Eternal commitment is not on her agenda…but time's running out for the king of the vampires. Can these fated mates come to an agreement, or will they fight destiny tooth and nail to deny the sparks that fly between them?
Scorned by the vampire community for her lack of power, Isabel Anthony lives a carefree existence masquerading as human—although drifting after dark through the debauched human nightlife, she prefers the patrons' blood to other indulgences. But when she meets the sexy, arrogant king of the vampires—who is nothing but sweet temptation—this party-girl's life turns dark and dangerous.
Dead-set on finding the prophesied mate who will unlock his fiery powers, Thad Morgan must find his queen before their race is destroyed. Their enemies are gaining ground, and Thad needs his powers to unite his subjects. But when his search leads him to the defiant Isabel, he wonders if fate had gotten it seriously wrong…
About the Author
Elisabeth Staab still lives with her nose in a book and at least one foot in an imaginary world. She believes that all kinds of safe and sane love should be celebrated but she adores the fantasy-filled realm of paranormal romance the best. She loves to spend time with good friends, good music, good beverages, and good books (when she isn't making characters fall in love, that is). She lives with her family and one big scaredy-cat in Northern Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
"Jesus, T. What is this place?"
Thad Morgan scanned the sparse industrial interior of the massive warehouse turned dance club. From just inside the doorway, he passed his preternatural vision over the writhing crowd of humans. Most of the populace bounced in time to bass-heavy techno music, stopping only to grope their nearest neighbor. Some gazed upward in awe at a raised platform of fire-eaters, and still more worshipped at a DJ stand opposite the entrance as if it were an altar. A scrolling sign overhead announced something called the Crystal Method. The humans partied with abandon and apparently little regard for their eardrums.
"I think they call it a rave," Thad murmured to his friend.
And apparently at 3:00 a.m., the night was still young for the party kids in Orlando.
Thad's hands clenched and released. How were they going to do this? The club was friggin' huge and packed to the gills, from the crowded floor full of scantily clad dancers with glow sticks to the teeming balconies where couples and even groups were involved in more intimate acts such as massage and... whatnot. It was hard to fathom how in the hell they were going to find the female they were looking for in this place.
Already overheated, Thad pushed up the sleeves of his leather jacket and fingered the scar on his forearm, tracing slowly over the two intersecting lines that flared into a Y at each end, like a crude Armenian cross. The small patch of skin was even hotter than the rest of him and throbbed in time with the pounding electronic music that was drilling a hole in his skull. He could almost swear the scar was glowing, but the haze of laser lights and cigarette smoke made it tough to be certain.
"She's in here, Lee. I can feel it," he said tightly.
But what would his queen be doing in this... den of iniquity?
They had been traveling for weeks now, searching for the female who would, according to the prophecy, help him lead the vampire race. Finally, his senses told him that they were closing in. They had to be. The whole of their kind needed him to find her. He continued to look over the crowd, hoping for a sign to jump out at him from amidst all the sweaty bump-and-grind.
Next to him, Lee Goram also studied the undulating club-goers, not bothering to hide his disgust at the near-orgy playing out in front of him. It didn't seem to make sense: Thad had never been sure where their needle-in-a-haystack quest might lead them, but he hadn't expected a place like this.
Maybe he just didn't get out enough.
"I dunno, man," Lee grumbled. "This doesn't feel right. I smell at least four kinds of drugs. I see sweaty humans all but fucking on the dance floor. Doesn't exactly seem like the kind of place you'd find your destiny in."
Thad's aggravation was piqued, and he turned on Lee so that they were almost nose to nose. "I know, but I'm telling you, Lee, this thing on my arm is like a hot coal. That's gotta mean something."
Lee slowly hiked his shoulders in a vague shrug. "Maybe those Oracles are all just wacko. I mean, who knows what's up with that incense they burn, right? I've heard it's some kind of hallucinogen."
Thad leveled a glare at him. "You know, I realize it's gonna take time to adjust to our roles being reversed, but my nerves are pretty fried and all your negativity is not helping. You know as well as I do what's at stake here. So would you kindly stop the bullshit and help me look around?" A deep breath failed to untangle the giant knot in his stomach. The real bitch of it was that his father's advice would have meant the world right about now, but he and Lee might not have even been here if his parents were still alive.
Lee growled and waved away a glassy-eyed, glittery young thing who seemed intent on climbing him to give him a back rub. He clapped Thad on the shoulder. "All right. I've got your back, you cranky bastard. No one in here is wearing much of anything anyway, so it should be easy to look around. Just keep an eye out. I don't sense any danger but it'd be real easy to hide a wizard in here, and finding your queen doesn't mean dick if you get dead."
Isabel Anthony relaxed in a red velvet armchair in a dark corner of the VIP section of Club Insomniac. Her gaze met the dove-gray eyes of the blonde female who sat astride her lap, looking every bit as lovely as Botticelli's depiction of Venus.
She was the DJ from the last set. DJ... something...
Isabel was terrible with names. Great with humans, though. Cool air from a nearby vent skated over her skin, leaving a trail of tingles in its wake. It nicely accompanied the sensation of the female's deft fingers as they kneaded overwrought muscles in Isabel's shoulders. So relaxing, in fact, that the half-drunk glass of red wine dangling from Isabel's loose fingers nearly slipped to the floor.
The human kids had their party-favor club drugs: their weed and their meth and their little purple pills. For vampires, the sweet essence of red wine produced that lovey-dovey, buzzy high. The wine made it okay to crave connection with others.
She brought one hand to cradle Venus's jaw, swiping a thumb over an errant tear. "What's going on in there, sweetheart?"
The blonde didn't answer, but simply rolled her head back and sighed.
This was usually the best part of Isabel's evening. The one where she took an infinitesimal chip out of her lifetime supply of guilt over all the damage she had done by sharing comfort. By listening to tales of woe and trading back rubs. By being a friend that wouldn't be remembered in the morning. Because more than for the music or the drugs or the wicked-cool performance art, everyone in that club was there because they desperately needed to belong.
But she was restless tonight in spite of the mellowing effect of the red wine. Distraction was her middle name, and an odd ache in her lower back intensified with each passing minute despite the soothing shoulder rub from Venus. Isabel blew off the discomfort and returned her full attention to the human in her lap. Certainly the pain would abate soon, whatever it was. She was a fast healer like all of her kind, even if she did feed exclusively from humans.
Until then... Isabel set her wineglass on the floor and gently nudged the DJ off her lap so that they could trade places. "My turn, hon," she said quietly.
The blonde smiled sweetly when Isabel's hands worked their way under all that hair to reach the oft-overlooked muscles under the human's occipital ridge. Within minutes Venus's body went slack, head and neck dropping onto shoulders to fully expose a creamy column of throat. Canines extended, Isabel licked her lips and buried her face in the crook of the female's delicate neck. All the while, her hands never missed a beat.
Lee pushed past a Gordian knot of apparently malnourished and questionably legal females, none of whom seemed to know that they needed to pull their pants up to cover their thong underwear. Damn, he was ready to call it a night. Then again, he'd been ready to call it a night weeks ago.
As Thad's longtime friend and now bodyguard, he would maintain his vow to serve faithfully, but he was beginning to question the sanity of their mission. Even if the mate Thad sought was actually somewhere in this place, there were too many crowds and dark corners, and so far he and Thad had come up with exactly jack.
The risk of danger made him edgy. The telltale aura of malevolent evil given off by their enemy could easily be missed in this sort of environment. Speakers that towered over his six-foot-four frame seemed to be sprinkled about every few feet, and they were cranking out the kind of core-shaking vibrations usually produced by major construction equipment.
In Lee's personal opinion, Thad was putting too much weight on this prophecy business. Thad felt he couldn't rule properly if he didn't find his queen, but they were equally screwed if anyone found out that the newly ascended king was off on a wild-goose chase and technically nobody was at the helm just now.
They had taken all possible precautions to ensure a safe departure. They had even been teleported outside the zone of known wizard and vampire communities to avoid detection. Florida was far from home so the risk was minimal, but still the uncertainty bothered him. As he and Thad moved along a dark and narrow wrought-iron balcony-slowly, so as not to hip-check an unsuspecting party-girl right over the railing, Lee's hands remained poised in case he needed a weapon. The bouncers at the door had been easy to manipulate into letting them pass without being searched.
"Last floor." Thad's words at Lee's ear jarred him out of his thoughts. The balcony dead-ended at a steep roped-off stairway. Thad peered up into the murkiness and then stepped casually over the flimsy velvet-rope barrier. Lee followed suit.
"Good deal. And listen, man, if we turn up dry here, there are some restaurants and hotels on the block we can check out."
Thad nodded solemnly as they tromped up the stairs past the meatheads guarding what looked to be some kind of VIP area. Another brief flex of Lee's mind, and the guards didn't as much as glance in their direction.
Holy... mother. This area was a different animal altogether. Softer music and no dance floor to speak of, but lots of dark alcoves, a selection of top-shelf liquors, and a display of human behavior that made the activity on the main floor look practically G-rated. All around them on couches, chairs, and stretches of carpet were humans in different states of depravity. To Lee's left, a Goth girl was being trussed up on a pool table by a guy in shiny, black vinyl pants who obviously knew his way around the business end of a rope.
Only thing missing was a nervous pizza-delivery boy asking what he should do with his extra sausage. The only humans who were fully clothed were the bartender and the bouncers, all of whom seemed oblivious to the porn show going on around them.
Thad had stopped short. He made a slow 360 with his mouth agape. "This can't be right. I don't know, Lee. I'm beginning to wonder about this whole thing. I think I'm about ready to move on. Lee... Lee?"
Lee barely heard him. With his back to Thad, he stood in stunned silence, unable to move. His jaw worked back and forth while he tried to determine whether or not his eyes were playing tricks on him. Or if maybe the place was distributing psychedelics through the air vents. Holy cow...
"Lee... you okay, man?"
"I don't think you're going to want to leave just yet, Thad." He gestured to a chair full of girl-on-girl action in a dark corner across the room. No question, the dark-haired female in the driver's seat was into that blonde's neck like it was feeding time and she was starving. Shit, they had finally struck gold. Lee let out a bark of laughter. He couldn't help himself. "Okay, man. I know this isn't supposed to be funny, but dude... of all places..."
Thad flicked his eyes in the direction Lee had indicated, clearly not getting it. "Kind of hot, I guess, but I don't see the funny part."
Lee sobered up and cleared his throat. "No. Seriously, man. Look."
Thad swept his gaze over the scene that Lee had pointed to. Though he had gotten an instant soft-on from the muscleman by the bar wearing nothing but a leather thong and a dog collar, his dick woke up and took notice when his stare fixed on a pair of long, peaches-and-cream legs that disappeared under a plaid skirt that stopped just shy of broadcasting her preferred brand of underwear. Hands roamed, and the red-painted toes of the bottom female's bare feet curled tightly. While the angel-faced blonde arched her back and parted her lips in ecstasy, the pigtailed brunette lapped at her neck. And... ah, he would be damned if she wasn't feeding.
The realization kicked Thad's pulse into high gear. How on earth had he missed that before? Granted, he wouldn't have pegged her for a vampire at first. His own skin was a shade of dark tan, and contrary to the popular movies humans loved to scare themselves with, that pastel skin of hers was something of an anomaly. Thad stood rooted-mesmerized-while the blonde's fingernails dug hard into the naughty schoolgirl's skin, pushing up her cropped top, and suddenly there was no oxygen left in the room.
She bore the mark.
Nestled just above the schoolgirl's waistband in the small of her back, surrounded by a swirl of tattoos, was a scar identical to the one on his forearm. No question-it was the same crudely depicted cross that Thad had been seeing etched on his own skin for nearly a century. The mark that was, at that very moment, throbbing like it had its own pulse.
"Holy shit, Lee." Thad tried to lean against the nearest wall and wondered why the fucker was moving. No, wait... the entire room was moving. "Lee... this can't be happening. All the time we've been searching... I've pictured this moment happening a thousand different ways..."
Lee cracked another grin, the bastard. "Not like this?"
"Not. Even. A little."
"T, man, I've got to agree she's not what I might've thought you'd find. And this sure as hell isn't where I would have expected you to find her. So your Oracle didn't bother to mention your destiny digs the ladies?"
Jackass. Thad's future was hanging in the balance here, and his friend was cracking jokes. "You know, once I'm done picking my jaw up off the floor, I'm going to kick your ass or die trying for that comment."
"I'm sorry, buddy, but you've got to admit it's pretty surreal. Seriously, though, what's your next move?"
"I... I have no clue." Thad scrubbed his face with his hands and blinked rapidly at the female whose scar was supposed to mark her as his destined life mate, for God's sake, but the scene playing out didn't change. None of the ways Thad figured on approaching this seemed to mesh with the scenario he'd been handed. He could only hope that her gate swung both ways. And how the hell should he approach this? "I mean... Shit, Lee... I have no fucking clue."
What People are Saying About This
"King of Darkness was one of those surprise good books that smack you right in the face with their awesomeness." - Books Like Breathing
"All in all, King of Darkness was a good debut for the author; the action, romance and suspense kept me turning the pages and the different characters kept me captivated. I would definitely say that author Elisabeth Staab is a bold new voice in vampire romance and I look forward to reading more from her." - Reading Between the Wines
"King of Darkness is a great read. Full of sexy alpha males, sassy females and plenty of action. I completely enjoyed it and can't wait for more." - Michelle's Book Blog
"This first book in a hot, edgy, dark paranormal romance series from a debut author has all the right stuff: a deep urban fantasy feel, a take-no-crap tough heroine and a sexy, arrogant vampire king who gets his comeuppance." - Proserpine Craving Books