The year is 1811, and the vampire Beatrix Lisse has spent six hundred years trying to atone for her sins. Yet she can't forget the one man she loved many centuries ago--until she meets John Staunton, the Earl of Langley. John is London's most notorious rogue, but he sees an innocence in Beatrix that she no longer believed existed. Beatrix can't bring herself to reveal her true nature to John, even after they surrender to their fierce passion. It's only after John abandons Beatrix that she learns he has a secret of his own.
LEADS TO LOVE THAT BURNS ETERNAL
An undercover spy for England, John's mission is to find out who is behind the sudden shift in power in the French government. If he allows himself to get too close to Beatrix, John knows he'll put her life in danger. But the person John seeks is none other than Beatrix's centuries-old rival. With the world unraveling around them, John and Beatrix unite to fight a nemesis whose fury has no limit--even as their unquenchable passion grows more dangerous by the day.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.72(d)|
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THE VALLEY OF THE LOIRE, GAUL, 1180
The man lay naked on the thick Turkey carpet woven in intricate red and gold, sweating with his exertions. His body gleamed in the firelight. Beatrix watched Asharti run fingers through his blond hair and pull his head back. The baring of his throat, corded with muscle, inflamed her partner within. She trembled with its demands.
Asharti caught her eye, laughing, beckoning. “Will you sample him?” she asked in that low, throaty voice that spoke of heat and sand. Her nose was long and straight, her eyes dangerous black pools lined with kohl, her lips full and her body lithe and golden. Anyone would call her beautiful. Asharti wore a heavy red velvet robe meant to protect from the damp in this remote outpost left by the Romans, but tonight in front of the fire it hung open to reveal heavy breasts with prominent, dusky nipples peaked with excitement.
Beatrix looked down at the muscled male body. An English knight who had wandered into the wrong village. His sex was heavy against his belly. His eyes, which should be sated, were fixed hungrily on Asharti as she stroked his hair. The rich smell of blood hung in the air.
Beatrix managed to shake her head, though her veins itched with need.
Asharti shrugged, a derisive smile curving her lips. The only woman who understood her dilemma let her kohl-lined eyes go red; red like her velvet robe.
LONDON, MARCH, 1811
Beatrix shivered, pulse throbbing. Sex and blood, intertwined. These were only memories. She mustn’t let them overwhelm her. She shook her head to clear it. So long ago. Those things happened to someone else, surely, not to her. Who was she? She looked around as if the answer lay in the sumptuous room. Men smoked cigarillos openly, talking and drinking an ’87 claret from her cellars under Venetian crystal chandeliers and paintings in heavy gilt frames. Her eyes fell upon the rounded lines of Regnault’s Venus. The figure seemed so sure, so calm. She took a breath, absorbing her certainty.
There. That was better. She blinked. Her name was Beatrix Lisse, Countess of Lente, these days and she was holding court as she did every Tuesday and Thursday in her stylish house in Berkeley Square. Most of influential London society was here, or the male half at least. Not one of them would say anything she had not heard a thousand times before. But never mind that. She pressed down the desperation. Surprising—it was desperation, wasn’t it?.
Several young men gazed up at her, their chairs drawn close to the chaise in which she lounged. Some faces shone with expectation bordering on rapture. Stupid creatures! They believed her reputation as a courtesan. Others frowned in concern. Those were the ones who noticed her distraction. Maybe it was the hunger that left her vulnerable. Better that than madness. She launched into speech as a defense against that thought.
“You promised me the most debauched man in England, Melly,” Beatrix accused the fashionable young fribble beside her. Perhaps a legendary rake would distract her from the darkness she felt growing inside her. “Where is he?” She leaned back with all the languid ease and mock annoyance they expected. They had no idea what real debauchery was, of course.
Apprehension fluttered through the circle. Their goddess was annoyed. Dressed in the silliest heights of fashion, they copied the Beau but failed to understand the extremity of his moderation. Their neck cloths were so enormous they could barely turn their heads. Their inexpressibles had ventured into pale yellow and dove gray. Behind the circle of unripe beaux were the prime movers of British society, ministers and lords, leaders of fashion, artists. They came for conversation, to drink champagne, and to be seen at Beatrix’s salon. All waited to exchange bon mots with the newest intellectual courtesan. Some wanted more. One might get more tonight, though not what he expected.
“He . . . he will be here, Countess,” the very rich and very impressionable Lord Melford promised. “He accepted the engagement before he left for his estates.”
“I do not think this nonpareil exists.” Beatrix let her mouth turn down.
“Oh, but he does,” Alvaney protested. “He has rooms at the Albany House. I live in Number Four, myself, and see him frequently.”
“And have you seen him?” Beatrix drawled. They mustn’t sense her anguish.
Alvaney looked stricken. “Damnme! Can’t say I have.”
Beatrix managed a shrug of displeasure. If it was her need that left her open to the wash of memory, she could take care of that tonight.
“I . . . I could recite verses, Countess, for your amusement.” Blendon’s cheeks flushed crimson. They were all so absurdly young.
“I have already heard your verses,” she said, surprised by her own gentleness.
“Ah, yes,” he said, his blush spreading. “Yes, you have.”
“They were quite nice.” They weren’t. But she liked the bashful ones sometimes. He wasn’t the body type she preferred, but that was all to the good. His figure was slight. He would be smooth chested, almost without hair. So, perhaps Blendon. Behind him, Castlereagh, the secretary of the Foreign Office, and the chief secretary of Ireland, Wellesley-Pole, brother of Wellington, were talking politics. Beatrix held up one white hand. “Mr. Castlereagh, I beg you, no more about the question of Catholic emancipation. If they are masochistic enough to want to stand for office, why not let them?” Two young men tittered.
“The answer to that question might tear the country apart,” Castlereagh protested darkly.
“Oh, I doubt that,” Beatrix sighed. “You’d be surprised how much it takes to tear a country apart.” Her task was to make it through the evening without another lapse.
“It is the milk shortage which is tearing my household apart,” Melford pouted. “The cook blames the housekeeper, who blames the tradesmen for hoarding.”
“Lady Wentworth says your complexion is the result of milk baths, Lady Lente,” Blendon ventured.
“Now ladies are buying up the entire supply of milk to bathe in it!” Melford cried.
Beatrix sighed. It was really so easy to become all the rage. “Actually, keeping out of the sun is more important.” Something interesting needed to happen here, something she had not seen a thousand times before, or she just might lose control again.
Blendon sat on a small footstool, gazing up at her. “Ladies are also pestering the perfumers for copies of your scent”.
“Cinnamon,” Lord Halmore said, joining the throng around her. “And something else. Will you tell us what?”
“That is my secret, my lord,” Beatrix murmured. The real secret? She wore no perfume.
Nights like this stretched ahead. Gaiety alone could not hold the barricade. Art had always been her refuge. She glanced around at the medieval tapestries, paintings, Roman glassware, Chinese ceramics in delicate shades of celadon. How long could art shelter her?
Perhaps Mirso Monastery was the only true refuge for such as she was. The thought depressed her. She had never thought to come to that. But Mirso was better than madness.
Wellesley-Pole opened his mouth. He was going to take the conversation back to politics. She couldn’t bear it. “Gentlemen, I have the headache. Do excuse me.” She rose, whispered in Symington’s ear, and withdrew, leaving shocked glances behind her. It would only fuel their desire to be invited back. The need in her veins ratcheted up a notch.
In the small sitting room that held her favorite paintings, her most treasured books, Beatrix steadied herself. Dawn in two hours. The last guests tottered to their carriages. The knocker rattled as the door closed. She heard it all clearly. Symington announced Blendon.
“Now, dear Blendon, we can be alone.” She needed to get on with it. Time grew short.
Blendon blushed to the roots of his hair. “You . . . you honor me.”
“Will you come up and help me take down my hair?” To be admitted to her boudoir to watch her toilette was a mark of distinction. To be chosen to undo those preparations was nirvana to the lucky man selected, because he thought his goal was at hand. It wasn’t.
Blendon’s eyes grew round. He nodded eagerly. He would have heard the legends of her lovemaking abilities. Those legends gave her power. She trailed toward the great front staircase. Several discreet servants doused lamps. Darkness stalked them as Blendon followed her.
Beatrix felt the hunger ramping up inside her. She had denied her need for too long. That was her only problem. She picked up a branch of candelabra from a rococo side table. Shadows flickered across tapestries of hunting scenes, making fear flutter in the cornered roebuck’s eyes and the saliva dripping from the hounds’ teeth gleam. She could hear blood pounding in Blendon’s throat. His breathing grew uneven in anticipation. He could never guess what would actually happen here tonight. If he did, he would run screaming into the street.
The desperation that hunted her lived in her memories of Asharti’s evil and Stephan Sincai’s teachings, surely, though she hadn’t seen either of them in centuries. She didn’t understand. Had she not spent her life fighting against becoming like Asharti? Always, when she fed, Asharti’s evil closed in, urging her to let desire intermingle with the blood. But she didn’t. She wasn’t like Asharti. Not anymore. Still, in spite of her resistance the darkness gathered round her. She held out her candle against it, but the darkness was strong. It had consumed countless others. In the end, it would win out.
Beatrix pulled aside the heavy draperies and peered down into the square, calm now that her need was filled. The dawn turned the edges of the night to luminescent gray. Blendon stood in the street clad only in his shirt, looking bewildered. That would add to her reputation. They were so suggestible. She suggested that they had made ecstatic love. His imagination would fill in the details. They had not. She had not made love to a man in what, six hundred years? To think they all thought her a courtesan! That was rich. The longing for the act itself had become a distant impression, not even a memory. She let the heavy fabric fall, her protection against the coming sun, and turned into the room. At least she was safe from the memories, temporarily. But that thought alone seemed to spring a catch inside her, and memory flooded her . . .
The dress was red, not a virginal girl’s dress at all. She glowed with pride as she smoothed her hands over the fine wool covering the budding swells on her chest. “Thank you, Mother,” she whispered. It was a marvelous gift, a symbol of passage into womanhood.
“Yes, well.” Her mother glanced at her and away. “Fripperies, no more.”
Theirs was the biggest house inside the walls of a medieval city clustering around a port where ships from far-flung places unloaded their cargoes and their money. The stone walls were hung with tapestries to keep the cold out. Bea watched her mother as she sat at her toilet. The golden light of the smoking oil lamps made the room seem warm, even if it wasn’t. Mothers just looked like mothers and it was hard to tell if they were beautiful. But she had heard many men say her mother was beautiful, so she knew it was true. She wanted to grow up to be just like her.
Bea’s mother brushed her own lustrous dark hair until it gleamed. “You’re growing breasts, Bea.” It sounded like an accusation.
Bea shrugged to put off guilt. But the facts were hard to deny.
“Soon you ’ll be changing.” Her mother’s voice was hard.
“How, changing?” Bea asked in a small voice.
Her mother rose, rustling the heavy fabric of her trailing dress against the rushes on the floor. She looked down at Bea as though transfixed, then suddenly turned away and went to her jewel box. It was made of carved wood from the lands around the sea far away to the south. Her voice trailed back over her shoulder as she said, “It is time for me to move on.”
Bea cocked her head. “What do you mean, Mother?”
“Our kind moves on every twenty or thirty years,” her mother said with seeming carelessness. She hooked large, lustrous pendant pearls through her ears.
“People begin to notice that we never age after we reach maturity.”
Aging meant nothing to Bea. She was fourteen. “Where will we go?” Bea had never known a place other than Amsterdam. Was it possible to uproot oneself and just . . . move?
Her mother looked sharply at her and then away again. “Somewhere else.”
Bea knew that tone. She dared not press. Her mother’s moods frightened her.
Her mother glanced up. “Oh, don’t look so like a rabbit, Bea,” she snapped. Then she continued, muttering, “You will soon find out that is not what you are.”
“What am I?” Bea whispered, hoping the question made her seem less like a rabbit.
Her mother became brisk. “I have kept you to yourself, but surely you’ve noticed that you are not like other children. Or like Marte?” Bea just looked up, wide-eyed. Her mother threw up her hands. “No scabbed knees? No sickness of any kind? God knows you’re such a little ruffian you must have realized you are stronger, you run faster than others? You can hear things they can’t hear, see in the dark where they can’t.”
Bea said nothing. She did know she was different. She had been ashamed of it for some time now. Marte called her a boy because she was so strong.
Her mother looped a rope of pearls around her neck. It fell over breasts exposed by the deep square neckline of her aubergine velvet dress. She sighed in exasperation. “Well. You’ll learn. The way we all learn. I was never made for this sort of thing, you know.”
What sort of thing did she mean?
“Who was to know I’d be saddled with you? None of us has had a child in as long as any can remember. Why me? I can’t . . .” She was growing angry. Bea shuffled from foot to foot, anxious. “Oh, never mind. Get to bed. I’m going out.” Her mother’s throat seemed full.
Bea saw not only the familiar anger in her mother’s eyes but something else. Shame? Fear? Bea’s eyes widened for only an instant before she whirled to obey, her dress shushing through the rushes. She ran for her room. What had she seen in her mother’s eyes?
She lay down in her fine red dress that night but sleep was far away.
Beatrix stared at the high bed in Berkeley Square, still tumbled from Blendon’s ecstatic experience of giving. That night so many centuries ago was the last time she saw her mother. She came home from church the next morning to find Marte dead, her mother gone. It was not surprising to her now. Her mother was ill equipped to deal with a child, let alone the turbulence puberty brought to their kind. A tiny flash of anger flared in Beatrix’s breast. Could her mother not have left Marte as solace for her daughter during the terrible transition that came after? But perhaps Marte was doomed anyway. Better that Marte died at her mother’s hands than Beatrix’s.
Why did she remember that night with her mother now? Maybe that night was the beginning. She thought it was Stephan and Asharti, and the terrible time that followed. But maybe it had begun with her mother’s . . . disinterest. She squeezed her eyes shut. That began the diminishment of her soul. What was left of her? And was whatever left of her worth fighting to preserve against the darkness?
She tried to brush away the thoughts as though they were cobwebs. Dawn always made her melancholy. She clutched her bloodred wrapper around her and crawled into the great bed, hoping slumber would protect her against her memories.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1811 Earl John Staunton and Countess Beatrix Lisse are lovers who each keep a dark secret from their companion. John, known as the most depraved rogue in England, is actually a spy working for the British Empire trying to identify who is the force working behind the scenes shaking up the French government. On the other hand, Beatrix is a six century plus old vampire, but the rarest form of this species having been born that way. John and Beatrix are beginning to fall in love, feelings neither desire as he knows that she will hurt his espionage work and she realizes the disparate life spans make a permanent relationship impossible. As their worlds further collide with his mission near resolution, complicating the situation is that her ¿sister¿ Asharti, a bitten vampire, has returned into Beatrix¿s life. She wants her bloodsucking sister to join her as they once were in a world of sensual male eating debauchery while being the real power in France and soon England. Beatrix refuses knowing that she and John will fight in ¿mortal¿ combat the raging amoral Asharti. --- This is a strong paranormal historical romance that grips the audience from the moment that Asharti returns to upset the happiness of the lead couple and never slows down until the final confrontation between the trio. In an intriguing way, she forms a dangerous relational triangle with Beatrix and John. Susan Squires provides a fresh romantic vampiric thriller that sub-genre fans will appreciate. --- Harriet Klausner
the book is not about the secondary character Stephan but he is mention briefly. it was a love story of Beatric and John, but her first love was Stephan. to me he was the man that Beatric wanted but could not have. he saved her when she was young and taught her who she was and the role of the Companion the blood of life. Beatrix was born to vampire while Asharti was made. Both of them would play a role to the idealist f Stephan wanting to prove to the Elders who made the rules that both could add to there kind in society and made did not need to be killed. He was in love with Beatrix but his love for her was doom because he regarded her and Asharti as an precious treasure and you might say an experiment. As time went on he became the mentor and lover to both girls. he wanted to love Asharti as he did Beatrix but could not because of the darkness growing within. Asharti was jealous and hated Stephan because he adore Beatrix and not her. in time Beatrix learned that Asharti was the other woman that he had a sexual relationship with besides her. She felt used and betrayed by him and then when he explain why he had chosen her for his experiment then she felt he put nails into her heart. She had no choice but to leave him so Asharti and her took off on their own. My heart was sad as i related to all the characters that Susan Squire wrote about. there is good and evil in the world and sometimes we can stop it and sometimes not. there are choices in life that is made that makes us what we are. I am afraid Stephan made the wrong choices concerning his feelings towards Beatrix. He lived a life of pain and sorrow for 700hundred years and even then when he saw Beatrix again he could not tell her the truth in how he felt. i read this book a dozen times searching for meaning for the actions and words that he had said. Why he was so despess after both girls left him? i could not decide if the loved Beatrix or not. Why did he tell Asharti his plan and not Beatrix. i read this book like any other book but for some reason i was pulled into it and my mind would not rest over Stephan. This is the love story of Stephan but his thougths were not mention in the flashback that Beatrix which i would of like to have seen. i would of like more detail and his thoughts while making love to both girls. i waited for the next book to come out hoping his true story of his feelings and desire would be mention. i search the next checking for any write up just to see if the flashbacks were there and maybe then i would understand. i would recommend this book if you like vampires, the sexual scences were awlful with Asharti as she grew more border in the blood of while having sex. she card nothing for the human race and was nothing more then food. Romance story, not really but if you are a romance person i hope you fall in love with Stephan.