Length: 107,500/NovelReleased: Oct 2006Rating: Sultry
Cover photography coverangel.com
Cover art by CTcovercreations.com
Can I Keep YouWhen Kane picks up a runaway on the streets of Victorian England his only thought is to have a few days of amusement and a decent meal. He is a vampire, after all – it’s what he does. But Laura has to be the most unconvincing whore he’s ever met. She soon finds out that there are ways other than brute force and strength to bring a vampire to his knees. As they fall in love, she becomes the catalyst for his astonishing journey of redemption, bringing back all-too-painful memories of Harry, the gentle man he once was. It’s not an easy road. Along the way they encounter forces of evil that have other plans for Laura and Kane. And the question neither of them really wants to answer hovers in the background. Does he turn her into a vampire like himself and risk losing her? Or will a human lifetime together be enough?
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Damn, but it’s quiet tonight. Kane pulled out a cigarette and pushed it between his lips. Narrowing his eyes, he focused on the smartly-dressed young man sitting alone, at a nearby table. Head in hands, the lad looked the picture of abject misery as he stared morosely into his drink. Kane smiled and scraped back his chair.
Man or woman, it made no difference to a vampire like him; their blood tasted the same. There was sport to be found in either gender. They both screamed like babies when they saw his true face, and they both moaned and clawed at him like animals when he had them. He could make them forget they were about to die. Some even died with a smile on their face.
The peace was abruptly shattered by a rowdy group of sailors who burst into the bar laughing raucously and calling for ale. Hot on their heels came the inevitable prostitutes, who, for the price of a few drinks, plied their trade in the alleyway behind the pub. Hips swaying, bosoms heaving they worked the group, cheerfully slapping away over-familiar hands, haggling over prices and fighting for customers.
Kane sat back and reached for his match-box, his attention momentarily diverted by a small, blonde lingering near the door. He struck a match and held the flame to the end of his cigarette, sucked on it until it glowed and watched the young woman carefully opening the top four buttons of her dress. He usually steered clear of prostitutes – it was far too risky to tangle with them these days. Drew far too much attention to the existence of creatures of the night, like him. But somehow, for a reason he couldn’t define, this one seemed different.
It was the girl’s first time, no mistaking that – her hammering heart sounded like a drum-beat to his sensitive hearing. And possibly her last he thought, flicking his ash onto the stone floor. The intoxicating smell of fear, and of the blood pounding in her veins, as she nervously approached the noisy crowd wafted across the room and made his nostrils twitch. One of the sailors pulled her down onto his lap and plastered his mouth over hers in a sloppy kiss, his hand groping at her breast, while the others laughed and egged him on. The kiss lasted so long that the girl seemed in danger of being suffocated. Her hand came up to flail uselessly at the sailor’s back until, eventually, he let her go. Reaching into his pocket he brought out a coin, twirled it between his fingers and held it in front of her frightened eyes.
She was undoubtedly a pretty little thing, with the potential to be a true beauty, under the right tutelage. Worth far more than the paltry price the sailor was offering her. Kane’s hand strayed to the front of his trousers, lightly skimming his rapidly hardening erection. The girl stared at the coin, gave a small nod and reached out for it.
“Your lucky night,” the Kane whispered, silently rising from his seat. The young man looked up at him, bleary-eyed and slumped back down on to the table. Kane laughed softly and, threading his way through the crowd, he pushed open the door and let himself out into the misty night.
Something better’s come up, he thought scanning the alleyway to see which way the sailor and the girl had gone. The scent of terror and arousal clung to the air telling him that they weren’t far away. He found them just around the corner, in a doorway. The man with his trousers unbuttoned, the girl in tears now. The front of her dress was completely open, the curves of her breasts exposed. She very much seemed to have changed her mind.
The sailor hadn’t. He groped at the hem of her skirt and hauled it up her thigh, even as she tried to pull it down again, protesting all the while that it had all been a big mistake and she shouldn’t be doing this.
Kane watched for a moment wondering whether he ought to intervene before or after the sailor had her. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered him. The more frightened the girl, the better. It made the blood richer. But tonight, for some reason known only to fate, he didn’t want to watch this oaf violate this young woman who was almost certainly a virgin. Perhaps that’s all it was? The thought that if she was a virgin, then he wanted that pleasure before he killed her. It was too much of a delicacy to pass up.
She spotted him at last, her eyes widening in silent appeal.
So did the sailor. “Wait your turn, m’lad.” He grinned amiably, showing off a mouthful of blackened teeth. “This won’t take long.”
“No, I don’t suppose it will,” Kane said. Throwing aside the cigarette, he stepped closer and in a blur of movement, had the man by the throat. A crunch and a thin gurgling sound were the sailor’s only response as he fell limply to the ground, his head cracking against the cobbled path.
The girl gathered the remnants of her torn dress to her chest and stared in disbelief. She took in a deep breath which Kane knew was coming out as a scream. He clamped his hand over her mouth, cutting it off abruptly.
“Calm down,” he said, his voice soothing. “I only knocked him out.”
The girl made a whimpering sound and glanced around briefly as if looking for somewhere to run.
“Changed your mind, did you?”
The woman nodded, her eyes flicking between him and the body of the sailor at her feet. Looking at him as if he was the devil himself to dispatch one so big with such ease.
“But you need the money?” Kane continued.
She didn’t have to answer, her eyes said it all.
“I have money,” Kane said, ignoring the pull of the dead sailor’s blood. Why spoil his appetite with that when this tasty feast was his for the taking? The girl bit her lip. “Wouldn’t your rather have me, than him?” Kane fished a handful of coins from his pocket. He took the girl’s hand, carefully keeping his demon in check when she flinched from the contact. Dropping the coins into it, he folded her fingers around them and kept hold.
“I just want to go home,” she said pushing herself back into the wall.
He held her hand a little tighter. “You can’t, can you?”
“At least I’m clean,” he said. “Won’t give you the pox like he would have.” He let go of her then. Let her feel the money. Saw her fear. And her desperation, too. “I’ll make it good for you,” he said, his voice smoothly persuasive.
The woman opened her hand and stared at the coins once more. Her pursed lips and the defiant tilt of her chin seemed to indicate that she’d reached a decision, and even though her hand still shook, she levelled her gaze and nodded. He could have just taken it, of course, but she was already frightened enough for his purposes, no need to scare her more. On some level, whatever male pride Kane had left to him wanted to make it good for her, as he’d promised. Wanted to hear her moan out his name when he touched her. Wanted to see her eyes turn dark with desire for him. Being a vampire didn’t change that, and he was more than ready for it. Ready to take advantage of this young girl whose circumstances had driven her to sell her body to anyone with money enough to pay.
I’m doing her a favour, Kane thought deftly unbuttoning his trousers with one hand. She was obviously never going to earn enough to keep herself and what was the alternative for her? Dying on the streets, probably of the pox. Or worse, being killed by some drunken retard like the corpse now lying at their feet? At least this way it would be quick and clean, and she would know pleasure before she died. He’d make sure of that.
She was shaking so much now that her teeth rattled, and her soft, grey eyes were bright with tears that were about to spill.
“Not about to change your mind again, are you?” he asked thinking what a pitiful sight she made. And yes, a beautiful one, with her tumbled hair and lips swollen from where the oaf had kissed her. The tantalising curve of both breasts clearly visible through her torn gown. Her skin was fine and, as yet, unmarked and the thought did cross his mind that here was one for turning into a creature like him, if ever there was. That would solve whatever problem she was running from.
But, it always seemed to spoil them, somehow. He turned them, promised them the world, always managing to forget that they were now vampires, and like him, evil. They never stayed, had no ideas of loyalty and invariably broke what was left of his heart. This was better. A warm, breathing human who could at least feel something, even if it was only a couple of hours of sexual pleasure and blind terror.
He moved in, hands on her shoulders, his thumbs tracing patterns on her soft skin. Felt the stiffening of her muscles as she steeled herself for what she was about to do. For one so small, she had courage. Even as she shivered he saw the determination in her eyes.
“Pull up your skirts.” His lips tickled her ear. “It’s not going to work, otherwise,” he added with a low chuckle.
“You’re cold,” she whispered. “Why are you so cold?”
“You don’t want to know. Shall we dance now?”
Her eyes narrowed.
“It’s a joke,” he said, slipping his hand into her bodice and filling it with one of her delightful breasts. “Who do I have the pleasure of tonight then?”
A startled intake of breath as his hand squeezed gently, turned into a breathy sigh as his thumb brushed her nipple.
“What’s your name my sweet?” he asked again, his hand coming to rest flat over a heart that was pounding so loudly he could hear it, sending her blood surging wildly around her hot little body. He felt the heat seeping into his fingers and watched in fascination as her life-force made them tingle and twitch.
“Laura.” She managed, at last. “My name is Laura. Tell me yours.”
“You can call me Kane.” Fisting the material of her skirt, he slid it slowly upward. “Have you done this before, Laura?”
The look of terror returned. “Yes,” she whispered.
“You’re not a very good liar, are you?” Kane dropped the skirt and swiftly moved to re-button his trousers.
“Feeling generous tonight, my sweet little Laura.” He glanced up to make sure she wasn’t about to run for it. “Your first time shouldn’t be up against a wall in a dirty alley. Come home with me for a few hours and we’ll do it all proper-like, in a real bed. What do you say?”
“I can’t come home with you,” she said, her hand surreptitiously smoothing down her bunched up skirts. “I don’t know you.”
“I think you’ve chosen the wrong profession, pet. So what are you going to do?” He nodded towards the tavern. “Go back in there?”
Her gaze darted to the tavern and back to him.
He brought her hand to his lips then. Trailed his tongue over her palm. Felt the shudder that went through her.
“Just a few hours,” he said, “Best you’ll ever have.”
She arched an eyebrow at that – perhaps a spark of the real Laura showing through. Kane didn’t give her time to think. Crushing her hand in his he pulled her along to his waiting carriage and pushed her inside.
He’d told her his name, something he never did. No matter. She sat across from him pressed back into the plush seat, her arms wrapped around herself. Looking around the carriage; at anything, but him. What did it matter how much she knew about him? In a few hours she’d be dead.
Or maybe a few days. Kane leaned back and watched her through half-closed eyes. Something about this one made him think that perhaps he’d indulge himself a little. A long time since he’d kept a human. They were so fragile, so sensitive and died far too easily. He licked his lips. Was that his fault? He was merely trying to survive. Like the woman sitting opposite him.
Yes, he thought, tilting his head. He would make sure that Miss Laura died with a smile on her face and his name on her lips.
When he’d had enough of her – that was.
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