Table of Contents
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Eleven - Chapter Twelve - Chapter Thirteen - Chapter Fourteen - Chapter Fifteen - Chapter Sixteen - Chapter Seventeen - Chapter Eighteen - Chapter Nineteen - Chapter Twenty
SINGLE WHITE VAMPIRE
LOVE SPELL NEW YORK CITY
Dear Mr. Argeneau:
I hope this letter gets to you, finds you well, and that you had a happy holiday season. This
is the second communication I've sent. The first was mailed just before Christmas. No doubt it
was lost in the holiday confusion. I did attempt to contact you by telephone; unfortunately,
the contact information we have doesn't include your phone number, and it is apparently
As to the reason for writing; I am pleased to inform you that the vampire series you write
—much more so than we ever expected.under the name Luke Amirault is quite popular with readers
There has even been a great deal of interest in a possible book-signing tour. So many storeshave contacted us regarding this possibility that I thought I should contact you and find out
.if and when you would be interested in undertaking such an endeavor
Please contact this office with your phone number and your response.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kate C. Leever Editor
Roundhouse Publishing Co., Inc.
New York, NY
Dear Ms. Leever:
Dear Mr. Argeneau:
I received your letter this morning and, while I gather you are not interested in a book-signing tour, I feel I should stress just how strong is the public's interest in your books.Your popularity is growing rapidly. Several publications have written requesting an interview.I don't think I need explain how helpful such publicity would be to future sales.
As to a book-signing tour, not only have we had phone calls regarding one, but a highlysuccessful bookstore chain with outlets in both Canada and the United States has announced thatit would be willing to foot the bill to have you visit their larger stores. They would arrangeand pay for your flights, put you up in hotels at each stop, and supply a car and driver tocollect you from the airport, see you to the hotel, then to the signing and back. This is no
small offer, and I urge you to consider it carefully.
As mail from here to Toronto appears to be quite slow—though your return letters seem to take
—I am sending this by overnight express. I would appreciate your immediatethe usual ten days
—and please remember to include your phone number this time. response
Kate C. Leever Editor
Roundhouse Publishing Co., Inc.
New York, NY
Dear Ms. Leever:
Dear Mr. Argeneau:
Once again you have forgotten to include your phone number. That being the case, I would firstask that you please call the office at once and speak to either myself, or, if I should happento be unavailable when you call, my assistant Ashley. You may call collect if necessary, but Iwould really like to talk to you myself because I feel sure that you may not realize howpopular you have become, or how important and necessary contact with your readers can be.
I do not know if you're aware of it, but fan sites are springing up all over the Internet andwe receive tons of mail daily for you which will be boxed and forwarded to you separate fromthis letter. I have mentioned the requests for a book-signing tour in previous letters, butshould tell you that those requests are now reaching unmanageable proportions. It seems almostevery bookstore around the world would love to have you visit and are sure the signing would be
a major success. While you could not possibly hit every store, we think that one store in every
.major city would be manageable
I would also like to urge you to consider giving an interview or two, and am including theletters we have received from various publications regarding this. As you will notice, theserequests come from more than just romance publications. Your popularity has gone mainstream, asis reflected by the fact that various newspapers and literary magazines are also requestinginterviews. We have even had interest from a couple of the morning news shows. While the news
shows would have to be in person, the newspaper and magazine interviews need not be; they could
be managed either over the phone or even the Internet if you are on it. Are you on the
Internet? If so, I would also like your e-mail address and would encourage you to get Windows
Messenger or something similar so that I could speak to you in such a way. Several of my
writers have Messenger, and we find it quite convenient and much quicker than normal mail.
There is much more I would like to discuss with you. Please remember to phone this office assoon as possible, collect if necessary. Again, I am sending this letter overnight express.
Kate C. Leever
Roundhouse Publishing Co., Inc.
New York, NY
Dear Ms Leever:
Sincerely, Lucern Argeneau
Thursday, September 11th
"Rachel swears she never wants to see another coffin as long as she lives."
Lucern grunted at his mother's comment as he and his younger brother Bastien set the coffindown on the basement floor. He knew all about his soon-to-be sister-in-law's new aversion;Etienne had explained everything. That was why he was storing the thing. Etienne was willing tomove it out of the mansion to keep his fiancée happy, but for sentimental reasons—he couldn'tbring himself to permanently part with it. The man swore he came up with his best ideas lyinginside its silent darkness. He was a bit eccentric. He was the only person Lucern could thinkof who would bring a coffin to his own wedding rehearsal. The minister had been horrified whenhe'd caught the three brothers transferring it from Etienne's pickup to Bastien's van.
"Thank you for driving it over here, Bastien," Lucern said as he straightened.
Bastien shrugged. "You could hardly fit it in your BMW. Besides," he added as they startedback up the stairs, "I would rather transport it than store it. My housekeeper would havefits."
Lucern merely smiled. He no longer had a housekeeper to worry about, and the cleaning companyhe'd hired to drop in once a week only worked on the main floor. Their seeing the coffin wasn'ta concern.
"Is everything in place for the wedding?" he asked as he followed his mother and Bastien intothe kitchen. He turned out the basement lights and closed the door behind him, but didn'tbother turning any other lights on. The weak illumination from the nightlight plugged into thestove was enough to navigate to the front door.
"Yes. Finally." Marguerite Argeneau sounded relieved. "And despite Mrs. Garrett's worries thatthe wedding was too rushed and that Rachel's family wouldn't have time to arrange to be there,they're all coming ."
"How large is the family?" Lucern was sincerely hoping there weren't as many Garretts as therehad been Hewitts at Lissianna's wedding. The wedding of his sister to Gregory Hewitt had been a
nightmare. The man had a huge family, the majority of which seemed to be female—single femaleswho eyed Lucern, Etienne and Bastien as if they were the main course of a one-course meal.Lucern disliked aggressive women. He'd been born and raised in a time when men were theaggressors and women smiled and simpered and knew their place. He hadn't quite adjusted withthe times and wasn't looking forward to another debacle like Lissianna's wedding where he'dspent most of his time avoiding the female guests.
Fortunately, Marguerite soothed some of his fears by announcing, "Rather small compared toGreg's family—and mostly male, from the guest list I saw."
"Thank God," Bastien murmured, exchanging a look with his brother.
Lucern nodded in agreement. "Is Etienne nervous?"
"Surprisingly enough, no." Bastien smiled crookedly. "He's having a great time helping toarrange all this. He swears he can't wait for the wedding day. Rachel seems to make him happy."His expression changed to one of perplexity.
Lucern shared his brother's confusion. He couldn't imagine giving up his freedom to a wife,either. Pausing by the front door, he turned back to find his mother poking through the mail onhis hall table.
"Luc, you have unopened mail here from weeks ago! Don't you read it?"
"Why so surprised, mother? He never answers the phone, either. Heck, we're lucky when hebothers to answer the door."
Bastien said the words in a laughing voice, but Lucern didn't miss the exchange of glancesbetween his mother and brother. They were worried about him. He had always been a loner, butlately he had taken that to an extreme and everything seemed a bother. They knew he was growingdangerously bored with life.
"What is this box?"
"I don't know," Lucern admitted as his mother lifted a huge box off the table and shook it asif it were feather-light.
"Well, don't you think it might be a good idea to find out?" she asked impatiently.
Lucern rolled his eyes. No matter how old he got, his mother was likely to interfere and hen-peck. It was something he'd resigned himself to long ago. "I'll get around to it eventually,"he muttered. "It's mostly nuisance mail or people wanting something from me."
"What about this letter from your publisher? It's probably important. They wouldn't send itexpress if it weren't."
Lucern's scowl deepened as his mother picked up the FedEx envelope and turned it curiously inher hands. "It is not important. My editor is just harassing me. The company wishes me to do abook-signing tour."
"Edwin wants you to do a book-signing tour?" Marguerite scowled. "I thought you made it clearto him from the start that you weren't interested in publicity."
"Not Edwin. No." Lucern wasn't surprised that his mother recalled his old editor's name; shehad a perfect memory and he'd mentioned Edwin many times over the ten years he'd been writingfor Roundhouse Publishing. His first works had been published as historical texts used mostlyin universities and colleges. Those books were still in use and were celebrated for the fact
that they'd been written as if the writer had actually lived through every period about whichhe wrote. Which, of course, Lucern had. That was hardly public knowledge, though.
Lucern's last three books, however, had been autobiographical in nature. The first told thestory of how his mother and father had met and come together, the second how his sisterLissianna had met and fallen in love with her therapist husband, Gregory, and the latest,published just weeks ago, covered the story of his brother Etienne and Rachel Garrett. Lucernhadn't meant to write them, they'd just sort of spilled forth. But once he'd written them, he'ddecided they should be published records for the future. Gaining his family's permission, he'dsent them in to Edwin, who'd thought them brilliant works of fiction and published them assuch. Not just fiction, either, but "paranormal romance." Lucern had suddenly found himself aromance writer. The whole situation was somewhat distressing for him, so he generally did hisbest not to think about it.
"Edwin is no longer my editor," he explained. "He had a heart attack late last year and died.His assistant was given his title and position, and she's been harassing me ever since." Hescowled again. "The woman is trying to use me to prove herself. She is determined that I shoulddo some publicity events for the novels."
Bastien looked as if he were about to comment, but paused and turned at the sound of a carpulling into the driveway. Lucern opened the door, and the two men watched with varying degreesof surprise as a taxi pulled to a stop beside Bastien's van.
"Wrong address?" Bastien queried, knowing his brother wasn't big on company.
"It must be," Lucern commented. He narrowed his eyes when the driver got out and opened theback door for a young woman.
"Who is that?" Bastien asked. He sounded even more surprised than Lucern felt.
"I haven't a clue," Lucern answered. The taxi driver retrieved a small suitcase and overnightbag from the trunk of the car.
"I believe it's your editor," Marguerite announced.
Both Lucern and Bastien swiveled to peer at their mother. They found her reading the now-openFedExed letter.
"My editor? What the hell are you talking about?" Lucern marched over to snatch the letter outof her hand.
Ignoring his rude behavior, Lucern's mother moved to Bastieh's side and peered curiouslyoutside. "As the mail is so slow, and because the interest in your books is becoming sowidespread, Ms. Kate C. Leever decided to come speak to you in person. Which," Marguerite addedarchly, "you would know should you bother to read your mail."
Lucern crumpled the letter in his hand. It basically said everything his mother had justverbalized. That, plus the fact that Kate C. Leever would be arriving on the 8 p.m. flight fromNew York . It was 8:30. The plane must have been on time.
"She's quite pretty, isn't she?" The comment, along with the speculation in his mother's voicewhen she made it, was enough to raise alarm in Lucern. Marguerite sounded like a motherconsidering taking the matchmaking trail—a path quite familiar to her. She'd taken it uponfirst seeing Etienne and Rachel together, too, and look how that had turned out: Etienne hipdeep in wedding preparations!
"She's contemplating matchmaking, Bastien. Take her home. Now," Lucern ordered. His brotherburst out laughing, moving him to add, "After she has finished with me, she shall focus onfinding you a wife."
Bastien stopped laughing at once. He grabbed his mother's arm. "Come along, Mother. This isnone of our business."
"Of course it is my business." Marguerite shrugged her elbow free. "You are my sons. Yourhappiness and future are very much my business."
Bastien tried to argue. "I don't understand why this is an issue now. We are both well overfour hundred years old. Why, after all this time, have you taken it into your head to see usmarried off?"
Marguerite pondered for a moment. "Well, ever since your father died, I've been thinking—"
"Dear God," Lucern interrupted. He woefully shook his head.
"What did I say?" his mother asked.
"That is exactly how Lissianna ended up working at the shelter and getting involved with Greg.Dad died, and she started thinking."
Bastien nodded solemnly. "Women shouldn't think."
"Bastien!" Marguerite Argeneau exclaimed.
"Now, now. You know I'm teasing, Mother," he soothed, taking her arm again. This time he gother out the door.
"I, however, am not," Lucern called as he watched them walk down the porch steps to thesidewalk. His mother berated Bastien the whole way, and Lucern grinned at his brother'sbeleaguered expression. Bastien would catch hell all the way home, Lucern knew, and almost feltsorry for him. Almost.
His laughter died, however, as his gaze switched to the blonde who was apparently his editor.His mother paused in her berating to greet the woman. Lucern almost tried to hear what wassaid, then decided not to bother. He doubted he wanted to hear it, anyway.
He watched the woman nod and smile at his mother, then she took her luggage in hand andstarted up the sidewalk. Lucern's eyes narrowed. Dear God, she didn't expect to stay with him,did she? There was no mention in her letter of where she planned to stay. She must expect tostay in a hotel. She would hardly just assume that he would put her up. The woman probably justhadn't stopped at her hotel yet, he reassured himself, his gaze traveling over her person.
Kate C. Leever was about his mother's height, which made her relatively tall for a woman,perhaps 5' 10". She was also slim and shapely, with long blond hair. She appeared pretty fromthe distance presently separating them. In a pale blue business suit, Kate C. Leever resembleda cool glass of ice water. The image was pleasing on this unseasonably warm September evening.
The image shattered when the woman dragged her luggage up the porch steps, paused before him,offered him a bright cheerful smile that lifted her lips and sparkled in her eyes, thenblurted, "Hi. I'm Kate Leever. I hope you got my letter. The mail was so slow, and you keptforgetting to send me your phone number, so I thought I'd come visit personally and talk to youabout all the publicity possibilities that are opening up for us. I know you're not reallyinterested in partaking of any of them, but I feel sure once I explain the benefits you'llreconsider."
Lucern stared at her wide, smiling lips for one mesmerized moment; then he gave himself ashake. Reconsider? Was that what she wanted? Well, that was easy enough. He reconsidered. Itwas a quick task. "No." He closed his door.
Kate stared at the solid wooden panel where Lucern Argeneau's face had been and fought not toshriek with fury. The man was the most difficult, annoying, rude, obnoxious —she pounded onhis door—pigheaded, ignorant…
The door whipped open, and Kate quickly pasted a blatantly false but wide—she should get highmarks for effort—smile on her mouth. The smile nearly slipped when she got a look at him. Shehadn't really taken the opportunity earlier. A second before, she had been too busy trying torecall the speech she'd composed and memorized on the flight here; now she didn't have aprepared speech—didn't actually even have a clue what to say—and so she found herself reallylooking at Lucern Argeneau. The man was a lot younger than she'd expected. Kate knew he'dwritten for Edwin for a good ten years before she'd taken over working with him, yet he didn'tlook to be more than thirty-two or-three. That meant he'd been writing professionally since hisearly twenties.
He was also shockingly handsome. His hair was as dark as night, his eyes a silver blue thatalmost seemed to reflect the porchlight, his features sharp and strong. He was tall andsurprisingly muscular for a man with such a sedentary career. His shoulders bespoke a laborermore than an intellectual. Kate couldn't help but be impressed. Even the scowl on his facedidn't detract from his good looks.
Without any effort on her part, the smile on Kate's face gained some natural warmth and shesaid, "It's me again. I haven't eaten yet, and I thought perhaps you'd join me for a meal onthe company and we could discuss—"
"No. Please remove yourself from my doorstep." Then Lucern Argeneau closed the door once more.
"Well, that was more than just a 'no'," Kate muttered to herself. "It was even a wholesentence, really." Ever the optimist, she decided to take it as progress.
Raising her hand, she pounded on the door again. Her smile was somewhat battered, but it wasstill in place when the door opened for the third time. Mr. Argeneau reappeared, looking lesspleased than ever to find her still there. This time, he didn't speak but merely arched aneyebrow in question.
Kate supposed that if his speaking a whole sentence was progress, his reverting to completesilence had to be the opposite—but she determined not to think of that. Trying to make hersmile a little sunnier, she cleared her throat and said, "If you don't like eating out, perhapsI could order something in and—"
"No." He started to close the door again, but Kate hadn't lived in New York for five yearswithout learning a trick or two. She quickly stuck her foot forward, managing not to wince asthe door banged into it and bounced back open.
Before Mr. Argeneau could comment on her guerilla tactics, she said, "If you don't care fortakeout, perhaps I could pick up some groceries and cook you something you like." For goodmeasure she added, "That way we could discuss your fears, and I might be able to alleviatethem."
He stiffened in surprise at her implication. "I am not afraid," he said.
"I see." Kate allowed a healthy dose of doubt to creep into her voice, more than willing tostoop to manipulation if necessary. Then she waited, foot still in place, hoping that herdesperation wasn't showing but knowing that her calm façade was beginning to slip.
The man pursed his lips and took his time considering. His expression made Kate suspect he wasmeasuring her for a coffin, as if he were considering killing her and planting her in hisgarden to get her out of his hair. She tried not to think about that possibility too hard.Despite having worked with him for years as Edwin's assistant, and now for almost a year as hiseditor, Kate didn't know the man very well. In her less charitable moments, she had considered
just what kind of man he might be. Most of her romance authors were female. In fact, every
other author under her care was female. Lucern Argeneau, who wrote as Luke Amirault, was theonly man. What kind of guy wrote romances? And vampire romances at that? She had decided it wasprobably someone gay… or someone weird. His expression at the moment was making her leantoward weird. Serial-killer-type weird.
"You have no intention of removing yourself, do you?" he asked at last.
Kate considered the question. A firm "no" would probably get her inside. But was that what shewanted? Would the man slaughter her? Would she be a headline in the next day's news if she didget in the door?
Cutting off such unproductive and even frightening thoughts, Kate straightened her shouldersand announced firmly; "Mr. Argeneau, I flew up here from New York. This is important to me. I'mdetermined to talk to you. I'm your editor ." She emphasized the last word in case he had
missed the relevance of that fact. It usually had a certain influence with writers, althoughArgeneau had shown no signs of being impressed so far.
She didn't know what else to say after that, so Kate simply stood waiting for a response thatnever came. Heaving a deep sigh, Argeneau merely turned away and started up his dark hall.
Kate stared uncertainly at his retreating back. He hadn't slammed the door in her face thistime. That was a good sign, wasn't it? Was it an invitation to enter? Deciding she was going totake it as one, Kate hefted her small suitcase and overnight bag and stepped inside. It was alate-summer evening, cooler than it had been earlier in the day, but still hot. In comparison,stepping into the house was like stepping into a refrigerator. Kate automatically closed thedoor behind her to keep the cool air from escaping, then paused to allow her eyes to adjust.
The interior of the house was dark. Lucern Argeneau hadn't bothered to turn on any lights.Kate couldn't see much of anything except a square of dim light outlining what appeared to be adoor at the end of the long hall in which she stood. She wasn't sure what the light was from;it was too gray and dim to be from an overhead fixture. Kate wasn't even sure that going tothat light would bring her to Lucern Argeneau's side, but it was the only source of light shecould see, and she was quite sure that it was in the direction he'd taken when walking away.
Setting her bags down by the door, Kate started carefully forward, heading for that square oflight, which suddenly seemed so far away. She had no idea if the way was clear or not—shehadn't really looked around before closing the door—but she hoped there was nothing to tripover along the way. If there was, she would certainly find it.
Lucern paused in the center of his kitchen and peered around in the illumination of thenightlight. He wasn't quite sure what to do. He never had guests, or at least hadn't had themfor hundreds of years. What did one do with them, exactly? After an inner debate, he moved tothe stove, grabbed the teakettle that sat on the burner, and took it to the sink to fill withwater. After setting it on the stove and cranking the dial to high, he found the teapot, sometea bags and a full sugar bowl. He set it all haphazardly on a tray.