London, 1897 Caught in a web of poverty and injustice, Lily Rafferty takes employment in a dancehall. Though she loathes being viewed as a pretty piece of meat wrapped in silk for the enjoyment of the West End gentlemen out for a bit of slumming, she can't help but feel her luck is about to change. Rhys Trevan Morgan, Viscount Talfryn is a vampire with a mission. Another supernatural creature prowls the night leaving a trail of blood and gore in its wake that eventually leads him to London's East End and to the Barbary Coast dancehall. He doesn't need the distraction of coming to the aid of a young woman forced to strip and parade herself on stage for the voyeuristic pleasure of the club's wealthy patrons. Soon, the momentary distraction becomes a craving Rhys can't resist and he wonders if the fair Lily will be the end of his frightful curse or the vehicle of his destruction.
“If you please,” she whispered, attempting a smile so as not to betray her growing horror, “I’ll just take the one ticket, sir. For the dance.”
“You’ll take what I give you and like it.”
Panic clutched at her heart. She couldn’t escape. She did not wish to do this—and he didn’t care. Flailing her fists, she pummeled him about the head and shoulders. His hand tightened about her throat. Changing tactics, she tried to pry his fingers loose, to no avail.
His grip hurt. She felt her lungs struggling for air as if they were battering against her corset’s constraints. No air. She couldn’t breathe. Her heart pounded wildly. She had to get out of here. Get…run….
“No!” She had meant it to be a scream. Instead she produced a breathless whisper the music easily drowned. No one would have paid her cries the least bit of attention anyway. A woman’s willingness did not matter. Most customers assumed this was what she was paid to do.
She kept scuffling despite the increasing heaviness of her limbs, despite the pointlessness. He was going to spend himself right here, in public, on her, and there was nothing she could do to stop him. With a biting stab of terror, she realized he might even kill her. And she would die in a stained dress. That relatively inconsequential concern almost made her smile at herself as dark spots obstructed her vision. What a ridiculous last thought to have.
“Hartengate.” It was a male voice, a stranger’s, rich, raspy and aloof, slicing like flint across the scuffle to pierce the haze in her brain.
The body accosting her froze. His grasp upon her neck slackened, and she sucked in one breath after another as he looked over his shoulder. “Talfryn?” It was the first time she had heard any gentleman sound uneasy. Clearly the voice had pierced him to the quick as well.