With his clan trapped and starving, vampire king, Andrei Vladimir will stop at nothing to save them. But an ancient curse compels him to waste precious time hunting the vile creatures he creates every time he feeds. With the clock ticking, he weaves a trap to lure the fated female who can save them all.
Sonia Covaci doesn't believe her grandmother's visions of the future. But when a purchased trinket brings dreams of a mysterious stranger, her small town American life threatens to spin out of control. Sensing he is in danger, she does the unthinkable and boards a plane for Romania.
Sonia follows her fate. Andrei moves in for the sacrifice. Never did he imagine the female destined to break the curse would become the woman he couldn't afford to lose.
Previously published as Passion Awakened.
Release date: March 27, 2017
Print pages: 150
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The Vampire's Curse
Andrei’s lids snapped open, and he peered into the inky darkness. He pushed himself off the bed where he’d been lying in stasis for far too long. Pain coiled tight in his gut and struck like an angry cobra.
He needed to feed.
Running shaky fingers through his hair, he scanned the room and noted he was alone. The scent of his female was on the tip of his senses, yet out of reach. Her features remained hidden from him, yet he knew her hair was as soft as silk and the color of a strong cup of black coffee with a hint of cream. His mate filled his dreams every time he forced himself into stasis to stave off his hunger, and each time a little more of her was revealed. She was so close, yet still unattainable. The stakes had been raised. Not only did he need to free his people from their confinement, he needed his life back so he could focus on finding the woman who had stolen his heart while he slept.
Sire, you have woken early.
Really? He scratched the stubble on his face and marched from the room. Taking the stone steps two at a time, he made his way from the secluded area hidden beneath the dungeon in his Romanian castle.
How long was I asleep this time?
Three years to the day.
Hmm. Normally he slept for at least ten. He re-examined everything he knew about his people’s fated females, who were chosen by a higher power to become a vampire’s mate. The first dream would be so vague a normal person would think nothing of it. However, his species knew it would be only the beginning of many more to come. Small details would reveal themselves, from her hair color to her name. One never knew what treasure they would gain in their slumber. The more time that elapsed between the dreams, the further away she was. Perhaps not even born yet. As the dreams grew closer together and more details revealed, the male knew his time was close. Soon he would be granted a mental connection so he could compel her to him.
Andrei had to be close. His mate was in this century and would reveal herself soon.
His fangs punched down as his stomach screamed out like a cat in heat. He’d made his way to the main floor of the castle where he found Roman taking big strides toward him.
“Sire. I...” Roman bowed his head and stared at the highly polished floor. “I have failed you. I didn’t anticipate you waking so soon and have no meal for you.” He lifted his gaze but still kept his head bowed. “I will go hunt at once.”
Andrei surveyed his longtime companion. Roman had volunteered to stay on this side of the mist when the witch placed her curse upon him and their people. Andrei couldn’t blame the man for the predicament they were in. That rested solely on his shoulders. He’d been the reckless youth who had bedded a witch and then thought to walk away.
“It is not your fault.” He combed his fingers through his blond locks again and only now realized it had grown down the middle of his back. Food, haircut then a shower. Or maybe only a cut and shower. He would put off feeding for as long as possible. Push himself to the brink of starvation. He was an ancient. A powerful––he quickly reminded himself he wasn’t so powerful at the moment––immortal. He could press his luck further than most. Besides, anymore he despised what feeding entailed.
“Report. How many creatures have you slaughtered while I slept my life away?”
Pride caused Roman to straighten and pull back his broad shoulders. The man looked fit as ever. His dark hair was still cropped short, his blue eyes bright with intelligence but also alert to any sign of danger. His body stacked with the muscle of a lethal killer. The man had sacrificed much to help over the last century, and Andrei owed him a great debt.
“I have slain at least twenty, Sire.”
Andrei sighed. “How many do you suppose are still out there?"
Roman contemplated for a moment before he answered. "I'm not sure, Sire. If I had to guess, I would say locally maybe another five to ten. Internationally?" He shrugged his shoulders. "There could be hundreds."
Andrei’s temper flared and he wanted to kill the witch all over again, but that wasn’t possible. He’d let his hatred of her rule him, and it had led to her death. Now there was no way to force her to reverse what she had woven. "What a fucking mess. Have you had any luck in finding a way to rescue our people?"
His people. Hundreds of men like himself were trapped in their home world, unable to cross the great barrier into the human realm where they could feed and find their mate. Andrei shuddered at the thought of what must be happening to them. Closed off for over a century, they would have to resort to feeding from each other. While a vampire could survive this way, they would eventually become malnourished. Only the blood of humans––preferably females––could give them the strength and power they needed to survive. There was also the possibility a male’s mate could have been born and died while he was locked away behind the mist. The mere thought made Andrei sick. No man should be left alone for eternity.
“I have not, and I even located a shaman. He was unable to break through the curse. Said our best bet was another witch. Speaking of, I hear there has been one hanging in a neighboring town. As it happens, we have received an invitation to a local charity ball. I understand the witch will be in attendance as well.”
Interesting. While attending some high society function was the last thing on his agenda, what choice did he have if he ever hoped to fix this mess? Perhaps the witch would be strong enough to break his curse.
“I have no desire to eat at the moment." Lie. The rumble from his stomach gave him away, but he refused to listen. "Grab a knife so you can hack this godforsaken hair off my back, and then I will head for the shower." He might as well make himself at least look respectable. After all, the people in the small village where he resided thought him a business mogul and would no doubt wag their tongues if he stepped out looking like a ruffian.
“Right away, Sire.” Roman disappeared and Andrei headed for the study. He knew it was going to be a lost cause, but he couldn't stop himself from again searching the vast library. If there was an answer to break this curse in the pages, then he would scour each and every last one.
Moments later, Roman came back with a pair of scissors and a towel and indicated for Andrei to sit in the chair. As Andrei took a seat, he thought about what Roman had told him regarding the witch.
"How much would you like me to take off?" Roman asked as he grabbed a chunk of Andrei’s hair.
“Just above the shoulder would be fine. Tell me more about this witch. What do you know of her?"
Roman began to snip. "Not much, but I know her name is Korinna. She has some kind of shop where she sells stuff."
"Stuff? You mean like witches’ spells? Does she sell potions?"
Roman continued snipping for a moment before he answered. "No. She doesn't advertise that she's a witch. I only know this because I ran into her. She has an aura about her. You know, the kind that witches have."
Andrei felt his brows pinch down in frustration. "Yes, I know precisely what you speak of." He couldn't help but recall the one who had cast the curse on him. Her beauty had been legendary, and suitors from counties far away would come to ask for her hand in marriage. But she refused them all. It seemed she had her eye on Andrei.
She had been beautiful, her silky raven hair piled on top of her head, exposing a long slender neck which begged to have his fangs buried deep in her vein. Andrei had only wanted one thing––well, actually two—blood and sex. Those were the two things any male vampire desired. Other than finding his mate. The witch knew vampires could only bond with their chosen, so Andrei hadn’t thought anything about her invitation to spend the night. He gladly accepted.
They had a good time, but when he bid farewell, she had been angry. Accused him of using her then wielded her magic before he knew what hit him. When he had tried to go back home, the mist that protected his realm refused to part and allow him to cross. He was physically unable to go home. Roman, however, had stood on the other side. When he realized Andrei was stuck, he had crossed back. It was after they tried again to go home, they found neither of them could enter. Only after Andrei had confronted the witch did she viciously share the full extent of what she had done. In his anger, he had killed her. Not once thinking his freedom died with her.
Now he was faced with the fact his mate was close. Their souls searched for each other, and soon they would come face to face. What did his curse mean to her?
"When is this charity ball?" Andrei rose from his seat, already feeling lighter with over half of his hair on the floor.
“Next Saturday. I will RSVP that we’ll be attending. Of course, they will expect a suitable donation," Roman stated.
Andrei nodded. "Write a check for whatever you think acceptable. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have things to attend to." Roman knew better than to flash him a sympathetic look, yet the bastard did it anyway. It only served to further fuel Andrei’s anger. In the heat of the moment, he decided he best go feed before his hunger got so out of control he would ravage the streets.
* * *
Sonia stood in the shower with her forehead against the cool tile and let the hot water roll down her back. She should have been taking a cold shower after the dream she’d had last night. Again, the same mysterious man whose features she couldn’t make out. Only that he had golden hair and a body any woman would drool over. A voice smoother than the finest silk, and even though she hadn’t seen them, she knew his eyes blazed with the fire of emeralds.
She had seriously lost her mind. Or the stories her grandmother told her were true. She smiled when she thought about how her mother and father had met. They always liked to share the story of how Sonia’s mother had moved from Romania to America to go to Cornell University. Her English was a little shaky, so she was given a tutor who happened to be Sonia’s father. He was the man of her dreams––literally, according to grandmother. The Covaci women apparently dreamt of their future spouses. Crazy? Yes, but there were a lot of strange things about the women in her family. Being gypsies was only the tip of the iceberg.
Grabbing the shampoo, she squeezed a dollop into her hand and scrubbed it through her tangled hair. How long had she been having dreams of her handsome stranger? So long, she was positive if she ran into him on the street, she would blush immediately. She might not recognize his face, but her body knew his touch, and her soul knew him intimately. Most people didn’t believe in fate, and Sonia wasn’t sure she did either. However, the elder Covaci she called Nana was a firm believer and taught her that destiny wasn’t something a person could evade. It would find you no matter what. Sonia gave a snort. There was no way the stud muffin in her dreams would ever find her. He was simply a figment of her desperate and lonely imagination.
Giving herself a final rinse, she stepped out of the shower and toweled off. The clock on the bedside stand said she’d better hurry or be late for work. She braided her wet hair, tossed on a pair of tan scrubs covered with German Shepherds, and pulled on her tennis shoes. Shooting from her room, she ran down the stairs, snatched her jacket, and fled into the kitchen where Nana stood at the counter pouring a cup of coffee.
“Morning, păpusă.” Adela greeted with a smile. “You’re running late again. Destiny keeping you from sleep?”
Sonia brushed a strand of dark hair from her grandmother’s cheek and planted a kiss. “I’m fine and destiny has nothing to do with it.” Not unless destiny came in the form of a six-foot-tall stack of muscle. Her imagination and lack of a love life had simply taken over her sleeping state. Nothing more than that. “I’ve gotta go.” She ran out the door, snatching a muffin off the cooling rack on her way out.
Sonia arrived at work with minutes to spare. Barely. She slipped in the back door of the clinic and hung her jacket on the rack before heading to the front desk. The list of patients indicated it was going to be a long day. Time to get started.
With one patient after another, the day sped by and left Sonia exhausted when she finally walked up front to see Sarah.
“Mrs. Beasley is here.” Sarah flashed a forced smile. Neither one of them looked forward to this appointment. Sonia stepped into the waiting room.
“Evening, Mrs. Beasley.” She watched the elderly woman rise and pick up the pet carrier. Sonia would have offered to help but knew the woman would never hear of it. Escorting Mrs. Beasley into the next available exam room, Sonia closed the door behind them and turned to the woman whose faded blue eyes filled with tears.
"The doctor will be in soon." She handed Mrs. Beasley a tissue. "I'm so sorry. This is never an easy decision to make, but I'm sure it's the right one."
The woman gave a knowing nod and placed the cat carrier on the exam table. Sonia exited through the door on the other side of the room and closed it behind her, leaning against its cool surface. She loved her job at the vet's office but hated days like this one. Mrs. Beasley, and her cat Patches, had been coming to the office for the last ten years. Today, the woman was here to send Patches across the rainbow bridge. The poor cat's health had been on the decline for months, and now the cancer had spread to the point where there was nothing more they could do.
It was time to let Patches go.
Sonia forced herself down the hall and knocked on the office door. "Dr. Wagner, Mrs. Beasley is here."
The doctor raised his head and gave a weary look. It had been a long day, with an emergency surgery on a dog that had cut open an artery on his leg while running with his owner. Luckily, it happened not far from the office, and the owner was able to get the golden lab in and treated before he had lost too much blood.
“I’ll be right there. Patches is our last patient, right?”
“Good. You’ve been here since early this morning. It’s Friday night and you should be getting ready for a date or something. Go home. I’ll get one of the other techs to assist me.” The doctor rolled back his chair and stood, pulling his white jacket on over his blue dress shirt.
Sonia thought for a moment. If she went home, her grandmother––whom she adored––would only give her that sympathetic look, pat her on the arm, and tell her how worried she was that her only granddaughter wasn’t married yet. Hell, Sonia didn’t even have a boyfriend, so marriage wasn’t on her radar. If Nana knew Sonia was no longer a virgin, it would break her heart. The woman hailed from a long line of ancient gypsies and had moved to America when Sonia’s mother was in her late teens.
“Huh?” She jerked from her thoughts. “Oh. Thanks. I do think I’m ready to call it a day.” She gave Dr. Wagner a smile and headed toward the back door. After grabbing her purse and jacket, she stepped outside. A warm October breeze touched her face, and she closed her eyes. Fall was her favorite time of year, and so far, this one had been warmer than normal for the Finger Lakes of New York. Her mystery man entered her thoughts, and she wondered how she had become so attached to a figment of her imagination. She shook her head.
“This can’t be good for my mental health. I’m in love with a dream man.”
Her phone rang in her purse, and she hurried to free it before it went to voice mail. Looking at the screen, it showed her best friend. She quickly swiped to answer the call.
“Emma!” Sonia headed for her car.
“Girl, I’m bored silly. Mark’s out of town, so what say we go shopping then grab some dinner?”
Sonia popped open her car door, cringing at the awful groan it made. She hoped the darn thing didn’t fall off its hinges. “Is he on business again?”
“Yep. Jetted off to California this morning and will be gone for two whole weeks.” Emma gave a lonely sigh. Her husband was not only drop dead hot but loaded. He owned his own software company, which specialized in virus protection for large firms like banks. Sonia didn’t understand it, but she knew her friend no longer had to work. Mark made her happy, which in turn made Sonia delighted.
“Well, you must have been reading my mind. I’m not in the mood to go home just yet.”
“Ah. Granny still reading your tarot cards?” Sympathy rang in her friend’s voice.
Sonia snorted. “You’ve no idea. She keeps telling me destiny is waiting, and my soul mate will soon find me. You know, it’s the gypsy way.” It was likely her grandmother was planting the mysterious stranger in her dreams with all her mumbo jumbo nonsense. She rolled her eyes as if Emma could see her. “Even if I believed those cards and all the stuff about how we are gypsies with special talents, how would one find their soul mate in this backwoods town?”
“I've no idea, but your grandmother is right about one thing.”
Sonia stuck the key into the ignition and let out a heavy sigh. “About?”
“Well, girlfriend. You won’t find a man if you spend all of your time locked in the house or at work.”
“Not you too,” Sonia laughed and started her car. The thing might be held together with tape and wire, but it still purred like a kitten. Well, maybe it was more like a Siamese looking for a fight. “Where you want to meet?”
“Come to my place. Oh, and I’ll drive.”
“Whatever.” Sonia laughed and hung up the phone. She eased her 1997 Honda into the street and headed down the road. It was at least twenty minutes to Emma’s house across town, and that was in the daylight. The darkness added another ten to fifteen if a person wanted to be extra careful on the windy road that led to the one hundred wooded acres where her friend lived.
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