Three cards lay on black satin.
The past. The present. The future.
The High Priestess.
The Wheel of Fortune.
A dream sent Kiziah Stillwell to the carnival and the fortune-teller's tent. Destiny drew her into the world of the vampire and those who serve them.
Love and duty warred within Fane Mercier as The Transformation, the time when he would cease being dhampir and became fully vampire, approached. With the change would come The Hunger, The Heat, and the necessity to take a kadine, a mate, in order to produce a new generation of Mercier dhampirs. And yet despite his duty to his race and his murdered parents, Fane's heart and soul longed to share the centuries ahead with another man.
Cable Luske had known from the beginning that loving Fane would present challenges, but while Fane's parents and brother had been alive, the possibility of a future together had existed. With their deaths and Fane's Transformation came the realization that Fane would need a kadine. In despair Cable sought a tarot reading and found The Lovers...and Kiziah...
...And a way for Fane to claim both a kadine and a male companion.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Kiziah's Reading by Jory Strong
Kiziah looked up, immediately caught in dark chocolate eyes, her pulse jerking and racing when a smile formed on kissable lips, when the stranger cocked his head and asked, "Is this seat taken?"
His smile widened. A hand settled on the back of the chair. "Is it all right with you if I claim it?"
He laughed, a warm, husky sound. "Save it while I get a coffee?"
She grimaced. Her answers looping through her mind as he moved to the counter and ordered a drink. Great. He was going to think she was queen of the monosyllable.
Her heart lurched and her body tightened traitorously. If she'd dreamed up a man to spend the evening with, he would look like this one. Dark-haired. Dark-eyed. Totally masculine. And yet...his laugh, his eyes, he wasn't a man who was afraid to feel.
So what was he doing here? Alone?
Kiziah wrapped her hands around her empty coffee mug and forced her eyes away from the stranger. Maybe he was a traveler, just passing through town. A man who didn't want to spend the night holed up in some dismal hotel room.
The fact that he came here instead of a bar told her something about him. She shivered, aware of the moment as he turned away from the counter and headed toward the table.
The loneliness and need for companionship that had driven Kiziah into the coffee shop returned, bringing a ripple of nervousness with it, an ache that settled in her belly. This was the part she wasn't very good at. The reason why her sexual encounters were few and far between.
She forced herself to take a deep breath. To concentrate on the here and now again. This was something. Better than what she'd had a few minutes ago. She'd get herself another mocha and enjoy the music. She'd sit back and soak in the cozy illusion of being here with a gorgeous man, one who would probably star in her fantasies when she returned to the camper, alone.
Desire moved through Cable, along with an unexpected tenderness as he focused on the blonde who'd agreed to share her table with him. Did she have any idea how vulnerable she looked? How desirable?
There was a sadness radiating off her. A loneliness that found an echoing chord inside of him.
Christ, he'd been thinking about the reading. About The Lovers. About her. And here she was. Here they were together.
Hell. Maybe this was exactly what he needed. A night in a beautiful woman's arms. A night with his cock pumping in and out of a woman's slick, welcoming channel.
He didn't even know her name yet, but he could already imagine himself stripping her out of her clothing, peeling each layer away in order to reveal a body made for pleasure. She was lithe, her breasts the perfect size, large enough to claim his attention, and yet... He gave a small laugh, knowing there were men who claimed breasts could never be too big. But he and Fane both favored-- Cable's thoughts veered off, but returned to their original destination. Both he and Fane favored women who looked like this one. Blonde, dark-eyed, soft. Though they'd never shared a woman.
Hell, Fane probably couldn't even remember the last woman he'd been with. And it had been over two years since Cable had been with one.
He rubbed his chest, wishing he could ease the ache in his heart. He couldn't risk being alone with Fane again. Couldn't even be angry over what had happened in the shower. Fuck!
His cock responded to the word. To the images. To the lingering sensations coursing through him, starting at the point where Fane had bitten and streaking through his nipples, his sac, his penis.
Cable forced his attention back to the woman as he took his seat and they introduced themselves. Making small talk and listening to the mellow jazz for a while, becoming comfortable with each other, forming a barricade of warmth against the chill of the deepening night.
Kiziah tried a hundred different conversation starters in her mind, but didn't utter a single one of them. Pathetic. She might as well have a capital "L" on her forehead when it came to men. Not that she couldn't talk to them, she could. She could talk their ears off when she was working and they stopped by her booth and expressed an interest in her dreamcatchers.
That's because you're in your comfort zone, Kiz. Maybe it would have been better if we'd stayed in one place, instead of traveling all the time. Then you would have had a normal childhood. I should have...
A lump formed in her throat as her mother's clear voice echoed in her thoughts. She could see her mother's features soften and grow sad. Could read the guilt there over the nomadic lifestyle--the traveling from psychic fair to psychic fair, to weekend festivals and craft shows.
No way, Mom. I love this!
Promise me that if you meet a man...
Kiziah looked down at the table. The sadness she'd been trying to escape when she sought refuge in the bright coffee shop suddenly catching up to her again. A year ago today she'd been "out on the town"--at her mother's urging. Trying to find something in common with the friends of a friend of a friend's client who had invited her to join them while they went from bar to bar looking for "Mr. Right" or at least for "Mr. Tonight". If she hadn't been with them...
Maybe she'd have been killed, too, when the drunk driver ignored the stoplight and plowed into her mother's car. Or maybe she would have been able to prevent it. Maybe since she would have been driving...
Cable's voice pulled Kiziah out of her thoughts. She gave him an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I guess I'm not very good company tonight."
He gave a soft, husky laugh, surprising her by taking her left hand in his. "That makes two of us." He brushed his thumb over the backs of her fingers. "Let me guess. Boyfriend troubles. That's the only reason I can think of for someone as beautiful as you are coming here by herself. Or maybe you were supposed to meet him, and he didn't show?"
Heat moved through Kiziah's face, embarrassed pleasure. Did he really think she was beautiful? She avoided answering by turning the conversation back on him. "If neither one of us is good company tonight, what's your story? You're more tempting than dark chocolate. Girlfriend problems?"
Cable's smile was a irresistible mix of sad and wry. "Boyfriend problems. A breakup that's been inevitable for a year."
"Oh." Yeah. It figures. Kiziah suddenly felt deflated.
The fist that had been holding Cable's heart in a vise grip loosened. Christ, she was so soft, so vulnerable, so genuine. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and shelter her from loneliness and pain. He wanted to find refuge from the same emotions in the heaven of her body.
He squeezed her hand and met her gaze, stealing himself for her reaction. "I haven't been with a woman in over two years."
Kiziah's eyes widened slightly and Cable felt a laugh building. Just being with her lightened his spirits.
"Oh," she said. "Oh."
The laugh escaped. "Yeah--oh." He leaned over and looked into her empty coffee mug, making a show of inhaling. "Mocha? So you find chocolate hard to resist?"
She was finding him hard to resist. Something inside of her loosened, making room for a small flicker of courage to flare and take hold. Whatever happened between them, she was going to make the most of this night.