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Mary Hughes | Exclusive Excerpt: NIGHT'S BLISS

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To lure his nemesis, the Shadow Lord Umbra, out of hiding, Kai Elias allowed himself to be beaten and poisoned. He became lost and sick and thought he was human. Rey Kean found him and nursed him and named him Greyson, and he fell in love with her. Rey infiltrated Umbra’s castle to get her sweet Greyson’s antidote. Umbra discovered her and used her as bait to bring Elias to his castle.

Umbra has now trapped both Elias and Rey in his dungeon. While Elias is in a trance to try to effect their escape, Umbra threatens harm to a girl Rey cares about to make Rey attack Elias. Elias wakes from the trance just in time to catch Rey’s attack.

***

Elias wasn’t surprised Rey had attacked him. Umbra loved using others to make his prey vulnerable. He’d pull out all the stops to make Rey do his dirty work.

The male had a lot to answer for. Elias had been fighting the Shadow Lord’s minions for years, but now it was personal.

“If you’re going to kill vampires,” he said to Rey, “I’ll show you some more effective techniques.”

Her jaw dropped; she’d expected retaliation. Natural, though it hurt a little. He breathed a sigh.

Releasing her arm, he rose to his feet, not bothering to hide his height; teaching her to defend herself would be physical. She fell back, face paling. He regretted that.

“Rey,” he said gently. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

She nodded, glancing at the dagger in her hand.

He read her answer in those gestures. “I know you won’t hurt me. But I’m sorry about attacking.”

Umbra was listening to every word, but this had to be said out loud. In the softest of voices, he said, “It’s all right. You’re afraid of my kind. Attacking while you perceived me to be defenseless was your only option.”

Her face flushed. She muttered, “I said I wouldn’t.”

“Umbra threatened one you care for, and there was a behavioral trigger, no doubt.”

She startled. “How did you…?”

“The bastard’s a master manipulator. But you need not fear me, no matter my appearance.”

She choked back a laugh. Dryly, she said, “I think anyone who doesn’t fear you is a fool.”

Even her shaky smile was better than the stark terror of before. His eyes closed briefly in relief. “My kind has few weaknesses a human can exploit, but there are some. Obviously, your best bet is distance.”

She glanced up at the hatch. “Are you sure you want to do this, with you-know-who listening?”

“This is nothing he doesn’t already know. And surely he’ll approve my teaching you new ways to attack me. Now. A spear launcher or crossbow with a heart-punching, inch-thick quarrel may keep the vampire from ever reaching you.”

“Not a gun?”

“Not unless you have silver bullets and cluster them to riddle the heart muscle into pulp.” He considered. “Or a grenade launcher. One of my associates specializes in those, to great effect.”

“None of those down here.” Another shaky smile.

Such a small thing, yet it made him almost giddy with relief. “Then let’s use what you do have. Come at me with your dagger.”

“This was my sister’s dagger. I…” She held it up, her gaze steady on his, and wiped it against her thigh.

He knew what that meant in terms of the blade’s killing power, the trust it had taken to tell him, and the kindness she’d displayed by wiping it clean. More tension eased, and cautious hope rose in its place.

“I’ll be careful.”

Her lips quirked. “What, not ‘You can’t hurt me’ or ‘I’m impervious to your puny weapons’? Aren’t you the vaunted Ancient One, the vampire king?”

Teasing him? After being embedded in a hostile master vampire’s lair for weeks, then unmasked and thrown into a pit with an even bigger monster? She was a marvel.

He put on his most inscrutable expression. “Well, of course. All that, plus ‘I am inevitable’, with a side of ‘inconceivable’.”

She compressed her lips to keep from laughing. “All right, mission accomplished. I’m not as terrified of you as before. By the way, I only wanted to stop Umbra from hurting Ani.”

Her direct gaze said more. She hadn’t intended to kill him. She’d only playacted to mislead Umbra. His heart melted. Given her history, he’d understand if she wanted all vampires burned to dust. Perhaps—just perhaps—a tender remnant of their connection still lived from when he was Greyson.

“How should I attack you?” she asked.

She didn’t see the emotion welling in his heart. He banished it for now, though he’d bring it out later, to marvel over it again.

“Show me your first instinct.”

She frowned thoughtfully at his neck, then his chest. “Head or heart is the only way to incapacitate a sucker. But your neck is too high, and I probably couldn’t get the dagger clear through it anyway. And your chest…” She shook her head, her cheeks flushing. “Now that I see the length of the dagger compared to the depth of your chest, it would never reach your heart.”

“All true, and none of it instinct. Come.” He curled his fingers at her. “Hit me.”

Her eyes widened. Quickly, with barely a tell and slightly faster than most humans, she whipped her foot into his groin. Or rather, where his groin had been. He slid sideways just in time.

“Excellent. While my kind has harder bone and stronger muscle, we’re as vulnerable as a human in many places. More vulnerable actually”—he stepped back as she launched another attack, a stomp to his instep—“seeing as we feel pain more acutely. If any of those attacks were to have landed”—he turned from a punch to his throat, her fist bouncing harmlessly off his biceps—“I would have been preoccupied with the pain long enough for you to make another move or run away—”

She came at him with her thumbs, aiming for his eyes. “Time out.” He caught her wrists a half second before she scooped out his eyeballs.

She’d launched her whole self into her attack; good, because it meant she trusted him not to hurt her; bad, because it put her body flush with his.

Every inch of her hot, sweet torso was molded with him, fitting as if they were interlocking parts. Her hips pressed into a place that would tell her exactly how Greyson and Elias were different if he didn’t remove her immediately, which he’d better do. If his hardening reminded her in any way of that violent attack that had robbed her of her parents, he’d undo all the good he’d done.

But her honeyed scent curled like a siren’s call into his nostrils, and her soft breasts tightened against him. He held her warm wrists a moment longer than he meant to, contemplating her red lips, slightly parted. Gently inviting.

How long they stood fixed like that, he didn’t know. Two breaths, three… She scrunched her eyes shut and swallowed hard. He released her immediately—only to realize she hadn’t been signaling revulsion. No, she stood there, her scent dusted with the musk of arousal. Her trembling was desire.

His body responded, cranking absolutely taut.

“Sorry,” she murmured, her voice husky. “You smell…good. And you’re… You’re a bit ripped, aren’t you?”

He was as surprised as he ever got, he who’d been a student of human behavior for as long as there’d been humans. She was attracted to him…and was a bit embarrassed about it.

He’d long taken his own seductiveness for what it was, part of the vampire’s predator package. He was, after all, the apex of his kind. He didn’t go out of his way to seduce anyone, but it was a rare individual who could withstand the effect.

Yet this woman, the one he’d enjoy finding him seductive, stood there, shoulders hunched, her cheeks pink with embarrassment.

She didn’t want to desire him, while he wanted her with a shocking intensity. Something in his eyes must’ve flared; she fell back a step.

Desire shattered, replaced by a need so ferocious and intense, so primal, that he almost didn’t recognize it.

Love me.

He wanted it all. Her friendship, her love, and most of all her willing acceptance—no, her joyous embrace—of her desire for him, naturally and on her own.

Fat chance of that. Mirthless laughter bubbled in his throat. He squashed it.

At that moment, he might have gone back to being Greyson for the simplicity, for the innocence of his love for her and hers for him.

Kai Elias’s desires were far more complex.

(c) Mary Hughes, Entangled Publishing, 2021. Shared with permission from the publisher. 

NIGHT'S BLISS by Mary Hughes

The Ancients #3

Night's Bliss

I could never trust a vampire. Ever. It wasn’t enough that vampires killed my parents and left me for dead. Nope, they also left me with this searing fear of every one of their kind. But when someone I care about grows sick from poison, I have no choice but to infiltrate a Romanian castle filled with pissy, evil vampires in search of the antidote.

And my only saving grace is that for some reason, I can do things other humans can’t.

Unfortunately, I also seem to be the perfect bait for the Vampire King, Kai Elias. More than seven feet of dark, wicked charisma, ancient eyes, and a body that holds more power and raw, animal sexuality than I can resist. But there’s something about Elias that looks painfully, terrifyingly familiar.

Now I am in over my head and my heart. And my only choice is to trust this dark, charismatic creature…or die.

Romance Paranormal [Entangled: Amara, On Sale: November 15, 2021, e-Book, / eISBN: 9781649372376]

About Mary Hughes

Mary Hughes

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe.

She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.

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