The tantalizing scent filled her head the moment she slipped the key into the front door of her club.
The sweet, cinnamon flavor titillated her heightened senses. Olivia’s head snapped up sharply as fangs burst in her mouth. She closed her emerald green eyes and stilled as she breathed deeply and listened to the comforting noises of the night that blanketed her. The chatter of humans passing her on the city streets, cars idling, and horns honking filled her head.
Olivia sharpened her focus on the sounds within her club—her home. What the hell was going on in there? She remained motionless as the sound of light, feminine giggling came from deep within the building.
Her fangs retracted, and she swore with frustration. “Maya, you incredible asshole,” she hissed.
Olivia threw the lock and pushed open the enormous mahogany doors, slamming them shut behind her with ease as she threw the main house lights on. She stood in the cavernous foyer of the old church with her hands on her hips, while she delivered a withering stare to the young vampire. Instead of looking contrite for being caught, Maya looked rather pleased with herself. As a human, Maya had been a giggling fool who delighted in toying with men, and now, as a vampire, she was in her glory.
She sat demurely on top of a human male, who was currently on all fours, acting as her makeshift throne. Maya’s long blond hair washed over creamy, bare shoulders as her hands remained folded in her lap and her legs crossed sweetly at the ankles. The innocent pose was a stark contrast to the black leather bustier and miniskirt she wore.
She blinked her large blue eyes and laughed again, while the human grunted helplessly beneath her. Based on the look of him, if he weren’t under her spell, he would never submit like this for a woman—ever. He was an enormous muscle-head who likely spent most of his waking hours at a gym in a desperate attempt to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At the moment, he was doing a great impersonation of a bench.
“How many times have I told you? Never play with your food in the club.” She let out a sigh and softened her tone, reminding herself that Maya was still young. “It’s not safe to do things like this, Maya. We don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves, remember?”
Olivia pushed her thick, curly red hair out of her face and shrugged her long black coat off her slim shoulders. She knew that reprimanding Maya was useless, but felt the need to remind her of the rules. She’d only been turned a few years ago and was still in the defiant adolescent phase. Since Olivia was her sire, Maya was her responsibility for the first century of her immortality, but at the rate she was going—it was going to be longer than that.
“Maya?” Olivia folded her arms as her green eyes flashed with impatience at her uncooperative offspring. “Please get him out, and don’t leave any loose ends.”
“Oh, you’re such a poop.” Maya waved dismissively and looked at the pathetic fool beneath her. “We were just having a little fun,” she said, stroking his head the way one would pet a dog. “Weren’t we, baby?”
Maya smacked him on the ass, and he whimpered, a sound that hung somewhere between pleasure and pain. She straddled him like a horse and leaned in, slowly licking the blood that still dripped from the wound she’d made in his neck. Maya looked like a cat playing with a mouse. The poor bastard had probably been toyed with like this all day long, which meant Maya had not slept.
The smell of blood grew stronger, and Olivia watched Maya lick a trickle of red from his neck as she writhed seductively on his back. He closed his eyes, grunted, and shuddered as the orgasm ripped through him.
Olivia’s fangs erupted, but she quickly willed them away, disgusted by her lack of self-control. It was no wonder this mess aroused her. Between the blood, the sexual energy, and her abstinence, it was bound to happen. Her maker, Vincent, never understood her self-imposed celibacy, although that wasn’t terribly surprising—he’d never been in love. If he had watched the love of his life die in his arms, then he might have a better grasp of why Olivia was unwilling to open her heart again. Most vampires could separate sex and love, but that was one little piece of the vampire world she never adjusted to.
Great. She shoved a stray curl from her face and swore under her breath. Maya decided to act up just when her own maker comes to town. What shitty timing.
“Maya,” she said more firmly. “Your boy toy has to get going, and you’ve got to get to work.”
This was her place of business, and she refused to encourage behavior that could jeopardize it, especially by a member of her own coven. She hated to admit it, but Vincent was right. The fact that she had been celibate for almost three centuries was really starting to grate on her.
At least she had sex dreams.
Her lips curved at the memories. She might’ve gone bonkers if it weren’t for her dream lover and his talented hands. Three hundred years ago, he’d been her human lover and the only man she’d ever loved, but he was long dead and now only existed in her dreams. The dreamscape was the one place she could find pleasure after all these years.
There was just one problem. Vampires did not dream.
Aside from the lack of sunlight, the absence of dreams was one of the hardest losses for new vamps to adjust to. After over two centuries of enduring the leaden dreamless sleep of a vampire, Olivia had practically forgotten what it was like to dream, to fall through the mystical dreamscape and revel in fantasy.
Then, almost twenty years ago, out of nowhere, she began to dream again.
The first one freaked her out. It was a sudden burst of color and light after years of slumbering in utter darkness. Her dream lover looked just as he had when she first met him, a young boy entering manhood. Over the years, he aged in her dreams, just as he had when she knew him as a human.
As fascinated as she was by the dreams, as curious as she was to decipher their meaning, she did not dare mention them to anyone.
Olivia had heard of only one instance when vampires could dream—the bloodmate legend. Vincent told her the story soon after he turned her, and it gave her hope that her life would not be forever shrouded in the night. However, when she tried to get him to tell her more, he dismissed her harshly and said he knew nothing. He scolded her for being a foolish child and told her the entire story was made up to placate new vampires while they got used to their new lives.
No one else had ever spoken of it, and the whole legend remained shrouded in secrecy and possessed an air of danger.
When the ghostly visits first began, she did some research online but found little information, and any references to the bloodmate legend were few and far between. According to the tale, when a vampire found a bloodmate and performed a blood exchange, then both became daywalkers.
She rubbed at the tattoo on the back of her neck absently. When Douglas’s ghost began visiting her, she had the symbol of eternity inked on her neck, a private reminder of her lost love and her promise to love him,
Olivia shook her head at her foolishness. Even if there were truth to the whole legend, it was a moot point, since Douglas was long dead. However, dead or not, she kept her pledge of devotion. Maybe the young, innocent girl she used to be lingered inside, because as far as Olivia was concerned, being devoted to someone meant that you did not diddle with anyone else.
Celibacy was a ridiculous notion for many humans, and positively insane for most vampires, at least the ones she encountered.
She sighed as she wiped the bar down and glanced at Maya with her flesh-and-blood plaything. Sympathy for the man tugged at what was left of her heart. Olivia didn’t hate humans, quite the opposite in fact, but she did hate the idea of them being feasted on inside her club.
“Come on, Maya.” She kept her voice even and her eyes trained on the bar stock, noting what needed to be refilled. “You’ve had enough fun for one day. Now, get him out, and don’t forget to glamour him again before you leave him. Why don’t you give him a pleasant memory? He was kind enough to provide you with life-giving blood, so the least you can do is give him a memory that will make him smile.”
“Oh fine,” she pouted. “He’ll think we fucked like rabbits all day long and that he rocked my world.”
Maya leaned in and licked his wound closed, leaving no evidence behind. She whispered to her prey, erasing all memory of their day together and replacing it with something palatable. He stood slowly and adjusted his crotch, while looking around the empty club somewhat bewildered.
“You better be back here in an hour ready to work,” Olivia shouted. “I don’t want to hear any complaining. You
“My goodness, Olivia,” Maya sang. “Getting cranky in our old age?”
Her singsong tone made Olivia want to smack her, but she could not prevent the smile that played at her lips. Maya was right. She was a little cranky, but three centuries of no sex or intimacy would do that to anyone.
“Cut the chatter, and get him out of here,” she said more sharply than intended. She did not want Maya to know that she had been rattled by the situation, because she would never live it down. Olivia glanced at the human who stood there looking confused and found herself feeling sorry for him. “Seriously, let the poor guy off the hook.”
“Hey… I gotta get going. I’m really tired. I think I should go.” The big oaf babbled absently. “Man, my knees are killing me,” he mumbled.
“Poor baby,” Maya purred in a velvety soft voice as she glamoured the boy, giving him false memories in place of the real ones. “We should probably get going. Come on, kitten. I’ll walk you out, but didn’t we have fun at the park today? You’re such a sweetheart for walking me to work this evening and for giving me multiple orgasms last night. You big stud.”
Maya winked a long-lashed eye over her shoulder at Olivia, as they disappeared into the crisp winter night. Olivia shook her head and smiled in spite of how irritated she was. Maya absolutely loved being a vamp—she genuinely loved it, and there was something refreshing in her enthusiasm. Olivia never found that kind of passion for what she had become, and part of her was a tad jealous of Maya’s love for her vampire life.
At first, Olivia had been disgusted and frightened, but Vincent had been a patient teacher, and eventually she accepted it.
But she never loved it.
Even when she served as a sentry for the Presidium, the vampire government, she did it out of duty, loyalty, and respect. She served her one hundred years as a soldier but retired as soon as her term was up and never looked back. Olivia enjoyed the quiet life of a private citizen, even though she never expected that to include a coven of her own.
As she readied the club for that evening’s patrons, her mind wandered to the night she sired Maya, and her smile quickly faded. She found her in the alley behind the club just before dawn, raped and beaten to within an inch of her life. The dirtbag who had done it dumped her there like garbage, and raw anger still flared at the memory.
Olivia sensed it the moment he dropped her broken body next to the dumpster. Maya would have died if she hadn’t been turned; there was no time for ambulances or hospitals, and even though it had been almost five years since that night, she remembered it like it was yesterday. It was the last time she killed a human.
The memory both sickened and frightened her because when she drained that piece of shit dry—she loved every fucking minute. Olivia relished watching the fear in his eyes as she pinned him against the wall of his bedroom and savored his whimpering pleas for his life as he struggled uselessly. She took pure pleasure in feeling his heart slow, beat by beat, as the life faded from his eyes.
The red haze of rage consumed her, took her over, and blinded her.
Olivia swallowed the bile that rose in her throat, disgusted with her basest instincts and the primal pleasure she took from eviscerating him. She was a monster. A killer. No different from the vicious, pathetic excuse for a man she killed.
But there was a price to pay for her vengeance—there’s always a price.
His blood memories would remain with her for eternity, and that was her penance. The horror and fear of all the women he raped lingered in her memories now, including Maya’s last conscious, horrifying hours as a human.
Monsters don’t go unpunished, and Olivia knew she was no different.
* * *
The music pounded loudly through the club as it reverberated through Olivia’s body. She walked the dance floor, taking note of the various humans writhing with one another amid the pulsating lights. She stuck out like a sore thumb, since she was the only one wearing a black Armani suit, not the leather or spikes of her faithful patrons.
Olivia waved at the regular customers peppered throughout the club and allowed herself a moment of pride. The Coven had become one of the most popular dance clubs for the Goth set in NYC, and she had worked her ass off to make it happen.
She paced the floor more than usual tonight because she had been on edge ever since walking in on Maya. She could not afford any mistakes that would draw human attention or piss off the Presidium. Humans were easy enough to deal with, but she was less than pleased at the idea of vampire officials butting their noses into her life.
She liked it here and had no desire to leave, but the drawback of immortality was that moving on eventually was an annoying necessity—can’t stay somewhere for thirty years if you don’t age. Although, the prevalent use of Botox among humans certainly helped explain her lack of facial wrinkles.
Olivia scoped out the club and marveled at how far society had come—and yet not.
Humans who loved to dress like vampires, or what they thought vampires looked like, flocked to this place every night as the sun went down. Except Sunday—she closed the joint on Sunday, since the place used to be a church. She figured it was the least she could do. Olivia grinned and shook her head as she watched the humans wooing one another in their
Ironically, most vampires did not dress like horror-movie rejects; many adopted the fashion of the era they lived in, but not all did. Vincent, for example, liked the Victorian era so much that sometimes he still adorned himself in a top hat and ascot, although she thought it looked ridiculous. Vampires retained their individuality at least.
Imagine if they knew this club was owned and operated by an actual vampire who preferred silk and cashmere to leather and spikes. Olivia had to wear the leather sentry uniform every day for a century and loathed the idea of wrapping herself in it again.
She glanced to the bar as she made her way to the DJ platform. Maya was playing up her charms with various drooling idiots who were only too happy to give her enormous tips in exchange for the smallest bit of her attention.
Trixie, her other bartender, was Maya’s opposite but worked her charms with equal fervor. Her short pink-spiked hair and black eyeliner were a stark contrast to Maya’s blond, innocent look. Both vamps were great at bringing in the crowd and keeping them happy. They gave a quick wave to Olivia as she passed, and Maya stuck her tongue out in her usual flippant, childish manner.
Olivia climbed onto the DJ’s platform and gave Sadie a pat on the back. Sadie was one of the best spinners out there, living or undead, and Olivia’s oldest, most trusted friend. She was dressed much like the patrons of the club, except Sadie actually
“Hey, boss. Feels like a lively crowd tonight.” Sadie winked and smiled. “No pun intended.”
“Did you hear what Maya did?” Olivia kept her eyes focused on the crowd, her senses alert for anything out of the ordinary. A sense of impending doom flickered up her spine. Trouble was coming. “She’s a pain in my ass.”
“Sure did, and she sure is.” Sadie put her headphones around her neck. “Think that girl will ever listen?” she asked with a nod toward the bar, as she laughed and pushed her long brown hair out of her eyes. “’Cause I don’t.”
“Maya’s still young.” Olivia gave Sadie a friendly nudge with her elbow. “It took you a little while to get the hang of it, if I’m not mistaken?”
Sadie was the first vamp she had ever turned. Olivia and Vincent were traveling through a largely unsettled part of Arizona and picked up the distinctly potent scent of blood. The Apache Indians had been attacking settlers at that time, not that Olivia could blame them, and Sadie’s family had been among their victims.
Sadie was barely alive when she found her. The faint beat of her heart called to Olivia, and before she even knew what she was doing, she turned her. It was an instinctive need to save her, to help this poor girl who had lost everything, left seemingly alone in the world.
Vincent, of course, was less than pleased, and that was the beginning of the end for them.
Olivia looked fondly at her friend and smiled. “You have been around a couple hundred years longer than she has.”
“Truth.” Sadie winked and adjusted the headphones around her neck. “You’re just a sucker for hard-luck cases. Face it. You would rescue the world if you could.”
“I sure needed it,” Sadie said with a warm smile.
Olivia swallowed the surprising lump in her throat before looking back at the crowd. Sadie had tried to thank her on several occasions, but Olivia never let her get the words out. Deep down inside she felt as though she hadn’t saved Sadie or the others. Perhaps the vampire hunters of the world were right. What if vamps really were damned to burn in hell for eternity? Would anyone thank her then?
“I should get back down there before Maya finds another boy toy.”
Sadie grabbed the microphone and Olivia’s arm before she could escape.
“Everyone having fun?” Sadie bellowed into the silver microphone. The crowd responded with insanely loud screaming and whistling. “Then I think we should all give it up for Olivia Hollingsworth, the owner and proprietor of The Coven.”
Olivia waved to the screaming crowd and shot her friend a narrow-eyed look as she made her way down from the altar. She hated being the center of attention, and Sadie knew it but delighted in razzing her on occasion.
Another loud, bass-driven song tumbled over the crowd as Sadie’s voice floated into her head.
Olivia threw an irritated glance over her shoulder at Sadie and shot back.
Olivia shook her head and smiled. Her heart had been stolen long before Vincent made it stop beating, and besides, even if she did have her heart to give, Moriarty certainly would not be a candidate.
Michael was a greasy little worm who used his family’s reputation to get what he wanted. He came to The Coven every Saturday night with his gaggle of dirtbags, and Olivia could smell his fear and feelings of inadequacy a mile away. He’d been trying to get into her pants for months now, and apparently was still trying, even after a multitude of rejections.
She felt his eyes on her all night and had managed to ignore him, but now it was time to play the game. She had to placate the little weasel. Jerk or not, he was a customer—a customer who spent a lot of money in her club.
Olivia flashed the most charming grin she could muster as she approached Michael and his motley crew.
“Hey there, hot stuff.” He leered at her and his lips curved into a lascivious grin. “I was wondering how long it was gonna take you to get your sweet ass over here.”
She wanted to bite his face off. What an asshole.
“Hello, Mr. Moriarty,” she said through a strained smile. “Are you gentlemen finding everything satisfactory this evening?”
“We’re just fine, aren’t we, boys?”
He took a long sip of his martini as he ran his hand up the leg of some young girl who was draped all over him, probably believing he’d make her rich and famous. She definitely didn’t fit in with the other clubgoers. This blond was more mainstream and never would have stepped foot into The Coven if it weren’t for Moriarty. Many humans were easily swayed by money and power. Moriarty had both.
“I’d be doin’ a lot better if you’d come here and sit with me.”
The girl next to him made a noise of disgust, shoved his hand away, grabbed her purse, and stomped off. He shrugged and snickered as she stalked through the crowd toward the door.
“It seems you’ve upset your date, Mr. Moriarty.” Olivia watched the foolish girl run from the club. She probably expected him to chase her. Not likely. “Looks like she’s leaving.”
“She’s not my date,” he spat. “Just some bimbo hanger-on—you know how it is. She should know better than to do that.” His lip curled in disgust as he watched her leave, and the smile faded. Olivia felt the anger roll off him as he stared after her. “I don’t give second chances. One and done. Know what I mean?”
“Yes, of course.” Olivia smiled tightly and looked at him like the black-haired little bug he was. “Well,
She motioned to the waitress who covered the three VIP tables opposite the bar. Suzie, one of only two humans who worked at The Coven, came over quickly, but Olivia sensed her anxiety long before she arrived at the table.
“Sure, baby.” He leered. “You can buy me a drink.”
Olivia wanted nothing more than to glamour this guy into dancing naked in the middle of the club with only his socks on, but the image alone would have to be enough.
“Suzie. Please get our guests their last round.” She flicked her gaze back to Moriarty. “On the house, of course.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She looked like a skittish lamb surrounded by wolves. She almost hadn’t hired Suzie due to her naive nature, but Olivia was a sucker for hard-luck cases. Suzie was straight from the farm and as green as the fields. By hiring her, she figured she could at least keep an eye on her.
Olivia nodded and said a brief good-bye before working her way to the front door. The place was starting to thin out, since it was just about last call. The tension in her shoulders eased as soon as she set eyes on the only other human who worked at the club—their bouncer Damien.
Damien, unlike Suzie, knew what Olivia and the others were. He was what some referred to as a
However, Damien wasn’t just a friend—he was more like family. He was the only human who knew what Olivia was and kept her secret, and not because he had to, but because he genuinely cared for her. She’d met him when he was a boy, spending most of his time on the streets and clearly heading down a bad path.
She’d heard his cries one night, and even though it was against Presidium rules to interfere with humans and their problems, she couldn’t help it. That cry of a young boy in the dark overrode any rules she was supposed to follow, and before she knew it, she was plucking him from what was sure to be a deadly situation.
She planned to rescue him from the local drug dealer and send him on his way. Yet the second she looked into those soulful, brown eyes, she was hooked. At first, she told herself that she would only check on him for a few nights to be sure he was safe, but those few nights turned into weeks, and then years. Since vampires couldn’t have children, Damien was the closest she’d ever have to a child, and she loved him as if he was her own.
“Hey there, handsome,” Olivia said. She walked through the vestibule crowded with folks leaving for the night. “How’s it going out here?”
“Hey there, boss,” Damien said in his deep baritone.
He gave her his trademark toothy, white smile, the one that completely changed the perception of who he was. He was a wall of solid muscle, stood over six feet tall, and had lovely olive skin. One look from this hulking fellow would send most people running, but in reality, Damien was a giant teddy bear.
“So is everything okay on your end tonight? Nothing, um, out of the ordinary?” Olivia asked as she scanned the exiting crowd warily. Damien raised one eyebrow at her skeptically. “You know, out of the ordinary for us?” she clarified.
“Just the usual fare and a few drunken idiots. I did have one crier though, just a little while ago,” he said as he pulled the velvet ropes in for the night. “She looked pretty upset. I tried to stop her, but she ran away, down toward Sixth Ave.”
“Mmm.” Olivia rolled her eyes. “That was Moriarty’s date.”
“Moriarty’s still here?” Damien had barely finished the question, when Michael appeared in the vestibule with his posse.
“We were just leaving, big guy.” Michael gave him a smack on the back as he walked to the enormous stretch limo waiting at the curb. Olivia put her hand on Damien to keep him at bay. She couldn’t blame him for wanting to go after him, because she wanted to punch the little bastard’s lights out too.
“You know, Olivia, one day that guy is gonna get what’s coming to him,” Damien said quietly as the limo pulled away. “I just hope I get to see it.”
“You know what they say, babe,” she said quietly. “Be careful what you wish for. Besides, his money is as green as anyone’s.”
“I realize you’re not into live feeds like most of your
“I know.” Olivia smiled and rubbed his arm reassuringly. She knew he had a crush on Suzie but would never admit it. “Suzie is tougher than you think, and you know I’ve always got her back. Besides,” she said in a weary voice, “Moriarty’s not worth the trouble.”
“Hey, you okay?” He looked at her worriedly with his arms folded across his massive chest. “Did you feed today?”
“Yeah, well, not a live feed, obviously,” she quickly added. “Just from my microwaveable stock, which reminds me, we need to place another order with the Presidium’s blood bank.”
She rubbed her temples absently as various patrons pushed past as they left. Live feeds were always best, but Olivia tried to avoid them. While the live feed was most rejuvenating, it was also the most dangerous. Live feeds were like a drug. The more she did it, the more she wanted it, and each time it got harder and harder to stop. Besides, blood memories came with it, and she wasn’t interested in anyone else’s baggage. She had quite enough of her own shit to deal with.
“This incident with Maya earlier really rattled me. She’s got to learn not to feed in or near the club,” she said with frustration. “I don’t want any trouble. I mean, it’s not just my place of business. We live here too.”
“What happened exactly?” Damien asked quietly. He leaned down and looked around to make sure no one would overhear. “I saw her leave with him last night after closing, so how’d she end up back here? I got some of the dirt from Trixie, but then Suzie came around, and well, you know.” He shrugged and smiled sheepishly.
He knew Olivia wanted to keep Suzie in the dark about the vamps because it was bad enough she’d let Damien in on their world. It took years for the Presidium to accept him, and
“I saw her leave with that meathead last night after closing. I figured she’d ditch him before sunrise, so I locked up and went downstairs to sleep. Then tonight, right after sundown, I go run an errand, and when I come back, I find her in the middle of the club with her boy toy.” Olivia looked past him and through the door at Maya, who was cleaning up the bar. “She obviously brought him back here just before sunrise and messed with him all day long. I’m not sure why she’d do that,” she murmured.
“My guess is that she wanted to get a rise out of you. Want me to talk to her?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I’ll speak to her again before she leaves tonight. She’s my…”
“Responsibility,” Damien finished for her. He sighed and shook his head. “Not everyone is your responsibility, you know.”
As she turned to go back inside, an oddly familiar voice floated over, and the scent of the ocean filled her head.
“Excuse me. Can you tell me where I can find Ms. Olivia Hollingsworth?”
Olivia stopped dead in her tracks, and the tattoo on the nape of her neck burned. Her fangs erupted, and little licks of fire skittered up her spine, as one note of that smooth, velvety voice banished all self-control. She closed her eyes and willed her quaking body to settle.
Terrified and hopeful, Olivia steeled herself with courage she’d forgotten she had. She turned around, excruciatingly slowly, and found herself face-to-face with the man of her dreams and the love of her life.
The problem was he’d been dead for almost three hundred years.