This Wicked Wednesday is devoted to two of my most favorite characters ever — Diana Reyes and Ryder Latimer from THE CALLING vampire novels. From the moment they came to life in DARKNESS CALLS and then came back in DEATH CALLS, they imprisoned my heart.
I just finished working on the proposal for their next book, so cross your fingers that my editor will want to see that one!
For now, this Wicked Wednesday excerpt is from DEATH CALLS, my December 2006 release which helped launch the Nocturne line. This book is now out-of-print, but you can buy the e-book at various locations or the complete THE CALLING Collection from eHarlequin.
Monday was their night usually. His club was closed on Mondays which meant that barring a case that was keeping Diana occupied, they’d have the leisure of a long dinner, time for talk or even possibly a movie. Mortal things. Things that people were dating regularly did.
Like making love. A maybe not so mortal thing with them.
Ryder grew hard as he recalled their last little bout of sex earlier in the week. His body heated and his fangs elongated at the memory of Diana moving beneath him. Of her plea for his possession. Her blood had been sweet, spicing his fangs and mouth as she cried out her completion. As she’d grown limp beneath him, he’d become nearly feral with feeding from her body in so many ways. The warmth of her surrounding him as he’d driven into her. And of course, her blood.
Her blood . . .
He growled and shook his head to chase away the demon. The animal that had almost not let up the other night. He’d come close to draining her. Had nearly made her like him.
Was that why she’d called tonight to tell him she didn’t want to see him?
She’d been that blunt. No, “I’m working late.” No other excuses. Diana wasn’t the kind of woman who made excuses.
And he wasn’t the kind of man to . . .
But he wasn’t a man anymore, he reminded himself as he perused the streets and nearby buildings from the balcony of his apartment. Across the East River, the large red Pepsi and Silvercup Studio signs glowed along with the erratic string of lights from the bridge and Roosevelt Island tramway. In the water there were a few scattered boats, but not many.
It was late, although in the city that never slept, there was always activity.
Ryder wondered where Diana was in all that activity? Holed up in her office working on a case? Asleep in her apartment? Or somewhere else?
The last possibility bothered him more than he cared to admit. He’d never considered himself a jealous man. But then again, he’d never met a woman as complex and independent and as dark as Diana. And because she called to him like nothing else in his undead life, he couldn’t just stand there. Wondering.
With a small jump, he was up and over the ledge of his balcony and down to the one on the floor below, where Sebastian and Melissa now lived. He caught but a glimpse of his keeper, her belly large with child, as she walked past the entry to the landing.
Without her noticing, he watched as she rubbed her hand across her extended abdomen. Was almost mesmerized at the beatific smile that crossed her face. A moment later, Sebastian walked into the room, a similar grin on his features as he approached his wife and laid his hand over hers.
Ryder couldn’t watch anymore. It was too painful a reminder of the life that had been taken from him so long ago. Of the kind of life he’d be stealing from Diana if he sired her.
He leaped down to the next floor and then the next until he was finally at ground level. Once there he hesitated, uncertain of where he would go. Unsure that it was wise to give into the beast.
For so long he’d battled that side of him. Controlled the vampire and striven for a human type of life. A regular life like the one taken from him during the Civil War.
A regular life that he’d thought impossible until Diana had stepped into his existence.
Even after nearly two years, he didn’t really quite understand how it had happened. How he’d come to love her. How his controlled life had become filled not only with her, but with an assortment of other people and vampires that suddenly demanded he acknowledge not only them, but what he was. What he could do.
Worse, he hadn’t expected to like it. To enjoy the power and passion and strength that releasing the vampire would bring. For so long, he’d kept the beast at bay, afraid of what it could do. He’d seen the aftermath of vampire violence against the soldiers he’d been trying to save. Against himself.
A physician before the strange turn of events that had made him a vampire, he’d devoted his life to healing. Saving others. He hated that the demon within was the total antithesis of what he’d been — a good man.
But lately, he’d discovered that he could use his vampire powers for good. To help others if he could control the more violent aspects of that nature.
Tonight, the demon within called for him to let it loose and reluctantly, he did. With a quick look to make sure no one was watching, he transformed. Long fangs erupted from his mouth and through his veins, blood surged, bringing the heat from his change. All around him, colors and noises became more vibrant. Sounds sharper. More alive.
He rushed forward, speed beyond that of a mortal driving him onward. Where, he didn’t quite know. He just reveled in the freedom of the night. The piercing glow of the moon and stars above lit his way. The chill of the night air flew against his heated skin. As he brushed past one human on a side street, their scent filled his nostrils. He heard the thunder of heartbeat and blood. Sweet, sweet blood.
He wanted a taste, but the mortal rose up, urged his vampire away and to a nearby rooftop where he paused for only a moment before he continued onward. Jumping and vaulting from one edifice to the next until he suddenly found himself near the club he owned, The Lair, and then after, reached Tribeca. An alley right before the Blood Bank.
Hunger suddenly gnawed at his stomach. Ryder stopped, stared down at the entrance to the club. He wasn’t one to normally frequent the place. He didn’t much care for Foley, the owner, or for the other vampires who so blithely indulged their baser animal instincts there. Without a care. Without a conscience.
And yet here he was, the pit of his stomach clenching with the thought of fresh blood. Shaking his head, he took a deep breath to quell the demon’s urges and smelled her.
She had either been nearby recently or was still close. Inhaling sharply once more, he picked up her scent coming from below and threw himself over the ledge of the building.
He landed on his feet as quietly and gracefully as a cat. Her smell was stronger at ground level. Ryder followed it to the door of the club, flashed some fang to get past the bouncer and hurried within, eager even if all that he would get would be a glimpse. She’d made her feelings known after all and one night away from her . . .
Was like an eternity, he acknowledged, wishing that it wasn’t so.
In the stifling lifeless air in the club, Diana’s smell was stronger and he followed it to the bar, but stopped short as he saw her there. Sitting with Foley. Letting Foley lean toward her. Touch her.
He balled his fists and barely controlled his desire to go over and rip Foley’s finger off his hand.
He smiled as Diana did some damage of her own, but Foley, sick animal that he was, kind of liked it. And so do you, his inner voice rebuked.
Anger barely subdued, he stepped back into the shadows and tried to listen to what was going on, but the noise and music in the club was too loud. Even with his supersensitive hearing.
Minutes that seemed interminably long passed before Diana rose and left the other vampire. As she walked past, barely yards away, he let the animal savor her scent. Almost as if sensing he was near, she stopped and looked around. But then after, she immediately left.
Ryder hesitated for a moment, debating whether to go beat Foley into monster mash. First because he’d touched Diana. Second because he’d just never liked the vamp. Foley was everything Ryder hated and had never wanted to be. A hedonistic animal, devoid of any mortal sensibilities.
And for some reason, Diana had ditched him that night for the undead cad.
His human side urged him to curb his resentment. After all, she’d left the bar alone and rebuffed the sole advance that he’d seen Foley make. But the demon . . .
The demon damn well wanted an answer and some satisfaction. Satisfaction that just words wouldn’t provide.