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IN THE WORKS

Chapter 1

 

And so he bestowed on her the vampire's kiss, sweeping her into a world of love and a life that would never end.

 

With a heartfelt sigh, Evangeline closed the book. If only she could find a love like that. A love that was stronger, deeper, more enduring than mere mortal attraction.

 

If only vampires really existed. Not that she really wanted to meet one, but what if they did? They had always fascinated her, ever since she saw her first Dracula movie.

 

Setting the book aside, Angie padded to the front window and stared out into the darkness. What if vampires truly did exist? Was that really so far-fetched? After all, stories and legends of the undead went back thousands of years and were cited in every nation and country on earth. If such creatures were only myth, why had the tales lasted so long? Bookstores and libraries had entire sections devoted to vampires. Why waste all that shelf space on something that never existed?

 

Even as the thought crossed her mind, she knew it wasn't a valid argument. After all, there were tons of books about Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster and space aliens, too. There was no hard evidence to back up the existence of any of those creatures, either. Of course, lots of people claimed to have seen Bigfoot and Nessie. Some folks had pictures, although all the ones she'd seen looked photo-shopped. She had never heard of anyone who claimed to have seen a vampire. Then again, maybe those who saw them didn't live long enough to tell anyone.

 

A sobering thought.

 

Wishing real life was more like the novels she loved, Angie turned away from the window. And then she grinned. Maybe she should put an ad in the paper.

 

Wanted : Tall, dark handsome stranger

who prefers the night. Object….

 

Angie frowned. She had no objective, just an over-active imagination. But she couldn't help wondering if they did exist, and if so, were they as romantic as the ones she read about? Or monsters, like the ones in the movies?

 

With a shake of her head, she turned off the lights and went to bed. Maybe she needed to see a shrink, she mused as she pulled the covers up to her chin. After all, who in their right mind would want to come face-to-face with one of the Undead?

 

#

 

In the morning, Angie carried a cup of coffee into her home office and settled down in front of her computer. She had been working as a freelance writer for a local magazine for the last three years. It wasn't the best paying job in the world but it was something she could do at home in her PJs, which was a big plus as far as she was concerned. Not only that, but her editor, Jennifer Martin, gave her carte blanche to pick her own topics.

She worked steadily, taking a fifteen minute break to stand and stretch every hour or so. The morning flew by. She broke for lunch at one. As soon as she left her office, she found herself thinking about vampires again.

 

What if they were real? Did they really sleep in coffins? Were they truly dead to the world when the sun was up? Why would they be repelled by garlic? Or crosses? Or silver? What happened if they didn't like blood? Were they really immortal? If vampires didn't have a soul, and they weren't really alive, were they just animated corpses? And how gross was that?

 

Maybe she needed to stop reading paranormal romances and start reading cozy mysteries instead.

 

And maybe not.

 

Back at her desk, she stared, unseeing at her computer screen. If someone wanted to find a vampire, where would they look?

Google, of course! She'd go online as soon as she finished her work for the day.

 

#

 

Angie stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom, carefully applying her make-up. She had spent hours online looking for vampires, and while she hadn't found any links to actual vampires, she had found numerous books and movies on the subject, as well as half a dozen web sites advertising Goth club that claimed to be hangouts for creatures of the night. Curious, she jotted down the addresses of the four clubs closest to home.

Hoping "creatures" applied only to the undead and not werewolves, zombies, or trolls, she stepped into her shoes, grabbed her handbag and her keys, and left the house.

 

Drac's Domain was the first tavern on her list. Angie shook her head when she stepped through the door. The walls were black, the floor tiled in red. No doubt so the blood wouldn't show, she thought, grimacing as she made her way to the long, curved bar in the back.

 

The bartender, clad in a white shirt and long black cape, leered at her as he took her order. It was all she could do not to laugh in his face when he flashed his fake fangs at her.

 

She carried her drink to a small table where she could people-watch. Men and women alike wore nothing but black. The men wore suits. The women all wore long dresses. Black lipstick and eye shadow made their faces look pale in the dim light. Most of them also had long, straight black hair, real or fake.

 

With a shake of her head, Angie finished her drink and left the tavern. Maybe she'd have better luck tomorrow night.

 

#

 

She went to a different club every Saturday night for the next month -- Nick's Nightmare, the Devil's Tavern, Mell's Hell, and The Pit.

 

She was amazed to discover that so many people spent their weekends pretending to be vampires. She had seen some truly bizarre things, like the man who had filed his teeth to sharp points, and the woman who carried a flask rumored to be filled with real blood. Angie had learned that some wanna-be vampires actually indulged in drinking from each other, which she found beyond gross.

 

At home that night, she tossed her handbag on the sofa, kicked off her shoes, and decided she'd wasted enough time to looking for the undead. No more vampire haunts for her. The Pit had been the last stop. Goth clubs– and the people who frequented them – were just too weird.

 

In spite of her good intentions, she found herself back at Nick's Nightmare the following Saturday night. Of all the places she had visited, this one seemed to be the most "normal." Sort of like Halloween every night, with men and women in bizarre costumes but behaving – mostly -- like regular people with a peculiar penchant the macabre.

 

Angie had been sitting at the bar nursing a drink for about ten minutes when a man sat down next to her. He was of medium height, not bad looking, but the way he leered at her creeped her out.

 

"Hello, gorgeous," he drawled. "Can I buy you a drink?"

 

"No, thank you."

 

He rested one hand on her knee. "How about a dance?"

 

"No," she said, her voice frigid as she pushed his hand away. "Thank you."

 

"Come on, honey, don't play hard to get." 

 

She was debating what to do next when a deep male voice said, "Take a hike, Mulgrew."

 

The man left without a word.

 

Angie glanced over her shoulder to see a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark-hair and compelling green eyes looming over her. Like every other man in the place, he was dressed all in black.

She recalled seeing him in the other night clubs, always in the company of one pretty woman or another.

 

Tonight, he was alone.

 

He gestured at the stool beside her. "May I?"

 

She shrugged.

 

"I've seen you in here before." He made a vague gesture with his hand, encompassing the room behind them. "You don't seem like the type to frequent places like this."

 

"Oh? Why is that?"

 

"Well, for starters, you're dressed all wrong."

 

Angie stared at her white slacks and pale blue sweater and shrugged. "I left my Halloween costume at home."

 

His laugh was deep and sensual and did funny things in the pit of her stomach. "The Goth crowd." His voice slid over her, like silk over velvet. "They always look like they're in mourning, don't they?"

 

She lifted one brow. "So do you."

 

"Touché, my lady. I've seen you in some of the other clubs," he remarked "Are you looking for something special?"

 

"Excuse me?"

 

Brow furrowed, he studied her a moment, then shook his head. "Sorry."

 

Wondering what he was apologizing for, she said, "I've seen you in those other places, too. Were you looking for – how did you put it? Something special"

 

"I was."

 

His gaze moved over her. The intensity of it made Angie's toes curl inside her shoes even as it sent a shaft of unexpected desire spiraling through her. She licked her lips, feeling as if she had suddenly strayed into unknown territory. "And now?" she asked, tremulously.

 

"I think maybe I've found it."

 

Suddenly frightened without knowing why, Angie grabbed her handbag, muttered, "It was nice meeting you. Good night," and practically ran out of the place.

 

Back at home, safe inside her own house, with the door double-locked behind her, she felt suddenly foolish. What on earth was wrong with her? Sure, it had been a long time since a handsome man flirted with her but that was no reason to behave like some silly school girl.

 

With a sigh, she tossed her handbag on the sofa, kicked off her shoes and headed for her bedroom.

 

Muttering, "Next time some sexy guy makes a pass at you, try to act like a grown-up," she undressed and crawled into bed, only to lie there, wide-awake and restless, his whiskey-smooth voice echoing in her mind.