“A master of her craft.” —Maggie Shayne Sofia Ravenwood was once fascinated by vampires—their seductive power, their inhuman strength, their dark desires. Then one of them attacked her family, and she threw out her goth attire and vowed to keep clear of her enemies. Until she heard about Ethan Parrish: a sweet, sizzling-hot former college football player, turned into a vampire against his will. Wandering the deserted streets of Morgan Creek, Wyoming, Ethan’s sure he'll be alone forever—a monster like him deserves nothing else. Then beautiful, complicated Sofia agrees to meet him, fangs and all. The need she ignites in him is more than just the pulse of her blood or the scent of her skin. But he's not the only bloodsucker desperate to make her his own . . . Praise for Amanda Ashley and Twilight Dreams “A tender paranormal romance exploring love and family ties, and it’s tinged with intrigue and vengeance. . . . This portrait of new love is sweet and endearing.” —Publishers Weekly “Author Ashley is no stranger to paranormal romance . . . Intriguing.” — Kirkus Reviews “Master storyteller Amanda Ashley weaves a classic vampire tale of sensual, spine tingling suspense.” — Christine Feehan
Release date: August 28, 2018
Print pages: 336
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He blew out a sigh. It wasn’t just food and drink he’d had to give up. It was his whole way of life. It was gone. All of it—his old life, his family and friends, not to mention his job. Damn! He had just received a raise and had been due for a well-earned promotion to vice president in charge of sales. Well, he could kiss that good-bye, too, along with everything else. Hard to keep a day job when you couldn’t show up until after sundown.
Some people are born to be vampires, Saintcrow had told Ethan shortly after turning him into a fiend. You’re not one of them.
As far as Ethan was concerned, truer words had never been spoken. And yet, the alternative—walking out into the sunlight and being turned into a living torch—was unthinkable.
Shit! Fate must be having a good laugh at his expense. He had never liked horror movies, always been afraid vampires were real, and had been squeamish at the sight of blood. And now he was a creature of the night, complete with nice, sharp fangs and eyes that turned red with the lust for blood.
Like his lovely cousin, Holly.
He still couldn’t believe she had asked to be turned. Why would anyone in their right mind want to be a vampire? Holly had given him some overly dramatic sob story about it being the only way she could be with her vampire husband, Micah Ravenwood, forever.
Ethan shook his head. How could anyone willingly give up their humanity? It was beyond his comprehension.
Sure, Holly had told him it wasn’t so bad, that he would get used to it . . . yada yada yada.
When he reached the bridge that separated the town from the highway, he turned around and started back toward the house he’d chosen as his current residence. Morgan Creek had once been home to a pack of vampires who had kept ordinary people trapped here against their will. Though the prisoners had supposedly been well-treated and provided with food, housing, and entertainment, they had been no more than a ready food source for the vampires.
Ethan came to a halt, hands clenching, when he saw Saintcrow sitting on the front porch. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you, too. Kadie and I are leaving. Seems my wife’s decided she wants to go to Scotland.”
From what he’d heard, Kadie had also chosen to be a vampire rather than live without the love of her life. How anyone could fall in love with a vampire, let alone a master vampire like Saintcrow, remained a mystery.
Ethan lifted one shoulder and let it fall. “Good riddance.”
Saintcrow blew out a sigh of exasperation. “I’ve taught you everything you need to know to survive. The rest is up to you.”
“Do you remember what I told you?”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t hunt where I live. Don’t kill my prey. Don’t wait until the pain is excruciating before I feed. If I kill anybody except to save my own life, you’ll know it and you’ll destroy me.”
Saintcrow shook his head. “I think I should just destroy you now and save us both a lot of aggravation.”
“I’ll be good, Dad,” Ethan said, his voice heavily laced with sarcasm. “You and Mom have a nice trip.” He flinched as his sire’s power brought him to his knees. Rylan Saintcrow was a master vampire and not to be messed with. He would be wise to remember that, he thought, as Saintcrow vanished from his sight.
Ethan shook his head as he stared at the place where Saintcrow had been standing only seconds before. “Sad to be all alone in the world,” he muttered.
And what the hell was he supposed to do now?
Ethan walked through Morgan Creek under a canopy of stars. The town was, for all intents and purposes, a ghost town, now inhabited by one lonely fledgling vampire. Holly and her husband had left a couple of days before to continue their honeymoon. Kadie and Saintcrow had left late last night.
Strolling down the main street of the old business section, he passed a grocery store, a library, a restaurant, a tavern. Farther down the street, he spied a movie theater and a gas station. If the place was his, he would have leveled everything except the houses, built a luxury hotel with a pool and a handful of exclusive shops and turned the place into a winter resort.
But it wasn’t his, and he didn’t have that kind of money.
Feeling lost and alone, he pulled his cell phone from his back pocket, then frowned. Who was he gonna call? His parents? They’d want to know where he was and why they hadn’t heard from him in the last few weeks. What could he say? Hey, Mom, Dad. You’re probably wondering why I never made it to Cousin Holly’s wedding, or why I haven’t called. Well, that’s an interesting story . . .
He pinched the bridge of his nose. How did you tell the people you loved that you’d been turned into a vampire against your will?
And what about women? Sure, Kadie loved Saintcrow and Holly seemed smitten with the guy she had married, but Ethan was pretty sure women who liked vampires were rare . . . or maybe not. He recalled Holly telling him about some girl . . . what was her name? Sally? Sandy? No, Sofia. His cousin had told him Sofia loved vampires.
Well, there was one way to find out if that was true. He sent a quick text to Holly, asking for Sofia’s number, then sat on the curb to wait for an answer.
Sofia Ravenwood read Holly’s text for the second time.
Sofia punched in her sister-in-law’s number.
Holly answered on the first ring. “I’ve been expecting your call.”
“Ethan’s a vampire? When did that happen?”
“At the wedding. He was attacked outside. That’s why he never showed up. Saintcrow found him.”
“And he turned him?”
“It was either that or let him die.”
Sofia stared at her bedroom wall. What would it be like to wake up and find out you weren’t you any longer? Micah seemed to have gotten used to it. And so had Holly.
“Sofie? You still there?”
“What? Oh, yeah.” There had been a time when she’d thought she wanted to be a vampire. When Micah found out, he had made her promise she would let him know if she ever wanted to join the ranks of the Undead.
She’d had reason to change her mind since those days. It happened when the guy she had been dating handed her over to his vampire master. But for Micah’s interference, she would have become prey. There had been a lot of changes since that night, she thought, glancing around. Her room, once painted a dark gray and covered with vampire posters, was now pink and white. She had stuffed all her goth clothing in the back of her closet, along with her black lipstick. “Did Ethan want to be a vampire?”
“No. I saw him shortly after he was turned, and he wasn’t at all happy about it. But he seemed to have accepted it. More or less.”
“Does my brother know you’re trying to set me up with your cousin?”
“Not yet. What should I tell Ethan?”
“I don’t know. Is he in control of his hunger?”
“Naturally, I called Saintcrow to ask him that very thing before I texted you. He said Ethan’s got a handle on it and you should be safe enough.”
“Should be? Great.”
“Just get yourself a sharp wooden stake and some holy water,” Holly said, laughter evident in her voice. “Would it help you make up your mind if I reminded you he’s tall and blond with gorgeous brown eyes, and that he played football in college?”
“You’re a lot of help. I don’t know, Holly. He’s almost eight years older than I am.”
“He’s lonely, Sofie. And so unsure of himself, not that I blame him. I mean, his whole life has turned upside down.”
“Oh, all right,” she said with an aggrieved sigh. “Give him my number and we’ll see how it goes. But if he tries anything, I’ll sic my big brother on him!”
Ethan stared at his cell phone. Now that he had the girl’s number, he was having second thoughts. He didn’t know anything about her—age, appearance, likes and dislikes. What if she had no more personality than a lump of coal and didn’t enjoy any of the things he did?
Time to call Holly.
“Hey, Ethan,” she said brightly. “Did you call Sofia yet?”
“Why not? You asked me for her number, remember?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know anything about her, except she’s supposed to like vampires.”
“I’ll send you her photo. She just turned nineteen . . .”
“I know, she’s young, but she’s pretty and fun and you won’t have to hide what you are with her. I’m not suggesting you guys get married, you know. Hang on a sec, I’m sending her photo. It’s from our wedding.”
Ethan whistled under his breath when he saw the girl’s picture. She had black hair and dark eyes, a winsome smile and a killer figure.
“I knew you’d like her,” Holly said smugly. “Ethan?”
“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. I mean . . .”
“She looks good enough to eat,” he muttered. “Literally. Stop laughing!”
“Sure you are. So, how’s being a vampire working out for you?”
“I’m fine, Ethan, really. Yes, there are adjustments to be made and things I miss, but I would have given up anything and everything to be with Micah.”
Ethan had never known anyone, including his parents, who were happily married. His friends changed wives as often as they changed their underwear. Sometimes more often. In his set, marriage vows had been a joke. Couples promised to be faithful and the next thing he knew, they were cheating on each other. The last thing Ethan had in mind was marriage. But he was desperate for some female companionship. “Must be nice to feel that way about somebody,” he said quietly.
“It is. If you call Sofie, let me know how it goes, okay?”
“Sure. Thanks, Cuz.”
“Cheer up, Ethan. It’ll get better, I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to it.”
“You do that. Good night.”
Ethan raked his fingers through his hair, took a deep breath, and punched in Sofia Ravenwood’s cell number.
Sofia stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her wet hair, and grabbed her phone off the toilet tank. When she didn’t recognize the number, she figured it was some telemarketer. They always called at the worst possible times. Somewhat irritably, she said, “Hello?”
The voice was deep and sexy and totally unfamiliar. “Yes. Hello? Is anybody there?”
“It’s Ethan Parrish. Holly’s cousin.”
“Oh, hi. She told me you might call.”
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime.”
“How about tomorrow night, around eight?”
“Works for me.” Tomorrow was Saturday, which meant she had plenty of time to do her chores before she needed to get ready. “Where are we going?”
“Anywhere you want except out to dinner.”
The sound of her laughter was warm and sultry. “How about a movie?”
“Okay by me.”
Sofia gave him her address and said good-bye, then bit down on her lower lip. What would her family say when she told them she was going out with a vampire? Sure, they loved and accepted Micah, but he was family. Of course, so was Ethan, she supposed, since Micah had married Holly. Still, her parents, one of her sisters, and her brother-in-law had been terrorized by a vampire and her minion not long ago.
She slipped into her sleep shirt, pajama bottoms, and slippers, then dried her hair. Did Ethan look as sexy as he sounded? Was she taking a horrible chance, going out with a fledgling vampire? What if he got a sudden, irresistible craving for blood?
She took several deep breaths. “You’ll be fine,” she told her reflection as she braided her hair. “You’ve got a bottle of holy water and a nice, sharp wooden stake. What could possibly go wrong?”
Ethan whistled softly as he strolled down the dark, deserted streets of Morgan Creek. He had just made a date with a beautiful girl—his first date since he had become a bloodsucker.
On the plus side, she was familiar with vampires. If one date turned into two, he wouldn’t have to make excuses for why he couldn’t see her during the day, or why he couldn’t come to dinner.
On the minus side, he couldn’t see her during the day, or take her out to dinner.
But that was a worry for tomorrow.
Tonight, he needed to hunt, something that should have been repulsive but was remarkably satisfying. The fact that the idea didn’t gross him out grossed him out.
It still came as a shock, how easy it was to transport himself to the nearest town, find a suitable female, and quench his hellish thirst. What wasn’t easy was stopping. But whenever he was tempted to take it all, he had only to remember Saintcrow’s threat to destroy him if he took a life.
Ethan was a nervous wreck as he dressed for his date with Holly’s sister-in-law. He hadn’t been this unsure of himself when he was sixteen and went on his first date with Connie Shoemaker. He had always had more than his share of self-confidence where women were concerned. He’d never had any trouble getting dates in high school or college, and certainly not since then.
But the old Ethan didn’t exist anymore. And he still wasn’t sure who the new Ethan was.
He ran a comb through his hair, slapped on some cologne, looked up Sofia’s address on his phone, and transported himself to her location, a second-floor apartment in a four-story building.
He took several deep breaths. And rang the bell.
Sofia smoothed her hand over her hair before she opened the door, felt her jaw drop when she saw the man standing in the hallway. Holly had said he was handsome, but this guy was gorgeous with his shaggy blond hair and dark brown eyes. His shirt emphasized his broad shoulders, his jeans clung to slim hips and long, long legs.
And that voice—like chocolate over black velvet. “Ethan?”
“Hi.” Taking a step back, she said, “Please, come in, vampire.”
He flashed her a wry grin, felt a shimmer of preternatural power as he crossed the threshold. “I thought you lived with your parents.”
“I did.” Closing the door, she led him into the living room. “I got a job a couple of months ago and moved here to be closer to work. Sit down, won’t you?”
He sat on the sofa, hands resting on his knees.
“Can I get you a glass of wine?”
“Sure, thanks.” It was the only thing—besides blood—he could keep down. He glanced around the room while she went into the kitchen. The walls were a sunny yellow, the curtains white, the floor hardwood. The furniture didn’t match, but it all seemed to blend together. Family photos hung on one wall.
“Tell me about yourself.” She handed him a goblet filled with dark red liquid, then sat in the green plaid chair across from the sofa.
He swirled the wine in his glass. “I’d rather not talk about my past, if that’s okay with you. None of it matters anymore. As for the here and now . . .” He shrugged. “I’m still trying to find my way.”
“Of course. I understand.” Although she didn’t, not really. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to just wake up and be a vampire. Holly had chosen to be turned. She had known what she was getting in to. But Ethan . . . her heart went out to him. He really seemed lost.
“Holly said you liked vampires.”
“I used to be obsessed with them.”
“I still think they’re fascinating.”
“Well, it’s true! I even asked my brother to turn me, although I’m not sure I want that anymore.” In as few words as possible, she told him about Leticia Braga’s attack on her family. “After that, I sort of changed my mind.”
“I can see how that could happen. So, if you’re over your obsession with the Undead, why did you agree to go out with me?”
She shrugged. “Holly asked me to,” she replied candidly.
“So, it’s a pity date,” he said dryly.
Sofia laughed. “In a way. But mainly I was curious. She had told me about you. She even promised to introduce us at the wedding, but you never showed up.”
“Yeah.” He sipped his wine, remembering that night. “I was attacked and bitten by a vampire. Saintcrow—do you know him?” At Sofia’s nod, he said, “Well, Saintcrow found me. He turned me into a vampire and took me to some ghost town.”
“You’ve heard of it?” he asked, surprised.
“Micah told me about it.”
“Right. Well, Saintcrow kept me there for a couple of months to teach me how to be a bloodsucker.”
Sofia didn’t miss the bitterness in his voice. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, although it seemed woefully inadequate. “Do you still want to go to the movies?”
“If you want, or I can just leave.”
She reached out, her hand covering his. “Don’t go.”
Ethan stared at her hand. It was small and warm. No woman had willingly touched him in months. He looked up, his gaze meeting hers. Was he imagining things, or had something magical just sparked between them?
Sofia stared at the screen, although she had no idea what the movie was about. She had spent the whole time sneaking glances at Ethan, admiring his strong profile, trying to imagine what he was thinking, feeling. Micah had made her promise that if she ever decided she wanted to be a vampire, she would let him be the one to bring her across. Something about it being important who your sire was. Good sires stayed with their fledglings, taught them the ropes, so to speak, made sure they understood the ins and outs of vampire life. Micah’s sire hadn’t done that. According to Micah, neither had Saintcrow’s. She thought it likely Saintcrow had decided to teach Ethan because he knew exactly what it was like to be abandoned by the one who made him.
She had met Saintcrow. The fact that he was compassionate enough to look after Ethan surprised her. Granted, she didn’t know the master vampire very well, but he seemed a formidable creature with few scruples. Still, she was eternally grateful to him for saving the lives of her family from that monster Leticia Braga.
She slid another glance in Ethan’s direction, startled to find him staring back at her. Heat warmed her cheeks. Caught in the act!
Their gazes met and held for stretched seconds and then, giving her plenty of time to back away, he leaned toward her.
Sofia’s breath caught in her throat as his lips brushed hers. They were cool, softer than they looked.
He pulled back, his gaze searching hers before he leaned in again, his hand cupping her nape as his mouth covered hers a second time.
The world as she knew it came to a screeching halt. The theater fell away. She heard nothing, saw nothing, as she sank into his kiss. The wine he’d had earlier lingered on his tongue, intoxicating her still further. She cursed the armrest between them. Then again, maybe it was a good thing. Otherwise, she might have climbed onto his lap.
She wasn’t aware that the movie had ended until the lights came up and someone behind them shouted, “For crying out loud! Get a room!”
Face hot with embarrassment, Sofia shrugged out of Ethan’s arms. “Let’s get out of here.”
Cheeks burning, she hurried out of the theater.
Still not certain what had happened—certainly nothing that had ever happened before—Ethan followed her. He had kissed dozens of women in his time, but he had never experienced anything like that. Even now, he couldn’t explain it, but it had been far more than just a kiss. Had she felt it, too, that almost mystical sense of connection? Or was he just imagining something magical because he was feeling so damn lost and alone?
Ethan cleared his throat. “In my other life, I would have suggested we go get something to eat, but . . .” He shrugged. “Would you like to go get a drink?”
Not quite trusting her voice, Sofia nodded.
“Any place in particular you’d like to go?”
“There’s a nice place right down the street.”
Side by side, not quite touching, they strolled down the sidewalk.
“It’s a beautiful night,” Sofia remarked.
“Yeah.” He had never really appreciated the night until he became a vampire. His preternatural senses made him aware of sights and sounds that had been denied him as a mortal man. The night itself seemed alive, as if he could reach out and touch it. One of his new powers allowed him to sort of meld into the darkness until he became invisible. Sometimes, when he was inside, the night called to him, entreating him to come out and bask in the darkness, bathe in the moon’s light.
Ethan halted abruptly, only then realizing Sofia had stopped several paces behind him. Turning, he closed the distance between them and opened the door to the nightclub.
Like all clubs, this one was dimly lit. Round tables ringed the dance floor; the bar, long and curved, anchored the far end of the room. An old rhythm-and-blues tune wafted from speakers mounted near the ceiling.
“Do you come here often?” Ethan asked as they made their way to an empty table.
“Not often, no.”
He held her chair for her. “What can I get you?”
“A tequila sunrise, please.”
“Be right back.”
Sofia noticed his taut backside as he walked away, but her mind still lingered on the kisses they had shared in the theater. She had been kissed before, though not terribly often. Her parents had been rather strict, especially with their two youngest daughters. Plus, she had four older brothers who had been very protective of their little sister. Sofia wasn’t sure what had happened when Ethan kissed her, but it had been . . . magical, she thought. That was the only word to describe it. All it had taken was one touch of his lips to hers and she had been lost. But the last kiss . . . there was no earthly way to describe its effect on her senses.
“Here you go.”
She smiled as she accepted the glass he offered, glad he couldn’t read her mind. “Thank you.”
He sat across from her and, to her chagrin, she found herself imagining them at home, alone in her room. In her bed . . . What on earth was she thinking? She didn’t even know the man, and he certainly didn’t know her. What was it with him anyway? She had never been attracted to a man so quickly before. Being alone with Ethan Parrish when there was a bed in the vicinity was definitely not a good idea.
And then she frowned. Was she really attracted to him? Or was it just his inherent vampire allure she found so irresistible? She ha. . .
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