Friday, November 21, 2008

Vampire's Christmas Carol - Karen McCullough

Vampires Christmas Carol
A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat



Can Christmas Eve get any more fun? On her way to her family's home, Carol Prescott’s car slides into a ditch in a deserted area with no cell phone signal. The only available shelter is already occupied…by a vampire. To Michael Carpenter, Carol is the bait of a trap. In an effort to hold onto his soul, Michael has resisted the urge to drink human blood for almost a century. Now he hovers between human and vampire. If he doesn’t drink from a human before the night ends, he’ll die. He’s desperately thirsty, but Michael has seen the soulless monsters vampires are and he prefers death. Carol is pure temptation to him, the Christmas present from hell…or is it from heaven?

By the time she got to the door, she was soaked, shivering with cold and desperate for the warmth the light promised. She found no bell, but the door featured a heavy, iron knocker shaped like the head of an old man. Marley’s ghost? Wasn’t it on Christmas Eve that Scrooge had seen the face of his old partner in the knocker on his door?

Deciding she was getting punchy with exhaustion and cold, she raised the heavy iron bar of the knocker and banged it several times. Nothing happened, so she repeated the action. Finally, as she prepared for a third assault, the door creaked open. A man stood there, backlit by a lamp in the hall, leaving him almost entirely in shadow.

Her teeth chattered so hard it took an effort to get anything out. “Please, I’m stranded up the—“

“Did Antoine send you?” The aggressive tone as much as the words shocked her into taking a step backward.

“No, my car slid into a ditch.”

He ignored the response. “Tell him it won’t work.” The door closed in her face.

Carol stared at it for a moment, then lifted the knocker bar and began beating it against the base. She had to keep at it for several minutes before the door opened again.

“I need help. I’m freezing out here and my car’s in a ditch—“

“I can’t help you.” The man started to push the door closed again.

Carol stepped forward and stuck her foot in the opening to prevent it. “You have to. Please! I’m going to freeze to death if you don’t help me. Honest to God.” He flinched and she pressed the advantage. “At least let me come in and make a phone call. I assure you I’m harmless. I’m just freezing.”

“Phone lines are down,” he said.

“Hell. And my cell phone’s not getting a signal. Please, can I at least come in and get warm? I’m getting totally desperate. In fact, I’ll just keep banging on your door until you let me in or I collapse.”

He muttered something under his breath, then said to her, “It’s dangerous to come in. You take your life in your hands.”

“It’s dangerous out here too. I can’t imagine what could be so risky inside, but it’s got to be better than freezing to death out here.”

“Don’t be too sure.”

He didn’t stop her when she pushed past him to get inside.

“On your own head be it.” The door closed behind her with a resounding thud.

Blessed warmth settled like a cloak around her, though icy water dripped off her hair onto her face and ran down under her coat. She didn’t even want to think what she must look like. Her embarrassment got worse when he stepped back far enough to stand in the light pouring in from the next room. It left shadows across his face, but still she could see the outlines of features well enough to tell she faced a strikingly handsome man, no more than a few years older than her own twenty-six years. A frown tightened his sensual mouth. Cheeks and jaw were set in tense, hard lines.

She smiled at him and held out a hand. “I’m Carol Prescott. Thank you for letting me in.”

He shook his head. No answering smile touched his stern features, nor did he take her hand or reach toward her. “You’re a fool.” He said it softly, sounding more sad than angry.

“Not arguing. I should have turned around when it started sleeting. I could’ve found a hotel for the night. I wish I had.”

His expression didn’t change. The man stared hard at her, so she felt free to stare back. He was gorgeous. No other way to put it. Glossy black hair, cut neatly, topped a well-shaped head and set off big, deep blue eyes, a straight nose, sensual lips, lean jaw and a fabulous set of cheekbones. All that on top of six feet of lean, graceful, masculine muscle with broad shoulders and slim hips. Damn. And she looked like something a cat had dunked in the swamp before dragging in.

After a moment, he shook himself and said, “I’ll get you a towel. There’s a fire in the parlor if you care to go in and warm up.” He extended an arm toward the arch that led into the brightly lit room.

{…}

Her host returned to the room carrying a stack of towels. He made almost no sound when he moved, not even a squeak or tap of the leather loafers he wore. He handed her the towels.

She looked up at him, seeing him more clearly in the light of a nearby lamp. He was just as handsome as her first shadowy view had suggested. Maybe even more so. But he also looked thin and haggard, like someone fighting a long, wasting illness or someone who’d carried a heavy burden for a long time. Even with the warm firelight reflecting on it, his skin was very pale.

Carol took a towel from him and began drying her hair.

He looked at the coat she’d hung on a corner of the mantel. “You can’t stay here. It’s too dangerous. You can take time to dry off and warm up, but then you’ve got to go.”

She’d thawed enough that irritation began to replace fear of freezing to death. “What’s so dangerous that I risk death by staying here? Is this the Bates motel or something? Does someone have the plague? Or do you have a crazy wife closeted upstairs?”

His lips quirked for a moment and almost made it to a grin before the austere expression took over again.

“Definitely no on the last one, but the others are too damn close.”

“Okay, is this twenty questions? Are you going to give me another clue?”

His eyes narrowed. “No. I’m going to tell you. But you’re not going to believe it.”

“So try me.”

“Okay. Here it is. I’m a vampire. A very hungry vampire.”

This has been an excerpt from Vampire's Christmas Carol found in the BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON anthology
Karen McCullough is the author of six romantic mystery/suspense books published by Avalon Books and Cerridwen Press, two fantasy novels from ImaJinn Books and a paranormal vampire story. She’s won the Eppie Award for Fantasy and the Reveal Your Inner Vixen contest, and also finaled in the Eppies, Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Scarlett Letter, and the Lories Awards.
Please visit her website at:
http://www.kmccullough.com/

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