Midnight Bite

By: Cynthia Eden

Chapter One

New Year’s Resolution Number One: Don’t be afraid to say…yes.

She should have said no. As Lark Kinsley stood on the snow-covered balcony, the cold Chicago night sending chills coursing through her body, she knew that she should have said no. No, she didn’t want to be set up on a blind date with a stranger. No, she didn’t want to spend New Year’s Eve in a crowded party being jostled by drunk people that she didn’t know. Instead, she just wanted to stay home, turn on the TV, and maybe watch that ball drop from the wonderful comfort of her overstuffed couch—

“You look lovely under the moonlight.”

He’d found her. Crap. She’d thought that when she’d ducked out of the throng inside and slipped onto the balcony, she’d escaped her date from hell. Sadly, no such luck. Her shoulders stiffened as Lark turned around and faced Charles Hurley. He was handsome. Tall, fit, with blond hair and bright blue eyes. She noticed that he’d left his jacket inside. The guy had to be freezing out there. No one else was on the balcony. The others were all too busy inside, getting ready for the big countdown.

“Lark?” Irritation sounded in his voice. “Didn’t you hear what I said? You look lovely.”

Oh, right. “Thank you.” She forced a smile. Charles had been kind and charming all evening, but…jeez, there was just something off about him. Every time he got too close to her, Lark’s stomach would clench, and a shiver—one that had nothing to do with the cold—would slide over her skin. She hadn’t felt this way, not in a very long time.

Not since…

He looked over his shoulder toward the closed balcony doors, then back at her, and the smile he gave her seemed to hold a cruel edge. “It’s just us. The music is so loud in there, no one can hear a thing we say.” He stalked closer to her and blocked her access to the doors. “You could probably scream, and no one would hear you.”

Okay, yes, hello, huge red flag. Her smile faded instantly as her hands shoved into the pockets of her jacket. Unlike him, she’d come out into the cold prepared. She always believed in being prepared. It was how her mother had raised her to be. “I don’t think this is working out,” Lark told him carefully. “I’m actually going to leave the party and head home—”

Now he was directly in front of her. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Uh, excuse me?”

“You’re not going anywhere.” Charles stared into her eyes. A hard, creepy stare. His voice dropped as he told her, “You don’t want to leave. You want to stay right here and offer yourself to me.”

“Are you drunk?” He didn’t sound drunk, but Lark figured she should ask the question, just to be sure.

Charles laughed. “Soon, I’ll be drunk on you.” His hand lifted and his fingers slid down her throat.

The clenching in her stomach got worse, and her chill bumps were back. “Get your hand off me.”

His mouth opened—and, oh, dammit, there was something wrong with his teeth. Not wrong, just—they were way too sharp. His canines were wicked long and pointed and—

“Get away from me!” Lark yelled.

His mouth shoved toward her throat. She felt his teeth sink into her skin. He was biting her. Her blind date from hell was biting her out on that balcony, and he’d been right. No one could hear her scream.

And if they couldn’t hear her scream…

They damn sure won’t hear this jerk scream, either.

Her right hand flew out of her jacket pocket, and she brought up her weapon. Always be prepared. Her mother’s motto. And the Girl Scout motto—she’d been one of those as a kid.

Charles the Bastard was biting her, and Lark wrenched up her fail-safe. Her fingers were tight around the narrow, wooden stake as she shoved it right toward his chest. It sank deep, plunging past skin and bone and heading for his heart.

“Ow! What the hell?” Charles stumbled back.

Lark drove the stake in harder. Deeper. Had she made it to his heart yet? Lark hadn’t needed to do an attack like this in years, and she was seriously rusty.

“You bitch!” Blood dripped from his mouth. Probably her blood.

Lark’s left hand rose to her throat and swiped at the blood there.

His fingers rose and curled around the stake. Charles heaved, trying to pull it out. Crap, she’d definitely missed his heart. Otherwise, he’d be dead by now. But while he was busy trying to remove her stake, Lark rushed by him, desperate for escape.

“Oh, no, you’re not going anywhere! I got to you first. You’re mine!” His fingers latched onto her arm.

She whirled back toward him and shoved into him with all of her might. The balcony’s floor was icy, and when Lark rammed into him, Charles slipped back. He staggered and hit the balcony railing. So she hit him again—and Charles the vampire toppled right over the railing. They were only on the second floor, a fall that wouldn’t kill a vamp, but it would sure as hell buy her some much needed time.

His hand ripped part of her jacket away as he plummeted over the edge. He bellowed her name and then—