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Biting the Bride

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Some men are worth sticking your neck out for...

Sunni Marquette has always been a little different. There's the whole mind-reading thing, for a start, which comes in useful for a criminal defense attorney. Except that lately, Sunni keeps encountering people who are immune to her gift. Like Jacob Eddington, the star witness in her latest case. And her best friend Isabel's new fiancé, Richard Lazarus, who's as sinister as Jacob is attractive. ...
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Overview

Some men are worth sticking your neck out for...

Sunni Marquette has always been a little different. There's the whole mind-reading thing, for a start, which comes in useful for a criminal defense attorney. Except that lately, Sunni keeps encountering people who are immune to her gift. Like Jacob Eddington, the star witness in her latest case. And her best friend Isabel's new fiancé, Richard Lazarus, who's as sinister as Jacob is attractive. Not that Sunni intends to interfere—until she learns that Richard is a vampire who's made a centuries-long career of marrying wealthy women, then killing them for their inheritance.

Sunni is convinced Jacob is a vampire, too, and that he's her only chance of saving Isabel. With his help, she'll discover powers she never knew she possessed, an enemy who's closer than she could have ever guessed, and the kind of love that's worth staking everything on—if she can just stay alive long enough to enjoy it...

Praise for Clare Willis and Once Bitten

"This sexy, fast-paced paranormal has it all!?You'll want to keep reading more." —Richelle Mead, New York Times bestselling author

"Clare Willis offers a?clever twist on the world of vampires." —Alexandra Ivy, New York Times bestselling author

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420108729
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

First Chapter

BITING THE BRIDE


By CLARE WILLIS

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Clare Willis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-0872-9


Chapter One

The wedding would have been the envy of any woman with a romantic heart. The outdoor setting, on a deck overlooking San Francisco Bay, was beautiful and natural but devoid of humidity, extremes of temperature, or insects. The flowers were extravagant but tasteful. The music was poignant but professional. The husband was young (relatively), handsome (ditto), employed, and in possession of all of his natural teeth. But to Sunni Marquette, who was standing at the end of a line of bridesmaids arrayed like the tail of a comet, it was a waste of time, energy, and expense. As was romantic love in general.

But she had learned long ago that her worldview was often at odds with that of the general public, and her comments on marriage were usually as well received as a diagnosis of athlete's foot. So in the interest of friendship, which she did value, she had donned a polyester satin dress in the hue of orange Jell-O and a pair of cheap pumps that were a size too big and taken her place at the comet's tail end. The nucleus was Sunni's college friend Lydia, who looked indeed like a big ball of gas in her fluffy round gown, constructed of thousands of short layers of tulle dotted with bugle beads.

As the priest droned on about the married couple's duty to bear children, Sunni turned slightly and allowed her eyes to drift over the crowd. She recognized a few faces, mostly people from college with whom Lydia had kept in contact but Sunni hadn't. Seeing them made Sunni feel that thirty-two was a lot older than she had realized. The men had bald pates, shrunken shoulders, and expanded bellies. The women's chins had gone soft. Their breasts sagged like socks filled with sand, defying the darts in their expensive dresses. Mothers clung grimly to bored young children, who squiggled like eels in their perfectly natural desire to escape. Were those liver spots on the women's hands? Not for the first time, Sunni regretted having 20/10 vision.

She squared her shoulders and stood up straight, which still left her a head shorter than the next shortest bridesmaid. She looked young for her age, which had annoyed her to no end when she was in her twenties, but now she welcomed it. Her chin-length bob was as black as ever, with not a strand of gray, and she had yet to find a wrinkle on her pale, heart-shaped face. It was rather weird, actually, considering what was happening to her friends. It made her wonder about what kind of genes she had inherited. Sunni's DNA was a mystery, coming as it had from a mother who died when Sunni was eight and left no living relatives, and a father who was no more than a blank spot on the birth certificate. So far she hadn't tried to unravel these mysteries, but maybe someday, when she wasn't so busy ... Busy? Be honest, Sunni thought, at least in your own head: maybe someday, when she wasn't so chicken.

The priest asked everyone to stand for the wedding prayer. She was about to return her attention to the bride and groom when she noticed, in the back row on the bride's side, a face that seemed familiar. But not just any face. It was one she'd been seeing and losing for years: a face whose elusiveness only made it more enticing. It always disappeared whenever she got close, like a mirage. A wave of fear mixed with excitement washed through her. Sunni forgot where she was and what she was supposed to be doing. She corkscrewed her body toward the back of the church and turned the full power of her superior eyesight on the man.

It was him, she was sure of it. Her guardian angel.

Sunni's frustration grew until it felt like she had swallowed a live ferret. The man she'd been wondering about for years was in the same enclosed space with her, and not a public place either, but a private ceremony, where you could only be if you knew the bride or groom. Or if you'd crashed the party. He towered over most of the other wedding guests, which was how he'd become so obvious when everyone stood up. In his tuxedo he cut an arresting figure. Everything about him was striking, from his height to his eyes, whose color she couldn't quite identify. He had jutting Nordic cheekbones and dark hair that was a bit too long and tousled to suit a professional man, although she sometimes saw him in restaurants or professional buildings wearing a suit and tie, always alone. He was extremely pale, as if he had tuberculosis or worked as an engineer for Google. If he was a spy he was terrible at his job, because his looks made it impossible for him to be incognito.

But now here he was at the same wedding with her and she couldn't get to him, because propriety demanded that she stay put until the ceremony was over. Their eyes met and locked. As the man stared at her his eyes narrowed to slits. His lips pressed together and he grimaced as if he was angry or in great pain.

What was he thinking?

Sunni gasped as the man slipped out of the crowd and headed for the exit, moving so fast his black-clad body was a blur.

"'A six-foot tall man in a tuxedo.' There are five hundred guests here. Can you be a little more specific?" Lydia lifted her champagne glass to her lipstick-smudged mouth. It was halfway through the reception and Lydia was more than halfway drunk, but this was the first moment Sunni had found to ask her the question. Lydia's new husband, Kyle, had his back to her while he said goodbye to a very elderly couple who were leaving early.

Sunni chewed the inside of her lip. "Um, he's very handsome."

Lydia waggled her eyebrows. "Ooh, so that's why you want to find him. And I thought you wanted to put a restraining order on the guy." She linked her free arm with Kyle's, swaying on her high heels. "They say weddings are the best places to meet eligible men."

Sunni suppressed her annoyance. "He's very tall, broad-shouldered but thin, light-colored eyes, prominent cheekbones, messy black hair."

"How old?" Kyle asked, having rejoined the conversation.

Sunni shrugged. "Hard to tell. Between thirty and forty, maybe."

Lydia draped her arms drunkenly across Kyle's shoulders. "Lucky for you I didn't meet that guy first," she said, tickling his ear.

"And he was here alone?" Kyle asked, beginning what would probably be a lifelong practice of ignoring his wife.

Was he alone? Sunni felt an embarrassing stab of jealousy at the idea of her angel/stalker leaving with someone else. "I didn't see anyone with him," she muttered.

The bride and groom looked at each other for a long moment, then they turned back to Sunni, both shrugging their shoulders. "Nope," Lydia said, "doesn't ring a bell."

"Sure doesn't," Kyle agreed.

Sunni sighed with exasperation. "Okay, thanks."

She had needed to pee for the past two hours, so she found a restroom. While she was sitting on the toilet she peeled off her stockings and threw them in the garbage. She hated nylons, especially the egregious Band-Aid-colored ones, but Lydia had insisted. The too-big pumps felt more comfortable now that her feet were bare.

When she came out of the stall, there was a man in the bathroom, propping himself up against one of the sinks. For a moment her heart stopped, because he was very tall and had dark hair, but when she saw his face reflected in the mirror she recognized him: a cousin of Kyle's from somewhere on the East Coast. She'd met him at the rehearsal dinner the night before.

"Hi, um, Peter, that's your name, right? You're in the wrong restroom."

He turned, his big head swinging like it was too heavy for his neck. He was handsome in a forgettable sort of way, with coarse features that were probably at their best in high school.

"Hey, Sunni, nice to see you," he slurred, smiling. His mouth was wide, with cartoonish red lips. "You're looking very beautiful tonight. Did I tell you that already?"

"We haven't spoken tonight, so no, and thank you."

Peter lurched toward her, looking as if he might fall. Sunni grabbed him, sliding her small but strong body under his arm and supporting his considerable weight.

"We're in the bathroom together," he said. "Wanna make out?"

"I'd love to, but I've got a cold sore that just won't quit," Sunni said lightly.

She tried to leave the bathroom, but Peter had other ideas. He spun around and with surprising agility, given his level of inebriation, pushed her against the wall. Sunni's back bounced off a towel dispenser. The breath flew out of her body, replaced with fiery pain between her shoulder blades. Peter stretched his arms out to the wall, imprisoning her between them. A sour, squishy tongue invaded her mouth, making her gag. He grabbed one of her breasts and twisted it like he was trying to take it home with him, simultaneously pressing his pelvis against her. His belt buckle ground into her lower ribs.

"Peter, no!" She managed to blurt out before he trapped her mouth again. When he pushed the ugly orange dress up her thighs panic raced through her body like electricity. He groaned as he found bare skin underneath. His left hand fumbled with his belt buckle.

Sunni's vision narrowed to a pinprick. For a moment she thought she was going to pass out, which would have been the worst thing that could happen, because she knew it would only help Peter. But she didn't pass out, and in that moment a transformation occurred inside her body. When she opened her eyes, everything was incredibly bright, as if someone had turned on klieg lights. She could see microscopic dust balls on the white tile floor and streaks of window cleaner on the mirrors that had previously been invisible. Although she was moving normally, Peter seemed to be operating at a turtle's pace as he tugged at his zipper.

Sunni had never taken a self-defense class in her life. She had never thought what she would do if someone tried to rape her. But somehow she knew instinctively how to react. She grabbed his neck with both hands and kneed him in the groin. As he doubled over in pain she punched upward into his Adam's apple. A single, choked cry squeezed out of his throat before he hit the floor, where he balled up like a pill bug, gasping for air. Sunni took a deep breath and looked for the exit.

That was when she saw him. He had been standing by the door, watching her. She thought she detected a slight smile on his face before he turned away, his hand reaching for the doorknob. She had no idea how she got across the bathroom that fast, but before he turned the knob she had grabbed him and dragged him back into the bathroom.

"Not so fast, mister. You've got some explaining to do." Sunni clutched the lapels of the man's jacket, at first to keep him in place, but a moment later she was using him for support. The adrenaline washed out of her body, leaving her knees incapable of holding her upright. Her grip loosened and she started to sink to the floor. The man held her, pressing her tight against his chest. He smelled wonderful, like a pine forest after a snowfall. She had just begun to realize that close contact with him was unaccountably pleasurable when he propped her up against a sink and stepped briskly away.

"I see you are well, so I'll be going ..." He headed for the door.

"No!" Sunni shouted. The man paused.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"My name is Jacob Eddington." He spoke in a formal, clipped tone, with a slight accent that was not quite British, like a Kennedy who'd gone to school at Eton.

"No, I mean who are you? Why have you been following me?"

He looked at her over his shoulder. His eyes, under fluorescent bathroom lights, were slate-colored, almost gray, and his skin was so pale it seemed transparent. "I believe you mistake me for someone else, madam."

"The hell I do! You saved me from a mugger, two years ago in front of Glide Memorial Church."

He shook his head. "No, I don't think so ..."

"And what were you doing here?" She pointed an accusatory finger at his chest. "You came to save me, didn't you?"

"As you see, I didn't save you at all," he said stiffly. "So there goes your theory."

She moved close again, inches from his face, studying it. He appeared deeply uncomfortable, as if looking at her caused him physical pain.

"I've seen you, over and over again, for years. Tell me why and I'll let you go."

The semblance of a smile tugged again at the corners of his mouth. "You'll let me go?"

"That's what I said."

The smile disappeared. The man's eyes began to glow with a cool silvery light. The iris expanded until it covered the orb. Was she hallucinating? Had Peter given her a concussion? She tried to move, but she was frozen, unable to break their gaze.

"You never saw me today. I was never here." His voice was imperious, and so low in pitch she felt it in her solar plexus.

Suddenly it all seemed humorous, and the spell was broken.

"I see you." She waved her fingers in his face.

He sighed with exasperation. Whatever he'd been trying had failed.

Sunni felt liquid dripping down her lip. She turned and looked in the mirror. Her lower lip was bleeding where it had collided with Peter's teeth. She staunched it with her finger and then she turned back to the man.

But he was gone. In an instant he had disappeared completely. There was no sound of the door opening, no tapping of shoes on tile floors. It was as if he was never there. She raced into the hallway, colliding with a woman in a paisley dress dragging a small, weeping boy dressed in a suit.

"I'm not a lady!" the boy wailed. "I can't go in there."

Sunni grabbed the woman by the arm. "Did you see a man leave the ladies' room just now?"

The woman eyed her with suspicion. "No, I didn't see anyone except you."

"Damn it," Sunni said.

Still watching Sunni, the woman opened the door and pushed her son in ahead of her. Sunni heard the boy's dress shoes clacking across the floor.

"Hey, Mommy," the little boy called out, "there's a man in here!"

Chapter Two

The scent of blood was driving him mad.

He closed his eyes and breathed it in: a thick, salty, mineral tang filled the airplane, emanating from the hundreds of bodies surrounding him. It smelled like the ocean, heated to 98.6 degrees. It was the substance of life itself, the one thing he couldn't have. It was the bitterest irony imaginable: He could have all the blood he wanted, but he could never make himself live again. Unless ...

The compact laptop computer on his tray table displayed a photo from an article in ARTnews magazine. He turned his attention back to the attractive young woman in the photo, Sunni Marquette, standing in her eponymous San Francisco art gallery. He had enlarged the picture until Sunni's distinctive emerald eyes and heart-shaped face had pixilated beyond recognition, but not before he assured himself that he was right. He had been looking for her for years. Now he just had to get to her before another vampire did.

He wondered if the Council knew about her, if she was protected. If so, that would make his job more difficult, although not impossible. He had killed vampires before. He smiled and fingered his impeccable tie and the collar of his hand-sewn, Egyptian cotton shirt. Yes, he had killed before, and would again. That was why he needed Sunni Marquette. The Council had numbers and he was alone in the world. Alone, and he was tired of it.

The blood smell insinuated itself into his consciousness again. This time he focused on one particular scent-the mousy, middle-aged woman in the seat next to him. He had already spoken with her, and he could feel her tender body thrumming with anticipation that he might turn to her again. She put down her glass, checked her watch, and then sighed very quietly.

"Does it really matter what time it is?" he murmured.

She winced, as if she'd been caught doing something naughty. He thought she'd probably never done anything naughty in her life, but there was a first time for everything. After all, she'd never met Richard Lazarus before.

"The concept of time is so odd when you're in an airplane, isn't it? My watch is on New York time, which is 2:00 A.M., and it's 11:00 P.M. in San Francisco, but what time is it here?" She nodded as if responding to something he'd said. "You're right, it doesn't matter. I don't feel tired at all, you know." She sipped her drink, and then shook the ice cubes sadly, looking for more liquor. "Are you tired, Richard?"

He shook his head.

She giggled. "I feel like I've told you all there is to know about me."

Yes, he knew everything about Vera Grant: the eighty-hour a week job; the boss to whom she was practically married, except that he already had a wife; singing in the choir at Altamount Methodist; the condo she wished she could sell but owed more on the mortgage than the place was worth; and her two cats, Rusty and Clayton. She was a very talkative lady.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from BITING THE BRIDE by CLARE WILLIS Copyright © 2010 by Clare Willis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 3, 2012

    got to read

    i finish this book in a day omg it made me smile it even made me cry at a few parts i love love this book it needs to be on a must read for sure

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    not like the official review

    The story was okay but not what was recommended. The main character was an art dealer. The relationship is not explained well. For a romance novel, the author does nothing to elicit romance and skips the love scene completely.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    did the reviewer even read this book?

    She wasn't a lawyer. She was an art dealer. She didn't read minds either. Shame on this reviewer for doing such a disgraceful job.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    Laugh out loud great!

    If the title didn't give you a chuckle, surely the book will. Biting the Bride is a light, comical paranormal story that I enjoyed Immensely. It's full of adventure, suspense, love, and sexy, mysterious vampires. It's a satisfying read that had me laughing throughout. The dialogue is witty, the characters are well written and were fun to read about. Sunni made for a great heroine, and the struggle of who to trust, between Jacob, a mysterious man who she recalls seeing before, and Richard, another mystery. Jacob and Richard are at odds with each other, and one is telling lies about the other. Putting Sunni, and her best friend, in the middle, and in danger. This is a different spin on vampires, and it's not too dark. Clare Willis is an author to watch out for.

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    Now THIS is a Vamp You Could Sink Your Teeth Into!

    Sunni Marquette is our main character in this fantastical, fun, humorous romp. The one thing Sunni truly believes is that marriage is a big, fat waste of time. This is, in fact, what she's thinking at the beginning of this tale as she stands, once again at an altar; a bridesmaid in yet another wedding, wearing cheap shoes and an orange Jell-O colored gown. This is her college friend's wedding, and pretty much the last place Sunni wants to be standing. Of course, for every bad there is a good, and Sunni soon finds out a reason to stay. Across the room, she sees him.the one.the guardian angel who she's met on and off throughout the years that saved her from a mugger over two years ago. Sunni can't believe it. She also has a hard time believing that he appears just as a drunken sot decides to be a bit overzealous with her at the wedding. Again, the handsome man with eyes that glow like silver appears just as she's about to be harmed, disappearing just as quickly back into the crowd. Oddly enough, Sunni's own "strange" strength makes needing a hero somewhat unnecessary. Although she's now met Jacob Eddington, she's still unsure as to why he always seems to crop up. Is he a stalker? Even her best friend, Isabel, is having strange "man-issues" in her life, too. Isabel and Sunni have been like sisters ever since they were at a psychiatric institute together when they were kids: Sunni had been placed there because of her "odd" abilities; while Isabel was fighting depression. Sunni, having no parents, became a fixture in Isabel and her family's life. In fact, Isabel's parents were kind enough to give her money and a chance to own her very own art gallery. Soon, not only are Jacob Eddington's sudden appearances odd, but also Isabel's fiancé, Richard Lazarus, becomes even odder. Little does Isabel know that Richard is a vampire who has a long history of marrying extremely wealthy women, and then killing them for their inheritances. Although this vamp thinks he's something beyond smooth, he soon finds himself up against Jacob Eddington, as well as the Council and a man named Scipio. This story is not only filled with romance, and some extremely steamy scenes, but the plot is extremely interesting and will keep the reader absorbed until the final page. Between Jacob's interesting job that involves protecting Sunni for life, to the strange background that Sunni will soon discover about herself, this book is truly a mystery wrapped in an enigma.with extremely enchanting men. Enjoy!

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    action-packed urban fantasy

    Thirty-two years old Sunni Marquette the dhampir (half-breed human-vampire) knows she will always owe the LaForge family for fostering her as a teen with love. They gave her a chance to make it after her horrific childhood. Perhaps the only thing she does not like about being part of the LaForge brood is the weddings, which means ugly dresses and standing a head shorter than the other bridesmaid (she is always carded), but out of loyalty to her beloved foster parents she diligently attends.

    At the latest nuptials, she sees a man she thinks is her guardian angel. Stunned soon afterward a drunk attacks her in the bathroom, but to her shock Sunni easily outmuscles the attacker. However, the bigger shocker, perhaps the greatest in her life occurs, when soon after the assault her guardian angel, who saved her years ago from a mugging, talks to her. Jacob has kept Sunni safe for years as he has kept her concealed from rouge vampires who would drink her special blood to gain her power. Jacob fell in love with her years ago, but knows if a rogue finds her he will accomplish the dark side of his mission by killing her. Now a rogue knows of her and attacks by going after her beloved LaForge family.

    This exiting action-packed urban fantasy grips readers from the moment Sunni sees her guardian and never slows down until the final confrontation. The Willis universe seems genuine as miscegenation laws cause all sorts of complicated societal issues. However though Sunni is terrific as she holds the plot together and the villain is a nasty power grabber, Jacob makes the tale work with his angst of knowing he will kill his beloved if the rogue has a reasonable chance of taking her.

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted May 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2011

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