While a stand-alone, A Taste of Dawn is best enjoyed when read in series order.
Mercedes Sevarus, the illegitimate daughter of an autocratic vampire and an alien, has been an outcast her entire life. Her only attempt at evading the rules designed to "protect" her ended disastrously. Now she lives her life as a veritable prisoner, music her only retreat. Desperate enough to barter her creativity for a few hours of tenderness, she reaches out to Eric King.
When Eric, the acclaimed songwriter for the rock band Pyrite, gets writer's block, someone emails him the first verse of a song. The message is simple. "If you want the rest, you must spend one night in my bed." The song is brilliant, achingly poetic, and so similar in style to Eric's own work he knows no one will suspect he didn't write it. But is he really willing to sleep with a stranger for the song?
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from A Taste of Dawn by Aubrey Ross
Huddled in the corner of the dank, stone room with her knees drawn up to her chest, Mercedes Sevarus shivered and contemplated death. A lantern occupied the opposite corner, its wavering light growing dim. The old woman hadn't come for several nights. Perhaps she'd never come again. The possibility offered less comfort than Mercedes expected. If the hag never deactivated the psychic barriers surrounding the room, then Mercedes would starve. A slow, extremely painful way to end her pointless existence, but at least it would be over.
If Mercedes smashed the lantern, however, she might be able to catch her threadbare gown on fire, transforming this hated cell into a tomb. But she didn't know if fire had the power to kill her, and she had to succeed this time. It couldn't go on. She had to find some relief from this endless misery.
She was an "abomination", a creature too hideous for words. She'd been locked away since her father's death, ignored and neglected. A painful reminder of... Mercedes didn't understand why the old woman kept her alive when it was obvious the hag despised her.
Driven by loneliness and desolation, Mercedes slipped beyond her confinement the only way she could. She floated on currents of metaphysical energy, searching for a host, a willing mind with which to meld. Most were too busy, too set in their ways to hear her whispered plea. She touched mind after mind. Nothing. No one reacted. No one cared. Scanning and reaching, she tested the limits of her control.
Then a scene came into focus, or more specifically a man. He sat at a box piano surrounded by sheets of half-finished music. Mercedes' heart leapt within her breast. She loved music. Her papa had spent hours teaching her to play the lute, piano and violin. He would accompany her as she sang for their guests, pride shining in his eyes. She'd locked those memories in her heart, and all the years of incarceration had not minimized their power.
She focused on the stranger. He was a man in his prime. Firelight accented the red in his shaggy dark hair. The tips of his fangs touched his full lower lip as he concentrated on the music he was attempting to play. He was a vampire like her father, fierce and predatory. Perhaps he would be strong enough to rescue her from the hag.
Hope squeezed her heart, but she couldn't let herself think beyond the moment. If he didn't accept her into his mind, nothing else mattered. Intelligence and creative intensity burned in his bright blue eyes. Mercedes drifted closer, gathering energy into a concentrated stream.
Please don't resist me.
The man closed his eyes, his fingers pausing over the keys. His mind opened and his vibrant energy surrounded her. Familiar yet exciting, he allowed her to establish a link. She communicated through music, expressing her joy and vulnerability, infusing his mind with desire and bittersweet longing. He organized her raw emotions with instinctive skill, his fingers flying over the keys.
"Eric, what are you playing?" A man intruded from behind the musician. "Please tell me it's yours."
"It's mine." Eric pivoted to face the couple who had just entered the room. "At least I think it's mine. It felt almost as if someone were whispering in my ear, but I'm not going to argue with my muse. What did you think?"
"I think it's the best thing you've ever written," the beautiful blonde woman praised. "We came by to cheer you up. You appear to have found your own inspiration."
Eric smiled, pressing his hand to his chest. "My heart is pounding. I need to write this down before I forget a single note."
"Why don't we help you?" the dark-haired man suggested with a wicked smile.
Desire suffused Eric's body with tingling heat. Mercedes barely recognized the sensation. She had never experienced anything so stimulating.
Mercedes' unique physiology required two things for survival, blood and sexual energy. Blood could be administered without her cooperation, but sexual energy could not be forced upon her. The old woman learned this as Mercedes matured. Ruthlessness and cunning became necessary when motivating Mercedes to feed.
"You're my sire, Chad. And Lynette is your mate." Eric turned back to the piano and reached for a quill pen. "Why do you keep tempting me like this?"
"We're looking for a third. It's not that unusual. Lynette's chances of surviving transformation are doubled if she accepts this kind of relationship."
"I'm not the sort of man who'll be able to share his mate, even knowing that's what she wants." He looked at Lynette. "You'll find a third. I have no doubt. But I am not that man."
"Can't we pretend just for one night?" She smiled, her hips swaying as she moved closer to the piano. "I know Chad would enjoy the fantasy."
Mercedes tried to ease out of Eric's mind. They were going to share this woman. These two men were going to touch her, kiss her... Mercedes couldn't even imagine what they were going to do. Why would Lynette welcome such activities? She had instigated this!
"This song is a triumph," Chad said. "Let's celebrate your victory."
He joined Eric at the piano and together they wrote out the song she'd helped Eric compose. She should go. She wanted to leave, but his emotions were making it almost impossible to dissolve their connection. Wave after wave of tingling heat flowed across the link.
Her breasts swelled, the nipples tight and aching. Was this how it was supposed to feel? Was this how Lynette felt?
Unashamed of her desire, Lynette undressed as the men spread the pages of music across the top of the piano, allowing the ink to dry. She cupped her breasts and tossed her head, sending her strawberry blonde curls cascading across her skin.
Chad's dark gaze moved over Lynette's curves with leisurely appreciation. "Isn't she fabulous? So uninhibited, so eager."
After only a glance, Eric closed his eyes. "She belongs you."
"She belongs to no one," Chad said firmly. "She shares her heart with me and we find pleasure in a variety of situations. I haven't touched you since I transformed you. I know it makes you uncomfortable. This may ultimately have been a disservice to you."
"Your training is officially complete in three weeks and tradition dictates that I present you to my sire."
"Faelon." Lynette said the name with a conspicuous sigh that made Chad scowl.
"Faelon is quite creative when it comes to demonstrations of respect." He pulled Lynette in front of him and turned her to face Eric, displaying her shapely body for the other man. "You have mastered each new skill and accepted each development in your nature. The one area of concern I have is your reluctance to indulge your sexuality. You are no longer human. Vampires are primal, predatory and sexual. You don't want to learn this lesson on your knees in front of Faelon."
"I don't want to learn it on my knees in front of you either."