This week, my guest blogger is the lovely Amanda J Greene, and she’s here to tell you all about Caressed by Moonlight, the first book in her Rulers of Darkness series!
Here’s a juicy excerpt from this paranormal romance…
“What did I tell you?” Lana smirked as she pulled Victoria away from her mob of admirers. She had been the center of attention since she walked through the door. Men crowded around her and argued over which one would dance with her next. Her feet ached from their clumsy feet and her ears rang from their boisterous voices.
“I told you that your age would not matter, nor your lack of a fortune.”
“Indeed, you did,” Victoria whispered back.
“And these girls certainly pale in comparison to you,” Lana went on. “You look ravishing and I’m confident that all the men here will agree with me.”
“I had not expected to have so many suitors. How am I to choose?”
“Well, all I can say is that every girl here is jealous of you. No woman has ever had so many men after her at one time.”
“I feel like a fox in a fox hunt.”
“Yes, and they are the hounds,” Lana said as she glanced back at the group of men watching them walk away. “But you needn’t pick one just yet, there are more parties to attend, more men to meet. London has a pool of young bachelors ripe for the picking.”
“You make them sound like fruit,” Victoria laughed.
“And when you hear them talking about us they make us sound like brood mares waiting to be bred.”
The girls’ giggles vibrated through the room, turning curious heads. They smothered their smiles and slipped from the ballroom to the hall.
“So,” Lana began once she got her giggles under control, “have any of them caught your fancy yet? I noticed some very handsome gentlemen surrounding you. Would you like to add any of them to the list we made this morning?”
“Just about every one of them in that group,” she glanced over her shoulder, “are too young for me.”
“Too young, my foot.”
“If you haven’t noticed, Lana, all the older and more mature men are in the card room. Those that are in the ballroom have kept their distance. They must be intimidated by all the young blood.”
Lana glanced across the hall at the smoky room. “Those men are no fun.”
“Exactly, they are more serious. If I told them my predicament they would be more apt to understand than those featherweights parading themselves out on the dance floor.”
“So, you don’t want some jack-a-dandy. That makes sense,” Lana said with a shrug. “I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t want my husband chasing after light skirts all the time either, but the men in the card room have perfected the game of seductions like an art form. They know how to twist a woman’s heart.”
“Scandal is more than likely attached to their names, but I also think they would find a marriage in name-only more suitable.”
“That is a very good point if you don’t plan on having any children,” Lana added.
“I could marry a man who already has children.”
“Miss Richmond!” a woman called, waving her handkerchief in the air.
Lana groaned as she smoothed her dress and rolled her eyes.
“We have been spotted,” she whispered.
“Tabitha Wisten and her mother, the two worst gossips in all of England,” Lana said. “They probably want an introduction to the woman who has been turning all the young men’s heads. Be careful,” she warned, “they may pounce on any word you say.”
“Here you are. I have been looking all over for you. Have you been hiding from me all night?” Miss Tabitha Winsten said with a smile.
“No, of course not,” Lana lied. She had deliberately stepped from Tabitha’s view every chance she got.
“I see that you are being quite rude, Miss Richmond,” Lady Wisten noted, her eyes pinned on Victoria. “Will you please introduce us to your friend?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. Lady Wisten and Miss Wisten, allow me to introduce, Miss Kingston.”
“Kingston? That name sounds very familiar.”
“Of course it does, Miss Wisten, we just read about Lord Kingston’s death in the paper,” the mother said. “I’m sorry about your parents, it must be hard.”
“Yes, it was hard,” Victoria agreed, ignoring the woman’s insincere tone.
“Are your son and husband in attendance this evening?” Lana asked, changing the subject. She knew that if she did not interfere, Lady Wisten and her bitch of a daughter would rip into Victoria like a sack of grain.
“Garry is in the card room with my husband. Is any of your family here?”
“My mother,” Lana replied.
“I trust she is in good health?” Lady Wisten asked, her eyes still fixed on Victoria who returned her stare.
“Yes, my mother is always in excellent health, thank you.”
“And your aunt, Miss Kingston, is she well? I am afraid I have not seen much of her recently.”
“She seemed in perfect health when I arrived.”
“And when was that?”
“Don’t you think attending a ball so soon after your parents’ deaths is inappropriate? I would―”
“Oh, mother,” Miss Winsten interjected. “Did you see who just arrived?”
The Wisten women craned their necks as they peered down the hall to the front door.
“What is he doing here?” Lady Wisten asked.
“Thank god. They have someone else to talk about now. Watch these gossipers go,” Lana whispered in Victoria’s ear.
“He has not accepted an invitation to a social gathering in almost two weeks.”
“No doubt he’s been entertaining himself with all the ladies that threw themselves at him at the last ball he attended,” Lady Wisten grunted. “I heard the widow, Lady Tillman, was spotted leaving his home the other day and just this morning, three gypsy women departed from his front door. One can only imagine the sinful things that are taking place in that fine house.”
“Or perhaps he did not like any of the other hosts,” Victoria suggested. She had no clue as about whom they were speaking, but she could not resist the urge to ruffle their feathers.
The two Wisten women cast irritated glares at her and returned to their chatting.
“I heard that Sir Rowel’s wife was seen leaving his home as well.”
“Do you think he even received an invitation? Lady Allen normally doesn’t approve of his type,” Miss Wisten pointed out.
“My dear, his type does not need an invitation and Lady Allen will probably be ecstatic that he has graced her overstuffed ball with his presence.”
“His type?” Victoria asked Lana in a whisper.
“I can’t see the man, but I assume they are talking about Prince Dorian Vlakhos. He is rumored to a prince from some far-off country near Russia. He arrived about a month ago and quickly became the talk of the ton. Women flock to him every time he enters a room and, according to the gossip mill, he has sampled his fair share of ladies this season. Despite the rumors of his love making skills, he remains quite a mystery.”
“Well, he won’t stay a mystery for too long with those two around.” Lana smiled and they turned their ears back to the gossips.
“Have you heard about Prince Dorian, Miss Kingston?” Miss Wisten asked.
“A little,” she answered, glancing toward Lana.
“He is the most eligible bachelor this season, extremely rich and titled,” Lady Wisten stated.
“But he is a rake,” Miss Wisten added, “and it is just sinful the way women flaunt themselves before him.”
“He is very handsome,” Lana admitted simply.
Mother and daughter gasped at her forwardness and Victoria bit her lip trying not to laugh.
“I wonder how many hearts he will conquer tonight?” Miss Wisten said. “It seems that the second he enters a room all the young girls fall in love with him.”
“He will conquer plenty I fear. You two,” Lady Wisten snatched up both Victoria and Lana’s hands, “should be careful. He will try to steal your hearts I’m sure. Don’t fall for his sugared words or his sinful smiles. He is a devil, that boy, and he will lead you straight to ruin.”
“Being ruined by him wouldn’t be so horrible,” Lana whispered.
“What was that?” Lady Wisten said.
“Your advice will be heeded.”
“Good,” she released the girl’s hands and once again fixed her eyes on Victoria. “I’m sure the last thing your parents would have wanted is for you to be swimming in scandal.”
“I full-heartedly agree,” Victoria said.
“Your mother caused enough trouble for your family, you needn’t add to it.”
Victoria opened her mouth, a deadly insult ready on her tongue, but Lana pinched her arm in warning. Victoria glared at her friend.
“It is awfully warm in here. Lady Allen really should cut her guest list,” Lana said as she tugged on the back of Victoria’s dress.
“Yes,” Victoria agreed, fanning herself with her hand.
“Champagne may cool us off.”
“I could certainly use a drink,” Victoria mumbled under her breath before she turned and stomped into the ballroom, leaving Lana behind to excuse them.
She snatched up a glass of champagne but did not stop. She smiled to a few of the men at the refreshment table and continued on into the night. To Victoria, the cool air was refreshing and a blessing. It was hot beyond belief in that crowded room and her rising temper was no help at all. Lady Wisten’s words stung. She would not be surprised if the lady and her aunt were best friends. Their opinion of her dear, late mother was the same.
Dorian despised parties. He hated the young girls fighting for his attention and he hated the jealous men. But he could not serve his Clan if he wasn’t seen. He had to mingle with society if he was to draw the attention of the hunters away from his family.
Women smiled at him, fluttered their lashes, and even winked at him as he made his way through the room. Some were even bolder. They pressed against him and quickly whispered their names and addresses in his ear. It was the same everywhere he went. Even when he had been human, women would beg for him to take them to his bed.
Ever since it got out that Lady Tillman had paid him a strictly social visit, he was now the talk of the ton. He had been interested in renting one of her properties to stable his horses and, naturally, the bored, twisted minds of the aristocracy would have to distort it into an afternoon tryst. Whoever had spread the gossip must have completely forgotten that Lady Tillman had entered and departed his home in the presence of her full-grown nephew, who had taken over her financial affairs since the passing of her husband.
There was no possible way he could not deny that he had taken lovers within the last month but he preferred his own kind. Humans could be so fragile. His few tumbles had been with vampires and those very talented gypsy women.
Dorian shook hands with a few of the men and exchanged pleasant words with a few of the more respectable ladies before he dashed outside. He took in a deep breath of the fresh night air and spared a glance up at the moon. The sky was not as clear as it was back home and he found it irritating. The one thing that had ever given him peace was the brilliant shine of the moon.
“It isn’t as clear as the country.”
“The sky. It is clearer in the country,” Victoria said as she stepped from the shadows of the trees.
The man turned to face her and she gasped as if she had been struck. He was tall, taller than any man she had ever seen, muscled and thick. Strands of deep brown hair fell across his angelic yet masculine face, her fingers twitched with the desire to brush them away from his magnificent eyes. Those fathoms of blue were like the sea after a tremendous storm, piercing, penetrating, and exotic. His jaw was straight and square, his lips thin and alluring. He was absolutely beautiful, in a dangerous, very masculine way.
“Yes.” Dorian’s delicious lips turned up in a smile.
His husky voice moved over her skin like a caress, her entire body was aflame as his smoldering gaze that roamed over her, leaving nothing untouched.
Dorian was swept away by this young woman’s beauty. She looked like an ancient goddess. Her nearly black hair sat in tight ringlets atop her head. He could see every detail of her face in the moonlight. Her deep, green eyes framed with long, flirting lashes, her slim nose, perfectly molded cheekbones, and lush lips that would tempt any man. His eyes slowly moved down the length of her bare neck, over her slender shoulders, and paused for the briefest of moments on her full breasts then continued their journey across her waist and hips, all the way down to the hem of her gown.
Victoria shook her head trying to remember why it was she had come outside. She commanded herself to think and forced the thick, sensual haze from her mind. She turned her eyes back to the man and found that his had never once left her. The way he studied her was beginning to grow irksome and she had the sudden desire to slap that satisfied smirk off his face.
“I do believe you are staring, sir.”
“I am,” he said, his smile widening. And he wasn’t finished. He looked her over once more, much to Victoria’s aggravation. “Do you belong to anyone?” he asked.
“I don’t believe that is any of your business.”
“Ah, no one?” he said, his interest rising.
“That is not what I said.”
“And why is it that such a beautiful woman belongs to no one?”
“I’m not married or engaged,” she stated then snapped her mouth shut. She should not have given this seductive man that information. In his hands the knowledge could be dangerous.
“I concluded that, but surely your parents…”
Victoria tilted her chin up. “My parents have recently passed away.”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, his smile gone.
“Why should you be? You didn’t know them,” she stated, fighting the tears that threatened to fall. Now was not the time to cry, not in front of him, even if she had the desperate desire to feel his strong arms around her.
“The little kitten has claws,” Dorian said intrigued. “I like that.”
She laughed. It was a warm sound that made him want to kiss those rich lips of hers.
“You are trying to make me blush, but it won’t work. I’ve dealt with men like you before.”
It was Dorian’s turn to laugh now. She had never dealt with anyone like him. He was no ordinary man. He was a vampire king.
“Men like me, kitten?” he asked when he had finally gained control of his laughter.
“Yes,” she said with a nod, her irritation growing. He had laughed at her. Did he think she was a young naïve chit who knew nothing of men and their ways?
“You are the rakish type whose only talent is seducing innocent girls.”
“That is not my only talent. Although I must admit,” his smile turned devilish, “it is one of my favorites.” He took a step forward. “Tell me your name, sweetheart,” his voice was bewitching, smooth, and elegant.
Her name? Her name? Her mind was a whirlwind of sinful images, tender caresses, and feather light kisses. Her name? How could she have forgotten her name?
Dorian chuckled at her confusion. She looked so sweet, her emerald eyes glazed over with passion. Her lips parted and moist, and he took another step.
“Please, a name, my lady,” he begged, moving closer.
“My name?” she asked herself. “I–My–” She shook her head, clearing it of its sinful haze and announced, at long last, “Victoria Kingston.”
“Victoria,” he repeated with a nod. “A gorgeous name, it suits you well.” Another step, now they stood a breath apart. He could feel the heat from her body; her rapid heartbeat was music to his ears. This woman was a treat and it appeared that he would no longer need to amuse himself with gypsies and vampire whores. His policy was to not bed women who were members of fickle court life but he was more than willing to make an exception for this girl. She was a delicacy and everyone deserved a little indulgence once in a while.
Victoria backed away; she could not allow herself to be so close to him. He was a libertine and she could not afford to be seduced.
She cleared her throat and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say a word, he announced, “I am Dorian Vlakhos.”
Her eyes flew wide. This was the man about whom Lady Wisten had warned her. This was the prince who had caused such a stir. Now she understood why the women were fawning over him. He was everything he was said to be, a devilishly handsome man with who had seduction on his mind and she was out on the terrace alone with the rake. He could ruin her. He could tarnish her good name. Panic began to flutter in her belly.
“Well, Your Royal Highness–”
“Call me Dorian.”
“Your Royal Highness–”
“It’s much less of a mouthful to say.”
“As you please,” he said with a shrug.
“Your Royal Highness,” she snapped. “I really must be getting back to the party. My friend is waiting.” She moved to step around him, but he caught her arm and pulled her back.
Victoria sighed in exasperation. “Prince Dorian, I have no desire to become another one of your conquests for this season.”
“I just want us to become better acquainted,” Dorian stated. “And we will,” he added with a raised brow.
“No,” she declared, yanking her arm back. “We won’t.” She turned on her heel and stormed back into the house.
Dorian watched her with a smile on his face. He could not remember the last time he had smiled and this girl had him smiling like a fool. He fought the urge to go after her, pull her back outside, and into the shadows where he could make good his promise.
Victoria Kingston was going to be a tough skirt to catch, but he was not a man who backed down from a challenge, especially not when the reward was so sweet.
About the Author:
Amanda J. Greene is a paranormal romance author. When she is not writing, she can found playing the role of a full time university student who works part time. She lives in Southern California with her very supportive husband and their sweet cocker spaniel. Doing all the above and being a military wife is not easy, but rewarding! Of course, she accomplishes everything with a strong cup of coffee in her hand.