Christopher D’Angelo is from a very long and distinguished line of vampires, but years of blood and sex aren’t enough to make him happy. Only finding his mate can make him complete, and he doesn’t have a chance in hell without finding his family’s lost blood diamond first.
Samantha Panini is living and working as a thief on the streets of Paris dressed as a young man. Her entire life changes abruptly when she picks the pocket of a vampire. In retaliation, he kidnaps her.
Once Christopher discovers her secrets and her lush curves, he is unwilling to let her go, but he made a promise to release her if she cooperates.
In a quirk of fate, his captive turns out to be his lifemate, and she holds the keys to his heart. Will she break it completely when it comes time to release her, or will his enemies destroy her first?
Genre: Paranormal, Vampires/Werewolves
Length: 66,775 words
This book is available from Siren Publishing here:
Love at First Bite
Copyright © 2012
Christopher D’Angelo pulled the woman closer to him, one arm draped comfortably over her shoulders. Tonight was much like any other night he hunted his prey. He looked up into the clear night sky and felt ancient power surround him. The city lights were much too bright to see any stars. Yet the illumination of the city lights did not touch every corner of the streets. The darkness crept into the corners, allowing the creatures of the night a measure of solitude.
Rue du Berger was an easy place to pick up unsuspecting tourists merely looking for a night of romance. If they were unlucky enough to find Christopher, they found much more than they were bargaining for.
Although it had been years since he killed for the fun of it, he still enjoyed the hunt too much to give it up. After feasting on their blood, his victim’s memories were washed clean and the next day they usually woke to a hazy recollection of the night’s events, feeling tired and drained as if they had a night of spectacular sex. If only they could remember more about what happened, or have anything more than a vague recollection of a dark, handsome man they met earlier in the evening, but their memories always remained a frustrating blur.
Tonight, Christopher found a Grecian beauty looking for a night of love in a bar. She came willingly, welcoming his seductive invitation to go somewhere quiet and away from onlookers. Now, he couldn’t wait to get her alone, so he could take his time on her. Christopher led the dark-haired beauty to a less crowded area, past the pastry shops and chic clothing stores, away from the tourists and the artists. What he wanted was a place he could feed in peace. So, he was distracted as he searched out the darkest corners of the night. He turned his eyes to the dark corners of the street, looking for any place he might press her up against a wall and use her, causing him to forget to look right in front of him.
A waif-like boy bumped into Christopher, roughly knocking Christopher off balance. “Pardonez moi, Monsieur.” Christopher glared at the boy who seemed to be dressed in rags. He was a common beggar, and the young man wilted under Christopher’s unforgiving gaze. He couldn’t have been much past his teens. He had a soft, feminine-looking face, but short greasy-looking blond hair which Christopher may never have noticed if he had not stopped to stare the man down. The beggar’s face was so covered in grime one hardly noticed the lengthy lashes covering his aquamarine eyes and his full lips. The beggar looked even more apologetic as he looked at the woman next to Christopher.
Christopher nearly forgot his date was in a near catatonic state. Her unblinking eyes comprehended nothing. She saw no one and would remember less.
The beggar didn’t recognize Christopher as a hunter, just someone big and dangerous enough he didn’t want to meet him in a dark alley, like tonight. Christopher’s large, six-foot-two frame towered over most men, and his body was thickly muscled, and he used all of his mass to intimidate. Every inch of him was a predator waiting to pounce. Slowly, the boy slunk away, apologizing with every step, his eyes wide with fear. Christopher waited until the man disappeared from sight, and then turned away.
Christopher scowled. He wouldn’t allow anything to ruin tonight. It had been too long since he fed properly and he tired of satisfying his blood cravings with animal blood. The bloodlust raised many hungers in his body and the need for blood was just part of his vampire heritage. It had been nearly a month since he last fed. His body ached, cramping from his self-imposed starvation. The pain made it difficult to think clearly and rationally. The longer he went between feedings, the less human-like he became. His primal needs overcame logic, and he was forced to give into his animalistic urges. The need for blood wasn’t the only hunger he tried to suppress. His sexual needs had gone unfulfilled for far too long.
One day he would have to find a woman he could take as his lover as well, but she couldn’t be human. Humans who knew him as a vampire always panicked if he didn’t use his gift to calm them. He could never take a human to his bed and feed on the same woman. The fear left a bitter taste in his mouth and took away his appetite and any enjoyment he felt. While the mind control left them fearless, he certainly could not unleash his lust on a woman in this state.
A woman in a trance would never hunger for him. The women he used to feed on were under his spell, and he desired to feel a passion equal to his in a lover. The women under his power did only as they were told, and no more.
What he needed was a woman wild with wanting, writhing below his body in passion. He held onto the nameless stranger, holding his lips to her neck as he fed. He fed because he had to, but he wanted so much more.
He needed a woman who understood his needs, and he could answer hers in return.
A woman to be the light in the darkness.
Gods. It had been hundreds of years now since he saw the sun. Never in his lengthy lifetime had he found a woman who could light his world and did not cower in fear once they saw his true self, at least not a human woman. There had been a few female vampires but their own fierce hunger led them astray too many times to be trusted. He needed a woman who would be faithful to him. Someone to grow old with, and if he was really lucky he would find more than a companion or a lover. He would find his lifemate.
The right side of the street was lined with quaint little shops and cafes. Jazz music filtered through the night air, and to the left was the park. The Bistrot d’Eustache was a popular hangout for jazz enthusiasts. Many of the country’s fresh new faces of jazz came here to be discovered. The smell of the foods mixed with the clean evergreen scent from the gardens surrounding the Fontaine des Innocents. The grand stone fountain was the centerpiece of the gardens and drew the eye first. It was the last great Renaissance fountain left in Paris, yet it was often missed by the art lovers. It should be another tourist attraction for the city, but it had become a popular hangout for the Gothic teenagers, which didn’t help. The tourists sought out other places to sightsee and left the Fontaine to the city’s youth.
Christopher didn’t come here for the architecture. He came here for another reason. It was sacred ground to him. The square was built on the site of a former graveyard, but not just any graveyard. This was where much of his family had been buried. Memories came flooding back as he remembered his long-lost childhood. The night he lost his family was forefront in his memories. A terrible battle had ensued here. His first wife was buried here. When he witnessed her death, he was no longer human in any sense of the word.
It left him with mixed feelings about his clan, and it was one of the reasons why he lived outside the coven. While he was loyal to the king, he wouldn’t be drawn into playing mind games, or become anyone’s pawn.
This part of the city was built on an elaborate labyrinth of underground chambers. Some were very old, and some were newer parts of the city. Most of the shops in this area were underground, leaving above ground free for the traffic, and a few more decorative gardens. Across the street was one of the larger subways in all of Paris, located far beneath the underground swimming pool, the restaurants, and theatres. Anything one needed could be found here. It was the perfect place for a vampire to retreat to during the day. Christopher enjoyed this part of the city where he could live comfortably, and no one questioned his odd habits of staying indoors during the day.
Christopher led his date to a cool cement bench and sat her down next to him. He pulled the woman closer to him, luxuriating in the feel of her warmth against his skin. He lived off the warmth of others because his own blood ran cold after all these years.
Most vampires his age had taken a mate long ago, knowing it was the only way to keep the warmth and light in their life. The only thing keeping them from going rogue and becoming a bloodthirsty common killer was finding their mate. It was something he knew he didn’t want to face, but each time, his blood lust came on stronger, and lately he hungered more often. He knew his time was coming.
After losing the love of his life to the Great Bloody Wars, he wasn’t sure he wanted to try to love again, but he needed a mate. More than anything, he needed someone he could trust with his heart. He couldn’t imagine loving as deep as he once had, but he could share his life. He was too bitter to love freely again even if he could find the woman his heart and body craved.
Christopher looked deeply into the woman’s lifeless eyes. As a human, she was unable to fight his mind control and obeyed his every wish like a mindless robot.
What would it be like to find his mate? Would he know her right away? Would she be mesmerizing or breathtakingly beautiful? How would he know if she truly belonged to him? Would his heart sing to him and tell him he found the other half of his heart? Would she recognize him as the one man who would dedicate his life to her and give up everything, even the air he breathed, for her?
Time would tell.
His date was still under his control, her mind numb to every sensation and sound. A half blood would not only fight the mind control but would still feel and remain cognizant of what was going on. This woman was all human. It was not his first choice to take her this way, but he needed blood. There would be no fear, no screams. Without the pleas for help, most importantly, no one would come to her aid.
He kissed her lightly at first, pulling her completely into his arms. A passerby would only notice two lovers in a tender embrace. Her lips were soft and pliant under his, but she didn’t return the kiss. He withdrew, and tilted the woman’s neck so her pulsing vein was visible to him. A moan escaped her lips even in her trance as he sank his sharp canines into her flesh, piercing the delicate skin. Waves of lust threatened to take him as he drank. He pulled her into his lap to relieve some of the pressure of his hard cock, her short skirt riding higher, teasing his control. He worked his hands under her skirt, gripping her firm buttocks.
This act would have felt complete if he could have sunk himself into her, but he could still be honorable. If he took a woman in passion, then he needed her to know what was happening, and she would want sex as much as he.
There would be no hiding. She would accept him for what he truly was.
A part of the undead.
But most importantly, she would know him as her lover.
* * * *
Christopher left the nameless woman in a cab on a return trip to her hotel, knowing it would only be minutes before she awoke from her stupor with stolen memories of what happened to her. The last thing he needed was to be there when she awoke. She would be slightly weak and dizzy, but she would get home safely and the two tiny marks he left on her neck would be ignored. The small puncture wound had already begun to heal.
Christopher strode across the gardens, planning on taking the metro to his home. He could use his power to simply materialize in his house, but he preferred to stay out in the night just a few more hours. He could also call James, but he didn’t want to bother him this late, and a ride home on the train would give him time to reflect. Suddenly he realized he would need his monthly pass to use the subway. One hand reached for his wallet and found it to be missing. Concerned, he stopped and checked the other pocket.
He lost his wallet. How was that possible? When?
Quickly his mind raced, mentally retracing his steps this night.
There was no way he could have lost it.
Unless…It had to be the street urchin he bumped into.
Christopher was furious he allowed the waif to get the best of him. His eyes narrowed to thin slits as he pictured himself ripping the man into tiny pieces, mutilating the body beyond comprehension. Christopher would kill the thief when he found the man—and there was no doubt in his mind he would find him. Already his heightened sense of smell was narrowing in on his target. He was working from his memory of only minutes before, from when he bumped into the thief.
Christopher would enjoy killing him—nobody had ever gotten the better of Christopher without him realizing it. The man was a professional thief. He had to be. Not even with his heightened senses did Christopher even realize something was amiss.
This thief could probably steal anything and get away with it.
The question stopped Christopher dead in his tracks as he realized what this meant. A car skid to a stop in front of him, but it wasn’t until the driver slammed on the horn Christopher snapped back into reality. Christopher scowled at the driver, not really caring if he lived or died.
No, that was not true. Lady luck just changed his life by allowing him to bump into the thief. He cared now about life. Tonight he was given hope of finding a purpose to his dark and lonely existence. The driver swallowed hard and froze in fear. Christopher slowly began moving again to finish crossing the street. He focused back onto the trail of his thief.
A plan began to form in his mind even as he followed the trail, focusing on the scent of the thief. No, if the thief was as good as he suspected he wouldn’t kill him. He would use him to steal the very thing that could save Christopher from a dark and lonely future. The blood diamond could once again belong to his family and he could find his mate, if he could use his thief to steal it.
The blood diamond of the house of Dupris was scheduled for display in a museum on loan from the new owners. The blood diamond was a pendant that once belonged to vampiric royalty but was now in the hands of humans. Humans with no comprehension of the power it could wield. It was currently on loan to a museum, but Christopher was familiar with its legend. It was said to be able to help a Vamp male to find his mate and know her. It had the power to bind her to him, and the power to corrupt, if it fell into the wrong hands.
It belonged in the hands of men who knew how to use its power, not just to be admired for its beauty.
Christopher had thought about stealing it himself, but it wasn’t the alarms which stopped him. Someone had warded the museum against his kind. As if they understood the pendant could possibly be in danger of being stolen by a vampire.
A human thief would be the perfect means to get the blood diamond back into his family.
* * * *
“Good job, Sam.” Jonathon’s greedy hands pulled the wallet from the grungy beggar’s fingers and flipped through the paper bills. He pulled out one crumpled note and handed it back. “Looks like you hit the jackpot tonight. Here’s your cut.”
Sam pocketed the money nervously, knowing it may be the last he gave her for the week. “Does that mean I can go to bed now?”
“What?” Jonathon asked, distracted. He was still searching the wallet. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he tossed the empty wallet to the floor. He angrily said, “Hey! There’s no ID here, and no credit cards. Just what are you trying to pull here, Sam?”
Sam recognized the signs of Jon’s rising anger, instinctively knowing it was time to back off, shaking her head as she backed away. Jonathon was known to strike out in his anger and Sam didn’t want to be nursing any more bruises or black eyes. “I gave it to you just as I got it. Honest.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I wouldn’t lie to you!” She knew what it meant to fail him and a desperate sense of panic crept up in her chest.
“You thought you were done tonight?” His balding head reflected the dim light, and his sideburns accentuated his deep frown.
“But I did my job. I brought home some money.”
Jonathon’s dark eyes sparked with intense anger. “You aren’t going home yet, Sam. I expect you to make up for this. The money you earn belongs to the family, not just you. I have bills to pay. Who pays to keep the roof over your head?”
“You do,” she squeaked.
“Damn right I do—and I can’t have you not pull your weight around here. Even the girls bring home more money than you do.” Jonathon had been taking in homeless kids, using them for his own personal gain. It was true. He gave them food and shelter, the clothes on their backs, but he also ensured they were educated in nothing but crime. The boys were taught how to steal from an early age and the older ones sold drugs on streets if they were too big to steal. If they were smart, they might be trained to hack or break into computers and make off with bank accounts and credit cards. The girls were appreciated for their finer points and taught how to turn tricks from an early age. Most of the kids thought of this place as a safe house, but soon learned the truth after living here a few days. Most of the money went to support Jonathon’s drug habit, and he used the girls as much for his own needs as often as he pimped them out to strangers. None of the kids went to school. They spent their free time working the streets.
Sam bit her lip. The last thing she needed was to get kicked out. If Jonathon only knew her secret, she would never be safe from him either. He would hold her deceit against her and probably rape her before forcing her to work the streets as a whore. Dana had brought her here and helped her out. She had warned Sam to dress as a boy. She didn’t want Sam to have to go through what she herself went through.
Sam was getting too old for this kind of life. She was nineteen now and she would find her own way in life. She would have to leave soon. For many reasons, she couldn’t stay much longer. Her breasts were getting too large to hide beneath the layers of clothing. She had noticed the way Jonathon stared at her. It wouldn’t be long before he suspected her secret, if he didn’t already suspect something of her unusually thin frame. She would never beef up like the other young men of the house.
Then there were the nightly tirades and the drunken fights. Enduring Jonathon’s fits was getting more tiresome and it was apparent she couldn’t please him. She brought home over a thousand euros tonight. Enough to pay several months’ rent, and he was still mad at her. He would probably drink away most of the money. His alcoholic rages were even worse to sit through. Most of the smart kids learned to be away from the house when he was drinking.
Jonathon interrupted her. “Was just lucky. And as long as you were lucky, you can get out there and do it again.”
She didn’t want to do it again. She wanted to be sleeping in her bed. “But I—”
“There is a group of tourists tonight who are getting a private tour through the catacombs. They are talking about some stupid legend about vampires.” He made a dismissive wave of his hands as if he disregarded the existence of vampires altogether. “You should be able to make a good hit there.”
“I don’t want to go there, Jon.” Sam pictured the piles of bones which had been left there and shivered. She knew the place he was talking about well. She had been there before but always in the daylight, never at night. Worse, tonight the docent would be preying on her fears and telling ghost stories all about other monsters that lived in her nightmares. Vampires. Evil spirits and demons. All of them bloodthirsty killers who hunted in the night.
Sam’s head spun with the force of the slap across her face. Her hand went up defensively to protect herself against another strike as she looked up at him in fear.
“You will go, and I expect you to bring home a good stash this time, Sam.” His features were unforgiving and she recognized he wouldn’t tolerate arguing.
For a moment, she weighed the thought of answering him with a refusal and how hard she would be hit, but the night was still young, and she was too tired to fight him again or to sleep in an alley somewhere.
“Fine. I’ll go.” Sam bit her lip, tasting the bitter blood trickling into her mouth. A plan formed in her mind. She would go, but in the morning she would be moving out. Tonight would be the last time she would go, but anything she brought home would be for her and her new start in life. Nothing about this city had been good to her. She had lost her parents here in Paris. Orphaned and lost, she landed in the scum of society and never went to school a day in her life. If only her life had been different, she may have had a future. She may have had a past, with a family who loved her and raised her as their own child.
She should be in college right now and looking forward to having a family of her own one day. Instead she was trapped in the city of romance, living with a den of thieves, forced to choose between stealing, prostitution, or selling drugs to survive.
The front door slammed behind her and she left the house without looking back.
Paris bites! she thought acidly as she left the dark alley for her very last mission. She was going to move as far away from Paris as she could get when this night was finished.
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Lots o Love,