Features a special preview of J. R. Ward’s upcoming Black Dagger Brotherhood novel, The Thief!
The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing.
Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . .
Praise for J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series
“Tautly written, wickedly sexy, and just plain fun.”—Lisa Gardner
“Ward’s paranormal world is, among other things, colorful, dangerous, and richly conceived.”—RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“You’re wrong. He’s totally looking at you.”
Ivie pushed her Grey Goose and tonic away. “Can we focus? For just a minute here.”
The human cigar bar she and her cousin were in was packed with non-vampires, and not for the first time, Ivie wondered why in the hell she had agreed to meet here. For one, she hated smoke, especially the kind that smelled like sweat socks—hello, stogies. Two, it wasn’t that she didn’t like humans…she just didn’t care for them very much. And there were so many of their kind here, all competing for air space, their voices loud and grating.
Like they were at a ballgame. Except, noooo, she wanted to point out, we’re all indoors here, and unless she was seriously missing something, there was nothing to referee—
“I’m so serious right now.”
Ivie let her head fall to the side so that her eyes ran into her cousin’s hopeful face. Rubia, a.k.a. Rubes, was a red-haired romantic, the anti-Ivie, as it were. She was everything that was bright and happy, a hopping, skipping ball of optimism that was just…pink…even when she wasn’t wearing the color.
Which was rare.
Why were the pair of them friends? It was the classic childhood hangover of two relations who had lived next door and had played together because there had been a dearth of other distractions. Now, as fully transitioned adults, they had shared too much history to go their separate ways.
And, Ivie guessed, Rubes didn’t ever let anybody go. There were bits and pieces of the female’s heart everywhere in the world, and how she could stand that was a mystery.
“I think he’s one of us,” Rubes whispered, her stare locked firmly on the other end of the bar.
“As I was saying”—Ivie took back her V&T and grabbed a sip off the sharp, cold rim—“I waited for two hours in that drawing room. Two hours. I read through the four Town & Country’s that were on the coffee table through twice, memorized all the oil paintings and marble busts, and briefly considered committing suicide by hanging myself from the chandelier. The only thing that saved me was the very real possibility they might charge my parents a cleaning fee to remove the body.”
“He’s definitely one of us. He just smiled at the bartender without showing his front teeth.”
“So after I created a butt-divot-and-a half in the silk sofa, that female comes back in. I swear to you, she looked like a cross between a librarian and a fascist. She was wearing this gray suit that quite possibly could have been made out of a base metal and her hair was scraped back into a bun that was tight enough to be considered a solid. She says to me—”
“Holy crap, did he just pay the bartender with a hundred-dollar bill?”
“—‘The master cannot see you the now. He is not feeling well.’ ” Ivie stirred the lime slice and her ice cubes with the red swizzle stick. “And I’m all, ‘Sure, no problem. Whatever is good for you’—”
“He’s not accepting the change. He’s tipping the bartender all that money—what a nice guy.”
“I mean, listen, I can understand that it’s hard if you’re old and you’re sliding downhill—it’s horrible to have to interview the nurse who’s coming to help you in your end stage. It’s like your disease is screaming in your face, I won! I get all that, and I honestly would have gone back there at a later time, but get this. The female walks me over to the door and does that head-to-toe thing people do. I knew what she was going to say before she opened her mouth—”
“Oh, see. Another smile with no front teeth. Yup. One of us.”
“She says, ‘Aren’t you a little young for this.’ ” Ivie put her palms up. “Young? Look, I know I’m not as old as you are, Ms. Punic Wars, but I am a fully trained nurse who’s been working under Havers for a decade—and I’ve even done a human program. I have meaningful experience with end-of-life patients, and Havers himself sent me over here. You think just because of this face”—she motioned around her puss—“and the fact that I have long hair means I can’t do my job? Give me a break—”
“—and no, I’m not interested in the position if you’re going to call into question my skills on the basis of age alone.” Ivie shrugged. “So I said I was probably not a good fit and that she might want to find someone else. She seemed very relieved—”
“—which tells me that she had already decided she didn’t want me the second I walked into that mansion—”
Ivie wheeled around toward her cousin. “What, Rubes. What. Do you want to tell me about the guy not showing his canines again? Have you considered that he might be a human with orthodontia issues? And if he dropped a hundy, good for him. Let’s petition the human government to give him a stamp. An obelisk. A reality TV show. Oh, wait, you’re going to tell me you’ve psychically deduced his name—”
“Ivie froze at the sound of the deep, low voice. Later, much later, she would remember most clearly not the moment she looked into his eyes, but rather the split second before she did. And that was because, when you were falling from a great distance, spinning and turning in mid-air, uncertain of your chances of surviving the landing, the thing that was even more vivid than when you hit was the last moment before consequence owned you.
His eyes were so pale a green that they were almost white, nothing but a black border to prove he wasn’t some kind of deity fallen to earth. And he was a vampire just like her, his scent heady and full of spice, not anything that came in a cologne bottle. Hair was black and on the long side, pushed back from his forehead in waves. Shoulders were broad and strong. Clothes were expensive, but not showy.
Those lips were…
“Her name is Ivie,” Rubes spoke up. “And she doesn’t have a boyfriend!”
Ivie felt her eyes bulge even before the embarrassment hit, but she recovered enough to look the guy fully in the face. “Just so you know, I pay my cousin to make me feel like a two-day-old truck-stop sandwich. It’s a bizarre relationship, but it keeps her off the streets and my ego in check.”
“There was a heartbeat of pause, as if that were the last thing in the world he expected her to say. No doubt he was used to beauty queens who blinked their fake eyelashes and fluffed their hair at every word he spoke, and assuming that was what he was into, he was going to find her—
The male threw his head back and laughed.
The rolling sound was so attractive, all kinds of people looked over, the human men and women captivated by him.
Just as she was.
When his eyes came back to level, he was smiling widely, flashing fangs that were probably only noticeable to members of the species, although she got the idea he didn’t care one way or the other.
“Fair enough,” he murmured. “May I buy you a drink?”
“I have one—”
“Absolutely!” Rubes got off her stool and pulled her wool coat on. “And she lives alone, so you should make sure she gets home safe.”
Ivie rubbed her forehead and wondered if you could disown a relative you weren’t financially responsible for. “Since when did you become a Tinder app?”
Looking over her shoulder, Ivie watched Rubes bounce out the door, all that red hair making her think of Merida from that Disney movie.
So here’s a question, she thought. If you put her on Valium, would those follicles relax?
“How about I just take her seat while you finish what you’ve got?”
Ivie shook herself. “Ah…yeah, sure. But I’m not good at this.”
“You haven’t spilled on yourself yet.”
“He nodded at her vodka tonic. “If the ‘this’ you’re talking about is drinking, in the short time I’ve known you, I’ve found you quite competent.”
“How is it you’re still tall even though you’re sitting down?”
There was another pause. And then he laughed again. “Do you always say anything that’s on your mind.”
“Pretty much. Although I managed to keep the Valium comment to myself out of respect for Rubes.”
Ivie waved a hand. “Nothing. So tell me, what’s an aristocrat like you doing in a human place like this? I thought your kind only socialized with itself.”
As his stare narrowed, she thought, Gotcha.
A couple more comments like that and he was going to huff off and leave her to Uber home in peace. #perfect.
Or…#inevitable might be more like it.