Book 2 in the Mackenzie Vampire Series
Cindy Harper had an ice-cream flavor for every emotion. Vanilla caramel fudge eased the stress of dealing with her weird and wacky guests at the Woo Woo Inn. But no sweet treat from her freezer was smooth, creamy, or tempting enough to cool down her sensual fantasies about uber alpha male Thrain Davis.
This was a man to be enjoyed on a strictly primitive level. Every woman who ever saw him smile would wonder about the pleasure his mouth could give her and recognize the secrets in his hard blue gaze. Too late she realized the danger of inviting an ancient vampire into her inn. The concept of fanged creatures of the night scared her witless. Besides, he forced her to examine her past when she was just fine with her present. He did have an up side, though. Who needed ice cream when you had a hot and yummy dark immortal in your bed?
is Book 2 in the Mackenzie Vampire Series
The full series reading order is as follows:
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“There’s nothing more sensual than a pile of fall leaves and the crisp bite of autumn in the air.” Sparkle Stardust drew in a deep breath of October with its many erotic possibilities. “Fall is a sexy season.” She climbed the wooden steps, paused beneath the porch light of the old Victorian inn, and turned to gaze at night shadows enveloping the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
“Phtt! Hiss!” The chubby gray cat she clutched to her chest expressed his opinion.
“Hmm?” She glanced down at him. “You spoke, sweetie?”
“Every season is sexy to you. And there’s nothing sensual about a pile of leaves or New Jersey. Now put me down.” He wiggled in a vain attempt to leap from her arms. “And I’m a verbal being. I have to be able to talk out loud. I hate this mental communication crap.”
She stroked his head. A warm fuzzy moment. He was an entity with unspeakable powers, and yet he chose not to claw her when even a teensy scratch would make her drop him. Of course, if she were cynical, she might conclude that he just didn’t want to be dropped. Mede was still working on the cats-always-land-on-their-feet thing. “Wrong. New Jersey is an erotic playground. I remember a time in Wildwood on the roller coaster?”
“Sweetie” stared at her in horror. “You did it on a roller coaster? You’re kidding, right?”
“You have no imagination, Mede. Haven’t you ever rolled around naked in a pile of leaves with a woman who was hot for you, and then had crazy sex as the leaves crunched and crackled under your sweat-slicked bodies?” Sparkle considered what she’d said. “In your human form, of course.” She slid the tip of her tongue across her bottom lip as a particularly delicious memory touched her. “Preferably your golden-god human form.”
“No. Rolling around naked in a pile of prickly and scratchy dead leaves isn’t a turn-on. Now put me down. I need to be free and verbal.” He wiggled some more.
“Can’t do, sweetie. The cat form is for heavy-duty snooping. It won’t work if you don’t stay in character. And I have to make sure no one hears me talking to you out loud.” It was beneath her, but she felt gleeful triumph in adding, “You wouldn’t let me talk when I was the cat.” She tried to look righteous.
“Put. Me. Down.” He glared up at her from angry amber eyes.
“Uh-uh.” Sparkle smiled at him. Male anger was so…arousing. She didn’t think that was the effect he was aiming for, however. “This is an inn, Mede. No cats running loose. It’s either this or the carrier.”
He narrowed his eyes to dangerous amber slits. “Try to put me in a carrier and New Jersey will be nothing more than a dust cloud blowing across Pennsylvania.”
Sparkle decided that maybe she’d pushed him as far as she should. “Okay, no carrier. So here’s the deal. We go into the Woo Woo Inn, and I tell them I’m a witch and you’re my familiar.” She could hear the sound of a car drawing closer.
“No.” He watched with her as the car’s headlights appeared around the last bend in the inn’s winding tree-lined driveway. “You tell them exactly what we are. We’re cosmic troublemakers and proud of it.”
Sparkle sighed. Mede could be so pigheaded. “No one will believe me. Witches are part of the culture. No one’s ever heard of cosmic troublemakers.”
“Your point is?” He looked exasperated. “This is the Woo Woo Inn. Everyone here expects the weird and wacky. No one will care what we call ourselves.” He glanced up at Sparkle, and for the first time she saw humor in his cat eyes. “And I’m not pigheaded.”
Sparkle couldn’t help it, she smiled back. Mede could always do that to her, make her forget all the irritating little things he did. Of course, he could also do a lot of incredibly sensual things when he was in human form. And for Sparkle, sexy would always cancel out irritating.
Mede returned his attention to the driveway. “That’s Thrain parking his car. We need to make up fake names.”
“Fake names?” She frowned. Sparkle Stardust was who she was, and she couldn’t conceive of another name having such panache. “It’s been over two hundred years. Thrain won’t remember our names.”
“Hello? I’m Ganymede and you’re Sparkle Stardust. Trust me, he’ll remember. We need dull ordinary names.” He narrowed his amber eyes, obviously having as much trouble as she was with the word “ordinary.” “Just call me Trojan while we’re here.”
“Trojan? That’s a condom brand.” She bit her lip to keep from laughing. Mede hated anyone laughing at him.
He twitched his whiskers in irritation. “It’s a tough-guy name, and you’d think of sex no matter what name I picked.”
“I think I’ll be Prada.” Her absolute fave shoes.
“Prada? I never heard of anyone named Prada. Doesn’t sound like an ordinary name to me.” Now his whiskers and ears were twitching.
What a grouch. “Okay. Prada Smith. Is that ordinary enough for you?” She considered the situation for a moment. “And I’d suggest we completely immerse ourselves in our aliases, even when we’re thinking. Thrain has enough power to slip past our thought barriers if we’re careless.”
Sparkle studied the man climbing from his car. “Even with our name changes, do you think he’ll figure out who we are?”
“No way. The last time we met, you were a cat and I was in human form. Besides, that was back in 1785. It’s 2005 now.”
Sparkle smiled. “You looked like Paul Bunyon.”
He offered her an annoyed hiss. “I looked like a powerful Scottish laird, and I don’t have a clue why I invited you along on this job.”
“You invited me along because I bribed you, oh greedy one.” She tried on a sweet smile. Okay, so sweet smiles weren’t her thing. “I offered you a month of uninhibited sexual excess on an exotic island. Of course, you’ll have to show up all buff and blond. Remember the last time we did this? What a yummy memory.” She shivered to indicate how delicious it had been.
He chose not to comment on her yummy memory. “Why’d you decide to come along this time?”
Sparkle kept her attention on the man who had now pulled his travel bag from the trunk of his car. “For the same reason you’re probably here. If this Cindy Harper is the person we think she is, I want to make sure Thrain does the wrong thing by her. Wrong as in sexually tempting and wicked.” She glanced down at Mede and smiled. “Of course, all work and no play makes Sparkle a dull troublemaker, so I intend to create all kinds of erotic excitement in Ye Olde Woo Woo Inn.”
Small travel bag in hand, the man strode toward them. Such a small bag for such a big man. Big. A word to conjure with. She loved the word “big.”
He climbed the porch steps then paused in front of them. Sparkle had to look up a long way to meet his narrow-eyed gaze. She’d only seen two men with eyes that I’m-hot shade of blue. One of them was the man facing her, and the other was Darach Mackenzie. Of course, Thrain wouldn’t remember meeting her.
“Hi, I’m Thrain Davis. Do I know you?”
“Definitely not.” Surprised, Sparkle felt him probing her mind. Her shield was in place so he’d find nothing, but the fact that he felt the need to probe was a red flag. She couldn’t forget he was an immortal like them and had survived by always being careful. “I’d certainly remember if I had.” She offered him her sexiest smile, the one known to reduce grown men to whimpering lumps of throbbing testosterone. “I’m Prada Smith,” She glanced down at Mede. “And this is Trojan.”
Thrain smiled back at her, and Sparkle blinked. He hadn’t been at his best the last time she’d seen him, so she hadn’t realized the full extent of his sensual pull. Talk about a high-amp vamp. Vampires were sexual creatures by nature, but this one would take any woman’s lust level to a new high.
“Great meeting you.” He nodded at her then pushed open the inn’s door and went inside.
“Wow. What an erotic powerhouse. Did you feel it? Did you?” She glanced down at a glowering Mede.
“No.” He glared at her.
“You’re jealous.” She smiled at him. “You have to know that no being is sexier than you are, sweetie. But Thrain is still special.”
“Sweetie” looked a little mollified.
“I’m going to have soooo much fun here. Messing with the sexual lives of humans always gives me a buzz.” She thought for a moment. “Of course, with so much talent, it would be a shame for me to limit myself to humans. I’m open to manipulating the sex lives of nonhuman entities as well.”
Mede made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a groan. “Did you pack lots of the pink stuff? I feel a tummyache coming on.”
Cindy Harper had werewolf burnout. Six had checked in this week, and once a werewolf sat on your furniture it took days to get the hair out. Why did it always have to be werewolves? Why not wereducks, or werebunnies?
She stood near the front door, smile already in place and electronic organizer in hand, waiting for the last few guests to check in. She knew the organizer sort of jarred with the old-fashioned feel of the inn, but she couldn’t help it. She was addicted to technology. Electronic gadgets were now, and her motto was: Always look forward, never look back. Looking back was useless. She hadn’t found the answers she needed there.
Cindy couldn’t wait to meet people who checked in after sunset. Guests who arrived at nightfall were usually the most interesting. They understood the game. Her inn only awoke when night mist crept from the surrounding forest and twined around the old inn like ghostly fingers. Travel guides always gave the Woo Woo Inn five stars for atmosphere.
“Uh, Cindy, could you tell me how to get to that cemetery you mentioned in your brochure? It’s dark now, so I figure the spirits will be up and running soon.” Her guest from the Dracula room offered Cindy a toothy grin showcasing his long pointy canines.
Running away, if the spirits had any sense. Cindy always wondered what dentists thought when patients walked in and said, “I wanna be a vampire, Doc.” She smiled at the mental picture. “No problem, Latrienne.” Also known as Jim Kehoe on his American Express card. “Just take the path into the woods behind the inn. It’s about a five-minute walk, and don’t forget your flashlight.”
He frowned. “Won’t the light scare away the spirits?”
She shrugged. “It’s an old graveyard so I’m pretty sure the spirits are down with flashlights. Besides, lots of murderers, bank robbers, and worse are buried there. No wimps in that bunch.”
“Worse? Oh.” He swallowed hard. “I think I’ll take my girlfriend along. She won’t want to miss this.” He scurried up the staircase, his black cape flapping as he went.
Cape? She needed to take him aside for some advice on the latest styles in vampire gear.
Cindy shook her head in wonder. Didn’t these people know that none of this was real? Obviously not, because her inn was always full. With enough capital to indulge her sense of humor, she’d bought and renovated the old place, then dedicated it to all those who were fascinated by the strange and unexplained or who thought they were the strange and unexplained.
She’d named it the Woo Woo Inn in a moment of wild whimsy then stepped back to see what happened. What happened was that she had a spectacular success on her hands.
During her six months in business it had been pretty easy to separate her guests into two categories?the delusional or the curious. A select few were genetic scientists she’d specifically invited to visit the inn in the hope that…
Her thoughts scattered as one of the final guests she’d been expecting walked in.
The impact of the man striding toward her made Cindy suck in her breath. She dealt with the weird, wacky, and wonderful on a daily basis, so she felt she was pretty much immune to anyone or anything that walked through the Woo Woo Inn’s doors. But this man… It was as though every woman’s darkest fantasy of the ultimate alpha male had suddenly materialized in her hallway.
She didn’t need to burn any brain cells analyzing him. This was a man to be enjoyed on a strictly primitive level. Cindy let her basic instincts do their thing.
First impressions– Tall. Broad-shouldered. Long leather coat?unbuttoned. Jeans?buttoned. Damn. White shirt?mostly buttoned.Double damn. Of course, her basic instincts never spoke in complete sentences, so once her gaze wandered above his neck she had to move up a step in the evolutionary process to do justice to him.
Describing any other man, she’d simply say he had blond hair, but on this man blond didn’t say it at all. Blond evoked images of all things soft and golden. No one in their right mind would describe him as soft or golden. The wind had whipped his hair into a long tangled glory lying across those incredible shoulders. Each strand was the sun rising over the icy North Sea, the swish of a longboat’s prow cutting through the gray waves, the battle cries of sea-borne invaders. It was…Viking. He was a dark warrior no matter the color of his hair.
Dark warrior? Whoa. She was skating on the thin ice of purple prose when she usually just laid everything out in the fewest possible words. He had a great bod and sexy hair. That’s all there was to it.
“You must be Cindy Harper.” He stopped in front of her and offered his hand. “Thrain Davis.”
His voice matched the rest of him, all husky and filled with dangerous erotic traps for unwary women. And she definitely detected a touch of Scotland there, not so much in his choice of words, but in the cadence of them. Cindy shifted her Viking imagery to purple hills, shadowed glens, and sexy Highlanders.
“Hi.” She automatically took the hand he offered, but still kept her unblinking gaze on his face.
His eyes were a strangely brilliant shade of blue. Blue was an ambiguous color. It was a flame’s superheated center and winter’s coldest waters. She suspected he could be both.
Uh-oh. She’d just fallen through the ice.
“Welcome to the Woo Woo Inn.” Her brain’s welcome.
“Oooh, yes! Pant, pant, pant. Woo-hoo, come and get me, you big beautiful hottie.” The welcomes from the sluts who lived in her basement.
“Thanks.” He smiled.
Even if a portal to Hell had opened at her feet, she wouldn’t have felt more shocked. Sure he had sensual lips and great teeth, but that’s not what his smile was about. It was about temptation. Every woman who ever saw Thrain Davis smile would wonder about the pleasure his mouth could give her, and from there go on to imagine what his mouth combined with the rest of him could accomplish. His intense blue gaze and sexy smile were an invitation that said, “Press any of my body’s hot spots for sensational sex.” Cindy allowed her glance to slide the length of him. Both her basic and higher-level instincts agreed that it would be fun to explore those hot spots.
“I think you need to blink now.” His smile widened.
Cindy blinked then quickly dropped his hand. What had that been all about? She’d learned when she was eighteen never to let a man’s physical appearance affect her judgment, and she hadn’t been eighteen for a very long time. But she tried to be honest with herself most of the time, and she couldn’t deny that something about him touched all of her hot spots.
“You’re a spectacular-looking man. I’m sure women all over the world have suffered dry eyeballs after meeting you.” She smiled back at him.
It was his turn to blink. He was probably used to women playing coy around him. Well, she said what she thought. Within reason. She didn’t think she’d share her hot spot fantasy with him.
“Spectacular-looking? I don’t think so.” He frowned then raked his fingers through his hair. “At least, I hope not. I want to blend in with your other guests.” He actually looked worried. “It’s the hair, isn’t it?”
Cindy thought about some of her other guests. No, he definitely wouldn’t blend in. “It’s the whole package.” His response sort of surprised her. Most men she’d known loved to have their egos stroked. “You mustn’t look in a mirror often.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his expressive mouth, and she had the feeling he was laughing at a private joke. “No, I don’t. But you’re wrong, Cindy. What you see now is the ordinary me. I save ‘spectacular’ for dark moonless nights.”
Cindy felt a stab of disappointment. He must be just like most of her other guests who liked to play at being something they weren’t. She glanced at her organizer. For some reason, Hal hadn’t entered any info next to Thrain’s name. An oversight. “So are you a vampire, werewolf, demon…?” She waited, ready to put in the details.
His soft chuckle mocked her. “None of the above. I’m only here to observe. Paranormal events fascinate me.”
Cindy glanced up to meet his suddenly intent stare. Sheesh. She was back to the unable-to-blink thing. And she felt…different. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it was like something alien had touched her mind. Whatever it was slipped away before she could think about it. Probably just the beginning of a headache. She hadn’t slept well today, and lack of sleep always gave her a headache.
“You don’t believe any of this, do you?” Thrain swept his arm wide to encompass all that she didn’t believe. “Why do you run this place if you don’t believe in any of the paranormal stuff?” For some reason, he seemed really bent out of shape by his insight.
How had he known? She’d never talked about her personal beliefs with anyone. Cindy shrugged away what she couldn’t explain. “I don’t know what makes you think that, but I guess the truth is that I’m an observer like you. I’m open-minded, but I need proof before I believe anything.” And proof was the one thing that no one had ever offered.
But someday, someone might walk through the inn’s door with all the answers to her questions, and she wanted to be here when it happened. “I opened the inn because I wanted to invest my money in a business, and this seemed like it would be fun.” Not the only reason. Definitely not the only reason.
He latched on to just one part of her answer. “I think we’re entirely different kinds of observers.”
She sensed disappointment before he seemed to close off his emotions. His expression gave away nothing. Since she couldn’t think of anything meaningful to say, Cindy simply shrugged.
“Are you really open-minded? Would you accept proof if it were standing in front of you?” He sounded sincerely interested in her answer, but his eyes remained neutral.
Now he was creeping her out. “Sure.” Maybe. She shifted her attention to her organizer and carefully entered him as an interested observer. “I’ll have someone carry your?”
“I can carry my own bag.”
Cindy looked up from her clipboard at his terse comment. Yep, she’d somehow managed to annoy him. Not a good beginning to his stay. She smiled in the hope it would improve his mood. “Your choice. I’ll have someone show you to your?”
“I can find my own room.” He held out his hand for the key.
Now he was making her mad. She barely stopped herself from slapping the key into his palm. “Fine. You’re in the Incubus room. Second floor, turn right. Breakfast will be in a half-hour, and then you have a choice of activities. The brochure in your room will give you the details.” She forced some warmth into her voice. No matter how strange her guests acted, they were still paying for an enjoyable experience, and she’d play the happy hostess even if it killed her.
Cindy tried to look past him, but he stayed planted in front of her, his body blocking her view of the front door. Impatient, she looked up at him. “What?”
A sudden smile softened his mouth and actually reached his eyes. “You deserve some good memories. I do great memories.”
Memories? What did memories have to do with anything? He left her staring after him as he strode past her then climbed the stairs. Mmm. He looked just as wow going as he did coming. She smiled. What a totally sexual animal. Within that context, she understood the great memories thing perfectly.
Only when he was out of sight did she return her attention to the front door. What had just happened? Because something had definitely happened.
Okay, she wouldn’t think about it now. At least there was one thing she knew for sure. No way could the last guest top that.