her where he was going.
She folded her arms across her chest, wariness making her bite her lower lip. “And now that I mention that, I have to ask you a question.” The reporter in her forced her to make the inquiry.
He swept one hand into the air as if granting permission. “Ask me anything, my darling. You know I have no secrets from you.”
Ariana hoped that was true. “Why do you not go out during the day?”
One eyebrow arched. “I told you I’m more attuned with the night. I don’t care for the sun.”
“But we can’t even go to the grocery store during the day, and come to think of it, you don’t eat a lot, either.” Now, her antenna went up. Maybe there was something to those e-mails, after all. But could an ex know something about Joaquin that she didn’t? Were they trying to warn her before she got into some kind of trouble with him?
“Why do you look so pale?” His voice caressed her, like a piece of satin sliding down her arm.
She gave herself a mental shake. Sorting out who sent the e-mails wasn’t the imminent problem. Figuring out the truth was. Her trust of Joaquin
Joaquin approached her slowly. “You’re starting to question or those e-mails are making you question?”
“What difference does it make?” The snap in her voice shocked her. She’d always been the low-key person in her family, rarely losing her temper and maintaining her cool under the most trying of circumstances. Not this time apparently.
“What are you wanting to know, ‘chérie’?” Joaquin’s eyes glittered, and for the first time since they’d met on a little side street in downtown Charleston, Ariana was a little afraid.
With a curse, she stumbled back against the bed. “Where do you go each night when you leave me? You’ve never told me that.” Her heart thumped rapidly against her ribcage. When had his pupils become so small? He looked dangerous, almost lethal. Her mouth went dry.
“Am I supposed to tell you everything, Ariana? We’ve only been together three months. Surely a man is allowed to have some secrets at this stage in the relationship.”
“You’re avoiding the question.”
He took another step forward, and Ariana held up one hand which brought him to a stop. “Those e-mails have scared you, haven’t they?”
Maybe it was her rising panic, but his voice sounded sinister. Her gaze flicked towards the door, and it wasn’t her imagination that Joaquin moved to stand completely in front of her.
“I’ve already told you no.” She tried to inject a lighter note into her voice. “Let’s just forget about it. It was nothing.”