He stood on the ship’s deck, eyes closed, his face tilted toward the
sun, and drew in a deep breath of tangy sea air as The Wayfarer cut through the
white-capped Atlantic’s waves. It had been ten long years since he’d smelled
anything but stench. Since he’d had anything except filth beneath his feet.
Seen anything other than darkness. Experienced anything other than agony.
But now that he’d escaped, justice would be
He opened his eyes and looked down at the ruined skin of his wrists
where the manacles had held him. Only a few of the many scars that marked him.
All daily reminders of the horrors he’d suffered in that hellhole prison.
They’re nothing compared to the horrors you’re going to suffer.
The words that had kept him alive for a decade whispered through his
mind and he lifted his gaze to the horizon. Dark blue water and puffy white
clouds dotted the azure sky, stretching as far as he could see, but in a matter
of days England would appear on the horizon.
Then he would have his revenge. Against the man who’d ruined his
Hatred seethed through him. Soon...soon everything that mattered
would be taken away from that bastard. Just as you took everything from me.
The man’s fingers clenched around the wooden railing. Thought you’d
fixed things nicely for yourself, didn’t you, you bastard? Commit murder then
run off to England, with no one the wiser.
A dark chuckle escaped the man. But I know.
Oh, yes, he knew what Jennsen had done, and after an exhaustive search, had
finally discovered where he was.
“And I know something else you don’t,” the man
whispered, the brisk sea breeze whisking away his soft words. “You killed the
wrong man, Jennsen. I’m the one you wanted. And I can’t wait to see the look
on your face when you realize your mistake.”
Ah, yes, that would be a sweet moment indeed.
Followed by even sweeter moments. You’re going to lose everything--just as I
did. And then I’m going to kill you.
And then his long-awaited revenge against Logan Jennsen would be
I wanted him the moment I
saw him. The scent of his skin, of his blood was a delicious, potent
aphrodisiac that whipped me into a frenzy of need. He tempted me beyond all
reason and I couldn’t resist him. I couldn’t wait to sink my fangs into his
The Vampire Lady’s Kiss by Anonymous
“Do you see anything suspicious?”
Logan Jennsen paused beneath one of the soaring elms lining the
gravel path in Hyde Park and slipped his watch from his waistcoat pocket, his
casual actions in complete contrast to his tension-laced voice.
“Suspicious in what way?” Bow Street Runner Gideon Mayne asked in
Logan made a pretext of checking the time. “No one appears to be
paying the least bit of attention to me, but I can’t dismiss the strong
sensation that someone’s watching me.”
He noted how Gideon’s sharp-eyed gaze immediately scanned the area
as he too pretended to consult his own timepiece. Thanks to the bright
afternoon sunshine after more than a week of gray, dismal January weather, the
park was crowded with pedestrians, riders, and elegant equipages.
“From your tone I gather this isn’t the first time it’s happened.”
Gideon said, slipping his watch back into his pocket then bending down. He
brushed a bit of dirt from the toe of his black boot, but Logan knew the
Runner’s gaze was further observing their surroundings.
“No. This is the third time in as many days. Which is why I asked
you to meet me here. I hoped you’d see what I was missing.”
“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary,” Gideon said, rising.
“Yet. So let’s keep walking.”
That was one of things Logan liked about Gideon and the reason why
he’d asked the Runner to meet him--the man didn’t waste time with unnecessary
questions such as Are you sure? Or suggestions like Maybe you’re imagining it.
Over the past several months Logan had hired Gideon to perform investigative
work relating to his business ventures and been extremely impressed with the
results. So much so, he was considering hiring him on a full-time basis,
provided he could tempt Gideon away from Bow Street. But Logan was confident
he’d prevail. As he knew, every man had his price. And he had the money to pay
But there was more to it than that. Logan had
come to like and respect Gideon, not only for his investigative prowess but
because like Logan himself, Gideon had come from nothing and made something of
himself. Unfortunately for Gideon, the financial rewards of his profession
weren’t very lucrative, and Logan wanted to help this man he’d come to regard as
a friend. As he knew Gideon would turn down any offer he believed held a whiff
of charity, he’d need to tread carefully.
They stepped back onto the path and continued walking. “Anything
else unusual going on?” Gideon asked, his tone as casual as if he were
discussing the weather.
Logan considered for a few seconds, then said, “Two nights ago an
intruder tried to board one of my ships. The first mate gave chase, but the man
“Any description of the intruder?”
“Only that he could run like the wind and clearly knew his way
around. Otherwise, it was too dark.”
“You make any new enemies lately?”
A humorless sound escaped Logan. Based on the work Gideon had
performed for him over the last few months, the Runner knew damn well that along
with wealth such as Logan’s came an influx of people who didn’t necessarily wish
him the best.
“Not in the last few days--that I know of. Or so I’d thought.
Until my instincts began screaming that I’m being watched.”
“Never ignore your instincts,” Gideon said quietly.
Good advice, although Logan didn’t need it. Listening to his
instincts and acting upon them were how he’d escaped the poverty into which he’d
been born. What had kept him alive through more harrowing experiences than he
cared to recall. And he intended to listen to them now, even if Gideon couldn’t
confirm his suspicions.
“A man in your position...lots of people are going to be looking at
you,” Gideon said.
“They have been,” Logan said dryly. He’d quickly grown accustomed
to being the cynosure of all eyes after settling in London nearly a year ago.
“The members of society regard me as if I’m some exotic, predatory bird who’s
landed uninvited in their cozy nest. The fact that I’m an American only serves
to cast more rancor and suspicion my way. I’m well aware the only reason the
ton tolerates me in their lofty ranks is because of my wealth.”
“Does that bother you?” Gideon asked.
“It occasionally annoys me but mostly amuses me. As much as the
esteemed peers would like to send me packing on the first ship back to America,
they’re even more anxious to seek my advice on financial matters and investment
opportunities.” A grim smile lifted one corner of his mouth. “Since there are
numerous such opportunities in my own companies, I take full advantage of their
unwilling interest in me--which has proven very profitable all around.”
Then he frowned. “But this recent feeling...it’s different. A
sense of menace.” Indeed, it raised the hairs on the back of his neck and
slithered eerie dread down his spine even on this bright, sunshine-filled day.
Gideon turned toward him. “You’ve felt this menace in the past?”
Too many times. “Yes, but not recently.”
“Do you know what--or who--caused it in the
Logan’s jaw tightened. He’d never forget.
“Perhaps this episode is from the same source.”
He shook his head. “Impossible.”
Gideon’s eyes narrowed. “It would only be
impossible if that source was...permanently extinguished.”
Logan met the Runner’s gaze. “As I
Gideon studied him for several seconds with an
inscrutable expression, then gave a quick nod and returned his attention to
their surroundings. Logan liked that Gideon accepted his word and didn’t
pressed him for details. Especially as it had saved him the trouble of lying.
While he knew the lies he’d told countless times would slip from his lips once
again without hesitation, he couldn’t deny his relief in not needing to utter
them now, particularly to this man he respected and had come to regard as a
friend. He knew all too well the havoc lies could wreak on friendships. As a
result, it had been a damn long time since he’d had a friend.
The path veered into two forks just ahead. When Logan struck out
toward the right, Gideon asked, “Do you have a particular destination in mind,
or are we just taking a turn around the park?”
“Park Lane,” Logan said. “I’ve a meeting. With William Stapleford,
the Earl of Fenstraw.”
He felt the weight of Gideon’s stare. “You don’t seem pleased about
Damn. Was his discomfort so transparent that anyone could notice
it? Or was Gideon’s observation simply the result of him being extremely
perceptive? He hoped the latter.
“I’m not pleased,” he admitted. “There are financial matters the
earl and I need to discuss, and I suspect it’s not going to be pleasant.”
Indeed, he knew damn well his discussion with the earl would be most
unpleasant. Yet just as unsettling, if not more so, was the possibility of
seeing Fenstraw’s daughter, Lady Emily.
Logan’s jaw tightened. Was it possible his
sense of dread was somehow connected to his imminent arrival at the earl’s
townhouse, courtesy of either the earl himself or his daughter? He hadn’t seen
her for the last three months as the entire Stapleford family had retired to
their country estate. But they’d arrived back in London yesterday, and Logan
knew it was only a matter of time before he and Lady Emily ran into each other
at some function or another.
An image of the woman he’d been attempting--and irritatingly,
failing--for months to forget flashed through his mind, and he bit back a growl
of annoyance. Damn it, why couldn’t he forget her? She was beautiful, yet
beauty rarely captured his attention for more than a fleeting moment. He’d
always preferred the unusual to utter perfection. And Lady Emily’s gorgeous
face and form were undeniably utter perfection.
Of course, her shiny dark brown hair was shot with those unusual
deep red highlights that seemed to capture and reflect every bit of light in a
room. She stood out amongst the pale blonds preferred by so many men of the ton
like a glossy ebony stone on a whitewashed sandy beach.
And her eyes were an unusual shade of green. Rather like viewing an
emerald through an aquamarine lens. Every time he looked into her eyes he felt
as if he were gazing into a fathomless ocean whose bottom was a verdant lawn.
They reminded him of a painting he’d once seen of a goddess rising from the
sea. He’d observed those clear, sparkling eyes twinkle with intriguing mischief
and warmth while she was in the company of her friends, but turn arctic whenever
her gaze collided with his.
From the first time they’d met, soon after his arrival in London,
she’d looked down her aristocratic nose at him, and he’d dismissed her as but
yet another pampered, spoiled, supercilious society diamond, the exact sort of
woman he had no liking or use for. He’d take a fun-loving, bawdy, unspoiled
barmaid any day over these stick-up-their-arse, blue-blooded society chits who,
with their fancy gowns, glittering jewels, and haughty airs clearly believed
themselves superior to mere mortals.
Yet, as he’d become better acquainted with Lady Emily’s circle, he
found himself drawn against his will to that devilish gleam in her eyes and
wondering what sort of mischief a proper earl’s daughter could wreak.
Then he’d found out.
Three months ago. At Gideon’s wedding to Lady Julianne Bradley--an
event that had turned society on its ear. And prompted--at Lady Emily’s
suggestion--a brief, private interlude between her and Logan. An interlude that
had led, at her initiation, to an unexpected kiss.
That damn kiss had turned him inside out. And utterly shocked him
as until that point she’d made it abundantly clear she regarded him with all the
liking of something foul she’d scrape off the bottom of her dainty satin
slipper. And instantly--or as soon as he’d recovered the wits she’d very
effectively stolen--filled him with suspicion as to her motives. He didn’t for
a minute believe her claim that she merely wanted to satisfy her curiosity. Why
would she when up until then she’d gone out of her way to avoid him, so much so
he wasn’t certain if her avoidance more aggravated or amused him?
No, it seemed much more likely that she’d
discovered her father owed him a fortune and had decided to play with Logan,
attempt to lure him into forgiving the debt. As if a mere kiss--or anything
else she might offer--could accomplish that goal. He never allowed personal
feelings or pleasures to interfere with business.
Still, her sudden turn around had thrown him
completely off balance. If he’d been able to think clearly, hell, if he’d been
able to form a coherent sentence, he would have demanded the truth from her
regarding her motives. But speech had been beyond him and she’d left the room
before he’d gathered his incinerated wits. And that single kiss, which within
seconds had burned out of control, had lit a fire in him he’d been unable to
extinguish. And had rendered her frustratingly unforgettable.
The day after the wedding and that damn kiss, she and her family had
departed for the country, and she’d been out of his sight ever since.
Unfortunately she’d not been out of his thoughts.
“Does that meet with your approval?”
Gideon’s voice yanked Logan from his reverie, and he turned toward
the Runner. And found him staring at him with an inquiring expression. “I beg
One of Gideon’s dark brows hiked upward. “I said I’ll accompany you
the rest of the way to Lord Fenstraw’s townhouse, then spy around outside for a
bit. See if anyone’s lurking about or if anything strikes me as odd.”
“Thank you. I’ll of course compensate you for your time.”
Gideon’s lips twitched. “Then I suppose I shouldn’t tell you that
the task is no hardship as it gives me an excuse to wait around to accompany my
wife home. She’s visiting with Emily right now, along with Carolyn and Sarah.
A book club meeting. The Ladies Literary Society.”
Gideon’s statement distracted Logan from his concerns of being
watched and his pulse jumped in the most ridiculous way at the knowledge that
Lady Emily was indeed at home.
“I must admit I find myself very curious about what goes on at those
book club gatherings,” Gideon muttered.
Logan raised his brows. “At the Ladies Literary Society? What’s
there to be curious about regarding women chatting about Shakespeare and such?”
“They’re not reading Shakespeare.”
“Oh? What are they reading?”
“Stories that could make a courtesan blush. In fact, one of their
previous selections was actually written by a courtesan. Very interesting
information in that one. Some of it damn near made me blush.”
Logan didn’t believe anything could make a man like Gideon blush.
He also found it difficult to imagine Gideon’s very demure and proper wife
reading such salacious material. And unsettlingly arousing to think of Lady
Emily doing so.
A thought struck him and his steps slowed. Was
it possible that Lady Emily’s claim of curiosity had been her true motive in
kissing him? Had her scandalous readings left her wondering what it would be
like to experience such intimacies? Hell, if that was the case, what else might
she be curious about? Heat that had nothing to do with the bright sunshine
sizzled through him.
But then his suspicions returned. Even if
curiosity had played a part, clearly something more was afoot--and he had no
doubt that that something had to do with the money her father owed him.
Otherwise, why choose him to satisfy her curiosity--a man she obviously didn’t
like? Immediately on the heels of that question came a mental image of
her...kissing a man who wasn’t him. A lightning bolt of something that felt
exactly like jealousy, but surely couldn’t be, tore through him.
He blinked away the disturbing mental picture,
then asked Gideon, “You don’t object to Julianne reading such sexually explicit
books?” he asked.
“Hell no. And if you had a wife, you wouldn’t object to her reading
them either.” Gideon slanted him a brief sideways glance. “Trust me on that.”
Logan didn’t doubt him, and much to his annoyance he found himself
imagining Lady Emily...reclined in his bed. Wearing nothing save a wicked
grin. Peeking at him over the top of a salacious novel. “Quite the mischievous
group, aren’t they?” he murmured, pretending his skin didn’t feel uncomfortably
“Very much so,” Gideon agreed. “Especially Emily. Got the devil in
her eye, that one.”
Hmmm. Yes, she did. And she also read sexually explicit books.
How utterly unexpected. And disturbingly arousing.
“What was their latest selection?” he asked--merely to continue the
conversation and make it appear to anyone who might be watching that they were
simply two friends out for a walk. It wasn’t as if he were really curious. Or
would consider purchasing his own copy to read.
“The Gentleman Vampire’s Lover.”
“Did you read it?” Logan asked.
“And? Was it good?”
Gideon’s lips twitched slightly. “Let’s just say I found it
very...stimulating. You might want to ask Emily about it.”
Logan turned to stare at Gideon. “Why the hell would I want to do
that?” The question came out much sharper than he’d intended.
Gideon shrugged. “Something happened between you two after my
wedding ceremony. In the library. Based on what I observed, I thought maybe it
Logan suddenly recalled that Lady Emily had literally bumped into
Gideon when she’d fled the library following their kiss. How Gideon’s amused
voice asking is there a problem? had yanked him from the stunned trance he’d
fallen into. And Logan’s assurance it was nothing he couldn’t handle.
Something good? It wasn’t good, it was great. Incredible.
He cleared his throat. “You thought wrong.”
Gideon said nothing and Logan wondered what the other man was
thinking. Like a damn sphinx, Gideon was--silent and inscrutable. Logan
supposed that was useful for his Bow Street job, but it sure as hell was
frustrating otherwise. Couldn’t read his thoughts worth a damn.
“I like her,” Gideon finally said.
“Who?” Logan asked, although he knew damn well.
“Emily. She and Julianne have been close since childhood and she’s
been a good friend to my wife.”
“In what way?”
“Julianne’s an only child, and her parents...” Gideon’s words
trailed off and a muscle ticked in his jaw.
Logan nodded. “I’ve met the earl and countess. I’m no more fond of
them than you. Very cold, overbearing people.” Who’d disinherited and
banished their daughter when she’d gone against their demands to marry a titled
gentleman and instead wed Gideon, a lowly commoner. As far as Logan was
concerned, it was no loss to the newlywed couple, and he greatly respected
Julianne for choosing the man she loved over everything else.
“Those are actually polite ways to describe Julianne’s parents.
Emily brought laughter and fun into what would have otherwise been a very lonely
childhood for Julianne. I find myself fond of anyone who makes my wife smile.”
Logan shook his head and chuckled. “Good God, that little bastard
Cupid shot you with an entire quiver of arrows. I can practically see little
hearts floating around your head, like a love-induced halo.”
“No halos on me. But yes, that little bastard Cupid got me but
good. And damned if it wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me.” He
shot Logan a sideways glance. “Why aren’t you married? Hard to believe some
matchmaking mother hasn’t clubbed you over the head and forced you to the
“The fact that I’m an uncouth colonial gives them pause, although
I’ve no doubt my wealth would balance that out in the end. Plus, I seem to
posses an unfortunate penchant for being attracted to women whose hearts are
already involved elsewhere.”
“That must be difficult.”
“Indeed. Several lovely women have slipped through my fingers since
my arrival in London.”
“No, I meant about your wealth. Never knowing if your money is the
attraction. It’s a problem Julianne knew her entire life. One I’ve never
known. Nor would I care to.” He flicked a glance at Logan. “Can’t say I’d
want to be your position.”
A huff of surprise escaped Logan. “Well, that’s not something I’m
used to hearing. I’ve become accustomed to being envied. In fact, I can’t ever
recall anyone pitying me because of my wealth.”
“Before Julianne, I would have said you’re too bloody rich to pity.
But money never brought her true happiness. I’ve never been wealthy, yet I
didn’t really know what happiness was until I met her.”
“So you’re saying it’s not money or things but people that make the
Gideon shrugged. “Seems that way to me.”
Interesting. Logan knew damn well people sought his acquaintance
based solely on his money. God knows it was the only reason with most of the
British peers, and he couldn’t deny he’d grown more suspicious and cynical as
his wealth had multiplied. But having spent his formative years barely one step
above abject poverty, he was very adept at sidestepping frauds and fortune
He also knew damn well that at this point there was no chance he’d
find a woman who wasn’t attracted to his money. The best he could hope for was
a woman who was at least honest about it and who found him as equally attractive
as his wealth. A woman he could respect and admire, who wasn’t haughty and
supercilious and fond of staring down her aristocratic nose at him, and who set
his blood on fire. It had so far proven an impossible combination to find.
While money made most aspects of his life easier, there was no denying it
complicated his personal relationships. And caused him to view people and their
motives through suspicious eyes, although he’d done that long before he’d had
two coins to rub together. That wary mistrust had saved him more than once.
“We’re nearing the earl’s townhouse,” said Gideon. “So far I’ve
observed nothing unusual.”
Logan yanked himself from his brown study and realized that Park
Lane was indeed just ahead. His gaze scanned the row of townhouses across the
thoroughfare and settled on the aged brick façade of the one belonging to Lady
Emily’s father. He now knew she was home, but would he see her?
Logan expelled an exasperated breath. Why the hell did he care?
Once again, the memory he’d been trying so hard to erase slammed
into him with such force his footsteps faltered. Of soft, plush lips opening
beneath his. Of lush, feminine curves pressed against him. Her taste and scent
inundating his senses. The flood of unwanted, unexpected desire that had nearly
He briefly squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head to dispel the
unsettling mental picture that wouldn’t let him go. Damn it, this simply
wouldn’t do. And it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t kissed or touched
another woman since his interlude with Lady Emily. Good God, no wonder he
couldn’t get her out of his head. He’d been more celibate than a monk.
What he needed was a woman. To put out this unwanted fire Lady
Emily had started. To ease his body and fill his mind with someone else other
than her. Yes, that was a perfect plan and he deserved a thump on the head for
not thinking of it before now. There was a soiree this evening at Lord and Lady
Teller’s house. He’d make it a point to attend and find an attractive woman and
seduce her. If he couldn’t find one at the party who interested him, he’d damn
well visit every pub in the city until he did. No woman at a pub would look
down her nose at him.
“We’ll separate here,” Gideon said after they crossed Park Lane.
“If I see anything suspicious, I’ll report to you immediately. Remain on your
guard and let me know if you sense anything else. Until we determine if there’s
a threat to you, don’t go out unescorted. Or unarmed.”
Logan’s gaze flicked down to his boot where his knife was sheathed.
“I’m always armed.”
“Are you going out this evening?”
“I am. And I’ll be careful, although as neither of us observed
anything amiss, I’m wondering if I’m merely tired and preoccupied. If you’ll
come to the house tomorrow morning, I’ll see to your payment and let you know if
anything happens this evening.”
Gideon nodded. “All right. Good luck with your meeting.”
Logan drew a deep breath and nodded. There was business to attend
to with the earl. Business that had nothing to do with Lady Emily. Her motives
for kissing him were highly suspect; although, it didn’t really matter what
those motives had been. He was forewarned and had no intention of falling prey
to whatever devilish plot she’d concocted. He had no desire to see her, no
desire to speak to her regarding what had transpired between them, and certainly
no desire to repeat it.
If he kept telling himself that enough, surely it would become fact.
He was about to turn to walk up the flagstone steps leading to the
double oak doors of Lord Fenstraw’s townhouse when the sense of menace he’d felt
earlier hit him like a blow to the head. Senses on alert, his gaze scanned the
entrance to the park across the street. And riveted on a man standing in the
shadow cast by a soaring elm. A man whose gaze was fixed on Logan.
Everything inside Logan seemed to freeze. His
breath. His blood. His heart. No...it couldn’t be.
For several stunned seconds all he could do was
stare. A carriage crossed his line of vision, and when it moved on an instant
later, the man was gone. Logan’s gaze darted about, but he couldn’t find any
sign of the man.
“Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a
ghost.” Gideon’s low voice infiltrated Logan’s shock.
Damn it, it felt as if he had. “I thought I saw
someone...” his words trailed off and he shook his head, feeling foolish. Yet
“Who? Someone watching you?”
There were so many people in the park. Of
course the man wasn’t who Logan had thought. That was impossible. A slight
resemblance combined with a trick of the shadows. “Just someone who looked like
a man I once knew.”
“Maybe it was him.”
“No. That man...died. Years ago.” He looked
at Gideon. “I once heard that everyone has a double somewhere. Seems it might
“Which man is it?” Gideon asked, looking toward the park.
“He’s gone. It was nothing. And I’m due for my appointment.”
After one last look toward the now deserted area around the elm tree, Logan
forced back the unwanted memories the sight of the man had threatened to release
and made his way up the flagstone walkway to the earl’s townhouse.