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COMBUST: a vampire romance

COMBUST: a vampire romance

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Caught between two worlds.

Nike has had a strange reaction after being attacked by a vampire. The symptoms are increasing, and the thirst for blood is too powerful to ignore. Which world does she belong in?

When Maya asks her to be her maid-of-honor, Nike must make a choice. Weddings are stressful enough. But neither anticipates the danger that awaits...

Dive into this paranormal romance in the Underground Encounters series. Step into a hidden world of shifters, vampires, witches, and gargoyles. Who will capture your heart tonight?

Main Tropes

  • Vampires
  • Witches
  • Gargoyles
  • Weddings
  • Friendships
  • Danger


Caught between two worlds.

Nike has had a strange reaction after being attacked by a vampire. The symptoms are increasing, and the thirst for blood is too powerful to ignore. Which world does she belong in?

When Maya asks her to be her maid-of-honor, Nike must make a choice.

Weddings are stressful enough. But neither anticipates the danger that awaits...Dive into this paranormal rock romance in the Underground Encounters series. Step into a hidden world of shifters, vampires, witches, and even gargoyles. Who will capture your heart tonight?

Chapter One

“I can’t ever go back there.” Scooting back on our bed, I spread my arms to the side.

“Come now, Nike.” Michel sat beside me and put his hand on my knee.

No, it was more than just going to Vamps. I couldn’t trust myself going anywhere after what I had done. “You should keep me locked up here, so I don’t hurt anyone.”

It wouldn’t be too bad. We had a nice place. I’d moved all my treasured goods in, so I could entertain myself with B movies, eclectic music, and all sorts of books. Our home was tucked in a secluded corner of Boston’s North Shore, giving us privacy from neighbors. He’d been a vampire for centuries and knew how to exist among humans.

“It was a…situation,” he said. “We’ll deal with it.”

“The situation is—I attacked a woman. I bit her against her will and drank her blood. That’s more than a small snafu we can deal with. I should be prevented from hurting anyone again.”

The taste of Ally’s blood still made me want to moan in decadent pleasure as I relived the sensation of the warm flow over my tongue. That forbidden rush of something wrong that tasted exquisite.

“She’s fine,” Michel said. “And you will be, too. You’re tormenting yourself for doing what is in our nature. It’s as natural as a human eating food.”

“I’m still human. At least I think I am.” I flailed my hands up in exasperation. “I don’t know anymore. These freakin’ fangs that pop out and this damn thirst signal otherwise, but I haven’t burst into flames when
I’ve gone out under the sun.”

Michel was a nightwalker—but it sounded like a classic vampire to me. Immortal, surviving on blood, and unable to venture into sunlight. But I wasn’t one. At least, I still didn’t think I was.

Yet, I seemed to be moving down this dark path more each day…

“Nike, you can’t hide from the world. I will be by your side until you feel more like yourself again.”

I fixed my stare on him. “That’s a big if. Will I ever?” With each passing day, I doubted I could ever go back to my old life—the one in which I was a firefighter, helping people rather than attacking them.

It had all started a couple of years ago when I was twenty-two, on a night that I’d gone to an underground club called Vamps with my friend Maya. She was also a firefighter, and we liked to unwind by dancing at the unconventional club. I’d spotted my rock-climbing gym crush there that night, who’d always left me tongue-tied. And we’d started to flirt.

Just when things had started getting exciting, Michel’s enemies had caught up to him—and I ended up a casualty in a nightwalker feud. After being bitten, I’d dealt with strange reactions that increased with time. The thirst for blood had been growing more difficult to ignore, overpowering my self-control and compelling me to do things I’d never dreamt. It left me feeling more lost every day. Not only was I losing control over my actions, but my identity. Once an independent woman, I was now trapped between two worlds and dependent on Michel. This couldn’t continue. Something had to change.

The ringing of the doorbell caught our attention.

Michel gave me a quizzical look, as if inquiring if I was expecting anyone.

I shrugged. “No idea.”

He stood. “I’ll be right back.”

As Michel headed to the front door, I leaned forward to listen better. I didn’t have Michel’s extraordinary senses, but they were enhanced since he’d given me some of his blood.

A woman’s voice grew louder as she approached.

Shit, it was Maya. I’d been avoiding her calls as I buried myself in this self-imposed isolation. I didn’t trust myself anymore. What if I attacked her as well? It was safer that I stayed far, far away.

Michel was trying to convince her this wasn’t a good time, but she sounded adamant.

“Don’t try to keep me from her. What are you afraid of, that I’ll find her a drained carcass because you couldn’t control yourself? I’m not leaving until I see that she is safe.”

I squeezed my eyes shut. Oh, how close she was to the truth. Only it wasn’t him attacking me…

Maya burst into my bedroom like an inferno, gesturing with wild arms and expressive features. Her blue eyes widened and she mouthed an O. “Oh, thank God, Nike. I thought… Never mind. You haven’t returned my calls, and I thought the worst.”

I slinked back to the headboard and pulled the comforter higher. It was ridiculous since down feathers wouldn’t protect anyone.

Michel flashed a wry grin and announced, “Maya’s here.”

She tossed her dark hair over her shoulders. “I had to come. I’ve left you like 900 messages and you haven’t called me back. What was I to think?” She raised an arm for emphasis.

I arched a brow. “From what I overheard, you thought Michel might have drained me of blood and left an empty carcass.”

She shooed my words with a dismissive wave. “Enough of that. I can see that’s not the case. When your best friend is living with a vampire, it’s a reasonable assumption.”

How about when your best friend is becoming more like a vampire?

She sat on the bed and I scooted a few inches to the side.

“Jeez, Louise, what’s up with you?” She scrunched her face in question. “Did I do something to piss you off?”

“No. I’m just having a difficult time right now.”

She narrowed her dark blue eyes. “Tell me?”

Shame flooded through me as destructive as lava flowing from a volcano.

With a groan, I confessed, “I did something terrible.” If there was anyone besides Michel whom I would trust with my secrets, it was Maya. I explained the situation. “The other night, I was overcome with a thirst for blood. I lured an innocent woman from Vamps to the beach, where I forcibly drank her blood. If I hadn’t been stopped by Danton and tossed into the ocean, I don’t know how it would’ve ended. Probably much worse.”

Maya leaned back. She glanced from me to Michel and back. He sat in a corner flipping through a business magazine, pretending not to listen. I knew he stuck around because I wouldn’t feel safe being left alone with Maya. When her gaze caught mine again, I glimpsed her wariness. After all, she was alone with a vampire and a pseudo-vampire. Not a wise move for anyone.

She studied me and asked, “And how are you feeling now?”

My eyes widened. “I’m not going to attack you, Maya.” At least, I hoped not. Well, Michel would make sure I didn’t do anything rash that I would regret.

“I know, I know.” She raised both hands, palms forward. “Just checking.”

“So, the reason you’ve been trying to reach me is to make sure I’m okay?” I asked.

“Yes. And I wanted to tell you something.”

I scanned her for signs. Good news, bad news? When her mouth spread into a jubilant smile, I had my answer.

“Tristan asked me to marry him!”

“Hot damn! That’s fantastic, Maya. I’m so happy for you!”

If there was ever an odd pairing of opposites attracting who’d found a way to lasting love, it was Maya and Tristan. She was exuberant and quirky, and he was introverted and aloof. They both had secrets, which might have helped them bond.

For a moment, I forgot about my cursed existence, as I was elated for them. “Do you have a date?”

“As soon as the snow melts. I’d like a garden wedding. I’m thinking a small gathering outside our house on the first day of spring.”

“Wow, that’s soon. I don’t know anyone who could pull together a wedding in a couple of months. And March can be tricky in New England.”

“True,” she said. “It could be beautiful and spring-like…or freezing with a freak snow storm. We should be okay with a heated tent. Plus, if I keep it small enough, we could easily move the reception indoors.”

After we gushed about how excited we were and contemplated all sorts of questions and ideas about her wedding, she said, “Actually, there’s something I came here to ask you.”

“Go for it,” I said.

“Would you be my maid of honor?”

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