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A new life in New Orleans is all Jason Thorpe had hoped: his quaint little store attracts a devoted staff and his warm, loving heart grants him a loyal circle of friends. He’s perfectly content, having left behind the chill of a confusing and danger-filled night in Washington, until he discovers something unbelievable lurking in the steamy darkness of the shadowy streets of the Vieux Carré, something that turns out to be terrifying… and utterly mesmerizing.
The prince of the vampyrs, Varic Maedoc, is visiting New Orleans when he finds out the man who once helped his counselor is there in the Quarter. He thinks to simply meet and thank Jason—until he lays eyes on him. Varic’s devoted himself to protect the honor of his race, and he’s never wanted a mate before… but he immediately knows he must have this man, and no one else will do.
Varic may want to bring Jason safely into his world, but someone who doesn’t like the human’s soothing influence on vampyrs has deadly plans that would disrupt Varic’s dreams. Now, unable to tell friend from foe, Jason finds himself wondering how to hold on to the prince’s heart when he’s fighting for his life.
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I WASN’T thinking when I ran out of the cabin toward the scream, my father’s rifle and the biggest flashlight I owned in my hands.
The snow was deep, up to my knees, but it was February in Washington, and as I trudged through it and around trees, ferns, and thick brush, I tried not to think of every horror movie about the woods I’d ever seen in my thirty-two years. Not that I was scared—I was a former Marine—but then I heard another shriek and increased my pace. I had to get there faster.
Unfortunately it had rained on top of the snow, and then the temperature dropped to freezing, so moving was like chiseling through shaved ice with my legs. I took a step and sank, took another and sank—getting anywhere quickly wasn’t going to happen. The cold was trying to claw its way under my skin, so I zipped up my shearling-lined barn coat to try to keep it at bay.
What was going on, on the grounds of the estate owned by Mr. and Mrs. Rothschild? Ever since I arrived, I’d had questions.
The Rothschilds had contacted the company I worked for, Wild Wood Carpentry, after seeing pictures on the website of previous work I’d done. They were impressed and asked if I could come to their home and rebuild some built-in bookcases damaged in a fire. Money was no object, and they didn’t need an estimate.
Wild Wood took care of the details. I left Bellingham in the north Cascade Mountains, near the Mount Baker Area in Whatcom County, and drove toward a town called Glacier. I was on a lonely stretch of 542 for a while and then turned off in the direction of Church Lake. It got a bit desolate after that, nothing in front of me or behind as far as I could see but snow and trees. When I finally saw the driveway appear out of nowhere, it was a bit of a relief.
The long, winding two-lane road led to a ten-foot-high wrought iron gate. The high-tech cameras and security system were a surprise, and I had to get out and stand in front of a video monitor while someone confirmed my identity. As I waited, I wondered why all of it was necessary. Why all the hoops to jump through in the middle of nowhere?
It was another ten minutes of driving before thick woods thinned and then cleared. Their house—if you could call it that—looked more like a fortress than a home.
What appeared to be a medieval stronghold from the outside gave off the same austere, museum-like quality once I crossed the threshold. It was as massive inside as out and just as frigid, if not more so: marble everywhere, ancient polished wood, enormous fireplaces in every room I walked through, and lots of gilded everything. I felt underdressed and looked down on by everyone who had the seeming misfortune of conversing with me. From the first day it felt like they didn’t really want me there. And there were a lot of damn people walking around, pretending not to notice my presence: maids and other servants, a cook and his staff, but also a ton of other beautiful people sitting and standing around, not doing much of anything but artful lounging. But again, lots of movement too. It was like a small bustling village inside the thick walls. I wanted to ask what the deal was with the castle—were they fixing it up for a visit or something?—but I was there to do a job, not ask questions. So even though I was curious about the inhabitants of the house, I kept my mouth shut.
The lady of the house, Mrs. Rothschild, put me in a small cabin on their property a mile away from their front door for the duration of the job. I was fed two meals a day in the kitchen, in a nook close to the oven where it was warm, and then dinner was packed up for me every night before I left after nine to ten hours working on the bookcases. No one talked to me during the day except to bring me bottled water.
At the end of the fourth day, Mrs. Rothschild came to check on me, nodded, gave me a shadow of a smile and told me to continue.
“You’re not at all what I thought you would be, Mr. Thorpe,” she said. “You haven’t been a bother in the least, and you don’t smell at all like others of your kind.”
I suspected the “others of my kind” comment referred to workmen she’d had in her home previously. Maybe those guys weren’t that concerned about their body odor—more about getting in and out. It was a weird place, so I understood what might have driven them.
“I doubt my neighbors even know that you’re at the cabin, as unobtrusive as you are.”