Enticed By Blood: A Sweetblood World Vampire Romance

BOOK: Enticed By Blood: A Sweetblood World Vampire Romance
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Enticed By Blood
A Sweetblood World Vampire Romance
Laurie London
Chapter 1

J
uliette Bishop wished
she could turn around and go home. Although New Orleans was a beautiful city, it was the last place on earth she wanted to be.

She stepped through the wrought iron gates of the restaurant courtyard, where twisted branches from several trees formed a canopy overhead. If her hands weren’t full, she’d brush a wisp of hair out of her eyes. She tried blowing it away, but the strand clung stubbornly to her damp skin.

After her flight, she’d had just enough time to shower at the hotel, change and take a taxi to the French Quarter. Little good that did, because the back of her silk tank felt as if it were already covered in sweat. The locals were probably used to this humidity, but by San Francisco standards, it was almost unbearable.

She glanced around. Only a few tables in the courtyard between the two buildings were occupied. Maybe there were more people inside.

With a heavy portfolio in one hand and a handbag in the other, she headed toward the hostess station. The brick footing was uneven, so she had to walk on her tiptoes to avoid catching a heel.

“Welcome,” said a young woman with sleek black hair. “Will you be joining us for dinner?”

Nodding, Juliette set her things on a nearby chair, relieved to be rid of the weight for a moment. “I’m meeting someone, but I’m a little early. I doubt he’s here yet.”

She pictured herself sitting inside an air-conditioned bar for fifteen or twenty minutes, sipping a tall cool drink. One with an umbrella and lots of ice. That would give her time to cool down and collect her thoughts.

Under her breath, she cursed her father’s alcoholic business partner for putting her in this situation. If it hadn’t been for Henry’s drinking problem, she wouldn’t be here right now, taking time off from her job at the brokerage firm, trying to salvage her father’s biggest customer—her former lover. A man she despised.

She’d met Andre Lescarbeau last New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. Fueled by one too many peach bellinis and his delicious French accent, she soon found herself in his hotel suite having the best sex of her life. He was dominant and demanding, and although she considered herself a strong, confident woman, she’d willingly submitted to him.

He wouldn’t let her take any time off from work, insisting that he had important business matters to attend to during the day. But every evening like clockwork, when she stepped out of her building on Market Street, there he was, waiting for her at the curb in his vintage Aston Martin convertible. How he managed the parking mojo night after night was beyond her.

Andre had asked about her family, so she told him what her father did and all the awards his vintage woodworking company had won, including the articles in
Architectural Digest
,
Traditional Home
, and
Southern Living
. Unbeknownst to her, Andre later contacted her father to do some work for him. He’d inherited a string of old boutique hotels in the South—New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Charleston—and was planning to renovate all of them one-by-one.

But one night, without warning, Andre wasn’t waiting for her. She tried reaching him, but he didn’t answer her calls or texts. Worried that something bad had happened to him, she finally went to his hotel, where someone at the front desk remembered he’d left for the airport at dusk with a beautiful young woman in tow. His wife.

It felt as if she’d been punched in the gut. She’d been having sex with a married man. Had actually been falling for him. No wonder he’d been so secretive, sharing little about his personal life. She wasted no time erasing his name from her contacts and vowed never to be so gullible or naive again.

But here she was, less than a year later, getting ready to meet with him.

She had to forget their past. Shove it behind her and do what she needed to do—convince Andre not to cancel his contract. A contract big enough that it would secure her father’s retirement.

If her father hadn’t taken ill, he’d have flown down and handled things himself, so when he asked her to take his place and smooth things over, what could she say? Tell him to send his alcoholic business partner? Or that she couldn’t because she’d banged the customer, a married man who had lied to her?

So she’d sucked up her pride said yes.

“Let me check for you,” the hostess said, jerking Juliette’s thoughts back to the present. “What is the name on the reservation?”

Juliette lifted her hair, hoping a cool breeze would be kind enough to find its way to the back of her neck, but the air was stagnant. “Andre Lescarbeau.”

The woman looked up without consulting the book. “Mr. Lescarbeau?”

“You know him?” Juliette asked. He must come here a lot.

“He owns Cafe Sur La Rue. Would you like to wait in the bar for him? I’ll have Jeffrey grab your things.”

He owns this place?

Juliette glanced around again. Tiny lights were strung in the overhead branches of the courtyard and twinkled against the dark sky. The wrought iron gates and railings were exquisitely ornate. The atmosphere was dripping with Old World charm. Just like Andre.

Had he chosen his restaurant because he wanted to seduce her again on his turf? Well, she was smarter now. And much more informed. She wouldn’t sleep with him again if he were the last human male on the planet.

“Yes. That would be—”

“Juliette.”

The sound slid down her spine like melted chocolate. She’d told herself she wouldn’t let him affect her like this.

Remember. He’s married. You’re only here because Dad asked you.

Taking a deep breath, she turned to face him and her heart nearly stopped. Although she hadn’t forgotten how hot he was, time had a way of blurring the specifics.

His dark hair was tousled and he had a slight scruff on his jaw, making him look as if he’d just rolled out of bed. He wore a
Mad Men
inspired light gray suit, impeccably tailored to accentuate his broad, powerful shoulders and narrow waist. With no tie and camel-colored Italian shoes, he had an air of casual elegance. A man like him would be equally at home dining in the fanciest hotels or walking between rows of grapevines in a vineyard.

“Andre,” she said, curtly, trying to ignore the urge to offer him her hand.

She didn’t want to make any physical contact with him. There’d been something strangely magical about his touch, so she needed to avoid it at all costs.

“Will your wife be joining us?”

Chapter 2

M
y wife will not be joining
us,” Andre said, ignoring the look on the hostess’s face. “I trust you had a good flight, no?”

Juliette nodded and reached for her things. He brushed her hand aside and grabbed the briefcase.

“What do you have in here?” He chuckled. “Bricks?”

She didn’t smile. It didn’t surprise him. American women had long memories, and she’d once been in love with him.

As they were led to his regular table, he couldn’t help but notice the way her light blue skirt clung to her hips. Her legs were long and shapely in those heels, too. And unfortunately, he remembered all too well how it felt to have them wrapped around his waist.

They’d been flirting all night at a New Year’s Eve party and had shared a passionate kiss at midnight. When he got her up to his suite, he couldn’t contain himself any longer. With the door barely shut behind them, he pushed her against the wall, dropped his trousers, shoved her thong aside, and thrust into her.

Mon Dieu.
The sweet moaning sounds she’d made had nearly driven him mad with desire.

With little warning, his dark nature took over. Normally, he had better control than that. His fangs emerged from his gums and as he climaxed, he sank them into her vein. She gasped, of course, digging her nails into his back as he drank. “Shhh,
ma cherie
,” he whispered, projecting soothing thoughts into her mind. “
Un peu plus
.”

When he finished, he healed the tiny punctures and erased her memory that he was a vampire. If he’d been smart and had followed the laws of his people, he would’ve driven her home at that point and never seen her again. But like many French men, he let passion guide his actions.

Although he’d temporarily slaked his thirst for her, he was still captivated by Juliette in every other way. Her intelligence. Her confidence. The sound of her laughter. Her kindness and devotion to her father. She was a remarkable woman.

As they spent time together, he found himself falling deeply, madly in love with her. It felt like home when he was with her. Like they were two, very different pieces, that fit together perfectly to make one complete whole.

But he couldn’t allow that to happen. Relationships between humans and vampires didn’t work. He’d seen that first hand with his childhood friend who’d fallen for a human woman who killed herself after learning the truth about him. The man had never been the same since. Andre couldn’t risk the same thing happening to Juliette. His broken heart wasn’t worth that.

After things were over between them, maybe he shouldn’t have contacted Bishop Millwork, but the moment he’d seen their work, he knew he couldn’t hire anyone else.

Their attention to detail and beautiful craftsmanship were unlike anything he’d seen in hundreds of years…and certainly never in the New World. Renovation on the hotel had been halted for reasons other than a few ill-fitting cabinets, and he tried telling that to Mr. Bishop, but the man had been distraught about what had happened. Andre assured him the cabinetry would still work, but Mr. Bishop insisted that since he couldn’t come himself, he would send their best person to assess the situation.

Except that Andre had no idea that person would be Juliette. He would never have guessed she had anything to do with her father’s business. She worked at a brokerage firm,
pour l'amour de Dieu!

Holding her chair for her now, he caught a faint whiff of her scent—jasmine—and drew it into his lungs. His gaze dropped to her throat where he saw the flicker of a heartbeat. Her blood—it still called to him.

Although she wasn’t an actual sweetblood—a human whose rare blood is highly addictive to vampires—she was plenty addictive to him.

No. He wouldn’t succumb to her again.

Ignoring the ache in his gums where his fangs were hidden, he sat opposite her and took a long drink from the Tanqueray and tonic Jeffery had waiting for him. He would take Juliette to the hotel where she could see for herself that everything was fine, then he’d put her on the next plane back to San Francisco.

After he ordered for them, Juliette cleared her throat. “Before we start talking business, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.”

“And what is that?” he asked, even though he had a pretty good idea what she was going to say.

She dropped her voice. “I would never have slept with you, let alone spend all that time with you, had I known you were married.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Her eyes flashed with anger. “
Sorry
is something you say when you accidentally step on someone’s toe. Or bump into someone while waiting in line. It is
not
what you say after getting caught in a lie of that magnitude. Does your wife know you do that sort of thing when you’re away on business?”

“I…uh…” He wasn’t sure what to tell her. Activity on the other side of the room drew his attention. A couple was getting up from their table and looked to be in a hurry to leave. He frowned and turned back to Juliette. “Does who know what?”

She made a sound of exasperation. “Your wife. Does she know?”

He glanced around the room in an effort stave off the guilt rattling around in his gut.

Diners at another table were leaving quickly as well. And they hadn’t touched their dinner either.
How odd.

Juliette frowned. “What’s wrong or am I boring you?”

He gave her a pointed look. “You are never boring, Juliette.” He raised a finger in Jeffery’s direction and a moment later, the man was by his side.

“What can I get you, sir?”

“Do you know why so many people seem to be in a hurry to leave?”

“The news is reporting that the storm out in the Gulf is gaining momentum.”

Juliette’s eyes widened. “Storm?”

“Not a hurricane, ma’am,” Jeffery answered with a reassuring smile. “Just heavy wind and rain. But they’re predicting it’ll hit landfall in about an hour, so the tourists are going back to their hotels.”

“But I thought the storm was heading toward the Florida gulf coast,” Andre said. At least that what he’d heard before he retired for the day. He hadn’t thought to check again when he got up.

“It was, sir, but it shifted. It’s heading our way.”

Chapter 3

J
uliette stared
through the windshield wipers at the gridlock in front of them. And she thought traffic in San Francisco was bad. At this rate, the drive to her hotel was liable to take hours.

“I don’t mind taking a taxi.” She wasn’t exactly comfortable spending that much time with Andre. In such tight quarters. Alone.

He flicked his hand as if he were pushing her words away. “Why did you choose that flea bitten place out near the airport? I thought my assistant made arrangements for you to stay at one of my properties.”

She’d hardly call the Rosemont a flea bitten hotel. “Because I didn’t
want
to stay at one of
your
properties.”

Andre started to reply, but a car cut in front of them. He swerved and blasted the horn. “
Quel idiot!
” Then, without skipping a beat, “When you are in town, you stay with me.”

“Oh, really?” What a pompous asshole. “You assumed incorrectly, Mr. Lescarbeau.
I
decide things myself. No one else.” Her cheeks heated at the memory of their sex play, where they’d had an opposite arrangement.

He raised an eyebrow as if he remembered, too. “Better service. The finest accommodations. And, uh, how do you say…? On the house. No charge. Why wouldn’t you?”

Okay, time to get real here and she shifted in her seat. “Because I don’t like owing favors to married men who are liars and cheaters, that’s why.” She felt a twinge of regret for insulting her father’s client, but she couldn’t stand any more of his arrogant attitude. She hoped the storm wasn’t going to screw up her plans to do what she needed to do then get the hell out of here.

He hit the brakes again, this time so hard that her body would’ve slammed into the strap of her seat belt if he hadn’t thrown out his arm to brace her. Another car had cut in front of them.

“Enough of this,” he growled. “Hold on.”

Before she knew it, he jerked the wheel, pulling the Aston Martin onto the shoulder, then slammed it into reverse and gunned it. With his neck cranked around, he propelled the car backward at top speed.

Holy crap.

The barrier to the left and the line-up of cars to the right were a complete blur. Her hands gripped what they could find—the door handle and his right knee. She was sure they were going to die.

He whipped the car around, its tires skidding on the wet pavement, and he put it into Drive. “I should’ve taken this exit in the first place.”

It took her a minute to catch her breath and thank God that she was still alive. “Then why didn’t you? You could’ve gotten us killed.”

“Because I
had
been taking you back to your hotel.”

“Who drives like that anyway? You’re not a stunt man.” Wait. She glanced over at him. His profile was hard and angular. “Does that mean you’re
not
taking me to my hotel now?”

He had a smug look on his face. “Even
I
can’t get you through this traffic,
ma cherie.
No, you are coming back with me.”


W
hat a worthless piece of
—” Andre pulled out his earpiece, tossing it and his cell phone to the floorboards behind him. A huge live oak, ripped from its roots, lay across the road, blocking their path.

“No coverage?” Juliette asked, breaking her silence. She’d hardly said two words to him since they’d left the expressway and worked their way down a multitude of side streets and alleys.

“I keep getting an
all circuits are busy
message.”

“Too many people using their cell phones with this storm, I guess. If you need to get ahold of your wife, you can use my cell. Maybe I’ve got better coverage.”

She just loved twisting that knife.

Andre gripped the steering wheel tighter and stared at the downed tree in front of them. Even though the wiper blades were on the fastest setting, they weren’t very effective.

If only he could tell her the truth, but it was better for both of them if she continued to believe he was married. Thinking he was a cheater was the simplest, most probable solution. It wasn’t like he could tell her why he’d really left.

“I’m trying to get ahold of someone at the hotel to pick us up from the other side. Otherwise, we’ll need to get out, skirt the tree on foot, and walk the rest of the way.”

Her eyes widened. “In this rain? In the dark?”

He wasn’t crazy about it either. He could throw her over his shoulder and sprint with the super-human speed of his kind, but then he’d really have some explaining to do. Or he could go faster by himself, but there was no way in hell he was leaving her alone.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“How far away is your hotel?” she asked.

“Another mile or so.”

“A mile?” she muttered under her breath. “Here, use mine.” She tossed her phone to him, almost hitting his balls.

He dialed the hotel again but got the same message.

“Not good, I take it?” she asked, a curious expression on her face.

“Looks like we’re on our own. This fucking storm doesn’t look as though it’s letting up anytime soon.” Putting the car into reverse, he backed it up and parked as far away from the other trees as he could, then grabbed the door handle. “Ready?”

She wore a sleeveless top and no coat. And those heels of hers were going to be a problem. Not only would she be too cold, they’d both be sopping wet by the time they dragged their sorry asses to the hotel.

She nodded and reached for her briefcase.

“Leave it. I’ll have someone retrieve the car tomorrow.”

Wind and rain tore at him as he exited the vehicle. Sprinting to the other side, he made it there before she’d even opened the door. He reached in and helped her out, but the moment they made contact, a jolt of her energy shot up his arm.

Damn.

He quickly put up a mental barrier to keep from absorbing more. It would make her too tired and they had a long walk ahead of them.

He could go for weeks without blood if he had to, but human energy was another story. Since vampires couldn’t go out in the sunlight, they needed to absorb the UV energy from their human hosts. Which was why living at the hotel had worked out so well. He had an endless supply of both blood and energy. A few of the Yelp reviewers mentioned how tired they’d been during their stays but the beds were very luxurious. He could live with that.

He drew Juliette in close and draped his suit coat over their heads. Her arm remained stiff between them as they ran, though she couldn’t move very fast in those heels. When she stumbled, he grabbed her waist, but she shook him off. She removed her shoes and tried running barefoot, but the rocks underfoot were too sharp, so she put them back on.

“Climb on my back. We’ll get there much faster.”

“No,” she said, raising her voice above the howling wind.

“Why not?”

“I’m not climbing onto your back. If you want to go on ahead of me, that’s fine.”

Leaving her alone to walk the rest of the way by herself in this storm was not an option. “Why must you being so stubborn?”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it
being stubborn,
” she said, laughing bitterly.

“Then what is it?”

“It’s having higher moral standards than you and refusing to compromise them. This,” she said, elbowing him in the ribs, “is bad enough.”

“Sharing my coat because you don’t have one isn’t a gentlemanly thing to do?” No matter how many centuries he lived, he would never entirely understand women.

“You’re right.” She moved out from under his suit jacket and shielded her head from the rain with her arms.

What the hell?

“Juliette,” he barked. “Get back here.”

Ignoring him, she tried walking faster, although she wasn’t having much luck in those shoes. She looked like a drenched long-legged bird on a goddamn tightrope.

“Juliette!”

A crack of thunder followed a bright flash of lightening and then the rain came down even harder.

It was ridiculous to argue in the middle of a storm. He lunged forward and scooped her into his arms.

“Andre, what do you think you’re doing? Put me down!”

“We’ll get there faster this way.”

“I don’t care. Now put me down.”

He ignored her protests and quickened his pace.

She pushed at his chest and squirmed in his arms, but when one of her feet came dangerously close to kicking him in the balls, he had enough. He threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and started jogging.

“What a jerk.” She pounded on his back, but he didn’t stop.

It wasn’t until he turned onto the long driveway leading to the small hotel that he realized her protests had turned into sobs. He stopped underneath an old oak and set her back on her feet.


Ma cherie
, what is wrong?” he asked. “I am only trying to help.”

She swiped a hand over her eyes as if she were mad at herself for crying. “Don’t be an idiot and insult me like that. You’re married and you carrying me like that…it’s not right. I can walk. Myself. Without your help.” Her tone was as sharp as a knife blade and it sliced clear through him.

This rejection was of his own making and it was working perfectly. Wasn’t this what had he wanted? For her to hate him and not want anything to do with him?

Time and distance had made it easier for him to pretend that they hadn’t shared something incredible back in San Francisco. Hell, he’d even considered buying property up there. There was a beautiful old hotel on the coast that he’d had his eye on before he’d come to his senses.

He reached for her but she jerked away. Her rejection tore at him, cracking his resolve.

“Juliette, please.”

“Do not touch me,” she said through clenched teeth.

He couldn’t stand it any more. “I’m not married,” he blurted.

“What?” Her head snapped up.

“I’m not married,” he repeated. It felt so good to finally tell her the truth, like a heavy yoke had been lifted from his shoulders.

Unimpressed, she narrowed her eyes. “And you expect me to believe that?”

“No, which is why you can ask any person on my staff. Any of them. They’ll confirm this. You don’t need to take my word.”

“So, was that a girlfriend in San Francisco then? The bellman saw you leave with someone.”

“I know, but he was…mistaken. There was no girl.”

“But—”

He put a finger to her lips. “I am not married, nor have I ever been married. I do not currently have a girlfriend, nor did I have one when you and I were together. Although,” he said with a smile, hoping to drag one out of her, “I would be a liar to say that I’ve never had one.”

She wasn’t impressed and continued to stare at him through humorless eyes. “Then why?”

He sighed. “It’s a long story, Juliette, but I swear to you on my
grandmere’s
grave, that I am telling you the truth.”

Another crack of lightening briefly illuminated their surroundings.

And that’s when he saw them.

Three shadowy figures on the other side of the road.

Watching.

BOOK: Enticed By Blood: A Sweetblood World Vampire Romance
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