Seducing the Darkness (excerpts and reviews)

Good evening one and all. My name is Shiela Stewart and I write an eclectic array of romance including my favorite, Paranormal. I currently have six novels published, two of which are part of the Darkness series. I thought I would give you all a taste of my latest vampire release, book one in the Darkness series, Seducing the Darkness.
It's been getting wonderful reviews and was on Fictionwise's Dark Fantasy top ten list for nearly two weeks straight.

Cast out by her kind, Trinity Ford has learned to live on her own…not an easy thing to do when you’re a vampire.

Trinity was once a fragile girl. Being taken by a powerful vampire prince changed her. Discovering him in the arms of another woman changed destiny. Alone, she’s learned fast how to be tough, how to survive, and how to protect the people in her city from the evil that lurks in the dark. She was managing just fine, until Basil walked back into her life.

Basil Hawthorn has been the reigning prince of vampires since banishing his father to the Realm of Dark Mystics decades earlier. When a prophetic dream makes him realize Trinity’s life is at risk, he decides the only way to save her is to push her away. Doing so is not easy. Trinity is the only woman he has ever loved, ever will love, and he can’t seem to let her go.

When rumors arise of a plan to raise the King and blot out the sun, both Trinity and Basil know they must do everything to stop it. Even if it means working together. Despite the betrayal and the threat, they find themselves drawn to each other. Love has no boundaries, especially in the face of danger. But will they be able to stop the ritual before it’s too late?

Or will the darkness capture them both?

That damn itch she’d been having lately was back, and it was driving her nuts. Rolling her shoulders, she watched two redheads staggering from the bar’s exit and towards a dimly lit street.

Here we go again, She kept to the shadows as she followed after them. Uneventfully, they made it to their car and drove off. She hoped the cops were out tonight and those two were hauled in to sleep off their drunk.

Turning back to the club, she waited and watched for the next two hours and was glad nothing had happened. So far. But the night was still young.

“Can you smell it?”

She didn’t jump, but slowly looked over at Basil who appeared next to her. She hated when he just appeared out of thin air, but she knew he loved that entrance the best. “Your stink? Always.”

He didn’t sneer at her but slowly lifted his hand and lit the cigarette between his fingers. “The blood of a human. Does it still draw you in, make you hunger, make you want?”
“I’ve got a strong will.” Deliberately, she shifted away from him. It wasn’t only the smoke that bothered her—and always had—but his scent. It pissed her off that he could still make her ache.

She waved the smoke away annoyingly and shifted just a bit farther away. “Why are you skulking, Basil? Because if you’re following me, I am going to so kick your ass.”
“I was in the neighborhood.”

She glared at him and growled her response. “If you’re here to drink, let me warn you now that I won’t allow it.”

“Who am I supposed to drink from now that I no longer am nourished by your blood?”
She chose not to answer that. “Why does it seem that you’re always around, lurking in the dark, around places that aren’t your usual hangouts? Unless….there’s a reason?” The thought stabbed into her, and though she didn’t want to believe it, she had to ask. “Are you trying to take more females of your own? Are you the one abducting young girls?”
With one quick and easy flick, he tossed the cigarette into the darkness. The red tip glowed as it flew through the air before landing on the gravel to bounce and spit out a cloud of red sparkling fireworks. “I will not even dignify that with an answer.”

“It’s so obvious, now that I think about it. I was young when you took me, made me yours. Is that what you’re doing, Basil, making another mate?”

His icy blue eyes narrowed dangerously as he stepped closer. “I have a mate and to think you would even have such a thought sickens me.”

“You don’t have me, Basil.” Her voice grew dangerous. “If I’m so wrong, then do explain to me why you’re always out in the darkness, skulking near all these young girls?”

“The very same reason you are, my dear.” He ran a finger along her face, making her scowl.

She snorted, stepping away from him before he decided to do something stupid, like kiss her. “Please, I hardly think you’re out here looking to find the person or persons responsible for taking four innocent girls.”

Leaning against the building behind them, Basil looked off into the direction of the bar and the people waiting in line to be allowed inside. “You think so little of me and that’s a shame. But I suppose I’ve done it to myself. Yes, Trinity, I am looking to find out who took those young girls, as you are. And why you might ask?” He shifted towards her, sliding in nice and close and making her pulse speed up. He laid his fingers on her cheek, then slowly slid them along her face. “Because I have a feeling I am connected to the reason they’ve been taken.”

She had all but a moment to open her mouth to respond when he closed it with a mind numbing kiss, then pulling away, turned into a dog and scampered away.

Now what the hell did he mean by that?


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Cosmic Hearts (weekend excerpt)

Hi everyone : )

Welcome to Friday! It's been a long week, and I'm so glad the weekend is finally here. TG for Labor Day...we get a nice long weekend before some of us head back to school. Yep, that dreaded word,

In honor of Labor Day, I'm sharing an excerpt from my latest romance release, Cosmic Hearts. Enjoy.

Book Blurb:

In order to save his planet’s people, Chance must gain the help of Vestalumbria’s princess. He proposes an offer she can’t refuse—a chance to unite with a king. But refuse she does. Valeen wants to help Chance, but she has her own problems—she must find out the truth—why males are forbidden on her planet.

As Valeen learns the secrets hidden from her by her dictator of a mother, she has to rely on the handsome king to aid her, especially when she’s abducted by planetary pirates. Her heart begins falling for handsome king, but she’s not sure their people can live together in harmony.

Can the two of them co-exist and unite their Cosmic Hearts?


“Our planet is going to explode.” Chance tried to keep the panic from his tone, but failed. He stood and began pacing as the news sank into his brain.

In all the text-volumes he’d read, he’d never heard of anything like this happening. But he wasn’t much into astronomy. Planets died and beings had to evacuate to others, but he had never heard of galaxies colliding. Save Our Planetary Systems’ sole purpose was to help those who had to move from an unsafe planet. He would have to make an appointment with their council immediately.

“Our planet has a few solar-years, Sire, but we should begin our planning now. We should have realized this when Planet Shipten’s moon appeared in our orbit.”

“Explain to me again what the frogs have to do with this, Patricia.” Chance’s insides felt as though they’d dropped out of him. The news was more ominous than he could have ever imagined.

“Amphibians breathe through their skin and are affected by drastic changes in the atmosphere. I’m guessing, by now many of our beings are beginning to have breathing problems as well. I should contact the Department of Restorative Services.”

“The DRS is going to panic the people. We cannot contact them yet. Will the inhabitants die?”

“We don’t know that for certain, my king, but the frogs are dead, which means the atmosphere is greatly affected.” The general looked to Patricia.

She closed the immense packet of data and looked from the general to Chance.

“They’re not in danger of dying imminently, but they’ll worsen as time progresses. When the atmosphere becomes so thin that it’s difficult to breathe, most will take to the underground, but then the collision will destroy the entire planet. If our inhabitants survive the thinning atmosphere, they’ll surely die from the impact of other planets.”

“We should find another planet to occupy as soon as possible. Moving our people will take months, if not longer. I will begin handling the details of our evacuation.”

“Very well, General. I will contact SOPS and begin looking for another planet. Keep me informed of this situation,” Chance said.

The scientist and the general left his office, and Chance immediately pressed his communicator; he needed to contact Save Our Planetary Systems and beg for their aid. The only problem was Kion wasn’t part of its interplanetary league.

After an unsuccessful conversation with SOPS, he disconnected his communicator and stood by the viewer of his office. He looked out at the mountains that surrounded his home, at the lush, beautiful, doomed planet of Kion. He had to save all its inhabitants before the destruction began.

Only one planet was close enough to consider evacuating to: Vestalumbria. There was only one problem with that—it was a planet ruled by females, and they never allowed males to enter their orbit. From what he knew about the planet, the queen wasn’t influenced by outsiders, but she had a daughter who was. From the universe’s tabloids he’d learned about Princess Valeen and had found out a little of her personality.

He would have his agents investigate the planet, and then he’d make the daughter an offer she couldn’t refuse.


Cosmic Hearts is now available at Aspen Mountain Press & Fictionwise. Note: book contains graphic love scenes and is rated sensual.

My Autumn Newsletter is now available. If you're not a member, join today and get exclusive giveaways and stories. I'm giving away a sweet prize in honor of my cosmic series this month, and you don't want to miss the mini-interview with Lizzie T. Leaf and Marie Treanor!

For an in depth look into the cosmic series coming to Aspen Mountain Press, check out my blog:

Have a great weekend, and be romantic!

Kara Griffin
GET COSMIC at Aspen Mountain

Far-out Futuristic Fun!

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Amy continued the massage on his torso and he was acutely aware of every deep stroke. A harmony existed between the slow pulsing of the blood in his veins and the easy quiet sound of her breathing.
Tension drained from his pores replaced with a sense of belonging that was strong and complete. Two people, their auras mingling together as one. Amy was healing him with her touch. She moved back to the great muscles that bunched in his shoulders, kneading gently and working at the knots of tension. A little at a time she worked down his back to the waistband of his shorts slipping her fingers beneath the band, she felt him stiffen and she stopped.

“Am I hurting you, or something?” Her honeyed tone drifted into his ear and, hell of angels, it sure was the ‘something’. Of that, he was sure. His senses told him she was subtly bating him and it felt like the heady sweetness of seduction.
“Where’d you learn to manipulate your fingers like that,” he said, and wasn’t surprised at the huskiness creeping into his voice.
“Just sort of comes natural,” she purred in that same smoky voice and he couldn't help but feel the pulse of desire as it began its slow definitive throb generating heat in his loins. The quickening change taking place was marking out the reason for the ‘something’. God in His heaven…how he ached to have her fingers grip his heating arousal but this was hardly the place or the time.
“That should be enough,” he grunted, trying to sound calm.

On a long sensuous breath…slip into the intoxication of

Dangerous Desire
Big story at a little price.

Available at

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Would surrender to one night of passion in a younger man’s arms be enough?
Or would it unleash what she didn’t dare hope for – LOVE.


Dangerously sexy and his eyes full of sinful promise, Jamie, the leather-clad, tattooed young biker is fascinated by his evening-class student—the sophisticated and elegant career-woman.

Amy, in search of a little diversion, has taken up the study of Creative Writing little expecting her teacher to be a woman’s ultimate fantasy.

But now, Amy faces the challenge of her life—what they have between them is too hot for mere friendship, colliding with the knowledge that she is seven years his senior and entangled in a long-soured marriage to boot.

Would surrender to the intoxication of one night of passion in a younger man’s arms be enough? Or would it unleash what she didn’t dare hope for – LOVE.

Dangerous Desire
Available Champagne Books
Author website

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In this modern day tale of forbidden romance, can love conquer all?

Carrie Armstrong joined the Air Force seeking education, experience and travel. What she didn't expect to find was the one thing military rules clearly state she can't have, Staff Sergeant Beau Adams.

Throughout the 14 years of his life that Beau has dedicated to the Marine Corps, he's never had reason to regret his decision to make the military his career, until now, when loving Carrie, the only woman he can picture growing old with, could cost him his future.

As the tension between them increases to the breaking point, their ability to resist temptation weakens. Forced to make a choice, will they willingly risk everything they’ve worked so hard to gain by Crossing The Line?

“Staff Sergeant Adams.”

Beau welcomed the interruption as he looked up from the growing stack of paperwork on his desk to respond to the officer in charge. “Yes, sir.”

Lieutenant Li closed the office door behind him and plopped down into the chair opposite Beau’s. “There’s a new SatCom operator on base. Just transferred in. I want you to show this Airman the ropes during the training tomorrow afternoon.”
“Good to go, sir.” Beau nodded and hid that, even six months after the fact, his chest still felt like someone was squeezing it at the mere mention of the words SatCom operator.
It didn’t matter that Beau’s butt was firmly planted in his desk chair at Marine Corps Air Station, New River, North Carolina, because his mind was back in Africa, filled with memories of his SatCom operator and how she had ripped out his heart.
How the hell long would it take for that wound to heal? And why the hell was his OIC still lounging there, forcing Beau to keep his features neutral?
Beau stared sightlessly down at the report on the top of the paperwork pile as he resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands in an attempt to scrub away the memories… The sound of Carrie’s softly drawling voice, the feel of her firm muscles and long lean limbs beneath his hands, the way sinking himself deeply into her had made him lose all awareness of everything except for her and her soft cries as she came.
Damn it, his body still reacted to thoughts of her. But Carrie was gone. She’d left him and never looked back.
He’d emailed her, more than once right after she’d left, but she hadn’t responded. Eventually his pain and his pride made him stop bothering. He knew that the others in the det to Ethiopia could access their email so it was obvious, Carrie simply didn’t want to hear from him.
By the time the detachment returned, his time at Camp Lemonier had come down to a harried ending of packing up and transferring duties to his replacement. He didn’t have time to seek her out during those last few days at camp and she sure as hell didn’t try to find him.
He had to remember that. And the sooner he could get himself to remember that rather than all the rest, the better.
A light quick knock on the door thankfully yanked his traitorous mind back to the present.
“I got it,” Li, with apparently nothing better to do, said as he rose from the chair.
Fine. If his lieutenant wanted to sit around in Beau’s office and play doorman all day, who was he to question? Maybe if Beau somehow could accidentally “lose” all the extra chairs in the office, visitors would be less likely to dawdle. It was definitely something to consider. Lately, he was really not into socializing, unless it took place at a bar and involved some mind-numbing whisky.
With a stifled sigh, Beau glanced at the door his OIC had opened, listening to him welcome whoever stood there just out of his sightline.
Then he heard her voice…
It didn’t matter that he still couldn’t see her, Beau was certain. The person standing just outside his door, the new Airman he was supposed to take up for the training, was Carrie.
Throat constricted, heart pounding, Beau forced himself to not leap from his own chair, push his OIC aside and grab her. Although whether he wanted to kiss her silly or shake some sense into her, he couldn’t decide. What he knew for a fact he wanted from the woman who had danced on his heart were answers. Only one answer, really. Why?
“Staff Sergeant Adams. This is Tech Sergeant Armstrong, the new SatCom operator I was telling you about.” Li finished the introduction and now Beau had to find his voice or look like an idiot. What should he do? Pretend to not know her?
Carrie made the decision for them both. “Staff Sergeant. Nice to see you again.”
Beau nodded formally. “Tech Sergeant Armstrong. You, too.” Yeah, right.
“You two know each other?”
“Yes, sir. We worked together at Camp Lemonier a few months back,” Carrie explained.
They’d done a hell of a lot more than work together, but from Carrie’s cool tone, you’d never guess that.
“Good. Then the training should be a no-brainer. I’ll see you both later.” And with a nod, Li was gone, just when Beau was wishing he would stay.
He had a moment of satisfaction when both her voice and her passive expression broke as she said his name.
Folding his arms, Beau leaned back in his chair, just as Crash walked into the office.
His friend, the only one on this earth who knew all of the sordid details besides the two of them, looked from Carrie, to Beau, and then back again. “Ah, shit,” Crash muttered under his breath.
Who said Crash wasn’t perceptive? Beau couldn’t have said it better himself.

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One of Annie's patients is found dead in her office. And now the killer is after her. Marshall is a sexy detective who makes it his mission to protect her, and he's not afraid to break the rules. Drawn together by close proximity, it isn't long before they're facing a different kind of danger.

Excerpt -
She tripped and fell to the floor, letting out a startled cry as she went down, the flashlight flying from her hand to roll beneath her desk. For a second she lay there stunned, watching the beam of light bounce off the walls as it twirled around and around on the floor until finally coming to a stop.

At least she was alone in her office. That alone should have calmed her fears but didn't change the fact that someone had vandalized the place. She crawled to her desk and reached under it for the light, and that's when she saw the body. The ray of light shone directly on his lifeless form.

It was Martin Strong.

She clamped her hand across her mouth to stifle the scream that rose in her throat. He had to be dead, just sitting against the wall with that open-eyed stare. His frozen expression reminding her of the figures she'd seen in a wax museum once, as a school girl on a field trip, only he wasn't wearing a sign on his chest telling her what historic character he represented. Instead he had a hole in his chest the size of a marble.

She had to get out of there and call the police. Grabbing the flashlight, she jumped to her feet and ran to the outer door. She opened it and came face to face with a tall, dark form. She screamed, trying to slam the door in his face, but with one shove the man sent it flying back against the wall and Annie with it.

He was upon her in a flash. Screaming, she raised her flashlight to use as a club. It was chopped viciously from her hand, flew across the room, and slammed against the wall. Annie turned, heading for the exit door at the back of the building, but realized she was trapped. He blocked her only avenue of escape.

She heard the man's breathing close behind her and knew he was upon her an instant before his hand closed on her shoulder. Twisting free, she released a string of ear piercing screams to scare him away, grabbing things off nearby desks to use as weapons. But he was much too big and strong and the items she threw recklessly at him bounced off his body with little effect. He grabbed her and swung her around.

"No!" she shrieked, trying to break away. The classes she'd taken in self-defense came rushing back, and she raised her arm to deliver a chop to his throat. He expertly intercepted it, causing her hand to bounce harmlessly off hard biceps. Swearing, she raised her knee, aiming for his groin.

The man twisted the lower half of his body, letting out a vicious curse when her knee came in jarring contact with the inside of his muscular thigh, just missing vital parts. His hands were everywhere in an attempt to subdue her. Adrenaline pumped through Annie and a mixture of fear and anger gave her unusual strength. She knew she could very well be fighting with the murderer and didn't stop to consider what she was doing when she picked up a letter opener.

She raised it threateningly."Oh, no you don't!" his deep voice rasped, full of anger and slightly out of breath. His fingers curled around her wrist and for a brief second they struggled together until the weapon was wrenched out of her hand and tossed aside.

She heard it hit the floor. "Damn it!" This time she was the one doing the swearing. With super-human strength she broke away from him, changing tactics and running for the open front door. She barely took two steps when she was tackled from behind. Losing her balance, she landed with a frustrated shriek, hitting the floor hard. And even though the breath had been knocked out of her, she found the strength to turn on her backside and raise her legs, kicking out at him in the hope of catching him with the pointed tips of her heels.

His grunt of pain gave her little satisfaction. The man threw himself on top of Annie, pinning her down with his superior weight. She screamed, tangling her fingers in his hair and trying to hurt him any way she could.

"Damn it, stop!" his voice boomed above her.

She ignored him, raking her nails down the side of his face instead. The sound of something ripping split the air, spurring her on all the more. Was he going to rape her first and then kill her? God help her! She couldn't fend him off much longer; her strength was sapped. Before she had a chance to draw another breath, she found her wrists seized and slammed against the floor above her head, his body crushing hers against the unyielding floor.

"Please don't hurt me!" Annie knew she was begging, but under the circumstances figured she had nothing to lose. Especially if he'd killed Martin Strong.

She could barely breathe and the man pinning her down seemed to be having the same problem. His warm breath slapped her in the face, his heaving chest was smashing her breasts. At least his hands weren't roaming."Please..." She decided to try again. "I'll give you whatever you want!" Well, not quite everything but she figured at a time like this it was okay to lie.

"You don't have anything I want," he rasped. He hauled Annie roughly to her feet, dragging her arms behind her back where he locked her wrists together with one of his much larger hands."But if you keep fighting me, I'm not making any promises about not hurting you." He pulled her with him to where the flashlight had landed and while holding her against him, bent and snatched it from the floor. "I just want to know what the hell is going on around here." He started to shine the beam of light around the room, searching for God knows what.

It began to dawn on Annie that maybe he wasn't the killer after all. Perhaps he was with the Security Company that took care of the building complex. Or, worst case scenario, he'd just been driving by and noticed a strange light flashing around the office and stopped to investigate, sticking his nose in something that was none of his business. Maybe he was an off duty police officer...

"Are you going to answer me?" the man growled.

"I have nothing..."

He snorted, dragging her around the room with him. "Nothing? You sure put up one hell of a fight over nothing."

"You frightened me," she said, her eyes darting to her office door and praying he didn't insist on checking it out. She tried to will her body under control but her heart was pounding like a jackhammer inside her chest. "Are you with security?"

"You might say that."Annie started to drag her feet when he headed straight for her office. If he noticed, he didn't say anything, but continued pushing her ahead of him in that direction. When they reached the threshold, she actually leaned against him in an unconscious effort to keep him from entering the room.

"Please..." She couldn't get the words out. The thought of Martin Strong on the floor on the other side of her desk made her stomach churn. "I can't go back in there!" She struggled to break the hold he had on her wrist. He was too big and strong to win against in a struggle, but if she could manage to pull away speed might be on her side.

"Why not?" He pushed her further into the room. "What are you hiding?"


He gave a dissatisfied grunt. "Let me be the judge of that. Something's going on and I intend to find out what it is.

"Helplessly, Annie watched as he shined the flashlight around the small office until the beam landed on a pair of shoes. Her heart sank. The more he pushed her into the room the more she strained against his unyielding form. He halted when they were close enough to see Martin's body slumped against the wall, the beam of light zeroing in on the nice neat bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn..." he whispered against her ear as they stood above Martin.

Unbelievably Annie felt his hold around her wrist begin to relax. She took advantage of his momentary lapse and slammed her heel down on top of his foot. He swore a blue streak when she pulled away from him. She heard the flashlight drop to the floor, and it was over before it began. He caught up to her at her office doorway. She let out a blood-curdling scream when his hand tangled in her hair, before she was hauled back into his arms.

He slammed her against the wall and pinned her there with his body. Breathing hard, he took a moment to catch his breath. "No wonder you were in a such hurry to get out of here," he rasped, close to her face. "Who's the stiff, honey?"

"You don't understand!" Annie cried out desperately. She strained against his hold. "I was going for the police." She had to make him understand.

"Yeah right, and I'm Santa Clause. That's why you were running away..."

"You scared me! I thought you were the killer!" She arched her body in a pitiful attempt to push him off her. He grabbed her arms and pinned them to the wall above her head, his movements rough enough to reveal he was growing tired of her persistent struggles. She felt every sinew of his powerful body against her. He was built like a mountain, everything about him hard as granite."You're hurting me!" she gasped in outrage, raising her knee in an attempt to hurt him any way she could.

He transferred both her wrists to one hand and his other dropped down to her thigh to hold it in place. "I wouldn't advise it! That's twice you've aimed for that particular spot, and I'm getting damned tired of having to worry about it."

"Then I suggest you let me go!" Annie ignored the anger in his voice. If she was going to die it wouldn't be without a fight.

"Who the hell are you, lady?" He gave her a little shake. "That's a stiff over there and until I get to the bottom of this you aren't going anywhere."

Annie began to tremble violently as reaction to her predicament finally set in. Her weak struggles were useless. He didn't hesitate using his body and hands in whatever manner it took to subdue her. There was nothing sexual about anything he was doing to her though she couldn't help but be aware of the sculptured muscles crushing her breasts, and his masculine scent.

Something spicy yet mild, blending well with his body chemistry.

Stirring her senses.

She accepted the fact she couldn't win against him, but the awareness zinging through her was betrayal of the worst kind. "This is my office." The silence that followed was unnerving. Annie wondered if he believed her.

"And you are?" His hard voice was laced with mistrust.

"Doctor Annie McCall," she said quietly, relaxing against him. What else could she do?

The lights flickered on and for the first time their eyes met. She caught her breath, meeting the fierce glare in his dark, sensual eyes. He made her think of as wild animal, lying in wait for his prey. No, his mate. She felt her heart beat flutter wildly in her throat.

A strong premonition washed over Annie that her life was about to change.

Only a few shorts months left to be able to purchase this ebook through New Concepts Publishing.

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New from Paige Tyler - Kayla and the Rancher!

I've got a sexy new western spanking romance out called Kayla and the Rancher! It's available in eBook, Print, and Amazon Kindle! Here's an excerpt!

Kayla and the Rancher

When men were men, and bottoms were warm!

Rancher Cord Holderness needs a wife, but with few prospects in the Wyoming Territory, he decides that the only way to find a well-bred young lady is to get a mail-order bride. However, the girl that’s supposed to be his mail-order bride gets cold feet and leaves it up to her new friend, Kayla Mathison, to tell him that she’s changed her mind.

But when the handsome rancher assumes that the fiercely independent and stubborn Kayla is his mail-order bride, she finds herself going along with it. Running from an arranged marriage herself, and desperately in need of funds to get herself to San Francisco, she decides to lead Cord on so that she can get the money she needs from him. As the days turn into weeks, however, she finds that neither the money nor San Francisco interest her as much as they once did, especially when Cord starts putting her over his knee and spanking her whenever she becomes a little too willful for his liking. Much to her surprise, she discovers that she’s fallen in love with him and his spankings.

Life on the ranch gets even more complicated when a ruthless land baron wants to take over every piece of grazing land in the territory, including Cord’s, and will do anything to get it. Then, as if that weren’t enough, Kayla’s very determined fiancé comes to town looking for her.

But Kayla has built this relationship with Cord by letting him think that she’s someone else, and she can only hope that Cord loves her enough to forgive her when he find out she’s not really his mail-order bride.


As the driver had promised, they arrived in Copper Creek well before sunset that evening. Like so many of the other towns where the stage had stopped, Copper Creek was small, with one main road running through the center of it. Of course, there was the requisite saloon, general store, telegraph office, and sheriff, but since she was more interested in the people than the town, Kayla took little notice of more than that as she stood in front of the stagecoach office.

Kayla noticed several dark-haired men, regarding her with interest, but none of them came over to her immediately. One of the men, however, was looking at her with more interest than the others and after a moment, he approached her.

Kayla said nothing right away. This was Cord Holderness? Tall and well-built, with dark hair, warm brown eyes, and the faint hint of a beard along his square jaw, he was absolutely one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. And dressed in denims, a shirt that he’d left unbuttoned at the neck, a hat and well-worn boots, he looked every inch the cowboy.

“Abigail?” he asked, looking at her curiously. His voice was soft, almost sensuous.

Kayla opened her mouth, all set to ask him for a monetary award in exchange for her information regarding Abigail, but all she could seem to manage to say was, “Cord?”

He grinned, flashing white teeth at her, and Kayla just about melted on the spot. Putting his arms around her, he bent his head and kissed her cheek. “I’m so glad you’re finally here.” Lifting his head, he gazed down at her, his brown eyes soft. “You’re even more beautiful than you led me to believe."

Kayla blinked. She was rarely, if ever, at a loss for words, but with him standing so near, she couldn’t seem to formulate a complete thought. He thought she was Abigail, she realized. She opened her mouth to explain, but Cord continued before she could speak.

“As you can see, most of the town came out to meet you,” he said, gesturing to the people who had gathered nearby. Leaning close, he spoke conspiratorially in her ear. “Don’t worry. I told them they had to wait until you settled in.

Once again, Kayla opened her mouth to tell him that he had made a mistake, only to close it again as an idea occurred to her. Maybe she could go along with this, let Cord think that she was his mail-order bride. From what Abigail had said, he was probably rich, which meant he was certain to have money lying around his home that she could “borrow.” He might even give her an allowance, and she could certainly use a little bit of extra money to get herself started in San Francisco. Cord was attractive, so pretending to be his fiancé certainly wouldn’t be distasteful. She had a momentary twinge of guilt at the notion of deceiving him, but it disappeared quickly when she thought about how easy it would be to start in San Francisco if she had a little bit of money.

Kayla looked around to see groups of people clustered along the street. Some were looking at her with open curiosity, but most, judging from their smiling faces, looked genuinely happy for Cord. That just gave her added justification. After all, how could she tell him about Abigail’s decision not to marry him in front of all these people?

“Is this the only bag you have?”

Kayla saw that Cord had picked up her small suitcase. “Yes,” she said, then gave him a pretty little pout. “Everything else I brought with me fell off that stupid stagecoach. My trunk opened and everything inside was ruined, of course. The driver said that the stage wasn’t responsible for such things, but...”

Her voice trailed off helplessly, and he gave her one of those dazzling smiles of his. “Don’t worry, Abigail. I’ll buy you whatever you need. Copper Creek’s small, but the general store has some good mail order catalogs you can get things from.”

This was even better than she had hoped. Bilking him out of his money would be as easy as pie. She would have no problem wrapping this big, strapping man around her finger. Smiling up at him, she took his arm and let him lead her to the waiting wagon. As they walked, she couldn’t help but notice that his forearm was strongly muscled beneath her fingers. When he offered his hand to help her up into the wagon, she smiled and thanked him. Then, before she knew it, he’d climbed in beside her and took up the reins, sending the wagon in motion.

“You must be tired after your journey,” he said, giving her a sidelong glance.

“A little,” she admitted. “Stagecoaches aren’t the most comfortable form of transportation.”

“Or the safest,” he added, glancing at her. “I was concerned about you traveling alone, especially since you said that you’ve never been out of Boston.” When she said nothing, he continued. “It must be a big culture shock for you, not just leaving Boston, but coming all the way out here on your own.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “And it certainly doesn’t help that we’ve never met before. But I just want to let you know that I’m not going to rush anything. We can take our time getting to know each other. There’s no pressure, Abigail, so you can just relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

Once again, Kayla was rendered speechless by this man. Cord Holderness was so nice; deceiving him just didn’t seem right. She should tell him the truth. But then again, she reasoned, he did order a bride through a catalog, so how nice could he really be?

Well, just because she felt badly about deceiving him that didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate the surrounding mountainous landscape of the Wyoming Territory. The sun was just beginning to set, and she didn’t think she’d ever seen a more vivid display of colors. “I would never have thought it would be this beautiful,” she said, almost to herself.

Beside her, Cord laughed. “So, my letters didn’t do it justice, then? And here I thought I sounded poetic."

She looked at him in confusion. “What?” Then she remembered. Cord and Abigail had probably corresponded for weeks, months maybe, before the girl had begun the trek out here. Kayla laughed nervously. “Oh...of course...I didn’t mean to imply...”

Cord reached out and covered her hand with his own. “I was teasing you, Abigail,” he said, turning his head to look at her. “You’re right. It is beautiful. But not nearly as beautiful as you.”

Kayla caught her breath. His hand on hers was doing funny little things to her pulse, and once again, she couldn’t seem to think clearly. Blushing, she looked away. “Th...thank you,” she stammered, and then gave herself a mental shake. She had to keep focused on her goal with this man, or she was going to find herself grinning at him like a lovesick schoolgirl all the time.

They arrived at his home a little while later. It was a big, two-story house with a porch that went around the entire outside. Several hundred feet from the house was an immense barn with several other smaller buildings around it, and Kayla could see horses in the adjoining paddock. Cord brought the wagon to a stop outside the house and offered his hand to Kayla, helping her down. Taking up her small suitcase, he led her up the steps and into the house.

Inside, it was simply but comfortably furnished. Though she could see why he needed a woman out here. There was nothing soft or feminine about the place. No pictures, no curtains, no rugs, not even a throw pillow. Directly opposite the front door was a staircase that led to the second floor. Though Cord said there was dinner waiting for them on the stove, he gave her a quick tour of the house before they ate. Off the entryway, there was a living room to one side and a dining room on the other. Beyond that was the kitchen, where Cord set out hearty bowls of stew and a plate of biscuits. Though the food was quite good, Kayla had to concentrate so hard on what she was saying that she hardly tasted any of it. Pretending to be Abigail was going to be more difficult than she had thought.

She was relieved when the kitchen door opened. Kayla turned her head to see a tall, dark-haired man entering the kitchen. He was older than Cord by several years, and from his clothing, she assumed he must be one of the ranch hands.

The man’s blue gaze went from Kayla to Cord. “Sorry, Cord. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” he said. “I’ll come back later.”

Cord shook his head and got to his feet. “No, stay. Lucas, this is Abigail Murray.” He looked at Kayla. “Abigail, this is my foreman, Lucas Johnson. He’s been my right-hand man around here for years, so if I’m out and there’s anything you need, he’ll take care of it for you.”

Kayla smiled and held out her hand, which Lucas took in his work-worn one. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said.

Lucas dipped his head. “Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.” He looked at Cord. “I have some things to talk to you about, but it’ll keep ‘til morning.”

Relieved at the interruption, Kayla pushed back her chair and got to her feet. “You two talk,” she told Cord. “I’m so exhausted from the trip that I’m half asleep at the table. It was nice meeting you, Lucas.” She smiled at Cord. “Good night, Cord.”

“Abigail,” was all he said, but she could feel his eyes on her as she left the kitchen. As she made her way up the stairs, the men’s voices carried to where she stood, and though she’d been taught never to eavesdrop, she paused a moment to listen to their conversation.

“She’ll make a very attractive wife,” Lucas said. “It’s difficult to believe that she’s not already spoken for.”

“I couldn’t agree more. The men in Boston must be crazy to have let her go.”

Kayla felt her pulse skip a beat at his words and for a moment, she wondered why her father couldn’t have found a man like this for her to marry instead of that yes-man, Delmont.

There was a pause before Cord spoke. “So, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

“McCauley sold his ranch to Dalton Jeffries this afternoon,” Lucas said.

“Damn,” Cord muttered.

“Someone cut his fences and made off with almost half his herd last night. His son was watching over them and got pretty beaten up. That was the last straw for him,” Lucas said. “A man can only take so much, you know.”

Their conversation about the other rancher continued and since it sounded like Cord was going to be a while, Kayla decided it was the perfect opportunity to snoop around. Thinking that the most likely place Cord would keep money would be his bedroom, she went there first. She wouldn’t take anything right now, of course. She just thought that it would be good to know where the valuables were kept.

His bedroom was right across the hall from hers. She had gotten a quick look at it when Cord had showed her around before. Taking the lantern from the table just inside the door, she used a match to light it, and then closed the door behind her.

Like the other room in the house, Cord’s bedroom was simply furnished. Besides the big four-poster bed and nightstands, there was a washstand with a mirror, a low dresser, and a wardrobe, but it was the chest at the foot of the bed that caught her attention.

Placing the lantern on one of the nightstands, she knelt down beside the chest and lifted the lid. Thinking that there had to be something of value inside, she was surprised to find only some blankets, an oily jacket, and two pistols with boxes and boxes of bullets.

Her brow furrowing, she sat back on her heels and looked around the room. That was when she saw the metal box underneath the bed. Now, there had to be something valuable in there. Lifting the edge of the quilt, she reached underneath the bed to pull it out. It was heavier than it looked, though, and she needed two hands to do so. With her bottom in the air, she scooted her head and shoulders as far as she could under the bed.

Which was exactly how Cord found her when he walked into his bedroom.Unaware that she had an audience, Kayla grabbed hold of the latches on either side of the heavy box and yanked. It scraped along the floor, but didn’t budge much, and she tightened her grip, ready to pull on it again.

“Just what do you thing you’re doing?”

At the sound of Cord’s voice, Kayla jumped, thumping her head on the underside of the bed. Muttering something unladylike, she reflexively touched her fingers to the back of her head. Darn, she had thought Cord would be busy with his foreman at least long enough for her to get a look around. Knowing she couldn’t very well stay in this position while he was still standing there, she wiggled out from under the bedSmoothing a stray piece of silky auburn hair back from her face, she met Cord’s accusing gaze with one of complete innocence.


“Abigail,” was all he said.

She glanced at the bed, and then back at him, nervously smoothing her hair back again. “I...I was just looking for one of my hair pins.”

“Really?” He folded his arms across his chest. “It looked more like you were snooping to me.”

She flushed. “Snooping! I most certainly wasn’t snooping. I can’t believe you would even imply such a thing,” she said, trying to sound as indignant as she could.

He lifted a brow, but said nothing.

She bit her lip and looked away. “Well...maybe I was snooping a little,” she admitted softly. He’d caught her red-handed, so she would have to try and wiggle out of this using her charm, a tactic that had worked many times before on the men in New York, especially her father. She turned big green eyes on him. “But I was just trying to find out more about you.”

He scowled. “By crawling around under my bed.”

Kayla managed to look suitably embarrassed. “I realize that it must look bad, but I hope you understand that I’m just trying to ensure you are the wonderful man that you described to me in your letters. After all, I’m taking quite a risk being out here all alone without my family back in Boston and all.” She put on a sad face as she spoke. She’d used this same expression often on her father with great results.

Cord regarded her in silence for a moment, but he didn’t appear to be swayed. “Well, I don’t know how they do things in Boston, Abigail, but out in the west, we respect other people’s private property. It’s a guiding principal out here that you’ll have to come to learn.”

She flushed again and lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry, Cord,” she said quietly, hoping she sounded suitably chastised. “I won’t do it again.”

His mouth quirked. “Oh, I intend to make sure of that.”As he spoke, he reached out to take her arm and led her over to the bed.

Kayla hung back. “Wh-what...what are you doing?”

But Cord ignored her question. Instead, he sat down on the bed and in one swift motion, pulled her over his knee. Kayla simply lay there for a moment, too surprised to do more than that. He wouldn’t, she thought in disbelief, then let out a startled “Oh!” as his hand slapped her upturned bottom. Outraged, she struggled, trying to push herself upright, but a strong hand on her back held her in place while he spanked her again. Another smack followed, and then another, each slap harder than the previous one.
The spanks stung even through the thick material of her dress. But more than that, it was the embarrassment of being held down across this handsome man’s strong thighs with her bottom in the air that made her struggle to free herself.

“Let me go!” she ordered indignantly, trying to push against him again.

“Not until you learn some manners,” he replied, lifting his hand to spank her again.

“What would a hick cowboy like you know about manners, anyway?” she demanded, craning her neck to look at him over her shoulder.

The insult earned her an even harder spank and she cried out in protest. “Obviously more than a spoiled city girl like you,” he retorted, bringing his hand down again and again on her poor bottom.

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Temperance: Twilight's Embrace

Hi, I'm Ericka Scott and I write seductive suspense...I'm a brand new Tease author with a hot-off-the-presses release!

It's for the Temperance Card and is titled Twilight's Embrace  (click title to buy at All Romance E-books!).

Maxine Twilight’s life didn't change significantly after her death. She manages Temperance, a historic Chicago tavern. She and her brother, Jimmy, have turned it into the hottest fetish club in the Midwest, a place where the rich and famous come to play with vampires. When her employees begin turning to ash, Maxine doesn't know where to turn. She can’t call the police, for they refuse to recognize the rights of the undead. She’s emotionally unprepared to deal with the disaster, especially when she suspects the target of the next wooden stake might just be her!

Zachary Fox is a slayer with scruples. He only kills rogue vampires. In his opinion, if a vampire has found a way to make an honest living and eat an honest meal, his motto is to live and let live. But not all slayers live by the same rules. When someone kills a few vampires at a midtown Chicago nightclub, he really want to be involved. But he owes his dead ex-wife, Tessa, a big favor—so he agrees to help stop the slayer. What he didn't count on was his attraction for the classy and curvaceous Maxine. When it looks like Maxine is the intended target of the next wooden stake, he's forced to put his life, and love, on the line.


“Welcome to Temperance.”

Victoria watched as Friday night regular, Mitchell Consuelo, guided his date into the brightly lit foyer of the club. For once, Mitch didn’t seem to be in a hurry to drag his date inside. Instead, he hovered at the woman’s elbow as they checked their coats and wandered around the reception area looking at the period artwork on the walls.

It had been a long time since Victoria had browsed through the lobby. She’d almost forgotten what a novelty the pictures were. Mixed in with the history of Temperance were historical pictures of the vampires who worked in the club. Hell, if anyone ever looked close enough at the picture of the grand opening in 1899, they’d recognize her standing right in front, her face shadowed by a huge calico bonnet.

Mitch’s appearance at the podium with his curvaceous date interrupted her reverie.

Victoria tipped her head so that her blond pageboy haircut swung forward. Then she smiled knowing her fangs sparkled in the light from the overhead chandelier. “Will you be dining with us this evening?” she asked.

The woman looked up at Mitch, her eyes wide, and then she giggled.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Mitch encouraged her. To Victoria’s knowledge, he’d only had one date flee before he’d gotten her inside. This luscious brunette looked too curious to flee.

Victoria dragged her eyes away from the man’s date; Mitch, however, was still ogling the woman’s breasts.

Okay, enough already. “Membership card please,” Victoria prompted.

Mitch jumped and fumbled in the pocket of his suit coat. He pulled out the stiff card and started to hand it to her.

“Oh, what’s that? It’s really pretty,” Mitch’s date asked.

“That’s our membership card,” Victoria informed her, handing her the card. “As you might know, Temperance was a Speakeasy during prohibition. The tradition of using the tarot card for admittance began, as the owner’s wife, Jezebel Twilight, was a well-known psychic. While she gave readings in the dining room, drinks and hors d’ouvres would be served in the private rooms away from prying eyes and the surveillance of the police.”

“How interesting.” The woman handed the card back over. “But I didn’t realize this was a membership club.” She turned to Mitch, and her voice held a suspicious edge to it. “You told me you hadn’t ever been here before.”

While Mitch reassured his date with some stammering excuse, Victoria resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The man was such a lying bastard. Hell, he was here every Friday night with a different woman. While the couple bickered, Victoria lounged against the podium. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of movement. Odd.

Turning, she saw nothing suspicious and only heard a quiet murmur of voices coming from the bar. From where she was standing, she could see her business partner, Maxine Twilight, mingling with customers. The petite redhead was all curves and class, and Victoria had lusted after her for years. Unfortunately, Maxine was straight. What a waste.

Dragging her attention back to the clientele, she conjured up a sexy smile for Mitch and his date. Reaching under the podium, she handed a heavy leather folder across the podium to the woman. “Would you like to examine the menu?”

Still giggling, the woman took the proffered folder and opened it. The first picture she’d see was the ‘Boris Karloff’ head shot followed by a tasty array of half nude body shots.

“Oh.” The woman made an appreciative sound and her eyes widened. She flipped the page. The ‘Vincent Price’ page showed the headshot of an all-American blond-haired god. His body shots were good enough to eat right off the paper. The facing page was the Van Helsing page, six hunky men for when a ménage a trois just wasn’t tempting enough.

The woman looked up at Victoria. “Which would you recommend?”

Victoria opened her mouth to reply but instead heard a funny whistling sound. Just as the meaning of what she was hearing sunk in, she was struck in the back.




Sitting on the edge of the bed, Zachary Fox counted the cash in the envelope. A mere five thousand dollars. It didn’t come close to matching his usual price for a hit. However, it was clear there would be no more money forthcoming. This was all the cash the city of Poduncksville, Ohio, had in their pest control budget.

Pests? He shook his head. He’d had a bad feeling about taking this job, but had felt sorry for the town mayor who had been unable to find any other slayer willing to take on the job for that amount. The situation was dire. Rogue vampires had taken and turned two young girls. Then, the vampires had used the children to lure in family members for the vampires to feed upon.

After Zach performed his duty, disposing of all four vampires, he’d hoped they’d come up with a bit more cash, especially in light of the bruises, the black eye, and the cracked tailbone he’d suffered. However, this was it.

Damn, at this rate, he’d have to work three or four more jobs before he could retire. The colorful brochure propped open on top of his suitcase spelled it all out. Alaska, the land of the midnight sun. Even better, according to the advertisement, a land free of vampires. Zach wasn’t such a sucker that he believed everything he read. For in the winter, the darkness was unbroken for just as many hours. Darkness that would be a haven for the undead.

Hell, maybe he’d just go there anyway. Just for a change. He was tired. Real tired of nursing bruises and broken bones, late night trips to the hospital for stitches. Staying in cheap hotel rooms smelling of stale cigarette smoke and sex had become boring. He was especially tired of secretive meetings with petrified town council members and public citizens. Until society acknowledged vampires existence and held the undead accountable to the same laws as the living, nothing would change.

Along with the proliferation of the undead, there was now a whole new crop of slayers. Young, buff guys who healed faster. Zach grimaced. The scar on his arm, a parting gift from one of those young slayers turned vampire, ached. It was a ragged wound that had never healed properly, and he hoped it wasn’t infected. If it was, he had pain pills and antibiotics galore from his many trips to the emergency room. When he got home, he’d just pop a few milligrams of penicillin to be on the safe side.

With one last look around the gaudily decorated room, where even the large black rotary telephone was chained to the wall, he tucked the brochure in his back pocket, picked up his suitcase in one hand and his slayer equipment bag with the other. At that moment, he noticed a white envelope slid half under the door.

Well, this was the first time he’d ever stayed in a cheap hotel that provided a bill for checkout before he’d even notified management of his impending departure.

He put everything down and bent over to pick up the envelope. Then jumped when the phone on the wall rang. Should he answer it or not? No one knew he was here. Even the men who had hired him didn’t know where he was staying or even what his real name was. Hoping it was either the hotel management or a wrong number, Zach let the phone ring. When it finally fell silent, he looked down at the envelope in his hand.

What the hell? It was addressed to him. There was no return address, just a postmark from Chicago. There was only one person he’d known in Chicago, and she wasn’t in any position to be sending him anything anymore. That left the conclusion that this was about another job. He pulled his pocket knife out and slit the envelope open and pulled out a tarot card. Temperance. He flipped it over and back. It was pretty, but didn’t mean anything to him.

With a shrug, he tucked the envelope in his back pocket where it made intimate contact with the brochure from Alaska. Looked like he might just be heading for The Windy City.

He picked up his bags again. Then, as if to torment him, the phone rang again. Thinking it might have something to do with the tarot card; he put everything back down and picked up the receiver.


The voice that answered him was hollow and echoed eerily as if traveling from the other side of the grave. “Zach?”

Shit. He cloaked his travels in secrecy, used a fake name, and she still found him.

“Hello Tessa,” he grimaced, waiting for the tirade to start.

“How are you?”

“Cut the bullshit. What do you want?” Zach sighed and looked at his watch. He’d had high hopes that once Tessa was dead, he would no longer have to deal with her, especially as she was no longer eligible to collect alimony.

“I need a favor Zach.”

When Zach didn’t answer, there was an odd silence. He’d just begun to think they’d been disconnected, and he could escape this conversation. He’d just begun to think about hanging up when he heard an odd sound.

A sniff? Then, Tessa’s voice came back on the line. “You owe me this, Zach. I need you to come to Chicago.”

So, this was about the tarot card after all. Zach still hesitated. It was true he did owe Tessa. However, she’d always assured him it was a debt she’d never collect.

“I thought this was water under the bridge, and you were happy with the way it turned out. You said you’d forgiven me.”

“I did; I do. But I still need this favor. Please.” Tessa’s voice sounded odd. It almost sounded as if she was crying.

Did the undead cry?


* * * * *


Maxine heard a stifled scream and turned toward the sound. At the front desk, a couple stood staring at the spot where Victoria had been just moments ago. Then the man looked up, took a deep breath, and screamed like a girl.

What a nightmare.

In her mind, Maxine had prepared for this eventuality. She’d envisioned herself closing and locking the doors, calmly instructing the staff to conduct a swift and quiet search for the slayer, then she, personally, would dispose of the slayer, and the party would continue, so to speak.

Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned.

First off, Mitch’s caterwauling at the sight of the pile of ashes attracted everyone’s attention. Then, more people began screaming as they realized what had occurred. Vampires fled into the dark recesses of Temperance, and living patrons fled for the street. Thank the gods no one had been trampled in the pandemonium. Unfortunately, it looked like the slayer, whoever he or she was, had escaped.

Sorrow welled up inside her when she thought about Victoria, but she bit her bottom lip and carried on.

“I’ve called the police.” Jimmy, her brother, walked up behind her.

“And?” Maxine asked, although she knew full well what the answer would be.

“They pretty much said ‘good riddance’.” Jimmy replied.

“You’re surprised?”

“No, I guess not.” Jimmy shrugged and picked up a rag. “I had just hoped that since Temperance was a Chicago landmark that someone would be concerned.”

“The undead have no rights, Jimmy. But believe me, if one of the living patrons had been murdered here tonight, the place would be crawling with cops.”

“Maxine?” A tall, thin brunette woman interrupted.

Maxine looked up. It was Tessa, one of her newly hired employees. “Everything is under control Tessa. No need to be worried.”

Tessa shot her an impatient look.

“Could I speak to you…alone?”

“Sure,” Maxine gave her brother an apologetic look, but he just smiled and sauntered away in the direction of his apartment in the back. She turned her attention to Tessa and silently prayed the pretty vampire wasn’t going to turn in her resignation.

“I’m so sorry, we’ve never had a slayer invade Temperance, and I can assure you—”

Tessa held up a hand to interrupt her.

“I’m the one who needs to tell you I’m sorry. I made a call tonight after Vickie’s death.”

Maxine stayed silent, waiting for the other wooden stake to fall.

“I called my, well, ex-husband.”

Maxine was running out of patience while Tessa babbled on. Would the woman just come to the point?

“Zachary Fox. I phoned him this evening and called in a favor he owes me. He’ll be arriving sometime tomorrow.”

“Zachary Fox, the slayer?” Maxine shuddered. Was Tessa insane? Did she not think they had enough trouble with a rogue slayer in the club tonight? What was the woman thinking, inviting a professional killer into their midst? If the others found out, the club would be empty of vampires by nightfall, and Temperance would be closed for the first time in over 100 years.

“It’s not what you think. I know slayers, good ones and bad ones, hell, you probably didn’t know it, but I was one once. There was something off about the hit tonight. I have a really bad feeling. I think someone was sending you a message.”

“Tessa, I get hate mail and threats on a daily basis. If it isn’t the public shouting for me to close down, it’s the mob trying to hone in on the business. I don’t think Victoria’s destruction was anything more than a rogue slayer trying to make a name for himself.”

“Maybe,” Tessa said, but her voice sounded anything but convinced. “But I think we need a professional to investigate. Especially since the police have pretty much washed their hands of all of us. Damn them anyway.”

Maxine looked around her at the gleaming oak tables, colorful Tiffany lamps, and the huge bar her great-grandfather had carved by hand. Temperance was her life. Her mother had inherited it after her grandfather’s death ten years ago. It should have come to Maxine. However, she’d lost it all when she died. Thank goodness, Jimmy had no interest in running the bar. After a brief period of ‘remodeling’, she had reopened it as a fetish club and struck it rich. She couldn’t bear to lose it. If the living patrons didn’t come, the vampires would have no other way to support their blood habit but by…

No, she wasn’t going to let that happen.

“We’ll just have to be more careful tomorrow night when we reopen.”

“Careful? How? A metal detector isn’t going to do jack shit against a wooden stake.” Tessa argued. “Or are you going to have someone frisk everyone at the front door?” She looked around. “Whoever killed Vickie was no amateur slayer, and if we don’t’ stop them, he or she will kill again.”

“And a professional slayer will do what? Help him kill us all?” Maxine shook her head. “No, we’ll handle the situation ourselves.”

Before Tessa could argue further, Maxine strode off. Her heart was beating fast with a fear she hadn’t felt in years. Was Tessa right? Could someone be targeting her and her club?

It had to be the mob. When she’d first opened, they’d sent a few muscle-bound ‘gentlemen’ around to talk to her. Threatened her that if she didn’t pay protection money, that ‘bad’ things were bound to happen.

She had sent the goons back to their boss with a few broken bones for their trouble. The mob had left her alone to some extent. She still got the occasional visit and letter from Mr. Poulos himself. But nothing like this.

Making her last rounds, Maxine paused at the front door. For the first time in six years, she locked the doors to Temperance before dawn. The clatter of the deadbolt left her with the uneasy feeling that she would never open the doors again.

No, she’d been killed, had fought the city for a liquor license, and had been threatened by the toughest man in Chicago. One measly murder was not going to force her to turn tail and run.

Striding down the hall on her way to her office, she passed a small cluster of employees. They looked up at her, and she stopped to talk, hoping to allay their fears. Even as she reassured them, she could see their doubts clearly in their eyes and expressions. If she didn’t do something and do it fast, they would leave. When they did, they would be easy game for anyone with a wooden stake and a Buffy-the-vampire-slayer complex. Here at Temperance, they were safe, they could earn a living, and with luck and Congressional lobbying, perhaps they could finally earn status as citizens again.

“So, what are we going to do, Miss Maxine?” a petite blonde vampire asked, her lips trembling with fear.

“Did you call the police?” Vincent Price, their headliner who’s name really was Vincent, put his hand on her shoulder.

Maxine could almost smell his fear, and she hoped her outwardly calm demeanor would give him some comfort. It was hard enough to have died once and been forced to give up friends and family, many of whom recoiled from vampires in fear and loathing. To die again, soulless, was a terrifying possibility. One that she had every intention of preventing.

Maxine chewed on her lip. She could lie, but they deserved to know the truth. “Yes the police were called, but they refused to help us.”

“So what are we going to do? I don’t have anywhere else to go. Temperance is my home.” Vincent’s friend and sometime lover, Marcus, known to his fans as Van Helsing, had tears in his eyes.

“We’re not going to panic, for one. And I’m not going to close the club. But we are going to take some precautions.” Maxine looked around at their worried faces and grasped at the only straw she had. “I’ve called in an, um, consultant. He’ll be here tomorrow to investigate.”

The relief in her employees’ faces was clear. Marcus even smiled.

Damn it all, a consultant? The man was nothing but a cold-blooded killer, a slayer. Instead of relief, Maxine felt a surge of fear. Hopefully she hadn’t invited the wolf right into the fold.


Ericka Scott

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