Hope's Kiss -- July 2011
Red Sage Publishing
Detective Hope Barton finds the man she loves bloody, naked and locked in a cage. When he lunges for her throat, she realizes Mark Wilder has become a vampire. Worse, he’s dying of the Thirst: a raging need for blood.
After Hope is locked in with Mark, she must use all her sensual skills to reawaken the man inside the beast. Only then can they defeat the master vampire determined to make Mark his partner in murder
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He was naked, covered in blood, and lying in the floor of a steel cage.
She’d still know Mark Wilder anywhere.
Detective Hope Barton scanned the room from the bottom step, eyes flicking from the cage to the bloody wooden table beside it, to the shackles that hung from blood-splattered cement walls.
The big, dimly lit basement reeked of murder: body fluids, rotting gore, and helpless suffering. Her stomach heaved, but Hope had been a violent crimes detective for two years, and she’d stood over her share of slaughter. Swallowing hard, she forced her dinner back where it belonged and did her job.
“Mark.” Hope strode toward the cage, ignoring the sticky puddles drying on the cement underfoot. She was too busy scanning the room for the key to his cell. There was no sign of one, dammit. “What the hell happened to you?” When he didn’t move, she raised her voice in a cop’s bark. “Mark!”
He stirred and lifted his head from the cage’s dirty floor. One dazed green eye met hers under a shock of matted blond hair. Blood and filth streaked his face, his lips were cut and bruised, and his left eye was swollen shut.
Somebody had beaten the crap out of him. And judging from his bloody knuckles, he’d fought back hard. Which was no surprise. Mark never took anything lying down.
Her gut twisted. How was she going to get him out of here? She grabbed the thick iron bars in both hands. “Mark…” “Mark, it’s Hope.”
For a suspended instant, he stared at her without any recognition at all.
Until he roared with a tortured animal howl and leaped at her in an impossible eight-foot bound. Pure reflex had her jolting back, barely dodging his hand as it shot through the bars.
How did he do that? Nobody could jump like that!
Mark’s lips peeled off snapping teeth, his powerful body straining to reach her with fingers curled into claws. His bare, bloody feet thudded on the bars as he kicked them savagely, trying to bend the steel. His one good eye glittered in frenzy.
He has fangs. She froze, staring at his sharply pointed canine teeth. Sweet God, Mark has fangs!
He sure as hell hadn’t had them in high school. She’d put her tongue in his mouth often enough to know.
As he bellowed and clawed, Hope damn near drew down on him. She managed to drag her hand away from the grip of her shoulder-holstered 9mil. Glock, but it took an effort. I’m not going to shoot Mark Wilder.
God, she ached to call for backup, but she no longer trusted anyone in the department.
Mark finally stopped howling. Clinging to the bars, he stared at her, his good eye feral and desperate, like a wolf’s with one leg in a bear trap. Recognition flickered in his gaze. “Hope?” His voice sounded broken, raspy, as if he’d been screaming. Screaming for a very long time.
Pity raked at her heart, along with a certain tense relief. At least he’d recognized her. “Yeah, it’s me.” She gave him a twisted smile. “Guess you were right. There is a vampire in Reede County.”