A couple of notes first, in anticipation of questions!
- This project has been a long, long time coming – it’ll probably be published before the month is out.
- Coveted will be a novella, just like Haunted was a novella – 30k words of the story I wanted to tell.
- The plan is a trilogy. I do not know when the third book will come out.
- If you’re going back to reread Haunted, please note that the most updated version (2018) has some content changes – notably, the complete removal of the person mentioned as Ancelin’s hero. He’s still her hero in Coveted, but as it was written four years ago when i had no intention of revisiting, there wasn’t a story there that I wanted to write in 2019. So I changed it. The changes do *not* effect Aram and Khalida’s story at all.
- If you have the paperback of Haunted, or purchased it after August 2018, you have the final version of that story.
- If you’ve never read Haunted, you can find it here.
- Please enjoy! Leave a comment, share with a friend, all that!
That was tonight’s choice of deadly sin – one I was relegated to observe, but not indulge. The ballroom had been transformed, from a venue for spelling bees, motivational speaking, and the committing of vows to one draped in black silk, the air thick with arousal.
It was just a party.
A very sexy party, but still just a party.
One it was time for me to leave.
I’d done the body shots, watched the burlesque show, declined the invitations to the hotel rooms, been groped by too many strangers to count. Five years ago – hell, two years ago – I’d have considered a party like this a great night.
Now… I couldn’t get my phone out to order a ride fast enough.
I should’ve been at home anyway, resting for my show the next night, not partying and drinking. But my friend had invited me, because she was hosting this party, and friends were a hard thing to come by for me. So when Mara started asking if I wanted to grab smoothies after the yoga class where we met, or wanted me to help her decide to swipe left or right, or invited me to these killer parties she hosted in the hotel next to the Onyx, where I worked… I went along with it.
It was way past my bedtime though.
I didn’t bother exchanging goodbyes with Mara – she was busy, and I didn’t want to get talked into staying longer anyway. I made my way through the crowd, slipping out the doors into the relative quiet of the hotel lobby. My feet didn’t stop there – I kept moving until I was at the front doors, and stepped out into the crisp winter air.
My legs were warm in my thigh-high boots, but the chill took full advantage of the inches between where the boots stopped and my sweater dress started, whipping through the thin fabric of my tights like it wasn’t there. It was cold. Too cold for me to be standing outside in it, but I braved it anyway, for the sake of sucking fresh, smoke-free air into my lungs.
“Need a ride?”
“Shit!” I cursed under my breath, startled by the sudden presence of someone else. I took a step away as I turned, facing a man who must’ve come from the hotel, because there hadn’t been anyone on the street.
He was taller than me, with lightly toasted brown skin and hazel eyes, and chiseled features that were right up my alley. He was dressed appropriately for the weather, in a gray wool pea coat and scarf, and a hat protecting his head. Those hazel eyes bored into me, intense as hell for no reason… at least not one I could discern.
“No,” I answered. “And you shouldn’t sneak up on people like that – makes you look like a creep.”
He put a leather-gloved hand to his chest, bending into the slightest of bows. “My apologies, I didn’t mean to startle you. You shouldn’t be out here alone though. Are you sure I can’t take you somewhere?”
His gaze slid over my body as he stepped closer, and I stepped back, toward the hotel doors. “Yes, I’m sure. My ride should be pulling up any second.”
“Of course,” he nodded. “Probably would’ve been safer to wait inside though, right? Beautiful woman like you… practically a creep magnet.”
My eyes narrowed, and my hand slipped into my purse. “A beautiful woman like me will put a nice fatal wound in any creeps that find themselves unable to resist the allure.”
A smirk spread over his lips as he lifted his hands to feign harmlessness, and stepped back. “Message received.”
“Good,” I told him, too unnerved by something sinister in those pretty hazel eyes to take my hand off the pepper spray in my bag, or take my gaze off him.
I expected him to move along, but he didn’t.
Expected him to look away, but he didn’t.
He stay right there, only a few feet separating us, that smirk wrapping around me like a boa constrictor, tighter and tighter, making it hard to breathe.
The hum of a car engine pulling up to the curb drew my gaze away, to the dark gray SUV I’d been waiting for. As I watched, the passenger window rolled down, and the man behind the steering wheel ducked his head to peer at me.
I nodded, and reached for the door handle before I glanced back to give the creepy motherfucker from the hotel one last dirty look.
But he wasn’t there.
For some reason, his sudden absence was even more unsettling than his presence had been, sending a cold tremble of dread down my spine. Before I could think about it too hard, I pulled the door open, sinking safely into the warmth of the buttery leather interior.