Cover Playing with Matches
 
a Fangly, My Dear novella by Mardi Ballou

Here’s an excerpt. Enjoy!

Tanith liked the sound of Gabe Morrow’s voice. Deep, husky. The woman she’d spoken to at Fangly, My Dear had warned Tanith that male vampires were in short supply, so she was lucky to be matched with one so quickly. It seemed women from all groups rated them the best lovers. Tanith’s face grew warm as her imagination wandered.

She’d have one date with Gabe Morrow and majorly hot sex, after which she’d be able to get vampires out of her system. Geez, what was with her tonight? Making wild assumptions had never been her style. What if Gabe of the gorgeous voice turned out to look like Nosferatu? Short, stoop-shouldered, beak-nosed, weird. Smelling bad. That would sure get her over vampires pronto. But if his looks matched his voice, she could well imagine herself ending up in the sack with him.

Not that she was the one-night-stand type, she reminded herself as she chose her outfit. But tonight was going to be an exception to her usual rules. Black leather skirt, black fuck-me heels, black sweater. Tanith put on full makeup, wiped half of it off, threw some more on.

On the chance they’d be coming back to her condo, she did a fast run through, straightening the worst of the mess. Realizing her Cinderella and the Prince linens would probably be a mood breaker, she rummaged for the black silk sheets she hadn’t used since her last boyfriend took off. She smoothed them on and put a few candles on the night table and bureau.

With a yelp, she realized she’d be late if she didn’t move her tail. They’d agreed to meet at a jazz club downtown. More nervous than she’d been since her first junior-high dance, she called a cab and rushed off into the night.

* * * * *

The moment Gabe saw Tanith walk into the club, lightning struck. He had no doubt the fox who’d just come in and was snagging all the masculine attention was his date. Blonde. Big green eyes, big breasts, long legs. A walk that highlighted all her womanly assets. His dick sprang out of hibernation and reminded Gabe how much was at stake. He winced at the image of a stake and pushed it away. Thank you, universe—and Fangly, My Dear.

The club was dark and crowded. The musicians kept up a stream of mellow jazz, nothing too challenging or lively. Conversations buzzed in counterpoint to the music, and the smell of booze nearly saturated the stale air. Gabe watched Tanith confer with the host. He crossed the room and held out his hand to her. “You must be Tanith.”

Her eyes widened with a momentary flash of surprise before she composed her face to neutral. Like everything else about her, that coolness turned him on. “Gabe?”

He nodded. She took his hand with a stronger grip than he expected. “How did you know it was me?” Her voice aroused him as much as her looks.

“A beautiful face that matches your beautiful voice on the phone.”

She rolled her eyes. “You actually get anywhere with lines like that?”

“It’s the first time I’ve tried it.” He steered her to his booth and they both sat. “You’re saying it’s not effective?”

Her laugh resonated through his body.

“So what are you drinking?” His fangs throbbed for the only drink he wanted.

“White wine.”

He signaled a server and placed the order.

“Can I refresh that for you?” The server pointed at Gabe’s untouched, flat and insipid-looking beer.

“Sure.”

Gabe hadn’t yet decided how much to tell her about his own background. He figured he’d wait to make that decision until he knew her better. After the server left, he asked Tanith first-date questions. “So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a joint like this?”

She chuckled. “I’m asking myself that same question. You come here often?”

So she was going to match him cliché for cliché. “My first time. But if I’d known great ladies like you hang out here, I’d have come years before.”

The server’s arrival saved them from exchanging astrological signs. They toasted each other. Though, since his transformation, beer tasted like used dishwater, he sipped some to be companionable.

“The folks at Fangly, My Dear said you’re a cop here in San Francisco,” he started.

Looking him straight in the eye, Tanith proudly announced, “Been on the force for eight years and just made detective.”

A detective. Please, let her not be one of the corrupt ones he and Tom had been investigating. “Uh, you know I’m a vampire, right?”

Her gorgeous mouth twisted into a scowl. “Yes. I requested a date with a vampire.” She took a long sip of her wine.

“You did? I guess that surprises me. I know some police officers don’t look kindly on our mixing with humans.” Duh, smooth move.

“That’s an individual choice, not part of our credo. For my private life, I make my own choices.”

“I see.” He loved the way her eyes flashed when she put him in his place. How would those eyes look when they made love? His dick practically sat up and begged. He crossed his legs.

“Did you choose to date a human?” Her voice held a challenging note.

He shrugged, nonchalantly, he hoped. “Not specifically. I’m pretty open.”

“Have you dated many vampires?” She finished her wine and he signaled the server to bring more.

“None.”

One beautifully arched brow rose. “How come?”

“I haven’t been a vampire all that long.”

“Oh? Tell me about what you did before and what happened to you to. . .to make you a vampire.”

Shit. Some day he’d learn to think before he spoke. “I’d prefer for tonight to be all about you.” From her smile, he figured he’d just bought some time.

“Most guys only want to talk about themselves.”

“I’m not most guys. I want to hear about you.”

She motioned dismissively. “Not a whole lot to tell. As I said, I’m a cop. Native San Franciscan. Family’s gone. No time for hobbies. I relax by going to the gym or curling up with a good book.”

“Really? I’d think a job like yours would be so physical, you wouldn’t need a gym.”

“You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Any exercise I get on the job is strictly unplanned. And I need regular workouts to keep me happy.”

“Not to mention in incredible shape.” When he looked deep in her eyes and did the vampire hypnotic thing Antoine Thierry claimed was foolproof, he could feel her warming to him. He took her hand in his and dropped a kiss on her long fingers. At the mere contact, his whole body shifted into an urgent plea for release.

* * * * *

Talk about being a sucker—funny word to pop into her mind with Gabe Morrow seated across from her. With his pitch-black hair worn on the longish side, chocolate brown eyes and even features, he reminded her of a cross between Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. As if his looks weren’t enough, she melted into a puddle of feminine desire at the brush of his lips on her hand.

Heck, she’d always loved seeing men kiss women’s hands. The men from Poland, her family’s ancestral homeland, traditionally used this form of greeting. Experiencing it from a guy like Gabe Morrow, who could have been a movie star Dracula of the modern, hot kind—definitely not the Nosferatu kind—had her panties moist and her clit throbbing. He smiled, and her defenses crumbled. On the heat meter, he’d hit a perfect ten. She was so turned on she didn’t know if she’d be able to stand up and walk.

He opened his mouth and she caught a sexy glimpse of fang. Did this mean she turned him on? So much to learn about the amazing creature staring at her from across a very small table. Was his penis hard too? Did the fangs and cock work together in real life the way they did in the novels she devoured? She was trying to shake free of the images these words conjured when he said, “How about we go somewhere more private?”

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© 2008 Mardi Ballou