tagRomanceThe Crimson King Ch. 01

The Crimson King Ch. 01


The night was beautiful. Quiet, decadent in its richness, the inky velvet sky stretched for miles beyond eyesight, the retreating edges watercolor smooth as the sun arose and added pinks, mauves, oranges and yellows to its visual palette. He had always enjoyed watching the arrival of the sun. He was just upset that he could never linger long enough to see the brilliant star rise between the clouds and spread its glory over the land. To do that would mean certain death for him.

Thorne Halsbury was a vampire.

His tall frame cut a noble silhouette against the lightening sky and he leaned against the cold wrought-iron rail of the balcony, pushing his mane of dark, unruly curls back as his turquoise eyes searched the watery dawn. Thick, manicured fingers stroked a soft tuft of blond-brown fur, fashioned in a well-trimmed goatee and full lips parted the space between sections of facial hair. He smiled lazily. Another beautiful day.

He felt the presence behind him before it fully registered in his senses and he smiled.

"Enjoying the view?"

"Yes." Thorne answered the elderly man, Pieter, the housekeeper he'd known for as many years as he'd walked the earth and sighed in despair. "So beautiful, Pieter."

"The sun, she is the giver of life." He stepped closer and gently laid his hand on Thorne's strong shoulder. "She is also the bringer of death."

Thorne reached back and patted Pieter's hand. He knew that the housekeeper was trying to tell him that it was time to come inside. Pieter was his closest and only friend and Thorne suspected that he hovered over him because he secretly knew what really lurked in the depths of Thorne's soul. He knew the despair and the loneliness that pierced his soul. It would only take a few minutes, a few rays of sunlight to reduce that pain into nothingness.

"Come, Thorne. It's time to retire."

"Yes, Pieter." With one last look at the approaching dawn, he followed the man into the house and sought the dark comfort of his bed. The tears came as they always did and he didn't bother to wipe them away. He simply closed his eyes and silently begged for death.

* * * * *

"Sammi, we go live in five."

"Okay, thanks, Leon."

Sammi Glass opened her reporter's notebook and perused the hieroglyphics she'd written there. The story was a well-covered one, but she was presenting the mayor's re-election race with a different angle. That different angle was standing just a few yards away, nervously smoking and pacing back and forth. Leon Hughes, her cameraman, went over and spoke quietly to the girl and she seemed to calm down. He fished his wallet out of his pocket, gave her two folded twenties and a brotherly pat.

"Okay, let's do it."

Sammi nodded and motioned for the girl to stand beside her. "You'll be out of the camera's shot until I step toward you. Then I'll ask you a few questions and I want you to answer them just like you did before, just like we were talking at the diner. Don't look at the camera, just look at me."

"And you'll get me a room for the night?"

"It's already done and it's for as long as you need it, Mary." Sammi laid a gentle hand on the girl's forearm. "This wasn't completely your fault." The girl nodded jerkily. "Now, put your cigarette out and take a deep breath."

"Sammi, five, four, three, two, one ... "

The cool strawberry-blonde blinked in the lights, then began speaking. "Mayor Richard Chambliss has been called a lot of things: a great man and a wonderful husband but the youngest mayor in our current history has never been called a father. Standing beside me is Mary Ann. We have hidden her face in order to protect her identity but as you can see, Mary is eight months pregnant with the mayor's child." The rest of the interview went smoothly. The girl stammered a few times but remembered to look at Sammi and gained a modicum of strength from the eye contact. "Reporting live, I'm Sammi Glass, Channel 5, Eyewitness News."

"And we're out." Leon turned the lights off and stashed the camera in the van.

"Did I do okay?"

"You did wonderfully, Mary. Now, Leon is going to take you to your new room and I've put lots of groceries in there for you." The girl's eyes widened. "And a doctor will be coming to visit you today along with a nurse from the clinic. Other than those two, myself and Leon, do not let anyone else into your room, understand?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"It's for your protection, Mary. The mayor is going to comb the city looking for you. You have everything you need in that room and if you need anything, you call the number on the back of the card I gave you and either Leon or I will take care of it."

"Yes, ma'am." Mary's eyes filled with tears as she fingered the card. "Thank you so much."

"It's my pleasure, Mary. You won't be alone through this." Sammi pulled the stiff girl into a warm hug and smiled when her thin track-ridden arms went around her middle. "You're drug-free now and pretty soon, you'll have a beautiful son or daughter."

"And a new life?"

"Yes, a new life. Now get going. I want you to have something to eat and get some rest. Okay?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Sammi's cell phone rang and she flipped it open. "Sammi Glass."

"Sammi, that was fantastic! Where'd you find that girl?" It was her news director, Jacob Whiting.

"I can't reveal my sources, Jake. You should know better than that."

"Got her set up?"

"All put away and tied with a bow."

"Great job, Sammi."

"See you back at the office."

Sammi closed the phone, watching Leon pull away with the girl. Poor girl. She really had no idea what she was in for. Chambliss would do his best to either make her miscarry or kill her outright. There would be no payoffs from the Mayor's office. If she could survive the next two months, she would be rich. If she could survive.

The phone buzzed again in her hand and she thumbed it open again. "Sammi Glass."

"You like to play with fire, don't you, Miss Glass?"

"Who is this?"

"Let's just say that I'm a concerned party."

"What, should I call you Deep Throat?" She sighed deeply. "Goodbye."

"You don't want to hang up on me, Miss Glass."

"Why not, Deep Throat?"

"Because I can keep you from getting killed."

"Are you threatening me?"

"No. I just called to give you a friendly bit of advice."

"Somehow, advice from you doesn't sound friendly."

"Well, it is and if you're the smart girl that I think you are, you'll take it. Chambliss will stop at nothing to find that girl and if that means killing you, he'll do it."

"So what's your advice?"

"Give up the girl and save your life. She won't be harmed."

"No, just her baby."

"She'll be given money to compensate for the pregnancy."

"Nothing can compensate for the life of a child."

"Maybe not, but half a million dollars could soften the blow."

"Look, I don't know who you are but there's no way in hell that I'd give Mary to you. I don't know how you got my number, but make sure you lose it."

Sammi closed the phone and leaned against her car, taking a few deep breaths, shocked to discover that her hands were shaking. Very little got to Samantha Lynn Glassman. She had survived violence at the hands of her stepfather and she had witnessed the rape of her favorite aunt, Sarah. She'd fought off her stepbrother's advances and ignored it when he called her stupid. Instead, she'd thrown herself into her studies and had won a scholarship. And had never looked back.

A Bachelor of Science degree and a few years later, she was Sammi Glass, on-air talent for Channel 5. Her assignments often took her into drug-ruined neighborhoods and crack houses, which was where she'd found Mary living. She wasn't sure why, but the skinny little girl with the slightly rounded belly grabbed her heart. She'd taken her out of the house and using her own money, had checked Mary into a private rehab. Now, weeks later, she was clean and had her own place, looking forward to having her child. Now, Mary wasn't alone.

Sammi sighed. She wished she wasn't so lonely but maybe Mary could fill that empty space.

A high-pitched scream split the night air and Sammi whirled around, plastering herself to the side of her car, her heart pounding in fear. She was about to dial 911 when something smacked the cell phone out of her hand, lifting her off her feet and suspending her in the air.

"Not a good idea." The thing had a mouth and it spoke in low, raspy tones to her, flaming eyes blazing in the darkness of its shadow. She wanted to scream but the horror that pulsed through her didn't seem to reach her mouth and she certainly couldn't draw breath to give it a voice. "I don't require an audience. Do you?"

When his face breached the light, Sammi gasped. She had never seen such a beautiful man. His almond-shaped face was framed with wild dark gold curls and his dark, full lips were parted, two long canine teeth framing an otherwise perfect set. He leaned closer, the reddish light dying in his eyes but the true color remained hidden. She suddenly felt light-headed, lolling like a rag doll in his arms.

"What's a pretty morsel like you doing down here at night? It's not safe."

"I'm a reporter. I – I just finished a story."

"Well, you should get in your car and go home."

"I will." Sammi gasped, gazing into his eyes. "Who are you?"

Her scent was in his nostrils, a clean mixture of florals and dry cleaning solution from her suit. But the scent that caught and held his attention was coming from between her legs. She was becoming aroused by his nearness. That realization threw a deep pain into his middle, striking his vulnerability and he longed for the comfort of another's touch. It would be easy to take her, to lave her thick nipples with his tongue and to push himself into the sheath of her heated core. And to hear her whisper her name as they came together ... He licked his blood-covered lips and swiftly returned to reality, his bloodlust returning. He could not take her. Not now.

"Do not worry about who I am, Miss Glass. Get in your car and leave this dangerous place."

"Will I see you again?"

Her innocent question startled him for a moment. Her clear sargasso eyes locked onto his, dazed with his will and he sighed. Of course, she wouldn't feel this way when her head had cleared. The ability to manipulate humans was a boon in most situations but suddenly, Thorne wished he was just an ordinary mortal. "No."

"Why?" Sammi felt compelled to ask the question, though she wasn't quite sure why. Something about him pulled at her, making her want to be near him, to see him again, to hear his voice.

Try as he might, he could not keep his loneliness from bleeding into his voice. "Because I am not someone for you to know. Now go home."

Thorne slowly returned them to the ground and watched reporter Sammi Glass enter her sedan and drive away, wishing that his life could be different. She was certainly beautiful and his eyes had not missed the lush curves beneath her suit. Were circumstances different, he would have been pounding into her like a man possessed. Sighing in despair, he returned to the alleyway where he'd been before he'd seen the woman.

A long swath of dark blood traced the path of his prey, now pitifully trying to crawl to safety. There would be no safety this night. Bloodlust blazing in his eyes, Thorne Halsbury knelt, pulled the man's head up and violently severed his carotid artery, welcoming the warmth of the blood spilling on his lips. His senses buzzed with the man's vitality and he felt the man's mind cry out for his loved one and it angered him. He bit more deeply and the memories faded quickly, leaving only the still-pumping blood and the shell.

After a time, Thorne arose, his hunger sated but his mind raging with one word. Sammi.

* * * * *

Sammi Glass blinked her eyes several times and looked around. She recognized her house and her driveway but she couldn't figure out how she got there. She remembered the shoot and sending Mary off with Leon but driving home ... wait. There was a man. A handsome man with a mouth that she wanted to kiss ... she shook her head, unable to remember anything more and grabbing her purse and bag, she trudged up the path and let herself into the house.

She had an early call tomorrow so she bypassed the television and headed up the stairs, undressed and showered, pulling her robe on and brushing her shoulder-length hair. She almost screamed when she saw him sitting on her patio, his feet propped up on the small table. She went to the sliding glass door and gazed through its crystal pane, waiting for him to notice her.

"I'm sorry." The words echoed in her head. "I couldn't resist following ... to make sure that you were okay."

Confusion ruled Sammi's senses. She'd heard the words yet they sounded as if he was standing just behind her when she could see him sitting outside. "How did you do that?"

For the first time, she was able to see his eyes, a deep, seemingly fathomless shade of blue that defied description. A deep abiding twinge flew through her pussy and her nipples hardened to aching points, tenting the white silk of her robe. She watched as he stood, stretching more than six feet upward, his rangy body covered with black leather and a black leather duster draped over his broad shoulders. He strode over to the glass and smiled gently, making her feel as if warm butter was being poured over her.

"Yes, I'm okay." She answered audibly.

His smile widened slightly. "Good."

"Would you like to ... "

"No!" Her hand arrested its movement as she reached for the lock. "I do not wish to come in." He pressed his hand against the glass. "I can feel your heart beating. Do not be afraid of me. I don't wish to hurt you."

Sammi stepped closer, her senses stirred by his presence. She wanted to flip the lock and slide the glass aside. She wanted to feel his mouth on hers and his skin against hers. "Please. Tell me who you are."

"My name ... " His resolve failed him when her sensual thoughts slammed through him. His long unused cock throbbed in its leather confinement and he ached to release it. "My name is inconsequential."

"Why is that? You know my name, you know who I am. Why can't I know who you are?"

"Because ... " Thorne's mouth dried up as she placed her hand against him, willing the heat of her body through the glass. "Because nothing good will come of us."

"Why do you say that? How do you know until we try?" She had spoken the words but she didn't understand why she'd said them, why she felt so drawn to this handsome man. Maybe it was because they were kindred souls.

"We can't try, dear Sammi. I would only break your heart."

Her mouth nearly touched the glass. "Then break it."

Her whisper nearly brought Thorne to his knees. He could feel the heat of her body through the glass and the perfume of her arousal was intoxicating. He could imagine that her pussy was leaking juices down the insides of her creamy thighs, that she would whimper sweetly when his thick tongue slowly lapped them up. An involuntary moan escaped him before he could contain his feelings and he backed away, pain coloring his features.

"I can't, Sammi." He leapt easily onto the balcony's railing. "One day, you will thank me for it."

Sammi watched in horror as he stepped off the three-story balcony. She fought the urge to scream and opened the glass, dashing to the edge of the balcony and looking for him. The handsome man was no where to be found.

"I know you can hear me." She spoke softly to the wind. "Come back to me. Please, come back."

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