Free Short Story Read!!
Lots of fans have asked about how Vivian and Rafe came together. "Just One Taste" is how they reconnected decades after first meeting.
Book Four in the series will be dedicated to Vivian's violent past and Rafe's own heartbreaking loss. This short story will be incorporated in the last 1/3 of the full novel.
Just One Taste
A tall man with sandy brown hair and a thick build sauntered to the front desk. He wore a crooked grin and travel-dusty clothes. He was out of place, arriving at midnight, wandering into my elegant establishment—and human to boot. Not my normal clientele.
“It took awhile, but I finally found you,” he said.
A tingle of danger ran through me and I straightened while taking in his appearance. His brown suit, suspenders and scruffy two-toned shoes reflected a common dress for most Europeans in post-war times. He looked familiar... those sparkling blue eyes weren’t a feature I’d forget anytime soon.
I raised an eyebrow, “Do I know you?”
“This is The V V Inn, right?” He said while looking around at the high ceilings, painted moldings and delicate French furnishings.
I nodded, racking my brain trying to place him. Had I fed off him recently and tossed him aside? A perusal of his tight hips and muscular thighs had my fangs itching to descend. Standing behind the gilt-covered antique writing desk, I extended a hand in greeting. “Welcome. Have you stayed with us before?”
While my property may serve the undead, we need humans for sustenance, so he could have traveled here with another vampire at one time—or been here for someone’s dinner.
His wide, rough hand encircled my smaller one and he pressed it to his lips in a chaste kiss. Sweat and dirt from his travels drifted to my sensitive nose. The scents, combined with a burning desire I lifted from his surface thoughts, triggered an old memory. I met this handsome man fifteen years ago when he was a teenager. My slow beating heart plummeted to my toes while I tried to compose myself.
A glint of mischief surfaced in his otherwise calm gaze, “No, but I’ve heard wonderful things, Dria.”
Crap! He even knew my real name. His mother must have sent him after me. I smiled to hide my discomfort while dropping his hand. “How is Olga doing? I haven’t seen her in ages.”
“Ahh... so you do remember. She’s well. She sends her regards and hopes you’ve kept up with her teachings.”
The image of his young form contorted in advanced yoga poses had seared my mind for over a decade. “Yes, daily. There are times it’s the only thing that saves my sanity.” I motioned to the formal sitting area to the right of the entryway, expecting him to follow me. “Are you Raphael?” There was no doubt in my mind he’s the same muscular seventeen-year-old who has haunted my dreams.
His expression softened as he settled himself on a dainty chair and placed a leather bag at his feet. “Yes, that’s right. I go by Rafe now. Time has been good to you.”
Was that mocking I heard in his tone? Or was he referring to my lack of aging? I decided to cut to the chase and see what this handsome man wanted from me. “Why are you here, Rafe?”
“I need a place to stay while in Paris, of course.” His eyes traveled over my curvy form and he smiled in pleasure. My blood warmed at his interest, but I left Germany and his mother’s secret yoga instruction for a reason—to save him from me.
“Sorry,” I said without a trace of remorse in my tone. “We’re booked.” Which was a complete lie, but the hotel doesn’t cater to humans and I needed to get him the hell out of here before I did something I’d regret.
Rafe stretched, the chair creaking a bit under his weight, and his glorious body was laid open for my greedy stare. His well-muscled chest pulled at the shirt buttons, exposing strips of bare skin. It required all of my will to keep my canines firmly hidden and my desires in check. He was even more delicious now than all those years ago.
“Really?” he looked around the deserted lobby. “Can’t even spare a room for an old friend to shower and rinse off the dust from the train?”
His open face and sincere expression almost made me change my mind. “No, but I can recommend a place down the street.”
“They’re closed at this late hour.” He removed his suit jacket and draped it across his thigh. “I walked by on my way here.” Rafe slowly folded the cuffs of his shirt back, exposing tight forearms.
Was this man trying to entice me? Me, a master vampire used to seducing her prey on a weekly basis? I fidgeted in my seat, trying hard to not focus on Rafe and his revealed skin. Real hunger didn’t stir me, but my panties felt suspiciously damp.
“I can call some friends and see if they have a room.” I reached for the phone on the round table next to my settee and found the line disconnected. Service was still sporadic in the years since the bombs, and today must be one of those days.
Rafe moved and sat next to me at my suggestion to call friends, possibly to hear if I’d made a connection. At my silence and return of the receiver he said, “No luck?”
His presence, so close on the cramped seating, pushed his aroma around me like a cloud. Swirling images of tearing his clothes off and drinking from his neck engulfed me. Could I stop at just one taste? That question had racked my conscience all those years ago and prompted my abrupt departure. I feared now what I feared then. No, I don’t think I could stop with one taste. For some reason, this man called to me on a deeper level.
I leaned in unconsciously, breathing deep of the salty scent of his sweat. My lids drifted lower and I jerked back when I caught myself reaching out to touch him. A small smile played on his soft lips, seemingly unaware of my near slip.
“No. I’m sorry. The line is out,” I said with a choked sound at the end. I bolted off the tiny couch and raced back to the safety of my desk. “You can’t stay here. Like I said, we’re full.”
Rafe rose from the settee and languidly made his way to me from across the marble foyer—resembling a cat stalking prey. “How about letting me stay in an empty employee room? Surely, you have some open with this being your off-season.”
How did he know the summer months were our slow time? So he must also know I lied about the hotel being full, yet he was still pushing to stay here. The broad-shouldered, slim-hipped man sat on the edge of my Louis XIV desk and crossed his feet at the ankles.
“Please, Dria? It’s late and I’m tired. I promise I’ll leave tomorrow and find a new place to stay.” His expression softened and his blue eyes conveyed his sincerity.
My desire to be near this glorious creature outweighed my better judgment and I heard myself saying, “Fine, but only one night.”
“Great, thanks.” He reached out and laid a hand on my shoulder in gratitude and before I knew it, I stumbled mentally into our physical connection, his thoughts and emotions tumbling at me.
Grief. Despairing loss and grayness weighed heavily on this man. Beneath it all shone a solid core of blue, a steel beam of inner strength and determination. Touches of black encased the snake-like desires of his surface thoughts. This man had handed out death to others and lived with the consequences of his actions. He’d overcome a lot in his life and had a depth to him, which didn’t show in his casual demeanor.
Rafe removed his hand and stood, an expectant look on his face. I jerked myself out of the emotions and images I’d seen, reaching for a key in the credenza behind my desk. By the time I made my way to the narrow hall off the foyer, Rafe had retrieved his suit coat and the small satchel he’d arrived with.
Heat radiating off his body followed me down the hall, warming my backside. A pounding pulse reached my ears and I realized with a shock that it was his heartbeat I heard dancing out a staccato in the dim light. Excitement poured from him, triggering my own instincts as well. The dampness in my underwear I ignored earlier now demanded attention, and the desire curling low in my body threatened to overwhelm my common sense.
Pausing outside the available room, I closed my eyes and tried not to breathe in his sexy, welcoming invitation. With only some minor fumbling, I unlocked the door and pushed my way in. “Here we are.” Where was my confidence and cool attitude? I hadn’t reacted to a man like this in a century or more.
Rafe entered the room, brushing up against me as he passed. “Excuse me,” he said while smiling at me to show it was no accident. Rich male musk coated the air, making it impossible to ignore his physical presence.
The son-of-a-bitch had unbuttoned half his shirt while walking down the hall! The sight of his bare chest dusted with light brown hair called to me, drawing my eyes to the succulent skin near his neck. He turned away, as if sensing my dismay, and proceeded to examine the modest room.
The violent urge to take him and make every inch of him mine began to flame inside me. “I need you... I need you out of here by daylight... er, um... morning.”
The well-toned man, oozing sex appeal, turned back to me with a knowing smile on his face. “Sure, Dria. Whatever you want.” He stepped closer to me, pinning me with his nearness to the wall at my back. “I’m grateful you’d help me out and let me stay here on such short notice. Considering you’re booked and all...” His voice trailed off at the end and he leaned in to my personal space, taking a deep breath. “You smell intoxicating. What’s the name of the perfume you’re wearing?”
“I’m not wearing any.” I tried to exit, but a solid arm came up to rest on the wall between the open door and me. Ducking under it would look childish and weak—two things I’m not after five hundred years of walking this world.
“Perhaps it’s your shampoo?” he said while lifting one of my long red locks to his nose. Again, he inhaled deeply, this time staring directly into my eyes. “Mmm.”
I could’ve mesmerized him. I should’ve slipped into his mind and made him forget his interest and me. But I didn’t. To do so might ensure his safety but it would also deprive me of the dream of having him as my own. The air in the room seemed to press upon me, stifling in its heat and density. As I squirreled around frantically in my mind for something witty to say to defuse the tension, Rafe leaned in and touched his mouth to mine.
Soft lips met my own, tentative in their pressure and exploration. I stood perfectly still, not allowing my own body to cave into the driving pull I felt toward this man. A warm hand rested on my shoulder, drawing me away from the comfort of the wall and into a loose, but warm, embrace. His wet tongue probed between my closed lips, begging entrance with a silent entreaty.
I opened my mouth. I let him in. And sure enough, the second he gained access to a deeper kiss, he plunged his tongue into my mouth, nicking one of my sharp canines on the way. A small drop of blood from the wound hit my senses and threw me into a past filled with shared love and lovers killed. Permitting another human male into my life would only lead to more pain and death.
But being alone sucked.
No! screamed my conscience as I leaned in to intensify the kiss and pull more from the shallow cut. He deserves better than you can offer!
The kiss continued on for a few more seconds, the exquisite taste of him a delicious and forbidden dessert. Firm hands ran up and down my back, encouraging the moment to go further. A soft moan escaped him, prompting me to come back to my senses. I pushed him, a little softer than I intended, sending him only a foot or so away.
“No. I’m not for you,” I said, moving toward the door.
Rafe stepped in front of me, blocking me from leaving. His eyes mirrored my own desire and he boldly reached a hand out to cup my breast while stepping closer. “Let me be the judge of who’s right for me and who’s not.” One work-roughened thumb brushed over the silk of my blouse, teasing the hardened nipple back and forth.
His erection pressed against the front of his trousers, the site enticing me more than anything had in ages. I knew I couldn’t use and discard this one like I had all the others. He was different and therefore a danger to me—and more importantly, to himself. If I cared what happened to him, truly cared, then I couldn’t let things continue.
I shut down my feelings and drew myself up straighter, breaking his contact with my breast. I allowed my vampiric power to come to the surface. The buzzing of my aura reached out and filled the space between us, causing him to react like an electric static shock jolted him.
I wanted him to feel the energy humming against his skin; I wanted him confused. I wanted more than just one taste.
And now I had to crush him.
“Do you think you’re good enough for me?” I stalked around him and stood in the door, my back to the man in the room. “You’re covered in dirt, reeking of sweat, and wearing thread-bare clothing. You’re not good enough to wash my floors.” I turned around, wearing a nasty expression, grasped the door handle and looked the handsome man straight in the eye before I closed it. “Be out by morning.”
I stormed down the hall, trying to rein in my impulse to fly back down to his room and throw him on the bed. A soft whisper of sound reached my ears before I made it to the foyer.
“I will never give up.”
This short story will be incorporated into part three of book four in the V V Inn series, The Seduction of Death, which will cover Dria's past, Rafe's past, and how the two came together.