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Free Read THE FIFTH KINGDOM Romantic Suspense

One of my favorite books that I’ve written is THE FIFTH KINGDOM, a romantic suspense story that I did for Carina Press. There was something about the hero, CIA Agent Bill Santana, that hooked me from the moment he showed up on the pages. Add to that a heroine who is so not ready for love much less adventure, toss in some ancient ruins and a kidnapping and the story just came alive for me.

Here’s what RT Book Reviews had to say about THE FIFTH KINGDOM:

RT Book Reviews: 4.5 Stars, ““This story is an Indiana Jones-style thrill ride infused with just the right amount of romance and sexual tension…The mystery, the family dynamic and the love story all blend together perfectly in this delightful adventure. Who needs Harrison Ford when you’ve got a tale like this?”

Also check out RT’s Morgan and Whitney as they dish about the book by clicking here!

For now, I’ll leave you with this free read. This scene is just after someone has tried to grab the heroine, Deanna, from in front of the prep school where she teaches. Bill has taken her to a safe house, but was injured during the kidnapping attempt when he was shot. Luckily his vest stopped the bullet, but he is still feeling the impact of it. In this scene, Bill and Deanna start to feel attraction growing between them.

If you can’t see the excerpt below, you can click here to read it!

THE FIFTH KINGDOM Romantic Suspense from Caridad Pineiro and Carina press

Thanks for taking the time to check out this book!

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Wicked Wednesday – THE FIFTH KINGDOM Romantic Suspense

THE FIFTH KINGDOM Romantic Suspense by Caridad PineiroWhen I was busy thinking about AZTEC GOLD atop that Mexican pyramid (and also wondering how I’d ever get down), I was also envisioning how I could use the locale for another of my favorite things – a romantic suspense novel.

That’s how THE FIFTH KINGDOM was born. I wondered what would happen if someone found something very important, like the tomb of the last great Aztec leader Montezuma. A find like that would have great historic and symbolic significance, especially since only one other such tomb has been found. Of course my writer’s mind then envisioned what would happen if there was something dangerous in the tomb. Something that could do great harm if it fell into the wrong hands. Add a sexy and wounded CIA agent and the daughter of a missing archeologist, who hasn’t seen her mother in nearly 14 years. Shake and you’ve got a romantic suspense novel.

What I liked most about this novel was surprisingly not the action and adventure, but the fragile understanding that develops between Bill Santana, the CIA Agent, and Deanna Vasquez, the daughter who also happens to be a well-known historian in her own right. They are both wounded souls who come to discover that maybe having family is not as bad as they both thought.

Without further ado, a short excerpt from THE FIFTH KINGDOM which will be out in July 2011 from Carina Press.

FIFTH KINGDOM Romantic Suspense by Caridad Pineiro and Carina press

Wicked Wednesday – Sexy Excerpt from AZTEC GOLD

AZTEC GOLD paranormal romanceIt’s wicked cold here in the Northeast, so I figured it’s time to offer up a sexy hot excerpt from AZTEC GOLD, my new release from Carina Press. I love that I had the opportunity to create a different kind of story, kind of like Indiana Jones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer if I had to give you the two second elevator pitch. I hope you’ll like it as well.

The reviews are starting to come in for this novella and I’ve included them in this excerpt as well for you! If you can’t see the excerpt below, you can click on this link to read it.

AZTEC GOLD Paranormal Romance Excerpt

Wicked Wednesday – Desire Calls from THE CALLING Vampire Novels

DESIRE CALLS Vampire romanceI hope you’ve seen the news in the last week or so that I’ll be doing some more Nocturne Bites in 2011. Very excited about that, especially since one of them will be a very special short story with Diana Reyes and Ryder Latimer, two of my all time favorite characters. I’m also excited because in January and February 2012, THE CALLING vampire novels return with two new stories, tentatively titled ARDOR CALLS and VENGEANCE CALLS.

ARDOR CALLS features another favorite of mine, Stacia, a two thousand year old Roman vampire who is growing disgruntled with so many things in her seemingly endless existence. You may remember Stacia’s first appearance in DEATH CALLS when Stacia sets her sights on a romance with either Ryder or Diana. But Stacia also had her dalliance with Blake from FURY CALLS in a short novella that I did for Harlequin – DESIRE CALLS.

Will Stacia find true love in ARDOR CALLS? I think she’ll meet her match in sexy Alex Garcia, who you almost met in DEATH CALLS. Diana Reyes’s ex-lover is caring, honorable and way too loving not to convince Stacia that an existence without love isn’t much of a life.

In the meantime, here is a little excerpt for you to whet your appetite for a little more of Stacia. You can also click here to read the entire novella for free – yes, that’s for free! — at eharlequin.com.

*****FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY*****

Chapter One

The piazza always provided a fine selection for dining, Stacia thought as she sat on the railing along the edge of the Bernini fountain in Rome’s Piazza Navona. She gazed at the choices available in various spots around the square. French. German. Italian, of course.

Her stomach rumbled with hunger. It had been a day since she had eaten. Placing a hand over her belly, she rose and sashayed toward her first pick, but as she neared the Frenchman, she realized he was beyond loaded. The stench of cheap wine clung to his shirt and oozed from his pores.

Shaking her head, she thought of the oft repeated adage all those television chefs used: If it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough for cooking. Or in her case, for eating. That cheap stuff just left a bad aftertaste in her mouth along with a wickedly nasty buzz.

She preferred something cleaner on her palate tonight.

Which definitely had her bypassing the Aryan god she had noticed just a short distance away from the Frenchman. Germans were always a trifle heavy in her belly. However, the broad set of his shoulders and well muscled chest made her reconsider. She loved her men big and strong and so she lingered by the front of the outdoor café where he was seated. Even made eye contact with him for a moment.

Amazing crystal–blue eyes twinkled with interest. That much was clear.

Stacia smiled back, thinking that maybe he might be worth a nibble after all. Maybe they might actually even click, finally providing her with true pleasure after nearly two thousand years of undead life.

Mr. Tall, Blond and Brawny rose from his chair, seemingly intent on making a move in her direction, but suddenly an equally tall, blonde and muscled woman joined him. Seeing that his attention was on Stacia, his companion began a harangue loud enough to make heads turn. The man plopped down into his chair, looking like a dog with its tail tucked between his legs.

No spirit. That was so not good, Stacia thought and moved onward, still in search of something to satisfy her hunger.

She needed a man who could not only take a lickin’, but gave as good as he got. And not just when he was in a fight. It had been a good long while since any man had really satisfied her in bed, one of the downsides of having lived so long. Of being a vampire elder.

Even her own kind avoided her at times, aware that with her age came not just vast power but also vast hunger. For blood. For sex. For control over lesser vamps. She didn’t want to admit that, in her case, she still hungered for love. For real passion and desire.

Things she hadn’t felt in way too long.

Some of the other elders said she was foolish to yearn for such things. That she should let go of the last little bit of humanity within her that prompted such desires. Then, and only then, could she truly relish the immense vampire power that her age provided.

Stubbornly, though, Stacia refused to relinquish that lingering trace of humanity. For want of something more than an eternal existence filled with only…

A fine–looking American caught her eye as he laughed at the antics of his rowdy friends in front of one bar.

He was as big and blonde as the whipped Aryan she had bypassed earlier, but as his gaze met hers, she saw steel there. Luscious grey eyes were framed by a sheath of shaggy, sun–bleached hair.
Stacia circled Mr. Surfer Dude, making eye contact and clearly letting the young man know that this might just be his lucky night.

It worked without her using even a bit of her vampire power. A flirtatious smile and her feminine wiles had been enough.

He approached, leaned down from his greater height and, in awfully accented Italian, asked, “Parla inglese?”

“Do we need to talk?” she said with a sexy wink, and inclined her head in the direction of a nearby alley.

The young man smiled broadly and after a quick glance back at his friends, who hooted and carried on at his “score,” he took hold of her hand and followed her.

Stacia led him farther back into the narrow alley, although not so far that he would think anything was amiss. Just far enough that he would believe a strong shout could still be heard out in the piazza. Not that she would give him the opportunity to call out.

Toward the middle of the alley, the night closed in around them, with only the dimmest light from the full moon above. Clothed in darkness, the young man surprised her by becoming the aggressor, grabbing her forcefully and pinning her to the jagged brick wall.

“Like it rough, do you?” she said, but he didn’t answer since, with quick hands, he had already undone the laces on her leather vest and was gazing down at her breasts as they spilled free.

When he bent to suck at them, she moaned, thinking that he was exceptionally gifted with his mouth. Between her legs, the throb of human desire rose up, aching for fulfillment.

She quickly undid his jeans, reached past the loose folds of denim to the boxer shorts below.

How she loved this new fashion that made it so easy to free him. To stroke the rather magnificent length of him.

He bit down on one nipple as she caressed him, dragging a gasp from her.

“Sorry,” he mumbled as he lifted the almost nonexistent hem of her black leather miniskirt, cupped her bare buttocks and urged her upward.

With a surge, she jumped up and wrapped her legs around him, then drove down, crying out as the long, thick length of him penetrated her. He was deliciously big, much like the rest of him.

His own groan was from the gut as she leaned back against the brick wall and he pounded into her, all finesse forgotten as he strove for release. He looked down and watched the play of his hips against hers as if fascinated by the sight. Of his blonde curls brushing the naked skin between her legs.

Stacia considered the emotions flitting across his face. Passion rose, dilating his eyes into shards of slate grey. Almost charcoal grey, she realized as he met her gaze before dipping his head down again to suck on her breasts.

Inside her, heat built. Desire awakened the demon that hungered for so much. She threw her head back, allowed the beast to emerge slowly so that it could experience it all. The dark of the night enveloped them in its secrecy. The strength of his youth brought her closer and closer to completion. The musky smells of their lovemaking pushed her over the edge.

She called out her physical completion and laid her face against his. Bent her head and kissed the crook of his neck. His skin was damp. Salty. His blood surged, singing through his veins as his pulse quickened while he worked for his own release.

Sweet, sweet blood. Pulsing beneath her lips.

In a heartbeat, she finally loosed her restraints on the beast. Her fangs burst forth and pierced the fragile skin of his neck.

He called out then in a strangled cry laced with pain, but also with the acknowledgment of passion like no other he had ever experienced—the passion borne from a vampire’s kiss.

Blood spilled onto her lips from her fangs as she drank, experiencing the surge of strength and lust that came from feeding. His sweet, young blood brought the rush of life to her undead body.

He tasted like the ocean and sun. Salty. So tasty that Stacia could have kept on going until she drained him dry, only he had done well by her tonight, satisfying one hunger while leaving another unfulfilled.

The young man’s knees weakened from the loss of blood, and Stacia hopped off him. With her greater vampire strength, she gently eased him down to the uneven pavement.

He was rather handsome, she thought, gazing down at him as he stared up at her, disoriented. The bite mark at his neck was already healing and come morning, he would remember nothing. Feel no worse off than if he had a bad hangover, she thought as she quickly closed up her vest.

And she would feel—

Still alone, she thought, hurrying from the alley as if by doing so, she could escape the bleakness of her existence.

Once out in the piazza, she realized that it was time to move on. She would not find satisfaction here.

As she strolled through the square, it occurred to her New York would be good this time of year. Lots of fine dining there and the wannabes at the Blood Bank were always good for a laugh.

Imagine, wanting to be human again, she thought. What good was that? she asked herself, ignoring the little voice in her head which reminded her that with humanity came…

Love.

Aztec Gold – A Paranormal Romance Novella

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll have an e-novella paranormal romance from Carina Press – AZTEC GOLD – out in the Fall of 2010.

AZTEC GOLD is a story about two archaelogists – Cynthia Guerrero and Rafael Santiago – who are radically different people. Rafael, or Rafe as he is known to friends and Cynthia, is an adventurer in the line of Indiana Jones. Totally alpha and unafraid.

Cynthia, on the other hand, prefers to stay in the safety and quiet of her job in the museum where her expertise is used to review and document ancient discoveries. Cynthia has reason to like security — as a child her famous anthropoligist parents dragged her all around the world until their untimely deaths.

But when Rafe disappears on an expedition to find an ancient Aztec temple in the Mexican jungle, Cynthia will have to face her fears – and an Aztec vampire demi-goddess – in order to discover what happened to her lover.

The inspiration for the story came from a trip that I took to Mexico as part of my day job. I was attending a conference in Mexico City and on one of the days of the conference we were able to visit Teotihuacan, a pre-Colombian city about 40 kilometers outside of Mexico City.

During its peak, Teotihuacan was thought to have held as many as 200,000 residents, although the ethnicity of those inhabitants is up for grabs. However the name Teotihuacan was given to the city by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztec centuries after the city had fallen to attacks from an assortment of invaders.

It’s an amazing place with its two pyramids – one to the sun and the other to the moon – and its long central avenue – the Avenue of the Dead – which is lined by smaller structures which the Aztecs believed to be tombs, resulting in the name of the avenue.

This is a view of the avenue and the Pyramid of the Sun from the Pyramid of the Moon.

Mexican Pyramid of the Sun and Avenue of the Dead

This is a view of the avenue and the Pyramid of the Moon from the Pyramid of the Sun.

Mexican Pyramid of the Moon and Avenue of the Dead

Despite my fear of heights, I am happy to say that I overcame that fear – much like Cynthia will fight to overcome hers – and climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. It was quite a view from there and I’ll be scanning some photos for you so you can get some first hand views of the area and the culture.

I hope you liked that Behind the Scenes info and now . . . an excerpt from AZTEC GOLD which will be available in the Fall 2010.

*****
Chapter 1

The feel of old papers called to Cynthia Guerrera the way a lover’s skin might.

Even with the gloves she wore to protect the fragile documents from the oils on her fingers, she sensed the raspy texture of the heavy parchment beneath them. Smelled the mustiness that hinted at the fact that it had been some time since these papers had seen the light of day.

At first she had been skeptical of the provenance of the documents — Missouri cornfields were not the place one expected to find a trunk filled with nearly five hundred year old Spanish papers and journals. But a Missouri cornfield was just where the trunk containing the papers and maps had been discovered when a developer had begun excavations for a new strip mall.

Setting aside the missive — one from Coronado himself to one of his seconds in command — she turned her attention to the leather bound journal of one Juan Domingo Cordero. Gingerly opening the cover, she traced her fingers over the scrawling script. The first entries in the journal had provided her with the identity of the author and the date of the documents thanks to Cordero’s meticulous notations.

With that information, she had been able to check a number of other sources to confirm that Cordero had indeed been one of Coronado’s lieutenants. When Coronado had left Mexico City in 1540 in search of the fabled Cities of Gold, Cordero had been at his side. Coronado had eventually separated from Cordero and his contingent, ordering them to search in one direction while he went in another.

Cordero’s entries in the journal carefully detailed their travels throughout the south central portion of Mexico, before his band had turned northward until they crossed the Rio Grande. Eventually the group had turned eastward and reached the Mississippi, hugging the banks of the river until it landed them in what would one day become Missouri.

Tired of their journeys and with their group decimated by a number of incidents, the Spanish conquistadors had built a small settlement a short distance from the sluggish and fertile waters of the Mississippi.

The notations in Cordero’s journal gradually diminished after that, with the conquistador’s adventures giving way to the routine of farming and family life. Eventually Cordero had stopped writing and Cynthia supposed that was when he had tucked the journals into the small wood and leather trunk together with his other papers. The trunk in turn had been put in the cellar and over time, the floods that often occurred in the area had covered Cordero’s home and the surrounding settlement with mud. Further flooding and natural events had added to the layers over the former community, hiding it from sight until the developer’s bulldozers had dug up the first hints of the earlier civilization and the trunk.

Cynthia picked up the laboratory results that had arrived that morning and which just further confirmed the age of the documents.

With that endorsement came proof of one thing, while serious doubt remained about another.

She rose and walked over to the climate-controlled locker in her office, removed a handwrought leather tube from within. Returning to her work table, she untied one end of the cylinder and removed a pliant sheet of leather from inside the tube. On the soft leather was a crudely drawn map identifying the sometimes circuitous route Cordero and his men had taken from Mexico City.

In the middle of the map, more carefully detailed than anything else, were the geographical features and path to what Cordero had believed to be one of the fabled Cities of Gold. A city supposedly inhabited by a demon who had taken away and killed nearly half a dozen of his men before Cordero had decided that no amount of lucre was worth their lives.

A hard tale to believe and yet everything else about the documents was genuine.

Worse yet, something about the map had troubled her from the moment she unrolled it onto her work station. As she had compared the various features on the map to a copy of another she had seen six months earlier, she realized there was too much coincidence to ignore.

Six months ago her lover, Dr. Rafael Santiago, had detailed to her the plans for his latest archaeological expedition — a trip to a previously unknown and unexplored Aztec temple. While on that trip with his younger brother and a team of about a dozen men, Rafe and his team had disappeared into the Mexican jungle.

For months she had been hoping for word of them, keeping faith in the belief that they were still alive. But with each month that passed, that hope was fading along with the prospect of discovering anything about her lover’s disappearance . . . until now.

Wicked Wednesday – TEMPTATION CALLS

TEMPTATION CALLS by Caridad PineiroThis Wicked Wednesday is a blast from the past, but one of my favorites – TEMPTATION CALLS. It’s also the story that launched several other novels, namely, DEVOTION CALLS, BLOOD CALLS and FURY CALLS. All the characters in those novels first appeared in TEMPTATION CALLS.

TEMPTATION CALLS is the story of Samantha Turner, the child of a former slave and store owner, who has suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of men and of the vampire who turned her. Because of that, Samantha is devoting her undead life to helping women escape from domestic violence.

Samantha also knows Ryder Latimer from her past life and there are some scenes in the novel where you find out what is the connection between her and Ryder. I won’t spill those secrets, however.

There are many special things for me about this book. The first is the relationship which develops with Samantha and NYPD Detective Peter Daly. Although Peter is used to violence, he is a gentle man who will demonstrate to Samantha that not all men hurt women. The second is that this book began to populate THE CALLING vampire series with unique characters and also introduced to the bar competing with Ryder’s club — The Blood Bank. Lots of action takes place in The Blood Bank mainly because it is the favorite hangout for many of the vampires in New York City. Last, but not least, we learn more about Ryder’s history and how he got to be a vampire. That history will be one that surprises you!

Today’s excerpt is the opening scene in the novel where you first meet Samantha and also, Ricardo — the santero from DEVOTION CALLS. I hope you enjoy the scene and today’s Wicked Wednesday!

If you cannot see the excerpt below, you can click on this link or cut and paste this link into your browser:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/32368336/Temptation-Calls-by-Caridad-Pineiro-THE-CALLING-Vampire-Novels

If you’re pressed for time, use the download option to read it later or on your mobile device!

Temptation Calls by Caridad Pineiro – THE CALLING Vampire Novels

Wicked Wednesday – Fury Calls

My March 2009 release, FURY CALLS, has been nominated for an RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Nocturne. Wish me luck! The winners will be announced in April at the RT Convention. FURY CALLS has also already won a coveted Cataromance Reviewer’s Award fBest Nocturne 2009. I am so happy about this as this is truly one of the books of my heart from THE CALLING Vampire novels. So for today, I’m sharing a sexy moment from when Blake and Meghan first meet in FURY CALLS.

I hope you enjoy today’s wicked excerpt!

Excerpt is for 17 and over only please

She led the way, the sharp staccato sounds of her high-heeled boots setting a rhythm as they walked to the farthest room on the left and paused before the door. He detected her hesitation then in the slight hitch her breath gave and the waver of her hand in his.

“Nervous?” He cradled her cheek, his touch meant to soothe, but as his gaze met hers, he sensed her sudden reluctance.

Her eyes were an amazing emerald green and as her gaze swept over his face, she said, “I have a confession to make.”

“Kind of cliché at this moment, don’t you think?”

A hint of bravado flared to life in her eyes, bringing a plucky twinkle there. “Actually, the confession is that I’m kind of glad I accepted my friend’s dare.”

“A dare? Is that what I am, love?”

She shocked him by rising a bit on her tiptoes — they were almost of a like height — and kissing him. Her lips were warm and alive as she swept them across his mouth and then cradled his cheek with her hand. When she finally broke away, she trailed her thumb across the slick wetness her lips had left behind on his, strumming alive intense desire with that seductive touch.

It had been way too long since a woman had been able to reach that part of him.

“What do you think?” she said and with a wink, she opened the door, but stopped short at the sight of the far side of the room, where an assortment of whips, chains and cuffs were tacked to the wall.

He slipped in behind her and laid his hands at her waist. Bending, he whispered in her ear, “I don’t think we’ll have need of those.”

“At least not tonight,” she said, striving for a bravado that she wasn’t feeling at the sight of the wall. This definitely was not the kind of thing she had expected to encounter.

Nervously Meghan placed her hands over his as they rested at her waist. His hands were chilled. With the same reticence she was suddenly experiencing? she wondered.

“Having second thoughts?” she asked as she faced him, but he moved his hands to cradle her back. His movements were sure and yet surprisingly tender as he swept them up to beneath the shoulders of her jacket. With a deft touch, he slipped it off her and let it fall to the ground.

“That’s better,” he said.

He ran his hands across the skin of her bare arms and the exposed expanse of her shoulders. Stroking her softly, the palms of his hands slightly rough against her skin. The hands those of someone who physically worked for a living.

“You’re so warm. Smooth.”

His gentle touch roused emotion in her and drove away her earlier hesitation. She had expected from the rough look of him that he wouldn’t be much for preliminaries, but she had been wrong, she realized, as he took his time as he passed his hands over her skin before bending a bit.

The kiss started with a soft whisper of his lips against hers as he explored the shape of her mouth before he finally covered her mouth with his. The kiss was tentative at first, but then he deepened it by degrees until she was finally straining against him, her hands fisted in the soft leather of his jacket, pulling herself closer to him.

He took the next step then, easing his jacket off. It fell to the floor with a jangle of chains.

Beneath the jacket he wore a black t-shirt that hugged every hard line of his lean body and Meghan found that she was suddenly impatient to see more.

She grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it up and over his head, exposing a body that looked to be sculpted from palest alabaster.

He wasn’t a tall man, barely inches over her own five-foot-seven height, but what there was of him was magnificently formed male. Broad shoulders, big enough to bear any burden, were thick with hard muscles that were smooth beneath the palms of her hands as she laid them there. She measured the strength in them before trailing her fingers down to his well-defined chest where she briefly skimmed them down the ridges of his abdomen and then back up. She ran her fingers through the pale whorls of hair on his chest which matched the arrogant color of his head.

“You really are a blond,” she teased and stroked her index finger over the hard nub of his nipple.

“Are you?” he asked and picked up his hand, trailed the rough pads of his fingers along the swell of her breasts exposed by the low neckline of the tank top and the push-up bra she had worn. His actions dragged an immediate response as her nipples tightened in anticipation of his touch.

She looked up at him and curved her lips in what she hoped was a seductive smile. “You may have to wait a bit to find out.”

Blake laughed, her bravado stirring something deep within him. Something that couldn’t wait a second longer to take their little interlude to the next step.

He reached for the neckline of her tank top and slipped his fingers beneath, pulling away both shirt and bra with a quick tug. He heard the snap of the bra strap and felt the give as her breast slipped free of all the fabric.

Her creamy skin was a sharp contrast to the black of her clothing. A flush worked over her flesh at his perusal, tempting him to feel the warmth of it against his palm.

He cupped her and the heat of the hard tip of her nipple seemed to bore a hole into the palm of his hand, but he somehow restrained himself. He moved his hand, cupping her breast so he could stroke her nipple with his thumb before taking it between his thumb and forefinger and applying gentle pressure.

It dragged a soft moan from her and she copied his actions, tweaking his hard male nipple with her fingers, jerking his erection to painful life.

Her gaze slipped there for but a moment before she leaned forward and closed her mouth over his nipple.

He shut his eyes against the sensation that rocketed through his body with her touch and focused on the feel of her breast in his hand, all warm and creamy. Her pulse beat was loud in his ears and vibrated against his hand as it rested inches away from her heart, reminding him of what he was not.

Alive. Alive. Alive, drummed loudly in his head like the beat of her pulse.

“You’re cold,” she said and in response, he called forth a bit of his demon, driving away the chill in his body to allay her concern.

“Blake?” she asked and he realized that he didn’t even know her name.

“That’s my name and you’re . . .”

“Meghan,” she said in a husky whisper as he bent his head and took her hard nipple into his mouth.

She cradled him close, her hand snaking through his hair to keep him near as she arched her back.

Not that he was going anywhere, he thought, as he sucked on her nipple and relished the soft mewl of pleasure that came from her.

He shifted his other hand upward, tugged down the rest of her shirt and bra so that he could caress her other breast as he continued to pleasure her with his mouth until it wasn’t enough.

“Touch me, Meghan,” he almost begged and when she ran her hands across the width of his shoulders, he surged upward, wrapping his arms around her waist and crushing her tight to his body.

“Blake, what — ”

He silenced her with a kiss as he walked with her to the edge of the bed, but then he slowly eased her down his body, the smooth hard tips of her breasts brushing along him, awakening fire wherever she touched. The sensation pulled a shiver from him, but Meghan’s hands were quickly running across his shoulders again, as if to gentle him.

“Has it been that long?” she asked, surprising him with her sensitivity.

He shocked himself by admitting, “Since I felt something like this? Too long, love.”

“Why?” she wondered aloud even as she tenderly ran her hands across his shoulders and then let them dip down to cover the muscles of his chest with one hand while she placed the other flat over his heart.

Her touch reached deep within him, to emotions he thought he had suppressed long ago. Covering her hand with his, he said, “Let’s not go there tonight.”

He didn’t think it was possible that the green of her eyes could get any darker, but with his words, her pupils deepened to almost black with emotion. Reaching up, she cradled his cheek, tracing the sharp line of it.

“Where would you like to go tonight?”

“To heaven,” he said as he bent his head and took her lips with his once again.

“Heaven it is, then,” Meghan murmured as she accepted the gentle pass of his lips over hers. His touch was tentative, almost pleading. The emotions it roused sank its hooks deep into her heart, scaring her with the intensity of the sensation.

She laid her hands on his shoulders, gentled him by running her hands across the solid width of them. He had one elbow propped on the lumpy mattress beneath them, keeping his body away from her, but with that urging, he relaxed and lay beside her fully. Their bodies barely brushed, but it was enough to make her want more.

Sweeping one hand down from where she had been caressing his shoulder, she cupped the swell of his pectoral muscle and ran her thumb across the hard nub. A small shudder racked his body, emboldening her.

“Ah, love. That feels good,” he said, breaking the contact of their lips. He looked down to her hand where she continued to strum his tight nipple.

She smiled, filled with a bravado she hadn’t known she possessed. With a playful tone she said, “Well if it feels good to you, I imagine that it might feel good for me, too.”

He chuckled and met her gaze, amusement glittering in his crystal blue eyes. With a cocky grin on his face, he passed the back of his hand across her breast, dragging a rough sigh from her at the pleasure that simple touch created in her core.

“Is that the sound of good, luv?”

“Yes,” she said with a sigh and took his nipple between her fingers, rotated it gently. At their hips, where their bodies were closest, the jump of his erection as it hardened even further created a sympathetic pull between her legs. She twined her legs with his and he pushed his thigh upward, tight against the growing pulse at her center.

As she rode him, trying to assuage her need, he took her hard nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Pulled on it gently before a playful twist yanked a moan from her.

He immediately seized on that sound of desire.

“So was that the sound of . . . even better?” he teased, even as he was bending his head and she was arching her back, offering herself up to him.

His hard mobile lips closed over her nipple. He sucked the tip before circling the hard nub with his tongue and then teething the tip into an even tighter point. She cradled his head close and as he suckled her, she bumped her hips against his and shifted her center along the hard muscles of his thigh.

He responded by increasing the pull of his mouth and insinuating his thigh ever tighter against her.

She rode him with growing need, but recalling his earlier playfulness and wanting to join in it, she said, “And this is the sound of un-freakin’-believable,” and finally released the low long moan that had built within her at his actions.

Her words pulled a rough laugh from him and made his already full erection swell to painful proportions. He wanted nothing more than to bury himself in her . . . except possibly a taste of her humanity.

A bite of the life held tight against him. Her heart beat furiously against his ear as he once again brought his mouth to her breast and suckled. The warmth of her — her mortal warmth — bathed his upper body with heat. The smell of her — musky femininity — covered by the tight jeans that she wore brought sweet temptation.

The bit of vampire he had released earlier to warm her became a pool of heat at the center of him, growing ever stronger with each touch and taste of her. As she slipped her hand downward and covered his erection, a shudder ripped through him and the fire of the vampire flared across his body, breaking free and wanting dominion.

He fought the demon’s control, fearing the strength of the emotion she had called forth. Afraid of it even as he acknowledged that he had never experienced anything like it in either of his lives.

She must have sensed the difference in him since she urged him up from her breast and rubbed her lips against his. “I’m afraid too, Blake. I’m afraid of how much I like the way I feel with you.”

Her confession undid the last dregs of his human and released the demon.

“Forgive me, love,” he said as he gently eased her head to the side and bit down.

Pain seared through her neck, but immediately after came intense desire that made her entire body throb for fulfillment.

Meghan held him close, moaning and riding his thigh as desire gripped her hard, refusing to let go much like he seemed unable to release her. The pulse of her need beat through her body and seemed to echo from his, but little by little that beat grew weaker and erratic. Somehow she realized that the fading rhythm was that of her heart, failing slowly as Blake continued to suck at her neck until only a negligible thrum remained.

Cold enveloped her body. Weakness. Her extremities became nearly numb and useless.

As Blake finally pulled away, she caught a glimpse of his face. Long, blood-stained fangs extended well beyond his upper lip. The ice blue of his eyes burned with almost phosphorescent brightness and called to her as her eyesight dimmed.

“Sweet Jesus, Meghan. I’m sorry, love. So sorry,” he said, but his words were growing distant, as if she was fading away and maybe she was.

A part of her brain understood that she was dying and that part struggled to hold on. To not let go of what little life remained. That consciousness latched onto the feel of him cradling her. Of the wetness of tears on her face and then the saltiness of something warm against her lips.

“Drink, Meghan,” she heard and knew that he was offering her life. She didn’t know how she knew it, she just did, as if something deep in her subconscious had elemental knowledge of what he offered.

All that she knew at that moment was that she didn’t want to die.

She was only twenty-one and she wasn’t ready to die.

She opened her mouth and placed it against the flesh he offered. Drank of the warmth of his life’s blood. With each pull of her mouth and each sip, strength grew in her body. Unbelievable strength that touched each cell until she was able to force herself away from him.

With a brutal shove she drove him from her and as he rose from the floor beside the bed where he had fallen, he gazed down at her with eyes filled with tears, but they created no emotion in her other than hatred. Within her, fury rose with the realization that he had irrevocably changed her life.

She sat up and grabbed at her clothes and when he would have reached for her, she slapped away his hands.

“Don’t touch me. Don’t ever touch me again.”

“Ever is a long time now, luv,” he said sadly.

“It is forever now, isn’t it? You made me something other than human.”

At his nod, she said, “I’ll hate you forever.”

He morphed back to his human form then and despite her statement, emotion rose up in her at the sadness in his eyes and at the words he uttered next.

“No need to waste your emotion, Meghan. I’ll hate myself on your behalf.”