January 9, 2018

Read an Excerpt from Sacrifice!

Sacrifice is my contribution to the Blood Courtesans: Awakenings Box Set coming January 17, 2018. Pierce and Olivia made an appearance in my first Blood Courtesans book, Wanted, but you haven't met them like this before. You don't need to read Wanted first to enjoy Sacrifice, but if you have read it, you'll have a chance to catch up with some old friends, like Nash, Corynne, and Lady Desiree.

Enjoy a taste of Sacrifice!

I never entered the auction room alone before. It was usually full of music and laughter, wine and light, hope and lust. A single spotlight lit the room. Olivia stood in the middle of the stage, her shadow much bigger than she was. Thankfully, the courtesans assigned to preparing her for the night didn’t humiliate her with the skimpy underwear the human courtesans wore on stage.

Olivia wore a form-fitting purple and black dress that matched my outfit. I liked that. Even more, I liked the swell of her breasts and the curve of her hips. Olivia was a siren who could quite possibly lure our coven to its demise. She lifted her head, her eyes sparkling in the dim light like stars. Damn. I wasn’t used to being so exposed to the courtesans, being the one naked and stripped of my defenses, standing before them. She startled when she saw me there, a hint of a smile playing on her lips before she dipped her head once more. Her hair had been tied on top of her head in a ponytail, and blonde curls cascaded over her shoulder. Her hands weren’t visible.

If they still hand her in chains… Olivia wouldn’t run. My job was to keep her here. Even more than that, to turn her against Oscar, had she ever been on his side in the first place. He didn’t care about things like consent and freedom.

I walked up the stairs to the stage and circled her, like I would at auction. Her hands were free, she simply chose to knot her gloved fingers behind her back. The courtesans drenched her in texture and I was dying to do more than touch her. I wanted to taste her. The only thing sweeter than a human’s blood was the blood of a newly-turned vampire.

I tipped her chin up to meet my gaze. Green eyes met mine with pride and defiance. Olivia was much bolder when she wasn’t in chains. “You never bid on me at auction before,” she said.

“No, I didn’t.” I wasn’t expecting those to be her first words to me.

“Why not?”

She’d learn more than she ever wanted to know soon enough. “You’re mine now.”

“I could’ve been yours, for a night, and for a much lower price.” She shook away from my touch.

She was calling my bluff, and I could do the same. “If you don’t want to stay, Olivia, I can bring you back to the forest.”

“No,” she said quickly. Her eyes froze with fear and my first question was answered. She hadn’t been willingly working with Oscar. She’d sing when the time was right. “I want more than to belong to you, Pierce. May I call you that?”

I couldn’t admit how much I loved the way my name sounded coming off her lips. Yet. “Yes.”

“I want to be a part of the coven. Not a courtesan. I’ve done this before, more times than I can count and I was cast out every time. The money I earned for my blood helped, a little bit. But I could never get one of the high bids from a vampire like you. I want to know” –she closed her eyes, and her shoulders shook. New vampires struggled to control their emotions— “this time will be different.”

Taking a step closer to her, I breathed her in. She smelled like honey and sunshine that had yet to fade. Like sunset, the most beautiful part of the day. But the night belonged to me.

She didn’t need coaxing to meet my gaze this time.

“Your human life is over. If you wish to repeat your past mistakes, be my guest. Or you can trust me. I know what happened before I found you. Trust won’t come easily, and that’s why I want it, because it will mean you truly belong to me. When I have your trust, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about being a member of this coven. I can make you my mate, if that’s what you want.”

She gasped. She wanted that security. And I’d make her want me just as much.

“I want…that.”

“I will give you every single thing your heart desires. Our hearts still serve us, they never truly die. But to do that, I need more than your trust. I need to trust you. You will be destroyed if you use our secrets against us. That’s why Oscar hides in the forest and preys on scared women with promises he can’t keep. The choice is yours, Olivia. You’ll always have the power to choose what happens to you. Do you understand what I need from you?”

“You need to trust me.” She pushed her shoulders back, her cleavage rising in that soft dress that begged me to run my hand over the fabric. I would, but not yet. I couldn’t give into my every whim when the security of my coven hung in the balance. Her gaze fell to my body. Our unspoken desire tangled between us. Olivia would be my most formidable opponent yet. And my greatest ally. The courtesans came looking for solutions to their problems, not as the missing answer to ours. “How do I make that happen?” she asked.

She was too willing to please to be an enemy. That was how she’d fallen into Oscar’s grasp. I should’ve listened to my instinct and bid on her when she was human. Her glossy lips curled in a smile at that thought. Didn’t matter what I wanted to share with this woman, first, I needed to be guarded. “Why did you come to us as a courtesan?”

Her shoulders slumped as she closed her eyes and recalled her human life. It flashed in my mind, the happy snapshots taking a drastic turn. “I came to New York to be an actress. I’d gone to a small school in the Midwest, and I didn’t land an agent like a lot of my classmates did before we graduated. But I wanted to act. I couldn’t imagine my life without theater. I came anyway, figuring all it would take to succeed was being here, but it was so much harder than that. I wasn’t anything enough—tall enough, thin enough, funny enough, dramatic enough. I did everything I could to be what they wanted. I got better, and got some call-backs for what could’ve been life-changing jobs, but I was never enough. That applied to being a courtesan, too.”

“That wasn’t why I didn’t bid on you, Olivia. You shouldn’t change who you are to be something you’re not.”

She huffed. “Easier said than done when you’re starving and about to get kicked out of your apartment. That’s why I liked acting so much. It gave me a chance to be someone who got what she wanted.”

“Is that what led you to Oscar?”

“Yes.” The world had no volume, and I wasn’t sure if she said it out loud. “He promised me everything I wanted. He said he’d make me a star.”

“Did he?” I already knew the answer.

“Not the way I wanted him to. And the money?” She scoffed. “That was a lie, too.”

He hurt her, I wouldn’t make her relive it any more than I had to. “Money is of no concern to you anymore.”

“But my reputation…”

“You’re no longer that woman. That was someone you weren’t meant to be. Here, you are Olivia. Not whoever you think I want you to be. I want you—your hopes, your dreams, and everything that makes you smile. I’ll know if you’re faking it.”

“Right.” She nodded. “And then you won’t trust me.”

“You learn fast.”

“Have to, if I want to survive.” She licked her lips, and I suppressed a groan. She was beautiful, scarred, flawed, real, and mine. I didn’t want her any other way, and I had no problem with her picking up on that thought. The fear melted from her eyes. “Pierce? I’m hungry.”

Coming January 17! Preorder Blood Courtesans: Awakenings now!