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Aspiring actress Abbey Marie Cordova knows more than most people do about vampires—she was born among them, the only human child in a centuries-old family of the undead, and determined to stay that way. But a chance encounter with dark, mysterious Niklaus Desanto rocks her to the core. Nick is a vampire, and he's the only man who has ever made her feel so beautiful, so cherished, and so passionately desired …


Nick has spent hundreds of years on his own, and the decadent pleasures of the world have lost their appeal. Rumor has it the vampire who made him has regained her humanity—the temptation to find her and demand to know the secret is overwhelming. But one glance at innocently alluring Abbey changes everything. Drawn to her with dangerous, consuming passion, Nick will need more than a lifetime to love her…


My editor said: Abbey is a wonderful heroine, such an interesting contrast to Nick's former lover. That was a great conflict you set up. I particularly enjoyed Edna and Pearl, who provided such fun humorous scenes to mix in with the darker, more dramatic vampire moments. Nick is the perfect vampire hero.

Chapter 1


Abbey Marie Cordova stood on the balcony of her small New York apartment. Gazing at the bright lights of Broadway, she admitted what she had suspected for some time - she wasn't cut out to be an actress, great or otherwise. All those acting classes had been a waste of time and money. She just didn't have the necessary drive or the ruthless ambition to claw her way to the top, nor was she willing to surrender her morals for a bit part in a movie.

She could have asked Uncle Logan to grease the way for her. He had produced a dozen hit movies, even won an Oscar. He wielded a lot of influence with several major Hollywood producers and directors. But she didn't want any favors, not from her family or from anyone else.


Standing there, she knew giving up her childhood dream was the right decision. She had heard too many horror stories of talented young actresses who had made it to the big time, then slid down the slippery slope of fame and fortune into drug addiction, or worse. She had seen their photos splashed across the nightly news, read their obituaries.


Twenty-six years old, Abbey thought with a sigh, and what did she have to show for her years of study? Nothing. No career. No job. No special someone in her life.


Truth be told, she had been feeling blue ever since attending Derek's wedding last month. The whole family had been there – the DeLongpres, the Blackwoods, the Cordovas - all of them looking blissfully happy and deeply in love.


All of them vampires.


Until the wedding, Abbey hadn't been home for three or four years and it had been a bit of a shock, seeing her parents and the others and realizing that she now looked the same age as her father; in time, she would look older than her mother.

At the reception, her father had taken her aside and asked, without actually saying the words, if she had given any thought to becoming a vampire.


As a teenager, Abbey hadn't thought much about accepting the Dark Gift. After all, she was young and healthy. She had plenty of time to decide if she wanted to be a vampire. But she wasn't a young girl any longer. She aged with every passing day. Did she want to wait until she was in her 30's? Her 40's? Her 50's? She suppressed a shudder. Who wanted to look old forever? Of course, she didn't have to get a day older. Her mother or father would gladly bestow the Dark Gift on her. The whole family took it for granted that Abbey would eventually become one of them. The only thing was, she wasn't certain it was what she wanted.

Going into the bathroom, she studied her reflection in the mirror. Her skin was still taut and smooth and clear. Her hair, the color of dark chocolate, fell past her shoulders in thick waves. She ran her hands over her breasts and down her hips. Her figure was still firm, but for how long?


Frowning, she switched off the light, her steps heavy as she went into the bedroom. After changing into her favorite sleep shirt, she crawled into bed. But sleep wouldn't come. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw her hair thinning and turning gray, her skin growing wrinkled and spotted, her energy waning, until, in the end…


She bolted upright, her breath coming in ragged gasps. She told herself people weren't meant to live forever, that growing old and passing on was the natural order of things. The way life was meant to be.


Unless you were a vampire….


Chapter 2

He had been a vampire for over two thousand years. As such, he was one of the oldest of his kind. Only Mara, the so-called Queen of the Vampires, had survived longer.

For centuries, he had searched for her, but to no avail. He had to admire her skill at eluding detection, whether by hunters or from those of her own kind.


She was a legend among the Nosferatu – fearless, stronger, more powerful and more cunning than any of them. It was rumored that she had regained her humanity, that she had given birth to a child, but he had dismissed both possibilities out of hand. Such things were impossible, even for the Queen of the Vampires. No doubt she had spread the rumors herself, knowing it would only add to her mystique.


But he couldn't ignore the niggling voice in the back of his mind that wondered if it could be true.


He stared at the goblet in his hand, at the thick red liquid it held. What would it be like to be able to consume something besides blood after so many centuries? To sample the various foods and drinks he saw advertised on TV and in magazines? To eat something that required chewing? He often sat in restaurants, sipping a glass of wine, watching men and women as they ate, envious of the culinary pleasure he read on their faces. Just once, he thought, just once he would like to bite into a thick, juicy steak.


Mara was the answer. If she had truly found a way to regain her humanity – no matter how briefly – he wanted to know how she had accomplished it.


And if it was impossible, what then?


He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He had lived as a vampire long enough. He was ready to die, but as one of the Nosferatu, his options were not pretty. He could let a hunter stake him or take his head. Or he could walk out into the light of a new day. As old as he was, he wasn't sure it would even be fatal. He could always set himself on fire…Grimacing, he quickly discarded that alternative.

Better to become human again if at all possible, and spend his final years as a mortal before he breathed his last.

He sipped his drink. It all came back to Mara. She was the answer. If she couldn't restore his humanity, then she could grant him a quick, painless death.

She owed him that much.


And a helluva lot more.