Read an Excerpt
Immortal Bad Boys
By Rebecca York Ruth Glick Rosemary Laurey Linda Thomas-Sundstrom
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2004 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJules DeMario was a creature of the night, in a city where night was king.
From the shadows under a wrought-iron balcony, he watched the boisterous crowd parading up and down Bourbon Street, the pulsing heart of New Orleans.
It was early in the week. Only Tuesday. But every night was party night in the French Quarter, where no annoying laws barred carrying an alcoholic beverage on the street.
And no traffic marred the scene. In the evening, Bourbon Street became a pedestrian playground where music blared from the bars and jazz clubs, mingling with the raunchy conversation of the crowd that flowed like a great, living beast past bars, strip joints and boutiques selling everything from cheap souvenirs and condoms to voodoo hexes.
As on many nights, Jules was drawn to this throbbing mix of humanity, where the crush of warm bodies sent his superhuman senses humming.
Three hundred years ago, in London where he had been born, he would have been dressed in a waistcoat, linen shirt and breeches. But he'd watched social standards reach new lows over the centuries. Tonight he wore well-washed jeans and a dark T-shirt, the perfect outfit for blending into the crowd.
Once his dark hair had been long enough to tie neatly at the back of his neck. Now it scraped his collar and covered the tops of his ears. A little long by modern business standards. But then, he didn't have to report to an office any morning.
Shouts from a few doors down drew his attention. A man on a wrought-iron balcony was tossing newly minted faux "doubloons" and cheap necklaces to the rowdy crowd below, including a woman who had taken off her T-shirt and bra to attract the attention of the guy with the largesse. The sight of her breasts gave Jules an unwanted sexual jolt. Turning quickly away, he headed for the quieter sections of the French Quarter, searching for prey now, his eyes and ears and nose leading him to the perfect victim fifty feet down a narrow alley.
The drunk was sprawled on the pavement, his breath gin-soaked, his jaw slack.
Jules bent over him, cradling the man's head on his arm almost tenderly as he flexed the neck upward and sank sharp white fangs into warm flesh. The man's eyes fluttered, and he put up a feeble fight. Jules quickly quelled the protest with the mind-numbing fog that he cast over his victims like a cloak of amnesia.
He drew perhaps a quarter pint of blood, the alcohol content sending a pleasant buzz to his brain.
He had discovered long ago that there was no need to kill in order to sustain his own existence. He had learned to be judicious. To take what he needed and spare the donor's life.
Standing again, he pulled out a fine linen handkerchief and wiped the traces of red from his mouth. The blood had slaked his hunger. But he craved something else as well-the sexual gratification that only an erotic relationship with a woman could give him. A mutually satisfying relationship where he gave his partner pleasure and in turn fed off that pleasure.
But sexual desire was a two-edged sword. No liaison could last long for him. Unless he wanted to destroy his partner's life, he had to let her go. Knowing the beginning of a love affair was always the prelude to the end had made him strive to postpone the need.
Still, the thought of sexual satisfaction heated the stolen blood flowing through his veins. He sped up his pace, trying to put that craving out of his mind, as he strode toward the comfortable house he had bought at the edge of the Quarter.
It was three stories, the windows on the upper floor sealed against the light so that he could sleep during the day in safety. A block from home, however, he crossed a street where some of the prostitutes in the area liked to hang out. Most of them were either with customers or had gone home for the night.
But one woman was still leaning against the wall of a house. As he came down the block, she straightened her shoulders and stepped toward him. Her heels were high. Her skirt barely covered her hips. Her knit top was low cut and so thin that he could see every detail of her breasts. She was young-barely out of her teens, and he thought of telling her to get off the streets before it was too late. But he knew he'd be wasting his breath.
"Hello, handsome," she purred, giving him what she probably thought was a seductive smile. "Are you in the mood for some fun?"
He wanted to say no. But it seemed he had reached the limit of his ability to exist on blood alone.
"I might be," he said, taking a step toward her.
Once he'd shown some interest, she wasn't going to let him get away. On the darkened street, she moved her hand down, pressing it against the fly of his jeans. He knew she would feel no erection. That wasn't the way he functioned. Before the change from man to vampire, his penis had been the center of his sexual satisfaction. But his responses were different now.
He lifted her hand away, then followed her into the narrow passageway between two houses.
"The way I get turned on is to touch you," he murmured, his hands sliding over her breasts, lifting and shaping them.
He stroked his thumbs over the nipples, back and forth, urging a response from her, knowing that she usually kept herself detached from the men she serviced. But he also knew he had the power to drag her into a web of sensuality. His mind reached out to hers, bending her to his will. And as he felt her respond to him, he lowered his head, teasing himself by nipping at the tender place where her neck met her shoulder.
He stoked her response, his own carnal excitement rising to meet hers as he sank his teeth into her flesh. He felt it through his whole body, a blissful tingling that increased when he began to draw blood from her.
One hand slid downward to the juncture of her legs, pressing against her clit through the thin fabric of her skirt and panties, stroking in a way that he knew would bring her to orgasm.
It had been so long since he had done this that he had to fight a wave of dizziness. He wanted to go on and on, drawing the sensuality and the life fluid from her. But when she climaxed, he ruthlessly cut off his own gratification, leaving her panting and limp, her shoulders pressing back against the wall.
"What happened?" she moaned. "What did you do to me, honey?"
"You met a customer who made it as good for you as it was for him," he answered easily, even as he sent her soothing mental commands. "But you will forget what we did. You will forget me. You will only remember that you did very well tonight." Pulling out his wallet, he extracted a hundred-dollar bill and folded it into her hand.
Then he left her and walked rapidly toward home, thinking that he needed more than what a prostitute was able to give him. He needed a lover who could meet him as a mental equal.
Only a few miles away, Taylor Lawson moved restlessly through the little jewel of a Victorian house that she had rented in the Garden District.
It was beautifully furnished. And she'd fallen in love with it instantly. She'd taken that as a good omen. But that was the only piece of luck she'd encountered since coming to the Crescent City.
With a sigh, she stepped into the artist's studio that she'd set up in one of the bedrooms. As she looked at the partially finished canvas on the easel, she grimaced.
Over the past few months, her work had gone stale. Just like her relationship with her once and former lover, Howard Cumberland.
She'd known for months that he was the wrong man for her, but he'd clung to the dying relationship like a mountain climber scrabbling with his fingernails at the edge of a cliff. The only way she'd been able to cut things off was to move far away-from San Francisco to New Orleans.
She felt a wonderful sense of freedom here. At least in her personal life. But artistically, nothing had changed. She was only plowing old ground. She could still turn out paintings that would sell for thousands of dollars in exclusive galleries. But it wasn't satisfying to her. She needed new inspiration. She needed to take her art in an unexplored direction, if she could only figure where to go.
Turning from the easel, she looked at the paintings she'd hung on the walls. They were some of her best work. One was a scene on the beach at Carmel, where she and another lover, Richard Lampton, had gone when they were first in love. They were walking on the beach, naked. Hand in hand, two people totally enthralled with each other.
Next to it was a self-portrait she'd done the night she and Charles Bingham had first met. Her red hair was like fire around her head. Her green eyes were wild with excitement. And her lips had the look of a woman who had just been thoroughly kissed.
So what did these pictures say about her? That she needed a man for inspiration? That she worked best in the first flush of a new relationship? She hated to think that was the case. She wanted to believe that her own inner resources could sustain her interest in her painting. But if that were true, why was she feeling so restless and uncreative?
Leaving the studio, she went back to the bedroom and pulled out the slip of paper that her friend, Evelyn Bromley, had given her when they'd talked about New Orleans. Evelyn had met an extraordinary man down here. Someone she thought Taylor would like. But she wouldn't give out any details. She'd just said to call him.
Taylor might be bold in her artistic subject matter. But like most creative people, she was an introvert. She hated calling strangers. But as she held the paper in her hand, she made a decision. At worst, he'd turn her down. Or they'd meet and wouldn't hit it off. But why be negative? Perhaps he'd be the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Chapter TwoJules woke the next evening and stretched in his comfortable, four-poster bed. According to legend, a vampire slept in his coffin. But that was just superstitious nonsense, as far as he was concerned.
He'd discovered long ago that any place that was sealed away from the light would do very nicely.
His bedroom was filled with beautifully restored eighteenth-century English antiques. They always gave him a sense of comfort when he woke, because they reminded him of how far he'd come-from the slums of London.
Since then, he had lived all over England-from Kent to Cornwall to Northumberland. And in many countries of the world. But he'd never stayed in one place for very long. Then in the twentieth century, out of curiosity, he'd read some of the books of Anne Rice and decided that New Orleans sounded like a wonderful place for a vampire.
He'd been here ever since. Despite Rice's literary claims, he hadn't run into any others of his kind here. In fact, he'd met very few men like himself-and no women.
His stepfather, John Randolph, the vampire who had saved his life by turning him, had kept his own background hidden. Probably he would have eventually shared his secrets. But he had been killed by a mob almost three hundred years ago, leaving Jules very much alone. With no contacts like himself, the best he could do was read all the books he could find on the subject of the undead. And most of that was hogwash.
Now he climbed out of bed and dragged in a deep breath. Breathing didn't keep him alive, but it did help him think clearly because it oxygenated his brain.
After taking a quick shower and brushing his teeth, he pulled on a fresh T-shirt and jeans before unlocking the tight-fitting door to his room.
Padding barefoot into the kitchen, he leaned over the automatic coffeemaker, drinking in the aroma of a fresh-brewed, rich Cajun blend. Just the smell was wonderful. But over the years he'd trained his body to handle tiny quantities of food, and a little coffee was one of his chief gastronomic pleasures.
Mug in hand, he wandered out to the courtyard at the side of the house and sat in the dim glow from the tiny lights decorating two potted ficus trees. Then he checked his answering service.
The only message was from a woman named Taylor Lawson who cleared her throat before saying:
"I really don't like making calls to strangers. But my friend Evelyn Bromley suggested that I get in touch with you. I'm new in town, and she thought you'd be a good person to show me around."
She followed the observation with a phone number.
He listened again, jotting down the number. The low, throaty voice was very appealing. And he had fond memories of Evelyn. She'd been an intelligent and sensual woman. A good match for him. But his relationship with her had ended like all the others. Usually when a love affair was over, he was able to erase the memory of the liaison from his partner's mind. Evelyn had been too strong-willed for that. He'd only been able to alter her memories slightly.
That was five years ago. And she hadn't sent anyone else to him.
Taylor Lawson must be special. And her voice was a turn-on.
So he called the number.
She picked up on the third ring.
"Hello. This is Jules DeMario."
"Oh yes. I was afraid you weren't going to call," she answered.
"Well, I was away for the day," he lied easily. He'd had centuries to perfect the art of deflecting curiosity about his nocturnal habits.
She cleared her throat. "I was hoping we could get together."
"But you're nervous about meeting a man you don't know," he guessed.
"What did you have in mind?"
"I'm a painter." She hesitated. "And I wanted to do a series on the more shocking aspects of New Orleans nightlife."
"Sounds interesting." Very interesting.
"I've been told there are facets of the city that most tourists don't get to experience. And I've also been told that trying to find them on my own might be dangerous."
"Would you be willing to be my guide?"
"That depends. We should get acquainted first."
"Yes. But it's best if we meet in a public place."
Since the suggestion was wise for both of them, he agreed immediately. "How about the old Jax Brewery building? It's been turned into a shopping mall. There's a bar called Ernie's on the top floor."
"The building down by the river?"
"How will I know you?" she asked.
"I'm five-ten. One hundred and forty-five pounds. I have dark hair. Dark eyes. I'll wear a T-shirt that says 'Let the good times roll.' "
"And how will I know you?"
"By my flaming red hair. And my look of uncertainty."
"Fair enough. Will ten o'clock work for you?"
Over the years, Jules had learned to adapt to his environment. He spent much of the time between the phone call and their meeting looking up Taylor Lawson on the Internet.
He found that she was a notable artist whose paintings hung in many small galleries on the West Coast.
She'd started selling in her early twenties, ten years ago, and had worked her way up to the rank of respected artist. Her style was representational, with a touch of the hauntingly romantic. Her use of colors was adventurous.
Her publicity photo was just as tantalizing as her work. She stared boldly out at the camera, her red hair a wreath around her head and her green eyes direct and challenging.
Would she be as striking in person? Eager to find out, he arrived at the rooftop bar early, ordered a beer and poured a lot of it into an empty glass that someone had left behind. Then he settled down to wait.
When a striking redhead walked in, he was lounging comfortably at a table near the door. She'd dressed casually, in dark slacks and an emerald green knit top.
As she stood looking around the room, he gave her a little wave.
With a slightly hesitant smile on her face, she crossed to him.
"Nice to meet you," she said in that low sexy voice that he liked as much in person as over the phone.
They shook, and he also liked the firm strength of her hand. His own hand was large and warm. One thing he'd been amused about in his reading was the notion that a vampire had to be cold. In reality, he had control of his temperature, just the way he had control over a partner's mind when he was drawing blood. And since he walked through the world of men, he kept his own body at a steady ninety-eight-point-six.
He was aware of her tantalizing woman's scent drifting toward him. And of the way she licked her lips with an endearingly nervous gesture.
He cleared his throat. "What can I get you?"
He ordered from the bartender, then ushered her outside onto the cement deck overlooking the river, just as a tourist paddle wheel boat went by. In the warm night, there were few people outside, and it wasn't difficult to find a corner table.
He crossed his legs at the ankles and stretched them out beside the table, trying to look a lot more casual than he felt. He'd rarely been more attracted to a woman. And he wanted to get to know her better. "So what really brings you to the city?"
She hesitated for a moment before saying, "I needed to get away from a man who wanted to continue a relationship with me-when we both knew it was over."
"That's a pretty direct answer."
"I know. But I hate evasions, and I wanted us to start out on the right foot."
Excerpted from Immortal Bad Boys by Rebecca York Ruth Glick Rosemary Laurey Linda Thomas-Sundstrom Copyright © 2004 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. 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.