Never Been Bitten Althea Yates is a vampire hunter, skilled with the crossbow and the stake. But she knows nothing of a man's touch--or how to control the unladylike dreams that haunt her sleep. That is when they come, two men of unearthly beauty who ravish her in sweet carnal games, taking her to the precipice of exquisite desire and unimaginable erotic pleasure. It is scandalous. Forbidden. Unholy. For her lovers are not men, but vampires--the very beasts she and her father have sworn to destroy. It is only a dream. . .until the elegant carriage arrives at the inn, drawn by four black horses. Until Yannick de Wynter, Earl of Brookshire, alights, silver-eyed, determined, and hungry for something she cannot name. And suddenly, Althea is no longer certain whether she has had a dream. . .or a dangerously erotic premonition. . .
Release date: June 12, 2012
Print pages: 354
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“Can you imagine both our mouths on you, love?”
Althea sighed as the seductive male voice whispered behind her. His warm breath danced over the nape of her neck, stirring loose strands of her hair.
A moan spilled from her lips as his big hands closed over her shoulders, slipping beneath the straps of her chemise. One pair of hands—a gentleman’s hands, long-fingered, elegant. Hot, slightly rough, and all too real.
How could a dream stir her senses so?
Her dream lover massaged her shoulders and the controlled power in his touch vibrated through her. His fingers stroked the top of her spine. A bolt of desire raced down and exploded between her legs, drawing out a gasping sob from her very soul. A desperate sound. A plea.
For mercy? Or for more?
With a low chuckle, he held her as her legs melted beneath her.
Against her ear, his husky voice promised sin.
“Can you imagine my hands and his worshipping you?”
No. Althea shook her head, and that, too, felt real. No, she could not begin to imagine it. It was too scandalous. Too forbidden.
How could she, a virgin, be dreaming this?
“Then perhaps it is not a dream, Althea. Perhaps it is a premonition.”
No, she argued. It is a dream. Only a dream.
His head bent to her neck. His silky hair brushed her tingling skin. She shuddered at the gentle scrape of pointed teeth. But she could not pull away, even as he drew the straps from her shoulders. He’d unfastened the tapes and the neckline gaped at her breasts, exposing them. He tugged it down further and she grabbed at his hands to rescue her modesty.
“No, sweet. Let us enjoy.”
Her mouth dry, Althea stared down at her pale curves tipped with puckered nipples, small and pink. Two large male hands framed her bosom, holding the lacy neckline.
She’d never truly looked at her own breasts, not with the interest, the fascination, of these men. She’d never caressed them, never.
For the first time, the second man spoke. “Beautiful.”
Her gaze riveted on him. He lounged on a massive bed, shirt open to reveal sculpted muscles, swirls of golden curls and dusky pink nipples. Skin-tight buff breeches encased his powerful legs. His long fingers skimmed over his crotch, stroking the thick curving ridge that lifted the fabric. Her body ached in response. Her heart hammered, lodged in her throat.
His long golden hair fell across his eyes, shadowing his beautiful face. Only moonlight lit the room, glittering as it fell across his dark eyes. In the bluish light, his hair glimmered like moonbeams, but she knew, the way dreamers did, what his coloring must be.
“Aren’t they?” Satin brushed her back as the man behind her moved closer. The buttons of his waistcoat pressed into her spine. Althea felt engulfed by him, small, delicate.
But not afraid.
She tried to twist around to see the man behind, but she couldn’t. He seemed formed of light and shadow. Only his hands were rendered in detail. The backs traced with veins, the knuckles large, the fingers astonishingly strong, yet graceful. Mesmerized, Althea watched his fingers release her fragile chemise, which dropped to her waist.
She swallowed a cry as those sensual hands cupped her naked bosom. Her tight, swollen breasts fit into his big palms like ripe apples. He lifted them, displaying them to the other man.
“Pinch her nipples,” suggested the man on the bed, and he flicked open the first button securing his breeches.
Thumbs tapped her hard nipples, shocking her with jolts of pleasure and agony. He strummed them, and she arched back, thrusting her breasts forward. He wasn’t so gentle anymore. He squeezed tight, plucked, pinched, and tugged at her nipples. But she loved every coarse, rough caress. He knew, far better than she, what she wanted. What her breasts enjoyed.
The man on the bed shifted to his knees. His lean, muscular abdomen rippled. Waggling his brows with teasing amusement, he drew down his open breeches to the middle of his thighs, revealing his small clothes. His intimate parts, etched in relief by shadow and silvery light, pulsed as he moved.
Althea caught her breath. Strangely, in this room, with these two men, in this startling, wonderful dream, she couldn’t speak. Perhaps she wasn’t allowed to—because she should be protesting her innocence. She should be fleeing for safety.
The man on the bed possessed large, beautiful hands too. Hands tugging down his linens, struggling to release his…
“His cock, love.”
The man behind her arched his hips forward and she felt the ridge, hard as a poker in his trousers, jab against her bottom. His hips swayed, bumping his staff across her derrière.
It must be a dream. It had to be a dream.
The golden-haired man dropped his linens, freeing his cock. She understood the term “rampant rod,” which she’d heard whispered by maids. This thing seemed to have a mind of its own. It wobbled, swayed, and grew longer before her astonished eyes. A nest of hair surrounded it, a cap crowned it, and it glistened as though wet. Moonlight played along its length, revealing a ridge along the back that led to a dangling sack that must be his ballocks. The maids called them jewels, as though they were incredibly precious.
Althea couldn’t draw her gaze from it as he slid from the bed. As he pulled off his boots, kicked off his clothes. He swaggered toward her, his cock standing proud, straight, and tall, amidst the thicket of golden curls. She could tell he was proud of it, too, and his hand settled around it in a possessive gesture.
Her legs trembled as he gave one long stroke to the base and back up to the tip. Behind her, her other lover arched hard against her, trapping her thin chemise between the cheeks of her bottom as he pushed his clothed cock against her.
It had been delicious to be caressed by one man, but to have two touch her at once was a sensation unsurpassed. Someone tore her chemise away. Ripped it from her and tossed the tattered garment aside. Four hands moved over her skin, hot as candle flames, smooth and sensuous as a silken robe. They didn’t touch her between her thighs but coasted flat palms over her dark red pubic curls.
Althea shuddered, caught on a horrifying cusp between fear and unbearable arousal. Their hands were pale, stark against the peach-tinted skin of her tummy and breasts.
As though they’d said, “One, two, three, go,” they both bent and took her nipples into their mouths. Her cry rang out into the room. Both nipples in hot male mouths at once. Both nipples lightly scraped by pointy fangs.
As they began sucking in earnest, they took on their own unique rhythms, the contrasts more stunning than having them work in unison had been. Golden hair spilled over her neck and face from both sides. Two hard male members bumped her hips, one nude, the other clothed.
Hands parted her thighs and she whimpered in relief. Their tongues licked her nipples. Their fingers slid between her nether lips. She was slick, scandalously wet and hot. From their groans, she knew the men liked the feel of her wetness on their fingers. Liked the musky perfume floating up from between her legs.
Something built inside her. Althea sobbed with it and began to rock against their hands. Seeking more. Needing more.
“Yes. Yes.” Their voices joined, a chorus urging her on. Their mouths moved over her, pleasuring her nipples, her neck, capturing her mouth. With her lids almost covering her eyes, she couldn’t see who kissed her where. She gave herself to them, floating between them.
A finger touched the entrance to her bottom and she gasped. Fingers stroked the top of her sex and she screamed. She ground herself hard against their big hands. Harder. Harder.
“Make yourself come, sweetheart.”
“God, yes, come for us, love.”
She drove relentlessly, gasping, moaning. “Yes, yes, yes.” She cried the word over and over in her mind. A frenzy gripped her, possessed her. She snapped inside. Pleasure swamped her like a wave and her body bucked over their fingers. They held her tight, praised her, groaned with her.
Oh. Oh, yes.
Her eyes shut tight, plunging her into a velvety darkness as the throbbing faded into a light-headed joy.
Faintly she heard a wicked voice murmur against her ear. “You have never been bitten, have you, angel?”
Weak, she shook her head. But for their arms around her, she would dissolve into a puddle on the floor. She was powerless. Powerless.
“Can you imagine the erotic pleasure of having both of us bite you?”
No. She tried to fight. To force her arms to hit and her legs to kick. Desperate, panicked, she thrashed against their strong grasp—
Tangled in her sheets, Althea Yates opened her eyes and bit back a scream. Heart racing, she fought the threadbare blankets, kicked at the sheets that held her, and bolted upright.
Cold air washed over her, prickling against her damp skin even through her heavy nightdress. Moonlight splashed in her room. She rubbed her eyes. There was no ornate bed and certainly no men in her room at the Maidensby Arms. Just a small room overfilled by her narrow bed, a battered dresser, a wobbly desk, and a sagging armchair.
Only a dream. Exhausting, terribly scandalous, and all a figment of her imagination.
Althea blinked, almost more surprised to find it was not real than she would have been if it were.
Erotic dreams had haunted her for weeks, since she’d arrived back in England, but she’d never dreamed of two men before. What did it say about her character that she would visit such a shocking scene in her sleep? And that she had enjoyed it?
It wasn’t that she’d never felt desire before. When Mick O’Leary worked without his shirt, she secretly watched him. Half-naked and slick with perspiration, Mick looked elemental. Primal. Sensual. His back flexed in the most hypnotic way as he worked. Hidden by the wide brims of her prim bonnets and her spectacles, she would ogle him, and flutter inside, as though a thousand butterflies frolicked low in her tummy. She would yearn and want and fantasize until she became bad-tempered and cross and made everyone’s life a misery.
That was bad enough.
But two men!
Only the most depraved woman should want such things.
What was happening to her?
A strong gust rattled her window and Althea’s heart leapt to her throat. The curtains billowed softly, even though the sash was closed. Before her startled eyes, a black shape flew at the glass, retreated, swooped again.
She launched up on her knees, ready for battle. The dark shadow slapped the glass again with an angry thwack. Leaves splayed over the small panes. Nervous laughter bubbled up in Althea’s throat. Only a tree branch. She sank back down onto her bottom.
Silly goose. Jumping at shadows.
With a sigh, she relaxed and let the sated, languorous feeling steal over her again. She yawned and stretched, reaching toward the low, timbered ceiling with her hands. Her neck gave a little crick and she moved her head from side to side. Physically she was exhausted, but she knew her mind would just not let her rest now.
She was almost afraid to sleep. Each dream became more indecent, more…more lewd. And now she was dreaming of being bitten. If she dreamed again and she didn’t wake up in time, what might happen to her?
She could hardly wake up a vampire, could she? But she was not certain. She didn’t truly know. Perhaps she could.
Better to think about tomorrow. They would open the crypt tomorrow.
Instinct led her right hand to the cross dangling around her neck. Althea stroked it, cupped it in her palm. For more reassurance, she glanced to the narrow window of her room. The curtains were open, as she had left them. They lay still now, hanging against the rough-hewn trim. Garlic flowers lay along the sash. Another bundle of the pungent flowers sat by the base of the door and some were clustered on the rickety table beside her bed.
Accustomed to them, she barely noticed their smell, but she’d seen the maid’s nose crinkle in disgust. The first night she’d gone to bed and found all the flowers stripped away. Small bouquets of field flowers replaced them—yellow daffodils, mainly. Firmly, she had instructed the maid not to touch any of her belongings again.
The flowers, the cross, all were to keep her safe from Zayan, but there was something half-hearted in Father’s admonishments about protection this time. And she feared that none of these measures would do any good.
In truth, she was afraid to open that crypt. That was probably why she had the dream.
Althea swung her legs around the side of the bed—really more of a cot—until her bare feet brushed the small carpet thrown over the splintery floor.
Her journal sat by her bed, beside a gutted candle in a beaten brass holder. She didn’t dare record her dreams. There was almost enough moonlight to read by, but she felt far too restless to do that.
She wanted to…to do something. Plucking up her spectacles, Althea slid off the bed and winced as her feet sank into the cool carpet. She padded across the worn, faded wool to her window. A glance told her the catch was still fastened, though she touched it with her fingers to make sure.
She knew to be wary of unexplained urges to walk about in the dark. Knew to resist the call, the lure. But no, whatever it was she wanted, it wasn’t to go out of doors.
Wrapping her arms around herself, she refused to accept that what she wanted was to make her dream come true.
A flicker of flame outside caught her attention. Leaning forward until her forehead brushed the cool panes of glass, she could just make out the flurry of activity in front of the inn.
What she had spotted was an elegant carriage drawn by four coal-black horses, almost invisible in the dark but for its burning lamps and the reflections on the gleaming traces. The carriage rattled slowly over cobblestones and came to a halt before the door. Male voices rose in hale greetings and terse orders. A dog set up a howl, answered by others, which sparked a whinnying frenzy as the horses shied. Skittish animals. It took the coachman minutes to settle them. Surprising for animals reaching the end of their travel.
Intrigued, Althea pushed the garlic flowers to the side. She sat on the deep windowsill and curled her legs beneath her to warm her chilled feet. Cold whistled around her and she rubbed her arms through the long, tight sleeves of her nightdress. Cold was supposed to subdue improper arousal, wasn’t it?
The gleaming black door of the coach sported a crest, which meant the newest guest was a member of the nobility.
How would a peer feel about sharing quarters with vampire hunters? The lord in question would never know, of course. Sir Edmund Yates was known only as a famous antiquarian. And no one ever suspected Miss Yates, his plain slip of a daughter, was anything more than a glorified secretary. Even Mick O’Leary had scoffed when she told him she was adept with a crossbow and knew exactly how and where to plunge in a stake.
Movement in the yard. His lordship’s footmen in livery—silver and pale blue, startling against the dark.
The coach door swung open. In a blur of motion, a male figure jumped down and straightened—a man dressed in head-to-toe black. Althea could barely see him, but the way he moved suggested he was young, strong, athletic.
Heat unfurled deep inside. Goodness, she was incurable. But she wanted a glimpse. To see if his face proved as promising as his form. A tall beaver hat covered his head, but she saw pale blond hair curling into his collar.
Led by servants with lanterns, he strode away from his carriage.
Tudor in vintage, the inn sat right beside the road, with barely a step up to the threshold. To her surprise, the lord paused at the door, then stepped back.
A servant lifted a lantern by his master’s side and golden light slanted over austere features, hinting at a strong jaw line, sharp cheekbones, a broad forehead, a straight nose.
Rendered in shadow and light, he made her think of the man from her dream. The mysterious one who stood behind her. He was the one who came to her in all her dreams. Althea knew the sound of his voice, the scent of his skin, the way he kissed, even the way he braced himself on his powerful arms as he made love, but she had never really seen his face…
She gave herself a shake. Of course this gentleman was not in her dreams!
The nobleman abruptly pushed the lantern aside and, as though he sensed her stare, he looked up to her window. His eyes reflected a sliver of moonlight, pure silver disks in the velvety dark. Gleaming, mirror-like eyes. Like those of a wolf or a fox.
The eyes of a vampire.
Althea blinked. She looked again, but he had disappeared from her view. She got up on her knees to try to see him, strained to see him. She couldn’t.
A vampire lord. Was it possible? Had it just been a trick of the light? Just her imagination playing havoc?
Shocked, she sat back, and thumped hard against the wall of the window alcove.
She slid off the sill to her feet. Her rumpled bed beckoned, but she’d never sleep now. No, she would sneak out to the top of the stairs and have another look at the mysterious lord. Shrugging on her wool wrapper over her shoulders, she caught the sides around her and cinched the belt tight. The trailing hem covered her bare feet and jammed in her slippers as she hurriedly shoved her feet in.
She didn’t dare go out unarmed. By her bed, she dropped to her knees, drew out her case and flipped open the lid. Instead of gowns and slippers and hats, her case contained stakes, a crossbow, a small, lethal sword, and crosses. She tucked a thin, pointed stake between her wrap and her nightgown, secured in place by her snug belt.
A thrill of excitement shivered down Althea’s spine. Not that she planned to be foolhardy. She knew to be cautious and careful. If he truly were a vampire, he would possess incredible strength and power. But she had a few tricks of her own. And she knew exactly what to expect.
At the head of the stairs, she saw the lord and the innkeeper in discussion. She stayed in the shadows to watch.
His lordship stood with his face away from her but she had a perfect view of the florid features of Mr. Crenshaw. Alarm flashed in the innkeeper’s small eyes and he was punctuating his apologies with wild motions of his hands. The gentleman wore a cloak, she noted, which surprised her. Most men favored greatcoats.
The lord brushed his cloak back from his shoulders, giving a glimpse of the lining, black silk embroidered with gold. From the window, she’d created an impression of him—tall, lean, elegant. Now she saw he was taller than she’d guessed. He towered over Crenshaw by at least a foot. His hat brushed the plaster ceiling. And he possessed a broader, more powerful body than she’d first thought. Shoulders as wide as Mr. O’Leary’s, Althea noted.
But was he a vampire?
Her breathing quickened and not from fear. Her breasts tingled and her nipples eagerly stood up against her bodice. Already wet between her thighs from her dream, she flushed as more hot moisture bubbled there.
He was facing away from Crenshaw’s lamp, his hat worn low, at an angle that shielded his eyes—and that prevented them reflecting the light.
Perhaps that wasn’t his intent. She knew nothing of male fashion to know if all men wore their hats in that way.
The lord snapped a question at Crenshaw, his voice deep and low. Fancifully, she imagined his voice sounded like black silk, dark and smooth. But did he sound like the man from her dream?
He wasn’t the man from her dream, she told herself sternly.
If only he’d speak louder.
Althea stilled at the sound of her surname falling from the nobleman’s lips. His lordship knew her father was here? She left the shadows, not caring if the men noticed her. She leaned against the rail, straining to hear.
Crenshaw appeared bent in a permanent bow. “…I fear not, my lord…”
Was it only that Crenshaw had mentioned her father as one of the other occupants of the inn? To imply that he served distinguished men? Her father might be a great scholar, a star in his own orbit, but a gentleman antiquarian would hardly register in the mind of a peer.
“You fear not?” The dark velvet voice held a razor-sharp edge now.
He did sound similar, but not quite the same. In her dreams, his tone was always seductive and teasing.
“I am afraid, my lord, Sir Edmund has retired for the evening.”
“I’ve a fine room available for the night, my lord, and in the morning—”
“I’ve no need of a room. Your parlor will suffice. I shall wait in there upon Sir Edmund.”
The gentleman swirled around, sending his cape flapping around him. Like bat’s wings, of course—and Althea forgot to move back into the gloom.
His dark gaze fixed on her, appraised, then his wide, full lips curved in a smile. She’d once been set aflame by Mick O’Leary’s cheeky smirks. Sizzling as those were, they were nothing compared to the controlled fire in this lord’s arrogant, confident grin. She was left with the image of wildfire ready to burst beyond control and consume everything in its path.
“I am sorry if I woke you, my dear,” he drawled as he ignored Crenshaw to move to the foot of the stair. This put the lantern behind him and plunged his gorgeous face into shadow again.
It was his voice! That lazily seductive growl was exactly the voice of the man from her dreams. She heard his whisper again in her head: Then perhaps it is not a dream, Althea. Perhaps it is a premonition.
It couldn’t be! But she hunted vampires, and she knew that second sight did indeed exist.
Stunned, she stared into his shadowed eyes. No, she wouldn’t…couldn’t…
Even in the gloom, she saw his brow lift in interest.
She must behave normally—though what could be normal?
A curtsy. He was a lord, after all. Althea dropped, quick and unsteady, aware that she wore her wrapper and nightgown, her ugly spectacles. Her hair was in its nighttime braid and the end curved around the swell of her left breast. Her heart hammered so hard, she imagined the braid was bumping in time with it.
Did he know about the dreams…had he…oh, goodness…?
Legs trembling, she straightened. “You had an appointment with my father, my lord?”
“Not an appointment, no. But I want to speak with him tonight.” His large black-gloved hand wrapped around the banister.
Want. He said the word as though what he wanted was never denied.
She couldn’t prevent a blush heating her cheeks. In her dreams, she had never denied him anything. So it was not to be a premonition after all. She was not about to let her father, who was so weak and confused these days, confront this vampire. Definitely not when this vampire might know about her dreams. “You cannot, my lord. But you can speak with me.”
“And who are you, my dear?”
She moved down two steps. The jab of the stake at the bottom of her ribs comforted. “Sir Edmund Yates is my father. I am Althea Yates.”
“Miss Yates.” He bowed with courtly elegance. As he straightened, surprise lifted his blond brows. “You assist your father?”
“In all of his research, yes. And his investigations.” She was halfway down the steps now.
“So you know about the excavation of the crypt?”
Her slipper-clad foot missed the step; her heel glanced along the edge of the tread and landed hard on the next one. Of course, she did, but how did he?
Father had spoken of a vampire—an ancient one—one who could only be defeated by the power of the vampire entombed in that crypt. She hadn’t understood. They’d never spared a vampire before. Father’s answers were vague and told her nothing. He kept so much to himself now, but she’d understood from disconnected snippets that he was hunting the creature he believed was the oldest of the undead. The first. The ghoul from which all others had spawned.
A whisper of fear shivered down Althea’s spine.
Could this man be that vampire? This man who had seduced her in her dreams?
No, impossible. Not if he was truly a peer of the realm.
Father would suffer a fit of apoplexy if he knew what she was about to do.
Crenshaw, Althea saw, was following their conversation. If anything, the portly innkeeper looked more confounded. “My lord, do you wish a room then, or do you wish to retire to the parlor with Miss Yates…” Crenshaw’s reedy voice died away and the man flushed.
Althea rolled her eyes. The innkeeper was mortified because he’d just suggested that the lord and an unmarried woman make use of a parlor alone in the middle of the night. How ridiculous after what they’d done together in her dreams.
But that hadn’t been real.
Trembling, she gazed into his lordship’s eyes. Seeking recognition? A clue? A hint of desire for her?
Black and bottomless, his eyes told her nothing.
“The parlor will be fine,” she snapped to Crenshaw, suddenly tense and irritable. Suddenly fearful she was far out of her depth. Should she turn and run?
Hell and the devil, she planned to hunt vampires! She couldn’t cower over a few dreams…even forbidden ones.
Softening her voice slightly, Althea turned to the vampire. Her…oh, goodness…her dream lover. “But first, my lord, might I have your name? You have not yet made yourself known to me.”
“You do not know who I am?”
She started. Damn shadows. She couldn’t read his expression. He must mean that many young English ladies knew who he was. Heaven knew, once seen he would never be forgotten. In her dreams, he had never bothered to introduce himself. She would not let him get away with that now.
“Until one month ago, my lord, I was living in the Carpathian Mountains and have done so since I was a young girl. So, no, I do not know who you are.”
“The Carpathians? But you are obviously English.”
How adeptly he kept avoiding the issue of his identity. “And you are—?”
He laughed. “I do love a blunt woman, sweet.” The murmured endearment washed over her. Spoken softly so Crenshaw wouldn’t hear.
“Then you won’t mind answering my question, my lord.” Althea moved down more steps. Only two separated them and this way she stood at his height. Now she could see his large black pupils, the smallest circle of colored iris surrounding them. A silvery blue, or was it green? So hard to tell under only the faintest fingers of light. And despite his fair coloring, he had thick, remarkably dark lashes. What her nanny had termed “eyes put in with a sooty finger.” Heavy-lidded eyes. His lashes swept down frequently, giving him a lazily cynical expression.
His gaze slid from her eyes to her throat. Her cross was hidden beneath the overlapped lapels of her wool wrapper, but he saw the chain. He smiled. Lifted his brows in a gesture that seemed to say he was awarding her a point.
“No, my dear. I won’t mind at all.”
He leaned closer, enveloping her in his tantalizing scent. The magical male scent from her dreams. An enthralling mix of sandalwood and smoke, shaving soap and masculine skin. She hungered to move closer, to feast on his smell. She wanted his smell on her, just as in her dreams. She wanted—
He winked as though he knew exactly what she wanted. “I am Yannick de Wynter, Earl of Brookshire.” His voice dropped to a low, thrumming whisper. “The man you plan to resurrect tomorrow is my brother.”
So this was the siren who had entranced him in his dreams? Intrigued, Yannick drank in Miss Yates’ green eyes, hidden behind utilitarian spectacles, as they widened in charming astonishment. Thankfully she’d never worn those in his dreams. Her dreary flannel wrapper hinted at the curvaceous body which, in his sleep, responded so eagerly. Her skin’s perfume—lavender and dewy feminine perspiration—mingled with the alluring aroma of her rich blood. His nose detec. . .
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