Immortal Kiss Series by Laura Daleo -- A Dark Paranormal Series. ***Read Chapter One -- Giveaway***


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Dark Paranormal Fantasy

Date Published: 4/28/17

Publisher: Story Bound Publishing




Centuries ago ten powerful vampire gods first walked the earth; their blood thirst knew no boundaries. The destruction of mankind was inevitable. Recognizing their weakness, they selected twelve wise human beings to transform with their godly blood. These twelve, known as The Old Ones and The Council, govern The Ten. A blood lottery appeasing The Ten’s hunger was set forth into the human world and passed down every fifth generation, continuing into the present day.

All of Beth Ryan’s life a mysterious mist has watched over her; a mist she believed to be a vampire. On a cold winter night, Philippe Delon, a 700-year-old vampire walks into Beth’s life. She is drawn to him, certain he is the vampire behind the mist...but is he?

Beth and Philippe cannot deny their love for each other, nor do they try to fight it. Within days of their encounter, Beth accepts Philippe’s invitation to move into his mansion. The mansion unlocks the door to the vampire world and exposes secrets from Beth’s past. Within its walls, she learns the true identity of the mist, her link to the blood lottery, and betrayal of her loved ones. Surrounded by lies, Beth stands before The Council begging for resolution.




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Dark Paranormal Fantasy

Date Published: 3/17/17

Publisher: Story Bound Publishing

Five years crawled by at a painfully slow pace for young vampire, Beth; each year more agonizing than the next. The powerful unyielding spell which masked Amon’s whereabouts showed no signs of weakening. Influenced by the binding ritual and Amon’s blood surging inside her, Beth will stop at nothing, and risk everything, to find him and turn the tables on Osiris, Isis, and Hathor. In foggy streets of London, lives are threatened by a new breed of hunter, and nothing is what it seemed. Beth once again finds herself surrounded by betrayal. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between Philippe and Amon – knowing that her decision will change one life forever. But whose?



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Dark Paranormal Fantasy

Date Published: 3/16/18

Publisher: Story Bound Publishing



Brandon Cass is not your average teenager. He has a taste for blood—human blood. For sixteen years, he stumbled through life without a hitch until the enigmatic aroma of blood awakened something dark within him. Visions of a beautiful young woman with chocolate brown hair and ocean blue eyes haunt his mind, yet her identity is a puzzling mystery.

His hunger for blood strengthens, and the cravings become too powerful to control. No one is safe, not even his family. To safeguard all he once found dear, Brandon sets out on a quest for answers. In an unfamiliar city, he comes face-to-face with the beautiful young woman, confronts the dark force which controls him, and learns what he must endure to reclaim his soul.

Bound by Blood Read Chapter One

The wind howled into the dark night, chilling my freshly-warmed skin. As I stood at the rim of the ocean’s cliffs, listening to the whispering waves, I focused on my victim’s vacant stare and wiped his blood from my lips. A single drop tarnished his forehead, and I snatched it up with my tongue. Lowering my head, I whispered, “Forgive me, dear mortal, for though I share your love of life, I must rob you of yours so that I may survive.” Hugging his cold torso against my chest, I kissed his cheek and then tossed him over the cliffs into the pounding surf.

A platinum stream of moonlight shimmered across the restless water, glancing off his body. The waves swelled, swallowing him whole and erasing him from the mortal world, but I couldn’t walk away. I owed the mortal a glimmer of respect; after all, he’d sacrificed his precious blood to feed me. Like a mourner at his grave, I clasped my hands in front of me and stared ahead in silence. I lingered for only a moment longer as a personal task; in truth, it was more of an important ritual, one of self-pity, drunkenness, and shame which required my devotion. This very night marked the fifth anniversary of the spell cast upon Amon, forcing him to bid me farewell. Faithfully I waited for his return, and with each passing year the hole in my heart grew wider, leaving my immortal soul a bit emptier, and the wedge between Philippe and I a bit deeper.

Turning my back on the sea, I drifted along the cliff’s path, crossed the deserted street, and headed for home. As I entered the front door, I cocked my head and listened with my vampire ears. My ritual was private and for me alone. No interruptions. No distractions. No nothing, and especially not Philippe. Again I took notice of the house. Not a single sound made its way into my ears. Not trusting in them solely, I closed my eyes, lifted my arms, and spread my fingers. No spike in my pulse. No surge in my veins. Philippe’s blood didn’t stir; but then, could his presence be masked?

I opened my eyes, slipped off my shoes, and tiptoed across the foyer toward the wine-cellar door hidden beneath the staircase. As I descended the steps I welcomed the cold of the floor against my bare feet. After all, mine wasn’t a body composed of warmth. Beneath my flesh rushed an icy scarlet river, which required human blood to generate any heat.

As I wandered along the cellar rows, I caressed the black and gold bottle necks, searching for Amon’s favorite vintage. Several steps ahead it lay before my gaze. I slowed, but my breath quickened. I removed it from its slot, pressing it to my lips. Amon’s emerald-green eyes, jet-black hair, and bronzed, statuesque face flashed before my eyes. Memories of the dreadful night we said goodbye flooded my mind. Goosebumps pinched at my flesh. I reached out, grasping empty air. His reflection shattered, leaving me alone all over again. A spark of madness singed my brain and I slumped against the cellar wall, gripping the bottle, whimpering. The walls seemed to close in on me. I needed air.

Leaping to my feet, I rushed from the room. I didn’t stop running until the beach’s soft blanket of silver, pearlescent sand tickled my toes. My knees buckled and I sank, sitting inches from the waves. I popped the cork and filled my mouth with wine. I quickly drained the bottle, anesthetizing my pain. I fell backward, spreading my legs and arms across the sand, staring into the night sky. Amon’s image floated above, torturing me. I brushed my fingers over my heart before they fell away and into the sand. “I failed you,” I murmured, gripping a shifting handful of sand. I sat up, flinging it with force and shouting, “I failed you.” Tears stung behind my eyelids and I hung my head so they could fall. For hours, it seemed, I cried...then slowly, very slowly, the wine took hold. I lay blissfully drunk, the empty bottle by my side and my ritual performed.

Footsteps approached, a shadow creeping over me and blocking out the moon. My pulse bounced like a rubber ball. I knew who it was. He always found me, but I didn’t acknowledge him. I kept my gaze focused on the stars.

“Drunk again, Beth,” Philippe said rather than asked, blowing out a groan.

Only then did I meet his gray-blue eyes. He stood over me with his hands on his hips. This was my way every year. Why did he continue to judge me? He had no right, the Amon imposter. If I chose to drown my pain in wine, then so be it. I didn’t need his permission. Deliberately I giggled and said, “Very drunk.”

He glanced over his shoulder and then back at me. “It’s close to sunrise. Come home.”

I waved him off. “To hell with the sun. Go home if you want. I’m fine right here.”

He looked away from me, pursing his lips and shaking his head. “You know, this woe-is-me attitude of yours is getting pretty old.” He slowly turned his head toward me, a stone-cold expression plastered on his face. “In fact, I’m quite sick of it.”

I sat up and scowled at him. “Don’t mock my pain. Let me feel wretched and miserable on this night.”

He narrowed his eyes and arched his brow. “The promise no longer threatens us. We have everything we ever wanted. We should be having the time of our lives, but it isn’t just the one night. You live in a constant state of drunkenness and depression. Amon isn’t coming back. Get over it.”

“How can you...? Of all things...,” I stammered, and then collected myself. “I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”

He knelt beside me, brushing sand from my forehead. “Did you ever think the spell lifted? That he made another choice?” He leaned in closer and whispered into my ear, “Perhaps he chose Hathor.”

His words impaled my heart like a thousand knives. A ragged breath escaped my lips. I shoved him away, clutching at my chest. “When did you become so cruel?

He swept an arm through the air in exasperation. “About the same time you chose Amon over me.”

I ground my teeth together, yet kept my tone calm. “I never chose Amon over you. I chose you because I thought you were Amon.”

His stony expression twisted into a painful grimace. “Now who’s being cruel?”

I slumped forward, shaking my head. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”

He joined our hands and softly said, “I don’t either.”

I met his eyes. “Then accept me, the vampire I am today, binding ritual and all.”

His posture stiffened and he released my hands. “I can’t do that.” His glare was harsh. “I’m your husband. I’m here. I’ve picked up the pieces for the last five years.” He held up his palms. “Where has Amon been? With Hathor. You need to accept that.”

Words rushed out my mouth like air escaping from a balloon. “What I accept, what I know, is that Amon’s blood rushes through my veins, binding us as one. His heartbeat is my heartbeat, his breath is my breath, and his soul is my soul. I can’t change that. It can’t be undone. It’s who I am now. Maybe you need to accept that.”

His eyes dulled and his tone fell flat. “Maybe, but you love him. That’s a harder pill to swallow.”

My breath hitched and tears moistened my eyes. “But I love you too. I never stopped.”

He ran his hands over his face and then through his hair. “This is all wrong, and there’s nothing I can do.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

His whole body trembled, and then he reached for my hand again. “I can make you happy again. Let me in. Let me show you.”

Pulling away, I lowered my eyes. “I...I don’t trust you.”

His shoulders caved and he looked down at his feet.

Subtle warmth crept up behind me, and I turned to find its source. Pinpricks like heat rash scurried over my flesh. “The sun!”

Philippe’s head jerked up. “No,” he uttered, and with vampire swiftness he leapt to his feet.

I stood, swayed, and then fell backward.

His eyes bulged and he yanked me to my feet. “Damn it, Beth, run!”

I glanced over my shoulder. The orange ball of flames inched over the sea’s edge, taking possession of the sapphire-blue sky. Within seconds, daggers of light pierced my eyes. I threw up my hand, shielding my face. It went up in flames. Sizzling heat torched my fingers. The stench of burnt flesh stung my nostrils—my burnt flesh. I doubled over, screaming in pain. Philippe flung his jacket over me, swept me up in his arms, and bolted for the house with preternatural speed. He nearly ripped the door from its hinges as he thrust it open, shuttling us inside. He rushed me up the stairs and into our bedroom, and from there pushed me inside the bathroom. He shoved me under the shower, jumping in after me. Frantically he cranked the faucet, dousing our dangerously-feverish bodies with cold water, lessening the stinging in my skin. I sagged against him, releasing a pent-up breath.

“We were lucky,” he said, shutting off the water.

I brushed tears off my face. “We were careless.”

He took a step back, shaking water from his hair. “We? You were the one who lost track of time because of your ritual, not to mention being completely hammered. Once again I had to come find you. What if I hadn’t? What then, Beth?”

I bit the inside of my cheek and glared at him, but didn’t say a word.

He glared back.

Complete silence filled the room.

After a minute or two he let out a groan of frustration and shed his wet clothes, tossing them carelessly onto the chair. As he pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms, he switched off the light as if I weren’t even there.

 My muscles clenched and nasty words raced up my throat. It took all my will to swallow them whole. Instead of ranting, I turned my back on him and left the room. In the hallway I balled my hands into fists, my fingernails biting into my palms. How dare he speak to me like that and then just ignore me? My rapid strides down the corridor expanded the distance between us. I came to a dead stop in front of the room I’d stayed in on my first night in this house. I pushed open the door and stepped inside. My mind raced backward, conjuring up memories. I’d found Philippe’s bedroom that next morning, been brave enough to kiss him as he’d slept, and then fled back into this very room to lie breathless across the bed. So much had changed that night so long ago. What had happened to that lovesick girl? She’d been used, lied to, and betrayed, that’s what. We were fools trying to hang onto a love based on deception.

Shaking off the past, I gripped the doorknob and let it slam shut. I moped my way into the bathroom to strip off my wet clothes, draping them carefully over the tub while purposely avoiding my reflection in the mirror. I climbed naked into the bed, cuddling up to a pillow, and whispered, “Amon, come back to me.”

I awoke feeling somewhat rested, with the crushing weight of the dreadful anniversary gone. Yet my loneliness lingered, tormenting my immortal heart. I tumbled out of bed, pulled on my damp clothes, and snuck down the hallway to our bedroom. Placing my ear against the door, I listened. Not a sound came from within the room. When I turned the knob it creaked, and I cringed. I peered into the room as I pushed the door all the way open. Philippe was gone, and I released a breath of relief. I hurried inside and into the closet, ripping clothes off hangers and snagging a pair of boots from the shelf. I dressed hastily and then fled the room.

Near the bottom of the stairs I ran into Betty. Her motherly expression stopped me at the last step. “Come here, Beth.”

There was no way of getting around her. Like a scolded child, I crept into her line of sight.

She cupped my cheeks, searching my eyes. “I know this is probably none of my business, but I think of you as a daughter, and it kills me to see you suffering. Talk to me.”

I stared into her kind eyes and softly said, “I can’t.”

She dropped her hands and took a step back, eyeing me shrewdly. “You can, child. Yes, I’m loyal to Philippe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t confide in me.”

I wanted to tell her. I wanted to blurt it all out. I really did. The binding ritual changed everything. I’m different now. Philippe’s different now. Our love is different now, and Amon stands between us. But the words never escaped my mouth. I pushed her aside gently and said again, “I can’t. I’m sorry.”

I ran out of the house and into the street. As our home vanished from my sight, my pace slowed and I strolled along the sidewalk, actually humming.

“Excuse me, can you help me?” The male voice came out of nowhere. “I’m looking for Ocean Boulevard.”

My vision sharpened, searching the street. A sandy-haired man sitting in a parked car fell into my sight. I eyed his mouthwatering, pulsating jugular and licked my lips.

He jumped out of his car and stepped onto the curb. “Can you help me?” he asked, holding up a map.

Tremendous blood hunger rumbled through my veins, weakening my fading human loyalties. Arching a brow, I said in a silken voice, “Come closer. Let me see the map.”

“Oh, sure,” he said, jogging over to me and handing it over.

His scent rushed up my nostrils, tickling my brain and sending my heartbeat raging. Saliva flooded my mouth and I tingled all over. Gracefully I took the map, spreading my most inviting smile over my lips—and knowing full well where Ocean Boulevard was. For the moment I simply wanted to stand close to him, to get a good whiff and let it send ripples of pleasure through me. The pleasure of the undead—the pleasure wrought from blood. “Do you know it?” he asked, looking at me with raised brows. “Stupid GPS has me driving in circles.”

I could have lied, said I hadn’t a clue and lingered next to him, drowning in his intoxicating fragrance, but he wasn’t a pet I could toy with. He was a human being, something I’d once been. Gazing at him, it suddenly occurred to me I didn’t have to steal his life when scores of humans lined the walls of Bloodthirst eager to be tasted. Like a bee collecting pollen, I could float from human to human extracting blood. It was brilliant plan; but it was a social establishment with riotous behavior I’d once sworn I would never take part in. But that had been then and this was now.

Pointing up the street while handing the map back, I rattled off, “Make your first left on Cove Court, a right on Reef, and then Ocean Boulevard is a few blocks down.”

Smashing the map between his hands, he responded, “Thank you,” and then turned to run back to his car.

I stood still, waiting for him to leave. As he pulled away from the curb I blasted off the ground like a rocket, propelling upward and whizzing through the night sky. Cool air whipped through my hair and nipped at my cheeks. I laughed out loud and spread my arms wide. Why Philippe chose not to fly was beyond me. It came so naturally, as if I’d been born a bird. I would never give it up, never.

Bloodthirst’s floating red-neon letters flickered in the darkness below me. Sailing toward the ground like a feather, I landed in front of the gold door and slipped inside seconds before it locked for the night. The familiar gust of freezing air caressed my skin as I roamed past the dark-red walls toward the circular black-velvet booths and all the warm bodies full of blood. Their delightful coppery scent made my head spin. I swayed and shuddered, longing for a taste. The routine opening speech rumbled through my ears.

“Welcome,” the MC began in his hypnotizing voice. “The doors to Bloodthirst are locked. The club has a few simple rules. Vampires are free to come and go as they please. Humans may exit Bloodthirst at any time; however, once you vacate the premises, you will not be allowed to reenter. If a vampire approaches you, you may choose to accept or refuse their kiss. If you refuse, the vampire must respect your wishes and walk away. We will guarantee your safety.” His ruby lips spread into a clichéd devilish grin. “On the other hand, if you accept, you do so at your own risk, so choose wisely.” He waved his hand in the air. “Let the events begin.”

The crowd scattered but I stood still, fidgeting with the zipper on my jacket. How did I ask for a kiss? Should I be straightforward or subtle? Skimming over the herd of immortals and mortals, I cocked my head, eavesdropping on their conversations. Numerous excited voices throbbed inside my ears: ‘I want you,’ ‘Take me,’ ‘May I drink?’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Will you accept my kiss?’ ‘Absolutely.’ Didn’t seem so hard. I took a step forward.

“Silly Beth,” Margarete said, appearing out of nowhere. Brushing her long raven-colored hair over her shoulders, she snickered, and then the grin disappeared from her cherry-red lips. “You need not lift a finger. Humans will fall all over one another to have your fangs in their throats. None will be able to resist your beauty.” She glanced over her shoulder. “See, here comes a fool now,” she whispered, vanishing and leaving me alone.

A young man with chocolate-brown skin, long dreadlocks, and crystalclear hazel eyes rushed up in front of me. “Will you kiss me?” he blurted out.

Margarete was right. Smiling in satisfaction, I stared at him only a moment before answering. “Yes, I will.”

A ruddy blush spread over his face. “Cool,” he said, narrowing the gap between us.

Zooming in like a jet, he planted his soft, supple lips over mine. The jarring beat of his heart pumping blood through his veins set me afire. Sweat coated my palms and my fangs tingled with delight. Inching my mouth down his neck, I stopped at the base of his throat. Saliva flooded my mouth right before I stabbed his throbbing jugular. Hot salty blood squirted over my tongue. I swallowed, shuddered, and swallowed again, slower this time, savoring his thick gooey fluid.

He cried out and pressed up against me. His arms wrapped around my waist, and he moaned in my ear. A low growl, as from a panther cornering its prey, rose from the pit of my abdomen. The power of the bloodlust tempted me, but I hadn’t come to kill. Inside my head I set a timer, allowing myself one minute of bliss, and then I’d let him go. Twenty seconds sailed by as I clung to him, draining away. Forty seconds later, my eyelashes fluttered in ecstasy, and I swayed in his arms. Floating along on the thrill of his blood, I dug my fangs in deeper, just as the one-minute alarm bell rang inside my brain. Refusing to comply with my own rule, I clung to him tightly, trembling all over. Sixty-five seconds passed. Release him. I tried to pull my head back, but my shoulders bent forward, attaching to him like a magnet to metal. The seventy seconds mark hit. Stop now! Grumbling out a frustrated breath, I shoved him backward, shattering the spell of his blood.

In a high, breathless voice, he managed, “That was friggin’ awesome. I want to do it again.”

I dug my fingers into his arm, pulling him close. “Vampires here will not be so generous with your life and let you live as I have. Leave now. You’ve had your fun.”

Balling his hands into fists, he thrust them into the air. “No way!” He turned and dashed off into the crowd.
I waved him off. “Idiot.” Hunger still twisted my gut, demanding my attention. Weaving between the humans, I honed in on eager heartbeats, searching for my next meal.

Adhering to my sixty second rule, it took eight bodies to satisfy my appetite. Hot, satiating human blood swam through my veins, caressing every inch of my inner body, but it was the power of alcohol that I craved to soothe my aching heart. Pursuing the therapy of wine, I headed to the bar. I leaned forward, resting my elbows on the counter and eyeballing the collection of bottles stacked on the shelf.

A bartender with a gleaming shaved head approached me. Spreading his ruby-red lips into a charming smile while flashing his fangs, he asked, “What can I get for you, beautiful?”

I gave a nod toward a particular bottle. “Pinot Grigio, please.”

He winked at me. “One glass coming right up.”

I shook my head and raised my hand. “No, no, no. I want the bottle.”

He stared for a moment before bobbing his head. “Will do.” Turning, he snatched the clear glass bottle filled with light gold liquid off the shelf, set it on the bar, and popped the cork. Handing me the bottle and a glass, he said, “On the house.”

It was my turn to stare.

He looked me up and down before giving me a heartfelt look. “Pretty vamp like you shouldn’t have to drown her sorrows in wine.”

My shoulders slumped and I blew out a sigh. Giving him a half smile, I replied, “Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.” Without hesitation, I scooped up the bottle and glass.

“Anytime.”

I wandered until I could claim an empty booth tucked away in the far corner of the club. After filling my glass to the rim, I raised it to my lips and took a generous swallow. A thrill moved through me as it traveled down my throat. Closing my eyes, I rested my head against the back of the booth, allowing the alcohol to take hold. I took another swig, then another, before finally knocking back what remained. I latched onto the bottle, spilling wine on the table as I refilled the glass. Laughing, I shrugged my shoulders then drank. Sinking into the booth with the bottle now glued to my lips, I gorged on wine. Numbing pleasure crept over me. A slackened smile spread across my lips. Pushing the empty bottle away, I went limp, my arms dangling at my sides.

“Oh, Beth, what a drunken sight you are,” Margarete said, her eyes raking me over like figurative coals.

Rolling my head in her direction, I squinted, forcing my eyes to focus.

Her violet eyes hardened with disapproval. “Shall I summon Philippe to come and collect you?”

I lunged out and grabbed her arm. “No. Don’t.” I released her and, holding my head high, pushed myself upright. “I can take care of myself.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. “Right now you couldn’t even find your way out of that booth.”

“I most certainly can,”

I assured her in my most confident tone.

Scooting along the seat, I swayed and sat still.

A burst of laughter flew out of her mouth. “See. You’re smashed. If you don’t want me to call Philippe, then let me summon Caleb. Someone has to help you.”

“I’ll see that she gets home safely,” Ptah offered, coming up behind Margarete.

His voice raised my spirits and I clasped my hands to my chest, praying he had news of Amon.

Margarete quickly lowered her head and stepped out of his way. “As you wish, Supreme Ruler.”

He lifted her chin and smiled at her, his almond-colored eyes glinting under the club lights. “Dear child, I am no ruler.” He let out a laugh and placed his hands upon his chest. “Though I’ll admit, I am flattered you see me as such.”

Margarete flashed him a jittery smile, gave me a fleeting nod, and then scurried away.

His gaze lingered, following her retreat; then he shrugged his shoulders and turned back to me. Before sliding into the booth, he gave me a thorough onceover. “She’s right. You’re in no shape to see yourself home.”

I ignored his concern, obsessed with the words that rushed between my lips. “Any news of Amon?”

He pressed his lips together in a hard line and swept a hand across his neatly trimmed beard. “My trip to The Council’s haven was futile. Kohath watches their blood vials day and night; yet, they remain dark, not even the slightest flicker. It appears Isis’s magic has camouflaged them.”

I dug my palms into my temples, sighing heavily. “Will this never end? Philippe and I are at each other’s throats. Must I continue on like this year after year?”

He rested his hand on my shoulder. “Amon will return to you. You must hold on to your faith.”

I drew my brows in and tightened my jaw. “I’m not so sure anymore. I mean, it’s been five years. Can a spell last so long?”

“What is it, Beth? What happened to sway your resolve?”

I glanced at the empty wine bottle, wishing for just a drop more. Facing Ptah, I twisted my hands together in my lap as I spoke. “Philippe believes the spell ended and that Amon chose Hathor.”

A deep crease cut through his forehead. “Nonsense. Philippe speaks from a jealous heart.” He leaned across the table to give my hand a squeeze. “Amon loves you more than life’s blood.” His face softened. “These years without Amon have been disheartening and have taken their toll on everyone, me as well. I have searched the world...literally. Thanks to the strength of Isis’s clever magic, there was no trace of her, Osiris, Hathor, or Amon left behind, but we can’t give up. We must be strong. Believe, Beth. Faith is a very powerful tool. It will carry you through this difficult time.”

I closed my eyes and nodded several times. Placing my hand over my heart, I met his eyes. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Now, where can I take you? Back to the mansion?”

“No.” I fidgeted and gave him a darting glance. “May I stay at your home tonight?”

He didn’t even hesitate. “Of course.” He rose to his feet and offered me his hand. “Come.”

I smiled and took his hand. He pulled me to my feet, wrapping his arm about my waist, and escorted me out of the club. The cool night wind embraced my skin like a long lost lover. I moaned and let my body sag against Ptah.

“Are you all right?”

I nodded. “Just relishing the night breeze.”

He took it into his lungs. “It is a rather lovely night. Perfect for a quick jaunt through the air.” Gripping my waist a little tighter, he whispered, “Hold on.”

As we sailed through the air, he clutched at me like a mother would a fallen baby bird. The shimmering stars whizzed past, twirling against the midnight-blue sky. I couldn’t tell if the illusion was caused by the speed at which we traveled or my drunken state. Either way, I had to hide my face inside his jacket to lessen the dizziness.

“We’re almost there,” he whispered in my ear.

I became less restless as our speed slowed and we descended toward the ground. Gliding in, we landed softly upon the ring-shaped driveway of his beachfront property. He steadied me before releasing me and making his way to the front door, and I staggered behind.

Natural stone landscaping and recessed copper lighting surrounded the estate. The circular three-story mansion sat by the edge of the ocean’s cliff. The massive west wall was nearly all glass windows, and each stared straight out into the sea. The east wall was built into the mountain’s side, offering only a view of solid rock.

Ptah had purchased the vacant lot in Castle Beach three years ago, personally designing every square foot, and even performing a hands-on role in the construction. This meant he could boast to everyone, something he loved to do, that he’d created his home with his own bare hands. Having him as a close neighbor became a godsend to me. Many a late night I’d wandered onto his doorstep, drunk of course, seeking solitude and shelter from the sun, and sometimes from Philippe. Ptah provided both, without lecture or scowl—just an open door and a warm smile, and tonight was no different.

Unlocking the oversized slate door, he pushed it open and led me inside. Like my mother, he didn’t believe in color. Modern black and white furniture with clean lines occupied every room in his home. Even the abstract paintings and bizarre sculptures were of the same limited palette.

He settled me into the snake-shaped leather sofa facing the window and held up a finger. “Be back in a minute with a warm mug of blood.”

Reclining into the cushions, my gaze fell outside the window and centered on the dead-calm sea. Its stillness made the scene resemble a watercolor painting. A subtle swell rippled over the water, breaking the illusion— or was it a trick of drunken eyes?

Ptah returned and the fragrant scent of salty blood perfumed the air, making my mouth water. Handing me the mug, he said, “Drink.”

Wrapping both hands around the comfortingly warm mug, I inhaled deeply. Taking a sip while eyeing him over the rim, I asked, “How is it you seem to have a never-ending supply of blood?”

He winked at me. “Gifts from my fans. Humans adore me, and I’ve never been one to turn down a gift, especially when it’s blood.”

How his so-called fans provided blood he didn’t let on, and I didn’t know how to press for details. I let out a, “Huh,” and then returned my focus to the sea. “I love it here, sitting on your sofa, staring at the ocean, drinking warm blood. Sometimes it’s the only time I feel at peace.”

He sat next to me and placed his hand on my knee. “You know I never meddle in your life, but I must say something. Don’t let doubt destroy you. Hold onto your memories of Amon’s love for you. It would pain him to see you so distraught.”

I heaved a sigh and allowed my shoulders to sag. “I wish it were that simple.”

“Is the friction between you and Philippe adding to your uncertainty?” He shook his head. “I don’t see why you stay with him. It’s quite clear Amon has claimed your heart.”

I set the mug on the chrome coffee table, busying my hands over my face and through my hair. “I don’t know. This whole binding business has changed everything. One minute I’m ready to pack my things, and the next I can’t bear to leave.” I glanced at Ptah. “Philippe and I took vows, for better or worse.” I barked out a laugh. “This is definitely for the worst.”

He pursed his lips. “Philippe has not been changed by the binding ritual. Only his façade has ended.”

I gave a confused shake of my head. “What?”

“All these years, Philippe had to be someone else, someone you loved— who wasn’t him.” His brows came together and he lowered his head to match my eye level. “He impersonated Amon. Attempting to take on his personality traits, Philippe pulled the wool over your eyes.”

I tightened my jaw and looked away. Ptah was right, but I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to believe Philippe wouldn’t deceive me like that. An unnatural chill crept over my flesh. I shivered and rubbed my hands over my arms. My mind rushed back to that cold winter night so long ago when we’d first met. Philippe had stood before me, claiming to be the vampire I loved, and I eagerly believed him. I sagged even further into the sofa. “I know you’re right.”

Leaning in and looking me dead in the eyes, he insisted, “I am right. Only when he came face to face with Amon did he confess the truth. With Amon back in the picture, the real Philippe has slowly begun to resurface.”

My hands fell to my sides and I sat very quietly, staring straight ahead.

I didn’t want to hear anymore.

“Beth, are you okay?” he asked, breaking the silence.

I cupped my chin in the palm of my hand and closed my eyes. “Amon needs to come back so we can all move on with our lives, whichever direction that is.”

“We need to create a diversion. Get your mind off your troubles and focus on something else, something fun.” He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it. A party.”

I opened my eyes and rolled them at his words. “A party...really? I don’t see how that could possibly improve my situation.”

He rose from the sofa and stood with his arms crossed. He grinned and his eyes twinkled. “Not just any party; a grand, fourteenth-century gala of kings and queens.”

I waved a hand in the air dismissively. “Well, Philippe will love that. Our whole bedroom is decked out in pieces from that era.”

“Forget about Philippe for a second.” He stood tall, bowed, and then held out his hand. “My lady, may I have this dance?”

I batted my eyelashes, offering my hand. “Why yes, my lord.”

Pulling me to my feet, he smiled as he slipped an arm about my waist, holding up my hand in fine waltzing form. I gazed into his almond-colored eyes and smiled. As our fingers locked, he set us in motion, twirling us about the room and humming a lovely melody into my ear.

I let out a giggle, and then another, and another, which eventually transformed into raucous laughter. By the time we slowed, I was gasping for air.

“See, you can have fun.”

I fell back onto the couch, curling my legs beneath me. “Point taken. So when do you plan to hold this gala?”

“I...I don’t know.” He scooped his cell phone off the coffee table. “I’ll call Brit. She handles all the events for my PR firm.”

I held up my arm, tapping my watch. “It’s five-thirty in the morning.”

He dismissed me with a wave of his hand. “She’s always up at the crack of dawn. Probably already in the office.” He flashed a goofy grin. “I’ll admit that I’m quite taken with her.”

“You fell for a human?” He frowned and then shrugged his shoulders weakly. “It appears so.”

“Tell me about her. What’s she like?”

The goofy grin expanded. “She’s a chatterbox. Never shuts up, but is extremely intelligent.” He held his hand at a height just below his shoulder. “She’s about yea high, with these gorgeous big blue eyes that I could stare into for all eternity.”

I winked at him. “You really are taken with her. Have you asked her out?”

He jerked his head back and forth, panic stealing into his eyes. “I’ve formed the words on my tongue...but so far, always chicken out.”

I shook my head at him. “Why? You’re smart, successful, handsome, and kind. She’d be crazy to say no.”

He tapped his cell phone against his leg. “Perhaps...but let’s tackle one problem at a time. Yours first, then mine.” He touched the face of his phone, brought it to his ear, and then waited. Breaking into a brisk jaunt around the sofa, he finally spoke. “Brit, it’s Ptah. Listen...I need your help planning an event. Can you swing by my house this evening around six?” He bobbed his head and smiled. “Great. See you then.” He came to a stop in front of me, dropping the phone and pointing a finger at me. “Don’t start. I can see the matchmaker wheels turning in your head.”

Clasping my hands around my knee, I said, “But I’ve got a perfect plan.”

He folded his arms. “I’m listening.”

“You could invite her to the gala. Ask her to come as your queen. Call it a reward for all her hard planning.”

The corner of his mouth twitched and then spread into a crooked grin. “That does sound brilliant.” He bent and kissed the top of my head. “But for now, let’s get some sleep.” He tilted his head toward the stairs. “As always, you’re welcome to one of the bedrooms.”

Settling back into the cushions, I sighed and said, “I’m good right here with my mug of blood and view of the ocean.”

“Good thing I had the contractor install protected films on all the windows.” He grabbed an afghan off a chair and covered me, even tucking me in. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”



About the Author

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Laura Daleo was born and raised in San Diego, California where she majored in Fine Arts at Mesa College. She is best known for her love of animals and shares her home with three humorous Basset Hounds, Stuart, Morgan, and Dexter, her toughest critics. Laura has held positions in several industries, Restaurant, Telecom, Biotech, Research, and Retail. Throughout Laura's professional career, she furthered her writing skills by taking courses and by joining writer’s critique groups and Writers Digest. She is now the owner of Story Bound Publishing, a fresh voice in the supernatural realm of ebooks and traditional print, committed to publishing unearthly tales of Aliens, Angels, Demons, Fairies, Ghosts, Shifters, Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Zombies and all other creatures that go bump in the night.


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