Sabrina married Mark after only knowing him for two weeks. Although he’s the man of her dreams, the man she loves more than life itself, she’s started getting strange vibes from him. Sometimes, she could swear he moves faster than the human eye can follow, and she’s sure she’s seen him change into something with wings. Could he be a vampire? A gargoyle? She tries to tell herself she’s being ridiculous, that those things don’t really exist. But when a strange being bursts through her bedroom window and kidnaps her, Sabrina is forced to admit the truth—not only are the creatures from her nightmares real, her own husband is one of them, and he married her for reasons other than love…
There’s a vampire in Cape Town,” Sabrina said out loud, desperate, so desperate for it to sound ridiculous, for her suspicions to be preposterous. “Vampires don’t exist and even if they did, they wouldn’t come to sunny Africa,” she told the wolf who followed her out the door of her colorful, pink and purple little house in the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town.
Sabrina carefully made her way to the pink painted stairs and sat down, careful of her evening dress, and hugged her injured knee with her hands.
“No.” She made a shooing motion toward the dog that hated her. “You sit over there, you sharp toothed wolf in dog’s clothing. I know you’re just waiting for a chance to bite me.”
The dog gave her a taunting toothy grin and sat down on its haunches a little farther away. An uncommonly large wolf dog with a pitch black coat, almost the same shade as Sabrina’s hair, no one would convince her he wasn’t one hundred percent wolf. Or something more supernatural. She inched back a little more.
With the back door locked and the front door behind her, no one could get inside the house without her knowing about it. This time Mark wouldn’t be able to appear out of thin air and pretend he’d come in through the door.
The aroma of Auntie Koen’s cooking wafted over from next door. Colorful houses sloping up toward the mountain sparkled in the sun, looking like fantasy dwellings painted in bright crayon colors. This area had become trendy in the last decade, with foreigners and young professionals moving in. Sabrina was glad that the houses in her street were still mostly occupied by the people who’d lived here when she came to visit her Ouma as a child.
Auntie Kotie’s television blasted out the local soap opera for the whole street to hear and Sabrina smiled. She remembered this, coming to visit Ouma, smelling spicy cooking, over-loud televisions broadcasting for the whole street, Ouma’s terrible off key singing. Except for Sabrina’s husband, the people in this street were her family.
“This time he has to come in through the front door,” she told the wolf.
He made a snorting sound, suspiciously like a laugh. The wolf sat regally on his haunches, looking down at the road, like a king awaiting tribute.
When Mark had introduced her to his wolf dog, the animal had taken one look at her, and she’d known if Mark wasn’t there, it would’ve been hate at first bite.
Sabrina leaned even farther away from it. “I think my husband is a vampire and the question becomes, will he suck my blood or am I delusional and soon to be taken away by the men in white coats.”
It sounded so ridiculous, her suspicions preposterous. Vampires didn’t exist and even if they did, why would one of them marry her?
It was almost a relief to tell someone about her ridiculous suspicions, even if it was only the dog. “I’m being silly. If I tell anyone I suspect my husband is a vampire, they’d send me to the funny farm. And stop laughing at me.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “I can change your diet to dog food.”
It growled at her. He hated dog food and the one time she tried to give him a doggy treat, he’d nearly bitten her hand off.
She drummed the flat heel of her evening shoes on the step. She’d love to be able to wear sexy high heels again, but with her knee that was impossible.
“If he’s a vampire, it would explain his eyes.” She massaged her achy knee, trying to act as if her husband’s wolf dog didn’t scare the spice out of her. As if it was normal to say crazy things to an animal who always looked as if he wanted to take a bite out of her. And more eerily, as if he understood every word she said. She’d hoped Mark would leave the vicious dog somewhere else since her house was small with no garden. Wolf made up for the lack of a garden by visiting with her neighbors, who all spoiled him with choice pieces of meat. Sabrina sighed, she was the only one he hated.
“Hi, Wolf, looking good,” Yousef, the sixteen year old son of the couple living opposite her, shouted.
All knees and elbows, his skin was copper brown like hers, but his short curly black hair softened his angular face, while Sabrina always thought her straight hair she wore down to her waist made her prominent cheekbones appear austere.
She smiled at him and waved. “Hi, Yousef.”
Wolf barked, visibly lapping up the adoration.
“Who are you talking to?” Mark asked behind her, sounding like sex with the armor- clad lord of a stone castle, old world charm, and lethal danger.
That first time she’d met him at the Christmas bazaar his voice had stroked her nerve ends.
Sabrina jumped on the hard cement stair, her butt coming down again with a small plop. Wolf growled at her. With her hand over her heart she stumbled upright. He stood inside the front door, tall with his aura of danger surrounding him like a dark cloak.
“Mark, you startled me.”
The moment she’d first met him his unusual eyes had struck her. White lines flaring out from the pupil cutting into the blue iris like little shards of ice. He’d told her it was a genetic defect. Even though she feared they were vampire eyes, she still thought them beautiful. Those strange eyes of his had a hypnotic effect. Sometimes they mesmerized her until she lost herself, her identity, until she was only aware of belonging to him.
He stepped forward and steadied her with one of those lightning fast movements that wasn’t normal. “Careful, you got up too fast.”
His hand on her waist was warm and solid. Wouldn’t a vampire’s hand be cold? Maybe slimy. His thumb moved in a subtle caress, and she relaxed against his solid body. She was average height for a woman and her head only reached to his wide shoulders. Dressed in his usual tailored suit and scuffed boots, he looked like a cross between a modern day pirate and a business man.
“How did you get inside the house? Everything is locked.” The knee she’d injured in the car accident, sent pulses of pain through her leg, and she held onto Mark to stay upright. She’d locked the back door, sat on the steps leading to the front door to make sure she saw him arrive. This wasn’t the first time he just materialized like a character on a Star Trek episode.
At first, she’d shrugged it off, thinking he must’ve come home without her noticing. She sometimes got so involved in her sewing that she lost touch with what happened around her.
The sun set, streetlights came on, and Sabrina shivered, clutching her silk shawl closer to her body. The fact that he always appeared at sunset was just a coincidence.
“Kiss me, Sabrina.”
The intense way he’d look at her, kiss her, stole her mind. Whenever they’d been apart, when they locked gazes, she always felt like a coveted prize won by a knight about to grab her in his armor-clad arms and ride off with her on his war horse. It was a kind of seduction, being made love to as if she was a prize of conquest.
“Tell me how you managed to appear behind me?”
“You were so busy talking to wolf, you didn’t see me come up the veranda stairs.”
It was a plausible explanation, but she didn’t believe it. She wasn’t that distracted by the wolf or Yusef.
He drew her closer and skimmed a hand over her silk clad hip. “Love the dress.” His voice turned husky—bitter chocolate and red wine caressing her senses.
“Kiss me, Sabrina. Now.”
He kissed her, the way he always kissed her when they had been apart for even an hour. Passionate, addictive kisses that claimed her as his all over again. Hot kisses that made all her doubts disappear, a hot melding of their lips and tongues. If she stuck her finger into a live wire, she doubted her system would get the zing it got from his touch. Each kiss from him was lovers-meeting-in-secret hot. Each time he did that, he stole a little bit of her soul. She’d never get enough of his taste—dark bitter chocolate and sweet red wine, that’s what he tasted like. His body was taut and warm against her, inviting her hands to roam over his biceps.
She loved that he was muscled, almost bulky, stronger than any man should be. Until she’d noticed his odd abilities, it made her feel safe.
She loved this beautiful man of hers, and she loved the way he kissed, but this was also a chance to explore. She swept her tongue over his teeth, tapping his incisors. He drew back and frowned down at her. “What are you doing?”
She widened her eyes, tried to look innocent. “Nothing.”
“Why do you want to feel my teeth?”
“I didn’t. I just got lost in the kiss.” No way was she telling him she thought he might be a vampire.
Lately. that sense of something ominous about her husband had intensified. His gaze would burn, and more than once he’d appeared out of thin air. An aura of danger surrounded him—a sense of danger more intense every day.
She smoothed the cream and gold woven material of her evening dress over her hip. His dark eyes followed the motion, heated until they scorched her. His desire for her she never doubted. She moved her hands up, and cupped her ribs, her fingers against the underside of her breasts, enjoying the way he followed the movement—hopefully forgetting she’d tried to feel if he had vampire teeth.
“So you and Wolf are talking now.”
“He was his usual friendly self.” She gestured vaguely behind her to the dog at her back, while she faced the predator in front of her.
“You’ll get used to him, eventually.”
“I failed my very first girlfriend test because of him.”
Did he realize that her smile was forced? Could he see her suspicion at the way he materialized behind her?
Mark took the long black strand of hair she’d left hanging at her temple in a sixties style hairdo, playing it through his fingers. “You can never fail any girlfriend test.”
Only that small touch sent flutters to her stomach.
Sometimes when he held her, she had the impression of enormous strength held in check. It always gave her opposing feelings of safety and danger. The dog growled and she jumped, half afraid it would bite her in the butt.
“He’s harmless, Sabrina.”
It wasn’t his behind that was in danger of having a bite taken out of it. She made a gesture toward the dog behind her and then thought twice about waving her hand anywhere near those teeth. “Tell that to your wolf.”
“He’s just a dog, Sabrina,” he drawled in that sexy faintly accented voice.
Ukrainian by birth, he’d left the country young to explore the world. Developing that generic English-almost-American accent travelers usually acquired.
“I don’t think I’ll ever believe he’s just a dog,” she said.
“Forget about Wolf. I approve of the dress.” He moved his hand up and down her waist, pressing and gliding over her flesh. She loved the way his gaze heated, the sheer lust she saw whenever he looked at her. Pleasure exploded everywhere he touched and she moved closer to his seductive heat.
“Thanks. What time do we have to be there?” She’d rather stay at home and spend a quiet evening with Mark, or a not-so-quiet evening, making love, but he insisted on these business functions. They’d only been married three months and, sometimes in her darkest moments, she wondered if she made a very dangerous mistake marrying someone she only knew two weeks before their marriage. Their lovelife was better than she ever dreamed of having. Sometimes she’d find him looking at her with a kind of ruthless purpose that scared her.
Once she’d seen him change. It had happened so fast, afterward she’d doubted what she saw. But for one moment, she’d thought she saw his teeth grow, like those of a vampire. At his back two shadows, like wings, had moved.
He let go of her. One moment he stood next to her and the next he stood at the front door. “How—” She moistened her lips and tried again, had to try a few more times to manage it. “How did you do that?”
“Do what?” he asked. He locked the front door and turned back to her.
“How did you—never mind.” She was vaguely aware of Simon driving up to them in the sleek black car Mark liked to use when they went out. Either she was schizophrenic or her husband had just moved faster than her eye could follow. He hadn’t been a blur, he’d literally disappeared and reappeared at the door. Needles pricked her spine. Who did she marry, what did she marry?
He pocketed the keys and helped her down the steps. “Yes.”
Even now that she’d seen him appear and disappear in that eerie way, her arm tingled where he touched it. “Why do we suddenly have to go to these endless functions? What are you looking for?”
His hand on her waist became heavy. “Why do you think I’m searching for something?”
She looked up into a gaze burning with suspicion. What was he hiding from her? “I don’t know, it’s just an impression I got a few times.” She didn’t want to admit that she’d been hurt by the way he zoomed in on any woman under thirty. This almost daily rounds of parties and formal functions had started a month after their marriage.
She didn’t understand his interest in the women. Always young, very beautiful women and, though they flirted with him, he’d look at them the way a scientist examining an interesting bug would. The clinical detached way he regarded them upset her. Sabrina had a feeling something much worse than a husband flirting with other women was going on. She never thought there could be anything worse until she’d begun to suspect he wasn’t human. Still, it hurt to see her husband of only a few months flirting openly with other women. The pitying glances she received she hated most of all on these endless evenings. She wanted to shout at them that something more terrible than flirtation was happening right under their noses.
“The only thing I’m searching for is to get this function over with so I can make love with my wife.”
He leaned down and kissed her. His hand cupped her shoulder and then moved until he cupped her breast, his thumb rubbing her nipple through the thin material of her evening dress and gossamer bra. She shivered and clung to him, pleasure stealing her mind. Even as she trembled in his arms, she knew he hid something from her. This bitter chocolate and red wine kiss that owned her body was a way to distract her, and it hurt. It hurt that he didn’t trust her enough to tell her the truth. Though if he hid the fact that he was a vampire, ignorance might be bliss. Sometimes late at night, it kept her awake, the thought that she might be living with evil. If vampires existed, what else was out there?
A shrill whistle from across the street broke them apart, right at the moment she broke away from Mark. Her cheeks burned. “We’d better get going.” She stepped back with a nervous look up and down the street. “Not here.” She’d forgotten where they were while she kissed her husband. Her vampire husband.
They’d been as intimate as a man and woman could be, their chemistry super nova hot from day one. They’d been married two weeks when she realized she never saw him in daytime.
Mark swung around and stepped between her and the street. His body held ready as if the whistle signaled danger to her. For a moment, so fleeting she knew it had to be her imagination, the texture of his skin changed, appeared like black marble.
Sabrina waved at Yousef, turned, and then swore in a mixture of Afrikaans and Klingon, when her knee tripped her up. Mark grabbed her arm and held her until she was steady on her feet. She hated this clumsiness she’d had to live with since the accident. It reminded her she had no family.
“DenIb Qatlh?” he said, very polite.
Sabrina could feel her cheeks heat even more. “Denebian slime devil in Klingon,” she mumbled and ignored his laughter. Being a vampire was much more freaky than speaking Klingon.
“I have to be the only man with a wife who swears in Klingon.”
“I have a friend who speaks it. She’s married too.” Could she sound any more nerdish and awkward?
“Maybe we should invite them over sometime,” he said politely.
Sometimes she worried that it bothered him that she was such a nerd. Her friend Mikaela always said she could be hot if only she would stop being so geeky.
He took her arm and helped her to the car, the wolf at her back and Mark’s chauffeur in front of her. Samuel, a tall muscled, black man who never smiled, stood at attention next to the car. She’d met Samuel after she’d married Mark. His unblinking stare had unnerved her and she’d chatted to him in an overly friendly way that came across as false. She’d mentally cringed at her behavior the whole time. Now Mark’s unholy dog and lethal-looking chauffeur both hated her.
“Good evening, Samuel,” she said and widened her smile. It might be childish of her, but she enjoyed irritating him with friendliness. She had a bet with Mikaela, her best friend since childhood, that she’d get him to smile at her before the end of the year. He had no idea how stubborn she could be. She’d get him to smile at her if it’s the last thing she ever did.
He ignored her and looked at Mark. “Good evening, sir.”
“Samuel,” Mark said, but he’d tensed and looked around, as if looking for something. Every now and then, when he acted like this, tense with his body held ready as if for battle, he reminded her of a warrior of old. He was a business man, but to her eyes also a modern soldier and a warrior from times gone by, when men fought with swords, and going to war meant riding off on a horse in heavy armor.
“Get into the car, Sabrina.”
The alert way Mark scanned the street outside the car window reminded her of a predator scenting prey. She stiffened, conscious of the way both Mark and Samuel tried to shield her with their bodies. He murmured something to Samuel that she didn’t catch, his body tense.
Samuel opened the car door and, mindful of her knee, Sabrina carefully entered the car. She rubbed her arms. It was getting chilly at night. Soon, she’d have to wear a coat when they went out in the evening. Though this chill felt different, as if premonition manifested as cold. She shivered, in spite of the warm interior of the car. It was as if the air around the car turned to ice. Mark was about to get in, but he stiffened and stepped back, looked around again, his hand inside his jacket.
Did he have a weapon? He stood like that for a long time. Samuel turned and scanned the street as well.
“Better get in, if they’re here, we’ll be safer in the car,” Samuel said.
Samuel closed the door and went to the driver’s side, his body as tense as Mark’s. Like this, Mark was the scariest man she’d ever encountered. His driver was without a doubt the second scariest. “Who was he talking about?”
Mark settled back into the leather seat, trying to appear relaxed, but she could see the alert way his scary eyes observed their surroundings. “No one you need concern yourself with.”
She clenched her hands in the silk shawl her grandmother had given her on her sixteenth birthday. “Please don’t brush me off. What’s going on?”
“Why would you think anything’s going on?” He took her hand, opened her fingers. He sat so close their thighs touched, but suddenly there was miles between them, in spite of the fact that he held her hand in his.
The car melted into the Cape traffic.
“I’m not blind. A lot of strange things are happening.”
“It’s your imagination.”
The shivers down her back felt like ice cold blood. He’d said that a lot lately, and she was starting to fear her marriage to Mark had drawn her into a very dangerous world. One she would’ve preferred to remain ignorant of. “You can’t keep telling me it’s my imagination when I notice what’s happening.”
“What do you think is happening?”
“That’s not—” She stiffened when she recognized the street they turned into. “Where is this function?”
He mentioned an address and she relaxed, it was far away from the house she and her parents briefly lived in before they moved into her grandmother’s house in the Bo-Kaap.
They stopped in front of a large mansion with rolling grass lawns, lanterns lighting the garden, and young men in white uniforms available to escort guests inside and park their cars.
Her parents had almost broken up because of an endless round of parties at houses just like this.
And ever since this frantic socializing started, Mark had changed.
“This discussion isn’t over,” she said as they stopped in front of an impressive gate that stood open to admit a long line of expensive cars. Mark helped her out, all the while scanning everything around them. She thought Samuel would park the car, but he handed the key over to one of the young men and accompanied them to the imposing front door. They kept her between them, almost shielding her body with theirs. She shivered again and drew her shawl tight over her shoulders. What could scare two dangerous men like Mark and Samuel?
Sabrina wanted to walk with her hand resting lightly on his arm and her chin proudly held high. With her knee, she had to cling to him and look down to carefully watch where she was going. The way up the long agonizing steps was illuminated with beautiful wrought iron lanterns.
Inside the foyer, a portly man and two beautiful women greeted them. Mark had told her on the way here their host’s name was James Greyling, owner of one of the biggest transport companies in South Africa. His wife was tall and thin and, though Sabrina thought she might be well over sixty, she obviously had the money to keep the wrinkles at bay.
In spite of her expressionless botoxed face, she had kind eyes. The daughter had her mother’s excellent bone structure and was stunning, with blonde hair that had a golden tint and big brown eyes. Her skin was a beautiful porcelain color. Beside her, Sabrina felt short and uninteresting with her long straight black hair, light brown skin, and washed out blue eyes she inherited from her father.
Mark dipped his head at the beautiful woman. “Jo.”
“Mark, I’m so glad you made it.” She rushed forward and kissed him on the mouth. She lingered for a few moments, her body rubbing subtly against him.
Sabrina heard someone gasp and realized the sound came from her. It was wrong. A heart breaking didn’t sound like a gasp. It should sound like crystal when it shattered. Like her heart just shattered. The woman kissed her husband as if they’d been intimate before.
Like a crystal statue dropped from a great height, Sabrina shattered into a thousand little pieces.