Into The Dark
Rowan Harper's world has been wrenched apart. The man she thought she loved-the man she does love-is a vampire, and not the kind that glitters.
Running away isn't an option. Gabriel isn't just her lover. She's bound to him in ways she can't comprehend, ways that put both of them in desperate danger even as Rowan's desire for him blazes anew.
The rules of her life before are gone. But she has a power of her own, a power she is remembering in fits and starts even as time races against her. With her life and Gabriel's very soul on the line, Rowan has to choose who to believe-and who to trust...
Winner of the OKRWA "Finally a Bride" contest.
Read an Excerpt
A Vampire's Soul
By Carla Susan Smith
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Carla Susan Smith
All rights reserved.
There are some people who will tell you that if you fall in a dream it's a bad thing. I'm not talking about a fall because you've twisted your knee or turned your ankle. I mean taking a dive off a high-rise building or stepping into an open elevator shaft on the twenty-fifth floor. The kind of descent that pretty much guarantees that if you do reach the bottom, you're not going to walk away. Hell, you're not even going to get up. And when you step over that ledge, you're filled with absolute terror, because there's no way you can change the outcome. And these people, whoever they are, will tell you that if you actually do reach the bottom in your dream, then in the waking world you're dead.
Really? How the fuck would anyone know?
I've had a few nightmares in which I've fallen, and it's a truly horrible sensation. I always wake up just as I'm going into free fall with my stomach behind my rib cage and my heart in my throat. I feel helpless and panicky both at the same time, and my limbs tremble as I try to catch my breath. But I've never reached bottom.
At least not yet.
I can't say for sure that I was dreaming about falling, but I woke in the grip of the same kind of anxiety, soaked in perspiration, tendrils of hair clinging to my neck and cheek, and my heart was pounding hard enough it had to be bruising my rib cage. But at least I wasn't dead. I also wasn't alone.
Sitting bolt upright in my bed, I took in a wild gasp of air, and stared at the wicker chair in the corner. Whatever I thought I'd seen was now gone, leaving behind an empty seat. The only immediate threat to my safety would be getting my foot tangled in the bed covers spilling onto the floor.
I shook my head, which, given the sudden pounding, was a bad idea. Lying back down, I put an arm over my eyes. This had to be the worst hangover ever. Easily a hundred times more awful than the one following the puke-fest my best friend Laycee put me through when I turned twenty-one. That particular episode had been bad enough to serve as a dire warning on the pitfalls of drinking tequila, but apparently I'd not heeded my own advice. So much for good intentions. I'd gotten so drunk I couldn't even remember drinking!
My tongue felt thick and fuzzy, and the nasty taste in my mouth said there was a good possibility I might have licked the living room carpet at some point. I swallowed—a tentative action that had my throat screaming and seemed to confirm the carpet-licking theory. Whatever I'd done, it was way worse than anything that had happened the night I celebrated my legal status.
Raising my arm, I opened my eyes a fraction and focused on the square of pale light dancing across the ceiling. It stretched almost to the far wall, which meant the sun was heading toward the horizon and I'd been asleep for most of the day. Of course, that might not have been so long depending on when I'd actually made it to bed.
In an effort to minimize the sloshing of my brain against the inside of my skull, I carefully turned my head and checked the clock on the bedside table. The bright red display read 5:05, and the small dot in the upper corner said it was definitely p.m. Yep, I'd slept all day, which only partially explained why I felt like shit. The rest of the blame was going squarely on the shoulders of Jose Cuervo and whomever he'd brought with him.
Dear God, please don't let me have done anything embarrassing, but if I did, don't let it be posted on Facebook.
The haze fogging my brain started to lift, and in its wake I was bombarded with a series of weird, fragmented images. Any hope of being allowed to recall the events of the last twenty-four hours in a manageable dose was blown right out the water. Taking a page from the sink-or-swim school of accountability, I got shoved in the deep end as everything came rushing back. Ignoring the pain in my head, I bolted for the bathroom.
Somewhere between crossing the threshold of my bedroom and falling to my knees before the porcelain goddess, my cerebral cortex exploded into a B-horror-movie nightmare. Kind of like Twilight on steroids, but without the generous budget or teenage cast. As I bent over the toilet, it took a little while for my brain to remember I'd already expelled the contents of my stomach several hours before. If I continued to dry heave, I was going to rupture something.
Slowly I got to my feet and gripped the edge of the bathroom sink with both hands. The face looking back at me in the mirror almost had me falling down again.
Jesus H. Christ—was that me?
I'd aged ten years overnight. Forget about getting wasted on tequila; I looked like I needed a hospital bed, and a machine that gave a reassuring beep so I would know I was still alive. My face was drained of all color. Even my sun-kissed freckles looked washed out. Dark circles ringed my eyes, and there was something white and crusty caked at the corner of my mouth. The woman in the mirror stared back at me with accusing eyes.
How could you not have known? She demanded in a shrill voice.
I wasn't ill, and I most definitely was not hung over. It was much worse than that. Panic now threaded through me. Like a wisp of smoke that turns into a flame that becomes a fire, it threatened to run out of control. I took a step back, hitting my heel on the base of the bathtub. A shower seemed like a good idea. Pulling back the curtain, I stepped into the tub. I needed both hands to turn the faucet on, but once the water washed over me, it sluiced away my panic. Numbness took its place, and leaning my forehead against the fiberglass wall, I gave my aching body over to the shower's pulsating spray. It wasn't until I tasted salt on my lips that I realized I was crying. I didn't fight it. Instead I shut down what remained of my rational thought process and let the tears flow. God knows I was overdue for a sob-fest.
I have no idea how long I stood there. I wasn't consciously aware that the water temperature had changed from warm to freezing until the sound of my chattering teeth forced common sense to prevail. In all the years of its existence, I was pretty sure this was the first time the hot water tank had ever been emptied. Wearily I turned the faucet off and stepped out of the tub.
I didn't remember taking off my underwear, but obviously I had as my bra and panties lay in a soggy pile in the bottom of the tub. It was just as well, really, because my fingers were now so cold I doubt I could have managed the intricacies involved in unhooking a bra. I wrapped a towel around me, tucking the end between my breasts. Dealing with my hair was going to take more effort than I was currently capable of, so I simply ignored it. If I couldn't comb the tangles out later, then Id cut them out. Satisfied with my problem-solving skills, I shambled back to my bedroom.
I was in shock. I knew this because my body's physical response was eerily reminiscent of my reaction on hearing my dad had died, and the state trooper who'd been with me at the time told me I was in shock. I had all the symptoms that were typical of a traumatized condition. Chills, erratic breathing, clammy skin. Who was I to argue with a state trooper?
My core temperature, already lowered by the cold shower, fell a little further, and I began to shake as if I was having a seizure. Curl- ing up in a ball, I hugged my knees to my chest and waited for the spasms to pass.
My boyfriend is a vampire.
Oh ... fuck ...CHAPTER 2
The realization that the man I was in love with was something other than human churned up enough bile to sting the back of my throat. Everything that had occurred during the past twenty-four hours played back on one long mind-loop with far too much realism for a practical joke. Besides, Gabriel would never be so cruel as to play such a sick, twisted prank, and I don't remember anyone laughing, least of all the woman with moonlight hair whose alabaster skin had been stained with her own blood. Lying on black satin sheets, she'd stared at me with terror in her eyes. It was an image I was going to carry to the grave.
You know who I am ... you know what I am ... what I have always been ...
The voice that had taken up residence inside my head began to whisper softly, insistently, and this time I had no difficulty recognizing it. How could I have not known it was Gabriel's voice all along? The cadence was so familiar, the phrasing of words uniquely his own, and he told me everything I wanted to hear, everything I needed to hear. It had always been his voice speaking inside my head. Only now I didn't want to believe what it was saying.
My lover was a vampire.
Only vampires didn't exist ... did they?
We weren't still living in the Dark Ages, when every waking moment was governed by superstition, for God's sake! This was the modern world. A world filled with the Internet, cars that could parallel park themselves, and cell phones with more apps than a normal, sane person would ever need. A vampire had no business in a world of shiny chrome and glass. They belonged in an era of horse-drawn carriages, foggy streets, and butt-ugly Victorian décor. And yet I had seen the proof with my own eyes. Shuddering, I forced myself to take a deep breath so I could examine this barely believable event with something that could pass for logic.
In the relative normalcy of my home, surrounded by the trappings of my ordinary life, I had no problem telling myself vampires were not real. They were a work of fiction, springing from the mind of a brilliant writer with a gift for the macabre. And I almost had myself convinced too, except ... well, what was that saying about a grain of truth being embedded inside every nightmare? Every fairy tale? Every legend? Stories about creatures who survive by drinking the blood of the living had been a part of folklore long before Dracula became a household name. Suddenly all those shows on the History Channel about Vlad the Impaler drinking the blood of his victims took on a completely different light.
But if such stories are true, then vampires are our natural enemies; they hunt down humans in order to sustain their own existence. A vampire is the real wolf in sheep's clothing—looking like one of us, moving among us, becoming us, the ultimate predator, with seduction as the only weapon needed for us to hand over our humanity.
Fangs? Yeah, they were real. Gabriel's were long and white, and they looked wickedly sharp. He hadn't tried to hide them once he knew I'd seen them, even going so far as to allow me a second look, as if to confirm it wasn't my vivid imagination. You can't fake something like that. But fangs are just a tool, used to perform the coup de grace. Caught in a vampire's thrall, most humans would probably give themselves up long before they ever saw fangs.
And what egotistical sense of arrogance declares that human beings can have no predators save for each other? Assuming you're at the top of the food chain doesn't necessarily make it so ... or mean you can't be dragged down a rung or two.
The tremors racking my body began to lessen as my temperature climbed back up to somewhere near normal. I let go of my knees, feeling the ache in my muscles as I stretched out my legs, and rolled onto my back. If I was going to survive this, then I had to accept, without any doubt whatsoever, that the world was not the same place it had been yesterday. It was not as I had always supposed it to be.
Vampires do exist.
My boyfriend is a vampire.
I took a couple of deep breaths, letting the implication of those words flow through me. In my struggle to accept this new reality, I received a pretty hefty smack upside the head by a highly relevant, extremely personal, and totally unalterable fact. It was one thing to have been going to the movies and out to dinner with a vampire, but I'd also been having sex with one. An awful lot of sex.
Whoa—talk about seduction! I don't think my ignorance of Gabriel's true nature was going to score me any brownie points, but then again, who was I going to tell?
Oh. My. God.
If vampires are the undead, did that make me some sort of closet necrophiliac? I don't remember this being covered in Twilight, but perhaps I'd given up reading the book by then. My mind began to fill with every erotic moment I had shared with Gabriel. Things I'd done to him. Things he'd done to me. Things we'd done to each other, and—oh shit!—in this bed, too! As if on cue, every detail of our last intimate encounter filled my head.
I had been on the verge of falling asleep when he'd slipped between the sheets and curled himself around me. The warmth of his breath fanned my skin as his hands and lips coaxed me into wakefulness. A delicious shiver ran through me when the tip of his tongue teased the outer edge of my ear before continuing its journey down to the spot where my neck and shoulder met. His mouth latched on, sucking with enough force to make my flesh sting erotically. Wrapping one arm around my waist, he cupped a breast with the other, using his thumb and forefinger to bring my nipple to a sensual fullness that ached for the touch of his mouth.
The feel of his erection, hard and magnificent against my ass, made me moan. A heat of my own exploded between my legs and I became wet. The hand that had been around my waist now slid between my thighs, and needing no encouragement, I opened for him. Gabriel slipped one finger, and then a second, inside my body, making me gasp at the delicious friction he created. I pushed back against the heel of his hand, and he quickly brought me to the brink of my climax, taking me over the edge when his thumb rubbed my clitoris. While I was still riding the swell of an orgasmic wave, he rolled me over and gave my nipple the attention it was craving. His mouth was exquisite. Lapping with his tongue, he drew the swollen bud between his lips and then scraped the sensitive tip erotically with his teeth. In response, I arched my back and grabbed a fistful of his long hair, making sure he didn't stray from his task.
And then he was inside me.
I wrapped my legs around his hips, enjoying the fullness of having his throbbing cock fill me. I stroked my hands across his wide shoulders, down his arms, and across his heavily muscled chest. Returning the favor, I rolled his eager nipple between my own thumb and forefinger. Gabriel closed his eyes and groaned softly, and the tremble in his body told me just how close he was to coming. I clenched my pelvic muscles, drawing him farther inside me. It was the only provocation he needed. He pulled back and then thrust forward, coating himself with my body's liquid silk until he brought us both to climax in an explosive rush that left me spent ... and wanting more.
A sudden hysterical bubble of laughter burst out of me. No wonder he'd been so blasé about not getting me pregnant. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Fuck him! Except I already had, and that's why I was in this god-awful mess right now. My brain was fried. Any logic I was trying to use to deal with my situation was quickly becoming unraveled. I had no idea what the hell I was thinking. So I did what any girl in my predicament would do. I screamed—loud and long, and just a hair's breadth shy of hysterical. And then I did it again for no other reason than that I could.
Why had this happened to me?
A few months ago my life had been perfect. Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration. Being a virgin at twenty-five wasn't my idea of perfection, and while I might not have been desperate, I had been starting to get a little concerned. It wasn't as if I hadn't been trying to change my status, and there had been a couple of times when I'd truly thought it was going to happen. But something inevitably went wrong. It always did.
I'd just known, somewhere in my heart—and pelvis—that he was The One. Except this time when it all went wrong, it hurt worse than any other time before. His dumping me, on my front porch of all places, when I was on the verge of giving myself to him, had been devastating in a way I'd never thought possible. And it was more than just my pride that was damaged. The pain I felt was very real.
Excerpted from A Vampire's Soul by Carla Susan Smith. Copyright © 2014 Carla Susan Smith. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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