When Ellie awakens in an unfamiliar room, she’s understandably terrified. And when she learns she's not only dead, but a vampire...well, she's just plain furious. That anger is directed at Will, her centuries-old Maker, as he slowly indoctrinates her into life of eternal blood-drinking, fang-bearing, and night-lurking. Though they frequently butt heads—despite Will's warnings, Ellie refuses to feed—even she can't deny that his Victorian gallantry holds a certain charm.
In the following excerpt of Berni Stevens’ Dance Until Dawn, Ellie must adjust to something more unsettling than her new dietary needs. In entering the world of vampires, she's apparently gained several vengeful enemies—and some of them are trying to frame her for murder. Though Will and his friend Luke vow to protect her, this feisty fledgling will soon find herself in a paranormal battle between good and evil...
Read on for an excerpt of Dance Until Dawn, and then download the book!
‘You weren’t friends with Shakespeare by any chance?’
‘Even I am not that old,’ he said. ‘Although I did hang out with Byron a few times.’
Will started to pace the room again, eventually coming to a halt and sitting on the pine chest in front of me. His knees nearly touched mine. I tensed. He immediately moved back.
‘Do you wonder, Elinor, why you were on my radar, so to speak?’
‘I nodded. ‘There are plenty of better looking girls in London. You could probably have anyone you fancied.’
‘It had to be you, and only you, from the first moment I saw you.’
‘About a year ago,’ he watched me closely.
A year? I couldn’t hide my astonishment. ‘You stalked me for a whole year?’
He gave a small smile then, and the humour crept back into his eyes at last. I felt as though I could now breathe out after a long time of holding my breath, although any withholding of breath by a member of the undead fraternity would cause little discomfort if the truth be known.
‘I prefer the term observed,’ he said dryly.
‘That’s still a bit pervy,’ I was feeling braver, ‘and some pretty serious … observing.’
‘I can see why you would think that.’
I’d often suspected Will was somewhat tenacious and single-minded, but even so, a year?’
‘I think I searched for you even before I knew of your existence,’ he continued. ‘I have been searching for my soul mate for many years. Decades actually. But when I met you, I knew I had found her.’
I was stricken into silence. How could any of this be possible? How could a several-hundred-year-old man suddenly decide I was his soul mate? Where did that come from? It was the stuff of fantasy, B-movies and cheap novels. Things like this just didn’t happen in the real world. I shook my head again, and Will reached across to take one of my hands.
‘I know you are finding this all very difficult to come to terms with. It is one of the reasons I did not want to tell you about the accident yet.’ He gave a small rueful smile. ‘But you inadvertently forced the issue and I lost my temper.’
‘That is one very scary temper you have.’
‘Elinor,’ he raised my hand to his soft lips and kissed it. ‘I apologise yet again. I do seem to be making a complete mess of everything in more ways than one. I promised no pouncing and yet I pounced, not just once, but twice. I had also promised myself that I would not tell you about the accident for a while and yet I have.’
‘Good to know you’re not perfect,’ I said. ‘Because that would just be dull.’
Will laughed, his face immediately lighting up and his eyes gleaming. What a difference.
A knock at the front door made us both stand up. A key sounded in the lock and I looked at Will in consternation.
‘Get behind me.’
I hesitated for a split second.
‘Do it now.’
If Will was worried then I was worried. I stood behind his tall frame and he put one arm behind himself to wrap around me.
There was a sharp knock on the drawing room door and I felt the tension leave Will’s body.
‘Come on in Luke,’ he said, his deep voice sounding relaxed.
The door opened and a tall blond man walked in.
‘Good evening Will,’ he said.
Will nodded, and gestured to one of the armchairs. ‘Have a seat.’
Luke loped across the room, and folded his long frame into the nearest armchair. Will still protected me with his body, and I began to feel a little foolish. I tried to remove his arm, but it was like trying to move a tree.
‘Is this the new fledgling?’ asked Luke, nodding at what little he could see of me.
Will brought me around to the side of his body so that Luke and I could see each other. He kept a hold of my arm in a possessive grip as I stared at the newcomer. Luke’s fair hair hung in waves, almost to his broad shoulders, and his eyes were the colour of cornflowers. He was definitely a vampire, I could feel it. Casually dressed in black sweater, jeans and a brown leather jacket, he seemed completely at ease, although his eyes looked me over with frank curiosity. I didn’t know whether vampires bothered with body building exercises, but he certainly looked as though he did.
‘Elinor this is Luke,’ said Will.
“Hallo Luke,’ I said. Very original Ellie, and very eloquent.
‘Hallo Elinor,’ said Luke. ‘It is good to meet you at last.’
What did he mean by at last?
‘Luke has always been aware of your arrival,’ said Will.
‘She looks well,’ commented Luke, his eyes travelling up and down my body with interest.
‘She looks infinitely better than she did a few nights ago,’ said Will.
‘She is standing right here,’ I said.
‘A fact I am very well aware of,’ Will glanced at me.
Luke hid a smile, and I wondered whether he was in any way subservient to Will. Why did he have a key to Will’s house and why did he knock at both doors and come in anyway?
‘Luke is my second,’ said Will. ‘He has a key to all my properties, it is a safety precaution. He knocks out of courtesy.’
‘Stay out of my head,’ I said. ‘Believe me, there’s enough going on in there at the moment without you joining in.”
Will crossed to the sofa and sat down, gesturing for me to do the same. I sat in one of the armchairs in a deliberate act of defiance, which he chose to ignore. He turned back to Luke. ‘Is something wrong?’
Luke shrugged. ‘I believe so, yes,’ he replied. ‘There has been an odd occurrence that I thought I should make you aware of.’
Odd occurrence? Now why didn’t I like the sound of that?
Will lit the inevitable cigarette. It was probably a good job he was dead because those things would have killed him for sure. He turned an amused glance my way.
‘But you are not going to scold me are you?’ It was a statement rather than a question.
‘I wouldn’t presume,’ I said.
‘May I say, Will,’ ventured Luke, ‘that you appear to have met your match?’
‘No, you may not,’ said Will. ‘So what appears to be the problem?’
‘A body was discovered in Waterlow Park this morning,’ said Luke. ‘Drained.’
Will swore under his breath. Even I could understand the significance of that. ‘Sounds as though someone has found out about Elinor.’
‘What the hell does that mean?’ I asked.
‘I have already explained the rules of the city to you,’ said Will. ‘Therefore the only likely candidate to drain a human would be a fledgling who lacked self-control. As it is forbidden to turn a human without my express permission, it appears the only fledgling vampire in London is you.’
I stared at him, horrified. ‘But you know it wasn’t me, I’ve been here with you since—’
‘I know that, you know that and Luke knows that,’ he replied. ‘Unfortunately no-one else knows that.’
‘Someone apparently does know of your existence and is deliberately implicating you,’ said Luke.
‘So if it was me—and you both know it wasn’t—what would happen?’ I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to hear the answer.
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‘Under normal circumstances, the fledgling would be tracked down and staked.’ Will said. ‘However, these are not normal circumstances and, luckily for you, what I say goes.’
I had a sudden vision of enraged villagers descending on the house with flaming torches and pitchforks and stared at Will wide-eyed.
‘It must be Khiara,’ he said to Luke.
‘After all this time?’ asked Luke. ‘Why?’
‘Because she is Khiara,’ said Will. ‘It is what she does best.’
Luke shook his head slowly. ‘Surely we would know if she was in London.’
‘Not if she wished to remain undetected. As long as she kept her distance, I would not detect her presence.’
‘Waterlow Park is hardly a distance.’
‘Khiara would not do any dirty work herself.’
I followed their conversation with ever increasing horror. When I couldn’t stand it any longer I stood up in agitation.
‘Hold on just a damn minute,’ I said loudly.
Both men turned to look at me. Luke with the detached interest one would show an irritating child who wanted attention, and Will with his usual amusement. But at least I had their attention.
‘Can someone please explain what the hell is going on here? And who the hell is this Khiara person?’
Will and Luke exchanged glances.
‘You really do have your work cut out,’ said Luke.
‘Oh, you have no idea,’ agreed Will with a resigned shrug.
‘Who’s going to tell me?’ I persisted.
‘Khiara is my maker,’ said Will to me. ‘I have not seen her for nearly two hundred years.’
‘She’s born a grudge for two hundred years?’ I asked. ‘She must be a Scorpio.’
Will’s lips twitched. ‘I could not say,’ he said. ‘All I know is that my life has been uncomplicated in the extreme for very many years, but the moment I bring another woman to my house, someone begins to sully my territory. She is the only creature on this earth who is vindictive enough to instigate revenge two centuries on.’
‘She needs to get a life.’ I muttered. ‘Or another death.’
Luke laughed. ‘I like her.’
‘I knew you would,’ said Will.
‘So what do we do?’ I asked, as I sat back down.
‘You will do nothing,’ he said. ‘I, too, shall do nothing at this stage either.’
‘Oh, good plan,’ I said sarcastically. ‘So when the angry villagers torch your house, will you do something then?’
‘You have seen far too many cheap horror films,’ he replied.
‘Does this woman know where you live?’ I asked. ‘I mean if you can sense her, surely she would be able to sense you too, and find you here eventually?’
Will looked impressed. ‘Beauty and brains,’ he said.
‘Don’t patronise me,’ I said, annoyed.
‘It was a compliment.’
‘Trust me, it wasn’t.’
Will turned to Luke. ‘You are younger than I, do you understand her?’
Luke looked thoughtful. ‘I think she is inferring that you think it unusual for a woman to be beautiful, yet intelligent, and that generally it is not possible to be both.’
Will looked back at me and raised his eyebrows.
‘What he said,’ I agreed.
‘Elinor, I am well aware that you have considerable intelligence; as far as I am concerned that has never been in question. Plus your appearance speaks for itself.’
‘You definitely spent too long with Byron,’ I said.
At that moment the phone rang and Will rose to answer it.
‘Yes?’ Not one for bothering with a good telephone manner obviously. He listened for a while, and nodded his head every now and again. ‘I appreciate that Jake, thank you.’
He came back and sat down. ‘Jake has come across some unknown vampires in the Camden area. One very large male, who could be Grigori, plus a blonde woman who could very well be Josephine. When he challenged them, they got into a car and drove off. He says they went towards Chalk Farm.’
‘So if it is Grigori and Josephine, Khiara is almost certainly in London too,’ said Luke. ‘What would you like me to do?’
‘Contact all of our people and tell them everything, and also tell them about Elinor. You need to assure them the renegade is not ours. Everyone should be very alert and security conscious. Especially when going out to feed, I do not want to lose anyone.’
‘Consider it done.’
Luke stood up and Will stood too. They clasped hands like two ancient warriors, and Will gripped Luke’s shoulder. ‘Take care my friend.’
Luke nodded and turned to me. ‘It was good to meet you Elinor.’
‘You too.’ I said.
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