Sunday, December 1, 2013

Bitter Fruits (Giveaway Included!!!)

Description Provided by Goodreads: For fans of dark urban fantasy comes a novel that questions why forbidden fruit is always the most tempting...A vampire-themed masquerade party isn’t really her scene, but Nora is sick of frat parties and bars. When she meets Alec, the appeal suddenly becomes clear. It’s obvious that they’ve been struck by the same intense mutual attraction, but Alec keeps his distance. Intrigued despite herself, Nora pushes a little deeper — and discovers Alec’s unimaginable secret...Nora is not afraid of following Alec into the darkness, but the choice is soon taken from her. Someone is hunting her — someone tied to the secret and desperate to see it play out. But when Nora finally meets her aggressor, she finds herself hopelessly drawn to him. She needs to make a choice between the two men, but can she save them both, knowing one is destined to die?

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Chapters 1-3:
Oxford, England 
Because the cemetery is empty, the fact that an attractive man just dug himself out of his own grave goes unnoticed. Allen silently thanks the gravediggers for their hasty and shoddy work and praises the mild weather; the last time involved a lot of chipping away at ice and it was incredibly annoying. He preferred the days when his body was either stuck in a tomb or just tossed somewhere to rot. It really made the cleanup easier. He brushes dirt from his suit — a poorly tailored and extremely cheap suit. There are bigger reasons to hate my brother, but a bad suit is just carelessness, he thinks. The city is sleeping, although a few windows glow with light; from some, television sets spew their mind-numbing illumination out into the streets. A pair of late night stragglers makes their way past him, but they clearly stayed in the pubs too long. Allen, with his discount suit and muddy hair, warrants no notice. He walks, unhurried, enjoying the fresh air. Ten months is a long time to spend stuck in one’s grave; he truly hates these longer deaths. There was that one time in France after the Revolution — what was it? Eleven years? Unbearable. By the time he reaches the campus, he has regained his bearings. The path forks and he considers. His brother can wait; after all, a couple more hours in prison for murder are certainly fair. Allen shakes his head. If he were capable of remorse, I would just leave him there. Unfortunately, the rules dictate that he must release him. If Allen remembers correctly from the last time, however, the prisons are getting more elaborate, making it harder to go undetected. This all used to be so much simpler, before modern policing and laws. No, he tells himself, his brother can wait. First, he must find her. He runs over the explanation in his head; he should have told her before his brother came for him. It would have been compassionate to prepare her for him arriving at her doorstep in the middle of the night after being brutally murdered less than a year before. He was angry, though, right before he was killed; he can’t remember why exactly — something about her and her foolishness. The longer the wait for revival, the slower his memories come back. Right now, he can think only of her promises. She loved him; that surely will be enough. When he reaches the building where she used to live, the ‘To Let’ sign in the lower left window — her flat — brings the enormity of ten months crashing down over him. Was she heartbroken? Did she leave because of him? If only he had told her… Allen stands, helpless, on the steps to the building when a short, stocky woman comes around the wall and stares at him. She’s had much to drink, but she recognizes him immediately. The neighbor, he recalls. She had a lot of cats. Ms Haverford. ‘But you’re — ‘ She stops midsentence, because he can’t be dead. He’s standing in front of her. But the trial, the blood, the newspaper stories…all of these things rush through her head before she opens her mouth to scream. He acts fast, cutting off the sound before it begins and placing his hand on her forehead. Great. So much for a forwarding address. A faint light spills from his hand and encircles the woman. She goes limp in his arms and he lays her down at his feet on the steps to the building. When she wakes, she will remember nothing of him, of this moment. She was probably already on track for a massive hangover anyway and won’t notice much out of the ordinary. Allen looks at the unconscious woman and struggles to justify what he does next. Morality soon gives way to necessity, though, and he digs through her purse for her keys. There must be something left behind, some remnant of her and our life together. Reaching the flat where he used to spend most of his evenings, he looks around. The university is not in session and it looks like there are not many tenants now given the emptiness of the hallways. During the academic year, he could not walk through the halls without tripping over someone’s bike or a random half-dead plant that a college student bought as a sad substitute for the pets they were forbidden to keep. He takes a deep breath and then knocks down the door. He has the powers of obfuscation and silence, but in the morning, someone is still going to notice a door lying in the hallway. Oh well. I’ll be long gone by then. The flat is empty save for a dirty glass on the counter and one box pushed against the wall by the window. He crosses the room, crouches, and opens the box; all of his things that couldn’t be donated, the material and personal possessions that linked him to this life and this world, are stuck in the cardboard square. I’ve been reduced to one small box. That says much about mortal lives. He rummages and, at the bottom, finds what he’s looking for. She bought the journal for him one afternoon when they took a trip into London and shopped the markets. If she left a clue, any sign… His last entry, a few nights before his death, chronicles his love for her and his dread of what was to come. It also reminds him of why he was so angry and the rage begins to boil under the surface as if the last ten months never happened. Just as he had hoped, under that entry, she wrote her own. As he reads it, though, hope turns quickly to despair. If I had known, if I had realized what my actions meant, I never — I’m so sorry, Allen. I loved you. When I met him at the pub, he seemed charming, sweet —considerate. I didn’t know he was your brother and I definitely didn’t know what was to come. It was one night. One foolish and stupid night, and now… Is it my fault? Did I do this to you? You said we could overcome it, but you left me alone. I can’t live with the guilt. Tomorrow, I go to see him in the prison and tell him my secret. And then? The river looks stunning in the moonlight and I will let it carry me to you. He closes the journal and leaves the flat, varied emotions swirling inside of him, all buried under the now overwhelming rage. Nothing in the box matters anymore and he doesn’t care who finds it or what happens to it. Placing the keys back into Ms. Haverford’s purse, he returns to the high street and continues on foot to the prison. Out of obligation, he will free his brother. However, things will change this time. The cycle is going to end once and for all.

Chapter 1 
Present Day A small university in New England It is a perfect night to dance with demons. The campus is empty and the fading street lamps illuminate nothing but blowing leaves. The air’s chilly when I go to the window and it only takes one small gust of wind to convince me to close it. It’s already taken me hours to dress for this party; stupid wind isn’t going to mess up my hair now. The window closed, I apply lipstick and take one last look in the mirror. The red velvet gown shows off my curves and the word voluptuous comes to mind. It’s not one I would generally associate with myself, but it gives me confidence. Cleavage rises from the top of the dress, my white breasts teased by black lace. This new version of me wouldn’t need to hide behind the phony sarcasm my friends know and tolerate. ‘I am in love with this corset,’ I tell my roommate. ‘Yeah. Who knew you had tits?’ Scarlet teases. My dark hair cascades around my face in loose curls and my eyes are lined with thick black; the dark makeup makes me look like the kind of girl with a lot of secrets. Definitely the right look for tonight. ‘You did well,’ I compliment her. ‘I told you that you had it in you. You just needed a push.’ She joins me in front of the mirror. Everyone knows how gorgeous Scarlet is but, for once, I don’t fade when she stands next to me. It’s tough being her roommate, although she is a decent person under all that beauty. It’s a shame; I wanted to hate her when we met. I still think it’s unfair she got looks and personality, but there isn’t much I can do about it. Well, other than stew in envy, of course. Her auburn hair is piled up on her head and her ruby red lips are pouty, but there’s a smile waiting to be teased from them. Her silky gown is a deep shade of blue. I helped lace her corset earlier and it wasn’t easy to contain the curves. Scarlet reaches around my face with both hands, placing a stunning jeweled mask over my eyes. It’s one of those classic masks that looks like something from the Renaissance. ‘Damn. I am simply smoldering,’ I say. ‘Shut up, bitch,’ Scarlet laughs and puts on her own mask, blue and silver, in the same fashion as mine. When we’re both done, she licks her lips, revealing sharp fangs. I consider letting her bite me and then smile to myself. I’m getting carried away by the illusion. Time to rationalize. We’re not courtesans in a 19th century brothel; we’re merely dressed that way. ‘Those are sexy,’ I tell Scarlet, referring to her fangs. She’d been hunting everywhere for a decent pair, even though I hadn’t realized there were levels of fang quality. I got mine at Wal-Mart for two dollars before I learned this important factoid. ‘I know. They weren’t cheap either. But one does not mess around for something this big. Oh, and just wait until you see the guys,’ she gushes. I take one last look at myself in the mirror. Maybe tonight will be fun after all. When Scarlet invited me to the ball, I thought she was kidding. Turns out there’s quite the vampire fantasy group on campus. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, since there’s a group for everything on campus. If twenty young adults can get together every Thursday to discuss classic versus new Dr Who, why wouldn’t another twenty decide to throw a vampire masquerade? Plus, it’s almost Halloween. It seems like a silly way to spend an evening, I suppose, but frat parties are growing redundant and the city’s bars are all the same. Besides, there’s something inherent in every girl that makes putting on a gown and dressing up swoon worthy. I’m no different. My jeans and t-shirts are forgotten as I reach up a hand to brush the ribbons holding my mask over my eyes. Slipping my fangs into place, I follow Scarlet out into the night. * * * The party is being held off campus in an old church. A local diocese still owns the building, although no one uses it. It is minimally maintained — creepy and abandoned enough to serve our purposes here tonight without being a death trap of rotten wood and sinkholes. A chill brushes against me and I pull the black velvet cloak I borrowed from Scarlet tight against my body. It’s a strange sight, the massive stone edifice looming over us. Something seems sacrilegious about it all, not that I’m a practicing anything. Sounds of laughter reach the overgrown grounds through stained glass windows and Scarlet runs to the stone steps. I move forward, tentatively, suddenly afraid that this was a bad idea. Some animal howls in the nearby woods and I trip up the steps, choosing the false danger of a party over the very real danger of being mauled by something. It isn’t a graceful entrance, but fortunately, no one seems to notice. Inside the church, candles are burning and the heady smell of incense mingles with their scent. I recognize the incense from all those Catholic services I was forced to attend as a kid, when my parents went through a phase of trying to “give me structure” by forcing me to go to church, but I can’t place the other smell from the candles. Sandalwood and citrus, perhaps. I scan the room. It’s as if I have been transported into a wonderland out of a novel. Everyone is dressed in beautiful gowns and luxurious evening wear and men spin women through the room in a waltz. I keep an eye out for Mr Darcy, but alas, he seems to be absent tonight. There are a few pews still in place and couples explore one another on the velvet seats. Organ music drowns out words and other sounds, but there is an energy to the party, a feeling of hedonism. Someone put a lot of work into making this realistic and I can’t help but admire the effort. In the far corner is a buffet table, draped in gold and purple silks and covered in silver plates of food: fruits and meat mostly. There’s also a line of goblets full of a thick red wine. The logical part of my brain tries to jump in, wondering how any church allowed us to have this party here. Fantasy outweighs reason, though, and I move into the party, already on sensory overload. Scarlet has disappeared and I am lost in a new world. ‘You are stunning,’ a deep voice says over my shoulder. I don’t know how he managed to get behind me without my hearing him. When I spin around, his face is inches from mine, emerald eyes peering through a mask more wolf than human. I draw in a breath. Even with the mask, I am attracted to him. My body reacts to his closeness in a way I’ve never experienced; usually, the guys who approach me do not look like this and I definitely don’t respond the same way. There’s something else as well, something beyond the physical. I immediately feel as if I am meant to know him. ‘Do you always sneak up on unsuspecting girls?’ I ask. He grins, revealing perfect fangs, even better than Scarlet’s. Light stubble trims his face and his hair frames the dark mask. I can’t help but let my eyes travel over his loose white shirt, revealing a bit of his pale yet toned chest. My eyes continue down to his tight black pants. He watches me check him out and laughs softly. ‘Do you like what you see?’ I blush, surprised I was bold enough to stare clearly at his crotch. His pants leave little to the imagination and my eyes peek again at the outline of him. Impressive, I think. ‘You know I would be happy to oblige you,’ he purrs and pulls me against him. ‘There are plenty of quiet nooks in an old church like this.’ His hands move along my back, slowly unlacing the ribbons that line the back of my gown. I gasp and pull away, half out of surprise, half out of fear. I’m not sure if it’s fear of him or of what I am thinking of doing. Either way, I back up. I don’t know what to say to him. His eyes are teasing, but he simply runs his tongue along his fangs and leads me by the hand to the food and wine. He hands me a dark silver goblet and I drink, afraid to speak or motion in any way that he will take as further invitation. The sweet, thick liquid spills down my throat. I can’t place the taste, but it’s familiar and intoxicating. I drain the goblet, the last drop still fresh on my lips when he speaks again. ‘Stag’s blood,’ he says. I drop the goblet and almost vomit. Gross. He laughs. ‘It’s the name of the drink. Not from real stags, of course. Red wine, cherry juice, and Chambord.’ As he picks up the goblet, I feel foolish. As if they would serve blood! This entire experience is so surreal that I almost forgot it was a fantasy party. For a moment, especially when staring at this handsome stranger, I believed I was a princess in a land inundated with vampires and monsters. The man returns the goblet to the table and pushes a loose strand of my hair behind my ear. I shudder involuntarily as his fingers graze my face. He is more beautiful than any man I have ever met — and he is talking to me. I don’t know how that happened, but I am not complaining. ‘It is known to have aphrodisiac properties. Hence the stag allusion,’ he says. ‘Are you trying to get me drunk?’ I try to lighten up, to feel more human, more real, more present. I’m overwhelmed; my dress is tight and I feel dazed from the alcohol, incense, music, and the closeness of this man. ‘I’m trying to get you a lot of things. Is it working?’ ‘I don’t even know your name,’ I protest. ‘Yet you expect me to sneak off to a hidden nook and allow you to remove my gown.’ Playing along is fun; I like the idea of pretending, of forgetting my own life and leaving myself behind. I also like the idea of spending the evening like this, despite not knowing a thing about him. ‘Well, yes. When I see a woman like you, pure and yet emanating sex, I am naturally drawn to doing nasty things with her, in hidden nooks or in public.’ I laugh. ‘Pure?’ He smiles. ‘In some senses, yes.’ ‘Do you have a name?’ ‘Alec, my dear. Pleased to make your acquaintance.’ He bows, completely solidifying the moment and the evening. It’s ridiculous, yet in the here and now, it is exactly what I need to lose myself. ‘I’m Nora. Yours as well.’ I make a small curtsy and allow Alec to lead me to the dance floor. He holds me close to him and I feel him harden, even through the fabric of my gown. Definitely impressed, I think to myself and imagine all of the ways this night could end. The swells of the waltz take over the moment and we move perfectly together. ‘You’re a skilled dancer,’ I compliment him. ‘I have a great deal of experience.’ I try not to let jealousy ruin this. There may have been other girls, but he stopped to talk to me. That alone makes this entire night worthwhile. When we get to the end of the dance, he dips me low and I want to let him take me there on the dance floor. He creates a craving in me that is unfamiliar and yet welcome. His hands are strong and he holds me as I fall backward. I want those hands all over my body. Instead, his lips brush against my neck before he pulls me back upright. I take his hand. ‘Maybe there is a nook after all,’ I tease. What is wrong with you? But the voice is silenced as we walk. We cross the room and move toward where the altar would have been when another man stops us. His mask is more subtle, a simple silver covering of his eyes. The silver accents the deep blue that peers through and I want to reach up and run my fingers through his dark hair. That stag’s blood must have had more in it than wine, juice, and a little liquor. I can’t believe the things I am thinking tonight. This stranger is taller than Alec, but dressed in a similar fashion. His shirt is black and his pants are a deep red. Of course, my eyes move right to his crotch; he could challenge Alec in that area. Where have these guys been hiding on campus? ‘Brother, I see that you have found yourself some…entertainment. It did not take long,’ he growls at Alec. ‘I am merely attempting to enjoy myself. Why is that such a problem? Are you angry you couldn’t ruin tonight as well?’ They stare at one another, tension mounting, and I try to excuse myself. This fight doesn’t concern me and it makes me uncomfortable. I am also sexually drawn to each of them and I worry that I’ll get myself involved in something too heavy for a boring English major. I haven’t had a history of complicated relationships and this? This just screams complicated. I make an effort to leave, but Alec clutches my arm. ‘Don’t go,’ he says through gritted teeth. The man in the silver mask smiles at me; it is the smile of an animal eying its prey. ‘I’m Caleb,’ he says. ‘My brother seems to feel manners are overrated.’ ‘This is Nora,’ Alec says. ‘And we are going.’ ‘We’re not here for entertainment; we need to — ’ ‘She isn’t here. You may as well try to have a little fun. Tomorrow will come regardless of tonight.’ ‘Go on then,’ Caleb interrupts. ‘Have your fun.’ He stalks off. Alec loosens his grip on me and his face brightens, his fangs glinting in the candlelight. ‘All apologies, madam. Now, you were leading me somewhere?’ It turns out, unfortunately, that every nook is full of people who seem to have had the same idea. Alec and I glance around, hoping for an alternative. The sensuality of the party, the smell of sex, and the sounds of pleasure are nothing like the awkward, groping frat parties where I usually spend my evenings. Thank you, Scarlet, I think. Since there is nowhere in here to go, the only choice seems to be the grounds. The night is chilly, but I have my cloak and I expect Alec will keep me warm. ‘Want to take this outside?’ I suggest. He grins, mischievous and sexy, and I feel my nerves sparkle as he takes my hand and leads me out the door to a field next to the church. The ground is rocky and cold, but he lays down my cloak and moves me to the ground with such grace that I feel my body giving in to him without a thought. He straddles me and runs his hands along my arms. The hairs on my arms prickle; I know instantly that I will give myself to him. I reach for his pants and brush my fingers along the outline of his cock as it strains against the fabric. He’s hard and I want him desperately. I’ve never been this forward; my sexual experiences have been more of the sort that involved a lot of fumbling and asking, ‘Was that it?’ There is something about Alec, though. I let the magic of the evening wash over me and forget about tomorrow. His bends closer and his mouth bears down on mine. His tongue spreads my lips, teasing my bottom one ever so slightly. I take out my fangs, although he doesn’t do the same. Clutching at his back and running my hands down into the edge of his pants, I feel the soft flesh below the fabric. I realize there is nothing between his pants and the fullness of him; the arrogance and sexiness of such a decision is thrilling. Alec lets out a low growl as his lips move to my neck. His tongue circles along my collarbone and he bites me lightly as he makes his way upward. My neck is slightly raw from the tease of his fangs. They are pretty damn realistic. ‘Mmmm,’ I moan as he reaches down and slips his hand between us and under my dress. He caresses my thigh and I move to push myself closer to him, hoping to feel his fingers brush me where I am now dripping wet. I need him, all of him, right here on the ground next to the church. ‘Nora, you are beautiful,’ he whispers. No one has ever called me beautiful before and the agony in the way he says it is even sexier. He makes it sound like looking at me is painful, yet it is the most tantalizing agony possible. I understand, because when I turn to meet his eyes, sharp heat sears through me. His eyes do to me what I want his hands and his body to do. I melt beneath him as his lips come back down. Something between us explodes in the kiss and he gasps, pulling away. ‘I want you,’ he says. ‘I want all of you.’ ‘So take me,’ I tell him. ‘I can’t. You are too good, too beautiful, too pure. I cannot — ’ His voice catches in his throat and his hand moves out of my dress. His face is torn between desire and fear; I don’t know which emotion to address, but I’m not ready for the night to be over yet. ‘What? Why?’ ‘Oh, Nora, you deserve more than a fuck in the dirt. You deserve someone to love you. If only — ’ It is romantic of him to say so, but I really wouldn’t mind the fuck in the dirt. My body is on fire and wants to be close to his and I don’t care if he promises nothing past tonight. ‘Take me,’ I whisper. ‘I’ll be yours here and later if you want, but take me now, I beg of you.’ There is a weighty pause; his eyes are luminous and his hands reach out for me, but he stops short of touching. Instead, he rises and brushes himself off. I look up and see that his body is fighting his retreat, but he overpowers his lust. He reaches down, helping me to my feet. ‘It’s too dangerous. This step — well, you did not ask for all that comes with it. I don’t have the right to demand forever from you. This is too much of a commitment when we just met.’ Great, I think. He’s a religious freak. I don’t care about his policy on premarital sex or whatever the issue is, but the wine is wearing off and now I’m just frustrated. The reality of the night breaks any lingering hope when a girl runs from the party screaming. ‘He’s a monster,’ she cries. Blood spills down her neck and onto her pale pink dress. She barely gets beyond the steps before collapsing face first into the dirt. A crowd forms at the entrance to the church and I see Scarlet, wrapped in the embrace of a masked man I don’t recognize. I turn around to ask Alec what’s happening, but he is gone. The only evidence he existed at all is my cloak in the dirt and the stinging bite on my neck. The girl’s name is Chloe; I think she’s a freshman. Her friends rush to her aid, carrying her from the party while she continues to scream about monsters. I don’t know if she’s okay, or why she was bleeding, or if anyone else knows. No one seems to worry, besides her few friends, though, and everyone moves back inside. The party continues but the evening has been tarnished for me. I find Scarlet standing against the wall by the door, holding the mysterious man’s hand. Torn between my own selfish questions and those about Chloe, I say nothing as I approach. I want to ask about Alec, to find out what she knows of him, but it seems wrong. ‘Nora,’ she says as she hugs me. Scarlet is relieved to see me, although she doesn’t seem as scared as I feel. ‘I’m so glad you are okay. Did you see what happened?’ ‘What was that? Why was she bleeding?’ ‘Some people take role playing a little too seriously. No one saw the guy but he bit her. Can you believe that?’ I should be worried about Chloe; I should want to find out what happened, but there are going to be crazy people everywhere and I can’t stop what happens at every party. Some girls just get involved in all kinds of nonsense. My mind instead goes back to Alec. I look for him, but he’s not here anymore. I don’t know how he managed to disappear as fast as he did. I didn’t get his number or anything. How am I supposed to see him again? I feel like a terrible person for not focusing on Chloe, but my nerves are aching from the incompleteness of our moment. I yearn again for his touch and it shames me. My body is so desperate and another girl could be hurt. This isn’t like me but I can’t deny that a part of me likes it, the recklessness of it all. Still, I breathe deep and try to come back to the present. Priorities. ‘She’ll be fine, once the evening and the eventual humiliation wear off,’ the man in the mask says. I recognize the voice although I don’t know from where. It’s familiar, but the night has drawn a line between my real life and this world. Trying to piece the two together is impossible. ‘Oh, Nora, this is Henry,’ Scarlet says. His mask covers most of his features, but something about his posture is familiar as well. I know I must know who he is. I assume he’s probably in one of my classes, because I can’t escape the impression that I see him every day. ‘Nice to meet you,’ I say, not trying to place him right now. There are too many other things on my mind. He removes his mask. ‘We already know each other.’ I see his crinkled eyes first; I know where I’ve seen that amused yet wary look. It’s only halfway through the semester but I have gotten to know him well. Henry is not Henry but Dr Kenyon, my mythology professor. My favorite professor — the one I go to with all of my college girl problems. Academic problems, which makes this about as awkward as it can get. ‘Um.’ There isn’t much else I can say. Scarlet’s been known to do things that others would consider odd or even dangerous, but a professor? That’s daring, even for her. ‘Strange circumstances to discover similar peccadilloes, no?’ ‘How do you know each other?’ Scarlet asks, running her hand along his chest in a way that tells me that I may be sleeping in the lounge again. The haziness and the wonder of the night disappear for good; we’re back to the problems of my typical life. And now those problems include my roommate trying to sleep with my professor. ‘Mythology,’ I say. ‘That’s cool. Nora loves that class. She’s always going on about her professor. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she had a thing for him,’ Scarlet says. Admittedly, Dr Kenyon is still young for a professor — and way too sexy to be so wrong for us. I can’t really blame her, especially since she obviously didn’t know that he taught here. I mean, if I met him in similar circumstances…however, I most certainly don’t have a thing for him and now I’m grateful for my mask, which covers most of the blush that is burning my face. ‘Oh, does she?’ he asks. ‘She does not,’ I reply. ‘Oh, she really, really does not.’ ‘C’mon, Nora. You’re always like, Dr Kendal — ’ ‘Kenyon,’ I say — at the same time as Dr Kenyon. ‘Kenyon. Dr Kenyon is so smart; Dr Kenyon said this super funny thing in class. Dr Kenyon — ’ ‘First of all, I don’t talk like that. Secondly, I absolutely do not have a crush on my professor. My professor that you happen to be draping yourself over right this very moment.’ Scarlet looks at me and I shrug. She pouts, her hand not moving from his chest. ‘Will I be in trouble for this?’ ‘I’m not your teacher,’ he argues. And with that, my mythology professor and my roommate begin their relationship. I keep my mouth shut, because I know he has his own apartment and won’t want to be seen in the dorm. This is the first time I have been able to sleep in my own bed after Scarlet scores one of her conquests. It’s a good thing, too, because I am restless tonight. I can’t stop thinking about the evening and my intermittent dreams are of a handsome stranger with emerald eyes. I really wish we’d at least had that one moment in the dirt.

Chapter 2 
It’s a few days later when I walk out of a study session in the library at nearly midnight, because I truly do not understand statistics, that I hear the voice again. Alec is sitting on the wall bordering the library entrance. I recognize him immediately, but without his mask, I’m disappointed to see that he is even more attractive. I don’t like being drawn to beautiful men who appear and disappear with no effort; relationships with this sort of guy tend to end badly. ‘No ball gown?’ His voice is light, joking, but I look down at my ragged jeans and sweatshirt and realize I am out of my league. He isn’t dressed the same, either, but his dark pants and light blue shirt look like they were purchased at one of those stores where clothes don’t have price tags and you get a personal assistant for your shopping. The sort of stores I have never, and likely will never, shop in — I don’t even know people who do. ‘No wolf mask,’ I tease back, hoping the attempt at humor covers my doubt. Dressed in a gown, surrounded by candles and incense, I could keep up; here on campus, in clothes I basically planned to wear to bed, Alec intimidates me. It isn’t only his physical beauty; something about him seems to reach me through the autumn night and make me burn for a world I didn’t even know I was missing. The way he looks at me makes me feel like all of the words from all of the stories I’ve ever read have come to life and become flesh: perfect, sexy, and untouchable flesh. ‘Your hood was black, but I am no less a predator,’ he says, warning and sorrow mixed in his tone. ‘The mask just advised you what you were getting.’ ‘What am I getting? Because you certainly disappeared fast enough.’ ‘It was best not to be privy to the cries of monster,’ he says, reminding me of Chloe. She’s fine now physically although she seems lost. Her roommates said that she’s taken to sleeping all day and then walking the campus alone at night. We are in a reasonably safe area, but the behavior is still weird. Everyone thinks she might be a little insane. I think she’s just sad; she has been quoting Lucy from Dracula, which spells pathetic to me. She took the party too seriously, but being this close to Alec again, I can see how that could happen to a girl. Reality twists into something new when he smiles. ‘Do you know something about her?’ Alec hops down from the wall and approaches. My body reacts to him again and I try to turn it off. I can’t feel this, not when I don’t even know what his intentions are. He made me feel beautiful for one night, but it was one night and bad things happen when a girl assumes one night is the same as a lifetime. ‘Walk with me,’ he says and I let him lead me up to the crest of a hill. The moon is full and Alec lies back on the grass, gesturing for me to lie down beside him. It’s chilly; the autumn air is growing closer to winter every day, but there is enough warmth between the two of us to keep me from complaining. ‘Do you trust me Nora?’ Alec asks. ‘I barely know you.’ ‘Do you want to know me? Because I want to know you. Every inch of you.’ He moves even closer and the same electricity is there between us, linking me to him while my mind tries to reason with my body. His lips brush mine and, with that, my body is his; still, he doesn’t do more than kiss me lightly. Comfort and frustration mingle in the touch of his lips. Knowing nothing about Alec doesn’t matter; there is nothing I can do now that I’ve met him. He feels like a memory that I had long forgotten. ‘Yes, I do. Trust you and want to know you,’ I tell him, pulling him down on top of me and letting his hands begin their exploration. He slips my sweatshirt over my head and kisses along my breasts, my entire body needing more of him but afraid to beg. His lips caress my collarbone and neck and I feel the same sharp twinge against my throat that I felt outside of the church. I push him back and see his fangs, this time glinting in the moonlight. ‘Do you always wear them?’ I ask. ‘It’s a bit more complicated than that,’ he says. ‘Ugh. Are you one of those people so enraptured by fantasy that you had your teeth permanently capped? Lame,’ I tease, ignoring the fact that I’m still turned on despite this absurd character flaw. There is something so animalistic in his touch, so primal in my urges. Within seconds of being near Alec, I lose all sense of the world and just want to be touched. I hate girls who lose themselves in men, but this is not the same. I am aware of every decision I am making, of every part of myself that I am giving to him; what is different for me is that I want to give him even more than he is demanding. ‘We do not always make the right choices in our youth,’ he says. I let him bite me. The fangs don’t break the skin but the possibility is there. When his lips reach mine, I feel my body ignite; his tongue tempts me and I want to take this further. I’m growing wet and excited and his hands on my breasts aren’t nearly enough. I push them down between my legs and he unzips my jeans. My hunger is unstoppable and I don’t wait for him to get my pants off before I reach for his belt. He begins to breathe heavier and I almost have him freed when he suddenly stops. His fingers are right along the edge of my panties and I almost scream in agony, needing him to touch me. ‘No,’ he says. ‘I can’t.’ ‘Please,’ I beg, while he drags out the moment, his fingers inches away from the satisfaction I crave. He tugs his hand away and zips my jeans, before buttoning his own pants and ending the moment way too prematurely. ‘No, this is wrong. We can’t do this. It’s dangerous, Nora.’ ‘We appear to be at an impasse,’ I tell him as I sit up to try to stay close to him. ‘You claim to want me desperately, yet every time we get close, you panic.’ ‘It’s not panic. I am only looking out for you. You don’t understand. Not again. I can’t go through this again.’ His hands make lazy circles on my back; I need him in more ways than he is willing to give me but there is no way I can stop. ‘But oh, how I want to…’ ‘Alec, I need you. Please. You’re not taking advantage —’ ‘I promised you more than this. If I’m going to bring you with me into darkness, at least get to know me first. Tomorrow night. Coffee?’ He stands and I lie back on the grass, shirtless, as he buckles his belt. ‘Is this a game to you? Drive a girl wild so she can’t deny you in the end?’ I ask. ‘I don’t play games, Nora. See you tomorrow.’ He walks away and I almost cry out, but it seems childish and a little pathetic. My body is hungry and I don’t think I can handle not having him. I pull my sweatshirt on, though, and wonder what the hell I’ve gotten myself into. His silhouette has faded in the darkness, but his image is scorched on my memory. * * * During mythology the next day, I have trouble concentrating for two reasons. First of all, after I returned last night from my — well, whatever it was — with Alec, he was all I could think about. Second, when I made it back, distracted by thoughts of him, I found Scarlet sitting up on her bed. She was grinning to herself as she stared at her phone before she went on to share extensive details about her escapades with ‘Henry’. This all culminated in her showing me a sext he sent her. An extremely graphic sext complete with a visual aid. Now, I can’t seem to focus on the story of Icarus while Henry and his dirty secrets run through my mind as he speaks. Damn you, Scarlet. I really liked this class. I look down at my notes toward the end of class and see that all I’ve written is Alec’s name. About 80 times. There are even a few hearts. Awesome. Now I’m becoming a stalker. A 12-year-old stalker. Next thing you know I’ll be passing him notes asking him to circle ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if we’re actually anything. I tear out the page and crumple it, dropping it in my messenger bag, and I turn my attention back to Henry. He’s talking about the next section we’ll be studying. Turns out it will be Biblical mythology. ‘I advise you all to brush up on your knowledge of the Bible,’ he says. There’s a collective groan and he smiles. ‘Note I didn’t say you had to attend church. I simply imagine that, as members of a Western civilization, you are familiar with the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, David and Goliath, and others. However, one of your required texts was a guide to the Bible and its stories, so please do not come in unprepared for the next class. We’re starting with Genesis only, so you have time to refresh.’ He dismisses the class but motions for me to wait. I look around the room, thinking of reasons to avoid staying behind. Scarlet seems happy, I guess, but the whole situation puts me in an incredibly uncomfortable position. I don’t have a lot of deep, dark secrets so I’m not sure I’m the kind of girl who’s good at keeping them. Not to mention that I now can’t stop thinking about my professor in all of his glory — which is, sadly, kind of glorious. I try to maintain my composure and remember that I do love this class, even if I know what his penis looks like. My eyes dart back and forth between him and the door, but it’s my nerdy obsession with learning that wins out in the end. ‘You wanted me to stay?’ I ask, adjusting my bag, which for some reason continues to fall off my shoulder. ‘Nora, I sense that you’re bothered by recent events.’ I give up on the bag and drop it on the floor. ‘I mean, it’s weird. It is really tough to pay attention in class when Scarlet tells me everything.’ He laughs. ‘Well, maybe she and I should talk about keeping some things private. Is that the only problem, though? You seem a little — off. Usually you’re enthusiastic in class but you didn’t seem focused today. Actually, you’ve been different since the party. I would hate to think that I —’ I lean on the desk behind me. ‘No, it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s just…I have so many questions. I don’t even know the people who threw the party. I mean, it seemed fun, but let’s say I wanted to…find out more, about the party, or the people who threw it. How would I do that? It was so strange, but also…I don’t know what to call it. A little perfect? But then, what happened to Chloe? Is she okay? And, fine, I guess I am a little concerned about what’s happening with you and Scarlet, you know, since I don’t want anyone to get in trouble. I mean, it’s all of that and I just…and, also, why is Alec so weird?’ He sits on the desk next to me and shakes his head. I don’t blame him; my incoherent barrage would leave most people speechless. ‘One at a time. As far as I know the vampire clan, as they call themselves, has been active for years. I’ve been going to their parties for a while now; they’re a break from all this. For me, they’re also, I guess, a little research as well. You must see how easily we embrace the myths that we claim we don’t believe. Plus, escapism is a natural part of our psychology; we all have the desire for a world beyond us, a freedom from the inhibitions of our routines. The chance to be a part of the stories we derive so much pleasure from in our mundane and boring lives.’ I nod, because I can’t express what I am thinking in words. The party was all of those things, but now I feel as if the fantasy has infiltrated my normal life and that the ennui of basic existence is stifling. I want to be the girl I was that night, a princess enraptured by a prince. Instead, I am a college girl obsessed with a guy who doesn’t want to have sex with her and whose roommate is banging her professor. So, yes, I suppose I do desire a world beyond myself. Who wouldn’t? The problem is that it’s exactly what Henry said: escapism. A desire for something that isn’t real. ‘It’s tempting to let ourselves fall prey to the idea that the fantasy could be more than just that,’ Henry continues, ‘that we are only waiting to be woken and brought into our true selves. But you must remember, it was just a party. A beautiful and transporting party, but no different from the ones that occur every weekend in the frats. Just more dresses.’ He smiles. I do love dresses. ‘I felt…something,’ I tell him, confiding in him because maybe he can understand. ‘It was like I had been waiting my entire life to go to that party, to enter that world.’ ‘I know but it was just a party. As for Chloe, I fear she also felt a little too transported.’ ‘Is that why she sleeps all day and walks aimlessly at night? And quotes Dracula?’ I ask. He chuckles. ‘She quotes Dracula? Oh dear, that is pretentious.’ I laugh, too, but there is nothing funny about the fact that Chloe appears to be losing her mind. ‘I imagine she’s convinced herself she was bitten by a real vampire. Like I said that night, she’ll be back to normal in no time. She just needs to let the delusion wear off. I hope, obviously, that it doesn’t take too long. Besides, Bram Stoker would never approve.’ ‘Yeah,’ I reply, but I worry that Chloe has passed the point of no return. Part of me fears that I am not too far off myself, but at least I don’t think Alec is supernatural. I just think he is super frustrating. Still, Henry is a doctor of mythology not medicine, and he cannot fix Chloe; she can only help herself. I can’t help but wonder whom she met that night. I know firsthand that some of the guys at the party had some convincing moves. ‘As for me and Scarlet, I like her, Nora. I like her quite a bit in fact. You cannot deny she is phenomenal.’ ‘No, she’s perfect,’ I agree. And here we go. I’ve listened to this speech about how amazing Scarlet is more times than I count. ‘Perfect? I don’t know. I tend to shy away from perfection, but she’s fun and energetic and, if I can reveal something here, she makes me feel desired. Men are not much different from women in that way; we want to be wanted as badly as you do. Scarlet makes me feel as if I am the only man in the room when I am with her — and I feel the same about her. And if you tell her, I’m totally failing you.’ ‘That’s sweet,’ I say, because it is. It’s probably the most honest any guy has ever been about Scarlet. ‘Of course I won’t tell her. She’ll just gloat about it forever. But maybe, you know, she should stop telling me about your evening activities. I do like your class.’ I smile at him and try to forget everything I know. I believe that he cares for Scarlet. That should be enough; no one chooses the person he or she is attracted to and, as long as they’re both happy, I just have to deal with it. ‘Deal,’ he smiles. ‘Now, the last question, which I believe is the most pressing. Alec?’ ‘I met him at the party,’ I confide. ‘But he disappeared when Chloe was attacked or whatever. Then he showed up last night and took off again. We’re supposed to have coffee tonight, but each time I’ve seen him we’ve been drawn to one another physically only for him to walk away and say he can’t ruin me or something.’ ‘And you want to be ruined, as you call it?’ ‘Oh God, yes,’ I sigh. ‘Sorry. Too much information?’ He laughs at me. ‘A bit. Listen, Nora, I think it’s admirable that he’s attempting to wait. I imagine it is nothing less than chivalry. Even if you find it frustrating at the moment. You should appreciate it, because few guys, even at my age, have that kind of self-control and willpower. He must think well of you if he doesn’t want to make it cheap and tawdry, despite your own willingness to let it be so.’ I blush. I wouldn’t say I want cheap and tawdry, although I definitely seem to have less willpower than Alec does. Great. Even my professor thinks I’m a slut. ‘All right. I know. Thanks, Henry.’ ‘Dr Kenyon,’ he reminds me. ‘Listen, Scarlet showed me the picture you —’ ‘Fine, Henry. But only outside of class.’ ‘Deal,’ I laugh.

Chapter 3 
My Bible study is not very intensive since Henry was right. Growing up here and being an avid reader, I’ve heard these stories in multiple forms. My parents are history professors as well and we’ve traveled extensively in Italy. All of this serves me well now because I am not capable of focusing on complex myths at present. Luckily, it’s pretty simple anyway. Adam and Eve had everything, they were tempted, they gave up everything for temptation, were cast out, and humanity grew into existence. Then they had kids leading to a long list of begats and their son Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy. There. Refreshed. That leaves me a few hours to pine over Alec instead of being productive, which I’m far better at doing with gusto. I don’t know what else to do with myself and I’m in the library, so I flip through a book about vampires. There’s nothing new in it, but maybe Alec and I will have something to talk about. Clearly, he takes this stuff seriously if he had his teeth capped. I find it all silly, the concept of creatures of the night, although no more or less so than the other myths we’ve studied. People need to look for an explanation for the things that scare them; vampires were just the natural answer for some cultures. After it grows dark, I go outside and wait. There’s one lone streetlight drenching the wall in warm light. I wait, sitting under the stream of soft yellow on the wall. It’s still cold, but I try not to worry about the chill. I start running through my witty repartee that I will use when Alec finally appears. My brain starts to feed me anxious thoughts about him standing me up and I’m turning my phone over in my hands, believing my brain, until I see him standing across from me, next to the streetlight. ‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Good evening. I brought coffee.’ He holds up a Thermos and I can make out a smile, although it’s hard to see him in the shade of the night. ‘Come over here and join me,’ I offer. ‘How about we head back to that hill? It was peaceful, was it not? And less…distraction.’ I gaze in every direction; there’s no sign of anyone on campus except us. The weather is not ideal for random jaunts, but Alec seems insistent. I jump down off the wall and follow him, wondering what his obsession is with that hill. I dressed up tonight to see him, although it’s no gown. Scarlet loaned me a black dress that may not be as ridiculous on me as it is on her, but it’s still too small and highlights plenty. I know I look sexy, yet Alec says nothing. I won’t lie; I feel a little insulted that he doesn’t compliment me. He looks the same as he did last time — black slacks and a dark gray shirt. It’s only a t-shirt tonight, so maybe this is his idea of being casual. I’m sure it’s still Armani or something, though. When we reach the crest of the hill, I see that he’s laid out a picnic. It’s a wonderfully sweet gesture and I am taken aback by what a gentleman he is. There are moments when I feel like he walked out of a novel set a hundred years ago. Maybe I should start calling him Heathcliff. He shatters the illusion when he takes out Styrofoam coffee cups, but still. Maybe they’re the new Armani Styrofoam line. ‘Nora, you are ravishing,’ he says and pulls me into a kiss. His tongue tickles my lips and there is a small prick as his fangs are dragged across my mouth. He is instantly forgiven for delaying the compliment. I am ready to be with him and hope that the blanket is a hint that he is finally ready as well. ‘I missed you,’ I tell him and slip a hand under his t-shirt. He closes his eyes while I caress him. When I move lower, though, he backs away and shakes his head. ‘Patience, dear,’ he teases. ‘How was your day? Learning a lot?’ Okay, I think. So this is how we’re going to play it. ‘Oh, a ton. Would you like to talk about standard deviation? How about some covariance? Because I can tell you all about those.’ ‘Really? That sounds…dull.’ ‘It is dull — and I actually can’t tell you anything about them, except that I keep writing down the definitions and they’re not sticking. Seriously, when am I ever going to need to find the z-score of anything? Why does anything even have a z-score?’ Alec laughs. It’s comfortable doing this, despite my body’s yearning for more. I’m not a very outgoing person, but I don’t feel the same natural shyness I feel with everyone else when I’m with him. Strangely, he even seems amused at my terrible jokes, which is unheard of in my dating history. I lean back on the blanket, the moon overhead reminding me of mythology class. ‘We talked about Icarus today,’ I say. I have a feeling that Alec is my sun and I, like Icarus, am never going to be able to stop myself from getting too close. I can only hope the fall and punishment aren’t fatal. I turn over on my side and look at him. He’s beautiful. Yup, I am most definitely going to come burning down to earth when this is over. ‘I always enjoyed mythology and literature,’ he says wistfully. ‘I have a personal connection to many of the stories.’ ‘Personal connection?’ I ask. ‘It’s almost like you could say I was there,’ he answers. His voice is light, but his eyes say something else. For a moment, I believe that he was there, that he walked the same streets as Icarus and the others from my vast book collection. ‘Do you take classes here?’ I ask. I realize I’ve never seen him on campus before and I don’t know anything about him other than that he seems to be interested in me. I can’t imagine why else he would be here, though, since it’s not exactly a hotbed of activity. Our little campus isn’t attracting types like Alec for the bagels. ‘No, I’m not in school,’ he says. ‘Oh.’ It’s something of a deal breaker for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been driven by a passion for art and literature, subjects that have no market or purpose in the world, but I always felt that college was a mandate not a choice. My parents’ profession is probably a part of it as well; I don’t think I could bring Alec home if I told my parents he chose not to go to college. A quick glance at him, however, and I realize I don’t care what my parents think. I can’t walk away, no matter what happens. I try to hide my disappointment, not wanting to insult him. He sees it immediately, though. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘I can hold my own in conversation. But, if it makes you feel better, I finished school already.’ ‘I see. Where’d you go?’ ‘I went to school in England, as a matter of fact.’ ‘No accent?’ He pours my coffee into a Styrofoam cup but some of it spills onto his pants. He tries to dry it off but accidentally spills even more. His grin is sheepish and I sense his embarrassment, although he should see me attempt to do pretty much anything. These moments remind me that he is human after all and not some perfect angel sent from the gods to tempt me. ‘It was a long time ago,’ he replies and hands me my coffee. I sip it black and watch him. He grows agitated under my inspection; his body is tense, and his eyes flick back and forth. I thought we were supposed to be relaxing. No one gets stressed out at a picnic. Why is he so nervous around me? ‘How old are you?’ I ask and his eyes grow dark at the question. ‘Old enough. Anyway, I brought croissants. Chocolate or raspberry?’ His smile returns, but I catch the darkness that slips over him before it does. What is Alec’s secret? Not wanting to pry and pleasantly distracted by pastry, I take the raspberry croissant. I notice he doesn’t eat or drink while I do. He’s fortunate I’m not one of those girls who refuses to eat on a date; in fact, I’m the opposite. I finish the croissant and take a chocolate one as well. Hell — he bought them to be eaten, right? I’m enjoying the treat, but I feel something itching at my skull, some fact or notion worming its way into my brain, trying to get my attention. I wish I could place what it was. ‘Alec, tell me something about yourself,’ I say. ‘What do you want to know?’ Again with the evasion. He could tell me his favorite color is mauve. At least it would be an answer. ‘You know, you never answer questions directly. Fine. Where do you live?’ I think he’s going to whisper his address in my ear like a dirty secret, but instead he begins to nibble on the lobe and his hands maneuver up under my dress. I want answers, but I want his touch more. I’m ashamed of how fast my body shuts off my mind, but I can’t deny that this is where I‘d hoped the night would go. I fall back onto the blanket, the croissant forgotten by my side as he moves on top of me and his lips slide along my neck. His fingers tickle my thigh and I yearn for him to finish where he left off last night. I twist, hoping to brush against his fingers. He manages to stay away, though, so I wrap my legs around him, wanting more. The hem of my dress is around my waist and there is only a thin pair of lace panties between his fingers and what I want most. I feel him tense, but I refuse to let go. His shirt comes off and I kiss his chest, feeling him fighting against his own desire. My nails dig into his ass as he strains over me and I lift myself to meet him. His lips bear down on my neck and the bite this time is intense, hot pain searing through me, but the pleasure it brings is too sweet to fight. I plead for him to enter me. I can feel how hard he is against my leg and his fingers are bruising my thigh. I know he wants to slip them inside me as badly as I want them to slide into my warmth. He pulls my dress off. His kisses and bites move along my chest, across the swells of my breasts, and down my stomach. I manage to get my bra off while he is at work; as my breasts are released, he takes one in his mouth, the sharpness of his fangs teasing my nipple and making me desperate. His fingers caress me along the seam of my panties and I arch closer to him, giving him invitation to finish his teasing. ‘I want to feel you inside of me. I want to know you in every way,’ I tell him. ‘You don’t know what you’re asking for,’ he says. ‘But it is getting harder and harder to resist.’ ‘It certainly does seem to be getting harder and harder,’ I tease, and I finally release him from his pants. I run my hand along his shaft and, although I can’t see it because he’s still biting and kissing me, I can feel it pulsing in my grasp. The tip is slightly wet. I begin to stroke him and he moans, his fingers slipping as he gives in to my touch, brushing against my wetness and almost giving me what I want. I can’t take much more of this. ‘Let me taste you,’ I plead. I wiggle out from under him, despite my own craving to have him enter me, feeling confident that I can break his will. I am free and I lean down to take him into my mouth, but he pushes away and I’m left alone on the blanket, naked except for my panties, and soaking wet. He looks at me, mortified when he sees that we’ve taken it to this point. I can see what he’s been hiding as his cock pokes out from his pants and I don’t want it hidden any longer. I reach for him, but he quickly fixes himself and shakes his head. ‘No,’ he says. ‘Why do you keep forcing me to take this where it cannot go? This is not what you want. I’m no good for you.’ ‘It is what I want.’ I pout but I feel embarrassed and vulnerable, sitting here naked under his gaze. ‘Don’t you find me attractive?’ He sits in front of me and brings me to his chest. Our flesh is hot and sticky where it touches and I can’t stop the ache between my legs. His breathing is ragged and he tightens his grip on the back of my head as he tries to slow it. I am hurt or angry or frustrated, but I don’t know which. He runs his hands along my entire body and I push against him, needing him and not knowing how to accept his denial. ‘I want you, Nora. I have wanted you since I saw you. You are gorgeous. However, there are secrets that… Please understand, the steps that you want to take will reveal things. This cannot end well for either of us. I don’t want to make you suffer, but I am fated to suffer. Don’t make me bring you with me into the darkness. I can’t bear to lose you.’ I sense the pain that grips him. The darkness that he speaks of sounds frightening, but I don’t feel fear when I face him and meet his eyes. ‘I will follow you anywhere. Dark or light. Stop trying to make my choices for me.’ Our lips meet again, but it is with doubt. Neither of us knows what will happen if we are to move forward, but I want to have a chance to find out. My body is still crying out for him but now my mind is calm. I want him, but I want him when he knows that I’m ready for whatever that means. His hands touch me and his caresses are soft. We both slow our breathing and I try to let my will match his. When he pulls away, he gathers the picnic and looks at me with longing and a hunger I do not recognize. It’s not sexual, but desperate. Almost as a dying man looks in the last moments of his life. ‘In three days,’ he says, ‘I will meet you again at the church where we first met. In the meantime, I want you to look something up — and if you do not appear at the church, I’ll know that what you found changed everything.’ ‘Okay,’ I say warily. I’ll do anything he asks, but his fear scares me. What kind of secrets can he possibly hold? Little right now could stop me from going to him in three days. ‘Find the name Charles Samuels. He was an Oxford student in the 1960s. And then we shall see how much of the darkness you are willing to face.’ ‘I’ll look him up, but Alec, I’m going to be at the church in three days,’ I say. ‘For your sake, Nora, I hope that you’re not.’ I stand and dress, his eyes never leaving my body, and I’m satisfied that he at least looks rueful that we didn’t take it further tonight. He smiles at me — a painful smile — and I go to him, letting him hold me against him again. I don’t know what Charles Samuels has to do with us but in Alec’s arms, I can’t imagine a world where it would matter. ‘Three days,’ I promise. He kisses me quickly and, of course, disappears almost immediately. I am getting really sick of that.

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About the Author:
Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She's written works in various genres - romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn't as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she's been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships - romantic, familial, friendly - because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn't matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future - human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah's stories.
Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.
When Sarah isn't writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.

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