Between a Vamp and a Hard Place centers on Lindsey Hughes, a lover of antiques who couldn’t be happier to make a living in the estate sale business. But when her assistant accidentally buys an entire estate without her approval, Lindsey is forced to clean up the mess herself.
Lindsey travels to the newly purchased, age-old house in Venice, Italy, and soon discovers more than she (never) bargained for. While digging through the hoarder’s trove that fills every floor, she finds a secret staircase behind a wall that leads to a strange coffin . . . with an even stranger inhabitant.
Vampire Rand FitzWulf has been in his coffin for 600 years. But now that he’s awake, he’s ravenous, and there’s a delicious-smelling woman with a rare blood type in his basement. Luckily, Lindsey has more to offer than blood: she agrees to travel throughout Europe with Rand to help him get revenge on the one who turned him. But as the unlikely pair grows closer, will the vampire be overtaken by his thirst for blood – or his thirst for love?
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I peered at the coffin lid. It was perfectly smooth, made of a solid sort of wood that had a warm cherry color to it and had been polished to a high sheen. It was also completely without design or ornamentation of any kind, so I couldn’t tell how old it was. It might have been made two years ago, or two hundred. There was no writing on the surface, and the crate itself was empty of anything except the coffin.
There was no mistaking the shape, though. It was the classic coffin shape-narrower at the feet and broader where the shoulders would be. My heart hammered as I reached out to tentatively touch the wood.
It felt cool under my fingertips, and I relaxed. Of course it did. Now I was the one being a ninny, wasn’t I? With a small sigh, I put my fingers to the edge of the lid and pried it off.
As light hit the interior, I gasped.
It wasn’t empty.
A man lay inside, a man so stunningly beautiful that he had to be unreal. His mouth was a perfect sculpture of lips, his cheekbones high. His jaw was strong and smooth, his skin pale. Thick, reddishbrown hair tumbled over his brow, and dark brows and thick eyelashes framed his closed eyes. Once I stopped staring at his gorgeous face, I looked at his clothing. It was unfamiliar, a long tunic of a dark shade and equally dark leggings. I did notice that he had one arm at his side, the other over his heart. He gripped a wooden stake.
My jangling nerves suddenly relaxed, and I just shook my head at the sight of that stake. Really? I laughed to myself. This had to be a prank. I looked around for hidden cameras. If this wasn’t one of those reality TV shticks, I’d be shocked. Of course it made sense that this was a setup. An apartment in Venice that had been untouched for years? A secret room with a vampire? I wasn’t born yesterday. I knocked on the edge of the coffin, unamused. “Nice try, buddy, but I don’t buy the vampire thing. Get up.”
The actor in the coffin didn’t move.
Exasperated, I put my hands on my hips. “I’m serious. I don’t know who set you up to this, but it isn’t funny. I don’t believe in ghosts, and I certainly don’t believe in vampires. Good effort, though.”
He didn’t move. Didn’t respond. I stared at him for a long moment to see if his chest rose with breath, but it was hard to tell in the flickering lantern light.
I was quickly getting past amused and heading straight for annoyed. Was all this stuff down here a plant, then? One big prank to get me excited and try to scare me to death? If so, it wasn’t working. I was pragmatic at best, and I didn’t have time for this stupid stuff.
“Come on,” I told the silent actor. “Don’t make me call the cops on you. Get up.” When he didn’t respond again, I lost my patience and grabbed at the stake “in” his chest.
As I grasped it and pulled backward, my fingers brushed against his. I realized, too late, that his fingers were as cold as ice. But then the stake was in my hand and I was stumbling backward, shocked.
No human hand was that cold. No way.
As I stared down at the body in the coffin, the chest expanded, filling with air.
The man’s eyes opened.
His skimming fingers were doing naughty things to my body. My nipples had reacted immediately, perking at the touch. My entire body tingled with awareness of his against my own, and I felt my pulse speed up.
“I need to lick you to assist with the healing, Lindsey,” Rand said, hands moving along my jaw and throat. “Tilt your head back for me.”
I need to lick you. Oh sweet heavens. “Rand, I-”
“Do it, Lindsey.”
And because I wanted to do it despite myself, I tilted my head back and waited, feeling a little awkward and a lot tense and turned on all at once.
I started as Rand’s head bent to my neck and his nose brushed against my throat. His hair tickled my chin, and I had the most insane urge to twine my fingers in those long, thick locks and hold him against me, as if we’d been lovers in a make-out session.
We weren’t, of course. This was healing. Nothing more. I had a boo-boo and he was going to make it all better . . . with his tongue.
Oh, who was I kidding? I was totally getting turned on by this. I squirmed underneath him as I felt his weight settle on top of me. This was . . . okay, this felt like sex. It wasn’t, I kept telling myself. Totally wasn’t.
Then his tongue touched my neck and he gave it a long, sultry lick.
A moan escaped me.
I clapped a hand over my mouth, shocked.
Rand groaned against my throat, and the sound went straight to my sex. “God have mercy upon me. Do not sound so delicious, Lindsey. The last thing you need is more blood taken from you, and you tempt me sorely.”
“Sorry,” I breathed. I wasn’t, though. I liked hearing that I was tempting him. He was sexy and dangerous and gorgeous, so of course I liked the thought of making him half as wild as he made me. But this was about healing the gouge in my throat, so I bit down on my lip and tried to think nice, sweet, chaste thoughts.
Like teddy bears.
Nice warm hugs and-
Oh God, was he stroking his tongue against the hollow of my throat?
A whimper escaped, and this time I gave in to the temptation of burying my fingers in his hair. I clung to him, full of need, and moaned again when he licked my skin. I forgot all about my wound or how I’d received it. The only thought in my head was Rand, and Rand’s tongue, and the weight of Rand’s body over mine.
“Lindsey,” he rasped, and his mouth moved up the column of my neck, pressing light kisses to my skin. Then his mouth was on mine and he was kissing me. At first, he was soft, tender, almost hesitant. As if testing if I really wanted this or not.
And oh boy, did I ever. I slicked my tongue against his, moaning my need. His fangs pricked me, and the taste of my blood tinged the kiss. This time, Rand moaned, and his fingers dug into my hair, and then we were both kissing with abandon, a mesh of tongues, lips, and teeth. Every time his tongue stroked mine, I felt it between my legs, and my hips rose in response. His body had somehow settled between my legs, and I wrapped one around his thigh, pushing him against me. The hard press of his c*ck against my sex told me I wasn’t the only one full of need, and I thrust against him, wanting him deep inside me.
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