THE HUNGER BURNING BENEATH his hot skin told the vampire that he needed a woman. Needed her until the bed was wrecked and
her husky cries were filling his head. But despite the half-clad dancers eyeing him with hopeful yearning, Ashe Granger knew he
wouldn’t be touching any of the females filling the noisy London nightclub.
There wasn’t any point.
He’d already tried screwing his way to relief through at least a dozen women in the past month alone, his hunger only mounting with
frustration at each useless attempt to control it. Sex no longer brought him those satisfying moments of peace. Instead, it left him
restless and in a foul mood—so he’d given it up for the time being, going cold turkey. It sucked, but at least he didn’t have to face that
bleak feeling in his chest every time he came inside the wrong woman. A bitch of a situation for a man to find himself in, considering he
would never be coming inside the right one. And the idea of living like a monk for the rest of his life didn’t appeal. He’d rather die.
“It’s just for now,” a voice said inside his mind. “Just until you figure out a way to break the Burning.”
Burning. Baking. Being in heat. They all meant the same, each referring to the primal change that a normally cold-skinned Deschanel
male experienced once he found his intended mate; that one woman meant to bring balance to his life. A violent, visceral wave of heat
that twists and turns through his veins, growing more intense the longer he waits to claim her. It didn’t always happen, now that their
numbers were no longer what they used to be. But when it did, it was hard to miss, hitting the vampire’s system with the punch of a
With a snarl, Ashe shook his head, wiping his irritating thoughts clean. At the moment, he had more pressing matters to worry about.
Namely, the man he was there to meet.
Ashe wasn’t in the habit of conferring with anonymous sources who claimed they had important information they were willing to
divulge. Especially when there wasn’t a price attached. People just didn’t tend to do things out of the kindness of their hearts. Especially
the kind of people who sent anonymous notes to his hotel room, like the one he’d received an hour ago, telling Ashe to wait for him in
this seedy club. And he hated waiting. Hated the way it felt. The way it coiled through his muscles, through his mind, leaving him edgy
and restless…on the verge of violence at the slightest provocation.
The only reason he’d come was because the message had mentioned information about the Sabins. They were an extensive family,
consisting of several generations, probably about fifty of them in all. For the past nine years, the Sabins had been serving time at their
compound within the Wasteland. It was a vampire’s worst nightmare, but then that was the point. Prisons weren’t meant to be enjoyed,
and that’s exactly what the Wasteland was, only without the steel bars and armed guards. Instead, the vampires who had been banished
to the desolate realm hidden within a Norwegian forest were bound within its borders by powerful magic. While the noncondemned
could move freely in and out of the mystical realm, the prisoners were forced to permanently reside within the cold, bleak, dangerous
An explanation for exactly why the Sabin family had been sentenced to the Wasteland was something that Ashe had been working to get
his hands on for the past year, ever since he’d become acquainted with the family during a little quest he’d shared with a group of
shape-shifters who were out to save the world. But despite his determination, no rulings by the Deschanel Council could be found in the
record books. And no one he’d asked had been able to provide him with any answer other than that the details were “classified.”
Ashe needed that information. Needed it badly enough that when he’d received the note saying to come to this club, he hadn’t been able
to ignore it.
Now he was sitting in a chair that was too small, sipping a beer that was too warm, while house music barreled its way through his
brain like a hammer and the foul stench of sweat filled his nostrils. He wouldn’t have thought this many people would be out clubbing in
the early hours of the evening, but the annoying crowd clearly proved him wrong.
Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit, he thought with a grimace, though at nearly two centuries in age he was still considered to
be in his prime by vampire reckoning. Though not immortal, his species could usually enjoy long life spans, until such time as they took
a mate. Then the man and woman’s internal clocks aligned, ensuring that one never lived for long without the other. Most couples had
little more than a hundred years together…but for the majority, it was meant to be one hell of a century.
Or in my case, he thought, a hundred years of hell.
Finishing the last of his beer, Ashe took another visual sweep of the steadily growing crowd, determining which of the writhing bodies
on the dance floor were human and which were from the ancient clans—those nonhuman races, like the Deschanel vampires, who had
lived for centuries hidden among their fellow humans.
Just as he decided that he’d waited long enough, a tall, lanky guy slipped into the empty chair on the other side of the small table. The
guy’s scent immediately told Ashe he was a vampire. Just not a very smart one, judging by the sour stench of drugs leaking through the
male’s pores. Spiky black hair shot out in every direction from the vamp’s pale head, no less than seven piercings marking his face in
different locations. Nose, lips, eyebrows and cheeks. Big black discs elongated his earlobes, at least an inch and a half in diameter.
Fucking ouch. Ashe liked a little pain with his pleasure as much as the next vamp, but he didn’t get how some guys could embrace it
for the sake of an image.
The stranger shot him a nervous smile, revealing his crooked front teeth. “Hey, man. I’m Jax.”
Ashe narrowed his eyes, waiting for the guy to get on with it.
Jax shifted in his chair with a kind of nervous energy that probably had more to do with needing his next fix than it did with fear.
Fiddling with his earlobe, he said, “So you’re, like, a Förmyndare, aren’t you?”
Förmyndares were an elite, highly skilled group of soldiers whose job was the protection of the Deschanel vampires. They were often
considered the most ruthless hunters out of all the ancient clans…and they were not to be screwed with.
Instead of answering the question, Ashe just leaned back in his chair and glared. He had no intention of discussing his profession with
the jonesing vampire.
Jax’s nervousness was increasing, his right eyelid starting to twitch. “So, yeah, I’m, uh, here to give you some info that’s gonna rock
A cocky grin lifted the corner of Ashe’s mouth. Drily, he said, “I can’t wait to hear it.”
Jax licked his lips. “Yeah, well, why don’t you buy me a drink and then we can have our little talk.”
Oh, now that was just funny. Was this idiot really stupid enough to try and milk him?
Reaching over the table and snagging the junkie’s scrawny wrist in a lightning-quick move, Ashe applied enough pressure to let him
know he was done getting dicked around.
“Hey, man, ease off,” Jax wheezed. “I’m just the messenger.”
“Then deliver your damn message and get the hell out of here,” Ashe demanded in a low, deadly rasp.
“All right, okay.” Jax’s eyes shot from side to side, as if he was having trouble deciding where to look. “All I know is that there’s a
woman eating dinner at an Italian place called something like Zizzi over on James Street. It’s only a few blocks from here. She’s
wearing a green sweater, sitting out on the patio. She’ll give you the location.”
“What location?” he sneered, using his other hand to grip the vamp’s chin, forcing him to hold his stare. “What the hell are you talking
about? You were meant to give me information about the Sabin family!”
Jax’s throat worked as he swallowed. “Look, don’t hurt me, okay. The guy—”
“I don’t know, man.” Jax was practically whining, his scent steeped in panic and fear. “He was one of us, you know. Brownish hair,
Desch-gray eyes. He found me at a bar around the corner, described what you look like, then told me that if I wanted to earn a grand,
all I had to do was come in here and tell you that the woman in the green sweater can give you Juliana Sabin’s location. He said to
hurry. To get your ass moving now.”
Juliana’s location? That didn’t make any sense. He already knew her location. She was bound within the Wasteland with the rest of her
family, and that’s where the little criminal would remain.
With a grunt of disgust, Ashe released the guy’s wrist and moved to his feet. He threw a twenty-pound note on the table to cover his
drinks and headed through the crowd, out into the bitter evening. The wintry winds whipped around his ears and neck like a ghostly
caress, but he didn’t feel its chill, his body seething with heat. Christ, just the thought of Juliana had him so twisted up inside he felt like
Shoving one hand through his hair, he started down the crowded sidewalk, barely noticing the people who scrambled to get out of his
way, while he recalled the way he’d spent the past year comparing every woman he met with the mysterious little vamp. Even when he
was bedding another woman, it was Juliana’s face he’d see in his mind. Her slim, strong body he’d imagine spread out beneath him.
Her pale, slender throat he pictured driving his fangs into, deep and hard and thick, until her blood was flowing in a sweet, blistering
rush over his tongue and his hips were slamming against hers, demanding she give him everything she had. Every stubborn,
breathtaking, infuriating part of her.
Strange, that he could want her so badly, and yet have never actually touched her with anything more than a brief, fleeting contact. But
then, he and the exiled vampire had never hit it off, constantly butting heads and bickering over everything from the serious to the trivial.
She irritated the hell out of him, but Ashe couldn’t argue the fact that she was a beautiful woman. Her features were delicate but
sensual, her looks accentuated by long, glossy hair that had a touch of curl to it, the color almost as dark as his. She wore it in a side
part, so that one side swung over the edge of her face, allowing her to hide behind it when she wanted, like a shield. Though why a
woman as beautiful as her would ever want to hide, he couldn’t understand. She had the silvery gray eyes of all the Deschanel
vampires, heavily lashed and complemented by sweeping brows. And her mouth was…well, incredible. Lush and pink and naturally
sexy, it was the kind of mouth that made a man think about all the wicked things she could do with it. Which he had, often.
Given the level of Ashe’s lust, his brother, Gideon, didn’t understand why he didn’t just bed her and get her out of his system, convict
or not. But then, there was a lot that Gideon didn’t know—such as the fact that the dark-haired little vampire had kick-started Ashe’s
Burning. And he sure as hell never planned on letting his brother find out.
He also never planned to lay a finger on Juliana. It was the only rational, intelligent thing he could do, because Ashe refused to get
involved with a woman who was more than likely a criminal and a liar. He’d learned his lesson with an angel-faced, dishonest female
early on in life, and it wasn’t one he would ever forget.
He couldn’t stomach liars and cheats—and what made the situation with Juliana even worse was that she adamantly refused to tell him
why she and her family had been sentenced to the Wasteland. Not knowing what they’d done drove him mad. Every single damn thing
about the woman drove him to a dangerous state of mind, which was why Ashe had vowed to stay the hell away from her.
And yet…he hadn’t been able to make himself stop searching for an answer to her banishment, which was why he was currently
prowling down a crowded London street, following directions from a drugged-out junky he doubted would lead to anything more than
further frustration and irritation on his part.
It took only a handful of minutes to make it down Colbert Road and onto James Street. The stylish restaurant Jax had described was
easy to locate, its black awning flapping in the wind three buildings down on the opposite side of the road. As he made his way around
the corner, keeping to his side of the street, Ashe narrowed his eyes, his height allowing him to scan the people who were sitting at the
outside tables interspersed with tall patio heaters. He searched for a woman wearing a green sweater and spotted her almost instantly,
the jade shade of the material catching his eye. She sat at one of the front tables, closest to the street, the soft glow of the outside
lighting glinting off the mahogany fall of her hair. A strange sense of awareness prickled across the surface of his skin, his nostrils
flaring as he tried to draw in the woman’s scent. But there were too many other scents between them, a deluge of London taxis and
passenger cars making their way down the street, while bundled-up city goers walked briskly down the sidewalks.
Oblivious to the fact she was being watched, the woman reached out and lifted her glass of red wine, something about the casual
gesture making him swear under his breath, a horrible suspicion gaining momentum through his system, buzzing through his mind.
It can’t be. No way in hell.
Ashe started walking a little faster, practically pushing people out of his way.
“Not fucking possible,” he growled, willing the woman to turn around so that he could see her face. Then, as if acting on his silent
command, she set the glass down with trembling fingers, her shoulders tensing as she slowly turned her head, looking back over her
Shock hit him so hard and fast, he nearly stumbled over his own two feet.
With his heartbeat roaring in his ears and a torrent of curses slipping past his lips, Ashe found himself staring not at an informant…but
directly into Juliana Sabin’s wide, steel-gray eyes.
AT FIRST GLANCE, JULIANA thought her luck was too good to be true. Here she’d spent the past day searching for Ashe, and he
suddenly appeared out of nowhere, her vision filled with six feet plus of hard, intense-looking male. His big, beautiful body stood out so
easily from those around him, as if he were simply standing there on his own, instead of on a sidewalk surrounded by bustling people.
One of the city’s historic gas lamps flickered behind him, leaving his expression in shadow. But she could see the glowing silver of his
eyes. Eyes that burned with a hot, angry glow.
Unable to hold his stare even from a distance, feeling as if he could see right into her, she quickly swept her gaze over the rest of him.
He was dressed in a black sweater, leather jacket and jeans, his body long and lean and heavily muscled, his hair a rich sable-brown that
looked as dark as a mink’s pelt in the deepening twilight. He had it cut even shorter than the last time she’d seen him, back in the spring,
which would have been too much for most men, but when you had a face like Ashe’s, it didn't matter. In fact, the severe cut only
accentuated the fact that his tall body and rugged face were…well, obscenely perfect.
His skin was a little darker than before, the lines of strain around his eyes a bit deeper. He’d either been working his ass off or partying
a little too hard. Though she knew the second idea was possible, given his popularity with women, she had a feeling it’d been the first,
his vibe a little too edgy for someone who had been kicking back and living wild. He looked hard and mean and tough, and her insides
did a little rumba at the reality of having all that raw male aggression and intensity focused directly on her.
It was said among the clans that the complex nature of the Deschanel was a delicate balance between the light and dark aspects of the
world, and Ashe Granger was a prime example. He was a thing of outrageous beauty, and yet…he was also a thing of sinister danger.
The complex duality of his nature was a helpless allure to most women, and Juliana knew damn well that he never lacked for female
companionship when he wanted it. She’d also been told, by his close friend Morgan Scott, that none of the women who shared his bed
ever meant anything to him, which wasn’t surprising. Men like Ashe Granger weren’t the type to settle down and fall in love. They
enjoyed their variety—and she’d seen Ashe in action enough times at her family’s compound to know he liked his sexual assortment of
partners more than most. Which meant she would never be foolish enough to get tangled up with him, even if he didn’t treat her like a
It was no secret that he didn’t like her. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding a way to make the badass hunter believe her
story, because she needed his help.
Once, she’d risked everything and lost, because she’d risked it on the wrong man. She had no guarantees that Ashe could be trusted,
but she had to give him a shot. He was the one she’d been directed to find, and she was in too deep to pull back now. If he refused, she
knew that Morgan and the other shape-shifters that Ashe worked with would do their best to help her. Or even Gideon, who would
likely have the same important contacts that Ashe would, since he was a Förmyndare, as well. But her gut told her that it should be
Juliana didn’t foresee them having an easy time of it, but at least his natural animosity toward her would keep things on a professional
level. One without any of the sexual advances she assumed would come from Gideon, whose flirtatious personality was so at odds with
his brother’s rough demeanor there were times when they seemed polar opposites.
Then again, she mused, noticing the way several women who’d walked past him were looking back over their shoulders, Ashe never
seemed to have any trouble attracting and flirting with females of all species and ages. It was just her he treated like a leper.
And that’s a good thing, she reminded herself, eyeing him as he waited impatiently on the opposite side of the road, the heavy traffic
keeping him from immediately crossing. I just need his help to save my family. Nothing more.
It might have seemed like a long shot, considering the last time she’d seen him he’d said something along the lines of I won’t be coming
back; have a nice life. Even when spoken in the warm, husky blend of his Eastern European and British accent, the words had been
painfully harsh. But while an ass, she also knew that Ashe Granger was a man who had committed his life to fighting against injustice
and taking down criminals. He might not want to help her, but she had a feeling he’d be willing to do it for the rest of her family, so
long as she could convince him that she was telling the truth.
She didn’t want to have the coming conversation on the restaurant’s patio, but she also didn’t want him to think she was running. Since
she’d already paid her bill for the first truly delicious meal she’d had in years, she hefted her backpack over her shoulder and moved to
the entrance of a narrow, shadowed lane that ran along the side of the restaurant, and waited for him there.
Chewing on the corner of her lip, Juliana wondered how he’d found her. She’d come to London searching for him, just like the letter in
the pack she’d found outside the secret exit from the Wasteland had told her to do. She’d spent the day making enquiries at hotels, only
targeting those in a higher price range, knowing the vampire enjoyed his luxuries. The guy was loaded, which meant he didn’t have to
slum it unless necessary. After she’d finished her meal, she’d planned to continue her search, moving from Chelsea and into
Kensington. But somehow, he’d found her…and he didn’t look happy about it.
With that furious look burning in his silver eyes, she found herself thinking back to one of their last conversations, when he’d been
staying with his friends at her family’s compound in the Wasteland. Everyone was gathering in the dining hall for the evening meal, and
she’d been about to enter the room, when Ashe had grabbed hold of her arm, pulling her farther along the stone-lined hallway.
She flinched at the hot feel of his skin and jerked out of his hold, fighting the urge to raise her hand and strike him across the face. The
only thing that stopped her was the fact that her family and their friends weren’t far away, and she didn’t want to cause a scene.
“You’re burning up,” she muttered, rubbing the spot on her arm where his hot fingers had gripped her. “Who was it this time?”
He stared down at her through hooded eyes. “Who was what?” he asked in a deceptively lazy drawl.
“No adult, unmated male vampire runs as hot as you are without having gotten off!” Outrage shook her voice, the brittle words
scraping her throat. “Did you think to come into my home and just sleep your way through my relatives?”
His tone was dismissive. “They’re not all your relatives,” he pointed out, crossing his muscular arms over his broad chest.
“The women who work here are under my protection! They don’t deserve to get mauled by some oversexed Lothario!”
A husky laugh rumbled in his chest. “I don’t force myself on women, Jules.”
Her lip curled with derision. “Making them false promises is just as bad.”
His eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“You flash that perfect smile at them, rattling their brains, and they start thinking they have a chance with you. Not for sex, but for
“I don’t lead women on,” he growled, finally getting irritated.
A bitter smile twisted her mouth. “Your kind always does. I doubt you even realize you’re doing it. But I won’t be left with a compound
full of scorned, heartsick women when you’re gone. I have enough to deal with!”
“You know what your problem is, Jules?” He stepped closer, pointing his finger right at her nose. “You need to get laid.”
“Well, when I do, you can sure as hell bet it will be with someone more honorable than you!”
Fury darkened his eyes. “I was going to talk to you about the compound’s defenses,” he said in a low, carefully controlled voice, “but
I won’t waste your time.”
Without another word, he turned and walked away, leaving her standing there in the hallway alone, her throat trembling with a
ridiculous burn of tears.
When Juliana had looked for him after she’d sat through dinner with her family, barely managing any of her food, he was nowhere to
be found. She’d fought the urge to go knocking on doors, sniffing the hallways, searching for his scent. In truth, she didn’t trust what
she would do if she found him in another woman’s bed. And she’d been furious at the way he’d kept interrogating everyone at the
compound, determined to learn the reason for their banishment.
No one had told him, but his persistence had made her nervous. There were aspects of her past that she never wanted this man to learn.
She had enough blood on her hands without adding his, as well. Not to mention the embarrassment she would feel if he knew just how
foolish and naive she’d once been.
Now that she’d come to him for help, she would have to tread carefully with the truth to protect her secrets. She would do everything
she could to protect him, but she couldn’t afford to let her emotions get in the way of what was important. There were too many
people counting on her, their lives in her hands.
As soon as the traffic broke, he started making his way toward her, his stride long and angry. And then he was standing right in front
of her, so close she could see the shadow of beard stubble darkening his hard jaw. His incredible scent wrapped around her like a warm
breeze, so good she wanted to drool. God, he was even more gorgeous than the last time she’d seen him, and he smelled like sin. Hot
and musky and deliciously male. Her physical reaction to him was a little overwhelming, her body heating and tingling with a strange
rush of warmth as he swept his silvery gaze over her. She fought the urge to cover her chest with her arms, the tight turtleneck
sweater more revealing than anything he would have ever seen her wear in the Wasteland, where clothing tended to be bulky and dated.
She was surprised he’d even recognized her in the jeans, sweater and battered leather boots.
Without uttering a single word, he reached down and snagged her wrist with one of his big, callused hands, dragging her deeper into the
shadows of the narrow lane. Darkened shop fronts lined both sides of the cobblestone path, a few flickering neon signs that had been
left glowing in their windows sending strange splashes of color across the thickening evening shadows. They quickly reached another
narrow pedestrian cross street, and he turned right, dragging her deeper into the mazelike network of historic buildings, the sounds of
traffic and chattering voices growing fainter. Juliana would have objected, if it weren’t for the fact that she knew the conversation they
were about to have would be best done away from listening ears. After all, she was now an escaped convict who would be on the run
for her life as soon as her absence was discovered in the Wasteland. Since he was sure to say as much, the more privacy they had the
Moving so quickly she barely had time to gasp, he turned and snagged the pack from her shoulder, tossing it to the ground. Within the
blink of an eye, he had her trapped against a brick section of wall, both hands locking around her wrists, pressing them flat on either
side of her head, the submissive position sending a surge of panic through her veins. To make it worse, he pressed the long, tense
length of his much larger body into hers, his muscles rippling and vibrating with power, and she could feel the heavy weight of an
impressive erection pressing against her stomach as she tilted her head back to hold his stare. But he wasn’t looking in her eyes. He was
staring at her mouth with a kind of primal, savage intensity that made her heart pound so fiercely she thought it might burst from her
When he finally spoke, his voice was low and guttural. “What the hell are you doing in London?”
Juliana swallowed, then licked her lips, ignoring his question so that she could ask one of her own. “How did you find me?”
It seemed difficult for him, but he managed to rip his gaze away from her mouth, locking it with hers. “You first.”
“I’m here because of you. I…I came here to find you.”
His dark brows drew together as he glared down at her, so close she could see the brighter flecks of silver within the darkening gray.
“Why in God’s name would you do that?”
She flinched under the raw force of his gaze, struggling to control the tremor in her voice. “Because I need your help.”
His laugh was ugly and mean, as was the snide grin that lifted the corner of his mouth. “I’m a Förmyndare soldier and you’re an
escaped convict, lady. What makes you think I won’t just haul your little ass back to the Wasteland, where it belongs?”
From the book: DEADLY IS THE KISS by Rhyannon Byrd
Copyright © 2012
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information go to: http://www.eHarlequin.com/
|An Unedited Excerpt from Rhyannon Byrd’s
DEADLY IS THE KISS