Bound by Night

Bound by Night

4.2 156
by Amanda Ashley
     
 

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A Vampire's Kiss Is Forever. . .

Once featured in a horror movie, the crumbling Wolfram estate is said to be haunted by ghosts, witches, and worse. But Elena doesn't believe a word of it--until she spends the night and wakes up in the arms of a compelling stranger. . .

Tall, dark, and disturbingly handsome, Drake is the most beautiful man Elena has ever

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Overview

A Vampire's Kiss Is Forever. . .

Once featured in a horror movie, the crumbling Wolfram estate is said to be haunted by ghosts, witches, and worse. But Elena doesn't believe a word of it--until she spends the night and wakes up in the arms of a compelling stranger. . .

Tall, dark, and disturbingly handsome, Drake is the most beautiful man Elena has ever seen. For centuries, he has lived alone, and Elena is the first woman to enter his lair--and survive. And Drake is the first man to touch her heart and soul. By the time she discovers who he really is--and what he craves--it's too late. Blood lust has turned to love, and Elena is deeply under Drake's spell. But forever comes at a price for each of them. . .

"Amanda Ashley is a master storyteller." --Christine Feehan

"Sexy, fast-paced, gritty, this is Amanda Ashley at her best! A must read!" --Ronda Thompson on Dead Sexy

"Vampire romance the way it's supposed to be written!" --New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ashley (Everlasting Desire) launches a vampire romance series with a fresh approach that goes sadly awry. Orphaned teen Elena Knightsbridge, stuck in a "nothing little town in Transylvania," flees her abusive uncle, Tavian Dinescu, and hides in a nearby castle, only to find it occupied by Drake Sherrad, a 500-year-old vampire estranged from his supernatural family. As early chapters consciously imitate "Beauty and the Beast," Elena's every wish is satisfied, but she's improbably slow to pierce the mystery of Drake's nocturnal habits and lack of appetite. The focus shifts abruptly as Drake is summoned back to his father's fortress to take his place as heir to the Coven and wed his destined vampire bride. Despite a promising start, the tale stumbles over poorly thought out vampires with arbitrary nontraditional powers, fade-to-black love scenes, and a disturbingly passive female lead who is more victim than heroine. (Sept.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781420104455
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
09/01/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
556,138
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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Bound By Night


By AMANDA ASHLEY

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2011 Madeline Baker
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-0445-5


Chapter One

Elena Knightsbridge paused outside the back door, her gaze drawn to the gray stone castle at the top of the hill. No one knew exactly how old the castle was, only that it has been passed down from one generation to another. No one had lived there for as long as Elena could remember. From time to time, developers had come, hoping to buy the land, tear down the castle, and build a Dracula-style theme park, but the land was held in perpetuity for the heirs of a man no one in town had ever seen.

There were those who said Wolfram Castle was haunted, that ghosts wandered the long dark halls. There were other tales as well, scary stories whispered in the dark of the night, of witches and warlocks, of demons and dragons.

There were other stories, too, of young women who had been lured into the castle in days gone by, never to be seen or heard from again. Elena's uncle, Tavian Dinescu, insisted that stories of devil worship and witchcraft were a bunch of nonsense, and that the girls who had supposedly disappeared had been employed at the castle as hired help. Whether any or all of the old stories were true or not, there was something about the castle that repelled visitors.

With a shake of her head, Elena bent over the wicker laundry basket and began hanging the clothes on the line. A haunted castle was nothing compared to the hell her life had become since her parents were killed in a car accident seven years ago, when she was twelve, and she had been sent from Colorado to this nothing little town in Transylvania to live with her father's sister, Catalena, Catalena's husband, Tavian, and their daughter, Jenica, who was a few years older than Elena. Fortunately, communicating with her cousin hadn't been a problem, since Elena's parents had often spoken Romanian at home.

Life hadn't been too bad when her aunt was alive, but Catalena had passed away some years ago, and Jenica had recently run off with a boy from the next town.

Elena shuddered when she thought of her uncle, with his cropped brown hair, thick brown mustache, and close-set gray eyes.

Uncle Tavian was such a skinflint, he refused to buy a new dryer. Times were hard, he said. They didn't have money for silly things like dryers. He had money for whiskey, though. She supposed, if the washing machine broke, she would find herself pounding the laundry on the rocks in the river. Her workload had doubled since her aunt passed away and Jenica had eloped.

Caring for the house, doing the washing and the cooking and the mending, as well as the shopping left little time for anything else. The only bright spot was that her uncle, who was now the chief of police, was rarely home these days. Truly a blessing. He had made her uncomfortable for as long as she could remember. She hated the way he called her "my little cabbage," the way he smiled at her, the way he found excuses to touch her.

He had grown bolder since Jenica ran off with one of the neighbor boys. Her uncle's touches had become more intimate, and more frequent. It was all Elena could do not to cringe when he caressed her hair or stroked her cheek. His conversation was laced with double entendres. Lately, Elena wanted to hide whenever he was in the house. The way he looked at her, like a hungry wolf contemplating its next meal, made her skin crawl. One night, during dinner, he had reminded her that he was her uncle by marriage and not by blood.

Last night, she had awakened to find him standing by her bed, staring down at her. Though she had no experience with men, every instinct she possessed had warned her that she was in danger. She had kept very still, feigning sleep, until, after what seemed like hours, he tiptoed out of her bedroom.

Jenica had whispered about abuses by her father, confiding that, since her mother died, he had come into her room many times. She claimed that he had done things so vile she couldn't repeat them. Elena had been horrified to learn that her uncle had raped her cousin, not once, but many times. She'd always thought that kind of thing only happened to people you didn't know. But that was only part of it. Jenica had told her that, before Elena's arrival, he had often locked her in the cellar for days at a time.

Both girls were terrified of him. Elena hadn't been surprised when her cousin ran away from home. She herself had considered it on more than one occasion.

Returning to the house, Elena looked out the window, a shiver of unease snaking down her spine when she saw her uncle staggering up the street.

She needed to get away from here, but where could she go? Walking to Brasov was out of the question. It was many miles away, on the other side of the mountain. She had no car, no cash, no one she could turn to for help.

Elena was acutely aware of her uncle's repeated glances in her direction at dinner that night. His advances had become more blatant with every passing day. Though the table was large, he insisted she sit close beside him. She flinched when his arm brushed against hers, gagged at the smell of his whiskey-sour breath.

"How old are you now, Elena?" he asked.

"Almost twenty."

"Far past the time when a young woman should be wed. Do none of the young men in town appeal to you?"

"No, sir."

He nodded, looking pleased, and then thoughtful. "Perhaps you would prefer an older man? One with experience, if you know what I mean?"

She swallowed hard, her heart pounding. "No, sir." She recoiled from the look in his eyes as he leaned closer toward her.

"It's been five months since Jenica ran off. It isn't proper for the two of us to continue living together without a chaperone." He laughed, a mean, ugly sound. "People might get the wrong idea."

Elena clenched her hands in her lap, sorely afraid she knew what was coming, and dreading it.

"I think we should marry." He nodded, as though pleased with the idea. "I need an heir, someone to carry on the family name."

She stared at him, mute with horror at the idea of sharing his bed.

Smiling, he took hold of her arm and drew her closer. "You'd give me a son, wouldn't you?"

She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip on her arm, his pudgy fingers digging into her skin to hold her fast. And then he leaned forward and kissed her.

Eyes wide with revulsion, she fought down the urge to vomit as his tongue plunged deep into her mouth.

"Perhaps tonight," he said, "I will take you down to the cellar."

The cellar. Sheer terror engulfed her. Jenica had told her about the cellar.

Tonight, she thought when he released her. Tonight she would make her escape. The castle on the hill was a good distance away. Old and run-down, with no electricity or modern conveniences, it would be the last place anyone would think to look for her—if she could just find the courage needed to go inside.

Better to face the ancient ghosts in Wolfram Castle, Elena thought as she got ready for bed that night, than to endure another moment in her uncle's presence.

It was well after midnight when she tiptoed into the kitchen, carefully avoiding the squeaky board in the floor. Since she hadn't been shopping in almost a week, there was little in the refrigerator, but waiting another day was out of the question. She dropped a few apples and a doughnut into a sack; then, holding her breath, she opened the back door as quietly as possible and slipped outside.

She paused a moment, suddenly unsure. Was she doing the right thing? How would she survive on her own? Maybe she should wait. If she was lucky, she might find someone to take her to Brasov. But she didn't have the luxury of waiting, not with Uncle Tavian talking about marriage. The idea of sharing his bed, of having his hands pawing her, his mouth on hers, lent wings to her feet and she ran away from the house and into the darkness.

It seemed as if the night closed in around her as she hurried up the hill toward Wolfram Castle. She was halfway there before it occurred to her to wonder if she would even be able to get inside. For all she knew, the place was locked up tighter than the bank in town.

A sudden, wayward wind lifted the hair from her shoulders and sent a flurry of dry leaves skittering across her path.

Dark clouds gathered overhead, shutting out both moon and stars.

The wind grew colder, stronger, causing the trees to moan as they swayed back and forth. The tall grass bent as if in supplication to the force of the wind as it howled across the land.

An omen? Elena wondered, shivering. She lowered her head and drew her coat closer around her shoulders as thunder rumbled overhead.

Continuing on, she realized the castle was a lot farther away than it looked. She paused several times to catch her breath, wondering if she would ever make it to the top of the hill.

The clouds released their burden just as she reached the castle door.

Taking a deep breath, she reached for the latch, blew out a sigh of relief when, with a creak loud enough to wake the dead, the heavy wooden door swung open.

Hurrying inside, she quickly closed the door, shutting out the wind and the rain, and then stood there, her heart pounding with the realization that it was pitch black inside and that she had forgotten to bring a flashlight. But at least she was away from her uncle.

With one hand outstretched, she moved across the floor, a soft cry of pain rising in her throat when she bumped into something. Exploring with her free hand, she discovered it was a high-backed sofa.

It was late and she was tired. She dropped her food sack on the floor, then stretched out on the sofa, her coat spread over her. No matter what tomorrow held, she was safe from her uncle's repulsive advances tonight.

* * *

Drake paused when he reached the castle door, his preternatural senses alerting him to the fact that there was a human female inside. A human who was either very brave, he thought with a wry grin, or very foolish. The castle possessed a dark aura that kept most people at bay. Few dared to come here in the light of day; no one came here after sunset. There was little need to lock the door; those who ventured inside never stayed long. And yet, the fact remained, there was a woman in the castle.

Materializing inside the great hall, Drake moved unerringly toward the high-backed damask sofa in front of the hearth, his nostrils filling with the combined scents of lavender soap, peppermint toothpaste, and salty perspiration tinged with fear.

And over all, the intoxicating scent of woman.

He stared down at the sleeping female. She was a comely lass, with suntanned skin, delicately arched black brows, and a mass of long ebony hair that fell in soft waves over the arm of the sofa and down her slight shoulders.

Pretty, yes, he mused with a frown. But who the devil was she and what the bloody hell was she doing here?

He considered tossing her out on her lovely arse.

He considered leaving her on the sofa.

In the end, he tossed her plain brown coat aside, then scooped her into his arms.

She stirred as he started up the winding stone staircase. Her eyelids fluttered open, revealing a pair of velvet brown eyes. Before she could scream, he trapped her gaze with his. Summoning his preternatural power, he lulled her back to sleep.

With a shake of his head, Drake continued up the stairs and into the lord's chamber. After removing her T-shirt, khaki shorts, and shoes, he tucked her under the thick blankets in the big four-poster bed. He glanced at the hearth and a fire sprang to life. He needed neither the light nor the warmth; he could see perfectly fine in the dark, was impervious to the cold. But there was a chance the woman would awaken during the night.

He gazed down at her for several long moments, admiring the unblemished smoothness of her skin, the sweep of long sooty lashes against her cheeks, the pale pink of her lips. Unable to resist, he lifted a lock of her hair. Thick and silky soft, it curled around his fingers as though each strand had a life of its own.

He felt the first stirrings of desire as he inhaled the fragrance of warm fresh blood flowing sweetly through her veins.

Sitting on the edge of the mattress, he gathered her into his arms, then lowered his head to the curve of her throat. He tasted her with his tongue and then with his teeth.

She was incredibly sweet.

Having satisfied his curiosity and his thirst, he returned to the main hall. After pouring himself a glass of wine, he stretched out on the sofa and gazed onto the hearth. In spite of the distance between himself and the girl, he could hear the steady beat of her heart. What had brought her here? And what was he going to do with her?

He considered the possibilities until dawn, then headed for the lair hidden behind one of the tapestries in the great hall.

He smiled as he drifted into oblivion. For the first time in centuries, he had something to look forward to when darkness again covered the land.

Chapter Two

Tavian Dinescu frowned when he entered the dining room. The table had not been laid. His breakfast tea was not at his place, nor was his newspaper. There was no fire in the hearth, no noise or scent of food coming from the kitchen.

And no Elena standing at the stove.

Where was that girl?

Thinking perhaps she had overslept, he went down the hall to her room and knocked lightly on the door. "Elena?"

When there was no answer, he rapped again, harder this time. And when there was still no reply, he opened the door and stepped into the room. The bed, neatly made, was empty.

Moving into the room, he went through the dresser drawers, peered into the closet. As far as he could tell, all of her clothes were there, so she couldn't have gone far, but the question remained: Where was she?

He checked the other rooms, then went outside, but she was nowhere to be found.

Rubbing a thoughtful hand over his jaw, he returned to the house. Had she run off with one of the local boys? That seemed unlikely. Just last night, he had asked if she had taken a liking to any of the young studs and her reply had been a resounding "no."

Hunger rumbled in his stomach. Not one to prepare his own meals, Tavian put on his coat and left the house. He would breakfast in town and then he would ask if anyone had seen Elena. Though he was affluent, she was not. She had nothing to call her own, only what he had given her.

Tavian was a man who knew what he wanted, and he wanted Elena for his bride. And so it would be. She was but a woman and his ward. Like it or not, she would do as he commanded or suffer the consequences.

Chapter Three

Cocooned in blankets, Elena woke slowly. She experienced a moment of panic when she rolled over and realized she was no longer lying on the sofa where she had fallen asleep.

Bolting upright, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Where was she? Had her uncle found her and carried her back home? But no. She had never been in a room like this before. Unlike her bedroom at home, this one was large and rectangular, the whitewashed stone walls bare save for one large painting of a black knight astride a prancing white horse. Heavy burgundy velvet draperies that matched the bedspread hung at the windows. Thick rugs covered the floor. A cheerful fire blazed in the hearth across from the bed.

Frowning, she brushed a lock of hair from her fore head. Was she still in the castle? And if so, who had put her to bed?

She blinked as a hazy memory surfaced. Or had she only imagined being carried up a winding staircase by a man with long, dark hair and mesmerizing blue eyes?

When her stomach growled, she slid her legs over the edge of the mattress and stood, only then realizing that whoever had carried her up the stairs had undressed her down to her underwear. She found her khaki shorts and T-shirt at the foot of the bed. Dressing quickly, she tugged a blanket around her shoulders to turn away the chill.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Bound By Night 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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