Excerpt from Madness and Magic

      She smiled secretively, remembering how he'd lifted her down from the carriage then swept her into his arms before carrying her to a clover glade. The feel of his hands in her hair sent shivers down her spine, while his voice sent shivers up it.
      "Have you never had a talk with your father about the birds and bees?" he asked casually.
      "Why, no, except to identify the different songs of one and the merits of honey from the other."
      "Then surely you've heard women sharing tales of childbirth and how they came to the miracle of giving life."
      "That's the sort of thing a mother shares with a daughter." Fingering the treasured locket, which was the last thing her mother had shared, Annabelle added, "And if women discuss such matters, they've never included me. Living on the farm with Pa, I haven't had much chance to hear private talk."
      "A farm... As a child, surely you saw animals mate?"
      "Well, I do recall a stallion prancing about and sniffing a mare's tail on the wagon train. But when I asked Mama why they were behaving so funny, she said the horses were being indecent and sent me to tend Lorna."
      "Perhaps you were too young to watch." He lifted her hair and brushed a tickling kiss to her neck. "But there's nothing indecent about mating, whether animal or man. God thought it all up, and if He wasn't embarrassed about the best way to procreate, then we have no reason to be embarrassed about discussing it." At that, she felt him slowly pull down the satin ribbon to her neck, which he caressed with a lingering stroke.
      His touch was so hypnotic, she was lulled into an enthralled silence as he proceeded with a matter-of-fact explanation that ended with, "And that's how babies are made."
      "It sounds very interesting. But a little disgusting."
      "Oh?" He pulled her closer, closer, until she was sitting on his lap. He arched his hips, and that thing that made babies nuzzled her most private place. "Do you find me disgusting?" he said, smooth as the blue satin ribbon.
      "I seem to stand corrected. What I'm feeling is far more interesting than that."
      "And what I'm feeling is too dangerous to describe. Off you go and up goes the hair. The sun will be setting soon, and it's past time I took you home."
      Annabelle realized that for the first time in seventeen years she hadn't taken notice of the sun's descent. Was it because she'd felt protected by him, despite the edge of darkness she felt in his shadow?
      Their second ride hadn't been quite as eventful, but it was filled with the absolute certainty she did love Heath.
      Her dreams didn't seem to realize that, however. They'd turned doubly horrible since she'd met him. The creatures still found her hiding place, but she no longer awakened with a cry of "Mama!" Instead, Heath had begun to appear, frightening away the hateful monsters, and then—Annabelle shuddered, but snorted at the folly of her nightmare. Dreams were just that, and the man she was in love with would no more save her so he might bathe in her blood than she would writhe in joyous pleasure beneath him while he did it. Heath was a good, gentle person and she hated her dreams for trying to convince her that the man who brought her sunshine would bring her doom.
      Indulgence #2
      A Drop of Ecstasy
      He was the darkness.
      So damn lonely in the darkness that he was. There was no crypt-mate to share the daylight slumber, no female creature to exchange love bites, to trade sips of wine-dark blood.
      Victor Jakes studied his image in the mirror as he shaved. He didn't look so different from anyone else... unless he smiled too broadly. It amused him that people believed his sort had no reflection—not that mortals, in their ignorance, believed such things as himself existed at all.
      The straight razor nicked Victor's eternally bronzed skin, which looked a bit peaked since he had yet to dine.
      "What a waste." He sighed, wishing for the lap of a woman creature's tongue to suck the crimson drops. Ecstasy, that's how it tasted. And felt. If humans only knew how scintillating the experience was they'd line up to offer their necks.
      Knowing he had to grab a bite before keeping his evening date, he drew on his powers of speed.
      He had to hunt quickly.
      She was opening her car door when he dropped soundlessly behind her. It was cruel to frighten a victim and he didn't care for an extra shot of adrenaline to season the taste of her sustenance, so he infiltrated her mind with a command.
      The woman slumped against her sedan and he pulled her against him.
      "So glad you could join me," he whispered into her ear. Victor brushed aside her long hair and exposed the tender length of neck.
      Her blood flowed into him in the sweetest undulation. She tasted of heart and life and loneliness.
      As much as he craved to devour each precious red drop, Victor slowed his sucking and denied himself the ultimate ecstasy while he gave it to her.
      She came to a shuddering release.
      He took delight in the tremors racking her unconscious body and allowed that much of the experience to slip between the ribbons of her brain…
      The latest issue of Fantasies hit Jake’s desk.
      "And just what is this?"
      Jake shrugged. "Looks like your magazine, Gino."
      "That's right, my magazine!" Gino's fist came down on the expanse of wood. "What the hell is going on here?”
      "I upscaled some of the material so we could pull in new readers.”
      "Screw new readers! Now you listen to me, Larson," he seethed. "There is no magazine without our subscribers who expect fantasies about fetishes, not stupid little ditties about vampires and dreams and kisses. Am I making myself clear?"
      "I understand, Gino." And indeed Jake did. He’d already acquired more pieces like “Ecstasy” from Val and come the next issue, he was out of a job.
      Slam! The room reverberated with the force of Gino's exit. Jake cringed. He could still see Val beaming when she'd presented her latest work to him at the table in her kitchen, where that silly little cupid with the broken wing had taken up residence. Hell, you'd think she couldn't write without it, she was so attached to the thing. As for himself, the figurine gave him the creeps. Not exactly the creeps since he didn't believe in curses or spells or any kind of hocus-pocus like that, but the cupid did give him a weird feeling for some reason…
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