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Only the Lonely [MultiFormat]
eBook by Susan Gabriel

eBook Category: Romance/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: Destiny is on the line for Summer Solstice, the sultry and acerbic hostess of the popular late night talk-radio show Only the Lonely when a call comes through from a centuries-old vampire with a dark and tragic past. Before the night is over, Summer will be drawn into the secretive world of the vampire who has the face of an angel, the needs of a man and a thirst for human blood. Forbidden desire turns to love, but love turns to suspicion when Summer's fans begin to turn up floating in the murky waters of the Mississippi. Will these two beings from different worlds be each other's salvation or their undoing?

eBook Publisher: Black Velvet Seductions Publishing Company/Sensuous Journeys, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: March 2010

4 Reader Ratings:
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Smoke and Mirrors

Claustrophobia strangled her with a suffocating embrace. The walls grew closer, squeezing the stale oxygen from the narrow hallway. Driven to fill her lungs with long gulps of fresh air, Summer jogged down five flights of metal stairs; the echo of her footsteps filled the stairwell with a metallic, booming clatter which assaulted her ears like the tolling of an out-of-tune bell.

What she needed most right now was a few moments of solitude and the comforting ritual of feeding her nicotine addiction.

Lucien...the mere recollection of his name and her heart began to race. Like a song that repeats and repeats in your head, the beautiful melody of his voice floated hauntingly through her mind. Making her way to the exit door, she tried to piece together the moments of their brief conversation--the business about him being lonely for centuries and the other clever parlor tricks he had played on her. Playing! Yes, that's exactly what he had been doing. He had been playing her-- messing with her head like a master manipulator of minds.

He sounded beautiful and tragically sad, and she had fallen for it hook, line and sinker. She wanted to kick her own ass for being suckered into his shell game like some just-off-theturnip-truck rube.

Nice job of letting your imagination get the better of you

she thought as she pushed the security bar on the back exit.

Swinging the door wide she filled her lungs with the moist air of the damp alleyway. Bracing her back against the heavy steel door to hold it open, she surveyed the darkened path, which was as empty as a poor man's pocket. It had rained earlier and now the street shimmered with oily pools of water that somehow appeared luminously bewitching in the moonlight, quite opposite of the dreary pot-holed cement sprawl which it actually was.

She struck a match and lit a Marlboro Light. The yellow flame cast an inky, exaggerated shadow of her figure on the wet pavement.

It's funny, she thought, how one thing is so dreadful in the harsh glare of day, yet enchantingly beautiful in the light of the moon

"Like this city for instance, when you view it from a very high place." The whisper came from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. For a split second, Summer thought she felt a warm rush of breath in her ear accompanying the man's murmured voice.

She pivoted on her toes, adrenaline coursing through her veins, her eyesight and hearing as keen as an eagle, as she searched for the source of the voice.

Across the alley she spied a young man leaning idly against the brick wall, a cigarette pinched between his fingers European style. He made no move toward her, only offering the smallest wave of hello with his hand. Summer narrowed her eyes attempting to bring his face into focus in the dim light, but it remained obscured in shadow. She, on the other hand, realized she was fully illuminated by the light pouring through the open doorway.

How strange she hadn't heard him approach or noticed him when she had stepped outside. Dropping her gaze towards the ground, why she hadn't detected him became clear. In the glistening, rain-filled pothole which separated them, he cast no reflection except for the tell-tale bluish soul-flame which floated above his unseen body.

He was a vampire--a vampire smoking a cigarette.

Swallowing the stone in her throat, she talked herself down by mentally issuing orders to play it cool even though she felt anything but. Her whole life, she'd longed to meet one of these creatures in person, and now one simply shows up smoking a cigarette and making casual conversation. Digging in her heels, she willed herself to remain rooted. She would not allow fear to chase her away from this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

There is nothing to fear, she told herself even as she leaned harder against the exit door and placed one foot inside of the building. She eased her hand to the door lever which pressed against her lower back, ready to pull it closed behind her in the event a hasty retreat might be required.

"In the glare of day, the city is dirty and belching clouds of toxic waste into the sky." He paused to drag on his cigarette, flaring it with a red-orange glow, briefly illuminating the lower half of his face. "But at night, when the lights of the city are sparkling from the windows of the high-rises and the radiance of the moon is reflected in the churning currents of the Mississippi; now that's magic, pure magic."

Even as he spoke in softened tones, Summer detected a charming, almost musical accent. The cadence of his speech was like a long-forgotten lullaby spilling from his lips, which were not pale as she knew his flesh must be, but full and blushing with the vigor of youth.

He flicked his cigarette into the black puddle. It sizzled briefly before surrendering its fire to the water.

"It's all in the perspective, you know, mon petite."

Mon petite? Ah, of course, the accent was French but not the thick, indecipherable accent of a recent immigrant, instead one that comes after many years of acclimation to the English language. The vampire didn't merely speak English; he purred it. Just like...no, exactly like her caller.

This night was getting freakier by the minute. Certainly, this was no coincidence. Lucien of Lafayette Square and the vampire standing before her must be one in the same.

She wondered what his purpose might be, and whether it was benign or treacherous. He'd sought her out for a reason, and despite the feeling that there was a hamster ball rolling around in her stomach, she wanted desperately to know what he wanted.

The vampire withdrew a cigarette pack from his shirt pocket, and from across the narrow alleyway, he stretched out his arm and offered her one..

"Thanks, but I already have one," Summer deferred, displaying what was left of her cancer stick. She wouldn't have taken one, even if she wanted--candy from strangers and all. Clinging to the semi-safety of the doorway, she refused to be so easily lured from its false sense of security, although she was certain that if he chose, he could be on top of her faster than she could blink.

He tapped a single cigarette from the pack and slipped two fingers inside of his pants pocket, withdrawing a silver lighter. He remained relaxed against the brick wall as he lit another, casually blowing smoke rings as if he had all the time in the world, although now that she thought about it, he probably did.

"I'm trying to quit, or at a least cut back," Summer remarked, pointing to his cigarette. She tried her best to appear laissez-faire and not tip him off that she knew his secret. Releasing the spent butt from her hand, she ground it out with the toe of her shoe. The vampire remained silent, raising his cigarette to his lips and inhaling deeply.

"I'm down to less than half a pack a day now," she offered. The vampire responded by puffing out a series of tight smoke rings that orbited skyward before dissipating into the darkness.

"You know you really shouldn't chain smoke. It's very bad for your health," she heard herself ramble.

The stranger threw his head back and laughed. Summer glimpsed the points of his fangs glinting in the light of the full moon, a momentary reminder that this was no ordinary man. She wondered if the display was deliberate, or if he simply didn't care if she knew.

Even without seeing his fangs or the flame, she would have known. Over the years, she had learned to recognize a physical response whenever a vampire came in close proximity--twenty feet or less. As if they were a magnet and she was steel, her body would respond with a sense of being pulled towards them, and she felt this reaction now. Although she knew with certainty what he was, there wasn't yet any indication that he was aware she knew.

"You are probably right." He tossed his cigarette to the pavement. "I suppose there are many things that are bad for our health, but it doesn't stop us from being attracted to them nevertheless."

With languid strides he crossed the alley, holding out his hand and saying, "Forgive me for not formally introducing myself. I am Lucien du Charmont."

So there it was--the caller and the vampire were one in the same. She reflexively offered her hand and when she did, he raised it to his mouth, his touch not deathly cold as she had expected, but warm with life-blood. He pressed his lips to her skin with such great reverence and refinement that Summer nearly expected him to genuflect before her.

In that moment, it was as if he wrapped her in the comfort of a warm blanket. She felt no fear, only the magnetic pull growing ever stronger, swelling until her ears rang as it pushed against her eardrums.

His lips lingered on her flesh for a long moment. As he began to release his hold on her hand, a wave of head-spinning vertigo swam through her with such a force that she clutched tightly onto his fingers to steady her legs lest she crumple to the ground.

His hand slipped to the small of her back, supporting her while she regained her balance, strength radiating from his fingertips as if he might sweep her up effortlessly with a single hand.

"Are you alright?" he asked. "Perhaps you should sit down for a minute."

As suddenly as it had come, the vertigo vanished. In its wake, a searing rush of embarrassment crept up her neck and burned her cheeks.

"No, no, I think I'm okay now." Summer dropped her head so he wouldn't see her go red in the face. "I promise that I don't usually have fainting spells every time someone introduces themselves."

"Ah, well then, should I be flattered or insulted?"

"Uh, probably neither," she replied, flustered. "It's just been a long, weird night. I'm pretty tired I guess."

She was tired, true, but also confused and unnerved by the vampire Lucien du Charmont. He seemed in no hurry to confess his purpose, and Summer was impatient and curious by nature.

"Are you...did you call me tonight?" she asked, raising her gaze to finally meet the vampire face to face.

He was a good foot taller, and she had to tilt her chin upward to scan his face, which was fully visible now in the light that spilled through the doorway. He had the sort of male beauty which is so smooth and delicate it is nearly feminine. He was youthful, perhaps no more than twenty-one or two. His features quite defined: chiseled cheekbones, angular jaw line, aquiline nose and full, pouty lips punctuated by a small cleft in his chin. Locks of sandy-colored hair cascaded in long waves which framed his face, imparting him with a leonine appearance. She found his eyes to be most fascinating, as she could not discern with certainty the exact color of the mystifying orbs. They appeared to frequently change--always subtly altering so you could never really get a good look at them.

She mentally awarded him a full five out of five "Glory holes with a Reach-Around"--the highest score of hotness she'd ever bestowed upon a man.

The vampire placed his hand over his heart. "I confess, I called you," he said as if he were a wayward boy coming clean about some shameful act.

"It's not my fault, really," he continued, fixing his eyes on Summer with an intensity that caused her to squirm.

"Your dazzling voice is the culprit. One word and I was a fan."

It wasn't the first time she had heard similar remarks, her voice being deep, sultry and a tad breathy... the best sort of female voice for radio...or phone sex.

Summer raised an eyebrow knowingly and chuckled.

"Oh, you've heard this before," he said dejectedly. "I know that it sounds cliched," he went on. "But it speaks to me."

She didn't see it happen, but in less than an instant the space between them had grown smaller. He was so near that she could see the buttons of his shirt rise and fall with his breathing.

"It arouses my passions," he whispered, "and my passions are so rarely aroused these days."

She felt the stroke of his fingers on her cheek, but when she reached to brush his touch from her face, she saw that both of his hands were shoved inside of his pockets. A wicked smile crossed his face.

Tiny shivers tiptoed across her shoulders. He was fucking with her mind again--putting her off guard with his discomforting tricks. She should be pissed off, but he was so unapologetically bold, and she liked it more than a little bit. In fact, it was turning her on, and erotic imaginings flashed through her mind...the weight of his body crushing hers, fingers and tongues roaming one another's landscape, the feel of his...

"Summer,Ihopemyhonestyhasn'tmadeyouuncomfortable." The vampire peered deeply into her eyes and then dropped his gaze, moving backward a single pace, the distance just enough to break the mounting sexual tension and put her back to rights.

Straightening her backbone, she mustered what was left of her courage. "Frankly, it does. It makes me a little uncomfortable." Vampire or no vampire, she wasn't someone he could play with.

"And if we are being honest here, certain parts of your call made me uncomfortable too." Summer squared her shoulders. "I have never met you before, and it seems you know a little too much about me."

She tried to speak politely--didn't want to piss him off--but despite of his head-turning allure, she was tiring of this cat and mouse game.

The vampire crossed his arms over his chest, cocking his head to the side. "What's the expression?" He raised his eyes in thought. "Oh yes. Tit for tat!" he exclaimed, snapping his finger and pointing at her. "It seems that you know a great deal about me as well. A great deal that I am not terribly comfortable with either."

Summer swallowed, her throat feeling drier than mummy pussy, and she cursed herself for opening her big, stupid mouth on the air tonight. So much for trying to hide being a Perceiver, the cat was out of the bag. Perhaps this was his mission; he was an envoy from the undead community. A warning, a threat or two, and he would be on his way. If being a Perceiver put her in danger, she couldn't be sure, but her instincts detected no immediate threat from the vampire Lucien du Charmont.

She stared him squarely in the face. "I guess what we have here is a Mexican standoff."

The vampire knitted his brow in confusion. "I don't think I understand this Mexico standoff reference."

Summer laughed and slapped her hand on his shoulder. "It's a Mexican standoff, and it means that we are in a situation where no one can win...like two people who each have a gun pointed at the other's head."

The vampire seized Summer's hand from his shoulder, shocking her from her laughter. She tried to pull away, but he held a beggar's grip on her arm. Recalculating her position in the situation, she wondered if she'd been too hasty with her trust as a ribbon of perspiration trailed the length of her spine.

"Are you frightened of me?" he asked.

Her heart thumped against her ribcage as his grip constricted the blood flow, numbing her fingers. "Should I be?" she breathed.

"That depends." He brought her wrist near his mouth. Summer wanted to cry out, but only a small croak came from her throat. "On whether I'm here to fuck you or feed on you."

The vampire loosened his grip and turned her hand to his mouth, placing a kiss in the center of her palm, and she found her entire body once again swooning to his touch. A sigh, wistful as an April breeze, sang from her lip as she said dreamily, "I didn't know those two options were mutually exclusive."

The vampire briefly patted the back of her hand before releasing it from custody. "They aren't; however, I am a man of chivalry." Placing his right hand over his heart, he dipped his head in deference. "I never feed on what I fuck."

"Well then, my guess is that I have nothing to fear," she bantered, tossing her hair and looking him in the eye.

His gaze roamed undaunted over her face and body, making her want to cover her breasts with her arms as if she were naked.

"You are very beautiful, but you do not have the slightest idea of it."

A flush of heat inched up Summer's neck.

"Excuse me, Mr. du Charmont, but are you trying to seduce me?"

"Yes, Mademoiselle, I am. Is it working?"

Oh, it was working alright. Most men bought her a drink or two--if she was lucky--then tried to dry hump her on the dance floor and expected her to swoon at their feet. But this guy, he was old school--flowery phrases and smoldering gazes--which delighted and bewitched her. He knew how to make her feel special and admired like something precious.

"Would you walk awhile with a lonely vampire and allow me the opportunity to know you better?" he asked

Her heart yearned to go with him. Her head, on the other hand needed some convincing. To be so close to one of these creatures, not only close, but also seduced by one of them, was like a waking dream. Was she perhaps so enraptured as to be mortally foolish? She felt like Alice, perched on the edge of the rabbit hole, wavering on whether to take the plunge into the dark, mysterious unknown, and she was almost there... almost there...almost there...

"I can't. I have a show." Summer protested, mentally pulling her foot from the hole at the last minute. Her work responsibilities were her last line of defense against his indefensible persuasion.

"Melody can handle the callers," Lucien said hypnotically, hooking her arm in his. "She's obviously into pain."

"No, I can't...really..." she pulled back toward the building making one final weak protest.

"I promise you will be safe," he reassured, his ever-changing eyes entreating her more urgently.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...famous last words."

The vampire's eyes scanned her from head to toe like some unearthly MRI machine,

"Frankly, for feeding purposes, you are not at all my type," he said.

Not his type? Should she be relieved or insulted? She supposed that if his plan was to attack her, he wouldn't waste time with all of this coaxing. He could have pounced, fed, and tomorrow she'd be merely another missing person.

"Okay, you win," she acquiesced. "But not too long or too far, I'm on the clock, you know."

"As am I," he said, indicating the moon which bowed towards the horizon.

Summer viewed the sinking orb, and her heart sank a bit too as she realized that her time with the vampire was ticking away.

She allowed herself to be led, peering over her shoulder with a final fleeting look as the exit door slowly swung closed and Alice plummeted into Wonderland.

* * * *

As Summer strolled down the narrow street on the arm of Lucien du Charmont, the clip-clop of their footsteps echoed through the cement canyon. Inexplicably, she wasn't the least bit frightened. She was fascinated.

Despite his preternaturally pale flesh, his touch was warm. With her peripheral vision, she tried to inconspicuously scrutinize him.

"Trying to determine how I differ from mortal men?"

Summer rapidly averted her gaze, embarrassed that he'd caught her looking.

"Here, let's step under this streetlamp," he continued, guiding her into the illumination. "Look at me, Summer, go on. Here, take my hand and examine it. Is it the hand of a man or a monster?"

She held his hand in hers. His long tapered fingers tickled the sensitive flesh on the underside of her wrist. The polished glass appearance of his fingernails glinted in the lunar light. Blue veins criss-crossed his hand, a blood-filled road map of watery streams coursing beneath his skin. A gold signet ring impressed with a fleur de lis adorned his index finger.

There was something so overtly sexual about him. She'd heard the term "animal magnetism" but never encountered it until now. He threw off this vibe which made her want to knock his gorgeous ass down on the pavement and fuck him six ways to Sunday.

"Mr. du Charmont," she challenged, "what exactly do you want from me?"

The vampire brushed the back of his fingers along her neck, and it was as if a thousand spiders crawled down her spine.

Lucien gazed into her icy-blue eyes and wondered how he might possibly explain to her his desperate craving for companionship. Loneliness stalked him like a persistent panhandler, and too long, he'd denied himself the warmth and comfort of mortals. He yearned to recall the willing touch of a human--to sense something other than fear seeping from their skin--to feel like a man again. He had once been mortal, and remembered all too well the terror that his kind struck into the hearts of the living.

In this woman, he recognized a kindred spirit. She too dwelt in the seclusion of the darkened hours, reaching out to those she could never truly know. She fed on her callers' miserable lives as he might feed on their miserable blood, both solitary creatures with insatiable appetites to comprehend the void which existed in their lives.

When Summer had revealed that she was a Perceiver, he had known that he could wait no longer. He had to meet her.

Lucien was certain she would recognize him for what he was--that her curiosity would be piqued long enough for him to steal a few precious moments with her--sufficient time to coax her out of fear and into the light of knowledge.

"Please call me Lucien," he implored, cradling her hand in his, her pulse beating determinedly beneath the supple flesh.

"Night after night I listen to people revealing their secrets to you," he sighed.

"I also need to unburden my soul and I need you to be my confessor of sorts because," he continued. "Too long I have walked in the shadows, keeping my secrets, both wonderful and terrible. I want to know you and for you to know me."

The subtle aroma of her female musk wafted into his nostrils distracting him, his ultra-keen senses exposing what she concealed between her thighs. His cock stirred, nagging for release from the snug confines of his jeans.

"You want to get to know me?" she asked, arching her eyebrow in suspicion.

Lucien placed his palms flat against the brick wall on either side of her shoulders. "Intimately," he whispered. "I want to know what you think, what you feel, and how you taste when I kiss you. I want to learn what you like and what you don't, what makes you laugh and what makes you weep."

He heard the beating of her heart quicken to a fevered pace. It fluttered against the silk of her white blouse as she swallowed hard, her trachea rising against the gulp.

"Why me?" her husky voice was barely audible.

If she hadn't worn heels, he would have towered over her petite frame, but as he stood with his body inches from hers, his chest was even with the level of her eyes. He smelled her hair and it was like crisp green apples. Lucien recalled the scent but not the taste.

He sighed deeply. "I chose you because you are a collector of stories."

She shifted her stance, her knee lightly brushing against his thigh as she propped her foot on the wall behind her.

"I chose you because I sensed that you would not fear me and because I don't have to pretend I am something I am not with you."

She was very quiet and attentive, her eyes focused on the movement of his lips.

Lucien cupped her chin, tilting her eyes towards his. "You already see what I am. I want you to see who I am."

See me, he willed. Perceive beyond your fascination, and witness what lies at the heart of me

A shallow pool of tears welled in her eyes, a salty drop running down her cheek. He caught it with the tip of his finger, his long-dead heart leaping with gratitude for that single tiny tear.

"I want to take you into my world and prove to you and to myself that I am more than my thirst, more than the murderer the world believes me to be."

She knitted her brow, nodding her head in understanding. Lucien felt that his secrets would be safe with her. He longed for the absolution of the confessional, and she would be his confessor.

"I seek redemption for the things that I have done and those that I have failed to do."

He detected no trace of judgment in her eyes. Her face bore only lovely compassion.

"Oh, Mr. du Charm..." She stumbled on the words as if she weren't certain if she should speak his name.

"You are beautiful, and daring, and exciting to me." He pressed his body nearer to hers, and it emboldened him when she did not protest or recoil.

"You are also solitary and thoughtful...and lonely. You see what others do not, and I hope that you may see something in me that I cannot."

The warmth of her eyes reminded him of the warmth of the sun which had not touched his face since that fateful day so long ago. He recalled the bright colors of a long-forgotten garden of his youth, nestled in a green hillside above a wide, wandering stream. Summer--it was more than her name--it was her definition. With her, he felt as if he might once again experience that most glorious of seasons, where he basked in a sun-dappled meadow, the hum of bees buzzing from blossom to blossom, songbirds calling to their mates from distant branches...the entire world stirring with warmth and life.

Lucien felt a desire that he had not known for many lifetimes. He wanted to roll in verdant groves with this woman, to feel the cool dewiness of grass on his naked skin, to nestle in the gentleness of her form, inhaling her scent and savoring her flavors.

Over the centuries, he had not denied himself female comforts, but it had always been only a necessary thing-- lustful encounters serving to satisfy physical needs. This felt different. He wasn't compelled to dive headlong into possessing her. He knew that by consuming her blood, all of her secrets would be revealed, but he didn't want them that way. He yearned to coax them from her slowly and deliberately--to touch that place where the human heart lies and to prove to himself that somewhere his heart still beat with a similar cadence.

Summer tried to wrap her mind around the emotions that she was feeling. This man was a monster--a hunter of humans. Yet she felt profound compassion and attraction. Was it the work of his unholy magic or something real?

Vampires had always seemed like powerful, commanding beings--wild things bereft of conscience and morals. Summer never imagined that beneath their fierce facade might lay weakness and self-doubt. Perhaps they were not so far removed from humans after all.

She burned with curiosity to know more about Lucien du Charmont. He was a savage thing, but not without emotion, and perhaps his condition caused him to feel emotions even more keenly than mortals.

There was desperation in his voice, a desperation that cried for redemption from his deeds, but she was no one special, and certainly not anyone's savior.

Summer backed against the bricks, the delicate fabric of her blouse snagging on the rough mortar that seeped from the cracks in the wall.

"Lucien," she began, "I think you have the wrong girl. I'm not what you hear on the radio. That's a personality, a shtick." Even as Summer spoke the words, she hoped that she was wrong.

"And I am not what you have read in books or seen in movies." Lucien entreated, stepping so near to her that she glimpsed the points of his fangs. She was torn between recoiling and longing to see them in full.

His hands gripped her arms, refocusing her attention to his imploring eyes.

"All I am asking is that you give me a chance to show you the truth behind the fables and perhaps along the way I can find a way to find peace with what I have become."

His sturdy shoulders sank with the guilty weight of his words. Summer observed his eyes change from green to grey, then violet. A strong look of intent crossed his face.

Her sexual attraction to him was undeniable. It oozed from every pore of her body. But her fascination with the vampire was more than physical. She felt a compelling emotional attraction, and she sensed that she was by some means inextricably intertwined with him; that if she turned him away her life would be somehow less.

At this moment, he seemed to her entirely human, with all of the needs, wants, desires and frailties of a mortal man. Her paradigms shifted, and everything she thought she had known about vampires seemed trite and superficial. Her stereotypical assumptions falling away one by one, she burned with shame at her ignorance.

"Alright," she said, nodding her head in agreement. "You have your chance. I'll agree to be your confidant, but at the first whiff of something funny, I'm done with it. You got that?"

One corner of the vampire's mouth turned up in a half-smile. "I understand, and in return, I give you my promise that you will be under my protection."

Wait a second; he hadn't said anything about this being dangerous enough to need protection. As if reading her thoughts, Lucien held a finger to her lips.

"Shhh...no worries. Shall we seal the agreement in the traditional French way--with a kiss?" he asked.

Before she could dissent, he planted a kiss on her right cheek. When he moved his head to kiss the left side of her face, she turned her mouth in the direction of his. She didn't know what made her do it; it just happened.

His lips were lush, full of promised pleasure. Her tongue slipped into his open mouth, and she guided the tip of her probing tongue along the edge of his teeth searching for the fabled fangs, wanting to examine them with her tongue. Locating one of the pointed incisors, she licked it, shallowly slicing her tongue on a razor-edged point. A drop of blood flowed from her tongue and in the dark filth of the alleyway, she tasted the metallic flavor of her own hemoglobin as it bled into his mouth. In the recesses of her mind, Summer knew that she had tasted sin.

Clutching his belt buckle, she pulled him tightly against her body. Lucien held her face in his hands, his eager mouth engulfing hers.

She had questioned whether vampires possessed working equipment. The answer to that question now pressed hotly against her thigh. The vampire Lucien du Charmont was undeniably equipped with a soldier of love and it was mustering for action.

The pink buds of her breasts swelled and pushed against the lacey fabric of her bra and she pressed her body forcefully to his, devouring his mouth while her fingers caressed his muscled back. The marble-like quality of his flesh contrasted sharply to the softness of hers. His body felt powerful, lean and taut like a cheetah, all elongated muscle and sinew without an ounce of excess fat to slow its swiftness.

His mouth sought the sensitive flesh of her neck and as his lips touched her there, she became awash with the bliss of sweet surrender. Sighing, she bowed her neck, willingly exposing the tender veins which pulsed entreatingly beneath the surface. His breath tiptoed across her skin like little cat paws, the whole of her body trembling as he sucked her flesh into his mouth. There was no pain, no point of fangs, only unbearable ecstasy rushing through her limbs and sweeping through her core as the vampire caressed her neck with his fervent kiss.

She clung forcefully to him, feeling as if the deliciousness of it all would cause her to dissolve in his embrace until there was nothing left of her but a small wisp of smoke, as if she were melting in a fire which consumed but did not burn.

The startling sound of metal clattering to the pavement awakened Summer from her rapturous trance. She withdrew from Lucien, searching the darkness for the source of the clamor, but not locating it. As profoundly as she had been swept into the hurricane of his embrace, she now foundered disoriented in the stillness of his wake.

The vampire's eyes scanned the night sky for signs of change. A gradual luminosity crept into the stratosphere; an arc of glowing indigo perched on the horizon. He didn't want to leave, but he must.

They spoke the words at the same time. "I have to go."

In the damp alley, under the glare of a streetlamp Lucien held Summer in his arms one last time, inhaling the fresh scent of her hair, committing it to memory.

With a heart full of longing, he released her, watching protectively as she scurried back to the familiar security of the mortal world.

Behind a high window in the KJZM building, he spied a shadow moving in the darkness.

* * * *

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