Sexy vampires, dangerous devotion, unparalleled romance--no one does desire after dark like bestselling author Amanda Ashley. Now, in her enthralling new novel, she explores a passion as smoldering as it is risky...
Vicki Cavendish knows she should be careful. After all, there's a killer loose in town--one who drains women of blood, women with red hair and green eyes just like her. She knows she should tell police about the dark, gorgeous man who comes into the diner every night, the one who makes her feel a longing she's never felt before. The last thing she should do is invite the beautiful stranger into her house...
Cursed to an eternity of darkness, Antonio Battista has wandered the earth, satisfying his hunger with countless women, letting none find a place in his heart. But Victoria Cavendish is different. Finally, he has found a woman to love, a woman who accepts him for what he is--a woman who wants him as much as he wants her...which is why he should leave. But Antonio is a vampire, not a saint. What is his, he'll fight to keep and protect. And Victoria Cavendish needs protecting...from the remorseless enemy who would make her his prey...and from Antonio's own uncontrollable hunger...
This contemporary vampire romance may lack the violence, intensity and eroticism typical of the subgenre, but bestseller Ashley (After Sundown) still delivers an exciting plot and a heroine who can kick ass with the best of them. A killer is draining green-eyed redheads of their blood in the Midwestern town of Pear Blossom Creek, and 22-year-old Victoria Cavendish knows she should be leery of mysterious men like Antonio Battista, who orders food he never eats at the diner where she waitresses, then disappears into thin air. In fact, Antonio is a 600-year-old vampire. While an obsessive, yellow-eyed vampire stalks Vicki and a vampire hunter remains convinced Antonio's the killer, the innocent smalltown girl and Antonio fall in love. Even if they can survive the danger, what will happen to their love? A ghost living in Antonio's isolated Spanish castle provides additional paranormal flair, and a secondary romance between the vampire hunter ready to retire his stake and Vicki's best friend round out the story. (Feb.)
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January 31, 2006
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Excerpt from Desire After Dark by Amanda Ashley
It wasn't easy, destroying a vampire. Even when you found one tucked into his coffin at high noon, he didn't always go down without a fight.
Tom Duncan stared down at the body laid out in the satin-lined coffin. Edward Ramsey's body. Once, Ramsey had not only been Duncan's best friend, but he had also been the best vampire hunter in the business. Fearless. Relentless. But now Edward Ramsey was one of the Undead. And as such, he was filth, an aberration.
As such, he had to be destroyed.
Murmuring, "Sorry, old buddy," Duncan placed the sharp point of a hawthorn stake over Ramsey's heart.
He lifted the hammer, prepared to strike the blow that would destroy the monster his friend had become, when Ramsey's eyes flew open. Hissing, his eyes blazing like the fires of hell, Ramsey exploded out of the coffin, his fangs bared, his bony fingers curved like claws.
Duncan howled with outrage as Ramsey wrestled him to the ground, screaming with terror as Ramsey's fangs pierced his skin, sinking deep into his throat . . . .
Tom Duncan bolted upright in bed, the sound of his own cries echoing in his ears.
Dammit! Sometimes it just didn't pay to go to bed at night.
Rising, he padded barefooted into the hotel room's tiny kitchen, switched on the light, and pulled a bottle of water from the fridge. After uncapping the container, he took a long drink.
Damn, he hated that dream.
Returning to the bedroom, he pulled on a pair of gray sweatpants and a black T-shirt, slipped his feet into a pair of sandals, grabbed a jacket, and left the hotel.
Outside, he took several deep breaths, chasing the last vestiges of the nightmare from his mind. Feeling somewhat better, he strolled down the street, enjoying the quiet of the night. It was peaceful, so peaceful. In spite of the chill in the air, he passed a number of people on the street and nodded at a group of teenagers gathered in front of a bowling alley. He waved to an elderly couple sitting side by side on a swing in their front yard. They looked to be in their late sixties or early seventies, and he wondered how long they had been married and how many kids and grandkids they had.
With a shake of his head, he rounded the corner. What the devil was the matter with him, wondering about such mundane things? Once he had decided to be a vampire hunter, he had put all thought of marriage and kids out of his mind. Few vampire hunters had families. A wife and children could too easily be taken hostage or used for revenge by an angry vampire. He had made his decision to remain single and he had never regretted it. He didn't know why he was thinking of it now. Maybe he was just getting maudlin in his old age.
He grunted softly. Thirty-five wasn't usually considered old, but in his line of work, it was ancient. But he didn't want to think of that, not now. He was taking a much-needed vacation and the last thing he wanted to think about was vampires. But he couldn't help it, not after the last hunt. Not after learning that the man he had once hunted with, a man he had considered to be his closest friend, was now a vampire himself.
Duncan shook his head. Out of all the people he knew, Edward Ramsey was the last person Duncan would ever have suspected of being a vampire. Of course, accepting the Dark Gift hadn't been Edward's choice. It had been thrust upon him by one of the Undead. But Edward had finally found a way to live with his new lifestyle and now he was married to another vampire and they seemed very happy together.
Duncan grunted softly. Maybe that was what had him feeling so lost, so alone. Ramsey had been his only close friend. Surprisingly, they were still friends but with vastly different lifestyles. It was still hard to believe that he had a friend who was a vampire. Several friends, if he counted Grigori and Marisa Chiavari and Ramsey's wife, Kelly. The five of them had survived an incredible battle against one of the most powerful vampires that had ever lived. After the battle, Duncan had shared his blood with Ramsey. Looking back, he still couldn't believe he had done such a thing, but how could he have refused Marisa? She had still been a mortal then and he had just finished congratulating her because, when all was said and done, it had been Marisa who destroyed Khira.
"You did it," he'd said, grinning. "By damn, you did it!"
"We all did it," Marisa had murmured. "And now I need you to do something."
"Sure, kid. I'll dispose of all this carrion, trust me." His gesture had included the twisted bodies.
"Not that," Marisa said.
"Just tell me what you want," Duncan had said. "And consider it done."
"Ramsey needs to feed."
Duncan had stared at her. "What?"
"He needs blood to replace what he's giving Kelly. He's not strong enough to hunt."
"You want me to . . ." Duncan had looked at Ramsey, then back at Marisa. "This is carrying friendship a little too far, don't you think?"
"No," Marisa had said, her voice calm.
"Why can't you do it?" Duncan had glanced at Grigori. "You're used to it."
"Yes," she had agreed calmly. "I am. But Grigori needs to feed, too. You have no idea what it cost him to hold Khira at bay until I could... could . . ."
"Okay, okay, you convinced me," Duncan had grumbled. He had picked up a vial of holy water as he moved toward the couch.
Ramsey had opened his eyes as Duncan approached. Edward's eyes had darkened with alarm and Grigori had tensed, ready to spring to Edward's defense if necessary.
"Relax," Duncan had said. "A little insurance, that's all. Friend or no friend, you aren't turning me into a damned bloodsucker."
Looking back, he remembered sitting down on the sofa and wondering if he was making the worst mistake of his life. In spite of all they had shared, in spite of the years they had hunted together, it made Duncan a little sad to realize there would always be that little part of himself that no longer trusted his best friend.
A few weeks after they had dispatched Khira, Edward and Kelly had approached him. Duncan had listened to their plan with wry amusement. Incredible as it seemed, Edward had decided to open a school to train vampire hunters and he wanted Duncan to be in charge. Duncan had given it some serious consideration but, in the end, he had turned the offer down. He didn't want to teach a bunch of green kids how to hunt vampires, he wanted to hunt them himself. He had helped Edward find another hunter, one who had been thinking about retiring from the hunt. John Randolph was a good man and Duncan knew he'd do a good job. Randolph had told Duncan that when he tired of the hunt, he would be welcome at the school.
With a sigh, Duncan went back to the hotel and packed his gear, then checked out of the hotel. Opening the trunk, he took a quick inventory of his kit: hammer and stakes, a mirror, a few strings of garlic, a half a dozen bottles of holy water, a saw and a crowbar, a flashlight, and a snub-nosed .38. He closed the trunk, then unlocked the door of his beat-up old Chevy Camaro and slid behind the wheel.