Bound by Bloodby Amanda Ashley
A Vampire's Love Is Eternal
Zack Ravenscroft loves women--all women--and they love him. The irresistibly seductive owner of the hottest casino in Nevada, Zack has tasted every wicked pleasure Sin City can offer. But never in his six hundred years as a vampire has he seen a morsel as delectable as Kaitlyn Sherrad, the mysterious young newcomer in town./b>… See more details below
A Vampire's Love Is Eternal
Zack Ravenscroft loves women--all women--and they love him. The irresistibly seductive owner of the hottest casino in Nevada, Zack has tasted every wicked pleasure Sin City can offer. But never in his six hundred years as a vampire has he seen a morsel as delectable as Kaitlyn Sherrad, the mysterious young newcomer in town. Zack knows nothing about her--except that he craves her. . .
Kaitlyn is half vampire, half human--and all woman. As the cherished daughter of the Carpathian Coven's master, she has been given every luxury a girl could desire. Now her only need is for a prince. But though she's ready to gamble her heart on Zack, a powerful enemy stalks their every move. . .watches their every kiss. . .and waits to destroy their undying love. . .
"Sexy, fast-paced, gritty, this is Amanda Ashley at her best! A must read!" --Ronda Thompson on Dead Sexy
"A classic vampire tale of sensual, spine-tingling suspense." --Christine Feehan on Desire After Dark
"Vampire romance the way it's supposed to be written!" –Maggie Shayne
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Bound by Blood
By Amanda Ashley
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Madeline Baker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLake Tahoe, NV
Kaitlyn Sherrad rolled down the window of her baby blue Porsche and stared up at the log cabin set alone in the midst of a cluster of tall pines. As usual, her father had outdone himself. Last month, when he had come to the States for her graduation from college, he had asked her what kind of gift she wanted and she had said, facetiously, Oh, nothing much, just a little summer place in the mountains.
After pulling into the driveway and cutting the engine, Kaitlyn grabbed her suitcases from the backseat. Smiling with anticipation, she hurried up the narrow, winding, red brick path that led to the front porch. She quickly skipped up the stairs and unlocked the door.
Knowing her father, she wasn't the least bit surprised to find the living room already furnished. An off-white sofa with a high, curved back and a matching love seat faced each other in front of a rough-hewn stone fireplace. A deep mauve carpet covered the floor, flowered curtains hung at the windows. The tables were walnut, as was the large bookcase—already filled with books by her favorite authors—that took up most of one wall.
Dropping her suitcases beside the sofa, Kaitlyn explored the rest of the house—two large bedrooms with a connecting bathroom; a den, complete with desk, computer and printer, sofa and big-screen TV; a small kitchen with new appliances and a refrigerator filled with her favorite foods; a service porch equipped with a new washer and dryer.
She shook her head, a sting of tears behind her eyes. Being an only child, she had always been spoiled rotten, but this went far beyond the ballet classes and piano lessons her parents had provided when she was in grade school, the new wardrobe they had given her every year, the Porsche her father had surprised her with for her twenty-first birthday last year.
She had hoped her folks would spend the summer with her, but trouble at the Fortress had drawn them home. It wasn't always easy, having a father who was the Master of the Carpathian Coven. Sometimes, as now, his duties could not be ignored. Usually, her uncle Andrei handled things at the Fortress, but whatever the emergency had been, it had required her father's attention, which meant that her mother had gone, as well. To her knowledge, her parents rarely spent more than a few hours apart.
Kaitlyn sighed as she removed her sweater and tossed it over the back of the sofa. Someday, she hoped to find a man who would adore her the way her father adored her mother. A man who would live and die for her. A man she couldn't live without.
Picking up her suitcases, she carried them into the first bedroom and tossed them on the bed. This room was done in varying shades of green, with billowy white lace curtains. The twin windows looked out over a sparkling blue lake.
Kaitlyn shook her head. How was she ever going to express her gratitude for the love and kindness her parents had showered upon her? She had thanked them on numerous occasions in the past, but words seemed woefully inadequate. She knew they hadn't been altogether pleased with her decision to remain in California after she graduated from college, but they had accepted it without argument.
Feeling a little homesick, she opened the larger suitcase and began to unpack. Her folks had always treated her like a princess, but then, maybe that was natural, since she had been raised in an old stone castle in the heart of Romania.
She smiled as she hung her clothes in the closet.
All she needed now was a prince.
Chapter TwoZackary Ravenscroft strolled through the main floor of the casino, stopping now and then to chat with one of the customers, pausing to answer a question here, to address a complaint there. He loved owning a nightclub, loved the excitement that filled the air, the rush of adrenaline that fired the blood of the patrons, the fact that no two nights were ever the same.
Zack had built the casino ten years ago, simply because he was bored and thought it would be a nice distraction. It was one of the best decisions he had made in the last six hundred years. Not only did the casino provide a hefty income, but the constant change in customers assured a steady supply of women. And Zack loved women—all women. Old or young, ugly or pretty, smart or not so smart, black, white, red, brown, yellow—it made no difference. He loved them all. And they loved him in every way imaginable.
Leaving the gaming tables behind, he strolled up and down the aisles of slot machines. He stopped a moment to watch an elderly woman playing one of the old dollar slots. From her shabby appearance, she appeared to be down on her luck and most likely using the last of her money in a desperate hope of hitting it big. He had seen it all before. Usually, he had no sympathy for those who plunked down their last five bucks in hopes of winning a fortune on the turn of a card. Sure, it happened from time to time, but no matter what the game, the odds were always with the house.
The old lady was muttering under her breath.
It took Zack a minute to realize she wasn't cursing but praying.
He frowned as he listened to the urgency of her words, heard the unshed tears in her voice as she sent a desperate plea toward Heaven.
Zack grunted softly. Her husband was sick. He needed an operation, and medication they could no longer afford. She had lost her job. They couldn't pay the rent.
She needed a miracle.
Murmuring a breathless "Amen," she shoved her remaining three dollars into the machine, then clasped her hands to her breast.
With a bemused shake of his head, Zack concentrated on the wheels of the slot machine.
One gold bar.
Smiling, Zack moved on as the machine lit up and bells and whistles went off, signaling that a player had hit the ten-thousand-dollar jackpot. So, he had lost ten grand, he thought, but it wasn't much to pay for a miracle.
He was still smiling when he stepped outside. It was a beautiful night. Cool and crisp. A few scattered clouds drifted across the face of the full moon.
Feeling suddenly restless, he wandered away from the casino, crossed the parking lot, and headed for the wooded hillside that began just beyond the blacktop.
He moved soundlessly through the underbrush, his keen senses aware of the tiny night creatures that scented a predator and quickly scurried out of his way. He caught the scent of a skunk and farther on, that of a deer.
Nearing one of the cabins, he came across a black bear scavenging through a trash can. The bear reared up on its hind legs and sniffed the wind. Apparently recognizing Zack as a threat, the animal dropped back down on all fours and lumbered into the trees.
Grinning, Zack continued on until he came to the solitary cabin at the top of the hill. He paused, surprised to see there were lights on in the house. The cabin had been vacant for the last two years. He had, in fact, been thinking of buying the place for a rental.
Ah, well, too late now.
He was turning away when he caught the scent of prey. Glancing back, he saw a young woman looking out the front window. He whistled softly. He had seen a lot of beautiful women in his day, but this one—he shook his head. She was beyond beautiful. Her skin was smooth and unblemished, her eyes a deep dark blue. Hair the color of a raven's wing tumbled over her shoulders.
He frowned when her gaze found his, and then shook his head. She couldn't see him, of course. He was hidden by the darkness. And yet he couldn't shake the feeling that she knew he was there, that she was staring at him, as he was staring at her.
Curious to see her reaction, he stepped out of the darkness into a shaft of bright moonlight.
He had expected her to gasp in surprise, call 911, or hastily move away from the window and close the curtains. Instead, she tilted her head to the side, her gaze moving over him from head to heel, much the way he studied a woman he was considering as prey.
Zack was contemplating what to do next when she moved away from the window. Moments later, she was standing on the front porch, her arms folded under her breasts.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
Her voice was low, soft, and yet he detected a fine layer of steel underneath. He grunted softly. Most women would have been frightened if they looked out their window at midnight and found a stranger standing in the yard. But she wasn't the least bit afraid.
He had to admire that. Inclining his head, he murmured, "Good evening."
She lifted one delicate brow. "I repeat, what are you doing here?"
"Merely enjoying the night air," he replied with a smile. "And I repeat, good evening." He frowned, mystified by his inability to read her mind. It was a skill that had never failed him before and left him wondering if she was deliberately blocking him, and if so, how?
She huffed a sigh of exasperation. "Same to you."
"You're new in the area," he said.
Kaitlyn nodded. He must be a longtime resident, she thought, else he wouldn't be aware of that.
"It's a lovely house," he remarked. "I had intended to buy it myself."
"No need to be sorry. Our town can always use another pretty face." He took a step forward, extending his hand. "Zackary Ravenscroft," he said. "But my friends call me Zack."
She descended the stairs. "Do you think we're going to be friends?" she murmured, taking his hand.
"I hope so."
"I'm Kaitlyn Sherrad."
He gave her hand a slight squeeze. "Kaitlyn."
She didn't know if it was the sound of her name on his lips, or the touch of his hand on hers that sent a shiver of excitement racing down her spine. Startled, she jerked her hand from his and took a step backward. Who was this guy? She had never experienced a reaction like that with any other man. Stranger still was the bewildering fact that she couldn't divine his thoughts. She supposed there were bound to be a few people whose minds she couldn't read; still, it was disconcerting. Was there something wrong with him, she wondered, or was the problem hers? She would have to ask her father about it the next time he called.
Needing time to ponder her odd reaction to Zackary Ravenscroft and her failure to read his thoughts, Kaitlyn bid him a quick good night and hurried up the stairs and into the house. She closed and locked the door, then stood there, her back pressed against the wood. Who was that guy?
Zack stared after her for several moments before he turned and headed back down the trail toward the casino.
Kaitlyn Sherrad was a puzzle, he mused, and he hated puzzles.
Zack was still trying to unravel the mystery that was Kaitlyn when she strolled into the casino shortly after dusk the next evening. Clad in a simple pale pink dress that outlined a figure bordering on perfection and a pair of white heels that did wonderful things for her long, shapely legs, she quickly attracted the admiring gaze of every man in the place, and the envy of every woman.
"Miss Sherrad," Zack murmured, going forward to greet her. "Welcome to my establishment."
"Thank you, Mr. Ravenscroft."
He made a broad gesture with his hand, encompassing the gaming portion of the nightclub. "What's your pleasure?"
"What would you suggest? I've never been in a casino before."
"Well, the slots are the easiest. The craps table is a bit confusing but probably the most exciting. Poker is a game of skill. Roulette is a game of pure chance."
She looked thoughtful a moment. "Slot machines, I guess."
He followed her to a bank of slots, stayed her hand when she delved into her handbag. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a fifty-dollar bill.
"First time's on me," he said with a wink.
"Really? Is this something you do for all of your customers?"
"No, ma'am, just the pretty ones."
With a toss of her head, Kaitlyn took the fifty from his hand and slid the bill into the appropriate slot. A credit meter displayed the amount deposited.
"On this machine, you can play one credit or as many as five, or you can hit the button marked PLAY MAX CREDITS," Zack explained. "After you make your choice, hit the SPIN REELS button. That's all there is to it."
Kaitlyn followed his directions, then watched breathlessly as the colorful wheels turned, then slowly came to a stop, showing three cherries across.
"I won!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flushing with excitement, as credits were added to her original amount.
Zack smiled, amused by her excitement, content to stand at her shoulder as she continued to play. As with most games of chance, the odds were always in favor of the house. The payout on slots was about ninety-three percent.
A few minutes later, a hostess clad in a ruffled, off-the-shoulder white blouse and short, wine-red skirt came by offering drinks, which were free to players. Kaitlyn ordered orange juice.
"Not a big drinker, are you?" Zack remarked.
"Not really. Aren't you having anything?"
"Maybe later." He jerked his chin toward the machine. "You won again."
Amused by her enthusiasm at winning a few dollars, he was curious to see what her reaction would be if she hit the jackpot. It was easy to manipulate the machine. A single thought, and three sevens lined up on the pay line.
"Oh! Look at that!" she exclaimed as more credits were added to the meter.
He laughed, surprised that her enjoyment pleased him so much.
The waitress arrived with her orange juice only moments later. Kaitlyn couldn't help wondering if all drink orders were filled as quickly, or if the fact that she was with the boss had anything to do with the speedy service.
She continued to play while she sipped her drink, winning more than she lost, and decided to quit while she was ahead.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Then hit CASH OUT," he directed.
She frowned when the machine spit out a bar-coded ticket.
"Only the older machines pay out in cash," Zack explained. "You can cash that in later."
"Oh, okay." She slipped the coupon into her purse and glanced around.
"Are you game to try something else?" Zack asked.
"Maybe later. Right now, I think I'd like something to eat. Is there a restaurant in here?"
"This way." Curious to see if his touch elicited the same reaction as the night before, he took her hand in his. An odd look passed over her face, but she didn't pull away this time. Pleased, he led her out of the casino and down a long, carpeted hallway. Kaitlyn glanced at the shops that lined both sides of the corridor—gift shop, flower shop, hair salon. But it was the sexy black pants and top in the window of the dress shop next to the hair salon that caught her eye. She'd never worn anything like that in her whole life.
The restaurant was at the end of the corridor. Kaitlyn glanced around. The room was rectangular-shaped, with an open beam ceiling and parquet floors. Booths lined three of the walls; tables covered with deep green cloths were arranged in the center of the floor. The lighting was subdued; soft music filtered through the sound system.
They were seated immediately, but that was no surprise. After all, it was bad form to keep the boss waiting.
"Good evening, Mr. Ravenscroft," a waitress said, offering Kaitlyn a menu. "Your usual?"
"That'll be fine, Annie."
"I'll be right back," she said, smiling.
"So," Kaitlyn said, opening the menu, "what's good here?"
"Everything," Zack replied with a grin. "We've got the best chef in the state. I'm told the lobster is excellent."
"You're told?" Her eyebrows went up in surprise. "Haven't you ever tried it?"
"No. I'm ... allergic to seafood."
The waitress returned bearing a glass of dark red wine, which she placed on a coaster in front of Zack before turning her attention to Kaitlyn. "Do you need more time?"
"No. I'll have the lobster."
"Soup or salad?"
"Salad, with ranch."
"And to drink?"
"Just water, no lemon." Kaitlyn looked at Zack. "Aren't you having anything?"
"No. I dined earlier."
After jotting Kaitlyn's order down on her pad, the waitress picked up the menu and turned to go, but not before bestowing a dazzling smile on Zack.
"She seems quite smitten with you," Kaitlyn remarked as the waitress moved to the next table.
"Annie? Yeah, she's a good kid." He draped one arm along the back of the booth. "So, are you a working girl?"
"Not yet. I just graduated from college."
He grunted softly.
"I majored in Comparative Folklore."
"How's that workin' out for ya?" he asked, grinning.
"Not very well, actually," she admitted, her grin matching his. "Believe it or not, there isn't a lot of interest in ancient folklore these days, but"—she shrugged—"I receive a substantial allowance from my father."
Zack nodded. "Must be nice." He barely remembered his own father.
Excerpted from Bound by Blood by Amanda Ashley Copyright © 2011 by Madeline Baker. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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