It’s the big finale – the final stop of my blog tour. For your viewing pleasure, I have chapter one of A Vampire’s Deadly Delight. Check it out, and leave a comment because I’m going to do a drawing on Friday 2/17/12 at noon, and the winner will get a framed, limited edition copy of the original cover art that was created for the book by my sister Liza Rancourt-Fennimore. Hope you enjoy this sneak peek at Deadly Delight, and good luck with the drawing!
So when I came to, I was handcuffed to a bed. Someone had used old-fashioned metal cuffs—one on each limb—pinning me spread-eagle. All I could hear was the sound of my own heart pounding. The only illumination came from a single small candle. I rocked my head back to see what was behind me. The sickly light reflected off the twists and curves of an old brass headboard. Underneath me was what felt like a down comforter with a silky cover, and I was glad I’d worn a long dress to work, because even though the orange
cotton made my round body look a bit like a pumpkin, I couldn’t feel any inappropriately naked flesh. My feet were bare and I felt pretty green, but I had underpants on and whoever tied me up had left my bifocals, um, I mean, my progressive lenses in place. At least I’d be able to see whatever was coming to get me.
It occurred to me that it would be hours before anyone missed me. Robbie was right, there were situations when it would be handy to have a man at home. Too bad I was so stubbornly single. I tried to blink back my tears because it really didn’t seem like crying would help. I was nearly at the silent
sobbing stage when I was distracted by the sound of a door opening. There was a puff of rose perfume, then a figure walked in carrying a candle. I recognized Vivienne, a frequent flyer at my bookstore who I’d more-or-less made friends with. I didn’t know much more about her than that she had a preference for historical romances, which she found unaccountably funny, but seeing someone I recognized made me feel a little better. Only a little better.
Vivienne had always been kind of odd, a pale and insubstantial figure draped in flowing gowns, her auburn hair worn long and loose so that it fell in graceful tendrils around her face. When my hair was long and loose, it frizzed out so I looked like a milkweed pod. From the little I knew about Vivienne, I’d always figured that she’d played one too many games of Dungeons and Dragons. This must be one of those
“I’m so sorry, Kristen. I had to bring the Master a gift. He’s refusing me.”
“Right now I’d refuse you too.” If I pressed my eyes shut I could remember her coming into the store right as I was closing up for the night.
“The Master needs to feed.” She sounded like she might cry.
I had no idea what she was talking about. “I hope you at least locked up when we left.”
“Of course,” she said.
I guess I should be thankful for small favors. Finding an empty cash register in the morning would make it all that much worse. That’s assuming I ever made it back to work.
“He comes,” she whispered, holding the candle higher so that its light spilled over me.
“Vivienne, what is this?” The voice was deep, resonant, a perfect match for the man who came through the door. He was a modern update of a classic Greek hero, square jaw, strong nose, close-cropped golden curls and all. But—and this is significant—he smelled. Vampire. Dried meat left too long in the back cupboard mixed with old dirt and a hint of manure.
This I could deal with.
I felt the change begin as soon as my mind registered his scent. My body got soft, like it was melting, and my legs stretched, shoulders broadened, and pudgy curves shifted into more strategic locations. My frizzy hair even calmed down, falling into loose waves that framed my temporary cheekbones. I wasn’t Kristen anymore. I was Jai, a vampire’s most deadly delight.
“You have loosed an asp in our bower,” the vampire said softly.
Vivienne gasped. The chains snapped easily when I tugged at them. I was much stronger than Kristen.
“Your associates need to do better research, Shakespeare,” I said, as I pried the cuffs from my wrists.
They clanked onto the stone floor. I swung my legs around so I was sitting on the edge of the bed. I didn’t need Kristen’s bifocals, so the glasses were gone. I stood up in knee-high boots with what felt like 4-inch stilettos. I’ve always loved high heels. I think. My memory’s not so great.
Kristen’s pumpkin dress had morphed into a little peach-colored cotton top and pair of denim Daisy Dukes that put my flat tummy on proud display.
Nobody moved for a second while I worked off the ankle cuffs and adjusted my top. It would never do to flash The Girls at a dead guy before it was time.
“Dude, what’s up?” I stalked towards him in a barely controlled surge of energy, letting those four inch heels put a sinuous swing into my step.
Vivienne held the candle, frozen in place. “I swear I did not know, Master.”
The vampire was trying to poke holes in me with his eyes. I walked right up to him, pressing The Girls lightly into his chest. In my heels, I had maybe an inch on him, so I angled my gaze down until I met his amber eyes.
He didn’t move, which was a little strange. Most vampires couldn’t keep their hands off me, pawing at me like drunken high-school boys as soon as they got close enough.
“Don’t you like me, Shakespeare?” I purred, my lips nearly touching his cheekbone.
“I will ask you but once, Jai. Please take a step back.”
“Whoa, Shakespeare, no fair. You know my name, now you have to tell me yours.”
He knew my name. How? I’d never met a vamp I didn’t kill, so it’s not like they introduced me to their friends. Only two people knew Jai and one of those was technically not a person. He was a large spider, and he was, well, my keeper. Or something. The other had been cuffed to the bed. I took a step back, which surprised me even more.
In that one word I heard his tension, saw the wooden rigidity of his arms. Yeah, he wanted me. He wanted me bad. This one was strong. And old. As we stood, taking each other’s measure, I could sense the power of his years on Earth. Woo baby, I’d never done one this old. Wasn’t going to stop me, though. I reached for the short sword I kept in a sheath that was strapped to my thigh.
“Sorry we don’t have time to catch up, Shakespeare baby,” I said as I raised the blade I called Mr. Sticky. I imagined pressing it to his chest, making a quick slice up his sternum, right turn across his ribs, then back to make sure I got through his great vessels, the aorta and the vena cava. His heart would be mine. Too easy.
“Jai,” he breathed.
I stood frozen in place, my normal protection against a vampire’s vibe completely gone. They usually don’t scare me. He did. He was so old, so powerful.
Pausing is always a mistake. It gave me time to really look at him. There was something warm, something good, worked into him, one golden thread in the blackened weave of his being. All I usually saw in a vampire was dead—bone and muscle, sinew and dust. This one was different. I didn’t put Mr. Sticky away. I didn’t go for his heart, either.
It was Vivienne who blinked first. She threw the candle at the bed then dove between me and the vampire. He grabbed at her hair. I heard a snap and saw her crumple to the floor, her neck making an awkward L-shaped curve, her head at an impossible angle to her shoulder. The candle went out and before I could respond I felt the vampire leave. Jai faded and Kristen came back.
Sunrise didn’t register in the subterranean room. Nevertheless, it triggered something in Vivienne, bringing her to consciousness as the morning light outside turned the clouds a soft mother-of-pearl. She still lay sprawled on the floor where she’d fallen, her head cocked at an unnatural angle.
Slowly she blinked her eyes to clear them, then struggled to raise herself. Her mouth tasted like dust.
She made it up to her elbows, her head lolling loosely down her chest. When she was more or less upright, she put a hand over each ear and lifted. There was a sharp click as her head dropped into its normal place on her shoulders. She shook herself, flexing her neck and rolling her head from side to side, then untwisted the long chiffon skirt from around her legs. Satisfied, she stood and drifted towards the bed, feeling
the cool and delicate silk against her legs as she moved.
Amber light pooled around the old gilded sconces that were evenly spaced along the bedroom wall. The spacious room was one of several constructed below a mid-century rambler in one of the older subdivisions northeast of Seattle.
She hated the house because Sir John had moved them there after hearing a rumor that someone was killing vampires. He had hoped that someone would be Jai. He’d guessed right.
From the street the house showed its age, though the basement rooms Sir John had renovated were luxurious. The stone floors were heated from below with a piped water system and the walls were heavy concrete that had been covered with tinted plaster, mahogany wainscoting, and stretches of heavy
brocade fabric. There were no windows, and the door to the house above was kept locked.
Sir John, the vampire, was lying dead on the bed, his golden curls kissed gently by the light from the sconces and one hand clutching a chemise, its creamy silk turned a bitter tan by time.
Glaring at him, Vivienne tugged the chemise out of his hand. It had belonged to Jai in one of her past incarnations, though Vivienne doubted it would fit this new and buxom version. Sir John was Vivienne’s, and she wouldn’t share him again. It was too much for him to ask it of her. She was his Food, the one human he fed from and who he sustained indefinitely. Her hands pulled at the fragile silk, as if she would tear the old slip into pieces. She knew she would have to play along. She always did. She loved him. She’d just wait for her opportunity to chase Jai away. Again.
“You’re here.” Herbert scuttled out from behind the register as soon as I unlocked the door, his eight legs clicking on the glass countertop.
“No thanks to you.” I crossed to the back of the store and hit the light switch. Pads of fluorescent tubes sprang into action above my head.
“That woman did something to you last night.”
“And you did nothing to help.” I was a little bitter.
“You look ok now.” he said.
I glared at him. He was the size of a tea-cup poodle, which admittedly was big for a spider, but I could still step on him if he made me mad enough. He scooted back out of my way.
“Got lucky,” I snapped. “She drugged me or spelled me or something so she could make a gift of me to her boyfriend.”
“I always said you were a prize.”
“Whatever. I hope you get spider mites.”
Herbert climbed up onto the counter. “Tell me what happened.”
I shrugged. “It turned out the boyfriend was a vampire.”
“Jai time,” Herbert said.
I opened the register. Yesterday’s money was still in the till—which was a good thing—and I had time to drop yesterday’s deposit at the bank before I opened for the day.
“Another heart for the collection.”
“Or the trashcan.” I was nervous about this next part so I gave myself a stern shake. “No, in fact, he got away.” None of them had ever gotten away before.
“You let him get away?” Herbert was really being a pain.
“I didn’t let him do anything.”
“So the girlfriend helped.”
“Not even. She ended up with her neck snapped. He was just real old and real strong. He kept himself from touching me. He knew my name.”
I busied myself turning all the five-dollar bills so that Abraham Lincoln was facing the same direction. Remembering the vampire’s response made me feel squidgy.
“No shit,” Herbert said.
“Don’t swear.” It was automatic. I scolded him every time he swore. My parents raised me to believe that there were enough words in the English language that a person didn’t need to use the dirty ones. “Even spiders don’t need to use profanity.”
“Well excuse me.” Spiders didn’t need to be sarcastic either, but that didn’t stop Herbert. “So the big bad vamp didn’t fall for your…assets?”
“The big bad vampire knew my name.” I finished counting the bank into the register and slammed the door shut. “Kristen got chained to a bed by a vampire minion, Jai didn’t get the tag, and poor Vivienne ended up with her neck broken. It was not a good night.”
I headed into the back room faster than Herbert could crawl. Didn’t want him to see me cry.
“Hey, come on. This guy must have a story. Let me check my sources.”
“Sure, go consult your magic web.”
I didn’t look at him, just stared at the computer and kept plugging figures into the balance sheet. The bookkeeping was pretty easy. Once I entered all the cash and checks it would automatically add in all the debits and charges and compare it with the register tape. I could have worked faster except that I
had to keep brushing away tears.
When I was done, I had time to run to the bank to deposit the cash and stop for some coffee before opening the store. I opened the office door and found that Herbert was planted in the middle of the aisle. He wasn’t truly blocking me because I could easily have stepped over him. I stopped anyway, to be
“Shoo. I need to work.”
“This could be trouble,” he said, his multifaceted eyes shining up at me.
He was so black that it was hard to see much of his face except for the glittering eyes and beak-like mouth. As it was, he looked like an oversized black widow with buckteeth and a thyroid condition. I stepped around him then walked through the long shelves of books, heading for the front door. I could
hear him clicking along behind me.
“Only two vamps have shown any immunity to Jai,” he said. “One keeps trying to kill her.”
“That must be the reason you have to keep finding new recruits.” Fine, I was willing to air all the dirty laundry today if he was. “Besides, I’m still alive, so maybe this is the other one.”
“Jai is not a death sentence,” he said.
I stared hard at him, trying to see if he had his fingers, or rather, his legs crossed. “Sure,” I agreed and let myself out the front door.
(ANY formatting errors are my own… )