Every time I walk outside and smell the firepits burning around the KOA, I'm reminded of those nights at camp when we told ghost stories that made us practically pee our pajamas. These were stories so horrible, no one dared get their slippers on to run to the rest room.
I remember one year my dad made a robot costume, complete with a big square cardboard box head with wires stuck out of it, covered in duct tape. It had two small holes for eyes, and at the end of my trick-or-treating, my entire head was soaking wet. I've paid lots of money for those types of steamed facials today!
The tractor is pulling a cob-webbed wagon around the campground, picking up kids in costumes like a pied piper, and driving them in and around the capsites. Families have decorated tents. We have witches feet extending from under door frames, creepy sound effects, orange pumpkin lights strung over coach mirrors and bumpers. They're having a best costume contest tonight.
I'm reminded of the tragedy that struck today. Just like those who have lost their lives overseas in combat, I choose to think they'd want anything to interfere with the enjoyment of life. First Responders have once again put on their uniforms, and put themselves in harm's way to help keep us safe. While I grieve for those lost, I also am moved by the bravery of those whose job it is to drop everything and run to danger, not the other way around. I can't thank them enough.
I've also been re-reading Mortal Bite, my second Golden Vampires of Tuscany book. The story begins on Halloween, with a stunning costume party where the hero, Paolo Monteleone, dresses up as himself: a vampire, and runs into a college professor who studies and teaches myths and legends of the dark arts. Of course, she schools him on vampires, and for a time, her conversation is amusing. He holds back the urge to glam her just to find out if she's really humanly attracted to him. Cara has no idea the handsome dark man is in fact the real deal, in more ways than one!
I'm working on a Christmas surprise for my readers, and there are going to be some great announcements next month. I also know most of you are fans of my Navy SEALs. I'm hoping you'll give yourself a treat, broaden your boundaries, and come dangerously away with me into the dark lands of Healdsburg and Tuscany, where this story takes place. It's much more than a vampire story. The roots of this legend go back to 300 AD. And where it will end up is something that will be revealed all in good time!
Here's a little taste. Remember Paolo is over 300 years old. He's married mortal women and held three as they passed away in his arms. He was looking for just a little fun and distraction with the mortal crowd:
Like a dark whisper, the limo slid to the sidewalk in front of the grand ballroom. Marcus’s driver got out, opening the rear door for Paolo. The night was crisp and without rain. People flocked to the doors looking like actors waiting to go onstage for a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream. The grand old hotel, steeped in history from trysts of the San Francisco elite over the past two centuries, sat stoically with its secrets amongst the bevy of faeries, butterflies and princesses. There were stewardesses and nurses so scantily clad they appeared to have costume malfunctions. Several dark vamp women clung to men dressed as pirates or gentlemen, astronauts and, yes, more than a few vampires. A group of blue unisex Smurfs arrived and crowded in behind him, giggling.
Paolo was surprised that tonight, for the first time, he enjoyed appearing as who he really was. Somehow, he was glad he had chosen to become vampire instead of remaining mortal. He’d spent nearly three hundred years regretting the decision to change which was made in haste when he’d seen his mortal parents die.
He didn’t really understand why tonight was oddly different. He only knew that his vampire skin felt like his elegant, comfortable cape. Appropriate, dashing and fatally attractive.
Blaring music echoed through the hallway as soon as he stepped out of the metal cage elevator. Warm brown, heavily marbled stone marked his path to the ballroom. His pumps tapped down the stone corridor to the beat of the drums. Music throbbed in rhythms so strong that they tickled and thudded in his chest. His limbs felt the vibration of the beat, and his pulse quickened.
Excitement. It had been centuries since he’d felt this way.
He walked under blue and silver twinkle lights covering two tall tree boughs which framed the ballroom entrance. The photographer’s flash blinded him momentarily, but he smiled and nodded his head as he accepted a chit allowing him to purchase the photo later. Perhaps he would. It gave him another thing to smile about.
The heavily gilt walls and ornately carved walnut paneling of the ceiling reminded him of some of the ballrooms in Vienna and Paris he’d seen as a youth, when he and Marcus had danced their way through the lovelies of Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
I feel at home.
His instinct was to find a dark table in a secluded corner away from everyone else so he could scope out the crowd. Homing in on the perfect spot, a table with only one shimmering gauze scarf next to a top hat, and the rest of the place settings unoccupied, Paolo selected a chair several spaces over from the party of two, brushed his cape to the side, carefully adjusted his tails, and sat, prepared to enjoy the revelers.
Sparkle dust was in the air, tickling his nose. The amber-colored candle on the table filled the air with the fragrance of blood oranges, Anne’s favorite scent. He should know, he chuckled to himself, since Marcus had placed hundreds of them throughout his villa for her.
Paolo watched faeries dance with trolls, and idly ran his gaze over a scantily clad woman in black with huge breasts as she undulated and massaged her body over her partner’s. There were werewolves, storm troopers, kings and queens. Some men and women danced with partners of their own sex, some cavorted in groups.
He removed his cape and left it dangling over his chair as he went in search for a good glass of port. He preferred to have the enticing sweetness of port on his breath, should he meet a lady he wanted to speak with. His fangs craved the flesh of a mortal woman tonight.
The scent of jasmine was strong as he edged his way between the dancers and a table filled with donuts of every size, color and confection. The pastries were resting on a bed of candy corn and caramel popcorn. Paolo’s teeth ached at the thought of tasting the over-sweet treats.
Lucius would have loved this. Paolo smiled as he mused how sick the boy would have been the next day.
Something soft bumped into his backside. Something that smelled wonderful.
He turned and brushed intimately against a beautiful, auburn-haired woman with green eyes, whose curves made the most of a white Renaissance gown with a plunging neckline. Feathered wings were sewn on the back of the dress, and her long, draping sleeves almost touched the floor when her hands were down. Everything he’d lectured himself about not getting involved with mortal women flew away with the blink of his eye.
Upon seeing Paolo, she raised her palms to her face and hitched her breath, as if startled.
“Oh, my. What have we here?” she said.
To a mortal, the loud music would have made it impossible to hear what her voice. Paolo could hear every breath, every syllable rolling off her pink tongue as clearly as if she’d whispered it in his ear. Something silky slid down his spine as a door within him opened.
“I am a vampire, madam, at your service.” Paolo bowed and kissed her extended fingers.
Did I make her offer her hand, or did she volunteer it?
“But your lips are warm. That means you are an imposter.” She smiled and the world lit up.
“I assure you, madam, I am no imposter.” He felt his groin go rigid. He noted the blue pulsing vein at her neck quicken as her heart fluttered, sending her scent to his waiting nostrils.
She turned and gazed over her shoulder at a young man dancing madly into oblivion. Her partner did not notice his date had been distracted by the charms a new dark visitor. Someone who could be dangerous to her health.
Modern men. So naïve. They let their women wander way too much, allowing them to be gobbled up by straycatchers…
She turned and looked up at him, as though she was expecting Paolo to say something.
“Would you like some refreshment?” he finally asked her. His insides began to flutter in tandem with the beating of her heart.
Her eyes took on a momentary sparkle that thrilled Paolo. She turned and regarded her young dancing partner without much interest. Putting her hands aside her mouth, she shouted to him, “Johnny!”
The blond dancer jerked, then broke out in a toothy grin, raising his palms and undulating his torso in tune with the grinding music. Paolo didn’t like the sexual sway and suggestive jest aimed at his new interest.
“I’m getting something to drink,” the woman mouthed her words silently and followed it by drinking from an imaginary glass in her right hand.
Johnny gave her the thumbs up and started to go back to his wild gyrations, but hesitated as he looked at Paolo. A frown of worry marred his sunny countenance.
She shook her head and waved him away from across the dance floor. Paolo heard her say, “No problem. You have fun,” but doubted Johnny had heard a thing.
A glittery faerie dancer came up behind Johnny and slid under his knees, pressing into his backside that drew a whoop from him. The young man was instantly distracted by the way the little one rubbed herself all over his trousers.
Paolo’s new friend leaned back and laughed, her neck and shoulders sparkling with glitter. He could smell how good she would taste. He saw as well as felt what she liked sexually and knew he could satisfy her—do things, make her feel things, she had never dreamed possible. He stole glances while she was distracted by the bodies writhing on the dance floor and the sparkle of the costumes.
Then she turned. Paolo and his mortal beauty and her red lips faced each other fully at last. Her reddish-brown curls called to his fingers as his mouth anticipated kissing her, tasting her, making her shudder in his arms.
The woman was waiting for him to lead the way. Paolo held his breath. He wanted to be sure she was coming of her own accord. He refrained from glamoring her.
Does it matter?
He decided that tonight it did.
Paolo tucked his arm under hers and led her to the open bar, and away from the loud music. There was a fireplace and a deserted table nearby.
“I’ll get us something to drink. Why don’t you claim that table over there?”
“Claim?” she asked. Her green eyes reflected tiny fires from the twinkle lights in a canopy of stars overhead. She bit her lower lip, but obviously couldn’t keep the ends from upturning into a smile. Her fluttering eyelids danced, flashing fireballs at his heart, allowing himself to be seduced by her mortal charms.
“I figured we’d start on some port. Something deep and red.” He waggled his eyebrows, and she giggled, leaning against him. He could feel the firmness of her breasts against his upper torso. He swung his arm around her waist and pulled her even closer with a gentle tug. She arched back and examined his face, while he brushed the laces at the back of her dress, fingering every eyelet and silken strand.
He couldn’t resist touching her, and spoke, releasing his dark power as he covered her with glam.
“I’m entranced by your scent. Do you taste as good?”
She was still for a second while she considered his question. Could she feel the threshold they were stepping through like he did? Caught in each other’s gaze, he heard a throat being cleared behind him and turned to face the red-haired bartender.
“Something to drink?” the man asked. The bartender’s bulbous, deep purple nose seemed to fill his entire face. He held a wet towel in his chubby right hand while he tapped fingers on the bar countertop with his left.
“Two ports. The oldest and rarest you have.” Paolo turned and whispered as he stroked the length of his Renaissance angel’s cheek and let his finger trail over her red lips, “Rare as the lady at my side.” Her eyelids fluttered under the weight of his control. He loved how she was so susceptible to his power, seemed to crave it.
He almost leaned in to kiss her, but couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of her vulnerability. He cursed himself for his lack of manners. He held onto her with both hands at her waist, righted her firmly on her feet, separating her warm body from his and waited for her to regain sense of herself.
She shook her head. “Whew, don’t know what came over me. I got dizzy there for a second.”
“Why don’t you sit down, then, and I’ll come along with our drinks? Maybe the fire will warm you.” He pointed to the corner again.
“Yes. That’s a good idea.” She shuffled with tiny steps, holding her palm to her forehead and mumbled to herself.
He watched her body move under the silken gown, her hips, her small waist, and the small of her back outlined by a row of lacings that stretched all the way up to her shoulders. He wanted to see her naked. Wanted to rub his hands all over her flesh and kiss every inch of it.
If she’ll let me of her own free will.
And if that didn’t work—well, he could always use his vampire powers of charm and confusion. He could make her see him for the first time all night long. He could conquer her over and over again.
And no one would be the wiser.
He suddenly didn’t want the evening to end.
Look for further information about the continuation of this series. You'll be glad you dip your toe into it. As one lady said this past weekend in Orlando, “I don't generally like paranormal. But if you write it, I'll read it.”