When hotel owner Mélanie Laurent receives a black rose from a would-be suitor, she can’t afford to ignore it. Her adversary doesn’t just want her—he wants L’Hôtel Roseraie and the rest of her holdings. To reach his goals, he’s willing to do anything, even involve humans in what should be vampire business. To win, Mélanie must defeat her rival at his own game.
Justin Garvey knows Mélanie isn’t what she seems. That belief is confirmed when he learns she is a vampire. When his assistant is murdered by Mélanie’s adversary, Justin vows to get revenge—a vow that brings him further into the vampire world. Justin and Mélanie discover that they make great partners . . . but to succeed, they must risk everything.
“Something’s wrong.” Mélanie tilted her head to pin down what it was.
“Besides Dean?” Simone asked.
“It’s not about Dean. Not yet.” But something niggled at her. She scanned the room, looking for the possible source of her unease. L’Hôtel Roseraie was business as usual, with a number of hotel guests socializing in the bar. A few local business owners often held meetings in other sections of the hotel; they would trickle into the nightclub once the day was done. In short, everything was just as it should be.
“Bah.” She walked to a table, intent on greeting her guests and ignoring the something—whatever it was—that was intent on unsettling her.
Within seconds, something entered the bar in the form of Justin Garvey. Mince alors, the man was handsome—attractive in every sense of the word. She drank in his delicious appearance with a glance—dark blond hair, blue eyes, rugged features, and a tall, solid build. He wore loose black trousers and a striped dress shirt with its cuffs rolled up to his elbows. In another time and place, he would look at home with castles and kings.
He set off every alarm in her feminine warning system.
“Would that be the problem?” Simone sounded amused.
“Hush.” The man might put all her senses at high alert, but that wouldn’t keep her from moving in. She’d been drawn to him ever since she’d seen him yesterday. She was surprised he was taking her up on a drink—especially this soon. But he was here, and she didn’t care why.
Warning system? She scoffed in the face of warnings.
Her feet moved her forward without thought. She knew the moment he was aware of her presence—he stilled and spun to face her.
“Such formality.” She stopped within two feet of him. “I’d hoped you would call me Mélanie.”
He nodded but seemed to be staring past her. Though Mélanie was accustomed to the stares of people who had never entered her hotel, Justin’s gaze was everywhere, never settling in one place.
She touched his arm. “Is something wrong?”
He turned, his eyes filled with so much emotion she nearly stumbled. This wasn’t the calm, controlled man she’d met yesterday. This was a man who was feeling…just what, she wasn’t sure.
“You invited me to stop by.”
“Yes, I did.” He had avoided answering her question. It was skillfully done, but she’d lived too long to be so easily dissuaded. Still, she could bide her time. “Would you like a tour?”
“Sure. Let’s start with the bar.” Justin didn’t know what the hell he was doing here. Yesterday he’d been attracted to her. Today he simply wanted to resolve the questions he couldn’t dispel. He’d come here for answers. Instead, he found himself taking a tour of the hotel. He was charmed by it, sure.
And by the woman who owned it.
“Seems like a busy place.” He drank his whiskey, a blended whiskey he hadn’t enjoyed before.
She smiled, a slow, sultry smile that packed a punch. “Yes. You should be in the club at midnight. That’s when the party truly begins.”
“A popular nighttime spot, then.” He didn’t doubt it. The surroundings were elegant, opulent.
Designed for seduction.
“You have no idea.” Her smile widened. “Follow me.” She headed for a back door.
“Where?” He stayed one step behind her.
She glanced at him over her shoulder. “A place many people don’t get to see.” She took his hand and squeezed it before letting it drop. “Trust me.”
Trust wasn’t the word for what he was feeling. But he followed her through the door and up a long set of stairs.
Mélanie opened the door and beckoned him.
Again, he followed her.
They stood on a walkway that overlooked the night club. She waved a hand over the railing. “At this time of night, the club is a simple diversion for people who want a little decadence before they return to their safe lives.” She paused. “At midnight, it is alive with people. You should see it.” She turned to him, her face as alive as the club she praised.
He turned his gaze to the club, to the small clusters of people and couples that sat on the sidelines. He imagined how a place such as this would look when it was packed with people. He could almost see it, spilling over with lust, life, and emotion. “Remarkable.”
His gaze caught on a dancing couple. The woman looked entranced by her dance partner, who led her off the dance floor into an alcove.
“I thought you’d enjoy the view.”
His gaze shot to hers. Oh, she was good at verbal sparring. On one level, he appreciated it. On another…he just wanted to know who she was and whether she had had anything to do with Anita’s death. He watched the growing crowd of revelers. “Do you join in the party?”
“Are you tempted tonight?”
“Yes.” Her eyes turned a smoky gray hue as she stared at him. “But I don’t believe we are speaking of the same thing.”
Battle is part of Cobblestone Press’s Vampire Oracle series. I was intrigued by the cover the minute I saw it, and Mélanie immediately came to undead life. She is smart, sophisticated . . . and a little lonely. She meets her match in Justin, a man whose goodness and humor is irresistible.