Portrait of Seduction [NOOK Book]

Overview

When vampire Carter Vaggio is hired to paint heiress Victoria Aragon's portrait he knows she's the one his soul has been calling out for. But she knows nothing about his kind. What will happen when she finds out that ghosts, witches, werewolves, and shape shifters are “alive” and well in Manhattan? And that she just made love with a vampire…

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Portrait of Seduction

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Overview

When vampire Carter Vaggio is hired to paint heiress Victoria Aragon's portrait he knows she's the one his soul has been calling out for. But she knows nothing about his kind. What will happen when she finds out that ghosts, witches, werewolves, and shape shifters are “alive” and well in Manhattan? And that she just made love with a vampire…

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Editorial Reviews

Talia Ricci
Portrait of Seduction was a spectacular read. I loved how Madison Chase slowly let Victoria’s presence invade Carter’s home and wrap her desire around him.

If you love vampire tales, then Portrait of Seduction is a must read. I find myself shying away from vampires at times but I am so glad that I didn’t do that with Portrait of Seduction. This is one vampire book headed to the keeper shelf!
Anthonette Dotson
PORTRAIT OF SEDUCTION is a fast paced attention grabber... If you are looking for a break from erotica, this is one paranormal romance I highly recommend.
Talia Ricci
Portrait of Seduction was a spectacular read. I loved how Madison Chase slowly let Victoria’s presence invade Carter’s home and wrap her desire around him. If you love vampire tales, then Portrait of Seduction is a must read. I find myself shying away from vampires at times but I am so glad that I didn’t do that with Portrait of Seduction. This is one vampire book headed to the keeper shelf!
Anthonette Dotson
PORTRAIT OF SEDUCTION is a fast paced attention grabber... If you are looking for a break from erotica, this is one paranormal romance I highly recommend.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940045333887
  • Publisher: Madison Chase
  • Publication date: 9/26/2013
  • Sold by: Smashwords
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 680,907
  • File size: 302 KB

Meet the Author

Since she was little, Madison Chase has been addicted to love. Now she spends her days and the occasional night, weaving stories of romance and love conquering all. And that’s fine by her. The ushy-gushy-mushy love stuff doesn’t bother her a bit. When not writing, Madison can be found snuggling with her hubby, playing with her dog, petting her cat, or sitting outside in the sun reading a book. She loves hearing from readers so write to her at madisonchase@madison-chase.com or visit her website at madison-chase.com
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
To accomplish much you must first lose everything.
~ Che Guavara

9 months later

Nothing was what it seemed. In life. And in death.

But the one thing that Victoria Aragon had learned to believe in was the mirror. It never lied.

Like everything else at the Winston Atlas hotel, the ladies' bathroom was large, luxurious, and lit by an array of twinkling lights and crystal chandeliers. Viki strode toward the floor to ceiling mirror, her high heels clicking against the marble floor. The annual Masquerade Ball was set to begin in a few minutes, so she had just enough time to finish getting ready. She slipped the red satin mask onto her face and tied the matching straps behind her head. Staring back from the mirror was an incredibly mysterious woman. Sexy even. The mask hugged the top half of her face, making her blue eyes seem even brighter. She looked away from her reflection long enough to pull a tube of Cherry Red out of her purse and leaned toward the mirror to touch up her lipstick.

Just like the designer gown she wore, the mask was simple and elegant, yet it demanded attention. Small red sequins framed her eyes, and a vast array of brilliant red plumes splayed along the crown. With her golden blonde hair piled high on her head and the mask hiding much of her face, her grandmother wouldn't even recognize her.

Hopefully.

Happy with her appearance, she took a deep, fortifying breath and headed for the door. Stacia Emersen was just entering, a sleek, silver cell phone attached to her ear. When she saw Viki, she snapped the phone shut and pinned on a fake smile. Stacia reminded Viki of a doll,perfectly cut, perfectly coiffed, perfectly plastic. Her expression changed as easily as that of Mr. Potato Head.

"Viki, is that you?" Stacia's Swiss accent was as fake as her smile. Viki knew that she'd grown up in a suburb in Virginia, not Switzerland.

"Hello Stacia." Somehow her tone was civil.

"Wow. Is that a Franz Tinklitz design?"

Viki wasn't surprised that Stacia had named New York's all time tackiest and most undesired designer. The only thing that even made his name known was that he had the perseverance of a Pitt Bull, talked like a gay Australian, and his tacky designs were loud enough to scare even the most extroverted clown.

"Valentino," Viki corrected smoothly, relying on the manners that came automatically after having them shoved down her throat for the last twenty years. It had been at her grandmother's insistence that she and Veronica attend etiquette lessons. Ironically, her grandmother showed no signs of manners or proper etiquette herself. Neither did Stacia. It hadn't been two months after her sister's death when the woman in front of her had started dating Paul, Veronica's husband.

It had nearly killed Viki again to see how easily he'd disregarded his wife's sudden death. How easily and quickly he'd moved on. She shouldn't have been surprised, but at the time she'd been floored. When the initial shock of her sister's death had passed, she'd thought back over her sister's marriage and had seen that something hadn't been right. It wasn't until Veronica's death that everything became clear.

Her sister had been the victim of spousal abuse and had never said a word. Gentle as she'd been, caring and sweet, she'd never tried to get away from him. Never filed charges. It pained her that it wasn't until Veronica's death that Viki had put all the pieces together. And it was too late to do anything.

She'd warned Stacia about Paul and the type of man he was. But like the woman she was, Stacia had laughed off Viki's warning.

Viki had dwelled on Veronica's death, and its surrounding circumstances, for far too long. Only in the past few months had she begun to socialize and come to parties again. The unjust truth was there was nothing she could do. No way to prove foul play in her sister's death. No way to bring her back. She had to move on with her life, helping those she could. Right now, if she dwelled on it any longer, she'd be late for the ball.

But Stacia was still in her way.

"Knock off?" One of Stacia's dark eyebrows curved up like the St. Louis arch. It was just the kind of catty comment Viki had learned to expect from the socialite. Her father was one of the vice presidents of a fashion empire, therefore Stacia always found others' attire lacking somehow. In fact, Viki was certain they could be wearing the same dress, and somehow Stacia would still find a way to put it down. But then her hostility was always boiling just below her perfectly designed surface.

"Hardly," Viki replied. "It's custom."

"Of course. Only the best for Martha's granddaughter."

Viki smiled and stepped around the other woman.

"See you on the auction block, Viki."

She gave a little wave as she stepped out into the grand hall, ready to put some distance between herself and the life sucking socialite. Over the years, Viki had been to the Winston Atlas numerous times. But the enchanting hotel never looking as lovely as when her friend Celeste was running the show. This year, the masquerade ball fell five nights before Halloween, and everyone seemed to be filled with the spirit. Eerily enough, it was said that Halloween was one of the times of year when spirits could make contact with the physical world. Or so her grandfather had said. But he'd always been a good story teller.

Tonight she wished he were right, that she could indeed contact her sister. But that was just a pipe dream.

The pathway to the Grand Ballroom was lined with large Ficus trees, each in an enormous pot and decorated with glowing lights. Guests were already lining up on the black carpet lined in rose petals. Viki recognized most of them. They were all wealthy or hoping to be. Some of them were her friends. Some she'd rather not know ... like John Harrison who strode into the lobby as if he owned the place and everything in it. His tuxedo was perfectly pressed and exquisitely tailored. Though he wore a lion mask, she'd recognize him anywhere. He had the coldest eyes she'd ever seen. No wonder her grandmother wanted him as a grandson-in-law. They were two peas in a pod. If Martha Aragon were thirty years younger, Viki had no doubt that she'd marry John herself.

The Ficus provided the perfect shield, and he didn't notice her. Through the open doors, she could hear soft music playing as the guests began to file in. From her position, she could see her friend, Celeste Black, along with an array of beautifully decorated tables and the stage for tonight's main event, the bachelorette auction.

It was all for a good cause. Each year at the Masquerade Ball, there was a bachelorette auction, and men paid handsomely for a date with the lovely ladies on the stage. Tonight, Viki was being auctioned off. She just hoped that she would be able to raise a decent amount for the local orphanage. After all, she was known for being very picky about men. And on the off chance that things did progress past a few dates, what man in his right mind would risk having to spend more time with Martha Aragon or consider the possibility of having her as an in-law?

No, Viki was going to stay single until she'd gotten her inheritance and was on her own. Away from the meddling old witch. For now, Viki was happy to give up one evening of her time if it'd help Celeste's cause.

Inside the ball room, her friend welcomed the distinguished guests. Celeste was the event organizer, and she worked extra hard every year to make sure the ball was successful. As an orphan herself, Celeste knew what it was like to grow up without a family. Viki could almost imagine what that felt like. Her own parents had often been too busy with their work to pay attention to her. But her grandfather had always shown her love and kindness. And she'd had her sister.

Now it was her chance to give back.

She set her sights on Celeste and entered the ballroom. The Masquerade was held here each year because of the mysticism associated with the grand hotel. It was said to be haunted by a bride who'd jumped from the roof on her wedding night after her new husband had admitted to loving another woman. The story said that she still walked the halls looking for the pieces of her heart.

Viki thought it was a fabulous ghost story, though not one she believed--she'd never seen the brokenhearted bride, but it definitely added to the ambiance of the event. The Gothic architectural style was just one more reason the Winston Atlas was so popular around Halloween.

Viki glanced around the room, admiring the glow of the tall golden candles and the sheer silk fabrics draping the room. Votives dotted every surface, causing the cavernous room to sparkle and dance as if it had a life of its own.

There was a light flutter of discussion over the soft jazz music. Her friend greeted the mayor and his wife. Behind them stood the governor and his daughter. Viki wasn't surprised to see so many politicians. Celeste had a way about her that made people interested in her cause; she inspired their generosity. The soft-spoken southerner had quickly worked her magic on Viki, and they'd become fast friends. They were both in the business of helping people.

"I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you."

She recognized the voice even before she looked over her shoulder. Standing right behind her was John Harrison, a high ball full of amber liquid in his hand. Behind the gold feathers of his mask, his eyes raked over her from toe to head. Lust turned them from steely gray to light blue. He obviously didn't recognize her. Inwardly, she laughed to herself.

"I don't believe so. I never forget a mane," she murmured, running a finger over the speckled feathers that made up his lion's mane. She'd always been a fan of plays on words.

His lips curved up into a cocky smile. Now was her chance to hook him in. She gave him her most alluring smile. Playing hard to get would do the trick. Hopefully by the time the auction started, he'd be willing to make a generous donation to the orphanage.

"Please excuse me. I need to say hello to a friend."

Before he could reply, she sauntered over to Celeste, leaving him to ponder her identity.

"My heavens, that gown is positively gorgeous," her friend cooed.

"I couldn't agree more. Valentino is a genius." She smoothed her hand down the soft fabric.

"He certainly is. Every eye is on you." Viki looked around the room and saw that Celeste was right.

"Well, I just hope I can help you raise lots of money tonight."

"You are such a peach. What would I do without you?" Celeste's face glowed. She was blessed with a peaches and cream complexion. Tonight her hair was a riot of curls piled atop her head with peacock feathers tucked into the bun. Her dress was an incredible concoction of emerald green and royal blue. With the fine detail and embroidery, the dress shimmered and the colors melted to form an electrifying blue-green.

"Let's pray you never have to find out." She gave her friend a gentle smile and squeezed her arm.

"Is your grandmother here yet?"

Viki shook her head. "I haven't seen her yet. I did run into John the Swan though. He's wearing a lion's mask, believe it or not." Viki and her friends had given John Harrison the nickname "John the Swan" because he was always preening and strutting his stuff.

"Yes. I saw him too."

"What are you two whispering about?" They turned to find James Brody sipping a ghoulishly green martini. Veronica and James had gone to elementary school together, then middle school before his parents had sent him off to some prep school. But somehow they'd always kept in touch. Over the years, he and Viki had become friends as well. And after her sister's death, he'd become a rock for her to lean on.

"Grandmother and her latest leech." Viki rolled her eyes.

"Well, don't look now, but the old bat just walked in," James said, nodding toward a point behind her.

"I'm not looking," Viki muttered.

"Viki, Mr. Brody, please excuse me. I see a few people I need to say hello to."

"K. Let me know if you need any help," Viki told her.

Celeste gave an anxious smile and rushed off to welcome Thomas Riley, a Manhattan billionaire.

"Why does she always call me Mr. Brody?" James mused.

"Because she likes you." Viki gave him a knowing smile and linked her arm through his.

"You think so?"

"I do. She's from Savannah, Georgia, though. I doubt it'll ever cross her mind to make the first move."

James turned thoughtful and quiet while he finished his martini. Waiters in penguin suits circulated throughout the room, and he flagged one over, quickly replacing his empty glass with a full one.

"Where's your mask?"

He patted his pocket.

"Give it here. You've got to put it on."

He grumbled but complied. Just like James, the mask was simple but colorful. A harlequin pattern adorned the paper mache. She slipped it into place, then fixed his hair.

"Better. Have you heard anything about Elizabeth Foster yet?" She was anxious for news of the woman they'd helped escape spousal abuse. Viki was no longer a stranger to abuse. She hadn't been able to help her sister, but there were many men and women still out there who needed her. Elizabeth Foster was one such person. Viki, along with a group of trusted friends, had formed a network that helped battered women and men escape their relationships. When they had no other way out, Viki helped them disappear and start over. With her inheritance, she'd be able to do more. Right now, she depended on her friends and trusted acquaintances.

"She's on her way. I wonder how long it'll take that scumbag to realize she's missing," James said.

"Or if he'll even care."

"Oh, I'm sure he'll miss his punching bag," James said, his tone dry and repulsed.

Elizabeth Foster was married to a corporate lawyer. On the outside, she seemed like a typical trophy wife, but inside she was battered. It was at a charity event very much like tonight's that Viki had met her. No amount of concealer could hide the nasty bruise under Elizabeth's eye. And her story about falling in the shower had obviously been fabricated.

But later that night when Viki went to get into her car, she saw a drunken Larry Foster dragging Elizabeth from the elevator. She'd acted on instinct, pasting on a smile and approaching the couple as if they were long time friends. A quick lie about going out for dessert had gotten Elizabeth away from her husband. Later that night in the safety of a hotel room, the other woman had spilled out her heart wrenching story. And Viki had vowed to help her.

A quick call to James and a few other allies had produced a plan to get Elizabeth out of New York. They'd waited for just the right time to act. Today had been D-Day, the day of departure from her old life. Some of the people they helped referred to it as D-Day, the day they took back their destiny.

Either way, by now she was on her way out of the state. Viki prayed that she'd find the life she deserved.

"Thank you, James." She looked up at him, wishing she could put her appreciation into words.

"No thanks necessary. Now tell me, do you know that guy over there, because he's been staring at you since I walked in."

Viki turned slowly, her gaze sweeping the room until it fell on a gorgeous hunk of a man in a stunning black and silver mask. He sat at the far end of the bar, but hadn't touched his drink. She let her eyes roam over him, taking in each glorious detail. His tux looked expensive and custom made. It hugged him in all the right places. His shoulders could have been chiseled from marble, along with his strong jaw.

Her breath squeezed from her lungs and blood rushed to her head as he stared at her with dark eyes. Were they green or brown? Or maybe a smoky gray. Golden locks of hair peaked out from behind the mask, and she was reminded of the Greek God Adonis. And she would gladly fight both Aphrodite and Persephone for him.

The rest of the world disappeared, and she found herself being drawn to him against her will. Without even moving, they seemed to be closer.

Somewhere behind her, she heard James say "guess not," but his voice barely registered. He was the center of her universe. His eyes drifted downward very slowly. Her skin flushed under his gaze, and her nipples tightened painfully. She must be going mad because she had the crazy thought that she would give up her whole fortune for one night with him, to know what it felt like to have his lips on hers, his hands on her skin, his fingers caressing her curves. To know his complete possession of her body.

When his gaze met hers again, she knew he could tell what she'd been thinking. His eyes turned darker, telling her he knew everything, wanted everything about her. She took a tentative step toward him. But Celeste's voice came over the speakers, and Viki's passion filled fog evaporated.

Turning to listen to her friend's welcome speech, she mentally shook herself. Her head ached. So did her breasts. And her knees felt like mush. If she didn't know better, she'd have thought he had some sort of magical power. Or she was under the influence of a powerful aphrodisiac.

But she did know better. Didn't she?

What if Grandfather had been right? What if Halloween did bring out the magic? The spirits?

"I want to thank everyone for coming tonight."

Viki tried to concentrate on what Celeste was saying, but it was really hard. She could feel his eyes on her, but she fought the urge to sneak a peek.

"We've got several lovely ladies on the auction block tonight, gentlemen. I hope you brought your checkbooks." Celeste gave one of her infectious smiles, and the room rumbled with a soft laughter. "I'll introduce them later. Right now, I've got a special treat for everyone. Chef Bach has prepared us a wonderful meal. If you'll take your seats..."

She felt a hand cup her elbow and turned to see James.

"Shall we?"

Viki's gaze swerved back to the Adonis at the bar. He was still watching her.

She nodded, unable to form intelligible words.

James escorted her to their table, and she was happy to be able to sit down. She'd gone weak-in-the-knees before, but never like this. She'd never felt such an overwhelming desire. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she found equal parts of panic and curiosity. It was a new experience, to say the least.

Another glance at the bar, and Viki found the man's eyes shooting daggers at James. She glanced over at her friend who was happily chatting with the woman who'd just taken the seat next to him. Glancing back at Adonis, she shook her head slightly. His eyes seemed to glow, and she pulled a sharp breath into her lungs.

Both terrified and excited by the connection, the energy, she glanced away. Hyperventilating in public over a man would be so embarrassing.

She turned to James and tried to concentrate on the conversation as the salad was served. The delicious combination of lettuce, nuts and red wine vinaigrette barely managed to distract her from the excited butterflies doing somersaults in her stomach.

"Viki here is participating in the bachelorette auction tonight," James told the couple to his right. The woman had placed her mask in front of her plate, so Viki was able to recognize her. She knew Mr. and Mrs. Lark from various events, so she gave them a nod and a smile.

They seemed to be good natured people, laid back and not without a sense of humor. Tonight, that was evident from their matching theater masks. Mr. Lark wore the tragedy and Mrs. Lark the comedy. The pained expression on his mask was extra funny when his wife held up the gilded gold of her own with its joyous and somewhat mysterious smile.

It was as if she knew something the others didn't.

Viki didn't doubt the air of mystery tonight. The way the hair at the nape of her neck stood on end had her believing in ghosts. Almost.

Glancing up from her plate, her gaze connected with his. The fire behind the Adonis's mask was golden green. She'd never seen eyes such a beautiful color. She was definitely starting to believe in magic. A chill swept over her skin, but it was quickly replaced by a prickly heat. The foreign sensation alarmed her. And aroused her.

He sat a table away, facing her. The rest of the room seemed to melt away until it was just her, him, and a soft melody from the band.

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