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, Carol 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.
Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.
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