Book Description: When someone close to her gets put on the vampire’s hit list, Addison would do anything to save them—even make a deal with the vampires.
She sets out to find Master Vallore, the leader of the vampires, and convince him to pardon them. But, what she doesn’t know is that she’s on a list too—one for potential initiates into Vallore’s family.
Excerpt from CK #2: Bloody Valentine
Museum Offices: Appleton, Caron
“Addison? Is that you?” Nicolette’s voice filtered down the hall.
Addison froze. Nicolette recognized her and now that she came closer, nervousness stole Addison’s voice. She glanced backward and saw the guard left. Now she was in an empty building with three vampires surrounding her. If Nicolette was alone, this would be much easier. But this…
“It’s wonderful to see you again. I’ve been trying to contact you for months, where have you been?” Nicolette continued as she made her way to the young girl. Her heels clicked on the tile and echoed throughout the silent hall.
“I’ve been busy with commissions,” Addison whispered. “Sorry about that.”
“Are you here for the interviews?” Nicolette stopped in front of her, Addison’s eyes settling on her friend’s blue heels. They were designer, a small logo on the buckle of the straps, the light leather soft. Her timid eyes made her way upward and met Nicolette’s.
“Yes, but it seems like I have missed them.” Addison mustered a smile, but it danced on her face. All she could think about was that Nicolette was a vampire. She studied her mentor’s teeth. They were straight and looked natural, Nicolette not having a big overbite as Christian did. She wondered if female vampires had smaller fangs. She scanned the men, but they sent her tight-lipped smiles and she couldn’t see their teeth to compare.
“It’s okay. I know your work already. There is no need for you to do a formal interview,” Nicolette said in a cheery voice.
“Are you sure?” Wary, Addison swallowed hard, then held her portfolio with both hands. Her grip was firm, the handle grounding her.
“Sure.” Nicolette put her hand on Samson’s arm. “I’d like to introduce you to some people.”
“This is Samson, and, of course, you know my husband, Brandon.”
Addison held out her hand to Samson first because he was the closest. “Addison Collins.”
“Happy to meet you, Miss Collins,” Samson said with a bright grin. He had a thick accent and exotic charm, his complexion dark, and his eyes hazel. His accent reminded her of Christian’s, so she guessed he was from Northern Pargon. It was a smoother accent than what they had in Southern Pargon.
He continued, “We were all hoping you’d show up for the interviews. Nicolette said you were her pick for the job, but you hadn’t answered her emails, so she held interviews, instead.”
“Really?” Addison’s hands tightened around her portfolio’s handle again, her fingers clenched. She addressed Nicolette. “I can still have the position?” Her anxiousness made her speak faster. “But I missed the interviews and—”
“Consider it yours, my dear,” Nicolette said with a cheery tone. She reached over and took Addison’s portfolio. “You can fill out the paperwork tomorrow.”
“But for now,” Brandon spoke, motioning to the door near them with his head. He was tall, his hair a light blond that matched his pale blue eyes. “Why don’t you join us for a drink?” He said his last words with a raised brow, and he tried to hook her. They were vampires and she hoped the “drink” didn’t involve her blood.
“Here, let me help with your coat,” Samson spoke, his words sounding rougher because of his gruff accent.
“Thanks.” Addison peeled off her coat, Samson helping her pull it down her shoulders. He threw it over his forearm when they had it off. She still held her purse, her hand wrapped around its strap.
“Nicolette’s told us so much about you, and I’d love the chance to speak with you more—” Samson said his next word in a flirty tone. “—intimately.” If she didn’t know he was a vampire, she might’ve fallen for this handsome Elite’s charms. But she did know, and his interest in her scared her, instead.
“How about we go to my office?” Nicolette pointed down the hall. “I’m exhausted from interviews tonight. I need a little drink to pick me up.” Addison watched Nicolette’s hands tighten around her portfolio. Her eyes settled on the diamond ring on Nicolette’s finger, the large stone sparkling under the light. “We can have a drink and hang out for a bit. You can tell me about what you’ve been up to.” Her eyes narrowed on Addison, and though Nicolette’s voice was friendly, Addison caught a hint of sarcasm in her words.
Addison glanced at Nicolette, then the men. Her answer was soft, “I’d really love to, but—I can’t. I need to—”
“Come on, you have five minutes to spare.” Brandon chuckled with his words and laid a heavy arm around her shoulders. Like lead weights, her shaky legs felt like they would give out.
Ducking her head, Addison walked with the trio to Nicolette’s office with reluctance.
“I saw some of your paintings. You’re an amazing artist.” Samson pointed behind them, his tone still upbeat.
“Thanks.” Addison addressed him, but when he tried to capture her gaze, she turned. She pushed a stray strand of hair that fell down her cheek behind her ear.
Samson hooked his fingers in Addison’s, the appendages thick and spreading her fingers wide.
She tried to pull her hand from his, but Samson wouldn’t release it. Both men now trapped her, and all she wanted to do was run.
“I’ll have to sit for you sometime. I’ve been told I’m a good model,” Samson said in a confident tone. He turned to Nicolette, who unlocked her office door with her key card.
“Sure,” Addison choked out, her smile dancing on her lips as she tried to remain polite, yet not show her fear. She watched Samson’s hand go to his mouth and pull out falsies. She knew what they were because she’d seen Christian wear them, too.
Addison looked inside the now open door. There, she saw Callie and another man sitting on the couch. Damn it. More vampires.
Brandon wrapped his arm around her waist. Her belly turned when his hand slipped toward her inner thigh. He was too friendly despite his wife being present.
Brandon drew close to her face, his nose almost touching her cheek. She smelled his cologne, the dark, woody scent overpowering and burning her nostrils when she inhaled. “He’s lying. He’s never been a model for anything but a mugshot.” Chuckling, he tried to make her laugh.
She looked to Samson, her eyes settling on his large fangs. Addison tried to weasel out of Brandon’s embrace, but he clung tighter, holding her against his body.
“Hey, why do you want to go so soon?” Brandon whispered to her.
“Let me go.” Addison tried to pull away again, but Nicolette took hold of her hands.
“Come now, my dear. There’s no need to be afraid.” Nicolette’s lips filled with a smile, the same one she found comfort in. But not now. Now, she saw her friend’s secret. She was a vampire, her small fangs now showing. “I wouldn’t hurt you. You know I wouldn’t.” She put her hand on Addison’s cheek, her flesh feeling like ice.
Addison tried to speak. “Please, stop, I—”
“Shh….settle down, Addison.” Nicolette cooed, her tone sweet. She pulled on Addison’s hands and made her walk forward. Brandon helped steer her in the same direction. Terrified, Addison didn’t want this. “Let’s go inside. Talk a bit.”
“No,” Addison said in a shaky tone, tears dancing on the surface of her eyes.
Nicolette’s voice grew stern. “Calm down, my dear. All we want to do is talk. That’s all.”
Addison faced forward when Brandon shoved on her shoulders and made her advance. He whispered in her ear, “Listen to her. Everything will be fine.” He kissed the surface of her neck, Addison’s heart racing. His lips brushed against her skin as he spoke, his breath hot and making her shiver. “I’m not going to bite unless you say it’s okay.” He bit at her, his fangs scraping the surface of her neck.
Addison spoke, but her voice shook, wetness in her tone showing she was ready to break. “I don’t like vampires. I’m not into that sort of thing.” She tried to face him, but he wouldn’t let her move.
“You’ll like it. I promise.” His hands went under her shirt and rubbed her stomach. They traveled up and down her torso as they slid over her bare skin.
“I won’t,” Addison snapped.
“I’m an Elite. I can mask the pain of my bite. You won’t feel anything but pleasure, I promise.” He breathed his next words. His hot breath tickled the inside of her ear and made Addison shiver. “Let me be your first. Turn you on to the ways of our kind.”
“Stop.” Addison shoved Nicolette, startling her. Addison thrashed in Brandon’s arms, but he grabbed her hands and spun her. She was about to scream, but he covered her mouth with his hand.
He whispered to her, trying to soothe her, “It’s okay, Addison. Calm down. I was teasing you.”
Addison whimpered as her eyes scanned the hall. Then, she caught sight of a group of men standing there watching them. They had to be vampire hunters. Decked out in black, they wore ski masks over their faces and heavy-duty backpacks. Holding weapons, they were ready to fight.
“Let her go. Now,” a vampire hunter said, his command deep and seething. He was the leader and stood out among the crowd.
The hunters didn’t attack. It was as if they stood their ground. Addison was in a fight like this before and she knew what was about to happen. People would die. She wiggled in Brandon’s arms, but he held her tight.
“Settle down, Addison,” Brandon said under his breath, “and get behind me. We’ll protect you.” He loosened his grip on Addison and she bolted.
She couldn’t outrun the vampires, so she went for an open door across the hall. Samson dashed after her, but before he got ahold of her, she slammed the door and locked it.
There was a commotion in the hall and Samson gave up his pursuit of her. She moved backward and slammed her body against the far wall. The lights went out, and she was now in complete darkness. Outside men fought, but in here, she was spared the sight of carnage—for now, anyway.
A few minutes earlier…
“Stop.” Addison shoved Nicolette, startling her. She thrashed in Brandon’s arms, but he grabbed her hands and spun her. She was about to scream, but he covered her mouth with his hand.
Samson watched the Welshs’ attempt to quiet Addison. This girl wasn’t a virgin donor like they thought. She knew what vampires were, and her encounter with them wasn’t pleasant. He saw it in her eyes. They terrified her.
“Let her go. Now.”
Samson’s attention snapped to the voice. Hunters. Dressed in black, they were armed for a fight. These little fuckers had nerve, and he was ready to teach them that their intrusion wouldn’t go unpunished.
Samson saw Addison bolt. He spoke under his breath, “Fuck, Addison. Bad time to run.” He took off after her, but she slammed the door in his face. He jiggled the handle, but couldn’t do much more. She’d be safer in there, anyway. He’d come back for her after he cleared out the hunters.
A few hunters ran toward him and it was on. Growling, Samson bared his fangs and plucked a man off his feet. He held him by his collar, then spun to his right. He smashed the man into the wall, his head bouncing off it. His body went limp after that, Samson dropping him to the ground.
He snatched two of the fallen hunter’s blades and went after the others. Samson’s moves were like a blur, the Elite slashing through a few hunters as he moved toward their leader. The men fell to their knees holding their sides as they moaned in pain. He and Nick worked as a team and subdued four of the hunters.
The leader turned tail and headed toward the stairs with the small number of men that were still mobile. Samson chased him and left Nick to take care of the female Elites. He didn’t see Brandon, the Elite fleeing with Nicolette.
Nick shouted from the other end of the hall. Samson didn’t hear him and continued chasing the hunters toward the staircase.
This was the first real fight he’d faced here, and he would make the most of it. Samson wanted this little punk, and when he caught him, he would make him bleed, not just now, but for days afterward.
Brandon told him the Caron Elites didn’t have any problem with hunters. He said they were weak and went after the Scavengers, who were easy prey.
That’s why this little fight they started made little sense. Why get cocky now? Going after three of the biggest Elites in Caron? Were they that stupid?
Samson was about to slip down the stairs but halted.
“Samson!” Nick belted out a scream, the sound making Samson turn. Nick and Callie cowered on the floor, paralyzed. “Run!” Nick shouted.
Samson watched a new hunter run forward and behead Nick. His action was swift and fluid, the man wielding an ax like an expert. Inlaid with a spell, there was a faint glow around the edges of his ax.
These weren’t the hunters he’d seen earlier and if Samson had continued chasing the Caron hunters, he wouldn’t have run into this new band of hunters that came as a backup. He now realized the Caron hunters were distractions meant to lure him away so these hunters could swoop in and pick off a few Elites.
Not only were these hunters from Pargon, but they were the most feared vampire hunters in the world. That fucker with the magical ax was Monroe. He brought with him a team of top-tier hunters. They wore high-tech black armor, and it covered their skin from head to toe.
This was odd, though. Pargon was Monroe’s territory, and he didn’t cross the ocean and hunt. This was not good. Monroe was a dangerous hunter—the worst—and he wore a medallion that repelled vampires. That meant the only weapons that worked against him were long-range ones. And Samson didn’t have a gun on him. What was Monroe here for, anyway?
“Que the lights, Bucky,” Monroe said as he spoke into a radio mounted on his collar. He pulled a mask over his face, shrouding his features. A red light flicked on in the center of the mask, its surface made of shiny plastic. It reminded him of a welder’s mask but clear.
Damn it. That little fucker caused a blackout, and he had night vision, so he’d have the advantage. The lights went out, darkness shrouding the hall. Samson knew better than to stay and play with these guys. If he got close to Monroe he’d be cowering at his feet like a wounded hunter.
Samson turned tail and headed toward the stairwell. A woman screamed, but he didn’t go back to see who it was. It could be an Elite hiding in Nicolette’s office.
He had a few guns in the SUV. He’d grab them and toast those damn hunters. Monroe was a tough bastard, but he wasn’t a god. Even he couldn’t outrun a bullet.
Museum Offices: Appleton, Caron
Addison looked around the room for a way out, but didn’t see any. She got into the bathroom, but there was no exit except the door she came in.
Tiptoeing toward the door, she reached for the handle with a shaky hand. It was silent outside now, and she hoped the fight moved away from here and she could escape. Taking a few deep breaths, she needed to prepare herself for this.
Her heart raced and her vision was fuzzy. She turned the knob and peered out. A grotesque sight welcomed her eyes. Nicolette’s office door was open, the light from the window illuminating a few bodies that lay near it.
Blood covered the floor as it spread out from the victims and formed a small pond in the hall. She scanned the corridor, but it was silent. She didn’t know where the vampires and hunters went. As she readjusted the strap on her purse, she contemplated her next move. It was a long jog to the staircase at the end of the hall, but the elevator took time to arrive after she pressed the button.
Hearing what sounded like a man walking in gooey mud, she drew back and plastered herself against the doorframe. Someone was there, and she wasn’t sure who. She listened as his light steps turned into quick ones. She was spotted.
Though the light was minimal, she caught sight of a shadowy figure barreling toward her. She yelled, “Leave me alone!”
Before the person reached her, she slammed the door shut and locked it. Scurrying backward, she turned on her phone and used the flashlight app on it to find a weapon.
Spinning when the door opened, she faced the intruder. Whoever chased her had a keycard and unlocked the door. She pushed her backside against the table, her phone still in her hand and lighting up the small space around her.
She grabbed the edge of the table, her heart racing as she awaited what was to come. The man halted in the doorway and sized her up. From his silence, he was a hunter and not a vampire.
“Wait,” she said as she waved her hands in front of her several times. The bright light coming from her phone bounced around the room with her frantic action. “I’m not a vampire. I just work here. Leave me alone and I won’t tell—I—”
He kicked his foot back and shut the door and the lock clicked. This wasn’t good. The hunter that killed Callie and the other vampires locked her in a room and readied to kill her, too.
He held a large ax, the surface of it shining as if he encased it in ice. She saw symbols inlaid in the metal, but she didn’t recognize them. This was not the ordinary hunter. A great evil radiated from him. Fear squeezed her heart, Addison feeling like she couldn’t breathe.
She rolled her shoulders inward, holding her phone with both hands as she sobbed. “Please, stop.” She studied the helmet he wore. The glass hiding his face didn’t look like normal glass. It reflected a greenish color when her flashlight hit it like the eyes of a bug.
He took a few steps closer to her. Addison kept the light on him, her hands shaking. In the light, his form became clearer. Dressed in light armor, the dark form-fitting fabric sparkled as if made of metal mesh.
His clothing looked damp, his shoes leaving a trail of blood in their wake, and his ax dripping with it. He snatched her phone, his action quick and startling her. He slammed it onto the ground and the phone shattered.
She opened her mouth to let out a shriek, but he covered her lips and pulled her to him. The gloves he wore were slippery, and when Addison inhaled, she took in the sharp, metallic scent of blood. She tasted it and wanted to vomit. Escape was impossible, this strong man holding her to his chest. The darkness blinded her, everything around her black.
He dropped his ax, and she cringed when the heavy metal hit the tile. He whispered in her ear, “Sleep, my sweet—” Feeling a sharp needle shoved into her side, Addison tried to scream, but couldn’t. His lips hovered over her ear, his breath hot on her skin. His words grew softer as she struggled to stay awake. “—little valentine. Sleep…” Her legs gave out, and she passed out.