When Lilith fell into lust with musician Aidan, she never expected it to last. And she was right. Her doctor has given her months to live, and telling Aidan is the hardest thing she's ever done.
Aidan has been keeping his own secret. He is a Vampire...but he can't turn Lilith to save her. The solution he proposes is illegal and dangerous and breaks every rule set up to protect non-humans from humans. He doesn't care. He will do anything to save the woman he loves.
Discovering the kiss of a Vampire and reveling in the erotic thrill, Lilith realizes her feelings are deeper than lust. But is giving up her humanity worth it?
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Kissing Phoenix by Shona Husk
"I love you, Lil. We can work through this, whatever it is."
"I'm dying." Her words were rough, as if each one cost her dearly.
"Everyone is dying." Except him and the other Vampires and Lil while she was with him, sharing the energy that surrounded him--but she didn't know that yet.
Lil stared up at the ceiling and blinked. "Maybe I should leave. It would be better than watching you run."
Those were the first truthful words she'd spoken, but they cut deep. "Why would I run?"
What secret could she have that would trump his? His secret made most people reach for the nearest sharp implement and aim at his chest. His heart slowed. Was she really dying?
She stared at him, her lips tight and thin. "I have cancer. I have three months. Maybe four." The words shattered in the air. The brittle points cut everything they touched and tore open his now still heart.
Memories of his first wife, his only wife, rose from the grave. Her frail body had fought to hold on until he'd gotten home from patching soldiers on the front.
"No. They catch it early these days. There are treatments." He pushed his fingers through his hair and held the back of his head to stop the memories from spilling out. His house was filled with too many ghosts and too much pain. This wasn't happening. Not to his Lil.
"I was treated three years ago. It came back."
"There must be something. It's nineteen ninety eight, not eighteen eighty eight. Surgery. Chemo." His mind scrambled for solutions he'd read about. He knew of the advances, had kept up with the latest studies even though he no longer practiced medicine. At first he'd done it only to convince himself he'd done everything he could to save Eve. Then it had become habit.
"It's chemo resistant. Last time they cut it out...this time they can't."
"Why not?" Miracles happened every day in medicine.
"It's around an artery." Lil spoke without emotion. She'd had time to plan her answers and come to terms with her mortality.
Aidan turned his back and snarled. His fangs dropped. His fists clenched at his side as molten rage stripped his control. He struggled for composure and failed. Cancer was once again trying to steal what he loved because it couldn't have him. He forced out a breath that tore at his throat.
A shouting match wouldn't solve anything. The cancer wasn't Lil's fault. He wasn't angry at her, he was angry at the doctors who shook their heads and did nothing. From the shelves black and white photos of his previous lives glared, daring him to do something. Eve's portrait smiled.
What would he do this time?
He'd planned to let Eve think he'd died in World War One so he never had to tell her the truth about what he was. He'd gone home for once last glimpse. When he'd seen her, he couldn't leave. She was waiting for him, waiting to die in his arms. Her letters had said nothing of the tumor eating her insides; they'd been filled with love. Love that would've died if she'd known he was Vampire. He'd tested her by dropping hints and each time her response had been either fear or disgust.
In his darkest moments, he was glad she'd died before he'd had to tell her and watch the love in her eyes burn. Would Lil react the same as Eve?
No. She'd been open to the possibility of other beings, curious even. But she hadn't trusted him enough to tell him she was sick. That was the most wounding.
"You weren't going to tell me."
"I didn't know how. Then I realized I had to. That you'd notice something was wrong when I started throwing up blood."
He knew that uncertainty too well and it had nothing to do with trust and everything to do with doubt. He uncurled his hands, forced back his fangs and turned back to Lil looking like any other man. Maybe another man would've taken the news better, but he wasn't an ordinary man and he wasn't going to let Lil die. She reminded him that there was beauty and kindness still in a world that delighted in killing and cruelty.
"There are options," he said. Ones not available to humans, but first she'd have to believe in Vampires.
Lilith narrowed her eyes, sensing a shift in the conversation. There was no smile on his lips like she'd come to expect. Aidan was usually the sun in a storm, now he seemed sharp like lightning and twice as dangerous. This was a side of him she'd never seen, but how long would he last when she got really sick?
Could she drag him into her nightmare?
She shouldn't have moved in, but she'd never been able to resist him. There was something about him--when he looked at her, it was like she was the center of his world. She should've told him before they'd gotten serious, let him know what he was getting. But she'd never expected the cancer to come back and, deep in her heart, she was afraid that if she'd told him they would've been over before they'd started. She sighed. While it lasted it had been amazing. And now?
Would he stay and hold her hand? She didn't want to do this alone. Last time her fianc� had apologized as he ran for the door, never to be seen again. Her father had done everything, then twelve months later he'd died. This time, if Aidan left, she would really be alone.
Her hand reached for him, resting on his chest where minutes before she had pushed him away. She needed to feel him and make sure he was still really here. That he wasn't going to leave. Beneath her hand, his muscles were tense as if he were bracing for more bad news.
Black clad, ink on his fingers from a night spent writing music with his friends. He had so much faith in the project and she loved that about him, even though reality said an electric-string-grunge-quartet was never going to make it. Did he have that much faith in her?
"I'm not spending what's left of my life in a hospital." She was going to sell the veterinary practice and travel, hopefully with Aidan.
She had to make him understand how much she wanted him. He'd taken away her fear of life and replaced it with a love she never dreamed of finding. She slid her hand over his long sleeved black t-shirt. Her mouth brushed against his, returning the kiss she'd tried to ignore before. Her tongue slid across his lips, seeking the familiar touch, the familiar taste, the familiar drug that pressed down reality until only they existed. He was sunshine and chocolate. A taste she'd crave for the rest of her life.
His fingers trailed over her hips and cupped her butt. The embrace tightened and she pressed toward him. He kissed along her jaw and his teeth grazed her earlobe as he rolled the small gold stud between his teeth. She tipped her head and let him trail kisses down her neck. His breath tickled her skin as his tongue flicked against her pulse. Her blood surged and liquid heat pooled low in her belly. Her body responded to his touch as if nothing had changed. She needed to feel his skin against hers. Details were forgotten as she existed only in the moment, wanting more from Aidan without knowing what it was. Her hands were under his t-shirt, sliding over lean muscle. She glanced up and caught his heated gaze. The golden light in his eyes burnt for her alone. Would she be able to look at him when that light no longer shone?
"There are other options." His thumb traced her cheek like he was begging for her to agree with whatever he said.
She wanted to believe his whispered words.
"What do you mean?" Lilith raised a brow. "New age therapies?"
"Not exactly." Aidan's face was serious, like he was balanced on a scalpel and walking barefoot along the blade. "More like ancient remedies."
She frowned. What was he trying to tell her? That there was a mystic cure and if she ate a lizard under a full moon, she'd be fine? If it meant living, she would. She would do anything that gave her better odds than her doctor. He'd sat there calmly and told her she had a five percent chance of survival if they cut and radiated her until she was a shadow of herself. Her odds the first time around had been better and she'd fought with everything she had and then more, but she couldn't do it again, not when the odds were stacked against her and her gut was telling her she couldn't win this battle.
"What do you mean?" Even though she didn't want to, she began to hope. To believe that Aidan might be able to save her life the same way he'd healed her heart.
"There might be a way..." He wouldn't look her in the eye.
She swallowed down the fluttering wishful thinking in her chest and returned to reality. Aidan was a musician, not a doctor.
"You don't get to raise my hopes before telling me what you're hiding." And she was sure he was hiding something. The past couple of days he'd been somewhere else even when he was with her. That had been fine. She hadn't been in the mood to talk anyway. She'd had her own secret to keep. It had taken her days to think of a way to tell him and even now it wasn't going how she'd expected.
Aidan closed his eyes as if the words he was trying to find were written on his eyelids. He sighed and forced them out. "I'm Vampire."
Lilith forced a laugh and stepped back. "You're not a Vampire." She crossed her arms. "I've seen you walk in daylight."
"Daylight generally isn't a problem." His lips revealed elongated teeth as he spoke.
Long, delicately pointed outer incisors. Not shaped like an animal's canines, for tearing into flesh. No, these teeth were something else entirely, but no less dangerous. Trapped between wanting to run and frozen with fascination, her blood pounded in her ears. The room became tiny and airless. Aidan had fangs just like a Vampire should.
He closed the distance between them. Smooth, constant motion, lord of his domain. He moved like a predator. She'd never noticed his grace before. Now all she could do was watch as he took her hand, turned it over and ran a finger over the pale blue vein. Then he kissed the inside of her wrist like he was savoring the taste of her skin. Heat flowed from his touch and the pressure of his teeth and rose deep within her, awakening a part of her that had been dormant. Desire raced unrestrained through her blood and sparked every nerve. One touch and she was his. She waited for his fangs to pierce her flesh. Caught in a moment that shouldn't be, her breath became trapped high in her throat.
Aidan's gaze locked on hers as his tongue glided over the vein. Then he released her without biting. She gasped as if she'd glimpsed heaven and had it stolen. Her body trembled and ached. Her blood was too hot to be contained within her flesh.
What had he done to her?
Her shaking hand found its way to her neck. Her pulse bounced hard beneath her fingertips. Every touch, every lick of her neck had been for one reason. He wanted to bite her. Except she'd put money down he'd never actually bitten her.
Because Vampires don't exist. Get a grip.
She was hallucinating. She'd entered a daydream while waiting for Aidan to come home, but the cooling curry in the air smelt real. The kiss had been very real, searing her skin. Aidan's teeth looked very, very real. Her eyes narrowed. She was going to kill him if the teeth were fake. She'd be dead before it got to trial.
"Prove it, Dracula. Are the teeth real?"
She watched his incisors return to a more usual human shape and then lengthen again into needle sharp points. She shivered, her skin was like ice, but her heart raced at the sight. Fear and lust entwined to smother all remaining doubt. He wasn't playing.
Aidan flicked his tongue over a tooth. "Real."
Her mind skittered over the alien terrain. If he could walk in daylight, were all Vampire stories false? "Don't Vampires drink blood?"
He nodded and the light caught his hair, turning brown to red. "When we can get it," he said too casually.
She stepped back, feeling like a rabbit in a lion's cage. Could he hear her pulse? The tremor in each breath? Her calves hit the sofa. If she ran, she'd never reach the door.
His eyebrows drew together. "I never bit you."
Part of her sighed with relief; a more primal part was offended. She was good enough for sex, but not to bite. "Why? Did you know I was sick?"
"No. You never offered."
"How could I offer if I didn't know you were an undead..." She'd felt his heart beat beneath warm skin. They shared a bed, not a coffin. He disproved everything she thought she knew about something that didn't exist. "What are you?"
"Vampire. A genetic variation of human." The long incisors had no effect on his speech.
But they affected her. She wanted to know what it would feel like to be writhing in his arms as his fangs broke her flesh. The thought sent a shiver of desire down her spine. It had been lust at first sight with Aidan--how much of that was because of what he was, not who?
She looked away to clear her head. None of this made sense. "Scientists would have made that discovery."
"The change is in the junk DNA. It binds the etheric body close. Scientists can't prove what they don't believe in."
Aidan was right. The etheric body was new age hocus pocus. Supposedly. He took a step toward her.
She held up her hand to halt his advance. "If you're human, why drink blood?"
"I need etheric to survive." He shrugged. "From blood or food."
Lilith nodded. His obsession with organic food wasn't because he was a hippie or trendy, it was survival. It hadn't worked for her. No amount of yoga and health food had kept her in remission.
"So, do I stake you through the heart to kill you?"
His teeth returned to normal and he laughed. The sound could bring summer to the coldest winter. "That will kill most things."
She couldn't join in his amusement. He looked like Aidan, but the man she loved had been replaced by a Vampire.
"Have you always been Vampire?"
"Born that way. My father was a Vampire who paid my human mother for more than her blood."
"Are you immortal?"
"Near enough. The etheric keeps us young. Starved of it, we age and die."
Lilith nodded, reassessing the man in front of her, a plan forming. "Do you get cancer?"
His hair fell over his eyes as he looked at the floor like he knew what was coming. But he'd told her for a reason. He could take away her cancer. He could make her Vampire. Her battered hope stood up, ready to accept her new fate.
"If you turn me, I will live." Life as a Vampire was better than death and Aidan could teach her how to live. She didn't have to drink blood. She could just eat healthy, extra healthy. For a moment, rainbows colored her vision.
Then Aidan lifted his head. Pain lined his face like she was seeing old scars exposed for the first time. "It's not possible."
Lilith blinked as if she hadn't heard him properly. "Not possible?"
He shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry. Vampirism is genetic. The same as your blue eyes and brown hair."
Her lungs couldn't draw breath. He couldn't save her. He couldn't make her Vampire any more than he could turn her into a cat.
"Then why tell me?" Her voice was dark and broken. "Why tease me with your immortal life?" she said between her teeth.
He didn't answer. He just stared at her, his eyes shadowed and cold. Lilith shook her head and marched down the hallway and out the front door. She had nothing to say to her immortal Vampire boyfriend while the remains of her life could be counted in days.