Shortly before her wedding, Chloe questions her choice of future husband. Lately, her sexy dreams about Luke--her beloved fianc� who disappeared seven year earlier--seem so real. Their scorching union cannot be shaken.
Although Luke's investigation of a Ft. Lauderdale vampire clan changed his life forever, he never forgot his feelings for Chloe. His astral projecting into Chloe's dreams has angered Anika, the Alpha vampire set on Luke as a lifemate. Now he must convince Chloe their love deserves one last chance, and protect her--at all costs.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Blessed Be by Ashley Ladd
"I see you've let that mangy cat inside now. I should call the Health Department. Or maybe I should just take him to animal control." The sneer on Gerald's lips leapt to his eyes. He snatched the cat and sprinted for the door.
The tomcat screeched and clawed frantically at Gerald's face, drawing blood, forcing Gerald to drop him in a heap at his feet. Then it tore off across the room, its eyes glowing oddly silver in the dim light.
A look of utter amazement etched comically across the doctor's countenance as blood clung to his fingers after he touched his torn cheek. "That does it. He's going to the pound tonight. Or maybe I'll just tie an anchor around his neck and sink him to the bottom of the ocean."
"No! Don't you dare touch my cat." Chloe dove for the cat.
The vile Gerald scooped up the struggling, spitting creature first.
The door burst open, and the vampire from Chloe's dream stamped inside. A legion of wicked-looking dwarfs hobbled closely behind, big ears sticking out, long hair billowing behind them. The raven-haired woman pointed a talon-like finger at Chloe and leered. "Take her back to the manor. Alive."
Chloe gasped, her heart ready to burst from her chest and her respiration became shallow. She faced off against the trespasser, planting her feet wide apart. "You can't be real."
One of the hunch-backed ogres batted Chloe's feet out from under her, so that she fell to the floor and thumped her head. Intense pain slashed through her, stealing her breath.
The cat let out a horrible screech and before her eyes, transformed into Luke, just as he always looked in her dreams.
Blinking, Chloe couldn't believe her eyes. She had to be dreaming. Cats didn't transform into humans. Luke was dead. The vampire was a figment of her dreams. Yet Gerald and Shawanda also stared open-mouthed at the ensemble.
"Who are you?" Chloe finally found her voice and gouged the fiend in his eyes, making him howl as he retreated.
"I know karate!" Shawanda threatened, shrieking and swinging her leg in a high kick.
The vampire merely chuckled and flew into the air, avoiding the blow easily. Hissing, her fangs burst from her gums. She punched the nurse, reeling her backward into Gerald who was cowering in the corner.
Furious, Chloe threw the phone at the cackling vampire who ducked so that the phone smashed through the window. "What do you want from us?"
"I want you to leave Lukas alone. He'll never be mine as long as you're alive." The vampire swooped down on her, scooping Chloe into her strong arms.
Luke delivered a deadly chop to the attacker, making her drop Chloe. Cursing loudly, he caught Chloe just before she hit the floor. "Are you okay, darlin'?"
Confused, dazed, Chloe shook her head. "Yes. No. You were a cat...you flew in the air..."
"Shhhh. I'll explain everything as soon as I take care of Anika. Will you be okay for a moment?"
"Long as one of those things doesn't try to devour me." Chloe couldn't stop staring at Luke. He couldn't really be here. Or maybe she was dead. If so, this obviously wasn't heaven. And yet, what could be more heavenly than to be held in Luke's arms one more time?
"You'll be okay for a few moments? You're not going to faint on me?"
She touched her fingertips to her spinning head, feeling like she was being sucked into a force five tornado. It felt heavy but she wasn't in danger of passing out. "Yeah. I think so."
Luke brushed a kiss across her lips shooting volts of electricity through her and laid her back gently. "I'll return shortly."
"Promise?" On second thought, she wasn't at all fine. She was talking to a ghost and envisioning vampires and all manners of monsters. It was probably all a bizarre dream, but it had a very real quality to it that alarmed her.
"Promise." His eyes glowed silver and he lifted his head and howled, an earsplitting, inhuman sound that sent chills through her.
"Damn you to hell, Anika! I will have your head for this." The vigor in Luke's voice made Chloe blink and shrink back from him.
Anika hovered high overhead, her eyes glittering darkly. "As you are so fond of telling me, Lukas, we're already in hell. Your threats mean little to me." She dissipated into mist and shimmered away.
Luke swore under his breath and turned to Gerald and Shawanda. He approached them furtively but non-threateningly. He waved a hand over their eyes, which instantly glazed over. "You need to sleep now. When you awaken, you will think this was a dream."
Chloe absorbed his words, turning them over in her mind. Luke controlled dreams? So, maybe she hadn't been hallucinating. Maybe all her fantasies had been real, cloaked in the auspices of dreams. Struggling to her feet gingerly, her head still reeled and her heart raced. A jumble of emotions threatened to tear her up. "You promised me an explanation. Am I dreaming? Was I dreaming all those other times? Are you real?"
Luke rejoined her, supporting her to the couch in her private office. "Let me settle those two and I'll be right back."
Fear that he wouldn't return grasped her and she grabbed at his hand that felt very durable and not the least bit transient. She let her hand slip to his warm wrist and felt for a pulse. To her dismay, she didn't detect a single beat. "Don't leave. Explain first. I don't understand. If you're real, why have you pretended you were dead? Why did you leave me?"