“Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a song.”
Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson
He was referring, of course, to the sweetest land deal of the millennium when the United States signed the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in Paris, acquiring 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi for roughly 4 cents per acre. The American negotiators were authorized to pay France up to $10 million for the port of New Orleans and the Floridas, but when they were offered the entire territory of Louisiana—an area bigger than Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined—at $15 million, they jumped at it.
But not everyone was happy about it. The Spaniards were outraged, having held Louisiana for two generations only to have it sold out from under them. The saucy-tempered Creoles of French-Spanish blood were offended by the influx of brash Americans into their territory. And admitting a new slave territory to the delicate balance established in the country touched off anger from the Americans, some of whom thought slavery immoral and those who thought there were already too many black people in North America.
Into this hotbed of hostilities and the sultry air of New Orleans comes Prudence Hightower.
As a fledgling vampire Pru feels her humanity slowly slipping away. The only thing that can save her is love. Not the tainted love offered by Nicholas, her vampire lover from BLOOD RHAPSODY, Book I in the Soul Searchers Series, but the love of a mortal man—the pirate Stede Bonham. But Stede’s happy-go-lucky nature hides a secret that threatens to destroy Pru’s faith in love as surely as her mortality was destroyed by Nicholas.
As the French tricolor is lowered and the red-white-and-blue is raised and tempers flare between old world Creoles and fortune-seeking Americans, Pru’s path crosses with an ancient witch inhabiting the body of a powerful voodoo queen. Can Pru trick the witch into chanting the spell that will restore her mortal soul? Will a voodoo love potion win Stede’s love?
From the mud-filled streets of New Orleans, to the steamy bayou throbbing with voodoo drums, to the pirate stronghold of Barataria, Pru follows a tempestuous path into the heart of darkness and a love-hate relationship with the vampire who will never let her go.
Here’s an excerpt from TAINTED LOVE.
“I knew you would come.”
His voice, that sweet, spellbinding voice, though barely a whisper, was filled with the arrogance that was so much a part of him. All the old feelings of contempt and disdain came rushing back to her.
“How did you know I was in New Orleans?” she asked, not bothering to hide her scorn.
“I merely followed the trail of bloodless corpses.” He rose, removed the instrument from its endpin, and placed it carefully in its velvet-lined case. “I must say, Prudence, you’re not very neat about it, are you?”
She turned her face away from those green eyes that glowed out of the darkness like emerald beacons and held the power to mesmerize, and said flippantly, “I am what you made me.”
“I didn’t make you to be so sloppy about it.”
“I’m not here to discuss my feeding habits with you.”
“Why are you here?”
“I want to know why you followed me to America.”
“Oh, now Prudence, self-flattery is so unbecoming.”
She detested that mocking tone. “All right, if you didn’t follow me, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been here quite often these past few decades. The Americans were fighting their war for independence, or perhaps you were too busy cavorting about the globe to notice. The pickings were wonderful. Who was to notice another dead colonial when they were all over the place anyway? And, of course, there were all those redcoats running around. I do so love the taste of English blood.”
He said this with a devious smile that would have made the color drain from her face were she not already so pale. “You’ll never have a taste of my English blood again,” she spat.
“Again you flatter yourself. What makes you think I want it?”
“Because I recognize that look in your eyes.”
He floated toward her. “Yes,” he said, looking strongly into her eyes, “I do hunger for you. That much has not changed in all these years. When I saw you in Paris, looking so beautiful beneath the lamplight, I had all I could do to restrain myself. Everything about you thrills me. Even your disdain for me. It used to be your innocence that I found so compelling. Now it is your self-assuredness, your pluck, your treachery that draws me to you.”
“Do you forget that I tried to kill you for what you did to me?”
“That’s something one does not forget.”
“Or that I would try again?”
“Even that does not deter me. You are my creation, Prudence. You are mine.”
“I will never be yours.”
“And if I were to take you right here and now on the floor the way we did it in the garret room in my house in Hanover Square?”
The heat rose to her face, flushing it with momentary color before receding and returning it to its deathlike pallor.
“There is my answer,” he said arrogantly.
Her guard went up against the danger of his kiss and the threat of what his touch could do to her. She stiffened and turned quickly away. “Don’t touch me.”
“What will your pirate think, I wonder, when he finds out you are not as innocent as you appear?”
Pru gasped. She whirled back around and came forward in a rush, and in a voice angry and threatening, she warned, “Stay away from him.”
“Pirate’s blood doesn’t interest me,” he scoffed. “Not when there is so much sweeter Creole blood around for the taking. But what about you, Prudence? Are you so sure you can resist the temptation to drink from your pirate’s throat?”
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“Of course not,” he said, amused. “You will fornicate with him first. Well, that’s understandable. I would be a fool to think you would remain celibate forever.”
“I’ll do more than that with him.” Her voice held a hint of dangerous expectation.
He raised a dark, questioning brow, but even he was not prepared for her answer.
“I will fall in love with him.”
A familiar look flashed through his eyes, not of petulant danger, but of a wounded animal. It was the kind of distressed confusion she’d seen before, reminding her that beneath the impenetrable exterior of the vampire lurked a human vulnerability.
He turned his face aside to hide it. “Why would you want to fall in love with a common pirate?”
“He is easy to fall in love with. He is kind and gentle and generous. He has an agreeable nature. And he is oh so good looking.”
“What will it be like for you, watching him grow old and die? That’s what will happen, you know. There can never be any future for you with him, or with any mortal man.”
“Future?” she cried. “What future is there for me now? You robbed me of whatever future I might have had. I might have married. I might have had children. A family of my own. Now there is nothing for me.”
He reached for her in a swift, undetectable motion and pulled her hard against him. “There is me. There will always be me.”
He brought his mouth down on hers in a kiss that defied all logic, reminding her with the power of his lips the undeniable fact that they were alike. The same bloodlust drove them. The same hunger for carnal pleasure.
She pulled her mouth from his. “Let go of me!” Pushing herself away with a mighty shove, she backed away from him and started for the door. “I’m tired of hating you.”
He moved silently and swiftly to block her path. “Then stop.”
“I have no reason to stop. I am reminded of how much I hate you every time I see a happy couple walking arm in arm, every time the grit of soil disturbs my sleep, every time I am unable to preen before a mirror as all women like to do because there is no reflection.”
She paused with her hands on the French doors and looked at him. He stood there looking dejected, his mouth sulky, his eyes concealed beneath a sweep of dark lashes. But she knew him well enough to know there was much more going on inside of him. He was hurt. But she refused to be swayed by the pain she saw in his eyes. He was, after all, such a clever manipulator.
Pushing past the telltale weakness, she hissed, “I shall hate you until the day I die. Oh, that’s right, I can’t die, can I?”
TAINTED LOVE is available at these e-tailers:
Also available in print at CreateSpace