Authors: Raine English
ATE WITH A
The Tempted Series
ATE WITH A
Published by Elusive Dreams Press
Copyright © 2013 Raine English
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or any portion thereof, in any form. 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, unless this book is a participant in a qualified lending program. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected]
This is a work of fiction. All characters in this book are fictitious and figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Edited by Linda Ingmanson
Cover by Char Adlesperger
Digital Formatting by Author E.M.S.
One hundred million dollars, countless gold-digging men, and a vampire who not only wants her money, but her soul as well,
have turned Melody Johnson’s quiet life upside down.
Melody Johnson, a shy bookworm with a secret yearning for romance and love, dreams of meeting a man as dashing and wonderful as the heroes in the books she reads. But being a realist, she knows that’s highly unlikely. Besides, men always leave her for someone more exciting—until she wins the lottery, that is. Pursued by scores of men happy to help spend her fortune, Melody longs to have her quiet life back. When a network executive offers a reality show, she seizes the opportunity to show the world she’s off the single’s market. Melody leaves her quaint hometown in New York for a sunny island in the Pacific where twenty gorgeous bachelors will vie for her heart and where she can stage a phony engagement. What she never expects, though, is to fall in love with a vampire.
Guystof LeBreque is a four-hundred-year-old Romanian vampire who hates the taste of blood. He’s roamed the earth for centuries, loathing the monster trapped inside him. After his mother’s death at the hands of vampire-hunting assassins, Guystof vows never to turn a woman into a vampire. But when his father gives him an ultimatum to marry a rich woman in sixty days or lose his legacy to his bloodthirsty brother, Guystof battles his conscience. Does he keep the promise he made to himself, or does he keep his brother from power? Guystof resorts to drastic measures. He becomes a bachelor on a hit reality show. What he doesn’t anticipate is losing his heart to the woman whose mortal life he must end.
Dragesa Castle, Moldavia, 1523
he soldiers’ death chants penetrated the tower’s thick stone walls. It wouldn’t be long before they reached Dragesa. Ambrus LeBreque scribbled the last of his notes, then slammed the ledger shut. He handed it, along with an amber-colored vial, to Blakesley, his long-time confidant.
Blakesley tucked the ledger under his arm, the folds of his black cape concealing it from view. “Sir, it may not be too late to escape.”
Ambrus shook his head. “And have Berta and Cato burned at the stake in my place? No, I’ll gladly give my life to save my wife and son. Besides, this damn potion is killing me anyway.”
“That may not be so, sir.” Blakesley rolled the vial between his fingers while he studied the potion inside. “It did make you appear human, at least for a time.”
Ambrus doubled over in pain, letting out a loud groan. “Now it’s burning a hole through my stomach.” His confidant took a step forward, but Ambrus held his hand out to stop him. “There’s nothing you can do to help. I’ll be dead before dawn, and it’s just as well, as I’m to blame for this damned curse.”
“Sir, you mustn’t say that. It’s not true. You didn’t deserve to have your kingdom darkened.”
“Perhaps not, but I did steal Berta from Lazlo, causing him to cast the spell that turned us all into vampires.” He walked over to the window. An orange glow cut through the night. Torches. Lazlo’s soldiers had arrived. He turned to Blakesley. “Find a place to hide my notes and the potion.”
Lazlo was a powerful sorcerer, but Ambrus was a wizard too, and he’d worked years on a potion that would reverse the curse. Unfortunately, Lazlo heard of his experiments and given him a choice: his life in exchange for his wife’s and son’s safety.
“Sir, there must be something that can be done.”
“It’s too late, my friend.” Sweat broke out along his brow and a chill ran down his spine at the thought of the fate that awaited him. A second later, the door burst open and Berta ran into his arms. Tears streamed down her lovely oval face. “Shhh,” he whispered against her cheek. “You mustn’t cry, my love.”
She hugged him to her. “I can’t let you do this—give up your life. It’s my fault that Lazlo, the beast, is hell-bent on revenge. If I go to him… Beg him… Maybe he’ll—”
Ambrus cut off her words sharply. “Do what? Kill you instead. No, my love, I’m afraid this is my fate alone.” She tugged at his shirt, trying to pull him toward the door, but he held his stance. “I need you to be brave for Cato. Can you do that for me?”
She didn’t answer.
Her legs wobbled, and he caught her around the waist before she hit the floor. “Berta, I shall always be with you and Cato…in your hearts.” He pressed his mouth to her soft lips and kissed her one last time.
Outside, the chanting grew louder. She needed to leave Dragesa now. He did not want her viewing his execution. He scanned the room for Blakesley and found him standing in the doorway with a trembling Cato by his side. “Son, come here.”
Cato stepped forward. Fear creased his young face, and Ambrus squeezed his shoulder. “You are a boy, yet soon you’ll rule Dragesa. Be a just leader, my son, as I have tried to be. Do not let your dark desires guide you, for it would be easy to do, as our need for blood make us thieves in the night.” He removed a leather cord from around his neck and placed it around Cato’s. The gold lion-head pendant glowed richly. The necklace had been passed down to each LeBreque heir.
Cato stroked the pendant with his forefinger. His eyes misted over. “Father, I will make you p-proud.”
“I have no doubt.” He hugged his wife and child, then motioned for Blakesley. It was time for Berta and Cato to go. A coach waited in the rear courtyard to take them to town. They would stay with friends until Blakesley deemed it safe for them to return.
After they left, Ambrus took a deep breath and summoned all the courage he possessed before heading downstairs. He could do this. He must. For his family’s sake.
Lazlo stood on the cobblestone walkway, his chest puffed out with smug satisfaction. Behind him, a sea of soldiers awaited his command. Ambrus was not about to let them sense his fear. He straightened his shoulders, pushed out his chin, and held his head high. He walked proudly, looking straight into Lazlo’s steely eyes. “Remember your promise. No harm shall come to my family.”
A wry smile twisted Lazlo’s thin mouth. “Don’t worry, having you gone and your kingdom cursed to an eternity of darkness is revenge enough.”
Ambrus took one last look at Dragesa. The old stone castle was an imposing structure. Built to withstand time, it would house generations of LeBreque rulers for centuries to come. The thought brought him peace. He was ready for his death.
elody Johnson’s heart pounded. Her fingers trembled. She stared at the lottery ticket clenched in her hand, then glanced over the rim of her reading glasses to check for the umpteenth time the numbers shown on the television screen.
Yup. They all matched. She swallowed hard. Holy cow! She was a multimillionaire. Rich beyond her wildest dreams. One-hundred-million-dollars rich. If she held the only winning lottery ticket, that was. But she wasn’t greedy. Even if there were other winners, she’d be happy with whatever her share came to. She was about to have a lot more money than she’d ever dreamed of having.
She could even quit her job. Think of that—never having to shelve another book again. Although she loved working at the Reader’s Den, the tiny bookstore paid only slightly more than minimum wage, and it could be years till a position opened at the library. Mrs. Smith had commanded the front desk for as long as Melody could remember yet showed no signs of retiring anytime soon. Melody had always wanted to be a librarian, but she didn’t want to leave her small hometown of Hope, New York, to do so. She’d grown up there. Her friends and family all lived there. And it was only an hour outside of New York City. Everything she could ever want was in Hope.
Besides, money had never mattered much. She shared the two-story townhouse apartment with her three best friends. They paid their bills on time and had a few bucks left each month for a night on the town—usually spent at Chucky’s Bar and Grill sucking down margaritas and splitting an order of nachos supreme. What more could a girl want? She’d always figured she had plenty of time to worry about her financial future. Yet, it looked like that had all been taken care of for her, and it had only taken a trip to the convenience store for a box of dog biscuits for her little black pug, Gizmo.
She never bought lottery tickets, mainly because she just never thought to. Today had been different, though. When the clerk handed her the two dollars in change, it was as if someone stood beside her and whispered lottery numbers in her ear.
Melody stared at the paper in her hand. If this was an indication of the power of intuition, she’d make sure to listen to all her inner urgings from now on. Sliding the sleeping pug off her lap, Melody hoped her legs were now steady enough to support her. She rose from the couch and bolted upstairs to wake her childhood friends. Mags, short for Margaret, shared a room with Billy, aka Willamina, while she bunked with Ann, not short for anything.
As she ran down the hall, her gaze drifted to the lottery ticket in her hand. Just a few minutes ago she’d been your average twenty-four-year-old, and now… Well, her life would never be the same. What lay ahead, she couldn’t even begin to imagine.
— : : —
Blood trickled from the corner of Guystof LeBreque’s mouth. He grimaced and wiped at it with the back of his hand. The taste of his kill lingered on his tongue. He couldn’t wait to get home to rinse his mouth. For nearly four hundred years, he’d scoured the earth, hunting unknowing victims to quell his hunger and hating himself for it. Why couldn’t he have been more like his younger brother, Theo, who loved everything about being a vampire?
Guystof raced through the fog-filled streets of London, darting in and out of shadowy alleyways toward his flat on the outskirts of the city. The memory of the dead man with two perfect holes piercing his neck, his drained body abandoned to the shadows, turned his stomach. Why had Guystof been condemned to live this eternal nightmare? His only salvation lay in his choice of victims: criminals of the worst degree.
He skirted the piles of garbage lining the streets. A horrible stench permeated the air, adding to his nausea. The sun had begun to crest the horizon, and he shielded his eyes with his hand. If he didn’t hurry, he’d burn. Only once in his life had he experienced the dreadful bubbling—nearly two hundred years ago—yet the memory was as fresh as if it had happened yesterday. The pain had been almost intolerable, for not only his skin was affected. He’d begun to boil internally too, and if Theo hadn’t dragged him inside, he would have been reduced to nothing more than a melted puddle of flesh. The sun was his enemy, more powerful than any vampire-hunting assassin.
Guystof dashed over the cobblestone street, his black cape billowing behind him like the wings of a bat. He spotted his flat up ahead and heaved a sigh of relief. His muscles ached with exhaustion. He longed for sleep. When he slid his key in the lock, his fingers started to tingle. He’d made it home just in time.
Inside the safety of his flat, he leaned against the thick wood door. Beads of sweat lined his brow, and a drop rolled onto his cheek.
“Still living on the edge, I see.”
Guystof froze. What was his brother doing here? There was no mistaking Theo’s thick Romanian accent. He never tried to conceal it, thinking it added to his charm. Guystof scanned the darkened room for him. The squeak of the rocking chair and the glow of a cigarette gave away his location.