Book Title: Forged In Flame (Morgan Blackstone Vampires, #2)
Author: Michelle Rabe
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
A preternatural killer stalks the streets of San Francisco, leaving a trail of drained corpses to be found by the human authorities.
Desperate to protect the vampire’s secret the city’s Enforcer calls on the Assassin to put a stop to the spree.
An ancient order, long thought dead rises from the ashes of history bent on death and the destruction of all vampires.
And Morgan Blackstone stands in the eye of a gathering storm that will change everything.
2 – San Francisco California – September 15, 2012
Emily Stanton stepped off the bus and onto a well-lit residential street. She shivered in the cool night air, dampness from the slight fog making the air seem colder than it was. Looking both ways, she waited as the bus’s air brakes hissed, and it pulled away from the curb. Shaking off the all too familiar feeling that someone was watching, Emily started making her way home. She still had three blocks to walk, uphill, before reaching her building. As much as she loved San Francisco, she hated the hills, and though friends and family had tried, they couldn’t convince her to move.
The wind whispered, causing the fog to shift while unseen fingers seemed to slip through her hair moving the stray strands. Strange shadows danced in front of her, and a chill crept up her spine. Emily’s senses tingled as she felt eyes watching her every move.
No, Em, you’re just imagining things. This is a safe neighborhood, and no one is stalking you. She was talking to herself as a black and white San Francisco Police Department patrol car passed, the soft hum of its tires on the pavement the only sound other than her footfalls. Pulling up her hood, she tucked the tail of raven hair inside and walked even faster. Emily crossed the street coming close to breaking into a jog, her house key protruding from her fist, a makeshift last resort weapon. A few blocks ahead, the SFPD car’s siren wailed, its echoing cry dampened and distorted by the moisture filling the air. The flashing blue and red lights cast an eerie glow.
Emily picked up the pace, breaking into a hurried jog, not caring how it appeared to passersby until she reached her building. Heartbeat pounding in her ears, Emily took the stairs two at a time. She breathed a sigh of relief as she fitted the key into the lock and stepped into the lobby. Slamming the door behind her, she leaned against it, closing her eyes and taking several deep breaths.
Come on Em, you’ve got to get it together. You’re safe at home. She leaned against the exterior building door in silence, waiting for her heart rate to return to normal.
A few minutes later, Emily pushed away with a self-deprecating laugh. Her tiny mailbox was stuffed with letters, many of them were birthday cards in colorful envelopes. Trudging up the stairs to her second-floor studio, she stopped outside the apartment door and fumbled to get the key in the lock. A door downstairs opened and closed. What if the stalker lives in the building? She shook her head at her paranoia, taking a deep cleansing breath.
Someone started up the stairs. The key slipped into the lock and turned to the right as the newcomer reached the top landing. Footsteps approached, and she glanced over her shoulder to see her upstairs neighbor, Jayson, walking toward her.
“Hey, Em. How’s it going?” He waved with his free hand. The other held an overstuffed, reusable bag that was straining to carry what appeared to be a number of heavy items from the hardware store located six blocks away.
God, I hope he didn’t walk all the way back here with that thing on his arm. “Good. Can I give you a hand?” she asked.
“Nah, I got it,” he said. Smiling, he stepped past her as the bottom of his bag gave out. A loud clatter rang throughout the hallways while dozens of items hit the hardwood floor, some rolling away. “Shit!” He dropped to one knee. “Stupid things, I hate them, but I hate paying for a damned paper bag more.” Jayson started gathering items, breathing deeply, letting Emily’s scent fill his head.
Emily opened her door and tossed her purse on the floor, using it as a makeshift doorstop. “Here, let me help you.” She knelt beside him and started picking items up.
Jayson held up his bag and frowned. A long rip appeared in the side along the bottom, and he shook his head. “There’s no way this is going to be usable ever again,” he said, voice somewhere between a laugh and a sigh.
“I’ve got a spare inside. Why don’t you come in and we’ll get you squared away?” she asked, genuine concern flashing in her emerald green eyes.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. It’s no big.” She shrugged, balancing items in her arms, turning to step over the threshold. As she entered the apartment, Jayson hung back, not wanting to follow even though he could. She’d extended an innocent invitation to him, the guy from upstairs… The guy she’d helped before and who had helped her. Emily didn’t know it, but the wasn’t the same.
Jayson wasn’t sure who or what had taken over, but something deep inside called out for her blood. He wanted to hear it sing through his veins, feel it give him strength. The beast inside won and whatever remained of the man, died a little more.
“Well, are you going to come in, silly?” She smiled and waggled her eyebrows, teasing him. “I’ll get you taken care of,” she promised and dropped an armload of his stuff on the high breakfast bar.
“Thanks, Em.” Jayson smiled, flashing the tips of his long, white fangs. He stepped into her apartment, using his toe to push her purse out of the way, the door closed without a sound. Once inside, he glanced around as though searching for something.
Emily disappeared into the pantry. He watched, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, fighting an unease that slithered through the back of his consciousness.
“Is everything okay, Jay?” She stepped back into the room and set a canvas bag on the counter with a smile that lit up her green eyes.
“Yeah.” He frowned and glanced up, thinking about the work he had to do upstairs. “Why?”
“You just seem distracted,” she said with a shrug as she picked up his items and dropped them into the bag. Jayson didn’t reply. Emily held up a roll of duct tape, eyed the plastic sheeting and laughed. “Doing some painting?” When her neighbor remained silent, she continued, “Because this isn’t the right kind of tape. You want that blue stuff that won’t rip up the old paint.” She turned and gasped, Jayson was standing right beside her. “Shit! You scared me!” She clutched a hand over her heart and laughed, trying to ease the tension while punching his left upper arm with her free hand.
The laugh died in her throat, cut off as something in the air shifted and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Emily’s breath caught in her throat while tension stretched out in front of her. Her eyes drifted to Jayson’s lips.
Emily expected Jayson to move, but when he didn’t, she stepped back. His movements mirrored hers. His presence invaded her space. Something was different about him. When she opened her mouth, ready to tell him off, Jayson’s fingers closed around her throat. He squeezed just enough to restrict her airway, he wanted this to be slow. Enjoyed giving her the illusion that she might escape.
God, his hand is like ice. The thought slammed into her consciousness and stayed at the forefront of her mind as her whole body trembled. She tried to scream, but when she drew in a breath, he increased the pressure, a sinister smile curling his lips to reveal sharp, white, fang tips. What the fuck? She twisted in his grip, clawing at his hand with her nails. The initial spike of terror gave way to the cold, hard reality of dread.
“Do you have any idea how long I’ve wanted to do this?” He eased the pressure on her throat as he leaned in and took a long, deep breath. Emily drew in a shaky one and kicked, catching his shin. Jayson didn’t even flinch. “Now, now, don’t you want to play nice?” His smile widened, flashing the full length of fangs. “Come on, Em, if you behave,” his cool lips brushed her cheek, “you might even enjoy yourself.”
She kicked out again, this time connecting with the breakfast bar. Stabbing pain shot up her leg, and she raked her long fingernails down his arms feeling cool blood well up under her fingers.
“Decided not to play nice. That’s okay.” He shook his head and lifted her a few inches off the ground leaving her toes just brushing the floor. “They told me I should make it quick. The more time I take with my victims, the higher risk for getting caught. I’ve wondered what it would be like to get caught. Shall we try?” Jayson leaned in and nipped at her earlobe, hissing with pleasure as one fang nicked her skin and a drop of her sweet blood touched his tongue. He eased back toward the curtained off area that served as Emily’s bedroom. Taking a deep breath, filling his lungs with the familiar floral scent associated with her, it mixed with the sharpening tang of fear. She fought to remain alert, feeling her limbs grow heavy as darkness crept in at the corners of her eyes. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt…” Jayson laid her down on her bed and stroked her hair while Emily slipped into unconsciousness, “…too much.”
Stretching out beside her, Jayson stayed on the bed for several minutes, listening to the steadily increasing rhythm of her heart, feeling the warmth of her skin under his touch. A stab of jealousy ran through him as he listened to her heartbeat. He knew he needed to act fast if he wanted to be done before she woke.
Moving with vampiric speed, he returned to the kitchen and retrieved the roll of duct tape from the bag Emily had left on the counter. He went back to the bed, turned her onto her stomach and bound her wrists. Rolling her to her back, he secured her legs at the ankles and knees. Jayson stood and walked to her wardrobe and opened the doors, rifling through her clothes until he found a couple of silk scarves. He used one to blindfold her and placed a soft kiss on Emily’s lips before using the second scarf to gag her.
“Sit tight, princess, I’ve got to take care of a few things. I’ll be back as soon as possible.” She groaned and started to stir in her bindings. Satisfied that his prize wasn’t going to escape, Jayson turned his attention to the apartment he’d once lived in one floor up, and the unfortunate corpse he’d left behind.
Emily woke to darkness, her mind fuzzy; she blinked, feeling something dragging against her lashes. Her whole body ached, even her mouth and jaw. Both arms were asleep, tingling numbness from her shoulders all the way to the tips of her fingers. She tried to roll back onto her side, to find a more comfortable position, but although her muscles responded, something held her in place. Talking to herself always helped her think things through, but now words escaping her mouth were nothing more than garbled nonsense.
Events of the evening rushed past her conscious mind, and although she knew it would be muffled, she screamed and strained against her bonds. A knot formed in her stomach, and Emily knew she had to escape if she was going to survive. She twisted her hands, hoping to find a way to slip free, but the tape stuck to her skin and flexed with each movement. No matter how hard she tried to pull her wrists apart, the layers of duct tape wouldn’t rip. She let loose another wordless scream, as loud as possible, hoping someone would hear. Desperate, she tried to remember if she’d left the window open. She struggled, searching with her fingers.
Please, please, please. There has to be something, I’ve got to find something that I can use to cut myself free. Her muscles burned, wrists ached but her fingers found nothing more than the soft cotton sheets she loved to snuggle under after a long day. She sagged against the bindings, giving up when she realized it was hopeless. That’s what I get for keeping my sleeping area too neat.
Fear and hopelessness settled over her like a shroud, and Emily rolled to her side, sobbing until her throat ached. After a while, exhaustion overwhelmed her, and she slipped into an uneasy sleep.
When a cool hand brushed up against her throat and along her chin, she let out a high-pitched shriek, recoiling from the contact. She rolled on her back and dug her heels into the mattress, trying to get away. Jayson’s laugh drifted down to her as his hand stroked a chilly, gentle path over her body. She shrank back from his feather light touch. One moment later, a hand wrapped around her throat. The other continued to explore her body.
“Hello princess. You didn’t think I’d forgotten about you, did you?” The pressure from his fingers increased, grinding tendons against cartilage. Emily whimpered and struggled against his grip even as her head began buzzing with decreased oxygen. “Hush, hush, sweetheart,” he cooed in her ear. “You should know better than to hope that making noise will bring help. These walls are damned near soundproof, thanks to old Mister Jackson.” He paused and eased the pressure on her throat.
All she heard were her rasping breath and heartbeat thundering in her ears. She forced air into her lungs, sucking in as much oxygen as possible.
“Now, sweetheart, you have a choice. You can cooperate with me, do as I say. Follow that plan, and I might allow you to live to see the sunrise.” Jayson’s fingers trailed down her collarbone and over to the center of her chest. He leaned in close, shifted his grip and closed his lips over the visible pulse in her throat. He bit down, letting his fangs sink into the vein. Jayson moaned as the liquid flowed into his mouth, filling every recess. Her blood was like a kick to his gut. Feedings always provided him with energy, but hers included an extra high. The sharp tang of fear raced through him making every inch tingle with excitement. Years of pent up longing and unspoken desires filled her blood with rich, bold flavors that flowed over his tongue and down his throat.
Jayson pulled back after one mouthful, moaning as he decided to prolong the experience. He dragged his tongue over the wounds to seal them before sitting back and taking a deep breath. Being careful not to break the skin, he shook his head and nipped her earlobe again. “If you choose to fight me, I will still take what I want, but there will be a lot of pain involved for you.” His fingers traced her chin with a gentle lover’s touch.
Jayson stood and waited, studying her. On the bed, Emily struggled, fighting against the tape and bindings. He remained silent, watching her body twist and her brow furrow as she screamed in frustration and thrashed from side to side. He fought to keep from laughing while a fresh spike of her terror assaulted his psyche. “You can keep trying to escape, sweetheart, but know this, should you manage to free yourself, I will find you and be displeased. You won’t like the outcome if you make me angry.” He spun on his heel and exited the curtained bedroom area.