“What’ll it be, ladies?” the bartender asked, flashing a hint of fang. Eyes wide, a purple-haired girl leaned across the bar, her tits practically in the man’s face. “Oh my God! Are those real?” She gawked at his teeth. The bartender’s eyes glowed, and he flicked his gaze to her ample cleavage stuffed in a leather halter above a tartan miniskirt. “I could ask you the same question.” Her jaw dropped and she looked from him to her friend. “I’ve heard stories about this place and the fetish backrooms, but I never—” “Well—” He cut her off, dragging a swizzle stick in a seductive path across the soft underside of her forearm. “There’s a first time for everything.” The tartan girl giggled, and Daisy Cochran made a face, watching from a seat at a VIP table. Ugh. “This place is crawling with stupid,” she mumbled, shooting the woman a dirty look. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into coming here. You know how I feel about vampires and their human chew toys.” “Chew toys?” Aimee chuckled at her friend. “Coming from you, that’s funny.” “Why?”
“Because you’re a Were, Daisy. A wolf. Remember? Four-legged, furred and fabulous? Weres are on the A-list now. It’s how I got these primo tables.” Annoyed, she shot her friend a hard look. “Why don’t you shout our supernatural status from the bar, Coyote Ugly style? People on the other side of the Hudson River didn’t quite hear you.” At Aimee’s raised eyebrow, Daisy sat back with a huff. “You know what I mean.” “Yes, I do, and that’s the problem.” Daisy pressed her lips together. “I have no problem. Besides, you’re a shifter, too. Or doesn’t that count?” “Of course, it counts. But I’m an avian with talons, so the analogy doesn’t apply.” Aimee winked trying to lighten her friend’s mood, but Daisy’s expression didn’t budge. “Come on, Dais. New York City is the great equalizer. No one cares who you are or where you’re from, and this place is worth the price of admission in people watching alone. With the truce between vampires and Weres, I guarantee I’m not the only one with an interest in the undead at the top of their bucket list.” “Bucket list? I thought we’d see a Broadway show or walk around Times Square on our last night in Manhattan, not hit an overpriced tourist trap trending on twitter.”
“Wow, you thought of that all by yourself or just practicing your skills in alliteration?” “Ha. Ha.” “You said you wanted a true taste of New York.” Aimee spread her hands. “Well, we’ve got the best seats in the house for watching clueless humans pant unawares over supernaturals.” She inhaled, feigning a shiver. “Smell those pheromones, and I don’t mean the mortal variety. Every Were in this place is revved and ready to howl.” Daisy took a sip of her drink, ignoring Aimee’s comments. She glanced at the same purple-haired girl still flirting with the vampire behind the bar. “That twit has no clue. She’s hoping for a hookup, and he’s sizing her up for a midnight snack.” “Don’t be ridiculous, Dais.” “Okay, so maybe he’s the one vampire in undead history not looking for a hot lunch, but my guess is given half a chance, he’ll nibble more than just her ear.” Aimee put her drink down and eyed her friend. “Why do you care?” “I don’t. Not really,” she shrugged. “Then why let it bother you so much? Look around, Dais. She’s not alone. This place is sex and the forbidden wrapped in red velvet and concrete.”
Daisy lifted a hand and let it drop. “And we’re back to my original question.” “What?” “Why we came here,” Daisy replied with a huff. Aimee laughed. “Because it’s fun. Remember fun?” “Vaguely.” She scoffed, draining her martini. “At least that’s a start.” At Aimee’s satisfied grin, Daisy shot her a cautious look. “What do you mean start?” “Nothing, really.” She angled her head. “It’s a healthy sign you remember what it was like to let your guard down and relax.” “Aimee…no.” She nodded. “It’s time you got back in the game, Daisy. It’s been way too long.” “I’m not interested. NOT.” Daisy shook her head. “You mean you’re afraid you’ll get hurt again.” Aimee signaled a passing waitress for another round. “You may not care if you miss out on life, but I do. You’re my best friend and way too young to be old and pinch-faced.” “Hey!” “Whether you admit it or not, we’re not in Texas anymore Toto. That means no more bending over the back fence unless it’s to grind your ass against a hot cowboy. You’ve spent too much time otherwise, and that’s no way to live.
Especially when that time involves the town church ladies.” “That’s not fair, Aims. I have a daughter to raise. I can’t run around in full moon heat just because I’m young and have a wild itch to scratch.” Aimee looked at her. “I know you have a daughter. I’m her godmother, remember? And it’s completely unfair to compare you to a dried up old gossip, but like it or not, that is exactly where you’re headed if you don’t shake things up, pronto.” Daisy blinked at the wetness stinging her eyes. “You didn’t get left at the altar, Aimee. You don’t know what it’s like to be that humiliated in front of everyone you know, and then find out you’re pregnant on top of everything else.” Daisy watched the bodies on the dance floor, their frenetic pace keeping time with the sexual thump, thump of the bass. She sighed. “I know you’re right, Aims, but I still feel people staring and whispering behind my back every time I go into town. I hate their pity, and for Jenny’s sake, I have to keep myself above reproach.” “Bullshit.” Aimee slapped her hand on the table. “Let ‘em talk. You’re a terrific mother, and everyone knows you’ve had the devil’s own time. It’s been five years and Jace hasn’t shown his face
once. Even his parents haven’t seen or heard from him. For all anyone knows, he could be dead.” “Don’t say that.” Daisy’s voice caught. Aimee’s lips parted as she stared at the emotional battle in Daisy’s eyes. “Oh my God! You still love him.” Daisy’s jaw tightened as a practiced mask fell over her expression. “Oh no you don’t, missy. It’s written all over your face, Dais. After all’s said and done. You do. Ghost or not.” Daisy opened her mouth then snapped it shut when the waitress approached with their drinks. “Here you go. Two lemon drop martinis.” The server put the drinks on the table. “Thank you.” Daisy smiled at the woman, watching her walk far enough away before glaring at her friend. “Don’t psychoanalyze me, Aimee Dunne. You may be a big deal doctor back home, but you’re supposed to be my best friend. I do not love Jace Matthews.” Aimee opened her mouth to argue, but Daisy shook her head putting her off. “I’ll block every ‘but’ you’ve got stacked and ready to argue if you don’t drop this, Aimee. Jace may be ancient history, but he’s my history. Did he handle what happened between us in a shitass, infantile way? Absolutely. Do I wish I could give him a piece of my mind? Sometimes.
“But I would never wish him dead. He’s Jenny’s father, plus it would crush his parents and they’ve been nothing but loving and supportive ever since he left me standing alone in my wedding dress.” “Okay, but what about the ranch?” Aimee asked. Confused, Daisy looked at her friend. “What about it?” “Excuse me, but aren’t your father and his schemes the reason we escaped on this excursion north?” she prompted. Daisy exhaled. “I’m trying not to think about it.” “I gotta say, Dais, in my practice I’ve seen people with control issues, but demanding you marry Seth is the most manipulative thing I’ve heard in a long time. You really believe this dude is some long lost cousin? It’s creepy, not to mention shadily convenient. You wouldn’t even have to change your last name.” Daisy sighed. “My dad believes Seth’s legit. He’s not a Were, though. It’s strange, because as far as I know, everyone on the Cochran side is dual natured. It was obvious on our first date. There was no concentrated musk, no jitters skittering across the skin when we were together and the moon crested. “Then again, his connection to us is so far removed I ignored his single nature, chalking it
up to diluted genetics. The Matthews’ side is usually the one with random Were traits. It’s part of the reason they’re so possessive about Jenny. She’s a pure blood.” “Still.” Daisy sighed in acknowledgment. “My dad can’t get past my brother’s death. In his eyes, this is the only way to keep the bloodline and the Cochran name intact.” “If you ask me, it’s more like he can’t get past your brother being a traitor,” Aimee said over the rim of her martini glass. Daisy shook her head. “I won’t believe that.” “Dais, your brother sold his own for a promise of power. You and your father are lucky the Alpha of the Brethren didn’t sanction your entire pack. If you ask me, forcing this marriage is a coping mechanism, and in his eyes it expunges the stain your brother put on the family.” “I know.” She exhaled. “Life is too short to go on living in the past. Your dad needs to move on from your brother, and you need to move on from Jace. It’s as simple as that.” Daisy fidgeted with the damp napkin under her drink. “If only it were that easy.” She looked at her friend. “Jace’s family will inherit the ranch if there’s no male Cochran heir. My brother really screwed us when he went on his misguided power trip. The day he was accepted into the
Alpha’s core of Hunters, we were so proud, but as always, it wasn’t enough.” “I know, honey, and I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand what this has to do with you and Jace,” Aimee pressed. “If I don’t marry a Cochran male, then the bloodline is broken and the ranch and all the property transfers to the Matthews pack.” Aimee shook her head. “Why? That makes no sense. Your dad was over the moon about you and Jace, and he’s not a Cochran by blood.” Daisy met Aimee’s questioning gaze, and Aimee froze with her drink halfway to her mouth. She put the glass down and stared at her friend. “Are you telling me you and Jace were related? I’ve heard of kissing cousins, but this is getting ridiculous, and with your father forcing your current situation with Seth, it’s sounding a lot like back country incest.” Daisy threw her crumpled napkin at her. “Oh my God, Aims! Get a grip. Jace was a distant cousin. Even more distant than Seth claims. Seriously distant. As in generations ago, but enough of a recorded connection to satisfy the pact.” “Pact? What pact?” Daisy exhaled, putting her glass down. “The entitlement clause bound to our deed that keeps the ranch and all the land intact.”
“Wait.” Aimee puffed out a breath, waving her hands in disbelief. “Are you telling me your family abides by the laws of primogeniture? I never heard of anything so archaic.” Daisy fidgeted with the crumpled napkin. “If you mean an inheritance passing to the first born male, then yes, otherwise the property is entitled away.” “Entitled away?” Aimee slammed her hand on the table. “What? Are we suddenly living in a Jane Austen novel? Daisy, I can’t believe you agreed to this. You have an heir. Jenny is half Cochran and half Matthews. Done. You need to hire a good forensic attorney to look at this so called pact.” “Wow, Aims, what a novel idea.” She blew out a breath. “Don’t you think I already tried that? No one disputes the contract is unusual, but they all agree it’s binding.” Stunned, Aimee looked at her friend. “I’m so sorry, Daisy.” She lifted a hand and let it drop. “What now?” Daisy shrugged and then straightened her shoulders. “We finish our drinks and then head back to the hotel to pack for our flight home.” “Daisy—” “What do you want me to say, Aims? If I don’t marry someone with a drop of Cochran blood, we lose everything. At least with Jace, I
was happy. I loved him and I thought he loved me.” Aimee stared at her drink flabbergasted, before lifting her eyes to her friend. “This makes no sense to me. Your families are linked. You have common ancestry.” “You don’t understand. We’re the Hatfields and McCoys of the Shifter world, but Jace’s disappearing act blew a hole in the barn door on any kind of truce.” Aimee leaned forward in her chair. “It doesn’t matter. Not enough to make the price of poker go up. Your life is too high a price to pay for a piece of real estate. Do you even love Seth?” “He’s good to me, and Jenny needs a father.” Aims pressed her lips together. “Jenny doesn’t like him.” “Jenny is four.” Daisy shrugged. “She’ll like who I like. It’s enough for now.” “Enough?” Aimee’s voice rose. “That’s your father talking, not you. As for Jenny being four years old, children are more perceptive than most adults and rarely given credit for seeing what we either miss or refuse to see. Hence the phrase, out of the mouths of babes. Besides, I don’t care for him either, so that’s saying something.” Daisy nodded. “You’re right, but you’re forgetting I haven’t agreed to anything yet. The price attached to this fix is not just real estate, as you put it. It’s my heritage. We settled the land
over a hundred fifty years ago. The Cochrans and the Matthews. “My great-grandfather, Noah, his wife, Sarah, and Jace’s great-grandfather, Micah Matthews and his wife, Eva. It’s how Jace and I are related.” “I don’t follow.” Aimee shook her head, confused. “Jace’s great-grandmother Eva and my greatgrandfather Noah were brother and sister.” “So what happened?” Daisy frowned and glanced at the undead bartender. “Vampires happened. One vampire in particular.” She lifted her martini and took a sip. “It’s a long story.” “I like long stories. Spill.” “This isn’t the time Aimee, and if you knew the whole story you’d agree this isn’t the place to discuss the details. Trust me, you don’t want to know.” Aimee put down her drink and folded her arms in front of her chest, giving Daisy a fixed stare. Daisy met her gaze and blew out a hard breath. “If we get sharp fangs aimed our way, I’m shoving you first.” Aimee smirked. “Nice, now out with it.” Daisy spared another glance at the bartender, discreetly noting any other members of the undead too close for comfort.
She looked at Aimee and leaned in, lowering her voice. “A female vampire showed up looking for shelter one winter. Noah wanted her to leave from the get go, but Micah didn’t. “He gave my great-grandfather an excuse about supernatural species needing to be more Christian when dealing with one another, but Noah didn’t buy it. He didn’t trust the woman or Micah’s fascination with her. It didn’t make sense. “Within a month, the vampire had seduced Micah, turning him dark, and then leaving him with nothing but a thirst for blood and a lust for flesh. Noah threw Micah off the land. Ashamed, Micah wandered for a bit, but as he was halfowner of the property, he didn’t need an invitation to return. “He came back one night, but Eva wouldn’t let him in. When Noah found out, he begged his sister to stay with him and Sarah, but she refused. In the end, Micah raped and killed her, murdering two of their three kids before the morning sun fried his sorry undead ass. “Noah blamed himself for not saving his sister and the children. He took in her surviving child, a baby girl, and raised her as his own until she ran off at sixteen. He spent years tracking her down, but the damage was done. As much as he blamed himself, she blamed him as well.” Stunned, Aimee stared slack jawed at her friend. “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?”
Daisy shrugged. “I don’t know. I suppose I thought everyone already knew.” “So what happened next?” “Guilt ate at Noah for the rest of his life. He set the inheritance provisos as a result. It was his hope the lure of land and security would reunite the family for his sister’s sake. That it would be enough.” Daisy shrugged again. “So now you know why this is more than a simple matter of land ownership.” She paused, meeting Aimee’s attentive gaze. “And why I didn’t want to come tonight. Vampires ruined my family.” Aimee covered her hand with hers. “No, Daisy. One vampire did. Not all. Times have changed.” Daisy shook her head. “Times may change, but vampires never will. They are predators. Selfish and superior. To them you’re either prey or a servant species.” She lifted her hand in a hollow gesture. “I don’t expect you to understand, and I get that. Old taboos, new pacts, new tolerances—whatever. I’m tired, Aims. I’m going to the ladies’ room and then catching a cab back to the hotel. Being this close to so many bloodsuckers is making me ill.” “Daisy, don’t be that way. It’s barely midnight. Stay.”
She leaned over to give her friend a quick peck and then pushed her chair away from the table. “Dais, we came together, we leave together, right?” She nodded, grabbing her purse. “Of course. I’ll be right back.”
Chapter Two Daisy turned toward a side alcove and froze halfway through the entrance. A tall, lanky vampire stepped from the shadows, his hollow cheeks and yellow fangs making him more graveyard than Goth. “You don’t belong here, daylighter.” The man’s gravelly voice was as forbidding as his appearance. He stopped beneath the neon exit sign only steps from her, blocking a door marked private and the turn for the restrooms on the opposite side. “I am looking for the ladies’ room,” Daisy replied, keeping her tone steady and her eyes trained on the vampire. She ignored the trickle of nervous sweat between her breasts. “I didn’t mean to trespass,” she added, quietly slipping two fingers into the side pocket of her purse for her UV flashlight. This was exactly what she wanted to avoid tonight. “No one enters without an invitation.” The pallid-skinned man took another step closer, his thin greasy hair, limp and stringy against the white of his scalp.
Whipping her hand up, Daisy flashed a beam of bright ultraviolet light into the bloodsucker’s red eyes. Hissing, he threw his arm up to shield his face, but Daisy didn’t stay to watch the fallout. She ran, not looking back until she collapsed onto the edge of a plush couch in the crowded safety of the closest bar. She gulped down air, trying to collect herself. “Are you okay?” a female voice asked. Daisy nodded, pressing her wrists against the railing, hoping the cold chrome would stop her from retching. “Are you sure? You don’t look so good.” She turned to give the concerned girl a halfhearted smile, but stiffened at what she saw past the woman’s shoulder. She’d recognize his profile anywhere. The curve of his strong jaw and the way his blue-black hair skimmed the back of his neck above broad shoulders. Jace. He sat across the bar at a small table near the steps. People milled back and forth, laughing and talking, complicating her line of sight. She excused herself and moved her seat to be sure. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Or could it? Jace was as gorgeous as ever. His black Tshirt clung to his chest, and his flat muscular
torso was just as she remembered. He sat the same way, too, with one long leg crossed flat over his knee, the edge of his favorite silver-toed boots gleaming in the light. Stunned, her breath locked in her throat. She wasn’t dreaming. Resting on his thigh was the cowboy hat she’d given him at their engagement party. A black suede Stetson with the ranch’s crest on the matching leather band—a sterling silver wolf’s head carved into a full moon—a symbol marking the end of a century of bad blood. “Jace.” His name left her lips in a desperate hush. Familiar emotions surged and she stood, itching to run her palms along the hard, flat planes of his chest and through his hair. She took an instinctive step forward, but the expression on his face stopped her cold. He wasn’t looking her way, but the muscles in his cheek clenched, almost menacing. She’d never seen him look that predatory, even when they raced the blood moon at its zenith. Daisy followed the storm in his gaze to a woman sitting at the bar. She had a clear view, watching Jace’s scowl deepen the closer the woman pressed her body to the man standing beside her. A wash of jealousy tightened Daisy’s chest, making it hard to breathe. Was this woman the reason he left her standing alone in the church?
She glanced at her reflection in the smoky glass behind the bar, smoothing her hands over full curves and the dress that clung to her hips and thighs. Her body was solid from riding and working the ranch. Delicate was not a word she’d use to describe herself, but Jace loved her genuine, full bodied beauty, with her creamy skin and cascade of dark, Black Irish curls to complete the package. Or at least she thought he did. The woman at the bar was the exact opposite. Lean and blond with barely a hint of feminine curves to fill her tiny camisole. Daisy saw the woman’s eyes flutter to halfmast, her pink lips parting in a sigh as the man at the bar brushed her long hair from her bare shoulders. He kissed the hollow at the base of her ear, running his tongue along the column of her throat toward her collarbone, his fingers slipping beneath the lace edge of her top. If Jace truly left her for this woman, then fate had come full circle as they both watched her straddle the man’s lap at the bar with no care who saw, including Jace. Daisy closed her eyes. There was no satisfaction in watching the karmic bitch-slap. Jace was alive. At least she knew that much, if not why he left. Perhaps she didn’t want to know. Besides, Aimee was waiting for her at the main
bar across the club, and her friend was right. It was time to let go. She stole one last look at Jace, fixing him in her mind before sparing a glance for the woman at the bar. What she witnessed left her staring in disbelief, as small, sharp fangs pierced the woman’s tender skin at the base of her throat. Right there at the bar. In front of God and everyone else. Daisy blinked at the blatant display. Her eyes flew to Jace and then back to the woman. No one noticed the girl’s soft hiss of pain or how the vampire ran his fingers through her hair, allowing her blond mass to fall in an obscuring curtain. Or maybe they did and this was business as usual at The Red Veil. The vampire licked the woman’s blood from the corner of his mouth before closing her wound, whispering something that made her gasp and reach for his cock. With a knowing smirk, the vampire took the woman by the hand and lifted her to her feet, guiding her almost trance like toward another back alcove. Daisy swallowed, watching Jace’s jaw clench. He shot back the double whiskey in his hand and got up to follow, leaving his cowboy hat on the chair. A flood of emotion raced through Daisy’s mind, leaving her body in a sweat of disbelief and
anger. Like her, Jace was raised to despise vampires. Had he left her to chase after some blood whore all this time? Or was he on some kind of crusade to save every bimbo on the planet stupid enough to be glamoured into a feed and fuck? Nausea bit into Daisy’s gut at the thought. Maybe that wasn’t it at all. Maybe Jace had gone rogue, and had spent the last five years hunting undead predators playing outside the rules. But why leave her for that? She’d have joined him. Gladly. Her mind whirled with motives, possibilities and justifications. The same as it had five years earlier. Every bitter emotion fed on the one before, compelling her to follow. Screw the karmic bitch-slap. Jace owed her more than an apology. He owed her an explanation. Scrambling from where she stood, she spared a quick thought for Aimee still waiting at the VIP bar and dug for her phone to send her a quick text. There was no time for anything else. She scooted around people at the bar to grab Jace’s hat. She caught a glimpse of him as he turned toward the same alcove as the vampire and his prey, but when she rounded the corner, he disappeared through a non-descript door that closed as quickly as it opened. Damn.
“What have we here?” a male voice asked from behind. Daisy whirled on her heel, her fingers tightening on the base of the UV flashlight still in her hand. It was another vampire, only this one was elegant and beautiful. Sandy haired with green eyes that flashed with humor, and a charming smile to match his equally charming British accent. “My apologies, love. I hope I didn’t alarm you.” He gestured toward the door. “Are you waiting for someone in particular or are you simply one of the—curious?” He stressed the last word, letting his eyes travel the length of her curves as he inhaled. “Intriguing. There’s a distinct hint of the frontier in your scent, rather than the usual jaded cynicism we get from Manhattan locals. They only venture toward the back rooms when either drunk or trying to prove their bravery. Sometimes both.” Daisy didn’t reply. At her reserve, a smile tugged at his lips. “In view of your quiet bravado, I gather you to be a daughter of the Lone Star State.” he chuckled, gesturing to her boots. “Ironic really, considering the beautifully stitched leather covering your foot is fittingly called, the vamp.” “Yes, well.” Daisy flicked her eyes toward the door.
“Would you like to go through, love?” The red hue deepened in his eyes as he inhaled again, but he didn’t come near. Instead he pressed his thumb to a small biometric scanner hidden by the door frame. Within seconds the lock snicked open. “Entry is by invitation only, so if anyone asks, tell them you are Julian Trevelyan’s guest. No one will bother you after that,” he paused, flashing another amazing smile. “Unless, of course, you want to be bothered.” “Thank you,” Daisy mumbled, her eyes meeting his for a moment and it stunned to see kindness in their red depths. He inclined his head. “Take care, love. Be careful what you wish for. You just might find it inside.” Not wanting to think too hard what the vampire meant, she scooted past without a word. Was it a warning or reassurance? The door closed and she found herself facing the center of a round antechamber. The room was empty, but the sound of people engaged in what she could only imagine, vibrated in a muffled hum from various rooms. The antechamber was white marble with a floor inlaid with gold mosaic tiles depicting different sex acts, each pointing to a corresponding archway along the room’s perimeter.
“Just follow the yellow brick road,” she thought, wondering what the hell Jace was doing here and why. The air was thick with sex and a trace of blood. Daisy held her breath waiting for her gag reflex to kick in, but her senses tingled with anticipation instead. Excitement brewed, quickening her pulse. Jaw clenched against the seductive vibe, she closed her eyes and summoned her inner wolf. The beast rode just beneath the surface, and she inhaled, focusing solely on Jace’s remembered scent. Nothing. Frustrated, she exhaled hard, trying to purge the teasing scents from her palate and the distraction of sex from her brain. Aimee was right. It had been too long. She tried again, deeper. Her skin tingled as she raised her wolf again, bringing the beast even closer to the surface. Her muscles tensed and heat skittered along every nerve ending as she focused on Jace. Still nothing. If she didn’t pull back, she’d phase and that would be very bad. With a quick breath, she let her wolf recede and her pulse calmed. She opened her eyes and scanned the room. Was this place warded or spelled?
Daisy chewed her lip. “You’re a wolf. So is Jace. Think like a wolf.” She dropped her gaze to the floor and stared at the mosaic depiction beneath her feet, opening both her eyes and her senses. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she huffed. The spot on the floor that drew her attention showed rear-entry doggie style sex. She stared at the image, remembering the muscled feel of Jace’s body, the strength of his thighs and the pressure of his hands on her hips. How he teased each full moon about her craving the wild side on all fours. “You’re such a wolf whore. The moon crests and your ass is in the air, begging for my cock.” His whisper tickled her ear from behind as he teased her moist folds with his large, swollen tip. “You like it hard and deep, don’tcha, Dais?” Her panties dampened at the memory of his dirty talk and how he’d kiss the back of her throat, nipping her skin as he punished her pussy, inch by hard inch until he drove his cock deep, biting down on her shoulder to claim her twice over. She closed her eyes, squelching the recollection. It served no purpose except to rehash old pain. Daisy sucked in a breath to get a grip. “You came here to find Jace and make him own up to how he hurt you, not to play name that memory.”
She squared her shoulders and headed down the closest corridor. Moans grew louder as did the scent of blood, the scents concentrated and intoxicating. She stopped and listened, looking for any sign of Jace. A series of four doors lined the wide corridor on either side. Jace could be behind any one of them. She tried each, systematically. So far they were all locked but the one on the end was left ajar. Hands shaking, she pushed the door open. The room was dim, with a large plush area rug beneath a high, four-poster bed draped with sheer crimson veils. The skinny blonde from the bar knelt on the mattress. Her long hair sliding over her bent back in a bright curtain and her fingers fisted into the black coverlet. Her wrists and ankles were bound with leather cuffs chained to the corners of the bed and her eyes were taped shut with electrical tape. Two men flanked her front and back, each working her body. She moaned lapping at the base of the ridged shaft shoved in her mouth, while the other man buried his face between her legs from behind. The man at the rear lifted his head, his mouth and teeth covered in blood. It was the guy from the bar. He turned, giving Daisy a grin.
“Want to join in, sweetheart?” he asked, wiping his mouth on his arm. “Four’s always a good number.” He ran his fingers over the woman’s crack, spreading the coppery liquid before licking her from clit to anus. The woman gasped as he bit down, hard. The other sucked a breath through his fangs and threw his head back. “I’m going to blow my load.” He shoved his cock deeper into her throat and the woman gagged. “That’s right, honey. Take it all.” He snarled as he came, pulling back to let hot spurts jet into her mouth and onto her lips. She groaned in pleasure, tonguing his sticky swollen head. She let go of the other’s cock to scrape what was left of him from her chin and bottom lip, licking her finger clean. The vampire leaned down and kissed her, licking and nipping at her mouth, dragging his lips over her jaw until he plunged his fangs into her throat. The other spread her ass cheeks wide, and drove into her bloodied folds, slapping her hard with each thrust, the woman whimpering for more. Daisy’s gaze locked on the scene and she couldn’t move, her body betraying her with each moan and thrust. She was spellbound and
seduced, repulsed and yet drawn to what she loathed. Her own body ached as she watched the ebb and flow of the dominant and submissive sex. She shivered at the forbidden scene before her, and when the vampire fucking the woman from behind turned his red eyes to her, she gasped at the visceral intensity of his stare. Daisy tore her eyes from them and backed out of the room, slamming the door. She pressed her back against the outside wall, gulping in air. Her hands shook as she shoved her fingers through her hair, trying to ignore the weakness in her knees and the throbbing between her legs. She squeezed her eyes closed trying to focus. She dismissed the countless scents assaulting her nose, concentrating instead on sifting through the layers of sex and her own unspent need to find what she looked for. “Daisy?” Her eyes snapped open and she froze. “What are you doing here?” Jace asked, stunned. She licked her lips, pressing her back even farther into the wall to stop her knees from buckling. Jace was gorgeous. Even more than she remembered, and his nearness was a gut punch. “I could ask you the same question,” she countered, her voice cracking.
He didn’t answer. Instead he took in her face and her body as though starved for the sight of her. “You look good, Dais,” he said, finally. Heart racing, she swallowed past the lump in her throat and took an unsteady step away from the wall. “After five years, that’s all you have to say to me?” “What would you have me say?” His voice was soft. Her jaw tightened. “If you can’t figure that out on your own, forget it. I’m not throwing you a lifeline, Jace Matthews. There’s no phone a friend or ask the audience on this one.” “I’m sorry, Dais. You caught me by surprise. I’m not good with words. You know that.” She exhaled, glancing at the cowboy hat still in her hand. “Well, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. If memory serves, the only time you weren’t at a loss for words were when we were between the sheets.” No sooner had the words left her mouth than she winced inwardly. She was as bad as he. Jace couldn’t think of what to say, and all she did was hurl back how fucking good he was in the sack. Daisy toyed with his hat’s wide brim, before looking up at him. “This is the last place I’d think to see you again.”
“You thought to see me?” Jace held out his hand for his hat, his fingers brushing hers in the process. Her breath hitched at the mere touch, her body betraying her again. She wanted more than a simple brush of skin. She wanted his hands on her body, his mouth on hers, his voice whispering in her ear ‘this was all a bad dream.’ She closed her eyes. Stop it! It was not a dream. It was real. With a hard exhale she fought the overwhelming urge to crawl into his arms and snapped her eyes open, pulling back her hand to squelch the feeling. “What do you think?” She forced herself to meet his eyes. “I thought of you all right, and how you left me waiting alone in the church. No call, no note, nothing. Not even an ‘I’m sorry.’ You just disappeared. Why?” The muscle in his cheek clenched as he set his cowboy hat low on his forehead. “I deserve an explanation, Jace. I think you owe me that much,” she pressed. “How did you get back here, anyway? This part of The Red Veil is by invitation only,” he evaded. She lifted her chin. “Julian Trevelyan invited me.” Jace’s jaw tightened even farther. “Trevelyan. How do you know him?”
Daisy shrugged. He took a step closer and grabbed her arm. “Don’t play games, Daisy. You shouldn’t be here. Tell me how you know him.” Daisy jerked her arm back. “Don’t take that possessive tone with me, Jace Matthews! Your claim expired the day you didn’t show up to say I do. Who I know and what games I play is none of your business.” Jace inhaled and his eyes dilated. “Why are you here? Don’t lie to me, Daisy. I can smell your need. The air is choked with it.” “Stop it, Jace. I don’t need anything. What I want is an explanation. Don’t you care how much you hurt me?” She blinked at the pathetic tears burning her eyes “Daisy—” Yearning warred in his eyes along with doubt, and he stared at her as though she were both a dream and a nightmare. He took another step closer and let his chin drop to his chest. The wide brim of his hat hid his face, and when he lifted his eyes to hers, she gasped in disbelief. Shaking her head, Daisy backed away. A silent denial filled with numbness and revulsion on her lips. Fangs. Jace had fangs.
“This is why I didn’t show up to marry you, Daisy,” he said. Piercing red-hued eyes held hers for a moment, and she screamed, her mind rebelling before she turned on her heel and ran.
Chapter Three “It’s about time, sleepy head,” Aimee joked, throwing a dishtowel at Daisy as she shuffled into the ranch house kitchen. She yawned and sank into a chair at the table. “What are you doing here so early?” “Early? It’s nearly three p.m. We have a date to see Jace’s parents for dinner tonight, remember?” Aimee set a mug of coffee in front of her friend. “We agreed. You need to tell them you saw him.” Daisy picked up the mug and blew across the rim. “I can’t do it, Aims. I can’t watch their hopes crumble once the truth sinks in.” She took a sip and winced. “How old is this coffee? It’s bitter.” Aimee pulled a chair out and sat as well. “Forget the coffee. Don’t you think Carson and Elinor have a right to be told?” “It’s not my secret to tell.” “That’s a cop-out, Daisy and you know it. It’s not like you’re telling tales. You saw him.” Daisy eyed her through the steam rising from the brim of her cup. “And what happens when they ask questions I can’t answer? They’re going to want the how and the why of it and I refuse to lie. They’ve been my support system since before Jenny was born, even more than my own father.” “No one’s telling you to lie.”
Daisy shook her head. “I don’t have the whole story, so why make them hurt even more than they already do wondering? I can’t Aimee, and I won’t.” “I suppose you’re right. You don’t have the entire story, which still irritates the hell out of me, by the way.” “Why?” “Daisy, you managed to slip into the holy of holies when it comes to fetish fantasy, and I wasn’t with you.” She snorted. “You can’t be serious.” “It bites, literally.” Aimee exhaled with a shrug. “Pun totally intended.” “I don’t get it, Aims. What’s with you and this fascination with vampires?” Aimee shrugged. “They interest me.” “Interest you?” Daisy raised an eyebrow. Her friend blushed to the tips of her ears. “They more than interest me. I fantasize about how they feel, what they taste like to kiss, if their cocks are as hard and cold as ice when aroused. So when you got to enter the mecca of it all, I was jealous.” She shrugged again. “I still am.” Talk about being knocked over with a feather. Aimee was sophisticated and classy. Even her auburn pixie cut and spray of freckles couldn’t diminish her professional air. Daisy lifted her coffee mug. “And they say the freaks come out at night.”
“What were they like?” Aimee leaned in, keeping her voice low. “Who?” Aimee pulled a face. “Who do you think? The vampires? The backrooms?” “I didn’t see all that much,” Daisy replied with a shrug. “Based on the sheer size of the place, I imagine the backrooms are more like a labyrinth. There was a sexual map of sorts, a mosaic inlaid into the floor that directs you to different corridors, or at least that’s what I assume. Kind of like the frescoed sex menus on the brothel walls in ancient Pompeii. Anyway, I only glimpsed one room and that was by mistake.” “There are no mistakes. Only lessons. So spill.” Embarrassed heat spread across Daisy’s chest at the thought of the ménage. She glanced at her hands, avoiding Aimee’s eyes and potential questions. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t in the mood for an education on anything other than why Jace left.” Daisy sidestepped further. “Which you didn’t get.” “Don’t remind me.” “Even so, he sounds exactly the same, Daisy. Chivalrous and hot as hell. Why else would he be concerned with your reasons for being there? He must know the danger involved in fetish play.
People get hurt when they don’t know what they’re getting into.” She nodded. “Yup. Definitely chivalrous and hot.” “And undead.” Aimee lifted a hand. “What has that got to do with anything?” “Aims, why don’t you go home? I’m sorry I dragged you out to hell’s half acre for nothing. It’s a long drive from Houston and I’m not really up for much of anything other than crawling back into bed.” “Oh no you don’t, Daisy Lou Cochran. You are not dismissing me that easily.” “Don’t call me Daisy Lou. You know I hate that.” “It’s your middle name, so deal with it. You can also deal with the subject at hand. This isn’t some random vampire we’re talking about. It’s Jace. The man you were set to marry. The father of your child. The man you loved, and if my guess is correct and it usually is when it comes to you, the man you still love.” Daisy tapped her nails on the side of her mug. “He’s a vampire now. Enough said.” Aimee shook her head. “You’re going to have to do better than that.” “What mother in their right mind would let a vampire anywhere near her child? Besides, you know my family history. There is no way I can
double slap my father or my pack in the face. I won’t do it.” “Double slap? I don’t understand?” “You know, for someone so smart, you’re pretty thick, Dr. Aimee Dunne. My father would never forgive me if I allowed the ranch to revert to the Matthews pack, even if they are technically family, and I would never forgive myself if something happened to Jenny because I let Jace back into our lives. It’s too dangerous. Vampires are selfish and unpredictable.” “Based on what you told me, that’s not how Jace presented himself. You were in his territory, Daisy. He could have done anything he wanted or left you as prey for some other vampire. He didn’t. Sounds to me as though your views are slightly slanted.” Daisy shook her head. “Guilt and grudges are woven into the fabric of my life. Neither the Cochrans nor the Matthews forgive easily. Even if Jace’s parents wanted to bring him home, their pack would never accept him as one of their own again. Not for them and especially not for Jenny.” “So you’ve decided to let your family’s prejudice and an outdated taboo dictate your fate?” Daisy inhaled and let the breath out slowly. “No, not quite.” “Have you given your so-called cousin an answer yet?”
“Who? Seth?” Aimee nodded. “He hasn’t asked me to marry him, yet, but it’s coming. My father hinted at it before you and I left for New York.” “And you’re planning to say yes?” Daisy shrugged. “I guess. I’ll wait and see how I feel.” Aimee laughed. “You mean you’re waiting until dear old dad knocks on your bedroom door with a wedding gown in one hand and a rifle in the other.” Daisy snorted. “You know, I really hate how well you know me, sometimes.” A child’s laughter caught their attention and Daisy looked out the back sliding doors to the backyard. “Looks like Dad and Jenny are home from their errands.” Aimee covered Daisy’s hand. “She looks so much like Jace, it’s scary.” With a sigh, Daisy smiled as she watched out the window. “I know. Do you know how hard it is to love someone who looks so much like the one person you want, but can’t have?” “No, but I can imagine.” Aimee squeezed her hand. “You’ve got it wrong, though, Dais. You can have him. You know where he is and how to find him. It’s your choice.”
Another car pulled up and Aimee made a face. “Looks like Seth is here, too. Is he joining us for dinner at Carson and Ellie’s?” Daisy shook her head. “I wasn’t expecting him.” Aimee gave Daisy’s a gentle shake. “I think I’ll get going after all. I assume you two have things to discuss, and I don’t want to be around for that conversation.” “Some friend, deserting me in my hour of need.” Daisy laughed. “Can’t you stay? Seth won’t get too comfortable if you’re here. He knows you don’t like him.” “At least he’s perceptive.” She grinned. “Drive in tomorrow, and I’ll take you out in Houston. Give you a chance to weigh your options.” “Oh, no. The last time you treated me to a city slicker outing, I ended up in a room with a vampire ménage!” Aimee’s mouth dropped. “You little liar! You said you didn’t see much!” “Sue me.” Daisy shrugged with a laugh. Aimee pointed her spoon in Daisy’s direction. “I’m a trained psychiatrist. I can always hypnotize you into talking, so don’t push me.” “Ha.” She considered her friend. “Or maybe I’ll hypnotize you into accepting you still love Jace
regardless of what he’s become or what both packs say.” “Not everyone is as free thinking as you, Aims. Or as accepting. Like I said, times may be changing everywhere else, but not out here.” Aimee inhaled and then pushed her chair back from the table to get up. “Perhaps, but change has to start somewhere and like I said, it’s your choice.” “What’s Daisy’s choice?” Seth asked coming in from the yard. Aimee eyed the man. Seth Cochran was the poster child for trying too hard. A cowboy Casanova wannabe in a rented Stetson. “Daisy has many choices, Seth. You’d do well to remember that,” she replied and then laid a hand on Daisy’s shoulder. “Promise me you’ll think about what I said. I know there’s a lot at stake, but then again, you’ll never know how much you could gain until you think outside the box.” She pressed her cheek to the side of her friend’s head. “I mean it. Call me tomorrow.” Daisy blew her a kiss, but didn’t say a word. Aimee left through the sliders and she watched her hug both her dad and Jenny before driving off. “What was that all about?” Seth asked, eyeing Aimee’s taillights.
Daisy got up from the table and walked to pour her cold coffee down the drain. “Nothing that concerns you.” He stepped behind her and slipped his hands around her waist. “Everything that concerns you, concerns me. You should know that by now.” She twisted out of his arms and moved to open the dishwasher to empty the clean contents, purposely avoiding Seth’s eyes as much as his hands. “I’m glad Aimee left. It will give us a chance to talk,” he offered. She looked up, glancing at her daughter skipping rope in the yard. “I can’t tonight, Seth. Jenny and I are going to her grandparents’ house for dinner.” He reached out and ran a knuckle over her bare skin from her elbow to her shoulder. “Why don’t you drop Jenny there for dinner and then let her stay the night? I’m sure they would be happy to have her and that way we can have dinner alone, maybe spend the night somewhere nice. Just the two of us.” Dish in hand, she used it as a convenient prop to shift her arm away from his touch and open the cabinet. “I don’t think so, Seth. Jenny was just there for the weekend while I was in New York.” He eyed her. “So? I thought you wanted her to have a relationship with his parents.”
She straightened, taking in the sour set to his mouth. “His parents? Really, Seth. He has a name. It’s Jace. And yes, I want Jenny to know his family.” “They’ve fed her nothing but bullshit about the man, so much so she idolizes him. A man who ran out on her mother. A father she’s never met!” he argued. Daisy crossed her arms. “You know nothing about Jace or why he chose to leave. None of us do. Until we find out, I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt. For our daughter’s sake, mine and Jace’s.” She stressed the words, staring him down. “Fine, but three is a hard number to navigate, Daisy, and I’ve been juggling my place in this relationship for a year now. I deserve more.” “Deserve?” she balked. “None of us knew anything about you until a year ago, Seth. No connection, no knowledge of family ties. Nothing. Just an ancestry.com genealogy and the right last name. “I like you, Seth, but for the kind of commitment you’re asking, it’s going to take a lot more than that. It’s going to take time.” He snorted. “Why are you questioning me now? After all this time? My credentials were good enough for your father. I have plans for this place and for us. Big plans. What happened in New York to make you come home like this?”
She closed the dishwasher door. “Nothing. Like I said, I need time. Besides, even if I decide to make you a permanent part of my future, this ranch and all its land aren’t part of the deal.” Seth stormed out and got in his car. He pulled up the dirt drive with a spray of gravel making Jenny run in through the sliding doors, worry on her dirt-streaked face. “Hey, Jenny-bean. You ready for a snack?” Daisy asked. She nodded, her dark pigtails shining in the late afternoon sun. “Mommy, is Seth mad at us?” “It’s nothing for you to worry about, honeybun. How about some chocolate pudding?” Daisy asked, turning for the fridge. Jenny slid her eyes to the gravel drive. “I don’t want him to come back,” “Jenny, that’s not very nice. Mr. Cochran has been a good friend to us.” She sniffed. “He’s not nice. He’s mean and says bad things when you and Grandpa aren’t here.” “What kind of bad things?” Daisy froze in front of the fridge, pudding cups in hand. The four year old’s lip quivered. “He said I was flea-bitten and should be put down. I don’t have fleas, Mommy. I promise. Just mosquito bites.” Daisy put the pudding cups on the counter and gathered her daughter in her arms. She
picked her up, careful not to let her see the rage seething in her face. “I know, sweetheart. Don’t listen to him. I promise he will never say anything like that to you again. Okay?” Jenny nodded, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “Eew! You know better than that, Miss Jennygerm bug! Go wash your face and hands and I’ll get your snack.” She kissed the tip of her nose and put her down. “Can I have whip cream?” Daisy laughed. “Of course, you can.” “Lots, okay? A whip cream mountain!” Jenny yelled running for the bathroom. Daisy frowned. It seemed Aimee was right. She sighed, flipping a dishtowel over her shoulder, wondering if maybe her best friend was right about everything else, too.
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Hi everyone! I was born and raised in New York, and there’s nothing like the city that never sleeps to inspire sexy stories and romantic suspense. I began my career after college as a budding journalist and later earned a master’s degree from The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, but it’s my lifelong love affair with words and books, and the fantasies and ‘what ifs’ they stir, that finally led me to do what I love most. Write. I live in New York with my hubby and our three children, three dogs, one cat and a lizard named Fingers. I’m always interested in chatting with readers, so sign up for my newsletter and check out my Facebook page and Instagram!
Note from the Author
The Red Veil Diaries is an offshoot of my paranormal romantic suspense series, the Cursed by Blood saga. The underground vampire club, The Red Veil, was first introduced in Twice Cursed, book two of the Cursed by Blood series, and many of the characters from the Diaries are there as well, their lives unfolding and entwined throughout the seven book series. If you enjoyed The Red Veil Diaries and want more romantic suspense with a twist of paranormal, I hope you’ll check out the Cursed by Blood series, too!
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