LOVE IN DEATH’S EMBRACE
When night falls, Luca Alexander prowls the dark, seeking the one vampire that will set him free. Living with a curse brought on by his father, Luca’s only hope for a normal existence lies in the destruction of Arden Ashton and every vampire descended from him. When a run in with one of Arden’s lackeys leads Luca to new information, it’s just what he needs to continue the hunt. What Luca doesn’t anticipate is the enchanting redhead that quite literally falls into his lap.
Kat De Witt isn’t sure what to think of the intriguing vampire hunter. Unable to resist, she lays a daring kiss on him, an act that neither of them can stop thinking about. Kat knows there is something about Luca that makes him like no other human. Yet, she would never guess how deeply entwined their paths are. A vampiress, sired by Arden Ashton himself, Kat has no way of knowing that in order for Luca to be free of his curse, he has to kill her. That stolen kiss in a darkened cemetery changes everything. How can Luca escape the curse when he’s falling in love with the enemy?
Between the manic vampire slaying and the passion surging between Luca and Kat, I felt like a kitty with a bowl of crème. This book absolutely had me enthralled. – Two Lips Reviews
Originally published by Loose Id 04/2010. Re-released by Dark Mountain Books 04-2012.
Cover art by: Michael Hart
It wasn’t easy watching the world go by, changing and evolving as he stayed the same. Descended from a family that had always been hunters of the undead, it had been his destiny to destroy the creatures of the night. The calling of every man and woman born into his family when they reached the age of maturity. They were called to live and die as destroyers of darkness. Until Luca’s father had made the mistake that changed his offspring’s path.
Unable to age or die a natural death, Luca was also unable to truly live. It never should have been this way. If his father had been dedicated to his cause as a hunter, if he hadn’t willingly joined the undead by giving himself over to Arden…
But that was in the past. And Luca’s father had been turned to dust long ago.
Until every vampire in Arden Ashton’s bloodline had been destroyed, Luca would never find peace. Only then would he be free of the dark magic that held him prisoner.
The strangest sensation crept up his spine as he stared down at the corpse at his feet. He was being watched. Moving carefully so as not to alert his watcher of his awareness, he turned slowly. Finding nothing, he wiped the blood from the blade of his dagger and sheathed it. He felt his watcher slip away in silence.
Luca couldn’t help but follow. As he moved quietly through the dark cemetery, he started to wonder if someone was purposely trying to lure him. Well, he had done away with that last vamp pretty quickly. He was up for another rumble.
Passing between the graves, Luca skimmed over the names and the ages. He’d come to terms with his lot in life, yet he always wondered at times like this if he would ever reach that final resting place. It had to be better than hunting vampires in the hope of escaping a conditional curse.
The graveyard was easily the size of a football field. When nothing jumped out of the bushes at him, he decided to call it a night and head home. Arden would still be out there tomorrow. He hadn’t been in the city long. He wouldn’t move on yet, not without good reason.
Luca had just turned to go back the way he’d come when the hedges next to him seemed to open up and a woman burst through, colliding with him in a bone-jarring impact. The next thing he knew, he was on his ass with a beautiful redhead sprawled in his lap.
Her hair was not the copper red of most, but a deep bloodred. Uncanny. Bright green eyes blinked up at him in surprise. He reached to steady her, but she was already scrambling to her feet. He recognized those eyes, their eerie shimmer. Vampire. Disappointment settled in his gut, a sensation he was confused by.
“Who are you?” she asked, taking a stance of self-defense. “If Arden sent you after me, you can just tell him that I’m not coming back. And that employing humans is incredibly pathetic.”
“Wait,” Luca said, getting to his feet. “You know Arden?” Taking in her appearance, he noted that her long pale blue dress was torn and tattered. Dirt smears stained the once-silken material. “Are you all right?”
She gave him a once-over with those green eyes, then another. A bloody cut on her forehead and scratches on her bare arms gave the impression that she might have been victimized. Luca had to remind himself he was looking at a vampire. They were never the victims.
“I asked you a question.” She stood rigid, waiting for his response. The flash of fang from beneath her upper lip drew Luca’s eye. He almost hoped she would rush him. Tangling with this one just might end his night on a pleasant note.
“I’m Luca Alexander.” He saw no reason to lie. It was likely that she’d never heard of him anyway. “And you are?”
“In a hurry. So if you don’t work for Arden, then forgive my clumsiness. I do apologize.” With that, she turned to go.
“That’s it?” Luca heard himself ask. “No attempt to kill me? Drink my blood? No fight to the death?” What the hell was he thinking? Something about letting her just walk away didn’t sit right with him.
She turned back to fix him with an icy glare. Her gaze went to the stake he still held. She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Like I said, I’m in a hurry.” After pushing a long, tangled lock of hair away from her face, she crossed her arms over her chest. “If you insist on doing this the hard way…”
“No,” he replied quickly. “I’m not working for Arden. I’m looking for him.”
Luca couldn’t help but wonder what those tousled locks felt like. Even a disheveled mess, it looked amazing falling down her back in waves. He’d faced many female vampires before. Not one had encouraged this kind of curiosity or intrigue within him. As he stared at her, it grew more difficult to remember she was the target.
A hint of a smile tugged at her full lips. “If you think a stake is going to help you take down Arden, you’d better think again. He is a master vampire in every sense of the term. It’s more likely that he’ll just stick it right up your—”
The sound of wood splitting was deafeningly loud as a vampire exploded through the trees next to them. He went straight for the red-haired vampiress, intent on her as if Luca hadn’t been there at all. She threw her hands up in defense, connecting with one hell of a punch. It didn’t stop the oncoming assault, though, and she went down beneath her attacker.
Snarls and shrieks cut through the night as the two vampires fought like animals. They moved fast, a blur on the ground. Luca watched as the male fought to get his hands around her throat. She landed a series of blows to his face, then clawed his eyes. He didn’t let up.
“Goddamn you, Kat. Can’t you just stay put like a good little pain in the ass? Arden didn’t say you could leave.” The vampire smirked as he got his skinny fingers around her neck.
Luca had to do something. His instinct was to get closer, his stake held ready. Common sense said he should use the opportunity to wipe them both out. Before he could do anything, the scarlet beauty got her legs up under her attacker and launched him into the air. She leaped to her feet, then rushed the guy before he recovered.
“I don’t need permission from Arden to do a damn thing,” she snarled. She slammed the palm of her hand into his nose, then followed up with another solid, full-fisted blow.
It didn’t do much to slow the other vampire down. It did, however, enrage him, and he flung himself at her like a man intent on murder. Eyes wild and fangs bared, he quickly gained the upper hand by unleashing a blast of metaphysical power at her. It knocked her off her feet, and he was on her like a rabid beast.
Luca moved fast, not a conscious thought guided him. He kicked out with a strong right foot, hoping to stun the attacking vamp. Instead it earned him a blow that sent him reeling. The stake flew from his hand, and he rushed to pick it up. When he whirled around, the vampire had directed his attention back to his intended victim. Relentlessly he continued his physical assault on the vampiress, who continued to curse and fight.
Throwing his weight into it, Luca brought the stake down hard, driving it into the vampire’s back through to his heart. He let out a wail and, seconds later, exploded into dust. The remains rained down, covering both Luca and the vampiress with a thick, ashy layer. She blinked up at him in confusion when he offered her a hand.
“Are you okay?” he asked, uncomfortable with his question. “Kat? That’s what he said your name was, right?”
Ignoring his hand, she eyed the stake and pressed her lips together. When he made no move to harm her, she began to shake the dust and ash from her dress. “Yeah, something like that. What’s it to you?”
Good question. What was it to him? Luca took an uncertain step back. Glancing at the bloodied stake still clutched in his hand, he wondered why he hadn’t already dusted her. Much as he’d like to think it was vampire mind tricks, he knew they held no power over him.
“It’s nothing. Forget I asked.”
Picking herself up off the ground, Kat scowled at her attire. “That stupid asshole. He ruined a five-hundred-dollar dress. Shit!” To Luca, she said, “All right. Let’s get this over with. If you want me next, I’m more than ready to tear your throat out. But I’d really much rather be on my way.”
Having his throat torn out would be a painful inconvenience. Luca wasn’t going to mention that the only thing that would kill him was fire or decapitation. Why encourage her? Of course, the thought of tangling with her certainly did have its appeal. With her tattered dress and wild hair, she was a hell of a sight.
“What are you gawking at?” She fixed him with a dark glare, hands on her hips.
He hadn’t realized he had been staring so intently until she called him on it. What the fuck? Something about her had captured his attention. Whether it was that hair, the color of blood, or the creamy white skin of her sensational cleavage, he didn’t know. Or those eyes. Oh Lord, he really needed to get laid. A woman like this easily put all others to shame. It was impossible not to be attracted to her.
“I just want Arden.” Luca refused to acknowledge that he’d been enchanted by her. He was ashamed. He’d never felt anything in the presence of a vampire other than the need to kill. There was no mistaking the surge of desire within him. He’d have to be blind not to notice how damn sexy she was.
Kat nodded and took a step away, as if to leave. Pausing, she flashed him a small smile. “You’ll find Arden outside of town, where Campbell Road ends and the country roads begin. It’s the first house. Can’t miss it. Iron gates and all. You’ll need a lot more than a stake to get inside. The place is heavily guarded.”
Luca was suspicious. “Why are you telling me this?”
“It’s what you want to know, isn’t it?”
“Then does it matter?”
She faced him with a stony expression. Luca was no idiot. She obviously had her reasons.
“No,” he replied. “It doesn’t. Thank you.”
She moved fast. Faster than his mind could comprehend. Her lips, soft and persistent, were on his before he could react. She kissed him with a passionate fervor that got his pulse racing and his blood boiling. The shock quickly gave way to pleasure. His response to her went against all the natural laws of the earth, but it felt so good. Her body brushed alongside his, supple and warm. The resulting rush had his heart pounding loudly in his ears.
A wave of heat shot through him, straight to his groin, and he grew hard. She tasted sweet, and he couldn’t help but kiss her back when she slipped her tongue into his mouth. Luca was enticed, wanting to taste more of her, to delve deeper.
She broke off the kiss much too soon and stepped out of reach before he could entwine his hands in her hair like he desperately wanted to. Luca stared at her, dumbfounded, while his instincts demanded to know why he was abandoning his cause. She might be the most gorgeous woman he’d ever encountered, but she was a vampire—the enemy. Despite that, he wanted her bad.
With a nod toward the pile of dust and ash, she whispered, “Thank you.” And then she was gone.
Luca watched her disappear beyond the surrounding headstones and into the night as if she’d never been there. With a shake of his head, he pushed back his short, dark locks and asked himself what the hell had just happened.
You just reacted like a horny teenager to a friggin’ vampire; that’s what.
His conscience taunted him, plaguing him with guilt over his lust for her. His cock throbbed, and he slammed his fist into a nearby tree. It didn’t make him feel any better, but it was satisfying just the same. Though not nearly as satisfying as burying himself inside her would have been. Oh, how he ached to fuck her.
Who was she anyway? Sure, she was a vampire, but there was no denying she was a woman. An irresistible one at that.
He could still feel her lips on his, the moist press of her tongue. Sure, he’d had his fair share of women, but none of them had struck him so savagely to the core with just one kiss. She’d quite successfully blown his mind, and Luca wasn’t sure how to feel about that. The edge of guilt was overwhelmed by the desire for more.
Kat. What a peculiar name. It had to be short for something. No, he didn’t care. She was a goddamn monster! What the hell was wrong with him?
If what she had told him about Arden’s whereabouts was true, perhaps her effect on him had been worth it. A sacrifice even. Yeah…right.
Luca carefully surveyed the surroundings. It appeared that the action of the evening was over. He began the long walk back to his car, his mind running on overdrive. He was going home to a cold shower and a strong glass of scotch.