Struggling vampire romance novelist Ashley Hawn was living her dream. By day she worked as a clerk at a local grocery store, and by night she immersed herself in the imaginary world of sexy vampires, shirtless men, and endless parties. Between work, her writing, and her best friends- Chloe and Jordan- life was good. She was even dating a mysterious and sexy man (or so she thought) by the name of Isaac. Then in a flash, her whole world changed and she discovered herself turned.
Quickly she finds that life as a vampire is less sexy shirtless men, endless parties, and is more running for her life as she tries to dodge the attacks of every mythological creature in the area.
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…Audrey leaned forward, his intoxicating smell filling her lungs and making her head spin. She knew she should be afraid. But she couldn’t make herself feel what she didn’t feel, just as she couldn’t drive away the feeling of love that welled up inside her. Just like she knew she should be afraid, she knew she shouldn’t love him. After all, he was a vampire.
But it was too much!
He was too handsome, too brilliant, too talented for her to not love him. Any woman that knew him like she did would love him tobaca;aoivnakd;ahvna;shcOIenfw
“Muffler!” I shrieked as my ridiculous gray cat sauntered across my keyboard. Instead of scurrying away, he turned to look at me, planting his behind right on the D key. A sudden paragraph of Ds sprouted on my flickering screen. I rolled my eyes, lifted the cat off my desk, and stood up. Instantly, his chest began rumbling with a purr I was sure could be heard in the next apartment. With a sigh, I dropped him on the floor. I had been in the zone—which, of course, meant I needed to be interrupted.
I was right.
A recognizable ratta-tat-tat filled my apartment.
“Two bits,” I called out by way of acknowledgment, nudging a still rumbling Muffler from my legs where he was making intense circle-eights. Jordan, my best friend, entered.
“Writing?” he asked, glancing at the screen. His blond brows furrowed as he noticed Muffler’s contribution.
“Cat,” I explained.
“Ah.” Without asking, he moved into my closet of a kitchen and began rummaging through the ancient fridge. He pulled out a soda; it was still a little early for beer. I ignored him and walked back to my computer, which was tucked into the far corner of my studio apartment. Jordan dropped onto my bed, which often acted as a couch, and cracked open the can of Mountain Dew.
“So what are you up to?” I asked, as I stood in the small space between my computer desk and my bed. I was used to Jordan stopping by randomly, but this felt different.
“Well…” He hesitated. “I wanted to talk to you.”
“About what?” I asked, flopping into my desk chair and taking a decidedly relaxed pose.
Jordan was clearly upset and I wanted to make him feel at ease. He took a long swig of his soda in an effort to buy himself some time. I waited patiently. There weren’t many people for whom I would be patient, but he was one of them.
“Uh… I’m taking Chloe out on a date tonight.”
“On a date date?” I asked, unable to hide my shock and concern.
Chloe was a dear friend of ours. In fact, Jordan, Chloe, and I had been the three amigos for a number of years. I’d met Chloe at the nearby grocery store where I worked and had quickly introduced her to my best friend—never imagining they would become an item. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but if I was being honest with myself, I’d hoped any symptoms of romance I’d noticed were the result of my overactive imagination.
As much as I wanted them to be happy, I knew this would change things. We would no longer be the three amigos: We’d be a dating couple and the third wheel.
“Yeah,” Jordan said. It sounded more like a question, as though he were asking for my permission. I hated that he felt this way. I had known Jordan since high school; a decade now. We found out much later that we’d both had crushes on each other, but never had the guts to pursue it. Despite the revelation, we never did attempt to date. In some ways, I wondered what we might have missed out on, and yet I was happy to know I would never lose his friendship. Our love was unconditional. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to ask for my blessing to date another woman, even if she was my friend.
I schooled my features into a smile. “That’s awesome. I was wondering when you were going to ball up and ask her out.”
Jordan’s pale lips turned up into a smile as his face burned red. It was a stark contrast to his extremely blond hair. “Yeah… well…” he stuttered, rubbing the back of his neck, which was also turning red. It was a gesture he often used when feeling awkward or uncomfortable. “I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it. I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Upset me? Why would it upset me? My two best friends together. What could be better?” I lied through my teeth. Thankfully, Jordan had never been able to see through my lies. Perhaps he simply wanted to trust that we were close enough that I would never stoop to a lie. I had thought so too, until today.
“So what are you up to?” he asked, changing the subject suddenly.
“I have the day off,” I began.
Though I had worked at the grocery store since before high school graduation, three months ago I cut my hours back to part time so I could spend more time writing. I’d sold my second book, and my publisher was becoming more demanding. My books weren’t hugely popular, but I did have a small mob of devoted readers. Between the part time job and the royalty checks, I managed to keep a roof over my head and food in my fridge—most of the time. It didn’t allow for much else, including socializing. Things like movies and dinner cost money.
“But I’m going out with Isaac tonight,” I added quickly.
Isaac didn’t seem to mind paying for our dates. He taught a few night classes at the local university and made decent money, so I didn’t mind letting him pick up the tab. We had gone out a handful of times over the past month, but so far we seemed to be stuck in a holding pattern.
I never felt like I knew him better at the end of our dates. He shared just enough to not seem distant, but not enough for the relationship to progress. I, on the other hand, shared everything. Jordan always teased me about talking too much, and I knew it was true, but didn’t put much energy into changing it.
Jordan glared in my general direction. Despite the fact we had never dated, he continued to be my staunch protector. Any guy I dated, or even ogled, he considered to be a psychopath. Overprotective he may be, but I knew—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that if I was ever in trouble Jordan would come to the ends of the earth to save me, cliché as it may be.
I waited until he got the glare out of his system.
“Yes, I know how you feel. I’ll be careful. It’s not like I’ve jumped into the sack with him or anything!”
“That’s just it! I’d almost feel better if you had. It’s not normal that he’s so careful with you. Normal guys try to kiss their girlfriends. Try to grope them.”
I stared at him.
“Wait! You want him to grope me?” I was completely lost. Everyone says women don’t make sense, but this conversation seemed to be pointing in the other direction.
“No! I just wish he was a little more normal. There’s something off about him. I know you see him as a gentleman, but it goes beyond that. And I—I just want you to be careful… on your guard.”
I nodded reluctantly, knowing full well my face showed my dissatisfaction. Jordan’s assessment of Isaac made me think he didn’t like me. It’s so easy to feel discouraged.
“Look,” sighed Jordan, clearly wanting to make me feel better. “He seems to really like you.”
“Yeah, maybe,” I half agreed. Between Jordan’s appraisal and Isaac’s general distance, I was beginning to wonder.
I didn’t want to end it. What I knew of Isaac I really liked; besides, he wasn’t too hard on the eyes either. But despite my inclination to continue the relationship, I knew I wasn’t in love with him. For that to happen, he would have to open up.
“You don’t think so?” Jordan’s tone turned into excitement, almost relief.
I was too upset to give him the dirty look he deserved. “He just seems cautious. Like something’s in the way of us—you know—becoming exclusive.”
“He’s probably married,” Jordan said flatly.
“He’s not married!” I snapped, annoyed with my friend’s willingness to think badly of Isaac. I threw a pencil at him and managed to bounce the eraser end off his shoulder.
Jordan shrugged, ignoring my missile.
“I don’t know what it is,” I said. “Maybe he’s just not that interested in me.”
“No, he’s interested in you. I’ve watched him. His eyes follow you as if in the midst of your friends, you might get snatched up by a monster. He looks ready to, at a moment’s notice, throw you over his shoulder and run.”
I know some part of me should have been disturbed by Jordan’s description, but instead I just felt like giggling. A hot guy was watching me? Score! Not the most intelligent response, I know. Evidently Jordan saw the first hint of laughter in my eyes. He gave me a look that said “you’re kidding me, right?”
“You shouldn’t be excited about that,” Jordan said, his voice was clear and deliberate, as if he were talking to a child. “Look, I know I tend to judge the men you date a little too harshly, but I’m serious. Isaac really gives me the willies. I’m not saying break up with him. I’m just saying be careful.”
I pursed my lips, trying to genuinely heed his words. Finally I nodded, figuring that was the best I could do.
Jordan sighed, knowing his message had only half sunk in. I just couldn’t take him seriously. This was Isaac, after all, a complete gentleman. When he kissed me goodnight, it was always short, with his hands in very safe locations. Sometimes I just wanted to grab him and show him what could be done with a tongue.
Before either of us could say anything else, Chloe burst into my apartment. I hadn’t heard her ascend the flight of stairs necessary to get to my door. She didn’t knock. I knew better than to expect such a courtesy. She still wore her black grocery-store apron, but that didn’t last long. She dropped her purse on the small table next to my door, nearly hitting the cat, yanked the apron off, and flung it onto her purse.
This was her usual ritual when entering my apartment after a long day of work. She went to my bathroom and immediately scrubbed her face; another ritual that allowed Chloe to keep her ebony skin clear and beautiful despite working in the deli department where the deep-fat fryer was king.
When she emerged, she retrieved her purse and apron. “Ready?” she asked, her eyes focused only on Jordan. I didn’t think it was due to any aversion, but more from the fact she was nervous and uncomfortable.
I felt like a fly on the wall of my own apartment until Jordan turned toward me. “You’ll remember what I said?”
I nodded. I’d do anything to get them out of my home.
Jordan gave me a distrustful look before escorting Chloe out of my apartment.
Their departure left me feeling uncomfortable and anxious. I had intended on getting back to my writing, but the nervous energy they’d left behind demanded a more relaxing activity. I didn’t want Isaac to arrive while I was all worked up.
I grabbed the little black dress I intended to wear and headed to my bathroom. Though I was anything but a fashionista—jeans and a T-shirt were my normal apparel—I did have one or two little dresses. I stripped out of my Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt and turned the water on. The sweatshirt had belonged to my mother. Both my parents had kicked the bucket after a brutal car crash a few years back. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s how I cope, so don’t judge.
The truth is, I loved my parents deeply, and they had loved me. We had a strong relationship, even when I was in high school. My mom had been my best friend, my fierce protector, and my greatest fan. My dad was the mortar that held our little family of misfits together. Now I lived by myself, in a studio apartment, struggling to pay my own rent. Such was life. But now they were gone and couldn’t help me; I had to remind myself to keep the tears from forming in my eyes.
Before I could get the rest of my clothing off, the bathroom was steaming up from the shower. The bathroom in my apartment is one of those tiny things where a guy could stand in the shower and piss in the toilet, or sink, without missing. I’m pretty sure RVs have larger bathrooms. In the end, I not only straightened my red hair, but I also put on makeup.
Between the makeup, the black dress that left little to the imagination, and the delicate heels, I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. It felt a bit like playing dress up or Barbie. Except, today Ken would actually be arriving at my house.
Isaac is the type of guy that makes a girl’s brain turn into liquid and slowly dribble out of her ears. Though he had no distinct features, all his non-distinctiveness consolidated into sheer hotness! His dirty blond hair lay in casual disarray, his nose sat in a slightly cockeyed way, and his facial hair was… there. Like most movie stars, he somehow managed to keep it at the length of stubble without ever letting it get longer or shorter. How men do that is a complete mystery to me.
I went to my Mac PowerBook, saved my document and switched it off. New, the damn thing had cost my dad nearly three grand. Now after ten years, it was worth more as a relic than as a computer. Nevertheless, it continued to run an old word processor program, which was the only thing I really needed it to do.
I had just finished straightening up my desk when I heard a heavy knock that sounded nothing like Jordan’s quick, rhythmic tap. A smile pulled at my lips. Maybe with the help of my little black dress he’d show a little more interest.
“Coming!” I called.
Isaac stood in the stairwell, dressed in dark wash jeans, a white button-up shirt, and a dress jacket. I have to admit, he didn’t look like a college professor. Not that I ever went to college. Weren’t professors supposed to be old, with out-of-date glasses and long gray hair pulled back into ponytails?
“Wow!” he said in a breathy tone as he took in my little black dress. Every woman should have one of these, I thought as my face warmed with a typical blush. “You look perfect.”
My smile grew. Call me a sucker, but I love compliments, especially when they come from a guy who looks like he should be modeling Calvin Klein underwear. I grabbed my purse from the small entry table and followed him out, barely remembering to lock my front door.
I lived in a small complex of tiny apartments designed to remind you of old Europe. It was mostly inhabited by ancient ladies who walked around with water cans, even though this was Olympia, Washington—the Land of Continual Rain. Seldom did a day go by without a great deal of the wet stuff falling from the sky. Each exterior door was surrounded by pots of flowers, breaking up the concrete pad. Even the windows were decorated with living plants. I loved the homey feel and mothering neighbors. Also, the rent was cheap.
We pounded our way down the narrow stairs, no doubt annoying Miss Ferguson, my little old gray-haired neighbor. Miss Ferguson was the sweetest senior citizen in the complex, which is saying a lot considering that most of the residents were senior citizens. When we stopped at the exterior door, I could hear her grumbling through the thin walls. I didn’t worry about it. She may put on a mean face, but I knew she was nothing but goo and nougat on the inside.
Isaac led me to his car, a silver 2004 Hyundai Tiburon… whatever that is. I’m not a car person, though I can admire a pretty one, and like Isaac, this one was pretty. He opened the door for me and I slid in, trying to pretend like I always wore slinky black dresses and heels that could easily break my ankle. I failed.
He drove us into Lacey, one of the towns wedged up against Olympia; Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater were basically all one large city. Wednesday night proved to be a perfect night to go to Red Lobster, my favorite restaurant. There was no wait and our server practically lived at our table, to the point where her constant concern for our meal grew annoying. I wanted to be alone with Isaac.
I waited for him to peruse the menu, having already made my choice before we walked through the door. I scanned the seafaring art on the wall. It was that or stare at him, which I didn’t think he’d like. The picture on the wall in our booth was that of a lighthouse with an enormous wave crashing into it, the moment caught in perfect clarity by what I imagined must have been an overly-expensive camera.
The writer in me started to think about how a lighthouse attendant would survive such a storm and what daily life was like. I imagined the man, his beard kept long and his body decked in flannel and rubber, hunkered down around a small heater, waiting for the storm to pass. Maybe he would hold on to the picture of the woman he had loved in his youth, but she hadn’t loved him enough to brave the perilous life of a lighthouse attendant. What a lonely existence it would be.
From somewhere in the real world, Isaac closed his menu and began to stare at me. Eventually, I realized I was being watched. I grinned sheepishly and folded my hands on the table. “Lost in thought?” he asked.
“Just wondering how a lighthouse keeper would survive such a storm.” I pointed at the picture.
“Your brain never stops, does it?”
I blushed. I couldn’t tell if it was a compliment or not. Before I could respond, the waiter returned with our drinks and took our order. I got shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp. Isaac got a chicken Caesar salad.
Boy, he knows how to make a girl feel fat, I thought, examining our order. But I couldn’t complain; if salad was how he kept his trim figure, well then: yah lettuce!
I wasn’t fat myself. I’m not silly enough to think it when it’s not true, but that didn’t mean there weren’t things I didn’t like about myself. When I was in elementary school I got hit in the face with a shovel—long story—and had a slight bump in my nose as a result. I didn’t like that, for sure.
“Magic,” Isaac asked abruptly.
“The lighthouse keeper would survive by using magic,” he explained in a matter-of-fact tone.
I didn’t know whether I was supposed to laugh or not. Was he serious? “Well, my grandmother always thought magic was pretty powerful,” I said with a smirk.
“What do you mean by that?” he asked, leaning forward in his seat and resting his elbows on the table.
I snagged a cheese biscuit and broke off a piece, which I quickly popped into my mouth to give myself time to think. My grandma, a rather eccentric person, believed in fairies, vampires, and wizards. Maybe it was her stories that made me write vampire romance novels. Unlike me, she believed them to be as real as the table I sat at or the biscuit I ate. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell Isaac I had a certifiably crazy relative. I finally decided he’d hear eventually.
“Well, my grandma believed in vampires and stuff like that. She always told this story about how my, like, super great-granddad was a magician… or wizard…or whatever. And not like the entertainer kind, but the real kind. My grandma believed the story all her life. I think it’s a load of bull.”
Isaac smiled at me, an unknown secret bringing a gleam to his eyes. “That’s interesting. Do you know what his name was?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Well, where’d he come from?”
I frowned. Isaac seemed extra intrigued by my stupid story. Why was he so interested in my family’s past? Jordan’s warning echoed in the back of my mind. Before I could inquire, our food arrived, distracting me from our conversation.
Isaac didn’t ask about my crazy grandmother, or her stories, again.