Calinda Byer is all assertiveness in her daytime life, but when it comes to the bedroom, she leaves her will at the door with her clothes. Her vampire Dom, Adam Straton, refuses to turn her until she has witnessed the darker side of immortality and the true depths of his sexuality -- including his male vampire lover.
A weekend at his country estate promises dark, twisted delights the likes of which Calinda could never have imagined. All she has to do is use the safe word, and she can return to the "normal" world alone. But will she?
If Calinda Byer wanted to become a vampire, this was the most important car ride of her life.
Adam Straton’s black Speedster roared up a road that was closer to a highway than a drive, and at last Straton House rose into view through the thick, cultured trees. The country estate was Downton Abbey come to opulent life, down to the gardens and fruit trees, winding footpaths, and wild forest beyond for hunting. Did Adam set people loose in the woods so he could hunt them down for dinner? She grinned at the thought—easy to do since she knew he didn’t kill. Feeding was necessary for survival, but the hunt, he said, was just part of his kink.
Calinda knew well the value of that kind of rush, so she understood. Willing participants in a wild, dangerous game… it was kind of a turn-on.
“What are you looking so pleased about?” he asked, giving her an amused look with his dark brown eyes. His hand left the gear shift to rest on her bare leg and trace up her inner thigh, making her shiver with anticipation.
“Oh, nothing. Just admiring your house. It’s very you. All that’s missing are the gargoyle turrets and maybe some wild hounds baying at the moon.”
Adam smirked in response to her familiar tease about his flair for drama and drove on.
So much preparation and negotiation had gone into this weekend’s trip. After all, they practiced safe, sane, and consensual in their BDSM practices, just like any couple in the life. They discussed what might happen in every scene, their hard and soft limits, how much pain and blood would be generated, and of course, they had a safe word.
“Sunshine.” Oh, how they had laughed at the irony when they created it, soaking together in a warm bath after their last night of purely vanilla sex.
This time was different. Negotiation for introduction to his “darkness” had been… more complicated. They were stepping into behavioral, moral, and psychological territory that was uncomfortable for him to share in words with a human being, and which was so outside her realm of experience that he might as well be talking about another planet.
In the country house, he was the Law, absolute. She was not allowed to question his commands… unless she used the safe word. He explained that they would be stepping over lines she hadn’t imagined before. That he was going to show her parts of his world, which would be hers if she chose to cross over. More hardcore play, more violence, more blood. Toys that she wouldn’t find in the catalogues. He would do his best as they went along to explain what the equipment was and what he planned to do with it, but other than ending the scene with their safe word, it was only a courtesy that he did that at all.
Most surprisingly, Adam requested that one of his other lovers join them, someone important to him that he needed her to meet. She was under no obligation to do anything with this stranger, and the new person could not touch her without both her and Adam’s express permission, but he would be there if she had no objections and participate if she desired. Adam wanted her to know some of the things that were possible between a sadist and a masochist when they were both vampires, and he and this lover would demonstrate that for her.
“Will you bring me across then?” she’d asked for what felt like the hundredth time. “If once I see this ‘darkness’ you keep insisting is inside of you and my feelings don’t change… will you make me a part of it?”
He searched her eyes for a long time, looking for something; she was never quite sure what. But he said, “If that is truly what you wish, my love. If you think you are still ready when this night is through, I am prepared to begin the rest of eternity with you beside me.”
They pulled up to the house, and a fire began low in her belly. They were met by a tall butler in a full tie and tails whom Calinda nicknamed “Lurch” in her mind, but whom Adam introduced as Bellworth. The elderly fellow greeted the “master” deferentially, and almost had a heart attack when Calinda gave his hand a firm, friendly shake, said it was nice to meet him, and handed him her weekend bag.
Adam took her by the elbow and led her with a bit more force than necessary through the gigantic oak entry doors. “You don’t shake hands with the help, Calinda,” he chided, although she knew he was at least a little amused. Outside the bedroom, he always seemed entertained by her rebellious spirit. She couldn’t count the number of times he’d called her his Golden Spitfire, and said, “I adore the dichotomy of you: the assertive, self-assured entrepreneur out in the world versus the willing submissive at my command in more… intimate matters. If I were to write my perfect mate, she would resemble no other more than yourself.”
He guided her through the foyer, which was decorated with a superb display of art and statuary, more like a museum than a home, and took a sharp left down a dark, narrow hallway that ended at an elaborately paneled wall of highly polished cherry.
Adam glanced down at her, his expression impassive. It was always so difficult to tell what he was thinking that she wished she had his gift of telepathy so she might garner even a glimmering of a clue about his plans. Of course, not knowing the specifics was part of the allure— the mystery of vampiredom, which might or might not be worthy of the dramatic flair he so enjoyed.
He reached out and pressed his palm into an empty square in the wall’s pattern, and the entire section slid away, exposing a heavy door. He removed an iron scrollwork key from his pocket, unlocked it, and swung it inward. Once the entry stood a dark, gaping maw before her, Adam paused.
“Are you certain you wish to go on?” he asked.
Calinda grinned in spite the horror-movie air and his grim demeanor and nodded. There were no shadows dark enough that would keep her from taking this journey with him. Nothing she wouldn’t do if he asked it of her, just as she knew he would, if he hadn’t already tasted all of her secrets.
Satisfied, Adam took her hand, pressed a small switch on the wall beside them, and led her down a narrow set of stone stairs, now illuminated by a dim red light. The stairway curved sharply, and he was guiding her down and down forever, circling into the depths of who knew what. She had learned from experience that the border between the heavenly and hellish was very fine indeed. She liked it that way.
Calinda’s heart thundered, her stomach fluttering with nerves, and she relished each sensation, tucking it away in her memory like some women might keep tickets to a show she’d attended with her lover. She had been an adrenaline junkie since the day she was born. Instead of drugs, she far preferred driving fast cars, jumping out of airplanes, and dating ancient, sadistic vampires than pills or needles. This occasion, with its mysteries and uncertainties, was better than any shot of pure heroin straight into her system, and the vampire she loved was giving it to her. He had become so many things to her in the two years they’d been together, and adrenaline dealer had been one of the greatest of them from the moment they met.
She remembered with an electric shiver through her system the first moment when she realized what he was, when she invited him home knowing what he could do to her. The biggest charge of her life. She gave his hand a squeeze in thanks. No, she had no difficulty in taking this journey. There was only one thing that could be at the bottom of this staircase, spiraling them into the depths of the earth together: the darkness he kept talking about, made manifest. The deepest shadows inside him. She was so eager to see it she was already wet.
Their relationship had started out like a scene from some romance novel twisted just the way she liked it. Adam had been sitting at the bar in Ernesto’s, an exclusive Italian bistro she enjoyed after business meetings in the city. She’d worn her dark blonde hair down that night and had on the tidy, well-tailored navy business suit that never failed to make an impact paired with red heels just a tad too high to be strictly proper. Those shoes had a tendency to impress clients just a tad more than the clothes.
Calinda spotted him from her accustomed table in the corner by the door, the perfect location to watch the crowd of rich, beautiful people coming and going. Adam caught her eye the moment he sat down, all yummy and big and dark, just the way she liked them. Six-feet-two at least, broad of shoulder and back with neatly trimmed black hair, and a pinstripe suit that no doubt cost ten times more than her own was worth. His bold, straight posture told her beyond any doubt that he was the king of all he surveyed. No, emperor was closer to the mark.
But it was one fine detail that had grabbed her attention and imagination in a vise grip and wouldn’t let go, that set her pulse racing and her junkie heart pounding…
His lack of reflection in the mirror above the bar. Calinda checked at least four times, even shifted to different places in the restaurant to be certain, but no matter where she went… there he wasn’t.
It was by far the biggest adrenaline rush of a lifetime spent awash in them. A vampire. An actual vampire. They not only existed, but there was an unbelievably hot one sitting right there in her favorite restaurant, casual as you please. Anyone who looked hard enough would be able to tell—what kind of balls did that take?
How could she resist?
She’d sidled up to the suddenly mysteriously empty seat beside the gorgeous vampire and slipped onto the high stool. Not one much for subtlety, she let her skirt ride up just high enough to allow a peek at her lacy stocking tops, crossed her long, slender legs to show off the heels, ordered a red wine for herself, and turned to her attention to her soon-to-be-new vampire friend.
“So I wonder,” she said, looking directly at the place where his face should appear in the mirror. “Do you drink… wine?”
She caught his smirk out of the corner of her eye. “Why, would you like to be… I’m sorry, excuse me, buy my drink?”
They laughed. There was no secret about what he was. No doubt that she knew. They were made for each other. It had been all adventure and blood, paddles and leather, feathers and handcuffs, hot wax and hot sex in wild and often public and dangerous places ever since. She didn’t know if it was obsession or love, and she didn’t care. Adam told her he had never known anyone like her in two thousand years, and without a doubt, she had never known anyone like him in twenty-six.
After a brief, nerve-shaking eternity, they reached the bottom of the stairs. Before them stood a formidable steel door that belonged in a high-tech science facility, not an eighteenth-century country house, complete with an elaborate security pad on the wall to the right. Adam keyed in a code and pressed his thumb to the surface, and the silver door whooshed open. Inside was a pristine white antechamber, walls lined with tall, lacquered bureaus and hooks in the wall above them. A veritable smorgasbord of clothing hung from the hooks, with shoes arranged on top of the bureaus, and no doubt a wider selection waited in the drawers. Everything from soft cotton loungewear to outfits created from shining patent leather strips and nothing else were in evidence.
Costumes didn't really interest her as they usually might. She was fixated on what lay in wait for her on the other side of the final door just ahead.