On the night of Kate Windsor’s centennial, she meets Lucas Wilde, a sweet and unassuming human. Despite everything and everyone telling her to stay away from Lucas, Kate is inexplicably drawn to him. Her coven is not pleased. After all, it’s bad manners to play with your food.
But as clues start to amass that Lucas is not what he seems, so does the presence of those unexpected and unwanted, and it’s up to Kate to protect him.
As Kate’s unique powers begin to manifest, she becomes deadly in a way she never anticipated. Her powers are volatile and unpredictable – much like Kate herself – and should she fail to get control of them, the biggest threat to both she and Lucas is herself.
Caught between protecting the man she loves, loyalty to her coven and saving herself, Kate must make the most important decision of her life. And just as she realizes what she must do, she discovers she never really had a choice.
Targeted Age Group: 15 – 35
Genre: Paranormal Romance
The Book Excerpt:
We ironically called it my birthday, even though it was the day I died. It was the night of my centennial: I’d officially been a vampire for a hundred years. There isn’t much cause for celebration in the supposed life of a vampire, but our centennial is perhaps the biggest, if not the only. But I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I didn’t feel much like anything. I believed it was safer that way.
It is near impossible to let in only the good things – the bad were sure to sneak their way in. So I’d shut it all out. Feelings. Memories. Thoughts. Regret. Pain. Anger. But I am too passionate to feel nothing, so I devoted myself to indifference. Was determined to render myself absolutely numb. I am perhaps the most sensitive person I’ve ever known, though I would never openly admit it, and despite my efforts to keep myself locked in that tough, albeit false, shell of indifference, more often than not, I failed miserably. I hadn’t had enough time – though it had felt like it’d been far too long – to perfect the charade.
I looked up, letting the cool evening light of the moon bathe my face. It was the only ghost of a touch I could bear; the easiest company I could stand to keep. I spent many nights up on that roof, content in my solitude. I didn’t have to pretend or defend or explain. Putting up my false fronts could get so exhausting. Sometimes all I wanted to do was nothing. But my so-called hiding place was no secret, and I was sure that sooner rather than later, someone would come to find me.
Perhaps, though I didn’t know it at the time, I wanted to be found. Otherwise, wouldn’t I have chosen a better place to hide?
Below me, music began to play, like a slow, distant throbbing. If I closed my eyes, it almost felt like a heartbeat. And even though I was completely alone, I could pretend there was someone there with me. Above the thump of the music, I heard laughter and the hurried steps of my coven as they bustled around downstairs. It seemed so strange to me; not just the laughter, but the rush. What was the hurry? What did any of it matter? My centennial would come to pass in mere hours and it would disappear into the dark shadows of the past, buried among countless other better, bigger memories. Because it was not how it should have been, how we’d planned it for so long. Because Samuel wouldn’t be there. Because he couldn’t have been.
I heard the creak of the metal door opening behind me and the scent of lavender filled my head. Olivia. I knew her scent well. Though her footsteps made no sound I could feel her coming nearer, the air around me growing steadily warmer until she was right beside me, close enough to touch, though she was careful not to.
“It’s a beautiful night,” she said casually, but her slightly rapid heartbeat and uneven breaths gave away that she was nervous. Most don’t believe that we vampires breathe, or that our hearts beat. But we do. We aren’t so much dead, as we are an alternate form of alive. Though in my case, that last part is debatable. “So warm for September.”
“Mmm,” I said, not meeting her eyes, knowing what she was really there for and not wanting to encourage her by engaging in small talk.
“Kate,” she said softly, letting out a breath and turning to me. Her eyes were intent on me but I refused to turn and meet them. Olivia was like my baby sister, one of the few weaknesses I have in life. I was near putty under the gaze of her innocent green eyes and I thought if I could just avoid her gaze, maybe I’d be all right.
“Liv,” I mumbled back, trying to affect a tone of teasing mockery, but it came out more pleading than I’d have liked. I sighed. “I can’t.”
She shook her head the moment I’d opened my mouth, knowing what I’d say before I said it. “You can.” She paused. “You should.”
The music below us stopped and the night was instantly still around us, the air heavy with Olivia’s expectations of a response from me. My coven had been planning the party for weeks, hoping beyond hope that the celebration would spark some life back into me. I’d asked them not to, but they all ignored me, thinking they knew what was best for me better than I did.
“We did this for you, Kate.”
“I didn’t ask you to,” I snapped, unable to bite it back.
But she took it in stride, already accustomed to my unreasonable attitude. “I know that. But we did it anyway.” She paused before turning to look at me, stepping slightly in front of me so I could not help but see her face. Her back was to the moon, her face cast in shadows. But her emerald green eyes shone with a hurt I pretended not to see.
I didn’t want to disappoint her or let her down, but it was too hard to give her what she wanted from me. I shook my head. “It just doesn’t feel…right. It feels…” I trailed off, not really knowing the answer, not wanting to dwell on emotions I’d long been struggling to swallow. I’d become accustomed to being comfortably numb. It was safer.
“Incomplete,” Liv finished softly for me. While the world was inadequate, it was possibly the only fitting one, so I nodded. “There’s a part of all of us that’s empty without Samuel.”
I flinched at the sound of his name from lips other than my own. You’d think I’d have been used to it by then, but I wasn’t. It was like thunder on a sunny day: unexpected and out of place. But Olivia pretended not to notice – for my sake or for hers, I wasn’t sure.
“It’s been five years, Kate, don’t you think—”
“And what’s five years when you were supposed to have—”
“Eternity,” she said, cutting me off just as smoothly as I’d cut her off. “I know.” We’d had the same argument before. I’d had it with every one of my coven to varying degrees, but no one could trump my reasoning. I had a point after all. And though they did, too, it was hard to say who was wrong. In some ways it seemed like it’d been so long, and in others it seemed like it wasn’t enough. It’d been too long without him, not enough time to get over him. Whoever said time heals all wounds was either very wrong, or should’ve been more specific.
Music started up again, the beat a rapid, frantic bump. Seconds later it stopped to make way for something smoother and slower. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” I heard Oliver exclaim.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the corner of Olivia’s lip curl upwards. She shook her head and let out a breath, like an exasperated mother. “He’s trying so hard to make the perfect playlist for the party,” she explained. “We just wanted to make the night really special for you, that’s all.”
Oliver was one of my coven, though he belonged solely to Olivia. He was the club DJ, going by the name DJ Venom – his own little inside joke, a play on our fangs. But it was the ultimate in irony because though his fangs were venomous, nothing else about him was. I could picture him at his DJ booth, boyish blonde curls bouncing as he bobbed his head to the music and a stab of guilt pierced me right in the heart.
“I…” I started but could not finish. My arguments were weak. And to refuse to go would show a weakness that would have made Samuel furious. I was torn between the fear of pretending to be strong enough to go and shame at admitting that I might not be.
“He would have wanted you to enjoy yourself,” Olivia said, as though reading my thoughts. Or maybe she saw it all in my eyes. Despite myself, I was like an open book. At least to her.
I nodded, knowing she was right, knowing he’d have been disgusted with the way I’d behaved since he’s been gone, but I said nothing.
“At least stop by,” she almost pleaded, stepping closer to me, her scent washing over me in that slightly intoxicating way it always did. I held my breath, fighting off the resistance that would be futile if I let Olivia work her magic on me. “Please Katie Kat.”
I growled and let out a heavy breath. She was the only one who could ever, in the history of time, get away with calling me such a ridiculous name, but from her lips it was so full of love and endearment, I couldn’t complain. And I could almost never say no. “Liv,” I warned, almost begged her to stop.
She smiled, sensing victory was in her clutches. “It’s not like it’ll kill you.”
I winced at her attempted joke. Ha ha. It wouldn’t kill me because I was immortal. I met her eyes and saw they were dancing with delight. She was practically bouncing on her heels in excitement. My resistance cracked, crumbling at our feet. “One hour,” I conceded, trying to gauge the time by the height of the moon in the sky.
Olivia squealed and embraced me in a hug, her fiery red curls surrounding me in a warm cocoon. “Thank you,” she whispered before she started to pull away.
I held her tightly to me, nestling deeper into the embrace. “Don’t leave my side, okay?” I asked softly. While the immediate sentiment spoke of the evening, she knew and I knew that I was pleading with her in a grander sense. And though she could not promise me such a thing, she smiled.
She eased away and tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear. “Of course not.”
Olivia led me into the room, covering my eyes with her hands – an unnecessary gesture but one she was positively giddy to do, so I allowed it. We stopped walking and she giggled before dropping her hands. “Ta-da!” she said proudly. “What do you think?”
My eyes widened in surprise. “Wow,” I said simply, hoping she would interpret it only as a positive kind of shock and awe.
She clapped her hands together and grinned. “Oh, I knew you’d like it!”
“It’s really something,” I said with a nod.
Our coven owned a night club called Lust and it occupied the bottom two floors of the building we lived in, the top two floors having been converted into something of a loft style apartment. The night club makes our predominantly nocturnal lifestyle much less suspect and it brings in a steady flow of income. Pretty much ideal for a coven of vampires.
But it had never looked like it had that night.
The room was bathed in purple, silver and black – balloons, streamers, elaborate floral centerpieces on every table, garland and confetti strewn across the floor, gauzy sheets and neon lights cloaking the ceiling so it was like floating under lavender clouds. It was beautiful, but overwhelming.
“Oh boy,” I muttered as I spied the “Happy 21st Birthday Kate” banner hanging up behind the DJ booth. It was enormous. I was sure they could have spotted it from the moon. Where does one even procure such a thing? Leave it to Olivia.
“Get it? Twenty-one,” Olivia said, smiling.
“Clever,” I said, half cracking a smile. In human years, I was just under twenty-one, having been Turned just two months prior to the human birthday – a birth date I no longer celebrated and would never actually reach. It was ironic and odd and also somehow appropriate.
The sharp clack of boots echoed into the room and I turned to see Mia striding over to us. That evening’s outfit was one of her best: thigh high leather boots dyed a vivid shade of purple to match the décor, her shorts so tight it was apparent there was nothing on underneath them and her top so low cut it was open practically to her belly button. But, somehow, she pulled it all off with style and grace.
Her hair, a long sheen of jet black so dark it was almost blue, swayed with her impossibly tiny hips as she sauntered up to me. “I told her she was overdoing it. But did she listen?” She tossed a glance at Olivia and sighed. “Of course not.” She rolled her almond shaped eyes as Olivia glanced around the room in confusion. “I think it’s the banner. That was when it went from cute to over the top.”
Suddenly realizing what Mia was getting at Olivia’s mouth dropped open. “I find it shocking that you, of all people, would accuse me of being over the top.” She eyed Mia from head to toe and cocked an eyebrow.
Mia lifted a leg up onto a nearby stool, adjusting the straps of her boots and I was amazed her skin tight, teeny tiny leather skirt allowed her such freedom of movement. “What are you trying to say?”
Olivia giggled. “Nothing,” she said, clearly amused.
“So anyway,” Mia said, planting her hands on her hips and grinning at me. “More importantly. Kate, my darling, do you like my outfit?” She spun in a slow circle, looking at me over her shoulder and winking.
“I don’t know. Where’s the rest of it?”
She froze and her mouth dropped open in shock. “Kate Windsor, are you making a joke?” she teased. My heart sunk to the floor that such a thing would be so shocking. At one time, it was almost expected. Recognizing the look on my face Mia quickly joked, “Because, hello, I look fabulous and you know it.”
I nodded and forced a half smile. “Yes, fabulous. As always.” I let out a breath, grateful that she quickly and easily brushed past the awkward comment.
“Thank you,” she said grinning. “And I know.” She adjusted the skirt a little lower on her hips and looked up at me quickly. “Wait a minute. You’re actually coming? Should I alert the media?”
“Mia, don’t,” Olivia reprimanded softly, obviously terrified I may change my mind.
But Mia was undeterred. She fixed her nearly black eyes on me. “Well?” She waited for me to give a half hearted shrug before assessing my outfit. “Is that what you’re wearing?”
I glanced quickly down at my leggings, sweater and boots combination. When I’d put it on…good Lord, when was the last time I changed my clothes? I brushed at my sweater, swiping at invisible dirt and smoothing out non-existent wrinkles, suddenly ashamed at my appearance. “I—”
“No,” Mia said firmly.
Olivia stepped between us quickly. “She looks fine, Mia. It’s her birthday, she can wear whatever she wants.”
“Yes, she can, but as her friend it is my job to let her know when she looks…” She turned to eye my outfit again, her finger twirling in circles to indicate my shabby appearance. “Not her best,” she finished delicately. “You will change,” she said firmly, clearly not open to any arguing. She grabbed my wrist and waltzed me towards the bar, Olivia following quickly behind us. “Check this out: we created a special cocktail in honor of the evening. It’s called the Kate-tini. Cute, huh?”
I was at a loss for words. Why, of all things, would they name a cocktail after me? Judging by the look on Mia’s face the effect this would have on me never occurred to her. It was not an insensitive gesture, it was just a careless one. And one I would overlook for the good of the evening.
Mia hopped over the bar counter and faced me. “Wanna try one?” she asked, not waiting for me to answer before reaching for a glass. “I don’t know exactly how to make it because Lucas created it, but he showed me how once,” she said as she added splashes and dashes of various liquids to the glass. “Hmmm. That’s not right,” she said, shaking her head and tossing out the contents of the glass and preparing to start again.
“Who’s Lucas?” I blurted out, hoping to distract her from the alcohol.
“Duh, the new bartender. We hired him, like, two weeks ago. If you ever came out of your cave to do anything besides stare at the moon you might know that.” She tossed the glass into the sink and it landed with a loud clatter.
I simply looked away, unable to face the truth of her words or the anger in her eyes. Delicacy was never Mia’s strong point, and her brusqueness was usually like a slap of cold air to the face: startling, but strangely refreshing. I was ill-equipped to handle it however, and I wasn’t sure if she’d spared me from it the past few years, or if I just hadn’t noticed. Neither scenario was a good one and my tongue felt heavy and useless in my mouth.
Olivia wrapped her arm around my waist. “Well she’s out now, right? And that’s what counts.” She smiled at me reassuringly. I bit the inside of my lip, not wanting to accept the sympathy and not wanting to admit I was worthy of it.
Mia waved a hand in dismissal. “Whatever.” She had already moved past an uncomfortable moment she may not have even noticed, and I was silently grateful. “So Lucas, last name Wilde, though, sadly, so far he hasn’t proven to be very wild at all, is quite frankly…hot. He’s got these puppy dog eyes, kinda sad looking. But he’s got a great smile. And his arms…nice.” She wiggled her eyebrows at me.
I eyed her for a moment. “Do you have a crush on this human?” I asked in a soft voice, the disbelief in my voice evident, my attempt at playful teasing almost indiscernible.
She scoffed. “Please. I do not get crushes. I do the crushing, thank you very much.”
And that she did, though I had no idea how she managed it. Not just keeping her heart to herself, but resisting the temptation. While we’d all chosen long ago not to hunt humans, the thirst was always there, lingering, though faint. Through the years we interacted with humans all the time, but I always kept it very casual, never making things truly personal, let alone an intimate one. It seemed too dangerous. I always feared that the temptation could and most likely would overwhelm us at some point. It’d be like a dieter smearing chocolate syrup on their lips and attempting not to lick it off: silly and reckless and most likely futile.
“Okay, I’m going to finish getting ready. I’ll catch you guys later.” She winked at me before crushing me with a bear hug. “I’m glad you’re here, Kate.” She met my eyes, let the true intensity of her words sink in, and I nodded. “Happy birthday.” She kissed my cheek and vanished.
Olivia watched me curiously. “Are you sure about this Kate? If it’s too much…”
“No, it’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. It’s only an hour right?”
She nodded. “Right.”
We headed back upstairs as I heard the front door of the club slam shut. A cold breeze blew through the room sending a chill down my spine and making every part of my skin tingle in an exceptionally good way. For a moment I was completely frozen, one foot held mid-air, halfway up the next step. As quickly as the cold had frozen me, my body melted into warmth and my bones turned to liquid. I stumbled and nearly lost my balance. Olivia grabbed my hand and helped me back to my feet. “Kate? Are you all right?”
“I…” I couldn’t quite see straight and didn’t trust my own legs to support my weight. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“That…the wind…the cold…the heat…”
“The what? What are you talking about?” She stood next to me on the same step I was on, her hand gripping my arm firmly. The concern on her face was evident.
I swallowed and breathed in deeply. “I’m fine,” I lied. “I just…got a chill, I guess.”
Olivia’s eyes narrowed and she studied my face. I tried to smile but could only manage a strange grimace. “Are you thirsty? Do you want me to bring you some—”
“That must be it,” I said, nodding quickly, though I’d just fed an hour before. “I’ll go get a drink and lay down for a little while.”
“Okay,” she said hesitantly, still gripping my elbow as though afraid to let me go.
I eased out of her grasp and headed up the stairs. “I’ll be back in a bit,” I said, increasing my speed until I was safely in my room. I listened for Olivia’s footsteps and it was a few moments before she sighed and headed back down into the club.
My body was still warm so I pulled my sweater over my head and tossed it aside as I struggled to kick each of my boots off without bothering to unlace them. I collapsed onto my bed, my heart racing and my breathing heavy – something that would normally require an exorbitant amount of exertion to cause. The tingling sensation lingered on my cheeks and I traced my fingertips along them, almost giggling at the way it tickled. I felt almost giddy. Anxious and strange, but also…excited? I couldn’t quite place it. It was an odd feeling, but it wasn’t a bad one. It was almost, well, good. But it’d been so long since I’d felt anything resembling good that I wasn’t sure if that’s what it even was.
Slowly my body temperature cooled and my heartbeat slowed and my breathing evened out. I sat up slowly and turned to stand. I caught a glimpse of myself in my dresser mirror and gasped. That couldn’t have been me.
I rushed forward wanting to stare at the reflection up close, as though that were the only way I’d have believed it. My eyes, normally a vibrant, even glowing, shade of violet, were dark and empty. Hollow. My skin, usually a creamy, milky white was sallow and pasty. Sickly. But the worst part was how truly sad I looked. More so than sad – I looked downright pathetic.
How long had it been since I’d really looked at myself in the mirror? More so, how long since I actually cared what I saw? I’d always seen myself through Samuel’s eyes, but without him around it was as though I ceased to exist. I stood before myself – seeing me and seeing a stranger. Tears filled my eyes as I realized what I’d become.
I blinked them away before a single tear fell. No. I would not wallow. I would mourn – eternally – but I would not wallow.
I reached for a tube of lip gloss, surprised to see the make-up scattered across my dresser was covered in dust. Actual dust. Physical proof of my own self-neglect. I ran a hand over it all, swiping most of the dust clear. I put on some mascara, a bit of blush and a thin coating of a pale pink lip gloss. My hands shook with the both familiar and foreign actions as I watched my face slowly come back to a semblance of life in the mirror before me. It wasn’t much, but it was something.
The bass of the music in the club started to vibrate through my floor and I knew the club was officially open. With a sigh I turned to put my shoes and sweater back on. I spotted a boot by my window and shook my head. No wonder Mia was so disappointed in my outfit. They looked like combat boots. Am I going to my own birthday party, or am I going to crawl through the trenches in Saudi Arabia? Mia was right: I can’t wear those.
I shoved open my closet door and saw a large box in the middle of the floor, the rest of my shoes tossed haphazardly to the side to make room for it. I knelt down and read the tag: “Wear these. Love, Mia.” I smiled as I tore off the lid of the box to see a gorgeous pair of knee high leather boots. I ran my hands over the soft, buttery leather, so smooth against my skin it was like silk. The shoes weren’t gift wrapped so I didn’t want to assume they were mine to keep, but they were mine for the night and I wanted to make the most of them.
I slid my feet into the shoes and zipped them up. Though Mia was several inches taller than I was, she had tiny feet so we were conveniently the same shoe size. But it’d been a long time since I’d borrowed a pair of her shoes. A pang of longing hit me right in the belly at the way things had been, at how different I’d let them become.
I shook it off and reached for my sweater, just as quickly tossing it away. I couldn’t possibly pair it with the boots. I stood up, wobbling slightly – it’d been a while since I’d worn heels – and walked over to my closet, pulling out a black lacy top that I was fairly certain I’d never purchased. Another note from Mia attached to the bodice confirmed it. I shook my head but slipped it on, letting the soft fabric glide over my skin. It was perfect.
Strands of hair fell into my face and I reached back to undo my braid. I’d worn it tied back since…since Samuel. He’d always loved my hair, said it was one of his favorite things about me. I’d kept it tied back in a ponytail or a braid every day in some strange homage to him – like if he couldn’t enjoy my hair, then no one would.
I ran a brush through my hair and let it fall over my shoulders in dark brown waves. I reached up to re-do the braid but stopped and let my hands fall to my sides. It felt so nice, so free, to leave it loose. It was lighter, somehow, like with letting out the braid I’d let go of some of the hurt. Or maybe that I’d just let go.
“Oh!” Olivia gasped as she swung my door open. “Kate, you look wonderful!” She rushed over and took my hand, forcing me to twirl for her. “Mia?” she asked, pointing to the boots, not needing my nod to know she was right. “You let your hair down,” she said softly, unconsciously reaching forward as though to touch it.
I instantly grabbed at it, nervously twisting it in my hands. “I was just about to re-do it. It got messed up when I was laying down so…”
“No! Please don’t. It looks so nice, just like this.” She reached up again to smooth my hair down and that time I let her. “It’s perfect.”
I shrugged away from her gaze, my cheeks flaming from her scrutiny. “Let’s just go,” I mumbled, rushing out the door before I could change my mind and before she could say another word.
We walked out of my room and headed for the stairs that led to the upper level of the club. The upper level was strictly VIP with tables and bottle service and cocktail waitresses to run and fetch your drinks from the bar downstairs. The dance floor there was small, almost non-existent. But the booths were cozy and private and few people were allowed up there. It was a great place to go when you wanted to get out, to see and be seen, but without being suffocated by the sheer mass of people that crowded the main floor.
I spotted a booth with a “RESERVED” sign propped up on its center and two red wine glasses already waiting for us. Olivia walked past me towards the table, but I didn’t follow. Normally I would’ve preferred the solitude of the VIP section, but for some reason, I had no desire to be up there. I couldn’t take one step closer to her. I didn’t even try to.
She cocked her head to the side and looked at me quizzically. “What is it?” she Whispered. Despite the distance we were from each other and the noise of the club, I could hear that faint Whisper as though she had spoken it right in my ear in a silent room. Vampire thing. Comes in handy sometimes.
I shook my head. “Let’s go downstairs,” I Whispered back to her.
Her eyes widened in shock. “Down there?” she asked, pointing a finger to the floor under her. She looked over her shoulder and saw that the club was already full of people and then looked back at me. “Down there?” she asked again as though there was no possible way that could have been what I meant. And to be honest, I couldn’t believe it myself.
I nodded. “Yes.” It was like I had no control over it. I just had to be down there. I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what for. I just knew that I wanted to be downstairs and I wanted to be there right now. I waved her over with my hand. “Come on.”
She was still rooted to her spot by the table, completely dumbfounded by me. I couldn’t blame her. I wasn’t sure what to make of myself either. “Okay,” she finally conceded and we headed to the stairs.
We made our way down the steps and it seemed to take forever. Were there always this many steps here? I had to turn back and look at the staircase to inspect it. It didn’t seem that long so what the hell took so long to get down it?
Olivia gasped beside me. “Oh no. Lucas just fell down. He was in the middle of a sentence talking to those girls and he just fell. I hope he’s all right.”
I turned and looked in the direction of the bar. I only saw Robert standing there, his gaze directed to the floor with a smirk on his face. He held a cocktail shaker in his hand and chuckled to himself as he poured a martini for an eager girl at the bar. Rob was one of our bartenders. His chiseled good looks and messy brown hair combined with his surly attitude and disinterested air attracted girls by the dozens. It was good for business but even better for his ego.
Rob was like my brother, my guardian, my keeper. He watched over me with an almost ferocity. It came from a place of love and friendship and so even when his care for me comes to the point of stifling, I never complain. Robert has always been there for me and with me, literally from day one. We haven’t spent so much as a day apart from the moment I was Turned. He’s my best friend in the world. Always has been. Always will be.
I Whispered his name and his head snapped up instantly so his eyes could meet my gaze. His eyes were a beautiful amber color, so bright and warm it was like looking into liquid gold. There was always such intensity in them, especially when they were looking at me.
“You look beautiful,” he Whispered, his lips barely moving. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” I Whispered back.
His eyes searched mine, looking for something, though I wasn’t sure what. I wanted to hold his gaze, to force a smile for him, to whisper something encouraging to him. But I couldn’t. The cold breeze I’d felt earlier blew through me again, only this time stronger. So strong I swore everyone in the room felt it. But I looked around me and no one else seemed to notice.
Rob’s eyes narrowed as though he knew what was happening. He always did have a sixth sense about me and could read me like no one else. For some reason, I didn’t want him to. There was nothing to feel guilty for, and yet I did. I had to look away.
And then my eyes met his. My breath caught. My heart stopped. My entire body, my entire being froze for that single moment. His eyes were a deep, smoky blue. Almost gray. I’d never seen him before but his eyes seemed so familiar. Like I’d looked into them a thousand times. I didn’t want to blink, was completely incapable of looking away. His gaze seemed locked on mine and everything started to move in slow motion.
People passed in front of me. The music blared from the speakers. The lights flashed and blinked. But all I saw was him.
“Kate,” Robert growled at me. I wanted to turn to him, to acknowledge that I’d heard him, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything but keep my eyes locked exactly where they were. “Kate, no.”
“What?” I mumbled. I could hear Robert imploring me to stop, to look away, to go upstairs. His voice was low, commanding, angry. “I…I can’t.”
Olivia touched a hand to my arm. “Kate.”
I managed to shake my head. My eyes were still locked on his luminous gray eyes and his on mine. Was he as paralyzed by this as I was?
“Katie, don’t,” Robert’s voice Whispered in my ear. His tone had become pleading. “Please, Kate. Look away. You can’t…”
But I let his voice trail off until it disappeared.
“I’m sorry,” I Whispered, though I had no idea what I was apologizing for. My heart began to race and my palms began to sweat and I realized I was walking. Taking slow but deliberate steps directly towards the man at the bar. Our gazes never wavered as I crossed the floor.
Somehow the sea of people parted perfectly for me, allowing a clear path to him. The bar which had previously been littered with scantily clad females was somehow empty. It seemed like hours before I stood directly in front of him, the two foot counter of the bar the only thing separating us. We didn’t say anything, just stood there for a moment looking at each other.
His hair was a warm shade of brown, slightly too long, in need of a cut, and it fell into those smoky gray eyes of his. His face was clean and freshly shaven, his cheeks slightly flushed. His skin looked so warm, so inviting, it took everything in me not to reach up and touch him. His face was so achingly perfect, not quite handsome and yet somewhat beyond it. I felt like I could stare at him forever and never tire of it.
He seemed to let out a breath, as though he’d been holding it just as I’d been holding mine. My stomach tied up in knots and I felt like my heart was in my throat. We stood there just gazing at each other. I wanted to say something, to do something, but I just stood there. Waiting.
And then he smiled. A slightly crooked smile at first and then the corner of his other lip curled up as well to form a boyish grin, complete with dimples. He had perfect, white teeth with a slight overbite that made it all the more endearing. A smile that seemed to warm me from the top of my head to the tip of my toes like the first ray of sunshine after a long and cold winter.
And for the first time in years – completely for myself and because from deep in my soul I really felt it – I smiled.
I just had the best and weirdest minute of my entire life. I was standing here making a chocolate martini when all of a sudden my entire body started to tingle, like that wonderful torture of being tickled. Except more wonderful than torture. And then a second later every single muscle and bone in my body turned to mush and I collapsed onto the floor sending chocolate martini everywhere. I reached for a wet rag and immediately started to wipe it up, but not before Robert, the bartender I share the bar with, shot me a scathing and derisive look.
Not that that’s news. He always looks at me with this mixture of disgust and contempt. I try not to take it personally because he’s some degree of surly with pretty much everyone, but he seems to have a special distaste for me. So the second the drink spilled I was right on top of it to clean it up, but he noticed even before the glass was empty. I swear, he has some sort of bionic radar. Or maybe he just really hates me that much.
Anyway, so I wiped up the mess as quickly as I could and stood back up only to almost be knocked right back over. The most beautiful girl I’d ever seen was walking down the stairs and her eyes were right on me. She had to be at least fifty feet away but I could see their color so vividly, it was like they were glowing. They were the most amazing shade of purple. Like nothing I’d ever seen.
And they were looking at me.
Her hair seemed to blow around her delicate face but I knew there wasn’t so much as a breeze. Her skin was pale, brought out more by the dark, long waves of hair that hung almost to her waist. She looked almost shy, a little sad, but beautiful. Definitely beautiful.
She wore tight black from head to toe and though I could tell she couldn’t be more than a few inches over five feet, her legs went on for miles. And she wore these boots – these sexy leather knee high boots. I had to swallow back the drool that threatened to dribble down my chin.
I couldn’t do anything but just stare at her. I could faintly hear someone ordering a drink from me and all I could do was mutter, “Hmm?” My eyes were locked on the mystery girl. I’d been working at Lust for a couple of weeks now and I’d never seen her. Most of the people that came here were regulars, but working at the bar I get a chance to see most everyone that comes in. And she hadn’t. I would’ve remembered her. I was pretty sure I would never forget her face.
We stared at each other for what seemed like forever and I kept trying to look away, to do something, anything besides stare at her like some creepy stalker, but my eyes were locked on hers and I was pretty okay with them being there because she was looking right at me, too.
And then she started walking towards me. I completely froze. It was the greatest and worst thing in the world. I wanted nothing more than to be near to her but…then what? My heart started to race and my palms got sweaty. I was so out of practice with this and I was never that good to begin with.
The closer she got the more I started to panic. The girl of my dreams was a few feet away from me. I had exactly one chance to do something with this.
So I was pretty sure that I was going to completely screw it up.
Finally, after an excruciating amount of time, she was standing right in front of me. She smelled incredible. It was such a soft, feminine, sweet scent that was so distinctly her. It was exactly the way I expected her to smell. Only better. Because it was her. And she was right there.
I had no idea what to do. Since she made the walk over, was it up to me to start the conversation? I couldn’t say “Hi” because that seemed too inadequate. I certainly wasn’t going to use a pick up line on her. That would just be…wrong. And besides, I really suck at pick up lines. And when it comes to this girl, it seems I really suck at simply talking.
So I just smiled. I tried to give her the little half smile that I’ve seen Robert give girls because that seems to really work on them, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. My entire face broke out into a grin. I couldn’t help it. Having her so close to me, her perfect face just inches from mine, her intoxicating scent invading my senses…it just took over me.
And just when I thought I’d completely blown it with her for smiling like a total moron…she smiled back. It was the best smile ever. Because it was hers and because it was for me.
We shared what should have been an awkward silence, but it felt strangely comfortable. It could’ve lasted a moment, it could’ve been an hour. Time seemed to both stand still and fly by since I’d laid eyes on her. But then Mia, the Asian goddess of a go-go dancer pranced – there is no other word for it, Mia prances – over to us. And while normally Mia would command the attention of everyone in the room simply by entering it, had she not draped her arm over the girl with the violet eyes, I may have missed her entirely.
“There’s the birthday girl! And wearing the boots I got you! They look great! Don’t they, Lucas? Kate, honey, lift your leg, show him the boots,” Mia said with a grin.
The girl I now knew as Kate blushed furiously. “Mia, I’m not going to lift my leg,” she said. The first words I ever heard her speak. And would you believe she has a British accent? Could this girl be any hotter? I almost melted to the floor right there. She playfully batted at Mia’s hands as Mia repeatedly tried to lift her leg for her. “Let go of my leg or I will kick you.”
Mia giggled. “Ooh, feisty. Isn’t she feisty, Luc?” She looked over at me expectantly and waited for an answer.
“Um…I guess so. Sure. But feisty’s good.”
Kate gave me a shy smile and looked away, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Oh stop,” she said, though I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me or to Mia.
“So you’re Kate?” I blurted, the answer obvious, but I wanted her attention, wanted those stunning violet eyes back on me.
She met my eyes, causing my entire body – yes, all of it, to stiffen. “I am. And you’re Lucas.” The sound of my name on her lips made my heart race and my stomach flip. I nodded, attempting to swallow though my mouth was completely dry. I ran a hand through my hair, trying to think of a smooth and casual way to get her to say my name again.
“Didn’t I tell you he was cute?” Mia said, nudging Kate and winking at me. “Don’t you think he’s cute?” Kate blushed yet again and looked away but I’m pretty sure I saw her nod, just slightly. I couldn’t help but grin. “Lucas, show her your tattoo.”
My face burned bright red. “Uh, what?” Said tattoo covered the better part of my upper back and shoulders and would require me to take my shirt almost completely off to display.
Mia began to pout and plead but Kate cut her off. “So I heard you created a cocktail in my honor.”
“Oh that’s right! You so have to make her a Kate-tini. Make it two,” Mia said, all thoughts of the tattoo forgotten. Thank God for her short attention span.
“Coming right up,” I said with a grateful smile at Kate. I mixed their drinks while Mia chattered away at Kate. She made the appropriate “uh huh” and “oh yeah” comments where necessary but her eyes were on me. I just hoped like hell I wouldn’t drop or spill something. Luckily, I didn’t. “Here you go, ladies.” I lifted their drinks up onto the counter and dropped a cherry in each.
Mia took a sip – well, a gulp really – and smacked her lips. “So good! Isn’t it so good?” she asked Kate who had yet to taste it. “Go on. Try it. I promise you’ll like it.” She nudged Kate with her shoulder.
“All right,” she said with a small shrug. She took a sip and swallowed. “It really is good. Sorta sweet. What’s in it?”
“A little of this, a little of that,” I said vaguely. “Belvedere mostly. Most people prefer Grey Goose but I think Belvedere’s just-“
“Smoother,” she finished for me.
I nodded. “Yeah. Exactly.”
“And he made this drink up all by himself before he even met you! And how perfect is this drink for you?” Mia said, slapping Kate’s arm.
“It’s pretty perfect,” Kate said, taking another sip. “It’s mostly raspberry, right? The flavor, I mean.”
I nodded. Even before I’d met her, I knew that strawberry wasn’t right. I got the sense that such a simple, sweet taste wouldn’t work. Raspberry has a bit of tart to it, a little bit of kick. Still sweet, but more complex.
She licked her lips and I groaned inwardly. She is hotter than she even knows. “And…almond?”
I smiled. “Yep, that’s it. You’ve got some pretty good tastebuds there.”
“Mmm,” she said simply.
Looking at her now, having gotten the chance to meet her, I knew that almond was the perfect choice. It’s a warm, almost smoky flavor. Combined with the raspberry it created a nice effect – a bit of sweet, a bit of tang, a bit of smoke. Kind of like Kate herself. I could tell now why Mia thought it was perfect for her.
“Thank you for creating this for me.”
“My pleasure.” We shared another silly grin before we both just laughed. There was definitely a connection there and we both knew the other felt it.
Mia grabbed Kate’s free hand and tugged. “Let’s go.”
“Go where?” Kate asked in confusion. But Mia didn’t bother to answer, she just dragged her away from the bar.
I instantly felt a little tug in my stomach, a small sense of yearning for her not to leave. She yanked her hand away from Mia and gave me an apologetic smile. “Thank you for the drinks. It was really nice meeting you.”
“You’re very welcome. Nice to meet you, too.” Understatement of the century.
“Yeah, see ya,” Mia murmured as she gave Kate a forceful nudge back towards the stairs.
On the way, Robert reached out for Kate’s hand. She stopped walking and turned in his direction but kept her gaze to the floor. I couldn’t see the expression on her face because it was hidden behind a curtain of her hair. I had no idea what he was telling her but when I looked at him my mouth dropped open in shock. I’d never seen him look so…nice. He was always scowling or frowning or sneering or wearing that ridiculous smirk of his. But he almost looked like a different person when he was looking at Kate.
She finally looked up at him, but said nothing. He reached one hand out to touch his palm to her cheek. She turned into it for a moment before walking away, leaving him with his hand in the air. He let it drop and watched her walk away. It was hard to believe but he actually looked sad.
He turned and noticed I had been watching them and instantly his scowl returned. I hesitated for half a second before turning around and pretending to be very interested in making a Long Island Iced Tea.
Robert was at my side in no time. I have no idea how he managed to get all the way across the bar that quickly – it was a long bar, it spanned almost the entire length of the club – but he was practically on top of me. “Stay away from her,” he seethed.
I’m embarrassed to admit I was actually a little scared. He’s only got maybe an inch on me, but he was downright menacing. “I..I’m sorry. I didn’t know you and her were…you know…together.”
He scoffed. “We’re not together. She’s like my sister for God’s sake.” He made a face that was half disgust at me for suggesting such a thing and half disappointment in having to tell me I was wrong. I couldn’t help the huge sigh of relief that escaped at his words. “But no matter. Leave her alone.”
I mustered all the bravado I had (which wasn’t much) and said, “Hey, she came up to me.” I sounded like a petulant child, so I crossed my arms over my chest in some pathetic attempt at defiance.
He grunted. “Yes. I know.” He let out a breath and looked up at the VIP area.
Kate was leaning against the railing, twisting her empty martini glass in her hands. She seemed to sense us both watching her and she looked over. She met Robert’s eyes for a moment before meeting mine. The tingles I felt earlier started again and almost made me shiver. She smiled and almost reflexively I smiled back. A big, goofy grin that I felt ridiculous for with Robert standing next to me. She gave me a small wave and I found myself wiggling my fingers back at her.
Robert turned to me with one eyebrow cocked and I instantly dropped my hand and returned to the Long Island I was supposed to be making. With a heavy sigh he said, “She seems to have chosen you for…some reason. It escapes me what it could possibly be.” He looked me up and down appraisingly and then shook his head. “You don’t deserve her.”
“Yeah, I know.”
He seemed surprised by my answer. “Well. Good. Remember that.” And then he walked away.
He kept his eyes on me all night and I tried to ignore it, focusing instead on Kate and her party in the VIP section. She seemed to have a glow around her and no matter what, my eyes found their way directly back to her. Every time her eyes met mine I felt that tingle. I’d never been attracted to any girl like this before. It was more than an attraction, I was completely drawn to her.
And by some strange miracle, she seemed just as drawn to me.
They brought out a cake for her and the DJ – DJ Venom, one of the hottest DJs in the world who played exclusively for Lust – stopped the music and brought the entire club into a round of “Happy Birthday” just for her. She blew out the candles and then disappeared into a crowd of people.
I didn’t see her for about an hour though it felt like days. I kept sneaking peeks up to the VIP area but it was so crowded with people I couldn’t catch a glimpse of her. But I knew she was up there. I could feel it. And when she made her way down the stairs and walked towards me with her hands behind her back, I felt that, too.
“I, um, I saved you some cake,” she said shyly before producing a plate heaping with cake. My eyes must have widened because she quickly added, “I didn’t know which piece you’d want. You know, side, corner, center…so I saved you one of each.” She blushed and looked away.
“That’s really sweet,” I said, smiling at the pile of cake.
“Yeah, well…” She trailed off as though not sure how to accept my compliment and pushed the plate a little closer to me. I grabbed the fork she’d stuck into the largest piece. “It’s chocolate. I hope you like chocolate.”
“Yeah, I do.” I took a bite desperately praying that little bits of cake wouldn’t be left on my teeth. “It’s divine.” Divine??? Divine!!! Who the hell even says that!
“Isn’t it?” She smiled and reached forward to dab at some frosting with her finger before licking it off. As if it wasn’t great enough that she didn’t notice my use of a completely asinine word, then she goes and does that. I’m half aroused by and half in love with this girl. Okay, more like 75% aroused and 25% in love.
I leaned forward onto the bar, resting my elbows on the counter. Partially so it’d be easier for us to hear each other over the music but mostly because it put me a good ten inches closer to her. “Thanks for the cake,” I said lamely. There wasn’t much else I could think of to say, but I needed an excuse to get closer to her. “Happy birthday, Kate.” It felt good to say her name. Almost intimate. Personal.
“Thanks Lucas.” Damn I love it when she says my name. That accent of hers is lethal. “And you’re welcome.” She paused. “For the cake.”
I smiled. And racked my brain for some segue into an actual conversation and came up with nothing. Man, I am really bad at this. For some reason it was much easier to talk to her when Mia was there. It took some of the pressure off.
“So you’re off at 2:30?” she asked.
“Well, we stop serving at two and then I just have to clean up my station and balance my till and then I can go whenever I’m done which is usually about 2:20 or so, depending on how busy the night was. Tonight was pretty busy so it might be closer to 2:25 though. So yeah, at about 2:30.” I wanted to shoot myself. The correct answer to that question was “yes.” Just YES. First, I can’t think of anything to say and then I can’t shut up. Being around Kate turns me into a lingual retard.
But she looked over at me, a hint of amusement in her eyes, a small smile on her lips. Almost like she thought my babbling was cute. I chuckled and ran a hand through my hair, resting my palm on the back of my head. But then her smile started to fade and I started to freak out. Did I miss something? Why do I feel like I’ve disappointed her or missed my cue to…oh crap.
She doesn’t care what time I’m off, she was giving me a perfect opportunity to ask her out after work! I was so busy staring at her and drooling over her, I completely ruined it.
I straightened and cleared my throat, desperate to fix my mistake. “Did you want to…I mean, you’re probably gonna be tired by then, but if you’re not, I mean would you want to, if you’re not busy…”
She touched my arm and I nearly had a heart attack. Her skin was warm even through the fabric of my shirt, the sheer electric shock of the contact quieting me instantly. “Lucas, are you trying to ask me out?” Her tone was un-readable – was she hoping I was, or that I wasn’t?
I gulped and nodded. “Very badly. But yes, that’s what I’m trying to do.” I searched her face for some sign that this was something she wanted, too, but she seemed as terrified as I was. Oh well. No guts, no glory. I took a deep breath and forced my eyes to lock with hers. It calmed and frazzled me at the same time. “I’m off at 2:30 and I would love to hang with you for a while if you’re up to it.”
“I would. I mean, I am. Up for it.” She answered quickly, reflexively, the way I seemed to always react to her and she blinked, as though as surprised by her answer as I was. But then she let out a breath and smiled, nodding as much to herself as to me.
“Great,” I said, probably a bit too enthusiastically. “So I’ll meet you out front at 2:30 then.”
She nodded. “Yes. I’ll see you later, Lucas.” She held my gaze for a moment longer before turning to walk away, keeping her back to me, though I kept my eyes on her until she was tucked away in the VIP area. My eyes drank her in, savoring every drop of her, memorizing every inch, every angle. It took actual physical effort to tear my eyes from her, but the moment I did, I realized that someone had been inspecting me as intently as I’d been inspecting Kate.
Robert’s eyes were on me and I met his steely gaze for one long moment. I saw the muscles in his jaw working, but he said nothing. He waited a few seconds, probably to see if I’d lose my nerve and back down, but when he was sure that I wasn’t going to, he let out a heavy breath and looked away. I knew that was as much of an “okay” as he would ever give me.
Though the time dragged endlessly, 2:30 finally arrived and I all but skipped to the front of the club to meet her. There were some women out front selling roses and I actually went and bought one. Seven bucks for a rose is downright extortion, but at that moment I didn’t really care. I didn’t want to meet Kate empty handed.
The flower was yellow and I vaguely remember something about yellow flowers meaning friendship. Or maybe it was apology? I have no idea. Yellow wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was either that or a wilted orange one, so I grabbed the yellow and hoped like hell she had no idea what it stood for either.
I tucked my wallet into my back pocket, found a spot free of thorns to press my fingers around the rose and waited for Kate.