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Awaken at Twilight (A Vampire Anthology)

Awaken at Twilight (A Vampire Anthology)

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Awaken at Twilight (A Vampire Anthology)

Length:
1,215 pages
19 hours
Released:
Jun 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781507023310
Format:
Book

Description

Eight dark fantasy vampire stories to sink your teeth into. Some stories have been previously published and some have cliff-hangers.

1) Soul Rebel - C.J. Pinard
2) Blood's Fury - C.M. Owens
3) Crush - Chrissy Peebles
4) Blood & Wings - J & L Wells
5) Wicked - Kristen Middleton
6) Courage Runs Red - W.J. May
7) Blair (Daughter's of Darkness) Chrissy Peebles
8) Victoria (Daughter's of Darkness) W.J. May

Open preview for book descriptions. Adult Situations and Content. Suitable For Readers 18 and older...

Soul Rebel - A vampire took his soul. He wants it back...

Blood's Fury - The deadliest things in life are often the most beautiful... until they strike.

Crush - His precious touch could prove deadly...

Blood & Wings - A story of love, loss, and betrayal.

Venom - Vampires, Lycan, and Rock stars? Oh my!

Courage Runs Red - What if courage was your only option?

Daughter of Darkness - Blair - What happens when you're forced to go on the run and hide from your own sister?

Daughter of Darkness - Victoria - Only death can stop this vampire hunter from collecting a bounty...

Released:
Jun 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781507023310
Format:
Book

About the author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Middleton (K.L Middleton) has written and published over thirty-nine stories. She also writes gritty romance novels under the name, Cassie Alexandra.

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Book Preview

Awaken at Twilight (A Vampire Anthology) - Kristen Middleton

May

A star-studded vampire anthology of nail-biting, blood-chilling first books by your favorite authors of horror and fantasy. Some contain adult themes, language, and seduction. They are recommended for mature readers. Enjoy!

Soul Rebel - A vampire took his soul. He wants it back...

Blood's Fury - The deadliest things in life are often the most beautiful... until they strike.

Crush - His precious touch could prove deadly...

Blood & Wings - A story of love, loss, and betrayal.

Wicked – Never talk to strangers.

Courage Runs Red - What if courage was your only option?

Daughter of Darkness - Blair - What happens when you're forced to go on the run and hide from your own sister?

Daughter of Darkness - Victoria - Only death can stop this vampire hunter from collecting a bounty...

*Click on title to read story*

Warning - there will be some cliff-hangers.

Soul Rebel – Book One

by CJ Pinard

A vampire took his soul. He wants it back.

When 21-year-old Nolan Bishop meets Eva, a seductive redhead at a dark club in downtown Shreveport, little does he know his soul will be gone as soon as she is. It doesn’t take Nolan long to realize that this succubus, who is now invading his dreams, has taken something from him. Through the underground network of the supernatural in New Orleans, he finds out he has a mere 7 days to destroy Eva before he turns into something sinister and inhuman. In a race against all that is holy, Nolan meets Eva’s identical twin, Charity. He begs for her help to find Eva with the intent to kill her – all while trying not to fall in love with Charity – and all in 7 days.

Deadly Beauties – Book Two

by C.M. Owens

The deadliest things in life are often the most beautiful... until they strike.

Alyssa Coldwell decides to put her destiny as an immortal witch to the side, so she can take the chance to live like a normal girl amongst regular humans before she too is part of the fey world. She wants a break from magic and all the dangerous drama that comes with it, but life doesn't always let you do as you please.

Magic is supposed to be simple - you're either light or dark. But Alyssa is brutally awakened when she learns that life isn't always so simple. There are gray areas, and there is more to being light than simply saying you are.

But magic isn't her only problem, humans have problems as well. When she meets Kane Ice, she finds herself in a situation she's never been before. She's been sheltered by her overly protective mother, so being with a guy hasn't ever been an easy task. Kane makes it impossible not to try... while she can. Though she knows she'll have to leave him once her body turns immortal, she can't help but fall for him.

What's the problem with a witch loving a human? So, so many things. Her world is too dangerous, and her attempt to take a break from it fails miserably when her mother is taken captive. With danger always around her, she knows Kane will never be safe. But it's too hard to let him go.

Kane's not so fragile though, and he refuses to lose the only girl he's ever really cared for. Secrets are a part of Alyssa's life, but she's not the only one with a locked vault full of unspoken truths. When the secrets come out, Alyssa loses all her faith, her will, and her hope.

Crush – Book Three

By Chrissy Peebles

His precious touch could prove deadly... 

When Taylor Sparks moves from New York City to Big Bear Lake, California, her life is forever changed when she meets a hot guy with winter-blue eyes named Jesse. Their attraction is instant, the chemistry undeniable. But sadly, things aren't adding up. Taylor wonders what her 'crush' is hiding. When her new friend, Fred tells her his suspicions about Jesse being a paranormal creature, Taylor laughs. But when Fred turns up dead, she believes every warning he ever told her. 

Taylor is shocked to learn that Big Bear Lake isn't just glittering lakes, towering pines, and breathtaking mountains...there's more...way more than meets the eye. 

Will Taylor dive into a paranormal world she knows nothing about? To be with the one her heart can’t live without? 

Blood & Wings - Book Four

J&L Wells

––––––––

With their destinies inextricably linked, three people’s lives are thrown together.

As Rose stands on a bridge gazing down into the dark waters, bombarded by voices in her head telling her to jump, she is offered Lucian’s hand and takes it. A vampire has saved her life, but how can she possibly return the favor? Is the bargaining tool he offers her one that Rose can afford to refuse?

If the waters of Rose’s life aren’t muddied enough, revelations made by Tristan, her best friend, only serve to complicate matters further.

Blood and Wings is the first book in the ‘Shaded Rose’ series, a story of love, loss and betrayal.

If meeting a vampire wasn’t daunting enough, how will Rose react to meeting an angel...?

Wicked – Book Five

Kristen Middleton

Wicked

By Kristen Middleton

––––––––

When eighteen-year-old Emily wakes up to find herself being held captive in a barn with four other women and tries to escape, she finds herself being hunted by a dark presence through the deep woods of Montana.

Courage Runs Red – Book Six

W.J. May

What if courage was your only option?

When Kallie lands a college interview with the city’s new hot-shot police officer, she has no idea everything in her life is about to change. The detective is young, handsome and seems to have an unnatural ability to stop the increasing local crime rate. Detective Liam’s particular interest in Kallie sends her heart and head stumbling over each other.

When a raging blood feud between vampires spills into her home, Kallie gets caught in the middle. Torn between love and family loyalty, she must find the courage to fight what she fears the most and possibly risk everything, even if it means dying for those she loves.

Daughter of Darkness –

Blair – Book Seven

Chrissy Peebles 

Blair is half witch and half vampire. She lives with a coven of witches and hasn't had any contact with her vampire heritage. Blair is living the perfect life until one day, everything crashes down around her. She is forced to leave everything she knows and loves, and must go on the run to save her life.

This is Blair's story by Chrissy Peebles. This is a novella. As a courtesy, the author wishes to inform you this novella does end with a cliffhanger. The next book coming out in early July (or sooner) will continue the story.

***This is an adult book series and this series does contain scenes for readers that are 18 and older.

Daughter Of Darkness –

Victoria – Book Eight

W.J. May

Only Death Could Stop Her Now

The Daughters of Darkness is a series of female heroines who may or may not know each other, but all have the same father, Vlad Montour.

Victoria is a Vampire Hunter and will stop at nothing to collect her bounty...

Soul Rebel – C.J. Pinard

––––––––

Book 1 in the Rebel Riders Series

BY C.J. PINARD

Copyright 2014 C.J. Pinard

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

––––––––

Chapter 1

Long Weekend

The last time he could remember sweating this much was playing football in high school. The motorcycle he had been restoring just didn’t want to start. Who the hell buys a 1999 P.O.S. Kawasaki crotch-rocket and expects it to run anyway?

He used a disgusting red oil rag to wipe the sweat from his forehead and tossed it overhand into a nearby bin. He had his coveralls stripped off before he reached the men’s room. Those too went into a bin, and he scrubbed his hands as best he could. Drying them off, he looked at his grimy fingernails, the dirt and grease a permanent fixture under them. He could vaguely remember his older sister’s warning when he told her he wasn’t going to college, and was going to restore old motorcycles instead.

Your hands will never be clean, she chided. No girl wants to be touched by hands that look filthy all the time, she had scolded as she made a face.

But he had proven her wrong. He’d been told many times that his hands looked strong and protective, despite the permanent half-moon of black under each nail. He grinned.

He grabbed his backpack from the grungy locker in the men’s room of the small motorcycle restoration shop and fished out his keys. His red and white Ducati Monster was parked right out front. He looped his arm through the other strap of the backpack and mounted the death machine. It started with what passersby probably thought was an obnoxious rumble, but sounded more like a purr to him. He was shoving the matching red and white helmet on his head when he heard his name.

Nolan!

He slid the helmet back up and whipped his head in the direction of the voice. Yeah, boss?

The shop’s owner, Archie Ross, a man in his sixties who lived hard and fast like he was still in his twenties, came lumbering out, waving an envelope. Got the pay done early due to the holiday weekend ‘n all, he said as he gimped up to Nolan’s motorcycle.

Nolan took the envelope and smiled at Archie. Thanks, boss. This’ll come in handy this weekend.

Archie reached up and scratched his head, the gray in his hair shining under the setting sun, a diamond stud glinting in his left ear. Archie was still in his coveralls, but Nolan knew he would be in his leather vest and pants later tonight when he met with his motorcycle club. Archie walked with a limp from a stab wound to the thigh he’d received in the 1980s during a bar fight.

He spat a wad of chew in a brown stream out onto the sidewalk and looked at Nolan, raising his voice over the rumble of the bike. No problem, kid. You gonna go show off the new bike this weekend? He pointed at it.

Nolan shook his head. Nah, gonna take the car. My girl doesn’t like the bike so much.

Archie laughed and shook his head as he limped away. Women.

Nolan smiled again, folding the envelope and putting it in his front pants pocket. He slid on his helmet. With a twist of the handlebar and a pulse of his foot, he was off, zooming down the street and weaving in and out of traffic, with horns blaring at his driving.

It didn’t take much time to reach home. The large apartment complex was only five miles from the shop, and was one of those fancy ones with the immaculate landscaping, gym, tennis courts, and swimming pool.

Because a swimming pool isn’t a luxury in Louisiana, it’s a necessity.

Shreveport, a big city with a small town feel, was large enough to be the home to several big-name businesses, but was also known to be very family-oriented and slow-paced. There wasn’t much to do in Shreveport, but Nolan Bishop had lived there all his life and he knew exactly where the hot spots were.

He parked his bike under the covered carport in parking spot 272, and dismounted the bike, his helmet under his arm. He sprinted up the stone steps to apartment 272 and slid the key in the lock. The place was clean and tidy, just the way he’d left it.

He always laughed when people would act shocked at his pristinely clean apartment. Just because he was a grease monkey and stayed dirty all day didn’t mean he liked his home that way, too. Refusing to get a roommate for that very reason, Nolan was happy to live alone. He was 21 years old and enjoyed his solitude.

He closed and locked the door behind him. Dropping his backpack on the sofa and tossing his keys on the kitchen counter, he yanked a bottle of water from the fridge and cracked it open, practically downing its entire contents in one gulp. The humidity always made him thirstier, and being as it was July, it was all the more hot. He pitched the empty plastic bottle into the trash and had most of his clothes peeled off his sweaty body before he reached the bedroom. He left them in a pile on his bedroom floor and went into the adjoining bathroom and started the shower. As it heated up, he looked at his reflection. He had a smudge of dirt – or was it grease? – on his forehead and he wiped it away with his brawny hand. Lime green eyes stared back at him in the mirror, and he lifted a sleeved-up tattooed arm, flexing his bicep, admiring his muscle. He sucked in his stomach, which really wasn’t necessary since there was no fat there anyway, and ran his long fingers over the bumps of a developing six-pack. Scrubbing a hand along his light brown crew-cut, he huffed at the evolving blonde five o’clock shadow on his face. He grabbed the razor and shaving cream and decided to shave blindly in the shower today, as he had on many occasions.

As soon as he was as clean as he was going to get, he wrapped a white towel around his waist and padded into his bedroom. He was a bundle of nerves and excitement thinking about the upcoming weekend. He felt himself being pulled as if by an invisible rope to his sock drawer, sliding it open and plucking out the small black velvet box. He turned it around in his hand and carefully opened its lid with a squeak. Staring at the one-carat marquis-cut solitaire diamond, he sighed.

He remembered going to her house while she had been at school and speaking to her father, asking for his permission to marry his daughter. Her father was a friendly man, but was overly concerned with education, and hadn’t been at all thrilled that Nolan didn’t want to go to college. But with Nolan’s natural charms and strong argument about how most good mechanics could make as much as a lot of businessmen, her father had eventually relented and gave his blessing. Nolan smiled at the memory.

He closed the lid and placed the box on top of his dresser and wandered over to his closet, removing a large duffel bag.

After dressing in plain jeans and a purple and yellow LSU T-shirt, he began to pack enough clothes for the long weekend to New Orleans. He already had the steamboat cruise planned. He was going to get down on one knee on the deck, under a string of white lights and fireworks, and profess his undying love to Sarah.

He thought about how fast the past two years had flown by. They met shortly after high school where Nolan had attended one semester of junior college before he decided it wasn’t for him. It did give him enough time to meet Sarah, however, who completed her two years of undergraduate work and went on to transfer to Louisiana State University, now with one year left until she had a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. He wore the shirt in her honor. He was very proud of her.

With a grin, he threw his toiletries bag into the duffel and zipped it closed. On his way out of the room, he snatched the ring box from atop his dresser and shoved it into the pocket of his jeans. He quickly spotted his keys and cell phone on the kitchen counter and left the apartment, locking the door behind him.

Since Sarah wasn’t a fan of the motorcycle, he took his 1971 Dodge Charger. She wasn’t fond of that car, either, but it was better than the donorcycle, her not-so-cute nickname for his Ducati Monster. He threw his duffel into the trunk and started the car, its souped-up engine causing a rumbling purr throughout the apartment complex. He cranked the A/C he had installed himself on the classic car, and waited for it to kick in before he whooshed through the parking lot and onto the street.

Soon, the muscle car thundered to a stop outside of Sarah’s house. She still lived with her parents to save money, which she hated, but she was damned and determined to graduate debt-free from college. Her responsible nature was one of the things Nolan loved about her, and why he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

He parked and walked to the front door of the old Victorian home, feeling suddenly nervous. He hoped his nerves didn’t show, as the proposal was going to be a surprise. Sarah thought they were just heading to New Orleans for the long July Fourth holiday since it was a three-day weekend. They were going to watch the fireworks from the Riverwalk. He had it all planned out, and was very excited.

Inside, Sarah heard the doorbell. Hey, I gotta go, she whispered into the cell phone. No, it’s nothing. I’ll see you Tuesday. Pause. Yeah, me too, she said with a lippy smirk. She hit the end button on her fancy cell phone and strolled happily through the house, opening the door.

Hi, she said to Nolan, who was standing on her covered wraparound porch with a big grin on his face.

Hey, gorgeous, he said, stepping up into the house and giving her a big hug. He inhaled the scent of her hair, which always smelled like cherry blossoms. Big blue eyes looked up at him. He fingered a blonde curl from near her face. I like the curls.

She beamed. Thanks. Thought I’d try something different today.

It’s hot. I love it, he replied, his fingers lingering on her blonde locks, which were normally styled stick-straight.

Mom, we’re leaving. See you Tuesday! she called out, snatching the small, black suitcase from the floor. Her purse was sitting on top and she slung it over her tanned shoulder.

Nolan relieved her of the suitcase and carried it to the Charger and put it in the trunk alongside his duffel bag.

The five hour trip to New Orleans was pleasant, as they listened to music and talked, making a couple stops for gas along the way. Once they reached the city, they quickly checked into their hotel in the French Quarter and settled in.

They walked through the door and took in the nineteenth century décor. There was a bed framed in white wrought iron, a cream lace and satin duvet on it. Lace curtains hung over the window, framed by heavy burgundy velvet drapes. The floor was a simple solid maroon carpeting, and old world paintings hung on the wall. The room smelled old, but pleasantly perfumed.

Sarah set her purse on an ornate Victorian chair and Nolan set the suitcases down.

He grabbed her waist from behind and kissed her neck. I’m so glad you came with me.

She turned around and grinned up at him, looking into his light green eyes. We’re going to have a blast here. I can’t wait to hit Bourbon Street and have a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s!

He frowned at her response. Here he was thinking, romantic weekend, and she wanted to party it up. Oh well, he thought, once he proposed and she said yes, he’d give her the world if she asked for it.

Lifting his face into a smile once more, he kissed her softly and said, Whatever you want.

She kissed him back and he pushed her down on the bed. She giggled into his mouth but continued kissing him.

When he began to tug at her purple tank top, she grabbed his hand. Let’s go see the city. It’ll be dark soon. I’ve never been here!

He ignored her and whispered in between nips of his teeth on her neck, You sure you don’t want to christen the room first?

Later, she whispered back, rolling out from under him. She slunk off the bed and walked into the bathroom, closing the door.

He sat on the edge of the bed with a huff and rubbed the back of his neck. A smile lit up his face. If she wants a Hurricane, I’ll buy her a dozen.

Chapter 2

Proposals and Perfidy

Nolan heard the shower start and contemplated getting in with her, but decided against it. He knew where her head was, and decided there was always time for that later. He was sure they’d be having lots of fun after she had a few drinks in her beautiful body.

Once they had cleaned up, they took the elevator down to the first floor, exiting out of the parking garage and walking a few blocks to Bourbon Street. It was still light out, but the sun was fading fast. The air was thick with humidity and life. Music poured out of taverns and bars, and girls wearing next to nothing stood in front of shops, beckoning anyone and everyone to come in. Street performers lined the avenue, cups and upside down hats their makeshift collection plates.

This is great! Sarah drawled, looking everywhere but at Nolan. There’s so much to see, I don’t want to miss a thing! In a loose blue and white striped sleeveless top and khaki shorts, flat, comfortable sandals helped keep her feet from getting sore from all the walking. Her blonde curls were clipped up loosely on the back of her head, showing off her slender neck.

Nolan stared at her. Even as casual as she was, she looked beautiful, he thought. A fine sheen of sweat caused her tanned face to glow under the setting sun. Her long eyelashes curled up toward her blonde eyebrows, and Nolan laughed a little to himself at her awe. She was like a child at Disneyworld for the first time.

She looked back at him, a half-smile twitching on her lips. What?

He shook his head and pulled their still-linked hands up to his mouth, kissing her knuckles. Nothing. You having a good time?

She beamed. Oh yeah. This is awesome. Let’s go get a drink!

They turned the next corner and waited in line to get into Pat O’Brien’s. After a short ten minute wait, they were seated in the courtyard under a large tree strung with little white lights.

A cute brunette waitress in tiny black shorts and a friendly face came and took their orders. Sarah, of course, ordered a Hurricane.

When the server returned with the drinks, Sarah wasted no time taking a large sip from the long, black straw, closing her eyes in ecstasy. Oh, my God, this is amazing, she murmured.

Nolan laughed at her again, taking a swig of his beer. I’ll take your word for it.

Oh, c’mon, try it! She lifted the drink to his face.

He pulled back in disgust. Nah, looks too sweet.

She laughed and shrugged. More for me!

They left the restaurant after they’d finished sharing a seafood pasta meal and went to walk off their dinner. The night was in full swing all around them, a clear, black star-shot sky overhead to accompany them. They walked hand-in-hand for hours, wandering in and out of shops, collecting brochures for ghost and plantation tours. Exhausted, they finally headed back to the hotel.

Nolan wrapped his arms around Sarah in the elevator on the ride back up to their room. I love you.

She beamed and kissed him on the mouth, running her hands under his white T-shirt to his smooth, damp chest. He kissed her back, his tongue snaking with hers as the elevator dinged. They broke apart, gasping and laughing as the doors creaked open and an older couple entered. A distinguished woman was carrying a small Chihuahua puppy wearing a pink diamond-studded collar. Nolan smiled at them as they exited the elevator.

He slipped the key card into the lock, the light turning green on the first try. He tossed the key on the room’s dresser and peeled his shirt off.

Sarah bit her lip and smirked at Nolan, a laugh threatening to bubble up from her throat. Now we can christen the room.

He pushed her on the bed, but not before he pried her tank top off, tossing it to the floor.

She laughed again.

Yellow light poured in from a crack in the heavy draperies, and it was bearing down right on Nolan’s face. He threw an arm over his eyes to block it out and rolled over with his back to the window. Sarah was asleep, her blonde curls splayed out on the white pillow. He gently moved a strand off her face and stared at her. The room was still cloaked in darkness, thanks to the heavy, closed drapes, but he could see her well enough, because of the offending sliver of light that had woken him. He loved watching her sleep. His belly was already full of butterflies thinking about what tonight meant. It was the Fourth of July – proposal day. He mentally ticked off the list of things he had to do to make sure the night was perfect. He had sightseeing and lunch planned for today, but tonight was the big event, and he couldn’t be more excited.

Her eyes began to flutter open and she smiled. How long have you been up?

Not long, he whispered.

She yawned. I’m hungry.

Me too. We’ll get some breakfast, he said, still playing with her hair.

She sat up and stretched, holding the sheets to cover her bare chest. Ooh, how about we go to that place that serves the famous beignets?

He laughed. Anything you want, beautiful.

The day was spent sightseeing and taking tours like the tourists they were. At the end of the day as the sun began to set, they left the hotel room, where they had gone back to change clothes for nighttime activities. They set off on foot down to the Riverwalk, where the Riverboat would be leaving at eight p.m. Nolan had booked this months in advance, knowing it would be a popular spot to watch the fireworks from.

The large riverboat was white with a gigantic rotating paddle that spun off the back, propelling the boat forward over the choppy black water. White lights were strung from its bow, and people milled about on the deck, holding various drinks. A low chatter cloaked the deck of the boat.

Sarah was standing on the bow holding a glass of white wine, the warm, wet wind blowing in her face. Nolan came up behind her and put his arms around her middle, the little black box burning a hole in his pocket.

It’s so pretty out here, why haven’t we done this sooner? she asked, still looking out at the choppy water.

He rested his head on top of hers with ease. While he was easily six-foot-two, she was barely five-foot-five. Because I never had an occasion until now.

She turned around quickly and looked at him. The fireworks blasting through the night sky lit up his face in reds and blues. He had a mischievous grin on his face but wasn’t saying anything.

Well, what does that mean? she asked impatiently, her blue eyes flicking back and forth between his.

He reached into his pocket without breaking eye contact. He held the box in his sweaty palm and licked his dry lips. The fireworks were causing a rainbow explosion against her light hair and he took a deep breath. Just then, he felt a fierce vibration against his right thigh and looked down to see a lump in her front pocket. He laughed. Do you need to get that?

She shook her head without taking her eyes from his. Nope.

He also shook his head and smiled, sucking in a breath. Sarah Grace Leedman, I have loved you from the day I saw you in that History class. You have made me happier than anyone I have ever met. I would be foolish to let you go, so I have to ask: Will you marry me? He opened his hand flat and the little black box was perched on his palm.

He kicked himself at the lame proposal, forgetting to get on one knee, but everything he’d planned to say had flown out of his brain faster than the speed of light.

She gave him a shocked face and her eyes slid down to the box. She flicked her wide eyes back up to his and took a deep breath. She looked back down at the box and carefully opened it. A plain silver band with a large marquis-shaped diamond sat regally at the top. She ran her thumb over the shining stone then looked back up at him and smiled. Of course I’ll marry you, Nolan Bishop!

He swallowed the lump in his throat and pulled the ring out and slipped it on her finger.

She looked down at it, then up at him, throwing her arms around his neck while standing on tiptoe. Reaching down, he brushed his lips against hers as the fireworks exploded behind them.

Two weeks after his proposal, the couple was back home, her having moved out of her parents’ house and into his apartment. It took some adjustment on his part, due to his love of living alone and having his space just the way he wanted it, but he knew this was a sacrifice he’d be making when he got married. They hadn’t set a date yet, but the wedding wasn’t going to be until she finished her senior year at LSU, which was next spring. That gave them plenty of time to plan the wedding, and she seemed excited, looking through bridal magazines, which he had to pick up and stack neatly on the coffee table when she left them strewn around. She went online looking at wedding dresses and various locales to have the wedding at. Things were falling into place, and Nolan couldn’t be happier.

All right, Archie, I’m outta here. Thanks for letting me off early. I’m wiped, man, Nolan said as he threw his coveralls in the bin and grabbed his backpack.

Archie took a long drag from his cigarette, and then blew out a huge plume of smoke and half-grinned. No problem, kid. You have a good weekend with that girl of yours.

You too, and if there are any motorcycle-related emergencies, don’t call me! he joked.

Archie threw back his head and laughed, his ponytail swishing behind him. Don’t worry, even I won’t be answering the phone this weekend. Me ‘n the boys are gonna take a group ride down to Nawlins.

Nolan smirked. Have fun and take it easy, boss. Don’t drink too many Hurricanes. He slid on the helmet over his greasy head, checked his controls, and flew off down the street on his Ducati, spitting exhaust out of the back.

He parked the bike in his usual spot and trotted up the slatted stone steps to his apartment. He tried the doorknob before inserting his key as he always did – one of his quirky habits – and was surprised to find the door unlocked. He eased the door open slowly with a furrow of his brow.

Oh, shit! said a male voice.

Nolan’s eyes got big as time seemed to stand still, and then slowly propel forward as if in slow motion. He saw a tall, tanned man wearing absolutely nothing, holding one of his couch cushions in front of his family jewels, his brown eyes wide; Sarah, also wearing absolutely nothing, jumping up from the couch, her hair a rat’s nest of a mess, her makeup smeared, her lips puffy, her blue eyes huge. Her cheeks were bright red, not only from embarrassment but whisker rash as well. The two were frozen in shock as Nolan stared at them.

Then time seemed to speed up as the shock hit him like a lightning bolt, and he flew into action. He threw his backpack, keys, and cell phone to the floor and launched himself at the man, pushing him back down to the couch. Sarah moved away just in time, running into the bedroom as the two men fought. The guy was throwing punches in defense, but Nolan had his hands wrapped around the man’s throat, and he was squeezing. He managed to kick Nolan in the stomach and he went flying to the ground. The other man jumped on him, but Nolan pushed him off and pinned him to the ground. Nolan had his right hand around his throat, and he was throwing left hooks at his face in quick succession. Blood flew out from the man’s nose and splashed the light-colored carpet. Nolan didn’t stop his assault.

Sarah came out after throwing on some clothes and screamed at Nolan to let him up. Nolan barely registered her screams, thinking she was going to be next if she didn’t shut up. Nolan felt fingernails digging into his neck and shoulders as Sarah began to pull. She slapped at Nolan’s head.

I’m gonna call the police if you don’t stop, Nolan! You’re gonna kill him!

That was enough for Nolan to let up, and the other man got a leg free and kicked Nolan again in the stomach. Nolan bent over, coughing and spitting. The guy then grabbed a pile of clothing from the floor and scurried out the door, covering himself with his clothes as he raced down the stone steps.

Nolan got up from the floor, panting from the kick to the gut with a hand wrapped around his middle. With eyes burning with tears, he turned to Sarah and whispered through gritted teeth, Pack your shit and get the fuck outta here. You better be gone when I get back.

With that, his arm still wrapped around his gut, he grabbed his keys and phone from the floor and slammed the door shut. Sarah was screaming behind him for him to wait. He didn’t hear her. He couldn’t hear her. He wouldn’t hear her. He got on his bike and drove off with no destination at all.

Chapter 3

The Blue Room

Reds and golds painted the heavens at the horizon of the water. The lake was calm as the sun began to set where the gently rippling water met the sky. A few broken clouds were scattered throughout the sunset, but the scene was otherwise breathtaking. There was only a slight warm wind, and the air was as thick and as heavy as his heart.

Nolan sat on a wooden dock next to a boat slip at a pier on Cross Lake. The dock jutted out into the lake and he had his bare feet in the water. A small cane fishing pole was set next to a bucket of lures and worms, its line lying lazily in the water, but he wasn’t getting any bites. Just my luck, he thought as he stared at the sad pole.

He gazed back up at the beautiful sunset and wondered what he’d done wrong; where he’d gone wrong. Hadn’t he given her everything? What else could she have possibly wanted?

He hadn’t seen or spoken to Sarah in over a month. She’d tried calling his cell, the motorcycle shop, even his parents’ house, but he wouldn’t take her calls. What could she have to say? She was sorry? There was no coming back from that. There was no Hallmark card for I’m sorry I screwed some dude on your couch. No amount of talking, apologizing, or justification could make him forgive her. He had even bought a new sofa, and had set the old one out on the street in front of the apartment complex with a large cardboard sign reading FREE. It had been gone by sundown.

At least she’d had the common decency to return the ring. After she’d finally given up on the phone calls, she’d left it at his parents’ house. He had yet to go pick it up, for that would mean facing his parents, too. Not to mention the embarrassing and arduous task of either trying to return it or, or worse, taking it to a pawn shop and getting a third of what he paid for it.

Now that he thought about it, he should have just let her keep the defiled hunk of metal and stone.

And that jerkoff who so carelessly violated her on his couch; no thoughts about anyone other than himself and his needs. Nolan vowed if he ever saw that guy again, he was gonna fold his teeth back with his fist.

His stomach roiled and his heart clenched painfully in his chest at the thought of her face. Despite the pain, he was angry at himself for missing her. He tried to keep thinking about that day, the gravity of her betrayal and disgusting behavior, but all he kept remembering were the happy times. The beginning of their relationship to the end, and what was once the happiest day of his life when she’d agreed to marry him. Her shiny blonde hair and playful blue eyes floated through his brain and he closed his eyes, wishing the visions away.

His stomach grumbled, this time in hunger, but he ignored it. He’d just have to poke another hole in his belt, because the thought of food was still revolting to him.

Nolan glanced at his cell phone that was sitting next to him. He gasped a little when he realized he’d been sitting there for three hours. He collected the pole and lures, shoved his phone into his pocket, and stood up, wincing at the pins and needles zipping down his legs from too much time sitting. He normally never sat this long, but lately, he’d not had much energy for anything else, and fishing helped clear his mind.

As he drove back to his apartment into town, he gazed at the lake once more as he rushed by it, grateful for its beauty and solitude to help ease his aching soul. He felt as if Sarah had ripped a piece of it out when she’d left, and he resolved that no other woman would ever do that to him again.

Nolan trudged up the stairs to his apartment and had just opened the door when his cell chirped with an incoming text. He set his things down and clicked on it. His friend Parker was urging him once again to go out to a new club with them. He let out a breath, and with his thumb hovering uncertainly over the screen, he was debating on how to respond.

He had to admit that he was getting tired of sitting home on the weekends watching cable and drinking beer alone. His friends, Parker Mathis and Brennan Diaz, had been sympathetic to his plight, and felt a night of partying would cure his heartsick condition.

In a moment of weakness, Nolan responded he’d be there and asked for details. He tossed the phone on the dining room table and went into the bathroom to shower.

After washing away his blues under the hot water, he got out and swiped a hand over the mirror to clear the fog. He began brushing his teeth as he studied his face and rubbed at the dark smudges under his eyes. It was clear the fitful sleep was catching up to him, along with not eating properly. He no longer had to suck in his stomach, as it was concave on its own, all the hard work of the six-pack he’d been developing at the gym before the big breakup now gone. He could even see a few ribs poking through. He shook his head and became angry that he’d allowed that whore to do that to him.

No, Nolan, you allowed it, a little voice told him. He shook his head again and realized the little voice was right. You can’t help how you feel, but you can control your actions. He parroted the wise words of his big sister, who loved to dish out advice and clichés like ice cream.

But had he allowed it? Hadn’t he given her all she ever wanted? Maybe that was the problem. Women these days... they wanted men who were assholes to them. Maybe he should turn into a raging jerk player like his friend Parker; maybe he’d get a woman who was faithful to him. He shook his head. No matter how hard he tried, there was no way he’d be able to treat a woman like Parker did.

He went back out to his kitchen, wrapped in nothing but a towel, and checked his phone again. Turned out Parker had invited him to a new club that had recently opened up in the industrial section of town. Strange place for a club, he had thought, but then Parker explained that abandoned warehouses not only have great space and acoustics, they also don’t get complaints from neighbors about noise.

Padding back to his bedroom and over to his closet, Nolan chose a stiff red button-down shirt and some fitted Rebel jeans. He slid them over his lithe body, tightening the brown leather belt to the very last notch to keep them up, and sprayed the newest Fahrenheit scent across his body. He gave himself the once-over in the mirror. He thought he looked pretty damn good considering he’d been tinkering with motorcycle parts for a few hours before his fishing trip, and had had his heart and soul ripped out just over a month ago.

He scrubbed a hand through his too-long hair. Gone was the buzz cut, replaced by something blonder and longer that would require some sort of hair product. He searched the bathroom drawers until he found some and rubbed it into his locks, leaving it messy-looking. He’d get a haircut during the week sometime. He had forgotten to shave, too, but didn’t care about that either. He thought the stubble matched his purposely-messy hairstyle.

Content that he wasn’t getting any younger staring at his reflection, he wandered into his kitchen and pulled two slices of cold pizza from the fridge and munched on them as he scrolled through the text messages on his phone. He had received four while getting ready.

One from a girl he met last week at a coffee shop, whom he gave his number to in a fleeting pass of bad judgment, and now regretted.

DELETE.

Two more from Parker with directions and a demand of assurance, asking if he was still going. He responded to the affirmative.

The last was from his mother, saying hi. He supposed he should be grateful his mother actually texted and didn’t call all the time like most mothers do. She only lived across town and he always tried to visit his parents on weekends, so he shot a quick text back to her saying he was fine and would be by tomorrow for a long-overdue visit.

Two pieces of cold pizza forced down the hatch, he checked his wallet to ensure he had some cash, to which he realized he only had a five dollar bill, and remembered his paycheck. He sprinted over to his hamper and searched the pockets of his filthy jeans until he located the folded paycheck. He ripped open the envelope, tearing off the stub, and placing it in his wallet for deposit at the ATM on his way to the club to meet the guys for a night of who knows what.

He walked out of the comfortable air conditioning of his apartment and into the heat and humidity, which hit him like a brick wall. He inhaled a deep breath, feeling as if he was breathing pea soup rather than air.

Nolan Bishop’s motorcycle thundered to a stop in front of flashing blue lights. He got out and parked it on the side of the building, away from the flashy sports cars and jacked-up Chevy trucks.

Until he’d reached the club, the warehouse district in Shreveport had been eerily quiet. The club had a strange feel to it being in such a deserted area. He let out a breath when he saw Parker and Brennan standing in line in the front. A large bouncer was standing at the door checking IDs under a large blue sign that read The Blue Room in fancy script writing. It was the only fancy thing about the place.

Parker, with his short dark hair, tanned skin, and blue eyes, always got whatever woman he wanted. In fact, he appeared to be talking to one right now. His other friend, Brennan wasn’t so lucky. Muddy brown hair, brown eyes, and barely clearing five-foot-seven, he always had on boots and a hat to try to make himself taller, but still never got much play from the ladies.

Nolan made his way over to the boys and shook their hands. They were dressed similarly to himself, in nice club wear and smelling spicy and manly.

Have you ever been here before? Nolan asked Parker, pointing to the large blue sign.

Parker shook his head. Nope, it just opened last weekend, man. He smirked at Nolan, giving him the once-over. I’m glad you could make it. Although you look like you could use a sandwich or two.

Nolan nodded. Yeah, don’t get me started...

Brennan adjusted his baseball cap. What kinda music they play here?

Hip-hop and Top-40, I think, Parker said, looking into the sky as if the answer were there.

Nolan laughed. Yeah, can’t you hear Kanye West’s voice pumping out through the door?

Parker pulled a piece of lint off of his black shirt. Yeah, well I don’t care what kind music they playin’ in here. I came here for the hot girls. I heard it was off the chain last weekend.

Nolan looked around. Looks like it might be the same this weekend, too. He motioned to the line.

They finally reached the door, showed IDs, and paid their covers, then wandered inside. They made their way to the bar and each ordered bottles of beer. Strolling back into the shadowy recesses of the club, they stood around the dark establishment, watching people on the dance floor as they bumped and grinded to the booming bass blasting out of the massive speakers that were mounted to the ceiling and walls. A DJ booth was displayed at the helm of the dance floor, an Asian guy with a large set of headphones was running the show, sweat already dribbling out of his spiky haircut. He was mixing music as if it was the only thing in the world he was meant to do.

As Nolan went to take a sip of his beer, the brown mouth of the bottle paused at his lips when he spotted her. A gorgeous redhead with a sharp, straight, A-line haircut swaggered into the club on a set of white stilettos, a beautiful pair of creamy legs poured into them. Her white shorts and sky blue tank top made her red hair stand out even more. She had a vixen look about her; harsh slices of eyeliner smeared around her pale blue eyes, pink lip gloss popping off her mouth, daring you to look away.

She briefly made eye contact with Nolan and smiled, chomping on gum and giving him a wink as she sauntered up to the bar. She was flanked by three girls, a blonde, a brunette, both with long wavy hair, and a beautiful black girl with shiny, sleek black hair. All girls were dressed similarly in high heels and shorts or skirts.

Nolan went to nudge Parker – or Brennan, whoever was closest – but realized he didn’t need to. They were already staring at the quad of girls, along with every other person in the club, male and female. They looked like the Southern version of the Pussycat Dolls – and they knew it, too.

Holy shit, Brennan said. That blonde is way hot.

Parker took a sip of his beer and shook his head. They all are.

Nolan whistled through his teeth. That redhead is awakening parts of my anatomy I didn’t think were still in commission.

The three of them laughed at his crude joke and kept watching the girls until they all had girly drinks in their well-manicured hands and made their way to a VIP seating area in the corner of the club marked RESERVED.

Should we go talk to them? Brennan asked, downing the rest of his beer.

Nolan laughed and used his beer to point toward the girls. Yeah, dude. Take a number.

The four girls already had a line of male admirers trying to get into the VIP area of the club they had just occupied. A large, tattooed, black man with a shiny bald head, a small strip of hair in a mohawk at the top, was picking them off one by one. And one by one, each dejected male would leave the area with their heads down, the promise of talking to the pretty girls a lost hope of the night.

Nolan stared at the girls again. The club was dark, and he strained to see them sitting under the harsh red lights of the VIP area, but he could definitely see the redhead. Her hair made flaming by the club’s harsh lights, she seemed to look at him again, and he could swear he saw her wink at him once more.

I think we should go talk to them, he suddenly said, the liquid courage of his third beer burning a path to his brain.

Parker and Brennan looked at him like he had a tree growing out of his forehead.

Are you blind, dude? Brennan asked, pointing with his beer. Those other guys just got bounced by the bouncer. He then laughed at his own pun.

Seriously. But you should go try. In fact, next round is on me if you can get through Mr-T over there, Parker mused.

Nolan, his confidence rising by the second, displayed a cocky grin and said, You’re on, asswipe!

They shook hands.

Nolan began walking – no, swaggering – over to the VIP area. He kept looking at the redhead, and she looked back occasionally, offering him a lippy smile. He stopped at the bar once more and ordered something a little stiffer than beer, a Jack and Coke, and tipped the bartender, flicking the little black straw into a nearby trashcan. After downing most of it in one gulp, he wandered over to the VIP area and spoke directly to the bouncer.

Hi, I think ‘red’ over there wants to invite me in. He looked at her, and without breaking eye contact, said, Don’t you, sweetheart?

Holy crap, where did that come from? he wondered.

Her friends broke out in a laugh as they watched the interaction, and Nolan laughed too, then turned his attention back to the very large and scary-looking bouncer, who was clearly not amused. He had his massive arms folded over his chest, and after staring Nolan down for a few intimidating moments, turned his attention to the redhead, seemingly for permission. She bit her lip ever so slightly, as if trying to make a decision she knew she had already made, and then nodded to the bouncer. He moved out of Nolan’s way, but Nolan didn’t move.

He took a sip of the remnants of his Jack and Coke, and said, Sweetheart, I’m happy to join you, but my friends are gonna need some company, too. He hooked a thumb toward Parker and Brennan, who practically had their mouths open, and then looked back at Red. She grinned as if amused, then nodded to the bouncer again. Nolan slowly turned back around and beckoned his friends over. They practically tripped over themselves on their way over to the lounge.

Before entering the lounge area, the bouncer pat-searched them one by one, running his large hands over their chests, waistbands, and pant legs to ensure they were weapons-free. Nolan had his arms spread out on either side of him, keeping eye contact with the redhead as he got searched.

Once the bouncer was done, Nolan sat right next to the redhead, Parker and Brennan taking seats randomly on the black leather couches amongst the other beautiful ladies.

Nolan took another sip of his drink, not breaking eye contact with the redhead. His head was starting to spin from the booze, so he set the glass on a round black wooden table in front of him. Hi, I’m Nolan. Thanks for the invite.

She laughed. I’m Eva, and I didn’t invite you. But you’re persistent, and I like that.

Chapter 4

Succubus

Parker and Brennan seemed to be having the time of their lives. Brennan was fingering a curl of the blonde’s hair, and Parker was sandwiched between the brunette and the dark-skinned beauty. He looked to be in pure heaven.

Eva ran a shiny black fingernail down the buttons of Nolan’s red shirt while looking at him. So, Nolan, what do you want to talk about now that you’ve wormed your way into the VIP area? she asked with a smirk.

Nolan thought her voice sounded like a melody, purring from her mouth in breathy tones that made him want to do bad things to her.

He scrutinized her shiny pink lips and looked back into her light eyes. First you tell me how you got into this VIP area. You pay for a couple hours or somethin’? he asked.

She threw her head back and laughed again, her straight red hair flipping back with a swish. No, silly. My uncle owns the club. I get first dibs on whatever lounge I want.

He raised an eyebrow at her. Seriously? Your uncle owns this place?

She ignored his question and said, So what do you do, Nolan?

He had his hands folded in his lap as he replied, I restore old bikes.

She wrinkled her nose. Bikes? Oh, like motorcycles?

Yeah, he laughed. It’s kinda like getting paid for doing a hobby."

She looked down at his hands and said, You do have strong hands. I bet you can do a lot with them.

He just laughed again and said, Oh yeah. So you didn’t answer my question, Eva. When did your uncle buy this place?

She licked her lips and then shifted her blue eyes around. Okay, she moved in very close to him, looking him in the eye, my daddy actually owns it too, but don’t tell anyone, okay?

At this point, she was an inch from his face. He could smell the alcohol on her breath and strawberry scent of her lip gloss. He sucked in a breath, nervous, but excited. Not since Sarah had he been in this close of proximity to a woman. He had to admit – it had been a while. She was awakening parts of him he thought were closed for business. With the alcohol still zipping through his system, his inhibitions tossed away incautiously, he made up his mind that if this extremely hot woman wanted to come home with him tonight, he was game.

He inhaled her scent and felt his entire body relax even more. I won’t tell anyone. I can keep lots of secrets, Eva. He fixed her with an intense stare.

Her mouth twisted into a half-grin. Then she opened those perfect lips and moved even closer to him. The tips of her puffy pink rims were softly brushing his as she whispered, That’s good, Nolan, because I have a lot of secrets.

That launched him into a frenzy. He leaned forward and captured her mouth, hungrily accepting all she had to give. Her tongue playfully mingled with his, causing goosebumps to pepper his skin as he lightly placed a hand on her jaw. The hand that had been resting on his thigh slid up into dangerous territory, and he gasped when she boldly went where no woman had gone in a very long time.

Or, at least it sure felt way.

She pulled her mouth back slightly, and to Nolan, the room seemed to go still. As he gazed into her eyes, no more music could be heard. No lights were flashing. His friends were gone. The room went black and the only thing in his vision was her piercing blue eyes framed by violent black eyeliner and a blunt line of red bangs curtaining them as if they were going to shut down the show at any minute.

As she sucked in a large breath, seemingly from his own mouth, he lost all his air. He lost his sight. He lost his sense of smell. He lost his mind. The only sense he had left was touch, and every nerve-ending felt as if it were being rinsed with ice water. She tipped her head back and made a brief but odd screeching-sucking noise that jerked Nolan back into reality. He blinked, unseeing at her beautiful face.

Life resumed again, the thudding bass from a Maklemore song assaulted his ears with fierce intensity. The smell of alcohol and sweat inserted itself into his nostrils, and he jerked his head forward and looked right into Eva’s eyes. Eyes that were now blue again where he could swear had been dead black with no pupils at all just a minute ago. His jeans were bulging with desire, and as he looked into her smiling face, he noticed her cheeks turn red and flush and he ran the tip of his finger down her pallid, freckled arm.

He leaned in close and breathed in her ear, and with more confidence than he felt, he whispered, Want to get out of here, sweetheart?

She sucked in her cheeks and gave a condescending smile. No, Nolan. I think I’m good.

Shock rippled through him and he couldn’t contain himself as his mouth opened slightly.

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