Book Description: While restoring a ceiling mural at the church, Addison meets Christian, who commissions a painting for his employer, Master Vallore. It’s like love at first sight for the pair, and he seems like “the one”. There’s something odd about her love, though, but she’s fallen so hard for him, she tries to ignore her silly suspicions. Her perfect man couldn’t be a vampire, could he?
Excerpt from CK #1: Devil’s Kiss: The Taking of Innocence
He didn’t turn on the lights, only the muted light coming in through the windows illuminating the space. He walked her over to a large painting on the wall, but she couldn’t see it well.
“This is the best way to observe a painting.” He whispered, the lamp above the painting turning on, bright, harsh light illuminating the ancient piece.
Gasping, Addison placed a hand on her chest, and she stared. It was beautiful, even more so when it was the sole focus of her attention. Hamstein’s Devil’s Kiss was a dark piece that depicted a demon-like man engrossed in a passionate kiss with a young maiden.
As her eyes traveled down the arched back of the naked demon in the painting, she swore if she wasn’t quiet enough, he would turn and attack her for snooping on his intimate moment. It was that real.
Christian wrapped his arm around her waist and rubbed her belly. She turned to him. The lamp illuminated his face, deep shadows cast around his eyes and under his nose.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Christian whispered. He kissed her cheek, his closeness in this intimate place making a fire burn inside her, one that burned her cheeks.
“Extremely.” She recited a line from Balthazar, one of Christian’s favorite poets. “Her beauty cannot be measured in words, nothing from my most humble lips could describe it.” She breathed her last words. “Perfect….”
Christian eyed her with a sly grin. “Perfect. Like the sun that lights my love’s flesh and the wind that cools the heat of her kiss that lingers on my lips—she is a wonder of nature.”
She turned back to the painting, her eyes darting over its surface. “Quite fitting quote for a Hamstein. That’s a great way to describe it.”
“As was yours.” Cocking his head to the side, he studied her from a different angle. His gaze was sharp. Quick. She wondered what went on in his head. Did he want her as much as she wanted him? The thoughts made butterflies dance in her belly.
“Give me your thoughts. I would love to hear an artist’s interpretation.” He put a finger to his lips, Christian interested in the subject. She watched him scan the painting as if searching for something within those thick, ancient layers of paint.
“In this piece, he captures a moment of love for all eternity. Stilling such a tender moment and showing us the passion they must have felt. The animalistic lust overtaking them at that moment before they…” She released a wicked chuckle, her eyes ticking to his, but her gaze didn’t stick. She flirted in a sweet, playful tone. “Consummated their love.”
“More like devoured,” Christian said with a devilish chuckle. “With that look in his eye—” As he spoke, he motioned to the painting. “—he wants more than consummation.” He moved to hold her again, Christian squeezing her hip.
“A trademark of a Hamstein,” Addison added with a tender grin, her voice so soft, it was almost a whisper. She redirected the conversation. “I love all the vibrant colors. It ignites such strong emotions. And his overpowering use of that velvety red? It gives it such drama, such depth. There are no words to describe how beautiful this painting is.”
Addison’s gaze bounced over the masterpiece. “It’s so perfect. Lifelike. Like if I touched it, I could feel the softness of her skin. Maybe even the heat, as well.”
He chuckled as he said his words, “The heat you feel—that may come from the lights. Good effect though. In this light, with darkness surrounding it, the piece commands your attention and you can’t look away. We are like moths, are we not?” He stared at her, Addison feeling the heaviness of it. He said his next words in a deep, smooth tone, “Drawn to beauty?”
Swallowing hard, she fought the urge to spring forward and kiss him. To accept his advance. Addison narrowed her brow, as she turned back to the painting. “Though like real life, from a distance, it looks this way, but if you were to touch it, you’d feel the rough texture of the paint—the ugliness that hides behind fabricated beauty.”
“A romantic interpretation,” Christian whispered. “And though I like your view of it, I believe it is not the true subject matter of the piece.”
“What are your thoughts?”
“It’s about rape.”
“Rape?” Her gaze bounced to the devil’s face. To his lips tangling with the maiden’s. How his body bent over her as he took her with force. He was right.
“It’s about the taking of innocence, I believe.” A hardened expression replaced his smile, his eyes narrowing. Even though he saw this piece a million times, he still enjoyed studying it in depth.
Addison turned her eyes downward, grimacing. “I think you’re right. My interpretation sounds so naïve, now, doesn’t it?”
“There is great beauty in innocence. And it doesn’t mean your interpretation is wrong. Everyone can form their own opinion and it can be right. That’s what art is for. I find one’s opinion on art reveals much about them.”
“What does it reveal about me?” She stared at the devil’s face in the piece, his lips locked on his maiden’s. She still saw love there, though she saw Christian’s point.
He took her in his arms and licked his lips. His tongue paused under his top row of teeth, peeking from his mouth. Those teeth again. Addison looked away from them and at his eyes, instead.
Christian continued, “That you see the good in everyone. Even the devil. You’re a hopeless romantic.”