Keep Me Forever
The fourth book in my vampire series is the story of Vampire Antonia Stonewright's search for a soul mate. Could handsome potter Michael Langton be her life's companion? Even when he isn't what he appears to be?
Keep me Forever won first place in Paranormal in the Smoky Mountain Romance Writers Readers and Bookbuyers Best contest and won Second Place in the Laurel Wreath Contest.
She had to be, in Sam's words, barking. Here she was, Antonia Stonewright, vampire, daughter of King Vortax, one of Arthur's chieftains, wife of King Aramaugh's younger son, running around in a cow pasture, following a big cat. Barking didn't even begin to describe it, but something compelled her, and in fifteen centuries, she'd learned to follow her instincts.
It was an easy pursuit.
The cat moved silently and swiftly, keeping to the shelter of the hedges, unless crossing fields. Quite amazing really how much open countryside was so close to London. She followed him a good fifteen minutes, moving at pretty much mortal speed. The creature never looked back, just continued at the same steady pace as if stalking an invisible prey, until it disappeared.
One instant it was there, moving silently along a field of yellow mustard plants, then it was gone.
Sweet Abel! It has been a long, long time since she'd been shocked like that. Given cats, no matter how large, were unlikely to levitate, where was it? How had it crossed the ten or so meters to the trees so swiftly? There was nowhere else it could be concealed, Antonia ran for the fringe of woodland. She could move faster that any cat and would soon catch up.
Minutes later she was through the trees and in a narrow lane. A lane looking surprisingly like the one leading up to Michael Langton's - and no doubt similar to forty or fifty miles of twisting thoroughfares between here and Guildford. Looking around, she sensed life to her right and ran down the middle of the lane. In seconds, she saw Michael's van parked by the stream, and in a leap was back in the woods. Watching. She moved forward, cautiously, still in the shelter of the trees
Then she saw him.
Michael Langton. Standing in the wash of light from his wide- open front door. Tall as ever. Naked apart from a pair of jeans that looked as if they'd been pulled on in haste. The zip was fastened but not the metal button at the waist and his waistband hung open.
Sometimes vampire sight was a questionable advantage.
Seeing Michael like this, tall, beautiful, his bare chest gleaming in the night, underscored her earlier disappointment and her desire. Madam had not satisfied her needs one iota.
He lifted his head as if sniffing the air, looked slowly from side to side, then looking straight in her direction asked, "What are you?"
She shivered. A reaction she hadn't known in centuries. She half-suspected she was blushing - or would be if such an action was physiologically possible. He knew. Something.
She stepped out of the trees. Making herself move at mortal speed. For now. "I'm vampire."
Before she had time to debate the wisdom of that bit of foolishness, he took a step in her direction. "What?"
She moved towards him. "What are you?" His question seemed purely academic.
He smiled. His dark eyes gleaming in the moonlight. "I'm the local legend."
Another Sam-ism: "Clear as mud" came to mind. Why, oh why, had she revealed her nature? Why was she standing an armslength from him? Why was she wanting those arms around her?
"You were here earlier," he said.
"You weren't." At this rate it would be dawn and they'd still be trading facile utterances.
He nodded, while she tried to think of a good reason not to turn and run. Preferably back to Yorkshire. But the prospect of walking away from such a perfect specimen of maleness, warm skin, sweet muscles and firm chest, to say nothing of the warm blood coursing through his veins, was an impossibility.
For better or worse, probably worse, Michael Langton had her mesmerized.
"Since you're here. Want to come in for a cup of tea?"
She couldn't hold back the smile. "It's not my beverage of choice."
His laugh was full, rich, loaded with amusement, and sheer and utter confidence. Obviously facing a vampire didn't disconcert him in the slightest. She'd no doubt be very wise to run. Fast.
She stepped forward.
"Come in then."
One look at his eyes told her he wasn't inviting her in for a quick cuppa. His whole body appeared taut with need, wanting and arousal.
That made two of them.
It was the grin that convinced her. That and the feral gleam in his dark eyes. "You tell me. Why were you here earlier?"
"I was hungry." If being incautious, might as well do it thoroughly.
He motioned her to enter with a graceful movement. His bare, muscular arm, covered with a sprinkling of soft, golden hair that gleamed in the light.
Antonia paused mid-step, met his almost feral eyes and smiled, her chest tightening and every nerve-ending in her body thrumming with anticipation. In three good strides, she was over his threshold, turning to face him as he pulled the door closed behind him. He grinned, resting one broad shoulder against the jamb, as he folded his arms across his magnificent chest.
He was damn lucky she wasn't grabbing him by the neck and throwing him to the floor. What sort of man toyed with a vampire? Unless of course he though her insane - or he was some sort of fanatic.
His weren't the eyes of a fanatic.
No fanatic had wide lips that curled at the corners setting a dimple in his left cheek. "Fancied me for dinner did you?"
"Just fancied you, really."
Again that glorious laugh. A rich peak of amusement, excitement, burgeoning life, and a tinge of the unknown.
What in Abel's name was she waiting for? Her gums, tingling earlier, now burned. Hunger and need stirred deep. How in Abel's name had she thought a horse's blood would satisfy? Her mouth curled at the memory of docile Madam. This man she ached for was feral.
She stepped close, felt his living breath ruffle her hair, heard his heartbeat and the steady rhythm of life blood flowing. Caught the sweet scent of fresh, male sweat and the restrained need that thrummed off him in waves. Need that primed her own arousal.
This was insane, but perhaps she'd been sane for far, far too long. Strong, poised, self-possessed, always in control. Laughter rose deep in her belly, bursting in a great peal of joy as she reached out across the centimeters that separated them, and touched his arm.
His hand closed over hers, meshing fingers. If she were mortal her heart would race and her blood pressure mount. Her heart might not pound but her chest tightened. Just as if she were being laced into one of those damned corsets she'd had to wear a century or so ago.
As he lifted her hand to his mouth, she pulled away, uncertain, irritated at his assumptions. Even if they were spot on. His grip tightened and he drew her hand upwards, never taking his eyes from hers, he whispered, "Oh, yes." And brushed his lips on her knuckle.
Make that knuckles! All one hundred and ninety-nine of them! Very, very slowly! His touch sent wild messages to her brain - and other, far more sensitive, parts. His lips seemed to burn against her skin. As he pulled her to him, she splayed her free hand on his chest to force space between them but he pulled her tight, chuckling as he wrapped his arm around her, trapping her hand against the hard muscle of his chest. He smiled and brushed his lips on hers.
Sweet nights and bat wings! What was he? Who was he? And did it matter a mortal cuss?
Copyright © 2005 Rosemary Laurey