Jourdain has spent centuries tracking the Elemental Ruby to Chicago. Desperate to destroy the danger it could cause, he will do anything to find it, even deceive. Bryanne, the ruby’s owner, is fascinated by the stranger who rescued her from the hands of an attacker. Unaware of his motives, she responds to his sexual energy and welcomes him into her bed.

But when an enemy ups the stakes, Jourdain is forced to come clean, Bryanne is unsure where to turn. Should she trust Jourdain or run as fast as she can? One thing’s for sure, the wrong decision could mean death.

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Excerpt

1580, A few miles outside of Paris, France

After a long night serving rum, beer, and wine to les vampires de Paris, Jourdain was glad to be nearing home. The silence surrounding him beneath the moonlit sky as he walked through the fields back to his family’s farmhouse was sweet, giving him time to recollect the happenings of the night.

Jourdain couldn’t help the wicked grin from curling his lips at the memory of the delectable Madame Noire’s visit to the bar. Sans husband, of course. The thought of what Monsieur Noire would do if he knew the pleasure his wife had given another man, a human, behind one of the old wine racks, didn’t instill the fear it should have in Jourdain. Instead, the threat of danger had enhanced the delicious fucking, giving him the kick he desired. Something of which Jourdain’s father would disapprove, no doubt.

Despite managing the bar where all walkers of the night came together, Francois Charnoix was still wary of a vampire’s strength. But his son, Jourdain, didn’t think that way. The power of vampires intrigued him, and the promise of eternal life appealed to him in many ways. Maybe someday…

An ear-splitting scream ringing in the air chased away his thoughts and drew Jourdain into a run. He sped along the dirt road until his lungs burned and his eyes watered, but his blurred vision wasn’t enough to disguise the being exiting his family home. The monster was well over seven feet tall, with amber eyes glowing in the dark, blood pouring down its face.

It was Armand, a vampire controlled by the Elemental Sapphire. One of the Stone Vampyrs.

Jourdain went still. The beast’s eyes glinted in satisfaction, radiating a current of raw energy overflowing with arrogant success and the knowledge that Jourdain’s old life had disintegrated. Then the demonic creature leapt forward and disappeared, as if nothing more than a thin veil of mist.

Realizing he’d been holding his breath, Jourdain inhaled deeply. He didn’t hurry into the house. The damage had been done. Every instinct in his body told him his family was dead. Killed by a Stone Vampyr, the ancient breed which had fascinated Jourdain until now.

His father’s warnings echoed in his head. It’s only a matter of time before the Stone Vampyrs revert to their old tricks, mon fils. Paris is no longer safe.

Jourdain had ignored those warnings, writing them off as paranoia. But now… He gave his head a quick shake as the shock dissipated and his body flooded with rage.

With one last look at the house in which he’d been raised, Jourdain turned and began the journey back to the city.

He’d go to Sam Bosan and barter with his very humanity. Sam would grant him the change in return for his solemn promise to destroy the Stone Vampyrs.

A promise he would see out until the very end.

Chapter One

Present Day Chicago

Where is that goddamn tic-tac? Bryanne stopped under the streetlight and peered into her purse. Shit. She’d given her last one to Shelly.

Sliding the Chanel knock-off bag back up her shoulder, she moved on, swinging her leather-clad hips in time to the thumping beat from the club she’d just left.

Finally, fresh air. She breathed deeply, welcoming the cool breeze on her skin which dried the dance-induced sheen of sweat covering her throat. Her feet, now numb with the pain of being jammed into a pair of hot stilettos, carried her along the Chicago street, which was empty except for an occasional cab. She glanced down at her watch. Two a.m. Later than she’d thought. Getting out of bed the next morning would be hell.

Natural instinct had her reaching into her purse again, this time to reassure herself the card remained. The tips of her fingers stroked its smooth surface, and her mind revisited her confusion that morning.

The card was delivered in a plain white envelope, postmarked El Dorado Springs, Colorado. She didn’t know anyone in Colorado and would’ve assumed the card had been sent to the wrong address if her name hadn’t been on the envelope.

Unable to resist, Bryanne drew the card from her bag, needing to see the image on it again. A hooded cloak, eyes hidden from view, fangs protruding from a sexy mouth. A man, judging from the masculine features. Or perhaps, a male vampire?

A shiver ran down her spine, the cold air no longer refreshing now that she’d cooled off. A slight movement off to the side caught the corner of her eye. Glancing back, she saw only empty pavement but couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being followed. Hurriedly, she slipped the card back into her purse, zipping it to keep the card safe.

The click of her heels on concrete echoed around her, heightening her awareness that she was alone. She pressed her lips together, quickening her steps with every goose pimple rising on her skin. Just a few more blocks, and she’d be at home in bed.

All at once, a hand wrapped around her mouth and an elbow dug into her back.

“Arghhh!” A scream tore from her throat.

Her assailant tightened his hold on her. “Shut up, bitch. There ain’t no one around to hear you.”

Fear grasped her windpipe as she glimpsed the malicious intent in the thug’s dark eyes. His bulk held her against the wall, the stench of onions on his breath making her gag. Thoughts raced through her mind, her brain trying to catch up with what was happening.

Please don’t let him rape me, she prayed, her body struggling in his grip. Please God, don’t let him rape me.

The man’s moustache-hooded lips curled in a grin so evil, she swore she was looking at the devil. Why the fuck had she chosen tonight to walk home alone? Shelly and Damon’s voices rang in her mind, telling her to wait for them, but she’d been impatient.

Seconds ticked by and nothing happened. Why was he just looking at her? Had her fear made time stop? Her vision grew fuzzier the longer she stared at him, her legs turning to jelly. Jesus, if he was gonna do something, what was taking so damn long?

“Get off her.”

The quiet order resounded in the alley. Bryanne slid to the ground, belatedly realizing the thug had let her go. Smells of pizza and motor oil rose into her nostrils; thuds and yells filled her ears. She tried to stand, but her legs wouldn’t co-operate.

A large hand grasped her arm. She flinched, but couldn’t summon the energy to move.

“It’s okay. He’s gone.”

The fear vibrating in her body eased at the deep, soothing tone, so different from her attacker’s raspy bark.

She held on to the stranger’s hand and forced her eyes open. His broad chest loomed over her and dark tendrils of hair fell forward, covering his face. But she could see his eyes, which were green and concerned as he studied her. She opened her mouth to speak, to tell him she was okay, but instead she burst into tears. Her whole body shook, the violent sobs quickly taking over.

The stranger spoke, the meaning of his words lost on her. But his velvety tones soothed her. He slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her to her feet.

“Ow.” She winced as her foot touched the ground, the throbbing in her ankle making its way into her consciousness. “I think I twisted it.”

He tightened his arm around her waist. “You’d better get some ice on that.”

“Thank you.” She looked up at him, the depths of his green eyes immediately drawing her in. She should be afraid of a strange man after being attacked. Yet she grew more relaxed in his company by the second.

“Let me take you home.”

She nodded as he led her out of the dark alley. “I’m a block that way.”

They walked in silence, her injury slowing them down. Beneath her top, her heart thumped from the adrenaline now surging through her body. All of her senses were hyper-aware of the man beside her, and the heat of his hand at her waist sent shivers down her spine. Little thrills of desire. She gave a quick shake of her head. How crazy that this man could turn her on only minutes after the threat of a sexual assault.

“Are we nearly there?” His rich voice pulled at something low in her belly, making her breathing hitch.

“Ummm,” she glanced around and slapped a palm to her forehead. Embarrassment heated her cheeks. “We’ve passed it.”

“Okay, so which way?” A wry smile quirked his lips.

She directed him to the red brick building which housed her tiny apartment. Stepping inside, she dug into her purse and fished out her key. Her hand shook as she slid it in the keyhole, making her blush even harder.

His strong arm rose over her head, and he pushed open the door. “Is there someone you can call?”

“I’m fine. Just need to get ice on my ankle.” She hopped inside, then looked back to see his frame hovering by the door. “Would you like a drink?” She almost slapped her hand to her mouth. The offer had slipped from her lips without a second thought. Christ, Bryanne, do you have to be so obvious?

He didn’t even blink. “Yes.” He stepped inside, his presence filling the room. “Sit down. I’ll get the ice.”

She nodded, struck dumb as he helped her to the sofa. Then he went to the freezer.

“There’s beer in the refrigerator,” she said. “Help yourself.”

While he rummaged for drinks, she examined the length of his body. A long black coat hung from his broad shoulders, and his black-as-midnight hair curled over his collar. The look was unusual, dark, and mysterious. Very sexy.

He turned her way and carried the ice and beer to the sofa. His strong jaw and slightly large nose gave him a mouth-watering masculinity. She pressed her thighs together and mentally calculated when she’d last had sex. At least five months ago. Far too long.

She swallowed as the stranger crouched and lifted her foot. “Does it hurt?”

“Just a dull ache.” She bit her lip. His hand brushed the back of her knee, and she shifted on the sofa. He worked the zipper of her boot downward until it slipped off her foot. She winced. “Ow.”

“It’s not too swollen,” he said, holding her heel. Reaching for the icepack, he placed it against the redness. “Is that better?”

Unable to speak, she nodded. His touch on her bare skin sent shockwaves of pure lust straight to her pussy. His hair fell forward, but he kept his eyes on her ankle. She itched to tangle her fingers in the inky waves of his hair, to feel that silk sliding between her fingers.

“What’s your name?” she croaked, needing to break the tension.

His lips curved at her question. “Jourdain.”

“Jourdain.” She loved how it rolled across her tongue. “Is that French?”

“Yes.”

“I see.” No wonder. French men and sex appeal went hand-in-hand. “What do you do, Jourdain?”

He lifted his head, and his eyes caught hers. The intensity she saw there made her heart stop.

“I rescue damsels in distress.” A hint of amusement tinged his rich voice. “That’s what I do.”

She stared back at him, hypnotized by his green eyes. What would he say if she asked him to make love to her?

She shivered as he began to draw tiny circles on the back of her foot. “And what’s your name, damsel?”

“Bryanne.” She would have blushed at her breathless answer if she hadn’t been so caught up in his touch. “My name’s Bryanne.”

“That’s a beautiful name, Bryanne.” His hand rose further, caressing the back of her calf. “Very unusual.”

“My parents thought I would be a boy. They had Bryan already picked out. They just added ‘ne’ to the end.” Oh hell, now she was babbling.

He appeared to be enjoying her nervousness. His eyes glinted, and his lips quirked up in a tiny smile. He slid his rough palms over her knees and beneath her leather skirt. Any second, he’d find out just how much he turned her on.

“Were you dancing tonight, Bryanne?”

She nodded, her thighs clenching as the tips of his fingers rubbed circles along them. He was so close to touching her where she needed to be touched.

“You like to dance?”

“Yes.” Her reply was a whimper. His hands now moved along her inner thighs.

“Do you also like to make love?”

His words, dark and smooth as the richest chocolate, pulled at her clit. She nodded again, and then gasped as his palm flattened on the front of her panties, cupping her pussy.

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