"Dark, magical, and delicious!" New York Times Bestselling Author C. L. Wilson
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HUNGERthe vampire legacy
By KAREN E. TAYLOR
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Kensington Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI stood at the window, staring at the late night streets. All too soon there would be those first tentative walkers, anonymously muffled against the chilled morning air. They would be joined by others, growing bolder and more confident in their destinations. I thought myself thankful I would not have to join them.
I turned and surveyed the room. The remains of the work of the last month lay strewn around the suite: discarded papers and sketches, emptied wine bottles and brimming ashtrays. "God, what a wreck," I said aloud. The echo of my voice, in a room that had been so long silent, startled me. For the past month, I had lived on room service, solitude and my work.
The final results of this feverish month were neatly stacked and labeled for my secretary Gwen to pick up in the morning. Gwen was anxious to see the new summer line; her enthusiasm was almost overwhelming. It was her wide-eyed approach to life that caused me to hire her. All city people must have seemed odd to her then. In our initial contact I must have appeared as one of them; powerful, polished and no less eccentric or inapproachable. If after ten years she realized my life style was more bizarre than most, she let no condemnation of it affect our friendship.
The answering machine light beckoned me, but I decided that the phone messages could wait until after I showered and slept. It was far too long since I had attended to personal needs, so immersed was I in my designs. I laughed to myself about how I would appear to the fashion world at this moment. Disheveled and unkempt, I couldn't be that same person known for her elegant and romantic fashions, her fastidious attention to details. "You're old enough to know better," I addressed my mirrored image and appraised the damage done as I removed my jeans and shirt. I distrusted mirrors; one of my greatest fears, especially after one of my extended work periods, was that I would fade away to nothing. I was pleased to find that I was not as insubstantial as I felt; I was perhaps thinner and paler than usual, but still very much alive. I turned out the light, removed my contact lenses and stepped into the shower.
Some light filtered into the room from the hall, just enough so that I could see small tufts of steam rising. A hot shower had always been an almost religious experience for me; I enjoyed the feel of the water flowing over my body, relaxing, caressing and renewing. A new twist, in these later years, was the almost pitch blackness of the bathroom, a condition once made necessary by my extremely light-sensitive eyes. Now with new and improved contacts, I could shower in the light, but I had found the combination of darkness and water so intimate and sensuous that I could not bear to violate their union.
Afterwards, I wrapped myself in a towel and prepared the suite for my sleep. The outer rooms would need to be left single locked only, so that the hotel staff could get in. Whoever has tomorrow's shift will have quite a job, I thought to myself, remembering the condition of the room, but shrugged the guilt away knowing that sleep was what I needed most.
Picking up my lenses from the bathroom, I entered the bedroom and triple locked the door behind me. Only I had a complete set of three keys in my possession; the hotel had one of them, Gwen had a second and Max had the third. Privacy in sleep is essential to me. I closed the blinds, pulled the heavy drapes shut and crawled into bed. It was almost sunrise.
"Please, God, no dreams," I prayed. I felt my body relax, and I slept.
My slumber was burdened by interruptions that day; I felt, rather than heard, the sounds of life all around me. The cursing of the maid cleaning the outer rooms, Gwen's tentative knock and entry, the rustling of pages and her call of "sleep well," as she left, the traffic from outside and the elevator bell further down the hall, even the insistent whirr of the telephone answering machine; all these noises filtered into my sleeping consciousness. I wondered if people in a coma felt this way, semi-aware of life continuing around them, but powerless to make a response. I envisioned myself, lying on my back on the bed, eyes wide open yet seeing nothing, seemingly dead. A moment of panic ensued; if I should die, how long would it take to be discovered? Almost as soon as the thought entered my head, I dismissed it. I was not dead, and although there was a time when I desired death, it would not come now.
Eventually the sounds ceased and sleep came, magically deep. When I finally awoke, I perceived that the sun had already set. The noise from outside seemed sharper and more distinct; the smell of the air crisp and cold. The alarm clock read 6:30 P.M. I stretched, yawned, and listened to the wind buffeting the windows. As I listened, I became aware of my growing hunger. Once recognized, it threatened to overwhelm me, an engulfing need that must be met soon. It had been too long, I knew. I needed music and talk, a drink, a man. I would find all these things at Max's.
Unlocking the bedroom door, I went into the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet, I found another pair of lenses, dark amber, as close to my original eye color as could be found. They would be fine for tonight, enough to shield my eyes from headlights and barlights. My needs urgently prodded me as I washed, brushed my teeth and applied my makeup. My hair, snarled from the day's sleep, took longer to comb than I wished. The blood in my veins pounded the count of each endless second. It took no time to choose my clothes; I knew what it would be. "Black leather," I smiled to myself. "For Max."
Before I called the doorman to arrange for a cab I checked the mirror. The black leather jeans were supple and tight, like a second skin, but the lace blouse softened the effect. I wore high heels to enhance my height of 5'3"—I liked to look people in the eyes. My hair, a deep auburn, almost mahogany, curled around my face and fell below my shoulders. My skin was pale, almost translucent, but the makeup helped to disguise this pallor. One final critical glance in the mirror told me that I looked good, even better than I should. I removed my coat from the closet, the one I called my wolf coat; the fur was shaggy and coarse and the color was a shadowy gray. It was a huge fashion success for me last season. I put it on and went for the phone.
I was surprised that when I picked it up there was someone already on the other end. "Yes?" I said, my voice rough and my manner abrupt.
"Deirdre, where have you been? I've been trying to reach you for weeks. What's the use of that damn answering machine if you never listen to the tape?"
"Sorry, Max," I said indulgently. "I've been working."
"Your obsession with your work will kill you one day. I know you haven't been taking care of youself. Get over here now and I'll fix you up. But hurry, we close early tonight. It's Thanksgiving, you know."
I didn't know. "I'm calling the cab now," I said, hanging up and then dialing the doorman.
He greeted me as I got off the elevator. "Miss Griffin, the cab will be here in a few minutes. I'd advise you to wait in the lobby as it's a very cold night."
I didn't mind the cold, but I smiled my acceptance at his suggestion. The smile was all the encouragement he needed. "You've not been out for a while. Are you well?" He had perfected the obsequious manner, courteous yet subservient, and the hotel patrons tipped him well.
I was no exception. In fact, I had become even more generous with the staff since I began hearing the whispers about me. Innuendos and speculative comments about aspects of my life had begun to filter through partially closed doors. This always made me nervous, almost paranoid, so I tipped well. I discovered that people would be unlikely to ask questions or turn on you if you did. "Never bite the hand that feeds you," I murmured to myself.
"Miss Griffin?" he questioned. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm sorry, Frank, I was thinking of something else. I'm fine. I've just been working too hard."
The cab pulled up to the front door; he ushered me outside and into the backseat. I thanked Frank and instructed the driver, "The Ballroom, please."
Over ten years ago, Max had purchased a small nightclub in midtown. He had christened it the "Ballroom of Romance" and had retained me to provide the decor. Thrilled at the prospect of leaving a bad situation, I jumped at the chance. We decided on a Victorian approach; lace and hearts, black and white silk wallpaper, heavy fringe on the small lamps adorning the walls. The dance floor was surrounded by the bar and individual heart-shaped tables. It became one of the most popular clubs in town, an instant success for Max and for me. My services were suddenly very much in demand and after several years of interior design work, I was able to move into my first love, clothing. I could never quite believe my good luck, and always suspected that Max was much more involved in my initial jobs than he would admit. Over the years we had become the best of friends; he became my sole confidant and knew everything about me. His understanding of my needs and desires and his sympathy for my problems were boundless. I would have married him, but he never asked.
"Hey, lady, there's a crowd. Want to go somewhere else?" I came out of my reverie at the sound of the cabdriver's voice.
"No thank you," I said with confidence, consulting the meter. "They're expecting me."
"Suit yourself," he said after I paid him.
There was a crowd, even on Thanksgiving. My stomach tightened with an anxious anticipation; I hoped Max told them I was coming. I should not have worried though, for Larry was there to greet me at the door.
"Miss Griffin, so nice to see you." He smiled, and as his handsome face lit up with that smile, I regretted my promise to Max not to fraternize with his employees.
"Thank you, Larry. It's nice to see you, too."
"We have your regular table reserved. Just follow me." He parted the crowd and I watched the way his body moved as he walked in front of me. The smell of his cologne floated back to me and I inhaled it appreciatively. Of course, Max was right; I came here too often to get involved with the help. So, although tempting, Larry was off limits.
"What a shame." I sighed as I sat at the table. Then, loudly enough to be heard over the music, I ordered my usual—a special burgundy Max kept reserved for me. I lit a cigarette while I waited, and began to watch the dancers. The dance floor was crowded with the usual types: mostly rich and bored young people anxious to show off their latest fashions and their latest lovers. Some, however, were people who had saved for months to be here this evening. I could tell who they were by their clothes and by their obvious delight of finally being here. They were continually glancing around, to find any celebrity they could. They must be disappointed, I thought as I looked around the club myself. Since it was Thanksgiving, the most famous and glamorous had better things to do. Still there were a few, who like me had no family or friends with which to celebrate the occasion. God, I thought bitterly, how I hate holidays.
The band changed to a slow plaintive love song. One of Max's rules was that out of every musical set only two songs could be fast. The rest had to fit the club's theme—romance. "People come here to grope and grab," he told me in one of his cynical moods. "They will do things on the dance floor they would never do anywhere else but in the privacy of their own homes." He was right, of course. You could almost feel the heat exuding from the dancers. Some couples barely moved, so engrossed were they in the fit and feel of each other's bodies. Other nights this exhibitionist behavior offended me; tonight it merely intensified my mood. Max would come through for me, and provide a vibrant young body I could grasp and caress, while anticipating the final moment of rapture and release. I could, for a short time, be like one of the people on the dance floor.
I jumped, startled by the hand suddenly placed on my shoulder. I spun around in my seat to find Max standing there, an apologetic look on his face and my wine in his hand. He set the wine on the table, and brushed the hair from my neck to deposit a light, teasing kiss on the nape of my neck. I shuddered and he moved away. "Please don't," I said, smiling to remove some of the sting of the words and the shudder, "you know how ticklish I am."
"Sorry, love. I was just thinking how lovely your neck is. You should wear your hair up." He sat in the chair next to mine, a challenge in his eyes. I didn't want to rehash the same old arguments tonight, didn't want to get involved in the discussions of how Max thought I should dress or style my hair, or even live my life. I looked away and ground out my cigarette. He received no response; my silence was answer enough.
"I know," he said, sounding chastened, "you like it that way. Let's just drop it, shall we?" I looked up from my study of the wine. He was dressed in a black tuxedo impeccably tailored and correct, accentuating the lean but muscular body underneath. His teeth were white and even, and his hands, resting on the table, were strong. His dark hair, I knew, was becoming streaked with grey at the temples, although his face showed no sign of aging. It saddened me to think of Max growing old; how could I survive without him?
"You've been away too long, Deirdre." His teasing manner was gone and his concern for me showed on his face. "You should stop doing this to yourself. You look ghastly. I know your work is important, but you've got to live a little, too. If you're not careful, you'll lose your touch. I don't think you can exist very long as a hermit."
"No, I suppose not," I admitted to him. Sometimes, I felt that Max knew my needs better than I did. "So, what do you have lined up for tonight?"
"A tasty little number that I think you will enjoy immensely. I'll bring him over and introduce him now." With a graceful ease, he rose from the table, hugged me briefly and left. I watched him work his way through the crowd, speaking to several people on the way. Max was a lot like me; he too had many acquaintances but very few friends.
I drank my wine while I waited for his return. The wait seemed long, but in reality was only a few minutes. He soon arrived, bearing two glasses of wine, followed by my partner for the evening.
"Deirdre Griffin, meet Bill Andrews." Max never showed any jealousy of the men he introduced to me. They were carefully screened by him, he knew all about their careers, their habits, their personal lives. I knew that he had spent hours behind the bar questioning this man, delicately prying into his life. He was most likely married, or engaged, but looking for one night of excitement. Max and I both knew that no commitments would be formed; the way he set everything up ensured it. And I wanted it that way.
I smiled up at Bill. "It's nice to meet you," I purred, playing my part to the hilt. "Max has told me so much about you."
"And he told me about you, but he should have warned me how beautiful you were. I might just fall in love." The words were insincere, I knew; I had heard them all before, too many times. Suddenly I was overwhelmingly tired, sick of the entire situation, the seedy little drama acted out weekly here in the Ballroom of Romance.
"Deirdre?" Max was glaring down at me, an expression of warning on his face. "Are you feeling okay?"
I looked at the two of them standing there expectantly and suppressed my unexpected emotional reaction. "I'm fine, thank you, Max." I smiled at Bill and gestured to the chair recently vacated by Max. "Please, sit down."
As Bill did so, Max politely excused himself with a twisted smile. "Well, I've got a business to run. Enjoy yourselves."
Now that we were alone, I had no other option but to proceed as I normally would. I looked over at Bill and smiled again, hoping that my sudden disgust hadn't been too obvious. This was my life now and I could never turn back. It is too late, I admonished myself, for an attack of conscience. Too late to worry about how this evening would affect his life, his family. Too late for anything but this.
He returned my smile and I realized what a good choice Max had made for this evening; he certainly knew my taste in men. Youthful and attractive, but not devastatingly so, Bill Andrews was pleasant, unassuming and waiting for me to make the first move. I usually preferred being the predator, but tonight, for some reason beyond my understanding, I had no taste for the hunt. Maybe Max was right; I was losing my touch. I reached for another cigarette and as he lit it for me, I saw his wedding band gleam in the flame. In that instant, my heart hardened and I abandoned my rueful thoughts. He was just another bastard looking for some action. And, I thought vehemently as I gave him an appraising stare, he would get some.
Excerpted from HUNGER by KAREN E. TAYLOR Copyright © 2011 by Kensington Publishing. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I initially wanted to review this book because of it's exquisite cover. I'm a sucker for book covers!! They say you can't judge a book by it's cover but when dealing with actual books that's how it ends up in your hand. I thought if the cover of this book had me at first glance then I can only imagine how the inside can be. So I got in touch with the author and to my surprise she agreed to let me review it. I was so excited!! It's taken me a long while to get in the mood of reading again but finally I did. So this past Friday I started reading HUNGER and, to be honest, when I first started to read it I was a little unsure if I would like it. After the second chapter I found that I just couldn't put it down!!! I was sucked in with every page I turned like it beckoned to me. I grew to know the characters as if they were a real part of my own life. If I absolutely love a book I get lost in the world that lives between the covers, and let me tell you, I was completely lost. the twists and turns in this book are breathe taking! You can try to figure it out but will never know for sure until you turn the last page and even then you're still left wondering. Karen did a fabulous job in making this book worth reading. If I could give this book a higher rating I so would!! This book just isn't a "MUST READ" it's a "MUST HAVE" so you can read it over and over again!! I highly recommend that you buy it if you are at all into paranormal romance or vampires. The love between the two characters is like the love every woman wants but not every woman is lucky enough to get. I want to Thank Karen for letting me review this AMAZING book!! I can't wait to read the next and so on!!! THANK YOU!!
A thick volume that pulled me in from page one and had me filled with suspense. There was just the right elements of romance, danger, suspense, thrill, misdirection and even comedy at times. Hunger is the first two of the Vampire Legacy series books written by Karen E. Taylor and I can already say that she has gotten me hooked and wanting more. Already I am driving my family insane as I look for the second novel and talk about how pleased I was with the reading. I even found myself pulled in during dinner and must apologize to my family for burning their croissants something that I try not to do ;). The characters were individuals and thankfully no two were just alike. Though some had similarities it was pleasant to see that the writer took the time to develop each one and not let them fall through the cracks. I want to know more about Dorothy/Dierdra and Mitch. I want to know more of how Chris comes to terms with his fathers choices. We all hate Larry and want him to die and even want to see what happens with the other numerous characters that make you fall in love when you start to read this wonderful adaption. Further, more I can't express enough how please I am with Karen for taking the steps to make sure that this novel was not just another over sex filled supernatural romance but an actual universe that I can't wait to see further developed.
"HUNGER" BY KAREN E. TAYLOR I have long found myself in love with Kelley Armstrong's writing style and I have never really been much of a first person POV lover, but I have to say that Karen E. Taylor has changed that. I find her writing almost reminiscent of Kelley's but from the main character's POV. The story caught me from the beginning and kept me deeply rooted until the end. It has a surprising storyline that you don't expect and leads you on quite the paranormal adventure. The love scenes are tastefully written and not over the top like so many paranormal authors out there today. Not that I don't love a good hot romp every now and then but I found it refreshing that Karen did not take the scenes too far and used just enough to whet the appetite and ignite the imagination. I definitely recommend this book and give it the highest rating of 5 stars. For those of you that truly enjoy a good paranormal/vampire story pick up Karen's books, I have no doubt at all that you'll enjoy them as much as I did. Kitty Bullard / Great Minds Think Aloud
I love vampire fiction and this is one series and author I was not familiar with before, but I am now and very happy that I am. This is the first two books in her series being re-released and they are great. The stories are well written with a likeable heroine that you really feel bad for since she was forced into a life she believes is a curse without anyone else around her understanding or even able to really talk to about the difficulties of her life. She has Max, her one time lover and closest friend but she feels even he doesnt understand. Deirdre does not know who made her a vampire and would love to meet him in order to kill him for turning her into the creature she is. Along the way she meets and falls in love with a human - Mitch. A detective investigating her for a series of murders, where the victims are all drained of blood and had at least a passing acquaintance with her. All people she met while at the club Max owns. Without trying to give major spoilers. The stories flow and are easy to read while keeping your involved and wanting to know what happens next. Deirdre's decisions dont always seem the best choice but you can never fault her logic. You want to know if she will find her maker and what she will do when that happens. And you want to know if she will choose Max, who she has known and trusted for years. Or Mitch the human she finds herself falling for. The books are great for any vampire fiction lover. They have great settings and characters. And the second book, while taking place 2 years after the first bridges that gap successfully. Filling you in on what happened during that time while progressing the story. I am looking forward to reading more in this series.
This is a true testament to "not judging a book by it's cover" which is far better than the book itself. The storyline is average and often times monotonous. Honestly I felt at times this book is something an advanced high school student or college student could have written. I was hoping for more but no depth to the "drama".
Hunger consists of two books, Blood Secrets and Bitter Blood (originally published 1994). I have tried not to include spoilers but the second book, Bitter Blood does contain a few from Blood Secrets. Blood Secrets (The Vampire Legacy, #1)In Blood Secrets we are introduced to Deidra Griffin, owner of Griffin Designs. She is a vampire that has been around for 100+ years. She has never met her maker and has lived her entire existence thinking she was the only vampire around. Ten years ago she met a man named Max and she shared her secret with him. Max now the owner of Ballroom of Romance has helped Deidra with her undead life by supplying donors for her. Deidra has always struggled with the taking of blood from her victims. She abhors it but knows she must otherwise she turns into a crazed animal. Murder begin happening around her and usually they are her latest donors. The victims are found drained of blood with two puncture wounds in their neck. The lead detective Mitchell Greer falls hard for Deidra and Deidra for him but she is the main suspect right now. Deidra knows that she isn't the murderer but now she definitely she isn't the only vampire out there and she must find him first. In the end it is the ultimate betrayal that opens Deidra's eyes to the violence that a vampire can really bring upon those around them. Bitter Blood (The Vampire Legacy #2)In Bitter Blood we flash forward to two years later. Deidra has left town and is currently living in England starting a new life. She has left Mitch behind and hopes that he will move on with his life. She is still haunted by the betrayal of Max and the horrors of what Larry did. But now Chris, Mitch's son has come pleading for Deidra to come home. Mitch needs her help. He is being tormented by vampires appearing to him and now he is an insane asylum. Deidra must face the past but in taking this step she now must face the The Cadre who will pass judgment upon Deidra for her hand in killing Max. Hunger fell short for me. I didn't connect with any of the characters and I found the main character Deidra very shallow and one dimensional. She doesn't grow from book one to book two and I couldn't believe that she has lived over 100 years but still doesn't learn anything. She still can't seem to come to grips with having to drink blood and for some reason she still just can't believe that there are more vampires then just she. Mitch's character is pretty typical. He is absolutely in love with Deidra and flies off the handle every time she speaks to another man. I found that I was able to guess who the bad guy was so in the end it wasn't much of a revelation. Very PG-13 for the most part and just didn't work for me.