When a string of apparent suicides leads Jessie Curtis to a famous rock band, she's convinced nothing can shock her anymore. Then she comes face-to-face with Rafe Steele, the enigmatic lead singer and centuries-old vampire. He's darkly charismatic and sensually compelling in a way almost impossible to resist.
Rafe is infuriated when an old enemy's barbaric actions lead a nosy investigator to his door. Jessie is persistent and shrewd, and he wants her with obsessive intensity. She already knows too much. He can't let her walk away. He must seduce her, control her, claim her as they unravel the mystery.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from A Taste of Twilight by Aubrey Ross
Falls Church, Virginia
Rafe Steele swayed to the sensual rhythm of Phillip Noir's guitar. The Crimson Carousel was packed but the crowd stilled, their eyes gleaming with anticipation as they recognized the opening strains of Hide and Seek. The song had a hypnotic effect. Dark yet ethereal, the tune rolled, sweeping along everyone in its path. Rafe had never seen it fail. The last chord of Phillip's intro echoed as Rafe began to sing.
"In the darkness of the night, your resistance whets my appetite." He caressed each word, infusing them with seduction. "You run a--way... You run--away." Awareness jolted through him, simultaneous and opposite. Desire and loathing.
They were here!
Rafe glanced at Phillip. His fingers moved effortlessly over the strings of his guitar, but his gaze scanned the audience. He'd felt the stirring too.
"As the blue sky turns to black, I find a way to get you back. I search for you... I search--for you." The song flowed from Rafe as naturally as breathing, but his instincts refused to relax. "Hide and seek. Like a child, you've got me playing hide and seek. Hide and seek. We're caught up in this game of--hide and seeek."
Phillip repeated the opening stanza, allowing Rafe to study the crowd. He scanned with his eyes and his mind. Etoro and Natalie might not be visible, but they were here. Damn it! How had they gotten past security?
Phillip's artistic flourish cued Rafe back in. "Now you tell me with your smile that though I've known you all the while, you won't be tamed. You won't--be tamed. I know you're in it for the chase. By now we both enjoy the race. It's all a game. It's all--a game." As Rafe repeated the chorus, another sensation penetrated the resentment seething within him. Anxiety, curiosity and fascination, they were not uncommon emotions. Rafe frequently felt them emanating from the audience, but a bittersweet complexity accompanied the sensation.
Following the unique signal, Rafe located a woman to one side of the dance floor. Her back pressed against a support beam and her gaze swept the crowd with focused intensity. Tall and athletically built, her composed, commanding stance was faintly militant. Interesting.
A tight, black leather skirt left her long, toned legs exposed from mid-thigh down. He caught teasing glimpses of those legs as the people around her shifted and swayed. Her hair was blonde, but the ever-changing lights made the exact shade impossible to determine. The thick, wavy mass had been swept away from her face and secured with some sort of clip. She was watching the crowd, searching for... He had no idea what she hoped to find.
The rock star in Rafe rebelled. No one came to a Pyrite show to watch the crowd--except a reporter. Fuck!
Forming a mild awareness compulsion, Rafe projected it toward the nosy blonde. Her head turned and her gaze locked with his. Her lush, red lips parted and she reached behind her, steadying herself against the beam.
Desire curled through him with sensual heat. His pulse raced and tension gathered low in his belly. "Hide and seek. Like a child, you've got me playing hide and seek..." He sang for her, to her, stroking her body with his voice and his gaze. The rest of the room fell away and he stood directly in front of her. "Hide and seek." His lips brushed hers with each word then time resumed and he was back onstage. "We're caught up in this game of-- Hide and seeek, hide and seeek...hide and seek."
Jessie touched her lips, the clingy material of her top rasping against her erect nipples. What in God's name had just happened? Her heart thundered in her chest and her thighs flexed restlessly. She ached, the tension in her core downright painful. She could still feel the teasing brush of his lips against hers.
It was that stupid song. Every time she heard it, her mind replayed the tune for days. She'd been so captivated by its seductive sway that she'd imagined... It didn't matter. She was here to find a killer, not turn groupie!
Pushing away from the beam, she adjusted her stance in her ridiculous stiletto ankle boots and resumed her visual search. A sea of people crowded together on the dance floor. Rubbing and grinding, their movements were more a parody of sex than any pretence at dancing.
"Anyone catch your eye?"
Jessie gasped and slapped Dalton on the arm. "You scared the shit out of me."
"I called your name twice," he shouted over the music. "I'll throw something at you next time."
"I told you this was a waste of time."
Cupping her elbow, Dalton guided her away from the dance floor. High-backed booths lined two walls in the adjacent room. Jessie skirted the pool tables and slipped into one of the booths. Dalton sat across from her, looking less like a cop than usual. Still, blue jeans and a black t-shirt didn't change his sharp, ever-assessing stare.
"Pyrite is selling out arenas all over the world. Why did they bother with this nightclub?"
Dalton lifted his broad shoulders in an indifferent shrug. "You can ask them as soon as they finish this set."
"Oh, didn't I tell you?" He grinned. "Brian got us invitations to the post-show party."
Jessie stared at him in stunned silence. Dalton frequently bragged about his brother's connection to Thane Burton, but Jessie hadn't really believed him until tonight. Brian was an investment banker, for heaven's sake. Why would he know Pyrite's business manager?
"Don't look so shocked. Have you ever known me to make an idle boast?"
"Please," she snorted. "You're a man."
He narrowed his gaze and leaned across the table, lowering his voice as much as the music allowed. "Did I ever leave you wanting?"
She waved away the question. Their affair had been over before it began. She'd needed comfort after the tragedy, and Dalton had been happy to oblige. Still, their friendship meant more to her than the physical pleasure they'd found in each other's arms. She didn't love Dalton and he knew it.
The past two years had given her time to reassess her priorities, to reflect on all she'd lost and determine what she wanted out of life. Never again would she live for her job, take happiness for granted, or waste her time with anything less than a fully committed relationship.
"Did any of the victims have backstage passes?" She drew Dalton's attention back to the case. "Were the members of Pyrite ever questioned?"
He sent the cocktail waitress away with a definitive shake of his head. "No one was questioned in any of the cases. They're suicides, not homicides."
"What are your instincts telling you? Is this some sort of message to the band?"
"I haven't ruled out the band." He tapped his thumbs against the tabletop, his gaze focused on her face. "If you touch each member of Pyrite, would you be able to...you know, sense whether or not they're the one?"
She unfastened the large barrette holding back her hair. Only a strand or two had come loose, but she needed something to do with her hands. "If I start pawing the members of Pyrite, I'm liable to find myself flat on my back. Rock stars aren't known for their subtlety."
"Brian introduced me to Thane a couple months ago. I don't know if he'll remember me, but if he does, I'll have him introduce you to the others. Just act like a giggly fan while you shake their hands."
"Giggly fan?" She crossed her arms under her breasts and slanted him a look. "Have you ever heard me giggle?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
Finger combing her hair back into place, she refastened the barrette and glanced toward the stage. Her lips tingled and aching desire erupted between her thighs. She acknowledged her body's response to Rafe's skillful performance. He had perfected the role he played. That's all there was to it. He played a role to promote his music and she'd play a role to catch a killer.
"I've worked undercover before," she said, more to herself than to Dalton. "This isn't any different."
He nodded and offered an encouraging smile. "I'll see if I can find Thane. Don't go downstairs without me. Brian said there's going to be media coverage at the party, so they should be on their best behavior. Still," he paused as his gaze swept her body, "you look especially hot tonight."
He melted into the crowd before she could reply. His protectiveness was sweet but unnecessary. Jessie could take care of herself.