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gravedigger_exlargeA little preview from the “Gravedigger” story of the vampire collection Frostbite (Nov. 15 Totally Bound VIP release date, Dec. 13 general release).

Felt like I was up to the Sunday Snog challenge this Sunday. Halloween may have passed, but I never get tired of a good gothic vampire story. If that gothic vampire story happens to be a winter Western as well…well, all the better.

Summary: Ivory, a Wild West whore of renown and an unrepentant vampire, has tried without success to create herself a mate. Obviously, something’s gone terribly wrong, and she suspects the interference of the pious gravedigger.

Fletch Conroy has been trained all his life to fight the forces of darkness through ritual and consecration. But after a rash of mysterious slasher deaths, Fletch decides it’s time for him to start hunting for the vampire responsible.

What he finds turns out to be more than he bargained for. And Ivory intends to take full advantage of that fact to show Fletch she’s not the monster he expects.

***

“Sorry, Miss Ivory, I have work to do,” Fletch said, inching back, and she took mercy on him. He’d get himself a wife or a whore—or both—one of these days. He certainly wasn’t one of those bachelors that had no use for carnal nonsense, if that bulge in his trousers was anything to go by.

“So do I,” Ivory replied. “Then I’ll see you soon.”

“Have a good…have a good night, Miss Ivory,” Fletch said, ducking past her.
As he passed her, she realized that the harsh metallic scent didn’t come from the iron fence. Over the scent of healthy human male, something came from Fletch that stung her nose like sniffing in the tips of needles.

On impulse, she grabbed his arm. His biceps were strong and firm, and she thought of all those hours of lifting, carrying and dragging the stone markers and the coffins and then digging into the winter-hard ground to bury the dead—and winter was a harsh mistress, taking her due as much as the sun of an unforgiving summer.

Everyone had access to the cemetery. Many people paid their respects at various times of the day or night because almost everybody had lost someone. But there were only a few members of this town who had handled the bodies of every single one of her kills besides her—the sheriff, the Reverend and the gravedigger. The Reverend was wicked as a hundred-dollar note—he wouldn’t have the means to use the old rituals. No loving God would listen to him. The sheriff was lean and angry and cared about the cold, hard law and facts of life. He didn’t believe in hokum like ghosts and witches and vampires. Also, he didn’t go out of his way to do anything himself if he could help it.

That left the man who’d put her chosen husbands in the ground, the ground that was now consecrated by a hand other than the good Reverend’s. And who else could have done it but this shy boy whose respect masked the repressed desires common to fervent believers, the people so sure they were doing good no matter who or what they hurt?

And that smell…

Ivory pulled him back in front of her. He complied easily enough, perhaps because she surprised him with the strength of her grip.

“Miss Ivory, I really shouldn’t…” he muttered, but he had to stop talking because she pressed her finger to his mouth. Then she ran the smooth, painted nail against his lower lip. His mouth fell open involuntarily, and he gasped warm breath against her finger.

“Free of charge, Fletch,” Ivory whispered. She only paid board—her clients were her food. She had a good stash of coins and notes where no one would dare look for them, so even if this investigation came to nothing, Ivory wouldn’t mind introducing Fletch to the ways of the world and women for nothing but the goodness of her heart and the firmness of his thighs. In fact, she thought as she trailed her finger down his chin and hooked under it to raise his eyes to hers, I hope it’s nothing. I’ve been wanting a taste of this for years.

It wasn’t corruption she sought to serve, although she knew that’s what the preachers railed against when they condemned scarlet women as servants of the devil. Ivory, like most vampires she’d known, enjoyed pleasure. She was an animal of the senses, a drop of blood as potent as a tongue against her collarbone, and she felt generous enough to return the favor to the humans around her, to make them feel more than just a fuck. For men like this, men that didn’t know the power of their own senses—or feared it—she just wanted to show them there was nothing to fear.

At least not from sex.

“I don’t think…” he started, but she lightly kissed the corner of his mouth, and his words dissolved into a sigh. She slid her hand across the line of his jaw. He kept himself meticulously smooth, and he scrubbed behind his ears like a city boy. But his hands were rough and calloused like every other working man of the town, and her skin sang underneath their warmth and texture as he cupped her elbows under her cloak. Good, large, capable hands.

She smiled against his mouth, then grasped the collar of his jacket and roughly pulled him down to kiss him properly. She angled her mouth to lick across his lower lip where she’d stroked him with her finger. It made him open for her again, and she slipped her tongue in to caress his. She was gentle but not demure, slow but not shy. She gave him little time to adjust to each new sensation, but instead plunged ahead at her steady pace and canted her hips against his to encourage the rising pillar of his sexual imagination to compel him closer.

Meaning she wanted him to start thinking with his cock—more straightforward than the heart and more reliable than the head when it came to letting a man just feel good.

And it worked. Any reservations he might have had crumbled under the weight of the self-denial and frustration he must have accrued over his lifetime, especially with a stick-up-his-ass father like Warner Conroy.

He wrapped his arms around her, enveloping her all at once and lifting her up to kiss her more thoroughly. He was a quick learner, Fletch was, and he swiftly won their mutually satisfactory battle for dominance. He was unpracticed, but he made up for it with unbridled enthusiasm and natural instincts, not to mention an instilled respect—however patronizing—for women, even ones of her station. An uncommon trait in a common-law world.

There was something to be said for a man with a code who was devoted to his work. If a woman could break past the barriers, he could apply that same single-minded devotion upon her.

Fletch startled a gasp from Ivory when he bit her lip, then sucked at the plumped flesh before taking her mouth once again. She wrapped an arm around his neck and hummed in pleasure. God, if he was like this just with his mouth, she’d pay him just to learn what the rest of it would be like.