Alba Spencer thought her past in Romania and the dark magic that haunted it was behind her forever. She is one of the first female barristers now, safe in London. But London has its dark side, too. A man called the Ripper stalks the midnight streets. There are rumors that her hated stepmother has found her again, suggestions that the nightmares of her childhood are returning. And with them appears the cursed Gypsy boy she once loved, grown into a man more seductive and more terrifying than she ever could have dreamed. . .
Dimitri Grigorescu has become a surgeon, a gentleman—and a vampire. The lusts that drive his body are scarcely under control, and even he does not truly know what he is capable of. To fight evil and confusion, Alba must rely only on her wits—and a desire that overwhelms her doubts. . .
Praise for Beauty and the Wolf
"Dynamic and sensual, paranormal readers will gobble up this sexy read." —Donna Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Midnight's Warrior
"Beauty and the Wolf is a deliciously dark retelling of the classic tale that will make you fall in love all over again." —Erin Quinn, author of The Five Deaths of Roxanne Love
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Snow White and the VAMPIRE
By MARINA MYLES
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Marina Myles
All rights reserved.
Standing alone in the middle of a stranger's birthday party was hardly something Alba Spencer wanted to be doing. Struggling to inhale within the confines of her bustled crepe lisse gown—a dress she'd worn countless times before—she accepted a glass of champagne from a parlor maid. She took a healthy sip of the libation and squinted at a colorful banner suspended in the distance. Without the aid of her spectacles, which made her look more bookish than she preferred, the words gradually came into focus. Happy 27th Birthday, Drake!
Whoever you are, Drake, she thought, you're late for your own dull party.
Alba's gaze shifted to the party guests. Where was Edith, her best friend and chaperone for the night? No doubt the girl was getting into mischief, as usual.
Trying to disguise the fact that she would rather be tucked away in her dormitory reading law books, Alba focused on the banner again. She didn't know much about Drake Griffin. Her beau, Teddy Rollingsworth, met the gentleman at a haberdashery in Mayfair, after which the pair became fast friends. Other details of the situation hadn't interested her. After all, she was here as a favor to Teddy.
"Alba?" A well-bred voice drew her into the present. Tall and broad-shouldered, Teddy resumed his place by her side. With sparkling gray eyes, a strong jaw, and a finely cut evening suit that paid homage to his impeccable sense of fashion, he made for an impressive companion.
Alba smiled as he tucked his arm around her waist.
"Thank you for coming tonight," he said. "I thought it would take more than a party invitation to pry you away from your dormitory."
"You pleaded with me enough times to come, you goose." She swatted him softly on the shoulder.
He laughed and turned to the array of people dotting the drawing room. "I'm glad you did, because only a fraction of the guests I invited made an appearance."
"It's a fine turnout, nevertheless," Alba said. "You must have struck up quite a friendship with Dr. Griffin to be hosting a party in his honor."
"Drake is a good man—in addition to being a talented doctor."
"When did he take up the post at St. Bart's Hospital?" she asked, feigning curiosity.
"Three weeks ago." Teddy held her gaze before his stare wandered to the swell of her bosom.
Ah, Teddy. My patient suitor.
Only recently had Alba allowed their friendship to take a turn toward romance—and she was still trying to convince herself that Teddy was the man for her. He was astute, handsome, sensitive, and career-minded. Yet something was missing from their relationship. Could she ever get past his lack of luster?
"Drake is considered a top surgeon of his generation," Teddy continued. "Ah, he's just arrived."
"Where?" Alba craned her neck.
"In the foyer. There—he's the gentleman standing head and shoulders above the rest."
She set her champagne glass down on a side table. Straining to see without her spectacles, Alba took a step forward and caught sight of a dashing specimen of a man poised at the edge of the room. With an unusually pale face carved by high, angular cheekbones, the guest of honor stood his ground with a sense of resolution. His gleaming black hair, the front of which lay across his forehead in precise points, brushed the top of his stand-up collar and centered a pair of muscular shoulders.
Locking eyes with Alba, his lips spread into an entrancing smile.
What an attractive man, she thought as he began to stride toward her. The nearer Drake Griffin came, the more she became the target of his fixated stare—and under captivating eyes more stunning than the deepest, richest topaz, her previous desire to be tucked away reading law books vanished like a rabbit from a magician's hat.
"Theodore." The princely gentleman quickly transferred his stare from Alba to his friend once he reached the couple.
"Please, Drake. I've urged you to call me Teddy—nearly everyone does."
"Very well." Drake shook Teddy's hand. "Thank you for planning this celebration. But I assure you, it was completely unnecessary."
The stranger's Romanian accent swirled around Alba like a melody. For an instant she was back in her native country. But wait. Had she heard that voice somewhere before?
"Of course the party was necessary!" Teddy's long nose twitched. "You're new to the city. As benefactors of the hospital, Father and I thought a party would give you the chance to meet some of London's upper crust."
"I'm sorry to hear your father isn't feeling well tonight," Drake said. His shimmering eyes darted back to Alba. She met their gold-flecked intensity by smiling.
"Allow me to introduce you to Miss Alba Spencer," Teddy offered. "She and I became acquainted in law school."
"Miss Spencer." The gentleman dipped his chin toward her politely.
She gave him her gloved hand, to which he pressed his lips. To her surprise, the warm contact penetrated the fabric and heated her limbs. Thoroughly uncomfortable, she was about to seek refuge in Teddy's bent elbow when a servant whispered something in his ear.
Teddy nodded. "Thank you, Reeves. If you'll excuse me, Drake, I must attend to a mishap with the caterer. Alba, do you mind keeping our guest company?"
Teddy disappeared into the crowd before Alba could answer. Now that she was alone with the mysterious doctor, nervousness seized her. She retrieved her champagne glass and pretended to study the tiny bubbles exploding within it. A brief silence passed between them while she searched the room for Edith again. Unable to locate her friend, she fumbled for something innocuous to say. "How are you enjoying London thus far?"
"Taking up a new residence can be rather daunting." Drake sighed. "Needless to say, I'm very grateful for Teddy's friendship—and for the opportunity to be introduced to the people he's acquainted with." He lowered his tone. "People like you, Miss Spencer."
The doctor's words encouraged the spattering of nervous blotches across her chest. "You're too kind," Alba murmured. "So you find this city a pleasant enough place to live?"
"Pleasant but for the brutal murderer who lurks in the Whitechapel District."
"Are you referring to the killer the newspapers are calling 'Leather Apron'?" she asked.
He evaluated her with interest yet said nothing.
"I understand this monster killed two unfortunates by ripping their abdomens wide open," she went on, making no attempt to sugarcoat her words since she was speaking with a surgeon.
"Where did you hear that, Miss Spencer?"
"It said so in the penny dreadfuls. Oh, not that I read them frequently ..."
He raised an eyebrow.
What am I saying? She didn't normally babble on so, but this man had lit a fire beneath her. She felt odd in his presence, though she couldn't say why.
To her great relief, the doctor didn't seem to notice her jittering nerves. "Nasty business, preying on those unknowing women," he said. "I can't imagine a man treating any female that way. After all, women are beautiful creatures to be coddled. Admired. Cherished."
"That's a lovely thought." Alba repressed a girlish sigh. "It's a shame the killer does not share your school of thought."
Drake wrapped his hands behind his back. "I daresay the police believe this murderer will strike again."
"I fear that is why fewer guests came to your party this evening than Teddy anticipated. The city is gripped with fear." She paused to take a sip of champagne. "Perhaps we should talk about something more uplifting than murder."
"Yes." The surgeon took her glass and deposited it on a servant's tray. With his hand pressed to the small of her back, he guided her to a quiet corner of the drawing room. As she turned to face him, Alba could smell hot liquor fumes and the scent of his expensive aftershave. Surprisingly, she found that she liked the mixture of aromas.
"Teddy tells me you hail from Romania as well, Miss Spencer. What are the chances of that?"
"Slim, I daresay."
"You've lost a great deal of your accent, but if I had to guess, you are from Bucharest."
"I am." How did he know?
His features darkened. "It appears that we were destined to meet. And since we have, I'd be fascinated to know more about you."
Although Alba was taken aback by his boldness, nerves propelled her to continue their conversation in a blabbering rush. "I came to London when I was fourteen—to live with a family friend who runs the dormitory apartments of the Royal Opera's corps de ballet. Just this year, I graduated from law school. That's where Teddy and I met—at King's College. Recently, I've been assisting Teddy's father, Harold Rollingsworth, in the hopes that—"
"—you will become London's first female barrister," Drake completed her thought. Tilting his head to the side, he gazed at her with admiration. "Lovely, intelligent, and a pioneer. You are a rare gem, Miss Spencer."
The Romanian's hungry stare closed the small distance between them. Alba's cheeks burned. We hardly know one another!
Desperate to steer the conversation away from herself, she cleared her throat. "I have yet to wish you a happy birthday, Dr. Griffin."
"Thank you." The guest of honor did a cordial bow. "But 'Griffin' is merely my professional name."
Alba frowned. "What is your real name?"
Alba's limbs froze and the room started to take on a slow whirl. "That's curious," she murmured. "I knew someone by that name in Romania."
"And I once knew a girl named Alba Zapada," Dimitri said as a curtain of desire passed over his face. "You."
His lips thinned into a familiar smile and Alba's hand flew to her gaping mouth. Curse my poor eyesight! Now that she was this close to him she knew precisely who he was: Dimitri, the handsome Gypsy boy she'd fallen in love with at the tender age of fourteen.
Words escaped her while she gasped for air.
"Life is too short to be without the ones you love," Dimitri purred. "Don't you think?"
All at once, memories of the summer Alba spent in the Balkan countryside flashed through her mind:
The first kiss she and Dimitri shared amid a field of white poppies.
Simona, Dimitri's raven-haired friend.
And the terrifying night the three of them spent in a haunted graveyard.
Her blood raced and the room spun in faster circles.
"I've been waiting an eternity to return this to you," Dimitri whispered as he slipped a dried white poppy into her hand.
"But I thought you were dead," she said before everything went black.CHAPTER 2
Dimitri caught Alba before she hit the ground. Taking no notice of the gawks and the curious whispers circulating around the room, he laid her limp body on the Persian carpet. A moment later, Teddy appeared by his side.
"What happened?" Teddy cried.
"She fainted," Dimitri answered, his heart hammering.
As Teddy took one of Alba's gloved hands, Dimitri longed to grasp the other one and press it to his cheek.
"Should you take her pulse?" Teddy asked in a panic.
Before Dimitri could answer, Edith Tuttlebaum, a garrulous girl with flaming red hair, rushed over. "Some chaperone I am!" she said. "I saw Alba's face from across the room and she looked as though she'd seen a ghost!"
Dimitri's gut clenched.
"Perhaps you should take her inside one of the bedrooms and examine her." Teddy snapped his eyes to Dimitri.
Dimitri shook his head. After all, he didn't want to draw further attention to his connection with Alba. "She drank her champagne too quickly," he replied. "She shall regain consciousness in a moment."
"Teddy, I think we should take Alba home," Edith argued. "I've never seen her look that way before. Perhaps she can't breathe inside this stuffy place."
"That's a good idea," Teddy said. "So sorry, my good man." He put a hand on Dimitri's shoulder. "It looks as though your party is over."
"Of course," Dimitri murmured.
Scooping Alba into his arms, Teddy plowed through the clusters of guests while Edith nipped at his heels. Dimitri rose and assured everyone that Alba would be fine. Meanwhile, he directed them to the front door. As the guests filtered out of the Rollingsworth home, they continued to gasp and whisper amongst themselves. Dimitri thanked each person for coming as cordially as he could, but inside he was screaming.
After the last guest climbed into an awaiting carriage, he rushed out of the house without looking back. Pulse speeding, he cut through the swirling fog that blanketed the affluent neighborhood of Belgravia and wondered if the evening could get any worse.
What was I thinking? That Alba would recognize me instantly? That she would throw her arms around me with abandon?
Well, she hadn't done either of those things. More than a decade had passed since their last encounter—and she'd been so shocked that she blacked out at the sight of him.
Glowering, Dimitri tapped his walking cane on the ground. Tonight he'd exuded the sophistication and confidence of a carefully bred gentleman. While that sophistication helped him orchestrate his first meeting with Teddy, Alba knew him better. Born an unsure Gypsy boy who lacked education, Dimitri made it his mission to become a man of society. Alba was his sole inspiration for the transformation. Had she liked it?
He released a sigh and watched it vaporize in the night air.
At least he'd reaped something positive from tonight's disaster: Alba felt like a warm, sweet angel when he'd caught her in his arms. With skin fairer than a dove's wing, eyes bluer than a delphinium, and black hair that shone like cut glass, she had stunned him anew. By far the loveliest woman in the room, she'd boasted more curves than a pirate's treasure map—and when she returned his curious stare from across the room, his heart threatened to leave his chest.
Although she hadn't recognized Dimitri until he spoke his name, he was every bit as in love with her as he'd been eleven years ago. And he could have sworn he sensed the allure of reciprocation when he kissed her hand.
But that was of no consequence now. I'm in no position to reclaim Alba's love. The irony chopped at Dimitri's emotions like a whirling blade. As he marched along the damp cobbles, he realized that there was no time for him to wallow in self-pity. He was here to protect Alba from a pair of terrifying curses.
The first was a prophecy cast upon both of them long ago—a curse that predicted they would become vampires. Now, blast the fact to hell, Dimitri was. His transformation had occurred two months ago when he was attacked by a bat in Wales. Because the deepest circle of hell was reserved for blood-lusting murderers, he was bent on preventing Alba from suffering the same fate. He knew there was truth to the hex, so he'd come to London to watch over her.
Unfortunately, the second curse Dimitri wanted to protect Alba from was just as horrendous. It involved an enchanted Egyptian amulet he'd given her in their youth—an amulet that, despite its dark prophecy, had been a token of his affection.
Both curses were evils Dimitri had brought to Alba's life, and the guilt that came with them wrenched his stomach. Of course, it hadn't been his intention to bring malice to Alba. The vampire's prophecy resulted from a foolish childhood dare and Dimitri gave Alba the enchanted amulet without believing in its curse.
Big Ben struck ten o'clock. Grimacing, Dimitri glanced down at the fog concealing his shining shoes and thought of his own immortality. His being in London might have set the hex of the Egyptian amulet into motion, but he was willing to protect Alba at the risk of dying again. And a broken neck or sharp stake through the heart could kill a vampire effectively.
Placing a hand over the organ in question, Dimitri passed a row of terraced houses. His determination to shield Alba increased with his stride. If he could persuade her to find solace in their rekindled friendship—and if he could resist biting her creamy neck—he might be able to save her from both curses.
His heels clicked along the empty street. A gust of cold air rippled his opera cloak, yet he felt no trace of the autumn chill. On the other hand, Dimitri could tell that his energy was decreasing at a dangerous rate. He'd fed off a homeless man earlier tonight—so that he wouldn't be tempted by the smell of Alba's blood—but the encounter had been interrupted and he hadn't drunk enough.
Excerpted from Snow White and the VAMPIRE by MARINA MYLES. Copyright © 2013 Marina Myles. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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